The Arthur Gordon Years
Riddles & Retrospections
Desert Springs Resort & Spa, Palm Springs
'No visible facelift scars along the hairline, good work, Dr. Steinberg.' Experienced eyes checked the cheek and jawline of the blonde nearby who reclined on her stomach in a French cut bikini revealing a pair of shapely legs and round buttocks. 'But, oh, how dreadful, look at that area of cellulite developing. You'll need to see Dr. Russo very soon my dear Madie,' the queen mused.
Paula Gordon, the queen, sat aristocratically posed on a navy recliner surrounded by her adoring court. Shielded from the evening sun by a wide-brimmed hat, the movement of the queen's eyes were discreetly concealed by a pair of large white designer sunglasses. Sipping a Bombay Martini, reading the latest edition of Vogue, she continued to clandestinely inspect the women surrounding her. The six women in her court ranged from early thirties to late forties all in relationships of some kind, and all looking to improve their social status with a new and improved boyfriend or husband. Catching that new and improved model was a very competitive activity in the trophy wife coterie.
The brunette on her left lay provocatively with one leg bent, arms extended over her head thrusting her new implants up for all to see. Again the experienced eye inspected the surgeon's handiwork. 'They're holding up well, yes, nice and perky…wait a minute. One is noticeably larger than the other. Oh, it must be a Shankman! Poor Millie, didn't she get the word? Shankman's been up to his ass in malpractice suits!'
A contented smile spread across the queen's lips knowing her assets were hers and hers alone. She had seen too many dreadful liposuction scars, fat cells injected into swollen pouters and silicone curdles to last a lifetime. No Drs. Shankman, Russo, Edgar 'Eager' Krieger, or Max 'the knife' Steinberg for this body. Oh, certainly a little Botox for maintenance was needed to wipe away those little frowns. She hated frowns and the people who caused them.
Stretching in the chair like a contented feline she enjoyed these little outings with her clique of up and coming F. F. H. or Forbes Four Hundred aspirers. Paula's smile deepened knowing that she, the queen, was the only woman in the group whose husband truly belonged to the Forbes Four Hundred. Arthur Gordon was number three hundred and fifty, and if she played her cards right, she would be number three hundred and fifty someday. One day Arthur Gordon Industries would be all hers. Paula fought the broad smile and the wrinkles they might cause. 'No wonder they admire me so. They wish they could have my life. Clustered around me today, my friends can only hope to learn from the queen of everything.' Of course the term 'friends' was used loosely, because if push came to shove, any aspiring F. F. H. member would eagerly 'shove' the other under the bus for a chance to advance. And many members were doing just that on their way up the food chain, trading in old boyfriends and husbands for newer upwardly mobile models who were destined to cross the line and join the four hundred most wealthy in America.
Moving the olive around in her nearly exhausted drink, Paula felt very smug. After properly mourning her elderly first husband she bought apartments in Paris, Tokyo, and New York just to be near the latest fashions and to travel the world exhausting large sums of money and assets from her late husband's estate. Then one day, to her consternation, her accountant informed her she was close to being poor, rather 'rich poor'. The thought of being down to her last five million was frightening and meant drastic measures and - as destiny would have it - a stroke of fate. She had the good fortune to meet and befriend society maven, Bee Bee Buchanan.
Bee Bee sat primly on a brocaded couch caressing the silken fur of her beloved Maltese, Lady Victoria. The social maven regally wore a simple navy Chanel dress with matching pearls. Paula sat on a matching ottoman at the elderly woman's feet like a commoner having an audience with the Queen Mother or in this case Queen Bee Bee. The nearly broke, or 'poor rich', Paula was elated to be invited to an exclusive charity dinner hosted by the glamorous lady.
"Paula, dear, I've placed you next to Phillip Rasmussen. You know Phil; he's a wonderful conversationalist and a fabulous 'extra man'." Bee Bee loved Phillip; he was her arm candy at all the society and dinner functions. His role was to keep the conversations lively, fill those extra seats at her dinner parties and provide the elderly mistress with male companionship at those charity balls.
