(Photograph courtesy of Lorrie Mann)
Early yesterday morning my wife sprang from our bed, a woman on a determined mission. After fully dressing, she was on her way down to the garage to warm up her little black Audi TT convertible, (with black wheels of course), for a trip to Floyd for her periodic session of quantum bio-feedback. (Don’t ask. I don’t know.)
From our bed, I sprang, like a filmed slow-motion outtake, put on my warmest robe, (it was 7 degrees outside, with a brisk wind), and shuffled as fast as I could on my walker, my titanium left hip still not in full operation, down in the elevator, and across the garage to kiss her goodbye. As she drove away that early dawn morning, I watched until her little “Black Olive” had disappeared between the twin stone towers that guard the beginning of our mountain top property drive to our house, greenhouse, and barn.
As I stood there, for some strange reason, I did not feel cold. I turned to my right in the dawning light to admire the hay field that lies back of our house, like a picture framed on three sides by majestic native trees. I squinted a little - I really need new glasses - when I noticed a black spot about halfway down the large pasture. I have often hayed that area on my 82-horsepower tractor and knew there was a spot there where a tractor wheel would dip, scare the…out of me, then right itself and proceed forward as if nothing had happened. I asked a farmer friend of mine who said fat ground hogs have tunnels all under our land and occasionally a tunnel will collapse causing a passing tractor, or ambling cow, to momentarily take a scary dip to one side or the other.
However, from my perspective, the dark spot looked larger than that. Shuffling back into the garage, I selected the warmest Outback overcoat I could find, my bearskin mittens, sheep skin lined boots, then leaning on my trusty walker, slowly headed for that black hole. The closer I got, the larger it looked. When I finally got there, I noticed that there were old wooden stairs, with an old wooden handrail, descending into a cave to which I could see no end. Abandoning my walker and holding firmly to the handrail, I slowly made my way down the old stairs.
It appeared to be a hand-dug cave, if I may call it that - narrow and long. There were not tables, chairs, or shelves. My first impediment: a pile of rusty steel blades. As I edged my way around them in the dim light, I could make out rifle bayonets, cavalry sabers, pre-civil war swords, (probably family heirlooms), and various versions of the Bowie knife. As I backed away from them down into the cave, I tripped over a pile of rusty handguns. Luckily my titanium hip was not injured, but as I sat there, I noticed Colt Navy Revolvers, Kerrs Revolvers, Le Mat Revolvers, a few Colt Baby Dragoons, and even one Walsh Revolver.
Leaning against the dirt wall of the cave, I got to my feet and proceeded on to a stack of rifles. I saw Springfield Model 1861s, Pattern 1853 Enfields, Lorenz Rifles, M1841 Mississippi Rifles, some bored out to 58-caliber, several Sharps Rifles, a few Henry Rifles, and remarkably, one Whitworth Sniper Rifle. Then more accustomed to the dim light, I looked further back into the cave.
That is when I saw them. They were laid in two rows, with a center walkway between their feet. They were shoulder-to-shoulder and still wore their uniforms, or what was left of them. Gold sparkled here and there from wedding rings on skeleton fingers. There must have been one hundred of them, in all. I knew in an instant that they had stacked their weapons after the end of the civil war because, being men of honor, they would not take a life after the official end of the conflict. But I also knew that being men of honor, they would also not take an Oath Of Loyalty to the Union. Instead, they had laid down, brother by brother, shoulder by shoulder, and while praying silently in their own way, they had, one-by-one, died of dehydration.
I was horrified. I was shocked and so, stumbling and scrambling, I made my way out of the cave, up the old wooden stairs, and back to my walker. Leaning on it, I turned to look at my home for some reassurance that I was still in my life, that my life still existed. It did. My home was still there. Feeling a little more courageous, I turned back to the hole that housed the wooden-stair-descent into the cave. It was all gone.
I stood in the middle of my hay field, it looking as it had always looked. Some movement drew my attention down to the right. It was my yellow barn cat, Eric. He seemed to be smiling as he looked up at me. I was slowly but surely infused with a feeling of calm and peace. Then, as I gratefully gazed back at Eric, I realized that he was God. In shock, I raised my head and viewed the surrounding mountains in the growing morning light. I saw that they, too, were God.
Then, for a split second, the mountains became transparent and I saw what lay beneath. I saw the bones and artifacts of millions of people who had lived, laughed, cried, and loved and died in those mountains. I knew they were not there. They were with God. But the love that they had shared over millions of years was still there. And I and my house, my neighbors and their pickup trucks, Chateau Morrissett winery across the valley, and all the roads that connected all of us had been built upon, and were supported by and sustained by, that cumulative love.
Then, it dawned upon me in an instantaneous revelation:
#1. I might be completely insane, but also
#2. Does it really matter?
On a Thursday afternoon, November 13, 1941, Carolina and Butch were sitting at their usual table, discussing business, when the bartender approached and said, "There is a man up front. He says his name is Ed Mason and he needs to see Butch and Carolina. I have never seen Ed Mason. Do you think that it is really him?"
"What does he look like?" asked Butch. The bartender was good at recognition recall, which is why Carolina had her working the bar. She was the eyes, and sometimes the warning signal, at the front door.
She closed her eyes as she answered, "He is about 6'2" tall, with thick salt and pepper hair, dark brown eyes, and wide shoulders. He stands very erect and looks muscular, but not bulky. He is wearing a long sleeved, white shirt, black pants, and black boots. He has a long black coat over his left arm and, in his right hand, he has a large black hat. But what is most noticeable is his stare. His eyes are hard and intense. He doesn't so much look at you as he stares into you."
"Yep. That is Ed Mason," said Butch. "That has always been Ed Mason. It is uncanny."
Butch and Carolina looked at each other in wonder. They never thought that they would see the day that Ed Mason walked into Carolina's. Carolina said to the bartender, "Tell him to meet us in the conference room of The Travel Agency in ten minutes. Give him directions to find it."
As Butch and Carolina walked out the back, he asked her, "What do you think he wants?"
"Maybe someone died or is sick. We will know soon enough."
When Butch and Carolina entered the conference room through the alley door in back of The Travel Agency, they saw not only Ed Mason, but also two other men, one white, large, and one light walnut colored, spare, fine featured, standing to one side of the table.
As soon as Carolina saw Mayor Wallace and Randolph Mason with Ed Mason, she knew it was not a social family visit. She knew that they wanted something. She knew that Ed Mason wanted something. She knew that he wanted something from her. She had longed for this moment. Oh, how she had longed for it.
