Thursday, February 23, 2023

Jazz Penrod From the BJ Vinson Murder Mystery Series (Part 2 of 2 Parts) blog post #588

 Last week, I told of a conversation wherein I was asked my favorite (other than the protagonist and supporting cast) characters in the BJ Vinson series. I settled on Jazz Penrod, the gay, half-Navajo-half white teenager first introduced the second book in the series, The Bisti Business. He also shows up in the fourth book (Abaddon’s Locusts). In part one, we examined Jazz in Bisti. Today, I’d like to compare him in Abaddon.


In Chapter 1 of the novel, BJ has just returned home from his office. As he prepares a meal, the doorbell rings.

 I turned off the stove and opened the door to reveal a tall raven-haired Navajo with high cheekbones. It took a moment to recognize the good-looking guy. “Henry Secatero, as I live and breathe.”

His deep voice came up out of his nether regions. “Wasn’t sure you’d remember me.”

“How could I forget the guys who helped me solve a case. Is Jazz with you?” His quick frown told me he was about to deliver bad news. “Come on in.”

We settled in the den with a couple of jiggers of Scotch. He laid what appeared to be a sleeve for a laptop computer on the floor beside his chair and took a sip before speaking. “Jazz is gone.”

“Gone?” My hand tightened on the rocks glass halfway to my mouth. That free spirit was too young and lively to be… gone. “You mean—”

“Naw, not hit the dust. Just disappeared. Poof. And that ain’t like Jazz.”

Jasper Penrod, who dubbed himself Jazz as soon as he was old enough, was Henry’s mixed-blood half-brother. The two helped me solve a case I mentally called the Bisti Business up in the Four Corners area three years ago.

I rubbed my chin, trying to recall what I knew of Jazz’s situation. “Are you sure? Way I understand it, he spends some of his time on the Navajo Reservation and some in Farmington. Hard to keep track of him.”

“Yeah, he bounces around, but he don’t go outa touch for long. He calls me regular-like. If he can’t reach me on my cell, he leaves a message at the chapter house. I didn’t get worried until I saw his Uncle Riley in Farmington and found out Jazz hadn’t called him or his mother either. Been three… four weeks since anybody heard from him.”

 “Do you have any idea why?”

“Not sure, but this might have something to do with it.” Henry leaned over and picked up the canvas case. He hesitated after pulling out an Acer laptop computer. “Man, I sure hate to show you this.”

My raised eyebrows probably expressed my surprise better than my spoken “Why?”

“You’ll see a Jazz you ain’t seen before. Hell, I ain’t seen before. You gotta understand. Jazz being like he is, you know gay and all, it’s not easy for him up in Farmington. When he was growing up, he didn’t mind casual… affairs, I guess you’d say. Until he saw what you and Paul had together, he didn’t believe nobody was out there for him. Permanent, I mean.” Sweat formed on Henry’s upper lip, attesting to how hard it was to talk about his brother’s homosexuality.

I called to mind an image of the uncommonly handsome, unabashedly gay, and friendly-as-a-puppy kid I’d come to admire. All his life he maneuvered successfully in an environment of miners and oil field workers normally hostile to his lifestyle, thanks in large part to the aggressive protection provided by Henry, their Navajo father Louie, and Jazz’s Anglo Uncle Riley.

Henry drew a deep breath and let it out. “Anyway, he started looking for a steady. Someone he could build something with. And there wasn’t nobody in Farmington. Nobody he could attach to, at any rate. Not on the rez neither. He’d try with this guy or that but didn’t find what he was looking for.” Henry gave an insincere laugh. “Jazz looking like he does, lotsa guys you wouldn’t even expect would go with him for a while. Some might even have stuck, but they wasn’t what he was looking for.” Henry’s face twisted in perplexity. “You want the truth? I think he was looking for another you. He really dug you.”

“There was never anything between—”

He waved a hand. “I know. He told me he offered, and you said you already had somebody. That really impressed him. That’s what he was looking for. A guy who’d turn down an offer because they belonged to him.” Henry ran an agitated hand through thick black hair. “Aw, I’m screwing this up. All I’m saying is he was looking for love. Just like I do, but on the other side of the bed.”

“You’re doing fine. Tell me something. What do you really think about your brother being gay? I know you won’t stand for people picking on him, but how do you feel about it down deep?”

“I don’t understand it. I look at a guy—hell, I look at you—and ask myself what would Jazz see?” Henry shrugged. “He’d see mutton stew while I see cactus. Sometimes I sorta understand when I remember that it’s the same as me looking at a woman. At least to him, it is.”

