Continued from The Autumn of the Year
Thinking again life’s purpose
Even after such a horrendous weekend, beginning with that "frightening Friday" evening when he had lost that "bundle," Alex still planned on going to work anyway this Monday. But then his eye, having caught that I Saw Two Worlds book on the kitchen counter, he reconsidered it all again.
Turning the pages of that book, his mind once more reflected on that evening with Thomas-John, whose words resounded most vividly in his mind, "But Alex, what about your soul? Where will you spend eternity when you depart this mortal life? This Sports Center is temporary; it will perish with the end of time. But you, your innermost immortal being, will continue on forever. Your temporal ambitions will come to naught as well, even your financial wealth...."
Ah, that Sports Center, he thought patting the book with the palm of his hand over and over, thinking for some reason, I wonder if I could find that place again. He then, donning his windbreaker and phoning his workplace leaving a message that he would not come into work this day he left his apartment. Stepping into his vintage 1956 red and white Thunderbird, he started on his way through the streets hopefully in the direction of the Two Worlds Sports Center.
Driving that "pride and joy" of his through the streets of Mid-Central, always gave him a sense of prestige, hoping others would take notice. Helping that cause, he was sure to have the radio tuned to his favorite rock station. With the top down it was not necessary to play it tremendously loud, but in this cooler weather now approaching the fall season, the top remained up, yet the windows down even just a little, so as to still help the hearing of the radio to catch the stares and glares from others.
He had saved for years to be able to purchase this relic automobile he so enviously desired every time he saw one passing by. "Ooh, ah," he would gawk, recalculating in his mind the amount he had put aside for it, eager for that day to be able to purchase one of his own. Now that he had his own T'bird nothing could take it from him; enjoying the gawking from others as he passed them. Yet, pondering the interior and feeling the leather upholstery, an unthinkable consideration suddenly entered his mind. This vehicle, being in mint condition as it is, could be the way out of my financial straits. "No," he considered. "I just can't."
Turning the radio off he, pondering such a horrendous thought, "No, no, no," he voiced. "Unthinkable." Perhaps he was like a monkey having grasped a prized morsel inside a coconut shell. Unwilling to let go so he could free himself, he was caught by those humans who had set the trap, captured by his own lust and greed, as are many of mankind desirous for the temporal things of this world.
"No. Unthinkable," Alex uttered again, continuing on, hopefully toward that Sports Center.
Jessi shares her twice joy
"Yes," Jessi beamed, showing her new bright diamond ring to her Surer Foundation group. It wasn't that she was purposely or boastfully "showing off" her engagement to Thomas-John, not that she wasn't excitedly jubilant about it, it was just that that sparkling jewel on her ring finger caught the eye of one person which prompted all the attention; one after another gathered around her to get a glimpse at that shining thing.
Then a gruff voice spoke, "He must be some lucky guy and you a pretty lucky girl, Miss Whitcombe."
Jessi looked up into that stern face. "Oh, Miss. Santos, good morning. Let me assure you, luck has or had nothing to do with it. It was Elohim, guiding our lives all the way. He alone brought us together. He made known His will for us at the right time, His time...."
"Yeah, right," Miss. Santos said sarcastically. And you two saw that you fit together perfectly physically, too."
Jessi didn't try explaining that, with her and Thomas-John they had not even shared so much as a kiss, knowing somehow that Miss. Santos would not understand. Jessi simply gave her a stare, saying, "It hasn't been that way at all." Jessi then, breaking up the crowd, she started after Miss. Santos, "Miss. Santos," Jessi called, "I have something for you."
Miss. Santos turned, "You have something for me?" she asked. "What could it be?"
"Here," Jessi handed her an envelope.
"An envelope? For me? What..."
"It's my two-week notice," Jessi explained. "I'll be leaving this job after two weeks from today."
Miss. Santos accepted the envelope with glee. The first time Jessi noticed even a hint of a smile creeping over her face, although not without a sneer, Miss. Santos being glad to see Jessi go. Perhaps that would be the end of all this "surer foundation" stuff, she thought.
She was wrong, however, she had no idea that what was started under Elohim's guiding hand could not be stopped. After her last day, Jessi would continue helping in her dad's bookstore/cafe in the mall until the time came for her to enter Bible College, enjoying many opportunities to share her faith there as Elohim brought them her way. The Surer Foundation Fellowship at her then former place of employment, too, would continue strong and sure under a cooperative leadership with all in the group.
Alex meets one disgruntled
A rare pre-autumn cool down forced a sudden blast of cold air through the open windows of the '56 vintage T'bird, now parked along the curb near where that Two Words Sports Center was thought to be. Alex then peeked out through the fogged glass of the now rolled up windows, puzzled at what he saw, or rather didn't see. No sports center there, he observed, just a fence erected indicating that some construction was about to begin in that vacant lot. There was not even a sign, as in most cases, announcing what building project was on the rise there. Stepping out of the car, zipping up his windbreaker, and pulling the collar up around his ears, Alex looked about the surrounding area.
