Enemy Within: Chapters 1-4

1

The thunder clapped violently as beads of water ran like tiny rivers down the glass of the only window in the room. With each clap of thunder the glass shook, as did the little table by the bed. On it a single glass of water, and an alarm clock that read 6:00am. The sun began to break through the window allowing one beam to funnel into the room and onto the face of the man trying to squeeze what little sleep he could out of what had been a very restless night.

The night before had been all too common for the weary man. He returned home to an empty apartment. He wasn’t sure what time she came in because she never entered the room. He could hear her move about the apartment as she prepared for work early that morning.

He remembered their last conversation the day before. He couldn’t believe that they had fought about an issue as meaningless as the cutting board being left out on the counter, but it had happened. In fact it seemed like an uncontrollable avalanche. He couldn’t recall how it started but he was unable to stop it as the argument soon moved from an out of place cutting board to every hurtful thought or word from their marriage.

 

Again the thunder clapped, the man, John Larson, stirred in bed. He pulled the pillow over his face not wanting to move from what was seemingly the only peaceful place in his life at the moment. He slung the pillow over to her side of the bed as he turned his head and stared at it, unmoved, undisturbed, unslept in for… what was it now? Two, three, four nights? He could not recall an exact number.

He sat up and rested his elbows against his knees as he tried to rub the last of the sleep from his eyes. With the scratch of his head and a deep sigh he stood up and walked over to the window. He reached for the light tan curtain that shaded the room and pulled it back in one violent motion. The funnel of light that had been peeking through now flooded the room.

His window faced a stoplight at what was one of the busiest intersections in town. Middletown, California, they had come here seeking a new life. They had both grown up in the same small town, they knew all the same friends and they graduated from the same high school, but now they wanted something different. They sought adventure, they sought to meet new friends and experience life in the big, well, bigger city than they had come from.

They came here happy, in love, and ready for whatever faced them. But what faced them was a stalled job market, a down economy, and hard decisions. Their laughter often turned to tears, their looks of love to looks of anger, their happy talks to bouts of fighting.

 

“What happened?” He said to himself in a hushed tone. If only he could figure out where it had gone wrong, perhaps then he could get it back on track. He sighed as he walked away from the window and headed for the living room. His mind running through the events of the last conversation they had.

“I suppose,” he thought to himself out loud. “Conversation is a relative term… fight is more like it.” Fight is all they seemed to do these days. He grabbed a banana off the counter as he walked out of the room and sat on the couch. As he ate he tried to make sense of what had been going on in his life.

As he turned his head toward the kitchen, John saw a piece of paper on the refrigerator and got up to see what it said. He pulled it off the magnet and opened it slowly, bracing himself for what it may say.

“Dear Johnny,

Went to work early and working a double. Lunch and dinner are in the fridge, not sure when or…”

He turned the note over several times to see if he missed something. He had not. The note stopped but he was afraid to guess what was missing, what wasn’t said. He had worked so hard to brace himself for what would be said, he had not considered it might be the silence that scares him the most.

 

“Not sure when or if I’ll be home.” He said out loud. He knew what she wasn’t saying and yet her silence gave him a glimmer of hope. “She didn’t say it,” he kept saying out loud. “There is hope, as long as she doesn’t say those words.”

As he stared blankly at the note he was startled by the ring of the phone. He walked over to the table by the entertainment center and picked up the phone. “Hello?”

“Is this John? John Larson?”

“Yes it is… may I help you?”

“My name is Alan Thompson, I’m the owner for Middletown Security. I have an application on my desk that you filled out.”

“Yes sir.”

“Are you still in the market for a job?”

“Yes sir!” Was John’s quick, and somewhat overeager response.

“Well, I have some free time in about an hour if you can make it in for an interview.”

“Oh yes sir I can be there. In an hour did you say?”

“Yeah that would be fine.”

 

“Great sir, I will be there.”

“Fine, see you then, goodbye.”

“Goodbye” he said as he dropped the phone onto its hook. He had not been called back on an application in several months and didn’t want to be late for this one.

He grabbed his nicest shirt and tie and jumped into the shower. He knew he had only a short time to get ready. Within thirty minutes he was out of the shower, dressed and heading for the front door. As he opened the door he stopped and turned around and headed back to the kitchen. He took out a piece of note paper and wrote,

“Dear Jen,

Got called in for an interview, hopefully circumstances are changing on the job front. Hope they can on the marriage front as well. Miss you and look forward to seeing you soon.

Love,

Johnny”

With that he was out the door, and headed down the stairs toward his car. He had a prayer in his heart and for the first time in a long time a smile on his face.

___

“Why can’t you put things away like you’re supposed to? Why is everything my responsibility?”

“Maybe because you can’t let anything go, I mean, so the cutting board is out so what? Maybe you should learn to lighten up a little.”

“It’s not the cutting board, it’s the fact that I have worked all day and you still can’t take care of little things around here. It’s the fact you don’t care, it’s the fact that you’re selfish! Sometimes I just… I just hate you!”

The bus hit a pothole and rattled down the road as Jenifer Larson was startled awake. She sat up in her seat as she realized the bus was nearing her stop. She pulled the rope the heard the ding of the bell notifying the driver she wished to get off.

The bus came to a screeching stop as the bus driver called out, “Whipple and Main!”

Jenifer grabbed her purse, stood up and headed toward the rear door of the bus,

“Have a good day lady,” the driver called out. She stopped, smiled and nodded as she exited the door and headed toward her work.

She started up the street her mind still running through the events of the last few days. Why were things so bad? Was it his continued job problems? Was it the way he expected her to do everything after working long shifts? “No,” she said to herself. It isn’t that at all.”

As she stood waiting for the walk light to come on in the middle of a crowd of thirty, or maybe thirty-five people, she realized what was bothering her.

“Jen!” Came the shout from the excited voice. Jenifer could hear it but she could not see anyone in the crowd that surrounded her. As the light turned and the crowd moved she was pulled right along with the flow of bodies across the intersection.

