Three Strikes

“This is Mrs. Evelyn Montrose in Houston. My husband and I are gold level contributors to the Henderson and Waters Foundation. I’d like to speak with Bruce Henderson, please.” Evelyn, or “Evie” her friends called her, brushed a wet blade of grass from her Tory Burch ballet flats before noticing an additional clump of dirt beneath the gold medallion. She pondered tossing these in the Goodwill pile, but not before wondering who may have seen her meandering out from Dennis’s guesthouse two doors down. “Thank God for Dennis,” she thought with caution.

“He’ll be with you in a moment, Mrs. Montrose”, said the assistant with suspiciously humble tones; or so Evie assumed. Even the assistant’s voice felt like a small ruler on her wrist for which Evie responded with a naturally snappy retort. She moved back into her thoughts for half a minute when Bruce Henderson came on the line. “Hi Evie. I’m entirely curious why you’re calling.” Evie hesitated and audibly gurgled sputum before conjuring up her words. “I need to meet with you again,” she said.

It had taken two years for Evelyn Montrose’s façade to develop with the chosen group. She had always been successful formulating a position for herself in the league of high-stepping housewives, full of mock wisdom and heightened self-appreciation. Unwaveringly certain of their divine position in Houston society, the ladies displayed little doubt of their members, which, in itself, was an integral part of the delusion. Barely a wrinkled tennis skirt would be cause for a raised eyebrow, so it simply didn’t happen. Only, one Tuesday about a year ago, Shirley, the oldest member in the group (and regrettably so), managed to leave home with a small smear of toothpaste on the underside of her chin. The group met as usual, took their places at the lunch table, but Shirley – oh, Shirley. They all noticed, one by one. But it was slightly concealed by the shape of her face and the correction wouldn’t be a simple gesture by one of the friends or a quick word by another. Not to mention, that nasty toothpaste had a small brown spot in the middle. Shirley left the group that day with the same confidence she had when she greeted them, blissfully unaware of the group’s witness. One month later she was certain she had said something wrong but even with strained recollection of events, couldn’t pinpoint the faux pas. Another month passed and, without further blunder by Shirley, all was forgiven and she dismissed her apparent delusional thinking.

Evie was different. Flawless. Practiced and poised. The kind you didn’t question, at least, outwardly. She was an intimidating figure, a flagship for the group. She cut a sleek silhouette showing her discipline in the gym or visits to the surgeon. No one ever knew exactly which, and the subject was never up for discussion. Plastic surgery was meant for newbies to this society – idiot wannabe’s with desperate aspirations and equally desperate limitations. Certainly not for the naturally gifted who married well and bore sparkling children. Evie had built herself a platinum shell. A bright, pastel-colored suit of armor that screamed, “Kiss my high tight ass.” She did enjoy one small display of pity upon herself from the others – her lack of children. She managed to weave a story about snarled fallopian tubes and failed pregnancies that rendered the ladies nearly weeping at the tale. They were forever cautious about boasting on so-and-so’s precious Amy or such-and-such’s gifted Jonathan. Perfect, considering Evie’s secret disdain for all things newer than herself. Beyond her bewildering claims of impotence, Evie glowed with self-preservation and the group respected her for it. They weren’t prepared for anything.

Sunday, August 6th and, like every Sunday before it, no communication would take place within the group. No one remembered making the rule, but no one broke it either. While some of the friends stood atop driving ranges with their husbands feigning skill and interest, others moved quickly through the sale section of Saks with barely-interested expressions, whipping hangars into each other before moving on to something more worthy. Unlike her cohorts, Evie’s Sabbath day activities were a mystery; barely implied, but readily accepted. The ladies made innocent assumptions befitting the likes of their fine friend.

