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Case XIII: Legends, Lawyers & Lies

 

Chapter 1: Some Closures

It was a quiet morning at La Vida Aureo and Matthew Dudley was enjoying his second cup of coffee as he continued to read The Wall Street Journal.  He had carefully compiled his list of maintenance items for the day and noted that there were no pressing issues.  As he turned the pages, he realized how much he enjoyed the actual printed version and was thankful for the gift of the life-time subscription from Conrad Alexander, a former Resident. The majority of the articles in the Journal dealt with national or international issues of a financial nature, but there were always an article or two of a lighter nature.  He glanced up from his paper when he noticed Paloma Angostura approaching.

Buenos dias, Señor Doc, I am glad you are still here in the Dining Room. I want to share some good news with you.”

“Good morning to you as well, Señora.  I could aways use some good news.  To be honest, I am still not quite able to get Mrs. Aldridge’s murder completely out of my mind.”

“I share your feelings and my good news relates to that most unfortunate incident.  I believe some of the animosity between Mrs. Branch and Señora Barela has passed. You remember that that kind man, Señor Alexander, made a significant donation to modernize the kitchen?  Those improvements have been very helpful as I continue to engage the two ladies to work together.  Mrs. Branch apologized for her unkind comments and both women have agreed to return to my kitchen and plan a festive meal for later in the month.”

“That is certainly a step in the right direction. Once again, your diplomatic skills have produced positive results. I hope Mrs. Branch also apologized to you for her accusations about your sister.  I trust you also have good news about her health.”

“Thank you for asking about Deluviña.  After so many tests, the Doctors at UNM Medical Center finally told her there is no evidence of cancer and that she is in remarkable health for a woman her age, despite a significant amount of osteoporosis in her spine. Fortunately, her mind is still very sharp and she has a large family around her for support. They encouraged her to return for periodic check-ups, but I doubt that will happen.”

“Would it be appropriate to buy a fancy cane for her?  It seems like a small gesture for the unkind things Mrs. Branch said about her. It’s been a while since I talked to Hannah Halverstrom and she knows of a wood-working artisan in Placitas.”

“I’m sure Deluviña would appreciate a cane as long as it doesn’t look like one,” smiled Paloma.

 

Isabella Duncan approached the table where Dudley and Paloma were sitting with a broad smile on her face.   “Good morning, Señora, Doc.  I have some good news that I am eager to share.”

“I received a long e-mail yesterday evening from Warren Pearson stating that he has retired from Rice University and would like to make La Vida Aureo his permanent home.”

“That is good news, Isabella!”

“I agree, Doc.  As you might expect, Dr. Pearson received a very generous settlement from our Homeland Security folks for all the trouble they put him through.   He used a large portion of the money to create a permanent endowment at Rice University to sustain a creative writing program and encourage young authors.  The remainder, which was substantial, will allow him to purchase a life-time contract to remain here comfortably for the rest of his life.  He plans to continue writing and is interested in exploring the history of New Mexico and the Southwest as sort of the next chapter in his life.”

“Well, there are certainly many aspects of New Mexico and its varied history which would be of considerable interest to a man with his writing talents.”

“I don’t mean to sound presumptuous, Doc, but you might want to consider introducing Dr. Pearson to your so-called Curmudgeon Crew at Saville & Sons.”

“Let me think about that, Isabella.  It might be an interesting additional perspective to the group.”

“While the three of us are together, I wanted to mention the effect Mrs. Aldridge’s murder is having on some Residents.  We need to remain positive and grateful that she will have justice.  Are there other things we should be doing as we move forward?”

“We should acknowledge Frida Savino and compliment her for the role she has taken with the Staff.  Perhaps it was her direct involvement with the situation, but she has shown remarkable maturity and continues to be a source of strength.”

“Thank you for mentioning that, Paloma. I will make a point of expressing my personal gratitude to her when I come across her in the building.”

Isabella rose to leave and smiled at Dudley. “Well, Doc, isn’t it about time for you to finish your reading and get to work?  I assume you would rather play House Detective, but there’s probably a leaky faucet somewhere in the complex that’s calling your name.”

“Ouch!  Actually, Isabella, things are in pretty good shape, but I was just about to fold up my paper and look over my ToDo List once more.”

Isabella headed toward her office and Paloma to the kitchen.

 

As Dudley was folding the sections of the paper, he noticed a headline near the bottom of the front page:  Major Shake-Up at New Mexico Power & Light.

Late last year, Donald Pearsall, CEO at NMP&L was charged with First Degree Murder in the death of Conrad Alexander, a former NMP&L Executive. Susan Otero, Bernalillo County Assistant District Attorney was quoted at the time that they had a strong case against Pearsall and would proceed quickly to trial.  The police had identified Pearsall’s fingerprints on the alleged murder weapon and were able to place him in Alexander’s apartment at the approximate time of the murder (Case IX, September 2015). Pearsall has maintained that he was meeting with John Smith, President of LRC Industries, a contractor for NMP&L at the time of Alexander’s death. Sebastian Manzanola, Pearsall’s Defense Attorney, claimed all the evidence against his client was circumstantial and all charges should be dismissed. 

  Albuquerque’s Major Crimes Unit was assigned the responsibility to interview John Smith and corroborate Pearsall’s alibi. When Lt. Frank Garcia went to Duke City Wreckage, he immediately recognized Smith as Manolo Velasquez Hocking, head of the notorious motorcycle gang, La Raza Cosmica. The gang had been under investigation for some time, but the Albuquerque Police had never been able to secure any convictions. Once in police custody, Hocking claimed he had been operating as LRC Industries under the specific direction of Pearsall to sabotage projects associated with NMP&L Clean Energy Initiative. He claimed that Manuel Uribe Vigil of NMP&L’s Board as the initial point of contact with Pearsall.

 Once this new information came to light, Bernalillo County District Attorney suspended the murder charge against Pearsall and subsequently charged him and Vigil with several counts of fraud. Hocking has been charged with numerous felony offenses. The DA is also looking into Hocking’s possible role in the vehicle death of Mrs. Doris Connell.

 NMP&L’s Board acted swiftly to dismiss Vigil from the Board and requested Graham Wright to extend his temporary role as Board Chairman.

 The death of Conrad Alexander remains unsolved.

 

Dudley was stunned by this news, but was confident that Garcia would continue digging until he had uncovered everything.  It pleased him that there would be justice for Conrad Alexander.

Chapter 2: Gold in them thar Hills

 

Dudley gathered his thoughts and walked through the main lobby on his way to the central staircase. Larry Blackburn was coming toward him and stopped before the two men collided.

“Good, morning, Doc.  I trust you’re doing well this beautiful morning.”

“Oh, I’m sorry, Larry.  My mind must have been elsewhere.  I’m doing OK.  You appear to be in a particularly happy mood.”

“Correct. I’m headed toward the Library to meet with Don Orley.  I recently discovered that we both have a keen interest in all things mining. This morning, we’re going to share our experiences concerning historical mining activities in the Southwest.  We believe we have much in common and our goal is to potentially visit some of the museums.”

“That sounds really interesting, Larry.  I’ve only met Mr. Orley a few times and really don’t know much about him.  I’m glad you have been more diligent and discovered a mutual interest.  Please let me know if there is anything I can do to help you with your project.”

 

Later that afternoon, when Dudley had completed the few minor repairs on his list, he thought it might be interesting to stop by the Library and see if Larry Blackburn and  Don Orley were still talking.  Dudley had a limited knowledge about mining in New Mexico and the Southwest from his time living in Cerrillos and had always been fascinated by the subject.  As he entered the Library, Blackburn and Orley were engaged in animated conversation and did not see him approach.

“Pardon me.  I didn’t mean to interrupt.  You gentlemen seem to be having a great time and I just wanted to see if there was anything I could do to help.”

“Not a problem, Doc.  Don and I had just started making a list of the various mines we would like to study in greater detail.”

Don Orley rose and extended his hand.  “I don’t think we’ve ever been formally introduced, although I know who you are, but only by reputation.”

Dudley returned the gesture. “Well, that makes me a bit nervous.  I hope you’ve also heard some positive things as well.”

“Actually, it is your reputation as La Vida Aureo’s resident House Detective that intrigues me the most.”

“Oh, let me see. I can only guess that Mrs. Millicent Branch has filled you in on all of my presumed exploits. Well, you must take much of what she says with a rather large dose of salt.”

“Sorry to disappoint, Mr. Dudley.  It was Larry here that told me about your involvement in several incidents here.”

“That makes me feel a little better.  And, please call me Doc.”

Blackburn motioned for Dudley to take the empty chair at the table.  “We really could use some of your detective skills today, Doc.   You know that the majority of my mining experience comes from the years I spent as a repair specialist with Caterpillar around my home in Hibbing, Minnesota.  And, I’ve had the chance to visit some of the smaller mines near Albuquerque.  Don, by contrast, served as a mining engineer at some of the really large-scale mining operations all over the world.  So, you can see that our perspectives are quite a bit different.  What intrigues us, however, are the legends and mysteries about so-called lost gold mines located in the Southwest.  We could use your detective skills as we explore these. What do you say?”

“Wow!  That would be a lot more interesting that sitting here working crossword puzzles.  Mr. Orley, it sound as though you’ve had a very exciting career, travelling all over the world and being involved in some major projects.”

“Don, please.  Well, yes and no.  I certainly had an interesting and challenging career and the opportunity to meet and work with some exceptional people.  But, in hindsight, my travels probably had a less than optimal impact on my family as I constantly dragged them from one mining location to another.  I’m sure it was disruptive, particularly to my young daughters.”

“I’m sure everything turned out OK; kids can be pretty adaptable.  With all those travels, how did you end up in Albuquerque?”

“After several years working with a wide variety of minerals and types of mining operations, I began to focus on copper.  I found it a fascinating metal with a long an intriguing history.  I guess I developed somewhat of a reputation.  The Southwest has been engaged in copper mining for many years and I spent quite a bit of time in Arizona and southern New Mexico. I was based in Silver City for a while at the Santa Rita Mine and then with ASARCO in El Paso.  When I realized that my family deserved a permanent home, I bought a small house in Rio Rancho, primarily because of the excellent schools.

“That makes a lot of sense.  I don’t mean to be insensitive or pry, but I presume you’re now at La Vida Aureo because your family situation changed.”

“It’s OK. My wife Carlotta died years ago and I wanted to settle someplace when I finally retired.  I selected this facility based on its very positive reputation.”

“That was another wise choice and similar to my own reason for being here. Have your daughters remained in the area?”

“My older daughter Melanie lives outside Prescott, Arizona.  I’m afraid she caught the copper bug from me and she and her husband are both artisans and have a small store where they sell their jewelry and copper art creations.  Esme Marie, my younger daughter, is currently, um, er, staying in Santa Fe.”

Larry interrupted.  “OK, Doc, enough snooping.  You can visit with Don about his personal life later.  Right now, we’d like you to tell us everything you know about the Lost Padre Mine.”

“It’s OK, Larry.  I don’t think Mr. Dudley was prying.  But I agree; let’s talk about Father La Rue and his mine.”

