(Mystery/Romantic comedy)

It was early spring, and the weather was overcast and drippy. Rain was intermittent in the valley and the ground, soggy underfoot.

Sam Reynolds stared gloomily out the glass slider at his back yard. He clutched a hot mug of coffee in one hand and stared at the drips slowly falling from the eves. He gave a sound somewhere between a growl and a sigh and turned back to the kitchen table.

The morning news was spread out and he turned some more pages with a listless finger.

“Jesus, even the sports section has got nothing!” he told the still air.

Plunking a broad-brimmed hat on his head, he did a turn around the front yard. Neighbors were jumping in cars and charging off to work and school and 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 mail box and discovered a little envelope he hadn’t noticed before.

“Hum.” He read the return address: Green Veil Monastery. “Wonder what they want?”

He took it inside and got out the letter opener and 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?” Suddenly, he realized what was wrong with him. “I am bored to shit,” he told the room. “Absolutely, 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 and they probably 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 really did need a change of scene and he had liked that place. Very green, pretty.

Sam had been involved in a suspected kidnap/suicide investigation months before. Using his intuition and tracking skills, he had located the missing woman at this retreat in the foothills, east of San Francisco. He had 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.”

Several minutes later when the credit card information had been exchanged, Sam got off the phone and started humming a jaunty tune. This should be fun. He couldn’t wait to tell Kristie.

“Meditation!” Kristie broke into a laugh. “You’re kidding. You?”

Kristie leaded 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 got contrite.

“Sorry, honey, I didn’t mean to laugh. It’s just, well . . .” she waved a helpless hand his way.

Sam looked hurt but tried to recover himself. “I know, I know. It’s just 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 just. . . a little unlike you, I guess I should say.” She pecked him on the cheek. Grabbing her coffee cup, she moved away a little in case she was overcome with a case of the giggles again.

Sam pursed his lips. “You think I shouldn’t go?”

Kristie slid her eyes sideways at him then started looking at the morning paper. “No, no. It might be . . . good for something. Blood pressure, that kind of thing.” She studied the paper carefully, avoiding eye contact.

“Well, yeah.” He paused a little uncertainly. “I quit smoking you remember. All by myself. No nicotine patch or nothing. Just powered through it.”

She nodded. “True, true.”

“You want to go with me?”

Kristie looked up with a slightly stricken look. “Go with. . .? Ah, what do they do there, other than hum?” She started to smirk again and caught herself in time.

“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 and 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. I think 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, “I think he might be doing something else.”

Sam went over and gave her a quick hug and tousled her curly, dark blond locks. At 55 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.

To be continued. You can see more stories about Sam Reynolds in Storyteller – Amazon/Kindle.