This is the first book of a three novel “spiritual evolution” adventure series. I named it “The Third Dimension” because it’s filled with 3D intrigue like murder, missing people, angst, disappointment, physical issues like dementia, success and failure and all that. I titled Book Two “The Fourth Dimension” because I introduce immortal masters and other spirit beings, magic and miracles. The third novel is titled “The Fifth Dimension” because Shambala is in the 5th dimension of reality. The four elderly people in this series and the four detectives following them, must journey through and let go of their past 3D and 4D issues and finally vibrate at the frequency of Love, before they can enter the last portal into Shambala.
Happy Acres Dementia Resort – Troutdale, Oregon
The Third Dimension
Lucky Two Crows has returned to Portland after solving his second mystery in Montana. He meets with the recluse billionaire Robert St. Clair, who hires him to make sure Lucky’s friend, Captain Jimmy Meriweather and his rookie assistant, Police Detective Taylor Banks take the Missing Persons case, following Robert after he escape from Happy Acres with three elderly friends. There is talk about murder.
Taylor Banks is pissed with another Missing Person case. She thinks it’s bogus, but when it turns into a murder investigation, she’s soon all in. The book is a powerful portrayal of very colorful characters.
Included below is the full Episode One of Book One. Read for Free!
The orange setting sun softly baths him in melancholy
Clarence Two Moons sits alone his modern-day tipi, thinking about Lucky Two Crows. Often while meditating there the Door to Everything will open. He morphs into Grandfather Wolf Eyes, a wise Blackfeet medicine man, who’s currently alive in 1876.
In the 1876 reality, Two Crows has recently accepted the medicine bundle from Grandfather: he will learn how to ride the High Pony and become a shamanic healer; perfecting his travels between dimensions. His lovely wife, White Feather, will travel with him, and they will have many sons, all of whom he will train in the way of medicine.
Clarence, in this life, has long desired to have a son and grandson, or two: men whom he could teach to ride his modern version of the High Pony. Unfortunately, his late wife had only birthed one child, his attorney daughter Summer.
The first time Clarence saw Lucky’s photo he knew: he was Two Crow’s parallel life self, and his daughter Summer was White Feather. Lucky and Summer were the right ages for each other, and since they were so happily married in this other reality, Clarence would make sure that it would happen in this modern day. Holding the two photos, there was no doubt they looked good together, and with his orchestration, and encouragement, they would fall in love. He had no doubt about it: Lucky and Summer would marry and live happily ever after. He would have the son he always wanted.
Clarence patiently waited for the opportunity to put his matchmaker plan in motion. When his best friend Harold Running Dog, the head of the Blackfeet Business Council, was tragically poisoned, the opportunity presented itself. He flew to Portland and hired the handsome detective to solve the Blackfeet murder mystery.
The orange setting sun forges a glow through the open tipi entrance, softly bathing him in melancholy. He sits on his cushion, alone in the otherwise gloomy moody dusk. He considers himself immune to loneliness; and yet, at this moment, he feels quite alone.
Returning to his log mansion, he opens a bottle of vintage red wine, though not that old, and not in celebration. He thinks about how Lucky had solved the mystery with ease. He still can’t believe his matchmaking plan didn’t work. Summer will never meet a man like Lucky again, he’s sure. He man has spoiled her for other men, and now Clarence will never have the grandchildren he dreams of. His lineage will die with him.
As Clarence thinks about the 1876 love between Two Crows and White Feather, and how well Lucky and Summer got along in present time, he realizes that love like this is eternal. It just didn’t play out according to his plan. He sees himself in Lucky. The Portland detective has way too many things going on, too many hot forks in too many hot fires, to stop and settle down, to take a wife and join his family on the banks of the Missouri.
At the same time, Clarence can’t deny that something remarkable happened when Lucky was staying in his log cabin. The young detective set some powerful wheels in motion: the whole parallel life reality thing became undeniably real. Clarence became more active as Grandfather Wolf Eyes. His moving in and out of time became second nature, once he let his mind go. Both Two Crows and White Feather can now navigate more freely in the crazy reality of life one hundred and fifty years in the future.
As he sits with his two-hundred-dollar cabernet and watches as the sunlight retreats from his bedroom, to its bed behind the distant horizon, another woman enters his consciousness: a young detective he doesn’t know.
He lets that thought go, and slowly sips his wine. He can’t help but think of the positives. The attempted murder case has been solved. His daughter has just returned from a romantic weekend with Lucky. Before Lucky came along, she hadn’t been with a man in years. She’s happy with her maybe sometimes Portland lover, at least for now. Clarence’s relationship with Lucky is far from over. There’s a reason why all this past life, present life drama is happening. He’s curious as to what will happen next.
Clarence has already seen glimpses. He’s foreseen that in Lucky’s future days he’ll need the help of Grandfather Wolf Eye’s, Two Crows and White Feather. Clarence doesn’t know when or why that day would come.
The red glow of the sun sinks below the horizon. A brighter day would soon come, he’s sure. He no longer feels so alone. He feels the twinge of a new excitement. And it all has to do with his friend, the man he met at the Door to Everything, Robert St. Clair.
He turns on the stained-glass lamp next to his easy chair and studies his wine glass. He remembers the day he carefully selected this set of Bordeaux glasses. The rounder, wider bowl increased the rate of oxidation, which subtly alters the flavor and aroma of the wine. He can’t remember how long it has sat since his first sip, but now the wine has a smoother taste, as if his time in contemplation has enriched it; has accentuated the unique characteristics of its vintage.
Thoughts of Grandfather Wolf Eyes make the wine itself make more sense, as if he was both the ancient vintner and the modern imbiber simultaneously; enjoying the fruits of a long-ago harvest.
Robert St. Clair reminds him of another place he’d like to be, sitting on the banks of an ideal lake at sunset, sipping this fine wine with his friend, in Shambala.
He corks the bottle and smiles, now convinced the next glass will be even better than the first. As he does this, without warning, White Feather comes into his consciousness.
“Grandfather,” he hears her say, “I don’t know what is happening. I no longer dream of Summer. Two Crows still dreams of Lucky, as do I, but another woman has taken Summer’s place. She has an even stronger presence in me, than Summer did.”
“Who is she?” Clarence asks.
“Her name is Taylor Banks.”
Let me get to the heart of the matter
It’s been three days since Lucky returned from the Blackfeet Reservation in northern Montana, after solving a murder mystery. The days of persistent Oregon rain paused this morning; welcoming a bright blue summer sky, accented with puffy cumulous clouds. While driving to his Beaverton country stables, in his Lockhaven green Forty Ford sedan, Lucky noted the blossoming horsetail and dandelions that lined the less-traveled lane, along with growths of douglas-fir, oak and maple, which provided shade opened to ribbons of sun-rays. He was happy to be free of responsibility; the first day of two weeks off, ready to relax, ride his dirt bike, shoot arrows, train with Aikido, hit the gym, and maybe read a book or two. Today he would groom, and then ride his black stallion in the lush green fields.
While Lucky was brushing his horse, peaceful in the here and now, his cell phone rang. Without thinking, he answers the unexpected call.
“Is this Mr. Lucky Two Crows?” A woman’s voice asked.
“Usually, but right now I’m not available to talk.”
“I’m sorry to bother you. It will only take a few minutes. My name is Lily Vahn.”
He isn’t sure why he answered the phone and could care less who this person was. “Listen lady, I don’t know how you got my private number, which concerns me, since it is private.”
While oddly resisting his urge to push the red phone hang-up icon, Lucky reflects on how he had taken himself off of L&P’s detective-for-hire schedule, setting it up so not even his team members were allowed to call. Hie was content brushing his horse and lost in thoughts of Summer Two Moon, the beautiful Montana attorney, with whom he had a love affair. She had only been gone for three days and it took all his willpower to not think of her; to not book a flight to Great Falls and spend a few more nights, the two of them making love in her cabin by the Missouri river.. Why did I answer the damn phone?
Shaka whinnies. The noble stallion is also not pleased with the disturbance. “I’m sorry, lady. I really don’t want to be disturbed. Have a nice day.”
“Don’t hang up! I have an offer you can’t refuse. We want to hire you,” the pleasant voice on the phone says.
