Winner of the Bloody Dagger Award, FMAM Fire to Fly Award, Amber Quill Bestseller, Rendezvous Review Magazine’s Rosebud of the Month, and Capa Nominee
ISBN 1-59279-968-X (Paperback)
ISBN 1-59279-054-2 (Electronic)
Forbidden passion, stolen emeralds and murder bring about the demise of a partnership formed in friendship and irrevocably alters the course of two families. The sins of their fathers will be visited on Leigh Shaunnessey and Girardo Castivenette in ways they cannot imagine.
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“Forbidden passion, stolen emeralds and murder bring about the demise of a partnership formed in friendship and irrevocably alter the course of two families. The sins of their fathers will be visited on Leigh Shaunnessey and Girardo Castivenette in ways they cannot imagine. An electric saga that sweeps up from the hot jungles of Colombia into the glittering power centers of Washington and San Francisco, hurtling readers into the most turbulent decades of the twentieth century…” -Melissa Bradley, Rendezvous Review Magazine
“I agree with reviewer Sue Hartington from All About Murder when she writes, “5 daggers!” Absolutely spell-binding. Beth Anderson’s willful, headstrong female character was born of an era when women were coming into their own and fighting for their dreams; the era of women’s rights and choices. The pacing of this book is wonderful. It never stagnates. Beth Anderson’s characters stay fresh and strong. While they are not saints, they are always true to form…” -Jody Gore, Women On Writing
“Ms. Anderson has written a winner. The characters are full blown. She shows their successes and failures, as well as their strengths and weaknesses. The description and feeling of place puts you in the story with the characters. One can truly associate with the family. One of the highlights of the story is how Leigh treats the ashes of her mother. No, it is not gruesome, it is ingenious. This is an A-One book, not to be missed… “ -Shirley Truax, Blue Iris Journal
“I found myself so wrapped up in the story that I had to be nudged more than once to move ahead in a line or had my name called several times in a waiting room. I highly recommend this book…” -Betty St. Pierre for Allaboutmurder Reviews
“Anderson has written such a winner with SECOND GENERATION that there is no one who won’t be drawn into the story and kept captive until they come to the most beautiful and completely surprising ending a person could ever dream of. SECOND GENERATION is one of the best books that I have ever read…” -Sue Hartigan, Allaboutmurder Reviews
“Beth Anderson’s new novel Second Generation is brilliant. The day I bought it I began to read and couldn’t put it down. Not only is the plot riveting, but she is a real wordsmith. The writing is great, the plot is intelligent, the dialog is the best I have read in years. This book is something new, with an original voice. It is a page turner, and a piece of fine literature as well…” -Francine Jewett, Author
“There is enough intrigue, politics, and sex to satisfy even the most demanding reader. The drive and problems ensuing that Leigh experiences are well presented. This is a well-crafted plot with clever dialogue and expert character development…” -Barbara Buhrer, Allaboutmurder Reviews
“As one of the persons who edited ‘Second Generation’, let me tell you, it stands on its own. Usually, editing is WORK. With Beth, I needed to remember that I was editing, instead of just reading it, getting caught up in the story…” -Dr. Bob Rich, Author and Editor
“Second Generation is a novel set over three generations in which the sins of the first generation (stolen emeralds worth millions) consumes the sons and daughters of the second generation while threatening still the third generation. Sound confusing? Not the way Beth Anderson writes. This novel (I think her best to date) grabs the reader and holds him or her spell bound from beginning to end…” -Jonathan David Masters, Booktrees.com
“Beth Anderson has written a truly marvelous book. SECOND GENERATION is fast paced and highly exhilarating. I found the style and intrigue to be very similar to another favorite author of mine, Jackie Collins. I absolutely could not put it down. The way Ms. Anderson intertwines all the relationships is astounding. I truly loved this book and was thrilled to be reading every page…” -Stacey Bucholtz, Allaboutmurder Reviews
“This is a fabulous 5-star novel, the special kind that keeps you enthralled and wondering till the very end. Excellent characterizations, a suspenseful and intriguing plot, and a fine elegant style seem to flow effortlessly from the pen of this astonishingly talented author. From the emerald mines of Colombia, to the upper crust of San Francisco, to the power and glitz of Washington D.C., this story has all you may wish and more; suspense, romance, secrets and murder. The ending is thrilling. Very highly recommended…” -Mayra Calvani, Author, Booksurge, Amazon, Bewrite, Blether, eBook Reviews Weekly, Electronic Book Reviews, and Reader To Reader
