Category Archives: The Edge of Darkness
So, the big cliffhanger reveal isn’t nearly exciting as we might have been led to believe.
The guys enter a big room (“It seemed much larger than” the previous room–thanks, Mr. Archaeologist who maps out dig sites.) The room contains maybe benches and an altar and four dead bodies are scattered around. I’m kinda surprised, but Levi and Murphy actually check the men to make sure they’re dead, then Murphy declares them not dead, but “priests or worshippers of Dagon.” (Really, Mr. Archaeologist, you don’t know for sure?) Murphy then looks at the altar, and seriously sees clean splotches in the dust where the jar of manna and Aaron’s rod just were. But whoever killed the men (spoiler: it’s Talon) just took them. Just a moment ago.
Thus demonstrating the inherent problems with Methuselah scouting these locations ahead of time, making a hole to get in, then just leaving and waiting for Murphy to get off his ass and find it again. Thus leaving Murphy “excited and exasperated.”
And just think, Murphy, if you had only spent less time jogging with Summer and more time doing archaeology, you’d have the artifacts in your hand now.
But Murphy is so lacking in self-awareness that he instead snaps at Levi, who proposes that they “go after whoever killed them.”
“‘Whoever’! You know as well as I do that it’s got to be Talon. We’re not far behind him. I wonder how he found out about the Golden Jar and Aaron’s Rod?”
I just love that Murphy is not concerned at all about catching Talon because he just killed four other human beings, but just because he has the stuff that Murphy couldn’t be arsed to go and get for months.
So they sensitively step over the bodies and out into the corridor…where they encounter a live body.
Now, encountering a guy who has been shot, I figure many of us would try to help. But not our Christian hero! Murphy leans over (no touching!) and demands of the MAN WHO HAS BEEN SHOT:
“Do you speak English? Do you understand me?”
The man only groaned.
Gee, go figure.
“Do you know who did this to you?”
Do you want to DO anything about this, asshat?
The dying man actually manages to make two letters in the dust before carking it.
Murphy shook his head gravely. It was never pleasant to see anyone die.
It’s a very blasé attitude coming from a man who saw his murdered wife die in front of him two years ago. Eh, it’s not the most pleasant thing ever.
The letters are T U.
And Murphy is kinda annoyed because TU doesn’t start Talon. So I suppose maybe this guy doesn’t actually speak and write English, you ass.
I’d actually like to think that the T got messed up a bit and is a messy F, and the guy wanted his last expression on Earth to be “Eff you, Murphy!”
Levi immediately searches the newly-dead guy and finds his wallet, which contains ID and some cash and, hilariously, a picture. But not of the guy’s kids, but of his terrorist cell. It’s Talon and all the other dead guys, and they’re all standing at the back of a car and you can see the license plate.
Yeah, I really don’t see why you would commemorate your terrorist group and carry around a picture of you all in your wallet. Just to help the police or military or stupid archaeologist i case you’re ever captured or killed?
Also, doesn’t the put a damper on Murphy’s theory that these guys were priests or Dagon groupies?
So Murphy and Levi decide to head back upside so Levi can actually make a call for reinforcements. Also, they’ve left their friend up there alone, and Talon is around, so there’s that, too.
And thank goodness for that: four books in, and this is BY FAR the least interesting series of back-in-the-Bible we’ve come across yet. I can only imagine what we will get if Phillips ever writes the last book in the series. (As Tim LaHaye has moved on to his eternal reward (or whatever), maybe Jerry Jenkins will step in as Biblical Consultant.)
In yet another instance of animal cruelty in the Bible, when the driver-less cart with the ark wanders into a random field, the Levites sacrifice the cows pulling the cart as a burnt offering to the LORD. And the poor cows never did anything to anybody.
So they keep constant watch over the Ark (there seems to be no long-term plan of what to do with this stupid thing), and unsurprisingly, eventually curiosity gets the best of some random dudes guarding it, so they open it and die, but not before pulling out the golden rats and tumors, and also, impliedly, the jar of manna and rod of Aaron.
Like that, except nobody’s face gets melted.
Oh, and because God is just a super fair kinda guy, he kills not only the men who looked directly into the Ark, but FIFTY THOUSAND OTHER GUYS WHO NEVER DID ANYTHING, MANY OF WHOM PROBABLY DID NOT KNOW THE ARK WAS EVEN THERE.
