Tamron climbed down off of the ladder with the wicker basket full of eggs. She would have to rush to get to practice. They lived in an almost isolated farm a few miles from Kansas City. She had inherited it from her parents a number of years ago.
The stone chicken coop had been built in the 1850's and was probably originally a homestead for a small family. It was about 12'-0" wide and about 16'-0" long. The roof was a little over 7'-0" at the eave and had a 45° pitch to it. The fireplaces at each end had been capped off at the smoke shelf. They had no dampers in those days. The walls had been built with one thickness of limestone. The walls were about a foot thick.
The stone building had been built from limestone gathered by clearing the fields so they could grow crops. The fields were bordered with a 3'-0" high wall built for the same reason; refuse from clearing the fields for plowing.
Once the more permanent main farmhouse had been built, the chicken coop had been used as a granary to hold harvested corn and Milo. Tammy had changed it to a chicken coop by adding screens to the windows.
She let the chickens out for the day. She had to get dressed to go in for practice in a few hours. Tammy was nearly naked. She wore cork thong sandals that were almost invisible if not for the thin straps up between and over her big toe. She had no underwear; just a thin t-shirt that fit snugly around her and went down to mid-thigh. Her daughter, Dakota, had already gone to the corner to wait for the bus. Her husband always went into town early to read the paper, drink coffee at Starbucks and avoid the 8:00am traffic rush. Besides, she knew he liked to see her dress this way.
She set the eggs on the back porch, in the refrigerator with the tomatoes and walked through the dining room to get dressed. The dining room was lined with trophies. Her mother had made quite a name for herself. There were pictures of her with Kim Gallagher, Mary Decker, and Zola Bud.
Tammy had followed in her mother's footsteps until her overtraining gave her shin splints. She finally gave it up in the middle of high school to focus on her violin. She had been almost as good with her violin as she was on the track. From there on, she devoted most of her time to music.
She went to Julliard on a music scholarship and managed to have a career with the Philharmonic Orchestra. Now, she and her daughter were both obsessed with the violin. The difference might have been that her daughter was still on the cross country and track teams. As a freshman she had been part of the school team that placed third in the state cross country finals for the 4A class. She had run second and the girl who beat her was going to go to Oregon when she graduated.
Tammy put on her high-heeled elephant skin boots, dark denim jeans and blue oxford cloth button down men's shirt. She tucked her hair back into a pony tail that hung to her waist and put on her Yankees baseball cap.
Her 4-wheel drive 1997 Geo Tracker hummed when it started. She had put a can of injector cleaner in the gas last night and it seemed to run like a kitten. She had changed the spark plugs, wires, distributor cap and rotor a couple of days before, and now the injector cleaner took the remaining surging out of it.
She had to lock several gates behind her as she went from the farm house to the main road. It wasn't that much of a main road, actually. The red, sandy road was covered with ruts and if it wasn't for the washouts on the side, there wouldn't have been any grader ditches for snow removal.
She liked it that way though, it kept most visitors away. The posted "No Hunting" signs kept most of the others out. Tammy had had some bitter experiences growing up, and had never really adjusted to the idea of much company. With her young daughter now in high school, she was forcing herself to adjust.
When she got to practice, the conductor quieted them to make an announcement. "Zoltan Goldberg has died. We do not know what that will do to our orchestra." He said. Mr. Goldberg had been the main benefactor for the Philharmonic for over thirty years. With the main contributor for the funding gone, the future of the orchestra was uncertain. He had many children and the orchestra had been his pet project. Now with his passing, there was going to be a bitter struggle for his assets. Without his sizeable contributions, they would have to find somebody else to make up the difference.
"These are the main contributors for the orchestra." The conductor said. "I have broken the list up and put their information on index cards. I am splitting up the contents so that all of us have an equal number of cards. We are all going to have to contact these people and any others you know to see if we can increase their level of contributions."
Tammy was numb. "What was going to happen to them?" she wondered. With her job in jeopardy, how would she pay her bills? If her daughter was not good enough to get a scholarship to Julliard's, how would she get through college?
Tammy thumbed absentmindedly through her cards. She had heard of most of the people in her pile; bankers, lawyers; rich spinsters who had inherited their husband's income when they had died. Her hands shook and she almost dropped the pile when she saw the name of Mariano Ramos.
