Finished

Chapter 29 Why Answered

“Do you know me?”

“Jack Strong, Gunny Jack Strong. Twenty year marine. Lost your family in a tragic auto accident. According to the Seattle Police you are a mental case that kidnapped a young Seattle woman. What else? Something inside you has a loyalty that goes beyond the average person’s comprehension. You chose to get involved in tracking down Keith because of your loyalty to a childhood friend. That loyalty involved you with a woman, Savanah, that brought you into contact with our gangster friends. You almost get caught breaking and entering with your friend Shaman. Savanah must have shared my card info with you. You called me. You are wanting to see the thing through to the end chasing all available leads. Willing to jump into this vehicle. You are not an ordinary man.”

“There’s more. I asked for your service records. My clerks did the cross searches with the files and we got the inside story of your record. I was impressed. Here is what they found. Do you know why they denied you your opportunity to attend Officer Candidate School?”

“My online courses didn’t pass muster.”

“Yes, that is what your official records report. We were able to see the behind the scenes battle that was going on between your commanding officer who recommended you and the Obama powers to be in the armed forces. Your commander put up a brave fight for you; but in the end he was forced to stand down. Simply put, they didn’t like your Christian faith.”

So there it was. I always suspected something like that. My Lieutenant, my Captain and by Battalion commander all were positive I would get in the school. What happened, I was never really sure. I would stay in the Marines. The Lieutenant wasn’t the same after that and he seemed out of sync with too many forces trying to change the Corps. He moved on. My Battalion commander retired a bit after that. My Captain, mortgaged with three kids, just kept his head down after that. What we all had in common was our faith.

There was a moment of silence. “That Christian faith is what I share with you.”

Chapter 30 Xi’s Faith

That took my breath away.

“I graduated from Harvard, came home, married the woman our families had prepared for me and started my career with our foreign service. My wife got pregnant. We were allowed the one child and both sides of our families wanted us to make sure it was a boy. I assumed this would just happen. Once I took the time to talk with my wife, I found out she wasn’t so sure. She didn’t want to know the sex of the baby and take whatever we got. She had graduated from Berkeley, so I was kind of surprised at her thinking.”

“It turns out she had gotten involved with a Christian student group while at Berkeley and she had developed scruples about abortion. She had never told anyone, including me, about her involvement with the group. She distanced herself from the group as she got closer to graduating; but she couldn’t shake what she now believed.”

“The pressure from our families was intensifying. I floated the idea of accepting the baby no matter what the sex. They would not have it. My wife was looking for me to stand in the gap. I didn’t. Rumors were starting to circulate at my work about my wife and her refusal to get an abortion if needed. It seemed this was making me look bad. My future was now on the line. She relented to the pressure and we found out it was a girl. I would come home from work and she would be crying. One night I came home and she let me know the deed was done. No more crying but more than the baby died.”

“She died bringing our son into the world.”

“I was distraught. I blamed everyone and everything except myself. Yet, I could not escape from the guilt. I was watching an American family try and negotiate the trains in Shanghai. They weren’t doing well. I offered to help. I got them on the right train. They thanked me. We exchanged pleasantries and I was asked if I knew a translator. They had just arrived and were going to start a house church. I couldn’t believe my ears. I declined, but the man insisted that we share phone numbers. He asked if he could call me if he needed some advice on how to navigate life in China. I let him know I was a busy man, traveling a lot, but yes I would help if I could.”

“Over the next four months he called be at least a dozen times. It was always about dealing with the simple tasks of living. Simple for us, difficult for them. I am not sure how he did it; but I found myself looking forward to his calls. He always had a good word for me and I think he was salting me with the gospel; although I didn’t realize it. He had started church and he invited me over to a Thanksgiving feast they were putting on for their congregation. My Thanksgivings at Harvard were a mixed bag. I stayed in the dorm most of the time but once a professor invited me over to his house. I was enchanted by the scene. Family, food and football. What struck me was the prayer before we ate. I realized they were thankful to God for what they had going on. I decided to go to my missionary friend’s Thanksgiving celebration.”

“I prayed and became a Christian. I attended a service once in a while; but work kept me very busy, and I was traveling more and more. I was becoming a dependable man for our department, and I was given some unique assignments. This is one of those unique assignments. I was very discreet about my new faith. I was interviewed one time about my association with the missionary. I let them know how we met and how I just became their helper in living here. They seemed to be satisfied with my answer.”

His phone rang!

Chapter 31 Showdown

We had traveled through Chilliwack and had exited off of Highway 1. While he was talking, I took out my phone and called up the maps. It looked like we were about 10 or 15 minutes away from Harrison Hot Springs. We were traveling through farm country. It was a little after five and very little traffic. Covid must have brought the tourist industry to a halt. He ended the call.

“Listen up Sergeant Strong. They have taken your two friends from the resort and intend to deliver them to Seattle, placing them at the printer’s, which is going to be torched during the riot tonight. There is a curve in the road just ahead with forest on both sides of the road. I plan on pulling off the road and when I see them coming block the road with this vehicle. They shot one of our men at the resort. You can be a part of this or not; but you need to decide right now.”

“I’m in.”

We came into the wooded area and pulled over and backed into a small opening. This was happening. He calmly gave me instructions. There would be two of them. Should they choose to stop and negotiate with him; he will do his best to talk them down. They most likely will try and avoid the car and get by. He will head them towards the ditch on the other side of the road. I was to move about 10 yards up the road and stay concealed. If they come out and talk; they will be talking with weapons in their hands. Their training in a standoff will have them spreading out as they approach him. They will think he is alone. Should they slowly start lowering their weapons, get ready, they have a pre-arranged number to lift and fire. I will be about 20 yards away from the one closest to me. If they fire, I am to fire. I stationed myself behind some bushes. I am ready.

“We are waiting for a black sedan.”

Here it comes. Not fast, not slow. Xi pulls out in front of them and they swerve to avoid him and land in the ditch as Xi continues his turn to park in front of them seeming like a vehicle that had stopped to help. Xi is out standing in front of their vehicle. They are scrambling out. The driver is standing facing Xi while the other guy moves toward Xi’s car. Weapons are drawn. Xi shouts and the man on the passenger side halts. Xi backs up. They talk in Chinese. Xi is doing most of the talking. There is a pause, all three begin to lower their weapons. Sure enough, they spring back up and start firing. I am firing as I move closer and closer. My guy is down. The guy on the passenger side is down. Xi is down.

Chapter 32 Chilliwack

I am driving Xi’s car back the way we came. My phone rings. It is Pastor. He bought a ticket just after talking to me when I called him from Jane’s this morning. He finished church and raced to the airport and just landed in Seattle. He was renting a car and now he listened as I tried to tell him the situation. I had been involved in a shoot-out. I was driving a Chinese diplomat’s car with Keith and Savanah drugged unconscious in the back seat. I was heading towards Highway 1 by Chilliwack.

“I might have something for you. I have a pastor friend, the pastor on the mountain, he lives east of Chilliwack in the mountains. See if you can avoid Highway 1 and make your way to the foothills east of Chilliwack. I will call Pastor Dave and see if we can arrange a rendezvous of sorts.”

I crossed the Fraser River on Highway 9 heading towards Highway 1. It looked like the mountains were right in front of me. I turned off of Highway 9 before Highway 1. I turned onto Yale Road and kept going. I was going through Rosedale when I spotted an abandoned warehouse. I pulled in behind it as the phone rang.

“Hi, I’m Nate. Where are you?”

I told him, he seemed to know exactly where I was talking about. He mentioned the shoot-out to me, could I tell him where that took place. I told him. He showed up in a work truck in about 15 minutes. We moved Keith and Savanah into the back seat, they were still unconscious. I guess they would be knocked out for a while.  

“I was doing an emergency repair job when my dad called me with your number. I am taking you to his place. Its off the beaten path, way off the beaten path.” We went from narrow road to narrower road to dirt road as we wound our way up higher and higher to a small plateau in the mountains.

“Everyone is at church; they will be home about 9:00. I am to make you comfortable.”

We placed Keith in a bed in the boy’s room and we placed Savanah in a bed in the girl’s room.

I asked where the bathroom was and I was directed to an outhouse for the boys, only the girls use the indoor bathroom. Nate gave me a coke and I sat down and finally just breathed a sigh of relief. I was out.

