Keith and Brenda watched as the police car drove away with Tamara. As soon as the car turned a corner and was out of sight, Brenda sighed and looked desperately up at Keith.
“Keith, I need a hug,” Brenda said, as tears starting to run down her face. He hugged her and the two neighbors stayed in a tight embrace for over a minute.
When Brenda finally let go of Keith she asked, “Keith, can you come over to my house for coffee and maybe some pie or cookies?”
“I’m not working this afternoon. I’d be glad to come over. I think you need someone to talk to, my dear lady,” he answered.
“You couldn’t be more right about that,” Brenda said while letting out a huge sigh of relief.
Brenda owned a beautiful house in the Norwood Flats area of Winnipeg. She was now the sole owner of Brenda’s Cleaning Service. She had contracts with many major business offices in the city as well as having a solid base of residential clients. Brenda ran a successful janitorial service business that was known for its efficiency, reliability and charging reasonable and affordable prices for services rendered.
Before she set up her own janitorial company, Brenda had been a very successful and respected grade six teacher up until her last teaching assignment. During this time, Brenda was hit with a bombardment of both personal and professional crises. Her father had recently passed away after a long battle with prostate cancer and shortly after, the brother that Brenda felt the closest to was killed in a car accident by an impaired driver. That year the school that she worked at underwent a change of administration. Brenda now had to adjust to two administrators who had both decided that Brenda’s performance as a teacher was now below the minimum standards.
This series of crises, all coming together around the same time period, eventually pushed Brenda over the edge.
Things came to head on the day that one of Brenda’s colleagues found her in the staff shower room trying to hang yourself. A one -month compulsory hospitalization in a psychiatric ward, followed by two years of staying at home collecting long-term disability benefits effectively ended Brenda Cameo’s teaching career.
Episode One (cont.):
Recently, Earl Dawson had not experienced any slowing down in the speed of his life trajectory and the increasing number of serious issues that were crying out for his attention. After fitfully tossing and turning for nearly five minutes, Earl accidently rolled over onto his wife’s side of the bed. He had accidentally pressed his considerable body weight onto his wife’s left arm.
Abigail, Earl’s wife of the last twenty years, deeply resented being startled awake from a deep and peaceful sleep. Abigail had suffered from a frustrating inability to remain completely asleep over the course of one night for most of her adult life. It was her pattern to have to get up and read for about one hour before attempting to fall back asleep again.
Abigail stared angrily at Earl and began to unleash her wrath upon her husband, “Earl, this is the second time in three days that you have bumped into me and have woken me up at this ungodly hour. What is wrong with you! I think that you should ask your business partner David if he would take you on as one of his clients and provide you with some psychotherapy.”
“I am a psychiatrist myself, Abigail. I’m more than qualified to diagnose and treat myself!” Earl snapped back.
“You know that you can’t psychoanalyze yourself Earl. You are not in a position to be objective about your own issues,” Abigail responded.
“I would like to think that I know more about my personal issues than David does, with all due respect to his technical efficiencies. Besides, he is not only a distinguished colleague of mine, David is also my business partner and best friend,” Earl stated.
“Yeah, I heard something about that,” Rick answered.
“Well, it’s true, but the story has been greatly exaggerated. I spent about two weeks in a psychiatric rehabilitation facility in San Francisco. I was there basically for observation so that the doctors could make a diagnosis,” Misty explained.
“So, what did the doctors come up with?” Rick asked.
“At that time they told me it was manic depression. My psychiatrist in Winnipeg changed the diagnosis to schizo-affective disorder.”
“Yeah, I remember you telling me about that. Do you need to take medication?’
“Yes, lithium. For a long time, I wasn’t really taking it. I just lied to my doctor and my parents telling them that I was taking the lithium regularly. I got busted when they eventually took a blood test. The test showed that there was no trace of lithium in my body.”
“Why didn’t you take your medication?”
“Because it made me feel worse. To be more precise I didn’t feel any emotions at all when I first started taking it. Plus, it was making me gain weight.”
“So, do you take lithium now?” Rick asked.
“No. My new psychiatrist in Winnipeg put me on chlorpromazine after he changed my diagnosis to schizo-affective disorder,” Misty answered.
The restaurant was starting to get very smoky. It appeared that most of the customers were puffing hard on their cigarettes while they sucked back the strong Salisbury House coffee. The smoke in the air was starting to make Rick’s eyes water.”
“Let’s go back to Memorial Park. It’s getting too smoky in here for me,” said Rick.
