Hey, forget about globetrotting and researching and adventuring and Christianing (oh, like we haven’t already). Let’s follow Michael Murphy to the exotic and thrilling location of…THE GYM!!!
He starts with stretching (which is actually not the best thing to do—stretching cold muscles is counterproductive), then does the step machine then weights.
Hey, remember two chapters ago when I observed that Murphy would not likely have dumped Isis had he not had Summer waiting in the wings? Well, hey, there’s Summer! At the gym in the early morning, at the same time as Michael Murphy.
At this point, it kinda feels like she’s stalking him. Probably Pastor Bob told her Murphy’s schedule.
Of course, Murphy immediately catalogues how hot she is:
Despite the perspiration, she looked quite attractive. He noticed that the other guys lifting weights around him had slowed down a little and he could see them trying to get a better glimpse of her. He thought they might want to change places with him.
Oh, and how much
more virile better he is than other guys because this hot woman is interested in him.
It sure is disrespectful of Summer, who is trying to have a conversation with him, when Murphy is looking at other guys, cataloguing their envy. Summer may be the Dark Mistress of Pastor Bob, sent to distract and beguile Murphy, but I still kinda feel for her—she’s not a person to Murphy, just something to make him look better.
Did she ever look bad? [Murphy thinks]
Um, yes, Murph, I’m sure sometimes Summer looks bad. I’m sure sometimes she ugly cries, or gets sick, or just has a bad hair day, has bad days like all of us. Murphy was married for years and is pushing forty, and he still has a thirteen-year-old boy’s view of women—they are just there to look sexy for me.
Summer explains that she’s been coming to this gym for awhile, but this is her first time working out in the early morning.
Oh yeah, she is for sure stalking him. Pastor Bob is behind this all, I tells ya!
She then mentions that she likes to jog, but doesn’t do it at night because she doesn’t like to be alone outside at night. This opens Murphy up for his usual condescending platitudes:
“Our world is not always safe. There are some real weirdos out there. You made the right decision.”
Yeah, Murph, and aren’t you lucky that you have never had to make a decision like that…cause women have to make about seventeen decisions like that every day.
So they jog together, and Murphy is “impressed how effortlessly Summer kept up with him,” even though it’s only a twenty-minute light jog, and I know lots of people who work out way harder than that.
When they slow to a walk, Summer, like Isis, proves herself far more empathetic than Murphy, and herself asks after Paul and Shari. Murphy understates that Paul is “not real well,” and that although the police aren’t sure who did it, he has a pretty good idea.
Yeah, it always works out well when you keep to yourself information about an attempted murderer…
And then he proceeds to tell Summer, a woman he has been acquainted with for all of three weeks, all about Talon, thus revealing far more information to her, a volleyball coach, than he did to his old friend and helicopter pilot, Vern, before Vern took on a job for Murphy which ended with his (Vern’s) hospitalization in Turkey.
Hmmm…I wonder why Vern hasn’t been talking with Murphy lately…
Anyway, Summer, like the good little Christian wife-to-be that she probably is, is suitably impressed:
She sat there dumbfounded at the tales of danger and adventure coming from Murphy’s lips. She had no idea how perilous a life the Preston University archaeologist led.
Yeah, remember that time in this book when Murphy…
Well, then there was that exciting scene where…
Man, it is seriously CHAPTER 44, and Murphy has done NOTHING.
And Murphy is so self-important about all this shit he hasn’t done, that he has the gall to tell Summer that he is on a mission from God, who has “allowed me to become involved in all this for some purpose.”
Yeah, that’s a pretty ballsy statement, considering how many other people (LAURA, Chuck, Señor SEAL, Token Turk, The Nerd, The Dick, Agent Hank Baines, Dr. Anderson, Stephanie Kovacs, at least one cop, and countless security guards at the Parchments of Freedom Foundation) got involved and ended up dead. But Murphy keeps going:
“The Bible suggests that in the last days, moral and spiritual darkness will increase.”
Yeah, like people not giving a damn if college students are in critical condition in the hospital for days on end after defending their abusive pseudo-girlfriend.
“We are only beginning to see the edge of this darkness.”
We have a title!
“Somehow I think He wants to use me in battling these evil forces.”
There’s that good ole Christian humility again!
For this, Summer immediately brings up Pastor Bob’s sermons…
Hmm…the same Pastor Bob who just convinced Murphy to break up with Isis and go out with her…
“When he talks about the danger of the occult, it disturbs me. I have to admit I’m really fearful of the occult.”
Quite a far cry from Isis and her fearless awesomeness. The woman who took down kidnappers by herself and stayed by herself on Mount Ararat overnight, and now there’s this chick, who is scared by talk of the occult.
I shudder to think what would happen if I snuck up behind her and went BOOGABOOGABOOGA.
So Murphy tells her all about J.B. Sonstad.
She sat there on the bench with her mouth slightly open and never took her eyes off of him.
Oh yeah, Murphy totally traded up. Real brain trust, this one.
Murphy then mentions that he and Livie might possibly be heading to Israel to look for stuff sometime in the future, maybe, if they can drag themselves off their couches, and we get our first peek into the complicated inner workings of Summer’s mind:
For some reason, Summer felt just a little sad that he wouldn’t be around.
