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?”


“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.”