A surprised Paul West looked down at the envelope that was dropped on his desk then up at the woman standing before him.
Glancing at Mandy Perkins, his secretary factotum, who was standing by the open door, West said, in a business like tone, â€œNo phone calls for the next hour.â€
â€œYes, sir,â€ Mandy replied in an equally business like tone. â€œNo phone calls.â€ She gave West a grin as she closed the door.
|Murder Can Kill By Douglas Hall|
The impression that Paul West, Private Investigator was a busy office couldnâ€™t be farther from the truth. The â€œin boxâ€ was empty.
â€œPlease sit down.â€ West clicked his pen and held it over a yellow lined pad. â€œMay I have your name?â€
â€œMrs. or Miss?â€
â€œAnd just what makes you think I could find your father?â€ No attempt was made to pick up the envelope or slide it back across the desk.
â€œYou found the President of Cartwright Industries when no one even knew he existed.
â€œThat was over two years ago. How do you know about that?â€
â€œI share an apartment with my girlfriend, Kelly Prentice, who works in R&D at Cartwright. She showed me an in-house memo announcing your appointment as Director of Security. Attached was a newspaper article with your picture and the story of how you found Richard Colborn in Kansas.
â€œShe also showed me the memo which announced your resignation and return to private investigation. When I told her I wanted to find my father after all these years, she recommended you. You werenâ€™t hard to find.â€
â€œIâ€™m impressed,â€ West replied as he slid the envelope back across the desk.
â€œYouâ€™re not interested?â€
â€œI didnâ€™t say that. I need to know a lot more before we talk about money. Please put it away. There will be plenty of time later on.â€
After a bullet from a nastyâ€™s gun ended his eleven-year police career, West rented a small office in a down-scale office building and started advertising that Paul West, Private Investigator was in business. It was a struggle making ends meet, looking through motel keyholes and tracking down cheating husbands.
When he gained notoriety for finding the missing son of Cartwright Enterpriseâ€™s deceased president, had so impressed the interim Cartwright CEO, and president, that he was offered the position of director of security at a six figure salary.
Two years of sitting behind a desk pushing paper was all he could take. What he longed for was the challenge of a case which would get the creative juices flowing once again. He resigned and returned to private investigation.
If West had a religion, it was physical fitness. Once through therapy following being shot, he began a self-imposed regime of five times a week strenuous workouts. Heâ€™d arrive at a private gym by six in the morning and his personal trainer would start him with warm-ups. They were followed by a five-mile road run. Upon returning to the gym it was jumping jacks, various weight exercises, and mid-section workouts for the balance of the hour. At forty-six the six-foot-two West was more than able to hold his own in a takedown.
The generous package he had negotiated with his contract gave him more than enough to set up a new agency and fund it for the foreseeable future. It had been six weeks since he and Mandy had taken possession of the small office with an even smaller reception area, when Kirsty Morgan walked into the reception area.
Waiting a moment for Kirsty to get comfortable in her chair. West asked, â€œWould you mind if I recorded our conversation? My notes are hard to read, even for me.â€
â€œBy all means.â€
â€œGive me your fatherâ€™s full name, age, and last address.â€
â€œJames Robert Bordon.â€ Kirsty closed her eyes and looked up. â€œLet me think. He left my mother twenty-six years ago when I was a year-and-a-half. That would make him in his early sixties. When I get home, I can look him up on the family tree which I made years ago for mother and let you know exactly how old he would be now.â€
â€œThatâ€™s close enough. What about an address for your mother?â€
â€œThatâ€™s easy. Mother lived alone until I had to move her into extended care. She has a rare form of early onset Alzheimerâ€™s disease which will advance very quickly until an early death.â€
â€œIâ€™m sorry,â€ West said as he wrote the name and address of Woodland Special Care Residence and repeated it for the record.
â€œDid your father still live in the city after he left your mother and you?â€
Kirsty shook her head. â€œI am not sure. Mother once told me that he moved in with his mistress who became his common-law wife, but thatâ€™s all she would say. I have no idea where they lived and Iâ€™ve never heard of anyone who has seen him since.â€
â€œIf I can be personal, what caused your parentsâ€™ marriage to break down?â€
â€œFather wouldnâ€™t become a Christian like mother. She tried to get him converted and when she couldnâ€™t, Dr. Harpur told her to end the marriage. He convinced her it was against Godâ€™s teaching to have anything to do with an unbeliever, let alone share a bed with one.â€
â€œNice nothing! I hope that man of God rots in hell for what he did to my mother,â€ Kirsty spat out the words. â€œIf it wasnâ€™t for the control he had over my mother, I could still have a father and weâ€™d be a family. What he did was wicked and Iâ€™ll never forgive him.â€
â€œHeâ€™s on television, isnâ€™t he?â€
â€œYes. Itâ€™s called The Hour of Refreshing. Ever see it?â€
West shook his head. â€œIâ€™m not into television-evangelists or religion, for that matter. Tell me about him.â€
â€œOnce Harpur gets his hooks into you, especially if he thinks you have money, he soon takes control of your life. You canâ€™t do anything without his permission and if you do you are punished. Believe me, father crossed him and paid for it. It wasnâ€™t an easy decision for mother to kick him out but Harpur had such a hold on her, she did what he ordered.
â€œDid your father put up a fight to save his marriage?â€
â€œHe told her there was no way he could fight Harpur, and if she chose Harpur over him heâ€™d make it easy for her. By then, he was in a relationship with another woman and probably welcomed the excuse to leave. Harpur separates family members who donâ€™t accept his brand of Christianity.â€
â€œSounds like The Souls of Enlightenment is a cult.â€
West knew a bit about cults. He had once been engaged by a family to intervene and get their son back. What he was hearing confirmed his assessment.
â€œHow did you fit in with all of this when you got older?â€
â€œI grew up in The Souls of Enlightenment. It was my life. I went to Sunday school, church three times a week and sang in the choir until I was sixteen. I even memorized the books of the Bible and won a prize for saying them backwards. It was the only life I had. I never questioned it because I never knew anything different. That all changed when I met a boy and started going steady.
â€œMovies, dancing, smoking and popular music were forbidden. We lived by Harpurâ€™s law of strict behaviour and God help any of us who got caught breaking it.â€
â€œDid you ever get caught?â€
â€œSomeone saw me and my boyfriend coming out of a show holding hands and reported us. I was called into Harpurâ€™s study and really given a reaming for breaking Godâ€™s law and reprimanded doing such a sinful thing as going to a movie. I told him all we did was go to a show â€“ we didnâ€™t go to bed. That would be next step, he warned. Sinful pleasures start by holding hands and lead to sex.â€
Harpur ordered me to get down on my knees, confess my sins, and beg God for forgiveness. I refused. I told him to go to hell. I left his study and slammed the door behind me. That wasnâ€™t the end, it was just the beginning. Worse was to come!
Mother was ordered to kick me out of the house because I was an unrepentant sinner but she wouldnâ€™t. When Harpur asked her if she had, she lied to him. One day, two elders came to the house to see if I had left and when they found out I hadnâ€™t, Mother was in real trouble.
â€œWhen Kellyâ€™s parents heard what happened, they took me in. Kelly and I were like sisters. After we finished high school and got jobs, we shared an apartment. Still do for that matter. Both of us were lucky with our jobs and make good money.â€
â€œWhat about your mother, how did she accept you moving out?â€
â€œShe managed, even though she had lost her husband and daughter. She had The Souls of Enlightenment. Until she got Alzheimerâ€™s she was at the church every time the doors opened and it filled her days volunteering. She did everything from stuffing envelopes to arranging the platform flowers for Sundayâ€™s services and singing in the choir.
â€œHarpur called her a â€˜treasureâ€™ and held her up as an example of devotion to God and The Souls of Enlightenment. I wanted to throw up every time she told me about him singling her out but I bit my tongue. She was happy, so why spoil it for her.â€
â€œWhen was the last time you had any contact with your father?â€
â€œI donâ€™t ever remember seeing him. I was too young when he left.â€
â€œDid he keep in touch with your mother?â€
â€œAs far as I know, she only heard from him when he asked her for a divorce so he could marry his lady. She asked Harpur what she should do and he told her to refuse because the Bible is very explicit when it comes to marriage and divorce.â€
â€œIâ€™m surprised you are not married.â€
â€œI came close one time,â€ Kirstyâ€™s voice trailed off. â€œI remember Mother telling me over and over, â€˜What God hath joined together, let no man put asunder.â€™ That became her mantra whenever I told her it was over and to let Father go.â€
West nodded. â€œThat only works when the marriage works.â€
â€œHe told mother not to let my father off the hook. If he died first, as his legal wife she could claim half his estate, not the common-law wife. He also preached wealth and prosperity, and money was his god. He was hedging his bets because mother was a faithful giver. She doubled and, when she had the money, tripled her tithes.
â€œMother isnâ€™t the only woman who lost a husband and turned to Harpur for comfort and advice. He has them under his total control and they do everything he asks of themâ€
â€œYouâ€™re not implyingâ€”â€
Before West could finish his question Kirsty jumped in. â€œI know what you are thinking, but I have no proof that Harpur hit on my mother. I have no idea because if he had, she would never talk about it. She once told me that she â€˜loved him in the Lordâ€™.â€
â€œHow did he treat you?â€
â€œI think if I had given him any encouragement he would have taken a run at me, because he always said how pretty I was and complimented me on how I dressed. I often felt he was mentally undressing me. He seemed to choose vulnerable girls, especially those who came from economically poor families. He has more brains than to enrage big givers by moving on their daughters.â€
As Kirsty told West about her parents and Harpur, a clear profile was emerging. He wanted to hear more.
â€œI assume you come from a wealthy family. Just how wealthy? I ask this question because if I decide to try and find your father. I will need all the background I can assemble before I start and it could prove to be expensive.â€
â€œMy father came from what you would call old money. My grandfather founded a very successful business and passed it down to my father and brother, his only children. Mother and I are what youâ€™d call comfortable but keeping her in extended care is a drain on her reserves.â€
Noticing a change in Westâ€™s expression she quickly added, â€œDonâ€™t worry, Iâ€™ll find the money to pay you.â€
West held up his hand. â€œIâ€™m not worried, if I were we wouldnâ€™t be talking. Now give me your uncleâ€™s full name and the name of the family business.â€
â€œHis name is Conrad David Bordon and the company is Bordon Corporation Inc.â€
â€œDid your uncle have children?â€
â€œNo. He was a confirmed bachelor. Mother once said he was married to his money. The interest he made took the place of the children he never had. I know there is a sister and she has children but I donâ€™t know her married name, where she lives, or whether she is dead or alive. I assume I have cousins somewhere. Mother said she never met her. She once said she thought she moved to the States when she married.â€
â€œIâ€™m impressed with your memory.â€
â€œYouâ€™ll have to accept that what I am telling you is second hand-information. Motherâ€™s short term memory is fading but she is still sharp as a tack when it comes to talking about the past. For some time before she stopped recognizing me, she would go on about things in the past like Uncle Conrad and my father. I just let her ramble on because if I interrupted or asked questions, she would get upset. I never really knew if what she was telling me was fact or fiction. Now, all she does is stare at me and ask me who I am.
â€œWhen I was still in school, I once asked her what I should say if anyone asked me about my father. She told me to just say he died when I was a baby and I knew nothing about him or his family.â€
â€œTake me back to when your father and your uncle were in business together. What can you tell me?â€
â€œAs far as I know, it worked at the start and they were very close. Again according to Mother, it all came to a crashing halt shortly before they married. I donâ€™t know the details but Uncle Conrad bought Father out with a big settlement and they never spoke again.â€
â€œHow did your mother survive as a single parent and raise you after your father left?â€
â€œHe was very generous with monthly support for her and me until I was eighteen. We wanted for nothing. The monthly checks came in on time until I became of age, then my support stopped but she kept getting support money.
â€œI was no drain on motherâ€™s finances because I didnâ€™t go to university and went to work as soon as I graduated from high school.â€
â€œDid Harpur know about your motherâ€™s financial status?â€
â€œI am sure he did when he saw what she dropped into the collection plate every week.â€
â€œHow would he know that?â€
â€œThe faithful are given envelopes for their Sunday offering. There is a number on each one and the amount is recorded. Knowing Harpur, he would keep a close check on who gave and how much.â€
â€œI would think that would be personal information and not readily available to anyone, including the minister.â€
â€œAny respectable minister, yes, but Harpur isnâ€™t respectable. Chartable tax receipts are issued at the end of every year. I did motherâ€™s tax returns and I couldnâ€™t believe how much she gave. Whenever I mentioned it, she would get upset and tell me to mind my own business. What she gave was between God and her.â€
â€œYou havenâ€™t told me why you want me to find your father after all these years.â€
â€œMother recently got a letter from a lawyer, asking her if she had my fatherâ€™s address. No explanation was given. I brought it to show you. Want to see it?â€
â€œOf course,â€ West replied.
He read the contents in silence and made a note of Jeffrey Campbellâ€™s name and address in his note pad, then passed the letter back to Kirsty. â€œIt really doesnâ€™t say much.â€
â€œI thought the same thing and called Mr. Campbell. I told him about mother. After I answered a couple of questions to confirm my identity, he was quite forthcoming and said he is administering my uncleâ€™s estate, Father is a beneficiary, and it has been steadily building with accrued interest.
â€œIf it isnâ€™t claimed within the next six months, Mr. Campbell will petition the court for permission to divide it up between the surviving relatives. That is why mother got the letter asking for information about his whereabouts.
â€œI showed it to Mr. Marcus Stratham, our old family lawyer. He told me if my father can be located and claim his inheritance, mother can claim 50% of it as her share because she still is his legal wife. If he is dead, she can claim it all.
â€œHe suggested I do everything possible to track him down. Thatâ€™s why Iâ€™ve come to you. Itâ€™s not for me, itâ€™s for my mother. She is well looked after and happy in the Woodland Special Care Residence and could live for a number of years because she is in good health. Itâ€™s very expensive and I want to keep her there until she dies.
â€œThe money she received from the sale of her house is being depleted, along with her savings. When it is, Iâ€™ll have no choice but to move her into a far less costly facility. That inheritance would be a blessing, believe me. Will you help find my father? You are my only hope.â€
West locked eyes with Kirsty. They were brimming.
â€œYes, Iâ€™ll do what I can. I make no promises but I shall try to find your father.â€
â€œDonâ€™t you want any money up front before you begin?â€
â€œWeâ€™ll talk about that later, especially if I find your father.â€
â€œWhat can I do to help?â€
â€œBring me everything you have relating to your father. Iâ€™ll keep you informed as to how my investigation is progressing.â€
Kirsty thanked him and left.
West waited until Kirsty had left the office and closed the door before calling out, â€œMandy! Paul West, Private Investigator just got its first case.â€
THE FOLLOWING WAS A WEEK of intensive twelve-hour days for West and Mandy before he was satisfied that he had all he needed to begin his search for James Robert Bordon.
Once Mandy had transcribed the tape of Kirstyâ€™s interview, West reviewed it to see if he had missed anything.
Next came a detailed workup on Harpur and his church. West instructed Mandy to play the innocent by phoning the church. She was to imply that she could be interested in attending the services and possibly becoming a member. To make her decision, she would appreciate any information that might be helpful.
