The Day of the Lord
by Owen Weber
Copyright 1990 Owen Weber
This book may not be reproduced in any form
without the written consent of the author.
September 21st, 5:45 A.M.
Martin and Janet Davis were
awakened by the
first of a series of alarms from the clock radio on Martin's side of
the bed. Janet watched as Martin slowly became coherent
press the snooze button. He did so somewhat violently, as
expressing anger at the radio for disturbing his peaceful slumber, but
Janet thought this was quite a comical routine. In ten
the same alarm would startle him again, and again he'd respond by
pressing the snooze button. Then in another five minutes, at
A.M. sharp, the second alarm would turn on the radio, and Jim would be
awake enough to listen to the news and weather.
This morning's forecast called
for a beautiful
sunny and clear day, and this seemed to provide the final encouragement
for Martin to pry himself out of bed. After finishing his
bathroom duties and dressing for work, he checked Rachel's room to make
sure she was up. She was, as usual, already helping her
Martin's next morning chore
was to retrieve
the paper, so he opened the front door and stepped outside.
the weather was good, he liked to spend a few minutes in the front yard
watching the sleepy town of Rochester, Texas prepare for another
day. To Martin, Rochester was the ideal setting for raising a
family. It wasn't too big, and Dallas was only a short drive
away. The economy was good and largely dependent upon Softco,
software company where Martin as a software engineer.
Rochester was a quiet town,
but it was plenty
busy for Martin and his family. It had a mall, a movie
and a bowling alley, and the Davis's were extensively involved with
activities at their church.
There were several Tex-Mex
restaurants, as well as what Martin believed to be some of the best
Bar-B-Que places in Texas. As long as Softco kept making
he'd be content to stay in Rochester, and maybe even retire there.
It was still dark outside, but
a nearby street
lamp revealed the spot where the newspaper had been thrown.
retrieved it and looked up at the dark sky, trying to determine if the
weather forecast had been correct about clear skies today. It
difficult to tell, but he'd assume for now that it was accurate.
Martin went back inside and
joined his family
at the breakfast table. The breakfast conversation was light,
mostly centered upon Rachel's anticipation of her big field trip to the
Dallas zoo today. Rachel was excused to finish getting
but Martin and Janet lingered at the table. They watched her
until she disappeared into the hallway, and then looked at each other.
"She's growing up fast," Janet
"I know. I can't
believe she's already
in the third grade. I guess that means that we're getting
"Speak for yourself."
Janet drank the last of her
coffee and got up
to start clearing the table, and Martin got up to help her.
loaded the dishwasher and Martin wiped the table. As he
he couldn't help thinking how lucky he was to have such a great
family. He cherished his lovely and caring wife and
daughter. He had a good job too, although the money still
a little tight sometimes, but at least Janet didn't have to work
outside the home.
When the table was cleared,
himself another cup of coffee, unplugged the nearly-empty coffee pot,
set his cup on the counter to let the coffee cool, and leaned against
the wall, not yet ready to relinquish his thoughts of utopia.
just stood and watched Janet load the dishwasher and then prepare lunch
boxes for Rachel and him. Then he noticed it was getting
outside, and he decided to step out onto the patio.
This was also a part of
routine, and he always hoped to watch a peaceful sunrise before his
hectic work day began. In fact, one of the primary reasons
liked this house so much when they bought it was the fact that the
patio was on the east side of the house, perfect for viewing the
sunrise. He opened the door to the patio, but was immediately
disappointed. Although dawn was indeed breaking, the sun was
hidden by a thick cloud bank in the east sky which was allowing only a
hint of sunlight to escape past its well-defined border.
Although he'd hoped for a
Martin wasn't too surprised. The weather people weren't among
favorites, and he often commented on how frequently and widely their
forecasts didn't coincide with reality. He had a theory that
simply predicting tomorrow's weather as identical to today's would
result in a forecast as accurate as that of the professionals.
With no sunrise to witness, he
inside and closed the door. To verify that the weather folks
missed another forecast, he asked for Janet's confirmation.
"Honey, it wasn't supposed to
rain today, was it?"
"I don't think so.
Oh, I wonder if
Rachel needs to take some money for her field trip today.
you go ask her?"
This broke Martin's brief
fixation on the
weather. Instead of reaching for his coffee, he decided it
yet had time to cool, so he started walking toward the bedroom half of
the house calling to his pride and joy.
As he left the room, Janet
placed the skillet
into the sink as it filled with water. Then she glanced at
table and noticed that Martin had missed some crumbs when he cleaned
it. She picked up the wet dishrag, started toward the table,
glanced out the window. Her attention was immediately drawn
the great cloud in the sky that seemed to be quickly engulfing the
The wet dishrag fell to the
with a loud slap. The crumbs stayed on the table, and Rachel
didn't answer her father's call. The water kept running in
kitchen sink, slowly covering the dirty skillet. When it had
filled one side of the double sink, it gracefully began flooding the
other sink with a waterfall of soapy water. Below the sink
the garbage disposal, still full of undigested chunks of potato
peelings and orange rinds left from last night's dinner. This
caused the same effect as a beaver dam on a flowing stream, allowing
the water to drain away, but at a slightly slower rate than it was
spilling into the sink.
Soon the second sink also
began slowly filling
with water. When it eventually reached the same level as the
cabinet top, it spilled over the side and onto the floor.
turned the water off, so it continued on its slow course across the
kitchen floor, filling each square pattern in the linoleum, one at a
time. When it reached the carpeted living room, its pace
even more as the carpet and pad began to sponge it up. It was
making quite a mess, but, articulate as she was, this was no concern to
Janet. In fact, the only thing that happened as expected was
Martin's coffee did cool down, but nobody drank it. It just
on the counter next to two full lunch boxes, ready to be carried to
work and school.
The activity level throughout
household was reaching its usual early morning crisis level, but Jim
tried not to notice. As his wife Carol feverishly wiped the
one last time before leaving, he glanced over the top of his morning
paper just in time to make eye contact with her, and he consequently
absorbed one of those you-could-help-me-you-know looks. Jim
she wasn't really upset though. In fact, she wasn't really
expecting him to help. He supposed that she actually received
more gratification in citing how little help she received than she
would in receiving the assistance that would prove unworthy of her
This was her third attempt at
table. Fourteen-year-old Ryan always got up first, and he'd
through the kitchen about an hour earlier, leaving a trail of pop-tarts
and granola bars on the kitchen floor, and a spilled puddle of milk on
the table. Then he'd gone back for a shower before his sister had a
chance to hoard the bathroom.
Carol and twelve-year-old
Katie had passed him
on their way to their own breakfast ritual. Katie whipped up
waffles (she toasted two Eggos) and Carol had her usual crunchy cereal
with two-thirds of a banana. Jim didn't know why she always
that third which was still on the table when he arrived after his
shower and shave, but he'd become so accustomed to his one-third of a
banana, that now he thoroughly enjoyed it. It seemed to go
with his decaffeinated coffee in the morning, and, though he was
watching his calories, a third-of-banana couldn't hurt much. However,
he sometimes wondered if Carol left it there just to torment him, as a
reminder that he needed to watch what he ate.
Now Jim didn't really consider himself to be
fact, he thought he'd managed to keep in relatively good shape for a
businessman who would turn thirty-eight next month. He was
feet, ten inches tall with a medium frame, and weighed, oh,
one-eighty-five or so, he hadn't actually checked in a few
He knew it was good practice to weigh every day, but he was usually in
too much of a hurry.
Anyway, he couldn't be doing
He had the national waist, size 36 (although Jim wouldn't admit how
tight his pants were), and there were plenty of guys heavier than he
was. Oh sure, if you go by the chart in his doctor's office,
could stand to lose ten or twenty pounds--thirty at the most, but
everyone knew that those charts were completely unreasonable.
still felt healthy, and he felt reasonably good about himself.
Like most everyone else these
days, he was
also watching his cholesterol, so the family had learned to stop the
bacon-and-eggs thing years ago. He still liked the
kind of breakfast though, even if all the health magazines discouraged
that type of thing. At any rate, there was little chance of getting it
around here in the mornings. So he'd learned to be content
two cups of coffee and a third of a banana. He often thought
unfortunate it was that the breakfast period wasn't a family event, but
at least it wasn't as though they didn't see each other at all.
Jim led a happy and contented
often considered how lucky he was to have a happy family
He'd been heard to say that if a biography were ever to be written
about his life, although it might be boring, it could be accurately
completed without the use of the words "divorce,”
"AIDS,” or "jail." Not many men could say that
and Jim was proud of it, although he knew that all of his various
relationships with his family weren't perfect.
The Wheelers had the morning
pat. Jim knew that any second now Carol would yell, "Kids,
go," and the kids would respond with the usual reasons why they weren't
"I didn't have time to comb my
"Where's my lunch box?"
"Have you seen my history
Jim knew them all well, and
dismayed that they lacked the creativity to come up with new lines more
often than they did. Oh, well, Jim thought, Carol has control.
Jim wasn't a male chauvinist,
but he did like
to think of himself as the patriarch of the family, and he'd grown
accustomed to using the early morning time to his advantage.
considered it the only truly peaceful time of his day. After
Carol left with the kids, he could count on five or ten minutes of
absolutely quiet and peaceful freedom before he'd hear the carpool
horn in front of the house. This morning, as usual, he was
looking forward to that tranquil time alone with his newspaper and his
favorite early morning TV news program.
"Kids, let's go," Carol
screamed just at the
point when her mouth was closest to Jim's ear. She always did
that, and Jim didn't think she realized how well her voice carried.
Carol was quite efficient in
family going in the mornings. She taught history at the same junior
high school where Ryan and Katie attended classes. This made
convenient for her to serve as their chauffeur on her way to her own
Carol was a good teacher and
she enjoyed the
kids she taught, but Jim wasn't completely convinced that she wouldn't
rather stay home, because she also enjoyed her role as a
housewife. However, she felt like the family needed the
contribution which her job provided, and she made the best of it.
Jim had told her that they
didn't need the
extra money. After all, he made more than most other men he
knew. He wanted her to do what she wanted to do, but, on the
other hand, he wasn't sure they could make it without her
He'd put it to paper, and it seemed like they were just barely getting
by the way it was, despite a combined income approaching six
figures. This was crazy, he thought. Why do we need
$100,000 a year to live comfortably? Maybe it had something
with their lifestyle, as manifested by their four-year-old, 3000 square
foot, $200,000 house, not to mention their new swimming pool and spa
which they had added last spring.
Jim's thoughts suddenly
returned to his family
as they sounded their excuses for not being ready and then began their
single-file procession to the garage.
"Good-bye hon," Carol said,
as she whisked by him and planted a quick kiss on his mouth.
Next came Katie, "Good-bye
daddy," and she kissed him on the cheek.
"Bye Dad," Ryan said, without
kissing him anywhere.
"Good-bye," Jim responded to
the hurried trio. "Have a good day at school."
Within fifteen seconds Jim
heard the back door
closing, the automatic garage door going up, three doors slamming on
their year-old minivan, the engine starting and fading into the street,
and the garage door closing.
Jim ventured from his chair at
the head of the
breakfast table to his favorite recliner in the den. He
the remote control for the television which was hidden under the TV
Guide, and he tapped the up volume button a couple of times.
news had been on for twenty minutes, but Jim had learned to leave the
volume low until the others left. This was his contribution
more civil and family-oriented breakfast time. During
he quietly read the paper, but when Carol and the kids left, he always
paid more attention to the TV news.
This morning he wanted to hear
report on the recent terrorist activities in the Middle East.
He'd been following the story for a few days now, and he knew that he'd
have to be well informed if he were to participate in the coffee break
discussions at work today. This was a major topic for small talk these
days, although today, being Friday, would no doubt yield more
discussions about the upcoming weekend's football match-ups than on
world peace. Nevertheless, as he'd learned in management
a good manager must be up on current events.
It seemed that the terrorist
activity had been
on the increase lately, ever since the bombings of the U.S. embassies
in Africa. On Wednesday there had been another hijacking in
Mediterranean, and on Thursday so many groups had claimed
responsibility for it that the truth was yet to be discerned.
This morning's paper had indicated that they now knew who indeed was
holding the hostages from the commercial airliner. Of perhaps
more critical concern were the threats that this group was making about
more immediate terrorist activities on a worldwide basis. Now
wanted to see if this morning's TV news could shed more light on this
than his morning paper had.
He flicked the channel changer
until he found a reporter discussing the recent terrorism.
"The standoff in a Tel Aviv
continues this morning. The unidentified Arab terrorist group
threatening to begin killing hostages unless Israel releases fifty Arab
prisoners by noon today."
Jim thought, haven't we heard
this too many
times before? Well, at least this time they really did have
hostages, and the networks were now showing footage of them, released
to the media by the terrorists. However, the reporter seemed
be more concerned with the possibility of additional terrorist sieges
than with the hostage situation currently at hand.
"Although the identity of the
still unknown, they are boasting of a widespread and well-organized
reign of terror yet to come, of which this incident is only the first
in a series of steps to secure a list of demands from Israel, the
United States, Great Britain, and other 'western pigs.'
Furthermore, some unofficial sources at the CIA implied that there was
indeed cause for concern that a well-organized plot was
Officials haven't ruled out the possibility that these terrorist groups
might even be planning activities in the United States."
Jim grimaced. Until
now, all this
madness had been isolated to the Middle East, but now things could get
He thought that things had
seemed to go downhill ever since Reagan left the White House.
Jim tended to get excited over
these, but he'd learned through experience that they usually blew over
in a few days. Oh, sure there were still American hostages
somewhere between Iran and Libya from the incidents two years ago, but
news of them surfaced only occasionally. This made people
Jim tend to forget about it. Besides, he didn't personally
any hostages. After all, there were bad things happening
day, but he couldn't get depressed over each incident. He
was his responsibility to protect himself and his family, and it was up
to other husbands and fathers to do the same for their families.
However, he sincerely hoped
strikes would not occur here. Now that would be a genuine
concern. He was unaware of how his selfish feelings almost
condoned the violence as long as he wasn't personally
This particular story held his attention however, because of the
feeling of the media and others that something bigger was being
planned. He'd have to watch this very closely the next few
Jim's attention switched to
the two familiar
beeps of the horn on Karl's little German import. Jim
preferred to just drive himself to work every day, but he felt like he
was being a good corporate citizen by carpooling.
In one smooth motion he hit
the off button on
the remote control with his right hand, lifted himself out of the
recliner, and snatched up his nearby briefcase with his left
hand. In three long strides he was out the front door,
locking it behind him.
It had looked stormy just a
earlier, but the threat had disappeared as quickly as it had
come. It might be a nice day after all, and Jim suddenly felt
sorry he wasn't on his way to the golf course. Oh, well, he
too busy anyway, and maybe he could play this weekend.
Jim liked getting an early
start on the day
because the traffic was noticeably lighter before 7:30 A.M..
strolled briskly down the walk, opened the door on the little car that
had already started rolling forward.
"Mornin' Jimbo," said Karl
What an outgoing fellow Karl
he was much different from Jim, and occasionally became a pest, Jim had
actually become quite fond of Karl. It seemed like Karl could
make anyone feel good, even on a bad day, just by talking in a friendly
way. He somehow made Jim feel important, like he really
cared. Karl was a big man, and as he sat behind the small
steering wheel in his tiny bucket seat, he reminded Jim of a sardine
packed tightly into a flat gray can. At least I'm not that
Seeming to be able to read
Jim's mind as Jim
quickly dropped into the seat and banged his head on the dome light,
Karl said, "Yeah, but I get forty miles to the gallon." As
Karl followed his own joke with a belly laugh that caused the little
import to bounce.
"Hi, Karl," Jim said, "Ready
for the weekend?"
"You bet. How about
Raiders?" Karl asked in reference to Thursday night's
televised NFL match-up.
Having missed the game and
neglected the sports page of his morning paper, Jim replied, "Who won?"
He knew that Karl would be
glad to tell all about it, as was the case for the next five minutes.
By the time they reached the
on-ramp to the
freeway, Jim utilized a brief lull in Karl's play-by-play to change the
direction of the conversation.
"What's going on in the Middle
East?" Jim asked.
"It's sure enough getting
sticky over there,"
Karl responded. "I'd really like to know who's behind it
all. Probably those crazy Iraqis, or the Russians, or
I don't trust any of them, even if the Cold War has supposedly
ended. Just because the Berlin Wall came down is no reason to
start trusting the Russians. I just hope all the terrorism
confined to the other side of the world."
"Yeah, that's what bothers
me. I heard
on the news this morning that the Arab's are promising more terrorism
"--They even claim to be
directing some of it
at us. They want us to think they've really got stuff
but I don't believe them. Those murderers aren't known for
organizational skills, unless someone's helping them, like the
"I guess we'll just wait and
"Yeah, but I just hope our
intelligence is more up on things than the media."
They continued their small
talk concerning how
much one can believe the media, with each of them expressing their hope
that players like the President and the CIA officials would keep
Americans out of all the trouble.
As Karl exited the freeway and
their parking lot, he seemed to be driving a little faster than
usual. He'd spotted a much better-than-average parking place,
was racing toward it. Both men must have noticed the unusual
availability of parking spaces, as they checked their watches
simultaneously to see if they were earlier than usual. They
weren't, but maybe a lot of people had started their weekend early. It
wouldn't be that unusual for a Friday, especially with good golfing
With their usual methodology,
they got out of
the car, grabbed their briefcases, and headed for their respective
"Want to leave right at 5:00
today?" Karl asked.
"I wouldn't even
mind leaving a little
early." Jim thought that he'd like to watch the evening news
reports on TV to see if there were any new developments on the
terrorism scene. This seemed to be bothering him more than he
would've expected. "Call me when you're ready to go," he
as Karl walked away.
"Okay, have a good day," Karl
said, and he
immediately started a new conversation with the nearest available
Bill McMann finished his
orange juice and
carried his glass and cereal bowl to the kitchen sink. He
returned to the breakfast table, closed the cereal box, and quickly
stashed it in the pantry. As he was closing the pantry door,
sugar bowl smashed to the floor and shattered into pieces, parts of it
flying the entire length of the kitchen floor. Bill had been
too much of a hurry and inadvertently knocked the sugar bowl down when
he stowed the cereal box, and now he had a mess to clean up.
"It never pays to be in a
hurry," Bill said
out loud. That's what Maggie would've told me, he thought.
"Now where did I put the
had started talking to himself quite frequently during the past few
He glanced back inside the
pantry, the logical
residing place for the broom, but it wasn't there. He was
aware of the broken glass scattered across the kitchen floor, so he
twisted his body around without moving his bare feet. Spotting the
broom in the crack between the refrigerator and the wall, he carefully
crossed the kitchen on his tip toes and retrieved the broom.
Beginning at the refrigerator, he swept the kitchen floor, sloppily
pushing most of the bits of broken glass toward the pantry where he'd
use the dust pan to empty the mess into the trash can.
As he cleaned up the glass, he
thought of how
typical it was to find himself in such a predicament. In the
year he had broken so many things around the house that he was
surprised he still had enough dishes left to even serve himself a
meal. He'd never been very good at menial tasks involving
hand-eye coordination, and he was even less skilled at kitchen chores.
When the floor was clear of
broken glass, Bill
retrieved the dishrag from the kitchen sink and wiped off the breakfast
table and the kitchen counter tops. He'd seen Maggie clean up
kitchen thousands of times, but he'd never thought of how much work it
actually was, or how much valuable time it consumed. He stood
the sink and washed the few kitchen dishes by hand. Oh, he
have used the dishwasher, but somehow there never seemed to be enough
dishes around to fill it up. He'd thought of leaving them
up for a day or two until he had a full load, but Maggie never would've
approved of such behavior. She had always been very
about how her kitchen looked, and Bill would not compromise her
beautiful kitchen, despite his own sloppy domestic habits.
Bill wished that Maggie were
just to do the household chores, but to give him the companionship to
which he'd become accustomed after thirty-seven years of
marriage. He still could not believe it sometimes.
six-month fight with breast cancer, Maggie had died last
Even though it had been almost a year now, Bill missed her every moment.
He walked into the living room
the front door. As soon as he opened the door, he stretched
six-foot, one-inch frame to reach down and retrieve today's newspaper
which was propped against the door. As he stooped, he felt
familiar pain of arthritis in his back. For his sixty-one
he was actually quite trim and healthy, except for the arthritis, but
he was even learning how to cope with it better. If he used
legs instead of his back, he managed much better. This
in his hurry to read the paper, he'd forgotten to stoop down with his
legs, so now he'd pay the consequences with about five minutes of
moderate pain in his back as he sat in his rocker and read the
The lead story was on Middle
which usually aroused his interest. However, Bill had become
somewhat bored with the dominance of international terrorism in the
headlines lately, and this morning he wasn't in the mood to ponder the
prospects of world peace, so he skipped to the metropolitan
section. That's too bad, he thought. A young boy in
mid-cities had contracted AIDS from a blood transfusion. That
wasn't supposed to happen anymore. His parents must be
Maggie hadn't been able to
have children, and
they had never tried to adopt. Oh, they had thought about it,
Bill's teaching and occasional travel had kept him very busy, as had
Maggie's civil duties and volunteer work. Sometimes they
had enough time together themselves, so they had considerately decided
that they would not be parents. Maggie had thought that maybe
meant it that way since she was unable to conceive.
Bill read a few more articles
and then glanced
at his watch. It was 7:00 A.M., time to go. He slipped on his
socks and shoes and retrieved his overcoat from the back of a chair
where he'd thrown it last night. He walked through the house,
turned off the light in the kitchen, entered the garage, and pressed
the button for the automatic garage door opener. He got into
two-year-old town car, backed out, closed the garage door, and began
his brief eight-block jaunt to the seminary.
Bill had been a professor at
Theological Seminary for more than thirty-five years. He
his job too much to consider retirement. He felt like he was
having a positive influence on the lives of his young students, though
he didn't travel on the seminar circuit anymore. His job at
seminary was the focal point of his existence, especially since Maggie
He had a particularly
this semester. He only taught three classes. Two
Church History courses, and the other one was a first-year preaching
class. He was glad not to have any theology courses this
year. He didn't know if this good fortune had been bestowed
him by Dean Williams because of his seniority, or because the dean had
felt sorry for him after Maggie died. Regardless, he enjoyed his
classes and his students, his reputation was outstanding, and he made
more than enough money.
He pulled into his reserved
parking spot, got
out and headed toward his office, hesitantly at first, until the car
horn confirmed the secure status of his car's alarm system.
Within ten seconds he was inside the Administration Building, and in
another ten he'd climbed the stairs to the second floor. When
reached the third door on the right, he unlocked it and went
inside. He turned on the light in his office even though the
sunlight was shining quite brightly through the window, illuminating
his many diplomas on the far wall.
Because of Bill's seniority,
his office was
quite large, as large as the Dean's, and Bill was quite comfortable
here. Another perk which came with his seniority was the
oak desk in the center of his office, slightly larger than that of most
other professors. Behind the desk was his cushioned,
chair, molded by Bill's back over the years so that it now fit him
perfectly. Maggie used to say that Bill was like Archie
because he loved his chair so much.