“Jen!” Came the voice again. “Jen wait up! Wait for me!”

Jenifer turned and immediately her face lit up as she recognized the person coming toward her.

“Amy!” She shouted back.

Amy was a friend and co-worker of Jenifer’s at the hospital. Amy was a Certified Nurse’s Assistant that worked on the same unit as Jenifer. When she began at the hospital Amy was the first to welcome her and make her feel at home.

Amy was well known around the hospital and very popular. She was known for always wearing bright scrubs and was nicknamed “sunshine” by all of the staff in their unit. She got the nickname from the patients who always filled out their evaluations and called her their little ray of sunshine on a dark day.

 

She stood about five foot four inches tall with bright blue eyes and dark blonde hair. Her makeup always matched her scrubs and he was known for her bright sunshine earrings which she got to go with her nickname.

She was the most cheerful of all the staff and Jenifer appreciated that, especially going through the hard times that she had been through lately. Amy always seemed to give good advice, even if it was laced with Bible stories. That was the only thing about her that bothered the staff was her constant rants about religion and God.

As the two met, Amy said, “Are you working today? I thought you were off.”

“No,” Jenifer replied with a glance at the ground and an obvious sigh in her words.

“Did you talk to him yet?”

“No… well I mean I tried, but it turned into an argument as always.”

“You need to sit down with him, and maybe with a third party and work things out.” Amy said as she slid her arm over Jen’s shoulders. “It’s going to be ok… if you want it to be ok.”

“I don’t know.” Jen said as she let out a big sigh.

 

“Do you love him? Do you love him?” Amy grabbed Jen by the arm and tugged her to prevent her from walking any further. “I said: do you love him?”

The sudden jolt caught Jen by surprise and she dropped her purse, the contents spilling out on the sidewalk.

“I’m… I’m sorry Jen I didn’t mean to come across harsh, but if you love him then there is always hope. If you don’t, then I don’t know what to tell you.”

Jen was slowly scooping her belongings into her purse when she stopped suddenly. She rested her elbow on her leg and ran her hand across her forehead, rubbing it as she searched for the answer.

“It’s like… it’s like part of me says yes, of course I do, but it’s been so hard lately and I just… I just don’t know…” She broke down in tears.

“Hey,” Amy said as she gently rubbed her friend’s shoulder. “It will be ok, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to pry, and I just care and… I guess… well I’m sorry.”

“No, no it’s… it’s not you” Jen said as she wiped her eyes and stood to her feet. “It’s just everything, and I guess it’s getting to me.” She said as they began to walk toward the hospital again.

 

“I’m going to keep praying for you and I know if…”

“Please Amy” Jen said as she gained her composure. “Please, you know how I feel about the God stuff… I mean its ok for you if it helps you, but I don’t think that’s what I need right now.”

As the conversation died down, they turned the corner and stopped at a crosswalk. “There it is Amy” said Jen, “my god, the place of worship where I spend all my time and find the most joy. St. Catherine’s Hospital.”

As they crossed the street they passed Dr. Johnson, the hospital’s Chief Medical Officer. “Just starting girls?” He asked as their paths crossed. He was a bit older than both of them but very handsome. Not more than six feet tall, with light brown hair that had gray streaks across the sides.

“Yes sir.” They both responded in unison.

“May I walk you to your floor Jenifer? I’m on my way there anyway to deliver some papers.”

“Sure,” Came the surprisingly chipper response from a suddenly smiling Jenifer.

 

2

Sweat rolled down John’s cheek as he waited impatiently to be called in for his interview. He had been out of work so long that his confidence was lacking and he found it almost impossible to stay calm. His hands rubbed nervously together as he stared at the odd painting on the wall directly in front of him.

He couldn’t decide if he liked it or disliked it, but what did that matter? If he didn’t get a job soon he would have to steal the picture and sell it to make some money. “Why would someone paint a picture of a bright pink racing horse and splash yellow dots all over it?” He said to himself as he struggled to get his mind off of the interview about to take place.

The door opened and John stood to his feet as if to greet whoever came from behind it but it was only the secretary returning to her desk from the office. “Do you always stand when a lady enters the room?” She asked with a smile.

John cleared his voice, “only when I think it’s the boss coming through the door” he said nervously as he sat back down in his chair and returned his thoughts to the painting.

 

“What do you think of it?” said the lady behind the desk.

“I don’t think much about it, of course I can’t think much about anything at the moment.”

“Well me personally” she said as she leaned over the desk, “I like conceptual art, this one I think represents…”

“John Larson” came the call from the direction of the door. John looked toward the door and saw a middle aged man holding a file and looking his direction. “Well, I better be going now” he said to the lady behind the desk as he rose from his seat and started for the door.

“Sure, maybe later” she said rather flippantly as she began to file her nails.

John approached the gentleman who stood no more than five feet tall but must have weighed nearly three hundred pounds. The man reached his hand out and said, “Mr. Larson, my name is Alan Thompson, we spoke over the phone earlier this morning.”

John shook his hand and responded, “Sure, thanks for seeing me today.” The two then disappeared down a hallway.

“Have a seat in that office over there” the man said as he pointed John into a small office on the right side of the narrow hallway. “I’ll be right with you.”

 

As John walked in, his attention was immediately drawn to the wall on the right side of the room. He slowly sat down as he gazed over the display of appreciation plaques and commendations from city hall. As he scanned the room his eyes locked immediately on the small brown desk that was connected to the wall.

On the desk was a large golden key with a plate that read, “In appreciation for faithful and fearless work in the protection of city assets, the Middletown City Council proudly bestows upon Middletown Security Service the key to the city.”

His eyes moved to the window just beyond the desk where he noticed a small stream with rock and beautiful grassy slopes. The peacefulness of the scene took his mind away from the nervousness of the moment and for just a moment his burdens and cares felt lighter. For just a moment it seemed that…

“Well John,” the sudden voice broke his concentration away from the outside scene, “I have reviewed your file and I’m impressed at your work experience.” The small hefty man took his seat behind the desk.

