What Ever Happened to Mr. MAJIC? by Rod Pennington
On the day of her mother’s funeral, twenty-three-year-old Grace Maxwell discovered the man who raised her was not her biological father. Instead, he was a best-selling self-help author and a world famous “Guru to the Stars.” Known as Mr. MAJIC for the miraculous impact his books and seminars had on millions of people, he had inexplicably vanished around the time Grace’s mother became pregnant with her.
For over 20 years, the mystery of Mr. MAJIC’s sudden and unexpected disappearance, and the speculation of what might have become of him, was the stuff of Urban Legend. The theories ranged from he was a homeless bum living under a bridge in the Bay Area to his most avid fans claiming he had attained divine enlightenment and had ascended straight to heaven. Even nearly a quarter of a century later, on the anniversary of his disappearance, there would be stories in the media asking what ever happened to Mr. MAJIC?
Among her mother’s things, Grace discovered MAJIC’s long missing and thought lost forever unpublished manuscript, “The True Path to Enlightenment.” The manuscript was considered to be the Holy Grail of self-help books and was worth a king’s ransom. The problem for Grace, before anyone would publish the book, she must prove the manuscript was not a fake. This was no small task, considering the only person who could provide the definitive confirmation hasn’t been seen or heard from in over two decades. With the help of her fellow Generation Z sister and an old-school, hard-boiled detective that had made finding MAJIC his life’s work, Grace goes on a quest to find the elusive Mr. MAJIC.
Along the way she meets her perfect soulmate and finds true inner-peace and a state of wellbeing she had previously thought unimaginable.
Wrapped inside this fast-paced romantic mystery, the reader will discover a simple to follow tutorial of how to identify and release the things that are making them miserable. They will gently be shown a simple step-by-step process that, if followed, can lead to a state of enlightenment and wellbeing.
From the Authors of The Fourth Awakening which spent four years in both the US and UK as the number one bestseller in New Age, Mysticism. The Spanish edition was the number one bestselling “Foreign Language eBook” in the world on Amazon.com.
Targeted Age Group:: PG-13
Heat/Violence Level: Heat Level 3 – PG-13
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
For over a decade my co-author and I have done extensive research into how to enhance people’s state of wellbeing. We wanted to use fiction to put a human face onto the clinical data we had unearthed in our Finders Course. Our goal was to write a compelling, fast-paced mystery with relatable characters and interesting inter-personal relationships that would captivate the reader even if they did not completely buy into our research.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
I wanted to have the primary characters to be pole opposites; one in a state of blissful enlightenment and one struggling to find her way. I felt the perfect vehicle would be two sister — raised in the same house with the same parents — who had come out completely different. This allowed the sister to hash out their difference which drove the plot and helped develop the viewpoint protagonist’s character arc.
Being a big fan of Joseph Campbell, I also wanted a strong mentor but I also wanted something a bit different. I select the recently deceased mother of the sisters. She knew her daughters well enough, that even from the grave, she could give them the guidance they needed.
“WHAT DO YOU MEAN, you’re not my father?”
“That’s not what I said, Gracie.” The man I had always called Dad shifted his weight uncomfortably and, for the first time that I could remember in my entire life, had trouble making eye contact with me. “Of course I’m your father. I’m just not your biological father.”
I blinked a few times, then looked down at the open grave where the simple wooden coffin was resting. The two handfuls of dirt my sister and I had tossed on it moments earlier were still visible.
“Really? You’re telling me this now?”
Dad started to say something, then thought better of it and held his peace. That was so like him. He was never a big talker when things were going well and got even more laconic when things got rough. I just looked at him and shook my head. The smart money would bet he had wanted to tell me sooner, maybe much sooner, but the lady in the box at my feet had said no.
Don Maxwell — AKA Dad — whose wardrobe choice tended more toward denim and flannel than worsted, had added a few pounds since the last time he had worn a suit and tie. He’d had to pull and stretch the collar of the dress shirt he had found in the back of his closet to get the top button to reach its hole. From the moment he put it on, it had been chaffing his neck. With most of the well-wishers already heading back to their cars, he undid the top button and loosened the Jerry Garcia tie I had given him as a gag gift for Christmas a few years back.
