Chapter OneThe Rescue
Judd's first instinct was to jump from the car
and run to the Goldberg house, but Nada
had been pulled inside so quickly that he
had no chance to rescue her. He ran his hand
through his hair. The gas gauge read almost
Judd left the car running and raced toward
Samuel's house. Icy wind whipped at his
face. He had lived in Chicago all his life, but
Judd had never felt such biting cold. He
peeked in the window, but the drapes were
* * *
Judd circled the house. He found the secret
entrance he and Lionel had used to escape
through a few weeks earlier, but it was nailed
shut. He kept moving, rubbing his arms to
stay warm. At the back of the house Judd
climbed onto the wooden porch and stood
on a railing to reach the bare kitchen
window. He took a minute to rub a small
spot in the ice so he could look inside.
Shadows in the living room, beyond the
kitchen. Someone yelled. If Mr. Goldberg
had pulled Nada inside, they were in deep
Judd was surprised to find the window
unlocked. Carefully he pushed it open.
"You are with them, aren't you, young
lady?" a man yelled. Judd recognized the
voice. It was Mr. Goldberg.
"I was worried about your son," Nada said.
"Now that I know he is all right, I will go."
"Sit down!" the man screamed. "You're
not going anywhere."
Judd pulled himself inside, careful not to
He closed the window quietly and walked
toward the living room. Mr. Goldberg
shoved Nada into a chair. "How do you
know my son?"
Nada looked away.
The man raised a hand. Samuel shouted,
"Stop!" making his father turn. "Don't hurt
her," Samuel said, stepping between them. "I
was supposed to call her house to say I was
all right. You wouldn't let me outside."
"What are you saying? Why would you
have to go outside-"
"I've been trying to tell you for days,"
Samuel interrupted. "I helped Judd and the
other boy escape. They showed me the truth
Mr. Goldberg stepped back. "Traitor," he
"I couldn't call them from here or you'd
trace it," Samuel said. "What they've said
about Jesus is true. He is the Messiah. I've
wanted to tell you so badly-"
"Enough," his father said.
"I have the mark of the believer now-"
"Be quiet!" Mr. Goldberg slammed his fist
into a lamp and knocked it to the floor.
"You're the same as Ben-Judah."
"Listen to me," Samuel pleaded. "Rabbi
Ben-Judah is right. This weather phenomenon
was predicted in the Bible thousands of
years ago. At least let me explain it."
"The only thing I want from you is the
location of the hiding place of those two."
Samuel shook his head. "I cannot betray
Mr. Goldberg turned to Nada. "Unless ."
He leaned close.
"Perhaps you know where they are."
Nada glanced past the man into the shadows.
Judd put a finger to his lips.
Mr. Goldberg picked up a telephone.
"We'll see how quiet you will stay when we
have you at headquarters."
* * *
Lionel Washington worried about Judd and
Nada. Nada's father, Jamal, had watched
Nicolae Carpathia's news conference
intently. Now he paced the floor, asking
questions. Each time Jamal asked about
Nada and Judd, Lionel changed the subject.
"Do you think Carpathia means what he
said about people who agree with Dr.
Ben-Judah?" Lionel said.
"Carpathia will do whatever it takes to
stop these plagues," Jamal said, "just like
Pharaoh in the Old Testament."
"But if this is true, we can go home,"
Lionel said. "And Judd and Nada-"
"What?" Jamal said.
Lionel pressed his lips together and rolled
Jamal gritted his teeth. "Where are they?"
Lionel shook his head, angry with himself.
"That kid . Samuel . he was going to talk
with his dad about God. He didn't call us.
Judd thought something might have
happened. He and Nada-"
"How foolish! I told Judd to stay away
from my daughter."
Lionel nodded. "Judd tried to make her
stay, but she wouldn't listen."
Jamal grabbed his coat and gloves from
the closet and explained to his wife what
had happened. She put a hand over her
"Carpathia says we're free to travel and
that no one's a fugitive," Lionel said, "so we
don't have anything to worry about."
Jamal glared at him. "If I get my daughter
back, you and your friend may leave."
Jamal slammed the door. Lionel grabbed a
coat and followed, calling after him, "They
took your car!"
"I have another."
"Let me go with you."
"You've caused enough trouble!"
Lionel raced down the stairs behind Jamal.
When they made it to the garage, both were
out of breath. Lionel helped remove a tarp
from the car. The plastic was so cold it
Jamal tried to start the car but the battery
was dead. He dug around in the garage and
installed another battery. The car sputtered
and coughed, then finally came to life.
