dontravis.com blog post #349
|Courtesy of en.wikipedia.org.|
I didn’t realize it until I posted this story, but this is the third tale in a row featuring an animal… with a tail. Sorry, couldn’t resist that.
Let’s visit another part of the great state of New Mexico with the following piece of fiction. As the name infers, Silver City is a mining town. Copper, gold, silver, and other minerals have attracted people throughout history. Silver City sits in a valley which was once the site of an Apache camp. Spaniards mined copper there. After the Civil War, a settlement called La Cienega de San Vicente (Oasis of St. Vincent) took root there. The town of Silver City was founded in the summer of 1870 after discovery of silver ore at Chloride Flats, west of the farm of Captain John M. Bullard and his brother James. The captain was killed by Apache raiders on February 23, 1871 and is supposedly buried in the first grave in the city cemetery.
The town suffered substantial violent crime during the 1870s, but Grant County Sheriff Harvey Whitehill started putting the brakes on the trouble. He was the first lawman to arrest Billy the Kid… in fact, he did it twice. The town’s first marshal, Dangerous Dan Tucker, one of Whitehill’s former deputies continued to bring things under control. Now Silver City is considered one of the safest towns in the state… until our fictitious killer shows up. Now to the story.
Monday morning, Jonathan Biggersby listened to the excited chatter around the water cooler at Mars and Larson Architects, LLC. Sarah Reynolds, the firm’s receptionist, professed to be terrorized by the sixth murder in Silver City in the last six months. Most of the men kept a stiff upper lip—preferring to confine their pithy comments to why the authorities failed to catch the killer—but the women were clearly frightened.
An amateur historian, Jonathan knew this southwest New Mexico town was born in violence in the 1870s, but in recent years it was rated 63rd safest out of 100 cities and towns of any size in the nation. But now an elusive murderer sowed fear and suspicion throughout this town of 10,000 souls.
Several of the M&L employees expressed a fear of venturing outside their locked homes at night. Some of them curtailed their children’s evening activities, adversely impacting attendance at Western New Mexico University’s Mustangs sports venues.
Tired of all the fear mongering, he returned to his desk to resume work on drawings of a small apartment complex. He worked carefully and efficiently, even though a part of his mind mulled over the water cooler topic.
According to news reports, Dr. Josephine Rasmussen had been garroted in her home this past Wednesday night. Three weeks prior, it had been John Harginess, a pastor returning home after a welfare visit to one of his parishioners. The good parson had been found stabbed to death in Big Ditch Park near the city’s police department. Before that a gardener died of a gunshot wound, teenage athlete Billy Boyce had his throat slashed, and…. Jonathan took a moment to shake out his tense shoulder muscles as the names and circumstances of the other two killings escaped him.
The only thing that led the police to conclude these disparate killings were committed by the same individual was a one-inch square note with a printed number accurately enumerating the victim, each in turn. According to news reports, the authorities confirmed the handwriting was done by the same hand—likely a man in his prime—but they learned nothing else from the deliberately placed clues.
This modern killer was beginning to spread as much terror as some of the more notable characters who resided in, visited, or raided the town in the old days. People such as Billy the Kid, Butch Cassidy and the Wild Bunch, Cochise, Geronimo, Victorio, and Mangas Coloradas. Jonathan, a mature, rational man, refused to be ruffled by the notorious modern-day killer, but he did go to the trouble of obtaining a concealed carry permit, and his little APV .25 caliber semiautomatic pistol hung heavy in his right coat pocket at this very moment.
Jonathan finished his workday and, as usual, accompanied two of his workmates to a neighborhood bar for one glass of the house ale before saying his goodbyes. His companions hoisted glasses to his departure and warned him to guard against being Number 7, a raucous way of saying be careful.
In deference to the humid August afternoon weather in full monsoon flow pattern, he loosened his tie and shrugged out of his suit coat before sliding into the driver’s seat of his 2015 Audi sedan. The drive was a short one… as were most drives in Silver City. He parked in the driveway in front of his detached one-car garage and walked around the front of the house to pick up his mail and latch the gate, which was unaccountably agape.
Jonathan shuffled through the four pieces of mail—three bills and a letter from his cousin George in Albuquerque--before looking around for Oscar. The black tom with red-rimmed eyes usually met him at the front gate. Jonathan always let the cat out as he went to work each day, and they met one another in the evening on the front porch. Today… no Oscar. Unusual but not unheard of. The cat was an independent sort, but he had become a great comfort after Jonathan’s divorce two years ago.
He paused in the front yard to admire the structure he called home. Best thing about it? It was paid off. Free and clear. He retained the blonde brick, pitched roof house in the divorce settlement, because Elizabeth wanted to go to the big city. Albuquerque wasn’t that appealing to him, but it must hold an attraction for some.
He stooped to smell some of the miniature red roses Elizabeth had planted along the front of the house. They drooped from the heat, but even so, emitted a nice aroma. Tripping up the steps, he keyed the lock and entered his home. After securing the door behind him, he tossed his coat on the back of the couch, taking comfort from the thump of the little gun in one pocket against the cushion, and opened the drapes to look out the picture window, pleased by the condition of his green, flower-rimmed yard. Intelligent watering. That was the key.
As he stood taking pleasure in the moment, something brushed his leg. He glanced down. Oscar sat on his hind legs and looked up to greet him.
“How in the blazes did you get in?”
Had he forgotten to let the cat out this morning? No, he distinctly remembered….
A chill played up his back as he lunged for his coat.
Oh, boy! Some of you are going to be pleased as Punch I gave you the opportunity to finish the story. Others will be red-faced mad at me for not doing so. But it’s up to you, dear reader, to complete the story. I hope you’ll send me your resolutions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Likewise, some of you at Worwrights Writing Class will take me to task for telling a story, instead of showing. And in truth, this is telling. But some stories are made to be told, not shown.
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!
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See you next week.
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