In response to Westâ€™s request for anything Kirsty could give him relating to her father, she brought in her parentsâ€™ wedding picture. She had found it at the bottom of a cedar chest when cleaning out the house after her mother had been moved to the special care residence. Her mother had never shown it to her. The only other item of interest was the family tree.
When West signed the office lease, he ordered a custom-made combination cork and white board which filled one wall. The first things attached to the cork board were the head-and-shoulder blow-ups of James and Rebecca Bordon with their names underneath. The family tree came next.
West spent a day going through the newspaper morgue files, looking for anything on file about Harpur and his ministry. He came across a particularly interesting story about the Craig Peterson family, who demanded that Harpur return a bequest of half-a-million dollars left to him personally by their mother. When he refused, the Petersons sued. Evidence revealed that at the time the bequest was made, their mother was mentally incompetent and had been coerced by Harpur into signing a codicil. The judge ruled in the Petersonsâ€™ favour.
This raised a red flag, especially when West read about the trial.
Mandyâ€™s next assignment was to surf The Souls of Enlightenmentâ€™s web site for anything she could find out about Harpur professionally and personally. West was delighted with Mandyâ€™s competence and dedication, which became evident in a short span of time. She was a self-starter, which he particularly liked. He knew he had chosen wisely from the list of candidates. Mandy was equally pleased and impressed with West. He respected her opinions and suggestions. Best of all, he gave her free rein.
Within a few days, following Mandyâ€™s blind call to The Souls of Enlightenment, the â€œinâ€ box on Westâ€™s desk began to fill with mail.
The glossy brochures plus a copy of the latest magazine were well-written. They listed times of services and described the outreach programs. Included was a cleverly crafted welcome letter from Dr. Preston Harpur. Below his saccharine smiling face that bordered on the unctuous was his name in bold type with B.A., M.A, and Th.D. The Doctor of Theology granted him the right to be called Doctor instead of Reverend. His electronically generated signature at the bottom was under â€œGod Bless Youâ€. The letter was attached to the cork board under Kirstyâ€™s family tree.
There were self-serving testimonials, which West found hard to stomach, from television viewers and adherents who praised Harpur for enhancing their spiritual growth. The pitch for financial support was hard sell and came with scriptural references to tithing.
â€œII Corinthians 9:7, Every man according as he purposed in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver.â€
Biblical tithing was pegged at 10% of gross income before taxes. Harpurâ€™s message was explicit and left no room for questioning. To really honour Godâ€™s work on earth, and gain credit in Heaven, the extra gift had to be over and above the tithe figure. There was a printed space at the bottom for filling in oneâ€™s credit card information for convenience.
There were two full pages of testimonials from those who sent 20 to 40% of their gross income, telling about receiving Godâ€™s blessings in the form of: a better car; larger house; promotion at work or a great financial windfall. The first name, initial, province, or state was provided under the smiling photograph but impossible to trace for authenticity.
Harpur and Danny Bartlett, his assistant minister, were pictured with their smiling wives.
Harpurâ€™s picture was a formal portrait taken in their living room, with Harpur sitting in a wingback chair and his wife, Maude Amie, standing beside him with her hand on his shoulder.
Bartlettâ€™s was an informal garden setting with his wife, Cindy, and their three attractive children seated on the lawn before them. Both pictures portrayed the staged, God-anointed appearance of two blessed families.
Mandy stared at the cork board. â€œHarpur looks like the poster boy for a used car advertisement.â€
â€œSnake oil salesman would be more like it. Have you ever watched his late night Friday television program?â€ asked West.
â€œIf I was going to watch something late night Friday, it wouldnâ€™t be one of those Bible thumping programs.â€
â€œIf you like comedy, itâ€™s worth dipping into it. Itâ€™s called â€œThe Hour of Refreshingâ€ West pulled open a desk drawer and took out a ten inch high object and plunked it down the desk top.
â€œWhat is that? Mandy asked. â€œIt looks like something youâ€™d see in a funeral home.â€
â€œItâ€™s praying hands, a gift from â€œThe Hour of Refreshingâ€ for sending the program a gift to keep it on the air. Itâ€™s supposed to remind me to pray for the ministry and of course, send another gift whenever I look at it.â€
â€œHow much did that set you back?â€
â€œFifty bucks. I sent a hundred.â€
Mandy made a face like a noxious smell had passed her nostrils. â€œA hundred bucks for that? They saw you coming.â€
â€œI wanted to get noticed.â€
â€œTheyâ€™ll notice you alright. Youâ€™ll be put in their sucker file.â€
â€œI thought of asking for two. I could give you one for Christmas instead of a bonus.â€
West put the praying hands back in the drawer and pushed it shut.
â€œIt could be the best hundred bucks Iâ€™ll spend on this investigation. It could get us into Harpurâ€™s inner sanctum.â€
â€œYou said us?â€ Mandy looked at West suspiciously, â€œwhat have you got up your sleeve?â€
West pointed to the cork board. Have a look at the services the church provides. He began rhyming them off. â€œYoung peopleâ€™s summer camp, junior kindergarten, Sunday School, meals-on-wheels for shut-ins, marriage counselling etc. etc. etc.
â€œKirsty told me that her parents went to Harpur for marriage counselling. There would have to be a file on them with names I could use and God only knows what else. I want to see that file. If we gain Harpurâ€™s confidence, I may get my chance.â€
â€œJust like that!â€ Mandy snapped her fingers. â€œWe get friends with him and heâ€™ll open his files to you. What kind of funny cigarettes are you smoking?â€
â€œDonâ€™t sell us short. I have an idea on how to start my investigation and it begins with Dr. Preston Harpur.â€
â€œAnd just what makes you think heâ€™ll trust a private investigator who is trying to track down someone he once counselled years ago?â€
â€œIâ€™m not going to tell him Iâ€™m a private investigator. You and I will just be a married couple having serious marriage problems. You want out and Iâ€™ve talked you into coming to him for counselling as a last resort.â€
Mandy made a face. â€œI donâ€™t believe playing a wife is in my job description.â€
â€œItâ€™s just been added.â€
â€œThese problems we are supposed to be having, are they sexual?â€
â€œProbably. Any problems with that?â€
â€œWhat if he asks for specifics? Iâ€™ve heard that marriage counsellors get into sex.â€
â€œUse your imagination and lay it on as thick as molasses. We are loaded and you can barely stand me. You want a divorce which I am fighting because I was blinded by love and dumb enough not to ask for a pre-nuptial. If I gave you a divorce, you would take me to the cleaners. You only agreed to see him because I threatened to freeze our joint account, cancel your credit cards, and fight alimony.â€
â€œYou are a sweetheart!â€
â€œIâ€™ll convince Harpur that you thought I was one when you married me and began living the life you dreamed about when you wallowed in poverty. By the time I am finished, heâ€™ll be convinced that I come from old money and will spend as much as it takes to keep you, the woman I still love.â€
â€œWhat about me?â€
â€œYou are to convince him that you no longer love me and hint you are tired of being married to an old goat like me. Also hint that you are having an affair.â€
â€œIf I were married to an old goat like you, Iâ€™d probably have one. Youâ€™ve got to be fifteen years older than me.â€
â€œYouâ€™re close. Iâ€™ll play it much older so it will look more believable.â€
Mandy could pass for a hip mid-twenty year old. She was eight months short of thirty-five with a striking body and elfin face, accentuated by high cheek bones which framed dancing brown eyes that crinkled when she laughed, which was often. A luxurious head of sculptured auburn hair was her crowning glory. She knew how to dress attractively in the latest style and apply makeup with near professional skill.
West was a great proponent of the old adage that â€œFirst impressions are important.â€ She would be the first person a client would see. He saw her as a decided business advantage.
