Chapter 1 – The Day Of Salvation

Chapter 1 – The Day of Salvation

24 Hours Earlier

“Good morning, America. This is Alyson Moore, the Source on The DEN. Just a few short hours ago in Corinth, New York, a two story home was burnt to the ground. In this rural neighborhood, the peace usually experienced here was disturbed by a home engulfed in flames. Behind me, you can see what remains of the house as firefighters and investigators search through the debris for clues as to why this tragedy occurred, but suspicions are already at a level high when the owner of this house is taken into consideration.”

Alyson Moore stood on the front lawn of 17 Shallow Lane as Rick Meers, her camera man, focused intently on her. He had the camera positioned where he was able to view not only the blonde news reporter, but also the activities behind her. Meers was a man in his early fifties with short, grey hair. He enjoyed his job, even though Alyson expected a lot from him and others who were hired to do her bidding. The others didn’t like putting up with her demands, but he didn’t mind. He knew how to do his job, and he had even learned over the years to anticipate Moore’s needs. The way he saw it was if he wanted to keep doing what he liked to do, he would go above and beyond the call of duty in spite of who she was. After all, she wasn’t just a news reporter. She was the top news reporter of America’s most watched news program, The DEN.

She was Alyson Moore, the Source, and she reported exclusively for The DEN; The Daily Edition News. The DEN’s introductory motto for her was, “Alyson Moore; She doesn’t just give you the news, but she gives you Moore news than any other source. She is Alyson Moore, The Source, on The DEN.”

Alyson Moore, the Source

The DEN news van was parked on the side of the road, a little further down the lane so as not to be a hindrance to the fire-trucks and EMS vehicles, not to mention two police cars. Inside the van was a technician who was keeping his attention focused on one of three television monitors. The one he was viewing showed Alyson with the activity behind her. As she began to speak about the owner of the house, the technician let his fingers dance across a keyboard set before him. On the left side of the screen, a small photograph of a man appeared. The gaunt faced man was solemn in expression with dark eyes and a five o’ clock shadow.

This man was now the focus of the story.

“His name is Joseph Canaan, a simple construction worker who has earned a reputation among his co-workers and has been given the name the Carpenter. The FBI, however, are calling him a man with a suspicious habit of meeting privately with members of the al Qaeda. As it is known in the free world, the al Qaeda are terrorists led by Osama bin Laden and they have not only claimed to commit acts of terrorism in the United States, but have committed such acts. No one will ever forget what happened on September 11 of 2001. The question today…why is the FBI investigating into the Carpenter’s daily activities, and what makes them think he is in contact with terrorists? Could it have something to do with the fire which destroyed the Canaan home behind me, or will suspicions rise because what investigators have discovered in the ashes? Four bodies have been located in the basement, and by all indications, whoever these poor souls were, they had each suffered horrible deaths in the flames. It is believed they were the wife and children of Joseph Canaan, but their identities will be unknown until confirmation can be made.”

A dark blue SUV pulled up and parked next to a police car blocking the driveway. Two men climbed out, typical stereo-types of Law Enforcement. They wore the dark windbreakers with “F.B.I.” in bold letters on their backs, but only one of them wore a pair of dark sunglasses. As the two men approached an officer, Alyson headed directly for them. As she expected, Meers followed with the camera rolling.

Alyson noticed one of the FBI agents talking with the police officer, while the second agent – the one wearing the sunglasses – simply stood back and surveyed the area around him. Her breath caught in her throat. She thought she recognized him. As she drew closer, she decided to aim her questions at him.

“Excuse me, sir,” she began, placing herself right in front of him, “can you tell me if you have already taken Joseph Canaan into custody for the murder of his family or is there a manhunt out for him?”

The man slowly turned his head and looked at her. Alyson couldn’t actually see his eyes through the dark shades, but she could feel them boring right into her. If she were anyone else, she might have backed up a step, but she held her ground, holding the microphone boldly in front of the FBI agent in expectation. However, the man remained silent as he regarded the reporter. Then, as if she were not worth the time of day, he simply turned his back on her.

Alyson was stunned, but she didn’t let on that she was. “Sir,” she tried again, “there is reason to suspect that Joseph Canaan has involved himself with terrorists, and there may be evidence here implicating him in the murder of his family. Can you comment for us what your intentions are regarding the Carpenter?”