What Ed Mason did not know was that the small woman he saw before him had a near genius IQ, an analytical mind that would put a chess master to shame, and an understanding of men that would have been the envy of Madame Pompadour. He also did not know that this former teenage prostitute was as fierce as a badger, and she loved Butch, his younger brother, with all her being. It hurt her that the Masons had ostracized the hulking brute she knew to be a beautiful, vulnerable little boy. She knew that Ed Mason thought she was the beauty and Butch was the beast, but she was about to educate him as to the errors of his ways. She smiled demurely and relaxed her hands as she imagined her fingers tightening around his balls. She was about to introduce him to the world of the castrato.
Ed said, "Butch, it is good to see you again. This must be Carolina. I have heard a lot about you. I am Ed Mason. This man to my right is Mayor Wallace and to my left is Randolph Mason."
Carolina said politely, "Nice to meet you gentlemen. Please be seated."
After everyone was seated, Butch and Carolina across from Ed Mason, Mayor Wallace, and Randolph Mason, Ed began,
"My name is Mrs. Mason, just the same as your wife's," said Carolina sternly, clipping her words tersely.
An awkward silence followed. The air seemed to have thickened, coldly. She clenched and unclenched the fingers of her hands resting in her lap under the table.
Butch was embarrassed. "Carolina, Ed is my brother."
"I know that," she replied evenly between clinched teeth, "but does he?"
Silence. Menacing silence. Carolina's calm steady gaze engaged Ed's hard direct stare, her fingers clenched, then as all watched, his eyes softened and moistened. He said, "I understand. You are right. Yes, of course."
Ed was not slow witted. Turning to Butch, he said, "We were wrong to ostracize you. We tolerate, accept, and even facilitate things others do, things which we do not do. So why did we not accept you, one of us whom we loved, just because you are not like us. I have often thought we were wrong. I am sorry, and I hope you will forgive us."
"You said forgive US, not just you. So, is Butch back in the family?" inquired Carolina.
Butch said, "I am glad. I have really missed everyone, the family reunions, birthdays, Christmas, the Fourth of July."
Carolina knew what he did not say. She knew what he had told her. The nights when he won fights by staying on his feet, taking beatings no other man could have endured. The nights none of his family came to watch. The nights none of his family came to congratulate him. The nights he went back to his motel room alone, his torso severely bruised, his lips split, his eyes swollen almost shut, to lie alone in his bed willing his physical pain to mask the pain of his solitude. But it never did.
Carolina's stomach contracted as she felt like crying, but her face showed no emotion. She uttered not a sound. Her hands contracting and releasing, contracting and releasing, were silent.
"As a matter of fact," said Ed "Why don't you all come to dinner on Sunday. I will have everyone there. It will be a family reunion."
"You ALL?" asked Carolina pointedly.
"Yes. You are Butch's wife. You are a part of the family, too."
"That will be very awkward for me and your wives. Perhaps I shouldn't come. I am sure they know who I am. They will shun me."
"No, they won't."
"You are a man, and like most men you do not understand women. I am no longer a prostitute, but I used to be. I know men don't hate such women, but other women do. To them I am a leper, an untouchable, an outcast, one unclean. They will not allow me to be among their men. They will not allow me to be in their homes."
"Did not Jesus embrace Mary Magdalene? Did not he allow her to anoint his feet? Was not she with him at his crucifixion? Was not she with him at his resurrection? Who are we to judge Jesus and Mary Magdalene? Who are we to judge Butch and Carolina? God save us from the damnation of such antichrist-inspired self-righteousness. I am the acknowledged leader of the Mason clan, and I welcome you both into the family. I guarantee that you both will be accepted fully and completely with love and respect."
"He is right, Carolina," said Butch. "That is the way it has always been. Once the Mason clan leader makes a decision, it is accepted and followed fully, without reservation," added Butch.
"Will everyone be there?" asked Carolina.
"Yes, everyone will be there," replied Ed.
"Butch likes his bourbon before dinner."
"We will have bourbon for Butch, and what would you like to drink?"
"I don't drink. I never have."
Then she asked with a devilish smile, as she relaxed her hands,
"Should I wear a red dress? Show some cleavage?"
Ed knew she was being facetious, so he replied, "I think you would look lovely in white, cleavage optional."
"Fine," said Carolina. "Now that we have taken care of that, tell us why you gentlemen are here."
Ed turned to Mayor Wallace. "I think you should tell them."
"Yesterday, I received this letter."
He pulled a sheet of paper from his jacket pocket, unfolded it, and slid it across the table to Carolina and Butch. It was dated November 5, 1941. It read,
"Dear Mayor Wallace:
I will be in South Point the first Friday and Saturday in December to view your site for the possibility of building a large plant to produce ammonium nitrate explosives for the war effort. Your site will be the last of the six I visit, and the decision will be made by me immediately thereafter. The plant must be built as quickly as possible. Do not fail to accommodate me or your site will be eliminated from consideration.
Head of The Department Of War Procurements"
"So?" asked Carolina.
"We want you to get that plant for South Point."
"What's in it for Butch and me?"
I will tell you the land Wellington is considering and then you can go buy it and resell it to them at a profit."
"Mayor Wallace, are you trying to blow smoke up my skirt?"
"What do you mean?"
"The Federal Government does not negotiate. They take from you what they want and give to you what they want. All you can do is bend over and say, "Thank You." They won't even take you to dinner first. So, what is in it for Butch and me?"
"Mrs. Mason," interjected Randolph Mason.
"You can call me Carolina, and it's pastor Randolph Mason, isn't it?"
"Yes, Carolina. South Point and Burlington are becoming ghost towns. We desperately need this plant to save our villages from extinction. There are no jobs here. After the war is over, our young people will not return home. They will go to the big cities to find work. The old people who remain behind will wither and die.
"We will starve, but not physically. They will send us money for food, whatever they can, whenever they can. We will starve spiritually. We will starve for the sound of their voices. We will starve for the glimpse of their smiles. We will hunger for the feel of their touch. We will never know our grandchildren. We will never see them run and play in our yards. We will never hold them on our laps. We will never hear the words 'Grandpa, I love you.' Their imagined kisses will fall into the void of our separation and disappear with the death of our dreams. We will wither, we will starve, and we will die alone in solitude to be forever forgotten in the dust of time, which will sift down to cover our abandoned villages."
Carolina was impressed. "Ah, finally a man who understands the art of seduction. Damn you are good. You are really good."
"I have an advantage. I am a Negro. We are closer to God. We don't have to overcome the pride, the arrogance, and the feeling of superiority that handicaps you white people. We have been spared the wealth, the dominance, and the pretentions."
"Wait a minute," interrupted Carolina. "Are you saying that we white people bear the mark of Cain? That we are cursed?"
"I don't know," said Randolph, "but consider this. We live hour after hour and day after day in a world subservient to yours, where we constantly pass through the eye of the needle."
"Well," said Mayor Wallace, "if you two have finalized indulging yourselves in spiritual speculation, could we address the earthly issue at hand?"
