5 Hard Choices

Long, long before two daughters of a televangelist with a billion dollar portfolio of books, tapes, films, “ministry” cruises and tours, conferences, TV programs, and an Internet website offering on-line counseling, End-Time eschatology, and motivational messages--long before all this took shape, it was all in the eye of a certain woman, the first woman on earth, in fact. Adam the woman (for she had not yet received her name from her husband) was gazing at the one tree and fruit of the garden she knew God had forbidden her to eat of. But the Serpent, standing erect and shimmering with opalescent reds, greens, purples and other pretty colors, after singling out this tree as one she could not eat from, so that the woman began to focus on it, had gone on to speak encouragingly, advising her to take and eat the fruit in order to make her wise as God, able to know good and evil.

Why not? she thought. It hardly seemed fair, to be kept from anything so desirable in appearance and promised blessing by Someone who was always telling them what to do. Who would see her anyway? Adam was off somewhere in the garden. The Creator wasn’t walking by just then. It was just her, the charming serpent, and the Tree. The moment she took a bite of the fruit she picked, she felt a shuddering thrill pass down from her head to her toes. She felt for a moment like she could defy anything to stop her, the Woman, who now could tell good and evil like the Creator himself. She was a changed, new, released Woman! Nothing could stop her now! Not her husband! Not the Creator! All this and more coursed through her the moment after she ate of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Then a curious feeling followed the thrill, as if the taste of the fruit had turned stale and yeasty in her mouth. And something like scales fell from her eyes. She saw her breasts were completely naked, and there was the serpent staring at them. She felt uneasy somehow, with his gaze upon her body. She looked further at herself, and noticed her lower parts were showing to the serpent’s gaze as well. Quickly, she clapped a hand over them and moved back away from the tree and the serpent. But then she heard someone coming. Adam! Immediately, she had to show him the wonderful thing that had happened to her, so he could feel what she had just felt--the thrill of being master of everything, the thrill of being like God. Adam must feel the same thing with her! she decided. She hadn’t died, had she? Nothing had hurt her. So what would be the harm if he joined her?

“Oh, my beloved, beloved husband!” she called in a sweet voice. “Come to me,” she urged him. “I have something for you to eat. It is very good.” She had the fruit in her hand, half-eaten, and she went up to him as he approached her, flowers in his hands for her, and brushing them away put her arm around him and pushed her breasts against him as she pressed the fruit to his lips and into his mouth. He balked a moment, confused and uneasy, and removed the fruit. “But what fruit is this?” he said, though he knew very well what it was. His response made her press on him all the more both herself and the fruit. “Oh, it is the fruit that we must not eat of, but I have eaten of it, and it is so good, my husband. It will make you feel so good too. You’ll see! But you must eat to see what I see!” She rubbed her body all the more vigorously on his, and together they dropped to the luxuriant grass, and she fed it to him like a child as she moved her thighs upon his own. He ate and made love to her, for the first time, from beneath her. They fell asleep. When he awoke, he was chilled in his body when the wind blew on him, and he rose up, leaving her a moment while he went into a stream to wash...he felt tainted and dirty somehow. He washed himself and also his lips and face, but when he came back he glanced at himself and saw what he looked like. He saw his wife awake and staring at him. Ashamed, he did not know what to think.

Had he always been this naked? he wondered. He had not noticed it before—how open to view his genitals were. It was almost an ugly, disturbing sight to his eye, but what could he do? He also looked at his wife and saw, with equal surprise, her naked, exposed parts, and she turned her body away to avoid his probing eyes. Aroused to a point he could not think of anything else, he grabbed her and forced her down beneath him upon a mat of grass. This time she felt no desire for him, yet he overpowered her reluctance. Adam found mating no longer as pleasurable as it had once been, and his wife’s struggle against him made his desire all the more violent but not more satisfying . His desire dead, he felt deep disgust for her.

Then, at the same time, they remembered it was late, and the Creator would be coming in the cool of the evening to talk with them as usual. They stiffened at the thought. It horrified them, to think the Creator would see them so naked, unwashed and smelling of love-making. What could they do? Frantically, Adam rushed about among the trees, pulling leaves and trying to make some sort of covering for himself. When he had finished with himself, he got some leaves for his wife, who was pleading for something to cover her too. Then, though covered, they fled, unable to bear being seen--the sense of their dirtiness and nakedness growing so strong with every passing moment even as they heard the footsteps of the Creator who was coming in the midst of a shining Glory.

They ran so fast that they ran into things like badly frightened rabbits. Adam stumbled, went down, and his companion’s foot caught him hard in the naked rear, treading on him where a man is most tender particularly after love-making, and she too went down. In a tangle of limbs they gasped for breath and looked out fearfully through the tree trunks and shrubs to see if they had been followed. Now his wife was not a small woman, by any means. Nor was her foot a small, dainty thing, as she was a fullsome woman in every limb and part as the Creator had made her in order to match Adam’s size and strength. Wincing from the pain his companion’s foot had dealt his half-bruised testicles, Adam tried to think of some way to shift the blame. By the time the glorious Creator had caught up to them, Adam had recovered his breath, and knew what he could say to put himself in a better position than the woman. How surprised he was when the Creator, instead of asking about the tree, asked,

“Where are you?”

Adam, unsure what the Creator wanted, thinking the Creator could surely see them and need not ask where they were, replied, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.” That sounded like the truth to his own ears, but the Creator said:

“Who told you that you were naked?”

Astounded, Adam and his wife looked at each other helplessly. What could he say to that? Adam broke down completely, now hating the woman for what had been done to him, making him naked, afraid, sweat pouring from him, and feeling like a beast that is hunted. So he said: “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.” The woman, of course, was surprised, then angry when she heard Adam’s vigorous self-defense, his claiming it was not his fault at all but all hers, that she alone bore the weight of the act of his taking of the tree’s fruit to eat! Stung in her pride and feeling abandoned and betrayed, she cast about for something to blame, and she said: “The serpent beguiled me,” meaning the creature the Creator had made and put in the garden. So then, she was not at fault as her own husband had claimed! At least she hoped that much... and was crushed when she, with Adam, discovered the Creator could not be deceived at any point.

On the contrary, he proceeded to curse them all, each in turn, beginning with the serpent, which was stripped of his feet and made to crawl on his belly across the earth, and, furthermore, told that his head would be bruised by the “Seed of Woman,” whose heel in turn would be bruised by the serpent, / Finished with it, the Creator turned to the woman, increasing the pain of childbirth and making her subservient to the rule of her husband in a way she had not been--for it had been love, not force that had caused her to serve him in the past. Now it would be fear of his greater strength that dominated her response to him and efforts to get free if she could, or dominate him if she could, she being fatally weaker by nature. Last of all the Creator dealt with Adam whom He had first fashioned to govern the earth and all its creatures as well as fellowship with Him in the cool of the evening, something no animals could ever do. To the frightened, defensive, sweaty and smelly man, the Creator said in sorrowing tones:

“Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth to you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; and to dust you shall return.”

There it was: the ground was cursed, it would be hard to make grow the plants they needed to eat of, and thistles and other weeds would spring up more readily than the sown seed of grain or the other useful plants, choking their efforts. Moreover, he would sweat hard to get their living from the ground, the very dust of which would daily remind him that he would die and return to dust one coming day. How miserable they felt then, with these curses heavy upon their naked backs. It was then the Creator slew certain small cattle and took the soft, fleecy skins and clothed them, so that they learned how they could do it for themselves and not have to bear the shame of their nakedness. Taking the clothes, Adam and his wife did not think of thanking him, they felt such relief after feeling so naked and vulnerable. Then the heavenly-winged warrior servants of the Creator appeared, shining bright and holding bright, fearsome staffs of flame, driving them away and out of the garden, shutting the way to the tree of life. How they wept and pleaded, but it was no use. “As you have chosen to become, so you must die, lest your evil live forever in you!” they were told. Nevertheless, Adam and his wife argued with them. “Give us another chance! We’ll not eat of the tree again! We promise! Please let us remain here in our home!”

The warrior servants of the Creator would not listen, and drove them out, then stood guarding the gate against them. It was a dark day, which Adam recorded in his mental diary and told over and over to many generations during his over nine hundred years of remaining life. By the time he returned to dust he had opened his eyes not once but twice. The first time was when he ate of the forbidden tree and fruit, and he saw his nakedness and felt deeply dirty and ashamed. The tree had not made him like the Creator so much as like something that creeps on the ground, to run and hide itself under a rock or log when a man approaches. How much lower could he sink than that? Adam had to wonder. The second time he opened his eyes was when he saw the promised coming Seed of Woman as his great advocate, who one day would come in power over evil and death and raise him from the dust. Seeing this even though his eyes could not see it, he believed the word given him by the Creator, and then the father of all humankind breathed his last breath.

Even while luv heat, the wrinkled but still glamorous thug and former drug lord from the Big Ap contacted his friend MJ, returning his call to accept a spot in MJ’s World Peace gig, his various victims--the middle-class honkies he and his giant industry milked yearly for a quarter of a billion bucks, returned from the flop of a concert to their various homes. As for Dreem and her friends, it wasn’t an option. After what they had seen happen, the concert left more than a bad taste in their mouths. The gansta rapper himself had not said anything, or done anything, to help the girl struck by the lightning. While a dying, badly burned Dreem was having her heart restarted by the medics, Myrrha and Cassia had seen ZZ make up on the spot some kind of joke, even starting to rap on what had happened as if it could be cool too--but the crowd wasn’t listening to him anymore and was trying to get out of the stadium. So calling their dad to pick them up at the hospital, they had turned their backs on luv heat and left the stadium for the parking lot, forgetting the pizza and whatever else might have followed.

They said hardly a word on the way back from the hospital with their dad. The still nameless hunk wanted to talk to his girl-friend in the back seat with Cassia, but she wasn’t taking anything, and told him to shut up in a way that convinced him, and he quit bothering her. “That luv heat’s a creep big time,” Cassia said to her dad. “I got to see him close when he was leaving! He’s an old guy! And a real animal! After what happened to Dreem, he wasn’t even sorry for her. He’s really nothing but a loser. He’s just gutter garbage thinking he’s gold just because he can use all his money to glitter. I’m throwing his CD’s in the trash the moment I get home. How about you? How can anybody stand listening to him after how he acted today?” She turned to Myrrha and other girl. Her sister put up no protest, and shrugged.

After talking to Dreem’s parents who badly needed any kind of encouragement, Harry Turnbull drove Dream’s friend and boyfriend home first, with not one word from the tight-lipped man to the boy in fashionable ZZ-skully cap and do-rags as he crawled out and slouched away, his designer convict’s chain and his unbelted pants hanging half way to his knees. The girl, however, faced Cassia, and she was breathing hard as she tried to get the words out. “Yes, it was my idea, getting Dreem to do this concert, but I hope you don’t blame this flop on me. I had no idea what was going to happen. It’s just too bad for whoever she was. She was in the wrong place at the wrong time, that’s all.” Cassia shrugged. “I think we were too! I could have thrown up, when ZZ tried to make a stupid joke out of it!”

“Okay, you score a point!” Dreem’s friend said. “But I gotta go! Just don’t go and blame me, okay? I don’t need any enemies, now that I’m pregnant again and want to have the baby this time! If only I knew who was the father, that might help. Child support, I mean, if my parents force me out this time. They wouldn’t mind another abortion. But this is my third—or fourth—and I can’t keep doing it to my body, it’s driving me crazy inside. I can hardly sleep anymore--gotta take something every night to put me down.” “Of course, we won’t blame you,” said Cassia. “And good luck with the baby, if you still decide to have it. Dad? Maybe your church could help her, right?”

Pastor Turnbull, his eyes turning up, managed a grudging nod, then the car sped away. Arriving home, the father glanced at his watch, and turned to his daughters as they got out to go into the house. “We need to talk, not about this, but about some other things, like these pregnant friends of yours and what you’ve all been listening to. I had no idea. That’s really my fault, making latchkey kids of you by being too busy to know what you both were into! But we’re all too tired after what’s happened. It’ll be later, but not much later. Okay?” “Okay,” the sisters said, glumly, and watched him get back in the car and turn the corner leading to the church though it was 9:30 at night by then.

Myrrha turned to Cassia. “Now he knows it all. What are we going to do?” Cassia walked away. She paused after taking a few steps, and looked back. “Change, I guess! We’re going to have to change. I can’t go on this way any longer.” Myrrha shook her head and went to her room, slamming the door. In a moment the ZZ CD with gansta rap’s hottest hits was blasting through her door.

Cassia left the house, just to get some fresh air. Not wanting to alert her family, she saw a late-running bus going the right direction, and jumped on. A few miles away, she stepped off at her Grandma’s address. Later, returned by taxi to Bellwood just after midnight, she let herself in and went upstairs, and heard the gansta rap still going just like when she had left. Where was her dad? And Aloes? But her workaholic dad, she knew, often worked to 2 a.m. and sometimes 4.

Cassia, turning into her own room, shut the door, and stuffed blankets and pillows around it, to help keep the sound out, but it still came through the walls. Giving up, she took some extra-strength aspirin and then went and threw herself down on the bed. Sometime later she went to sleep. She dreamed she grabbed her sister’s shoulders. “It’s a dead end to go on thinking this way!” she told her. “You’ve got to change your thinking. I’ve just realized that. I’ve got to change mine too. The Lord’s not abandoned us. He left us behind because he still has a purpose for us here. It wasn’t fulfilled, and now we must find it out and do it. Don’t you see?” Her sister said nothing, just hanging her head over the edge of the bed. “All right,” she said to Myrrha. “Don’t believe me. But you’ll never know if I’m telling you the truth if you give up. Quit feeling sorry for yourself. I’m going to find the answer, with or without you.”

As she headed for the door, her sister called out, “I think you’re crazy! What about Mom? I suppose you think she’s included in God’s plan for us too, after what she did to us!” The dream brought Cassia up to a sitting position. It was so real she thought she was still in Myrrha’s room, pleading with her. What was it she had said to Myrrha’s taunt? She couldn’t remember, only that Myrrha had begun to sob and cry, “And what about Al—and Dad?” Now she remembered. “What about her?” she had said. “We’re all in this thing together—that’s just the way it is.” Strangely enough, it was Myrrha who came to Cassia first. Cassia, hearing a commotion in her sister’s room—like someone pounding on the wall—went out into the hall. Her luminous watch told her it was 3 a.m. Myrrha’s door was flung open, and Myrrha appeared, her arms full of crumpled, torn posters, showing ZZ, Tupakk and gansta rappers in do-rags or nothing at all. She saw Cassia, and threw them down. “Here!” she said. “You were right!”

A piece of a gansta rapper flew against Cassia’s foot, showing half of Tupakk’s shaved head and the caption: ONLY GOD CAN JUDGE ME. Cassia, going toward Myrhha stepped on Tupac’s smug, defiant mouth. Myrhha fell against the wall, and Cassia caught her by the arms. What they said was a word-for-word repeat of her dream. Finally, they got to the point where Cassia said, “I don’t know about Dad or Al, but I do know there’s something planned for you and me! I’ve got to find it out. I already know—” She took a deep breath. “—well Grandma must have prayed we would find it.” Myrrha showed no sign she was listening any more, so Cassia let her go. But suddenly her eyes opened, and she sank down and sat, looking up at Cassia. Cassia decided to try one last time. “You’ll give it a try with me?” “Yes,” said Myrrha.

A few moments passed while both absorbed the changed situation. Then Cassia spoke. “I went over to Grandma’s last night after we got back.” “You did? So what?” “Just so I could feel near to her again—if I could. I was lucky. I had to wake up the manager, but still he let me in without a key. He said for me to please take whatever of Grandma’s meant anything to us, because the police were wrecking the place. Police had been there a dozen times at least, she said. It was a mess. I was there by myself when I saw the pieces come together—like a puzzle! What helped me was this poem Grandma had cut out. It was lying right on the floor with other scattered papers, and it caught my eye as I was leaving and I stopped and read the whole thing.” She pulled it from her pocket and read. You want to hear it?

Myrrha shrugged. “Sure. What have I got to lose?” Her voice trembling, Cassia began to read.

“’When He Shall Come’ by Almeda J. Pearce

“’When He shall come, resplendent in His glory, to take His own from out this vale of night, O may I know the joy of His appearing, Only at morn to walk with Him in white!

“‘When I shall stand within the court of heaven where white-robed pilgrims pass before my sight— Earth’s martyred saints and blood-washed over-comers— These then are those who walk with him in white!

“’When He shall call, from earth’s remotest corners all who have stood triumphant in His might, O to be worthy then to stand beside them, And in that morn to walk with Him in white!’”

Cassia didn’t have to ask. She knew her sister was taking it in, and would say nothing until she had thought it all through first. “Read that part about the martyred saints again,” Myrrha said almost in a whisper. When Cassia had finished, Myrrha got up and went into her room, Cassia following. Myrrha sat down on the edge of her bed and ran her long, pianist fingers through her hair. Cassia sat down by her, and suddenly Myrhha threw her arms around Cassia. Together, they sat their, both in tears. Finally, Myrrha let Cassia go. They began talking and sharing, for the next hour or two. Finally, it was 5:30 in the morning, but they had not talked like that for years, and there was so much to catch up on. “I think we should tell Dad and Al what we’ve come to see.” “Yes,” said Myrrha, though they had been up all night. She sprang up. But when Aloes came home a short time later, he wasn’t at all convinced. He didn’t seem to like the idea Myrrha had about their all being martyred, just so they could wear white robes in heaven. They went to have a talk with their father, and the talk went about the same, except that he was more questioning than their brother. Disappointed, they gave up and went to bed. They didn’t see that the lights in the drive, their father finally coming home after catching up with work at his office.

Several days passed and the sisters said nothing about either the poem or their thoughts about God having a plan for them as a family. The subject seemed to have died a swift death. Getting breakfast, Myrrha turned to Cassia. An idea seemed to be forming, reflected in her eyes. “I don’t know how I know this—it’s really strange—but maybe I’m crazy, but—“ “What? What?” Cassia cried. “Quit torturing me!” Myrrha shook some “rain forest-saving,” “ecological” chocolate-covered kids’ cereal shaped like Harry Potter dragons and magicians into her bowl, not seeing that half of it went on the table. “Well, we’ve to one other person yet to see about this—before we can drop it or go on with it.” Cassia couldn’t eat. She dropped her spoon with a blue milk-drowned magician on it. “Who?” Myrrha took her bowl after pouring soy milk into it, and went to the family room and sat down. Without a spoon she was unconsciously doing as she had done as a little girl—picking out her cereal with her fingers (a habit that had driven her fastidious mother to climbing the wall!)

Cassia handed her a forgotten spoon, and Myrrha took it. But she didn’t say anything. Instead she looked up toward the portrait above the fireplace mantel. Cassia followed her gaze. She seemed to see it along with Myrrha for the first time in a new light. Before, she hated it and avoided looking at it. But now she saw it in a radical new way. “She’s wearing white!” Cassia exclaimed. They couldn’t help it. They began to laugh. Then cry. Going back into the kitchen, they found Aloes with an anchovies and olives pizza from the freezer. He was just throwing it into the microwave and slamming the door. Cassia got his cold pop, shook it when he wasn’t looking his way, and handed it to him. Deciding to celebrate, she got one for herself. Aloes's pizza got a drenching shower. Cassia and Myrrha were still laughing when Cassia heard someone, and spun around.

Their dad looked at them all sheepishly. Normally, he was gone to the church, and busy in his office, for he always skipped breakfast, working his usual sixteen hours or more hours at the church. Only when they were little kids, had they ever sat at the table together for breakfast, and their mom serving them too! “I had second thoughts,” he said to his daughters, who looked at each other with amazement. “Al came to talk to me, and—“ Cassia was quicker than Myrrha to recover. Aloes, trying not to smile but smiling anyway, stared at them, eating his pop-drenched pizza. Together, they began to talk, and hours later they had not finished.

After they were finally talked out, sitting on the big couch, the father between the daughters, he said, turning to Cassia, “You really brought us all together. If not together perfectly, it’s a start anyway. It’s my fault, the way we split up. I need to ask all you to forgive me for that. I should have tried long ago.” Cassia shook her head. “But until now it wouldn’t have helped. I wouldn’t have listened. I was too mad about Mom. That was my whole existence: being angry about her! In fact, I wanted you to divorce her so bad, so we could hurt her, get back at her some way for being so ambitious and not caring for us here at home.” She stopped, then went on. “But when it worked out the way I wanted, when I could say ‘Good riddance!’, it felt horrible! I can’t describe how empty I felt then! I was just a shell, with hate inside! Right there I wanted to puke and crawl in a hole and die, because I realized I had nothing! That’s why I went to that concert. I just wanted to get enough drugs and forget the pain.”

Harry turned to Myrrha and Aloes. “How about you two?” Both nodded. “I guess what happened to Dreem—I mean, it started there and led to where we are now somehow,” Myrrha said. “Now we realize we just want her back. I thought it was hell when she was still with us, but this is worse! Worse! But what can we do? We’ve driven her away! It was bad enough not having you around, Dad. Now we don’t even have Grandma anymore, so who is left?” They were all thinking the same things, so nobody could add to Myrrha’s remark. Myrrha began to weep quietly, but it was tough-acting Aloes, surprising his sisters and especially his own father, that broke down completely in his dad’s arms. “You gotta go and get her back, dad!” he made Harry promise after he tried to explain the legal complex problem his demand entailed. Cassia and Myrrha both looked at him, as he glanced over his son’s football-sized shouldiers that seemed so out of synch with his narrow face that so resembled his mother's. What they saw in Aloes' features not only reminded them of their mother but made their hearts sink.

Aloes Turnbull

Somehow the son seemed to sense his father’s doubt and helplessness. He let go and stared at the floor for a few moments, then walked away. “I’ll do what I possibly can,” was the father could say when Aloes left the room. “Al is asking for the sun and moon this time. I wish he could see that.” “But dad,” Cassia protested. “You’re a powerful, influential minister in the metroplex. You have contacts and—money too! Why can’t you get her back?”

Harry Turnbull turned a weary hand to his forehead, and smoothed his hair. “You may not have heard. Universal Martial Law has been declared for the duration of the Peace Proposal Process headed up by United Europe and the UN. All flights in and out of Dallas are severely restricted and everyone is screened until after the proposal is signed by all parties. Only military flights, diplomats, diplomatic couriers, government officials and the like, are permitted in and out of U.S. cities, nor can anyone fly here from cities abroad unless they fit those categories. That’s how tight the security is. It’s a kind of Red Alert. The authorities really mean to enforce the travel moratorium, even if the airlines go bankrupt!”

“What’s that mean to us?” Myrrha demanded. “It means your mother is grounded, wherever she has gone. We can only wait until the treaty is signed. Right now Michael Jayson—whose brainchild is this Peace Proposal--is in Jerusalem arranging for the final signatures.” When her father had left the room to rest, Cassia and Myrrha stayed, and after a time they looked at each other, guessing each other’s thoughts. Again, they guessed right. “I don’t know where she’s gone either!” Myrrha said. “I was hoping you would know. Where would she go anyway, if it wasn’t on one of her tours.” “The tours are all over!” Cassia said quickly, then stopped. “Hey! Maybe not. Maybe she’s doing what she did before, only this time taking only one person along—herself.” “But which tour would she take, dear brain?” Myrrha’s eyes asked Cassia. “Where would she want to go?”

Cassia thought hard, back to the moments she had caught her mother working over last minute details on various tours. Which tours showed up most often, or took her mother’s greatest efforts? Which did she publicize and promote the most? The ones to Asia or Europe or the Middle East? Definitely, the Middle East! There, with her Bible prophecies, she was strongest, an authority on everything happening over there. She would feel most at home there, of any place outside the U.S. The possibility shone in Cassia’s eyes and quickly hardened to more like a sure thing. “That’s what we have to find out!” she told Myrrha. “ I think it’s Israel, but we’ve got to find out for sure first, before we can do anything.” “How do we do that?” Cassia laughed. “We can check her latest Orbitz travel bookings at the ministry office—that is, if we can still get into her office. There’s a list I’ve seen her keep on the number of flights she has made for the past twenty years. Maybe Dad can help with getting us into the building—after he has had some rest.”

Heloise Turnbull did not like big, gloomy underground parking garages (even her own beneath her building that bristled with security cameras and ear-splitting alarms), and always parked outdoors in her own special place. They pulled into Heloise Turnbull’s No. 1 VIP slot, and parked. They had passed through two, then three barricades, completely unmanned by police. Even though they waited at each one, no one came, so they just drove through and reached the Heloise Turnbull International Ministry Tower. They all looked up the immense, glittering UV-shielding façade of the four towered, fifty-storey building complex with the 100-foot-tall holographic cross and the crown of thorns that revolved day and night.

BFHT, Dallas

Harry turned to his son. “Al, you saw the barricades all around. This martial law is part of something going on that is affecting the whole world, evidently. I am going to ask you to stay in the car. Police or maybe even plainclothesmen, law enforcement agents, might come and want to tow it away from here. Also, we don’t know what is going to happen to us inside. I don’t see any police anywhere, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t in the area or in the building itself. If we don’t get out here in good time, take this number and call on your cell phone. It’s my attorney for the church. Tell him we need help immediately, where we are, and that we might need bail arranged—a big amount no doubt.”

He handed Aloes the keys of the Volvo, keys he had never held before. “Only just sit and don’t make any noise, okay? If the police pull up here in a few minutes, stay in the car even if Cassia, Myrrha and I leave. I’ll try to get them to leave you here. If you see them taking us to their vehicle, drive away slowly—slowly, and return home! They may let you go, in that case. And make the call immediately. We need your backup. I’ll call you at home as soon as I can. Got it all?” Aloes, his face showing the same seriousness as his fathers, nodded. Yellow caution tape and barricades on all sides, scrap paper, trash of all kinds littering the courtyard from ransacked containers investigators had searched, the entrance was a shambles. “Do we dare go in?” said Myrrha. “Maybe we will set off alarms and get arrested.” Harry Turnbull gritted his teeth. “I can prove who I am, and that should help. I can say we’ve come for some family photos that have sentimental value to us. Surely, they won’t begrudge us that much from this place.”

Amazed to find he front doors in the main entrance were unlocked and unattended by any police, they went in. But the moment they stepped inside, lights on the security system with a message: Intruders detected. We have a security compromise in front entrance of Turnbull International Prophecy Center Tower. The count is three intruders. Photo images are being transmitted. ” Beginning to shiver in his light summer shirt, Harry smiled at the blinking robotic camera taking their pictures and then turned to his daughters. “Well, the game is up! It’s freezing cold in here. We might as well wait outside for the police.” But before they could move a nearby monitor came to life, and a policewoman appeared, seated at a desk with the U.S. and UN flags behind her on the wall, with the UN flag uppermost. A male officer with handed her a report. She glanced at it, and began.

“This is Officer Zorko of the Dallas office of UNUS-SCC for the Department of Internal Security, in conjunction with the Dallas Police Department . The security post you have penetrated is under our jurisdiction and has detected you as trespassers. You are now under detention according to the UNUS-SCC criminal code for illegally entering a security-quarantined building without prior authorization and police escort, so please wait, and officers will come and ask you some questions and then take you to headquarters where you will be held, if necessary. Please do not attempt to flee the area, for we have you on camera and will be able to see where you are headed. Thank you for your cooperation.”

Police showed up at the entrance a few minutes later as the Turnbulls waited, driving right up onto the plaza to the front doors. Motioned over, Harry went to talk with them. Cassia, Myrrha, chatting together as if they were on an ordinary family outing together, then watched the police get out, make several long calls, then finally walk toward them. Harry turned and pointed out his son to them. They seemed to be reluctant to accept what he said, but finally they both nodded after Harry said his son needed to stay and make sure the car wasn’t vandalized in their absence. But first they checked Aloes’ driver’s license with their hand-held computer link and his other vital statistics held at the UNUS-SCC (United Nations-United States Security Collection Center).

As for their going in the building, they agreed to that too after getting authorization from headquarters. “Sure, it’s quite all right, Mr. Turnbull. We understand how you would want your personal things. But don’t mind us if we have to escort you into the building and then back out. There’s been a few break-ins, because we’re short-handed lately and can’t always keep enough officers posted here. ” The officer grinned. “You never know, some dirty-minded vagrant or wino may be hiding inside and we don’t want you to get hurt. After all, tonight the usual guard has all been pulled off again for another duty station, and we are the only two that can be spared to see you in and out safely.” “Sure, officer, fine with me, if you can take the time and would be so kind to escort me and my little girls,” Harry agreed. He turned toward Aloes with what he hoped was a natural heartiness. “Bye, son, we’ll be back in a minutes. Try not to play your rap music too loud now! There’s zoning laws downtown about that, you know! Right, officers?” That seemed to break the ice, and the officers smiled at Aloes who saluted them. They turned away at that moment, looking toward a beeping sound coming from the entrance, and that was the chance he had hoped would come. “He’s only sixteen, with his life ahead of him—he’ll get along all right with these apes, he’s not the sacrificial type.”

Pressing a scrap of paper into Al’s hand, he quickly whispered in Aloes’s ear, “Son , if we don’t return, call this phone number and tell what happened, for we may need bail from my lawyer, who’ll—“ The officers turned back, having cut the alarm with a hand-held control each carried, so Harry had to cut off the contact, and he smiled, patting Aloes’ shoulder as he and his daughters turned to go with them.

Together with the two officers, the Turnbulls stepped into the grand entrance. It had been a showpiece, something that Las Vegas or Reno could envy, with a forty-foot screen of Heloise Turnbull ministering to full capacity crowds in the Astrodome. Beyond that, two magnificent Rodin statues of Adam and Eve took center place, lighted spectacularly in the midst of the arboretum garden. A storm of controversy broke when the biggest evangelical and Pentecostal partners of the Heloise Turnbull ministry found out, and the papers were full of it for a week or two, how certain contributors could not stand the idea of naked statues on show so conspicuously in the ministry center. Heloise had been obliged to speak for the statues at her own press conference, declaring that the Bible itself had portrayed the First Parents as utterly naked and innocent. She didn’t add that she had paid something like three million apiece. Gradually, the furor died, with Heloise doing a whole series of TV messages on Genesis, using the statues draped modestly as set background. But now the statues really were draped, and not only draped but boxed up, ready to be transported to the Smithsonian, the new owner in the capital. With the boxed Rodins presenting a shabby warehouse effect, for the sake of the crate the misting sprinklers had been turned off so that the orchids and delicate tropicals were either dead or badly wilted. The temperature was wrong too—being set so cold and dry only bacteria could survive. Passing out of the arboretum to the elevators, they found trash everywhere, as if all the cans in the building had been emptied and sorted there. The elevators were full of used pop cans and cigarette butts squashed on luxurious carpets. Someone had thrown pop cans and a janitor’s push broom and even dead orchids yanked out of the aboretum right up into a magnificent chandelier nearest the elevators.

Cassia and Myrrha hadn’t seen the ministry building since before the ministry closed its doors and their mother vanished. “This is sickening,” Cassia whispered to Myrrha as they came to a poster of their mother preaching with condoms stapled to it. “Look what they’ve done to this place!” “I hear the complex is up for sale to a new owner,” the officer chatted in the elevator. “Of course, it may just go to the government if they decide to preempt everybody. I hear they are looking for a new center for security operations. We’ve outgrown our old facilities.” “Well, you’re more informed than I,” replied Harry curtly. The officer looked at him as if he had really noticed him as a person. “Of course, it’s been hard losing all this, hasn’t it? I don’t mean to treat it lightly.” Harry sighed. “Yes, it has been hard. Now all we want is to get what family photographs are still left. We had no chance before, when all the Federal agents and FBI were on the site.” “I can well understand that, sir!” said the officer. “But just the same, that is all you’re authorized to remove. It’s our jobs on the line, you understand. Regulations are regulations.”

Harry almost said something, but checked himself in time. “Of course. I understand perfectly your situation! We’ll only take photos away!” Cassia exchanged a hopeless look with Myrrha. Then the Turnbulls were made to wait while the officers went ahead, saying they had to check to see if anyone illegal were on the premises. Cassia exchanged looks with Myrrha and her dad as they waited. Then she whispered, “I don’t believe this! First they leave the building completely unguarded and now they have to check it all out so we can get to Mom’s office! They’re acting pretty funny, if you ask me!” Finally, the police returned and motioned for them to follow. Dragging behind their dad, the girls followed the lead officer while their second escort brought up the rear.

How empty, how trash-filled, how desolate the offices were with all their unwatered dead plants —offices and furnishings which had been her mother’s pride and joy. They were all showplaces, not like other ministries that operated on shoestring budgets. Being who she was, their mother had ordered nothing but the best and state of the art. Her taste ran to very finest art, and the walls had been covered with pictures she had paid huge sums for in the major art auctions. Potted trees, Gobelin tapestries, world-class sculpture—everything had to be the best taste and the originals, no matter the cost. Cassia easily noted places where works of art worth many millions of dollars were now missing. It was easy to tell there had been a lot of robberies in the building already, since the Smithsonian museum crates were still setting beneath the places of the vanished pictures. “ Why hadn’t there been usual cordon of police around the building?” she was still wondering. “ What was the big emergency that had taken them away just before they showed up? With martial law they’re supposed to have more security, not less! Why was everybody pulled off?”

She could tell her dad was just in the dark as she was. Then she saw something that took her breath away. She went over by a chair and a potted plant that stood beside a crate and dolly and a place on the wall that evidently had featured a painting. She picked up a cigarette butt from a tray, and it was still smoking. Putting it back quickly, she returned looking as if nothing had happened. The first chance she could, she turned to Myrrha. “These guys are crummy crooks in uniforms! Somebody’s just been here, removing Mom’s pictures before they go in the museum crates, and they’ve covered up for him!” Myrrha looked at her as if she were crazy. “I can prove it! Somebody was smoking, and just got through with a smoke break before we came in! That was what the officers had to hide from us! Only they missed the cigarette!” Myrrha continued walking, glancing around with more interest. How are we going to get to her computer files with these goons watching our every step?” Myrrha hissed in Cassia’s ear the first chance she could lean over without attracting attention. Cassia had no idea, but she watched her Dad for a few moments. He seemed unusually friendly with the officers.

Harry’s mind was working overtime as he decided what he had to do. He began showing them first one room and then another, the various projects that had been his wife’s life dreams. He gave them detailed accounts of how the ministry was (had been, anyway) poised to set up via a global Bible prophecy network via its own satellite system a holographic “Bible Prophecy Theme Park” on every continent. The first park was scheduled for a prepared site in Orlando, Florida. This was his wife’s last big effort before the closure, and it would have succeeded like all her own projects if financial reverses had not caused outstanding loans to default, forcing the ministry into bankruptcy. He was demonstrating as he talked the holographics of the model, which he knew since he had worked on it with her project designers to get the details of the design of Herod’s Temple, the Crucifixion Scene, the Garden Tomb, and the Garden of Eden where the whole drama rendered correctly according to the Bible and Bible scholarship.

But would his girls get the idea? It was too bad they had not worked out their strategy beforehand. This would be their one and only chance, he knew.

Cassia tweaked Myrrha’s arm after a minute of watching her dad perform. It puzzled her at first, because she knew how little these projects actually meant to him once the ministry had collapsed. Then she knew what he was really saying to her by his actions. She then took Myrrha by the arm and moved slowly away, and when the officers were still with their Dad being shown a huge display of the satellite system, they slipped into their mother’s suite of offices, her “inner sanctum.” Running, they reached the one their mother actually used—which was small, less luxurious than the front offices with their Marc Chagalls and other Manets, but holding her most precious files away from anyone’s view but her own. Called “the Holy of Holies,” only her long-time head secretary, Shari, was granted permission to enter. Everyone else was kept out. If visitors arrived, her mother went out to meet them in the public reception rooms—visitors never were allowed to go to her.

Dashing into the office, the sisters locked the door. “ No matter how hard they pound on it, don’t let them in!” she told Myrrha. “Let them break the door down if they want! I’ve got to see her travel list first.” The computer system was still operating. Nobody had seen fit to lock the system, for the passwords were known only by the previous owner, Heloise Turnbull, and a few others closest to her. “Do you know the password?” Myrrha said. Frantically, Cassia searched her memory. She couldn’t think of anything, since her mother never shared such things with her. Then a light turned on in her mind. Whatever word could it be? She typed in “Hallelujah” and they were in! Her mother was brilliant. Only an evangelical would think of using it. Moving fast, she went to the travel files. Someone was at the door, trying to open it. “It’s them already!” Myrrha signed with her eyes to Cassia. “The game’s up!”

Holding her breath, Cassia continued scrolling at top speed. Her mother had traveled to at least ten thousand locations over the years. She had run up 200,000 miles a year as her ministry grew to its greatest size. The sisters heard rapping, then more calls from the offers. There was silence for a few moments. It seemed they would be left alone. But they were mistaken. The forcing of the door began in earnest. The door began to splinter around the lock. They had something to break the door and screw the lock out, obviously, if they had to. Her eyes blurring with the strain of reading the hundreds of flights, she scrolled finally the end of the right document, and read the date. It was right, and this had to be the flight. It had to be! “Ben Gurion International Airport/Tel Aviv” she read, her body shaking.

The door burst in. For a moment it looked like the officers would arrest them all,, they were so serious in their expressions. “Officers, I take all responsibility for my daughters’ actions!” Harry declared to them. “I never thought I had to tell them not to disturb anything. I just wanted our family pictures, which would probably be thrown away by whoever gets this building.” “Pictures?” said the irate officer. “What pictures? You’re aren’t fooling us again!” Cassia glanced around frantically. Finally, she found one small picture, of a family picnic in the backyard of their old house in Dallas, in the days before Heloise’s ministry really took off and changed everything. She scooped it up and waved it before the officers as if her life depended on it. “Dad, I found it!” she cried, planting a kiss on it and making her voice squeal like a teenager’s. “You know, the one that means so much to us!” He glanced at it, and seemed confused, then caught on. “Oh yes, that one we had to have! We really appreciate getting this back, officers. You’ll never know how much this means to me and my family. Now we can go home. That is, is we are free to go?” Meanwhile, the officers were looking at the darkened computer screen Cassia had just vacated. One officer touched it, and the top of the monitor.

“Affirmative,” he said. “She’s been on it all right,” he mumbled to the other officer, who greeted the news with a sour expression. Seeing it was now or never, Harry motioned for his daughters and Aloes to go on out. “Thanks again, officers! We just could not leave without the picture. But now we can go in peace. We are free to go, aren’t we?” Behind him, Harry heard the officers argue in muffled tones as he moved away then stopped to hear what their decision would be. “—I don’t like—you saw it, left his son in the car—the two running off—it was all planned—“ But the big portly first officer seemed to want to be tough on them, and he took out the cruel plastic bands that served as hand cuffs. Harry gave his daughters a despairing look and pulled out his wallet for a last try. Cassia shot him a glance and he hesitated. She turned to the officers. “You’re not touching any one of us with those things. I happen to know what you’re involved with here. I found a cigarette that had just been stubbed out. There’s been somebody here, hasn’t there, besides us and you. In exchange for my saying nothing about it, you will let us go, officer! You might as well shoot me here, because I’ll tell everybody if you lay one finger on me or my family!”

The first officer eyed her, glanced at Harry Turnbull who stood his mouth hanging open, then slowly slipped the tie-ons in his coat pocket. He shut the door, leaving his companion to watch them, then a few moments later came out, turning to Harry and avoiding Cassia’s stare. “UNUS security, er, I mean, the FBI agents on this case will make a check of this monitor and computer system, to see just what your daughter was looking at—just in case, you understand. We aren’t saying any harm was done. We just need to know a few things. We’ll call if we need to talk to you about it. Otherwise, headquarters says you are free to leave. But there won’t be any more visits.” Only then did he turn to Cassia, his teeth audibly grinding. “Oh, absolutely,” Harry said, smiling. He shook the officers’ reluctant hands. “You know how teen-aged girls can be—it’s hard for a father nowadays. They don’t always want to behave like a father would like.” His hollow chuckle sounded even more hollow when the officers looked at him with barely suppressed fury, and motioned for them to proceed to the elevators.

Guarded at every step, the Turnbulls reached the ground floor, and when at last they were let go to return to their car where Aloes sat, staring at them wide-eyed but with a look of great relief. Cassia felt it was safe to let them know and gave them a silent thumbs up, just like her mother would do. Then she collapsed back in her seat and they drove home in silence, where she finally told them about what she had found, that gave her the boldness to call the sergeant’s bluff. “That was a close call for us evenso,” was Harry’s first response. “And thanks, Al, for not panicking when we took a little more time. You can be proud of your sisters. They did a magnificent job, both of you, and I’m very proud. We didn’t take anything away that didn’t belong to us, so I feel quite all right about our action. I was prepared for jail and all the rest when they caught you girls in the office—but the Lord saw fit to spare--” Cassia and Myrrha looked at each other, and Aloes broke out in a football victory chant.

Despite his bravado and encouraging remarks, Harry was not so happy at the moment. He left them to go into the master bedroom to think about what Cassia had found on the computer. He was still shaken inside, so shaken that first thing when they reached home he called his attorney and discussed what had happened to them. “Pastor, you didn’t remove anything they did not authorize, did you?” he was asked. “That could cause some difficulty for you, if they decide to press it.” “No, just a photo. But they caught Cassia using the computer, or at least they felt it was warm after breaking through the door of my wife’s office.” His attorney sighed on the other end of the line. “I think there will be a problem with them then. They’ll investigate to see just what files she was viewing. What could they have been? Computer games? Or would they be anything the authorities would not want her to see?” “I’ll be honest with you, Jake. We are—I might as well let you know it all—looking for travel records, to see if we might find anything telling us where Heloise might have gone. That’s all. It doesn’t matter to me where she’s gone. That’s her business now. Would that be a problem?”

There was a long silence. Finally, Harry heard a deep sigh. “Of course., it would, Pastor Harry. Her whereabouts is not a personal matter anymore. Governments have gotten involved. You can expect a response in a day or two, if not sooner. Don’t expect them to be pleasant either. I’ll be ready with bail. Harry, you need to keep tighter rein on your daughters. I can’t keep your church council from knowing about this either. What with the disappearances of several members, the collapse of your wife’s affiliated ministry, and the scandal of your divorce—the church can’t take anything more. They’re very jittery and will expect a raid on their office records. I’m afraid they’ll demand your resignation. Are you going to tell them first?”

“Yes, of course. They’ll understand. They know I’ve acted above-board in all these things you mentioned.” “I certainly hope so, for your sake. Have you thought about a career change if they don’t?” “At my age? That’s very funny!” Harry laughed. Harry let his attorney go. He sounded over-worked as usual.

After finishing the call, he didn’t go into the office as usual but remained home to think some more. His attorney was right. What would his church have thought if they had heard he had been arrested? His children didn’t let such thoughts even cross their minds. But his blood had run cold the moment the officers realized he was stonewalling shamelessly, making fools out of them, and had rushed to find his daughters. He was almost certain it was going to end bad for them all—really bad. Martial law was strict. Looters—unless they were police, of course!--were to be shot. Protestors jailed. Vagrants were rounded up from the streets. Curfew was enforced for all minors. No domestic commercial civilian flights were permitted out of the city, with severe restrictions on the number of outward-bound international flights as well. All the police and UNUS security organizations were on full alert everywhere—making all the authorities very touchy if there was even a slight suspicion of intent to break the rules.

As for the snapshot, it portrayed a totally forgotten family picnic—why it was saved and tacked beside the computer, who could say but the one who put it there?—but it had saved them all from a grueling FBI interrogation for certain and jail possibly—so when he felt up to it, he got the picture from Cassia and they put it on the mantel when they reached home, right beneath their mother’s portrait in white.

In the morning Harry Turnbull stayed home later than usual to enjoy breakfast with his family and talk. It was a new experience, and a hour passed, then two. By the time he got to his church it was 10:30. He was surprised to find the parking lot nearest his office barricaded and strung with no-entry tape. Going up to it, he found police officers and UNUS-SCC law enforcement officers. They asked for his identification. He gave it to them, and they scanned on a hand-held computer link. The officer turned grimly to Harry Turnbull. “You need to come with us, sir. There will be some questions you need to answer about a security compromise you participated in.” “What security compromise? What are you talking about?” The officer motioned for him to proceed to a UNUS-SCC vehicle. “Do you wish for me to read you your rights, or will you come with us now?” “Wait a minute. I have a right to make a call to my attorney.” “But you do not have a right.” the officer said. “Under the Code of International Martial Law, and the UN-US treaty, Section 14, Item B, Paragraph 2, you are not allowed calls to lawyers or attorneys until you are directed by the chief of security over your case to make such calls if they are judged in the interest of the authority governing your case’s disposition.” “But this is an outrage, officer. I am a minister of this church, a senior pastor! I am responsible for 5,000 members. They will want to know what has happened to me. Please, officers, I simply must inform them you are taking me into custody.” “Sorry, sir, we have our HQ’s instructions. We’ll inform them for you. Now please come with us. Do not delay this, or we will have to use necessary force.” “This proves America is a UN puppet and a police state and no longer under the rule of law sanctioned by God!” Harry protested. “This isn’t martial law—martial law is merely an excuse for absolute tyranny! As such, I am not obligated by God, my Highest Authority, to obey your authority!” The guard took a step toward him, and Harry gave up. “All right, you win! I’ll go with you. Just leave my kids alone!”

Harry Turnbull In Custody

Taken in tow by the officer, Harry got into the security vehicle, and his hands were cuffed to a steel pole in front of him. An officer sat on either side as if he were a hardened criminal, and they all sat in silence as the police to headquarters radio blared radio calls. Harry could not believe it. Taken into custody? For what? As they moved out of the parking lot, his secretary running out and waving at him as if to assure him, he thought, “At least my daughters and son will be all right at home—until I can reach them by phone.” Then he heard the radio announce the latest raid: “Turnbull residence in the exclusive bedroom community of Bellwood Estates entered. Took two teen-aged white females by force who had barricaded themselves into a bathroom. One officer bit in the hand, with a serious abrasion, by the oldest girl. He was also blinded with wet towels and given a blow on the head with a weight scale, but his helmet shielded him. The son, Aloes Turnbull, age 16, a white male, still at large, thought to be hiding in the garage attic. Officers are now beginning a search in that area. Charges of assault and resisting arrest will be filed against the two teen-aged suspects.”

