Then he paused. A shadow of doubt crossed his expression, and his tone softened. "You ARE, aren't 'cha?"
Clark looked back and affirmed, "Yes, Jack. I am."
Then, suddenly, Jack got the biggest grin I'd ever seen on his face, and said, "My God, man, am I ever happy to see you!" And he reached out his hand to the big bronze man. "If it hadn't been for you, I wouldn't even be here. Can I sit?" We both indicated in the affirmative, and he took the chair next to Clark. Fascinated, we both listened to Jack's narrative.
"We've met before," he started off, grabbing our interest. "It was Arizona, 1931 -- June, I think. I was with my papa, and he was part of the Mountain Desert Construction Co., working on a dam in -- " He struggled with the name. " -- the Red Skull Canyon! They'd'a killed us all if it hadn't been for you and your men." He paused. "You remember it?"
Doc thought a moment, then his eyes glinted with recognition. "George Heady," he spoke slowly.
Jack smiled proudly. "That's my papa."
"Little Jackie?" ventured Clark.
"Ain't been for some time," Jack replied with a grin.
"You used to play around the worksite."
"Yep. It's been awhile, and y'all took off before I could properly thank you for saving my papa and me." He reached out and took the bronze man's hand in both of his. "Praise God you're still alive. But how come you haven't gotten older?" Then, suddenly, he turned and looked me in the eyes. "Perry! When you said he'd 'been away', I thought you meant prison!" he barked half-sternly.
Clark answered him. "In a sense, I was in a prison. Trapped in time, trapped in a cave somewhere." Then he added thoughtfully, "Trapped in my own sin." He smiled. "But now I'm free," he said with finality.
"Amen," Jack and I said in unison.
"So now what?" asked Jack.
I answered him. "Clark's looking for the answer to the missing years -- what happened to his team while he was 'out.' Where are they now? And, God willing, an answer to how and who pulled this little Rip Van Winkle job on him."
Jack nodded. "OK. That's good for long-range goals. But let's cover what'cha need at the moment?"
Clark took a deep breath, exhaled it slowly. "As I explained to Perry, my time in the cavern caused my muscles to atrophy. As much as I may look to the contrary, I am not as strong as I should be. I am in need of physical conditioning. Beyond that, I am new to this culture, and I need to know more about this world and how it operates. And, since I don't have access to my funds anymore, I need a job."
Jack turned to me. "What'cha come up with, Perry?"
"Nothing much. But I'm going to be checking at the library. I'm not working this week, so I've got the time. I think I'll start with Ham Brooks' obituary, see if they listed any survivors, and work from there."
"I tell ya, that was a shame," Jack reflected. "During those hearings they took him apart -- and they darn near crucified you, Doc. They could say anything they wanted, cause you weren't around to defend yourself. When Ham killed himself, it just kinda put a cap on the whole thing. Didn't hear much about it in the news after that -- except, of course, the tabloids." He lifted his hands as if framing the headline of a newspaper. "'Doc Savage And Elvis Meet In Secret Summit With JFK'."
Clark looked blankly. Jack realized something and corrected himself. "That's true -- you probably don't know who Elvis or JFK were?"
Clark smiled with a nod. "Like I said, I have much to catch up on." And we all laughed; it felt good.
Jack stroked his chin thoughtfully. "A job...." Then he snapped his fingers. "Yeah! Of course! Brother Verner!"
I nodded and agreed with him, then explained. "Verner Victor. He's one of our church brothers. Owns a tree service. He's been known to help out brothers once in a while -- including me, last year. Excellent exercise." I smiled. "How do you feel about dragging tree limbs?"
Clark smiled back and nodded. "Do we tell him who I am?"
"I think it'll be safe," Jack replied. "Verner's a good brother."
We talked for awhile longer. Jack volunteered to show Doc around the area, and act as tutor to bring him into the 90s. I would contact the library and get cracking on research. Jack also volunteered to introduce him to Verner. We all agreed that Clark needed to do something to change his appearance.
"The hair," I observed. "What if you let it grow out a ways? Pull it back into a ponytail?"
Clark shook his head. "I've never been comfortable with long hair. Gets in the way."
"Beard?" asked Jack.
He nodded. "That I'll accept. But no long hair."
I came back with a counter-offer. "Okay. How about the opposite -- keep the beard and shave the head? It seems to be popular, as well as practical."
His eyes opened at the thought. He nodded. "Yes."
