Before love can replace revenge, there will be supernatural interventions afoot and the wiles of women of the ages employed. There will be fateful folklore dictating the forks in the roads of the Super-star NFL player, the beautiful underground “shadow agent” and the federal agent whose male chauvinist rule is about to meet his match. A convoluted suspense story that leads to the highest highs and lowest lows love can imagine, and yet survive.
To the “Throw Away Kids” that exist in our country and those who take them in.
To the agents, police and investigators who sometimes ignore “being by the book “and do the “right thing”.
To the innovative, people who rescue others without reward or expectation and the crisis line workers everywhere.
To the former clients of Project Finish, The Trula Godwin Project, and the underground mail system participants, volunteers, advocates and survivors who “Give Back”.
To: Trula DeeAnn Hensler: The inspiration, spirit and essence of Tori.
T0 the real “Lynda” reflecting the spirit of Oklahoma women.
( New York City) Quote #1 of 7
Tori considered her options as she listened to the conversation of the two male chauvinist pigs waiting to interview her. She could bitch-slap them upon entering the room, or leave them hanging. The latter was her choice considering the liability of her employers if she allowed herself the enjoyment of the bitch-slap. Tori waited to enter the room when there would not be a running commentary concerning her shortcomings; she did not want to tip them off that she heard their derogatory remarks. Let them be surprised with her retaliation.
Her employers at Twyner (pronounced Twi-ner) Securities were already aware of her complaints due to her fascination with technology. She used twitter to tweet her concerns, email to emphasize her angry reaction to the abusive diatribe she was overhearing, and finally, she called them and vented full bore to both bosses on the speakerphone.
Tori listened again outside the massive wood doors of the office and noted the tirade about her personal inadequacies was continuing. She heard Hunter Summers, the head of security elaborate.
“I picked her myself, Mr. Dean. Don’t you worry; your daughter will be safe with her. She’s the most experienced on Twyner’s team, and the fact she’s a plain Jane and drab will help in not drawing attention to her or to your daughter. Believe me, she is the epitome of what a “Milly Milktoast” looks like, but I can guarantee she can kick the ass of a man twice her side and not even break a nail.”
Tori reached her saturation point and hated knowing her face would be fire engine red from her heightened blood pressure; a tell-tale give away when her anger was out of control. In she went. No knock, no announcement, just straight past Hunter Summers’ tall, polished presence and right to the edge of the infamous Raleigh Dean’s desk.
“I am sorry to interrupt, but time is money, right Mr. Dean?”
The insolence of her statement was apparent and the change in Hunter Summers body language showed he was about to take control and teach her some manners. Her next statement however, stopped him in his tracks as she spoke with authority.
“My replacement arrives in the morning at six and she will meet with you at a time of your choosing. I am sure you and Mr. Summers can manage to continue watching over your daughter until she arrives. As I have business to attend to now and this courtesy visit was on my dime, I will leave you two to continue your male bonding at the expense of women. Good day.” She turned to walk away only to have Hunter Summers block her intended exit.
“You can’t talk to Mr. Dean that way. Who the hell do you think you are?”
“I, Mr. Summers, am Milly Milktoast. While I may not meet your physical standards for beauty, you do not meet my standards as a man on any level. Now stand out of my way or you will experience the bitch-slapping of your life.”
Raleigh Dean’s angry voice was heard above the flurry of comments directed at his security chief. “We have a contract and you will stay and fulfill it, and you’ll keep you yap shut when I’m around and when my daughter is around. Get it?”
Squaring her shoulders and turning to face the scarlet faced, ‘Porky Pig, look alike’, she smiled deceptively and gave him his dose. “Your contract, Mr. Dean, is with my former employers, Tucker and Mandeana (Man-dean’-uh) Twyner. When I called and refused the assignment, I was fired from my immediate position,” she lied. “Their only obligation in this contractual agreement is to see that you have one of their properly trained and qualified people present for the beginning of the contract date, which is eight a.m. tomorrow morning. My law degree trumps you hysterical posturing, and my exit will trump the efforts of this duffus you call a security chief. Goodbye.”
*****Quote #2 New York Hotel room
Unbidden her mind changed topics. Now that she didn’t have to work for that jackass Dean and his “monkey see, monkey do” security chief, she could use the time in New York City to see some plays and shop for her trousseau. She wanted to represent Luke well. Though they had grown up in the same small Oklahoma town and been childhood sweethearts, the path to this night had been rocky. She wanted to start their married life “fitting in” to his world. With her natural aversion to the spotlight; it would not be easy. He was a darling of the NFL and a Superbowl star player. She would have to find a way to make her reticence go away and make Luke proud. Being Mrs. Luke Butcher was going to be her entire focus, and with him at her side, the Hunter Summer’s of the world could eat dirt and die.
***** Quote #3
Smiling, she hung up the phone and would have given herself a high five if she could have figured out how. Her reflection in the full-length mirror caught her attention. Thinking of the presentation she made today at Mr. Deans office, she could see why Summers thought she was a plain Jane. She had worn a deceptively plain gray pantsuit with a white button shirt. Her sports bra had compressed her ample breasts, with her long mane of auburn hair was braided and rolled in a knot at the back of her head. The unstylish plastic frames of the glasses she wore made her look more like a maiden librarian than her usually stylish and somewhat flamboyant self which only appeared when she was undercover and could feel safe to “act out a character” for an assignment. “Dressing down” was a technique she used to get a feel for her clients, and the setting she would work in. Her philosophy was to start at the bottom and ramp it up as high as she found the situation warranted.