Two chairs set in front of the
desk, and there
were shelves of books on two walls. Near the far wall was a
which Bill had occasionally used for short periods of rest,
particularly between seminar trips. Without even sitting
opened his file drawer and retrieved his notes for today's classes. He
was always early for his classes in case any of the students wanted to
talk to him. He headed down the hall for his classroom,
how glad he was that today was Friday. He had no classes on
Mondays, and he was looking forward to the three-day weekend, quite
unaware of the tragedies it would reveal.
Jim's company, Softco, had
impressive facility five years ago, and they always tried to be very
modern in their building designs. This complex resembled a
college campus, with eight low-rise buildings, none with more than five
stories. It was a very nice environment, but Jim thought that
they spent way too much money on it, both in construction and in
maintenance costs. They even had a full-time grounds crew of
than thirty people just to insure that the vegetation was always
seasonal. Jim would've preferred that they had just poured
concrete around all the buildings, and used the savings to increase the
Jim pulled his company badge
from his shirt
pocket and stuck it into the badge reader beside the door to his
building. He waited two seconds then heard a clicking noise
the LED on the badge reader showed its approval. He quickly turned the
handle on the door, managing to open it before it automatically locked
again. He repeated the process to enter a second set of
then he pushed the up arrow for the elevators. In about ten
seconds, the bell above one of the three elevators rang, and its up
arrow light came on. He stepped into the opening elevator
and pressed the third floor button.
Jim had stuck with the same
software firm for
sixteen years, through the good times and the bad. For the
fourteen years he'd remained strictly technical, but two years ago he'd
finally succumbed to the pressure (or "opportunity,” as his
superiors had put it) of taking an IMS management position.
felt like he was a pretty good manager, and his people liked him,
although he wasn't sure he had all the people skills required for the
job. The money was good though, and it never hurts to have
management experience on your resume, but there were more headaches too.
When the elevator door opened
on the third
floor, Jim's feet seemed to automatically lead him on the familiar path
down the outside hallway. He stopped at the office bearing the
nameplate reading "J. E. Wheeler" and opened the closed door to his
When he entered the office, he
familiar opening-up routine. He hung his overcoat on the
behind the door, then he stowed his briefcase under his desk.
flipped the power switch on his PC, then the one on his monitor, and
finally, the one on his office printer.
While the PC was powering up,
he retrieved his
key chain from his pants pocket, unlocked the top drawer of his desk,
and returned his key chain to his pocket. Then he opened the
drawer he'd just unlocked, and retrieved two more keys from the paper
clip holder setting at the front edge of the drawer. He used
of the keys to unlock his side desk drawer, and the other to open his
credenza, then he returned both keys to their holding place.
thought that the company worried too much about security.
Just then, his PC beeped,
signaling him that
it had completed the power-up process and was ready for him to
logon. He sat down in his office chair, lined himself up with
keyboard, and typed in his password. Within thirty seconds,
office window was displayed on the monitor, showing various icons which
would have looked foreign to the untrained user. With his
hand, he took hold of the electronic mouse just to the right of the
keyboard, and pushed it gently across the terminal table, forcing the
screen pointer to line up on top of the calendar icon. He
double-clicked the first button on the mouse, and his daily calendar
was displayed. Across the top was today's date, September 17,
the rest of the screen showed all his appointments for the day. He
groaned as he remembered that today would primarily be a day of
meetings. He had to make a presentation to his boss's boss at
8:30, he had a status meeting with his own boss at 11:00, and several
short individual status meetings with some of his subordinates all
He glanced at his watch and it
8:20. He spun around in his chair and began gathering the
necessary materials for his 8:30 meeting.
Although he'd rather have had
more time to
himself today, he gutted up and attended all his meetings with a smile
on his face. He spent his "spare" time answering questions,
chasing problems, and asking questions, as usual--all the things a good
manager does so well. Occasionally he'd taken a minute or two
think about the terrorist incidents, which still captivated his
curiosity and innermost attention, but he had too much else to do to
give this the serious thought he would've liked. He wasn't
why his mind wanted to dwell on world peace all of a sudden.
hoped it wasn't a bad omen of things to come.
His day had been a fairly
until about 4:30. As he was cleaning up and contemplating leaving as
quickly as possible, Maria Jameson, one of Jim's people, knocked on his
open door and said, "Jim, have you seen Martin?"
Martin Davis was another of
and realizing that he'd not seen Martin all day, Jim said, "No, I
haven't. He's not in his office?"
"No," Maria answered, "Maybe
he left early. Oh well, it can wait until Monday."
"Okay, Maria," Jim
replied. "Have a nice weekend."
As Jim continued locking up,
why Martin may not have come in today. He hadn't let Jim know
any plans to take the day off, and he hadn't called in sick.
hoped that nothing was wrong. His day had been so busy that he hadn't
taken the time to visit all his employees as he liked to do, and he
hadn't even missed Martin. He quickly spun his Rolodex to the
"D"s and dialed Martin's home number but there was no answer.
well, he thought, the company's policy was to allow one day's absence
without advance notice.
If he wasn't in by Monday
morning, Jim would
have to get more involved. Jim called Karl, and was glad to
that he was ready to leave early also. Jim locked up, and on
way to the elevator he passed Martin's darkened office. It
suddenly occurred to him that the office had indeed been dark earlier
in the day as well, but Jim had been too busy to take note of it.
Right now, though, he was
ready for the
weekend, and he'd learned a long time ago not to take his work home
with him, so he proceeded to meet Karl at the car. The ride
was fairly uneventful, except for the usual eagerness Karl expressed
for the upcoming football games on Sunday afternoon. Jim visited
quietly and politely as usual, but he was anxious to get home and watch
the news. He was still surprised at how many times today he'd
caught himself speculating about world terrorism.
Karl dropped him off, and Jim
went right from
the front door to the den, without even loosening his tie. He
down, pressed the on button on the remote control, and was pleased to
see that he was just in time for the network news, and he watched and
"Our top story tonight centers
terrorist activities," the anchorman began, as Jim thought that his
voice seemed even more solemn than usual.
"An unofficial spokesperson
for the CIA today
reported the apparent kidnaping of several top government officials
from various countries around the world, including at least one from
the United States. Senator Walter Hanson, a Republican from
Texas, and chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, didn't
show up for a special meeting with the President today. His
are unsure of his whereabouts, and it's feared that he's been
kidnaped. Shortly after this report first aired at about 1:00
eastern time today, members of the feared Arab Nationalists of the
World (ANW) terrorist group claimed responsibility for Senator Hanson's
kidnaping, and they promise to release video tapes to verify their
claim within 72 hours. The demands of the ANW haven't yet
"Yeos Kristos, self-proclaimed
leader of the
ANW was reported to say, 'The Day of the Lord will descend upon all
western nations, especially the United States.'
"In a possibly related story,
Jordan, a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has been strangely
unavailable for comment. However, at this hour, due to
difficulties in contacting either his aides or family members, it
hasn't been determined whether or not General Jordan is presumed
Jim's mouth dropped
open. Had it
started? Were there terrorists on our homeland now?
bombs going to start exploding in American airports and shopping
malls? Kristos' threat reminded him of Saddam Hussein's
to the coming Gulf War as "the mother of all wars," but he felt that
this was much more significant.
Just as the fear gripped him,
and he suddenly
felt an intense need to uphold his commitment as protector of his
family, Jim heard the garage door going up. He jumped up and
greeted Carol and the kids. Jim quickly briefed Carol on the top news
story, keeping one ear tuned to the TV. It was Carol's custom
these instances to respond with a calming effect on Jim.
"Now honey, don't get too
worked up about the
news. You know you always act impulsively over things like
this. It'll probably all be explained in a couple of days,
we'll have forgotten about it within a week. Remember how
you were that the demonstrations for democracy in China were going to
lead to World War III?"
Jim knew that Carol was
She usually was. However, he promised himself that he'd
this news closely to its conclusion over the next few days.
The family decided to eat out
and see a
movie. By the time they got back, it was 11:30, and they were
ready for bed. Jim wondered whether Carol's insistence upon
stopping for ice cream had anything to do with insuring that they
didn't get home in time for the news.
Jim slept fairly well, but
wasn't ready to get
up when Carol brought him a cup of coffee and reminded him about
today's soccer games. Katie played at eleven and Ryan played at
three. Though he didn't feel like going, he acted out his
the caring father by attending both games, as well as cheering
enthusiastically for each of his children's teams. Both games
turned out to be losing efforts for the Wheeler kids, but they both
took it well. Jim lacked exceptional athletic ability, and
consequently, he also lacked the usual interest in sports that so many
men shared, like Karl. Jim was more interested in the training of his
kids' minds than their bodies.
Through the whole day, sports
and all, he
still couldn't get the terrorist news out of his mind. On the
home, Jim caught a special report on the all-news station in his car.
"More people have been
reported missing, and
the authorities cannot dismiss the possibility of thousands of people
being missing worldwide."
As soon as Jim got home, he
caught the end of the evening news on television for a few more details.
"Senator Hanson is still
unaccounted for, and
new missing person reports are still being reported locally."
Jim tried to take some
consolation in what
seemed to be less excitement in the anchorman's voice since Friday
Bill awoke early Saturday
discovered that he'd slept in the living room again. He
his face, put on a pot of coffee, and walked outside to get the
Saturday paper. While the coffee brewed, he spread the
across the kitchen table, and read the headlines.
"Senator and Others Feared
Below the headline were two
pictures, and Bill
was struck with terror as he immediately recognized the first
one. It was Senator Walter Hanson. Bill had met the
at a fund raiser, and they had hit it off pretty well. Both
liked to talk about theological things, and they had visited several
times by phone.
The other picture was that of
Jordan. Bill immediately read the story which had been on TV
since Friday night.
"Senator Hanson disappeared at
morning, and the logical explanation is a terrorist
General Jordan is missing too, and so are a number of other people
around the world. Authorities say hundreds, maybe thousands,
What was happening?
Bill was seized with
a sense of urgent responsibility, although he couldn't explain
why. He wasn't that close to Senator Hanson, but he still
to help. He immediately tried calling the Senator's office in
Washington, but all he could get was a busy signal. How big
this problem? Were there other people missing that he knew?
Bill decided to drink a cup of
coffee and try
to regain control of his senses. Once in control, he still
as if he had to do something. He had to find out what was
on. The first thing he'd do would be to call several of his
associates just to see if anyone else was missing. He'd start
with his colleagues at the seminary. Wait a minute.
phone numbers were in his office. This would be easier to do
the office. He immediately unplugged the coffee pot, put on
shoes, retrieved his briefcase, and drove to his office.
Once there, he began calling
everyone he could
think of who might be able to shed some light on this thing.
was calm though, not always letting on why he was calling. He
spent hours on the phone but came up with nothing. Nobody
knew seemed to be missing. After being on the phone all day
he felt weary. He pulled a couple of books from his bookshelf
decided to rest a while. What better way to relax than to lie down on
the couch and read for a few minutes.
Jim didn't sleep quite as well
as he had the previous night. He woke up early and was
the Sunday paper when the rest of his family came into the kitchen for
breakfast. He wanted to kick around the subject of world
terrorism, but he knew that Carol wouldn't approve of getting the kids
worried over nothing. Besides they had to eat fast to get to
After breakfast, Jim set the
VCR to record the
Sunday morning news show, "New News." Though it seemed like a
of trouble to get the whole family ready, Jim rather enjoyed the Sunday
service. Many of his business associates
and it was a good place to meet new people. Not
he necessarily used church
as a source of business contacts, but it was
somehow comforting for him to see his business associates in a church
environment. Maybe they weren't all cutthroats after
Jim considered himself to be a fairly religious man--as much as the
next guy. He'd attended church
fairly regularly ever since
kids were born, and he was always willing to help out with special
The Wheelers were early, for
once, and Jim
briefly greeted the pastor before the service. Reverend Gary
Loomis was an energetic 46-year-old preacher, although not the most
people-oriented person in the world. Jim wasn't as crazy
Reverend Loomis as some were, but he felt like he often offered some
interesting insights in his sermons. Jim sometimes wondered
Reverend Loomis was just trying to work his way up the
Jim sat down with his family in the huge
and they all participated as the singing started, although
unenthusiastically. He eyed the crowd for familiar and
faces as Reverend Loomis began his sermon. This morning he
preaching from one of those little books in the back of the New
Testament--one that starts with "T"--Timothy or Titus or
something. Say, wasn't that Bill Jacobs over there, Jim
thought. I need to talk to him after the service.
back at the preacher, Jim acted like he was genuinely interested in
what Rev. Loomis was saying--something about being caught up with
someone in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Jim hoped
he got to Bill Jacobs before he had a chance to talk to Mike Jones
about his new software package.
After only a little more
sermon was over, and the Wheeler's went out for pizza before returning
home, where the kids got on the telephones and the adults took their
Sunday afternoon naps.
Bill awoke early again Sunday
He hadn't slept well, perhaps because the couch in his office wasn't a
sleeper. He'd inadvertently read himself to sleep Saturday
and now he'd have to hurry to make it to church
on time. He
to the public restroom in the Administration Building, washed his face,
shaved with the old razor he kept in his desk drawer, and tried to make
himself look as presentable as possible before driving to church.
Bill enjoyed his Sunday School
Although obviously qualified to teach it, he preferred simply taking
part in the discussion with the other seniors. Some were
and some were widows and widowers like him, and he was comfortable
here. Besides, he didn't have the extra ten to twenty hours
week to prepare the lesson if he were the teacher.
This morning, however, he
couldn't get Senator
Hanson off his mind. He had to find out what was happening.
Suddenly he thought of Jack Danfield. He was an old friend of
Bill's, or perhaps more accurately, an old adversary. Oh,
weren't hostile with each other, but they did share quite different
views theologically concerning how the Bible should be
interpreted. Dr. Danfield was the pastor of Grace Memorial
down the street, and the two doctors had originally met about ten years
ago when both were asked to present their views in a debate on a radio
program. They had stayed in loose contact ever
enjoyed each other, even though their views were so different.
Without understanding why,
thinking of Dr.
Danfield relative to Senator Hanson seemed to bear some particular
significance. Bill couldn't pay attention during his whole
School class. When the class was over, Bill blindly followed
impulse, and drove down to Grace Memorial.
What's this? He'd
planned on parking in
the street rather than in the cramped church
parking lot, but when he
arrived, he pulled into the lot and stopped his car right in front of
the front door of the church.
His was the only car
He quickly got out and tried the door. It was
Locked? It's 11:00 A.M. on Sunday morning. Dr.
held services here every Sunday for thirty years. Maybe they
moved. No, Dr. Danfield loved this location, and moving would
too costly. Besides, Bill had seen no sign of moving here
He circled the whole church,
door. Nobody was here. What was going on? Was a
Glancing at his watch, he
realized that the
service was probably already starting at his own
He got into his car and drove back to church.
auditorium, he tried Dr. Danfield's church
and home phone numbers from
the phone in the corridor, but there were no answers. Where
Bill drove back
to his office at
the seminary. After contemplating for an hour as to what he
should do, he finally went home and called the police. They
seemed less than concerned that a church
was locked, and implied that
they had better things to do, such as investigating some real missing
persons reports. Bill quietly agreed that he had little
Still, he had to do
something. He would
call Steve Jones. He and Steve were friends from way back,
Steve was a detective on the police force.
Bill retrieved Steve's
business card from his wallet and dialed Steve's private line.
"Steve, Bill McMann.
Have you got a minute?"
"Sure, but only a
"I know you're busy with all
disappearances, but I'm concerned about a friend of mine.
Danfield is the pastor of Grace Memorial Church, and there wasn't a
single person at his church
"Well, I am very busy, but
you've roused my
curiosity. I'll tell you what. I can't check on it
now, but I'll send a man down there later today, and I'll call you
first thing in the morning."
"That would be
great. Sorry to bother you."
"No problem. I'll
talk to you tomorrow."
Bill was about to tell him
goodbye, but when he heard the phone click, he simply hung up as well.
Meanwhile, as evening
approached, Bill found
an old paper written by Jack Danfield. He kicked off his
lay down on the couch and began to study it.
Jim didn't awaken from his nap
until 5:00, and
he went to the den to finish reading the paper and watch the "New News"
broadcast that he'd recorded. The commentator wasted no time
getting to his topic of the day, international terrorism. It
seemed that there were more people missing now, people from all over
the world. The latest reports showed that there may be
of Americans missing, and maybe a considerable number of
Russians. However, none of the Russian leaders were among
missing, as was the case with the two American dignitaries. Was Russia
the object of the terrorism as well, Jim thought, or was this the
Russian way of tricking the imperialists? After all, Russia
been known to dispose of some of its own people for lesser reasons than
Jim listened as the
commentator added a possible new angle to the story in his editorial.
"What about these missing
Indeed, some may have been kidnaped as the ANW claims, but who were the
kidnappers? We've been assuming that all of these missing
are possible kidnap victims, but is it possible that some of the people
who are missing are among the kidnappers? What better way for
terrorist organization to pull off such a caper than to infiltrate our
ranks from the inside. There is some evidence to suggest that
has been the plan of the ANW for several years to plant spies into our
society, so that they would seem like some of us. Then at the
right time, they could make their move."
Jim wondered, could any of
this be true, or was this commentator just as paranoid as he was?
Just then Carol came into the
den, and Jim
quickly pressed the stop button on the VCR, and pretended to be
watching the sports channel, so as not to give her the impression that
he was taking all this too seriously. He could tell it hadn't
worked though, when she said, "Any new news about those disappearances?"
"Not really," Jim
answered. "Now they're
hypothesizing about some of the missing people having kidnaped some of
the other missing people. What a mess."
To appease Carol, and to test
her reaction, he
added, "It'll probably all blow over in the next day or two."
"I hope so," Carol
replied. "But I guess
it doesn't hurt to stay well informed," she said, in order to add her
contribution to his gesture of domestic tranquility.
The family spent the evening
watching a TV
movie, then they all decided to turn in early to get plenty of rest for
the new week. As Jim was brushing his teeth, he turned on the TV in the
master bedroom and caught the last part of the lead story on the
news. A reporter was covering the private life of General
trying to uncover some clues that might help find out what had happened
to him. She ended the report by saying, ". . . Regardless,
prayers of millions of Americans are with General Jordan tonight,
especially since he is known to be a deeply religious man."
Jim rinsed, turned off the TV,
and got into
bed. The words of the reporter dwelt in his
slept restlessly all night, waking more than once thinking about
General Jordan being a deeply religious man. It was too bad,
thought, that this had to happen to him.
Before they knew it, the
various clock radios
in the Wheeler household were waking everyone to an assortment of
alarms and radio stations. Having not slept soundly, Jim had slapped
the snooze alarm one time too many, and found himself in a mad dash
without time for either coffee or the morning paper. It was
day to drive the carpool, and he didn't want Karl to have to wait on
him. On the way out the door, he tossed today's paper into
briefcase. Within two minutes he was pulling up to Karl's
sidewalk as Karl emerged from the front door of his house.
"Hi Jim," Karl said, in a tone
much more solemn than usual.
"Good morning. How
was your weekend?"
"Lost fifty bucks on the
Cowboys game. I think I'll quit watching football."
This didn't sound like Karl,
but Jim had seen
him like this before. He'd learned that the best way to
to Karl's sulking was to remain quiet. Karl would probably
lot better on the way home tonight, although Jim didn't believe that
all of his gloominess was brought on by a poor showing by the Cowboys.
Consequently, both men remained quiet for the rest of their commute,
each being consumed in his own private thoughts.
Jim found a better-than-usual
and the two men parted and agreed to leave around 5:00. Jim
headed for his office, making only the necessary stops at the badge
readers. When he reached his office, he hung his overcoat
the door as usual, opened his briefcase, removed a handful of folders
which hadn't been touched since he put them there Friday afternoon,
closed his briefcase, and stowed it under his desk. Next he
turned on his PC, then the monitor, then the printer. As he
waited for the PC to power up, he unlocked his desk drawers and
credenza. Then his PC beeped, and he sat down and typed in his password.
When the office program
displayed his office
window, he immediately noticed a red check mark beside the in-basket
icon, indicating that he had some important mail waiting for him in his
electronic in-basket. Instead of checking his calendar first, as he
usually did, he pressed the right arrow and down arrow keys on his
keyboard until the in-basket icon was highlighted. Then, when
pressed the enter key, a list of all his in-basket items was displayed,
and he began examining the list.
Of the seven items listed, the
first one was
highlighted with a red star, denoting that it required immediate
attention. This wasn't so unusual, but it also had the word
"URGENT" in capital letters after it. He'd seen the red star
often enough, but he'd never seen a memo so important that it deserved
this much special designation. Someone really wanted to be
that he read this one immediately. This was, no doubt, the
for the red marker on the previous screen. This looks
Jim thought, and he pressed the down arrow on his keyboard until the
cursor moved to a position just in front of that first mail
He pressed the appropriate key to open the item. Within two
seconds Jim was reading the memo addressed to "All Managers":
"Due to slightly unusual
since last Friday, we are asking all managers to report the names of
any employees whose whereabouts cannot be accounted for as of 9:00 A.M.
today. Please have your reports turned in to the Personnel
Department by 10:00 A.M.."
Oh, no, Jim thought.
A million questions
raced through his mind. This couldn't have anything to do with the news
reports of terrorism and missing persons, could it? There
couldn't be people in this facility who have been abducted, could
there? Could there actually be people here who were mixed up
the politics of the world to the extent that they were the objects of
terrorist plots? Worse yet, could the news commentator be
in supposing that some of those missing were actually the kidnappers?
Could terrorists have infiltrated us so cleverly? Could this
Suddenly, his management
and he told himself to think this thing through. He checked
date and time on the memo. It had today's date, September
and it had been sent about an hour earlier. His bosses must
been in early this morning, and this must be pretty
Before he got too excited though, he decided that he should wait and
see if there really were employees unaccounted for.
Then, just as suddenly, he
went into panic
mode again. What about Martin? He pushed himself
the terminal table. As he darted out the door he almost
nasty collision with Sarah Hensley.
"Slow down," Sarah exclaimed,
Jim was bad about running into
people around corners.
"Oh, I'm sorry. I
I was on my way to count my people. Have you read your mail
Sarah was another manager in
organization, and she'd received the same note from
"Yes," she replied, "What's going on?"
"I have no idea," Jim said,
"but Martin Davis
didn't show up Friday, and I'm on my way to see if he's in this
morning. Do you have anyone missing?"
"I don't know. I was
on vacation Friday."
"Well, would you like to check
all the offices together?"
"Sure, I'd sure like to know
what's going on."
