Category Archives: The Edge of Darkness
This book is breaking boundaries here as a minor character has a banal revelation about a very basic activity of their job or life. Previously, we’ve learned that Michael Murphy does’t like standing in TSA lines at the airport and that Levi Abrams dislikes the smell of outhouses. (Riveting.) But now, we learn that Gabriel Quintero, the policeman who is assigned the task of guarding Paul’s hospital room, prefers jogging to sitting outside a hospital room, guarding the latest victim of an international assassin.
And, of course, every person who works in that hospital knows Murphy by name:
“Good evening, Gabriel. Long day?”
“Feels that way, Dr. Murphy. …”
Notice that, once again, the lesser peon is known by his first name, but it’s Dr. Murphy back…
“I don’t mind the responsibility of guarding people…”
Well, I should hope not, since it’s your JOB.
“…but just sitting around can get pretty dull. My body wants to go for a run.”
“Well, thanks for what you’re doing, even though it’s not easy for you.”
The kid you’re guarding is dying because he got the shit kicked out of him by a psycho. I don’t think the cop sitting around all day is the one who has it “not easy.”
Also, this is not the first time Murphy has condescended to thank a lesser first-named peon for doing his job.
Shari is sitting at Paul’s side, and is worried because “doctors and nurses are coming in and out more frequently.” She is not, however, worried enough to actually ask for a status update on Paul.
Being a manly man, Murphy does the asking. Being a male doctor, the two men are on an equal status plane, apparently, since they both use first names.
The doctor gives the rather startling update that Paul “could go at any time” (sensitive!) because his organs are shutting down (from a beating?). Murphy goes back to break the news to Shari, and immediately jumps into the most important issue now:
“Do you think he made any type of decision regarding faith, Shari?”
Shari says she’s “not sure,” which seems rather optimistic on her part, since if Paul had made the transaction and RTC-ed himself, you’d think Shari would be the first person he told. Indeed, in their very last conversation, Paul only said that he was “keeping an open mind,” after which Shari lectured him as usual, and he didn’t reveal that he was secretly converted all along like Isis. So, yeah, methinks Shari is fooling herself a wee bit.
Anyway, as they sit around, Murphy starts going through some of Paul’s unopened get-well-soon cards, and there’s one from Talon!
Roses are red
And violets are blue
Because of the baseball bat
Paul Wallach got the shoe,
…and I kicked him with much pleasure.
That…doesn’t even scan. It also doesn’t make sense, and is dumb. Also, since when does erudite serial assassin Talon send taunting cards to the acquaintances of his victims. What kind of fifth-rate thug has he turned into?
Murphy is now EXTRA pissed, but there’s no time for that, as the doctor’s prediction came true…not 15 minutes after he made it! Paul flat lines and the nurses try to resuscitate but are unsuccessful.
Poor Paul. At least he left this book series as he entered it: as an atheist.
Paul has a bizarre funeral, though, especially for an atheist. Mostly it’s people from Murphy and Shari’s church, and Pastor wagoner presides, and there three local TV stations are filming and there are SIX policemen “watching over the crowd,” because “it had been considered a murder.”
Huh? “Been considered“? It WAS a murder, doofuses. There was a witness and a taunting confession and everything!
Maybe only RTCs can be really murdered or something.
Murphy is mostly in the anger stage (if he can even be considered to be grieving) as he decides to “end Talon’s reign of terror.” Yeah, good luck with that, Murph. You can’t end the reign of humor of your class clown student who trolls your every class, and you think you can take down an assassin? I mean, granted, Talon is a pretty sucky assassin, but still.
Shari is in the depression stage:
Their relationship would never have a chance to develop.
You’ve known this guy for three years or so, Shari. Lectured him, berated him, mocked everything he stood for. Punched him in his wounds (literally). If this relationship hasn’t developed by now, it really never would. Paul deserved better.
But, most of all, she ached inside because she knew Paul’s eternity was settled.
Yep, while Shari is sniffling in Michael Murphy’s arms, Paul is screaming in everlasting torment, because your loving God says that’s how it goes. From now on, Shari, whenever you’re having a pizza dinner or sleeping or messing about with Murphy’s artifacts, just remember that every second you’re doing that, and every second for forever, Paul is being tortured, nonstop. Because that’s the fair and loving thing to happen.
