|Word Count C-7 = 4,576||Montgomery|
“Jerry!” Pierce was surprised to see one of his star players at a police station. “What’re you doing here?”
Jerry stood up as Pierce and Geoff approached him. “It’s sort of a long story, Coach. How come you’re here?”
Pierce stepped to Jerry’s side, placing his hand on the back of his team captain’s neck. “Jerry, this is Doctor Hutton, a friend of Luke Steen....”
“Hi...I’m Geoff,” asserted the optometrist, reaching out his hand to meet Jerry’s. “Pleasure meeting you, Jerry.”
“Likewise. Uh...really sorry about your friend, by the way.” Turning toward Pierce, Jerry raised his eyebrows and spread his open hands apart, indicating his desire to understand why Pierce had come. “So, Coach...?”
“I heard that Darius was brought here a little while ago. I guess he....”
“I know, Coach. He’s being questioned now. His uncle is in there with him, but nobody else is allowed in.” Jerry sat back down on the wooden bench. “They said they may want to question me.”
“Why?” Pierce inquired. “What do you have to do with any of this?”
“Well...I found a note next to Dar’s truck at school this morning. It was from...Raquel.” Jerry studied Pierce’s face carefully to see what reaction these words might bring. They brought none. He continued, “She wrote something about how she and ‘Young’...I don’t know if she meant Coach Young or his wife...hadn’t told anyone about something, how a ‘plant’ of some sort would be made during lunchtime, and something about how once some guy is ‘done in’...then she and Dar could be together.” Jerry thought, If that last part doesn’t cause a change in Coach Nevin’s expression, maybe he and Raquel don’t have anything going after all. It did not.
Pierce posed, “There are other Raquel’s at the school, you know. How do you know the note was from Raquel Lacey?”
“Because the scent of her jasmine perfume was all over it.”
Pierce looked at Geoff. “I wonder if that ‘guy’ could be Luke.”
“Somehow, that’s what I thought when I read the note, Coach.” Jerry stood up again. “I couldn’t find Raquel or Dar anywhere to ask ’em, but I thought I’d better not take any chances. So I gave the note to that cop who was hangin’ around on your floor at school today. I indicated how it might have been possible that Dar was the one who shot Mr. Steen. If so, maybe he...well, maybe he intended to finish what he started. Unfortunately, I guess I was right.”
Geoff strolled across the room to view the pictures on the wall, a display showing all of the officers in that precinct.
“Of course, the rumors flying around the school this morning....”
“Were...that I was the gunman, right?” Pierce crossed his arms and spread his feet apart.
“Well, yeah, Coach...but I didn’t believe ’em...not for a minute. I heard that...well...Raquel told some of her friends this weekend that she wouldn’t be surprised if you had shot the guy. She said you were acting really weird or somethin’ when she went to see you after the game to ask if she could get an extension on her science project.” Jerry looked Pierce straight in the eyes. “’Course, that’s not exactly what it looked to me like she was doin’.”
Pierce tilted his head slightly, squinting his eyes questioningly. “What do you mean?”
“Well, Coach...we were in my car after the game, when she said she had to go back in for a meeting with her cheerleading sponsor. She didn’t know I had followed her into the gym. I saw you two...uh, hugging...and then she went into your office.”
“She hugged me, Jerry. And then she stayed only a few minutes, because I told her I wanted to be alone,” Pierce assured him.
A husky policeman, who had been writing at a nearby desk, stood up and approached the duo. “Mr. Nevin, I overheard you indicate that Miss Raquel Lacey was in your office after the game on Friday night. Would you please relate to me what happened and what was said?”
Pierce looked back at Jerry. “Jerry, I...guess you might as well know. Raquel was...well...coming onto me in my office. She didn’t touch me after the hug. We just talked, and then I told her to go console you on your loss.”
“So you two never...‘had anything going’?”
“No, Jerry...not at all. That just wouldn’t happen.”
