Trust Fund Baby ~ 8 A Satire

Chapter 8
“Good morning, Mother. Good morning, Father,” I said as I sat down in front of my raspberry Danish and cream colored coffee. I stared at my coffee and saw J’s image swirling around in the cream. Maybe it was an apparition.

Mother interrupted my fantasy, “Artin?”

Artin? What’s an Artin. I did a quick mental check of who sat at the table. Mother on one end. Father, ten feet away from Mother at the other end. And, me in the middle of the demilitarized zone. Did we hire a new cook?

I heard it again, this time more insistent, “Artin. Artin, look at me.”

I took a bite of my Danish and sip of my coffee, then said, “I don’t think he’s here, Mother. Try paging him.”

“Martin, don’t you remember, we’re legally changing your name to Artin?”

“I don’t want my name changed. I like Martin. I didn’t like it at first because when I was in first grade grade, Ronald Cranston called me fartin Martin. When I was fourteen and met Rachael, she let me feel her breasts and she like my name. I’ve liked Martin ever since Rachael.”

“Thank God you didn’t have sex with Rachael Madison. You know, her mother did not go to Holyoke or Smith.”

I thought about Mother’s comment for a second, then decided not to say anything about the sex part.

Mother continued her rant, “The mention of the Cranstons makes me want to have Nicole spray the room with disinfectant. They always thought they were better than everyone else. Can’t say I feel a bit sorry for them when the crash of 2008. They’re no longer listed among the top five hundred wealthiest people in the world. What a pity. But, between us, it looks good to see them left off of the RSVP list for Aspen and Palm Springs.”

The Cranston’s grovel? I had no idea what she was talking about. I thought they owned half the world and Grandmother Houston owned the other half. I said, “I will not answer to the name Artin, Mother. Now, that’s settled, I have some important news to share with you and Father.”

Father set his Wall Street Journal down and pulled his glasses down to the tip of short stubby nose that more appropriately fit on a bull dog than a human head. Mother placed both of her bony hands palm down on the table, her mouth slightly open, and her eyes trying to pierce into my brain and read my thoughts.

Before I could speak, Mother spoke, “Martin, if you’re going to tell us you got Nicole pregnant, don’t. I don’t want to hear about it. How much do we have to pay to keep her quiet and not list you as the father?”

Father said, “Mother, let’s be reasonable. Perhaps he didn’t get Nicole pregnant. Maybe it was Oscar.”

Mother said, “You should see the way Martin leers at her. I know what’s going on in his mind. It couldn’t have been Oscar, he used condoms.”

How does Mother know Oscar uses condoms? I didn’t think it was an appropriate question at the moment. I was watching the tennis match. It was Father’s turn. He said,

“We don’t even know if Nicole’s pregnant. As for our son, he didn’t get his lascivious tendencies from the Sanderstuff side of the family.”

Father took a nasty shot at Mother. He won’t be getting any tonight. Then again, I’m too sure he ever gets any anyways.

Mother returned the salvo, “Martin’s perverted sexual tendencies do come from your side of the family. What about Allison, your niece? You know the tramp who moved in with her boyfriend after college. Everyone knows she lost her virginity when she was in the tenth grade and they took a vacation to Venice and some Italian gondola driver seduced her. She could have been more descrete.”

“Leave Allison out of this, Mother. You know her mother is a Jenkins. The Jenkins worked for their money and didn’t inherit it, so they have no idea how to be rich.”

I thought, no, don’t leave her out of this. I’m enjoying the family gossip. But I didn’t want to be late for my second day of work. Truthfully, I wanted to be in my office waiting for my Venus to arrive. I said, “I didn’t make Nicole, pregnant, although I have many sexual fantasies about her. I don’t think I’m perverted. My sexual interests are normal.”
Mother looked at me and said, “If you didn’t make Nicole pregnant, who did?”

“Is she pregnant?” I asked.

“I don’t know. You brought it up,” said Mother sarcastically.

“I didn’t bring it up, Mother. I said, “I have something important to tell the both of you if you can get Nicole off your mind for a moment. First of all, I have not had sex with Nicole. I want to have sex with her, but she has a boyfriend and I’m afraid he’ll kill me if founds out we’re lovers.”

“You’ve got a Sanderstuff’s brain on shoulders, Son. It’s well and good to have an affair with someone in our class. The worse that will happen is you’ll snubbed at a social event. Discreet affairs are seen as a sign on good breeding, wouldn’t you agree, Mother.”

A shade of pink appeared on Mother’s neck and began it’s slow rise through her face. Fortunately, Father missed this faux pax because he set his glasses on the table when the discussion began.

“You’re so right, Father. Discretion is important in liaisons. Keep that in mind, Artin.”

“Thank you, Mother. Son, one more piece of advice, never, step out of class to have a sexual dalliance. A one night stand every once in a while, why that’s healthy as long as there are no strings attached. By that I mean always use a condom. Never take a lower class woman’s word she’s on birth control. Now, for heaven’s sake, tell us your important news, Son,” said Father.

