Detroit – same day
Mindy went straight from the hospital to Henry’s home and caught him on his way out to visit Francis, one of his congregants.
After giving him the news about Tom waking up, she asked Henry if he had told anyone about Tom’s ability to read minds.
“No, I haven’t. Mindy, the people in this church already think I’m crazy enough” he said only half joking, “I’m not going to give them any more ammunition! They’re ready to kick me out right now without suggesting that someone has actually been given a gift supernaturally! Sorry, but I’ve got to fly, I’m almost late already.”
Mindy thought about what Henry said, recalling the last business meeting at church, and wondered if the church would want to get rid of him. Mindy knew everyone in the church, and they were, for the most part, wonderful folks. But sometimes they were locked to their memories and didn’t have the vision or faith to make a change.
And then there were those who were wonderful people, great friends, and just plain lousy Christians.
After saying goodbye, Mindy thought about the reasons some people arrived at that particular mind-set as she drove home. She vowed to never be one to be the sticking point unless it was for a real reason, a biblical one, not just a preferential or historical one.
She pulled up in her driveway and parked the car. For some reason, the quiet that followed the cacophony of the drive home caught her attention. Her mind rehearsed the conversation she and Tom had with Henry just 3 days ago. The words flowed through her memory bringing the nuances of the afternoon with them. The line of conversation stopped where Tom mentioned he was to pray for Sonti.
“Yes, Lord” Mindy prayed, “take care of Sonti. Help her in her struggles to look to You. Help her in her victories to give thanks to You. Pull her close to you today and let her know that You are real.”
On the other side of reality, standing close enough to reach through the ether and tear the life from either of them, the demon that had listened closely to the conversation between Mindy and Henry, reported all it saw and heard to the Hub and followed Mindy as she drove home.
Halfway there, the demon received instructions and raced ahead, arriving at the Cort home in seconds. It searched frantically, tearing through drawers and cabinets without disturbing anything.
Finally, it found what it was sent for. It picked up the picture of the two boys and transfixed it to the front door with a knife it had picked up from the kitchen.
Standing near the door to record the results, the demon grimaced in agony as the memory of the fall wracked its being. It had screamed in grief at the disappointment of finding out that it believed a lie. If it could, if it had the authority, it would condemn and damn Satan for taking away its peace, for ruining its fellowship with God. For everything. It looked up and saw the woman sitting in the car. It watched helplessly as she bowed her head in prayer, and it felt the surge of spiritual energy ripple through the ether. The truth and love in the prayer burned its soul which added to its agony.
Henry woke early in the morning. He loved this time of day. The house was quiet and the air outside was still, a perfect environment for talking with God. As Henry knelt next to his chair in his study, he felt a memory tugging at his thoughts. He thought of his father, the old farm his family owned, his mother and her wonderful cooking, his brothers and sister.
Henry began by offering to God the new day and each moment of it. “I give You this new day. I will walk in Your ways and show You to the people I meet. Thank you for this new day.
He continued by praying for his family. He listed them by name and prayed for each facet of their lives. He thanked God for his parents and his upbringing. He thanked God for his wife and once again asked that God would allow them to have children.
Henry prayed like a child. He had faith and believed, just as young children do, before they have ‘knowledge’ that overpowers their faith. In his heart, he reached up and threw his arms around his Heavenly Father and pulled His head down so that Henry could whisper his prayers. Henry let his arms linger around the strong neck of God as he continued his prayers.
“Father, the miracle that my dad promised me is on my mind. Is it real or was it just a dream he had for me? These times are trying and the work is hard. I don’t see any opportunities to do a miracle ‘cause I’m trying so hard to put out fires. Why did you lead me to such a stubborn bunch? Why won’t they step out of the boat like Peter did and grow stronger in Your strength. Why won’t they look forward at what could be done for You instead of looking backwards at what was done years ago?
“I am tiring, Father. I know that I should exist in Your strength alone, but I’m still rooted in this physical world. My sight is clouded by this world. Help me see.
“Thank you for Your kindness to me. I ask you now, as my spiritual Father, to answer my prayers, so I can glorify You more.”
Henry paused after praying earnestly for his congregation and the issues that the church was facing, then continued, “There is another thing. Tom Cort is one of Your own. You have laid it on his heart to pray for Sonti. He has asked me to pray as well, so I am asking you to intercede for her. Help her by giving her strength and comfort. Bring her into contact with other believers and help her trust them and learn from them. Let her fulfill the task you have chosen for her. Let her glorify You by doing Your will. Thank you for Tom and his wife, Mindy. Put your strong arms around that family and protect them from the evil one. Thwart all efforts to attack them. Oh, God, protect them. Yet, I’m asking that above all, Your will is done. Help me to do Your will today. Amen.”
