Yesterday’s trail ride had been fun, but it had been a long day, and I was sore from so many hours in the saddle after an extended hiatus from riding. Miles let me sleep in – I love that guy! – so, it was mid-morning before I stumbled into my office to start my day’s work.
First on the agenda was contacting Didi. I fished her business card out of my pocket and dialed the number.
After identifying myself, I had to listen to five minutes of how grateful Didi was for my support at the last meeting of the writers’ group Lost in the Words. https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2019/09/01/still-searching-for-answers/
Didi’s voice was strained. “You have no idea how nasty Arthur can be. He treats everyone as if they were untalented hacks – even Lavinia, who has been writing best-selling romance books for the last three decades – but he seems to have singled me out for especially harsh critiques and scornful treatment. If not for the other members, I think I would have quit Lost in the Words and given up on writing.”
“Well . . .” I tried to put it tactfully. “I do agree that Arthur’s treatment of all the writers in the group – you in particular – was disgraceful. However, he did have a point about your contribution. It was riddled with misspellings and grammatical errors, and those seemed to be the least of the problems.”
Didi sighed. “I know. I just threw it together in five minutes before coming to the meeting. I wasn’t very inspired after the way Arthur treated me at the meeting before that one. Trust me, though, it could have been an absolutely perfect excerpt from the works of Charles Dickens, William Shakespeare, Leo Tolstoy, Jane Austin – any of the greats – and Arthur still would have nit-picked it to death.”
I grunted. “He really seems to have a problem. More than one, actually. Yesterday, a group of my friends and I went to another friend’s horse farm for a trail ride, and Arthur was there.”
Didi snorted. “I didn’t think Arthur knew one end of a horse from the other, although I do think his actions remind me of one end.”
I laughed. “Well, he wasn’t there for the ride. Actually, we discovered him creeping around in the bushes.”
“What? Why on earth would he be creeping around in the bushes?”
“He was doing his due diligence, as he termed it. He was researching a story, a story that we were informed you are actually going to write.”
The silence was deafening. Finally, Didi replied. “Ummm . . . you must mean the human-interest story about the blind boy and his therapy horse.”
“Yes, that’s the story. Anna, the boy’s mother, told me you contacted her about it, and you told her you were a friend of mine.”
“I . . . I may have dropped your name.” From the sound of her voice, I could picture Didi blushing beet red.
“How did you learn of Colton and Blue, and how did you know I was friends with Anna and Colton?”
Didi hesitated, but then sighed and the words rushed out. “I found Arthur’s notebook in the parking lot before the last meeting of Lost in the Words. He must have dropped it. When I picked it up, I swear I was only checking it to see to whom it belonged. I wasn’t going to read it, but it just fell open to his notes on Colton and the pony. A name was in there, listed as a friend of the boy and his mother, and a possible source for background information and quotes. When you were introduced at the meeting, I realized you were the person named in the notes. Marge, you have to believe me – when I first read Arthur’s notes, I wasn’t planning on stealing his story. But then he embarrassed me so badly in front of everyone . . . again . . . I decided to get even with him by scooping him on this story. And after the support you gave me when Arthur was so vicious toward me, I rationalized that I could stretch the truth a little and claim we were friends.”
“Well, I don’t condone it, but I certainly understand. But when Arthur found out you were doing the story, he called you a hack. Anna got upset and asked me to help you with the article.”
“Well, I really don’t need any help, but I do understand Anna not trusting me if Arthur bad-mouthed me. So, I guess I’ll accept any help you care to give me.”
Didi told me she had arranged the interview with Colton for two o’clock that afternoon. I told her I would meet her there.
As I hung up the phone, I turned and saw Dragon waiting at the door to my office. “Was that Didi?” She motioned toward the phone.
I nodded. “She’s interviewing Colton and Anna this afternoon. I told her I’d meet her there.”
“You will be careful, will you not? I do not trust that Arthur has so quickly and easily relinquished his claim on the story.”
“I’ll keep a sharp eye on the bushes.” I winked.
Dragon nodded somberly. “Perhaps I should accompany you. Two pairs of sharp eyes on the bushes are better than one.”
I nodded. “Maybe Cleric would like to come, too.”
Dragon considered this for a moment, then nodded. “I will go ask her.”
I told Dragon we would leave directly after lunch.
We pulled into Anna’s driveway just behind Didi. Anna and Colton were in the yard waiting for us. Once the introductions were made, Anna invited us inside where she had refreshments set up in the living room.
After some general chit-chat, Didi set up a tape recorder and began the interview. I was surprised at her professional yet warm handling of the session. She quickly put Anna and Colton at ease and asked thought-provoking questions. She learned of Colton’s blindness and the number of unsuccessful surgeries over the years as the doctors tried to give him the sight he had lacked since birth.
Colton was very forthcoming as they discussed his feelings of isolation, and how his first therapy pony, Peaches, had helped him. Colton told Didi how much he loved Peaches, and how devastated he was by his pony’s death.
Then Didi led Anna and me into a discussion of how we had found Blue. Dragon and Cleric, in their alter-egos of Dray and Clara, joined in the conversation as well. We did not mention the history my characters and I had had with Peaches, whom we had originally known as Mystery. https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2019/04/28/sad-news/
Nor did I mention how we had learned of the auction where we found Blue. https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2019/05/05/a-new-mystery/
We did explain how I had talked Anna into going with us and several other friends to an auction, how we had found Blue, and what transpired since that night.
We then told Didi about yesterday’s trail ride, keeping all the information about Arthur strictly off the record. https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2019/10/20/will-arthur-be-a-problem/
“How bizarre!” Didi shook her head. “But, really, nothing that man does can surprise me.” She turned her attention back to Colton. “Well I’m sorry I wasn’t here for the trail ride, Colton. It sounds like you and Blue were great together. I would have loved to get some photos of the two of you on the trail to accompany the article.”
“We could go out on the trail now, and you could get some photos.” Colton sounded hopeful.
Anna chided her son. “Colton, no one has their horse here today. I don’t even know if Didi rides.”
“I’m afraid I don’t.” Didi furrowed her brow. “But, if it’s okay with you, maybe I can walk out on the trail a little way with Colton and Blue and take some pictures.” When she saw Anna’s worried look, she hastened to assure her. “We’ll be ever so careful, and maybe one of you could come with us and make sure Colton is safe.”
“Mom?” Colton’s voice was beseeching.
Anna sighed. “Well, okay. I’ll come with you and keep Blue on a lead-line.”
Colton’s face crumpled. “Aw, mom! How will that look in the pictures? Like I’m a little kid being led around on some pony-ride mount. Didi and her readers want to see that Blue is as great as we told her he is!”
I laughed. “Colton, I’m sure your mom will take the lead off Blue as soon as you’re posed for the photos.” I looked at Anna and raised my eyebrow questioningly.
Anna shot me a look that clearly said she wished I had consulted her before saying anything to her son, but finally she capitulated. “Okay, as long as Blue seems calm, and I’m convinced nothing will spook him.”
Colton whooped, and jumped out of his seat. “I’ll go get my jacket.”
Once he had his jacket, Colton proudly led us outside and went to get Blue. The boy had an ear-to-ear grin as he maneuvered alone across the yard, opened the gate to the paddock, snapped a lead onto Blue’s halter, and started to lead him toward the group.
As Yogi Berra would say, what happened next was déjà vu all over again.
Be sure to come back next week to see what happened. We’ll leave the porch light on for you.