Chapter 5 – The Shout

Everything happened at once. It took a while for the missile to reach its target, but only a tenth of a second for the aftermath to occur after it struck. The satellite in space just over the northern part of the United States of America exploded. Within that tenth of a second, an electro magnetic pulse spread out, emitting short but high energy pulses reaching 10 gigawatts. The pulses then spread out like energy waves and millions of tendrils of that energy had nowhere to go…but across the United States of America.

It was in that second when America fell silent.

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

“Come forth!”

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

Night had fallen, and Lenox and Barrington found themselves still deep in the hills with their prisoner. The SUV was parked amongst a cluster of trees which should have made it difficult to spot, especially at night. Barrington stayed with Canaan as Lenox walked a short distance away toward the rumbling of engines echoing through the forest. He kept his .357 at his side, ready to snap it up and fire at any given moment.

On top of a hill, Lenox stood and peered down toward lower ground. A sedan and a jeep were making their way through the woods below, searching for their prey. They drove right past him and the trail Lenox, Barrington, and Canaan had taken earlier. Lenox frowned, curious about that. The enemy had received a few more reinforcements to help in their hunt, but still, none of them even appeared to notice that trail.

Lenox peered toward it, wondering why that was so.

What he couldn’t see were two very large angels standing on the trail. He had no idea that they were concealing it from his enemies.

Meanwhile, Barrington and Canaan waited for Lenox in the SUV.

“I’m sorry about your loss,” Barrington replied softly, glancing back at Canaan. “I can’t even begin to imagine what you must be going through.”

Canaan nodded his head. “Thank you.” He paused. “It’s okay. I’ll see them again.”

Barrington looked out the window, hoping Lenox would take his time but also hoping he wouldn’t do anything crazy like taking target practice with the enemy. “You mean…you’ll see them in heaven?”

He nodded. “I believe they’re in a much better place than this.”

“Hey, why don’t I take those handcuffs off?” he began as he turned around, digging for the keys at the same time from in his pocket. “They’ve got to be uncomfortable.”

“No. No, it’s alright. I understand the need for them.”

“There isn’t a need for them. I’m supposed to bring you in for protective custody. Not as a suspect.”

“But your partner doesn’t trust me. I don’t want to antagonize him. He…he seems like he could go right off the deep end within seconds.”

Barrington let out a chuckle. “Yeah. That much is true. I’ve seen his temper. And, man, you don’t want to make him your enemy.” He sat back. “He’s just one stubborn guy, that’s all. If anyone can be accused of having a thick skull, it’s Michael Lenox.”

“He’s just lost.”

“Yeah…aren’t we all?”

“No. Not if you have Jesus Christ, you’re not.” Canaan sat up and looked at Barrington. “It seems to me that you yourself are just as lost as your friend is. I’m just going to blunt with you. If you don’t accept Jesus as your Savior, you’ll die in your sin and be separated from God in the Lake of Fire, which cannot be quenched.”

Barrington stared at him before he could regain his composure. Then, he cleared his throat. “Wow. That is being blunt.”

“I don’t mean to give any offense, but in this day, it’s better to offend by giving the message of Christ than to condemn souls to Hell by not offending at all.”

He shook his head. “I’m not offended.”

“You have heard the message before.”

“Yes. Plenty of times. My wife and I…well, my wife is a member of a church which preaches the Gospel.”

Canaan pursed his lips in thought. “So you have plenty of exposure to His Word, yet you hold yourself back from His blessings. Why? What keeps you from accepting Him as He accepts you?”

Barrington sighed. “I don’t know. I…I guess I’m just not ready. I know it’s good for some people. I just try to live my life and help people. Isn’t that what He wants?”

“It’s good for all people. And what He wants is you, just as you are.”

“And why does He want me?”

’The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.’ 1 To paraphrase, ‘not willing that Albert Barrington should perish’. He doesn’t want you to suffer eternal punishment for your sin. That is the reason Christ came to the earth, to give us a way out from under the bondage of sin.”

