Chapter Five: A Woman gains freedom and a Father is revealed
On a cold and rainy day, a rarity in Santa Barbara, Penelope Elise Lavigne, these days know as Miss Penny, a party planner of renown adored by the Hill Barons and beyond, was walking along State Street admiring her reflection in the store windows. As she passed the darker ones she noticed how charming the tilt of her moss green Robin Hood hat with the rusty brown and black pheasant feather was against her soft chignon. Her hair was a deep auburn, always worn pulled back and contrasted well with her careful choice of wardrobe colors. Today it was a grey-green topcoat over a delicate pink chiffon blouse that barely showed her elaborate lace camisole underneath. Her skirt was kilt-like worn short with tan boots that came to the knee. Hurrying along she sheltered herself with a big black umbrella that was a souvenir from the grand cruise ship, Majestic, where she lived and worked for 3 years before coming to California.
No one knew that Penny left her home, the Loire Valley vineyards, in the middle of the night fleeing from a vicious husband who beat her bloody for the last time on the day he found a diary that exposed her soul. The times were rapidly evolving new ideals of womanhood. A progressive morality was in the process of being negotiated, an era in which women were beginning to expand every potential. All this challenged the conventions and standards around them. A modern Independent behavior caused powerful critics to denounce these women as a threat to society. The "flapper" became the symbol of hedonism and indifference to traditional mores. Even worse, the perception that all this new thinking led to an unrestrained sexuality which conservatives believed to be characteristic of any girl with a bob and short skirt, caused enormous suffering in families everywhere.
As a young girl in France, Penny yearned to experience the world the way characters in books of the day described. She followed through with a marriage that was demanded of her. Purely an alliance between families to enhance an iron grip the vineyard owners had on the region, there was violence between the couple from the start. Penny read “The Sheik” over and over and tried to fanaticize while the physical torture was raging.
The book, essentially the depiction of a strong, self-sufficient woman being tamed and subdued by a man who rapes her repeatedly spoke to Penny’s heart and in a strange way bound her to stay just as Diana, the character from the novel finally falls in love with her rapist. All this was written with explicit detail in her Diary. Whether the work was placed near the kitchen table on purpose or by accident, even Penny did not know but it caused a violent explosion in the mind of her unsophisticated husband. He took a bridle from a hook near the door and waited for her to come in from the garden. Striped with burning pain she plotted her escape and after a series of connections devised by the miraculous hand of destiny the young woman succeeded. She vowed to recreate herself in the new style of an independent, self-sufficient female, free to openly and unashamedly enjoy all worldly pleasures just as well as the men.
It was this spirit that motivated Miss Penny to head for M.C. Graveport & Sons, known later as The Book Den. The target of her attention was the celebrated Mr. Oren Jefferson Star who was appearing in person to sign copies of his brand new novel, “Paradise Underbrush”, a sequel to his very popular “When the Bough Breaks”. There was so much published prattle about him in the gossip columns, the literary reviews and pure word of mouth that a movie virtuoso or a sports champion would need to compete for equal treatment.
Even in the rain there was a line of umbrellas waiting to enter the open doors. Crowding in Penny could see Oren seated at a large library table toward the back of the shop. Surrounding all was a remarkable two story finely crafted series of bookshelves and a severe but decorative mahogany balustrade. Six long pendulum lights finished with excellent deco inspired milk glass globes trimmed in black lit the space and on the tables there were double-armed brass fixtures with dark green glass shades. Several massive skylights timidly dripped rain that was strategically accommodated by buckets on the floor. Books filled every opening and there were circular iron staircases at intervals that allowed for upstairs access. The air was moist and heavily scented by a mélange of Shalimar perfume with a handsome combination of leather, ink and paper even a hint of tobacco.
Oren Star, it was whispered, was suspected to use the pen name of “Temple Baily”, a well-known authoress thought to propagate the new free spirited feminine psyche. In these books along with his own, very modern notions of wedlock where husband and wife are companions is described. He dares to say that the goal of marriage is their mutual happiness and personal fulfillment. His female characters think nothing of kissing a young man on the first date. They are not averse to petting, but petting always stops short of completion. To the ladies it is the power of this passion withheld that makes for a delicious state of denial. An unabashed sensual teasing without responsibility appealed to the women so deeply. Penny loved certain chapters, even specific paragraphs, of Star’s work she had marked to relish over and over again, so when he began to read from his newest piece her eyes became glassy and her heart beat faster.
