Thursday, April 8, 2021

The Death of a Son blog post #492



The following says it all, so lets get right to it.




Goodbye, Clai

 This is the most difficult writing I have ever done, and it has taken me four different tries over better than two months to accomplish it.

Had you asked me, I would have said I handle the deaths of those close to me pretty well. I grieve—as we all do—then assign the event its proper place in my life. I call up occasional recollections of those gone and enjoy the remembrances—or suffer through them—and then move on. In that manner, those I have lost who were dear to me become “escapes” from the daily rigors of life, people to be treasured and enjoyed, and who sometimes show up in part or in whole in my short stories and novels. That was the case with my wife, parents and grandparents, brother, other relatives, and cherished friends. Not so with the man in the photo above. This one was much harder to face.

On January 22, 2021, the elder of my two sons Clai, died in Christus St. Michael’s Hospital in Texarkana, Texas of “sepsis.” The lady beside him is my mother.

I don’t want this to be the typical “obituary” type of piece. Rather, I prefer to use this time to pay honor to a man many would consider a failure. In the sense that he died without an estate, living on disability in a low-income housing unit without spouse or issue, perhaps he was. His immediate family was a little dog named Buddy who loved him as devotedly as he was loved. But there was another side to Clai.

First, a little background. Ours was the typical dysfunctional family, and I use those two words deliberately—as I’ve grown to believe that when you really take a hard look at them, the dysfunctional family is the norm, not the extreme. I bear a significant share of the blame for that situation in our little clan. I came out of a time and culture where the man worked, and the wife bore children and saw to their upbringing. So I became a workaholic, believing that providing for them was a sufficient contribution. Thus, I wasn’t around enough to understand my wife—now gone for 12 years—was having problems of her own. Willful blindness or deliberate? I honestly don’t know.

Clai arrived in this world on May 14, 1960 in Denver, Colorado to face an uncertain future after a twelve-hour battle to see the light of day. His health was frail in early childhood. He had an operation before he was six months old. Let’s face it because of this he grew up a coddled mama’s boy. That ended shortly after he graduated from Menaul High School in Albuquerque. He had an increasingly contentious relationship with his mother, and consequently with his family. The one constant in his life was his grandmother—my mother—in far off Texarkana, Texas. By now Clai was a mechanic by profession—and a good one, I’m told—but his problems, social, emotional, and physical, mounted. He became an alcoholic, developed learning and social problems, He was always the guy standing on the outside, looking in. And then a chronic back problem—only partially corrected by an operation—and a diagnosis of Dissociative Identity Disorder (what we used to call Multiple Personality Disorder) rendered him disabled. He could do a job for a short period but couldn’t hold a job.

One day, he called us from Texarkana, Texas to let us know he’d moved there—no warning, no planning. He simply pulled up stakes and left to get away from his mother, or so he claimed. The only place he knew to run was to the woman who always seemed to be there for him (at least in a long-distance relationship), his grandmother. She remained his rock until her passing just shy of the age of 97 not long after the photo above was taken.

By the way, I also think he considered his name a disability all its own. The spelling of his name with an i instead of a y was taken from his mother maiden name of Claiborne. He complained he always had to deny he was “Clair.”

Now let me share why I consider this as an honor to his memory. When he died, Clai had his medallion from Alcohol Anonymous for 23 years sober. He had been a sponsor for many years in the program. Living on fewer than $950.00 a month isn’t easy, but Clai learned to budget and managed to do so—after kicking a lifetime habit of lusting after every car he ever saw. Despite his back problems, he kept his 2000 Ford Focus running. Even on his tight budget, Clai was always willing to give someone a ride, and in doing so, developed a few good friends. He repaired his relationship with me and taught me a lot about vitamins and supplements. He was increasingly successful at keeping his six or so other personalities at bay for longer periods of time. Addressing a growing weight problem, he battled his way back down to 180 pounds, until the sepsis added 40 pounds of fluid in his last weeks. He dealt with two heart operations essentially alone. No matter how ill he was, he always made sure Buddy was taken care of. An agnostic for years—acknowledging only the AA’s “higher power”—Clai became a believer. In recent years, he often said he’d have to “pray over that.”

To many, this might not appear to be much of a life, but to me, it seems as if my son overcame immense adversity to end up a decent man. I commend you, Clai. I miss you. I love you. Know that when the weather turns warmer, your brother and I are going to the Jemez Mountains to spread your ashes near our old summer cabin  where you and Grant played and dodged half-wild cattle and waded in the Ria Jemez… where you grew up. Not sure how close, because after all these years, neither of us can remember exactly how to get there. But at least you’ll rest among God’s splendor.

God bless and goodbye, my son.


There’s nothing more to say, except I weep for you, Clai.

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

A link to The Cutie-Pie Murders:

My personal links:



Twitter: @dontravis3

See you next Thursday.



