Archive for ‘1 – The Vanishings’

October 18, 2011

Epilogue – The Present

Rain was falling at a steady pace, but as the sky darkened with storm clouds, it slowly began to increase. It was the rain falling upon his face that caused him to regain consciousness. He blinked open his eyes and slowly raised his arm up as if in a dream. He shaded his eyes from the rain and looked up. He realized he was lying on his back with his feet extended slightly above him. He was startled to discover he was upside down on a hill, and tried to make sense of what had happened.


For a moment, he lay still as he tried to gather his wits about him. He had no idea how he had come to be in this position. He had no idea why he was lying on the wet ground beneath a stormy sky. Something was wrong. Something was threatening to swallow him whole where he knew he would be lost forever.

That something was Despair.

Something horrible had just happened. He knew it without one shadow of a doubt. As certain as he knew that his name was Albert Barrington, he was just as certain that something tragic had occurred only moments ago. Something so horrible, it meant to him as if hope had just left the world. He couldn’t understand why he was sure of it, but only that he was.

The despair was so powerful, it was threatening to overwhelm him. He knew if he didn’t fight it, he would be lost forever. So Albert Barrington took a deep breath and let his arm fall back beside him on the ground at his side. He allowed the rain to fall on his face, and concentrated on the sounds around him. There was a loud whine somewhere in the distance, like the whine of a buzz saw. At the moment, it was the only consistent sound.

He held his breath.

There were other sounds, he realized.

Someone was screaming. A car horn was blaring non-stop. To his left, he heard a ticking sound. He slowly turned his head and saw a car several feet away from him, the passenger door hanging open. The front end was mashed into a tree. There was someone sitting behind the steering wheel, unmoving.

Barrington realized he must have been thrown from the car, but that would have meant he hadn’t buckled himself up. That couldn’t be right. He had always worn a seatbelt. For him, there was no reason not to wear a seatbelt. His entire life was by the book. To the letter of the law. Always follow the rules and never stray beyond the boundaries. That had been his motto, unlike his partner, Michael Lenox.

Barrington finally forced himself to sit up with a groan. He felt groggy, lethargic. He was suffering from a splitting migraine and hoped he didn’t have a concussion. When he put his hand up to his head, his fingers came away wet with blood. So somewhere along the way, his head had struck something; but everything else seemed to work.

He forced himself to his feet and intended to help his friend who was still in the car. The whine sounded closer, but he was still unable to determine what it was. He couldn’t concern himself with it anyway. Not until he could help his friend.

He made his way to the car as a flash of lightning lit the sky for a split second off in the distance. He moved around to the back end of the car and when he got to the drivers side, he pulled open the front door. Lenox was sitting there, staring ahead of him.

“Michael…?” Barrington said, concern in his voice. The dread he had felt earlier was trying to resurface. He concentrated on helping his friend to keep it at bay. “Michael…Knox, man…are you with me?”

Lenox swallowed. “Al…?”

“Yeah?”

There was a pause. “Why…is there a tree crawling out through the hood of the car?”

“Uhm…It…it’s not crawling out of the hood. You hit it.”

“Huh.” Lenox snorted in disbelief.

“Are you alright?” Barrington noticed his friend was holding onto his left shoulder, seeming to favor it. “What’s wrong with your arm?”

Lenox took a deep breath. “Argh…I think it’s dislocated. I really hate that.” He looked into the rearview mirror. “What the…?” Scowling, he slowly turned to look into the backseat of the car. “Where’s our prisoner?”

Barrington had a good idea where the prisoner was, but he didn’t think Lenox would want to hear it. At least, not yet. Lenox did not appear to notice the pile of clothing in the backseat of the car. “He’s gone,” Barrington responded softly.

Lenox checked the shoulder holster at his right, relieved to find his weapon was still there. He gritted his teeth and pulled himself out of the car with his good hand as he glared at Barrington. “Do you still have your piece?”

Barrington checked his holster, startled by his discovery. “It…it’s gone.”

“That’s just great!” Lenox cursed. Then, he began to head up the hill, holding his wounded shoulder.

“Knox…I don’t think he took it.”

Lenox didn’t seem to hear him. He came to the top of the hill and stopped. Then, he just didn’t move.

Barrington felt the despair all over again. “Michael…?” he inquired.

But Lenox did not respond.

The feeling of dread tightened its grip as Barrington made his way slowly up the hill. He wasn’t certain if his mind was playing tricks on him, but he thought the sky darkened ominously with every step he took. The rain began to fall harder and stung as the wind whipped around him.

When he reached the top, he stood beside Lenox and understood why he had not responded to him. Spread across the north and south bound lanes of Interstate 90, and across the divider that separated them was the wreckage of a plane. Debris and bodies littered the highway around the crash site. Other vehicles were either off the highway, turned over, or crashed into each other. And this was as far as he could see beyond the crash site from either side. A car on the shoulder was burning in spite of the rain, part of the wing of the plane resting atop it.

That was where the whine was coming from, Barrington realized.

There was a man on his knees, facing the wreckage, wailing. He was shaking his fists toward the darkened skies, oblivious to the hard rain falling on his face. It was as if the man were cursing God for the tragic scene around him.

Barrington swallowed and dropped to his knees because somehow, he knew. He knew what had happened; not just here, but all around the world. And the only reason he knew was because he had been warned that this would happen.

He just hadn’t listened.

“I was told this day would come,” he whispered hoarsely, “and I believed it…I just wasn’t ready.”

Lenox turned his head and found himself looking down at his friend. “What…?”

“It happened, Michael…Just like they said it was going to happen. He came for His bride.” He swallowed, suddenly thinking of his family. “I’ve got to get home.”

“You’re not thinking straight. Take it easy.”

“She…she probably won’t even be there. She and April…” He put his face in his hands. “Oh, dear God…why didn’t I listen? I-I’m so sorry.” He sobbed. “Please forgive my unbelief and help me see the truth. Save me, dear Lord. Make me one of Your own!”

Lenox stared in disbelief. “Have you lost your mind?!” He reached down, grabbed his friend with his good hand, and yanked him to his feet. “We’ve got a crisis here! Snap out of it!”

Barrington looked at him, nodding his head. “Okay. I’m okay, Michael, but…you’ve got to do it, too.”

“Do what?” He frowned. “What’s gotten into you?”

“You need to accept Him. I didn’t before. I thought I had, but I was wrong. We need to accept Him.”

Lenox stepped back from Barrington. “You can accept whatever you want! We’ve got to help.”

Barrington nodded. “Alright…Let me just call the Director.” He took out his cell phone and tried to call Fuller, but there was nothing but silence. He thought about it, and wondered why his phone was dead. Then, he looked down the highway and as far as he could see were vehicles and people. The people were moving, but the vehicles were not.

He turned to Lenox. “It’s happened.”

“What now?” Lenox demanded, concerned his friend would go off the deep end again.

Barrington paused. “The attack.”

Lenox looked at him closely and realized he was dead serious. “We’ve been attacked?”

He nodded. “If what I fear is true, yes.” He sighed. “We can’t stay here. We have to get to Bunker Island…now. As soon as we can.”

“What about these people?”

“Help will come to them…or they’ll have to help themselves, but, Knox…I have to see my family.”

Lenox looked around. “Alright. Let’s get moving.”

As Lenox moved away, someone reached out and touched Barrington’s arm. He spun around and discovered a tall man standing beside him. The man had not been there before.

Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.
— Hebrews 13:2

“Excuse me,” the man said, handing him his weapon. “You dropped this when you fell.”

Barrington took it, startled. “Oh, uhm…thank you. I…” He slowly put his gun in its holster. “How did you know I dropped it?”

“Al,” Lenox shouted, “let’s go!”

Barrington looked toward him. “I’m coming.” He turned to the man beside him, and stared. There was no one there. Whoever the man was, he was gone now. “Did you see someone here a second ago?” he asked Lenox as he rejoined him.

Lenox shook his head. “No.” Great! Now he’s seeing people who aren’t there.

“I must be losing it.”

“Yeah. You and me both.”

They turned together and faced the wreck of the plane and knew they had to keep going. But if they were under attack, what would they find facing them as they made their way to the Bunker? Barrington was more concerned what he would find at home…if he found anything at all.

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

To Be Continued in Episode #2!
Episode #2-The Beginning Of Sorrows

The agents of the ATD must face
the aftermath of the Rapture and terrorist attack.
Will they come to know Him, or will their hearts be hardened?

To Be Continued…
_______ _______ _______

Advertisements
September 25, 2011

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

_______ _______ _______

September 17, 2011

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

_______ _______ _______

May 4, 2011

Chapter 3 – The Last Day

Albert Barrington

A few moments became several hours. Lenox and Barrington had one simple task to perform, as per orders from Director Fuller. They were to go to Shallow Lane in Corinth, NY, pick up Joseph Canaan, and bring him back to the Federal Building in Albany. Unfortunately, due to the sudden attack against them, the ATD agents had another duty to perform. They had to make certain there were no other hostiles in the area.