“Mesmerized by the moment, Delma lost all restraint. She slowly took off all her clothing and lay flat on the palm and flower strewn sand sheltered by a giant tree dripping with jasmine overhead. Her breathless body pulsed against his as they lay full length hopelessly locked in a desperate embrace. Delma’s sharp fingernails penetrated the flesh over his breast. She buried her knees into his hips, and bit his earlobe gently. Bernard’s eager panting brushed Delma’s face. He was trembling as he muttered the words ‘look at me’. Delma raised her eyelids slowly and said, ‘Kiss me now’.”
The writer’s rich baritone voice only served to boost the ladies enjoyment and the line formed with eager fingers holding a receipt that would allow them to have a precious moment while their edition of “Paradise Underbrush” was personally autographed.
Penny ambled around near the end of the line often browsing through the stacks waiting to hopefully be the last one and planning what she might say to Oren. Could she just look into his sweet palest blue eyes and listen to his deep mellow words, soaking him up and filling her heart? Penny knew he would be just like the men in his novels who loved their women with a passionate respect. She loved his husbands who treated their wives as a partner, not as a subordinate. Even self sufficient Miss Penny fully expected and wanted to be a wife and mother, devoted to her own home and family. I want it all, she thought, sadly bound by the dark past that still imprisoned her. She left her jacket and satchel at a table and taking off her hat she removed the hairpins to let her glorious dark red hair fall loosely around her shoulders. Walking over to one of the spiral staircases she climbed up and found a tiny desk along the balustrade that almost overlooked Star as he continued to sign the books and woo the ladies with his words. Watching out of the corner of her eye to monitor the end of the line she plucked a book from the shelf behind and began to read. It was a botanical encyclopedia with fine drawings that occupied her for some time.
Finally the last of the ladies disappeared toward the rear exit and Miss Penny stood to conquer. She moved to the spiral staircase that ended almost at the feet of Oren Starr who, adjusting his glasses preparing to pack up and leave, chanced to look up just in time to see a little flash of pink slip and a ravishing red head descend from above in some alluring knee high boots.
Penny smiled at Star, twirling a little receipt in her fingers then placing it on the table. Moving close to him she slowly removed his glasses and flirtatiously undid his bow tie. Oren’s wide light cerulean eyes filled with surprise and enchantment. The willing writer raised both arms and guided her to the bookcase behind. Pinned there she felt his body so close to hers that his heat actually warmed her breasts. “So you liked my book?” Oren whispered. Miss Penny nodded, moistening her lips as if to speak but simply leaning her head back against the books. She offered her slightly parted mouth to him and he began to accept when she abruptly spun out of his grasp, heading for her jacket. Slipping it on she wrapped up her hair and donned the felt hat checking that the feather was pointed straight. Then grabbing her satchel and umbrella swiftly headed out the front door disappearing down State Street with a rapid gait.
Miss Penny’s naturally flawless ivory skin was hot with bright red patches on the cheeks. She was ecstatic as she turned into Diehls to find Salvador at the Soda Fountain and ordered her favorite, a “Turkey Trot Sundae” with four kinds of nuts over thick dark chocolate, marshmallow whip and rich vanilla ice cream.
Paco was at his desk in the back of the store sorting through orders but really occupied with the astounding events that occurred when he arrived home at the Quien Sabe to talk to his Mother about what had transpired the night before. At first she was unable to break away at his urging. The Wrights were hosting a remarkable performance by Paderewski, the world-renowned pianist, and this was drawing everyone’s attention to the grand piano set in the most perfectly designed great room, famous for it’s balanced acoustics. Paco could hear the exquisite strains of his music floating into the kitchen and as he began helping Madonna prepare trays of hors d’oeuvres he asked, “Who brought me home last night?” His Mother stopped short, looked at him with wet eyes and said, “It was your father”. “But you said he died?” Paco was anxious now. “What is the truth? Why did you lie to me? Someone said that if they found out about me they would kill me? What does that mean?”
