In Her Purse by Gary Ives

Sunday, April 3, 2016
The Chief Groundskeeper of the luxurious Rio Plata Spa and Hotel recounts the story of a particularly troublesome guest; by Gary Ives.

First let me tell you of May Maloy Spooner then you may make up your own mind about this woman.

May Maloy Spooner, one of the hundreds of Las Vegas whores, had no trouble catching Señor Rigby's eye. You would no doubt agree that like many of her sisters in the business she is most pleasing to look at and artful in the ways of seducing men. Here let me say that I have nothing against prostitution or prostitutes. As with all professions a few are very, very good and a few very, very bad. Most however are neither particularly good nor bad. And as for the occupation, only politicians and religious zealots fault this universal, old and pervasive occupation, often by circumstances the only one open to women. But this Spooner woman, she was not one of those good working girls. Looking at her lovely frame, however, easily aroused and provoked basic masculine feelings.

My employer, Señor Rigby, owner of The Rio Plata Spa and Hotel, is a fine man. Cool, charming, and kind-hearted on the outside, but inside like bamboo, the fibers tough. You may know of his famous resort as one favored by many celebrities. The resort's beautiful Southwest colonial architecture and décor are spectacular and sometimes you will see in magazines pictures of the fountain, the riding stables, or the great dining hall, or perhaps the elegant rooms each with a hot tub equipped balcony. Yes it is true Señor Rigby spent his entire inherited fortune building this fine resort, but it is just as true that his investment has made him a very wealthy man. Here I and my wife Louisa have worked for the good Señor now ten years. I am now Chief Groundskeeper and Louisa Head of Housekeeping. In keeping with the ambiance and decor nearly all employees here at Rio Plata are Hispanic and most have been with Señor Rigby for many years. Señor Rigby once confided to me that he believed Hispanic folk to be superior hosts in the hospitality business. Anglo workers, he believed, often react negatively to the wealthy. On this I concur although I would not tell the good Señor that I believe that this is due to a throbbing heart of greed inside so many gringos. One need look only to the rapacious history of European conquest and avarice. He, though, is a fair and generous patron, a gentleman of great courtesy. My wife and I have often speculated that the Señor's lovely manners and courtesy are from his mother, a Mexican, and too that he is fluent in Spanish, the language which is the very essence of courtesy, but perhaps it is simply a necessity for good hoteliers. Regardless he is highly respected by all, guests and employees. He knows each person's name and the names of family members. He never fails to speak politely when passing a guest or an employee, and Christmas bonuses are pegged to the year's profits. A kind and good man is our Señor Max Rigby.

It is only fair too, to mention that he is a man one should never ever cross. Some years ago as a favor to his sister he employed a young nephew, Louis Bennett, fresh from two years of junior college. The best place to learn the food and beverage business, he told the young man, is the barroom and so placed him as bartender. But soon the good looking young man was making secret dates with the wives and daughters of our guests. And that's not all, he was knocking down on bar receipts. A search of his room revealed several items reported missing by guests and even a vial of cocaine and a little snub nosed revolver. Young Louis returned to Texas with eight broken fingers, a crushed thumb and broken nose. And once when a deputy sheriff attempted to extort the Rio Plata video tapes of a $1000 payment to this deputy were forwarded to the Sheriff, the District Attorney, the state's Attorney General, and three television stations. The deputy went to prison and the Sheriff retired.

Sometimes when business is slow he takes a few days off, flying to Las Vegas. There the amusements are so well suited for a bachelor with funds. He likes to gamble a little and partake of the lovely array of flesh that city is so proud of.

Last summer we were all surprised when he returned with Miss May Malloy Spooner. I watched at the airport as they got off the airplane, the two of them in big sunglasses. Señor Max in a beautifully tailored beige linen summer suit and she wearing a large wide brimmed plastic hat with a gaudy hat band that proclaimed "Las Vegas" is large red letters, and carrying an enormous straw purse over the shoulder of a gaudy lavender blouse trimmed with glittering sequins. Señor Max greeted me warmly in Spanish and as we walked to the big El Dorado he introduced me to the lady. "Miss Spooner, this is Juan, my right hand man and Maestro of Rio Plata's grounds."

As I loaded the luggage into the trunk the lady spoke sharply to me. "Hey Pancho, take care ya don' scuff that green suitcase, comprendo? I politely reminded her that my name is Juan, not Pancho. That afternoon he ensconced her in one of the employee bungalows scheduled for remodeling. It became obvious to us all that the very pretty May Malloy Spooner exerted pull upon the Señor's heart as well as his pants as Señor visited the secluded little bungalow most evenings, for almost a month.

