In the Book

Rays of sunshine bounced off the chrome bumper like multiple light flares from  photographers’ flashbulbs. Of course, photographers seldom used flashbulbs anymore, and chrome bumpers were virtually anachronistic as well. But then so was the car and it’s driver. The white, 1966 Mercedes 230 SL Convertible was four years shy of being sixty years old, but over the course of decades it had been given lots of new leases on life by enthusiasts of German engineering and design, plus those who favored a bona fide classic over whatever passed for the latest trend. The current owner and driver, Brig Ellis, was one of the latter. At thirty-eight years old he was not into crazes, nor was he one to admire his chariot only on weekends or at car shows. Ellis used it as his main means of transportation. A reasonable income and a reliable mechanic afforded him the wherewithal to keep the beauty mostly out of the shop and on the asphalt, which was particularly agreeable when he was able to put it through its paces on a road trip like his present one. 

Top down, aviator sun-shades on, Ellis didn’t have to worry about the wind mussing his hair. Even though he had been out of the military for a number of years, he still kept his brown mane close cropped. Living in San Diego provided him a year-round tan so he was unconcerned about sunburn. Nor was he bothered by the temperature change as afternoon segued into evening and twilight began its transition to nightfall.

Ellis was making his way to New Mexico not simply for the inherent joy of guiding a vintage automobile over an impressively stark landscape, but rather for a much more personal reason. The former soldier and current private investigator believed that promises should be kept. And he had made a promise to Tasso. 

Ellis had joined the army right out of high school, put in his twenty years, and was now using his pension from the military to supplement what he earned doing what his business card highlighted; Investigations, Security, Confidential Matters. Long ago however, he had promised Vic Tasso, one of his former squad members, that if he was still around when the time came, Ellis would make sure Tasso’s ashes were returned to the home of his youth in Yavapai County, Arizona.  There to be spread among the majestic red rocks of Sedona. The time had come years sooner than he assumed it would, but Ellis hadn’t forgotten his commitment. So when authorities found a directive on Tasso’s computer as to the native American’s wishes upon his demise, Ellis was contacted. Now the San Diego P. I. was on his way to Santa Fe planning to return via Sedona to keep his promise to the indigenous Apache who was, without debate, the best soldier in his old squad. 

An ocean of stars spotted the sky as Ellis drove. They lighted the way not only to the task that was before him, but also to the memory that was behind him in what turned out to be his last mission with Tasso, Develin, Fowler, Adams, and Sanchez. A mission that was supposed to take only a few hours, took a number of days instead—days that deposited themselves permanently into Ellis’s memory bank. Some traumatic recollections can be forever locked away so deeply in the inner recesses of the mind that it takes professional help and years of therapy to bring them back to consciousness. This memory was not one of those. This was a memory forever floating on untranquil waters. It could reemerge at the mention of a name, the flicker of a flame, or the request of one of the participants to lay his ashes and soul to rest in the home of his ancestors. This was a memory that gave no sign of ever going away.