Lucky huffs. “Call my office and make an appointment.. L&P Investigations. You can Google it. I’m hanging up now.”
“Please. Give me a second,” she pleads in a louder voice. “I’m Robert St. Clair’s personal assistant. Are you familiar with that name?”
“No.” He decides to give the woman a second chance.
“Mr. St. Clair owns Shambala Natural Foods. He’s one of the wealthiest men in the world, a multi-billionaire. He wants to meet you.”
“Me?” Lucky says, now just a bit curious. “Why would he want to meet me? Is this some sort of joke? Really, Miss Vahn. That was your name, right, or is it Mrs. Vahn? Are you serious?”
“Miss Vahn. Lily. Dead serious, no joke. We know you just returned from Montana after solving a case. I appreciate you wanting to take time off, but Mr. St. Clair’s time is of the essence here.”
“A rich man’s time is of no interest to me. The only important time is this moment, with me and my horse.” He lets that sink and, but can’t help but ask, “How do you know about me? How did you get this number?”
“I heard that you also know how to find anyone with you stealth cyber ability. A multi-billionaire will only hire the best of the best, to obtain what he wants. This is why he’s interested in you.”
“None of this makes sense. Why would he be interested in me? I’m an Indian Right’s detective. I solve problems on reservations. Is he a Native American?”
Lucky thinks about it for a second. “Maybe he heard about the murder I solved in Montana. I was lucky. There’s probably a hundred detectives in Portland and Seattle more qualified than me. I think this man made a mistake in wanting to hire me.”
“Do you want to find out? Tomorrow.”
“I guess I’m curious. This is strange. I’ll probably convince him to hire someone else.” He pauses. “Okay. I’ll talk to me. Why not? Tomorrow?”
“Let’s meet outside the Shambala Natural Foods headquarters in Troutdale at 2 pm. I’ll email you the address.”
“Of course you have my email address? Probably my dental records, too.”
“You’d be surprised. So, you’ll be there for sure?”
“Why not? See you tomorrow.”
Lily Vahn, an attractive mid-fifties Vietnamese woman, is waiting by a huge waterfall near the front entrance of the nine-story Shambala Natural Foods building, set in the woods behind the Portland/Troutdale Airport. “Glad you could make it,” she says as she motions for Lucky to sit across from her on the picnic table.
Lily is casually dressed, in clothes which gives Lucky the impression she doesn’t spend her days in the building in front of them. He asks, nodding toward the modern building, “Why aren’t we meeting in your office?”
“I used to have an office in there . . . maybe still do, don’t know. I work at home.”
“We could have met at your home.”
“Not possible. Let’s start. What do you know about our business?”
“Shambala Foods? I shop there every once in a while. I appreciate an organic market that rivals Safeway. I never heard of your boss before yesterday. Should I know something more about him?”
“He’s an extremely private person, Mr. Two Crows.”
“Lucky. How so?”
“Lucky.” She pauses to consider her presentation. “We have over twenty-three thousand employees all over the world. Even though Mr. St. Clair has run Shambala Foods for forty-five years and established the number one natural foods market in the world, he’s done it all in the shadows. Maybe only ten people in that building have ever met him. He likes Mexican or Philippino farmers, but ordinary business people bore him. He has a few people like me. I’m his outside eyes and ears; his spokesperson. I’ve never seen him set foot in that building.” She gestures at it.
“Interesting. Okay. So, what does any of this have to do with me?”
“I’m getting there. It’s been a trying year for Robert. You don’t mind if we call him Robert?” Lucky nods okay. “He’s eighty years old and had a stroke. He was in a coma for a month. He had a miraculous recovery, and then moved into a dementia facility, called Happy Acres.”
“Does he have dementia?”
“I don’t believe so. Nevertheless, once there, he came up some wild idea of taking his best friends, Howard, Maggie and Sopi, who’s my mother, to Shambala.”
“Shambala? Like Shangri La?” Lily nods and he continues, “The mythical place? That’s pretty bizarre.” Lucky says, considering. “Sounds like he really does belong in what was it, Happy Acres?” He pauses, “I’m sorry, I’m a detective, not a psychiatrist. Can we move this along to the part about how I fit into this equation?”
“Robert seems to know all about your secret life in opposition to Piedmont Syn and GMO farming.”
“How could he?”
“I’m getting there, Lucky. Allow me to explain.” She take a breath and catches his eyes. “Our food farms are global, and all our crops are organic. As with any business, we know our competition. Robert has never professed to be anti-corporate farming. That would be spurious since he runs the largest organic corporate farming operation in the world. He doesn’t agree with the petro-chemical mega-agro farming methods; their use of genetic modified organisms and the spraying of crops with glyphosate poison such as Groundup. And yet, he has never taken an anti-GMO stance.”
“Why not? If not him, someone in your company should,” Lucky counters. “Do you know how these deep state cartels are buying up farms and screwing farmers over?”
“Of course. Shambala Foods also has purchased many farms, but unlike the other corporate giants, we keep them organic.”
“I hope you’re not buying them for pennies on the dollar, after they lost all their rights to a paid-off judge?”
“Of course not. Our offers have always been more than fair and, more often than not, the farmers remain on their land; now salaried, with 100% of the yield going to us. We provide them with the security they never had.”
“That’s great, and still your multi-billion-dollar enterprise isn’t stopping the basically evil corporations who are stealing farms and kicking these good people to the gutter?”
Lily pauses, as if this topic clearly disturbs her, and there’s nothing she can do about it. “Lucky. The only reason I brought this up is that this is my passion too. I’m a biologist. When I was a child in Vietnam, the American Army was bombing our fields with the poison Agent Orange. I won’t get into that story, but it’s not that much different than what they’re poisoning us with today.”
“I’m sure you and I could have a most fascinating conversation, but I still don’t get what this has to do with me?”
“Let me get to the heart of the matter. Robert St. Clair is not a warrior. He has always been a recluse monk. He’s the invisible guiding light of Shambala Natural Foods, nurturing a culture that inspires his workers to always do the right thing. I think that’s the key to our thriving business; happy employees providing the products people love.”
“That’s all nice and good, Lily . . . but crimes against humanity are happening, which calls for the warrior. You just told me he’s one of the wealthiest men in America, the organic czar of the world, and you don’t think there’s something wrong, with all his billions, that he puts on rose colored glasses and pretends that millions of people aren’t being poisoned.”
“This is exactly why Robert insisted that I find you. You’re who he’s not. You can do what he’s unwilling to do. Don’t forget that he’s eighty-years-old and has avoided people his whole life.”
“He wants to hire me as some sort of corporate hit man?”
“Not at all, at least I can’t imagine that’s the reason why he wants to meet with us today.”
“Us? You’re not sure what this meeting is really all about, are you?”
“I’ve worked closely with Robert for the past four years. He’s a powerful man. I know how to rate what he thinks is important, and what isn’t. Meeting face to face with anyone has been the last thing he wants to do, up until he moved into Happy Acres, that is. Even there, he’s only interested in his three friends. Now he’s interested in you. He pretty much demanded that I talk you into meeting him today.”
“Well okay then. I’m curious enough to see what this is all about. I’ll drive.”
I need your assistance on a very secret mission
Lily loves Lucky’s old Forty Ford, and when they reach the front gate of Happy Acres, also in Troutdale, he pushes the button on the left brick pillar. She directs him to park his classic near the front of the huge late 19th century red bricked mansion.
“Follow me,” she says as she quickly walks up to the entrance landing, into the wide sterile foyer, and then straight to the dining area, while Lucky lags behind, checking things out. The dining room is empty except for four elderly people seated at a table, and two attendants across the room, paying them no mind.
A distinctive looking old man stands up to greet them. He’s dressed entirely in white; white turtleneck and slacks, white sports coat, white shoes and a white beard. His hair, also fully white, is braided all the way down to his waist. He’s almost Lucky’s height and wears very dark sunglasses. He politely extends his hand. “I’m Robert. Thank you for coming.”
Lucky shakes his strong hand and introduces himself, quite fascinated with the energy of the man before him. Lily leans over to hug the woman who’s obviously her Vietnamese mother.