Soon however she became a nuisance. The room was an instant disaster with clothes strewn all about the floor. In the bathroom towels were thrown onto the floor and the shower curtain left to drain outside the tub. Although smoking was prohibited, cigarette butts and an occasional roach littered the counter. She would wake up around noontime and call for a breakfast to be delivered from the restaurant's kitchen all the way to the bungalow which had its own kitchen unit and was stocked with fresh fruit and basic foods. She would then complain that the food was cold. When Rosa, a four year chamber maid, suggested that she could use the bungalow's microwave to reheat things, she upbraided the girl. "Do you not know that I am the special guest of Mister Rigby? You, you are going to have some explaining to do, girl! You clearly do not know your place!" She ordered her to stay out of the bungalow when she was within, then reported Rosa to Señor as being "uppity." It had quickly become clear to all of us that Miss Spooner suffered from that kind of arrogance one sees among rough people who are artificially lifted among gentle folk. This was rare at Rio Plata, but not unknown. Anyone with experience in hospitality knows the mark. Snobbery is more the domain of the parvenu and nouveau riche, almost never infecting old money. Even after a month Miss Spooner continued to call me "Pancho" ordering me to fetch bar drinks. No matter that I might be trimming the palm trees with a long pole saw, or spreading mulch onto the shrubbery beds, or busy directing Luis and Paco who were laying out the new hedge row. But it is our way to always be courteous, never contentious; so despite my work as Maestro Groundsman I would stop my task and fetch the proud lady's Mimosa or Long Island Tea. For this reason I avoided the areas around the swimming pool in the afternoons, her afternoon perch. Rosa ceased tidying Miss Spooner's bungalow in the mornings, doing this per her request only when the lady as away at the pool.

Evidently her bothersome stay was affecting everyone at Rio Plata. About her third week as Señor's guest he suggested that Miss Spooner help out in the gift shop while Daniella Lopez took a month to attend her brother's wedding in Oaxaca and to visit with family. We could tell Miss Spooner was put off by this but what could she do? So from four in the afternoon until seven in the evening she worked in our lovely gift shop. Within a couple of days Juanita Francisco, the lady who has managed the gift shop since it first opened, was not happy with her temporary. "She does not listen so good, Señor, when I try to 'splain things to her. And she don't do none of the things Daniella 'spose to do, like use the Windex on the counters and carry out the trash before we close up the shop. Even though I ask her ver' nice. And when I tell to her she always got to say 'thank you' she say to me she din' come here for to listen to me that she was gonna talk with you, Señor, and I would have some 'splainin' to do." Señor Rigby thanked Juanita and promised to have a serious chat with Miss Spooner in two days when he returned from a business meeting in Albuquerque.

That same afternoon of Juanita's talk with the Señor, a guest, one of a group of Wyoming oilmen, was noticed spending the entire afternoon in the gift shop, leaving at closing time with a large Moroccan leather purse beautifully hand tooled with the Aztec calendar tricked in gold and silver. At $600 the purse was one of the more expensive gift shop items. It was no surprise to Guillermo Sanchez, our House Detective, to see the Wyoming oil man creeping out of Miss Spooner's bungalow at two in the morning. Nor was Rosa surprised the next afternoon to see the $600 purse on the floor by Miss Spooner's bed. Rosa's curiosity drew her to inspect the new purse, which was indeed beautiful and had the rich smell of good leather. The contents from the straw purse had been transferred into the new luxurious leather purse. Perhaps the lady was unaware of the secret compartment at the purse's bottom which was empty? Later Rosa asked my wife Louisa why the lady would have "pairs of panties in little plastic Tupperwares?" Louisa told her that this was something prostitutes did.

Guillermo Sanchez noted the guest's exit from the bungalow in his night log. Then very shortly after his return, Señor Rigby visited Miss Spooner informing her that having abused his hospitality it was now time to pack her bags and leave the premises. Noting the beautiful hand bag fresh from the gift shop and the night visitor mentioned in the log it was easy to put two and two together. Señor Rigby asked my wife to send for Rosa at her convenience.

Before departing Miss Spooner had two Tequila Sunrises with her Wyoming oil man who from the bar telephoned airline reservations for her agreeing to meet the lady in Cancun the next day. When she returned to the bungalow the airport taxi was waiting. In the room Rosa assisted the taxi driver with the luggage. "I'll take that!" she barked, roughly snatching the large leather purse from Rosa's hands then stomping through the door out the yellow taxi cab. Did she not know that it is customary to tip the chamber maid? Ahh, but Rosa was satisfied simply to be rid of this nasty, rude guest, as were we all.

At the airport the scanner's alarm sounded every TSA agent's dream, there it was on the screen, a snub-nosed revolver secreted deep in the secret pocket of an expensive purse. "And what is this white powder? "Come along you've got some explaining to do," he said as he snapped the handcuffs on Miss Spooner's wrists.

Her stay at Rio Plata often the topic of gossip among us employees, but never with Señor Rigby.


  1. A funny romp, well told. Many thanks,

  2. Great story. Nice portrayal of the essence of a culture. Well done.

  3. A funny romp, well told. Many thanks,

  4. Funny and enjoyable story with a strong feeling of community and pride amongst the hotel's employees as they encounter the interloper. I loved the sound of the narrator's voice, conveying accent and place without overdoing it, and Juanita's diatribe about her new assistant in the gift shop.