The two managers
side-by-side toward their employees' offices. Sarah, being
to management than Jim, seemed to be slightly unsure of this particular
situation. She was glad that Jim was willing to do this
They turned down the first
hallway to check
Jim's department first, since it was the closest. They moved
office to office with cordial greetings to all of Jim's
employees. Jim had twelve people, and they were all present
accounted for, until they came to Martin's office. It was
dark. Jim turned on the light, and they both walked into the
They walked around in tiny
circles, as though
they were looking for some kind of clue. There wasn't much to
see. Martin was tidy, and he hated a messy desk. In
there was nothing on the desk except a pencil holder. The only other
things visible in the whole office that weren't nailed down were a
picture of Martin's family, and a Bible, both setting on the
credenza. There was nothing unusual here, Jim
employees didn't keep Bibles on their desks, but Jim knew that this was
Martin's habit. Not a bad one either, Jim thought, since most
people respect the Bible. He'd even entertained the thought
displaying one in his own office, but he'd decided that it might offend
some of his other employees.
"Well, he's definitely not
here," Jim said,
"But it's not quite 9:00. Let's go check your people, and
stop back by here after nine to see if he's in yet." Sarah
agreeable, and she led Jim to her hallway.
As they entered the hallway,
Jim did a quick
visual check down the hall, and noticed that all the lights were
on. This probably meant that Sarah didn't have anyone
missing. Jim didn't know whether this was good or bad, but he
really hoping that he wasn't the only manager on-site who had a person
They just walked slowly to the
end of the
hall, as Sarah mentally counted her employees. Nine out of
were there. Only Bill Washington wasn't in his office, but it
look like he was in today. To verify this, Jim and Sarah went
Tina Baker's office, just across from Bill's.
Sarah looked at Tina, and
asked, "Is Bill in today?"
"I haven't seen him yet, but
his light is
on. In fact, I haven't seen you or Bill since Thursday or
so. Were you both off on Friday?"
"I was, but Bill should have
been here," Sarah
said. This wasn't sounding too good, Jim thought.
Sarah walked across the hall to investigate. Bill's light was
all right, but the first thing both managers noticed in his office was
a bright red sheet of paper laying on his desk with the words "SECURITY
VIOLATION" across the top. Jim and Sarah knew what that
meant. Bill had left some confidential material out after
working hours, and the security officers had found it during a routine
check. All the managers prided themselves on the security of
their people, and this violation embarrassed Sarah.
"What's the date on it?" Jim
asked, as Sarah examined the slip of paper.
"Monday, September 20th."
"This morning, 6:30 A.M.."
The early morning hours were
when the security
officers usually made their sweeps, looking for such
They had a better chance of catching security violations before people
started arriving for work.
"That's not like Bill," Sarah
“Why would Bill have
come in over the weekend and left this stuff out?" she asked out loud.
Trying to piece things
together, Jim said,
"Maybe he didn't. He could have come in early and just
out for coffee. The security violation could really just be a
mistake." He was trying to make Sarah feel better.
forced smile, he added, "Let's talk to Tina again."
They went back to Tina's
office, and Jim said, "Tina, did you say you didn't see Bill on Friday?"
"That's right. Let's
see, the last time
I saw him was when I left work Thursday evening. But when I
here Friday morning, his office was lit up, so I thought he was
here. I didn't think anything of it because he's in early
every day. Is something wrong?"
"Probably not," Sarah
reassured her. "We just need to talk to him. Thanks a lot."
Jim and Sarah returned to
Bill's office to
investigate more closely. It looked like any office any day
the week. Papers were on the desk, and the desk was
unlocked. It did look like Bill had just stepped out for
coffee. Jim checked on top of the credenza and noticed a
calendar, a picture of a woman, whom Jim supposed to be Bill's wife,
and a Bible. That's odd, he thought. A
was just like Martin's office. What did it mean?
Just then Sarah noticed the
blankness on Jim's face. "What's the matter, Jim?" she asked.
"Oh, nothing," Jim said,
senses. "I was just thinking. It's after
nine. I need
to get back and check Martin's office again. I guess you need to see if
anyone else has seen Bill. Otherwise, we've got two reports
"Well, who do we send them
to?" Sarah asked.
Jim answered her as he walked
out the door,
"Send them back to personnel, I think. It's in the
Let's keep in touch on this thing, Sarah."
Jim rushed back to Martin's
office and found
nothing different from before. He leaned against the office
and stared at the open Bible on Martin's credenza. Jim's mind
began churning with questions. Could this all have something
do with the missing persons? Or terrorism? Surely
Martin would be the last person to be involved in anything like
that. But, could these Bibles be a sign of a common
denominator? Probably not, but what about General
He was supposed to be a deeply religious man too. Could there
some kind of spiritual or biblical connection to this terrorist
thing? That made more sense than suspecting Martin of
involvement, even as a selected victim.
Then Jim thought, why was this
him? Didn't he have enough paperwork? Jim returned
office and prepared the report for personnel, listing Martin as the
only missing person in his department. Before he sent the report, he
called Martin's house one more time but, as expected, there was no
answer. He pressed the key on his terminal to send the
message. Then he sat back in his chair and gazed out his window.
Jim felt fortunate that he had
seniority with the company to have earned an office with an outside
window. He had a beautiful view of the park from his
office, and he'd done some of his best thinking right here.
he was thinking about Martin, about world terrorism, and about the
Bible. What could the Bible have to do with world
terrorism? Are you kidding? The whole Middle East
controversy has been the product of a bunch of maniacal religious
fanatics for centuries. But what could that have to do with
Martin? And why hadn't the media figured this out?
Jim had very little respect for the media. He thought they
printed what a few powerful individuals wanted them to print.
Still, Jim suddenly felt like an investigative reporter
He wondered how many more managers were going to report missing persons.
That thought suddenly reminded
him how easy it
had been to find a good parking spot that morning. And hadn't
Karl had the same experience last Friday? Were there so many
people missing that you could tell it from the parking
Maybe this thing was bigger than anyone imagined. He just had
figure it out.
Jim stood up and closed his
office door, then
he sat back down to further ponder the situation. He'd
management school that when confronted with a difficult situation, the
best approach is to thoroughly think it through. He took a
pad from his desk drawer and began to doodle. Okay, he
you can figure this out. What are the
his doodles, and on the left side of the page, he wrote
"Missing,” and he proceeded to list everyone he knew was
missing: Senator Hanson, General Jordan, Martin Davis, and
Washington. Then he put a big plus-sign below Bill's name, to
remind him that there may be hundreds or thousands of others missing as
well, but these four were the only ones he could name.
Next he wrote the word
"Political" at the top
of the page. What possible political connection could there
between these four people. No matter how hard he tried, he
couldn't convince himself that Martin was involved with any political
plot. He'd known Martin for more than five years, and he was
respected as a fine upstanding Christian man in the
Who would want to kidnap Martin? Furthermore, he was sure
Martin wasn't a terrorist. No, it was just not possible that his whole
life was committed to world terrorism, or that he was involved in
anything that would make him the object of a terrorist plot.
Jim scratched through
wrote "Economic." He knew that Senator Hanson was a wealthy Texas oil
millionaire, and General Jordan probably wasn't doing too badly for
himself. But, again, Martin and Bill weren't a part of any
social class. Jim had been in Martin's house one time when he
needed a ride to work. Martin's lifestyle certainly didn't
to indicate any degree of wealth. In fact, Jim's house was
larger, nicer, and newer than Martin's. This was enough to
convince Jim to scratch through "Economic."
Then Jim wrote "Spiritual" for
lack of a
better word to indicate some sort of religious phenomenon.
General Jordan was known as a religious man, but he wasn't sure about
the Senator. All he knew about Bill was that he had an open
on his credenza, just like Martin, whom Jim knew was a devoted
Christian. He wasn't pushy about it, but you couldn't talk to
very long without his making some sort of religious or Biblical
analogy. So, of the four missing persons, at least three of
were at least fairly religious, and the one whom Jim knew well was
deeply involved in religion and church
Unable to think of any more
to tie these four individuals together, he rocked back in his chair,
buried deep in thought. What could have happened to these
guys--from a Biblical perspective? He thought back to his own
most recent religious activity, the Sunday morning sermon. He
tried to remember that verse the pastor had worked in between Jim's
daydreams. It was something about being taken away to be with
Lord. Could that be relevant? But what exactly was
pastor talking about? Was it death? What about
families? Wouldn't someone have checked on them by
supposed maybe that was part of the reason for the company reports this
morning, to get the authorities involved if necessary. But
seemed to remember other sermons talking about people being taken away,
maybe even mysteriously. What was he thinking? Did he really
think that people could just vanish into some sort of spiritual
vapor? Sure, he'd heard sermons like that, but now he was
sounding like a TV evangelist. Still, his curiosity (or,
would say, "compulsion") had the best of him, and this was enough to
He reached to his Rolodex and
spun it to the
L's. As soon as he found his pastor's number, he dialed it,
knowing what he was going to say. However, he was surprised
"Thank you for calling
Church. If you know your party's extension, you may dial it
any time. For a directory, press one. For--"
Jim was somewhat annoyed at
not being greeted
by a live human being when he called his church,
but he quickly pressed
The new recording said,
"Please enter the last
three letters of the party's last name. For 'Q' and 'Z',
Still annoyed, but accustomed
to the routine, Jim quickly pressed 'L', 'O', 'O', for Loomis.
Yet another recorded message
said, "Thank you
for calling Reverend Loomis's office. To leave a phone mail
message, press one. To speak to Reverend Loomis's assistant,
Jim thought about just hanging
abandoning this idea, then he decided to press two, just to test
whether or not it was possible to speak to a live human being.
A petite voice said, "It's a
great day at Meadowlake Memorial Church. May I help you?"
Hesitating again, and then
assuming this was a
live person, Jim said, "Oh--yes. This is Jim
Reverend Loomis available?"
"I'm sorry, but Reverend
Loomis takes calls
between 2:00 and 4:00 PM. May I ask what this is concerning?"
pastoral assistant asked.
Jim said, "I just have some
theological questions to discuss, but I guess I'll just call back
The assistant said, "Please
Then Jim heard some sort of
music while he
waited. He wasn't sure whether it was classical or religious,
he assumed it was a Christian radio station.
The assistant came back on the
Reverend Loomis's calendar, you can call back this afternoon after 3:00
PM, or, if you prefer, he just had a cancellation, so he's available
for lunch today."
"That sounds good."
Jim replied. "Where at?"
"How about 11:30 at Juanita's
Restaurant on Broadway?"
"That would be
great. Okay, I'll be there." Jim said.
Jim hung up, a little
perturbed at the hoops
through which he had to jump just to talk to his own pastor.
Checking his watch, it was already close to 10:00, and he had a lot to
do before leaving in about an hour. He read through the rest of his
mail, and the next time he checked his watch it was already
11:00. He jumped up, and walked hurriedly to Penny Truman's
office. Penny was Jim's immediate manager, and they had
worked well together.
Quickly poking his head into
he said, "Penny, I'm going off-site for lunch today. I should
back about 1:00."
"No problem, Jim.
You couldn't locate
Martin, eh?" Penny asked. "No. I'd sure like to
going on. How many are missing?"
"Just two from my group,
Martin and Bill
Washington. It'll be interesting to see how many are missing
the whole site."
Already starting down the
hall, Jim looked
back and said, "Yeah, let me know if you hear anything this afternoon."
Jim liked getting out at noon
made it seem like he had more freedom. He quickly ran down
stairs and headed for the parking lot. As he drove away, all
sorts of questions ran through his head. He hoped that he'd
able to communicate with Reverend Loomis. He was a good guy,
sometimes hard to talk to.
When Bill awoke Monday
morning, his back was
stiff from having slept on the couch in his office for the second night
in a row. He quickly realized that he'd again fallen asleep while
reading the night before. This time he'd been reading Dr.
Danfield's paper on the end times. He must have read it
six times. In fact, he could not have slept more than two or three
hours, because he remembered checking his watch after 4:00.
suddenly realized how hungry he was, having neglected all three meals
on Sunday. He hurried down the hall and quickly gorged on
machine entrees and a Diet Coke. He also bought a morning
and when he returned to his office, he sat down in his chair to read
it, greatly relieved that he had no classes on Monday.
Bill was amazed that although
there were more
than a dozen articles in the paper about the terrorism and kidnapings,
none of them really shed much new light on the problem.
people were missing, but nobody knew why, or even how many.
Either the government really didn't know, or else they were doing a
good job of keeping the media blinded to it. There were some
theories though. One editorial blamed Saddam Hussein,
he'd unleashed total biological warfare with some chemical akin to some
flesh-eating bacteria, which totally consumed human bodies in a matter
of just a few hours.
There were a couple of
interesting articles in
the Metropolitan section though. Over the weekend a house had
burned down while the owners were gone, but both cars were still in the
garage. Similarly, another home had flooded when someone left a faucet
running. Again nobody was home, but their cars were
Bill wondered whether these homeowners were among the missing persons.
Then he saw an interesting
article about a kidney patient who had died last Friday:
"Paul Simms, who had had a
last summer, was supposedly doing well. But when he suddenly
died, the family demanded that an autopsy be done, and the kidney was
missing. Dr. Bob Meyer, the surgeon who performed the
at Regent Medical, could not explain what had happened, and the family
is considering a lawsuit against both the doctor and the hospital."
Bill's thoughts were suddenly
the ringing of his phone. He immediately picked up the
and said, "This is Bill McMann."
"Yeah, Bill," another voice
said. "This is Steve."
"Oh, hello Steve.
Were you able to find out anything?"
"Well, not really.
Except that we have
this community crime watch program down at the station, and Dr.
Danfield has his church
and home registered with it. Now
people just register the names of people we should call in case of an
emergency, but Dr. Danfield has even left us a set of keys to his house
buildings. We have his prior written permission to
enter the premises if we think it would be helpful for any
reason. Would you like to go over there and look around?"
"Indeed I would," Bill
replied. "When can we go?"
"Well, I'm booked today," said
Steve. "But how about 10:00 tomorrow morning?"
"By the way, what is it that
we're looking for?"
Bill sighed and said, "I don't
just want to see if we can find out whether this has anything to do
with all the other missing persons."
"Okay. Well, I've
got you on my calendar
for 10:00 Tuesday morning. I'll give you a call before I
"Thanks, Steve. I
really appreciate it."
As soon as Bill hung up, he
picked up the
receiver again and tried Dr. Danfield's home and church.
there was no answer. Next he called his secretary and asked
to arrange a substitute teacher for his Tuesday classes. Then
was once again engulfed by Dr. Danfield's paper, completely unaware
that he wasn't going to like the conclusions to which it pointed.
As Jim drove, he wondered if
he was taking
this whole thing too seriously. He knew that Carol rightly
recognized how impulsive he was. Somehow this was different
though, but he couldn't explain why. Normally, when he acted
hastily, he didn't realize it while he was doing it. Later
though, when Carol would suggest that he may have been too impulsive,
he usually had to agree with her. This time, however, he could already
tell that he may be jumping to conclusions, but, somehow, he just
couldn't help it. It was as though some external force had
control of him.
As Jim pulled up to Juanita's
got out of his car, he was greeted by Reverend Loomis who had been
waiting outside the restaurant. "Hi, Jim, good to see ya'."
"Hello, I hope you weren't
waiting long," Jim replied.
"No, I just got here
myself. Let's eat."
They entered the restaurant
themselves, and immediately a waitress brought their water and a big
bowl of chips and dip, along with their menus, and took their drink
orders. Both men had eaten there often, and they were ready
order as soon as the waitress returned with their drinks. Jim
beef enchiladas and Reverend Loomis had the soft taco special.
Jim began the conversation, "I
guess you're pretty busy these days, huh?"
"I'll say," replied Reverend
"I'm always busy with administrative work at the church,
and I do a lot
of counseling, but this week is really hectic. I'm planning a
memorial service for some time this weekend, and I've got an
association meeting tomorrow"
service?" Jim asked.
"Frank Golson," Reverend
responded. "He was a member of our church,
but you might not
known him. I don't think he came very often."
Jim wasn't surprised that he
the name. He probably didn't know more than ten percent of
members by name.
Reverend Loomis continued, "It
was a tragic
situation. He was a refinery worker, and he died in an
early this morning. They weren't even able to recover his body."
"That's terrible," Jim
said. "You know,
I heard about that on the news, but I didn't know that he was a member
of our church."
There was a brief lull in the
during which Reverend Loomis wondered what this meeting was all
about. He hoped Jim wasn't upset with anything he'd said
Finally, Reverend Loomis said,
"So, Jim, what did you want to talk about today?"
"Well," Jim hesitated, "I
don't know how I'm
going to explain this, and it's really going to sound crazy."
"Relax," Reverend Loomis
responded, "With all
the counseling I do, I've heard it all. Nothing surprises me
anymore." He was smiling, trying to be reassuring, but Jim
"Well, it's about something
you mentioned in
your sermon on Sunday morning. I have to admit I wasn't
enough attention, but what were you saying about some people being
taken away to be with the Lord? Is that verse referring to
"Oh," Reverend Loomis replied.
He was relieved that the
to be heading toward his clarification of a sermon, rather than any
critical comments directed toward the pastor. Too many times
these surprise meetings had resulted in a manifestation of differences
of opinions, and the results could be disastrous. In the
several people had even left the church
Reverend Loomis wasn't long on patience, and he sometimes allowed his
emotions to guide his better judgment.
"That's in First
Loomis continued. "It's talking about the rapture.
prophetic, concerning the end times."
Seeing that Jim's inquisitive
expression had not yet vanished, Reverend Loomis continued.
theologians concerning the end times, or eschatology, as the
professionals call it. But I've done extended study in this
and I think I can explain it to your satisfaction."
What Reverend Loomis meant was
his vast knowledge and seminary training, he was intelligent enough to
explain these things on a sufficiently low level that even ignorant
guys like Jim could partially understand it. Having known
Reverend Loomis for several years now, Jim knew exactly what he was
thinking. What an ego, Jim thought.
Reverend Loomis continued, "We
the age in which we live, the Church Age, will come to an abrupt end
some day. Jesus Christ will appear in a cloud, and take all
Christians to heaven with him. The bodies of Christians who
died will rise first, and then all living Christians will rise, and
their bodies will be transformed into glorified bodies, like
Christ's. We call this 'the rapture', or 'the taking away'.
while we go off to heaven, everyone who wasn't a Christian at that time
will be left on the earth to endure seven years of tribulation, which
the book of Revelation describes.
“At the end of those
seven years, Christ
will return to earth in His Second Advent. He'll then fight
win the Battle of Armageddon, bind Satan and his demons, and usher in a
thousand-year period of utopia upon the earth. We call this
Millennium. During the Millennium, Christ will reign from his
throne in Jerusalem. At the end of the thousand years, Satan
be unbound, but before he can cause much trouble, Christ will cast him
and his demons into the lake of fire, which we call 'hell'.
Christ creates a new and perfect heaven and earth, and we live forever
in eternity. It all sounds kind of scary, huh?"
"Yeah, but I want to ask you
more about this
rapture. Is there any indication as to when it will occur, or
what it will be like?"
"Well, probably not to your
satisfaction. It could occur at any time now. We're
commanded to be ready for it. Mark 13:33 says, 'Be on guard!
alert! You do not know when that time will come.' 1
5:2 says, '. . . the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the
night.' When it does happen, I suppose it'll seem sort of
"You mean that everyone will
know when it happens?" Jim was getting closer to the point.
"Well," Reverend Loomis went
on, "if you're a
Christian, you'll know it because you'll be raised into the
clouds. On the other hand, if you are not a Christian, you
see your Christian peers being raised into the clouds."
"But," interrupted Jim, "Could
it happen without some people being aware of it?"
"I don't think so,
Jim. The Bible says
that everyone will know when Christ returns. Say, what are
Jim hesitated as the waitress
plates. He was glad for the extra few seconds to work up the
courage to ask the question he came here to ask.
When the waitress left, he
said in a quiet
voice, "You know all the disappearances since last Friday?
that have been the rapture?"
This caused Reverend Loomis to
made Jim feel humiliated. Reverend Loomis said, "No, Jim, the rapture
hasn't occurred yet. We still have a lot of work to do before
"But didn't you say it could
happen at any time now?"
"Yes, but when it does we will
I'll give you several reasons. First of all, how many people
missing? Even if there are a lot who haven't been reported
at most there are a few hundred or a few thousand missing in the United
States. Well, Jim, there are more than 150 million
Christians on our church
rolls. There are more than 90
fundamentalists like you and me. If the rapture had occurred,
over half of the country would be missing, even if a few churchgoers
weren't genuine Christians."
Before Jim could interrupt,
Reverend Loomis continued adamantly.
"Secondly, since the rapture
is going to usher
in a seven-year tribulation period, the world will probably be in chaos
at that time. The Antichrist will probably be taking over as
world ruler. Things will be much worse than they are now,
worse than a few random terrorist strikes."
Reverend Loomis paused for
emphasis, and then
added, "Finally, Jim, I know the rapture hasn't occurred, because if it
had, I'd be in heaven right now, and so would you. Do you
Jim finished his taco and
wiped his chin.
"Well," Jim paused, "What if
we are wrong
about some things? What if we haven't interpreted the Bible
absolutely correctly in every case?"
"I'm not wrong about
Loomis almost shouted. Jim hadn't expected him to take this
"Jim, I've studied these
things for years, and
I hold a doctorate in theology. You don't realize what you're
saying. If you were right about this, then neither one of us
Christians, and I know that I'm a Christian."
Jim could tell that this would
be the end of
the conversation on eschatology. He didn't want to cause any
trouble, and maybe Reverend Loomis was right. Maybe we should
forget about the rapture and just find out where all these missing
people are. After all, Reverend Loomis did have excellent
"You're right" Jim
said. "Thanks for explaining the end times to me."
The rest of the conversation
turned to small
talk, until both men agreed they had to leave. As they left
restaurant, Reverend Loomis said, "I enjoyed it, Jim. Call me
"Okay, I will," replied Jim.
He thought to himself, "Any
time I see things
just the way you do--but then I wouldn't need your help, would I?"
Jim started his car and headed
back to work.
Bill couldn't believe
it. Dr. Danfield's
arguments had never seemed reasonable to him before, but now they were
making perfect sense as he reread Dr. Danfield's paper.
was against his temperament, he felt terribly confused. He
usually so sure about what he believed. Could he have
the truth all these years? Had Dr. Danfield's arguments
seemed illogical to him before, or had he just been afraid to face them?
Bill was horrified to think
that his own
arguments were invalid. Could he really have been wrong, and
could Dr. Danfield really have been right, all these years?
Furthermore, could the earth actually be entering the end times at this
very moment? If this was all true, then not only had he been
wrong, but he'd spread his falsehoods across the nation. How
would-be pastors had he persuaded in the wrong direction? He
buried his face in Dr. Danfield's paper, and wept.
Then he put down Dr.
