Chapter Ninety Seven
Chris pulled the rented van up to the new checkpoint leading to the little white church on the bluff. Chris looked past the church and punched Dave in the shoulder to jar him awake. “Oh man, look at that. Pastor’ house is burned and look, oh man, this is too much. See, one of those grand estates is gone. Thought I smelled smoke a ways back.”
Dave nodded, now fully awake. “Yeah, I can see, can’t I? Isn’t that the house where Ted and the guys were staying? Now look at this. They’ve doubled the size of this checkpoint. Hope they still let us in?”
Chris pulled over to where an officer pointed. He lowered the window as the grim officer approached. The officer stared at them as if they were the cause of the tragedies. “What’re your names boys and what’s in back?”
“I’m Chris and this is Dave. Here, um…, here’s my license. We belong to this church and in the back are boxes of new t-shirts they ordered. We’ve been gone for two days. What happened here?”
Instead of answering the officer looked for their names on a prepared clipboard and motioned to the back. “Open up!”
Chris looked over at the most sober Dave he’d ever seen and opened his door to get out. He followed the officer to the back and fumbled with the key, suddenly nervous in front of the serious officer. The officer had his men carefully open each box for inspection, looking for something else.
Dave got out on his side and walked back too. He noticed two armed soldiers slide under the van, looking up under the frame. Two others started going through the cab, while another with a dog, sniffed around the van. Whoa, something big sure went down while we were gone.
Dave overheard the officer talk to his men. “These boys are on the list but both have bad records. Hold ’em here until we get clearance.”
Chris pulled Dave over as they waited. “Something big went down, that’s for sure. It’s givin’ me the creeps wonderin’ what it is. Must’ve happened last night.”
Bill McPherson finally came out to the checkpoint to ID both boys and t-shirts. “Seems like you boys have serious records. Hmmm, kind of puts us on the spot after what happened last night.”
He fumbled through one of the boxes in his slow manner and held up a dark blue t-shirt. “You boys did a good job getting these done so quickly. That’s a plus. Hey, these look great. I’ll have to get two, no, probably six. I’ll send four to the kids. They’ll like this. Simple and true, straight from the heart, for the Glory of God. Hmmm, not a bad slogan, not at all. What’s this on the back? Pray with me for revival. Hmmm, kind a like that too.”
Dave pointed to the church emblem. That design is as close as we could get to what the church looks like and the bluff. But, um, what happened here?”
Bill shook his head toward the burnt homes. “’Nother attack, just like Ted envisioned, only more so, this time…”
Bill turned to the officer. “This checks on our end. I’ll vouch for the boys.”
The officer shook his head. “That’s not good enough. Not after what happened. We’ll need a signature from an official of this entity on these two forms. Make sure you understand what you’re signing for and the seriousness of the responsibility.”
Bill carefully read each form. “Hmmm, this is serious. I’ll take these in and get them back to you.”
The officer denied that. “No sir, today that’s not good enough. I’ll need to verify that person or persons myself and witness the signature, or else these boys and boxes can’t get in. Sorry, nothin’ personal. Same procedure all along the Mississippi corridor.”
Bill nodded his approval. “Oh, I understand that part of it, just makes it, um…, I’ll be back.”
Ten minutes later he returned with Pastor Herb, walking as if he were twenty years younger, and a hawkish looking Reggie.
Reggie didn’t wait for anyone else. He took the offered forms grimly and gave the officer his business look and ID. “I’ll handle this part. I’m an officer here and this is Pastor Herb. We’re as official as you’ll get. You see, little country churches like this aren’t set up like one of my companies. These look like at least five copies thick. One is a copy for us I presume?” He looked sharply up at the officer who nodded.
He forwarded the forms to Pastor Herb. “You’ll need to sign here and here, right next to me.”
Then he turned to the waiting officer with his piercing business eyes and commanded. “There, now you turn these boys over to me. I know what to do with them.”
The officer took a step back from Reggie and almost saluted. “Yes sir.”
Reggie gave the two boys the same look and motioned to them. “You boys get in. I’ll ride back with you. You see, we’re going to have us a little talk.”
Pastor Herb smiled and turned back to the officer as the van pulled away. “I know Reggie and I wouldn’t want to be either of those two boys.”
The officer grinned back. “It’s nice to know that you’re in good hands sir. Isn’t that Mr. Thornton? The Mr. Thornton as in bank president and such?”
Herb grew sober at the thought. “Yes. He is. All that and more. What a great story of God’ Grace that is.”
Herb pointed to the three estates. These are his too, so it was his loss. But you know? Now it’s in God’ hands. Just where Reggie, um, Mr. Thornton, wants them to be.”