Death in the Saddle, Ch 14

Mary Bruxton held a cell phone to her ear and stopped in front of the dressing room mirror. She released the tie to her sheer robe, studied her partially nude form, and pouted. “It’s seven o’clock. Are you still on the movie set? Yes, Darling, he’s been served and he’s out of the house except for a few remaining items that his chauffeur collects and brings to him. Oh sure, there’ll be a court battle—you can count on that. The attorneys’ fees will be staggering—can’t be helped—he’s as stubborn as he is conniving. My attorneys will plead incompatibility, spousal abuse, and rape—that’s right, rape. More than once he’s forced himself on me when I was ill and emotionally non-receptive—that and a lot of other charges I can’t even begin to recall. The lawyers are convinced my case is gold-bonded.

“As far as our relationship—yours and mine—strictly platonic. You’re a guest in our casita here. You go your way and vice versa. I’m sure you’ve been discreet. Nobody needs to know—not that it really matters. As far as the help here, they know nothing about our close relationship. My secretary and maid have been sworn to secrecy and threatened with eternal damnation. Anyway, enough talk. Get over here, and I mean pronto. I need you here desperately.”

Smoking Gun

Less than an hour later, the doorbell to the Bruxton estate rang. Mary Bruxton, already downstairs, shouted “Never mind, Melinda. I’ll get the door,” Mary walked toward the entryway wearing a dark plum-colored, strapless gown. She paused at the mirror in the foyer to glance at her side view; she took a deep breath and sucked in her abdomen before opening the door. “Welcome, Cowboy.” She curtsied. “Mi casa es su casa. Impressed? I learned that from Melinda twenty minutes ago.”

“Señora, you look absolutely ravishing.” Parma handed her a bouquet of roses.

“Gracias, mi amore.” She tilted her head to look at his right hip then his left. “Did you bring your six shooters?”

“No, but I’ve got a loaded Howitzer ready to fire.”

“Oh, you are bad, and I love it.”

He stepped into the foyer, embraced her firmly and nuzzled her neck. She extended her head back and giggled while he dropped one hand and gently squeezed her buttocks.

“Naughty boy!” With mock objection, she slapped his hand. “Come, we’ll have a drink and you can tell me all about your day in cowboy and Indian town. Did you do the scene where you make love to the unfaithful wife yet?”

“I’m saving all those good feelings for the one I really love.” Frank spun her around then bent her backward as in an adagio movement and kissed her lips. She closed her eyes, then reached for his face to prolong the tender moment.

“Oh, that was delicious,” she said. “Make any wish and it shall be granted.”

“Love me tonight.”

“That’s just what I had in mind.” She walked to the sofa, then motioned for him to sit beside her.

“Funny that you should have mentioned six-shooters a moment ago. My gun coach showed me how to fire a revolver and twirl it into a holster. He was impressed with my target practice too. Actually, I’m pretty good with my piece.”

She raised one brow. “I can vouch for that.”

Frank smiled, and headed for the bar where he mixed her vodka gimlet with the ease of a professional bartender, then poured his aged Scotch on the rocks into a tumbler. They toasted to everlasting love and devotion. After that, Frank sat quietly and stared into his glass.

Mary placed her drink on the cocktail table. “Frankie, why so quiet? What’s troubling you?”

“I’ll be through shooting the desert scenes next week.”

Mary reached for his hand, her mien turned serious. “What will you do?” Before he could answer, she said, “Frank, you know I just can’t bear the thought of you being away from me. I don’t want you returning to Hollywood. You’re a part of my life now.”

He gave her a side-glance, a crooked smile, a cinematic ploy emblematic of old screen lovers who combined the look of wanting and pathos. “Mary, what am I going to do here? There aren’t any more movies scheduled for the desert. Even this one was sort of a fluke.”

“Stay here. Be my partner,. Be my manager. Help me with my charities. There are a thousand things we can do together.”

“No, no. I love being with you, Baby, but I’ve got to do something on my own. I want to stay in the movie business—do some acting, directing, producing. Nothing gives me a rush like working on the set, unless of course it’s being with you.”

“Why don’t you make a movie with a Palm Springs setting? You could direct, act, produce….”

“Mary, whoa! Are you aware of all the money involved in that?”

“Answer one question. Can you do it?”

“Well, yes, but….”

“Then start making plans.”

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