As if the handsome Native American was an old friend, he starts in, “Lucky, I would like you to meet my best friends. This is Lily’s mother Sopi.” She’s in a wheelchair and frail. Lucky bends down to shake her hand. “This distinguished gentleman is my best friend, Howard Johnson. I call him Reggie.” The old black man has a bright smile. He looks fit. When he stands to shake hands, he’s Lucky’s height. “And this beautiful young woman is Maggie Miller. Don’t ever play bridge with her. She cheats.” She giggles as Lucky kisses the back of her extended hand. “Please sit.”
Once seated, he asks Robert, “How do you know who I am?”
“Clarence Two Moons and I are friends,” he states, to Lucky’s surprise.
Lucky thinks about this for a moment and concludes this is a referral, following the good work he’d done in Montana. “I suppose how you two are friends is none of my business. He’s a remarkable man. He took good care of me while I was in Montana.”
“He holds you in high regards,” Robert remarks as he studies Lucky behind the glasses, which hide any trace of his eyes.
“I’m not interested in being some sort of executive bodyguard, if that’s why you asked me here.” Lucky needs to get that out of the way, even though he has no idea what the old man has in mind, or how he can help someone who’s trapped in a dementia ward. Besides, Lucky’s still on vacation, and now wonders what the hell he’s doing in a home for elderly nut cases.
“Quite the opposite,” Robert answers with a chuckle. “I have no need for protection. I have no fear of early death, in fact I intend to outlive you, but that’s neither here nor there. I suppose I can say I need your assistance on a very secret mission.”
“And what would that be?”
“Lily will tell you.”
“Tell him what?” she says in surprise.
“First of all, I don’t want you to have the wrong impression,” he begins, ignoring Lily’s question. “This may be a dementia facility, but we don’t have dementia. I healed them. The staff doesn’t know that, so let’s keep it that way. If I act a little goofy, don’t pay it any mind. It’s just an act.”
“It’s not an act, Archie,” Maggie breaks in. “You’re crazier than anyone here. Don’t believe a word he says.”
“Archie? Is that a nickname?” Lucky asks, while wondering if she just gave him sound advice.
“Besides the point,” Robert answers.
“Are you in on his dumb escape plan?” she asks Lucky. Maggie is around eighty, and full of spunk. He figures she’ll say what’s on her mind no matter who’s listening.
Robert stands up. “Maggie, don’t challenge me.”
“Oh, sit down, Archie,” she counters, obviously not intimidated by this odd-looking old man. “I thought you weren’t going to tell anyone your secret. But maybe this hunky Indian can put arrows in the guards while we make our get-away?”
“Not a bad idea,” he counters.
“My God, Archie. I was only kidding. When are you going to grow up? Anyway, what’s wrong with your bodyguard Tenzin? He’s a good boy.” She looks Lucky over. “I do have to say, you’re one handsome Indian, that’s for sure.”
Lucky laughs. “Thank you, Maggie. I’m certainly not a bodyguard. I run a private detective business here in Portland. I specialize in Native American issues but try not to shoot people with arrows. If you have a secret, it’s a secret to me. Are you planning an uprising here in the old folks’ home?”
“An uprising?” Howard breaks in with a hearty laugh. “Like an Indian uprising, running around with our forks, chasing the staff? Is that what Robert told you? We’d be staging an uprising. I’m inclined to agree with Maggie. I may have been out of my mind these past years, but this man has totally lost his.”
“I thought you all agreed to trust me,” Robert says in what sounds like faint exhaustion.
“Trust you to break us out of here, and take us to your make-believe land sha-la-la, what do you call it, Shambala? Did he tell you about that, mister I’ll bet you’re really a male stripper detective?” Maggie asks, thinks for a second, before concluding, “Oh Archie. How sweet. You’ve hired him to strip for me.”
“A stripper?” Lucky laughs. “Lily told me Shambala was the name of his grocery store. Are you talking about Shangri-La?”
“I told you this information was for our ears only . . .” Robert says to Maggie, and then while pausing to think about what he was about to say, he realizes there was nothing on the table, no coffee or treats. He then stands up and unexpectedly yells across the room toward the two attendants who’ve been ignoring them. “Where’s our coffee? We want coffee. Black with none of that terrible fake low-fat dairy milk, and NO sugar. I want coconut cream and stevia.” When they don’t respond, he yells louder, “Do your job! Bring us coffee NOW!! And donuts.” One of the attendants looks up and shakes his head, as if Robert was a real nut case. After some consideration he yells back, “The coffee pot’s over there. Get it yourself old man.” The other attendant leaves the room. Lucky wonders if it’s the act Robert warned him of.
“Howard and Maggie had different forms of dementia, which I cured,” he then calmly states, after settling back down, lowering on lens to wink at Lucky.
“How is that possible?” Lucky asks. “Isn’t dementia incurable?”
“I learned many forms of healing when I was living in Shambala. I had to leave back in the 60’s because they brought me here to be a guru.”
“Did you hear that? He says he was a guru,” Maggie exclaims, as if she doesn’t believe a word he says. “I think he was smoking too much weed back in the 60’s. Even back then, I learned a few healing tricks myself,” she adds, pointing to her neck. “But somehow, he learned some energy trick, did it while were dancing, and then . . . no more dementia. Don’t need to be a dumb guru to learn things like that.” The other two laugh along with her.
“We’re breaking out of here tomorrow night. Don’t tell anyone,” Howard offers.
“Who would I tell?” Lucky asks, still trying to wrap his head around the bizarre situation he’s walked into. He’s still not sure whether he’s talking to a bunch of loonies, or not. While Lily looks as though bringing Lucky here was a mistake, a matronly sixty-something-year-old woman walks into the dining room and over to their table.
“Who is this man?” she demands to Robert, followed by a direct question to Lucky, “Who let you in?”
“He’s my guest and I invited him,” Robert answers.
“This is Wednesday, not Saturday. You do know we have strict visiting hours. I’ve warned you before, Mr. St. Clair, exceptions won’t be tolerated. I will not allow you to have your own staff here. You understand? I made an exception with your secretary here, and your boy servant Tinzle, but that’s it.”
She then stares at Lucky like a cruel headmistress from another century boarding school, like the BIA one’s where they wouldn’t allow the boys and girls to speak their native tongue, and then asks. “Who are you?”
“I’m a private eye, interviewing for a job, I guess.”
She puts both hands on her hips and stares at Robert. “I’ve bent over backward for you, Mr. St. Clair. My rules are perfectly clear. No more of your assistants are allowed here.” She pauses, shifts her focus to Lucky, and then continues, “A PI, oh my. I bet he wants to hire you to spy on me. Let me give you a heads up. This man may look and sometimes act intelligent, but he’s lost his whole bucket of bolts. He’s nuttier than anyone here, believe me.”
“Oh, go away Mildred, before I call the cops,” Robert harrumphs, with a wink toward Lucky he can’t see through his dark sunglasses, but could tell by his drooping eyebrow. She mutters something, which he interrupts with, “This is not the state pen, Mrs. Rice. Your visiting hour rule wouldn’t stand up in a Gulag court. You realize that I’m the fourth richest man in America, don’t you? I have a team of attorneys, who with the snap of my old fingers, will shut this place down for at least twenty violations I’ve noted. You wouldn’t want that, would you, Mrs. Rice? So be a good old girl and crawl back to your hole. You can’t be here while I tell this man the best ways to spy on you. I know all about your dirty laundry.”
“Why, I never,” she snorts. “I have no dirty laundry. And how many times have I told you? It’s Ms. Rice, Mssss. not Mrs.” She then turns and stomps out.
“Do you mind if I use the restroom,” Lucky has to say. “Is it over there?”
Once he’s safely away from them, Lucky phones Clarence, who answers right away. “I’m in the men’s room of a dementia facility. It’s where an old man named Robert St. Clair lives. He says he knows you. He wants to hire me, and it has something to do with him going back to a mythical place called Shambala. Is he in his right mind? How do you know this man?”
“We met officially, once or twice.”
“What do you mean officially?”
“Remember when I took you to the Door to Everything? It’s a portal to higher dimensions. While he was in a coma, we both traveled through the door, and met in his paradise, Shambala. Ideal place. I found him to be a most remarkable man.”
“Higher dimensions? There actually is this place, Shambala? But what about knowing him here, in the third dimension? Is that your meaning of officially?”
