dontravis.com blog post #577
Last week, Albuquerque police Detective Dave Field caught a case involving the murder of a well-known and popular former cop turned private investigator, a man named John Jacob Kinsolver. By searching Kinsolver’s personal and agency files, he discovers a life no one else suspected. Kinsolver liked boys—more specifically, young men. Handsome young men. One of them, Harold Balderson, worked for the PI and was obviously a kept man. Then Dave runs across a new name: Luther.
JOHN JACOB KINSOLVER
Photographs in the Luther folder were all more artistic than erotic… save one. But the care devoted to posing and light exposure somehow rendered them more stimulating. The subject was not only well formed but also sublimely comely and somehow ethnic in features. I judged him to be in his late teens or early twenties and extremely photogenic.
Following my review of the photos, I scoured Kinsolver’s journal until I found the first reference to a “Luther,” about a year ago. My victim was so fulsome in his praise of the young man, he failed to reveal how the two met. But as I read on, it became obvious John Jacob was besotted with the young man. Other journal entries appeared rushed so he could devote his time to describing events with his new muse. And Luther appeared more and more frequently in his notations, reminding me of love-sick longings in some teenager’s personal diary.
Apparently, their rare meetings—punctuated by lengthy laments in the journal—did not result in consummation until about three months before Kinsolver’s death. Descriptions of the momentous event were more poetic than graphic, but nonetheless raised a slight sweat on my neck as I read. Although descriptions were spare, I fully understood the part teach played in their trysts. Finally, I came upon a surname. Standing.
Our paragon of male beauty was named Luther Standing. And with that, came a recognition of the ethnic bent I’d observed. This young man was likely a Native American. That name had, no doubt, been shortened from something like Standing Bear or Standing Horse or somesuch. I had no clue as to tribe, but whichever one it was, they sure grew them fine. The discovery of the family name sent me back to the photo file to examine the last photograph in the array, the one I’d referenced as a departure from the norm for the Luther shots. Definitely erotic. Full frontal with Luther Standing… well, standing. Impressive.
Reluctantly, I returned to being the hard-nosed detective assigned the task of determining who had killed John Jacob Kinsolver. Yes, the individuals in the photo arrays—including Luther Standing—were possible persons of interest, but there might be others. I spent days going over the dead PI’s files, noting some subjects worthy of consideration because his investigations had resulted in a significant impact on their lives. By the end of the week, I had a list of ten individuals I wanted to interview. Five of them… personal, I guess you could say, including Harold, his assistant, and Luther, the object of JJ's devotion. The other five were subjects of his investigations. I started with Harold.
He sat straighter in his seat when I read him his Miranda warning. “You think I killed John Jacob?”
“Hell, no! He was my meal ticket, man. I worked for him. Now, I’ve got no job. That don’t make sense.”
“And you bedded him.”
“To be crude about it, Harold, you fucked him.”
The young man lost some of his tough guy attitude and turned a light shade of pink. “What are you—”
“You can’t deny you’re aware of the photographs. Had to be, you were posing for the camera for some of them.”
“Yeah, I… well….”
“And the journal pretty well describes what went on between the two of you. If that’s not enough, he paid your apartment lease for this year. In advance, I might add. Looked like a permanent thing.”
Harold hung his head and was silent for a moment before he looked me in the eye. Pugnacious Harold was back. “So what? You know that, you know I didn’t want nothing to go wrong with it. Sweetest deal I ever had. Why fuck it up?”
I spread three photographs on the table before him. “What about these? Competitors?”
He eyed them casually. “Nah, they came before me. He told me all about them.” A lascivious grin split his lips. “Compared me to them regularly. I came out on top every time.”
A fourth photo--one of Luther Standing--slid the table and came to rest against his arms. “And this one? How did you rate compared to him.”
“Yeah, I knew about him. Even met him once when I came back to the office one night to pick up something I’d left.” His smile turned wolfish. “Something I needed before I met my girl that night.” Harold casually pushed the photo away. “Pretty, but namby-pamby. John Jacob didn’t like namby-pamby. He liked men—like me. Luther wasn’t his type.”
“Do I detect a little jealousy?”
He leaned back in his chair, exaggerating his masculinity. “I was, I’d go after Luther, not my meal ticket.”
I kept at him for another hour before letting him go with a warning not to leave town.”
“I’m copacetic till the first of the year, Detective. Then I’m splitting this burg”
“Rent’s up, huh?”
