Being a novel, all characters, events, dialogue and representations are fictional ... and in no way are meant to represent any real or living persons or events... except the few annual events that are used to move me through time. The opinions expressed are my own, and not necessarily those of my author. And the story is copyrighted, by my author of course. Oh, and from time to time I may include some real time events to keep the blog more authentic. Comments and suggestions will be appreciated and seriously considered as the story moves along.

If you are just joining us, start with the Prologue and Chapter One on March 1, 2011, in the Archives.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Chapters 93 thru 97

Dear Readers: Here, at last, are the final chapters of Maggie's adventures. I hope you have enjoyed them and will recommend the blog to your friends. Plans are to put the entire book,  in third person like these last chapters, onto so that it can be downloaded to Kindles, etc. I will update the blog when this is done this summer. Thanks ever so much for reading my first attempt at a novel.
               Author, Jeanne Spitler Guerra

Chapter 93
   Maggie started to stand, but he motioned her back down. She dared not move after that. 
   Winston continued, talking even faster than normal now. “I told him if he didn’t hang himself, then the two of us would wait for the newlyweds to come home and I’d kill all three of you. Make it look like a murder/suicide instead of only a suicide.”
Maggie held back a strangled sob. Jamie was protecting them. God, oh, God...
Winston interrupted her thoughts, “Damn shame I had to kill him, you know what I mean? Bright young kid. But I couldn’t take the chance that he might figure it out and talk. Hmmph ... when he understood he was to die, too, do you know what he did?”
    Maggie shook her head, too terrified to speak. 
   “He prayed for me ... prayed for my sins. Isn’t that a hoot? He’s the one about to die, yet he prayed for me.” 
   Maggie swallowed hard to keep back the tears. How could we have doubted him? I’m so sorry, Jamie. Why didn’t we know better? Keep him talking, she thought. Please come, Murphy. Please, God. She swallowed again, her throat dry but she managed a hoarse whisper, “I’ll pray for you, too, Windy. Just let me have the gun and this will all be over.” Reaching her hand out slowly toward him, she did indeed pray for them both. 
    He stood up, keeping the gun on her. “You’ll pray for me, too? Oh, how kind of you, my dear,” he said mockingly with a laugh, holding his other hand to his heart. “But no thanks.  You see, I haven’t done anything wrong. I’ve only tried to set things right. Keep them on the straight path. I had no choice, you know what I mean? 
   “I mean, seriously, what if Mars had turned us in? What if Bennett talked to his son about it ... or if young Jamie figured it out by himself?” He shook his head, “Too many loose ends. It’s all their fault. I just did what I had to do to protect my windmills, my museum, my legacy, you know what I mean? Get up,” he commanded, waving the gun. “We’re going outside. Give me your attaché.”    
   She reached over for her briefcase and rose slowly, keeping her eyes on the gun, praying fervently, for both herself and for her one-time friend as she turned toward the door of the trailer. He put his coat on, then took the leather briefcase from her, and roughly gave her a shove toward the door.     
   When they were both outside and under the floodlight, she stopped, hoping someone might see them, but what would they see, really? He’d put the gun in his pocket, now directing her toward the deserted construction area where it was darker. 
   “And now you, my dear. What a shame you couldn’t leave it alone. How did you figure it all out, by the way? Connect me to Bennett? What was the last tumbler that fell into place to unlock the truth?”
   “The jabberwocky,” Maggie said flatly, frantically trying to think of a way to escape. 
   “What?” Winston replied.
    Maggie stopped before they rounded the dark corner. She turned to face him. He took the gun out of his pocket, still pointing it toward her. “The jabberwocky,” she repeated. “The nonsensical word in Jamie’s suicide note. They thought it was just a typo, but it wasn’t. ‘Bastardevil’ wasn’t ‘bastard’ and ‘evil’ with no space in between. It was ‘bastar-devil.’ Bastard plus devil. It was a jabberwocky. It was you. It’s how you wrote the tribute on the Saddle Tramp yearbook page back when you were president ... how you write your foundation speeches ... how you talk ... always with some balderdash and jabberwocky.”  
   Winston seemed impressed. “Hmmm. So you’ve slain the Jabberwock, have you, Alice? Clever girl. Didn’t really think anyone would catch that. Too bad you did. Now turn here, we’re going over to the Axtel windmill where you’ll climb up and accidently and conveniently fall off.”
But she didn’t turn. She continued facing him. “Why, Windy? Surely you can’t seriously think you can get away with another murder? What’s the reason for my being up there at night? How will you explain this one?” God, please, she prayed, tell me the right time. “Now,” God said to her, but before she could move again, she was struck on the side of her head by her briefcase and fell to the ground. Winston stood over her and waved the gun at her, his eyes as cold and hard as his voice.
“Shut the fuck up, bitch. Just give me a minute to think.”
   She dared not move and couldn’t talk with the side of her face in agony.
  “You’re right,” he said at last, in a calmer voice. “Too many questions. I can’t really let them find your body ...  but you can disappear. I’ll just shoot you and ... and then bury you — like I did the knife. Deep in the construction. That’s what I’ll do,” he said, making up his mind. “No one will ever find you. No one will ever know.”
“No, Windy. They’ll know ...” she said slowly sitting up in the dirt and looking up at him. “They’ll know.”
“How will they know?” he said. “We’re all alone out here and it’s too far away for anyone to see or hear anything.”
“Let me stand up and I’ll show you.”
