by Courtney Webb
(Sam Reynolds, PI, is home alone feeling very bored and thinking about his life. Thoughts about some old cases come up.)
The next case was a forty-five-year-old married woman. Sam found her working as a waitress at a bar in a coastal marina, two hours away. The formerly brown hair was now blond. The woman sported a new tanning-bed tan and a hot pink tube top over some very short shorts. She took his drink order and retreated back through a flower patterned bead curtain next to the bar. Sam pulled out her picture again and squinted at it. Yup, same woman, different hair.
Returning, Marilyn Cummings plunked down his cold Budweiser; he handed her a ten. She turned to leave. Quickly, he held up a picture of Benjamin, her cubby, balding husband of twenty-five years.
“Benjamin sent me,” he told her.
The woman’s mouth dropped. She looked stunned, then angry.
“How the hell did you find me?” The freshly applied lipstick formed a tight line.
“Would you like to sit, Ma’am?”
“For about one minute and don’t call me ma’am,” she replied tersely, sitting.
“He misses you, Marilyn. Mr. Cummings would like you to come home.”
A shadow flickered over her face but passed.
“Well, tell him I’m not coming home. I am sick to death of church meetings, picnics, and the Lord. Then, those Sunday dinners with that old bat he calls his mother. Her nitpicking me to death. . ..” She seemed to run out of steam and stared off into space.
“He needs to know you’re alive, so he doesn’t file a missing persons report with the police.”
Her head whipped around and she stared at Sam a moment.
“Do you have to tell him where I am? Jesus, I don’t want him mooning around here bothering me!”
“If you can give me something to prove it’s you and promise to contact him, I won’t have to give him specifics.” Sam sipped his beer and eyed her over the rim of the bottle.
She stared into space again. Stuffing the ten into her apron, she got up.
“I’ll be back in a second.” She disappeared through the curtain and was gone several minutes.
Sam played with the label on his beer. The weather here was beautiful. Clear sunlight with a light breeze blowing through the cheery cantina. The place was decorated with lots of yellow, orange and acid green posters. Banana leaves peaked over the veranda and there was an excellent view of the ocean. He wouldn’t mind working here himself.
The beads on the curtain clicked together. Marilyn reappeared with a small, white envelope in her hand.
“Give him this,” she handed the envelope to Sam. “Tell the little turd I will give him a call. Or, my lawyer will.”
Sam looked at the envelope. “Benji,” was written on the front. He nodded and stuck it in a pocket.
“Can I get back to work now?” She waved at customers sprinkled around the bar, talking and laughing.
Sam sensed his cue, took a last sip of his beer and got up. He patted his pocket. “I’ll give this to him Ma’… Mrs. Cummings. Thank you.”
She nodded curtly, and he made his exit.
Back in Tranquility, California, Sam’s hometown, he drove the truck up to Cummings Insurance Agency. He got out and went into the office. A young lady with an outdated Farrah Fawcett hairdo greeted him.
“I’ll get Mr. Cummings.” Sam sat and waited. Benjamin Cummings hustled out and greeted him.
“Sam, Sam. Come into my office, please.” The same cubby man in the photograh appeared.
Sam followed Ben Cummings into the man’s office and sat. Cummings closed the door and came around to his desk and sat in a big brown leather chair. He looked eagerly at Sam.
“You found her?” He reminded Sam of a lost St. Bernard puppy.
Sam nodded and pulled the little package out of his pocket.
“I did, sir. She asked me to give this to you.” Solemnly, he handed it over.
With a questioning look, Benjamin Cummings slowly took the envelope and stared at it.
“That is her handwriting, isn’t it, Mr. Cummings?”
Cummings nodded silently. He reached out a pudgy hand for a silver letter opener. He sliced the letter open. When he turned it over, something fell out with a little clunk. He picked it up. It was a gold wedding ring. The man began to cry.
Sam shifted uncomfortably and tried to look away.
Fidgeting, he thought, Geese, I could use a cigarette right now. He patted his moustache instead.
Cummings grabbed some Kleenex and blew his nose.“What did she say?” He looked at Sam with emploring eyes.
Sam told him and advised Mrs.Cummings agreed to be in contact.
Cummings nodded numbly. “I guess I owe you the balance of your fee, since you found her.”
“Well, if this is a bad time. . .”
“No, a deal’s a deal.” Cummings reached into a drawer and pulled out his check book. He wrote Sam a check and handed it to him. Sam looked at the check. It was for the exact dollar amount agreed upon previously.
“Thank you, sir.” Sam got up and was about to leave when Cummings stood up and held out his hand. Sam shook it.
“Thank you, so much for your service, Sam. The Lord be with you and have a blessed day.”
Sam forced a smile on his face and turned to escape. He got into his truck and shook himself.
“Geekville. Good luck, Marilyn.” He went to deposit his check.