“Author Beth Anderson creates a stunning novel in SECOND GENERATION. Set primarily in Washington, DC, Anderson brings her own startling twists to the political scene, which she bases on real life experiences from her stepfather’s political career as a five-time winner of his U.S. Congressional races. Anderson writes with the beauty of a poet and the tension of a detective, creating a novel rich in nuance. Action reverberates deftly through the novel as choices made by characters reach unexpected conclusions. Gritty, realistic and startling, SECOND GENERATION is very highly recommended…” -Cindy Penn, Senior Editor, WordWeaving
“Second Generation is an international political thriller that encompasses Drug Cartels, a lifetime of high-level political corruption aided by the search for the emeralds that would fund such a life, romance as sweltering as the Columbian jungles, well, what more can one ask? And how could any story today be more timely? Anderson’s Second Generation is awarded the FMAM ‘Fire to Fly’ Award…” -Babs Lakey, publisher of FMAM, Futures Mysterious Anthology Magazine
“This action packed thriller takes place over several decades, but that time span adds to the depth and tension as readers comprehend how much it means to Giardo to avenge his father. That is the key to the tale, as Girardo knows his father always dreamed his son would be the American President, but instead died broken. The rest of the critical cast members, especially Leigh, appear genuine. SECOND GENERATION is a strong novel worth reading…” -Harriet Klausner, futuresforstorylovers.com/
“Beth Anderson has created a story in Second Generation that will have Harold Robbins carefully watching his back. From political power, to secret loves, to drug cartels, this book has it all and Ms. Anderson does it with grand style. I’ll definitely be anticipating her next novel…” -Patricia A. Rasey, Award Winning Author
“Second Generation is a mainstream that forgets boundaries exist, creates new guidelines, and deserves a standing ovation. But be warned, it grabs your attention and doesn’t let go…” -Patricia White, Award Winning Author
“SECOND GENERATION is an excellent read. The writing flows smoothly. Anderson weaves politics and love with accents of history deftly. 5 Stars, Reviewers Choice!…” -J.L. Walters, ScribesWorld
“I LOVED it…totally awesome book …Second Generation, a book with incredible, three-dimensional characters and some wicked plot twists. Out of the three titles I’ve read this one is my fave!!…” -Terri Schaeffer, Award Winning Author
“Beth Anderson has painted a too-accurate portrait of the all-consuming thirst for power that overshadows life in Washington, DC political circles. SECOND GENERATIONS is a first rate blockbuster novel of the cycles of life and love. The writing is tight and the characters are brutally human. . . . A thoroughly compelling read, from cover to cover…” -Linda Alexander, The Romance Studio
Colombia, South America. 1937
Michael Shaunnessey stretched out in the space he and Emelio had cleared away with machetes the previous night. He was miserable, had been the whole time, and he couldn’t decide which was worse—sitting around in his sweltering Tucson apartment listening to Daisy bitch about money, or dodging jaguars and boas out here in this blistering hell-hole of a jungle. It was pretty much a tossup, but at least here in Colombia he could kill the boas.
He’d killed quite a few in the past three months, the last only this week, and they’d come a little too close to tangling with a jaguar last night. Neither he nor Emelio had slept; they’d stayed awake, tracking its howling as it raced across one side of the mountain to the other, trying to dredge up reinforcements for an attack. Not that one jaguar couldn’t attack by himself. They had—plenty of times. There were always stories of children in the outlying Colombian villages being mutilated by them.
Emelio Castivenette was a stocky man five feet, seven inches tall, his long hair matted with a week’s worth of jungle mud and sweat, his skin weather-beaten from years of scouring the Andes for his father’s elusive emerald lode. As he smiled, the indentations in his cheeks deepened in the shimmering yellow mist that hovered over their campsite, waiting for the sun to transform it into steam that would scorch the soles of their feet and sear their backs, bringing swarms of jungle insects to torture and madden their daylight hours.
“Eh, compadre, please don’t look so discouraged.” He flashed a smile that softened the guttural tone of his broken English.
“We’ll find it today, you’ll see.”
“I don’t think so,” said Michael. “We haven’t seen the first sign of an emerald or anything else for three months now. I don’t think there are any. Your father was talking through the bottle. He had to be.”
“Ah, but yes, there are,” insisted EmeIio. “The mountains are full of them. I know it. My father—” He stopped stirring and glanced upward, crossing himself. “My father told me they were here, and if he said it, it is so—bottle or not–compradre, he saw them!”
“Then why the hell didn’t he dig them out himself?” grumbled Michael, staring with disgust at the mess Emelio was concocting for their breakfast and longing for some good old U.S.A. ham and eggs. Emelio was going to try to talk him out of leaving, he knew. The signs were all there. But this was going to be their last day in the Andes. It had to be. The money, his entire life savings, was nearly gone.