   He looked at her, puzzled, but decided to amuse his prey before he killed. He backed up a step, motioning for her to stand, the gun still pointing at her threateningly.
“Here, Windy, let me reach in my pocket so I can show you.” She moved her hand slowly toward her jacket pocket.
   “No!” he said putting her briefcase down in the dirt, moving closer to her. “I’ll do it.” 
   She quickly moved her hand up in the air, and he reached into her pocket, looking puzzled as he felt something, pulling the object out and gazing at it for a long minute. Finally recognizing what it was, eyes now wide, he dropped it, stepping back as if it had suddenly burned his hand with the recognition. 
   “A transmitter? You’re wired?” he said incredulously. “You bitch!” He moved forward, this time raising the gun to strike her with it.    
   Maggie cringed, covering her already painful cheek waiting for the blow, but instead was knocked flat to the ground by the full weight of Winston P. Whitaker. 
Chapter 94
   Maggie fell hard on her right side, and thought she heard something crack, feeling immediate intense pain just below her shoulder. Am I shot? she thought. She hadn’t heard the gun go off. She didn’t smell gunpowder. But she felt like vomiting. And in fact, did, off to the side in the dirt. She spat and coughed, her arm in more pain than the remembered agony of childbirth.
Winston had rolled off her in a flash, scrambling to quickly regain his feet. Once again, Maggie was astonished at his agility, telling herself she really shouldn’t be surprised by now.   His old and feeble act was just that — an act. 
   Maggie slowly and painfully rolled herself off her right arm and into a half-kneeling position. She spat again, trying to clear her mouth of bile. She glanced behind her and realized she’d fallen hard on a construction stake. Protectively reaching for her arm just below her shoulder, knowing it was broken, she looked up at Winston, who no longer pointed the gun at her but at something nearby. Following Winston’s malevolent gaze, she was astonished to see Colin sprawled a few feet away, staring up at Winston. 
   “Maggie, Love, are you alright?” he said with a steady voice, keeping his eyes on Winston.
She winced in agony, but said, “Just grand, Murphy. Just grand.”
“Get up, both of you,” Winston commanded harshly, breathing heavily. Colin put up a hand indicating his intention. Crawling over to Maggie, he noticed she was holding her arm. “You lied,” he whispered as he gently helped her up, positioning himself between her and the gun. Then he looked squarely at the other man and said in a strong voice, “Now what, Whitaker? She’s wired, I heard and recorded everything, and Chief Callahan is on his way.” 
   On cue, a siren was heard in the far distance to Maggie’s everlasting relief. Winston cocked his head, hearing it, too. 
   Holding out one hand to Winston while supporting his wife with the other, Colin said, “It’s over, Whitaker. Just like she said. Give me the gun.” 
   Winston sighed and then said quietly. “No. Get in the trailer ... both of you. NOW!”
    The siren grew steadily louder. Holding her up, Colin walked them to the trailer and up the steps. As soon as they were inside, the door slammed shut behind them. They heard the padlock clicking in place.
    Colin quickly moved them away from the door, finding the switch and killing the lights, telling Maggie to get down and stay down, an idea she was definitely in favor of. The glow of Colin’s cell phone appeared in the dark, and he quickly said, “FBI agent needs immediate assistance ...” and continued with the where and the why, giving Winston’s description, saying he was armed. When he hung up, he quickly moved toward the back of the room.          
   “I thought you’d already called Callahan,” Maggie said through gritted teeth as her head started to swim from the pain. It was definitely getting worse.
“No, Love, I was bluffing ... just like you. Nice job, by the way.” 
   “But the siren?” she asked.
   “There’s a hospital across the street, remember?” 
   Maggie smiled at that. How clever her G-man was. Eyes adjusting to the darkness, she could see the outline of furniture. A small amount of light from the museum’s outside security lights filtered in through Mrs. Fauntly’s heavy curtains, enough to make out Colin’s shadowy form moving around the trailer.
   They were both startled by a heavy thud against the outside of the trailer, and then the sound of rushing air near the door.       
          “Quick, Maggie, come here,” Colin said urgently. She tried to get up, but wasn’t steady on her feet, and said in a whisper, “Not sure I can ...” 
   He found her in an instant, putting his arm around her waist, moving her quickly to the opposite end of the trailer. He sat her in a large leather chair. We must be at Windy’s desk, she thought. “What is it, Colin?” 
    He’d let go and moved to the heavy curtains, ripping them down. More light poured in, and Maggie could clearly see him pushing the massive oak desk in front of her closer to one of the room’s windows. The window was shoulder high, and not terribly large.
What’s that smell, Maggie thought? Then her brain pushed past the pain, adrenaline pumping as she abruptly stood, backing fearfully into the wall saying, “Smoke ... he’s burning the trailer ... Colin, we’ve got to get out!” 
   “Working on it,” he said calmly, quickly climbing up on the desk. The solid, top-of-the-line construction trailer was built for security and had only two reinforced windows that didn’t open, the other one close to the door and the fire. Air ventilation was from the top of the unit, and came in and out through two eight-inch square vents, which obviously wouldn’t work as an escape route, especially now that one was bringing smoke in.     
   After a couple of tries, Colin gave up his attempt to knock the window out with his elbow. The smoke was beginning to come across the ceiling. He scanned the room for something heavy to use as a battering ram. Maggie realized what he needed and pointed to the corner, shouting “There!” 
   He jumped down from the desk and picked up the the four-foot tall steel windmill, sending up his hundredth plea for help that night. He pulled at the blades, separating the wheel from the tower section after a few hard tugs. The tower design made a perfect pointed end. 
