Chapter 4: Charles Arthur’s Plan
At their next meeting, Dudley introduced Arnetta Valencia to the group. He then left the room, presumably to get coffee, to allow them time to get acquainted. When he returned about thirty minutes later, Beth was standing at one of the white-boards and writing furiously as the others shared their experiences and ideas. Arnetta offered her thoughts about how to engage the local pueblo tribes in the Community Assist Program. It was obvious to Dudley that Ray’s recommendation was right on target and that Arnetta would be an asset, not only to the Team, but to the program in general.
“I hate to interrupt this high-energy conversation, said Dudley, but I’m eager to hear what you have learned in your initial visits.”
“Since I’m standing, offered Beth, I’ll go first because I know we all feel the same about this. We want to express our appreciation for finding Arnetta; she brings an added perspective to our thinking. And, thanks also for directing us to Señora Angostura and the Sopapilla Network; what a valuable resource and so accessible. Wow! Now I’ll shut up and let the others talk.”
Dudley listened intently as each person talked about how the initial interviews had been informative and broadened their perspectives. The consensus among the Team was there were various ways to benefit the community, but they needed to think more about the approach they wanted to take. They agreed that there were numerous organizations active in this expanding market with more entering each day. “We are confident that we can provide a valuable service, summarized Beth, and we want to be perceived as an organization with quality and integrity.”
Matthew Dudley left the meeting excited about the progress and the women who comprised the Team. As he was in the main building, he decided to stop at the kitchen and express his gratitude to Paloma Angostura for her support of the program and for introducing the Team to her so-called Sopapilla Network. As he entered the dining room, he noticed Millicent Branch sitting at a small table with Larry Blackburn and JoAnne Elliott. There had been a dramatic change and improvement in Mrs. Branch’s attitude and behavior since the disastrous events surrounding Stuart Montgomery. She was much more pleasant and tolerant of the other residents. Her willingness to help Matthew Dudley in his “crime solving” activities had not diminished, however.
Dudley smiled as he passed by the table where the trio was sitting. He overheard Mrs. Branch asking Larry Blackburn about his interest in mining and telling him about her own experiences with the uranium mines near Grants. “Grants isn’t that far of a drive west on I-40 and you must visit the Mining Museum there. I’m sure you’ll find it interesting and get to see another aspect of New Mexico’s mining history. While you’re out that way, you should really stop and visit the Acoma Pueblo. It is unlike anything else in the entire pueblo culture. The battle there against the Spanish always reminded me of the siege at Masada, to compare it to an Old World example.”
Blackburn and Elliott had left the dining room by the time Dudley returned from the kitchen and his conversation with Paloma. He had hoped to exit through a side door and not get trapped in a conversation with Mrs. Branch, but she was too quick and thwarted his escape. “Mr. Dudley, she called. Why don’t you come over here and visit a while?”
“I would really like to do that, Mrs. Branch, but I have some rather urgent repair projects to attend to. Perhaps another time.”
“Very well. I just wanted to tell you that I think Mr. Blackburn and Ms. Elliott make such a lovely couple. I was trying to drop a not-too-subtle hint to them that they ought to move in together.”
“I’m sure they can decide on their own what is best for them, don’t you? If that is what is meant to be, I’m sure it will happen in their own time.”
“I was just trying to give it a small nudge; no harm in that. You run along now. Here comes my good friend Martha. Perhaps she and I can figure a way to help those nice people out.”
Martha Arthur approached the table to sit down with Millicent Branch which provided Dudley an opportunity to greet Mrs. Arthur as he walked away. “I was just telling Mr. Dudley what a nice couple Mr. Blackburn and Ms. Elliott make. Don’t you agree, Martha? And, while I’m thinking about it, we should find someone for Mr. Dudley. He seems like such a nice man and his children live so far away. He says he is proud of them and doesn’t want to interfere in their lives, but I know he feels abandoned. We should get to work on that. Perhaps we could interest your niece Denise in him.”
“Oh, Millicent, I don’t think that would be a good idea. She’s much too young for him and she seems content with her career. She told me yesterday that she thinks she’s up for a major promotion.”
“Nonsense. Denise needs a man. Believe me, I know how it feels to be an Old Maid. You think you’re happy and you keep busy with a job or volunteer work, but you still end up alone in a cold bed every night.”
“That’s embarrassing, Millicent. I’m sure Denise has lots of male friends and ones nearer her own age. Mr. Dudley is nice but too much older. I’m sure Denise doesn’t want to spend her best years feeding him and changing his diapers.”
“Well, I’m still going to keep my eyes open for him. Look how much happier Mr. Blackburn is now that he’s with Ms. Elliott. I’ve been yakking too much. How was your lunch with Denise?”