I almost forgot what I was going to say. I’m sure Mother and Father do not have sex, unless they are totally wasted. Now, I think they’re both getting action on the side. I could use this to blackmail them into increasing my allowance. I saw them both locking in on as if they had a laser and were ready to push the fire button. I blurted,“I’m in love and I’m going to get married.”

Mother hollered, “Victor. Victor. My drink please.”

Father said, “A bit early for gin isn’t it, Mother?”

Here we go again. The tennis match was about to restart. I had to stop it so I get to work.

I said, “I’ve a bit of a problem. I know I’m in love with her. I know I’m going to marry her. I haven’t told her yet.”

Father rubbed his hands together. “I’ve been waiting for this, Son. You’ve come to Mother and me for relationship advice.”

Mother cut right to the chase, “Is she of good breeding? They must live on this side of the city. This is where all the good people live. You can tell by the all the guarded and gated communities. The air is cleaner over here. The better restaurants are over here. And, all our help comes from over there. It’s not that we’re afraid of them. It’s that we want to remain pure. Surely, you understand this, Martin.”

A thought raced through my mind. Am I the sole beneficiary in their will? If I tell Mother and Father J is black, but her skin is the beautiful shade of coffee and cream and her body is as lithe and supple as a gymnasts I foresee three possibilities. One, two massive coronaries; two, a stroke and a massive coronary; or three, they overpower me and send me off the Betty Ford Clinic for rehab.

I looked at Mother and said, “Her lineage can be traced back to ships the earliest settlers welcomed into the US. It may go all the way to Thomas Jefferson and his plantation.”

“Is she one of the Jeffersons? This is too good to be true,” said Mother already thinking of holding a soiree to host J and me.

“What’s her name, Son?” asked Father.

I truthfully said, “She likes to be called by the first letter of her last name.”

“That is delightful. I can’t wait to meet J,” said Mother.

I decided to leave on a high note. Mother and Father told me not to work too hard and let my administrative assistant do it all for me. I confidently strode out the of dining room believing J would be mine tonight. I was soon to learn, I had a lot to learn.


Trust Fund Baby ~ 6 A Satire

Chapter 6
The door to my office swung open. My jaw dropped bouncing three times of my chest giving me a touch of whiplash. My blood pressure spiked. A light haze covered my deep blue since baby eyes. I felt as if I were pushed through the window behind me and I was floating carefree through space. I am the prince and my Cinderella stood in the middle of the door frame. She was a tall woman with skin the color of my coffee having the perfect touch of cream. Her body was as lithe and supple as a gymnast. In my mind or perhaps it was an angel sent from heaven singing I Will Always Love You. If this was work, I wanted more, lots more of it. I stared a her long blonde hair parted in the middle, perfect white teeth, and pink lipstick, and perfectly displayed cleavage. Her hands rested on each of her beautiful hips slightly cocked to the right. My mathematical mind quickly calculated size 38 c cups. I knew then that being rich and being in love are the two best things in the world.

My Venus opened her mouth and her voice was like Ella Fitzgerald or Beyonce singing straight from her lips to my heart without a detour.

“You must be the spoiled brat, rich trust fund baby who’s the shrink. If you’re not, you touch me and I’ll wrap you up in a ball so tight you will make a golf ball look big,” She said giving me an icy stare that could cut through steel. Then she added, pointing with two fingers toward her face, “My eyes are up here. Let’s get that straight.”

I put to use my highly honed communication skills to get passed this little stumbling block on my way to romance, “Huh? Are you the receptionist?”

“Receptionist? Is that what you think I am? If that’s what you think, you a bigger fool than Pettibone told me you was.”

Her voice was an angelic choir. What are words when the melody sets your heart on fire,

“I said, you can be whatever you want to be. Want to have dinner with me after work?”

“Dinner? With you?”

“Un huh?”
“No. What fool said you were getting a receptionist?”

Actually, no one did. I thought that’s what you called a woman sitting behind a desk in a waiting room playing solitaire on her computer. If anything, I am quick on my feet I said, “The guard in the lobby called and said my receptionist was on the way up to see me. He didn’t tell me she was black Venus.” I gave her my award winning, impossible not like smile.

“I know Lawrence. We used to date. If I tell him what you said he will hit you hard on top of your head and you be looking out between your toes.”

I said, “If you won’t go to dinner with me, say we quit work early and go out for drinks.”

She jabbed a beautiful long index finger with a perfect nail, whose color matched her lips, at me and said, “I am your administrative assistant. What this means for you is that I do not do coffee. I do not run out and bring back lunch or donuts or whatever. I already know the kind of support you want and the kind of support you need. You’re not getting any of the first part. We straight on that?”

“Un uh,” I answered. “What exactly does an administrative assistant do? And, cut me some slack. This is the first day of work in my life and I’m worn out. It’s been rough.”

“How long you been at work?” she demanded.

I checked my iWatch, “About ten minutes. It’s a killer.”

“Pettibone was right. You are going to need all the help you can get.”

“I’m a quick learner if I’m tutored,” I said trying to butter her up.

She walked toward my desk. I scooted my sheepskin chair back until it hit the window overlooking the Pacific Ocean. She placed both hands palm down on my desk and bent over and stared at me. I could die now and know I’ve seen an angel.

“Eyes up here,” she said pointing to her eyes then placing her hands back down on my desk.