Memories of these events stirred in Sam’s brain as he stared out into the soggy landscape.
Plunking a broad-brimmed hat on his head, he went out and did a walk around the front yard. Neighbors were jumping in cars and charging off to work and school. A couple waved as they drove by. He waved back and stared around. More grey, wet dampness everywhere. Depressing.
Turning back to the house, he checked the mailbox and discovered a little envelope he hadn’t noticed before.
“Hmm.” He read the return address: Green Veil Monastery. “Wonder what they want?”
He took it inside and got out the silver letter opener Kristie had given him. He slit the light green paper open.
“Mediation for the Soul — Come for a three-day retreat at the beautiful Green Veil Monastery. Learn to master your inner mind.”
“Don’t know about mastering my inner mind,” Sam chuckled. “Is that like the inner child?” In a moment, he realized what was wrong with him. “I am bored to shit,” he told the room. “I am, 100%, bored out of my ever-loving mind.”
He turned the card over and looked at it again.
The price isn’t bad for three days, he thought, and I bet they serve meals too. Might have to sleep on the floor on one of those matt things.
“Oh, what the hell.”
He underlined the phone number with his pen and went to get his phone.
“Hello? Yes, this is Sam Reynolds. I’d like to speak to Brother Huang. Yes, he knows me. Thanks, I’ll wait.”
Sam started to hum a little tune. He needed a change of scene and he had liked that place. Very green, pretty.
Months before, a distraught mother and grandmother hired Sam to find their child. A possible kidnap/suicide victim. Using intuition and tracking skills, he located the girl at Green Veil Monastery, east of San Francisco. He made a short acquaintance with Brother Huang who ran the monastery. Sam liked him.
“Brother Huang? Yes, Sam Reynolds here. Remember me? Of course you do. Well, I got this little invitation in the mail. Something about a retreat. Oh, you sent it. Well, I guess I’ll have to come then. Right, talk to your assistant. Okay, will do and see you then.”
Sam gave the assistant his credit card information. He got off the phone and started humming a jaunty tune. This could be fun. He couldn’t wait to tell Kristie.
“Meditation!” Kristie broke into a laugh. “You’re kidding. You?”
Kristie leaned forward and held a hand over her mouth to cover the laughter.
Sam frowned and smoothed down his mustache.
She finally took a deep breath and straightened up, saw his face and quickly composed her face.
“Sorry, honey, I didn’t mean to laugh. It’s. . . well . . .” she waved a helpless hand his way.
Sam looked hurt but tried to recover himself. “I know, I know. It’s a little different is all.”
“Well, yes, you could say that.” Kristie, Sam’s longtime squeeze, sidled over and gave him a big hug.
He smiled a little.
“It’s . . . a little unlike you, I guess I should say.” She pecked him on the cheek. Grabbing her coffee cup, she moved away a little and looked to be trying to overcome another case of the giggles.
Sam pursed his lips. “You think I shouldn’t go?”
Kristie slid her eyes sideways at him then started inspecting the morning paper. “No, no. It might be . . . good for something. Blood pressure, that kind of thing.” She studied the paper, avoiding eye contact.
“Well, yeah.” He paused a little uncertainly. “I quit smoking you remember. All by myself. No nicotine patch or nothing. Powered through it.”
She nodded. “True, true.”
“You want to go with me?”
Kristie looked up,stricken. “Go with. . .? Ah, what do they do there, other than hum?” She started to smirk again but caught herself and stopped.
“Well, I don’t know for sure. I went that one time and there was a bunch of them in a big room, sitting on the floor. They were following the master in the front.”
“Following the master. . .” Kristie goggled a little. “Ah, well. . . I don’t know about that. Sounds a little religious to me and I get plenty of that every Sunday.”
Sam looked disappointed. “You might like it, something different.”
“Well . . .” Kristie was teetering on the brink of indecision when the phone rang.
Kristie picked it up. “Chelsea? Yes, it’s mom. How are you? It’s been ages! This weekend? Well, I don’t know?” She cast a pleading look Sam’s direction and he gave a dismissal wave and pointed at his watch.
“Yes, yes. That would be okay. No, not doing anything. Sam? Well, he might be out of town. I know you like seeing him but . . . “she gazed at him again, “He might be doing something else.”
Sam went over and gave her a quick hug and tousled her curly, dark blonde locks. At fifty-five years, she was still a looker. He kissed her cheek.
“I’ll be going,” he whispered. She nodded back and blew a kiss in the air.
“Boyfriend? You have a new boyfriend? Want to bring him by? Well, sure, that would be great. I’ll have to clean house of course, which is a big bother, but . . ..”
Quietly, Sam let himself out the front door and went and got into his pickup truck. He patted the little green envelope.
“Yep, this might be a very quiet weekend indeed.” He drove off home.
Continued – Green Veil Montastery