My busted up green AMC Hornet had seen a lot of better days. But it still ran like a pro.
As we drove back, we talked. I tried to piece together what happened to Clark.
"OK, let me understand this correctly. You were in Maine, going after some bad guy, when you got knocked out. The next thing you knew, you were in Oregon, and it was several decades later. Am I right so far?"
"Where were you?"
Clark stared ahead and recollected. "When I came to, I was still in a cavern, but a different one from what I remembered. I had also been in a mechanical chamber of sorts, which I assume had kept me preserved all those years; the mechanism had broken, which is what caused my release. The cavern had a small opening, large enough to provide air and light, but too small to climb through. Therefore, I was still trapped. Beyond that, I discovered that my muscles had atrophied somewhat during my 'sleep,' making my means to escape even more difficult.
"I spent hours in slow, progressive isometric exercise, sleeping as my body required it, until I had enough strength in my arms and legs to integrate working on my escape into my regimen. I was able to take parts from the chamber to utilize as tools, and further expedite my freedom.
"When I finally returned to the surface, I found myself in a forest of sorts. And I could tell from the flora and fauna that I was not in Maine, but in Oregon. I 'camped' there for a day, taking advantage of the wild game for food, and continuing to regain my strength in preparation for my trek back to civilization. I determined the closest metropolitan center was Portland, so that was my goal."
"And what brought you downtown?" I asked.
"The buildings, and the river. By this time I knew I was not in my era, and that it wasn't a hoax or trick perpetrated upon me by one of my enemies. I sought out familiar landmarks, which brought me into the vicinity of what you call 'Old Town,' then wandered into the Mission."
"Praise God you did," I said, smiling. "Well, here we are. Home."
"Home" was an old two-story boarding house owned by the members of my church. The rent was cheap, and the fellowship was plentiful. We pulled up to the curb and got out of the car. Clark had a more difficult time getting out of my compact car; he had been used to vehicles with more room, and so it was an awkward struggle getting his large bronze frame out. I kidded him about being "born again," but he didn't seem to get the joke. We went up the walk, up the wide wooden stairs to the large covered porch that stretched along two sides of the house, and entered the front door. As we reached the stairs leading to the second floor, a drawling voice addressed us.
"Well, hello, Brother Perry! How was the streets?"
The voice came from Jack Heady. Jack was an elder in the church, and kept an eye out on the affairs of running the house. He'd come from North Carolina, and had done some prison time before he accepted Jesus into his life. He was a very personable man, but this was not the time for questions.
"Hiya, Jack!" I responded. "The Mission was great. I'd like to introduce you to Clark -- he's a new brother. Just came to the Lord tonight, and I'm helping him out."
"Well, praise the Lord!" exclaimed Jack with a big grin, and moved in to hug Clark. He took it reluctantly. Jack backed off, apologizing, "Sorry if I took you by surprise, brother! You'll find we're a huggin' bunch around here -- ain't that right, Perry?"
"Sure is, Jack," I agreed. "But take it easy on Clark -- he's been....away. He's trying to get used to a lot of things."
Jack nodded understandingly. "Gotcha. Glad to have you in the family." He paused, then asked, "If you're interested, I think there's an empty room upstairs down the hall from Perry."
"Thank you," he said, grasping Jack's hand, "I would appreciate it very much." Then he walked up the stairs. I hung back just long enough to add, "I'll check with you about the room in about an hour," then followed Clark.
My room wasn't large, but it was well-organized. In one corner was my computer layout. I sat down at the desk and powered it up while Clark looked around, then sat down on the bed and looked intensely at my PC. As I dialed up my ISP I explained a little about how far computers have come, and what the Internet was. Clark was fascinated, and grasped the concept easily. I got online, switched over to my search engine, entered his name, and let it loose. It took a couple of minutes and a few combinations to find the right information.