The famous Maestro’s piano was raging as Madonna held Paco tightly and told him an incredulous story. She revealed how the Families in Italy carried a blood feud for many generations. When their families came to Montecito to work for the Hill Barons they thought they would be free from this madness. But sadly, the peace came to an end when, shortly after Madonna Fazinatos and Pacomino Oakley were married, it was discovered that the groom’s Mother was a Basinorios, the warring faction of the family who had vowed vengeance.
In Santa Barbara all that seemed remote to the young couple who had just announced they were with child. Horrified, Oakley, while walking home one night, was abducted by several who pledged his death and brought him to San Francisco to stand at his enemies contrived mock trial that would have concluded with a death sentence but for one absurdity that established a strange limbo.
The old Don, Signore Telchide Fazinatos, officiating at this rigged performance, recognized the young man and knew his family well, so well in fact, unbeknown to most, he had shared many intimate moments with Oakley’s Mother, Innocenza, and some whispered he even ordered his father’s untimely death. She had married a handsome local man, a fisherman by trade whom, to her deep displeasure, spent days at sea. Paco’s grandparent’s union was made against the Italian family’s wishes, so when Mathew Oakley was mysteriously found dead, floating in the bay, it was assumed that some hand of historic hatred was at work. Innocenza was widowed and months later, a time that no one seemed to carefully count, she gave birth to a son that she named Pacomino after a an illustrious ancestor who had been a military hero. Not knowing it at the time, since she was secretly just seeking some monetary support, she saved her beautiful son’s life while denying her grandson a father. Innocenza, in utmost secrecy, told Don Fazinatos that this boy was really his own.
So now, sitting in the kitchen with his Mother, Paco learned the real reason that his Father never returned home. Now he knew why Oakley was separated forever with his beautiful Madonna and never saw his wonderful son, who was given his name, save for a few fleeting moments. Madonna tenderly described how he did come one last time to explain the terrible turn that fate had taken.
For their salvation, Pacomino Oakley swore on the bodies of his wife and little son to disown them. A captive of this foul legacy he was established as a Captain in the “Aroncioni” a kind of Western syndicate, commanded by the old Don, Signore Fazinatos, which had grown rich and extended especially with the help of Prohibition.
The rapturous melody from Paderewski’s spectacular “Fantaisie Polonaise” now floated into the kitchen where Mother and Son sat arm in arm, frozen with bewilderment. Then Madonna, so gravely heartbroken, began rocking Paco who she knew was deeply wounded inside.
Chapter Six: The Gypsy Camp
Paco packed the truck like a robot still dazed by the truth of his Father’s life and the enormous complexity it brought to him. He needed time for this to penetrate. He had two more deliveries and then he fully intended to accept the Hoffman’s little daughter’s invitation to the notorious Gypsy Camp soiree. With mind buzzing, he drove through the elaborate iron gates to Miraflores, meaning “look at the flowers”, an elegant mansion designed by premiere architect Reginal Johnson who was just completing the fabulous Biltmore Hotel.
The estate was created from the remains of the Montecito Country Club that was, early in the decade, destroyed by a scandalous fire and murder that was never solved. A superlative example of Spanish domestic architecture it featured a regal carved stone entrance centered at the end of a dramatic straight-line approach that Paco was now passing continuing around to the rear. He loved the gardens, especially the roses. From the rear terrace he could see the sunken pool and formal cultivated elements. The terraced beds were skillfully arranged to display colorful patterns with carefully selected flowers of many descriptions.
The two story house enclosed three sides of a large rear terrace flanked by a romantic loggia, a space that Paco and Salvador knew well since they served often as bartenders for the many parties that John Percival Jefferson and his wife Mary held there. A large beautifully wood paneled living room also hosted the renowned musicians of the moment. The Butler ceremoniously stooped to unlock a trap door that revealed steps down to the splendid wine cellar that originally served the Country Club.
