Murder Victim Discovered Among the Bisti Wilderness Hoodoos and Gargoyles
That’s true—at least in Don Travis’s THE BISTI BUSINESS
The Bisti/De Na Zin Wilderness in northwest New Mexico reminds visitors of moonscapes. It is immediately eerie and vaguely threatening. For one young gay man, it proves to be very threatening… fatally so. Did he die because he was a homosexual, or does it go deeper than that? BJ Vinson, the gay PI protagonist in this series of mysteries, believes both are true. The handsome young man died because of his lifestyle, but there was likely a deeper, broader reason for his murder. The book is due for release by DSP Publications on March 21.
Born and raised an Okie, I ended up in New Mexico after a meandering tour through Texas (for an education) and Germany (to serve my time in the US Army). Making a living and raising a family occupied the next few years, but eventually I got around to writing. DSP released my first published book, THE ZOZOBRA INCIDENT, on November 15 of last year. The third in the BJ Vinson Series will be THE CITY OF ROCKS, scheduled for publication on July 17, 2017. The first draft of the fourth, THE LOVELY PINES, is finished and waiting for editing. Other than writing, my life is pretty insular. I attend monthly meetings of SouthWest Writer, to which I belong, and giving free weekly writing classes at an Albuquerque multigenerational center. All of my books take place in my adopted home of New Mexico so I can show the love and admiration I feel for the state.
For a brief look at the book, I chose a scene in Chapter 3. BJ has been tasked by a homophobic Napa Valley winery owner to locate his younger son who disappeared while driving through New Mexico in a bright orange Porsche Boxter. He is accompanied by his male lover—another UCLA grad student. BJ traces the young men to a bear club located near the Continental Divide west of Albuquerque. Read on.
What’s a little murder between relatives?
When a phone call from a Napa Valley wine mogul sends B.J. Vinson all over northern New Mexico in pursuit of an orange Porsche Boxster in the possession of his client’s son, Lando A;fano, and Lando’s gay lover, Dana Norville, the hunt for a classic car suddenly becomes a frantic race against time to find two missing young men being shadowed by a mysterious stranger. After B.J. watches the car plunge over the rim of the Rio Grande Gorge and fall 650 feet into the river below, he must follow a trail as twisted as the empty wreckage to a Navajo Reservation where some of Lando’s personal belongings show up without explanation. The discovery of a body in the Bisti Badlands, the De-Na-Zin Wilderness area at the base of an eerie hoodoo is written off by the County Sheriff’s Office and the FBI as a drug buy gone wrong. But B.J. isn’t so sure. To him, it looks as if the problem had its genesis in Napa Valley. Then Lando’s older brother shows up to help, and B.J. realizes that while blood may be thicker than water, more will be spilled if he doesn’t find Lando before a clever and desperate murderer severs the Alfano family’s ties for good.
The south parking lot was full of animals, presidents, exotic metals, Swiss auto racers, and American industrialists: Cobras, Mustangs, Lincolns, Mercurys, Chevrolets, and Fords. Towering over them all were the big rigs like Tree Trunk’s long-nosed aardvark. The north lot was given over to two-wheeled chrome hogs, hog-wagons, and choppers. There was no orange Porsche Boxter in either lot.
The atmosphere hit me in the face like a pillow of wet feathers the moment I walked through the door. The air was heavy: smoke-heavy, fart-heavy, beer-heavy, sweat-heavy, with the musk of men on the make permeating everything. After buying a beer, I hauled it around on a tour of the place. The main bar was immense, meandering out of sight in two different directions, one leading to a big patio, the other to a smaller, quieter bar and thence to the back rooms.
There wasn’t a stranger around, blind or sighted, who couldn’t find the right bathroom in the Continental. A big curved brass penis mounted on the door identified the men’s side, and an embossed plaque in the shape of labia marked the women’s. Apparently everyone used the phallus as a door handle; it was worn thin, making the engorged head appear outlandishly huge.
The joint undulated like a den of writhing serpents. The clack of billiard balls and thunk of darts and an outclassed, inadequate, old-fashioned jukebox laid down the beat. The talking, laughing, drinking, cussing, spitting customers and blousy waitresses, almost all of them with bolt-ons, as these people likely called boob-jobs, provided a wonderful, discordant rhythm.
Deciding it was time to make my pitch, I claimed a spot at a tiny table opposite a mountainous black man in bib overalls boasting the long, graying beard of an Old Testament patriarch. Tree Trunk had said Sweetie was his handle, but it should have been Sweaty. This guy would have perspired in an icehouse.
“What’s new, Sweet?” I went for the personal touch and lost my fist in the grip of a gigantic coal black paw.
“This ain’t your kinda joint,” he said in a high-pitched voice as effeminate as any swish-queen I’ve ever encountered.
“How do you know?”
His big rheumy eyes gave me the once-over. “Honey, you got a waistline, that’s how I know. Look around at these bozos. Ain’t a one of them even remembers where theirs is at.” He paused and read me with shrewd eyes. “’Sides, I been around long enough to know these things.” He leaned forward, bringing the odor of sweat with him. “You might like to play, but these ain’t your playmates.”
“You’re probably right. But I’m looking for two who are. Okay if I show you a couple of photos?”
He leaned back, making his reinforced chair creak. “You could be fuzz, but the aura ain’t quite right. You believe in auras?”
“Oh, yeah. Auras… energy… whatever you want to call them.”
“Yours is yellow. Goes to green sometimes, but mostly yellow. I’d say that makes you an okay dude except I keep getting a flash of tin. You a cop?”
“Used to be. I’m private now. And I’m not looking to jam up these two guys. As far as I’m concerned, they’ve got a right to live their own lives.”
“Amen to that, brother. All right, show me the pictures.” The giant’s eyes lit up when I handed them over. “Oh, them sweethearts.”
“You know them?”
“Why? They in trouble?”
“I seen them. ’Bout three weeks back, it was.”
“Three weeks? Can you pin it down any closer?”
“Yeah, it was the first weekend of the month when the guys come in and cash their paychecks. On a Friday night. That’s the only time we got trim little asses in this joint. Dancers, you know. Kids wanting to make an extra buck. Got a corporal from Kirtland AFB makes more in one night than he takes home in flyboy pay for a month.”
“First weekend,” I said with a frown of concentration. “That would make it around the third.” Then his words struck me. “These two danced?”
Sweetie laughed with pure joy. “Kinda like a lark for them. I told them they didn’t fit in with the clientele unless they wanted to shake their booties to music. Surprised me cross-eyed when they took me up on it. Skinned down to their skivvies and went right up on that stage in the back room. Wasn’t very good at it, but they sure was enthusiastic. That made it better somehow. Everbody knew they didn’t do it for real. You know, professionally. For the half hour they wiggled their little butts, I thought I was in love. Contemplated losing a hundred pounds and making my move.” The belly laugh that followed was all man, nothing feminine about it. “Everbody in the house bought them drinks. They got so pie-eyed we put them up in a room over at the motel. On the house.”
Thanks to Open Skye Book Reviews for hosting this post. And to DSP Publications for bringing out the book.
DSP Pub paperback: https://www.dsppublications.com/books/the-bisti-business-by-don-travis-361-b