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When he was struck...
When he was struck down by a career-ending injury, businesses sought his polished charm and name recognition. In his capacity as a Vice President in charge of Community Relations at a large and prestigious company, Tucker Stapleton would begin the second dynamic period of his life. He was not yet thirty years old, but he was wealthy, and to most who met him, he was handsome and completely irresistible.
His arrival at Shamrock Hill marked his deepening involvement with the closely bonded families who lived there. The devastating impact and tragic suffering that his hedonistic and exploitative actions brought to those families served to put his life on a collision course with a life-crisis that culminates in a violent confrontation.
His counsel to Tucker, infrequently given as it was, always embraced the same pattern of hate filled vitriolic pontificating about his own reactionary political and religious views, invariably infused with a heavy ring of paranoia. "Go for what you want and take it or some free-loader or foreigner will take it from you or screw you out of it. You've got to look out for yourself; nobody else will do it." To these diatribes andoutbursts Tucker paid no heed; never then or later did Tucker for a moment concern himself with the hot and divisive issues of religion or politics in the public psyche.
From this youth and this early environment was developing a young man, ambitious, unprincipled and committed to the hedonistic pursuit of having what he wanted regardless of however ruthless and unworthy would be the means or method he would choose to use. These ends would include money, recognition and before long, women.
By the age of 15 as sophomores in high school most of the young men, Tucker's contemporaries, were far from fully mature, having only partial muscle development, continuing rapid growth and faces raging with acne. Not Tucker. Even at this young age he was making rapid strides toward male physical perfection. His waving blond hair was complemented by flashing blue eyes, a six feet three inch lean muscular frame and a brilliant smile. Confidence and charm came easily to him as the other young men struggled with the trials and hurdles of adolescence.
His athletic skills at 15 were already the talk of the south river community where he lived. Letters came to him in three sports; track where he threw the javelin, baseball as a pitcher and football. It was football where his prowess was most dramatic. As a sophomore he became the starting quarterback, a position he held until he finished high school. Close friendships, any time spent just hanging out with the guys, were not his style. He was a very good student, and when not playing the game of the season, he was with his current girlfriend. At no time did Tucker need to seek out the young women; they came to him. It was clear that he could have any girl that he wanted, but he found the greatest thrill came from taking a girl who was known to be the steady of someone else.
His last two years of high school continued the pattern of extravagant successes on the athletic field, academics in the classroom and his clear irresistibility to the young women. His senior year was marked by additional significant events that further shaped his actions, character and plans.
College recruiters were combing the high school fields for football talent; despite that Tucker was by-passed by all of the large school men, being approached only by those from the smaller schools. The going word was that the competition was not that great in his school's league. Angered and determined, he vowed he'd show them; never for a moment did he doubt that he could.
Midway in his senior year he had an experience that he felt was a lesson learned and to be applied unfailingly to his actions in the future. When the situation blew over, Tucker resolved that it would not happen again. He had become very studious in his Spanish class and very friendly with the very pretty and married teacher. Often after class, he would pause at her desk and review some point of grammar. Tragically although he was only 17, six years her junior, she was attracted to and excited by him. Twice he stopped by her home for extra material and some personal tutoring. When her pregnancy became evident there was an eruption of gossip. No one dared in Tucker's presence to breathe such words, but he knew of the talk. From this 'close call' came his resolve that from that time forth protection, as he termed it, would always be used; for him it had become a personal rule not to be broken again. He also developed wariness and a sense for possible trouble; heading his list of trouble-warnings was the love word. Added to his resolutions was an oft-repeated motto, "She uses the L word she's history." A foot note to his self-protective resolutions was, "Be real careful of mixing booze and women; accidents can happen." Nevertheless his 'bottom line' discovery after being with his first married woman was that it was the best, equaled by nothing. His course was set. They would from that time forth be married or at least engaged or the equivalent, no exceptions.
In the spring of his senior year, angry about being scorned by the big time schools Tucker committed to a smaller college in the southern part of the state. This school had unquestioned academic credentials and a long standing but modest football program. Correctly he surmised that it would have it supply of lovely young women.
Tucker's birthday, his 18th, was in March. Thus that following fall at the age of 18 and one half he began his college days and his ascent to the pinnacle of success in all things that interested him.