It was almost funny in a twisted sort of way. He’d been so sure he was going to go home a rich man. Emelio had convinced him, and now Daisy would have more to complain about, not that she needed more. He reached up and fingered the deepening crevices in his face that had changed, in the past three months, from mere indentations to a granite jaw line that had attracted more than one beautiful Colombian woman. He’d resisted so far, but much more of this and he’d probably fall into the same trap that had ensnared so many men—a wife in the U.S.A. and another in South America.
That might not be all bad. He smiled at the thought of having two wives, much less the logistics of it, but then he was instantly ashamed of himself. Daisy hadn’t really done anything wrong, other than constantly, relentlessly being Daisy. It was just, he often thought, too bad he hadn’t noticed the essence of the woman before they got married, instead of afterward.
He watched an armadillo at the edge of the clearing scratch through the brush, intent upon searching out its own food. His stomach lurched every time he watched Emelio cut the top from a ten-inch rhea egg, stir sugar into it and place it into the smoldering fraileiones ashes to bake. There was something so unnatural about an egg that large. One day, he was sure, Emelio would open one and find a live rhea inside. But it was too late to worry about that now. Along with boas and armadillos, rhea eggs were soon going to disappear into oblivion, as his savings had.
“The problem is, Emelio,” said Michael, trying once again to make him understand, “we’re about to run out of money.”
That was the worst part of it. The money. Ever since F.D.R. had taken over four years ago and the depression had begun to ease, and jobs were a little easier to come by, he’d been saving for a house with a yard for Leigh to play in. It had been a little easier since Detroit had begun building automatic transmissions this past year, because he was the only mechanic in Tucson who understood them. Things had looked pretty good, financially, until Emelio had come along.
Emelio flashed him another grin, the stains on his front teeth gleaming in the flickering fire. “But who can think on an empty stomach, eh? We’ll eat in a few minutes, okay? Then we’ll talk, after our bellies are full.” He turned away so Michael couldn’t see his face and hunched by the fire, humming under his breath.
Michael sighed heavily. “The thing is, America’s going to go to war in Europe again. I need to get home.”
Emelio glanced at him out of the corners of his eyes. “But that’s Europe, and if you just give it a little more time, you can go home a very rich man, war or not. You know in your heart this is true.”
“But we don’t have a little more time, Emilio. That’s what I’m trying to tell you.”
“Pah!” Emelio shook his head. “We don’t need money now. Just a very few days, compadre. Just a few more days.”
“That’s what you said last week,” muttered Michael, frustrated beyond endurance. The little runt was doing what he always did, deliberately misunderstanding. Ignoring reality, while he stirred his goddamned rhea eggs.
This had been the worst three months of Michael’s life, even worse than the months he’d spent after he’d left the orphanage in Tucson when he was fifteen and wound up eating out of trash cans left out in the streets overnight. He’d thought nothing could ever be that bad again, but this—the constant frustration, the unbearable heat, and the imminent danger of banditos hiding out in the mountains because of the civil unrest in Colombia—was worse. Much worse. Much more deadly. You could survive on somebody else’s leftovers, but you couldn’t survive a bullet in your gut. Or worse.
He did have to get home. This whole trip was nothing short of insanity. He had a wife and a brand-new daughter. Hitler was already stomping all over Europe destroying cities, persecuting his enemies every chance he got, and Roosevelt was going to drag the U.S.A. into it, no matter what the American papers said.
Visions of Daisy holding the baby with one arm while she fried ham and potatoes swam across his vision, only partially cutting off his view of the endless lush green vegetation of the Orinoco River basin. To the south, the jungle extended well over a hundred miles, where the lazy, drifting stream would eventually flow into the Amazon and become a rampaging torrent during the rainy season. They’d chopped and dug and sweated, and cursed and prayed over every inch of the jungle at the foot of the Andes, searching for the mother lode, Emelio had called it, his eyes glinting with feverish excitement when he’d first told Michael about it that night in Tucson, after they’d both consumed far too many glasses of beer.
It was probably the beer that had done it; Michael had never been able to drink more than a couple and stay on his feet. He’d only dropped by for one on his way home from work that night, but he’d found himself ignoring the clock listening, fascinated, to Emelio’s story.
The bar was great fun, noisy with clinking glasses and the ribald laughter of the men because it was Friday, and Friday was payday. And somehow Emelio’s story, at first far-fetched, had, in the course of four persuasive hours, become totally reasonable.
“You see,” Emelio had whispered, hunched over so nobody in the bar could see what he was doing. “These are the emeralds my father gave me. He found them at the base of the Andes, just these tiny ones, but there’s an unbelievably rich lode there!”
