dontravis.com blog post #576
Perhaps the period of reposts and guest posts is over for the moment. Got two edits done, still working on another and laboring over a novel, but found time for a new story. This one is a three parter. Hope you enjoy.
JOHN JACOB KINSOLVER
My eyes scanned the spot I had last seen John Jacob Kinsolver. Of course, his body had been removed from the alleyway, his blood had been absorbed by the earth, and the crime scene tapes taken down. Nonetheless, I could see him lying there as keenly as I had a month earlier.
An ex-Albuquerque cop, John Jacob at earned a reputation as a licensed private investigator. Not the sleazy, shabby gumshoe pictured in novels and on film, he’d been honest and upright. No one ever called him John or Jack or Jake; it was always John Jacob. That’s the kind of respect he’d earned. However, I soon tired of that and came to think of him as JJ.
There appeared to be a bit of mystery about why he’d left the force and gone private. And when I’d asked my partner, an old grizzly called Detective Charlie Whiteside, now retired to Florida, he’d answered rather whimsically, “It was different at APD back in those days, Dave.” He’d leave it at that and walk away. Nobody ever referred to the Albuquerque Police Department as anything but APD. That said it all.
Naturally, I’d asked some other old timers the same question, but all I ever got was shrugs or “Let it lie, Detective Field.”
My partner had just retired, and I hadn’t been assigned a new one on the day a vagrant flagged down a cop to report a body lying in an alley on the south side of East Central. Indian Alley, the old timers called it, as it was a corridor frequently trod by the city’s urban Natives to travel from a park near Morningside SE up to and Indian bar on Central SE near the fairgrounds. It was also known as a gay cruising area, although there was no correlation between the two. I’d always found our Native American community just as accepting or just as hostile as any of the other ethnic groups of the city.
At any rate, I’d caught the case, and worked it solo. John Jacob had not been married and had no known relatives. The only familiar I’d located was an assistant about ten years younger than JJ’s forty years, who made no objection to me rooting around in the detective agency’s files.
Harold Balderson was a bit of an enigma to me. Good looking, in a rough sort of way, his pugnacious attitude peeked through even when he was attempting to be cooperative. I got the feeling he could be nasty when crossed. Physically, he resembled his boss in build, about five-ten, a hundred and seventy-five, fighting to keep from going to one eighty-five. He’d regularly done some of the grunt work common to investigations, stakeouts, online checks, and the like. Funny. Usually, the online stuff and phone calls were done by a secretary, at least in the movies I’d seen.
A search of the company records revealed John Jacob Kinsolver earned way more money that an ordinary department detective—despite the burden of funding his own office, providing for his retirement, and health insurance. And, he didn’t have a hierarchy to contend with. Maybe I’d discovered why he left the force.
His list of clients was impressive. Well-known names, including the mayor’s and a couple of state officials, showed up with regularity. Some of them might claim I was taking unauthorized advantage of PI privacy privileges, but I had no interest in the information rather than looking for the party or parties who planted a knife in JJ’s liver and then in his heart. Still, it might become tricky if things went to a criminal trial. Licensed investigators had certain privacy privileges under New Mexico law.
It wasn’t until I got into JJ’s personal computer, a Dell laptop, that I began to understand a few things. This was no dour, stick-in-the-mud hard-nose. Some of his personal accounts revealed a different person from the one I knew. His relationship with Harold Balderson took on a whole new aspect when I discovered a series of nude photographs of the man. By switching back and forth between the photo files and a journal I found, a story began to unfold.
John Jacob Kinsolver had noticed Harold when—as a member of APD—he gave a talk to a University of New Mexico criminology class. He’d been impressed by the then twenty-two-year-old’s questions and interest in his subject. He’d done no more than note the student’s name and commented on his handsome appearance. And that was the end of it.
Until… almost a year and a half later, he’d cruised Indian Alley and unexpectedly come upon the handsome Harold earning some extra money in his senior year by offering himself on the street. It seemed that the thrill—and perhaps the danger—of the pickup had appealed to both Harold, as the purveyor of the goods, and to JJ, as the illicit purchaser. Back in those days, APD had not been gay friendly. Indeed, they’d been known to set honey traps for closeted gay cruisers. Now I understood the answer to the question I’d posed to my partner and others. APD was no friendlier to gays on the inside of the department than they were to those outside of it. John Jacob Kinsolver had known when it was time to leave.
With this discovery, I concentrated on Harold Balderson. Even though I attempted to show no change of attitude with my new knowledge, his antenna was finely tuned, and he grew more cautious, less accommodating. He should have known where I’d focus my attention, those closest to the victim were those who got the hardest look in a murder case, especially at the beginning of the investigation. Given his educational and vocational experience, he doubtless understood that, and tried to ease my suspicions by being open and helpful… to a point. He hadn’t mentioned his personal relationship, which had undoubtedly continued over the years. That explained the generous salary and company car. Harold might work for the agency, but he was also a kept man.
Not only that, but he was the only individual close to the victim. Of course, given JJ’s profession, there were likely countless individuals wandering the streets of Albuquerque or behind the black iron bars of various penal institutions who hated John Jacob Kinsolver.
Even though I had Harold down at the station in an interview room more than once, I resumed sifting through JJ’s records. I discovered photographs of other young men, all nudes or near nudes. None were overtly sexual, although for one of JJ’s persuasions, they would provide titillation, possibly even outright excitement.
And then, I came across a file that told me Harold might not be the only individual in Kinsolver’s life. And I reached that conclusion solely from the fact that this young man’s photos were in a file all his own. When I opened it, the first photo took my breath away. A young man, totally nude, stood in near silhouette with his back to the camera, his head thrown back, releasing a cascade of gleaming hair so dark I was reminded of wet coal I’d once seen over in Madrid east of Albuquerque. His arms were spread as if welcoming the morning deity, His broad shoulders fell to a narrow waist, slightly flared hips, and slender, muscled legs slightly spread. The physique was one a gay like John Jacob would have lusted over, while a straight like me could only envy.
Beneath the photo, JJ had penned a single word.
Revealing? Maybe, although it doesn’t take much imagination to think a whole bunch of people might have reason to despise a nosy private investigator, maybe even to hate him. And who is Luther? Maybe we’ll learn the answer to that question next week. Until then….
Stay safe and stay strong.