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Chapter 16

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Chapter 16 Powered By Docstoc
					                               Chapter 16

       Rumors about Martin's death circulated widely through the
membership. Somehow, everyone seemed to know that he was visiting
Dr. Goren, and they knew what that meant. I heard brothers in the lobby
arguing about whether Martin‟s death was indemnity or a freak accident.
Others used the word “suicide” without attaching any providential
significance to the act. Some appeared deeply saddened by the tragedy.
At least one brother said coldly to another, “Good riddance as far as I am
concerned.”
       I could barely conceal my despair. I entered a profound state of
denial. But like a thorn that pricks the thumb and painfully works its
way deeper the longer it's ignored, this strategy of denial led to much
misery.
       Norman became noticeably somber. We never spoke about Martin
in the workshop. And the tone of Norman‟s lectures lightened. No longer
did he issue warnings and discuss standards that must be kept. Instead,
he focused on the “loving heart of God” and the importance of “unity” in
battling Satanic forces. I knew he felt responsible for what happened,
just as I did.
       One morning, when the workshop was over and the members had
been sent out to various regions, Norman asked me to come with him to
Mitsui's office. "I need your support," he said, without explaining.
       We met Mitsui in the same room where he had granted permission
to send Martin to Dr. Goren. As was his breakfast custom, Mitsui held
court over several Japanese members seated with him. Mitsui asked us
to join them at table. They did not pay us much mind as conversation
continued in Japanese. Norman did not touch the food placed before him
by an ever-attentive Japanese sister. I furtively studied Mitsui‟s face,
trying to understand what kind of man he was, wondering how he felt
that Martin had died so tragically.
       At a low point in the conversations, Norman spoke up without
preface. He could not contain what was on his mind any longer. "Taicho,
it was a bad idea to send Martin to Dr. Goren. We must never use that
approach again. We have to find a religious solution."
       Mitsui shrugged. He gazed blankly at Norman for several minutes
before responding. "There is no religious solution, unless we send them
to a priest for an exorcism. Homos are selfish, interested only in
pleasure. They don‟t understand love.”
       Norman became visibly perturbed. For the first time since I met
him, his face became red with anger. His hands became clinched fists.
“You‟re very wrong,” he said, almost venomously. “Homosexuals are
suffering. They need our love and guidance. They should not be
dismissed that way.”
       I doubt if any member, Japanese or American, had ever stood up
to Mitsui. I was both awed and horrified. Mitsui‟s face was unreadable as
he looked upon Norman. The Japanese brothers had adopted such
defensive postures, that I half expected swords to be drawn at any
moment. Their bloodshot eyes revealed the fury waiting to be unleashed
at Mitsui‟s signal. In the end, Mitsui spit something out in Japanese and
the brothers relaxed. He calmly sipped his tea and then addressed
Norman. “If you want to help homosexuals, I‟ll send them to you instead
of Dr. Goren. You can have a homosexual center in Los Angeles.”
       One of the brothers could not restrain a grin before he turned
sideways to hide it.
       Norman started to say something in response, but hesitated. He
stood up. “From now on, your TFT members are no longer welcome at the
Los Angeles center. Please ask them to find their own place, effective
immediately.”
       Mitsui took another sip of tea, as if he had not heard.
       “Before leaving the room, Norman said, “I thought I could be a
friend to the TFT, but now Bozeman has a new ally.”
       Being in New York, I was keenly aware of the division, the near
violent difference, between the philosophies of the Japanese and
American leaders. Suddenly, the conflict effected my spiritual life.
       "What about you, Powe-san?" Mitsui asked. "Do you want to go
with him?"
       For a moment my heart stopped. Was Mitsui asking if I wanted to
be the first homosexual sent to Los Angeles? Expert at keeping my cool
during these sorts of discussions, I stirred my breakfast bowl with a
chopstick as if I had not been paying attention, watching the limp
strands of seaweed weave through the miso soup. From my vantage
point, I could see Norman halfway down the hall. He paused to look
back, beckoning me to follow him. For a moment, that seemed like the
right thing to do. Perhaps, if I worked under an American leader, even
someone like Willard Bozeman, I could work things out. Maybe I could
confess and then change. But I could not jeopardize my status. I could
not forfeit the trusted position I'd gained through so much toil. I looked
toward Mitsui and answered simply, “I‟m a loyal TFT member, Taicho.”
       Norman, hearing my reply, disappeared down the hall.

      Kawazaki arrived in New York later in the afternoon. He spent
much of the day being debriefed by Mitsui. Without the workshop to
attend to, I had little reason to remain in New York, but when I heard
Kawazaki was coming, I decided to stay an extra day. Unlike Mitsui,
Kawazaki had a human face, and I had grown close to him in Chicago. I
needed a friend just then – even one who did not know the whole truth
about me.
      I called my secretary to tell her I would be another day or so before
returning. She urged me to come back soon. "The members miss you,"
she said. "The captains ask every day when you're coming back."
       Hearing these words, after the emotions of the last twenty-four
hours, I paused to collect myself before carrying on the conversation. “I‟ll
return soon,” I said, simply.
       My plan was to book a flight late for the following evening, but
Mitsui announced that Kawazaki and I would be accompanying him to
Belvista. No reason given as to the occasion, and it would not be proper
to inquire. Kawazaki drove us in an old Suburban – another beat up
refugee from a fundraising team. He navigated the various turnpikes and
the twisted lanes on the way to Irvington. I sat in the back seat, silently
contemplating the recent days, pondering that if I'd gone with Norman, I
would not be seeing Father now. Every trip to Belvista was significant,
every opportunity to be in the presence of True Father a blessing.
       Kawazaki pulled alongside a newly erected security gate. Pastor
Sun had become so controversial by this time, that he received death
threats, many from Christians who believed him to be the anti-Christ.
Others who believed he was a crazy operative of the Korean CIA out to
brainwash American youth. Local centers had become more vigilant, but
the security measures at Belvista were draconian.
       The three brothers serving as guards at the gate wore special
uniforms with badges that gave them an appearance of real authority.
One of them requested that Kawazaki explain his purpose.
       "We're meeting with Father," Kawazaki told the brother.
       Mitsui leaned toward the driver side window so the brother could
see who he was. Even though the brother recognized Mitsui, he still
telephoned the main house for confirmation before he let us pass.
Kawazaki slowly drove the winding driveway to a parking space near the
Training Center. Then we walked the familiar garden path to Father's
dwelling. All the while cameras mounted in the trees monitored our
progress.
       I'd never been inside Father's house. I‟d only peered in while
praying at the Holy Rock. As I stood in the entryway, I marveled at the
muffled quiet. All sound was absorbed by the thick, and obviously
expensive, Persian carpet. Several of Father's younger children
scampered in front of our party, charging up curved stairs to a second
floor landing. To my amazement, around the corner, running after them,
came a smiling, almost equally childlike sister whom I immediately
recognized. It was Gloria, who had been attacked so violently in Chicago.
Here she was tending Father‟s children! What a blessing for her, and
what a relief to see her so well and happy. Gloria smiled warmly, but she
restrained herself from running up to me. Not only was I clearly there on
some kind of official business, but she had to continue her pursuit of the
misbehaving children who had scampered on before her.
       Sergeant Choi greeted Mitsui, Kawazaki and myself as we removed
our shoes and placed them on a wooden rack in the entry hall. In
addition to being Pastor Sun's interpreter, Sergeant Choi managed the
Church's international business affairs and several Church businesses.
He always wore stylish formal attire, as he did now. We followed Sergeant
Choi into a large living area containing a game room area set apart by a
low wall topped by a burnished oak rail running through brass balusters.
Father and a Korean elder played billiards at an antique table spotlighted
by a rectangular tiffany lamp hanging by long gold chains.
       We placed the backs of our palms to our foreheads and bowed
three times to the carpet in the usual ritual of respect. Father paid us no
mind as he prepared to make a shot while the elder watched him
intently. I recognized the man as Mr. Lee, one of the early Sanctified
members. He had given an inspirational speech to the membership prior
to the Central Park rally. Rising from our prostration, I observed Father
lean awkwardly over one corner of the table as he pressed his
considerable weight against it and calculated the shot he wanted to
make.
       When the ball shot off in the wrong direction, Father lifted the cue
stick high as if to throw it across the room. He growled what had to be a
foul word in Korean. Mr. Lee laughed heartily. Father looked about,
realizing suddenly that others were present. Just then, Mother entered
the room from a door on the opposite side, away from the billiard table.
She scolded Father in a gentle voice, hiding a clandestine smile with the
palm of her hand as she repeated the word Father had used.
       Mother only tarried long enough to greet Mitsui, taking his hand.
She nodded in a queenly fashion to Kawazaki and myself. My heart
thumped so loudly that my ears rang. I‟d never imagined being so
intimate with Father and Mother.
       Father motioned for Mr. Lee to step up to the table. The cue ball
disappeared into a side pocket. Father, back at shot, studied his options
with tremendous focus, then knocked two balls straight into the far
corner pocket, one following the other. The game was over. Father had
won. He patted Mr. Lee on the back as if to say, "Next time." Mr. Lee
bowed, then went about setting up a few practice shots.
       Father motioned us to sit as he positioned himself on a plush
chair. We sat with cross-legged on the carpet. Kawazaki nodded his head
while Father spoke to Mitsui in Japanese. I studied Father's mannerisms
intently - the way his eyebrows moved independently up and down the
domelike forehead as if registering his absorption in what was being said,
how Father removed his shoe and rubbed the sole of his foot while he
listened to Mitsui, how he gesticulated more than anyone I had ever
observed.
       As the conversation continued, a Japanese sister brought in a tray
of ginseng tea and rice cakes and placed it on the polished burl table at
the flank of Father's chair. Father reached for a cup and took several
cakes, then motioned for us to help ourselves. It struck me that Father
had not offered us refreshments first, which would have been customary
(not to mention polite), especially in oriental tradition. As the discussion
in Japanese continued, less being said now, I began to discern my name
cropping up, and I thought I heard another recognizable name. Sergeant
Choi began to translate all of a sudden, the switch to English catching
me off guard. I started so that everyone laughed. "Kawazaki speaks well
about you. Your hard work has made you a good leader. Your members
respect you. That is the sign of true success, when the members testify
for you."
       Father peered at me intently. "When did we meet?" Father asked. "I
have a strong memory of seeing you during one of the campaigns several
years ago."
       "We met in Little Rock, Father." I hoped Father wouldn't remember
too much about those times.
       "Yes, yes, of course,” Father said. "We had a small crowd at that
speech, but they were very serious. I remember Little Rock well.” Father
winked at me. “Is that where you joined?"
       "Yes, when the World Family Crusade passed through. That was a
troubled time in my life. The Divine Word literally saved me."
       Father rubbed his foot as Sergeant Choi translated my words.
Father looked up and smiled for a moment. He seemed to probe my heart
with his midnight-dark eyes. "Are you ready for more responsibility?"
       "Yes, Father," I sat up straighter, prepared for any command I
might receive.
       "There's been a tragedy in Texas. The Commander there has
disappeared, maybe left the Family. We've not heard from him. This is a
serious occurrence. Leaders must not betray God."
       My heart nearly burst. Stanley!
       Kawazaki placed a hand on my shoulder. Overcome with emotion, I
slumped over. This is why I had been brought to Belvista, so I would
hear about this from Father directly. Kawazaki had not been visiting
regions, he had been in Texas. In the conversation, Mitsui had been
explaining to Father that Stanley was my
       Kawazaki nudged my side. I looked up to see that Father had
poured a cup of ginseng and was offering it to me.
       "Thank you, Father." I took the small cup from his hand and
sipped its earthy contents.
       Father‟s sympathetic expression gave me a sense of real closeness.
I believed he knew how deeply the news hit me. As I took another sip of
tea, Father stood up and pointed at the billiard table. He said in barely
intelligible English, "Play pool?"
       I responded, quite nervously, "Yes, Father."
       Father laughed and with great difficulty, said, "Yes. OK. This family
not so formal, all time." He walked to the wall rack and picked out a
custom-made cue stick while Sergeant Choi set the balls.
       I chose a stick from the rack and proceeded to play the worse game
of pool I'd ever shot. I was so nervous that I could barely steady hand.
When I missed an incredibly easy shot, Father exploded in jolly laughter.
After a while, I lost my trepidation about competing with the Messiah,
and joked around, even having the audacity to point out that Father had
not called one of his shots.
      Father seemed to enjoy the fact that I had begun to relax. By
dinnertime, Father and I had begun to act downright silly. Once, as I
prepared a particularly difficult shot, Father made a huge fuss as he
blew his nose. I retaliated by “accidentally” dropping my cue stick during
a sensitive moment as he prepared one of his shots.
      I forgot about Stanley, and gave no thought to Martin‟s tragedy.
For an hour, I felt like part of God‟s family.

       On the way back to the Madison, Mitsui seemed almost intent on
dispelling the afterglow of my time with Father. He would talk of nothing
else but Stanley‟s leaving and what I should expect upon my arrival in
Texas.
       "There were signs," Mitsui said. "Stanley mentioned that his family
in Memphis had become active in the anti-cult movement. The affair
involving Kin-jin, the boating accident, has alarmed those groups. They
use it as proof that Father's children are no different from anyone else's,
that Father isn‟t divine. They say that Kin-jin wouldn't 'risk his life for
his friend,' and therefore, couldn‟t even be called Christian."
       "What did happen, Taicho?" I normally would never have asked
such a direct question. But my time with Father had emboldened me.
       Mitsui responded without hesitation. "The boy had epilepsy, but
Kin-jin didn't know that. When Kin-jin wasn‟t looking he had a seizure
and fell overboard. He sank out of view. Kin-jin couldn‟t do anything. He
doesn‟t know how to swim. The mistake was that the boys were not
wearing life jackets. A tragic oversight.”
       "That should be explained to the press," I said.
       "It can't be," Mitsui stated solemnly. "The parents are suing Father
- and the church - for the wrongful death of their son."
       "Poor Kin-jin," I said.
       "The important thing," Kawazaki added, "the Texas members don't
know that Stanley left the Church. When I visited I saw that they loved
Stanley deeply. They will need good leadership."
       "Do we know for sure that Stanley left of his own free will, that he
has left the Family?” I asked. “It sounds like he could have been
kidnapped."
       "It's been two weeks with no news," Mitsui said. "Stanley told his
secretary, Dorrit, that he was going to run a few errands. He didn't come
back, and Dorrit called the police department. His car had been towed
away from one of the airline terminals. It was parked right in front of the
departure area, as if he just parked it and jumped out."
       "So he did leave," I said, reflectively.
       "It looks that way," Kawazaki said. "Would Stanley try to contact
you?"
      "We wrote to each other over the years. But ever since Chicago, we
have not been close."
      “My guess is that he went to his family in Memphis," Mitsui said.
      "His parents are wealthy, but that's all I know about them," I said.
Then reflecting again, "If they wanted to pay to have him kidnapped, and
make it look like he left of his own free will, they'd be able to afford
pulling off such as thing."
      Mitsui and Kawazaki “hmm‟ed” skeptically. We were approaching
Manhattan. Rush hour was ending and the traffic was headed in the
opposite direction. This allowed us to make good time.
      "I'll be fine," I said, breaking a long period of silence. "I'm already
familiar with Texas. And I'm sure I‟ll know some of the members on those
teams."
      "Father trusts you," Mitsui said. There was an indecipherable
quality to the comment. "I've never seen him act so casually with an
American member.”
      Kawazaki jumped in, “What about your family? Are they still
negative? "
      I seldom thought about Connie and Derek and their notoriety. But
“negative” understated the family situation. “My sister and her husband
are the problem,” I replied. “But there is no reason for my family to know
I am in Dallas. Besides, my sister doesn‟t have the money to hire a
deprogrammer and my parents would never go along with it if they
suggesting trying to kidnap me.”
      "Ah so," Mitsui and Kawazaki sighed simultaneously. Kawazaki
spoke for both when he said, “Now I remember – the Newsweek article.”

       That evening, Kawazaki and I discussed the East Coast Region I
would be leaving. "The new Commander is going to have his hands full," I
told Kawazaki. "North Carolina is off limits. The court case there is still
pending. The lawyer, Maury Fender, is on top of it, though.”
       Kawazaki looked sad. "We need good American Commanders.
American law is difficult for Japanese. Bozeman wants to become
involved with TFT legal affairs. He has asked about the North Carolina
situation."
       This was news, and it indicated that Bozeman wanted control of all
church affairs. I knew that Mitsui would resist Bozeman's having any
involvement in TFT issues. "The lawyers hired by the American church
don‟t understand our religious mission," I explained. "They want to
organize us like a business.” After a considerable pause, I continued.
“Kawazaki-san, if that happens, we are in a lot of trouble. Maury has
explained the law to me. We have a right to solicit in a tax exempt
manner. If we characterize our activity as a business, we could be liable
for millions of dollars in taxes. That is exactly how North Carolina is
trying to keep us out of the state – they wrote the statute to deny
fundraising activities where an item is given in exchange for a
contribution. They call that a business transaction.”
       I studied Kawazaki‟s expression to make sure he clearly
understood what I had said. His expression belied the nod he gave me.
“Maybe you and the new commander should fly to New Orleans to meet
Maury. He will explain all these things. You‟ll like him. He is a plain
spoken man.”
       Kawazaki agreed to this, but his wrinkled brow spoke of a troubled
heart. He said, “I wish we had time for you to say goodbye to your
members. But, I will go soon. I will explain to them why you had to go to
Texas. They should be proud that Father trusts you.”
       “Those are strong members in my old region. They‟ve suffered a
great deal of persecution.” I thought a moment about something I had
been planning to ask. This seemed the best moment to bring it up. “Don‟t
take me the wrong way, Kawazaki-san, but I hope you can find an
American to take over as Commander, someone who won‟t be too harsh
with them.”
       “What? No Samurai?” That was about as close as Kawazaki ever
came to joking around.
       “Well, you know, some of the Japanese Commanders are, well, a
bit tough.” I had never made a comment like that about the Japanese
and I wasn‟t sure how Kawazaki would take it.
       “They are like old Samurai in a Japanese movie.‟” Kawazaki smiled.
       The trust bestowed on me at that moment engendered a true sense
of being Father‟s son – albeit, one who plays a miserable game of pool.

       Early the next day, Kawazaki drove me to the airport. Everything I
possessed fit into one suitcase - clothes, photographs of members, a
meager collection of classical cassette tapes, and a few silly souvenirs
from my travels and a hardbound copy of the Divine Word signed by
father (something provided to all the original TFT members).
       When we arrived at the terminal and I unloaded my suitcase,
Kawazaki called me back into the car for a moment.
       "Be careful and guard yourself," he said. He took my hand and
held it with a grip like it might be the last time he would see me.
       It was an odd farewell. I gathered that he knew more about the
troubles in Texas than he was willing to say. Before shutting the door, I
leaned in, "Kawazaki-san, make sure the commander who replaces me in
Norfolk treats the secretary well. She‟s gone through a lot in her life."
       "I will," Kawazaki promised. “I‟ll select a Commander who
understands. I will make Gregory commander. He is ready.”
       Gregory, my right-hand man in Chicago, had done very well as a
team captain over the years.

      Standing just inside the door of the terminal to get out of the biting
wind, I watched Kawazaki drive away, then headed to the gate. Sitting
with head propped on my hand in the uncomfortable chair, uneasy
recollections of Dallas drifted through half-dreams.
       Vivian and Lenny took Ernie and me to Dallas when we were
twelve. I‟d been to the amusement park, Six Flags Over Texas, several
times before, but this trip was special with Ernie coming along. Later
that year, following the incident over Mandy‟s fox stole, we would barely
speak to each other again, but over the summer, we were inseparable.
What a comedy the trip to Dallas turned out to be – Ernie and I in the
motel bed next to Vivian and Lenny, messing around ever so quietly
under the covers the second Lenny began to snore. STOP! How could I
entertain such a memory, especially after the horror of Martin‟s death!. I
must repent of this . . . the sleepy fog swirled and my thoughts roamed
from Ernie to a memory of Lenny.
       I was in junior high school. Lenny built a fence around the pond at
the back of our property. The pen held an American saddle horse
stallion. I was not allowed to ride the spirited animal. Lenny bought it to
stud. I begged for a horse of my own. On Christmas Day that year, I
awoke to find my own quarter horse, a chocolate brown mare with a
black mane. I named her Bride. For once, Lenny had done the right thing
on Christmas. I rode most of the day - slowly, though, for Bride was
ready to drop a colt. Bride had a sweet disposition and a smooth gate.
       The third week in January, I witnessed the birth of Bride‟s foal. I
rubbed her nose as Lenny tugged on the emerging crumple of spindly
parts that stood up to become a little horse. I named the foal, Cocoa. The
frail animal hobbled unsteadily, neighing. Never had I known such
happiness. During the following weeks, I came home from school and sat
for hours on the wooden fence, watching Cocoa frolic, kicking the air just
for fun, pawing the earth, then, on impulse, diving under Bride's belly for
a snack. Each day I took a Polaroid to record her growth.
       One day I came home from school and found that Cocoa was not
there. Bride seemed frantic, running back and forth in the pen and
whinnying painfully. I ran into the house screaming, "She's gotten out.
Cocoa's run away."
       Lenny laughed at me. "She didn't run off, son, I sold her."
       "Who are you to sell my horse?" I screamed.
       Lenny seemed genuinely surprised. "Your horse? I never said
Cocoa belonged to you. Bride was your Christmas present. I never said
anything about her colt."
       "Why don't you just consider Bride yours, too." I wanted to add you
bastard, but stopped short. "You can sell her and get your money back."
As I rushed upstairs toward my sanctuary room, Lenny mumbled
something that I couldn‟t make out.
       A few days later, I came home to find that Bride was gone also.
Lenny had sold her.
       I shifted to the other hand, waking just barely, enough to feel a
tear run across my cheek. In the next few years after selling Bride, Lenny
became interested in breeding horses. He took his saddle horse to Dallas
and boarded him at a stud ranch. Although I never wanted to go, Lenny
demanded that I accompany he and Vivian when they visited the ranch.
Each year the rancher said that a mare had born the stallion‟s colt, but
that it died soon after birth. Vivian and I were certain the man lied, that
he was selling the colts. Lenny wouldn't consider the possibility. After
two seasons, the rancher said that Lenny's horse died. Vivian and I
didn't believe that either.
       I was never so glad to be awakened by a boarding call: DALLAS
PASSENGERS, NOW BOARDING GATE 12. Lots of in-flight coffee warded
off further memories.


       The secretary of the Texas-Oklahoma Region, a sister named
Dorrit, met me at the gate. It was she who informed Kawazaki about
Stanley‟s disappearance. Dorrit had been one of the best fundraisers on
the TFT - the first person to achieve the three hundred dollar a day goal.
A year earlier, however, she was hit dead-on by a speeding car that didn't
stop for the red light at the intersection where she was selling roses.
Dorrit soared thirty feet through the air. The impact caused her stomach
to split open. She suffered a fractured pelvis. The doctors gave her little
chance to survive, much less recovery. She proved them wrong. Dorrit
was now a frail woman on crutches. But her eyes glowed with life and
her smile radiated the warmth and kindness that surely played a major
role in her fundraising success.
       A month before Stanley disappeared, Dorrit came to Dallas. Her
parents were suing the church for millions of dollars. They demanded
that Dorrit come home, but she wouldn‟t. Recently, they had let it be
known that if the church did not send her to them, they would hire
deprogrammers.
       "Welcome to Texas, Commander." Dorrit reached out her hand as
she balanced on crutches.
       "The famous Dorrit Rydell," I said, holding her hand in both of
mine.
       Dorrit blushed and said, “I hope I have served Father well.”
       We loaded my gear into a badly dented, brown station wagon.
       "I'll be glad to drive," I said, thinking it must be difficult since her
legs did not appear to be entirely straight.
       "Okay. I won't argue.” Dorrit had already seated herself at the
steering wheel. She edged gingerly onto to the passenger side. Past the
airport tollbooth, Dorrit directed me toward the center. "I just have to
believe Stanley was kidnapped. He'll get away from them – I have to
believe that." Dorrit grasped a simple gold locket around her neck and
opened it. Glancing toward her, I saw that it contained small images of
Father and Mother. "I thought I knew him.” A somber tone overtook her
voice. She closed the locket and pressed it to her heart. "He loved Father,
and the members adored him. I guess he didn't say very much about
himself, really, he mostly spoke about the church.".
        "Mitsui thinks his family had something to do with his leaving." I
said. “You know that Stanley was my spiritual parent, don't you? We
were college friends."
        "Oh sure," Dorrit said. "Stanley thought the world of you. He used
to tell the wildest stories about the way the two of you used to be – that
is, before joining. He said that everyone expected you to leave within a
week because you were such a weird hippie." Dorrit laughed heartily. "It's
funny to meet you now. It hard to imagine what people were like before
they joined, looking at them now."
        I glanced in the mirror at my short hair and black rimmed glasses.
I straightened my tie. "Did Stanley describe what he looked like as a
hippie? He could have played Captain Blood with his long red beard, and
unruly hair flying all over the place. His eyes were what got me. Green,
the color of that gemstone, peridot."
        "His eyes were something," Dorrit said, affectionately.
        "He was a longer, and used to snap at me when I tried to talk to
him. If I hadn't persisted, we wouldn't have become friends. There was
just something about him that made me want to know him."
        "God wanted the two of you to meet.”
        "So, what do the members know about Stanley‟s disappearance?"
        "Pretty much, they know that Stanley is missing. But, I mean, no
one really knows what happened, do they. There have been several
kidnappings in the regions, so that is on our minds."
        None of this made sense to me.

       We arrived at the TFT Headquarters, located in the Dallas suburb
of Grapevine. The red-paneled, ranch-style house stood in the middle of a
three acre, grassy field, far from the main thoroughfare. Tall pine trees
surrounded the house creating a virtual carpet of brown needles that
pressed right up to the foundation. The nearly flat roof appeared brown
with dead fallen needles. A derelict farmhouse on the adjacent property
had once sheltered the only neighbors within sight. A weathered, split-
rail fence surrounded the frame structure. Fragments of glass hung
around the edges of the windows, the remainder apparently broken out
by local kids throwing rocks and dig wads. You could see dents and
splotches on the old wood where some had missed their mark. Across the
street, a dirt road disappeared into a thin forest of mesquite trees.
       "Is there a house up there?" I asked Dorrit as we pulled into our
own, sandpit of a driveway.
       "Don't think so," she said. "I never see cars going in there. “Look at
the tall Johnson grass in the middle up by the tree line. There‟s probably
another abandoned house at the end. When they widened the main road
to make it a highway, I hear that people moved away from the area. They
didn't like the traffic."
       After putting my things in a small room that would be my private
quarters, Dorrit showed me the grounds. We needed a new septic tank,
she pointed out after I commented on the noxious odors emanating from
the back of the property. The property‟s butane tank, resembling a silver
torpedo pointing at the house from about twenty feet away, needed to be
refilled. Dorrit indicated an area of roof where shingles over the back
porch had been rotted by the damp pine needles. I wondered why Stanley
had not attended to all these matters.
       The phone rang. Dorrit hobbled with her crutches as fast as she
could to get into the house.
       "Maybe I should get it," I said, following close behind.
       "Oh no, it's all right. The captains ring for a long time before giving
up. They know it takes me awhile sometimes."
       Dorrit cupped her hand over the receiver and said, "It's Greg. He's
a brother on one of the Houston teams. He's got some information about
Stanley. You should talk to him."
       I reached for the phone as Dorrit said, "Greg, I'm turning you over
to our new Commander. Commander Powell. He just arrived."
       "Greg? What have you heard?" I asked, apprehensively taking the
call.
       "Well, I've heard of you," the voice replied. "Remember me?"
       It was Gregory, from my first team. "With fondness – Mr. Go-getter.
How could I forget! It‟s good to hear your voice.”
       Gregory knew all about my history with Stanley. I could tell that he
didn‟t want to be the one to relate the information he had collected. I
offered encouragement. “It‟s alright, Gregory. Tell me honestly what‟s on
your mind?”
       "After you left Chicago, Kawazaki put Wong and me on Stanley's
team. Stanley used to talk to me in the evenings. He asked questions like
why I believed the Divine Word. He talked about Jesus as much as he did
Father."
       "Jesus?” What an odd thing to hear. “I can‟t recall Stanley every
talking about Jesus before we joined the Family."
       " I think his parents began to influence him. You know, they are
devout Christians. He‟d telephone them often. Anyway, Commander,
something happened today in front of a Seven-Eleven store in the small
town where we‟re working, a place called Humble, outside Houston. I
approached a woman and asked her to buy some flowers. She got all
upset and accused me of being in league with the Devil. She really went
crazy. Said she heard about us in her church, where she'd just come
from. Said a former member spoke at the church. I just knew it was
Stanley, I don't know how. And that's what she finally said, that the
speaker‟s name was Stanley."
       "Wow. Do you really think it was our Stanley?" The absurdity of the
question struck me. What other Stanley had I ever known about in the
church.
       "It was, our friend," Gregory said. "The woman knew he had been
in Dallas. Said that's where he had come from. The Lord saved him in
Dallas. That‟s what she said."
       "And that was this morning?"
       "She said so."
       "What a miracle. Father is truly working with us. No sooner do I
arrive than you telephone."
       Gregory gave me the name of the church where Stanley had
spoken. Dorrit got the telephone number from Information and made a
call. She held out the receiver so we could both here. The minister was
suspicious at first, but soon was convinced by Dorrit that her sister had
been "taken" by the United Family. "I was chatting with a member of your
congregation at a convenience store," she said. "The nice woman
mentioned that a former member of the United Family spoke at your
church today. How the Lord works! And here I was looking for help to get
my brother away from those people."
       "Well, we surely would like to help you," the minister said with a
thick Texas accent. "The boy came down from Dallas last night. He's
been invited to speak by a lot of churches. All the Holiness Churches of
Christ want him to come before their congregations."
       "Would it be possible to speak with him?" Dorrit asked with
urgency in her voice. "Do you know how I can reach him? Is he still in
town?"
       "He's heading back to Dallas this afternoon," the minister said.
“But I'm sure you can reach him tomorrow." The minister went away
from the phone and returned with contact information. "He's going to
S.M.U. Here's the number for the organization that sent out the notice
about him being available for speeches. It's called the Awareness Group.
They surely know what evil these cults are perpetrating."
       Dorrit thanked the minister profusely.
       The Awareness Group was a front organization that
deprogrammers worked through to get clients. I'd seen their literature
before. Dorrit and I mulled over what to do next.
       "Let‟s call the airlines," Dorrit said, excited by the idea. "Pretend to
be Stanley and say that you forgot the time of your reservation."
       “That would be something if I met him at the terminal, wouldn't it?
Maybe the shock of seeing me unexpectedly will help break the spell he‟s
under." Saying that, I thought about Aunt Opal and her “spells” and
wished I knew one right then. Maybe I could construct a corn husk effigy
of Stanley and place it before a picture of Holy Parents. Probably
sacrilege, I concluded, discarding the thought.
       I called each of the major airlines, and although the reservation
lines were helpful, I could not find Stanley‟s flight. "Maybe he's driving," I
said, but Dorrit encouraged me to keep trying. The last call was to Texas
Air, a small commuter outfit. The agent found the reservation and gave
me the flight details as if I were Stanley. The real Stanley would be
arriving in less than an hour at Love Field in Dallas.
       Dorrit wanted to go with me, but I felt it would be best to face
Stanley alone. She headed to the prayer room, saying she wouldn't stop
praying until I returned. I experienced a strange foreboding as I drove
into the city, parked and made my way into the terminal. It was a
disturbing thought that a member could change so abruptly. Yes, leaving
the Satanic world had been drastic, Stanley and I both were
unrecognizable from the selves that had haunted Preston and Jewell‟s
house. But this could not be explained by conversion as I thought of the
phenomenon. This wasn‟t even a regression – Stanley had become a third
personality. I wanted to believe that I had a stable personality, that I was
the same now and always. But how different was I from the hippie of a
mere five years ago? And how different was that hippie from the gay,
heartsick, honor student? No, we are malleable creatures.
       Thus musing, I arrived at the gate and waited for the flight to land.
Many people crowded around the exit. I stood near the back so I'd be
sure to spot Stanley before he saw me. He strolled out last off the plane,
flanked by two men who appeared to be in their late forties. These tough
guys had the pinstripe, oily look of gangsters. Stanley must have felt the
need for bodyguards to protect him from the likes of me. I walked a few
paces behind the trio, and when we entered the main lobby, I tapped my
old friend on the shoulder.
       "Stanley? Is that you?" I wanted him to see this as a chance
meeting.
       Stanley whipped around. His freckled face turned crimson. "Simon.
Wh-what are you doing here?"
       Without skipping a beat. "I sure didn't expect this. What an
amazing coincidence! Why don't we sit down and have coffee? I've been
sick wondering what happened to you."
       One of the bodyguards, a large-faced fellow dressed in a baggy blue
suit, jumped in front of Stanley and challenged, "Are you one of those
Sunheads?"
       Stanley reached his arm in from of the man and said, "It's okay.
This is a friend of mine from college."
       "Do you have a minute, Stanley? Can we talk?" My voice began to
break under the burden of emotion.
       "I'd like to, Simon. But I don't know if it's wise right now." The men
stared at me with ever-increasing suspicion.
       "Can't you gentlemen give Stanley and me a few minutes?” I
wanted to say, tell your goons to take a hike. “I haven't seen my friend
here in years."
       Stanley took a few steps away and spoke with the men. He came
back alone. One of the two goons walked toward the baggage claim area,
the other browsed a book rack nearby, keeping a wary eye.
         "I'm a Christian now," Stanley said, placing his hands on my
shoulders and peering into me with his emerald eyes. "I don't want any
more to do with Pastor Sun." He took his hands away and looked toward
the floor. "Simon, as long as you're in the church, we can't be friends."
         "What's that supposed to mean?" Only a sliver of self-control
separated me from rage. "We've always been friends. How can you say
such a thing?"
         "When you get away from Pastor Sun, you'll be free. Then we can
be friends again."
         "Right. What about the 'many paths,' Stanley? The many ways to
God that we used to talk about. I'll accept that you're on a different path.
I still love you. Why can't you love me?"
         Stanley now spoke through tears. "You're blinded because you're
in the Family. Pastor Sun isn't about love. He's about control."
         In as kind a voice as I could muster, I said, "What happened,
Stanley? Tell me. Something happened to make you this way."
         A long silence followed as Stanley composed himself. He would
take a step away, then come forward – body battling mind.
         "It hardly matters anymore," Stanley said with stultifying finality.
"A year ago, there was a sister on one of my teams. We were working in
Montana. You know. Out there where you drive for hundreds of miles
between cities. She and I spent a lot of time together . . . alone in the
van. And well." Stanley struggled with every word. "We fell in love."
         "Oh Stanley!" The frankness of his admission astonished me.
         "The sister left the church. When I went to pick her up at the end
of the day, I found a note telling me where she had gone. The note asked
me to follow her. But, I started thinking, what kind of a life was I going to
have on the outside? How would I be able to support a wife and family?"
         "Did you tell anyone, Stanley? Kawazaki, or anyone?"
         Tears streamed down Stanley's cheeks, the resolve displayed a
moment before having completely forsaken him. Then Stanley's face
became blank and cold. "All those beliefs about sex and the fall of man,
none of it's true, Simon. That's not what the Bible says. Sun is twisting
God's Word to control people." Stanley‟s voice became loud. People
turned to see what was wrong. The goon at the book rack walked toward
us. "I was going to let Sun choose my wife for me! No one should control
another person‟s married life in the name of religion." Stanley took my
shoulders again. "That‟s not faith, Simon. Sun wants to be God. He
wants to say who you can marry and when you can have sex and
children. Simon! The man is evil! He robbed me, stole years of my life. I'll
do anything I can to stop him."
         All I could think to remark was that even my sister‟s brand of
Christianity in the Nazarenes had proscribed no drinking or dancing or
makeup; Catholics told their priests and monks to be celibate. How were
monasteries and nunneries any different from the United Family? God
required certain sacrifices. Before I could prepare my speech, though, the
tough guy from the book rack reappeared.
      "Is everything all right?"
      "Fine," Stanley said. He still did not tell the man who I was.
      Simply, nothing could be said. Stanley had his arguments as well
as brute force at his side. As Stanley departed, eagerly protected by the
baggy suited bodyguard, I heard him say, "I just lost my best friend."

       When I returned to the center, Dorrit heard me and came out of
the prayer room. Her legs were stiff and contorted from the painful and
prolonged kneeling. I helped with the crutches and positioned her on the
sofa. Dorrit leaned on my arm as I eased her into a soft chair in the front
room.
       "I didn't pray the whole time," Dorrit stated, contritely. "I
telephoned Kawazaki after you left for the airport. I was so worried.
Losing Stanley. And your going off alone. I was scared."
       "It's all right, Dorrit. Kawazaki and I are close. You can call him
any time you feel the need."
       I told Dorrit every detail about what happened at the airport.
"Stanley's gone. There's no doubt about it. But don't worry about me. I'm
not going anywhere."
       "Kawazaki said that your family is negative," Dorrit said,
desperation sounding in her words. "What if they try something?"
       "True. My sister and her husband don't like the Church. But my
parents won't try anything. They‟d never stand by and allow my sister to
hire a deprogrammer."
       "Are you sure?"
       "Quite sure, Dorrit." This I could say with genuine conviction. For
all my disagreements and strained relations with Lenny, I knew that he
would never assert his will by brute force. And Connie wouldn‟t go
against Lenny‟s wishes.
       Dorrit closed her eyes and sank into the sofa, her skinny body
seemed to disappear into the cushions.
       "I'm going to my room now. I'll report all this to Kawazaki. Okay?"
       Dorrit nodded.

       It took all my courage to explain that Stanley had fallen in love
with a sister on his team, precipitating his abandoning the church. What
struck Kawasaki, though, was the story about my finding Stanley.
       "Heavenly Parents are working with you, Simon Powell. So quickly
after you arrived." Kawazaki expressed concerned about the two men
with Stanley. “Deprogrammers often travel with ex-members when they
give talks,” he said. “They go along hoping to find customers."
       "That is what I thought. These guys were sinister."
      "Be careful, Simon. Stanley must have shown them the location of
the center. They will watch from someplace nearby. You never know
which members they are after."
      "There‟s an abandoned house next door." I glanced out the window
looking for signs of spying from the old building.
      "Is there a gun, maybe a rifle, at the center?" Kawazaki asked. “If
not, purchase one.”
      All I could muster in response was a simple, “Okay.” I'd never
heard a Church leader mention weapons before.

       The members returned late that evening. I recognized many faces.
Some had come to Texas from my region on the East Coast when North
Carolina began its legal actions. I didn‟t know the two captains, a sister
named Nancy and a brother named Phil.
       I resolved to be honest with the members and tell them about my
meeting with Stanley as well as the reason he decided to leave the
church – the moral lesson needed to be driven home. First, however, I
took the captains into the prayer room, followed by Dorrit.
       Nancy spoke first. "Commander has left the Family, hasn't he?"
       "I'm afraid so," I said. "The church lost a leader, and I lost a dear
friend."
       "He has been so depressed the last couple of weeks," Nancy
continued. "I should I tried harder to speak to him."
       "Don't blame yourself, Nancy. You neither, Phil." Phil had not
looked up once since we entered the room. When we opened with prayer,
he clenched his fist and pound hard on his thigh.
       "You two were so young when you joined the family," Nancy sighed.
"What are you going to tell the members?"
       "The truth," I said. "They deserve that. But it isn‟t easy. Stanley is
the first Commander to leave the Church."
       "The members won‟t deal very well with the news," Phil said,
getting up to leave the room. "They trusted him."
       Clearly, Phil spoke from his own heart. I turned to Nancy. "Want to
assemble the members for me?"
       "Of course, Commander."
       Nancy got the members together in the front room and led songs
while I gathered my thoughts. As I entered the room, a crowd of anxious
faces greeted me.
       "As you all suspect,” I began. “Stanley has left the Family."
       The members bowed their heads as if struck by a terrible blow.
After allowing time for reflection, I explained the miraculous events of the
day, revealing that I had seen Stanley at the airport.
       “Father guided the me to him. You may not know it, but Stanley
was my spiritual parent. We were friends in college. I accepted Father
because Stanley brought me to lectures."
       The members attention riveted on me.
      "A year ago, while Stanley was leading a team in Montana, he and
one of the sisters on his team fell into an illicit relationship."
      Gloom descended on the room as if the Lord of Darkness himself
had passed among us.
      "The sister left the church afterward. She didn't tell anyone why.
Stanley kept his sin a secret instead of repenting. All this time, he carried
the burden. If only he had confessed to his Central Figure, he could have
been forgiven."
      A brother raised his hand and began speaking before I could call
on him. "I don't understand. He was made our Commander. Why didn't
Father see into him?" The brother's voice dripped with accusation.
      The harsh words struck deep and I became momentarily
disoriented. But it seemed Father spoke through me. "Who does God
have?" Assured now, I stared into the brother's defiant eyes. "God has no
one but you and me – sinners!"
      The brother slumped over, defeated.
      Several members began to cry. I finished the speech, saying, "The
main thing is to look into your own heart."
      We prayed in unison, many members pouring out their agony by
beating the carpeted floor, mournfully beseeching God‟s forgiveness.

       The next day I rose early. Prior to the teams departing, I led a
prayer service. I knew that everyone would be looking to my standards of
faith and I was determined to restore their confidence in the aftermath of
Stanley‟s betrayal. Each night, members sought time to talk to me so
they could unburden their souls. Most spoke of incidents that happened
before they joined the Church. Addressing those confessions, I consoled
that of course we sinned before we knew the Truth, but now God
accepted our offering of hard work on the fundraising teams. We could be
forgiven. No one divulged a serious sin after joining the church . . .
except what brothers always felt the need to confide. I suggested cold
showers. The confessionals forged a quick and profound closeness with
the members. But they missed Stanley. And so did I.
       After a few weeks worth of sitting all day at the center listening to
Dorrit's tales about the attempts to kidnap various members, I decided to
heed Kawazaki's suggestion about arming the center. I went to a local
Gibson's Discount and purchased a .22 caliber rifle. I hid it under
blankets on the closet shelf in my room. Almost as though the purchase
would spur on the deprogrammers, I became preoccupied with the idea
that the center was being watched. During the day I stood at the front
window surveying the acreage between the center and the woods across
the road. Every car that slowed in front of the house seemed suspicious,
though most were merely preparing for the sharp turn just beyond our
driveway. After a week, my paranoia became acute. I would sit in the
station wagon, idling the engine. When a car seemed to move just a little
too slowly down the road for my comfort, I tore out of the driveway and
followed the vehicle until I had assured myself the occupants weren't
deprogrammers.
       Dorrit became increasingly concerned about my behavior. "Why
don't you lead a team, Commander?" she suggested. "Phil would benefit
from your experience."
       Leading a team. Good idea. I knew this silliness had to stop. The
next day I would take out Phil's team. Long before the teams arrived, I
went strolling through the field behind the house. I often sat out in a
lawn chair at the edge of the property. I would relax, enjoying the
solitude and the late autumn atmosphere. This night, however,
something about the abandoned house next door caught my eye. It could
have been a reflection from one of the fragments of glass that hung from
the windowpanes. Headlights from a passing car, perhaps. But I couldn't
shake the idea that the light had moved with purpose. Another flash of
light confirmed my fear. Someone was inside with a flashlight.
       I walked gingerly toward the back door and quietly entering the
center found Dorrit sitting on the couch mending clothes. "Dorrit, there's
somebody in that house next door. I saw a flashlight."
       She reached for her crutches. "Call the police. No one's supposed
to be there. There are „No Trespassing‟ signs all over that property."
       I tuned off the lights and phoned from a wall unit in the kitchen
where I could keep an eye on the house. The police told me that they
would send someone right away, and sure enough, a few minutes later I
spotted a patrol. The lights went off and the car moved slowly toward the
old house. Dorrit and I stood on the front porch searching the darkness.
When the patrol car was nearly abutting the dilapidated front porch, a
searchlight came on and an officer called out from a megaphone, "Come
out of the house. This is private property."
       Three men emerged, ducking under the front door, which dangled
halfway off its hinges. They stood before the searchlight with their hands
exposed, but not raised in the air. Their body language seem to say,
'what's the matter, officer' even though I could not make out the words
they spoke as two policemen approached. I expected the policemen to
have guns drawn, but they seemed rather casual about the encounter.
As the men spoke to the policemen, one of them gestured toward the
center. The other one produced a document and handed it to the
policemen. There seemed to be laughter. The men shook hands with the
cops and were allowed to get into a black van I had not seen before
parked on the far side of the house. They drove past the police car and
sped off down the highway.
       The police left the abandoned house and pulled into our driveway.
I approached the car as the policeman who had read the document got
out and walked toward me, his heavy boots crunching the gravel.
       "Them men got some kind of court order," the patrolman said.
"They said it was for somebody that lives right here with you. But that
don't give no one permission to trespass on no one's property. I told 'em
that."
        "I appreciate your coming so quickly," I said, patronizing the man,
who I believed at that point had become complicit with the
deprogrammers.
        "Well, like I say. I can get 'em off that property. Don't know what
they will do about the papers. Ain't seen none like 'em before." The officer
spit a wad of tobacco onto the ground. "Now, ya'll 'er them Sunheads
livin' here, ain't ya?
        "The United Family. Yes sir. We're a religious group."
        "They's been people askin' 'bout ya'll at the Grapevine station.
What's this about?"
        I thought for a moment while the policemen continued to stare. I
decided to spell it out for him. "The papers are probably a document that
a judge granted someone's parents. It probably says that the child is
crazy and doesn't know what he‟s doing, and so, the parents need to take
legal custody. Now, officer, you can tell I'm not crazy. And neither is
anyone else here. You'd have to say every religious person was crazy if
you went along with that."
        "Well, I do wonder about them Catholics and Presbyterians." This
was supposed to be humorous. I chuckled ever so slightly. "I‟s a Baptist,
myself." Like I never would have guessed.
        The policeman was becoming uncomfortable. I added a bit more
explanation, saying, "Some parents think it is the right thing to do, to
take an adult child into custody. But we see it as kidnapping, officer."
The pushed the envelope from uncomfortable to apprehensive.
        "Well they's a bunch more I‟d need to know before I honor any
paper like that," the policemen said. He glanced around to the car and
saw that the other policeman was preoccupied, writing on a pad. He
added, quietly, "But I can tell you that the person they's lookin' for goes
by the name of Dorrit something. That was on the paper, if I read it
proper."
        I thanked the officer. He got back into the patrol car and drove
away.

       "Oh my God!" Dorrit exclaimed. She had been listening intently to
my conversation with the officer. "How did my parents find me? I haven't
spoken to them since I left Milwaukee."
       Dorrit‟s anxiety caused her to wobble on her crutches. I helped her
into the center. "They are not getting you," I stated adamantly, as Dorrit
positioned herself on the couch. "Mark my words. When the teams get
back, I'm getting you away from here. That paper must have been a
conservatorship, and it couldn't be legally sound or the police would have
helped them. Those men were waiting for a chance to snatch you."
       Dorrit sat up and proclaimed, defiantly, "Over my dead body!"
       I stood watch at the front window, sure the men would return. Not
an hour later, the black van appeared. It passed slowly in front of the
house, first from one direction and ten minutes later from the other.
Occasionally, it would pull into the dead end drive across the highway
and park with the lights off. This continued until the teams began
arriving home around midnight. Nancy's team arrived first. The van had
been parked across the street for nearly thirty minutes by that time.
Soon, Phil's team returned. I explained the situation, and pointed out the
black van to Phil and Nancy. The members gathered around the curtain.
We had the lights off so the culprits could not see us. Everyone had a
suggestion about how to get Dorrit to safety.
       "That van is like a spider, lying in wait," Nancy remarked, peering
through the curtains. "I can't believe these people."
       "The thing is," I said, cutting off debate among the members, "I
don't know what these deprogrammers are capable of and I'm not putting
any of you in jeopardy."
       Ideas ranged from building a human shield in front of the black
van as Dorrit and I drove away, to carrying Dorrit three miles along a
wooded path that led to Grapevine - then get a taxi to the airport.
       In the end, I decided on a plan of my own. Pointing to one of the
brothers, I said, "You get Dorrit's things, including her crutches, and put
them into the station wagon. When I give the word, Phil, you and Nancy
carry Dorrit and put her into the passenger seat. Start the car and leave
the driver's door open. I'll be right there. Okay?"
       "What are you going to do?" Dorrit asked. "Outrun them?"
       "Sort of," I said. "Trust me."
       With Dorrit's belongings were secured, I signaled, "Okay, get Dorrit
into the car." Nancy and Phil lifted Dorrit and started off. I ran to my
room, grabbed the rifle, and dashed out door. I jumped behind the wheel
and screeched away before I'd even shut the door. A cloud of dust
obscured the host of member‟s faces crowding the window and open
door.
       "Wahoo!" I yelled.
       Dorrit screamed. "What are you doing?" But I was already across
the street, sliding to a halt in front of the van. I had never turned on the
headlights. Now I put them on high and lurched from the van as I cocked
the rifle. The headlights shone onto the terrified faces of three rough-
hewn men. I pointed the gun right at them.
       "Leave us alone, you sons of bitches!" I screamed. "I'm sick of it. Go
back to the hell you came from." Adrenaline flowing, I fired into the air.
The men leaped over themselves into the back of the van. BLAM! BLAM!
BLAM! BLAM! The rifle echoed through the neighborhood as I shot out all
four tires. I ran to the station wagon and laid the gun on the backseat.
The car reeked of spent gunpowder. I backed onto the highway and raced
toward the airport.
       "They won't be following us now," I proclaimed.
       Dorrit had been cowering on the floor. She lifted herself up and
scanned the dark road behind us. All she could utter was the one
syllable, “Wow." We drove on in silence. I wasn't sure I'd done the right
thing, nor did I know what the consequences would be, but at least I
would get Dorrit to safety.
       At the entrance to the airport, just after I'd paid the entry toll,
Dorrit relaxed and started to laugh. "Did you see their faces? Oh my God,
they must have wet their pants!"
       We both exploded in laughter. "I've never done anything like that.
It must be something in the Texas air!"
       "Cowboys," Dorrit said. "I'm going to miss these cowboys. It infects
a person."
       We drove calmly along the airport causeway. "Okay Dorrit. I've got
to ask Kawazaki where to send you. Where would you like to go?"
       "How about San Francisco? At least it doesn't get cold in San
Francisco."
       "Great," I said. "The Commander there is a good man."
        I parked at the Braniff Terminal, an airline I was sure would have
flights to California that late at night. I called Kawazaki. Luckily, he was
home. He agreed to the plan. I didn't tell him all the details, just that it
was a „Texas-style‟ getaway.
       Dorrit's plane didn't leave until two o'clock in the morning. I stayed
with her until it departed. We couldn't stop talking about the shootout.
Before heading back to the center, I telephoned, imagining that the police
would be there with a warrant for my arrest. Nancy answered.
       "Commander!" she screeched. "Are you all right? We can barely
stand the suspense."
       "Everything's fine. Dorrit's on her way out of the state.”
       "Those guys, Commander!" Nancy said loudly, half laughing. "They
ran down the road after you tore out, scared as rabbits. I cant believe
you shot out their tires!"
       Nancy announced to the members that Dorrit was safe. Cheers of
Mansei! reverberated across the phone line.
       "Any sign of the police?”
       "Nope. Just a tow truck," Nancy said. "The men came back with
one and hauled away the van."
       "Good riddance. Just in case they come back, Nancy, why don't
you and Phil stay up until I get there. Make sure the members get to bed,
though."
       "They really want to see you, Commander. It won't take long to for
you to get here. Can't they wait up?"
       "Sure. Okay," I said.
       As soon as I parked, the members rushed out and circled the car.
Phil and Nancy hoisted me on their shoulders. Everyone shouted Mansei!
over and over again. When the captains set me down, I went to the car
and took out the gun.
      "A salute to Dorrit," I shouted, firing three times into the air.
Defiantly, I held the rifle aloft in one hand and shouted, "A new
beginning to the Texas region."
      The members cheered again.
      After that night, I heard no more mention of Stanley. I was their
Commander now.

				
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