What’s the Price for Murder? — Guest Blogger, Caleb Pirtle III

My guest blogger today is author, publisher, Caleb Pirtle, III.

Caleb Pirtle III

Caleb Pirtle III

He’s a principal in Venture Galleries.com and seeks to help independent authors promote

and market their work. His work is admirable, award winning, and most importantly–sells.

Today, he presents a true story from his past–a topic with which I’m quite familiar. The names have been changed.


HE LOOKED LIKE he hung out with a rough crowd.


Let me rephrase that.

All by himself, he was a rough crowd.

He wasn’t as tall as he thought he was.

He wasn’t as pretty as he thought he was.

He was as tough as he thought he was.

As gentle man with a mean streak.

He said his name was Joe.

I called him Joe.

No last name.

No reason to have one.

His hair was black but turning gray and growing thin.

His eyebrows had been singed, and they no longer grew at all.

He had burn scars on his face.

They hurt him when he grinned.

Joe no longer grinned.

I met him in Atlanta on a hot July night in 1978..

I didn’t mean to. I just looked up, and there he was sitting in the back corner of a neighborhood bar, sitting alone and nursing his third beer of the night. Two empty bottles were still on the table.

He looked like a story to me.

I sat down and bought him a beer.

Joe had fought one war in Vietnam.

He had battled another one at home.

His war had not yet ended.

He fought it mostly in the nightmares of his sleep.

He lost every night. He died a little every night.

“You got a reason to be here?” he asked.

I shook my head.

“I was just headed back to the hotel and stopped in for a drink,” I said.

“You picked the wrong bar.”

He didn’t look up.

“It’s just a bar.”

“No,” he said. “Most people don’t come here to drink.”

I looked around.

There was only a bartender.

No waitresses.

No jukebox.

No band.

No place to dance if there had been.

“Then why does anybody come?” I asked.

“To have somebody killed,” he said.Murder for Hire

I must have looked stunned.

He grinned. The pain hit him. He stopped grinning.

“Who do you see in here?” he asked.

“Three or four guys down on their luck,” I said.

And no doubt they were.

Beards, mostly shaggy.

Black leather jackets.

Motorcycle boots.

Bandannas wrapped around their heads.

All drinking beer.

One man was walking out of the bar.

He didn’t belong.

Gray suit.

Black tie.

Shined shoes.

He was a man in a hurry.

He had a right to be.

Joe nodded to the empty booth nearest the door.

“That’s where he left the wallet,” Joe said. “Don’t know if it’s the first one or the third one. But you’ll find a wallet in the seat.”

“You sure?”

“Go check.”

I did.

I found a wallet.

I handed it to Joe.

He stuck it in his pocket without opening it.

“I’ll find a name inside,” Joe said. “A name, a photograph, and an address.” He shrugged. “That’s how it’s done.”

“What’s done?”

“If a man or woman wants somebody knocked off, they come in and leave an old cheap wallet behind when they leave,” Joe said. “Three times they come in, and each wallet has a name, picture, and address tucked inside. Leave one wallet, and it might be a mistake. Leave three, and there’s not doubt that somebody is buying a hit man. The third, wallet contains five hundred dollars. Somebody takes the wallet, somebody leaves, and, sooner or later, somebody dies. None of these guys know who hired them. And the man paying for the hit has no idea who he hired.”

Joe laughed.

It didn’t hurt him to laugh.

“It’s foolproof,” he said. “Nobody can squeal on anybody.”

“That’s awful cheap,” I said.

“Life always is,” he said.

“Why do you do it?” I asked.

“It’s a job.”

“There must be better ways to make a living.”

Joe frowned.

“Who’ll hire a cripple with a burned out face?” he asked. “Most of us make a damn good living at this bar.”

“But what if you kill an innocent man?” I asked.

Joe finished off his beer.

“This is Atlanta,” he said. “Ain’t nobody innocent.”

“So why are you telling me?” I asked.

“You look like you can keep a secret,” he said.

“I may write about it someday,” I said.

Joe laughed again.

“Who the hell will believe you?” Joe stood and limped toward the door.

Somebody’s days in some corner of Atlanta had grown short.

But only Joe knew who he was.

He never knew why.

It was better that way.

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Mt. Pisgah Inn — restaurant review

My guest blogger today is FCEtier, photographer and published author. He and his wife had dinner at the Mount Pisgah Inn and wrote this review of their restaurant.Action 1-SML


“Remember sir, this is Mount Pisgah — and that’s the promised land!”  That’s the answer I was expecting when I asked our veteran server, “Mr. Bill”, “What are those buildings in the distance? Is that a town?”

