The Rules of Ten
Ex-cop. Ex-monk.
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phurba dagger

Nawang handed the dagger to me. I studied it in awe – the ornate iron handle was crowned with three snarling, wrathful gods, their faces painted blue, and white, and red, the blade carved with shooting flames. I curved my fingers around the handle and hefted it.

“What’s it for?”

“For my practice,” he said. “The eight-sided shaft represents the eightfold path. The three blades cut through the three root poisons. Aggression. Greed.” He took it back. “Ignorance.” He laid it on his shrine. “This phurba can destroy any demonic obstructions. Annihilate them.”
-- Broken Rules of Ten

Image from Walters Art Museum via Wikimedia Commons

LAPD badge

Some cops are happy to spend the bulk of their time shuffling papers and testifying in court. They’d rather pass their days getting hammered by defense attorneys than roam around out in the big world, messing with actual criminals. Not me. I like the action. I spent enough years sitting cross-legged in confined spaces, eyes closed, sheltered from anything that might challenge reality. Or nonreality, for that matter.

Monks deal with endless rules, too, but at least where you are, the goal is freedom from suffering. Not piling on more and more of it.
Once again in my life, something had to give. Once again, something has. It’s over.

I’m no longer a cop.
-- First Rule of Ten

Image from ( [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Shelby Mustang

Which set of wheels to use? I quickly settled on my faithful workhorse, the Toyota-that-would-not-die, but not without regret. I hated leaving my real car, the thoroughbred, stabled at home, but a bright yellow ’65 Shelby Mustang lends itself to surveillance about as well as a maroon monk’s robe would.
-- First Rule of Ten

Image from Bull-Doser via Wikimedia Commons


I eyed the small stone Buddha, the centerpiece of my table, for answers. He was silent, as always. He prefers to make me work for my own insights. Above him hung my painted silk thangka – a parting gift from Yeshe and Lobsang. It depicts Samsara, the “Wheel of Life,” or as my tradition prefers to remind us, the “Wheel of Deluded Existence.”

Lobsang’s smile was wry as he handed me the portable scroll; “Think of this as your mirror, my friend.” I knew what he was saying. I might be entering an exciting new world full of personal freedom, but freedom always comes wrapped in its own set of challenges. As long as my actions remained dominated by anger, ignorance, or pride, I’d stay trapped in illusion, spinning in an endless cycle of suffering.

I let my eyes rest on the thangka. The jewel-colored images were rich and complex, a bold mix of insight and ignorance – animals, deities, fanged demons, compassionate Buddhas, and even two skeletons, tucked in a corner, distracting themselves from the inevitability of death with a merry dance. In all, a perfect visual rendition of what goes on between my ears most of the time.
-- First Rule of Ten

Image from Stephen Shephard via Wikimedia Commons

Tenzing Norbu's Case Log

Tenzing Norbu

Tenzing Norbu, known to his friends as Ten, is at a crossroads. Having left the monastery, chasing dreams of Sherlock Holmes, his time with the LAPD has come to an unceremonious end. Now he's got to rebuild his life all over again, dealing with whoever doesn't want their case dealt with through the official channels.

People assume life in a monastery is filled with blissful, solitary contemplation. People assume wrong. I paused, breathed in the morning air, the slight tang of eucalyptus and ocean salt I have come to know as the smell of contentment. This little getaway in Topanga Canyon has become my place of refuge. 

Up until a few years ago, the concept of “home” eluded me. It conjured up a jumble of pictures and feelings, a contradictory collage of resistance and longing—the monastery in Dharamshala; the small, dark house in Paris where I’d lived with my mother, Valerie (as she insisted I call her), until her untimely death; and some nameless, unsettled craving for a place just out of reach. Nowhere felt right.

Maybe that’s a good thing. Now that I am here, I know enough to really savor and appreciate it.
-- First Rule of Ten

Bill Bohannon

Bill Bohannon

Bill is Ten's former partner on the LAPD, but he's sorely mistaken if he thinks Ten's not going to stay in touch for a bit of unpaid 'consultation' on his latest cases.

The truth is, I’d already lost my partner. My message came courtesy of a stray bullet, but maybe Bill’s twisted ankle carried a message of its own. Bill’s put in almost 20 years on the job. A couple more years and his pension will kick in, big time. That’s important, especially since the twins came along six months ago.

