Colin didn’t lead me back to the big suite off Kommen’s office, but to a smaller, still well-appointed conference room down the hall. He parked me in one of the upholstered armchairs and scurried off, I assumed to fetch James. I wondered if Kommen was always this obvious in his messages about status difference between father and son. Given how he’d behaved toward me, I figured it likely.
In a moment, Colin opened the door and Kommen appeared with Richardson beside him. James sat down opposite me, but Kommen stayed at the door.
“I have a meeting,” he announced, glaring at me like it was my fault. “No recording this. I’ve instructed James to refuse to answer any question he feels uncomfortable with. Afterward, he’ll be reporting to me on your conduct. In detail.” He wheeled and was gone.
As he closed the door, I caught Colin’s eye. He knew his boss was an asshole, too. I watched him through the glass wall as he scooted down the hall. I could see that some days, he’d have to work hard at being cheerful.
I wanted the atmosphere to settle a bit before I got started, so I took my time pulling out my pen and notebook and getting set up. When I looked up, Richardson was sitting back, waiting with his arms on the chair and his knees wide apart. He had big thighs, and not from fat. Very fit.
He was an attractive guy in a button-down collar, perfect teeth, only slightly weathered, collegiate kind of way. Solid intelligence in the eyes, but I saw more pain than kindness there. Good jaw, but also hard, somehow. Dark hair like his father’s in the old press photos I’d looked up. James had a bigger, more athletic frame, though. He obviously worked out, but not obsessively. His features reminded me more of his mother, although I’d seen only one photo of her. Pretty nice overall, but not gut-grabbing sexy.
I gave him a conciliatory smile. “I can’t promise to ask you only comfortable questions, but my goal here is certainly not to harass you.”
He shrugged dismissively. “I know. Kommen is a martinet, and it gets old in a hurry. I’m a big boy and can take care of myself.”
“I have no doubt of that,” I said, grinning.
I shifted my focus to watch his energy. “I’ve learned a lot about the Enigma album containing the lyrics used in these letters,” I said, pen at the ready. “Do you think there’s any significance to the fact that it was released while you were in therapy?”
“No, I don’t,” Richardson said. Big lie—his aura blazed with it, plus anger. I made a note as slowly as if I were just learning to print block letters. I was half tempted to stick my tongue part way out with the effort.
“None at all.” Again, a big lie, highly charged. Instead of anger, this time I saw searing pain. He had an idea, for sure. And now so did I.
“Your father believes that these letters are an attack on him, using you and your background as the point of attack. Do you think that idea is at all valid?”
“It could be. Leaders of some other churches would love to see my father disgraced. The math says donation dollars that go to one church don’t go to another, and our draw for members and donations is growing fast.”
“Is it possible that this is an attack on your father directly? Church funds, moral misconduct?”
“No.” Big lie. “Our books are rigorously audited and summarized annually for our members.” True.
“Your dad also says that you’ve been instrumental in expanding your ministry into Latin America. Do you think the threat comes from there?”
James shook his head. “I really don’t think so. Our membership there doesn’t care much about the competition between churches in the US. On top of that, our presence in Latin America extends back only a few years, probably no more than about 2002. Long after my experiences as a teenager.”
“Do you think they would know about those experiences?”
“Certainly. It’s a story worth repeating as often as possible.” He gave me a smile radiant with the Gospel’s glory, but his aura swirled up dark and angry. “My personal salvation is a testament to my father's faith, and the invincible power of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
“I’m glad for you.” I wanted to sound sincere, but I don’t think I made it. “Has any spark of that old temptation ever presented itself since those days?”
“No, thank the Lord.” His lie spiked out, even bigger than the others. James sighed a deep breath and gazed out the window, as if savoring his God-given liberation for the first time. Poor guy. What kind of hell was he living in, pretending the hand of God had fixed him, living a straight man’s life?
“Were the methods of your therapy harsh? I’ve heard they often are.”
Richardson’s aura boiled up with pain, grief, and rage, but his face remained an angelic mask. “I don’t have to answer that, but I will. Yes, they were harsh. But they were warranted. My very soul was at stake.” He paused, his eyes opaque with the flat stare of a bouncer. “And that’s a closed chapter you and I will not be visiting.”
I nodded. “Got it,” I said, making my note. “Is there any other light you can shine on this business right now?”
“Not at the moment.” To my amazement, he was telling the truth. He knew a lot about this, but he couldn’t shed light on it now. James Richardson was in this up to his neck. But how? Why?
“I will do that, Mr. Morgan,” he said, sounding thoughtful. “Something else may come to mind, and if it does, I’ll be sure to let you know.” He pulled out one of his cards and wrote on the back before he gave it to me.
“Thanks,” I said, tucking the card in my shirt pocket, pretending I didn’t understand the gesture was a significant invitation, maybe even a request. We shook hands. I tried not to wince. James Richardson was a man in serious pain, and some of it burned in my knuckles. We headed down the hall.
Colin appeared before we’d taken half a dozen steps, steering Richardson away on some vector that didn’t include me.
I headed on to the elevator.
As I walked down the 16th Street Mall, I called Rocky Mountain Mercury and set up an appointment with the dispatcher in an hour. It was Friday afternoon, and they were already slowing down. I gave them the document number so they could be ready. I promised to be in and out in just a few minutes.
Delivery of the fourth letter had been charged to the account of Stelnach, Kommen and Breyer. It had been picked up at the front desk, only to be delivered back to the same location an hour later. The same receptionist had signed off on the pickup as for the delivery.
That seemed strange, but when I asked the dispatcher about it he just shrugged. The courier’s pay was a low hourly base with a per-item delivery count determining the remainder. Even if the courier noticed that the letter was to be delivered to the same place where it was picked up, and he probably did when he scanned it into his handheld, he’d do it anyway. The rationale behind the letter’s origin wasn’t his problem, and the delivery meant another dollar in his pocket.
On my walk home, I pondered the varied nature of the deliveries—inter-office mail, regular post, taped to a shower door, and courier using Kommen’s own account number. Two things became clear.
Second, Enigma was bedeviling Richardson with item one. The deliveries had been orchestrated to that end. There was no other reason to use such a variety. Enigma was toying with the good reverend like a cat torments the mouse it will eventually kill.