by Jim Foreman
"Good evening, Joseph," came the voice from behind him as he was reading the evening edition of the newspaper over an after- dinner cup of coffee in the Armitage Hotel restaurant.
"Well, surprise of surprises," he replied. "Good evening, Maggie. It certainly has been a long time. Have you had dinner?"
"Yes, thank you, I've already eaten."
"Then perhaps you would join me for a cup of coffee."
"Thanks," she replied. If my memory serves me correctly, you bought me a cup of coffee the morning that I arrived in Amarillo ten years ago."
She poured two teaspoons of sugar into the coffee, followed by a good dash of cream. She stared at the coffee while stirring it around and around without ever tasting of it.
"You seem to have lost your appetite for coffee," Joe finally remarked. "If I remember correctly, you once said that good, black coffee was one of the greater joys in your life."
"Many of the joys in my life have gone the way of my love of black coffee," she replied.
Joe sipped his coffee without saying another word because he sensed that Maggie wanted to tell him something but probably would avoid doing so as long as he kept giving her a chance to evade the subject.
"I'm so tired of sitting alone night after night in that mausoleum while Warren plays the political peacock down in Austin," she said. "I just had to get out of the house and see a friendly face."
He found it most difficult to remain silent while she moved the spoon in a slow, circular motion in the cup, but he waited for her to continue.
"The Texas Legislature adjourned more than a month ago but he is still down there; says that he is working on a special committee of some sort."
"Maggie, I'm beginning to get the feeling that you would like to say far more than what you have. Would you like to go some place a bit more private so we can talk?"
"Could we, please?" she said slowly. "I'm afraid that I may burst out in tears any second and this is no place to let that happen."
She rose and walked with Joe to the elevators. He pushed the button to call elevator number four, the door slid open and they stepped inside. The Armitage Hotel was the only building in Amarillo which had the new, automatic Otis Elevators which needed no operator. The bottom button was marked Tascosa Room, which was located in the basement; the next was for the lobby level and the third one was for the Mezzanine. The numbered floors began with number three and stopped at twelve. In the spot where the button which would send the elevator to the penthouse would normally have been located, was an unmarked key slot. Joe inserted his key and turned it. The elevator traveled directly to the penthouse without stopping and the door slid open into the large living room.
"This is quite a place that you have here," said Maggie as she looked around. "I've heard stories about your private little domain up here, but had never seen it."
"Just a little place that I can call home," he replied. "I watched you beat that cup of coffee to death without ever taking a sip of it. Would you like something a bit stronger?"
"I'd like a good, stiff drink if you have it," she replied.
"It will take a lot more than prohibition to stop the flow of spirits," replied Joe. "What will you have?"
"Scotch and water."
"It's nice to know that there is still someone beside myself who drinks Scotch. Most of the people around Amarillo think that the only two things in the world for a person to drink are beer and Bourbon," said Joe.
"Make it a double if you don't mind."
"You must really have something that you want to get off your mind," replied Joe. "Let's go into the library. It is quiet and much more comfortable in there."
Maggie took a sip of the drink, then rolled the glass between her palms, watching the ice remain motionless while the glass rotated around it. "I have had the feeling for some time that Warren was having an affair, but now I'm sure of it."
"You're positive?" asked Joe.
"I don't know what else could be going on," she replied. "About two months ago, I tried to call Warren at his apartment in Austin; the one the state furnishes each of the members while they are in session. A woman answered but when I told her who I was and asked to speak to Warren, she became very nervous and said that he didn't live there. When I asked if that was his apartment, she said that it was but she rented it from him. Then I asked if she knew where he could be reached, she said that she didn't know and hung up."
"I understand that most of the legislators consider those apartments to be one of the side benefits of the office and it's not unusual for them to rent it out and pocket the money," replied Joe, not believing that he was actually defending someone whom he disliked as much as he did Warren.
"That may be true, but he called me back in less than five minutes after I hung up, so how did he know that I had called if he wasn't there," she said more as a statement than a question.
"Perhaps the lady knew how to get hold of him and gave him your message," said Joe.
She finished her drink and handed the empty glass back to Joe. "Another one just like the first, if you please."
Joe set the new drink on the table in front of her and she continued, "Warren hasn't been home since going to Austin nearly eight months ago. He went down there a full month before the first session opened, didn't come home during either recess and is still there a month after the last session adjourned."
"The end of his present term in office is coming up shortly. Perhaps he is trying to solidify his political base before the next election," said Joe.
"I might be able to accept a story like that if I hadn't received this today," she said as she removed a folded piece of paper from her purse and handed it to Joe.
The note was written on embossed stationary from the Adolphus Hotel in Dallas. "Dear Mrs. Brewster; We are happy to return the dressing gown you left in the room when you and Congressman Brewster checked out. I hope that you enjoyed your stay with us." It was signed by the director of maid service. Joe looked up at Maggie, his eyes asking the question.
"I haven't been in Dallas in more than a year and that certainly wasn't my gown," she replied.
"Maggie, I'm so sorry," was all that Joe could think of to say.
Maggie looked fragile and alone as she sat there, so different from the self-assured woman whom he had met when she stepped off the train. She wrapping her body with her own arms, as if trying to hold and comfort herself. Tears welled in her eyes, then big drops came rolled down her cheeks. Joe put one arm over her shoulders and the other around her waist, pulling her close to him.
She sobbed against his shoulder for several minutes, finally saying, "Joe, I want to apologize for dumping my problems on you, but I didn't know anyone else to whom I could turn. My parents are out of town and the rest of the people that I know around here are really Warren's friends and not mine."
"You can come to me with your problems any time that you like," said Joe. "After all, what is your oldest friend in town for."
"That is the other thing that I wanted to talk with you about," she continued. I want to apologize for the insensitive way I treated you when I first came to Amarillo."
"I see no reason for you to apologize," said Joe. "After all, we barely became acquainted before...." and he let the sentence trail off.
"That's exactly what I am talking about," she replied. "I felt a very strong attraction between us the first second that I laid eyes on you."
"I will have to admit that the attraction was mutual," said Joe. "But you certainly had a strange way of showing how you felt."
"That wasn't my idea," she replied. "I didn't know it when I arrived, but my father and Lloyd Brewster had more or less arranged a marriage between Warren and me and they weren't about to let anyone interfere with their plans. That morning when my father came to pick me up at the station and saw me with you at the Ellis Hotel, he told me that you were nothing more than an opportunist who would be gone from Amarillo within the year and that I shouldn't become involved with you. Then, when I agreed to go to the dance with you, he really hit the ceiling. He said that I was not to see you any more and that I should concentrate on someone who was stable and had a good reputation, like Warren Brewster."
"That's a shocker," said Joe. "I never even considered the fact that someone might class Warren's character above mine."
"He said that even though he trusted you in your position as one of the directors of his bank, he didn't want his daughter marrying someone like you. From the way that he acted, I got the feeling that you might be Jack the Ripper or something worse."
"I always considered Eldon Farris not only to be a business associate, but also a friend," said Joe. "But I suppose that with friends like that, who needs enemies."
The only light in the library was that which reflected upward from the streets below. Maggie moved her body tightly against his and slipped her arm around his neck. In the darkness, Joe could not see those deep pools of green, but he knew that she was looking up at him.
"Please kiss me," she said. "I haven't been kissed or held close by anyone in such a long time and I especially need it tonight."
"Is that Maggie who said that or is it the Scotch talking?" he asked.
"I've never been more in control of my faculties than I am right now and I assure you that I am the one who is asking you to kiss me," she replied.
Joe kissed her lightly on the lips, much in the same manner as he would kiss his maiden aunt. She returned the kiss, except that hers was warm, wet and passionate.
"Maggie," said Joe. "Are you sure about what we are doing. After all, you are a married woman."
"There are two states of being married; the one which a person feels in their heart and the legal one. I have never felt in my heart that I was married to Warren and I plan to take action to eliminate the legal one as soon as possible."
As Joe kissed her hard on the lips, he moved his hand upward to cup her firm, round breast. He could feel her nipple harden and thrust against his palm, then a quiver seemed to begin at her waist and flow through her body. Her breath came in short gasps as she clung to him with her lips, pressing her warm body against his. He felt her body gradually relax but her heart still pounded beneath the breast he was holding. He kissed her tenderly.
"I've never had anything like that happen to me before, just from kissing a man," she whispered. "It was almost as if we were actually making love."
Joe moved his hand from her warm, firm breast to the long row of buttons that ran down the back of her dress. He slipped the top button loose, then the second, third and so on as he worked his way downward toward her waist. When he finished unbuttoning her dress, she moved slightly away from him and slipped her arms out of the sleeves and let the top part drop to her lap. Then she slipped the straps of her petticoat off her shoulders and slid it down.
In the dim light, Joe could see the outline of her breasts, standing firm and round. He cuddled each one in his hand, then bent down and kissed them, running his tongue around each nipple. They sprang erect in instant response. He felt her warm hand slip between his legs and stroke the growing bulge in his pants.
"Let's go into the bedroom, Maggie. I think that it will be a lot more comfortable than this couch."
He rose, removed his coat and shirt, dropping them onto the couch. She pushed her dress, petticoat and panties over her hips and let them slide to the floor. He quickly finished undressing and led her into the bedroom. Without bothering to turn down the covers, they lost themselves in one another, making frantic, passionate love three times in quick succession.
As they held one another close and basked in the afterglow of lovemaking, she whispered, "I wish that we had done this instead of going to that stupid dance ten years ago. Perhaps things would be much different for us now."
"We certainly wasted a lot of time in finding what we really wanted," he answered.
"We'll have to see if we can make up for a lot of lost time," said Maggie.
The following morning, Joe called for breakfast to be sent to his room and when they had finished eating, she asked him, "The lobby and restaurant are bound to be full of people who know me. How am I going to go about getting out of here without creating a scandal?"
"Where did you park your car?"
"In the parking lot behind the hotel," she answered.
"No problem," said Joe as he brought a key from his desk and handed it to her. "This key not only brings the elevator to this floor, but it's also a master key which will open just about every other door in the hotel, including the back service door. Take the elevator down to the Mezzanine, walk down the back stairs to the service door which opens out onto the parking lot. I use that route all the time to get to or from my room without going through the lobby."
"Am I likely to meet anyone as I go out this way?"
"Only three staff people have keys to the back door, and if one of them should see you, they will never say anything about it," replied Joe
"Does giving me this key mean that I am invited to come see to you again?" she asked.
"Yes, my darling, and I hope that you will use it often," replied Joe. "If you are ready to go, I'll walk you to your car and show you the back way."