 

He leaned back in his chair so far it seemed it would collapse from under him. He scratched the side of his face, “I must ask one question though” he said as he rubbed his hand over the top of his buzzed hair, “what brought you to Middletown?”

“Well…” he started before being interrupted.

 

“I mean you had steady work and had climbed the ladder if you will… yet you up and move here and have had a long period of nothing.”

“Well I guess you could say sir….”

“Call me Alan, I still work for a living you know”

“Yes sir, I mean Alan,” He coughed nervously before continuing. “My wife and I grew up in the same small town, went to the same high school and saw the same things every day. We saw the same people… and well to be quite honest we were sick of it so we both quit our jobs and decided to move to a different… and well frankly, bigger, city.”

“I understand,” the man said as he leaned yet further back in his chair scratching his belly. “You hoped for a new exciting life but somehow it never got off the ground.”

“Yes sir… I mean Alan, things just haven’t materialized for us and although my wife got a job right away… a nursing job, I haven’t been so lucky. It’s brought a strain on our finances, and well… on our relationship as well.”

“I understand,” he said softly as he set his glasses on the desk. He leaned forward and picked up the file in front of him and opened it up. He leaned back in his chair as he read the file, “I can tell you this much, I need someone quick, and you’re the most qualified man I have interviewed so far… and with what you shared, I am willing to bet you’re honest too.”

 

“Well I try to be, I mean this kind of work is built on the foundation of trust and honesty.”

“You’re right it is,” he said as he grabbed another piece of paper. Examining the paper closely he said, “I have two or three openings you could fill quite easily, but there is one site that we have that is in desperate need.”

“Well,” John said as he adjusted himself in his seat, “I’ll be glad to work anywhere you need me.”

“Glad to hear it. I have an opening at a car dealership in the Auto mall. It seems that thefts in the area have been on the rise and my guards keep quitting on me during their shift. Some even on their first night.”

“Have they given you a reason as to why?”

“No, unfortunately they simply say they can’t work anymore and when the supervisor arrives they find their uniform left behind in the locker. Some haven’t even come in for their last check.”

“Well” John said as he leaned back in his chair “I’ll be glad to give it a shot. I have never left a job while at post and I don’t intend to start with this one.”

“If you’re willing, then I’m willing” the short man said as he stood to his feet offering John a handshake. “You’r e hired son, glad to have you on board.”

 

John stood and met his hand with a firm grip and a smile, “glad to be here, and thank you for the opportunity.”

The door to the small hallway shot open and the two men emerged, the short man having his arm slung across the shoulder of his newest hire. “Karina, can you get Mr. Larson here outfitted with a uniform and a schedule for me? He’ll be taking the 2100hrs to 0500hrs, post at Car City.”

“Sure thing Mr. Thompson,” she said as she stood up and headed down the hall, “follow me, handsome.” She said motioning toward the closet.

 

___

Jenifer Larson made her way into the gate of the Riverside Apartments trying to clear her mind from the 12 hour shift she had just finished. The one bright spot in her day was the single red rose that had been left for her by Dr. Johnson which she now had tucked away in her backpack.

As she approached the stairs leading to her apartment her smile faded as she remembered the burdens that were waiting just beyond that door. Her husband seemed more a stranger to her now, her bills were piling up and she was so far from her family and friends.

As she stopped beside a stream running alongside the path she tried to blame him for taking her so far away from everything she knew and everyone she loved, and yet deep inside she knew that she had been as eager as him to move out here, only now things just hadn’t worked out as planned.

 

As Jenifer climbed the steps she hoped John was in bed already. If so she could just slip in and sleep on the couch. Pacing her steps she traced her hand along the cold railing. She reached the top and took her keys out. Slipping them into the lock she turned the knob as slightly and quietly as possible hoping not to disturb the man she hoped was asleep.

As the door opened it seemed dark which caused her to let out a deep sigh of relief. She pushed the door open a bit more freely and saw the faint glow of candles in the living room. As she entered the room she looked directly across to the dining area and saw a table with food, flowers, and candles. Across the table she saw John sitting with a big smile on his face.

“Good evening Nurse Larson,” he said as he stood to his feet and made his way around the table. He pulled out his chair and said: “won’t you join me in a celebration?”

“What’s the big occasion?” She asked as she dropped her backpack on the couch.

“Well… I got a job today with Middletown Security, and I start tomorrow night. Full time and all.”

“That’s nice” she sighed as she took off her jacket and laid it across the back of the couch.

 

“You don’t seem too excited…” he noted as he leaned over the counter.

“It’s not that I’m not happy for you it’s just…”

“Just what?” he inquired as he stepped towards her.

“It’s just” she said as she stepped back and wiped her hand across her forehead. “So much has happened, and there is so much that I just don’t… well I just don’t feel like celebrating right now.”

“Can we at least talk about it?”

“I don’t think we can right now its late and I just… well I just need to be alone.” She turned and walked into the bedroom shutting the door behind her.

John blew the candles out and sat down to eat his celebratory meal alone. “John Larson, party of one” he said as he sat down. He was not one to pray over his meals, but he was at the end of his rope and had one request.

 

“Lord,” he started before stopping and realizing he wasn’t even sure the person he was talking to existed. “If there is someone listening up there, I need your help. I can’t do this on my own, and I don’t know where to turn. If you’re there… please help me, help my marriage.”

With that he ate his meal in silence before grabbing a blanket and laying on the couch. He stared out the window toward the moon. “If you’re there” he whispered “please help.” And with that, he drifted off to sleep.

 

3

The flowers smelled fresh as John opened his eyes. He looked around taking it all in. As the music began to play he glanced down the aisle of the Briar Avenue Free Methodist Church, the church where he had grown up. The door opened and through it came the most beautiful woman he thought that he would ever see. As the wedding march commenced, she began walking one step at a time toward him.

His heart began to race as beads of sweat ran down his forehead. His left hand began to tap nervously against his leg and his right leg started to bounce. This was it and he was ready. They had been dating throughout high school and they had practically grown up next door to each other.

The bride stepped up on stage and they joined hands. As the minister began to speak, his cell phone started ringing… only it was not the usual ring, but an odd kind of loud ring. As he reached for his pocket everything became a blur and began to fade. John panicked, unsure what was going on… soon he was on the ground as the room became black.

John opened his eyes and stared up at the white ceiling, the loud ringing still sounded throughout the room. He reached for his pocket and soon realized that he had no cell phone on him and he was not in his old church. Turning his head to the left, he saw the time on the alarm clock read 8:00PM. He hit the button to silence the alarm and could hardly believe the reality of the dream he had just had.

The wedding was long over, the closeness he had once felt to Jenifer was fading fast. He sat up in bed, rested his elbows on his knees and rubbed the last of the sleep from his eyes. As he laid back in bed and ran his hands over his head he thought back to last night. The strain on their relationship was worse than even he had imagined.

He recalled going to sleep on the couch and waking up just as Jenifer left for work the next morning. He tried to reach her that day by phone several times but never got an answer. Before going to bed to rest up for his first night on the new job he made one last attempt by calling the hospital line, but with no luck.

As he stood to his feet and headed for the shower he felt as if his relationship with Jenifer was slipping just too far out of reach. He looked in the mirror and wondered who the person was staring back at him. Not only was he a stranger to her but to himself as well. He hoped and prayed as he began to dress for work that this would not only relieve the stress but help him… help them find whatever it was they had lost.

 

___

 

“Can I sit here?”

Jenifer was startled at the loud voice of the person standing next to her. She glanced over and saw a short elderly woman, obviously homeless. She had dirty gray hair and an old worn blue fabric which Jenifer thought to herself must have been a pretty dress at one time, but now clung like old rags to her wrinkled and dirty skin.

“Sure” said Jenifer, a little hesitant. “Nobody is sitting in this seat so you’re welcome to it.”

The old woman sat down and placed her only belongings, a brown paper bag, on her lap. Jenifer glanced at the bag then back to the woman. “Ain’t much but it’s all I got” she said with a smile. Jenifer grinned back and returned her gaze out of the window of the number 22 bus.

“Lost in your thoughts dear?” The woman asked quietly as she leaned over.

“Just lost” Jenifer replied.

“Anything you want to talk about? I don’t have much, but a listening ear I have plenty of.”

“I don’t think so it’s, it’s just…”

“Man troubles? Your fault or his?”

 

“I really don’t think I should…”

“Did you find someone else?”

Jenifer wiped a tear from her cheek as she turned her gaze from the traffic outside back to the kindly woman next to her.

“It’s very kind of you to be concerned, but it’s very personal and my stop is coming up.”

“Okay dear, but remember many people have wanted something they shouldn’t have. They all got what they wanted but they lost what they had, and they found that what they had before was far better.” The woman said as she gently stroked the back of Jenifer’s hair. “Be careful,” the woman whispered “don’t do something you can never undo.”

The bus screeched to a stop and Jenifer pushed the woman’s hand away as she rose from her seat and headed to the door. She stopped at the door and looked back at the woman. The woman was smiling and waved at her. “Ma’am is there a problem?” The bus driver’s words startled Jenifer and caused her to jump. Looking back she said, “no, everything is fine, thank you” and with that she stepped off the bus.

Jenifer walked slowly up the long street taking deep breaths as she walked. The cold winter air felt refreshing as she attempted to make sense in her head of what she was doing. Part of her knew that she should be at home working things out with John and yet there was part of her, a curious part of her that wanted to see what Dr. Johnson had to offer… that is, she wanted to see how it felt to do what she had never done, go places she had never gone, to see how the other half lived.

As she strolled the sidewalk picking at flowers she felt the turmoil over her decision. She could still hear Amy’s voice telling her she should have told him no. She didn’t mean for Amy to find out, but in a hospital word gets around quickly.

She stopped at a park and sat on the bench overlooking a row of swings and a yellow tower complete with two slides and about a dozen kids climbing all over it. She looked at her watch and realized she was a little early. As she sat there and twirled a yellow tulip in her hand a tear began to run down her cheek.

One stream followed another as she stared at the tulip she found herself crying. “And over what?” She said to herself. “Over a failed marriage? Over a husband who seemed so preoccupied by his own failures he forgot about me? Over a date with a gorgeous doctor?”

She glanced to her left and saw a couple holding hands and whispering in each other’s ears. She looked straight ahead and she saw a beautiful young girl on a swing and what appeared to be her boyfriend pushing her. Their laughter she thought must be echoing from the deep incline of grass just behind them.

 

She looked to her right and took in the beauty of the stream of red lights that shone against the dark evening from the cars at the nearby stoplight. The tears came once again as she recalled those same evenings she had spent with John when they were dating.

She closed her eyes, trying in her mind at least to go back to those evenings. She could almost hear his voice, “Jenny look at the cars over there” John said as he wrapped his arms around her. She rested the back of her head against his shoulder and took a deep breath and with it the cold night air.

“Look at the cars in the distance” he whispered.

“What about them?” She replied.

“Don’t they look like shining red jewels? Look at them shine and sparkle against the darkness around them.” He said as she raised her hand to caress his cheek.

“Oh Johnnie you’re freezing! She declared as she felt the coldness in his face.

“If I could Jenny I would get you all the jewels in the world. I would stack them up, no wait, I would lay them out until they circled the earth and came back to you again.”

His words were still fresh in her mind as she was startled back to reality by a wayward football which struck her on the back of her head.

 

“Sorry” came a voice as a young boy ran up the steep incline to retrieve his ball. “Are you okay?”

Jenifer picked up the ball and threw it back to him. She smiled and said, “as good as I can be tonight.”

