Inside, Clark and I sat in the empty room, around an empty table. We'd been there for a couple of hours, waiting and praying. Suddenly I put my hand to my ear and stated, "They're here."
With a slight creak, the wooden doors opened and they walked in. The two men who stepped in looked like beachcombers, but their behavior was more akin to that of bodyguards. They stood to either side of the doorway and scanned the room, then one opened the door a bit and announced, "Secure, ma'am!" The doors opened again, and Patricia Savage strode in, commandingly, like General Patton reviewing the troops. Clark and I sat for a moment longer, then stood. Clark stepped smoothly to the center of the dance floor.
Pat spoke confidently. "I told you I'd be back for you. And, as you can see, I'm not alone."
Clark beamed a wide smile and spread his arms out welcomingly. "Pat! How good to see you. And your entourage, too."
She didn't smile. "Your cheerfulness is somewhat out of place, cousin." She paused. "You were a fool to stay here. It's time to go." She turned to man on her left. "Kane?" The man reached into his windbreaker and came back with a chromed automatic which he held at the ready.
I took my place to Clark's right. "You're not taking him anywhere -- not now, not later."
She looked at me with defiance. "And you think you two are going to stop us?"
I prayed that the transceiver tucked neatly away in my ear was still working, then stepped forward boldly, standing between Clark and his three adversaries.
I caught the glare of the man with the gun and switched into 'preacher mode.' "He who has ears to hear, let him hear!" I announced boldly, then followed with a couple of quotes from the duel between David and Goliath: "'You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty.' 'All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord's, and He will give all of you into our hands.' And as far as us being only two . . . I don't think so."
That was the cue. The doors opened behind and around us, and Monk, Renny, Johnny, Amy, and Dot walked in. With all the precision of a drill team, they silently moved into position behind Clark. Johnny carried a small toolbox. Amy and Dot wore matching black leather jumpsuits, and Dot had a bowler hat at a rakish angle on her head. In her hand was a black walking cane. As they formed a wide vee shape with Clark at the point, I stepped back and took my position next to Dot. She placed the bowler on my head with a tap, and passed the cane to me. Touching the bowler and feeling the cane in my hand, I felt an 'Avengers' moment coming on.
From left to right we stood strong: Monk, me, Dot, Clark, Amy, Johnny, and Renny.
Clark spoke softly but firmly, "Leave now and no one need be harmed."
Seeing how the odds were suddenly shifted against her, she spoke a command to Kane. He pulled out a walkie-talkie with his free hand and spoke into it.
I heard something in my ear. In a low voice I announced, "We're gonna have company."
Fifteen seconds later, the main doors into the ballroom opened and more men filed in, making a total of ten. They fanned out before her in a parallel vee formation. Then, as one, they all drew their weapons, pointed ceilingward. A deadly chorus line, I thought.
Pat laughed. "I suspected you'd try this maneuver, cousin. Pitiful. I doubt that a bunch of . . . old men, a couple of girls, and a . . . a preacher are going to stop my armed guards from doing my will."
"Excuse me?" added Johnny. "Did you say 'armed'? I'm terribly sorry, but that's no longer a fact." He gestured to the box. "Our dear departed comrade Long Tom invented this little gadget quite some time ago. It produces a hypersonic frequency that renders your firearms useless. Oh, don't take my word for it -- please examine your weapons." He smiled.
With a mutually skeptical expression, Pat and Kane exchanged glances, and he checked his automatic. With a curse, he confirmed the potency of Long Tom's legacy. "Hand to hand," he commanded, holstering his weapon.
Renny grimly commented, "Hand to hand?" Then, cracking his knuckles, his bearded face broke into a massive grin. "I'm gonna enjoy this."
Monk picked up on the attitude. He pointed to the guards on the end closest to him and announced, "These four are mine. You all can divvy up the rest."
"Greedy," replied Renny with a disgusted expression.
Monk looked back, appalled. "Greedy?" he said, almost-comically. "If you recall, a few years ago I would'a taken on alla these boy scouts without your help. However, I've mellowed in my old age."
"HEY!" yelled Pat, freezing the exchange and its participants. "What do you think this is, 1945, and you're back in New York? This is no joking matter! My guards outnumber you two-to-one, and they can hurt you -- badly! Just turn Doc over to us and no one will be hurt!"
Monk spoke up. "If your guards are such hot stuff, Patty, how come you needed to bring along so many of them? Ten of them against seven of us. Sounds like you're bluffin' about how good your boy scouts are." He looked directly at the group. With a wicked smile, he quoted from an old song: "'And the man in the back said 'Everyone attack', and it turned into a Ballroom Blitz . . .'"
Then there was silence. Clark pleaded for a peaceful solution. "Please, Pat. Don't let it come down to this. Leave and no one will be hurt."
Pat stood defiant. "Not without you."
There was no turning back. I prayed and wondered who'd make the first move. I didn't have to wait long.
Monk bared his teeth animal-like, raised his hands like claws, and growled, "C'mon, Patty -- let's dance!"
Pat's reaction was immediate: "GET 'EM!"
With a battle roar and a charge like an angry bear, Monk bounded forward and launched a vicious backfist that took the guard on the end by surprise as he took a step in. With the crunch of breaking bones, he flew backwards into a table. Before he landed, the simian chemist grabbed the next one in line by the jacket front and pulled with all his might. The guard saw Monk's grinning face for only an instant before their heads collided with a sickening thud.
From the opposite end, Renny stepped into the advance of two fierce looking guards. His face was a grim mask, which meant he was having the time of his life. He sparred with one guard, letting him get in a couple of easy shots. Then he turned left, delivering a sledgehammer right into the midsection of one guard, and crossed over with his left into the face into the other guard.
Dot and I glanced at each other and smiled. Without warning, I got my answer. Then we started stepping back in unison. Two guards followed us, trying to look as intimidating as possible. We smiled and stood there. "Ready," I said. "Set," answered Dot. Lifting the cane tip up and pressing the stud that extended the six inches of sword blade, I announced, "Go!" Then we charged.
I waved the sword cane at the guard, pretending like I didn't know what I was doing -- not far from the truth -- then suddenly dropped the tip and poked it through the guard's pants and into his shin. He let out a yell, but continued to advance towards me -- now angrier than before. I took a step back and pressed the stud on the cane again to retract the blade. Then I swiftly swung it over my head and brought the opposite end down on the top of the guard's head with a crack. The combination of the knockout drug on the blade and the rap on the head made the difference, and the guard rolled his eyes and dropped to the edge of the dance floor, out cold.
I looked to Dot. Her opponent wasn't underestimating her skill. He delivered a couple of kicks that sent Dot down, but she bounced back up and countered with a leg swing to his legs. He went down, and she delivered two rapid punches to his head to render him unconscious. I said her name and offered her a hand up. Renny passed before us as she stood and made a quick check for any damage.
Meanwhile, Amy and Johnny were involved in some difficulty of their own. One guard had advanced on them and caught Johnny a stunning blow, sending him down. Amy faced off the guard, then smiled and took a ballet pose. As the guard looked at her, she suddenly became a whirling weapon, delivering several blows to the guard before he could respond. Her movement was so fast, and her strikes so stunning, that he couldn't catch her. The combined attack took its toll within a few seconds, and he fell. She looked down, then smiled and went to attend to Johnny.
One guard moved in on Clark. They sparred for a few tense moments, until Clark saw a window of opportunity. The guard swung, missed, and Clark stepped behind the punch and delivered a decisive elbow to the back of the man's neck. A spin and a second punch rendered him unconscious. He turned at the sound of laughter to see Kane, the chief of the guards, advancing. With a grin that bordered on maniacal glee, Kane taunted, "C'mon, Savage . . . let's see if you've still got the killer instinct."
"Y'know what one man can do with the jawbone of an ass?" quipped Clark with a confidant grin. "Well, your's will do just fine."
The two men circled one another, measuring each other's style. Clark saw the intent and led him on. Then, at just the right moment, Clark released a yell and lived up to his name, taking his cues from Monk. His berserker-style threw Kane off and Clark's bronze sledgehammer arms made short work of the self-assured chief of the guard. Ten seconds later, bloodied and bruised, Kane dropped face first to the dance floor.
A sudden scream of agony from Monk drew all eyes in his direction. Another guard had caught him by surprise and smashed a chair across his back. He was kicking him when he was suddenly seized by the corded hands of Clark and pulled straight up off the floor. Then he was swung around, making two full circles, before he was abruptly released. Unable to control his momentum, he flew straight into the twin outstretched fists of Renny Renwick. The last expression on his face before impact was shock and dismay.
Then, as quickly as it had began, it was over. We stood wounded and bruised but Kane's forces were out for the count. Monk and Johnny were being attended to, and there was the sound of much labored breathing.
I suddenly remembered Pat. Recognizing defeat, she had been inching towards the main doors. Now she made a break for it. "She's heading your way," I said into the transceiver moments before she vanished through the doors.
Seconds passed. Suddenly, the doors splintered as a body crashed through and flew backwards, hitting the floor in a thud and skidding several feet before stopping. Even I was shocked by the display. All eyes were on what remained of the doors, waiting to see what would happen next.
The redhead, dressed in jeans and sweatshirt, strode into the room, rubbing her knuckles. Her expression was cold sober. She stood over the very-unconscious form of Patricia Savage.
"Pleasant dreams, Mother," said Carrie.
The van pulled up at the small clearing where the Osprey had landed. The door opened and the pilot stood in the doorway. I stepped out from the van. I still wore the bowler. I kinda liked it.
"You're not Mr. Kane," he observed, reaching for a weapon.
"No, I'm not. And you'll find that your gun doesn't work," I said. "Check it out. I'll wait."
He did, and looked at me with fear. "What do you want?"
"I want you to do your job, that's what. I have Mr. Kane and his associates. Take 'em home."
"If you've hurt Ms. Penelope . . . ," he threatened.
I had to give her credit, she sure had loyal employees. "She's fine. They're all fine," I assured him. "They're sleeping, and might need a little medical attention, but they'll survive. Now give us a hand."
I slapped twice on the side of the van. The back doors opened and Clark jumped out. Monk lowered Pat into his open arms, and he carried her limp form to the Osprey. We had cleaned her up and Clark did a quick reset on her broken nose. There was still a little bruising and some swelling where Carrie's fist had made contact. And as for the damage caused by her flight through the doors and subsequent crash landing -- well, she'd live, but she'd probably be sitting on a large pillow for awhile, and might need to see a chiropractor.
And she definitely wouldn't be very pleasant to be around when she came to.
The pilot and I carried one man each, while Monk followed with Kane over his shoulder. As I reached the familiar craft, I saw Clark carefully strapping Pat into a seat. He paused over her, then got down on his knees, placed a hand on hers, and bowed his head as he prayed for his cousin. As he stood, he paused long enough to kiss her gently on the forehead.
It took about ten minutes to pack the Osprey, and we instructed the pilot to drive carefully. With a puzzled look, he retreated into the aircraft, closed the hatch, and expertly lifted into the air and away. The three of us watched while standing next to the van, then we climbed into the cab and headed back for the banquet hall.
We had a party to attend.
As we drove back, Monk opened up to us. "I'm scared, guys. Carrie wasn't supposed to know Pat was her momma. I don't know how she found out. I'm just afraid she won't be able to forgive me for what I did, and keepin' it from her for all these years."
I made a suggestion. "Let's pray, and leave it in God's hands. It'll all work out."
A few moments after we finished praying, I said, "Monk? I'd like to talk to you about something . . ."
The party was in gear. The damage had been cleared out, the traces of blood cleaned from the floor, and now platters of food were spread out on the large tables. Amy and Dot had changed out of their jumpsuits and into something a little more casual. To the right, Johnny, Dot, and Amy were watching a tape playing on one of our TV/VCRs. To the left, Renny was interpreting something to Amanda. Lea came out from the kitchen with another plate of food, placing it on the long buffet table. Carrie was standing by the table as she saw us come in, and walked to meet her father. I headed for the table where Dot was, and Clark headed for Renny.
"How did you get these marvelous pictures, Dot?" I overheard as I approached.
"Well, I got a couple of small camcorders a while back. I placed one on the shelf next to the kitchen, and the other on the deck rail outside the window. I looked at it this way: moments like this come along only once in a lifetime. I wanted a record of it. Besides, had Pat actually won and taken off with Doc, it would make good evidence. Either way, it would be to our advantage."
He nodded with admiration. "Excellent, my dear." He turned to Amy. "And my particular thanks for saving my proverbial bacon. I regret, my fighting prowess has diminished considerably over the years."
"It was nothing, sir. Father knew I would need to protect myself. And I admit a fondness for Jackie Chan movies." She smiled innocently.
Dot had moved around and was massaging his shoulders and back. "Now, you're sure you're going to be all right?" she asked, concerned.
"All right? I'm included in a skirmish the likes of which I haven't experienced in over forty years, and now two beautiful women are doting over me." He smiled seraphically. "Oh, yes. I'm doing nicely, despite the aches." He paused, then added, "And if you continue rubbing my back in that manner, I may acquiesce my position on May-December matrimonies."
She kissed him on the top of the head and laughed. Then, as she saw me, she left his side and rushed into my arms. I kissed her.
"Have I missed much?" I asked.
"Only Johnny's proposal of marriage. Would you care to make a counter-offer?" she grinned.
"Perhaps," I replied with a straight face. "I'll have to talk to Johnny first, however."
Lea came over to us and looked at Dot. "Andy wants to talk to the family. Perry, could you join us?"
I was surprised. "Why me?"
She just smiled and walked away.
I shrugged and looked at Dot. "Why not?"
I joined them around one of the large tables. Monk was standing, a reluctant and nervous patriarch. "Okay. It's time we got some things cleared up. Carrie," he said, looking at his firstborn daughter. "I gotta repent t'ya for bein' a sloppy example of a father -- hangin' onto that emotional crap all these years. I wuz afraid that ya'd hate me for what I done. Can ya forgive this overgrown baboon?"
Carrie's expression was empathetic. "Dad, how can I possibly hate you? You and Pat gave me life. But you and mom --" Her head tilted in Lea's direction. "-- gave me love."
He smiled, relieved. Then ventured, "So, how did you know?"
She paused with a smile. "Do you really think I could look in the mirror at these gold-flecked eyes, day after day, and not get curious? So I talked to mom, and she told me."
He looked at Lea, but she spoke first. "I couldn't lie to her, Andy. And since you never brought it up, I didn't think twice about it."
There was silence for many moments. All eyes were upon the simian patriarch. Then he looked over at Carrie. "Okay. I'm the chump," he shrugged. "Now, how did you know about our little ambush?"
Dot coughed and said, "That would be me."
Monk turned to her and waited.
"When we were planning this little rumble, we needed a backup to cover the outside. To make a long story short, I called mom and asked her if she wanted to get in on the action. I also asked her to bring Granddad Ham's sword cane and a bowler hat that used to belong to dad. I brought Perry in on it, because he was coordinating things with the transceiver, and he could use the cane for additional protection."
Carrie added, "I let Perry know when Pat first showed, then when her backup army was approaching, and he let me know Pat was on her way out, so I could get into position."
Monk nodded understanding. "Speaking of which, what did happen out there with Pat?"
"Well," recalled Carrie. "When Perry alerted me, I quickly ran to the door. She came bolting out a moment later, and I stopped her. She tried to get around me, but I blocked her way. She ordered me to get out of the way, and threw a punch at me when I wouldn't move. I easily blocked it. I told her that she was going back in, and took a step towards her. She threw another punch at me, calling me a . . . well, never mind what she called me. I blocked the punch with my left, and punched back with my right." She paused, and flashed a guilty smile. "I guess I hit her a bit . . . hard."
Monk's mouth went slack. "Hard? Hard? Sweetheart . . . you sent her THROUGH a pair o' wood doors and sent her skidding six feet!"
Carrie just grinned sheepishly and shrugged.
Monk was quiet. We were all looking in his direction, and he was looking at us. I felt the emotional upheaval before he actually gave it words. "Lea . . . Carrie . . . Dottie. I am a very . . . blessed man." He looked from person to person. "I am very blessed to be your husband, your father, and your grandfather." Now the tears were forming. "I praise God for y'all. And if I had it t' do all over again, I wouldn't change a thing -- 'cause of you three. You've made this . . . old . . . man . . . very proud."
There wasn't a dry eye at the table. Lea was first to his side, followed closely by Carrie and Dot. And I just praised God for all the wonderful things He had done.
And would do.
In another part of the room, a silent conversation was taking place between Clark, Renny, and Amanda. They watched the meeting, and the group hug, and Renny commented in grandiose gestures, "I have never felt so young in my life!"
"That seems to be very popular," replied Clark, smiling.
The meeting over, we disbursed to enjoy the party.
Monk, however, was facing a small confrontation, as Renny and Johnny backed him towards a corner. I spotted it and got Clark's attention. We covered him from a distance.
Renny spoke first. "Your daughter Carrie referred to Pat as 'mother'. What gives?"
"Yes," emphasized Johnny. "What haven't you told us?"
The anthropoid-like Monk bumped the wall and looked from man to man. Then he saw me and Clark, and I gave him a thumbs up to assure him we were supporting him.
He took a deep breath and exhaled it in a sigh. "Yeah. It's true. Pat and I got together. It was long ago, after we all split up. Pat wasn't in Greece recoverin' from the loss of her eye -- she was having our child." He paused, looking each of them in the eye. Waiting for the reactions. "Look. I could give you all kinds of details, but it's ancient history. So waddya say, guys? Are we friends -- or do you wanna beat the rest of the crap outta me?" He held out his hands, palms up.
They looked at one another, then at Monk. Renny opened his mouth twice to speak, then closed it.
"So . . . how was it?" asked Johnny, grinning. Renny was nodding agreement.
Monk looked left and right, then leaned in. "Extraordinary," he whispered, like a schoolboy reporting to his fellows about a hot date. And they all laughed, slapping Monk on the back in triumph. "If you repeat this to anyone, especially Lea -- I'll rip your arms off an' feed 'em to ya," he threatened with a toothy grin.
Offside, Clark read their lips and translated to me. We bent over double with laughter.
We all assembled around the large tables. With bottles of champagne and sparking apple cider circulating, we offered tributes in the form of toasts.
Clark started things off by lifting his glass. "I'd like to propose a toast. To friends. To the friends who have gone on before us --" He turned to face the table where Ham's sword cane and Long Tom's gadget box rested, and lifted the glass in salute. "-- and to the friends we have faced life and death with --" He saluted Monk, Renny, and Johnny in turn. "-- and to those friends whom we owe so very much to --" He turned to me and Dot and saluted us. His voice was emotional, and I felt my eyes starting to mist. "-- I offer this toast."
We raised our glasses and drank.
Monk looked at Renny and signaled for a toast. "Our turn. To the women in our lives," he said, looking deep into Lea's eyes.
"-- and the ways they've tolerated us all these years," Renny added looking at Amanda, and signing.
"-- and have stayed at our sides for better and for worse," Monk concluded. "A toast."
We raised our glasses and drank.
Johnny raised his glass. "To Pat," he said simply, honoring the 'other woman' in all their lives. There was an uncomfortable pause. Then, nodding slowly, the men went "amen" in agreement, lifted their glasses, and drank.
"To all the fights, scuffles, brawls, scrapes, and battles we fought," toasted Monk.
"To all the ones we walked away from," added Renny.
"And to the thankful few they had to carry us away from," amended Johnny with a grin.
We raised our glasses and drank.