Paco was directed to put the beverages on the shelves below. He inhaled deeply a perfume of famous vintage wines peacefully aging and the rich heady aroma of the fine cigars stored in handsome wooden silver trimmed humidors. Lifting heavy crates he was red-faced remembering a salacious moment stolen away with a cigarette girl, the two forced to remain hidden for more than an hour as the guests above endured an endless recital by an unknown coloratura soprano and a tenor with such a sharp piercing voice it burned their ears even below ground. Up and off now to one final stop.
The grand 70-acre Arcady was one of Montecito’s most magnificent estates. It was distinctive including the tower that created a regal image and included a number of buildings throughout extensive grounds with gentle hills giving the overall appearance of a small village. It was the residence of Mr George O. Knapp. Above all it commanded an inspiring eminence with a spacious view. Behind the estate, customarily viewed from a spectacular vantage point complete with columns and sculpture, soar sudden mountains angling down to the coast, their slopes etched in vertical patterns by a thousand watercourses and outcroppings.
Below and in front of the mansion lies the graceful curve of the shoreline, and the waters of the Pacific that on clear days appear as blue as lapis lázuli. In the distance, Santa Rosa Island stretches its great length like a sleeping giant. All this magnificence soothed the soul of the artist-delivery man who always took the time to drink in the beauty and notice the myriad of wild birds and small animals that scurried across his path as he drove up to the kitchens.
He had three drop off locations on the property. First, the main house, originally built by the fabled Ralph Radcliffe-Whitehead & Jane Byrd McCall Whitehead, a couple who contributed greatly to the Arts and Crafts movement that started in England by William Morris. Here, in Montecito the architectural style of the mansion resembled a Mediterranean villa, designed by an architect named Samuel Ilsley. When Jane’s husband died her dream of creating a center for as she put it, “a simpler, a truer, a more vital art expression”, that involved living and studio spaces for painters, poets, composers, sculptors and potters, ended and the great estate was sold to the Knapps.
The second delivery point was a large series of buildings that provided for the staff, the stables and a large outdoor kitchen for California style Barbeques. But the best of the three, in Paco’s mind, was the delivery to Joannah Hartfield Prang, a masterful ceramicist who lived in the charming hillside guesthouse that perfectly reflected the concept of “The Simple Home”, a wooden Craftsman’s dream.
The house was her studio-salon, a place to create and exhibit her work as well as a home to receive guests and that is how she treated the Diehls delivery man who she knew, in her psychic way, would be a great artist. He sat by her in the tall main room with a balcony from which hung oriental rugs and Indian saris. The walls, too, were adorned with textiles, rugs and tapestries. Her robust well-formed pottery was casually arrayed on chairs and more formally on a massive round oak table in the center of the space.
Several large armoires with handsome Craftsman style carving provided storage and could be opened for her exhibits to show off many more pieces. The two sat together in straight back seventeenth century chairs. Exotic details like the oriental brass lamps and a giant brazier emitting sandalwood incense intrigued Paco. Moody muted shades of turquoise and rust with indigo blue and deep ochre created a dark impression. The sun made dazzling elongated patterns on oriental rugs and before the stone fireplace that always seemed to be glowing there was a fleecy brown bearskin.
Joannah in her enchanted guesthouse was the last remnant of Whitehead’s fantasy and she was allowed to stay rent-free as a part of the Knapp purchase agreement. So the aging artist and the young man discussed all manner of things, sipping chai tea with vanilla cream and munching on chocolate macaroons. They loved to pull out books of art or architecture almost always referencing work from the Arts & Crafts Movement. One such volume was a catalog of the textiles and wallpapers of Morris and his studio mates. This was mesmerizing for Paco who memorized the color palettes to use in his own paintings.
On this day Joannah had a client and so the delivery was brief, as she demanded a kiss before leaving. Paco was on the road back to Diehls now for a swift clean up, a shave and smooth application of a little Murray's Pomade to keep the curls under control. He changed into his soft sweater with his dark brown leather jacket. Hopping onto The Indian he was off to the dream-like Casa Santa Cruz and the excitement of The Gypsy Camp.
