(This one picks up where the last left off – at a sudden impediment to the splendid wedding at the historic Gonzalez Family home rancho, where Dr. Mindy is about to wed … or not … her peripatetic treasure-hunting swain…)

He barely heard Araceli’s reply, as he took off his chef’s apron, ditched the towel tucked into the waistband, and cast a regretful look back at the towering and ornamental cake as he stalked out into the main kitchen – was this project all for naught, after all? Was this an even bigger and more extensive potential disaster than most every event at the Walcotts’? It certainly seemed as if it had that potential.

“… she thought that you were …” the rest was lost behind him as he stormed out through the kitchen and across the back veranda of the Rancho HQ house, even as he took a moment to consider Katie and her prolonged … whatever it was. His lovely and even-tempered Kate seemed to be annoyed with him, although he couldn’t for the life of him figure out why.

All seemed in order for a country wedding, as he crossed through the venue – the tables, the pavilion, even a temporary floor laid down for dancing, and past a large burly middle-aged chap in clerical black and white, extracting himself by easy stages from behind the wheel of a somber-colored Mercedes sedan.

“God bless the day,” that gentleman remarked as Richard passed nearby. He sounded Irish, although the brogue had been softened and tenderized as it was by long residence in Texas. “I am expected, d’y’see – for the blessing of a marriage of this house and consecration of the chapel? I am arrived at the right locality on the correct day?”

“You are,” Richard answered, much harried. “Although there is trouble in the wind, I am afraid. Richard Astor-Hall. Caterer and best man for the groom … it seems that the bride and groom have plans which come as a surprise to the bride’s guardian and host for this magnificent affair. I have been sent to bring the groom to the family parlor …”

“Say no more, indade,” the clerical gentleman replied, with a commiserating look. “And if I had a free drink for any contretemps that I have arrived in the middle of, I’d be drowned in a vat of good whiskey. Tommy Mulvaney is my name, Bishop for Karnes County is my station. I’ll show myself in, Mr. Hall, as I am expected – I thank you for the warning of trouble. Forewarned is forearmed, as the old saying goes.”

The good bishop briskly trotted up the back stairs to the main house, and Richard turned his mind to his errand – that of fetching the blushing bridegroom to a sudden conference. He knocked politely on the door to Gunnison-Penn’s aging and travel-battered RV, and upon hearing a response from within, opened the side door and stepped up the rickety metal stairs to the mobile abode.

“Xavier, they need you in the parlor, tout suite – your host for this magnificent affaire has just found out about your plans for a peripatetic honeymoon and your darling bride’s plans to scarper from her university position…”

“But…but … I thought it was all settled…” a shirtless and bare-chested Xavier Gunnison-Penn emerged from a narrow doorway farther down the interior of the cramped and rather grubby-looking RV which Richard assumed housed the WC and associated conveniences, as the former wiped off the last line of shaving cream from his cheek. The usually rather ratty-looking beard was neatly trimmed and shaped for the occasion. Richard was impressed. The most famous unsuccessful treasure-hunter in the western world actually looked relatively handsome; resemblance to a somewhat thinner Colonel Saunders of the chain fried-chicken franchise notwithstanding.

“Apparently not,” Richard answered. The eccentric treasure hunter was comprehensively not one of his favorite people in Luna City, but he wanted very much for the wedding to continue as planned as otherwise Araceli would be ripping strips off his hide for the foreseeable future, as this concerned her academic and otherwise unmarriageable Cousin Mindy. “And the Bishop is here, so make yourself decent.”

“Oh, right,” the prospective bridegroom shrugged on a neatly ironed and starched short-sleeved shirt, of the open-necked kind with the elaborate pattern of tucks and stitching down the front and on the sleeves locally popular for a certain kind of casual yet official event. “Thanks, Astor-Hall. How do I look?” he added as he fastened the final button.

“Ready for anything,” Richard answered. “Your lady awaits … in the parlor, but you may stand just outside of it, so that you need not actually break pre-wedding protocol.”

“It was all sorted, I thought,” Gunnison-Penn fussed, as he and Richard left the RV and headed across the yard to the house. “Mindy assured me that it was understood – she was owed a sabbatical or two from the university before her retirement … I thought that had been explained to her grandfather!”

“Obviously, not in words that he comprehends, or perhaps it has not sunk entirely in,” Richard replied, though tight lips, and Gunnison-Penn continued as if he had not heard a word, as Richard led him through the crowded kitchen and into the dark interior corridor beyond. Richard did not know the Rancho HQ house any farther than that – fortunately, there were the sounds of voices to guide him: female sobbing, an irate male voice from behind the farthest door, and both Abuelita Adeliza and Araceli beckoning him urgently from the end of that hallway.