“How do you know he was telling the truth?” Michael glanced at the softly glowing stones with bored skepticism.
Emelio peered at him reproachfully and shook his head. “Compadre, he would never lie to me, his only son!”
“Then why didn’t he dig them up himself?” Michael took a sip of beer and leaned back, watching the men in the corner shouting over a game of craps.
Emelio lowered his voice even further. “He would have, but he had to come home and he got very sick before he could go back. That’s when he gave me the money to go.”
“And?” Michael watched him, still only mildly interested.
Emelio nodded. “I went. And I found more. Many more.”
“But only tiny ones,” said Michael. He glanced away to signal the waitress for another beer. The little runt might be a pain in the ass, but this beat sitting in a hot apartment.
The gray-white space around Emelio’s eyes drew Michael slowly back into the depths of his black pupils. “Yes, I agree, only tiny ones. But where there are tiny jewels, can there not be also very, very large ones hidden away where no man has ever seen them? Does this not stand to reason?”
“How the hell do I know?” asked Michael. “I’ve never even seen a big one. How big do they get?”
Emelio smiled. “Ah, compadre, they get very, very big, sometimes.”
“Sometimes? How big, Emelio?”
“One emerald,” said Emelio, “will make you rich. And where there is one, there are many, many more.”
“And how do we know where to look?” asked Michael in a half-mocking tone of voice, barely able to believe he was listening to this cock-and-bull story and taking this feverish, passionate man even halfway seriously. And yet…something about the look in Emelio’s eyes already had him spellbound. Ah, it couldn’t hurt anything to listen for a few more minutes…
“I have the map,” said Emelio. “All we need is a stake, a few hundred dollars to get us there and buy supplies.”
“How long do you think it would take?” asked Michael in spite of himself.
Emelio clutched the map and leaned so close Michael could feel the breath whooshing toward him in short, excited puffs. “Not long now. I would have found it already if it hadn’t been for”—he paused and crossed himself again—”the funeral.” Michael felt the hair at the back of his neck beginning to stand straight up from the intensity in Emelio’s voice. “Unbelievable riches are there, and it will be mine! If you come with me, if only you come with me, we will be partners. We’ll split it right down the middle!”
His words tumbled over themselves in his excitement. “It’s there, I know it’s there! At the foot of a mountain, see, one of them right here—” He pointed to the map again and took another swig of beer, grown warm and flat because they’d been talking for so long.” And we’ll both be rich. No, no, better than rich, compadre, much better than rich! No one in the whole United States of America will have as much money as we will. No one!”
Michael had nodded, lost in thought. Emelio had no money left. He couldn’t even get back to South America unless he walked. He’d taken his last few dollars to come back to Tucson, expecting to inherit more to continue his search, but there was no more money. There was only a map and a handful of tiny emeralds glowing in the dim bar light, enticing them with their ancient, hidden promise.
That night Michael laid awake wrestling with his conscience, but he was torn. He’d struggled for so long. He hadn’t wanted to settle down and get married in the first place, but Daisy had come along and she’d been so cute with her blonde hair and needy blue eyes; she’d seemed so fragile and helpless. But it wasn’t long after they were married and she’d become pregnant that the truth had dawned on him, stunning him with its harsh simplicity. Most of that little girl helplessness was nothing more than an act. Daisy, in reality, had turned out to be a prime manipulator.
She pretended not to understand the management of household money, which gave her an excuse to spend most of it before the bill collectors could get at it. She was “oh, just absolutely no good at this at all,” she’d say, while Michael looked on in confused disbelief at yet another charred dinner. But then she’d pat her stomach, swelled to unbelievable proportions with his child, and purr, “It must be the baby, Michael. Surely my condition has something to do with it. I’ll do so much better after the baby is born.”
But her condition hadn’t improved after Leigh was born, and neither had anything else. The only thing that had saved them from near extinction was the money Michael had squirreled away, hoping to at least get them out of that god-awful apartment with its tiny, dark rooms and the constant smell of everyone else’s dinner hanging in the air along with their wash.
Even when Leigh was born, Daisy had never questioned where the money had come from to pay the hospital bill. It was just there, as far as she was concerned, and Michael had no idea what to do about it. There was no solution. He had a wife and a child, and he was stuck.
All through that night, sitting in the bar until everyone else had gone home and Michael’s eyes could no longer focus, Emelio had kept insisting all he needed was three more months. He’d been over most of the mountains, had covered almost everything on the map, and he was certain, he’d insisted in his half-Colombian, half-American jargon, that he was almost on top of the lode. And now his wife, his beloved Lodora, was so sick… Yes, something was terribly wrong, something even the doctors in Bogota couldn’t fix. He had to find the emeralds so he could hire the best American doctors to make her well, then they could all move to America where his son could grow up and someday be president, yes! President.