In previous cases, she had been a maiden spinster, a fashion model, and several things in between those two roles. She was very good at accents, disguises, and faking all kinds of professions. She drew the line however, at allowing people to disparage her in a woman’s role. She did not consider herself a feminist, but she damn sure did not accept the designation of a Milly Milktoast. She knew that meant the same as Dolly Doormat, and there was no way in she would ever allow herself that role.
***** #4 Luxury Hotel Bar
As she approached Luke in the bar, he looked past the people in front of him and boldly locked eyes with her, cocking one eyebrow higher to acknowledge her. Speaking to the surrounding admirers in a seductive tone, he teased. “Here she comes folks. My reason for living.”
As the assembled grup turned, Tori almost stumbled. Sitting in front of Luke, and having been the most engaged in conversation when she entered was Hunter Summers. She received some gratification in seeing after a momentary pause, he seemed as stunned to recognize her, as she was to see him with Luke. Luke was moving forward and surrounding her with his long, lanky, arms as he drew her up against him and gave her his usual abandoned kiss. Not caring who was looking, waiting or watching he always greeted her in his confident, appreciative way. She was immediately caught up in her response, and at the end, almost forgot about Hunter Summer’s presence until she saw his scowl when Luke turned to walk her over to meet him.
“Honey, this is a guy from college I might have told you about. My fraternity brother ‘Smarts’. That’s what we called him because he was always so damn smart and didn’t have to study. He just spent his time getting us through. Especially dumb jocks like me.”
***** #5 Months later in Oklahoma in the Twyner Security Offices
“I never attended OU and I never joined a fraternity.”
Tori almost spoke before she took in the meaning of what he just said. “What did you say? Of course you did. Luke told me that night at the restaurant before the explosion. You are Smarts, his fraternity brother. You got him through his studies. He was a dumb jock and you never had to crack a book. Why are you doing this, and saying these things? I know what Luke told me. I didn’t have a head injury. Why would you try to say that kind of garbage knowing I would know it wasn’t true?”
“Smarts was my code name. I’m an undercover federal agent. I was helping Luke go into witness protection. In the restaurant, he was trying to get me to realize why he was going to do what he did. ……Ask you to marry him. He knew we didn’t have much time, and he wanted me to smooth the path. It was supposed to be him going into the program that night. Alone.”
*****#6 Tori’s home in Oklahoma
Her last act before leaving Oklahoma for good, was to drive to the cemetery and explain it to Luke. Entering ironwork and stone gates, she drove toward the back where Luke’s grave waited on the slope, by the fields of wheat that created a serene border. Tori was surprised to see there was someone at the cemetery at that early hour, so she waited in her pick-up as she observed a couple at a grave near Luke’s. In the golden streams of daybreak, she watched the woman turn to the man and received a bouquet. Then in disbelief, she watched as the woman stooped to place the flowers on a grave. Luke’s grave.
The man was tall, with black hair that feathered below his collar. He had on a dress shirt, and slacks, and it looked all too familiar. It was not only Hunter Summers, but in the same suit of clothes he was wearing when she saw him last. Her mind was switching all over the place, then settled on the idea he was paying his respects, and probably had brought his wife, or friend.
The woman’s shoulders were shaking and suddenly she was prostrate on the grave. Hunter was kneeling beside her, trying to comfort her. Tori couldn’t stop herself. She got out of the pick-up and began walking closer to the gravesite, hearing the wailing woman’s voice.
“Luke, Luke. I am so sorry. I never meant for this to happen. Please forgive me. I am so sorry.”
Tori was about to speak and get an explanation when she heard the cries of a baby coming from Hunter’s car. The woman continued to cry, so Hunter turned to go to the car and tend the baby. It was then that he saw her. Tori’s eyes locked on to his and she didn’t need to be told. This woman and this baby had something to do with Luke and his death.
*****#7 Billings, OK. clandestine meet with Underground trucker
Lynda pulled into the drive just shy of ten minutes of noon. Always prompt and reliable, Tori watched her unloading some sacks and resisted the temptation to help her. She stayed out of view, as the agent’s rule was always to live as though someone is watching. Lynda brought in her mother-lode of loot and laughed as she accounted for her travels earlier in the morning.
“I’ve been to Enid for the damn clothes. Tonkawa for the hair dye, and over to Perry for the groceries. Reckon no one should put that together. Oh, and I stopped at that souvenir place and picked up a few do-dads for you too.”
It was fun seeing what Lynda brought to begin the transformation to her new cover role. The jeans were skin tight with fringe on the outer leg seams. They were so low cut Tori thought she might have to shave her pubic area a little lower. The buckskin vest had Indian beadwork, and the skimpy bra like top looked like something you would wear with a bikini. Thin rawhide straps that tied around the neck supported it. With Tori’s ample breasts, the top really left little to the imagination. She added the Indian bracelet, rings and necklace, then modeled for Lynda.
“Soon as we git’ that hair of yours fixed, I think you can pass for at least part Indian.” groused the amused Lynda.
Looking in the mirror Tori realized how much weight she had lost since New York. She was wearing jeans two sizes smaller, albeit these were so tight she felt painted into them. She took the “crowning glory” of Lynda’s purchases, and leaning forward placed the dark brown, soft lens contacts in her eyes. Hesitantly she looked at Lynda and took a very deep breath
. “Okay Lynda, the scissors first, then the hair dye. Somehow, this is the worst part. Tara’s hair was shoulder length, but that’s a far cry from mine. If I’m going to pretend to be her sister, I want to look as much like her as possible. And actually, with the weight loss, and the dark eyes, I’m pretty close already.”
Two hours later, wearing Indian moccasins, and her new outfit, “Tawny Sweetwater” was born.