“I believe what you’re saying.”

“But do you accept it?”

Barrington thought about it. “Well, sure, I accept it, in a manner of speaking. It’s just that I believe in living to the best of your ability, and doing what you can with what you have.”

“Do you believe you’re going to heaven when you die?”

“I’d like to think that I am.”

“But you don’t know for certain?”

He hesitated. “I’m certain.”

“Where does your certainty come from? How do you know?”

Barrington let out a nervous chuckle. “You certainly do keep up with the questions, don’t you? Joe, don’t worry about me. Believe me. I’m fine. I know all I need to know, and what I don’t know I hear about it from Kate. She talks non-stop about every service and fills me in on every message she hears. If anyone is covered, it’s me.” He shook his head. “And then there’s April, who talks just as much – if not more – and even faster than her mother does. She tells me all about her day in Sunday School every chance she gets. And then, she tells me again.” He smiled. “Kids are wonderful.”

Canaan fell silent, thinking about his.

Barrington looked at him. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to –”

“No,” Canaan assured him with a shake of his head. “It’s wonderful how you feel about your daughter, and your wife. You do love them, that is plain to me in the way you talk about them. You only have one daughter, then?”

He nodded. “Yes. Just the one.”

“How old is she?”

“She’s five. Going into the kindergarten class very soon.”

Canaan smiled wistfully. “I remember those kindergarten days with my own children. Joshua hated it and gave us such a hard time every day throughout the school year, but Melody simply loved it. She was always ready to go to school. Always quick to…to hug me around my neck and promised to tell me all about her day. She would tell us all throughout supper, too. Still excited. Still ready for the next day. But that was Melody. She couldn’t wait to get out of that bed and face the day. It was always new and exciting to her. Everything was fresh. But then they became teenagers and it got harder to get them both to go to High School. That was a miracle in and of itself.” He sighed. “But even so, there were those days I just wished I could have seen the world through Melody’s eyes, just to know what it was that she saw.”

“Your family sounds wonderful, Joe.”

“They are. Thank you for saying that.”

Barrington paused. “Did you have any other children?”

He shook his head. “No. I…Jamie and I only had the two.”

Barrington nodded his head as he thought about it. Something was troubling him, however, and then, it hit him. “Wait a minute…Wait…You had two children, and your wife living in the house?”

Canaan looked at him and nodded. “That’s right.” He paused, regarding Barrington and his reaction. “Why?”

“There were four bodies recovered from the fire, Joe. I’m…I’m sorry to bring you through this, but if three of them was your family, who was the fourth victim?”

Canaan looked completely baffled. He shook his head. “I…I don’t know.”

“I wonder…Maybe it could be the arsonists who really did start the fire. I’m sure the autopsy’s will show us something.” He paused. “When we get to the safe-house, I’m sure you and the Director will have quite a talk.”

“If I don’t get there and you do…I want you to give him my Bible and tell him–”

“Whoa, Joe. Nothing is going to happen to you. We’re going to get out of this. These terrorists haven’t beaten us yet.”

“It doesn’t matter. Just take it to him and tell him, ‘The truth shall make you free.’ 2 Can you please do that?”

Barrington nodded. “Yeah. Of course, I can, but I assure you, you’ll be able to do that yourself.”

“Maybe…”

At that point, Lenox returned. He reported that the enemy was in the area and for some unexplainable reason, they were completely ignoring the area they were in. A decision was then made to wait a bit longer to see if they would be discovered or if the enemy would leave. If they themselves attempted to leave, they would be discovered for certain and a firefight they might not win would follow.

Their odds, after all, weren’t good. They were outnumbered and outgunned. As much as Lenox hated to play the waiting game, they had no other choice.

It wasn’t until the sun began to rise – while the missile was yet underway toward its target – when the break they were waiting for finally came. With the sun rising, clouds also began to form in the sky. A little weary from keeping watch all night, Lenox and Barrington stepped out onto the hill and looked down. They were greeted by silence. They waited one more hour, and when they saw no signs of movement or heard nothing but the sounds of nature, they decided to make their move.