Jack squinted as he pictured it. "Bald with a beard -- you'll hardly resemble your old image. I think you'll fit in quite nicely. What about a different name? You can't go by 'Clark' all the time."
Thinking aloud, I asked, "How about the name of that guy that wrote the books? Dent?"
Clark repeated the full name. "'Clark Dent'?" We all grimaced at the unintentional pun.
"'Faster than a speeding bullet....,'" I quipped, which started us all laughing.
It was unanimous. "Besides, the more people are distracted by the name, the less they'll be making any connection with Doc Savage," rationalized Jack.
It seemed to be a good plan for the time being. We prayed before splitting up, then I went upstairs, leaving the two elder men to talk.
The next three weeks went by quickly.
Jack introduced Clark to brother Verner, who recognized potential immediately, but also recognized the need for concentrated muscle improvement in key areas -- which surprised and impressed Clark. He started the next day, helping Verner by cleaning up debris from completed tree jobs. When I talked to Verner at church Wednesday night, he spoke of how well Clark had been doing, and how honored he was in actually working alongside the famous Man of Bronze.
Two more brothers, who were into physical fitness, took Clark to a local gym where he could work out while getting some fellowship. This was very good, and it was encouraging to see Clark growing, talking about Jesus with the two brothers as they sat on the porch after workout nights.
Clark and I had our times also. It had been a long-time agreement to keep the house free of the distraction of television, with the exception of the occasional video. This left several evenings open for Bible study and discussion. Clark had learned a lot from gurus and mystics all around the world, and had explored some religions but, he admitted, all their wisdom was empty next to what God was showing him in the Word now. They never seemed to satisfy him before, but, with the Holy Spirit within him, a lot of things now came alive.
We didn't keep this to ourselves, but took it to the streets, back to the Mission -- the 'Scene of the Crime' as Clark jokingly called it -- on the nights I was allowed to preach. He sat in the front row this time, paying rapt attention to the words from the pulpit. He was always in the kitchen afterward, helping dish out food, and then sitting with the men, talking about what God was doing in his life. It was magnificent. The love of God was especially evident here, where it all began, and Clark was eager to be used of God to bring others to the Cross.
One thing which was a special blessing to the older men was the way that Clark could relate to them from having lived back in that time. He could speak to a gent who had gone through the Great Depression of 1929, and relate to them in a living way, although he hardly looked like he had been that old. He never explained how he could relate so closely, but just reached out to them and did it. It was interesting seeing him rekindle the hope of someone who -- as he had -- remembered the times long gone, and then praying with them. I praised God to see what He was doing with Clark.
But we were not without our struggles. Clark had been uneasy returning to the Mission, being around people who could possibly remember Doc Savage, and make the connection. I graphically reassured him that he was safe, by taking him to a mirror, showing him his image, and comparing that to a picture I had printed off the Internet. As he looked at the shaved, bearded head in the mirror, highlighted by a large metal cross hanging from a leather strap around his neck, and compared it to the photo of "the adventurer Doc Savage," he smiled, then cracked up laughing. I didn't need to say anything more.
We'd also made an important decision with regards to Clark's quest for his past. He would not go alone, as he had originally intended. I would go with him, as friend and helper. I pointed out, he needed someone out there, because there were those who would still wish him harm. He also needed a friend he could talk to -- it was a good Biblical standard, being sent out two by two. He hardly needed to think about it -- the Lord had brought us into one accord for some time. It just had been a matter of voicing it.
I was right about finding more information through the library. The research was slow, and sometimes trails ended a decade ago. But I refused to give up, and came away with some successes.
I confirmed the death of 'Renny' Renwick. I found his obituary in both Time and Newsweek. He had been among those killed in the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake in California, when sections of Interstate 880 collapsed. He left behind no known survivors.
I thanked God for professional magazines and trade journals. I found many of my leads through them, through the avocations of 'Johnny' Littlejohn, 'Monk' Mayfair, and 'Long Tom' Roberts. The dates of the articles showed me that they were alive at that time, and there had been clues to their locations, past and/or present.
'Long Tom' Roberts was the hardest to find anything on. The last article written by him had been in the early '50s, then it looked like he had simply vanished off the face of the Earth. On the other hand, 'Johnny' Littlejohn had been a professor in a small California university for several years. There were unsubstantiated reports that he had traveled to the Middle East in 1994. 'Monk' Mayfair's contributions to chemistry periodicals included two references to 'his home in Oklahoma.' Otherwise, he also vanished without a trace. I found a few interesting references with the last name 'Mayfair' in the Oklahoma area, but I couldn't tell anything more without visiting them -- and that was not something I had a peace about.
