Chapter 4 – The Message

“Anything you tell us now will help us do our jobs more effectively,” Lenox replied casually as he glanced at the scenery going past his window. “But no matter what you say, you’re still going to pay for the crimes you’ve committed against this country and against your own family.”

Canaan, who sat in the back seat of the SUV with his hands handcuffed behind his back, remained silent. Beside him was his Bible, a gesture of kindness from Barrington who had placed it there.

Lenox glanced at Barrington. “What gets me is how you could have become a terrorist when you’re an American,” he said to Canaan. “Your parents are full-blooded Americans. You’ve never been overseas…as far as our resources tell us anyway. There’s been no record of you being held and brainwashed by terrorists…So what happened? How did you change your ways and become an enemy of the country?”

“I’m not a terrorist,” Canaan said. He paused as he swallowed back the pain of losing his loved ones. Softly, he said, “I didn’t kill my family.”

Lenox turned his head. “A denial? Is that what you’re giving us? You deny the charges against you?”

“There’s no point in this. You’ll see what you want to see. At least I know my family may be absent from their bodies, but they are present with my Lord.”

Lenox turned fully around to glare at him. “Oh, I get it. This is a religious war you’re waging. The sinners must die and judgment must come to all! You’re using that book to hide behind your own guilt.” He shook his head in disgust. “You’re lucky my friend here is driving, because if I was, I would have pulled over and given you a taste of your own judgment.”

Barrington glanced in the rearview mirror. “That’s good to know, because I’m not pulling over any time soon.”

“Tell us about the terrorists you’ve been meeting with, Canaan. Tell us your sad story and how you became a threat to an entire nation.”

“You don’t know what you’re saying,” Canaan told him, “but you are right about one thing. In the eyes of the people, this is a religious war. It’s a Holy War which has been going on since the beginning of time. This war has been going on since Adam and Eve walked the earth. It began at Creation when Eve was beguiled by the serpent.”

“I’m not interested in your pointless drivel. I want names, places, and plots. I want them before we get you locked up.”

Barrington hesitated. “Knox, I don’t believe anything in the Bible is pointless drivel.”

Lenox glared at him. “I’m not talking about the Bible.”

“Well, the Creation account–”

“What are you talking about? I’m not interested in stories from the Bible, Bear. All I want is information. Would you stop going all preacher on me, and just stick to the driving?”

Barrington sighed. “I want the same thing, Knox, but there are things going on you know nothing about.”

“Is that right?”

Barrington paused, realizing he may have spoken up too soon. “Just take it easy. Let’s wait until we get back to HQ, and then, we’ll go from there.”

“You know, you need to tell your wife to get out of that church she goes to because this stuff is beginning to rub off on you. It interferes with your job.”

“Okay, we’re not going there again. That’s my business. Not yours.”

“What the two of you need is Jesus,” Canaan said. “It is He who will make your burden light. He’ll take it upon Himself, if you let Him.”

Barrington nodded thoughtfully. “That’s what my wife says.”

“Do you believe her?”

He thought about it. “I do know that she believes it.”

“I don’t believe any of this.” Lenox pointed to the side of the road. “Can you pull over so I can knock sense into both of you?”

“There’s nothing wrong with soul searching, as your friend appears to be doing,” Canaan said to Lenox. “Perhaps you should do the same. After all, it isn’t the body which should concern you, but your eternal soul. ‘For what is a man profited, If he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?’1”

Lenox shook his head in disbelief. “You didn’t just quote scripture to me, did you?”

“’For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.’2”

Lenox sighed. “Yeah…here we go.”

“Why do you resist the truth when you know it can set you free?”

“Pull over, Al. I’ve had it with this guy, and he’s going to tell us what we need to know without the voice of one crying from the wilderness, or he’s going to need CPR when I’m through with him.” He turned his attention to his partner and scowled when he saw the look on his face. “What’s your problem?”

Barrington glanced into the rearview mirror. “I’ve been altering our route a little bit from time to time to test out a theory.”

“Which is…?”

“To see if we’re being followed.”

Lenox sat back. “And are we?”

“Well, we had one black sedan following us when we left the scene, but now…we have three.”

“Three,” Lenox repeated.

“It doesn’t matter,” Canaan replied from the back seat. “God’s Will will be done no matter what we do.”