It was a name she had almost forgotten. He had been a senior when she had been a freshman. He was a huge man; almost obscene in his physique alone. He had played basketball, football and baseball in high school and college. He had gone on to play baseball for a number of years. Then he had gotten into a lot of trouble with the law and was kicked off of the team. The rumor was that he had been dealing drugs.
Nothing had ever been pinned on him. Others had taken the blame for him at the time. Rumors continued that he had become quite a drug dealer over the years. She had seen pictures of his home in the papers. He had several homes in Kansas City, the Bahamas and in Europe.
Mariano had been the one who had changed her life. It was him who had put her into almost seclusion. They had dated for a while; her, a fourteen-year-old freshman, and him, an eighteen-year-old celebrity in high school. A freshman who is invited to the senior prom is a celebrity in her own right in the eyes of the other freshmen girls. After she had attended the prom, the other girls banded together to make a rule that only juniors and seniors could attend the prom. It was a mixture of all the girls in school who felt slighted by this skinny, long-legged girl with long red hair and wire rimmed glasses who had taken their places with this famous and popular athlete. "She had to be fucking him." They all rationalized.
In truth, they were not far off in their speculation. Tammy had been smitten more by the attention from him than with him. Her tall, slender frame with, as yet, underdeveloped breasts, glasses, and self-conscious nature had not really captured the attention of the more popular athletes. She did not seem to see any red flags when the muscular and popular senior began to show her attention.
The girls in school huddled in small groups and whispered vindictive speculation as to what Mariano saw in her. Once she began to receive attention from him, the other boys seemed to show more interest in her also. She soon began to dress better; come her hair out and smile more. Soon all the drawbacks in her looks became features that intrigued the other boys. If Mariano saw something in her there must be more to her than they first saw.
Tammy soon became more self confident, cheerful, and likeable. She went out of her way to make others feel good about themselves. She was like a moth that came out of a cocoon to become a sway.
His competitive nature caught on. She became much more disciplined in her track practice, which in turn made her more intensely focused on her violin work. It had not been a completely bad experience. But as time went on, she became more dependent on being a part of the popularity community. She was becoming more involved in being popular.
Soon, the peck on the cheek when she got out of the car, became a time of skipping the movie to sit and park. Instead of spending the whole evening at the school dance, they left during the middle of the dance to "talk" in the car.
Tammy knew she couldn't afford to get pregnant. She had a good guess what the gossip was; how she was managing to keep him for herself. As time went on, the issue became more of a reality. As time went on, the caressing became more of a petting session. The fondling over the clothes gave way to clothes being removed. Tammy didn't remember how or when she first found herself naked in the back of a van. She didn't remember how many times she struggled to keep her virginity.
She had heard the girls in the locker room talking about these problems and how they tried to handle it. She had been able to fend him off for a while with "hand jobs;" by shyly squeezing him; by stroking him as they lay there naked in the back of the van or on a blanket under the stars.
It seemed to be a likely progression of events when she allowed him to lower her head closer and closer to her "hand job." She had been appalled the first time he had erupted and got some of it on her face.
"Anything to keep from getting pregnant." She told herself. Soon she began to understand what she was doing to him; how she could control the time it took for him to erupt and how to keep the stuff off of her.
She was fighting a losing battle and she knew it. Eventually she learned to kiss the end of it. She would tickle the end of it with her lips; then her tongue. At first the curiosity of how things worked was intriguing.
She fought with her humiliation and embarrassment by justifying her actions as a "necessary evil" to avoid getting pregnant. The other girls did it. She knew that. At least that was what they talked about and giggled about in the locker room.
She tried to convince herself it was okay; as long as nobody else knew about it. It was okay until she refused to take the next step. When he began to break open a package of rubbers, she may have hurt his feelings when she refused. He tried to be patient with her. He tried; but after a while his patience gave out. When she finally refused to go out with him anymore, that's when the shit hit the fan.