Alas, it turned out to be Hendersonville, NC.  We strongly suspect that lifelong (and/or loyal) residents may in fact feel that their favored town is the promised land.  It didn’t look too bad after a couple of drinks as we awaited our (near) mile high dinner. A few clouds lingered after a front had passed through earlier in the day.  We missed a thunderstorm that had promised to add some excitement to the Carolina blue skies just west of Cold Mountain.

Due to local ordinances, The Pisgah Inn can only offer beer and wine from their bar.  There are no offerings on draft and the bottled beer is served with a cold (very cold) glass.  I had domestic and my wife had a pale ale brewed in Asheville, NC.

Our server delivered a second round of hot rolls that proved much more tasty, soft, and pleasing than the first.  My wife passed on an appetizer and I enjoyed the rolls with tomato basil soup.  Crab cakes and pork chops at 5,000 feet with a killer view combine for a unique dining experience.

The soup was creamy (not too thin) and tart with chunks of tomato, seasoned perfectly and settled easily on my palate as a nice prelude to the pork.  While my wife, “Miss Bob”, enjoyed her crab cakes, I sliced into a thick pork chop that was served over a bed of rice and accompanied by apple chutney.  Grilled to perfection and “melt-in-your-mouth” tender, the chop is a great reason for a return visit. (It’s a regular item on the menu.)  The sweetness of the apples balanced the flavor of the pork evenly.

We shared an order of crème brulee which turned out to be a bit thin although no disappointment at all as far as flavor.  The coffee was fresh and hot — stronger than most served here in the mountains and reminded me how much I miss Louisiana’s Community Coffee.

Pisgah Inn & Restaurant Pisgah Inn Deck Pan-blog

Blue Ridge Parkway Milepost 408.6P.O.Box 749

Waynesville, NC 28786


As we enjoyed the view, my wife remarked that the succeeding layers of mountains reminded her of the ocean and it’s waves.  For a moment, we shared a reverie of the Gulf Coast and times we enjoyed in our beach house in Gulfport.

After dinner we visited the observation deck for a few photos and the gift shop where local artists are featured.  We were shocked to discover no “FCEtier” prints for sale there, but you never know. Here’s a popular FCEtier print taken just a few hundred yards from the restaurant. I call it, “Pisgah Steps.” It can be found HERE, in the “Travel” portfolio.

Walk up these steps to the crest of Mt. Pisgah, and you can see the promised land.

Walk up these steps to the crest of Mt. Pisgah, and you can see the promised land.

Enjoy this excerpt from The Tourist Killer, Chapter One where I visit this great restaurant:

The third man had shaken hands with destiny in the crush of a crowded reception and would never see the shooter again. The next morning, he was carried from the hotel in a body bag and, by dying, had given birth to memories and questions that haunted the shooter even now while entering the restaurant at the Mount Pisgah Inn. It was a favorite, and her preference was well known to the Clearing House.
“Yes, my usual table, please,” Claudia said, and the hostess led the way.
Claudia Barry’s favorite table was near the middle group of windows and presented diners with a panoramic view of the Smoky Mountains from above many of them. Her chance to savor the view was short-lived. Her favorite server, “Mr. Joe,” arrived, holding a glass filled with ice and liquor. It had a mint sprig on top.

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Zen and Me

I never knew many of my cousins, but one of them, Wayne, a photographer, introduced me to Zen. He was a big fan of the book, Zen in the Art of Archery by a German named Herrigel. My cousin’s interest in Zen had a noteworthy influence on his photography.Zen-2

I never knew many of my cousins, but one of them, Wayne, a photographer, introduced me to Zen. He was a big fan of the book, Zen in the Art of Archery by a German named Herrigel. My cousin’s interest in Zen had a noteworthy influence on his photography.

My grandfather was a motorcycle repairman. By the time he and my grandmother adopted me as their own, he had retired. He wasn’t a Zen practitioner, but he always had a copy of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance on his mantle.

Zen-1Wherever I travel, a copy of 365 Zen is always with me. There’s a reading in it for every day of the year.

My closest friends, the only two people who know what I do for a living, have asked how I manage my sanity—what little of it there is—and the answer is compartmentalization. I seal every assignment into it’s own compartment.

Because of that ability, this reading from 365 Zen is one of my favorites, “We have created such insulation between the whole of life and ourselves—not just a thin membrane, but a whole suit of armor—because we do not want to face impermanence and experience suffering, especially the suffering of others.”

I practice Zen—with every squeeze of the trigger.

Here’s an excerpt from The Tourist Killer to prove it:

“The butt of the rifle was comfortable against the shooter’s shoulder.

A deep breath.

The shooter, the rifle, the bullet, the target all meshed together into one single entity.

