Thursday, April 28, 2022

Portrait of Miss Emmalee, A 5-Part Serial – Part 5

dontravis.com blog post #547

 Image courtesy of Fixthephoto.com

 



What can some woman named Hilda Winemaker, who lives in the far corner of the state, tell Richie about his mom and Miss Emmalee? Can she confirm what he suspects or lead him somewhere else? Here’s the conclusion to the story. Enjoy.

 

****

                                                      PORTRAIT OF MISS EMMALEE

 Hilda Winemaker reminded me of Miss Emmalee. Not in looks, but in personality. She was as elegant as her childhood friend. She welcomed me into her home and led me to a sunny breakfast nook where a light lunch was already laid out. She chatted like we were old friends as we ate, and I came to understand the friendship that had existed between Hilda and Emmalee. But life took them on different paths, and while they remained in touch, the companionship was lost.

Once the dishes were cleared away, we sat with coffee and a light sherbet for dessert. She leveled a green-eyed stare at me and asked what I wanted to know.

“It must be of some importance to you to bring you all the way up to Tulsa to meet an old woman.”

I smiled at the thought. “I’d hardly call you that, ma’am.”

“If you don’t start calling me Hilda, you can clear out of my house.”

“Okay, Hilda. First, I have to tell you, I was estranged from my family for several years.”

“I know that. Tossed out on your ear by your father at seventeen, I believe it was.”

My ears flamed. “Yes, ma’am. And if you know that, you likely know the reason why, as well.”

“Yes. Your father was a narrow-minded bigot. He didn’t believe you had a right to choose your own direction.”

“Delicately put. He couldn’t stand a pansy in his life. At the time, I recall my mother said something about violating a contract. I asked about it, and she said the unwritten contract between parents and a child.”

“Not exactly forthright, I’d say. But understandable.”

“Can I be blunt, Hilda?”

“We won’t get anywhere if you don’t.”

“I’ve run across things that have raised some questions in my mind about… well, frankly, about my mother and Miss Emmalee.”

Hilda’s laugh was like silver striking crystal. “Given your own life choices, I can see where your mind led you. But let me assure you, the thing that bound those two women together was not a matter of the flesh. Well, indirectly, I suppose it was, but not in the way you’re thinking.”

She paused and left me wondering if I was going to have to pry it out of her question by question.

The woman leaned back in her chair and relaxed, making me realize how tense I was. Finally, she asked a question. “Where were you born, Richie?”

“In Sidney.”

“No, you weren’t. You were born here in Tulsa.”

“But—”

“Hush now, and let me tell you a story. Many years ago, Emmalee Vanderport and I ran around everywhere together. Everyone considers us prim and proper now, but that wasn’t always the case. For a time, we were rounders. There was a third girl… woman to our group. She was from another part of the state, but we’d met her at college and kept in touch afterward. That was your mom. She was married and a bit more sober and considerably less affluent than we were, but she was lively and likeable, and pleasant to be around. So when it happened, she was naturally the one Emmalee turned to.”

“When what happened?”

“When you happened.”

I shook my head. “I… I don’t understand.”

“Let me tell you my story, and you will. Both your mother and Emmalee are dead and gone, so you should know the facts. Emmalee’s father was a doting father, indulged her shamelessly, but he was very strict about certain things. And one of those things was having a child out of wedlock. Emmalee got pregnant by a young man she met in school when he visited Sidney. To see her, I think. She was besotted by him beyond all reason. Emmalee had a good head on her shoulders except when it came to… well, let’s just call him John.

Hilda took a sip of her lukewarm coffee. “She surrendered to him one night in the firm expectation he was interested in marriage. It was only afterward that she learned he was already affianced to a girl from Virginia. In fact, they wed shortly thereafter. Your real father never knew that she had his child.

“When Emmalee learned she was expecting, she came to me up here in Tulsa. Confessing her condition to her father was impossible. She knew exactly what he would do. He’d find out who’d compromised his precious daughter and gone after the culprit. Then he’d do what your supposed father did to you. Throw her out. Emmalee was a strong woman, but not that strong. While the rest of the world thought Emmalee Vanderport was touring the world, she was hiding out up here in Tulsa with me.”