Jerry took a deep breath. “You don’t know what a relief it is to hear you say that, Coach. When I was at the foul line at the end of the game, I saw her...uh...starin’ at you. I was so confused and upset that I blew both my free throws.” Pierce placed his hand on Jerry’s shoulder.
“Mr. Nevin...what did Miss Lacey say to you in your office Friday night?” the officer demanded.
Pierce turned toward the cop. “Uh, let’s see...Raquel indicated that Jerry here—he’s her boyfriend—was disappointed over losing the game.”
Jerry remarked, “‘Disappointed’ wasn’t the half of it....”
“And then?” the officer insisted.
“Well, uhm...then she sat on my desk in her classic ‘pose.’”
Jerry nodded his head. He knew her trademark sitting posture well.
“I walked over to the door and opened it wide. Then I told her that she should go be with Jerry”—Pierce briefly compressed Jerry’s triceps in his strong hand—“to encourage him because we had lost the game....”
“I lost the game,” Jerry reprimanded himself. The massive policeman glared momentarily at Jerry.
Pierce continued, “So then Raquel slid off the desk and came over to the door. I didn’t know whether she was gonna hug me again or hit me. She didn’t do either; she just stood there for a few seconds...hoping I could change my mind, I guess. I went back to my chair behind my desk. Then she said something about my having ‘lost more than a big game.’ She also mumbled that I didn’t have time for her like I did for Andrea Young, a teacher at school. Oh, and there’s nothing going on between us, either. Then she left.”
“Anything else you recall about your encounter with Miss Lacey?”
“No, that’s about it.” Pierce made a quick round-trip to the water fountain a few feet away. “Say, can you tell me anything about Darius Frey?”
The cop glanced around, as though checking to make sure no one else was listening. “After Jerry here showed us the note from Raquel to Darius, we posted an officer inconspicuously in the ICU. Late this afternoon, Darius was observed suspiciously entering the ICU immediately after a nurse exited, before the doors closed. He went directly to Mr. Steen’s room. As he was apprehended, he was withdrawing a forty-five-caliber revolver—with a silencer attached—from a white plastic bag he had carried in with him.”
“So, the gun was fingerprinted,” Pierce inferred.
“Oh, yes. Darius’ thumbprint was removed from the left side of the handle. Traces of someone else’s thumbprint were detected on the right side. He’s not being very cooperative; he won’t say whose gun it is. He’ll probably be released to his uncle, pending his arraignment in a coupla days.”
“Darius...!” exclaimed Jerry, looking at Pierce. “What was going through that guy’s head?”
“I sure wish I knew.” Pierce sighed and then directed his next question at the policeman. “Do you need us for anything else?”
“I believe Detective Turner wants to confirm a few things with Jerry—it shouldn’t be too much longer, Jerry—but we don’t need anything more from you at the moment, Mr. Nevin.” Geoff had been sitting in a nearby chair and chose that moment to rejoin the group. “After we question the Young’s and Miss Lacey, though, we may be contacting you again.”
Geoff noted, “Then this new development pretty much takes Pierce here off of the suspect list, doesn’t it?”
“I...would think so,” agreed the officer circumspectly.
“So, can Geoff expect to receive back his bail money?” asked Pierce.
“I imagine so. You should be hearing about that tomorrow, Doctor Hutton. Let me take your work and home phone numbers right now.”
“You want some coffee?” Pierce asked as he and Geoff re-entered his living room.
“Yeah, sure, if you’re gonna make some.” Geoff picked up the plates and silverware, which they had left on the coffee table, and took them in to the kitchen sink. “While you guys were talking at the station, I was looking at the photos on the wall of the police officers. Lieutenant Müller is gorgeous.”
“I know,” replied Pierce. “My heart was racing and my mouth was dry the whole time I was there, because I kept thinking she was gonna walk in the room. I was afraid I’d turn into a blithering idiot if she did.”
Geoff laughed loudly. “It sounds like this charming lady has you wrapped around her little finger...and she doesn’t even know it!”