Despite just being called a cactus, I nodded. “Now show me what you came to show me.”

He fired up the laptop and stared at the blank screen as the device went through its booting up process. “How’d you get his password?” I asked as we waited.

“It’s taped on the back of the computer. Jazz was private… but not secretive, I guess you’d say. I felt like shit going through his stuff,” he added in a low voice. “But I’m glad I did. I found these.”

He handed over the machine. Jazz used for his Email, and Henry went to the Sent section to select a message. “That’s the first one I found. After you read it, scroll up to the next one. Jeez, I need to go for a walk or something while you do that. Okay?”

“Leave the door unlocked. Just come in when you work it off.”

Henry had selected the first Email message where his brother responded to a contact from someone named Juan. They apparently connected through a site called Unwilling to switch back and forth between Jazz’s Sent and Trash containers, I searched his My Folders until I spotted one labeled Juan. Upon opening that file, I found messages between the two stretching back about four months and ending five weeks ago right after they exchanged Skype addresses. The pair started off using Aesopian language, but as time went one, they became more direct.

The first photograph in the Email file was a bust shot of Juan showing an attractive, smiling Hispanic on the shy side of thirty with a white blaze in his dark hair. He wore a bright yellow polo shirt. Jazz responded with a photo of himself standing beside the old ‘91Jeep Wrangler ragtop I’d helped him buy during the Bisti case. He wore a pair of walking shorts and a blue, sleeveless pullover that clearly showed his six-pack.

Juan responded with a request for a headshot, a close-up to see if he was as “beautiful as he seemed to be.” Jazz’s next photo was a wowser, as I used to say when I was a kid. Jazz qualified as stunningly handsome, and the camera wallowed in it. The half dozen messages led me right where I feared this was going. Juan’s second photo was shirtless; Jazz matched it. Long before I reached the modest naked and the stark-naked shots, I knew what happened to Jazz Penrod. The internet swept him into a sex ring. Grateful his brother was out walking off his frustration, I considered my conclusion for a minute before acceptance came. The Jazz I knew was open and honest, and if you couldn’t take him the way he was, he’d write you off. He wasn’t venal. Money had its place, but it wasn’t that important to him.

When Henry returned, I set aside the laptop

He balked at my conclusion. “No way! Jazz ain’t… whata you call it? Promiscuous. He had sex with guys, but he didn’t spread it all over the place. He wouldn’t go to bed with nobody he didn’t like.”

“Which is why this Juan—probably not his real name—took his time. He reeled Jazz in like a deep diving trout… playing him and teasing him until he landed him. As soon as Jazz sent him his first picture, Juan knew he had a winner. So he played him, feeding him more and more. That’s what the pictures were all about. Getting Jazz to commit deeper and deeper to what he thought was a kindred soul.”

 Now let’s look at Jazz in Chapter 27. He’s managed to escape the clutches of the human trafficking ring, but was injured in the process. That and the drugs the ring hooked him on left him amnesia. He has no idea BJ and Henry are searching for him. Jazz is with a Navajo family who’s befriended him and are working to get him free of drugs. Klah, the family’s son, is dazzled by Jazz.

Jazz leaned on the handle of his Bully Tools weed cutter, taking pleasure in watching Klah’s wiry, graceful figure swing his scythe-like implement. Jazz’s chest swelled with an emotion that defied definition. Nonetheless, he kept edging toward calling it what it was. But recollections of Juan’s betrayal got in the way every time. He smiled to himself and started swinging his weedwhacker along the barrow ditch on his side of the road. The sharp smell of the cut weeds and the dust his weedwhacker raised was somehow pleasing to him.

Klah had managed to get them work with the Alamo School Board clearing ditches alongside the busier roads on the reservation. Jazz mentally shook his head. The school board, for crying out loud. It not only ran the school, it was also responsible for roads. Klah told him the school board was the biggest employer on the reservation. They even employed the only policeman on the place.

Despite the heat of a late summer sun, Jazz enjoyed the work. That is, he enjoyed the exercise. He’d stopped running daily and now re-learned that exercise, along with the diet Dibe and Hosteen Platero laid out for him kept his cramps… and usually his nausea at bay. He still craved the crack, but he’d come to understand that was a mental thing that sometimes utilized his guts to make itself known. Still, there was no question in his mind he was getting better, and swinging a weedwhacker daily helped.