The other agent had finished speaking with the officer and nodded once to Shades. Both agents headed for the SUV, intending to make their departure of 17 Shallow Lane. Alyson trailed behind them, determined to get her story.

“If I could just get a comment from-” she began.

The agent without the sunglasses turned to her as he opened the passenger door. He smiled politely. “I’m sorry, ma’am. No comment.”

He began to enter the car.

Alyson looked across the roof of the car at Shades. “What about it…Michael Lenox? Will the DEN get a comment from you or not?”

Both agents stopped.

The one she had called by name took off his glasses and regarded her with his blue eyes.

Alyson waited patiently for Lenox’ response.

She didn’t get one.

He casually slipped back on his glasses, and abruptly dismissed her. He climbed into the SUV, getting in behind the steering wheel. He started it up as his partner settled in.

Alyson stood there and watched them go.

Lenox backed the SUV up, turned it about, and headed for the end of Shallow Lane. As he did, he buckled his seat belt. His partner would have buckled his, but it was broken and wouldn’t snap into place. He had discovered this when they had left from their office in Albany, but due to time, they were unable to requisition another vehicle. When Lenox pulled up to the stop sign, he noticed his partner was shaking his head and letting out a chuckle of amusement.

“You find something funny, Bear?” Lenox asked.

Albert Barrington grinned. He wasn’t called “Bear” because of his size. He was of average height and build, and even a few inches shorter than Lenox’ 6’ 2”, but he was nicknamed “Bear” because of his last name. “That depends,” he answered.

“On what?” Lenox narrowed his eyes suspiciously. He was well aware of his partners love for playing him. “And which way am I turning?”

“It depends on whether or not you tell me how the top news reporter of the DEN knows you. If you don’t, I’ll just have to draw my own conclusion.” He aimed his right thumb at his window. “And you’re taking a right. Park somewhere on the next street over.”

Lenox took a right. “So…what is the conclusion you’ll be forced to come up with?”

“Well, since you refuse to find someone to settle down with, I must assume Alyson Moore was another one of your…ah, discreet rendezvous’.”

Lenox turned onto the next street, drove up a few houses, then pulled over and parked. “It was a while back, Al. Besides, marriage isn’t for me. You know that. For you, maybe, but I don’t have the time or the patience for it.” He looked out the window. “Why are we here?”

Barrington looked out the window at the house they were parked in front of. He didn’t see any movement in the windows, and there were no vehicles in the driveway. “We have to cut through these backyards and come up the back way of 22 Shallow Lane.” He paused for affect. “Canaan is there. If we go in this way…”

“…We avoid the Source,” Lenox finished. He withdrew his weapon from his left shoulder holster and checked it. “Let’s go get him.”

“Knox…the man is voluntarily turning himself over to us.”

“Yeah. And I’m the tooth fairy.” He climbed out of the car.

Barrington followed. As the two made their way around the house and into the backyard, Barrington couldn’t resist commenting to his partner. “That’s funny,” he said with a chuckle. “You don’t look like a fairy. Tooth or otherwise.”

Lenox shot him a look, but continued on.

The two men made their way through the backyard. Crossing through the woods that separated the two rural neighborhoods took no time at all. Staying in the woods, they looked out into the backyards of the even numbered houses on Shallow Lane. The yards were well kept and taken care of. One of them had a small green house, two had swimming pools, and each had decorated patio’s for outdoor grilling.

Barrington pointed to the house with an in-ground swimming pool. The yard was completely surrounded by a wooden fence. The FBI agents slowly approached it. Lenox got to the fence first and peered over it, looking for any signs of movement. When he was satisfied there were none, he re-holstered his weapon and paused at the fence while Barrington moved into a position to cover him. They had worked side by side for more than twelve years, so no words were necessary.

Lenox pulled himself over the fence and by the time his feet hit the ground, he was again armed and leveling his .357 Magnum toward the house. There were still no signs of any movement. When Barrington was over the fence, the men advanced toward the house.

As they neared the patio, the patio doors opened and a thin man stepped out. He saw the men with raised guns leveled at him and decided wisely to remain still. His gaze never wavered as he looked from one man to the next. He stood up straight and appeared to simply wait for them to make their move. His hands were at his sides, and in his right hand was a book. He made no threatening moves.