All he needed was three more months, and Michael could be a part of it, if he was brave enough to take the chance. Michael would have half of a magnificent emerald mine and never have to worry about money again. And all he had to do was bring enough money to last them for three months. Only three months.
That wouldn’t be so terribly long, Michael thought, tossing and turning in the darkness. After that he’d have enough money to keep even Daisy happy. Enough to buy a beautiful home. Enough so his baby daughter, tiny Leigh, who was already showing signs of great intelligence, would have a secure future and education, even wealth if he could possibly manage it.
And he could.
By the time the first pale pink and turquoise streaks of morning light had washed the Tucson sky, his mind was made up. He’d invest the money he had hidden in the bank on the emerald search and go to Colombia and help Emelio find them. As a by-product, he’d get away from Daisy’s nonsense, if only for a little while. She’d understand. She’d have to. She had no choice in this matter. He was going.
The next afternoon he’d paid the apartment rent three months in advance, left enough money with the grocer to buy anything Daisy and Leigh might need, and deposited, with major reservations, enough money in their joint account to cover emergencies. The rest he’d pocketed; enough, by Emelio’s calculations, to buy supplies they’d need for three months, and left the apartment that night with the shrill sound of Daisy’s cries ringing in his ears.
He still heard that sound here at night in the damp, stifling blackness of the jungle, even while the howlers and the marmosets filled the air with their screeching, blood-curdling night calls, and the patoos’ melancholy wails echoed through the flame trees and settled around him, covering him with dismay. And it never stopped. Never. He was strangled by the jungle sounds and the humidity, and his own guilt twenty-four hours a day.
The majority of their time had been spent scouring the base of the mountains, scrambling into caves that hadn’t been seen by man for a thousand years and maybe more, dodging the swift, venomous fer-de-lance and the black mamba, stumbling over armadillos that hid, shivering, within the gnarled roots of the mushroom-shaped draucaria trees.
Now his money was gone, and he’d never been so damned miserable in his life. Even the thought of Daisy’s disorganization was suddenly welcome, as though now, after all this frustration, once he got back home, everything would miraculously be different and Daisy’s complaints would disappear along with all of their other problems. This jungle nightmare would become only an occasional, recurring memory.
Michael picked at his rice and sighed. It was over. There was no help for it. He’d have to make Emelio understand. They’d been searching for a dream, but now the dream was finished. It had probably all been the demented ravings of a sick man anyhow—after all, Emelio’s father had died of brain cancer. Maybe it had affected his mind years before. Maybe Emelio had just been chasing his father’s imagination.
And maybe, so had he.
He set his plate down. “Emelio…”
Emelio glanced up, wiped his mouth and grinned. “No time for talk now. We have a mountainside to cover before nightfall.”
Michael frowned. “We can’t cover the entire mountainside before nightfall. That will take another week, maybe more, and we don’t have—”
Emelio smiled and scraped the remains of their meal into the fire, then carefully covered it with dirt. He picked up his bedroll, avoiding Michael’s eyes. His shoulders were still, but Michael could see the muscles at the side of his neck working, expanding and contracting with controlled tension. “I know.” His voice was hushed as the still moments that always immediately followed the jungle daybreak. “I can count. But it’s here, you’ll see, right on the side of this mountain. It’s here. It has to be. I can feel it.”
“You’ve said that a dozen times a day, every day for the past month,” said Michael.
Emelio turned back toward Michael, his eyes bleak and pleading. “I know,” he admitted, “but I do feel it this time, I swear it. You must believe me, it’s here. It has to be.”
Michael eyed him. “And if it’s not?”
Emelio’s shoulders drooped. “If it’s not, compadre, then tomorrow we head home.”
They didn’t stop for lunch. Emelio sliced through the dense vegetation and plowed relentlessly on. Michael followed close behind, his stomach growling with hunger and sweat running down his back and legs, feeding the bugs that had attached themselves to his drenched torso. Finally, just as the sun was going down on the far side of the mountain, shooting streaks of gold and pink through the tops of the eucalyptus trees, and the animals were beginning to make faint, tentative sounds announcing the oncoming night, they stopped and stared at each other in mutual resignation.
“Well, compadre, I guess that’s it,” mumbled Emelio.
“I guess so,” said Michael, not sure whether he felt sorrier for Emelio or himself. There would be no emeralds this time or ever. It was over. The dream was only a dream.
