Babylon Rising, Chapter 50
Now that we know that Murphy has survived his Dark Night of the Soul (whew! I was worried, there), we can return to the plight of poor Shari.
And poor Shari, indeed. Since the bombing, Shari has been keeping a bedside vigil beside the comatose Paul, only taking a break to attend Laura’s funeral and comfort Laura’s grieving parents.
So, as you can imagine, she is a bit worn down.
But today, Paul finally wakes up. (At this point, given that it’s been maybe a day or two since Laura’s funeral, I’m thinking it’s been about 7-10 days since the actual bombing, but no one’s giving me any real timeline details.)
And just when Shari is shooed out into the hallway so the doctors can examine the now-conscious Paul, just at that moment, Agent Baines (Nice FBI Guy) is waiting to deliver the devastating news that DNA testing has confirmed that Shari’s brother, Chuck, was the unidentified person directly on top of the blast. In fact, the bomb was in his very own backpack. Oddly, the FBI decides immediately that Chuck “was likely more victim than evil mastermind,” based on the fact that he did not have the brains to construct the bomb himself.
Wait, so if Chuck wasn’t the mastermind, he was a victim? Surely there must be some middle ground between Bond Villain and Patsy. And, as we saw earlier, that was exactly the case with Chuck–sure, he couldn’t make the bomb himself, but he sure had no problem with using it, or watching Talon murder people right in front of him. So this passage reads as though either 1) LaHaye and Dinallo actually don’t think that conspirators are guilty unless they personally construct the bomb with their own two hands, or 2) the FBI doesn’t think so. Either way, it sure makes somebody look bad.
Shari, meanwhile, seems pretty sanguine about the whole Chuck situation. She had been hoping that he had just skipped town with his new scary friend, though she had her suspicions that he had been involved in the bombing, given that she hadn’t seen him since that day and all. She cries, but it seems more from fear of “Agent Baines’ likely barrage of questions” than sorrow that her brother is dead.
Not to mention that, according to Shari’s faith, Chuck is now roasting in Hell because he wasn’t saved, just like her unsaved alcoholic father and long-suffering-but-still-unsaved mother. Does she spare a thought for that? Hell, no! She’s far more concerned about “this disturbing spotlight someone is shining on our faith, seemingly to hurt innocent people and embarrass us.”
After such a brutal interrogation by Baines, Shari busts back into Paul’s room only to find him deep in conversation with…Shane Barrington! Shari is immediately suspicious of Shane coming to pokey ole Preston, NC, to talk to some college student he’s never met before, but Shane talks a good game about hearing about the bombing and learning Paul’s Poor Little Rich But Now Poor Boy story, and feeling bad because his own son was just taken from him, and offers Paul a brand-new, full scholarship from Barrington Communications, right there in the hospital room. Of course, this is all part of Barrington’s assignment from The Seven to worm his way closer to Michael Murphy, but Paul, unsaved wretch that he is, is tearfully grateful for his sudden good fortune. Knowing as she does that the unsaved are never generous without having some ulterior motive, Shari’s suspicions grow.