Episode 17

The Missing Singers of the Universal Harmony Choir: Grace 3

Hi Micheal here, and welcome to the final part of Grace’s disappearance.

As we left off, it was near the end of May, 1999 and Grace’s father, Mark, had hired a private eye to find her, after she’d sailed off to the Caribbean with a self-help author suspected of smuggling cocaine.

Don Murphy, the private eye, had just convinced Mark that they contact Dutch Documentarian Teddy Vander Grass to help find his daughter.

Don had found out through a police source that Teddy was making an exposé about Captain Jameson, and he had valuable information as to the author’s whereabouts.

Also through his source, Don had obtained the filmmaker’s number, so he gave him a quick call to see if he was interested in helping.

Man, Teddy was excited to hear that Captain Jameson had made a young woman disappear. What was a cocaine smuggler without an abduction under his belt? The next day Teddy flew from Holland to the Mysterious Bluffs so he could hear about Grace first hand.

It was about noon at the airport when the film maker got out of customs and spotted Don holding a “Welcome Teddy” sign.

They were an odd couple from the handshake. Don was a bit plump, wearing an unspectacular grey suit, and sporting a starchy mass of red hair that was shaped like an oversized tadpole. He kind of looked like George Jetson as the lawyer in My Cousin Vinnie.

And at 6’4, he was almost a foot taller than Teddy.

Man, the film maker’s outfit was no cup of tea.

He looked like the disillusioned drummer of a sixties tribute band. He was unshaven and had a mop of stringy brown hair, and his bangs almost sagged over his John Lennon Bifocals. He was wearing cowboy boots, worn down jeans and a leather jacket. And you couldn’t miss his favourite cologne – ode to Jack Daniels in a thunderstorm – after he’d squeezed an extra bourbon out of the flight attendant during turbulence.

So Don and Teddy scooted over to the airport parking lot, hopped in Don’s Lincoln Town Car, and drove to the head office of Thor Printing.

Upon meeting the documentarian, Mark hesitated before shaking hands with him. He loathed associating with a sleaze ball who’d made a cannibal movie, though he’d tolerate him in order to find his daughter. Teddy didn’t seem to be effected by the hesitance, as though he’d been through it many times before.

Mark brought his associates to the board room, where a cold cut and cheese platter was waiting on the table. While they chowed down, Teddy lightened up Mark by mentioning a party where he’d hobnobbed with Reginald Dickinson, a famous archeologist that had recently discovered the remains of a 9th century Viking village in Greenland.

Mark blushed with admiration. He’d loved vikings since he was a child – but he had to ask Teddy, what kind of parties did a renown archaeologist meet the clown who made Cruise Ship Cannibals?

Teddy frowned a little. He was kind of insulted.

“Legitimate parties,” he said. “Every story I’ve covered can be proven true. Cruise Ship Cannibals isn’t just flash – it’s about the real world. Look, passengers go missing on cruise ships, and for different reasons. Most of them get drunk and fall off the deck, others are abducted and sold into sex slavery.

But I uncovered a case of cannibalism, that took place on the SS Greenhorn, while it was on route to Tahiti in the South Pacific.

A pay dispute erupted between the Cruise company and the crew members, and the life guard in charge of the pool was psychopathic killer on the run from his home country of Slovakia.

I mean, at the time, background checks were pretty lax, cause the guy’s passport was fake; and so was his water safety certificate, but the evil he brought with him was genuine. And it spread like a virus.

Before the crew realized that money wasn’t everything, the head chef had cooked up a passenger and served him at a birthday party for the Navigation officer.”

Mark stared at a wall, contemplating what he’d just heard.

He always trusted the 6 o’clock news – but now he felt like the truth doesn’t come out as much as it should, unless you watch a Teddy Vander Grass film.

Mark leaned over and patted Teddy on the shoulder.

“Please make a film about saving my daughter,” he said.

Well, Teddy had a bit of bad news for Mark. You see, he was a %110 ready to pursue the Captain Jameson story, but funding for the project had yet to come through. On top of that, Teddy had a great offer to do another project, though he really wasn’t interested in the angle of the story.

You see, it was a feel good biography about Marsha Merlot, the famous singer who, after a string of hits in the eighties, released five successful Christmas albums.

