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An Arizona Tragedy
The year was 1967. There was exciting news on radio, television, and in the daily papers. Some of the news was reasonably good, some very bad.
Vladimir Komarov, a Russian cosmonaut, died as his descending spacecraft got entangled in its parachute cords.
Congress was fighting about taxes … okay, not so tantalizing!
n May of 1967, the United States Marines took ‘Hill 881’ (the ‘forbidding twin peaks’) just below the DMZ in Vietnam, and there were many casualties.
A huge segment of the world’s population was all atwitter with the fact that Mr. and Mrs. Elvis Presley were on their honeymoon in Palm Springs, California.
Joey Bishop was trying very hard to make it on late night television.
There was a national deficit of some twenty-four billion dollars … could this year have been part of ‘the good old days?’
A. J. Foyt continued to sell a lot of STP by winning his third Indianapolis Five Hundred race.
Bacon was sixty-nine cents a pound.
Ice cream was fifty-nine cents per half-gallon.
Peanut Butter was eighty-nine cents for a two and one-half pound jar.
Instant coffee was eighty-nine cents for a ten-ounce can.
Mass murderer Richard Speck was sentenced to death row for the July, 1966 murders of eight student nurses from South Chicago Community Hospital in Chicago, Illinois. This very ugly man broke into their townhouse dormitory on the evening of July 13 and methodically, systematically tortured, stabbed and/or strangled his victims, one by one. He also raped his final victim before strangling her. A ninth student nurse, spending the night with her eight friends, managed to hide under a bed during one of the killings. She stayed hidden until dawn, then crawled out of a window onto a roof ledge, screaming: “They’re all dead! All my friends are dead!”
Carl Sandburg, poetic voice of the Midwest, died on July 22, 1967.
Basil Rathbone died at age seventy-five in August of that year.
There were riots in Detroit.
In Selmer, Tennessee, on August 12, Sheriff Buford Prusser was ambushed and wounded. His wife was killed.
In Las Vegas, Nevada, Frank Sinatra was at the Sands Hotel, became angry and threw some chips in the face of Carl Cohen, age fifty-four. Mr. Cohen retaliated, giving the world famous crooner a hardy haymaker.
On May 24 in Washington, D. C. a young and lovely twenty-five year old secretary was found beaten beyond recognition. The coroner stated in his report that the young lady had died as a result of multiple blows of force to the head and face, and, strangulation.
On July 19, 1967, after midnight, a young and lovely twenty-six year old secretary and model disappeared in Phoenix, Arizona. Her body was found on August 12, 1967, in the desert northeast of Phoenix. The young divorcee, mother of two children, had died of multiple rock blows to the head and face.
The ‘Preface’ data above set the stage for An Arizona Tragedy – A Bailey Crane Mystery – Book 1. This book was inspired by two actual homicides in Phoenix, Arizona and Washington, DC. While the book is fiction I do use actual newspaper accounts and police documents. The Phoenix homicide was particularly close to me as I was a friend of the victim – she was a legal secretary to two of my attorney friends. She was mother to a daughter and a son, while also pursuing an actress and modeling career. She had many dreams for all her tomorrows, taken away on a late Wednesday night in July of 1967 by an evil son of Satan. For the better part of a month her body was not found, ravaged by August heat and denizens of the desert.
An Arizona Tragedy introduces Bailey Crane, a different kind of sleuth, a man who muses about his life and loves while chasing the bad guys. ‘The Bailey Crane Mystery Series’ consists of six books – hope you can check them out. Each book stands alone. Here are the six ‘Bailey Crane Mysteries’:
* An Arizona Tragedy – Book 1 — AVAILABLE Amazon WW http://www.authl.it/1sv
* Satan’s Song – Book 2 — AVAILABLE Amazon WW http;//www.authl.it/1sw
The Brutus Gate – Book 3 — AVAILABLE Amazon WW http://www.authl.it/1sx
* A Common Evil – Book 6 — AVAILABLE Amazon WW http://www.authl.it/1r2
(The asterisk in front of the title denotes book is inspired by true events.)
I leave you with a few excerpts from An Arizona Tragedy and links to some of my sites.
