After the Apocalypse
Chapter 118: Facing The Truth

by Mark Bollman--> and Steve Donohue

The Deacon paced back and forth across his tiny office. Where were his men? Surely by now they had accomplished their mission. Even with the weather getting worse, they'd had enough time to get there, do what needed to be done, and make it back-but it had been more than a day since he'd sent them off. Maybe, he thought, he should have backed off his "no tools" edict and sent them with a two-way radio so he could keep updated on their progress and their triumph.

The notion that things might have gone badly was one he had been fighting to keep out of his mind-yet with every passing hour, he was more and more forced to confront that possibility. Deep down, he knew that he hadn't been completely truthful about what resistance might be facing his invasion force. He hadn't deliberately lied, but he knew in his heart that he was guilty of embellishing the few facts that he did know in his zeal to get a team inside the Scout camp. While he was fairly certain that a mere group of Boy Scouts wouldn't be able to do anything to stop the men he'd sent, every passing hour without their return was a piece of evidence opposing that theory.

As he looked around the room, the Deacon caught a glimpse of his face in a mirror, and he was disgusted by what he saw. He was no longer a leader; he was, at best, a fraud. If he had sent men into danger under false pretenses-and he was beginning to fear that he had-he was guilty of a rather grave sin.

Sin. He knew that that was the right word, and thus he knew what he had to do. Taking the well-worn Bible from his desk, he fell to his knees before the window and began to pray.

"God in heaven, You know that I am Your humble servant, seeking to do Your will and lead Your people away from this place, as You have instructed me." He paused, not knowing-and at the same time, knowing-what to say next.

"Yet I have failed them, and in so doing, have failed You. I sent five good men off on a personal quest, without full knowledge of the danger they faced. I let the murder of my son divert me from the task at hand-from Your task."

"I am not worthy of Your divine aid, and yet I must come to You. Lord, have mercy on Your servant, and bring my men-Your men-back to me swiftly and safely. In thanks for Your divine consideration, we shall quicken our efforts to leave this place, and I shall work to regain Your trust and to do Your will in Your creation." He closed his eyes tightly and knelt in silence, praying for the safety of his men and to be worthy of his God.

A knock at the door snapped the Deacon out of his reverie, and he scrambled to get to his feet. Bob Brennan walked in without waiting to be invited.

"Any word, Bob?"

"Nothing, I'm afraid, Deacon. They're not back yet."

The news was both delivered and received calmly, as it was not unexpected to either man. In the moment of awkward silence that followed, the Deacon came to a decision.

"Sit down, Bob. There's something that we must do," he said quietly.

Brennan was surprised by the Deacon's actions. He had come with the news only because he'd drawn the short straw among the men who were keeping watch, as none volunteered to deliver the update and risk their leader's ire directly.

"Bob, the time has come for us to move. There's nothing left for us in Lapeer. I have failed us in my obsession with finding Nick's killers. I have let my personal agenda distract me from what the Lord has called me to do, to lead our people-His people-away from this place." He looked down as he spoke, his words barely audible, but his new commitment certain. "I can't let my people stay in danger while I use our limited resources in a selfish personal quest. Five good men went out there, and none have returned."

"Are you saying we should leave before they get back?"

"We'll see what happens. It could be that they're on their way and will be back here before nightfall. If so, no problem. If not, well, we can kill two birds with one rock."

"How's that?"

"Running parallel to 24, and less than a mile east, there's an access road that runs through the Boy Scout camp. We can take a quick detour that way, make camp for the night, and investigate what's really going on there. In the morning, we'll be on our way, one way or another."

"I beg your pardon, sir, but wouldn't that be putting everyone in danger, not just the five men?"

"No, no. I'm not suggesting another invasion. Just a little visit to look around and get our guys out."

That sounded to Brennan like the dictionary definition of "invasion", but he saw no value in contradicting his leader now. His mind was clearly made up, and the month since the bombing had led Brennan to realize that challenging him when he was like this was pointless at best and personally dangerous at worst.

"Bob, I know what you're thinking. It's over. I can't waste any more time obsessing over Nick. If the men have found his killer by now, that's fine-but if not, that's it for that chapter of this adventure. I made a major mistake when I let myself be dominated by this one little matter. I have asked the Lord for forgiveness, and now I must atone for my sins-by rededicating myself to moving our people to the land that He will provide for us."

"What about 'an eye for an eye', Deacon?"

Whateley sighed-he'd had this conversation many times in his life. "Read your Bible, Bob. That passage has been misinterpreted many times and in many places. It's not a call for violence. What that says is that any retributive act should be proportionate."

"Sort of a 'let the punishment fit the crime' kind of thing, you mean?"

"Precisely. If an eye is lost, the Bible says it's not okay to take a life in return. And while Nick's life is over, and the Bible suggests that taking his killer's life might be acceptable, I see no point in continuing this quest. My obsession has cost us valuable time; I can only hope that it hasn't cost us any more men."

"When do we leave?"

"Just as soon as we can. All of our efforts must now be directed toward the move. If that means staying with warm clothing a bit longer than we'd thought, so it must be. This is what God wants now. If all goes well, we should be on the road in less than a week." As Whateley spoke, he felt his confidence returning-he was doing the right thing again.

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