“Yes, a remarkable man here too. He’s one of the sharpest businessmen in America. At least he was before his stroke. I have no idea how his brain may have been altered since we last spoke. What’s the old fool doing in a dementia home?”
“Do you think he has dementia?”
“He’s eighty years old. It’s entirely possible.”
“What do you recommend?”
“I’ve had my turn, now it’s his. Give him the benefit of the doubt. What can I say? Ask Two Crows. Maybe he can enter his dreams. We’ll will talk about it soon. I’m in a meeting. Thanks for calling, son.” Clarence hangs up. It’s his turn?
Perhaps you think I’m nuts, that I’ve lost my marbles.
Lucky returns to the dining room and asks Lily to speak with him outside. Robert waves for them to go on, as if it were his idea. Bob Dylan comes to Lucky’s mind, that I’m gonna let it pass, so he can go his way, and I go mine.
“What is going on? Is that man in his right mind? What does he really want?” Lucky asks as soon as they’re in the foyer.
“I asked him the very same thing while you were calling for back-up.” She giggles. “He seems to be as intelligent as ever,” she tries to assure him. “Maybe some part of his brain isn’t working properly. I don’t know. All his talk of going to Shambala sure sounds like a malfunctioning wire to me. He’s always been so strait-laced. Quietly conservative. Mentally stable. If this is the first stage of dementia, it upsets me more than you can imagine.”
“Okay, so tell me, wire loose or not, why does he want to hire me?” Lucky asks, and then continues, “I’m not sure I want to work for someone who’s missing, what did that woman say, a whole bucket of bolts? Even a quarter bucker.”
“Please, don’t listen to Mr. Rice. As far as I’m concerned, that was a projection. He told me he wants to hire you to do three things.”
“Three things? Hmmm. They need to be with Native American or farming issue, or I’m out of here. My last job was an exception, an attempted murder in Montana.”
“I understand. The first one has to do with a farming issue . . . the other two . . . well, he didn’t tell me what the other two were.”
“I’m listening.” One out of three being a farming issue seems reasonable, he thinks.
“You know we’re the largest organic farming company in the world. That means we don’t use pesticides on our crops, or mislabeled organic, but not organic sprays. Since the 1940’s spraying crops with DDT and other toxic pesticides became standard practice. So, doing without has been a huge re-education process. Since the 70’s Robert and his Shambala tribes have been in the process of presenting farmers with a better incentive; to save on the cost of spraying pesticides and to grow pure organics. My work has been in redirecting crop eating insects to other plants, instead to the cash crops.”
“Now we’re talking,” Lucky says with a smile.
“Since I began working at Shambala foods, my goal has been to make Oregon the first totally organic GMO-free farm state. I’ve put on numerous seminars for Oregon farmers, regarding how to grow fields of healthy crops, without the use of pesticides, using organic seeds, mixing in flowers with crops and such. I’ve convinced farmers that the profit from organic farming exceeds that of pesticide farming, and we’ve offered to buy 100% of their harvests. Today, Oregon ranks fifth in the nation with organic farms. Both Robert and I want it to be number one.”
“I’m all aboard.” Lucky is surprised it’s going in this direction. “How can I help?”
“Robert wants you to find out about a new 100% organic proclaiming pesticide product on the market called NIP. It’s an acronym for Natural Insect Propellant.”
“I would assume it’s not organic,” Lucky says.
“Exactly,” Lily says, now comfortable wearing her biology hat, and continues, “Our chemists have concluded there is nothing natural about it. The container says it’s nature’s answer to all your insect and weed problems, at half the cost of Groundup. The cost part is the only thing on the bottle that’s true.”
“Assholes,” Lucky remarks., now totally enrolled. “Is this product made here in Oregon?”
“The company name and Oregon address on the label are bogus. We’re not sure where it’s made. We’ve exhausted our efforts to contact anyone who has anything to do with this product.”
“Hmm. Why would you think I can find out who’s making it and where it’s made?”
“Robert only said that you have better detective skills than our IT Tribe. He wants you to find their company office, and then I’ll get our attorneys on it, sue them, and shut them down.”
“I do a pretty good job of hiding under the radar. How did your IT Tribe find me?”
“They didn’t. Robert found you. You were recommended by his friend Clarence. But let’s stay on purpose. Robert wants you to find the NIP manufacturer. Can you do this ASAP,” Lily clarifies.
“It sounds like something we can handle,” he agrees. “Have your office fax what they’ve found so far to L&P Investigations.” He pauses to consider. “It’ll take about an hour for Adam to find them. Then I’ll be ready for the second thing. Do you have no idea what it is?”
“Nope. Regardless, you’ll get a fat check for helping us shut down this NIP operation. If you’re at all interested in the second thing, I suggest we go back and hear the old guy out, no matter how crazy it sounds. ”
Lucky follows Lily half-way into the dining room, and then stops. He realizes that he only wants to deal with Lily from now on regarding NIP and can care less about Robert’s folly. He wonders why he agreed to meet at a nut house in the first place. He suddenly can care less about some second thing. He’ll return to the table, offer a few polite words, and then say goodbye.
Lily turns back, “Are you coming?” He stifles his urge to turn around and walk out. He remembers he’s Lily’s ride back to the headquarters and follows her.
Lucky stands at the table of the four old folks, ready to say goodbye, thinking he would rather be in Beaverton, grooming his horse, then humoring a crazy old fool. He’s glad to leave with some work for his team.
Robert, behind his dark sunglasses, somehow locks Lucky in a stare down for almost a minute, before he speaks, “Thank you for not bolting. Let’s talk about Captain Jimmy Meriweather of the Portland Police Bureau.”
“Jimmy!? How do you know him and what does he have to do with anything?”
Robert notes Lucky’s surprised defensiveness, and continues, “Beginning as early as this Friday morning, in two days, if I predict Mrs. Rice’s behavior correctly, she’ll call the Portland Police, demanding to talk to the Chief, regarding my disappearance. She knows that Raymond Gonzales, Portland’s Chief of police, knows I’m here. Jimmy will be ordered to investigate.”
“The Police Chief? Are you under house arrest?” Maggie asks. “You’re not serious about us actually disappearing, are you? Friday?”
“Yes, I am, totally serious, and you know why. Please, I’d like to speak with this man without being interrupted.” Maggie rolls her eyes. “Perhaps you think I’m nuts,” he continues, focusing on Lucky. “That I’ve lost my marbles. But here’s the truth, Lucky. I’m not under house arrest. As the richest man in Oregon, I’ve asked for Raymond’s assistance on several occasions, and informed him when I moved here, for personal security reasons. I locked myself in here to heal my friends, and then to take them to a much better place. Nobody, including Mrs. Rice, knows that I’m Robert St. Clair, the owner of Happy Acres, and why I’m here. Tomorrow night the four of us will escape.”
“Do you think the Chief will react out of the possibility your disappearance could be a kidnapping?” Lucky asks.
“He’ll react because of who I am. Mildred will react because of who she is. She’ll turn it into high drama, possibly accusing me of doing the kidnapping, of these three. She’ll want the police involved before she starts calling national news. Raymond will want it silenced while Jimmy investigates what’s really going on.”
“How could it possibly be national news, Archie?” she asks. “Who cares about you?”
“You should. You may not want to believe it Maggie, but I’m the fourth wealthiest man in the country. You can Goggle it. National Enquirer once did a bogus front cover story on me; said I lived in a harem of ex-Playboy bunnies. Not true. I’ve been celibate my whole life. People read that trash because they love gossip; to make things up. I also have a reputation of being a modern-day Howard Hughes. That’s a reasonable comparison. But with my waist-length hair, I’m the only billionaire hermit ever who never cuts his hair. They can’t call me an old pothead hippie, because I’ve never drank alcohol or taken drugs. That’s in Goggle, too. After rising from the dead, does he now have dementia? I’m big news waiting to happen.”
“You’re big news that’s already happened, Archie?” Maggie states. “If you’re that rich, why don’t you buy Happy Acres and fire Mrs. Rice?”
“I told you Maggie, I already own the damn place. Firing Mrs. Rice and her staff is on Lily’s to do list. I just can’t kick out the other twenty-two inmates.”