   Maggie was doing her own praying, as she tied a piece of the torn curtain around her arm, wincing in pain. The sticky warm wetness on her jacket and the metallic smell of blood told her the bone had protruded through the skin, and she knew the bleeding had to be stopped. She didn’t want to go into shock.
   Colin was back on the desk, head down, shoulders against the ceiling so he could stand as high as possible for leverage. Knees slightly bent, feet apart, he held the windmill’s tower halfway up and at the base, and swung it back and then forward to gain momentum, then back and forward again, ramming it into the window. He heard a crack. He rammed again, and again, and on the fourth try the window frame and reinforced glass fell out, letting in the cool night air. He threw the windmill out after it. 
   Quickly finding the other discarded curtain, he placed it across the bottom of the sill. He then helped Maggie up onto the desk as she winced again in extreme pain. By now, smoke was beginning to fill the room, and the little light they had from the outside floodlight was growing dim.
“I’m going to let you down, but it will still be a drop for you, Maggie. Try to land on your left side, away from the glass. Understand?”
   Maggie nodded as he helped her out the window. Holding her under her arms, her stomach was flat against the outside of the trailer. Over his shoulder, she could suddenly see an orange glow. 
Hearing her gasp with fear, Colin said steadily, “Okay, Love, I’m letting you go now. Ready?”
Looking up into his eyes, those amazing emerald eyes that had first attracted her to him, she knew she would be fine ... knew they both would be fine. She smiled and nodded and he smiled and gently let her go. Hitting the ground hard and rolling left just as she’d been told, she missed the glass, then everything went black.
    He was beside her in seconds, urgently whispering her name to rouse her, helping her up, half dragging her a safe distance away from the burning trailer. He sat her down, and leaned her against the patio wall. Holding her broken arm, thinking she might faint again from the pain, she willed herself to stay awake.
   Another siren was close now. Help was on the way this time, but Colin said, “Chief will be here in a minute, but I can’t let Winston get ...”
   Thinking he meant to go around the building to the truck for his gun, Maggie put her hand on his arm. “Your gun’s not there ...” she said weakly.
   “I know, I checked the truck ...”  A shot rang out and Colin instinctively ducked, shielding Maggie. But the bullet hadn’t come their direction. “What!” he said, frantically looking around. 
   “Oh, God,” Maggie whimpered, looking up. 
           Colin turned to where she looked. “Oh, damn,” he said angrily, sitting back heavily against the wall next to her. He crossed himself, then put his arm protectively around his wife.
   Winston P. Whitaker, III, sat at the top of the Axtell Standard windmill, the one he’d brought from his family’s farm. Sat on the sturdy old wooden platform directly under the giant turning wheel, white hair blowin’ in the wind, eyes staring out over the flat West Texas horizon, gunshot hole through the side of his head. 

Chapter 95
   Lubbock’s fire department quickly dealt with the trailer fire, declaring it a total loss. Colin dealt with the police. Paramedics dealt with Maggie, and the coroner dealt with Dr. Whitaker. Chief Callahan walked up to Maggie as the paramedics finished. He kissed her gently on the forehead. 
    Smiling up at him, she said weakly,“Thanks, Sweetheart.” 
   He smiled back and then made a stern face, wagging his finger at her. “I don’t know how you get yourself into these things, Sweetheart, but you should’ve let us handle it. We were getting there, you know.”
“Getting there?” Maggie whispered.
   Colin answered. “I’ve been working with Callahan and his task force. Winston has been the prime suspect for quite a while, but we couldn’t figure out all the motives and we had no evidence.”
   “What? Why didn’t you tell me?” Maggie croaked out, looking at Colin harshly.
   “Because the first rule in investigations is to keep the list of those who know what you know to a minimum. Honestly, Love, if you knew we suspected Winston, would you have believed us? Or would you have been able to keep it from him?”
Maggie looked down and said quietly, “No, probably not.”
   Colin continued, “The museum fire didn’t fit the pattern of the others. It was too sophisticated, with the sprinkler system alterations. The fire burns the office, all their records and files, but not even one windmill?  President Parker told us he’d been asking to see their financial records shortly before they were all destroyed. And the engineering was too creative for it to have been done by a student, even a senior student like Jamie.”
   “Plus,” Chief Callahan  said, “your husband here convinced us young Jamie wouldn’t have killed Boyle, so we looked at Dr. Whitaker for that, too.”
“Yeah,” Maggie said quietly, shaking her head, “Boyle was Jamie’s father.”
“What?!” Callahan and Colin said at the same time. 
Maggie shrugged. “Long story. Go on, please.”
   Colin looked at her dubiously, but added, “Well none of us thought Jamie killed himself. We just didn’t have enough proof to arrest Whitaker.”
   “What made you think it wasn’t suicide?” Maggie asked. “I thought you’d only found Jamie’s fingerprints on the keyboard?”
“We did, on every key. About a week after the funeral I had a thought and went to Callahan. He checked it out. The letters used in the suicide note? Only those letters on the keyboard had microscopic pricks in their keys, like the one my pen knife put in the mousepad when I lit the screen that night. The killer used the tip of a knife to type the note, leaving only Jamie’s prints. If I remember right, the note had, let’s see, two c’s and something like eleven t’s and there were two corresponding pricks on the ‘c’ key and a matching number on the ‘t’. In any case, the pricks exactly matched the letters in the note.”
   Maggie’s eyes widened questioningly. 