Shaking my head again, I tried to make sense of all of this, but I kept coming up empty. I nodded in the direction of my younger sister, Sunny, whose fair skin and blonde hair were in stark contrast to the black dress she was wearing. She was sitting on one of the graveside folding chairs with an ethereal, almost trancelike, expression on her face. Next to her, in a well-tailored suit over a custom-made shirt topped off by a handmade silk tie, was her boyfriend, Willie Hanson. Hanson had been in my graduating class in high school, and I remembered him as being kind of a weird computer nerd who, like me, kept mostly to himself, and was a wicked keyboard player. He was also my top competition for valedictorian. The last I had heard of him, he had dropped out of Stanford to try his hand at a Silicon Valley startup. I was a bit surprised to see him back in the Eastern Time Zone.
“I assume Sunny is all yours.”
His eyes locked on mine. Don Maxwell gritted his teeth and muttered, “Yes.”
“Does she know about me?”
“I can’t speak for your mother, but I never told her,” Don Maxwell answered.
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a man I had never seen before heading toward us. He was small and probably closer to sixty than forty. His nose was too big, his chin too small, and his eyes too close together for him to ever have been considered handsome by any measure. He paused, looked around, then zeroed in on me and began walking purposefully in my direction.
Don Maxwell turned, and when he saw the approaching man, his shoulders slumped; he shook his head and sighed. Before he could formulate a response, the man arrived next to the grave site, and his eyes locked on me.
“Ms. Grace Bliss Maxwell?” the man said in a voice that was deeper than expected considering his diminutive size.
“My condolences for your loss. I am Wilson Prentice, attorney-at- law.” The lawyer pulled a number 10 envelope out of the interior pocket of his ill- fitting suit jacket that hung badly on his shoulders. He had the unhealthy look of someone who had lost a lot of weight in a short amount of time. “Your mother instructed me to give you this after her death.”
Don Maxwell was seething and now it was his turn to think couldn’t this have waited until tomorrow? Then it dawned on me. Don knew the lawyer might show up at any moment, and he wasn’t being cruel — he was being kind. He didn’t want me to hear this news from a stranger.
Reluctantly I accepted the envelope. “What is this?”
“My instructions were to deliver this to you unopened.” Prentice bowed slightly and handed me one of his business cards. “Again, my condolences for your loss.” Without another word, he turned and headed back in the direction of his car.
Examining the envelope, I immediately recognized the handwriting. On the outside of the envelope was written a single word.
The thin, precise script bordered on calligraphy. My entire life I had seen it on everything from school permission slips to grocery lists.
With trembling hands, I carefully tore open the envelope.
By now I assume Don has told you he is not your biological father. Please do not be angry with him for not telling you sooner; that was entirely my decision. I had always meant to tell you, but when I got sick, time ran out.
To his great credit, when I came home pregnant with you, Don took me back, made an honest woman of me, and claimed you as his own.
He has loved you from the day you were born more than you’ll ever imagine.
Trust him and listen to him. But most importantly, love him. More than anyone in your life, he has earned it.
You are now a full-grown woman, and it is only fair that you know the truth. Your biological father is a man known as Simon Alphonse Peterson.
You also need to know, having you back in my life these last few months was a blessing. I can only hope you find peace and happiness.
Peace Love & Joy Always, Mom
As I reread the cryptic note, Willie Hanson kissed my sister on the forehead and softly said, “I’ll see you at the wake.”
Sunny forced a weak smile and gave his arm a squeeze. “Okay.” Her eyes locked on the departing lawyer, and she wandered over and joined the conversation. “What’s going on? Who was that?”
I looked at Don for guidance.
With an odd expression on his face, he just shrugged. “Your call, Gracie.”
Drawing in a deep breath, then releasing it with a snort, I said, “What the hell,” and handed Sunny the letter.
She read the note, blinked a few times, shook her head like she was clearing it of cobwebs, then reread it more slowly. “Huh?” she said as she handed it back to me.
“Huh? That’s all you’ve got?” I said incredulously.
“What? You’ve said it yourself a thousand times. We were always so different when we were growing up, it was hard to believe we were sisters.”