Lenox was anxious and needed to do something, so he climbed in behind the wheel and buckled up. Barrington took the passenger seat and sighed when he remembered the seatbelt didn’t work.

They tore out of there with the tires spinning. Lenox didn’t waste any time as he drove out the way they had come.

“Take it easy,” Barrington warned. “We’d like to reach our destination while we’re still alive.” He didn’t mention anything about heading to Bunker Island to him because he wanted to get to Albany first and pick up his wife and daughter. The talk he had with Canaan had him thinking about them all night, and if anything was going to happen, he wanted to be near them.

“Relax,” Lenox told him as he turned onto the main road, squealing the tires on the pavement. “Leave the driving to me.” He sped along the road and headed back toward the highway. Within a few short moments, he began to keep at a steady pace of eighty miles per hour once he was on Interstate 90.

Barrington glanced back at Canaan, who just gave him a nod and a smile of encouragement. He wondered how the man could be trying to encourage him when it wasn’t he who had lost his family. Barrington turned to look back out through the front window…and something just suddenly felt wrong.

“What the…?” Lenox began, but he didn’t finish as he began to struggle with the steering wheel.

“What’s wrong?” Barrington asked.

“The wheel just locked!” Lenox looked at the vehicles control panel. “The engine’s not running.” He reached for the keys and tried to turn it. He began to apply pressure to the brakes to slow down. “This is nuts!”

“Knox, watch out!”

A truck beside them sideswiped them hard and shoved the SUV toward the shoulder of the road. Lenox looked over and prepared to yell, but stopped when the sight before him seemed too unreal to believe. There was a man on the passenger side of the truck…but no one was sitting behind the wheel.

Lenox slammed on the brakes, but that’s when everything got out of control. Since the steering wheel had locked tight and he couldn’t turn the SUV, it began to veer off the road. Then, it drove off the shoulder and down a steep decline. The last thing Lenox remembered before he lost consciousness was Barrington falling out of the vehicle…and a dark shape fell from the sky with a loud roar.

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

“Director, can I have a word with you?”

Fuller looked up from the kitchen table where he sat with Fronk going over plans for their new location. He saw Shiva in the doorway. “Marc, why don’t you join us for breakfast?”

Shiva came in hesitantly. He noticed the man cooking at the stove top, but he also knew the stove wasn’t run by electricity. Neither was the refrigerator. In fact, everything was powered by solar energy and generators. The smell of bacon and eggs, however, made him realize how hungry he was.

“Sure,” he said with a grin. “I’m starving. That coffee smells good.”

Fuller picked up a pitcher and poured coffee into an empty mug. He smiled and pushed it across the table toward Shiva. “Have a seat.”

Shiva did, gratefully accepting the coffee. “Thanks.” He nodded toward the man cooking. “Good morning.”

The man waved at him with a spatula.

“That’s our head of security,” Fuller said. “Kenneth Willon, otherwise known as Ricochet.”

Shiva rose briefly to shake the man’s hand. “Nice to meet you. I’m Marc Shiva.”

Willon nodded. “I know who you are. Fury. A shame you were forced out of wrestling. You had what it takes.”

Shiva let out a chuckle. “I still do.”

Willon grinned.

“So why do they call you Ricochet?”

He shrugged. “I’m good at throwing things and bouncing them off from surfaces to hit what I’m aiming to hit.”

“We should call you Bullseye, because you’re an expert marksman, too,” Fuller commented. He looked at Shiva. “Did you sleep good, Marc?”

Shiva shrugged as he sat back down. “Yeah, I guess I did. Somewhat.” He glanced over at Fronk, who so far, hadn’t said a word. “I’ve been thinking about this place…” He sighed. “Truthfully, my thoughts have kept me up most of the night.”

Fuller placed his own coffee cup before him after taking a sip. “What thoughts?”