â€œIf we are to be a rich couple, closing in on middle age, how do you want me to look?â€
â€œDonâ€™t dress like a two-bit hooker. I donâ€™t want you to give Harpur any ideas or a heart attack. From what Kirsty told me, he likes the ladies be they young or old.â€
â€œWant me to come on to him?â€
â€œYouâ€™d do that for the company?â€
Mandy laughed and shot West a wicked grin.
â€œHelp me pull it off and there will be a bonus for you.â€
â€œThat depends upon how well you can act.â€
â€œYOUR MOTHER HAS BEEN ASLEEP since lunch. Do you want me to wake her?â€ asked Constance Waverly, the Superintendent of Woodland Special Care Residence.
Kirsty glanced at her mother, who was reclining in a sunroom chair with a blanket wrapped around her. Her head was back and her mouth was open.
â€œLet her sleep. Iâ€™m sorry I didnâ€™t get here in time to feed her lunch. I sometimes think she knows itâ€™s me.â€
â€œThatâ€™s a nice thought to hold on to.â€
â€œI always think if I miss feeding her lunch, that will be the time she would recognize me and we could have a mother/daughter talk.â€ Kirsty sighed and looked at her mother. â€œIt has been so long since that happened.â€
â€œDonâ€™t dwell on the past, my dear. Your mother is in her own little world and not letting anyone in, including those she loves. I know itâ€™s hard to accept that this terrible affliction will probably not only claim her mind but her body functions as well. Itâ€™s only a matter of time.â€
â€œThank you and your staff for giving her such tender loving care. It makes it easier for me to know she is so well looked after.â€
â€œI was going to call you. Do you have the time to come to my office, where we can talk?â€
After closing the door and indicating for Kirsty to sit down, Mrs. Waverly sat down at her desk and, without speaking, opened a file, and leafed through the contents.
Adjusting her glasses she said, â€œYour mother has been with us for nearly three years. When she arrived here, she had her lucid periods and was able to look after her personal needs: toilet; feeding; dressing herself and so on. Sadly to say, she now needs help with all of them.â€
Kirsty didnâ€™t have to be reminded. She saw the subtle changes nearly every time she came to feed her lunch. â€œThatâ€™s why I put her in Woodland. It has the reputation as being the finest special care residence in the area. I want Mother to have the very best care possible.â€
She knew only too well that Alzheimerâ€™s can progress far more rapidly at her motherâ€™s age than someone in their eighties or nineties.
â€œI assure you, your mother is receiving excellent care andâ€”â€
Kirsty interrupted Mrs. Waverly before she could finish her sentence. â€œI know that. If I had any concerns, I would have her moved to another facility. Just what is it that you are trying to tell me, Mrs. Waverly?â€
There was an awkward clearing of the throat. Kirsty was about to get her answer.
â€œWe are having serious problems with your mother.â€
â€œI donâ€™t understand.â€
â€œAt the present there is nothing wrong physically with her. She is totally ambulant, sometimes far too ambulant. At times, if she doesnâ€™t like something, she will lash out at whomever is closest.â€
â€œShe didnâ€™t look too active when I just saw her.â€
â€œYou saw her when she was asleep in the sunroom. That is what she does most days. She is no problem during the day. Itâ€™s the late nights. She goes to sleep almost as soon as she is put to bed then she wakes up around midnight and starts prowling the hall, banging on doors. Fortunately, security spots her on the floor monitor. She is returned to her room and put back into bed with a sleeping pill.â€
â€œWhen did this all start?â€
â€œNot all that long ago. At first it was once or twice a week or so, but now it is every night. She gets quite agitated when the staff tries to get her back into her room. Did your mother swear often?â€
â€œKirsty looked puzzled. I have heard her say damn or hell a couple of times. Sheâ€™s a Christian woman and never takes Godâ€™s name in vain.â€
Mrs. Waverly chuckled. â€œItâ€™s not uncommon with people suffering from Alzheimerâ€™s or who have had a stroke. They can lay one on you when they donâ€™t like something. Goodness only knows where they got the swear words from.â€
â€œWhy wasnâ€™t I told this before now?â€
â€œWe didnâ€™t want to worry you and we have experienced people to handle such problems and it rolls off their backs. That is what you are us paying for.â€
â€œWhy not just make sure her door is locked after she is put to bed?â€
â€œWe tried that but when she couldnâ€™t open the door, she banged on it and made such a ruckus that it woke up the other residents. Thatâ€™s when we called in Dr. Phillip Newman, Woodlandâ€™s on-call physician. He is one of the finest geriatric doctors practicing. We asked him to see her and make an assessment.
â€œA sleeping medication was prescribed and for a while it worked. When it didnâ€™t, Dr. Newman was reluctant to give her something stronger as there are side effects. He recommended that she be relocated.â€ Kirsty stiffened in her chair. â€œYou are not asking me to move my mother to another facility, are you?â€
â€œHeavens, no! We have a problem and we have a solution.â€
â€œI donâ€™t like the sound of this. What is your solution?â€
â€œWe want your permission to move your mother into her own room on the West Wing.â€
â€œWhat is the West Wing?â€
Mrs. Waverly cleared her throat again. â€œItâ€™s where we place guests who need constant supervision. They are restricted from getting off the floor and possibly doing themselves harm. Some, including your mother, have wandered out of the building and were found blocks away, walking down the street.â€
Kirsty thought for a moment. â€œSounds like she will be under lock and key.â€
Mrs. Waverly nodded. â€œThe doors to the West Wing are locked at all times.â€
â€œI hate to think sheâ€™ll end her days like that. Is there any other way?â€
â€œIâ€™m afraid not, my dear. Itâ€™s for your motherâ€™s own good and safety. She wonâ€™t get hurt this way, or hurt someone else in the middle of the night if she gets aggressive.â€
â€œIf I agree, what then?â€
â€œIâ€™ll ask you to sign permission for us to increase the monthly fees to cover the additional costs and notify your bank that you have approved the increase to the monthly electronic withdrawals.â€
â€œMy motherâ€™s resources are being stretched to the limit. I donâ€™t know what a monthly increase will do to them. Your fees have been going up every year since she arrived here.â€
â€œWe try to keep the annual increase pegged at the cost of living. Our expenses are constantly rising,â€ defended Mrs. Waverly as she removed a sheet of paper and scanned it. â€œAt the time of admission, I see your mother had just sold her house.â€
â€œYes. With the help of our family lawyer, her assets were liquidated and the resulting funds were invested. The interest has not been enough to cover the monthly charges and the principal has been eroding at an alarming rate with the reduced interest rate. Thankfully I have a well-paying job and have been able to add to the principal. I tried to match the shortfall but it is not nearly enough now, with the way the way the market has not been performing. How much will the monthly fee increase when you move Mother to the West Wing?â€
Mrs. Waverly took her time in answering. It was an awkward question but she had a business to run and there was no way of softening the blow. â€œEighteen percent, until the next annual increase. It will be at the start of the year.â€
Kirsty shook her head and mumbled an oath under her breath.
â€œYou said something?â€
â€œJust talking to myself. I have no choice, do I?â€
â€œI think I can give you some short-term relief. I will not put the increase through until the first of the year. When something like this happens, it is not unheard of for family members to step up and help by sharing an increase.â€
Mrs. Waverly wasnâ€™t being magnanimous. It was just the cost of doing business. Should Kirstyâ€™s mother, who was in excellent physical health, live for an extended period the four-month increase would be recovered tenfold.
â€œForget family, there is only one sister. We havenâ€™t heard from her for years, not even a Christmas card. She lives out west and Iâ€™d scrub floors before Iâ€™d ask her for anything. Thank you for the four month extension. It just might be enough time for me to arrange something.â€
â€œAm I to assume it has nothing to do with family?â€
â€œCare to enlighten me?â€
â€œIâ€™d prefer to tell you everything after it is a fact, not just a flight of fancy. Where do you want me to sign?â€
Mrs. Waverly filled in the blanks and slid the form across the desk, which Kirsty signed.
