Chapter 7: Matthew Dudley
A few days later, FBI Agent Witherspoon was sitting in La Vida Aureo’s Dining Room with Hannah, Isabella and Dudley. “We got Dr. Pearson returned to Houston and Rice was delighted to have him back. We helped him develop a story to tell anyone who asked about his absence. He would simply say that he was away doing research for a new book. As far as the involvement of the Homeland Security folks, they over reacted to things. It looks like it was all started by some overly zealous young junior editor at Random House. Her inexperience led her to believe that Dr. Pearson’s new manuscript was based on actual people and events. She got the Homeland Security people all stirred up and things just sort of spiraled out of control after that. What happened to Dr. Pearson was unfortunate and Homeland Security has apologized profusely. It troubles me that sometimes we get so concerned about our security that we forget that all our citizens have rights. Maybe, if people had been a bit more thoughtful in their actions, this terrible misunderstanding could have been avoided altogether. Anyway, I want to thank all of you for your patience and cooperation in this matter.” He rose and shook everyone’s hand and said, “Good bye” as he left.
They all sat there for a few minutes in silence. Dudley spoke first. “I don’t know. It all sounds too simple to me. It is hard to believe that everything that happened was just a big misunderstanding. It seems like things went much too far.”
Hannah added, “I’ve learned in all my years of dealing with these government types that you are usually better off NOT knowing the full story. A few of the actual stories I’ve been told by Bob over too many cocktails about what our government has actually done are downright frightening!”
Isabella spoke up. “Enough! We did some good here recently with the Missing Diaper Caper and getting Professor Pearson home. So, let’s celebrate that and maybe talk about something less sinister.
“I have some good news, added Hannah. I learned today that the young artist couple I mentioned really do want to buy your house, Doc and I believe you’ll be pleased with their offer.”
“So, there is plenty to celebrate.”
Isabella turned to Dudley and said, “Once again, you have been a tremendous help in dealing with another rather complicated and involved situation in a very calm and professional manner. I know I told you that I checked up on your work history with the State, but I don’t really know that much about you personally. I don’t mean to pry, but I believe hearing your back story is the kind of reaffirming story I need at this time.”
Paloma overheard Isabella’s request and hurried over to where they were sitting. “He promised me some time ago that he would tell me just how he ended up here in New Mexico. There’s a fresh batch of sopapillas cooling in the kitchen and a fresh pot of coffee. I’ll be right back with those and some honey.”
“I know. I promised. I will try to be brief. I grew up in Elkhart, Indiana and went to the University of Indiana. My father was a machinist and worked his entire career at the Coachmen Recreational Vehicle factory and my mother was a schoolteacher. At the end of my junior year in college, I had an opportunity to work for the Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque on joint project between Sandia and the State to develop improved methods for monitoring the State’s scarce water resources. Many of the people I met that summer encouraged me to explore their favorite wilderness areas throughout New Mexico. One weekend, I was hiking in the Pecos Wilderness in the southern part of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains near Pecos Baldy Lake. Being from Indiana, I did not appreciate the challenges of hiking at altitude and soon found myself short of breath and developing a considerable headache. I had to turn around and struggle back to Jack’s Creek Campground and my car. A family who was camping there noticed me and came to my assistance. They sat me in a chair in the shade and encouraged me to drink water, but only a sip at a time. After several hours, I began to feel much better and they encouraged me to stay for dinner. Afterwards, I got up to leave but fell back into the chair and fell asleep. The next morning, I discovered they had placed a large blanket over me while I slept. I was embarrassed but the family insisted that I stay for breakfast and fed me a hearty meal of huevos and fresh tortillas. It was during my second helping of huevos that I noticed the family’s young daughter. I had always considered myself a very practical person but was immediately smitten and realized that I had truly experienced love at first sight. I expressed my gratitude to the family and made excuses to leave. They lived in the nearby town of Pecos and invited me to come for dinner. They said that they wanted to check on my health but I believe I saw the daughter whisper something to her parents. I drove slowly back to Albuquerque and before I reached home, I had decided that I would come back to Pecos to visit the family and I would return to New Mexico and marry this young girl. And I did just that.”
“When I graduated from college, I took a job with the State Water Resources Department and moved to a small apartment in Santa Fe. I began to formally court this beautiful young girl from Pecos, Margarita Reyes. We eventually married and bought a small home and began to raise the family. We had two children, Benito Tomas and Morgan Elena. Our son graduated from the University of Indiana in computer science and is now working for company in San Francisco that develops software for business processes. Our daughter graduated from the University of Colorado in education and moved to Chicago where she received her Masters and Ph.D. degrees from DePaul University focusing on curriculum development. She was always called “Little Doc” because her initials were the same as mine. That nickname did not appeal to her, but at least she wasn’t called “Baby Doc” after the Haitian Dictator!”
“Oh, Señor Doc, said Paloma, that is such a sweet story. I always knew you were a true romantic at heart. “
Isabella smiled and said, “I’d also like to hear a bit about this group of friends of yours. I’m sure you can appreciate my apprehension when I saw the condition of that pick-up you rode off in.”
Dudley grinned broadly and said, “My group of friends reminds me of the time in Granada, Spain before the Inquisition when Muslim Arabs, Spanish Catholics and Jews all got along and the country flourished. My “curmudgeon crew”, as you call them, is much the same. There’s Redondo (“Ray”) Littlefeather a Native American who is named after the Trail of Tears Bosque Redondo episode. There’s Absalom (“Abe”) Goldman, a Reform Jew, who taught physics at the University of New Mexico and whose father worked on the Manhattan Project at Los Alamos. Hakim El-Fiki is a Muslim, originally from Syria. Finally, there’s Emilio Sandoval who is Spanish and very Catholic. With the exception of Ray, all are retired and we’ve been meeting for coffee for years. The fact that each of these men has such different backgrounds and experiences makes for some very interesting discussions about topical issues.”
We typically meet at a local coffee shop called Saville & Sons in Old Town; it is definitely NOT a Starbucks. The owner’s name is Hector Guzman-Gomez, who thinks he is a pure New Mexico Hispanic, but we all believe he is actually a Converso whose Jewish family converted to Catholicism generations ago to escape the Inquisition There’s much more I could say about this very special group of people that I can claim as friends, but I’ll save it for another time.”
Matthew Dudley finished his story about the same time as the coffee and sopapillas were gone. He wasn’t certain whether the contented expression on everyone’s face was the result of his story or Paloma’s sopapillas. At the very least, Isabella Duncan and Hannah Halverstrom appeared relaxed and much relieved. Dudley smiled to himself as he recalled Isabella’s often repeated comment that they must all remain vigilant to insure the long-term viability of La Vida Aureo and the continued well-being of all its residents.