He glanced at Fronk and Willon.

Fuller noticed. “You can be frank with them present. After all, we’re in the same boat. What’s on your mind?”

Shiva didn’t hesitate. “Is America about to face a terrorist attack?”

Fuller sat back, exchanging looks with Fronk. Willon continued with cooking up breakfast on the stove, and seemed to pay no more attention to the others. Fuller knew the man was paying close attention to them, as he paid attention to everything around him.

The Director looked across the table at Shiva who waited for an answer. “There is a possibility of an attack.”

“But will there be one?”

“Marc–”

“Director, I need to know if you think there will be an attack, or not. I don’t care about the possibility of one. There’s always a possibility. I have to know of the certainty of one.” Shiva sighed. “I had a long talk with Preacher, and what he’s talking about is starting to make sense. Every one around this make believe farmland is walking around as if they’re a secret army, ready to pull out hidden weapons, and gas masks. I feel like I’m about to be in a bad science fiction movie with zombies rising out of the ground and Stephen King leading the band. So just tell me truthfully. Will there be an attack?”

Fuller paused. “Our intelligence confirms an attack is imminent. We just don’t know when.”

Shiva regarded him closely. “But you think it’s soon, or else we wouldn’t be here.”

“Yeah.”

Fronk let out a weary sigh. “Well, Fury…if there ever was a time to be voted off the island, it would be now, wouldn’t it?”

Shiva just looked at him. Then, he turned to Fuller. “How will this attack take place?”

“That’s just what we were discussing,” Fuller replied. “You know about the nuclear smart bombs that were found in New York City and Washington.”

Shiva nodded, confirming the answer.

“We know there were five others, but were unable to locate them.”

“Are you saying we could be under a nuclear attack?”

“That is one likely scenario but there are others. We believe it’s also likely we could be hit with an electro magnetic pulse. That is more difficult to explain, but–”

“Electro Magnetic Pulse,” Fronk began as if he were beginning a lecture, “or EMP has this definition.” He cleared his throat loudly. “’The electromagnetic radiation from a nuclear explosion caused by Compton-recoil electrons and photoelectrons from photons scattered in the materials of the nuclear device or in a surrounding medium. The resulting electric and magnetic fields may couple with electrical or electronic systems to produce damaging current and voltage surges. May also be caused by nonnuclear means.’ Let’s look at a second definition to this thing called electro magnetic pulse. ‘A broadband, high intensity, short duration burst of electromagnetic energy. In the case of a nuclear detonation, the electro magnetic pulse consists of a continuous frequency spectrum.’” He took a deep breath and turned to Shiva. “Does that explain it for you?”

Shiva sighed. “I have no idea what you just said. I’m not a rocket scientist.”

“To put it simply, Marc…“ Fuller began, glancing at Fronk, “we could be hit by this pulse which would affect every source of electronic systems throughout the country. We would become blind, and extremely vulnerable to outright attack from every single terrorist cell hiding in America.”

Shiva was dumbfounded. “Well, this is crazy. We’re just gonna sit here and do nothing to stop this?”

“We still have people out there doing everything they can to stop this from happening, but we need to take other measures as well.”

“Like what? Hide?” He shook his head. “This is wrong. We need to be out there fighting.”

“We will be fighting, but we’re to remain here until I receive official orders from the President.”

“The President? Where is the President?”

“In another remote area.”

“Director, I understand the need to keep him hidden, but why us?”

“Because we’re not the only ‘cells’ in hiding either. As our enemy has cells in our country, so do we. We have other areas across the country where men and women are prepared to defend her if this scenario plays out. If the smart bombs are set off, then it’s over. If we’re hit by an EMP burst, then it would make those bombs inactive.”

Shiva frowned. “I don’t like this. I want to do something other than sit here.”

Fuller got up from the table. “I’m sorry, Marc. But we’re here until told otherwise.” He turned to Fronk. “I’ll be right back. I’m going to give Nichole another call.” He took out his cell phone and pressed the speed dial which would connect him directly to Nichole’s cell phone. He had been worried about her since she had failed to arrive at Bunker Island from the Federal Building in Albany. As he stepped into the living room, he saw Vogel and LeBeau.

The two men seemed to be arguing.

Fuller heard the phone ringing on the other end, but he headed for the two men.

“Just shut up!” LeBeau exclaimed. “I’ve heard enough! If I hear ya preach one more time about the comin’ of the Lord, I’m gonna give you the comin’ of a knuckle sandwich!” He waved a fist at Vogel. “And I’m serious!”

Vogel shook his head. “Keith, I wasn’t preaching at you.”

“You liar! Every word out of your mouth is somethin’ about God, or Jesus and how He died for all. Don’t ya ever think people get tired of hearin’ that kind of talk? I’d rather you were your old self, or just leave me alone before I have it out with you once and for all!”

“Guys,” Fuller began, listening to the ringing in his ear, “could you–” Suddenly, he cried out as a high pitched whistle came through his phone, bringing pain to his ear.

LeBeau turned to face him, concerned. “Sir, are you okay?”

Fuller rubbed at his ear and glared at his phone. “Yeah. I’m fine, I…” He slowly brought the phone back to his ear and listened. There was now nothing but silence. “That’s odd. There doesn’t seem to be any signal.” He tried the speed dial.

But there was nothing.

“Director…?”

Fuller turned to LeBeau. “My cell phone is dead.” He looked around, puzzled. “Wasn’t Kevin just standing here with us?”

LeBeau frowned, turning around. “Yeah, the big mouth was just here, but now…” He stopped when his foot touched something on the floor. He looked down, and for a moment, he couldn’t make his mind comprehend what he was seeing. He shook his head in disbelief.

Fuller looked down as well. “Keith…”

“Yeah…?” LeBeau’s voice was soft.

“Is that a pile of clothes?”

LeBeau swallowed. “Yeah. Uh huh. It sure is…and-and look, a pair of sneaker’s, too. Director, Preacher was in those clothes…And those are his Nike‘s!” He looked up, his eyes wide open in fear. “…but he’s not in them now! Director…was he right? Everythin’ he said about prophecy, and…and gettin‘ caught up in the air…Was he right?”

Fuller didn’t know how to answer, so he remained silent as he stared at the pile of clothes on the floor where Kevin Vogel had been standing only seconds before.

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

Before the sun rose, Staci woke up and prepared for the day. She was exhausted because for the most part, all she did was toss and turn. Every half hour or on the hour, she found herself turning her head to look at the digital alarm clock on the stand beside her bed. Sleep was something that simply escaped her. It was her own fault. She couldn’t get her mind to stop thinking about work.

It was one reason why she didn’t call Sherri to cancel the babysitting hours. Staci could have taken Kate’s advice and Dr. Richard Manning’s suggestion and not go in to work but she couldn’t do it. She might cry like a baby when she found herself alone after a hard day like the one she recently had but she was not about to throw in the towel and call it quits either. So fifteen minutes before her alarm sounded, she let out a sigh of resignation, and forced herself out of bed.

A cold shower woke her up even more, and it also took her mind off of her problems for just a brief moment. When she was dressed and ready for the day, she checked in on David, who was still sound asleep. She kissed him on the forehead and smiled at his sleeping form. He was the only light in her dark, little world, as far as she was concerned.

The buzzer sounded.

She hurried to the door and pressed the button, not even checking to see who it was. She assumed it was Sherri. A few minutes later, her assumption proved to be true as she opened the door to let in her babysitter. Taking a travel mug of coffee with her, Staci said her good-byes and headed for work. It was earlier than usual, but she intended to get there early and make the most of her day.

By the time she arrived at Albany Medical, the sun was just beginning to rise, although some clouds were also beginning to appear. She tried not to let the weather make her day any more depressing than yesterday.

