Mob’s Cardinal by Phyllis Chapter 37

Republisher’s Note: And so we end Mob’s Cardinal, but the sequel will fill in a few gaps in and amongst these chapters. I will just point out they are using the actors real ages to reflect the age difference as they bring in the daughter with Joie Lenz’s real name and a character named after Paul… and they just happen to look exactly like their namesakes.

Mob’s Cardinal by Phyllis – Chapter 37

Looking back, God gave the perfect child to Danny and Michelle. Jeff was placed in a house with lots of love and he had brothers and sisters that invested their time and energy to exercise and train his muscles. Immediately after the first trip to Virginia, Danny and Michelle had a family meeting with their children to explain the Cerebral Palsy and how they could each participate in reinforcing Jeff’s strength’s and skills.

From the time of the meeting, Jeff’s little arms and legs were exercised. Everyone’s investment paid full dividends. The day came when Jeff could bring his curved spoon to his mouth and the family clapped in his accomplishment. Michelle brought Jeff to Danny’s office the day he was fitted for his first leg braces. Michelle held Jeff’s two hands as he took the slow steps to Danny. After the braces, Jeff became mobile with the little walker with the wheels. At the insistence of Gabby and Pascal, the walker had been painted with a race car theme and Jeff’s head helmet resembled a famous car driver.

“I will never forget the day when Jeff came running full force in the family room with his braces and helmet singing the Batman theme, “Batman dada, dada, dada Batman…” Jeff interrupted a pretty intense conversation and I will venture to say it changed the tone of our meeting. Danny and I were discussing Joy’s wedding. Danny had been pacing from the kitchen to a leather chair with his mug of coffee.”

*****

Telling his cousin of his new discovered news, “I knew from the beginning when I saw Joy with him in the play at Princeton that there was sexual chemistry. The man was down at Princeton doing an actors workshop. Joy was barely eighteen and he was thirty-two. Joy always shared everything with us until she got involved with the son of one of my lawyers.”

Listening to Danny rant, “Danny, with the way you are reacting now, can you blame Joy?”

“I blame my lawyer friend Mr. Stewart. He denies knowing they were seeing each other. But he does admit becoming suspicious of his son’s frequent visits to Princeton. I don’t know where my brain was either; Joy started catching the Amtrak train to NYC on a regular basis.”

“Danny, what are you really mad about? Is it the fact of Joy falling in love without your Santos blessing or seeing your princess flying from the Santos’ nest?”

”Ray, I do not know but it maybe both. I always envisioned seeing Joy married in a big wedding.”

“Where did Joy get married?”

“On a beach near Rockport, Mass.”

“Well Danny, does this ring of righting a wrong? The Bauers were absent from Michelle’s wedding in Puerto Rico except for Dr. Ed Bauer.”

“Ed was there physically but emotionally he was far away.”

“I assume Joy’s last name is Mrs. Stewart but you have refused to say what her husband’s first name might be.”

Gritting the name from his lips, “Try Paul. Mrs. Paul Stewart. I’ll kill him with my hands.”

“Danny, this isn’t the right attitude. Jeff won’t understand your anger.”

Danny picked up his youngest son and swung him around in the room. “Ray, did you know my little buddy has learned to kick the soccer ball. He is attending Daycare three days a week and is the star of his class.”

“Daniel, this is where your focus lies now. Let go of the hurt and anger with Joy and Paul. Do I need to remind you of the age difference between Michelle and you? You said that you saw the chemistry yourself; they didn’t hide it from you. Joy is especially close to you. Your baby girl is a grown woman and she has found her soulmate. Michelle was manipulated by you and your power but you saw Michelle as your soulmate. Joy made this choice on her own; respect her for having the independence to go with what she thought was right for her life. I bet Paul is a mirror of you.”

************

Jeff’s condition opened the deep pockets of the Santos wealth. Danny donated enormous sums of money into private cell studies. One of the best camps in the Midwest was built for kids with Cerebral Palsy. Danny named the camp after a long discussion with Jeff. Jeff yearned for a tree house. Finally after many long hours of pleading his case and showing the book of tree house plans, Danny and Michelle relented and made plans with Jeff to build the tree house. The convincing argument came when Jeff spoke of wanting to climb trees. “I can’t climb like the other boys but in a tree house I can still see the same view.”

