Posts Tagged ‘bill travis’

Sometimes the most fun writing these things is the dialogue. Here’s a little snippet from the forthcoming The Lone Star Express:

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Apparently anything can go wrong.

The train was slowing. Not majorly slowing, but the vibration and the rocking seemed less, and the lights passing in the night seemed to go by more slowly. I had swept most of the broken glass—all that wasn’t beneath Frank—into the corner where I had gotten the blankets, and Frank was trying to get to his feet.

“You want to help me up?” he asked. He had his left arm braced on a bar, trying to lever himself to his feet.

“I want you to lay there,” I said.

He faltered for a moment and lay back down. “I’m gonna try again in a minute. By the way, you make a terrible nurse.”

“I do.”

“Bill? Over!” The voice over the radio JoJo’s.

I picked up the radio and keyed the mic. “Yeah? Over.”

“Get up here. I need an extra hand. Only came with two of them. Charlie’s coming back there to spell you because he can’t…”

I waited. “Can’t what? Over.”

“Never mind that. Can you come on over?” Then, uncertainly, “Over.”

“Come over where? Over.”

“Come forward until you find me. Over.”

“Can we stop saying ‘over’? It’s getting old. Over.”

“Sure. Over.”

“Okay. I’m coming…uh, over.”

There was a beat of a pause, then, “So when are you going to stop saying ‘over?’ Over.”

“Right now,” I said, and released the mic. I waited, then keyed the mic again. “I’m also leaving off the ‘out’.”

“Uh huh.”

With that done, I looked back down at Frank. “You gonna be okay there for a few minutes? Charlie’s coming back here.”

“I heard.”

I turned to go, but then heard him whisper, “Amateurs.”

“What was that?” I asked.

“Nothing. Just go.”

I opened the door onto the narrow brim beneath my feet, and for a moment began to doubt where I was going anywhere. The problem was the blackness of the night outside the caboose. The dim lighting from inside cast my shadow onto the rear of the refrigeration car in front of me. When I stepped a little to the side, I could see the brim of the car three feet in front of me and the faintly illuminated rungs of the later, but the problem was that when I stepped back in order to prepare myself to lunge forward, the ladder vanished into the darkness.

JoJo saved me with a squawk over the radio: “Bill, there’s a light switch by the door.”

I flipped it, but at that instant it decided to burn out. The flare was brief, and I knew if from all the times I had turned on my closet light or my back porch light and the tiny filaments in the bulb of glass decided to take the opportunity to check out.

I keyed the mic. “Just burned out. Here goes nothing.”

“It’s a piece of cake,” she said, and silence ensued.

“I now officially miss ‘over’,” I said.

“Yeah.”

“Will you two can the chatter?” Corky’s voice came over the radio. “We’re losing pressure fast.”

“I know. I know,” JoJo said. “Give us a minute.”

“Or five,” I said.

“You’ve got about four, and then this thing is coming to a stop and we’ll have to bank the fire.”

“What’s that mean?” I asked.

“Starve it of oxygen,” Leo’s voice stated.

“Just aim and jump,” JoJo said.

“Okay,” I said. “Everybody shut up. Here I come.”

I turned the radio off, put it in my pocket, stepped to the side to let the dim light through.

Behind me, Frank shouted, “Just jump!”

“All right, already. Everybody’s a critic.”

I studied the rung I was going to grasp, and where I would have to put my feet. I counted from ten to one, then decided to start all over.

It came unbidden into my mind at that moment. One time Jessica and I were playing one-on-one basketball in the driveway and she was standing her ground from well past the free-throw line, and I couldn’t get past her. I dribbled, held the ball, dribbled and stepped, held it again, and then a feeling came over me. It was a sense of rightness. Why was I trying to get closer to the basket when all I needed was that feeling? I had height on Jessica, and I knew there was really nothing she could do. I dribbled once more, made as if I were going to step again, but instead leapt straight up and threw. The ball sailed up in a beautiful slow motion arc, as if what I had done was the laziest thing in the world, then went through the net without touching the hoop. It was game point. Jessica’s shoulders slumped and she said, “How am I supposed to defend against that?” to which I replied, “You don’t. There’s no defense against that.” “What do you call that?” “It’s a thing wonderful and rare. It’s called a sense of rightness.” The next morning I was awakened by the sound of a basketball banging off of the backboard. I looked out the window, and there was Jessica, practicing from past the freethrow line. She would jump straight up and throw, miss, try again and miss. Finally, as I watched, she got it. Then she stood there and I watched as the implication sunk in. And that was my gift that day to her.

I stood there in the night and waited. When it came, I recognized it and didn’t hesitate. I jump forward and my overly large shadow in front of me shrank. The rung of the ladder came into my hands at the same moment that my feet came down exactly where they were supposed to land. I started up without a second thought. There’s something to be said for rightness.

It’s coming down the embankment at you with a full head of steam! Here’s a taste:

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Our reverie was interrupted by a blast from the horn.

“Do you think…?” I began.

“Probably just coming to a crossing and he’s giving it the horn. Have to do that by law.”

The horn blasted again, was cut short, and then once more.