But it was worse than she thought.

No one made eye contact with her as she came onto the floor. Some greeted her, but they quickly busied themselves with something so they didn’t have to talk to her. She didn’t like it one bit, but forced herself to keep going. She made it to her office and found another sign about her day…the door was locked. She tried her key, but it remained locked. Looking closely at the lock, she was startled to discover it was a new lock. Her old lock had been changed.

“Dr. Cohen,” said a voice behind her.

Startled, she turned and found a nurse looking at her. She didn’t recognize the nurse. “Yes…I’m sorry…? Can I help you?”

The nurse hesitated. She acted as if she were standing on eggs and didn’t want to break them. “I…was instructed to tell you to wait in Dr. Manning’s office…if you came in today.”

That didn’t sound good. “Oh.” Staci paused, frustrated that she couldn’t get into her office. “Thank you. Is he in?”

“Oh, yes. He’s in a Board meeting.”

Staci frowned. “In a Board meeting? This early?”

She nodded. “Yes. That’s right. The members of the Board came in early today.”

Staci almost paled visibly. She was a medical doctor on staff at the hospital, which made her a member of the Board. She should have been called into the meeting…unless it was about her. She swallowed. “Thank you. I’ll…go wait in his office.”

As if walking through water, Staci made her way to the CEO’s office. The secretary coldly admitted her entrance and sternly told her to remain seated until Dr. Manning arrived. As Staci sat down in front of the large, mahogany desk that belonged to her mentor, the secretary closed the door.

There was a click.

Staci frowned. She looked toward the door. Did she just lock me in here?Completely baffled, she rose and slowly approached the door. She put her hand around the door knob and tried it. To her astonishment, the door was indeed locked. She stood there and tried to process this new development. This was starting to become a living nightmare. This was like a bad dream that had no end. She didn’t know if she should start banging on the door while screaming, or if she should just wait for the CEO.

Finally, she decided to sit back down and wait.

The wait wasn’t long. Dr. Manning unlocked the door and stepped in. Staci rose to greet him, but he walked right past her and sat behind his desk, shuffling papers as he did. Staci looked at him, until she heard the door close behind her. She turned and saw a man she never saw before, regarding her with the coldest, darkest eyes she had ever seen. They seemed to bore right into her. He had no expression on his face as he took a position beside the door, folded his arms across his chest, and leaned against the wall.

Staci didn’t like the way he watched her. Slowly, she turned to face Manning. “Sir, I–”

Manning finally focused his attention upon her. “The Board convened earlier this morning, and the decision is unanimous. Effective immediately, your license is hereby suspended and you are no longer residing in this hospital as a medical doctor. In fact, you will not be able to practice any where within the United States ever again.”

Staci was stunned. Her eyes began to tear up as she saw her life come apart around her. “What…?” she whispered.

“I don’t believe I need to repeat myself. You may leave. Don’t bother with claiming your belongings. I will have them sent to you.”

“Dr. Manning, I–”

He took off his glasses and glared at her. “I am not interested in hearing anything you have to say. If you do not leave now, I will call security and have them physically remove you from the premises. Is that clear?”

She blinked. “Yes. Yes, th-that’s clear.”

“Thank you. Oh, there is one more thing.” He rose and put his glasses back on. “A full investigation is being conducted into the death of Ishmael Musad. I would suggest to you that you do not leave the city as the authorities may want to question you. You will be hearing from them, I’m sure.”

Staci’s mind was reeling with shock. She couldn’t believe this was happening to her. “What…? Am I-I…a suspect?”

“Yes, you are.” He shook his head sadly. “Quite frankly, I am appalled I had mistakenly thought you were once a promising young woman who could take up a career in this hospital under my tutelage. I did not realize until recently how manipulative and calculating you truly are. Your racial tendencies are not welcome in this hospital.” He sat back down. “Good day, Miss Cohen.”

