“Oh, the joys of those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or stand around with sinners, or join in with mockers. But they delight in the law of the Lord, meditating on it day and night. They are like trees planted along the riverbank, bearing fruit each season. Their leaves never wither, and they prosper in all they do.”
–Psalm 1:1-3 (NLT)
“Hi, Will!” Ellie called as she reached the bottom step.
“Hi yourself!” Will answered. “There’s a table right in front of you, and it’s a narrow space.”
“Got it!” Ellie said, hitting the table with her cane. “So what’s this about your leaving?”
“I don’t have much time. I’m driving home later this afternoon,” Will replied, “so I’d like to get right to the point.”
“But you can’t go!” Ellie cried as Will ran around to the driver’s side of the car.
“Why not?” Will slid in and turned towards her. “You gonna miss me already? I seem to have that effect on the ladies.”
“Well, I hate to disillusion you, pal, but I need to talk to somebody, and you’re the only one around.”
“I see,” Will mused. “If you think it’s important enough for me to fit you into my schedule, I guess I can give you 5 minutes.”
“It’s extremely important,” Ellie assured him soberly, “so I need you to stop joking around and bear with me. I got a strange phone call last night.”
“Are you okay?” Will cut in, in a serious tone.
“Yes, I’m fine. It’s not what you’re thinking. I know you had something you wanted to talk to me about, but I wouldn’t be telling you this if it wasn’t urgent.”
“I’m all ears.” Will fidgeted in his seat. “What’s on your mind?”
Ellie sied. “I’m sure this will sound disjointed at first, but it’s not. Before leaving, I bought one of those tracking phones. It already had a card with a few minutes on it, but I bought another one at a dollar store, and this is where I need you to follow me.
“My girlfriend and I knew each other since childhood. She was the sister I never had, and we shared everything in secret when we were growing up. But that all changed when she became a nurse, and with the use of her keyboard, I became a lowly street musician. We still saw each other on occasion, but nothing was the same. She got a new set of friends, and my blindness seemed to bother her when it hadn’t before. I guess she didn’t think I was good enough for her.”
Ellie’s voice trailed off in thought for a moment before she continued talking.
“So I withdrew, and eventualy we stopped speaking to each other altogether. Then …”
Ellie was interrupted mid-sentence when a rough hand pushed her to the floor. “Stay down, Ellie!” came the hoarse whisper. “It’s just me.”
Will’s hand held Ellie so she couldn’t move, as he shielded her with his body. There was a loud crack. Ellie trembeled, trying to remain silent, as smoke filled the air. The car’s engine revved, and tires squealed as an unfamiliar man’s voice shouted at the top of its lungs.
“Don’t come back, pretty boy! And take your little friend with you! I won’t miss my shot next time!” Then he added in a sinister voice, “You’re terrible for business. Just get out!”
After leaving the motel parking lot behind in a cloud of dust, Ellie squeaked out, “What just happened?”
“The other night, when I guided you to the lobby, you told me how you came back to God, and how He provided a roof over your head.”
“Yes, what about it?”
“Well, like the man that dropped you off at the women’s shelter said, this is a dangerous neighborhood. Unfortunately, he didn’t tell you the half of it. There’s a lot of drug traffic around this motel, and the druggies hate our church services. They know we have cops patroling the area, but they’re still growing more and more bold. This is the first time anyone has fired warning shots in broad daylight. Based on their record, I’m afraid it won’t be the last.”
“What are you saying, Will?”
“Simply this. Now that you’ve started playing the keyboard in the field next door, they won’t stop until they find you and gun you down.”
“But why?” Ellie gasped.
“The druggies must have assumed you were in league with us,” Will told her in an authoritative voice, “so we’ve got to get you out of here.”
“But …” Ellie stammered, “where will I go?”
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“Just listen, and I’ll tell you. When we met, I knew you weren’t safe here, so I had to do something about it. To answer your question, I looked into a group at the church which has a ministry called Gabriel’s Girls. It’s set up to serve women in crisis situations, so I took the liberty of speaking to the leader about your circumstances. I hope that’s okay.”