She’s such a deep and nuanced character, I feel like I know her already!
After this conversation, Murphy once again runs down his list of pros of Summer: “athletic and very attractive…and she was easy to talk to.”
“Hmm…size 2, blonde, and lets me lecture endlessly without bothering me with what she’s thinking or feeling. Sounds like a winner to me!”
Fresh from kicking Isis to the curb, Murphy feels a renewed energy to get work done.
Does that mean throwing himself into teaching his one class? Nope.
Does it mean setting off with Levi and maybe Pastor Bob or Summer to actually FIND the…whatever the stupid shit is that I’ve by now totally forgotten that had something to do with the Ark or something.
Nope, he’s just going to go to the beach and stalk Methuselah again.
This time there would be no deception, no putting on a waiter uniform. He would simply approach Methuselah directly and let the chips fall where they may.
Murphy says this to himself like it’s some big, brave thing, but he neglects to remember that disguising himself means nothing now because Meth knows that Murphy knows where he lives.
I take it Phillips has never been to South Carolina, because Murphy reasons that Meth “would not come until after 11:00 a.m., when the sun’s rays became warmer.”
Look, if it’s a sunny day in South Carolina, it will not be much warmer at 11 than at 9, and if it is, it might well be too hot for an elderly man with health problems, ‘kay?
Murphy takes a novel and chills on the beach for hours, not even knowing if Meth will show, but he figures the book “would help keep his mind off Iris.”
No, that is not my typo, that is the book’s title. In the last chapter, Isis was kicked to the curb, and the editor already forgot her name. And I know it’s just a dumb typo because nobody gave a shit, but I like to imagine that it’s Murphy who has forgotten Isis’s name. “Boy, yeah, I sure do miss that ginger atheist chick, Iris or Eyeball or whatever. Yeah, it’s ripping me apart inside. Wonder if that blonde Swedish babe is wearing some kind of sexy volleyball shorts right this very moment.”
Finally, after noon, Meth shows up with six (yep) bodyguards, and Murphy falls in with only a little fuss from them. It’s time for some exposition, because Phillips has realized that there’s a bunch of stuff Murphy doesn’t know.
So, in a shocking turn of events, Murphy actually lets Meth talk, and doesn’t Wikipedia all over him. So we learn that Meth’s grandpa, the missionary, was the one who did all the research about the biblical artifacts like Noah’s Ark and the writing on the wall.
So it’s actually looking worse for Murphy’s skills than we thought. It’s not that an eccentric billionaire with all the time in the world on his hands knew more about biblical archaeology than the biblical archaeology professor…it’s that the missionary in the 1920s or 30s, a man with no access to databases and the libraries of all universities in the world, a man without any formal training in biblical archaeology, knew where these items were long before Murphy was a gleam in his mama’s eyes.
Makes Murphy look about 592 steps behind, doesn’t it?
Then Meth actually reveals the name of The Seven (TSAN!), that they are “evil people who do not believe in God or the Bible.”
He also catalogues all the stuff they own and control, though the most important thing, in both his and Murphy’s eyes, is that “they are the force behind the rebuilding of the city of Babylon.”
Then Meth/Phillips heads right into offensive territory, adding that The Seven “helped to coordinate the attack of 9/11.”
Yeah, it’s always real sensitive to use a real tragedy where real people died, and say that it was perpetrated by your fictional band of villains, who of course support everything you personally don’t like, like tolerance and political correctness. (And the Antichrist and the United Nations.)
On a sillier note, we learn that the tongueless guy who drives for The Seven is actually Meth’s double agent, which I guess would be kinda cool if I cared.
Meth also references Talon, and when Murphy realizes that Talon works for The Seven, and that Talon killed Laura, he realizes “that he and Methuselah had common enemies in the Seven.”
“Yeah, back when I just thought they were financially backing the Antichrist and participated in 9/11, it was all chill. But now that I know that they might have had a connection to the murder of my wife…well, now I’m angry!”
Then Meth takes a all turn into Crazytown, stating that the real reason he wants Murphy to find Aaron’s Rod and the jar of manna is so the Antichrist won’t, because the Antichrist might use the magical items to “feed the starving people of the world” and heal people, and that would be just awful, and part of the plan of The Seven.
Murphy was amazed at all of Methuselah’s knowledge of the Bible.
Mmmm, yes, Murphy, atheists often know plenty about the Bible. Often more than believers do. In fact, all that knowledge is sometimes the reason an atheist became an atheist in the first place.
And when Murphy brings up coming to faith, Meth is a total badass and cuts Murphy off, and I mean cuts him off, stating that their “little games” together will no longer be happening.
As Murphy is escorted back to his car by bodyguards, he actually feels a bit sad about this, and surprisingly, not just because he won’t get free tips about artifacts, and somebody doing most of his work for him anymore. And he actually realizes that he has deprived himself of an ally.
Hmmmm…just like he deprived himself of an ally when he dumped Isis.