Twenty years of trying, and he and Martha finally got lucky with the in vitro. Enter Maude and Lola. Enter crazy babyland and over-the-moon parents. Bill, a lifelong Dodgers fan, immediately outfitted the tiny newborns in blue Dodgers caps with MAUDE and LOLA emblazoned across the fronts. I’m surprised he didn’t get them mitts.
-- First Rule of Ten

Mike Koenigs

Mike is Ten's lovably foulmouthed tech expert, on hand whenever his case requires some digital detection.

Mike Koenigs

Mike was skinny as a rail, with a thatch of black curly hair and a Van Dyke beard of which he was overly proud. His workday, like a vampire’s, started at sundown, and he had the chalky complexion to prove it. He pedal-buzzed around on his eROCKIT, an imported electric hybrid motorbike, knees jutting from both sides. He was gangly, awkward, and tongue-tied around most people, but a flatout genius when it came to computers.

Mike and I got acquainted the hard way, when I arrested him on a cyber-hacking beef. He’d compromised the database of his own bank, and the Glendale branch of the Bank of America was not happy about it. He said his intent was not malicious, unless you call exacting revenge for bad customer service malicious – some might call it instant karma.

In any case, he was so ticked off at their inability to correct a computing error that left his balance several hundred dollars short, and their insistence that it was his own miscalculation, that he hacked into the bank’s system and transferred the exact amount in dispute from the bank manager’s account to his own. The cyber-prank resulted in a major panic for the bank, and an arrest for Mike. I was the one who persuaded the DA not to try him as an adult.
-- First Rule of Ten

Heather Magnuson

Heather Magnuson

Heather could be Ten's first hot date in quite a few years, if he can keep himself in check… 'I looked over at Heather. Her eyes connected with mine for one brief moment before returning to Marv’s remains. I did the same. I was pretty sure this was my first flirtation initiated over an opened cadaver.'

Right away I liked the sound of her voice. It was deep and calm, a perfect “bedside manner” voice. On the other hand, I wasn’t crazy about the fact that she was an inch or two taller than me. On the other, other hand, maybe I wasn’t finished growing yet.
-- Second Rule of Ten

Lama Nawang

One of Ten's key spiritual advisors in the Tibetan monastery. Not that his advice is always easy to follow, then or now.

Lama Nawang

Lama Nawang squatted, right in front of me, breaking with the format. He leaned close and lightly touched the center of my chest with his fingertips. Then he tapped my forehead. What is he doing?

He whispered, prompting me: “To be equals with all means to know that you are made of the same particles as everything else in the universe.” He gave the top of my head one small, sharp tap.


I dissolved.

I was everything and everyone, not just here, but everywhere. I was part of the whole, no longer some unwanted particle struggling to stay separate, to be unique. Power surged inside me as all the parts lined up, parts that had been isolated and off-center before. Any sense of “me” and “it” melted. I wasn’t just hooked to the source – I was the source itself. I was the power.
-- Broken Rules of Ten



Tenzing's Persian blue cat, a weighty rogue who has already reached the highest stage of enlightenment.

'I took pleasure in being Tank’s butler, chef, and valet. His main job was to hang out near me and purr. It was a good deal all around.'

* * *

My new partner, Bill, and I were sitting outside, watching the sky darken from pale blue to azure, when a loud thunk! announced the arrival of a heavy animal right behind my chair. I jumped to my feet, expecting a raccoon. Instead, I found a big, make that huge, cat, his blue-gray fur matted, his green eyes glowing.

“It’s a cat!” I crouched down.

“That’s not a cat. That’s a tank,” Bill said.

“Hey, there, Tank.” I wriggled my fingers. He walked right over and leaned into me, rubbing his head against my knee as he emitted a deep drone of contentment.
-- First Rule of Ten



I stuck out my hand. The sister gave me a look over her bulging shopping bags, then twisted and lightly elbow-bumped my palm. Suave start, Tenzing. I relieved her of the two bulky bags. Her dark eyes were flecked with gold.

A mass of soft brunette curls fell to below her shoulders. She was quite beautiful. Almost exactly my height, that is to say on the tall side for a woman, on the not-so-tall side for a man. Her arms were toned, her skin lightly freckled. She was strong, but her curves were full and feminine.

I was very glad I’d changed into clean Levis and the dark brown T-shirt that Charlotte used to say matched my eyes.

Video: Watch Gay and Tinker discuss their inspiration for Tenzing Norbu