Man, Marsha singing the same carols over and over should have sounded like a turtle mugging an airhorn – but not with her production team calling the shots. They were about the value of variety, and you could tell it just by the funky album titles. The first album was called Rock’n’roll under the Misle Toe. The next album was Latin Love for Santa’s Helpers. She even did a Holiday rap album called Elves in the Hood.

Hearing this, Mark was a little hurt the Captain Jameson flick might be cancelled, but he was also thrilled to hear about Marsha Merlot.

She was one of Grace’s biggest inspirations for singing. In fact, a few years beforehand while on vacation in Florida, the family saw her perform a Christmas concert at Sea world.

Mark remembered the great Noel performance. Masha’s heavenly voice and dance steps were dazzling. And her red leather tights – they were the icing on the entertainment cake. She didn’t have a ounce in the wrong place.

And that cute little Santa hat on her lusciously long brunette hair. She looked so good in the hat, it made you want to wear one. By the way, they were available at the souvenir stand in case you wanted to show how devoted you were to Marsha.

Then something strange happened.

About half-way through Jingle Bell Rock, while every one was clapping along, she frowned like a squirrel eating lemon, and shouted into the mic that she was still pissed off about the Iran Contra Affair.

Man, most of the crowd looked confused, as though some kind of technical error had happened.

But her devout fans erupted with joy. A young lady near the stage raised her hands and screamed, “You go girl.”

A few others chanted, “Marsha for Pres. Marsha for Pres.”

The beloved singer wasn’t afraid to stick it to the people in power.

Grace loved the performance, even though she thought Marsha had mentioned Iran, because that’s where they make the Santa Hats.

Though it was against his best interests, Mark couldn’t resist asking why Teddy didn’t like the Marsha Merlot story.

Teddy said, ”Look, if I do this one little movie, I’ll be driving a Lamborghini for the rest of my life. But the producers want Marsha, the do-good saint, who makes families laugh and sing with Christmas cheer. They don’t want truth about her politics, her five ex-husbands, and her pill popping.”

“Pill popping?” Mark echoed.

“Yeah, pill popping,” Teddy answered, “that’s the truth about Marsha Merlot. Didn’t you hear what happened to her last year?”

“Not really,” Mark said.

Well, this is how Teddy explained the story:

Marsha had long been taking different meds from different doctors to cope with emotional issues. But after years of red pill this and blue pill that, she was driven to new levels of mental instability.

Her political rants became more extreme, until she reached her peak on the Stocking Stuffer tour. Right in the middle of Rocking with Rudolf, she’d chant Death to America a couple times, then smile as though she’d just graduated from militant training camp.

Later, during an interview, Marsha was asked why she made these kind of statements, and she said because not everyday is July the 4th.

After Grace’s dad heard this, you know what he said?

“I guess I don’t keep up on much.”

Well Teddy replied, “Then don’t make me do the Marsha Merlot story, or you won’t be keeping up much on your daughter.”

Mark squinted his eyes in frustration.

“What do you know about my daughter that I don’t?” He asked.

Teddy gave Mark a wry smile.

“I’ve got reliable info from an unnamed source about where the Captain is mooring his sailboat,” he said.

Mark pleaded for the info. He was ready to hop on a flight to save his daughter. Teddy said no way. It’s a highly sensitive situation, and if the wrong person tries to find her, well, need we say more.

Mark sat silent for a moment, his eyes burning with desperation.

Then the truth came out.

“What does it take to make the Captain Jameson movie,” he asked.

Teddy patted him on the shoulder.

“We can talk about it,” he said half-assuringly.

Well, the negotiation took a couple days, but by the end of it, Mark was an executive producer of, “The Self-help Smuggler.”

It was a documentary about Captain Jameson’s ties to organized crime, and the recovery of an innocent young woman he’d ruthlessly manipulated into slavery.

Mark would have preferred that the entire story be about his daughter’s abduction, but Teddy had convinced him that viewers would be more sympathetic about her struggle, if they understood the depth of the Captain’s corruption.

If he wasn’t involved with a zillion dollar drug empire, they’d think he was another wealthy buffoon running off with a gold digger.

Before Teddy got on with the documentary, he needed info about Grace’s life, and Mark was right there to help him. Over coffee at his house, he told stories about his daughter that showed she was a good natured human being who was loved by friends and family.