“Maggie has a good idea,” Howard breaks in. “Keep everyone here, except that old fuddy-duddy Mildred. Spend fifty million . . . up to a billion and put in a big fishing lake out back. With a log cabin like we talked about. Catch and cook trout over an open fire. We can hire hula dancers. Drink beer. You can even put a dome over it and call it Shambala. You can do it, Robert. Turn it into our own personal paradise. We can just stay here and have a good old time.”
“It’s even better than you can imagine where we’re going, Reggie. Everything you’ve ever dreamed of is waiting for us.’
“You’re right Howard, Mildred sure is a fuddy-duddy,’ Sopi says, ignoring Robert’s comment.
“She sure makes a whole lot of fuss over nothing,” Maggie agrees. “I noticed how she lit up when the Indian here said he was a PI. Did you notice, Sopi?”
“Sure. She’s always trying to be a detective. I know she thinks you’ve got something up your sleeve, Robert,” she answers.
“Well, she’s right on that count. First thing Friday morning all her suspicions will be confirmed,” Robert says.
“I’m curious,” Lucky says, wondering out loud, while thinking about why he’s still there, listening, offering suggestions to a man who now appears less crazy. ‘Why not take a field trip, for a week or two, and bring your staff nurse along? Not telling the director of a gated medical facility you’re leaving, is pretty dramatic, if you ask me. Why not just sit Mrs. Rice down, tell her the truth and go take your trip?”
“I’ve already told Mrs. Rice the truth. She’s convinced that whatever I say is delusional. Mildred will not approve a field trip because it requires written family permission, and none of us have family, except Sopi. So, yes, we have to do it this way. We’re still going on that field trip, Lucky. I’m the tour guide on an end of life bucket-list adventure.”
“Is that true?” Lily asks. “You and my mother are going off to die?”
“We’ll be going off to live. Why would I lie to you, Maggie?” he asks her. “Tell me.”
“I don’t know. It seems to me your old man’s dream is unrealistic. When did I sign up for an end of life bucket-list adventure?” Robert shrugs.
“I think, once you all realize that there’s no Shambala, you’ll be back,” Lily offers. “I’m mostly concerned that you’ll honor my request, regarding my mother.”
“What about me?” Sopi asks.
“It’s nothing, Sopi,” Robert answers. “I promised Lily that I’ll make sure nothing ever harms you. Didn’t I just heal you? Why would I let you die? You might just find out that where we’re going, you’ll live forever.”
Another world. Secrets unimagined but true.
An attendant enters the dining room and walks up to the table. He tells Lucky that Mrs. Rice would like his business card. Please. Even though he wonders why, he hands a card over. He thinks that it will either lead to a legitimate referral, or she wants to hire him to find out everything about Robert St. Clair.
As soon as he leaves, Robert starts in. “I told lily that I have three requests. Are you willing to do the first one?” Lucky says “Yes.” Robert says “Excellent,” and continues, “My second request has to do with your friend Jimmy. Clarence told me you earned your pilot’s license. You’re obviously healthy about flying. Right?” Lucky nods, wondering where this is going. “Did you know Jimmy isn’t. He has only flown once in his life, around twenty years ago. That’s when her realized he suffers from flight phobia?”
“Flight phobia?? I know everything about Jimmy. Why wouldn’t I know that? How do you know he has a fear of flying?”
Even though Robert is now speaking like a man who has all his marbles, this new revelation is bizarre and a bit nuts. As far as Lucky knows, neither Robert nor Clarence have ever met Jimmy. Why in a million years would Jimmy tell either of them, even if they had met, about a phobia he’s never mentioned to anyone, including him, his best friend and confidant? There’s no way Robert should know of Jimmy’s hidden fear, and yet he’s totally convinced of it.
“Let’s just say I know things most people don’t.”
“That’s not an answer. And what difference does it make?” Lucky asks, shaking his head.
“I’m trying to tell you. Jimmy will be ordered to find me as soon as possible, before a fake story about the famous Portland recluse billionaire Robert St. Clair hits the front page, not only in Oregon but all over.
“What kind of fake story?” Maggie asks.
“I don’t know. Maybe kidnapping? Maybe murder? Who knows what Mrs. Rice will come up with? This is her one opportunity for fifteen minutes of Portland fame. She loves mysteries. If you saw what’s in her library, you’d understand.”
“Murder mysteries?” Lucky guesses, wondering if this Mildred is Portland’s equivalent to Browning, Montana’s Gladys, who Lucky had arrested for plotting to murder her husband Harold, Clarence’s best friend.
“That’s right, detective. I have no doubt that Portland’s number one Captain of Missing Persons will take the case. Detective Taylor Banks will assist him. Jimmy will tell you about this case, and you’ll volunteer to help.”
“Of course. The investigation will quickly lead him to you Lily. You’ll know what to do from there.” He turns to her and she gives him a questioning look.
“I’m still stuck on how you now this man has a fear of flying?” Lily offers.
“I get what you’re saying about fake stories,” Lucky breaks in, and for some reason is compelled to share. “There’s no doubt Shambala Natural Foods is everywhere, all over the world. You have to be the Elon Musk of the grocery business. Even so, if you leave this place with three of your friends, who really cares? It might make some juicy news for a day or two, but from my point of view, it seems like you’re projecting it to be a much bigger deal than it’ll ever be. At your age, with your money and attorneys, they’ll debunk Mrs. Rice’s lies. End of story.”
“That’s your theory, not mine. Regardless. Let’s get back to the second thing. We’ll be flying to San Francisco and on to the Yucatan in Mexico. I’m sure you can convince Jimmy to get on the plane, in order to follow us,” Robert responds.
“Is that where you’re taking us, Archie?” Maggie asks. Lucky wonders why she calls him Archie. He wonders who Archibald Goodwin really is.
“Of course. Let me continue my story . . .”
“I thought you were taking us to Shambala?” Maggie persists, interrupting. This woman is not about to take any bullshit. Lucky has to give her credit for that.
“Yes. There, too. I want you, Lily, to offer the detectives the use of our second jet. Of course, they can’t go flying off in Shambala’s multi-million-dollar Lockheed without you, so that’s another reason you’ll need to go with them. You’ll be a week behind us. Consider it a paid vacation, Lily, with a huge golden parachute attached.”
Lily looks uncomfortable with this information. Apparently, Lucky and her are hearing it for the first time. Lucky has no idea how this man can predict all these upcoming events with such confidence. But on second thought, it does make sense. Jimmy would most likely be given this case. In his investigation, he naturally will find and talk to Robert’s personal assistant, Lily. She’ll check the company jet’s flight records and find out Robert flew to California. There would be a second available jet, which she has permission to use. What he didn’t anticipate is Lily’s response.
“You seriously want three detectives and me . . . to follow you to California, and then to some Mayan temple, which is somehow connected to this mythical place . . . mythical meaning not real . . . called Shambala? I’ve lived with you for four years, Robert. I’m not sure what happened to you while in your coma, and I certainly don’t wish to be disrespectful, golden parachute and all but . . . it seems that running off with Maggie and Howard, who have dementia, and my mother, who isn’t that healthy, to some remote place, in the jungles of Mexico . . . isn’t a sound idea. You think you’ll find your paradise in Mexico?” He shrugs. “Sorry, it seems like a crazy idea. Maybe delusional. No offense.”
“See what I’ve been saying?” Maggie breaks in. “He’s locked up here because he has more than one screw loose. Maybe a dozen.”
“it’s far from a crazy idea, Lucky,” he says to him, and then turns to Lily. “It’s time to think outside the box. You know how much I honor and respect you, and you’ll still get that golden parachute. But rest assured, I’m as sane as they come,” Robert answers with confidence, “and what I’m doing is far from delusional.”
“Okay Robert, I’ll play along,” Lily sighs. “You’re going to give me your itinerary and keep in contact, right?”
“You’ll be able to get ahold of the flight logs. Keep in contact? Absolutely not. And, most important for both of you: you must not mention any of what I’ve just said to Jimmy or Taylor. When we meet again, you’ll understand why. Agreed?”
“That’s all you’re going to give us?” lucky asks, and then considers. “You’re eighty-years old and if there’s some paradise you want to take your friends to, I say go for it. You’ve earned the right to do whatever you please. Why not?” Lucky is suddenly enjoying the idea of joining in a secret escapade; supporting four old folks to check a mythical wonderland off their bucket list, without anyone telling them they can’t. “If I were a billionaire, free to do whatever I pleased, I would do the same. But I’m sorry Robert, you’re asking me to deceive my best friend Jimmy. I can’t do that.” He stands up.