A few weeks later, she noticed the girls were giggling and turned silent when she came by. Finally she heard the term "cocksucker" being whispered. The final straw was when she began receiving anonymous emails. They were still pictures of her with her lips around his cock. The pictures were taken surreptitiously while they were outside of the van and under the stars and on a blanket. It must have been a very clear night for the pictures to be that clear. He was on his back and looking towards the camera. His arm was raised, holding something under the bumper; probably a remote shutter.
She was leaning on one elbow, with one hand wrapped around the base, and her lips wrapped around the tip. It was clearly her; naked and facing the camera; probably a spy camera mounted on the open back door of the van.
That was when her life changed. That was when she went into seclusion. That was when she went into isolation mode. Her requests for dates skyrocketed, but she knew why. She transferred schools, of course. Her mother never quite understood why, but didn't ask questions.
From there, it was all track and violin. The track activity subsided. It was an activity that included other people. She had had enough of that. She always felt the sideway glances, any whispers meant that somebody had heard about Mariano.
The violin was an activity that included nobody. In time, she knew that she should marry. She knew that she would eventually have to start dating again. Her time with her husband, Joe was almost an afterthought. "She would grow to love him." She thought. The fact that he was twenty years older was of little concern to her. The main thing they had in common was that they both enjoyed music. He was the one who had got her into the Philharmonic Orchestra. They had spent more and more time together as time went on. It was almost a platonic relation to her. To her husband Joe, it was a source of constant frustration. Unknown to him, her lack of trust and sexual humiliation with Mariano had turned her cold to men. She had given him sex as a duty of a wife. She did not have any passion or excitement to go with it.
When she first called the number to arrange a meeting with Mr. Ramos, he didn't really recognize her name; "Tammy Paul." "Sure, he would meet her." he said. When the time came, Tammy was nervous.
His office was in the garment district. It had no name on the door. It had the number in gold leaf lettering on the door. That was it.
Tammy was dressed like she was going to a business meeting. Her high-heeled boots that zipped up the sides and stopped just below her knees added about four inches to her height. They could not be seen under her charcoal grey pinstriped silk suit.
Mariano stood when his secretary ushered her in. "Good morning Mr. Ramos." She said as she extended her hand. "Good morning Mrs. Paul." He returned to the stunning middle aged woman in front of him.
In spite of her dark wrap around Dolce & Gabanna sun glasses, she looked familiar. There was something about the long red French braid that hung down her back to her waist that looked familiar. It was the voice; it was the way she cocked her head when she spoke. He could sense the guarded nature of her speech. Suddenly he remembered. He remembered those emerald blue-green eyes. He couldn't see them, but he knew they were there.
She had filled out a little. Those perky melon breasts were covered, but he recognized them beneath the purple button down oxford men's shirt. Those legs were hidden, but they were the legs of a runner. This was not the frail fourteen-year-old freshman on the track team. This was a forty year old woman who had the inner beauty and allure of a woman who had stood the test of time that one endures to get to that age. She was the younger than Demi Moore, but just as beautiful if not more. She was much younger than Michele Pfeifer but had the same dignity and mystique.
"Please have a seat." He said as he gestured to the Mies Van Der Rohe chair in front of his desk. Tammy sat, crossed her legs and held her leather purse in front of her in a psychological effort to shield herself from this man who she feared.
"It's been a long time Tamm." He said as he leaned back. "How have you been? What can I do for you?" Tammy had somehow held on to the hope that he would not recognize her. She had secretly hoped that she could appeal to his sense of loyalty to the Philharmonic to pledge more money.
She slid her dark glasses off. They hadn't helped. He had recognized her; after all those years. "It's nice to see you too." She said with a smile she did not feel. She explained why she was there. She explained that the big benefactor had died and they needed more support from the rest of the Friends of the Philharmonic.
Mariano smiled. He tried not to. He tried to act concerned about the death of Mr. Goldberg. He tried not to smile and think that maybe he had the upper hand now. He remembered how things had ended with them. He remembered how he had been brushed off. He remembered his frustration and embarrassment that a fourteen-year-old girl had refused him.
"Mr. Ramos, the Philharmonic has been very grateful for all of your support, but with the passing of Mr. Goldberg, we are trying to get new benefactors and people like yourself to make up the difference. It is very important to the music community that we not lose this orchestra." She said.
