Chapter One (continued)




The town of Bowie, Arizona was tiny, a settlement dominated by a collection of mobile homes and defunct RVs.  It obviously was isolated from the mainstream of society, and undoubtedly its residents preferred things to remain that way.  Earl envied them their lifestyle, being under the radar of all but the most inquisitive of strangers and authorities.  Here and there were signs of earthquake damage, but they could see that the town had escaped major catastrophe.  Although most of the residents were still asleep, a couple of homes had lights on, probably from personal generators.  Like the RV society, they looked to be self-sufficient.


Up ahead was a well-lighted café, but before they reached it they received the fright of their lives.  The door swung open and out stepped two burly men wearing the guard uniforms of the camp they had escaped.  The driver swerved down an alley, but they had been seen.  Soon they were being followed by a vehicle similar to theirs.  They backtracked out of town, the other truck close on their tail.  Emerging from beneath the freeway, they stopped suddenly by the roadside.  The other truck pulled in behind them and the passenger emerged.  “Hey, guys,” he said, recognizing the uniforms as theirs.  “How’s the camp?  Why didn’t you stop?  Are you. . .”  Suddenly he shut up, realizing that the occupants were strangers, and gaunt with an unhealthy pallor to their skin.  His features displayed his comprehension of the situation and he reached for his holstered gun as the driver opened his door.  Two of the ex-prisoners beat him to the draw and shot him.  The driver was hit before he could close the door.  “Okay, everybody,” Jacob said.  “Out of the truck and into the other one.”  He and his two drivers got out of the cab and went over to where the bodies lay.  They picked them up and put them into the bed of their truck, then stepped into the cab of the other one.  Their new truck turned around and went back to the café.


The proprietor welcomed them when they entered, but stepped back in shock at their faces.  He’d made a good living serving the camp guards with beer and Mexican fare and saw immediately that while these newcomers were dressed as guards, they obviously weren’t.  Before he could speak Jacob walked up to him and confronted him.  “Senor. . .”


“Hey, don’t get condescending with me, pal,” the proprietor replied, cutting him off.  “I’m as American as you.  I can see where you came from and what you are.  Sit.  All of you.  Marie!” he shouted to the rear of the café.


“What do you want, Pablo?” a heavy-set but pretty woman said from a room in back.  Eventually she came into the dining area and took instant notice of the men in the room.  The proprietor turned back to Jacob.  “And no jokes about the names, either,” he said with a glare.  “Marie, these people need to be fed.  Get the eggs and toast going.  And put the rice and beans on.  “I hope you like Mexican food,” he told Jacob, “because they way you look, you’re going to do a whole lot of eating.  I’m cooking up some eggs, but mostly you’re going to have rice and beans because that’s all we’ve got that’ll take care of the lot of you.  What, did you escape in the earthquake?”


“We’re very grateful,” Jacob replied.  “We’ll take what we get and like it, but as for me, I happen to love Mexican food anyway.  Yeah, the camp was pretty much demolished by the ‘quake, lucky for us.  What do you know about the place?”


“Just what I’ve overheard from the guards.  They’re a brutal bunch, laughing at what they did to you guys.  Their entertainment sounds pretty sick.”


“It was.  We’re very lucky to be alive.”


“What were you in for?”


“Being a Jew.  We all are, except for Earl and Joyce over there.  They’re Christians.”


Hey man, I’m a Christian too.  Catholic.  So’s Marie.  My roots are Mexican, so I’m not exactly a minority around here, but I know what it feels like.  That’s just over the top.  How long were they going to keep you for being Jews?”


“For the rest of our lives, which they didn’t plan on lasting too long.”


“You gotta be kidding.  We didn’t know about that.  Sounds like Germany.  Hey, Marie! he called.  Come over here and listen to this.  Guy says the camp was a death camp.  Like in Germany, you know.”  She listened, shook her head and returned to her cooking.


“It’s exactly like the old Nazi regime. America has become a totalitarian state too, if you haven’t noticed.”


“We don’t get around much.  There’s nothing on TV that gives us that impression, either.”


“Yeah, I wouldn’t expect it would.  The media is pretty well controlled by the government.”


The proprietor went behind the counter to help Marie.  Sid came up to Earl and Joyce’s table with two companions and sat down.  “This here’s Joseph,” he said, placing a hand on Joseph’s shoulder, “and this other’s Irving.”  Both men reached out and shook Earl’s hand, and then Joyce’s.  “They heard you back in camp,” Sid told them.  I told them about John’s prologue.  They’d like to hear more about your Jesus.  Me too.”


“Well, for starters, He’s just as much your Jesus as ours, if not more.  You worshiped Him, in fact, without knowing it.”


“What?” Irving said, dumbfounded. “How can that be?”


Earl turned to Sid.  “Remember the last verse of John’s Prologue, that said ‘No man has seen God at any time.  The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.’”


“I guess I didn’t make the connection,” Sid replied, staring at the table with contrition.


“So are you trying to say that our God, your Old Testament God, was really Jesus?”


“That’s exactly what I’m saying,” Earl responded.  “John spells it out more clearly in Chapter Eight of his Gospel.  “The Pharisees were responding to Jesus’ implication that those who listened to Him would have everlasting life, and reminded Him that Abraham, who was a pinnacle of obedience toward God, was dead.  Jesus took that opportunity to tell them that Abraham had seen His day, and was glad.  Getting angry, they scoffed at Him, questioning Him, who wasn’t yet fifty years old, about the implication that He’d seen Abraham.  Jesus reply was a classic.  He said ‘Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am.”