“I don’t see how that will be an issue,” Robert answers. “Jimmy will reluctantly take this case. Once you show some interest, he’ll welcome your company.”
“Most likely but remember I’m a detective. There’s something you’re not telling us, Robert. I understand the concept of hacking into stored computer data. What you know about Jimmy isn’t stored anywhere. That’s a fact. You know even his darkest secret. How? And somehow, you’ve arranged for him to follow you, wherever you’re going. There is something fishy going on. My red warning light is telling me to pass while I have a chance.”
“You’re over-reacting,” Robert says. “Please sit down.”
“I get what both of you are saying,” Lily chimes in, addressing Lucky. “If it all goes down as Robert says, your friend Jimmy will need your support. You’ll want to help him, especially if you think something is fishy about all this. We need to fly to follow them. Our private jet is available. I’ll offer it to Jimmy and assure him that we have room for you on the plane. Because his fear of flying is a deep dark secret, he definitely will want you aboard.”
“That makes sense. Do you know Jimmy?” Lucky asks Lily.
“I don’t.” At that moment Lucky could see Jimmy hooking up with this lovely Asian woman.
Lucky thinks it over. He’s intrigued, no doubt. Nevertheless, he decides to speak freely on why it won’t work and says, “Maybe you don’t realize Jimmy’s basically already retired, and has earned the right to turn down every case that comes to his desk. He runs a private business on the side, which needs his undivided attention six nights a week. Knowing Jimmy, he’ll tell the Chief to take a hike.
“Anyway,” Lucky continues after he lets that sink in, “the Chief has promoted a Lieutenant to acting Captain of Missing Persons. That gives the Chief a way to honor his agreement with Jimmy and leave him alone. It’s a big assumption on your part to think either of these men will have anything to do with this charade of yours.”
“My, that was a mouthful,” Robert says with a grin. “I told you, a high-profile case like this will require the esteemed forty-five-year veteran Captain, not some recently promoted Lieutenant. I do know the Chief of Police, by the way. He’ll give Jimmy no choice, whether you like it or not. Trust me, this is how it will play out.” Robert gives Lucky a hard look. “So, number one, get your people to solve the NIP case, and number two, get yourself involved in our missing person case, beginning this Friday, the day after we’ve disappeared. You need to be a vital part of the investigation before the plane leaves for California, up until we meet again in Mexico.”
“You’re not going to let me get out of this, are you?”
“Of course not. I’ve gotten to where I am in life by going after what I want, without taking no for an answer. Your first stop will be at a hotel I own in Big Sur. I’ve chosen this stop with Jimmy in mind. His esteemed Aikido Sensei moved there several years ago. Jimmy’s always wanted to see him again. I’m sure you’d want to meet him too.”
“You’re still not going to tell me how you know all this about Jimmy, are you?”
“You’ll find out.”
“I’m going to get paid, right?
“A thousand dollars a day, beginning today. After leaving Portland, Lily will cover the cost of all flights, ground transportation, meals and hotel accommodations. Will that work?” Robert says, smiles, chuckles, and nods.
“A thousand dollars a day? Wow. Thanks.” Lucky didn’t expect that, and then says, “I’m curious. What’s number three?”
“It will be revealed when we meet again,” Robert states with an affirmative voice and ads, “Keep in mind, I’m an extremely wealthy man, able to make anyone’s dream come true. I know you need money for your cyber-revolution dream. That dream may change, and another will take its place, but rest assured when you arrive with Taylor and Jimmy at your side, you’ll get your money. I wish you well on your journey.
“Now Lily will show you to your car. Until we meet again, good luck and God bless.”
Light jazz, Ginger tea. Pleasantries.
After meeting with Robert, Lucky returns to his Portland office. His partner Peter, and their computer hacking specialist CJ, have just completed a successful detective investigation spying on Starbuck, and are ready for their next job.
With their other computer hacking genius Adam, Lucky tells them that Shambala Natural Food has hired them to find out about NIP, Natural Insect Propellant, a new organic claiming insecticide. “We need to find out where it comes from, who makes it, and enough proof that it’s definitely not organic, to enable their attorneys to begin the process of shutting them down.”
Lucky continues, “I have a sneaky suspicion that it comes from the Ruhl Farm in Southern Oregon. Since we’re already in their system, this should be a piece of cake.”
Adam and CJ get right on it. An hour later they have printouts of all the information Lucky was hired to find; of what he suspected all along. NIP was indeed being manufactured at the Ruhl Farm, which is run by John Piedmont, Jr., the son of the owner of the Piedmont Syn, one of the largest petrochemical companies in the world.
The information confirms that NIP is far from organic as labeled; in fact, the ingredients include a long list of high-grade toxins. “It’s being covertly manufactured as a competitive brand to Piedmont Syn’s famous Groundup,” CJ states. She surmises that Piedmont Junior is most likely producing NIP on his own, and doesn’t want his father, John Senior, to find out. “We also uncover proof that Ruhl Farm’s vodka uses GMO potatoes drenched in NIP, which also makes it potentially lethal,” she adds.
Considering CJ’s confirmations, Lucky counters with his theory that John Senior is using his son’s well-hidden West Coast location to create a competitive product, in an attempt to monopolize the glyphosate insecticide market, by marketing a lower priced alternative to their Groundup. “Either way,” Lucky states, “we now know the ingredients are nearly the same, and with either one, the profit margin is enormous.”
In their research of Piedmont Syn, Adam finds that the company is wealthier than three quarters of the countries of the world, with over a trillion dollars in annual sales, based on “reported” income. “Dude,” he starts, “Both of these guys, John Junior and John Senior are out-of-control psychopaths. They’re greedy ass business tyrants who don’t think twice about poisoning the people of the world for the almighty dollar. If Shambala doesn’t do it, we need to shut these fuckers down.” They all high-five each other.
Lucky calls Lily with the results of their investigation. She’s please with how fast he completed his task, but Knowing Robert, she thinks it was just his test to prove Lucky’s competence to her. Given this information, know that Piedmont Syn is in may ways ‘above the law,’ she concedes that shutting down the Ruhl Farm operation would require an army of attorneys who’d be locked in legal battles for years to come..” Lucky tells her his team operates below the law, and when the time is right, they’ll work with the Shambala attorneys to make it right. In the meantime his team will continue compiling incriminating information.
She tells Lucky she‘ll pass the information on to Robert, and pay him appropriately, regardless of the fact it only took two hours. They agree to get together that night.
At five, before his Aikido class, Lucky meets Lily at Mary Jane’s, his favorite breakfast cafe in downtown Portland. The pre-dinnertime diner is subdued, with only a few customers and soft jazz making it more conducive to a nap than a meal. They ordered a pot of ginger tea and spend the first half hour talking about their careers.
Lucky’s impressed with her Doctorate in Biology credentials but he’s more interested in her reason for participating in Robert’s bizarre fantasy. She reminds him she does what her boss orders and that her mother has terminal cancer. She’s concerned about the frail woman’s risk of taking a trip anywhere, let alone into the Mexican jungles. “I’m afraid I won’t be able to see her again before she passes, if I don’t follow close behind,” she says. Lily’s involvement now makes sense.
“Robert seemed to know about my interest in organic farming and my dislike for the big argo/petro chemical giants.
“I’m sure it’s why Robert gave you that odd task today. You know it’s no win for us to challenge a trillion dollar company?” He looks at the ceiling and she considers her words. “You’re opposed to glyphosate, Groundup and GMO farming, right?” He nods. “Since I’m a Doctor of Biology with an organic emphasis, I too want the pesticide madness to end. I really don’t want to know why you need the money? Cyber-terrorism? I’d rather not know. But, I suppose the best cutting-edge computer equipment is pretty pricey, right? How much do you think you’ll need?” she concludes.
“Around a million-dollars. He said my dream may change and that he will pay. That was confusing.”