Eh, the authors have had it out for Paul since the moment he appeared in the first book. It’s entirely unsurprising that they sent him to hell.
Well, I know we all know and love Meta-Isis, the woman with a brain and a big heart and no patience whatsoever for one arrogant douchebag named Michael Murphy.
Well, sorry, guys. We all suspected this day would come…
Isis calls Murphy’s office. Well, actually, and rather bizarrely, even though she has called his office multiple times in the past, this time, she ends up on the switchboard, then is connected to Murphy’s office…and Shari answers.
And because Isis is a lovely person, she commiserates with Shari about the attack by Talon, and asks about Paul’s condition and welfare. And because Paul has been put on pause since the attack, he is exactly the same as he has been since the night of the attack, even though so many days have passed. Isis listens with sympathy and understanding, not even laughing when Shari, clearly delusional, says that Murphy has “been very supportive through this tough time.” Really, Shari, while he was jetting off to D.C. to break up with Isis and never spared a thought for you and Paul, or when he was abusing gypsies and never spared a thought for you and Paul.
At least Isis wasn’t calling to beg Murphy to come back to her. She was calling to talk about the actual archaeological dig that Murphy should have gone on 200 pages ago: she did some more research and found out some random facts about the Temple of Dagon. So, speaking of delusional, seems Isis still believes Murphy will get off the couch and on a plane at some point. She ends the call with one more kind wish to Shari that Paul’s condition improves.
But Isis has a secret that she didn’t tell Shari…
Then it turns out that Isis has already “made the transaction.”
I know, I know…
I mean, like this day wasn’t fucked enough…
Okay, okay, so here we go:
Turns out that in the great tradition of Christian fiction, Isis was converted by a woman. Some chick named Lisa, a coworker at the Parchments of Freedom Foundation, did the standard-issue conversion trick: find someone at an emotional low point, act like you actually care about her as a person, then give credit to Jesus when the person’s life improves, as most people’s lives do after an emotional low point.
Hilariously, Phillips kinda accidentally insults Murphy, stating that it wasn’t until Isis started going to Lisa’s Bible study that she “began to understand what it was to be a Christian.”
Heh, really, Phillips? Knowing Murphy for years, pseudo-dating him for two, and she only now gets what it is to be a Christian? Wow, nice job living your faith and being an example, Murph!
And Isis does indeed say the magic words one night, and now has Jesus on her heart.
Isis decides that she doesn’t want to beg Murphy to come back to her (smart choice!), but also decides she doesn’t want to date anyone else, even though multiple men have asked her out (you go, girl!). Isis, my friend, let me tell you something as one who has been there: when you’ve been heartlessly dumped by an asshole, nothing feels better than getting right back out there and meeting new guys.
And before long, hopefully you’ll meet the perfect man for you, who loves you for you and who isn’t a self-absorbed ass.
Fuck Murphy, babe. You are soooooo much better off without his lazy ass.
But no, Isis just prays that God “help me be honest with my feelings and not be overrun with them.”
Yeah, you know those wimmins, right, with overrunning feelings and all.
Don’t worry, Meta-Isis, you always have a home here.
Well, bet you didn’t expect this in a Michael Murphy book, but Tim Lahaye is about to go full-on Exorcist here.
Yeah, like that.
It’s time for Our Heroes to visit the next fake healer, tagging along with the hapless Clyde. They all show up at a turn-of-the-last-century farmhouse on the outskirts of town, and they all feel “a little apprehension,” mostly because the house is, yanno, old and stuff, and looks like it needs a fresh coat of paint and there are curtains in the windows and it’s dusk (no, seriously, these are the reasons).
Carlotta, Madame Estelle’s assistant, lets them in, and we know she’s evil because “her face seemed more wrinkled than normal for someone her age” and she’s dressed like a movie gypsy.
No, not THAT gypsy.
THAT kind of gypsy.
They join some other people who are apparently there to be healed and nobody introduces themselves and “Murphy couldn’t tell if they were being rude or if they were embarrassed to be seen there.”