She tried to ignore the loss it could mean to herself; her husband and her daughter if they had to try to find some other way to make a living. She did not particularly want to give violin lessons 40 hours a day to a bunch of little kids. She did not like the possibility of having to sell their farm and find another orchestra in another city. She didn't want to think about the possibility of her daughter being taken out of the private school she was in and struggling without enough college savings.
"How much money do you have to make up?" he asked. Tammy pushed a sheet of paper over his desk. He picked it up. "How much have you and the orchestra been willing to make up so far?" he asked.
"Maybe about a fourth of that." She answered.
"So you pretty much want me to make up the entire difference of what Mr. Goldberg was donating?" he muttered.
Tammy wouldn't look at him as she nodded, almost imperceptibly. "Well, maybe somebody else will come up with some." She whispered, unconvincingly.
"I have a gathering at my house this Friday. Here is the address to my house. Do you remember that dress your mother brought back from Vienna after that track meet with Zola Bud?"
Tammy nodded, not quite understanding what was going on. "I want you to entertain our guests. I want you to bring your violin. I want you to bring your husband. I want him to watch. I want you to wear what you have on now, and bring that dress. If you don't want to follow orders, don't come. You can kiss my contribution good bye." He handed her a slip of paper with his address and phone number on it.
Tammy didn't hear anything clearly threatening, but was totally terrified by the way it was said. There was something clearly ominous about the tone of his voice and his eyes that terrified her. This was not going to be good.
The dress they had been talking about was one her mother had found after a track meet in Vienna. The women in Vienna are famous for the lace garments that they make. Her mother had found a black lace dress. She had shown it to Mariano once. The back was open past the waist. There were pieces of fabric about an inch wide that had a twist in it and tied the two sides together in strips that left about 50° of it open. The opening went past the waist, leaving the crack of her butt exposed about an inch.
The front had an intricate lace pattern that went from the low scooped neck clear to the hem. The dress was very short and hit her above mid thigh. Beneath the lace front, there was a thin white silk "modesty" lining. It was sheer enough to suggest nakedness without actually showing any skin.
When Tammy went home that night she was silent during dinner. When her daughter went into the other room to study, she told her husband what had happened while they were doing the dishes.
"I don't like the sound of this." He said. I think this guy still has it in for you. "Do you want to bail on the engagement?" Tammy nodded her head almost imperceptibly.
"You do what you want, honey, but on the other hand, if we can't raise enough money for the Philharmonic to continue, we are out of work. We could lose the home and Dakota might not have the funds for college. Maybe she can make it on the cross country scholarship if she gets that." He said.
Tammy pulled some plates out of the rinse basin and put them in the wire rack for Joe to dry. "If she has to spend all her time running, she won't have enough time to practice the violin." She said in almost a whisper.
"I'm going to go, but I would rather have you stay home." She said. "No fucking way." He answered. "If that asshole tries anything, I need to be there."
Tammy was afraid he was right, and it was of some comfort that he was supporting her.
When the time came, Tammy started to get ready. She was shaking so bad, she could hardly fold the black lace dress. She stuffed it into an overnight bag and slung it over her shoulder. She put on her Dolce & Gabanna sun glasses and picked up her violin case.
Joe held the door for her as they went out to the Geo. As they left the farm, both felt the tension of uncertainty. Normally, Joe drives and Tammy has to jump out to open the gate and close it after the car goes through. This time, Joe pulled up and opened the gate himself. He went back into the car; drove through and went back to lock the gate behind them. Both of them knew something was wrong tonight. Tammy was too nervous to think about anything she had to do.
Joe had set the GPS for the address she had shown him. It took them to the most expensive part of the city. The short street was filled with Mansions well over 150 years old. The Porte Cochere reflected grandeur of centuries past; of horse drawn carriages; of horsemen and butlers.
The little Geo Tracker looked out of place with the Porsches, Mercedes, and occasional Lamborghini. A tall dark man with a tuxedo opened Joe's door and held out his hand. "Give me the keys and I'll park it for you." he said with a certain amount of disdain.
The house was built like a square "doughnut." The Porte Cochere on the entrance side was about a half story high. The grade sloped down so the back of the building had a walk-out basement. At the back of the house, there was a large pool with a carriage house behind it. At one time it had been a carriage house to stable horses. There were living quarters above, and high doors with arched doors on the main floor for the draft horses and carriages to enter and exit. That was now where the Lamborghini's and Porsches were kept. It was also used as a pool house, or beach house.
