Izzy Kline said to Shiva, "Today, she hopped in her Beamer and drove across the Everglades to Sanibel Island. Shes got a couple of friends there, so it could be shes looking for help: a marine biologist named Ford, and someone whose name you might recognize."
Shiva was wearing sandals and a Seminole medicine jacket, rag-patched, rainbow reds, greens, yellows, belted around his waist like a bathrobe. Shivas hair was cut Shawnee style: a fifty-six-year-old male, born to a Canadian mother in Bombay, Indiaindifferent to the irony.
He was standing in a bedroom that was larger than some of the West Palm Beach homes he could see across the Intracoastal canal through the western window of his beach compound.
In the bedroom was a Buddha-shaped bed with canopy, a gymnasium with sauna, a meditation corner, an office with computers and security monitors. The place was done in white tile and teak, all decorations in gold except for several wooden figurines on the walls. There was a carving of an impressionistic cat, several masks with horrific faces and two rare Seminole totemic masks.
The carvings had been added within the last two years.
Shiva said to Izzy, "I havent seen or talked to you in a month. So why do you show up now, bothering me with this garbage?"
"It seemed important. She doesnt believe her husbands dead. I already told you."
"Youve been working for me forwhat?ten, twelve years. You know I hate detailsas if I have the time. I dont care about this woman."
"DetailsJesus Christ, are you kidding? If she finds out the truth about what happened to Geoff Minster, say good-bye to your casinos and your development. Three tons of ammonium nitrate fertilizer, explosives grade. Does that ring a bell? Its my nuts in the wringer."
Shiva looked impatiently at the Cartier watch he wore on his left wrist. "You need to leave. I have a massage scheduled in a few minutes. Theres a new girl among the discipleswith a nice body for a change. I dont want you interrupting."
Izzy Kline: Lean, gaunt-cheeked, with a scar below his right eye, dimples and a dimpled china ladies man. ExIsraeli Army, hed trained with the Mossad, chosen to leave his adopted country rather than face morals charges, returned to America and been hired as security manager by a controversial religious leader, Bhagwan Shiva, founder of the International Church of Ashram Meditation, Inc.
Shiva had established his first church west of Miami Lakes, the palmetto country between Okeechobee Road and Opa Locka, edge of the Everglades. This was back before hed changed his name from Jerry Singh. Hed started with forty-some disciples, mostly dropouts and runaways whod craved the discipline, and liked wearing robes and growing their own food.
When hed had cash, hed bought land. Hed bought a lot of it west of Miami. Cheap swampland.
Eighteen years later, Shiva now had a quarter million followers worldwide, and one hundred twenty Church of Ashram Centers, mostly in the U.S., Great Britain and Europe, though the numbers were declining. In the last five years, his organization had been crippled by lawsuits, IRS investigations and aggressive TV, magazine and newspaper exposés.
Hed been described as the "wizard of religion" because of elaborate miracles staged before thousands. Hed been called the "rich mans prophet," and an incarnate "sex guru."
Kline didnt believe Shiva was an incarnate anything; he knew him too well to fall for his holy man act. Izzy was the only person in the organization who spoke frankly to Shiva. As a result, he was the only man Shiva could be open with, behave naturally aroundand who also scared him a little.
From Everglades by Randy Wayne White, copyright © 2003 Randy Wayne White, published by G. P. Putnam's Sons, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., all rights reserved, reprinted with permission from the publisher.
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