  “Well, we looked hard at everything because I knew Jamie didn’t do it,” Colin said firmly. He shook his head, thinking of Jamie and of Sean. Knowing his brother so well allowed him to know for certain Jamie hadn’t killed Boyle, or at least hadn’t confessed it. And he knew Sean didn’t think Jamie capable of murder or suicide either, and Sean was a damn good judge of character.
   “And the style of the writing on the suicide note,” Chief Callahan said, “the misspelled words and missed spaces. I’d seen that style before, years ago when I first came on the force. I showed it to your husband, here, who agreed the two notes were too similar for it to be a coincidence. Jamie’s note closely matches a suicide note of a Tech student.”
     Maggie nodded wearily, “Marsha White.” 
    “Yes,” the chief said as both he and Colin looked at her again in disbelief. 
   Maggie said wearily, “I finally remembered what Bennett Boyle whispered to me. He called me Anna and asked Mars to forgive him. Mars for Marsha.” She shook her head. “It’s a really long story,” she said flatly, shifting to try to ease the pain. 
   Colin said, “When I finally heard the two messages tonight, I was—”
“Two? I only left one message,” Maggie said, interrupting him. 
   “One was from me,” Chief Callahan said. “I called him right after you called asking me to read Jamie’s note to you. You neglected to tell me where you were going, so I called you back and the line was busy, so I tried to find your husband.”
Colin continued, “Once I heard your message, I was afraid you’d found something we hadn’t
which obviously it seems you did and I ran here from my studio to try to stop you from talking to Whitaker and raising his suspicions. I thought it might ruin our investigation. Sorry I didn’t call you, Callahan.” Looking back at Maggie, he said, “I did call you back, Maggie, but you didn’t pick up. Sorry I was a little late.”
   Maggie smiled wryly, reaching again for her arm and said, “I’d put my phone on mute so I wouldn’t be interrupted. Actually, Murphy, your timing wasn’t too bad. I got the whole story.”
   Chief Callahan said, “So, Sweetheart, can you fill in the blanks for us? Feel up to answering questions now, or do you want to wait?” 
  “Don’t need to,” she said, weary beyond exhaustion. “Windy told us everything.”
  Colin, thinking the pain was making her mind fuzzy, gently said, “No, Love. The old wire transmitter wasn’t connected to anything, remember? It’s broken. No one heard a thing except you.”
“You will. My briefcase, out there in the dark someplace? I recorded it all.”
   Chief Callahan grinned at her and turned to go find the briefcase with Maggie’s tape recorder.
   She called out after him, “Colin’s gun is in there, too. And be careful with the yearbook. I need to return it to the library!”
   Colin looked at her in amazement and not without a little pride. “Clever girl. Sure you weren’t ever a G-Man?” 
Chapter 96
   Safely settled back at the Nest, cast on her reset arm, Maggie was now sitting alone in the den with Charlie White, tears running down his cheeks. “All these years,” he said quietly, “I wondered how my baby sister could do that. She was so happy and fun-loving. To kill herself over some guy? I never did believe it. Now you’re telling me it wasn’t true?”
   “No, Charlie, it wasn’t true,” Maggie said, continuing to speak gently. “She died because she was trying to do the right thing. It was a horrible freak accident.” 
   “Dr. Whitaker? She dated Dr. Whitaker? Isn’t he much older?”
        Maggie shook her head. “You ... your family ... never knew who she was dating?”
“No. I lived in D.C. when she was here in college, and Mom and Dad were never ones to pry. And when Mars died, we were so devastated we didn’t really want details. Then her roommate, Anna, she’d disappeared right after the funeral so there wasn’t anyone to ask. Funny, Marsha had told Mom that when she came home that summer she would have a surprise for us. Mom said she was so happy. I guess Mars thought she’d be engaged. And now to find out she didn’t ...” He sighed heavily, and wiped away his tears. “Thanks, Boss. It means everything to me. To my parents. I’ll need to go see them.”
   “Of course, Charlie. Take all the time you need.”  

   Jake Humphrey’s well-written article in the A-J exonerated Jamie Chavez and named Winston Whitaker as a murderer and an arsonist. Chief Callahan saw no reason to mention it might have been Jamie who actually started the first three fires to punish his newly discovered father – they had no real evidence after all – so he allowed the White Rabbit to take the blame for everything. Bennett Boyle’s long-secret relationship to Jamie was also left out.    
   Callahan did disclose that evidence pointed to the accidental death of Marsha White 25 years ago at the hands of Whitaker, rather than to suicide. The entire story was picked up by the wire services and quickly spread across the country. 
Winston would have loved the publicity. 

   Mrs. Fauntly and the Arbuckles asked the Museum Foundation to immediately appoint Miss Katherine as the new director of the Wind Museum, and the construction of new offices and the educational wing resumed once the murder weapon was found. 
   Colin and Father Sean contacted all the Saddle Tramps, now scattered across the country for summer break, to let them know that Jamie, their much-liked president, had committed neither suicide nor murder. 
   Together the brothers traveled to the little churchyard in Canyon to place flowers on Jamie’s grave, ask forgiveness from him for their doubts and arrange for the local florist to have a weekly bouquet placed there. 
   Jamie’s grandparents presented Maggie and Colin with a wooden crucifix exquisitely handcarved from mesquite wood by the abuelo in gratitude for finding the truth. The Murphys proudly hung it in a place of honor in their new home.
Charlie White took assignments in the Biology Building.
   Maggie threw away the Jabberwocky poem when her entire department moved back downstairs into the larger offices next to the presidential suite. 