On the other hand, Pat Savage was the easiest to get information on, although most of it was corporate PR.
In 1971, during the height of the Women's Lib Movement, Patricia, Inc. was conceived. It began small, from the Greek island of Caroline, tested in Europe, and expanding to the U.S. West Coast. Their motto, 'For the Savage in all of us....,' became a brief rallying cry during that turbulent decade. The events of twenty years earlier had faded, and Patricia Savage returned, making her mark once more on the world. She appeared in person at the start, then exiled herself to her island, where she nurtured her daughter Penelope to take over the empire. Penelope Savage now represented the ultimate woman -- beautiful, youthful, strong, secure, powerful, and brilliant. And admired by millions of men and women around the world.
Finally, I was correct in finding leads on 'Ham' Brooks. His 1953 obituary listed a wife, Dorothy, and a son, Donald -- and were shown as having lived in New York City. A quick visit to the library's Metropolitan New York phone directory found a current listing for a Dorothy Brooks. I hoped it was the same one.
I sat in one of the video viewing booths at the library, bathed in a black-and-white glow from the large-screen set before me.
The opening credits appeared on the screen:
Then the title of the program, which caused me to groan inwardly.
I faced the legendary journalist Edward R. Murrow. He stood casually, facing the camera, his omnipresent cigarette in his hand.
"This is Doc Savage: The Man of Bronze."
While Murrow's voice spoke in the background, they showed stock film footage of Doc -- in action, in person, wherever he had been caught by the camera. The hero. "To the world at large, Clark Savage Jr. is a towering figure of virtue and strength, loved and admired by millions.
"However, there is a dark side to the hero. A dark side we will explore in the next half hour."
The scene shifted. Murrow stood before a hardware store, microphone in hand. It looked like rural America, straight out of a Norman Rockwell painting.
"We begin by taking you to the little hamlet of Antioch, North Dakota -- population: 2,302. It was here, in this spot, where Matthew Sellers was struck and killed by a hit-and-run driver in late June of this year. Sellers was described as a 'friendly' and 'trustworthy' man who 'went to church every Sunday' and 'never had a bad word towards anyone.'
"However, eighteen months earlier, Matthew Sellers did not exist. He had a different name, and a different life.
The image shifted to a series of police mug shots. The face had a four-day beard, and disheveled sandy-colored hair. His expression was mug-shot standard -- he wasn't liking this.
"Matthew 'Big Matt' Sharp. Criminal and racketeer. Wanted in seventeen states on charges ranging from arson and robbery, to assault and murder. The last time he was seen was almost two years ago, in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. In June of 1948 he met up with Doc Savage."
Switch to a series of images, which must have been the Crime College. Some of the pictures were closer than others. Most were taken from a distance.
"This structure in the hills of upstate New York may appear to be only an innocent -- albeit isolated -- building, but it is a place known only as "the College" -- and it is where Matthew Sharp was delivered from Louisiana, unconcious and restrained.
"This "College" is a private hospital and sanitarium, owned and operated by Clark Savage Jr., for the purposes of rehabilitating criminals through radical surgical procedures.
"Matthew Sharp -- without due process of law, and without his consent or approval -- underwent brain surgery at the hands of Doc Savage himself. Savage performed a partial lobotomy on the racketeer, a procedure he had performed countless times over the years, intending to rehabilitate the criminal by removing the sections of the brain that held "wicked thoughts" and wiping out all knowledge of their past. Then, like Sharp, re-educate them to be returned to society.
"Matthew Sharp was given a new name -- Matthew Sellers -- and brought here to Antioch. He was given a place to live, and provided with a job as the janitor at this hardware store. He was given a new lease on life. And, according to his fellow townsfolk, he was a model citizen."
Murrow looked thoughtfully out at the camera. "This is a question of 'the end justifies the means'. Is it right for one man to violate the rights of another, kidnapping him, transporting him across state lines, and, without his consent, cut up his brain -- take away what he was and replace it with a fabrication?"
The image switched to a man in a suit. The caption identified him as Eric Leroy Williams of the American Civil Liberties Union. The look on his face was pure disgust. "Of course it's not right! What this man Savage is doing is just that -- Savage! It's tanamount to barbarism in the guise of justice!"