As Kirsty stood up to leave, Mrs. Waverly waved her down and leafed through the papers in the file. She pulled one out and said, â€œI notice in the visitorsâ€™ log that since your mother became our guest, you are the only visitor she has had. You put a â€œno visitorsâ€ order on at the time she was admitted. Still want it to remain?â€
Kirsty thought for a moment. â€œTake it off and if anyone comes to see her, let me know immediately.â€
As soon as Kirsty left the building, she started dialling Paul Westâ€™s number on her smart phone.
All she got was Mandyâ€™s recorded message. â€œThe office will be closed for the rest of the day. It will be open tomorrow morning at nine am. Please leave a short message with your name and telephone number. You will be called back. Thank you.â€
â€œMandy, this is Kirsty. I need to talk to Paul as soon as possible. I have something important to tell him. Please have him call me the moment you get this message, thanks.â€
BEFORE WEST CALLED HARPUR for an appointment he wrote out what he jokingly called their â€œmarriage menuâ€ and they went through it in minute detail.
By the time West was ready to make the call, they were satisfied each knew what was expected of the other.
West lied to Harpur convincingly and ended with, â€œYou come highly recommended as one of the best marital counsellors in the business. If you can save our marriage, money is no object.â€ He received an appointment for the next morning.
It was the first time Mandy had been in a $100,000 plus car and she was enjoying every moment of the drive from her apartment to The Souls of Enlightenment.
â€œYou can pick me up any time you like in a car like this.â€
West explained that they couldnâ€™t arrive in his ten-year-old Honda. It wouldnâ€™t fit the image they were portraying â€“ a wealthy couple in turmoil.
â€œHow did you get your hands on a car like this?â€
â€œA former client of mine owns a Mercedes dealership and has let me borrow the car. Itâ€™s a demo. I can have it for as long as it takes.â€
West and Mandy made good use of the drive and went over the charade they were to play. He was satisfied Mandy knew how to project loathing for him and play it to perfection.
West followed Harpurâ€™s instructions and parked the car in one of the two reserved spaces for visitors. The other space was empty.
In case anyone was watching, Mandy didnâ€™t wait for West to be a gentleman and open the door for her. She got out on her own, slammed the door shut, and shot West a scowl.
â€œWow!â€ West exclaimed as he looked at the two parked cars beside the Mercedes. â€œWeâ€™re in the wrong business. Religion sure pays. Now you know why we werenâ€™t going to arrive in my ten-year-old Honda.â€
In the space reserved for â€œDr. Harpur â€“ Ministerâ€ was a radiant silver metallic Cadillac ELR coupe. It had vanity plates â€“ GODâ€™S MAN.
In the space reserved for â€œRev. Bartlett â€“ Assistant Ministerâ€, a lime rock green Corvette 6 Stingray shimmered in the mid-morning sunshine. Its vanity plates were no less modest â€“ GODS SERVANT.
â€œKnow how much those two fully loaded suckers go for?â€
Mandy shook her head.
â€œBest part of two hundred thousand, plus taxes.â€
â€œWow is right. I wonder how many full collection plates it took to pay for them. You never said â€˜wowâ€™ when you picked me up this morning and saw how I was dressed.â€
West stopped for a moment and looked Mandy up and down. â€œYou took my breath away. I was speechless.â€
Mandy had completely changed from how she dressed for the office. She was wearing a pair of designer black pants with a tailored white blouse. Around her neck was a Hermes scarf and she was carrying a Hermes bag which matched the predominant colour in the scarf.
It was her mid-length ash blond hair that caught Westâ€™s attention and curiosity. A pair of designer sunglasses that would have done Gloria Steinem proud was perched on top.
â€œWhere did you get the clothes? They are beautiful and fit your image.â€
â€œI borrowed everything from my girlfriend. She spends everything she makes on clothes, shoes and accessories and we are the both the same size. When I told her I was going to be playing a rich bitch and had to dress the part, she opened her walk-in cupboard and told me to take my pick, including anything I wanted from her fabulous collection of costume jewellery.
You canâ€™t tell it from real.â€
Mandy tilted her head. â€œLike the hoop earrings?â€
West nodded approval. â€œI like everything about you.â€
â€œI bought the wig and glasses.â€
â€œWhile you are at it, pick up a bottle of Chanel No 5 and give it to your girlfriend with my thanks and be sure to submit the receipt.â€
â€œI fully intend to, including the wig and glasses.â€
Thanks to his managerial salary at Cartwright Industries, West was able to upgrade his clothes. He was dressed â€œsporty but classyâ€ in custom slacks, occasional jacket and expensive leather loafers. Setting off the casual look was a striped shirt with open collar. He looked the part and complemented Mandy.
They were coming up to the rear the rear door and West stopped to say, â€œDonâ€™t forget you loathe me.â€
â€œThatâ€™s the easy part. What about you?â€
â€œIâ€™m madly in love and donâ€™t want to lose you, equally easy.â€
â€œYouâ€™d do and say anything to not lose all your money in a messy divorce, admit it!â€ Many said with a giggle.
West touched Mandyâ€™s arm. â€œWe are being watched. I just saw a slat on the Venetian blind open. Itâ€™s closed now.â€
â€œNice to know we are expected,â€ said Mandy.
West depressed the intercom button. â€œLawrence and Anita Huntington for Reverend Harpur, excuse me, Dr. Harpur,â€ he corrected and winked at Mandy.
A buzz responded and West opened the door.
Standing in the hall, waiting for them as they came through the door, was a young man of indeterminate age and a muscular body to match which didnâ€™t pass Mandyâ€™s notice.
Like West, he was dressed in casual clothes, clean shaven and with a full head of hair, parted on the left hand side. His smile was the smile that one perfects when they want to impress.
â€œWelcome. Iâ€™m Danny Bartlett, the Assistant Minister. Dr. Harpur is expecting you. Please follow me.â€
Mandy elbowed West and whispered, â€œHeâ€™s cute.â€
Bartlett held the door open to the spacious and exquisitely appointed study. Harpur was on his feet and walking around an elegantly carved mahogany desk to shake hands.
â€œPlease have a seat.â€ Harpur nodded to Bartlett who left the study and closed the door after him.
Harpur sat down at his desk and opened a file. â€œWould you mind terribly if I taped our conversation?â€
â€œI have no objections. Do you have any, darling?â€
â€œWould it matter if I did? You always have the last word, so why change nowâ€ Mandy replied with venom dripping from every word.
Harpur noticed that when Mandy sat down, she swivelled in her chair so her body was positioned as far away from West as she could get.
With a smile that filled his face, Harpur began. â€œWhenever I meet with a new couple, I like to find out why they came to see me and how they heard about The Souls of Enlightenment and our counselling ministry.â€
â€œShall I answer, darling?â€ West asked as he turned to Mandy.
â€œBy all means, darling.â€ The caustic inflection on â€œdarlingâ€ was not missed by Harpur.
West cleared his throat. â€œOur marriage has been rocky for about the last six months and a family friend suggested that we see you. According to her, you were of enormous help to a very dear friend of hers who was going through similar problems years ago.â€
Harpur clicked his pen over a blank sheet of paper. â€œDo you remember who it was?â€
â€œThe name escapes me. Do you remember it, darling?â€ asked West, with a pained expression for Harpurâ€™s benefit.
â€œBordon,â€ Mandy icily replied. â€œYes it was Bordon but I donâ€™t remember her first name. I wasnâ€™t all that interested in what she had to say and as I remember, I never liked her.â€
Mandy was role playing perfectly.
