Death in the Saddle, Ch 3

Before Bruxton could respond, the waiter returned, made a half bow, then smiled and asked if he could take their entrée orders. They both ordered, then Bruxton shoved his empty martini glass at him. “Hit me again.” With elbows on the table, he leaned forward, his beady eyes penetrating Mary’s. “All right, what other sorry ass news do you have?”

Reaching into her shoulder bag she handed him a thick brown envelope. “A courier came to the house this morning and had me sign for this. I opened it, thinking it was an urgent matter.”

Bruxton grabbed the envelope, looked at the return address and shook his head. “This can’t be anything good, it’s from Farquaahr, that fat ass commie lawyer, that loud-mouthed socialist. What the hell does he want?” He snapped open the folded pages and put them on the table. He reached for his glasses and scanned the first of several pages. “Listen to this bullshit….”

“Don’t bother, I’ve already looked at it.”

Bruxton ignored her, “…as part of the Civil Rights Act of 1968, the Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in the sale of houses….” Bruxton looked up as though to scold Mary who was chewing her second piece of celery. “Goddammit, I can sell to anyone I choose. No one’s gonna force me to sell to any niggers, Jews, Muslims, chinks, fruitcakes or other undesirables. My property is for sale only to successful Anglos. Guys like me who enjoy golf, poker, and a quick trip to Vegas, that sort of thing. And  I don’t want any fly-by-night four-flushers, either. I want solid citizens….”

“Like yourself?”

“Yeah, that’s right—hey, you bein’ sarcastic?”

Mary arched her brows. “Oh, no, you’re such an upstanding member of polite society….”

“Listen, I give plenty to charities, and I’m a member of all the important committees to raise funds for the needy. I’m on a first-name basis with every other big giver in this valley. And what’s more, I can buy and sell most of them. I’m in the Fortune 400, and I intend to stay there—maybe climb up a notch or two every year.”

Mary pointed to the papers he held. “Getting back to this law suit….”

“Forget it, I know enough about the law. I’m not interfering with the goddamn civil rights of anyone, and I’m not engaged in interstate commerce. That’s where the Feds can get you. Hell, I’m smarter than that.”

Two waiters arrived with entrées covered by domed lids. They were placed before the Bruxtons, and the domes were removed simultaneously. Mary thanked the waiters; Bruxton ignored them.

“As a matter of fact, you are engaged in interstate commerce—you sell Washington and Oregon lumber to a number of companies outside those states.”

“For your edi-fi-cation,” he syllabified the word for emphasis, “the last holdings of our lumber corporation are being sold to Georgia-Pacific. We won’t own any more lumber mills, log loaders, warehouses, trucks or logging equipment. We’re going to be out of it, done, fini, caput.”

“Thanks for keeping me informed.” Mary leaned back and folded her arms across her chest. “What about the assets? My name appears on those papers.”

“The deal isn’t finalized. We’re transferring the lumber holdings to finance our resort. You’ll get all the details from the lawyers in a week or two. It’s a complicated deal that only those goddamned overpaid Beverly Hills shysters can finagle. Don’t worry, you’re not going to lose one goddamn red cent—in fact, you’ll be the richest broad on the hill, next to Melinda Gates.” He appeared pleased with his explanation and expected no objections from his wife. He got none.

Sampling his filet of sole, Bruxton smacked his lips. “Jesus, these Frog cooks use a lot of butter. It’s no damn good for my gall bladder, but what the hell, I’ll take bicarb after.”

Without looking up from her plate, Mary asked, “Why did the suing party hire Farquaahr? And what infraction of the law was committed by those geniuses in our housing sales department? I’d think anyone who can buy a home for two to five million would be welcomed with open arms.”

Bruxton held up his knife and fork on either side of his plate. “No. We can’t allow just anyone to buy into our country club, and don’t make me go through all the reasons why. As for the money, hell, we got more multi-millionaires wanting to get in than we can accommodate.”

“Are you looking to establish an outpost for wealthy members of the Aryan Nation?”

Bruxton stammered and sprayed food in his excited reply. “Mary, don’t get on my fuckin’ back with your smart-ass wisecracks. You do this all the time, and then you wonder why the hell we can’t have a civil meal together. Jesus H. Christ, lay off, will you?”

Mary dabbed her lips with the corner of her napkin, then paused before speaking, “Bruxton, did it ever occur to you that life with you these past few years has been one big pain in my ass?”

Bruxton jerked his head back, set his utensils down and growled, “Is that so? Seems to me you accept your monthly allowance without complaining. Listen, any time you decide this marriage is too much for you, just let me know.” He pointed his fork at her. “But, if you think you’re gonna get half of what I fought for all my life, well, you’re sadly mistaken. Let’s be clear about that.”

Mary pushed her plate away from her, stood, then threw her napkin on the table. Her eyes flashed as she leaned forward with her hands on the table. “Listen, you—you poor excuse for a human being. Who helped support you twenty-five years ago when you were licking the boots of that straw boss at Crown Zellerbach? Who got up night after night to walk the floor with that colicky baby? Who did the laundry and cleaned that miserable, stinking one room apartment?” Before the beleaguered Bruxton could reply, she continued, “Now you’re a big shot, a celebrity, an honorary elder in that fancy Episcopal Church. Do you think the church members know you’re a womanizer? That you scam the government to avoid paying taxes? That you make deals with shady politicians?” Her face turned fiery as she grabbed her purse, got up from the table, and walked toward the restaurant exit. “Don’t bother to get up. Jim will drive me. You can take a cab.”

The maître d’ hurried toward Mary and asked if there was something he could do. She waved him off. Several patrons watched, listening with interest to the heated diatribe.

“Wait a goddamn minute, don’t do anything stupid!” Bruxton shouted as he stood and walked toward her. In an attempt to defuse her anger, he said in a softer voice, “We can talk about all of this at home. Baby, you know we need each other.”

Looking over her shoulder as she pushed through the door, she countered, “You couldn’t be more mistaken, you sonofabitch.”

Smoking GunAt the end of the office day, Maggie removed her nurse’s uniform, and placed it on a hanger in the closet she shared with Josh in his consultation room. She stood there in her half-slip and bra, rotating her head and neck to relieve muscle tension. Josh walked up behind her, placed his arms around her waist and kissed her neck lightly, then slipped his hands upward to cup the fullness of her breasts. Maggie brought her head back, closed her eyes and made purring sounds. “Don’t stop now, lover. If you think this is adequate payment, you’re mistaken, I’m asking for a raise.” Maggie turned around, placed her arms around Josh’s neck and gave him a breathy open-mouthed kiss.

Josh pulled her in tightly. Maggie feigned limpness and total surrender. “Whew! Hold on sailor, let me catch my breath.” She pushed him away playfully. “You’re incorrigible. Do you know what that does to me? You make me feel like a lovesick teenager.”

“Happy to accommodate. You stoke my furnace too.”

 “Moments like this make me grateful we are who we are. Unfortunately, life isn’t nearly as sweet for two of our patients traveling in the fast lane.”

Josh turned and looked at her. “Meaning?”

“I’m referring to the Bruxtons. The gossips already have them divorced and battling in court. We may be seeing a lot more of Mary if she develops any more psychosomatic complaints from all her grief.”

Josh nodded. “She might, but before she’s through, she’ll have Bruxton developing a few pains of his own.”

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