“It’s not a matter of whether or not he can afford to waste a million dollars,” she offers. “In our travels I’ve seen him give away millions to support dreams. At the same time, personal money is abstract to him. He never spends money. In the past four years I’ve paid for everything. With his money, of course. Everything he owns is paid for, even the nine story headquarters. The Finance Tribe buys the things Shambala Foods needs and invests the profits. Robert has a seventeen billion dollars last time I looked. It makes my heart feel good whenever he’s willing to share some of it.”
“I’ll use it wisely.”
“I’m sure you would, but that’s beside the point. I’ll say this, I was surprised he offered me a golden parachute, whatever that means.”
“What do you think it means?”
“That he’s actually considering giving me bonus money, above and beyond my salary. Come to think about it, since recovering from his coma, he’s changed regarding money. He wants to help his friends, pay for everything, help me, pay you a top salary from day one, reward you when you two meet again. I’m sure he’ll give you a million dollars. I don’t mind asking him, as soon as we sit down and he tells me what in the hell he intents to do with his seventeen billion when he dies.”
“He must have a will. What about Jimmy and Taylor? It seems as though he has some sort of surprise in store for them, too. Why Mexico? Do you know what that’s all about?
“I don’t have a clue. Remember, I was the one trying to talk him out of this foolish journey, even if it’s only reaching the steps of some Mayan temple. He could have avoided all the drama he’s anticipating. I could have paid off Mildred Rice, hired a staff of doctors and nurses, booked the best hotels and most comfortable vans, on a two week vacation to Mexico, or anywhere, for that matter.”
“That sounds reasonable, but none of this is the least bit reasonable.” Lucky thinks about it for a moment, and then decides to clear up what’s been bothering him. “Do you think Robert understood why I don’t feel so good about deceiving my best friend Jimmy.”
“I thought more about it this afternoon and came to the conclusion your argument of deception is confused with what’s needed to complete a task, and I’m sure he thinks this way too. We exist in a highly competitive corporate world where every major player uses business strategy. We never lay all our cards on the table at once. Is that deception or wisdom? Jimmy is being paid to do a police investigation and you’ve been hired to be a private eye. In running your investigation business, I’m sure you don’t report back to Jimmy the nature of each job, the name of each client and how much they’re paying, right?” Lucky sighs, accepting her logic. “What do you think about keeping this secret from Taylor?”
“I don’t really know her. Met her once. I have mixed feelings about working with her. I’ve heard she’s the hot-headed hard-bodied daughter of Oregon’s Army commanding General. Jimmy says she’s bright, but impatient, glamorizes murder, which I think is twisted, and not interested in working another missing people case.”
“Fair enough. Like me, she has a job, and will need to follow her boss’s dictates. For some odd reason Robert thinks highly of her. I wish I knew what he sees in her; what that’s all about. He won’t tell me. What can you tell me about Jimmy?”
“He’s sixty-four. Single. Has been on the police force for nearly forty-five years. A distinguished Captain and gentleman, about to retire. He’s also a Zen Master and an Aikido sensei with six black belts. He recites haiku and lives at his dojo with a black cat named Endo, has a Zen garden with koi fish and bonsai. He’s a man of the highest integrity, someone I greatly respect and would follow anywhere.”
“Well, there you go. I like him already. I’ll tell you what, why don’t you get to know Taylor, see if you can calm down her hot head, and I’ll get to know Jimmy. The only thing you need to keep secret is the fact that you’re working for Robert and will collect, let’s say, a million dollars after we show up in Shambala with the two of them. I think that’s worth at least making an effort to get on her good side, don’t you think?”
“When you put it that way, it sounds like you want me to be a gigolo. I’m supposed to romance her for the money?”
“Technically you would be a gigolo if I were paying you to have sex with me. An older woman paying a young stud. That’s not going to happen. You having sex with Taylor might be too confusing. Let’s try to keep it professional. How you end up befriending her is none of my business.”
“You’re right. I just got out of an intense love affair, while working with her on a case. It proved to be too confusing. I won’t call it a mistake . . . I learned my lesson.” He looks at his phone. “I need to go.”
“It’s sounds like you’ll do the right thing. My mission will be much harder. I need to get Jimmy to trust me, right away, so it’ll be his choice to be involved. Once he gets wrapped up in this investigation, we’ll make sure he’ll want to find Robert, even if it means taking a flight or two. All you need to do is get him to my house, Robert’s Frank Lloyd Wright estate.”
“Where you’ll be all concerned and want to help us find your boss?”
“Exactly. See you soon.Remember, you don’t know me.”
Lemon grass steeped right, nestled. The cat’s meow.
After a short rest at his Pearl District apartment, Lucky dives to Jimmy’s dojo, where he helps him instruct an hour-long Aikido class. With his five black belts and twenty years of training, Lucky has found mastery in this martial art. Though he is bigger, stronger and faster than Jimmy, everyone knows who the real master is. At age sixty-four, Jimmy’s movements are graceful and effortless; always flowing with any attack, from any direction.
As always, after the last student bows and says goodnight, they adjourn to Jimmy’s dojo apartment.
Lucky settles on a zabuton in front of the low round table while Jimmy busies himself in his open mini kitchen, brewing tea. His dojo cat Endo, ebony with green eyes, finds Lucky’s lap, stretches and then relaxes. After observing hundreds of sessions from the sidelines, she’s a cat Aikido master; eyes closed, purring, yet totally aware of everything.
Jimmy pours lemongrass tea into the tiny cups, and recites a haiku, which as always, he has just made up, “Lemon grass steeped right, nestled. The cat’s meow.”
“You’re comfortable here, just you and the cat. Do you every feel lonely?” Lucky asks. “I mean for a female companion.”
“An old story, Lucky. Did you notice who brewed the tea? A rhetorical question, but yes, I’m lonely for what I don’t have. Now that I’m retiring, I suppose I’ll have time for her, whoever she is. I’m not so old. I do wonder about a good woman.”
“Of course, you do. I’m not so different. I just turned down an opportunity to spend my life with the sexiest, smartest and most beautiful woman I’ve ever known.”
“Because you’re not willing to relocate. I would have done the same. I wouldn’t pack up and leave here for a woman, no matter how perfect she was. That isn’t the real reason you can’t be with her, is it?”
“I think it is. I’m unwilling to play with the heart strings of someone that precious. If I can’t be there 100%, I have no good reason for being there at all.” The two men sit in silence for a few minutes, contemplating that. Lucky finally completes the thought. “Maybe my destiny doesn’t have room for a serious relationship. By the way, do you know a man by the name of Robert St. Clair?”
“Robert St. Clair? Never heard of him. Why?”
“He’s a friend of Clarence. We were talking today, and your name came up. Seems this man knows all about you.”
“That’s not so unusual, Lucky. I’m a Police Captain. Been around forever. I heard I have a page on Wikipedia. Should I know him?”
“Maybe. Clarence says he’s the billionaire owner of Shambala Natural Foods, which has its corporate headquarters here in Portland. He’s a hermit and eighty-years old. A powerful man. He may or may not have dementia.”
“Interesting. Now that you mention it, I’ve heard of him, but we’ve never met What’s this about?”
“He wants me to work for him.”
“As a stock boy in one of his stores?”
“Funny. Clarence says he wants me to solve a crime which has yet to be committed. To help you in an upcoming investigation.” Endo rearranges himself on Lucky’s lap. Purring. He takes a sip of tea.
“An eighty-year-old man, who might have dementia, tells your Montana friend about a crime, which hasn’t been committed . . . that I’m supposed to investigate??” Jimmy pauses to think about it. “How many times have I told you, Lucky, I have no desire to do any more police work? I have this dojo to run and after I retire, I’ll feed my koi fish and every once in a while, I’ll go fishing for trout. I got a little cabin picked out on a lake not far from here. I’ll fire up the grill, cook up the trout I caught, smothered in onions, baby potatoes with sour cream, fresh corn on the cob, and I’ll drink too much beer, and not give a shit about who went missing or who got murdered. You’re invited to join me anytime.”
“What if your Chief gave you a high-profile case tomorrow?”
“I’d say hell no. I’m done. Give to someone else.”
“You still have three more months to go. You’ve told me about Taylor Bank. You think your Chief can justify paying you Captain wages, her Sergeant wages, for the two of you to just sit around for months doing nothing?”
