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.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Chapters 86 thru 90

Dear Readers: A reminder that the remainder of Maggie's adventures will not be in real time or in first person. Enjoy.

Chapter 86
   Refusing to return to her house, Maggie told Colin to sell it as quickly as he could. She insisted, however, that all prospective buyers be told of the suicide. Colin agreed and hired a competent, honest young real estate agent who quickly found an eager buyer, despite the home’s now-tainted history. Although she had been in the house less than a year, as Colin had predicted Maggie was going to reap a huge profit on the upgraded property, but he knew not to bring it up. 
   Sharon dug up the irises, allowing Maggie to transplant them once again in the garden next to the cottage. To everyone’s surprise, they bloomed heavily almost immediately, even though transplanted rhizomes normally wait a year before producing flowers.    
   Miss Priss was utilizing the cat door Doug and Colin had put in for her at the cottage. Surprisingly, as if she knew they were moving, she’d walked right into the pet carrier Colin put down to transport her to the Nest. Since Maggie’s tower incident, the feline rarely left her side, although she stayed off the bed Colin now shared with her mistress, sleeping in a nearby corner.
   It took several evenings and a full weekend for Colin, Doug and Tom Arbuckle to empty the house, putting some of the furniture once again in storage. Several pieces were donated back to the DAV Thrift Store. The rest of it was taken to an auction house for sale. Maggie simply couldn’t bear to keep most of it, afraid that every time she saw it, she would picture Jamie. Her father’s desk, her mother’s kitchen table, the little she had brought from Dallas — those things were untainted in her eyes, but the rest had to go. Their new bed was kept because Maggie had never seen it in the house, so it held only good memories for her. 
         As for the lime green chair? She asked Colin to burn it, which he did along with the Texas Tech bobblehead doll.