 

“Well, gentlemen”, began Dudley. “I can tell you what I know, but I suggest you refer to several of the books here in the Library.   As with most of these legends, there are multiple versions of the story. If you are intent of solving the mystery, you should examine each version to come to your own understanding.  And, certainly before you drive to Las Cruces and go hiking in the Organ Mountains looking for the mine itself!”

“I spent virtually all my working career with the New Mexico State Water Resources Department. For one assignment, I was in Las Cruces working with local officials to develop a plan for long-term water supplies for their growing community.  One evening, we were having dinner and the discussion prompted telling the history of Father La Rue and the Lost Padre Mine.  The story begins in approximately the late 1700s with a Spanish soldier who claimed to have discovered a rich vein of gold in the Organ Mountains. This soldier fell seriously ill on his return journey to Mexico and stopped at a mission where the local priest provided aid and comfort.  Before he died, the soldier told Father La Rue about his discovery and gave directions to the source of the gold.  The story goes that Father La Rue’s village had run out of water and the people were starving.  He led them on a long and difficult journey in search of a more favorable location and eventually founded a new village with adequate water resources and called it Spirit Springs.  There he began a search for the source of gold the soldier had described.  Over the next several years, local Indian and Mexican slaves, under the Priest’s direction, mined a considerable quantity of gold and formed it into crude bars which they stored in the mine.  When the villagers used some of this gold to purchase supplies in Mesilla, stories began to leak out.  Because Father La Rue had not paid the required 20 percent tax (La Quinta) on these new riches, the Spanish authorities sent troops to investigate.  With some advance warning, La Rue ordered the mine to be closed and the entrance hidden.  The Spanish troops arrived and reportedly tortured La Rue to disclose the location of the mine and the stored gold bars. La Rue resisted and the location of the mine disappeared into legend.”

“Is there any evidence this source of gold actually ever existed?”

“Well, there have been significant quantities of silver and tin found in the general area and even a few flakes of gold in the streams, but, sadly, no gold bars or gold mine.”

“But, I assume the legend has refused to die”, asked Blackburn.

“True, but the details have changed over time, particularly in regards to location.  Most versions reference St. Augustine Pass in the Organ Mountains, but others place Spirit Springs much further to the north, stating that La Rue led his village through the San Andreas Mountains and across Jornado de Muerto plains.”

“So, Doc, what is your assessment of the entire Father La Rue and the Lost Padre Mine legend,” asked Orley?

“Perhaps it is my long association in dealing with resource scarcity issues in New Mexico, but, my personal opinion is that Father La Rue’s “gold” was actually water.  After all, it was the need to find an adequate supply of water for his village that led the Priest on his quest.”

“That makes a lot of sense, Doc.  But, you don’t object if we do a bit of investigating on our own?”

“Not at all.  As I said, it sure beats crossword puzzles! My suggestion is, if you go south toward Las Cruces, you stop in Hatch and have lunch at one of the local places.  That way, you can enjoy another form of New Mexico gold, namely Hatch green chile!”

“OK.  Since you’re being so helpful, what can you tell us about El Dorado and the Seven Cities of Gold?”

Dudley laughed.   “I can give so-called Anglo version, but I’d rather my good friend Redondo Little Feather regale you with the version Native Americans like to tell.”

“Spanish records indicate that Coronado spent many years unsuccessfully searching for the so-called Seven Cities of Gold throughout the Southwest.  And, you should visit the Coronado Monument (State Park) in Bernalillo.  It’s only a short drive north on I-25 and is well worth while. It contains considerably more detail about Coronado and his exploits in New Mexico.”

“And your friend’s version of the story?”

“Ray’s version is much longer and more detailed and based on their oral history.  He claims the pueblo tribes along the Rio Grande encouraged the Conquistadors to keep searching farther north until they finally gave up somewhere in present-day Kansas.”

“Well, that would certainly keep those nasty Spanish with their ideas of conquest and conversion from ruining the neighborhood!”

Larry added. “Thanks for your time and valuable insights, Doc.  I’m sure we will want to pick your brain some more as we dig deeper into these stories.  Right now, we need to drive over to the Apple Store at Albuquerque Uptown.  I’m having some issues with their new operating system and want to see if one of their so-called Geniuses can make it so I can use my laptop again.  I suspect Don and I have a lot more research to do before we put on our backpacks and hike off into the mountains!”

“It was no problem at all.  In fact, I’m excited about your project and the adventures that will likely follow. Please keep me informed of your progress and let me know if there is anything I can do to assist.  Do you also have an Apple computer, Mr. Orley?”

“No, I’m a very loyal Microsoft guy, always have been.  But that’s a story for another time.”

 

Blackburn and Orley gathered their materials and left.

Dudley head back toward the Lobby with a smile on his face.  He didn’t see Millicent Branch coming from the other direction.

“Good morning, Mr. Dudley.  What has you in such a good mood this morning?”

“Oh! Good morning to you, Mrs. Branch. I was just on my way to look at some reported minor problems in the courtyard.”

“I saw you in the Library with Mr. Blackburn.  He’s such a nice man and I was pleased to help him discover more about the history of Uranium mining in New Mexico.  I gave him a brochure on the Mining Museum in Grants.”

“I’m sure he appreciated you helpful comments, Mrs. Branch.”

“Who was that other man?  I know I’ve seen him around here before, but don’t think we’ve been introduced.”

“His name is Don Orley and he and Mr. Blackburn have discovered they have some common interests.”

“That’s nice.  Well, good day, Mr. Dudley”

Millicent Branch continued on her way, likely for her daily “inspection tour” of the Main Building.  Dudley exhaled and thought to himself. “Whew! I’m glad I didn’t mention that Blackburn and Orley had embarked on a project related to New Mexico mining legends. They would have never been able to disengage from Mrs. Branch’s helpful suggestions.

Chapter 3: Adapt and Adopt

As soon as he was certain Mrs. Branch was far enough away, Dudley turned toward the Main Conference Room where the meeting of the La Vida Aureo Community Assist Team was about to begin.  Beth Ford, the Team’s Leader, had kept him up-to-date on the Team’s activities and progress via email, but Dudley was eager to personally sit in on a meeting.

“Welcome, everyone”, Beth began. “I want to begin this morning’s meeting by summarizing the situation related to Roger Lindermann.  As you probably heard, Mr. Lindermann and his wife were responsible for the poisoning death of Mrs. Lindermann’s mother, Harriet Aldridge here at La Vida Aureo.  Thanks to the good work of Lt. Garcia and other unnamed associate sleuths, the Lindermanns have been charged with murder and the District Attorney is confident they will both be convicted.  While that is unfortunate, I want to focus on something else that came to light during the investigation.  Mr. Lindermann had enrolled in a course, presumably for Financial Planners, with the intent of gaining the skills necessary to defraud people, specifically the elderly, of their savings. We have discussed this issue previously and are all aware of the potential dangers to seniors. This incident serves as a painful reminder that there are a growing number of fraudulent schemes and we must remain vigilant.”

“On the same subject, I continue to read about the growing incidence of various telephone and Internet scams.   I marvel at the creativity and imagination of these and the ways the trusting nature of elderly folks can be used against them.  One of our guiding principles is to encourage people to be independent and not live in fear, but we must continually remind them to be on guard every day.”

“OK, I’ll get off my soap box.  Would anyone else like to update the Team on their activities?”

Arnetta Valencia spoke up. “I’ve observed considerable variability in the quality of personnel in nursing homes and particularly agencies purporting to offer home health care.  I continue to hear what can only be described as horror stories with some home healthcare agencies.  There appears to be a severe lack of screening in the hiring process and a definite lack of training.  The average starting wage is terrible which results in large turnover.  I know we’ve talked about this issue before in the Team, but I just wanted to raise it again as something we all need to be aware of as we work with elderly folks.  Maybe we should even consider creating some sort of check list or questionnaire to guide people when they’re looking at agencies for a parent or loved one.”

“If I could offer a comment here,” said Dudley. “The issue of personnel competence was recognized at the outset here at La Vida Aureo and I know it is a subject Mrs. Duncan takes very seriously.  It would be beneficial for you to ask her to attend your next meeting and provide her perspective on the subject.  It might provide some context for your future evaluation of home healthcare agencies and nursing homes.”

Dudley continued. “I suspect it is a matter of budgets in many situations and, from my perspective, it is a case of flawed economics.  By offering low salaries, you cannot expect to attract, much less maintain, the highest quality personnel.  The fallacy is that you spend significantly more money in recruiting and training costs due to the high level of turnover.  But, the all too common case is that salaries and training are the very areas where some organizations try to minimize costs.  It is absurd!”

Mila Espalin asked if she could share some information with the Team.  “I’ve been attending a number of Health Fairs throughout Central and Northern New Mexico and would like to share my observations with the Team.  And, thanks to Mr. Dudley’s friend Ray Little Feather, I was invited to several Fairs on the Reservation with Arnetta.”

“I’ve noticed there is very little information generally available out there concerning Alzheimer’s, despite a growing need.  Consequently, a large amount of misinformation has evolved to fill this gap.  There is a terrible lack of awareness about available resources, particularly for caregivers.  People need to understand Alzheimer’s is a disease and NOT a punishment from God for some past transgression.  Too many Priests, Medicine Men and Curanderas alike are convincing people they are somehow cursed and should be avoided. Some older people are bound by tradition or guilt or pride.  They refuse to seek help beyond their immediate family or close friends, sometimes their church, leading to considerable frustration or anger.”

“I’m particularly concerned for the caregivers and family members who are dealing with the situation.  I believe it would be a tremendous help to caregivers if they had some idea of the type of behaviors to expect and some coping strategies, as well. I realize there is no cure available and each individual case is slightly different, but I believe we must do something to help.”

“While I’m on my Soap Box, I want to talk about one more thing.  Lately, I’ve noticed these commercials on TV sponsored by the national Alzheimer’s Association.  I assume this is something new for them and it appears to be a new message.  The Executive Director of the local Alzheimer’s chapter is a friend of mine and she says she has noticed a significant change at the National Organization.  They have shifted their emphasis to large-scale fund-raising to advocate for more research to find a cure for the disease.  I assume that’s what’s behind the fancy new TV ad campaign.  Maybe I just don’t have the so-called Big Picture, but it seems to me that money, or at least a larger portion of it, could be spent supporting families who are dealing with the situation today. Those dollars could have a significant impact and benefit.  I’m not a doctor or research scientist, so I don’t know how likely it is for a cure to be developed, but there is an immediate and significant need out there that is not being adequately addressed.”

Beth spoke up. “I share your concerns, Mila. One of our principal goals is information.  We can impact the situation, at least locally, by creating Advocates, people who can speak to their respective communities   It might be worthwhile to talk to the La Vida Aureo Staff about effective communication strategies. “

“My reading has convinced me there is a tidal wave, even a tsunami, coming in terms of the number of people who will be affected in one form or another, by Alzheimer’s.  I’m concerned we will not be adequately prepared to house, much less care for, the large number of affected people.  I don’t know what the role of our La Vida Aureo Community Assist Team should be, but it certainly merits much more discussion.”

“Many of these issues are brought on by people simply living longer.  The family lacks the information about how to cope with these issues.  For example, older people get crabby or cranky as they age which can be expected.  But, when younger people begin to exhibit similar behaviors, it comes as a shock and is often misinterpreted as something else.  It could be early onset Alzheimer’s which can be very problematic.  In this situation, the disease progresses more quickly and behaviors can also change.”