“Scary, isn’t it?” Pierce opened the freezer door. “Hey, Geoff, you want some chocolate-almond frozen yogurt...fat-free?”
“My favorite! You’re gonna have me wrapped around your little finger if you keep feeding me!” Geoff slugged Pierce lightly on the arm.
Pierce scooped out the dessert liberally into two large bowls and added the spoons. The two went back to the livingroom. Pierce sat on the floor, with his legs under the coffee table, while Geoff sat in a chair facing him. “I guess you’ll be going to the hospital after work tomorrow, huh Geoff?”
“Yeah, and I’ll be calling during the day to see how Luke’s doin’. It’s funny...I keep having this definite peace of mind about him, like everything’s gonna be OK.” Geoff picked up the bottle of hot sauce, still sitting on the table, unscrewed the cap, and turned the bottle sideways over his frozen yogurt. He squinted at Pierce, as though having taken the yogurt hostage.
“No way, guy!” Pierce exclaimed.
“Just kiddin’!” Geoff grinned and put the cap back on the bottle. “On the other hand, I don’t know about that Frey kid. He seems sorta lost.”
The smile disappeared from Pierce’s face. “I know. I think he’s had a pretty hard life growing up. I don’t want him to go to prison for this, because that’ll really harden him.”
“So, what?...you’re saying you forgive him?”
“Yeah...I...just can’t hold it against him. I know he’s a good kid.”
“You’ve got a very big heart, Pierce.” Geoff picked up the Bible again. “And you’re demonstrating one of the first ‘gifts of the Holy Spirit’: mercy. There are fifteen in all.” He read from Romans 12:6–8: “We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching”—Geoff briefly glanced up at Pierce—“let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy,”—Geoff looked up again—“let him do it cheerfully.”
“You said there were more of these...‘gifts.’ Like what?”
“Well,” continued Geoff, “the rest are listed in First Corinthians 12:8–10. The gift of ‘prophecy’ is listed again here. It, along with some of the others I will mention, are, should I say, controversial.”
“In what way?”
“Remember when I told you about the day of ‘Pentecost,’ which is the same day as the Jewish Shavuot?”
“Well, some Christians believe that certain spiritual gifts, poured out on that day, were given only to the disciples and apostles of Jesus at that time. That is, when they died, the gifts died with them.”
“So...is that what you believe, Geoff?”
“No. I believe God’s Holy Spirit can and does bestow supernatural gifts upon people...even now. It seems like those who have not received a certain gift or gifts, typically, are the ones who claim that such gifts are not for today.” Geoff set his empty bowl on the table. “The remaining gifts may be grouped into three categories, each comprising three gifts: Revelation, including ‘word of wisdom,’ ‘word of knowledge,’ and ‘distinguishing among spirits’; Power, including ‘faith,’ ‘healing,’ and ‘working of miracles’; and Utterance, including ‘prophesying,’ ‘speaking in tongues,’ and ‘interpreting tongues.’”
“Have you received some of these gifts?” Pierce inquired. “And do you want another scoop of dessert? I’m gettin’ more for myself.”
“Yes, please.” Geoff followed Pierce into the kitchen. “Notice that ‘faith’ is a gift of God. In other words, no one can believe in God, nor in the necessity of His Son’s sacrifice to atone for our sins, unless God gives him or her the faith to do so. I believe this same faith also involves trusting God to lead one’s life better than one can lead his or her own life.”
“Well...I guess I could liken my relationship with God as similar, in many ways, to my dog, Penny’s, relationship with me. The way I wish for her to treat me is the way God wants me to treat Him, and the way she wants for me to treat her is the way I wish for God to treat me.”
“You don’t think God looks at us as....”
“Dogs? No, no...not at all,” Geoff chuckled. But I think He often uses people’s pets, and also their kids, to show them how important it is to submit to certain rules without, necessarily, an explanation as to why. For instance, I have trained Penny to be very obedient. Now, unlike all of her doggie friends, she rarely is on a leash. She doesn’t stray from me when we walk. Even if she does, she doesn’t bother anybody. So I let her have her freedom ninety-nine percent of the time.”
“Makes sense,” nodded Pierce.
If, for some reason, I abruptly need to put her on a leash—like when a mean-looking dog is coming—or I tell her not to cross the street before I do, she stops and waits patiently. I think she implicitly trusts and obeys me, because she respects me and wants to maintain a good relationship with me.”
“So you’re saying that, ideally, we should strive to adhere to God’s rules and wishes to keep a good relationship with Him.”
“Yeah. Like, for instance, one way is demonstrating ‘patience’ when we feel He is indicating, via our conscience, that He wants us to do one thing when we want to do another. Innately, I am very impatient, not to mention headstrong. I often do things impulsively rather than patiently wait for Him to direct what I should do.
Pierce smiled and pointed to himself, as if he were including himself in the same “boat.”
After all, He’s the only one who can see down the corridor of time in front of me to know what’s coming, similar to the way I can see a mean dog coming or a car approaching a block away when, often, Penny cannot. So He is the only one who is worthy of being trusted to show us the right things to do and paths to take. There are scores of examples I could give you demonstrating how Penny has shown me how to be more cognizant of God and His wishes. But, as I often do, I’ve branched off from whatever we were talking about...spiritual gifts, wasn’t it?”
Pierce chuckled. “Yeah, that.” They returned to the living room.
“Anyway, the gift of faith, I have. I also believe I have the gift of discerning, in most cases, whether a good or an evil entity—if any—is behind a certain deed or event. Luke seems to possess the talents of being able to resolve and solve everyday problems for himself and others—‘word of wisdom’—and, also, of knowing things about God and about others, like personalities, motives, and thoughts, which are not known by ordinary means—‘word of knowledge.’”
“Have you ever spoken in tongues like they did on the day of Pentecost?”
“No. Never. Nor have I healed anyone supernaturally, worked a miracle, prophesied, or interpreted someone else’s speaking in tongues. But that doesn’t mean that there are not other people, today, with these gifts.”
“Hmm...interesting.” Pierce walked over to straighten the mirror hanging in front of the safe. Looking into the mirror, he reflected aloud, “I wonder if I possess any of these gifts. How could I know?”
“Well, we know you have the gift of faith, because you’ve accepted Jesus as your Lord and Savior. As for any others, I would say that you should pray about them. Ask God to dispense to you any gifts that He has for you, so that you can perform them...with His glory and honor in mind.” Geoff looked at his watch. “Hey, you know, I didn’t realize it was so late. Penny may have had a little ‘accident’ on my carpet by now, just to spite me! Unfortunately, she can’t trust me to look after her best interests all of the time, as God can be trusted to look after ours.”
Pierce carried the dishes to the kitchen and started rinsing them off. “So, what time’re you coming over tomorrow?”
Geoff walked in and stood next to Pierce, figuring he had misunderstood what his friend had said. “Excuse me? I don’t think I caught that.”
“Oh, sorry...I had the water running, so you probably couldn’t hear me clearly. I asked what time you would be coming over tomorrow to give me a ride to work.” Pierce smiled. “I hate to ask what you think I said!”
“Uh-oh...get ready for this one: It sounded like you said, ‘What kind of hummingbird does the mumbo?’! For a second I thought, ‘Wow, that’s the weirdest science experiment I’ve ever heard of!’”
Pierce and Geoff had a good, hearty laugh, then exchanged thank-you’s and good-bye’s. As Geoff departed, Pierce felt lucky to have a friend who had fed him spiritually—and Geoff a friend who had fed him physically.
Before retiring, Pierce got on his knees next to his bed. “Lord, thank you for Geoff’s friendship, and thank you that I no longer am a suspect in Luke’s shooting. Please cause the truth about this entire situation to be revealed, and...please heal Luke...so that he and I might become...friends. And...if you would allow me to have a spiritual gift or two, I’d like to glorify you and honor you with whatever you might give me. In the Name of Jesus, I ask these things. Amen.” Once in bed, something in Pierce’s spirit seemed to urge him to be willing to be God’s tool to help Luke. He did not understand the feeling; but he thought, I am willing, Lord Jesus. At that moment, a small tremor shook the room; but he was not afraid.
“So...a star’s ‘accretion disk,’ swirling around the star in a plane perpendicular to its axis of rotation, is composed of gas and debris, which congeal into...what?” Pierce called on Miss Nguyen, sitting directly behind Raquel Lacey.
“I would say...planets and moons.”
Raquel had not looked at Pierce once during the entire period. At that particular moment, she was looking at the door. Turning his head, Pierce caught a glimpse of Steven Young outside the door, as he disappeared from sight.
“Very good. Anything else?” Pierce scanned the room. “Mr. Shea?”
“How about asteroids and comets?”
“Asteroids, yes, but probably not comets. Comets most likely originate from outside of a solar system. They’re attracted by the star’s gravitational pull and sling-shot around the star at one tip of their highly elliptical orbits.”
Raquel stared at the floor. If Pierce ever had sensed contempt, it was in this young lady. What is going through her head? he wondered.
“Now, it might be expected that the largest planets would form close to a star, with the smallest planets forming further away from it. But, as we know, this isn’t the case in our own solar system. Interestingly, the large outer planets—Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune—attract and ‘take direct hits’ from such things as comets, many of which might otherwise crash into the small, inner planets—Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars. Recall, in July of 1994, when huge chunks of the Shoemaker-Levy 9 Comet crashed into Jupiter.” Pierce detected a waving hand. “Yes, Mr. Hogerty?”
“It’s almost as if a ‘higher Source’ suspended the normal laws of physics so that the earth could be protected from stuff flying through space....”
The bell rang as Pierce nodded, and the classroom emptied quickly. For the rest of the morning, Pierce had a gnawing feeling in his spirit that Luke’s life or death was in his hands. After the last class of the morning, he called the hospital to get an idea of Luke’s condition. A nurse said Luke was stable. Pierce then tried to reach Geoff at work, but he had gone to lunch. He left a message with Tom, informing him that he would be going to the hospital after his first afternoon class was over and requesting that Geoff meet him there when he could.
Pierce glanced at the clock on the back wall; it was 1:23. “So a comet is a celestial body that consists of a central icy mass with a long tail of dust and gas. Orbiting the sun along a highly eccentric course, its tail points away from the sun. How many of you, in March, saw the rare, twin-tailed, Hale-Bopp Comet, along with Mars—both at their nearest points to earth—on the same night of a lunar eclipse?” About half the students raised their hands. “Does anybody know when Halley’s Comet is expected to travel by us again?”
Before Pierce had time to call upon anyone, the principal announced over the public address system, “Attention, please! Attention, please! Everyone must leave the building in a calm, orderly manner. This is not a drill; I repeat, it is not a drill!” According to drill procedure, Pierce had the students file to the door, row by row, and then exit the room, in single file, to the nearest staircase. Pierce turned out the lights, closed the door, and exited last.
Outside, he was told by Billy Stillinger that there had been a bomb scare and that school had been dismissed for the day. Pierce confirmed this with two other teachers. Entering his car, he happened to notice a cop standing not far away—looking straight at Pierce. Next to the officer was a student whom Pierce did not know. She was pointing at Pierce as he drove away.
As Pierce turned into the hospital parking lot, he saw the lights from more than one patrol car flashing a few blocks behind him. He parked and headed for the front door. Sirens were approaching. Inside the hospital, Pierce’s heart raced as he jogged to the ICU. He was surprised to find Geoff, sitting just outside of Luke’s room, in which numerous doctors and nurses were gathered around Luke’s bed.
As the medical staff withdrew, Geoff explained to Pierce what had happened. “They called me when Luke’s condition worsened, right after lunch.” His voice was shaky. “Almost ten minutes ago, Luke went into cardiac arrest.”
Dr. Cohen approached. “Geoff, atropine had to be injected directly into Luke’s heart to restart it. However, I must inform you that this remedy will be only temporary. In a few minutes, Luke can be expected to arrest again.” Dr. Cohen placed his hand on Geoff’s upper arm. “As Luke’s appointed agent for medical decisions, you must give your consent, either to have Luke’s heart reactivated with atropine or to allow Luke to leave us. I’m afraid there is nothing we can do to restart his heart permanently.”
Geoff was devastated. “This is the hardest decision I’ve ever had to make.” He sat down. “I’m afraid that...barring a miracle...I’m going to have to let him go.” Interlocking the fingers of both hands together, he rested his face on them and held back the tears. Dr. Cohen said that he agreed with Geoff’s decision and gave him two forms to sign. After Geoff signed them, the doctor said that Geoff and Pierce could go to be with Luke.
The two men stood on opposite sides of Luke’s bed. Geoff held Luke’s hand; Pierce kept his hands in his pockets. Both had a difficult time accepting what was happening. Geoff finally spoke. “Luke, I hope you can hear me, pal. We're gonna have to”—he swallowed—“let you go now.”
Pierce looked on, pursing his lips tightly.
Through his tears Geoff continued, “Pierce Nevin is here. He’s found the Lord. You know we’re all gonna be friends, Luke...forever.” Geoff sniffled once, then again. “But you’re gonna lead the way, OK buddy? And you just wait there for us, because you know we’ll be there eventually. I envy you, Luke, ’cause you’re...”—he took a deep breath between sobs—“gonna be with Jesus now.”
Pierce no longer could hold back the tears. Grasping Luke’s remaining hand with one of his, he expressed, “Luke, it’s Pierce. Geoff’s right. And our friendship in heaven will more than make up for all that we’ve missed out on here. Thanks for telling me about Jesus, Luke.” A tear rolled off of Pierce’s face and splashed onto Luke’s hand. “Your effort wasn’t wasted. I know Him now. I really know Him!”
A shrill alarm on the machine began to sound, as the pulse indicator on Luke’s heart monitor became erratic. Less than a minute later, it flatlined, just as Dr. Cohen and two nurses—along with three policemen—appeared at the doorway. One of the officers informed Pierce, “Mr. Nevin, I’m going to have to place you under arrest for planting a bomb in the classroom of Mrs. Andrea Young at Foothill High School.”
Geoff looked at Pierce in disbelief. Pierce let go of Luke’s hand and wiped both eyes simultaneously with his fists. He looked at Luke’s pitiful face, the useless tubes emerging from his nose and mouth. For a moment, he wondered if this sight would haunt him for the rest of his life.
Two officers moved toward Pierce, and one took out a set of handcuffs. Suddenly, the IV bottles began swaying, then clinking against their metal stands. Pierce felt like he was standing atop a rubber raft on a wavy swimming pool. This has to be the biggest aftershock yet! crossed his mind. A supply table on wheels jolted forward and struck the officer holding the handcuffs, just as he was reaching for Pierce’s arm. Grabbing the side of the bed, his cuffs dropped to the floor. Geoff never let go of Luke’s hand.
Pierce looked up at the shifting ceiling as an inaudible “voice” spoke to his spirit: You’re my tool, Pierce. You know what to do. Reflexively, Pierce laid both of his hands flat on Luke’s motionless chest and shouted, “In the Name of Jesus...I insist that you will live and not die!” The shaking abated and then stopped. Luke continued to lay lifeless and still. The heart monitor exhibited no change. Geoff stared at Pierce, not at all amazed, nor even surprised, at Pierce’s sudden proclamation.
The officer rebalanced himself, picked up his handcuffs, and clasped them onto Pierce’s wrists, behind Pierce’s back. Pierce went with the authorities, without protest or resistance, as an innocent lamb accompanies its slaughterers.