I quickly moved my eyes from her cleavage to her eyes then back down to her cleavage.”

She lifted both hands up and turned her palms toward her. I looked at the fingers I want to kiss. I looked at the hands that I want to hold me. My thoughts were interrupted.

“These nails do not type. They got several purposes. One, to make me look beautiful. And two, to scratch the eyes out of anyone who bothers me.”

“What’s your name?” I asked. I made a mental note to check Pondbone to find out if this woman had a license to wear dangerous weapons.
“My name is L Johnson. You can call me L or you can call me J. But you can’t call me Johnson.

I said. “Nice to meet you J. I’m Dr.” I had a brain burp. I couldn’t remember my last name. I knew I had a PhD so I was a doctor. I wasn’t sure what kind of doctor. Mother attended my classes. She wrote my dissertation. She hired a tutor to teach me enough to defend my dissertation. Paid trips to London, Paris, and Rome for each member of the committee and one guest may have pushed the needle a bit in my direction.

J said, “You need me to come over there and slap your white ass so you can remember your name?”

I said, “No, it’ll come to me. Say, do we have any patients in the waiting room I need to see?”

J started laughing. She stood up and her laugh turned into a belly laugh and tears rolled down her cheeks. When J composed herself, which was a good ten minutes later, she said, “You’d have to be crazy to voluntarily come to you for help.” Then she started laughing again. When she stopped she said, “You vote for Trump?”

I cringed. Was she working undercover for Costa Rica? I heard they tried to influence the election for Hillary. I truthfully said with a sigh of relief, “No.”

L or J or whoever she is bent forward a bit and stared into my eyes. It took a superhuman act of will not to drop my line of vision six inches. She said, “I can tell if you lying. You better no lie to to me. You vote for Hillary?”

I truthfully answered, “No.”

She said, “You write in Bernie’s name?”

I said, “No.”

“Who you vote for?”

I twisted around on my chair and stared out toward the ocean, I was losing control of my line of vision. I had a sudden urge to urinate. I always do when I’m nervous. I kept staring at the ocean. I answered, “I was at the spa on election day. Who won?”
“Hell, you don’t even know who’s President?”

“It’s either Obama or Bush. I’m not sure of which one. I don’t watch the news. I’m into reality shows.

J answered, “We gonna have one hell of reality show in this office with you in charge.”
I had a brainstorm. It was the best idea I’ve had since I had the idea I wanted a Porsche for my high school graduation present. I said, “Let’s make that your first job, see if you can get Netflix or Amazon or HBO to do a reality show here. We’ll be stars. I get top billing.”

J was silent. This was a welcome relief. I swiveled around but didn’t stop in time and ended up doing a 360. I tried it again let my sandals skid me to a stop. My arms outstretched, my palms landing face down on the desk.

J said, “Another four inches and I’d break every one of those fingers.”

“I said. “You never answered about having a drink after work. We should be done in another five minutes.”

“Is this a pickup line?” asked J.

“Uh huh?” I said with a questioning inflection in my voice.

J started laughing so hard she stumbled back and fell into one of the chairs. When she recovered, she said, “I give you a maybe on the reality show. It’s got possibilities. That’s the worse pickup line I ever heard. It ever work?”

“Uh huh, when I add after drinks we’ll fly to Rome for dinner.”. I believe I had a chance. My heart did a double flip, and a triple twisting jump scoring 9.9, 9.9, 9.9 on the love scale. I stared at my creamy skinned goddess with my tongue sending a message to my brain to let it drool. My thoughts were interrupted by my Venus rising.

J said, “No on dinner. No on drinks. No on Rome. Pay attention. You get to work with a group of criminals who are at a half way house. That means they half way between full time prison and half way to full time freedom. They live together in a house and they can’t go nowhere without supervision. They going to come here as a group and you’re supposed to help them get ready to go back into society. Some white fool must have made this decision. You ain’t going to help nobody.”

“I don’t want to work with criminals. I want to work with nymphs,” I said.

J said, “You crazier than the people you gonna be working with. Listen up Dr. Something.”

I interrupted, “That helps, my last name begins with an S.”

J said, “Group starts tomorrow at 9:30 a.m. sharp.”

I said, “Huuh?”


Chapter 43 ~ Payback

Chapter 43 ~ Payback

Jody ran her hands through her hair and said, “I must look a mess.”

“You look fine. You really look fine,” said Joe. 

Sam smiled.

“I spoke with Father Oscar. He’s a Franciscan. He was the priest who answered my uncle Vinnie’s message. You’ll meet him this morning. I already set a meeting for us at eleven. He wants to meet you, Joe.”

“He didn’t give you any idea what he wants to talk about?” asked Joe. 

Jody shook her head, “No, he said he wanted to meet Joe’s son. That’s all he said.”

“Biological son, that’s all I am. I’m not his son,” said Joe.

Jody paused a moment, “Let it go just a tad, Joe. You’ll feel better.”

Joe shot a glance at Sam. If Sam noticed it, he didn’t return the glance.

“Well, what do you know?” pushed Joe letting Jody’s comments go.