She put her hands in the pockets of the white knitted sweater and gazed at the crescent moon which hung majestically in the cold night sky. After a few sighs and a final wipe of the tears from her cheeks she walked to the sidewalk and started down the street.

 

After walking a few blocks she stopped in front of a green storefront. The sign above the door read, “Giovanni’s Place” and inside she could feel the warmth of the heaters and hear the music and singing of Italian opera.

Through the window she could see Dr. Johnson sitting at a table overlooking the garden behind the building. She took a deep breath, grabbed the doorknob, swung the door open and took a long step into what she hoped was a release, or adventure, or escape from everything she was thinking right then.

4

“Is this okay?” John asked a salesman as he pointed toward the place his car was parked. “It says ‘customers only’ but you guys are closing up now aren’t you?”

“We sure are,” the man said as he closed the two slender white barriers that blocked the driveway of the dealership. “Come in and welcome aboard.”

John walked in and looked around. “I’ve never been in a car dealership at night before, kind of spooky.”

“Well I guess I wouldn’t know cause when the lights go out so do I if you get my drift.”

“I understand completely. Where can I find the other security gua…?”

Beep! Beep! Came the noise of the tiny horn on the golf cart.

John turned and saw a kindly looking older gentleman riding in the golf cart. “Hello John, my name is Roy and I’ll be the one training you tonight.”

John shook Roy’s hand as he entered the golf cart and took a seat.

“You done security work before?”

“Oh yes for several years.”

“Well then,” Roy said as he began to drive forward, “this should be a cinch for you here. Not much goes on, I mean I been here ten years and not much has happened. In fact I could probably count the incidents on one hand or two at most.”

“Why are you leaving if you’ve been here so long?” John asked as they turned a corner and drove under a service area awning.

“Well, I’m not really leaving, just going down to two days a week. It’s a kind of semi-retirement I suppose.”

The two men began by checking all of the car doors on the property to ensure they were locked. They then drove the cart to all of the front doors and offices to check them. After that they began a tour of the property which covered three different car lines and four different buildings.

“So not much goes on here?”

“Naw, not really. Mostly drunks wandering on the property or the occasional thief trying to take something out of the car but otherwise it’s just a matter of sailing around on the golf cart.”

 

“So the area is pretty quiet?”

“Not really, the Nissan dealership across the street has been robbed a few times. It even got set on fire once, but I was off that day. Only found out by reading the reports from the night before. Then there is the Toyota dealership over there. They have had a lot of stolen cars but no one can figure it out.

“Don’t they have a guard or cameras?” John asked as he looked toward the bright red and white building.

“Sure they do, but every time it happens the guard is found asleep and the cameras always seem to be facing the wrong direction. Never any broken glass or signs of vandalism. It’s as if they have the key to the gate. Suspicious to me, but I guess it’s none of my business.”

John took his hat off and scratched his head as he took in the information. “Are we supposed to keep an eye out over there?” He asked.

“If you want my advice I would say keep your eyes on the seven hundred cars on this lot and leave that one alone Nancy Drew.”

As John began to get out to check a door he heard a scream. He turned to see Roy sitting on the ground.

“What happened?” He asked as he helped the old man to his feet.

 

“Slipped on the darn tobacco I spit out earlier. Guess it got on the floor of the cart. The old lady told me the stuff would kill someday. Guess this is the day.” The old man mused as he brushed himself off.

John grabbed the door to the office and found it was secure. “This is gonna be a fun night” he whispered as he headed back to the cart.

 

___

Jenifer startled in bed as she heard the front door slam. She tilted her head to the left and gazed at the giant red numbers on her alarm clock. She rolled over and stared at the wall as she ran through the activities of the previous night, the troubled marriage that she knew she had to face, and the question of where she wanted her life to go. This she knew was no easy answer.

She rolled on her back and looked at the ceiling for a second before sitting up and swinging her feet over the side of the bed. She sat for several minutes pondering her next move. She couldn’t bring herself to think too far into the future but knew that she had to live moment by moment.

She didn’t want to fight with John and yet that’s all that seemed to come out of her mouth whenever they spoke. She loved him yes, but hated him as well. She looked at her memories of their happy times as if they took place in another lifetime, as if they were flashbacks of a lifelong since departed, and yet she wanted them back.

 

As she ran her fingers through her hair, she glanced at the floor and noticed the red rose she had received at the restaurant the night before. She bent over and picked it up glancing to the door in case John walked in. She twisted the rose stem in her hand as she walked into the bathroom.

Placing it on the counter, she looked at herself in the mirror. “Who are you?” She said softly to herself as she struggled with her recent decisions. “What are you doing?”

She walked back to her bed and sat on the edge. Picking up a booklet from her nightstand that her friend Amy had given her a few days ago, she looked at the cover. In a mocking tone she read, “Find Peace with God.”

 

The words almost seemed to mock her as she laughed to herself, “I can’t even find peace with my husband, or my friends, or myself.” She said out loud, “God will have to wait in line.” She opened her nightstand drawer and dropped the booklet inside.

Walking back into the bathroom she slung a towel over the shower curtain, started the water and grabbed the rose off the counter. She filled a cup with water and with a sigh dropped the rose stem into the cup as she began to prepare for her day.

Advertisements

Hunting Hollywood: Introduction

Cover Medium

 

 

Introduction

Whenever I tell people my hobby of looking up and visiting filming locations the question naturally arises about how I got involved in such a hobby. The answer is simple, it came about by accident. I heard a rumor that the television show “Scrubs” which was a favorite of mine was filmed in an actual hospital and not in a studio.

I doubted this information and decided to look it up online. When it was confirmed that it was indeed filmed in a hospital building I thought it would be neat to visit that building and see it in person. My then girlfriend and I were wanting to go to Hollywood for the day anyway so we decided to hop a Greyhound from where we lived in Bakersfield and go to North Hollywood where the hospital was and then take the subway into Hollywood from there.