Hilda toyed with her sherbet spoon. “It was my idea to contact your mother. We knew and trusted her character, but we didn’t know the man she married. He had to be involved, of course, and agreed once he learned Emmalee intended to give you an inheritance the only way she could. Her grandmother had left her a trust and she transferred it over to your mother. Fortunately, she was wise enough to put everything in your mother’s name.”

I nodded. “Forever earning his enmity.”

She gave a wan smile. “He was resentful because Mary, the woman you called mother, wouldn’t take anything out of the trust except a modest monthly income. The money was for you. He wanted to live the lifestyle, and he took his revenge when he threw you out of the house at the first opportunity.” Hilda met my gaze squarely. “Emmalee did not intend to cause you troubles, but she did her best to ameliorate things. She—”

“She paid for my room and saw to it that I had a job.”

“She also expected your mother—well, the woman you called mother—would be able to overcome her husband’s animosity. You took care of things yourself, when you volunteered in the army as soon as you graduated high school.” She smiled. “And you’ve turned out very well. Very well, indeed.”

Except that I was gay—maybe because of the bastard of a father they’d chosen for me—and went without a family for a few years, but I didn’t say that. “Why didn’t they tell me any of this?”

“Emmalee swore everyone to secrecy. There were only two provision she put in the trust. One was that Mary and your so-called father had to move to Sidney so Emmalee could watch you grow up, and the other was that you were never to know about your real parentage.”

“So that’s the contract they referred to the day he tossed me out on my ear. He didn’t break it by throwing me out, but he could have by telling me about the deal.”

“Exactly. But now that you know, what are you going to do?”

“Nothing.”

“You aren’t going to violate her privacy?”

“I wouldn’t do that to my mom… either of them.”

“Wonderful.”

****

I thought hard on the drive back to Sidney. Now that I knew, I understood Miss Emmalee’s frown. Mother’s frown. It must have plucked her heartstrings every time she saw me. I regretted that I hadn’t been able to show her more of the real me, but she saw to it that I couldn’t. Well, I’d solved the puzzle. And yet, there were still only two things important to me. Cars and Jorge. Not even a million and a half smackers could eclipse either of them. But they might enhance them. I’d figure that out later.

****

No wonder Miss Emmalee kept an eye on Richie in his teen years. She was actually his mother. But tell me something. Do you think Miss Emmalee was a strong woman? Wouldn’t a strong mother have revealed herself, at least, after her father died. But we all do things in our own way, don’t we? Thanks for hanging with me through five installments.

Next week, we’ll try something different.

Until then.

Stay safe and stay strong.

Now my mantra: Keep on reading and keep on writing. You have something to say… so say it!

A link to The Cutie-Pie Murders:

https://www.dropbox.com/s/ambxgy7e5ndmimk/CutiePieMurders%5BThe%5D.zip?dl=0

My personal links:

Email: don.travis@aol.com.

Facebook: www.facebook.com/donald.travis.982

Twitter: @dontravis3

See you next Thursday.

                                                                                                                                 

Don

New Posts every Thursday morning at 6:00 a.m. US Mountain time. 

Thursday, April 21, 2022

Portrait of Miss Emmalee, A 5-Part Serial – Part 4

 dontravis.com blog post #546

 Image courtesy of Fixthephoto.com

 



Is Richie getting to the bottom of the puzzle well? Has he discovered his mother and Miss Emmalee shared a physical relationship? Explained his dad’s hostility to the Vanderports, doesn’t it? But he has t dig deeper. Make sure he’s on the right track. That and pay attention to the intriguing Jorge.

 

****

                                                         PORTRAIT OF MISS EMMALEE

One evening, Jorge came over, and we settled on the couch with cold beers. He brought me up to date on happenings at the shop, and then we got down to the real purpose of the visit. I had his shirt off and his pants halfway down his thighs when he suddenly rebelled.

“I can’t do it, Richie-O,” he exclaimed.

Startled, I sat up, still halfway addled by the expanse of brown flesh and sinewy muscles before my eyes. “Can’t do what?”

He grabbed for his pants and hauled them up. Then he covered his nipples with his discarded shirt. “This, man. Not with her staring at us.”

I glanced around. “What’re you talking about. There’s nobody here but you and me.”

He lifted an arm in the direction of the fireplace. “Her, man. She watching us. She frowning.”

