Thursday, September 12, 2019

The Cutie-Pie Murders


dontravis.com blog post #354

Courtesy of StockFreeImages
Since my sixth BJ Vinson murder mystery is put to bed and scheduled for release by Dreamspinner Press on November 19, I figured it was time to begin the next novel. So I want to show you my opening efforts and ask you to let me know if it stirs any interest. I’m soliciting comments, people.

*****
THE CUTIE PIE MURDERS

Prologue


          The young man strutted up East Central, aware of—but not reacting to—the admiring looks thrown his way. After eighteen years of being first cute, then handsome, and finally sexy, he was accustomed to more than his share of attention. The street address he was looking for should be one of those new apartments in the next block. Cool. Fancy apartments meant money.
          He paused at the big brass double doors, scanned the communications panel, and with a heart playing pitter-patter in his chest, pushed the proper red button. After a moment, a pleasant baritone reverberated through the speaker.
          “Yes?”
          “Hi, this is—”
          A buzzer interrupted him as the interesting voice caressed his eardrums. “Fourth floor. Door’s open. I’m getting in the shower but won’t be a minute. Go down the hall to the bedroom on your right and make yourself comfortable.”
          Excited by the timbre of that voice, he couldn’t resist. “How comfortable?”
          “As comfortable as you want to be. I’ll look forward to learning your definition of the term.”
          Smiling, the youth pushed through a heavy door into the vacant lobby and called up the elevator. His date was a man. This was only his third call. The first had been an attractive lady a bit older than he liked. The second was a good-looking middle-aged man who’d kept himself fit. In all honesty, he enjoyed the second date more. Now another man. And wow! If the dude matched the voice on the intercom, it was full speed ahead.
          As promised, the door to 4201 stood slightly ajar. He eased into the vestibule and looked around. Nice. How long before he’d be able to afford a place like this? Probably about a bazillion years. He paused to take in the rich furniture in the living area and inhale the faint sensual scent of lavender hanging in the air before turning right and heading for the big bedroom at the end of the hall. From somewhere, he heard a shower shut off. How much time did he have before his client showed? He closed the bedroom door, wanting his client to open it and get a sudden, stunning glimpse of what he was buying.
          Standing beside the king-sized bed, he ran a hand over the satiny yellow and cinnamon spread… or was this a duvet? Whatever, it felt nice against his fingertips. He eased off his loafers while debating over how comfortable to get. He’d heard some people liked to undress you, but maybe he should go all the way and display what he had to offer. And without being smug about it, that was considerable.
          He shrugged out of his slipover shirt, careful not to muss his hair. After hesitating briefly, he slipped out of his trousers and lay back on the bed. A second later, he kicked off his briefs and lay naked except for his socks, Plumping a pillow, he looked down his torso to admire his abs and six-pack. How would he look to the guy who was coming through the door any minute now? He nodded to himself. Probably pretty good. Everybody said he had the face of a beautiful girl, but his body was all man.
          When the door opened, he threw up his hands and shouted, “Surprise!”
          The fine baritone sent shivers of anticipation down his back. “Surprise, indeed! Aren’t you a cutie pie!”