Paula found Phillip a little over the top but benignly pleasant. Patiently she waited while Bee Bee straightened the bow on Lady Victoria's head before turning to face her eager student. "On the other side I've placed, widower, Arthur Gordon, of Gordon Industries."
Without thinking, Paula rolled her eyes and moaned. Bee Bee clucked softly and shook her head.
"Oh please, a widower with three children!" The younger woman protested.
The elderly madame faintly smiled at her ingénue and with a motherly air advised. "My dear, Paula, Arthur Gordon may be a gruff and abrasive father of three, but he's on the verge of being number four hundred on Forbes Four Hundred. The man is lonely, riddled with guilt and saddled with three children. He's in a situation where he not likely to ask for a pre-nup. He's ripe for the taking. You can't go wrong, darling."
The grand dame was right, she couldn't go wrong. Gordon was guilt ridden and lonely. Her years of marriage purgatory were well spent as Gordon Industries moved up the list of F. F. H. and Gordon's children moved out of the house.
Katherine, the oldest, constantly irritated her father, blaming him for the death of her mother. Years of psychotherapy had hardly put a dent in her animosity. The young woman used her blatant promiscuity to aggravate and alienate the elder Gordon.
Rebellious playboy, David Gordon, used his father's money to advance his hedonistic lifestyle and desire for quick and easy money.
Lauren, the youngest, was shy, reserved and a bit of a daddy's girl. Her marriage to Chris, the tennis pro caught her father by surprise. Immediately, the elder Gordon became suspicious of the tennis pro's womanizing ways and became protective of his youngest child.
Paula found them easy to ignore and manipulate, always pitting one child against the other. The three children were a constant irritation to their father. Coupled with Arthur's drinking, cigar smoking and rich gourmet diet the environmental factors were quickly taking their toll on his life span. A factor Paula found encouraging.
The Arthur Gordon Foundation was created after Gordon's net worth placed him comfortably at three hundred fifty. Through Kenneth Braddock's office and the attorney's assistance she was designated the administrator for the foundation. Suddenly she had access to vast sums of money designated for research and development as well as beaucoup amounts of publicity. The foundation was a godsend. Little did Arthur know that when he put her in charge that he had given Paula power and publicity, the perfect bait for landing a newer and wealthier husband?
Looking around at her competition, she was pleased she still had extraordinary good looks, no ghastly stretch marks, unsightly incisions, or botched procedures. She was a trophy any man would desire. She knew how to make an entrance and turn heads. Men of the F. F. H. while showing others their new three million dollar yachts, floating condominiums, loved to turn heads with their drop dead gorgeous wives, further showing their prowess extended beyond their boardrooms to their bedrooms. Appearances were essential. Paula faintly smiled and thought of Arthur's prowess in the bedroom. He was a skilled and unselfish lover making her time in purgatory a little less unpleasant, but still…
All was going well and according to plan until, 'she' appeared. A frown began to tug at the corner of Paula's eyes and across her forehead and she quickly forced the muscles to relax…..can't have wrinkles there. It had never been a problem before…..Arthur's secretaries. His gruff, abrupt and demanding manner created a revolving door of secretaries. None ever stayed long enough to become a problem….until now.
Gordon's home office was grand and spacious. Then suddenly extra work space was created near the CEO's mahogany desk for more feminine furnishings. Again she frowned and strained to relax. At this rate a visit to Andre would be necessary for Botox touch-up injections before leaving Palm Springs. 'Wrinkles, frown lines…..she couldn't let herself go….she had competition.'
It was bad enough when 'that woman'was Arthur's secretary. 'Am I being punished from above?' Paula's eyes rolled to the heavens as though looking for a vengeful deity. If that wasn't enough to create monstrous frown lines, her ass of a husband had promoted this woman to be his executive assistant with her own damn secretary. Then the final straw! The bastardhad the gall, the nerve to create office space for 'her'in their home. Her fingers circled the stem of the martini glass like a fist and fought the urge to break it over the head of the young man who was politely leaning down with a phone cradled in his hand.