It was in his junior year of college at an all campus homecoming gathering that Tucker Stapleton met three people who would later figure in a critical time in his life. Paul McDonald was a classroom acquaintance of Tucker's who introduced him to his lively and pretty sister Elizabeth and the other couple with them who were Tom Douglas and a breathtaking brunette, Alicia Hamilton. As they stood visiting another couple approached to whom he was also introduced. It was Robert Douglas and his quiet but stunning companion Moira Cavanaugh. After visiting briefly, Tucker thanked them for the pleasure of meeting them and left to mingle again with the homecoming throng scarcely able to believe what had happened. He had just met the three most desirable women he had ever seen.
Moira Cavanaugh was the older of the two daughters of John and Carolyn Cavanaugh. Throughout her youth in St. Paul her life flowed at a busy and fulfilling pace. She was academically brilliant, clearly gifted with the violin, intellectually astute and charming with a soft laugh that enriched her captivating sense of humor. The Cavanaugh family was closely knit, loving and enjoyed their time together. Moira was devoted to her mother and similarly adored and admired her father who loved her fiercely in return. Her father was gentle, kind, a shrewd judge of people and quick to anger over evident injustice. Being intellectually sophisticated as was Moira, father and daughter would stay up late analyzing the news or the meaning of a literary passage that they had both read. Eileen, Moira's sister, despite being two years younger was her best friend and confidant.
Throughout High School Moira excelled academically and virtually without much effort. Already an established 'reader' she gravitated toward English, history and geography; chemistry was her only choice as a science. The faculty who knew her recognized that she was indeed an exceptional young woman. So did her girl friends, who loved being with her, enjoying her warmth, her humor and wit. It was not so with the boys. Her looks they appreciated, but her intelligence, her love of classical music and extraordinary talent with the violin put her out of the mainstream of the shallow sex driven pop culture that gripped the greater mass of her contemporaries. Perhaps inevitably an undercurrent developed that she was a cold fish. Quite probably this label was traceable to one marginally literate jock who couldn't understand her resisting his clumsy pawing on their one and only date.
Nearing the end of high school descriptions of her evolved from good looking, to very pretty and finally to the right word beautiful. Moira gave very little thought sometimes none to her looks, but to her figure she did. Already attracted to the young men, and conscious of some sensual stirrings, she tried to determine the reason for their apparent rejection of her. Knowing that often contemporary male taste ran to extreme slenderness, she worried that her thighs and hips were too full for the present scene. She judged the rest of her figure to be satisfactory.
Despite the nagging disappointment of her experience with the young men, she looked forward to her college years which were to be at a fine private college in St. Paul. Family budgeting, sacrifice, loans and a modest scholarship made it possible. In addition to her forthcoming grand opportunity for a college education was her graduation gift, a trip to New York to hear Perlman play the violin works of Lalo and Bruch.
Her college years, as far as she was concerned, passed too quickly. The chance came to meet other people who had interests other than alcohol and sports. There she met people who were interested in ideas and who could converse and think abstractly and use reason.
Moira dated only a little as her collegiate social experience was almost a mirror image of her high school days. She clearly was respected for her intelligence by the fellows she met, but beyond that nothing developed. Once again her involvement in the classical music activities at the college and her evident disdain for the pop culture vulgarity seemed to set her apart from the young men.
During her sophomore year she met Elizabeth McDonald in a history class, and through their immediate and close friendship she met Elizabeth's cousin, Alicia Hamilton. The three young women became as close as to be almost like sisters; often trying when possible to take classes together.
Toward the end of her junior year she was elected to Phi Beta Kappa Honor society, an accolade that both her mother and her father had received. It was at the Society's Recognition Dinner that she met Tom Douglas who was also being honored. His charm and high level intelligence were undeniable, but there was no other spark glowing between them; but there was when Tom introduced her to his cousin Robert Douglas. Rob was a shade less intellectual than, Tom but he was bright, fun, considerate and brimming with boyish charm. The beginning of their dating, as she thought about it, was, "Nothing but blue skies."
After graduation, Moira's life continued to soar. She was offered an instructorship in the English Department at the University which she accepted. Despite having only one audition, she was hired to the violin section of the Orchestra. She knew that her life was undoubtedly charmed.