Rick and Misty started walking back across the Osborne bridge. Misty thought she saw the shadowy figure of a man trying to climb up on the railings of the bridge.
Rick said, “It looks like that guy is going to try to jump over the bridge.”
Both Rick and Misty started yelling, “Hey man, stop! What are you trying to do?”
“Leave me alone. I’m going to jump,” the man answered.
“Let’s talk a bit first,” Misty said.
“Talk about what?” the man asked.
“About anything. Misty and I have been looking for someone interesting to talk to.” Rick answered.
“I’m not an interesting person and anyway you’ve got each other to talk to,” the man said.
“Let me be the judge of that. How about the three of us go to the Sals and get a cup of coffee? It’s starting to get chilly out here.” Rick said.
“I don’t even have enough money for a coffee, man, and I just smoked my last cigarette,”
“What’s your name?” Misty asked.
“Norman or just Norm.”
“Hi, I’m Misty and this is my boyfriend, Rick.”
“Like I said, I haven’t got enough money to go to the Sals and I’m kind of busy here.”
“Okay. I’ll tell you what. You come down from the railing and I’ll pay for your coffee and anything else you want to eat. Don’t worry about cigarettes. I just opened a new pack. How about it?” Rick asked.
“Well, I guess I could have my last coffee and cigarette before I leave this world.” Norm answered.
“That’s great. I’ll give you a smoke right now,” Rick said.
When they got back the Salisbury House, Norm ordered a Big Nip, and an order of fries and a coffee.
“Thanks guys. I haven’t had anything to eat yet today. My dad kicked me out at around ten this morning,” Norm said.
“So what have you been doing all day to keep warm?” Misty asked.
“I’ve been riding the bus. My dad bought me a monthly bus pass before I got the boot,” Norm said. “I don’t know what to do or where to go. Two months ago my mom kicked me out of her place.”
“Don’t worry we’ll figure something out,” Misty said.
Norman Robinson was only nineteen years old, but he was already starting to take on the appearance of a homeless person. He was tall and very thin. Misty noticed that Norman had a missing front tooth. He had a large hole in the front of his navy blue parka that made it look like he had vomited on his coat. The hole was actually a result of Norman helping his dad remove a defective battery from his car. In the process of completing this task, Norman had gotten some battery acid on his jacket. The acid had burned the hole in it.
Misty turned to Rick and said, “Let’s take Norm over to my place. I think my dad might like to talk to Norman.”
“What makes you say that?” Rick asked, looking somewhat befuddled.
“My dad has changed a lot since the summer. I’ll tell you about it later, but he now has a job working at a homeless center,” Misty answered.
“Wow. Lloyd has a steady job now,” Rick said.
“Look you guys have done enough for me already. After I finish my coffee and smoke I’ll just walk back to the bridge,” Norman said.
“I don’t think that’s such a great idea,” Rick said. “You don’t have a place to go tonight, do you?”
“That settles it. You’re coming with us,” Rick said firmly.
Rick, Misty and their new friend walked back to Rick’s car that was parked on a street next to Memorial Park. When Rick tried to start his car the engine wouldn’t turn over.
“Damn,” Rick said. “I just put a new battery in two weeks ago,”
“Open the hood Rick and let me have a look,” Norman said.
“In less than a minute Norman asked Rick to try starting the car again. This time the engine turned over immediately.
“How did you do that?” Rick asked.
“It was just a loose cable. I was training to be an auto technician so I knew what to check first.”
“Wow, thanks a lot man,” Rick said, feeling both surprised and grateful.
One morning, Misty’s mother, Sheila Roberts was doing her morning devotions. As a devout Christian, Sheila had long established a habit of having a quiet time with the Lord before she started her day. Her devotional time included reading from her Bible, praying for herself and others as well as remaining quiet and waiting for God to speak to her. Today, Sheila heard the Lord speak to her spirit, “Sheila, I’m going to do a great work in your husband, Lloyd, because I love him very much. I am asking you to include Lloyd in your prayers every day.”
Sheila did not hear an audible voice, but she knew in her heart that she had heard from God. After the incident at the rock concert during the summer, Sheila had been thinking about Lloyd. By this time, she had forgiven Lloyd for allowing his daughters to get involved in a dangerous situation. She had loved Lloyd at one time, but since she became a Christian and Lloyd didn’t, Sheila felt that her husband would have a negative influence on their children. She could not say that Rick was a bad person. In many ways he was a good man, but she could no longer tolerate his immaturity and his harmful addictions. What she really wanted was a godly husband and Lloyd certainly was not. Sheila decided to call her pastor Randy Neufeld to discuss with him what the Lord had told her.
