A Religious Obsession


Canyon Trader

Chapter 1

Val Tyler answered a call from his wife, Mary Ann, at his desk in the Sacramento Police Department.  He knew it was her because his iPhone displayed the name of the caller.  He was constantly amazed at the features of his iPhone and talked it up to anyone who would listen.  Mary Ann said that he had received a call from Dale at Sunrise Park telling  him about an “emergency board meeting” called for Saturday morning.  Val was the President of the Board of the Naturist Park which had been going through reorganization lately.  This was probably another crisis, thought Val.

“I’ll check my calendar and call him a bit later.  I’m working on a report now that has to get done by 10:00.”, he said.  “O.K. let me know later”, said Mary Ann and rang off.

Val quickly punched up his iCal and saw that he had a golf date at 1:00 P.M. on Saturday so that would leave time in the morning for the board meeting.  He decided to go ahead and give Dale a call and looked him up in his contacts list and let the iPhone dial the number.  “Sunrise Park, Dale speaking.”,  the voice said.  

“Dale, this is Val Tyler returning your call.  What’s up?”

“Val, we have a situation with the county that will require a consensus from the board and I thought we could get it resolved with a quick meeting on Saturday at 10:00 A.M.  Can you attend the meeting here at the club house?”, asked Dale.  

“If it is important of course I will be there.  See you at 10:00.”  replied Val.

Sunrise Park had been in a state of change over the past year.  They had changed the name from Sunrise Ranch to Sunrise Park and had reorganized into a co-op based group and sold shares to the members.  It also had sold off 18 of the 20 RV sites to raise money.  The co-op still charged a rental fee plus utilities but the owners had exclusive use of their space.  

The co-op also maintained cabins for rent and made the clubhouse available for group meetings.  The rest of the 30 acre park was used for recreational activities like swimming, hiking, running and sports such as tennis.  All in all, the new organization seemed to be working and the finances were back on track.  It would never be in the Fortune 500 but at least it would not go broke.  The income was just enough to pay a small staff and the monthly costs.  

Val called Mary Ann and told her that he would be able to go to the meeting and then still make his golf game in the afternoon.  Mary Ann said that she and Ellen, her sister, would go to the Park and spend the afternoon around the pool.  It all sounded like a good plan to Val since Ellen was also on the board in two capacities.  She was the Secretary and acting Activities Director.  Ellen had become really interested in the naturist group a few years ago after Val and Mary Ann had told her about their involvement with the group.  Nudism had been totally foreign to her and initially she rejected the idea.  She was especially taken aback when she found that her parents were also socializing with a nudist group in Kansas.  After learning more from her sister she decided to visit Sunrise a few times and soon was a full-fledged member and active in the operations and the planning of activities.  Ellen was a great worker and willing to devote the time and effort that were always required in groups like these.  She had also met Richard at the club and they were dating on a regular basis now.  He worked at some unusual job that took him out of town often.  Ellen did not talk much about his work and he did not offer much detail either.  

Val concentrated on his reports now that the arrangements were in place for the Saturday meeting.  He had nagging thoughts about the “emergency”, though, and was not quite able to get them out of his mind.  The association had been going through some bad financial times and membership problems.  As the members grew older it seemed that new younger members were not joining the club.  Joining a naturist club did not seem to be of interest to the younger set.  Perhaps the members appeared old fashioned and out of touch.  As today’s instant society grew, the idea of socializing in the nude might be quaint and uninteresting to those looking to improve their lives.  The number of members had leveled off during the last few months and Val could not figure out what the emergency meeting would be about.

On Saturday morning Val picked up Ellen and they drove out to Sunrise Park.  It was about 30 minutes from the city so they had some time to talk.  Ellen was also baffled by the need for a special meeting and said she had no idea why they needed to be called out.  She thought things were going quite well and that they were even getting some new interest.  The member numbers were up by 2 at least and there were more prospects who had visited once or twice to find out about the club and its resources.  They  always encouraged prospects visit a few times before paying dues for the year.  This policy seemed to make sure that new members would have a good understanding of the club’s policies and the new folks would have a more satisfactory experience if they used the “trial” period.

