dontravis.com blog post #485
Thanks to my readers for giving me a pass last Thursday, and thanks to Mark Wildyr for guest posting that day. Can’t say that I’ve recovered from the death of my older son Clai as yet,, but at least I’m functioning… sort of. I preparing this coming blog post on Tuesday night because my son’s “cremains” are arriving tomorrow, and I’m sure that will occasion something emotional, although I have no idea what that will be Nonetheless, wanted to get the post set up just in case.
Dreamspinner Prtess has advised of a publication date for the seventh BJ Vinson mystery of April 2021. They likely gave me the exact day, but it eludes me at the moment. At any rate, I wanted to show you the cover and give you some more of the book Those who read my earlier blogs on the book will recall that BJ and his companion Paul have been drawn into the investigation of the death of a handsome young man who was found naked and strangled on Albuquerue’s West Mesa. It appears the youth was a novice call boy who made a date with the wrong individual.
In the scene that follows, BJ is questioning Ma Flanagan, the longtime owner and operator of an old fashioned telephone service. Ma knew BJ’s parents, which makes her a little hard to handle.
THE CUTIE-PIE MURDERS
Ma Flanagan gave me a motherly look through her rimless granny glasses, and for a moment I thought she was going to say “tsk-tsk.” We sat in the tiny office of her small house on Roma NW. So far as I knew, she’d lived there for most of her seventy years.
“Now, BJ, you know I can’t divulge such information. My business is built on confidentiality… as is yours, I’m sure. My goodness, I can’t get over how much you look like your mother. She was a beautiful soul, as well as an attractive woman.”
“That she was, Ma.” Ernestine Flanagan insisted everyone call her Ma. “But the owner of the account I’m asking about is dead. Brutally murdered, and I’m trying to find out who killed him.”
“Like those two delightful APD detectives I talked to. They made an attractive couple.”
“You do realize they’re a professional couple, not a romantic one.”
“Are they married? To other people, I mean?”
“Not so far as I know.”
“Well, you just wait. They’ll wake up to the fact they’re compatible… quite compatible.”
“Maybe, but I need—”
“Yes, I know. You always were such an impatient young man. Always in a hurry. Take it from someone who knows, one day you’ll discover how much you missed in your rush through life.”
“Yes, ma’am, I probably will.” Like the time I’m wasting now. “But at the moment, I’m trying to catch a killer. Someone who’s murdered three young men and deprived them of the rest of their lives.”
A hand flew to her chest. “Three? Oh my goodness. That’s why the nice detective couple asked if I had accounts for those other two names.”
She hesitated a beat before revealing how sharp she really was. “No, just for young Mr. Zapata. I had nothing for Mr. Greene or Mr. Hubbard.”
“So explain to me how Mr. Zapata’s account worked. Let’s say I wanted to leave a message for him. Would I need to give you my name?”
“Perhaps. Perhaps not. Most people identify themselves, but not all. Some merely leave a message for Mr. Zapata to return a call to a certain phone number. So my operators take down the number and leave a message on the client’s personal voicemail or forward a text to Mr. Zapata’s telephone.”
“Is it always a request for a phone number?”
“Sometimes it’s to confirm a meeting time and place.”
“So I could merely call and leave a certain hour and a specific address.”
She nodded her head without dislodging a single strand of gray hair held in a bun by a huge tortoiseshell comb. “Exactly.”
“But would I have to leave my name and phone number?”
“Most do, but sometimes prior arrangements have been made, and the pertinent information is all that is given.” She smiled and shook her head. “And I can see your father in you too. Robert was as handsome as Frances was beautiful. You have good genes, BJ.”
“Thank you. Do you—”
“What a tragedy. How long have they been gone now?”
“January 2003. Do—”
“Nine years now. Seems like yesterday I heard the news about their automobile accident.”
“Ma, I’m taking up too much of your valuable time. I have a couple more questions and then—”
“Oh pshaw. My operators handle most of the calls. Did you know I have a male operator now? Can you believe it? First time in forty years, but you can’t discriminate, you know. Name’s Robert, like your father. Such a nice young man.”
My skin crawled, but I kept at it, refusing to believe Ernestine Flanagan was going dotty. This was her way of evading my questions.
“Ernestine, cut out the old lady act, and let’s get down to business.”
“Why, Burleigh J. Vinson, I can’t believe you were so rude to me.” The words were prim, but there was a smile hiding in the pastel-blue eyes. “Your mother would give you a smack on the back of the hand.”
“You may do so in her stead, but, Ma, this is serious. Someone is murdering handsome young men after—” I fought for an acceptable word. “—debauching them.”
“Well, why didn’t you say so? What do you want to know?”
“Are there recordings of the calls?”
“Goodness, no!” She apparently rethought her vehement answer. “It’s not like in the old days, BJ. Now you can call me on my cell and leave me a message. When I opened this business, there was no such convenience. And when it came along, I had to adjust my way of doing things to stay in business. Most of my clients are medics or medical services who need a human to discern what is an emergency and what is not.” She paused again. “In order to survive, I had to accept other customers. I’m certain some of my clients arrange trysts, for example.”
“Why not use email or Skype or something similar?”
“Do you know what I believe it comes down to?”
I shook my head.
“The authorities are watching for that sort of thing on the internet because it’s become so prevalent. My clients want to be a bit more discreet.”
“Okay, you don’t record the calls. Do you log them?”
“Oh yes. Otherwise I couldn’t bill my clients. You see, they get a certain amount of traffic for a blanket fee, but—”
I held up a hand. “I understand. May I have a copy of the log for Mateo Zapata’s account? And the three text messages?” I saw her internal battle and added, “The police already have them.”
She surrendered gracefully. “Do you want a copy of the calls and texts that came in after the young man died?”
My eyes widened involuntarily. “Absolutely. How many were there?”
“If memory serves, three more phone calls and one text message. I see no reason why you shouldn’t have the information.” Her eyes sharpened. “Providing you can tell me who engaged your services.”
She probably thought she had me over a barrel, but I fooled her. “The family engaged me, Ma. They want me to help APD catch their son’s killer. And I’ve okayed this with Homicide and the two detectives you mentioned.”
I knew how much I’d been played when she picked up a slender file folder from her desk and handed it over. “Here are your copies.”
I hope this piques your interest in the book. I had fun writing it.
Here'sa link to the new book: