Another adventure in the life of Rollie Chambers and his friends.
Constructive comments, emails, and critiques are very welcome and appreciated.
Jacob Tully waved at Rollie Chambers and Jessica Talbert as they walked into Rigazzi's Italian Restaurant. He stood when they joined him at his table. There were two ladies sitting with Tully.
"Hey guys, thanks for coming," Tully greeted them. He shook Rollie's hand and hugged Jessica.
Julie Colwell also stood. Hi Jessica, hi Rollie," she said and hugged both Rollie and Jessica. Julie was Nurse Colwell, the lead RN at the St. Louis University Medical Center Hospital. She had met Rollie and Jessica when they were admitted to the hospital after a carjacking gone bad. Julie had met Tully at the same time. Over a short period of time she and Tully had become something more than friends with benefits.
"Okay what's the deal Tully? What do you need?" Rollie harassed him with a grin. It didn't matter what his friend wanted, Rollie was there for him and would help in any way he could.
"This is Julie's sister, Victoria Jessup," Tully said introducing the second woman at the table. "She's got a problem with her daughter."
While listening and nodding Rollie held Jessica's chair. "Hello Victoria," he said as he sat down next to Jessica. Over Victoria's shoulder he saw Antonio Rigazzi, the owner of the restaurant. Antonio waved and Rollie returned his greeting. He and Rollie had been friends for years and now Jessica and Tully had joined the friendship. "Tony" grabbed a bottle of a special wine he kept for VIPs and friends. He handed the bottle to his head waiter and motioned toward Rollie and his party. The waiter brought five glasses to the table and poured the wine with a flourish.
After taking a sip of wine and nodding at Tony, Rollie said, "I guess maybe Jess could help you Victoria. She is a psychiatrist; however she's not involved in family counseling."
"No, it's not that kind of problem," Tully interjected. "Well, not totally anyway. I need your help on this Rollie."
"Maybe you should explain," Jessica suggested. "What kind of problem are you having with your daughter Victoria?"
The family resemblance between Julie and Victoria was obvious. Victoria had the same dark hair, gray eyes, and slender build as Julie but looked to be about 36; two years younger than her sister. Victoria's eyes were troubled and she had stress lines around her mouth.
"Call me Vicky please," she said with a sad smile. "I didn't know what to do so I talked to Julie, she talked to Tully, and he suggested we talk to you and Rollie." Taking a deep breath, she added, "My daughter, Roxanne, is being held against her will. She joined a, I guess you'd say it's like a religious cult or whatever. It's called the Church of the One World and now she wants to leave but she can't."
"How old is your daughter?" Rollie asked.
"She turned 18 four months ago, just before she joined the Church of the One World."
"If she's 18, Roxy is considered an adult and free to make her own decisions," Rollie offered. "If she joined this church on her own, there's not much we can do
"Wait," Tully said when he saw the look on Rollie's face. "Vicky got a letter last week from Roxy that makes her think Roxy isn't allowed to leave. She mentioned a poem in the letter and Vicky thinks it's a code from Roxy saying that she's not allowed to leave. The commune has a secured compound but no one knows for sure where it is, so Vicky hasn't been able to visit and talk with her daughter. I, we, need to find her and make sure she still wants to be there."
"And if she doesn't, we'll get her out. Right?" Rollie asked.
"That's about it."
"Why does her mentioning this poem makes you think she's not allowed to leave?" Jessica asked.
"Roxy wrote that she was very happy being part of the Church and the guidance that Father Jeremiah, the head of the church, was giving her. She said they lived in a sort of enclosed campus that has houses and a tall stone fence to keep the evil of the world out. Roxy said that Father Jeremiah encouraged her to continue reading poetry, like she did in school; said he thought it was a good way to learn about the sins of the world. She said one of her favorites is called 'A Lament'."
"And?" Jessica asked,
Well ... Roxy has never been interested poetry, in fact she hated it in school; so I naturally read the poem," Vicky answered. "The poem is by Percy Shelley, and it's sort of a downer." She reached into her purse and pulled out a printed page. "Here; I went online and printed it out."
Jessica took the paper and read the poem with Rollie looking over her shoulder.
O World! O Life! O Time!
