Thursday, February 27, 2020

A Second Look a The Cutie-Pie Murders blog post #378

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Man, did I get the hits on last week’s post, “Clouds.” Got over 1300 in one day. But not many comments. By the way, if you read my posts on Facebook, please be sure to “Like” them… if that’s appropriate.

On September 12 of last year, I gave readers a first look at The Cutie Pie Murders, the next in the BJ Vinson Mystery series. It was post Number 354, in case you want to look it up. Today, I’d like to give you a second look. The following excerpt comes at the beginning of Chapter 2.  BJ’s considering investigating the murder of nineteen-year-old Mateo (Matt) Zapata, who turns out to be the third handsome young man strangled and dumped naked in some public place. BJ’s having his first discussion with the father of the murdered youth.


Hazel Harris Weeks stuck her head through the door of my private office. “Fellow here by the name of Juan Zapata. Says he has an appointment.” My office manager’s voice held a note of censure. One more appointment I hadn’t let her know about.
          I swung my feet off the corner of the desk and sat up. “Called him on the way back from Santa Fe yesterday.”
          Hazel frowned. “He any relation to Zancon Zapata?” Even though Hazel didn’t totally understand my lifestyle, she’d grown as protective of Paul as she had of me, and she knew every detail of what the Saints had done to him.
         “Somebody killed his boy. He’s entitled to the same respect as any other paying customer.” The word paying would get to her faster than any other explanation. She nodded and disappeared.
          A moment later, she ushered a younger, healthier version of Zancon into my inner office. The man’s overcoat was damp from the scattered snowflakes falling outside. Thank goodness I’d driven up to Santa Fe yesterday on a dry road. The snowfall didn’t amount to much, but ice was another thing altogether. I stood and gripped the man’s outstretched hand.
          “I’m Juan Zapata,” he said. “I understand my brother filled you in on my problem yesterday.”
          “B. J. Vinson. Everyone calls me BJ. Zancon told me about your son’s death but gave me no details. Said you’d do that when we met.”
          Juan took the seat I indicated and flushed. “Sounds like something he’d do. My son was gay, Mr…. uh, BJ. And that’s something Zancon can’t accept.”
          “Why don’t you fill me in?”
          The handsome man on the other side of my desk blew through his nostrils in exasperation. “I don’t know a hell of a lot. When I said he was gay, that’s not entirely correct. He was probably bisexual. He had a girlfriend, but I know for a fact he’s had a few boyfriends these past two years.”
          I rubbed an itchy eye. Score another one for Zancon. He not only wanted me to kill his nephew’s murderer, but he’d come to a gay investigator with the request. Probably figured it took one to know one. Some things never change.
          “Let’s start with the basics, Juan,” I said. Tell me about Mateo. I understand he was eighteen. Was he still in school? Live at home? Have his own place? Show me the young man before you tell me about his murder.”
          Juan took me literally, dragging out his billfold, removing a snapshot, and handing it over. The kid almost took my breath away. Beautiful eyes as brown as dark chocolate. Black hair with a fetching cowlick. Thin nose, broad sensual lips. This kid was movie star handsome with just enough irregularity to his features to render him sexy. A real cutie-pie.
           Juan sighed before starting down the road of his son’s short life. “Mateo… Matt finished high school last year, a year ahead of most of his classmates and immediately enrolled at the University of New Mexico. He wanted to be a commercial photographer. But I think that was just so he understood the camera. His real ambition was to be a professional model.”
          “He had the looks for it. Did he live on campus?”
          Juan shook his head. “Had a small one-bedroom apartment on Princeton. Easy walk to his classes.”
          I learned a lot about Matt Zapata while his father worked around to something that was obviously difficult to face, the thing Zancon hadn’t wanted to discuss yesterday. Matt was a swimmer. A tennis player. A whizz at poker. Popular with girls and guys alike. Played a mean guitar and had a decent singing voice. Finally, Juan hesitated, and I knew he’d arrived at his destination.
          “Although I provided for his needs, Matt was always independent. He’d recently taken a job. I discouraged the idea, saying he ought to enjoy these college years, but he insisted.”
          He was dragging his feet again, so I cut straight to the chase. “What kind of job.”
          Juan averted his eyes. “Escort. He was an escort. He… ah, he was an amazing kid. He fit in any social circle you could imagine. And when he dressed up in a suit or tux, he was really something.”
          “Who did he work for?”
          Juan rubbed his nose. “He was freelance. Booked his calls through a phone service. He was new to it. Only had a few assignments before… before….”
          “Did he die on one of those assignments?” I asked.
          Juan Zapata dropped his head to his chest. “I don’t know. He… he was found on the West Mesa.”
          He swallowed hard, but I could see he had more to say. “And?”
          “My son was naked. At least that’s what they tell me. And….”
          I spared him the agony of continuing. “Let me get a copy of the police report and talk to a couple of people, then we’ll talk again.”
           “So you’ll take the case?”
          “At the moment, I don’t see why not. Is there a question in your mind about it?”
          He lifted anguished eyes to meet mine. “My brother… the man who contacted you about this is someone you shot and put behind bars. My… my boy might have been a call boy. So—”
          Mr. Zapata… Juan, are you a good man?”
          A frown puckered his face. “I think so.”
          “Was Mateo a good man?”
          “To me he was.”
          “And his life was taken from him. Tell me, are you looking for justice for Matt or revenge?”
           A startled look passed over his face before understanding dawned. “I am seeking justice, BJ. I want the bastard who killed Matt identified, tried, convicted, and then locked up for the rest of his life.”
          I thought for a moment. “Locked up in Santa Fe where Zancon is just waiting.”
          “Send him somewhere else, I don’t care. Just so he can’t do that to anyone else’s son.”
          “The police can do that for you.”
          Juan passed a hand over his face. “That is one thing Zancon and I agree on. They’ll take one look and consider it simply as a gang killing a queer. I want someone fighting for me. For Matt.”

Sounds like a father’s cry for help to me. And so it does to BJ, as well. Now we’re off and running in our intrepid investigator’s search for justice. Hope this held your interest.  Let me know what you think about it.

Until next week.

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