He spotted a tiny gorge with a stream trickling through the blue-green ferns, the last rays of sunlight dancing on its clear water. “The hell with it,” he said. “I’m going to soak my feet. They feel like they’ve been run over by a herd of rutting horses.”
“Okay,” said Emelio. He stood with his back to Michael, still staring at the side of the mountain.
Michael sank down on a rock and peeled off his socks, then eased his blistered feet into the water, cringing at the icy-coldness. God, it felt wonderful! He lowered them all the way, then jerked his left foot back as it scraped against a sharp rock. He peered through the sluicing water to take a closer look at a gray-green rock about an inch and a half in diameter that appeared to be covered with algae.
“Look at this,” he said. “It must’ve been sitting here for a thousand years.” He lifted it out of the water and scraped at it with his fingernail, idly wondering if he should take it home as a souvenir, but as the algae began to peel off, taking the mud stains with it, he felt blood begin to race down through his arms and into his fingertips as if they’d suddenly taken on a life of their own.
The breath left his body in an involuntary whoosh, and he gaped at the softly glowing rock in astonishment. Suddenly, sweat on top of sweat gushed from every pore and he felt his eyes glazing over as he scrabbled frantically in the water’s edge, forcing hundreds of tiny neon tetra to flee to the other side. He dug wildly into the mud, scrambling between the other rocks, pulling first one, then another out of the water.
He threw back his head and laughed out loud in sheer triumph, and the sound of it bounced high up onto the mountainside and fell back down again into the dense jungle. “My God,” he shouted as Emelio came running. “It wasn’t on the mountainside at all! It was never in the mountains! Emelio, it’s been here, right here in this gully, all this time!”
Without a sound, Emelio dropped to his knees and made the sign of the cross as the last light of the day shot across the sky and straight into the massive emeralds Michael held in his trembling hand.
“Madre Dios,” he whispered. “My prayers are answered. My wife—she will be well now. My son will grow up in America! And I—I will be the richest of men. The richest man in the world!” He glanced at Michael and his face suddenly flushed with embarrassment. “I mean, we will be rich men. Rich!” he cried, as the sun dropped behind the mountains and darkness overcame them.
“Rich,” echoed Michael in a strangled voice, shivering as he caressed the emeralds. “Yes, we’re both rich now.”
San Francisco, California
Leigh Shaunnessey’s parents were at it again, ruining what should have been a peaceful, rainy Pacific Heights afternoon with another of their civilized disagreements. Their words spiraled across the dining room, reminding her of a roll of barbed wire ready to spring open and snag everything in its path.
The same discussion had been going on for months whenever her father was in town. Leigh tried to ignore them, but it was hard because she was one hundred percent on her father’s side. Yes, of course she wanted to go back to Colombia this summer the same as always. She’d spent almost her entire childhood in Bogota and she loved it there. Didn’t her mother understand anything?
Daisy rattled the women’s section of the Examiner with controlled complacency, as if she knew she’d win. Somehow she always managed to have her own way, although Leigh had yet to figure out exactly how, because her mother was almost always wrong.
No, not almost always, she corrected herself silently. Always.
Why did she pluck her eyebrows until there was only a thin line left? And her hair. Her mother’s hair was currently a deep chestnut red that bordered on mauve, swooped high up on the sides and over her forehead in a puff, falling back over her shoulders in a pageboy.
And her jewelry. As of this week, her mother had one hundred sixty-seven bracelets stashed in the safe behind the Vermeer that hung in the dining room. They had cost her father a small fortune, but her mother always said, ignoring his objections, “If you have it, why not spend it?”
“No, Michael, this time I’m putting my foot down, and I mean it. I will not spend another summer in South America.” Daisy raised her eyebrows another full quarter of an inch as she spoke, lowering her newspaper so Michael couldn’t miss the severity of her expression. “That cursed, lonely place has completely taken over our lives. I’m sick and tired of summering in Bogota, and Leigh barely has any time at all to spend with her friends.”
Michael’s eyes glittered. “That cursed place you’re referring to has managed to create a very comfortable lifestyle for us, in case you haven’t noticed. And it wouldn’t be so lonely if you’d bother to learn Spanish.” He headed across the room and poured himself a vodka on the rocks.
Leigh eyed the almost-empty bottle as he set it back on the bar, wondering if he drank this early in the day in Bogota when he was alone. She’d bet anything he didn’t.
“How you could’ve lived there off and on all these years without picking up even one simple phrase is beyond me.” He searched in the tiny refrigerator under the bar for a slice of lime, swearing softly when he saw there was none.
Daisy raised the paper, cutting off his view of her eyes. “And how you can call existing in Bogota ‘living’ is beyond me.”
