The Tempter Comes

23) The Mission



23   The Mission


Do not wait for a miracle when action is still to be taken



Jocum dropped his head. “Seth is right. This is too dangerous. You’ve all almost been killed already.”

“But we weren’t,” Toni disputed.

“Not yet,” Jocum parried.

Everyone stared into their own worlds. Jocum felt that his point was made and this nonsense was done with. He exhaled deeply and was satisfied.

Then Sarah said, “They’ve got to have some meeting place. I know that you mentioned that the old liquor factory is where the temple was, but it seems that that would probably be too obvious. There are too many people working at the buildings around it. Toni, didn’t you say that there was a cave somewhere?”

Jocum looked incredulous. Then he dropped his head again.

“I only heard about it. I don’t know where it is. I wouldn’t even know how to get to it,” she replied.

Russell asked, “Then who told you about it?”

She answered, “It was Tim.”

“Tim?” Thomas asked doubtfully, “He doesn’t even talk.”

“This was before his… um…”

Thomas jumped in, “vow of silence?”

“Whatever you want to call it. He told me it was out in the woods somewhere south of town. But that’s all I know.”

“Well then I guess that ends that,” Jocum proposed.

He was roundly ignored.

“Is he at the store right now?” asked Sarah.

“I don’t know,” answered Toni.

“Then let’s go find out,” said Sarah with conviction.

The four of them got up and starting walking away from the table where Jocum and Seth sat in bewilderment. Just as the four rounded the rhododendron the two of them hastily got up and joined them.

While they were passing by the central park they heard a breathless voice shouting from behind them. “Hey, wait up.” They all turned in perfect coordination like figures on a child’s toy.

Toni said, “It’s Danielle.”

Russell stepped forward and beamed as his little sister approached. Just as she got near she hesitated as she saw more closely the two very large men.

“Don’t worry,” Thomas reassured, “they’re friends of ours.”

Danielle had never seen anyone this tall and big and she did not even attempt to conceal her amazement. It was not like they were giants but Jabesh simply did not have anyone this massive. That would explain why their football team never had a winning season within anyone’s memory and not just the memories of the teenagers but anyone’s memory. Everyone was enjoying her gap-mouthed reaction.

Finally she spoke with her eyes still glued to the men, “I guess these are the guys that you mentioned that helped get your stuck tail out of the gate those several times.” She quickly looked over at Russell, back at the two men, and then did a double-take back at Russell. “What are they standing there grinning so much about?”

“Oh, just proud of my sister,” he responded.

“Proud of what? Oh, did the President call to present me with another national award and I missed it again?” she replied with heavy sarcasm.

It was hard to believe that Russell could talk clearly while maintaining that beaming grin. “No, just that you solved the puzzle.”

“What puzzle?”

“The one about the goings on here in Jabesh lately,” was Toni’s answer.

“Oh, that. I don’t know, it just all seemed to make sense. It wasn’t any big deal. Dealing with my mother is ten times harder. I guess that she just gave me a lot of practice.”

“You’re just so humble.” Russell took a step forward and tried to gently punch her in the shoulder but she swerved out of the way and he almost stumbled to the ground.

After he righted himself Danielle asked, “So what are you all up to?”

No one really wanted to answer that partly because they really were not sure themselves but also because they did not want to take a chance at another lecture either from Jocum or Seth.

Finally Sarah piped up, “We’re going to do something about the situation.”

“Do something?” Danielle said slowly as her forehead wrinkled.

“Yes,” continued Sarah, “we’re going to try to get to the bottom of it and chase the snakes out of town.”

Danielle’s jaw went slack. Then she went pale. “Don’t! Don’t do it!”

Jocum and Seth straightened up and crossed their arms in front of their chests and stared at the four.

Danielle begged, “You don’t know what you’re getting into. It’s like four children stepping onto a battlefield to face an army where any one of their soldiers could defeat an opposing army just by themselves. Look what happened when you followed the one guy into the warehouse. Imagine facing who knows how many of them all at once. You’ll be slaughtered. Just forget about it. Leave the dying to those who find it more glamorous.”

“Well said,” remarked Seth.

“Amen,” added Jocum. “Now why don’t we listen to your friend and go get something to eat and drink? I’ll treat.”

As though all of the sails on their boat suddenly went limp the four stared at the ground speechless. After many seconds Seth said, “Well, now then, lets all go home.” He went to put his hand on Thomas’ back.

Sarah spoke up, “Danielle, you don’t have to worry. We’re not going to confront anybody. We’re just trying to figure out what’s going on. When we do then we’ll sit down and discuss it. Maybe we’ll take it to Pastor Goldsmith and see what he thinks. But, believe me, nobody here is playing warrior.”