   Colin bought a new Texas Tech University Red Raider Bobblehead Doll to place on the dashboard of his truck. 
Chapter 97
   End of June
           “You guys need to seriously think about coming over with us next summer. Maybe we could get Carol and Robert to join us for a while. It’d be great!” Sharon said brightly, taking another sip of wine.
   The four friends were comfortably seated on the back porch, enjoying the quiet of the country setting and the cool evening air. Maggie, Colin and Miss Priss had moved ten miles northwest of Lubbock to a cotton farm, where earlier that evening Monsignor Fitzpatrick and Father Sean had belatedly blessed the fields, as well as provided a special blessing for the couple’s new home. 
   Slightly to the left at the back of the house was the massive old barn, being slowly renovated by Colin into a sun-filled studio for painting and furniture building. All around, they could see the distant rows of the cotton fields, strong dark green plants growing tall and sturdy in the well-tended fields. A sizable vegetable garden was thriving off to the right, bordered by Maggie’s once-again-transplanted irises. The setting sun glimmered off the playa far beyond the garden. Their Aermotor windmill turned slowly and steadily in the light breeze. 
   Colin smiled as he surveyed it all, amazingly comfortable with his new wife, new life and new home — not just an investment property. “Italy next summer?” he said. “We might be able to work a trip into our schedules. What say you, Mrs. Murphy?”
  “I say it’s a great idea, Professor Murphy,” Maggie said, smiling. “Think Miss Priss would watch the place for us?”
   Colin looked at the fat tabby cat curled on the far edge of the porch, sleeping with one eye open next to a barrel of blooming red bougainvillas. “For us? She thinks she owns the place and we’re just visiting. She wouldn’t even miss us with all the mice she’s catching. I’m sure we can get away for a few weeks.” He raised his wine glass. “Here’s to Doug and Sharon, for their loyal friendship, for letting us stay in their cottage for so long, for loaning their muscles to get us moved in —”
“Oh, Maggie,” Sharon interrupted. “I just remembered ... I love the new couch you moved in the other day. I forgot to ask where you found it?” 
   Both Colin and Doug looked at her in mock exasperation, rolling their eyes. Colin lowered his glass.
“I didn’t find it,” Maggie said. “Colin did. Isn’t it perfect!”
   “It is ... but Colin, since when do you buy furniture, or even have an interest in buying stuff ... besides the bed, I  mean?” Sharon asked, truly surprised.
   “Actually, I’m finding it’s kinda not too bad to shop for stuff for a house — a home. Never done it before ... never needed to ... but it’s not bad ... not bad at all.”
Maggie’s heart swelled with love for this man who had transformed for her and with her. What a gift from God to have this life, she thought, especially after being blessed with another whole life before. It was as though she’d gotten her second wind. Thank you, God, she murmured for the ten thousandth time.
   “If you don’t mind, Dr. Phelps,” Colin said in a teasingly harsh voice, “I’ll continue my toast.” He gave Sharon his newly learned version of “the look” – not quite as effective as Maggie’s, but nonetheless impressive. 
   Cowering in feigned fright, Sharon said weakly, “Sorry, Professor! Go right ahead. Don’t let me stop you!”
  He smiled smugly and raised his glass again, “Now where was I?  Oh, yes ... and to their annual trip to Italy starting tomorrow morning. A whole month roaming beautiful countryside, seeing magnificent art, ogling gorgeous Italian women ...”
“Say!” Sharon cried, looking at Doug who quickly put his hands up and said, “I don’t, I won’t, I’m innocent!”
   Laughing, Colin continued, eyes twinkling, “And to enjoying family while there, to exploring the history, to finding new recipes, to eating gelato ...” Suddenly lowering his glass once again, he looked at Doug. 
“Seriously, man, the best gelato in the whole of Italy is at Rome’s Piazza Navona, just to the northwest of Bernini’s Fountain of the Four Rivers. Try the pistachio.”
Surprise registered on Maggie’s face. “You’ve been to Rome?”
The End
                                                                            Go Red Raiders! 

Monday, April 16, 2012

Chapters 91 and 92

Dear Readers:
 A reminder that the remainder of My Second Wind is not in first person, and not in real time. Enjoy. 
Jeanne S. Guerra

Chapter 91
   As Maggie parked the truck in back of the museum next to Winston’s car, she noticed a light coming from the trailer. It was after closing and the museum was now dark. The construction crew had long since left, but Windy was still here, working.
   She sat a few minutes longer, deciding what to do. Should she wait for Colin? Should she go get him first? Had he even gotten her message? No, I need to know, she thought. I need the facts. I can do this, she said to herself. She took her briefcase, walked to the trailer and knocked on the door.
   Winston opened it questioningly but seemed delighted to see her. “My goodness, my dear! Come right in! What a nice surprise. Twice in one day! More questions about your wonderful windmill? Would you like some tea? Sit down, sit down,” he said escorting her to his desk at the far end of the trailer. He’d taken his jacket off and draped it carefully on the back of his leather chair. His bow tie was undone and his spectacles were folded on the desk next to his enormous pocket watch and chain. Maggie thought this was the first time she’d seen him out of his complete “costume.” Did he look younger? She knew now how much younger he really was.
   He moved around to the other side of his huge desk, grinning at her. “Please, my dear, sit down. To what do I owe this unexpected visit?” 