“OK, let’s table that for the present, but make sure we come back to it in the near future.  It is certainly a valid concern and we would be remiss if we ignored it.  We need to make it part of our overall program.”

Minot Atkinson spoke up. “As our resident Geek, I believe there are some technologies we could and should examine as another means to help people remain independent and in their home for as long as possible.  We’re beginning to see a variety of so-called convenience devices that could potentially be adapted for easier use by older people.  My sense is that devices currently on the market are aimed at a more affluent and technically-savvy population, but I believe some could also be modified for more specific uses.  I don’t believe that any of the current devices can call 911 directly, but I’ve read of situations where the Police or Fire Department has been called.”

“I even saw a commercial on TV recently where the Housewife asked Alexa to change the operating settings on her clothes dryer, something like “Alexa, extend the dryer for ten more minutes, I have to do something.”  I mean, if these devices can communicate with appliances, we ought to be able to develop ways to assist elderly folks.  I’ll look into being able to adapt some of the currently available devices for use with home-bound folks.  We could encourage some people to try these out before asking others to adopt them.”

Mikaylah Willis chimed in. “Not to start a political discussion here, Minot, but are you suggesting we should focus our efforts on a program to Adapt and Adopt?

“Yikes!  Don’t get me started, Mikey …!   Anyway, there are many relatively simple devices available and we should encourage their use.  For example, even a common Medical Alert bracelet could be a big help, or having your Medical Directive clearly visible so a Fireman or EMT wouldn’t have to wonder what your wishes were.  Speaking of that, a friend of mine recently installed something called a Knox Box.  It is a secure lock box containing a key to your house and only your local Fire Department can access this box.  It’s a really simple idea, but could be very important in an emergency; better than having some burly Fireman break down your door if you need help!”

“To wrap things up today, said Beth, I’d like each of you to begin thinking about some sort of “early-warning system” to identify when independence is no longer viable option.  Our goal is to help people remain independent for as long as possible, but, for many, there will come a time when that is no longer appropriate or practical.  It may be the most significant benefit/positive outcome of the work we’re doing, while we continue our other programs.”

 

Later that evening, Dudley walked the short distance to Janetta Johari’s condo where he was greeted warmly at the door.  Dudley realized, somewhat embarrassedly this was not a friendly hug, but an affectionate embrace.  “I’m so happy to see you, Matthew and eager to hear about all the exciting things you’ve been up to at La Vida Aureo.”

Janetta ushered Dudley into her Living Room and offered him a glass of wine. She sat next to him on the sofa and took his hand.  It took Dudley a few minutes to regain his composure before he was able to begin telling Janetta about the most interesting conversation with Larry Blackburn and Don Orley.

“That sounds like a lot of fun and the opportunity to dig into some interesting New Mexico history and legend.  In addition to all your other duties and adventures, I trust you’ve had time to keep the Community Assist Team on track.”

“They really don’t need much help from me,” he said modestly. “In fact, the Team had a meeting today and I was able to sit in on essentially all of it.  I’m sure you’ll be interested to know that a major topic of discussion was Alzheimer’s and the effect it has on families and other caregivers. The overall situation can be quite frustrating to caregivers, particularly in terms of the various behaviors people suffering from the disease can exhibit.  The good news is that we’re experiencing a greater level of awareness among younger family members who are not so bound by tradition and realize they are dealing with a disease and can seek out appropriate resources.”

“I promised the Team I would give you their regards and inquire how your job is going.  They are interested to hear about any progress in developing a drug to address the symptoms of Alzheimer’s.  Mikaylah has been a valuable addition to the Team, but no one considers her your replacement.”

Well, Matthew, let me tell you a bit about what I’ve learned since starting work at Jalapeño Pharmaceuticals.  Their basic research approach was to try to “burn” away the plaque accumulating within the brain, a quite unconventional approach. Anyway, our initial versions of a new class of drugs seem to have the desired effect … in laboratory mice.  That is, we notice some improvement is the ability to perform some tasks, which we attribute to improved cognitive ability. Unfortunately, we measure a similar level of improvement in a control group.  With that group, we paid particular attention to their diet and level of physical activity.  There is some literature which seems to suggest that Alzheimer’s is a specific form of diabetes or inflammation affecting the brain.  If that is correct, then we’re back to the emphasis on “diet and exercise” as the primary means to maintain cognitive function as we age.”

“One other major topic of discussion at work concerns the overall area of research into Alzheimer’s and the so-called “race” to develop a cure.  The doctors and scientists who started Jalapeño are very outspoken about the way this very significant problem is being attacked. They acknowledge that the first company to develop an effective drug or treatment regimen will reap significant financial reward.  If some of the estimates of the number of people who will be affected by the disease are correct, the potential market may be larger than anything we’ve seen to date.  That kind of incentive, not to mention the associated fame, can lead to unintended and undesirable consequences.  In the short run, it has led to ruthless and often brutal competition for resources and funding.”

“Jalapeño is a very small, relatively unknown company and not located in any major metropolitan research area.  But the Principals want to use their presence in the field to argue for a completely new and different approach. They will present their preliminary findings at a major upcoming conference and use this opportunity to push for greater cooperation. They will offer a detailed proposal to examine the results from every study conducted to date in one massive data set.  To accomplish this, they’ve secured a major block of time on one of the Super Computers at Los Alamos National Labs.  They propose to have all the data and results from every study, drug trial, etc. loaded anonymously and allow the computer to search for trends, correlations, etc.”

“I plan to have coffee with Mikaylah in the very near future to tell her about the Jalapeño presentation and proposal.  I believe we both still have contacts within the major pharmaceutical companies and can speak to them and encourage their support.”

“Oh, Matthew, I’m neglecting my manners.  Can I pour you some more wine?”

 

 

 

Chapter 4: Gold Diggers, Perhaps?

 

Matthew Dudley and Isabella Duncan were sitting in the Main Lobby of La Vida Aureo discussing the recent Community Assist Team meeting.

“We have always prided ourselves in the quality of our Staff“, said Isabella.  “It was perhaps the most challenging aspects of our start up.  But, I am pleased our initial investment paid off and I believe we have perhaps the best Staff of all the similar facilities in the State, even Santa Fe!”

 

As they rose to leave, Larry Blackburn and Don Orley entered and were smiling broadly.

“It looks like you had a pleasant time out shopping”, offered Dudley.

“It is always an experience to go to the Apple Store”, said Blackburn.  But, this afternoon was particularly so. I had to resist considerable pressure from one of their Geniuses to buy the new iPhone.  It is a truly amazing device, but $1,000 seems a bit steep for me. I doubt that I would ever get that much value out of it, even if I ever learned how to access all of its new features.”

“I have to be careful about what I say in front of Isabella about smart phones, but I still miss my old flip phone!”

“But, that wasn’t the most interesting part of our shopping excursion”, suggested Orley. As we were walking to the car, we ran into a guy selling information leading to a Fortune of Gold!”

“Really?  Someone must have heard you both talking about the Lost Padre Mine!”

“I hope not.  No.  This guy was smartly dressed and selling Leaflets which he claimed contained an authentic map to something called the Forrest Finn Treasure.  Are you familiar with that one?”

Dudley smiled. “Well, that one is more recent, but perhaps even more mysterious than Father La Rue’s Mine.  There are numerous articles written about this situation and I strongly suggest you do some reading before you embark on this particular and somewhat suspicious quest.”

“We weren’t taken in by this guy in front of the Apple store, but is there anything to his story?”

“The so-called Forrest Finn Treasure is the brainchild of a man who is an art dealer in Santa Fe, which in my opinion should be a warning to the credibility of this story.  The story is that Mr. Finn, in a gesture of true altruism, buried a chest containing a variety of gold items and gems with an estimated value of $2 million.  He said he buried this chest “somewhere in the Rocky Mountains” and wrote a poem which is purported to contain sufficient clues to locate his treasure.  He wrote two books and even published a map which includes virtually every Rocky Mountain State, New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming and Montana!’

“Wow! That’s a lot of territory.  I assume no one has found the treasure?”

“No.  According to various reports, thousands have tried and several have died.  There was another death in this past year.”

“Is this just another in a long history of New Mexico-based legends about gold?

“I believe, because this is much more recent and Finn was alive to be interviewed, its credibility grew.  He was interviewed often, even including the New York Times and NPR, and provided additional hints each time.  In one interview, he is quoted as saying his treasure is hidden above 5,000 feet and at least 8.25 miles north of Santa Fe.”

“That sounds pretty specific to me.”

“Or it might simply be a way to encourage people to come to Santa Fe and stop in his art gallery while you’re in town.  Pardon me for being a bit cynical, but I worry that people are too easily fooled.”

“Well, Doc, maybe P.T. Barnum was right, after all!”

 

“Now that I have the new Operating System on my iMac, laughed Larry, I can check that out.  But, I suspect I’m going to need several hours to figure everything out.  I’m off to the Library.  Promise me that you guys won’t head off to Santa Fe in search of fame and fortune without me!”

“Not to worry”, replied Don. “I have some things I need to tend to as well.  Based on Doc’s comments, I doubt that I’ll be headed that way soon either. But, I think it would be interesting to drive to Las Cruces and visit some of the historical sites. I spent a lot of time in the southern part of the State, but was usually too busy with work to search for gold!”

 

As the three men were leaving the Lobby, a well-dressed young man entered and approached.  “I’m looking for a Mr. Donald G. Orley.”

“I’m Orley.”

The young man produced a large manila envelope from his bag and thrust it toward Orley.  “Consider yourself served, Mr. Orley!” With that, he abruptly turned and walked out.

Don Orley stood there, stunned by what had just occurred.

Dudley felt very uncomfortable and unsure about what he should do. Dudley reached out and touched Orley’s arm.  “Is there anything I can do, Don?”

“Thanks, Doc. “I have no idea what this is all about, but, if you would sit here with me while I open this envelope, I would certainly appreciate it.”

“Not a problem, Don.  I’d be happy to.”

They took two of the large comfortable chairs near the picture window overlooking the courtyard.  Dudley sat as Orley opened the envelope and began to read. He watched as Orley’s expression grew increasingly grave.

Finally, Orley looked up and said, “I don’t understand.  This is a lawsuit filed on behalf of my daughter Esme claiming that I sexually abused her as a young girl.”

Dudley remained quiet.

“It is certainly not true. And, I have no idea where this came from.  I will admit that Esme has had her share of problems, but this makes no sense to me.  I can’t think of anything in our entire relationship that would cause her to say things like this. I never even spanked either daughter and can think of only a handful of times when I even raised my voice. I’m stunned.  I don’t know what to do.”

“I am willing to do whatever I can to help, Don. I believe there are some things you should probably do as a result of this action.  Does this document require you to respond or do anything specific?”

“Apparently, there is to be a preliminary hearing here in Albuquerque in approximately sixty days and this requires me to be present.  I assume I should have a lawyer with me, but I’m not sure how to go about finding the appropriate person for this type of situation.”

“I suggest we talk to Isabella.  Her husband is a lawyer and well respected in the State. I’m sure she can point you in the right direction.  Is there anything else in the documents that would help finding the best person to represent you?”