“Crap!” Corky said, and was suddenly in motion. “Something’s wrong.”

I dropped Perry’s baseball on the nearest seat, tucked the note in my shirt pocket and followed.

We went hurriedly through the next car—an even more dilapidated passenger car—through a door and across to the engine. I followed Corky up a small flight of steps. At that moment the brakes began to engage.

Out the front window, about two hundred yards away, was a truck sitting across the track. The single headlamp from the train speared it and light reflected back at us off the driver’s window, the hubcaps and the front bumper.

“I’m not sure I can stop in time without…really stopping.” Charlie said, and there was fright in his voice.

However sharp Charlie’s eyes were—and they had to have been terribly sharp to pick up the truck from more than half a mile back—my vision has always been excellent, particularly my night vision.

Several other vehicles were stopped off to the side of the tracks, a little closer to us than the truck that was blocking our path. I noted two figures closing in toward the tracks ahead of us, and then a third running up. They had rifles or shotguns in their hands.

“Don’t,” I said.

“Don’t?” Charlie asked. “Don’t what?”

“Don’t stop. The truck won’t hurt this train, will it?”

“It might scratch the paint, but that’s about it.”

“Then don’t stop. We won’t even feel it, will we?” I asked.

“No, we won’t,” Charlie said. “Why not stop?”

“Because, it’s a trap. They put the truck there to scare us into stopping. And those guys are gonna start shooting the minute they realize we’re not. Stopping, that is. But if we stop, then they’ve got us for sure.”

“Damn.” Corky said. “Up, Charlie. Let me do this. Ya’ll get down.”

The side window was open, and the second Corky hit the driver’s seat, he stuck his head out the window and squinted.

“Yeah, they’re gonna shoot,” he said.

Then he poured on the juice. I had to reach a hand out to check myself from tumbling back into Charlie.

The first shot was a pang off of steel somewhere on the exterior. Charlie and I ducked and Corky hunkered down in the driver’s seat. The front glass picked up a spray of buckshot, but it merely chipped the glass. Then there were many such sounds, like someone setting off a string of firecrackers.

“We’re gonna hit it!” Corky shouted, the excitement in his voice both fearful and amused in the same instant. Then he stuck his arm out the window and shouted: “Go to hell you sonsabitches!”

His arm came back inside and there was the sound of something crumpling, not unlike someone clapping a paper bag full of air between their hands, followed by the spectacle of a large object coming up over the windows and onto the roof above us. The truck tumbled across the steel roof like a giant eating its way through a stack of steel fifty-five gallon drums. An instant later there was a loud, shrill scrape as what was left of it fell off to the side. Which side, I wasn’t sure. I realized then that Corky must have given them his middle finger in conjunction with his words.

I stood up, went back down the steps to the deck and went through the doors of the first passenger compartment. I was met by JoJo.

“What the hell was that all about?” she asked.

“You okay?”

“Yep.”

“Someone tried to stop us. The put a truck in our path, we ran over it, and they started shooting at us.”

JoJo laughed. “They tried to attack a train? With a pickup truck and some guns?”

“Yeah.”

“Idiots,” she said.

“Yeah. Only, I’m wondering who the hell those guys are, and what they want?”

“Hmph.”

We exchanged nods and passed each other.

 

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I know I’m a bit of a tease, but here is Chapter One of The Lone Star Express!

CHAPTER ONE

Invest heavily in ammunition. That’s the flip-side of the warning on seeking revenge—the one about first digging two graves. When vengeance seeks you out—as opposed to the other way around—it’s wise to be locked, loaded and ready. But you have to know it’s coming, first.

With me it’s always something like that.

I’m Bill Travis, and apparently I’ve never met a problem I didn’t welcome to come on in and pull up a chair.

It began, innocently enough, with the performance of a good deed. Which brings up the second warning that I somehow bypassed during all the sturm and drang of Governor Richard Sawyer’s final disposition: no good deed goes unpunished.

Here’s how it started.

*****

Former Texas Governor Richard Donegal Sawyer was born in the Louisiana canebrakes back in the dark days of World War II. As an infant he was brought to the Texas Gulf Coast and raised by his father, his mother having died in childbirth. At age sixteen, or thereabouts, Sawyer and his father had a falling out over the fact of the elder Sawyer’s being a bloodthirsty killer and crime boss. The junior Sawyer’s feet carried him all the way to West Texas where he settled down at a life of hard labor as an oil field worker in the Permian Basin—Midland and Odessa. With his passing, at the ripe age of eighty, someone had to go looking for his will. I got that duty, at the request of his granddaughter, Elizabeth.

I was no more than a few days back from Mexico when she asked me. The next morning, I got up before the crack of dawn and drove Julie and a whole truckload of kids down to Houston, and stopped by the Sawyer home.

Julie rocked the baby in the rocking chair in Sawyer’s living room while Elizabeth and I commiserated at the dining room table, thirty feet away. There were a couple of banker’s boxes open on the glass tabletop and the contents—old papers, invoices, random things like insurance policies and old hospital bills—were poured into each box so tightly that both were apt to burst at the seams. I understood the filing system. It’s easier to throw it all in a box, especially after you realize that every single scrap of paper would need its own separate file, and office supply stores don’t typically carry fifty-thousand file folders. At least not in the economy pack.

