When I saw the subject line, “sad, sad news,” this past Monday from fellow mystery writer Reed Farrel Coleman, I figured it was to alert us in the mystery community of the passing of one of our elderly members. It damn near knocked me to the floor when I opened the email to read of the sudden passing of Jeff Fisher, the illustrator Reed first introduced me to several years ago — Jeff who played basketball and was my age.
Jeff had been doing the illustrations for “The Dixon Family Chronicles” webserial here on Capital & Main until his untimely death. He was a tall, gregarious guy and when we met that only time he was out here on the West Coast, we immediately hit it off.
Jeff struck me as a man who loved life and observed it to inform the drawings and illustrations he’d do – capturing those quirks of human expression and body language.
“Let me say again, we are not there yet. I’m not here to sell you a 50-inch HD flatscreen around the corner for a hundred bucks.” The youthful organizer grinned warmly, her eyes shining behind a pair of stylish eyeglasses. “Since its inception, this company, this giant octopus you all work for, has successfully fought off any effort to organize. Not just shop floor wide, but sector by sector. Make no mistake, we’re talking about a long, protracted struggle.”
Jess Dixon appreciated the woman’s honesty. She figured she wasn’t the only one who’d read on the Internet about the recent loss the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers had trying to organize some of the company’s tech and maintenance workers at a facility back east.
“Even in Germany,” the organizer continued, “which is a heavily unionized workforce, you have workers lining up behind the anti-union bandwagon for fear of their jobs going elsewhere.
“Hello again,” a familiar female said to Little Joe, who stood ready for flight or fight on the sidewalk. The woman who spoke leaned out of the Escalade’s open rear door. The pearl black vehicle had stopped near him on the street.
He frowned, recognition blossoming. She’d been the one with Teaflake at the burrito joint. He came closer so as to get a better look inside the SUV. “Hello yourself.” There was only her and a bald-headed driver. Well at least it wasn’t Teaflake, he reflected—though it could be one of his enforcers. He remained wary.
“Can I give you a lift?”
“Is this a rubout?” he said, only half-joking.
She laughed heartily. “You’ve been watching too many of those Jimmy Cagney movies.”
The woman was charming and his curiosity was getting the better of his apprehension. What the hell, he concluded. Dressed in slacks and a ribbed top,
Juanita Evers and Hank Dixon walked into the Mercado La Paloma on Grand at a little past one in the afternoon. The main building had been a garment factory but was now turned into an open space of mom and pop shops. There was one featuring Oaxacan handmade curios, a sports gear seller and various ethnic-style eateries. The place had been developed by a nonprofit.
“How about over there?” Juanita said, pointing to a stall offering Thai food tucked back in a corner of the expanse.
“Okay by me,” Dixon replied. “I could stand some spicy chow.”
They ordered and sat at a nearby table. He said, “You really think the congresswoman can help us?”
“She’s very interested in what the university does and wants it to do right by her constituents.” Juanita was a field deputy for Congresswoman Karen Nelson, whose district included the Eden Arms where Dixon lived.
Night. In this version of the dream, the truck fishtails through the curtain of smoke and flame. Off to the right of her MRAP, the water tanker’s metal skin has split open, sending the liquid treasure everywhere. She watches in stutter shutter clicks as the vehicle’s driver fights to keep that bad boy under control, at the same time zig-zagging past the bombed, burning panel truck.
Corporal Jess Dixon is up top manning the M2 machine gun in the open turret. She swings the weapon about in tight arcs on greased ball bearings, sighting down, wishing for a target as she fires blind. The water tanker hits a slick of burning oil and, brakes screeching, flips, and tons of steel go into a slide. Over her headpiece, not the crackle of her CO, but Whitney Houston singing “It’s Not Right, But It’s Okay.” The armored vehicle clips the tanker, but that ain’t no thing,