Lenox and Barrington both knew that the man before them was Joseph Canaan, the Carpenter.

******* *******

Darren T. Fuller sat at his desk in his office, looking thoughtfully at the red cell phone he was holding in his right hand. He was thinking about the conversation he had just had on it earlier that morning. Being the Director of the ATD, the Anti-Terrorist Division of the FBI, was not an easy job. He was where he was today because he had long since proven that he was a man capable of getting the job done. He was a born leader among men and the people he was over respected him, even loved him. He never expected from them what he didn’t expect from himself. They were responsible for carrying out his orders and doing their job, but he was responsible for much more than that.

Fuller had been in the Marines for most of his life, and he had quickly moved up in rank. His performance as a military officer had been beyond outstanding. He had been in Afghanistan, Syria, Guam, and Iran. He went above and beyond the call of duty during Desert Storm. He had personally led a successful rescue operation to free American hostages in Syria. With his accomplishments, no one was surprised how quickly his career had led him to his latest position.

It was because of the efforts of himself and his division of agents which led to the arrest of a terrorist named Abdullah Muhaffit a month prior. The terrorist had been caught with a nuclear smart bomb inside a suitcase in New York City. Fuller’s top agents, Lenox and Barrington, made the arrest themselves, and the only reason Lenox hadn’t killed the man was because they needed answers. Lenox had interrogated the man personally after waiting unsuccessfully for the interrogators assigned for the job to make the man talk. The interrogators had been unsuccessful and were in turn uncooperative to agents Lenox and Barrington. Lenox took it upon himself to kidnap the terrorist, and had taken him to the Manhattan bridge where he “interrogated” the terrorist without mercy. Within an hour, the man had admitted there were six more smart bombs with six secret locations which he did not know of. The man was close to death by the time Lenox returned him. Fuller used just about every favor owed to him to keep Lenox instated in his division.

The ATD used every resource they could to find the six remaining bombs. Their sources helped them locate another one in Washington DC, and even though the agents there were able to get to the bomb, the terrorist keeping it had been killed.

Fuller hadn’t been convinced there were six additional bombs until that second one had been found. He was a man who was very concerned about the state of affairs of the entire world. The Islamic radicals were on the rise and becoming bolder every day since 9 – 11. Fuller genuinely feared for his country and for Israel, because he knew that they were the primary targets for terrorist attack. He was also convinced Israel was the main focus of what some had labeled as the Religious War. Those people only had it half right. It was a war on theology, and the Muslim State were far more dangerous today than they ever were.

The grey-haired man once again glanced at the red cell phone in his hand. It was a constant reminder of why he hated his job so much. Even though the red cell phone gave him access to an old time friend, it also meant every time he talked on it, something was about to happen that could not be avoided. As he mulled over what he had discussed, there was a knock on the door.

It was a knock that told him who was at the door. No one else ever knocked inthat way. No one ever had the gall to knock the way this person knocked. It was as if the door was not a door, but a drum. Bam bam bam, bam bam bam bam, bam bam bam, bam bam bam bam. There was almost a rhythm to it. The one thing for certain was that Fuller found it most annoying, but because of the brilliant mind behind the man who owned the obnoxious knock, he was willing to forgive him some of his strange behaviors.

“It’s open,” Fuller called out.

But the knocking continued.

Fuller sighed. “William, the door is open!

And the rhythmic, annoying knocking commenced without skipping a beat. That’s when he realized his mistake. He was telling the knocker the door was open, but it wasn’t open. It was closed, hence, the knocking. If he had told anyone else that the door was open, they would have simply opened the door and stepped into his office. But he should have known that wouldn’t happen where William “Crazy Man” Fronk was concerned. Fronk took him literally at his word the way he took every one. To him, the door was not at all open, so therefore, he was going to continue knocking.

Fuller let out a weary sigh and raised his voice. “Open the door, and come in!

The door swung open, slamming into the wall, and Fronk entered the room. His long auburn hair, Workhouse jeans with multiple pockets, bright red shirt with a photo of Bob Denver and the words “Save Gilligan” beneath it, and dirty white ankle-high tennis shoes did not give him the appearance of one who worked as an FBI agent. Fuller always received strange looks from people when they entered the ATD Center and saw Fronk for the first time. One visitor had actually pointed at Fronk and asked Director Fuller, “How do you explain that?” To which Fuller had forlornly responded with, “I can’t.”