I laughed. “There’s a picture of my mother over on the piano. That never bothered you before.”

“She not watching us. This one, she watchin’, man.”

I knew Jorge was seriously disturbed when his English went fractured. “Okay, she can’t see us in the bedroom.”

“Uh-uh. She already seen. She know… man.”

“Jorge, it’s a picture. Just a painted picture.”

He drew on his shirt. “Don’ care. We go my place, okay?”

We did, and he was as loving and demanding and wonderful as ever. A rather remarkable night, actually.

****

Jorge’s reaction to Miss Emmalee’s portrait served to further fan the flames of my curiosity. I was blown away by the fact that I really knew so little about a woman who’d been a fixture in my hometown until I realized that was true of so many of us. Except for our own family, our own peers, we usually know only the public faces of others in our lives.

Foremost in my mind was my suspicion of a relationship between my mother and Miss Emmalee. I didn’t actually believe it… but then I didn’t disbelieve it, either. Other things began to seep out of my unconscious into the light of day. Miss Emmalee had attended my mother’s funeral and seemed to be a bit emotional at the church. My dad’s poorly hidden animosity toward the Vanderports. Another thought sent me looking through my family’s financial records. I knew my dad had been an insurance salesman, a successful one given the standard of living the family enjoyed. Yet, I recalled something about some outside income.

My mom had taken ill and died rather quickly, and we hadn’t had an opportunity to talk about… well, final arrangements. I was a signatory on Mom’s bank accounts, so I paid for her service out of her bank account, and recouped the money later when her life insurance proceeds came. Now, I looked deeper and found what I vaguely remembered. Old records showed a “trust” income of one thousand dollars a month from something called the “Orchard Trust.” What the hell was that? My own records showed the monthly deposit had switched from Mom’s account to mine upon her death. The fact my curiosity hadn’t been ticked showed just how unworldly I was. Nothing meant much to me except cars and Jorge.

My banker referred me to my dad’s lawyer. A day later, I sat in Jason Brown’s office and awaited an explanation. Actually, Jason was a peer of mine. His father had been my father’s attorney, but had since gone the way of my dad.

He reviewed the file he had before him for a few minutes, and then lifted his eyes to meet mine. “The trust was set up almost twenty-nine years ago, Richie-O. Original amount was one and a half million smackers. Never been touched except for the monthly stipend, so it’s grown a tad over all these years.”

My head spun. “One and a half million? What was the original source of the funds?”

“Dunno. I’d have to go back into the tombs to find those old banking records. I can tell you it was a lump sum payment. Actually, the payments have been to your mother with you as the successor beneficiary should something happen to her. You didn’t know about this?”

“Nope. What am I allowed to do with the funds?”

He consulted the file again. “Anything.”

“Huh?”

“You can let it go on as it is or take the whole thing at one chunk. Cash out and terminate the trust, if you want.”

“Who’s the trustee?”

He went round-eyed. “Me, I guess. Although my secretary handles lots of thing for me that Dad used to take care of. Are you thinking of doing something with it?”

“I don’t know. Can you make a copy of the papers for me? I’d also like to know the source of the original funds.”

“Sure. Take a little digging, but can probably figure it out.”

I left Jason’s office in a daze, but I had one thought firmly fixed in my mind. That money was Vanderport money. Had to be. Nobody else in town had that kind of wealth. It sure didn’t come from my mom’s family. Her folks had been dirt farmers. Not Dad’s, either. His parents had worked for a living all their lives. Furthermore, if it came from his side, he’d never have put it in a trust for mom. He’d have driven a Cadillac instead of a Ford. Eaten steak instead of ground beef. I sighed. My suspicions about Mom and Miss Emmalee seemed to be the only answer. But why would Miss Emmalee set up a trust for my mom? Even if they were lovers, that seemed a bit over the top. As much as I loved Jorge, I wouldn’t set up a trust for him like that. I’d give him the shirt off my back if he were in a bind, but set up a trust? No way.

With my mind running off in all directions, I went to see Mr. Fredricks, the teacher who’d installed me in his over-the-garage apartment.

“You always thought it was my largess,” he admitted. “But Miss Emmalee swore me to secrecy. She paid me a hundred dollars a month for the whole time you lived there.”

