As Clark talked, I could see the depression of the previous night obliterated. He spoke of walking around the floor, and his mind flooded with memories of the living and the dead. He found his closet in which he could commune with God in absolute privacy, and so he did. He walked and prayed and cried and screamed and finally got it all out of his system. The burden of his guilt had been removed, replaced by sweet freedom and joy in forgiveness. He also was given the grace to walk away from the 86th floor, and that aspect of his past. He returned to the landing, covering his tracks, and descended through the skyscraper. He was again oblivious to the darkness and the condition of the air, praising God with every rung. Once outside, he couldn't walk fast enough back to the hotel and to tell me. I praised God and hugged my brother, sharing his excitement and joy. Then I suggested he shower and get some sleep if he could. As he walked to the bathroom I lay back down, and thanked God for His amazing grace.
Dot Brooks showed up at nine, and we headed to the library to begin our local research into the remaining members of Clark's crew.
New York's Science, Industry, and Business Library was the perfect place to check on scientists like Long Tom Roberts and Johnny Littlejohn. We claimed a table on the second floor. The library was uniquely computer-accessible, and there was a computer port I could tap into with my notebook. The building was small but the furniture was comfortable. I had forgotten how computer literate Dot was, and was pleasantly surprised. After a couple of minutes discussing strategy, Dot checked patents, and I checked inventions, starting with the microfilm records.
I liked working with Dot, and we did well as a team. There were even times when our minds worked on the same frequency, such as around lunchtime when Dot smuggled a pizza into the public library. I was more amazed when I saw that she had chosen my favorite toppings. She explained that she liked those toppings, also, but the information had been given her by her granddad, Monk.
It's been said that Central Park is the rollerblade capital of the world. Either way, it's very popular, and easy to get lost in the crowd. And this Saturday afternoon saw Clark and Carrie blending in easily, comfortably going with the flow. They carried on light conversation until the air was suddenly pierced with a woman's surprised scream.
Breaking from the group they looked around and spotted a man in a ski mask running away with the purse of his victim, a woman who was now sitting on the ground, holding her head.
"Make sure she's okay!" ordered Clark, "I'll meet you around the next curve!"
Carrie opened her mouth to reply, but he'd already put on a burst of speed and took off after the purse-snatcher.
He moved like a bronze juggernaut, slipping around obstacles, leaping over others. Heads turned -- some in awe -- as he zipped past. The mugger broke off the path and headed overland, hoping to avoid pursuit. However, he was no match for Clark, his special all-terrain skates carrying him with the grace and determination of a cheetah after its prey. At one point, unable to veer around a couple in the middle of a picnic, Clark executed a sleek leap over their shocked faces, landing smoothly on the other side and continuing without breaking stride.
He quickly overtook the mugger, and clipped the fellow just at the base of the neck with the edge of his hand, causing him to perform a quick head-over-heels mid-air somersault, to land flat on his back in the grass. Clark didn't stop to assess the damage, just in case someone with an inquisitive camera wanted to get a picture of the incident. He made sure the unconscious purse-snatcher was not seriously hurt, but would be out for a while, then tucked the purse under his arm and headed back where it belonged.
He returned the bag to the woman -- now standing alone and apparently unhurt, then smiled and said, "God bless you, ma'am." Before she could speak, he moved quickly down the path. The woman stood transfixed for a few moments, then smiled and said to no one in particular, "You, too."
At their designated rendezvous, Clark cruised aside Carrie and stopped. She was grinning widely. "I never thought I'd ever see you in action," she said, awestruck. "I have to admit, you're impressive."
Dismissing the praise, he said, "Let's keep moving."
She nodded and they rolled away, once more becoming lost in a crowd.
"Now this is interesting," Dot said, bringing something over to me.
"What?" I answered, looking up from my computer screen.
"I found some records of Renny Renwick's patents. Look at this printout. Do you see anything there out of the ordinary?"
"Just look and tell me if something looks funny. I'll be back in a second; I gotta run to the rest room."
She walked away and I looked over the printout. I ran past the list. After the second time through something nagged at the back of my mind. I pressed into it and examined the list again, asking God to open my eyes. Then it stood out clear as day. My eyes opened wide.
"You found it," commented Dot, returning.
"Yes," I agreed. "This patent was registered by Renny Renwick in 1991. But Renny died in 1989."
Sunday had been our day for church.
Carrie Brooks had accompanied us, but Dot had declined; she had to meet someone in New Jersey and wouldn't be back until late evening. Where to go to church had also been interesting, since there were hundreds of churches in the greater New York area from which to choose from. In the end, God gave us a starting point, a small church three blocks from the hotel. By evening we had a full day of worship, fellowshipping with several congregations in the city. Overall, it was very exhilarating.
But now it was Monday, the 23nd. And four days until our meeting with Penelope.
