Thursday, February 22, 2018

Rugged New Mexico

dontravis.com blog post #273

I’m still on a New Mexico kick. This time we visit the southwest, Bootheel country of New Mexico, the setting of the third book in my BJ Vinson Mystery Series.

I probably overdid it so far as length goes once again, but try to stick with me to the end.
*****
Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
From The City of Rocks:

Chapter 2

I headed for Deming, hoping to locate some of the dead man’s family or familiars, who might be able to give me a lead before driving to the M Lazy M Ranch. The sixty-mile stretch between Las Cruces and Deming was relatively flat and dominated by creosote, honey mesquite, and yucca. An ungodly amount of cacti and spiked plants of every size and description lived among these anchors. Except, of course, the tall, stately saguaros the entire world associated with the American Southwest. To the best of my knowledge, those grew only in Arizona.
Roadkill revealed the makeup of the local fauna: jackrabbits, desert terrapins, kangaroo rats, and the occasional rattlesnake. I even saw the desiccated carcass of a coyote hanging over the fence bordering the Interstate. Of course, in the Cooke’s Range to the north, there would be cougar and black bear and mule deer. The nearby Florida Mountains boasted ibex and mountain sheep with occasional unconfirmed sightings of the Mexican jaguar. I know this because I’m a confirmed history buff, especially the history of my native state.
The day was hot beneath a blue-flame sky, probably around a hundred degrees. But like we’re fond of saying down here, it’s a dry heat, so it doesn’t hurt much, especially at an altitude of three-quarters of a mile above sea level. Dark, menacing thunderheads hovered south over Mexico, but the monsoon hadn’t yet taken hold.
Deming, with a population of around fifteen thousand, was the county seat and principal town of Luna County. It is also located in rockhound country. A good part of southwestern New Mexico and southeastern Arizona is a paradise for rock and mineral collecting. Most of the old mines are closed now, but on public land, it’s legal to collect bits and pieces of once-treasured rock. Geodes. Fire agate. Jasper. Quartz. Azurite. Even turquoise chips can often be found in old dumps.

Chapter 4

The Impala breezed south over a landscape reminiscent of the drive between Deming and Las Cruces: flat, high desert terrain broken by blue-shadowed mountains in the distance. Heat waves rising off the asphalt were pleasantly hypnotic.
Columbus is an official, twenty-four-hour POE—Point of Entry—between the two nations, although it sits about three miles north of the actual demarcation line. Border City is where the crossings actually occur. Its proximity to the Mexican State of Chihuahua is what gave the place its brush with history.
The actual story is long and convoluted, as well as highly controversial. Two revolutionaries, Venustiano Carranza and Francisco Villa, better known as Pancho, tossed out a dictator named Victoriano Huerta and then turned on one another. A Columbus merchant and arms dealer by the name of Ravel supposedly sold defective ammunition to Pancho Villa. When the guerilla demanded a refund, the merchant reputedly told him the Ravels no longer dealt with Mexican bandits.
On the morning of March 9, 1916, one of Villa’s generals attacked Columbus with more than 500 men. The twenty-four-hour invasion burned down a significant portion of the town and killed fourteen American soldiers together with ten residents. Another eighty or so revolutionaries were dead or mortally wounded. The raid led let to General John J. Pershing’s Punitive Expedition deep into Mexico.
My initial glimpse of Columbus was as a disruption astraddle the flat, monotonous highway. After entering the town of mostly one-storied adobe affairs—some painted in brash colors of green or pink—I found a bed and breakfast and registered for the night.


