A Gate to Healing Energy

How would you like to learn a simple qigong exercise that will open a gate to healing energy?

Knocking at the Gates of Life – Bamboo Grove Qigong

There is a circle around your waist that is poetically called the Gates of Life.  The term also references an acupuncture point (Ming-Men) located directly opposite of the navel, which was your connection to life in the womb.  This is the center of your body and the location of a sea of healing energy called Dantian (tan t’ien).

Robert Black BackgroundStand with your feet shoulder width apart, knees slightly bent.  Soften all of your joints by allowing them to round slightly.  In other words, don’t lock any of your joints.  Scan your body for tension.  If you find any, relax and let it go.  Tension blocks the flow of energy.  To help release the tension, lift the crown and sink your tail bone.  This will stretch your spine and open the spaces between the spinal discs.

You stand in the center between heaven and earth, relevant and powerful.

Breath deep.  Focus your breath a few inches below your belly button, the “Commander and Chief” of all balanced movement.

Begin to slowly twist at the waist, first to the left and then to the right.  Your feet should remain rooted in the earth, while your upper body moves as a unit, rotating on a central axis around your Dantien.  A classic beginning mistake is to rush your eyes, then your head, ahead of the rest of your upper body.  Relax.  There is no rush.

Imagine your hands are heavy weights dangling from the ends of your arms.  Allow them to swing loosely around your body and alternately tap your kidneys and your belly button.  Let them flop.  Your movement should be effortless.

You will feel energy building in your belly until it finally breaks free like a bursting damn after heavy spring rains.  Allow it to spill out and flow where it will.  Trust your body to send this healing energy where it is needed.

When it is time, you will gradually come to rest.  Stand tall and still for a few more breaths.  Have a moment of gratitude for the healing.

Peace out,


You can watch a video  of Robert demonstrating Knocking at the Gates of Life by following the link below:


Make a True and Lasting Connection

You might ask why I write.  Considering I’m a busy lawyer, it’s a good question.  I write in the hopes of making a true and lasting connection with another human being.  As I write, I picture in the mind’s eye, my wife reading the story and laughing in all the right places.

Peace out,


Make a True and Lasting Connection

A Cup of Kindness

Kindness in the face of adversity speaks volumes about a person’s character.  I for one would love to see the presidential candidates treat each other with more kindness.

cup-of-kindnessThis election displays fundamental weaknesses for the entire world to see.  It is filled with destructive criticism and the filth clings to the candidates like the aftermath of a cafeteria food fight.  Except, it isn’t a food fight.  Instead, it seems more like warfare and war leaves a path of destruction in its wake that could take generations to heal.

I don’t know about you, but I prefer civility to the brutality of criticism any day.  No one ever improves from criticism, because it stunts growth.  Either they fling it back tenfold or forever quit the playing field.

Let’s bring civility back in vogue.  When in doubt, make love, not war.

Peace out,




3 Simple Practices Will Get You Exactly What You Want

We have all wished at one point or another for a Genie in a bottle. Just imagine what it would be like to have someone with great power grant you 3 wishes  Wouldn’t that be something!  Since nature is not capricious, your desires can be fulfilled every time, on time, and I’m going to show you how. This is so simple a child can do it.

  1. Step 1: Identify exactly what you want and what it costs.  Everything from the latest and greatest new smart phone to a loving marriage has a price tag.   Once you decide what you want and what it will cost, then make up your mind to pay the price in full, without fail.  That’s all there is to Step 1.  You got this! Now on to Step 2.
  2. Step 2. Everyday work at paying the price for what you want,  even if you don’t feel like it.  There will be days when you are an absolute genius at the work and other days not so much.  That’s okay.  Work at it anyway.  There will be days when you have the energy of ten to put into the work and other days when you feel like you can’t hardly lift a finger.  If all you got on that day is a tiny amount of work in you, then do it and pat yourself on the back for a job well done.  How easy is that!  Now on to Step 3.
  3. Step 3.  Believe in yourself and in your work.  Remember the comment about nature not being capricious? That’s important to remember because there might be days when you are tempted to doubt yourself and give up.  Don’t!  If nature gave you a Want, then it also gave you the means to fulfill it.   You can do this.  Trust yourself.  Believe you can and it will be so.

Peace out,



Sunday Night Cliff hanger3

Welcome to Sunday Night Cliffhangers at NT Publishing Company where we post entire books a chapter at a time. We are pleased to present the wonderful off beat novel, Naked Tao, by Robert Grant. Last week we posted Chapter 12 And here is Chapter 13 for your enjoyment!


“Having a cup of coffee with Buddha.” – Padma

I hoped it wasn’t the same SUV that tried to run us over in the parking garage, but of course it was them.  The passenger side head lamp was smashed in and there were streaks of green paint on the SUV’s front bummer.  I just wished I knew who I was dealing with.

Since the damaging file memos seemed to trigger this messy chain of events, they were probably thugs working for Pathogen.  Speaking of the memos, who had left the documents in my office and why did they give them to me?  There were a lot of unanswered questions, but right now I needed to do something about the SUV.

There were several options.  I could try to lose them in traffic, but River Road doesn’t have much traffic to speak of, unless you include the occasional biker enjoying his favorite scenic byway.  I didn’t think the old truck would outrun the SUV.  So that was out.  In the movies, they run traffic lights or make last minute turns, but neither would work here since there are very few traffic signals and a last minute turn would most likely end up in the river.  Trying to lose them just wasn’t a good option.

We could stop and confront them, but the last time I tried to do that they shot at me.  I did have a .357 magnum under the seat of the truck, but a wild-west shoot out in a residential area did not seem like the best option.  The last encounter we had with the SUV was in a parking garage.  It’s possible they would be less likely to shoot on a public road, but I didn’t want to risk it.  There were homes along this street and I didn’t want an innocent bystander to get hurt.

We could set a trap.  I liked the sound of that option best.  I just needed to figure out how to do it and we were less than ten minutes from Uncle’s Jim’s house.  Since they didn’t know where we were headed, I could use that to our advantage.  Uncle Jim is an ex-marine sniper who knows how to set a trap better than anyone, so I called him and told him we were being chased by some maniac in a SUV and asked him for his help.  I knew I could trust him with my life and he didn’t let me down.  He told me to get everyone to his house as soon as possible.

My dad died in a motorcycle crash when I was eight years old.  Mom was on the bike with him.  A hit-and-run driver ran them off the road and left them to die in a ditch.  Mom survived, but she was incapacitated by a serious brain injury.  Her brother, Jim, took me in after the funeral, but it wasn’t easy.

Some know-it-all social worker wanted to place me in foster care.  She kept telling the Judge I needed the positive influence of a woman in my life.  The social worker didn’t like the fact that Uncle Jim had lived all over the world, mostly on military bases, and she was suspicious that he had never married.  She was convinced that a single man knew nothing about raising a son.

The social worker picked the wrong man to attack.  Uncle Jim knows a few things about winning a fight.  The Marine Corps trained him for some hush-hush special ops unit that he never talks about.  A legal battle is no different than any other fight and Uncle Jim put up a tough fight.  He convinced the Judge that it was in my best interests to be with him.  As far as I’m concerned, the Judge made the right decision.  What kind of crazy person would think foster care is better than a loving family member?

I kept an eye on the SUV as we made our way into Prospect.  I wasn’t sure what Uncle Jim had in mind for them, but I was about to find out.  It was only a few more blocks until we reached his street.  The SUV followed close behind as we turned into his upscale subdivision, but stopped short when I made the last turn onto Uncle Jim’s quiet cul-de-sac.

Uncle Jim lives in a red brick two story on the cusp of the circle.  As I pulled into his driveway, I felt a little uneasy about leading the SUV to my Uncle’s home, but Uncle Jim knows what he is doing.  We found him sitting on his covered porch dressed in his usual faded jeans and Harley t-shirt.  His bare feet were crossed at the ankle and his right hand held a smoldering Cuban cigar.  Don’t ask me where he gets them.  Lying across his lap was a hunting rifle intended for large game.

A hand carved staff he uses when an old injury is acting up was leaning against the brick wall.  He managed to escape the Gulf War unharmed, but fell rock climbing in the Red River Gorge a few years back.  He survived the fall, but broke his back and lost an eye.  The doctors said he would never walk again.  Uncle Jim proved them wrong of course.

Thanks to a lean muscular frame, he looks younger than his age.  His hair is more pepper than salt, with only a touch of a receding hairline.  He wears an eye patch over the missing socket like a proud pirate.  The remaining blue-grey eye was locked onto the SUV idling on the street corner.  I thought it looked like a dangerous beast that couldn’t make up its mind whether it should venture into the cul-de-sac or not.

Uncle Jim waited.  The tension was thick.  I wondered what would happen next.  Of all the things I imagined, it sure wasn’t what happened.  A splash of rainbow descended from the heavens, squawking “Death from Above”, and splattered bird shit all over the SUV’s windshield.  It was my dad’s crazy macaw.  That’s all it took for the mighty beast to tuck tail and run.  Of course, the sight of Uncle Jim’s high powered rifle might have had something to do with it too.

I suspected we weren’t finished with the SUV, but it was a welcome relief to see it leave.  Uncle Jim flashed his Cheshire cat grin and shouted Generalissimo.  I stuck my left arm out the window and waved.

Ginny poked me in the side.  It really hurt the broken rib, but there was a smile in her voice as she said, “Generalissimo.”

“He says I might be a reincarnated Civil War general…he just can’t figure out which one,” I said sheepishly.  “He’s partial to Grant.”

“Grant or Lee,” she murmured.  “But isn’t your last name spelled Li?”

My mom’s family is a distant relative of U.S. Grant on her mother’s side.  She and Uncle Jim had different fathers.  He is lily white in a Nordic sort of way and every bit the Viking.  My mom is half African-American.

Dad was Chinese and always said we were related to a famous internal martial artist who lived a ridiculously long life.  It was someone named Li Ching-Yun that the New York Times reported to have lived to be 256.  I think my dad believed the crazy long life nonsense to be true just because it was in the newspaper.  This very interesting bloodline explains my somewhat exotic, foreign look.

I was about to explain the nuances of my mixed heritage to Ginny, but was distracted by a flash of color and a screeching, “Aaawk, Grant’s a peckerwood.”

It was dad’s macaw with his usual greeting.  The bird flew across the hood of the truck, up the windshield, and landed on the top.  Hanging upside down he stuck his head in the driver’s side window and looked around.

“I love you too bird,” I grumbled.