Danfield's paper, stood
up, and started pacing back and forth in his office. It was
and he knew that in a few minutes he'd try to relax on the couch again
and catch a couple of hours of sleep. Before he did however,
had to do some serious thinking and get some things straight in his
mind. Dr. Danfield's paper was having a serious effect on his
thoughts. What if Dr. Danfield had been right all these
and Bill had been wrong? What if he'd propagated those
to the thousands of students he'd taught during the last thirty-five
Bill sat down on the
couch. What about
Maggie? What effect had he had on her? Did she know
truth or not? He picked up Dr. Danfield's paper and read it
Jim's meeting with his pastor
seemed only to
make him more determined to investigate this thing to its
conclusion. He felt like taking the rest of the day off so
he could get on with his research, but he wouldn't know where to start
anyway. Besides, his in-basket at work was full of to-do
and he hadn't gotten anything done that morning. He kept thinking about
the possible spiritual ramifications of these disappearances, and
before he realized it, he was back at work. As soon as he sat
down at his desk, he logged onto his workstation terminal
Within seconds, he started the laborious task of reading through his
electronic mail, electing to print some of the items on his office
printer, and to respond to others immediately, either by phone or with
an electronic mail response.
As he opened the last object
in his in-basket,
his phone rang. He heard Karl say, "Jim, are you about ready?"
Jim was about to ask, "Ready
for what?" as he
glanced at his watch. It was already 5:15, and Jim couldn't believe
that all he'd accomplished at work all day was to answer his mail.
He said, "Sure,
Karl. I didn't realize
it was so late. I can be ready in ten minutes. Is that okay?"
Karl answered, "Yeah, I'll
meet you at the car."
"Wait," Jim replied quickly,
"I moved the car at noon. Can you meet me in front of my
"Okay," Karl answered, "I'll
be there in ten minutes."
Jim heard the click of Karl's
hanging up his
phone. As Jim hung up, he thought Karl had still sounded
different, like he did this morning. Maybe he'd want to talk about
whatever was bothering him on their way home.
Giving up on getting anything
else done, Jim
just threw the last few lingering notes from the top of his desk into
his top drawer, then he began locking up. He performed his
duties like a ritual. First he locked the credenza and stored
that key in the top drawer of his desk. Then he locked his
cabinet, and stored that key beside the credenza key. Then he
took his key chain from his pocket and locked his desk. As was his
habit, he tugged on all the drawers to make sure they locked securely,
because he surely didn't want to get a security violation himself. Then
he closed his briefcase, turned off his light, and started down the
As he passed Sarah's office,
she said, "Say, Jim?"
Jim stopped and stepped into
the doorway of
her office. Before he could say anything, she continued.
"Penny has a friend in
personnel that said
there are sixteen people missing in our facility." She seemed
Jim thought a moment and said,
"Sixteen, out of nine hundred. That's significant. What are
going to do about it?"
"We don't know yet," Sarah
"Corporate will probably notify the authorities today, and they may
give us more direction tomorrow. By the way, we found out a
little more about Bill. He'd come in early and logged on to his
terminal at 6:30 Friday morning. The last time noted in his
log was 6:38 A.M. last Friday."
Jim knew that each terminal
added entries to a
log file each time that a file was added or changed. This
that he'd been at his terminal at 6:38 Friday morning.
Jim said, "So the last time he
was seen was
Thursday evening, and the last time he was in his office was shortly
after 6:38 Friday morning?"
"That's right," Sarah said,
"Also, a few other
employees were in Bill's hallway right at 7:00, and nobody saw
Bill. I would say that he disappeared between 6:38 and
7:00. It seems like he just vanished into thin air.
he didn't leave intentionally, since he left his terminal going and his
desk open. There was a security sweep early this morning, and that's
when he got his security violation. I guess his stuff was
out all weekend, but it wasn't found by security until today."
Jim glanced at his watch and
said, "Well, I've
got to go meet my carpool. We'll talk more tomorrow."
"Okay, Jim. Have a
Now Jim was late, and he
almost ran down the
hall. He decided not to wait for the elevator, and quickly
down the two flights of stairs and out the front door of the building
where Karl was already waiting.
"Sorry I'm late.”
"No big thing," Karl
unenthusiastically. The walk to the car was silent.
unlocked the passenger door of his BMW, and Karl opened the door and
threw his briefcase over the passenger seat headrest and into the back
seat. He sat down, unlocked Jim's door, and closed his own
door. Jim opened his door and sat down, placing his briefcase
the space between the two front seats. Still the silence was
unbroken. Jim was thinking about missing persons, and he
know what was bothering
Karl. Finally, as
he accelerated on the freeway on-ramp, Jim said, "I know something's
wrong, Karl. Do you want to talk about it?"
Karl remained silent for about
ten seconds, then his voice cracked as he said, "Mary left me."
Not knowing what to say, Jim
After about ten more seconds,
continued. "She wanted some time to herself. She
somewhere Thursday night. She wouldn't tell me
said she didn't know how long she'd be gone, but she'd call me Friday
night. Well, she still hasn't called, and I don't have any
where she is, or whether I should try to find her."
Immediately Jim couldn't help
but wonder if
Mary was among the missing persons. He was pretty sure that
hadn't entertained this possibility yet, and Jim decided not to mention
it. He didn't want to upset Karl even more, and Jim certainly
needed more time to formulate his own thesis before suggesting a
"Well, is there anything I can
"No," Karl groaned.
"She's done this before."
He hesitated before
continuing, "But, she's
never waited this long to call. I'm just going to wait another day or
Both men were silent until Jim
drove up to
Karl's sidewalk. "I'll see you tomorrow," Karl said, as he
out and reached for his briefcase.
"Okay," Jim said.
"Take care of yourself."
Karl walked up the sidewalk,
and Jim headed
toward home, with a lot on his mind. He pulled into his
right at 6:00. As soon as he walked into the house, he saw
scurrying around the kitchen.
She looked up and said, "I
thought you were
going to come home early tonight. Tonight is sewing class,
Ryan is going to the recreation center with Tommy."
Immediately, Jim remembered,
for the first
time today, that he'd indeed made an ongoing promise to come home early
on Monday nights to help get ready for the rest of the family's
activities. He'd told Carol last night that he'd be home by
but that was last night. He'd had a busy day. He
remember everything. Still, he'd let Carol down.
years of marriage had taught him that this sort of situation demanded a
concise answer rather than an inadequate excuse.
"Well, it's okay," Carol said,
as though she could read his mind.
"Katie and I are going to
leave right away, and we'll drop Ryan off at Tommy's."
The microwave beeped, she
removed a baked
potato from it, and placed it beside the pork chop on the plate by the
stove. As she set it on the dining table, Jim sat down and
eating. Within five minutes, Jim had finished eating, and
Ryan, and Katie had left, promising to be back by 10:00. In a
meager effort to make up to Carol for having been late, Jim cleaned up
the kitchen and loaded the dishwasher. There, that should be
enough to appease anybody.
Jim spent the evening alone,
reading the paper
and thinking about world events. He felt compelled to do
something, but he also felt helpless. He didn't have enough
information. The only thing the newspaper seemed to say was
it was too early to say what was happening. Jim supposed that the
government was trying to squelch any mass hysteria in the media while
trying at the same time to figure out what had happened. None
the missing people had yet shown up as hostages like the ANW had
promised. Jim wasn't so sure there were any
there were plenty of commentators offering editorial opinions, but
nobody even knew how many people were missing yet, much less where they
had gone. Jim knew that the headcount at work today was part
the efforts of the authorities to size the problem.
There had to be something he
Was there something to this rapture thing or not? He wasn't
all satisfied with Reverend Loomis's attitude, much less his
answers. It seemed like he had Reverend Loomis over a barrel,
that he just couldn't admit that he was wrong. Who else could
turn to? He just knew that he'd heard other people talk about
this kind of stuff.
"Wait a minute," Jim
remembered that a few months ago he'd heard a guest speaker at his
talking about the end times. That had not been the purpose of
his visit, but he'd gotten sidetracked on what the world would be like
just before the end of time, and Jim had found his insights
captivating. He also recalled that Reverend Loomis wasn't
particularly pleased with that sermon because of some sort of
theological differences he had with the speaker. Well, Jim
thought, it might be nice to hear a fresh approach. Jim
his mental capacities in trying to remember the guest speaker's name.
William Mann. No,
McMann. That was
it, William McMann. He was a professor at the Independent
Theological Seminary. Boy, Jim thought, I'd like to run my
past him. In his compulsory style, the more he thought about
the more excited he became. He took the pen from his shirt
and began writing a list of questions and comments on the three-by-five
index card that he always kept in the same shirt pocket, next to his
pen. Slow down, he thought. Carol would call you
Never mind that, he had to be ready for his meeting with Professor
McMann. He'd take a day of vacation tomorrow and drive down
the Seminary. Immediately he picked up the phone next to his
chair and dialed Karl's number.
"Hello," said a groggy voice,
after five rings.
"Karl, this is Jim."
"Oh, hi Jim. What's
"Oh, a little something has
come up, and I'd
like to take a day of vacation tomorrow. Would it be okay if
drove yourself tomorrow?"
"No problem," Karl
replied. "You're not having some kind of trouble, are you?"
Right now, Karl was thinking
the worst about everything.
"No, nothing like that," Jim
replied. "I just need to do a couple of things around here."
"Well, enjoy your day
off. Why don't you call me tomorrow night?"
"Okay, good night, Jim."
Jim spent the rest of the
evening in his
recliner, thinking, reading the paper, and watching TV. Carol
brought the kids home shortly after 10:00. Jim scarcely had a
word with any of them before he retired for the evening at
He did manage to let Carol know that he was taking the day off
tomorrow, and he asked her not to worry if he slept a little
late. He just told her he was a little bit burnt out with
and that he wanted the day just to mess around and do
didn't feel like sharing his thesis of the end times with her just
yet. He set his clock radio to "Wake to Music" for 8:00, then
went to sleep.
The next thing he knew, Jim
awoke to the
country music of his favorite radio station. He realized it
already 8:00, and was surprised to see that Carol and the kids had
already left, and he'd slept through the entire morning household
routine. Jim usually didn't have any trouble sleeping though.
Suddenly remembering his plans
for the day, he
sat up in bed, reached for the phone on his night stand, and pressed
the speed-dial button for Penny's number at work.
"Penny Truman," a petite voice
"Penny, this is Jim," Jim
began. "I'd like to take the day off today if you don't mind."
"That would be fine," Penny
"You've been working hard, and
I'm sure you
could use a rest. There's nothing here that can't wait until
"Thanks," Jim replied
just wanted to check in to make sure you understood that I'm not a
missing person." Jim was only partially joking.
more you can tell me about what's going on?"
"Well, someone found Bill's
coffee cup in the
elevator. You know, the one with the handle on the
We're all speculating why it was found in the elevator. Well,
anyway, maybe we'll know more by tomorrow. Enjoy your day
"Thanks, I will," Jim
Jim stood up by the bed and
returned the phone
to the night stand. He made the bed in lackluster
He didn't like to spend more than ten seconds in this
He showered, shaved, and dressed, then went to the kitchen and poured a
cup of coffee. Not only had Carol kept the house quiet, but
made coffee for him too. Jim picked up the phone book on his
to the breakfast table and looked up the number for the Independent
Theological Seminary. He dialed the number which rang twice
before an enthusiastic voice answered.
"I-T-S, may we help you?"
"I'm trying to contact William
McMann, please," Jim said.
"One moment please."
After what Jim considered to
be a long time to
make a caller wait, a deep, raspy voice said, "This is Dr. McMann."
"Yes, Dr. McMann.
This is Jim Wheeler
from Meadowlake Memorial Church. I'm sure you don't remember me, but
you spoke at our church
this summer, and I wanted to talk to you for a
"Okay, Jim. I'm a
little busy, but what's on your mind?"
"Well, I'd really like to see
person. I know that you're awfully busy, but do you think
would be possible?"
"Could you tell me the nature
of your visit first?"
Jim could tell that this
wasn't going to be
easy. He was asking a lot to take up Dr. McMann's valuable
time. He should be glad that he'd even spoken to him on the
phone. Deciding that he had to go for broke, Jim
speaking slowly and deliberately.
"Well, sir, frankly, it
concerns the many
missing persons we've all been hearing about. I may be all wet, but I'm
formulating some opinions that lead me to believe that there are
spiritual ramifications to this thing, and--"
"Can you get here by 9:00?"
Shocked by the professor's
sudden change of
heart, Jim replied, "Well, yeah, I mean . . . I guess so. It
be a couple of minutes after nine before I can get there."
"Well, I've got a 10:00
engagement, but I'd
really like to see you before then. The sooner, the better."
"Well, Okay, but . . ."
"I'm in the main
administration building, second floor. I'll see you at 9:00."
Before Jim could say goodbye,
he heard the
click of Dr. McMann's receiver. What had gotten into
At first Dr. McMann didn't want to see him, and then he couldn't wait
to see him. Was it some sort of a trap? Was Dr.
Communist spy waiting to kidnap anyone who got wise to a terrorist
conspiracy? Jim thought not. Anyway, he'd have to
make it to ITS by 9:00.
Jim took a final gulp of
coffee, unplugged the
coffee pot, and carried his briefcase to the car. He drove
sense of urgency, not recklessly, but deliberately. He
campus at 8:59, but had some difficulty in finding a parking
spot. By the time he parked, located the administration
and scaled the stairs to the second floor, it was about 9:05.
walked briskly down the hall, reading the nameplates by each
door. Here it was, William M. McMann. He knocked on
Just about the time Jim was
going to knock
again, he heard someone approaching the door from the other
As the door opened, Jim's smile, which had served him so well in making
cold calls during his marketing training, slowly faded into a
bewildered expression of utter astonishment. This wasn't the man he was
expecting. This man was unshaven, which seemed to intensify
rough features, and he looked old. The man he remembered speaking at
was younger and much more impressive. The man he
now looked as though he must be seventy years old, and he didn't look
healthy at all, even for seventy. Jim wondered if it was just
because he wasn't dressed nearly as nicely as the last time he saw him.
"I'm Dr. McMann," said the man.
"I'm Jim Wheeler.
I'm very pleased to see you again."
Then without thinking, he
added, "Are you all right?"
As soon as he said it, he knew
it must have sounded terrible.
"Well, judging by the
expression on your face,
no, I must not be all right," Dr. McMann chuckled. "I'm just
tired. I've been working extremely long hours lately."
Suddenly Jim realized that he
may have been
too presumptuous to impose on Dr. McMann like this. He said,
really need to talk to you, but I would understand if you wanted me to
come back later."
"I wouldn't think of it," Dr.
insisted. "You sit down here, young man, and tell me what's
Jim sat down in one of the
chairs in front of
Dr. McMann's desk, as Dr. McMann walked behind the desk and sat down in
his own high-back desk chair.
"Sir, I know this is an
imposition, so I'll
get right to the point." Jim hesitated, then decided to say at least
one more sentence without pausing. If Dr. McMann threw him
his office after that, then so be it.
"Due to the events of the last
few days, I've
become convinced that some sort of spiritual rapture has occurred, but
that nobody realizes it."
Then Jim paused, waiting for
Dr. McMann to respond in a way similar to Reverend Loomis's reaction.
But Dr. McMann remained
reaction was different from that of Reverend Loomis, yet Jim was still
not sure that he wasn't being perceived as some kind of nutty doomsday
prophet. At first, Dr. McMann remained perfectly still. After
about fifteen seconds, he slowly rocked back in his chair and fixed his
gaze on an imaginary point in space somewhere between and above the two
men. After fifteen more seconds, Jim was convinced that he'd
a mistake in coming here, but just then, Dr. McMann spoke, rather
"I'd like to hear
more. Why do you think this so-called rapture has occurred?"
"Well, there are several
most obvious one is the disappearance of thousands of people.
find it hard to believe that the Arabs are so well organized that they
could pull off such a clever terrorist stunt. However, I'm no
expert on foreign policy, so if this were the only evidence I had, I
would never have come up with this idea. The real evidence
from my personal experiences over the last few days. I happen
be somewhat familiar with some of the people who have disappeared.
"I'm a manager in a software
firm, and one of
my people has been missing since Friday. I found out
that another man was missing in another department, leaving behind only
his coffee cup. Upon investigating each of their two deserted
offices, I found a single common denominator. Each man had an
open Bible displayed on his credenza. Now, I know that this
doesn't prove a rapture, but if a rapture did occur, wouldn't you
expect men like these to be among the first to be raptured--men who
weren't ashamed of their appreciation and reverence for the Bible, even
in a public secular environment?"
Realizing that Jim meant this
as a rhetorical
question, Dr. McMann remained quiet and allowed Jim to continue.
"Now I've given this
considerable thought, and
nothing else makes sense or explains these disappearances. As
probably know, some government officials are missing as well, but what
could they have in common with these two average guys at
knew one of them fairly well, and I can't imagine that they had any
common political or economic ties with world dignitaries.
Besides, some of the missing government officials are also known to be
very religious men.
"You see, Dr. McMann, it all
is a worldwide problem, but you would expect it to be intensified in
Christian countries like the United States. We have some
government dignitaries missing, while none of the top Russian officials
are missing. There are some common people missing in Russia,
it seems as though there are many more Americans missing.
this what you would expect?"
"But, you know, there's
something that doesn't
make much sense. I would've thought even more Americans would
missing, both dignitaries and regular citizens."
When Jim saw that Dr. McMann
wasn't yet ready to comment, he continued.
"Dr. McMann, I don't think the
knows what has happened. I sense some pressure on the media to keep
this kind of quiet until they can come up with a believable
story. Meanwhile, everywhere I look, I see more
good friend of mine told me that his wife left him Thursday night, and
he hasn't heard from her since then. For all I know, she
among those who have disappeared. I believe that it's
possible that the rapture could have occurred without leaving it
obvious to those remaining that it was indeed a rapture.
"I understand a little bit
about the end
times, and I think we may be off base just a little in our
interpretation of what the Bible says about the rapture and the end
times. We've always imagined that everyone would know that
rapture was occurring at that time. However, I believe in the rapture,
but I'm not so sure that we can be too dogmatic about exactly how it'll
Jim decided to allow Dr.
McMann to join the
conversation. He was curious to see his response, and Dr.
knew that Jim was waiting for his answer. The professor
and slowly stood up and walked partly around his desk. He
up one of the dozens of books strewn across his desk and paged through
it--not so much to examine the book as to occupy his hands while he was
deep in thought. Finally he sat down on the edge of the desk
looked at Jim.
"Well, Jim, you certainly have
a point about
things happening differently than we had planned. One can
a prophecy he reads in the Bible, yet until it's fulfilled, he can't be
sure about the details. The Jews in the Old Testament are a
perfect example. They believed that a Messiah would come, but when he
came in a way they hadn't anticipated, they didn't even realize it was
He paused briefly, then added,
"Who else have you shared your thesis with?"
"Only my pastor, Gary Loomis,"
replied. "He wasn't exactly receptive to it. It was
was insulting him. I didn't know who else to go to."
"Well, first of all," Dr.
"let me give you a little background that may help you understand all
this a little better."
Jim didn't like the way that
Was Dr. McMann about ready to shoot down his ideas too? Oh
Jim thought, at least he's being friendly about it.
Dr. McMann said, "There are a
lot of different views about the end times."
He picked up a particular book
from the top of
his desk and handed it to Jim. "This book explains it in
but allow me to summarize.
"There is a view of the end
'eschatology,' as we theologians call it, which is called
premillennialism. This view is often held by fundamentalists
conservatives who tend to interpret the Bible as literally as
possible. Although there are different camps under the
of premillennialism, such as dispensationalism, certain aspects of the
end times are rigid for all premillennialists. As their name
implies, they believe that the church
age exists in a pre-millennial
era. That is, they believe there will be a millennium, or a
thousand-year period of time on earth when Jesus Christ will physically
rule the world from his throne in Jerusalem. This will be a
utopia, as described by Old Testament prophets such as Isaiah."
Jim had heard some of these
terms before, but he still felt confused.
"You lost me on the millennial
"Well, since they believe that
will follow the church
age, and we are living in an era preceding the
millennium, they are called premillennialists. They say that
rapture will signal the end of the church
age. This rapture
cause the bodies of dead Christians to be raised to life and reunited
with their souls and spirits, and the living Christians will also be
taken off to Heaven and given new glorified bodies."
"Wait a minute. Are
some of those people dead, and some are alive?"
"Yes, but they're all
believers, and that's
the important point. Now, all the Christians have left the
at that point, but the millennium doesn't start immediately.
premillennialist says that this is where the books of Revelation and
Daniel come into play. They say there will be a seven-year
of great tribulation on earth. An Antichrist will rule the
and anyone honoring God will be considered an outcast.
"At the end of this seven-year
will return to the earth and defeat Satan and the Antichrist at the
Battle of Armageddon. Finally, this will usher in the peaceful
Millennium. After the thousand years, God will permanently
Satan, his demons, and all unbelievers into hell
then create a new heaven and a new earth, and eternity will begin."
"You mean a different earth,
"Well the Bible leaves that
interpretation, but it doesn't really matter much to us yet.
Anyway, the premills think that this period of the end times is what
the Bible means when it refers to 'the day of the Lord.' They
believe that it denotes the period of time beginning with the rapture,
including the tribulation period and the millennium, and ending with
the final judgment of Satan at the end of the millennium."
Dr. McMann hesitated, then
began pacing slowly
around the room. Jim correctly anticipated that he wasn't
"Now this premillennial position is the
by Reverend Loomis. Perhaps unfortunately, I have interpreted
those same scriptures somewhat differently, and for the past
thirty-five years I've held what's commonly called the amillennialist
"I know what 'pre' means, but
what does the prefix 'a' mean?"
"As in the ancient Greek
language, an 'a' in
front of a word usually negates its meaning. The
says that there will be no physical millennium on earth, as
The millennium will be in heaven, where Christ will rule from His
heavenly throne, not an earthly throne. Of course, without a
millennium, there can be no tribulation period preceding the
millennium, and, consequently, no rapture preceding the
tribulation. The amillennialist says that the scriptures in
Revelation are highly symbolic, and that they refer to the church
Jim didn't like what he was
This could turn out even worse than his visit with Reverend
Loomis. Not only did Dr. McMann not share his convictions
the rapture having occurred, but he didn't even believe in the
rapture. However, Dr. McMann immediately qualified his last
"However there still could be
It's just that it would signal the end of all life on earth.
rapture signals the end of the earth, and all Christians are taken to
Heaven, but the earth doesn't remain inhabited. So, Jim, your
thesis couldn't possibly fit into the amillennialist scenario."
"So you think I've jumped to
Dr. McMann slowly and
deliberately walked back
to his chair, sat down, put his elbows on the table, and looked
directly into Jim's eyes.
"No," Dr. McMann said
decisively, and rather loudly.
Dr. McMann's response startled
didn't know whether Dr. McMann was with him or against him.
quickly learned that the best way to pick Dr. McMann's brain was to
simply be quiet and let him talk after he'd had time to formulate his
ideas into words.
Dr. McMann stared at Jim for a
making Jim somewhat uneasy, then he relaxed a bit and leaned back in
his chair. Finally, after a full minute of silence, Dr.
looked at Jim, smiled, and began speaking again.
"Jim, as I said, I've held the
viewpoint for thirty-five years. I have developed quite a reputation
around the country for my contributions to amillennial
eschatology. I've spoken to crowds of thousands.
probably spoken to millions of people, promoting my
My peers revere me and think I'm brilliant. I've convinced
time and time again that my viewpoint is the correct one.
stood in front of thousands of future pastors for thousands of hours on
this very campus and taught them what I have believed to be the truth
about the end times, as well as other biblical themes.
