Enjoy the next story in the Tales of Poncho Villa after the jump.
Kenneth Bontemps, Special Agent in the Denver bureau of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, has always been known as a hot-head. His venting sessions were stuff of legend – even being given the nickname “Maltemps” around the Bureau’s water-coolers and coffee machines. When Bontemps got angry, you knew to get out of the way to avoid the ensuing carnage.
But today, he wasn’t angry. He was nervous.
He was nervous largely because his partner, for the seventh time in five days, had been in New Mexico at an undisclosed location and had recently been seen with an unidentified man standing seven feet tall, with tan-gray skin, wearing the same clothing each time: long black denim jeans, a black cowboy hat, and a teal poncho.
“Seriously, Gibson, where the hell have you been this last week?”
“I told you, Bontemps, I’ve been gaining research help with a consultant, and I’ve got to come to him! He thrives on anonymity.”
“But you can at least tell me about it, right?”
“Not according to our agreement, no. I cannot tell anyone any details about him, unless I want to stop getting information from him.
“And what information!” Gibson continued. “In the past five days, I’ve solved three cold cases plus that Los Alamos case.”
“Well, we’ve got a case right now. Pretty gory one, too, I hear. Briefing in ten.”
“At around 2000 hours on Monday, August 9th, police in Amarillo, Texas found the head of an unidentified female, age approximately 30 years, Caucasian, along the side of Historic Route 66. The next day, Tuesday the 10th, at 1800 hours, police in Gallup, New Mexico, found the torso, same description, along the same route,” said Denver bureau director Miles Wilson.
“Forensics officials in both Austin and Santa Fe found no usable evidence – no blood, no fingerprints, no fibers, nothing. Wiped clean.”
“Considering your work on the Alvarez case, Gibson, the task for you and Bontemps is to find who’s killed this girl and where he’ll be turning up next.”
“Got it, Wilson,” said Gibson.
“I assume we’ll be going to Amarillo to meet with the local yokels?” Bontemps said, with more than a bit of derision.
“Actually, I was thinking we split up this one: you go to Amarillo, I’ll go to Gallup and then Santa Fe to meet with the folks in the New Mexico crime lab.”
“Um, one quick question, Vin. Why?”
“I know a few people in Santa Fe.”
“Yeah, like that mystery man you’ve been seeing.”
“Perhaps I will pay him a visit.”
“I need your help on another case,” Gibson said to Poncho Villa.
“And what bizarre anecdote do you have for me on this occasion?” Poncho Villa said, with more sarcasm than one would expect out of an alien of a few billion years of age, which is generally zero.
“A woman was killed and pieces of her body have been cropping up along the old Route 66.”
“I -” Poncho Villa paused, then contemplated. “I’m sorry, Agent Gibson, but I cannot help you on this case.”
“Sit down, Agent Gibson, for I have a story of my own.”
“There was a brief time in the history of my people where we allowed ourselves to interact with the other flora and fauna. Some merely used this as an opportunity for research and development of Earth, becoming grasshoppers, bats, and the like, with our shape-shifting abilities, before writing long, detailed, monotonous reports on their findings after six months. However, I used it as an opportunity to break free from the group.
“As you have seen, most of my people shy away from humankind, in spite of the fact that we are physically and mentally superior to you,” Poncho Villa said, gesturing to the area behind him in the cave he and Gibson were sitting in: a few shadows, but nothing else. “I, on the other hand, have come to love humanity, seeing them as a wonderful little species – truly my pride and joy in the creation of the planet.
“Therefore, I used my shape-shifting abilities to become not a frog, or a wasp, or some other meek creature, but a human – I stood only five-foot-eight, had white skin, and was Patrick Smith by name.
“As Patrick Smith, accountant at the First United Bank of Santa Fe, I found that human life was, surprisingly, pretty boring. But there was one thing I loved: the New Mexico State Fair.
“Now, at this time, the world was in a vicious war. But, at the same time, there was a quaintness to things, and an air of hope. The State Fair embodied that – even in the face of demagogues and war criminals, there was a feeling of fun.
“At one evening of carnival games and rides, I met a young woman named Maggie. Now, if you believe my people do not show emotion, you are mostly right – we do not display it, but we do have the ability. And I fell deeply in love with her. Eventually, we did everything together – even counting the nickels and dimes at the bank. We even went on a car trip to Los Angeles via the great highway of the time, US Highway 66.
“But then the war became more vicious, and for the first time, humans used advanced weaponry – nuclear warfare. We decided to end our long-term shape-shifting experiment, and I never saw Maggie again.
“This is why I cannot join you on this case, Agent Gibson. Returning to Route 66 would bring back too much of the hurt of the time.”
“I certainly understand, my friend, but why not solve this case for Maggie, for her memory, for the times you had?” Gibson said. “A young woman is dead, and we don’t know her killer – we probably won’t until you help us.”
“Alright, but I reserve the right to leave at any time. Is that clear, Agent Gibson?”
“Clear as crystal,” Gibson said.
“Then we shall rendezvous to the Santa Fe forensics lab immediately. Take my hand.” And together, Gibson and Poncho Villa disappeared in an explosion of light.
Poncho Villa examined the torso of the unidentified woman for approximately sixty seconds, much longer than he did before.
“This is the torso of a Margaret Ross, age 29 years old, from St. Louis, Missouri.” Poncho Villa said. “However, I cannot find any evidence of an attacker – the cuts are entirely clean, as if she was bled out prior to being discombobulated.”
“That is still good information, my friend.” Gibson responded, though with a bit of dejection, as he turned to make a phone call to Amarillo, to his partner Kenneth Bontemps.
“It’s Gibson, Bontemps. We got an ID on the torso – it’s of a Margaret Ross, age 29 years old, from St. Louis.”
“Great! Any news on the attacker?”
“Nothing yet…” Gibson said, before pausing. “Bontemps, I’m onto something. Meet me in Flagstaff by 2000 hours.”
“Flagstaff, Arizona?!” Bontemps exclaimed.
“No, Bontemps, Flagstaff, Belgium. Of course, Flagstaff, Arizona!” Gibson said, before hanging up.
“My friend, before I leave, a question,” Gibson said to Poncho Villa. “Did you ever…have any sexual encounters with this Maggie woman?”
“As a matter of fact,” Poncho Villa said, awkwardly, “I did.”
“Then this Margaret, perhaps ‘Maggie’ Ross, may be your granddaughter. I don’t know if it’s possible or anything, but all roads point to it – similar name, you looking at her torso for longer than I’ve ever seen you look at anything.
“I suggest you look into it. But as of know, if you don’t mind, I’d like you to transport me to the Flagstaff Police Department.”
And off Agent Gibson and Poncho Villa went.
“Now, Gibson, in few words, how did you figure out that the murderer would be in Flagstaff on Route 66?” Bontemps said, flabbergasted, as the perpetrator, Dennis Ross, age 35, from St. Louis, Missouri, was carried away. “Your consultant?”
“No, this one I got on my own: the lyrics to ‘Get Your Kicks on Route 66,'” pulling out his iPhone to play the Nat King Cole version of the song.
“…You see Amarillo, Gallup, New Mexico, Flagstaff, Arizona – Don’t forget Winona, Kingman, Barstow, San Bernandino…” Nat King Cole sang as Gibson whistled along.
“Damn, Gibson, you really are a pop culture nut.”
“Much more than my consultant, I can tell you that.”