He cocked his head at me.  “Aaawk, get a life,” said Bird.

“Dad loved this bird,” I said.  “He belongs to me now.  He hates me.”

“Aaawk, I belong to no one.  Hate will be the death of us all.”

Ginny looked mystified and said, “Did he just respond to what you said?  I thought birds only mimic speech.”

“Aaawk, such a pretty girl.”

Ginny cooed, “Oh such a flirt.  I like him.”

“Aaawk, give us a kiss.”

“How cute, he just winked at me,” said Ginny.  “What’s his name?”

“Bird,” I answered.

“No really,” said Ginny.  “What’s his name?”

“Dad always called him Bird.  I’ve never heard him called anything else.”

“Humph.”  Clearly she wasn’t satisfied.

“Aaawk, my name is Senor Juan Ponce de Leon.”

Ginny asked, “Did he just say he is Ponce de Leon?”

“Aaawk, the one and only, pretty girl.”

“It’s news to me,” I said.

Uncle Jim limped over to the truck.  He handed Bird a peanut and said, “That’s enough Bird.”

Then he opened the truck door, pulled me out, and gave me a bear hug.  I winced as pain shot through my ribs.  Uncle Jim doesn’t miss anything.  He felt me stiffen from his embrace.  He leaned back until I was at arm’s length and looked me in the eyes to make sure we were good.

Satisfied, he looked me up and down, only pausing a moment to take in the blood stains.  He knew I was there for a reason, but waited for me to begin an explanation.

“We should talk before we call the police,” I said.

He nodded his head and then shifted his one-eyed gaze to Ginny.  A slow easy smile spread across his face.

“Don’t pay any attention to that crazy fluff of feathers,” he said.  “I’m Jim.”

“Aaawk, not crazy.”

Uncle Jim took a lazy swipe at Bird, who flew off squawking, “Aaawk, PETA alert!  Someone call 9-1-1.”

Ginny smiled at Uncle Jim and said, “I think you hurt his feelings.  I’m Ginny.”

“Don’t let him fool you,” said Uncle Jim.  “That bird is tough as nails.  Girl, you look just like your father.”

If Ginny was surprised that Uncle Jim knew her father she didn’t let on.  Instead she said, “Well except for my dark hair, green eyes, and assorted girl parts.”

Uncle Jim flashed a wolfish grin and said, “Your girl parts are welcome in my home.  Who’s your friend there?”

“This is Padma Ganesha,” said Ginny.  “He’s my guest.  I invited him to America to talk about his book.  He was speaking tonight at the Kentucky Center for the Arts when someone tried to kill him.  I think he was just about to reveal a secret about living a long life when it happened.  We barely escaped with our lives thanks to Grant.”

If Uncle Jim was surprised by any of this, he didn’t show it.  Instead he gave Padma a long appraising look before saying, “I just lit the grill.  Come on out back and have a bite to eat.  Grant, come inside for a moment, so I can take a look at that wound.  Then, we can talk about your adventure over a cold drink.”

He and I went inside where he cleaned the shallow gash with peroxide, and then protected it with gauze and first aid tape.  I had told everyone it was just a scratch, but it was a little more serious than that.

Uncle Jim is fond of telling people he has everything he needs in his own back yard.  He is most proud of a 1970’s style barbeque pit he built himself.  Every evening the barbeque sends puffs of smoke into the sky as he grills burgers and sips cold beer.  Its distinctive smell is a like a call to prayer for friends and neighbors, who heed the call religiously.

Folks wander in from all four corners of the neighborhood.  Gathering around the grill, they talk about the day’s events and watch meat sizzle over hot coals.  Later they sit in Adirondack chairs grouped under an ancient oak tree and watch the setting sun paint the clouds coral and blue.  These are simple salt of the earth people sharing simple pleasures.  There are no fences separating them.  They move freely from yard to yard, house to house.  It is a community in its truest sense.

As promised, Uncle Jim led us to the back yard where we settled into comfortable chairs and watched a squirrel gather acorns for the winter.  Up and down the tree he went, never venturing onto the low hanging branch with the bug zapper.  The distinctive sound of the zapper’s grim work was balanced by the refreshing sound of bubbling water coming from Harrods Creek bordering the rear of the property.

The creek deepens enough at its mouth to provide a safe haven to area boaters who like to idle and party before emptying into the Ohio River.  However, at this location it looks more like a mountain stream as it runs white over large flat rocks.  This familiar scene calmed my nerves and the day’s events began to feel surreal.

Uncle Jim disappeared into the house and then returned a few minutes later with tall glasses of Jim Beam and coke.  He flashed his trademark confident smile and told Ginny it was for medicinal purposes only.  She returned his smile, saying she could use all the medicine she could get.

Uncle Jim looked at me and winked.  “Grant”, he said, “this one’s a keeper.”

Ginny beamed at Uncle Jim.  I took another sip of the bourbon and relaxed into the scene playing out before me.

We sat quietly for a few minutes and listened to the evening’s sounds.  It felt good to not talk for a while, but then Uncle Jim spoke up.  It was the last thing I wanted to talk about, particularly in front of Ginny.

“Grant, you want to tell me what’s going on?”

I stiffened and felt the first twinges of a headache.  Rubbing my temples I said slowly, “I don’t know where to start.”

“Do you remember calling me last night?” he asked.  “You must have been about halfway through a bottle of Patron.  You said you had won a big case for Pathogen yesterday, but it didn’t sound like much of a celebration.  Instead, you got yourself fired.  Your boss hung himself.  Ch’ing, your martial arts master has gone missing and you showed up here being chased by gangsters with guns.  Does that about cover it?”

“Actually, no, but I’m too wrung out right now to elaborate,” I answered.

Uncle Jim looked like he wasn’t about to let it go, but Ginny asked me about my law practice.  I think she was trying to help by changing the subject.

I was grateful she was trying to change the subject, but didn’t really want to talk about it.  “Corporate defense litigation,” I answered reluctantly.

Uncle Jim had a tear in his eye.  “Last night you said you were done being a lawyer.  You told me they were going to disbar you, maybe throw you in jail.  Please tell me that was just crazy drunk talk.  All of this can be figured out.  As far as Ch’ing goes, he can take care of himself.  You need to focus on your current predicament.”

“Aaawk.  Lawyers get to lie and cheat,” squawked Bird.  “Peckerwood wants to give up all that good fun.  Aaawk.”

“Bird, you’re supposed to be guarding the perimeter,” said Uncle Jim.

“Aaawk.  Eyes and ears on it.  Perimeter secured.  Aaawk.”

I shook my head at Bird.  “Things can turn on a dime,” I said.  “I think I’ve made some powerful enemies, either because I defended Pathogen, or because some possibly incriminating evidence has fallen into my hands.  I’m not sure who the players are in all of this.”

“Your enemies have given you the gift of change,” said Padma.

I had a flashback of Ch’ing teaching us baguazhang, one of the internal martial arts.  The student is encouraged to overcome their natural resistance to change.  High-level fighting techniques can be found in the transition moves, if the student has the courage to embrace change.

Ch’ing liked to spar ten-on-one and was always the last man standing.  He moved like a whirling dervish teaching hidden techniques as he laid waste to all ten opponents.  When the session was over, he’d look at our bodies on the floor and tell us we needed to do a better job embracing change.  We’d ask him how to do that, but he’d just shake his head and tell us to keep our feet moving next time.

Uncle Jim pulled me back from my reverie with a question.  “Do we need to talk to someone about getting you an attorney?”

“Probably,” I answered.  “It doesn’t look good.  I’m their number one murder suspect for John’s death.”

“You would never do such a thing!” said Ginny.

“No, but my word won’t mean much under the circumstances,” I said.  “I need proof of my innocence or I’m in for a rough time.”

“What kind of proof?” asked Ginny.

“For starters, I need to get those documents back,” I answered.

“Documents?” asked Uncle Jim.

I nodded.  “That’s where the disbarment comes in,” I answered. “I had possible evidence that they are involved in an illegal bio-weapons project.  I disclosed this confidential information to Eric and now to you.”

“You said you had evidence,” said Ginny.  “What happened to it?”

“No, that’s where John fits into the story,” I said.  “I gave the evidence to him, and now he’s dead.”

Uncle Jim knows me well.  “You think it got him killed, don’t you?”

I nodded grimly.

“Do you think this has anything to do with the murder at The Center?” asked Ginny.

“I’m not sure what the connection is, but there definitely seems to be one,” I said.

“Wait a minute…you mentioned a gunman earlier, but you didn’t say anything about someone getting killed at The Center,” said Uncle Jim.

“A security guard was stabbed,” I said.  “He was a friend of Eric’s.  A biker named Tiny.”

“The leader of the Dragons,” asked Uncle Jim.

I nodded.  “I had a run in with the murderer,” I said.  “He broke a couple of my ribs and escaped.”

“The Dragons will be out for blood,” said Uncle Jim.  “To bad he got away.”

“I wished I had caught him,” I said.  “It all happened so fast.  I went after him with the murder weapon.  My prints are all over it.”

“That’s not good,” said Uncle Jim in his best deadpan voice.  At this point, I don’t think anything I said could have fazed him.

“This is bad, very bad,” I said.

“We need to find the murderer,” said Uncle Jim.  “What did he look like?”

I shrugged.  “I didn’t get a good look at his face,” I said.  “He wore a hooded monk’s robe.  I just saw a monk.  They all look the same to me.”

Padma snorted.

“Ch’ing will not be happy to hear you weren’t more observant than that,” said Uncle Jim.  “Have you called the police?”

“I know I should talk to them about all of this, but I must get proof of my innocence first,” I answered.

Uncle Jim nodded.  “What were you doing at The Center?”

“Working as a body guard,” I answered.

He looked astonished, “Body guard…who were you protecting?”

“Padma,” I answered.

Uncle Jim raised an eyebrow.

“I am a simple monk,” said Padma.  “I have no need for a body guard.”

“You didn’t request protection,” asked Uncle Jim.

Padma shook his head.

“Eric hired me,” I said.  “The strange thing about the whole thing is that his client specifically asked for me.”

“Who are they and why you?” asked Uncle Jim.

I shrugged and turned to Ginny.  “Since your company sponsored this event, maybe you know something about the security arrangements.”

She shook her head.

“Eric is looking into it,” I said.  “We should know something soon.”

There was a flutter of feathers as Bird landed softly on Padma’s shoulders.  Bird looked lovingly at Padma and then gently rubbed his beak against the monk’s cheek.  Padma welcomed the comforting gesture, but looked like he was exhausted and fading fast.  In a tired voice he said, “It was a long journey from Bhutan and I must rest now.”

“Not to mention your night of sexual debauchery”, I thought to myself.

Uncle Jim turned to Padma and asked, “Do you have any enemies?”

“Enemy…friend…two sides of the same coin,” answered Padma.

The corners of Uncle Jim’s mouth tightened, “You don’t give straight answers to simple questions, do you?  Why is that?”

Bird inched closer to Padma’s cheek and glared at Uncle Jim.  Padma reached up and gently smoothed his ruffled feathers, stroking from the back of the neck downward to the tip of his tail.

“Easy my friend,” whispered Padma.

Ginny reached out and placed a soothing hand on Uncle Jim’s forearm.

“Padma came all the way from Bhutan at my request,” she said.  “He planned to reveal an ancient secret.  Someone tried to stop him.”

“What secret?” asked Uncle Jim.

Padma smiled gently before answering, “Something that will change everything.”

Uncle Jim shook his head, “You’re not going to tell us, are you?”

“Now is not the time,” replied Padma.  “Be patient.  Events must run their course.”

“Run their course…people are dead and they’re trying to kill us,” I growled.

Uncle Jim looked thoughtful and nodded toward the house, “Padma, you can use the bedroom at the end of the hall.  I’ll show you the way.  I better call a few friends at the station and see what I can find out.  Just sit tight until we figure out what to do next.”

Bird stayed glued to Padma’s shoulder as he followed Uncle Jim into the house.  In the fading light, he looked like a strange two headed beast.


Thank you for reading Chapter 13 of Robert Grant’s quirky novel, Naked Tao.  We will see you next Sunday night for Chapter 14.  In the meantime, we invite your comments and by all means, spread the word.



Welcome to Sunday Night Cliffhangers at NT Publishing Company where we post entire books a chapter at a time. We are pleased to present the wonderful off beat novel, Naked Tao, by Robert Grant. Last week we posted Chapter 11 and here is Chapter 12 for your enjoyment!



“Pay attention now or you’ll miss life’s secret.” – Padma


Great!  On top of everything else, now I’ve been shot.  I took a mental step back to evaluate this growing surreal catastrophe.  A hippie just shot the place up and I’m wounded.  John is dead and I am under investigation for his murder.  A monk stabbed Tiny to death and the police will think I did it.  To make matters worse, I was careless enough to leave the murder weapon in the Ladies room covered in Tiny’s blood and my fingerprints.  The police are going to love that!

I let out a sigh.  I had messed up big time.  Instead of chasing after Tiny’s killer, I should have called the police and reported the murder.  I didn’t because I wasn’t ready to face a barrage of questions about John’s death.  I needed evidence proving someone else had a better motive to kill John than I did.  My money was on Pathogen.  Now I would have to prove my innocence in two murders….so much for innocent until proven guilty.

On top of everything, I was completely confused by Ginny.  I saw her flirting with several guys at a sex party last night.  In fact, one of those guys may very well be the one who just shot the place up.  She had disappeared from the party without a saying a word to anyone.  When I next saw her in the parking lot, she totally blew me off.  Afterwards, she flipped out when she saw me with a bloody knife…like I was Norman Bates or something…and what’s with the engagement ring?

Wait there’s more.  I find myself standing in a parking garage with a Tibetan Monk, who just happens to be a sex fiend.  It’s my job to protect him because I got fired yesterday from my real job.  It should have been an easy job to protect him, but no, someone wants to kill him.  I couldn’t imagine why anyone would want to kill a Tibetan monk, but there was one thing I knew for sure, there was a killer on the loose and whatever was going on could probably get me killed too.

I could walk away right now and be done with it.  All I had to do was climb into the truck and head back to my safe little shithole of an apartment, where I could pick up the pieces of my shitty life while my ribs healed.  Yet, I knew I was already in too deep, and whatever this was, I would have to see it through to the end.  Besides, I’d never be able to look Ch’ing in the eye again if I quit…assuming we find him.

The killer was still out there somewhere and needed to be apprehended before he hurt someone else.  Or worse, tracked us down and hurt one of us.  Every second was critical and I didn’t hear any police sirens rushing to our aid.  Where were the cops?

One of my favorite law school professors, Laurence Filmore, once told a room full of first year law students that the police have no duty to protect us.  We were discussing a wrongful death case filed by the parents of a teenage girl who was brutally raped and murdered after the police failed to respond to a 9-1-1 emergency call.  The Supreme Court ruled in favor of the police and threw out the grieving family’s lawsuit.  They said it was law enforcement’s job to investigate crime and apprehend criminals, not protect individual citizens.

I knew we were on our own.  It was my job to protect Padma, and I would get no help from the police.  Still, Pony Tail was on the loose and it was their job to apprehend him.  It was unlikely this ordeal would be over anytime soon.  While I wasn’t feeling very optimistic about it, I hoped we could work together on this.  It was time to call the cops even though they would have plenty of hard questions for me.

My iPhone was grimy with dried blood and didn’t open when I swiped a finger across the screen.  Resisting the temptation to fling it across the garage, I wiped it on the front of my shirt, but that only made it worse.

“Should I call an ambulance?” asked Ginny.  She was staring at a bullet hole in my shirt.

I was pretty sure it was just a scratch, so I shook my head.  “No, did you call the police earlier.”

Ginny held my gaze.  Her eyes were clear and calm.  I could feel her searching for confirmation that she made the right choice.  After a long moment, she shook her head and said, “No, I didn’t.  What do you think we should do?”

“Do you trust me?” I asked.

She gave me a long appraising long before answering, “Yes.”

I felt relieved on several levels. It was less likely she would call the police if she trusted me, but more importantly, I felt like we had a chance together.  Trust is a critical component in a relationship.  Without it, there isn’t much chance it will last.

“Then let’s call the police,” I said.

Ginny nodded and reached into her purse.  Before she could locate her phone, we were startled by the sound of screaming tires and she spilled the purse onto the garage floor.  Someone was speeding up the ramp and headed in our direction.  Given the shooting, people should be in a hurry to get out of the garage.  This guy was racing to the rooftop.  Nothing good was going to come of this.

“We need to get out of here,” I shouted.

Ginny had squatted down to gather up her things.  I looked at the two seats in the Porsche and sighed.  Trying to hide my disappointment, I grabbed Ginny’s arm and pulled her up.

I did my best to build a sense of urgency into Padma, but the man moved like a turtle.  I had a feeling if he didn’t get a move on, none of us would see our next birthday.  Maybe everything was starting to get to me, but that’s no excuse for the rising irritation I felt.  I was about to bark at Padma when he winked at me and said, “The way of long life is slow and easy.”

I blinked.  That sounded exactly like something Ch’ing would say.  Padma held my gaze with calm eyes.  It felt to me like he reached into the center of my being and stilled my soul.  Only Ch’ing has ever been able to do that.  It occurred to me that Padma may know something about Ch’ing’s whereabouts, but that would have to wait for later.

Once I got Ginny and Padma to the truck, the mercurial little guy shifted gears and now sounded like a twelve year old as he clapped his hands and called out in his high pitched voice, “Shotgun!  Shotgun!  I call shotgun!”

Padma slipped in front of Ginny as she reached for the door handle, climbed into the truck, and closed the door in her face.  The little turtle can move when he wants to.   Instead of being upset by Padma’s rude behavior, Ginny’s shoulders were shaking with barely contained laughter.  I was instantly caught off guard by her unexpected sense of humor.  I helped Ginny climb into the truck from the driver’s side and slipped in next to her feeling a lot better about her.

She smelled delicious, like fresh baked bread.  To take my mind off her yummy smell, I took one last look at the Porsche before starting the truck and shifting into reverse.  We were nearly out when a black SUV roared to life and sped toward us.  This maniac wanted to smash us into the concrete wall!

I slammed it into first gear and gunned the truck back into the parking spot.  The SUV clipped the corner of the truck and went spinning into the Porsche.  The crash echoed through the garage like thunder.

Ginny’s beautiful car was a crumbled wreck.  A billowing cloud of smoke drifted in our direction.  I couldn’t see the driver through the tinted windows, but suspected it might be Pony Tail.  I had all I was going to take from this creep.

“Wait here,” I said.

As I opened the door to investigate, the SUV’s driver side window lowered and a gun barrel peeped out.

“Duck,” I screamed.

The garage exploded in gunfire.  Shattered glass sprayed across the back of my neck.  I backed the truck out without looking and then gunned the engine down the ramp.  We raced out of the garage and turned right on 7th Street.  It was a block to River Road, where we made a right.  I accelerated past the YUM Center and headed east toward Prospect.  I kept checking the rearview mirror for the SUV and didn’t see any sign of it.  I sped out of town along River Road.  I needed to get somewhere safe where I could lay low and think.

“Where are we going?” asked Ginny.

“We need to lose the SUV,” I answered.  “I’m headed to my Uncle’s house.  He will know what we need to do next.”

The truck has a standard transmission mounted on the floor.  Ginny’s left thigh was squeezed next to the shifter.  Each time I changed gears my wrist brushed her leg.  It triggered thoughts of tearing fabric in the parking lot.  I glanced down.  The short dress was hiked up and revealed damn near all of her legs.  That brought back thoughts of no panties.

Feeling the first signs of arousal, I willed my eyes up.  They came to rest on her cleavage, which didn’t help much with the arousal problem, so I locked my eyes forward on the road ahead.

Thinking it would help to shift my focus, I opened my mouth to ask Padma why someone wanted him dead, but nothing came out.  My throat was dry.  I tried to swallow, but nothing happened.  As I struggled to find my voice, Ginny turned toward Padma.  She studied him closely before asking the question for me.

In response, he laughed and jiggled like a department store Santa.  Ginny looked at him like he’d lost his mind.  The laughter finally stopped.  The jiggling took a bit longer.  She waited patiently.

Finally, he said, “What makes you think someone wants to kill me?”

“You were about to reveal a big secret just before someone fired two shots at you,” she answered.  “They want you dead for some reason.”

Padma ripped off a long noisy fart and said, “Life and death are two sides of the same coin.”

Ginny opened her mouth and then closed it again.  To our utter amazement Padma began singing a popular teeny bopper hit.  A silly little song popularized by a half-naked pre-pubescent girl.  It was something about lost innocence.