Cruising the driveway to the mansion he passed the site of the camp that was crawling with early preparations, the scent of lamb & rosemary roasting in the air. Deciding to check in at the main house he parked the Indian behind a hedge and knocked on the front door. Time passed and just before he planned to walk down to the camp the door opened to see a very merry little face with a big broad grin that exposed two missing front teeth. She had the purest skin and eyes and even though a bit thin, maybe fragile, he could see there was a hearty spirit alive and well. She flew forward hugging him and grabbing his hand pulled him inside.
Paco had never been inside before. Intrigued he caught sight of a hand painted coffered ceiling in the entry with gold embellishments and painted bouquets of flowers in each square. The Butler’s station and office was off of the most impressive dark red tile floor, laid in a herringbone pattern that was glassy with polish. He peeked up a flight of stairs to see a portion of a brilliant stained glass window. Stopping at a large door, the girl opened it to show him a fully stocked bar, walls painted like a circus tent with clowns, horses and balloons. “Do you want a soda? I can make you one. I’m not allowed to have any Coca Cola but I can make one for you?”
This little one was so adorable with very bright brown eyes, maybe five tiny freckles on her nose and her braids in loops, tied up high on the head with many colors of very thin ribbons matching the trim on her peasant blouse and very full short ruffled skirt. She wore white stockings to the knee and patent leather Mary Janes that clattered from the taps on the toes. Paco shook his head and she led him on skipping and bouncing all the way to an enormous living room, wood paneled in antiqued ash that included many shelves for books and collectibles. There was a bank of French doors that opened out to a sizable brick veranda. He could see large terra cotta pots filled with blooming hydrangeas or lavender, some glazed with a pale turquoise. “I can read you a story”, she said, shuffling through a stack of books on her child size desk. “Or, I know, let’s go!”
She grabbed his hand again and pulled him to the adjoining room that was jaw dropping in size and style. They entered a huge space, again flanked by French doors out to a veranda, but the spectacular feature here was the lustrous parquet floor that provided a perfect ballroom. The little Hoffman ran to the phonograph at the end of the room and with a few noisy false starts put the needle in place and ran to Paco’s side for the music to begin. Puzzled he waited seconds with her until a big orchestra played the hit song from “No, No, Nanette”, a tap dancer’s dream. Automatically she danced her way along, her braids bouncing, ruffles flouncing and tap shoes flashing. Paco pretended to partner up but he really was just playing the game watching her move. She was really very, very good!
He twirled her and stood aside with arms motioning to her for a solo. Now he was stunned, his huge eyes wide with amazement. Her dancing shifted to a new level of dazzling artistry; so much expressive style and tapping that matched the music perfectly. Breathing heavily and now with burning red cheeks the child stood and in turn motioned for his solo.
Feeling silly but committed he did his best. Just at that moment the Hoffmans walked in and a concerned Mother escorted the little star out as she complained loudly, begging to stay. Bernard, a true gentleman, in soft tones explained the critical nature of his daughter’s diabetic condition that did not allow for over excitement. He and Paco walked together out onto the veranda and through the wild verdant natural gardens passing a splendid Spanish star fountain on the way down to the Camp.
Around the blazing fire there was a row of massive tree stumps that accommodated any who wanted warmth and a very wide pounded earth pathway where the dancers and strolling musicians performed. Surrounding this was a series of rustic log benches dotted with Spanish shawls and garlands of various greens. Behind the benches ran a chain of lighted torches and a lawn.
At one end stood the elaborate Gypsy wagon painted with fantastic imagery that was now a bit faded. Flowers and cupids playing inside a giant golden horseshoe, magical writing around deep red roses entwined a fortuneteller’s hand of fate, and fancy scrolls in lattice designs with playing cards covered the entire outside. There were carved embellishments as well as a polychrome spool rail gallery that trimmed the roof. A curved wooden ladder led to a cottage style front door with the top section open. All this was perched high on four enormous spoke wheels so with the shuttered windows, tonight open, it was difficult to actually see inside, but the candle light flickered granting a shadowy peek at drapes of rich red velvet and golden brocade.
