Outside my patio door, flakes of snow are feathering lightly to the ground. I put it that way because we more often have wind than not when it is snowing or raining. Snow here in the high desert country is usually the way I like snow: I comes one day, goes away the next, and we all remember it fondly. Not so this one. We had a blizzard (officially determined as such) last Friday, and as the temperature remained in the 20s, it hadn’t gone anywhere. Now here’s more to add to the mix. Okay, enough already!
Abaddon’s Locusts, the fifth in the BJ Vinson mystery series,is due for release on January 22 (although I think you can get advance copies from Dreamspinner). In view of this, I wanted to give you an interview between me and the protagonist, Confidential Investigator Burleigh J. Vinson. (Do you blame him for going by BJ?)
Travis: First, let’s clear up this name thing. I sometimes see it with periods between the initials and sometimes without. By the way, what do the initials stand for?
Vinson: When I sign something formal, like a contract, it’s B period J period Vinson. Informally, it’s BJ. What do they stand for? Well, I’m named after my mother’s father, so it’s Burleigh J. The J is a middle initial only. Do you blame me for using initials?
Travis: Yet, your significant other, Paul Barton, calls you Vince. Why?
Vinson: I’m BJ to everyone except two individuals. To Paul, Vince is a pet name he draws from my family name.
Travis: And the other individual?
Vinson: Del Dahlman. He’s a local lawyer and my first companion.
Travis: This leads to a sensitive—at least personal—question. You’re gay, right? And you seem rather open about it.
Vinson: I don’t advertise the fact, but I don’t deny it, either. That’s not always been the case. As a kid, I struggled to be like everyone else. To be honest, that’s probably why I played football in high school and enlisted in the Marine Corps. By the time I joined the Albuquerque Police Department, I was ready to accept and admit who I was. After all, it wasn’t a significant factor in doing the job.
Travis: It didn’t cause you a problem with the other cops? You hear stories about them leaving their gay brothers out in the cold in dangerous situations. And you were shot once, on the job, weren’t you?
Vinson: That’s true. Shot in the thigh while apprehending a suspected killer. But it wasn’t from lack of support from my compadres.
Travis: So tell me about this book we cooperated to put together.
Vinson: One of my favorite people is this mixed-blood kid named Jazz Penrod over in Farmington. He’s super handsome and hunky and gay, which caused Paul some needless anxiety. Jazz and his Navajo half-brother, Henry Secatero, helped me out on a case I call the Bisti Business three years ago. When Jazz disappeared recently, Henry came to me for help. It turned out Jazz had been lured by sex traffickers and hooked on crack cocaine.
Travis: Why don’t we take a look at how things developed.
Excerpt from beginningof Chapter 3 of Abaddon’s Locusts. Our hero and the missing man’s half-brother, a Navajo named Henry Secatero go to BJ’s old riding partner at APD, Lt. Gene Enriquez to report Jazz Penrod as missing. Henry—who’ll we’ll call an independent soul—isn’t very cop friendly. He’s also having trouble accepting his half-brother’s in the hands of sex traffickers. So here’s how things go:
Henry couldn’t quite hide his discomfort at shaking hands with a policeman—even a friendly one—the next morning when the two of us met Gene in the downtown stationhouse. I could see that my ex-partner was aware of the Navajo’s attitude, and no doubt he would run Henry’s ID through the system the moment we left. I was wrong; he’d already done it.
“You always get in fights when you go to the Blue Spruce?” Gene asked.
“It’s a good place to find them. Bad place for staying out of them.”
“You got that right.”
The Blue Spruce was an Indian bar out on East Central near the fairgrounds. The place was notorious for its police calls. On the other side of the coin, it was a good spot for cops short on traffic tickets to make quota.
“Your brother like to fight too? Or is he all sizzle and no steak?”
Henry’s face clouded for a moment. “He’s better at starting them and standing around watching ever’body scrap, but he’s good backup when it’s needed.”
After that, Gene settled down and guided Henry through filling out a request to search for his brother’s car. There hadn’t been any results overnight, but none were expected, unless Jazz was moving around. Or someone was using his Jeep. There were a couple of Juan Gonzaleses in the system, but when I hauled out the photo of Jazz’s email contact, none of them matched.
Henry tapped his finger on the photograph. “Don’t you guys have some kinda gizmo where you can compare photos and make an ID?”
“A facial recognition program, you mean?” Gene asked. “Scuttlebutt says it’s on its way, but we don’t have a system yet. The state boys have something, but I’d have to have probable cause for an arrest before I could even ask them to run a search.”
“My brother’s missing, and he was talking to this guy. Ain’t that enough?”
“No evidence this guy’s the cause of your brother’s disappearance. Hell, for all we know, he and his new friend are just out having a good time. But I think BJ’s right on this, Mr. Secatero. Your brother’s caught in the sex trade racket.”
“Call me Henry, and just because my brother’s gay don’t mean he goes around selling his body. Never has. Never will.”
“Look, fella—” Gene pointed a stubby finger at Henry and nodded at me. “—don’t get your back up. I rode with this guy for three years, and we never had trouble over him being gay. But the human trafficking racket is getting to be big business. Some people figure there are more people in slavery today than before the Civil War. And I made some calls this morning and found out more kids than we’d like to admit disappear from Indian reservations. I grant you it’s mostly women and girls that get caught up in the sex part of it, but some boys and men do too.”
“Jazz wouldn’t stand still for that. He’d just walk out the door and go home.”
“Unless they’re holding something over him,” Gene said. “I’ll admit he doesn’t fit the pattern. He’s older than the norm, and he’s male. Most are female somewhere around the ages of thirteen to fifteen or sixteen. Usually, the traffickers claim a debt’s gotta be paid or threaten somebody—maybe a family member—with bodily harm or death. They’ve got lotsa ways of making victims toe the line.”
“Not Jazz. He’d go postal.”
“Some of them do, but they’re overpowered or done away with. So maybe he did fight them.”
Either the implications of that remark went over Henry’s head or he chose to ignore them. “I can’t think of a damned thing they could threaten my brother with. He knows his dad and me can take care of ourselves. His uncle Riley will make sure his mother’s okay. There ain’t nobody else.”
I hope the book sounds as interesting to you as it does to me. If I were forced to pick a favorite from the series right at the moment, Abaddon’s Locusts would be it.
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.
The Voxlightner Scandal is on the cusp of being finalized and on its way to DSP Publications.
Now my mantra: Keep on reading. Keep on writing. You have something to say… so say it.
My personal links: