In less than a day we were in LA, but Frank was exhausted from the long flights. The six hour layover in Chicago did not help matters. When we got to the Shining East Buddhist Temple it pretty much looked like a building in Mosul. That American invention, yellow perimeter tape with black letters stating “Crime Scene – Keep Out” was wrapped around the perimeters using the street lights as fence posts was all around the temple. Frank carefully pulled up on the yellow tape and crawled under it. I followed. There was no police or any governmental official around.
“Wow, some party” was all Frank said. He walked up to the front entrance which was scorched from a fire that basically destroyed the interior. It looked very dark inside. Thankfully, Frank did not decide to go in. It looked very unsafe. I was surprised the roof was still intact. The amount of carbon compounds in the air was very high. I am sure Frank could smell the burnt odor.
Frank walked around to the back of the building to where there was a Buddhist cemetery. When he peered in he stopped and turned to me.
“Jack come here and take some photos. Also, who is that way over there?”
On the far end of the cemetery was a man in black sitting on a broken bench. Frank’s human eyes could not make out who it was, but with my digital eyes I could easily magnify and analyze. According to my specifications I can zoom in 80X optically and then because of my 27,000 dpi sensors I can electronically enlarge the image many times more than 80X. It was easy to do an Identification protocol on this man in black.
“It is Monsignor Angelo Pietro.”
“The fuck it is. Are you sure?”
“What the hell is he doing here?”
“I have no theories, Frank. Might I suggest we ask him?”
“No, let’s just pull back and keep an eye on him. With your eyes we won’t miss a thing. We can go by the rental car and still see him.”
From our car I could see the Monsignor was taking photos or maybe videos of the damage. From the routs caused by car tires on the lawn I surmised that much of the damage done to the funeral markers were caused by vehicles being rammed into them. That could not be done by public self driving cars. Only private vehicles with manual override could do that. Those were the only cars today that were capable of off road driving and only affluent people had such vehicles.
“Frank, he is talking to someone on his smartphone.”
“Can you hear or make out what he is saying?”
“Yes. . . . ‘This is Angelo, I’m at the Buddhist temple. . . . . . It is as I suspected. Totally uncalled for. . . . . . . . No.. . . . . . . . . . No, I don’t have a clue why they went postal. . . . . . . Maybe. . . . . I don’t know. . . . . . The entire temple is burnt out, but I will see if there is anything I can sample. . . . . Maybe so. . . . . I’ll see you in a couple of days. I want to talk to some of the congregation. . . . . . . Yes, one of the monks was killed. . . . I’ll see if any of the others will talk to me. . . . . . Who knows. . . . . Okay, Arrivederci.’ He has put his smartphone back in his pocket, sir. By the way, most of his conversation was in Italian so we might assume he was talking to someone in the Vatican.”
“I wonder what the Vatican finds so fucking interesting about a Buddhist temple that has gone crazy? That has got to be a connection with St. Clara’s. We need to talk to the same people he talks to so we can find out what happened here and why the good Monsignor is so interested.”
“He is coming out towards the street.”
“Scrunch down, let’s see if we can tail him.”
The Monsignor went to a car and sat in the front seat. A minute later the car started down the street. Frank ordered are car to follow the Monsignor’s vehicle. We continued to stay low so the Monsignor would not recognize us. Frank knew he wouldn’t notice as empty cars were often sent to fetch people or packages. That is what caused UPS to go bankrupt ten years ago. After about ten minutes the Monsignor parked in the parking lot for Beverly Hospital.
“Jack, I want you to follow him. Be surreptitious about it. See if you can record any audio.”
“Yes sir. That should be easy.”
No one really notices robots. Robots are used for nursing and orderly duties all the time now. And a personal robot would not raise an eyebrow, either. As I was dressed as a high functioning robot, I could easily stand outside a patient’s room and just look blank while my ultra sensitive hearing could easily record any conversations in a room. It was, as humans say, child’s play. I followed him into the main entrance area of the hospital. While he asked for the room of Bishop Noritaki Ito I quickly bought a bouquet of flowers to add purpose to my presence. From there we went up in the same elevator to the sixth floor. I did not have to worry about the Monsignor noticing I was Frank’s robot as I looked on the outside like a million other robots in Los Angeles. However, I was not like some cheap commercial robot with a business logo embossed on my forehead. That was not Frank’s or the Wall Street Journal’s style.
Once out of the elevator I fell back. If I lost him visually it would be very easy to find him by his voice, his infrared signature or even by scent. I had several options, but then I had heard the room number so it was not likely I would need to fall back on my sensors. Basically, I let him arrive at the Ito’s room about twenty seconds before I got there. Then all I had to do was stand by the door holding the flowers.
This is the audio I recorded – The first voice was Monsignor Angelo’s.
“Yes, I came all the way from Rome. Thank you for seeing me. How long will you have to stay in hospital?
“The doctors tell me I need another surgery tomorrow to set my leg. They did not have time to do that when they were dealing with my fractured skull.”
“Bishop, I cannot imagine the pain you must have been submitted to. Can you tell me what started this calamity?”
“I am sorry, it is all a little fuzzy to me. Everything was going on smoothly for the festival. We all enjoyed an outdoor picnic. More than 300 attended. Several hours after that some of the congregation started arguing and soon we had to break up a couple of fights. In twenty years I have never seen such a thing.”
“What were they fighting about? I remember talking to John Ho after we stopped him beating on Bobby Hiroto. He kept ranting about how Mr. Hiroto had disrespected his family by not marrying his cousin.”
“I don’t understand fully. Did he violate her or breakup with her?”
“No, the Ho and Hiroto family had made a contract under the old traditions and Bobby when he became of age ran off with a Westerner and shamed both families.”
“Do many families still do arranged weddings?”