“Don’t laugh, but my daughter is seeking $10 million in damages for all of the so-called pain and suffering I’ve caused her throughout her life.”

“Sounds like she’s found a real Doozy of a lawyer.”

“Or, someone found her!”

“Let’s go talk to Isabella.”

 

Chapter 5: News and Developments, Good and Bad

 

Matthew Dudley and Donald Orley went directly to Isabella Duncan’s office where she was meeting with Beth Ford.  “Please come in, gentlemen.  Beth and I were finished discussing the recent progress of the Community Assist Team and had begun talking about Saturday evening’s program at the Symphony.”

Dudley began.  “Isabella, we have something very serious to discuss and would like your advice about how best to proceed.”

“Certainly, Doc.  I assume this pertains to you, Mr. Orley.”

Orley began.  “It is critical, Mrs. Duncan, you believe me when I say these allegations are completely false.  I was totally blind-sided to receive them and am at a complete loss as what to do. I am certain I need a competent lawyer and Doc suggested you may be able to help.  I’m sorry.  I’ve gotten way ahead of myself.  Let me start over and tell you what has happened.”

Orley took a deep breath and started over.  When he finished summarizing the situation, he again professed his innocence.

“I will take you at your word, Mr. Orley”, said Isabella. “Let me talk to my husband this evening and ask him to recommend someone.  I will also talk to Señora Mercedes Santiago who represents La Vida Aureo whenever necessary. I’ll try to have someone contact you directly as soon as possible.”

“Thank you, Mrs. Duncan.  I can’t tell you how much I appreciate this.”

“Mr. Orley, I assume there is a lawyer involved who is representing your daughter.  It might help if I knew his or her name.”

“That makes sense.  I think there was some sort of letter in the envelope with a name on it.  Here it is.  It says that I should contact a Mr. George Heck if I want to negotiate or just settle the case out of court.  There are two addresses and phone numbers, one in Albuquerque and one in Santa Fe.  Does that help?”

Isabella struggled to maintain a straight face.  “I’m sure Señora Santiago or my husband will be able to help.  Try to relax, Mr. Orley, and I’ll have more information for you in the morning.”

 

The two men left Isabella’s office.  As they walked together, Orley turned to Dudley.  “Can we talk a bit more?  There is some more information I’d like to share with you if you don’t mind.”

“No problem.  Let’s go to the Dining Room.  We can sit at a table in the back and talk without interruption.”

“I must apologize, Doc. I was rather vague earlier when I said my younger daughter was in Santa Fe or Taos. In fact, she’s been in a Residential Care Facility for the past year.  She had been experiencing what I would call “emotional problems” and I really didn’t know what else to do. At first, I hoped she would grow out of a rebellious teenage period but things got worse each year.  She couldn’t hold a job and got into a series of minor incidents with the police, including several involving substance abuse.  My wife Carlotta had died years earlier and I was unable to handle the situation on my own.  I tried various options with varying degrees of success.  For a while, it seemed like she had gotten hold of herself and was making progress.  Then, about a year ago, she had a complete melt down and I was forced to place her in a residential facility where I felt she would be safe. Initially, things seemed to be improving, but she has refused to have anything to do with me for the last several months.  She refuses to even see me.”

“I’m sorry to hear that, Don.  Do you have any idea why she would suddenly make these claims about your past behavior?”

“No.  I am at a complete loss to explain it. I believe I told you that I spent my entire career as a mining engineer.  Unfortunately, I was gone away from home a great deal of the time, travelling to copper mines all over the world. My two daughters reacted quite differently to my periods of long absence.  My older daughter, Melanie, thought it was all very exciting and was eager to learn about what I had done with each new assignment.  Esme, by contrast, was convinced that I had abandoned her.  I can understand it had a much greater effect on her because she was younger.  My wife was in the early stages of her battle with cancer and Esme blamed me for that as well. I tried to talk with her, but she grew increasingly angry and withdrawn.  I hoped settling in Albuquerque would provide some stability and, for a while, it did.  Things took a dramatic turn for the worse when Esme started running with the wrong crowd in high school.  My wife died soon thereafter and things collapsed entirely.”

“I assume you have tried to get her professional help.”

“Many times.”

“What about your other daughter?  What’s been her reaction to all of this over the years?”

“At first, Melanie tried to help.  I know she spent a lot of time with Esme, trying to explain things, particularly about my absences, but grew more frustrated.  After she got married and started a family of her own, she moved to Arizona and distanced herself from Esme.  We’ve talked about the situation many times and I know she loves her sister, but is at a loss as to how to help.”

“Well, it seems like the most pressing issue is to deal with these new allegations and try to get it resolved.  Then, I believe it would be worth talking to Isabella to see if she can offer any suggestions for additional support for you and your daughter.”

“I’m overwhelmed at the moment, Doc, but that would be a great help. At this point, I would consider anything that would benefit Esme.”

“There is one thing that strikes me as particularly odd about these allegations.  Where did the $10 million come from?  It sounds like some lawyer just pulled that number out of thin air, or some other place!”

Orley smiled for the first time in several hours.  “Actually, Doc, there’s a basis for it.  Let me tell you a very interesting story.”

“Years ago, back in the 1970s, I was doing quite a bit of work in Silver City.  At the time, there were several large copper mines there.  In fact, the Santa Rita Mine is still operating.  I was staying in Albuquerque for extended periods at a motel on Central Avenue.  There was also a group of young people staying in an adjacent unit.  They weren’t rowdy, but I could often hear them talking late into the night.  Over a period of weeks, we would exchange simple greetings as we came and went.  I was sitting outside my room one evening reading and enjoying the sunset when I overheard them talking.  Apparently, their leader had gotten into some minor trouble with the police, some sort of traffic violation, I think.  Anyway, they had decided to leave Albuquerque, but didn’t have enough money between them to do so.  They seemed like a nice group of kids and I thought I could help.  I offered to lend them gas money or bus fare if they promised to repay me once they got home and settled.”

“That was a very charitable gesture on your part, Don.  Did you ever see your money again?”

“Well, Doc, you have to remember that gas was cheap and Greyhound bus fare wasn’t all that much in those days.  And yes, I got a nice letter and a check in the mail a few weeks later. They all made it to Washington, someplace near Seattle, I think.”

“That’s a great story, Don.”

“Oh, it gets much better.  Almost a year later, I got another letter, this time by Registered Mail.  In it was an official-looking letter granting me shares of stock in the company Bill Gates and the other young people had formed. So, those few hundred shares of Microsoft have split almost three hundred times since then and are worth quite a considerable amount today!”

“Wow!  That restores my faith in humanity.  A simple act of generosity has been repaid, literally, many times over.  Good for you, Don.”

“But, now everything is at risk with the crazy allegations.”

“I’m sure everything will work out.  You have some great people on your side.”

“Thanks, Doc.  I think I’d just like to be alone for a while.  I’m eager to hear back from Mrs. Duncan.”

 

Dudley left Don Orley sitting in the Dining Room and nodded to Paloma Angostura as he walked toward to Main Lobby.  Her expression told him that she understood Orley was to be left alone and she would insure his privacy.

As he walked toward the Navajo Willow at the eastern end of the La Vida Aueo compound, he noticed Arnetta Valencia coming from the Visitors Parking Lot.  “Good afternoon, Arnetta.  I hadn’t expected to see you again so soon after the meeting this morning.”

“Good afternoon to you as well, Mr. Dudley.  I’ve spent the past few hours with Ray Little Feather. He wanted my input about starting some classes as part of his youth counseling program.  The abuse of women is a major problem in his community and he wants to try to work with the younger men to reduce the incidence and severity of the situation. He sees the focus as another aspect of respect and we were discussing ways to get that message across.”

“That is good news, Arnetta. I have the greatest admiration for Ray and what he’s trying to accomplish   I know you have considerable experience in that area and I’m sure he values your input.”

“Thank you for those kind words, Mr. Dudley. I hope you have a pleasant afternoon.”

“Arnetta, before you go.  I may want to talk with you in some detail about the subject of abuse, specifically between a father and daughter.  May I call you?”

“Certainly.  That is a most troubling subject and I would be glad to share my thoughts with you.  Just call anytime.”

“Thank you, Arnetta.  Take care.”

 

As Dudley approached the Navajo Willow, his phone vibrated.  He really wanted time to be alone and think about Don Orley, but he was technically still “on duty”.

“Doc, it’s Hannah. How are you?”

“Fine, Hannah.  Haven’t talked to you in a while.  I assume this is a social call or have you found a house for me to buy?”

“Doc, you know Isabella would have my head if I tried to get you to leave La Vida Aureo.  No. this is serious, or at least I think so.”

“OK.  What’s up?”

I was walking through the Plaza earlier this afternoon and noticed a gathering.  I usually try to avoid crowds, but I couldn’t help overhearing some of what was being said.  I don’t want to say any more before I check out a few things, but can you and Isabella meet me for lunch here in Santa Fe tomorrow?”

“That sounds pretty ominous, Hannah, even for you.  Can you at least give me a clue so I can convince Isabella to leave the office?  I don’t know her schedule, but I know she at least one thing planned for the morning.”

“What I heard could impact La Vida Aureo, not only its reputation, but potentially financially.  At this point, I can only tell you that the name Donald Orley was mentioned several times and not in a positive light. Further, I assume he is a Resident from the context of what was said.”

“You are correct.  I’ll talk to Isabella and we’ll drive to Santa Fe in the morning.”

“Meet me at noon at La Fonda.  I’ll buy lunch

Chapter 6: A Day in The City Different

Isabella Duncan found Don Orley sitting a small table toward to back of the Dining Room. Matthew Dudley approached the table at about the same time carrying two fresh cups of coffee.

“I hoped I would find the two of you together and I was correct to assume it would be here.  I got your text message last evening, Doc and we can talk about that in a minute.  First, I want to talk to Mr. Orley.”

“Mr. Orley, Señora Mercedes Santiago will be here at 10 o’clock to talk to you about the allegations you received.  She comes highly recommended and has considerable experience in similar matters.  It is obviously your decision, but I strongly suggest you seriously consider allowing her to represent you.”

“Thank you, Mrs. Duncan.  I can’t tell you how much I appreciate your support. Thank you.”

 

Isabella then motioned to Dudley to follow her.

When they had walked a short distance, she turned to face him.  “So, I got your somewhat cryptic message.  Can you tell me a bit more about what’s on Hannah’s mind before we drive all the way to Santa Fe?’

“I apologize, Isabella.  I’m still getting used to sending text messages.  Hannah wouldn’t tell me much more except that she had information about something that could potentially harm La Vida Aureo.  I believe it has to do with Mr. Orley, but I’m just inferring that from her brief comments.”

“Well, Doc, we both have a high level of confidence in Hannah’s judgment and I haven’t had lunch at La Fonda in a while.  What do you say we drive to Santa Fe and see what this is all about?”

 

Hannah Halverstrom was sitting in a quiet corner of the main dining room at La Fonda and rose to greet Isabella and Dudley.  “It is nice to see you both.  I suggest we order some lunch before I get to my reason for dragging you here.”

They ordered a light lunch and only picked at the food.  Isabella spoke.  “OK, Hannah, what is going on? I know you well enough to realize that it is something serious. What have you heard that could affect La Vida Aureo?”