“Hold on, there,” Irving said, half standing.  “Jesus said that?  Do you know what that implies?  He’s almost saying that He’s the Great ‘I AM’ who spoke to Moses out of the burning bush.”


“Yes.  That’s exactly what Jesus said, and that’s precisely what He meant.  He was the Great I AM who spoke to Moses.  He was your Yahweh.”


Irving struggled with this notion.  He didn’t know whether or not to get up and walk away.  In the end, the cooking reached his nostrils and his stomach told him to shut up and sit.  Being a religious man, he attempted to reconcile this information with his belief system.


Sid spoke up as Irving and Joseph continued to wrestle with this unexpected thought.  “I kind of get it,” he began tentatively.  “Which means that He pre-existed before His coming in the flesh.  But then why did He wait so long?  Why didn’t He come right away and speak directly to Abraham?”


“He did.  It’s right there in your Old Testament.  Remember the visitation by the three men – it’s in Genesis 18 – and the discussion about the destruction of Sodom?  One of those men was Jesus.  But for the most part Jesus refrained from appearing to us.  He did that for the reason that He was allowing you Jews to fashion Him out of the noble events in your own lives, so that you’d recognize Him in love when He came in the flesh.  Remember Joseph, and the salvation he gave to the brothers who had abused him so terribly?  How about Abraham’s attempt to sacrifice his beloved son Isaac?  You have a whole host of people whom God had favored by allowing them to represent in Scripture facets of Jesus’ selfless, noble character.  As to His pre-existence, Genesis 1 has much to say about that, especially when it is read in the light of John’s Prologue.  And many of your people did know about Jesus before He came in the flesh.  Are you familiar with David’s Psalm 2, or Psalm 22?”


“Vaguely.  I guess I didn’t give Scripture as much thought as I should have.  But gee, you Christians have had two thousand years to fill us in on the truth.  Why did you go the other way and choose to punish us and try to force us to convert?”


“I agree about that, Sid,” Earl said.  “I certainly wouldn’t call our behavior with respect to you anything resembling what a Christian attitude should have been.  But remember, for a good portion of those two thousand years, Christianity was under the thumb of a repressive and self-serving Church system that I wouldn’t call Christian.  It didn’t just deny helping you find your God.  It denied its own laypersons access to the Bible.  And when that prohibition wasn’t in effect, the layperson’s own indifference toward God gave him nothing but a shallow understanding of the Bible.  He missed most of what it said.  So we Christians turned out to be just as ignorant of the true God as you, maybe even more so.  Sometimes I wonder if God didn’t allow that on purpose, just to even the score between Jews and Christians.”


“Thanks for that,” Sid replied.  His two friends were still scratching their heads, attempting to fit Earl’s words into their world views.  Marie came up to their table at that point, setting down huge platters of food.  The men’s attention was drawn to the plates before them, and their conversation was put on hold as they turned into their meals with noisy enthusiasm.  When asked about his plans, Jacob told him they’d probably be better off heading northeast toward New Mexico and keeping away from population centers.  He watched the proprietor draw a map giving directions from Bowie to Duncan, showing various dirt roads that were too small to show up on the state map.  When Pablo was through Jacob tried to pay him when they got up to leave, but he would have none of it.  “It’s not ours anyway,” Jacob argued.  Here- take it.”


“No,” Pablo said firmly.  “You might need it later.  Good luck and God be with you.”  Evidently Jacob and Pablo had had a conversation of their own while the others were busy eating, as several of the men were carrying piles of blankets in their arms.  Two other men held Bibles, and Jacob stuffed the map into his pocket.


“Thanks for your lesson,” Sid said to Earl as they trooped out of the café.  “It’s amazing.  We’ll be coming around for more.”


“You’re more than welcome.  I’m just glad that you’re interested.”


They climbed back into the truck.  “Jacob’s a smart one, switching trucks like that,” he said to Joyce.


“Why?” she asked.


“I’d be willing to bet that Jacob thought the real guards had filled up with gas before they went into the cafe.  And I’d also be willing to bet that Jacob has already confirmed that by looking at the gas gauge.”


“Pretty smart,” she agreed.  “Earl, I’m getting scared about the two guards we killed.  They’re right out in the open.  Someone’s going to come along soon and find them dead and with bullet holes in them.”


“Yeah, and I’m also pretty sure that at least one of the guards back at the camp saw us leave and stayed alive long enough to get the word out about our escape.  Either way, they’re probably going to come after us.  And it shouldn’t be much longer.”


Someone handed Joyce a blanket.  She wrapped it around herself and Earl, and they sat down together.  The truck started up and they moved away, full for the first time since their imprisonment and thankful to God for the blessing of the proprietor’s kindness toward them.


The truck took a dirt road from Bowie, heading northeast and angling toward New Mexico.  Eventually they hit a paved stretch and made good time.  Jacob scanned the map Pablo had given him, and then took out the state map he’d also gotten from Pablo, spotting the little town of Duncan just on the Arizona side of the New Mexico border as their next destination.  They didn’t know it, of course, but a military satellite had picked up their heat signature in its infrared imager.  The primary heat source was recognized as an engine.  Situated as it was in an isolated location, it was further recognized as a potential fugitive vehicle.  Although the bodies left behind in Bowie had not yet been found, the information supplied by the satellite was sufficient to arouse the curiosity of the authorities.  The hunt was on.


                                      [to be continued]



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