Chapter 9: All’s Well that Ends Well
Hannah dropped Dudley off at the entrance to La Vida Aureo and returned to her office. “Please call me as soon as you have any information. I will check in with Sarah in the morning to make sure she and Valentina are OK. I don’t think there is much else I can do at this point.”
“Thank you for all your help, Hannah. My first responsibility is to meet with Isabella and make sure that all of the residents are safe and that none of them has done anything irreversible. I promise to stay in touch. I expect to hear from Lt. Garcia when he has something definitive to report. And, I hope your friend Witherspoon lets you know what happened at the Placitas camp. I think it is reasonable to assume that those helicopters we saw were headed that way.”
For the next several days, Dudley concentrated on supporting Isabella and the residents at La Vida Aureo. He and OJ were able to collect all of the datura plants from throughout the complex and dispose of them properly. Isabella held several informational meetings with the residents to talk about the scam that Stuart and his Flock were attempting and to provide any legal or financial assistance necessary. Fortunately, none of the residents had made any permanent moves, although some had given rather large sums of cash over the past few weeks.
Isabella called Millicent Branch to her office for a private and personal meeting to review the overall situation with Stuart Montgomery. Much to Isabella’s surprise, Millicent admitted her personal motivation for engaging Stuart and apologized profusely. Millicent repeated her apology directly to Ines Barela, again in the privacy of Isabella’s office. Although Millicent did not admit her role in things to the general resident population, she was a vocal supporter of Isabella in all of the informational meetings.
The following week, Hannah called Dudley to relate her recent phone conversation with Robert Witherspoon. That same afternoon, Lt. Garcia called with an update. After conferring with Isabella, Dudley suggested that they all meet in Isabella’s office so that everyone would get the same information at the same time.
Lt. Garcia reported that the Albuquerque police had been able to intercept Rosalie’s van near the city limits and had placed all of them in jail, pending a further investigation into the theft and suspicious deaths at La Vida Aureo. Garcia had decided to keep Rosalie and each of the girls in separate holding cells to prevent any rehearsal of stories while he continued his interrogations. He said that he was confident that one or more of the girls would provide sufficient information about the others to warrant prosecution. He said he planned to seek a variety of charges including fraud, theft, manslaughter and perhaps even murder.
Hannah’s report from Robert Witherspoon was much less detailed, as she had expected. Witherspoon told her that Homeland Security had raided the Placitas camp and had located a cache of explosives and the mixer, confirming their suspicion of a planned act of sabotage. They arrested the two Tecolote gang members who turned out to be relatives of Rosalie Ribera. They also arrested Stuart Montgomery, but were unsure of his role in any of the alleged terrorist activities. Regardless, they planned to hold him indefinitely, or until they decided otherwise. “I suspect Stuart’s father will hire a big time lawyer to get Stuart released on the condition that he be confined to a psychiatric hospital,” suggested Hannah.
Isabella Duncan thanked everyone for their report and indicated that nothing else needed to be said or done at the present. She was obviously drained from the experience and its impact on La Vida Aureo. “I’m sure that there will be a time in the future when we can all talk about these events, but for now, I would appreciate it if we could just end the conversation. Thank you all once again. I cannot tell you how much it means to me to have this kind of support around me.”
Everyone got up quietly and left Isabella’s office. Dudley said he had some repairs to attend to and headed toward the basement. Hannah said she had an appointment to show some property and walked toward the lobby. She stopped Dudley and said, “I got a call from Sarah the other day to report on Valentina. Sarah has taken her into her home for the foreseeable future, at least until Valentina sorts out what she wants to do next. I know that Sarah was also a runaway and is the ideal person to help Valentina. I told her that, as far as you and I were concerned, Valentina’s name would never be mentioned in relation to the activities of Stuart and his Flock.”
Frank Garcia stopped briefly in the kitchen to pay his respects to Paloma Angostura, but said he needed to get back to his office to handle some urgent paperwork.
Things gradually returned to some semblance of normal at La Vida Aureo over the next several weeks. Finally, Dudley felt that he could get away for a few hours to join his friends for coffee. As he entered Guzman’s shop, his Curmudgeon Crew did not greet him with the usual barrage of harassing comments; even Ray had been relatively quiet on the ride into town. “It’s OK, guys, Dudley said. It looks like we caught all the bad guys and probably averted a major sabotage event. I don’t know how the legal side of things will turn out, but I understand that some serious criminal charges have been filed which should put these people out of circulation for a long time. I just want to thank you guys for your help and for alerting me to the datura plant; that was essentially what broke things wide open. And, I assume you have all seen the reports on TV about the Homeland Security raid and the alleged sabotage plot in Placitas. I can’t add anything to that; you know as much as I do.”
“Enough of this serious stuff”, beamed Ray. “There is fresh coffee and we should toast our good friend Sherlock Dudley for saving the day. But, even Sherlock will have to admit that he could not have done it without our help.”
“Maybe we should start calling ourselves the Bellamah Street Irregulars!” suggested Abe.
“Here, here”, chimed in Emilio and Hakim.
“What is all this ruckus? asked Hector as he approached their table with a large tray of fresh pastries. I’m trying to run a respectable business here, not some place for rowdy old men.”
That seemed to break any remaining tension and the group returned to harassing Dudley. “You know, Doc, Abe has a good idea,” suggested Hakim. “We are perhaps the most diverse cast of characters around with a very broad range of backgrounds and experiences. I am confident that we could be of assistance to you since it looks like you can’t avoid trouble of one kind or another. Since we meet regularly anyhow, it would be a convenient venue to discuss your “cases” and keep you from getting too far off-track.”
“I agree,” added Emilio. “I think we are all concerned that all those years working for the State softened your brain a bit. We’re just really looking out for your best interest, you know. And, you’re not getting any younger.”
“Sure, sure,” countered Dudley. “This has nothing to do with you guys; it’s all for my benefit. You’re sure it isn’t because, other than Ray, you guys are bored silly and are looking for something to do?”
“C’mon, Doc, you know you could use our help from time to time.”
“I’ll admit that there are a lot of things about the various histories and cultures of New Mexico that are still somewhat of a mystery to me and you guys certainly have a better feel for many of those things. Let me think about it. In the meantime, how about passing those pastries my way?”
Look for a short note from me in the next few days about the next mystery Case at La Vida Aureo, coming in mid February.