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by Jim Foreman



Even though Maggie Brewster wasn't enjoying the conjugal benefits of being married to Warren, she did enjoy his wealth and the status of being the wife of a Texas State Representative. Being an intelligent woman, she also knew that while she was his wife, she would have access to his entire fortunes but under Texas law, she would come out with a very small percentage of it in a divorce settlement.

On the other hand, Joe Armitage was a more than willing partner in bed and seemed to be content with an arrangement which did not include marriage. Whenever Maggie felt driven by the sexual urge, which averaged two or three times each week, she could use the key to visit Joe's bed. Maggie was enjoying the best of both worlds with the only threat to its continuing was the necessity for Warren to return to the Panhandle to campaign for re-election.

"What are we going to do when Warren returns from Austin?" Maggie asked Joe during one of their clandestine meetings. "I don't see any way that we can continue our relationship while he is in Amarillo."

"We'll just have to do what we can to help get him re-elected so he can return to Austin and his mistress. That isn't going to be easy because his opponent, George Wilkins, is not only a rich rancher from Dalhart, but he is also a very strong political figure," said Joe.

"Warren doesn't need money to run a campaign as badly as he needs strong support from the business community," she replied.

"I think that I can take care of that," said Joe. "I feel that my support was instrumental in getting him elected the first time and I hope that it will carry as much weight this time. Most of the businessmen of Amarillo will follow suit because the last thing that they want to happen is to lose the prestige of having a man from Amarillo in the state house."

When Warren returned to the Panhandle to campaign for the coming election, Maggie told him, "I have been doing some groundwork for your campaign and I think that I have been able to line up some support which you never seemed to have before."

"Who is that?" asked Warren.

"The business community of Amarillo," she replied. "My Father's support has always helped, but the people who you really need behind you are those like Joe Armitage."

"I'd rather lose the election than cower to that bastard," he replied. "My daddy would be alive today if it wasn't for the Armitage family."

"Politics makes strange bedfellows," said Maggie, with a knowing smile at the real truth behind that statement. "You had better accept support anywhere you can find it if you plan to be in Austin next session. George Wilkins is going to pull a lot of the ranching support away from you, and that was mostly what put you in office in the first place. I feel that the businesses of this town will be the deciding influence in this election."

"Armitage wouldn't give me the time of day, much less his support," said Warren.

"I wouldn't be too sure of that," she replied. "I have a feeling that he would do almost anything in order to keep a man from Amarillo in Austin."

Warren wasn't convinced that Joe Armitage would support him until he saw the headlines in the Amarillo World News which stated, "Armitage Throws Support Behind Brewster."

Warren was busy putting together his campaign organization and was searching for the address of Clayton Farris, brother to Eldon Farris and a political supporter who lived in the northeastern Panhandle town of Perryton. Thinking that Maggie might have it, began to search through her purse. He didn't find the address, but he did find a strange, heavy brass key. It contained no markings or number of any sort and didn't appear to fit any lock or door with which he was familiar.

Warren went around the house, trying the key in every slot he could find. He even went to the attic and tried the key in a number of old trunks and cabinets without success. Thinking that it might be a key which her father had given her for some reason, he dropped by the bank to see if it was for a safety deposit box of some sort.

Instead of simply asking Maggie what the key was for, he took it to the local locksmith to see if he knew anything about it. The locksmith took a long look at the key, turning it one way and the other. Whether the locksmith recognized the key and its purpose or not, he told Warren that it was a rather common type of key, most often used in heavy duty locks such as those found on office buildings. Warren had the locksmith cut a duplicate of the key, then he returned the original to Maggie's purse.

Finding the lock which matched the key became an obsession with Warren. Any time he walked up to a door, cabinet or anything else with a key slot, he would pull the key from his pocket and try it in the lock. Most of the places where Warren tried the key, it would not go into the slot. The occasional times when the key matched the milled fluting of the cylinder, it would not turn it. In trying locks, he did find that it would go into the cylinder at the Amarillo Hotel, but could find no lock that it would open. Warren must have tried the key in a hundred locks as he went about his campaign.

Warren was both pleased and surprised by the unexpected support for his candidacy by Joe Armitage. Not only had he given the power of his name in support, but had taken an active role in promoting him. He had scheduled a dinner in the Tascosa Room of the Armitage Hotel as a means of introducing Warren to his circle of friends.

Warren had never been inside the Armitage before and in order to be comfortable speaking in a strange location, he arrived a full half hour before the scheduled time for the dinner. Instead of simply walking down the one flight of stairs from the lobby to the ballroom in the basement, he decided to use the new, automatic elevator. He pressed the button to call the elevator, and pure chance brought the Number Four elevator to the ground floor.

Instead of an elevator operator like he had in the Amarillo Hotel, there was only a row of buttons indicating the floors from the Tascosa Room all the way to number twelve. He winced at the thought that it automatically placed his own hotel, with only ten floors, into the category of a second rate building. Warren pressed the button for the basement. Where the button would have been for the thirteenth floor, was a key slot. Warren's hand automatically went into his pocket where it sorted the strange key out of a number of coins. The door of the elevator slid open into the Tascosa Room as he tried the key in the unmarked slot. The key slipped easily into the slot.

It was so seldom that he had found a slot which matched the key that it came as a surprise. He held the head of the key between his thumb and forefinger and tried to turn it. The key rotated easily and the door of the elevator slid shut. Almost as if the elevator had a mind of its own, it began to move upward. Warren watched the row of lights above the door flash on to indicate a floor that it was approaching and blink off as it passed. The elevator slid silently past the lobby, the mezzanine and he began to count off the floors as it rose; three, four, five and so on. As the number twelve flashed on, he expected to feel the elevator stop its upward movement, but it didn't. His heart pounded in his throat as the number twelve light flashed off, indicating that he had passed the topmost floor of the hotel.

Warren felt the elevator slow and stop. The door slid open and he was looking directly into a large living room. "This must be the penthouse!" he thought to himself. Then he realized that it meant he was on the 13th floor and his long-standing superstition of that number sent a cold shiver down his spine.

Almost in panic, he turned the key to its original position and pressed the bottom button to take him back to the Tasocsa Room. As the elevator traveled downward, he removed the key from the slot and pondered for a reason why his wife would be in possession of a key that made the elevator of the Armitage Hotel go to the penthouse. He tried to convince himself that there was no way that Maggie could be having an affair with Joe Armitage.

Warren's head was swimming when he stepped off the elevator and into the Tascosa Room. Even though he realized that he had been neglecting his marital duties to Maggie while he was living with another woman in his apartment in Austin, he had never given the slightest thought to the fact that his wife might be doing the same thing.

The only people in the Tascosa Room were the waiters who were putting glasses of water on the tables in preparation for the dinner. While he was looking around the room, almost as if by instinct, he noticed the key slots in the main doors of the room. He pulled the key from his pocket and tried it in those doors. It turned easily. Next, he went to the door of a closet to one side of the room. They key fit those doors. The key not only fit the elevator, it seemed to fit every door in the whole hotel. It was a master key!

Joe walked into the room, extended his hand and said with a warm smile, "Hello, Warren. Are you ready to mow them down?"

"Ready as I will ever be, I suppose," he replied.

Warren was accustomed to speaking to ranchers and farmers, not a group of businessmen dressed in suits. He tried to think of the parts of his speech which had appealed to the ranchers but might not fit into the thinking of this crowd. He found trying to mentally rewrite his speech while sitting next to Joe Armitage was most difficult because his mind kept snapping to visions of Maggie and Joe locked in lovemaking.

When the meal was finished, Joe Armitage rose and gave a glowing introduction to Warren. Warren's mind was a tangle of thoughts about how this man could be sleeping with his wife but still be so warm and cordial with him. By all standards, if he was actually having an affair with his wife, he should be hostile.

Warren called on his experience gained from countless speeches on the floor and did a credible job of laying out his future plans for legislation that would benefit the businessmen. When he finished his speech, he received polite, but not necessarily enthusiastic, applause.

"How do you think that I came over with your friends?" he whispered to Joe.

"No problem, Warren. I have a feeling that you will be seeing some nice checks coming to your campaign from this crowd and they will throw a lot of votes your way when the time comes."

Then, out of the blue, Warren asked, "Have you seen Maggie lately?"

"Yes," replied Joe with a smile. "She was by here yesterday to check on the arrangement of the speaker's table for this dinner. She has a good political head on her shoulders and you should take advantage of it. With her beauty and poise, she could do a lot for your election."

"I'd never thought of her as being a political asset," said Warren as he was beginning to have doubts whether Maggie and Joe could actually be having an affair. If they were, how could Joe make a suggestion which would possibly take her away from Amarillo much of the time. The key in his pocket was now a greater quandary than it had been before he knew which locks it fit.

Warren dwelt on the key for several more days before he had the nerve to ask Maggie about it. "Maggie," he said. "A few weeks ago, I was looking in your purse for an address and noticed a strange key. What is it for?"

"Maggie always had a very quick mind and replied without hesitation. "How should I know. it's your key. When I picked up your suits at the cleaners, they gave it to me and said that it had been left in one of your pockets. I had just forgotten to give it back to you."

The following morning, the phone at the cleaners rang. When the owner answered the phone, Joe Armitage said, "I have a small favor to ask of you."

"Why yes, Mr. Armitage, I'll be glad to do whatever I can for you."

"Oh, Mister Brewster," shouted the owners of the cleaners when he saw Warren Brewster walking down the street later that day. "May I have a word with you? When your wife picked up some of your suits, I gave her a key that I thought was yours. As it turns out, it belongs to Mr. Armitage. Do you happen to have it with you?"

Warren reached into his pocket and handed the duplicate key to him. "I didn't recognize it and was wondering where it went," he replied with the greatest satisfaction, now that his mind had been set at ease.

A few days later, Warren was to be out of town for two days while campaigning in the eastern part of the Panhandle. Maggie used her key to visit the penthouse where she told Joe, "That was a close one. From now on, I'll be more careful with that key."

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