The grade at the front entrance stepped up with large stone stairs to the front door. On the inside there were symmetrical winding stairs on each side that went up to the upper floor. The main floor had a clearstory that was about forty foot square. Around the clearstory, there were columns that extended to the roof level. The main floor had a series of rooms that faced the two-story open space. They were dining, game, living, library, kitchen, media (television) and several bathrooms.
The upper floors had a series of bedrooms, closets, toilets and dressing areas. They formed suites with their own small living spaces that joined them.
When Tammy and Joe were escorted in, they could see that about a dozen well dressed men had gathered and were talking in small groups. The central open space had large limestone pavers over the entire area, except at the center. The center had a large stone "boulder" that was at least 8'-0" across and about three feet high. It was centered on a field of large round river rocks that extended about 4'-0" past the large "boulder." A small hole in the middle of the boulder was pumping just enough water to keep the top and sides of the boulder wet. The movement of the water was almost imperceptible, except you could see it shimmer as it cascaded over the top, down the sides and into the river rock where it was recycled.
There was a speaker system that was playing jazz just enough to create a field of "white noise." Tammy recognized the voice of Mavis Staples singing "Sow Good Seeds."
Sow good seeds everybody
Sow good seeds everybody
On the mountain down in the valley
You gonna reap just what you sow
Hark the voice of Jesus calling
Who will come and wake the dead
Tombs of mercy harvest waiting
Here am I; Oh mercy me
The haunting refrain seemed to be a harbinger of things to come that gave Tammy Goosebumps. When Mariano saw them, he left the group he was with and came over to greet them. "Welcome to my party. I'm so glad to see both of you." He looked straight at Tammy and ignored her husband. He put one arm around her and led her into the library. The library was a large room filled with books. The room was open to view from the atrium where everybody was standing.
"I've been studying the paper and the amount you want me to contribute as a benefactor to Friends of the Philharmonic." He said as he passed the sheet to Joe. "I'm willing to give it a try for this year. Every year will be a year-to-year basis. You are going to have to earn it every year; you, your husband and the orchestra." He said as he looked back and forth at the couple.
Joe was sweating bullets, because it was his job and financial future on the line as well as his wife's. "Thank you very much, Mr. Ramos. We won't disappoint you. We have a hard working orchestra that practices continually and is always working on new stuff."
"I'm not talking about the band, Mr. Paul. I'm talking about your wife. I don't know if you know or not, but I had a real thing for your wife some years ago. Did you ever tell your husband about us, Tamron?"
Tammy looked down and barely turned her head in a slow, side-to-side motion. She couldn't look up at her husband. She thought that it had been so long ago that he would never find out about a brief encounter she had had in high school. After all, he had indeed married a virgin.
"You are going to have to earn that money for the Philharmonic, Miss Tamron. You are going to have to earn it with me. You are not going to earn it by the work of the orchestra. Just to clear the air, why don't you clear the air with your husband?" He said as he sat down and gestured for Joe to take a seat opposite him.
The library had four leather couches arranged around a glass coffee table. Mariano sat in one that was opposite where Joe was sitting. Tammy was standing in the space between the coffee table and Joe's couch, facing Mariano. She sat next to her husband at an angle, somewhat facing both men.
"I ... I ... I ... I had a brief affair with Mr. Ramos. H ... h ... he was a senior and I was a freshman. We ... we ... we went to the prom together. We went out a few times." She stammered. "that's okay, hon. We all dated in high school. It was just one of those things." He said as he squeezed her hand.
"It was over." She thought. He had accepted it. Tammy inhaled slowly, somewhat relieved her husband had not been outraged with her relationship with this huge black man.
"Well, that isn't the complete story, is it Miss Tammy?" Mariano smirked. "Tell your husband what we did."
Tamron gulped. She had hoped the brief sentence would have been enough. "We ... we ... we parked a few times. It wasn't that much." She was trying desperately to dismiss the whole incident. She was now pleading desperately with her eyes; trying to get Mariano to get off the subject.