It didn’t take long for Jazz and Klah to learn that walking to the far end of their assigned section and working back toward the settlement eliminated a long walk home at the end of the day. Now judging the work shift to be over, they hoisted tools to their shoulders and headed for the school board. After putting their equipment away, they wordlessly walked to the wellness center where they showered and changed into clean clothes they packed with them.

Afterward, they resisted the urge to grab a prepackaged sandwich at the minimart, instead returning to the trailer so Klah could fix a stew with the ingredients Jazz needed for his damaged system. Jazz came to hate green tea, but then perversely decided he liked it. The vitamins and minerals he required were expensive. Even so, they found it more convenient to get most of them in tablet form. Klah’s cooking skills weren’t sufficient to utilize all the natural sources of everything Jazz’s recovery required.

Tired but restless, along about sundown, they wandered to the minimart. They didn’t need anything, but it was something to do. They gave the little store the once-over to make certain Cheese and his buddies weren’t around before entering. Because they were working men now, they splurged on a couple of strawberry soft drinks and went back outside to lean against the side of the building to sip at them.

“Good pop,” Klah said.

“I always liked Cokes, but you got me hung up on strawberry now. What have you done to me?”

Klah grinned, something Jazz enjoyed watching. “Improved your lifestyle. Uh-oh.” He pursed his lips, blushed red by the strawberry, and nodded.


“Girl I used to know. And she’s got her sister with her.”

Jazz turned to watch two women in tight slacks walking toward the entrance. One of them did a double take and headed straight for them.

“Klah! I heard you come back. Why didn’t you look me up?”

“Hello, Thunder Thighs,” he responded.

She turned sideways and posed with one hand behind her head. “You can’t call me that no more. I lost my baby fat.”

“So I noticed. But you’ll always be Thunder Thighs to me.”

“All right, but only you. Nobody else can call me that. Who’s that with you?”

“Bicycle, this here’s Clarise Mockingbird, but I call her Thunder Thighs.” Klah looked over her shoulder. “Is that little Maudie I see?”

“Except my sister ain’t so little no more. Come on over here and meet Bicycle.”

Jazz caught Klah’s quick frown but didn’t quite understand it. Was his lover going to hold on so tight there would be no room for anyone else in their lives?

Maudie offered a soft hand, prompting Jazz to accept it. She held on a moment as he confirmed his pseudonym. He felt compelled to explain.

“He named me that because he found me right after I had a bicycle wreck on I-40 and can’t remember who I am.”

She batted big black eyes. “You don’t know who you are?”

“Well, sorta. It’s a weird story.”

“I like weird. Tell me all about it.”

“But you gotta buy us sodas first,” her sister said.

After Klah returned with two bottles—a Coke for Thunder Thighs and a grape for Maudie—they settled in the dirt at the side of the building. After staring at the ground for a minute, Jazz came up with a story.

“This old ram got away. I couldn’t catch it on foot, so I grabbed a bicycle and started after it.”

“Got away from where?” Thunder Thighs asked.

He ignored her. “He got out on the highway, you know I-40, so I chased him right up the blacktop. Then this big semi roared up behind me and knocked me in the ditch. Don’t remember much after that.”

“Aw, that’s a big tale,” Maudie said.

“All right, it was a Big Foot. You know, one of those sasquatch things.”

Maudie slapped his arm playfully. “Either you’re trying to make fools of us or else Coyote’s making a fool of you.”

“We really did find him riding a bicycle on I-40 after dark. And a semi did roar by. The wash from passing threw him right off the road. Knocked him silly.”

“That’s your version,” Jazz said. “I like mine better.” He noticed Maudie’s little hand still rested on his forearm.

“What the hell’s going on here!”

The booming voice startled all of them. Jazz glanced around to see Cheese Apachito advancing on him. Without another word, the man clapped him up beside the head. He saw stars, but managed to roll over and come to his feet.

“What was that for?” he demanded as he set his stance.

“Nobody fucks with my woman.” Cheese’s flushed face turned dark with blood.

“Didn’t know she was your woman,” he said.

“I’m not. He’s just being a big bully. Like he always does.”

Cheese lunged at him. Jazz sidestepped, missing a good chance to ring the man’s bells with a chop to the ear.

“No need for this, man,” he said. “I’m not—”

Cheese came for him again. Jazz didn’t know where it came from, but he dropped into a squatting stance and deflected the other’s blows with his forearms. When he saw an opportunity, he lashed out with this left and caught Cheese on the nose. The man grunted and came back with a solid blow to Jazz’s left shoulder. It rocked him. But he let go with a right, catching his opponent’s injured nose again. Cheese instinctively put his hands to his face, and Jazz doubled him over with a jab to the stomach. That ended things. Maudie and Thunder Thighs went to help the bully while Klah urged Jazz toward home.