The truth of the matter was he could explain it. Fronk was a computer wizard far above the top of his class. He was employed within the agency, but had seen very little field work. This was simply because what he did best was sit behind a computer and fight terrorism over the internet. Fuller found the young man annoying at times, but he also saw him as the son he never had.

“If I could just have a moment of your time, Skipper,” Fronk began as he closed the door.

Fuller sighed. “I really wish you would stop calling me that.”

Fronk began to pace the room as he often did when one of his many rants was about to begin. “Oh, but ‘Skipper’ is the only thing I can call you, because it fits! You aren’t a professor, but you do have that elderly tutorial look about you, I must admit.” He tossed his hands up dramatically and exclaimed, “No, sir, Skipper…you cannot be called by-”

Fuller leaned back in his seat. “William,” he interrupted, “can you just tell me about the plan you’ve been working on?”

Fronk stopped, turned to regard him for a moment, and then finally nodded. “Oh, absopositivalutely, my fearless leader. The plan, as you have called it, is in motion as we speak. Actually, it has been in motion since it has been discovered that Iran was implementing an EMP program against us. Since I have been called upon to look into it, our chances to counter this attack has risen by…Oh…” He paused and looked about the room as if he could pull a statistic from the air.

Fuller recognized the body language. He knew Fronk all too well. “In spite of your brilliant mind, it hasn’t risen by much, has it?”

“Well, we did gain a slight 10% marginal increase.“

“Great,“ Fuller grumbled, “we went from 28% to 38%. Would you mind telling me where the other 62% are going to come from?“

Fronk paused. “Remember what I told you before? Months ago when you brought this to me? I told you we need a remote place, away from the city.”

“New York doesn’t have a terrorist with a nuke.”

“We’re talking about an EMP attack, Skipper. An Electro-Magnetic-Pulse. It in itself is a different kind of nuke. It could cripple us within a billionth of a second. And that’s fast! They hit us with that, the US will have no power, no transportation, no communication…No zip! Nada! Nothing.”

Fuller paused. “We have a remote place, William. It was set up upon your recommendations.”

Fronk leaned over his Director’s desk and with his eyes wide open, looked into his face. “You did? When? Why wasn’t I told?”

“I did. I put the wheels in motion right after our first discussion. And to answer your third question…you work for me, remember?”

The Crazy Man slowly righted himself. Then, he nodded thoughtfully. “Riiiight,” he said slowly. “Your signature is on my paycheck, after all.” He slapped himself in the forehead. “What was I thinking?”

“I really have no idea.”

Fronk regarded him. “So everything was done as I had recommended?”

“The remote area has no connection to any power lines. It’s all generated power. Conducers take in the power of the sun and store it at night.”

Fronk smiled and nodded. “Yeah. Hey, I saw that on Extreme Makeover; Home Edition. I’m sure if Gilligan had been given just a few seasons more, the Professor would have been able to-”

“William.”

Fronk blinked. “Yeah?”

“We’ve got a couple of places prepared for this attack – if there is an attack. But it really isn’t going to be enough, is it?”

Fronk paused. “Most of America will be blind. Planes will fall from the sky if they are affected, and most of them – if not all – will be affected. Communication will be stopped. Cell phones will not work.”

Fuller looked once more at the red cell phone he had placed on his desk when Fronk had entered the room earlier.

Fronk glanced at it, too. He knew about the red cell phone and why it was so important. “I can fix the phones from our remote location, Skipper. It’ll have to come next. If you have these remote areas and we can contact each other by computer after this thing hits, we’ll have more of a chance than the crew of the USS Minnow did.”

The Director let out a sigh, and shook his head. “For the life of me, I have no idea what your fascination is with this television program, but I have to be frank…You’re worst than a Trekkie.” He paused. “And a lot scarier, too.”

“To be serious, Skipper, if this thing hits…I think I’d rather be on a deserted island than here. Of course…I’d like my computer there, too. And Little Debbie Swiss Rolls.” He sighed. “They’re sooooo delightfully yummy.”