“This is what I learned from Father Oscar. He told me there was more to the story. Before he said anything else he wanted to meet you. When Joe Ritchie left Monica and another child, he fancied himself as a super pimp. He used his good looks and charm to hustle girls, he specialized in runaway girls. He’d wait down by the bus station or find some girls trying to work solo in Old Town. He built up a stable of five girls. They moved into his four bedroom in Henderson. He worked the casinos along the 515 outside of Vegas. You know, the casinos truckers and locals might hit. Almost every girl he had was already drug dependent. All he had to do was to keep the juice flowing and the girls did whatever he asked.”

“Didn’t he have problems with competition?” asked Sam.

“Not at first, Sam. Ritchie was rolling in the dough. He started driving a Lexus. He hired some muscle for protection and to help him keep an eye on the girls. Eight months after he went all in, he decided to expand into Vegas. Prostitution is against the law in Vegas, but it happens and it happens all the time. Ritchie knew this and he planted his girls inside the casinos. His girls could pick out a John the way a bee picks out a flower. Ritchie dropped the girls off in front of the casino with some playing money to help their cover. He taught them to stay away from the bars, they’re a red flag. His girls spotted a guy alone, usually over forty, playing the slots alone. They’d play next to the guy and start chatting. His business grew. Then came the good and bad news for Ritchie. He was raking in the dough. Casino security seldom caught his girls. That was the good news.”

“What was the bad news?” asked Joe.

“Prostitution in Vegas is a competitive business. If you want to make money, it’s all about location, location, location,” said Jody. “In the prostitution business, it doesn’t matter where it is, Vegas, Columbus, Cleveland, New York City, pimps don’t like competitors chiseling away at their turf. Ritchie had no street smarts. He thought hiring some muscle to protect him was all he needed. He found out he needed a lot more. His muscle was hired away by his competitor.”

“A bidding war for muscle?” asked Sam.

“Not exactly, Sam. Ritchie’s muscle was given a choice, work for me or end up as coyote bait in the desert. Ritchie either thought he was smarter than everybody else, which is my guess. Or, he thought they’d never dare go for the rough stuff. One night, Ritchie was getting into his Lexus in Henderson when three guys grabbed him. They turned him around and pushed his back against his Lexus. One of the men in a dark silk tailor made suit, and slicked back black hair speaking with a decidedly Latin American accent told him he was an emissary to advise him to cease and desist. They did not mean to do him any harm, but if Ritchie took his business back to Henderson it would be viewed as good faith. The three men left. Ritchie hired more muscle and changed strip casinos. Both moves backfired. The muscle left without so much as a goodbye a week later. The same guy ran prostitution from Tropicana up to Flamingo, Even if Ritchie went beyond that territory he’d have encountered the same problem. The zones were already divided. Ritchie hoped to make it big and take his girls to LA.”

Joe felt like he was listening to Jody read him a novel about the mob in Vegas. He said, “Is this all real, Jody? I can see Ritchie pimping. But getting caught up with heavy players? He’s a low life.”

“I double-checked Father Oscar’s story with a couple of sources I have in the police department. I didn’t doubt Father Oscar, it was the journalism part of me that always does a double check. Everything is as Father Oscar told me. In fact, I think Father Oscar knows a lot more than the police.”

“Go on,” said Sam eager to find out what happened.

Jody shot Sam a quick smile, “A week after he kicked up his business, Ritchie was set up with a traffic accident at three in the morning. They followed Ritchie and new his habits. One of his habits was to take a side road between Tropicana and Flamingo. The night it happened, one car pulled in front of Ritchie and another behind. The car behind starting tailgating him. Ritchie sped up. The car in front jammed his brakes. Ritchie smashed into the car. The car behind him came to a stop close enough to pin Ritchie in. He jumped out screaming at the driver in the front car to find three guys with guns trained on him. They put a cloth bag over his head and tossed him the rear vehicle. The car that was hit was stolen. The police have no idea who was driving. They drove Ritchie to a mostly vacant strip mall. They yanked him out of the car, took and beat the living hell out of him. They came close to killing him. They broke each of his limbs. They fractured his jaw and broke his nose. He had a very serious concussion. Some time after it happened, a security car was driving through the lot, no one knows how much later, but it was still dark. Ritchie was rushed to Saint Rose’s Hospital. That’s where he eventually met Father Oscar. He was in a coma for seven weeks.”

“What shape is he in? Did he recover?”

“He recovered. It took eighteen months of intense therapy, but he recovered,” said Jody.

“Payback,” said Sam.

“Did it ever,” said Jody.

“What happened next,” asked Joe.

“Father Oscar will take it from here,” said Jody.

Chapter 42 ~ Heartbreak Knows No Boundaries

Chapter 42 ~ Heartbreak Knows No Boundaries

Joe, Sam, and Jody sat in a booth by a window at the Pancake House. The booth was parallel to Sunset Drive. Joe and Sam sat on one side of the booth, Joe closest to the window. Jody sat facing them. Joe and Jody studied the four page menu enclosed in plastic covers. Sam waved to the waitress.

