I’m feeling out of sorts as I download the information from the flash drive onto my computer. I need to return the flash drive before Reverend Yang knows it’s missing. I call him before I can think about it, and he’s still at the office. I pause. Does he ever go home? He tells me he can meet me any time, so I quickly dress and leave. I don’t bother dressing up—I just wear a plain shirt and slacks. My only goal is to return the flash drive without getting caught, and maybe I’ll use the same trick I used the last time.
“Megan. I’m so glad to see you.” Reverend Yang grabs me at his office door and pulls me into a long hug. I get the sense of a drowning man clinging to a life saver, not of a leering Lothario. Given that it’s not even an hour since I last saw him, I know he’s in deep.
“Reverend Yang. You looked stressed. Anything I can do to help?” I look into Reverend Yang’s eyes, and I see that he’s deeply exhausted. In fact, he looks as if he’s about to keel over. “Sit down, Reverend. You’re tired.” I push him onto the couch, and he sinks into it obediently. To my consternation, he starts crying.
“This can’t go on, Megan. It just can’t. I haven’t slept in a week. I throw up whenever I eat. I never thought it’d be this hard.” Reverend Yang throws his arm over his eyes, and he bawls. I put my arm around him and hug him tightly. He leans against me, and he’s trembling. He needs to talk, and it might as well be to me.
“Reverend Yang, whatever it is, you have to get it out. It’s not good to keep it bottled up inside.” I pat his shoulder, and his tears eventually subside.
“I have a problem, Megan, and I need help.” Reverend Yang says, shifting his eyes off mine. He takes a deep breath and says, “I can’t stay away from other women. I’m sure you’ve noticed.” I nod, and he continues. “I love my wife. I really do. She’s been my bedrock through all this. I just…it’s the chase. I’m addicted to it.”
“Reverend Yang. Marcus.” I take his hand and squeeze it. “You are a human being, which means you have weaknesses. The fact that you can acknowledge it is a big first step.”
“Thank you, Megan. I can’t talk about this with anyone, including my wife. Understandably.” Reverend Yang’s eyes close, and within minutes, he’s asleep. I quickly pull out the thumb drive and put it back where I found it after deleting the files off of it. I look around the office, but there’s nothing else that catches my eyes. I pull on my gloves and quickly race through his computer files again. I want to find something that indicates who his most recent woman is, but I can’t find anything. Somewhere in the bowels of his computer, I find an email from his wife. My eyebrows shoot up because conceivably, they could just talk to each other at home. Feeling like a heel, I read it. It says, “Marcus, we need to talk. They’re breathing down our necks. You need to rein in your dick, and I need to be more creative with the books.” My eyebrows are about to fall off my face. She knows about his dalliances. She either doesn’t care or she’s accepted it as part of her lot in life. That’s hard enough for me to believe, but the fact that she just blatantly states she’s cooking the books is mind-blowing. Wait a minute. Reverend Yang said he couldn’t talk about his affairs with his wife, but it’s clear she knows. What accounts for the discrepancy, or is he lying to me? If he is, why?
I can’t find anything else on his computer, so I put it back the way I found it and start snooping through his desk. In the back of the main drawer, folded several times, is a love letter. It reads, “Dear Marcus, You are the only reason I get up in the morning, and you are the last thing on my mind before I go to sleep every night. I can deal with my husband’s brutishness now that I have you. You have changed my life, and I needed you to know that I love you more than life itself. Ever yours, Lee.” I’m so startled, I almost drop the letter. Lee? Who the hell is this Lee? There is no Lee in the church, so clearly, it’s a nickname. I glance at Reverend Yang, and he’s snoring. I pull up the church directory again, and look at all the ‘L’ names. Laura, Linda, Lorna, and Leslie, and Lisa. Lisa. Lisa Tsai. I met her. She was one of those four women I met before I pulled off that one guy off his wife. I have to talk to Lisa. I write down her phone number before closing out the tab. Then, I sit next to Reverend Yang and just wait until he stirs again a half hour later.
“You’re my good luck charm. I sleep like a baby when you’re next to me.” Reverend Yang struggles to sit up, and I help him. “How long have I been out?”
“Half an hour or so,” I say, hugging him briefly. “I hope you feel refreshed.”
“I do. I think I can make it through another day.” Reverend Yang leans against me, and I pat his shoulder. The haunted look has returned to his eyes, and whatever my ulterior motives, I truly am worried about him.
