Ariel, once again, thanks for allowing me a guest post to herald the November 19 release of my sixth BJ Vinson mystery novel. And thanks to Dreamspinner Press for publishing the book.
The novel’s blurb probably gives you a pretty good preview of the book:
No good deed goes unpunished, as investigator B. J. Vinson is about to discover.
Writer John Pierce Belhaven was murdered before he could reveal the name of another killer—one connected to the biggest scandal to rock Albuquerque in years. Two of the city’s most prominent citizens—Barron Voxlightner and Dr. Walther Stabler—vanished in 2004, along with fifty million dollars looted from Voxlightner Precious Metals Recovery Corp. It only makes sense that poking into that disappearance cost Belhaven his life.
But BJ isn’t so sure.
He’s agreed to help novice detective Roy Guerra reopen the old case—which the wealthy and influential Voxlightner family doesn’t want dredged up. But Belhaven was part of their family, and that connection could’ve led to his murder. Or did the sixty-year-old author die because of a sordid sexual affair?
When I wrote my first BJ Vinson book, The Zozobra Incident, I had no idea I was starting a series. But BJ and Paul and Lt. Gene Enriquez, and Mrs. Gertrude Wardlow, the nosy across the street neighbor wouldn’t let me go. So I did The Bisti Business and promptly became enamored of Jazz Penrod and his Navajo half-brother, Henry Secatero. Before I knew it, this sixth in the series is coming out, and I’m working on the seventh called The Cutie-Pie Murders.
The following excerpt from the book occurs at the end of Chapter 18 and the beginning of Chapter 19. I hope it give you the flavor of the story.
As Paul keyed the back lock, I caught movement in a reflection in a kitchen window. I instantly shoved him to the ground and dropped onto my back, clawing for my pistol as I fell. The boom of a weapon barely preceded the pane of glass shattering where Paul stood a millisecond earlier.
Two more gunshots reverberated around the yard, but I saw enough to know the gunman was firing wildly now that I had my little .25 caliber Colt Junior in hand. He disappeared around the garage as I got off a shot. I scrambled to my feet and charged for the back gate, ignoring Paul’s cries of protest. He didn’t know what the shooter carried, but he knew my weapon was a wildly inaccurate and underpowered peashooter.
By the time I reached the alley, the ambusher had disappeared. Which backyard did he cut through? The house to my left had a dog, and it wasn’t barking. The shooter had crossed the alley and cut through someone’s property to the street behind us. I vaulted a fence and raced through a neighbor’s yard. Upon reaching the street I saw no one but heard a retreating car motor. Not a racing one, just a normal purr.
Paul and I split up to knock on every door in the neighborhood. No one I talked to had seen a stranger in the area. Not surprising. At this time of day, around 2:30 p.m., there was little foot traffic.
When Paul and I met at the house after our search, we sat on the front steps and talked things over. He’d had no better luck than I had. I expected Paul to be shaken, but he wasn’t. He was mad.
“Second time the bastard’s come for me.”
“I suspect he was here for both of us this time.”
“Somebody doesn’t like us working on this case.”
“Unless you’ve been chasing someone’s girlfriend… or boyfriend.”
He gave me a look. “I haven’t. You?”
“Nope. So do you know what that means?”
“Somebody just made a mistake.”
“Shouldn’t we call the police?”
“Don’t worry, someone already has.”
A few minutes later a patrol car with flashing lights arrived, followed by the brown Ford I was expecting. Gene got out of the Ford looking gruff. Gruff was his cover for caring.
“Who’d you piss off this time?” he called as he approached. The officer who’d just arrived stood aside deferentially.
“Any number of suspects,” I said.
“I’ve told you time and again, you’re a pain in the ass. The shooter wasn’t our prime suspect. According to my man keeping watch on him, he’s in his office on East Lomas.”
“Somebody he hired,” Paul said. “Just like the bozo who T-boned me.”
“Likely,” Gene said. “You guys all right?”
“Wouldn’t be if Vince hadn’t seen a reflection in the kitchen window.”
“See who it was?”
I shook my head. “Didn’t even see the car he drove off in. We canvassed all the neighbors, but your guys can do it again.”
“So he parked himself in the alley and waited for you to come home, and nobody noticed?”
The older neighborhoods in Albuquerque had drivable alleyways behind the houses. The newer areas forewent such conveniences as the price of land escalated. Their backyards simply met at a fence line.
“Most people around here are retirees, Gene. Lots of folks napping this time of day. I could sit behind my garage, and nobody would spot me. But no, I think he probably picked us up on the way home, parked his car on the street behind me, and hoofed it to the back of the house.”
“What kind of detective are you? You didn’t notice a car tailing you?”
“Don’t think he was behind me long enough for me to spot him as a threat.”
Gene’s officers did no better with the neighbors than we had. His team retrieved the spent bullet embedded in our kitchen wall and hauled it to the forensics lab on North Second Street. They’d confirm it was a .38 slug and check to see if it came from a weapon used in a previous crime but would learn little else. The cops didn’t locate the other two projectiles, confirming my suspicion the would-be assassin, rattled when he failed to hit either of us, shot wild.
“The shooter was new to this, wasn’t he?” Paul asked.
“I’d say so. That tells me something too.”
“What?” Gene and Paul asked simultaneously.
“Belhaven’s killing I understand. Somebody was trying to stop the dam from breaking. But it’s broken now, so the attack on Paul and this one on the two of us doesn’t make sense.”
“It does one thing,” Gene said.
“What?” Paul asked.
“Sows doubt,” Gene answered. “BJ’s making a good point. Maybe sending us running to find answers will raise questions about what we’ve found.”
“Would you repeat that?” Paul said.
“He means send us on a wild goose chase,” I explained.
My publisher insists I furnish bio information for these things. My life is so uninteresting, I’m using the bio from my prior blog: I’m an Okie born and raised who rambled around Germany while in the US Army and Denver and Albuquerque while in the business world. A tubercular child, I grew up in the library of my small hometown rather than on the sports fields. So what else should I do but write? I was a paint artist for a while—oils and still life mostly—but that didn’t scratch my creative itch like writing did. I put away the brushes and took up the pen… well, the computer. Finding myself widowed in 2009, I flirted with moving back to Texas where most of my family has resettled, but the pull of New Mexico proved too strong. Here is where I choose to be and here… I will remain.
I welcome contact by my readers, and the following are some personal links:
Let me close with another expression of gratitude to Ariel and Dreamspinner Press for hosting this guest post. Thanks.