Detroit Present Day
Tom’s face no longer showed its glow in daylight, so he played with the boys when they returned from school. They played ‘tackle daddy’ and ‘tickle monster’ until Mindy came into the room and begged them to stop. She was always concerned for their safety when they played rough, but loved to hear the men in her life laugh.
Promptly at 4:30, the doorbell rang and Henry Ludlum was ushered into the Corts’ home. The two boys were always excited to have visitors and they bombarded Pastor Ludlum with questions about the church building and with interesting facts they learned at school.
“Did you know that Danny Studor is going to take a Single Name? He is going to be called Dandor. What a stupid name.”
“You can’t throw rocks at recess. You might hit someone.”
“Worms don’t taste as good as grasshoppers. That’s what my friend Eddy’s dad told him.”
Henry fielded all the questions and information with interest and honesty. The children just loved him. Adults sometimes found the honesty disconcerting, but they knew where he stood and what he stood for.
“Thanks for coming over on such short notice, Henry. I know your schedule is packed.”
“I always schedule time into my day for God’s little surprises. You have been chosen to be today’s surprise. It’s certainly an honor to be here to help you out.” Henry was sitting comfortably in the sofa. His long arms resting across the top of the backrest.
Henry was a new pastor at the church. He was voted in by the congregation in the usual way: Candidate, preach a sermon, answer questions at the pot-luck, answer questions before the board of deacons, preach Sunday night, sleep overnight in a hotel, (or in a congregants home) and travel back home to wait.
Henry was the first black candidate that had crossed the threshold of the church. He was the first black pastor at the church, and the way he was going, he may be the last.
The church was traditional in its design. The building was 25 years old and was updated only enough to meet the needs of the building code. It had not been designed for the functions that today’s ministry required of it, but it was comfortable. It was built by many of the older members of the church. It held memories of weddings, funerals, salvations and baptisms. Many members looked at the church building and saw the ‘church’. Henry looked at the church building and saw a building. It was not sacred ground to him, and he was made to answer for that attitude by nearly half of the people in the church.
Because he held views of ‘church’ that did not agree with the tradition of the ‘founding fathers’ of this church, his programs were supported half-heartedly. The direction he saw for the church was fought at every turn. His leadership was challenged. Open congregation meetings were becoming more hostile toward him. Yet he continued to steadfastly follow the path God set out for him with quiet contentedness. He always received kind words and support from Tom and Mindy, and several others that shared his vision and he appreciated the opportunity to minister to them.
“Henry, I need some guidance, and I’m hoping you are willing to help.” Tom waited until Mindy sent the boys to the basement to play before getting to the heart of the matter.
“I’m not going to stretch this out. I will preface this discussion with these points: One, Mindy and I are Christians. Two, neither of us are crazy. Three, we are committed to do what it takes to do Gods’ will in this.”
Henry sat forward, his elbows rested on his knees. “I’m not sure I’ve ever had a conversation start out this way. I’m intrigued. Please, continue.”
Mindy continued, “Tom was late coming home today. He called and told me he wanted to have some solitude, so he spent an hour with God after work.” She paused and looked directly at Henry and said, “I mean, he spent an hour with God. When he got home, he was glowing. He actually lit up the closet. And, there is more.”
Although his mind was racing, Henry’s face was blank. He was leaning forward, listening to every word, but not quite sure what to make of what he heard. He was trying to keep his focus on Mindy, but could not help but think of that hot summer day, so long ago, when his father opened his mind up to spiritual possibilities.
Tom was excited and said to him, “That’s right, Henry. This is just like what your dad told you had happened to him shortly after you were born.”
Henry’s eyes snapped to look at Tom. “How did you know what I was thinking?” Henry now looked more than a little concerned. He was excited and scared at the same time.
“I’ve not told anyone outside my family about that!” Henry paused, then asked, “Do you know what my daddy told me?”
“Yes” Tom answered quietly, “I do.” Tom looked right at Henry and said, “He told you that God visited him in the night and told him that you were to be prepared to be a preacher. You were to be a servant to His people. You would one day perform a miracle.” Tom looked into the eyes of his friend and smiled. “He said that you would be used mightily by God. I believe that that day is coming very soon.”
Tom spent the next half-hour telling Henry about his encounter earlier in the morning, his return home, and his newfound abilities. Henry soaked it all in and when he had heard everything they had to say, he said, “There is nothing on earth that will help us, so, let’s pray before you continue.”
Henry prayed like he owned heaven. Or at least like he knew the Owner. He didn’t apologize for asking for help. In fact, he fully expected to have his prayers answered. Tom and Henry often prayed together. They would meet after a Sunday service or sometimes at an early Saturday breakfast. At one of these breakfast prayers, Tom had asked Henry about the way he prayed, Henry had answered, “It just doesn’t make sense to ask for things that you don’t expect to have answered the way you’re praying for. If you are on the same path as God, are in His will, you are praying that His will gets accomplished. And I don’t use old English to get God’s attention. I get His attention when I submit myself to His authority and present my requests in Jesus’ name. I fully expect to have what I pray for come to be.”
Tom recalled this conversation while Henry prayed in his living room. As usual, Tom felt as if the throne of God were somehow nearer when Henry prayed. He remembered the morning of that breakfast prayer meeting. Henry had told Tom that he always kept the church in his prayers. He prayed for the individuals and for the corporate church body. He did that all day, every day. Thinking about the sorry state their church was in, Tom wondered if the particular subject of this morning’s prayer would ever be answered.
Silence filled the room after they had finished, but the silence seemed to have a voice. Each person heard a voice speak to them from the silence. Each was told a different message and each knew the promise they had heard would be fulfilled. Each kept the promise to themselves, not sure if they had heard what they thought they had. The presence that had filled the living room while they prayed did not evaporate as they finally opened their eyes.
Henry finally spoke up. His eyes were glistening and his face was red with the emotion generated by the presence of God. “Tom, you had better tell us the story. Something is kicking up a storm, here, and it all seems to center on you. Just what did you go and do?”
Tom knew that Henry was kidding, but still, he wondered what it was that he did to get himself involved in this mess. He was doing fine before. Going to church, going to work, taking care of his family. He must have done something to have all this land on him. But what could it have been?
“All right, Henry, I’ll tell you, but I’m not sure of all of the details myself, so don’t ask me for much more than I tell you just yet. In fact, I don’t know what I did to get myself into this mess.”
Henry nodded at Mindy as if to say, “I’ll deal with that question later.” Mindy smiled back at Henry, and then turned her attention to Tom.
“There are three events that I need to address, the murder, the meeting and the job. I’ll start with the murder.”
For the next two hours, including interruptions from the kids playing downstairs, Tom outlined in all the detail he could remember without having his notes present, the facts and order of events that took place in his life for the past eighteen hours. He mentioned everything except for the duplicate discs he had the security staff make for him. For some reason, he felt that they held a hidden danger, and he didn’t want to expose his wife and close friend to that. Mindy and Henry leaned forward and took all of the information in. Each sorted it out and filed it according to the framework that had been given to them by God. Each tried to determine the cause and effect of each of the three events that Tom listed out, and how they were related.
Tom fell silent when he had finished. He felt exhausted and exhilarated at the same time. He looked into the two faces that looked back at him and said, “I know who killed Schaller. I know how it was done. I think I know how the three events tie together. But I don’t know how I know. And I don’t know enough facts to even know what I know, but I do know!” Tom smiled grimly and then explained. “The murder is a ‘showpiece’. Someone is showing someone else what happens when you tangle with the wrong people. The meeting was to strengthen me against the ones that did the murder and to give me a job. The job is to pray for Sonti. I’m not sure, exactly, what a Sonti is, but I think it is a person. And I think that this Sonti person is somehow involved with the murder. I don’t know how. I don’t know which side Sonti is on, or what other targets there might be.”
At this last statement, Tom looked at his wife and then past her toward the hallway that carried the voices of their children from the basement. Tom sat back and folded his arms. Henry was the first with the questions. “How was Schaller killed? What was the motive? Were there any other unexplained items at the crime scene?” Mindy followed those questions with, “Was there a note? Is the computer you found the only one? Was he wearing a ‘stringer’? Did you decipher the file you downloaded from the Isaacsons?”
Tom thought about all of the questions. They were not new to him, except for the question about the ‘stringer’. A ‘stringer’ was a new molecular computer. It was leading edge, and of course, extremely expensive. It was set up like a string that could be threaded into clothes, hair, or jewelry, and tied into the hand or forehead computer terminals. The wearer was in constant connection mode with his computer. The early versions were little more than appointment books, but the newer units could do almost everything that the larger portables could do. He made a note to examine Schaller’s personal effects and to do a scan of the apartment to try to locate any other technological device that may have escaped the destruction in the man’s residence.
Tom looked back at Mindy and Henry. “Those are great questions. I need to do some more investigating to get evidence to put a foundation to my theories. But you’ve just given me some good ideas. I’ll follow up on them tonight.”
Tom and Mindy watched a few minutes later as Henry drove away. They stood side by side, arms around each other, watching their friend drive off to the west, into the setting sun. As they watched the car disappear, Tom asked Mindy “What did Henry tell you before he left? I didn’t quite catch it.”
Mindy looked up at Tom and smiled. “You can’t read that thought?”
“No” said Tom, somewhat puzzled.
“I’ll tell you later.” She snuggled her head against Tom’s shoulder and squeezed him tight, silencing further questioning.