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?”
“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.”