Chapter 5

Ranchers, like farmers, generally rise with the sun, so I was on the road early Monday, breezing west along Highway 9 over a landscape dominated by creosote, locoweed, and wildflowers. The bright sky was spotted with scattered clouds. The blue silhouette of the Cedar Mountain Range shadowed the horizon.
The weathercast this morning had predicted a high of ninety-nine degrees, but the temperature had not yet climbed to that point as I drove into the country that had once sheltered the likes of Curly Bill, Old Man Clanton, and Dick Gray, desperados who hid out in the caves and canyons of the Boot Heel. Somewhere ahead of me was a black oak with large knotholes where the outlaws left messages for one another in what is still called Post Office Canyon.
I passed a sign noting I had crossed into Hidalgo County, a landmass of about thirty-five hundred square miles populated by fewer than six thousand residents and known for its large ranches. The Gray Ranch, which was now called by its original name of the Diamond A, was 321,000 acres—a staggering 500 square miles. Alongside that, the M Lazy M was a piker.
I turned south on Highway 81. The ranch was a fair drive from Hachita, the closest town, and as I had a considerable amount of work to do, I phoned Del to let him know I intended to take Bert Kurtz up on his offer to remain overnight. He wanted to clear it with the insurance company to make sure they wouldn’t consider it a conflict of interest should Mud Hen be involved in any sort of scam. He promised to call me back.
The M Lazy M lay hard against the Mexican state of Chihuahua just short of the Hatchet Mountains in the upper reaches of the Boot Heel. A cattle guard, flanked by a tall adobe arch bearing the ranch’s brand—two capital M’s, the second one lying on its side—marked the main gateway to the spread.

Chapter 17

The horses set an easy pace. Paul kept a snug rein on Streak, who broke into a gallop at every opportunity. On the other hand, the farther Lucy got from the stable, the slower her gait became. After another hour, Paul pointed ahead of us.
“Is that it?”
“Yep. The Lazy M’s own City of Rocks.”
“Man that looks weird out there all by itself. Even weirder than the big one up at the state park.”
“New Mexico’s full of weird. You think you’re standing on the moon at the Bisti Badlands. And then there’s Carlsbad Caverns, Tent Rocks, White Sands, and those eerie lava beds in the Malpais.”
“I gotta get out of Bernalillo County more often,” he said.
We went silent, falling increasingly under the spell of ghostly monoliths as we approached the City. The horses plodded between the first two hunks of mute rock on the north-northwest side. The “street” that opened up before us was a broad avenue strangely devoid of plant growth. I saw no human footprints, but wind whistling through the alleyways raised weak, wispy dust devils. Footprints in the sand would not last long out here. Our mounts’ hooves no longer clopped. Now they made a huffing sound. It was as if we had passed through a portal separating two worlds.
“That big boulder in front of us looks like a hotel. An old western hotel.”
I stared at the hulking mass. “Why? It’s just a big rock.”
“Come on, where’s your imagination? It’s a couple of stories high. It’s kinda square. It looks like those pictures of a frontier hotel minus the balcony that runs around the second story. And that’s Muldren City’s saloon over there.” He pointed to the right.
I fell into the spirit of the thing. “Okay, then that’s the bank. And the telegraph office.”
He laughed, obviously delighted I was playing along.” “Let’s go see if we can find the freight office. Then the town’s complete.”
“Oh no. Not without the jail, it isn’t.”
“Right. I forgot the sheriff’s office and the jailhouse.” He twisted in the saddle and pointed. “There it is, right across the square from the hotel.” Paul dismounted and looked for a place to tether Streak. “They forgot the hitching rail. No western town’s complete without a hitching post.”

*****
The last three posts were to convince you I meant what I said… I love New Mexico. I hope they’ve tickled your interest in the state, as well. Please visit. You’ll find the folks friendly and welcoming… for the most part.

And now my mantra: Keep on reading. Keep on writing. And keep on submitting your work to publishers and agents. You have something to say… so say it.

If you feel like dropping me a line, my personal links follow:

Facebook: Don Travis
Twitter: @dontravis3

Here are some buy links to City of Rocks, my most recent book.


See you next week.

Don

New Posts are published at 6:00 a.m. each Thursday.


Thursday, February 15, 2018

Beautiful New Mexico

dontravis.com blog post #272
  
Cracked Eggs Formation: Bisti/De Na Zin Wilderness
Courtesy of commons.wikimedia.org
I know! I know! This post is way too long, but I can’t resist taking you on a trip to Taos and the Four Corners areas of New Mexico. These reminders come from the second book in my BJ Vinson Mystery Series.
*****
From The Bisti Business:

Prologue:

A lopsided moon daubed wispy tendrils of scattered clouds with pewter. Glittering pinpricks of muted light smeared the Milky Way while moonshine bleached the barren landscape silver. Sharp-edged shadows shrouded the feet of mute, grotesque gargoyles of clay and sandstone: hoodoos masquerading as monumental toadstools, spheroid stones aping gigantic dinosaur eggs, and eroded clay hills with folds like delicate lace drapery.
         A great horned owl soared above the high desert floor, its keen eyes scouring the panorama below. The plumed predator dipped a wing and veered eastward, attracted by the dull metallic shine of a large foreign object. Quickly discerning it represented no culinary opportunity, the raptor flew in slow, ever-widening circles in search of something more promising.

Chapter 1

I returned to the visual meditation of the landscape outside my window. As nature’s glow dimmed, man-made lights came alive: amber lampposts, white fluorescents, flamboyant neons, yellow vehicle headlights reflecting off wet pavement, and far in the distance a tiny spot moving slowly across the sky—one of the aerial trams hauling patrons up Sandia Peak’s rugged western escarpment to the restaurant atop the mountain.
By leaning forward, I caught the faint, rosy underbelly of a western cloudbank, the lingering legacy of a dead sunset. Was that what had drawn Orando and Dana to the Land of Enchantment? Spectacular scenery and surreal sunsets? Or was it our rich heritage of Indian and Hispanic art? The two were history majors, and Albuquerque had a long history. It was approaching its 300th birthday, while Santa Fe and many of the nearby Indian Pueblos had longer lifelines.
Beyond my line of sight, the city’s original settlement lay to the west where one- and two-storied adobe shops—some ancient and some merely pretending to be—hearken back to their Spanish colonial roots. Now known as Old Town, it was founded in 1706 by Governor Francisco Cuervo y Valdez as the Villa del Alburquerque—some say Ranchos del Albuquerque. In either case, the Spanish colonial outpost was named in honor of New Spain’s Viceroy in Mexico City. The second “R” of the Duke’s name disappeared in 1880 with the coming of the railroad to New Town, located two miles east of Hispanic Old Town, a signal the Anglos had successfully wrested the heart—if not the soul—of the community from its founders.


Chapter 5

We encountered turbulence as the little plane lifted off from the Double Eagle Airport on the west side of town and headed straight up the Rio Grande. The browns and reds and grays of the desert terrain turned a monotonous dun as we gained altitude, broken only by darker wrinkles of dry washes known as arroyos, the double black ribbons of Interstate-25, and the dull sheen of the river—itself somewhat brown. The Rio is classified as a “dirty river,” meaning it carries high concentrations of silt on its way to the Gulf of Mexico. The green-shrouded slopes of the Jemez Mountains to the west provided a splash of color, as did the Sangre de Cristos to the north.
With a maximum range of 470 nautical miles plus a thirty-minute reserve fuel supply, the Cessna would not need to set down before reaching our destination. Taos is a 132-mile trip by car, and at a cruising speed of 129 mph, we would arrive in something under an hour.
“Quite a view, huh?” Jim asked. “I never get tired of it.”
Feeling a kinship with a soaring eagle, I took in the panorama. “Is that weather off to the west going to cause us any heartburn?” Bright bolts of lightning strobed the black sky on the distant horizon.
“I checked before we lifted off. It’s moving north-northeast, so I doubt we’ll be bothered.”
“Feel free to put down somewhere if we are.” I glanced down at the river again. “It’s really amazing how the Rio Grande changes character. Around Albuquerque, it roams around in a broad channel made for a bigger river.”
“You can blame that on the dams,” Jim observed. “When the Rio Grande was declared a wild and scenic river, it flooded regularly. Then they put in all the dams. The way I look at it, they put an end to the flooding all right, but the river and the Bosque are paying the price. They’re both slowly dying.” The Bosque was a two-hundred-mile swath of cottonwood forest lining both banks of the Rio.
Above Santa Fe, the water flowing beneath the plane picked up energy, shimmering in the sunlight as it rushed over rocks on its fall from the high country. The farther north we traveled; the wilder the river became. Soon it was white-water rafting country. A few miles below Taos, the true might and determination of the river become apparent as it raced down long boulder gardens to spill out of the black volcanic canyons of the Taos Box. From above, the river appeared to sink, but in reality, the terrain rose on its climb north toward Colorado.
Over the eons, gravity and friction and the sheer power of water molecules had carved a deep crevasse through the hard basalt of the Taos Plateau. The Rio Grande Gorge Bridge spanned that spectacular canyon ten miles west-northwest of Taos. We circled over the awesome, 500-foot cantilevered steel and concrete marvel of modern engineering as we lined up for a landing at the town’s small strip.
Taos claims a 6,000-year history based on arrowheads, potsherds, and pictographs left by nomadic hunter-gatherers. The town takes its name from the older Taos Pueblo, a massive, multi-storied, pre-history apartment complex of Tiwa-speaking Native Americans. Both the town and the Pueblo are cultural as well as tourist draws. Dozens of Hollywood films, documentaries, and television commercials have been filmed here ever since the 1940s.
Jim had radioed the tower well before touching down at the small municipal airport, and Officer Delfino met the plane, as promised. He turned out to be a police officer with more than a touch of the local blood. Standing five-foot-six in his boots with coarse black hair not quite long enough to wear in the traditional bun but shaggier than most lawmen, he projected a calm competence as we shook hands. It would not be wise to provoke this man. His hatchet face wore an air of serious determination, an impression reinforced by his extraordinarily broad shoulders and deep chest.

Chapter 12

Forewarned by Dix Lee and Lonzo Joe, we hoisted packs stuffed with water bottles, energy bars and a compass. Feeling like I was provisioned for a week in the wilds, I clapped a broad-brimmed floppy hat on my head as protection against the sun and glanced at Aggie. He looked a good deal more comfortable with the situation than I was, but then he would be. He hiked and climbed mountains and conquered deserts more or less as a matter of course. We set off across the rocky ground, following the map Dix had sketched for us. She was supposed to be trailing along behind with someone from the Farmington BLM office. Almost immediately we were swallowed up in a fantastic landscape—not magnificent like the Grand Canyon, but spooky. Weird. Like a moonscape. Mysterious, as if some omnipotent sculptor had capriciously balanced massive, flat sandstone rocks atop slender necks of eroding clay in order to see how long they would stand.
“Damn,” Aggie said in a near whisper. “I’ve never seen anyplace like this. What the hell’s keeping those damned rocks from toppling over?” He indicated one of the distant capped pink and gray striated clay towers wearing what looked to be an outlandish stone beret at a rakish angle. “I wonder what the Good Lord was thinking when he did all of this?”
“Probably did it to watch all of us stand around with our mouths open.”
We were almost diverted from the gravity of our task by the multi-colored stones, petrified stumps, washes filled with wacky shapes, and the silent menacing hoodoos towering uncertainly over us. In one moment, our surroundings were whimsical; in another, ominous. The Navajo considered this sacred ground, and I could understand why. We trod forbidden territory, or at least that’s the way it felt. There were no footprints in the dry washes or anywhere on the stony ground we traveled, and I felt ours would disappear with our passing, as if we walked an alien planet subject to different natural laws., I glanced behind me to check and took false comfort when I saw my shoe prints still existed.
We had barely started our trek, and already sweat was staining my shirt. Following Dix’s hand-sketched map, we plodded on, taking frequent gulps of rapidly warming water, barely able to resist rushing off to explore some fascinating structural gem: thin spires of sandstone rising toward the sky like frozen tongues of flame, piles of mudstone carved by wind and water into ugly, fascinating gargoyles, specks of amber crystal winking in the hot sun, and those endless columns of sculpted, gravity-defying capped rock.
Eventually we reached our target, a broad wash holding clusters of flattened, broken round rocks streaked with wind- and water-carved wrinkles. I’d seen color prints of the Cracked Eggs, but the startling reality was greater than the image. The stones did appear to be gigantic dinosaur eggs broken open and abandoned to the elements—dozens and dozens of them. They weren’t, of course, they were merely clay and stone fashioned by that same capricious Hand. In the photos they’d appeared in a dazzling array of color, influenced by the time of day, the intensity of the light, the influence of the clouds. Now, as the sun beat straight down upon us, they were a flat gray with rosy highlights.

*****
That should make you want to trade your city shoes for hiking boots, abandon Albuquerque, and explore the Taos and Bisti areas. The trip from Albuquerque to Bisti spins time backward from today to the time of the dinosaurs. Think of all that history lying in between!

And now my mantra: Keep on reading. Keep on writing. And keep on submitting your work to publishers and agents. You have something to say… so say it.

If you feel like dropping me a line, my personal links follow:

Facebook: Don Travis
Twitter: @dontravis3

Here are some buy links to City of Rocks, my most recent book.


See you next week.

Don

New Posts are published at 6:00 a.m. each Thursday.


Thursday, February 8, 2018

New Mexico… My Adopted State

dontravis.com blog post #271

A Forties Era motel on East Central
Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
Regular readers know that I’m born and bred an Okie. I don’t believe I even left the state until I was sixteen when my family moved just across the border to DeQueen, Arkansas where I graduated from high school. After that, I lived in Texarkana, Texas awhile, graduated from TCU in Fort Worth, meandered around Germany for a year or so with the US Army before being shipped to Colorado. After discharge from the military, I took work in Denver where I met and married my wife Betty. Denver was okay, but I wasn’t enamored of it as many people are. So I wasn’t disturbed when my company transferred me to Albuquerque, New Mexico. I still remember topping a hill and seeing the city spread out in the distance.

My reaction was “Wow!” My wife’s? “Oh, crap!”

I loved it instantly. It took her about a year before she lost the urge to return to Denver. Over time, my liking for my adopted state has only strengthened. I hope that comes through in my writing. I try to highlight different areas of New Mexico in each novel. I’ve reproduced some of my treatments showing that respect below.

*****
From The Zozobra Incident:

Prologue:

          The Sangre de Cristos to the north and the Jemez Mountains on the west stood like massive, mute sentinels. An unforgiving sun high in the cloudless sky bleached the desert landscape brown and turned Interstate 25 into twin ribbons of glistening black tar. The white four-door Impala barreling down the highway pushed the speed limit—not enough to attract the attention of passing cops but sufficient to clip a few minutes off the hour’s drive to Albuquerque.

Chapter 4

I picked up I-25 South and exited at Central Avenue, turning left up the long, steady climb to the heights. Central was once touted as the world’s longest main street and had been a stretch of the famous Route 66 before Eisenhower’s interstate highway program did it in. Now lined with one-story brick and stucco antique shops, cheap motels, bars, and adult bookstores, Central was well past her glory days, but she still put on a flashy show of neon lights by night. Inevitably the morning sun exposed her timeworn wrinkles and sagging frame.
I had intended to use this time to think. Instead I found myself examining the venerable old gal. The impressive campus of Presbyterian Hospital showed signs of recent construction, but then it usually had something underway. The University of New Mexico was a beehive of activity. Apparently some sort of musical performance at Popejoy Hall had ended, and cars were now spilling out of the side streets. The trendy Nob Hill Mall, with its boutiques and outdoor cafés in the Midtown area, drew college students and young adults from every walk of life.
I motored past the sprawling and aging New Mexico State Fairgrounds, where a weekend flea market, in-season horse racing, and daily casino operations attracted gamblers, drunks, touts, and prostitutes of both sexes. Back in the days when I was a street cop, this area and the rabbit run a little farther to the west had dealt me more trouble than anywhere else. I’d pinched more than one thief trying to sell his loot in the flea market. I’d faced down a distraught family man who’d gambled away the mortgage money at the racetrack and was determined to commit suicide by cop in the parking lot, but thank goodness, my partner and I talked him out of it.

*****
If you haven't read Zozobra yet, I encourage you to take a look at it on Amazon. I believe they allow you to read a significant portion of the book on-line. 

Central Avenue sounds seedy in the above. But that’s all right. Parts of it are seedy. A wonderful seedy that gives you an insight into the days when it was part of the fabled Route 66 that stretched clear across this nation. Eisenhower’s interstate highway system might have done it Route 66, but so far, it hasn’t appreciably altered Albuquerque’s Central Avenue.

And now my mantra: Keep on reading. Keep on writing. And keep on submitting your work to publishers and agents. You have something to say… so say it.

If you feel like dropping me a line, my personal links follow:

Facebook: Don Travis
Twitter: @dontravis3

Here are some buy links to City of Rocks, my most recent book.


See you next week.

Don

New Posts are published at 6:00 a.m. each Thursday.


Thursday, February 1, 2018

Dead Luke (Conclusion)

dontravis.com blog post #270

How have you enjoyed the story so far? Last week’s episode ended with a question. Why did dead Luke want our hero (have you noticed he has no name) to discover the diary? Today, we’ll find out with the finale to my adaptation of Mark Wildyr’s short story, Apparition.

Here is part three of three parts.

*****
Courtesy of publicdomain.com
DEAD LUKE
Adapted from a short story by Mark Wildyr


The semester started, so I had little time to give to Luke and his deepening love. He soon grew impatient with my inattention. He began to intrude on my nighttime sleep once again. At times, it was the restless stirring in the ink-black corners of the bedroom. At others, I felt pressure on my body as if he were prodding me. Finally, I picked up the diary and began reading it again after I finished homework one night. That was when I discovered two photographs between the pages of the book.
The first was obviously Luke Collins, a fresh-faced, handsome youngster with blonde hair and green eyes. He looked exactly what he was, a college preppie. He was shirtless and obviously posing for whoever was taking the picture. His musculature was good, and he looked masculine, not effete. The photo of Drew Knighton revealed a dark, almost ethnic man with striking, classic features who was totally at ease with the camera.
At this point, the nature of Luke’s writing changed. Some flaws in the relationship began to appear, and they seemed to be centered around the nature of their physical trysts. In the acts detailed in the diary, Luke had been the recipient, I guess you’d say. Maybe bottom is a better description. Now he began to ask for more. He pressed his lover to share that sensation with him. His love began to falter as Drew continued to deny him. The shadows in the corner became more restless as I reached this part of Luke’s story.
I slapped the book closed. “That’s it for tonight, guy. I’m tired.”
A minor windstorm shook the room, but I refused to be put off. I cleaned up and went to bed. I don’t know if Luke sulked or just accepted my decision, but he didn’t bother me that night.
The next morning, a Saturday, I ignored the few chores I had set for myself and took up the journal again. The succeeding entries chronicled Luke’s deepening love for Drew and growing dissatisfaction with... something.
Later that day I went to the U and found a tennis partner about on a par with me. We each took a set and gave up without playing the tiebreaker. The first thing I did on arriving home was strip and hit the shower. The exercise had felt good. I’d become too sedentary and vowed to play more often. As I dried off and stood in front of the sink to comb my curly, brown locks, I eyed the heavy condensation on the mirror and wondered if this was a way to communicate with my local ghost.
“Okay, Luke! You’re a college boy, write me a message.” After five minutes of speaking to the ether while the condensation slowly evaporated, I snorted at my foolishness.
Taking up my toothbrush, I worked on my choppers with vigor. It wasn’t that I was vain about white teeth; rather it was that I feared the dentist. As I bent over to spit out the foam, something touched my bare butt! I jumped! I hadn’t even had the warning of my goosebumps this time. Leaning back down to fill my palm with water to rinse my mouth, my buttocks puckered.
All right, already!” I gasped. “Go away and leave a guy some privacy!"
The night was fairly calm, although I risked stirring things up by studying the journal again that night. The tenor of the daily entries were definitely changing. Luke’s profession of love grew increasingly intertwined with dissatisfaction.
Drew is so wonderful to me. I feel like his wedded spouse, which of course, will never happen in this country during my lifetime, at any rate. There’s just one thing I wish I could change. He makes love to me wonderfully, but he doesn’t permit me to reciprocate. Says he’ll never do that. It leaves me feeling…I don’t know… cheated.
Being unfamiliar with gay-speak, it took me a minute to figure out the obvious. The boy was playing the passive role and was beginning to resent it. Still later:
I almost caused a fight tonight, begging him to let me do him. He left in a huff! Oh, why can’t he understand? But is it worth losing the most wonderful man I’ll ever find?  I don’t know. I just wish he’d treat me more like a man sometimes.
The shadows had started to stir, so I put away the diary and made ready for bed. Surprisingly, he let me go to sleep.