An incoming call interrupted his song.  I tried to dig the phone out of my jeans pocket without straightening my legs, but the pants were too tight.  Cursing under my breath, I stretched and finally managed to get hold of it, but by the time I got it out of my pocket, the ringing had stopped.  The missed call was from Eric.

I considered waiting until we arrived at Uncle Jim’s place to return Eric’s call, but the phone went off again.  I figured it must be important and answered it.

“There’s trouble dude,” said Eric.

“The last twenty four hours have been nothing but trouble,” I replied.

“Are you sitting down because it just got worse?” asked Eric.

“What is it now?”

“I just got a call from my friend…the homicide detective,” answered Eric.  “They are under pressure to bring you in, Grant.  You have made some powerful enemies.”

“If I go in now, Eric, I may never come out,” I said.  “It will have to wait.”

“I know,” agreed Eric.  “Did you find anything in John’s office?”

I didn’t want to mention Pony Tail in front of Ginny, so I said, “Nothing.  Did you learn anything from the witness?”

“Not yet,” answered Eric.  “They are keeping her under wraps.”

“Stay at it,” I said.  “My life may depend upon it.  In the meantime, I’m headed to Uncle Jim’s.”

“Good idea,” said Eric.  “Maybe he can call in a few favors from his friends on the force.  Wait a minute, Grant.  Something just occurred to me, the lecture can’t be over yet.  What’s going on?”

“Too much to tell you over the phone,” I answered. “Ginny and Padma are with me.”

Eric groaned.  “I got a feeling I’m not going to like this.”

“There was another murder,” I said.

There was a long pause before Eric finally said, “Geez, another one!  What happened?”

“It was Tiny,” I answered.  “I’m sorry, Eric.  I’ll fill you in on the details later.”

“Damn…I got him that job,” said Eric.  “There’s some crazy shit going down.  Do you think there is a connection to John’s murder?”

“I do and I’ll explain later,” I answered.

“You can’t put the cops off much longer,” said Eric.  “If you delay too long, it will look like you’ve got something to hide.”

He was right, of course.  I couldn’t put them off much longer.  Sooner or later, they would find me and if they did, it was unlikely my word would be enough.  The pressure was on to find proof of my innocence for two murders, and I needed it fast.

If I learned anything as a trial lawyer, I learned that you never know where the answers to a problem might turn up.  I remembered something that was bugging me about this job.  “Eric, you said this morning they wanted me to guard Padma.  Who are they?”

“I don’t know,” answered Eric.  “Someone else took the call.  I thought it was odd myself.  I’ll have one of my people look into it.  Have you asked Padma?”

Don’t you just hate it when you miss the obvious?  “Good idea,” I said sheepishly.

After I ended the call with Eric, I intended to ask Padma about the security job, but happened to glance in the rear view mirror.  There was a black SUV coming up fast!


Thank you for reading Chapter Three of Robert Grant’s quirky novel, Naked Tao. We will see you next Sunday night for Chapter 13. In the meantime, we invite your comments and by all means, spread the word.


Welcome to Sunday Night Cliffhangers at NT Publishing Company where we post entire books a chapter at a time. We are pleased to present the wonderful off beat novel, Naked Tao, by Robert Grant. Last week we posted Chapter 10 and here is Chapter 11 for your enjoyment!


“Reverse your un-wilding way.” – Ch’ing


The audience erupted into applause as Ginny walked across the stage.  Her step had lost its spring and her eyes were noticeably puffy.  At first it puzzled me to see her on stage, but then I remembered she was the CEO of the program sponsor, Emerald Allure, Inc.  Despite the bombshell good looks and the hot clothes, Ginny feels like the girl-next-door.  It’s easy to forget she is a rich and powerful woman…the kind of person who can summon the police.  I figured she had them searching the premises for me now.

The thing that upset me the most was something I had not noticed beforehand.  The stage lights reflected sparks of light from a diamond ring on her left hand.  It was huge…a damn boulder…unbelievable!  How could I have missed that before?  She was either married or engaged.  I had been such an idiot.

I wondered if Pony Tail had anything to do with the ring and returned my attention to him.  He was at Eric’s party, the office, and now here.  To make matters worse, he might be the master of disguise, so I couldn’t be certain where else he would show up.  The best way to be invisible is to appear ordinary.  While Tibetan monks aren’t a common sight in Louisville, that disguise was a stroke of genius today.  Tiny must have thought he was with Padma.

If Tiny had read Padma’s book, then he would have known that Buddhists believe all life is precious.  They won’t even dig the foundation for a new monastery without carefully sifting the earthworms from the soil and moving them to safety.  Tiny would not have felt threatened by a Tibetan monk. I figured he never saw it coming.

If Pony Tail was the killer, he must have changed into the hippie clothes after he ditched the robe.  It was a perfect disguise to blend in with this peace and love crowd.  Still, I couldn’t be certain he wasn’t another body guard hired to protect Padma, like me.  I decided to keep a close eye on him.

The gun concerned me, but he made no move for it.  Instead his eyes were locked onto Ginny.  The way he watched her every move bothered me.  What were they talking about last night at Eric’s party and what was he doing at my office?

Ginny stood before the packed house.  She was focused on the audience and did not acknowledge me or Pony Tail.  Given her reaction to the bloody knife a few minutes earlier, I wasn’t sure what to expect from her.  Was she going to cancel the event while the police searched for the murderer…searched for me?  The buzz from the audience slowly subsided until you could have heard a pin drop in the place.  Everyone waited, including me.

Slowly Ginny began to smile.  It seemed to radiate from her whole being.  I was certain you could feel the smile in her touch and when she began to speak, you could hear it in her voice.  This is not what I expected at all!

“Hello.  My name is Virginia Bardough, but my friends call me Ginny.  So, please call me Ginny.  I want to thank you for joining us at this session of Ideas to Change the World.  These presentations are offered to you on faith.  Not blind faith, but absolute faith in you.”

“We hold the sincere belief that each of you has everything you need to have an impact on the world,” she said.  “Sometimes all it takes to get things going is a little reminder of what could be.  So without further fanfare, we would like to present a remarkable man who inspires us with his simple message.”

Ginny paused for dramatic effect before saying, “We are sovereign.”

Her shining eyes surveyed the audience. One by one she pointed to individuals in the audience and repeated, “You are sovereign.”

The audience was riveted to their seats by the spell she had cast.  She scanned the crowd before adding, “No one has the right to interfere with a sovereign’s decisions.  You choose how to live your life.”

Ginny owned the audience.  “Now that I have your attention, ladies and gentlemen, please give Padma Ganesha a warm welcome.”

The crowd erupted into cheers and applause as a small round man in Tibetan Buddhist’s crimson robes waddled onto the stage.  Unbelievable!  Padma was the monk from Eric’s party.  What the hell is going on?!

His tiny hands were held high above his head with the palms facing the audience.  He took a few steps and stopped.  A smile stretched across his round boyish face.  Bowing he brought his hands to his heart.  The audience went wild.  The little guy was like a rock star.

Padma repeatedly bowed to the audience.  After five minutes of standing ovation, he finally moved prayer hands to his left shoulder and tilted his head to the side as if saying, “Give it a rest folks.”  The crowd roared with laughter at his good natured gesture and began to quiet down.

He took a step toward the podium, paused as if he had seen it for the first time, and then a sly grin tweaked the corners of his mouth.  Taking the last few steps in its direction, he slipped behind the podium and disappeared.  Well sort of.  He was much wider than the podium, but the top of his head was barely visible.

If it wasn’t for the extra three inches the green cowboy boots gave him, he may not have made it to the top.  Seriously…green cowboy boots!  The combination of red and green made him look like a chubby little Christmas elf.

An awkward silence descended over the audience before it was broken by a lady in the front row who said, “You’d think somebody would have thought of this.”

As if on cue, Padma peeked around the side of the podium like a child playing a game of peek-a-boo.  A few in the audience laughed nervously.  Most were quiet.

The ensuing silence was broken by an outrageously long and noisy fart.  Padma let out a sigh of relief.  The audience shifted uncomfortably in their seats.

You could have heard a pin drop before an old man in the front row busted out with laughter.  Padma turned to me and winked through thick black rimmed glasses.  As I stood there in shock, he stepped away from the podium and began speaking in a sing song voice.

“Hello again dear friends,” he said.  “Are you ready to learn the secret of a long life?”

Mr. Giggles in the front row said, “Damn right I am.”  The crowd applauded.

Padma directed his attention to Mr. Giggles, “If you could live forever, what would you do differently?”

Mr. Giggles didn’t hesitate, “I’d live life without regret.”

“What is it you regret my friend,” asked Padma.

“I did what I was told instead of doing what I wanted,” answered Mr. Giggles.

Padma leaned toward Mr. Giggles and in a conspiratorial tone asked, “Do you want to hear a secret?”

Thirty two hundred hungry souls eagerly leaned forward in their seats.  They came from all over the world to learn the secret of happiness and long life.  Padma gave them a relaxed peaceful smile and said, “The secret is…”

I felt a sudden chill.  Pony Tail reached for his gun.  Without thinking, I hit the light switches and bolted toward the podium shouting, “Gun, everybody down!”

The handgun exploded with a loud bang.  I ignored the ringing in my ears and tried to adjust my eyes to the sudden change in lighting.  I suddenly felt Pony Tail to my right and turned him so that I had his back.  Knowing I needed to disarm him quickly, I hooked his throat with my left hand and tilted his head back.  His back was bent like a bow.

Once his balance was broken, I owned him.  I slid my right hand down his shooting arm.  Something was wrong. There was no gun and the arm was soft.  It was definitely not Pony Tail’s arm.

The stage area was filled with the smell of gunpowder and fear.  Still, I caught a whiff of a vaguely familiar scent and buried a nose in my captive’s hair.  It was not a man’s smell. Nor was it perfumed.  It was natural and real.  This had to be Ginny.  I decided to hold on to her.

A second shot was fired.  The first shot must have shocked the audience.  The second woke them from their stunned silence.  Shrill screams and fearful shouts of escape filled the hall.

My first instinct was to get Ginny to safety.  Thinking of Padma, I resisted the temptation to rush to an exit.  It was also my job to protect him.

As my eyes slowly adjusted to the limited light cast from the emergency exits, I scanned the area for Padma.  He wasn’t on the stage.  Where could he be?  Beyond the stage, I saw shadowy shapes moving toward the auditorium exits.  The shooter seemed to have disappeared into the shadows.  Ginny was tense, taking shallow breaths, but she didn’t try to get away from me.