Two minutes later, the same tall slender waitress who waited on them previously walked toward the table. She was wearing a white shirt with the letters P H embroidered on the corner of her left lapel The top three buttons of her shirt were unbuttoned. Her hair color changed from an ash blonde ponytailed look to a short hairstyle strawberry blonde.  She carried three coffee mugs looped through fingers on her left hand and in her right hand she held a full pot of dark coffee. She set a mug in front of Joe, Jody and Sam and then filled their mugs with coffee.

Sam spoke, “I met your sister the other night. She’s pretty, but she’s not as pretty as you.”

Joe wanted to stick his finger in his throat. Jody put her menu down and watched.

“I was hoping you’d come back, handsome.”

“It’s Sam.” He read her name tag, “Pleasure to meet you, Missy.”

“I remember you like the blueberry pancakes and lots of hot blueberry syrup and sausages in a separate plate. Do I have that right?”

“You are as smart as you are beautiful,” said Sam.

Missy glanced over at Jody, “I’ll bet he’s the same way with all the girls.”

“I’ve only know him fifteen minutes. We met at the airport. Sam is the real deal. A perfect gentleman and handsome.”

“Don’t let it go to your head, Sam,” Missy laughed then took Jody and Joe’s order.

Thirty minutes later, the trio pushed their plates to the side. Missy cleared the table and refilled their coffee mugs. Joe said, “Ready to tell me the story?”

“Not so fast, Joe.”

“Don’t,” Joe said to Sam who was about to punch him in his bicep. “What’s the problem, Jody?”

“I’ll tell you all I learned about Joe Ritchie or Rich, whatever you prefer. I’m not holding out on you. I want to give you some context on why your story grabbed ahold of me and won’t let go. I didn’t grow up in Ohio. I grew up in a small town in northwestern Kansas. It’s right on I-70, maybe you heard of it, Victoria. My mom and dad owned a hardware store. I’m pretty handy at fixing things, because I hung around the store when I wasn’t in school. Dad loved to talk with the farmers. He even had part of the store set aside where the farmers could come in and sit and grab a free cup of coffee and talk politics, weather, crop prices. Stuff like that. 

Most of all, he loved mom. He’d always sneak up on her and give her kiss. He’d make an excuse he was heading to Denver or Wichita, we were about halfway between those cities. He’d drive all that way only buy mom a special gift. He loved to surprise her. Mom would kiss him and tell him it was the best gift ever. I never heard them argue. Not even one cross word. Everybody in town is Catholic. They even sent us from the public school during the day for our religious instruction. Church was such a big part of everyone’s life.

“Sounds like you had the perfect childhood,” said Joe.

“I did, Joe. It was perfect. Too perfect,” a sharp look of pain cut a path across Jody’s face.

Sam sat silently, his hands folded together in front of him. His eyes looking into Jody’s eyes as if he were trying to read her mind.

Jody paused. She glanced out the window and stared into the park on other side of Sunset Drive. She slowly turned back to Joe and Sam. “It was Tuesday, May 7th. I was in 5th grade. School was about a quarter-mile from where we lived. I walked home with my friend Tonya. I always reached my house first. Mom usually waited on the porch for me. She wasn’t on the porch that day. I thought she might be in the kitchen. I said goodbye to Tonya and went around the back. Lazy, our dog, barked at me from his run at the back of our property. He really wasn’t lazy. The name stuck when we got him from the pound because he liked to sleep. 

We always kept the doors open. Nothing ever happened in town. I opened the door and walked in. I called out, “Mom? Mom?” There was no answer. I thought maybe she went to the hardware store. Every once in a while that happened. I wasn’t alarmed. I grabbed a glass of milk and an apple. I drank my milk and took my apple and walked to the hardware store. 

When I got to the hardware store, I saw dad. I said, “Where’s mom? She’s not at home.” Dad looked at his watch. He went to the phone and called home. Of course, there was no answer. He asked Bud to take care of the shop, he had to stop by home for a few minutes. Bud was one of the workers. The phone was ringing when we went through the front door. Dad answered the phone. I saw his face change in an instant from a ruddy complexion to white. He was a big man. He was six feet three inches tall and solid, like two-hundred thirty pounds. I don’t think he said two words. He kept nodding his head and saying uh huh, uh huh. He was talking into a landline. It was the kind of phone that set on the wall. He let go of the receiver and let it hang. 

When he turned around and faced me, tears streaked down his face. They wouldn’t stop. I screamed, “Is mom dead, Dad! Is she dead?” He shook his head no, he said so softly I could hardly hear him. “That was Lori Jenkins.” I said, “Yes?” There was more fear in my voice than a question. I knew mom was dead or something really bad happened to her. I said, “What happened, Dad.” He couldn’t hold back the tears, he started sobbing. I threw my arms around him. We held each other, I don’t know for how long. I was crying too. I had no idea why I was crying except dad was crying.”

Joe and Sam were as silent as statues. If there was any background music or noise in the restaurant, they didn’t hear it. 

Jody said, “Dad got himself under control. He stepped back a little bit and looked at me. He said, ‘Lori told me her husband Bill and mom ran off together. Bill left a note. She read it to me. They fell in love after the church Valentines dance. They’d been seeing each other on the sly since then. I didn’t know. Lori didn’t know. How could I have been so stupid?”