Chapter 1

          New Mexico State Penitentiary, Santa Fe, Thursday, March 8, 2012

          I stepped through the prison’s full-body X-ray security system and addressed a corrections officer. “B. J. Vinson for Inmate José Zapata, Number 79805. His attorney arranged my appointment.”
          The officer scanned a list of names on a clipboard and made a check mark. “Yessir, I’ll have him brought up.” He nodded to a man standing nearby. “This officer will take you to the interview room. He’ll remain with you at all times.”
          I grinned. “Not my first time at bat. I know the rules.” I took another look at the man’s ID badge. “Simmons. Weren’t you with APD a few years back?” I referred to the Albuquerque Police Department where I served for ten years before getting myself shot in the right thigh and receiving a medical discharge.
          “Yessir, it’s Detective Vinson, isn’t it?”
          “Not since 2005.”
          The man loosened up a little. “I remember you getting plugged while you and the commander were apprehending a murder suspect.”
          “Gene Enriquez wasn’t a commander then. He was a lowly detective just like me. And now you know why he’s in charge of the Criminal Investigative Division and I’m not.”
          Simmons laughed. “Yeah, he let you take the bullet instead of him.”
          “Got it… the first time around.”
          My escort, a young corrections officer named Pierce, and I reached the start interview room a few minutes before Zapata arrived.
          The former bigwig in the now-defunct South Valley gang called the Santos Morenos—the Brown Saints—arrived in restraints and with his own escort, as was required for Level VI prisoners. This man played a prominent role in the case file I'd labeled The Zozobra Incident. José Zapata had kidnapped Paul Barton--the human being I treasured most on this earth--and attempted to kill him before I literally dropped from the heavens and put a bullet in Zapata's guts and killed Puerco Arrular, the gang;s leader, before they could accomplish that deed. Now Zapata looked more like a sick old man than the forty-four-year-old thug I knew him to be. My bullet apparently hadn’t digested too well.
          “Vinson,” he said in a gravelly voice stronger than I expected, given his appearance.
          “Zancon.” I addressed him by his nickname out of habit. He earned the moniker by virtue of his long legs and lanky frame.
          We settled at a bolted down metal table with Pierce taking up a position behind the inmate.
          “Thanks for coming,” Zancon rumbled.
          “Surprised to get a call. Even more surprised it came from Brookings Ingles. Didn’t know you went for the most expensive defense attorney in the state.” Brookie Ingles was long rumored to be a lawyer for the mob.
          Zancon waved an emaciated arm. “Not my trial shyster. I was a cooked goose there. But he takes care of things a man can’t take care of hisself. You know, when he's locked up like this.” He leveled black eyes that looked to be filmed over with something… exhaustion, disease, hopelessness? “I got a brother with some coins, and he helps me out with that.”
          The arched eyebrow the guard couldn’t see told me Zancon had managed to hide some of his loot. The brother was merely managing the inmate’s assets.
          “Juan’s got a problem. Hell, I’ve got a problem. Whole family has. But I figure you owe me, so I’m the dude putting the question to you.”
          “I owe you nothing, Zancon. Juan… that’s your brother?”
          The inmate nodded.
          "If he has a legitimate problem, I’ll listen to what he has to say.”
          Zancon flushed before relaxing and spreading his hands over the table. “Fair enough. Everbody was shooting at everybody that night, but I’m the one who can’t eat or take a crap like everbody else because of the lead poisoning you give me.”
          “Now that’s out of the way, what’s your brother’s problem?”
          “Some son-of-a*bitch offed his boy. And I want him to pay.”
          I leaned back in the uncomfortable chair and sighed. “A gang killing?”
          He shook his head. “Naw. Kid wasn’t into gangs. My bro ain’t either. Stayed righteous while I was outlawing.”
          “So what happened?”
          Zancon looked uncomfortable. “Juan’ll give you the details. He’s waiting for your call.”
          My antenna went up. “Look, if you’re not straight with me, then I can’t—”
          “I’m telling it like it is. No gang stuff. Mateo wasn’t in no gang.”
          “Mateo. That’s your nephew?”
          He nodded and suddenly seemed tired. “Yeah. Mostly went by Matt.”
          “How old was he?”
          “Eighteen. Wasn’t but eighteen.”
          “Give me some details.”
          I got the warning look again. “Okay," I said, at least tell me where he was killed.”
          “Albuquerque,” he answered.
          It was my turn to spread hands over the table. “Hell, you don’t need me. ADP will take care of it.”
          Zancon gave a sour smile. “Yeah, right. They’ll see what you seen. Another gang member offed. Good riddance.”
          “That’s not the way things work, and you know it. They’ll give it their best shot.”
          He leaned forward and tapped the table with a long fingernail. “Maybe so. But you’ll be another set of eyes and ears. I know you, Vinson. You’re a damned good detective. And I want you to finish him. You know, like with Puerco.”
          Now it was clear why Zancon wanted me on the case. Zancon didn’t want APD to find the killer. He was offering to hire me to settle up with the murderer. Why did these guys always judge others by their own lights?
*****

As I said, I’m soliciting comments, so let me have it.

The advance buy link for The Voxlightner Scandal follows:  http://www.dsppublications.com/books/upcoming-releases-c

Now my mantra: Keep on reading and keep on writing. You have something to say, so say it!

My personal links: (Note the change in the Email address because I’m still getting remarks on the old dontravis21@gmail.com. PLEASE DON’T USE THAT ONE.)
                                                                                                    
Facebook: www.facebook.com/donald.travis.982
Twitter: @dontravis3

Buy links to Abaddon’s Locusts:


See you next week.

Don

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


Thursday, September 5, 2019

Me’n the MVD (A re-post)


dontravis.com blog post #353
  
Courtesy of driver-tests.org
A news item on TV the other night about residents of some states not in compliance with secure ID requirements having difficulty gaining access to federal buildings and departure gates at the local airport this coming year reminded me of my tussle with New Mexico's MVD when they switched to secured IDs.

In other words, all state-issued driver’s licenses must have a white star in a circular gold field in the upper right-hand corner of the little piece of plastic. If your license does not already have one, be prepared to go through bureaucratic hell. Inasmuch as I had passed through these same fiery gates some years back, I dug out the post of November 15, 2016  and republished it below. 

That post also advised readers that the first of my BJ Vinson murder series, The Zozobra Incident, had been released that same day by Dreamspinner Press. Co-incidentally, the sixth in the series, The Voxlightner Scandal, is scheduled for release on November 19 of this year.

