Sunset

A Son Says Goodbye…
By Glenn (Bill) Duncan, Jr.
May 2019

W. Glenn Duncan (1940-2019)

Sunset.

A secluded location on the shores of Lake Texoma, Texas.

The sun wavered on the horizon across the water. Hung there like it knew its job was to finish setting, but it wanted to give our motley group just a little more light, more warmth, more time before the day ended and the dark times came.

We got the flames going pretty good and pushed the rowboat out. The breeze slapped little wavelets against the wooden topsides for a few seconds, then it grabbed hold of the small boat and its cargo and dragged them quickly away from shore.

Cowboy was the first to break the silence, holding his Stetson in his large hands and running a knobby thumb along the brim. “Well, goddamn,” he said. “Din’t never expect it would come to this.” He kicked at a rock with his boot. “Goddamn,” he said again.

“Uh huh,” I replied.

Mimi stood tall, all four feet and a bit of her, and blinked back tears. I’d never seen Mimi cry before. “He’s really gone, isn’t he?” she said.

“Fraid so, Mimi,” I said. “I wish like hell he wasn’t but …”

She nodded, ran a finger under both eyes, and hugged herself. Cowboy draped an arm around her shoulders.

Ed Durkee’s brown suit had wilted while we were getting the rowboat ready, and the coming chill of the evening wasn’t going to breathe life back into it. He dry-rubbed his face and sighed. “I can’t believe you talked me into this, Rafferty. A goddamned Viking funeral! If anyone comes down here, I’m gonna pretend like I don’t know what’s going on and I’ll bust you all.”

“You didn’t have to come,” I pointed out. “Relax, Ed. It’ll all be over soon,” I said. “He’ll either make it into Oklahoma or completely burn up. My money’s on burning up. Did you leave any lighter fluid in the can, Ricco?”

Ricco pulled the toothpick from the corner of his mouth, shook his head twice, and grinned.

The flames were really going now, they must have been fifteen, maybe twenty feet high, as the little boat turned in circles, caught in an unseen eddy.

Hilda wrapped an arm around my waist.

“I’m so sorry, Rafferty,” she said in a low voice. “Are you okay?”

Shook my head.

“We’ve known each other for so long, it felt like he’d just always be there. I knew that wouldn’t be the case but, dammit, I wanted it to be.” I looked around the circle of faces, knew that they expected me to say something in the moment.

I toasted the flaming boat with my beer.

“Glenn Duncan. He was the best of all of us. A doer, a man who made things happen. In fact I’m reminded of a quote by Heinlein. It goes something like ‘A man should be able to chang—‘“

At that moment something important in the structure of the boat must have burned through because there was an enormous hiss, a cloud of steam, and then nothing.

I looked at the lake surface, ripples fanning out in all directions from where the rowboat and Glenn had slipped beneath the water.

I like to think that those ripples will always be there. They may be small, they may be far away, and they may even be too hard to see with the naked eye, but they will be there.

Always.

I turned from the lake and looked at my friends.

“Hell with it. You guys ready to kick ass and take names?”

Mimi nodded, reached into her oversize purse, and checked her Uzi.

Cowboy slid his hunting knife into the scabbard at the small of his back and said, “Let’s git amongst ‘em.”

Ed shook his head and pretended like he was somewhere else.

Ricco just grinned.

Hilda leaned into me, nestled her head into my chest, and rubbed her hand on my back.

“It’s what he would want,” she whispered.

I nodded.

Damn straight.

Respectfully submitted by Glenn (Bill) Duncan, Jr.

EDITOR’S NOTE (May 2019)

The eighties were a heady time for the private eye genre (or sub-genre, I guess). Robert B. Parker and Bill Pronzini were swinging at the fences, and every month there seemed to be something new and exciting to read. Grafton, Estleman, Mosely, Crais, Paretsky, Vachss, Collins, Lutz, Healy, Schutz, Greenleaf, Valin, etc. — there were so many great new writers popping up in hardcover that some truly great paperback originals almost slipped through the cracks.
W. Glenn Duncan’s Rafferty series was one of them. Spotting a new one on a spinner rack on a spinner rack in a subway or bus station, or crammed between bigger, more hyped books on a bookstore shelf was always a thrill for me (and  for thousands of fans around the world). A good read was almost gua\ranteed — his feisty, rule-spouting Texas private eye Rafferty may have smelled, at first sniff, simply like Spenser in a cowboy hat, but he could more than hold his own with any of the higher-priced eyes in hardcover, fighting the good fight in six kick-ass, rough-and-tough, page-turning, soft-covered reminders that no matter how far you took a genre, its roots remain.
Thanks to W. Glenn (Bill) Duncan Jr., for letting me reprint his touching tribute to both Rafferty and the man who created him, and my condolences to the family.

One thought on “Sunset

  1. Sadly, never heard of him and I’m a native Texan always looking for Lone Star P.I.’s but RIP and I’ll check him out. A couple of guys tried Dallas for a site and I’ve read them but don’t recall their names. I’m only 4 years younger than Duncan anyway and don’t remember like I used to. Keep up the good work.

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