Soon: Chapter 9: St. Stephen
Stephen Lloyd (End Hell Typos? Pled Honestly?) is led away.
Actually, screw the anagrams on this one. Just look at the guy’s name. Stephen. Not hard to see where this is going…
The Lloyd part…maybe Martyn Lloyd-Jones, an influential minister at Westminster Chapel?
Paul headed down the hall to observe, curious about Stephen Lloyd. Maybe he was a hero, maybe a troublemaker. If Lloyd had intervened in a good cause, assailing an armed guard was still reckless, considering all the help at hand right down the hall. Standing fearlessly on principle could be noble or hot-headed, but it was also typical extremist behavior.
Wow. That may be the very first time in the entire book that Paul has an idea about religion that is neither common knowledge nor something he learned in the past few weeks. Only took us two missions and 77 pages.
Paul guessed Lloyd at six-foot-three and at least 250 pounds.
Paul sure spends an awful lot of time guessing other dudes’ vital statitics. He did it with Coker, too, back in San Francisco…
[Coker] had short blonde hair and red cheeks, stood about six feet, and was thick and solid. Paul guessed 225 pounds.
I wonder if he ever asks the other guys if the guesses are correct. “So, Coker, if you don’t mind my asking…how much do you weigh?” “Okay, Lloyd, take a seat under these bright lights. This won’t take long if you tell us what we need to know. First question: How much do you weigh?”
At any rate, it might be more interesting than the questioning of Stephen, which is pretty mundane. Where he’s from, did he play college football, etc., etc.
Then Dirk brings out the contents of Stephen’s room: wallet, keys, and…dun dun dunnnnnn…”a dull gray coin attached to a leather strap.”
Pay attention, y’all–this is the Sardis stuff, right here!
Dirk makes this very odd statement:
“You’re not old enough to remember books.”
This strikes me as a distinct lack of imagination. I mean, I’m too young to remember 45 rpms, but they are still perfectly recognizable to me, and they have symbolic meaning.
Then Paul looks as the coin and sees…
The engraved book was open. What was that behind it? A quill? No, that would be in front of the book, not in the background. Then Paul recognized it–a palm frond–and knew what it meant.
Hey, this is Paul again using actual knowledge!
I am, frankly, shocked.
Paul and Stephen walk outside as Paul takes over the questioning, and he messes with Stephen’s head for a minute, dropping words like “sign” and “miracle.”
Then the dim light of Paul’s “quick wit” flickers and is extinguished, and he simply begins “parroting” the words of the old lady back in sinful San Francisco. Again, stuff that he’s only learned in the past few weeks. I just resent how very, very little indication we get of how Paul’s frackin’ Ph.D. actually does him any good.
But it doesn’t really matter, as Stephen is no great intellectual prodigy, either. Heck, one “He is risen” from Paul, and Stephen is gushing like a Miracle Well in a Gulfland oil field.
“There are others like us?” [Paul asked]
“Some. Mexicans, mostly. They tend to keep to the old ways.”
Old ways? Why, those weird-ass Catholics!
Yanno, in a world where religion has been outlawed, you’d think the religious would stick together. But no, it’s still Really Real Christian or hell-bound.
But Stephen’s barely getting started telling Paul bunches of secrets when Donny Johnson wanders up:
“Hey there,” Donny Johnson called…”How’s it goin’?”
“Fine,” Paul said. “I’m making an arrest.”
I’ve been having some fun playing SWAT 4 recently, and one line from The Spoony One’s Let’s Plays seems particularly apropos:
So Paul has Stephen right where he wants him, with the potential to easily reveal all other Christians among the roughnecks, maybe even beyond into all of Gulfland, and he tips his hand after two minutes of questioning?
What. An. Idiot.
I just cannot get over this. It is Paul’s personal, not to mention professional mission to bring down the “Christian threat” from the inside. He’s succeeded, in a mere two minutes, in getting a Christian on his side. In a few more minutes, Paul could have information and names that might take months to get under other circumstances. And he throws it all away so he can look all suave in front of Donny Johnson.
Who, true to his word, beings pummeling on poor St. Stephen. All the commotion brings Tick a-runnin’, and true to his word, he tries to break up the fight.
“Johnson, stop!” Tick shouted, jumping to grab his arm. Johnson wrenched free, his hat flying, and again set upon Lloyd, pushing him back into the cinder blocks. Before Tick could stop him, Johnson had snatched up a block and started brutally bludgeoning the roughneck.
“You’ll kill him!” Jefferson flung himself at Johnson, trying to wrestle him away. “Help me!” he yelled at Paul, who had been watching with satisfaction.
OH I C WUT U DID THERE, JERRY JENKINS!
When they heard this, they were furious and gnashed their teeth at him. But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. “Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”
At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him, dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul.
While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold their sin against them.” When he had said this, he fell asleep.
And Saul was there, giving approval to his death.
And, of course, it turns out that Donny Johnson has indeed killed Stephen Lloyd, and…
Wait a minute!
Stephen Lloyd…Don’s Hell Type!
Jenkins is telling us that by beating a Christian to death, Donny Johnson demonstrates that he is going to Hell. Stephen Lloyd is Donny Johnson’s Hell Type!
The anagrams make it all so clear…
So, Donny’s killed St. Stephen, and Tick wants to arrest Donny. And in Tick, just like Coker, we have a potentially interesting character who comes to nothing. Tick has the balls to arrest Donny for doing something seen by both Donny and Paul as just and good, and…we never hear from Tick again.
Mostly because Paul says,
“Leave Johnson to me. I want his help.”
Um, that’s great, Paul, but I’m pretty sure you don’t have authority over Tick.
But I guess I’m wrong, because Tick disappears from the book, and Donny and Paul round up the Mexican roughnecks (and only the Mexicans, despite St. Stephen’s implication that there are USSA-ian Christians, too) for interrogation.
Paul has decided to change his method of questioning from coercion and fake-outs to simple threats. He lines up the Mexicans and holds a gun to one guy’s head, demanding to know the names of all the Christians.
Now, even beyond being just over-the-top and goofy, you know what might work even better, Paul?
HOW ABOUT PRETENDING TO BE A CHRISTIAN FOR MORE THAN 30 SECONDS SO THEY’LL TAKE YOU INTO THEIR CONFIDENCE, JUST LIKE STEPHEN DID, YOU STUPID, STUPID MAN???
But it’s all for nothing, as just then, there’s an alarm and “an eruption of smoke in the distance.”
Donny immediately heads out to investigate. Paul, for reasons best known to himself, tags along, just leaving the Mexicans to stand around, I suppose.
At the smoke-filled site:
The driver lowered the interior window.
“Give me one of those coats, Stepola,” Johnson said. “The biggest one.”
“What are you doing, Johnson?” Paul said. “Just call out the fire crew and wait in the car. You’re under arrest.”
“I’m the law out here, mister, not the NPO.” He brandished a Walther Stealth. “Try to stop me, I’ll kill you.”
Paul held up his hands. “You’re insane, walking into a fire.”
Johnson opened his window a crack. “There’s an updraft. Just wait five minutes,” he told the chauffeur. “I’m gonna catch me a terrorist.”
Oh, so now Paul cares that Donny’s under arrest. Because he didn’t so much care twenty minutes ago. He’s always gotta have it how he wants it, doesn’t he?
With the skull phones not getting reception, Paul and the driver inexplicably give Donny ten minutes out there in the dense and toxic smoke before they decide that maaaaaybe it’s a good idea to go after him. And they actually do it in a pretty smart way–Paul gets some rope from the truck and has the driver sit in the car with one end, and he goes out, doing a criss-cross pattern, holding the other end.
That brief moment of intelligence done, Paul decides it’s time to
fulfill his eternal, Saullish destiny do something incredibly stupid take off his grimy goggles because he can’t quite see what in the world might be making that strange noise.
The whirring grew louder, faster…The winds began to wail.
My, what could it be?
Several hours earlier…
The fire sounded unearthly–not the familiar snap and crackle of a wood fire but rather an uprush of wind whirling to a keening wail high overhead–what Paul imagined a tornado would sound like up close.
Paul even has the audacity to think…
That tornado sound…
…but it doesn’t occur to him to, yanno, leave. Instead, he takes off his goggles.
GEE YOU WILL NEVER IN A MILLION YEARS GUESS WHAT HAPPENS NEXT!!!!
Another pillar of fire erupts right in front of Paul’s unshielded, stupid face.
And he goes blind.