At about one PM the next day, which was a Tuesday, the new and improved Gil emerged from the mansion on Mulholland into the bright mid-June sunshine and already oppressive heat of the southern California summer. He seemed to possess a new self-confidence, a clarity of vision he had not known for years. He was emotionally much buoyed by having gotten his foot in the door with Natalie last night and he resolved to continue to press his advantage. Upon reflection he realized that he seemed to have achieved a new rapport with his loving wife—something that had been missing, he now realized, since the early eighties when they were just beginning to make their names albeit modestly in the Hollywood scene.
It had now been about four days since his return from his futuristic and educational voyage of the previous Friday night which to him had lasted three days and surprisingly he felt the better for it. His temporary disorientation had faded away and his rather paranoid— as he now saw it—suspicion of the norns’ intentions had also dissolved. Since his visit from the soit-disant Mr. Nornstein the day before he felt confidant that the norns were on his side, or at least he was on theirs. If it was good to be the king, it was certainly just as good to be favored by the king, he thought.
He exited the house by the kitchen door after kissing Natalie goodbye with a passion and fervor that had been missing of late. He usually left the house through the kitchen in order to admire the spacious lawns, gardens and landscaping done by Mr. Vargas, the live-in gardener, who with his minions took care of the entire estate outside of the house and the pool area. Mr. Vargas, a widower well into his sixties but still apparently strong and healthy and clear of mind, inhabited the guest house all year round. In the summer months he was joined by Hector, the rather enigmatic pool boy who shared his quarters.
As he walked around the pool area, he noticed that the ever-grinning Hector was in his usual place swishing his legs in the pool, his eyes seemingly focused on nothing in particular. Gil flashed Hector a grin of his own and gave him a modest salute, which Hector returned in a rather diffident manner. It was obvious that he was waiting for the main event, which would be Natalie in her skimpy tight-fitting white swimsuit, settling herself into the poolside chaise lounge for her afternoon ritual of sun, margaritas, and flirting with Hector. Whether this flirting went any further Gil didn’t know and didn’t want to know. Let sleeping dogs lie was his motto, and Natalie was obviously the big dog that should remain placated.
As he walked down the path that led from the pool past the garden toward the oversized garage, he noticed that Mr. Vargas was digging in the garden weeding it, he supposed, or something like that. He didn’t really pay that much attention.
It was a strange relationship he had with Natalie, he thought. They had purchased the large mansion on Mulholland—sixteen rooms, pool, four-vehicle garage and large guesthouse, not to mention the large expanse of grounds that covered at least half an acre. Natalie was an urban type, caring little for landscaping—trees and that sort of thing—though she did love fresh flowers from the garden. She had grown up in an environment totally opposite from Gil, who was product of Ben Allyn, a small Pennsylvania town just north of Philadelphia in an area which contained extensive woods that surrounded the ramshackle but spacious farmhouse. Natalie had grown up and in fact lived practically all her life before coming to LA, in New York City on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. So the purchase of the mansion about five years ago when they had become rich from their movie efforts and Money’s shrewd investments was mainly Natalie’s idea. She wanted a big place, a showplace, that would cement hers and Gil’s position as major Hollywood players. She even named the mansion FineHall after the legendary PickFair, once owned by Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks Sr.
And that was where Mrs. Sibolboro came in. She was that rare commodity—a world-class cook with a knowledge and skill at most of the recognized international cuisines who hadn’t turned pro. She was a widow, only in her fifties, and when her much-older husband had died suddenly of a heart attack she found her home and life empty since her children had all long since grown and moved away. So more because she needed something to occupy her mind and time than for financial necessity, she had made her availability as cook and light housekeeper known to a number of agencies in the Los Angeles area that placed domestic help. Natalie had discovered and quickly hired her shortly after they had bought FineHall, but soon discovered that she had a problem: shortly after having moved in—for her employment arrangement included room and board—she had complained about the lack of anything really to do.
There were only two people to cook for, Gil and Natalie, and they only ate a home maybe about half the time and then usually only requesting one cooked meal per day. So that was when Natalie hit upon the plan of hosting elaborate dinners several times a month for anywhere from eight to sixteen additional guests. This not only kept Mrs. S. happy giving her something to do as she planned the menus, cooked most of the food, and supervised the hired caterers who accomplished the more menial tasks of prep, serving and cleanup. To sweeten the pot, Natalie allowed Mrs. S. to throw lavish parties and other functions of her own for the extensive Los Angeles Filipino community when Gil and Natalie were attending some Hollywood function or other, which was often. She even allowed Mrs. S. to pay for the food, drink and caterers at her events out of the lavish household account. Thus domestic tranquility and efficiency were assured and preserved and had been for some time.
Gil thought about all of this as he reached the garage and opened it with the electronic device he always carried with him. Then, climbing into his baby, his cherry-red classic ’56 Ford Thunderbird convertible, he roared down the driveway and out the gate.