By the way, I passed up the opportunity to use a New Mexico license as photo art and settled on an Arizona license because that one has the coveted star in the upper right. And the photo of Mr. Sample certainly is not me. (You can tell from the hairline.)

My tussle with the MVD to obtain the coveted secure license is described below:


*****

ME AND THE MVD
Anyone going to the Motor Vehicle Division to get or renew a New Mexico driver’s license is in for a shock.
For some time now, the powers that be in the Land of Enchantment have dillied and dallied (not to mention dithered) over new requirements the feds imposed for issuing licenses that serve as secured IDs for boarding airliners or entering a federal building or base. Each year we failed to get our act together, and each year the federal authorities granted us a delay in coming into compliance.
I’m here to tell you that has come to an end. As of Monday, November 14, 2016, all New Mexico licenses issued—including both new and renewals—meet the federal standards. But getting them is something else.
My license expired a few days back, but I held out until we were FAA compliant. On Monday, I watched a local news program that explained you needed proof you were who you said you were and that you were legally present in the United States, either by birthright or by legal immigration.

Trip One
Went to nearest MVD office Tuesday a.m. a little before 9:00. Took a number (63) and was called to Window 10 about 20 minutes later.
“What can I do for you,” Window 10 asked.
“I want one of those super-duper driver’s licenses that serve as ID for airline flights.” With that, I confidently shoved both my driver’s license and the passport I got last year (in case NM didn’t get compliant before the feds banned our licenses).
“Where’s the rest of it?” he asked.
“Rest of what? My passport’s got everything you need. And it’s official. Confirmed by the good old USofA.”
“No, you need your Social Security Card and two things confirming your legal residency.”
He refused to listen to reason. Hopped into my car and raced back home (with an expired license, remember).

Trip Two
 Spent half an hour trying to print online copies of a PNM bill, grabbed my lease agreement and Social Security Card and sped back to the MVD. The waiting room was full. My number this time was 112, with some 40 numbers ahead of me waiting to be called. If each one took 10 minutes, I’d be out of here in another 400 minutes. How many hours is that? Forgot to bring a calculator. Also forgot to bring something to read, so settled down to people watching… which got old. Fast.
Then I lucked out. The woman sitting beside me couldn’t wait any longer and offered me her ticket. Number 93. Thanked her and grabbed the scrap of paper that ought to cut 190 minutes off my wait time. Eventually, I was called to Window 12.
What can I do for you?” Window 12 asked.
A little more sullen now, I answered, “Driver’s license.”
I pulled out the sheaf of papers I’d brought and shoved them beneath the thick pane of glass between him and me, now appreciating his need for a protective device between him and his clients.
He shuffled through bits and pieces of my life until he came to the SS card. “This is your Medicare Card, not your Social Security Card.”
“It has the same information on it, they’re issued by the same agency, and they’re both red, white, and blue. Should be okay.”
“Afraid not. I have to have the Social Security card or your SS-1099 or—”
“Okay, okay! This is the second time I’ve been here, but I’ll go get it.”
After he condescended to tell me to return to him without pulling a new number, I risked another APD speeding ticket by racing home once again.

Trip Three
I located the Social Security Card (adjacent to where the Medicare card had been stored), jerked it out, and once again high-tailed it to the MVD. (Hey, APD… that’s four opportunities to nail me you missed).
Number 12 had a client, but he saw and acknowledged me. Ten minutes later, he was free, but indicated he had one other return customer ahead of me. I sat back down while the gentleman who took my rightful seat before Number 12 got titles transferred on two vehicles (a lengthy chore, I can tell you) before starting the process of getting a driver’s license renewed. As I fidgeted and fumed, I heard a number called. Number 112. Lo and behold, I still had that number in my pocket, so I beelined it to Window Eleven.
“What can I do for you today?”
I wearily shoved everything at her and leaned back wondering what he’d find wrong this time.
“Looks like you have everything, sir. Let’s get you taken care of.”
  
I walked out of the MVD for the final time at 12:26 p.m. Getting that license ate up almost four hours of my life… however, that did include travel time.


*****

AN APOLOGY TO THE 200 OR SO WHO CHECKED OUT THE SITE EARLIER, BUT FOR SOME UNKNOWN REASON, THE TEXT FAILED TO PRINT. 

I hope this is fair warning to those just applying for a secure license and brings back fond (is that the right word?) memories for those who have already done so.

The advance buy link for The Voxlightner Scandal follows:  http://www.dsppublications.com/books/upcoming-releases-c

Now my mantra: Keep on reading and keep on writing. You have something to say, so say it!