“Is there anything else? Something you came in here to really see me about?”

Fronk turned around and looked out the window. He had his back to Fuller now, and that was not a good sign. If he couldn’t be the Crazy Man he was known to be and if he was even the slightest bit scared, he wouldn’t make eye contact with any one. He didn’t make any now with Fuller. He even cleared his throat, another bad sign. “I think it’s time, Director.”

Fuller recognized the third sign. Fronk had not called him Skipper. “Time for what?”

“I need to be at the remote area you had set up.”

“Do you want to tell me why?”

Fronk didn’t turn around. “I have a bad feeling…That’s all. Something isn’t right. It just…it doesn’t feel right. I would feel safer doing what I do best.” He shrugged. “That’s all.”

Fuller nodded thoughtfully. “Alright. I’ll see to it that you’re at the Adirondacks in a few hours.”

Fronk turned to face him. “The Adirondacks? It should be pretty up there. Too bad I wasn’t a leaf collector.” He headed for the door. He opened it and suddenly stopped to turn back. “Oh, say, did you want to speak to Mary Ann?”

Fuller couldn’t resist rolling his eyes. “Her name is Nichole, William, and you know she doesn’t like to be called Mary Ann.”

“Yeah, I know.” He put his hand to his mouth and whispered, “But I only call her Mary Ann when she isn’t listening.”

“Send her in.”

“Tell The White Man Who Lives In The White House that The Crazy Man Who Works In A Grey Building says ‘Hello!’ next time you speak words with him,” Fronk replied in a deep, narratative voice. With that, he turned and made his exit.

Fuller had only a few moments to mull over in his mind what they had just discussed. He didn’t want to admit it, but he had a bad feeling in the pit of his stomach, too. It was why he was looking forward to meeting with Nichole Parkhurst. Talking with her about a matter that wasn’t as serious was just the breather he needed.

A tall woman whose eyes were as dark as her shoulder length hair stepped into his office. Her eyes usually carried a little humor, and infectious joy in them, but this time as they focused on the Director, they were serious. Nicole Parkhurst was all business when she came into Fuller’s office. He sensed it the second he saw her and recognized this was a sign something had happened. Nichole was his personal assistant within the unit; helping in the assembling of mission documents, evaluating the personnel, and a thousand other duties on top of those.

Something must have alarmed her.

“What is it?” he asked.

She closed the door behind her. “The DEN.”

That was enough for him. Fuller reached for the remote control and turned on the power to the television along the wall facing him. He had an idea of what he was going to see. He had sent Lenox and Barrington to pick up Joseph Canaan, but without making a scene. For Nichole just to mention The DEN was enough to raise an alarm.

Alyson Moore was standing in the front yard of a house that had become a burning pile of debris, and she was saying, “…Canaan, but their identities will be unknown until confirmation can be made.”

She turned her head. Something had obviously caught her attention off screen and whatever it was caused her to move away. The picture on the screen wavered, telling Fuller the camera man was following eagerly behind, capturing vehicles in the driveway and three men. Two of them he immediately recognized.

“Oh, no,” he said softly.

He watched with Nichole as Barrington disappeared from view. His worst fears were realized when Alyson set her sights upon Lenox. “Excuse me, sir,” she began, placing herself directly in front of the agent, “can you tell me if you have already taken Joseph Canaan into custody for the murder of his family or is there a manhunt out for him?”

Fuller took a deep breath. “Please, don’t say anything.”

As if responding to Fuller’s wish, Lenox on the screen simply looked at Alyson, then turned away as if dismissing her.

“He’s good,” Nicole commented as she stood beside the desk, watching the screen.

Fuller didn’t trust himself to speak.

On the screen, Alyson continued to press Lenox. “Sir, there is reason to suspect that Joseph Canaan has involved himself with terrorists, and there may be evidence here implicating him in the murder of his family. Can you comment for us what your intentions are regarding the Carpenter?”

Fuller was greatly relieved when Barrington rejoined Lenox, and the two of them headed back for their vehicle, but there was still a lot of reason for concern. Alyson followed after them with her camera man capturing the scene.

“If I could just get a comment from-” she began.

Barrington turned to her as he opened the passenger door and smiled politely.“I’m sorry, ma’am. No comment.”

He began to enter the car.

Fuller was relieved. No comment was being made and his men were going to leave the scene. As far as he was concerned, all was well with the world at that moment and he was ready to take a deep sigh. This would release the tension he had been feeling since he had turned on the television.

Then, it happened.

Alyson focused once again on one of his men. “What about it…Michael Lenox? Will the DEN get a comment from you or not?”

Lenox took off his sunglasses and looked at Alyson. Fuller wondered why he had taken them off, but it didn’t matter. His name had been spoken on national television by one of the most acclaimed news reporters of the media. To his credit, however, the man simply put his glasses back on, and climbed into the car, once again dismissing her completely.

When his men were driving away, Fuller had had enough. He turned off the TV. “How does Alyson Moore know his name?”

“I’m sure you know the answer to that,” Nicole told him as she took a seat.

“I’m sure I don’t.”

She looked at him knowingly, but didn’t say anything.

“With Alyson Moore?!” he exclaimed. “Who does he think he is? James Bond?”

“Evidently some women think so. He can be charming.”

Fuller shook his head. A thought crossed his mind. “You don’t think he’s Bond, do you?”

“I think he’s Michael Lenox, a very insecure man who has to be someone he is not in order to feel secure.”

“Are you trying to tell me something?”

She shook her head. “No, sir. I’m just calling it like I see it.” Lenox had hit upon her since she had taken the job, and it had been difficult at the first. When she began witnessing her faith to him, he turned off some of the charm he had attempted upon her. At least they had an understanding. He would respect her, and she would continue to pray for him.

“Well…now the world is aware that The Source knows Michael Lenox’s name. If she knows his name, what else does she know?”

“Oh, have a little more faith in him than that, Director. I sincerely doubt he would tell her anything newsworthy. As I’ve said, he can be charming and still not reveal anything about himself, or what he does. If that is what you are concerned about, you needn’t be.”

Fuller nodded thoughtfully. He decided he and Lenox were overdue for a long talk. He turned his chair a bit so he was directly facing his personal assistant. “Alright,” he finally said. “I’ll deal with Michael later. But for now, we might have a problem.”

Nicole couldn’t hide the concern in her eyes. “What is it?”

“James wants to lodge a formal complaint against you. I’m trying to talk him out of it, but he’s hard to convince you were simply proselytizing to him out of your excitement for your faith.” He shrugged. “And even if you were, he doesn’t care. He doesn’t appreciate being told that he’s a sinner condemned to hell.”

Nicole looked genuinely baffled. “James…Bollinger?”

Fuller nodded. “I know you didn’t push him, Nichole.”

“But you said he was lodging a formal complaint.”

“He is. Just tell me you didn’t go seeking him out to witness to him intentionally.”

She shook her head. “I didn’t. I was having lunch and he came directly to me. He started asking questions. I answered.” She let out a sigh. “How much trouble can I get into?”

“You could lose your job.”

“Oh, Director, I–”

“Don’t worry about it. You know I’m not going to let that happen. You’re only in here because I have to give the appearance of reprimanding you. Can you walk out of here looking chastised?”

She tried not to scowl. “Can’t I just be mad?”

“Yes, that will work.” He paused. “Didn’t you once tell me God is bigger than any problem you encounter? I won’t lose you on this.”

“He is bigger than this. It doesn’t change the fact that I’m still only human.” She shook her head. “He’s toying with me, isn’t he? Leads me on about wanting to know about Jesus and what He did on the cross, and then when I tell him, he goes and makes a complaint. Why?”

“Some people just like to play games. I’ll have another talk with him, but it might be a good idea that you apologize to him.”

“Is that what he wants? To make me grovel?” She shrugged helplessly. “I mean, I’ll do it, if that’s what it takes. Is he in?”

He shook his head. “I’m sure he’ll seek you out when he returns. Just apologize and walk away. Don’t let him draw you into any more discussions about your faith. Okay?”

“Okay.”

“Good. Now go back out there and alert me as soon as Michael and Albert return with their guest of honor.”

Nicole rose to her feet to leave, but she appeared troubled.

“Nicole, I promise. It will be alright,” he assured her.

At the door, she turned to regard him. “What?” Then, she realized he was referring to their discussion. “Oh, yes. Yes, I know, and thank you, sir. I…I was just thinking of something else.”