“Do you mind?” I asked Elizabeth, and gestured with my hand over one of the boxes.

“Please do. I’m afraid to touch any of it. I’ll get immersed in it and won’t see daylight for days on end.”

I nodded and pulled out a thick sheaf of papers, about a reams-worth, and dropped it on the table-top. What spilled out was expired insurance policies, licensing agreements for trucks and tractors, old pay stubs going back to the 1950s and 60s, random photographs; a lifetime’s worth of the detritus of those things that, at the time, could not be simply thrown away. The things a person keeps!

“Yuck,” Elizabeth said.

“Everything here tells a tale,” I said. “If you were to piece it all together, maybe put it in chronological order, you’ve got a piece of the story of your grandfather’s life, which is another part of the story of Texas.”

“I know it’s not all trash, but some of it’s trash,” she said.

“No doubt. Okay, we’re looking for his will. And you say that it’s not tucked away in a safe-deposit box somewhere?”

“Uh uh. I cleaned those out. It wasn’t in there.”

“Then it’s here. Let’s keep looking.”

It took thirty minutes, but I found it. Oddly enough, it was fairly recent and tucked into the front end of the second box, right where you’d put something recent, if you were archiving it. The will was signed, witnessed and notarized roughly six months previous.

I began reading aloud.

“He leaves the whole kit ‘n kaboodle to you, Elizabeth,” I said.

“Let me see.”

I handed it to her and she read it to herself, her lips moving soundlessly and her eyes going back and forth.

“It’s a lot of responsibility for a woman your age. But I’m sure you can handle it.”

“There’s a list of stocks, bonds, all kinds of…”

“Financial instruments,” I finished for her.

“Yeah. Those.”

“It’ll take some time to find out what they’re all worth. No doubt the bulk of them were in the safe deposit boxes.”

“There was a bunch of that stuff in there, but I didn’t understand any of them.”

“I’ll take a look at them for you. For now, I suggest you get your own safe-deposit box and put them away. But after you make photo copies of everything. I’ll need a copy of it all, and I can get Penny at my office working on it in her spare time.”

“Ha. If she works for you, Mr. Travis, I doubt she has very much spare time.”

I chuckled. “You’re probably right. Never thought about it. She doesn’t know it yet, but I’m naming her a full partner on Monday.”

“Then she’s been paying her dues all these years.”

“She has.”

Elizabeth turned a page, moved her eyes down and then struck upon something. She frowned.

“What is it?” I asked.

“A heading: Disposition of Remains.”

“Oh. They’ll need to know about this down at the funeral home. And pretty quick. Before I left Austin, I had a call from the Texas State Cemetery. They’re expecting to bury your grandfather there. It’s where we bury our Governors.”

“Not according to this, it’s not.”

“Crap. I’d better see it. Those guys may have already set aside a plot for him.”

She handed me the will.

“You’ll need to get this filed with the Probate Court as soon as—” I began, but by then my eyes were already taking in the bad news. My own name jumped out at me from the page:

DISPOSITION OF REMAINS

Since I buried my heart in Midland a long time ago, it is my wish that my body be buried there beneath the ancient mesquite. I purchased the plot in 1969, knowing full well that men can easily lose their lives in the oil patch. Further, I request that my friend Walter M. Cannon accompany my body by train to its final destination. If Walt Cannon predeceases me or, due to issues of health or availability, is unable to fulfill this wish, then I request that my dear friend, Bill Travis, should do so.

For many years I have been a supporting member of the Big Thicket Steam Association, headquartered in Palestine, Texas. I request that those old boys—those who have survived me—get the old ‘19 running for one last trip out west, and that I travel each mile between Austin or Houston and Midland by whatever rail line the boys may take. I pray that I may find my rest there in Midland.

“What’s the ‘Old ‘19′?” I thought, then realized I had said it aloud.

“I have no idea.”

“It’s okay. Tell you what, why don’t you ride with us down to the copy store where we’ll make three or four copies of this, then we’ll scoot by the funeral home, drop this off with the director and let him know how to contact me.

I detected a presence at my elbow. It was Julie, gently bouncing the baby.

“What’s going on?”

“It looks like I’m going to West Texas.”

“When? And how?”

“Soon,” I said, thinking all the while about bodies, temperature and steel boxes. “And by train.”

*****

I took the family back home to Austin after making certain that everybody on the Houston end of things was on the same page. The plan was for Governor Sawyer’s body to be transported to the State Capitol, there to lie in state for two days time where all Texans who wanted to might stop by and pay their respects. It’s a time-honored practice, and Sawyer’s will didn’t preclude it. I’m not certain it would have done any good if it had. In the final analysis, while we may suggest what should happen after we’re gone, it’s the family’s wishes that are usually honored, and at any time those wishes may be trumped by the state, particularly in the instance of a dignitary. In the end, we all render unto Caesar, right down to the toenails.

In the meantime, I had a ton of phone calls to make and correspondence to get out in preparation for what was to come—an event to which I was decidedly not looking forward.