Amy was next. She lifted her glass. "To new friends -- and new adventures!"
We raised our glasses and drank.
Toasts continued, and glasses were refilled. It was finally time. I turned to Dot on my right and smiled. Then I turned to Clark on my left and lowered my head in a nod. He nodded back. "I have a toast to propose." All eyes turned towards me. "Actually, there is no toast . . ." I swung my glass left and Clark's hand smoothly took it from my hand. "However -- I do have a proposal." In a single move, I turned right to face Dot, glided down to one knee, and took her free hand in mine. Those wonderful soft brown eyes of hers that met with mine were in the early stages of shock, and her face was starting to match the hue of her hair. "Dot . . . will you marry me?"
She paused. Her mouth was open, but no sound came from it. Then: "Yes. Yes." She smiled and sighed, "Oh, yes."
Our audience suddenly exploded in cheering, led by Monk's whoops and clapping. I stood, and Dot put her arms around me. "You snot," she whispered into my ear with a grin. Then she kissed me.
"Here's to Perry and Dot!" yelled Monk, lifting his glass. "Here's to great-grandchildren!"
Monk was suddenly caught in a crossfire of elbows launched from Lea on his left and Carrie on his right, causing his face to contort and all the air in his lungs to explode from him. The movement also caused his glass to fly from his hand, hitting Renny on the back. As the big man turned to see who had gotten him wet, all Monk could do was gasp and point frantically at the two women next to him. He looked to each of them, and they simply blinked and looked as innocent as children. Renny growled and started to grab Monk by the collar when Amanda tapped him on the arm, wanting to talk to the newly-engaged couple. Releasing Monk's shirt and turning away, he missed the high-five between Lea and Carrie.
Everyone gathered around us, slapping us on the back, shaking our hands, hugging us, wishing us well.
It was a glorious day. A very glorious day.
As the afternoon wore on, and the party continued, the thoughts gradually shifted from the past to the future.
Clark looked up to see Monk, Johnny, and Renny. They stood together, smiling as one.
Monk acted as spokesman. "Doc, we wanted ya to be the first t' hear. Me, Renny, and Johnny are gonna work the land the College is on. First we're gonna let Johnny and his archaeology students give it the once-over to see if there's anythin' there worth holdin' onto -- who knows what still might be buried 'round there. Then we're gonna erase it from the face of the earth, and turn it over to our master engineer, here. He's gonna put up somethin' a bit more worthwhile -- a private school that'll teach it like it is, and show 'em how to do it right. We're gonna call it the Savage Institute -- if that's okay with you, that is."
The three of them stood proudly. In Clark's eyes the years melted away, and the three became five . . . then six. And all was well with the world.
"I would be honored," he replied through moist eyes.
As the trio moved towards a table to do some outlining, I saw Clark look to the window -- dusk was approaching -- and then he casually stood and walked onto the deck that overlooked the beach. He stood at the railing for a couple of minutes, then, without looking back, headed for the steps.
I gave him a moment, then followed.
It was just after sunset. The waves were sea-green cresting to white foam, with grey-green past the waves. Off in the distance, the clouds had lifted just enough to reveal a ribbon of blue paralleling the horizon. The clouds were grey, white, billowy, with an occasional smooth opening to reveal blue sky beyond.
Clark stood on the beach. He closed his eyes for a moment and listened to the sounds: children playing in the pool of the 'D' River to his right; dogs yapping, waves constantly roaring and crashing, seagulls calling to one another as they glided silently about. He heard an unfamiliar flapping, and looked up at the kite someone was sailing, its airfoil design banking and curving gracefully in the wind. On an impulse, he reached down and removed his shoes and socks. For a moment he felt like a child again, the sand squishing between his powerful toes. He smiled, then started walking down the beach.
Occasionally he paused, drawn to the waves, oddly fascinated by them. One wave crashed to shore. Another wave was right behind it, threatening to overcome it -- but then was overcome itself, by the first wave drawn back to the sea. One force countering another force. Over and over again. The only thing stopping the second wave from flooding the shore was the one just before it, returning to where it started. "I've studied the physics of waves," he said aloud. "But now I see them differently. I see Your hand in it, keeping the waves under control. Your wind keeps the kite in the air, and gives the gulls something to glide on. I've never seen it that way before."