After this trip I was planning to take my sister and brother in law to Hollywood since she had never been there. I wanted to take them by that hospital but really wanted to make the trip special so I decided to see if any other shows were filmed nearby. I found a few and added them to our itinerary.

Once we returned home from the trip my sister was curious about other shows and found a few more locations in the Southern California area. This enticed me to look for yet others. Before long I not only had a good size list but I was planning a trip just to see these places that I had seen before only on television.

This first full sightseeing trip deepened my desire to find more and more places. Soon more and more trips followed usually trying to see 20 to 30 houses per trip. I then began to go back and see places more than once as I took several friends on trips to see some of these places. I present here pictures from the shows as well as pictures of my own. My pictures are on top and the ones from the show are on the bottom so you can compare them.

My love for television and movies or as I say “Classic Hollywood” goes back to being raised partially by my grandparents who instilled in me a love for the old black and white movies of the golden era of Hollywood. We watched on a regular basis movies from the 30’s to the 60’s and my love for the actors and actresses, clothing styles, and elegance of that era was forever sealed.

My first visit to Hollywood as a 13 year old boy even furthered my love. Seeing the tall buildings of Downtown Los Angeles, left me breathless. I was awestruck walking down Hollywood Boulevard looking at the stars names on the sidewalk. I was filled with wonder as I saw the old buildings that I just knew were used by the celebrity’s of days gone by.

I did not return for over 15 years but as an adult I was able to rekindle that awe. Even today though I have been to Hollywood at least 3 dozen times I walk the streets with awe and wonder. I can’t pass the Taft building without picturing Clark Gable bursting through the doors to play cards in the basement during a break at the studio.

I can’t sit in Musso and Frank Grill without picturing my favorite character actor William Frawley in there having his many meals and then tracing his steps back to the Knickerbocker Hotel where he lived for many years. I can’t look at the Roosevelt Hotel without picturing Shirley Temple learning her now famous stair dance in the lobby or without picturing elderly resident Elizabeth Patterson returning home after shooting I Love Lucy at nearby Desilu Studios.

I know those days are long gone but when I walk the streets or drive around town I take myself back to a place where the Marx Brothers make us laugh, where Hope and Crosby are making Road Trips, where Jack Benny is guarding his beloved safe, and where the scheming Lucy is still trying to get into the show. Come with me as we take a journey from yesterday to today and see the filming locations of shows and movies we love.

Join me now in Hunting Hollywood!

Understanding Believer’s Baptism

Baptism Front Cover

 

 

Baptism in the Bible

John did baptize in the wilderness, and preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins. And there went out unto him all the land of Judaea, and they of Jerusalem, and were all baptized of him in the river of Jordan, confessing their sins.” (Mark 1:4-5)

Here we see John baptizing and we see no infants at all. All we see is that those who were baptized confessed their sins. Repentance was required for those who sought the baptism of John. When moving on to the baptism of Jesus we read:

Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan unto John, to be baptized of him. But John forbad him, saying, I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me? And Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness. Then he suffered him.” (Matthew 3:13-15)

Now we know the Scripture tells us that Jesus was baptized in order to reveal Himself and start His ministry (John 1:31-34) but something is said here that draws particular interest.

When Jesus approached John to be baptized John tried to refuse and said “I have need to be baptized of you.” Why did he say this? The answer is that confession of sin is necessary for baptism and Jesus had no sin. John was attesting to the sinlessness of Christ and to his own sinfulness by saying you should be baptizing me but I shouldn’t baptize you.

This supports credobaptism because it shows a confession of sin closely associated with the one being baptized and therefore shows that the person being baptized must have the awareness required for that.

Moving on now to the Great Commission we read:

And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.” (Matthew 28:18-20)

Here if we follow the command of Christ in the order given we are told to teach all nations which means to preach the Gospel or to make converts. Then He said to baptize them and teach them all He has commanded. So we see here conversion, baptism, and then discipleship. We see here a strong case for believers baptism.

When we see the command of Peter in Acts 2:38 he said:

Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.”

Here again we see repentance commanded before baptism. Whenever we see baptism being practiced we see first repentance on the part of the one being baptized.

In Acts 8:34-38 we see the conversion of the Ethiopian Eunuch:

And the eunuch answered Philip, and said, I pray thee, of whom speaketh the prophet this? of himself, or of some other man? Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture, and preached unto him Jesus. And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized? And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him.”

When the Eunuch asked what hindered him from being baptized the only condition Philip gave was that if he believed that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. He required salvation before baptism. This is the clearest case of credobaptism. He basically said as long as Jesus is your creed you may be baptized.

When we move on to the passage where the Gospel is sent to the Gentiles we see a similar exchange take place:

And they of the circumcision which believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost. For they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God. Then answered Peter, Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we? And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Then prayed they him to tarry certain days.”

Here again we see the test for baptism is that they had received the Holy Ghost. Not that someone else had testified of their faith in place of the one being baptized. This would also mean infants could not be included in this because he said they could not forbid water to those who had received the Holy Ghost.

We return again now to Acts 16:31-34 and the incident with the Philippian jailer:

And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house. And they spake unto him the word of the Lord, and to all that were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night, and washed their stripes; and was baptized, he and all his, straightway. And when he had brought them into his house, he set meat before them, and rejoiced, believing in God with all his house.”

Here we see the Gospel being preached to ALL in his house, we see ALL in his house believing the Gospel, and we see ALL in his house being baptized.

To review we see John requiring repentance for baptism, and Jesus being sinless was seen as not needing baptism since He had no sin to repent of. Jesus commanded we preach the Gospel and then baptize those we preach to.

Peter commanded repentance to precede baptism, and said baptism could not be forbidden to those who received the Holy Ghost or those who had been saved. Phillip said the Eunuch could be baptized if he truly believed or was saved, and Paul baptized all who believed in the house of the jailer.