Henry stood and stretched. His heart was calm and his mind was clear. Early morning prayer always had that effect on him. He went to his desk and read Psalm 69 and meditated on the Word of God.
The morning passed quickly as Henry went through his tasks. Study, study and more study was followed by practical application. His schedule after lunch was filled with hospital calls, a visit with another pastor in the area and continued preparation for next Sunday’s sermon.
Henry looked at his notes for the Sunday morning message. He shook his head as he read through the main points. ‘This is not the most important message for this church right now. They know that they are to live a life that imitates and follows Jesus. What they don’t know is how to do it.’
Henry thought about Tom and Mindy and decided to change directions for Sunday. He opened up his study programs and his Bible and began to chart out his thoughts for this new topic; the practical application of prayer.
Mindy finished praying and opened her car door, gathering her ‘stuff’ from the bench seat before climbing out.
She didn’t notice the picture fastened to the door jamb until she had swiped her key card across the lock plate of the front door. The knife caught her attention as she pocketed her card. Mindy gasped and quickly pulled the knife from the wood. She stared at the picture of her children. The faces smiling back at her were innocent and pure … and helpless. Slowly, the realization that her children were being threatened or were taken from her sank in. That realization sent spikes of fear and rage through her. She ran in a panic from room to room, looking for her children, even through she knew they should still be in school. She noted the damage done in each room. Drawers were opened and contents spilled across the floor. Books were pulled down from their shelves and furniture was pushed aside.
After racing through the house, Mindy ran to the car and drove to school. As she drove, she called the school and asked the school administrator to pull her children from their classes and keep them in the office until she arrived.
Her tires screeching, Mindy drove through intersections and changed lanes with abandon. Tempers flared behind her as she left a trail of abused drivers behind her.
Disconnecting the phone contact and placing her phone on ‘scan’ mode, the administrator of Greenwood Special School #2 walked carefully out of her office and into the halls. She put her hands to her hair and then straightened her starched collar as she walked down the polished hallway floor.
She grimaced at the memories that flooded her mind at the sight of the long hall and rows of lockers. Years fell away as her mind took her back to third grade and that horrible, degrading experience she had at the hands of those mean, nasty boys. They had used her own name as a taunt, ‘Patricia Middleton, what an old name!’ they had sneered. She loved her name. The way it sounded when her mother spoke to her was like honey, the boys made her name sound like fingernails on a blackboard! She was determined not to have her name used in such a fashion, but try as she might, she could not get those ghastly… boys to stop using her name in such an awful way.
Finally, she had had enough. One morning, the same group of flat-faced, noodle-brained males came at her and began their taunts. ‘Patricia Middleton, Patricia Middleton.’ Over and over they shouted at her, until she could stand it no more. She determined in her mind to inflict physical pain for the anguish they were causing her. Didn’t they know that her name was the last thing she remembered her mother saying to her? Didn’t they know that her name was a precious gift given to her by her mother? Didn’t they know that she could never hear her mother say her name again because she had been taken in the last plague?
She turned around as the instigator approached her. She held her pencil tightly in her clenched fist, hiding it from sight until he came closer. The boy advanced on her, shouting her name, making a mockery of her mother, of who she was. In a fit of rage, Patricia raised her clenched fist and ran toward the startled boy, closing the gap between them until he was in reach. Then swinging down with all her might, she plunged the pencil into the boy’s face, puncturing his eye and damaging his brain. She wondered if anyone would notice the brain damage considering the boy’s usually idiotic behavior.
Patricia showed no remorse. The lawsuits came and the media erupted with the news, but the result was that the boys were at fault. Patricia’s actions, while not condoned by the government, were not faulted, either. She remained cold hearted to this day, and never forgave the boys for what they did, or apologized for what she did.
Shaking off this line of thought, she continued down the hallway, the memories of humiliation once again turning to embers of anger against all little boys, regardless of how they treated her now.
She reached for her card and swiped the lock on the door. Barging into the room, she felt the stares of the children upon her as she marched right up to the teacher and gave her demands.
“I am taking Matthew Cort to my office now.” Turning to face the class, she stared down each student until they turned their eyes from her.
Each child cast sidelong glances at Matt as he put his study materials away and retrieved his coat and backpack. He shuffled toward Ms. Middleton and followed her at what he hoped was a respectful and safe distance.
She followed the same procedure with Matt’s brother, Mark. The two boys followed Ms. Middleton back to her office and sat in the seats that were pointed out to them. “I don’t want to hear a word from either of you!”
“Yes, Ms. Middleton.” The boys looked at each other and shrugged their shoulders. Neither one had done anything bad enough to warrant having to be pulled from class.
Ms. Middleton stalked over to her office and sat behind her desk. She opened the file she had been working on before she had been interrupted and tried to continue her work. But her mind just wasn’t in it.