"I seem to remember some sort of scandal during the 1950's that involved you and your group. I'm not sure on all the details but I think....yeah, here we go. Quote:
'Savage, Clark, Junior. Born 1901, died - question mark. In the early 1930's and 1940's, Clark Jr. ("Doc") Savage was thought to be an adventurer and crimefighter. However, because of the Murrow expose into the so-called "Crime College" and subsequent 1952 Kefauer and Nixon investigations, the picture of the "Man of Bronze" became a major event in the battle for civil rights in America. Savage himself was never personally brought to justice, but was rumored to have fled the country in disgrace. His death has never been recorded, but rumors of appearances continue to make headlines in the tabloids.'"End quote."
I looked over at Doc. As I suspected, he was not taking this well. "What happened?" he growled slowly.
I didn't answer him directly, but returned to the screen, scrolling through and reading bits and pieces to form a picture. "It seems one of your Crime College "graduates" was killed in 1951. He had been a high-profile criminal, and there were things about his death that came to the attention of journalist Edward R. Murrow. Murrow looked into it, and came out with an expose of the College. The immediate result was a Class Action lawsuit against it, charging it - and you - with 'gross acts of brutality'.....'an abominable lack of respect for civil rights'.....'akin to the atrocities of Nazi Germany.'"
I paused, and looked over at Clark. He was on his feet, his large bronze fists clenched in rage. I silently prayed that peace would return to him.
"They compared my curing of criminals to Nazi Germany?" he snorted, eyes flaring.
I paused. "Yes. Would you like me to continue?"
He stood silently, eyes closed, his breathing becoming slower and deeper. Finally he nodded.
I read on cautiously. "Kefauer and Nixon jumped on the bandwagon. There were Senate investigations. It was an ugly battle. The College was closed down, and your holdings were liquidated for compensations to...." I braced myself. ".....the victims.
Clark's frustration blasted loose. "Victims? Victims?" he spat. "These were criminals! They were murderers and thieves! How dare they be called victims!" Then he stopped and looked right at me. "What about my team? Monk? Ham? Renny? Long Tom? Johnny?" He paused, softening a degree. "Pat?"
"Doesn't say here. I can look into it, but it'll take time," I said. "In the meantime, you get some sleep."
"How?" he asked, incredulously.
I stood and walked over to face this man who had the power to cause me serious physical harm, put my hands on his massive arms, and looked up into his gold-flecked eyes.
"Clark.....I hope you look at me as a friend." I paused; his eyes softened briefly. "You're a man of action. But right now, the best action for you is on your knees. The Bible says, 'Cast all your cares on Him, because He cares for you.' You need to understand what that's all about. Let me check with Jack about that room, and maybe some clothes. In the meantime, you take a long overdue hot shower. Then spend some time talking to God, and get some sleep." I paused again for effect. "I'll work on this, and we'll see how we are in the morning." I paused once more, then whispered a sincere plea: "Please?"
There was silence for almost a minute. "Very well," he conceded.
I smiled. "Thank you. I'll be right back."
I went downstairs to find Jack, and found him in the clothes room, trying to find something big enough to fit Clark. I laughed and praised God that we were in one accord. Jack handed me a beach towel, a fresh bar of soap, and as large a pair of pants and shorts as he could find on short notice.
"I'll keep lookin', but this should get him through 'till the mornin'," he drawled.
I thanked him, and went back upstairs.
Clark and I walked down to the bathroom, where I showed him the shower. I wished him a pleasant sleep, and told him I'd wake him up in the morning for breakfast. Then I left him, and returned to my room. I sat in silence for a few minutes, praying for wisdom and guidance. Then I stuck a classical CD on the player, cracked my knuckles, announced, "Surf's up," and got to work.
He'd never thought a simple hot shower could feel so wonderful.
What he found particularly interesting was the attachment to the nozzle which caused the water to come out in an erratic pattern. The result, whether deliberate or accidental, was that the water lightly buffeted his body, a very pleasant effect which loosened some of the tension in his muscles. It took him almost a half hour to fully remove the residue of four decades of -- imprisonment -- from his body, but the result was a marvelous refreshing feeling as his skin was able to breathe once more. He donned the shorts and pants, stretched with relief, and walked down the hall to the room Jack Heady had secured for him.