â€œNow I remember it was Rebecca, Rebecca Bordon. Does it ring a bell, Doctor?â€ West asked innocently.
â€œNot offhand,â€ Harpur replied. â€œBut then Iâ€™ve counselled so many like you two, down the road memory doesnâ€™t always serve. It will be in the file. I always make up a file on the couples I counsel, for future research. No two couples are alike but there are many similarities. If you will excuse me, Iâ€™ll have my secretary get the file and refresh my memory.â€
Harpur picked up the phone and asked his secretary to come to his study. Practically before he could hang up the phone, the door opened and a mature woman entered. Instructions were given and before the woman left by a side door she said, â€œIâ€™ll need the file keys, Doctor.â€
West watched carefully as Harpur pulled out a desk drawer and handed the keys across the desk. He made a mental note as to which drawer it was. No key was used to open it.
The door to the storage room opened. A light was snapped on and the door closed. It was idle chatter while they waited for the woman to return.
Harpur took the file with a smile and, â€œThanks.â€ Pulling down his reading glasses to the bottom of his nose. He opened the file and began leafing through it then looked up.
â€œA lovely lady, as I recall. She was a faithful member and an invaluable volunteer. Rebecca never missed a service until dementia began to make inroads and Alzheimerâ€™s took over, a real tragedy. She was responsible for the flower arrangements that were placed in front of the pulpit every Sunday morning. They were admired by one and all.
â€œLast I heard, she is still alive but right out of it thanks to Alzheimerâ€™s. She was not all that old when she was diagnosed and at her age the disease advances unabated.â€ Harpur pontificated. His tone of voice was authoritative.
West suspected it was on purpose.
â€œShe is in the Woodland Special Care Residence but evidently is going down very quickly. I guess it is just a matter of time.â€
It was just the opposite of what Kirsty had told him. â€œMy motherâ€™s mind has all but gone but she is still physically fit and receiving the best of care. She could last for a long time.â€
Harpur was revealing more information about someone who initially he had problems remembering. It was something which registered with West.
Harpur just confirmed that he was tracking Rebecca Bordon.
â€œAll her friends at The Souls of Enlightenment will be praying for her and so will I. One lady friend who knew her years ago would like to get in touch with her husband and tell him where she is. Even if she doesnâ€™t know him, he might like to see her before it is too late.â€
â€œIf you have an address, it might be the Christian thing to let him know,â€ West suggested as he watched Harpurâ€™s face for a reaction. It came before he closed the file.
â€œI havenâ€™t the faintest idea where he could be. Truth to say, he is of no interest to me. He has a reprobate mind which his daughter inherited. I tried to help them both and I am sad to admit they were two of my failures. He left the marriage and his daughter for another woman to live in sin, which is against Godâ€™s law.â€
Harpur wanted to change the subject. â€œNow, tell me about what has happened in your marriage and why you came to see me. Can I begin with you, Mrs. Huntington?â€
â€œPlease call me Anita. I wonâ€™t be Mrs. Huntington much longer.â€
â€œAre you surprised with what you wife just said, Mr. Huntington?â€
â€œYou can call me Larry, all my friends do.â€
â€œAnd I hope weâ€™ll be friends before too long, Larry. The last thing you two want is to end up in the divorce court and there is only one way to avoid it: settle your differences.â€
â€œIâ€™ve told him what I want but he wonâ€™t give an inch,â€ Mandy interjected caustically.
â€œYouâ€™ve been telling me that ad nauseam,â€ West countered.
Harpur held up his hand. â€œI refuse to let the spectre of divorce hover over you two. Hopefully, by the time we are finished divorce will have been wiped from both your vocabularies.â€
â€œLots of luck with that one,â€ Mandy spat.
West was delighted with her response and role playing.
For the next hour, Harpur cajoled and mediated with a polished skill which West found remarkable. He and Mandy played true to their â€œmarriage menuâ€ as they sparred back and forth.
â€œThere is more riding on this marriage than just working out our differences,â€ sighed West. â€œI have been very fortunate in my career. If I was forced to liquidate, sheâ€™d walk away with a seven figure windfall and knowing her, Iâ€™d be on the hook for alimony to my dying day. It would ruin me.â€
Mandy shifted in her chair and turned to face West, with a saccharine smile. â€œItâ€™s the first honest thing youâ€™ve said since we got here.â€
Harpur liked what he was hearing about the state of Westâ€™s finances.
West feigned annoyance when Mandy worked in the high card she was holding. She never signed a prenuptial so there would be no limit on what she could walk away with if she held out for a separation or divorce.
To thrust the knife in further, Mandy said with another wicked smile, â€œBy the time my lawyer gets done with him, heâ€™ll be driving a ten-year-old Buick.â€
â€œIâ€™m afraid Iâ€™ll have to wrap our session up. I have another couple booked in half an hour and have to prepare for them.â€
It was a lie. Harpurâ€™s calendar was empty for the rest of the day. Flipping open his desk journal he continued, â€œShall we say three days hence at the same time? Is that satisfactory?â€
West looked at Mandy. She nodded assent.
â€œSplendid, we have made progress and this is just the beginning.â€ Taking two printed sheets out of the file, he handed them across the desk.
â€œBefore we next meet please fill out these counselling forms and answer the questions listed. Be candid and donâ€™t stint. If you need more space, just add another sheet. They are self-explanatory. Your answers will not only help me, they will help you as well.â€
West handed one sheet to Mandy and put the other in his jacket pocket. He stood up and took out a silver money clip that was stuffed with bills. West theatrically removed ten $100 bills and placed them on the desk. Harpurâ€™s eyes widened.
â€œI have no idea what you charge for your time but will this be enough?â€
Harpur swallowed. â€œI do not have a set fee. I just ask for a donation for the work of God. Those who cannot afford a donation receive my service for free.â€
â€œThat is most generous of you, Dr. Harpur,â€ West said with as much sincerity as he could muster. Please take it. By the way, I sent for one of your â€œPraying Handsâ€ which now has an honoured place in our home.â€
â€œEvery time you look at it will be a reminder that there is hope. I do trust that I have been some help. You have too much to throw away in a divorce court.â€
â€œWith your help, we will work things out. Wonâ€™t we, darling?â€ West reached for Mandyâ€™s hand which she pulled away.
â€œIf you say so.â€
Harpur walked them to the rear door and returned to his study. He picked up the phone. â€œDanny! Drop what you are doing and get in here.â€
Harpur listened for a moment. Before snapping, â€œI donâ€™t care what you are doing. This is more important!â€
â€œWhat are you mumbling about?â€ Mandy asked as they left the building.