People were stampeding the exits.  It was starting to get ugly.  The mood of the peace and love crowd had changed dramatically.  Panic was growing and the shrieking intensified as people fought their way to safety.

I whispered to Ginny, “We need to get out of here before the gunman finds us in the dark.  Come with me.  Try to move quietly.”

She didn’t budge.  Since I couldn’t see her expression in the dark, I wondered if she heard me over the screams.  Maybe she panicked.  Finally, her head nodded slightly.  Good, I thought, she’s calm.  I took her firmly by the elbow and we maneuvered through the stage curtains.  An exit sign above the double doors glowed in the dark.  We headed toward it.

Just as we reached the door, I heard footsteps behind us.  Without looking back, we hurried out the door and took the stairs to the parking garage.  The door opened behind us and someone followed us down the stairs.

We burst into the parking garage and rushed to the concrete steps leading to the roof top.  There were four flights to climb before we reached the top level. My breathing was ragged and my broken ribs were killing me.  Ginny showed no signs of exhaustion.

We sprinted toward the truck.  Ginny quickly surveyed the rust bucket before allowing herself a small smile as she said, “Maybe we should take my car.”

I turned to the Porsche and my pulse quickened.  Damn, I wanted to drive that car more than anything and despite the situation, could hardly contain my excitement.  I nodded in agreement.

At that instant, the stairwell door burst open and clanged against the wall.  I immediately turned toward it and dropped to a crouch.  There was a flash of crimson and for a moment I thought it was the killer before I finally recognized Padma’s smiling face.

He headed toward us at a turtle’s pace.  I’d forgotten all about my charge… some bodyguard I turned out to be.

“Are you injured?”  I asked.

Padma’s gaze dropped to my ribs before answering with a smile, “No.”

I followed his eyes.  There was fresh blood on my shirt mixed in with Tiny’s dried blood.  I was about to explain the blood when Ginny took a step back and exclaimed, “Oh my god Grant, you’ve been shot!”


Thank you for reading Chapter 11 of Robert Grant’s quirky novel, Naked Tao.  We will see you next Sunday night for Chapter 12.  In the meantime, we invite your comments and by all means, spread the word.


Welcome to Sunday Night Cliffhangers at NT Publishing Company where we post entire books a chapter at a time. We are pleased to present the wonderful off beat novel, Naked Tao, by Robert Grant. Last week we posted Chapter 9 and here is Chapter 10 for your enjoyment!



“Live free or die.” – State Motto of New Hampshire


The Kentucky Center is located in downtown Louisville on the Ohio River at water’s edge.  While not far from the apartment, it was too far to walk on a hot day, so I headed out in dad’s old truck.  Traffic was bumper to bumper on Main Street.  Horns were honking.  People were partying in the streets.  Their hands were stuffed with super sized beers and foot long hot dogs.

Street vendors were selling t-shirts that read, “Immortality Is Only Kinky the First Time.”  It was a festive carnival atmosphere.  I wondered if these people really believed they were going to learn the secret of immortality, or if it was just another reason to get rowdy.

Even though the event didn’t begin until 7:00 p.m., the Center parking garage was already jammed packed when I arrived a few minutes before six.  I made my way to the roof top where I spotted one last empty space at the end of a row.

Before I could park, a green Porsche whipped around the corner heading in the wrong direction and straight at me.  A brunette with wavy hair blowing in the wind was behind the wheel.  A phone was stuck in her ear.  She was focused on her conversation and did not see me.

I hit the brakes hard enough that I was jerked forward and smashed into the steering wheel.  A sharp pain shot through my sternum as the Porsche slipped into the last spot.

The chick was completely oblivious.  I leaned out of the window intending to give her a hard time about what she’d just done, but stopped short when I heard her conversation.

“This is for the best,” she said.  “Please, get on with your life.”

She listened for a moment and shouted, “I’m sorry you feel that way.”

I realized it was Ginny.  My fury dissipated.  I was relieved to finally find her and see that she was okay.

She dropped the phone into her purse before gracefully swinging her legs out of the Porsche.  The hem of her forest green dress was short enough I got a peek up her skirt.  She wasn’t wearing panties.  I forgot the pain in my sternum.  I forgot she stole my parking space.  I forgot she nearly crashed into me.  Damn, if I didn’t forget to breathe.  Somehow, getting that accidental peek was even more exciting than seeing her completely nude the night before.

Then to my utter amazement her grace evaporated into a spell of clumsiness as she awkwardly dropped her car keys onto the pavement.  When she bent over to pick them up I heard the unmistakable sound of tearing fabric followed by, “You’ve got to be shitting me!”

Still oblivious to my presence she tried looking over her shoulder for the torn fabric.  When that didn’t work she twisted at the waist.  Finally, she bent over and tried to peer up her dress.

When she looked up for the first time, she saw me watching her from the truck.  Her jaw dropped as we made eye contact and I smiled.

“Your dress is torn,” I said.

Her beautiful eyes narrowed slightly.  I tried again.  “You need some help with it?”

She mumbled something I couldn’t make out.  Turning on a heel she stomped off in the direction of the stairwell.  For the first time, I could see the rip down the small of her back revealing a glimpse of an ornate hamsa hand tattoo.

“A Porsche,” I muttered.  “I’m sure she was real impressed with my truck.”

Since Ginny had taken the last available parking space, I reluctantly parked the pickup in front of a no parking sign at the end of the row.  There was a good chance it would be impounded.  At that point, I just did not care.

It was the first time I had ever been back stage.  I expected security to be tight at all of the entrances, but there was literally no one attending the door.  I quietly surveyed my surroundings.  To my right was a small vending area with several empty tables.  To my left was a security office.  Straight ahead was a corridor with a sign posted at the entrance that read  “Authorized Personnel Only”.  I didn’t see Tiny anywhere.

I returned my attention to the security office.  The overhead light was on, but the view into the room was obscured by a smoked glass window.  I could barely make out the outline of a desk surrounded by security monitors.  No one was sitting in the desk chair.  The office looked empty to me.  I figured Tiny was making his rounds, but since the door to the office stood open I decided to just have a peek inside.

As I moved closer to the office door I smelled it for the second time in the last 24 hours…a strange combination of coffee, rust, and shit.  I froze in place, listening for any sound that would explain the now familiar odors.  The last few drops of a fresh pot gurgled from a coffee maker.  I heard nothing else so I peeked cautiously inside the door.

A mountain of a man, obviously Tiny, was lying in a pool of blood, his meaty hands around a combat knife buried in his chest.  I rushed to his side and dropped to my knees.  Tiny’s head rolled in my direction.  His pupils were large and unfocused.  Blood trickled from the side of his mouth.  He tried to speak, stopped, and then gurgled something that sounded like “Mung”.

I wiped his mouth with my shirt tail and I put my hands around his to stop him from pulling out the knife.  “Don’t,” I said.  “Just hang on.  I’ll get help.”

I dug into my pocket and pulled out my iPhone.  It squirted from my blood soaked hand and landed on the floor a few feet away.  A thin stream of blood squirted from the edge of the wound.  “Damn,” I cursed.

I needed both hands to stop the loss of blood.  Tiny needed medical attention fast.  How was I going to get help?  I had to make that call.  Tiny’s life depended on it.  Trying to keep pressure on the wound with one hand, I stretched the other hand toward the phone.  Just as my fingertips reached it, a foot came out of nowhere and kicked it across the room.  The phone bounced off a metal file cabinet and spun out of reach on the other side of Tiny.

In the corner my eye, I saw a sandal heel pivot and point in my direction.  I instinctively rolled under a hard back kick that would have crushed my chest, and slammed hard into the attacker’s supporting leg.  The maneuver worked.  His knee gave way and he crumbled to the ground.

I thought I had him, but quick as a cat, he popped to his feet.  I lurched at him with blood soaked hands, but missed.  The miss cost me dearly.  I never saw the foot that slammed into my ribs or the hand that grabbed my throat a second later.  Before I could retaliate, his knee pinned my arm to the floor.  This guy was fast.

Instinct is to pull away, but Ch’ing had trained me well.  Instead of trying to yank my arm away from him, I rolled in the direction of the pinned arm and slammed a palm into the back of his elbow.  It worked.  He grunted in pain and released my throat as he tried to tumble away from me.

I followed close behind, but he caught his balance and I caught his fist in my sore ribs.  Grimacing in pain, my hand clutched at a cracked rib.  It was instinctive, but the wrong move because it gave him a chance to roll to his feet and flee the room.

I wanted to follow him, but scrambled back to Tiny instead.  His pupils were fully dilated.  The bleeding had stopped.  I checked his pulse.  It confirmed what I already knew.  Tiny was dead.  My second death in two days.  What was happening?  People around me were dropping like flies.

There was nothing I could do for Tiny, but I could do something about his killer.  Determined to catch him, I pulled the knife from Tiny’s chest and scrambled after the killer.  I didn’t make it far before I slipped on the blood soaked floor and crashed head first into the door jam.  The blow brought me to my knees, stars dancing before my eyes and then I blacked out.

I’m not sure how long I was out.  When I came to I remember gingerly touching my brow and feeling something wet.  I looked at my finger tips and saw blood.  I vaguely remember thinking I needed a doctor.  I stuck a hand into my pocket to call one, but couldn’t find the phone.

I was disoriented.  It was the sight of Tiny’s body that brought it all back.  I pulled myself together as best I could, grabbed my phone and the knife before staggering out of the office.  I headed for the door marked “Authorized Personnel Only” which opened into a long corridor.  I was pretty sure it was the direction the killer took thanks to the blood stains on the floor, but the trail he left didn’t last for long.

The passageway was lined with doors.  As I rushed down the hallway, I looked for something that would tell me which way the killer might have headed.  There were more doors on the left, the N.E. Stairs, and an elevator.  The elevator did not appear to be moving.

I peeked into the stairwell, but didn’t hear any footsteps.  I was about to turn back when a small bit of blood dripped at my feet.  Another drop followed, but this one splattered on my wrist.  I looked upward and caught a glimpse of crimson fabric.  The monk was on the landing above me, waiting for my next move.

Rather than rush in and try to chase him down, I decided on stealth.  Ch’ing taught me that the secret to moving with stealth is balance.  The key to balanced movement is to never move a weighted foot.  You must take all the weight off a foot before you move it.

As quietly as I could, I stepped into the stairwell and let the door close behind me.  Still as a tree, I waited to see what the monk did next.  He didn’t budge, so I inched toward the first step as quietly as I could.  I stopped and waited again.  Everything looked good, so I started up the stairs.  One by one, I slowly climbed the steps.  All the while, my neck stretched to catch a peek of the monk before he saw me.