“What were you thinking, if you don’t mind my asking?” When she appeared to hesitate, he said, “Nicole, you don’t have to tell me, but you do know I’m here for you.” He smiled wistfully. “I see all of you as family, in some ways. And you’re the only one I’ll ever admit that to, by the way.”

“I appreciate that.”

“You can talk to me. Even if it is about your faith. I rather enjoy our discussions.”

“But you haven’t decided.”

He paused. “I have much to consider.”

She nodded. “I know you do. I just want you to know that with everything happening in the world today, sir…there may not be much time any more. I’m afraid you’ll be too late and…and when I’m gone, you’ll be left behind.”

“Is that what’s troubling you?”

“Yes. That…and my sister.”

“You’ve talked to me about your sister before. Is she okay? Do you need time off to see her?”

She shook her head. “No. She’s fine. I just worry about her, that’s all.” Then, she added, “And she does live in the area, so it isn’t like I can’t get to her at all. I guess we both just have different lives now than we did when we were growing up together.”

“Why does she worry you?”

“She made a profession of faith when she was younger. Sometimes, I just get this overwhelming fear the only reason she did it was because her older sister did. She went to church with me, we went to all of the activities together…” She hesitated. “I don’t know. It just felt like at times, she was just playing the part. So I worry about her.”

Fuller paused. “Would it help if I told you I would seek her out if anything happens?”

Nicole smiled. “I would appreciate that, sir. But I have to warn you it is written…‘Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.’ (II Corinthians 6:2)” She shook her head. “You should never put it off.”

He regarded her. “Thank you, Nichole. I do appreciate that you care so strongly about this. I’ll be okay.” He paused. “Maybe you should call your sister.”

“Thank you, sir. I will.”

Nicole left his office and went back to work with a heavy heart. Fuller sat back in his chair and considered all that had happened within the past hour. He couldn’t help but wonder if Nichole was right. If today were the day of salvation. One thing was certain…he had a very bad feeling that before this day was over, things were going to get a whole lot worse than they already were.

******* *******

She was fully aware of the looks she was receiving whenever she passed the nurses station. How could she not be aware of the looks? They were there wherever she turned, whether she wanted to avoid them or not. They were all trying not to be so obvious, but that is what made the looks as plain as day. Some of the nurses would look away too quickly, and some of the aides would just gape at her openly as if she wouldn‘t notice. Only the ones who called her friend would give her an encouraging smile, or a concerned look.

Then there were the ones who had a different look. It was the look that wondered how she could be so calm and continue to go on about her day as if nothing had happened.

Staci Cohen wondered that herself, but realized if she even so much as stopped to think about it, she would lose it and cry like a baby. She had to keep herself busy. Perhaps that was one of the perks of being a doctor. There was always someone who needed her attention. So if she concentrated on her job and checked in on each one of her patients staying at Albany Medical, she would be able to keep her cool.

So Dr. Cohen smiled at people, and held her head high. Those who knew her well did not see that familiar sparkle in her eye which usually accompanied her smiles, but for the most part, it worked. She was able to put the horrible morning behind her and move forward. At least for a short time. Unfortunately a quiet moment came, and it came with the personal visit from the CEO of the hospital.

Staci expected his visit. Richard Manning was the type of man who cared personally for all of the staff, and was more than willing to do everything in his power to help. In her case, it was more than the exception. He had been her mentor and had been with her since she came to be on the staff at Albany Medical. He was like a father to her. The only reason she dreaded seeing him in her office would be the temptation to hug his neck and weep bitterly.

She truly expected her visit with Dr. Manning to go smoothly, but this day had been full of firsts for her. It was only going to get worse.

She stepped into her office, knowing he was waiting for her there, and as she closed the door, she smiled at him. It was a smile of hope for a better day. She was about to greet him when he got right to the matter at hand.

“Would you care to explain the fiasco that happened in Emergency Room 4 this morning?” he demanded, turning to face her.

Staci nearly froze where she stood. She was stunned by the tone of his voice, and even more shocked that it was aimed at her. The tone was extremely harsh, and he had never used it on her before. It made her feel as if she had done something wrong. Manning was a tall man, towering over her by nearly a foot, but never had he seemed so intimidating as this moment.