It does indeed look familiar, he thought, thinking for sure he was at the right spot. He tried to look over that high fence when he noticed an opening in the fence large enough to look inside. Looking through it, again he saw nothing. He turned about and noticed a high-rise hotel across the street. For sure he thought that that sports center was on the opposite side of the street where he was now standing.
"Yeah," he thought, pointing toward the hotel, "That was there." Turning back toward the fence, "But," he said, "That sports center should be right here." He was sure he was at the correct spot, but more and more becoming unsure. Then, he thought momentarily of a telephone book. That sports center should be listed there. "Ah, no," he then realized, "The place has only been opened for six months, so he was told. It won't be listed in the current phone book, the new one not having come out yet. Stopping one briskly passing by, he asked about such a sports center there, the one called "Two Worlds," to be exact.
"Two Worlds Sports Center?" that passerby pondered. "No, I've not heard of it." He started to inquire from Alex more about it, but Alex simply waved him off, "Ah, never mind," and got back in his car. Driving around the block, up and down other streets, for an hour or more, Alex desperately tried to find the sports center where Thomas-John confronted him about that "real life". How did I get that I Saw Two Worlds book otherwise, he thought? Then, Thomas-John's words to him came to mind, "This Sports Center is temporary, Alex; it will perish with the end of time." Considering that thought for a moment, then, "Uh, ridiculous," he said, "Impossible. Where I was that day was a real happening; it had to be."
A sudden pain rising in his stomach, made him realize he had left his apartment in the morning without eating anything for breakfast. The hour was getting late, probably near noon by now. Then, noticing the clock on the dash, he saw that it was later than he realized – 3:15.
"Have I been gone that long?" Recalling that a favorite grill and bar was nearby, he headed in that direction, still puzzled as to the location of that sports center. Soon he arrived at that restaurant, pulling into a parking space out front.
Upon entering the restaurant, those high-walled booths, as something of the 40's, he recalled, having viewed those classic movies made back then, were very distinguishable, permitting semi-private dining. Alex, however, after greeting the charming hostess, simply indicated sitting at the bar was good enough for him this time. He thus being alone seated himself near the center of the bar. Recognizing Alex, the bartender drew near to greet him, "Well, if it isn't Mr. Grader, Jr., Jonathan, that is, the alias Alex. I haven't seen you here in a while."
"Hi, Chet," Alex acknowledged. How have you been?"
"Just fine," Chet answered. "And yourself?"
"The same," Alex simply responded. "I've been experiencing some strange circumstances I don't care to go into, it being a long story."
"Okay, then. I'll just ask what'd you have? The usual?"
"No, it's too early for that. But I am a little hungry. Make it a B.L.T. on rye, and, ah, water," Alex said.
"One B.L.T. on rye and water coming up," Tom acknowledged.
"I'll take his usual, then," spoke a hoarse voice from a man sitting next to Alex, "If he'll pay for it." The bartender glanced toward Alex. Of all the audacity, Alex thought, he wants me to pay for it, but after a pause, said, "Sure, why not." The bartender then was off to place the order.
Alex then remarked, looking toward that one sitting next to him, "Hey, man, do I know you?"
"No," the man responded in that hoarse voice. "I don't think so."
"But you want me to buy you a drink."
"Hey, I'm broke," the man answered. "And I'm thirsty, and hungry too."
"Oh," Alex simply said. Then, observing more closely, "Man, are you all right."
"Sure, I'm fine. Why?"
"You don't look good at all, rather pale. You eat well, or lost your best friend or something?"
The man, then looking straight at Alex, responded, "Hey, I said I'm broke, so how do you expect me to eat well. But, if you must know, I lost my girl, if that counts."
"Your girl?" What, she died?"
"No, she doesn't want me. She ran off with another man. But I'm going to get her back, you see."
"How do you expect to do that? Why not just let her go. Get yourself another girl. I faced a similar predicament a while ago myself." Alex began recalling his previous life with Carol. "I was living with a swell girl. We were getting along fine, too. Then, she went off and got ‘religion' and left me. That was the end of that. No more women for me, of any kind, but especially not the ‘religious' type."
"Yeah, they're the worse kind. You have to force them to get what you want," the man continued, now sipping his drink. After a quiet moment, he spoke again, "But if you knew my girl, you would change your mind about women…."
Suddenly he reacted, "Hey, this is a 7-Up or something. There's no alcohol in here. Is this your usual?"
"For this time of day, yes," Alex chuckled.
"You tricked me."
"What are you talking about? You're the one who asked me to buy you a drink, simply asking for my usual. And besides, I don't think you need any alcohol." Alex and Chet, the bartender, shared a chuckle.
The man simply sighed, continuing his drink, yet replying, "Let me be the judge of that. I can use it for medicinal purposes if you think I'm sick."
A brief silence then Alex asked, returning to the previous subject, "What about this girl of yours?"