“Man, you rang his bell. Where’d you learn to fight like that?” Klah asked after a few minutes of silence.

“Dunno. Think maybe my brother taught me.” He frowned. “Or maybe it was my uncle.”

“You have a brother and an uncle?”

“Yeah. Seems like I do. Sounds right in my head, anyway.”


“My brother is. Uncle’s not. Leastways that’s the way it seems.”



Yeah, I’d say Jazz has matured.

 Stay safe and stay strong. And stay out of the clutches of human traffickers.

 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, February 16, 2023

Jazz Penrod From the BJ Vinson Murder Mystery Series (Part 1 of 2 Parts) blog post #587

The other day, I was talking with an author friend about characters we’ve created in our own writings. When she asked which of the individuals (outside of the protagonist and his supporting staff) in the BJ Vinson Murder Mystery Series was my favorite, the answer came right away, Jasper (Jazz) Penrod, the sassy, openly-gay-and-don’t-give-a-damn-how-you-feel-about-it, half Navajo-half white teenager I introduced in the series,
The Bisti Business. Had to be, I built another book (Abaddon’s Locusts). Bisti was the second book; Abaddon, the fourth. That got me to thinking about how characters mature from one book to the other. As a result, I’d like to take a brief look at Jazz in both of the novels to see how he’s grown.



BJ is in Farmington, New Mexico with a young man named Aggie Alfano (son of a California wine mogul) trying to locate his gay brother Lando and Lando’s lover Dana, who have disappeared while traveling the state. BJ picks up a hint of trouble between the two young men that might involve someone named Jazz Penrod.


He checks with his Farmington Police contact Sgt. Dixie Lee to see if she knows the kid:


The kid had first come to the department’s attention the day he turned thirteen when he broke a bottle over his father’s head during a drunken domestic brawl. The prosecutors decided he was acting in defense of his mother, so no juvie charges were filed. Within a month, he was back in their sights when a cop caught a twenty-two-year-old man in a compromising position with him. Since Jazz was a minor, the entire weight of the law fell upon the adult, who was charged with child sexual abuse. The next time it was a high school senior basketball player who suffered the consequences.

“There’s not much here except for sexual liaisons and the beer bottle incident with his father,” I said. “Just a shoplifting charge last year that was dismissed.”

“Yeah. We looked into it, and it was clear the accusation was payback when Jazz spurned some guy’s advances.”

“No fighting. Nothing like that,” I continued. “That’s unusual, especially the lack of fighting. I’d think an obvious gay would be in scrapes all the time around here.”

“Probably would be except for his older brother and his uncle. He’s got protectors on both sides of the family. Henry Secatero, his half-brother, is more of a father than Louie Secatero ever was. Henry’s a tough guy, and if anybody plows into Jazz….” Dix faltered, apparently tripping over on her choice of words. “That is, if anybody attacks Jazz, they have him to deal with. Henry’s been in trouble more than once over situations like that, but it’s never anything serious enough for more than a night in jail.”

“How old is Henry?”

“Around twenty-eight or so.”

“Native American, I take it,” Aggie interjected.

“You take it right.”

“You said something about protection from the other side of the family, too,” I said.


“His mother’s brother, Riley Penrod has always been protective of his nephew. Riley’s been in a few fistfights over Jazz. Not as much and not as violently as Henry, but enough so you’d sit up and take notice. So word got around pretty quick not to lean on Jazz.”

She did that thing with the curl of hair at her shoulder. “Of course, Jazz does all right on his own. He looks like an angel, but he fights like a devil.”

I tapped the folder in her hand. “Nothing about that in there from the quick glance I saw.”

“No, he’s always been the victim. That is to say, the other guy threw the first punch, but Jazz gets in his quota. You wouldn’t think it from looking at the kid. He’s long and lanky, but he’s got a set of muscles hidden under his shirt. Here, take a look for yourself.”

Even the kid’s mug shot, taken for the bogus shoplifting charge, was something. A spectacularly handsome adolescent peered out from the image through dark, smoky eyes. Full, blushed lips. High, smooth cheeks. Gracefully arched brows that ended in a slight, upward twist, giving the teen an impish look. Raven hair spilled down on his neck in an ebony halo, slightly wavy and looking silky to the touch. Jazz Penrod was saved from androgyny by an Adam’s apple and the defined, definitely male slope of his shoulders. I got the feeling that in person, the kid was graceful, maybe even excessively so, but not a mama’s boy. I could understand how he came by his reputation. With those sultry, exotic looks, he’d get plenty of action by just crooking his little finger—or better yet, lifting one of those eyebrows. There was little of his mother in the image; he probably resembled Louis, his father.


