As I wrote last week’s post, flakes of snow feathered lightly to the ground outside my patio door. Some of the cursed stuff is still there, especially in shady parts of the parking lot. Unusual for snow to last this long in Albuquerque.
Another matter of potential interest. Once or twice a year, the site gets 3,000 or so hits from Israel, usually all on one day. For last week’s posting, I noticed a new phenomenon: 1,700 hits from Russia. They can’t all be spies, can they? Even so, I encourage them to continue reading my blog.
Last week, we looked at my most recent novel (release date January 22), Abaddon’s Locusts, the fifth in the BJ Vinson mystery series. This week, I’d like to give you a peek at my latest, and as yet, unreleased novel, The Voxlightner Scandal. The story begins when BJ’s young companion Paul Barton, a budding investigative journalist, decides to look into the murder of an Albuquerque author. That leads to reopening one of the state’s largest scandals. The excerpt that follows is set in BJ's and Paul’s home on Post Oak Drive NW in Albuquerque in July 2011.
Alas, no artwork yet exists on Vox, rendering this week’s post pictureless.
THE VOXLIGHTNER SCANDAL
If this was the year of the Arab Spring, this morning’s Albuquerque Journal neglected to mention it. The international lead story—above the fold—reported the bombing of the government quarter in Oslo and the subsequent murder by gunfire of sixty-eight youth activists of the Labour Party by a native Norwegian terrorist.
The below-the-fold story told of the death of local author John Pierce Belhaven in a garage fire mere blocks from my home. What snagged my attention was that the terrorist attack in Norway took place today. The local tragedy occurred two nights ago. Our paper reported foreign events faster than local ones.
Paul strode into the kitchen where I sat at the table munching an English muffin slathered with cream cheese and dusted with ground black pepper. He brought with him the aroma of his shower. He was using a new aftershave lotion… Axe, possibly.
He halted at the sight of me. “Whoa, Vince, I was gonna fix omelets.”
The rest of the world called me BJ. This young man, my companion and the love of my life, preferred Vince, a pet name derived from my family moniker of Vinson.
“My stomach wouldn’t wait. By the way I know why we heard all those sirens Wednesday night. Garage fire just down the street.”
I checked the news article. “Forty-eight eighteen.”
“I’ll admit you’re more neighborly than I am, but how do you know who lives four blocks down the street?”
A minute later he plopped a bowl of instant oatmeal on the table, apparently abandoning the idea of an omelet. “I know him from SouthWest Writers.”
Paul joined the professional writing association a year ago when he got his Master’s in journalism from the University of New Mexico and decided a membership would provide him some valuable contacts. He was probably right, although I never considered journalism as writing until he pointed out that’s exactly what it was.
“Can I see the article when you’re finished?” he asked.
After I commandeered the sports section and handed over the rest, his voice startled me out of a story about the Lobo baseball team.
“This can’t be right.”
“Uh.” I refused to be distracted.
“Vince.” He shoved the newspaper in front of me. “I didn’t know Belhaven well, but I know one thing for sure. He wouldn’t repair his lawn mower. He’d have the kid who mowed his lawn do it or else buy a new mower.” He paused. “The rest sounds right. Belhaven would probably spill gas all over himself and somehow manage to light it up. But I’m telling you… he’d never even try it.”
“A klutz, huh?”
Paul nodded. “You could say that.”
“I’ll tell you what I can’t believe. This happened two days ago, and Mrs. Wardlow hasn’t broadcast the gory details all over the neighborhood.”
Gertrude Wardlow, the septuagenarian widow living across the street, was a retired DEA agent and the grande dame of our local neighborhood watch. But I had no gripes coming. She’d saved my bacon a couple of times when suspects tried to bring grievances to my home. More importantly she’d warned me Paul was in trouble when a gang kidnapped him a few years back.
“Can I assume you smell a story?” I asked.
“I smell a rat. But you’re right, I’m going to look into it. Who do you know in the fire department?”
I gave him the name of the AFD Arson Squad commander I’d worked with a couple of times. “You can call Gene Enriquez if you want to know if there’s a police case working.”
“You call Lieutenant Enriquez, okay? He’ll talk to you. You’re the confidential investigator, not me.”
“Don’t sell yourself short. Way I figure it, an investigating journalist is simply a confidential investigator without a license.”
And so it opens, reeling backward in time to 2003 and 2004 when a gigantic scam took $40,000,000 out of the local economy and resulted in multiple deaths. I hope you found this teaser interesting.
I encourage reader feedback on all my novels, and if you do read one, please post a review of the book on Amazon. Each one helps… as do letters to the publisher.
Now my mantra: Keep on reading. Keep on writing. You have something to say… so say it.
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