I praise God for the time we've spent with Monk and Lea. After all those weeks in the camper van going back and forth and back again, it's a blessing to sleep in a real (i.e., stationary) bed. Now, I promised I wouldn't brag on Lea's homecooked meals, but I have copied a few of her best recipes into the notebook for your examination. Let me know if you want me to E-mail them to you.
Monk and Clark have been spending quite a lot of time together, walking around the lake, sharing their faith, remembering past glories and looking ahead to the promises. It's definitely been an uplift for MY spirit, praise God.
However, we'll be moving on soon. I think I know where we're going next, but it's up to God to bring Clark and me into one accord.
Jack. Please be praying for us. My dreams have recently been filled with images of flying, and a feeling of dread. It's easy to get wrapped up by fear. But I am standing in faith, knowing that all things work together for my good and God's glory. But keep us all in prayer, just in case.
Changing the subject, how's Verner's wife doing? The last I heard, she was having a little difficulty carrying her baby. Let her know we'll be praying for her; and I'll pass their E-mail address to Lea, who (as a mother of five) might be able to provide some insight.
I got the information on all those "safe houses" you provided, and entered it into the database. It's a good start, and I appreciate your effort in checking on them. As we're faithful with this, God will add to it along the way.
Sorry to hear you've still not found anything about the refuges; please keep looking a bit longer -- I just know there's something there.
And I'm thrilled to hear that Jim Bronson got to the house, and got the overhaul done to his bike (that must've been interesting). Keep me posted on how he does. I'm praying for him.
God bless you all. Talk to you soon.
Perry and Clark
After uploading the E-mail, I left the camper van, pausing a moment to stretch in the cool morning air, and looked toward the lake. There, silhouetted in the light flashing off the surface of the water, was Clark, looking out at the lake. My boots crunched lightly on the dew-covered grass as I came up from behind him, and joined the large bronze man in observing the activity on the lake. Ahead and to our left, a few birds lazily swooped down to snatch something from the water's surface.
"It's time," I finally said.
"Uh huh," acknowledged Clark.
I turned to him, and he explained it to me.
A few minutes later, staring up at Clark from a seated position in the wet grass, I mumbled, "We've got to tell Monk."
"Agreed," acknowledged Clark, helping me to my feet.
Clark made his announcement during lunch. "We're going to see Pat next."
"Well, that'll be a neat trick," quipped Monk. "It practically takes an act of Congress to land on that island of hers. And it would be easier to get an audience with the pope." Then he added with a grin, "Besides, I'd just love to see you try an' get a passport these days, Doc."
Clark nodded, not disputing the point. "Agreed. But there must be a way we can see her."
Lea sat nursing a cup of peppermint tea. "What if she came to us?" she offered quietly.
The rest of us suddenly went silent. "What was that, hon?" asked Monk.
"What if she came to us?" she repeated. "Pat's a recluse. She never leaves the island. I can't remember the last time she made a public appearance. Penelope's the key. Remember, she's running the company now. She's got to leave the island in order to do business. Now if you could get her to talk to you, she could bring you together with Pat."
"Getting in to see Penelope isn't any easier. It's like trying to see the President," I argued.
"However," mused Clark thoughtfully, "even the President will grant an audience if there's good reason. All we have to do is figure out what would make Penelope sit up and bark, so to speak."
"Cosmetics," stated Monk. "It's a business, and all businesses are competitive. Everybody's trying to take the high ground, gain the advantage, draw a bigger share of the market. I'll bet their R&D department's looking for the next big breakthrough." His face broke into a sly grin. "What if we give her one?"
"Yeah, sure," I responded with a little sarcasm. "What do we know about making cosmetics?"
Monk scowled at me impatiently. "Look, kid. We wouldn't actually give her anything! But if we make it look like we have the next big cosmetics breakthrough, it might just be enough to, as Doc put it, make her sit up and bark. All we're lookin' for is a foot in the door."
