Chapter 9: Wrap Up and A Path Forward
A few weeks later, Lt. Garcia stopped at La Vida Aureo to once again thank Matthew Dudley and to apologize to Isabella Duncan for the disruption the police had caused to the otherwise peaceful environment of the facility. “Without too much prompting, Miss Dominguez gave up trying to pin the robbery and murder on Charles Arthur. The turning point was when she said that he just wasn’t smart enough nor had the guts to do anything like that. With her confession, the money and jewelry found in her car and the evidence we uncovered at her apartment, the District Attorney believes she can obtain a conviction.”
“What’s going to happen to Charles?” asked Dudley.
“Oh, he’s still at MDC and we seem to have misplaced his paperwork, Garcia smiled. I guess he’ll be there until we find it which could be several months.”
Frank Garcia made a point of stopping in the kitchen to pay his respects to Paloma Angostura. She told him that she prayed daily for his safety and that he would visit more often under more pleasant circumstances.
Matthew Dudley was sitting quietly in the main Lobby, thinking about Mrs. Arthur. He tried to refocus on the positive things that were happening at La Vida Aureo. He was pleased with the progress the Community Assist Program was making and confident that the Team had the direction and focus to make a positive impact in the community. Dudley was happy for Larry Blackburn and JoAnne Elliott and their developing relationship. He thought about Millicent Branch and the devastating effect of the murder. Perhaps he could encourage her to get involved in some activities to aid her dealing with the grief. He decided to discuss this with Paloma; she would have some helpful suggestions. Most importantly, he hoped things would be relatively quiet for a while.
The Community Assist Team meeting had ended but Janetta Johari remained in her seat at the conference table.
“Is there something on your mind, JJ?” asked Beth Ford.
“About some-thing or some-one in particular? Want to talk?”
“I’m just trying to decide how to proceed, or whether to proceed at all. I certainly don’t want it to appear like I’m chasing him.”
“Well, JJ, if you’re referring to Mr. Dudley, I suspect he may actually want to be caught.”
“C’mon, JJ, it’s been apparent to me and to Minot, for one, that there was something happening between the two of you. I mean, we’ve been watching the way you’ve been looking at each other, studying each other might be a better description, for some time.”
“It’s that obvious?”
“Oh my, yes. He’s too much of a gentleman, however, to say anything, much less act. If you really want to know, you’ll have to initiate the conversation.”
A new text message interrupted Dudley’s thoughts. “Please meet me in the dining room. I want to ask your advice.” And it was signed “JJ”. Dudley couldn’t imagine what Janetta Johari wanted with him since the Team had met earlier that morning and Beth was assuming greater responsibility for day-to-day activities. Regardless, he headed toward the dining room.
“Mr. Dudley,” Janetta began, “I would like your opinion on something very important. One of the local bio-tech companies has presented me with a significant opportunity. They’ve developed a new drug for Alzheimer’s that has shown quite remarkable results in several small-scale test programs. The FDA is encouraging them to conduct a much larger-scale test and they’ve chosen New Mexico as the ideal location because of its population diversity. Anyway, the company wants me to be the Program Manager and oversee the entire evaluation program. The drug shows great promise and it would help a great many people if successful. What do you think?”
“Ms. Johari, I am honored that you would ask my opinion. You are uniquely qualified for that role and I am confident that you will do an outstanding job. My advice would be to seize the opportunity.”
“You’re not concerned about the Community Assist Program?”
“Of course, but I’m sure we can find someone to cover the drug and medication aspects of our programs. I suspect you’ve already given Ms. Ford a list of potential candidates.”
“I have and I appreciate you’re realizing that I would take that step to continue to support the program. In the short time that I’ve been part of things, I’ve grown to respect this group of women for their knowledge and dedication. I will miss them.”
“I, I mean we, will miss you, too. I hope you won’t be leaving Albuquerque.”
“It is a state-wide program and I insisted on staying here instead of moving to Santa Fe. There is another reason I wanted to talk with you before taking this opportunity.”
Janetta touched Dudley’s arm. Her expression seemed to warm and she looked directly into his eyes. “I’m not really sure how to say this and I don’t want to appear forward, but I want to get to know you better, as a person.”
“I don’t know what to say. In many ways, I am flattered. You are a beautiful young woman and I have to admit that I’ve thought about you as well. But, look, I’m an old man and you ought to …”
“Find someone my own age? No thank you.”
“But, what about your future? I can’t offer you much in that department.”
“Mr. Dudley, I know there’s no white picket fence and a house full of beautiful children. I understand the realities of the situation. But, you have shown me more respect as a woman in the short time I’ve known you than any other man in my life. So, why don’t you come to my place one evening and let me cook a nice dinner for just the two of us? I’m certainly not going to try and compete with Señora Angostura, but I promise you a pleasant meal and honest conversation. I own a condo a few blocks from here; you could walk.”
“I would like that very much. But, if we’re going to move forward and just see where it goes, you must stop calling me Mr. Dudley.”
“I will always call you Matthew. Everyone else can call you Doc, but to me, you are Matthew. In return, you must not call me Miss Johari or JJ. OK?”
“First, you must explain “Janetta” to me. Is that one of those African tribal names that means Child of the Sunrise, or something?”
She laughed. “Not quite so mysterious or exotic. My mother wanted to name me January because I was her first child. But, my father was afraid that she would then want the entire calendar. He was a big Etta James fan so they compromised on Janetta.”
As they parted, Paloma Angostura peered out from the kitchen and smiled.