So they cover the Ark without looking at it, and send it off to be guarded by…somebody, I don’t care who, and the priests of Dagon take the “two items” to the temple, which is where Murphy now FINALLY is.
Sorry, this story just doesn’t have the dramatic pull of Noah’s Ark.
Seeing as how Murphy has come on this particular adventure with only his good pal Levi (no Isis, because he isn’t pseudo-dating her anymore; no students or assistants or colleagues, because a Manly Man doesn’t need to share the glory), it makes sense that another character would be provided. Then, we don’t have two strapping Manly Men sweating at a dig site all by themselves, like they’re gay or something.
By the way, does it strike anyone else as odd that Levi is ALWAYS available to Murphy? Go to Israel on a random archaeological dig? Sure! I mean, is his job at the Mossad to just smooth Murphy’s way at any time? Doesn’t he have a family? (I mean, he does, because they are mentioned in Babylon Rising, but I think Phillips forgot.)
Anyway, I guess the Mossad specializes in providing guys who can just go anywhere and help Michael Murphy at the drop of a hat, because here’s another: Gideon. While Levi was picking Murphy up at the airport and then taking him out to breakfast, Gideon was just chilling the whole time at the dig site, because this trained Mossad agent of thirteen years had absolutely nothing better to do with his time.
He also has two entire lines in this chapter. So, there’s that.
So Murphy and Levi show up and there are introductions all around. Amusingly, but in keeping with the theme of this series, Murphy is “Michael” to Levi, “Dr. Murphy” to trained Mossad agent Gideon, who is apparently volunteering his time out of the goodness of his heart.
Not one to waste any more time now that he has actually gotten off the couch after 53 chapters, Murphy just plunges right into Discovery. He picks a wall that “there might be something behind,” and Gideon looks at it and makes the first of his two contributions:
“Dr. Murphy. Come and look at the mortar around these rocks. It looks different.”
If this seems confusing, it is to me, too. I have zero picture in my mind of what these guys are looking at. There is no description beyond the rather confounding: “Look how the hillside rises behind the wall. The hillside looks like it was cut out.”
With utmost respect for the historicity of the site, Murphy just plops down and chips at the mortar with a knife (use the right tool for the right job, Murph!). He opines that the mortar is fresh and finds “a cavity” behind it. Levi volunteers the use of a shovel he has in the back of his car, because they didn’t bring any other equipment. (No, really.)
Perhaps coming to terms with his uselessness, Gideon volunteers to stay behind while Murphy and Levi crawl into the hole, and also to check on three cars that have been here the whole time that the men are only just now even slightly curious about.
The hole turns out to be a tunnel/passageway, and the guys head down it, and whaddaya know, it just so happens to lead to “some kind of secret room”!
It’s just that simple!
(Also, it’s not so secret, seeing as how it was at the end of a corridor with hooks for lamps, at the end of which was an archway leading to the room itself.)
This “secret room,” Murphy opines, was a “storage chamber for the temple [of Dagon].” (So, why would a storage room have to be secret, then?)
Murph and Levi survey the walls, and decide that someone was recently trying to chip away at them, to no avail. Then they hear popping sounds coming from the other side of the wall, and Desert Storm vet Murphy has to look to Levi to figure out they were gunshots. Geez, no kidding, eh?
The men decide to need to head towards the gunshots, and try to find a way through the wall. Again, it’s Levi to the rescue, as he is the one to remember Meth’s advice to push on the king’s head, which Levi interprets to mean the king of the jungle, because there is a lion’s head carved in the wall. So they push, and in an Indiana Jones-ish fashion, the wall slides open.
As Murphy and Levi head towards Ashdod, Murphy fills Levi in on the events of the first book, of the finding of the piece of the bronze serpent. In doing so, he makes this slightly strange remark about his dead wife, Laura:
“Laura had an uncanny ability to read and understand maps, some sort of an intuitive sense of geological transformation through time.”
Which seems a rather dismissive way to dismiss a skill. Like, Lura couldn’t be good at maps because of intelligence and careful study of cartography and geology. No, it was some sort of feminine intuition.
Speaking of dismissing women’s skill, Murphy then describes the trip to the sewers with Isis, very briefly, and omtting completely the part where Isis saved both their lives and the life of a kidnapped child.
So it kinda ends up that there’s a vague explanation for the whole serpent being together now, and Murphy opines that The Seven will allow it to “became a symbol of worship. In the wrong hands, it could be used to make people believe that they may be healed from all types of illness and disease.”