Lenox turned to glare at him. “Shut up. No one was speaking to you.” He took that moment to look behind them, and sure enough, there were three dark sedan’s following them from a few car lengths away. He sat back, withdrew his gun from its holster and made certain it was fully loaded. “We don’t have many options. We can either keep going and wait for them to make a move, or we can strike before they do.”

Barrington shrugged. “Yeah, okay, Macgyver, but I don’t see how you can make any rockets or explosives using anything in this vehicle, and we certainly don‘t have time to stop and pick up pine cones and syrup from trees to plant land mines!”

“Other than the vehicle itself.”

“We need transportation, and there are three of them.”

Lenox nodded. “We need high ground and reinforcements.” He took out his cell phone and tried to call the ATD HQ. Unfortunately, he ran into a snag. “I’m not getting any service. How convenient.”

Barrington handed him his phone. “What about mine?”

Lenox flipped it open and held it up. “No service…and your battery is dying, Al. Don’t you ever charge this?”

Barrington saw a turn coming up and decided to take it. One advantage he did have was that he knew the area simply by knowing maps. If the maps of the area he was in had not drastically changed, he was fairly certain he could find the high ground they needed. He had also been living in the area for most of his life and had at one point or another covered most of Upstate New York personally. So had Lenox.

“Hang on, guys,” he said.

Once he made the turn, he floored it. The SUV shot forward, taking the turn with a squeal of tires on the pavement. The road ahead of them, however, became suddenly filled with sharp curves and the woods became thicker. Behind them, the three sedans gave pursuit.

“There’s a dirt road about a mile or so ahead of us if I recall,” Barrington said as he took the sharp curves as fast as he was able to without going off the road. “It heads up into some hills where we can get to and hide.” The hills he was referring to were loaded with dirt trails over miles of land. If they could lose their pursuers, they could easily find another route and keep moving. Or just lay low and wait.

“Just let me out,” Lenox growled. “I’ll slow them down.”

Barrington shook his head, grinning at his partner’s enthusiasm, but not slowing down for a second.

Behind him, one of the sedans swerved too sharply and the rear fishtailed off the road. Before the driver could correct his error, one of the sedans behind him swerved to avoid a collision. The move was successful, but the sedan still managed to clip the very front end of the first sedan, pushing it completely off the road. The driver began to raise his fists in anger, swearing vehemently when he realized the vehicle was now stuck in a ditch.

The two remaining sedans continued after their targets.

Barrington poured on as much speed as he could. When the dirt road came up on the left, he turned the wheel expertly and bounced the SUV over the bumpy ground. He sped up the dirt road and glanced in the rearview mirror. By the time the dust settled, the two sedans sped on past the dirt road, having not noticed their prey had taken it. Barrington used the advantage to turn off one dirt road, only to get onto another. By the time he was deep into the hills, he was fairly confident it would be harder to find them than before.

Lenox, however, voiced another concern. “They could get reinforcements and come looking for us.”

“Depends on how many men they have,” Barrington said with a shrug.

“About a hundred,” Canaan said softly.

Barrington continued to drive, but Lenox turned to glare at their prisoner. “What?” he demanded. “You know this to be true? Or are you making this up to stall us?”

“This cell has a hundred men. If there are any more than that, then they have already had reinforcements.” Canaan paused. “It also means that they’re ready.”

“For what?”

“For the attack.”

Lenox and Barrington exchanged glances.

“We’ve got to make this quick,” Lenox finally said. “Find a way out of here and let’s get to HQ before this day is out.”

Barrington only nodded.

Lenox turned back to Canaan. “And while my friend is doing the driving, you’ll be doing all the talking…Starting right now.” The look he gave Canaan promised nothing but sorrow if he didn’t get the answers he was looking for.

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

Marc Fury Shiva

“You seem to know a lot more about what’s going on here than anyone else does,” Shiva said as he and Vogel headed out of the warehouse and into the sun.

Vogel took a drink from a water bottle as he looked out toward the sunset. In a few hours, it would be dark. A feeling of foreboding almost overcame him. If he wasn’t a Christian holding onto his faith, it would have. “I don’t really know all that much, Fury.” He shrugged. “Who does?”

