Howard Philip (HP) Lakeland
Howard Philip Lakeland, of the Seattle Lakelands, is a 40-something reclusive and wealthy bachelor. He accepted his inheritance when his father died and retreated into his books. Since receiving his doctorate in cultural anthropology (specializing in esoteric traditions) in 1999, he’s had very little to do with the outside world.
The Lakeland Family & Company
The Lakeland Mercantile Group was founded sometime in the late 1850s by Josiah Lakeland, who made an early fortune shipping furs and lumber out of the original Duwamps settlement that would become Seattle. Since then, Lakeland Mercantile (or LMG) has grown into one of the largest shipping fleets in the world. The a majority of the company’s shares have been kept, by unwritten agreement, among the descendants of Josiah Lakeland, which number nearly a hundred. Numerous family members play an active role in LMG’s day to day operations, though Howard was happy to simply take his dividend checks and leave business to the professionals.
Long the black sheep of the Lakeland clan, one of the few relatives close to Howard was his uncle, Winfield Lakeland, who enlivened Howard’s otherwise staid and conservative childhood with wild and bizarre stories of his travels in the Far East. Winfield, actively involved in LMG’s fleet operations, recently elected to take up residence aboard the company’s newest ship, and the largest freighter in the world, the LMG Red Hook, for the duration of its maiden voyage to Shanghai. After less than a week at sea (crossing to China from Seattle takes about two to three weeks) the Red Hook’s transponder went dark. That was nearly a month ago, and no sign of the ship has been located, confounding search and rescue experts in the navies of three governments. The disappearance of a 200,000 ton ship carrying nearly 20,000 shipping containers without leaving so much as debris in its wake was sufficiently mysterious to rouse Howard from his seclusion. Since then, things have only gotten stranger.
The rest of the Lakeland family, ordinarily distant and more than a bit eccentric, have only become more so, rudely rebuffing Howard’s inquiries into the search for the Red Hook. He’s now convinced he’ll need help, from outside his family, to get to the bottom of the matter. Fortunately, his pockets are deep, and even a hermit like Howard has a few friends he can call on.