Jody was crying. Sam handed her a napkin from the napkin dispenser. The three of them sat silently. Joe and Jody stared out toward Sunset Drive. Sam’s eyes never left Jody. He signaled Missy and made a motion with his hand for a glass of water. Missy brought it over along with a small box of Kleenex.

After a while, Jody turned back, “Sorry guys. I still get emotional over it. It killed dad. He had a heart attack six months later and died. I ended up living with my grandparents until I went to college. Mom never showed up to the funeral. She never showed up. She’s living in New Mexico. She’s on Facebook. I tried to contact her and she told me to stay out of her life, she’s happy. She blocked me.  can’t find her.” 

“That’s rough,” said Joe.

Jody looked at Joe, “It’s the reason your story means so much to me, Joe. I thought if I helped you, in some small way, I might get closure.”

Joe nodded and reached across the table and held Jody’s hand. Sam watched.

Jody smiled, “Thanks, Joe. I knew you’d understand. You’re the only person outside of Victoria who knows the story. You and Sam that is. Now, I’ll tell you what you want to know.”

On Monday, Joe Learns About His Dad

Chapter 39 ~ Joe Gets Some Tough Love

Chapter 39 ~ Joe Gets Some Tough Love

Sam held the iPhone elbows length in front of him and squinted. He said, “Keep your eyes on the road. I don’t want to end up at the bottom of a canyon.”

“Read the email, please?” asked Joe.

Hi Joe – I went to my mom’s birthday party a week ago. She lives in Worthington. My uncle Vinnie was there. He’s the pastor at St. Brigid’s in Dublin. We got to talking and I told him about what you’re doing. BTW, he said he missed you doing sports. It’s not the same. You’ve got a lot of fans who are begging the station to bring you back. Anyway, he remembers Joe Ritchie and the Flamingos. He saw them play when he was at OSU before he went in the seminary. I filled him in on what I know. I told him how everything seemed to dead end in Vegas. No records, no nothing. Here’s where it gets crazy. Yesterday, I got a text from him asking me to call. When we connected, he told me he put out a message on a message board priests and nuns use looking for ideas or asking for help with problems at their parishes. He put out a message he was seeking information on the whereabout of Joe Ritchie. He explained why. He got a hit. A priest friend of his, get this, in Vegas, tells him he knows Joe Ritchie. He’s sure it’s your Joe Ritchie.

Here’s the deal, Joe. I want to come and be with you when you find him. I know where he is and I know enough of the story. I’m not playing fair, but I’m not telling you where he is in Vegas and I’m not even hinting at what else I know. The only way you get the information is to tell me it’s okay to join you. I tentatively booked a 5:40 a.m. flight. I’ll land at McCarran by 7:10 a.m. What do you say? Hugs, Jody.

“Hugs?” asked Sam. “You decide to turn around all the dominoes are gonna topple. First, you gotta decide if you’re gonna invite the president of your fan club. She is not gonna let go of the man she wants. She’s telling you she wants the story, that’s not all she wants. That’s the kind of stuff I step in when I go deer hunting and I’m crossing a cow pasture.”

Joe had the cruise control on 80. The mountains east of Kingman were no longer visible. They were passing through grazing land. The golden grasses blew gently in a southwesterly wind. Joe said, “You think if we turned around we can find him if we dig real hard? What if I checked in at a Catholic church and asked the pastor’s help?”

Sam said, “What’s the right thing to do, Joe? You’re thinking about the convenient thing to do.”

“You don’t make anything easy, do you?” snapped Joe.

Sam came right back at Joe, “I’m not making it hard for you, Joe. You’re making it hard on yourself. Answer this question and I’ll leave you alone. Why do you want nothing to do with Jody? You’ve used her to dig up information. She didn’t have to keep digging. But she did. It has to be something big for you to want to have nothing to do with her.”

Joe stared straight ahead, off in the distance a big rig traveled in the passing lane. He checked his rearview mirror and caught a glimpse three other cars well behind him, all in the passenger lane. A green sign on his right read, Anvil Road Exit 10 miles. He gave himself until he saw the two mile mark to Anvil Road to make a decision. 

“Well?” said Sam.

“Well, what?” said Joe.

“How long you gonna keep the tape worm alive in your belly?”

“I don’t have a tape worm in my belly.”

“You know what I mean. I’m the safest person in the world to tell a story. I don’t have family. I don’t write for the newspaper. I’m not on the Internet. The only people I can tell are some fools drunk enough to listen to me and they won’t remember a word. I can’t hurt you. You might feel a bit better when you’re done.”

“You should have been a salesman, Sam. You got this way you can sell anybody anything before they know it they bought it and they don’t even need it.”

“I’m not selling you anything. I’m a window washer. Think of me washing your windshield so you can see a bit more clearly.”