The night came when the A-frame was finished. Danny strapped the sleeping bag on Jeff’s back and they crawled up the walkway and around the tree trunk to rest in the crow’s nest. From there, the two walked the gangplank to the house where they spent the night. Jeff wanted everyone with CP to experience his freedom and happiness in the world of make believe in a tree house. The camp was named Jeff’s Tree House. At the camp, many of the tree houses were built barely above the ground because they were built to be wheelchair assessable.

*******************

Jeff walked with crutches across the stage at Princeton University, completing the last of Danny and Michelle’s children to graduate from his alma mater. In the next group to graduate was a special young lady, which the Santos had an interest. Brier Scalini was Jeff’s fiancée. In July, on the hottest day in the summer, Jefferson Edward Santos married Brier Morgan Scalini.

Jeff joined his older brother Pascal at the San Core Corp. His degree in computer science matched well with the needs of the company. Brier managed to grab a late night anchor spot on a local TV station. Every night, she signed off with her two-finger Santos salute to her husband. Cuddled in their king-size bed, Michelle rested her head on Danny’s chest while they watched their youngest daughter-in-law.

Michelle shared her thoughts. “I never dreamed Brier’s father would approve of Jeff.”

Still mesmerized by his wife’s beauty, “I think Giovanni Scalini fell in love with a young Dr. Bauer-Santos a long time ago. He got tired of making excuses to see you and Brier was his last child.”

Looking up into the still mysterious dark eyes, “All of our children have an uncanny knack of falling in love with people they have met the first time. Joy did with Paul, they eloped to a New England seacoast village and chose to stand in the sand at sunset to exchange their vows. Gabby marries a nurse from his church Parrish which he meets giving his first communion. Can you imagine an Episcopal priest looking down in Andrea’s beautiful Irish eyes?”

Placing his finger under Michelle’s chin, “Yes, Gabby saw his soulmate, it is a family trait starting with my father and my mother.”

“Pascal falls in love his first day in kindergarten with Ross Marler’s youngest daughter Annaleise. Annaleise was the spitting image of Blake with her red curly hair. Do you remember the Friday night when they sneaked out of the football game and went up to the Bauer cabin.”

“Yes, Pascal and I had a talk about condoms following the visit to the woods. I was more embarrassed than Pascal. He took pity on his old man. His pockets were full of the foil packages.”

“Maggie loved Devon from the moment the two saw the other in San Juan at the harbor after the sailboat race.”

 “Devon and Maggie lived life hard and fast. He told me once how he wished that his body didn’t need sleep. Devon was the kind of person that didn’t need sleep and down deep in his free spirit, he was running from the unavoidable. He lived his later years in his younger days. He tempted death too many times.”

“Michelle, Devon lived on the edge and he pushed the limits. They shared a love of sailing and exploring the water and scuba diving.”

Wiping a tear from Michelle’s cheek, “Honey, it doesn’t help to rehash what could have been.”

“If God could give me my last wish before He calls me home, I want to see Maggie happy and married with children.”

“Michelle, quit talking of God separating you from me.”

“It will only be for a brief time. My heart won’t go on forever and I would will myself to die to be with you if I lost you, Danny.”

“Maggie has been a widow for nearly eighteen years. She refuses to date and spends her time devoted to the Santos business in San Juan. Maggie will never leave the villa because of her memories of Devon are there. It was from the lower terrace that she last saw Devon leaving before the accident. Her morning sickness prevented her from joining him out on the boat. Devon rowed out in the dingy to the sailboat. Maggie waved goodbye to Devon and saw him climb aboard the boat to never return.”

“Does Maggie ever talk with you Danny about her loss? I know that you will deny it but she is close to her father than me. Maggie and I haven’t spoke about it for along time.”

“She sees the loss in your eyes, Michele. I personally think that she thinks you see her as an incomplete woman because she hasn’t remarried and given you more grandchildren to love. Have you ever thought that she is happy and content with her life?”

“No. I think my youngest daughter avoids the family because she won’t let go of the past. Devon left a footprint in her heart and the losing of her best friend was much more than we expected.”