"I presume that you gentlemen are asking me to honey trap and blackmail a Federal government official on a matter of national security in a time of war. If it goes down badly, I will go to prison. If it goes well, I will get nothing. Is that about it?"
All three men looked down at the table trying to think of what to say, but nothing came to mind.
"Fair enough. Let me think about it. I will let you know."
Outside, Mayor Wallace asked of his companions,
"What do you think?"
Ed Mason replied, "She is a Mason now, and I suspect the most formidable of us all. I think she can do it."
Mayor Wallace said, "No offense, Ed, but you know she is just a madam and Butch is just a thug. Your premonitions are nothing more than wishful thinking. But having said that, I hope you are right. What do you think, Randolph?"
"She doesn't know it, but she has been chosen. God's hand will guide her. She will get the plant for South Point."
"Right," said Mayor Wallace. He hung his head in despair.
After they were gone, Butch asked, "You aren't going to do it, are you?'
"I don't know. They must be really desperate to come to us, hats in hand. Let's go back to the club. I need to talk to Murdock as soon as possible."
"Carolina, don't do this," implored Butch. "Don't put yourself at risk. You don't owe the Masons anything. I would sacrifice all of them for you."
"I know, Butch. But wouldn't it feel good to do something for others without any pay back. It would be like the universe owes us. We would be more than we are, forever."
Murdock was a private investigator who did background checks for Carolina. He specialized in providing her with all of the information the subject wanted known and all of the information the subject did not want known. He was expensive, but he was good, quick, and discreet.
Murdock looked at the name and title. "Do you want the usual and when do you want it?" he asked.
"Yes, and yesterday," replied Carolina.
Twenty-four hours later, Murdock reported, "I know what you want, so let's cut to the chase. Reginald Wellington is from a prominent, but recently impoverished, family. His father drank and gambled away the last of the family fortune, which was reputedly to be ill-gained. Reginald graduated from Princeton. He was a legacy, not much of a scholar. A few years later, he married well. His wife was older and ugly as homemade sin, but very rich. A couple of years later, he divorced her and took a lot of her money.
"A few years after that, he married the second Mrs. Wellington. She was also extremely wealthy, but about his same age and not too bad looking. However, some thought she was not too bright and somewhat naive. Nevertheless, due to substantial campaign contributions made by her recently deceased father, she also had political connections. She got him a place in the FDR administration. Two years after their marriage, he divorced her, as well, and also took a lot of her money.
"I would say he is now on the hunt for the third Mrs. Wellington."
Carolina left the club immediately and went to the Huntington, West Virginia public library, where she spent the afternoon pouring over past issues of the Huntington Herald-Dispatch.
The next morning, she made a call to a Manhattan penthouse. She spoke to the woman there for a long time and in great detail. In the end, they had come to an agreement with only one remaining contingency.
After she hung up the phone, she wrote a note, addressed an envelope, and sent for her administrative assistant.
"Take this to Pamela Morgan in Huntington. The address is on the envelope. Wait for a response."
Shortly thereafter, at a mansion high on the hill above Ritter Park in Huntington, West Virginia, the butler took the note and said condescendingly to Carolina's administrative assistant, "Wait here."
Pamela Morgan read the note from Carolina Mason.
What did the note say?
Did South Point get the plant?
If so, how did Carolina do that?
The answer to all of those questions and more may be found among the pages of my book. Click here: “The Burlington Agreement.”
Many people have told me they are tired of reading about how much I love my wife.
On Monday morning December 11, 2017 my left hip was surgically removed and replaced with titanium and plastic parts. The following Thursday morning I was excited to leave the hospital and transfer to a rehabilitation facility.
But first I wanted to stop by home.
Later, as I attempted to get into my Range Rover’s passenger seat to leave home, my right leg, the good one, started to fail before I got all the way up to the seat. Hard as I tried, I couldn’t stop it from sinking. I was going down, hard and fast.
My wife was putting a suitcase into the passenger side back seat of the car.
“HONEY! LOOK OUT! I AM FALLING!”
Without a word or any hesitation she dove to the garage concrete floor directly under the seat from which I was falling. She is 4’11” tall and weighs 100 pounds.
My entire 210 pounds fell hard, crushing directly down upon her.
The only words she uttered were, “Honey are you hurt? Are you OK?”
To paraphrase well known words from the chapter of John: “No greater love has a wife than this, to lay down her life for her husband.”
Now tell me. Do I write too much of my love for my wife? Impossible.
(The following is an excerpt from my book, "The Burlington Agreement.")
Butch Mason was known as the black sheep of the family. Because of his break from family traditions, he very seldom had any contact with the other Masons. He never had any interest in farming. Since he was a little boy, his only interest was in fighting. In his teens, he took up boxing and while a teenager was known to be the undisputed heavy weight champion of the area. He won, not by being the fastest or the most skillful, but by being able to take a punch. He could take a savage punch in the head or body without flinching, and then deliver a return punch that crushed bones and ruptured organs. He was a bull. Soon, he had no challengers.
But there was no living to be made in boxing at that time, so he worked in a factory that produced railroad car axles and wheels. Butch made good money because he could lift a railroad car axle with wheels attached, from the production line, carry it to and place it on the tracks to roll to the next assembly. Normally, it took two men to do that job, but Butch did it alone for the pay of one and a half men.
Butch was known, not only for fighting, but also for drinking. The Masons did not drink, but Butch did. He drank bourbon. And finally, Butch was known to frequent Ironton's brothel, Carolina's. His brothers never asked him and he never told them, but he did not go there to buy the services of the young women who worked there. He went there to be with the Madam, Carolina. She was at least 10 years older than he, but she looked younger than her years. She was small, about 5'2" tall, and had a nice, big busted figure with a small waist and ample, but firm, hips. Her complexion was cream colored. Her face was framed with soft, light brown hair. But her most noticeable feature was her calm, direct brown eyes. She had composure and a presence to which almost everyone deferred. Butch once heard someone say that she was an old soul, but he didn't know what that meant. Butch liked to sit and talk with her at a table back in the shadows, as he sipped his bourbon and watched her run the business. He admired the diplomatic way she handled unruly customers and the petty cattiness of the girls who worked there.
She knew he was not there to buy sex but simply because he liked being with her. She respected him for that and she liked being with him. Even though he was ten years younger than she, he didn't look it. He was large, with bulging ropy muscles, pale of complexion, with a head of coarse, unruly, dark brown hair. Too many times his nose had been broken, his eyes had been cut, and his lips had been split. It was known that he could take a punch, and his face showed that he had done so often. They were a strange pair, the large, beat up bull, and small, jaded woman who commanded respect, but they liked each other and enjoyed each other's company.