She was dismissed. She wanted to say something in her defense, but had no idea what to say. To make matters worse, and even more extreme in her mind, the man at the door moved to stand directly in front of her, as if barring her from Dr. Manning. In fact, he even took a step forward into her personal space, forcing her to back up. The message was loud and clear. He wanted her to leave.

So she left. Staci hurried out of that office as if the devil himself were at her heels. She left the hospital, blurring her vision as the tears once again came out from her anguish. She hated her weakness, but couldn’t stop them. When she got outside, she just ran. She put that hospital as far behind her as fast as she could, as if the more distance she put between her and it, the better things would be. But those hateful words from a man she had looked up to as a father for years just kept stabbing her like a knife to her heart. Finally, she fell to her knees at the side of a building and wept bitterly, not even caring who saw her.

People around her went about their business. Some looked her way, but no one came to her to see if she was alright. She wondered if anyone even cared any more.

She finally staggered to her feet and somehow managed to get to the entrance of her apartment building. She found her card key and activated the lock to the first door. She gained entrance to the glass foyer and walked over to the second door where her day suddenly became a lot worse.

There was suddenly a loud hum, and then a snap, crackle, pop. For one brief second, Staci actually could imagine she was inside a Rice Krispies commercial. Then, there was silence, and she swiped her card through the lock that would let her enter the building.

The lock didn’t work.

“Oh, come on!” she hissed, clenching her teeth.

She frowned and absently wiped at her eyes so she could better see what she was doing. Maybe she had swiped the card through backwards. She tried again and pulled on the door.

It still remained locked.

Puzzled, she turned and figured she would go back outside and ring the buzzer to her apartment. Perhaps Sherri would be able to buzz her in from the apartment. That was her hope at least. She then discovered that the first door was also locked. She sighed in exasperation. The only time this ever happened was when the power went out. Why did she have to live in a building that was so tight on security? In frustration, she tried to shake the door, but that, of course, was futile as the door didn’t even budge.

Then, there was a crash, and Staci looked out toward the street for the first time. Most of the vehicles on the street had come to a stop, but one in particular suddenly caught her attention. It was a big rig, which had just side-swiped a parked car. The huge truck wasn’t pulling any trailer, but that didn’t make it any less ominous as she stared at it. Across the radiator, she couldn’t avoid seeing the huge cross that was there, and her mind didn’t yet process that she couldn’t see the driver either. All she knew was one thing…

The big truck was barreling out of control on a collision course straight for the foyer she was in…And Staci was trapped inside with nowhere else to go.

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

Darwyn had no idea what the dream was about, but he was determined not to let it disturb what should be a victorious day. As he came out into the large area where his men were more than prepared, he knew that by now, the missile fired from the submarine in the Pacific would be on its way. Time was now of the essence. He ordered his men to the tasks assigned them.

As the men began to file out with their weapons, he began to notice something new. His younger brother Youmud remained before him, along with two other men, and they appeared to be waiting with great expectation on their faces. He soon discovered why when he noticed the woman.

A short distance behind Youmud, she was standing between two beams with ropes tied tightly around her wrists. Her arms were spread apart and the ropes around the beams kept them that way. For one split second, his mind saw another woman in the same position…An older woman who looked at him with love and forgiveness. He angrily dismissed the memory and moved toward the woman.

“Who is this?” he demanded.

“A gift,” said a voice to his right.

He turned his head and was surprised to see Bollinger. “You should not be here,” he growled menacingly.

“Like that’s going to matter,” Bollinger replied as he came to stand beside him. He indicated the woman tied between the beams. “I brought you a present.”

Darwyn glared at the woman. “Who is she?”

“An agent. She works for the ATD.”

Nichole was exhausted from being forced to stand all night with tight ropes around her wrists. She could no longer feel her hands because of the tightness. Blood circulation was not in her favor within her hands. Unable to do anything, she had spent the entire night praying to God and asking Him to reveal why she was being put through this.

When her eyes met Darwyn’s, she suddenly understood why. She didn’t know how she knew, only that she did. Perhaps it was the Spirit assuring her she was doing what God had intended for her to do. In spite of her current situation, she suddenly smiled.

Bollinger looked at her as if she had lost her mind.

Darwyn just glared harder. “Why do you smile? Do you not know you are about to die?”

Nichole nodded. “I know, and am ready to die.”

“Then, you are a fool.”

Youmud leaned toward his brother. “Darwyn, let me throw the first stone. I want to see her suffer.”

Darwyn turned to him. “Be silent! You and the others, leave! Go and do what you are here to do, and leave this Jew to me!”

“But, brother, she is the sister to–”

“I do not care who she is. Leave. Now!”

Youmud frowned, and hesitated, but knowing his brother would not change his mind, he nodded to the others. He led them toward the exit, but stopped before they went up the corridor, which led to the warehouse above. “Go to the sister’s apartment complex,” he told them. “You know of whom I speak. The Jewish doctor. Find her and hold her there until I meet up with you.”

The two men nodded and left in haste. Youmud turned back around and keeping himself hidden from view, he watched his brother, Bollinger, and the woman prisoner.

“You leave, too,” Darwyn told Bollinger.

The double agent pretended to be disappointed. “Aw, can’t I stay and watch the execution? I promise not to make any noise.”

Darwyn glared at him. “I grow weary of your presence, and I am losing my patience. Leave or die. It is up to you.”

“Gee, let’s see…Eeny, meany, miny, moe…” Bollinger shrugged. “I guess I’ll just leave. But, hey…you’re welcome for the gift.” He winked at Nichole. “See you around, darling. Oh, wait…No, I won’t.” He waved at her. “Tudeloo!” With that, he walked away. He went past Youmud, noticed him there, and chuckled on his way up the corridor.

Darwyn thought he was now alone with the prisoner. Slowly, he reached down and picked up a rock about the size of a baseball. He hefted it in his palm. Then, he looked at her. “You will die. America will fall. And all will be in ruin.”

Nichole didn’t even flinch. “I know why I’m here. I’m here for you.”

He looked at her, baffled. “What nonsense is this?”

“I can see it in your eyes. You’re struggling with the truth!”

From his hiding spot, Youmud frowned. The woman was clearly babbling to try to save herself.

Darwyn snorted. “You are mad, woman! I have no struggles.”

“You know there is only One Way, but you’re fighting against it,” Nichole pressed. “Stop fighting. Let Him open your eyes to the truth, and you will struggle no more.”

“You’re not making any sense.” He tightened his grip on the rock, but he was struggling with the truth and it showed in his eyes. He remembered his dream clearly and saw the Man telling him that He was the Way. “The truth you talk of is nothing but a lie. How can one man be the Way?”

She regarded him closely. “Deep in your heart, you know this to be true. You’ve been through this before.”

He closed his eyes, fighting to maintain control. “Shut up.”

A verse of scripture suddenly came to her. She didn’t know why it was this particular verse, but took the leading of the Holy Spirit and quoted it quickly, “’Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.’3

Darwyn screamed in rage as the dream came into his mind, searing his conscious. He fought desperately to keep his control, but his heart was being seared by the Word of God. In one desperate last grab for everything he once held dear to him, he fought back the only way he knew how.

He threw the rock.

Nichole knew she could never dodge the rock. It was heading right for her face. She could tilt her head to the side, but it was going to hit her anyway. It was as if everything suddenly happened in slow motion, and she saw the rock with such clarity.

Then, she heard it.

“Nichole, come forth!”

In the blink of an eye, a split second before the rock would have struck her, Nichole Parkhurst vanished. Her clothes and the ropes that had bound her dropped to the ground.

That was all Darwyn could take. He dropped onto his knees, begging for forgiveness and asking Jesus Christ to save him. In the darkness, Youmud glared at his brother with hatred in his eyes.

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

1 – II Peter 3:9
2 – John 8:32
3 – Matthew 7:13, 14

_______ _______ _______

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