“Michelle, I wasn’t suppose to tell you this but Maggie is coming tomorrow for a visit. Maggie e-mailed me today and it is a surprise visit for your birthday.”

“I hope she stays longer than her usual week. I’ll call and cancel my Thursday afternoon tea with Father Ray. Instead, we will invite Ray for dinner here on Thursday.”

Stretching out his knee, Danny groaned out in pain. “Danny, did you rub your ointment on your knee before you came to bed?”

“No, I saw you crawling in and I got too excited. My mind still thinks young thoughts but my arthritic knee is showing its age.”

Throwing the comforter off their bodies, “Wait here, I’ll be right back.” Michelle returned with the the tube of ointment and a glass of water. “Did you take your arthritis medicine today?”

“Yes, I did Dr. Bauer- Santos but I will have two aspirins if you have them in your hand.”

“You know me so well, Danny.” Squeezing the ointment in her hand, Michelle rubbed it around in her hands warming up the cooling affect before rubbing the medication on and around her husband’s knee. “You are still paying for taking the twins out hiking the trail on El Yunque.”

“They wanted to see rain forest. I slipped and turned my knee. It was a minor injury back then, but I have milked the injury pretty good. I have my own personal physician taking care of me every night.”

Leaning over to kiss Danny’s lips, “I am a pediatrician and I have an adult child to take care of more than I would like.” Stroking her thin fingers through the hair that had one day turned silver, “We have been good for each other.”

“Yes, we have been good for each other. You have been my lover and my best friend.”

“Strange that you would say that I have been your best friend. Ray is your best friend.”

“Ray is my best male friend but you are my best female friend.” Patting the side of the bed where Michelle slept, “It is time for the senior Santoses to retire.”

******

Danny got out of his chauffeured car when he saw Maggie’s private jet landing out on the tarmac. Slowly the jet taxied to the designated stop and the steps dropped down to reveal a well-tanned woman with the striking beauty of his beloved Michelle. Immediately Maggie raced down the steps and ran to her father. Hugging for several minutes, she kissed his cheek and hugged the man again. “Papa, you look well. Did you tell Mamá that I was arriving today?”

“Your mother was teary eyed last night and I wanted to pick up her spirits.”

“How did you ever keep the family business from Mamá?”

“I kept her pregnant with having babies and doing her humanity duties.”

“Mamá is a naïve woman. She has never suspected that I was the chosen leader of the next generation of the La Familia.”

“Devon’s death provided a screen to hide from any of her suspicions. Your idea to operate the business in Puerto Rico was excellent. Pascal and Jeff have honored your request, your mother will never learn our secret from their lips.”

Nodding in agreement with her father, “I have arranged to meet with another female Mafiosi from Italy. The trend in Europe is similar.It is easier to do business with men with other things on their mind. The beauty of a Bathsheba can strike the power of a king like David. David had one quality of all men; he should have been out fighting with his men instead he used his vision to lust for another man’s wife. I will always be Devon’s wife. Other men may look but my body is off limits.”

Maggie picked up her father’s right hand and kissed the ring of authority. “Papa, how is Father Ray?”

“He is back to his rugged schedule. Your mother still visits with him on Thursday afternoons for tea.”

“Papa, they have been close friends for over fifty years. Did you ever think that Father Ray withdrew from the Pope selection because of Mamá?”

“It is difficult to say but Ray and Michelle have a special friendship. Michelle gave Ray the closeness of a female companionship without sinning and leaving the church.”

“Before we drive home can we drive by the lake home?”

“Are you missing your roots?”

“Yes, I miss my parents and the Saturday morning brunches. The visits are short and I feel like I have missed the little things of my brothers and sister’s lives. I read in magazines about the popularity of Joy and her husband on Broadway.”

“Joy managed her musical career with ease and never seemed flabbergasted with having and raising a daughter and two sons. Least you forget that Paul was older and he was like her mentor. He guided Joy through and around some professional pitfalls. Joy and Paul enjoy going to stay at the lake home also. I’m astonished with your affection for the lake home!”

“Papa, I had three older siblings that had memories of the house. They loved the house even though it was small and cozy.”

 Danny punched in the code and the security gate opened to allow the car entrance to the quiet surroundings.