“No, most do not. We were a very Americanized congregation. Of the over two hundreds families we have as members no more than ten have pursued arranged marriages. Anyway, we had to send the two men home. It was most embarrassing.”
“What happened next?”
“More fighting. Everyone seemed angry. Women were fighting with other women. People took sides. Then our assistant minister got in a fight with three women. They had told him that not all fathers are worthy of respect. They were sick and tired of his speeches telling them to be good respectful wives. When their husbands tried to stop them from verbally attacking Mr. Tasuki it became a free-for-all. It was soon after that I was injured. Someone took to their car and started ramming people. I tried to stop them, but I over reacted. I jumped on the car and started banging with my shoe the car roof. I don’t understand why I was so angry. The car took off and I fell. I don’t remember anything after that. I have been told over sixty people were hospitalized and twice as many as that had to have medical help.
Several of the members have visited me. They told me that it turned into a riot and the temple was burned down.”
“I saw it. It was very sad to see. Why were the graves attacked?”
“This is what I have only been told. It quickly evolved to where everyone became angry with their dead ancestors. They became enraged that their dead parents and grandparents had lied to them. They said there was no Buddha. There is self and everything we see in the world is real. Nirvana was a lie by the monks and the dead. Commemorative rites of the dead only enslave the living. And so not only the temple but the graves of the dead were attacked.”
“What made them reject their faith in Buddhism?”
“I don’t know.” After a long pause the injured Bishop said, “I don’t know. And to be honest Monsignor I don’t care. I no longer feel filled by the spirit of Buddha. I don’t feel his spirit in my veins or my heart. “
“So what the congregation feels you feel, too?”
“Yes, but for some reason I am not filled with the anger they have. I feel emptiness” said the Bishop in barely a whisper.
“Will you go back to your temple and rebuild?”
“No. Why would I?”
“Surely, you cannot abandon what has given you a just life?”
“Was it just?” asked the old monk.
“What will you do?
“I will find out what it is like to be me. You sound worried, my religious friend. Do you worry that your religion may die like mine?”
“Not if I can help it. Man cannot turn away from God and not pay a high price. My mission is to save these precious souls for God. My God is a jealous God.”
“So I have heard. I never understood why the Christian god had to be jealous if he was what he claimed to be.”
“I did not come to preach to you. I wanted to know what happened. We come from very different religions, but many of our goals are the same – to bring salvation. Buddhism did it through spiritualism. I respected your efforts. I believe Christ will judge you with mercy for your religion is one of peace.”
“Thank you my young priest. There are many of your faith you think we are just as damned as any not of their faith. But now I have no faith in anything. I wish I could believe in your God, but I feel as if all the idols have been smashed. Now I must find out where happiness dwells for it is no longer in my soul.”
“Thank you again. I will pray for you and your people.”
I could hear steps coming to the door so I immediately walked away from the door in the direction I guessed the Monsignor would not take. Instead of the elevator I took the stairs and hung back by the elevator door. I saw the Monsignor walk out of the elevator and head for the parking lot. I kept my distance and made my way back to Frank to report.
He had fallen asleep in the car, but woke up as soon as I opened the door.
Frank had the car follow the Monsignor again. This time he went to a hotel and into room 202.
“Well Jack, I’m tired. Wake me if the Monsignor makes another move.”
As usual Frank left the stake out up to me. I guess that is to be expected as only a robot can be trusted to watch day in and day out without pause. Humans are no good at that. They are distracted so easily. Anyway about an hour later I saw the Monsignor come out and get into his car. I ordered our car to follow and then woke up Frank.
“Sir, he is on the move.”
“Any idea where we are going?”
“Not at this point.”
After about thirty minutes the Monsignor arrived at a Japanese Restaurant called the Heavenly Palace. Frank thought it would be too suspicious to send either of us into the restaurant. Unfortunately, wherever the priest went inside the restaurant I could not hear him. “I think you will have to try and interview this person after the Monsignor leaves, sir.” looking at Frank and seeing him nod in agreement. It was just then that we saw the priest fly out of the restaurant. I could see blood flowing out of a wound on his right arm. Less than a second later a Japanese youth came flying out with a very large knife.
Frank barked at me, “Go Jack” but before he had finished this short sentence I already had the car door open and proceeded to run over and intervene. By the time I reached the Monsignor and his pursuer, the attacker had tackled the priest and then proceeded to beat the crap out of him. It only took me a second to restrain and drag away this very aggressive Japanese youth. Frank then arrived and started to help the now unconscious priest. I continued to hold the assailant and had called for the police and an ambulance. The assailant was yelling in Japanese that the priest was just as evil as the monks. Finally, the police came and took hold of the assailant from me and so I went over to the Monsignor and helped Frank. I put pressure on his arm to stop the bleeding. The poor man’s face looked a mess. Cuts and bruising were all over his face. He was breathing, but it was shallow. Finally after a full five minutes the ambulance came and they immediately took him away.
“Sir, you look a mess” I told Frank. He was covered in blood. Frank did not care. “I’m going to talk to the cops, Jack. It was kind of a mutual interview. The cops asked Frank what was going on. He played dumb like he just happened to see that attack and had ordered his robot to stop the attack. After the cop was done taking Frank’s statement he came and asked me questions. I responded truthfully to his questions. We robots don’t have a choice like you humans do. However, I did not volunteer any additional information which was easy to do since the officer was unaware of the connection of the temple riot and an attack on a priest.
After that Frank went into the restaurant and used their bathroom to wash up as best he could. He got plenty of stares from the patrons, but oddly, no one asked any questions about the attack. After seeing what happened to a nosey priest, Frank was not going to press his luck and ask any questions. Frank’s shirt was still rather bloody so we took our car to our hotel.
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