“Celia, where the fuck are my good scissors?” Evie sneered. “Goddammit. What’s wrong with you? You scurry around this house like a disgusting little germ. God, you’re a fucking retard.” Celia Reyes was a plump, 19-year old Mexican immigrant with short, curly black hair who was suddenly remembering her mother. She moved quickly to the kitchen before returning to the study, “good scissors” in hand. Evie twisted the scissors from Celia’s hand, delivering a hairline fracture to her middle finger. Celia’s light brown skin turned pasty yellow before she stepped backward out of the room. “God, you’re weak,” said Evie after her. While Evie sat mumbling caustic derivatives of her previous insults, Celia straightened herself to the remaining chores. She was only “fractionally learned” as Evie would say and understood selective phrases of English and just as few words. As with so many other details Evie considered frivolous, Celia’s keen awareness of her circumstances was of no apparent consequence to her. She was a Mexican after all; an ignorant immigrant; a blip on Evie’s silver screen who should be remiss to imagine an alternative life for herself. Celia peered into the hall mirror that faced her nemesis in the study to find her picking her nose and shooting the remnants of this morning’s heavy breathing into the air. She was imagining grotesque little crusty samples of human DNA spotting the furniture when, suddenly, Evie met her gaze in the reflection. Celia practically evaporated into thin air, averting her eyes at once. This made three. Three times Celia had witnessed the impeccable American priestess doing something foul or otherwise, entirely contradictory to her public persona. But excavating a naval cavity or two was a misdemeanor compared to the other two transgressions on record in Celia’s memory. But this was the infraction Evie would succumb to. She rose so steadily it seemed almost mechanical to Celia and she found herself stepping carefully in reverse. The lack of noise was confusing her and she turned to find her way down the familiar corridor to another room, any room. Her body felt hot and the hairs on her neck slowly curled upward. Evie moved upon her with the stealth of a predator. “Celia,” Evie whispered, suddenly at her side. Something stung Celia in her hip and she bent sideways before turning her head up and around to Evie. “That makes three, Celia.” Evie’s bottom jaw slowly moved forward like a Neanderthal woman under threat of death. They both looked down to see the “good scissors” about a half-inch into Celia’s hip. “Lo siento, senora,” Celia said with the voice of a child, tears flooding the smile lines in her young face. “You will leave my house, Mexican,” Evie said with chilling calm. She retracted the scissors from Celia’s hip and pushed the open blades to either side of Celia’s neck. Celia began to black out, but not before Evie’s last words, “You’re mine, Mexican.”

Dennis Shoal was a selfish prick of a man with a voracious appetite for beautiful women and sordid affairs. He was a finance consultant on paper, the white-collared professional sort with black-collared taste. He made charming company revealing splendidly progressive manners that made conservative women sweat with no more than a nod. He was also the private indulgence of Mrs. Montrose. For now, his guesthouse held none other than Celia Reyes and, until Evie constructed a fitting plan for her deportation, or worse, this is where she would remain. She concocted a dark scenario of betrayal at the hands of the border-hopper, including theft and attempts at her husband’s affection. Dennis was as hungry for Evie as he was, repulsed by her captive, and his uncharacteristic allegiance to his would-be lover translated into mind-boggling restraints and security for the Mexican. Evie was apathetic to the situation and was happy to let Dennis squirm through the details for the moment.

The following Tuesday was the ladies’ usual lunch soiree and Evie slid gracefully into her chair at Moutarde Café where the staff had readied itself for their arrival. The group exchanged borrowed anecdotes and congratulated each other with wide smiles of contented agreement. Without warning, a young, dark-skinned man appeared at the table, placing a hand-written note addressed to Evelyn Montrose along with a package in front of his intended recipient. The group, not recognizing any malevolence, encouraged Evie to open it. Curious, but unsuspecting, Evie ripped off the end and dumped the contents in front of her. A cloud of white powder with a rolled up dollar bill tumbled out onto the table. She was paralyzed. A simultaneous screech of chairs accompanied the gasping women who all noticed the strange chemical smell. Without thinking, one of them grabbed the note and read it aloud:

“THE TRUTH IS CLEAR IN THE EYES OF THOSE WHO SERVE YOU.
I AM CAPTIVE NO MORE.”

Within seconds they were silently concocting scenarios of drug abuse and scandal in their heads, anxious at the proposition of a real life desperate housewife in their midst. Some silently distanced themselves right then and there, while others professed their support. Evie heard nothing. She sat motionless realizing all at once her façade had been breached. This was not toothpaste on her chin. This was the beginning of the end. She forced a tear for effect before proclaiming a half-assed explanation of some long, lost family member who balked when Evie rejected his requests for money. It didn’t work. Her story was met with blank expressions and crinkled noses. She elaborated by saying her husband was in the process of finding this “cousin” to deliver a threat against any further taunts of his beloved wife. Again, hollow stares. She looked around the table for the last time, stood up and left the restaurant. But not before gathering her package, contents and all. “I’ll kill her,” she thought. “Her and Dennis both.”