Chapter 33 Peace on the Mountain

I woke up. I had three kids staring at me. They had to be in the ten, eleven range.

“Good morning. Want breakfast?”

I said yes and off they went shouting “He wants breakfast.”

I heard some talking outside of the house. I borrowed a light jacket that was draped on the chair next to me and headed towards the voices. There was Pastor and Pastor Dave having a cup of coffee taking in the view. Pastor Dave poured me a cup of coffee and we just sat for a few minutes.

“Now what?” I said.

Pastor Dave responded, “Not yet just enjoy the mountain for now. We will see how God shakes things out for you.”

We all sat quietly until the Queen of the mountain came and invited us to breakfast. It was a rustic house that had been added onto many times. We entered a dining room that must have been transported directly from London. Beautiful table cloth, classy dishes and a tea set out of a magazine. They had added an extra table to fit the family of eight and the four guests. We sat down and Pastor was asked to pray. I thought of Xi.

Then the information started pouring out. Nate had brought us here but he had called Garret who was at church and told him where we had been picked up. Garret drove by and didn’t stop because there were about five black SUV’s behind the warehouse. No police vehicles that he could spot. A friend of Nate’s had driven out to Harrison Hot Springs. He came to the wooded bend in the road, he could tell some action had taken place but no vehicle and no bodies. Pastor had called Joan. She was supposed to be able to see Shaman today. She just started sobbing over the phone when she found out Keith was OK. She gave him Detective “Larsen’s number. Pastor Larsen couldn’t believe what Pastor told him about my adventures. He had heard nothing about a shoot-out anywhere. Seattle was on fire. He suggested just waiting to see how to handle the next step. Both Keith and Savanah had woken up in the night. They were comforted, told of my rescue and assured that they were safe. They went back to sleep.

The day was spent eating and drinking coffee and walking in the woods. There was a steady flow of church people wanting to come in and see the refugees. The royal woman ran a tight ship, the kids all did their part from oldest to youngest. Coffee, tea, snacks and meals were always available. Each visitor was treated like royalty. Savanah was recruited as number one steward. She fell right into the roll enjoying everything that was happening.

Keith was sharing his story over and over again. He knew it was a miracle of God that he was alive. He talked to his mom on the phone and when she visited Shaman they talked.

That forced Detective Larsen’s hand. He would drive up, officially, the next day and we would all return to Seattle and sort this out.

I was walking with the two pastors and Keith. Keith asked me about the shoot-out. I described my conversations with Xi. I described his instructions and how they matched the shoot-out. I then shared Xi’s last moments. He was mortally wounded, and he knew it. He asked me to take his wallet. He said there was enough information in his wallet for me to find his son. He wants me to find him and tell him how he died.

I showed them the picture of his son, looks like he was ten or eleven.

I wanted to talk with Savanah, but she seemed to be constantly caught up in the whirl of life’s activities. She and Sherry seemed to be getting close to each other and enjoying each other’s company. The kid’s let me know that she thinks that I am her hero.

Epilogue

“In the multitude of counsel” we decided that the truth was so far out there it could not be believed. Yet, it was the truth. When we got to Seattle I was detained. Shaman had been release with no charges being pressed. I was grilled over and over again by a group of detectives that couldn’t believe a word I was saying. There was no evidence of any Chinese shoot-out. Keith and Savanah’s stories backed up mine.

The real problem was becoming evident. We had stumbled onto something that we were not supposed to. Each of our statements gave validity to the illegal activities that were taking place in that print shop. The print shop was totally destroyed, no trace of any workers and what do you do with our stories that they couldn’t break because we kept telling the truth.

An FBI lawyer met with all three of us. He let us know that they could find ways to arrest all three of us for our activities. They wouldn’t though. We needed to sign documents saying we would not talk about the things we had discovered because those activities were now under investigation by the FBI. We signed.

We celebrated with dinner at Shaman’s. Of course, it was followed up with Monopoly and dessert. The kids had all gone to bed. The adults plus Keith were sitting in the front room. Savanah would be heading home in a bit. We all savored the moment.

Shaman being Shaman asked me if I wanted to do a One Minute Bible Study with Savanah. I think I turned red. He then looked at Savanah and suggested that she choose “Ten Rules of Dating”.

About hansston

Pastor a church in Sparta.
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