My personal links: (Note the change in the Email address because I’m still getting remarks on the old dontravis21@gmail.com. PLEASE DON’T USE THAT ONE.)
                                                                                                    
Facebook: www.facebook.com/donald.travis.982
Twitter: @dontravis3

Buy links to Abaddon’s Locusts:


See you next week.

Don

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


Thursday, August 29, 2019

A Preview of The Voxlightner Scandal


dontravis.com blog post #352

Maria Fanning, Artist
I notice this is the 352nd blog post. If my math is correct, that represents ten straight years of blogging at dontravis.com. In fact, it’s longer than that, since I did not number the earliest blogs and I missed a few weeks’ worth of blogging when I was in the hospital following back surgery a few years ago.

As I’ve announced repeatedly, Dreamspinner Press has announced a publication date of November 19 for the latest BJ Vinson mystery novel. So I’d like to give you one more look at The Voxlightner Scandal before publication. I’ve chosen the middle of Chapter 4 for the excerpt.

*****
THE VOXLIGHTNER SCANDAL

The Charlie Weeks part of Vinson and Weeks, Confidential Investigators was involved in another assignment, so Paul volunteered to help me go through Belhaven’s appointment books. We settled down at the table in the corner of my office, where we started with the newest and worked backward. APD found no diary, but Pierce had made comments in his appointment books, virtually rendering them into a journal.
I quickly found the note that had insinuated itself into my memory. On Monday, January 10, of this year Belhaven circled a comment in red ink: Meter readings are key! That’s what he meant. Okay, what meter readings? And who is the “he” Belhaven referenced. I alerted Paul to watch for any notation referencing meter readings.
When one does not know what one is looking for when reviewing nine years of another man’s hen scratchings, the process grows tedious and boring rather quickly. At times my eyes glazed over, causing me to go back and review a page or two all over again. A chink in Paul’s investigative armor appeared when he all too readily bailed on me when Roy Guerra called and invited us to accompany him on an interview with the AFD arson supervisor. I recognized Paul’d had his fill of donkey work for the day—his disco leg had jiggled for the last half hour—and agreed he should go with Roy while I kept at the drudge work. Despite the feeling I was searching for a raindrop in a drought, there was something here, and I was determined to find it.
Pierce Belhaven wrote in a precise hand except when he was tired. The morning notations were clear, but as the day wore on, his writing became more difficult to read. He apparently possessed an acerbic mind. After some of his appointments, he categorized a certain individual or individuals with either gushing or caustic comments. He also changed his mind about some of his associates, as one time they would be a “fine fellow” and at others a “stodgy clod.”
I found one entry referencing Paul and some issue at SouthWest Writers. I smiled at his characterization: A toothsome handful! If the old boy only knew.
By the time Paul returned with Roy, I was down to the last couple of books without finding much of interest. The unread books covered the years 2003 and 2004, the period when the scandal occurred. Nonetheless I was wiped out and gratefully put aside the examination of the appointment-cum-diary books to hear the results of their interview with Lanny Johnson, the AFD lieutenant in charge of arson.
“Didn’t learn much,’ Roy said as he claimed a chair in front of my desk. “The fire was deliberately set using book matches tossed on Belhaven’s gasoline-soaked clothing.”
“Matches? Plural?”
“Yep. Ignited a whole book of them and tossed them on the body. Gasoline caught and toasted Belhaven but didn’t do much damage to the garage.”
“How much gasoline was used?” I asked.
“Enough to cover the body,” Paul said.
“Anything else on or around the body?”
“Just the remnants of a burned-up rag. You know, like mechanics use to wipe their hands on. Wasn’t much of it left.”
I rubbed my tired eyes and sat back in my chair.
Paul read me pretty well. “What are you thinking, Vince?”
Roy scowled. “What’s with this Vince business? I thought everybody called you BJ.”
“There are always contrarians,” I replied, unwilling to explain it was a pet name. “Why the arson charade?”
“Trying to make Belhaven’s death look like an accident,” the detective responded.
“Obviously. But why? Roy, did Belhaven have life insurance?”
He nodded. “Multiple policies, I understand.”
“Who are the beneficiaries?”
“The son and daughter. Two-point-five mil each.”
“Which probably contain double-indemnity clauses in case of accidental death. This is just speculation of course. Have to see the actual policies to know my premise holds water.”
“I get it,” Paul said. “The arson was to make it look like an accident.”
“How old were the policies, Roy?”
“Haven’t viewed them yet, but I understand they have gray hair.”
“Have you found the murder weapon?”
“Nothing in the garage looks plausible. Office of the Medical Investigator says it was probably metal, although the condition of the corpse makes that iffy.”
“Something like a wrench?” Paul asked.
“Yeah. Or an aluminum bat. And we didn’t find either one of those. Found some tools in a shed at the back, but none of them tested positive.”
“Was the skin broken on his head? Enough so there was blood?”
“Couldn’t say for sure… you know, because of the fire. No obvious evidence of it.”
After another fifteen minutes of hashing and rehashing the situation, Roy took his leave while Paul and I tackled the appointment books again. Paul picked up the blue-clad volume for 2003. Within five minutes he let out an “Aha!”
“What?” I asked.
“You said Pierce mentioned readings? I got meter readings.”
He shoved his book over to me. Under August 2003 Belhaven had made a terse comment: May-1800 kWhs; June-1825 kWhs; July-1829 kWhs. What the hell is up?
I took kWhs to be kilowatt hours. There was no name or meter number or address, but the numbers had been significant enough to catch Belhaven’s attention. Why? Had his responsibilities involved monitoring accounts to watch for unusual readings? Did he keep an eye on friends or family? Was this part of his job, or was he simply a snoop?
I got up from the table and went to my computer where I pulled up the New Mexico Power and Light bills for my home. After reviewing a number of monthly invoices for the past year, I reached the following conclusions: my average usage was around 700 kWhs and according to the utility company, the average household usage was around 650 kWhs. Belhaven spotted someone using around three times the voltage for a period of three months. Given the readings were spotlighted in his journal, he clearly believed the level of usage was unusual, and he knew the individual the meter belonged to. The penned comment “What the hell is up?” led me to that conclusion.
I picked up the phone, dialed, and argued my way through a secretary to speak to an old golfing buddy of mine. He agreed to a meet.



*****

I hope you found BJ’s latest mystery to be interesting. In Voxlightner, BJ finds himself and Paul the targets of an unknown killer… involving some close shaves.

Dreamspinner’s publishing date for my next BJ Vinson book, The Voxlightner Scandal, is November 19, 2019. A buy link follows:  http://www.dsppublications.com/books/upcoming-releases-c

Now my mantra: Keep on reading and keep on writing. You have something to say, so say it!

My personal links: (Note the change in the Email address because I’m still getting remarks on the old dontravis21@gmail.com. PLEASE DON’T USE THAT ONE.)
                                                                                                    
Facebook: www.facebook.com/donald.travis.982
Twitter: @dontravis3

Buy links to Abaddon’s Locusts:


See you next week.

Don

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


Thursday, August 22, 2019

Mixterns (A Fantasy), Part II of II Parts


dontravis.com blog post #351
  
Courtesy of PNGtree.com
You guys are strangely silent. Maybe not into Fantasy. Or perhaps, your author’s not into it, and the posts show it. Whatever the case, you are now being exposed to the second and final installment to the story.

*****
MIXTERNS

          I didn’t hear them, but Brute did. He hopped off the couch and ran to the front door barking his head off. And from outside the door, came, “Yip, yip, yip!” He scuttled back to the couch and wiggled his way underneath it.
          Something brushed against the back door.
          “Go ‘way! I shouted.”
          “Go ‘way!” the thing echoed.
          I heard others at the windows. The creatures had surrounded the house. I snatched up the tactical flashlight, ran to the closest window, and pressed the lens against the pane before switching the light to strobe. By the flickering light, I saw a monster outside, but he wasn’t flinching, and his head wasn’t deflating. He wasn’t doing anything but peering in the window, his eyes covered by something dark. Sunglasses! Well, not like any I’d ever seen, but they must have done the same thing. When he swung an arm at me, I dropped the curtain and scrambled backward on my behind. I heard it scrape the glass, but the window didn’t break.
          I scrambled up and ran to my room. Without knowing why, I put on my Cut Scout uniform. Maybe my brains were scrambled from terror, but I felt more prepared. Until Brute started going crazy in the living room, that is. Then I heard a different kind of yelp.
         Racing back to the front room with my weapon—it wasn’t just a flashlight anymore—I found one of the creatures holding a terrified Brute by the nape of his neck. I’d have thought my buddy was dead but for his eyes frantically searching the room for me.
          “Leave him alone!” I yelled and rushed forward with the light strobing fiercely. I didn’t get       far. Something snatched the flashlight from my hand and lifted me off my feet with what felt like a cable wrapped around my chest. It took a second to realize it was another creature holding me against him. Before I lost reason to terror, I remember thinking the thing wasn’t flesh and blood at all. It was a machine, like in that old movie the War of the Worlds. But it wasn’t metal imprisoning me. Not flesh, either. Not human flesh, anyway. It was something in between.
          No matter how much I struggled, I couldn’t get free. Kicking the thing holding me didn’t seem to bother him. He marched out the back door, which they’d opened without kicking it in, and started for the potato field. Others fell in beside him, making me think of army guys marching in step. An occasional whine let me know the one carrying Brute was right behind me.
          In the trek across the yard and the field, I forgot to be scared, especially as we neared the big ship sitting partially buried in the mud. Big and black and mysterious, it had a ramp in the side where we seemed to be headed. Lord, were they kidnapping us? I mumbled the first prayer I thought of, which was the one about laying me down to sleep, as fear took possession of me again.
          Several of the creatures swarmed around holding what looked like tools, working at another hole in the side. One that seemed like a compartment of some sort. As scared as I was, a little common sense penetrated my brain. Something had happened to their ship. They’d crashed—it seemed more like a crash landing—and were trying to repair things. A thousand-million crickets seemed to be chirping like crazy as they chattered among themselves. A sudden bolt of lightning struck about a mile or so beyond old man Wilson’s farm across the road, and every one of the creatures ducked. The ones without the sunglasses—or whatever—held arms or tentacles to their heads. Then they went about their business again.
          Light! They couldn’t stand white light. That’s why all the lights around us were blue.