Next, I looked up my former boss at the car parts store. James Wilson’s story was similar. “She asked me to give you a job,” he admitted. “Course, she did me a favor. You were a damned good worker, Richie.”

I expressed my puzzlement over Miss Emmalee’s hidden influence on my life, and he suggested I talk to someone named Hilda Winemaker up in Tulsa. “She and Miss Emmalee had been thick as thieves. Grew up together and you never saw one without the other until Hilda married a man in Tulsa.”

I located the lady via the internet and gave her a call, explaining I was curious over my mom’s connection to the Vanderports.

“Everyone knew the Vanderports,” she said. “There isn’t anyone in that town who wasn’t influenced by that family. What are you looking for, Richie.”

She knew my name but not my familiar. “Just some things that have come up since Miss Emmalee’s death. About her and… my mom.” I held my breath as she answered.

‘I remember Mary Orchard very well. Your mother was a wonderful woman.”

“That she was.”

“A little intimidated by your father,” she added, “but a good woman.” She paused, perhaps for a reaction from me, but I didn’t give her one. “I’ll tell you what? If you’ll come up to Tulsa, we’ll have a quiet lunch at my home, and I’ll tell you all I know about Miss Emmalee.”

Miss Emmalee, not my mother. But I didn’t hesitate. “Would tomorrow be too soon?”

“Tomorrow would be fine.

 ****

So the portrait spooked Jorge, as well, but in a deeper way, perhaps. At any rate, he wants to move their lovemaking activities to his place because… “She knows, man.” Richie has also learned Miss Emmalee was more involved in his life right up until he went into the army after graduating high school.

 But now, he’s found a woman in Tulsa who might give him some answers. We’ll find out what she tells him next week.

 Until then.

 Stay safe and stay strong.

 Now my mantra: Keep on reading and keep on writing. You have something to say… so say it!

 A link to The Cutie-Pie Murders:

 https://www.dropbox.com/s/ambxgy7e5ndmimk/CutiePieMurders%5BThe%5D.zip?dl=0

 My personal links:

 Email: don.travis@aol.com.

Facebook: www.facebook.com/donald.travis.982

Twitter: @dontravis3

 See you next Thursday.

                                                                                                                                 

Don

 New Posts every Thursday morning at 6:00 a.m. US Mountain time.

Thursday, April 14, 2022

Portrait of Miss Emmalee, A 5-Part Serial – Part 3

 dontravis.com blog post #545

Image courtesy of Fixthephoto.com



Jorge sounds intriguing, doesn’t he? Will he hurt or help in pursuing the solving of the secret behind Miss Emmalee’s slight frown? Perhaps we’ll find out in this installment of the story.

 


****

                                                         PORTRAIT OF MISS EMMALEE

Man, I’m having trouble getting this story out. I keep getting side-tracked, but it’s things that you ought to know about me. Like, while I’m definitely gay—lots better than queer, isn’t it—I don’t advertise the fact. Right or wrong, I stay firmly in the closet. That said, there are some things I won’t do to protect my reputation. I have lots of women friends, but not one of them is a lover or a beard. They’re friends—some of them good friends—and acquaintances, but I don’t think any of them harbor the misconception I’m going to up and fall in love with her someday.

That is not the case with Jorge. I don’t believe he’s gay. Bi, maybe, but his eyes go to dancing when a pretty girl comes around. Given his appearance, they all want to mother him, and do so up until the time they find him doing what he does so well. Someday, I’ll lose him to a gal, and I’ll be sad when it happens. But I won’t try to stop it, nor will it endanger his job at the shop. He’s a damned good auto body man. Of course, he’s a damned good lover too, but every man has the right to determine his own future.

****

With some unaccustomed spare time on my hands, I renewed my interest in Miss Emmalee Vanderport. Like everyone in town, I knew about the Vanderport family from the old Colonel James Wilson Vanderport having a hand at founding our town, although he didn’t favor it with the Vanderport name, something he did with every other thing he touched. We ended up being named Sidney. Not a terribly distinguished name, but okay, I guess. Sidney, Oklahoma had a certain ring to it… at least to me.

Anyway, the old Colonel opened a logging mill alongside a railroad track, and then history took over. We’d grown from simply a sawmill to a lumbering and farming town in our corner of the state. And along the way, the Vanderports had become rich. Filthy rich, my dear old dad used to say with a sneer. He seemed to have a bone to pick with our town’s foremost family but would never say what it was.

When the Colonel died, the town almost came to a full stop with grief. Maybe that’s not a good word. Trepidation may be more apt. What would happen with the demise of Sidney’s rock… Colonel James Nelson Vanderport. Nothing, turned out to be the answer. Elder son Wilson James Vanderport took over the business and the town survived. He didn’t. James Nelson Vanderport died a few years after his father, and Charles Sidney Vanderport, the second son, picked up the yoke and handled things very well.

Charles Sidney? Maybe the old man did name the town after the family. The long and the short of it is, the Vanderports had been around as long as Sidney, Oklahoma had been around, and Miss Emmalee was the torchbearer for the distaff side of the family. And she had done a fine job of it, as well. Of course, plebians like me always wondered why she hadn’t married and raised a houseful of children. My sainted mother had always equated success for females as marrying well and turning out a brood of acceptable tots. Why hadn’t she married? She’d been a beauty up until the day she died two months ago.

****

My curiosity led me to the town’s newspaper. I’d have said the newspaper’s morgue, except that pretty well described the entirety of our Sidney Weekly Journal. Miz Myrtle Bailey, who’d been reporter, editor, printer, and janitor of the Journal ever since I could recall, didn’t have copies of the newspaper on modern things like computers or even microfiche, but she did have a printed copy of every edition. With nothing to guide me to specific articles, I started wading through them one by one. Some member of the Vanderport family appeared in virtually every paper. Far from being bored, I found myself fascinated at the unfolding saga of this proud family.

The old Colonel had a past. The title had been honestly earned in Havana during the Spanish and American War. He was nearly cashiered when he fought a duel with one of his fellow officers over some young woman, but his foe survived his wound, and the Colonel survived his commission. Of course, he’d married a very proper Boston debutante and settled down to logging in his native Kentucky. What drew him to Oklahoma, I could never discern.

His two sons were drags, so far as being newsworthy was concerned. The only attention they received was as captains of industry—or what served as captains of industry in our little town. They grew up, married, and in turn, ran the mill before dying unspectacular deaths. None of their progeny was interested in carrying on the family business, so when the younger son, Charles Sidney died about eight years ago, a national corporation acquired the large mill and the remaining Vanderpark kin took the money and ran. All except Miss Emmalee. She stayed on and carried the family name forward in little Sidney.

She was a staple in the Journal, especially after the remainder of the family vamoosed. The articles about her sponsoring this charity or opening this ball—balls in Sidney, Oklahoma? More likely dances—or donating to that cause. That kind of thing. Nonetheless, I began to see her as a woman in her own right. I found something admirable about the gentle way she gave time and money to shaping and molding the young people in our town. Heck, I’d been the beneficiary of some of that largess without realizing it until I saw photos of Mom and myself with her at some camp for youth she’d sponsored. I also learned I’d gained my interest and expertise at the shop she’d built for the local school.

Then she disappeared from the paper’s pages. When questioned, Miz Baily said she’d taken a world cruise. Roamed all over the world for almost a year and a half. Skipping a bunch of issues, I located Miss Emmalee’s triumphant return to the place of her birth. The faded photographs in the paper’s yellowing copies seemed to show an older, more mature woman. But it was undoubtedly Miss Emmalee waving to the photographer or in deep discussion with a town dignitary or two.

****

My searches at the Journal did nothing but fan the flames of my developing obsession with Miss Emmalee. Some of the facts I’d uncovered stirred up memories. Connections, I guess you’d say. The Vanderports had played a bigger role in our family history than I’d realized. Some of the old photos kicked off vague memories of Miss Emmalee visiting our home. Chatting with Mom or bringing little presents. Always with mom, not when Dad was home. I could vaguely remember sitting on her lap a time or two when I was just a little kid.

A thought hit me in the head so hard, I about fell off my chair. Visiting with Mom. Never with Dad. My thoughts slid to Jorge. It couldn’t be. My mom and Miss Emmalee? Was it possible? But if so, and my dad knew, it explained a lot about his reaction when I confessed to being gay. That thought set me back on my haunches. Did they even have lesbians back in those days? I laughed aloud at my stupidity. Of course, they did. Human beings were human beings even back then with all their strengths and faults firmly in place. Jeez!