He and Aggie find Jazz the next day. BJ is speaking.


“Look across the street. The kid walking west.”

“It’s him. It’s the Penrod kid, isn’t it?”

“Think so, but I can’t be sure.”

“Let’s go talk to him.”

I pulled out and turned back toward our rooms. “We will. But I don’t want to spook him.”

“What are you going to do?”

“The kid’s gay. He’s receptive to the attention of presentable men, so—”

“Hell, we’re presentable. Let’s go.”

“Not we. Me. You look too much like your brother. You wait in my room while I try to pick him up. If I can, I’ll bring him back for a chat.”

“Sounds like a plan.”

I let Aggie into my room and drove out onto Main. For a moment, I thought I’d lost Penrod, but then I spotted him far down the street. That long-legged gait ate up the distance.

I drove past, confirming it was Jazz. Pulling a U in full view of him, I approached at a crawl. His stride shortened as he eyed the car. I halted ten paces in front of him and leaned across the seat so he could get a good look at me.

The “stare” is a standard move for a lot of gays on the make, but in New Mexico it is a complicated maneuver. Many Native American cultures have an eye avoidance custom, considering it rude. Gangbangers take it as dissing, a challenge to their machismo. A lot of straights feel it’s an invasion of their space; it makes them uncomfortable. Jazz Penrod didn’t have a problem with it; his gaze locked onto mine.


“Morning.” His smile displayed a row of straight, sparkling white teeth. “Can I help you?”

“Maybe you can. I’m new in town. Just here for a couple of days. You look like a fellow who can tell me where the action is.”

“Depends on what kind of action you’re looking for.”

“Why don’t you get in the car, and we’ll discuss it. Maybe we can go back to my motel room to talk at leisure.”

“Where you staying?”

I motioned with my head. “Down the street. Trail’s End.”

He did a half turn and looked toward the motel. “Don’t see why not.” He stepped off the curb, grasped the door handle, and slid into the passenger’s seat. “My name’s Jazz.”

I accepted the handshake, noting the strength of his grip, which argued Jazz Penrod worked for his living, although exactly what kind of work seemed to be a mystery.

“BJ. Up from Albuquerque for a visit.”

“BJ. Like the initials?”

I nodded.

“Here on business?”

“In a way.”

As I pulled out onto the street, his eyes raked me. “Go in the back way,” he directed. “I know the girl who works in the office there.”

“You mean Melissa? She seems like a decent sort.”

“She is, but….” He left the rest unsaid.

I turned away from the office and circled around behind the building in order to reach my room. Jazz got out of the car and waited until I unlocked the door. As I moved aside, he stepped into the room where he abruptly halted.

“What is this?” He backed up, bumping into me. “I don’t do threesomes.”

“Not asking you to.” I applied pressure to his broad shoulders. “Just want to talk to you for a few minutes.”

“No, thanks. I gotta be someplace.”

I managed to close the door and lean against it, blocking his way. “Hear me out, and then you can leave if you want. Won’t take but a minute.”

Jazz stepped forward, giving me some room. He motioned toward Aggie sitting on the edge of the bed. “I know you. Well, I mean….”

“Looks just like his brother, doesn’t he?”

“You’re Lando’s brother?”

“I’m Aggie Alfano.”

“Look, man, Lando and Dana came on to me. I didn’t—”

“Nobody’s pissed, Jazz,” I assured him. “We just need some answers. Dana and Lando are missing, and we’re trying to find out what happened to them.”


“Yes, and their car went over the Rio Grande Gorge near Taos the other day, although neither of them was in it.”

“No shit? That Porsche? Man, that was a bitchin’ ride.”

“Sit down,” I indicated one of the two chairs at a small table. “Let’s see if we can figure out a couple of things.”

I examined the young man as he strolled to the table and settled into a seat. Although the photo Dix Lee had shown us looked vaguely androgynous, the flesh and blood Jazz Penrod exuded a powerful masculinity. But there was something else at work, too. Some sense of vulnerability, approachability. This guy could probably raise the pulse rate of half the men and women in town. He tossed his head, throwing his shoulder-length hair back. Seductive as hell, and he wasn’t even trying.

“When did you meet Lando and Dana?” I asked.

“I don’t remember the exact date, but I know it was a Sunday night a couple of weeks ago.” His voice was a light baritone with a husky quality. The inflection on some of his words was different—he almost swallowed the final syllables. Yet, he came across loud and clear.

