Rebecca Bates: "Near Chicago."
JS: "How's Justin?"
RB: "I don't know. Haven't had a chance to see him?"
JS: "So, what are you doing there?"
RB: "Tracking the time capsule."
JS: "What for?"
RB: "I'm thinking about retrieving something from it."
A noticeable pause.
JS: "This reminds me. Rebecca, we're missing something from the safe at the church. You haven't taken it by accident, have you?"
"It didn't 'remind' you. This is why you're calling me, isn't it?" Rebecca thought to herself.
RB: "What is it?"
JS: "It is, urh, a sealed bottle with 'Guatemala' written on the lid."
RB: "Is it like somebody's name written on a bullet?"
Smith said nothing.
RB: "What is in the bottle?"
JS: "That's not what I'm calling about. What I want to know is if you have taken it."
RB: "Well, yes, it is here with me. I loved that morphine high from the vial planted into the time machine so much I decided to take an entire bottle for myself. I hope that Guatemala won't miss it too much. I was hoping you wouldn't notice that it's missing. In fact, I was just going to open it and take a hit."
JS: "NO!! DON'T DO IT!!!"
RB: "What's the big deal? Just a little euphoric high, you know, a fleeting oasis of serenity in the harsh realities of evangelical life. You live in it, but I need an escape once in a while. You don't have to get all sanctimonious about it."
JS: "No, it is not about that... Look, Rebecca, listen to me. Do not, I repeat, do NOT open the bottle. If accidentally broken, do NOT inhale anything coming out from it. Wrap it up in something soft and bring it back to me. Do not fly. Drive. Do not let anyone handle it, much less steal it. Safeguard it with your life. I can't get into it on the phone, but I will explain when you get here."
RB: "I can't leave Chicago at a moment's notice."
JS: "As long as the bottle is sealed and secured, there is no huge urgency to it. But still, I would like to see it back in the safe ASAP."
RB: "There'd better be a good explanation for all of this."
That same evening, Smith called again.
JS: "There is a new development in plan."
RB: "And of course I'm a part of it?"
JS: "You're the best one to do it."
RB: "Flattery will get you everywhere. But you can't get away with slave labor again."
JS: "I'm your father and you're my daughter. Slavery? It is the parents who serve as slaves for their children."
RB: "Nope. Since my birth, it's been you ordering your slaves to serve as my slaves. But that was over, and has been since I turned eighteen. We're now business associates, that is, if I approve of a certain project, and if I agree to the fee."
JS: "So, name your price."
RB: "Let's see your plan."
Ten minutes later,
RB: "For a project like this, which endangers my body and prostitutes my soul, and considering the number of people it stands to affect, I mean kill, which could be in the thousands if not millions, I'd charge a million dollars. But since we are family after all, I'll give you a big discount - make it the equivalent of a rhino hunt."
JS: "You mean, what, a quarter million? You can't be serious."
RB: "The going price is $400,000. Think the annual salary of the U.S. president if it makes you feel better. But the amount is the same."
ine. As soon as I get confirmation from Switzerland that the fee has arrived in full, I'll start on it."
An hour later, she received the confirmation.
Rebecca Bates: "Father Lowry please."
Robert Lowry: "
thing you're calling, father. I was just about to call you and ask about it," said Rebecca.
Not only must Robert Lowry's third cross come down," said the man on the phone on the same day Solar Cross III was unveiled, "Robert Lowry himself must fall."
"Consider it done," said the woman on the other end of the line.
In anticipation of this, Mark Lee installed a video camera and transmitter with satellite up-link in a tree facing the property of the cross-burning party, set on motion sensing, automatic day/night switch-over, and short bursts of new data every hour on the hour. In this conservation mode, the battery would be good for months at a time.
He had become familiar with the men in the daily updated videos, but one day, he saw a woman in their midst - Rebecca Bates. Earlier, he observed a few crosses being made, but it seemed to be put on hold since her arrival by their black sedan. There was nothing to show that she had left the property, unless in the car trunk. This rang an alarm bell. He sent the footage of her to Rev. Lowry, with the warning to "Watch out for this woman", CCed to Shannon Stone.
On Shannon's part, she told the reverend about Rebecca's sex video, although he drew a more solid line about not watching it than she did.
His new moral dilemma was in the need to lie to Rebecca if and when she appeared in the arena.
The following Sunday, a new woman appeared in the service, after which she came to him and said, "Thank you, reverend, for the enlightening sermon."
"Thank you, Ms..."
"Joella Francis. And I mean it."
"Are you new here, Ms. Francis? I don't recall having seen you before."
"Yes, reverend, and you probably won't see me again. I'm from Manhattan."
"And what brought you here to these humble backwoods?"
"A 'humble backwood' with a national presence. I just HAVE to come and meet the man in person, by which I do mean the MAN, not the pastor."
"I'm at your service in both."
"I see you as a man rather than a pastor because if you were a Catholic priest, you would have the pope behind you. As is, you stand alone."
"Well, ultimately both have God behind them."
"Well put, reverend. May I call you David?"
"That's what my mother calls me. You're welcome to join her, as long as you could do without the nagging."
"That's charming, David. Say, I won't be flying back till tomorrow. May I have your company for dinner?"
"As long as it is vegetarian."
"Deal. See you at a restaurant of your choice, at 7?"
"The Heaven and Earth Indian Restaurant on 4th, if it suits you."
"I love Indian food."
"See you then."
"Before we bid farewell, please promise me one thing, as a man."
"Men have limitations, but I'll do what I can."
"Please, please, please promise me to never back down."
"This I have promised God a long time ago. So, I have no problem promising you."
"I am afraid."
"Last time, they escalated to crucifying you. This time, it could be even worse."
"The Lord is my shepherd. I fear no evil," he said.
"So far, thank God, I haven't had to tell a lie," he thought to himself.
"By intention, you have," said the God in him. "But seeing that you are doing so in defense of my honor, you are hereby forgiven."