Inside, he closed the door, switched on the overhead light, and looked about at his sparse lodgings. Not bad, actually. A bed, dresser, small study desk with chair. A lamp was attached to the desk. Dotted around the walls were various hand-printed Bible verses, a reminder of his new Christian surroundings.
But inside, he was uneasy. He was still a man out of his time. A look of inward struggle distorted his countenance, as he made no effort to conceal it in the solitude of his surroundings. His body was somewhat relaxed, but he was not sleepy. He entered into his ritual of exercises, trying to restore some of the muscle tone he had lost. He did this for only a few moments when he suddenly stopped, and unexpectedly found himself on his hands and knees. His eyes were moist in inward pain, and the words of Pastor Perry echoed in his head: 'Cast all your cares on Him, because He cares for you.'
He cares for ME. The words resounded over and over within him.
And the mighty Man of Bronze became as a simple child, and talked to God.
Six o'clock came too soon for me. I had spent almost all night online, minus bathroom breaks and a half-hour catnap sometime in the middle of the night.
I was determined to find the answers for Clark. To find his links to his past. Doc Savage was a part of history. As I poured through the online pages, I came to know closer the exploits of the Man of Bronze and his team of five -- six, if you count his cousin Patricia Savage. They were the stuff that legends were made of. But by 1952, the legend was dead. It had been whipped, beaten, dragged through the streets, and then hung up to dry.
I didn't know why God brought me and Doc Savage together. But He had. The first step had been to bring the man to Jesus. The next step would be to restore the man with his past.
I walked down the hallway and knocked at Clark's door. After a couple of moments, the door opened. His face was very peaceful. God's peace. But, by the look of the tracks of dried tears on the tanned face, it had not come easily.
"Good morning," I greeted, "Breakfast time. You're probably hungry."
"Yes," he said, "I am."
I handed him some clothes. "Here." I glanced into the room and observed that his bed had not been slept in. With the evidence of the tears, I knew what had happened. God had busted the mighty Man of Bronze down to his socks last night. I grinned and praised God. I had been busted a lot since I came to know Jesus, so I knew the results of this brokenness of spirit. Like a wild horse can only be taught once it knows who's in control, so we can oftentimes be best taught after our spirit is broken.
"What did you find out?" he asked.
"I'll be honest. Not a lot, sorry to say. Let's talk over breakfast." I started walking away. "To the right at the bottom of the stairs. Dining room. I'll meet you there."
"Okay," he responded.
At this time of the morning, the men in the house who had to get going early were busy stuffing their faces. I entered the dining hall and spotted an empty area at the far end of the large wooden table. As I moved through the room, I greeted the other brothers, most I knew by their first name, others I knew just as a face. From a set of wide display shelves, I grabbed a couple of prepared breakfast plates that were set up for the men in the house. Then, thinking about it, I went into the kitchen and talked to the cook, Karen. I told her that there was a new brother in the house named Clark. I asked for an extra portion and got it, then gave her a good-morning hug and returned to the table. I gathered up some silverware and some water and juice to drink, and sat down to wait for Clark to appear.
It didn't take long.
I knew Clark was coming before he stepped into the room. And, judging by the reactions to the sound of heavy, slow footsteps approaching, so did everybody else. Unprepared for the unusually-heavy plod on the wood floors at this hour, some of the men cocked their heads or shifted their glance towards the doorway. And when he was first seen, he was an impressive sight. The flannel shirt and jeans were not revealing, but he looked like a lumberjack, muscles strong in his arms and chest. He paused, looking around the room to find me, then moved in my direction. There was a distinctive creak as his feet descended on the wood floor planks. He knew he was being watched, but he had been used to that. He didn't react to comments like, "Who's he?", "Whoa...", "Big dude." He made his way to the seat across the table from me and sat down. Then I stood up.