One story really caught Teddy’s attention.

You see, Grace volunteered at an exotic animal zoo that had come to the Mysterious Bluffs one summer.

It was a good-natured charitable thing to do, as she could have earned some serious clams working at her family’s printing business.

She found out about the zoo from reading the notice board at a local community centre, and worried that she’d never get a better opportunity.

She emailed pronto to request a position, writing that her family owned a truly unique animal: A Japanese Bobtail cat. Also Grace wrote that she planned to go to veterinarian school, and that she’d spent many hours watching wildlife shows like ‘The secret life of elephants’.

Of course, the story about the Japanese Bobtail cat wasn’t quite noble. In reality, Grace’s family owned a tabby cat that had eaten it’s share of Sashimi.

Grace’s mom always ordered a goody box for the little tiger when the family went out for Sushi.

And Grace’s claim about veterinarian school – well, it was Mark’s doing she said that. One night, the family was watching a show called ’Animal Doctors’, and Mark became emotional after a sick sea lion was rescued from a barren island and brought back to health in captivity.

He told Grace, “she should do the right thing and become a veterinarian.”

Man, the encouragement resonated in her heart.

None-the-less, Grace got the position because she was good natured, and who could be bothered to vet a volunteer that filled water troughs, and answered a few questions to visitors.

Nobody suspected Grace was full of white lies. In fact, her email would have been considered %110 honest if she hadn’t felt guilty about getting the position so easily. How did she mess up the con job? She told her mom the BS about the Japanese Bobtail Cat. But really, her mom didn’t care. Isn’t caring about a white lie as petty as the lie itself?

Not if you’re Teddy Vander Grass.

When Mark told Teddy about Grace’s volunteer job, he meant to show how good natured she was. But he also included the part about her lying in the email, because eventually his wife had let him in on the secret, and he couldn’t keep it himself.

After hearing this, Teddy wanted to blow the lid off Grace’s white lie and portray her as the architect of her own fate. He assured Mark that the Japanese Bobtail Cat story is the same kind of BS that landed Grace on Captain Jameson’s sailboat.

You see, according to Teddy, those who white-lie to impress others, must also be impressed by white-lies themselves. How else would they learn that white-lies are impressive?

So when Captain Jameson flooded Grace with white-lies about the Caribbean, she was as guilty as him for saying them.

Well Mark said, “You are treating my daughter like she’s some kind of Marsha Merlot with five ex-husbands. Grace hasn’t had a chance to learn that hell is heaven blindfolded.”

Teddy laughed anxiously.

“Will it be the Captain’s fault if your daughter’s dead?” He asked.

Mark looked in him the eye and said, “only if you do a good job of busting his ass for drug smuggling.”
Well that was that. Teddy let it be.

So Mark told him a couple more light hearted stories about Grace, than he asked for pictures and video clips of her.

Mark dug out an old photo album, and gave Teddy pictures of her opening presents on her birthday and eating turkey on thanksgiving. Mark looked on his computer and found a video clip of her singing on Easter Weekend.

Teddy said that Grace looked pleasant. And she’d do great as the calendar girl for a backwoods baptist church.

He wanted pictures of her howling at a graduation party, or spilling drinks on spring break.

Well, Mark winced with disgust. He insisted that Grace never socialized fruitlessly.

She kept friends that shared her productive values.

She hung out with Chasity and Hope because they sang together beautifully.

She also had a guy-friend named Maurice. Occasionally, they got together to share their love for cats and math. Mark had a picture of them studying for an algebra exam, or he had one of them teaching the cat to shine silverware.

Teddy couldn’t believe his ears.

“Did she do anything that wasn’t incredibly average?” he asked.

Mark slammed his fist on the table.

“There’s nothing wrong with being normal,” he declared.

But then he remembered when Thor printing first opened up and how average it’s competition had been. They were the companies he ran out of business.

“Well, when Grace was younger, she was a tom boy,” he said. “Grace dressed up as a cowboy every Halloween, and she watched kick-boxing on TV.”

Teddy snickered disappointedly.

“That’s not a big deal,” he said. “You must have pictures of her drinking in a bikini.”

Mark sighed with discomfort. Teddy had never seen the pictures of Grace in the letters she’d sent from the Caribbean; the ones of her on a warm beach with blue sky and ocean in the background.

