Broadman & Holman
I sat, head in my hands, elbows on my desk, praying, oblivious to the peculiar events that were about to unfold around me. There was no mystery of course. Prayer was the answer. So why didn't I do more of it? That was the thorny question. But this Monday morning in November, I was proud of myself. I was really bearing down.
It was 10:30, and I was offering up one of my traditional requests: Would He please send someone, preferably a spiritual giant, to mentor me, so that I would be free to quit my day job and my night job and live a prosperous life of itinerating?
I didn't know what the mentoring process might look like, but I was more than willing to walk it out if itinerating was God's plan for me. On the other hand, if He wanted me to continue in my current profession, I was also more than willing, provided He sweeten the pot with a few lucrative cases. Yes, either way, I had some peace about it.
I was reflecting on the path of self-denial the great ones in the faith had taken-the long years of rejection and mortifying the flesh-when the door of my office opened, and a lovely female head attached to a svelte body in a trim peach suit entered my line of vision.
My heart picked up its pace. She was blonde. Her complexion, pink. Her teeth white, like spotless dice.
“Mr. LaFlam?” she said.
“Joe,” I offered.
“Mr. Joe? I must have-”
“No, Joe . . . I'm Mr. Joe LaFlam.”
I immediately feared the worst. Was our brief misunderstanding prophetic, the sign of a misconceived future together? A life of torment? What would become of our relationship? Were we doomed, and would I never marry? Thirty-three wasn't too old, was it? But perhaps I was getting ahead of myself.
“In the flesh,” I said, offering her a chair, into which she gracefully descended, her right leg crossing over her left and beginning to bounce. She was about twenty-five years old. No wedding band, no engagement ring. Praise God.
Observing me observing her, she said, “I was told you were a Christian.”
Oops, busted. I steered my eyes away guiltily. Was my loneliness and deprivation so obvious? Or was the lovely young woman simply overly discerning?
“Uh . . . yes,” I said, feeling like a poor witness to my faith.
“Good,” she said smiling. “That's why I came to you.”
Oh, excellent. She wasn't that discerning after all. I assumed a thoughtful, caring air.
“Problems?” I raised my eyebrows.
“It's my sister.”
“Hmm, I see.” My brows lowered in understanding.
“She's run away.”
“How old?” I said, up with the brows again.
“Her? She's thirty.”
“Uh . . . from birth?”
“From what then?”
“Did she run away,” I said.
“Yes, that's why I'm here.”
“No. From whom did she run away?”
“Oh, I see. Who did she run away from?”
“More or less,” I said, now impatient.
“Oh, dear,” I thought and also said.
“Yes, I know,” she agreed.
Picking up the scent, I said, “Did she give you or your mother any indication of where she was going?”
“Yes, of course. She left a note. She wouldn't run away without telling us where she was going. After all, she was brought up in a Christian home. But then Daddy died and-”
I cleared my throat.
“Oh, sorry. I'm getting off track . . . the Druids.”
“The ancient Celtic religion?”
“What about it?”
“That's who she's joined.”
The light went on.
“You mean, the Druid cult.”
Her big, beautiful blue eyes blinked, dropping salty water down her cheeks.
“Bertie's joined a cult,” she sniffled through her aquiline nose. The indentation between her nose and upper lip was too short, so that when she talked, the sweet end of her nose bobbed up and down like a rabbit's.
“Alberta. Born prematurely on vacation. If they'd had a boy, Dad said, they would have named him Rocky.”
I was tossed. She didn't need me; she needed a cult de-programmer, an expert, not a second-rate detective who specialized in finding lost kittens, not a Christian detective who moonlighted part time as a taxi driver to pay the bills. Not that I had a lot of bills as a single man living with my mother.
“I'll take the case. Seventy-five a day plus expenses. And I assure you, I do tithe on that.”
She cleared her tears with laced handkerchief dabs and looked grateful, but then, dickering, said, “I don't have much money.”
“And Mummy?” I countered.
“Yes, well, OK, we should be able to find it,” she said.
“Oh, sorry, it's Brittany. Brittany Morgan.”
“No. Not lately.”
“Make it fifty dollars a day.”