I understood. We mulled over a few ideas, but nothing clicked. As we did, Lea sat quietly sipping her tea, her eyes alert. Finally Monk caught on. "I know that look. What'cha got?"
"No offense intended," she started. "For the most part, men don't handle cosmetics on a day-to-day basis. Women do. Let me do a little brainstorming with the girls and the granddaughters -- on the Q.T., of course. And let's see what we can come up with."
Clark and I nodded our approval. "Works for me," said Monk for all of us. "Go for it."
Without another word she got up from the table and headed for the living room, snatching the cordless phone and address book as she did. Monk looked at us and grinned. "Now you know why I married her. Never one to back out of a challenge, even if it does mean living with me for these forty-eight years."
"Forty-seven," called a voice from the room beyond. "And six months."
Lea made the pronouncement as she put a slice of veggie pizza from one of the several take-out boxes arrayed on the kitchen counter, then grabbed a napkin and joined us at the table. Between bites, she read from a notepad. The rest of us sat munching and listening intensely.
"Obviously, it wouldn't be an ordinary lipstick. It looks like any other lipstick, and it goes on like any other lipstick. But after a couple of minutes it would bond to the skin, and would stay there. It couldn't be washed off, wiped off, smudged, smeared, and would look just as fresh as when it was first put on. And, of course, it would have to be non-toxic. When the time limit wore off it would be just like any other lipstick, and could be removed. The only way it could be removed before the time limit would be through a special second formula . . . sold separately, of course."
She was excited about the concept. "What woman wouldn't kill for a lipstick she only has to put on once every few days. No more awkward moments, and one less thing to carry with her." She grinned. "AND you could also suggest to them that this would only be the beginning, if you applied the principle' to other cosmetics." She listed off several popular products. "Travel makeup cases would become a thing of the past. Put it on Friday night and you wouldn't have to worry about it until Monday. Now that's a breakthrough!"
We were amazed. We glanced at one another, then stood in a spontaneous display of applause. She just smiled.
I quickly assembled a product profile on my pc, fine-tuning it. It didn't need much; the only change we made was how long it would last. In the end, the Hundred Hour Lipstick was born.
"Ahem!" The sound came from the kitchen, as Monk loaded the last slice of the pepperoni and pineapple pizza onto his plate. "I hate to pour cold water on the matter, but it just occurred to me: this thing'll get us IN the door, but how do we get TO the door? There's got to be a thousand crackpots with 'breakthrough' products. How do we rate a private audience?"
Clark looked at him and grinned a moment later. "Can I use the phone in the den?"
"Yeah. Sure," replied Monk, slightly puzzled.
"Douglas Martin please. Silas Poteet."
There was a pause of several seconds, then Martin came on the line. "Yes, sir! How can I help you?"
"Is this a secure line?"
"One moment." There was silence interrupted only by a couple of clicks. "Sorry about the wait. Now we're secure. How can I help you?"
"I have a couple of 'associates' who wish to contact Ms. Penelope Savage, and would prefer to bypass the usual chain of authority. They are inventors, and all they wish to do is present their invention directly to Ms. Savage. Can you act as an 'agent of contact' for them?"
"Certainly," he replied confidently, and without nosy questions. "There should be no problems."
"I must discuss with you some specific details. Are you prepared to take notes?"
"Yes, sir," he said without hesitation. "Proceed."
"First: the time of the meeting should be within the next few weeks, no longer than a month.
"Second: my associates insist that the meeting be at the New York corporate headquarters of Patricia, Inc., not at Caroline Island. They do not wish to travel beyond United States jurisdiction.
"Third: I will be faxing you a statement regarding my associates' invention. You can pass this information on -- at your discretion -- to Ms. Savage's people, in order to establish the validity of their invention, and the truth of their statements.
"Fourth: due to an unfortunate accident, my associates have no identification nor credentials. If I provide you with all the particulars, photographs, etc., could you supply them with what they need?"