This was a task obstructed by the presence of Alyson Moore and her camera man. Meers was very upset over the damage done to his camera, but he shrugged it off and replaced it with another one. It was as simple as that. He did, however, see to it that the distance between himself and Agent Lenox was far enough to his liking. Alyson made his job easier by telling him to keep his distance as she trailed behind the agents. She made no comments to them. She simply watched and listened, intending to get as close to them as she could.

For the most part, the agents completely ignored her. They kept their backs to her as they went about overseeing the search for any other hidden dangers. Lenox was hoping there were other terrorists in the area. He was itching for a fight, and who better to fight than terrorists?

Barrington’s cell phone rang, and he answered it as he glanced back behind them toward Alyson. “Barrington,” he replied casually. Then, he listened. He turned to Lenox. “It’s the Director.”

Lenox nodded. “Go talk to him. I’ll take care of the snoop.”

“You really do need a life.”

“I’ve got a life. Beat it.”

Barrington nodded and headed away from him. He was only aware of Lenox heading toward Alyson when he said, “Director, Canaan is in our custody.”

“Then, why are you still there?” Director Fuller’s voice responded from the cell phone. “You should have been on your way a while ago.”

“I’m sure you’re aware of the attack.”

“Which one? The attack that caused the explosion in the neighborhood you’re in, or the attack on a news reporter’s cameraman?” There was a sigh. “You’ve been there long enough, Albert. It’s time to move on. Let the local authorities take it from there. Just bring Joseph here as soon as possible. Before something else happens!”

Barrington glanced around. “We’re just making sure the area is secure. We can’t leave if there are other terrorists around, can we?”

“I suppose not. What exactly occurred there?”

Barrington told him everything, from the time of their arrival up until the assault from the terrorists.

“And what happened with the cameraman?”

“Knox didn’t like being filmed. You know he’s camera shy.”

“The DEN called my office and complained. You tell him to stop spending my money on property he destroys. Especially when it’s not his!”

Barrington couldn’t help it. He grinned. “I’ll tell him, but you really do know how much good that will do.”

There was a pause. “Albert, William is on his way to the Bunker. If anything happens…” he trailed off.

Barrington frowned. “What could possibly happen, Director?”

“I’m just getting some very scary vibes here. Besides, anyone who can see the signs must know what’s coming. I’m afraid the sky is going to fall and we’ll not have the power to stop it. The entire planet is a powder keg. The fuse has been lit long ago, but I believe the explosion is very close.” There was a brief pause.“It’s going to happen. I can feel it.”

Barrington paused as he gathered his thoughts. The Director was not only his boss, but his friend. “Todd…I thought you didn’t give in to Nichole’s prophecies of doom.”

“I’m not talking about prophecy. She thinks she and all who believe will be caught up and taken into heaven before this storm hits. Or that’s her hope anyway. I’m talking about our country and the enemies rising against her. We’ve been getting nothing but threats since 9-11 and everything we’ve discovered about the terrorist threat is leading to only one conclusion. There will be an attack. People will die. I fear the losses will be great.”

“What can we do about it?”

“I don’t believe we can do anything about it. Just get Joseph here and then we’ll all go to the Bunker.”

Barrington frowned. “Why don’t we just meet at the Bunker?”

There was a pause on the line. “Yes. Yes, that’s what we’ll do. Alright, I’ll meet you there. I’ll head there tonight after I finish a few chores here.”

“We’ll see you there.”

“Albert, Michael isn’t going to like the change of plans. He won’t understand why you’re going to the Bunker, but we can’t tell him what we know. He doesn’t believe America can ever fall.”

“He won’t question your orders.”

There was a chuckle. “We both know that isn’t true.”

“Okay, Todd…he questions them, but he does carry them out.”

“To an extent.”

“I’ll drive. We’ll be up there some time tonight.”

“Okay. I’ll see you there.”

With the phone conversation ended, Barrington put away his cell phone as he looked for Lenox. He found him slamming the trunk of a police car closed.

“Ready to go?” Lenox inquired as he fell into step beside his friend.

Barrington glanced around. “Yeah…Where is Alyson Moore?”

There was a thump from the trunk of the police car.

Lenox headed for their car. “We need to head back with our prisoner, Al. I also need to requisition a new pair of handcuff’s. I lost mine.”

Barrington shook his head. “Uhm, are you telling me…?”

“I’m not telling you anything other than I need a new pair of ‘cuffs. Let’s go.”

With their prisoner secured in the back seat of the car, Lenox and Barrington climbed into the front. Barrington got behind the steering wheel and began to drive them to their new destination. He decided he would let Lenox in on where they were going a little later into the journey, but even that ended up taking a back seat when he realized something was wrong.

They were being followed.

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

Keith LeBeau

Bunker Island was located in the Adirondacks of New York. It was a parcel of land in a valley in the mountains. There was plenty of land for farming, and if any one trespassed, intentionally or accidentally, it would be assumed that they were trespassing on a farm. However, the area was remote enough where trespassers were far and few between.

The farmhouse and barn were constantly alive with activity. Several miles from the farmhouse was a small warehouse which housed a piper plane, and a few choppers, but beneath the farmhouse, the barn, and the warehouse, there were passages. One such passage led from the warehouse to the barn. A smaller passage led from the barn to the farmhouse. It was the farmhouse which was where the main operations of the hidden facility was located.

Every single man and woman on the property was an ATD agent, playing the part. They were all there for one single purpose. They were there to be a fighting force against terrorists in the event of an all out attack upon American soil. They were all of one mind. Most of them had hopes the day terrorists launched such an attack would never come, and perhaps a few of them believed it never would. But some of them believed it would happen, and they wanted to be in the fight.

LeBeau and Vogel flew their Huey into the valley and LeBeau shook his head, snorting in disbelief.

Vogel glanced at him. “What’s your problem?”

“Ya know, it just occurred to me that there ain’t no power lines through here.” LeBeau studied the layout of the farmland below them. “No wires. No poles. Nuttin’. So how is it we get power through here?”

“Duh, I dunno, Bullwinkle. Maybe those solar panels have something to do with it. They’re on the rooftops of all of the buildings. Plus this place has plenty of generators. Everything else is done by hand, just the way God intended it to be.”

“What? You sayin’ God didn’t want us to use electricity or somethin’? How crazy is that?”

“Oh, maybe He did want us to, but the people also tried to build a tower to heaven. Because of that, God confused them so they couldn’t understand each other.” He let out a chuckle. “Wish I could go back in time to see that.”

“Man, what are you talkin’ about?”

“Keith, I’m saying mankind has run its course and it’s time for God to step in. Look, I’ve been telling you for a long time that the day would come when the prophecies in the Bible would come to pass. I know you aren’t a Christian, but you have to feel something. Something in your gut has to be telling you that it’s coming and we may not be ready for it.”

“I thought you was ready.”

“Yeah…if the rapture happens, then, of course I’m ready, but not even I know when it will occur. No one knows the time. It could happen before a world wide tragedy, or it could happen later.”

“What world wide tragedy?”

Vogel shrugged. “I don’t know. I’m only saying.”

“You Christians don’t make a lick of sense.”

LeBeau and Vogel began to head for a landing pad outside the warehouse. Before they even began to touch down, Fronk got up from where he was sitting and opened the door.

“Crazy Man!” Shiva exclaimed, reaching for him.

Fronk leaped out of the chopper and hit the ground with a roll. He bounced back on his feet and headed for the side entrance to the warehouse. By the time he was inside, LeBeau and Vogel were shutting down the Huey. Shiva climbed out and headed after Fronk. He found him inside, working a crank clockwise. A chain hanging from the wall was slowly pulling open two large doors on the floor. Shiva began to help him out.

This was Shiva’s first visit to the Bunker. He looked curiously toward the opening they were making. “What’s down there?” he asked.

“What could very well be our only hope,” Fronk responded softly.

Shiva glanced at him.

By the time they had the large doors open, Vogel and LeBeau had joined them. They stood at the opening and looked down into a large room. LeBeau whistled at what he saw. It could only be described as a Gunship, a helicopter with plenty of firepower. It was one mean looking helicopter. It was black and had no markings whatsoever.

“Whoa,” Shiva said. “That’s awesome.”

LeBeau glanced at Vogel. “What’s this about?”

“This is your project,” Fronk told him.

“What project?”

“It’s a project I like to call Project Storm Breaker…But in order for this project to be successful, you need to pull out every computer component that thing has and rewire it completely. To put it simply, go back to the basics.”

“You serious?”

Fronk nodded. “The Director’s orders…upon my recommendations.”

“Man, computers these days is what makes these birds fly.”

“Not any more. Just do it. Do it quickly.”

LeBeau paused. “How quickly?”