I spent an entire day at the office, mostly listening to and receiving updates on Penny’s progress on the stocks and bonds.

At the appointed time—pre-arranged between my partner and me—Nat Bierstone came by the office. He was dressed in a blue jeans, red checkered shirt and suspenders. Penny gasped. She had never seen him in anything other than a business suit.

It had been three weeks since he had come by the office. Both he and I knew that he had already retired, but he was in to make it official.

“Mr. Bierstone, you look like…a real person!” Penny said. I listened from my office, having already glanced out my window when Nat pulled into circular driveway that runs behind the office and out the other side.

“Why thank you, Miss Taylor. Is Bill in? Thought I saw his car.”

“Come on back, Nat!” I called. “Penny, you come in here too.”

I waited. When they were both inside, Nat reached behind him and closed the door.

“Something is happening, isn’t it?” Penny asked. “Are you two about to fire me?”

“In a manner of speaking,” Nat said. She started to protest, but he raised a finger, then gestured to one of the two chairs in front of my desk. “Hush now and have a seat.”

“Yes sir,” she said.

Nat took the other chair, and by way of stretching the moment out interminably, fumbled in his blue jeans pocket for the front door key and the key to his office. He removed them from the key chain and said to Penny, “Hold out your hand.”

She did, and Nat placed the keys in it. “Don’t lose them until after you’ve made another copy. This is the only one to my office in existence.”

“I don’t understand.”

“Nat’s retiring,” I said, “effective today.” I picked up an envelope from the counter and handed it to him. He took it.

“What is that?” Penny asked.

“A check,” I said. “I just bought Nat’s half of the business.”

He looked at the envelope, poked a finger at the inside of the crease, as if he was about to open it with his finger, then instead handed it to Penny.

“You want me to open it for you?” she asked.

“I want you to keep it,” he said. “You can do whatever you want with it, since it’s yours.”

“I—I’m not sure what you mean.” Her voice trembled and had become very small.

“You know what it means,” I said.

“Let me do this, Bill,” he said. “I’ve earned the right.”

“This is where you fire me,” Penny said. She opened the envelope delicately and removed the check. The amount was eight hundred and fifty thousand dollars. Her eyes stared at the thin slip of paper.

“She’s gonna burn a hole in it,” I said.

“You can keep that and cash it,” Nat said, “or you can give it right back to Bill, keep that key of mine, and start worrying about who is going to replace you and become your secretary. Or rather, yours and his.” He hooked a thumb at me.

She looked across the desk at me. “How much is half the practice worth?” she asked me.

I laughed. “Spoken like a true accountant and financial consultant.” I leaned back in my chair and interlaced my fingers over my head. “Worth a hell of a lot more than twice eight-fifty.”

Penny handed the envelope back to me. “Then I suppose we’ll need to start interviewing applicants.”

I stood up and extended my hand.

“Welcome to Travis & Taylor,” I said. She stood slowly, then took my hand and shook it. And then she started crying.

Nat stood. She let go of my hand and threw her arms around his neck, her face disappearing from view. Nat grinned at me and patted her back.

When she released him, she stood and wiped the tears from her eyes, then slowly handed the check back to me.

“Go ahead and re-deposit it in the practice account. And make an appointment at the bank. You’re to be signatory to that account from now on, so consider that you just paid yourself back.”

“Who’s idea was this?”

“All three of us,” I said. “Nat, me, and Julie as well.”

“I wish she were here.”

“Don’t worry,” I said. “She made me promise to give her the play-by-play tonight.”

“I don’t know what to say,” she said.

I laughed. “There’s a first time for everything.”

“I’ll try to be a good partner for you, Mr. Travis.”

“Penny, now that it’s official, you are required to call me Bill. I won’t have a partner who can’t say my name.”

“Mr. Bierstone calls you William.”

“He can get away with it because he’s older than I am, he’s the former Lieutenant Governor of Texas, and worse than that, he’s Julie’s uncle.” I grinned at her. “You can’t.”

“Okay, Bill,” she said. And you could have knocked me over with a feather.

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Coming down the pike in a few days. Here’s the rough draft of the Foreword:

FOREWORD

Omnibus 3 has been a long time coming. What can I say? It takes a while to write twelve books, but that’s no excuse. I never intended this to be a long, drawn-out affair, but I do find that it has worked better this way for me (better, that is, than the way I originally intended, when I thought I could just fire out about twenty-one books in no more than a couple of years). That is to say that the time it has taken has had its effect on me, and that is reflected in Bill. You know, things have a way of happening in life. One thing leads to another, and even the catastrophes turn out, in the long run, to be okay.