"Guys," I addressed the men at the table. "This is Clark. He's a new brother in the house. Just gave his life to the Lord last night. Be easy on him, but introduce yourselves and love on 'im."
There were reactions of grins, comments of "All right!", "Praise the Lord!", "Welcome, brother!" and then a few of the closer men moved in, to say hello, to introduce themselves, and to ask questions. There were the obvious queries into how Clark got all those muscles. Clark kept his answers simple but truthful.
While we ate, we talked and fellowshipped. Right now, this was what Clark needed. He needed love. I saw the interaction. They did well. They were friendly but not pushy, curious but not interrogative. It was a good start to a long day. I had been right about Clark's appetite -- breakfast vanished as easily as last night's dinner at the Mission. By the time it was all done, everybody else had left for work, and it was just Clark and me alone at the end of the big wood dining table.
"I can't believe how friendly these men are," Clark marveled. "They don't even know me."
I smiled. "They don't have to. You see, you're in a whole new family now: the family of God. And that family is made up of misfits, oddballs, and outcasts from the rest of the world. I'll be honest, if it wasn't for Jesus Christ, I wouldn't have anything to do with some of the men here -- but, now, they're my 'blood brothers' by the blood of Christ. And you're part of it. Enjoy."
Clark nodded understanding, and downed the last of his third glass of juice.
I took the plates back into the kitchen. When I returned, I reported on what I found out, reading from a small notebook. "I'm rather surprised that I came up with so little on your group. I ran into a lot of dead ends. But here's what I did find out:
"It looks like Monk, Pat, Long Tom, and Johnny are possibly still alive. Renny died in the '89 California earthquake, and Ham killed himself in '53."
"Ham killed himself?" asked Clark incredulously.
"Yes. I wasn't able to get the complete story, but it looks like he was disbarred from legal practice during the Congressional hearings, and killed himself shortly thereafter. I'm sorry."
Guilt and sorrow mirrored in Clark's eyes. "If I had only been there...."
I put out a reassuring hand to his shoulder. "Look, it's over. It's history. There's nothing you can do about it but let it go."
We were silent for a few moments. "You say Pat's alive?" he finally asked.
"Yeah. Actually, I'm surprised you didn't see any of her stuff around. The name Pat Savage is synonymous with big-name cosmetics giants like Revlon and Chanel. She lives in seclusion on her own Greek island. Her daughter Penelope took over the empire back in the '80s."
He nodded. "A daughter?"
"Yeah. Penelope Savage. Sometimes called the 'Copper Penny.' She's gorgeous -- been on the covers of lotsa magazines: Fortune, Entrepreneur, Vanity Fair. She made People's 100 Most Influential list a couple of years ago."
"Interesting. And in exile?"
I nodded. "No one's seen her in years. Reminds me of how Howard Hughes ended up," I mused aloud.
"What about Howard?" he suddenly asked.
"You knew Howard Hughes?"
"Yes. He helped me with some of the air-seacraft I used. What happened to him?"
I sighed, regretting what I had to report. "He became a total recluse. He was so afraid of germs that the only people he'd allow around him were his bodyguards. He became a paranoid old man and withered away to nothing." I shook my head slowly. "It was not the best way to go."
Clark nodded agreement. "I definitely need to know what's happened since I've been gone," he said with resolve.
I looked back at my notes. "I couldn't find anything on Monk, Johnny, or Long Tom. But that doesn't mean it's not out there -- just out of my reach. I'm planning on checking out the library. I think I can find a next of kin through Ham's obituary, and go from there."
Just then, they heard an exclamation of surprise from the kitchen. Jack Heady rushed out, his eyes wide. "Monk? Long Tom? Johnny? Ham?"
He looked straight at Clark, his jaw loose with amazement. "I thought you looked familiar! You -- you're Doc Savage!"