Authors: James David Jordan
Tags: #Suspense, #Fiction, #General, #Christian, #Religious, #Suspense Fiction, #Terrorism, #Christian Fiction, #Protection, #Evangelists
Copyright © 2008 by James David Jordan
All rights reserved
Printed in the United States of America
Published by B&H Publishing Group,
Dewey Decimal Classification: F
Subject Heading: TERRORISM—FICTION \
SUSPENSE FICTION \ EVANGELISTS—FICTION
Publisher’s Note: This novel is a work of fiction. Names, character places, and incidents are either products of the author’s imagination or used fictitiously. All characters are fictional, and any similarity to people leaving or dead is purely coincidental.
TO MY SISTER, CARLA, WHO IS ALWAYS THERE FOR EVERYONE.
I GRATEFULLY ACKNOWLEDGE THE help and support of my wife, Sue, and my kids, Allie and Johnathan. Without them there would have been no book. I also acknowledge my agent, Tina Jacobson. Without her, there would have been a book, but it never would have been published. Finally, I acknowledge my editor, Karen Ball. Without her there would have been a book, and it would have been published, but it sure wouldn’t have been as good. Oops, I almost forgot my old friend, Dale Willis. Without his advice the book would still have had guns, but not the right ones.
EVEN IN HIGH SCHOOL I didn’t mind sleeping on the ground. When your father is a retired Special Forces officer, you pick up things that most girls don’t learn. As the years passed, I slept in lots of places a good girl shouldn’t sleep. It’s a part of my past I don’t brag about, like ugly wallpaper that won’t come unstuck. No matter how hard I scrape, it just hangs on in big, obscene blotches. I’m twenty-nine years old now, and I’ve done my best to paint over it. But it’s still there under the surface, making everything rougher, less presentable than it should be, though I want more than anything to be smooth and fresh and clean.
Sometimes I wonder what will happen if the paint begins to fade. Will the wallpaper show? I thought so for
a long time. But I have hope now that it won’t. Simon Mason helped me find that hope. That’s why it’s important for me to tell our story. There must be others who need hope too. There must be others who are afraid that their ugly wallpaper might bleed through.
What does sleeping on the ground have to do with a world-famous preacher like Simon Mason? The story begins twelve years ago—eleven years before I met Simon. My dad and I packed our camping gear and went fishing. It was mid-May, and the trip was a present for my seventeenth birthday. Not exactly every high school girl’s dream, but my dad wasn’t like most dads. He taught me to camp and fish and, particularly, to shoot. He had trained me in self-defense since I was nine, the year Mom fell apart and left for good. With my long legs, long arms, and Dad’s athletic genes, I could handle myself even back then. I suppose I wasn’t like most other girls.
After what happened on that fishing trip, I know I wasn’t.
Fishing with my dad didn’t mean renting a cane pole and buying bait pellets out of a dispenser at some catfish tank near an RV park. It generally meant tramping miles across a field to a glassy pond on some war buddy’s ranch, or winding through dense woods, pitching a tent, and fly fishing an icy stream far from the nearest telephone. The trips were rough, but they were the bright times of my life—and his too. They let him forget the things that haunted him and remember how to be happy.
This particular outing was to a ranch in the Texas Panhandle, owned by a former Defense Department bigwig. The ranch bordered one of the few sizeable lakes in a corner of Texas that is brown and rocky and dry. We loaded Dad’s new Chevy pickup with cheese puffs and soft drinks—healthy eating wouldn’t begin until the first fish hit the skillet—and left Dallas just before noon with the bass boat in tow. The drive was long, but we had leather interior, plenty of tunes, and time to talk. Dad and I could always talk.
The heat rose early that year, and the temperature hung in the nineties. Two hours after we left Dallas, the brand-new air conditioner in the brand-new truck rattled and clicked and dropped dead. We drove the rest of the way with the windows down while the high Texas sun tried to burn a hole through the roof.
Around 5:30 we stopped to use the bathroom at a rundown gas station somewhere southeast of Amarillo. The station was nothing but a twisted gray shack dropped in the middle of a hundred square miles of blistering hard pan. It hadn’t rained for a month in that part of Texas, and the place was so baked that even the brittle weeds rolled over on their bellies, as if preparing a last-ditch effort to drag themselves to shade.
The restroom door was on the outside of the station, isolated from the rest of the building. There was no hope of cooling off until I finished my business and got around to the little store in the front, where a rusty air conditioner chugged in the window. When I walked into the bathroom, I had to cover my nose and mouth with
my hand. A mound of rotting trash leaned like a grimy snow drift against a metal garbage can in the corner. Thick, black flies zipped and bounced from floor to wall and ceiling to floor, occasionally smacking my arms and legs as if I were a bumper in a buzzing pinball machine. It was the filthiest place I’d ever been.
Looking back, it was an apt spot to begin the filthiest night of my life.
I had just leaned over the rust-ringed sink to inspect my teeth in the sole remaining corner of a shattered mirror when someone pounded on the door.
“Just a minute!” I turned on the faucet. A soupy liquid dribbled out, followed by the steamy smell of rotten eggs. I turned off the faucet, pulled my sport bottle from the holster on my hip, and squirted water on my face and in my mouth. I wiped my face on the sleeve of my T-shirt.