I watched a little documentary once where the survivors of Hurricane Hugo were interviewed. This fellow had lost his home and all of his possessions, and he had to move to a new town and start all over. I was watching that, and before it got into the meat of his interview—this was all backstory, you see—I was thinking, “You know, I’d like to think that I’m a pretty flexible, bend-with-the-wind kind of fellow, but I just don’t know how I would handle that kind of setback.” Well, since that documentary, many years ago, I’ve had a few setbacks of my own—the kind where I lost everything and moved to a completely different city—so, yes, I can now say that I do have the ability to cope with most anything that life can throw at me. But then, the interviewer in that documentary asked the survivor this telling question: “If you could, would you go back and change things, such that this one devastating event didn’t happen to you?” And the guy told the interviewer something to the effect that, indeed no, he wouldn’t change it if he could. After moving to a new city and starting all over, he met the most wonderful woman, and the two of them had several beautiful children, and he was leading the life he’d always wanted to lead. All this by way of saying that, no, I wouldn’t go back and change how this series ultimately has been written. Each book is its own little universe. Bill and Julie got together at the end of The Last Call, and they were having kids together by the middle of Longnecks & Twisted Hearts. And later those kids (and even Julie) had integral roles in some of the later adventures.

But then again, I suppose that’s what life is. It’s one big adventure. The wind blows. Sometimes it blows everything away, and you have to pick up the pieces after the fact. But, you’re still alive. You can live to fight another day. And that sunrise of the new day is the most glorious sight you could ever lay your eyes on.

This series, I must admit, has been reflective of my own life. I’m fifty-one years old, as of this writing. I don’t feel fifty-one (an age I once thought of as the time when a fellow has to get ready to die). At times I feel as though I’m in my thirties, and at other times I’m no more than a teenager. And every once in a blue moon, why, I’m about eight years old again, the world a reflective gleam in my eye, the future stretched out before me, staggering and beautiful, and anything is possible. You see, it is, still. Anything is possible, and I don’t close myself off from the potential for it, whatever that might be.

This day and age, a fellow has to really bend with the wind. He has to keep abreast of new technologies, the new trends, the new ways of looking at things. And he can’t, for even a minute, spend valuable, never-to-be-seen-again seconds in regret.

So, it is without one scintilla of regret that I offer The Bill Travis Omnibus 3. This third, four-volume installment represents the culmination of the last fourteen years of my writing. Yes, the stories are shorter, but that’s because I’ve learned what didn’t need to be included. Yes, Bill still has the occasional disturbing and nevertheless poignant dream. Yes, he occasionally brings either the kids along for the ride—and one time, here, Julie—or friends such as Hank Sterling or Walt Cannon. And indeed, yes, he’ll get to the end of it despite being shot at, or nearly blown up, and all while on little sleep. But act his age? Uh uh. No way. Not even. You see, that’s how it should be, because…he’s Bill Travis. And here, at this late date, I’ll confess to just you and only you, that he’s a little bit George Wier. Dang, I can’t believe I said that, but there it is.

I want to take a moment and thank some folks— knowing full well that it’s impossible to thank each who have helped me, or been a friend, or read my books along the way.

Casting my mind as far back as it will go along this track, I would like to thank the following:

The memory of those who have gone, including—

Lester Dent, who inspired me to write action and adventure stories; Theodore Sturgeon, who personally convinced me I should become a writer during a twenty-minute one-on-one discussion that changed my life at about age thirteen; Milton T. Burton, sage, counselor, and friend; and Nelson Wier, my father. I miss you. Thank you for having lived.

And those who abide, including—

Fellow authors: Billy Kring, T.R. “Tom” Harris, Nick Russell, Craig Johnson, Valerie P. Chandler, Laura Oles, Reavis Wortham, Steven M. Thomas, Cleve Sylcox, Terry Shames, Joe R. Lansdale, Claude Bouchard, Kristie Haigwood, Robert Thomas, Stephen Arsenault, Brandon Hale, Alison Blake, Randy Morris, David A. Cuban, Jesse Sublett, Carol Ann Newsome, Suzy Steward Dubot, Mike Meyer, Mark Pryor, J. Carson Black, Kate Aaron, AJ Rose, Jess Mountifield, Manning Wolfe, Chris Ward, Russell Blake, Albert Benson, Holli Marie Spaulding, Thomas & Angie Jenner, Corrie Stout, Catherine Weaver, Chantell Renee, Bill McClure, Ricky Bush, Alan Martin, Beck Bee, Jay Allan, Dale Roberts, Daniel C. Chamberlain, Molly Burton, Scott Langrel, Andy Downs, Donald Everetti, Tim Bryant, Saxon Andrew, Ronnie Pace, David Carus, Ben Rehder, Lindsey McCullen, C. Craig Coleman, Charles Hall, James F. Coyle, Sally A. Wolf, Lee Spiller, John Daulton, Liz Miller, Dale Bradley Morris, Bill Crider, Donna Blanchard McNicol, Sharon Delarose, Jacques Duvoisin, Lee Burton, Ron Moss, Scott Montgomery, and many, many more. You folks inspire me to become better than I am.