   Grateful to be staying at the Nest’s cottage, they slowly made unenthusiastic attempts at looking for a place to call their own. Both knew without saying it couldn’t be even remotely close to the Tech Terrace area — it had to be somewhere away from campus, away from reminders.
   Colin had already decided to keep his condo near campus so now five junior or senior Tramps could live there. He dropped by once in a while to make certain they were keeping it clean. It was still a good investment property. 
   President Parker allowed the Saddle Tramps to move back into the east tower. They began repainting it in red and black.
    Tom offered to sell the newlyweds a few open acres of their land for a new house, but Colin and Maggie didn’t want to build something from scratch. So they took their time in deciding where to make their new home, enjoying the shelter of the cottage at the Nest and the closeness of their friends. Father Sean joined them for dinner as often as he could. He knew his brother needed him, too. 
  Closing out the semester, Colin and Maggie attended graduation to watch proudly as the senior Saddle Tramps, including Josh, walked across the stage. They all bravely faced the pain of not seeing Jamie complete his college journey.
The Wind Museum foundation, at Winston’s insistence, set up a generous trust fund for Henry Cassidy’s family, while Tech offered full scholarships for both daughters. 
        Jonathan Long was named the new Chief of Staff and was quickly making a positive impact on the faculty and staff. 
         President Parker was becoming more accepted at all area organizations after finally following some of the Communications Department’s advice, and had a solid long-range vision of growth and prosperity for the university. 
Chapter 87
   Two days after graduation, eight weeks after their wedding, Colin told Maggie he was picking her up after work to show her something. 
   “Show me what, Murphy?”
“Just something. We’ll come back and pick up your car later. Can you be ready at five?” She’d finally traded in her old Volvo for a new one — she needed reliable transportation since she no longer walked to campus.
   Maggie smiled. They’d gotten back to their lovemaking and were making a valiant attempt at being happy, the mourning creeping in now only at the most unguarded moments. 
     Promptly at five, she went down the stairs of the Admin Building to meet Colin out front. His truck was a little cleaner these days, and Maggie marveled at the sometimes small changes marriage could make in a person.
   Colin drove down the east esplanade and turned north on University, driving in front of the football stadium and across the Marsha Sharp freeway. Maggie asked again what he wanted to show her. “You’ll see,” was all he would say. 
   Reaching the Clovis highway, they turned left and headed northwest, leaving the city limits in no time — Lubbock still had no traffic to speak of, especially this far from campus. Knowing how stubborn her husband could be, Maggie resigned to wait until they got wherever they were going to learn anything. 
   Colin turned southwest just before Shallowater, the same exit Maggie had used for the Corn Maze her granddaughters had loved last Thanksgiving, but Colin drove past the site, heading into the sun. 
   Gazing out at cotton fields sprinkled with old homes, Maggie was surprised when Colin turned the truck down a long tree-lined drive. An old two-story farmhouse, much like Russ and Fern’s, stood proudly at the end of the drive. Looking at his watch, he said, “We’re right on time. What do you think?”
   “What do I think about what?” She looked around. Spotting the For Sale sign, she drew in a deep breath. “It’s for sale? The house! You want to live way out here?”
“I don’t know yet, but our young realtor thinks it has possibilities. He made an appointment for us to see it, so let’s go take a look, okay?”
An old farmhouse, ten miles from work? She looked around the grounds. The soft gray two-story structure sat on about five acres of neat grass- and flower-covered ground, well away from any main roads, with not one oil pump or wind turbine marring the horizon ... nothing but cotton fields all around the edges of the huge yard. One lone windmill turned slowly in the light breeze behind the tree-shaded house. She climbed out of the truck, skeptical, but intrigued.
  The realty agent who’d made a small fortune selling Maggie’s house walked out the front door to greet them. On a whim, he’d called Colin when the property came on the market that morning, thinking it might be a long shot but worth a try. The owner had recently died and the heirs wanted to sell even though the house had been in the family for generations. 
   Maggie immediately liked the two-story clapboard farmhouse. It had a wide covered porch that stretched around both sides, probably continuing around the back. A blooming wisteria climbed a porch column and graced the entrance with huge purple blossoms hanging like massive grape clusters. Large windows occupied all the walls — the house having been built back when air conditioning consisted of opening windows for cross ventilation. A sturdy brick chimney poked up off either side of the newer dark gray metal roof. 
   Stepping inside the empty house, they faced a graceful oak staircase with a beautifully carved banister, original to the house, Colin thought. To the left, a large dining room; to the right, a good-sized living area, brick fireplace with carved oak mantle dominating the room.
   Upstairs they found four bedrooms and two full baths. Knocking down a wall between the two east bedrooms would make a nice-sized master, especially if they could incorporate and enlarge one of the baths and add a walk-in closet.
   Back downstairs, they passed through the dining room to a homey kitchen, cozy despite its enormous size. It sported a cooking fireplace and a huge well-used free-standing butcher’s block that would stay with the house. A utility area was next to the kitchen with a half-bath tucked under the stairs. A large cellar, or basement as Colin called it, had been made to equal the size of the first floor and could be reached from either inside or outside the house. 
   Maggie thought the old house had definite character and was only a little rough around the edges. Colin could work his magic here, she thought. And wouldn’t it be fun to furnish? The possibilities were beginning to excite her.
   Glancing out the back windows, Maggie spied an enormous old barn close to the windmill. “You know, Murphy, I never figured you for a farmer.”
   “And you figured right,” he said as he stepped out the kitchen door to the back porch, facing the barn. Maggie followed, noticing a porch swing in need of repair, a large fallow vegetable garden to the right and an opening in the cotton fields beyond that led to a substantial playa about an acre away. 
   Colin quickly sized up the property. “Realtor says all the fields are leased to real farmers who are eager to keep working the land. And the barn looks about the right size for a studio ... room enough for us both. We could make your wall of windows on one side. I think it’s pretty comfortable, don’t you?” 
   He turned around to look at Maggie.  She was wearing the largest smile he’d seen since their honeymoon.