"She's the prettiest thing I have ever seen," the man went on, continuing to sip his drink. "Bouncing blonde hair around her shoulders, dimples, and oh, those blue eyes, too. I haven't seen any bluer eyes before or since…"
"Whom are you talking about?" Alex interrupted. "Your description of her sounds very familiar."
"What? It can't fit just anybody. I don't think there's another girl like her anywhere."
"Do you know her name?"
"Sure do. Jessica Lynne Whitcombe" the man said slowly. "I know where she lives too."
Startled at the recognition of that name, Alex jumped back. "Not Jessi?"
"I guess she could be called that easy enough…. Hey, you know her?"
"Yes, I do. And I also know her boyfriend."
"You mean the one who took her from me."
"Now, I don't know about that. They've known each other for a while, I believe."
During the conversation, Alex was recalling the horrific incident when Jessi's car was stolen, as she had related to everybody at the office. Yet, he carried on the conversation with that man suspiciously to learn more about this guy, his curiosity about him becoming more intense. As they talked the thought of locating the Two Worlds Sports Center left his mind, as of least importance.
"I almost had her too a couple of times," the man said. "But there was always something preventing me – him – from getting her."
"Him?" Alex asked. "Her boyfriend?"
"Yeah, of course, well I imagine."
"Maybe you're not meant to have her."
"Now you hush up about that. Whether I'm meant to have her or not, I want her, and I'm going to get her."
"Badly, it sounds like to me."
"That's one way of putting it, I guess." A few moments of quiet as the two continued the eating and drinking, then that man spoke up again, suggesting, "Hey, since you know her, maybe you can help me get her."
Alex thought for a while, contemplating his suggestion, as he munched away on his B.L.T. and sipped some water occasionally. The man looked intently at Alex in silence. Alex, at last, spoke, turning toward that man, "Sure, I can help you get her. I can take you right to her." Swallowing the last bit of drink, the man then looked squarely at Alex, now listening with full attention.
The night before departure
It was departure eve for Thomas-John, the night before he was to leave his family, friends, and especially his fiancée to begin studies in Bible College. It would be nearly three months before he would see Jessi again. The Whitcombes had a special sendoff supper for him in their home that evening, with his parents and a few of his closest friends. Pastor Jacobs, Jr., and his family were among the company as well. The meal was nearly completed when the doorbell chimed.
"Good-evening, Sir," spoke a police sergeant at Mr. Whitcombe's opening of the front door.
"Good-evening, Sir." D.L. Whitcombe responded.
"Sir," the sergeant continued, "Is your daughter at home?"
As D.L. answered, "Yes, she is," Jessi, with Thomas-John, arrived at the door.
"Sergeant?" Jessi inquired, puzzled.
"Miss Whitcombe," the sergeant began, "And you Sir," turning to Mr. Whitcombe. "I thought you would like to know that we have apprehended that one who has been stalking you, apprehended and arrested.
Thomas-John beamed, "That's good news to hear on the eve of my departure from her for a while."
Jessi turned to Thomas-John then back to the sergeant, "Thank you, Sir."
"He's laying in custody under guard at the hospital. He won't be bothering you any longer. He seems to have compiled a rather long list of offenses."
"At the hospital?" Jessi asked.
"Yes, he was quite ill when we found him. And, oh, there is one other thing," the sergeant pulled an envelope from his hip pocket. "Really, the main reason I'm paying you this visit tonight. We were asked to give you this," he said, handing the envelope to Jessi.
"What's that?" Jessi asked again.
"The reward money that was posted for anything, any clue, that would lead us to his apprehension and arrest."
"But…" Jessi started, curious.
"The one who led us to his arrest asked to remain anonymous in giving this to you. He wanted you to have it."
Still curious, Jessi took the envelope then turned to Thomas-John and their parents, speechless. All she could get out was, "He's in the hospital?" The sergeant nodded.
Jessi looked at Thomas-John with a solemn stare. Thomas-John, too, looked at Jessi with that same sort of stare. Neither said anything, yet both seemed to know what each was thinking. Suddenly, Jessi pulled her coat from the hall closet; Thomas-John aided her in getting it on.
"What are you two doing?" D.L. asked.
"We believe we should go to the hospital to visit that man," Jessi answered, with the approval of Thomas-John.
"No you're not!" her dad spoke sternly.
"But, Daddy, we both believe it's the thing we should do."
"Why? I mean he's out to harm you…."
"He's lying on his back in a hospital bed, Sir," the sergeant assured, "Under guard. He can't harm anybody. He's quite ill."
"See, Daddy, I'm protected. We're protected," she turned to Thomas-John. "When he was on the loose, Elohim kept us safe. Now, he being in custody, how can he harm us?"
"And I will also protect her, Sir, always," Thomas-John added.
"So you see, Sir," the sergeant again assured, "Your daughter is in good care, even the best of care."
With that D.L. sent the two of them on their way with the police sergeant and as always with a prayer.
Go to the final chapter
Or begin again at Preface and Prologue