That seems a little disingenuous of Murphy to say, since the bronze serpent isn’t something that makes people believe they may be healed; it is something that actually heals people, at least according to the Bible. So if the AntiChrist uses it to heal people, he will actually be healing people, despite the fact that he is definitially eeeeevil by LaHaye logic.
Also, all this farting around for hundreds of pages has actually put the reader several steps ahead of our genius archaeologist hero. Because we already know that Talon has given the serpent to the AntiChrist.
Heck, this chapter serves no purpose other than to catch up Levi on stuff the readers already know, since nothing of importance to the mission has happened in hundreds of pages. Nope we’re all caught up now, and Murphy’s car is mere minutes from the dig site!
But rest assured, I’m sure we’ll soon digress to discussion of Pastor Bob’s lunch routine.
Well, 53 chapters in out of 68, 386 pages in out of 481, and Michael Murphy is (you won’t believe it!) ACTUALLY ON A PLANE TO ISRAEL TO GO LOOK FOR SOME KINF OF ARCHAEOLOGICAL THINGIE.
But if there’s one thing Phillips and Jenkins have in common, it’s their love of travel mundanities!
Murphy always chose an aisle seat when traveling by plane.
When traveling by foot, it was a moot point.
In case of an emergency, he didn’t like the idea of being boxed in.
Yes, in case of an emergency, he preferred to immediately leap to his feet and trample over children and the elderly as quickly as possible.
Sitting in the same seat for ten to twelve hours was not his idea of fun.
Wow, once again, we get a glimpse into the unique and complex workings of Michael Murphy’s mind!
Murphy checks with the flight attendant and sees that there are five hours left in his flight. My quick Googling tells me that Murphy would probably take a quick flight from Raleigh to NYC, then do a direct NYC to Tel Aviv, which would take about ten hours, so he’s about halfway done.
Murphy stifled a groan and thought, People who like to travel just haven’t traveled enough.
So our “complete adventurer,” our Indiana Jones Except He’s RTC, hates traveling? Well, jeepers, Murphy, so sorry we haven’t invented the transporter yet, but you RTCs do tend to dislike technological advancements.
In fact, let’s unpack this little statement even further. Murphy doesn’t want to be on the long plane trip. Okay, fine…sorta…except this plane trip is taking him to the place that will allow him not only to find artifacts that will (if he ever manages to bring one home intact) prove the Bible, but also to have “adventures in foreign countries and [meet] strange and exotic people.” It’s generally difficult to have adventures in foreign countries and meet strange and exotic people without hopping a plane to get to those foreign countries.
Next is my visceral reaction…
OH MY GOD CAN MURPHY NOT STOP BEING A FUCKING ANNOYING WHINER FOR EVEN TEN SECONDS???
Does Phillips think this makes Michael Murphy a more attractive hero? Because Murphy does this CONSTANTLY, whine about the most mundane daily matters. He reminds me of Trump–never opening his mouth but to bitch and complain. I seriously would not put up with this level of whining from a four-year-old, let alone a grown-ass man.
Next: I know not everyone agrees with this idea, but I’ll just put it out there:
The man’s got ten hours to do…well, not anything, but lots of things. Hey, he’s a professor–maybe he could grade some papers (instead of pawning them off on his TA) or prepare some class notes for the class he is abandoning in the middle of the semester. AGAIN.
(Oh, and on that note, I’d just like to reiterate that this professor, who routinely hauls ass out of the country to remote locations during the semester, is “sick to his stomach” at the thought of Dean Fallworth, who actually does publish and actually does teach, becoming President of the college.)
And he didn’t feel like doing his, yanno, job, he could do what millions of people do on planes every day: read, do puzzles, play a game, listen to music, watch a movie. Now, granted, this book came out in 2006, so there probably weren’t 100 movies in a personalized screen on the seat in front of Murphy, like on my last flight. But there probably is an in-flight movie, in-flight music, and Murphy could always bring a book, a CD Walkman, or even an iPod, if he wanted to listen to some wholesome Christian stuff.
Next: as usual, Murphy has completely forgotten about everyone else when their faces are not right in front of his. And he has, of course, left all the emotional heavy lifting behind in Raleigh, to be conveniently taken care of by a woman he barely knows. So, two days after her pseudo-boyfriend’s funeral, Shari is forced to crash at the apartment of a stranger, while her mentor and pseudo-father is off doing his own thing.
And now, both Murphy and Shari have lost Significant Others at the hands of Talon. (Granted, Shari’s brother was already killed by Talon, but I’m pretty sure Murphy, Shari, and Phillips have all forgotten that happened.) Isn’t Murphy, of all people, in a position to counsel Shari on how it feels to lose a loved one in this VERY SPECIFIC WAY?
As I look out the window at the Earth below, we all seem so small. I can’t see a single person below me–they’re too far away. But God sees. When Talon took Laura from me, I never felt farther from God. But in truth, He was never closer. These first few days will be the hardest for you, but I know, because I’ve been there myself, that someday the hurt and pain will fade, and be replaced by only the joyful memories. Until then, hold on and know that God is with you. Know that you can lean on me, and Summer, and Pastor Bob. I’m half a world away by now, but thinking of you and praying for you every moment. I know that by the grace of God, you will be able to pass through this dark time.
Yours in Christ,
Or, yanno, something like that. (And I know, that’s kinda pushing aside that they all think Paul is currently being roasted in Hell, but we’ll just ignore that, because they always do.)
Oh, and speaking of Paul, you’d think Murphy would be a little bit less oblivious to the privilege of flying around the world to go on a wild goose chase, considering that Paul will never again enjoy the basic privilege of breathing, let alone flying anywhere to experience “adventures in foreign countries.”
So, with all those options available to him, Murphy opts to spend the rest of the flight musing about Talon and The Seven. Phillips says he “[begins] to piece together” everything, but really he just takes stock, and does not make any logical inferences. In fact, after cataloguing everyone who has been killed by defying The Seven or accidentally getting in their way (like Paul), Murphy leaves himself with a question: “What was the extent of the Seven’s dark plans?”
Which, shouldn’t he kinda get it at this point. He thinks about “some boy,” but doesn’t imagine he might just be the AntiChrist?
Nope, he just switches gears and ruminates briefly about the faith healers (and Phillips doesn’t tell us what he actually thinks about it), then goes to sleep. Riveting.
When he wakes up, they’re on final descent, and Murphy manages to find something else that displeases him:
Someone out of the Spanish Inquisition must have designed these things.
STOP WHINING!! JUST STOP!!! IT IS SO DAMNED ANNOYING!!!
Levi meets him in the airport, and, speaking of Murphy being oblivious to his many privileges, manages to get him “through customs without having to stand in line.”
(Murphy doesn’t thank Levi, by the way, just says that “I do like your style.”
Then they get breakfast and head out to the Temple, because Murphy still has his “gut feeling” that God has something specifically in store for him, and nobody else.
That Murphy. Truly a humble Christian, thankful for his many blessings.
While Talon is gallivanting around the world and meeting the antichrist in Rome, Murphy is doing something equally exciting, as befits the adventurous hero of this book: he’s partaking in a potluck luncheon in a church basement!
Oh, please stop. My poor heart, this nonstop excitement.
Pastor Bob invites everyone at the funeral back to the church:
“We know some of you ave traveled a great distance to honor the memory of Paul.”
Really? How far would people really be willing to travel to honor the memory of someone who attended their church exactly one time, two or three YEARS ago? Even if they’re there for Shari (and that’s not what Bob said), Paul was Shari’s on-again, off-again boyfriend, and they weren’t dating when he died, and hadn’t been dating for many months.
Oh, and even aside from all that, exactly one sentence earlier, Phillips reminds us that this is the Preston Community Church. So how far do people routinely commute to get to their community church?
Or maybe the potlucks at Preston Community Church really are that damn good:
Regardless, it doesn’t matter who else is at the potluck, because Murphy is there…and so is Summer!
Murphy totally adds new depth to both his and Summer’s character by thinking about how beautiful Summer is. Then they gossip about Shari and Paul like the sensitive people at a funeral that they are. Then Summer decides to invite Shari to spend the weekend at her house so they can “talk and do some girl things together.”
(I get the distinct impression that Phillips has no idea what “girls” would do when hanging out together. Have pillow fights, maybe? Look at unicorns?)
Murphy speaks for Shari and says that would be “wonderful,” though I feel like it would be exhausting to spend the weekend at the home of a complete stranger, forced to be social when I would probably rather just be sleeping.
But we never learn what Shari herself actually thinks (characters in this chapter gossip about Shari, but she never gets a chance to speak for herself), because Levi calls Murphy at that moment…to gossip about Shari, of course, but also to tell Murphy all about his time in Tel Aviv.