Chapter 88  
   Quickly settling on a fair price for the farmhouse two days after they’d seen it, and re-signing the tenants to continue their labor on the accompanying 540 acres, Maggie and Colin bought a house — the first for Colin. Planning and renovations would keep them occupied for a couple of years, at least. And Maggie was more than thrilled she was going to have her own cotton fields to roam right outside her back door. 
   She’d mentioned to Winston about their new land and set up an appointment with him one Friday afternoon in late May to get more information about their old windmill —it was still drawing water. Besides, she thought, it’s time I got an update on the Museum’s construction for the Tech website. Saying he’d be delighted to see her, she found Winston in the construction trailer in the early afternoon. 
   “Oh, my dear! Come right in! Would you like some tea?” Winston said, ushering her into his temporary office — a permanent fixture since the museum fire. Maggie thought it’d been more than enough time to construct a new office area, but Winston enthusiastically explained it was more economical to build the new office in conjunction with the new educational wing, Phase II of the master plan — “ ‘incorperstruct’ it all together in one design, you know what I mean?” — which they had planned to start in the spring anyway. Incorporation and construction were in full swing, and the east and south sides of the museum were a beehive of activity and noise. “We hope to have it all completed by late fall in plenty of time for the next spring semester.”
   Looking around, Maggie was surprised at how the humble trailer had been transformed into a comfortable, upscale office. Winston had set himself up quite elegantly, but then he would, wouldn’t he, she thought. She sat across a massive desk from her friend, looking at all the trappings of a successful museum curator. He’s had to replace everything he lost in the fire, she thought, and it looks like he’s been able to do it quite well. 
        Tech Tech University had provided reproductions of his beloved diplomas. Hanging on the walls were new photos of him posing with various dignitaries, including a new autographed picture of Winston posing with Diane Sawyer on the Good Morning America set. At least a dozen snapshots of windmills of all shapes and sizes, the kind you find in expensive coffee table books, also bedecked the walls. Pricey curtains replete with a vintage windmill design graced the two windows, one high above the side of his desk. The closed curtains did a good job of keeping out the warm afternoon sun. 
         He saw her looking at them and said, “Another gift from dear Mrs. Fauntly. Do you think she made them herself?” Winston asked mischievously.
   Maggie giggled, trying to imagine the elite Mrs. Fauntly at a sewing machine. She shook her head.
     Next to the file cabinet was a sturdy polished steel windmill reproduction, about four feet high and quite authentic in detail. An eight-inch-tall duplicate sat prominently on his desk. Typical Windy, she thought with amusement. 
   “Now tell me about this marvelous new acquisition of yours, my dear,” he asked, eyes sparkling as they normally did when he discussed his passion.
   “I brought a picture, hoping you could tell me a little about it,” Maggie said, taking some photo enlargements out of her briefcase. “Then we can talk about the museum construction,” she laughed. “I am supposed to be working.”
   “Goodness, my dear, we’re between semesters and everybody takes a breather or two these few weeks. But of course, I can give you a tour of the construction in a minute. Let’s look at this beauty and see if it’s ‘historelically signiftiquated.’ ”
   Maggie laughed, handing him the photos she’d brought. “I hope it is,” she said, knowing his jabberwocky meant historically significant, but didn’t he throw in relic and antiquated, too? “Your mind is always a wonder, Windy,” she said admiringly.
   “Thank you, my dear,” he replied, humbly amused. “Let’s see, oh, yes, this is quite old, and quite rare ... where did you say it was? I don’t remember if I’ve ever climbed this one ...”
   “I’m sure a climb can be arranged, but we haven’t moved out there yet. It’s ten miles northwest of here. The old Hemphill place. Do you know what kind is it? And how old?”
         “Oh, my dear,” he said after studying the photos for a moment. “Let’s go to the museum floor. One of my precious pieces is a close cousin of yours. I can tell you all about their history.” Walking her to the door with a huge grin, eyes twinkling, he said, “Come along my dear Mags, and I’ll show you a real beauty!”
   Spending the next two hours at the museum, Maggie happily received her second lesson on all things Windy. She hadn’t been back since the fire, and was pleased to have him lead her up and across the glass bridge that gave a “spectaspecial’ view of the windmill wheels. She learned all about her new acquisition and took notes for Colin. 
   Finally, Winston took her on a tour of the construction for the office and educational wing. Looking at blueprints, and asking questions of the construction boss, she was duly impressed with the largesse of the project, thinking it a fitting tribute to the history of West Texas civilization, as well as to its future.
   Close to five, Maggie bid Winston goodbye in the parking lot, thanking him once again for convincing the museum’s foundation to set up the trust fund for Henry Cassidy’s children. 
   “It was my pleasure, my dear,” he said pulling his pocket watch out and looking at the time. “Oh, dear, I’m late!” Watching him hurrying away to his office trailer, Maggie chuckled, wondering if he knew how perfect his imitation was of the White Rabbit. 