“I guess so,” Ellie mumbled, still feeling quite shaken.
“Well, you’ll have to trust me on this one. It’s obvious you can’t stay here. That is one of the reasons we’re going to the church. You’ll find out the second reason soon enough, but first I’ve got to make a stop.”
Ellie felt a bump that jarred her out of her thoughts as the car pulled into a driveway, and the motor idled. Delicious smells greeted her as Will asked her what she wanted to eat.
“I’m not hungry,” Ellie lied, “and you know I don’t have any money. Go ahead without me,” Ellie sighed, exhausted.
“Even if you had money,” Will shot back, ignoring her, “it would be no good here. I’m inviting you. Don’t be difficult, because I won’t take no for an answer. You’ve already been through a lot, and you’ve just survived another stressful situation. You need to try and eat.”
After placing their orders, Ellie timidly asked, “Why are you doing this?”
“You know, being so kind.”
“Because you’re my sister in Christ, and God has brought us together.”
Still sensing Ellie’s reluctance, Will told her, “You can pay me back by helping somebody else.”
“Okay, but I need to tell you where I was going with my story. I don’t really feel like talking yet, though, so you tell me your story.”
“Okay,” Will sighed, “I’ll give you the short version. It might let you know where I’m coming from while I’m explaining things in more detail.”
So, with his mouth full, Will began, “I was a street cop, and this was my turf. I wasn’t a Christian back then, and I saw my best friend shot down in a pool of blood by one of those druggies. I tried to catch him, but I was unsuccessful.
“The long and short of it is that I thought everything was my fault. I grew angry and defensive, and one day I just lost my head. Because of that, my job was on the line. So as a last resort, I went to see the chaplain, and he really surprised me.”
“How do you mean?” Ellie cut in.
“Well,” Will sighed, “I’m getting to that. He wasn’t preachy like I’d expected. He just sat and listened to me for the most part. So when he did finally tell me what Jesus did for me, I listened to him.
“It all started to make sense for the first time, so we went to a men’s retreat together. There, I invited Christ into my life, and I felt like God was calling me into the ministry. I quit my job and never looked back, and until today I was a student in turn, doing street ministry. But now that’s over, and I’m heading back to school.”
“How long do you have to go?”
“About a year,” Will yawned, starting the engine, “but I have a few days to play with, and I was thinking about seeing my folks. But after the events of the morning, though,” he said slowly, “I’ve changed my plans. I think I’ll stick around. I want to make sure you’re safe.”
“I’ll be fine,” Ellie protested weakly. “I don’t want to be a burden.”
“Who said anything about you being a burden? You’re doing me a favor,” Will smiled as he drove away from the drive-through.
“Because,” he laughed, “thanks to you, I don’t have to listen to Dad’s old war stories.”
Ellie didn’t answer, and when they arrived at the church, Will ushered her to the clothing bank. Ellie was elated.
“I can finally get something decent to wear! I don’t need anyone to tell me all my clothes look worn and dirty.”
Interupting her thoughts, Will couldn’t help grinning as he said, “Good! I’ll leave you here with the ladies. I have some things to do. We need to be prompt for the meeting, though. The pastor is a real stickler. I’ll be back in an hour to pick you up. Until then, you’re in good hands here.”
Ellie couldn’t get over the fact that some of the clothes looked brand-new, or the fact that the ladies helping her were so kind. As it turned out, there was plenty of time to shop around before Will came back. So when she was done, the women showed her a chair where she could wait for him.
Sitting there in the empty church, Ellie’s mind returned to the strange phone call. She knew that she might never know what happened, and twinges of guilt plagued her. As she thought about different ways she might have handled things, she began to sob uncontrollably.
“Lord,” she silently screamed, “help this man as You have helped me, and let him turn to you!”
To Be Continued …
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