Chapter 2

Val and Ellen arrived right on time for the 10:00 a.m. meeting and quickly changed and left their clothes in their lockers.  The rest of the board was sitting around the large table in the recreation room when they arrived.  Val quickly called the meeting to order and since there was no other business he asked Dale, the manager, to take the floor and explain the “emergency”.

Dale explained that the County Planning and Zoning Commission had notified him that there would be a hearing about the renewal of Sunrise Park’s operating permit.  In the past the organization had applied for and received the permit renewal every five years without incident but this time there was going to be a public hearing about the renewal and interested parties could submit opinions and other items of interest.  

“I have a contact on the Commission.” said Dale.  “He has let me know that there will be opposition to the renewal of our permit.  Up until now we have operated in this basically agricultural zone with a limited tenure conditional use permit.  That means that although this area is zoned AG we could use it for other purposes like our club, etc.”

“Every five years we have to renew the permit and it has always been a rubber-stamp approval.  Now the small lot on the west side of your property has been purchased by a group who thinks our operation should not be here and they are trying to get our permit denied.  We have to defend ourselves now even though we have a proven track record and have absolutely no offenses.”, Dale continued.

Val asked, “Who are these new owners?”

“A group called Children of the Savior”, Dale answered.  “They were gifted the land by the old lady who owned it.  She split it among her kids and this group and the kids sold their land quickly to Al Ferrier who blended it into his properties.  The remaining small piece borders our land for about 400 feet and the river for about another 400 feet.  Al tried to purchase the lot but the group saw an opportunity and refused to sell.”

“What is their agenda?”, asked Ellen.

“They are a fundamental religious group that is trying to forward their beliefs using the local government and zoning rules.  They hate our policies and think our behavior is immoral and should be abolished.  We, of course, disagree and will have to prove that we are not a threat to society at all.  This has never been a problem in this area of California before but now these groups are spreading their ideas throughout the country using TV, radio, and all sorts of convincing methods.  They take in millions of dollars and are willing to use them to defeat our way of life.”  Dale was very clear in his explanation of the situation.  

“It should not be much of a problem.” Val stated.  “We have a good record and have not caused anyone any grief.  We are out here in a rural area basically by ourselves and never have had much attention at all.”

“Well, Val, there is more to it than that.  My contact at the commission saw some pictures the group has that support their position.  It seems they have photographic evidence that could be damaging to us.  For example they have pictures of a member launching his canoe from the area and drifting down the river.”  Dale replied.

“That probably would be me.” said Paul Reed.  “I sometimes put into the river there and paddle down river to my brother’s place.  I usually do not bother to dress when I have done that.”

“Another item is photos of a family having a picnic lunch there on the slope.  They are simply enjoying the day but must be in view of the folks on the other slope.”, Dale expressed.

“Our family sometimes uses that area for a quiet time away from the club activities.” said Emily Paulson.  “It has always been so isolated that we never thought there would be a problem.”

“Also, they have photos of people having sex under that great oak down there.” Dale stated the last and final bit of evidence that he knew about.

Ellen spoke up, “Richard and I have used that area a couple of times, well maybe more, late at night and have had sex there.  It has always been in the dark without a moon, etc.  Sorry if we have caused any problems.”

Dale was quick to say, “Ellen, some of the most exciting times I can remember is when I have had sex outside.  You and Richard have nothing to apologize for.”

Howard Emerson was having some problems with the whole thing.  He could not figure how photos were taken in the dark of night and for that matter during the day without the subjects seeing who was doing the photography.  He was a scientist and always looked for the technical aspects of any problem before others had a chance to even consider them.  He said, “How can you have photos taken in the dead of night that are clear enough to present evidence of anything.  Also, to photograph the Paulson family you would have to have a 2,000mm lens and a very good camera.  The nearest location is over 1/4 mile away from that hillside.”

“Right,” said Val.  “But they must have something convincing or they would never bring this up.  We have to think outside of the box and try to counter these charges.  I think the first two are so benign that the commission will disregard them. The third charge carries much more importance though since it is illegal to perform sex acts in public view.”

Helen Waite, the Treasurer of Sunrise spoke up at this point.  “Val, I may have something of importance to this matter.  It is in my place and if we can wait a few minutes I will go and get it.”