Joe smiled then said, “It’s not complicated. Jody and I came to work the same year at the station. I was about six months ahead of her. You haven’t seen her, she is beautiful. I mean, Hollywood kind of beautiful. She didn’t flaunt it. When I met her she was dating an OSU football player. Joel Foreman. He was senior and going through all the NFL combines before the draft. Joel played linebacker. You play for OSU you’re good. You start for OSU and the pros are watching. You excel for OSU and there’s a multi-million dollar contract waiting for you. Joel was all the above. Everybody said he’d be picked toward the end of the first round. His stats at the combines were off the chart. Two weeks before the draft Joel decides to play basketball with some of his friends at his apartment complex. Joel was great because the competition gene was all over his DNA. They’re playing three on three to twenty baskets. The losing team buys the beers. I think it was 18 to 18, something like that when Joel went up for a rebound, he came down on the side of his foot, his knee popped, he tore his knee so bad, his football career was over. Know what else was over? Jody and Joel split up three weeks after his operation. She’s a gold digger. All she wants out this is a story to make her look good. She doesn’t care anything about me.”

Sam chewed on a few pretzels. He finished a coke and popped the top on another can taking a long swig. He turned his head a bit toward Joe, “You certain it was her fault for breaking up with Joel? He tell you what happened?”

Sam snapped, “He didn’t have to. It was written all over his face. He was in severe depression. He hardly talked to anybody. See what she did to him. She took his soul away.”

“You sure about this? You ever live with anybody who’s in deep depression and doesn’t want to come out of it?” Sam reached in the console and took hold of the iPhone. “Joel’s number in here? Give him a call. Ask him why they broke up.”

Joe said, “I can’t. That was six years ago. He’s married to a really good person, Jill Masters. They have two boys.”

“So, it all worked out for Joel, no matter what Jody did. I got that right?”

Joe hit the steering wheel with his hand, “Stop acting like my conscience. I don’t need it.”

“What you need is a pretzel,” said Sam sticking the bag in front of Joe.

Joe looked at Sam with unbelieving eyes and began laughing. He reached in for a handful of pretzels. He saw the Anvil Road 2 Miles sign and signaled his intention to exit.

Today’s Quote by Virginia Satir on Relationships

I want to love you without clutching, appreciate you without judging, join you without invading, invite you without demanding, leave you without guilt, criticize you without blaming, and help you without insulting. If I can have the same from you, then we can truly meet and enrich each other.

Virginia Satir

Chapter 34 ~ Joe Wonders What Circle of Hell He Is In

Chapter 34 ~ Joe Wonders What Circle of Hell He Is In

Eleven hours and thirty minutes after receiving the text, Joe pulled the BMW into the parking lot of a Residence Inn in Henderson, Nevada, a bedroom community adjacent to Las Vegas. Joe went inside and checked in. Sam got out, stretched and walked to the north end of the parking lot. He stepped onto the sidewalk and caught sight of an all night pancake house off of Sunset Drive offering all you can eat pancakes and sausages, and free coffee for four ninety-eight. His stomach sent a message to his brain, his brain sent the message to his feet and walked back to the BMW and waited for Joe.  Hot pancakes covered with streams of hot maple or blueberry syrup and sausages, he could already taste it.

Joe and Sam sat in a booth across from each other. A slender waitress wearing a white shirt with the top three buttons undone exposing silicone trying hard to buy back ten years, approached them carrying two filled coffee cups, came to their table, and set them down. She said, “No menus after nine. You get pancakes and sausages. Tonight you get blueberry pancakes with the sausage.”

Sam smiled and said, “Thanks for making it easy. Joe has a hard time making decisions.”

“Where you fellows from?”

Sam said, “Wherever it was, I wish you lived there, I woulda stayed.” He laughed.

Joe stared at Sam. He tried to figure if Sam was hitting on the waitress or being country friendly.

The waitress winked at Sam and smiled, “I heard most everything. I hadn’t heard that one.”

She turned without saying a word, a few minutes later she returned with two orders of three plate sized pancakes and sausages. She smiled at Sam and said, “If you finish them, you can have more.”

After she left, Joe said, “She likes you, Sam.”

“I got this woman magnet running through my veins. I was born with it. It’s been my curse,” Sam laughed. 

Joe and Sam dug into their pancakes as if they were hungry vultures attacking road kill. Sam emptied what was left of a bottle of maple syrup on his pancakes. Each his fork-filled bites oozed with warm dark blueberry syrup. 

They exchanged small talk about the trip. The scenery in Utah. The winding canyon as they drove out of Arizona into Nevada. When Sam was nearly finished, he wiped syrup off his grunge and said, “I don’t know if this grunge thing is gonna work for me. It catches more food than a dog lying under a table. ”

“You looked younger without the hair, you want my opinion,” said Joe.

Sam pulled a piece of pancake out of his stubble, and said, “The waitress didn’t mind. Have you figured out how far we are from Monica Ritchie’s house?”

“I did a Google map for directions. We’re only six miles away. You feel like going by tonight? She might be up?”

Sam was playing with a piece of pancake in the syrup with his fork. He lifted his eyes toward Joe, “How’d you like two strange guys knocking at your door around ten at night? They didn’t teach you common sense in Ohio?”

“You got a point. Let’s drive by the house tonight. We won’t stop. How’s that sound?”

“My opinion, we can find the house as easy tomorrow. I don’t think it’s going to run away. Settle down. Relax, we just drove eleven hours.”

The waitress brought the check and handed it to Sam. Joe reached for the check. Sam pulled it away.

