DSP Publications author Don Travis has a new gay mystery book out: Abaddon’s Locusts.
When B. J. Vinson, confidential investigator, learns his young friend, Jazz Penrod, has disappeared and has not been heard from in a month, he discovers some ominous emails. Jazz has been corresponding with a “Juan” through a dating site, and that single clue draws BJ and his significant other, Paul Barton, into the brutal but lucrative world of human trafficking.
Their trail leads to a mysterious Albuquerquean known only as Silver Wings, who protects the Bulgarian cartel that moves people—mostly the young and vulnerable—around the state to be sold into modern-day slavery, sexual and otherwise. Can BJ and Paul locate and expose Silver Wings without putting Jazz’s life in jeopardy? Hell, can they do so without putting themselves at risk? People start dying as BJ, Paul, and Henry Secatero, Jazz’s Navajo half-brother, get too close. To find the answer, bring down the ring, and save Jazz, they’ll need to locate the place where human trafficking ties into the Navajo Nation and the gay underground.
About the Series:
BJ Vinson, a gay former-Marine, ex-cop licensed private investigator tries to pick his cases carefully, but prior loyalties or his sense of justice or something always gets in his way. He finds himself traveling all over his beloved state of New Mexico with his companion Paul Barton to mend other people’s problems.
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Two men gazed down at the sleeping youth sprawled across the mattress. The older, his pleasant features blemished by a glint of cruelty in his dark eyes, smoothed silver wings of luxuriant hair at his temples before handing over a number of $100 bills to a young Hispanic almost as handsome as the boy on the bed.
Now fully clothed, Silver Wings exuded the authority of a player, of someone who counted. “Fucking beautiful. How old did you say he is?”
“Eighteen. Barely. Know that’s older’nyou usually like. But he’s a rare one, no? As lindaas a woman and as macho as a man. He took care of you, huh?”
Silver Wings rubbed his eyes as if remembering the last hour. “Fantastic. Must have worn himself out. Does he usually go comatose?”
“Ah, that is the drug. He claims he gets a bigger bang by charging up. But you benefit as well, no?” He eyed his companion. “He is yours for $25,000.”
Interest flickered and died. “Tempting. But my household isn’t set up for that kind of arrangement. I prefer to call when I feel the need. Even if that means sharing him.”
“You don’t take him, then we move him south.”
“South? To Mexico, you mean? Juárez?” That wouldn’t be too bad. El Paso was a short hop, and Juárez lay just across the border.
“At first, but then we gonna trade him up.”
Silver Wings understood the human trafficking language of trading up, but it was unusual to move members of the “family” out of country these days. “In Juárez? Sounds more like trading him down.”
“¡Órale! There’s some big money in Juárez. But a bigwig in the Middle East went apeshitover the kid’s pics. He wants him. And for a lot more than twenty-five. I only give you that price to let you know how much we ’preciateyour help.”
“Middle East, huh?” Silver Wings licked his lips. “Put off that transfer while I see if I can work something out.”
“Two days. Then I gotta move him. You know, easier to ship him overseas from Mexico than from the States.”
Silver Wings’ voice hardened. “You can do better than that. Give me a week to reorder my life. I’d like to visit him a couple of times. Usual fee, of course. That gives you reason enough to hold him here.”
“Okay, but not no more’n a week. I got people to answer to, you know.”
“I’d like him again tomorrow night, but it will have to be late. I have a dinner meeting.”
Hispano lowered his head. “As you wish. All you gotta do is call me.”
Silver Wings left the motel reluctantly. What would take place in that room now that they were alone? Just thinking about it raised a bead of sweat on his upper lip.
His mind returned to the offer he had received. The boy was expensive, and the economy was still struggling to recover from the Great Recession of 2008… but it was only money.
Monday, August 9, 2010, Albuquerque, New Mexico
I parked the Impala in front of my detached single-car garage and sat for a moment trying to figure out the cacophony on the radio. I’d failed to reset the station after Paul and I went for a rare game of weekend golf at the North Valley Country Club. Paul Barton was the sun in my sky, but I still struggled to understand my companion’s taste in music. Now something called “Alejandro” by a gal proclaiming herself to be Lady Gaga committed assault on my classical-music-loving ears. As I switched off the noise and stepped from the car, a high, uncertain voice snagged my attention.
“Yoo-hoo, Mr. Vinson. BJ!”
Mrs. Gertrude Wardlow, the late-afternoon sun catching in wayward strands of her white hair, waved at me from the foot of her driveway. She had lived in the white brick across the street for as long as I could remember. Mrs. W. and her husband, Herb, had been with the Drug Enforcement Administration from the time it was formed in 1973 until their retirement. Some ten years ago, Herb passed on to his reward—an urn on his widow’s mantelpiece. I walked out to meet her in the middle of Post Oak Drive.
“I’m so glad I caught you.” She fiddled with frilly lace at the neck of her lavender blouse. “A man on a Harley has been driving up and down the street. He stopped at your place twice. Rang the bell and then rode off.”
No doubt she was recalling the time when two thugs on another motorcycle attempted to gun me down. When she’d yelled to distract their murderous attention, they shot up the front of her house, scattering her husband all over the carpet.