Yep, again, it is another character who has gone on an international adventure, while Murphy is eating some reheated baked spaghetti.
Levi has gotten permission for Murphy to search the Temple of Dagon in Ashdod. And man am I getting tired of reporting that other people are doing Murphy’s work for him. In fact, Levi apologizes to Murphy for this taking so long, and for the red tape, even though it has been Levi cutting through that tape, not Murphy. Levi reports that he hasn’t seen much of anything yet at the Temple, but Murphy just knows that when he finally gets around to going, he will find “something there that everyone is missing.” Because Murphy is special like that.
Perhaps realizing how slowly things are moving along, the conversation turns to both Methuselah and The Seven (TSAN!), and I gotta say, both men seem considerably less than interested in this cabal that is out to destroy the world, and the multimillionaire who has their number. Levi says he’ll let the Mossad “hear about” The Seven, and of course advises Murphy to “be careful.” Hey, if after multiple attacks on Isis, Shari, and Paul, Murphy still doesn’t take even the simplest of precautions for his own safety, I doubt he’ll start now, Levi.
But enough about the plot! Back to the buffet line, where the real action is going on—Murphy continuing to make generic observations about Summer’s generic charms: the “warmth [in her] deep blue eyes” and “her gentle smile.”
Yanno, I like a good romance as much as the next person (not that this is a good romance, mind you), but I could’ve sworn this was supposed to be about an adventuring archaeologist. 385 pages into a 481-page book, and Our Hero hasn’t even left the States.
Following right upon Paul’s untimely trip to Hell (not that Murphy cares), we meet up with the only even slightly interesting character left, now that Isis has been Stepfordized: Talon.
Talon is in Rome, and it is worth noting at this point that Talon has done way more globe-trotting than our adventurous Indiana Jones stand-in, Michael Murphy, who, fifty-two chapters into this book, has not yet left the Eastern Time Zone of the United States.
Phillips demonstrates that he has read a travel website on Rome, as he has Talon gaze at the Trevi Fountain while his taxi is stuck in traffic:
Long ago [Talon] had learned that patience was a virtue…especially in pursuing people. Earning top wages as an assassin made it a little easier, too.
Okay, I am far from the world’s most patient person, but perhaps Talon should consider being a bit more impatient, given that his patience seems to so rarely result in an actual kill.
As well, I question how much “wages” he is actually earning given, again, his rather abysmal success rate.
Then again, Talon, unlike Murphy, actually is getting something done, though it’s not his usual…heh…top notch assassin work. He’s in Rome to deliver the Golden Serpent (now all pieced back together into one snake) to our new Nicolae Carpathia, Dr. Constantine De La Rosa.
Phillips spends half a page extolling De La Rosa’s physical virtues: tan but not freckle, “Roman-shaped nose” (not a “Roman nose”— the way Phillips says it, makes it sounds like De La Rosa’s nose is shaped like the city of Rome), “stunningly white and well-formed” teeth. And since this section is from Talon’s POV, makes it seem like Talon is hot for him. (Then again, given that Talon is the villain, it would make sense for LaPhillips to make him gay.)
And he’s “maybe six foot six and muscular,” which actually makes him the tallest person in the LaHaye/Jenkins oeuvre to date.
Talon meets De La Rosa in his snazzy office, and De La Rosa is kind enough to say that Talon is “an important player” in the whole End Times…thing, which is a pretty strong thing to say to such a crappy assassin.
Then again…again…Talon has managed to get the whole Serpent together and get it to the future Antichrist, while Michael Murphy has been busy reading novels on the beach and stomping on a woman’s heart.
De La Rosa, appropriate at all times, makes sure that Talon has been compensated for actually doing something right for once:
“Yes, the money has already been wired to my Swiss bank account.”
Yeah, Talon, there might be even more money in there if you managed to assassinate your assigned target every once in awhile.
De La Rosa says that he might engage Talon’s services again soon…
“I’m always happy to receive money, Dr. De La Rosa.”
“Yes, because I’m an assassin who is only interested in money. Except that it’s been stated many times that I’m in this for the sadism and thrill of the kill and have always been wealthy and don’t need money. Except I’m also sometimes an unrefined thug who fights like a street brawler. Except for those times when I act like a movie serial killer and send taunting get-well cards to my victims. Ah, hell, am I in this for the money or not? I just don’t have a consistent character anymore.”
(I’m just putting this here because we’re deep into Westworld at our house right now—yanno, a show with interesting characters and narratives.)
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.