There was a brief pause. "Yes. I believe so, sir."
"Good. Finally: once the point of contact has been made, and the meeting is under way, you are instructed to disavow any knowledge of my associates, including complete elimination of any so-called 'paper trails' -- do you understand?"
"Yes, sir, I do indeed. It will be dealt with the most discrete sensitivity. If I may be so bold, they'll never prove a thing."
"Excellent. There will, of course, be sufficient funds to more than cover this transaction. I will fax you the statement in -- say -- two hours' time?"
"I'll retrieve it personally."
"You have my cell number if you need to contact me. Good day." And the conversation was ended.
Because of the sensitive nature of this meeting, we decided to assume disguises to gain access, then reveal our true selves when it was safe to do so. We developed personas as inventors 'James Morris' and 'Don Iverson,' complete with disguising our appearances. I admit, my exposure to cloak-and-dagger stuff was limited to the spies sent into Jericho by Joshua, and the occasional James Bond film, so this was new to me. But it was fun.
Our initial 'stage' was the living room of Monk's place.
I was 'Don Iverson.' He was the genius scientist and computer wiz, the technical brains of the team, who'd feel more comfortable around a Cray mainframe and a chemistry set than around people. He was also a nonconformist, which was the fun part for me. I wore wire-rimmed glasses, a Jerry Garcia sweatshirt and Levis, and a longhaired wig pulled back in a straight 1960's ponytail. My image in the mirror startled me. I looked like some of the people I knew down at Portland's Waterfront Park.
Clark was 'James Morris,' my partner. He was the spokesman, and his 'personality' was opposite of mine. When he came into the living room, I almost didn't recognize him. A blond crewcut hairpiece covered his bald head. His beard had been shaped to a goatee and dyed a matching blond. A pair of brown-tinted sunglasses hid his giveaway gold-flecked eyes; we assured him that this was very common, even if it did look strange. His clothes were also dead opposite to mine -- a top-of-the-line, tailor-made Armani suit, complete with a full set of accessories like a Rolex watch and gold neck chain.
Dressed for success was an understatement here; Clark was dressed to kill.
But not all accepted the new look. "No! No! No!" grumbled Monk loudly, pacing the room. "It's still not the right personality! He's just not . . . cocky enough." He paced for a few moments, then spun on one heel and exclaimed, "Yes! Of course!" His apelike form disappeared into the den for a couple of minutes while Clark and I looked at one another quizzically. Then he returned with two videocassettes and a grin you could fit a frisbee through. He handed the cassettes to Clark. I caught the titles and grinned with recognition. "Doc, follow me!" ordered Monk. "We're going to do a little 'character research'"
Clark looked at the pictures on the boxes as he followed obediently. The last thing I heard before the door closed was, "Flint?"
I could hardly hold in my laughter. Then I joined them.
Four hours later, the improved 'James Morris' stood before us. He found his cues in Monk's videos, then augmented them. In the end he was a grinning, disgustingly self-confidant man of success, virtually reeking with "having it all together." His voice was tinted with a Southern Georgia accent, with a motivational speaker's mannerisms. He walked around the room with the fluidity of Bruce Lee.
I, on the other hand, didn't do much with my voice. Clark was the spokesman, and I was the computer man. Nonetheless, I found myself developing a Cheech and Chong drone, taking on corresponding mannerisms.
"Ready to take the spotlight?" I asked.
He casually spun to face me. "That I am, dear Perry, that I am! And I'm ready to do it with style!" he said, flashing me a toothy Jack Cassidy smile.
"Mr. Poteet? Douglas Martin here."
"Yes, Mr. Martin."
"Your meeting with Ms. Penelope Savage has been approved under the conditions you've requested." He gave the date and time.
"Thank you very much, Mr. Martin. The identification cards arrived a couple of days ago; they're excellent. How are the rest of the documents coming?"