Carolina continued, "You are known as the champion heavy weight fighter in this area. The average man considers your fists to be lethal weapons. Also, you are a member of the Mason clan. And even though you say they have disowned you, everyone believes they would avenge any injury to you as a matter of family pride. They would have to because if it became know that a Mason could be killed without retribution, then all of them would be put at risk. It only has to be known that you own the business and I will be safe. I can run it. I can manage all aspects of the business. All that you have to do is stand behind me, keep me safe, and I will split the profits equally with you."
Butch knew that he only wanted to be with Carolina always, and that he would always keep her safe. "I don't want the money. Here with you is where I feel at home. This is where I belong. I will do it for you. I would do anything for you."
"Really? You would do anything for me?"
"Will you marry me?" beseeched Carolina with a tender smile.
"Well, I am going to need some time," answered Butch.
A pallor descended over Carolina.
"I see," she said. "Let's talk about the business. I think..." She choked back a sob. "I think..." The dam broke. She sobbed uncontrollably, as she pushed away from the table and ran to the bathroom. There she hung her head over the sink and gripped the edge tightly as she willed herself to quit crying.
Then she heard the voice in her head. Stop it. You are blubbering like a little girl. All of your life you have been abandoned, used, discarded, abused, and beaten. But you never cried before. Why are you crying now? Did you really think he would marry you? Butch Mason's strength is the envy of every man he meets, but no man is strong enough to walk the streets of Ironton, looking into the face of every man he passes, wondering which of them has been with his wife.
"All right. All right," said Carolina out loud, almost shouting. "I've got it. I really do. And as God is my witness, I will never cry again."
She splashed cold water on her face, patted it dry with a paper towel, and left the bathroom. Walking back to the table she thought, It's just business. We will talk business. We will forget that this ever happened.
But when she reached the table, Butch was gone. She asked the bartender, who said he left without a word. Carolina waited expectantly all night, but Butch never returned. As the hours mounted so did her fear that she had ruined it all. She had foolishly lost everything she wanted.
Butch worked the 8 AM to 4 PM shift at the railroad wheel and axle plant. He usually got to Carolina's at 6 PM. The next night she waited at their usual table. As she waited, she practiced her apology and her promise that it would never happen again. 6 PM passed. 6:15 PM passed. Carolina feared the worst. Then at 6:20 PM, the bartender came to her table and said, "Butch called. He asked for you to meet him at McArthur's for a celebratory dinner."
McArthur's, situated three blocks from Carolina's, was, at the time, the best restaurant in Ironton. Carolina was jubilant. Butch would run the business with her. They would be business partners. At least, she would have part of what she wanted. She stood to go, then realized that she was dressed like a brothel madam. Carolina understood that an essential part of any position of authority is to assume the mantle of the office. In her case, that was a red satin dress showing a lot of cleavage. She ran to her room. There, she selected a russet colored, fine wool tailored suit with matching veiled hat. She accessorized with a complementary fox stole, alligator pumps, and purse. She wore a short amber necklace and amber drop earrings.
McArthur's was crowded. She could barely get in the door and certainly could not see over the waiting crowd. Then she heard a high-pitched condescending voice saying, "Excuse me. Pardon me. Please make way."
The crowd parted, and before her stood a young man who was unmistakably the Maître D. He said simply, "Follow me."
Carolina looked for Butch as she followed the Maître D through the restaurant. Finally, she asked, "Where are we going?"
"Just a little further," he said as he proceeded down a wide, dimly lit, mahogany paneled hall. He stopped in front of a door, opened it, and stepped aside to let Carolina see.
It was a private dining room. It normally contained tables and seating for 24 guests. But tonight, there was one table for two in the center of the room. The rest of the room was filled with white roses, whose velvety soft pedals seemed to glow in the flickering candlelight. In her peripheral vision, she saw several waitstaff standing in the shadows, but her focus of attention was on a large, virile man who stood by the table dressed in a suit, white shirt, and tie, with a smile on his lips.
A waiter appeared from behind her to take her hat and stole. She walked to the table.
"Butch," said Carolina. "This is lovely. Does it mean that you will do it, you will be my partner, and we will run the business together?"
Butch said nothing. He pulled out her chair. She sat down. She looked questioningly at him as he stopped halfway past the table, turned to her, and went down on one knee. At first, she was concerned that he had tripped, but then she heard him say, as he held forth a small, royal blue, velvet box, from which sparkled a beautiful blue diamond ring, "Carolina, will you marry me? Will you be my wife? Will you let me be with you forever? Please"
Neither Carolina nor Butch knew what was about to happen on November 13, 1941.
However, you will know after you read the next blog which will appear on 12-26-17.
Years later, when Ed Mason was the senior managing partner of an Atlanta law firm that was expanding nationwide, he was talking to Dale Murphy, the senior attorney for the Governor of West Virginia, about expanding his law practice into that state. During the conversation, Dale mentioned that he had started his career in Huntington, West Virginia with a law firm representing coal mine owners.
It suddenly occurred to Ed to ask, "Hey Dale. When you were in Huntington did you ever run into a girl named Shawnee?"
"You mean Shawnee Rogers?"
"Yeah. I think that was her last name."
"You don't know about Shawnee Rogers, do you?"
"What about her?"
Then Dale Murphy told Ed Mason the following story:
I know everything from the very beginning. How? You will see.
Early in the autumn of 1968. Shawnee was working in the shoe department of Anderson-Newcomb when a young man came in accompanying an elderly woman. She was his grandmother. and he was buying her new shoes for her birthday. His name was Taylor Wilson. He was about 6-feet tall, athletically fit, and sun tanned. His hair was wavy blond and his eyes were bright blue. Shawnee thought it was sweet that he was buying shoes for his grandmother. And when he stood close to her, Shawnee felt strange...in a good way. He worked at Armco Steel in Ashland, Kentucky.
He asked her out to dinner. She said, "Yes."
He picked her up in a 1966 Chevy convertible, all black with a red leather interior. Riding in it made her feel special. They rode is silence. Shawnee enjoyed the feel of the leather seat through her thin cotton sundress. Taylor pulled into a parking spot at Ritter Park.
Shawnee looked at him curiously as he got out of the car, took a large picnic basket out of the trunk, then came around to open her door. Shawnee felt like a princess who had finally found her prince. And he was. He was the real thing. And whenever he was close to her, she had that funny feeling again. And when he gave her a tender kiss, the feeling was strong, really strong.
It was only a few weeks later, and a few dates later, when she and Taylor were parked, kissing in his car on the hill above Ritter Park, that the feeling became unbearable. She urgently breathed into his ear "Yes. Yes." He knew that was the answer to the question he had been silently asking.
What happened then? A sensation she had never felt before. A sensation she craved again and again. Taylor morphed into a god before her very eyes, the god of physical pleasure. Shawnee became an addict. But addictions have their consequences.
Shawnee became pregnant. When she began to show and lost her job at Anderson-Newcomb, her mother told her to get out of her house. Shawnee moved in with Taylor. Gradually things changed. The urgent hot sex faded, but Shawnee took comfort in building a nest. Taylor didn't want to talk marriage, but Shawnee knew he would come around before the baby was born.
Then at the beginning of her ninth month, Taylor was laid off at Armco. They were alone in their small apartment day after day. With plenty of time and no sex to divert them, they soon learned that they didn't really know much about each other. To relieve his frustration and stress, Taylor began to drink. It was only a few days later that he hit Shawnee. The first time was only a slap. He cried, said he was sorry, and that it would never happen again. A few days later he slapped her again, and again, and again. He watched her cowering and crying, then walked out. A few days after that, he punched her in the stomach. Shawnee grabbed a kitchen chair and held it tightly over her stomach while he punched her in the face again, and again, and again.
Not long after he left, a city police car pulled up. The male officer remained silent while the female officer explained that a neighbor had called, and that Shawnee should press charges and go with them to a shelter for battered women. She refused. About two hours later a state highway patrol car pulled up outside. The officer came to the door with his hat in hand. He introduced himself as Ray. He asked if Taylor was home. When Shawnee said he had not returned, Ray asked if he could come in to talk to Shawnee. Shawnee showed him into the kitchen. He watched her as she fixed him a cup of coffee, then sat down at the table across from him.
"Shawnee, would you like for Taylor to leave?"
"I'm afraid he will hurt the baby. But if he leaves, who will take care of me?"
"Shawnee, he is not taking care of you now. I can make him leave. Then I will take care of you."
"Yes. Make him leave. I am so scared he is going to kill my baby."
Early that evening, Taylor was sitting in the kitchen drinking while he watched Shawnee fix him dinner, when there was a knock at the door. Taylor went to the door. Shawnee listened.
Taylor saw the officer standing there, "What the hell do you want?"
"My name is Ray. May I come in?"
There was the sound of a scuffle as Ray pushed in past Taylor.
"Get the hell out of my house."
"No. You pack. You are leaving."
"The hell I am."
Ray reached into his pockets and produced a bag of white powder and a black revolver.
"Taylor, what I have here is a bag of heroin and a gun with filed off serial numbers. Now you can pack a suitcase and go wherever you want to, or you can go with me to jail and then on to prison."
Taylor said nothing. He went into the bedroom and started packing. He returned with a suitcase in his left hand.
Ray stopped Taylor and said, "If I ever see you again near this apartment, or if Shawnee tells me you have been here, I will arrest you, and you will go to prison. And if you ever hit Shawnee again, I will beat you to death with a baseball bat."
After Taylor was gone, Ray went into the kitchen where Shawnee sat crying at the kitchen table. He said, "Shawnee, he won't be back. I know his kind. But friends of mine on the city police force will cruise by regularly for the next few days, and I will be back tomorrow to see what you need and take you to the doctor."
"But Ray, I don't have a doctor. I can't afford..."
"Shawnee, don't worry. You have a doctor now, the best in Huntington, and there will be no charge. He is grateful for something I did for him. Actually, he will be grateful for what I did for him for the rest of his life. Now get some rest. I will pick you up tomorrow at 2 p.m."
Ray took care of Shawnee, as promised. He bought her groceries, paid her rent, and even brought in a young woman to care for her when she came home from the hospital. The baby was a girl. Shawnee named her Ray Ann.
About a month after the baby was born, late in the afternoon, Shawnee was expecting Ray. She took a shower, put on her makeup, brushed her hair, oiled her body, and donned her finest robe. Ray came in through the kitchen side door with bags of groceries. He put them on the table and then turned to see her across the hall, standing in the bedroom doorway. She smiled and pulled loose the sash, letting her robe fall open.
"Oh, Shawnee" said Ray, "You are so beautiful, and I really appreciate the offer, but I am married, and I am faithful to my wife."
Suddenly, Shawnee felt ashamed and exposed. She hastened to cover her nakedness. Confused, she clasped her arms around herself, as she stammered, "But I thought...You know...That you...If not, then why?"
"Shawnee, you needed help. You needed to be rescued. I could do that, and so I did. I care for you, but not in that way. However, you could repay me by helping a friend of mine. He is a very nice man, about my age, whose wife recently died of cancer after a six-month-long battle. He is really hurting, and he hasn't been with a woman for a very long time. I could bring him by tomorrow afternoon, introduce him, to you, get a call to go out, and then return in about an hour. You will like him, and you can think of it as repaying me."
"OK, if that's what you really want me to do. I can't promise you I will do it, but I will try."
The next afternoon Ray drove up in his cruiser. With him was a nice-looking man in a well-made, navy blue, wool suit, off-white French cuffed shirt, and maroon silk tie.
Shawnee had dressed like she was going out on a blind date. After introductions, Ray said he had to go and left. Shawnee did not know the protocol for such situations. She was afraid that if they engaged in small talk she would lose her nerve. So, she just smiled shyly at the stranger, lowered her eyes, took his hand, and led him into the bedroom.
When Ray returned an hour later, they were fully clothed, sitting in the living room, engaged in small talk. As they were leaving, Ray turned to Shawnee and said, "I will be back late this afternoon."
"Looking forward to it." replied Shawnee, with a forced smile.
When Ray entered the apartment later, he called out for Shawnee.
"In here Ray. I'm in the kitchen."
When Ray entered the kitchen, he saw Shawnee sitting at the kitchen table with a glass of bourbon in her hand. He knew she didn't drink but, perhaps, the occasion called for it. Ray said proudly, "Well Shawnee, he said you were really good in bed."
"Don't worry, Ray. I'll see that you get your money's worth."
"I don't understand," replied Ray.
"As we entered the bedroom he said, 'I already paid Ray.’
"Shawnee, you know how I feel about..."
"No. No. No. Shut up." She glared at him as she wept. Then she stopped crying. "Sorry, I just had to get that over with."
"No, Ray. I really mean it. Don't. Just don't. Now, first things first. He gave me a $50 tip. Is that yours or do I get to keep it? And how much do I owe you? And what's the rate for working it off? Tell me, Ray. I want to know. Because I am going to repay you. I am going to see that you get every damned dime. Now, get out of my house."
It was about two months later. Shawnee and Ray had settled down into a working relationship, when Ray Ann got the flu and then Shawnee got it too. She called Ray. "I need help. The baby is sick. I am sick. We need help."
In less than an hour, Ray was there with a nice young woman. She had an exotic look to her like she was Algerian. She said her name was Eva and that she worked for Ray's partner, Reece. Shawnee liked her.
"So how many of us are there?" asked Shawnee.
"There are 30 of us working for 20 state troopers. I think your Ray is bringing on a new girl now, but I haven't met her. Most of us are single moms, but some of us are married. We are all rescue cases. I was a runaway, living on the streets.
“One day, four men grabbed me and pulled me into a car. A police spotter saw it happen and called it in. Reece and Ray were only two blocks away when they heard the call. They rammed the car I was in, and then beat the hell out of the four men who had abducted me. Resisting arrest, you know.
“Reece put me up in a nice apartment. He fed me. I was starving. I looked awful. Then he bought me some nice clothes. I started to feel good about myself. I started to look good. Then I tried to seduce Reece. I really tried. But he refused. I found out later that none of the troopers sleep with any of their girls. It's a very strict rule. However, he said if I wanted to, he would fix me up with someone nice. You see the guys won't let just anyone buy us. Most of our customers are doctors, lawyers, accountants, politicians, business men, and clergy. And practically all our appointments are in the afternoon. After a while, you will establish a regular clientele and hardly ever have a blind date. And don't ever worry about anyone abusing you. They know who you work for. They wouldn't dare hurt you.”
Eva stayed with Shawnee and Ray Ann for a week, except for a few hours off occasionally to attend to business. As she was leaving on her last day, Shawnee asked,
"Do you think you could contact all of the girls and ask them to meet with me?"
"Sure, I can do that, but why?"
"I think we should discuss what we have in common and what we can do to help each other. But ask them to not tell the boys."
"OK. Some girls have early morning appointments, like you know, their customers leave home early, but instead of going to work they go to her apartment. She greets him in full make up, wearing only a very seductive robe. The smell of fresh brewed coffee and fresh baked pastries are almost equally inviting. You get the idea. However, everyone should be available by 10 a.m. How about next Wednesday? Consider it a date, and I will let you know if there is any problem."
The next Wednesday at 10 a.m., Shawnee's apartment was packed. All the women were above average in looks, modestly dressed, and appeared to be between the ages of 18 and 26. They were swapping tales of their experiences until Shawnee called the meeting to order.
"Ladies, thank you for coming. I believe we all share a common life style but do not have the benefit of shared knowledge or mutual help. I propose that we band together to share knowledge and to help each other. You know how the guys must feel about us. We must be a pain in the ass. They put up with it from their wives, but, at least, they sleep with them. They don't even sleep with us. Do you think your guy wants to hear that he has to cancel your appointment because the dust swirling in the sunshine made you sad? I understand. You just need to cry. But he doesn't understand. I propose that we consolidate all operations, scheduling, payments, everything. I will take care of it all. The guys will receive a little less than they are used to and that will be my pay. But on the other hand, all they will have to do is provide security. The arrangement will not affect your cut. And you and you and you and you, we will all be friends and we will all be confidantes, and we will be all for one and one for all."
When Shawnee told Ray, he said he would ask the guys, but he was sure they would agree. Shawnee then told Ray she would need two things, a car and a gun. Ray said he understood the car but why the gun?
Shawnee told him, “Two weeks ago Jenny had a client for a 3 p.m. appointment. He showed up drunk. Nevertheless, she gave him his money's worth. But then he wouldn't leave. He demanded more. She called her trooper, but he couldn't be reached because he was testifying in court. I promised the girls that I would always be available and would always protect them.”
Ray got her a bored-out Mustang. It seems it had been confiscated in a drug bust in Charleston, then gone missing off the evidence yard, only to turn up at Shawnee's door painted a pearlessence gray and wearing Alabama plates. The gun was a 5 shot 357 magnum that came with a pair of gloves. Ray explained to her that all serial numbers had been filed off. The gun and bullets were wiped clean, and she shouldn't touch them without gloves on.
Less than a week later, one of the girls did call her for help. Shawnee was quite apprehensive, to say the least. She let herself in the back door, as she had been told to do and made her way through the condo until she found the bedroom. There, she saw a big guy lying naked on a bed with a nude small blond woman beside him, crying. Shawnee addressed him trying to sound authoritative.
"I don't know what the problem here is, but get dressed. You are leaving."
He was in disbelief. He lay there without shame, completely exposed and smirked, "Oh, yeah? What are you going to do about it? Cry?"
Shawnee calmly sat on a chair facing the bed. She slowly took out and put on a pair of white cotton gloves. Then, she took out a black 357 magnum revolver, pointed it at him, and said, "I am going to kill you, and then I am going to call my state trooper friends to come and stage your death as a righteous kill."
That resulted in an immediate attitude adjustment. "OK. Don't shoot. I am leaving."
As he threw on his clothes, Shawnee warned him, “I don't know what you did to her, but I do know someone who will want to know, and when he does, he and his friends will come looking for you. And you are not going to like what happens next. If I were you, I would leave town."
Shawnee watched from the window as the big guy ran to his car, jumped in, and screeched away. She smiled to herself as she thought, That wasn't too difficult. Things are going well. I think I can handle this.
But Shawnee didn't know that trouble was on the way. Oliver was trouble's name. Oliver was married to Suzie, who worked for Shawnee. Only Oliver didn't know Suzie worked for Shawnee, at least, not until he came home one afternoon unexpectedly.
Oliver was a virile young man who enjoyed the carnal pleasures his wife performed so well. Late that day, he told his boss that he was sick and then hurried home for some afternoon delight. Unfortunately, John, who managed the local savings and loan, had the same idea, only a little bit sooner. Oliver, in his haste, parked his car on the street and hurried through the front door. That is why he did not see John's car parked around back. Nor did John or Suzie hear Oliver enter the house over John's loud "Oh God, Oh God" praise of Suzie's performance.
Now Oliver was not a violent man, and neither was John. Oliver actually knew John. He and Susie had an account at the savings and loan. They were saving money for a down payment on a larger house. They wanted to start a family.
Oliver collapsed into a chair. Head in hands he pleaded, "Why, Suzie? Why? I thought we were happy. I thought you loved me."
"I do love you," pleaded Suzie. "I was just trying to make some extra money for our house, so we can start a family."
"Is that why you called our banker?"
"I didn't call him. The service sent him over."
Oliver then looked at John and asked, "Is that right?"
"Yeah, I didn't even know Suzie worked for Shawnee until she sent me over here. I don't want any trouble, Oliver. I am a happily married man. Well, not as happy as you must be married to Suzie."
Oliver noticeable bristled at that, so John hastily added, "I'm going to leave now. You just stop by the bank any time. Your loan is approved, and we will waive the 20% down requirement."
After John left, Oliver sat staring at Suzie who lay on the bed, sheet pulled up tightly under her chin, as if too modest for Oliver to see her naked. She could not look him in the eyes.
He began, "Was John the first or have there been others?"
"He was not the first."