****

I don’t think this is going the way Richie thought it would. Has he discovered a liaison between his mother and Miss Emmalee? It would explain his father’s attitude, wouldn’t it? And maybe lend a little credence to Richie’s own leanings.

 Until next week.

 Stay safe and stay strong.

 Now my mantra: Keep on reading and keep on writing. You have something to say… so say it!

 A link to The Cutie-Pie Murders:

 https://www.dropbox.com/s/ambxgy7e5ndmimk/CutiePieMurders%5BThe%5D.zip?dl=0

 My personal links:

 Email: don.travis@aol.com.

Facebook: www.facebook.com/donald.travis.982

Twitter: @dontravis3

 See you next Thursday.

                                                                                                                                 

Don

 New Posts every Thursday morning at 6:00 a.m. US Mountain time.

Thursday, April 7, 2022

Portrait of Miss Emmalee, A 5-Part Serial – Part 2

 dontravis.com blog post #544

 Image courtesy of Fixthephoto.com

 



What is so intriguing about Miss Emmalee’s portrait to our protagonist? There must be something behind it. Can he solve the puzzle of the intriguing painting?



 

****

                                                          PORTRAIT OF MISS EMMALEE

The next evening, I was deep into the Burke book when I’ll swear, I heard a sigh. My eyes flew to the mantlepiece where the frown on the portrait’s face seemed deeper… although that could merely have been the lighting. Nonetheless, I abandoned the book to contemplate what I knew of the woman’s life. Like everyone else in this town, I’d seen and met her often in my early years, but really, she was simply like the sun, remote but showering light and kindness and good cheer over the townsfolk. I recalled only one exchange with Miss Emmalee of any import.

Just out of high school and still living over my teacher’s garage, I was marking time before reporting to the Army when I joined a baseball game of neighborhood kids at one of the fields at City Park. My sports were basketball and soccer, but I was a fair fielder, so held up my end of the bargain… except in the batting department. I only managed one double out of four turns at the bat.

As I left the field after the game, I passed Miss Emmalee, still seated in the stands—dressed to the nines, as was her hallmark—when her soft, cultured voice halted me mid-step.

“You’re swinging too early, you know that, don’t you?”

“Beg pardon, ma’am?” I asked, uncertain if she was speaking to me.

“You’re too anxious. Let the ball come, and then meet it. There’s a right time to swing, you know.”

“Yes, ma’am, I know.” It seemed somewhat surreal that this prim and proper lady would take the time to talk to me, much less about a sport I doubtless knew more than she did.

She twirled the pink parasol—yes, parasol—she used to keep the sun off her fair skin. “If you know that, why do you anticipate the ball too early?”

I shrugged. “Not my day, I guess.”

“Don’t throw away your days, Richie-O.”

I about jumped out of my skin that she knew my name. Not just my name, but the familiar most of the kids used. Richie, for my first name, Richard, and O for my last name, Orchard. That alone was enough to draw me to her side. “No, ma’am, I’ll try not to do that.”

“Each one is precious, you know.” She gave a tinkle of a laugh. “Of course, you don’t. You’re still young enough to believe you’re immortal.”

I frowned. “Uh-uh, I’m going into the army in ten days, so I know there’ll be some perilous times coming down the pike at me.”

She smiled, revealing tiny lines in what I’d thought was a flawless face. “Perilous times. I like the way you framed that. Why didn’t you say dangerous times like every other boy… young man would say?”

“Dunno. To be honest, I don’t always think like all the other guys.” I gave an insincere laugh. “Got me thrown outta my folks’ house, in fact.”

“So I understand. I admire the fortitude with which you picked up your life and moved on.”

My cheeks burned at the recollection of some of the things I’d done to move on. “Thank you. Sometimes it seemed like there was a guardian angel watching out for me. It was hard, but I did it.”

Her bright blue eyes twinkled. “Wouldn’t it be nice if it were true. All of us would benefit from one, I imagine. But I want you to know, I admire the way you took charge of your life.”

“Thank you, ma’am,” I said touching the bill of my baseball cap in salutation. “Excuse me now, I have to go get cleaned up.”

“Certainly, young man. It was a pleasure speaking to you.”

“For me too, ma’am.”