“You really need to talk to someone,” I say gently. “Professionally, I mean. You look like you’re about to snap.”
“I am. It’s completely my own fault. The women, and I shouldn’t have let Sharon talk me into—” He abruptly stops and the color drains from his face. Do I push it? I don’t want to, but time is becoming a factor. If Bob is still alive, every minute that ticks away could be detrimental to his health.
“You shouldn’t have let her convince you to pad the expense report?” I ask the question as gently as I can, but he still flinches.
“You know? How did you know about that?” He’s clutching his desk, and his knuckles are white.
“That’s what Bob talked to you about in his sessions, isn’t it?” I ask, ignoring his questions. I don’t want to get derailed from the information I’m seeking.
“Yes. That and—well, he wasn’t pleased, to say the least.” Reverend Yang sits back down on the couch, and I sit next to him. “He demanded to see the books, which I couldn’t show him, obviously.”
“Why not?” I ask. “I mean, I know you want to keep it a secret, but if people are talking about it, then maybe you should just bring it out in the open.”
“You might be right, Megan.” Reverend Yang says, leaning against the couch. “I’m tired of all the lies and secrets.”
“When was the last time you saw him?” I ask, hoping the well wouldn’t dry up yet.
“A week ago? Five days ago? Something like that. He was pretty upset about…the books. He told me if I didn’t turn myself in, he would do it for me.”
“What did you say to that?” I don’t think Reverend Yang is the kind of man to just let that go. Come to think of it, why is he telling me everything so readily? Perhaps he really is just tired of living a double life.
“I told him to give me some time. He said he’d give me three days. Then, he disappeared.” Reverend Yang’s eyes flash, and I see something akin to relief in his eyes. Is he the one who made Bob disappear to cover his tracks? If so, why is he spilling his guts to me?
“I should go.” I stay seated, however. I don’t want to leave him on his own because he’s so despondent.
“Will you stay? Just for five more minutes.” Reverend Yang looks at me, but there’s no lust in his eyes. Just a loneliness and a pain to which I can relate.
“Of course.” I lean against Reverend Yang, and he grabs my hand in his. We just sit there for several minutes without saying anything.
“I’m going to lose it all, aren’t I, Megan?” Reverend Yang asks me softly. “I may even end up in jail.”
“Yes, you might. Depending on how much you knew about the fraud.” I stroke Reverend Yang’s hand, and he squeezes mine reflexively.
“I knew everything. Sharon came to me with the idea, and after several hours of talking, I agreed to go along with it.” Reverend Yang doesn’t look me in the eyes, and there’s something not quite right about his tone of voice. I look at him sharply, but I don’t say anything. I don’t think there’s anything more to gain by pushing him any harder.
“I have to go, Reverend Yang.” I stand up, but he won’t let go of my hand.
“You have to come back,” Reverend Yang says urgently. “I’ve never felt as comfortable with someone as I am with you. I feel so much better when you’re around.”
“I’ll call you.” I pat Reverend Yang’s hand before slipping mine out of his. I beat a hasty retreat, my mind overwhelmed with information. I can’t help feeling sorry for Reverend Yang, even though this mess is mostly of his own making. I muse over the interaction, and I come to the conclusion that even though the information about the fraud is interesting, it doesn’t really help me find Bob. Unless Reverend Yang is a fantastic liar, I don’t think he has anything to do with Bob’s disappearance. Then again, maybe his wife did. She’s the one who perpetrated the fraud, if Reverend Yang is to be believed. I’m not sure I can, however, because he was acting oddly when we talked about the fraud. He blamed it on his wife, but he wouldn’t look me in the eye as he was talking. I’m not going to take Reverend Yang off my suspect list yet, but he’s pretty low on it. I need to talk to Mrs. Yang as soon as possible.