New Posts every Thursday morning at 6:00 a.m. US Mountain time.

Thursday, April 1, 2021

A Deeper Look at The Cutie-Pie Murders blog post #491


Can you tell I’m moderately excited at the upcoming release of my 7th  B. J. Vinson mystery book? You probably can, because I want to take another look at it this week. Remember guys and gals, it comes out next month. You can preorder it now, if you wish.

 For this week’s look at the novel, I’ve chosen a scene from Chapter 8. By using old-fashioned shoe leather, BJ and Paul have located the place where BJ’s client’s son was murdered, a new apartment complex on Central east of the University New Mexico. They go to interview the apartment manager, a young UNM student they’ve discovered is the nephew of one of the owners of the four story building. The Barkley Pierson mentioned is the murdered youth’s lover. The others…. Well, you’ll just have to buy the book to find out.



 Quinton James looked no more like an apartment manager and no less like a college boy than the last time I saw him. He shook hands, first with me and then with Paul. We took seats opposite his desk in a nice office. I scanned the beige-and-burgundy walls. Commercial reproductions of paintings. Nothing personal. Quint probably didn’t spend much time here.

I tried to view him as I imagined the cutie-pie killer would see him. Early twenties, slender but with definition, cute… but not cutie-pie. No ring, no photo of girlfriend or wife and kids evident. He pinged on my gaydar. The blip grew stronger when he smiled at Paul.

I directed his attention back to me. “Quint, what can you tell us about the former tenants in 4201?”

“There’s only been one,” he said without referring to any records. “Fellow by the name of Burton Neville. He was one of Park House’s first tenants.”

“What was his occupation?”

“Engineer of some kind at Sandia Labs.”

“When did he leave?”

He fingered the keyboard of his computer a moment before answering. “Tuesday, September 13, of last year.”

“About six months ago,” Paul said.

“Right. Broke his lease, paid the penalty, and moved out.”


Quint repeated what Willow and Wally had told us about a new job in California, but it wasn’t wasted effort. It was corroboration. After Quint ran down, I questioned him about some of the other tenants of the building, but he needed to refer to his records to answer those queries, confirming—at least for me—that he took more interest in tenants who might have been gay.

“Have you heard from Neville since he left?”

Quint shook his head. “No. Although I should have. He has some money coming back on his deposit and was going to call with a forwarding address when he was settled.”

“Has anyone called for a reference, like another apartment complex in California or a Realtor?”

“Nobody. I’m still holding a check for him.”

“What can you tell us about some of the roommates Neville entertained while he was here?”

Quint averted his eyes. “No roommates. He was the only one on the lease.”

A silence built until he buckled. “You must mean his guests. He had a few overnights.”

“Lady friends?”

Quint’s cheeks reddened enough to notice. “Boys… uh, men.”

“Some of them stayed for quite some time, I understand.”

“You can have guests for up to two weeks.”

I opened the folio I’d brought and spread five photos on the desk in front of him, the killer’s four recent victims and the copycat, Pat Aragon. “Were any of these his guests?”

I’d provided snaps of the men while they were alive and attractive. Quint took his time studying them. So far as I could tell, he devoted the same amount of interest and attention to each before looking up and shaking his head.

“I don’t recall ever seeing any of them.”

I tapped Zapata’s photo. “This is the man who died in 4201. Sure you’ve never seen him before? With Neville or in the lobby or on the street?”

He shook his head again, his eyes back on the photos.

“None of them were Neville’s guests?” Paul asked again.

“No. At least I didn’t see them.”

“Ever seen them with Willow or Wally?”

His flush was different this time, signaling anger, but he swallowed it. “Nope. Like I said, I’ve never seen any of these men. Anywhere, anytime, with anybody.”

“Do you know if a young man named Jules spent any time in Neville’s apartment?” I asked.

“No. But like I told you, I never saw any of Mr. Neville’s guests.”

Paul looked quizzical. “Then how do you know there were any?”

His mouth firmed. He was having trouble holding on to his calm. “Just talk. I heard people mention he had guests.”

Paul pushed the issue. “People. Willow and Wally, I imagine.”

Quint’s complexion turned a deeper scarlet. “Among others. Look, I’ve told you all I know. I’ve got work to do, okay?”

“One more thing before we go,” I said, handing over Barkley Pierson’s photo. “How about this man? Have you seen him in the building?”

As Quint studied the image his face crumbled into a frown. “Yeah. I’ve seen this guy.”


Wow! Have they discovered something? Could Matt Zapata’s fellow student and lover he his killer?


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

 Here's a link to pre-order The Cutie-Pie Murders:

 My personal links:



Twitter: @dontravis3

 See you next Thursday.


 New Posts every Thursday morning at 6:00 a.m. US Mountain time.

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