Laying in a crumpled mess on the landing was the monk’s discarded robe.  It was damp with fresh blood.  Disappointment washed over me.  I nudged the robe with a toe and saw a slice in it.  Tiny must have gotten in some blows and gone down fighting.

I didn’t get a good look at the killer’s face.  Without the robe to distinguish him from everyone else, I had little hope of finding him.  He could be anyone.  There were over three thousand people at the Center to hear Padma reveal his big secret.  Finding the killer in that crowd was definitely beyond my skill level.

Besides, I didn’t know whether he used the stairwell to dump his disguise, or if he took the stairs to a different floor.  The Kentucky Center is a big place and Tiny’s murder could be anywhere.  Capturing Tiny’s killer would have to be left to the police.  It was time to call them, but first I wanted to wash the blood from my hands.

I didn’t have any trouble finding a bathroom, but I was preoccupied and didn’t pay much attention to the sign on the door.  I wish I had.  Instead, I rushed in, set the knife next to the sink and began cleaning up.

As the blood swirled down the drain, I thought about the statement I would give to the police.  That is when it hit me.  I had made another huge mistake.  I was in the ladies room.  It is also the exact moment the door opened and Ginny walked in.

She took one look at me and froze before the door closed behind her.  At first there was an odd confused look on her face, but then it changed to concern.  “Oh my god, Grant, is that blood!?”  she exclaimed.

I don’t know what I expected from her, but after last night I knew she was a player.  More to the point, despite what Kinsey said about her, I figured she didn’t care one way or the other about me.  I wasn’t sure what to think about her concerned behavior.

“I was just cleaning up,” I answered.  “I guess I missed some.”

She fumbled in the purse hanging on her shoulder and said, “Let’s get you a doctor.”

“I’m okay,” I said.  “It’s not my blood.”

Her concern shifted to confusion and then to shock.  “What do you mean it’s not your blood?”  she asked.

I didn’t like the direction this was headed and said, “It belongs to someone else.”

I was about to explain what happened when she noticed the knife.  She started to say something and then snapped her mouth shut.  It was her eyes that instantly concerned me the most.  They were filled with terror.  I had seen the same look many times before in the eyes of witnesses I badgered during cross-examination.  I hated it.

Ginny took a cautious step back.  When I extended a hand in her direction, her eyes widened in alarm and then she fled the room.

“Shit,” I muttered.

I’m ashamed to say, I considered fleeing.  I wish I could say I decided to do the right thing instead of running, but the truth is I wanted to protect myself.  I knew if she called the police and told them about the bloody knife, they would lock me in the deepest hole they had.  So I went after her.  It wasn’t until much later that I realized I had forgotten the murder weapon.

Once out of the bathroom, I scanned the hall for her.  She was nowhere in sight.  I couldn’t understand how she managed to disappear so quickly.  She could be anywhere.  I took a moment to weigh my options, but what I did instead was feel sorry for myself.  I had done nothing wrong, but everything that could possibly go wrong, had gone wrong.  First John and now this!  What else could go wrong, I thought.  The answer is plenty and it did.

When I regained my composure, I noticed an unmarked door standing open.  I was pretty sure it was closed earlier and decided to take a look inside.  There were several rows of alternating stage lights hanging from the ceiling separated by sliding curtains and open movable wall partitions.  A simple podium was the only stage prop.  I could hear the buzz of the audience’s conversation.  Somehow I had managed to find the stage.

That’s when I remembered I was there to protect Padma.  I had a job to do and that was what I needed at the moment to take my mind off of myself.

I didn’t have a clue what to do next.  There was one thing I knew for sure…I had no training as a body guard and there was a killer on the loose.  Ch’ing would tell me to listen, not just with my ears, but with my whole being.  Sighing, I wondered what that meant and decided the only thing to do was wait and see what happened next.

I chose a position out of the way, but with a strategic view of the podium and audience.  The audience was an odd crowd…a cross section of America.  For example, a hippie chick in the front row sat next to man in a conservative business suit.  The rest of the crowd was equally in-congruent.

Leaning lightly against the wall, I felt something poke me in the back and looked over my shoulder.  It was a bank of light switches which must control all of the stage lights.

When I turned around again, a man was on the opposite side of the stage watching me.  He was medium height, brown skinned, and round faced.  A long blond ponytail hung midway down his back.  He was wearing jeans, sandals, and a Bob Marley t-shirt.  It was Pony Tail!  What was he doing here and why did he have a gun tucked into his jeans?


Thank you for reading Chapter 10 of Robert Grant’s quirky novel, Naked Tao.  We will see you next Sunday night for Chapter 11.  In the meantime, we invite your comments and by all means, spread the word.


Welcome to Sunday Night Cliffhangers at NT Publishing Company where we post entire books a chapter at a time. We are pleased to present the wonderful off beat novel, Naked Tao, by Robert Grant. Last week we posted Chapter 8 and here is Chapter 9 for your enjoyment!


 “…you should be very confused right now.” – Ch’ing


My head throbbed to the jungle beat of a rap song crackling from an old clock radio salvaged from my parents’ attic.  Like a scratched record, the same two annoying lines repeated again and again.

“I’m a man of Tao, naked and wild.  I can make you howl, naked and wild.”

Something had to be done about that throbbing.  Either I needed more tequila or the radio needed to die.  Since making a decision was totally out of the question, I decided to do both.  First, I hit the mute button, but it didn’t work.  Frustrated, I stabbed it a second and then a third time.  It must have been possessed, because it kept playing.

That’s when a brilliant idea leaked through the alcohol haze and I yanked the cord out of the wall.  The music played on.  Just as I was about to take a swing at the radio, a bright light dialed the headache up to max.

I put a pillow over my face and groaned, “Just kill me now.”

It didn’t help.  The pillow stank from last night’s sins and the radio continued tormenting me.  I groaned and tossed the pillow to the floor.  Then I grabbed the radio and smashed it against the wall.  It couldn’t have gotten much worse, but it did.

“Have you lost your mind, Grant?”

It was a chick’s raspy voice, sounding like she’d smoked one too many unfiltered Camels.  The voice belonged to a tall brunette with nearly two inches of dirty blond roots and chipped red nail polish.  She was naked in my bathroom doorway.

There was something familiar about this woman, but I couldn’t place her.  She was also a little scary.  Her torso was covered with a tattoo of Eve holding a snake in one hand and a half-eaten apple in the other.  Her face was hard-worn, as if she had seen some tough times.  I thought she might look older than she actually was.

I realized I was staring at her and averted my eyes.  I was also naked, so I reached for a dirty sheet to cover myself.  I have a habit of giving strangers nicknames and tagged her Eve.

She cleared her throat expectantly, so I mumbled the first thing that came to mind, “The music woke me.”

She blinked a couple of times.  I wasn’t sure if she was adjusting to the light, or if she was trying to decide if she should ask about the radio.

“What music,” she finally asked.

Now I was confused, so I asked a question of my own, “You didn’t hear the radio?”

“No, you were dreaming…all curled up into a ball and begging someone to please stop,” she said.  “Do you want to tell me about your kinky dream while we act it out?”

I let out a little groan.  I was not interested in kinky games.  Besides my head felt as if last night’s tequila had taken root and a large, festering agave was growing in it.  I fought back an eruption of stomach acid burning its way past my heart and half way up my esophagus, before I finally managed to choke it back down.

She was nearly to the bed when I blurted out, “I have a headache.”

She froze in place and fixed a glassy stare at the center of my forehead, as if she could see into my head.  “Really?” she asked.  “You have a headache.  I can’t believe you just said that to me.  It sounds like something I would say to my husband.”

Even though it was the truth, I also hated saying it.  Cynthia often used the same excuse.  I heard it often enough from her that I became reluctant to initiate sex.  The truth is, begging for sex made me feel like a loser.

That wasn’t the worst of it.  Cynthia revealed her true nature on those occasions she tried to negotiate an exchange of sex for something she wanted from me.  As you can imagine, it didn’t go well when I pointed out she was trying to turn a trick with the love of her life.

So, I eventually stopped asking.  After a couple of sexless months she told me I was emotionally bankrupt and demanded a divorce.  It was just like her to make it my fault.  She said she needed more from a partner than I could give.  Go figure.  She emptied our bank account, moved her girlfriend into the house, and kept the Benz.

Eve was looking a bit impatient as she crossed her arms over her small bosom.  I didn’t know what she expected me to say.  I sure didn’t want to talk about headaches or spouses.  If anyone was due an explanation, it had to be me.  Geez, she was a married woman standing naked in my bedroom.

I shrugged. “The headache is real, but you have a husband at home,” I said.  “Maybe you should offer to do kinky things with him.  I’m really not interested in married women.”

Her eyes traveled downward and came to rest at my groin area, where the bedding was tented.  I followed her eyes.  Damn, I was hard.  My body had betrayed me and it was embarrassing.  I wished I could do a better job of hiding it from her, but I knew it was hopeless.

“Yea, that’s what you said last night and your lack of response proved it,” she said.  “Fortunately, things are looking up this morning.”

My hands were shaking.  I wasn’t sure if it was caused by an overdose of tequila, or the nightmarish day I had yesterday.  I didn’t have a clue what she was talking about, because I didn’t remember a thing about last night.  Was she saying I couldn’t perform?  Not that I wanted to have sex with her, because I didn’t, but not being able to perform in that way was something a guy never wanted to happen.

“I’m not interested,” I said.

Maybe I should have been more diplomatic, because it started to get ugly at this point.  “Look at you,” said Eve.  “You’re a mess.  You live above a hookah bar.  I thought you were some kind of hot shot lawyer.”

She was right about the apartment.  It wasn’t much.  Two small rooms above a hookah bar in a busy section of the Highlands.  The larger of the two rooms was divided by a Formica counter top into a kitchen and living room.  The initials of a prior tenant were carved into the Formica and judging by the burn marks, it was once used as an ash tray.

Two mismatched thrift store bar stools lined the bar.  One was solid enough, but the other was a menace.  I kept meaning to throw it out before someone got hurt and sued me for what little I had.  Not that I entertained guests in the place.

Other than a half-eaten pizza and an empty tequila bottle, the apartment was neat enough.  A stack of unopened mail lay in a pile of dust at the end of a beat up old coffee table.  Several of the envelopes were marked “final notice”.  I should have opened the mail and paid a few bills, but I really got distracted with the big case I was working on for Pathogen.