“It is confusing to me why you never sold this house.”

“Michelle and I drive over and spend weekends here to get away to our love nest. The house is a reminder of the wildest and most exciting year of my life. Gabby and Joy were created in the bedroom that your mother and I shared and we decorated our first Christmas tree here.”

 Pointing his finger to the far corner of the property, “Mr. Rooster and Hinny are buried under the pile of rocks.”

“Are they really buried here?”

“Your mother gave Mr. Rooster and Hinny respectable Christian funerals. Prayers and thanksgivings for all the eggs that they had provided.”

“Papa, you are teasing me!”

“No, I’m not teasing you. Michelle used every opportunity to reinforce a relationship with God in her children lives. With any loss or discouragement, Michelle trusted her God to walk with her till she had the strength to walk again alone. My dear daughter, you have the same characteristic.”

Closing and locking the door, Danny and Maggie walked out to the edge of the water. “You might want to consider spending more time in Springfield, the house here would be safe and away from Michelle. The lake isn’t as large as the ocean but it can give you a great ride on a windy day. We have plenty of wind here and it is free.”

“Papa. I’ll consider your offer.”

The chauffeured car pulled out of the driveway when Danny caught Maggie looking through the rear mirror at the house. Smiling inside, the seed has been planted.

 Opening the cardoor, Maggie assisted her father from the backseat of the car. The two strolled down the stone walkway to the side entrance. Danny pushed the screen door open and allowed Maggie to enter first. “Your mother is most likely in one of her flower beds weeding or removing dead flower blossoms. You run ahead and visit with Michelle.”

The sound of “Mamá” echoed in the house and then out in the backyard. Danny watched from the nearby porch the reunion of Maggie with Michelle. The two women hugged and kissed on each other’s cheek until they separated. Michelle guided Maggie through the flowerbeds before she handed the scissors to Maggie to cut fresh flowers for the vase on the kitchen table. “Mamá, I forgot the amount of work required to grow flowers here. In San Juan, the abundance of rain and flowers are a given.”

“Maggie, the flowers are my therapy and I can discuss anything with them and they never disagree with me. Not like your father.”

Laughing at her mother’s words, “After all these years, what do you disagree with besides you being vegetarian and his love for red meat?”

“Danny’s diet could improve. He eats too much cheese and ice cream.”

“Mamá, Papa is a picture of health except for his bummed knee.”

“Maggie, he refuses to take care of his own knee.”

Reaching up to hold her mother’s face in both of her hands, “Mamá, it is his way of getting attention from you. Besides, I know you well enough to know that you love doting on him.”

Winking at Maggie, “I do love the Man. You are so much like your father. When you held my face in your hands, it was like the same soothing attention that your father gives to me.”

“What have you planned for my visit?”

“Father Ray has invited us up for tea tomorrow. We can drive up in my old antique Volkswagen.”

“Does the convertible top still operate?”

“Yes. You can drive the car with the top down and you might catch the eye of some handsome man.”

“You never give up, do you Mamá?”

“I have a business meeting in Chicago with a designer from Italy later tomorrow night. Perhaps, we can leave from Father Ray’s house and go into the city for dinner at my great-grandmother’s restaurant. We will have a girls’s day outing.”

“Thank you, Maggie, for coming home to visit.”

*********

Father Ray stood up from his chair and walked to the bay window to adjust the blind. Turning back, he smiled at Benjamin. “We have come to the end. I was expecting Michelle to join us today but she is running late. I wanted you to meet her.” Checking his watch again, “It is getting late and I’m feeling tired today. Do you have any questions?”

Benjamin had many questions but this wasn’t the time to engage the Cardinal in a long discussion.

“I have two quick questions. How did Gabby become an Episcopal priest?”

“Gabby was fascinated with the workings of the Catholic Church but didn’t care for the restrictions of the priesthood. The Episcopal church is very close in doctrine and services. He chose to serve God and be married with a family. Yes, Michelle encouraged Gabby’s decision and Danny was indifferent.”

“Next question concerns Maggie; what happened to her pregnancy?”

“Maggie had a miscarriage three days after Devon’s death. Maggie is the spitting image of a younger version of Michelle with the calculating traits of Danny.”