Fronk looked into his eyes and leaned forward. “As fast as you can. When you‘re done with the Gunship, do the Huey.” With that, he turned and walked away.

Shiva didn’t know what else to do, so he followed Fronk. From that moment on, the way he saw things began to change. He spent most of that day walking around the farmlands and noting the way things were. He walked around the farmhouse, and went below it to the underground facility. He took note of all of the dry goods stored there, and weapons. He began to feel like he was in a bad science fiction movie, or a Grade B film about the end of days.

Something was about to happen. He could feel it, and he didn’t like it.

Several hours later, he found himself back at the warehouse where Vogel and LeBeau were hard at work on the inside of the Gunship. He waited for a while, and his patience was rewarded by Vogel climbing out. Wiping sweat off from his brow with a handkerchief, Vogel looked up and noticed Shiva.

Shiva got right to it. “Can you take a break?”

Vogel paused. “Yeah. I suppose we could. What’s up?”

“We need to talk.”

Vogel nodded. “I’ll be right up.”

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

Staci didn’t have any strong desire to do any talking about what she had gone through earlier that morning. She felt more like going home and getting into her comfort food of sherbert than having a talk. She wanted to simply take her son home. Unfortunately the course was set, and Kate was not going to let her out of her sight so easily. Especially since her situation had already been on the news.

Staci let out a sigh. “I just want to be left alone,” she said to herself.

She looked up and saw Kate entering into the room with their coffee. She forced a smile and accepted the steaming, hot cup. “Thank you.”

Kate returned to her seat. “You’re welcome.” Then, she became all serious. “Now tell me everything. What happened to you today?”

Staci glanced down and let out a sigh. With a silent resignation, she began to tell her story. “Ishmael Musad was a patient who came into my care with chest pain. He had two sons with him. At least, I saw two men who said they were his sons, but for some reason, they didn’t like me.” She rolled her eyes. “And for some other reason, no one else but me saw the two men, but…but every one else only saw one of them. Go figure! Anyway, these two men, Mr. Musad’s sons, immediately took some kind of disliking to me.”

Kate smiled reassuringly. “Maybe they were just concerned and only seemed not to like you. How could they not like you? Didn’t you take care of their father?”

“That was just it, Kate. They…they wouldn’t let me.”

“What do you mean?”

“They wouldn’t let me near him. They became…they became angry and…and demanded for another doctor, but I was the only one available at the time. No other doctor could come, so when I…I told them that, they became even more upset and refused to let me near their father. I…” She shook her head. “Kate, I tried to help him. He-he began to have a heart attack, and yet he spoke out in their language–”

“What language?”

“I don’t know. It-it was foreign. Not American!” She sighed in frustration. “I just don’t know!”

Kate touched her arm. “Staci, it’s okay. Just go on.”

Staci regained her composure. “I don’t know what he said, but whatever it was, the two men didn’t let me near him. When I turned to go for help, one of the men grabbed me, held me up against the wall, and…” she swallowed at the memory of that morning, “and put a knife to my throat.”

“Oh, Staci, I’m so sorry.”

“He called me a pig.”

“What?”

“He…he said I was a pig. A filthy, wretched, little Jewish pig.” She blinked as her eyes began to water. “Oh, I hate this. If I do this one more time today, I’m going to scream.”

“Hey, it’s okay. You know, it isn’t good for you to keep anything bottled up inside, so just let it out.”

Staci took a deep breath. “Kate…they wouldn’t let me help their father be-because I’m Jewish. I-I never ever came across such hatred in all my life. I was…I was completely stunned. I still am.” She looked up toward the ceiling. “Oh, how I wish I had my sister’s strength. She would have handled it so much better than I did.”

Kate looked at her. “Sounds to me like there was nothing you could have done.”

“My sister would have karate kicked that guy into the middle of next week!” Realizing what she said, she chuckled. Then, with the image of that happening in her mind, she laughed.

Kate did, too. “Feel better?”

Staci paused. “Well…no. My-my nerves are really shaken.”

“I’m so sorry. This world is so filled with hate, but it’s only because we continue to ignore the love of God. We are human, after all, and all of us have a tendency to do just that. Leave Him out of our lives and ignore Him completely. I’m sorry this happened to you.”

“Well, so what if I’m Jewish? I’ve never been picked on before for being Jewish. Why now? A-and how could they know anyway? Because of my name? And, hey! Wait a minute. We don’t all ignore the love of God. I do go to church sometimes…when I can. I love God. Why…how could He allow something like this to happen?”

“You’re not blaming God, are you, Staci?”

Staci frowned. “Well…Kate, I don’t know. If He didn’t do anything to stop it, what am I supposed to think?”

“That there are other people in this world who don’t know Him and will act contrary to His will whether we want them to or not. And I’m sorry to say this, but many of those people don’t understand the relationship God has with your people. With the Jewish nation. That’s why there is such hatred, because they don’t understand it. Even if they did, God is still in control. You have to know that He is! Even if you’re in a very terrible place right now, God is still who He is, and He will still do what He does.” She set her cup down. “Staci, God loves you. This isn’t His fault, but He was there with you, and I believe He was reaching out to you. Maybe you weren’t listening. Maybe you didn’t see Him.”

Staci sighed. “No, I didn’t see Him. And, of course, I didn’t hear Him. I had a knife to my throat and a maniac in my face, calling me names. How can I see Him when my life is threatened like that? And what am I supposed to do now? You’re telling me this was already on the news, so my career may very well be ended if there is any type of investigation.”

“The investigation will reveal the truth, Staci. That you’re a very competent doctor who–”

“Oh, none of that will matter! My reputation will be severely tainted. I-I’m already the talk of the hospital. What happened has already spread, and by the time I get back in there tomorrow morning, who knows what other things will be said of me.”

“I thought you weren’t going in tomorrow.”

Staci sighed. “I will not stay in my apartment and sulk. I’ll go back there and do what I was born to do. Kate, this is what I have to do. If I don’t, then I will lose.”

“Let me pray with you, Staci.”

She hesitated. “Oh…alright. Yes, I…I could use all the prayer I can get right now.”

Kate took her hand in hers and began to pray. Staci felt uncomfortable and wished David would wake up. That way, if he did, they could leave and go home, and Staci wouldn’t have to talk any more about her day. But it didn’t happen. Kate prayed, and Staci continued to feel even more uncomfortable.

Staci would understand later that the reason she was feeling uncomfortable was because the Spirit was working on her heart.

*******  *******

Director Darren Fuller

The red cell phone rang.

Fuller didn’t even hesitate. He had just finished speaking with Barrington from the phone on his desk, so as he was hanging that up, he was reaching for the red cellular phone just within his reach.

Only one other person had a red cell phone like he did. The phones were set up only to receive a certain signal, as well as give. No other calls could be made from it. Fuller didn’t understand the significance of how it worked, only that it did due to the genius of William Fronk. It gave him direct access to the President of the United States, and vice versa.

Fuller answered the call. “Mr. President,” he greeted.

There was a sigh. “Todd, for the love of Pete…How many times do I have to remind you not to use formalities with me when we’re on the red phone? I hear it every day. ‘How are you, Mr. President?’ ‘Can I get you anything, Mr. President?’” A snort sounded from the red cell phone. “Even my wife calls me that when she gets snippy with me. How hard is it to say, ‘Good evening, Walt. It’s wonderful to hear from you.’?”

“If I drop all formalities with you, Mr. President, then proper protocol would be easily dismissed.”

“Rubbish! That’s just an excuse. We’ve been friends for more than forty years, so you can call me by my God-given name. I may be the President of this country, but I am still the same Walter J. Ballou from Upstate New York that grew up in the same neck of the woods you did. So say my name!”

Fuller let out a sigh, but inside, there was a part of him amused by his old friends familiar antics. “Fine…Walt. Now what is the purpose of your call?”

“That’s more like it.” The President paused. “I’m getting aboard Air Force One in about an hour, and we’re gonna take us a little trip to the designated area you and I spoke about with that friend of yours…What’s his name? The fellow who started that crazy campaign to save Gilligan?”

“That would be William.”

“Fronk, isn’t it? Or was it Frank?”

Fuller glanced out the window. “It’s Fronk.”

“Right. So anyway, we’ll be heading to that designated area just in case. You may not hear from me for a while, and if this thing hit’s the fan, then you won’t. Period. We’ll be unable to communicate for only God knows how long. This is bad, Todd. I’ve just been informed by my sources that it’s going to hit and very soon. I’d say within a day or so.” There was a pause. “I always believed this day would come, but not while I was President.”

“Do your sources say how we’re going to get hit?”

“They tell me that a large number of terrorist cells have been preparing for a coup de grace. They’ve been arming themselves with automatic weapons, rocket launchers, and who knows what else. Our sources say there will be firefights in major cities wherever a cell is located. They’re just gonna come out shooting. Our major concern, however, is those other smart bombs we’ve yet to discover. Sure, we can say New York and Washington are safe, because your boys got to them first…but of the seven smart bombs we were told about, that still leaves us five.”

