It had been at one of the lavish soirees held at the country estate of Stephen McKibbon that I met her. What struck me was the raspy laugh, a chortle accented with a slight side tilt of her head. I had fallen for the most glamorous woman west of the Canadian River. Her look gave a sense of an Arabian mare ready for show with her thick, shiny hair brushed into a sleek ponytail. The way she carried herself, the svelte figure developed from years of playing girls’ basketball, the well-portioned nose and full lips, she had it all. That she was an outsider of sorts, not part of the oil money crowd, added to her mystique, but she was the best friend of Maggie McKibbon and Maggie made certain Violet Mae was always on the guest list at her daddy Stephen’s no holes barred parties where the mink stoles were thrown over the sofa and the boozy punch was served in Rosenthal stemmed and gilded cups. Violet Mae would flaunt her sensual natural beauty and relish in her quick wit and winsome ways to attract the attention of the fine gentlemen of Eldorado County. I was immediately drawn to her after seeing her in a flirty exchange with a well-turned dinner guest and hearing her laugh. I had to meet her.
I had begun my law practice recently and was farming wheat on the side. Landing Stephen McKibbon as a client had been quite the coup, a high dollar client right off the bat. When he inquired at my old law school who in the county could sort out mineral rights, my name was floated. Stephen McKibbon and I immediately established a positive rapport and I went right to work tracking mineral ownership of large swathes of land in Eldorado County for him. Being on the guest list of McKibbon’s parties was a rather delightful by-product of the business relationship. This Saturday night found me at his latest dinner party mustering up the nerve to introduce myself to Violet Mae.
With her conversation ended, she pulled out a long, slim cigarette from her red velvet hand bag. I stepped up to her side and pulled out my gold-plated Zippo, an indulgence as a man about town, and lit her cigarette. As she released a quick, puffy drag, she looked me straight in the eyes and said, “Why, aren’t you a long drink of mint iced tea on a hot afternoon.” I managed strangely, “Thank you, my pleasure. Hmm, I’m Byron Basille. “Well, Mr. Byron Bastille, I’m Violet Mae Baker.” Her hands, poised and perfectly manicured with a ruby red nail polish, fascinated me as she balanced a cup of rum punch and held her cigarette. There was an ease in her cocktail stance and her charm sparkled Southern belle attitude. I nervously suggested freshening our drinks and offered my arm. We strolled to the punch bowl. Her aura was so compelling and the perfumed scent of her Shalimar found me completely enamoured. On top of all that, I liked her double name, a name I could get used to saying.
Where money flowed like an oil well gushing black gold and privilege came with the lifestyle, I came to learn what I knew of about wealth was only surface deep and to drill down would be an education in itself. I knew in researching mineral ownership Violet Mae’s daddy held at least the deed to his 460 acre ranch but I also knew that he was a rancher, not an oil baron, and there was a huge difference. Wealth like Stephen McKibbon’s was vastly different from doing well ranching and the off chance of receiving royalty checks. The cattle industry couldn’t begin to match oil production earnings in the heyday times.
After Violet Mae and Maggie finished their days playing high school basketball where they’d often wind up in playoffs they were so good, Violet Mae helped on her dad’s ranch and showed her calves at the Eldorado County Fair. She spent many days working on her show jumping skills too, training the ranch’s small barn of thoroughbreds. She took classes on and off at the local extension of Okahoma A&M. I knew if her daddy would ever contract with an oil company to explore his land, the course of Violet Mae’s lifestyle might be significantly altered.
With drinks full we began to visit. It was euphoric. She talked of her favorite horse sweetly and her stubborn calves with humorous consternation. She asked about my wheat crop and how was that going since it hadn’t rained for days. She laughed when I replied I might need to check if she and her dad needed a hand if the bottom fall out of the wheat crop prices.
Just when I felt an ease with her, she suddenly screamed. There was a gunshot shattering the elegance of the mega-sized living room full of the well-heeled residents from around the county and I saw Stephen McKibbon fall to the floor. My high dollar client and the daddy of Violet Mae’s best friend had been shot.