Val had called a recess for 15 minutes to allow Helen time to bring whatever she had back to the recreation hall.  Meanwhile, he and the others were quietly trying to figure a valid reply to the charges that were to be brought against the group.  They were not having much luck when Helen returned.

“Let me explain why I was down in that area last week.  I was birding, Birding in the Buff I call it, and was chasing a lifer that was migrating through and it led me to the area around the old oak in the southeast part of the park.  It is never used by most of us since most of the facilities are not located there anyway.  I was using my spotting scope to try to find the lifer and noticed some strange activity there.  About 7 people were gathered around and using some equipment.  I thought it was a strange place for them to be and I took a few pictures with my 400 mm lens.  The distance was still pretty great but with my 16 mega pixel camera you can enlarge the pictures quite nicely.  I think you will find the subject of interest.”  Helen said.

Val took one look at the enlarged pictures and immediately said that he recognized the woman in them.  He also thanked Helen and asked for a deferral of the rest of the meeting until the next Tuesday evening at 7:00 p.m.  The motion was approved and the meeting was over in time for Val to make his 1:00 p.m. golf date and for Ellen to join Mary Ann for an afternoon around the pool.

Chapter 3

Around 9:00 a.m. on the following monday morning Val was driving toward the center of Sacramento business district.  He knew his destination and was glad to see that his theory was right when he saw Rosie Chavez on the corner.  She bent over his driver’s window and said, “Hi Val, what’s up?”

“Rosie, I’m looking for Mary the Magnificent.  Have you seen her around lately?”

“She has a place a few streets over.  I go there sometimes when this business gets too much to bear.  I’ll give you her address and phone, Val.”

Val thanked Rosie and drove to the neighborhood where Mary had her apartment.  He parked, went up to the fourth floor, and knocked on her door.  Mary asked who was calling at this hour and when she heard Val’s name she immediately opened the door and asked him in.

Mary was wearing a transparent gown that clearly showed why she was called “The Magnificent”.  She had the most perfect body that Val had ever seen.  “Hey Mary, thanks for seeing me.”  Val said.

“Sure has been a while Val.  Where have you been keeping yourself?”

“I transferred out of Vice about 5 years ago, Mary.  I am working with the Detective Bureau now and we don’t get too many Vice cases.”

“Well, you certainly did me some big favors and kept me out of some deep trouble back them.  You sponsored me into the drug rehab program and probably saved my life at the same time.  I was involved with some pretty bad characters and doing some pretty dumb things.  You know, I sort of miss seeing you around, Val.”

“Vice is tough work, Mary, and I am not getting any younger you know.”

Mary laughed. “You look real good to me, Val. If you ever need anything just let me know.”

Val explained to Mary that he actually needed some information about a job she did a few weeks ago that involved an outdoor photo shoot down near the river.  She told him about the film and how she had been cast with John Long and Ruben Suarez to do some outdoor sex scenes that would be believable. They got about 20 minutes of good video and the director called the session off saying that it was plenty.  Everyone got paid full wages and were assured that the video would not be distributed at all.  Mary told Val that she started doing videos when the economy tanked and the street became like a ghost town.


Val asked Mary for the name of the makers of the video and she offered the firm name API films from San Francisco.  “API is an acronym for Always Porn Industry.” She said.

“Acronym is a pretty good $20 word, Mary.  When did you start using that type of language?”

“Val, I have a Masters degree in English from U.C. Berkley.  Not all of us are just dumb drop-outs you know.

“Of course, you are right, Mary.  Thanks much for your help.  I have to make an unscheduled trip to the City now so I’m out of here.”

“No problem, Val.  If you need more information just let me know.  Also, if you need some stress relief you can call me anytime, you know.”

Val thanked Mary again and assured her that he did not need “stress relief”.

On the way to S.F.  Val called his boss and told him that he needed some time for a special project and that he would make up the time to the department.  The Captain was not worried about any make-up time and told Val to take as much as he required.

Val found the firm of API Films doing business out of an old warehouse in the south of Market area.  It looked like a real business with signs over the door and a receptionist who paled a bit when Val flashed his badge and identified himself.  She buzzed her boss who came quickly to the front desk and ushered Val into his office.