“They’re going to go off, aren’t they?”

There was a pause. “Yeah. Probably.”

Fuller let out a groan, and rubbed at his eyes. “God help us.”

“Yeah, well, don’t forget. It’s those Bible thumpers out there who claim God has warned about this since day one.” The President snorted. “What do we know, Todd? Maybe He has been warning us. It doesn’t matter now. It’s upon us and we have to do what we can to give our enemies a fight they’ll never forget. So you get to your Bunker and see to it your boys bring along Joe there.”

“Joe is safe, Walt. We already have him and he’s on his way to the Bunker now. In fact, I planned on heading there myself in a few hours.”

“Well, good for you! Then, you’re more ahead of the game than I am. Once you get set up…well, all I can do is wish you luck. When this hits, we’ll be out of communication for quite a while.”

“Yeah. I know.”

There was a pause. “Godspeed to you, my friend. Let’s take as many of them with us as we can.”

“The same to you…Mr. President.”

“Todd…we’re going to have us a heart to heart talk when this is over.”

Fuller couldn’t help but grin as he put away the red cell phone.

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

Darwyn Musad

She was dead. In fact, she had died a long time ago, so there really was no further need to dredge up unwanted memories from a past that was long gone. And yet there it was, like a tapeworm in his mind, continuously coming back to haunt him.

The van came to a brief halt as someone outside pulled open a warehouse door. Once the door was open, the van drove through the opening and entered the massive area.

“Brother, you look troubled,” Youmud said softly, watching his brother like a hawk seeking for prey.

Darwyn glared at him. He knew all too well what his brother was searching for. A sign of weakness. “It’s you who are the troubled one, especially if you pull another stupid stunt like that again!”

Youmud lowered his eyes, feeling defeated. “I will leave the Jewish doctor alone.”

Darwyn grunted and opened the side door. He stepped out, followed by Youmud and two others. Two other men climbed out, one from the driver’s side of the van, and the other from the passenger side. They all filed out behind Darwyn, following him through a doorway and then down a set of stairs.

Darwyn contorted his face with rage. He had to. It was the only way to keep the memories at bay. Why must this continue to torment me? he thought angrily to himself. What’s done is done? The betrayal has ended! He led the men down a long corridor, lit by single bulbs. The light bulbs were spaced far enough apart to keep the corridor mostly in shadow.

The corridor turned to the left, but he stopped at the corner and simply kicked at the wall sharply three times. Then, he dug his fingers into the corner and gave the wall a tug. The wall moved, and a small space opened up, big enough for a man to enter through. He did, and the others followed. The last man in resealed the wall.

On the other side of the wall was another corridor, which led down a decline. The men followed it and eventually came into another area where there was activity. Several men were checking on weapons, or going over plans for their triumphant attack. The excitement of the day to come was in the air. As Darwyn led the men deeper into the underground lair of the cell, men everywhere stopped briefly to pay him tribute with a salute or with a manic grin of joy. They were looking forward to killing Americans, and hopefully Jews.

She deserved it, Darwyn thought, gritting his teeth. And so do the American infidels! Their blood will flow and I will bathe in it! He came to an area where a raised platform overlooked the entire enclave. He stood up there and waited.

The wait wasn’t long. All activity stopped, and all eyes turned to him. A hush literally fell over them.

“My brothers,” Darwyn said, looking Youmud in the eyes before he began to make eye contact with every one else, “I will not stand up here and bore you with a pitiful speech of honor and glory.”

Chuckles of mirth spread.

He smiled grimly. “But we have waited for this day, haven’t we? Well, it has finally come. Today is the last day.” He paused to let that sink into their minds and into their hearts. “The last day,” he said a little louder. He looked at the men below him, searching their faces. “The last day for freedom in America. The last day for picnics in the park, and ice cream on a hot summers day, and baseball, and American pie. It is the last day!” He raised a fist.

The men cheered, raising a fist of their own.

“Today is the last day for America…And soon to follow…” He smiled. “Israel. The Jews. When they see the so-called Americans fall, they will fear us. And then, they will suffer worse than America.” He nodded, smiling triumphantly. “So…today is the last day for peace. And tomorrow…Tomorrow is the first day of our victory. Tomorrow, the streets of America will fill with blood and we shall strike at their hearts, bringing them to their knees. Then, we shall take their heads and destroy them!”

The men cheered.

Darwyn raised his hands and smiled. “Sleep tonight, my brothers. Keep your strength for tomorrow. For tomorrow we shall dance on the corpses of our enemies!”

The men continued to cheer, and Darwyn went about inspecting them and their weapons. He spent the majority of the day doing just that, occupying his mind with the task at hand to keep the past at bay. But unfortunately, that time came even for him when he was alone in his own place, preparing for the night. He thought he would be too excited to sleep, but he was wrong. He did sleep.

And in his sleep, he had a dream.

_______ _______ _______

Tags:
April 26, 2011

Chapter 2 – The Believer

Michael Lenox

Chapter 2
The Believer

“Drop it!” Lenox exclaimed, leveling his weapon at Joseph Canaan.

Canaan was holding onto a Holy Bible in his right hand. It was the only thing in his possession as he stood in front of the patio doors. He looked from Lenox to Barrington, but he made no move. He also did not drop the Bible as Lenox had ordered.

Lenox took a menacing step forward. “I said drop it!”

Canaan wasn’t about to drop the only thing precious to him, but he didn’t believe it was a good idea to antagonize the FBI agent any further. He was about to lower himself to gently lay the Bible down onto the patio stonework. Something behind the agents, however, caught his attention.

Barrington turned his head to see what had caused Canaan’s distraction. There was someone out there beyond the backyards of Shallow Lane, coming from the same direction he and Lenox had come from. Barrington turned his body away from Canaan, lowering his weapon as he angled for a better view. In the tree line, there were two men, and one of them was preparing a tube-like object over his right shoulder. Knowing the dangers he had been faced with during his career in law enforcement and knowing terrorism was rampant throughout the world, he immediately recognized the imminent threat heading their way.

In his mind, he was more aware of who Joseph Canaan was than his partner did. There were things he had personally been told by the Director himself because he was more prone to diplomacy than Lenox was. Barrington wanted to bring Canaan in, not as a suspect, but as a witness and for his protection. He did not fully understand why Fuller would share the details he had with him and not Lenox, but he didn’t question it either. Fuller had his reasons. Barrington would carry out his duty and see to it that Canaan was safe. The fact that there was about to be an attack upon them only assured Barrington that someone wanted Canaan out of the picture.

“To the front of the house!” Barrington shouted. “Now!”

Lenox and Canaan didn’t hesitate. Canaan turned and ran back into the house with his Bible held firmly in his hand, Lenox and Barrington right behind him. They were passing through a kitchen where a woman was standing expectantly, a baby in her arms. She would have asked what was happening had Canaan given her time. He didn’t. He simply grabbed her arm and turned her about.

“Run!” he told her.

She ran, clutching her baby to herself.

They all ran to the front of the house just as something crashed into the kitchen behind them. There was a loud explosion and the entire house shook so hard from the blast, it almost seemed as if it would come down around them. The woman with her baby, and Canaan were on the floor at the front door with Lenox and Barrington covering them. The stairwell leading up to the second floor of the house and the narrow corridor from the kitchen was adequate enough to protect them from the blast, but some debris fell onto their backs. A wooden spatula tapped Lenox on his left leg and clattered to the floor.

When the house settled, Lenox turned to look back toward the kitchen. Through the smoke, dust, and debris, he could see out into the backyard.

“How many did you see?” he asked Barrington.

Barrington glanced out the window beside the front door. “Two.” Then, he added, “That’s not to say there can’t be more.” He let out a sigh as he noticed movement outside in front of the house. “Alyson Moore is on the job, Knox…but the cavalry’s coming, too.”

Several police officers were approaching the house with their weapons drawn. One of them appeared to be trying to keep Alyson and her camera man back, but they were ignoring him.

“I-I was baking a cake…” the woman said softly, rocking her baby in her arms.

Canaan put a hand on her shoulder, attempting to give her comfort. “You’ll be alright, Cheryl.”

She looked up at him as her baby cried. Then a silent resolve seemed to rise within her and she nodded once. “I will…And you will be, too. God is our Refuge.” She glanced toward the kitchen.

Lenox faced the kitchen. “Get them out of here,” he said.

Barrington motioned for Canaan and Cheryl to move. As he was leading them out through the front doorway, Lenox was moving cautiously toward what was left of the kitchen. It had been hit by some type of rocket launcher. In the doorway from the small corridor, Lenox stood still, looking out toward the backyard with his weapon held low at his side.

He saw two men moving fast toward the house. They got to the fence and prepared to climb over it. Whether they were expecting to find no survivors, or they were just overconfident, they were not taking any precautions. It was as if they expected to find their targets dead.