Chapter 89
   Sharon and Maggie were putting dishes in the dishwasher. Doug was outside cleaning up the grill and Colin was at his workshop on campus. It had been a long week, but with students gone before the summer sessions started, it was quieter in all of their offices. Maggie had related her visit with Winston that afternoon, and Sharon once again laughed with her about his comical persona. She just might join him on his climb up Maggie’s windmill ... she’d always wondered what it would be like. And hadn’t Doug expressed an interest, too?
         “When do you think you’ll be ready to move in?” Sharon asked.
   “Are you trying to get rid of me—of us?” Maggie teased.
   “Don’t be silly. We love having you 50 feet away, and Doug is enjoying Colin’s company. Plus, as long as you’re here, my mother won’t visit and bring me any more bird paraphernalia. But I know you’re both eager to start your new life by yourselves. I know you won’t be really comfortable until you’re way out there in Shallowater.”
         “Way out there? It’s less than 10 miles! And we still need to get several more pieces of furniture before we can move in. Colin’s almost finished with the master bath — that’s what he’s working on tonight— the last cabinet — and once that’s done, we’ll start on the kitchen. He insists we’ll move in then, even if the rest of the house is still a mess and there’s no place to sit except the bed!” 
   Sharon said, “Well, that’s the most important piece anyway.”
   Maggie laughed as she put the last plate in the dishwasher, taking a wet rag over to the dining room table to wipe it clean. 
   Sharon had her own rag and was wiping down the counter tops. “Why don’t we go shopping tomorrow? We can look for some furniture at that new antique shop on 34th. I hear it’s great.”
   Shopping, Maggie thought. Maybe.
   “Did you hear me? ... Mags? It’s Anna’s Antiques or something like that.” 
   Maggie stopped suddenly, stiffening. “What did you say?”    
   “Shopping. Let’s go shopping.”
   “No, what did you call me?” Maggie turned to look out the patio window, seemingly staring into space.
   “Um, Mags ... short for Maggie, short for Margaret? What is it?” She looked out the patio doors, too, trying to see what her friend was looking at.
   “And the name of the shop?”
        “Um, I think it’s Anna’s Antiques? Why?”
   “That’s it .... that’s what he said!” Maggie threw down the rag and raced out the door, heading for the cottage. 
   Sharon looked at her, bewildered. “That’s what WHO said? Maggie, WAIT!”

Chapter 90
   But she couldn’t wait. Wheels were turning in her head too fast to comprehend, but there was something there ... something significant ... something Winston had said, too ... something just out of reach. She only needed a few more facts. 
   She raced into the cottage, and grabbed her phone. Calling Colin’s number, she stomped her foot and hung up when he didn’t answer. She quickly dialed another number and reached Chief Callahan. It took him a minute to find what she wanted, and she nervously paced the cottage floor. When she got the answer she thought she might, she thanked him and hung up. Quickly she dialed Jonathan’s home phone. 
   He answered on the third ring. “Jonathan. How did Bennett Boyle and Dr. Whitaker know each other? Just through the museum?”
   “Good evening to you, too, Maggie,” he said. When she didn’t reply, he answered her, “The museum? No, they go way back. In college, I think,” wondering why she was asking.
   “But Winston graduated from Tech. Boyle was an Aggie, wasn’t he? 
   “He was, but he did his first two or three years here at Tech. I actually thought they’d been roommates, he and Dr. Whitaker, but maybe not. Boyle never talked about his college days.”  
        “When, Jonathan? Do you know exactly when Boyle was at Tech?” 
        “Let me think. I saw his diplomas often enough on the walls while I was just standing there in his office, waiting for him to acknowledge me and ...”
   “When, Jonathan? When?”
   “Sorry. He graduated from A&M, um, 24 years ago if my math is correct. So he would have been at Tech 25 to 27 years ago. Somewhere around then ...”   
         He pulled the phone away from his ear and stared at it. She’d hung up. 

