Case III: Damsels, Don Juan, Drama and Death
Case III: Chapter 1: The Queer Quartet
After several months in his new role as La Vida Aureo’s resident Handyman, Dudley had settled into a reasonable daily routine. He had an early morning exercise session with Hans followed by a healthy breakfast in the main dining room. After breakfast, he enjoyed a third cup of coffee while he read the entire Wall Street Journal. Each day, a distinguished gentleman placed the paper in the same spot and nodded to Dudley as he left the room. It was Señora Angostura who told Dudley that this gentleman was a retired senior executive with New Mexico Power and Light Company, the primary utility service in the State. He had no family in the area and opted to live at La Vida Aureo, primarily for the socialization.
After reading the paper, Dudley reviewed his ToDo list of maintenance and repair requests and assigned a priority and level of difficulty to each. He also attempted to accommodate the schedules and personal preferences of the individual residents as well as “grouping” the tasks by type (electrical, plumbing, etc.). Over these past few months, he had become familiar with most of the residents and had learned which ones make legitimate repair requests and which ones simply want to “visit”. He had come to realize that many residents, both men and women, are lonely or adjusting to this new stage in their life. He dids not object to a bit of conversation as long as it doesn’t interfere with his repair work and that it remains “above board”. As Isabella described, there are lonely people, harmless flirts and a few “desperate housewives”. Dudley had become more adept at spotting the differences and the early warning signs.
One particular morning, Dudley had to alter his schedule to urgently repair a rather nasty leaking toilet. As a consequence, he found himself reading the paper and reviewing his ToDo list through lunch. He did not notice the group of four women who had congregated at a table at one end of the room until he overheard them talking. Dudley took his dishes into the kitchen and said gracias to Señora Angostura for accommodating the change in his schedule. “I noticed four women sitting at a table. Do they come in here often?”
“Oh, yes, they are here three or four times a week. They pretend to play cards or dominoes, but they really just sit and talk with each other for several hours. I do not know them personally, but they seem very different from each other. It is none of my business, but they do not seem to like each other very much.”
“What makes you say that?”
“One time, when I went to their table to see if I could get anything for them, I was able to hear a bit of their conversation. It sounded pleasant enough, but I sensed a lot of anger in their voices and on their faces. I do not know if they are angry at each other, or at themselves, but things are not as pleasant as they seem.”
“But, they still continue to meet?”
“Yes, so perhaps I was there at a bad time.”
“Oh well, Señora, I must be on about my chores for this afternoon; buenos dias.”
Dudley decided that Señora Angostura was correct; it was none of his business and he proceeded to one of the casitas to address an electrical problem. The resident called about an hour ago to say that her power had gone out in the kitchen. He hoped that it was only a faulty circuit breaker and nothing more serious.
Over the next few days, Dudley had occasion to stop in the dining room at various times during the afternoon and each time, this same group of four women were situated at the same table. While their voices were not raised, the conversation nevertheless seemed quite animated.
On Tuesday, Dudley stopped by the dining room for a quick lunch before resuming his repair work. He preferred to eat a modest lunch of fruit in the courtyard, but a brief rain shower had forced him inside. The same four women were ensconced at their table playing cards. He glanced up to notice a man walking into the dining room; actually, this man was strutting! Dudley tried not to be obvious and to keep a straight face as he continued to watch this scene unfold. The man was probably in his mid to late 50s with classic Hispanic features of dark hair and bronze complexion. But, it was his clothes, mannerisms and actions that intrigued Dudley. He wore black boots adorned with silver with a two-inch heel and a sleeveless tee shirt that was perhaps two sizes too small. His pants appeared to be painted on and were crowned with a large silver and turquoise belt and matching buckle. As he entered the room, he nodded to everyone, whether they acknowledged him or not. He stopped at several tables, always occupied by women, and leaned over and spoke to them. Dudley noticed that he put his hand on the shoulder of several of the younger women present and seemed to lean even closer to speak.
As if guided by some sort of macho radar, the man headed toward the table where the four women sat. They had obviously noticed his entrance, but continued their card game without looking beyond their respective hands. Despite their apparent lack of interest, they were unable to deter his inevitable approach. As he stood near their table, he seemed to stand a bit taller and puff out his chest to extend his area of influence. He spoke to each of the women in turn as he placed his hand on their shoulder. With one of the women, his hand seemed to linger a bit longer and he leaned closer and spoke to her ear. There was no reaction on her part. Apparently satisfied that he had paid homage to the assembled women, or at least the ones he had chosen to bestow his charms on, he turned and began to walk back across the dining room. Dudley ducked his head in order to avoid eye contact. He was afraid that he would not be able to keep a straight face as this man strolled past. But, to no avail; the man not only stopped, but sat down across the table from Dudley.
“You must be the new Maintenance Man. My name is Cesar Ramirez.”
Dudley stifled a smile and remembered his manners. “My name is Matthew Dudley and I am the resident Handyman. Most people call me Doc.”
When he got a closer look, it was apparent that Ramirez had put considerable effort into his grooming before making his entrance. Dudley was no expert, but the man’s hair looked too black to be natural and the silver streaks seemed a bit too perfect. But, it was hard to tell for certain because of the amount of what looked like 10W-30 motor oil he used to construct the slicked-back, pompadour style. Elvis had NOT left the building!
“I come in here nearly every day to visit the ladies, but haven’t seen you here before.”
“I usually eat my lunch in the courtyard, but the rain forced me inside today.”
“My day wouldn’t be complete without taking time to say something pleasant to all the ladies and this is the best place to catch them all.”
“I noticed. You seemed to pay particular attention to that group of four ladies over there.” Dudley decided he would satisfy his own curiosity a bit.
“Oh, those four are my favorites; I call them The Queer Quartet because they are so different. The “perky” one next to the window, that’s Dolores, but she’s certainly not dolorosa; she is always happy and sees the brighter side of every situation. Sitting across from her is Mary, the one in the wheelchair. I knew her before her biking accident. She was a real beauty then, but the accident changed her completely. And, after her husband deserted her and ran off with a much younger woman, she basically gave up. The fact the he ran off with her nurse made it that much more painful. My favorite of the four is Carmine, my Italian spice. We both have that “hot Latin blood” and she’s really something, but she always plays hard-to-get with me. Finally, the one dressed up like a beauty queen across from Carmine is Estelle-Elena. She’s a real flirt and I know she’s crazy about me from all the suggestive remarks she makes. I just don’t want to be one of her conquests; I have my pride, you know.”
“The four of them meet here two or three times a week. They pretend to play mah-jongg or dominoes or cards, but it is really just a hen-fest. They could not be more different in every way and I wouldn’t call them friends, but they seem to really need each other. I guess that’s why they continue to meet.”
That was really more information than I want or needed, Dudley thought to himself. “Well, I thank you for your time and the description of those ladies. It always helps me be a better Handyman if I know a bit more about the residents and guests.”
“No problem. I’m just trying to do my part to help out. I must be going. I go to the physical therapy room every afternoon to work out. Got to stay in shape and look my best for all the ladies. They depend on me, you know. Well, adios, amigo; I hope to see you again.”
“I’m sure.” said Dudley as he got up to leave and attend to his ToDo list. He assumed that Cesar was relatively harmless and provided a bit of entertainment and levity for many of the residents.