Lenox fully intended to disappoint them.

He leveled his weapon, walked out into the daylight, and opened fire before the men were over the fence. One of the men cried out and fell forward into the backyard. The second one tried to raise his own weapon, but a round in the shoulder from Lenox’ .357 flung him backward away from the fence. The man fell somewhere out of the agents view behind the fence.

With both targets down, Lenox continued to move cautiously forward. One of the men he had hit lay still on the ground in front of the fence. Lenox could not see the second man. He slowed his pace and reloaded his weapon. He wasn’t sure if the man was dead or alive, and realized it didn’t matter. The man was a terrorist, and terrorists did not cooperate.

Lenox wasn’t about to cooperate either.

He leveled his weapon low at the fence and fired two rounds through it. Immediately he was rewarded with a grunt of pain.

Then…silence.

By the time Lenox verified for himself that the terrorists were dead, Barrington and two police officers were on the scene.

“Are there any more?” Lenox demanded.

Barrington approached him, his weapon leveled toward the ground as he searched the tree line. “I don’t see any movement, but that’s being looked into.” He stopped beside Lenox.

“They must have been gunning for Canaan,” Lenox replied.

Barrington noted the bodies. “Did you read them their rights?”

He glared at him.

Barrington paused, deciding to change the direction of their discussion. “Are you still convinced of Canaan’s guilt?”

“He knows things, Bear. They don’t want us to know what he knows. Why else would they be trying to kill him?”

“He didn’t start the fire that killed his family.”

“And you know this…how?”

Barrington shrugged. “It’s a feeling.”

“A feeling,” he repeated. He shook his head. “Well, my feeling says the Carpenter is a terrorist, or he’s in with them. Either way, he’s guilty. We’ve got a job to do, Al. Let’s get him out of here and get him somewhere so he can tell us everything he knows.” As they headed toward the front of the house, he asked, “Who’s the woman?”

“Cheryl Matire. She’s a friend of Canaan’s. Their families attended the same church together. The Corinth Bible Baptist Church.” He glanced at his friend. “Why? You want to bring in the whole congregation?” He chuckled.

Lenox didn’t even hesitate. “Might have to question them to see what they know about Canaan.”

“Are you serious?”

“I’m always serious. You know that.” He shook his head. “You know, you’ve been defending this guy Canaan and acting like some kind of personal protector to the Christian society ever since you told me your wife got a little religion. Is that stuff starting to rub off on you, Bear, because we just got into a firefight today. If there are any more, is your mind going to be clear enough to do your job?”

Barrington stopped in his tracks.

Lenox took a few more paces and then stopped. He turned to face Barrington, who did not look the least little bit pleased with the accusation.

“Are you questioning my ability to perform my job?” Barrington inquired calmly.

“No. I’m merely pointing out you may be a little biased because of the influence you must be receiving from your wife. You talk a little differently. You even act a little differently…But really, this isn’t the place for this kind of talk.”

They began to resume their walk. As they rounded the house, Alyson Moore and her camera man were right there waiting. “Excuse me, Agent Lenox of the FBI,” she announced, putting herself directly in their path, “as we are unable to inquire from the Carpenter or Cheryl Matire as to what just happened here, perhaps you can comment for us? We did notice the explosion. The entire neighborhood is well aware of the explosion, and as you were the target, maybe it would be beneficial for you to tell us in your own words exactly what happened. Do you have a comment?”

Lenox glared right at the camera before he responded. Then, he said, “Yes, I do have a comment.”

Before anyone could stop him, he wrenched the camera away from Meers and slammed it down onto the driveway. “Now here’s my comment. Keep that thing off and out of my face.” He turned and walked away.

Barrington walked with him, shaking his head. “Knox…you’ve got some issues.”

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

Kevin Vogel

“You’ve got issues, man. Some very serious issues.”

“If I do have issues, it only means that I’m human. And as a human with issues, then I can assure you without one single doubt you just happen to be one of those issues. It’s an issue I read every day, except for Sunday, of course, thank the Lord…an issue I have truly been trying to resolve without any success.” Kevin Vogel shook his head as he continued going over the pre-flight checklist for the UH-1M Bell Huey. He glanced at the pilot beside him. “But no matter. I shall ever be vigilant in praying for you. Especially if you fall asleep while flying and you have no co-pilot.”

“I ain’t never slept in the cockpit while flying, Preacher Man!” Keith LeBeau snorted in agitation. “And I told ya to quit that! Stop prayin’ on my account! Just do yer job and keep to the list. There’s plenty to do before we take off and that’ll happen in about five minutes!”

“I know you told me to stop, but that’s why I didn’t.”

“You just don’t quit, do ya?”

Vogel paused to ponder that question. “You mean, you want me to quit like you quit learning to speak proper English? Isn’t it interesting? Where would I be if I did quit? Now that is the question of the ages. If I had dropped out of High School before the twelfth grade, would we have become friends? And would you have conned me into going into the Marine Corp with you?”

LeBeau shook his head. “I never conned you!”

“And would we have gone to Afghanistan where I met the Lord? You see, all of these things would not have happened had I quit.”

He rolled his eyes. “Man, you is trippin’!”

“I am seated comfortably in the cockpit of a Huey, Ace. My feet aren’t catching onto anything, nor am I about to fall on my face as you would like.” Vogel enjoyed teasing his friend. “Although by all appearances, you have managed to fall onto your face on more than one occasion.”

“I mean yer head is cracked or somethin’. You didn’t meet no Lord! You’ve never even seen this guy. How can ya say you’ve met him when some chaplain wacko told ya all about him? I swear, yer as nutty as the grapes are in that there Grape Nuts cereal.”

“You don’t see Him with the physical eyes, Ace. One day, we will all see Him as He is, but for the moment, this is a walk by faith, not by sight. For blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed. (John 20:29b) Every single knee will bow to Him, and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. And that includes you.”

LeBeau shook his head. “Not me, ya crazy kook. I bow to no one.”

Vogel sighed. “Open your eyes, Keith. It’ll happen. My only prayer is that you’ll bow to Him before you die so you can have the everlasting life He has offered us.”

LeBeau sat back, but he couldn’t make eye contact with his friend. He was beginning to feel strangely uncomfortable. “Look, I’ve told ya this before…That stuff’s good for you, but it just ain’t for me.” He hesitated, “I kinda miss the ole’ you, ya know?”

“That’s kind of the point. He’s supposed to be missed.” He looked out through the cockpit window and noticed the approach of two of their fellow ATD agents. Marc Shiva, an ex-wrestler recruited personally by Lenox, completely towered over a solemn looking Fronk. Vogel could not remember ever seeing Fronk looking so serious before. All he could do for the man was pray.

Vogel believed the end was closer than people thought because of the prophecies recorded in the Holy Bible. Fronk believed the end was near because of the things he had seen and heard. They were both right. They just didn’t realize how close that end actually was.

Fronk wordlessly pulled himself into the rear of the Huey as Shiva tapped his knuckles on LeBeau’s window.

LeBeau snapped his window open. “What?”

“I guess we’re ready to go to the Island.”

The ace pilot regarded the man with a puzzled frown. “What are ya goin’ on about? What island? The Director didn’t say didly-do about no island. I was told we was headin’ fer the Bunker.”

“We are,” Vogel replied, as if to offer confirmation. “’The Island’ is Bill’s codename for it. Kind of like the name ‘Jughead’ is codename for Keith LeBeau.”

LeBeau glared at him. “Hey, now, watch it!” He turned back to Shiva. “Okay, then, Fury. I guess we’re ready to go to this Island. All aboard fer Bunker Island!”

“Hey, uhm…guys…” Shiva hesitated, “do either of you have any idea why we’re going to the, uhm, Island?”

LeBeau shrugged. “Sure. ‘Cause we was ordered to.”

“But why? Is something happening?”

“What could be happenin’? Look. Orders is orders. The Director says, ‘Go!’ and I say, ‘Gone!’ It’s as simple as that.”

Shiva paused. “Okay.”

Vogel let out a chuckle. “Yes. ‘Gone’ is a word that does best describe you.”

“Preacher Man, yer cruisin’, buddy,” LeBeau warned.

Shiva wanted to ask Vogel more about their orders, but was familiar with the mans beliefs. He would most likely make another prophetical statement concerning the end of the world. The ex-wrestler decided to head to the rear of the chopper and find a seat with Fronk. As he moved away from the cockpit, he could still hear Vogel and LeBeau going at each other. To any one who didn’t know them, they would have assumed the two were mortal enemies with each other.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

LeBeau and Vogel were like brothers. They certainly had their differences, but their friendship made room for those differences even though at times they appeared to be at each others throats.

Shiva settled inside the Huey across from Fronk and nervously glanced at him. Fronk was well known as the funny man amongst the other ATD agents, but he wasn’t being funny now.

And that was what scared Shiva the most.

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

James Bollinger

“Staci, it’s me. I’m calling because I…Well, I’m missing my baby sister. Call me when you get this message. I’ll be home after five. I’d really like to get together, so we should do something. It’s been a while, hasn’t it?” Nichole paused as she tried to think of something else to say, but when nothing more was forthcoming, she simply said, “I love you. Please…just call me.”

She hung up the phone as troubling thoughts continued to race through her mind. She had always been concerned about her younger sister’s spiritual well being. There were times when she doubted Staci had truly committed herself into the eternal care of God’s Son, that she simply had gone through the motions. Nicole hadn’t been able to spend as much time with her as she would have liked due to her own busy life, juggling her time between work and family. Even so, she was aware that Staci did not live like someone who was of the faith.

Staci may believe with her words, but not with her actions.

Nicole leaned back in her chair behind her desk and let out a weary sigh. Then, she closed her eyes, intending to send a silent prayer for her sister to the one true God.

A voice, however, intruded itself upon that silent prayer.

“It must be so nice to have a younger sister to look after, who looks up to you for guidance.”

She opened her eyes and saw him, then, leaning casually against the frame in the doorway to her office. His left hand was in his pocket. In his right hand was a large, yellow manila envelope. His shoulder-length brown hair was tied back into a pony tail. His dark eyes were regarding her as if she were a mouse and he were a hawk in search of prey. The grin on his face only added to the sinister presence he gave off.

Something about this man disturbed her.

“I envy you,” he said softly. “I really do. There was a time years ago when I had a younger brother who looked up to me, just as your sister does to you. I remember feeling such pride whenever I could guide him along, but…as I’ve said, that was so many years ago.”

Nicole resisted the temptation to ask him about his younger brother because she refused to be drawn into any prolonged conversation with this man. How he knew she had a sister was easily explained. He had just overheard her leaving a message for her sister, but he couldn’t know anything else about her. Nichole would certainly not give him any further information. The idea that he would even mention her own situation unnerved her. She decided not to let him see that it did and would not take the bait. Director Fuller had instructed her just to apologize and then end the conversation.

That was all she intended to do.

There was one other thing which bothered her. The man had not bothered to knock. She could have sworn her office door was closed, and yet here it was, now wide open. And James Bollinger casually leaned there in her doorway as if he were at home.

She cleared her throat. “Mr. Bollinger, I’m glad you dropped by.” She wasn’t really glad, but some measure of formality had to be maintained.

“Yes, I had heard you wanted to see me about something.”

She found his smile to be annoying. It was as if he had a secret he was not willing to share, but wanted her to know he had it anyway. “Yes,” she said, rising to her feet. She felt uncomfortable with him leaning there in her doorway. “It seems I…owe you an apology.”

Bollinger either was genuinely puzzled, or he was merely acting the part. It did, however, look convincing. “An apology?” he inquired. “Are you sure? What could you possibly have to apologize to me about?”

She paused, praying inwardly for the right words to say. She just wanted to get this over with and have him leave. “Well…I may have offended you earlier, and if I did, I’m…I’m sorry. It was not my intention.”

He shrugged and let out a chuckle. “Nicole, I wasn’t offended in the least. Why would you think I was?”

“Ah…well, I was informed you were going to report me for proselytizing on the job, and-”

“Who told you that?”

She hesitated. “Are you saying you weren’t going to report me?”

“Why would I do that? I was the one who engaged you into that conversation.”

She was certain he was playing games with her. She glared at him. “Why would I have been warned by my superiors to apologize to you if they didn’t think you would report me?”

Bollinger nodded slowly. “I’m sorry, Nicole. I did mention our conversation to Director Fuller, but he must have misunderstood me. I really have no intention of reporting you. I happened to enjoy our conversation. It was a wonderful debate.”

“Debate?”

“Yes.” He chuckled again. “I just love a good debate, don’t you?”

She sighed. “No. Not really. I don’t.”

“Oh, well…then, I really do apologize for drawing you into a conversation you clearly didn’t want to have. I’m a little puzzled by that, because I was under the impression you Christians wanted to get the Word out.”

“We do. We…” She stopped, reminding herself not to get into anything with him. “Anyway, I do apologize. That’s all I wanted to tell you. Please close the door behind you.” She wanted to sit but not until he was gone.

Bollinger, however, made no move to leave. “I’m really going to miss you when you’re gone.”

Nicole frowned. “When I’m gone?” She shook her head. “I’m not going anywhere. What makes you think….?” She stopped again. Was he trying to draw her into another conversation? She looked at him suspiciously.

Bollinger grinned at her knowingly, but he didn’t respond to her inquiry. He simply remained where he was, leering at her.

It made her uncomfortable. “Mr. Bollinger-”

“Call me James, Nicole. Aren’t we family?”

“No, we’re not. Mr. Bollinger, I have work to do.”

That’s when he tossed the manilla envelope and it landed with a soft thud on her desk, right in front of her computer.

Nicole glanced at it and tried to hide her irritation. “What is that?”

“Why don’t you have a look see?” He smiled. “Then, we’ll talk.”

“We don’t have anything to talk about.”

“I beg to differ.”

She almost rolled her eyes. “Beg all you want. There is nothing to talk about. I don’t know what is in that envelope of yours and what you think it has to do with me, but we’re done here. Please take it and go. I told you, I have a lot of work to do and I don‘t have time for this.”

“You don’t have time for family? I just heard you trying to make time with your little sister. Baby sister, you called her. I assure you, she is no baby.” He smiled that infuriating smile. “Open the envelope.”

Nicole feared what she might discover inside. “Why don’t you just tell me what’s in it and leave my sister out of this?”

Bollinger looked into her eyes. “You want to know what really makes me wonder? Look at you, dark eyes, dark hair. Very pretty, too, I’m not afraid to say.”

“You’re bordering dangerously close to harassment, Mr. Bollinger.”

He ignored her. “But then, there is your baby sister. Gorgeous green eyes. Beautiful red hair. Red! Can you see what I’m seeing here? The two of you don’t even look alike enough to be sisters. How do you explain that?”

Nicole stared at him as the fear began to rise. He knew what her sister looked like? How? She was stunned into silence, unable to bring herself to speak.

“What’s wrong, Nicole? You look a little pale.”

“How…” she began, a catch in her voice, “how do you know my sister?”

Then, something happened she could not explain. Bollinger strode purposefully into her office and stopped in front of her desk. Behind him, the door to her office slammed shut, and yet he never touched it. It closed with such a bang, Nicole jumped with a start.

A presence of evil filled the room, causing her to stumble back. She fell right into her chair and found herself looking up fearfully into Bollinger’s dark eyes.

Please, God, help me! she prayed.

“I think it’s time you open the envelope,” he said casually, with just a touch of menace, “and then I’ll tell you what this is all about.”

Nicole glanced toward the door, trying to determine why it had closed so abruptly. She had to get through this and there appeared to be only one way to do that. She had to see this through…to the bitter end. She had to open the envelope and find out what this man was doing that involved her sister.

Slowly, she reached for the envelope. She took it in her hands and brought it to her lap. God, please, give me strength. Please protect Staci. She glanced up at Bollinger.

He suddenly grinned at her. “Would you relax? They’re just pictures. Do you remember me promising to show off pictures of my vacation from last year? Well, here they are. I wanted to show them to you first.”

“Vacation…?”

He nodded.

“What…? Where did you go?”

“I didn’t go far. I stayed in the area.” He indicated the envelope in her hands. “See for yourself.”

Nicole finally opened the envelope and dumped the pictures out onto her lap. There were several of them, but the first one immediately drew her attention. It was a photograph of the entrance to Albany Medical Hospital. With hesitation, she moved the photo aside to reveal the second one and recognized it as well as the first. This building entrance was of a penthouse apartment complex, and she recognized it as the building on West Avenue.

“Your vacation…was here in Albany?” Nicole asked him.

“They say the best vacations can be found right in your own backyard. Or across town.” He smiled. “Keep going. There are plenty more pictures there.”

“Mr. Bollinger-”

“Please, call me James.”

She hesitated. “James…how do you know my sister?”

Bollinger reached over her desk and took the second photo from her, revealing the third. It was another photo of the entrance to Albany Medical, but this time, there was a woman in the center of it. She was exiting from the building.

Nicole could not help but recognize her own sister.

“Are you sure she’s really your sister?” Bollinger asked. “I mean…Come on, I really don’t see the resemblance here.”

She tried to keep her voice steady. “Why are you taking pictures of my sister?”

“I’ll answer your questions if you answer mine.”

She wanted to scream, but if her sister was in trouble, she had to cooperate. At least until she knew what Bollinger’s game was. “Staci takes after our father while I…” She sighed. “I look more like our mother.” She glared at him. “How do you know my sister?”