On the Friday after classes, I made me a sandwich, opened all the drapes to let in the sunlight, and sat down to finish the journal. Luke seemed less active during the daytime. The rest of the diary was less nirvana and more real world. Luke’s frustration continued to grow, and with it came resentment and fractures in the relationship. They apparently broke up, but soon got back together. Luke’s happiness at the reunion soon frayed.
He just won’t listen. He won’t hear of me making love to him like he does me. If I could only make him understand!
Even so, Luke apparently continued to pursue his goal, almost causing a breach again. Then I came to the last page… dated the day of the accident.
Tonight I’m going to do it. I’m not going to ask him this time. I know once he has the experience, he’ll treasure it like I do. I’m going to know what it feels like to be a man with a loved one tonight! He’ll love it! I know it!
Later that night, Luke Collins was dead.
Suddenly, it all fell into place…why Luke was here; what he wanted; what he needed before he could rest. He wanted the authorities to know what happened to him.
The next morning, I presented myself at the Crandall Police Department and handed over Luke’s dairy to the officer who had investigated the Collins death. He thanked me for bringing it in.I left tremendously relieved. Luke would have his justice now. He could rest in peace. I’d tell him as soon as I got home.
As soon as I opened the door I knew that something was wrong. The air was hostile… downright malevolent! My goosebumps came back in spades. The room was cold enough to require a sweater. I stood stunned in the middle of the living room while I was buffeted by something like a strong wind. Luke was furious.
Realizing that the apparition had no power over me beyond what I conferred on it, I fought down my fear. Gradually, my body stopped swaying from the wraithlike blows raining down on it. Fear turned to pity. This young man was clearly infuriated, but all he could do to express it was rage around me like a small gale.
“Calm down, Luke. What is it? What’s happened?”
Something gave me a shove from behind. I stepped forward, allowing myself to be cajoled along until I found myself in front of the telephone. The light on the answering machine was blinking. I punched the button.
‘Mr. Hughes, this is Officer Munzey down at the police station. Thought you’d like to that I talked to Drew Knighton. He confessed right away. He needed to, I think. It was eating him alive. He apparently thought a lot of the Collins boy. I’m satisfied it was an accident. The kid made an unwanted advance, and Knighton threw him off. The boy hit his head. Knighton claimed he thought the Collins boy was dead. Broke down when he learned he’d left Collins there to bleed to death. He’ll go down for manslaughter. I thought you’d want to know.”
The wraith went crazy! With no obvious power to lift objects, Luke nonetheless stirred the curtains, buffeted me about, set the recliner to rocking and scattered papers on my desk about the room. Obviously, I had not acted the way Luke intended.
“Sorry, Luke, if that’s not what you wanted. But it was the right thing to do. He deserves what’s coming.” The high wailing sensation came back, filling the room, hurting my ears. “I know you loved him, but he had no right to harm you and then just leave you to die. You could have lived, Luke. You didn’t need to die.”
The room was suddenly empty except for me. Shaken, I picked things up and fixed something to eat. When I went to bed, I was alone. In an odd way, it left me feeling lonesome.
In the wee hours, I woke struggling for breath. The air was thick around my mouth and nostrils. The feather-light pressure on my lips, the tingling of my nipples, the pressure against my groin panicked me. I kicked out violently, just as Drew Knighton must have done, achieving nothing except to send the sheet sailing off the bed. Surprised, angered, frightened, I leapt up and let out a roar.
“Dammit, Luke! I did what I thought you wanted. What else do you want from me?”
And standing there naked in the cool night, my heart beating furiously, I understood. I knew what Luke wanted. He wanted from me what Drew Knighton had denied him. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.

*****
Well, a fellow just never knows, does he. A surprise lurks around every corner, it seems. Well, at least we know our hero's last name was Hughes. Wonder what the first one was? Hope you enjoyed the story.

And now my mantra: Keep on reading. Keep on writing. And keep on submitting your work to publishers and agents. You have something to say… so say it.

If you feel like dropping me a line, my personal links follow:

Facebook: Don Travis
Twitter: @dontravis3

Here are some buy links to City of Rocks, my most recent book.


See you next week.

Don


New Posts are published at 6:00 a.m. each Thursday.