I hang up and take a few notes on my phone. I feel a bubble of excitement because finally, I have a lead. Granted, it’s second-hand, and it’s flimsy, but it’s still more than I had ten minutes ago. I think about what I’ve learned. Bob was concerned about improprieties at his church. He wanted to talk to Reverend Yang about it, and he said something had been going on too long. Put that together with the fact that Reverend Yang was recently reprimanded for canoodling with a parishioner, and it seems the sexy, virile reverend is up to his old tricks. I don’t know how as he’s supposed to have his wife in every session with a female parishioner, but there are ways around that, I’m sure.
The question is, what am I going to do about it? I can’t just call him up and say, “Hey, Rev. You schtupping your lady parishioners?” Oh, yeah. I’m sure that’ll get the results I want. What do I do? I can go to church with Jasmine on Sunday for starters. I’ll have to skip taiji, but it’s for a good cause. Then, maybe I can make up some story about having a troubled relationship and see where that goes with the reverend. I have hunch Jasmine won’t be pleased about that. She’s gushed about him in the past, and I know she’s protective about her church. I don’t think she’ll be happy to find that there’s something hinky about the church. I remind myself not to get ahead of myself because I don’t know for sure it’s the reverend who’s done something wrong.
I’m upset. I may not be a fan of religion, but I know it brings comfort to many afflicted souls. I don’t like it when religious leaders take advantage of their flock. I pull up the church’s website, and it’s full of bland platitudes. ‘Seeking a higher truth’. ‘Loving is letting go.’ I roll my eyes at the inanity. I would expect something deeper or more insightful from a church, but I don’t know why. There are plenty of shitty churches, and maybe this is one of them. I push back these thoughts and try to remain open-minded. Just because I have a problem with platitudes and empty promises, it doesn’t mean they’re bad people. I skim the rest of the website, and there’s an emphasis on the counseling aspect. There are testimonies from several women claiming that the reverend helped save their marriages. “My husband and I were barely even talking before I went into counseling,” writes Mrs. Chiang. “We just celebrated our 25th anniversary, and we couldn’t be happier.” A young Mrs. Li adds, “I just got married a year ago, but we were already having problems. He worked later and later, but he refused to talk to me about it. A few sessions with Reverend Yang helped me get my marriage back on track.” Mrs. Wu raves, “Reverend Yang is a gift from heaven! He has a voice like an angel, and the patience of a saint. He counseled me three times a week for a year. Now, my husband and I are better than ever.”
I read a half dozen more testimonials, all in a similar vein. All of them from women. There are none from men, which makes me suspicious as well. I also notice how all the testimonials are aimed solely at Reverend Yang. None of them mention the church otherwise. So, they’re not really fans of the church—they’re fans of him. I shut down the tab, feeling suddenly old. I have no doubt that Reverend Yang has been messing around with his female parishioners, and I think he’s still doing it. I also think it might have something to do with Bob’s disappearance, but I’m not sure how. I don’t think I can ask Jasmine about it, so I’m just going to have to follow my plan of going with her to church and practicing some subterfuge. I don’t feel good about it, but it has to be done. I swallow hard and call Jasmine.
“Megan. You going to ask me more impertinent questions?” I can hear the frost in Jasmine’s voice, but I don’t care. I’m going to help her despite herself, damn it.
“Nope. I just want to know if I can go to church with you on Sunday.” I say it as casually as possible, but Jasmine’s not fooled.
“You want to come to my church and spy on my friends? Megan! How can you stoop so low? I raised you better than that!” Jasmine’s voice is shrill, and I try to block it out as best as possible. Technically, I don’t need her permission to go to her church, but it would make things easier.
“I just want to get a feel of your church. You and Bob spend a lot of time there, and all of your friends are there. Maybe they know something about Bob’s disappearance.” I take a deep breath and add, “I’m not going to grill them, Jasmine. I’m just going to have a few casual conversations.”
“You can come. But if you say anything to upset one of my friends, I’ll never forgive you.” With that, Jasmine hangs up. I try to tell myself she’s under a lot of stress, but that’s going to get old soon. I’m only doing this because she asked; the least she could do is be supportive. I glance at my phone and see it’s nearly eight. I call Doug, and I’m relieved when a cheerful voice answers.