I took out the calendar I’d worked up for Lando’s trip and made a notation. “That would have been August 12, right?”

He shrugged. “I guess. I know they’d gone to the Aztec Ruins that day because they talked about it.”

“You met them at the Sidewinder?”

“Yeah. We got to talking, and they bought me a drink or two.”

“We understand Lando and Dana got into an argument at the bar. Was that over you?”

Jazz smiled. “Nope. They were arguing about where to go the next day. Lando wanted to go see the Bisti Badlands, but Dana wanted to try the Salmon Ruins.”

“That was it? That caused an argument?”

“Not really an argument, but,” Jazz cut his eyes to where Aggie sat on the bed, “Lando did this Italian thing. You know, getting earnest when he talked.”

Aggie chuckled aloud. “You got him down pat, Jazz. That’s my brother. Italian.”

“So did you go back to the motel with them when they left the bar?” I asked.

Jazz shook his head. “No.”

“Look, we need the truth, okay?”

“Uh-uh, I didn’t go to the motel with them, but they gave me a ride back to town and dropped me off at my place. It was their decision, not mine,” he added. “They were pretty much into each other—that night, anyway.”

“But you saw them again and decided to get between them.”

“Not exactly. I mean, I saw them again. I went to the Salmon Ruins with them the next day, but I wasn’t trying to cause trouble.”

“But that’s the way it turned out, right?” I asked. The skin around those expressive black eyes tightened; I recognized stubbornness when I saw it. “Jazz, those guys might be in real trouble. We need to know everything that happened. Some trivial little detail might turn out to be important. You caused some trouble between them—right or wrong?”

“Okay. Yeah, Lando caught me flirting with Dana at the pueblo. Pissed him off, but he got mad at Dana, not me.”

I decided to push. “Come on, Lando was a good-looking guy. He owned the car, and he was the guy with the money.”

Jazz came halfway out of his seat. “Hey, man, I’m no whore. I only go with guys I like.”

I nodded at Aggie. “What’s not to like? And from the picture I’ve seen, Lando’s even better looking than his brother.”

“Yeah,” the kid said, settling back in his chair again. “He was fucking beautiful. But Dana was, too. And I like guys who don’t look like me. You know, with the same dark hair, dark eyes—like me.” With a sideways look at Aggie, he gave a grin. “I’d go for you before him. That’s cool hair. Brown, but not really brown either. Reminds me of coffee with cream in it. And I like green eyes—you know, like emeralds.”

“Thanks for the compliment. I understand how it went now. So Lando got steamed?”

“Yeah. They got in an argument—a real one this time. I guess I shoulda felt bad, but I didn’t.”

“You like two good-looking guys fighting over you?”

“Well, yeah. Who wouldn’t? But it wasn’t like that. Lando didn’t get his nose outa joint because I didn’t come on to him; he just didn’t want Dana to get with me. They argued all the way back to town. But you know after awhile, I got the feeling they weren’t really arguing about me. Something was bothering them, all right, but it wasn’t me.”

“They never said what it was?” He shook his head. “But you went back to the motel with them, didn’t you?” I said.

“Yeah. I got out in front of the motel to walk home, but I heard Lando say he was going down the street to take care of some business at a gallery. Something about a painting he wanted to buy.”

“And he left you alone with Dana.”

“Not really. Like I said, I got out in front of the motel and started up the street, but when Lando pulled out alone, I went back—you know, to apologize to Dana. He invited me inside.”

“So you got together with Dana?” Aggie’s voice held a trace of anger.

The insolent grin returned. “Yeah, we did it.”

“And Lando caught you?” Aggie pressed.

“No, but it took longer then we planned, and I was just walking up the street when the Porsche came back. Lando might have seen me on the sidewalk, but I’m not really sure.”

Aggie and I exchanged glances. That explained the fight that almost came to blows Melissa had described.


Next week, Jazz in Abaddon’s Locusts. Has he changed?

 Stay safe and stay strong.

 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, February 9, 2023

And God Connived… (A Repost) blog post #586

Photo courtesy of Dreamstime.



As the fourteenth anniversary of my wife’s death approaches, I’d like to repost a little piece I put up in 2017 for no other reason than it fits my mood. Please bear with me.




By Don Travis

 “Bobby,” he lisped.

“Mine’s Wilma.” She dug her tin spade into the sandbox and dumped a load of grit over his blond head.

“Stop it!” He fought tears, spit dirt, and dug at his eyes with chubby fists. “Why’d you do that?”