The only baptism that has any Scriptural basis is believers baptism and the only requirement for one to be baptized is faith in God and repentance of sin. This is believers baptism and this is what is taught in the clear meaning of Scripture.

“Understanding Believer’s Baptism” is available in paperback or ebook through http://www.rickgarland.com

Lessons From My Fathers: In The Beginning

Cover

In The Beginning

The Bible is made up of sixty-six books overall, but it is actually one book that tells one unfolding story. The message that permeates every verse, of every chapter, of every book is the story of Jesus Christ. That story begins with:

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” (Genesis 1:1)

My story must begin the same way. In the beginning God created the environment for our family to be saved. He created a series of events, places, people, and sermons. All leading the way to the time and place picked out very specifically in which He would manifest Himself in our lives.

Oh, I know I could say that circumstance and coincidence happened over and over in our history but that would be a lie. To the casual observer my Grandma Green moved to the San Francisco Peninsula from Springfield, Missouri in 1933 because her dad got a job painting the Golden Gate Bridge. After all I suppose careers move people around all the time. Often as we go through life we make decisions, and moves, and life changes that we assume are our own choosing but we in our small world often miss the unseen guiding hand of a God who is weaving His own plan, a bigger plan, an eternal plan.

My Grandpa Green made his way out to the San Francisco Bay Area from Louisiana in 1942 with his wife Irene. He had been working on the railroad but came west looking for work. He ended up as a dockworker. I’m sure he could not have imagined the plan that God was putting together for his life. Often God ‘s plan is put in place by moving people, families, even whole nations in order for His plan to come together.

I think of Alexander the Great who spread the Greek language around the world by his conquests. To the average onlooker especially those who have been through war would see just another war, another nation invading someone else, or perhaps a leader thirsty for power. To broaden our perspective to the larger eternal plan the conquests of Alexander were much more than just another war, or a power hungry leader. His spreading of the Greek language just before the birth of Christ enabled the spread of the Gospel easily throughout the known world.

We see another great example in the Pharaoh who was in power during the events of Exodus. His rise to power at that exact time in history was more than mere circumstance or family heritage. God even said it in Exodus 9:16:

And in very deed for this cause have I raised thee up, for to shew in thee my power; and that my name may be declared throughout all the earth.”

So the purpose in this very king rising to the throne was for the release of the children of Israel. Let’s move to a modern example. We can look during the last century at the rise of Adolph Hitler in Germany. As terrible as the events of the holocaust were they served to bring about the establishment of the State of Israel. God worked through these events and brought this man to power at just the right time in history to bring about His purposes for His people.

We could even look to the death of Jesus Christ Himself. It was no coincidence that Pontius Pilate was over that region of the Roman Empire at that exact moment in history. So often we fail to see the weaving of God in our lives but much of the moving of people and families lends to God preparing for His plans to take place.

My grandmother as a teenage girl lived down the street from my grandfather who was married to someone else at the time. The reader must keep in mind there was a fourteen year age difference between them. She even babysat his sons Jerry and Terry when they were eight and three years old never thinking she would become their stepmother.

Over time as grandma grew up she went off and got married. She had her first daughter Sharon but ended up in an abusive marriage and was eventually divorced. Grandpa got divorced in 1946 and around 1950 they began dating each other. Grandpa spent three years proposing marriage but grandma spent three years keeping him waiting until they finally wed in 1953. Now to imagine for a minute that his move to the Bay Area, and her families move to the Bay Area, and their living down the street from each other is all just circumstance and coincidence would be to ignore the working of God.

Our lives even when we are unsaved are not subject to circumstance. God had an eternal plan but before landmarks could ever be set the players on the stage of life had to be moved around and moved into place to accomplish the plan for their lives. None of it was by accident. This thought gives me great peace to know that if their lives were being guided and prodded by the Lord then surely my life as well is being guided on an eternal path to accomplish an ultimate end.

My dad was born in Fontana, California. For those of you who are fuzzy on geography that is about 400 miles from where he lived in Mountain View, California when he met my mom. I see in that side of my family as well a pattern of God moving them to the places He wanted them to be to work His plan for their lives.

What brought him across the State you may ask? In August of 1970 his family came to northern California for a job at United Technology Company. As the old story goes a job for my Grandpa Garland moved them into a specific place. We can once again look at the situation whether a transfer or a job offer or whatever else may have transpired it can be said that without the knowledge of those involved God was working out a plan but first he had to move people into specific places.

Stop for a moment and examine your own family history. Why are you where your at? If your mom and dad came from different parts of the nation and found each other then what brought them to that place?

We can see in most of our lives that this is true. The fact that it is true does not explain how or why it is. What moved this person here or there?

How did Bob and Sue both end up in the place they were at the moment they were to find one another? At this point we can turn to the Bible for the answer. Paul was preaching in Athens and while there he said:

God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands; Neither is worshipped with men’s hands, as though he needed any thing, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things; And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation; That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us.” (Acts 17:24-27)

He had been observing the various idols and gods of Athens before he started preaching then he started by pointing out that the true God does not dwell in temples made by hands, and He is not worshiped with men’s hands meaning the statues and idols that were made and worshiped were nothing but false gods because the one true God did not need the work of men’s hands to be worshiped.

In fact the one true God did not need anything from man. It is He who gives to all life, breath, and all things. Everything we have in this world was given to us by God and we are accountable to Him for how we steward these things. Finances, houses, cars, children, jobs, education, clothes, friends, and the list could be endless. All we have comes from God and He requires nothing of us. There is nothing we could conceive to give God that He doesn’t already have or could not create by the Word of His mouth.

He then declares that God created from one man (Adam) all the nations of mankind. He has determined the times before appointed this means He has our days numbered before we are even conceived in the womb. He had the total years of my life numbered before my grandparents even moved to the part of the country where they would meet each other.

Before my dad lived in the same community as my mom, God had already worked it out. David put it this way:

Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them.” (Psalm 139:16)

God told the prophet Jeremiah that He knew him even before he was conceived in the womb and He had ordained him as a prophet even before he was born.

Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.” (Jeremiah 1:5)

Getting back to Paul’s sermon, he goes on to say that God determined the bounds of our habitation. That is a reference to the geographical location in which we live in this world. God determined it and He did it in the hope that we may feel our way toward Him and find Him. This was the eternal plan for my family. Find Him we did, but not without His help.

The main point I want you to see is that God is the main player in this game of life and we can rest assured that in all things good and bad He is weaving a pattern according to His own marvelous plan. I’m sure divorce was not easy for either of my grandparents but in the sorrow of those times God was weaving a better plan. Corrie Ten Boom who was a holocaust survivor and Christian evangelist used a poem to tell her story and it goes like this:

My life is but a weaving
Between my God and me.
I cannot choose the colors
He weaveth steadily.
Oft’ times He weaveth sorrow;
And I in foolish pride
Forget He sees the upper
And I the underside.
Not ‘til the loom is silent
And the shuttles cease to fly
Will God unroll the canvas

And reveal the reason why.
The dark threads are as needful
In the weaver’s skillful hand
As the threads of gold and silver
In the pattern He has planned
He knows, He loves, He cares;
Nothing this truth can dim.
He gives the very best to those
Who leave the choice to Him.”

(Benjamin Malachi Franklin)

It would be a disservice to mention some of the lessons from my fathers if I left out the back story of how my family came to Christ. It would be like following the story of the Exodus without hearing the stories in Genesis that led to the nation of Israel in the first place. We read in the Scriptures:

Then Paul stood in the midst of Mars’ hill, and said, Ye men of Athens, I perceive that in all things ye are too superstitious. For as I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, To The Unknown God. Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you.” (Acts 17:22-23)

I want to reminisce in this book and to encourage, but the story of my fathers, of my family is a story of the sovereignty, love, compassion, and gentle guiding of God. It is Him that I declare unto you. I want you to know the God we know. To trust Him, love Him, and follow Him as we do and as my fathers did. My grandparents would be disappointed and I would do you a disservice to not show you how we came to believe in the God of the Bible and through that faith my fathers would lay the landmarks that I look to today.

 “Lessons From My Fathers” can be purchased in paperback or ebook through http://www.rickgarland.com

Unholy Devotion: Catholic Salvation

CAM009512b

 

 

Catholic Salvation

“O Mother of Perpetual Help, thou art the dispenser of every grace that God grants us in our misery; it is for this cause that He hath made thee so powerful, so rich, so kind, that thou mightest assist us in our miseries. Thou art the advocate of the most wretched and abandoned sinners, if they but come unto thee; come once more to my assistance, for I commend myself to thee. In thy hands I place my eternal salvation; to thee I entrust my soul. Enroll me among thy most faithful servants; take me under thy protection and it is enough for me: yes, for if thou protect me, I shall fear nothing; not my sins, for thou wilt obtain for me their pardon and remission; not the evil spirits, for thou art mightier than all the powers of hell; not even Jesus, my Judge, for He is appeased by a single prayer from thee. I fear only that through my own negligence I may forget to recommend myself to thee and so I shall be lost. My dear Lady, obtain for me the forgiveness of my sins, love for Jesus, final perseverance and the grace to have recourse to thee at all times, O Mother of Perpetual Help.” Prayer to Our Lady of Perpetual Help

We are always told that Catholics are trusting in Jesus for their salvation and that they only honor Mary. We are told that they don’t see Mary as greater than Christ but that they honor Christ by honoring Mary. I’m sure most Catholics are sincere in believing this but from the prayer we have just seen this is a lie.

They call Mary, not Jesus, the dispenser of God’s grace, this is contrary to Scripture.

For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.” (John 1:17)

They say that God made her powerful:

And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.” (Matthew 28:18)

They say that God made her rich:

For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might become rich.” (2 Corinthians 8:9)

They say that God made her kind:

Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me for I am meek and lowly in heart, and ye shall find rest unto your souls.” (Matthew 11:28-29)

They say that she assists us in our misery:

For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are yet without sin.” (Hebrews 4:15)

The prayer says Mary is the Advocate of sinners:

My little children, these things write I unto you that ye sin not. And if any man sin we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” (1 John 2:1)

The prayer says, “I commend myself to thee.” Not to Jesus but to Mary. The prayer goes on to say that in her hands we place our eternal salvation, not in the hands of Jesus but Mary. Scripture never mentions her in relation to salvation:

Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)

The prayer says that Mary protects us and with her protecting us we will fear nothing. Scripture says our security comes from God:

I will both lay me down in peace and sleep: for thou, LORD, only makest me dwell in safety.” (Psalm 4:8)

Does Christ not want to protect us? Should we still fear if we ask Him for protection? It says we won’t fear our sins because Mary, not Jesus, obtains pardon and remission of sins.

It goes on to say that she is mightier than all the powers of hell even though Jesus claims to have the keys of hell (Revelation 1:18). It goes even further into error by saying we won’t even fear Jesus because He is appeased by one prayer from her.

To say that Jesus is mean and angry and we should be afraid of Him unless His good, sweet, kindhearted mother calms Him down is blatant blasphemy. They see her as kinder than Him. This of course comes from their pagan roots where the ancient Virgin goddess had to appease the wrath of the vengeful gods.

The prayer goes on to say that if we don’t recommend ourselves to her we will be lost. No place in Scripture does it tell us to come to anyone but Christ for salvation nor does it say we need to go through anyone to get to Christ.

The prayer in direct defiance of Scripture asks Mary to obtain the forgiveness of our sins:

“For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” (Romans 10:13)

It even says that she gives us final perseverance. This defies Scripture as well:

Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy.” (Jude 24)

The answer is clear; the Roman superstition teaches that salvation is found not in Jesus Christ, but in Mary. This is a foreign concept to Scripture and cannot be supported except by the traditions of men.

“Unholy Devotion” can be purchased in paperback or ebook through http://www.rickgarland.com