I just got it…
PASTOR BOB AND HIS DARK MISTRESS SUMMER VAN DOREN ARE THE EVIL POWERS BEHIND EVERYTHING
It all makes sense now.
You know those RTCs, right? Paragons of independent thinking and not easily swayed by the opinions of others…
So the moment Murphy’s pastor hints that Isis might not be the best match for Murphy, he hops a plane to D.C. to kick Isis to the curb.
This is especially sad and amusing when you remember that Pastor Bob is one of the stupider characters in these books. And that’s saying something.
This chapter reads a bit like a few other chapters, like the one in Ararat where childless Murphy counseled another man on how to raise a teenage daughter. That is, Phillips is writing a how-to for any RTC in a similar situation. So this chapter is how to break up with a nonbeliever.
Now, most of this chapter is focused on Murphy’s feelings—how bad Murphy feels about dumping Isis. Because the man’s feelings, the dumper’s feelings, are way more important than the female dumpee’s feelings.
So they go out to dinner, and…
Isis could tell that Murphy was a little preoccupied. She thought that he must be tired from the trip or maybe that he was worried about Shari…or Paul Wallach in the hospital.
Yeah, these two clearly are not meant for each other. Isis just assumes that Murphy has some normal human empathy, when in fact Murphy could not give two shakes about Shari or especially Paul.
Then they head back to Isis’s apartment, so Murphy can do the dumping in private. Which I suppose is more decent of him than doing it in public.
Now, to be incredibly fair, at a few moments, Phillips does seem vaguely aware that there is another person in this scene. So in between Murphy’s paragraphs about God and his (Murphy’s) feelings, Phillips interjects a few generic observations from Isis:
Isis could feel that something was coming.
Isis could feel it coming and she didn’t want to hear what he was going to say. She knew that it wasn’t going to be good.
Isis felt like she was going to cry.
So, it’s not really a character here, a person with feelings. It’s Phillips reassuring RTC males that if they use the right phrasing, they can weasel out of a waning relationship with a minimum of fuss and ugly crying.
Then again, I might not ugly cry either, if someone broke up with me with the kind of impersonal platitudes that Murphy uses:
“If two people are to develop a strong and lasting relationship, they really need to be on the same wavelength when it comes to faith in God. Divided families often have great struggles. Both parties are not able to share the same experience or values. It can bring about great stress.”
Hell, I even mostly agree with Murphy’s point here. It’s just so dickishly Nice Guy the way he puts it here—just as he made a mental list of pros and cons of Isis versus Summer, he’s now putting their relationship into a series of theoretical contortions.
I mean, this is all just a how-to manual, but shouldn’t there be just a hint that when you dump that atheist chick, she might have something more to say than…nothing? Just staring at you with the sparkling eyes that very nearly tempted you?
And speaking of temptation, does anyone think Murphy would be so quick to kick Isis to the curb if he didn’t have Summer waiting in the wings? (Or rather, Pastor Bob in the wings, waiting with baited breath to throw Summer at Murphy?)
Isis has one moment where she tries to assert herself. Or at least, makes a play for the relationship to continue:
“I think that two people can still see one another and have a relationship grow, and still talk about faith. I don’t think it has to end.”
“But what if the relationship grows and the faith does not?”
“There’s risk in every relationship, Michael.”
And I can see Isis’s point, too. I mean, it’s all moot for several reasons: Murphy dumping Isis is the best thing that can happen to her, and it’s not like Murphy would listen to what a mere woman has to say about relationships, anyway.
So it’s all a done deal. That said, Murphy does try to weasel out of completely dumping her with one of the two oldest tricks in the book:
“It might be good for both of us if we began to see other people.”
(The other one, of course, is “Let’s just be good friends.”)
Isis is nobody’s fool, and immediately sees that that is bullshit. To put it in a nicer way:
She could tell that his mind was already made up and that nothing she could say would make a difference now.
Yep, this sure isn’t a relationship between two adults, where they can sit down and talk about their feelings together. At least it isn’t from Michael Murphy’s perspective.
Murphy makes his escape before the tears happen (Isis’s, not his, because we know he isn’t going to cry about this, not with Summer waiting).
And instead of sticking with Isis, we follow Murphy back onto his plane home, of course, where we can know more about how very badly he feels, even asking God why. Well, because you found another Like A Model, Murph, and because your pastor told you too.
Still, though, lucky Isis. Even if she doesn’t know it yet.
Pastor Bob calls Murphy one evening (an unspecified amount of time later, and apparently poor Paul is still in the ICU, not that Murphy mentions this or cares), and calls back to the subplot (such as it is): faith healer J.B. Sonstad. Bob brings up Clyde, the parishioner from the first Solstad meeting, and turns out Bob encouraged Clyde to see a doctor to see if he was actually cured. Which may be the first productive thing either of the men have done with regards to this Solstad guy. Of course, Clyde’s kidney disease wasn’t any better, and Clyde’s response to this is to see another faith healer, this one “a psychic healer, someone named Madame Estelle. She lives in a old farmhouse on the outskirts of Raleigh.” Clyde has inexplicably asked Bob to go to Madame Estelle’s with him, so it would seem that Bob hasn’t been as clear in his anti-false-teachers sermons as he perhaps hoped to be. Bob also asks Murphy to go along with them, and maybe this is a cry for help, that Bob realizes, deep down, just how shitty of a pastor he really is.