For some reason that brief interchange had remained in my mind. Miss Emmalee had been somewhere between my mother’s and grandmother’s age at the time. Perhaps I remember it so well because that was the first time she seemed like a real person, not just some local paragon of proper deportment and good works. But remember it, I did.

****

As work on the Porsche neared completion, I forgot Miss Emmalee and paintings and mysteries. The car looked damned good… better than I expected, actually. I put out the word, and the buyers came flocking. It always amazed me that I could live in this little Oklahoma town, restore cars, and attract car collectors from Oklahoma City and Dallas and Little Rock and Phoenix. Heck, I had one guy in St. Louis who kept in contact. Guess that says something for the quality of my work.

At any rate, once the Porsche was sold, I decided to take some time for myself. There was enough regular work to keep Jorge, my one full-time employee busy. A part time girl did the office work, and the two of them could keep things afloat for a few days. Jorge’s not only the best body man in this part of the state… he also has the best body in this part of the state. Although twenty-five, he looks like a teenager with thick black hair that seemed to absorb the sunlight and cheeks so brown and smooth you wanted to pinch them. He was my pressure valve, as well.

And before everyone starts yelling about the impropriety of a relationship between employee and employer, that  relationship started before he was my employee. I met him when I was returning from a nearby town two years ago and saw a young man hitchhiking. I did take him for a teen when I stopped and offered a lift. But the deep voice and his manner of speaking—shy but not reluctant—and his knowledge about mechanics clued me I’d misjudged his age. So I asked him outright.

“Twenty-three,” he answered.

“No way,” I said.

“Prove it,” he said, digging out a worn wallet and showing me his driver’s license. Jorge Vallarte, Dallas address, good-looking photo despite the lousy lighting and the blank stare into the camera.

I quickly tumbled to the fact the guy was broke and heading up to Oklahoma City to try to find a cousin… and hopefully some work. By the time we drove into Sidney, I knew just about all I needed to know. He was broke, hungry, and just this side of desperate. I also knew he’d been in the auto body repair trade for a few years.

As we sat at the table in my house eating some chili I’d heated up, I recalled my own brief time on the street and told him right up front that he was hunky and handsome and pushed all my buttons. But I gave him some options. He could sleep in my house for the night. If he slept in the spare bedroom, I’d feed him breakfast in the morning and send him on his way with twenty bucks in his pocket.

If he opted to sleep in my bedroom, I’d feed him breakfast in the morning and send him off with fifty bucks. He regarded me through large, liquid brown eyes and smiled. “I do good job for you,” he said in his slightly fractured English. Even the frown that followed was sexy as hell. “But there some things Jorge don’t do.”

I laid a hand on his sinewy forearm on the table. “We’ll figure those out as we go,” I said. “Would you like a shower first?”

His smile almost blinded me.

I took my own shower while he had his in the guest bathroom, and we met in the hallway afterward, me in my robe, and Jorge wrapped in a skimpy towel. I about passed out from all the finely defined muscles playing in his broad chest and flat belly. We spent an unforgettable night defining those barriers he wouldn’t break—having to do mostly with his trim behind.

I fed Jorge the next morning and gave him the promised fifty bucks, but he never left. He asked—in his shy way—to see my auto repair shop, and once there, he picked up a wrench and went to work. By the end of the day, he was on my payroll, but in this part of Bible Belt Oklahoma, he couldn’t live with me. He stayed for a delightful week while he looked for accommodations. But there were—and still are—plenty of occasions for him to visit the house.

 ****

Well, we learn our hero’s name—Richie, or Richie-O to his familiars. And it seems a very familiar has shown up in his life. Go, Jorge! Will his lover distract him from his quest?

 Until next week.

 Stay safe and stay strong.

 Now my mantra: Keep on reading and keep on writing. You have something to say… so say it!

 A link to The Cutie-Pie Murders:

 https://www.dropbox.com/s/ambxgy7e5ndmimk/CutiePieMurders%5BThe%5D.zip?dl=0

 My personal links:

 Email: don.travis@aol.com.

Facebook: www.facebook.com/donald.travis.982

Twitter: @dontravis3

 See you next Thursday.

                                                                                                                                 

Don

 New Posts every Thursday morning at 6:00 a.m. US Mountain time.

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