Please note well: In case you were wondering, even though November is over, I will be publishing the rest of this book here, section by section. But if you can’t wait to see how it ends, you can order this book in hard copy, and the link for that is here. In addition, audio chapters are being recorded and released on the new Canon App.Show Outline with Links
More Unexpected Guests
Dinner For Four
Eve was busy that morning, checking the senator’s travel schedule back in Montana, and she found herself making more mistakes than was usual. She shook her head, trying to get her mind back on her work. The temptation was to think about what she saw coming with Larry and Jill instead.
She did not belong to a theological tradition that believed that the prophetic gifts were still extent, and so she did not attribute her foresight to anything supernatural. Rather she attributed it to her having eyes in her head. A couple days after Larry had made his first visit to the senator’s office, he was back again, almost as soon as the office opened. Eve stood up as she saw him coming, made a point of making knowing eye contact with him as she proceeded to make herself scarce down the hallway. That left the path open to Jill’s office, and as her door was halfway open, Larry immediately filled it.
“Morning,” he said.
“Good morning,” she said, startled, and standing up immediately.
“I was wondering if I might ask you out for dinner, either tonight or tomorrow night, whichever would be most convenient for you.”
Jill swallowed with some difficulty. “Um,” she said. “I would like that . . . either night would work fine.”
“Well, since I am eager to go out with you, let’s make it tonight.”
As first dates go, it really was a success. Jill was pleased that he appeared to be genuinely interested in her, and he was a very interesting person to talk to. Larry was also very pleased with their evening out. They talked in detail about politics, and about theology, and about music, and movies. He found out, in the course of their rambling discussion, that her theological views mapped onto his almost exactly, and moreover, she appeared to be a sweetheart. An actual nice person, living in the D.C. area. He was very impressed. He had found out she was a Christian during his first visit to the office, which is why he was willing to ask her out, but Christians come in all flavors, and some of them wouldn’t pair nicely with the flavor that Larry knew himself to be. He was most gratified, and thought that this was something that needed to be pushed along.
The only other eventful thing about that first date was that on the way to the restaurant Jill had saved Larry’s life, and so perhaps that is something that should be mentioned. They were standing at a crosswalk that had just gone to “don’t walk,” and Larry said, “Excuse me while I pull up the address. I made our reservations earlier, but neglected to save the directions.”
“Sure thing,” Jill had said.
So while they were standing there at the crosswalk, Larry was busy with his phone. Jill was meditating on the fact that the second button down from the top of his shirt was right at her eye level, and she was marveling at the novelty of the experience. It made her feel all kinds of ways. She glanced up and broke away from her meditations for a moment, just in time to notice a car coming their way that was dangerously close to the curb, and going way too fast. She shouted, jumping back, and grabbing Larry’s collar as she did so. They both fell backward into a hedge that flanked the sidewalk on the other side of it, and Larry did a backward somersault through the hedge, and came up on his feet on the other side. They had been the only two at the crosswalk, which meant the car lurched across the sidewalk, right where they had been, careened back into the street, and veered left, disappearing in about ten seconds. It was not a hit-and-run, but rather an almost-hit-and-run-even-faster.
Larry reached down and took Jill’s hand, and lifted her out of the hedge easily.
She found her feet, brushed herself off. “I am most grateful to you,” Larry said. “That was close.”
“I am grateful I was able to move you,” she said. “I can’t believe I actually did it. Unlike how you lifted me out of the hedge just now. I felt like you were picking up a piece of cotton batting.”
In short, the date part of the first date was successful, and the exciting part of the first date had not been too exciting.
But however gratified he was with their first date, he had to admit later that their second date, one that happened about a week later, was far more memorable. Larry opened the door to the Sautéed Onion for Jill, and she made her way into the restaurant, with Larry joining her at the hostess stand just a moment later. Larry, through long experience, waited a moment before he spoke, giving the hostess a chance to catch her breath. “Table for two?” she finally managed. Table for three is more like it, she was thinking.
“Yes, that is right,” he said, and nodded when she said, “Follow me, please.” She led them to a table that was set for four that was on a raised platform next to a broad bay window. “Oh, how lovely,” Jill said. A moment later, she added, “If we both sit on this side, we will have a wonderful view of the river.”
“Sure thing,” Larry said.
And they had been seated at their table just barely long enough to get their menus when Cody and Helen came through the front door. They both looked left and right, and then hurry-walked to the left, looking like they were going to try to head straight through the restaurant and out the back door. About a third of the way there, Cody suddenly changed his mind, turned around, glanced back at the front door, grabbed Helen’s hand, pulled back an empty chair at Larry and Jill’s table, seated Helen in it firmly, stepped behind her, and sat down at the next chair, which was also empty.
“Please pardon us,” Cody said to the startled Jill, and the presumably startled Larry, even though he didn’t look startled. “I will explain ourselves thoroughly in just a moment, and apologize even more handsomely. In the meantime, may I borrow your menus?”
Larry had decided in that instant that he was going to trust Cody, who looked vaguely familiar, and he nodded. He then crooked his finger at a passing waiter and asked for two more menus, which appeared promptly.
“Am I right in assuming that it would be good for all of us to be busy with noses in our menus over the next few minutes?” “Yes,” Cody said, almost out of breath. “That would be very good. Proper, in fact.”
As they were examining their menus, and Jill, quick on the uptake, was talking loudly about the salmon, and gesturing, Larry noticed—as he was seated in a way that would enable him to notice—two men walk in the front door, and straight past the hostess stand. She said, somewhat feebly, “Were you expecting to meet . . . ?”, but by that time they were headed toward the back door next to the kitchen. A moment later, they blew out that door, the way that Cody and Helen had almost gone.
“Your instincts were strong,” Helen said to Cody. “My debts to you are increasing.”
Larry leaned forward, and bumped the table as he did so. A few of the water glasses sloshed. “Sorry,” he said. “That always happens. But I will make you two a deal. I would like to buy you dinner in exchange for some sort of explanation. Given the look of those two thugs, you might want to lie to us, but I would still like to feed you and hear some kind of explanation anyhow.” At that moment the waiter appeared. Cody looked at Helen, who nodded. She didn’t know what Cody was going to tell these people, but she was starting to trust him more and more. And besides, she suddenly realized that she was famished.
“Well, perhaps we should begin with introductions,” Cody said. “My name is Cody. Cody Vance. This is Helen, Dr. Helen Greene.” With this, Cody looked straight at Larry for the first time, started back in his seat, and exclaimed, “and we have met before. You are Larry Locke. I heard you lecture two months ago, and you were kind enough to sign my book.”
Larry nodded. “Yes, I am the one. I remember meeting you, in fact. You teach at Liberty? Is that right?”
Cody turned to Jill, who extended her hand, and they shook. “I am Jill Stevens,” she said. “I am not famous.” Helen did the same, and it initially seemed that they were done with the odd coincidences, when Larry said, “Dr. Helen Greene . . . are you a climatologist?” She nodded, as though she were aware of what was coming, which she halfway was. But she didn’t know why or how she could know. She didn’t know Larry Locke from Adam. Her puzzled look drew an explanation from Larry.
“My book is called Ecochondriacs. I suspect we might be on different sides of the climate change issue. There is a section in my chapter ten where I, um, critique a paper you submitted to The Journal of Climate Change.”
This was a polite way of putting it. Larry had actually gone through her paper with a weed whacker, the kind with metal blades.
Helen looked down at the table, somewhat embarrassed. “We were no doubt on different sides, although I am afraid I was unaware of your critique. In that world, my old world, we were taught to ignore all of that like it was the yapping of small dogs in the distance. But my views have been undergoing some, um, revision. I am not exactly in the position of switching sides. It is more like I have been chased over here. But I am starting to like it.” She looked at Cody, shyly.
Cody looked back at her. “Do you mind if I request some help from these good folks? All we have been doing thus far is running, and running is not a long term plan.”
She nodded. She had liked Jill instantly, and she was even cautiously warm to Larry, not having seen him stand up yet.
“Now you really have me curious,” Larry said. Jill nodded her agreement. Curious was a radical understatement.
Cody turned to Helen. “You tell them the first part,” he said. “I’ll pick it up from where you hopped in my car.”
And so she did. She described her position with the international task force on climate change, how she got the damning email, the attempted hit, how she ran out the front door and into the life of Cody Vance. Larry’s eyes were wide open. Jill had taken her hand when she had gotten to the part where she had shot her assassin, and when she was done Larry whistled through his teeth. Then they both looked at Cody.
He said, “We have been driving around aimlessly ever since. They almost got us twice since then, counting tonight. The first time was a close call last night. But the people on our tail now seem to be a bit more competent than the first group who broke into Helen’s condo. I am assuming higher levels of competence because I have no idea how they managed to track us here tonight. They pulled into the parking lot just as we were coming through the front door. I recognized their car from last night. I just happened to turn around at the right moment. It wasn’t the car, I don’t think, because we didn’t park in the restaurant lot.” Larry leaned forward again, and sloshed more water. “Do you still have that thumb drive?” Cody and Helen both nodded. “The first thing we need to do,” Larry said, “is get copies of that hot property made. They need to be chasing five or six copies of the damning emails, not one. There is a computer shop in a mall right near here. We can hit that right after the salmon.” And Jill broke in. “And there is a public library two miles that way down this strip. We can use the computers there to make the copies.”
They all visited together until the salmon came, and all found that they were liking each other very much. When they were almost done with their meal, Helen commented that she still found it hard to believe that anybody could order someone else murdered over a political issue. “I still haven’t gotten my mind around it,” she said.
Larry smiled at her, somewhat grimly. “If they had gotten you, you wouldn’t have been the first. Actually, it is quite possible that you wouldn’t have been the first this month.”
“That can’t be possible,” Helen gasped, but then she saw the look in his eye. “Cody here made one of those stupid Arkancide jokes a few days ago, but that was a joke. I think. You are talking about this seriously! Are you?”
Larry looked at her, with something like compassion in his eyes. He glanced over at Cody before speaking.
“Do you believe the United States is a powerful country, a great empire?”
“Why are you changing the subject?”
Larry shook his head. “Not changing the subject at all. More political power flows through this town than flowed through Nineveh, Babylon, Rome, and the courts of the Mongol kings all put together. And so if political assassinations and hits were not routinely conducted in our midst for the sake of maintaining that power, it would be the very first time in history that such a thing has ever happened. As fond as I am of our country, I don’t think we can assume that nobody is periodically encouraged to leave the land of the breathing for political reasons.”
Helen was staring at him, open-mouthed. She suddenly wheeled on Cody.
“Do you think that too?”
Cody grinned at her. “Well, I admit that I used to think that way back before we got acquainted. Maybe not as hard core as Larry here. But since we have become such close friends, we have successfully evaded various attempts on your life, right? And all for political reasons, right? So what I used to think, it would be fair to say that now I know.”
“We need to go,” she said. “I need to think.”