By Gayle Carline
Author of Peri Minneopa Mysteries (and other fun books)
Peg's recent post about characters that shrinks love to read was very timely for me. I'm in the midst of writing a brand new mystery with spankin' new characters. It's not set in my hometown this time, but it is set in my world - the world of American Quarter Horse Association horse shows.
My murder victim (at least the first one, so far) is a man who is popular and charming but not nice. I had a general mental picture of him before I started writing him and thought I didn't need much more, since, well, tick-tock, his life is on a short timer. Physically, he reminds me of this guy:
(Sorry, Guy Fieri - love you on Food Network!)
Then I realized I needed to write a chapter in his point-of-view. He had a lifestyle and some practices that I needed to show instead of tell. This meant I had to figure out what made this smarmy guy work.
Hello, Journal. Meet Bobby Fermino.
I want to win. Doesn't matter what at - I want to win at everything. It's my parents' fault. If they hadn't spent so much time fawning over my big brother, I wouldn't have had to try so hard. Tony could do no wrong. He was so shiny and perfect. I don't get it.
I mean, for Chrissake, he always had his head stuck in a goddamned book. Yeah, he got the grades, but what fun is that? They gave him everything, just for a few goddamned A's. A free ride to college, hell, a car to get there. Not just a car, a brand new car.
School was boring. I couldn't wait to get outta there. Mom and Dad kept telling me I was smart enough to apply myself. To what? Didn't really know what I wanted to do, so I spent most of my time out with the guys at the ranch. Watched them ride fast, rope cattle, then drink a few beers. That looked like fun.
As soon as I was old enough, I started riding and roping and drinking with them. They were good guys. Not book smart. Not worried about anything. That's the way to be. When you're not worried, you can figure out how to get ahead.
Tony graduated from high school and got a BMW. I graduated from high school and got the boot. No car, no college, just an invitation out the door to the "real world" and a promise to take me back when I "straightened up."
Don't do me no favors.
Good thing I'd been playing the angles. I met a gal, Gillian, whose parents owned a big spread in Arizona, near Phoenix. I managed to bullshit my way into starting their young horses which gave me some income while I was banging their daughter. She was a nice kid. So nice I married her when she said she was knocked up.
Turns out, she was a sly one. There was no baby, but at least now I was in the family so I could slide my chair up to the big table.
Soon I had a real trainer shingle, Bobby Fermino, All Around and Performance Horses. I could take a mediocre horse and turn them into a champion. Okay, so sometimes I needed a little more than just "training." Better living through chemistry, as they say. And of course there are procedures.
The clients didn't mind. Their horses were winning at shows. I was winning. Winning money at reining. Winning prestige and a name at pleasure events. Being paid for endorsing products. I didn't even have to advertise. My clients took out ads in the AQHA Journal telling everyone what a hot shot trainer I was.
The key was to get clients who didn't want to show their own horses. None of these amateur riders for me. I worked with horses, not people. That way, I didn't have a lot of eyes scrutinizing what I do. Who cares how I did it?
Not that I don't like people. The horse show world is a great place to meet folks, especially the female kind. Could I help it if these girls flirted with me? My wife was hounding me for kids. I wasn't in the mood to raise any brats. Besides, she was starting to look her age. I still needed an outlet for my urges, though.
Gillian walked into the tack room one night to find me with one of my outlets, Brittany. Funny, I never saw her until Britt had put on her panties and left. That Gillian is sharp. She had pictures. Lots of pictures, and not just the action shots of me and young girls.
Pictures of my training methods.
So my methods are harsh. So what? They're just horses, for Chrissake. The clients can't care, they're winning. But the AQHA would care. I'd be lucky to get a suspension. Probably banned for life.
I was given choices: get out of town or else. She didn't even care if my crimes tainted her family's name. "Daddy's got enough money to shield us." She tossed me the keys to the ranch foreman's 15-year-old Chevy pickup.
"Daddy can buy him a new one. Send me an address and I'll ship your clothes."
Luck is a funny thing. Bad luck had put my ass on the road at two in the morning. Good luck had put me on the road at the exact time to take pictures of my own - pictures that would keep my bills paid for life.
Actually, that last sentence is not what his journal says. But a writer's gotta have some secrets.
So... show of hands: How many of you want to kill Bobby yourselves? How many of you think he just needs a hug?