"They've been completed." He hesitated. "Would you allow me a personal request?"
Clark paused, raising an eyebrow. "Proceed."
"I would like to have dinner with you. I know a respectable men's club in Manhattan with an emphasis on privacy. I can give you the rest of the documents there." He paused cautiously, then added: "I would be greatly honored."
There was silence for a moment. "I, too, would be honored. But there will be two of us: myself and my partner, Mr. Liston."
"I'll look forward to meeting him."
"Then I accept. I'll call you when we reach New York."
"Thank you. Good day."
I was standing out by the lake when Clark called to me.
"I just spoke to Douglas Martin. The meeting is on for the afternoon of the 26th. That gives us ten days."
I nodded. "Should we drive or take a plane?"
"We could drive, but that would give us less time to prepare. Besides, the last time we were in New York was all too brief." He paused. "I'd like to take a look at some of my previous 'holdings' -- the Empire State Building, the Hidalgo Trading Company, and others."
I was skeptical. "After this many years? I wouldn't get my hopes up, brother."
"Agreed. But I suppose I'm looking for some trace of what I had. Confirmation to me that there's something there of mine that still stands through the years. I know that sounds foolish, Perry, but...how do you say it..." He paused. "Humor me."
I grinned. "It's not foolish, Clark. It's a part of your past. It's important to you. Forgive me for trying to discourage you. So we'll fly in?"
I gave him a sideways glance. "Think you're ready to experience modern jet airliners?"
"Yes, I think so."
I mused aloud: "We can send the majority of what we'll need ahead of us, leaving us just enough for one bag each as carry-on luggage. Easier all the way around. What about lodging?"
"I think we can get some assistance from Carrie and Dot Brooks, to make the reservations and see that our gear arrives safely."
"If we go down a week in advance, that'll be plenty of time to get your 'business' done."
"What about you? What will you do?"
"Good question." I thought a moment. "I've been wanting to do some research, see about getting us closer to Johnny and Long Tom. I've heard the New York library system is excellent. Anyplace else there I can check?"
"I'll think about it."
"Also, I've been too long away from street ministry. This might give me a chance to 'refresh my batteries,' so to speak." I shrugged. "Let's see what happens."
"Sounds good. Douglas Martin has completed the rest of our documents. However, he's invited us to dinner when we reach New York. I suppose he wants to meet me face-to-face."
"Can't say I blame him. Any idea of where it's going to be?" I asked.
"He said something about a private men's club in Manhattan. I think it'll be fine."
"Sounds like an interesting idea. What do you wear to one of those places?" I mused as we walked to the house.
It was Thursday, the 19th.
Carrie and Dot Brooks were more than happy to help us with accommodations and coordinating arrangements. We FedEx'd our rolling travel trunks Wednesday morning.
Now, with Clark's shoulder bag and my backpack in the back of Monk's truck, the four of us gathered by the lake for a final word of prayer. Then we hugged Lea and departed for the airport.
Monk dropped us off at the terminal. "I'll call Dot and let her know you've left," he informed us. Then he moved on, while we walked into the airport. In order to test our disguises in a public setting, we decided to wear them during the flight. We wandered around for a half hour, then boarded our plane. We settled in, and waited for takeoff.
Monk, at a nearby viewpoint, watched the activity while monitoring the plane-to-tower transmissions on a portable scanner. He watched the United 737-300 rise into the afternoon sky and bank eastward. The cell phone lay on the passenger seat. He picked it up and tapped out a number.
"Dottie, it's me."
"Their plane just took off. You got the schedule?"
"Sure do. If there's no delays, they'll be arriving at 6:15."
"Dot?" The tone of his voice suddenly changed. "'Gumball' is go."
There was a pause on the other end. Dot's voice was equally serious. "Okay, granddad."
A click on the other end terminated the conversation. Monk looked out in the direction of the barely-visible jet, allowed himself a smile and put the phone back in his pocket. He started up the truck and headed for home.