I shook my head again and turned my attention back to Don Maxwell. “Who is Simon Alphonse Peterson?”
He lowered his eyes. Obviously this was a painful topic for him, but, like always, it wasn’t going to stop him from toughing his way through it. He glanced down at the open grave. “It’s a long story, and this isn’t the time or the place. We need to get to the wake. After we get past that, I’ll tell both of you everything I know.”
SUNNY’S FINGERS DANCED across the screen of her iPhone as she sat next to me in the back of the limo the funeral home had provided. Don, formerly known as Dad, knew the driver and had opted to sit up front; but I suspected what he really wanted to do was give Sunny and me some space to discuss Mom’s little final parting shot to her estranged eldest daughter. My body was numb as I stared aimlessly out the window, but my eyes couldn’t focus, and my mind was racing. Losing Mom was expected and, considering the pain she was in toward the end, was in some ways a blessing. I had had time to prepare myself for it, had already pretty much moved through the five stages of grief, and had, more or less, embraced acceptance. The news of my newly discovered biological father was another matter entirely. It was like a well-placed body blow I hadn’t seen coming. While it hadn’t knocked me to my knees, it had left me gasping and stunned.
How could my parents have kept this from me for over twenty-three years?
While Mom and I were never that close, once I learned her prognosis, I called her every day, which had given her ample opportunity to tell me this news herself, but she didn’t. Why not? Sure, Mom and I saw the world so differently, it was always hard for us to communicate with each other. It was almost like we spoke different languages. But why not tell me this when she had the chance instead of letting me find out the way I did? With Mom you could never tell. It was not in her nature to be hurtful or spiteful, so there had to be another reason she didn’t share this important news. Maybe she was afraid of how I would react and thought I would abandon her. Maybe she just didn’t want to go out on a sour note. Maybe she had one of her elaborate plans in motion — which I’d always found so painfully annoying while growing up — to try to influence me without actually coming right out and telling me what to do. Hard to say.
One thing was clear from all of our chats: Mom didn’t want me to experience any survivor’s guilt because of our strained relationship. Whenever I would get maudlin or weepy at the missed opportunity to spend our lives together, she would buck me up. She always kept our conversations light and breezy, and we only reminisced about the good times and ignored the bad.
Don, on the other hand? His keeping the secret was no mystery at all. He was as uncomplicated and straightforward as a person could possibly be. More often than not, he and I were on the same wavelength my entire life, and he never gave me the slightest reason to doubt he was my father. I was sure he’d wanted to tell me, but I was also equally sure that Mom, for her own reasons, had vetoed it. What baffled me was why she’d done so.
“Huh,” Sunny said as she rapidly swiped the screen of her phone.
“Is that the only word in your vocabulary today?” I asked in an annoyed tone as the blur of the landscape whizzed past.
While we were only twenty months apart in age and raised by the same parents and in the same house, it had always been hard to understand how my sister and I could possibly be so different. Not so much anymore, with this interesting twist in the branch of the family tree coming to light.
Sunny’s personality and appearance perfectly matched her name, and she was a dead ringer for our mom. A solid three inches taller than me, Sunny had an alabaster complexion and could get a sunburn walking between the house and her car. Our mother used to say Sunny was born in a state of total enlightenment and that somehow she had managed to not screw it up. Whatever the hell that meant. Like Mom, Sunny lived in the moment, and nothing ever seemed to bother her. Her entire life, Sunny always blazed her own trail and never followed the crowd, but the crowd had a persistent habit of following her. Being a self-contained and independent free spirit, she fully embraced and thrived on the long leash Mom gave us while we were growing up.
On the other extreme, where Sunny was long and lean, I was more compact with a much darker complexion and tended to be introspective and moody. I looked absolutely nothing like either my mom or Don. But now, I was willing to give good odds that if I ever met my biological father, the mystery of why I was the always the odd woman out in the Maxwell family portrait would be solved.