   Maggie looked at him, and wondered if she wasn’t mistaken after all about him. For the most part, he still fit the White Rabbit profile, harmless and intent on his museum mission. She remained standing, not returning his smile. Placing her briefcase in the chair, she opened it and reached into it. She took out the yearbook and held it out to him. Windy looked at her, questioning, and then at the book. 
   “I found a photo of you and Bennett Boyle in this old yearbook. He was B.J. back then and dated Anna, Jamie’s mother ... He’s Jamie’s father isn’t he?” 
   Winston tensed, and sat down heavily with a sigh. “Yes, I believe so, my dear.”
   “And in the picture, you were with Marsha White. She’s the girl who jumped off the biology building that spring. Charlie White’s little sister.” 
   “Ah, yes, good old La Ventanna. Truly a window to the past.” 
   “What happened, Windy?”
   He looked up at her for a long moment, as if trying to decide what to say. He sighed heavily again and said, almost resignedly, “Alas, poor Mars. She had such illusions. I only dated her to keep up appearances, you know what I mean? She said she was in love with me ... imagine that. When I told her I was gay and was breaking it off with her, she went crazy. Silly girl thought we were going to get engaged, just like B.J. and Anna.”
   “They were engaged?” 
   “Not officially. But, of course, they’d slept together so thought they loved each other, you know what I mean?” 
   Maggie put the yearbook back in her briefcase and moved it to the floor, sitting down in the previously offered chair across from him and waited.
   “Anyway, Mars was obsessed with wanting to get married. She kept telling me I couldn’t be gay–she would’ve been able to tell! And here’s the kicker, if I was gay, she knew she could love me enough to turn me straight. Such nonsense. She wouldn’t leave me alone, you know what I mean? Kept calling me, sending me notes. That night she followed me to the science building. Said she thought I was going to see another girl. Then when she saw B.J. and me copying the biology exam —”
“Life science was not our forte, B.J.’s or mine. The only way we would pass the stupid course was to borrow the exam questions ahead of time. And we had to pass. They don’t like it when Saddle Tramps fail courses, you know what I mean? Especially B.J. He was to be president the next year. Anyway, we met that night to get the exam, had most of it copied when she showed up. Stupid girl. Like I said, she must have followed me. 
  “She ... ,” he laughed, “she talked about the honor code of the ‘vaingallant’ Saddle Tramps and all that crap.”  
   Maggie had a sudden sickening insight. “She didn’t kill herself, did she, Winston?”
He looked at her hard, trying to decide exactly how much she knew, what she’d figured out from the stupid yearbook. It was his one main fear. Now he’d have to deal with her just like he dealt with all the rest. He frowned, remembering the night 25 years ago. “She was going to turn us in and wouldn’t listen to reason. Started getting loud, hysterical ... I was just trying to get her to calm down, keep her quiet, you know what I mean?” He shrugged and then continued calmly. “So I slapped her. She fell back and must’ve tripped on something ... her head hit the corner of the lab table ... 
    “B.J. panicked and wanted to call an ambulance, but I knew she was dead. It was just a horrible freak accident. 
   “I almost had to slap Bennett, too, but he finally came around and knew what we had to do. I typed up the suicide note and put it in her pocket. It was perfect. Everyone knew she’d freaked out when we broke up, so it was easy for them to believe the note. 
    “While B.J. cleaned up the blood in the lab, I took her to the roof — she was just a little wisp of a girl, you know what I mean? — and threw her off so it looked like she jumped. Her head hit the stone steps. In the dead of the night, no one saw or heard a thing. I went back inside and finished copying the exam, put it back and we left.” He shrugged his shoulders as if that was all there was to it. Just a little cleaning up.
    “They found her the next morning, and because of the note, no one even looked in the lab for anything.” 
   Tapping his head, he continued, “That was smart thinking on my part, you know what I mean?  And of course the imbecilistoc police readily bought the suicide angle. Forensics wasn’t much in play back in those days. And definitely no security cameras or anything.
   “But Anna didn’t buy it. She kept saying there was no way Mars would have killed herself. Too religious and all. She wouldn’t let it go. Day of the funeral, B.J. was definitely stressed and told Anna to drop it or he’d leave her. But it was Anna who left. Just up and disappeared, you know what I mean? B.J. was frantic to find her. He really loved her. The fool didn’t even use the exam questions we took and failed the damn course. 
  “Didn’t matter, though, because he immediately transferred to A&M. I think if Anna had stayed, he might have, too. After a couple of weeks, though, he stopped looking for her. I think he was afraid she somehow knew what we did, or afraid she would eventually guess and he’d lose her all over again.” 
   “And you?”
“And me what? Oh, the exam? Well of course I used it, but just enough to pass so as not to raise suspicion.  Always thinking, always thinking, you know what I mean?” He was tapping his head again.
Maggie shook her head angrily and gave him a direct stare. “I meant, hasn’t it bothered you all these years?”
   “Oh, goodness, no, my dear. It was just an accident. Wasn’t my fault. But it would have ruined everything ... everything. Since then, B.J. and I have kept our little secret, and evidently so did Anna, if indeed she’d figured it out. I tried for years to find her, just to be sure she hadn’t guessed the truth, but to no avail. Did you know she changed her last name? Yes, of course you knew that, didn’t you.  Anyway, I understand she died last summer — of natural causes — but seems she left a loose end.”
  “Jamie ...” Maggie said, more puzzle pieces falling into place.
  “Yes, Jamie. Bennett’s bastard son. Apparently, just before she died, Anna told Jamie about Bennett — about him being his father, I mean, or so the boy told me. Sort of a deathbed confession. So the boy was naturally curious. Right after the museum fire, he came around asking questions about B.J. I lied and told him I didn’t know Bennett well at all. I had hoped that was the end of it. But as you know, he saw me arguing with Bennett at the gala ... said he’d seen me talking with him at several functions he had worked last fall, too ... thought perhaps we were friends. Hmmph ... as if anyone could be friends with B.J. 
“Anyway, the young man kept coming back after class, asking more questions. He was in my wind energy class last semester, did you know? I couldn’t understand why he keep asking about B.J. And there was something so familiar about him ... about his mannerisms ... and his eyes ... Anna had the most beautiful soft brown eyes,” he said dreamily.
   Shaking his head a moment later, he looked directly at Maggie. “Imagine my surprise when I realized he was Anna’s son, their son ... and was right here at Tech ... and a Saddle Tramp of all things.” 
    “Imagine,” Maggie said carefully, thinking she should just get up and go. Okay, Lord, tell me when ... 
    Winston had a far away look in his eyes again. “Idaho. Jamie said they lived in Idaho. I never thought to look in Idaho. Who moves to Idaho on purpose, you know what I mean?” 
   Shaking his head again, he looked back at Maggie across the massive desk. “Anyway, I finally asked him if Bennett was his father and he said yes, he was curious about him now that he knew, and he was looking into the past. 
   “He begged me not to tell Bennett. Well, of course I wouldn’t tell him. That wouldn’t have been smart on my part. What if B.J. suddenly got all paternal or something and decided to tell his long-lost son the truth about why his mother had left? Why he wasn’t there to be a daddy for him? What if he was tired of keeping our little secret? I couldn’t take the chance, you know what I mean? Jamie intensely hated B.J. for leaving his mother and he didn’t want to give him the satisfaction of knowing he had a son.”
   “So why did you kill Bennett?” Maggie asked, hoping she’d guessed right again, but praying she was wrong. She didn’t relish the thought of being alone with a murderer. Where was Colin? I shouldn’t have come by myself. 
She shifted in her chair to calculate the distance to the door behind her. He’d have to come out from behind the desk, she thought. I might be able to push it up against him, pin him back there. No, the desk looks too heavy. I think I could make it to the door— but I need to know it all.   
“Why, Winston? He didn’t find out about Jamie, did he?”
   “So you know it was me instead of Jamie? Smart girl. No, Bennett never knew about his son. But he was getting pushy. He’d come back to Tech years ago at my insistence.  Shortly after he graduated, I threatened to reveal it all if he didn’t come back here. I thought I needed to keep an eye on him. I needed to keep him close, you know what I mean? So he came and worked his way up quickly to chief financial officer. He really was quite brilliant with money, you know. I had the perfect set up. Bennett would pretty much do anything I wanted ... When he was made chief of staff, we created the Wind Museum Foundation, skimming just a little off the top from the university ...”
“You embezzled university funds?” Maggie asked incredulously, forgetting for the moment the danger she might be in, desperately wanting to get all the facts.  
   “Not me, my dear. Bennett James Boyle, chief of staff. Certainly not enough to matter to the university, you know what I mean, but enough so I was able to build my dream.” He spread his arms wide indicating the museum. 
   “Funny thing is, we probably didn’t even need it. When my parents died, I sold the old homestead for the museum’s seed money. And turns out I’m not the only West Texan who fancies windmills. We’ve received more than enough donations to sustain us lavishly for several more decades, which of course you know. Made me a rather wealthy man in the meantime.” 
   “So why kill him?”
   “President Parker, for one thing,” Winston said flatly.
   “President Parker?” Maggie asked, unable to make the connection.
   “Yes, of course. Seems Parker’s a financial wizard, too, and evidently noticed some anomalies in the audits from a few years back. He kept telling Bennett he wanted to see the museum’s foundation books. No president has ever asked to see my books,” he said indignantly.
    “Bennett wanted me to straighten them out so he could show them to Parker. But ten years of books to clean up?  I didn’t want to go to all the trouble and couldn’t have done it without Miss Katherine getting suspicious.” “That’s what you and Boyle argued about at the museum gala? The books?” Maggie asked, vividly remembering the scene.
“Yes, my dear. Rather than clean them up, so to speak, I did him one better.” 
   “The museum office fire,” Maggie said, understanding. “You set it to get rid of the financial records.” Then she looked up, startled. “Did you set all of the fires?”
   “All? Oh no, my dear, but they were the perfect cover, don’t you know. Surprisingly, our young friend Jamie actually set the first three fires. Imagine that! Set them to punish Bennett, he said. He was so angry at B.J. for leaving his mother that in some twisted way he thought he was punishing Bennett by setting fire to different parts of the campus. Said he was really sorry your friend got hurt in Engineering. He didn’t mean for it to happen. You, of course, noted the next one in the tower? He made sure no one was around ... heated the door to keep people out... even saved the Saddle Tramp plaques and memorabilia. Wasn’t that just like a good Tramp?” Windy added sarcastically.  
    He continued, shaking his head and smiling, “Stupid boy, as though something as tame as a few fires could phase B.J. And then Bennett kicked the Saddle Tramps out of the tower! How ironic was that?!”
Maggie closed her eyes in anguish, praying Colin would hurry.  
    Winston continued, “But it was perfect for me, the fires, I mean, no matter who had set them. Ours was quite a ‘spectaspecial’ night, don’t you think? National publicity. Even CNN came. And I got to meet Diane Sawyer! You just can’t buy that kind of exposure, can you? No matter how good the marketing plan might be ... and yours was good, my dear, but the fire got us so much more.  