The moment arrived.

Nothing moved except the shooter’s right index finger.”

I may not be a Zen master, but I’m a master of my profession.

My current book I’m reading is, Kyudo, The Essence and Practice of Japanese Archery.

What are you reading?

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Security in Space: The dynamics and challenges of providing personal security in high risk environments.

Travis Bickle lurks just a few rows from where the President is shaking hands with the crowd. Twenty yards away, Squeaky Fromme waits with the patience of a tortoise. John Hinckley is an adolescent who observes every movement. A select detail of Secret Service Agents execute their duties to perfection. The President works the crowd and departs the airport unharmed in his limousine, “The Beast.” From my hotel room on the forty-second floor, I lowered my binoculars, smiled, and

Image credit: kwinpeterson.com

Image credit: kwinpeterson.com

thought to myself, I could have choreographed that entire scene. My confidence in doing so comes from the fact that I was the first person to earn a masters degree in group dynamics from LSU (or anywhere else for that matter.)

Group Dynamics crowd

Understanding group dynamics can lead to accurate predictions on how a subject will move.

The study of a system of behaviors and psychological processes which occur within a social group, or between social groups and individuals within and/or outside of either, is GROUP DYNAMICS. An in-depth understanding of these interactions coupled with knowledge of the subject individual will assist observers in predicting the subject’s movements and response to the movement of others. Such facts as the subject’s personality profile and handedness are key elements to anticipate reactions as well. (How many U.S. Presidents were left-handed?) I earned an undergraduate degree in sociology with a minor in psychology from the University of Arkansas. I learned to shoot from my grandfather who was a retired motorcycle repairman [a subtle reference to Zen] and had enjoyed watching the movement of animals in the woods. I attended numerous church services, political cocktail parties, and trials to study the way humans moved in response to others. I took private dance lessons and applied what I learned while moving through crowded subway stations and common areas. Mardis Gras parades were a favorite for personal challenges. How close can I get to the mayor? Can I shake hands with the grand marshal on the parade route? I interviewed street performers and scrutinized every move they made, especially as they interacted with the impromptu audiences. To add legitimacy to my project and to mask my unconscionable motive, I titled my thesis paper, Security in Space: The dynamics and challenges of providing personal security in high risk environments. [Just for the record, seven of the last 14 U.S. Presidents have been left handed.] NEXT: More on Zen. ======================================================== Editor’s Note: Claudia Barry used what she learned and became one of the most successful professional assassins in history. She’s The Tourist Killer. Be careful where you go on vacation. And the next time you attend a reception for the Pope, think twice before you turn away from that guy holding the tray full of champagne flutes. Do you turn to your left or right? Will you be in the line of fire? Don’t worry, Claudia already knows which way you’ll turn.

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Meet John Hixon

In Stephen Woodfin’s review of The Tourist Killer, he informs readers, “Claudia Barry is an assassin nearing the end of her career, who has reached the point in her life where she questions the livelihood she has crafted with such precision.  Her private life of thirty years has allowed her few human interactions beyond casual acquaintance.Except for two men.One is a mystery mentor who pops in and out of her life when she least expects, the other a comrade in her profession who gets under her skin.”

Re-designed cover depicts Hixon (in silhouette) in the nation's capital, the setting for several important scenes.

Re-designed cover depicts Hixon (in silhouette) in the nation’s capital, the setting for several important scenes.

She met John Hixon when they were both, well, here it is in her words, “John Hixon and I were both undergrads at the University of Arkansas. He was in law enforcement. I was a junior and it was the last semester for him — graduating senior. The FBI found him and made him a great offer. He minored in ballistics and had written several papers that were published. To this day, he can rattle off details and stats about a wide variety of ammunition. He can tell you the speed of the projectile, the rate of drop at varying distances from the target and how it changes with different loads of powder.”

Was he that good? Again, here’s Claudia, “”Add to that his independent study of psychology and he made a damned good investigator. He could analyze a crime scene and reconstruct the action as accurately as anyone.”

Why did he retire early? “He had to watch too many guilty criminals go free. After he left the agency, he disappeared into the Great Smoky Mountains.”

Readers continue to express interest in and ask questions about Mr. Hixon. I enjoy talking about him because there is a real John Hixon, sort of. My character is an amalgam of three men with whom I worked and finally a bit of myself. Hixon lives on an inherited twenty-seven acre parcel of land in the Great Smoky Mountains where scenes from Deliverance were filmed. Locals refer to it as “Little Canada.”

Outsiders aren’t welcome.

Local law enforcement officers are reluctant to go there even with backup.

Hixon lives comfortably in a log cabin he built himself. He shares the place with three dogs, Caroline, Luger, and Uzi.

