What makes Mike Delaney tick – life or death?
A space opens between life and death as the final breath is drawn.
It is infinitesimal yet limitless. Mike Delaney hovered in that space experiencing only the constant now. What had gone before and what was to come were as one, insubstantial, illusory, beyond memory.
An ancient belled tolled, deeply resonating, summoning the monks back to the world of matter.
They drew breath as one, a mass inhalation of cool air. Heart rates returned to normal; eyes opened and awareness returned.
Brother Rama, Humble Master of the Brothers Of Light, came to stand by the Irish American as he stood and towered above him. Gradually the other monks got to their feet blinking in the orange glow of a Californian sunrise and began to disperse.
You leave today, said Rama.
Yes, said Delaney. Thank you for allowing me to come here again this year.
You are very special to us, Rama said to him. You have rare talents and a good heart. But you still have a restless spirit.
Delaney smiled at the little monk, the one who had taught him so much, not just about the nature of existence but also the deadly martial arts techniques and meditative secrets that had been handed down within the order and whose origins were unknown.
You are right as always, Brother Rama, said Delaney as they walked across the stone floor of the meditation hall, their simple white gowns trailing in the dust, and out into the sunshine bathing the San Rafael mountains. Maybe one day I will stay for the rest of my life. That was my intention many years ago.
Try not to dwell upon the pain you endured back then. Rama advised. Let us not talk of it. You are welcome here at any time to stay as long as you wish.
Thank you. You know I need my regular fix of spiritual spring cleaning.
Rama laughed, a tinkling sound of tiny bells. I like the way you put things, Michael Xavier Delaney, he said. Yes, you are right. Our life here is a form of spring cleaning for the soul but all year round. Because? He looked up at Delaney.
Time is an illusion, the big man smiled.
And? questioned Rama.
Reality is that which cannot change.
Remember those conundrums, said the monk. I have spent a lifetime pondering those two tenets of wisdom. And I still have doubts and torture myself to understand.
They were standing outside the main building inside the monastery walls, a former Chumash Indian settlement.
\"I will leave you here\", said Rama.˜There is no need to book a reservation. Just come when you are ready.\"
The little monk bowed and pressed his palms together. Delaney did likewise. Rama smiled then turned a trotted lightly into the adobe-style main building.
Delaney walked back across the compound and into the cool colonnade where the individual cells were situated. Once inside his simple room furnished with a handmade wooden bed and a rack for his clothes, he changed into a sea island cotton shirt, dark chinos and a pair of soft leather casual shoes. He hung up his habit and packed the rest of his belongings into a small travel bag.
It was always a wrench to leave the monastery but he knew in his heart he could never commit to a lifetime of spiritual dedication. But, the times he spent here were precious to him. In many ways, this place was the only real home he had known since his Irish immigrant parents died and he had joined the army.
With one last glance back, Delaney walked out of his cell and headed out of the monastery and down to a flattened area of red mud and dead chaparral that served as the monastery car park.
He located his dark blue Chrysler parked under the shade of a makeshift canvas carport. It was thick with dust but started up the second time of asking.
Delaney negotiated the twisting, rocky track that led to the monastery entrance and onto a wider track that ran up into the mountains in one direction and down for many miles through rough terrain to the coast in the other.
Delaney headed for the coast and then turned inland to join the interstate and make the long drive back to Boston. He had plenty of time before his next assignment.
Opening chapter of new Mike Delaney thriller 'Good Girl Bad Girl' (work in progress)