          We entered the ship and went straight to a big hall where one of the creatures sat in a big chair raised up like it was a throne or something. A few other creatures clustered around a nearby table studying something, maybe the operating manual for this big airship. The chirping noises stopped as they all turned to stare at us through huge uncovered eyes as we neared.
          The one holding me threw me to the floor before the throne; the other one dropped Brute. As my fearless protector scrambled over to cower between my legs, the creature holding my flashlight bowed before the one on the throne and handed over my weapon. The thing in the chair examined it briefly, accidentally turning it on. Everyone cowered before the flashing light, but the creature managed to get it turned off. Suddenly, he leveled a finger or claw or something in between at me and emitted a loud, scratchy sound My knees went weak, almost dumping me on top of Brute.
          Another creature, bent and leaning on a stick of some kind, addressed the creature cricketing at me. The king or chief or ship’s captain or whatever he was stopped chirping and looked at me. He extended a long, cable-like arm and raised his chin—if he’d had one. I blurted the only thing I could think of.
          “I’m T-Tommy.”
          “I’m T-Tommy,” he parroted.
          I shook my head and managed to keep from stuttering. “Tommy.”
          He leaned back and pursed tiny lips. “Tommy.” He folded his long whip-like arm and touched his chest. “Akachetto.” He waved his arm toward the others and said something that sounded like “Mixterns,” so that’s what they became to me.
          He chirped some more, and others came bearing what looked to be stretchers. They folded back metallic blankets to expose two of the creatures with withered heads. I caught my breath and exclaimed, “Dead?”
          “Dead” he parroted, pointing first to me and then to the forms lying before him. “Tommy. Dead.”
          My heart about jumped out of my chest before I figured out he was trying to ask a question. I nodded and said. “Accident. It was an accident!”
          “Accident.” He chirped back and forth with the old one before nodding at Brute. One of the creatures snatched him up before I could protest.
          “No!” I yelled as they handed my pet to the old one. He pulled out something that looked like a hypodermic, except it had no needle. He pressed it against Brute’s neck, and the thing made a hissing sound. Brute yelped and went limp. One of the others—guards, I guess—handed Brute to me.
          The touch of his soft, fur, the half-closed lids on his once-bright eyes released me from my paralysis. “You killed him! You killed my dog!” Tears came flooding, making speech impossible.
          “Bobby dead Mixterns,” the thing on the throne said. “Akachetto dead dog.”
          At his bidding, the guards shoved me in a far corner of the big hall and stood by as the minutes and hours tolled. I sobbed over my dead friend until exhaustion brought me a troubled peace.


          Loud, excited chirping roused me. Mixterns came flooding into the ship, jabbering at one another like crickets gone wild. At last, Akachetto took his place on the throne and one of the creatures bowed before cricketing at him rapid fire. Akachetto nodded and pointed in my direction. The guards came for me while the rest scurried about like they were on a mission. And I guess they were. The problem with the ship was probably fixed. Now we’d soar off into space, and I’d never see Mom or Dad again. I tuned up for a little crying before the two guards prodded me to my feet and herded me through the ship, me still holding my dead friend. Then I saw the ramp. Were they gonna let me go? Before they shoved me through the hatch, the old one with a cane appeared with his syringe in hand.
          I jerked away. “You can’t kill him twice!” Leave him alone.” Oh, Lord! Was he gonna use it on me and leave our bodies in the potato field?
          The old one ignored me and pressed the thing to Brute’s neck. It hissed again before I managed to tear away and run down the ramp. I didn’t stop until I got to the windbreak, then I turned, expecting to see the creatures coming for me.
          But they weren’t. The ramp was folding in upon itself, and the hatch was closing. They were leaving. I felt movement in my arms. I glanced down through the still-dark night and saw Brute give a big yawn. Then he reached up and licked my face.
          “Brute! You’re not dead!”
          Joy flooded my whole being. My friend was back. They’d undeaded him.
          I glanced up as a loud hum built. The earth shook as the craft pulled itself out of the mud with a big sucking sound. It hovered a moment a few feet off the ground before moving straight up in the air and then simply vanishing.
          Putting Brute down, I skipped around to the back door, which still stood open. I examined the door and the frame but didn’t find any damage. How’d they get in?
All of a sudden I was so tired, I almost didn’t make it to the couch. I’d barely stretched out with Brute snuggled against my belly when I passed out.


          I woke at the sound of my mom’s voice “Tommy! Tommy! Let us in.”
          “He’s barred the door. Smart kid. I’ll go around back,” my dad said.
          I still wasn’t completely awake when he came into the room and headed for the front door.    “How you doing, sport?” he asked, as he let my mother in.
          “Fine,” I mumbled. Then I came awake. The Mixterns. I needed to tell….
          But my lips remained sealed. I’d probably dreamed it all. Bad dream. Nightmare. Except… it came out all right.”
          “Tommy,” my mother exclaimed. “Why are you in your scout uniform? And there’s mud all over your boots. Did you go outside?”
          “Yes’m. For a minute.”
          Despite that, I convinced myself last night had been a dream… until my dad looked out the window and exploded.
          “What the hell happened to my potato patch?”


*****

Okay, the ordeal is over, and I’m freed of my compulsion to try something new. Let me know what you think of the effort.

Dreamspinner’s publishing date for my next BJ Vinson book, The Voxlightner Scandal, is November 19, 2019. A buy link follows:  http://www.dsppublications.com/books/upcoming-releases-c

Now my mantra: Keep on reading and keep on writing. You have something to say, so say it!

My personal links: (Note the change in the Email address because I’m still getting remarks on the old dontravis21@gmail.com. PLEASE DON’T USE THAT ONE.)
                                                                                                    
Facebook: www.facebook.com/donald.travis.982
Twitter: @dontravis3

Buy links to Abaddon’s Locusts:


See you next week.

Don

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


Thursday, August 15, 2019

Mixterns (A Fantasy), Part I of II Parts


dontravis.com blog post #350
  
Courtesy of PNGTree.com
I’m not a Sci-Fi or Fantasy writer (although I’ve done a couple of short stories), but the yarn that follows inserted itself in my head, so there was noting to do but write it. That’s all I have to say on the subject. You can have the final say after you’ve read both parts of the story.

*****

MIXTERNS

          I must have been pretty grown up for my folks to leave me alone at home after dark. Alone except for Brute my gray Schnauzer, that is. My parents had gone to a birthday party at Aunt Mitzi’s and Uncle Darrell’s house in town, but I’d begged off. Wouldn’t be any kids there, and the gifts would be grown-up things. The TV in our living room was more interesting than a bunch of people talking about things I didn’t care anything about.
          The freak thunderstorm rattling the shutters took a little wind out of my sails until Brute plopped down on the couch beside me with his head in my lap. But just as Marshal Dillon was about to draw down on a sneaky bad guy, the television went black. I hadn’t even had time to recover from that before the lights went out too. My heart lurched as I sat in the dark, watching a dying spot of light on the TV set.
          I didn’t panic—maybe scared a little but didn’t panic. Heck, I was ten-years-old and a Cub Scout to boot. In a couple of years, I’d be a Boy Scout, and they were always prepared. I groped my way in the darkness, listening to the rain thump on the roof and rattle against the glass panes, until I reached the kitchen cabinet where dad kept the big tactical flashlight he’d bought for emergencies like this. Long and heavy as a club, it cut a big swath through the darkness when I managed to get it on. I liked to make it strobe, so that’s the way I set it, but the flickering light made walking back to the living room too uncertain. I made it quit.
          I no sooner sat down on the couch again than the telephone on the table in the hallway rang. I scooted over, wondering how come the phone worked when nothing else did. It was my mom.
          “Are you all right, Tommy?”
          “Yes, ma’am. Raining like blue blazes and the lights went off, but me’n Brute are okay.”
          “You know where the flashlight—”
          “Yes’m. I got it right here.”
          “Your father wants to speak to you.”
          After a moment he came on the line.
          “You okay, sport?”
          “Yessir.”
          “There’s been a flash flood at the creek, so your mom and I won’t be able to get back home for quite a while. Maybe not until morning. You all right with that?”
          “Y-yes, sir.”
          Was that something moving in the corner? I swung the flashlight around. Nothing there.
          “I—”
          A big crash followed by a bright light made me just about jump out of my skin. The phone went dead in my hands. Lightning. Close. I stood quietly as chill bumps puckered my skin. I swallowed hard and spoke into the dead phone. “Brute and me’ll be all right, Dad.”


          After I crawled onto the couch again and got over that scare, things didn’t seem so bad, even though the old house made noises I’d never noticed before. The rain passed, but the wind that came after it kept my mom’s rose bushes scratching at the front window like they were trying to get in. My heart stopped racing when Brute lifted his head and gave a big yawn. He was asleep before his head hit my lap again. Nothing to worry about.
          With nothing else to do, I fiddled with the flashlight, making it strobe, widening the lens so half the room was alight and then narrowing it down so I could pretend a laser was boring a hole in the wall. Eventually, it dawned on me that I’d better save the batteries. When I shut it off, everything was as black as I’d ever seen it before. Long before my usual bedtime, my batteries needed recharging, and I dozed. I must have, because I came awake with a start when the bang came. Bang… it was more of a crash. Or a crash bang. From outside somewhere.
          When I turned on the tactical flash, Brute was standing on the couch, looking out the west window. “Yap!” he barked. Then he followed with some yips before hopping off the sofa and going to stand on his hind legs at the window. I was right on his heels, but the glass reflected back in my eyes, so I killed the flashlight. As soon as I recovered my night vision, I saw a bluish glow coming from the potato field my dad left fallow this season.
          “What’s that?” I asked.
          Brute answered with a bunch of yips and yaps.
          Before long, curiosity won out over fright, and I pulled on a jacket against a night colder than it oughta be and took the flashlight outside on the front porch, Brute hard on my heels. The storm had passed but lightning still played in the distance. Peering through the moonless night, I made out something big and indistinct in the far field. The glow came from there. I couldn’t be sure, but there seemed to be shapes moving around in the blue light. Maybe someone needed help. But who? There ought not be anyone in our potato field. The only thing I could think of was an airplane crash.
         With a glance at the boiling clouds overhead, I abandoned the porch and walked through a stiff headwind toward the distant glow. I hadn’t even reached the edge of the yard before I came to a dead stop. Something in the windbreak line of elms caught my eye. A shape. Like a man… sort of. My heart went crazy when he moved forward. Brute went down on his forelegs, his rear end in the air, and growled.
          The hair on my neck prickled when the thing—it sure wasn’t a man—made a noise like a cricket, except a lot louder.
          I managed to get my words out without stuttering. “Who’s there?”
          “Who’s there?” came back at me.
          “I-I’m Tommy Schmidt. I live here.”
          “I-I’m Tommy Schmidt. I live here,” the thing said.
          “No, you’re not! I’m Tommy.”
          “No, you’re—”
          “Stop that!” I yelled. Freaked, I switched on the flashlight, but in my excitement, I set it to strobing, surprising me as much as it did the man… the thing. The flickering light exposed a big head and huge eyes over two holes where a nose should have been. The next blink of light showed the thing’s head wrinkling, like it was collapsing. With a horrible shriek, the creature fell to the ground and lay still.
          “Good Lord, Almighty, what happened?” I muttered aloud.
          I about jumped out of my boots when another voice came back at me. “Good Lord, Almighty, what happened?”
          Brute was halfway back to the house before I had time to swing the strobing light to another big-headed, pale man… creature… thing, who flung hands or claws to his face as his head seemed to collapse too.
          Other shapes moved, but they seemed to be retreating. So did I, catching up with Brute on the front steps. We almost tripped one another getting through the door. I slammed it, latched it, and for good measure, lowered the bar that Dad had installed when we had a rash of robberies in the area a year back to hold it fast. Then I locked the back door—wishing it had a bar too—and latched all the windows, closing the curtains as I did so.
          After that, I collapsed on the couch and held a terrified Schnauzer tight against my chest until my heart quit thumping and some of the panic ebbed.
          “What were those things?” I asked aloud. Brute didn’t bother to answer, he just burrowed deeper into my armpit.
          Fear shrank and curiosity grew. I got off the couch and went to the west window. Pulling the curtain aside enough to peek outside, I saw that blue glow in the distance. Then something blotted out the light, and I made out the faint shape of a creature’s head right outside the glass pane. Except I couldn’t see the big eyes. Something was covering them.
          Giving a yelp that matched Brute’s yip, I dropped the curtain and ran back to the couch, curling into a ball and clutching a shivering dog close against me.
   
 *****

There you have it. The first half of the story, at any rate. See you for the finish next Thursday.

Dreamspinner’s publishing date for my next BJ Vinson book, The Voxlightner Scandal, is November 19, 2019. A buy link follows:  http://www.dsppublications.com/books/upcoming-releases-c

Now my mantra: Keep on reading and keep on writing. You have something to say, so say it!

My personal links: (Note the change in the Email address because I’m still getting remarks on the old dontravis21@gmail.com. PLEASE DON’T USE THAT ONE.)
                                                                                                    
Facebook: www.facebook.com/donald.travis.982
Twitter: @dontravis3

Buy links to Abaddon’s Locusts:


See you next week.

Don

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



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