Albuquerque confidential investigator BJ Vinson’s search for two missing gay college kids who are supposedly vacationing in the state in a bright orange Porsche Boxter takes him to Farmington, New Mexico, which is not exactly gay-friendly territory. But one terrific looking gay who seems to flourish in this hostile environment is Jazz Penrod, thanks to a tough half-brother on the Indian side of his family and a beefy uncle on his mother’s Anglo side. BJ and one of the missing men’s brother, Aggie Alfano, have reason to believe the teenager had contact with the missing couple, so they go on the hunt for him. At the beginning of Chapter 11, they find him—totally by accident. We pick up the action there:
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?”
“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.”
So now they’ve found Jazz. Can he help them find the missing men? That’s what the rest of the book is about.
Now they tell me I have to say a little about me. Born an Okie, I strayed over into the Lone Star State for a degree in government and history from Texas Christian University. Then I expanded my universe by joining the army and seeing the world—parts of Europe, anyway. When earning a living monopolized my time, I turned to painting to satisfy a creative urge. Did okay at it, but that craft didn’t scratch the itch I was feeling. Penning short stories seemed to do that. After selling around sixty of them under a pseudonym, I turned to writing novels. Zozobra is the first to see the light of publication, and Bisti is the second. A third BJ Vinson novel, The City of Rocks, is scheduled for release on July 18, 2017. The first draft of a fourth in the series, The Lovely Pines, now rests on my OneDrive.
I do a weekly blog about my writing and recounting some of my personal peccadillos on dontravis.com. I am a member of SouthWest Writers and give back to the community by teaching a free writing class at Albuquerque’s North Domingo Baca Multigenerational Center.
Although repulsed by his client, an overbearing, homophobic California wine mogul, confidential investigator B. J. Vinson agrees to search for Anthony Alfano’s missing son, Lando, and his traveling companion—strictly for the benefit of the young men. As BJ chases an orange Porsche Boxster all over New Mexico, he soon becomes aware he is not the only one looking for the distinctive car. Every time BJ finds a clue, someone has been there before him. He arrives in Taos just in time to see the car plunge into the 650-foot-deep Rio Grande Gorge. Has he failed in his mission?
Lando’s brother, Aggie, arrives to help with BJ’s investigation, but BJ isn’t sure he trusts Aggie’s motives. He seems to hold power in his father’s business and has a personal stake in his brother’s fate that goes beyond familial bonds. Together they follow the clues scattered across the Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness area and learn the bloodshed didn’t end with the car crash. As they get closer to solving the mystery, BJ must decide whether finding Lando will rescue the young man or place him directly in the path of those who want to harm him.