For several years he lived there with no electricity. Finally, the power lines got as close to him as about a mile. So he ran extension cords through the woods to his cabin. They didn’t always work for his electric blanket.

He explains when Claudia asks, “I bet you have some cold nights up here,” she commented.

“I think I invented the expression, ‘three dog night’,” he replied with a laugh.

“The band?”

He shook his head, “When it’s cold, I have to sleep with all three of my dogs to stay warm — especially if the electric blanket ain’t workin’. I’m on the north side of the mountain, so around four in the afternoon, it starts coolin’ off up here. This is about thirty-five hundred feet above sea level.”

In addition to their relationship described as “an occasional couple,” they have a professional relationship as well. John Hixon designs and builds many of her weapons and ammunition.

He has an amazing library housed inside a half-buried school bus and he drives a pickup truck that features a live tree growing in the dirt accumulated in the cargo area.

His weapon of choice is a Ruger SR1911 0.45 pistol. He’s a walking talking reference manual for bullet flights, trajectory, and assorted ballistics information.

John Hixon is a big, tall man. When asked in an interview about an actor if the movie was ever filmed, I suggested the late Clint Walker.

Finally, a friend asks Claudia, “One more question about Hixon. What drives him and how do you know you can trust him?”

Claudia thought for a moment. She wanted to say it just right. Wanted her friend to understand.

“Like me, he believes that to be successful in my craft,” she paused for effect — “you must be convinced beyond the shadow of a doubt, that the ends we bring about will justify the extreme means. He’s earned my trust over the years with consistently doing and reacting exactly the way I expect — in every situation. He’s dependable and loyal.”

Everyone needs a John Hixon in their life.

You can meet this one in The Tourist Killer and enjoy more of his adventures in

The Presidents Club.

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The Story Behind the Title: “The Tourist Killer”

In a recent author interview, conducted by Juneta Key, readers hear how the title of “The Tourist Killer” came about.

Here’s the question and answer:Author-1-sml-BW

Interviewer, Juneta Key: I guess even assassins need a vacation—tell us a bit about that premise.
FCEtier: I’m a loyal fan of the double entendre. I wanted a title that would be just that, so I wrote into the storyline that Claudia becomes a tourist herself before each assignment. After she’s made her plans and worked out the details of her next job, she takes a vacation. It helps her deal with the stress of preparation and clear her mind for the matter at hand.

The entire interview can be found HERE.

Find out even more in this video interview:

NEXT: Meet John Hixon, Claudia’s significant other.

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How it started–The Tourist Killer

Readers first met Claudia Barry in the debut novel of FCEtier, The Tourist Killer.

She was introduced in the Prologue as “The Shooter.”

The Tourist Killer is divided into seven parts and each begins with a flashback. The following is the opening flashback in which her name and sex are revealed:


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It had been in the spring of 1976, May actually. Claudia Barry earned her master’s degree at LSU in group dynamics.  She had met a six foot, overweight man with a thick black mane in a dark, quiet bar on Highland Road that was now nameless in her mind. The conversation and the catfish po’ boys were unforgettable.
“Perhaps, if I need a label, you could refer to me as ‘the recruiter,’” he said.  “You’ll never see nor hear from me again. In reality, I don’t exist. I’m not the assigner. I don’t select the missions. I actually don’t know for sure what you are agreeing to do for the party that will compensate you for your services. That entity will find you when they require your services. There exists a labyrinth of layers and contacts complicated enough to assure mutual anonymity. With the exception of ‘The Agreement’ we discussed earlier, you’re under no obligation to accept any assignment—but if you do, results will be required within the specified time allotted. From our meeting last year, it is my understanding that the assigner understands and has agreed to your stipulations. Would it be an appropriate deduction for me to make that you’ve kept your skills sharp?”
“You know my history and accomplishments. Not many shooters—regardless of sex—have the resume I’ve acquired. My vision is remarkable for any human. When I chose this career, it was obvious that I would never be in the limelight. I’ll be happy to be just as anonymous as you.” Claudia had resigned herself to anonymity even before the choice of professions. She had taken herself out of the fight for women’s rights with the selection of careers. She couldn’t attract attention to herself with public advocacy of any issue and then hope to reach the upper echelons of her craft. She could, and did, find ways to make financial contributions to the cause. After her first few jobs, she had stashed away enough funds to live happily ever after—when and—if she ever retired.
After their meeting, over thirty years ago, he had disappeared forever. The Recruiter had excused himself and gone into the men’s room. He had not come out. A five-foot-eight bald man who was skinny as a rail walked out alone and departed while attracting absolutely no attention whatsoever.


Next: The story behind the title.

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