"Madame, you have a phone call from a Mr. Oswald."
Wordlessly she extended her hand for the phone. 'Damn,' she thought, 'so this little male hottie thinks I'm old enough to be a Madame and now Oswald's calling. Wasn't the day bad enough with that damn sand trap and the breaking of two expensively manicured nails? None of those damn fruity drinks will do.' From behind gritted teeth she managed a syrupy smile and ordered. "I need a double vodka tonic, and hurry kid."
The young man in the white shirt, bow tie and black pants, abruptly straightened and stood at attention. His dark eyes widened. "Yes, madame, but first your call." Quickly he turned and scurried to the nearest phone jack before disappearing inside the clubhouse.
Paula felt all eyes swivel to her; some from behind sunglasses, others from beneath the cover of broad brimmed hats and a few from behind fashion magazines, but all eyes were focused on the queen's urgent phone call. She enjoyed the attention while simultaneously coveting the young server's firm buttocks as he hustled to the bar. Maybe with her next change of fortune she would also upgrade to a much, much, younger man.
Turning her attention again to the phone she picked up the receiver. "Hello, this is Paula Gordon." An operator connected them, and a masculine voice began. Paula listened and watched the anxious eyes and faces, all waiting to hear her side of some new drama. Mr. Oswald's report was concise and brief. She battled to relax, fighting those frown lines and wrinkles. The male voice continued as the queen's court leaned closer hoping to hear a shred of gossip.
The queen forced a smile and cheerfully replied. "You've done a splendid job and, yes, I would like for you to continue your services as we discussed." The phone squawked again before she slowly hung up.
Another frown developed, definitely Botox tomorrow adding insult to injury. The final insult, why did 'that woman'have to be so classically beautiful?
Regally she floated down the hall to her husband's office, passing workers carrying furniture and office equipment. She heard a smooth, silky feminine voice from inside Arthur's grand office. The office reeked of masculinity with floor to ceiling bookshelves, a massive mahogany desk and black leather chairs. A space was being created near the male edifice, a smaller more feminine space.
Caught off guard and totally stunned, Paula walked in the office and watched as her husband and an attractive woman stood behind his desk, side-by-side. Like mirrored images their arms, head and shoulders moved like dancers as they pointed and looked over the large blue print spread out on Gordon's desk.
"This is a wonderful use of this space, there will be so little waste," Della commented, pointing to a section of the drawing. Gordon leaned closer to his assistant, their shoulders touching. He grinned and nodded. "Good catch. I was thinking the same thing, Della."
Paula cleared her voice loud enough to be heard over the sounds of the workers removing packaging.
The pair looked up and easily smiled.
"Good morning, Mrs. Gordon," Della politely greeted.
Standing in the doorway Paula's smile was icy, her eyes glacial. Without uttering a word she turned and walked back into the hallway. Gordon swiftly joined her in the hallway and closed the door for privacy.
Hand on her hip, jaw clinching, she waved to his inner office and asked through gritted teeth. "Why is 'that woman' in my house?"
"We're looking over the blue-prints for our building expansion. She has some very creative ideas. I like them."
Not to be ignored, Paula Gordon leaned closer to her husband and asked again. "Why is 'that woman' in my house?"
Gordon abruptly stopped, straightened and glared at her. Authoritatively he announced, "Della Street is my executive assistant and you will be civil to her. I won't tolerate your rudeness."
"Humph," Paula uttered and turned on her heel. "We'll see."
The young server in the tight black pants returned with her drink. Paula was so annoyed she didn't even check his tight little rear as he swiftly departed with the phone.
'We'll see. Yes, we'll see, Della Street. Executive assistant my ass! It's bad enough that 'her' office is connected to his. And now he has the nerve to create an office for 'her' in my house!'Drumming her fingers on the drink glass, she watched her court from behind her dark lenses and pulled her lips into a fake smile just for them. 'What's next? Will he move 'her' into our bedroom! I think not!'