Leigh sighed. Her father had told her, one afternoon when her mother had gone to play canasta and he’d come home unexpectedly, that it was much easier to manage the mine without her mother’s constant discontent meeting him head-on every time he came back in from the mine to Bogota. On the other hand, flying back home to California every month was making him weary. She could see it, even if her mother couldn’t. The flesh around his eyes was looking darker every time she saw him.
“Two months out of the year doesn’t seem like much of a sacrifice to me,” Michael insisted. “You’ve said yourself, you don’t really miss anything by not being in San Francisco in the summer. Why is it that just as Leigh is beginning to take a real interest in the mine, you’re dragging your heels over spending the summer months in Colombia?”
Daisy dismissed his words with an airy wave of her hand. “There isn’t one single thing about that mine that interests me, Michael, and I’m sure Leigh feels the same way.”
“You’re interested enough in the money. Daisy, I don’t like leaving the two of you alone so much.”
Daisy gave him a small, triumphant smile. “But we’re not alone, Michael. Yan and Loo are always here.”
Michael simmered with frustration. Damn the woman. Didn’t she understand the months away from his family were taking their toll on everything? It wasn’t so much that he missed the sex at this point in their lives. After all, he and Daisy had been married for fifteen years now. The excitement had long ago gone out of their lives; nowadays her attitude was more of, “Oh, crap, he’s home again. Well, I may as well dab on a little Chanel, and lie back and let him do it.”
It was nothing at all like her passion when he’d come home from Colombia carrying a quarter of a million dollars worth of raw emeralds in his duffel bag that first summer. She’d really turned into a hot number then, and she hadn’t wasted any time about it. She’d turned, for a very short while, into an insatiable sex machine, and had immediately, while he wasn’t looking, torn through their bank account as though she were an island hurricane, flattening everything in her path.
Big money had ruined her. The San Francisco merchants knew who had money and who didn’t, so she just ordered whatever she wanted. The United States Post Office presented the bills to him with unerring regularity, and he paid them without comment. Like Sherman, she might have lost a few battles, but she’d won the war.
It was sad, the way those emeralds had changed everything. He’d wondered many times what their lives might have been like if he’d just pitched that first one back into the creek and walked on without saying anything.
“Okay,” he said, “but what about Leigh? She can come with me. She’ll be fine. I can take care of her.”
She was the one he really wanted with him in Bogota, anyhow. She’d turned out to be a real winner, as he’d predicted. Smart as hell and then some. She’d be the perfect one to take over running the mine someday, he was certain. After all, he’d been training her for years.
Daisy folded the women’s section into a neat little rectangle and laid it on the table. “Michael, Leigh needs to be here with me. Maybe we’ll come over Thanksgiving. Won’t that be nice?”
Michael felt the lines around his eyes deepening. “It’d be nicer if I had more time with her. Look, I’ve spent the past two years teaching her how to run the mine. She’s going to have to know these things some day, you must realize that.”
Daisy snorted. “She doesn’t need to know any more about bugs and snakes, Michael, and what else is there in Colombia?”
Michael sighed heavily. Last summer he’d taught Leigh all about his emeralds—where to dispose of the tiny chips that frequently resulted from the digging because emeralds were prone to shatter if the edge of the shovel or the smallest hammer tapped them the wrong way.
He’d taught her, with astonishing ease, how to estimate the weight of one large gemstone held in the palm of her hand. And how to check the clarity and the perfection, although he’d never seen a perfect one because there were always inclusions, small flaws visible to the naked eye.
He’d taught her that the money was in the cut, and he’d taken her with him to Max Steinhem, a dealer in San Francisco, to make sure she knew how to sell the large ones for the best price.
And he’d taught her to balance a checkbook. This summer he was planning to teach her how to keep books, Shaunnessey style.
“She needs to learn the financial aspect of the business,” he insisted.
“Why can’t Emelio do that? He is the other half of your partnership after all.”
“Emelio’s no good at managing money, Daisy, and you know it. He pays no attention to the mine at all anymore. He spends all his time drowning his sorrows in tequila and Colombian beer. He never draws much money out. I can’t for the life of me figure out what he lives on.”
“Well, if Emelio wants to let his money build, that’s his privilege, isn’t it?” She lowered her paper and stared him down. “Michael, financial matters are so boring. What makes you think Leigh wants to spend her summer with her nose stuck in a set of books?” She shook her head. “No. It’s out of the question.”
Michael leaned over the bar to stir his drink and eyed his daughter, who was at this moment engrossed in reading the Sunday front page. “How about it, Leigh,” he coaxed. “Do you want to go to Colombia with your dad this summer?”
