Saturday, September 29, 2012

What a Character! Ray from Missing, Assumed Dead

Prejudice, murder, insanity, suicide: Every small town has its secrets. 
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Ray Johnson owns the Jack and Jill Diner in the little town of Rosewood, OR. He had been a good friend of Salvadore Vasco, a Basque shepherd, until Vasco disappeared. Ray knew Salvadore couldn't just get lost; the old man knew all too well the rocky hills leading toward the Steen Mountains.

When Kam McBride is named Salvadore's executor after seven years he'd been missing, one of the first people she meets in Rosewood is Ray. After all, she was hungry after being lost in the high desert country and that cute Deputy Mitch invited her for a bite to eat.

Ray's a crusty old guy who stays in Rosewood because his wife is buried there, and he wants to stay near her. That, and he's got the only place to eat in the tiny town. Bev scoffs at Ray's cooking ability, but just about everybody else in the area eats at the Jack and Jill's regularly.

Excerpt: Kam meets Ray for the first time.

When she entered the diner, she had to smile. From the checkerboard black and white tiles on the floor to the slow-spinning fan on the ceiling, it looked like a stage set for Grease. Red vinyl chairs and booth seats were tucked close to green Formica-covered tables. Stainless napkin holders and salt-n-pepper shakers nestled between plastic catsup and mustard bottles on each table.

Mitch sat at the counter talking to an older man wearing a sea green apron and white chef’s hat. His bare arms, although skinny, seemed to be all gristle and muscle. She briefly wondered if Mitch and the cook were related. Both had dark skin and black hair, although the old man’s showed a lot of gray. The roman noses, high cheekbones, and strong jaws were similar enough for them to be father and son.

She slid onto a stool next to Mitch and smiled. She picked up the tall, water-beaded glass of iced tea waiting for her and took a long swallow. “God, that’s good. Thanks.”

“Kam, this is Ray Johnson. Ray, Kam McBride.”

Ray reached out his gnarled hand. The shake was gentle but firm enough to hint at the old man’s wiry strength.

“You can call me Ray, but you doesn’t have to call me Johnson.”

Mitch winked at her, and Kam twitched an eyebrow. “Um, okay. I’ll just call you Ray.” She tipped her head toward Mitch. “Are you two related? You sure look alike.”

Ray and Mitch both broke into laughter. Mitch answered. “No relation, but I’d be proud.”

The old man grinned, exposing a little gold behind a white partial plate. “I think that’s ‘cause Mitch here is half Paiute, and I’m half Basque. I do believe the two tribes came from the same beginnin’s.”

Kam studied Mitch’s face, a very nice face at that. Returning her attention to Ray, she asked, “Did you know Salvadore Vasco? He was Basque, too.”

“Yep. Him and me were good friends ’til he went missin’.” The old man shook his head slowly. “A damned shame, that.”

“Missing? I thought he was dead.”

“That’s the thing. Seven years gone by, so they’re declarin’ him to be dead.” Ray paused. “So, you’re his last relative?”

“I am, although I didn’t even know about him until a few weeks ago when I got the letter from the court. But my mom recognized the name. My father was related to him. Second cousin twice removed or something like that.”

Ray rubbed his chin. “So, you never met Salvadore?”

“No. Tell me about him. Were you friends for a long time?”

Oh, sure! Years ’n years. He’d come in town maybe once a week for supplies an’ always stopped here for a meal. I can almos’ see him walkin’ down the street usin’ his shepherd’s crook for a cane. The work stove him up some. You know, sheep herdin’ ain’t as easy as it sounds.”

Kam nodded. Finally, she’d met somebody who actually knew Salvadore Vasco. “What else can you tell me? What happened when he went missing?”


  1. When you wrote about the diner, I could picture it so well. Reminds me of our small town hangout when I was a kid. Loved this book!

  2. I liked Ray in the book. He made a good side character. Now you have to do one on Bev. She was my favorite side character.

    Of course with Kam and Mitch, the main MC's, the sparks do fly.

    The premise of the whole story is a good one. You brought us into the story with your descriptions and the good plot.