West didnâ€™t reply until they got in the car and closed the doors. â€œGet your pad and pen out of your purse and write this down before I forget it. B.A. Woodward, M.A. Woodward, Th.D. Zion.â€
Mandy did as instructed and when finished, looked quizzically at West as he started the car. â€œWhatâ€™s all this about?â€
â€œDid you notice the framed degrees on the wall behind Harpur?â€
â€œYes, but I didnâ€™t pick up on them.â€
â€œI did. I memorized where they came from but I didnâ€™t recognize any of the institutions which conferred them.â€
â€œWhatâ€™s so unusual about that?â€
â€œIâ€™m going to Google them when we get back. Itâ€™s my guess they came from a diploma factory in California. You can buy a degree for a hundred to five hundred dollars, depending upon the degree, without ever attending a lecture. If Google proves me right, it confirms my opinion of Harpur â€“ heâ€™s as phony as a three dollar bill and is running a scam.â€
â€œDid you see Harpurâ€™s eyes bulge when you peeled off the $100 dollar bills? I was sure he would start drooling.â€
â€œBelieve me, I noticed. Just imagine how heâ€™ll react when I lay on the seven figure inheritance waiting for Kirstyâ€™s father. Heâ€™ll really drool at the thought of getting his hands on her motherâ€™s share.â€
â€œDo you think he has something in that file which could lead you to him?â€
â€œIâ€™m betting on it. All I have to do is get my hands on that file and photograph the contents.â€
â€œAnd just how do you plan to do that?â€
â€œIâ€™ll have my chance at next Sunday morning service when Harpur will be preaching. Bartlett will be on the platform with him and Iâ€™m betting his study wonâ€™t be locked and you, my girl, can act as lookout and alert me if anyone heads for his study.â€
â€œYou want me to go to church? I swore off going to church years ago.â€
â€œIt will be good for you. You never know, you may get religion.â€
â€œIf I ever did, it wouldnâ€™t be the kind that creep is preaching.â€
â€œWe have a date.â€
â€œDo you expect heâ€™ll try and see Kirstyâ€™s mother?â€
â€œHe knows what Kirsty thinks of him and he wouldnâ€™t take the chance. If he tried, sheâ€™d do a number on him with a dull knife and no anesthetic.â€
Mandy shook her head at the thought. â€œSounds like Kirsty has a real hate on for him.â€
â€œThatâ€™s one way to put it.â€
â€œIf he canâ€™t go on his own, any idea who he might send in his place?â€
â€œBartlett. He may have someone else to do his dirty work but my money is on Bartlett. Heâ€™ll try and see Kirstyâ€™s mother and report back to him.â€
â€œIt could really backfire on him if itâ€™s Bartlett and he is spotted. You say he is on television every week and a lot of people could recognize him.â€
West smiled at the thought and flicked the turn signal to change lanes.
Mandy turned in her seat. â€œI canâ€™t figure Harpur out.â€
â€œNothing to figure out. He is a conniving, money-grabbing fraud. He doesnâ€™t believe what he is preaching because if he did, he wouldnâ€™t be doing the things he does. It all comes down to the almighty dollar.â€
â€œBy the way, great acting. You earned your bonus.â€
â€œDo I get time-and-a-half for next Sunday?â€
â€œI APOLOGIZE for not getting back to you before this afternoon, Kirsty,â€ Mandy said. â€œYou had a question.â€
â€œDonâ€™t apologize. Your timing worked out perfectly. I called Gavin Trumble, our family lawyer, and gave him a report on my motherâ€™s medical condition.
â€œI also told him about engaging Paul to find my father before his inheritance from his brother could be divided up between any surviving relatives. We talked about Mother still being my fatherâ€™s legal wife since she wouldnâ€™t give him a divorce, even though he had a common-law wife and wanted to re-marry.
â€œWe also talked about her having a legal claim to anything my father might inherited, plus a major chunk of his estate.â€
â€œIn your voicemail, you said you had something to tell me.â€
â€œI asked Mr. Trumble, what happens if Paul finds out that my father is dead?â€
â€œI asked Paul that very question and he said it would depend upon your father having a will that clearly states he is leaving everything to his common-law wife and nothing to your mother or you. He could have living children and that could change the landscape.â€
â€œThatâ€™s exactly what Mr. Trumble told me. It would be up to a judge to rule if it went to court.â€
Kirsty found it strange to be talking about her father after all the years she had put him out of her mind and denied his very existence.
â€œHe also said it is the kind of case lawyers drool over. By the time a decision would be rendered, the defending and opposing lawyers would have dragged it on for as long as they could to pad their billable hours. He estimated that there would be 50% or less to divvy up.â€
â€œDid he have a suggestion?â€
â€œHis advice was for me to work out some kind of settlement that would satisfy any surviving relative and would leave my mother the bulk. If that happened, she could spend her remaining days or years in the care and comfort of Woodland Special Care Residence and I wouldnâ€™t be bled dry.â€
â€œYouâ€™re surmising that Paul will find your father has died. If he is alive, it will change the picture completely. You would prefer that Paul found him dead, wouldnâ€™t you?â€ On the surface, it sounded like a brutal question but Mandy felt she knew Kirsty well enough to ask it.
Kirsty thought long and hard before replying. â€œI have never imagined me ever seeing him and, if he is still alive, I doubt if I could bring myself to ever seeing him. If he is dead, I hope he is rotting in hell for what he did to me and my mother.â€
There was no fitting response Mandy could make, other than to say she had made notes and would tell Paul about their conversation and was sure heâ€™d get back to her as quickly as possible. She also asked for Gavin Trumbleâ€™s address and phone number to give to Paul as she was sure heâ€™d want to talk to him.
â€œWHAT TOOK YOU SO LONG?â€ Harpur asked with a scowl.
Bartlett closed the door to Harpurâ€™s study and plunked himself down in a chair with a deep sigh. He didnâ€™t reply for a moment, which irritated Harpur.
â€œNext time you want someone to go to Woodland Special Care Residence, you go. It was the most soul destroying thing Iâ€™ve ever done. Iâ€™ll never go back again, regardless of the reason.â€
â€œAm I detecting a note of rebellion? This isnâ€™t like you,â€ Harpur said in a jovial tone as he tried to defuse an awkward moment. â€œNever forget, The Souls of Enlightenmentâ€™s life blood is old age and old age comes with walkers, dementia, Alzheimerâ€™s and canes. Those seniors paid for your Stingray with their tithes. Now stop being so self-righteous and melodramatic. Did you have any problem getting in to see Rebecca Bordon?â€
â€œNot really. When the superintendent was satisfied with my cock-and-bull story about being her nephew, from the west, she took me to the custodial wing. Mrs. Bordon is under lock and key 24 hours a day because she wanders and can get quite aggressive.â€
â€œLawrence Huntington lied. He told me she was going downhill fast.â€
â€œI donâ€™t know what he told you, I can only tell you what the Superintendent told me and what I saw. Mrs. Bordon is ambulatory and she didnâ€™t look frail.â€
â€œIs she dying?â€ Harpur asked with a wide-eyed expression.
â€œI asked that and the Superintendent said we are all dying, some of us just sooner than others. She didnâ€™t elaborate. I know why you are suddenly interested in an old woman who could be dying sooner or later. You can smell money.â€
â€œIf there is money, it would just be Godâ€™s reward for being His faithful servant.â€
Bartlett rolled his eyes. â€œGoing to tell me whatâ€™s up?â€
â€œWhen itâ€™s time for you to know, Iâ€™ll tell you. Now, start right from the beginning.â€ Harpur clicked his pen and held it over a blank sheet of paper on his desk pad.
Bartlett cleared his throat. â€œI take it you have never been to Woodland?â€
â€œYou have a great grasp of the obvious. I canâ€™t go because someone might think I was trying to ingratiate myself with a terminal patient so as to get mentioned in the will. Thatâ€™s why I asked you to go. Give me a mental picture of the place. All Iâ€™ve seen is the web page and brochure.â€
â€œI was really impressed with the reception area. It was like the lobby of a five star hotel; leather sofas, coffee tables and side chairs. There were seascapes on the walls. A concierge sat behind a desk with a bank of monitors. Security is a priority and you just donâ€™t walk in.â€
â€œWoodland Special Care Residence is one of the most expensive facilities in the province. Itâ€™s my guess there are not too many adherents of this church who can afford it. There has to be money in the Bordon family to keep her there. You use the story I gave you to talk your way in?â€ Harpur asked.