But he didn’t answer her question. “So, your father is, what? A full-blooded, red-haired American, and your mother is Jewish?”

“My parents are both Jewish, as are my sister and I.”

He regarded her thoughtfully. “Your people have quite a history, but you know that, don’t you?”

Nicole didn’t want to discuss the heritage of her family and people with this man. To look away from him, she busied herself by looking through the rest of the photographs. She wished she hadn’t. There were more photo’s of her sister, but that isn’t what disturbed her. Bollinger was also in some of those photo’s, sometimes posing together with her sister as if they were friends. Staci stood right beside him in one of them, smiling into the camera. Bollinger even had his arm around her in one of the photo’s.

“She’s a very beautiful girl, isn’t she?” Bollinger asked innocently, watching for Nichole’s reactions to the game he was enjoying. “She knows how to dance, too. A party girl, not at all like you. Quite young to be a doctor, don’t you think? Last year I believe was her very first year, so she’s now on her second. And if that were not impressive enough, she’s also a single mom to a three year old little boy named David.”

She shot him a look. How could he know so much? “What do you want?” she demanded.

He smiled at her. “You see, this is what I live for. Moments like this. Aren’t you having fun?”

“Is…is that what this is to you? A…Some kind of a game?”

He nodded. “Yes. That’s exactly right. Hey, you’ve got to really enjoy your work in order to do it well, don’t you agree?”

She sat back, completely baffled by this sudden turn of events. “What does this have to do with work? What does this have to do with anything?”

“Would you like to know how I befriended your sister or not?”

Her mouth was suddenly dry. “Please…tell me.”

“My father died. He was in her care.”

She blinked, trying to hold back her tears of fear and anger. “Are you telling me you’re doing this out of some sick need for revenge? That my sister was responsible for your fathers death?”

He shook his head. “Oh, no. No, no, that’s not it at all. You see, my father had cancer, and quite frankly, he didn’t have much longer to live. I admitted him into Albany Medical last year and a team of doctors helped to make him comfortable. Dr. Staci Cohen was one of those doctors. And she was so sweet.”

Nicole thought she was going to be sick. She forced herself to listen without screaming at him.

“During that time, I was able to engage in many conversations with your sister. She’s really very compassionate, but I’m afraid it’s just one of those qualities within her that makes it so easy to manipulate her. But through it all, I managed to earn her friendship.”

She couldn’t believe what she was hearing. “Manipulate?”

He nodded. “Yes.”

“You manipulated my sister? For what purpose?”

“I already told you. To gain her friendship. Her trust.” He smiled thoughtfully. “I have to admit. It was a little too easy. Do you know that she even attended my father’s funeral with me, and because she saw that I was alone, she stood by my side? People actually believed she was my wife.” He chuckled. “Can you believe that?”

“You…” Nicole stopped herself and once more rose from her desk. She clamped her mouth shut and turned away from him, desperately trying to keep her composure. Finally, she turned to him. “Why are you doing this?”

“I’m doing this because I believe.”

Completely baffled, she stared at him. “Believe what?”

“I do believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, I simply choose not to accept Him. I have studied the scriptures and believe it all makes perfectly, clear sense. That God is in control, that He is working out a plan to bring His chosen people, the Jews, back to the land He has promised them. I believe that what we have discussed is true. Again, I simply choose not to accept it and live out my life as I desire to. This includes manipulation of people and events.” He smiled at the look on her face. “I know what you’re thinking, but don’t forget, the demons believe and tremble in fear. Lucifer himself knows his time is short, yet he still continues to keep the lost on the road to Hell itself.”

“How…how can you believe and not accept? It…it doesn’t make any sense!”

“You know nothing of my life. I’ve passed the point of no return a long time ago. So now I live each day to the fullest, and have fun doing it…even if it is at the expense of others.”

“But my sister…Why are you playing games with her?”

“Because she’s not strong and secure in her faith like you are. She’s very naïve, and in spite of her once broken marriage, still very innocent. That ex-husband of hers almost did a number on her, didn’t he?”

She glared at him. “I see you’ve really done your homework on this.”

“I always get the details before I begin the game.”

“So what do you want from me?”

“The world as we know it is about to end. In less than twenty-four hours, everything changes and people will begin to die in the attack. You will be safe if this rapture of yours occurs, but consider that it didn’t happen when 9-11 was taking place. So if you are still here when the first wave hits, stay away from planes, automobiles, and elevators.”

She paled visibly. “Wha-what are you saying?”

“When the second wave hits, find a hole to hide in. If you do survive, maybe you’ll find your sister. If you’re raptured and she’s not, I’ll do my best to protect her.”

“Why are you telling me all of this? We need to see Director Fuller and-”

“I won’t tell him a thing, and he might just assume you’re getting into prophecy with him.” He smiled. “I just wanted to see what you would do with this.” He headed for the door.

She took a few steps toward him. “Wait…wait!” When he turned to look at her, she said, “Please…if this attack is going to happen, how will it?”

He regarded her for a moment. “Wait by your phone. I’ll call you.” Then, he shook his head. “Oh, and don’t call your sister. Don’t warn her about anything. Or the Director. I’ll know if you try.”

“What…what will happen if I do?”

He shook his head. “Oh, you really don’t want to know, but if you do love your sister, I wouldn’t say a word because I promise you…It won’t be pleasant for her.” He smiled. “I have to go now. If I don’t make my scheduled contacts, they might assume the worst and take matters into their own hands.”

Nicole understood the threat. She stepped back as Bollinger left her office. All she could do now was pray.

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

It was mid-afternoon by the time Staci finally made it to the front entrance of the penthouse apartment complex she lived in with her son on West Avenue. She was exhausted. Her day as a doctor at Albany Medical had not been as full as she was used to, but nonetheless, the stress brought on by the events earlier that morning were enough to drain her physically and emotionally. It was as if she were running on empty.

She had stopped at a local convenience store to purchase a few items she needed, including milk and a comfort food called Rainbow Sherbert. If there was anything she craved now, it was comfort. Her mind was still reeling from the horrible morning. For the first time in her life, she found herself fearful for her future. She had spoken to the so-called lawyers of the hospital, sat down with them for an hour, but when she had left them, she had the feeling she was going to lose her license. They had not treated her favorably at all. All she wanted to do was cry but she focused her mind on her son to keep from doing just that.

When the taxi-cab dropped her off on West Avenue, she was so relieved to be home. Soon she would be inside her apartment with her son. She looked forward to watching Scooby-Doo cartoons with him and eating sherbert until the pain of the day went away. At least that was her intention as a remedy. She stood at the entrance of the building, trying to balance the bag of groceries in her arms as she fished through her purse for the electronic card key, which would allow her entrance.

“Oh, no….”

She began to panic because she couldn’t find it. The bag of groceries fell from her arms and she sucked her lower lip in frustration. The milk was one of the many items which fell out of the bag, but unknown to Staci, it had hit something sharp protruding from the sidewalk. As she continued to look for her card, the milk spilled out onto the ground beside the sidewalk.

Feeling embarrassed as if every eye was on her, she knelt onto the sidewalk and dumped out the contents of her purse. She found her apartment key she thought she had lost several weeks ago. She had another one made for her, and the new one was on her key ring in the side pocket of her purse. Well, at least I now have two, so that has to be good news, right? she asked herself. She picked up her organizer, but her card key wasn’t in it. Finally, she took up her check book, and there it was, tucked safely inside behind her bank card.

She let out a weary sigh, then, placed the card key in her mouth as she picked everything up and returned them to her purse. When she began to pick up the spilled groceries, she found the milk carton empty and it was the straw that broke the camel’s back. The empty carton wasn’t what made her cry, but it was a reminder of how terrible her day was. Feeling completely defeated and lost, she stumbled to her feet with her purse and bag and leaned against the door. She used her card key to open the first door which would allow her to enter the foyer. As she was using the card to open the second door leading to the lobby, she did not notice the man behind her, catching the first door before it closed.

Staci continued through the lobby and finally into the elevator. She was glad there was no one else around, but when the doors closed, she tried to pull herself together. She refused to let her son see her like this. She pushed the number five button as she tried to think happy thoughts.

“Find a happy place,” she said softly, “find a happy place.”

She took several deep breaths, and wiped at her eyes with her right hand. By the time the doors opened on the fifth floor, she felt she was at least presentable enough for her son. The babysitter would be another matter, bit if Sherri Turrel were focused on her studies, she might not notice. Sherri was a correspondence student through Excelsior College who worked two jobs and studied during one of those jobs. Babysitting. She was good for Staci’s son, and put in enough study time during the little toddler’s nap time.

However, when Staci used her key to get inside her apartment, she discovered nothing but silence. Usually, she was greeted by her son’s giggles, or even if he was sleeping, she would hear the television playing soft music from one of Sherri’s favorite music channels. But there wasn’t a sound when she stepped inside.

“Sherri…?” she called softly. Maybe they had both taken a nap.