She glared at the two boys sitting just outside her office door. ‘They looked so innocent’, she thought, ‘but I know what they have on their minds. They are evil and cruel. They torture little girls with their words and sneers. They mock me behind my back. They deserve to be punished!’
Ms. Middleton’s blood pressure had risen so that her veins stood out from her forehead and neck. Her skin was flushed and she was breathing hard. Her mind went through several scenarios in which imagined boys did unimaginable things to poor, innocent, girls and she was able to catch and repay the evil, little urchins.
And, oh, how she made them pay. She had developed, over the years, a number of favorite punishments for imperious little boys who dared show their masculine side to her.
She sat back in her chair. Her eyes were staring at Matt and Mark, but she no longer saw them. Instead, she saw her imagined world, where boys were killed for their wicked ways, and she was the executioner.
Mindy pulled up in front of the school with a screech of tires, followed by a yell from the state appointed security guard. She didn’t take the time to respond to the guard who followed her into the school.
She showed her I.D. and was allowed into the school. As soon as she passed through the detector, she turned to her left and sprinted for the offices, followed by the security guard who was yelling for Mindy to stop.
Mindy saw them from a distance and relief welled up in her heart. She ached to hold them and be the protection they needed. She continued to run toward the administrators’ office, though the urgency was diminished by the knowledge that they were safe.
Ms. Middleton never knew what she did when she went into her imaginary playground to punish boys and make them suffer. She did notice that every girl looked like she did when she was young, and that every boy looked like the ones that were giving her trouble in the real world.
She didn’t know that she had acted out before while locked into her imagination. She may not have cared. Because the only thing that made her feel better than to punish boys in her imagination, was to punish them in real life. And now she was going to do both. A surge of excitement coursed through her body.
Her hand reached into her desk drawer and located the pair of shears she kept there. Although against regulation, they were a link to her past and she kept them out of sight because she couldn’t part with them. She knew the initials etched on the blades were her mothers. She knew that the points were sharp and that they would do far more damage than a pencil would.
But she didn’t know that she was now standing beside her desk with the scissors in her right hand. In her mind, she was on a playground, surrounded by mean little boys. She didn’t realize that she was walking toward her door, getting closer to the two boys sitting quietly in the chairs outside her office. She didn’t see the boy’s mother running toward her until the last second, just before she started the downward swing targeting the older of the two boys. She did hear a scream and was surprised at the closeness of the sound.
Mindy saw Ms. Middleton come out of her office and face her sons. Then she saw the scissors in her hand. The sight of the illegal item spurred Mindy on and she sprinted the final few yards to the office door.
The boys saw the scissors at the same time and saw the evil intent in the face of Ms. Middleton. They screamed and jumped up. Not daring to turn their eyes away from the beast that stalked them, they backed away from Ms. Middleton and ended up cornered. The scissor wielding administrator advanced slowly toward the children.
Mindy nearly tore the door off its hinges as she ran into the room and screamed at the administrator to stop. The older woman hesitated and turned to face Mindy.
Mindy flew at the woman but misjudged her speed and only gave her a glancing blow as she rushed her. Ms. Middleton, scissors still held high above her head, identified a new target and began to plunge the scissors toward the back of Mindy’s head as she careened past.
Mindy fell to the floor and slid into a wall. She quickly turned on her back and saw the scissors begin their downward arc. She put her hands up to fend off the attack and, at the same time, began kicking at the other woman. One kick landed on the attacker’s knee, buckling it under her.
The administrator lost her balance. The pain from the kick was blocked before it made its way to the pain centers in the brain. She continued to plunge the scissors downward, now hoping to make contact with any part of Mindy that she could.
She missed Mindy, however, and as her knee failed her, she stumbled backwards. She twisted as she fell, bringing the scissors between her body and the floor. The blades plunged into her abdomen, severing blood vessels, nerves and organs. The pain brought her to an abrupt halt as realization of what had happened to her was absorbed. Ms. Middleton looked down in surprise and saw her mother’s scissors plunged to the hilt into her stomach. The blood flowed thick around her fingers and dripped to the floor. Her body sagged as she collapsed on the scissors, burying the blade tip in a gap in her spine, severing her spinal cord.
Mindy had scooped up both boys and was holding them tight, trying to squeeze them close enough to protect them from everything. She turned her head and saw Ms. Middleton on the floor, the scissor handles still in the grip of an icy hand. She quickly turned away, keeping the eyes of her little boys from the horrible sight behind her.
The security guard was too far away to stop Ms. Middleton, but he called for backup and medical personnel as he ran toward the office.
Mindy pushed the boys through the door just as the guard was coming in. He told her she could not leave, and then went to check on the school administrator. Mindy leaned against the glass wall of the office and slumped down to the floor. She pulled the boys to her and held them close, letting them gain comfort from her love and strength.