“It was very nice. We didn’t go to Old Town like usual. She took me to a new area called Albuquerque Uptown. It was a bit too uptown for my tastes and I missed the charm of Old Town. Millicent, I need to ask a favor. Could you drive me to the bank? My nephew called and asked if I would lend him some money. He said he’s working on a big story and just need a little help until that comes through.”
“Really, Martha? I assume this your nephew Charles, the one who lives here in town. How often does he call you and it’s always the same story. He says he wants to “borrow” money, but, has he even paid you back anything?”
“He had has a very tough life. I know I’ve told you that his parents were killed in a car accident and that really affected him. He really is a good boy. He just needs a little help now and then.”
But, I thought you and Henry set up Trust Funds for your two nieces and Charles; what happened to that money?”
“I know. I know. I’m sure he’ll do better this time. Can we please go to the bank?
“Don’t tell me you’re still keeping large amounts of cash in your room. While you’re at the bank today, why don’t you just open an account? Or, I can introduce you to my banker. It is foolish to keep that much money lying around.”
“We can talk about it later, Millicent. I’d just like to take care of this. I got this same lecture from Denise yesterday and I don’t want to think about it or Charles any more today.”
A few days later, Millicent Branch was visiting Martha Arthur and they were enjoying a cup of tea and pleasant conversation when there was an insistent knocking on the door. It was Charles Arthur. “I need some more cash, Aunt Martha. I’ve got a big article almost finished and I have a couple of bills that are due immediately. The pressure of these people harassing me makes it very difficult to finish this story. I’ve been struggling a lot lately, thinking about Mom and Dad and how that reckless drunk driver killed them. It’s really got me down.”
“Oh, Charles! Didn’t I just give you a few thousand dollars last week? I know I put it in the bank, isn’t that right Millicent?”
Charles had not noticed Millicent Branch sitting in the living room, intently watching the entire scene. “Just stay out of this. It has nothing to do with you. Mind your own business.”
“Look, young man, you should treat your Aunt with a bit more respect than to show up here demanding money. Besides, you act like you’re drunk. I think you should just go.”
“I said stay out of this”. Charles stepped closer to his Aunt. “How about it, Aunt Martha? I really just need a few thousand to take care of some important business.”
“Well, I don’t know, Charles.”
Charles grabbed Martha by the shoulders and shook her forcefully. “Look, I really need that money. Are you going to help me or not?”
Martha Arthur fainted.
“Millicent Branch was on her feet and moving quickly toward Charles. “Get out of here before I call the cops, you ungrateful toad.”
As Charles turned and started to run, Millicent called after him. “I will call my lawyer immediately and have a Restraining Order issued against you. I’ll bet you know what that is! And, while he’s at it, I’m going to have him get Martha to change her Trusts and cut you off altogether. You’re just using her to support your worthless life. It’s time you took some responsibility!” Millicent continued to shake her fist long after Charles had turned the corner and continued running toward the parking lot.
Martha Arthur was still unconscious in the hallway of her casita. Millicent called for the on-duty Nurse who responded within a few minutes. She helped Martha into a chair as she began to recover. The Nurse checked Martha’s pulse and blood pressure, both of which were dangerously elevated. “Is he gone?” asked Martha as she became more aware of her surroundings. “Please don’t fuss over me. I’ll be alright.”
The Nurse looked toward Millicent who shrugged her shoulders and said, “That man will be the death of her. She doesn’t have the constitution to put up with his continued crap. Each time he calls, I can see her blood pressure jump. It’s just a very bad situation.”
Then turning to Martha, Millicent said, “Look, Martha, you need to do something to protect yourself from that crazy person. I’ll make an appointment with my lawyer to get a Restraining Order against him to keep him away from La Vida Aureo and at least ten blocks away when you’re out and about. We’ll go there first thing tomorrow morning.”
“Oh, Millicent. Charles isn’t a bad boy. He’s had a difficult time since his folks died. I’m only trying to help him till he gets on his feet.”
“Nonsense! It’s bad enough that he uses you, but there is absolutely no excuse for this physical stuff. You think about it, but you need to do something.”
The Nurse removed the blood pressure cuff from Martha’s arm and said, “You know I have to report this incident to Ms. Duncan. I can’t interfere with your personal life, but I can tell you that another highly stressful incident like this could be very bad for your health. I’ve seen you around here many times and you are a delightful lady. I wouldn’t want you to have a stroke or heart attack which could force you out of being able to live on your own in this beautiful casita. But that’s just one nurse’s medical opinion.”
As promised, the Resident Nurse dutifully reported the incident to Isabella Duncan and entered it into the Facility’s Medical Records Journal. Also, as expected, Millicent Branch reported the incident to Isabella and Matthew Dudley, but with far more background and detail. Despite Millicent’s dramatic account of the incident, Isabella and Dudley were alarmed and genuinely concerned about Martha Arthur’s well being.