Trouble Outside Miami’s Sugar Club—Gay Bashing or Something Else? At least in Don Travis’s novel The City of Rocks
Thanks to Anders at Divine Magazine for hosting a guest post for the third novel in my BJ Vinson Mystery Series, The City of Rocks. This is a stand-alone series; however, it would be nice to read the first two: The Zozobra Incident and The Bisti Business. The fourth novel called The Lovely Pines is going through the publishing process at DSPP as we speak. The fifth, Abaddon’s Locusts, is a work in process All feature the gay confidential investigator B. J. Vinson and his companion Paul Barton. In this novel, Paul becomes more intimately involved in the case than usual, as you will see from the book’s Blurb:
Confidential investigator B. J. Vinson thinks it’s a bad joke when Del Dahlman asks him to look into the theft of a duck… a duck named Quacky Quack the Second and insured for $250,000. It ceases to be funny when the young thief dies in a suspicious truck wreck. The search leads BJ and his lover, Paul Barton, to the sprawling Lazy M Ranch in the Boot Heel country of southwestern New Mexico bordering the Mexican state of Chihuahua.
A deadly game unfolds when BJ and Paul are trapped in a weird rock formation known as the City of Rocks—an eerie array of frozen magma that is somehow at the center of the entire scheme. But does the theft of Quacky involve a quarter-million-dollar duck-racing bet between the ranch’s owner and a Miami real estate developer, or someone attempting to force the sale of the Lazy M because of its proximity to an unfenced portion of the Mexican border? BJ and Paul go from the City of Rocks to the neon lights of Miami and back again in pursuit of the answer… death and danger tracking their every step.
Now to the least interesting thing in this post, the bio on the author. This won’t take long. I’m an Okie who went to Texas for college, Germany (compliments of the US Army) for adventure, and ended up in the place I’d been looking for all my life: beautiful New Mexico. After writing and selling sixty or so novels under another name, I decided to tackle novels, and BJ was born.
I am a member of the Southwest Writers, New Mexico’s premier writing organization and give back to the community by teaching a free class in writing at Albuquerque’s North Domingo Baca Multigenerational Center.
For a glimpse of the book, I have selected a scene from Chapter 25. BJ and Paul have come to Miami so that BJ can talk to a local commercial builder named Hammond who may have had a motive for stealing Millicent Muldren’s duck. Upon arrival, they decide to sample some of the night life and settle on the Sugar Club on SW 32nd. We pick up the action after they arrive at the club.
I sat at our table and watched him indulge in the second grand passion of his life. Swimming, of course, claimed the first. But he was also a great dancer, moving like water over smooth rocks, undulating with the rhythm of the pulsing music. I watched a couple of his partners put the moves on him, but he declined with a nod in my direction. It made me proud.
“Your friend’s the hottest thing in the club.” I turned to face a well-dressed Hispanic about my age. The type I called “slick,” mostly because of his black hair pomaded flat against the sides of his head. He sported a pencil moustache. “I saw you come in together,” he explained. “May I sit?”
I indicated a chair and nodded. “Sure. My name’s BJ.”
“Carlos.” Neither of us offered to shake hands. He glanced at the dance floor and smiled, revealing large white teeth. “You had better keep an eye on him. He’s exactly what most people here are looking for. The Cubanos desire him because he looks Anglo, and the Anglos will fight over him because he appears Latin. He’s a charming blend of the two, no?”
Discussing Paul like a commodity, which, of course, he was to many here, made me uncomfortable. “Yes, he is… in addition to being a fantastic human being.”
“You are a visitor to Miami?”
“Yes. And you?”
“Born here, although not long after my parents arrived from Cuba. May I ask what brings you to Miami? Tourism? Business?”
Simple paranoia, a trait many investigators consider mandatory, put me on guard. “A combination. I’m on business.” I inclined my head toward the dance floor. “He’s on vacation.”
Although the club wasn’t crowded, the loud music made it seem so. A conversation was difficult without leaning close to one another, which made me uncomfortable. Nonetheless, I was as curious about this Carlos fellow as he appeared to be about me. He asked his questions, and I asked mine.
Within fifteen minutes I knew he had been put on my tail by Hammond. Furthermore, he knew that I knew. That cleared the air considerably. By then he had ordered two rounds of drinks, but I still sipped on the first, letting him know I had no intention of getting drunk and careless.
During a break in the music, Paul returned to the table, escorted by his most recent dance partner, who clearly wanted to join us but was discouraged by Paul’s casual “Thanks, man.” I introduced him to Carlos.
“¡Con mucho gusto!” Carlos said.
“Same,” Paul responded. “You come here often?”
“No, not often. It doesn’t quite live up to its name. I can recommend some clubs, if you wish. Some more… uh, interesting places, perhaps?”
“This one’s fine. Just looking to do some dancing. Nothing more,” Paul said.
“Then you will break the hearts of most of the muchachos here.”
He gave the man an innocent stare. “I doubt that, but thanks.”
Carlos wasn’t going to give me any more than I was going to give him, so I brought things to a head. “Look, if your boss thinks he can lean on me because we visited a gay club, tell him he’s out of luck. Half the state knows I’m gay. I’m fireproof on this.”
He spread his hands. “Why would one man in a gay bar try to blackmail another man in that same gay bar?”
“I can think of a couple of reasons, but it won’t work.”
“I can see I am interfering with your night out on the town. I’ll excuse myself now, if you don’t mind.”
“Not at all.”
He rose, gave us a smile, and took his leave. We watched him walk out of the club.
“What was that all about?” Paul asked.
“Hammond put a minder on our tail.”
“How? I mean, how would anybody find us in the middle of millions of people?”
“All you need is a starting place, and they knew we started at the Lazy M. They just followed the trail from there.”
“Hammond doesn’t know why I’m coming, and he wants all the ammunition he can gather.”
“Well, hell, that puts a damper on the evening.”
“Sorry. You want to try another place?”
“I’m kinda tired, but I’m charged up too. I’d just as soon go back to the hotel room. Be with you.”
I matched the smile on his lips. “All right by me. But I need to do something first.”
I made my way to the bar and caught the eye of a bartender, a cute Hispanic who appeared to be a little older than most of the other servers. He finished a drink for a man on a stool midway down the counter and came over to give me his full attention.
“I need to buy a couple of rolls of quarters.”
His expressive eyes narrowed. “Something going down?”
“Nothing definitive. Just a feeling.”
He motioned me around to the end of the bar. “I’ll sell you the coins, but if you’re right, this’ll work better than a roll of quarters. Leaning forward to shield his movements, he opened his hand to reveal a small leather blackjack. It looked mean and ugly.
What in the world happens after that? Something interesting, I can assure you.
Here are some links to me and my writing:
And here are buy links:
Barnes and Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-city-of-rocks-don-travis/1126419974
Again, thanks to Divine Magazine for permitting this guest post. And a tip of the hat to DSP Publications for bringing out the book.