“Yeah, I’ve got a couple shots of her,” he admitted. “But she’s not drinking.”

A day later Teddy flew to Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic, where he had been informed Captain Jameson was residing.

The self-help author was mooring his schooner at the Seven Seas Marina, which was located just outside the Caribbean tourist hotspot.

From the airport Captain Jameson took a cab to the Starfish Resort and Casino, where he’d made a reservation.

It was located on a white sand beach, and within walking distance to the marina.

Well, a little problem arose at the front desk. The clerk informed Teddy that his ocean view room had been double booked because of a golf tournament in town.

But they could transfer him to the Caribbean Dynasty Super 8 for free, or for a modest charge, they could upgrade him to a seashore villa, which came with an exclusive oceanside veranda, a heart-shaped jacuzzi, and a complementary bottle of rum.

Well, Teddy jumped over the free booze, and shortly after he was in his luxury digs, enjoying a shot or two while he unpacked, then another shot or two while he readied his video equipment.

Man, the smooth feeling of high octane rum made him want to stick it to the people in power.

He shaved, put on a fresh shirt, then peed in the heart-shaped jacuzzi. “This one’s for you, Captain Jameson,” he said.

And out the door he went.

On his way to the Seven Seas Marina, the hot sun and dense humidity were almost overbearing. Teddy nearly staggered along the beach-side boardwalk.

His lungs felt like wet dish rags, he wiped his forehead many times, and his hands were so moist that he could barely grasp the handle of his camera case.

He could barely appreciate the turquoise waves rolling onto the white sand, and the hills of mysterious jungle lurking behind the city.

A tiny lady selling jewelry stopped him and said he’d look great wearing a necklace with a shark tooth on it.

Teddy said, “No way. I’m not here to mess up the ecosystem.”

At the end of the boardwalk, Teddy followed a road through a condo area until he reached the Seven Seas Marina, which was a peninsula with a few manmade waterways.

Docks were lined along the shores, and all kinds of pleasure crafts were moored on them. The rest of the area was solid ground filled with palm trees, bright grass, and small buildings.

Teddy pulled the welcome bell at the entrance gate, and he soon was greeted by a coconut-tanned blond beauty with a boob job crammed into a tube top.

“Hi I’m Marcie,” she said, in a smooth ocean-toned voice.

She asked Teddy if he was a guest. He answered yes, and stated that he was there to see Captain Jameson.

“Oh him,” Marcie said, sounding kind of turned off.

She explained that his sailboat was docked at the marina, but he hadn’t been around for a few weeks.

Teddy insisted it was important he speak to the Captain, and she must know where he could find him.

Marcie’s face turned sour with frustration.

“I don’t know a thing about him,” she said. “Excuse me, my daiquiri is melting.”

She turned around to leave, but Teddy stretched his hand through the gate and grabbed her coconut-tanned shoulder.

“I’m making a tell-all documentary about the Captain,” he said, “so I need the goods on him.”

Marcie giggled in disbelief, but she turned back around.

“A tell all documentary,” she echoed. “Who are you?”

The documentarian licked his news-worthy lips, and stared straight into her eyes.

“Teddy Vander Grass,” he said.

Marcie blushed with joy.

“Cruise ship cannibals – I have it on video,” she said. “You know, I used to act in high school.”

Teddy smiled as though he’d met the next Lauretta Young.

Marcie ran a hand through her blond hair, then she fixed her tube top. You know, it was a little small and an accident might happen.

“Absolutely,” she said. “Just tell me what to say, baby.”

Teddy gripped her shoulder again.

“Tell me every dirty detail about the Captain,” he said, “and we’ll make it work for the camera.”

Marcie opened the gate, then brought Teddy to the reception dock, where they sat at a table, underneath a palm-thatch sun umbrella.

Teddy nodded approvingly at the big boats in all directions. The luxurious location was ideal for hearing the truth about Captain Jameson.

Marcie offered Teddy a daiquiri. He said ok, to make her comfortable on camera. He didn’t like sweet drinks.

A minute later a blender was buzzing in a nearby building. Marcie was hard at work. All the while Teddy was setting up his camera and a couple microphones.

When Marcie arrived back, Teddy promised that he won’t push the record button until her story is straight.

