Death in HR – Part VII

(Vi Lee, ambitious and driven HR manager for Hi-Tech Industries has disappeared. Her grieving mother and grandmother have hired Sam Reynolds, PI, to find her.)


Two days later Sam was back in Dr. Jones’s office with the spectacular view of the City.

The good doctor had a PhD in Art History and was an administrator at the De Young Museum in San Francisco. Sam had previously done a little work for her getting back a valuable painting, stolen from the museum. In so doing, he saved her reputation and basically, her job. Although her employers had paid Sam a nice fee, she still felt indebted to him.

“So, you know these people how?”

Ariel Jones was up making a coffee for Sam at her little coffee side bar. This time she put the brew in a heavy paper cup instead of the tiny china cups she usually used.

She handed it over to him.

“Patrons of the arts. Mostly things Asian. The grandmother is loaded, and the mother is not doing too badly either. The grandparents ran a popular restaurant in North Beach, ‘Frisco, for many years. Golden Tiger, became popular with some of the movie people over there. That’s where they got their money.”

“Hum.” Sam sipped his very good coffee.

“And the girl, ah, young woman. You’ve met her?”

“Once, she came to a gallery opening with the other two. A special Chinese exhibit.”

“What did you think?”

“Snotty as fucking hell.”

Sam raised his eyebrows.

“Sorry,” Ariel told him. “Just, she seemed like she had some kind of chip on her shoulder, out to prove herself kind of thing.”

“Not like you then, Dr. Jones?”

Ariel Jones tossed her head. “Not like me at all. I am simply being myself.” She gave him an icy smile and sipped some tea. 

“Right,” Sam tamped down his grey mustache with one knuckle. He was still trying to get a handle on these modern women. Wasn’t sure he was ever going to  understand them.

“So, we’re going over to see grandma now? Right, and the mother will be there?”

Ariel nodded.

“Okay, then,” Sam got up to put his cup in the trash. “Guess time’s a wasting.”

Ariel Jones drove them over in a surprisingly conservative silver Lexus.

“This your car?” Sam looked perplexed.

“What did you expect? A Rolls?”

He shrugged. They made the trip in twenty minutes as Ariel deftly maneuvered   the car through city streets.

Inside the expensive apartment complex, Sam was advised to leave his boots at the door. A previous visitor to Asian countries, he was familiar with the tradition.

They all sat on the plush sofas and chairs in the expansive living room of the elder Mrs. Lee.

“And nothing, you’ve heard nothing at all?”

Vivian’s mother sadly shook her head. “Not one word. The police said if it was kidnapping, there would be a ransom.”

Sam had out his little notebook and was making notes in pencil.


“They talked to that Australian boyfriend of hers many times, but nothing.”

The older Mrs. Lee sat and nodded with fat, pudgy hands across her belly.

“She was very upset about him,” the old woman finally spoke. “She came to my apartment and was crying. Told her him no good for her. She not happy.”

“Crying you say?” Sam lifted his pencil a moment. His eyebrows went up. “What was she crying about?”

“Young man break up with her. Don’t want to be boyfriend anymore. Told her for the best. He too young.”

“He broke up with her? And she was upset?”

“Very upset. But, I told her for the best. She not kill herself. She too strong.” The old woman nodded her head, lips pressed together tightly.

Sam looked at Dr. Jones. She gave him a ‘I don’t know’ look.

He noticed a little Buddhist shrine in one corner of the apartment. He got up to go look at it. The Buddha was gold and seated next to a water wheel that rotated with water. There was a little receptacle for offerings and a place for a candle.

“So,” Sam was looking at the old lady now, “your family is Buddhist?” The woman nodded. “Was Vivian a practicing Buddhist?”

A little sob erupted from the mother.

The old lady shook her head. “She no longer believe.”

“Hum.” Sam picked up his teacup. “Oh, look, the water is cold. Mrs. Lee, could I trouble you . . ..?”

Mrs. Lee, the younger, hanky to her mouth, grabbed the tea kettle and went to the kitchen. Sam arched his eyebrows at Ariel and nodded toward the kitchen. Catching the hint, Ariel got up, following the mother.

“Can I help with anything?” He could hear her voice.

Sam turned back to the grandmother. “Mrs. Lee is there something you’d like to tell me?”

The old lady glanced at the kitchen and back at him, then leaned forward.

“She doesn’t like me to say. She doesn’t like it.”

Sam smiled at her. “Like what?”

The old gal smiled. “Magical creatures.” Sam’s eyebrows shot up.

“I see them in my dreams, many, many times. Not a good sign.”

“What did you see, Ma’am?”

“It was the fox, he tricky that one, and my granddaughter together. Not good. Not good sign. Then, the tea. . ..”

“The tea?”

“I read her tea leaves last day she come see me. Bad signs, bad future. She very angry at me. I not make it up,” she looked at him. Sam nodded reassurance. “I just read what I saw. Not good, not good.”

She sighed heavily.

“Something else?” Sam looked at her.

“Things better when my son,” she pointed at a picture of a man on a side table, “was alive. We go to visit the monks many times. Things happier then.” Sadly, she stared at the picture.

At this point Ariel and Mrs. Lee were back with more hot tea and white powdery Korean cookies. Sam found himself eating more than he intended. Soon, it was time to leave.

On the way back to the museum, Ariel kept trying to pick Sam’s brain, but he wasn’t giving up much.

“So, what did you find out?” she insisted.

“Well,” he paused, “what looks to be a very smart, headstrong young woman. Very determined to break with her past and become 110% Americanized. Your impression?”

Ariel nodded. “I would say so too.”

“Also, a few weird items from the grandmother I’m not sure I even want to discuss right now.” He shut his mouth and leaned back against the seat and closed his eyes.

Ariel grimaced with impatience but had to be content with that for now.

Continued in VIII

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