   Winston shrugged. “And then the money just poured in after the fire, you know what I mean? Easily more than made up for the damage. I knew it would. People open their wallets wide when they feel pity for you. And it took care of the records at the same time. Two birds with one stone, don’t you see.”
Maggie was horrified, looking at the man she thought she knew so well. “But a man died, Windy!”
“Oh, yes, my dear. My fault, entirely. I’d locked the office, but halfway through dinner slipped back in to set the timer and neglected to lock it again. That was too bad, but really helped with the sympathy angle. And he was just a waiter, nothing more. And we’ve set up that trust fund for his family. I’m sure it’s more than he would have ever made as a mere waiter. No real loss.”

Chapter 92
   Maggie was sick to her stomach, but knew she had to keep him talking, had to get the whole story. Where was Colin! Didn’t he get my message? Keep him talking ... 
   “So then, why kill Boyle? I don’t understand — if the records were gone and he didn’t know about Jamie?”
     “I couldn’t be certain he wouldn’t find out about his son. I’d finally recognized Jamie as Anna’s son, didn’t I? I couldn’t take the chance that Boyle might do the same. Or that Jamie might decide to tell him.” 
   “So you stabbed him,” she said sadly, remembering Boyle’s last moments. “But how did you get him to go up into the tower? He hated that place. And how did you get up there without a key? They keep it locked.”
   “That was simple. I used B.J.s.” He looked over her head as if focusing on a remembrance.
   “How did you get it?”
   His eyes returned to Maggie and he frowned. “It was really so simple, my dear. I walked into his office to tell him after all these years I’d found some information on Anna, but I would only tell him about her up in the tower ...”
    “That’s who he thought I was,” Maggie interrupted. “He called me Anna just before he died.”
Winston’s eyes flew open wide. “He was alive? He spoke to you!”
   “Yes. That’s how I made the first connection. This afternoon you called me Mags. Mags ... Mars ... nicknames, not often used. Bennett had called me Anna and asked Mars to forgive him. I didn’t remember the names until tonight, though, and started to put it together.”
“The bastard. If I’d known that, I would have had to let you die that night, too, my dear. I hate loose ends,” he said flatly.
   Maggie shivered, deciding it definitely hadn’t been a good idea to come here alone after all. But still, she needed to know everything. She might as well get it all. 
   Chuckling to himself, Winston continued as if he hadn’t been angry a moment before, “At first I was worried he didn’t have the courage to come up to the tower, too many memories, you know what I mean? We used to take Mars and Anna up there ... I wonder if that’s where the boy was conceived.”  
   Maggie’s stomach lurched, and she choked down bile while trying to comprehend what kind of monster thinks of things like that while confessing so calmly to the murder of another human being. She swallowed hard, glancing once more toward the door, calculating the number of steps.
   Winston continued, and she turned back to him as he said, “But I took the key from him and he came up after me that night. Soon as he came up the tower stairs, I just turned to him and pushed the knife in. I was waiting on the top step, so it was easy to get him in the chest. So easy. He was so surprised, the stupid fool.
   “Then I heard you call out to him, so I had to hide in the storage closet until you passed by. Almost didn’t make it in time. I didn’t realize anyone else was in the building. Bennett’s was the only car,” he said questioningly. 
   Realizing he expected her to explain, she said flatly, “I’d walked.”
   “Oh, well, then ... Anyway, I am sorry I had to hit you, my dear, but it wouldn’t do for anyone to find me there. He wasn’t supposed to be found until at least Monday, and then you spoiled it. I had to have time to get away, you know what I mean? ... If I’d known he talked to you ...” 
   Maggie closed her eyes and dropped her head. “God, Winston. I don’t know who you are. How could you?” At that instant, the last piece fell into place. She looked at him hard. “So then you staged Jamie’s suicide, too, letting him take the blame for Boyle’s death, didn’t you?” 
   He smiled wickedly at her, surprised she had all the pieces. He nodded ever so slightly. “Seemed a good way to tie things up neatly. What was it the newspaper said? ‘Student, still grieving for mother, kills administrator who kicked Saddle Tramps out of tower. Hangs himself in guilt.’ Just like Mars, the pieces fit, so everyone bought it. 
    “See?” he said proudly, tapping his head again. “Always thinking, always thinking. I knew he was housesitting for you — how was the honeymoon, by the way? It was a lovely wedding — so I went over before sunup that last morning — to avoid nosey neighbors, you know what I mean? He was asleep, but answered my knock. I told him I’d remembered some more about his parents, so he let me in. It was so easy. Just like his idiotic father. 
   “I showed him the knife I used to kill Bennett and he was shocked. Truly, he hadn’t even come close to figuring out about Mars, just too caught up in mourning his mother, and then hating Bennett. Being the benevolent soul that I am, I filled in the gaps for him, just like I’ve done for you this evening. That’s when he told me he’d set the other fires to punish his father.” He glanced at the small window next to his desk, high up on the wall, covered in heavy curtains.  “Do you think it might rain tonight, my dear?”
   His reality is slipping, Maggie thought, shaking her head slightly, much more frightened now. Still, she had to know. “But how did you manage to have him hang himself? He wasn’t threatened by the knife, was he?” She was unable to imagine that Jamie couldn’t somehow have gotten away from a man almost 25 years older.
   “Oh, no, my dear, I used this,” and he pulled a gun out from under the desk, pointing it straight at Maggie’s chest