Her first year of teaching was a revelation. There were brilliant students, some indifferent and some who were questionably suited for college. Moira actually feared for some of the students, who were very limited in their ability to communicate or to speak and write coherently. Moira herself that year, to those who knew her, became more striking than ever. She was by then a composite of intelligence, poise, and tasteful dress exhibiting always a demeanor of confident and gracious reserve.
Throughout the first year of teaching she had the occasional date with Robert Douglas who was in the throes of law school. Fulfilling their shared vows the three young women friends of college days, Moira, Alicia and Elizabeth met for lunch or coffee; there they laughed, talked about men and jointly shared their dreams for the coming years of their lives. At each of these lunch gatherings Elizabeth would share with the others her glowing description of whoever was her present heart throb. Alicia in turn had met and dated Tom Douglas and could speak of little else; her words left the other no doubt about the depth of her love for him.
Elizabeth, bursting with enthusiasm, described at one such gathering the dream of her father and the real estate project he was considering in the gently rolling hills in the western part of the county. Her question, echoed by the others, "What if we could all live there someday?"
Alicia Hamilton was the niece of Terrance and Maureen McDonald. She spent most of her girlhood and young womanhood living with the McDonald family after the tragic accidental deaths of her parents. Patricia Hamilton, Alicia's mother, had been the sister and only sibling of Mr. McDonald. Her father, Ian Hamilton, had been an early investor in the businesses of Mr. McDonald. In the home of her uncle and aunt Alicia had known only love and happiness being raised as a second daughter alongside her cousins, Elizabeth and Paul. Early on Mr. McDonald displayed particularly fierce love for his niece and was more protective of her than of his own two children.
Through the years of her girlhood and young adult life two aspects of Alicia became evident: her breathtaking physical beauty and a personality so endearing that to know her was to love her and wish to care for her. Her hair from birth was black as coal; by young womanhood the lustrous raven black waves framed the face of a goddess. At five feet five inches tall and 126 pounds and with a curved and full figure her beauty was matchless.
Her gentle and loving character was in its own way complex; blended with her sensitive and deeply caring nature was an emotional intensity that was both passionate and sensual. The McDonalds, as they raised her, sensed and even feared what they considered to be her profound vulnerability.
Throughout her school years, there were the friends, the boy friends, superb school work and the family. Although the opportunity was there to select an Eastern girl's school, she chose and was accepted to a fine private college in St. Paul, the one chosen the year before by her cousin Paul and now by Elizabeth as well. Her interest in biology, her intended major, seemed to those who knew her to be inconsistent with one so overpoweringly feminine; yet smiling and with primed expectations she was ready for college.
Elizabeth McDonald was the younger of the two McDonald children. She was exactly the same age as Alicia and loved her as a sister. More petite than her cousin she was nevertheless exceptionally pretty, had an attractive figure and the same caring and loving disposition. While Alicia's relationship was desperately close with her uncle, so was Elizabeth's with her beloved brother Paul who was one year older than she. It was Paul who, when Elizabeth was fifteen, became convinced that her talent on the piano was at the least very exceptional; her teachers thought the same.
During the last years of high school she was mastering the sonatas of Mozart, the Ballades and several of the Opus 10 Etudes of Chopin. The small size of her hands at times limited her ability to play some works by Chopin and Rachmaninoff. Requests came for solo performances throughout the two cities. Just short of her 18th birthday, with the Chamber Orchestra she played the Rhapsody by Rachmaninoff on a Theme of Paganini. It may have been her youth or her light-hearted nature, but one faint criticism leveled at her playing was that it seemed at times to lack passion. That would change.
Although the two cousins were physically quite similar, there were nevertheless differences. While Alicia was dark, Elizabeth's head was crowned by heavy light brown hair, waving and streaked with blond highlights and a bright natural luster. Small dark flecks added to the extraordinary beauty of her hazel eyes. Her personality was loving and passionate as well, but was more outgoing, less given to the deep sensitivity of Alicia. Ever present was a smile that inspired often the comment, "The girl with the sunshine smile."
Excerpted from Shamrock Hill by Edwin G. Rice Copyright © 2009 by Edwin G. Rice. Excerpted by permission.
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