She found herself swallowing back a lump of fear. “I’m…having a really bad day today.” She hesitated, then slowly made her way to her desk. She felt oddly comforted to have something in between her and the severe looking CEO. “I was attacked-”

“You were attacked?” Manning snapped. “Mr. Musad told me you attacked his father, who was your patient until he died under your care.”

“What…?” Staci stood behind her desk. She felt like she was going to be ill. “That…that isn’t what happened. Please tell me you don’t believe I would ever attack-”

He sighed wearily and turned away from her. Finally, he shook his head. “No, Staci. I do not believe you attacked any one. But…you didn’t have anyone else in the room. It was just you, Mr. Musad, and the patient.”

“No…no, there was someone else. There was his brother.”

“Whose brother?”

“Mr. Musad’s brother. They were both in there and…and they wouldn’t let me leave. They would not let me call for help.” Then, everything just blurted out, and in spite of herself, a tear did manage to trickle down her right cheek. “One of them kept me pinned against the wall while the other one just stood there by his father, letting him die! He-he stayed by the door and made sure no one entered. By the time anyone was able to get in, it was too late. Their father died. They wouldn’t let me help him, and they knew I could have…” She whispered the last part, as if still unable to grasp it ever happened at all. “They let him die.”

“Staci, did anyone see this man holding you against the wall?”

She hesitated. “No.”

“No,” he repeated. “Are you aware that no one even recalls seeing this other man you say was in the room with you?”

“Oh, come on…Someone must have seen him.”

“If someone saw this man, no one is saying they did.”

Staci swallowed again, trying desperately not to lose it now. “Richard, please. This man held a knife to my throat! They both threatened to kill me. They told me it would be better that their father die rather than to receive care from a-” She abruptly stopped. She sucked in her lower lip, turned her back toward Manning, and looked away. She closed her eyes and tried not to cry. Not now!she cried within. Please, keep it together. Staci, hold on!

“What is it?” Manning inquired. “What did they say? They would rather let their father die than to receive care from a…what?”

She turned her head a little. “A Jew,” she said softly.

Manning was silent for a moment. Finally, he said, “Staci, your patient died. No one saw this other man you say was in the room.” He held up a hand as she turned to face him. “I’m not saying I doubt you. If you say there was someone there, then I believe you. But Mr. Musad wants to press charges against you. He claims you attacked his father and he was only trying to keep you from him.”

“That-that’s crazy.”

“I know it is.” He paused. “You’ve got some trouble coming your way over this, Staci.”

“Why? Be-because I’m a Jew?” She shook her head in complete disbelief. Never had she felt like wanting to die than she did at that moment. “I-I don’t understand this. No-not any of this! I was only doing my job. I-I was doing what I’ve been called to do. These men barge into my life, tell me they’d rather allow their father to die th-than to let me help him because they hate me, and they hold me hostage…and it’s my fault?” She sighed. “Do I even look Jewish? I mean, what makes me a Jew? On my mothers side, yes, I am Jewish. My father isn’t. I was born and raised in the United States of America…right here in the state of New York. I never gave it a thought about being a Jew. But today…today I come to work and am told I am hated because I’m a Jew. How crazy is that? It…it doesn’t make any sense to me.” She looked across her desk at Manning, searching for an answer. “Does that make any sense to you?”

To her surprise, Manning did not respond to her questions. Instead, he said, “See the lawyers. Talk to somebody from Counsel right now, then go home. If you don’t come in tomorrow, I’ll understand. You probably should take some time off after today.” He headed for the door. Before he left, he said, “Let me know what Counsel decides.”

Then, he was gone.

No good-bye’s. No I’ll be here for you if you need me. He simply walked out of her office as if she were a disease. Like she was a bug he didn’t want to catch. Staci fell into her chair behind her desk and buried her face in her hands. She couldn’t hold it back any more. She let the tears fall and her shoulders rocked with her sobs. As she cried bitterly, she thought of her older sister and wondered if she had ever come across such hatred.

What would she have done?

Maybe it didn’t matter. Who could ever stand up to such adversity? She certainly couldn’t. Staci Cohen suddenly felt horribly abandoned and alone, and she couldn’t help but wonder if this was how Jewish people were supposed to feel.

_______ _______ _______

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