“Come on, man!” Shiva replied, frustration in his voice. “This place has obviously been here for a long while, and it looks like it’s here for a reason. There are bunkers in the ground, man. You guys are told to remove computer components from the choppers that have them. There are food rations here that could feed an army…and you don’t know what’s going on? You keep preaching about the end of days and yet you don’t know what’s going on?!” He shook his head. “Preacher, you seem to have a look of calm about you, but you also have a sense of…a sense of resignation. Like you know it‘s coming and have resigned yourself to it.”

“I just know that no one can change what is about to take place.”

“What is about to take place, man?”

Vogel regarded him. “Fury, it doesn’t matter.”

“What are you talking about? If you’re talking about the end of the world, how can it not matter? If this is the end, man, I need to know what I’m dying for.” He paused. “Is it the end? Are we going to be attacked?”

“I don’t know. I told you, it doesn’t matter. None of it matters. None of it makes a bit of difference for the bad or for the good. The only thing that does matter is what you do with Christ.”

Shiva looked at him, startled by his words. “I don’t get it. Look, I understand you have your religion, and you stand by it…And I respect that. But what does Christ have to do with what’s happening today? He’s dead, man. I mean, the man died over a few thousand years ago, so how can He possibly have anything to do with the end of the world?”

“He has everything to do with it, and your decision on what to do about Him has everything to do with the rest of your life. One encounter with Jesus Christ is enough to change you, instantly, forever.” Vogel turned to look at Shiva. “Jesus Christ died a few thousand years ago. Yes, that’s true, but He also rose again so that others who believe in Him can do the same.”

Shiva let out a sigh. It wasn’t that he didn’t want to hear it, but it was more that he didn’t yet understand it. “That’s what I don’t follow, man. I’ve spent a lot of time in Sunday school when I was a kid, and that resurrection stuff just doesn’t make sense.”

“What do you mean?”

“First of all, you weren’t there. How do you know He resurrected? How do you know Jesus came out of the tomb? You didn’t see it happen. And secondly, how do you explain that there hasn’t been any resurrections from any one who has died since the supposed resurrection of Jesus Christ?”

Vogel nodded his head thoughtfully. “Those are very good questions, Marc.”

“Can you answer them?”

“I can answer them, but what you do with those answers are, of course, up to you. We both know I wasn’t there. You weren’t there. Those who live today were not there to witness the ministry of Christ. We weren’t there to witness the last three years of His life and the impact He made in the world at that time. We didn’t witness how He was betrayed, nor did we see Him with our own eyes how He was mocked, how He was beaten, and whipped with a cat of nine tails that tore into his flesh, and forced to wear a crown of thorns. We weren’t standing there on Golgotha when He was crucified. We didn’t see them pierce His side to let the water and blood flow freely. We didn’t see them take Him down and place Him inside a dark tomb. We were not witness to that day when the stone was rolled away and He arose victorious. All of it was prophesied before it happened.” He paused. “No, Marc. We weren’t there. But it doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. There were men in that day, I’m sure, who were there and yet refused to believe. Just as that is true, it is also true that there are men and women today who weren’t there, but do believe.

“Marc, I believe this because the Bible tells me these things have happened. I have experienced many things in my Christian walk which only show me that God is real and what God has said in His Word is true. I have had specific prayers answered. I have learned to walk by faith and not by sight, which means I trust in things I can’t see more than I do in things I can see. So I can’t make you believe. You have to listen to what your heart says and determine for yourself if what I say is true. All I can tell you is what has been written is true.

“’Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed? For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form or comeliness, and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him. He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows; yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes are we healed.’ I have been healed, Marc. You can be, too. ‘All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth. He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken. And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth.’Pilate could find no fault in Him when he brought Him before the crowds. ‘Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand. He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities. Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death, and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many and made intercession for the transgressors.’”

Shiva shook his head in wonder. “Wow.”

“Yeah. That’s what I say every time I read the scriptures.”

“All that is a quote from the Bible?”

He nodded. “Isaiah 53. All twelve verses of it.”

“How do you know so much?”

Vogel shrugged. “Marc, I just read the Bible, pray, and live to the best of the ability God has given me. I’m just telling you what is on my heart to tell you. The bottom line is that you have a need. That need is Jesus Christ. He is the One you need. He is the One who can give you life, and life more abundantly. He holds the keys to death and hell, Marc. He took them from Satan so you don’t have to go there. You see, right now, you’re standing at a crossroad. You’re searching, but you have to know if you choose the wrong road, it will lead you to destruction and to an eternity of torment.”

Shiva hesitated. “You’re talking about Hell.”

