A man came into my office, one day.
"You're Barefoot Jenny?"
"Yes, sir. How can I help you?"
"Hi. My name is Stephen Orland. For the past few months, my mom has been involved with a religious cult. I think they're a scam, and I'd like you to investigate them."
"OK. Tell me a little about them."
"They're about 50 miles from here. They called the Temple of the Healing Water. They have a pool of water in their church, and they claim that this water has curative powers."
"So people 'baptize' themselves in it."
"Right. I suspect that my mom has already given them $5,000!"
"My thoughts exactly! I want you to find out if their legitimate or not, and if their not, shut them down and return her money. "
We spent the next few minutes talking about the cult, and negotiating my fee. He also gave my literature from the cult. It featured photos of people lying in a large shallow pool of water.
The next day, I took a trip out to it. It was in what looked like an old church building.
I parked my car and walked to the front door. It was open, so I went in.
A pool—the same one in their literature—was in the center of the main worship area. Chairs surrounded it. To the side was an old electric organ. There was also a pulpit there.
As I was looking around, a woman came out. She had on a white robe and sandals.
"Good day, madam."
"Hello. I hope I'm not intruding. I've heard about your temple, and wanted to check it out."
"Not at all. My name is Angel Mary."
"Hi, I'm Jennifer Mason."
"Pleased to meet you, my dear."
We shook hands.
"So your water has the power to heal?"
"Well, I will not make such bold claims. However, many of our devotees swear by the water's powers."
"Where does it come from?"
"We get it from deep in the mountains of Vermont. I would prefer not to reveal its exact source, however—just in case greedy people want to go after it."
I nodded. "I understand. And you hold services four times a week, right?"
"Yes. Our next one is tomorrow at 7:30PM."
"Would you like to try the waters right now?"
"Uh, not with these clothes on!"
"You needn't bath in it; merely wading in it will be beneficial."
"Well. . . all right."
"I must first ask that you give a small donation, as our expenses are high-$5, please."
I took out a $5 bill and gave it to her. Then I took my sandals off, rolled my pants legs up, and got in the water.
It was about a foot deep—and cold! It felt bubbly and effervescent on my feet. But it didn't really feel "healing," to me.
"How is it?"
"Nice. Oh, where do people dry off?
"We have coed changing rooms in the back." She pointed toward them. "Oh, let me get a towel for you, my dear."
She went to one of the rooms. While she was gone, I waded around the pool and quickly took photos with my cell phone.
She came back with the towel, which she gave to me. I thanked her, got out of the water, sat in a chair, and dried my feet off.
"I think I will attend your service, tomorrow."
"Wonderful! I look forward to seeing you, my dear."
I got up and put my shoes back on. We said goodbye, and I left.
I decided to wear blue jeans and an old t-shirt to the service.
I arrived a little after 7:30. The temple was already filling up with people. Most wore their street clothes, but some wore bathing suits (with pants). White-robed women helped them to their seats. Hymn music was played on the organ by a white-robed woman.
Ida—Mr Orland's mom—was there. He had given me a photo so I could identify her.
Angel Mary recognized me. "So glad to see you here, my dear!"
She escorted me to a chair.
Collection plates were sent around. I noticed quite a few $50 bills inside of mine—and at least one $100! I left $10.
The organ music stopped . A white-robed woman walked to the pulpit and gave a short sermon espousing the virtues of the water.
At last, shoes were removed, and people got into the pool. The ladies also took their shoes off and assisted people into the water.
At first, people waded around the pool. But then they lied down in it. Not wanting to stick out like a sore thumb, I also lied down. Like before, it felt tingly on my skin.
The organist continued to play, throughout all this.
Eventually, everyone was in the water. It was large enough to accommodate, but it required us to be close together.
We stayed in the water for about 15 minutes, then people started getting out. The robed women led them to the changing rooms.
I wanted to investigate the temple, so I made sure I was one of the last to leave the pool. I dried off and changed my clothes. Then I went to the women's bathroom and waited.
After a while, I crept out. A short hallway led to a couple doors. One opened to an office, the other was locked. With a special pick-lock that I have, I opened this door.
It was a storage area, and inside of it was the temple's secret:
I closed the door and took a few photos. Then I contemplated my next move.
Eventually, one of the woman opened the door. She had changed to regular clothing. She picked up a few of the bottles.
I took my gun out and confronted her.
"Come with me, honey!
I led her to the main area.
"Call the others."
"HELP!," she shouted.
Four women came out. Like her, they had changed to their street clothes. One was Angel Mary.
"What's going on?," she demanded.
"Let me introduce myself properly," I said. "My name is Barefoot Jenny, and I'm a private detective. And I've discovered the secret of your 'healing water!'"
"All right. I want all of you to get into the pool!"
Nobody wanted to do this, at first!
"C'mon, get your feet wet!"
They slipped their shoes off and got into the water.
"Walk towards the middle."
They did this.
"That's better! Now, lie on your stomachs. You can keep your heads above the water, but don't look at me!"
They did this.
I made sure no one else was around. Then I got out my cell phone and called Lt Kirschenbaum. I had told him my mission, in advance, so he made special arrangements. He called the local authorities, and they picked up the soggy scam artists!
Most of the money was recovered, so Ida Orland was able to get some of hers back. The church was shut down, and the women went to jail for various crimes.
I got $3,000 for my work-not bad!