Scattered on the other side of the lawn were hand hewn picnic tables. One was jumbo size and served as the buffet, now laden with giant platters of carved lamb, crocks of salsa and big bowls of El Paseo salad, soon to be accompanied by stacks of freshly made steamed tortillas. There was a long bar, tonight attended by Salvador and his little brothers, Juan Carlos and Rodriego, who continually served rows of drinks, the alcohol supposedly provided secretly by the guests. All the dancers and musicians were slowly filtering into this dramatic arena. A certain tension arose; a mysterious wave appeared to bewitch the entire campsite promising a night of revelry and seduction.
Women were wearing strong colors, almost electric. Often the necklines started high with sleeves reaching the elbow then finished in a single ruffle. Some blouses plunged open with a generous décolletage supported by straps, combined with delicate lace and short jackets. Most of the dresses had rows of ruffles and were topped by little fringed shawls. Polka dots were everywhere in all sizes, and closely arranged to show off the feminine form with sensuality and daring.
The magnificent Esperanza passed by in a tightly fitted black skirt dramatically flared at the bottom with a separate bodice ruffled in bright yellow linen and eyelet overlays that properly glorified her impressive bosom. She was arm in arm towering over her man of the evening, famous baritone Fortuno Bona Nova who was meticulous as a classical Flamenco dancer with high-wasted black trousers and starched white shirt under a short waistcoat and a red cummerbund. A soft black fedora made him complete.
Mama Genet and Fayola floated across the lawn in striking Gypsy costumes jingling from layers of jewelry dripping with gold coins. Their heads were tightly covered with scarves and they wore ornate dangling earrings. Heading for the wagon, aided by several bystanders to maneuver the little wooden ladder, they disappeared inside. Now many distinguished and familiar faces began to grace the assembly. Mr & Mrs John Wright, Paco’s own Hill Barons of the Quien Sabe Ranch and Mrs Ellen Bothin of Piranhurst, who everyone called Nellie, arrived together thematically attired.
A congregation of artists began to rendezvous on one specific table including some who were prominent but most known to be fearsome partygoers with flasks already flashing around. There were plein air painters Charlie Borasco and Shadow Woosley, a well known double threat, esteemed printmakers Brian Felco and wife Selma, oil painter Clad McCaskey, the much collected Mathew Farmington and in the center Joannah Hartfield Prang, striking in a dark green velvet ensemble with a tall comb that bore her exquisite black lace mantilla.
The musicians began the traditional gypsy dance music of Spain, in whose undulating vocals, supple arm movements, and stamping footwork displayed powerful Moorish and Arabic influences. Sometimes they danced to the accompaniment of singing and clapping only but this troupe came with many guitars and castanets, several fiddlers and an old man with a concertina. Tambourines with streamers were passed around so any could join in. Everyone at the Gypsy Camp anticipated individual performances distinguished by a passionate inventiveness. They played with the rhythms, each dance bearing it’s own striking intensity of expression.
On the pathway around the fire in a regal procession, slowly striding for ultimate dramatic effect came the stars of the El Paseo Revue, the brilliant Maestro Jose Fernandez and his gorgeous partner Carola Alvena, Nina Sandoval a gifted mime, comedy dancers Carmela and Gabriel Cansino, sensual siblings Lupe and Rudy Valesco, Camille De Montez with a voice of gold and the fiery dancer from the Gypsies of Granada, Carmen Samaniego. This signaled the beginning of a potentially premiere event.
The evening was getting seriously exciting as Paco wandered through the crowd smiling and stopping to chat with many that he knew both from work and growing up attending school. He sat and ate with Diehls owners, his bosses, Tahj & Paula Duchamp. Dancing briefly with the great Diva Gana Walska, who had summoned him with a little wag of her finger, he traded partners with Edwin Ballingford, owner of Il Brolino. Taking the very wealthy man’s magnificent young wife into his arms that began to quiver with nervousness, they danced the tango arousing a startling heat. Leaving her with a bow and a kiss of the hand as the music ended, he climbed into the sumptuous Gypsy Wagon where Mama Genet and Fayola, hilarity reigning, read his future in a polished crystal ball.