He nodded. “Yes, I am. Now about the resurrection. All I can tell you is that physical death does not end human existence. When we die, it isn’t over, but our chance to choose life must be made before death. I’m now talking about everlasting life. The life that only Christ can give to those who ask Him of it. He knows you, Marc. He wants you to come to Him, and if you do, the troubles this world is facing will not change, but the way you live your life will if you let it.”

“How does a person simply come to Christ and ask Him? You still can’t see Him.”

“He’s there. You just have to believe. Call out to Him in prayer…in your heart. Do you recognize that you are a sinner? It is written, ‘For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.’3 Do you believe that?”

Shiva grinned like a man who had just been caught with his hand in the cookie jar. “I was a wrestler once, Kevin. I’ve done things I’m not proud of, and to this day, wished I hadn’t. Yes. I believe I’m a sinner.”

Vogel nodded. “Good. That’s the first step. You know that you’re a sinner. So the next question would be…as a sinner, can you save yourself from your sin?”

Shiva frowned. “Well…I would have to say no. I can’t take my sin away. I mean…I can’t change my own nature.” He paused in thought. “As a wrestler, my nature was to win. I wanted to win anyway I could, even to the point where I didn’t care how. Nor did I care if it hurt anyone. I just knew I had to get to the top at all costs.” He hesitated. “It almost destroyed me. If it hadn’t of been for Knox, man…I’d probably be dead right now…or worst.” He looked at Vogel. “So, yeah, I guess the answer to that question would be ‘no’. I can’t save myself.”

“It is written, ‘Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.’4 Sin leads to death. ‘For the wages of sin is death…’5 So we know we’re sinners, and we know we cannot save ourselves. Now we’re told through His Word that sin brings judgment. Because of our sin, it isn’t possible for us to come before a Holy God. Our sin leads us to death and to Hell where it is cast out of His presence. In other words, we become separated from God.”

“So we can’t save ourselves. I get it. It’s hopeless and we’re all condemned to Hell because our sin keeps us from God.”

“But there is hope. ‘…but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.’ Now that’s the good news of the Gospel. We’re all sinners. We cannot save ourselves. But we can come to the One who can save us. ‘But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.’6 Now I have to give you the most important verse you will ever hear. John 3:16 says, ‘For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.’ Believe in His name, Marc. Call on Him and accept Him, and you will be saved.”

Shiva paused. “So that’s it?”

Vogel grinned. “Are you kidding? After you get saved, it’s only the beginning of a brand new life.” He regarded him. “So what do you think? Are you ready for that life?”

He shrugged. “I don’t know, Kevin. I really have to give it some thought, you know? I mean, there’s a lot of stuff coming down about an attack and…I just don’t know what’s going to happen.”

“There’s some comfort in standing in the grace of God through troubling times. You don’t want to be outside of His grace when things get worst.”

“Maybe not…but I have to think about what we’ve talked about.”

Vogel nodded. “Sure. I understand. I’m gonna pray for you, though.”

“I appreciate that.”

Vogel saw LeBeau approaching from the warehouse. He looked miserable. “What’s up?”

“I can’t get things done if I keep gettin’ interrupted!” LeBeau complained loudly. “Gotta run and pick up the Director. You comin’, or are ya gonna do some work.”

“I’ll do some more work.”

“Great! I hope that means actual work and not blabbin’ on about yer Jesus, and the End of Days preachin’! Don’t you think we’ve heard enough?”

Shiva came to Vogel’s defense. “Hey, relax. I asked a couple of questions. It wasn’t Preacher who–”

“I don’t really care. I’m sick of it, Kevin! Just do some work and quit yer preachin’ for once! You know, come to think of it, I’d rather go and pick up the Director without you. That way, I won’t have to hear any of it!” With that, he turned and stormed off toward the warehouse.

“I’m sorry about that,” Shiva said. “I’m the one who dragged you out here to talk, man.”

Vogel shrugged. “Don’t worry about it. He’s just concerned.” The Preacher was concerned, too. He prayed for both Shiva and LeBeau, that they would see their need for Christ before it was too late.

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

At the Federal Building in Albany, Director Fuller was making preparations in leaving as he waited for LeBeau to pick him up by chopper. He intended to see to it that Nichole left with him, but when he went to her office to see her, he soon discovered she wasn’t there. The fact that she had left the building without telling him concerned him because it was so unlike her to do so. An inquiry about her missing made him aware she had already left as he suspected, but no one knew why.