I touched her shoulder. “Don’t worry, I’m not involved in any gang disputes at the moment. Not that I know of, anyway.”
Her smile turned impish. “That was an interesting day, wasn’t it? I just thought you should be aware someone was trying to contact you.”
“Thank you, Mrs. W. I’ll be on the lookout.”
After exchanging pleasantries, we parted. I mounted the steps to my front porch and paused to enjoy the welcoming aroma of tea roses my late mother planted. No evidence of a note on the door or in the mailbox. That meant the mysterious biker would probably return. I went inside and forgot the matter as I removed one of Paul’s casseroles from the fridge and got out a pan of rolls. I enjoyed their yeasty aroma almost as much as I liked their yeasty taste. Our household mantra was Paul Barton, freelance journalist, whips up gourmet meals; B. J. Vinson, formerMarineand ex-cop turned confidential investigator, burns toast.
We planned to stay home tonight and watch an episode of a new gumshoe program on the tube called The Glades. Matt Passmore, the guy who played the detective, was a way-cool customer who Paul claimed should be my role model. I’d no sooner set the dishes to heating than a rumble on the street caught my attention. A moment later the doorbell rang.
Setting the scene Don Travis’s new release Abaddon’s Locusts is the fifth book in his BJ Vinson Mystery Series and follows the ordeal of Jazz Penrod, a mixed blood Navajo kid snared by sex traffickers. In the following excerpt, BJ and his significant other, Paul Barton, are attempting to help Henry Secatero, Jazz’s half-brother, make contact with an apparent contact with the ring.
That evening, Paul and Henry moped around our den at home while I tried to convince them any sex trafficker worth the name would be cautious about responding to an unsolicited Email asking about a guy he’d just kidnapped. But I had faith my partner’s sexy picture would be something Juan couldn’t resist. Henry struck out in his search for Jazz’s Jeep, but I hadn’t expected positive results. That was just to keep him busy.
Later that night while we were all staring at an episode of Breaking Bad without hearing or seeing much of it, Paul’s laptop beeped, signaling an Email. As he led an active social media life, that wasn’t meaningful—he’d received a dozen messages that day, none of them from Juan. This time, it was. Henry and I hovered over Paul’s shoulder as he opened the message.
Hey, man. How come you looking for Jazz? Ain’t seen him. But you a hunky-looking dude. Don’t need nobody else. You and me can get it smoking all by ourselves. Tell me more. Hell, show me more.
After settling down from the excitement of a contact, I analyzed the message. Despite the street grammar, I had the feeling this Juan was reasonably well educated. All by ourselves, was a giveaway for me. And while the Email inferred he knew Jazz, this Juanito denied seeing the missing man. Did it mean anything that he failed to send a photo of himself in return? Probably not. Paul’s original message acknowledged seeing a picture of him on Jazz’s machine.
“Come on, man. What we waiting on? Send a message back and tell him let’s get it on.” Henry was impatient for action.
I shook my head. “No. That’s pushing it. But we need something to speed up the process without spooking the guy. Paul, how far are you willing to go on this thing?” Bad question. Paul was always willing to help a lame dog.
“Whatever it takes. Jazz is one of the good ones. And he needs help.”
“Let me call Gene and see if he can cover what I have in mind. I’ll be back in a minute.
I left the two of them in the den and reached Gene at home. After a long conversation, I returned to Paul and Gene.
“Okay, I want you to send a message along the lines of what I’ve written on this page. But put it in your own words.”
Paul studied the paper I’d handed him for a minute, and then typed out his message on the laptop, pausing before hitting the send button so Henry and I could review it.
Juanito, Lucky you caught me at home. I usually go to the C&W for a little line dancing on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, but got lazy tonight. Probably make it tomorrow. Have a phony card that lets me slide in. Maybe I’ll see you there sometime, but in the meantime, here’s a selfie that shows a little more skin. Expect the same in return, okay? Keep in touch. And if you hear from Jazz, tell him I’m trying to get in touch with him. Going to Farmington at the end of the week, and would like to see him. He’s pretty cool in addition to being prime beef.
The selfie he referred to was a shirtless shot he took of himself a few minutes earlier. The reference to the C&W, a big nightclub out on East Central that attracts cowboys and wannabees, would allow Juan or one of his associates to see the prospect in the flesh. The bit about a phony card to get in the bar hinted at an underage minnow. Gene was confident he could provide protection in such a public venue. Even so, I hesitated before telling him to send the message. This was the man I loved above all others offering himself as bait to human traffickers… sex traffickers.
Don Travis is an Okie turned New Mexican. Each of his B. J. Vinson mystery novels features some region of his beautiful adopted state as prominently as it does his protagonist, a gay former Marine, ex-cop turned confidential investigator. Don never made it to the Marines (three years in the Army instead) and certainly didn’t join the Albuquerque Police Department.
He thought he was a paint artist for a while but ditched that for writing a few years back. A loner, he fulfills his social needs by attending SouthWest Writers meetings and teaching a free weekly writing class called Wordwrights at the North Domingo Multigenerational Center, an Albuquerque community center.
Thanks Don Travis and OWI for bring RATR’s first 2019 blog tour. Congratulations on the book!