Case XIII: Chapter 10: All’s Well …

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.”


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.




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