I put this series of four autumn leaf images together in one composite image and I was wondering what I could call it. Composite is not a very sexy description. Since it has more than three images, I can't call it a Triptych. So I settled on calling it a Quadtych. I'm not sure if that is even a real word but I have seen it used before.
The sight of a Stonehenge-like row of graffiti covered Cadillacs planted in the bare earth made me think of a strange dream scenario. It inspired this even more surreal interpretation with a textured teal green or aqua sky.
Anyone driving along Interstate 40 (what used to be the old Route 66) through Texas should stop to see the Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo.
I have just finished editing my second book and published it on Amazon Kindle. It's called Finding Fred and can be found here.
Here is the first two chapters of "The Scent Remains". If you'd like to read the whole thing you can purchase it as an ebook here.
She chose the sapphire blue rayon. It was the most flattering dress she owned. The slinky fabric hugged her curves. The scoop neckline revealed just enough cleavage. The short, flared skirt sometimes caught the wind and gave any man paying attention a glimpse. With Loretta, they were all paying attention. She made sure of that.
Loretta tugged at the buttons and stamped a foot in frustration. The dress was already too snug. Soon she wouldn't be able to wear it at all. The thought of losing her figure frightened her. She had been pregnant twice before and didn't particularly enjoy it, but at least this time there would be plenty of money. She would get him to pay up, but it would have to be handled just right.
She stood back and examined her reflection. Her platinum hair was curled and teased to unbelievable proportions in a style that Addie called “big hair”. She pursed siren red lips at her reflection and then relaxed them into a smile. Fringes of darkened lashes framed her cow eyes. She sighed. Perfect. She looked perfect.
The alarm clock on the sagging dresser read almost one o'clock. She had better hurry. She wanted to get there before him. She wanted to be waiting, posed just right for maximum effect when he came through the woods to find her.
Maple leaves fluttered and flashed like gold coins tumbling in the sun. She dashed behind the old house and turned right into the woods. A faint whiff of mountain mint welcomed her as she ran past. Deeper into the cover of trees now, the sun fell in small blinding patches punctuated by the spiraling descent of discarded leaves. She climbed the fence, taking care not to catch her skirt on the barbed wire. Another ten minutes and she was there—a clearing nestled up against a rock face, ringed by thick stands of rhododendron. Her own special place, dark and secret. A refuge from motherhood and housework. Far from life in Goose Neck Hollow. Here she became the true Loretta. As she was meant to be.
She spread the blue tablecloth on a mat of pine needles and arranged herself demurely, waiting for what she knew she deserved.
Jo McKenzie hoisted her camera and peered through the viewfinder, 500mm lens poised on a monopod. The house appeared innocent enough, like every other shotgun house in that Lexington neighborhood. No sign of life. Overgrown shrubs framed the door, casting deep early morning shadows against the thin aluminum siding. A solitary window to the left of the door was dark save for rays of sun glinting off cracks in the glass like jewels on a spider web.
The shadow on the right moved. A black helmeted figure detached itself from the bush and shifted slowly into position, high-powered rifle aimed at the door. Another similar figure materialized on the left. They froze like gun dogs on a point. Jo froze too, not daring to breathe.
Don’t screw up. Don’t screw up... The chant cycled through her thoughts like a mantra. She had loaded a new flash card when she first arrived, checked her settings three times and made sure the auto-focus was working. Now it was a waiting game.
Jo’s hands were clammy and her trigger finger jerked uncontrollably, firing the camera. Click; whirr. The noise was appallingly loud. She ducked further behind a parked car and braced herself for a reaction from the swat team guarding the house. None looked her way and Jo relaxed her grip on the monopod. She was too far away for them to hear. If anyone noticed her they would surely make her leave.
She stood motionless for what seemed an eternity. The cops were statue- still as well. “Do something,” she whispered into the back of her camera. Her shoulders ached. She tried to remember how long she had been there since hearing the call come over her scanner. She had been on her way to the park with her golden retriever, Tessa, for an early morning run when a transmission on her police monitor had snagged her attention. The dispatcher summoned the ERU in the same monotone that she might use to describe a parking violation but it nearly caused Jo to run off the road. The Emergency Response Unit was only called in extreme cases like a hostage situation.
“...533 West Seventh Street,” the dispatcher had recited. “White male, forty-six, holding one female hostage—a Tammy Gibbs...” Jo listened to the subsequent talk among the officers while Tessa clung stoically to the back seat on the fifteen-minute, white-knuckled drive over there. She learned that the house was notorious for drug and prostitute activity and that the suspect was armed. A shot was fired from somewhere in the house, jerking her back to the present. The swat team remained glued to their spots but now seemed to crouch lower and held their rifles higher.
Then a muffled explosion rattled the window. In less than a minute the door flew open to reveal a large bearded man, wild-eyed and coughing. A baggy t-shirt spilled over grease-stained jeans. He was barefoot and holding a black handgun to his right temple. Puffs of smoke wafted through the door, adding visual drama to the already surreal scene.
With her heart thumping in her throat, Jo fired the camera, once, twice, and then again as her mind spun out a silent prayer to the Photo Gods that the images would turn out and a prayer to whatever other God may be needed to see that no one was killed. She moved out from behind the car to adjust her view, and held her breath. No reaction from anyone. All attention was riveted toward the big man with the handgun and his focus was on the two rifles aimed at his mid-section. Jo exhaled.
Again the world froze and went silent. Nobody moved. Every muscle in the man was taut, his eyes bulged. Time stopped and held still until Jo thought she would scream. She snapped another photo. The sound spiraled into the silence, unnoticed by the others.
Then everything seemed to happen at once. There were shouts and the man dashed across the lawn, gun still pressed to his head. He ran straight toward Jo and her camera. Although they were half a football field away, through the telephoto lens he looked enormous and rapidly filled the frame until the entire viewfinder was obscured. She let the camera crash to the pavement and reached for another camera and wide-angle lens that hung from her shoulder. She whipped it up, finger planted on the shutter release. The motor drive snarled, and then was muffled by her own scream as the force of three more cops brushing past, knocked her off her feet. As she fell, Jo was vaguely aware of Tessa barking and flinging herself against the window of her truck that was parked down the street. The world slowed and a detached part of her brain worried about who would take care of Tessa if this ended badly. She wasn’t just a pet. She was a search and rescue dog, a working dog, her partner, and her baby.
Jo landed sprawled but unhurt, still gripping the camera. The man was now flat on the ground and thrashing under the weight of five cops as they cuffed him. His gun lay in the grass beside him. She pulled herself to her knees and shot more pictures until a noise from behind stopped her. She turned to see a cop standing perhaps twenty feet away wearing a bulletproof vest over jeans and a gray t-shirt, a 9-millimeter Glock in his upraised left hand. He was flanked by at least five more ERU officers, guns also drawn.
Something snapped in her. She felt drained and suddenly too weak to lift the camera to her eyes. She noticed the metallic taste of adrenaline in her mouth. She was dimly aware that a hand was on her arm helping her to her feet.
“Come on, Jo.” She turned and recognized a redheaded officer she had met from an assignment earlier that year. It was Ben Pope. She had spent an entire graveyard shift riding with him on patrol. Since then Jo had seen his grinning, freckled face all over town and they had become friends. But this time he wasn’t smiling.
“Please Ben, I...” She was infuriated to find she was unable to control the quiver in her voice.
“Sorry Jo, I have to get you away from here. As it is I’ll probably get chewed out for not making you leave earlier.”
Her instinct was to argue her right to stay and keep shooting but the words eluded her and the camera dangled uselessly by her side. It was over.
“Get her the hell out of here,” said the undercover cop. “What were you thinking, letting a reporter get this close?” His intensity was palpable and unblinkingly directed at Ben. He didn’t even look at Jo. It was insulting.
Why? Why was it insulting to her? What did it matter? Why did she let people like that intimidate her? She knew all too well that none of the guys on the photo staff would have cared or thought twice about it.
Something on the cop’s belt buzzed. He pulled out a phone as he walked away. Jo caught a portion of his conversation: “Where? Okay. I won’t be able to get down there for a while...”
Down the street Jo could see the shape of Tessa sitting in the front seat, silent now but watchful. Ben lightly touched Jo’s arm. “Let’s go, I’ll walk you to your car.”
“Photographer,” she said.
“He called me a reporter. I’m not, I’m a photographer.”
He regarded her for a moment then shrugged.
“Who is he?” she asked.
“That’s Detective Robert Dailey, Kentucky State Police. I think he may have been working on something undercover here when the whole thing blew up. He’s pretty well known for busting up prostitution rings.”
“What happened to the woman—Tammy was it?”
“Off the record; I think he shot her before he came out of the house.”
Any response from Jo was interrupted by beeping from her pager. A familiar chill skated up her back as she read the scrolling words: “Heads up for possible search in Tyler County. Missing woman. More info to follow.”
“Looks like I’m not going to get any sleep tonight.”
“We might have a search in Tyler County. I’d better get these pictures turned in as soon as I can.” Ben helped her retrieve the camera she had dropped. They found that the mount for the monopod had broken off and the front glass element on the lens was cracked. Jo sighed, tracing the jagged edges with her finger. As she examined the damage, an absurd thought crossed her mind.
She knew how the lens felt.
I recently dusted off a mystery novel I wrote when I was still living in Kentucky and published it as a Kindle Book on Amazon. I stuck with the common wisdom that says: “write what you know”. Since I had worked at newspapers as a photojournalist for most of my adult life and volunteered on a K-9 Search and Rescue team for eleven years, that’s what I wrote about. The protagonist is Jo McKenzie, a—you guessed it—photojournalist and search dog handler.
I started with many of my real, often exciting, experiences and built from there. In the news world, there was no embellishing, staging or stretching the truth. But in writing fiction my imagination was not confined to the facts. I could give my character abilities that I always wished I had. I could create a thrilling world where bad things do happen but everything neatly resolves itself in the end. Check out the ebook here.
Jo McKenzie follows her search dog, Tessa, through the hills of Eastern Kentucky and finds herself in the middle of a murder investigation that threatens to destroy her dog, her life and forces her to confront the long hidden turmoil of a childhood tragedy. Uncovering the truth about the murderer means facing her own feelings of guilt over the death of her younger sister and learning to trust again--herself, Tessa, and her growing feelings for Nick, a reporter for the Lexington Times where Jo works as a photojournalist.