Thursday Sampler: Dizzy in Durango by D. R. Ransdell
February 4, 2016
In our mission to connect readers, writers, and books, Caleb and Linda Pirtle is showcasing some of the best authors in the marketplace today. Thursday’s Sampler features an excerpt from Dizzy in Durango, murder and mystery with a Latin beat from D. R. Ransdell.
As one reviewer said: With his personal and professional life in a mess, Andy Veracruz’s head is already spinning when he heads to Mexico and gets mixed up with a missing woman, missing children, and a mariachi fan who’s missing a few screws. Murder, mayhem, and mariachi music… how else would you expect to find Andy ‘Dizzy in Durango’?
In Andy Veracruz’s third adventure, the jobless musician travels to Durango, Mexico, to visit Rachel and her relatives. After a fellow traveler disappears, Andy can’t concentrate on vacationing.
When he tries to investigate, instead of finding one woman, he loses another! Before he can discover more about the women’s connection, he’s saddled with two children who aren’t his, an angry would-be girlfriend, and a self-appointed younger brother who is more reckless than he is.
No wonder he’s dizzy!
“A woman disappeared,” Rachel said. “So what?”
“I still have her bag.”
“Andy, you’re making a big deal out of nothing. Again.”
Rachel wasn’t even watching me. She was busy rolling tacos. We were sitting in the kitchen of her cousin’s taquería in Durango, Durango, Mexico, where everyone in town had decided to order crispy fried tacos at the same time. Since two of the employees had called in sick, Rachel was pitching in.
I wasn’t sure how to press my point. Maybe Rachel was right. Maybe it was nothing. But it didn’t feel like nothing. My stomach didn’t say it was nothing. My stomach was in knots.
It had been a rocky twenty-four hours since I’d headed south of the border to catch up with Rachel. She wasn’t exactly my girlfriend, but she was a fellow mariachi player and occasional lover. I hoped this would be one of those occasions, but she hadn’t appreciated my weeks of silence. By the time I’d shown up on her doorstep in Arizona, she was in Mexico visiting cousins.
I’d managed to get on a flight so that I could join her, but mechanical problems in Hermosillo delayed us so long that I’d missed my flight to Durango. Several other passengers were in the same predicament. Luckily Aeroméxico had comped us a decent hotel. I’d been lounging in the pool area anticipating a swim when a fellow passenger joined me on deck. Thanks to the woman’s spiky blond hair and dancing hazel eyes, I’d noticed her in the customer service line.
Claire was en route to Durango to visit a college friend who had taken a teaching job, but meanwhile we had time to flirt. We’d traded insinuations until her cell phone went off and she had to dig around in her bag for it. Before she answered, she nonchalantly asked if I’d watch her bag for a few minutes and strutted off wearing high heels, a red bikini made mostly of straps, and a towel. I watched every move.
She never came back. A day later, I was still trying to figure out what happened to her.
“Are you sure you heard that woman correctly?” Rachel asked.
“I’m a violinist. If there’s anything I trust, it’s my hearing.”
Rachel nodded, but she dismissed the story. The episode could have been featured on the cover of a gossip magazine: woman walks to a pool, leaves her bag, doesn’t return. Happens all the time.
Except that it didn’t happen all the time.
Rachel rolled another tortilla. “Why don’t you relax and forget the whole thing?”
On any other night, I could have done as Rachel suggested. Instead I couldn’t ignore my stomach. I had severe indigestion without having eaten.
“Three thousand dollars isn’t that much in the scheme of things,” Rachel said as she speared another set of tacos.
“Seems like a lot of money to me.”
“To me too. But not in the scheme of things.”
Rachel was referring to the contents of Claire’s bag. Inside I expected to find Claire’s boarding pass. The pass was there, but behind it was a stack of hundred-dollar bills.
She looked over and caught me staring into space. “When you travel, you’re bound to meet strange people who do things that don’t make sense. You should know that.”
“I’m just surprised that Claire never came back.”
I didn’t merely feel surprised; I felt edgy. Something was left unfinished, something I should have done or said. Or noticed.
“Andy, you have rotten luck with fellow travelers. I can’t figure out if you’re unlucky or nosy,” Rachel winked.
“I wouldn’t want Claire to think I stole the money,” I said. “Plus I have her driver’s license and a credit card.”
“You might as well keep them,” Meli said as she joined us. “She’s probably dead.”
“Don’t you read the newspapers? People disappear all the time these days.”
“You think she was kidnapped?”
Meli shrugged in a way that said “yes.”
“Wouldn’t kidnappers ask for a ransom?” I stammered.
“Around here they want attention,” Meli said. “Once in a while they go for the money.”
“They wouldn’t kidnap someone from an airport hotel, would they?”
Meli speared cabbage strips as if she were mad at them. “My ex-husband’s cousin-in-law got kidnapped from Home Depot in the middle of the afternoon. He was found dead a month later on the highway to the sierra. It’s hard to say.”
“I thought he was sleeping with the mayor’s wife,” Rachel said.
“Maybe. But it was never confirmed.”
“She can’t be dead,” I informed Meli. “Anyway, I can’t keep the money.”
“Give it to charity if you have a guilty conscience,” Meli laughed.
Rachel winked at me. “I know some good cat shelters in Tucson.”
“Charity?” asked a young man as he slid into the table’s extra chair. “I’m a good charity. No, a great one. You’ve got extra money? Donate it to me.” He was as dark as Meli but had more angular features. He wore glasses with a black frame and a frayed gray T-shirt that read “ardinals.” When he smiled all his teeth showed, which gave him a goofy look. I liked him immediately.
Meli playfully put her palm on the man’s forehead and pushed him away. “I never asked to have a younger brother!”
“Just trying to help.” He offered me his hand. “I’m Quique. You’re the guy that lost the woman?”
Quique, pronounced Key-Kay, was the usual Hispanic nickname for Enrique.
“Yes. Well, no. She wasn’t mine to lose.”
“Want to do me a favor? See, there’s this girl who thinks she’s my girlfriend, but she’s not. Think you could lose her for me?”
The man wouldn’t stop ribbing me until I promised to try. His mirth was contagious, and I needed every drop of it. I’d met a woman who vanished. Something was wrong with the whole scenario. I wouldn’t feel right again until I knew where she’d gone. And why.