"I've experienced fame and
fortune, and I'm
renowned as a true leader in theological circles. I've
books, signed autographs, toured on the speaking circuit, and conducted
seminars from coast to coast. I've been satisfied and pleased
with all this, until last Saturday."
Dr. McMann again stood up and
resumed his slow
pace around the room. Jim remained silent, and Dr. McMann
"Last Saturday morning I heard
the report that
Senator Hanson was missing. Two years ago, I had the opportunity to
meet the Senator at a party fund-raising event. The Senator
indeed have been considered a very religious man, and he was also well
informed. Although we disagreed sharply on many theological
issues, we greatly enjoyed each other's company. I've spoken
him two or three times since then."
"Did he hold to the
"Yes, and when I began to hear
of missing persons, and nobody could explain what had happened, I
became curious, much the same as yourself. In fact, I
going through the same thought process that you described, and
wondering what the common denominator was. Without really
considering the possibility of a rapture, I began to simply call and
check on several associates of mine. During the day on Saturday, I was
able to contact all my friends that I called, and I was greatly
relieved that none were missing. Still I couldn't get this
mind, and I didn't sleep well Saturday night."
"I've had trouble sleeping
"Then, on Sunday morning, I
was sitting in my
Sunday School class, and a Bible verse that we read suddenly caused me
to think of another old acquaintance. The name "Jack
popped into my mind. I hadn't spoken with Jack for several
but we used to visit quite regularly. Our relationship was
like my relationship with the Senator. We weren't really very
close, but we enjoyed visiting--or more accurately, debating.
were in disagreement with each other on several theological issues, not
the least of which was the end times. Dr. Danfield took a very literal
and conservative approach to the Bible, while I was more
You might say I was more spiritual. "
"I first met Dr. Danfield
about twenty years
ago when we were both invited to be panelists on a local radio program
where people would call in with their questions about the Bible and the
Church. Our differences provided for very stimulating
and, I must say, an interesting radio program. Though I
felt like I held my own with him, Dr. Danfield didn't seem to be overly
concerned with who won the debates. It was as though I was
the opportunity to enhance my reputation in the metroplex, while he was
just providing the service of objectively speaking the truth as he saw
"Dr. Danfield's real love was
He was," Dr. McMann paused, "and still is," he paused
again, "the pastor of Grace Memorial Church, over on Fourth street in
the old downtown area. He's been the pastor there for forty
or so, and you can tell he loves his job. He doesn't have a
nice building. They use an old schoolhouse for Sunday School,
an old gymnasium for their auditorium. This doesn't seem to
bother anyone--especially not Dr. Danfield. His main concern
teaching true Bible doctrine, and he doesn't seem to care who he
offends, or whether his church
grows. As a result, his church
remained about the same size for these forty years--it's quite small."
"But shouldn't he want his
to grow so he could teach more people?"
"Dr. Danfield believes that
God will select
those whom He wants to send to any particular church.
couldn't get Dr. Danfield out of my mind. I can't explain
but during the break between Sunday School and the worship
drove down to his church.
It was as though some external
had control of me."
Dr. McMann walked around the
desk and sat down
on the front of it, directly in front of Jim. He was looking
straight into Jim's eyes, and Jim began to wonder what profound thing
he'd hear next, and when he'd find out what any of this had to do with
the subject at hand.
Dr. McMann said, "The church
He shrugged his shoulders and
"There wasn't anybody there. I don't mean that the crowd was
small. I mean that there wasn't a person on the
It was Sunday morning at 11:00, and the church
was locked, and mine was
the only car in the parking lot. I began to consider why the
might be empty. Maybe they had bought a new piece of
property. No, Dr. Danfield wouldn't move. He liked
locale and didn't like the expense of things like moving.
Besides, I drove by his church
two or three times each week, and I had
seen no sign of moving. I would've heard something about
it. Nothing I could think of made any sense."
Jim zeroed in on Dr. McMann
like a predator on its prey.
"I got into my car and drove
around the block
looking for clues. Dr. Danfield lives in a little church
parsonage by the church,
and it didn't look like anyone was home,
although there was a van in the driveway. I had to get back
for the worship
service. I tried to call Dr.
Danfield's house and church
from the phone in our church
nobody answered at either number.
"Well, to say the least, I was
spent all day Sunday trying to contact someone from his church,
didn't have very many leads. I called the police, but they didn't seem
too concerned about a church
that was locked. Besides, they
several missing persons to look for. Since I was making no
progress in finding out what was going on, I decided to think it
through from a spiritual perspective. Since Sunday, I've read
reread all these books you see on my desk."
Dr. McMann held up a small
folder that looked like a high school book report.
"This paper was written by Dr.
I've read it over and over. I've come to some startling
conclusions over the last two days. I've worked continuously,
have hardly slept at all. I even called a substitute to teach
classes for me today. Now you understand why I look
terrible. I've hardly slept since Saturday night--"
"--What sort of startling
Dr. McMann glanced at his
watch and said,
"Well, I've had to change what I believe, Jim. I'll tell you
about it, but I have to do something else right now."
He picked up the phone and
dialed a local number.
"Steve, this is
Bill. Are you ready to go?"
He waited for the party on the
other end to respond.
"Okay," he said, "I'll meet
you there in five minutes."
As Dr. McMann hung up the
phone, he said,
"Jim, do you remember I told you I had an appointment at 10:00?"
"I'm sorry," Jim said quickly
as he stood up. "I'll let you--"
"--No, no, let me
explain. A friend of
mine is a city police detective. That was him on the
I've arranged for us to check out Dr. Danfield's church,
welcomed to come along if you want to."
"Well, . . . ," Jim didn't
know what to say, "Sure."
"Well, let's go."
Jim's head was spinning as he
the room and through the office door being held open by Dr.
McMann. He was still trying to interpret everything that Dr.
McMann had explained to him, and now he was heading off on some new
adventure to a place he'd never been, and he was accompanying a man
that he didn't know at all only one hour earlier. Although
was confused, he was also quite eager to proceed with the
expedition. He stepped into the hallway and Dr. McMann paused
close and lock his office door.
"Jim," he said, as they both
started walking briskly down the hall.
"I know that this is happening
very fast for
you, but I'm in the same boat. Let me explain what we're
Jim listened attentively as he
followed Dr. McMann's lead into the staff parking lot.
Dr. McMann continued, "Sunday
I had found Dr. Danfield's church
locked up, I began trying to find out
what had happened. Finding myself unable to contact anyone
could help, I finally called the police. Well, trying not to
sound too fanatical, I explained my concern, but I wasn't taken too
seriously. The dispatcher told me that they were very busy
higher-than-usual number of missing person reports over the
weekend. He said, however, that he would have someone drive
and check it out."
Dr. McMann unlocked the
passenger door of his
car for Jim, then he circled the car and climbed behind the
wheel. He wasted no time in pulling into the busy street, and
continued his story.
"Well, I wasn't satisfied that
would be very helpful. I called an old friend of mine, Steve
Jones, who has been a police detective for several years. He
assured me that he'd look into the matter for me.
"Well, he called me back
yesterday saying that
was registered with the police department's Crime Watch
program. The church
not only assisted the police with Crime
activities, but they also kept a set of keys to the church
Police Station. This is a little bit unusual, but the church
insisted that the police have access to the church
whenever they needed
it. Steve set up an appointment to check out the church
today. He said I could come along, and that's where we're
"And what do you expect to
find?" Jim asked.
"Well, I won't speculate," Dr.
"At least, not out
loud. Let's just see if we can find any clues."
Dr. McMann pulled into the
parking lot of
Grace Memorial Church. There was another car there, and Jim assumed it
was an unmarked police car belonging to the man they were
to meet. Dr. McMann parked beside it, and the two men got
Dr. McMann said, "Hi, Steve."
"Hello, Bill," said the man
climbing from the other car. "It's good to see you again."
He shook hands with Dr. McMann.
Nodding toward Jim, Dr. McMann
this is a friend of mine, Jim Wheeler. I hope you don't mind
he tags along."
"Not at all," Steve said.
He held out his hand to Jim,
"I'm Steve Jones. I'm a detective with the city police."
Jim shook his hand.
Pleased to meet you." Looking
at Dr. McMann,
Steve said, "Well, I've got several keys here. What say we start with
this old school house?"
"Sure," said Dr.
McMann. The three men started walking toward the old building.
"This is their educational
McMann informed the other two men. "They have Sunday School
here. Then they go out to the gymnasium for their worship
Steve reached toward the door
with a key, and
struggled with the lock for a few seconds. He said, "So you
something strange is going on, Bill?"
"Well, I don't know," Dr.
replied. "Like I told you Sunday, the whole church
"Well, as far as I know, we
haven't had any other calls about this church."
Finally, Steve unlocked the
door and pushed it
open. The three men walked inside. The first
that came to Jim's mind was "old." He supposed this building must have
been built sixty or eighty years ago, and it probably hadn't
experienced much remodeling for twenty or thirty years.
The men were in a small foyer,
and each man
slowly walked in slightly different directions. Jim stepped
the right and glanced down a hallway. Curiously, he walked
the hall and glanced into the first room. This wasn't
normal. Suppose he found something awful--a dead body or
something. However, he didn't see anything too unusual.
The first room looked like a
classroom. It had about a dozen chairs in the center of the
a small wooden podium at the front, and a blackboard on the
There was a small table by the podium with a few books and pamphlets on
it. Jim figured that this room was built as a school
and that now it was being used for a Sunday School class.
Jim walked to the next room
almost identical to the first, then he walked back to find the other
men. They had proceeded left out of the foyer, into a sort of
secretarial lobby area. Everything seemed in order.
desks were tidy, and the whole place was clean--as clean as an old
building can be. Here and there were Bibles and church
literature, and on the corner of one desk were a handful of cassette
tapes. The three men walked past this room into another
They stopped in front of a door with the sign "Pastor" hanging on it.
Steve looked down the hallway as he tried the door, as though he
expected it to be locked. To his surprise, it opened, and the
three men slowly walked into the pastor's office.
The room was very small, and
cramped even with just the three men standing in its center.
only furniture was a desk, an old office chair behind the desk, and two
folding chairs in front of it. There were bookshelves on two
walls which were packed full of theological books. The desk
looked like any desk might at the very beginning or the very end of the
day. It was clean and tidy, and the only items on it were a
telephone, a family picture which Jim supposed was Dr. Danfield and his
wife, and a couple of trays which were probably used by the pastor for
incoming and outgoing mail.
Dr. McMann picked up a sheet
of paper from one
of the trays. He said, "This looks like a church
roll. There are several of them here. Do you care
if I take
one, Steve?" he asked.
Steve replied, "It won't
bother me. That's probably what they're there for."
He turned completely around,
around the room, and said, "Well, I don't see anything too
unusual. Let's check out that gymnasium."
Steve led the men back into
the hallway, and
Jim closed the door to the pastor's office. The three men
to the front door, stepped outside, and paused while Steve struggled to
lock the door. Once it was locked to Steve's satisfaction,
three men walked slowly around the building, looking in every direction
as they went, searching for some kind of clue. About one
feet away stood an old gymnasium, and the three men walked across a
gravel parking lot toward it. Steve reached into his pocket
"It's kind of unusual to leave
keys at the
station like this, but sometimes it comes in handy. I wish more people
would do it."
He unlocked the gym door, this
time without much trouble, and the three men stepped inside.
Like the schoolhouse, the gym
old. They were in a small lobby area. To the left
restrooms, and to the right was an old staircase. Straight
was the main part of the gym. Steve walked out onto the gym
floor, and the other two men followed. The gym floor shone
most gym floors do. Jim could tell that it was
well-maintained. Along the wall were several rolls of carpet
about three feet wide, along with about forty or fifty folding chairs.
After assessing the
surroundings, Dr. McMann
said, "I guess they use the gym for a basketball court during the week,
and for worship
services on Sunday. I'd bet that they unroll
carpet to protect the floors, and set up the folding chairs for a
area. A lot of churches are doing this now days, but
operation seems a bit crude."
On the other end of the gym
was a wooden
podium, an overhead projector on a small table, and a piano.
Picturing in his mind how this place might look on a Sunday morning,
Jim decided that Dr. McMann was right about the dual-purpose
As Jim's eyes kept searching
for clues, he spotted something on the far wall that held his
attention. It was one of those signboards that some churches
to display their weekly attendance. Jim's church
had one too,
it looked much different somehow. The one at Meadowlake was
out of brass and the statistics were displayed in bright metallic
colors, making it plainly visible from anywhere in the
auditorium. This one, on the other hand, was harder to
read. The board was just that, a piece of plywood, the top of
which had some decorative designs carved into it, and the middle part
had some grooves cut into it to hold the various rows of numbers for
display, and the wood had been stained. It looked like an
job, and Jim supposed that it had probably been handmade by one of the
members. The letters and numbers displayed on the
were store-bought, but they looked very old, as though they had once
been black letters on a white background, but now they were gray on
Despite the rustic appearance
of the signboard
itself, there was something else about it that held Jim's
attention--the numbers it displayed. The date on the first
was September 12, so, as Jim supposed, these statistics were for the
Sunday before last. The next row indicated that the whole membership of
was only 55. Jim's church
had Sunday School
larger than that. But, out of those 55, there had been 49 in
attendance on September 12. Percentage-wise, that was pretty
impressive. Jim knew that Meadowlake was doing well to get
its members to show up on a given Sunday, while Grace Memorial was
getting about 90%. The next line on the sign said that they had done
even better on the previous Sunday, with 53 in attendance.
could a church
sustain between 90 and 100% attendance? Still,
each line on the sign was more intriguing than the last.
The bottom two lines showed
the amount of the
offerings the church
had received for those same two successive
Sundays. One week they had brought in $1243, and the other
$1147. Now that had to be a mistake, Jim thought.
rate, the annual budget could only be about $60,000. His
operated on ten times that amount, and it always seemed like they
barely had enough money to pay all the bills. Sure, this
wasn't nearly as large as his, but they still had a couple of buildings
and a staff. How could they even pay the pastor's salary on
Jim's thoughts were distracted
by the other
two men who were now walking carefully along the outside wall of the
gymnasium, as though they didn't want to walk on the bare gym
floor. They stopped, looked all around, and Steve called out
loud voice, "Is anybody here?"
There was no answer, and Steve
said, "Well, I
think we've struck out. However, I also have a key to the church
parsonage. Would you like to take a look in there?"
Dr. McMann and Jim said they
Jim led as the three men
backtracked toward the outside door where they had entered.
Steve said, "Let me check the
quickly opened the restroom door, stepped inside, and came out within
"Man, that's sure a tiny
restroom for a public
place. It didn't take long to verify that there was nobody in
The three men walked through
the outside door
they had left open. Steve closed and locked it and headed
toward the schoolhouse. Instead of following the sidewalk all
way to the schoolhouse, Steve walked across a side yard toward an old
house next to the school. Jim realized that this must be the
parsonage, although he'd hardly noticed the little house previously.
There was a van parked in the driveway. He followed Steve and
McMann onto the front porch. Steve knocked loudly on the
Steve knocked again and called
out, "Rochester Police. Is anyone home?"
He immediately opened the old
door and reached down to unlock the front door with yet another
key. Jim held the screen door open while Steve fussed with
lock. It had been a long time since Jim had seen an old
door like this one. The house looked like one of those
pictures in the vinyl siding ads that boasted "before" and "after"
Steve managed to get the door
he opened it and leaned forward saying, "Is anyone home? Dr.
Danfield? Steve Jones of the City Police."
By this time, none of the men
was expecting an
answer, so they all entered the house and found themselves in a small
living room. The first thing Jim noticed was the
didn't really smell badly, but it smelled old. Jim quickly
realized that the last time he'd smelled that particular odor was at
his grandmother's old house when he was just a kid. It was
of a musty smell, but it brought back pleasant memories. Jim
always presumed that the odor was that of his grandmother, but now, for
the first time, he realized it was the odor of an old house.
was the kind of house with plaster walls instead of drywall.
thought that it must be at least as old as the school.
The men walked slowly to the
house seemed quite small, and with only a couple of steps they found
themselves in the dining room which seemed like only a small extension
of the living room. There were two places set at the dining
table, although the table was large enough for four to dine.
looked like a breakfast setting with small plates, cereal bowls, and
juice glasses. Jim thought that it looked much like the
table at his own house. It wasn't uncommon for Carol to set
table the night before, in order to help relax the chaotic atmosphere
around the house during the early morning family time.
Steve walked through a doorway
into the tiny
kitchen, and the other two men followed. Looking around the
the three men couldn't cite anything too unusual, except that the light
was on. The kitchen was tidy, as though it had just been cleaned up
after a previous meal. Each man stood, looking in every
direction, even out the window, searching for some sort of clue.
Suddenly Steve said "There's
He pointed to the counter top
sink. The other two men saw the pot full of black
They walked closer to examine it.
Steve reached down and tapped
the coffee maker.
"It’s got an
automatic shutoff. I
was involved in an investigation over the weekend where this would've
come in handy."
"What happened?" Jim asked.
"Last Saturday afternoon I was
called to check
out a house fire on Saturn Road. The house had pretty well
to the ground, and the fire department was just leaving when I got
there. The arson investigators were there, and they told me
fire had been started by the coffee maker. They thought that someone
had made some coffee and then left the coffee pot setting on the coffee
maker to keep it warm. That's no crime. I do it all
time. However, they must have forgotten about it and left it
there too long. Apparently the heat eventually caused all the
coffee to evaporate. Once the coffee was gone, the heat just
built up in the empty pot until it shorted out and caught on fire."
Jim thought about this a
moment and then
asked, "Steve, how long do you think it took to evaporate all the
"Well, it depends on how full
was. The arson investigators said that probably about six
coffee were made about 24 to 36 hours earlier. Anyway, the
thing wouldn't have happened if they had had a pot like this one that
shuts off by itself after an hour or so of not receiving any
"--Do you hear water running?"
Steve stopped talking and
listened. There was a faint sound like water running through
"Yeah, it's coming from the
back of the house. We'll check it out next."
All three men moved very
slowly, trying to
notice every detail, as they left the kitchen and walked toward the
back of the house.
Steve began another story,
"Say, that reminds
me. Another weird thing happened this weekend. A
and said that there was water running into the street, and that it was
coming from the front door of his neighbor's house. When we
investigated, we discovered that someone had left the water running in
the kitchen sink, and the whole house was flooded. Now what
of fool would leave the water running in the kitchen sink when he left
the house? I wonder if these folks did the same thing."
Jim had a possible answer, but
since he didn't
think that Steve would be too receptive to it just yet, he simply
nodded his head and looked around the rest of the kitchen.
three men entered a narrow hallway. The first room off the
was a very small bedroom. It appeared to be a guest room
had no signs of having been used recently. The bed was neatly
made, and, like the rest of the house, the room was clean, but it
seemed really old.
Steve led the way to the next
looked into it and entered the doorway. He thought it was the
master bedroom, but it seemed too small, and there didn't seem to be a
master bath attached to it as is customary.
Steve asked, "Do you think
this is the master bedroom?"
"I guess so," Dr. McMann
has to be. There are only two bedrooms, and this one is
larger, and obviously used more."
Used indeed, Jim
thought. This room
wasn't tidy like the other rooms. The bed was unmade, there
a couple of articles of clothing on the bed and chairs, and a glass of
water on one of the night stands. About the time he noticed a
pair of eyeglasses on the night stand, causing his mind to begin
churning with possibilities, Steve's voice broke the silence.
"I think we may have something
Steve walked in front of the
other two men, as though to remind them that he was in charge.
"Please don't touch anything
unless you ask me
first. We may need to have some pictures taken of this place."
As Jim and Dr. McMann waited
instructions, Steve turned completely around in a slow circle, intently
studying everything he saw.
"This is a little unusual,"
"The rest of the house is so clean and tidy, but this room is a
mess. This could indeed be the room from which the Danfields
disappeared, perhaps rather abruptly."
Jim could tell that Steve was
trying to formulate a picture of what might have happened.
Steve again noticed the sound
of running water and said, "Where's that sound coming from?"
As the other two men looked at
each other as
though to say, "Why are you asking me?" Steve walked back
the hallway and proceeded toward the only remaining room at the end of
"Here it is," he said.
The door was shut most of the
way, but not
latched. Steve pushed it open. Although he knew the
two men were right behind him, he called out.
"Hey, look at this."
The light in the bathroom was
on, and laying
on the floor was what looked like a woman's nightgown. Jim
couldn't tell for sure, but he thought there might be a lady's
undergarment on the floor under the nightgown. Also, the medicine chest
door was wide open, and there was a half-used roll of toothpaste on the
sink. A white hand towel was hung neatly on a towel rack
the sink, and a blue bath towel was hung similarly on a rack by the
tub. The tub also served as a shower, and the curtain across
front of it was closed. Most noticeable of all, the water in
shower was apparently running slowly. This was obviously the
source of the sound of water running through pipes that the three men
had heard. Jim had an uneasy feeling, like he was an actor in
Steve reached up and took hold
of the shower
curtain. He glanced over at Jim. Suddenly, this
too real. All three men were thinking that it looked like
had prepared to take a shower. They also knew that these
were missing. Putting two and two together, none of them was
that they were ready for what might be awaiting them behind the shower
curtain. Without giving them too much time to consider all
ghastly possibilities, Steve slowly opened the curtain.
The shower was empty, except
for a blue
washrag on the tile floor. It looked like it had just been
dropped there, without any attempt to wring it out or hang it up. There
was soap in the soap dish, and a bottle of shampoo on the floor of the
bathtub in the far corner. Water was dripping very slowly
the shower faucet.
Steve thought for a moment and
said, "Consider this scenario. The aggressors enter
house in the early morning, about the time this family is getting
up. One member of the family, probably the wife, judging by
nightgown on the floor, comes in here to take a shower. She
finishes her shower about the time the aggressors enter this
room. The perpetrators grab her, she drops her washrag on the
shower floor, and the shower curtain gets closed in the
Then they take the woman out of the house and off to who-knows-where."
Trying to deny the fact that
this scenario was
actually a possibility, Jim dropped his head. He knew only
well that it was possible. He suddenly wished he'd never
involved in this. But what had he expected? Missing
probably didn't usually leave a very pleasant story behind.
Just as Jim was beginning to
feel sick to his stomach, Steve spoke again, "But what about the
Steve quickly turned off the
water in the
shower and headed back to the master bedroom. The three men
entered the bedroom again and stood side-by-side at the foot of the
bed. The right side of the bed looked like someone had just
gotten out of it. The top right corner of the sheet was
back toward the center of the bed. It looked like it had just
been slept in, then the person threw the sheet back and climbed out of
bed, not bothering to make it up.
"This is a little confusing,"
said. "Why didn't she make the bed? She's obviously
The two men had not realized
behind Steve's question, but neither man offered an answer anyway.
Steve continued, "Because the
husband was still in the bed."
He sounded like he'd just
solved the crime of the century.