After a condescending and insensitive swipe at Clyde (“When people face death sometimes they’ll try anything to escape the inevitable“), Murphy agrees to go, and also volunteers to “do a little research on psychic healing,” which you’d think he would have done before the first Solstad meeting. The two “men” also agree to meet that the good ole Adam’s Apple to discuss strategy or whatever.
In the stupid diner the next day, Murphy expounds on his perusal of Wikipedia, including Ze Arigo, a psychic surgeon, and Henry Gordon, a magician who debunked them, continuing the tradition of Harry Houdini. (Gordon, btw, sounds like he was an awesome dude, and I’m a tad surprised that LaHaye even brought him up, since it doesn’t sound like he was any kind of RTC.)
But all that takes a backseat (her) to Roseanne (or Rosanne, because the book can’t decide), waddling twice in two pages. Because she’s FAT, ha!
Murphy kindly points out to Roseanne/Rosanne that the vinyl seat has a tear in it, which horrific development the waitress immediately blames on teenagers (instead of, yanno, it being an old vinyl seat in a greasy-spoon diner. This leads to this bizarre statement from Murphy:
“It seems like evil is on the increase. Not just from kids horsing around destroying property like this seat, but keying and stealing cars…and other things like violent crime, terrorist bombings, murders, and wars.”
Wait, Murph, are you now blaming teenagers for all murders and wars???
Yup, remember, everyone—teenagers are to blame for everything!
Though Murphy might be a bit behind the times…
This discussion in turn leads into discussion of non-teenager Constantine De La Rosa, and apparently we were wrong, and LaHaye has decided that De La Rosa is the False Prophet, so the new Leon Fortunato, not the new Nicolae Carpathian.
Anyway, Murphy says that he is worried about Isis, since “I don’t think she has come to a point of faith in her life. I’d hate to see her begin to follow someone like the False Prophet.”
Yes, because all non-Christians naturally follow whomever shows up next on the scene. I mean, it’s not like Isis is a highly educated woman who has never shown the slightest inclination to follow any kind of religious leader, let alone a bizarre faith healer.
And may I remind Murphy that the whole reason they are even sitting there talking is that one of Bob’s own parishioners has begun following whatever faith healer happens along.
But this idea is so far from Bob’s mind that he instead decides to lecture Murphy about Isis:
“I’ve been a little concerned about you and Isis. It seems like this is beginning to develop into something more than just a friendship.”
“It’s moving in that direction.”
No, Murphy. It is there. It is developed. When you’ve kissed someone and told them you love them, it is not “moving in a direction” away from friendship. It has already moved.
But remember, we need to retcon this so we don’t feel Murphy is being a cad when he lusts after RTC blonde Swedish volleyball player Summer.
Bob alludes to the whole unequally-toked thing, and Murphy whines about it being “difficult when the feelings begin to grow.”
Dude, you have been lusting after Isis and stringing her along for, like, TWO YEARS now. Quit acting like this relationship is one month old.
“It might be best to end them before there’s no turning back, Michael.”
“I know. I’ve been thinking very seriously about it. It’s just hard.”
Okay, so Michael his either lying to Bob (because he’s been having lustful dreams about Isis and has made no move to end the relationship), or he’s lying to Isis, since he has made no move to end the relationship. Either way, dick move. (Har.)
Bob then has the unmitigated gall to pull the old plenty-of-fish-in-the-sea argument, and then to
pimp out suggest Summer Van Doren to Michael.
Murphy then trots out his pro-and-con list—both women “have it all” in the sense that they both are incredibly hot, but Summer is RTC and Isis is not. So love really is down to a checklist, not down to emotions. Bob, amazing faith leader that he is, manages to stick five cliches in one little speech:
“ There is no easy way around that, Michael.  You can’t have your cake and eat it too.  Life is filled with choices. Some are east and some are very tough.  You have to look at the big picture.  Do you want to spend your life with the wrong person?”
And on the note that of course God will “enlighten you with the right answer at the right time,” Wagoner cuts scene, no doubt happy in the knowledge that he has not only conned Murphy into once again doing all his work for him, but has also torpedoed his relationship with Isis and flung Summer at him.
As Paul’s fate hangs in the balance, Phillips cuts away for several chapters to keep the suspense up. Having “caught up” with the Bible, we’re back with The Seven (TSAN!) at their Swiss castle, who apparently won’t stop…their incredibly bad hiring decisions.
Sir William Merton is understandably annoyed that Talon failed to successfully kill to co-eds. Hilariously, Talon, “who was used to just about anything,” is startled when Merton pounds a fist on the table. Then again, I’m not sure about that “used to just about anything bit,” given, again, his failure to take down two undergrads having a Netflix and chill night.
Despite Merton calling Talon “a danger to our mission,” the other six of The Seven seem to not care very much that Talon failed to do the one simple task they laid out for him. In fact, they engage in a “litany” (not actually transcribed) of childish infighting that seems quite unbecoming of the most powerful people in the world. In fact, this whole section is very confused, with nobody but Merton even seeming to realize what a boneheaded move they’ve made by sticking with Talon all this time.