The first two of JJ’s crushes were in the system. Ronald Berger got busted for male prostitution and Rolf Milton for prostitution and robbery. Milton was in the pen at the time of JJ’s murder, and Berger had left for Illinois, where he was from. I confirmed both of these facts before turning my attention to the remaining two. The PI’s journal gave me enough information to run down Jack Fearless without much trouble.
Fearless wasn’t what I expected. In fact, he should have been named Fearful. Attractive enough physically, he tuned up as soon as he took a seat in the interrogation room. I spent five minutes trying to convince him I wasn’t with the sex squad but don’t think I succeeded. Well, maybe I did, because when he heard the word homicide, he collapsed into a puddle of weeping jelly. For a moment, I considered calling in his mother—who had brought him to the station—but decided that wasn’t a good move. What would I do with two blubbering individuals?
Eventually, he calmed down enough for us to start.
“You take a good picture, Jack.”
He put two and two together and turned a bright red before muttering “Thank you.”
“How long were you ‘friends’ with Mr. Kinsolver?”
“Only two weeks?”
“Yes, but we got together several times.”
“Why did he stop seeing you?”
His shoulders rose in a shrug. “Don’t know. I liked him. Guess he didn’t like me.”
“According to his journal, he liked you very much.”
“Really?” The shrug again. “Anyway, he stopped asking me over.”
I could see why. I’d asked around the department and found a couple of cops who knew Berger and Milton, and they’d both been masculine, aggressive types. The opposite of this kid. At the end of an hour, I was convinced Jack Fearless couldn’t shiv anyone. He’d have been more likely to take a knife to himself than someone else
That left Luther Standing. But JJ’s journal gave no clues where to find the guy. Doris Staples, one of the women in the department was pretty good at locating missing people, so I handed over a couple of his photos and asked her to have a go at it. She examined the pictures and let out a low whistle. “Oh, I’d like to find him. But I gotta warn you, Dave, Indians can get lost on reservations very easily. He a Navajo?”
“Don’t have any idea. Doris, give it a try while I turn my attention to John Jacob’s cases.”
She agreed, so I did just that. The most likely prospect died a quick death, and I mean that literally. The guy died of a heart attack a week after JJ closed the case. When no vengeful relatives turned up, I moved on to the rest.
I got so involved in tracking down and interrogating—and eliminating—the others on my list, I almost forgot about Luther Standing. Not really forgot, just delayed approaching Doris to ask what she’d found. I suspected she’d found nothing, or she’d have contacted me. When I finally approached her, she confirmed my suspicion.
“Sorry, Dave. He’s not in the system. Doesn’t have a New Mexico driver’s license. Can’t locate a social security number. The Public Health people at the Indian hospital don’t know him. Struck out with local Native American groups, addiction clinics, and the like.”
Appreciate you trying. Now I’ll give it a go.”
“Turn up any suspects?”
“Nope. Just eliminated them.”
“Hate it that John Jacob went that way. He was a decent guy.”
I considered the life JJ had hidden from the rest of us, but decided I concurred. “That he was.”
After pondering possible courses of action the rest of the day, I decided on the simplest of them all. JJ was found in Indian Alley, so I left my department Chevy at the park on Morningside and looked around. None of the people enjoying the park admitted to knowing anyone named Luther Standing, so I started hiking north up the unofficial highway through the alley without finding anything of interest. When I reached the side street housing the city’s best known “Indian Bar,” I turned north and stood in front of the rather unimposing building. The low rumble of jukebox music and multiple conversations penetrated the closed door. Taking a deep breath, I pulled it open and stepped inside.
Dark. Smoky. And quiet as a tomb the moment I entered. The place oozed hostility. As my eyes adjusted to the muted light, I made out a few individual faces. They were routinely dark and closed. Stifling an urge to run, I moved through the bar. A big table in the far corner caught my eye, mostly because it was filled with young people. I made my way over to it, halfway expecting an assault from any quarter. Reminded me of entering a Serb village in Kosovo without backup some years ago when I was serving.
Now I know that tables do not actually have heads. But this one did. And at the head, sat an achingly handsome young man who stared at me intently as the girl draped all over him, hugged him even tighter.
After pausing a moment, I raised my voice. “Luther Standing?”
A smile tugged at the young man’s lips. “That’s me. Who’re you?
So Detective Field has located the enigmatic Luther. His field of suspects in the death of John Jacob Kinsolver are shrinking… in fact, they’re down to two. Harold, Kinsolver’s long time lover, and the mysterious Luther Standing.
What in the world could possibly happen next? We’ll see with next week’s episode.
Stay safe and stay strong.
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See you next Thursday.