“So they don’t mind attacking children!” Harry thought, looking at his captors with anger he could not keep from shooting from his eyes. But the search for Aloes—what if they had to shoot tear gas into the attic to get Aloes out? What if he had his pellet gun and took potshots at the officers, would they use their cannons on him? Fear gripped Harry for a moment, but then he recalled how cool-headed in tight spots Cassia could be, and knew she would probably be able to think what to do if the worst happened. As for Aloes and Myrrha, he knew they would follow her lead. He could hear her saying: “Let’s divide up, make it more difficult for them at least. You, Al, head for the attic in the garage, but don’t do anything—and don’t take your pellet gun or they’ll kill you for sure. Myrrha, you and I will barricade up the bathroom. Now let’s go!”

“Oh God!” he prayed. “Keep them safe. Show them what to do once they land in jail!” As usual, his prayers seem to strike metal. It had been this way for years, despite the success of his church ministry and it many outreach programs to the needy and elderly. But he had no one else at that moment to turn to, and he kept praying all the way to the security headquarters—for it wasn’t the regular police he was handed over to, it was a detachment of NSA and somebody from an even more secret agency who was in charge of the interrogation.

Heloise knew she had turned yet another significant corner in her life. The first time was when her grand all-star Asia tour collapsed, showing her the writing on the wall, and how despite all her efforts she saw everything crumble before her eyes. Making it all the more terrible and convincing, she had felt her vital inner drive, her “anointing,” depart from her—leaving her feeling like a used-up, dried shell instead of a living, human being. The second turn came when she decided to go with the group to Jerusalem as part of the Pynoos’ contribution to the MJ-United Europe-led World Peace Process. It was done in pure self-interest, her self-preservation instinct dictating her decision, but she still felt very much peace with it, as if for once she had done something right, right with—could she hope?—God? But, whether it please God or not, whatever option did she have? she thought, as the tour bus moved down the traffic-choked highway. If she stayed on in Tel Aviv, she wasn’t any safer there or less likely to be identified, exposed, and sent back to the states. No, it was better to keep moving than sit in Tel Aviv waiting for the FBI or CIA, and who knows who else—collection agency bounty hunters? And, worse of all, she hated the thought of tabloids sending people to knock on her door and take her picture and hound her every step until she gave in and granted an interview after which they would completely misrepresent what she said. It was the tabloids who had really made her decision for her—to escape the constant barrage of photographers and sensational articles that twisted every fact about her, she had booked the Tel Aviv trip.

Tabloids called “Sex-ploits,” “Escort Girls,” and “Celeb Expose” had concocted all sorts of outrageous libels-- her having terminal cancer forcing her out of the ministry, an IRS audit revealing enormous fraud in her accounts, Harry and herself caught by FBI agents setting up an international prostitution ring with multi-millions in profits, with she and Harry recruiting young girls and boys in Bangkok for prostitution and sex slaves, and committing sexual acts on them as well! Of course, the tabloids could be sued and she and Harry would win the cases, but the scandals were still just too dirty, they were forever smeared in the view of the media-brainwashed general public, which was hostile toward Pentecostal television ministries such as hers. No, it was best to ignore the sewer that was spashing all over them! One tabloid had even featured a digitized fraud, a picture of her in a red strapless hooker’s dress that went to her mid-thighs. The article claimed she had started out a hoofer and a hooker in a Greenwich Village club where Harry had gone for an illicit time out from from his church. He fell for her bigtime, giving her the chance to take over his church and then use it as a spring-board to a giant international ministry!

Her stomach lurched when she thought of something worse. Would they somehow find out about the flight and track her right into Jerusalem? She had told Shari to delete the travel file, but had Shari done it? Shari had always been extremely dependable in the past, so she had trusted her to delete all sensitive files and shred everything other than the financial records, which were beyond reproach. “But has Shari been unable? Had she been taken in a raid before she could carry out instructions?” And once she got to Jerusalem, what on earth would she do except try to find a good place to hide? She had only wanted to get away from the frying pan, but now the demands of a real life situation bombarded her and promised to land her in even hotter flames! For example, in the jammed quarters of both East and West Jerusalem, how was she to find an apartment? What would she do once she took up residence? Would the authorities let her stay? Despite all all the attention centering on MJ, would she be investigated and found out? Who could she bribe to let her alone if she was found out? Could she avoid other Christians who would surely find out her identity? Or should she seek them out and lay her cards on the table and ask mercy for a divorcee and a washed-up television ministry celebrity? After all, her present shield, the Pynooses’ peace tour group, wouldn’t last more than three more days—then they would be gone, leaving her to face the realities of a divided, police-and-army ruled, strife-torn Jerusalem.

She looked out the window at the traffic as the bus drove straight at incoming vehicles, daring anything smaller to hit them. How many people were walking! She thought it must be because they with Michael Jayson in town and the huge influx of hundreds of thousands of international visitors they couldn’t get anywhere in their cars or even in the buses. In the extremely mixed multitude thronging the streets she saw priests, students, clerics of all kinds, sprinkled with characters that looked like bearded Bible figures from Hollywood sets—Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, and others just as recognizable. Israel’s rich and colorful society surpassed even New York City’s in cultural and racial mixing. Hadn’t she said to her own tour groups on many occasions, to break the seriousness a bit of what they were seeing at particular heavily-guarded holy sites, “Hey, folks, you’re in a country that you know is pretty special when on any given day you’ll be apt to rub shoulders with at least four Elijahs, three Enochs, two Jonahs, and at least one fiery-eyed, ranting, camel hair-vested John the Baptist! And don't be surprised if someone introduces himself as Ezekiel, only he means the prophet himself, returned to earth for some kind of special mission only he can accomplish! So shake the hands of these mislguided screwballs and take their pictures if you like, but don’t give them any money or become their disciples if they want to recruit you! Every one of them has disciples that follow them around from place to place, collecting money for them and selling trinkets to finance their particular prophet of choice.”

It was good advice, she had thought at the time. With its multitude of shrines and holy places sacred to three major world religions, she had seen that Israel had always attracted legitimate pilgrims with true piety, but it was Jerusalem that stood out above all the other places. Like a lodestone, it pulled in the worst of the psychotic “nut cases”—the, mentally-sick imposters who believed they were reincarnated embodiments of everyone from Adam to Jesus Christ himself—Yeshua, of course, being the favorite though his mission had won Him the most horrible death, crucifixion on a Roman cross. Tellingly, you didn’t find the marks of suffering on any of the prospective Christs who walked Jerusalem’s streets—no telltale crucifixion marks on their feet and hands! No scar in the side of the chest where the Roman spear went in to pierce the heart. No scars on the forehead where He wore the crown of thorns! No back laceration scars either where he was repeatedly flogged by the chief priest’s men and also the Roman soldiery at Pilate’s order. No, they were just handsome young men, pitiful self-deluded souls with brains bursting with feverish delusions of grandeur. Though they coveted Christ’s glory, none would ever submit to the means by which Christ won his everlasting crown.

Certainly, if anyone knew how to handle the holy wannabes, it was Heloise Turnbull!

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