Lloyd Roberts was just waking up from a short nap he had after supper. As be reached for his pack of cigarettes, Lloyd could still remember the dream he had. He was in that zone where he was just coming out of the dream state, but was not yet fully awake. Lloyd was used to having many dreams while he slept, but there was something different about the ones that he had been having lately. His most recent dreams all seemed to have some spiritual or religious theme to them.
A few minutes ago, Lloyd had seen Jesus in his dream holding a little lamb in his arms. The other night he dreamed that he was sitting in a quiet, peaceful location by a stream. When he turned his head he could see a man who looked like Jesus waving for him to walk over to where he was standing. Lloyd scratched hic head before putting on his baseball cap with the Ford logo on it. He had started to notice a bald spot near the top of his head and thought that if he covered it up he wouldn’t have to think about it. What he was now thinking about was the significance of his dreams. His daughter, Sasha had been a Christian for awhile now, but Lloyd was wondering what kind of influence her new boyfriend was having on her beliefs. Lloyd expected Sasha would be home in a little while. He would ask her what she made of his dreams.
Lloyd had recently attained employment as a residential care worker at The Main Street Mission. He found that of the many jobs that he had worked over the years this was probably one of the few that he actually enjoyed. Lloyd liked the street people that he got to know and was starting to feel that his life was finally starting to have some meaning.
Lloyd was beginning to mature as he entered his mid forties. The incident that happened at the rock festival had shaken Lloyd up. It now occurred to him that he had some serious responsibilities as a parent.
Lloyd’s dog, Pigpen started barking loudly while scratching the front door with his paws.
“Hang on. I’ll be right there.” Lloyd hoped that his voice was loud enough to be heard outside the door.
When Lloyd answered the door he was greeted by Misty and Rick and a young man that he did not recognize.
Lloyd moved closer to Rick to give him a hug. “Hey, man, I haven’t seen you in a dog’s age. Pardon the pun, Pigpen.”
“Hey, Dad. I’d like to introduce you to our new friend, Norm. Rick and I just met him tonight at The Sals on Osborne,” Misty said, while brushing some snow off her coat.
“Why don’t you guys park yourselves in the living room while I put on some coffee. I’d offer you guys a beer, but I’ve been on the wagon for awhile now.”
“Yeah, Dad’s been sober for six months now. He joined Alcoholics Anonymous,” Misty said proudly, just before she sat down on the couch.
“At the last AA meeting they gave me my sixth month pin,” Lloyd said proudly as he walked towards the kitchen.
After the coffee had perked Misty brought out a silver tray with the cups, coffee and creamer.
Lloyd sat down in his black recliner.
“I’m sorry I haven’t been around to see you Lloyd. I’ve been keeping a low profile since Sasha and I broke up,” Rick explained.
“That’s what I figured,” Lloyd said. “Well you don’t have to worry about that Rick. Sasha’s cool with it. She says she still likes you, but she has a new boyfriend now. In fact, they’ll probably be here soon. Lloyd then turned his attention to the new guest.
“So how did you get to talking with Rick and Misty?”
“Actually, I first met them on the Osborne Bridge. I was getting ready to jump in the river,” Norm answered.
One day in August Rick walked to the Canada Employment Center to see if he could get some help finding a job. He was two credits short from attaining his high school diploma and realized that with this small amount of course work he would need to at least, get a part time job. At this time, he did not think that he would return to playing hockey for another season. Last year had been much too stressful for him and now he would have a lot of free time on his hands. Rick felt that he would need to get a job to keep his parents happy.
As he entered the employment center Rick was nervous. He had worked one summer at his dad’s printing plant and had a very negative experience while working there. Rick did not yet realize that he lacked the manual dexterity, fine motor skills and spatial reasoning required for most factory jobs.
Rick walked up to the reception desk and was told to pull a number out of a machine. He was directed to take a seat in the waiting room and wait until his number was called.
Rick found an empty seat and took a look around the main floor of the employment center. It was a very drab place that rendered a rather depressing mood. After waiting approximately fifteen minutes Rick heard his name called and was greeted by a young attractive female who asked him to take a seat in her work area. The employment counsellor did not have a closed- in office. Her office space was separated from her co-workers by grey rectangular partitions. This arrangement didn’t give the client any feeling of privacy as one could hear what people in other sectioned off work areas were saying.
The employment counsellor shook hands with Rick and said, “Hello Richard, my name is Arlene Johnson. What can I do for you today?”
“You can just call me Rick. I’m here to find a job.”
“What kind of work are you looking for?”