He looked up at the sky, beyond the horizon. "So now what?" he asked.
And, from inside, he heard. "I am the God that created you. I am the God that brought you to this moment. And I am the God who can take you the rest of your journey. Follow Me. Let Me."
I stood at the seawall, silently watching. A few moments later, I felt Dot at my side. I knew this was his crossroad, and I silently prayed that God's will would be done. Suddenly, the large bronze man fell to his knees on the sand. We paused a moment, waiting. "Is he okay?" asked Dot casually. "Oh, yes," I replied. All I felt was peace. There was no cause for alarm. A moment later, Dot's hand slipped around mine; it was comfortably warm. "Go to him. It's where you need to be," she said. I squeezed her hand briefly, then released it and started walking slowly down to the beach. Clark never heard me, as I approached and placed a hand softly on his shoulder. He turned to face me. Moist eyes, wet tracks, and a grin told me all I needed to know.
"You got your answer," I said. He nodded once. I moved around and sat down cross-legged in the sand. He turned and sat down next to me.
"Can I share something with you?" I asked respectfully.
"Please," he invited.
"What have you done all your life, Clark? What were you raised practically from birth to do? Fight evil. You fought the bad guys, solved the mysteries, helped the common man, rescued the damsel in distress. Rather than killing all the bad guys, you tried to help them. Only when it was inevitable did you take or allow life to be taken. You wanted to get rid of the evil tendencies and give them new lives as productive citizens. Well, Jesus Christ does the same thing. He takes a sinner, cleans them up through His own blood, then gives them a brand new start. 'Therefore, if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things have passed away; behold, all things are become new.'
"You ask yourself what can you do? Well, for one, you don't give up. Then you continue to fight the bad guys. But realize just who the bad guy is. It's Satan himself. When you last tried fighting him, it was a losing battle because it was on his turf, and you didn't have a leg to stand on. But now, with Jesus Christ in you, you are more than a match for anything he throws at you. But remember the rules of battle -- it's not a flesh and blood battle we fight, but a spiritual one. And even then, it's already been won at the cross, so you're a winner without having to lift a fist."
"So what do I do?" he asked.
"You take the battle to those who don't know how to fight, and show them how to. Take the gospel to the people. And Jesus will take care of the rest."
"You're suggesting I become an evangelist as yourself?"
"Yes. You could do it. You are a very commanding figure -- people would pay attention to what you have to say, especially if you accompany it with love. You used to help people. You still can. You used to operate anonymously. You still can. And you can be anonymous for the right reasons. You can be more that you used to be, because it's Jesus Christ empowering you."
"So what's your plan?" he asked. "I assume you have a plan."
I grinned. "Indeed I do. We take this show back on the road, like the early range riders. Maybe get a couple of bigger RVs and travel around. Go wherever God leads us. Do whatever God wants us to do." I paused, then emphasized, "Like we have been doing."
"What about Dot?"
"Look, Clark. Our paths were joined when you stepped into the Mission. Both of our lives led up to that moment, and they haven't been the same since. Besides, why do you think Dot and I can't be part of this, too? We're a team."
"A team," he repeated, as if the concept was new to him. He was silent for a moment or two. Then he reached over placed a large hand on my shoulder. "We have been a team, haven't we? We need one another, and there's much we can teach one another." He grinned. "I like it."
"Praise the Lord!" I exclaimed. "This is going to be glorious!"
"Amen," Doc agreed.
"You got room for three on this beach?" came the voice of Dot, approaching. We turned to her and beckoned. She flopped down on the sand with us.
As I took her hand in mine, I observed, "Sometimes, you never know what God has in mind until you get there."
"Amen," agreed Clark. "Let's pray." Then as one we faced the ocean, bowed our heads, and sealed the covenant in prayer.