'I have a call to make and I won't make it here. I need to call my dear husband.'Picking up her double vodka tonic for fortification she elegantly rose from her lounge chair and announced.
"Ladies, I'm tired. I'll be in my room."
Meanwhile at Ombien…..
Arthur Gordon didn't mind that their laughter shattered the hushed and orderly ambience of the restaurant. Taking the edge of the cloth napkin Della wiped the tears of laughter from the corners of her eyes. He had no idea his question would lead to such revelry and a flood of stories from her fascinating life.
The CEO's smile slowly disappeared as he watched a server silently approaching with a phone.
Della watched with concern as the young man bowed politely and whispered to her companion before gracefully placing the phone on the table and connecting the jack.
"Gordon," The executive briskly announced.
A soft feminine voice emanated from the instrument. Della waited patiently, while Gordon's face became poker hard. Finally he authoratively announced. "I'm not discussing this now. We'll talk when you arrive home. Goodnight."
Swiftly he placed the receiver and watched as the young server swept in and removed the phone from the table.
"Is everything alright? Do you need to go home?" Della asked with concern.
Gordon smiled again and reached across the table and delicately gave her hand a gentle squeeze of reassurance then released it.
"No, I don't need to go home. It's nothing, Della, don't worry about it. Nothing will spoil our time together."
A server silently moved in and replenished their wine and disappeared.
Gordon raised his glass for a toast and watched as Della lifted her glass to his.
"To an unstoppable team…..may it never end."
Touching glasses, they enjoyed the wine and the toast.
Leaning back in the leather cushion, Gordon sighed with contentment. "Now, Della, let's finish that story."
Leaning across the table, she smiled and whispered as though sharing a secret, "Oh, that story! You mean when we found the body in the freezer."
His dark eyes sparked with excitement. With a mischievous grin and an air of conspiracy, Gordon leaned across the table to join her. "Yeah, that's the story," he whispered. "Tell me all about it!"
The sound of the crashing surf drifted up the sheer rock face to the luxurious beachside mansion. In the dimmed upstairs bedroom, lovers, their limbs intertwined, lay exhausted from their lovemaking. Gently, their fingers continued to stroke and caress, their breathing falling in synch with the rhythm of the waves striking the rocks below.
Suddenly the phone rang on the bedside table. Anxious eyes turned to the instrument and finally a feminine voice spoke.
"Aren't you going to answer it?"
"It's your phone."
"Are you afraid it's your wife?"
Snapping back, he replied, "Then I guess you're afraid it's your father?"
A slender arm reached across his chest for the phone. "Don't be silly. I could care less if my father calls. But what about you, Counselor, your presence here could be awkward?"
Picking up the receiver she answered. "Hello."
The attorney enjoyed the feel of her soft firm breasts pressed against him creating renewed excitement. The thought quickly vanished thinking of Arthur Gordon's scathing words and scrutiny.
Leaning back with the receiver, she announced. "It's for you, it's your service."
Nodding, remembering his instructions, he took the receiver and announced his presence. "Braddock."
Katherine settled back on the bed as her lover rolled on his side facing away from her to continue his conversation. Stretching, the pleasure endorphins waning, the need for a cigarette kicked in. Rolling to the side, she opened the drawer to her night stand. The gleam from her gold lighter and the blue metallic sheen from the 32 caliber pistol caught her eye. Picking up the lighter her fingers lovingly ran along the pearl handle before collecting the cigarette case. Taking out a cigarette and flipping open the lighter, she ignited the tip and watched the gold light flash across the pearl handle and remembered the night…..
Staring in the mirror she inspected the bruises on her face and arms. The application of make-up dimmed, but didn't eliminate their presence. Only time would heal the wounds of their messy break-up. Bruce, the stock trader, wasn't ready to move on and took her dismissal of their relationship as a personal affront to his masculinity and decided to teach her a lesson. The last week had been difficult applying make-up and avoiding close friends who would want to pry.
