Shannon and Mark, along with all of Lowry's parishioners, were staggered by the turn of events at the church. There were theories galore, but none that made total sense. Apparently no crime had been committed, so there was no official investigation of the case, nor was there any case to be investigated. Some of the parishioners took it upon themselves to look for Father Lowry, all the way up to the Vatican, but no one knew what had happened to him, nor where he had gone.
Mark conducted a walk through of the church grounds and did not see anything out of the ordinary except for the small grave for the dog, which looked freshly dug and filled. The flowers tied to the dog-toy had not even wilted.
"Surely, the reverend would not tear down his solar cross and close down his church on account of a dog, however beloved the dog might be," he commented to Shannon.
"All I can think of is that he must be under immense pressure before he would destroy the cross," mused Shannon. "Unless of course the cross was not destroyed by him but by somebody else."
Mark was lost in thought. "Things just don't add up. There is something screwy somewhere no one has looked," he said. "There is also the possibility that he is dead."
Shannon looked crestfallen at the thought which, had it occurred to her, she had suppressed. "If that is a possibility, then that is the scenario that we should set as the baseline," she said.
Mark suddenly brightened up. "You know what? I think the dog might be able to tell us something."
"What do you mean?"
"I want to see how he died. Suppose he was shot."
Shannon looked into space a moment, then nodded.
Together, they exhumed the dog, and were appalled to see the state it was in, not chewed up by ants or moles, but ravaged by some horrid disease that had killed it. Mark went to the utility shed and brought out rubber gloves, a heavy duty gardening bag and a large cooler. He put the dog into the gardening bag, placed the bag into the cooler, and filled the cooler with ice-cubes. He then seal the cooler tight, wrapped it in duct tape for safe measure, and drove it to the Pittsburgh General Hospital.
That evening, finally relaxed in front of her fireplace, Shannon said, "I have something to show you."
She got up, went to her bedroom and brought out a book. Mark glanced at it and broke into a grin. "Wow, now I know that my book has sold at least one copy."
She laughed. "It just arrived in the mail two days ago. I haven't actually started reading it, but I can't help but notice the fantastic accolades it has garnished from the pinnacle of the ivory tower," she said.
"Oh, well, I was blown over by them myself when I first read them," he said a little shyly.
"I'm working on a book too, you know, on the erosion of the Constitution, based on my case, but branches out from there. Not much to show right now since I'm just starting on it. But what I want to know is how you got the glowing accolades for your book. I know you didn't just send them copies of it and in flooded the letters. Many of the scientists and philosophers who wrote them appeared to have met you in person."
"They all did."
"Well, after I had finished the first draft of the book, I wanted to test my new philosophical system - the Omniscientific Cosmology - with the best minds I could find. So I went on a five-university tour, starting with my own alumni the University of British Columbia. Then I just went down the coast and visited the University of Washington, the U of Oregon, UC Berkeley and Stanford. Every time I got to a university, I would go to its library and look up its curriculum. I would pick out the courses I liked, and note down the professors who taught them. Back in the motel room, I would print out personalized letters saying, 'Dear professor so and so, I have devised a new philosophical system which involves your field. I would like to give you a chalk-talk on it and see what you think. It would take up to two hours of uninterrupted time for me to give an unhurried presentation. I will be in town for the next week days and hope that you could fit me into your busy schedule within this time period. Da da, da da.' The next morning, I would go back to the university and insert the letters into the professors' cubby-holes. Same afternoon, I would call them by phone to make appoints. I have to say this. I sent out about six letters per university, and I got thirty appoints from the five universities, which resulted in the thirty letters of recommendations for the OC. I can vouch for the generosity, respect and genuine interest in all the professors without exception. My heart fills with love for them every time I think about them, and for human kind."
"Wow, that is amazing!"
"In retrospect, even I say so. I sometimes wonder if I would or could do it again, or for the first time in my life. I'm proud of that young man."
"How did you get the whole thing started in the first place? I mean, starting from the idea of the book."
"Well, when I was thirty three, I must be undergoing my mid-life crisis, cause I quit my job, sold and gave away my possessions, packed it in, and went solo camping in Africa on a one way ticket. It did not start as a plan. I just wanted to be there, so I got there. The first big thing I did was to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. It was a five day climb. When I set foot on the summit, I looked down and saw my life as all downhill. From the mountaintop I could see the problems of the world, but I saw myself as being removed from it, and powerless in doing anything to fix any of it. And then a voice said to me, 'You have miraculous powers. All you need is a goal and the will.' I scoffed at the 'miraculous' bit. And she said, yes, to me, it was a feminine voice, maybe the divine sacred feminine, 'You have the power, I say, to raise ten gallons of liquid water up from the pond you camped at five days ago at the foot of this mountain up to here, without artificial aid of any kind.' I pretty much said BS. 'In fact, you have already raised it,' she said. I looked around. There was only rock and ice. I knew the presence of the ice was not due to me. And then Raminothna said, 'Look inward, at the ten gallons of living water flowing through your arteries and veins, with which you can dissolve the troubles of the world.'" Mark had a very distant look in his eyes.
"Then Raminothna said, 'I come in peace, and bring you a gift. A book.' I said I love reading. A book would be great. So, where is this book? 'It has yet to be written.' So when will it be written? 'As soon as YOU have written it.'" Now Mark looked as if he was in a trance.
Shannon looked down at the book in her hand and said, "This is the most fantastic story I have ever heard, and yet, I am holding the book in my hands!"
When Mark Lee returned to Canada from two-months of solo camping in
Africa, he brought back with him not souvenirs or trophies, but a
briefcase full of a thousand 8x11 sheets of loose-leaf paper, or two
thousands pages of his writing - in long hand. The writing was not
continuous prose, but isolated entries of random thoughts emerging from
lateral thinking, or what some considered "channeling". These thoughts,
when they occurred, were always surprising to him, and more so,
amazing. They were usually new insights on the mundane, which gave it a
surreal or even super-real quality.
he got home in Vancouver, British Columbia, he laboriously transferred
these thoughts, one by one on to filing cards, again in long hand, which
resulted in a tall stack a thousand strong. He then spent months
sorting these cards into categories and subcategories, and arranging
them into a greater frame work which revealed itself only when the
sorting and arranging had been done. Before that was achieved, the
corresponding framework established in his mind was like a house of
cards. One small disturbance from the outside world would cause it to
come tumbling down in a meaningless heap.