It was more than just physical differences between Sunny and me. Unlike my too-cute-by-half sibling, I was often vexed by our mother’s free-range child-rearing philosophy. On some level, I had always wished my life had had more rules and structure instead of being guided by Mom’s going-with-the- ow philosophy. As I became self-aware in my early adolescent years, I kept trying to find a boundary to cross that would provoke a reaction from Mom. From heavy metal music rattling the windows, to shaving part of my head and dying the rest of my hair purple, to shoplifting, to running with a bad crowd; nothing caused her to ever draw a line in the sand. To his credit, Don, on occasion, would have enough of my rebellious nonsense and lower the boom. But never Mom. Never even once. If anything, she was delighted that I was trying new things and new experiences.
My childhood had been a surreal nightmare.
Looking back, with ever widening parental guardrails, I could see why I grew up confused and miserable. Thankfully, I found refuge in my books. While non-fiction gave me a headache, fiction allowed me to enter other worlds, full of interesting people doing interesting things. I spent hours upon hours locked away in the safety of my bedroom while fully submerged in the gritty underbelly of society and traveling with no-nonsense, hard-boiled detectives as my guides. The more lurid the paperback, the more I liked it.
At thirteen I had an epiphany. I realized my goal in life was to get as far away from my mom and my golden-child sister as possible. With neither of my parents being particularly money motivated, I figured if I were to ever escape from Cincinnati, I would need to get an academic scholarship to a college far, far away. Starting my freshman year of high school, I put away childish things and focused all of my energy on my studies. Overnight, I went from troubled kid on a bad path to the valedictorian who blew the lid o of both her SAT and ACT exams, and was given a full ride to Columbia University in New York City.
Instead of being offended by my overt desire to be anywhere else but here, Mom, as usual, took my academic success as affirmation of her enlightened nurturing skills. Give a child enough space and they will eventually find themselves, was her belief.
What complete and utter bullshit was mine.
And nothing I saw in the five years since I put Cincinnati in my rearview mirror had shaken my resolve. Having spent so much of my time immersed in pulp fiction set in big cities, I always felt more at home in the Big Apple than I ever had in Midwest white-bread suburbia. I loved the noise and smells and the chaos of humanity swirling around me. It made me feel alive and connected.
The sound of Sunny’s voice interrupted my little internal pity party.
“Your sperm donor was an interesting character,” Sunny said as she continued to scroll on her phone.
“Apparently he was some kind of mega enlightenment guru with everybody from movie stars to business tycoons flocking to his weekend seminars.”
“Lovely,” I said with a dismissive snort. “Where is he now? I’d like pay him a visit and kick him in his gurus.”
“That’s the interesting part,” Sunny said as she furrowed her brow and read her screen. “Apparently, around the time Mom got pregnant with you, he disappeared.”
“Disappeared? What do you mean, disappeared?”
“Just that. No one has seen him or heard from him for over twenty-four years,” Sunny answered without taking her eyes off her phone. “Huh.”
“Would you stop saying that?”
“Sorry.” Sunny swiped at her screen again. “Did you know that this Peterson guy wrote three hugely popular self-help books and that Atonement Press holds the publishing rights to them?”
“Hold on,” I said. “Are you saying that Simon Alphonse Peterson is S.A. Peterson? The S.A. Peterson?”
“That’s what it says here,” Sunny answered. “And if it’s on the internet, you know it has to be true.”
“Huh,” I said, which brought a smile to Sunny’s face. “I’ll be damned. I always thought S.A. Peterson was a woman using her initials to hide her gender like J.K. Rowling, S.E. Hinton, or L.M. Montgomery.”
“Apparently after he, she, or it vanished, an entire cottage industry sprang up with different theories about what had happened to him. They range from he’s now a homeless guy living under a bridge in San Francisco to some of his followers claiming he ascended straight to heaven.” Sunny turned her screen around so I could read it. It was a twenty-three-year-old headline from Rolling Stone magazine: “What Ever Happened to Mr. MAJIC?”
Underneath the headline was a black-and-white photograph of a man who, if I had to guess, would have been somewhere between thirty and thirty-five. Average height and not fat but also not particularly fit. He had a black Beatles-style haircut and dark sunglasses that were big enough and dark enough that it was impossible to see his eyes or even much of his face. Like me, he was compact with a dark complexion and had a pensive expression on his face.
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