I’m exhausted by the time I get home. I don’t want to be Reverend Yang’s confidante, but he doesn’t seem to have anyone else. Truth to be told, I wouldn’t have anything to do with him if he weren’t involved in Bob’s disappearance. That’s not completely true. I can’t deny that I’m attracted to Reverend Yang, but I’m wise to his brand of charm. He’s probably the youngest of his family and has relied on his charm to grease his way through life. I wouldn’t be surprised if he had a girlfriend who helped him through high school by doing his homework for him. He’s a mama’s boy, and she spoiled him rotten. No woman has ever said no to him, and he does not take rejection well. Guys want to be him, and if not, they want to be his best friend. I bet this is the first real trouble he’s gotten into, except for that affair in divinity school, and he’s not handling it well at all. Speaking of. I check my email, and much to my surprise, there’s an email from Nadine Wendell, the sister of Katie Parker, the woman who claimed Reverend Yang got her pregnant in Harvard. Nadine writes, “He is a snake in the grass who ruined my sister’s life. First, he got her pregnant, and then he had the gall to deny it. When she wouldn’t just fold and go away, he paid her a visit in her apartment. He told her if she didn’t leave, he’d make her life a living hell. After the stick, he offered the carrot. He gave her a hundred thousand dollars to disappear. She took it and left. Don’t ask me where.” I blink at the amount. How the hell did Reverend Yang come up with that kind of money? I research his parents and discover that they’re filthy rich. He probably got the money from them to pay off Katie, but I can’t understand why he’s bilking the church if he’s got so much money. A little more digging made me realize that after the Harvard fiasco, Reverend Yang’s parents cut him off financially. Well, not completely. They give him a small annuity every year, but the rest of their money is in a trust that he can’t touch until after they die.
I write Nadine back asking if there’s any way I can get in touch with her sister. I explain that I’m looking into some improprieties at the church, and I leave it at that. She writes back saying she’ll send my email to Katie, but she can’t say Katie will respond. She also warns me not to trust anything Reverend Yang says because he’s an inveterate liar, and his wife isn’t any better. I ask what she means by that, and she replies, “Sharon knew. She knew all along. She and her husband had an agreement. It was all fine until he got my sister pregnant. Then her true colors came out.” I write back, “What? Are you sure? How do you know that?” Nadine replies, “She told Katie. Right before he threatened her. She actually showed up at Katie’s apartment and told her off.” Despite the confusion of pronouns, I get the gist. Now I’m more confused than ever. It seems as if Mrs. Yang did know about her husband’s affairs and didn’t care until it affected her. If that’s the case, then the most recent lover of Reverend Yang is important because she was making noises about ratting on him. If what Nadine says about Mrs. Yang is true, she’s a viable suspect. For what, though? Bob’s disappearance? I have to talk to this woman.
I send an email to Lisa Tsai, reminding her that I’d met her on Sunday. I beg her forgiveness for being so forward, but time is of the essence. I ask if she’s had an affair with Reverend Yang and if she’s in a troubled marriage. To my surprise, she immediately writes back. She says her marriage is fine, but she doesn’t answer about having an affair with Reverend Yang. She asks if she can talk to me tomorrow, and I agree. I ask if we can meet after work, and she urges me to come over. She says she’ll cook us dinner, and I agree. She lives ten minutes from my sister, so it’s not a far drive for me. Hopefully, I’ll be able to make it to class as I’ve skipped the whole week, but I’m not sanguine about it. Class starts at seven, and I’m meeting Mrs. Tsai at six. I sigh. I still do my routine almost every morning, but I feel the loss of the class keenly. I will be going on Sunday, come hell or high water. I only hope I can find Bob before this. I feel a surge of excitement. Even if Lisa isn’t the proverbial Lee, I have a hunch she knows who is. I’m getting somewhere, and I couldn’t be happier about it.
Next, I write an email to Doug. He’s emailed me a few times, asking about Bob, and I’ve kept him up to date about the case. I’ve asked him a few oblique questions about Reverend Yang, but Doug doesn’t seem as if he knows anything about it. Or at least he’s not willing to admit it. He’s not a huge fan of Reverend Yang’s, but Doug doesn’t find much fault in him, either. I’ve learned that the men in the church aren’t as enthusiastic about Reverend Yang as most of the women are, but that’s expected. Doug has warmer feelings for Mrs. Yang, which is also not surprising.
I get a text from Liz Stanton, my other best friend. She moved to Philly a year and a half ago and broke my heart. She’s a wanderer at heart, though, and I’m fortunate that she stayed in Minneapolis for as long as she did. She, her husband, and their daughter are finally settling down in Philly and making some real friends. Liz had her own mystery recently as well. A case of mistaken identity that ended up with her being shot in the gut by a crazy woman. She’s fortunate that it didn’t hit anything crucial and that she has an understanding boss. She asks me how I’m doing, and I fill her in on Bob’s disappearance. She’s sympathetic, then tells me that she’s ninety percent healed. We text back and forth for several minutes, and I miss her like hell. I hope to see her before too long.