He walked to the left side of
the bed and
picked up the clock radio on the night stand. As he did, he
looked at Jim and said, "Jim, see what time that alarm is set for," and
he nodded toward the night stand on the other side of the bed.
Jim did as he was told and
answered, "Six-forty-five. But it's not set.”
Steve said, "This one's set
He paused to collect his thoughts, then continued. "I believe
that her alarm got her up at 6:45 and she went to take a shower,
leaving him in bed until his alarm would go off at 7:00.
enough time to brush her teeth, and almost complete her shower, I think
the aggressors grabbed her out of the shower at about 6:55.
they came back and got him out of bed." Steve looked up and
returned the clock radio to the stand, then he smiled, as though he'd
already solved the whole case.
Now Jim's investigative
intuition got the best
of him. He began to question Steve, "But why is his side of
sheet and blanket pulled up to the top of the bed?"
A little bewildered that Jim
his investigative reasoning, Steve replied, "Well, I don't
It's not important. Maybe the kidnappers just threw it back
there after they got him out of bed."
Steve violated his own
hands-off directive by
lifting the covers slightly to check underneath. All three
could readily see that there was nothing there.
"You mean like they took the
time to close the shower curtain but left the water running?" Jim
Seeing that Steve was a little
Jim's line of questioning, Dr. McMann said, "What are you getting at,
"Well, I don't know," Jim
just seems like all of these details could be important. In
words, if it's important that the washrag was on the shower floor, and
that the wife's sheet was folded back, I'm trying to determine the
significance of the fact that the sheet and blanket are pulled toward
the pillow on the other side. Is it reasonable that he never
threw back his side of the sheet, as though he just kind-of disappeared
from under it?"
Suddenly, Dr. McMann realized
what Jim was thinking.
Steve thought a moment and
said, "You mean he
could have heard the aggressors coming and sort of snuck out from under
the covers without moving them much? I supposed so, but they
still must have gotten him before he could do much. I don't
any signs of much of a struggle."
Dr. McMann looked at Jim,
realizing that this
wasn't the scenario Jim had in mind. Both men remained
intent to keep their secret to themselves until they had worked out a
more convincing story.
In a dual effort to appease
Steve and to
secretly point out more details to Dr. McMann, Jim said, "You're
probably right. I just think that the left side of the bed
funny. It doesn't really look like someone got out of the bed
adjusted the covers. It just looks like there used to be
in the bed, but now there isn't, and the covers are bulked up instead
of flat, like someone left the bed without moving the covers.
well, it's probably not important."
"Well," said Steve, "Let's get
back and let me
call for a photographer. Maybe we can come back later when we
move things around a little."
He led the men back to the
When they were all on the front porch, he locked the door, and the men
returned to their cars.
Climbing into his unmarked
car, Steve said,
"I'll call you when I find out something, Bill. Nice to meet
The other two men told Steve
good-bye and climbed into Dr. McMann's car.
It was well past Jim's usual
lunch time, so he
offered to buy Dr. McMann's lunch. The whole lunch was very
quiet, as each man tried to discern the meaning of what he'd just
witnessed. After lunch, Dr. McMann drove them back to his
on campus, and the two men sat down to resume their visit.
It seemed that neither man
knew what to
say. They were both dumbfounded with all the evidence they
mentally analyzing. Finally, Dr. McMann broke the ice.
"So, Jim," then he paused for
effect. "What do you think now?"
Jim had anticipated the
question ever since
they left Dr. Danfield's church,
and he'd had plenty of time to think
about it. Carefully choosing his words, and speaking slowly
deliberately he began his response.
"Dr. McMann, I believe that
occurred last Friday morning just before 7:00 A.M.. The time
the scene that Steve described at the Danfield's coincides very closely
with the time that Bill Washington disappeared at work. I
think that this has anything to do with aggressors, or kidnappers, or
terrorists. The scenario that Steve described can easily fit
of a rapture also."
"Tell me more about that Bill
Washington. You said something about finding his coffee
cup. Can you construct a scenario for him that matches all
other anomalies we've found?"
"Yes, I've given that some
Bill's coffee cup was found in one of the elevators early Friday
morning, broken into pieces. He had this clever little Aggie
with the handle on the inside, and everyone knew it was his.
thought of some possibilities as to why it was found in the elevator.
"Bill always came in to work
early. We practice flex time at Softco, so we can come in
and leave early, or come in late and stay late. I sometimes
to beat the crowd myself because you can really get a lot of work done
when nobody's around.
"Bill was sometimes in his
office as early as
6:00 A.M., when it's still dark outside, and I assume this was the case
last Friday. At that time of the day, he probably felt like
was the only person in the building, except for a straggling security
officer here and there.
"His office looked normal,
like he had just
stepped out for coffee. He probably unlocked his desk as soon
he arrived, retrieved some folders from some file drawers, and opened
his briefcase to retrieve the work he had taken home.
Unfortunately, one of those items was confidential, so it got flagged
for a security violation over the weekend.
"He probably logged on and
working. He had to prepare for an 8:00 A.M. meeting, so he
have printed some charts--that's it! He sent some charts to
printer in the copier room. That's where we keep our only
printer. It's an old graphics printer, and it's really slow,
Bill probably went to get a cup of coffee while he waited for his
"He grabbed his coffee cup,
walked down the
hall, and took the elevator to the second floor to get some coffee out
of the vending machines."
Jim paused to consider all the
thoughts he had
just verbalized, and wondered what Dr. McMann thought about his
speculative story. He immediately found out, because Dr.
dramatically finished the story with speculation of his own.
"The elevator dropped silently
to the second
floor, its bell rang, signaling that it had arrived at its appointed
destination. The elevator doors opened and remained open for
about the usual five seconds. However, Bill didn't step off
elevator. The elevator had arrived, as expected, per his
at the second floor, but it would've sufficed if the doors had never
opened. The vending machine was ready to serve coffee, but
didn't need coffee now. His charts printed perfectly, but
was this of any consequence to him now. His word processor
beeped, signaling the completion of the print job, but nobody heard
it. There was no more sound. The building was
even outside, the silent calm after the storm had displaced the roar of
Both men paused, allowing Dr.
McMann's dramatic conclusion to have its desired effect.
Finally, Jim said, "What about
you thought about the Danfield's as much as I've thought about Bill
Dr. McMann paused as though to
add the final touches to the rough draft in his head, then he began.
"Consider this. Ruby
Danfield was an
early riser, and Jack liked to sleep in a few more minutes after Ruby
got up. Ruby's alarm went off at 6:45, and she went to the
kitchen to start the coffee so it would be ready for
She plugged in the coffee pot, the one with the automatic shutoff,
which they had purchased for special occasions, like the
Then she may have retrieved some breakfast items from the cupboard in
case Jack got up soon.
"She then proceeded to the
bathroom to take a
shower. As usual, she turned on the light in the bathroom,
pulled the door almost shut, leaving it unlatched in case Jack woke up
and needed in the bathroom. She probably turned on the water
the shower, then brushed her teeth while she waited for the shower
water to warm up. When she was finished brushing her teeth,
undressed, stepped into the shower, closed the curtain, and began her
shower as usual.
still lying in bed
waiting for his alarm to go off at 7:00. He may have even
awake, listening for Ruby to turn off the water in the shower, which
would be his cue for his turn in the bathroom. Maybe he
over to check the time, but--"
Jim prepared himself for more
of Dr. McMann's dramatics.
"But he never discovered what
was. It didn't matter now. And Ruby never shut off
water in the shower. That didn't matter either.
the house filled with light as the sun came up, but there was nobody
there to see it. The scent of fresh coffee was in the air,
nose smelled it, and the coffee pot eventually shut itself
The table was set, and there was plenty of food in the kitchen for
breakfast, but breakfast wasn't served, and the coffee wasn't
This time, Jim finished Dr.
"So, at about 6:55 A.M., Mrs.
Danfield was in
the shower, and Dr. Danfield was still in bed. They were both
raptured. She left behind only a washrag, and he left behind
empty space between the sheets.
"Furthermore, as far as I'm
common denominator of everyone who's missing is a spiritual
In particular, it seems that Dr. Danfield's whole church
raptured. I assume that you are going to try to contact all
names on that membership list."
"Yes," replied Dr. McMann,
"I'll try to do
that this afternoon. I know a couple of these names, and the
isn't very long.
"Jim, I want to give you
another argument that
supports a pro-rapture scenario. Dr. Danfield's paper refers
special Jewish holiday called the Feast of Trumpets. There is
widely-believed tradition throughout the Christian world that Christ
will return on the Feast of Trumpets. Jim, last Friday,
21st, was the Feast of Trumpets."
"That does it," Jim
said. "I'm convinced."
Dr. McMann leaned back in his
chair and gazed
toward the ceiling. "Now tell me Jim, if you were going to
the role of devil's advocate here, what questions would you ask which
seem to make the rapture an unlikely answer?"
"Well, there are a few things
that bother me,"
Jim said as though he agreed with Dr. McMann that they should
investigate all possibilities.
"Number one, I always assumed
that when the
rapture occurred, everyone would know it, not only those raptured, but
also those left behind. I guess I would tend to agree with
Reverend Loomis on this. Isn't there a scripture that says
every face will see him?"
Without giving Dr. McMann an
opportunity to respond, Jim continued.
Shouldn't there have been
many more people raptured than this? Like Reverend Loomis
what about the millions of people who were in church
Again the question was
rhetorical, and Dr.
McMann didn't try to answer. Jim knew that Dr. McMann would
answer all his questions when he finished listing them.
"Number three," Jim said,
counting off three
fingers of his left hand with his right index finger. "What
their clothes? Dr. Danfield left no clothes behind in his
Mrs. Danfield did, but she must have taken them off before her
shower. Martin Davis certainly left no clothes in his
office. Would you expect things like clothes, glasses, and
watches to be raptured? I wouldn't.
"Number four. Why
would people be taken
in such curious groupings? Very few people are missing from
I don't know of any who are missing at Meadowlake. Yet, it
appears that one hundred percent of Dr. Danfield's church
missing. How can you explain these 'pockets' of Christians
Jim said no more.
After a few seconds,
Dr. McMann could see that this was Jim's complete list, at least for
the time being. He stood up and started his slow pacing
Dr. McMann finally said,
"Well, Jim, those are
all good questions. Let's start with the first one.
Regardless of what anyone may tell you, nobody knows what the rapture
will be like. Prophecies are always easier to recognize once
they've occurred, but even in Old Testament times they often occurred
quite differently than expected. Revelation 1:7 does say that
every eye will see Him. However, it may very well be that
verse doesn't apply to the rapture. I believe it applies to
Christ's second coming, at the end of the tribulation period, when he
establishes his earthly kingdom. There's nothing in the Bible
that would prevent the rapture from occurring just as your scenario
indicates. It might make perfectly good sense that most
don't recognize that it was a rapture, especially since all those left
behind are unbelievers.
"Now the Bible does say that
Christ will give
a loud command, and a trumpet will be sounded when he descends to
earth, but maybe it would only be heard in Heaven, or maybe only by the
departing Christians. Maybe they did hear something.
maybe God worked it out this way for a reason."
Dr. McMann paused to think
"Say, wasn't it storming early Friday morning? Maybe there
trumpet blast, but we couldn't hear it over the rain and thunder."
Dr. McMann continued, "Based
observations, I would have to discount this question and rule in favor
of your pro-rapture scenario.
two. Why were so few
raptured? I've been dealing with this question ever since
Sunday. All I can say is that nobody really knows what
person believes. It could very well be that our churches are
filled with unbelievers. Again, we'd like to think that most
everyone in the world would be raptured. However, I don't
there's anything in the Bible that we would violate by saying that only
a few would go. Quite the contrary, based on the words of
when he said that although many are called, only a few are
chosen. He also said that the way to heaven is narrow, but
evil way is broad.
"In Dr. Danfield's paper, he
gives support for
his opinion that about one hundred years ago, twenty-five percent of
the world's population were Christians. He believes that
only about two percent of the population are Christians.
"Say, Jim, how many people did
you say were missing from your complex?" Dr. McMann asked.
"Sixteen," Jim replied.
"And how many employees work
at your facility?"
"Oh, around 900 or so."
Both men quickly did the
arithmetic in their heads.
Dr. McMann said, "Let's see,
eighteen would be
two percent, so sixteen is a little less than two percent.
pretty close, although we might expect a higher percentage here in the
Bible belt than in the rest of the world."
He continued, "Number
articles of clothing, again, the Bible doesn't specify what we should
expect. However, even if some are raptured with clothes, and
without, don't you think that a God who can cause a rapture can figure
out what to do with some old clothing?
"We don't even know all the
facts about the
rapture from a physical viewpoint, much less from God's supernatural
viewpoint. I think it suffices to say that when an event as
supernatural as the rapture occurs, our almighty God can figure out
these small details. They really don't bother me very much,
they don't keep me from believing in our rapture scenario.
"You know, there is something
bothers me more than the issue of clothing. I read an article
yesterday's paper about a kidney patient in Houston that died
Friday. He'd had a kidney transplant about a year ago, and he
getting along fine until he just dropped dead last Friday morning. It
looked like kidney failure, and when an autopsy was done, his kidney
was missing. Could that kidney have come from a Christian,
been raptured with that Christian?"
Dr. McMann shook his head and
added, "This is getting too weird.
"That reminds me," said
Jim. "I read in
Sunday's paper about a sheriff in Oklahoma. It seems that
Saturday he was issued a court order to exhume a body from a grave site
to be examined for evidence in a court case. When they opened
grave and the coffin, the body was gone. Nobody could explain
it. They just assumed that some grave robber had stolen it,
either as a prank, or to prevent the discovery of some important
evidence. Could this have been a dead body which was raised
the rapture? If so, how many more empty graves are out there
our cemeteries now?
Jim was still deep in his own
train of thought.
Bill said, "I'll tell you
another thing I
can't explain, and that's the exact time of the rapture. I've
tried to review the articles that said what times people were first
missed, but they don't match. Senator Hanson disappeared
morning at about 7:00 A.M. Washington time. That would've
about 6:00 A.M. here in Rochester. The Danfield's disappeared
between 6:45 and 7:00. You would expect that all the people
have disappeared simultaneously, but it seems that Senator Hanson
disappeared an hour or so before this friend of yours at work.
"Also, why weren't there
accidents Friday morning? It seems like a lot of these people
would've been driving on freeways when they were raptured, leaving the
cars traveling sixty miles per hour down the road without
drivers. And wouldn't there have been a lot of eye
witnesses? Oh, well, I guess my arguments are inconclusive
lack of evidence."
Dr. McMann paused to recall the
then he began again. "Concerning the 'pockets' of Christians being
raptured, I can easily find a satisfactory explanation. What
are dealing with here is a spiritual phenomenon, and the primary means
of spiritual training are our churches. Now, people are going
attend a church
that is comfortable for them, one where they are
comfortable with what's being taught, so that they believe basically
what the pastor and the other members there believe. If they
become uncomfortable, they leave and find themselves another church.
"Well, some churches are
preaching the truth,
and others aren't. It seems perfectly reasonable to me that
Dr. Danfield was preaching the truth, then his entire church
raptured. Likewise, if Meadowlake wasn't preaching the truth,
would likely agree on that false doctrine, and nobody
would be raptured.
"You know, the same thing is
true of the
seminary environment, and the professors and students who come here
every day. Now as far as I know, there are no professors
from ITS, and if there are any students missing, it hasn't been enough
Only now was Dr. McMann
beginning to realize the seriousness of his last remark.
"What about other
seminaries? I wonder
if there are some seminaries that are shut down due to lack of
attendance, or lack of faculty. I really hate to think that
we're saying may be true. If so, the rapture came, and nobody
from ITS went. Have we been teaching false doctrine all these
He hung his head in dismay,
but quickly recovered.
"Well, anyway, the same thing
could be true of
the family environment. If the parents, particularly the
believe the truth, the rest of the family is likely to follow his
leadership and believe the truth also. Likewise, if the
leaders believe what's not true, the rest of the family will probably
follow in the deception.
"The workplace, on the other
a cross-section of religious beliefs, so you would expect more of a
mixture there. Say, maybe this is why the media has yet to pick up on
the full extent of the situation. They don't have any idea of
scope of the problem, because from a secular viewpoint, the problem
doesn't appear to be that widespread. In general, the media
doesn't care who showed up at Grace Memorial Church last Sunday, and
they have no way of knowing.
"You know, what I find
interesting is that Dr.
Danfield's congregation consisted of mostly lower-middle-class
blue-collar types. I've read that the faith of the average
American decreases as his education and income increases.
seems to support our argument as well.
Seeing that he'd answered
Jim's questions to
his satisfaction, at least for the time being, Dr. McMann made another
"Jim, I find it very
interesting to think that
the rapture could have occurred without its being obvious to
everyone. Consider Mrs. Danfield's washrag again.
You and I
have explained it from our rapture point of view, but remember that
Steve explained it to his own satisfaction from the point of view that
a kidnaping had occurred. The same goes for all the missing people out
there. Everyone is trying to explain it from a human point of
view, primarily by terrorist activities. First Corinthians
says that, to an unbeliever, the truth seems like foolishness, and I
think that is what we're seeing here. With nothing but
unbelievers left behind after the rapture, it's not a wonder that
nobody would believe, or even consider the rapture as an explanation.
"Also, I think it's obvious
that Dr. Danfield
was so sure of himself concerning his views of the end times, that he
intentionally made some preparations to aid us who remain in our
investigation. I believe that he left his keys at the police
station for this very purpose. He knew that the rapture could
occur at any time, and he wanted his church
to offer assistance to the
remaining unbelievers, even after his departure. I believe
why he left this membership list in his in-basket. You
that it was the only thing on his desk. He wanted us to find
and verify that all his members had been raptured.
"Also, consider that automatic
shut-off on his
coffee maker. Jim, what kind of economic lifestyle would
say that the Danfield's were accustomed to?"
Jim answered quickly,
"Obviously, a very
thrifty one. Both the house and the church
looked like they
hadn't been redecorated for years, and all the furniture was old, yet
"My thoughts exactly," said
"Now, why would such a family pay a considerable amount extra for a
coffee pot with an automatic shutoff on it? I think it was
because they didn't want their house to burn down in case of the
rapture, like Steve said happened to that other family."
Jim quickly verbalized another
"I guess I always thought that the end times would be sort of
spiritual, or ghostly. I never thought about it being similar
our present environment, you know, with cars and computers and stuff."
"Good point, Jim," Dr. McMann
That's what most people think. Maybe that's another reason
most people don't recognize what's happened. The change
seem dramatic enough. I believe that the physical aspects of the
tribulation period and the millennium could look very much like our own
"Say, I've been wondering why
the media isn't
making more out of this thing than they are. They're usually
quick to blow things completely out of proportion. I wonder
the insurance industry is trying to downplay the situation to minimize
life insurance claims. However, without dead bodies, it's
probably hard to verify death."
Jim nodded in agreement and
then said, "So, do you agree that the rapture has occurred?"
"I'm not going to express my
final opinion as
yet. I want to call the people on the membership list first,
well as study a couple of other things. However, if I had to
right now, yes, I agree with you."
Dr. McMann recognized that his
well with Jim, who seemed to look more relaxed now. In fact,
as Jim was becoming comfortable with his analysis, and proud of his
investigative efforts, Dr. McMann initiated a related and very serious
"Jim," he said solemnly,
waiting for Jim's undivided attention.
Just as Jim's eyes met his
continued. "I don't know whether you have yet grasped the
meaning and consequences of what we're suggesting."
Jim suddenly got the feeling
that some bad news was on the way.
"If the Church was raptured,"
Dr. McMann continued, "what does that mean for you and me?"
Jim began to answer Dr.
about their own destiny, but realized that he hadn't yet spent enough
time thinking about the theological aspect of the situation in order to
give an intelligent reply. Dr. McMann began to solemnly
his own question.
"Well, if the Church has been
you and I were left out." He paused, as though to let this
statement sink in before proceeding.
"That means that we aren't,
and weren't, part
of the Church. Granted, there are some theologians who
that the whole Church doesn't get raptured at one time. They
believe that some will have to endure certain trials during the Great
Tribulation, depending upon how well they had lived up to their name as
Christians. However, believe me, Jim, I find no biblical
for this thesis. I can look you in the eye and say that if
Church has been raptured, then we weren't a part of that rapture, or
consequently, a part of that Church.
"Now, what was involved in
becoming a part of
I'd like to illustrate this by having you answer
The two men made eye contact
as Dr. McMann continued. "How does a person become a
Dr. McMann stopped speaking
this time, waiting
for Jim's answer. Jim felt nervous, like he was on trial, but
took comfort in the fact that Dr. McMann was in the same boat in which
he found himself. He chose his first words carefully and
"Well, you have to be a believer. That is, you have to
Jesus Christ as Savior."
Dr. McMann intentionally
remained quieted to see what else Jim would say.
After about five seconds, Jim
felt like Dr. McMann was expecting him to say more, so he continued.
"You know, you have to believe
that Christ was raised from the dead, and all that."
Again Jim paused, and again
Dr. McMann seemed unsatisfied with his answer.
Jim didn't realize that Dr.
McMann was setting
him up. He still felt like his answer had been too vague to
satisfy Dr. McMann, so he tried again. "It has to do with
a good life, the way Christ would want you to."
Jim was relieved when Dr.
responded. "And if you believe in Christ and live a good
what does it get you?"
"Well, you get to go to heaven
when you die,"
Jim replied. "Or get raptured,
first," Dr. McMann added. "Would you agree?"
"Yes," was all that Jim said.
"Jim, you are partially
correct," Dr. McMann
began again. "When a person believes in Christ, he becomes
the Bible calls a 'believer.' This results in several things.
becomes the recipient of a whole multitude of God's
becomes a member of the Church, whose head is Christ. He is
blessed with spiritual gifts. And, among many other things,
he is assured of a place in heaven for eternity, whether via death, or
"However, there's a flaw in
your logic for
attaining the status of 'Christian.' The correct answer is
one must believe in Christ as his personal savior, . . .
Living a good life has nothing to do with it. God does it
and we do nothing, except believe.
"I intentionally asked the
questions the way I
did in order to make you say what you said. Don't feel bad,
Jim. I'm in the same predicament. What I'm telling
stems from something I learned just this week, although it was first
presented to me several years ago.
"I told you that I used to
appear on a radio
talk show with Dr. Danfield. Well, we had some stimulating theological
conversations, and I'll never forget something he said to me one day,
on this subject. We had reached the end of a heated, yet
debate over the end times and eternity. The last thing that
Danfield said to me was that he hoped I would remember Romans 4:4 and
5, because he had a feeling that it would come in handy for me some
Dr. McMann picked up a Bible
from the top of
his desk and quickly thumbed to a passage that Jim assumed was the one
he'd just referenced.
He read, "Now when a man
works, his wages are
not credited to him as a gift, but as an obligation. However
the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his
faith is credited as righteousness." He closed the Bible with
dramatic pause, as though Jim should now recognize some great
truth. Dr. McMann saw Jim's blank expression, so he continued
"Don't you see, Jim?