And all the fans who have reached out to me and have become steadfast friends, including but in no wise limited to: Jim Geckles & Dawn Vizzotsky, Lt. Gov. Bill Hobby, Bob Thomas, Ruth Ellen Clendenin, Russ & Lauren DeWitt, Belinda Jayne Parker, Catherine Boyd, John Lucenti, Tom Burks, David Jefferson Potter, Jim & Eva Neikirk, Mary J. Vander Meiden, Courtney Michelle DeWitt, Dave Minnich, Guy van Zijil, Richard Waynn Bentley, Bill Cunningham, Brad Hicks, Don Riley, Gerrie Lispon Salinas, James Barbatano, Heather Quiring, Chuck Holland, Mike Collella, Tonya Connell, Nicole Hall, Bob Henslee, Lia Pham, Linda Kay Shadden, Joseph Pally, Gary Carlin, Jeri R. Walker, Norma Dell Jones, Carol Kropp, Ray Fisher, Roni Valdez-Cuellar, Mike Saliwanchik, Travis & Jo Ann Everett, Wikus Hattingh, Jayne James, Don Hardman, Nicole Combs, Todd Dempsey, Daniel G. Benes, Jeff & Candace Fischer, and Deborah Scouras, Kevin Tipple, Amy McMurrough, Christine Bell, and actually, too many more to put on the printed page. I thank all of you, from the depths of my heart.

No man is an island. Therefore, the following team members deserve special mention: Elizabeth Mackey, graphic cover artist extraordinaire; Mike Williams, photographer and filmmaker; Jessica Conley Potter, without whom I wouldn’t be able to function as a writer. Thank you all so very much.

And my immediate family: Clarice Caldwell, my mother, conscience and guide; Joseph and Maggie Strickland; Carlie and Shoshone Sky; and the one who assures that the road goes ever on, my Sallie. You know my love.

I guess that’s it.

All the best to you and yours,

George Wier
Austin, Texas
June 1, 2016

Mexico Fever

 

 

Here’s just a bit of teaser from Mexico Fever:

Piste came up ahead of me about five miles away. From the maps, I knew the airport was to the southwest of the city by no more than a few miles, and the Chichen-itza plaza was a mere stone’s throw from that. I banked to the south and scanned for the opening in the jungle—a mere rectangular swath—and found it. I cut the power by half, brought down the flaps ten degrees and shed both altitude and airspeed. I made the obligatory call to all Piste air traffic, but received not so much as a blip in acknowledgment.
“That’s fine,” I said. “Bill’s coming in, so everybody had better get out of my way.”
The runway turned out to be a small canyon in an ocean of jungle. The runway was so much hardpacked dirt. I brought Lola in with the landing gear grazing the palm fronds and set her down. I cut the engine all the way back, jumped on the pedals to keep from slewing into the jungle from the rough dirt runway, and rolled to a slow stop.
I scanned the airport. There was a lone building with the tanker portion of a rig parked outside, and a small car sandwiched between them. A lone Mexican man walked out on the porch, doffed his hat and waved at me. I brought the engine back up and rolled slowly over to him and off the runway. I cut the power and climbed out.
“Buenos Dios,” I said.
“Gringo,” he stated. “How long are you here?” While his words were English, his accent was thick. He appeared to be in his late twenties, or perhaps early thirties. Sometimes people age differently closer to the Equator. He had black, curly hair and a thick mustache. His clothes appeared slept in.
“I don’t know. A few days, maybe.”
“Come to see the pyramids?”
“No.”
He shook his head.
I offered my hand and he frowned and slowly took it and shook. “I’m Bill Travis.”
“I see,” he said. “I am Phillip. You may call me Phil. I run the airport for twelve hours every day. I sell fuel. Do you need fuel?”
“Not now,” I said. “I will need to gas up when I’m ready to leave. Is there some place I can tie down?”
“Tie…? Are you camping?”
“No. The plane.”
“What for do you need to tie the plane? We have no wind here. We have nothing here, just in case you did not know.”
A chicken walked by and Phil made as if to kick at it. The chicken sped up and moved along.
“You have chickens,” I said.
“We have chickens and we have eggs. Do you wish for either?”
I shook my head again. “No. What I need is a ride into town, and the recommendation for a good hotel.”
“Oh.” Phil turned his head toward the jungle that lay in the direction of town, as if that might jog his memory. “Well, you need a ride.”
“That’s right. I need a ride.”
He regarded me again. “We do not have rides here. But, if you can make it into town, go to the center of town. There they will have hotels.”
“How should I get to town, other than by walking?”
Phil frowned again, as if framing the question seriously to himself. He peered at the ground at his feet, as if consulting it. After a moment he looked back up. “Well, you can walk to the gate to the Pyramid Plaza and wait for the autobus. Or, you can take Senor Burro.” Phil pointed and I followed his gaze.
There, tied to a tree, was my worst nightmare. A burro, or what we commonly refer to in the states as a donkey.
“If I take Senor Burro,” I said, “which road do I take to town?”
“There is only one road. You just tell Senor Burro where you want to go. You say, ‘Senor Burro, take me to Piste,’ and he take you. You say, ‘Senor Burro, take me to aeropuerto,’ and he take you. If you don’t need him anymore, you tell him ‘Go home, Senor Burro,’ and he go home.”
“How much will you rent him to me for?”
Phil raised his hand and gave a dismissive wave. “For nothing. I hate Senor Burro. Maybe you will kill him. Will you kill him and poke out his eyes?”
“I don’t think so,” I said.
“Okay. You…mucho consado.”
“What?”
“How you say? Tired.”
“Oh. Yes. Mucho consado. Tell me, Phil, is there another gringo in Piste? An old man?”
“There are many old gringos in Piste. Gringos may no go home, or have to go to old people house.”
“Nursing homes. You’re referring to nursing homes.”
“Si. Si. Who is this gringo?” he asked. Very clearly, this was the most exciting event of Phil’s entire day. A tired gringo who looks as though he’s been ridden hard and put up wet comes flying in on a single-engine prop, needs a ride to town, and starts asking questions.
“A friend,” I said. And then I thought about Dick Sawyer, his eyes boring into me, telling me about a revolutionary named Sunlight. I was in enemy territory. It was time for me to shut up and get to town. “Don’t worry. I’ll find him. He’s an old man who drinks too much. I need to take him back to the United States. He has a room in a nursing home waiting for him.”
Phil shook his head, as if I had just confirmed his entire world view.
“Si. That is what I say about the old gringos, but no one believes me.”
“No one believes anything anymore,” I said.
Phil shook his head in complete agreement.
“I’ll take Senor Burro.” I noted that Phil was about to speak, so I decided to cut him off. “And no, I will not kill him.” Phil shrugged, turned around and went back into the office.

Desperate Crimes

When Jennifer Travis’s piano teacher, Todd Landry, goes missing, Bill Travis has to pull out of all the stops to find him before her upcoming piano recital. Along for the ride is not only Jennifer herself, but also her pet ferret, Morgan Freeman, and Bill’s old running buddy, Hank Sterling. Zig-zagging all over the map on the trail of an elusive Todd (whom people keep calling “Sam”) the team encounters a host of interesting characters including the members of a dynastic millionaire family with enough skeletons in their collective closet to fill a boneyard. It’s murder, mayhem, conspiracy and intrigue at a fever pitch for Bill Travis and company. Desperate Crimes is the 11th installment in the Bill Travis Mystery series.

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I’m putting the final touches on my anthology. The other day I got this dynamic Foreword from my friend Steven Thomas, so in advance of the book’s release here in a few days, I decided to post his Foreword here. Steven is a bit shy. He’s a poet, with both the heart and mind of a poet. Here are his words:

FOREWORD

By Steven Thomas

I was lying flat on my back, sick as a dog, for three days when suddenly I got a call from George Wier. I had the phone off so it went straight to voice mail.

“Steven Thomas,” the voice said. “This is George Wier. I was just really concerned because I hadn’t heard from you in awhile. Give me a call back, okay?”

I met George on-line through a writer’s group and we became fast friends. I was privy to his on-line quips, and it was good stuff. This guy is great! I thought. It was like being friends with Gene Simmons without knowing who KISS was. Then suddenly, he emailed me the first draft of 1889: Journey To The Moon. And I was blown away.

I had no idea my absence of three days would cause such a ruckus. I mean, this was GEORGE WIER! Sure, we were friends, but now I was also a fan.

I consider George to be one of the best up-and-coming authors of our time. And here he was, phoning ME. It is one thing to chat back and forth via the internet, but hearing his voice on the phone drove the realization home that indeed, we were friends, and he was genuinely concerned about me. Such is the heart and compassion of George Wier.

Chances are you are already familiar with his work. The Bill Travis Mysteries, 1889: Journey To The Moon. So you don’t need me to tell you how good he is. But you probably have not read these short stories, and that is what makes this book so incredibly unique.

What I can tell you about these stories is that every single one of them is a winner! And each one could—no, should, be a movie. That is how George Wier writes.

Steven M. Thomas
October 2014

————————–

Kind words, Steven. I can’t thank you enough.

I awoke at three in the morning so suddenly and completely that it shook me. I had heard something from inside my dreams that couldn’t have been from that shadowy realm. Was it a scream? A screech?

I quietly donned my clothing, grabbed the leash and put it on Franklin, and took my key and made sure the door was locked behind me. We went downstairs.

Noreen wasn’t on duty. There was a lamp on behind the front desk, but otherwise the place was deserted. The front door was unlocked. I opened it and made sure the outside knob would turned freely for when I was ready to come back inside.

I yearned for a cigarette, even though I’m not a smoker.

The night was cool and the downtown lights were nearly nonexistent.

I noticed there was someone not far away, standing at the corner.

Franklin let out a suppressed woof!

“Did you hear it?” he asked.

“I heard it,” I admitted.

“Every night,” he said.

He walked towards me and came into the dim light. He was a middle-aged fellow of about fifty years, which is to say, close to my own age. He wore a suede leather fedora hat over his straight, gunmetal-steel hair, and a brown cardigan. His eyebrows were dark and curled up dramatically.

“You’re one of the archaeologists,” I said.

“That’s right. The name’s Randall. Randall Marshall. My friends call me Randy.” He offered his hand and I shook it.

“Bill Travis,” I said. “What do you make of the screeches, Randy?”

He turned back to face the town and moved his head to and fro, as if attempting to penetrate the far darkness. “At first I thought they were soon bird, like an owl or something. Peacocks can screech like that, you know, although I haven’t seen any around here. Who knows. Maybe a wild cat of some kind.”

“You don’t believe that, though,” I said.

“I don’t believe anything. I’m not in the believing business.”