They also seem to have no doubts in their minds when Talon vaguely assures them that “I will be able to fulfill any mission you desire.”
“Except if that mission involves killing two unarmed and clueless college students, alone in an apartment. Then there might be difficulties with fulfillment of mission.”
Nothing daunted, The Seven just direct Talon to read an as-yet-unpublished editorial by Shane Barrington himself. It takes up three whole pages of text, and rather half-heartedly calls out Constantine De La Rosa (aka Nicolae Carpathia), because even though he’s done some miraculous things, nobody really knows anything about him or where all his money is coming from. Shane basically promises to do an upcoming investigation of De La Rosa, and this really ticks off and terrifies The Seven. So despite their having multiple agents inside Barrington Communications (which is how they got this unpublished editorial, off Shane’s computer), The Seven inexplicably task Talon with…killing Shane.
Because Talon has done such a bang-up job so far with all his various killing tasks.
To add ridiculousness, The Seven report to Talon that Shane has been taking multiple sensible steps in his own defense. He’s hiring bodyguards and has ordered a bulletproof car and has a new and improved security system at home. So already, Shane is proving himself far more intelligent than Michael Murphy ever has been.
So Talon failed to take out one college student who bikes alone at night. And then he failed to take her out again, when she was having a night in with her not-boyfriend. And he’s failed to take out Michael Murphy for FOREVER, even though Murphy is the most predictable human ever, and has implemented none of the security measures that Shane Barrington has.
Great job at failing at everything, Talon! Here’s a new and much more difficult assignment for you!
In the car, being driven away from the castle, Talon muses on his failure. He blames himself for not waiting until Paul left the apartment before trying to kill Shari again. Now, first of all, why would a (supposed) world-class assassin care about one unarmed 21-year-old kid getting in the way of the murder of another unarmed 21-year-old kid. Second of all, Talon couldn’t kill Shari the day before, when she was all alone, so what makes him think he could kill her on Attempt #3 when she was alone?
But Talon’s self-esteem is nothing is not healthy, and he muses on other (unnamed) people he has killed. In a way, I suppose it’s a lesson for all of us in how to bounce back from failure. I’m just not sure The Seven would be as kind to Talon as he is to himself.
Hey, y’all, Happy April Fools Day and Happy Zombie Jesus Day!
The next chapter of The Edge of Darkness is coming very soon, but in the meantime, and in honor of the day, enjoy my quick critique of The Passion of the Christ.
There’s nothing you get from this chapter of the book that you can’t get from reading the silly Bible chapter. And I get bored of reciting these silly extraneous characters that Phillips creates to presumably humanize the Bible stories, when we know they’re all going to die horrible (but deserving, natch) deaths anyway.
So yeah, if you care at all at this point about these chapters, all it does is get the Ark out of Ashdod, while leaving the relevant artifacts there. Yay.
Murphy remembers as he enters Paul’s room that this is the second time that Paul has been hospitalized due to Talon’s actions. Predictably, this fills him with sympathy for Shari, not Paul:
And now that he was in critical condition as a result of trying to save her life, there was no way that she would leave his side. Shari was one of the most loyal people Murphy had ever met.
Let’s unpack this a bit:
First, Paul did not try to save Shari’s life—he did save her life.
And yes, this is the second time Paul has ended up at the hospital and Shari has kept watch over him. Now this time, and not to be insensitive, but Shari’s apartment is an active crime scene, so she couldn’t really leave even if she wanted to. And more importantly, both times Paul has been hospitalized, he was doing things for her—first attending her church, then bringing her dinner so she wouldn’t have to be alone.
Now of course it is not someone’s fault when something bad happens on their time, but Shari’s “loyalty” extends exactly as far as she thinks her chances of converting Paul go. This isn’t a case of a devoted couple, and something bad happens to one of them at an event the other planned, or something like that. Last time, Shari took Paul to her church to convert him, and this time, not an hour before Talon showed up, Shari was once again pushing Paul to Make the Transaction, because his kind and generous gesture was not enough for her to respect him.
Entering Paul’s room in the ICU, Murphy spares barely a thought for the guy, and doesn’t go near him. He thinks Shari is asleep, so he turns to leave, but his shoe squeaks and Shari opens her eyes.
Has Phillips never been in a room in the ER or ICU before? I mean, lucky him, but there are way too many noises for one little shoe squeak to register with someone.
Anyway, Shari claims she was not asleep, but praying. Sure, Shari, whatever you say.
So Murphy stays to give her a hug (again, not a word or a touch for Paul), and spares two thoughts for Shari’s “pain from her injuries” and “black-and-blue marks,” but again, no sympathy for Paul’s injuries. As a reminder, Shari was knocked over a couch, and Paul was beaten nearly to death, just got out of surgery, and still hasn’t regained consciousness.
“I don’t know why the man tried to kill me and Paul.”
Murphy tried not to wince. He knew.
Yeah, Murph, and thanks for telling everyone. Not like Talon hasn’t made attempts before on the lives of those close to you.
He actually reveals to Shari that “I think the same man that killed Laura tried to kill you.” (Too little, too late, Murph.) Then Murphy hilariously, implausibly, and very dangerously states that because “things didn’t work out for him the way he planned,” that “I think he’ll leave you alone. He made his point.”
So wait, because he didn’t complete the job, he’ll give up? But he’s also made his point? I know you haven’t slept enough, Murphy, but then maybe try not dispensing life-and-death advice when you have no idea what you’re talking about.
Before Shari can react to such idiocy, Summer Van Doren enters, because it’s been awhile since we’ve seen her, and the readers should not be reminded of her existence.
“I had dropped by the church to get some study notes when they told me about Mr. Wallach. The whole church is praying for his recovery.”
Sorry that intercessory prayer doesn’t work, Summer.
Also, methinks Summer exaggerates a wee bit. Phillips has not yet established how much time has passed between the last chapter and this one, but presumably it’s at least the next morning if Summer just wandered over to the church to grab a few Chick tracts for perusal. But the whole church is actively praying for a guy who has been inside their church all of once, and that time he nearly died (again)?
Murphy introduces Summer to Shari, and creepily hovers over the women as they chat.
Summer seemed so warm and sincerely caring. It was a nice gesture.
I can only imagine that Isis would also be warm and sincerely caring in such a situation (even if Murphy probably can’t imagine that because Isis is not RTC), but Isis doesn’t know about this event because Murphy never talks to her.
(And actually, under the circumstances, Murphy has an extra-important reason to contact Isis ASAP—Isis has been a target of Talon in the past, and Murphy knows this, and since he now knows that Talon is again gunning for people he cares about, Isis should be on her guard even more than she usually is.)
I’m also going to make another point, and forgive my churlishness: I kinda wonder if Summer doesn’t have ulterior motives for her little hospital visit. After all, she knows neither Shari nor Paul, and nobody else from the church has shown up—they’re just praying from afar. So why is she there? Well, because of Murphy, obviously. It’s another chance to talk to him, and it’s even extra-difficult to escape when you’re at the hospital. But more than that, this gives Summer the opportunity to meet Shari. And again, I’m just kinda wondering something: has Summer been hearing things about Murphy and Shari at school? Like, say, that Murphy’s assistant’s life revolves around him, to the point that she answers his 2:00 a.m. emails and adopts dogs for him and has no friends her own age and one on-again-off-again boyfriend with whom, even when they’re “on,” she seems perpetually annoyed?
Anyway, Phillips finally reveals that it is 6:30 p.m. the next day, so almost 24 hours have passed since the attack. Murphy suggests they all go out to eat:
“Miss Van Doren, we would love to have you join us.”
Um, would Shari love for her to join them? Murphy sure doesn’t know, because he didn’t ask her. And I really have to wonder if Shari would love to have Summer along—she just met this woman, and sure, they attend the same church and all, but in the last 48 hours, she’s had a bike accident, then had to wake up early to deliver Murphy’s papers, then was punched in the face by Talon, and Paul has been beaten nearly to death, so she’s been in the hospital for almost a whole day, presumably with little to no food or sleep. She might not be feeling very sociable right now, is all I’m saying.
And, indeed, Shari immediately declines. This makes Murphy feel “a little strange,” since Summer immediately accepted, so he can’t very well back out. To make it feel less like a date date, he suggests they grab Mexican at a restaurant right across the street. This inexplicably makes them both feel it is less a date. Oh, and this whole fraught discussion takes place at the foot of Paul’s bed. Sensitive.
Oh, and it is totally a date: Murphy pays, and they chat about hobbies and hometowns and their jobs.
[Summer] was especially enthralled with the stories of [Murphy’s] adventures in foreign countries and meeting strange and exotic people.
Damn, could that sound any more like it was written before 1955? It’s like LaPhillips’ impressions of the world outside Main Street, U.S.A., haven’t evolved at all in a lifetime. It’s like the world is still one in which if you want some really EXOTIC food, you add one-and-one-half teaspoons of curry powder (if desired!) to the dipping sauce for your fried chicken, and say it’s Far East style.
(And yes, I know they’re eating at a Mexican restaurant right now. But I have a feeling that Murphy is the kind of guy to go to Don Pablo’s and order a cheeseburger.)
(Also also, presumably because they’re in a Mexican restaurant and margaritas and Dos Equis might be available, Phillips goes out of his way to show Summer drinking water.)
And speaking of time not being Phillips’ strong suit, a big deal is made out of the fact that Summer has less than an hour and a half to get to the restaurant, order, eat, and get to her Bible study at 8:00. But then Phillips says this:
As the evening progressed they became more relaxed and free in sharing their thoughts and dreams.
“The evening progressed” makes it sound like multiple hours passed, instead of less than 1.5. Also, “relaxed and free in sharing their thoughts and dreams.” It’s totally a date.
They shake hands as Summer leaves, but share A Moment.
As Summer walked out of the restaurant, Murphy noticed a number of men looking at her as she walked by.
Of course! Nothing but the best for our hero. Now he has TWO looked-like-a-models to choose from!