Almost immediately after getting into her car and slamming the gear into drive, the speakerphone in her car bellowed the familiar Pavarotti tenor and her already frayed nerves took yet another beating. She fumbled to hit the button on her steering wheel. “Mrs. Montrose,” her dashboard spoke. “This is Sandy Wainwright from the neighborhood watch. You might want to call your husband at work immediately. Someone has placed hundreds of disparaging photos of him and several other people in compromising positions all along the fence. There were others at the entry, and more along the sidewalks.” The caller was stumbling over her final words when Evie disconnected the line as though it carried with it a communicable disease. She cared nothing for her fagot husband except for their agreement to wage deceit upon Houston’s socially elite and gain immunity from the mediocrity that had relentlessly stalked them for years. She dialed Mr. Montrose.

The ladies exchanged phone calls for the remainder of the day, trading top-secret speculation about Evie’s white powder and now, the pictures on the fence. They talked incessantly about it, which made them resentful about the time they were wasting on who they now deemed, a “non-member.” After all, wasn’t she just the excitement of the day and nothing more? But, the group’s juxtaposition put all their reputations at stake and apathy was currently a tall order. They had no idea Evie would become a permanent household name by the time they reached their mailboxes.

Celia carefully arranged the pictures on the glass before hitting “copy,” then proceeded with the next group, and then the last. Three groups in all told the story of Howard Montrose’s obsession with young, very young, cock-sucking men. With as much as 30 years between them, Howard and his lengthy list of softly eager male pleasers queued up before him and his camera. For nine years, Howard and Evie, Evie and Howard, Mr and Mrs, paraded themselves through the many social channels like a pair of peacocks. And what a show it was! A party wasn’t a party until the notables strutted through the doors with gleaming smiles and mysterious charm. Mr. Montrose picked up Evie’s call before shitting into his Black Label boxers. He studied his clueless staff with temporary relief before slipping out the back door for what would become a lengthy absence.

The mail lady worked her way up San Felipe toward River Oaks then slowly toward the country club before finishing her Tuesday route through the pristine neighborhood of Architectural Digest and Southern Living fame. “Toothpaste Shirley” was impatiently plucking dead flowers from her walkway and cussing the groundskeeper when the mail lady rolled up to the box with the normal array of snail mail, plus one bright pink envelope, return address: Mrs. Evie Montrose. Shirley was drunk with anticipation, envisioning herself the “town crier.” She pinched the envelope tightly as she scrambled back up the pavers to just inside the front door, tugging at the corner opening to reveal what seemed to be newspaper print. It occurred to her the thickness of the envelope, the bewildering amount of content so tightly folded and carefully placed in the constraints of this pretty in pink package of goodness. It was all in order. Shirley began to tremble. The first page was a Contra Costa Times story from 2003 about a missing immigrant girl from Mexico. The mother had been pleading with the local authorities to no avail and, had it not been for a sympathetic friend of the child’s father who worked at the Times, the article Shirley was now peering into, 14 years later, would not exist at all. The journalist had worked tirelessly, without the assistance of the local sheriff’s office, to provide case leads all the way across four states, ending in San Antonio, Texas, where the trail went cold. The second page was an Order of Release from 2004, The State of Arizona vs. Elizabeth Hunter-Gomez and a mug shot of a disheveled-looking, somewhat dissimilar version of Evie Montrose with dark brown hair and light brown eyes. The offense was Conspiracy to Commit Forced Labor, Fraud and Coercion. Shirley suddenly realized she was sitting on the floor. The third piece of vile and shocking content was a picture. It was Dennis Shoal, Evie’s trusted neighbor, hanging naked in his garage. In red writing at the bottom, “P E D O F I L O.”

Shirley was shaken by a sudden rapping at her door and realized her phone had been ringing, the dog was barking, and the computer was pinging with urgent messages. It was the most surreal moment of her life and she slowly pivoted toward the front of the house. Luanne Moxley, second high priestess of the group, was anxiously standing in wait. Within the hour, Evie’s entourage was fully engaged in the most exciting event of their predictable lives. It would make each of them, by proxy, somewhat interesting and, while they feigned disgust for the horrid bitch, they loved her for setting the bar so high. They all shared a sense of liberation from their private indiscretions, and although they would continue to keep their secrets, kicking the dog, fucking the pool boy and getting drunk with their kids didn’t seem all that bad.

Evie waited nervously for a response. “Who are you going to be this time, Hunter?” Dr. Henderson asked. “Don’t call me that,” she snarled.

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