Note to the reader: Home, Sweet Heaven is now available in ebook and paperback form from Amazon and Signalman Publishing, as are the other novels in the Buddy series, Buddy, Cathy, Jacob, as well as the Christian nonfiction book Marching to a Worthy Drummer





Chapter Ten

Earl looked with compassion into Joyce’s red-rimmed eyes. “I know this is tough on you, honey,” he said, reaching for her hand. “Now that we’ve arrived in Leavenworth, maybe we can relax a bit.”

“All I want is sleep,” she responded, entwining her fingers with his. “I could sleep for a year.”

“More food would be good too,” he said, looking down at his empty plate and wondering how they would leave the restaurant without paying and dodging the alternative of being escorted to jail by the cops, and then of finding their next meal. And the one after. And the one after that. He prayed briefly, thanking God for the meal they had just finished and placing his concerns onto Him.   A Scripture immediately came to mind: “If ye, then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?”   Well, that has truly happened to us, he reflected. Why, then, should I worry about lesser matters?

He was interrupted in his thoughts by a very bright flash, followed by the disintegration of the large window that fronted the street amid a cacophony of loud noises. The tinkling of the glass in the window was overshadowed by an enormous sonic crack, a continuous roar, the screeching of tearing metal and the rumble of something solid being pulverized.

“What was that?” Joyce asked, swiveling her head in the direction of the amazing event that had just occurred. She expected to see frenzied activity out on the street, but the situation was exactly the opposite: the scene was a still life, the people frozen in awe, all staring in one direction. The restaurant patrons rushed outside, followed by the proprietor. Earl took the opportunity to fish in his pockets for some cash, which the proprietor might find useful in the event that the city had a black market, grab Joyce’s hand and make a graceful but hasty exit from the eatery. Moving away from the crowd in front of the restaurant, their eyes followed a furrow that had been carved out of one side of the roadway, overlain by a straight-line plume of dust that receded off into the distance. Earl looked in the opposite direction to find, to his astonishment, a military humvee stopped in the middle of the intersection to his left. Except for an open space where the doors used to be, flames licking at the exposed doorframes, the vehicle appeared to be intact.   It also appeared to be unoccupied, at least in front.

They would soon come to the astonishing realization that an earth-grazing asteroid had just assaulted the city of Leavenworth. The object, initially relatively large, had been whittled down by the earth’s atmosphere to a nearly rectangular rock of a size that matched, quite oddly, the doorframe of the humvee, and that had whisked the disassembled molecules of its driver and front passenger, both military policemen, somewhere off into space. The process of digging a trench in the street after this spectacular action had slowed the rock dramatically until it eventually parked itself deep underground, leaving no sign of its presence other than a little pimple of dirt in the grassy field above it ten miles in the distance.

Earl was taken aback further by the sight of Wisdom, sitting down at an outdoor table underneath a large umbrella. She was sipping a latte and She had a wide grin on Her gorgeous face. “Wasn’t that a bit over-the-top?” he said as they approached the table.

“Yes it was – I did it and I’m glad,” She responded. “I rather enjoyed that.”

“But what about the poor fellows in the vehicle?” Joyce asked Her.

“Joyce, Joyce,” She said, shaking Her beautiful head. “After all this time and you still don’t trust Me? I should simply refuse to answer that question. But I will, because despite your failings, you’re both quite lovable. Actually, the driver was a highly-decorated Marine whose time on earth was finished. He’s now enjoying his reward in heaven. As for the passenger in front, well, the poor fellow was so lacking of a serviceable soul that he was beyond hope. In fact, my space rock just did what had to be done anyway. The alternative was pretty grim. He had in mind some clever ways to torture the passenger in back. No, you can’t see him from where you’re standing, but he’s there, and he’s the whole reason why I had you come up from Texas. Right now, before everyone here recovers their senses, you two need to jump in that humvee and drive away. Before you do that, though, you need to go into that deserted hardware store across the street and grab a bolt cutter before the owner recovers his senses. Third aisle on the left, halfway down. Here’s the direction you’ll be taking: go north three blocks, make a left and head west for twenty-three blocks. Turn right and park in the driveway of the third house on the right. Got that?   Now go.”

The couple rushed over to the hardware store. While Joyce remained outside, Earl raced down the aisle, quickly searched for the device, grabbed it and ran back out. They ran to the humvee and jumped in. Earl started it and accelerated up the street as the astonished crowd began to gather its collective wits and started moving. A moment later Earl and Joyce heard the sirens of a multitude of first responders racing to the scene of the disaster. As Earl drove, Joyce turned and peered into the rear of the vehicle. Her eyes focused on a man in prison garb, wrapped in chains and trussed to substantial supports. “Hello,” he said meekly. Joyce’s kind face gave him the hope that his fortunes had turned for the better. “I know that I look pretty bad, but I’m not.” He took a chance on them. “My crime is that I’m a Christian. I was handling FEMA security over in Seattle when they decided to do something about that. They framed me real good and here I am – was – on my way to the Federal military prison here in Leavenworth. The way they framed me gave them a perfect opportunity to slake their greed and pin the rap on me.