Leigh glanced up from the front page and grinned, knowing her answer would make her mother furious. “Si, Señor.” She giggled under her breath because she spoke impeccable Spanish, had since she was two years old, although she kept that fact carefully hidden from her mother.
Daisy frowned. “Leigh, speak English. And put something on besides those awful blue jeans. Someone might drop in.”
“Yes, ma’am.” Leigh turned back to focus on the paper, which was a lot more interesting right now than anything her mother might have to say.
The Republican National Committee had nominated Thomas Dewey as their candidate and the Examiner had given him a full half of the front page. He almost, in a way, looked Spanish, which appealed to her, but her money was still on Truman. According to the Examiner, Truman had introduced a civil rights bill to Congress that might backlash against him, but she thought not. People would just have to realize prejudice would only hold up the country’s progress.
Political news fascinated her. It had ever since she’d discovered at age eight, that she understood what she was reading and had her own opinions on all of it. Right now, she was totally convinced she could take better care of the country than the current politicians, and she intended to someday. She might only be thirteen—her mother reminded her of that often enough— but she knew what she wanted just the same.
Michael was scowling. “Stop clouding the issue, Daisy. You heard her. She wants to go to Bogota this summer. Right, Leigh?” He eyed her. “You want to see Girardo, don’t you?”
Si, she thought, but she contented herself with a quiet, “Yes, I like Girardo. He’s very nice.”
Michael nodded. Of course she liked Girardo. The two of them had been friends since they were babies. They’d grown up together until early 1941, when even Daisy had been forced to admit the U.S.A. was going to war in Europe. F.D.R. had stockpiled arms and planes and ships, and when the general public realized he was sending them to England, they’d known there was no question about it. They were going to be sucked right into war.
The Colombian newspapers had printed things the papers in the U.S.A. hadn’t, and Daisy had taken that opportunity to do what she’d been wanting to do all along. She’d forced him to buy this mansion in Pacific Heights, and had insisted upon taking Leigh back to the States for good. Then the Japanese had stunned the world with their attack on Pearl Harbor, leaving the west coast wide open to attack, but Daisy refused to leave, always insisting—completely disregarding the fact that she’d be far safer in Bogota than anywhere on the American west coast—that if she were going to be killed, she couldn’t bear for it to be on foreign soil.
Daisy expelled an exasperated sigh. “Michael, Leigh does not need to see Girardo. He’s a good boy, yes, but you know as well as I do he’s been running wild ever since his mother died. Don’t you have eyes?”
“He doesn’t run wild, Mother.” Leigh’s voice shot across the room. “He’s been working since he was a little boy, that’s all.”
“But, Leigh, Girardo doesn’t have to work.” Daisy’s eyebrows formed two wavy lines across her forehead like question marks lying on their side. “I can’t understand why he bothers, when he doesn’t have to.”
“He wants to, Mother. Is it so wrong to want to work?”
Daisy gave an offended sniff. “No, but you should be spending time here, playing with my friends’ children. One day you’ll be making your debut with them, and you need to start nourishing those friendships now.”
Leigh gave a soft groan. “Mother, I don’t want a debut. You know that.”
Her parents’ voiced faded as Leigh looked away from her mother and up at the crystal chandelier that hung over their heads at every meal. It made her nervous whenever the ground beneath them shook even a little bit. She couldn’t begin to imagine trying to dig out of the mess this room alone would make if there were a big earthquake. Everything, absolutely everything in the entire mansion, was either baroque or ruffled, or had feathers in it.
She glanced quickly back down at her newspaper, remembering the Boyles’ dining room and how comfortable she always felt there, even when she was mad at Boo. The last time she redecorated, Mrs. Boyle had simply called Grosvenor House in London and let them handle the whole thing. As a result, her dining room was the same as she was—simple, uncluttered, genuine. So elegant you were intimidated by the smell the minute you entered the room.
Leigh felt her cheeks burn as she suddenly understood. The big difference between the Boyle’s home and this one was the unmistakable smell of old money. Old money and family background, and try though her mother might to fake it, there was no substitute for either one. After all, anyone who had any of the old money knew who had the rest of it, and no one else counted. Why couldn’t her mother see that? A debut would be a monstrous, hideous joke.
Her parents’ voices filtered back onto her consciousness, and she looked up to see Daisy give Michael a bright, innocently pleased smile as if the matter had been settled to everyone’s satisfaction.
“Michael, everything will be just fine. Leigh and I will stay home this summer, and we’ll fly down over the holidays. It’ll be ever so much nicer then, when the weather’s a little cooler. And Leigh will have plenty of time to visit with her little Colombian friend.”
* * *
The scenes in this document are copyrighted by Beth Anderson and may not be reproduced anywhere for any reason without express permission from the author.