Suddenly the doorbell rang and she jumped. Was it Bruce ready for another round? Silently she crept to the door and looked through the round opening. Arthur Gordon stood nervously on the other side, shirt collar open, tie loosely draped around his neck, obviously he had just left his office at the institute.
"Damn," she muttered and considered ignoring him. Her insides began to churn like a cauldron with a wild mix of love and hate rising and falling in the bitter stew. Without further thought, her fingers unlocked the door and stood face to face with her father. Putting up a bold front she unceremoniously announced, "Oh, it's you!"
Gordon immediately took offense. "I knew this was a mistake," he snapped and began to walk off.
Katherine was surprised when she heard herself saying, "Don't leave, come in."
He paused for a moment, then turned. She stood to the side and allowed him to enter. Gordon walked in and scanned the spacious great room with a windowed panoramic view of the Pacific Ocean.
Following her father, Katherine continued to snipe, "Don't worry, you're not interrupting one of my one-night-stands, if that's what you're worried about."
"Look," Gordon raised his voice. "I didn't come here for that."
"Then why are you here?"
Nervously the CEO cast his eyes down to his shoes and answers softly. "Why am I here? It's ironic how you have your mother's good looks and my wicked sharp tongue. The irony of genetics I suppose. Considering our pasts, I guess I deserve all your comments." His voice trailed off, but Katherine didn't continue her tirade. During their uneasy silence the sound of the surf wafted through the open window.
Shuffling his feet, Gordon's fingers nervously ran over the smooth paper on the gift box cradled in his hand. The young woman's eyes were drawn to it.
"I know your birthday's not for another week…..not that you plan on making me a part of it…..that special day when you came into my life. Your mother and I thought you were the most beautiful little girl in the world. We were so nervous knowing you were all ours and feared we would not live up to the responsibility of being your parents."
The cauldron boiled with love and hate, and nervous fingers ran across the bruises on her wrist. Despite all the psychotherapy sessions, her father's words easily penetrated Katherine's protective veneer.
Nervously, he produced the box.
One last desperate jab, she sniped. "Did Della Street put you up to this? Is she trying to 'polish' your 'rough' edges, make you a better father - if that's possible."
Gordon seemed genuinely hurt and snapped. "No, Della didn't put me up to this. I don't have to take this!"
Katherine watched him move to the door. 'There you've pierced his heart, are you satisfied, you've accomplished your goal. Now let him go!' an inner voice cheered. Again, a subconscious force caused her to reach out and touch his arm, a force that realized she didn't want him to leave.
Through anguished eyes, he looked at her and confided. "I know you hate me, but I still want to be your father."
Katherine expressed her resignation with a heavy exaggerated sigh. "O.K. I'm listening. I guess all those years of psychotherapy have paid off after all."
He handed the box to his estranged daughter and watched her unwrap it. Slipping the cover to the side, a blue gleam caught her eye, then the rich pearl handle. A 32 caliber pistol. Taking the pistol in her hand she tossed the box to the side. Feeling the weight of the firearm she aimed the pistol around the room while an evil smile spread across her lips.
"A pearl handle, you always said I had expensive taste. You know a few years back I would have taken this gun and shot you….." She watched his face for a reaction and found none. "…..then I would have taken the gun and turned it on myself." His poker face didn't surprise her and only encouraged her to continue. "But then…..you know that don't you?"
Gordon's smile was bittersweet. "Yes, I guess I've always known that. Katherine, I've always been saddened that I couldn't always protect you from life's cruelty. I hope this helps. I know you might find it hard to believe, but after all we've been through, I still love you."
Katherine felt a hot tear slipping down her cheek as a cloud of smoke drifted to the ceiling. Pushing the drawer closed she heard Kenneth Braddock's voice speaking into the phone. "Yeah, she's going to be a problem. I know, she's becoming his right arm. Keep watching, but stay low. Don't worry I'll think of something. I'll think of a solution."