“So, Sam, how did you like it today?” Huang asked Sam.
“I liked it. The hardest part is getting up and down and crossing my legs. Stiff, you know.”
Huang nodded knowingly. “We will do a few yoga movements too, while you are here, and that might help.”
“Gosh, I hope something does. I feel like the Tin Man.” He helped himself to more fish and rice.
“Try the green stuff,” Huang held out a dish to Sam. “It is a lot like your spinach.”
Sam was wary, but put a little on his plate anyway. He nibbled on a piece.
“It is just like spinach,” he said and put some more on his plate.
Huang was speaking to the various people sitting around them and Sam listened. People had a variety of jobs, several were teachers looking to ‘expand their horizons.”
One young Asian man sat across from Sam and didn’t say very much. Sam wasn’t very good at telling the difference between the different Asian groups. So, trying to not be offensive, he asked: “So, are you Korean too?”
The young man made a slight grimace before replying, “No, I am Chinese. Chinese-American.”
“Ah,” Sam replied.
“I am actually fourth generation here in California.”
“Really.” Sam was interested.
“Yes, my great-great grandfather was what was known as a coolie and came from China to work on the Trans-Atlantic Railroad.”
“Wow, some history.”
“Yes, it has been a long road for my family, but worth it in the end, I guess. I was able to graduate from Stanford, so probably so.”
Sam nodded. “And what do you do?”
There was a slight pause. At first Sam thought the young man was going to refuse to answer him. He detected a faint struggle on his face.
“Ah. . .I do research. Medical research.”
“Oh, interesting. Who. . .?”
“It’s Sam isn’t it?” The young man broke in. “I am Chan, nice to meet you.” He stuck out his hand, American style.
“Oh, you too.” Sam countered.
“However, I am here on a short rest-vacation and would really like to leave all that behind. Just for a few days.” He gave Sam a little smile.
Sam stared a moment then, looked down at his food “Sure, sure, no problem. Think nothing of it. Are these peanuts?”
They all continued eating and Sam kept his thoughts to himself. What young man, that age, doesn’t like to talk about his work. Incessantly, in fact. Whatever. Not my business.
After dinner, Sam was back in his room and tried to read the magazine he brought but threw it down. Feeling restless, he pulled on a jacket and slipped into some shoes and went outside. Late spring, it was still nippy in the air.
God, I could use a cigarette right now. He stuck his hands in the pockets of his jeans to keep warm and started to stroll around the grounds. The grounds of Green Veil were lush with vegetation and beautiful even at night. The facility had been the property of a wealthy dowager who, haven’t gotten into the mediation thing, had donated the entire place to Brother Huang and his school.
Chewing on a toothpick, Sam worked his way around the campus. He was starting to get familiar with where things were. Having gotten some of the kinks out, he started on the path back to his room.
Maybe a hot bath.
He noticed something to his right, movement. Mice? Rats? No, it’s hopping like. Looks like. . .oh, it’s a bunny. Ha. Not too much to worry about there. Probably no foxes or racoons for miles.
He was turning back when something else caught his attention. He rubbed his eyes.
Was that rabbit glowing? A light green color? Couldn’t be.
He started to walk slowly after it and was about to catch it with two hands, when the thing darted into some undergrowth.
“Bah!” he said out loud. “Sam Reynolds, it is really time for bed.”
The next morning, after washing up, Sam remembered the rabbit.
Was I seeing things? Was it really glowing or am I on some kind of new mediation enhanced high? What is in that tea they serve after all?
Dismissing it from his mind, he went to breakfast and was able to get down on the floor a little more easily this time. He noticed, with a sense of aggravation, that husband-hunting Lydia and her silent friend, Sylvia, were both able to seamlessly glide up and down from the floor.
Geeze, Sam thought to himself, looks like all those hours in the gym are not really doing the trick here. He felt discouraged.
He quickly got in with Brother Huang’s crowd for lunch although Lydia waved gayly at him from the other end of the table. He gave a little wave back and grabbed for food.
They mysterious young Chinese man, Chan, was a few spots down. Head down, he seemed in a constant low conversation with his fellow Asian.
Older, Sam thought to himself. Maybe in his 50’s, steel rim glasses, really bad haircut.
There was a dark, brooding intensity about the man Sam found unsettling. He could not help his usual PI observations about people. The man kept stabbing at his food with his chopsticks.
Like he’s angry, Sam mused. Somehow, I get the feeling he’s not from around here.
Sam turned from the two men and tried to focus on what the people were talking about on his right. He had to fight that old feeling coming from the hairs on the back of his neck.
That feeling you sometimes get when someone is standing right behind you and you turn around suddenly…
Meditation class was easier the second day and Sam felt like he was getting into the ‘groove’ of the thing more. He was able to control his thoughts a little more and focus better. However, after a few minutes, he could not help thinking back to the young man Chan and his odd companion.
Something. . . something.
“Breath in and out, focus your attention. I will play a little music to help.” Brother Huang was leading today.
Sam liked hearing him, what a calming voice he had!
After lunch he went to have a little lie down before afternoon class began. Once again, he had dozed off when he heard the voices. They were murmuring again, but louder this time.
Always the nosy one, Sam got up quietly from the bed. Still in his thick cotton socks, he moved over to the side wall and put his ear against it.
“They need your help!” came the terse words. “They are dying, every day! They can’t afford the help like these rich American shits!”
“I know that, you think I don’t know that.” Sam recognized the voice of Chan. He realized the other voice had to be that of the older man who sat with him at meals.
“If I get caught, I’ll be ruined. I’ll get fired and never work in this town again.”
Chan sounded almost in tears.
There was a pause. “We won’t get caught. The plan is fool proof. No one will ever know.”
“But the lab is so careful, they monitor everything, constantly. What if they find out?” Chan was almost pleading.
“Listen to me, Chan, you can always come home. We need people like you. You know how much.”
“Yes, Lee, I do know. But, Lee, I am home. You have to realize that. I am home.”
Sam heard a sound like ‘Bah,’ and eased away from the wall. His mind was whirling.
What the heck were these two up to? It didn’t sound good, whatever it was. Not good at all.
He could hear the sound of the bedroom door open and close next to him. Sleep impossible now, he pulled out the little I Pad that Kristie had gotten him for Christmas. He looked up Chan, Ron, Stanford.
Bingo, found him! Got to love this Internet stuff, huh? Right there, ‘Ronald Chan, PH D., graduated summa cum laude, Stanford University. Biochemistry and genetics research. Currently working at Bio-Tech, Industries, San Francisco, CA. Articles by Dr. Chan include. . .’
Sam stopped reading. Biochemistry, genetics research. Glowing rabbit? His head was whirling. He popped in some more words into the Internet and read about how scientists had learned to take the florescent glow DNA from jellyfish and transfer that DNA gene into small animals like rats and mice.
And rabbits? Sam thought warily to himself. What the Hell is going on here?
Getting up, he pulled his grey tunic over his T-shirt and pulled the draw-string tight on his pants. Pushing some shoes on his feet, he slipped into the hall and rapped on Chan’s door.
“Chan, you in there? It’s Sam. I heard you and it sounded like you. . . were sick or something.” He was greeted with silence. Looking up and down, the hallway was empty. People were either still asleep in their rooms or had already left for mediation. Cautiously, he tried the door handle. It was locked.
Turning, he made his way to the end of the dorm corridor and out the exit to the grounds. Walking along side of the building, he found the window to his room, checked for his stuff and counted over one room. Chan’s room was somewhat behind a large bush. He peeked inside. No one there. The window was open a little for air.
Glancing around, the only people were yards away, all busy getting to the next class. Sam got behind the bush and put both hands under the wooden window casing and pushed up. It made a creaking noise. Luckily no one was there to hear it.
Pushing the window more, he was able to stick a leg through and then pull his whole-body in. Doing a quick reconnoiter, he confirmed he was the only one in the room. This was slightly larger than his, with room for two twin beds. Although, still sparsely furnished and no bath. The beds were made, and he could see suitcases hurriedly shoved under the beds.
Sam checked at the door and could heard nothing. He locked the top lock from the inside. If one of them came back, they would have to fumble with the key long enough for him to get out the window again.
He pulled out the first case. It was a modern, hard-clam shell design. Kristie’s daughters both had this type. He popped it open and confirmed quickly this belonged to Ronald Chan. A California Driver’s license was in a leather wallet stuck under some clothes.
“Nothing much there we didn’t know,” he whispered.
On his knees, he inched over to the other bed and pulled out the second suitcase. It was old and worn with an old-fashioned boxy shape and travel stickers stuck to the outside.
“Geese, looks like one my grandma had.”
He had to jimmy the locks to get them open. There had been an attempt to lock them, but they were so old, it was easy to get them undone.
Sam rummaged through men’s underwear and found what he was looking for. A dark red Chinese passport issued to one Dr. Yang Lee, Ph. D., Department of the Interior. The rest was in Chinese and Sam couldn’t read a word. He did see that the last port in China had been Beijing. About one month before, so. . .
Sam heard voices coming down the hall. He jammed the passport into the suitcase, carefully closed the lid and pushed the locks back in place. Shoving it back under the bed he scampered back to the window. His foot banged against something and he almost cursed. Looking down he saw an empty metal cage with a little food bowl with pellets and another bowl for water. It was empty but looked just big enough to hold a rabbit.
He slid through the window and then scrapped along behind the bush to his window. He repeated the same thing, pushing the window up and climbing back into his room. He tiptoed over to the wall again and could curses from outside the next door.
“Why doesn’t this damn lock open.” Rattling.
“Let me try my key.” Shuffling sounds. “There, it was just stuck.” The door opened, then closed.
“No, I told you I have to have more time to think. Plus, there’s Fluffy. I need to get him back before we leave. We can’t just leave him here for someone to find.” Chan’s voice.
“I told you not to bring that animal. Now he’s evidence. If I get my hands on him, I’ll. . . “
“No, you won’t! He’s my rabbit. I will find him.”
“See that you do. Now at least one of us has to go to that damn class or we’ll be missed.”
“I’ll look for Fluffy.”
The door banged open then shut. Sam was still listening. He thought he heard soft crying.
He decided to get to class if, for no other reason, then to what Lee was up to.
Sam entered the big hall from the rear and sat in the very back row. He wanted to be able to keep his eye on Lee. Unfortunately, the man simply followed along with the group and didn’t do anything unusual.
Sam tried hard to focus but found it almost impossible. His eyes kept popping open and searching the room for Chen. Lee stayed in place and Chen never showed. By the end of mediation, Sam felt more aggravated than ever.
Why didn’t the asshole just do something already?
Exasperated, he got up and followed the group out. Most people sprinkled out on the grounds for an hour or so before dinner. Sam followed Lee back to the dorm and let himself into his own room. He sat silently on his bed listening. He could hear the creaking of bedsprings, but no conversation.
Where was Chen?
Continued in Part IV