He sipped his fresh daiquiri, then asked her a question.

“When did you first meet Captain Jameson?”

She frowned like a victim of a narcissist.

“My husband owns this marina,” she said. “He’s been hosting the Captain for years.”

“You must have a lot to tell me about him,” Teddy said.

Marcie smiled proudly.

“Well, not really,” she said. “You see, I married Frank a few months ago after we met at a casino. The captain introduced us, and we decided to wing it.”

“How did you know the Captain?” Teddy asked.

“I met him at a black jack table,” she said. “He bought me into a game, then Frank joined us.”

“And the Captain wasn’t bothered that Frank moved in on you?”

“Well, the Captain is busy with other people,” she answered.

“The guy that stays with him,” she said, “you know, they’re close friends.”

“What guy?” Teddy said.

“The blond haired guy – Gabriel. You know, the Kick boxer.”

“Captain Jameson is good friends with a Kick boxer?” Teddy asked.

“Yeah, they’ve been staying here since last year,” she said. “Except now they’ve gone to Switzerland.”

“So they’re having a vacation within their vacation?” Teddy asked.

“No, Captain Jameson said that Gabriel needed an operation so he could feel more comfortable. Switzerland was the best place to have it done.”

“Well, it must have been for a kick boxing injury,” Teddy added.

Marcie shrugged her shoulders.

“I don’t know for sure. My guess is the injury has to do with the black turtle neck Gabriel always wears. Why else would someone would wear a black turtle neck in tropical weather?”

A light bulb went off in Teddy’s mind:

Grace was a tom boy who watched kick boxing on TV. She sailed off to the Caribbean with Captain Jameson, who now was sharing his boat with a kick boxer named Gabriel.

Teddy went into his camera case, and dug up the pictures of Grace on the beach.

He showed the pictures to Marcie then asked if Gabriel resembled Grace at all.

Marcie said the likeness was uncanny. They could have been twins for all she knew.

“Did Gabriel have a man’s voice when he spoke?” Teddy asked.

Marcie looked both ways, to make sure nobody was listening.

“I shouldn’t say this, but Captain Jameson asked me not to speak with Gabriel out of respect.

Gabriel is mute, and he doesn’t need to feel uncomfortable about it.”

Teddy couldn’t believe his ears.

“Does Gabriel know sign language?”

Marcie shrugged her shoulders.

“If he did, I never saw him use it. He could kick and punch really good though. He used to practice martial arts by the Captain’s sailboat.”

This statement baffled Teddy even more. According to Grace’s dad, she was a singer who loved cats and math. Mark never mentioned she was athletic.

“When I first mentioned the Captain,” he said, “you were displeased to hear about him. Why is that?”

“Well, his behaviour around the marina is unacceptable,” she said. Everyday at noon, he goes to his favourite restaurant, orders the groper special – excuse me – the grouper special – and then finishes off a bottle of rum.

Afterwards, he returns to the marina, changes into a bath robe, grabs a bottle of massage oil, and prowls the docks, in search of anyone with a sore back.

Teddy let out an offended sigh. He never heard this sort of thing about the Captain.

“Didn’t your husband stop him?” He asked

“No, they’re in some kind of business together,” she said. “I don’t know what they do, but Frank won’t dare upset the Captain. Not even when he massages my back.”

“Why do you let him?” Teddy yelled.

Marcie looked downward in shame.

“He promised to make me a character in his next novel,” she said. “I’m disgusted by the massages, but getting my name in his book is worth it.”

Teddy envisioned the documentary he was about to make.

He pictured a sixty year old actor in a bath robe and a captain’s hat. He pictured big boats and massage oil.

Then Teddy thought about something bad that had happened on his 50th birthday – Teddy fired his secretary because he was drunk and couldn’t get favours from her. He had to pay $5000 for her to sign a non-disclosure agreement.

And there were other women whom Teddy didn’t have an agreement with; and they would surely call out his unscrupulous deeds, if he made a movie that exposed a self-help author who can’t keep his massage oil to himself.

“I don’t have the heart to make this documentary,” Teddy said.

“It’s not fair on the Captain. He’s suffered all his life, just to tell his story. I’d rather let the world know that Marsha Merlot is the best Christmas singer who ever lived.”

Marcie jumped up with excitement, and almost had a tube top accident.

