Chapter 3: Martha Arthur and Family
It was a typical warm and sunny day in Albuquerque and Martha Arthur and her niece Denise were enjoying lunch together. Instead of their usual trip to Old Town, Denise had insisted that they venture to the newer shopping area called Albuquerque Uptown.
“Don’t be such an old fuddy-duddy Aunt Martha. There are several very pleasant restaurants here as well as lots of nice shops. Besides, it will do you good to see some new scenery”
“But there aren’t any of the traditional adobe buildings here and it all seems so un-New Mexico.”
“I think that’s the point, Aunt Martha. I guess the city fathers wanted to create something that felt new and modern for the local residents; Old Town is mostly for tourists.”
“But, you know, Denise, I’ve lived in Albuquerque for such a long time and I’ve grown used to the familiar places.”
“I’m sorry; sometimes I forget. When did you and Uncle Henry first move here?”
“Well, we didn’t actually move here. When Henry got discharged from the Air Force, he was stationed here and we just stayed. He was fortunate to get a job with a small company so quickly which turned out to be a very fortunate thing.”
“If I remember the story, he invented something pretty important while he was working there.”
“Oh, my goodness, yes. He had been an electronics technician in the Air Force and that’s the kind of things he was working on. I obviously don’t know the details, but I think it was some sort of device that they put on bombs or missiles to guide them. Almost as soon as he came up with the idea, things got very hush-hush, if you know what I mean. I don’t know how the word got out, but pretty soon there were all kinds of people from all over the world showing up to talk to him. It was pretty exciting for me because Henry and I were wined and dined and several of these people brought very expensive gifts for me. I still have some of the precious gems and jewelry from those days. But, like the good American he was, Henry convinced the company to keep everything top secret and only work with U.S. firms. And, from what he told me, that little device and the improvements they made over the next few years is something special and the military really loves it even to this day.”
“I don’t mean to pry, but I assume that invention was the source of all the money that went into the Trust Funds you set up for the family.”
“You know that we didn’t have any children of our own and your Uncle Henry, rest his soul, wanted to make sure that the nieces and nephews got the chance for a good education. Neither Henry nor I went to college and he knew that would be important for this next generation. So, after we put aside enough money for me to live on for the rest of my life, we set up three Trust Funds, one for you as the only daughter of my sister Catherine and one for each of Henry’s brother Ross’ children, Charles and Barbara.”
“It’s a shame that everything didn’t work out as you and Uncle Henry planned.”
“Oh, don’t say that. I was able to buy a Lifetime Contract at La Vida Aureo that takes care of me for the rest of my life. And, you got a good education and now have a very responsible job at that bank.”
“But, it’s not the same for my cousins Barbara and Charles.”
“Denise, they have had a very hard life after Ross and Linda were killed by that drunk driver when they were so young. It must be very traumatic growing up without parents.”
“It wasn’t like they were children; both were in high school if I remember correctly. Charles hasn’t done much with his life since then. It seems like he’s always in some kind of trouble and usually because he’s been drinking. I run in to him occasionally downtown and it is embarrassing; he always seems to be drunk even in the early afternoon. I’ve heard he spends most of his time at some seedy bar on Gold Street. And, I always assumed that’s the reason Barbara left Albuquerque after high school and never returned; she didn’t want any part of her brother or his life.”
“You shouldn’t be so hard on him, Denise. Charles really isn’t such a bad boy; he just hasn’t found his way yet. And, he calls me every now and then which is nice.”
“I apologize, Aunt Martha. It’s really none of my business. I expect that the only reason he ever calls is to ask for money and he should be responsible for his own life by now. He’s almost forty, isn’t he? Just please don’t let Charles ruin your life.”
“Now, now, Denise. Let’s just enjoy our lunch. Then you can take me to some of those fancy shops that you dragged me all the way out here to show me.”
Charles Arthur was leaning unsteadily against the bar in the Neutron Bar & Grill on Gold Street in downtown Albuquerque. He was considered a “regular”, the jovial guy who often bought drinks for others and bragged about his exploits. Almost everyone who had frequented the Neutron knew his story. He didn’t have a regular job but did occasional free-lance writing for The Alibi and Albuquerque Free Press. He was considered talented and insightful, but inconsistent and somewhat undependable, typically a result of his drinking. This part-time work didn’t pay much and generally went directly toward his bar tab. His real source of income was a Trust Fund that had been established by an Aunt who lived somewhere in Albuquerque, a story he told enthusiastically to any newcomers. To those who knew him at the bar, he was Chico or even Sir Charles. He had also heard people refer to him as Ellis, but didn’t know the origin of that particular nick-name. Actually, behind his back he was called The Lucky Sperm and Ellis was simply the short form.
This particular afternoon, Charles was trying to impress two young girls with stories of his adventures and his wealth. The girls were passing through Albuquerque on their way back to school in Colorado and thought the Neutron Bar looked interesting as they wandered through downtown. Several people who often came to The Neutron for lunch were sitting at a booth trying to guess when Charles would get to his story about his investigative report that exposed a major crime ring operating out of a Title Loan Company in the neighborhood. The story was completely fictitious, but became more dramatic and dangerous each time Charles told it. The young girls seemed to hang on his every word and Charles was loving every minute of it.
Later that same afternoon, Charles Arthur was still at The Neutron and still drinking. He had been talking to a number of people after the two young girls got bored and left.
Charles was now trying to ague the finer point of New Mexico heritage with Jesus Sedillo, who was almost as drunk. “Give me a break, Jose, there is no such thing as a native New Mexican. Everyone in this State is part Indian. Deal with it.”