“Christian, eh?” Joyce said. She reached over and patted his shoulder. “We already knew that. You obviously still have some pull with our Holy Spirit, because the reason why we’re here in Leavenworth is you. By the way, we’re Christians too. A diminishing breed.”

“For sure,” he said.   “That sure makes my day. Could you maybe help me find my wife? She’s here in Leavenworth somewhere, but I don’t know where. Even if I did know, I don’t see a map around.”

“That’s okay,” Joyce replied. We know that too. I suspect that’s where we’re heading right now.”

“You know where she lives?” he asked in wonder. “Who are you people?”

“I should ask the same about you. You must be important. By the way, my name’s Joyce. This is Earl sitting next to me.”

“Glad to make your acquaintance,” he responded. “You don’t know how glad. My name’s Ellery MacAfee. Late Master Sergeant, USMC.”

“Well, Semper Fi, man. I’m a Marine too, long since released from active duty. Maybe that’s one reason I’m here to get you out of the hot spot you’re in.”

“Remember when we were just privates, wet behind the ears, and our elder Marines would harp about “the Old Corps”? Well, Semper Fi to you too, but I’ve got some bad news for you. The Old Corps no longer exists. Our beloved Crotch is truly different now, not a trace of the old pride. They’re just a gang of ill-disciplined, self-serving thieves.”

“Sorry to hear that, Sergeant. Well, you’re a Christian, holding up under a load of persecution. That’s where the nobility lies now.”

As he spoke, Earl slowed and pulled off the street into a parking lot and stopped. “You don’t want your wife seeing you like that. Let’s get those shackles off.” He picked up the large tool from the floorboard and attempted to apply it to a chain link one-handed. After several awkward attempts, the three of them coordinated their actions and managed to sever the link. After that initial success, the work was downhill and fifteen minutes later Ellery was a free man. “Too bad the former occupants didn’t leave their clothes behind,” Joyce commented as Earl resumed driving.

“That may not be a problem,” Ellery said, looking down at the floor next to him. “There’s a seabag here. It’s not mine, so it must have belonged to one of the MPs.” He rummaged through the bag, extracting several items of clothing, with which he quickly replaced the prison garb. “What do you think?” he asked Joyce as Earl pulled into the driveway.

“The new you – looks pretty good, but you could use a shave. We’ll stay here while you reaquaint yourself with your wife.”

With a wide grin on his face, Ellery extracted himself from the humvee and went to the door, which was opened quickly by an attractive woman who held her husband in a passionate hug. After they re-introduced each other, Ellery’s wife peered out at Earl and Joyce from his encircling arms. She waved them to come inside. Joyce accepted but Earl declined. “We need to get rid of this humvee,” he called. Presently he left the driveway and headed down the street, Ellery’s wife tagging behind in her own car. Earl pulled into a small shopping mall several miles from the MacAfees’ temporary residence and parked it off in a corner under a large tree.

“Hi again,” Marge said to Earl as he opened the passenger door and got into the car. “First off I want to thank you for saving my husband. Despite the huge problems we’re going to face, our lives will be a whole lot happier with us together again. I can’t wait to fix you and Joyce – and Ellery, of course – a good home-cooked meal.”

At least the general had been good to his word about taking care of Marge. Her immediate needs had been taken care of, courtesy of the government, but she suspected that now, with Ellery on the loose, that largesse would come to an abrupt halt.

“There’s only one thing that bothers me,” Earl said to the other three inside the house.

“Besides our need to get out of here soon?” Joyce asked.

“There is that. But that’s part of what I don’t get. Where do we go from here? No insult intended, Ellery, but Wisdom went to a lot of trouble preventing you from going into a maximum security prison. What’s so important about you, and what are we supposed to do with you now?

“I don’t know,” Ellery replied. “Could it be that I’m Jewish?”

“Jewish? MacAfee sounds more Irish than Jewish. And you’re as white as a Scandinavian.”

“I’m not quite that white. The name’s closer to Scottish than Irish. Besides, you should know better than that. Look at all the movie actors with Jewish blood that look as if they’d just come from Sweden. And as for that surname – well, yes, it was changed, but not much. Our original name was Maccabee. Of Masada fame.”

“Oh. Well, maybe we’ll be getting directions soon from God. In the meantime, let’s eat up and prepare to head out to who knows where.”





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