Death in the Saddle, Ch 6

“Mrs. Bruxton, there’s a call for you on line three.” Melinda, Mary Bruxton’s personal secretary spoke on the intercom as Mary, in the upstairs dressing room, adjusted her bra. She thought how her bosom over the past several years had become fuller and required a larger cup size.

“Who is it Melinda? If it’s my daughter, Deena, tell her I’ll call back as soon as I get myself tucked into this damned harness.” Having succeeded with the bra, she was almost breathless, pulling up the elasticized girdle to conceal a roll of belly fat.

The intercom interrupted again, “It’s a Mr. Frank Parma calling from the Screen Actors’ and Writers’ Guild. He says he wants to thank you and give you some kind of award.”

“Who? Oh, who cares. Take his number, and tell him I’ll call back later.” She lurched to one side, then the other, and continued to pull upward trying to get the garment symmetrical. She looked in the mirror sideways and mumbled, “How in the hell did I get so round?” She sucked in her abdomen and thought: well at least my butt hasn’t drooped as yet. But hell, Peter isn’t interested in what I look like, anyway. How many months had it been since their last attempt at intercourse when he complained about maintaining an erection? Hah! I’ll bet he has no trouble with those bitches at the office, Mary thought bitterly.

The intercom crackled again, “Mrs. Bruxton this guy says he’s shooting on location in the desert and would like to deliver whatever he’s got for you, in person. He says he’ll take only a minute of your time.”

“Melinda, I don’t know who in the hell he is, and right now, I don’t care to entertain any strangers. Get rid of him.”

“Okay, but I think you should know he’s that hunk who’s on daily TV soap re-runs in a show called, Lovers’ Lives. He’s tall, dark and kinda looks like an Italian George Clooney. And you know, there’s nothing wrong with Italian salamis.” Melinda’s unsolicited opinion was followed by the sound of her giggling on the intercom.

Mary straightened a crease in a flower-patterned sheath and smiled. “Melinda, you’ve got a big filthy mouth. Where’s this guy now?”

“Fifteen minutes from here at the Indian casino in Rancho Mirage.”

Mary looked at her watch. 12:30. “I’ve got a hair appointment at 1:30. If he gets here by 1:00, I’ll give him fifteen minutes. If he says he can make it, fine; if not, sorry Charlie.”

Smoking Gun

Minutes later, the maid called up to let Melinda know that Mrs. Bruxton’s guest had arrived. Melinda came out into the foyer and found a six-foot Adonis standing in the doorway of the Bruxton estate. He had thick black, curly moist-looking hair; a face tanned and dimpled, a cleft in his chin, and teeth too white and even to be God-given. His V-necked sweater sans shirt revealed black and silver chest hairs, and his broad chest tapered to a narrow flat waist. He was holding a gift-wrapped package that looked like a two-pound box of candy. “Mrs. Bruxton?” He presented his card.

“No, no, I’m her secretary. Mrs. Bruxton will be down shortly. Please, follow me. You can wait here.” Melinda led him into the spacious living room. He moved about, studying the many objets d’art; the kind he had seen in other well-appointed homes furnished by interior decorators. An eclectic arrangement of oil paintings adorned the walls. He scrutinized the paintings and leaned forward to read the artists’ signatures. He was about to touch the textured surface of a Monet Giverny garden scene, wondering if it was an original or a copy, when Mary Bruxton approached from behind and cleared her throat.

He spun around, “Oh, I beg your pardon—Mrs. Bruxton?”

“Ye-es.” Her eyes danced and explored the manly visage. She stood fascinated by this virile creature, oozing sexuality.

“Mrs. Bruxton, I’m at a loss for words. I wasn’t expecting anyone as young or as beautiful. I’m completely charmed.” Mary’s face was aglow as she continued to stare at the handsome figure. “Permit me to introduce myself, I’m Frank Parma, and I’m here to deliver a small gift, a token of appreciation from the Actors’ and Writers’ Guild of America. Your generous contribution in support of our art is greatly appreciated and hereby acknowledged.” He smiled. “I spent five minutes rehearsing that line. I certainly hope it came out right.” She chuckled and the air of formality was broken. He handed her the box, then put his hands behind his back.

“May I?” she said, removing the ribbon.

“Of course.” The actor’s sonorous baritone thrilled her and made her skin prickle.

“What a lovely gift,” she said while removing the tissue from a Lalique crystalline plaque on which were etched her name and a tribute to her generosity in support of Theatre Arts. “How nice of you to take the time and trouble to bring this to me. Where did you say you were working?”

“We’re shooting desert scenes in the Yucca Valley for the next few weeks. It’s a Western—well, a sort of modern-day oater with a new twist and dark overtones. Not an old time shoot’em-up with horse-chasing scenes. This has to do with a mineral discovery and a boss’ wife lusting after the hero, who just happens to be me. It’s a hokey old story line, but we’re hoping it’ll work. Some of the actors have been kidding me, saying that with me in the picture it’s a bona fide spaghetti western.”

“My, how clever of them. Where’s Yucca Valley and why are you filming there?”

“It’s a high valley about forty minutes west and north of here. About sixty years ago, some Hollywood cowboys like Gene Autry and his cronies bought some desert property up there to shoot their own westerns. The area is about ten miles northwest of the town center of Yucca and is called Pioneer Town. It’s named for Autry’s old singing group, Sons of the Pioneers. There’s not much up there except a recreated frontier post office, community hall, saloon, general store and old wagon parts.”

“Are you able to live there?”

“The film company’s taken over a small motel on the premises. Not exactly the Ritz, but it’ll do. Frankly, the arrangements are primitive and the chuck wagon grub is kinda tiresome.”

Mary Bruxton continued her assessment of the stranger before saying, “I hope you don’t think me forward, but if you don’t mind driving in, I can offer you our casita. The accommodations, I’m sure, are better and the food is pretty good, at least our cook thinks so. On her day off, you can have kitchen privileges. I might even help you from time to time.”

Parma’s eyes widened. “Mrs. Bruxton, that’s more than generous….”

“Call me Mary. What do your friends call you?”

“Frank or Frankie or Diego or just Hey You!”

Mary chuckled. “I think I’ll call you Frankie.”

“Mrs. Bruxton, er, ah, Mary, are you quite sure you want to make this offer? Mr. Bruxton won’t mind?”

“Having you here might put some life into this mausoleum. As far as Mr. Bruxton is concerned, well, he probably won’t even notice anything different.”

“I don’t know how I’ll ever be able to repay you.”

“Don’t force me into a clichéd answer.” He bent forward, and kissed the back of her hand.

“My, how gallant! Are you always so gracious?”

“Only with charming and beautiful women.” He took a step backward and bowed with a flourish.

Come back to next week to read more!

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