"I don't know"
"Oh, God. When did it start?"
"Before I met you."
"Suzie, I thought you loved me."
"I do, Oliver. It's just a job. I do it for the money. I do it for us. A lot of girls do."
'Oh yeah? Who?"
"There are 30 of us who work for Shawnee."
Suddenly, Oliver understood. Suzie did love him. She was just trying to help them get a house and start a family. It was Shawnee. Suzie was not to blame. It was Shawnee who was to blame.
"What is Shawnee's last name?"
Oliver arose and marched out of the house. He did not respond as Suzie called after him,
"Where are you going? What are you going to do?"
Oliver drove straight to the offices of the Herald-Dispatch, Huntington's daily newspaper. There he asked to see Arthur Boggs, the expose reporter. Arthur showed him into his office and closed the door. Oliver said, “There is a housewife prostitution ring operating in Huntington. There are about 30 housewives involved. I can give you the name of the woman who runs it. I want you to take her down. Put her out of business and put her in jail. But keep my name and my wife's name out of it."
"You have my word. What is the woman's name?"
Arthur made a few quick calls to verify the information and then started typing his article. He was confident that he could make the deadline for the morning paper and that his editor would give him the front-page headline.
The next morning everyone read the article. Shawnee was mortified. She took Ray Ann and moved in with one of her girls who lived alone and had an extra room. Shawnee and the girls were on the phone constantly. She told them to stay calm and keep quiet. She assured them she would not give them up. Ray was on the phone with the guys doing the same thing. He assured Shawnee he would take care of her.
One of the people who poured over the article that morning was the evangelist Michael Archer. The situation was perfect. Just perfect. It was what he had been looking for. Sin! Right here in iRver City. God's work awaited him. Shawnee was the cash cow he had been praying for. He started writing furiously. When he had finished, he emptied his bank account. He took the article and the money down to the Herald-Dispatch. He bought a full-page ad. The next morning, his words covered the city, inflaming every good Christian who read them.
Shawnee had braced herself for an attack from Bob Barber, the district attorney. Now,she knew her real enemy was Michael Archer and the witch-hunt mob he commanded. She knew he was more dangerous than the DA, but she also knew she had a better chance with him.
So, it was early that morning that Michael Archer found himself sitting across his desk from Shawnee Rogers. Her pitch was straightforward and direct. "Michael, I am a small fish. But I work for a big fish. Throw me back, and I will give you the big fish."
"Well, I don't know. Tell me who and then I will let you know."
"No. Believe me. It will be worth your while. But first promise in writing."
Shawnee slid a paper over to him. He read it, then smiling said, "There is no consequence if I break my promise."
Shawnee replied, "If you break your promise I will use this to expose you as a liar. That's not a good thing to be known as in your line of work."
Michael signed the paper and slid it back over to Shawnee. She folded it and put it in her purse. Then she looked up directly into his eyes and said, "You will portray me, and my girls, as victims of a gang of rogue state highway patrolmen. You will not ever reveal the names of the girls and you will withhold the names of the troopers for several days until you have so hyped up the story that all of the attention is on them."
"OK. So, you and your girls were victims of a gang of rough state highway patrolmen. Let's go sit on the sofa and you can tell me some of the things they made you do."
Shawnee smiled to herself as they walked to the sofa. She had been right about Michael Archer. She had been right about what she wore to the meeting. She just hoped he would be satisfied with the stories she would make up about the things they made her, and the girls do. She hoped he would not insist on a demonstration. She found hypocrites so repulsive.
When the story broke the next day two things happened;
First, Shawnee changed from predator to prey. She was now a victim. She could almost hear the audible sighs of sympathy that arose throughout the city.
Second, in Charleston, the state capital, phones were ringing off the hook, especially in the governor's office. After taking several calls, the governor, Logan Welsh, sent for agents of the West Virginia Bureau of Investigation. His instruction to the four, buzz-cut, no-neck, grey-suited men was simple.
"Go to Huntington, get the evangelist Michael Archer, and bring him to me."
About four hours later, they called and told the governor that the evangelist Michael Archer had disappeared. They had done a thorough search, but he was gone. He had just vanished.
The governor thought for a while and then said, "Find Shawnee Rogers and bring her to me."
It took some time, but they found her, her friend, and Ray Ann. Shamed by their failure to find the evangelist, they were determined not to let Shawnee escape. She was in the kitchen when she heard the doorframe shatter and give way in response to an agent's shoulder blow. She lunged across the table, grabbed her purse, and pulled her gun, but the agents were running through the apartment and the one who raced into the kitchen hit her forearm with a hatchet blow. The gun flew across the room.
They took Shawnee. They left the other woman and Ray Ann after explaining they were WVABI and were taking Shawnee to see the governor. That afternoon, Shawnee found herself standing in front of the desk of governor Logan Welsh. Governor Welsh was a popular governor. He had been the youngest governor elected in the history of the state and was serving the last year of his second term.
The lead agent reported. "Sorry sir, but we couldn't find the evangelist. He has vanished. But this is Shawnee Rogers. She pulled this gun on me." The agent held up the 357-magnum, revolver.
"Give her back her gun, agent."
"I imagine Ms. Rogers is a very smart young woman, at least smart enough to not shoot us. Now, give her back her gun and leave us. Close the door on your way out. Ms. Rogers, please pull up a chair and make yourself comfortable. Can I offer you some water, coffee, or a soft drink?"
"No thanks, governor. Please call me Shawnee."
Shawnee was actually a very smart young woman. When her relationship with Ray transitioned from labor to management, she did a lot of thinking about her future. She thought about what road she might travel to independence and financial security. She couldn’t see herself running a store. The idea of joining the clergy seemed hypocritical. The thought of a medical career turned her stomach. The thought of law and accounting seemed technical and dry.
However, the thought of political science sparked her interest. A young man who robs a filling station because he needs money, kills the clerk in self-defense, spends the rest of his life in a prison cell eating pigswill. But a U.S. Senator who sends 50,000 men to their deaths for a cause no one understands spends his life living in a mansion, eating steak and lobster at state banquets. A young schoolteacher can enter politics and spend his entire life as a government employee, then die with an accumulated net worth of $100 million dollars. Shawnee thought about what she knew of governments and concluded that they were now, and always had been, the largest, most powerful, legitimate criminal organizations in the world.
So, Shawnee began taking a full schedule of political science night classes at Marshall University. She had never considered herself to be particularly intelligent or ambitious, but that was because she had never before had any interest in academics. But in the study of politics, she was a natural genius and the top student in every class. When she entered the governor’s office, she was not intimidated. She felt right at home and completely at ease in her natural element.
"OK, Shawnee. I guess you know why you are here. This state highway patrol scandal is going to tarnish my spotless reputation. I am leaving office soon, and I don't want this to be my legacy. So, tell me what happened. And call me Logan."