The only thing of value in the place was a dusty antique sword with strange markings standing alone in the corner like a silent sentry.  It was a gift from Ch’ing.  With a twinkle in his eye he told me it was older than the hills, and a priceless piece of junk.  I felt a stab of panic remembering that he was missing.  I needed to get it together and find out what was going on.

At the end of the counter was an open door leading into a small windowless bedroom.  On the floor was a king sized mattress that took up most of the room.  That’s where I was at the moment.  The only light in the room came from a bare light bulb in the small bathroom.  It provided back lighting for Eve.  The truth is I would have preferred something closer to total darkness.

I sighed.  I couldn’t remember ever waking up with a stranger before, and didn’t know how to handle it.  What I did know for sure was it was time to get rid of her, but first I asked her about last night.

“For the last six months I watched you come into my bar and order the same thing” she said. “It was the most expensive bourbon in the place, a Jim Beam Devil’s Cut…never diluted with a mixer or ice, and always ordered neat.”

She swept her arm around my crappy apartment and shook her head in disbelief.  “You have that right mix of bad boy and good guy that is so delicious,” she said. “The devil’s cut drew attention to the danger lurking behind your smooth lawyer facade.  I could tell you were some kind of bad ass, but I could also see a lost little boy in there too.  It made you especially hot!”

“It was always the same,” she continued. “You would sit at the bar and sip your one drink, while the hottest chicks in the place hit on you.  Once you finished your Devil’s Cut, you would excuse yourself and go to the men’s room.  From there you would quietly slip out the door without saying good-bye to anyone.”

“I thought you might be gay or something,” she said.  “What a waste that would be.  I always wanted to turn a gay guy.  So, last night when you started ordering shots of tequila, I saw an opportunity and decided to take it.  You were interested at first, but then you noticed my ring and chilled.  So, I made some adjustments.”

I raised an eyebrow and asked, “Adjustments?”

“I told you my husband died in a motorcycle wreck a few months ago and I wasn’t ready to take my ring off,” she answered.  “You got all sappy and told me about your dad.”

“But why would you lie like that,” I asked.

She narrowed her eyes and said, “Because I can.”

I didn’t remember any of this and I didn’t like her lies.  “How did we get back here?”  I asked.

“Seriously…it didn’t take much once you were good and drunk,” answered Eve.  “I let you call me Ginny and bent over every once in a while to show you my tits.  We closed the deal when I followed you into the men’s room and grabbed your cock.  Men are so easy to manipulate.”

I didn’t like being manipulated and the last thing I needed was a jealous husband.

As an afterthought she asked, “Who’s Ginny by the way?”

I wasn’t about to discuss Ginny with this woman and decided to keep the discussion focused on her.  “Won’t your husband want to know where you spent the night?”  I asked.

“I’ll tell him I couldn’t sleep after work and went to my sister’s for coffee,” she said.  “He’s so stupid.  He believes whatever I tell him.”

The lies reminded me of Cynthia.  I did not need another liar in my life.  I was trying to figure out how to get rid of her when my iPhone vibrated.  The call was from Eric.  Getting rid of her was going to be an unpleasant task.  I dislike being rude, especially to women.  I don’t usually take calls when I’m with someone, but it was a welcomed diversion.

“It’s very early,” I said.

“He lives,” said Eric. “Glad you survived the night.”

“What do you know about last night?”  I asked.

“Only that you didn’t go home like you promised,” answered Eric.  “You were seriously wasted dude and wouldn’t tell me where you were.  I’ve never seen you so paranoid.  You kept jabbering some nonsense about a blond, a ponytail, Ginny, and a kiss.”

“I didn’t kiss Ginny last night,” I said.  “You’re tripping man.”

“Damn, I was afraid of that,” he said.

Eve was ransacking the room for her clothes.  The place was a mess before she started, but somehow she still managed to make it worse.

“How do you find anything in this mess,” she growled.

“I hear a chick’s voice,” said Eric.  “Dude, you’re holding out on me.  Did you take Ginny home?  It’s about time you found someone like that.  I have to say…you stayed with Cynthia way too long!  What was that skanky stripper’s name?  You know…the one she left you for…Chasity…Candy?”

“Candida…and no I didn’t bring Ginny home with me,” I said.

“Unbelievable…Candida…how fitting she chose a STD for a stage name,” said Eric.  “It’s not Ginny…bummer.  Well…anyway, I’m glad you got some action last night, but if it had been me, I would have poured my energy into Ginny.  Damn, that girl is special!”

“Take it easy Eric,” I said.  “Aren’t you the one who’s always telling me it’s only sex?”

“What I tell you my friend is don’t be afraid, it’s only pussy,” answered Eric.

Eve said a little too loudly, “You’re a loser, Grant,” then slammed the door on her way out for added emphasis.

“Damn, she’s pissed,” said Eric.

“Yeah, the perfect ending to a really bad night,” I said wryly.  “Is there any news on Ch’ing?”

“No, but I’ve got my best guys on it,” answered Eric.  “There’s nothing to do about the angry chick but move forward, Grant.  Speaking of which…I’ve got a job for you.”

“I don’t want a job, Eric.  I’m moving to Bhutan.”

“Yeah right, you’re broke.  Let me help you out, Grant.  I have a job for you.”

I was suspicious.  “What kind of job?”  I asked.

“Padma Ganesha needs protection,” replied Eric.

“You’re joking right,” I said.  “I’m not a body-guard, Eric. I’m a lawyer.”

“Grant, you’re an unemployed lawyer,” said Eric.  “You need the money and maybe it’s time for a change.  Besides, who knows where this could lead…perhaps a rich corporate client.  On second thought, I was starting to think you might not be cut out for that attorney shit anyway.”

The one thing I knew for sure was, I wanted nothing to do with another heartless client like Pathogen.  Maybe it was time for a change.

I wondered why Eric needed me to guard someone and asked, “You’re the professional.  Why don’t you do this?”

“I would, but I’ll be busy trying to save you’re sorry ass from guys who lift weights all day in prison,” replied Eric.  “Besides, they asked for you.  It’s a lot of money and could keep you occupied while we get the rest of this mess sorted out.”

“Asked for me…really…and who would that be?”  I asked.

“You know better than to ask that question, Grant.  I would tell you, but then I’d have to kill you.”

“Geez, you can be so damn corny sometimes,” I said.  “How about cutting the crap and telling me why the winner of the Nobel Peace prize needs a body-guard?”

“Who knows, buddy,” said Eric.  “It’ll pay a few bills and might even buy you a plane ticket to Katmandu.  He is speaking today at the Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts.”

“I thought Padma Ganesha never did speaking engagements,” I said.

“Yeah, I know,” said Eric.  “He surprised everyone when he accepted.  The sponsor is Emerald Allure, Inc.  It’s part of their lecture series, Ideas to Change the World.”

“Emerald Allure…isn’t that Ginny’s company and don’t they make slut wear?”  I asked.

“Slut wear seems like a good place to start world change,” snickered Eric.  “I find it uplifting.”

I ignored Eric’s crude joke and searched my memory for details about Padma Ganesha.  A few years ago he wrote a best-selling book about the happiest place on Earth.  The inhabitants are totally at ease with themselves and the world around them.  There is no hatred in their hearts.  Their minds are free from worry.  They live simple and honest lives, giving much and expecting little.  It is a place of peace and prosperity.

It is also a place where people live long lives.  The natives credit their longevity to a magical pool of water they call the “Bubbling Well”.

Padma’s book stayed on top of the best seller list for one hundred and thirty-six weeks.  Although he never gave the place a name, the media took to calling it “Shangri La”.  His fans hounded him for the location of the Bubbling Well, but he steadfastly refused to reveal it.

I thought about the pile of unpaid bills and asked, “What do I have to do?”

“You should dress in black,” replied Eric.  “Keep it casual.”

“What…no uniform boss man?” I quipped.

Eric sighed.  “Amateur.  I’ll send over a shirt that identifies you as security staff.  Be at the Center by 6:00 p.m. smartass.  Use the back stage entrance off 7th Street.  Ask for Tiny at the security desk.”

“Let me guess,” I said.  “Tiny is 6’8”, weighs 350 pounds, wears a pony tail, and is covered with tattoos.”

“With a face only a mother could love,” said Eric.  “He’s a real character.  This is his night job.  His day job is leader of the outlaw motorcycle gang, Dragon Gate.  You’ll like him, Grant.”

“Does Tiny have a last name?”  I asked.

“If he does, I’ve never heard it.”

“This should be interesting.”


Thank you for reading Chapter 9 of Robert Grant’s quirky novel, Naked Tao.  We will see you next Sunday night for Chapter 10.  In the meantime, we invite your comments and by all means, spread the word.



Welcome to Sunday Night Cliffhangers at NT Publishing Company where we post entire books a chapter at a time. We are pleased to present the wonderful off beat novel, Naked Tao, by Robert Grant. Last week we posted Chapter 7 and here is Chapter 8 for your enjoyment!




 “…strip away everything and start fresh, like a newborn.”- Padma


What a day.  My biggest victory morphs into a nightmare and costs me my job.  A miracle cure that will heal my mother appears, and is just as quickly taken away.  I’m served with divorce papers.  My boss is dead and the police suspect me.  My best friend turns out to be a sex freak.  Ch’ing, who is a father to me, disappears without a word.  Ginny appears after ten years and then disappears.  Oh, and let’s not forget the small matter of needing to save the world from a villainous drug company.  Have I left anything out?  I couldn’t imagine it getting any worse, but of course it does.

“This is a huge mess,” said Kinsey.  “Grant, when did you last see Ginny?”

“What difference does it make?” I growled.

“Why do you say that?” asked Kinsey.

“She left the party with another guy,” I answered.

“Is that true?” asked Kinsey.  “Can you say for certain that is true?”

“I saw her talking to some guy,” I said.  “I assume they left together.”

Kinsey let out a disgusted growl.  “I thought you were a Taoist,” she said.  “Would Ch’ing let you get away with such sloppy thinking?”

Ch’ing focuses on the facts.  He only considers data acquired directly from his senses and carves away any assumptions.  One of his favorite internal arts is called Marrow Washing Chi Kung.  While it has a physical component, the internal aspect of the practice contains the hidden secrets of the art.  It is used to scrub the mind of self-deception.  Ch’ing insists it is the shortest path to clarity.