“Wanted to!”




“My mommy says you mess your pants.”

“Do not!” he yelped.

“Do, too!” Wilma came back at him.

“Do not!”

“Poopy head!”

“Stop it.”

“Bobby Poopy head! Bobby Poopy head!”

He tuned up but refused to cry.




“What’re you doing?” Wilma demanded. “Don’t want you walking me to school. I’m meeting my girlfriends.”

“Not walking you to school. Walking me to school. Can’t help it if you’re filling up the sidewalk.”

“I wish you’d never moved here. Things used to be better.”

“Yeah, well, I wish we’d never moved here, too. Not on your street, anyway. Wish you was a boy.”

Wilma put a finger down her throat and said, “Gag!”

Bob smiled. He got her that time.



“Need a ride?”

She slipped into the passenger seat of his 55 Fairlane. “Thanks, Bob. I’m running late. Couldn’t get my hair to behave this morning.”

“Looks great to me.”

“Well, thanks again. We gonna win tonight?

“Better. The Ravens are the team to beat if we want to go to State.”

“You’ll do it. You’re a good quarterback. Go get ‘em, Cowboys.”

His face glowed.




Bob turned bright red when they put the crown on his head, but his heart swelled when they placed a tiara on Wilma’s head and declared them King and Queen of the Prom.

“First dance? he whispered.

“And the last,” she murmured.

It turned out to be all the ones between, as well.




The phone crackled in his ear until her voice answered. “Hi, babe.”

“Bob! So glad to hear your voice. I miss you so much.”

“I’ll be home for spring break soon. And next year you’ll be up here at the U with me.”

“Have you… met anyone?” Her voice broke.

“Lots, but not another Wilma. You?”

“Not another Bobby.”




“Do you, Robert Preston Katey, take this woman to be your wedded wife?”

“I do.”

“Do you, Wilma Patricia Munson, take this man to be your wedded husband?

And just like that… it was done.

The honeymoon in summertime Aspen was as nearly perfect as he could imagine.




The radio crackled, but he faintly heard her voice. Time was precious, and he tried to make the most of it. She and baby Bobby were all right… and that was what mattered. Over the distant thud of mortars and artillery and the occasional rattle of small arms, he assured himself of that. The presence of others in the dugout put a halter on his tongue, but he managed to tell her he loved her… them.

“And I love you, too. Oh, Bob, when are you coming home?”

“As soon as we whip these guys into line.” Could she hear the phony jocularity in his voice?

“Be careful, hon.”


Then Bobby Jr. came on the line and sprouted childish gibberish, but it was the most wonderful nonsense in the world.




On their tenth wedding anniversary, Bob stood, uncomfortable in his tux, and lifted his glass in a toast. “We had a rocky start in our relationship. She stuck out her tongue at me, and I pulled her hair from the time my family moved into the house beside theirs when I was five. But I believe the Good Lord willed that we be together. No, he connived to overcome our early experiences. But I thank the Lord for being persistent. Here’s to my beautiful wife, Wilma.




Bob gave that same toast containing the identical prayer of thanks over each of the following forty years. On the forty-first, he delivered the message personally.



As I’ve said on this blog before, February through April are a blue time for me. February 12 was the date my wife died, March 13 is her birthday, and April 8 our wedding anniversary. This expanded to almost half a year when my older son died two years ago on January 22, and his birthday fell on May 14.

 Stay safe and stay strong.

 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, February 2, 2023

Nerds in the Wild – A Repost (Part 2 of 2 Parts) blog post #585

Photo courtesy of


 Cold and uncomfortable… and perhaps a little reptile-anxious, is the way we left our two nerd hikers last week. Do things get worse or improve in the second half of the story? Let’s see.



In what must have been the middle of the night, I woke. It had stopped raining, at least I couldn’t hear water hitting the tent. Of course, I couldn’t hear much of anything because of a dull roaring sound. It took a few minutes to understand it must be the creek. The shelf where I lay must have been ten feet above the water. But maybe not. It sounded closer – and angrier – than that peaceful little trickle of yesterday.

Then I realized my butt was wet. Wet and cold. That’s what had awakened me. I put my hand out and dipped my fingers in half an inch of frigid liquid.

“Ron!” I yelled. “Get up! There’s water in the tent.” I fought my way out of the sleeping bag and stood in the water. And my feet had been about the only part of me that wasn’t freezing. I heard Ron splashing and cursing in around in the darkness.

“Glasses! Can’t find my glasses.” That all came out in a moan.