(Also, I have never been in a restaurant where a person was so good-looking that numerous people openly stared. That just strikes me as bizarre and improbable.)
(Also also, Murphy and LaPhillips sure put a lot of stock in physical beauty, don’t they? So much for judging people based on who they are.)
Murphy heads right to his car to drive home, sparing not a thought for going back into the hospital to check on Shari, let alone Paul. Nope, off he goes. Because he is far too busy musing on how many lovely ladies want to bang him. No time to think about (or hey, how about pray about) his student who was just beaten to within an inch of his life.
Nope, Murphy just listens to “an old love song,” and thinks more about Summer’s physical attributes, including her blonde hair, which subject Phillips brings up A LOT.
I figure blonde trumps redhead in the RTC little black book.
Indeed, Murphy once again compares the two women in his mind, and once again Phillips backtracks Murphy’s professed love for Isis.
Murphy had begun to develop feelings for Isis…
…and kissed her and told her he loved her and thought to himself several times before this book that he loved her…
…and now he had mixed emotions.
But his emotions don’t exactly matter, because the real deciding factor is
the blonde hair the religion thing:
He knew that the Bible said not to have a mixed marriage with someone who didn’t share the same faith.
He then hears a line in the “old love song“:
How can you just let go of someone you genuinely care for?
Yeah, that is totally not a line in a song, Google says. It may also be one of the most unromantic lines that I’ve ever heard. I know that my heart was won the day Hank told me he genuinely cared for me. A line to make any girl’s heart go aflutter with passionate sincerity.
He snapped off the radio. That stupid song had wrecked his evening.
Right? And the evening was going so amazingly well before this song, what with your date ending with a firm handshake.
Oh, and the near-death beating of your student and the revelation that your arch-nemesis is in town and gunning for your research assistant.
Time for the obligatory How’s the Patient, Doc? scene.
But the weird thing is, in this hospital setting, the person referred to as Doc…is Murphy.
But first, Phillips ties himself into knots getting Murphy to the hospital in the first place:
It had been one-thirty in the morning when Bob Wagoner called and woke him up with the news. Several nights a month, Wagoner would work as Police Chaplain for the Raleigh Police Department. They had asked Wagoner to come down to the hospital to be with Shari.
Um, okay. Or, I suppose, Shari might just have called her boss/father figure/weird pseudo-husband herself and asked him to come for moral support.
Also, how did it take so long for Murphy to get called in by anyone? Shari and Paul had dinner at six, so probably started watching the movie by seven at the latest, and were taking a snack break when Talon arrived. So the beatdown probably went down around eight or eight-thirty. So it took them five hours to call in the most important person in Shari’s life?
Also, who cares if Wagoner is Police Chaplain? What does that have to do with anything? Wagoner is Shari’s pastor—it’s entirely natural that she call him, too.
But the personal connections just keep on coming! Murphy immediately recognizes one of the cops. The cop knows him too (as “Doc,” natch) and kindly fills him in on both Shari’s and Paul’s conditions:
“Shari has a few bruises and contusions, but she’ll be okay.”
Really? Bruises and contusions, eh?
“I’m not sure about Wallach. They’re working on him in intensive care. I think it’s pretty much touch and go.”
Thanks, Mr. Expert. Glad you’re filling in a non-family member that you happen to know on the conditions of the people you just brought in.
Also, we’re back to Shari being “Shari” and Paul being “Wallach.” Because Shari in the one we’re supposed to care about.
Murphy moves on from the cop he knows to the nurse he knows:
Murphy remembered her well from the day Laura had been brought to the hospital.
“Hi, Clara, I’m looking for Shari Nelson and Bob Wagoner.”
She smiled. “Oh, hi, Doc. They’re down the hall in a small waiting room that families use.” She pointed with her pen.
“Thank you. Good to see you again,” he added as he rushed off.
“You too,” she called after him.
Yes, the lives of random nurses revolve around the few moments when they were graced with Michael Murphy’s presence.
Look, not to be insensitive or anything, but Laura died two or three years ago. I could maybe imagine Murphy remembering one of the nurses, since for him this was a pivotal event, but for the nurse, it was just another day at the office, so to speak. Heck, Laura wasn’t even the only person to be hurt or killed in the church bombing, so even it being a memorable event, I don’t see why, years later, this nurse would remember Murphy by face and name and profession. And call him “Doc,” when she interacts with medical doctors all day, every day.
Murphy finds Shari and Bob and comforts her, and Bob is actually the one to put in the good word for Paul, pointing out that “if he hadn’t been there and fought the way he did, I’m sure she wouldn’t be alive.”
Not that that will save Paul, either in life or in death. And somehow, I think this is less the authors commenting on the inherent unfairness of life than their take on the alleged fairness of their world. After all, Paul had every chance to make the transaction before he was killed defending the very person who browbeat him the most.
The cop calls Murphy out into the hall, to first ask him if he knows anything…
“Only what Pastor Wagoner told me when he woke me up at one-thirty.”
Well, geez, Murphy, so sorry that Paul’s impending death cut into your beauty sleep!