“You’re paying?” said Joe.

“No. I’m gonna memorize the phone number she wrote on the back for me.”

The next morning, Joe and Sam ate breakfast in the Residence Inn lounge. Thirty minutes later, Joe pulled out of the lot and headed left on Sunset. They passed by Sunset Station Casino and drove under the 515 overpass. A mile later they passed by Sam’s Town another off strip casino. Joe had been to Vegas twice. Both times he flew in and took a cab to the strip. This part of Vegas had a different feel. It was blue collar, many of the homes had bars on their windows to prevent break ins, and For Rent of For Sale signs gave the feeling of a transient community. 

Sam hit Joe on his bicep, “Sam! Please don’t do that,” said Joe.

Sam pointed ahead, “There’s Hildago. Take a right.”

“What if her trailer is to the left?”

“That the best question you got? Take a right. If you figure the numbers are not working in your favor, you signal your intention pull to the curb. You check your sideview mirror, signal your intention to do a three point turn, make the three point turn and head back the other way. Turning right, you don’t have to worry about oncoming traffic. Kin you remember all that?”

“There is no oncoming traffic,” said Joe.

“Do what you want hard head.”

Joe signaled, and took a left onto Hildago. Trailers converted into homes on small desert sand lots lined both sides of the street. Cinderblock gray walls separated each of the lots. Mailboxes were at the edge of the street and each mailbox had the house number on its side. After Joe passed three trailers, he signaled his intention to pull to the curb. He made a three point turn and headed back the other way. Sam laughed and whistled a tune Joe hadn’t heard.

Joe chanced a look at Sam, “You look ten years younger with the grunge gone.”

“When are you gonna shave the piece of fur growing on your cheeks?” asked Sam.

Joe shrugged. He signaled to pull to the right curb. “Here it is.”

The BMW pulled to a stop in front of 432 Hildago Way. Sam turned and looked at an old air conditioner on the roof of a deck gray trailer. The air conditioner sounded like it was running the last mile of a marathon. A short sidewalk made of red bricks haphazardly placed on the desert sand led to two narrow wooden steps in front of the trailer door. Two large reddish flower pots sat on either side of the steps. One held flowers long dead. The other contained a poorly cared for yucca plant. A small pink tricycle with a pink plastic horn lie sideways on the desert sand. Next to rested a blue plastic beach pail, and matching blue shovel.

Sam turned back and saw Joe staring at tricycle. “Does it ever end, Sam?” Joe asked.

“All we got is a first impression. Monica might not live here for all we know,” said Sam. 

Joe opened his door, took a long look at the street and trailers. He spotted a few vans, several pickup trucks, and three cars without wheels resting on cinderblocks in the small yards in front of the trailers. A tilting neighborhood watch sign with gang graffiti on it was in front of the next lot. Joe shook his head, closed his door, and stared at the trailer in front of him. There were four small windows. Broken blinds tilting haphazardly were behind two windows. The other two windows had cracks running from the lower right corner to the upper left corner. A piece of cardboard covered each window from inside. Joe took a deep breath and walked around to the sidewalk. Sam was waiting for him.

Joe walked up the narrow brick sidewalk and reached over the two narrow wooden steps and rang the doorbell. He waited a moment then rang it again. 

Sam said, “You’re ringing it wrong.” He stepped to Joe’s right, stood on his toes and pushed the doorbell. He didn’t release it. Thirty seconds later, a female voice from inside hollered, “Stop ringing the damn thing, I’m coming.”

The metal frame door partially opened and a short, Latina, with disheveled black hair hanging down from her head and touching her shoulders and collarbones as if it had come out of the spin dry cycle on a washing machine. The latina had puffy dark circles under her deep brown eyes. She still wore her makeup from the night before making her look much older and worn than she ought to be. 

She angrily said, “What the hell do you want? You woke me up. What time is it? Who are you?”

“Are you Monica Ritchie?” asked Joe politely.

“What’s it to you. Who wants to know? Am I in trouble? Are you guys vice cops?”

“I’m Joe Astore. This is my friend Sam. Joe Ritchie is my father I trying to find him. I’d like to talk to you for a few minutes if you don’t mind.”

Monica, clothed only in a light blue terry cloth rob, loosely cinched at the waist not caring what she exposed opened the door. The bright desert sun forced her squint. She rubbed her eyes with both of her fists. She said, “If you find him, tell him he owes me five years child support. What’s in it for me, if I talk to you?”

Joe’s brain froze. Sam said, “If you give us information we can use, we’ll give you what you usually get.”

“All you want is information?”

“That’s all we want,” said Sam.

“Come on in,” Monica didn’t bother holding the door, she turned and walked around a basket of laundry toward a kitchenette. She sat on a chair at a small table with a half filled bottle of whiskey and two dirty shot glasses on the table. 

Joe looked at a sink filled to overflowing with dirty dishes. A radio sat on the counter sitting on top of a box of Kotex next to the sink. The trailer smelled of mold, garbage, and marijuana. A sofa held a short black leather skirt, panties, and a bra. A rumbled see through black lace blouse lie on the floor next to the sofa.

“I charge by the hour and the clock is ticking,” said Monica.