He tried to reach her by her cell number, but all he was able to get was her voice mail. He was suddenly very concerned. This wasn’t like her at all, and it was beginning to scare him for her sake.

“Nichole, it’s me,” he said, leaving her a message. “I don’t know where you are, nor why you left in such a hurry, but if this has anything to do with James Bollinger, I intend to do something about it. You need to get to Bunker Island as soon as you can. If you’re heading to your sister’s, then…bring her along. Just get there.” He paused. “I know Bollinger was in to see you earlier. I’m beginning to think he’s a bigger problem than I had originally thought. Just call me.”

Worried, he put his cell phone away, and carried his briefcase with him into the chopper where a solemn-faced LeBeau waited. As he took his seat in the co-pilot’s chair, he gave the pilot the signal to take off and up they went. Fuller glanced down at the city of Albany below him and wondered where Nichole was.

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

Staci was glad the day was over at long last. She had prayed with Kate about her situation…or at least Kate had done the praying. Staci simply couldn’t bring herself to utter one word to God in supplication of any kind. She had always been uncomfortable praying in front of people. Nor was she the type to spend hours or even minutes at a time upon her knees at the altar of God.

When the visit with Kate had ended, and her son had finally awakened from his nap, she took David home. She spent the rest of the afternoon with him, and they watched Scooby Doo together as Scooby Doo was David’s favorite cartoon character. When it came time to put him to bed, she did so.

Then, she curled up on the sofa with her sherbert ice cream, rented “Just Like Heaven” with Reese Witherspoon and Mark Ruffalo from Movies On Demand, and settled in to forget the day she had somehow lived through. Just as the movie started, a buzzer sounded. Someone was at the entrance outside the apartment complex and wanted to come in. She couldn’t think of who it might be, but she went to the intercom on the wall and pressed it.

“Hello…?” she said.

But there was no response.

She pressed it again. “Hello. Hi, can I help you?”

She stood by and waited for a reply to come back through the speaker, but none came.

She pressed the button one last time. “If-if this is a prank, it’s not very funny! You either say who you are, or…or…or I’m just gonna go back to my movie!”

She waited.

Again, there was no response.

Scowling, Staci turned and went back to her sofa. She looked back once toward the kitchen, but still heard nothing more from the intercom. Maybe someone hit the wrong buzzer. Even so, they should have still been polite enough to apologize for their error. Sighing forlornly, she picked up her sherbert and the remote, and pushed play so she could continue with her movie.

Outside the apartment complex, Nichole was confronted by Bollinger. She had intended to see her sister and warn her about him. It was when she had pressed the buzzer that he revealed his presence to her, making it clear he had been following her. Concerned he would make trouble, she didn’t respond when her sister called out through the intercom.

When the intercom was finally silent, Bollinger shook his head. “For a doctor, she’s not at all that bright, is she?”

“What do you want?” Nichole demanded.

“I see you were going to warn your sister about what we discussed. Didn’t I imply there could be repercussions you would want to avoid?”

“I’ll not be blackmailed while my sister is being toyed with! Leave her alone and play your games with me. She’s been through enough. She…” She stopped when she realized she was about to reveal some of her sister’s secrets.

“Don’t stop on my account.”

Nichole remained silent.

“Okay…I’ll make a deal with you.” He reached into the coat of his pocket and took out something which made him smile. He tossed it to her and watched as she caught them. “Put those on and come with me.”

Nichole looked at what she had caught. They were a pair of handcuffs. She fixed her eyes on him. “If you think I’m putting these on, you’re crazy.”

Bollinger chuckled. “Here’s what I know, Nichole. If you don’t throw your purse away from you and put those on with your hands behind your back, I’ll have my friends pay your sister a visit.” He knew she had a gun in her purse and didn’t want her to reach for it. He held up a small, metallic box and showed her it had a single switch. “All I have to do is flick this, and my boys get the signal. Then,” he shrugged, “you can visit your sister’s grave site and wonder why you didn’t listen to me.”

“Your boys can’t get into the building.”

“How do you know they’re not in there already?”

She nearly paled. Whether he was lying to her or not, she couldn’t tell, but she wasn’t willing to put Staci in the line of fire. With silent resignation, she angrily tossed her purse aside and put her hands behind her back.