God gives us is by His Grace--alone. He does it
only receive it. There seems to be only one way that we can
reject it, and that is if we try to earn it in some way.
is a free gift of grace, but when a man works, his wages are
not credited to him as a gift, but as an obligation. If we
God to give us eternal life because we've lived a good life, then God
can't give us eternal life, since it can only be bestowed as a grace
gift. The gift is only truly a gift to the man who doesn't
substantiate his salvation
by his own works."
Dr. McMann walked directly in
front of Jim,
and sat on the corner of the desk. He waited until their eyes
locked again, then Dr. McMann continued.
"Jim, you and I believed that
we would get to
heaven by two things--belief in Christ, and our good works.
we nullified God's grace. He couldn't grant salvation
because we thought that we partially deserved it for the good life we
were living. Jim, we weren't saved. We weren't
members of Christ's Church, although we were members of some local
Unable to explain why, tears
began rolling down Jim's face.
Trying to comfort Jim, Dr.
McMann added, "Jim,
the heck of it all is that I knew I didn't really believe the gospel
message. It just didn't bother me that much. I
thought 'how could God condemn someone to hell
who lived such a good
life?' Jim, I've got to know if I'm right on this.
previously believe in Christ alone as savior?"
Jim frantically ran the
question through his
mind. Hadn't he joined Meadowlake, and hadn't he been
baptized. Didn't he have a fish symbol mounted on the trunk
his BMW, although he was unaware of its full significance?
his Christianity shown through when the man at the body shop installed
it and accidentally drilled one of the holes all the way through the
lid to the inside of the trunk? Why, he hadn't even let the
know how upset he was.
Wiping his eyes, Jim said,
"No, not only did I
believe that my good life would get me to heaven, I don't think I ever
really believed much of anything in the Bible. I'm not even
I believed in Heaven. I never really thought that all that
was literally true. I mean, a man coming back to life from
dead? It didn't make sense to me."
He paused and looked at Dr.
you mean that if I had died, I wouldn't have gone to heaven?"
"I'm afraid that's right," Dr.
replied. "Your destiny would've been the same as that of
and the demons at the end of the millennium, the lake of
But Jim, would it really have surprised you to
concluded that you weren't a believer? I mean, if you had
about it more, and taken it all more seriously."
"I guess not," Jim
said. He felt like a failure.
Dr. McMann sighed and said,
"Jim, don't take
it so hard. What do you think about me? I've been
a lie for thirty-five years, and I've propagated that lie to thousands
of future-pastors. How do you suppose I feel, changing my
this all-important point at this stage in my life. But, I've
repented, that's all. That's what the Bible means by
just changing one's mind about this."
Suddenly Jim's face turned
white, and he asked, "But what happens to us now? Is there
Dr. McMann stood up and began
again. He said, "That's the other reason that I haven't slept
since Saturday night. All I can tell you is that I believe
as long as we're alive, there is always hope. I think God
has a purpose for us. However, things have changed
significantly. Christ's Church is gone, and we no longer have
opportunity to be part of it. That time is
However, there will still be believers, though they won't be called
Christians. Still, I believe that if you and I, right now,
believe that Christ died for our sins and was raised again, then our
eternal destiny with God will be secured."
Dr. McMann could tell that
this brought comfort to Jim, although he didn't respond.
Dr. McMann added, "However,
Jim, it doesn't
assure us of an easy time of it in our immediate future. We
have a pretty rough time, especially if the next seven years are indeed
the great tribulation.
"Ya' know, there's another
facet of this
transformation that bothers me. Much of our New Testament
consists of instructions to the Church, that is, to
mean the believers during the specific age of Christianity.
that that time has passed, much of our Bible is no longer directly
relevant to our lives. That is, the parts that tell us how to
live a Christian life no longer matter, because we're not really a part
of the Church, and therefore, not really Christians, even though we are
believers. The Holy Spirit had a specific mission during the
Church Age in that he indwelt Christians, and they were able to call
upon him for strength, but with the rapture of the Church, the Holy
Spirit is no longer on the earth. Revelation talks about that
light of the tribulation period. It's a time of unchecked
and violence, in part due to the fact that the Holy Spirit isn't here
to combat it. Of course, the whole Bible is still true. It's
that we'll have to study it more carefully, and be more selective about
which parts should be used to answer our questions."
"And which parts are still
directly relevant?" asked Jim.
"Well," Dr. McMann replied,
Revelation is very important now, because much of it describes the
tribulation period that we're entering. Also some of the
prophetical books of the Old Testament deal with the end
Daniel describes some of what those last days will be like, as do parts
of Ezekiel and Isaiah."
Jim thought for a few seconds,
as though he was trying to change the direction of the conversation, he
said, "Dr. McMann, are you married?"
"I'm a widower. Why
do you ask?"
"Well, I'm married, and I love
my wife and
family very much. Naturally, I'm concerned with how this will
affect us all. However, my main concern is with relaying what I've
learned to others, especially my immediate family. My wife,
Carol, has always been moderately religious, not unlike
She's a very intelligent woman, and she thinks for herself.
only that, but she thinks that I have a very compulsive
temperament. She's right, of course, but I'm afraid she won't
want to take me very seriously on this thing. I think that
need some solid evidence to convince her."
Dr. McMann interrupted, "Well,
know. Would you have ever thought that you could have fallen
such an explanation of world events that we have just now deduced?"
"You've got a point," Jim
"Still, I'm wondering if there's another way I could persuade her, if
necessary. I think the best way would be for us to be able to
predict more coming events. Is it possible for us to decipher
events of the end times as described in the Bible, insert ourselves
into that scenario at the point of the rapture, and then be able to
tell what other events are going to happen? Say, the events
the Great Tribulation that you mentioned. I think that if I could tell
Carol that, if we're right, certain other things were going to happen,
then when they did occur, she'd be convinced that our logic was solid."
"I've been thinking about that
too, Jim," Dr.
McMann responded. "The best information I've come up with is
Dr. Danfield's paper on the end times."
He shuffled through the mess
on his desk, and handed Dr. Danfield's paper to Jim.
"In answer to your question,
yes, there are
some things we could expect. I'll lay them out for you
but it's very important that we bear in mind the possible fallibility
of our logic. Just as most people didn't expect the rapture
occur like it has, the other events may not occur quite as we would
expect either. Nevertheless, I think you're on the right
track. In the coming days, we may both have need to be able
convince others of our recent findings.
"It seems that one primary
event that will
occur is the rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem.
there's a Moslem mosque at the site of Solomon's original
It's called the Dome of the Rock, and it's very sacred to
This temple site has been a hot-spot in the Israeli / Palestinian
controversy for centuries. Scripture seems to indicate that
temple activities will be restored similar to those of the Old
Testament. In order for that to occur, the Jews will have to
build a new temple. We would expect that it would be built on
same sight as before, so that would indicate that the Dome of the Rock
would be removed. Now, we can't be too dogmatic about exactly
when this will occur. Some thought that it would happen
the rapture. Nevertheless, if I were making predictions, I'd say that
the Dome of the Rock would be destroyed, the Jews would erect a
magnificent temple in its place, and temple sacrifices would be
"In fact, I read in the paper
there are already some groups of Jews who are energetically pursuing
the rebuilding of the temple immediately. They're even
money and preparing some of the implements for their temple
rituals. I even remember that one group was researching the
location of Solomon's original temple, so that when construction
begins, nobody will accidentally violate the sacred and forbidden area
of the Holy of Holies."
Dr. McMann paused and took a
continuing. "Regardless, another important event would be
Israel's involvement in a war. Now, in our day, this is not
unusual, but Ezekiel 38 and 39 describe a particular war that will
occur in the end times. Israel's primary opponent will be
invader from the far North."
Deciding to use the technique
examination, Dr. McMann pointed to a world map hanging on the wall of
his office and asked, "Now Jim, who do you think Gog might be?"
Jim studied the portion of the
map around the
Middle East. In a few seconds, he replied in amazement,
"It seems to be the only
possible enemy to the
far north of Israel," Dr. McMann agreed. "Not only that, but
archaeologists generally agree that the terms used in the Bible do
indeed refer to the area that is modern-day Russia. In fact,
claim to be able to trace the migration of ancient peoples to the very
locations in modern Russia that Ezekiel 38 describes, such as Gog and
"Ezekiel says that Gog will
attack Israel from
the North. But about the time Israel gets really worried, God
will supernaturally defeat Gog with a mighty earthquake. Now this makes
sense to me. Russia is obviously quite interested in the
East. They're interested in the oil reserves, as well as the
warm-water ports. There's no love lost between Russia and
anyway, so it might not take much to make Russia attack her.
Also, remember the big earthquake in the southern part of Russia a few
years ago. That area is very susceptible to
can see how Russia could line up all her troops along her southern
border in preparation for an attack, and then have them wiped out with
an earthquake from God. As with the rapture, this would be a
supernatural turn of events which, to the unlearned eye, would appear
to be only an unfortunate natural disaster.
"To summarize, the Bible also
talks about what
is today Libya, Ethiopia, and Iran, all confronting Israel from various
directions. At a later point, a two-hundred-million-man army will
attack from the East, and I would have to believe that to be the
Chinese Army. They're the only ones that could produce such a
"Anyway, Jim, I'd predict a
conditions between Israel and her enemies, in particular,
I think that all the friction between Israel and countries like Iran
and Syria will add fuel to the fire. So for my next
would say that Israel's status with its neighbors will worsen, and
eventually Russia will attack her and be defeated. However,
although she'll be defeated, according to the Biblical prophecy she
won't be completely destroyed."
Dr. McMann paused to allow Jim
his comments, but when Jim remained silent, Dr. McMann continued.
"Another major event will be
the coming of the
Antichrist. There has been a lot of speculation about this
and I feel that probably none of them is correct. I've got
feeling that his coming will be so subtle that, again, nobody will
recognize that he is indeed the Antichrist. Dr. Danfield
he'll be from the West, maybe Western Europe or the United
States. Others think he'll actually be Jewish.
he'll step into the world spotlight after Russia is defeated, and he'll
appear to be an ally to Israel, serving as her protector. Later, he'll
rise to become a world power, then he'll betray Israel. It'll
his desire to be the ruler of the world, and he'll reign with
terror. So another prediction would be the rise of a world
government and a world dictator.
"Toward the end of the
Israel will again be attacked. This time, most of the armies
the world will side with the Antichrist at the Battle of
Armageddon. In the end, Jesus Christ himself will personally
intercede for Israel by returning to the earth and defeating Satan, the
Antichrist, and all of Israel's enemies.
"These are just the major
things that come to
mind. There will also be various other wars and natural
disasters. Read the book of Revelation tonight to see what I
mean. It doesn't paint a very pretty picture."
Jim kept silent for about a
minute, then he
said, "Dr. McMann, I agree with all we've said, but it has worn me
out. I've got to get home and get some rest, and think
"I don't blame you,
Jim. I feel the same
way. Maybe I can finally get some sleep too. Somehow I feel
better knowing that we're in this thing together. We still
lot to talk about, but let's talk tomorrow. Take Dr.
paper with you."
As Jim stood up and walked to
the door, the two men exchanged business cards.
"Thank you," Jim said, and
although neither of
the two men were particularly emotional by temperament, they
unexplainably and simultaneously embraced each other.
They looked at each other, and
Jim said, "I'll call you tomorrow."
"Good-bye Jim," said Dr.
McMann, and Jim walked away.
As Jim drove home, he wondered
approach Carol with his new revelation. He knew that he was a
compulsive person, maybe even a little bit neurotic at times.
Through the years he'd often become sidetracked from reality on one-man
crusades concerning various issues. He always seemed to have
something going on the side in which he could bury himself in worry,
not to mention his long list of failures in get-rich-quick schemes.
A few years back he was
determined to make a
fortune in the stock market. About the time he was sure that
had it figured out, he lost all that he'd invested, and a little
more. He wasn't sure whether Carol had ever completely
him for emptying a savings account for which she'd had other
plans. Although she might question his ideas, Jim felt so
strongly about this rapture thing that he promised himself to confront
Carol and the kids with it before the evening ended. Over and
over again he rehearsed his presentation to his family, and he tried to
picture in his mind how they might respond, probably not too
As he drove, Jim also wondered
unrestrained evil that Dr. McMann mentioned. Jim thought that
evil in the world today was already pretty much unrestrained.
must really get bad during the tribulation period. Could all
really have happened? Jim knew that God had control of
everything, didn't he? But had God even controlled the
the terrorists and the media to keep people in the dark about the
As he pulled into the driveway
and reached up
to the visor to press the automatic garage door button, he was
surprised to see that the garage door was already open, and Carol's car
was in the garage. Jim looked at his watch for the first time
since that morning on his way to the seminary. It was
Jim had been so caught up in his mental scenario of the rapture that
he'd not even checked the time. He hoped that Carol hadn't
worrying about him. Experience had taught him that if he
going to be home shortly after 6:00, he'd better call Carol and tell
her he'd be late. Now this could be bad. Depending
good or bad Carol's day was, he may have a difficult time making her
As he parked and got out of
his car, he
decided that he'd not confront Carol and the kids with his incredible
story right away. It would be bad enough just explaining why he was
unexpectedly late. He'd explain everything after supper. He
a moderately deep breath, and entered the house.
Carol was just moving dinner
from the stove to
the table. Luckily they hadn't been waiting and holding up
"Hi honey," Carol said.
"Hello," Jim responded, rather
hesitantly. He was still unsure of the general mood of the
Wheeler household at the moment. Carol had sounded
"You're just in time," she
continued. "I'm running a little late with dinner."
"Well, I would've called," Jim
although Carol hadn't asked for an explanation. "I didn't
how late it was."
"Well, let's eat.
After dinner you can
tell me all you did today." Apparently, she did remember that Jim had
taken the day off.
"Kids," she called, in her
friendly way, "let's eat."
Jim stepped into the third
bathroom and washed
his hands. As he came to the dining table, he felt relieved
this had been easier than he'd imagined, so far. Ryan and
joined their parents at the dinner table.
Katie said, "Hi, Dad."
Ryan added, "Yo, Dad."
"Hello, kids. Did
you guys have a good day today?"
"Yeah, I guess," Katie said.
Ryan just grunted in
As usual, the Wheelers started
passing food in
a frenzy that would make the Bunkers jealous. Everyone was
relatively quiet during most of the meal, with only the usual small
talk. Carol gave tests all day, Katie did reasonably well on
test, and Ryan had to study for a test tomorrow. Jim didn't
any comments about his day until everyone was finished eating.
When Carol and Katie started
table of the dirty dishes, Jim scooted his chair back slightly and sat
back comfortably in his chair. Working up his nerve, he said,
rather loudly, "I've got something very important to talk to you all
Recognizing an unusual
seriousness in Jim's
voice, Carol came back to the table and sat down. Katie
and even Ryan sat up straight.
"Go ahead, hon," Carol said,
as though she was
already convinced of the importance of his coming announcement.
"Well, I had an unusual day
decided last night to take the day off today, so I called in this
morning to tell Penny I wouldn't be in. I've been doing a lot
thinking about all these missing people. Kids, are you two
familiar with what's been in the news the last few days?"
"Kind of," replied Katie, "but
I don't know what it all means."
Ryan said, "My history teacher
it's all part of a complex terrorist plot," he said excitedly.
"Well," Jim continued, "it is
difficult to figure out what's going on. But I have a theory,
based on what I believe to be solid evidence, and I want to share it
with you now. It may be the most important thing I've ever
discussed with you."
Jim looked at Carol, but
nobody said a word. Jim was surprised at their undivided
He continued his speech.
"Well, the fact is that many
people, from all
walks of life, are missing. I've been trying since last
figure out what the common link is between all these missing
people. They're not all wealthy, or poor, or politically
involved. But I think I may have found the answer.
"My observations come, in
part, from some
first hand experiences with some of the missing people. One
the men in my department at work is missing, Martin Davis.
is another man on my floor who's missing too. I was in both
offices Monday morning, and the one thing that I noticed that was
similar was that they each had an open Bible on their desks.
that might not seem unusual at first, but I'll bet there isn't a Bible
on anyone else's desk on my floor.
"Well, I had just heard a
report that one of
the government officials who was missing was a very religious
man. All of a sudden, I had reason to believe that, of the
men I was familiar with, all were particularly spiritual men.
that point I remembered some scriptures from the Bible that talked
about some unusual events which would happen just before the end of the
world as we know it. I've been investigating this thing from a Biblical
perspective since yesterday morning."
When Jim saw that he still had
their interest, and they weren't yet asking questions, he continued.
"I started with Reverend
Loomis. We had
lunch together yesterday, and I asked him about the possibility of my
ideas. He told me that, indeed, there would be some strange
happenings in the end times. Among those strange events would
the rapture, the taking away of all living and dead Christians to
Heaven. They would just disappear from the earth. I
him if that could have been why these people have
Well, he came unglued. He's convinced that I'm crazy.
"Then I remembered a man
speaking at our church
a few months back. You might remember him, Dr.
Carol nodded in agreement.
Jim continued, "He's a
well-known professor at
the seminary. Well, I called him this morning, and I've spent
day with him. He doesn't think I'm crazy. In fact, we
some evidence that tends to confirm our theory."
Carol and the kids were still
glued to his
every word. He was surprised at how receptive they were, so
relaxed and continued telling them about his day. He told
about the adventure to Dr. Danfield's church
and house, and why he
thought that this provided evidence for the rapture scenario.
Then he explained, as Dr. McMann had explained to him, that, if he was
right, all the Christians had been taken to Heaven.
that if this was true, those remaining behind weren't
Finally, he got a response.
"US?" asked Carol.
"Yes, us," Jim
affirmed. "I can't know
anybody else's heart, but as for me, I'm convinced that I wasn't a
Christian. I never really believed what I heard about Christ
dying for my sins. I believe it now, but only as of a couple
hours ago. However, it's too late to be a Christian now."
He went on to explain the
and the Millennium as Dr. McMann had presented it. When he
finished, he waited for responses.
Carol said, "You know, Jim, in
a way, I'm not
really surprised. I had always claimed to be a Christian, but
know I was just fooling myself. I just never took it very
seriously. I didn't think it was really very important."
As Jim looked at Ryan, he saw
tears in his
eyes. "Me too, Daddy," he said. He couldn't say any
Katie was crying
too. She said, "I
didn't believe, but I do now." She wiped her tears on a
"What does this mean for us now?"
"Well, that's what I'm trying
out. I've got to do a lot of studying on it, but the best I
figure is that within seven years, the world, as we know it, will be
vastly changed. Until then, we may have a pretty rough time
it, even though we are believers. Oh, there will be other
believers too. We're not the only ones who will figure this
out. I guess that's got me puzzled too. How will
become convinced of this truth? And why are we convinced of
so soon, and so easily?"
After a few seconds of deadly
said, "Well, if God is sovereign, then He can do what He
And if He elected us to believe, then we believed. After all,
is the one who does it. Maybe He has a special purpose in
Jim suddenly felt a new love
family. He leaned over and kissed Carol on the
He'd always known that he loved her and wanted her to be safe and
happy. However, now he was experiencing a new feeling which
never had toward her. He'd give his life for her.
"That could be," Jim
certainly made it a lot easier for me to tell you all about it than
what I thought it would be. In fact, I've been feeling an
external force encouraging me to research this thing, and I just now
realized that force is God."
Again there was silence, and
this time it was
broken by Jim, "Well, we've all got things to do. I've got a
of reading to do, and you all have things to do for tomorrow
Until we figure this thing out better, we need to just keep plugging
away, as best we can, and as normally as we can."
The Wheeler house was
unusually quiet the rest
of the evening. Everyone quietly prepared for the next day,
reading and studying. Nobody even bothered to turn on the
TV. Although this was quite rare, nobody seemed to miss
They all had higher things to think about tonight. Jim called
Karl to tell him he'd pick him up in the morning. He wondered what
their conversation would be like on the way to work.
Jim began studying by reading
from cover to cover. He was shocked when he realized that there wasn't
a single article about the disappearances on the front page.
had been only four days since the disappearances, and those stories
were already old news, having been replaced with new fervor over the
upcoming municipal bond election. How could several thousand
people disappear, and four days later nobody cares?
However, he did find one
article buried deep
in the paper about a missing person in Los Angeles. Some
had narrowed down her disappearance to sometime between 7:00 and 7:30
A.M. Pacific Daylight Time Friday morning. Pacific Daylight
Time? Jim remembered Dr. McMann's unanswered question about
Senator Hanson's disappearing at 7:00 Eastern Daylight Time.
hadn't all these disappearances occurred at the same time? If
disappearances in Rochester were at 6:50, he would've expected that the
one in Washington was at 7:50, and the one in California was at 5:50,
all in local times. That would've made it the exact same
for all three disappearances.
Suddenly Jim remembered
reading an article in
Sunday's paper about a disappearance in England.
Carol had already thrown out all the old newspapers, and since Tuesday
was recycle day, they were long gone.
Jim jumped up and walked
quickly to the master
bedroom and turned on his PC. Within thirty seconds the
window was displayed and he immediately started his Prodigy Internet
program. Jim listened to the familiar tones being output by
computer as it dialed the number to connect him to the network.
When the Internet browser was
clicked on the News icon and began browsing recent news headlines to
find the story about the missing person in England. Browsing
backwards from today, he finally came to Sunday's articles, and he
spotted the headline, "London Stock Broker Reported Missing."
clicked on the article to display it. There it was.
stock broker had disappeared at 7:30 London time, but Jim wasn't sure
how to adjust for daylight savings time. Regardless, he knew
he was on to something.
He then clicked on the Weather
backtracked to last Friday's weather. The screen filled with
of Friday's weather statistics for Rochester, and at the bottom of the
page were the sunrise and sunset times. The sun had risen at
Jim typed "Los
Angeles." The sun had
risen at 7:21 PDT in LA last Friday. That was it.
thought it through carefully.
Important events in the Bible
at strategic times of the day, such as dawn, sunrise, dusk, or
sunset. But, of course, sunrise doesn't occur simultaneously
around the globe. The rapture had started at sunrise,
in Europe or Asia, probably in Jerusalem. Then, as the earth
rotated, the rapture moved westward, like the sun, sweeping up
Christians like a vacuum cleaner for a twenty-four-hour period, but
always precisely at sunrise, relative to the local geographic position
of each Christian. That explained how a Christian in London
raptured at 7:31 London time, one in Washington at 7:00 EDT, one in
Rochester at 6:53 CDT, and one in LA at 7:21 PDT. This also helped to
explain the lack of traffic accidents caused by the rapture, because
most people weren't out on the road yet.
Then he remembered what
Reverend Loomis had
told him about Frank Golson being killed in an accident. He'd
died early Friday morning, and his body wasn't recovered.
he also have been a part of the rapture? God may have
many different techniques in rapturing Christians, while leaving others
none-the-wiser. Jim wondered how many other people had "died"
"disappeared" Friday morning.
Just then, Jim also remembered
Loomis had said about everyone seeing Jesus returning on a
Maybe He did return on a cloud--at dawn, local time--and nobody
happened to see Jesus or the believers being raised into the clouds.