She set her bag on the kitchen counter along with her purse, then went directly for her son’s bedroom. The door was open, and she could already see that the toddler bed was empty before she even stepped inside. The living room was also quiet with no sign of either her son or Sherri. She hurried back to the kitchen and was about to snatch up the phone when she saw the note on the blackboard beside the refrigerator.

Staci, I had to leave earlier than expected.
David is with Kate.
I will call you later.

Sherri

Staci sighed with relief. She decided she needed time to freshen up and cover the evidence of her tears. Kate was from her church, involved heavily in the women’s bible studies. If Kate knew she had been crying, there would be prayer, bible study, and Staci would never get out of there. She put away her groceries, tossed out the milk carton, and went into the bathroom to freshen up.

Almost fifteen minutes later, she grabbed her purse, made certain she had her keys, and went out the door. The door locked behind her with a click. She walked a little bit down the corridor and stopped at door number 55, almost across the hall from her own apartment. She paused as she put on her happy face, and then, she knocked. After a short time, she heard someone coming to the door. It opened to reveal Kate Barrington who smiled at Staci, surprise evident on her face.

“Staci, well, hi!” Kate exclaimed, brushing a strand of blonde hair from her face. “I didn’t expect you until much later. Come in!”

Staci entered the apartment. “Short day today,” she said hesitantly as Kate closed the door. “I just figured it would be a good day to hang out with my little David. Where is he?”

“Well, he hasn’t woken up from his nap yet. It’s only been an hour. He and April have both been playing quite hard today, so I sent them to nap time after their lunch. Would you like some coffee?” Kate began to prepare the coffeemaker even before she received an answer.

Inwardly, Staci felt dreadful. It had always been a battle for her to get her son to take a nap and yet Kate managed the unmanageable. The only way out of this would be to have her son’s nap disrupted…but she couldn’t do that. She slowly nodded and kept her smile in place. “Yeah. Sure. I…I’d love some.” Just please don’t ask me how my day was.

As Kate continued preparing the coffeemaker, she said, “April just loves having David around. Makes her feel like the big sister, it does. In about eleven years, she’ll be as good a sitter as Sherri is.”

Staci nodded her agreement. “Yes. She will.”

Kate turned on the maker. “There we go. Let’s go into the living room and have a seat. I’ll come back for our coffee when it’s ready.”

As Kate led her guest into the living room, she filled Staci in on the activities the children had gotten into. Several times she mentioned her thanks to God for blessing them with such wonderful children. Staci was more than aware she had been blessed with David as her son, but she didn’t think it was necessary to continue to give thanks over and over and over again. Of course, she didn’t share those feelings either. At least, not out loud.

Staci sat down on the end of the sofa while Kate took the recliner without sitting back. That’s when the dreaded question came.

“How was your day?”

Staci continued to maintain her smile. “Fine.” She cleared her throat. “How was your day?”

Kate smiled. “Quite eventful, and wonderful, but I do believe I’ve mentioned a bit of my adventures with the little ones to you already. You, on the other hand, have only mentioned to me how short and fine your day was, but you’ve not given any details. I’m sure you must have had some adventures of your own today. Did something happen to make you leave early?”

“No, no…nothing like that.” She shrugged, trying to be casual about her day. “Really, nothing ever happens to me. I treated some people in the ER and…and then, I went on my way.”

“Really? Nothing exciting? Or…stressful?”

Staci looked at Kate and wondered if she even knew anything about her day. The woman was watching her with a knowing look. “I…Really, my day was fine.” She avoided eye contact. “It’s over now, and I’m just glad to be home.”

Kate paused. “Do you know Ishmael Musad?”

Staci paled. “What…? Kate, how do you know that name?”

“I don’t really know much about him other than he was a prominent member at a local mosque. A leader in the Islamic faith.” She regarded Staci, concern evident in her eyes. “He died this morning.”

Staci didn’t know what to say or think. She stared at Kate as she tried to keep her emotions in check. Finally, she said, “How…how do you know this if-if you don’t know him?”

“It was on the news an hour ago.”

“It was?”

She nodded.

“Already?” She hesitated. “I mean…why would it be on the news at all?”

“Your picture was on the news, too, Staci. They said you were the physician caring for Ishmael Musad, but that you may have ignored a critical diagnosis.”

“What…?” Staci shook her head. “No. No, that’s not-”

Kate reached over and put a hand on her arm for reassurance. “Staci, it’s alright.”

“No, it’s not alright. It-it’s on the news? How did this happen? Kate, I-I couldn’t treat him, they wouldn’t let me. They kept me from getting near him, and-and one of them…” She stopped. “No. I-I don’t want to talk about this. I’ve had a bad day, but it’s over. I just want to put it all behind me and move on. Go forward…Isn’t that what they say? You take a fall, just get up, dust yourself off, and…and continue onward, forward, shout a loud…shout…” She pursed her lips in frustration when she couldn’t think of the word she was looking for. “Well, shout a loud something, I’m sure. I-I just don’t remember the words to that song right now, but…but, yes. I…I will just go back to work tomorrow, and–”

“Staci…”

“–keep on-a working.” She shrugged. “So…That’s all I’ve gotta do, right?”

Kate shook her head. “No, Staci, you can’t go back to work tomorrow. At least, I don’t believe you should.”

Staci sighed. “You don’t? Why not?”

“Listen to me. You need to talk about this.”

She began to shake her head. “No, I don’t. I’m alright. I–”

“You’re not alright, and you will talk about this because it will only get worse if you don‘t.” Kate looked at Staci and smiled reassuringly at her. “I’m only telling you this because you can’t ignore this. I love you, Staci, and I’m very concerned about you. So I’m going to get our coffee and we’re going to have that talk. Okay?”

Staci paused to regard her neighbor and friend. She slowly let out a breath. “I guess we have to,” she said softly, “’cause you’ve got that ‘I’m not letting you out of my sight’ look.”

“That’s right, and don’t you forget it. If I didn’t care for you, I wouldn’t be so pushy. Remember that. Now I’ll be right back.”

Staci watched her go into the kitchen and considered briefly making a mad rush for the door. It wouldn’t have done any good anyway because she would have had to pass through the kitchen. It also turned out that it was unnecessary because now she was plagued with questions. What else about her and the incident she had gone through had been on the news? What was being said about her? Who else had seen the news and what would people say if they recognized her in public?

Then, another question entered into her mind.

Why was this happening to me?

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

Darwyn Musad

Youmud Musad had just been close to entering into the penthouse apartment building his intended victim had entered. The woman was so caught up in her own pitiful woes, she had been completely unaware of his presence. It had been easy to follow such a simple-minded infidel from the hospital, he felt quite confident he could easily gain entrance into her own apartment as well. Once there, he would extract vengeance for the death of his father.

Ishmael Musad had been a great man. How could such a great man end in the care of a Jew? Youmud Musad was furious. He intended to cause horrible pain and suffering before the end. He had quietly followed the woman right to the front door. She slipped inside and he put his foot in the doorway. As he pulled it open, he watched her use her key card to open the second door. As she went through it, he fully intended to follow right on her heels.

But that was when he was grabbed from behind and dragged out into the daylight. He tried to fight back, but soon realized there were more than one assailant. Still, whoever the foolish infidels were that had grabbed him would not take him down so easily. He tried to lash out with his foot, but someone grabbed him and cursed in Arabic. He suddenly realized who had grabbed him and ceased his struggles. By the time he had done so, he was in the back of a van, looking right into the angry face of his older brother.

As the van drove off, the older brother slapped him hard in the face with the back of his hand. “That is for thinking for yourself,” he said calmly.

Youmud glared at him, but did not speak.

Darwyn Musad had no intention of letting him speak. “The Jew is not important. The death of our father was unavoidable, and had another doctor been available, he would be alive today to see our plans prosper. However, because she was there, it was his dying wish to strike back by refusing care from her. This had nothing to do with us. Do you understand?”

Youmud did not respond. He continued to glare.

Darwyn slapped him with the back of his hand again. “Do you understand?”

“Yes!”

“Then, you will forget about the Jew and we will continue with the plan. Understood?”

Youmud nodded.

“Good.” Darwyn regarded him for a moment. “You should have no reason to fear that her sin will go unpunished. Soon, my brother, very soon, we shall prevail against our enemy and cut off his head in one swift stroke. If we do not kill her, someone else will. But it does not matter, for tomorrow, the infidels of Satan who call themselves Americans and hold to their so-called great strength as a nation will fall mightily, and blood shall flood the streets. Once it has fallen, our people will be free to kill all of the Jews…And the greatest prize of all will finally be ours.”

Youmud smiled. “Israel.”

“Yes. It shall be our land…or we will make it a wasteland. Either way, we will have won, and our enemies will be destroyed.”

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

To Be Continued in Chapter 3 – The Last Day

Tags:
April 17, 2011

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.

_______ _______ _______