“I want to hear those cuffs click.”

She didn’t say anything, but locked the handcuffs in place. The clicks were clearly audible.

“Now turn around.”

Slowly, she did. As he came to her to inspect the handcuffs, she said, “Don’t you think we look unusually suspicious out here in public like this?”

He made a tsking sound as he took her by the arm. “It’s late, people are getting out of work…What do they care about two people chatting amicably on the street?” He began to lead her to his car at the curb, just behind hers. “Besides, I’ve found that people are extremely gullible. Well, mostly, people are just stupid. You can hide the truth right in front of their eyes and they would never see it. For example, the box with the switch I threatened to use is simply that. A useless box with a useless switch…but you fell for it anyway, didn’t you?” He opened the door for her, helped her in, and even reached across her to fasten her seat belt. He smiled. “We must abide by the law, you know.”

He closed the door, whistling a tune as he moved around the car to get in behind the wheel. As he started the car, he winked at Nichole. “Having fun?”

“Oh, yes,” she replied sarcastically. “A wonderful time.”

Bollinger checked for traffic before turning onto the main road. For a while, he drove in silence. He was waiting to see if his passenger would begin demanding to be released or inquiring about what his intentions were. When neither came and she remained silent, he said, “Aren’t you dying to know where we’re going?”

“I’ll know when we get there,” she replied.

“But I really want to tell you.”

She shrugged. “Then, tell me. I refuse to play your games.”

He laughed. “Oh, that’s so good. Sweetheart, you’re playing the game whether you want to or not.”

She glared at him. “Don’t call me any of your ridiculous pet names.”

“Well, I was only trying to be nice.” His smile assured her that he was lying. “We’re going to a place where the action is. Right into the den of lions itself. You know, I feel sorry for you because you did bring this upon yourself. I thought I made it loud and clear. Make no attempt to warn your sister or anyone about our conversation, and all would be well. But noooo. You had to come out here and make me stop you. Now you have to pay the price.”

“What price?”

He looked at her as he stopped at a red light. “Your life.”

She swallowed. “Are you saying you’re going to kill me?”

He paused. “No. Not I, my dear. Not I.” The light changed green and he continued on their drive. “Remember what I said about the lions den.”

“What are you talking about?”

“Think of it this way. You’re doing what Jesus did, aren’t you? I mean, well…He sacrificed His all on the cross for the entire world, but you…” He winked again. “You’re only sacrificing yourself for your sister’s life. Isn’t that sweet of you?”

She glared at him. “What you’re telling me is you don’t have the guts to kill me, so you’re bringing me to some of your pawns to do your dirty work for you. How noble of you…and pathetic.”

He shrugged as if some things were beyond his control. “Yeah…well, I do get that a lot.”

“You won’t get away with this.”

He chuckled. “I get a lot of that, too, but somehow, I didn’t expect that from you.”

“I mean it. You may witness my murder, and you may even enjoy several years after it, but in the end, you will stand before God and you will be judged for your actions against His people. And I will be there!”

“Really?”

“’Be sure your sin will find you out.’7”

“I do love it when you talk scripture to me.” He pulled into the lot of a seemingly deserted warehouse and drove up to the closed doors. Then, he got out and walked around the car once more. He opened the door, unfastened her seatbelt and helped her out. “Ah, such a lovely night, isn’t it? Hey, let’s go meet some friends of mine. They’re just dying to know you.”

All she could do was pray as he led her to a side door and they entered into the darkened interior of the warehouse. There was no point in trying to run. Where could she run to? And for some compelling reason, she felt she needed to be right where she was. It was as if the very presence of God was upon her and she was in His Will, so fighting against it was not what she intended to do. She trusted that no matter what happened, His Will would be done.

So she prayed for her sister to be saved and for God to strengthen her.

Bollinger led her through the warehouse, through a set of doors, and down a long corridor. They stopped at a corner where Bollinger made a show of opening a secret doorway. “Tada!” he exclaimed theatrically. “Ooh, let’s see what’s behind door number one.”

Nichole remained silent.

“Aw, come on! Any last words before we enjoy the last night you have on this earth?”

“I have no last words.”

“Why not?”

“What’s the point? You have already said to me you’ve passed the point of no return. If that is true, there’s nothing I can say to help you find your way, and I can’t pray for a man whom God cannot save.”