Moving next to the far side of the festivity, Paco spent a long while talking to Oren Star at Lora Knight’s table, with the group from Cima Del Mundo including Corliss, his old friend from High School, who was locked in intense conversation with the dapper looking Rennie. Seeing them brought back the horrendous image of the bodies twisted and crushed in the Hispano Suissa. It was amazing they were still alive. His face was flushed as he thought of Lillian and a little lump formed in his throat.
Miss Penny sauntered over and Oren, still using a cane since his miracle survival in the crash, quickly stood in greeting taking her hand with twinkling eyes. Paco moved on noticing William and Dorinda Bliss cheerfully socializing with the Hoffmans and an impressive group of architects including the imposing George Washington Smith and wife were talking to Mary Craig, now gaining prominence since the death of her famous partner and husband. Carlton Winslow was trading opinionated references to the current construction and difficulties for The Biltmore Hotel with Bertram Goodhue who was scowling bitterly.
Paco connected with Chef Victore, his prowling buddy, and the two talked a little, catching up on Forbidden Palace matters, and then found a bench where they lounged back sipping some potent daiquiris Sal had slipped to them under the bar.
The show was underway and weaving it’s magic spell over the Camp. At a bench not far away they could see a remarkable collection of guests surrounding a handsome young man, tonight commanding with his perfect mustache, dressed in black and straight brimmed equestrian hat. Paco recognized him from deliveries to Val Verde, his prime property now, with the help of Bertram Goodhue, under intense renovation. The man was the notorious Wright Ludington, heir to several fortunes. Gathered around him was a dazzling array of beautiful people. Paco recognized Ludington’s lady, Countess Louise, and his close associate Lockwood de Forest Jr. There was a bevy of platinum blond starlets with Merna Kennedy from Chaplin’s new movie, “The Circus”, drawing international attention. He also spied a little huddle of Chefs that he knew all too well, namely Piranhurst’s Fredo, Il Brolino’s Velly, Val Verde’s Printise Yonkopolis and surprisingly the Chauffeur from Cima del Mundo, Gunnar, looking extremely fit for falling fifty feet ending smashed under the massive automobile. Printise ambled over to Paco and Victore with a boozy gait and lit up a hand rolled cigarette inviting them to join in. Opening his case that appeared to be gold-plated with little rubies creating a monogram, he began deriding the other Chefs with grand fay gestures, especially concentrating on Fredo who picked up on the comments and loped over looking bizarre in a huge red cape with black mask and brimmed hat, a get-up that could be mistaken for a giant sized Zorro. An outright fight ensued until Wright Ludington himself stepped in to move them on and suddenly sat down next to Paco saying all in one long whiskey scented breath, “Who are you, what is your name, where have you been and where are you going?” Paco, playing the game replied, “I am Paco Oakley, I have been delivering your groceries and I am going to study art in Florence Italy”, folding his arms over his chest for emphasis. Ludington sat bolt upright, reaching into his vest pocket he pulled out a calling card and said, “Make an appointment so we can talk”. And with that he was gone, the last of his eccentric retinue following behind.
Turning the card over in his fingers he read the name and numbers. Thinking it smelled of providence, he safely stored it in his inside jacket pocket. Looking up now Corliss, her ruffled dress of many small white polka dots and lacy trim, dashed past him. He could clearly see she was sobbing, tears flowing and shawl dragging through the garden, seeming to be headed nowhere? Still amazed that she appeared to be unhurt in the crash, he arose automatically, this time pledging to himself, he would faithfully protect her.
