At Troll Knoll, boxer dogs are named for philosophers and flowers. Plato, the boxer in view, studies the ground for a moment and then begins again to excavate the hole he has worked for the past few days between the rains. He has a broad chest and big paws that grind away at the hole. His brown coat has very little dirt and his white chest and neck are pristine. Except on his white paws there is no dirt on his body. As the guard of the property, he maintains a decorum and presence that is majestic. He is a majestic creature. When visitors come to the property, he calmly walks up to them and greets them in a manner that says you are welcome here, but please be mindful and polite, otherwise there will be consequences. The dog begins to growl at the ground where he is working. Then there is a distraction at the front parking area used by visitors. Plato hears familiar noises and leaves, heading for the front area where a visitor has arrived. He will return after he determines the arrival.
The Garden Writer And The Gardener
My name is Mark Sketcher. For many years I worked as a garden writer and editor of the major newspaper chain distributed in Northern California as well as nationally. I met Jake when he and his lovely wife, Margo, had a garden tour and I had agreed to do the write up for the gardens on the tour. When I started walking in the garden, I immediately realized there was an incredible difference here. Frankly, I have seen gardens all over the world and have never seen another garden quite like this one. Jake did not give the impression that this garden was any different than other local, very nice garden. But here was a garden with its own golf course, a swamp, a mining town and three miles of walks. To say that I was taken back by a two and a half hour walk through part of the garden is an understatement. To write about what I had seen and what the garden is was just not believable. As I walked with Jake, the Southern lit in his voice was so pleasant and soft that it was disarming. He talked quietly for the entire walk, laughing at himself and the garden. My jaw dropped when I saw a bowl up in a tree and asked what it meant. “Why I ate my breakfast up there yesterday while pruning the tree, and forgot to bring the bowl down,” he said.
Troll Knoll is a 20 acre estate outside of Grass Valley in California in the Sierra Foothills. From the road you can not tell that it exists. And that is intentional. But, once you pull into the parking area, you know something is different. The plants are different, the view is dramatic, and everything appears in its right place, naturally.
Now, the garden writer comes to visit his friend, the garden person. There is conversation about recent visitor tours and walks through the garden. There is some discussion about the garden and what the high heel walk is and its parts overall. Then there is this discussion about ‘conceptual metaphors’, an ethics teacher and trial lawyer, and how those conceptual metaphors evolve from moral dilemmas and the story about the representation of Willie, the father of the child so brutally attacked. The folks go outside to walk in the new areas and statuary. The faithful, diligent and mindful boxer, Plato, comes along on the walk. The boxer dog starts digging again around one of the statutes in the area next to where they are sitting, a bench at the swamp near Hercules Bluff, and drags out an clothed arm from a hole he has dug.
Bodies Are Buried
The sheriff is called. They find a body buried beside the statute. Autopsy shows no physical damage. The corpse is intact, fully clothed and mummified. It has obviously been there buried for a number of years under a statue of Hercules and the lion with a sign in front. The question is how did this happen? When could it have occurred?
As the plot thickens, the weather has more rain storms washing the dirt from more areas and more bodies are found under statutes as descriptions of areas are made and the dog is brought along, but in a rose bed, the aroma is not of roses. More history of the gardener is revealed. Then Margo runs in with a story of a rather fresh hole in the roses. Sprayed with water from the sprinklers, she talks of the work done recently by the gardener as she passes to change clothes.
The Son Comes To Visit. Other Stuff Is Revealed.
No physical damage is shown in any of the existing bodies, revealed in the various ‘conceptual metaphor’ places, described by the garden writer, our unwilling sleuth, who begins to wonder about his friend, who he now begins to see in light of objects of many years that he has not previously noticed. Discussion of voodoo begins and then the discussion of jimson. Through further discussion of the life of the gardener, the cults of the area and the peculiarities of the members of the particular cult where members have moved from the South, the bird flow during the quest for a place to live, the movement of members of the cults to the area from the South, the building of the home at Troll Knoll, the retirement of the gardener, and the design of the statuary as mostly Roman mythology with Apollo in the bushes, the gardener being heterosexual with friends in all parts of the spectrum.
Then there is the death of his friend in the hospital two years before by poisoning from jimson weed.
A discussion of the tours begins with cameras all over the property.
Security and Facial Recognition
Along the way, we find the gardener goes through the security camera recordings of the tours after every tour and uses facial recognition with a series of faces he has placed in the program, looking for those faces. `
Then there is the book that the garden writer did of the garden at Troll Knoll. It attracts more people. There is a hit on the faces, more than one. The photo recognition software works.
It turns out that the gardener may not be the villain, but has devised a bait of his property to attract the villains who are now coming back to the property to do him in. He is ready. And the ploy to attract the villains works and they are caught. In an elaborate scheme and the explanation about Troll Knoll is further revealed and has further meaning. At the end, a tour begins. The garden writer is there. Inside at the computer the facial recognition software is at work. No one is there observing. The gardener is touring with a crowd of new visitors. The recognition software has a hit.</em>
And the garden at Troll Knoll and the chapter above are conceptual metaphors…