Then I felt the tent move. Not much, but just a little. Hell, it shouldn’t be moving at all. The water was now up around my ankles.

“Get out!” I screamed. “The tent’s about go.”

“Glasses! Gotta find my glasses!”

I found the zipper and managed to get it halfway up. “Forget your glasses. Save your ass!”

I fought my way out of the tent into a freezing wind. I was pretty sure it had stopped raining, but water still pelted my face. Whipped up by the wind, probably. Ron blundered out of the tent and almost shoved me down into the creek. The clouds had cleared and a moon directly overhead provided a little light. I felt blood drain from my face as I looked across the canyon at a broad expanse of boiling water. Yesterday’s playful creek had become an angry river. And we were standing in it.

I turned and ran into Ron. “Run,” I said. “Climb the walls. We gotta get higher.”

“G-grab our packs,” he stammered.

Even as he said it, our tent swayed before the wind, and then it was gone. We watched with our jaws sagging as it floated for a minute, and then collapsed from the weight of the water inside. It was out of sight within ten seconds.

Just as I started for the wall of rock behind me, a deep booming sound halted me. “What’s that?”

“D-dunno,” Ron stammered. “Maybe thunder.”

It came again … and again. A booming, thudding grinding sound. Getting closer. And then I understood.

“That’s not thunder. Move. Climb for your life!”

“What is it?”

“Climb, man, climb. Don’t waste time talking.

I’m not sure how we did it given the combination of total darkness eased only by the moon’s glow and rocks still slippery from the rain, but we began to ascend the nearly vertical walls of Grolier Canyon. All the while the terrible booming came closer and closer.

I reached a ledge and paused to grab Ron’s collar and drag him up beside me. I had no idea if we were high enough, but I’d done all I could. I wasn’t going to be able to climb another inch. So I started praying while the wind tried to snatch us off our precarious perch.

The booming grew louder and louder until it was almost ear-splitting. My chilled blood ran even colder. Ron grabbed my arm and let out a moan as a wall of water rushed toward us, an occasional boulder the size of a truck occasionally visible inside it.

“Oh, shit! Climb,” Ron yelled.

I grabbed his arm. “Don’t move. If we’re not high enough, it’s too late now.”


“We might fall if we try to climb. Stay still.”

The ten-foot wall of muddy water seemed to move agonizingly slowly. It was like watching death approach at a slow, deliberate pace. But I knew there was nothing slow about it. And the booms filling our ears weren’t death drums, they were boulders and tree trunks and who knew what else being swept along by the power of the water. Why wasn’t I terrified? Why was I calm?

And then it reached us. The angry wall passed right below our feet, but leaping waves reached up to snatch at us. We were drenched anew, but we remained glued to the wall of cork at our backs. And then I saw a tree, reduced to only a sodden log rushing for us. Someone moaned – I think it was me – as a long, cable-like root scraped the canyon wall not twenty feet ahead of us. We clutched one another and watched in awe as the log tumbled, and the whipping root rose and passed just over our heads.

And then the torrent was past. The booming receded, echoing up and down the steep canyon walls. And with the passing came the fear. The absolute terror that had refused to come as we stared Death in the face. I started shivering violently, but didn’t know if it was fright or cold. Probably both. We were without boots, without coats. Thank goodness we’d slept in our clothing. We were soaked to the skin and whipped by a brisk, cold wind.

The water level dropped rapidly after that, but it stubbornly refused to drop enough for us to clamber down to that rock shelf where we’d pitched our tent. There was no way to go anywhere. We were stranded. Would we freeze to death before cramping leg muscles pitched us off the ledge into the torrent below?

I was still calculating the odds on that when I heard the faint sound of a helicopter.


Ron and I considered skipping school the next Monday, but that would merely delay the inevitable. Dweebs and nerds and geeks – and we were all three – came in for more than their share of harassment at Belvedere High, and our recent adventure brought us more than usual. But it also brought a few “glad you made it” and “close shave, man” comments. We had handled things pretty well until Friday’s edition of the Belvedere Weekly Gazette came out.

The lead story opened with the words “Local Belvedere High students, Ezekiel Harmer (17) and Ronald Smylie (17) ignored a flood warning last Saturday and were caught in a flash flood in Golier Canyon. The two youths were rescued by…


Maybe I am a nerd--sans electronics--because that's exactly the way any invasion of the wilderness by me would likely turn out. Hope you enjoyed the little story. Hopefully, I'll be back on schedule so I can give you something new next week.

Until then.

 Stay safe and stay strong.

 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.

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