“Hannah put down her for next to her own half-eaten salad. “Let me start at the beginning.  I was walking through the Plaza yesterday and came across what I soon realized was a press conference.  I recognized the speaker because his picture is plastered on billboards all over town and along the Interstate. I know you would both recognize George Heck, one of New Mexico’s favorite ambulance chasers.”

“Not the creepy little guy with the TV commercials?  Not the one who says, “In a wreck, Call George Heck.”   And “DUI, I’m your Guy!”?”

“The very same.  Normally, I would just cover my ears keep walking as fast as I can.  But, there was a woman with him and I heard him mention “some fancy retirement place in Albuquerque that harbors child molesters”. I stopped and moved closer to see what he was ranting on about.”

“Heck introduced the woman as Dr. Judith Ruehle, the renowned counselor and therapist.  He said the two of them had been working together to uncover cases of sexual abuse, particularly those involving fathers with underage daughters. He went on to claim that he had recently filed papers to bring a specific person to justice in the very near future.   He took a question from someone in the crowd. I’m assuming it was a reporter, but it could just as easily been one of the shills on his payroll, asking for Heck to name the alleged perpetrator and the location in Albuquerque.”

“I’m not a lawyer, but that would seem highly unethical to me,” claimed Isabella.

“Oh, it is, but consider the source.  That’s when I realized I needed to talk to you as soon as possible.  There is no doubt in my mind this will be in the Albuquerque Journal and probably on all of the local TV stations within a few days.”

“I doubt there is much we can do to stop Heck.  Donald Orley is one of our Residents and he is the person accused of sexually abusing his daughter.  My gut feeling is that he is innocent and I helped him get legal representation, but I don’t know what else we can do.”

“I might be able to help.  I was able to gather quite a bit of information about Dr. Ruehle which I believe would be helpful.  Through my real estate activities, I have a great many friends in the local GLTB community and many of them have had direct experience with her.”

“I’m not the most politically correct person, said Dudley, but isn’t it LGBTQ?”

Hannah laughed.  “Sorry.  I learned my version of the term from the people I worked with at Rainbow Vision and the Birds of a Feather community near Pecos.  They refer to themselves as GLTB, Gay and Lesbian Trust Fund Babies.  Many in the gay community have been ostracized by their families and are essentially forbidden to ever return.  So, the family sets up a Trust Fund as a way to buy them off and encourage them to “just go away”.”

“Really?” said Dudley.

“You would not believe some of the stories I’ve heard over the years.  But, back to Judith Ruehle. She has quite a reputation.  For a long time, she was based in one of those Earth Ship homes near Taos where she advocated a “Pray Away the Gay” program.  She convinced parents to send their young children to her for an extended period where she promised to re-program them to lose all of their “impure thoughts” about their sexuality.  At first, it was just psychological stuff like prolonged period of praying and some attempts at hypnosis. Later, she got hooked up with some people who introduced her to psychotropic drugs to enhance her effectiveness.  Some of the folks I know tell horror stories about their experience with her.  Fortunately, the local gay community is very supportive and has helped a number of Ruehle’s former “patients” recover and lead a productive and guilt-free life.”

“Do you think this woman has been involved with Orley’s daughter?”

“I don’t have any proof of that specific case, Doc, but my understanding is she often works to recreate or reconstruct memories as part of her “therapy”. Friends have told me that a typical Ruehle program involves creating some form of trauma in the person’s memory and then working to “cure” them.”

“Do you think it is possible that Heck and Ruehle have concocted a scheme to take vulnerable people and reconstruct memories to serve as the basis for suing people?”

“It might be a lot more lucrative than just chasing ambulances!”

 

Isabella had been quiet, listening intently to Hannah’s description.  “Hannah, thank you so much for alerting us to this situation.  Doc and I must get back to Albuquerque as quickly as possible.  There are certainly things we can do to support Mr. Orley, but my first responsibility is to La Vida Aureo.  I believe I need to develop some form of communication focusing on damage control.”

“You both mean so very much to me and I will continue to dig around for more information.  I will go back to my friends and ask if any of them would be willing to serve as witnesses regarding Ruehle’s behavior and her so-called therapy programs.”

“Thanks again, Hannah.  C’mon Doc, we need to go.”

 

Isabella Duncan was deep in thought as they sped south on I-25 toward Albuquerque.   She looked over at Dudley. “Doc, I’ll need to meet with La Doña Jaramillo as soon as possible and advise her of the situation.  I’m sure she’ll have some suggestions and may be able to exert some influence to keep this from exploding all over the media.  We also need to meet with Señora Santiago.  I’m certain Orley accepted her offer to represent him and we need to get her in contact with Hannah.”

“What can I do to help, Isabella?”

“I’ve been thinking, Doc.  I believe Orley’s daughter went to high school in Albuquerque.  If so, I suspect there are several women on our Staff who were contemporaries or maybe even friends. The same goes for the Community Assist Team. Talk to them and see what you can learn.  Someone may be able to shed some light on Ms. Orley.”

“I can do that, Isabella. We’re almost in Bernalillo and you might want to ease up on the gas pedal a bit before we get into Albuquerque proper.”

 

Chapter 7: Too Much Information

 

Isabella dropped Dudley at the front door of La Vida Aureo and headed toward Hacienda Estates where La Doña Jaramillo lived.  Isabella had been able to reach her by phone on the drive from Santa Fe and was eager to inform her of the recent events. As the Founder and principal Benefactor of La Vida Aureo, La Doña could be seriously impacted by the allegations toward a Resident.

Dudley wasn’t sure exactly where to start.  As he entered the Main Building, he instinctively walked toward the Dining Room in hopes of seeing Paloma Angostura. She would be able to guide him in the right direction. Many of the Staff gathered at the end of the day in the small room off of the Main Dining Room to wait for their ride home.  When he entered, he saw Arnetta Valencia among the women. “Could I please have a word with you, Arnetta?”

Dudley was uncomfortable and struggled for a way to begin a conversation about this sensitive subject, but was relieved when Arnetta suggested going into the Main Dining Room.  They took a table in a corner of the room and Dudley finally said, “Arnetta, what can you tell me about sexual abuse?”

“Oh, Mr. Dudley, abuse is a very complex subject with many forms and situations.  There are also many different reasons for its occurrence.”

“I apologize.  I really don’t have any knowledge about this and it is very difficult for me to even talk about it.  What can you tell me about any form of sexual abuse within families?”

“Again, it is a very complex subject.  I don’t mean to sound evasive, but it can take many forms.  In my opinion, it is always wrong and particularly if there is violence or force involved.”

Dudley didn’t respond.

“Mr. Dudley, I’ve come to know you through the Community Assist Team as a kind and somewhat shy person.  I sense there is a specific reason you’re asking about this very serious subject.  There has been some whispering around the building about a potential sexual abuse situation involving one of the Residents.  If I could borrow one of your frequent lines, “How can I help you?”  If you would share some additional information, strictly in confidence, I might be able to help you understand things.”

“I am reluctant to disclose a confidence, but I believe I must proceed.  You are correct.  A Resident has been accused of sexual abuse by his daughter. Based on what I know of the person, I find this allegation hard to believe.  To make things even more confusing, I learned some things recently about the daughter’s current environment which makes me question the entire situation.  There is a distinct possibility that she is being manipulated to make these claims, but I can’t prove anything.  The daughter has a history of various personal problems which likely makes her vulnerable.  I just don’t know and am trying to help.”

“In many cases, the person who abuses others was also abused, typically at some point in their youth. That situation is all too common in some environments.  It is one of the conditions Ray asked me to assist him with in his community. We’re trying to put an end to this inter-generational phenomenon. Would it be too much to ask the Resident’s name?”

“Arnetta, I trust you to keep this strictly to yourself. Don Orley is the Resident and his daughter’s name is Esme Marie.”

The expression on Arnetta’s face changed and her entire countenance darkened.  “Mr. Dudley, I can tell you what little I know about a person named Esme Orley, but much is based on rumors and stories that were passed on as secrets. It is possible it just may be one of Albuquerque’s notorious Urban Legends!”

“During the period I was in High School here in Albuquerque, there were frequent incidents of sexual activity as well as abuse. Typically, it was an older boy taking advantage of a younger girl, often involving force.  It is probably not politically correct for me to say this, but many of the girls actually enabled the situation.  It was a sign of so-called maturity or status for the girls to be seen with an older boy, particularly if the boy was recognized as a desired “catch”.  Dressing provocatively was a sure-fire way to get some naïve boy, even a Senior, to pay attention to you. On the occasions my Mother came to a school event, she always reminded me not to ever dress like “one of those little tarts!”

“It’s been a very long time since I was in high school, but I assume the boys on the football team were at the top of the Prize Catch List.”

“Things haven’t changed much at all.”

“What can you tell me about Esme Orley?”

“Again, I must qualify what I tell you because I don’t have any personal knowledge of her and it was a few years before my time and I suspect the story changed with each retelling. Apparently, Esme Orley ran with a particularly rough group of girls who were what you might call notorious for their behavior.  There are several versions of what actually happened, but it always involves some boys from the football team and some sexual violence.  The other consistent piece in all the stories is that there was ultimately a suicide of a student.”

“Oh, my God.  What happened? Was there an inquiry by the school or the police?”

“I don’t believe so.  There was never any explanation for the boy’s suicide.  However, all those elements of the story I mentioned are always repeated together. I can only assume there is some connection, but I don’t know what it might be.”

“Thank you, Arnetta. You’ve just given me another piece to a puzzle.  I appreciate your taking time to talk with me. I know it’s getting late.  Thank you again.”

 

When Dudley’s conversation with Arnetta was over, he realized it would be too late to try to talk to any of the women on the La Vida Aureo Staff.  “It is probably just as well,” he thought to himself. “I don’t think I’m ready to hear more about the subject”.

He walked slowly out of the building and aimlessly wandered the grounds and soon found himself at the Navajo Willow.  He sat quietly for the longest time, trying to absorb everything he had heard that day.

“Is this seat taken?”

Dudley looked up and saw Janetta Johari standing there.

“We were supposed to meet for dinner this evening, Matthew,” she said softly.  “Something must be wrong; you are too much of a gentleman to just stand me up.”

“Oh, Janetta, I am so sorry. It has been a very troublesome day and I guess I have a great deal on my mind. I came here to think and I guess I lost track of time.”

“Well, Matthew, if you’ll let me sit down, you can let all of those things out.  I am sure that keeping everything bottled inside hasn’t helped.”

“I’m sorry, again. Of course you can sit down.”  Dudley was too shy and embarrassed to admit just how much her physical presence meant to him.

He began slowly. “I don’t believe I mentioned that one of our Residents has been charged with sexually abusing his daughter when she was young.  My impression of this man is these allegations aren’t true, but I obviously can’t prove it.  Earlier today, I learned his daughter is being represented by one of the most unscrupulous lawyers in town who is apparently being assisted by a woman who claims to be the daughter’s therapist.  I also talked to Arnetta Valencia, whom you know from the Community Assist Team, to try and find out more about the daughter and her time in high school here in Albuquerque.”

“I went to high school in Albuquerque, but to different schools and slightly different times than Arnetta. What is the daughter’s name?”

“Esme Marie Orley.”

