dontravis.com blog post #578
JOHN JACOB KINSOLVER
The kid readily agreed when I asked him to accompany me down to the station. Gave me no trouble at all. In fact, he proved helpful, quieting the rumbles of objection—some filled with implied threats—that rose all around us. He also rejected multiple offers to accompany him to police headquarters. He moved with impressive masculine grace as he stood and came around the table. His photographs hadn’t lied. This was an extremely attractive youth no matter the angle he was viewed from. When we passed through the door into the early evening light, my impression didn’t change, except perhaps he was younger than I’d estimated. Late teens, maybe.
We rode downtown in silence, and although I cast several glances his way, he stared straight ahead with a totally bland expression on his face. One of those unreadable faces you read about in the old western novels. A hide-behind face, I think they called it.
As soon as we were seated in the interrogation room, he slid a warn wallet across the table at my request for identification. No wonder Doris hadn’t located him. His driver’s license—which was current—was South Dakota issue under the name of Luther Standingdeer and showed him to be twenty-one. Good genes.
I tried for gruffness but wasn’t sure it came off that way. “This has a different name on it. You go by an alias? Why?”
His smile was slow and rueful. “Never thought about it like that, but I guess I do. Years back, I started introducing myself as Luther Standing when I wasn’t on the reservation. Got fewer ‘looks,’ I guess you could say. Before I knew it, that’s the way I started identifying myself everywhere. It’s not illegal, is it?”
I brushed his question aside. “You know a man named John Jacob Kinsolver?”
That earned a nod from that handsome head. “Yes, sir.”
“How did you know him?’
A slight hesitation. “Met him at the downtown library. I was sitting at one of the tables reading when he sat down and started thumbing through a book. After a while, he struck up a conversation. Seemed like a nice guy, so when he offered a cup of coffee, I took him up on it. Turned out to be lunch and a nice visit. He even took me back to where I was staying when we finished.
“Where was that?”
“I was living with this girl at a place on San Pablo SE.”
“In the War Zone?”
“I guess that’s what they call it.”
“What’s her name?”
He provided it and added he wasn’t staying there any longer.
He gave me an address on Wisconsin NE.
“Who’re you living with?”
“It’s my own place.”
“Where do you work?”
“Did a few odd jobs for Mr. Kinsolver. I’m a handyman, so I get work here and there fixing things up and doing some landscaping.”
“So you have no regular employment?”
He spread his hands. “Guess I’m what you call self-employed."
The kid was so calm and self-contained as I led him through my questions that I decided to shake him up. I glanced at him sharply. “Let me see your knife.”
“The one you used to kill John Jacob Kinsolver in an alley two blocks south of the very bar I found you in an hour ago.”
All it earned me was raised eyebrows. “Why would I do that? He was a good man. Gave me work and recommended me to friends.”
I took a shot in the dark. “And paid your rent in your new apartment.”
He nibbled his upper lip. “Yeah. He did that.”
“So what happened? He refuse to pay the next month?”
“Paid it for six months. It’s not up for another couple of months.”
“Why in the hell would he pay a six-month lease for you? He didn’t even know you that well.”
A shrug. “He was just that way. Like I said, a nice man. He didn’t mind giving a guy a helping hand.”
I threw him another curve. “You go for older men?”
“You peddle your ass to older men, or do you go for ones your own age? Naw, they can’t pay like the John Jacob Kinsolvers of this world.”
Then he threw me a curve. His voice turned harsher. “Don’t talk about him like that.”
Mr. Kinsolver helped me out. He was a good man. Don’t go saying bad things about him.”
Interesting. His concern was for JJ, not himself? Or was it an act? “Yeah, he helped you out after you posed for him. I saw the photos, Luther. Don’t try to deny it.”
“Why would I?”
I mentally shook my head. He wasn’t reacting like I expected. “Because of that last picture in the group. You know, the one with the hard-on.”
Another bland look. “He asked me to get that way, so I did.”
“You didn’t mind him taking a picture like that?”
He had the grace to turn a shade darker. “He asked, so I said okay. He’d been good to me.”
We sparred for another hour, but ultimately, I had to let him go with a warning not to leave town. Who was I kidding? He’d probably head straight for South Dakota. But I had nothing to hold him on, so I did the next best thing.
“Luther, I’m counting on you not to run. Here’s my card. I want you to call me every Monday morning until I tell you to stop. You hear me?”
He accepted the card and stared at it a moment before nodding. “Yeah. I hear you.”
I could have just tossed him out on his ear and let him find his own way back uptown, but I didn’t. I’d kind of liked the way he’d stood up for Kinsolver.
“The bar or home?” I asked as we got in the cruiser.
“Home. It’s on—”
“Yeah, I know. Wisconsin, a block north of Central.”
About the time we passed the University of New Mexico campus, he glanced over at me and spoke.
“What about Harold?”
“What about him?”
“You ever consider he might have been the one to hurt Mr. Kinsolver?”
“Why would you think that?”
“Because of me, I guess. Maybe I did get Joh—uh, Mr, Kinsolver killed.”
“What do you mean?”
“Harold didn’t like it that I was around. That Mr. Kinsolver was spending some time with me.” Luther licked his lips. “Harold looked me up once and threatened me.”
“Threatened you? How?”
Luther’s eyes went straight ahead again. “Said he was gonna beat my ass... after, uh, after he fucked it.” The kid sorta stumbled into his next comment. “Does Harold still carry that knife?”
“He carries a knife.
“Uh-huh. A small hunting knife. Had it in a sheath on his belt every time I saw him.”
“He try to use it on you?”
“Naw. He didn’t try nothing. Not after I got in his face. But he was mad about Mr. Kinsolver spending time with me. I… well, I know how it was between them. And I think he was afraid Mr. Kinsolver would get tired of him and look to me.”
“Did he have any reason for believing that?”
The kid just studied his hands resting in his lap and didn’t answer. I let it drop for the moment, merely reminding him to call me on Monday.
As I pulled away from Luther’s place, I smiled. Now I knew how to push Harold Balderson’s buttons.
So what does Detective Field have in mind? For sure, he’s going to interview Harold again. But is he finished with Luther? Next week’s finale will reveal all.
Now my mantra: Keep on reading and keep on writing. You have something to say… so say it!
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