(MURDOCK TACKLES TAOS)
The scene is the Apache Junction Racquet Club in Taos, New Mexico. Theo Ulster, the tennis pro, has just invited Sleuth Matt Murdock for a drink. These two have been sparring since they met a couple days ago. The interview follows Murdock’s strategy—to get under Theo’s skin. At this point in the story, the reader doesn’t know what to expect from Theo. Here’s the interview:
Murdock trailed Theo to his corner table. It controlled the space in front of a big window that looked out onto the tennis courts. A sign said: Reserved, Theo Ulster, Manager. The table was round and pub dark, the same height as the bar. Two padded stools and one swivel chair with a cushioned, comfy-looking back. Knowing the swivel chair was Theo’s—it gave him a gunfighter’s view of the room, back to the wall—Murdock took the swivel chair.
I say, old boy, Theo said. This is my quarter deck—I am the captain here, so sorry.
Murdock sat there, watching Theo’s eyes narrow, his face getting red. A waitress in a sarong took their orders. Murdock ordered a Pacifico. Theo made a face: Are you sure, old boy?—and then ordered the usual.
What’s the usual? Murdock said.
Pink gin, from my tropical past.
You want your chair back, Ted?
Please. Thank you.
Murdock was grinning at Theo as he surrendered the chair. Theo’s answering grin was tight, edged with anger that could bloom into fury. The guy was wound tight, right on the edge of crazy. The drinks came. The Pacifico was ice cold. Ignoring the beer glass, Murdock drank from the bottle, bringing yet another annoyed frown from Theo Ulster. As Theo sipped his gin, Murdock could feel him plotting. He sat in the chair like a potentate. Give the guy a megaphone, he’d be the perfect film director.
Speaking of my tropical past, Theo said, I was wondering where you served.
Viet Nam, Murdock said. I was nineteen, fresh out of Ranger School. Saigon had just fallen—you remember the footage on TV—copters leaving citizens behind—and I was part of a team that rescued MIA’s.
Like our own Chuck Norris of film fame? Theo said.
This was no movie, Murdock said. We took fire, we had dead and wounded. What about you, Captain?
Call me Theo, please. And to answer your question, I served in the Hindu Kush—I still dream about it—some time in Malaysia, Hong Kong, Northern Ireland. I was an observer in the Waco debacle, when your agents waged war on those Branch Davidians.
You SAS guys, Murdock said. You do get around.
About that dead girl, Theo said. How far was she from the edge of Flatrock Ridge?
Maybe a mile, Murdock said. When we found her, she was lying in a field of rocks and flowers. It was like she was trying to get safe, huddled up, warding off danger by hugging her knees.
And the alleged and unacknowledged archers?
Up the trail, maybe fifty yards.
That’s quite a distance for accurate pistol shooting.
Who said anything about pistol shooting? Murdock said.
You did, old boy. When you were holding forth last night at Drusilla’s.
Nope, Murdock said.
I assure you, Theo said. Everyone heard it.
Not from me, Murdock said.
Then how else would I know? Theo said.
Maybe you got the cops wired, Ted.
My dear fellow, I distinctly remember hearing you say that you fired two shots. It was your service weapon, correct?
Theo leaned close, locked eyes with Murdock. His Adam’s apple bobbled up and down. He drained his pink gin and signaled the waitress for a refill. Across the room, Murdock saw Sammy Savage, who was looming over Elise Wellborn, who had hold of Sammy’s white bandana. Their faces—hers tanned, his sunburned—were close enough for a kiss and she was giving him an earful about something. Sammy straightened up, she released her hold on the bandana, and he scanned the room, pausing when he came to the table of female tennis players. Then he locked eyes with Murdock, nodded, and headed for Theo’s table.
Here comes Savage, Murdock said.
An old friend of yours, I understand.
Old friend from jungle days, Murdock said.
Murdock Tackles Taos
by Robert Ray
on Tour July - August 2013
Book Details:Genre: Mystery
Published by: Camel Press
Publication Date: June 15, 2013
Number of Pages: 331
ISBN: 978-1-60381-925-1 // 978-1-60381-926-8