Danielle was skeptical. “This strikes me as someone standing in the path of an avalanche saying that they only expect to get dirty.” But seeing that the others were determined she did not have anything else to say.

Jocum and Seth were even more doubtful. Seth lowered his hand and pursed his lips.

“Well then, if it’s that innocent,” Danielle replied, “then why can’t I come?”

She certainly had a way of deflating their sails. Someone made a faint, “umm.”

Thomas spoke unconvincingly, “We certainly aren’t out looking for trouble, but there is always that slim chance that it will find us. I guess that we don’t want to take the chance that you might get hurt.”

Danielle shot back, “Isn’t that like saying that a big ant has a better chance against a steamroller than a small ant?”

“Umm, well,” Thomas replied. “Umm, we need you here to keep an eye on things.” He tried to sound convincing but it was more hollow than anything.

“Keep an eye on what things?” Danielle retorted. “It’s not like events are progressing at a trip hammer rate. I doubt that anything big is going to happen in the next few hours that I’ll have to jump on a horse and ride through the streets yelling ‘The demons are coming! The demons are coming!’”

Thomas sighed, “You sure make things difficult.” Danielle looked almost pleased at that comment. Each one of the other three glanced over at Russell. It was his sister; he had to take care of the situation. Russell briefly met each set of eyes. Then he walked over to Danielle.

“Sis, can I talk to you over here?”

He put his arm around her neck and they slowly walked about twenty feet away and stopped.

Seth spoke to the remaining three. “Now there is someone with a reasonable head on her shoulders. Everyone else should think that clearly.” Then he glared down at each one.

No one could hear what he was saying but Russell appeared to be gently reasoning with Danielle. She occasionally said something, but he did most of the talking. After several minutes they both came back. The other five were waiting for the results with three hoping for one conclusion and two hoping for another.

Danielle was the one who spoke, “OK, I’ll see everyone in a few hours. Good luck and stay away from steamrollers.” At that she left. Jocum and Seth sagged. The other three at first looked puzzled but then they perked up. Thomas looked quizzically at Russell.

Russell bucked up and said, “Well, let’s head over to see Tim.” Jocum rolled his eyes. Seth dragged his hand down his face.

Five minutes later they pushed open the store’s front door. Tim was not behind the cash register. Toni stepped away and walked up to the man there. “Is Tim in today?”

The man pointed to an aisle. “He might be down there. I know that he’s stocking shelves. You’ll find him soon enough.”

The group formed again and marched down the central aisle scanning the aisles on either side. Finally they spotted him crouched down putting bags of pretzels on the lower shelf and hastened over to him. He was startled to have so many people descend upon him especially when two of them were unfamiliar and so big.

“Tim,” Toni said with urgency in her voice. “We need to talk to you—now.”

Tim leaned back, lost his balance and ended up sitting on the floor. They gathered around him. Thomas leaned over and gently helped him to his feet.

Toni said with great insistence, “We need to know where that cave is. You have to tell us now.”

Tim hesitated but seeing that everyone was firm he signaled for them to follow him into the back room.

He pulled out a sheet of paper, started with a square, made some swirls and a lot of small circles, and a line through them that cut at a few angles before ending at a larger circle. Then he gave the paper to Toni.

She looked at it with great perplexity. Then she turned it 90 degrees, then another 90 degrees. Tim took it from her hand and turned it the correct way and handed it back to her. She stared at it again and then with exasperation said, “You’re going to have to tell us how to get there. I can’t figure this out and we don’t have all day. This is important. You’re going to have to tell us.”

Tim looked mortified. His lip quivered ever so slightly. It was like someone had asked if they could put their arm down his throat and pull his lungs out.

“Come on, Tim, you can talk, get over it. Tell us now.” Thomas was growing impatient. “What you know is important. We need to know now.”

Seth pushed forward. “If he doesn’t want to talk then why make him? Leave him alone and everyone go home. If he wants to be dumb then let him.”

Tim put his hands on his hips and pressed his lips tightly together. His eyes grew like fire as he stared up at Seth. Then they quivered again but this time in a much more deliberate way. Everyone froze and stared at him.

“I’m…I’m not dumb!” he proclaimed. “I can speak if I want too!”

Everyone was taken back except for Toni. She stepped forward and gave him a big hug. Seth scowled.

Tim plopped down on the stool next to him. “So you want to know where the cave is? I can tell you. I can tell you exactly how to get there.” And for the next ten minutes Tim gave exact details as to how to find the path into the woods, what landmarks to look for, and each and every turn. When he was finished he looked hard at Seth and said, “There! Anything else?”

Copyright Bob La Forge 2011        email: