By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
After two nights at a motel where the management's idea of security was to have a guy stand near the entrance undoing a suspended chain for oncoming cars, Reeder had concluded that in this nameless city, "no one altos."
He was thinking about that when he got in his fight with Kenneth. He'd asked the Nigerian whether he would answer some of my questions about the gold mines. He agreed.
In his room, Kenneth sat slumped in an old, cushioned chair. Since seeing some photos I'd snapped of him the previous day, he had barely spoken to me.
"I will not go into detail about how many mines there are," he said, looking away disdainfully.
I told him that his reticence made him look suspicious.
"Suspicious?" he countered. "I have projects to protect. I have no use to publicize a project that's in development."
Reeder came into the room and said that he was beginning to see why people had problems with Kenneth. The gathering turned tense; the heat, the charmless motel, the diarrhea merely compounded things. Yet Kenneth stood firm: He had no interest in speaking with a reporter.
This isn't what Reeder wanted me to see. "I'm outta here!" he said, and slammed the door behind him.
Later, I found Reeder in his room, shoving clothes into his suitcase. Amidst this unfolding crisis, David passed by, shaking his head. "There's a lot of gray in this ol' life. I used to think it was just black and white."
Reeder left the room, paid the hotel, then returned to David and me, calmer this time.
"She asked the right questions and nailed him in the coffin," Reeder said of me. "Thank God before I was in it."
David looked at Reeder. "I don't have any more faith in him than..." He stopped himself. "This isn't a cut against you..."
"If you say what I think you're about to say, then you've just insulted the hell out of me," said Reeder. "You were about to say that you don't have any more faith in him than you have in me, and don't tell me I'm lying."
David stammered: "When both of you..."
"In God's name," said Reeder, his voice rising. "Tell the truth. Is that what you were going to say?"
Reeder cut him off: "Say yes or no."
"You've done a lot of things," said David, "but I don't know if you're good at mining."
Reeder looked at David in wounded silence. "How about operating Cornerstone?" he said.
"I don't know," said David, sounding far less supportive of Reeder than he had just a few hours ago. "You got shut down."
"After seven years," Reeder said defiantly.
"Well," said David, "something happened, somewhere."
Reeder grew melancholy over his eggs and salsa. Sometimes, he said, he feels bad for all the stuff he's put his wife through: the topless dancer incident, the seizure of the business. Not two weeks ago, she told him that her heart is still broken, but she's trying to move on. Reeder seemed depressed, defeated. He keeps trying to be the messiah, he said, and he keeps failing.
"I sometimes wish God would just take her," he said, "so I could end it all."
Later that day, he called me at home and said he was surprised at my lack of emotion when Sandra was crying. "Did that not affect you?" he asked.
He's seen the likes of Reeder before, the seemingly religious-minded salesman who worms his way into the hearts of a naive public, one all too willing to believe promises of wealth. He calls it "affinity fraud."
"Fraudsters are not dull people," he says. "Unfortunately, you have to be a little bit of a skeptic in this world."
Ron Sanders of Helena, Montana, admits he fell for Reeder's song and dance. The 52-year-old Sanders and his wife heard about Cornerstone through a friend, one who spoke glowingly of the profit checks he was receiving every few weeks. At the time, Sanders was working for a women's fitness-clothing franchise, and he wanted a way to retire young.