“Oh, Matthew, it is a truly sad story.  I knew Esme briefly.  We were both outcasts, half-breeds when we started high school.  At the time in Albuquerque, it was like a scene out of West Side Story with the Hispanic and Anglo kids always fighting about something.  Fortunately for me, no one paid much attention to a skinny black girl; there were only a few black kids in the entire school. Esme felt the same because of her mixed heritage.   She also felt her father had abandoned her as a child and her mother had recently died. She was adrift and desperately wanted to belong, be part of something.  For some reason, she started hanging out with a group of Hispanic girls called Las Cabeza y Colitas, a particularly bad choice.”

“Once again my Spanish is lacking, but Heads and Tails?”

“Unfortunately, yes. They always dressed provocatively and had a reputation for being particularly sexually active, hence their chosen name.  Soon after that, I lost contact with Esme, but heard she really went downhill from that point. I heard stories of excessive drinking and drug use and involvement with some boys on the football team.  There was also a suicide about the same time; a boy apparently killed himself on or near the football field.  I just don’t know anything for certain; I had begun taking a lot of classes at UNM and wasn’t at the high school very much.”

“Do you think her change in behavior was the result of something that happened to her at school?”

“I’m not sure.  Things just seemed to get worse for her over time.”

“What happened?  What did the school do?”

“Nothing!  The boys on the football team were pretty much exempt from any type of discipline and were able to do pretty much as they pleased. No one ever talked about it openly but rumors began circulating throughout the school.”

“What about Esme? Did she report this to the school or the police, or anyone?”

“She essentially avoided everyone.  Everything was simply rumors thereafter.”

“Well, it must have been a horrible situation because, according to Arnetta, those rumors eventually made it to every high school in Albuquerque.”

“Matthew, did you tell me that Esme is now charging her Father with abuse?”

“Yes.”

“I don’t understand. She blamed her Father for being away much of the time, but she never mentioned anything, at least to me, about any type of mistreatment and certainly not sexual abuse.”

“Well, that’s what she’s apparently claiming now.  But, based on what I learned in Santa Fe yesterday, Esme’s memories of what happened to her may have been “adjusted” to a great extent.  All those feelings that were repressed for so long have been used to construct a totally different version of events.”

 

Janetta placed her hand gently on Dudley’s arm. “Let’s go to dinner or at least for a walk.  I suggest Nob Hill.  There’s always something interesting or quirky which will help take your mind off this situation for a while.  If not dinner at Scalo’s, we can at least have dessert and coffee at Flying Star.”

Chapter 8: Always Something New in Nob Hill

Dudley and Janetta drove to the Nob Hill area where she was able to find a parking spot on a side street. They had agreed to just walk around for a while.  Dudley was always fascinated by the variety of shops located along Central Avenue; there seemed to be something for any possible interest or desire.  Only a few of them were of personal interest to Dudley, but the uniqueness of Nob Hill was helpful to his state of mind.

They had walked along hand in hand for almost an hour without speaking. As they approached the western edge of the Nob Hill area, they crossed Girard Boulevard and were nearing the University of New Mexico campus and Johnson Field.  The Field was a popular place for games and various physical activities, but was relatively quiet this evening.

Dudley noticed a person wandering across the field with no apparent direction. This person appeared to be a woman who was drunk or otherwise under the influence because of the erratic behavior.  The woman turned and began walking toward the sidewalk where Dudley and Janetta stood.

Janetta grabbed Dudley’s are.  “Matthew, Oh my God.  That looks like Esme Orley!  We should do something”

As they approached the woman, she collapsed onto the ground, mumbling, “He’s here.  I know it.  I have to find him.  I know this is the place.”

Janetta knelt down and put her arms around the woman. “It’s OK, Esme. You’re safe.  Let me help you.”

There was no response from the woman.  She started rocking back and forth and continued to mumble, but so incoherently Janetta couldn’t understand.

“Matthew, please get my car.  We can take Esme to my place. She’ll be safe there until we can figure out what’s going on.”

“I can do that, but should we call an ambulance or the police?”

“I believe the best thing we can do for right now is get her off the street.”

“I agree.  I’ll be back as quickly as possible.”

 

Dudley and Janetta got Esme Orley safely to Janetta’s condo and put her on the couch and covered her with a large comforter blanket.  Janetta made some herbal tea and was able to get Esme to drink a bit of it.

“She seems to have calmed down a bit.  Let’s get her into my guest bedroom and see if she can sleep.”

Dudley sat in the large easy chair in the living room and Janetta took the small chair in the guest bedroom. Esme slept fitfully and woke several times during the night, calling out.

Dudley had dozed off and was startled when his phone began buzzing.  He looked at the time and it was 9 o’clock in the morning.  It was a text message from Isabella Duncan, “Where are you? Are you OK?  Please call me ASAP.”

Dudley got out of the chair and walked to the bedroom. Janetta was barely awake, but it appeared that Esme was sleeping soundly.

“What is it, Matthew?  I thought I heard some buzzing.  Was that your phone?”

“Yes.  Isabella is looking for me. I’m going to step outside and call her. Are you sure you’ll be OK?”

Dudley stepped outside to call Isabella, but his phone buzzed again before he could place the call.  Hannah Halverstrom was calling. “Doc, I know it’s early but I have some important news.  A friend of mine told me Dr. Ruehle and George Heck took Esme Orley to Albuquerque yesterday and were keeping her in a hotel downtown. They’ve scheduled another press conference for later this morning.  I don’t know what they’re planning, but I thought you should be aware of their plans.”

“Thank for the call, Hannah.  I don’t know if I should tell you this, but I believe Esme somehow managed to escape and was wandering the near the University last evening. I was walking near there and saw her.  Right now, Esme is with a friend of mine, safe and sound.  I’m not sure exactly what to do next.  I was about to call Isabella when you called.”

“That’s good news, Doc.  I’ve learned a lot more about Dr. Ruehle’s so-called therapies and it seems as though she relies very heavily on a variety of mind-altering drugs.  I suspect they had Esme pretty well out-of-it to be able to transport her to Albuquerque.  I can’t imagine what role she could play in a press conference except to just sit there. Well, whatever you do, keep her away from those crazy people.”

“Right!  Gotta go; it’s Isabella again.”

“Isabella.  I know you’re looking for me.  Let me explain.  I was walking near the University last evening and discovered Esme Orley wandering in Johnson Field.  I suspect she had been drugged because she was really out of it.  Anyway, we took her to Janetta Johari’s place to get her off the street before anyone came looking for her. Right now, she’s just resting and we’re trying to allow her to recover from whatever she’s been given.  Our major concern is that she remain safe.”

“Well, you can imagine that Paloma and I were worried when you weren’t in the Dining Room this morning.  Paloma thought you might have stayed at Janetta’s, but I guess I didn’t realize your relationship had gone that far.   But, that’s a discussion for later.  What about Esme?”

“She’s OK, but I don’t know the extent of any drugs she’s been given.  Hannah just called to say that drugs were a routine part of Dr. Ruehle’s program.  Anyway, she also told me that Heck and Ruehle brought Esme to Albuquerque to hold another press conference.  So, given that, they may alert the police to start looking for her.”

“How do you suggest we proceed from here?  We’re on slippery grounds, you realize.”

Dudley thought a minute.   “My main concern is for Esme’s health and safety.  Would you please ask Mary Watson, La Vida Aureo’s Staff Nurse to come to Janetta’s?  I’d feel better if I knew that Esme was OK and recovering adequately and Mary could at least give us some assurance.  I don’t know what Heck might try in order to locate Esme.  I doubt he has a positive relationship with the Police, but I don’t know and I’m hesitant to get them involved at this point.  Would you also talk to Señora Santiago as soon as possible and bring her up to speed?”

“OK. I call Mary as soon as we hang up.  Should I ask Ms. Santiago to do anything?  She met with Mr. Orley the other day and I haven’t talked to ether of them since. What does this have to do with Esme?”

“I’ve been rolling all of these pieces around in my head and I have a strong suspicion that somehow Esme’s memories have been manipulated so she believes her father abused her.  It is probable that Esme was, in fact, abused, but NOT by her father. It is more likely it was some boy back in high school, but I don’t have any way to prove this.  If my suspicions are correct, then Heck and Ruehle are working together in some sort of fraud and extortion scam. Ms. Santiago needs to tell us how to expose this so that case against poor Don Orley gets thrown out.”

“OK, Doc, but we need to proceed carefully.”

 

Dudley went back inside.  Janetta had come to the kitchen and was making a fresh pot of coffee.  “Are you, OK, Janetta?  I know this has been a terrible shock and I doubt you got much sleep last night.  How are you holding up?”

“I’m a bit tired, Matthew, but doing OK, considering.  Esme is asleep and seems to be resting more peacefully than last night.   She really appeared out of it when we found her and I have no idea what she’s been through.  I suspect it will take several days for her to regain any sense of normalcy.   How are you doing?  I guess my easy chair is not nearly as comfortable as your own bed.”

Dudley blushed.  “I’m not doing too bad, considering.  That was Isabella on the phone wanting to know where I was.  I told her I was with you and that we rescued Esme Orley last night.   Fortunately, I think she was so interested in Esme she didn’t ask about my being in your place.  I’m sure that will come later.  More importantly, Mary Watson, the La Vida Aureo Staff Nurse will be by later to check Esme out, at least her vital signs.  Our first priority is her health.  I also got a call from Hannah Halverstrom.  She’s a friend who checked out the background on Dr. Ruehle, Esme’s so-called therapist. She said that Ruehle and George Heck brought Esme to Albuquerque and were planning another press conference. I don’t know how, but I assume somehow Esme managed to escape from them. I believe the safest thing to do would be to keep her here, at least until we have more information.”

“I agree and that won’t be a problem.  I’ll text my boss and let him know I won’t be in today.  We can go on a day-to-day basis for a while.”

“That would be great.  I hope it’s not too much of an imposition.”

“C’mon, Matthew, I’ve been trying to get you to spend the night here for some time!”

“Uh, OK, Um, Is the coffee ready?”

“Sure.  Do you have any idea why Esme found her way to Johnson Field?  It sounded like she was looking for something or someone, but, she was pretty incoherent and maybe that’s not what I heard.”

“No idea.  Hopefully, she’ll recover and can tell us a bit more.”

 

Mary Watson arrived while Dudley was finishing his second cup of coffee.  She quietly followed Janetta into the guest bedroom where Esme was stirring.

“Esme.  It’s Janetta. Janetta Johari.  You are safe.  You’re at my place and have had a pretty rough night.  This is my friend Mary.  She’s a nurse and she’s going to check you out a bit.  Is that OK?”

Esme drew back against the headboard, her eyes open wide.  “Janetta?  JJ? From high school? How did I get here?”

“Don’t worry, Esme.  The important thing is that you’re safe.  No one knows you’re here.  Just relax and let Mary have a look at you, please.”

Esme drew back further.  “No pills! No needles!  Stay away from me!”

Mary Wilson had considerable experience dealing with the older Residents at La Vida Aureo, some of whom could be quite cantankerous and difficult to work with.  She approached the bed quietly. “I just want to take your pulse and temperature.  Would it be OK if I held your arm and touched your wrist?”

Esme replied warily. “OK, but no funny stuff.  I’ll scream.”

Mary gently took Esme’s arm and felt for her pulse.  She then placed a thermometer in Esme’s mouth to take her body temperature.  All of that went without incident.  “May I put this wrap around your arm so I can take your blood pressure?”

Esme hesitated but finally consented.

“You will feel a squeeze as I pump up the arm band.  Nothing to worry about.  Then, I’ll decrease the pressure.  I’ll be here with you the whole time.  OK, here we go.”

Things were going smoothly and Esme seemed to be comfortable with Mary. Mary asked if she could listen to Esme’s heart and her breathing with the stethoscope.

“Thank you, Esme.  I appreciate your letting me check your vital signs.  I can tell you that you’re OK, but it wouldn’t hurt for you to get some more fluids and more rest.”

Mary turned to Janetta who was sitting quietly in the corner.  “I’m glad you called, Janetta.  You heard me tell Esme that she could use more fluids and rest. Can we look in your pantry and see what’s available?   I may be able to make some suggestions to help get her strength back.”

Janetta and Mary left the bedroom. Esme slid back under the covers and began breathing evenly.

In the kitchen, Mary turned to Janetta. “I don’t know all she’s been through, but I suspect it has been an ordeal.  I can understand her reaction to needles; her arms show she’s had multiple injections.  She’s weak, but I don’t see any permanent damage, at least no physical damage.  My recommendation is to keep her quiet and continue to reinforce the fact that she is safe. It would be best she see only you and Mr. Dudley for a while.  Let her rest and try to get as much food in her as possible.  If you need anything, you know where to find me.”

“Thank you so much, Mary.  I agree she’s probably been through quite a bit.  Hopefully, with some rest, she’ll feel like talking with me.”

After Mary left, Janetta looked in on Esme.  Esme had worked her way deeper into the covers and was sleeping soundly.  Janetta closed the bedroom door but left it slightly ajar in case Esme started stirring.  Janetta made herself a cup of tea and sat in the living room. Her phone buzzed and she was pleased to see that it Dudley calling.

“Matthew, how are you?  I hope Isabella wasn’t too upset with you for staying out all night.  I’m teasing. What did you learn? “

“Oh, she wasn’t upset at all, but she couldn’t resist making suggestive remarks about how I had spent last night.  Anyway, there are several things I want to tell you.  Isabela and I met with Señora Santiago and I feel much better about Don Orley’s prospects. Ms. Santiago had one of the investigators in her firm do some serious digging into Dr. Ruehle’s background and counseling activities. And, there’s already plenty of dirt surrounding George Heck.  It will still come down to a situation of “He said, she said” concerning the claims made against Orley. I suggested she get hold of Hannah Halverstrom for her contacts in the Santa Fe community. It is becoming more obvious this entire situation is about extortion.  The fact that Heck has held press conferences complicates things a bit which will have to be dealt with at some point.”

“Oh, I almost forgot.  I told her I found Esme Orley near the University and that she was safe somewhere locally. Ms. Santiago saw that as really good news. If it turns out that Esme deliberately escaped, it is a further indication she was being held captive.  We haven’t told Don Orley we have Esme.  Another piece of good news is that his other daughter, Melanie, is driving to Albuquerque from Arizona and she can be a character witness for Don if things ever go that far.  In the meantime, it is comforting to him for her to be here.  I think that’s about everything from here.  How are you? How is Esme?”

“Everything here is fine.  Thank you for sending Mary Watson. She checked Esme over and she’s in pretty good condition, despite whatever she’s been through.  When will I see you?”

“I have one or two small projects to do here and then I’ll walk over.  I can watch things and you can get some well-deserved rest.  I should be there in about an hour.”

“Don’t forget your toothbrush, Matthew!”

 

 

Chapter 9: The Incident

Things were relatively quiet for the next two days.  Dudley and Janetta took turns sitting in the Living Room and listening for any change in Esme’s condition or behavior. Dudley managed to get back to La Vida Aureo for a few hours each day to address any major maintenance or repair issues.  Janetta managed to gain Esme’s confidence and introduced Dudley.  Esme gradually began to eat solid food and her overall condition improved and she gained strength.  Mercedes Santiago had contacts within the Albuquerque Police and there had been no indication that George Heck had tried to locate Esme.

Late in the afternoon of the third day, Dudley and Janetta were reviewing Esme’s progress while she was taking a shower. “At some point, Janetta, we need to tell Esme about the allegations made on her behalf against her Father.  Yesterday, I had the opportunity to spend some time with Don Orley and his daughter Melanie.  I asked Melanie if she could think of anything in Esme’s past that provide a clue regarding her recent behavior. She is a few years older and they were not very close.  She said Esme always took their father’s absences personally and thought it was an indication that he didn’t love her. Melanie said she remembered trying to get Esme to stop hanging around with a particular gang of girls in high school, but Esme told her to mind her own business. It was shortly after this that Esme came home late one night looking like she’d been in a fight; she was scratched and her clothes were torn.  Despite Melanie’s repeated efforts, Esme refused to talk about it.”

“What do you think about that story?  Do you believe Melanie’s description of a fight is correct?”

“It certainly could have been a fight, given what you’ve told me about that particular gang of girls. But the more I think about her situation, I am convinced that she was sexually abused at some point and her memories of this incident have been twisted so she blames her Father.  The situation Melanie described could actually be that incident.  Only Esme knows for sure.”

That evening, Esme came into the Living Room and politely asked for a cup of tea.  She sat down on the sofa across from Dudley.  Janetta returned in a few minutes with the tea and sat the cup on the coffee table.  Esme looked up.  “Thank you for the tea, JJ and for all you’ve done for me these past few days.  Please sit here next to me.”

Janetta let Esme enjoy the first sips of tea and allowed the quietness to persist.  She took Esme’s hands in hers.  “Esme, there are some things you need to be aware of, but it probably makes more sense for you to tell us about the therapist, Dr. Ruehle, and how she came into your life.”

“I was staying at the Canyon Road Center in Santa Fe, actually a very fancy rehab place.  I don’t know how he swung it, but my Father got me in there.  Thera are lots of rehab places in New Mexico and many of them are just as bad as being on the street.  I don’t know how or why, but my Father had tolerated years of my reckless behavior.  I was convinced for many years that my Father didn’t love me because he was gone so much when I was young.  I blamed my distorted view of life on him. Anyway, after a few weeks at the Canyon Road place, I began to realize that he really loved me and had worked his ass off to provide for our family.  It was just the nature of his job and he was good at it and so he went where the work was.”

“One day, a woman came up to me in the courtyard and started talking.  She told me of some new techniques that would help me stay clean and sober for the rest of my life.  I told her I thought I was making progress were I was and would be hesitant to start something new. She persisted and I finally gave in. I don’t know how, but she arranged for me to be transferred to her facility in Taos in one of those fancy Earth Ship places.  She began with what she described as “deep hypnosis aided by brain stimulants”.  I would get an injection and then put in a deep trance.  She said it was necessary to go deep into my memory and discover all the traumas of my life which were responsible for my relapses.  These would then be erased and I would be able to remain clean and sober.”

“That sounds pretty intense to me and a bit scary.”

“Well, JJ, I really don’t remember very much about it.  In fact, I really don’t remember much about the time I spent in Taos. I vaguely remember being led around a house or someplace where I stayed.  I remember being in a car or van and driving for a long time.  I remember something about walking around in a field.”

“OK, Esme.  It’s time for some serious talk.  Matthew and I are here to help you.  We are pretty sure that this Ruehle woman kept you drugged and hypnotized you for several months.  During that time, she really messed with your mind. We believe she manipulated your memories of some important and probably traumatic events.  It would be helpful if there is something you could tell us.  Was there ever anything your Father did of an inappropriate nature?”

“You mean like did he ever try to touch me or anything like that?”

“Or worse?

“Of course not!  I may have been angry with him for a very long time, but he never did anything to me.  He never even paddled me when I was a little girl, despite some of the stupid stunts I pulled. Why would you even ask me that?”

“We’ll come to that in a minute,” said Dudley. “Was there ever a situation of a sexual nature by someone else?  I know this is difficult, Esme, but trust me, it is very important.  We need to tell you what has happened so you’ll understand why we’re asking these difficult questions.”

Esme drew her legs under her on the sofa.  The look on her face indicated fear and defensiveness.

Janetta moved closer and put an arm around Esme’s shoulder,

Dudley took a deep breath. “Dr. Ruehle and her partner, a very disreputable lawyer, have filed a law suit claiming your Father sexually abused you as a young person and they are seeking considerable financial compensation.  They intend to hold you up as a witness and you will say their claim is true.”

“Well, that’s simply not true.  I would never do such a thing to my Father.”

“Miss Orley, there have been other cases where this has happened.  Usually, the accused person agrees to settle the matter before it can go to a public trial.  Dr. Ruehle and her lawyer partner have been working this scam for a while; you are just the latest example. That’s why we’re asking your help.”

“It appears Dr. Ruehle has been conditioning you for this through drugs and hypnosis.  We can only assume there is some traumatic sexual event in your memories Ruehle was able to tap into to create this fraudulent case against your father.  Can you think of something?

“I realize now that I was being held captive and they were using me.  I cannot tell you how much I appreciate the two of you rescuing me.”

“In reality, Esme, you had already escaped from them.  We found you wandering around Johnson Field and brought you here.”

“No matter, JJ, They would have eventually found me.”

“You are safe now, Esme. When we first found you, you were saying something about a boy.  You said you were looking for him near the athletic field. Was there some boy who hurt you? Maybe when you were in high school?”

“No. I hurt a boy.”

“Did those girls in that gang, what were they called? Las Cabeza y Colitas, or something like that have anything to do with it?”

“Oh, JJ, I’ve never told anyone about this, even my sister and certainly no one else. It was so terrible.  I didn’t mean for him to die.”

“Esme, we are here for you.  It would help if you got the whole story out once and for all.”

Esme relaxed a bit and took a deep breath.  “In high school, I started hanging out with a group of girls so I would feel part of something.  They told me I could be part of their group, but first I had to undergo some kind of initiation. I had to seduce and humiliate an Anglo boy to prove I was truly Hispanic and belonged with these girls. I picked out a shy boy named Ronnie who was a year younger and lured him onto the football field one night. When he realized what I was trying to do, he panicked and ran away.  To save face, I told the other girls the boy couldn’t perform because of his tiny penis.  They began teasing him and would whisper pequeño pene or simply “PP” when they walked past him.  The taunting became so intense, the boy eventually committed suicide by hanging himself in the stadium near where I tried to seduce him.”

“Oh, Esme, that’s terrible. You can’t blame yourself for that.”

“But, a lot of other people did. What I didn’t realize was that Ronnie was a favorite of the Anglo boys on the football team.  He would help them with their homework and often ghost write papers for them. When these boys figured out the events leading to his suicide, they sought revenge.  They grabbed me one afternoon and locked me in a storage room near the stadium. They returned that evening and took me to the very spot of the botched seduction where they repeatedly raped me.”

Dudley gasped.  “What happened?  What did the school do?”

“Nothing!  The boys on the football team were pretty much exempt from any type of discipline and were able to do pretty much as they pleased. No one ever talked about it openly but there were some rumors circulating throughout the school.”