“I have all of her albums,” she said. “Well, all of her Christmas albums.”

That evening, when Teddy was back at the resort, he called Mark, and first of all, gave him the good news. His daughter Grace was alive and well in Switzerland, though she might be calling herself Gabriel, and suffering from a kick-boxing injury.

Then Teddy sighed a little and gave Mark the bad news.
The Captain Jameson documentary would have to relocate to Europe, and it’ll cost three times as much to make.

As the film’s executive producer, Mark felt like his belt was strangling his pants.

“Why don’t we cancel the movie, and I’ll find Grace on my own,” he said.

Though it was exactly what Teddy wanted to hear, his face went tomato red.

“You either compensate me for my time,” he said, “or my lawyer will make Grace a star in the next Sound of Music.”

So Mark made Teddy a juicy deal to terminate the project, then hired a private detective in Switzerland to find his daughter.

Unfortunately, the detective wasn’t the most competent fellow.

He was a whippersnapper, who’d been a cop for a couple of years, then decided he didn’t need a boss.

He assured Mark that finding his daughter would be a cinch, because she was with a famous self-help author.

Well, he was no super sleuth. After a few months of searching, he read in the news that the Captain had passed away in Amsterdam from a cocaine overdose.

And he couldn’t find Grace or Gabriel. He’d visited every Swiss hospital that hosted international patients, but couldn’t get records of who’d been there.

He went to kick-boxing events in Geneva and Bern, walked up and down aisles, showing audience members her picture, and nobody recognized her.

So Mark dismissed the detective, and went into therapy.

Getting a therapist was a positive experience for Mark. Once a week, he laid down on a leather couch and spoke his mind to Jane Wembley, a bright, young professional.

He talked about his childhood, his marriage, the kids, and all sorts of personal things. Eventually, he fully understood that his love for Grace could never be taken away from him.

Though he needed a couple meds to keep him going, his family life and business remained in order.

That was until Christmas with Marsha was released.

The feel-good documentary was a smash hit from day one, and continued in cinemas long after the holiday season. Teddy Vander Grass had risen above all expectations, and created a fun-loving spectacular about a modern vocal master.

Hearing about the film’s success put Mark’s brain in high gear.

He wondered about what could have been if the Captain Jameson flick had been made. If Mark had shelled out more dough, would Teddy have made a miracle happen and reunited him with his daughter, and for millions of fans around the world?

Well, anyone who spends life wondering about what could have been will eventually snap, and Mark was no exception:

It was a clear and cold morning in late February when Mark arrived at his office.

So this chilly winter day was busy for Mark. The moment after he sat at his desk, he was on the speaker phone with a major client, who was thinking about switching to another printing company.

Mark’s secretary Betty, who is the sweetest older lady you’ll ever met, came in his office and noticed that his phone call wasn’t going well, and he didn’t have a coffee.

Now, she knew better than anyone that he was kind of fussy about his coffee, but he had this perturbed look on his face; the look of a wild bear in desperate need of caffeine. If he had a sip or two while he was listening to his client, he might be in better shape to negotiate.

She got him a cup with two teaspoons of sugar in it – close enough for a boss who needed to relax in a hurry.

Well, the moment she put the cup down on Mark’s desk, his client put him on hold.

Now, the on-hold music was Jingle Bell Rock sung by a female singer. Then a male host announced that if you were one of the squares who hadn’t seen Christmas with Marsha, well, it was held over until April.

Grace’s voice popped into her father’s head, saying that anything was better than a Christmas Movie in April, even a coffee he didn’t make on his own.

Mark had the biggest gulp he’d ever taken, and man,
it tasted like the devil had poured turpentine in it.

Mark jumped up, put hands around Betty’s neck, and squeezed and screamed.

By the time his client came back on the speaker phone, a couple of employees had wrestled him to the ground while another was calling 911.

To make a long story short, the judge gave Mark nine years for aggravated assault. It was understood that he was a first offender who had recently lost a daughter, but his ex secretary Betty had sustained life threatening injuries.

The good news is that Betty recovered as best she could, and with her compensation from the civil trial, she was able to buy a brand new condo and do some traveling. And she made her first destination the Dominican Republic.

End of the Mysterious Bluffs Part 17.

Thanks for listening.