“I’m not sure,” Rick answered. “I don’t know what kinds of work are available to me.”
“Well, that all depends upon your education and work experience.”
“I’ve got my grade 11 and I’m just two credits shy of my high school diploma. I worked at my dad’s printing plant one summer and I used to have a paper route.
“Do you like working with your hands Rick?”
“Not very much. I’m not very good with my hands.”
“I have to be honest with you. Most of the jobs you could apply for require a grade twelve education and manual dexterity or fine motor skills. We occasionally get referrals from employers for manual labor jobs, but I don’t have any referrals right now,” Arlene said.
Rick was now feeling very uncomfortable. “So I guess you really don’t have anything for me today?”
“Not really. What do you do in your spare time?”
“I play hockey, watch tv, listen to music and read.”
“But you don’t do much work with your hands?”
“No, not really, but I read a lot,” Rick said feeling insulted.
“Listen Rick. Can I be blunt?”
“Yeah,” Rick replied feeling annoyed.
“You need to get your high school diploma and you need to take up a hobby where you have to use your hands. After you do that come back and see me.”
“Thank you for your time,” Rick said as he got up to leave Arlene’s work area. When he got outside Rick lit up a smoke and said to himself, “So that’s that. I’ll go back to school to get my two credits and I’ll play hockey for one more year.”
Blake Riley was rich, very rich. He made most of his money over a two year period during the early dot com. days. Blake was a visionary who had the foresight to see the endless business opportunities presented by modern scientific technology. When the dot com. boom was coming to an end, Blake had the foresight to see this in advance. He sold off his businesses at a tidy profit and set up an off shore bank account. At twenty-four years of age, Blake was a self- made millionaire.
Blake was far too young and much too ambitious to retire. The next opportunity he took part in was a business that involved importing exotic animals to The United States and Canada. He and his friend, Jack Kimberley became co-owners of the new business. Both men knew that there was a potentially profitable market for exotic pets. There were people who were willing to pay substantial sums of money to own exotic pets like pythons and Siberian tigers.
Blake was a high energy individual who became bored very easily. Once he had his new business up and running Blake felt comfortable allowing Jack Kimberley to run the day to day operation of the enterprise.
Blake loved to make enormous amounts of money, but he was not your typical workaholic. His philosophy of life was to derive as much enjoyment from each day as he possibly could. Blake was a risk taker who believed in pushing the envelope and was always interested in propositions that were high risk, high reward.
Blake had many hobbies and interests and now had the cash flow to indulge himself to the fullest extent. His personal belief was that one should never have a boring day. If someone does, it’s their own fault.
One of Blake’s favorite hobbies was collecting vintage guitars especially Fender Stratocasters and Telecasters, and Les Paul electric guitars from the 1950s and 1960’s. Blake presently had a collection of close to one hundred classic guitars. There were two guitars that Blake Riley was hoping to one day add to his collection. He coveted the white Fender Stratocaster that Jimi Hendrix played at Woodstock and the red Gibson double neck guitar that Jimmy Page used when he played the songs, Stairway to Heaven and The Song Remains the Same. Although he picked up a guitar now and then, Blake lacked fine motor skills and found it hard to play anything skillfully. He contented himself with practicing guitar scales, cranking up his Marshall amplifiers stack to ten and executing screaming string bends.
Blake’s passion was for collecting. He collected all kinds of things from sports cards to vintage cars. His most serious interest during the last year was collecting exotic pets. His goal was to have his own zoo right on his large property that stretched far out to a lake. So far Blake had a tortoise, a chimpanzee, a boa constrictor and a Siberian tiger cub. Blake had hired trained professionals to manage and care for his collection of exotic pets. Through his own business enterprise Blake knew several international business associates that could get exotic animals into Canada. He also wasn’t worried about outsiders finding out about his little zoo. Blake’s mansion and property was at least one hundred miles from his nearest neighbors. Blake also had a competent security staff watching out for him and his property at all times.
Blake was quite eccentric. Some even thought that he suffered from bipolar disorder. One thing was for sure. Blake was very moody. His staff rarely knew what to expect from him on any given day. Some days he would be friendly and jovial and on other days there seemed to be a heavy cloud over him.
On his bad days the only thing that could help Blake out of a deep depression was the thought of obtaining a new, but rare addition to his private zoo. When he went to sleep at night, Blake would often dream about acquiring an animal that no other zoo possessed.
Episode Four of The Pastor
“I’m David Noble, the pastor of New Beginings Church. I’m Melissa’s husband and Dexter’s father.”