Shawnee appraised Logan. His eyes showed intelligence. He was confident and relaxed. His approach was direct. He seemed to be genuine. She decided that she liked him and could trust him. But business first.
“OK, Logan. I will tell you everything, but first I want immunity for all my girls. There are thirty of them."
"You got it. Just give me a list of their names, and I will have the papers drawn up."
"No. Give me thirty grants of immunity. You can be specific as to the recipient and what the crimes were, but leave the names blank. When I get those papers, you will get your story. I will tell you everything."
"All right, Shawnee. That may take a few hours. Meanwhile, you are in protective custody. You will exit through the door behind you, where you will find a burly woman dressed in grey who looks like a bodyguard. That is just what she is. She will take you to a safe house. She will return you here at 6 p.m. Immunity papers for your girls and dinner will be waiting. We are going to work as long as it takes to resolve this matter. I want this problem nipped in the bud before it gets out of hand."
Dinner was first. There was no talk other than "Pass this. Pass that. Thank you." Occasionally, they glanced at each across the table, each trying to take the measure of the other. After dinner, they moved to winged-back chairs, flanking the fire place. A small table in between offered coffee and dessert cakes. Logan poured them each a cup of coffee.
"OK, Shawnee. Now tell me. Tell me everything."
"Logan, thank you for the immunity for my girls. That's all I wanted. I will tell you what happened. I will tell you everything, starting with the summer after I graduated from high school."
And she did. She told him everything and in great detail. It took her several hours and a few tears before she was finished. She wasn't sure because of the tears in her eyes, but sometimes, she thought she saw tears in Logan's eyes. When she finished, Logan got up and walked to his desk, where he picked up a piece of paper, which he took to the bar. There he poured two cut glass snifters half full of brandy. He walked to Shawnee's chair. He handed her one glass, then sat back down with the other glass and the paper.
He took a sip of his brandy and looked directly into Shawnee's eyes, "So, you are a whore?"
Shawnee was shocked. She had thought they had a rapport. Had she misjudged him? Was he coming on to her? Shawnee was confused. Then she heard him say, "So am I."
Shawnee didn't know how to react. She listened as he continued.
"I was born in a small West Virginia coal mining town. I was the youngest of 11 children. Everyone I knew worked In the mine or was dependent on someone who did. Life was harsh. Life was brutal. But I discovered an escape. I discovered books. I read night and day like an addict on drugs. And my enabler was my mother.
“She stood guard over me with a broom. Even my father couldn't get past her. ’Leave him alone. Go away. He is reading.’
“Then before I knew it, I was going to college. I had a free ride on a scholarship from the coalmine owners’ association. It was available only to children of coalmine workers. It was sweet. It paid for everything and even gave me an allowance for spending money. I was the only person in my family who had ever gone to college. Hell, I was the only person from my town who had ever gone to college. My senior year in college I was visited by a partner in the law firm that had recommended me for the coalminers' association scholarship. He told me that, if I applied to the law school they recommended, I would be accepted, I would get a full scholarship, the firm would even buy me a car, and give me a generous monthly allowance. All they asked was that I work at the firm during the summers and then work there for, at least, one year after I graduated.
“Of course, I agreed. I was living the dream. I had enjoyed college, but I really enjoyed law school. I found that I had a natural aptitude for the law and I reveled in it. I was at the top of my class. The law firm partners were impressed.
“I knew the firm represented the mine owners and my first assignment was combating the EPA. It was summer work. Who didn't hate the EPA? If they had their way, my entire family would be out of work. After graduation, I joined the firm.
“My first assignment was to combat Federal regulations. Who didn't hate the Federal Regulations? If they had their way, my entire family would be out of work. I was good. I was really good. So, the firm moved me into dealing directly with the coalminers’ union. The union didn't realize It, but the firm had agreed upon a good cop/bad cop strategy. I was the golden boy from poor a coal mining family, so I played the good cop. But unknown to the miners, I was also the legal genius behind the bad cop.
“The strain was starting to wear on me, but then the firm decided to move me into politics. I became the favorite of all the voters. From small coal mining town halls to fat cat country clubs in Charleston, I had them all eating out of my hands. The run for the governorship was a walk in the park. Then, when I married Rebecca, the darling of Charleston society, my second term was guaranteed. Do you know that every piece of legislation I have signed over the past seven years has favored the mine owners, and still the mine workers adore me as one of their own?
“And now Rebecca says she wants a divorce as soon as I leave office. My people tell me she has already begun an affair with a man who will probably be the next US senator from West Virginia. Oh well. I have decided that when I leave office, I am going to work for the law firm that represents the unions.
The governor sighed into his glass. Shawnee said, "I'm sorry, Logan."
Whispering, he said, "Me too."
He cleared his throat and straightened up. He picked up the paper on the table and handed it to Shawnee.
"What is this?" she asked.
"It's your pardon. You have earned it for what you have done and what you are going to do"
"And what might that be?" inquired Shawnee.
"First of all, can you call Ray? Will he tell you the truth?"
"Yes, I can and, yes, he will"
"Good. Call him right now and ask if he killed the evangelist and, if not, does he know what happened to him."
Shawnee went to the governor's desk, made a call, and returned to her winged back chair, “Ray said they did not kill him but in his haste to leave town, the evangelist accidentally slammed his left hand in his car door. He told Ray he might go to Oklahoma, change his name, and start over.
"Good. Now tomorrow morning I want you to meet with the state's attorney general. She is a nice woman. You will like her. I want you to tell her that the troopers did not force you or the girls to do anything. They did not have sex with you or the girls. They simply helped you all out from time to time. The money they received from you was in repayment for the help they provided. You and your girls have received immunity in exchange for your testimony against the state troopers, but your testimony will show that the troopers were not involved in your illegal activities. The attorney general will conclude that the troopers exercised poor judgment but committed no illegal acts. She will immediately announce her decision to the press and that will be the end of it.
"However, I would like for you to remain here in protective custody until I am sure you are safe, and this matter is finally concluded. I will send for Ray Ann and move you into a nice house. You will have a chauffeur=driven car at your disposal and a live-in housekeeper who will double as your body guard. I may need to see you from time to time about details of this case until I am sure it is finally and completely put to rest.'
Their relationship continued until the governor left office. The minute he did so, his wife filed for divorce and 30 days later, it was granted. She had set her cap on the rising senator. The governor went to work for the law firm representing the unions but not before taking off 30 days to honeymoon with his bride, Shawnee. It turned out that his children liked her better than their own mother and they called Ray Ann their "sister."
Now, Logan and Shawnee are retired. They spend a time with their children and grandchildren, and the mutual love and respect they have enjoyed through the years still shines in their eyes and is apparent to all who know them.