I could certainly use a little clarity at the moment.  Kinsey was right.  I needed to wait and see what had really happened to Ginny.  In the meantime, it was time to do something positive, so I suggested we see if the stalker was still outside.

We searched the street for any sign of Pony Tail.  While there were several white vehicles parked out front, none of them were occupied.  Eric grabbed Mr. Bear and his wife, but they only confirmed that the car had left.  To be on the safe side we searched the house and yard for any sign of him.  As expected, we did not find him.

“Do you think something bad has happened to Ginny?”  I asked.

Kinsey didn’t answer.  Instead she chewed on her lower lip.

“Should we call the police?”  I asked.

“And tell them what…that the C.E.O. of a large corporation disappeared from a sex party,” said Kinsey.  “A sex party hosted by the principles of a security company entrusted with the safety of others.  It will destroy our credibility, Grant.  It might destroy our business.”

“Sooner or later I will have to talk to them about John’s murder,” I said.  “Maybe I could downplay the sex party stuff.”

“Let’s wait until we know more,” suggested Kinsey.  “In the meantime, let’s see what we can find out on our own.  It’s time to see the rest of these guests off.”

I nodded and added, “Eric, I’m sorry I called you a liar.  You know…about the swinging thing.  Discretion was the right thing under the circumstances.  You owe it to Kinsey to keep a low profile about this strange lifestyle you’re into.”

Eric slapped me on the back as we made our way to the truck.  “Get some rest and we will sort this out tomorrow,” he said.  “Are you headed home to the Highlands?”

I nodded.

“Be careful, Grant,” he said.  “Are you good to drive?”

“Yes, I’m good to drive,” I answered.  “Eric, I’ve got a bad feeling about all of this.  I feel like time’s running out for me.  If John was murdered, then we need to find out who did it.  If we don’t get some answers soon, I’m going to end up in jail.”

“Then we’ll start with John’s secretary,” said Eric.  “I’ll interview her myself.”

I was dog tired, but the threat of jail time for a murder I didn’t commit was incentive to keep moving.  Instead of heading home, I decided to return to the office to see if I could retrieve the documents I had given to John.  My gut told me there was a connection between those documents and his death.  I came to regret that decision.

Law schools flood the market each year with fresh eager faces hoping to make a mark for themselves.  A young lawyer works long hours to get a toe hold into the legal market.  Being a lawyer may sound glamorous, but it’s a competitive profession where you have to get your hands dirty to get ahead of the rest of the pack.

Attorneys learn to criticize everything, including each other.  It creates a mindset that infiltrates our personal lives as well.  It is not easy to sustain a relationship when you’re busy attacking others.  Most young lawyers give up the practice once they get a taste of these harsh realities.

The documents proving Pathogen’s duplicity was all I needed to remind me of the lie I was living.  John had actually been right.  This profession really wasn’t for me and I did want out.  Before I quit though, there was something important I needed to do.  I decided that I was going to bring Pathogen down because somebody had to do it, and for the life of me I couldn’t figure out who that would be, if not me.

Someone had given me the proof I needed to do it…but who left those documents in my office and why me?  Someone could be playing me, but bringing Pathogen down was not only the right thing to do, it was a necessary thing to do, if I intended to survive the coming challenge.

There was also a more personal reason to go after Pathogen.  Their scientist mentioned the discovery of a miracle plant that cured any illness, restored optimal health and led to a long life.  The motorcycle crash had left my mother with a severe brain injury.  Maybe this miraculous plant could heal her too.

It was a little after midnight when I pulled up to my office building.  We were on the thirty second floor and ordinarily there would be a few lights still shining through the windows, but on this night the office was dark and ominous.

I still had a key card to the building, but I wasn’t sure if it still worked.  I had never been fired before and a part of me felt like a thief sneaking into someone’s home.  The security camera pointing straight at my face didn’t help relieve the angst I was feeling.  My hand shook slightly as I slid the card into the slot for the garage overhead.

A wave of relief washed over me when the door began rising, but it turned to confusion when a car roared out and damn near side swiped me as soon as the door was high enough for it to pass through.  They were obviously in a hurry. It didn’t help my growing anxiety one bit, and I had to resist the temptation to just forget the whole thing and go home.

The garage was mostly empty.  A lone car was parked in an area where the lights were burned out.  It reminded me of a tombstone standing watch on a dark night.  I was accustomed to leaving the building at a late hour, but being here under these circumstances was creepy.  I managed to pull it together enough to slip the battered old truck into my assigned parking space.

I never lock the truck.  I figure no one would want to steal it…but I did lock it this time.  Stuffing the keys into my pocket, I headed toward the elevator, but stopped when I thought I heard someone calling out from the direction of the tombstone.  When I turned toward the sound, there was no one there.

I changed my mind about taking the elevator and chose the stairs instead.  I wanted to keep moving and being trapped in a box hanging from a cable did not appeal to me at the moment.

Since I was parked on lower level two, it was a thirty four story climb, but I had done it many times before as part of my training for mountain climbing trips out west.  A busy lawyer has to find ways to incorporate fitness training into his daily routine, if he hopes to stay on his game.

I hoped the physical exertion would help clear my spooked head.  The smell of stale piss in the stairwell door did little to alleviate my anxiety.  I noticed a puddle of fresh urine with a faint hint of steam still rising from it.  Why do people piss in stairwells?  I reconsidered the elevator, but couldn’t get past the uneasiness I felt about it, and began the ascent.

It could have been the tequila, but the climb seemed unusually difficult.  I had to stop several times to rest.  It might have been my imagination, but I thought it sounded like there was someone climbing below me.  Each time I stopped the steps below continued like an extended echo before coming to an abrupt stop.  Someone seemed to be following me and trying to avoid discovery.

The thought of someone stalking me was creepy enough, but under the circumstances it was nerve wracking.  Maybe I was being paranoid, but I figured it all might be connected to John’s death.  I had a few questions I wanted to ask this stalker, so I devised a strategy to catch whoever it was.

After climbing four more flights of stairs, I opened the door leading to the twenty-fifth floor, but didn’t step through the threshold.  Instead, I quietly crept further up the stairs until I was out of view and waited.  I expected the stalker to rush up the stairs, but that didn’t happen.  In fact, nothing happened at all.

It’s possible that my follower didn’t take the bait, but I convinced myself instead that the whole thing was nothing but my imagination.  Chiding myself for getting spooked over nothing, I finished the climb and slipped into my old office.  I obviously should have trusted my instincts.

The office foyer is intended to impress.  The marble flooring is polished to a high sheen.  Matching Doric columns and a fresco of the Parthenon is calculated to give the impression that Socrates resides within its walls.  To me, it’s a little over the top.  The first time I stepped into the place I half expected to see everyone dressed in togas and sandals.

Ordinarily, there are number of young attorneys working late on projects dumped on them at the last minute and a night shift of clerical staff working diligently to meet the next day’s deadlines, but not on this night.  On this night, the offices were all empty.  As far as I could tell, there wasn’t a soul working.  Everyone was probably sent home in deference to John’s death.  The place felt like a mausoleum.

This is the home office of Biggs, Scranton & Pulver, a multi-state firm with over 250 attorneys.  The firm services large corporations with deep pockets.  Pathogen has the deepest and tends to keep the firm very busy.  John was right about one thing, losing Pathogen’s business would definitely hurt the firm.  Cut backs would follow and more than one attorney would lose his job.

I was about to engage in some serious conflict with my client and all conflict is warfare.  It’s just matter of scale.  Collateral damage is the unintended consequence of war.  Many of the people who worked at the firm were friends.  They had mortgages and families to feed.  I wasn’t sure what they would do if I exposed Pathogen and they lost their jobs.  It was a sobering thought, and a premature one.  My first order of business would be to make sure those documents were authentic.

Since John was found dead in his office, it’s possible the documents were still in there somewhere.  Although he may have destroyed them, it’s unlikely he’d had time to remove them before his death.  I headed straight to his office and found crime scene tape barring entry.  It turned out to be a good thing, because John’s office door would have been locked otherwise.

I squeezed past the yellow tape and wormed my way into the crime scene.  Even though the place appeared to be empty, something told me to close the door behind me.  Rather than turn the lights on, I used the flashlight app on my phone.  I’m not sure what I expected to see, but it wasn’t this.  I assumed the killer was connected to Pathogen and expected the place to be torn apart, but John’s office looked intact except for the obvious mess indicating a crime scene, complete with mangled chandelier and chalk outline of dead body.  I thought they only did that in the movies.

Maybe John wasn’t murdered and maybe the evidence I had handed over to him was still here.  There was a stack of files on the corner of his desk that I quickly rifled through.  None of them had to do with Pathogen.  There was nothing else on the desk.  I scanned the rest of the room for any signs of the documents, but saw none.  The desk drawers were locked.  Unless I was willing to force them open, there was nothing left for me to do in this room.  I just couldn’t see myself breaking into John’s desk.

I was turning to leave when I felt something under my shoe.  As bent to pick up a wadded piece of paper, the door knob turned and the office door slowly opened.  Panicked, I slipped the paper into my pocket and squatted behind the desk for cover.

My mind was racing for a cover story, but I couldn’t think of a plausible excuse for violating the integrity of the crime scene.  I don’t know whether it’s true or not, but everybody knows a criminal returns to the scene of the crime.  If I was caught here, it would make me look very guilty.

I waited breathlessly for the lights to come on, but they didn’t.  The only light in the room came from a full moon shining through the window.  Now that my eyes had adjusted, it seemed way too bright at the moment.  I risked peeking around the edge of the desk and caught a glimpse of a blond ponytail just as the door shut again.  There’s no way that can be the same guy Ginny was talking to at the party.  If so, then what was he doing here?

I crept over to the door and listened for a few minutes, before I decided I could risk opening it and taking a peek.  The hall was empty and I slipped out.  I didn’t want to push my luck and thought about leaving, but I needed to do a quick check of my office.

By no means is it a fancy corner office like John’s, but it had been home to me for several years.  Unlike John’s office, it had been ransacked and was a total mess. One odd thing I noticed was the bottle of Pappy was gone and in its place was an empty bottle of Jim Beam.  I wondered about that, but it was time to leave.

I managed to get out of the building without further incident.  Once I was on the road again, I decided I needed to stop somewhere and have a good stiff drink.  It seemed like the best idea I had all day.


Thank you for reading Chapter 8 of Robert Grant’s quirky novel, Naked Tao.  We will see you next Sunday night for Chapter 9.  In the meantime, we invite your comments and by all means, spread the word.