As soon as David could get these words out of his mouth he saw the police officer get jostled out of the way by a team of paramedics. A young athletic looking paramedic spoke up.
‘Where’s the victim?”
“She’s in the bedroom. I’ll take you there,” Dexter said.
When the paramedics entered Melissa’s bedroom they could see that Melissa had bled out from the deep and wide slash to her throat. Her clothing and the once grey rug were saturated in blood. They tried to get a pulse but were unable to find one. Two of the paramedics took turns performing CPR on Melissa but she remained unresponsive.
The young paramedic asked Dexter to return to the living room. Dexter took a seat on the sofa next to his father.
“I’ve got some terrible news for both of you. Melissa is dead.”
Pastor Noble covered his face with his hands and began to weep. Even though he was sitting down he felt dizzy and disoriented. Who could do such a horrific thing to his wife? David couldn’t think of anyone who disliked Melissa.
The thought crossed his mind that this tragedy probably wouldn’t have happened had he and his wife still been living together. An almost tangible wave of guilt overcame David.
After he graduated from seminary David had mixed feelings about becoming a pastor. He had always been an intellectual enjoyed studying The Bible and engaging in theological debates with his professors and fellow students. Still, David felt that something was missing. He knew about God but he doubted that he had a personal relationship with Him.
Just prior to graduating from seminary David married Melissa. Nine months later Dexter was born and David now had a family to support. Fortunately. David was very ambitious and charismatic and was offered a pastoral position in a Baptist church in an affluent suburb of Fargo, North Dakota just one month after his graduation.
Chapter One Hundred Sixty-Six:
“I know how you feel. I miss the kids over the summer months when they are with you,” said Susan. “It makes it a difficult situation for both of us.”
“You’ve changed over the last year, John. I can no longer push you around. Don’t take this the wrong way, but the old John I knew was kind of wimpy. You seem surer of yourself, more in charge somehow. I like the new John much better.”
“Thank you. I’ll take that as a compliment. I tend to agree with you. Before this expedition I kind of let people and circumstances walk all over me. I was much too passive. I had goals and dreams but I didn’t have the courage to carry them out. The truth is that I didn’t like the old John very much myself. I was too sensitive, too introspective and full of self -pity. I really didn’t blame you for divorcing me.”
“I don’t want you to give up your sensitive and caring personality John. I just wanted to see you show yourself as strong and capable of handling life,” said Susan.
“I have to admit that my own way of coping was escape, mainly through my writing. When I write I become someone else. The characters in my novels are strong and heroic, the way I would like to be. Also, when I write I can control other people and life and I got addicted to that feeling. I guess that I was living in my own fantasy world,”
“I don’t want you to give up your writing, John. I’ve read some of it. It’s very good. I just want you to spend less time writing and more time with me and the kids,” said Susan.
“I think I could do that,” said John with a hint of a smile crossing his face.
“John, I want us to try again.”
Chapter One Hundred Sixty-Three:
Bobby O’Conner could not wait to get back to his office to work on compiling his notes and having a look at how his Ogopogo expedition photos turned out. He realized that the articles he would write and the photos that he would publish would be the coup of the century. The story about the search and capture of a live Ogopogo would be world- wide news. Bobby’s reporting would be as famous as the initial reports on the Roswell Incident of 1947. In fact, this story would be bigger than Roswell as the crew returned with living physical specimens. Bobby O’Conner was about to become a household name in the field of journalism. All this for a once small time reporter who covered the Kelowna Katfish junior hockey team.
Fortunately, Bobby kept detailed journal entries anytime he found more information about the adventures of the expeditions. He was more than happy with the pictures of the Ogopogos. The photos were taken from a relatively short distance and were very clear and focused. There was no doubt that the creatures photographed did not belong to any known living species. Bobby had enough material in his journal entries for several good newspaper articles, but he wanted more.
What Bobby O’Connor really wanted was interviews with the members of the crew. He started to make some phone calls to arrange for appointments for interviews.
The first person that Bobby called was John Richards. The reporter knew that he had a great human interest story in John’s attempted rescue of the two divers on Blake Riley’s crew.
“John, this is Bobby O’Conner from The Kelowna Sun. I would love to get an interview with you and your family. What time would be good for you?”
“Right now would be a great time. My ex-wife Susan is here now as well as my kids. You might get four interviews out of this,” answered John.
“That would be even better. Do you mind if I bring a video crew with me? A local television news show has asked to work with me on this project. We can be at your place in about an hour,” said John.
“That’s fine with me. We’ll have the coffee on when you arrive.”