Back to Murrow's face. "We have documented evidence of over one hundred individuals who have undergone such surgery. These "rehabilitated" criminals are scattered throughout the United States -- maybe living in your state, city, town, or within your own neighborhood. Or just possibly, you yourself are one of those who are "graduates" of Doc Savage's "College" -- unaware of what has happened to you.
"For weeks we tried to locate Clark Savage Jr. for interview. All our requests were refused. Savage himself has not been seen publically in months." Murrow looked out with stern dark eyes and said slowly, "What are you afraid of?"
"However, we were able to interview some of Mr. Savage's associates --"
Ham Brooks appeared first. He was cool, but the stress in his face was obvious. Diplomatically, he kept his comments brief. "These accusations are preposterous! Mr. Savage is on business in Australia -- that's why you can't talk to him. But I'm sure he'll be happy to address your concerns once he returns. No, I don't know when that will be."
Monk Mayfair appeared next. He was definitely ruffled, and, by the look in his eyes, I was surprised he didn't toss the camera out the window behind him. "It just ain't so! Doc don't work that way. And, if he did, it wouldn't be any more than they deserved. Heck, most'a them criminals would'a gotten the chair or the gas chamber for what they'd done."
Back to Murrow. "There you have it. The information you have just witnessed has been turned over to Senator Estes Kefauer, and his investigation into organized crime."
He paused, taking a brief pull on his cigarette, and releasing the smoke from his lips. His head was slightly cocked to one side. "When I first received the documented evidence that prompted this program, a simple note was attached to the package: 'Let justice be done.'
"We shall see."
"This is Edward R. Murrow for See It Now. Good night."
The screen faded to black as the closing credits appeared on the screen.
I stopped the tape, pressed REWIND on the vcr, and let out a deep breath. "Oh Lord," I prayed under my breath. "That's what started it all." I held the ejected tape in my hands for a moment -- as if it were some holy relic, as well as being a piece of history -- and then returned it to the library's video desk, accidentally bumping into a man in a park ranger uniform. We exchanged apologies, and I crossed over to the exit door.
The park ranger headed for the telephones.
That night I presented Clark with the details I had found, and we contemplated our next move.
"But to just knock on their door and surprise them -- wouldn't that put us in danger?" offered Clark.
"Not necessarily. Let me run this past you."
I held up one finger. "Let's say we call or write this Dorothy Brooks. We tell her who we are and what we're after. If she's a total stranger -- and if she believed us -- she might be mercenary enough to bring the police and the media down on our heads the moment we get within range. Not exactly my idea of a good time." I grimaced at the thoughts.
Clark nodded silently in response.
I held up two fingers. "Let's say that she is Ham's widow. What if she blames you for Ham's death? She could be nursing a forty-year-old grudge against you -- and I don't even want to think of what could happen there.
"In both scenerios, it's bad for us, and for others."
I held up three fingers. "However, let's look at the third possibility. Let's say that we go there without announcing ourselves. Let me scout it out, and determine that it's safe or not. If it's not, we're outta there, and we move onto the next lead. But if it is safe, we can approach comfortably and introduce ourselves."
He nodded. "Yes. You're right. From a tactical position, it would put us -- me -- in the least vulnerable position."
"Now, all we have to do is afford to get there." We talked about what finances Clark had accumulated, which, we both agreed, were still too low to work with. We prayed for God to provide for our needs in this mission, then decided to call it a night.
I was awakened at 3:35 in the morning with a rapid tapping at my door. I got to my feet and dragged myself towards the sound.
"Who is it?" I mumbled sleepily.
"It's me," answered Clark in a low urgent whisper. "I need to talk to you, now!"
"Yeah. Okay," I responded more out of reflex, as I unlatched the door and Clark slipped inside. He swung my desk chair around and straddled it, facing me.
"What's up?" I asked, looking at my clock and adding with astonishment, "Do you know what time it is?"
Disregarding my comment, Doc asked quizically, "Perry, does God ever speak to you through dreams?"
Still half-asleep, I thought he was asking about examples from the Bible. "Yeah, you know he does. Daniel, Joseph.....remember?"
"No, I mean, has He ever spoken to you in a dream?"
This broke through my stupor. "Yeah. Couple of times. Why?"
"Because I think He just showed me where the funding is coming from."
My eyes snapped open and my jaw slackened as he explained.