Dude, you’re not introducing yourself, either! Rude much?
Murphy’s rudeness and utter lack of basic consideration for others becomes a theme for this chapter, if not the entire series: Madame Estelle comes in, and she’s also dressed like a gypsy and wears heavy makeup.
For a moment Murphy almost laughed, she looked so ridiculous, but he restrained himself.
Wow. What a gentleman, eh? What a loving Christian.
Immediately, and I mean frakking immediately, Estelle…
…sorry, Estelle calls out Murphy and Wagoner as unbelievers. Tellingly, she looks at Murphy with “fear” and at Wagoner with “anger.” Because Murphy has to be the most powerful manly man in the room at any given moment, you see, so Michael Murphy is someone to be feared by this false healer, but she’s just kinda annoyed that the MINISTER OF GOD HIMSELF is there.
Estelle demands that Murphy and Wagoner leave.
Murphy did not budge. He did not like being challenged in public…
Um. You are not in public, Murph. You are in Estelle’s own home, so she has every right to ask you to leave, for any reason or for no reason at all.
By the way, this whole doesn’t-like-being-challenged thing is not an attractive trait. Not for any hero, in general, let alone one who is a professor. Murphy teaches college students, and it seems natural that he would be challenged and questioned by snot-nosed kids from time to time. One sign of a good professor is one who can roll with such a punch and still maintain control of the classroom.
So Murphy (and Wagoner and Clyde, not that they matter), stick around and Murphy questions Estelle about whether her healing powers are “by the name of Jesus.” This causes Estelle to pull some possessed-Regan shit, screeching and slapping her own head on the table and looking like “a wild animal that was in some kind of trance.”
See lots of animals in trances, do you, Bob Phillips?
Then Estelle starts to yell in a man’s voice, and then she flips the table.
No, seriously, she does an actual Real Housewives table flip. From this, and from speaking in a deeper voice, Wagoner cleverly deduces that “This is for real!”
Because speaking in a deep voice and flipping a table can only mean one thing: this poor woman is actually possessed by a real, actual demon.
And then she demonstrates her demonic powers even further by throwing a chair at the guys (the other guests have fled, unnamed and unmissed).
Wagoner pulls out his little pocket Bible and together with Murphy, they proceed to rip off The Exorcist in earnest, with a lot of “in the name of Jesus” and just being kinda rude and pushy.
I’ll digress here, because this whole scene is so beat for beat The Exorcist that it can’t not be intentional. One thing I’ve always said about Tim LaHaye is that it always felt like he had way more animosity towards Catholics than towards atheists. The Exorcist was written by a Catholic, made with input from the Catholic Church, and portrays said Church as a helpful organization, necessary in the universal struggle of good vs. evil. So this bit with Murphy feels like a repudiation of the great struggle of The Exorcist.
Because Murphy’s exorcism works immediately, which I guess shows us that is Michael Murphy a much bigger bad-ass than those pansy-ass priests, Karras and Merrin, because it took them multiple tries to save Regan McNeil, and the ordeal ultimately cost both men their lives. Also, Murphy is a layman with no formal affiliation with his church other than being the minister’s buddy. The Exorcist needed actual trained men of the cloth to do a proper exorcism. Hilariously, here, Wagoner, the actual trained minister, only “join[s] in,” providing the assist to Murphy. And we are told explicitly that this is the first try at an exorcism for both Murphy and Wagoner, and of course they succeed instantly, whereas in The Exorcist, Father Merrin was a very experienced exorcist with a lifetime of experience and it still ended up killing him.
(Then again, Phillips doesn’t exactly sell the threat: Estelle and her demon (“Deception,” if you care), seem kinda wussy in comparison to Pazuzu-possessed Regan. Possessed Regan exhibits supernatural powers and actually kills a man. Possessed Estelle…um, tosses some furniture around.)
There is also a fair amount of hypocrisy here, because I absolutely believe that the success of the cultural icon that is The Exorcist created an environment where other religious horror stories like the Left Behind series could flourish.
So, yeah, RTCs can perform exorcisms at the drop of a hat, with no training whatsoever, and it’s all over in a matter of seconds. Murphy, a much more awesome Christian than those silly ole priests, is just fine and dandy, and minister Wagoner is merely a bit shaken:
“I don’t think I’d ever like to do that again. It was like coming up to the edge of darkness and facing the devil.”