“Look, wise guy, my name is not Jose; I am a Sedillo and I resent your saying that we New Mexicans are all part Indian. I can trace my ancestors back to Oñate and the first people who came up the Rio Grande to settle this State.”
“And, you want me to believe that your intrepid macho ancestors didn’t screw any of the women they encountered in all the pueblos they stopped at along the way? Get real. Look at the numbers. There were what, a few hundred with Oñate and tens of thousands of Indians already here. And, I’ll bet that many of Onate’s crew already had some Indian blood in them from the tribes in Mexico. Jose, Whatever true identity you think you have was lost generations ago.”
The situation quickly escalated and words soon gave way to pushing and shoving. Sedillo pulled a knife from his belt and started for Charles. Atrisca Dominguez, the bartender shouted, “Knock it off you two assholes before somebody gets hurt. Or, if you insist on being stupid, take it outside to the street and I’ll call the cops to come and get you there.”
“I better not catch you alone in town, Dick Head, or you’ll pay for insulting my family.”
“Yeah, you better bring your whole family, Jose, because that’s what it’ll take.”
Atrisca reached across the bar and grabbed Charles by the shirt collar. “That was really stupid, Numb Nuts. Many of the Sedillos are members of the Tecolote gang and you could wind up dead, or worse. If you know what’s good for you, you’ll steer way clear of him from now on. You can only hope he forgets about you when he sobers up and stays in South Valley where he usually hangs out. I don’t know why he was even in here. Now, why don’t you be a Good Boy and come with me; I want you to lie down in the back and sober up.”
The Neutron Bar had a small office toward the back of the building where the owner kept the Bar’s records as well as some better quality liquor in a locked cabinet. There was a small desk with a computer where the bookkeeper sat to prepare the monthly reports and the required gross receipts tax filings. There was a small cot against the wall where Atrisca deposited Charles. She turned out the overhead light, locked the door from the outside and returned to the main room.
Early that evening, Atrisca returned to check on Charles. He was sitting at the desk and the computer was on. “Hey, she shouted. What are you doing? The owner doesn’t allow anyone except the bookkeeper to touch that computer. You just never seem to learn do you?”
“I was just trying to check my bank balance. My rent is due and it looks like I’m tapped out. Shit! Oh well, I’ll just call Aunt Martha in the morning and get her to put some more money in my checking account.”
“You can deal with your problems later. We need to get going. My shift is over and the owner will be pissed if he finds you in his office. Do you have a place to stay?”
“No. My asshole Landlord has put a security lock on my apartment until I come up with the rent. He just won’t give me a break.”
“My guess is that you are more than a little late with your rent. You can stay at my place until you sort this out. Let’s go.”
Atrisca assumed Charles was still too drunk to drive so they left his car in The Neutron’s lot and walked the few blocks to her apartment. Once inside, Atrisca sat Charles down in the living room and said, “Relax. I’m going to change out of my work clothes into something more comfortable. Don’t go away.”
“Is there anything to drink in this place?”
“There may be a bottle of whiskey in one of the kitchen cabinets.”
Charles was on his second glass when Atrisca returned. She had taken off her jeans and heavy boots as well as her flannel shirt and down vest and was now wearing only large T-shirt that had some sort of Club logo on it. She sat next to him on the couch with her legs tucked underneath.
“Look, he said. I appreciate this. I’m sure I can tap my Aunt for some cash in the morning. She keeps a huge wad of cash in her apartment at the fancy retirement home where she lives. It is no big deal for her to have someone drive her to the bank and put some in my account. I just have to figure how much I need.”
“Besides you rent, what else do you owe? And, don’t forget your bar tab. I’m getting a lot of heat for allowing you to get so far behind. You say your Aunt just keeps a large amount of cash just lying around?”
“Yeah, I’m sure she thinks it’s well hidden but I suspect it’s in the drawer with her granny panties. Let’s see. There’s my rent and phone bill. And, I had to take out a title loan to cover some expenses. I’m sure I’ll need some spending money for a while. You see, I’m working on a big story for The Alibi but I may try to sell it to the Albuquerque Journal instead; they’ll pay more.”
“Don’t forget your bar tab.”
“Oh, yeah and that.”
Atrisca got up. “Don’t go away. I have plans for you tonight.” She walked across the room and bent over to pick up something from the floor.
Charles followed her with his eyes as she walked away. He was only mildly surprised when he noticed that she had nothing on under the large T-shirt. He stood up and approached her from behind, placing his hands on her hips. She turned quickly and dealt him a rapid series of open hand slaps to his head. He fell back into an over-stuffed chair, dazed. When he looked up, she was standing over him with her fists clenched and poised to strike. It was only then that he noticed that Atrisca’s T-shirt bore the logo of the Holly Holm Fight Training Club.
“Oh, shit, I’m sorry.” was all he could manage to say.
“Look, Chico. I really want you to do me tonight, but you’re going to do things my way, understand? Now, if you’re not too drunk to get it up, come into the bedroom and I’ll make you forget all about those teenage girls from this afternoon.”
Late the next morning, an exhausted and contrite Charles Arthur got out of bed and went to the kitchen where Atrisca had made a fresh pot of strong coffee and was assembling two breakfast burritos. “You have things to do today, she said, so get your ass in gear. You’d better call that Aunt of yours before she gives all her money away to some charity.”
“I’m on it. And, don’t worry; she had more money than you can imagine. And, she’s always willing to help out her poor nephew.”