Dot Brooks had to return to work, so I planned to continue my research alone. And, Clark would be accompanying Carrie Brooks to her rehab center.
Carrie had picked up Clark at the hotel, and the two of them drove to the Serenity Drug and Alcohol Freedom Center, also known as Serenity Center. They circled the block, then took the ramp down into the limited parking garage. "It's not much, but, considering what parking is like in New York City, it's a blessing, " she commented. "In order to avoid suspicion I'll explain you're a VIP from Oregon looking in on our procedures, like an exchange student." She wore a simple woman's business suit, practical and not fancy. He wore slacks and shirt, jacket and leather cowboy boots.
As they rose in the elevator, Carrie told him the history of the Center. "We got lucky to get this building. Used to be a hospital. It was purchased in 1978 and converted to the clinic.," They got out on the first floor. "Here's our admissions and administration section. And we maintain a modest emergency room on the west end just in case. Dad told me you were a surgeon. Still think you got the hands for it?"
"I'm not sure. I did some emergency first aid a few months ago, but that's all."
"The patient wards are on the second floor and part of the third floor. And our therapy rooms take up the rest of the third floor."
They walked into her office. Her secretary, a young black girl named Marie, greeted her. "Welcome back, boss. How was your day off?"
"Fine, Marie. This is Mr. Dent, from Portland, Oregon. He'll be visiting for the next three days. He'll be following me around, so don't be surprised. Make him feel at home."
"Nice t'meet'cha, Mr. Dent," she greeted, extending a slim hand and a broad smile.
"Please, call me Clark," he returned.
"So, any crises while I was gone?" inquired Carrie.
"Not really. Mr. Ivanoff's still going through the D.T.'s, but we've got a close eye on him. And Ms. Spelling got over her cramping; she'd like to see you."
"Excellent. I'll start off with her when I make my rounds."
"And your mail and case files are on your desk, ma'am," she announced.
"You're too good to me, Marie," she smiled. And the two of them walked into Carrie's office, where she outlined her day's schedule to Clark, beginning with the rounds of her patients.
I had been interested in riding the New York subway. I'd heard much about it, and wanted to know if it had been true or urban legend. I was surprised at how well things ran, and it made me miss Portland's MAX light rail.
I set the morning aside to ride the rail, stopping off here and there to stretch and see the sights under this great city. But beyond that was my need for ministry. After the other day with Dot Brooks I ached to help someone here. So I was hunting, of a sort, looking for people to help. And there were certainly a lot of people to help.
Whether in New York City or Portland, so much was similar; it made me feel at home. An old blond-haired woman carried on an animated conversation with the air around her, her worldly possessions contained in three sizable bedrolls, while those around her pretended not to notice she was there. Every now and then she would laugh loudly. Two beared brothers, in matching trenchcoats, shield sunglasses, and carrying identical umbrellas, talked to one another. I heard conversations in several languages and dialects filtering through the cars. I observed the old and the young, the well-to-do and the down-and-out, the fashionable and the fashionless, the extroverted talkers and the lone wolves buried in their portable sound systems, the cautious and the clueless, the living and the dying.
And I prayed, God, please let me be able to help at least one of them.
At Serenity Center, all was not so.
On the third floor, a group therapy session suddenly became ugly when two of the men started exchanging racial comments. It appeared that they would come to blows when Carrie stepped between them and tried diffusing the situation. Clark sat off at the side of the melee, alert. His trained eyes looked to the muscles in the men's bodies, looking for a significant motion that would precede physical violence. He steeled himself to move if it occurred.
And it did. One man's muscle movement brought Clark into action. He stood and came around behind him while Carrie continued to mediate. Then, as the man's arm moved back in preparation to deliver a blow, Clark's hand went out and closed on the man's upper arm, immobilizing it. The man -- not quite 5'6" -- looked back at Clark, then up to make eye contact. Clark's size was the first thing that deterred him from his intended action.
He relaxed his arm and Clark released him, smiling. During these few moments, Carrie looked upon Clark with surprise. The other man said something to her, and her attention shifted. Within five minutes the situation was diffused, and everyone continued their group therapy session.
But Clark's presence had done something to the group. It had brought fear.
The man's name was David, but everyone on the street called him Salty. He had been panhandling on the street, and had been picked up twice by New York's Finest (not counting several close run-ins). He looked like he hadn't bathed in weeks; even though the shelter he frequented had showers, he was able to avoid them. His breath reeked of alcohol and rotting teeth. But I spotted him from across the street and the Lord put it on my heart to approach him. He asked for a handout. I asked him his name, and told him mine. Then I asked him what he needed. He hesitated, not used to such inquiries, then gave me a stock answer for food. I pressed it; I knew there was more. I asked him again, without expression. His eyes met mine, then looked away. He looked back, then said, "Okay. I haven't had a drink all day and I could use some smokes." I smiled and replied, "I can't help you there, but I appreciate the honesty. I'd consider it an honor if you'd join me for lunch."
