Fiction - The Flower Lover
What does a stolen rare orchid, owned by
a "crazy" millionaire industrialist, have in common with the
death of a Seattle Assistant Superintendent of Schools? And how does it
relate to the "Yes on No" ballot initiative funding the
"Just Say No to Drugs" campaign? That's what investigative
journalist, Richard Garcia of the Seattle Reporter, is trying
to discover in THE FLOWER LOVER.
Garcia lives with his wife,
Sarah Good, who administers a homeless mission, The Good
Shepard, in downtown Seattle.
They have a baby daughter, Sally. Garcia
is a former Los Angeles University professor of American literature who
lost his position, in disgrace, for having an affair with a student. He
has found redemption in his love for Sarah and his commitment to
investigating political and moral corruption.
Garcia's investigations begin after being
summoned by millionaire Charles Llewellyn Colt II to hear the amazing
history of the Dendrobium bonitum orchid. Colt alternates
between lucidity and insanity but intrigues Garcia with his story and
sincerity. Discovered, and brought into cultivation, by plant hunter
John Mauldaur, in the 1880s, the Dendrobium possesses a flower
of great beauty. Colt wants Garcia to find the orchid, which was stolen
from him many years ago.
Garcia suspects there is more to the
story than Colt is disclosing. Not until later does Garcia learn that
the orchid is also the source of a potent drug that can treat the
genetic disease, porphyria. And, at the same time, Garcia learns of Dendrobium's
deadly side effects which have claimed the lives of Colt's children and
grandchildren, sufferers of the disease.
But first, Garcia is distracted into
following up on a previous story with his source, police detective Dan
Fields. Somebody in the school district has been selling morphine to
students and, like a recent popular movie, providing "sex
workers" to local high schoolers. All clues point to Assistant
Superintendent Robert Oprestig. In fact, during an early morning
clandestine meeting, Oprestig supplies Garcia with self-incriminating
photographs and documents. When Oprestig is found dead, hours later, and
a newspaper obituary links him to orchid cultivation, Garcia suspects a
link to the Dendrobium.
Investigating this link between sex and
drugs brings Garcia to the home of the "X-Lady," a sex-changed
woman with a enigmatic past. X now operates, under the approval of local
politicians, a call girl service for Seattle's power elite. Clues
gleaned from X and Mary, one of X's girls, point to a clique of
influential men parading under the banner of the "Orchid
Club." Before Garcia can learn any more, Mary is beaten by club
member, John Ferguson, ending up in the hospital. The next day, Mary
disappears and so too, does X. Garcia visits Ferguson in the
International District and finds the man dead.
Matters heat up when Garcia discovers
that the chairman of the "Yes on No" campaign, an amateur
actor named James Joyce, has been impersonating the deceased Robert
Oprestig. Joyce's twisted hope to elicit a public uproar by flooding the
schools with drugs backfires, inadvertently leading to Oprestig's death
by an unknown, but suspected Orchid Club, assassin.
In an exciting bicycle chase through the
streets of Seattle, Garcia is pursued by "Whitey," a
white-haired member of the Club who thinks Garcia possesses a notebook
belonging to Ferguson. Lifting Whitey's wallet during a confrontation,
Garcia finds the man's address in the San Juan Islands and the business
card of an import-exporter named Charles Ng. Later, Garcia barely
escapes Whitey by leaping his bike across an opening drawbridge.
Meanwhile, Detective Fields has found
information leading to a Colt granddaughter, living in Los Angeles. A
visit to Elizabeth Colt uncovers more information about the flower
lover, John Mauldaur, and the importance of using Dendrobium to
combat porphyria. Garcia also learns more about the Colt family history
and confirms his feeling that Charles Colt had more in mind for him to
find than just an orchid. Some of the answers may lie with John Mayer,
the business partner Colt despises.
This makes more sense to Garcia when he
returns to Seattle and learns that Whitey is none other than Charles
Colt's second grandchild, Burton Waldo Brower. Hatred for grandpa has
led the young man to change his surname to his mother's maiden name.
This link between the Colt family and the Orchid Club is troublesome,
especially in light of Whitey's background as a naval officer working
for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and NEST (Nuclear Emergency Search
Team), an NRC group trained to locate nuclear warheads that could be
hidden in the United States to be used as blackmail by terrorist
Garcia decides to pay a visit to Brower
but, before leaving, stops in to see importer Charles Ng first. Ng
physically attacks Garcia and is defeated. Garcia manages a confession
from Ng that links the Orchid Club to a group of super-patriots who
supply weapons to third world "wanna-be" dictators and
On Orcas Island, Garcia finds missing
call-girl, Mary, in Brower's house while the white-haired man is off,
running an errand. Oddly, she is being protected from the Club by
Brower. Garcia convinces the woman that Brower is not her friend and, in
return, learns that X has given her Ferguson's notebook. Brower returns,
almost catching Garcia. During the ensuing chase between Garcia and
Brower, across Rosario Strait in sea kayaks, Mary gets away, returning
to Seattle with the notebook and hiding out at the Good Shepard.
With help from his wife, Sarah, and Mary,
Garcia cracks the simple code of Ferguson's notebook. It turns out that
Ferguson, an employee of Charles Colt, was gathering data on
transactions of the Orchid Club. But the dead man's spelling is so poor,
the meaning of his words is misleading and confusing. With the help of
his friend, professor Laura Bernsen, Garcia gets access to Colt's
business partner, John Mayer, at the man's home during an alumni fund
Mayer is arrogant and displays a
not-so-secret collection of smuggled arms, believing himself impervious
to the law due to his high connections in government. He has been
pestered by Garcia's investigation and thinks that by demonstrating his
power and influence that he can buy or scare off Garcia. When this
doesn't work, he threatens Garcia with harm. In the nick of time,
leading a phalanx of homeless people who invade Mayer's mansion and act
as both diversion and screen, Sarah rescues Garcia.
With all the information now in his
hands, Garcia is able to properly interpret Ferguson's notebook. Mayer
is using the global connections of Colt Industries to buy and sell arms.
This has never bothered Colt very much until nuclear arms, from the
former Soviet Union, enter the deal. Mayer is too highly protected by
friends in government for Colt to back out of the operation. He has
Ferguson gather documentation with the plan to turn it over to the
press: Garcia. The only way Colt can get out of the nuke loop is to
feign insanity and thus be removed from the organization's trust.
Garcia is able, with help, to have the
Orchid Club's activities halted. The most incriminating evidence, once
it is translated properly, is Ferguson's notebook.
There is only one more mystery to solve
and that is the location of the last Dendrobium known in
cultivation. Garcia finds it in a greenhouse, owned by Colt's estranged
third grandchild, Karen.
-Science & Nature
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2009 Peter Stekel
All Rights Reserved.
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