“Father Ray, I want to thank you for all your time that you have spent with me. It has cleared up what I thought was a horrible mess. I can’t find the words to adequately describe the story.”

“Benjamin, it is about love, friendship and family.”

After saying goodbye, Benjamin walked out the front door. At the end of the walkway, Benjamin turned to stare at the house. Turning to walk toward his car in the private parking lot, Benjamin saw the petite woman walking very erect and quickly down the path into the formal garden. Greeting the woman was the Cardinal. Benjamin stopped and debated if he should rejoin the Cardinal and Michelle. Deciding against joining the two, Benjamin continued his walk toward his car.

Parked next to his car was an antique Volkswagen with a young woman sliding out the passenger’s seat with her short sundress revealing her tanned shapely legs. She emerged from the car and quickly fastened the snaps of the old canvas top down on the car. “Do you always stare at women?”

Stuttering the words from his mouth, “No. No, your actions just startled me. It is like déjà vu. I feel like I know you.”

“Mister, you need a new line for hitting on younger women.”

Benjamin stepped closer to the woman standing near him. “You are Maggie Santos. Father Ray said that you were the spitting image of Michelle.”

“Mister, are you psychic?”

“No, but I have been researching a story that I found on my father’s computer.” Benjamin thought about the way to word his question but risked the potential rejection. “Are you willing to have a cup of coffee with a safe older man?”

“You know Father Ray and he has been talking about my family to you.”

“Yes, we have been meeting for weeks. I only learned about you today. Less than fifteen minutes ago, he and I were waiting for your mother to come. She was late and I left.” “I walk out here and meet you in the parking lot like your mother and father meet.”

Smiling at the man in front of her, “Are you married?”

“No but I’m divorced. I live in Baltimore, Md. And have a sailboat in Annapolis.”

Grinning to display her perfect white teeth, “You and I share a love for the water and sailing. What is your name?”

“Benjamin Reade.”

“As in the same family as Fletcher Reade?”

“Yes.”

“Well Mr. Benjamin Reade, I will join you for the cup of coffee. I need to dial a number first if you can wait a minute.”

“Papa, Benjamin Reade and I are going for a cup of coffee. Will you please notify Mamá?”

In the garden, Ray answered the cell phone and smiled with joy in the phone at the message. “Maggie called and she is going to have a cup of coffee with Benjamin. Danny was right, the idea came in a dream from God but the execution of the plan came from your husband.”

Michelle looked up to the clear blue sky. “May God bless Maggie and Benjamin. How is the old cardinal couple?”

Sipping his cup of tea, “He still is faithful to break the flower seeds and give her the choice meats. Winter is coming soon. They have weathered the sweltering heat of summer and winter’s blast to survive.”

“Ray, we have been observing the couple for years. You have given me some carefully selected phrase or some pointed story to see my life with fresh hope.”

“Michelle, it’s all part of helping folks ‘hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering…’ and being committed to ‘stimulate one another to love and good deeds (Hebrews 10:23-24).’

“I found this poem recently and I thought of the three of us. We are in the winter season of our own lives.”

                At the Winter Feeder

            His feather flame doused dull

            By icy cold,

            The cardinal hunched

into the rough, green feeder

but ate no seed.

Through binoculars I saw

Festered and useless

His beak, broken

At the root.

Then two: one blazing, one gray,

Rode the swirling weather

Into my vision

And lighted at his side.

Unhurried, as if possessing

The patience of God,

They cracked sunflowers

And fed him

Beak to wounded beak

Choice meats.

Each morning and afternoon

The winter long,

That odd triumvirate

That trinity of need,

Returned and ate

Their sacrament

Of broken seed.

By: John Leax, professor of English and poet-in- residence at Houghton College

Yesterday is history-Tomorrow is a mystery

                        FINIS

Author’s Note: I want to thank everyone for reading TMC, as many knew it. When I started the fiction story, I never intended the story to grow and expand to the length that it did. I fell in love with the characters and enjoyed their journeys. Now, I understand the sadness of authors when they talk about leaving the characters behind in the story for they lived for a while in my mind. I saw them and I hope you envisioned the characters as well.  I finished the story with the possibility of going back in time or forward in the Santos saga with standalone chapters. PEACE

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