“Besides that,” Gunnison-Penn yammered at his elbow, “I have definite information as to the possible whereabouts of a great fortune in precious jewels and coin stolen from a Mughal treasure fleet … a treasure of importance to India and to the British Isles, and a solution to a mystery four centuries old!”

“India and the Isles, you say?” And that was the interested voice of the Bishop himself, now looming up in the doorway at the end of the corridor. “A pirate treasure! God save the day! They say among my kin back in Kildare that the founder of our own family fortune was a pirate! Long Tom Mulvaney, they called him. There is a long ballad-lament about his hanging in Derry in 1725, for he was a handsome man, and beloved of the ladies. It wasn’t that he was that tall, y’see; the ‘long’ referred to … another physical endowment. Look you – no need to come within. Your bride is there … ah, you are not the groom? Sorry, so it is this other chappie…”

It was completely admirable, thought Richard, that the Bishop kept his bland countenance throughout the following exchange. Must have been something about those cold showers, vigils in the wee hours, and the discipline of regular ritual. He and Gunnison-Penn stood in the hallway together, a little removed from Abuelita Adeliza hovering like a censorious Hispanic ghost of Weddings Future, while the Bishop – in the doorway itself, while Araceli and Mindy stood within the parlor, just in reach. A small pale hand appeared around the doorjamb. Although Richard noted – not all that small and pale, but rather capable and work-roughened.

“Xavie?” Dr. Mindy quavered. “Are you there? Abuelo doesn’t understand about the pirate treasure project. He thinks that I am throwing my whole career away… He doesn’t understand…”

“No, my darling sweetness – you are just moving on,” Xavier Gunnison-Penn took that hand, from the other side of the doorway, as he stood resolute with his back to the parlor. “And you haven’t told him about the other thing… You are moving towards better and higher, more meaningful things! The thrill of the search and the finding! Wasn’t it glorious, finding the portions of the Gonzaga Reliquary? The legendary and historical treasure of your family?”

“We wouldn’t have found it, without your knowledge and determination!” Dr. Mindy replied, fervently and addressed her remarks to the unseen authority within the parlor. “Abuelo – it’s not what you think! I’m ready to do the work that I want to do; work with Xavie – not the work that I have to do for the University. Please, Abuelo – please understand. I’m not crashing my career – I’d be doing the work that I want to do, alongside my husband. I’m done with the university! I want to live in the outside world now – I do have a pension plan with medical coverage and all! Comprehensive medical coverage, which is something I will need, soon enough! I’m just cashing in the last couple of sabbaticals that I never used! Please, Abuelo – I have thought his all out, and I will do it. Darling Abuelo, I will be all right and provided for…”

Bishop Mulvaney backed her up with the assurance, “And you would have, indade! Finding that precious reliquary was a marvel of persistence and a triumph of research. It’s a gift you have, the both of you … and what was this that you claimed, regarding a pirate treasure cache?”

“So you say,” replied Don Jaimie, from within the parlor – a sorely-tried and perplexed man from the sound of it, Richard concluded. He wished that he could ask for enlightenment from Araceli, but she was within the parlor, and remaining silent. A wise decision on her part, he thought, considering the ongoing drama.

“Abuelo, listen!” Mindy pleaded. “Xavie has a clue to the whereabouts of a great treasure of India, a treasure stolen by pirates almost four hundred years ago and never found. Listen … he can explain it so better than I can.”

Another great treasure, long sought after, Richard thought with an interior sigh. Out loud, he murmured to Gunnison-Penn, as they stood outside in the dark hallway.

“That would be your clue. Make it good and convincing – put every bit of belief and passion that you have into what you have next to say. Your wedding cake depends upon it.”

“My wedding cake?” Gunnison-Penn sent a wild-eyed look sideways to Richard. “What has that to do with it all, I ask you?”

“Everything to me!” Richard snarled in response, while nudging Gunnison-Penn emphatically with his elbow. “Spill all about your so-called treasure of great importance to India: what it is, where it might be, and why you have special reason to think that you are at least warm on the track to finding it!” “Right, then,” The famed (or notorious, depending on how one regarded him) Canadian treasure hunter cleared his throat, and addressed his unseen audience; his beloved, her maid of honor, her grandfather, great-aunt, best man, and the Bishop in the manner of one accustomed to larger audiences. “I have information relayed to me through private means which I am not at liberty at present to reveal, of the possible location of a master’s portion of a great treasure, worth two hundred million dollars in modern currency, at the time it was looted in 1695.

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