– Excerpts –
Running late, Cathy gave her daughter and son a kiss goodbye, embraced her mom, and hurried out the door of the apartment. She dropped her purse while fumbling for keys and mumbled a mild obscenity under her breath. She finally made it to the car and headed for work.
Going west on Osborn Road she passed the northern boundary of the Phoenix Country Club. The golf course was hidden by a long row of eucalyptus trees but early morning golfers could be seen through a break in the hedgerow. Later, when the heat reached the one hundred plus mark, there would be very few players on the course.
The temperature was already in the early nineties and promised to reach one hundred ten degrees by mid-afternoon. This was the norm for Phoenix in July. The cloudless sky was sapphire deep and wide, with a slight shimmering haze on the far off western horizon.
People either hated Phoenix or they loved it. There seemed to be no middle ground opinions. For Catherine Gibbs, Phoenix and the desert was her Shangri-La. She did not mind the heat. She loved the constancy of sun and clear skies, found the daily regimen strangely soothing and somnolent. The Southwest climate better suited her senses than the dreary days of clouds, rain, and snow that came to the plains of Kansas. Besides, there were memories she would just as soon forget. As she looked at the hot earth and the various types of cacti, she felt close to some subtle and mysterious awareness of life. The saguaro, cholla, ocotillo, barrel, all the spiny plants of this arid mini-world held a fascination for her, somehow speaking to her in some arcane way of some nebulous truths that she might one day know…
After Midnight on Wednesday, July 19
She seemed strangely out of her body, off in a wispy connecting chamber, floating through a kaleidoscope of sight and sound … lights flashing … and motion.
She was in a car, moving fast, then slow, stopping, starting … she could see the night sky filled with a million bouncing stars, but she couldn’t be sure if her eyes were really open … car slowing down, stopping again, motor shut down, door opening … heavy breathing, cursing, mixed with cricket chirps, all coming through a fog horn of slow motion sound and movement … fingers, hands, arms on her body … tugging at her, pulling her from the car … a soft tinge of fear, anesthetized but it was so far away, this fear, and there was an eerie peace within the connecting chamber, an almost rhapsodic bending and twisting of the past, present, and an inescapable but caressing future …
There came a cacophony of cymbal sounds, a further muting within the connecting chamber, and a light that had begun so dimly now becoming greater … pain was palpable but peripheral, and, while the light grew brighter, micro seconds lingered on the desert air, in her connecting chamber, and she recounted her life … kids, family, school, jobs, friends, loves, hates, joys, disappointments, all coalescing into the awesome, wonderful, totality that was her being …
The scraping sounds … her body dropped yet again to the desert floor, once more the cursing, the heavy breathing …
The final cacophony splintered the light into a dazzling crystal brilliance …
She felt the connecting chamber, her body, her last thoughts of betrayal, beauty, and forgiveness all merging into the warm and timeless cosmos of light.
Sunday, August 13, 1967
It was Sunday, and my hound dog face glared back at me through the bathroom mirror … “Another round, Sam!” my lips wryly opened and muttered, mocking me with a stupid smile. My eyes were not glaring … they were looking like two very weak and damaged headlights on an ugly foggy morning, The cold water splashes were supposed to help, but the desert heat had the liquid running timidly tepid through the pipes.
Somehow, I managed the bathroom chores, got dressed in easy clothes, gray shorts and a red golf shirt, went barefooted to the kitchen, and began the world famous, obligatory coffee phase to a hangover. Outside the front door was my rolled-up, rubber-banded newspaper, its weight feeling like a twenty-five pound barbell … Ah, the awesome heft of advertising!
Before opening the newspaper, smiling smugly, my mind went to some good news already known to me. There was a beautiful house guest sleeping in the very bed from which I just arose. Her name was Connie, a lovely blonde from Los Angeles. A talented singer, Connie had just last night finished her ‘gig,’ her engagement, at ‘The Islands,’ Phoenix’s version of ‘Trader Vic’s.’ Along with the talent, she was a fun lady, and this country boy from the Tennessee hills was just a touch smitten with the lass.
