Chapter One Thousand Nine Hundred Eighty-Seven
22nd May 1970
Pacoima, Los Angeles, California
“Have you two lost your minds?” Ritchie asked as they concluded telling him about how they had finally managed to nail down the complete guestlist for the wedding next month.
“Hardly” Lucia said, “And it was the least we could do considering.”
“These are your friends Richard” Concha said, “Why wouldn’t they be invited.”
Lucia had understood that Ritchie was starting a new career and had been working nights, so he had had little time to play much of an active role in their wedding. His mother had been perfectly happy to step in and help. The trouble was that whenever any of her children were involved, Ritchie’s mother had always swung for the fences and his wedding to Lucia had been no different. Concha had somehow gotten ahold of General Hicks, the Commanding Officer of the 1st Special Forces Group and had asked for his help in contacting “Richie’s friends” as if they were a Little League Baseball Team.
Ritchie knew that Hicks couldn’t have told her the names of current and former members of the 1st SFG for reasons of National Security. But Hicks could still talk to them himself and give them the option of contacting her. It seems that they had, because why wouldn’t they? Richie knew how they thought. A party in sunny California with free food and beer. All they would have to do in return was sit through the wedding of a friend. That was no hardship, especially after the long winter in Upstate New York that most of them had just endured.
“I guess I ought to thank you” Ritchie said, “Just you should have told me before you did this.”
“So, you have learned some manners over the years” Concha replied, “Now we just need to nail down Father Martinez.”
“I’ll need to take care of it” Ritchie said, annoyed that he even needed to. The Father had judged Lucia harshly for something that had happened to her a few years earlier. Eventually, she had told Ritchie the whole story. He had reached the conclusion that not only wasn’t it as big a deal as the rumors had suggested, but the way that Father Martinez had treated her had far more to do with her rejecting his advice at the time. A man who presented himself as humble yet couldn’t get past his own ego. Ritchie seen that sort of thing dozens of times and this was no different. Lucia had a past, well, so did Ritchie. The difference was that much of what he had done in the various undeclared wars around the globe would be far more damning if those like Father Martinez ever wanted to be truly consistent in what they condemned.
“Just do me a favor” Ritchie said, “Wait until I get back before you call the Vatican.”
With that Ritchie headed for the door grumbling under his breath swear words in a half dozen languages he had learned over the years.
They could hear the car that Ritchie drove start and the sound of the engine fading as he drove up the street, away from the house. It was the old Chevy Nova that Bob had given up on, only to have Ritchie come home and fix it up. That had caused quite a bit of grumbling because Ritchie had paid cash for the car but only the value of it in its previously inoperable state. Concha had told Bob that there was a serious lesson to be learned and he had left the car parked in the driveway in front of the house for months, but her oldest son had not been interested in hearing it.
“Would you really call the Vatican?” Lucia asked.
“No” Concha replied, “I got lucky. Jay Parker found out through the grapevine that Ritchie was getting married and he put me in touch with General Hicks.”
“Clever” Lucia said, “I would have never thought of doing that.”
“That is why you always need to ask.”
“Even if they say no?”
“Especially if they no” Concha replied, “I also learned that Jay’s girlfriend or whatever she happens to be, they were a bit vague on that, happens to be the Aunt of the mysterious Kiki who sent Ritchie that bulletproof vest.”
“You do know that vest is supposedly state of the art” Lucia said, “According to Mr. Wilkinson, it may have been illegal to ship it out of Germany. She was able to sidestep that somehow.”
“I know” Concha said, “That is why I sent her an invitation.”
“You understand that Ritchie asked us to stop asking questions about her” Lucia said, “That she was an acquaintance who he knew professionally from the Army, nothing more and that her real Kristina von something or other and that she is more trouble than either of us can imagine.”
“She seemed nice when she called the other day and said she was coming” Concha said, “She said the call was international, but she was at her older brother’s house in Prague, so she had plenty of time to talk because he was the one getting stuck with the bill.”
“That definitely sounds like what one of Ritchie’s friends would do” Lucia replied, “Most of them are troublemakers of some sort.”
“Yes” Concha said, “And I figure that this woman is no different. Ritchie said that she another member of Special Forces, just in the Germany Army. Of course, she talked like those women you see on the British television shows they play on public television, so it ought to be interesting to have a face to go with that voice.”