He looked at me with puzzled bloodshot eyes, then accepted and told me of a diner a couple of blocks away that he knew wouldn't turn him away. The owner of the diner was a portly Italian man by the name of Salvatore who knew Salty by name. We got a few odd looks from some of the other patrons, but ignored them. I let Salty order whatever he wanted, and we talked. He dropped his defenses and opened up to me as we ate. He'd been a dockworker -- a good one, with thirty years experience -- until there had been an accident in 1993. Then he was laid off, and couldn't get any work. Everyone, it seemed, had dropped him like a hot rock.
I wasn't sure why I did so, but I asked him if he wanted to get straightened out. He hesitated, then said yes. I told him straight that I would do all I could to help him, but I had to know if he was serious. "I've got a friend that runs a rehab center. I can't guarantee anything, but I'll see what I can do to get you in and get you dried out. You willing to relocate if need be?"
"Where to?" he asked.
"Yeah. Sure," he shrugged, yet looking at me with doubt. "I got nothin' here."
"Well, I got friends there. And I'll pay your way."
He looked at me long, looking for something. "You a Christian?"
He started to tell me about all the times he had been burned by people who called themselves 'Christians.' I listened patiently, then told him, "Look, Salty. You don't know me. You don't have a reason to trust me, and I don't have a reason to help you. But you show up here tomorrow at this time. If you're here and I'm not, you know I'm a phony. If I'm here and you're not, I'll know you weren't serious about getting your act straight. What d'ya think?"
He nodded and held out a dirt-encrusted hand. "Deal."
Without hesitation I took the hand and shook it. The grip was strong. I smiled.
The therapy session over, Carrie and Clark returned to her office. She instructed Marie to hold all calls and visitors. Then, the door closed, she ripped into Clark with anger.
"Who the HELL do you think you are disturbing my therapy session?" she blasted at him, taking him by surprise.
"He was getting ready to strike. He might have hurt you," replied Clark innocently.
"I appreciate that, but this is MY clinic, and those were MY patients, and YOU don't have any business usurping my authority! I know these people, and they know me!" She stood and paced. "And as far as me getting hurt? Look, Doc, I'm a big girl. If I get hurt, it's my fault and I live with it. It's nothing I wouldn't recover from. Besides, realize, I'm a black belt in karate. I live in New York City, so I've had opportunity to use my skills every now and then. I can protect myself, okay?"
He nodded silently, his countenance resembling that of a whipped puppy.
She saw this and her tone softened. "I know you're trying to help, and I appreciate it. Maybe I'm not used to knights coming to my rescue anymore. But I'll let you know if I need rescuing, okay?"
Clark would later comment to me, "For a moment there, I felt like I was facing her mother. Many times Pat behaved in the same way. That same defiant fire in her eyes. It was very interesting."
The four of us got together for dinner that evening. There seemed to be no enmity between Clark and Carrie now, and we all had a good time. I told Carrie about Salty. "Sure, he's welcome," she responded, "just as long as he's willing to get clean. If he's not, it'll just be a waste of time." I smiled and nodded. "Fair enough. We'll see tomorrow if he's there."
Clark and I also had a somewhat-formal announcement to make. "The reason for this evening is twofold. First, it's our way of saying thank you for all you've done over the last few weeks. It's also to announce that Perry and I are going to be spending the next few days in fasting and prayer in spiritual preparation for the meeting with Penelope." Clark paused to see reactions. There was mild surprise on Dot's face, but Carrie seemed to understand.
I continued. "Our hope is that nothing out of the ordinary will happen, and that is the intent of the prayer. However, we've learned that it doesn't hurt to be prepared."
"With your permission, I'd still like to accompany you to Serenity Center." He paused as the question was offered to Carrie. "I just won't be eating."
We asked if there were any questions. Carrie stated that Clark was still welcome to join her at Serenity Center. Dot was silent; I tried reading her expression, but couldn't. So, with that out of the way, we enjoyed the rest of our 'last meal' in the company of these two very special ladies.
Back at the hotel, I brought up an observation with Clark.
"How do we break it to Monk that his daughter and granddaughter are infatuated with us?" I asked, slightly tongue-in-cheek.
Clark surprised me with his three-word response. "And vice-versa?"
We looked at each other for a moment, then he added, "Besides, somehow I don't think this would be much of a surprise to Monk. Remember his comment that first day at their place?"
I nodded. "We were talking about Dot, and he asked me if I was single. Lea cut him off."
Clark nodded. "And don't you think it a BIT coincidental that Monk talked both me and Carrie into rollerblading?"
I related the incident earlier with the pizza. "Why that little old matchmaker," I mused, grinning at the thought of it all. "So the question arises: what do we do about it?"
"What indeed?" he replied. Then he smiled and returned to his reading.