The manager got out a binder that contained their business license, Federal Tax information, and various other permit forms.  “We are completely above board and legal.” he was quick to say.

Val explained that he did not question the legitimacy of the business at all and only wanted some background information about a short film they had made a few weeks ago.  He told the manager who was in the cast and the location of the scene.  He also told the manager that he wanted to know how this film was financed and who had paid for it.

Managers in the pornography business obviously did not want to get into trouble with the law in any way and the guy was not happy about giving out the details asked for by Val.  First, Val asked for the permission release form from the owner of the property.  The manager said that they had been assured that the person who paid the bills was also the owner of the river front property where the film was made.  When Val assured the manager that this was not the case he offered the name, Richard Spence, and the office manager acknowledged that was indeed the person who placed the order and paid the bills for the film.  The dots began to connect in Val’s head and he was sure he was onto a solution of the whole problem.

As he drove home Val realized that he was going to get back from the city late but still decided to stop by Mary’s apartment building and try to catch the property manager before he left for the day.  He did exactly that and walked into the manager’s office at 4:50 p.m.  After flashing his badge and identifying himself Val asked to see the lease agreement for Mary’s apartment.  The manager produced the document and photo copies of the last two monthly rental payments.  Val took the copies, thanked the manager and drove home. 

Chapter 4

The following morning Val picked up Alan Fleer, the Pastor of the First Methodist Church in Sacramento and drove to the corporate offices of the Children of the Savior.  He told the receptionist that they wanted to see Richard Spence and was told that Mr. Spence was very busy and did not see anyone without a prior appointment.  Val asked the woman to say it was about “Sunrise”. They were immediately shown in to the minister’s office. 

“I can only give you a few minutes because I have to record a new sermon at 10:30.” said the perfectly dressed minister.  

“Hopefully, this will not take long.  We are here to ask you to withdraw your petition for the Planning & Zoning Commission to request a public hearing about the renewal of Sunrise Park’s conditional use permit. This permit has been in effect for quite a few years and the park has been in operation for over 25 years in one form or the other.  The location is basically zoned agricultural and there are no other property owners, businesses or residents that are impacted by the club’s presence.”  Val explained.

“Perhaps, you do not understand why we are going ahead with this request.  Our church thinks the things that go on at the club are immoral, sinful, and against the word of God.  We have worked long and hard to procure a position of influence and finally we have that position.  The Church Board of Trustees voted to convince the Planning & Zoning Commission that the renewal will be the same as allowing liquor to be sold near a church and that sort of thing.  We have accumulated evidence that the members of the club act in sinful manner and even do it in the daytime.”  Spence retorted.

“By evidence, I assume that you mean these photos that your group had taken with an illegal camera placed on Sunrise Park’s property.”  He said as he offered two photos to Spence.  “These photos show some of our actual members doing wholesome activities that are common to our organization.  The fact that they do these things unclothed is not reason enough to condemn the members or the club.”

Val turned the discussion over to Alan Freer who tried to explain the real situation to the irate minister of the Children of the Savior.  He told of the cross-section of people who belong to Sunrise and of the types of activities that happen there.  Alan related that he had been a member of the club for over 15 years and that his congregation knew of his involvement with the group.  

Spence did not seem impressed and said, “You and your small group of followers have obviously been corrupted by the sinful ways that exist here and within this group.  Our plan is to eliminate the possibility of your group continuing to spread this vile lifestyle and ruin the futures of the children of this community.  I see no reason to discontinue this effort.”

“So,  you refuse to consider withdrawing your request under any circumstances.  Is that a correct statement?”  Val asked.

“That is a correct assessment of our position.  Now if you will excuse me I have to prepare for the video session that I mentioned.”

“There’s only one other thing.  I had hoped to avoid this at all costs but it seems there is no alternative.”  Said Val.

Alan looked quite surprised when Val took some additional documents out of his briefcase and slid them across the desk for Spence to see.

The minister seemed to pale and had little to say as Val continued to outline the actions he was to take before the meeting on Thursday.