WE HAVE A TITLE
Estelle, demon gone, comes to, as it were, and it turns out that, unlike Regan McNeil, she has pretty good memory of her possession, and how, like Regan, she was open to it because of minor dealings with the occult, like tarot cards and books. Hilariously, it seems that she did do some healing of people, so if I was Carl right now, I’d feel a little bitter. But she wants to know “what just happened to me,” and then we cut and the chapter ends, because for once, we’re not going to have Michael Murphy pontificate on someone else’s experiences.
Back in the Biblical flashback again, and moving right along (faster than the main plot of this book, by quite a bit), this time we do I Samuel 6, 1-12.
It begins thusly:
Painful only slightly describes the ten-mile journey from Ashdod near the great sea called the Mediterranean. The inland march to Gath and the great village of giants was torture, to say the least.
GET YOU SOME
That is just one of the most awkward, redundant passages I have read in these books, and this particular book just spent two chapters killing a barely-named character.
Now, I’ve skimmed over this so far, because it’s mostly just boring, but this is where things get weird.
Now, if you read the Bible section I linked, or this silly chapter that just recaps it and adds a few random names to random characters, you’ll see the cray on full display:
“If you send away the Ark of the God of Israel, do not send it empty. We need to return it with a trespass offering. … I suggest five golden tumors and five golden rats…”
Yeah, they’re going to make golden RATS and golden TUMORS.
Yanno, if Michael Murphy really wants to find some extraordinary biblical artifacts, I think he should concentrate on the golden TUMOR angle. Because holy crap, why wouldn’t you, right?
Just today, I was listening to Christian radio, and Rick Warren was telling me how without the Bible, there would be no rules, no standards, we could do whatever we wanted with no consequences. Which, no, because …
But also because, seriously? You’re taking up space in the Inspired Law Book of God’s Infallible Lawful Word…talking about making TUMORS out of GOLD.
I mean, holy crap.
I think for next time I’m going to time how long it’s taking Murphy to actually GET ON THE ROAD, and stop fussing around, going to the gym, pretending he has a love life, etc.
(It’s almost a meta-commentary on the book that I’m taking so much time to review it. I go slowly because the book goes so gorram slowly…or something.)
Anyway, these two chapters take their sweet-ass time dispensing a scene we’ve all seen many times: the They Killed The Wrong Guy bit from countless action movies. The Real Target escapes (or the killers miss him), while a very minor character dies in the trap.
In this case, it’s Eugene Simpson, Shane Barrington’s driver, who has been name checked all of twice before. Eugene’s characterization is so deep that all we know about him is that he thinks it’s “pretty cool” to drive Shane’s newly “exotic” (his word for “highly armored”) car.
Bet Eugene doesn’t think it’s so cool when he gets a package sent to him, ostensibly from his parents, but it’s actually a bomb, and he gets stuck in traffic and can’t pick up Shane on time, and the bomb explodes, but the only person it actually kills is Eugene. Shane barricades himself in his penthouse and works from there, since he knows The Seven (TSAN!) were behind it.
Really, he should know The Seven were behind it because the plan completely FAILED, and The Seven kinda specialize in failed plans.
Seriously, can these people do nothing right? They’ve repeatedly failed to assassinate a college professor and a linguist, neither of whom arm themselves or take any precautions for their own safety, so what made them think they could off someone who did arm himself and did invest in numerous safety measures?
One evening when he’s barricaded inside his very secure home (again, a precaution Michael Murphy has never taken), Talon calls him. He fesses up to the bombing (which seems kinda silly of him, seeing as how he failed and all), except, in a twist that will revolutionize this series of books as we know it…
TALON ACTUALLY SUCCEEDS IN KILLING THE PERSON HE IS TRYING TO KILL!!!
I know, right?
Yeah, he’s at a building across the street, and launches a FRICKIN ROCKET LAUNCHER into Shane Barrington’s frickin’ living room!
…which makes you really wonder why he couldn’t dispense a dumbass professor and a clueless college girl.
I mean really.
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.