…and the to inform him that when the cops got over their “shock” and “searched her place for clues,” they found “a bloodstained note that said ‘Back off, Murphy.'”
I see that Talon’s career change from cultured and erudite assassin to petty thug is proceeding apace.
So, after several years of dealings with Talon, in which time that man has killed his wife and an elderly dementia patient, as well as several undeveloped security guards and a Mossad agent, AND made numerous attempts on Murphy’s own life (such as they were), and AND ALSO this is the second time he’s put Paul Wallach in the hospital…now, Murphy gets around to giving a description of Talon to a police officer. His accent and his razor-finger take prominence in the description, which I find amusing because the razor-finger is no more, and the accent, I would think, would be relatively easy to mask, especially as (IIRC) Talon was educated in England.
Miller was shaking his head back and forth as he wrote. This was quite a story.
Heh, yeah, give yourself all the credit, Phillips. Also it’s a story that Murphy should have told many moons ago.
Miller opines that since there is a ton of blood and a bunch of bloody fingerprints in the apartment and it looks like Paul got some good hits on Talon, there is a chance they could get a DNA match for Talon.
Btw, I described the Talon of this book to my husband, and he opined that such a blunt, lowbrow villain would normally be the lovable comic relief sidekick villain, not the Big Bad. But Murphy has other ideas:
“I doubt if you’ll find any fingerprints or DNA that will match. He’s too clever for that. If someone had ever taken his fingerprints, I’m confident that he would have killed them and destroyed the evidence. This is an extremely ruthless and evil man.”
“And I’m so glad I told law enforcement all about him before he had a chance to harm anyone else—oh.”
Never say Phillips doesn’t start out his chapters with a bang:
Paul had gotten up for another soda while Shari remained on the couch. He was rummaging through the refrigerator trying to decide what to drink. Cherry Coke, Dr Pepper, or a Pepsi.
I don’t drink pop, so there is no possible way I could care less even if this was remotely interesting. For the record, Paul decides on the Cherry Coke. Maybe what with Coke’s long-standing dedication to inclusiveness, it’s the most logical choice for an evil atheist like Paul.
Shari, back on the couch after her useless trip to examine a noise, turns at the sound of another noise, only to find that neither of those noises were Just Her Imagination, and were in fact Just Talon.
Across the room, Paul sees him too, and never does get to enjoy his evil atheist Coke. Instead, he does what Michael Murphy has not yet seen fit to do—go toe-to-toe against Talon to protect the woman he loves.
First: Talon does a singularly stupid thing and attacks the woman first, one-punching Shari over the couch. Yeah, there’s a smart assassin—take out the lesser threat first, and antagonize the greater threat at the same time. You’re a credit to your profession, Talon.
So Paul grabs the baseball bat and literally does go toe-to-toe with the assassin, and they circle each other and Paul yells at Shari to run for it. She fumbles with the door because she is a girl-irl, and Talon makes a lunge for her again (such a smart assassin!), giving Paul the opening to smash his hand with the bat.
Paul has awesomely severed Talon’s talon finger: With a frakking baseball bat. So he’s basically an atheist ninja god.
That was the final straw. This kid was dead meat.
Thanks for that little peak into Talon’s mind, Phillips. And can we just acknowledge how shitty Talon is at this?
It really just is a whole new level of incompetence, isn’t it? Talon can take out nursing home residents and librarians who are crushing on him, but faced with two college students with exactly zero fighting experience, he’s at a complete loss.
He manages to gut-kick Paul, and Paul is vaguely aware that Shari has taken his advice to run very much to heart, as she is “disappearing down the street.” What a heroine. Two people have to stop the screaming girl to get her to tell them exactly what’s going on.
Talon had never been this angry before.
Yeah, I bet. Being bested in hand-to-hand combat by an unathletic business major will do that.
Talon could hear sirens in the background, but he wasn’t through with this punk yet.
“You’re dead. You hear! Look at me! You are dead!”
So when did Talon turn from well-educated, cultured assassin who read Edgar Allen Poe and listened to classical music to incompetent low-level gangster?
Speaking of hooligan moves, Talon smashes Paul’s face and ribs until the poor guy is coughing up blood.
Then, in yet more hilarious evidence that Talon totally sucks at his job, he opts not to finish Paul off with the severed talon finger, because “why put him out of his misery? Let him suffer a while longer.”
Yes, a common sentiment amongst contract killers.
The cops get there and are “shocked” to find the room a mess, because these are apparently the least hardened cops on the planet. Seriously, a room where a struggle took place shocks you? Okay.
Shari was sobbing in the arms of Mr. and Mrs. Krantz. They lived two houses down from Shari’s apartment and had become like second parents to her.
Ah. Interesting, seeing as how it’s always been implied that Murphy Murphy and his wife were like second parents to Shari, and also because WE’VE NEVER HEARD OF THESE PEOPLE BEFORE THIS MOMENT.
Also, if Shari lives in an apartment building, why did she run screaming down the street? Why didn’t she just go one door down, or start screaming in the hallway and not stop until she got help?
Anyway, the cops opine that they need to get Paul to the hospital ASAP…
…and shake their collective head at Paul’s prospects for recovery.