Death in HR – Part IX
(Sam Reynolds, PI, has been hot on the trail of Vi Lee, HR Manager at Hi-Tech Industries. Vi had disappeared suddenly. He has just gotten done interviewing staff at Hi-Tech).
“That would be very helpful, Ms. Wells. Thanks for your time.” Sam got up to leave.
“Oh, and, in the event she is found and comes back. What are the chances of her getting her old job back, or any job with the company for that matter?”
“Not a snowball’s chance in Hell, Mr. Reynolds. Not a snowball’s chance.” Robin smiled thinly and led him to the door.
Sam had a key to Vi’s apartment the mother had given to him. Later, he drove over there and let himself in.
He spent time wandering around the ultramodern two-bedroom, two bath place. Finally, he sank down in the living room and was just quiet and absorbed the atmosphere. The apartment was high up in the complex and very quiet.
He kept looking around and saw a little glimmer of gold.
Getting up, he went over to a corner desk with an old computer and computer screen.
“Probably the last year’s model,” he laughed grimly. He pushed it aside and looked behind.
There sat a small, fat smiling Buddha decorated with cheap gold paint. Very out of keeping with the rest of the apartment. He fingered the little bowl at the bottom and could see it was an offering bowl like the one at the grandmother’s place. Water had dried on the bottom of the bowl.
Sam was thoughtful.
He pulled out his cell phone and got reception. He called Kristie.
“Hey, how’s my best girl? Of course, I miss you. I would be a complete fool not to… No, fine… You got your computer thing handy? Right. I want you to look something up for me. Monasteries… No, monasteries, Northern California. …No, that’s what I said. …Yeah, call me back, please later. I’ll be in the hotel. ..Love you… Yeah, bye.”
He disconnected the call and stared out into space.
Later in his hotel room, Kristie called back. He grabbed pen and paper and got busy writing down information.
“Okay, got it sweet. Thanks for this. Should be home by the end of the week.”
“Love you too.”
“No, I think this may be the ticket. Yeah, okay. Bye.”
Sam hung up the phone and looked at his notes. He got up and went over to the satchel he took with him on jobs. He pulled out a large paper map and spread it on the bed.
Looking at the notes, he got out a sharpie and made dots on the map. Three dots. Looking at the map legend on the bottom he put guesstimations of the distance from San Francisco. Finally, studying the map, he eyed one in particular and circled it.
He tapped the dot with his finger several times. “Yup,” he said aloud. “Yup.”
The next day, Sam got up and checked that the recent picture of Vivian Lee was in his satchel. He went downstairs to the lobby and got on the hotel computer. He did a map search first and then printed the map.
He loaded the address into his cell phone and checked out. He might be coming back but he didn’t think so. By 8:30 am he was getting gas in the truck and heading out of the city to the foothills above the Silicon Valley.
An hour later, Sam was driving up the curlicue back road amidst greenery and trees. It was hard to believe he had just been in the big city an hour before. He had to go up and down the road several times before he was able to spot the small sign.
Green Veil Monastery the sign read. He turned in and went up the rutted road. He stopped when he got to some buildings, stopped the truck and stepped out.
He wandered around a bit before a young man, shaved head, wearing a grey tunic came out to greet him. Sam stated his business.
“Follow me,” the young man told Sam in a high-pitched voice.
Sam followed, and they went into one of the smaller buildings. There was a little office there and a sofa for guests. Sam sat. The young man disappeared into the back and he could hear low voices.
In a few minutes the younger man came out, left and a much older man appeared.
“Hello, I am brother Huang. How many I assist you?” The man bowed. He was dressed in the traditional monk’s tunic.
Sam got up and bowed also. He had the photo of Vi Lee ready and handed it over to brother Huang.
“I am Sam Reynolds and I have been hired by the mother of Vivian Lee to find her. I believe she is here.”
Brother Huang took the photo and studied it for a full minute. He handed it back to Sam. “Please come with me.” He turned and walked back into a small office. Sam followed.
The brother sat in a small chair behind a desk and gestured for Sam to sit.
“May I offer you some tea?” he waved to a little glass pot on the side with hot amber liquid inside. A soft flowery scene floated through the room.
Sam nodded yes. The brother got up and poured the liquid into two small ceramic cups without handles. He handed one to Sam.
“The young woman you are talking about, Chi Li, renamed here, came to us a few months ago. She had taken a bad fall, hit her head and was scratched, bruised and dehydrated. We took her in and nursed her back to health.”
Sam nodded and sipped the tea. It had a satisfying, delicate taste. “So, she is back to normal you are saying.”
“Well,” Bother Huang smiled and gave the slightest shrug.
With that shaved head he reminds me a little of that Buddha statute I keep seeing,
“Physically, yes she is back to normal. But, there are some other problems.”
“She still doesn’t seem to really remember who she is or where she is from. That is why we have not sent her back.”
“She remembers certain things, snatches of memories. But there are . . . gaps.” Brother Huang smiled again.
“Can I see her? Talk to her?”
“Yes, of course. But you have to understand. I can’t have you take her away, we do not really know who you are. Just this little business card. . .” He eyed the card Sam had given him. “It is not really proof, you understand.”
“Certainly, certainly. You have to be careful. I could be anyone.”
The brother nodded beatifically.
“But the mother has been through a lot too. I need to talk to the girl some to be sure this is the daughter. They thought she was dead. Just so to not raise false hopes. You understand.”
“False hopes. Mr. Reynolds, the world is made up of false hopes. But, still, let us go to where they are having morning meditation and you can see for yourself.”
They got up and Sam followed the brother out and across the compound to the largest building. It had a pointed Asian style roof done in curved blue tiles. The corners of the building curved up in little points to the sky. Vivid primary colors painted the outside of the building.
They both took off their shoes and entered. A small group of people were kneeling in front of another brother and doing a repetition sing-song chant. Brother Huang pointed, and Sam saw one figure among the others.
It was a woman he could tell that, but with the shaved head and the loose grey uniform, it was difficult to tell. The chanting stopped. The man in the front looked at Brother Huang who made a small gesture with his hand. The man nodded and went over to the woman and whispered.
She got up and turned around and walked over to him. Sam had a funny Deja-vu feeling. The eyes were the same but, wow, the rest of it.
It was Vivian Lee, he was sure of it. The face was too much the same. But the head was shaved, and she was wearing a bulky grey tunic and loose grey trousers. There were white socks on her feet and she had lost weight.
Bother Huang put a hand on her shoulder and spoke softly “Let us go outside.”
They sat outside on a couple of benches and the brother told her who Sam was and why he was there. She listened with wide eyes.
God, she looks so young. It’s really hard to imagine all those really horrible things people have said about her, Sam was thinking as the brother spoke.
“Chi Li, I think it is?” Sam started. The girl nodded.
“Do you remember anything? Anything at all?”
“I remember bits of things. A big tall building, lots of people. I used to work there I think. A woman, maybe my mother. A lot is fuzzy.”
Sam nodded. He pulled out the photo from his satchel and handed it to her.
“I believe this is you.” He handed it to her.
She took the picture and stared at it several moments. Then, a tear appeared and rolled down her cheek. She wiped it away and nodded.
The brother stood up. “I think Chi Li has had enough for right now. She will go back to meditation. Mr. Sam, if I could speak to you further at my office.” Huang turned away and walked with the girl back into the meditation building.
The conclusion arrives in Part X.
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