After all, it would still be quite dark, and besides, most people would
still be indoors at that time, probably sleeping. It's not
all those people disappeared in front of a large crowd.
Say, there was a
cloud. The forecast had
called for clear skies, so Jim had been surprised at the brief storm
that morning. Maybe it was stormy all over the
quickly checked the Friday morning weather map on Prodigy
Sure enough. At dawn Friday morning, clouds began to move
the country, from east to west. This is very unusual
our prevailing westerly winds. This band of clouds actually
from east to west, probably around the whole world. But why
didn't such an unusual weather pattern draw more attention from the
media? Are you kidding? Jim asked
himself. The whole
country was focusing on terrorism. It all made
Nobody paid much attention to the unusual weather patterns because the
terrorism seemed so much more important. How clever, Jim
He was excited. He
returned to the den
and continued studying. As the night grew late, one by one, Carol,
Katie, and Ryan came to the den to tell him goodnight, leaving him in
his easy chair with Bibles, other books, and papers strewn across the
room. Jim continued reading long after the others were in bed.
He began with Dr. Danfield's
paper, and before
the night was over, he'd read it several times. He found it
very helpful in the study of the end times, and to draw all the events
together from the Biblical accounts.
Using Dr. Danfield's paper as
a guide, he then
opened his Bible and began reading in the book of Ezekiel. Chapter 37
revealed a re-gathering of the Jews to Palestine, and Jim realized that
was already taking place to a certain extent. But he learned from
Ezekiel (and a footnote to Matthew 24), that the migration of Jews back
to Israel from all parts of the world would increase even
There definitely was some significance to the Jews being in their
homeland during the end times.
The next two chapters of
Ezekiel, 38 and 39,
described the Russian invasion of Israel that Dr. McMann had
discussed. Using Dr. Danfield's discussion of the
studies of the migratory patterns of ancient peoples, he began taking
notes, trying to discern which modern-day countries the Bible was
talking about. After a few minutes, he reviewed his list.
The country called "Gog" in
the Bible was
modern-day Russia. "Persia" was Iran, "the king of the South"
Egypt, "Cush" was Ethiopia and Sudan, "Put" was Libya, "Togarmah" was
the Southern Russian Cossacks, and "Gomer" was Eastern Europe,
including the Germans and the Slovic nations. Ezekiel
that all these nations would take part in the attack on
It all made sense. These are the countries you would expect
attack Israel today. But Russia would be defeated, though not
completely destroyed, by an earthquake.
Jim continued taking notes as
he read the book
of Daniel. He found this book to be a little harder to
understand, but he was determined to come up with a chronological
outline of the end times. He read the book of Revelation,
was slightly clearer to him in light of Dr. McMann's insights into the
Great Tribulation period. Still, Jim had had to dust off
old never-been-used Bible commentaries on his bookshelf to try to glean
a deeper understanding of the particular point in history in which he
found himself, and of his future destiny. Then he read Daniel
Revelation again, flipping back and forth between the two.
Apparently, after Russia's
Antichrist would arise from some Western nation. He would
three out of ten nations that had come together to form a confederacy,
and then the other seven nations would join him. He'd present himself
as an ally and protector of Israel. He would indeed befriend
Israel for a while, but after three-and-a-half years, he'd stage an
impressive campaign to become a world dictator, and he'd do it under
the orders of Satan himself. He'd betray Israel and destroy
one-world religion which had prospered for those three and one-half
years, although it was a "false church."
Jim thought about this "false
Where would it come from? Could it be that the churchgoing
unbelievers that were left behind in the rapture actually form the
basis for this false church?
They were still meeting
buildings, but if Jim was right, these weren't really
churches at all. He thought how interesting it would be to
this false church
evolve during the next few years.
Anyway, the Antichrist would
trick the whole
world into thinking that he had recovered from a fatal wound.
Then he would employ a man called The False Prophet to construct a new
religion which worshiped the Antichrist. Anyone who didn't
would be martyred.
Then, after three-and-a-half
more years, the
Antichrist and most of the military power in the world would again
attack Israel. About the time everything looked hopeless, Jesus Christ
himself would return to earth and personally defeat the Antichrist at
the Battle of Armageddon. The Antichrist and the false
would die in the battle. Christ would bind Satan for 1000
during which time the true believers would live in euphoria on the
Jim found Revelation
intriguing. It spoke of terrible earthquakes, famines, wars,
plagues to come. These things would be terrible enough during
first three and one-half years, but they would even be intensified
during the latter half of the seven-year tribulation period.
Revelation also described two
evangelists, as well as 144,000 believers that would rise up in the
midst of all this tribulation. These two witnesses would be
indestructible and they would have miraculous powers for
three-and-a-half years, but then the Antichrist would succeed in having
them killed. Then, after three-and-a-half days, they would
miraculously come back to life, and another great earthquake would rock
the city of Jerusalem. What a destiny for those two guys, Jim
Apparently there would indeed
be many more
believers such as himself, though Jim could hardly understand how it
would come to pass that so many would be as clever as he was to figure
this thing out. This seemed especially true in light of the
that the media seemed to be convincing most people that this whole
thing wasn't as serious as it seemed, and that it was all related to
By now, Jim's head was
hurting, and he was
scared to look at the clock to see how late it was. He had to
up and go to work in the morning. He decided to review his
chronology chart one more time, but first he'd lean his head back and
rest for a couple of minutes.
The next thing Jim knew, Carol
rubbing his arm saying, "Jim, it's morning. Do you want to
shower before work?" Carol laughed as Jim unknowingly tried to act as
though he'd been thinking with his eyes closed, but he quickly realized
he'd fallen to sleep in his recliner.
"Yeah, thanks hon," Jim
Checking the time, he saw that
he had no time
to lose. He quickly showered, shaved, and dressed, and he was
only on his first cup of coffee when he had to leave if he wanted to
pick up Karl on time. He drove the familiar route to Karl's
house, tapped his horn twice, and within seconds Karl was climbing into
the front seat beside him.
"Good morning, Karl," Jim
said, trying to sound carefree.
"Hi, Jim," Karl
replied. "Did you have a good day off?"
"Yeah, I got a lot done."
Jim didn't elaborate on his
day off. He
waited patiently to see if Karl would volunteer any information about
Mary. Finally, once they found their place in the
bumper-to-bumper traffic on the freeway, Karl broke the mysterious
"Well, I haven't heard from
called the police and explained that I thought she might be
missing. I don't know what to do, Jim."
Jim tried to look at Karl and
keep one eye on
the traffic at the same time. He decided that he should tell
about his thesis.
"Karl," he began, "was Mary a
Wondering why Jim
had phrased his
question in the past tense, Karl replied, "Oh, yeah. She
She liked for me to go with her, but I didn't
very comfortable there. She was always attending Bible
and things like that. Why do you ask?"
"Well, Karl," Jim said
don't really know how to tell you this, but I've got a theory about all
these missing persons, and it could have something to do with
Mary. You might think that I'm crazy, but I feel obligated to
tell you if you care to listen."
Jim waited for a response, but
Karl only nodded.
Jim continued with his
Without giving a lot of thought to it, he just explained his theory of
the rapture in simple terms as he had done with his family.
the time he finished, they were sitting in the parking lot at work.
Somehow Jim wasn't surprised
when he saw what
was becoming a familiar sight. Karl was fighting back tears.
When he had taken control of
his emotions, he
said, "Jim, I believe you. I don't know if it's because I'm
desperate for an explanation, or if you just tell it so convincingly,
but I believe you. Not only that, but for the first time in
life, I believe in God, and Christ, and that he is my only hope for
ever getting to heaven."
Jim was shocked.
He'd never had this
kind of experience before. All his life he'd been browbeaten by
preachers who said that he should share his faith. Is that
he had just done? Not only that, but how could people be so
receptive to his far-out story?
Karl interrupted Jim's deep
thought. "Thanks, Jim. But what do you think it was
for Mary, in the end--I mean, the rapture? Why hadn't she
let me know where she was?"
"Well, I've been doing a lot
theorizing. I've come up with possible scenarios for most of
missing persons, including Mary.
"Suppose last Friday morning
Mary lay in the
double bed of her motel room as the heavy curtain across the window
began to show signs of daylight around its edges. She rolled
over, positioning her back toward the window, hoping that she'd be able
to get at least a little sleep before having to get up. Maybe
was 2:00 A.M. before she had gone to bed, and she hadn't slept a total
of thirty minutes all night, worrying about her relationship with you.
"Maybe she turned on the
television to listen
to the morning news, then she suddenly realized that nobody even knew
where she was. This troubled her. Suppose something
unforeseen happened, or what if someone needed to contact
Mary was anything but irresponsible. Finally, she was over
of her anger, and knew she should call you. But she also knew
that you don't get up until 7:00, so she waited. She thought
about what she would tell you, and maybe she would only say a few words
to let you know she was all right, then she'd hang up.
"When it was almost 7:00, she
sat up on the
edge of the bed and reached for the phone. She lifted the
receiver and dialed, and it probably felt strange to dial her own
number. However, the situation suddenly changed.
receiver dropped onto the bed. Had she dialed the whole
yet? Would anybody answer? Did it matter?
"In a few minutes the phone
began emitting a
bothersome beeping noise, like it usually does when the receiver is off
the hook for an extended period of time. Yet, it bothered
nobody. Nobody heard the beeping phone, or the news on the
the water running in the room next door. In a few hours the
would clean the room and replace the phone back on its stand, and
everything would be back to normal. Almost everything."
Karl said, "Well, we'd better
get to work now, but I want to talk more about this, and soon."
He said it as though he
considered Jim quite an authority on this topic.
Jim's nod told Karl that he
agreed, and they
got out of the car and walked toward the buildings. As they
departed to their separate buildings, the two men, almost instinctively
and simultaneously, offered each other a firm handshake. They
smiled and walked away. Jim couldn't recall when he'd last shaken
Jim entered his building
badge-secured doors, waited for an elevator, rode to the third floor,
and headed straight for his office. He knew he'd have a big
backlog of work from Tuesday, and he wanted to do a little more
investigating too. He opened his office door, turned on the
light, and switched on his computer. He unlocked all his
situated his briefcase, logged onto his terminal, and browsed through
his electronic mail. Several pieces looked interesting.
The first one he read was a
personnel to all site managers. It reported that there were,
fact, fifteen people still missing from their facility. There
been sixteen, but one had shown up Tuesday after having unexpected car
trouble while traveling over the weekend. This worried Jim a
little bit. Suppose all the others showed up now.
would that leave him and the rapture story he'd been
He took this as a suggestion to remain somewhat low-key about his
thesis for at least a few more days.
The next memo was from the
site manager, who
asked all the managers to keep the data about the missing persons
confidential. They were advised especially not to talk to the
media about it. Jim thought, no wonder everyone is in the
about this. Nobody really even wants us to know what happened.
As he was reviewing his
for what looked like the next-most-critical piece of mail, Sarah came
into his office.
"Well, you look
chirpy. I'd say a day of rest was what you needed."
"Yeah, I feel pretty
good. I got a lot done yesterday."
"I just wanted to tell you
that both our guys
are still missing. We've called the authorities. I don't know
what else to do."
Jim was almost relieved to
hear that Martin hadn't shown up.
"Well, I guess we'll just do
told. Do we have any more clues as to what happened though?"
"Not really. Just
that Bill disappeared
between 6:30 and 7:00 Friday morning, as we already knew.
I've got a 9:00 meeting. I'll see you after lunch."
As Sarah left, Jim was amazed
at how normal
everything seemed. It was almost as though nothing had
happened. How could people be so blind? He wouldn't
surprised if they moved new people into the offices of the missing
persons pretty soon, and forgot all about them. He returned to his mail
and spent the rest of the morning minding his managerial duties.
Jim was so far behind that he
lunch. Then, at about 1:30, he heard some unusual commotion
in the hallway. He got up to check it out, and noticed a
people crowding around an office a few doors down. It
him of how people flock to find the few employees with radios whenever
there's severe weather in the area. He wanted to find out what was
happening, so he headed toward the crowd, noticing as he went that the
weather outside was fair. When he reached the popular office,
many people had already gathered that they were extending into the
hallway. Jim did hear a radio, and it sounded like a special
bulletin. He watched the others as fear and disbelief
their facial expressions, and they all listened.
"Repeating this special
U.S. official have confirmed unusual and unexplained Russian military
activity in the Middle East. The Pentagon reports
confrontations with United States naval vessels in the Mediterranean
Sea, with the recent movement into the Mediterranean of at least twenty
Russian naval vessels, including at least six destroyers, three nuclear
submarines, and the two largest Russian aircraft carriers.
rapid buildup in the
Mediterranean, unofficial reports also indicate unusual Russian naval
presence in the Persian Gulf, as well as massive relocation of troops
and aircraft along the southern Russian border. It is feared
the Russians may be planning a strike against the Israelis whom they
hold responsible for recent terrorist activities including suspected
kidnapings of Russian citizens. The Kremlin has made no
to inform the U.S. of its intentions."
As the same brief message was
repeated yet a
third time, the astounded listeners looked at each other in silence.
Suddenly, without realizing
that he was speaking out loud, Jim made a profound statement.
"Watch out for an earthquake
Everyone heard Jim's
words. They all
looked at him, and someone asked him to repeat what he'd
Jim remained silent, and he felt awfully embarrassed. Another
employee answered the first one.
"He said 'watch out for an
earthquake'. What does that mean, Jim?"
Jim was speechless, but in
seconds, all those
around began visiting with each other about the news report they'd just
heard. No doubt this moment would be engraved in their minds
right up there with where they were when they heard that John Kennedy
had been shot. However, Jim wasn't yet ready to broadcast his
explanation to everybody. He needed to do more studying
first. Trying not to attract any further attention, he
returned to his office.
He spent the next few hours as
he'd spent the
last few days, straining his brain cells for answers, instead of
tending to his managerial responsibilities. He hoped that he
wasn't getting too far behind. At 5:00 sharp his phone rang.
was Karl, ready to go home. They agreed to meet at the car in five
Both men had a lot to talk
about during the
ride home. Karl asked Jim many of the same types of questions
that Jim had asked Dr. McMann a day earlier, and Jim broadened the
discussion with his hypotheses about the Russian military buildup. When
Jim stopped the car in front of Karl's house, he knew that Karl still
had a lot of questions. Patiently, Jim continued answering
questions until almost 6:00 when he excused himself.
Jim drove home, anxious to
hear the latest
news and to do more studying. When he entered the family room, Carol,
Ryan, and Katie were all watching the news on TV. Although it
after 6:00, the network news had preempted the local affiliates on all
channels. The reports were still sketchy concerning the details, but
Russian leaders were implying that their aggression was indeed aimed at
Israel. Naturally, the thrust of the reporting was to determine what
this would mean to the United States. The President had not
released a statement.
When Carol had dinner ready,
Jim insisted that
the TV be turned off. After all, the newscasts would probably be on
continuously until something happened. The dinner
was much like the ride home with Karl. Everyone had been
lot of thinking today, and they had a lot of questions for
Jim was glad to oblige, but he knew that he also had a lot to learn.
After dinner, Jim decided that
he should check
in with Dr. McMann. It was about 7:00, but he supposed that Dr. McMann
would probably still be at his office. He retrieved Dr.
business card from his wallet. He held the card in his left
while he lifted the phone receiver with his right, and quickly dialed
Dr. McMann's office number.
Almost immediately he heard
Dr. McMann's voice, "Jim?"
Jim was caught
off-guard. How did he know who was calling?
He hesitated and then said,
"Well, yes, Dr. McMann, this is Jim."
Quickly realizing what had
Dr. McMann responded, "Oh, were you just trying to call me?"
"Yes," Jim replied.
"Well, by coincidence, I was
calling you at the very same time."
"Oh," Jim said, feeling
relieved. "I wondered how you knew who was calling.
thought you had received some new supernatural revelation about phone
"Well, with what we've been
through, it's not a wonder that our minds are working that way now."
"I just wanted to check in
with you, and let you know about a couple of new developments."
"Me too," said Dr.
McMann. "You go first."
"Well, the first thing is that
I have good
news about Carol and the kids. They not only didn't throw me
of the house when they heard my explanation of the rapture, but they
actually believed me. I wouldn't have had to be worried about
"That's great, Jim," Dr.
"I believe that God softened their hearts and revealed the truth to
them. I've had a couple of similar experiences today."
"Yeah, I was also amazed today
friend of mine believed my story without hesitation. I think
you're right, it's all by divine appointment.
"Also, I think that I have
figured out why all
the raptured Christians didn't disappear at exactly the same moment."
"Well, I researched various
London, Washington, California, and Rochester, and it seems that all
the raptures occurred at about sunrise, local time."
"I can buy that explanation,"
Dr. McMann said. "I should have thought of that myself."
"Well, the other issues that I
wanted to talk
to you about concern this Russian thing. I did a lot of
last night, and I'm convinced that this is further indication that
we're right. In fact, I learned a lot of things in my studies.
"Well, anyway, there was a
crowd of people
gathered at work today when we all heard the initial report on the
radio. Without thinking, I made a comment about expecting an
earthquake. Someone questioned me about it, but I was
speechless. The conversation went on without me, but I was
embarrassed. I didn't want to tell anyone--"
"--Jim, that's why I'm
calling. What was the last you heard on the news?"
"Well, we turned the TV off at
about 6:15 and
they didn't have any official reports yet. They seemed to
that the Russians--"
"--Jim, turn on your TV."
As Jim walked to his recliner
working the remote control, Dr. McMann continued. "There have
Jim was speechless.
As Dr. McMann
described how multiple earthquakes had just rocked the Middle East
within the last thirty minutes, he watched live footage on television
of the devastation. There had been at least two major
within minutes of each other. One was centered over northern
Afghanistan, next to the southern border of Russia, where the Russian
troops were congregated. The other one was centered in the
Mediterranean Sea. Both registered over 9.0 on the Richter
Scale. They must be the worst earthquakes ever. The
casualties had to be in the thousands, and the devastation was
unbelievable. Most of what could be seen from the aerial view
the television screen was only a lingering cloud of dust.
Dr. McMann was excitedly
anticipating what the news people would report within the next few
"Jim, I wouldn't be surprised
if this wiped
out the Russian Army. And, I know it sounds cruel but, I
wait to see if the Dome of the Rock has crumbled."
Jim remained quiet.
Like so many times
the past few days, he felt like he needed time to take it all in.
Dr. McMann continued, "You
predicted this to your friends at work?"
The thought of this brought an
of heavy responsibility to Jim's innermost being. Part of him
wished he hadn't said anything about expecting an earthquake, but
another part was glad that he had. No doubt, plenty of people would
want a detailed explanation tomorrow, and both men realized this.
Dr. McMann again interrupted
thought. "I've got to tell you something else. Did
the book of Revelation last night?"
"Yes," Jim said
slowly. "I read it through twice."
"And do you remember the part
about the two witnesses?"
"Yes, there will be two
witnesses that will be
set apart as God's evangelists to spread the truth. They'll
around preaching for three-and-a-half years, won't they?"
"That's right," Dr. McMann
quite pleased with Jim's rapid progress in Biblical discernment.
"I couldn't have said it
Dr. McMann paused, then said,
"Jim, are you sitting down?"
Jim was standing, but he
followed this free
advice and sat in his recliner. He was scared to think of
profound thing Dr. McMann was about to say, considering all he'd
experienced since he first met the professor yesterday.
enough happened for one day?
Dr. McMann continued, "Well,
there is a lot of
speculation on who these two witnesses are. Some people think
they are Enoch and Elijah, since these were the only two men in the
Bible who were raptured without dying. Others say that they
Elijah and John the Baptist, forerunners of the Lord's
Still others say that they are Moses and Elijah, the two men who
appeared with Christ at his Transfiguration--"
"And," Jim interrupted, almost
"you're going to tell me who you think these two men are,
What did you do, see them on TV?"
"Jim, I hold to the theory
that they are Moses
and Elijah. Dr. Danfield supports this theory in his
I could be wrong, Jim, but yes, I'm going to tell you who I think these
two men are."
"Didn't you just tell me that
they were Moses
and Elijah?" Jim asked. His head was spinning with confusion.
"Well, remember how we have
noted that things
don't always happen in the way you would expect them? They
happen exactly like the Bible predicted, but not until they happen does
it become obvious that a particular event indeed fulfilled a Biblical
prophecy. This is what happened with the rapture.
Well, I think the same thing
applies to these
two men. I think they are Moses and Elijah, but not the Moses
Elijah from Old Testament times. I think they are a new Moses
Fear gripped Jim as he
realized what Dr.
McMann was about to tell him. Jim thought to himself, "No, this can't
He heard Dr. McMann ask, "What
is your middle name, Jim?"
Jim glanced at Dr. McMann's
which he still held in his left hand. He didn't know it, but at the
same time, Dr. McMann was looking at Jim's business card which he'd
used in dialing Jim's number. Both men were silent as they
examined each other's name on the two cards: "Dr. William M. McMann"
and "James E. Wheeler."
Finally, Jim replied.
"My mother was a very
She named all of us kids after names in the Bible. I'm not
but she may have had some Jewish blood."
Jim paused and took a deep
breath before continuing.
"My mother's favorite New
Testament writer was
James, and her favorite Old Testament character was--" Jim paused again
as his voice cracked, "--Elijah. My middle name is Elijah."
Jim knew what Dr. McMann was
going to say next.
"Jim, my story is
similar. My father was
Irish and my mother was Jewish. In my day, Jewish families often gave
their children Biblical
He took a
breath and then said, "My middle name is 'Moses'"
Both men were silent for about
mentally analyzing whether or not this new theory could indeed be yet
more profound truth. As with so many other things, Dr.
Biblical literacy had led him to this conclusion before he'd told Jim
about it. Jim sat and tried to understand this new
Dr. McMann had already done.
"But," Jim finally said,
hoping to prove Dr.
McMann wrong, "I'm no evangelist. I can't witness to
people. Dr. McMann, I just don't think that that's my
"Don't try to fool yourself,
Jim" Dr. McMann
retorted, knowing what Jim's initial reaction would be. "How
people have you told about the rapture?"
Jim replied, "Just Carol,
Ryan, Katie, and Karl. Why?"
"And how many of them were
convinced that what
you said was true," he paused briefly, "and believed it?"
"All four of them."
Jim was beginning to see Dr. McMann's point.
"Jim, you are an
evangelist. You are a
witness. And I am too. Furthermore, I plan to have a major
on the lives of my students in the days to come. And
Well, after your comment about an earthquake today, I think there will
be a lot of people coming by your office tomorrow for a complete
understanding of the truth."
Jim suddenly remembered the
his family the night before. Maybe there was a special
all this. How else were others going to learn the
Did this mean that he was personally prophesied in the Bible?
Jim was afraid. Dr.
were frightening him. The devastation of the earthquake on TV
scared him. He wondered what it was going to be like to watch
rise of the false church
and the coming of the Antichrist.
Yet, in the midst of his fear,
indestructible man assured of his miraculous destiny, a mysterious
smile came across his face.