On whose last steps I climb,
Trembling at that where I had stood before;
When will return the glory of your prime?
No more -Oh, never more!
Out of the day and night
A joy has taken flight:
Fresh spring, and summer, and winter hoar
Move my faint heart with grief, but with delight
No more -Oh, never more!
Percy Bysshe Shelley
When Jessica looked up after reading the poem, Vicky said, "I think her letters are being inspected and censored so she used this poem to let me know she wants to leave but can't. I need your help finding Roxy and getting her out of that commune."
Rollie looked at Tully with a raised eyebrow. "Right now all we have is Vicky's feeling that her daughter wants to come home. We can't go on a search and destroy mission without more information."
"I know my daughter," Vicky objected. "I know she wants to come home."
"Vicky, it wouldn't be the first time that a young person broke away from their parents," Jessica interjected. "It happens all the time." She held up her hand when Vicky started to speak. "I'm not saying you're wrong, but we need to make sure before we turn these two loose on the Church of One World." Jessica smiled as she looked at Rollie and Tully. "My two men are a force of nature, like a tornado. When they get going all you can do is find shelter and wait for it to blow over."
"When I find this Church of the One World's compound, I'll talk to Roxy and if she wants out I'll bring her out," Tully promised with a grim smile. He paused and looked at Rollie with an intense stare. "No matter who gets in the way, I'll bring her home."
Jessica reached across the table and took Tully's hand. "How can we help?"
"I've checked with all my sources but can't find any information on the location of the church compound. I was hoping you'd use your informants and find a lead for me Rollie."
Rollie took a long sip of his wine and nodded his appreciation to Tony. "You're not exactly the most diplomatic person," Rollie responded with a grim smile of his own. Then he returned Tully's stare. "I'll go you one better my friend, not only will we find out about this compound but when you go to talk to her, I'll go with you." He smiled and said, "I can be diplomatic when need be; unlike a certain broken down old Gunnery Sergeant that I know."
"You're going to help my sister and niece?" Julie asked.
"You're special to Tully, Julie," Rollie answered. "That makes you special to Jessica and me; for good or bad you're part of the family now." Turning toward Vicky, he smiled and added, "That includes Julie's sister and niece. Get us a recent picture of Roxy and we'll get started. Don't worry, Chambers and Associates are on the job."
"Thanks man," Tully said. Julie and Vicky got teary eyed and nodded their thanks.
"Chambers and Associates?" Vicky asked with a puzzled tone.
"That's Rollie's detective agency," Jessica answered. "It consists of Rollie, Tully, and me." Turning to Rollie, she added, "You two macho types are ready to go off on a, what did you call it, a search and destroy mission. Maybe there's a better way. What about Ricky?"
"Damn, I forgot all about Ricky," Rollie said. Tully had a surprised look on his face; showing that he too had forgotten about Ricky.
"Who's Ricky?" Julie asked.
"Ricky Willard works for the St. Louis Police Department as a cyber crime specialist," Tully answered. "He was a college student that ran a gambling ring in college. Ricky also hacked into the school's main frame and changed people's grades; all for a price of course."
"When he got caught, among others things, the judge gave him 200 hours of community service," Rollie said. "Major Taylor thought it would be a good idea for Ricky to work for the Department. Ricky's been there ever since."
"I don't know how, but he can find a lot of information using his computer," Jessica said. Turning to Rollie and then Tully she added, "You should call him for help."
"From the mouth of babes," Rollie said grinning at Jessica. "Or in this case a babe."
"I'll go see Major Taylor tomorrow and see if we can borrow Ricky," Tully said.
"We'll go see him Tully," Rollie said.
"The only address we can find on the Church of the One World is the post office box they listed with the city for their license as a nonprofit organization," Rollie told Ricky.
"That's because you're not me," Ricky said with a big grin.
Rollie looked skeptical but Tully said, "Listen to the boy. Go ahead Ricky."
"All nonprofit entities must have an actual address listed with authorities," Ricky explained. "The commission will keep that information confidential and sealed from the public eye, but they must have a physical address on file." The young man laughed and added, "Of course, I'm not the normal public. Who's the head of the church, do you know?"
.... There is more of this story ...