â€œOf course. When I told the concierge that I was a relative from the west and only had a day in town, he put a call through to the superintendent. She came to the lobby to escort me.â€
â€œWhat about a visitorâ€™s register, did you have to sign one?â€
â€œYes, but donâ€™t worry. I did what you told me and scrawled a fake name and province. No one could decipher it.â€
â€œWhen I told the concierge who I wanted to see, he called the superintendent and she took me to her office. I told her I had never been in a place like Woodland before and she gave me a briefing on what to expect when I saw Mrs. Bordon. She said she didnâ€™t want me to be shocked if she didnâ€™t recognize me as a relative, because she doesnâ€™t recognize her daughter.â€
â€œDid she ask you anything about your supposed family?â€
â€œNo, I was puzzled about that because I fully expected to be grilled on my background. I was pleased she took the time to give me an idea as to what to expect. I never saw so many canes, crutches, walkers, wheelchairs and blank expressions in all my life. If this is what old age has to offer, count me out!â€
â€œHow was Rebecca Bordon when you saw her?â€
â€œShe was asleep in a sunroom chair. The superintendent tried to wake her up and she opened her eyes for a moment. She wasnâ€™t too happy about being disturbed. She looked at me then went back to sleep. I donâ€™t mind telling you I wasnâ€™t comfortable.â€
â€œDid you find out if she had any other visitors outside of her daughter?â€
â€œThe superintendent answered that question when she asked if Iâ€™d be seeing her daughter, Kirsty, before I left town. She said she would be pleased to know that her mother had a visitor other than her. I lied and said I was planning to see her.â€
Harpur sat back in his chair with a pleased expression. â€œYou did well. I have another job for you.â€
â€œIf itâ€™s me going back to Woodland, forget it!â€
â€œNothing like that. When James and Rebecca separated, he wrote to me and told me to forget him. He had moved and would never be back. I still have his letter in the case file. Here is the Vancouver address he gave me. Itâ€™s an old number but could be a lead. I want you to start there and find him. If you do, tell him his wife is dying and he should talk to me.â€
â€œAnd just who am I supposed to be this time?â€ Bartlett asked.
â€œHis daughterâ€™s boyfriend!â€
â€œThat should be fun.â€
KIRSTY WAS LATE getting back from lunch and was hurrying across the lobby when the receptionist called out, â€œI have a message for you. The caller said it was important.â€
Kirsty wheeled on her heel, took the yellow message, and looked at it. When she got to her desk, she grabbed the phone and dialled. It took eleven rings, which Kirsty counted, before the call was answered.
â€œMrs. Waverly, this is Kirsty Bordon returning your call. Whatâ€™s wrong with my mother? She was alright when I gave her lunch.â€
â€œThere is nothing wrong with your mother, Kirsty. She had a visitor shortly after you left. It was your cousin. You told me to call immediately if anyone came to see her. Iâ€™m sorry to call you at work, but you told me to call you regardless of the time.â€
â€œYou did right, Mrs. Waverly. You say he was my cousin?â€
â€œThatâ€™s what he told me.â€
â€œDid he give you his name?â€
â€œNo. I checked the visitorsâ€™ log. Reception had the visitor sign in but he scrawled so badly I couldnâ€™t make it out.â€
â€œDid he say why he wanted to see my mother?â€
â€œHe said he was just passing through and would drop by to see you before he went on his way.â€
â€œDid he ask questions about motherâ€™s condition? Tell me everything he asked and what you told him.â€
Kirsty listened carefully as Mrs. Waverly related the details, starting with when she went to the lobby to meet the man who claimed to be her cousin and took him to see her mother.
â€œWhat did he look like?â€
â€œHe was about your age, presentable and drove a sparkling green sports car.â€
â€œThank you, Mrs. Waverly. Call me any time, especially if he returns.â€
â€œHe wasnâ€™t your cousin, was he?â€
â€œIâ€™ve no idea. I have a cousin and have to assume that he is my cousin. If he comes back, let him in and call me immediately. Iâ€™d like to see him face-to-face. I hate to think that just anyone can come in off the street.â€
â€œI feel totally responsible. He took me unawares but it will never happen again. Iâ€™ve made sure of that. Amy Jennings is one of Woodlandâ€™s most senior geriatric nurses. She is on permanent four to twelve and I will make her personally responsible for your mother until we have an answer to the question: was that really your cousin and if not, who was he?
â€œMrs. Jenkins will give your mother dinner, undress her, and put her to bed. She will check in on her until she goes off duty. I come on at eight in the morning and Iâ€™ll see that she is up, dressed, has her breakfast, and settled in for the day. Sheâ€™ll be ready for you to come at noon to give her lunch and monitored every minute of the day until she goes to sleep at night. No one, and I mean no one, will get to see her without being approved and accompanied either by Mrs. Jenkins or me.â€
The best Kirsty could come up with was a profound, â€œThanks.â€
WEST AND MANDY slipped into a back row just before the morning service was to begin and watched the reaction of those sitting in pews, listening to the music as the organist played muted hymns to set the mood. Some whispered, others stared straight ahead with blank eyes.
The most interesting were the ones who had their eyes closed, mouthing private prayers. Mandy couldnâ€™t get over the life-size lobby statue and not a very good one, of Harpur with his right hand outstretched in greeting.
The sanctuary was a testimony to opulence from the thirteen stained glass windows, one for each disciple and one of Christ ascending into the heavens, to the plush pew cushions and the top-of-the-line broadloom runners on each aisle.
West read the weekly newsletter that was in the hymnbook rack and pointed out a few items of interest to Mandy. One that caught his eye concerned the expanded counselling to include drug, alcohol and gambling addiction. A full paragraph was given to the long established marriage and family counselling.
Harpur and the platform party had taken their seats, sitting motionless with their heads bowed in prayer. They opened their eyes when Harpur slowly rose from his ornate chair and walked to the pulpit. He was dressed in a black clergy robe with gold piping.
He made an imposing figure and emanated God-anointed authority as he invited the congregation to stand for the invocatory prayer and slowly raised his arms. He looked upward with closed eyes and remained motionless, as though overcome by the moment, before beginning. It was all foreign to West and Mandy as neither could remember the last time they were in church. Harpur was a skilled communicator and Mandy couldnâ€™t take her eyes off him. Neither could most of the women.
Bartlett once jokingly told Harpur that he thought one of the ladies in the choir had the â€œhotsâ€ for him.
â€œAll the ladies have the â€œhotsâ€ for me,â€ growled Harpur. The subject was never mentioned again.
Mandy leaned close and whispered, â€œWhereâ€™s Bartlett? He isnâ€™t on the platform.â€
â€œThat changes things,â€ West whispered back. â€œI canâ€™t take a chance of trying to get into Harpurâ€™s study and having a look at Rebecca Bordonâ€™s file if he is somewhere wandering around the building.â€
Harpur finished praying and announced the first hymn. It was the old standby, How Firm a Foundation.
Mandy and West shared a hymn book so their heads could be close. Instead of singing, they hastily made a change of plans.
Following the singing of the hymn, the congregation sat down and listened intently while Harpur made the announcements for the coming week. Next came the morning prayer. After reading the â€œspecialâ€ requests that were phoned into the office during the week, or dropped in the lobby prayer box, Harpur ended with, â€œThere is a special request for God to grant our assistant minister journeying mercies as he had to rush to Vancouver to be with his mother, who was suddenly taken ill and is in hospital awaiting surgery.â€
â€œHe just gave me a green light,â€ West whispered. â€œIf Harpur or any of the platform members leave before I get back, head for the lobby and call me on your cell phone. Let it ring twice. It will give me time to get the hell out of his office and out the back door.â€
â€œWhat will you do if the study door is locked?â€ Mandy whispered.
â€œNot to worry. One of my talents is picking door locks. Never found one I couldnâ€™t open in over thirty seconds.â€
West slid out of the pew and headed for the lobby.
MANDY FOUND EVERY DAY at the office of Paul West, Private Investigator different and a challenge. This day would be no exception. A miniature camera was in the middle of her desk when she arrived for work.
Before she could sit down West called out, â€œBring in the camera. I want to show you something before you start.â€
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