“First, you will immediately withdraw your request to be on the agenda of the Planning & Zoning Commission meeting next Thursday.  Second, you will call Al Ferrer and entertain an offer for the property that borders the Sunrise boundaries.  He is a fair man and will give you a fair price for the acreage.  Third, you will have the illegal cameras removed from Sunrise Park by this weekend. If these things do not happen I am prepared to give this information to a good friend in the IRS office as well as the State Department of Taxation & Revenue.  Additionally, I have a good friend, Ty Wong, who is the lead investigative reporter for the local NBC affiliate who would be very interested in these documents.  By Wednesday night you and your group will be the lead news story across the nation.  If that is what you want then continue on your current path.”

“This is blackmail, you know.” said Spence.  “You are not being fair at all. But, I suppose the ends justify the means.”

It took Spence all of two minutes to reverse his position and agree to the demands of Val & Alan.  He was indeed a business man who acted quickly once he decided on a course of action and he agreed to do the things that Val stipulated. 

“What about Mary?”, Spence asked.

“She only knows that I was asking around about the company that made the film.  She knows nothing about your involvement or the purpose behind it.”

“You will guarantee that no one will know about this situation other than those present?”

Val agreed that he and Alan would be the only ones to know the depth of the story and that nothing would be released to anyone else.  The evidence would be kept in a personal file of Val’s and not kept at the department.  

Spence agreed to the conditions and shook Val’s hand on it.

Chapter 5

As Alan and Val were driving back to Alan’s office Val received a call on his iPhone.  It was from Dale the operating manager of Sunrise.  Dale was excited and told Val that the secretary from the Planning & Zoning Commission had called and told him that the Children of the Savior had withdrawn their request.  Dale had received a second call from Al Ferrer who told him that his offer to buy the property had been excepted and the deal would close soon.  That would make Al the owner of all of the property bordering Sunrise.  

Alan asked Val about the additional documents that he had shown Spence which had caused the dramatic change of heart.  First, Val told Alan about the Birder in the Buff and her discovery of the filming of the porno film.  Val then described the five year lease on Mary’s apartment that was issued to the Children of the Savior and signed by Richard Spence.  The other two copies were representations of the last monthly rent checks which were also signed by Spence.

Alan asked how Val had come to think about the lease and the situation of the apartment.  “Well, when I visited Mary and she left the room to get the business card of the film company, I happened to notice that her appointment calendar had R.S. initialed in every wednesday from 3:00 to 5:00 p.m.  Then when the film company supplied the name of the person who commissioned the porn film it all fell into place.  I went back to the property manager and looked at the lease and then knew that Mary’s place was being paid for by the same folks who commissioned the film that was to incriminate Sunrise.”

“Mary is totally unaware of the situation.  She thinks she has fallen into a good thing and it really will probably stay that way for her.”

Alan asked, “What if Spence decides to kick her out?”

“He is addicted, Alan, and like any addict will do whatever it takes to feed that need.”

“I find it hard to understand how a person can get so hooked into something like that.”

“If you saw Mary, the Magnificent you would not have difficulty understanding how someone could get addicted to her, Alan.  She has the most perfect body I have ever seen.”

They turned down Alan’s street and Val thanked him for his time and explained that he had not intended to use the last bit of evidence but was forced into a corner by Spence.  He had intended for Alan to convince Spence that Sunrise was indeed not a sinful din of iniquity after all.  Alan had done a great job explaining the club and it’s operations but Spence was totally focussed on putting the club out of business so, Alan’s efforts fell on deaf ears.  Only Val’s serious threat was able to convince Spence to drop the effort.

“We have to follow through on the promise I made to Spence, Alan.  We cannot let this information be known to anyone outside of the three of us.  If it gets out it will come from him and not us, agreed?”

Alan nodded and thanked Val for all of the work he had done to get this thing worked out.

When Val walked into his home later he was greeted by Mary Ann and Ellen who were celebrating with a couple of martinis.  Ellen had been called by Dale since she was on the Board and had been told the news.  They were all glad that Sunrise would not have to go through the threatened ordeal after all.

“By the way, Val, I found this note on the floor of the closet this morning.  It says “Locate Mary, the Magnificent.”  What does that mean?” asked Mary Ann.

“I’m not sure.  It sounds like some sort of religious obsession to me.” said Val.  “What’s for dinner tonight? Let’s see what we can round up to grill.” he said as he searched for his macho male backless BBQ apron.

The End