   Grabbing her keys, jacket and briefcase, Maggie raced outside. Damn, she thought, I forgot I’ve got Colin’s truck. She went back inside for the right set of keys. Her new Volvo was making a strange noise so they’d dropped it off at the dealership service center that morning. Colin had been in his workshop all day saying he’d call when he needed to be picked up. 
   She jumped in the old Chevy, and headed for the library as the sun was setting behind her. She found a close parking spot on the lot just south of the building, and raced up the steps and into the almost deserted learning center.  A quick computer search took her to Stack Level 2, northwest corner. What is it with these corners? she thought as she quickly marched the full length of the library to find the right shelf. 
   She pulled one copy after another of the old La Ventanna yearbooks from the shelf, and lugged them to the nearest study cubical to look through the back indexes. Third time’s the charm, she thought as she found what she wanted in yearbook number three. He was there, listed in the index under Boyle, B.J., p. 56, 192, 193. 
   B.J. ... Bennett James ... B.J. Hadn’t she heard Windy call him B.J. before? The picture on page 56 confirmed it was indeed a much younger Bennett James Boyle, junior business major, attending Tech. But a different Boyle than she’d known. This Bennett Boyle was smiling, confident, seemingly happy. 
   Then she looked up Whitaker, Winston P. and there was Windy, page 64, surprisingly white-headed even then, a junior majoring in engineering. Pages 192 and 193 had been listed after his name, too, so she turned to them.  Saddle Tramp pages! And there was Boyle again, listed not only as a member, but as First Vice President B.J. Boyle. Under his name was Sergeant-at-Arms Windy Whitaker. 
   Maggie fell back in the chair in astonishment. Bennett Boyle had thrown the Saddle Tramps out of the tower after the fire saying the Saddle Tramps were, what? He’d said they were a “worthless organization of hypocrites.” And he wouldn’t go into the tower to even look at the damage. Said the organization shouldn’t be allowed access. But he was once a Saddle Tramp! They both were! What had happened? She couldn’t imagine but knew she needed to find out.
   Had she known Windy was a Saddle Tramp? Had he ever mentioned it? She shook her head. She was sure he hadn’t. But why not? 
   She scanned the rest of the photos on the two pages. They showed Saddle Tramps volunteering at a local retirement center, helping tutor elementary students in a poor neighborhood. There they were at the always important football activities. Next to the Carol of Lights photo was the Annual Christmas Ball picture, now the more politically correct Annual Red Rose Formal ... And there in a shiny black tuxedo was Bennett, or B.J. as he was called back then ... his arm around a lovely Hispanic girl with dark brown hair and beautiful soft brown eyes ... where had Maggie seen those eyes before? 
        Let’s see, the caption says ... Anna Garza. Anna. Anna. That must be who Bennett thought I was the night he died. He’d said he loved her. Certainly looks as though she loves him. 
   How else did she know that name? She looked again at the smiling young girl who was looking up longingly at B.J. Boyle. The index listing for Anna Garza took Maggie to page 58.  There she was, a junior majoring in biology. Those eyes ... 
        “Oh, God,” Maggie said as a piece of the puzzle clicked into place ... “Jamie.”  Is she Anna Chavez? Jamie’s mother? Had she married someone named Chavez and changed her name from Garza to Chavez? It had to be her ... Jamie was a carbon copy of this lovely young woman with the soft brown eyes. 
   Her mind reeled at the possibilities, trying desperately to remember what Colin had told her about Jamie ... what his obituary had said. She could look up the obit, but first, she turned back to the Saddle Tramp pages.
   Next to the happy pair in the photo was another couple posing for the camera at the Christmas Ball — Windy Whitaker and Mars White.  Mars?... Mars White...  Anna and Mars... the two names Bennett Boyle whispered as he was dying. The two names she finally remembered. Anna and Mars... Mars... could it be? The index confirmed that Mars White was listed as White, Marsha, p. 64, 193. Maggie swallowed hard, her heart racing. Was this Charlie’s little sister? Page 64 showed a better photo of Marsha White, and there was definitely a resemblance to Charlie. 
   Ten more minutes searching on the computer helped her fill her mental fact sheet. Texas Tech University junior Marsha White had died in a fall from the Biology Building the spring following the photo with Winston. The Lubbock Avalanche Journal had printed, “Police have ruled her death a suicide.”
   Maggie opened the La Ventanna from the following year, and of the four, only Whitaker, Winston P. was listed. Anna Garza — or Chavez — and Bennett Boyle were not at Tech that year.  And of course, neither was Marsha White. On page 185, Maggie found a photo of the new Saddle Tramp officers, including newly elected President Winston P. Whitaker, III. And this poem, as a tribute to Lewis Carroll: 

“Beware the Jabberwock of service, 
Ye trung and toble naves.
‘Tis truth and good we seek whilst here
Thrunce balderdash to thine caves.

“Whilst passing though these callayed halls
Hold hither yon learnest lamps.
And spread your frabjous ploys of giving
Ye vaingallant Saddle Tramps!”

   She reread it and then closed the book, thinking, searching, putting together what facts she had. Then she sat back stunned. “Oh my God. Forgive me, Lord, for being so blind.” 
   Dialing Colin’s number, she headed out of the library, yearbook under her arm. Hurrying past the checkout counter, she heard the student on duty call out, “Oh, wait, Ma’am, you can’t take that.” 
   She quickly held up her Tech ID and shouted back, “Administration emergency! I’ll bring it back!” Then into the ringing phone as she raced to the truck, “Pick up, Colin, please pick up ...”
   “This is Colin’s voice mail. I’m busy creating, so leave a message.” 
   After the click she breathlessly cried, “Colin, we were wrong about Jamie ... I have to find Windy ... We were wrong!” 

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