I nodded.

“What are you doing in Anahuac, Mr. Travis? It’s a nice town, don’t get me wrong, but it’s not exactly a closely guarded secret get-away spot.”

“You wouldn’t believe me if I told you. That is, since you’re not in the believing business,” I countered, and he laughed.

“Please don’t tell me you’re in league with Wolf.”

“What or who the hell is Wolf?” I asked.

“Wolf is a guy. He’s a bigfoot hunter.” The disdain in his voice was dreadfully apparent.

“I’ve never met a bigfoot hunter, and I thought I’d met all kinds of Homo sapien.”

“He’s an innocuous enough fellow,” Randy said. “You know, I wish I had a cigarette. My wife…helped me to quit. I miss it so.”

“Yeah. What is a bigfoot hunter doing in Anahuac?” I asked. “And where is he this time of night?”

“He has one of the rooms here, but he mostly sleeps during the day. I’ve given him permission to camp out at the dig, particularly after what happened there the other night.”

“What happened?” I asked.

“The place got all torn to hell, is what happened. Some of our tools and equipment was thrown around and busted up, including the seismograph and side-scanning sonar we were about to use to get a good solid image of the interior of the mound. We finally got the seismograph working again, and have been able to get some useful data, but nothing that could have compared with the images we could have gotten had not the sonar been wrecked.”

“That’s too bad,” I said. “Why scan a Caddo mound?”

“Not Caddo. Karankawa. I’m almost certain of that.”

“I thought you weren’t a believer,” I said.

Randy Marshall sighed. By this time I was certain that he was the head of the project and that there was a big ‘P’, a little ‘h’, and a big ‘D’ after his name whenever it was written out on the heading of a published research paper. “In science, we look for data that predicts other data. Then when we look for and find the other data as predicted, it lends more weight to the original hypothesis.”

“I know all about the scientific method. There’s one thing, though, that I have found that pretty much steals the thunder of science.”

“Nothing steals the thunder of science,” Randy said. “But go ahead. What is this mystical anomaly?”

“The unexplained and unexplainable.”

“You’re one of those,” he said, and laughed.

“No,” I said. “I’m one of a kind. One you apparently haven’t run across yet. I’ve seen things you wouldn’t believe with your own eyes.”

“I doubt it.”

“That sort of proves my point.”

“I doubt that too,” Randy Marshall, likely Ph.D. intoned.

“No. It does. How can you test for a thing if it’s not in the realm of your own hypothesis?”

“Hmph.”

We watched as Franklin paid special attention to the nearby lamppost.

“Tell you what,” I said. “What if I told you that I could put into doubt one of your most closely-held theories with only a few words, On the subject of, say, the theory of gravity?”

“I’d like to see you try,” he said.

I reached in my pocket and removed a quarter. I held it up where he could see it and then dropped it. It fell to the sidewalk with a loud, tinny clatter and rolled off into the street.

“What was that?” I asked.

“Gravity,” Randy said.

“Okay. Now, please tell me what that would be if we were not standing on the surface of a gigantic and live electromagnet spinning in space?”

“I don’t follow.”

“How do you know that what you were observing was not the effects of electromagnetics, simply and only? They say all emanations in the observable universe are somewhere on the electromagnetic spectrum, but they don’t put gravity on that spectrum, now do they? Instead they say it’s the weakest of the nuclear forces and let it go at that. But none of them know what it is. Everyone who has ever observed this thing called ‘gravity’ has done it while standing on an electromagnet. Even the Apollo astronauts.”

Randy smiled. “I have a friend who is a Jesuit priest who talks like you do. He would argue with Satan and probably convince him to return to heaven.”

“I have a Jesuit priest friend as well. It’s one of the reasons I’ve always supported Notre Dame football.”

Randy laughed. “Me too.”

“Now, as a scientist you’re not supposed to like your theories. In fact, you’re supposed to try to disprove them.”

“I get your point,” he said. “The truth is, I don’t know for sure that it’s a Karankawa mound. I believe it to be a Karankawa mound and not Caddo.”

“Might I stop by your dig tomorrow?” I asked.

“Certainly. We’re ten feet into the mound. Within the next few days we’ll be at the center, and we will have found him.”

“Him?” I asked.

“The Karankawa Chief,” Randy said.

“That’s an interesting hypothesis,” I said. “I’ll try to find my way out there. That is, if my wife isn’t ready to head back to Austin.”

“We’ll hear the screech again tonight at some point,” Randy said.

“That’s what the Sheriff said.”

“What do you think of him?” I asked.

“The Sheriff? Nice enough fellow. He tends to believe there’s a ghost out there somewhere, and that the cries in the night are a ten-foot tall sasquatch.”

“Well,” I said. “That could be because there’s some kind of ghost haunting the area and there’s a ten-foot tall sasquatch dogging its trail.”

Randy laughed again.

“You’re an Austin man, huh?”

“Austinius bullshittus,” I said.

“What do you do for a living, Mr. Travis?”

“Now that you wouldn’t believe if I spent ten years writing it all out for you. Good night, Randy Marshall, man of science.”

“Good night, Bill Travis, man of mystery.”

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