The warm thoughts of Connie were curling around in my head as I sipped my coffee, the rolled up newspaper there on the sofa side table. Connie was not only lushly gifted in the looks and the lovemaking departments, she had a compelling sensitivity and could articulate her thoughts well. We had known each other a few weeks, and she had been my house guest since we met. Her musical performance at ‘The Islands’ ended, she was spending a few extra days with me before returning to Los Angeles.
Connie had been one of my most promising conquests, and, as previously stated, I could get serious over this one. She had already made it known to me that she was serious about our relationship going forward. In our talks we had spoken of our lives, our mistakes, our love affairs, our ambitions, and our dreams. She knew about the torch I still carried for Pam, a lady with whom I had lived at different stages in our long and tempestuous affair.
Finishing my second cup of coffee, I stopped my Connie thoughts, reached for the newspaper, pulled away the rubber band, and found the front section.
Cathy Gibbs picture was on the front page, with a large bold headline: Battered Body of Model Found. Underneath that headline was a less bold sub-heading: Victim of Brutal Slayer.
Numbing is likely the best word to describe my initial feelings. My God! She’s gone! What a horrible way to go! The terror and agony she was forced to endure! My eyes became misty as the image of her came to me, that image of her on the day we last were together. My simple solitary grief was so real, yet, so inadequate, somehow.
We, her friends, had become reconciled over the three weeks of her missing that she would be found dead. Now, our subliminal thoughts had been realized. Now, it was real and final. Only her mother had visibly and vocally held out hope that she would be found alive. Perhaps that hope at such a moment kept mothers from emotionally imploding. Cathy’s two children were too young to fully realize what was happening … or, were they? Did all the emotions that were around them somehow leave psychological marks so profound that they would follow them the rest of their lives? Rani Gibbs was six years old. Her brother, Spike, was four years old. They simply wanted their mom back.
“Christ!” I blurted aloud, “this happens to people I don’t know!”
It was 8:55 AM when I left the apartment for a 9:30 appointment with one of my neglected suppliers. As a multi-line rep and my own boss it behooved me to keep suppliers happy. In return, they furnished me with ‘lay-down’ leads and a comfortable income. Really, there should be only one mood for me: thankful, happy, positive! It was the best of all worlds … working with attorneys, legitimately playing part-time detective, golfing, and lucky in love. My attitude, mood, had gotten a lot better after that shower, and I was ready to tackle and enjoy the day.
In the car, Tony Bennett was singing Rags to Riches. Turned the car onto a palm tree lined section of 32nd Street. Too relaxed, too inattentive to my known surroundings, hardly noticed the car to the left of me, moving in dangerously close. Finally forced me to jerk my wheel sharply to the right. Hardly noticed the window shattering and a sharp thorn-prick near my left temple. Hardly noticed the palm tree as it came toward me in a mighty rush. Hardly noticed how quickly the unity of hands, feet, and partially dazed mind worked so well in slowing the car, yet not avoiding the inevitable crunch of metal and tree.
Shaken quite thoroughly but still among the living, there was a tingling all over my body and a sticky wetness on the left side of my face. As my dazed head lolled on the back of the driver’s seat, the events around me appeared in seeming slow motion. People peered in at me, their lips moving in incomprehensible gibberish. The car shook as someone tugged at a door that did not want to open. Hands gently touched my forehead, my face, my neck. The loud voices became comprehensible, asking the same dull questions: “Is he okay? Is he dead? What happened?” Then, the siren sounds got closer and closer. The ambulance. The police. The Emergency Room and St. Luke’s.
— End of Excerpts —
The Bailey Crane Mystery Series’ (6 books) are intended to be easy and fun reads while addressing serious crime issues. It is my hope you can read and enjoy some of the titles Each book stands alone, but Bailey ages, tackles other crimes of mystery, suspense, and personal issues in his life. Please enjoy and, if so inclined, write an Amazon review. My best wishes to all.
All twelve of my books are listed on some of the following links – mystery, romance, memoir, et al.
Billy Ray Chitwood – May 29, 2015
https://thefinalcurtain1.wordpress.com (My blog)
http://www.goo.gl/fuxUA (IAN – Independent Author Network)
http://twitter.com/brchitwood – (@brchitwood) – Please follow me.
I am flattered and honored to have received nine blog nominations.