“He agreed to it. Taylor wasn’t part of the deal. Above all my objections, he assigned her to me. I’ve earned my pre-retirement time. Taylor’s predicament is on him, not me. Patience is a virtue we both are practicing. She’s always invited into my meditation. She’s the one struggling with patience. I’m not.”
“You’re still her teacher whether you want to admit it or not. You must feel the moral responsibility to do the right thing by her.”
“I’m open to helping her. I’ve told Raymond to pass every missing person case that comes into the Bureau by me. I’ve given a few to Taylor. She solves them right away.”
“Why not give them all to her?”
“She doesn’t want them. She wants homicide cases. I’m absolutely done with homicide. Period. The gal’s smart. Talented. And I’m stuck with her until I’m out of there. It’s complicated. She’s the daughter of the Commanding General of the Oregon Army National Guard. The Mayor is involved. The Chief of Police. Three powerful men are mixed up in this Taylor mess. My hands are tied.”
“I get it” Lucky says, now realizing its four powerful men. He has no idea what would make this gal so special. “Maybe you don’t have the full picture of what’s really going on with your Taylor Banks.” Jimmy gives him a questioning look. “If the General made the deal to have her promoted to detective sergeant right out of the academy, then he’d be able to get her any assignment she wanted. I’ll bet her father didn’t want her to work homicide either. Maybe he decided she needed to hang out with you for six months. See what I’m saying?”
“I wondered about that myself. Why is the Chief holding her back? She’s not spoiled. Determined, yes. A pain in the ass, yes. She’s cocky, wanting what she wants and the hell with anyone in her way. Maybe her father knew she needed to learn about patience. Don’t know. All I know is I don’t like holding anyone’s spirit down.“
“Something’s bound to come up. When it does, let me in on it. Maybe I can settle her down.”
Later that evening, back at his home, Lucky phones Clarence and asks again about Robert St. Clair.
“A very pleasant gentleman. He’s like me, a shaman.; a multi-dimensional being. We had our conversations in Shambala, the place where he wishes to return to. He was in a coma for a month. Everyone thought he was gone. That’s when I met him.”
“In Shambala? He went to this mythical land while everyone else thought he was unconscious?”
“We never lose our consciousness. It’s not mythical.”
“So, he went there when he was in a coma. Can he get there now in walking consciousness?” Clarence says he’s not sure. “But you can while you’re here in full consciousness, right? So maybe he can too. If not for my encounters with Two Crows, I would think this is all insanity. I believe you Clarence. Will you keep me informed of his location, so I can find him when the time is right?”
“I’m not going to do that,” Clarence answers. “While in Montana, I gave you glimpses of other dimensions. Robert is about to lead you on a journey to the 5th dimension, a journey you’ll need to surrender to, from beginning to end. Maybe I can watch, appear in your dreams now and then, but I won’t interfere.”
“Fair enough. Any last words?”
“Like Two Crows, your time has come to ride the High Pony.” With this said, he hangs up.
One the kanji for surrender, the other for honor.
Three months previously:
Captain Jimmy Meriweather invites Lucky to spend the weekend with him and two young students, rearranging his Portland Police Bureau office.
After nearly forty-five years of police work, he’s the first and only African American to receive the rank of senior Captain, Head of Homicide and Missing Person Investigations, in the history of the Portland Police Bureau. He was six months shy of retirement. During his past eighteen years overseeing all criminal activity, he was well-liked and respected by everyone on the police force. But now the time had come for Jimmy to make a bold statement: he was done with crime; done with who done it and who cares why.
Jimmy arrived with a rental moving van full of furnishings, which sat in the parking garage while the four spent the morning gutting his office. By noon his framed diplomas and certificates, the twelve most wanted posters, the beyond repair pressboard shelves stacked with decades of case files, paper references to the pre-laptop era, the classroom sized green chalkboard scribbled with names, clues and guesses, lines leading to Scotch-taped photos of people and places, scribbled names on yellow Post-its and its companion cork-board, cluttered with push-pinned memos, notes and mostly ignored inter-office such and such, all of which Jimmy had no further interest in . . . were all gone. As were his desk and chairs and the ratty old couch, his cabinets and everything else. All gone.
The past eighteen years of Jimmy’s most recent police history was placed in a dark corner of the bureau’s basement archives, to rest in peace. After lunch, a cleaning crew scoured the place, and that evening the painters came to off-white the 16×20 feet space. Early Sunday morning a gray wall-to-wall indoor/outdoor carpet was laid, and when he arrived at ten that morning, his office looked brand new, ready to be furnished. He and Lucky emptied the van and started decorating.
Somewhere around two o’clock that Sunday afternoon Jimmy beamed with pride. He had finally turned his mess of banged-up police clutter into his personal Zen retreat, right there in the middle of the Investigations Branch of the chaotic Police station.
Since that day, Lucky’s come to visit him now and then, to sit with him on his futon and meditate. Lucky suggested and Jimmy added a Zen waterfall fountain, which he had placed in the middle of the office, with a large enough drop to drown out most of the outside office chatter.
It’s now Thursday morning, three months later. The office window’s noren curtains are closed. Shakuhachi flute music fills the darkened space, in stark contrast with the world outside his door; the crazy chaos of a metropolitan police bureau in full swing.
Jimmy sits totally relaxed in his serene ambiance, with his hardly-ever-used shiny black marble-top desk, barren except for a centrally placed eighteen-inch silver reclining Buddha, softly illuminated by the glow of an over-hanging white paper-ball lamp. Behind the front door-facing desk, he had placed an ancient samurai sword, which rests on its black lacquer display. Below the sword is a one shelf bookcase, with five books, held up by two fierce-looking celadon dragons: The Art of War by Lao Tzu; A Book of Five Rings by Miyamoto Musashi; The Way of Zen by Osho; The Essence of Aikido: Spiritual Teachings of Morihei Ueshiba; and a tattered Many Gods, One Heart by Lama Chogyal Da. He once told Lucky that within the covers of these books was just about all the collected wisdom he needs to know, the only words he wants to read during his last six months on the force.
Jimmy loves his white silk kimono embroidered with a fierce looking green-eyed dragon, a gift from a shinshoku Shinto priest, which dominates the right-of-the-entrance-door wall. At the left wall is Jimmy’s favorite resting place: his white futon couch, where he sits. On its shiny black end tables are white rice paper lamps, one painted with the black kanji for honor, and the other painted with surrender.
The Chief of Police, Raymond Gonzales, and Jimmy had spent years together as young street cops, and both rose through the ranks to become the top police officers in the Portland Police Bureau. Of course, there was a Deputy Chief, but everyone knew Jimmy was the man in charge of all the action. He was the head of Investigations, in charge of all the detectives, drugs & vice, forensics personnel, everyone and everything that had to do with crime, which included homicide and missing persons. After all his years of being in charge of trying to solve every crime that reached his desk, to arrest every thief, murderer, wife beater, rapist, or drug gang-banger, a thankless always-on-call demanding job, Raymond acquiesced and the two old friends agreed: until Jimmy retired in six months he would only need to meet with his second in command once a day, to make sure everything was running smoothly. He would officially still run the department, free to accept or reject any case of interest, with the intention of rejecting everything; free of all administration or hands-on responsibilities.
After two weeks in his new Zen office, now with his smooth river rock flowing fountain, Jimmy was at peace. He showed up for work every day, even though his spirit for police work was gone. He met with his second first thing every morning for about five minutes and then shut the door for the rest of the day. Raymond Gonzales agreed, after decades of exemplary service, Jimmy’s six-month free ride was well-earned. He would leave him alone.
And then, the Chief did something Jimmy would never have expected.
A new crop of rookies had graduated from the Police Academy, and among them was an attractive brown-skinned woman of questionable ethnicity named Taylor Banks, who also happened to be the daughter of the commanding General of the Oregon Army National Guard. All her fellow graduates were given street precinct assignments in the Operations Branch, but not her. She was immediately made a Detective Sergeant in the Investigations Branch and assigned to be mentored by the bureau’s second most senior police officer, the Head of Investigations, Captain Jimmy Meriweather.
Now, in present time, Friday morning a little after nine o’clock, Jimmy is being buzzed by his totally frustrated, unwanted and certainly not needed, so-called protégé, Taylor. Time for coffee.
It will be another uneventful day. Or so he hopes.
Jimmy Meriweather – Portland Police Captain