“But God can save everyone.”

“God saves those who come to Him. He’s not going to make you come to Him. You have to come to Him on your own.” She hesitated. “Will you come to Him?”

He actually hesitated. Then, he forced a chuckle. “Wowee! You actually struck a nerve for a second there, precious. Kudos for you. But, no…I can’t and won’t come to Him. Can’t say the same for you. You may be going to Him a lot sooner than you think.”

She sighed. “One can only hope.”

“Come on! Aren’t you even a little bit scared? You hide it so well.”

“I am in His hands.”

He laughed as he tightened his grip on her arm. “Wrong. You’re in my hands, and soon…you’ll be in the hands of those who hate everything about you. Kind of wish you weren’t Jewish, now, don’t you?”

“I’m proud of being a Jew.”

“Maybe you’ll change your mind.” He led her down the secret passage and into the lair of the enemy.

Nichole was led into a large area where men were under preparations for an attack. It was all she could understand for their presence under the warehouse. She saw them and was frightened by their hatred as the work they were doing ceased. They fixed her with cold, hate-filled eyes. Some of them gnashed their teeth and formed grimaces of rage.

There was another scene before her which she was unable to see. If her spiritual eyes were open, she would have seen a room filled of demonic creatures, vile and horrid. They were cringing back away from her because they saw the light she possessed. They saw the tall, angelic beings on either side of her, keeping a vigilant watch over her in the midst of her enemies.

Nichole was led into the center of a circle of men who hated her. Bollinger smiled at the men. “Get Darwyn. I’ve got a present for him.”

Youmud stepped forward from the group of terrorists. “My brother is sleeping.”

“Sleeping?” Bollinger snorted. “How can he be sleeping at a time like this? Wake him. I’ve brought him a Jew who also happens to be a member of the agency trying to stop you.”

Youmud slowly moved forward until he came to stand before their prisoner. Without warning, he spit in her face.

Nichole closed her eyes, thanking God for the strength He was giving her because she could not fathom why she wasn’t in hysterics by now. She blinked her eyes as she felt the spittle roll down her cheeks. She forced herself to look into the eyes of her enemy, but she didn’t speak.

“You will die,” he told her. He glanced at Bollinger. “But in the morning. My brother is sleeping and will not be awakened.” He snapped his fingers. “Secure the prisoner, but bring no harm to her. My brother will decide her fate.”

He turned to go.

“Oh, Youmud…”

Youmud scowled. He hated Bollinger with a passion, but understood his brother’s need to ally himself with him. He glared.

“The prisoner has a sister, you know.” Bollinger smiled.

Youmud frowned. “A sister? Why should that concern me?”

Bollinger stepped forward. “Her sister was the doctor who, ah, shall we say was responsible for your father’s death.”

Youmud froze as his rage grew. He turned his head to glare at Nichole as she was being led away. He changed his mind. Somehow he personally would be responsible for executing the prisoner…and then against his brother’s wishes, he intended to kill Dr. Staci Cohen as well.

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

Darwyn Musad was asleep, but he had fully intended not to be. It was as if something so overpowering fell over him when he was finally alone with his thoughts and he was suddenly fast asleep. Nothing could wake him. Nothing could stir him from the deep slumber he had fallen into, and nothing could disturb the dream he was thrown into.

He knew he was dreaming.

He was standing in the middle of a road in the middle of absolutely nowhere. As far as the eye could see in every direction, the ground was completely flat. The sky was hazy, and cloudy as if the sky wanted to drop rain but the heat was preventing it from doing so.

Slowly, he looked around but no matter what he did, the scenery wouldn’t change. And for his own life, he couldn’t understand anything about his surroundings. So he took a few steps down the road in one direction. After all, how could he easily decide which way to go when he didn’t know where the road led to? He simply looked one way and began to walk.

The heat, however, was oppressively hot and nearly weakened him with every step he took. As he walked, he began to notice how broad the road was, and it was broken up in places. It was filled with ruts and holes, making the ground uneven. He stumbled along, sometimes watching the ground below him, and at other times looking ahead in hopes his eyes would catch sight of something which would unlock the mystery of his dream.

Suddenly, he heard a shout.

“’He that hath ears to hear, let him hear!’8”

Darwyn stopped and looked around, but he could see no one there. “Hello!” he shouted. “Show yourself!”

But no one did as he demanded.