Catching up he cradled her in his arms, flipping the shawl over his shoulder. He guided her toward the house and when they came upon the star fountain, bubbling away, he arranged the weeping girl on a long tiled stone seat. Sitting beside her she began to pour out all that had just happened. “Paco, you know that Rennie is a Count? Did you know his real name is Viscount Renford Combs Fitzroy? From Oxford, that’s England? His parents have come for him and he leaves on Tuesday.” She grabbed his collar and gently shook it. Then raping on his chest with her fists she cried helplessly, “But I love him. I will love him forever”. A sort of passionate little tantrum, enhanced by a few daiquiris, followed. He dried her tears with the Spanish Shawl and tenderly petted her lovely red-gold curls then lifted her chin up to look closely into her eyes. “You are so beautiful”, he said with such intelligence it made her stop and focus. “You will have such a fine life even right here at home.” Raising her to her feet he said, “come now I’ll take you home”. Finding the Indian behind a hedge near the mansion’s entrance, Paco tied Corliss to him with the shawl, taking off, a big fringe trimmed knot secured tightly over his stomach. After a short ride, she was home and he helped her to the door. “We must always be friends and never forget Lillian”, he said earnestly kissing her forehead as her eyes welled up again. “Where could she be?” Corliss wept, “She must be dead by now. So sad, so horribly sad”, she exhaled deeply feeling hopeless. “She lives, I think,” Paco whispered, as he opened the door and pushed her gingerly inside. He left quickly turning around only once to see her bewildered expression as she gave him a little kiss in the air and closed the door.
Planning to make some phone calls from Diehls he safely parked the Indian in it’s shed and unlocked the back door walking directly into his office. The store was empty and dark all except the small lamps glowing on the back bar of Salvador’s big soda fountain. It was almost ten when he called Paget at the fire station. They talked about Lillian and reviewed the many puzzling leads that now seem to have evaporated, lost like the beautiful woman herself and so painful to contemplate. Moving to the end of his desk, he began working on a pastel drawing of five gracefully composed fuzzy peaches, some with a pale crimson blush. He paused and picking up the phone made a call speaking slowly in a low voice.
Some time passed and the distinctive hum of her car stopping at the back door aroused Paco. Standing to meet her while removing his sweater he swiftly pulled her into him with eagerness, needing so much to delve into the pleasure she opened to him. He was compelled now; wanting so intensely to feel some satisfaction and hide from all the worldly pain that was closing in. Unbuttoning her silky white blouse and smiling wickedly she danced, twirling straight past him, heading for the giant marble soda fountain. Paco, laughing out loud, picked up two of the perfect peaches and followed her closely behind. They were now naked to the waist only wearing shades of tan belted jodhpurs and knee high boots, showing their beautifully formed bodies to one another with deep pleasure. He began to peel and slice the peaches as she searched out the ingredients needed to turn this outrageously sexy game into extreme bliss. He fed her a slice of sweet ripe peach and then ate one himself. They kissed deeply as he lifted her to the top of the counter and laying her out like a banquet he found Salvador’s rich vanilla ice cream. Placing a giant scoop into a silver sundae dish he unbuckled her belt and pulled the zipper down far enough to see her rounded form. There he started to dot her body with little spoonfuls of ice cream in a line that ended on the lips. Giving her the last bite he slowly licked up each dollop finishing at the zipper’s end. Moving to her breasts he gently circled each one in painterly swirls of smooth creamy caramel syrup using his finger as a brush then, thoroughly enjoying himself, he delicately sucked the sticky sauce away, twirling her nipples with his tongue.
She sat up and urged him to join her on the fountain top. As he lay down she slipped her leg over him and then settled, positioning herself right over him. Now it was his turn. She undid the buckle and unzipped a little way down so that she could see the lovely trail of dark curly hair disappearing below. She found Sal’s chocolate sauce, spiked with Italian Caffè Al Bicerin, some essence of roses and began writing “PACO” with little hearts on his well-muscled body in a narrow ribbon of syrup that she skillfully dripped from a spoon. Leaning over for a large ice-cold canister of whipping cream she made fluffy daubs that looked like pom-poms starting low and ending at the hollow in his top breastbone. Then feeding him a giant helping she took one for herself, kissing him ferociously, pressing all the cream between them. Heated now they proceeded taking turns licking up every bit, playfully teasing with little nips and tiny bites in tender places. Pulling off each other’s boots they were sitting on the counter with legs entwined facing each other. She found the cherries and tempting him she rolled the glossy dripping berry over his lips then traced little circles on his chest with her breasts. Now Paco was fully intoxicated by this erotic woman. He was so grateful. Now thoughts of his father and the beautiful Lillian were safely stored a million miles away on another planet.