“Are you certain it was boy from the football team? “

“I’m certain even though they wore ski masks.  One said, “This is for Ron.” Several called me half-breed.  To make sure I knew who had raped me, they continued to call me that afterward and put a sign in my locker so I wouldn’t forget.”

“Oh, Esme, I suspect Ruehle was able to manipulate your memory of the boy Ron into your father Don as well as twisting the entire sequence of events. I’m not a psychiatrist, but keeping those traumatic events bottled up inside you for so long must have been difficult.”

“Not if you can get enough stuff to numb yourself!  That’s how I spent most of my life since then.  Everyone avoided me and I had to learn to survive on my own.”

“Was there nowhere you could turn? No one offered to help?

“Not really. I’ve been with numerous counselors over the years in a bunch of rehab programs, but they all seemed to find a way to blame me for what happened. No one ever showed me as much love and understanding as the two of you.  Thank you.”

The three of them sat quietly for a few minutes, each absorbing all that had happened in their own way.  Finally, Dudley spoke up. “Esme, you are very brave; it took a great deal of courage to describe all that has happened.  I’m not exactly sure what the next steps should be, but I think talking to Mercedes Santiago makes the most sense.  Let me call Isabella and arrange that.  Esme, your Sister drove here the other day and is staying with your Father at La Vida Aureo.  Do you feel up to meeting with them?”

“Not quite yet.  I miss them both terribly, but would like to spend another day or two here and get stronger.  I also want to make sure we can resolve this issue concerning my Father and exactly what role I need to play.”

“That makes sense.  If it’s OK with Janetta”

“It shouldn’t be a problem for me at work. I imagine the safest thing is for us to stay inside.  I don’t know what George Heck has done and I don’t want to risk having Esme spotted on the street by the Police.”

“I would really appreciate that, JJ.  I’d like to hear what you’ve been up to since high school.  I imagine you have a great career by now.”

 

Dudley excused himself, saying there were some relatively urgent repairs he needed to attend to at La Vida Aureo.  He was confident that Esme would be in good hands and would remain safe at Janetta’s place.  He agreed with the idea of her taking a few more days to gather herself.  After all, she had only recently escaped from Ruehle’s clutches and bogus therapy.  Dudley realized the most important thing he could do was to meet with Isabella and Mercedes Santiago and develop a strategy for moving forward. He was hopeful Señora Santiago could have the charges against Don Orley dismissed quickly and without a trial or hearing. He would press to have Esme protected from any lengthy legal maneuverings and avoid having to repeat her story in a public setting.

 

 

Chapter 10: All’s Well …

The next several days were a flurry of activity.  Dudley knew Mercedes Santiago from her reputation handling La Vida Aureo’s affairs, but had never had any direct dealing with her.  Isabella had arranged for the three of them to meet in her personal conference room. After only a few minutes into their first meeting, he understood why Isabella had recommended her to handle Orley’s situation.

“Mr. Dudley, I’m not going to ask you the current whereabouts of Ms. Orley.  I trust she is in good hands and safe.  I also won’t bore with the legal details of my recent meeting with Assistant District Attorney Susan Otero.  Suffice it to say that she has convinced Mr. Heck to withdraw his suit against Mr. Orley.  Esme Orley will not have to appear or provide a formal statement.  As it turns out, she never personally claimed anything.  Heck’s ill-advised strategy was simply to present her as the victim and rely on Dr. Ruehle’s testimony to prove the alleged abuse had actually occurred.  I believe Heck never intended to go to trial; he assumed Mr. Orley would settle rather than be subjected to public scrutiny and embarrassment. There will be some additional paperwork to complete, but I suspect everything will be completed by week’s end. There is nothing further required of you.”

“That is very good news, Ms. Santiago.  What about Dr. Ruehle?  Will she face any charges?”

“Ah, yes; most certainly.  ADA Otero is preparing fraud and extortion charges related to her so-called counseling activities.  Because of the amount of money involved, there may also be racketeering charges.  I want to thank you for facilitating the contact with Ms. Halverstrom in Santa Fe.  Through her many connections, several other persons have come forward to provide additional information regarding Dr. Ruehle’s methods.  I don’t know if any of the money she extorted over the years can be recovered, but it certainly affects the severity of the charges.”

“What about Heck?”

“He will be named a co-defendant in the extortion cases.  It appears that he and Dr. Ruehle had been working together for some time. It is unclear at this time exactly which one of them came up with the overall scheme. That’s not really my concern; things are in ADA Otero’s very capable hands. My last involvement was to file a petition requiring Heck to remove all of his advertising billboards from around town.  At the very least, we should be rid of that eye sore!”

 

A few days later, Matthew Dudley was sitting in the Dining Room reading The Wall Street Journal when Don Orley walked in.  “Mr. Dudley, I wonder if I could ask a favor?”

“Certainly, Don.”

“Do you think Mrs. Duncan would mind if I used the Library for a while one afternoon later this week?”

“I’m sure she would approve.  Why don’t you just ask her?  I think she’s in her office.”

“Well, I’d like to have a little get-together and I’d like you and Mrs. Duncan to attend.  My daughters and I would like to thank everyone for all they’ve done.  Melanie, Esme and I had our own private family reunion a few days ago and we want to acknowledge all of you.  Esme has insisted that Ms. Johari attend and I would appreciate it if Mrs. Duncan could invite Ms. Santiago as well.”

“That is a very nice gesture, Don, but I’m sure we all know how much your family appreciates the support.”

“I understand, but we would really like to say Thank You in public.”

“I’ll talk to Isabella.  If I could make a suggestion, I think it would be better to use Isabella’s small Conference Room rather than the Library. It’s is a more private setting and away from the other Residents.”

“Whatever you suggest.  Thanks for helping me set this up.”

 

About a week later, Dudley saw Orley in the Main Lobby.  “Don, you look particularly happy this morning. I hope you have more good news to tell me.”

“Doc, things are working out even better than I could have ever expected.  Mrs. Duncan arranged for Esme to work with a very reputable counselor locally and she will be moving to half-way home nearby so we can visit often.  Her spirits are good and she has been making plans for the next stage of her life. She approached the local United Way and is exploring several volunteer opportunities.  It seems as though there are several local non-profit organizations offering a variety of services to support women. Esme has also been talking to Miss Valencia to help her decide which situation would be best for her. Esme’s goal is to gain a full-time position.”

“That is really good news, Don.  Arnetta Valencia has considerable experience and can be a big help to Esme.”

“I’ve offered to make a significant donation to provide financial support to the Agency Esme joins.  It seemed like the very least I could do.  I’m just so happy Esme has finally developed some positive direction in her life.  She has been through some really rough times; I never realized all she’d been through.”

“Good for you, Don.  If there is ever anything I can do, just let me know.”

“Well, now that the worst is behind me, Larry and I plan to get back to looking for lost gold mines!  I’m sure one of us will be calling on you soon.”

 

Dudley headed toward the main staircase when Isabella motioned to him.  “OK Doc, your vacation is over.  You need to get back to being our resident Handyman.”

“Ouch!

Then, in an attempt to prevent any further teasing from Isabella, Dudley tried to change the subject.  “I guess I lost track of things, but I forgot to ask you about your meeting with La Doña Jaramillo.  I can only assume she was quite upset that La Vida Aureo would be dragged through the dirt by George Heck.”

“Let’s just say that I’ve had more pleasant meetings with her. She was primarily concerned about the reputation of La Vida Aureo which she has spent much of her life developing.  I learned one other thing about this remarkable woman, but only after I received the sternest lecture of my professional career.”

“I assume you still have your job, so she must have forgiven you!”

“Very funny, Doc.  I learned to never underestimate her influence in this town.  A few well-placed phone calls essentially prevented any unfavorable information making the TV or newspapers.  The fact that Heck and Ruehle held their initial press conference in Santa Fe also helped.  Many people in Albuquerque are skeptical of almost anything that originates in The City Different!  And, George Heck’s sleazy reputation didn’t help the credibility of the entire situation.”

“Well, the fact that Esme had been carefully hidden made it much less likely for Heck and Ruehle to hold a press conference.  I mean, without their Star Witness, they really didn’t have much reason to go public.”

“True, but you don’t actually think I was going to mention that to La Doña, do you? Besides, when I first spoke to her, we didn’t know where Esme was. We had to assume Heck would produce her at the Albuquerque press conference.”

“Anyway, Isabella, I’m glad you are still in Señora Jaramillo’s good graces.  It would be quite different without you around here.”

“Right.  Now wipe that smirk off your face and tell me how things are with Mr. Orley.  I noticed him as he was leaving and he looked very relaxed and happy. Everything continues to look bright for him and his family?”

“Yes.  Don is grateful for your recommending a reputable counselor for Esme.  She seems to be gaining control of her life and is enthusiastic about her future.  All’s well that ends well, then?”

“I believe so. As always, thank for your help, Doc.  Just one thing.  The next time you decide to stay out all night, please let me know.  Leave a sock on your door knob, or something!”

 

Once Dudley was certain he had completed all the items on his ToDo List, he headed to the kitchen where he found Paloma Angostura preparing the evening meal.

“Good evening, Señor Doc. I can only assume the smile on your face tells me you have other plans for dinner this evening.”

“Your powers of observation continue to amaze me, Señora. Yes, I plan to have a quiet dinner with Miss Johari this evening.  It has been a very stressful time for both of us and it will be a pleasant change to just sit quietly and enjoy each other’s company.”

“Bueno!  I have the greatest respect for you and Miss Johari and your kindness has been the reason everything turned out well for the Orley family.  Have a most peaceful evening.  I will take care of Isabella when she comes looking for you. And finally, I do not expect to see you here for breakfast!”   Then, Paloma embraced Dudley.  “Dios te bendiga, Señor Doc, God Bless You!”

 

It was only a short walk to Janetta’s condo and Dudley was unable to sort through the many thoughts in his head.  He cared deeply for Janetta and they certainly had grown closer as they supported Esme Orley.  From their first meeting at the Community Assist Team, he had the utmost respect for her and he admired everything about her.  But, Dudley could not shake the notion that he was simply a “Place Holder” in her life.  Surely this remarkable woman would be happier with a younger man to be her partner for many years to come.

He had not resolved these conflicting thoughts when Janetta opened the door to greet him.  “Matthew, I am so glad to see you!”

Before he could respond, she had embraced him and held him tightly to her.  “Matthew, I missed you so much. I cannot tell you how comforting it is to have you so close to me.”

They held each other tightly for several minutes before Janetta said, “We better go inside before the neighbors start to gossip!”

Janetta had made some light snacks and they sat together and sipped wine but barely touched the food.  There was really no need to discuss Esme Orley and the emotional events of the recent past.  In fact, nothing much needed to be spoken aloud.  There was a deep and mutual understanding of what had happened and they both realized how the intensity of the situation had brought them closer together.  They sat together for several hours and made mostly small talk.  Finally, Janetta smiled and said, “Matthew, you’ve had a second glass of wine and I’m concerned about your walking home in the dark.  I believe your toothbrush is still in the bathroom!”

 

The next morning, as Dudley walked back to La Vida Aureo, he felt a deep sense of warmth and emotional well-being surrounding him and he was certain it was not from the New Mexico morning sun.