Sighing in frustration, he turned as if to continue his walk, but he stood still as he saw what was on the road before him. The road had been empty before, but now there were people traveling along it. Throngs of people. Thousands of people, as far as he could tell. They were all ahead of him and he could see that the road stretched on for miles ahead, filled with people.

“Who are you people?” he demanded as he moved toward them.

But they ignored him, or perhaps they were all simply so caught up in their own woes that they were unaware of him. Some of them were throwing their hands up into the air and ranting without purpose. Others were screaming incoherently. Some were laughing hysterically, and some were wailing in anguish. Some were just walking forward with no expression on their faces at all, as if they had just stopped caring.

Darwyn grabbed one of them passing by, and he gave the man a shake. “Who are you? Where are you going?”

The man just screamed and pulled away from him.

Darwyn was baffled and disturbed by the way the people moved forward. It was as if they were on their way to something they couldn’t avoid and didn’t know how to stop. As they continued on, he could do nothing else but follow.

“’He that hath ears to hear, let him hear!’”

Darwyn stood up on his toes, straining to see above the crowds and find the one who was shouting. He couldn’t locate the man, but he saw something else disturbing. Far ahead of the crowds, there was what appeared to be a large gap and darkness hovered above the gap. The closer he came to it, he began to notice the crowds ahead of him were simply falling into it. He then noticed there was a wide, open gateway before this gap the people were falling into. They were falling into it by the hundreds and the thousands. And from this wide gap came the sounds of weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth.

It made Darwyn freeze in fear where he stood.

“’He that hath ears to hear, let him hear!’”

The voice was closer this time, and Darwyn whipped his head around, hoping to catch a glimpse of who it was. There, some distance from him was a man standing at the entrance of another road. A smaller road. A road that was not broad, but narrow. Behind this man, a few people turned off the broad road and grasped the man warmly, their faces happy and relieved. Then, they went onto the narrow road where only a few more walked.

Darwyn stepped toward the man and the road and wondered.

Suddenly, he was standing directly before the man, and he searched his face for some sign of recognition, for surely he thought he must know this man.

The man smiled at Darwyn, and said, “’He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.’”

“What do you mean?” Darwyn asked, trying to understand. “Who are you?”

“’I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.’9”

“What?” Darwyn stared. And then, behind him, on that narrow road was the woman which haunted him from his past. “No,” he croaked.

The woman smiled at him, her face filled with deep compassion.

“No,” he said. “No!! This is a dream! It isn’t real!”

Darwyn sat up on his cot, soaked with sweat. He swallowed a dry lump in his throat and tried to forget the dream. Yet he remembered every bit of it…even if he could not understand it. He reached for the water bottle from the floor beside his cot and took a large swallow. Then, he wiped his brow and determined to rid himself of his dreams and his past by concentrating on what had to be done.

“We will not be stopped,” he said to himself, gathering his strength. “I will not be stopped. For you, father. And for all of my brothers, America will fall.”

He laid back on his cot and waited for the morning.

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

Somewhere out in the deep Pacific off the coast of California was a lone sub with no markings of any kind. It was insignificant by appearance and small enough to get by without detection. It had been in the position it was now for over a month, waiting for the dawn of this new day. A day terror would strike the enemy and bring a world to the brink of death.

How the al Qaeda managed to get a sub was insignificant. All that mattered was they did and were ready to use it. How they managed to get positioned deep in the Pacific was also unimportant. All that mattered was that they were there. And there they waited. No contact would be made with the outside world. It was only nine members of the terrorist organization, and their orders were quite clear. In the name of Allah, they would play a large part in bringing down their enemies. They were confident in the task ahead, and nothing could stop them because no one knew where they were…not even their own.

They were where they were supposed to be, and as the morning came, they did what they were there to do.

A solitary missile was launched from the submarine, and precisely sixty seconds later, the terrorists each held their breath in anticipation. One of them confirmed the missile would strike its target. With that assurance, the automatic destruct sequence aboard their vessel was initiated…and the submarine carrying nine terrorists was destroyed.

The missile sailed onward into the morning, and out toward space, heading for a target somewhere over America.

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

– Matthew 16:26
– Matthew 16:25
– Romans 3:23
– Romans 5:12
– Romans 6:23
– Romans 5:8, 9
– Numbers 32:23
– Matthew 11:15
– John 14:6

_______ _______ _______

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