"I have to come with you," Lionel said.
"You have no idea where Samuel lives."
"Your daring does not impress me. It is my
job to keep my daughter safe."
Lionel lowered his voice. "I don't mean
any disrespect, sir, but your daughter has a
mind of her own. I know what happened to
Kasim, and I'm sorry-"
"What does my son have to do with this?"
Lionel shook his head. "Maybe nothing.
But maybe you're so scared of losing your
"I trust God with my family every day,"
Jamal said. "We risk our lives to protect his
servants. We must not take needless
"But just because a person is young,"
Lionel said, "doesn't mean God can't use
him or that his ideas are too dangerous. God
wants to use everybody who believes in
"Just tell me where this Samuel lives,"
"Only if you let me go with you."
Jamal shook his head.
"Come on," Lionel said. "We both want
them back. I can help. I'll show you exactly
where they went."
Jamal frowned. "No matter what happens,
you will leave my home when this is over."
* * *
Vicki and the other kids at the old school-house
were freezing. She believed that those
with the mark of the believer would not die
from this act of God. The others, who didn't
have the mark-Janie, Melinda, and Charlie-looked
as cold as she was and stayed as
close to the fire as they could.
Melinda moved close to Vicki. Her lips
were blue and she trembled. "Are we going
"I hope not," Vicki said, "but I don't
"For somebody who says they know the
future, you're not much help."
"We don't know everything that's going to
happen," Vicki said, "just what God wants us
to know." Vicki put an arm around Melinda.
"You don't have to be scared. You can know
what's going to happen to you after you die."
"I want to know what's going to happen to
me now," Melinda said, "and I want to get
warm. Is that asking too much?"
Janie and Charlie scuffled near the fire.
They both wanted Phoenix to sleep beside
them. Mark separated them and placed Phoenix
between them. "Now you see why we
asked you to carry all that firewood."
Janie cursed. Mark looked over at Vicki.
"Just leave her alone," Vicki said.
The wind howled through the walls. The
generator was dead, so only the fire lit the
"We're going to do everything we can to
stay alive," Vicki said, "but if you're afraid of
dying, why not give your life to God and take
care of it forever?"
Melinda pulled the cover up to her chin.
"If God gets me out of this, maybe I will."
"Why wait?" Vicki said.
"I'd feel like I was cheating, you know,
praying just because I'm in trouble."
"God doesn't care what gets your attention,"
Vicki said. "All these things-the earthquake,
the cold-they're to get to you."
"They've done that."
"Good. Just ask God to forgive you and
Melinda put her head back. "I'm too cold.
I can't think." She grew pale. Vicki asked
Conrad to help her pull Melinda closer to the
"Just let me sleep," Melinda groaned.
"No way," Vicki said. "Go to sleep when
you're this cold and you're dead."
"Fine," Melinda said.
Vicki patted Melinda's face and propped
her against the brick fireplace. Conrad gave
Melinda one of his blankets.
Vicki prayed silently. Please don't let her die.
* * *
As Mr. Goldberg dialed the GC, Judd darted
into the room and unplugged the phone.
"You!" the man said.
Judd looked at Samuel and Nada. "You
okay?" They nodded. He turned to Mr.
Goldberg. "Before you call anyone, listen to
The man raised his eyebrows. "You wantme to listen?"
"He had the chance to run, but he decided
to come back for one more try. He deserves
to be heard."
Judd was stunned when Mr. Goldberg sat
and said, "Fine." This was too easy.
Samuel looked shocked, but he quickly
stood and began. "At the stadium, the final
night of the Meeting of the Witnesses, I told
you I went to catch the Ben-Judah-ites. That
wasn't true. I wanted to know more about
"What happened amazed me. People were
going forward, falling on their faces. I wanted
to go too, but I was scared. I was afraid of
what you would say."
"You should have been," his father said.
"When I saw my friends afterward,"
Samuel said, pointing to Judd, "I knew they
would be in trouble. I thought I could save
"They are enemies of the Global Community!"
"The more we talked and the more I
thought about what the rabbi had said, the
more sense it made."
"Nothing that man says makes sense," Mr.
Goldberg said. "He is against our leader, the
one man who has a plan for this world."
Samuel sat forward, elbows on his knees.
"Father, I know now that there is a God and
that he loves me. He loves you. He died for
"You say this of a god who would take
your mother? A god who would allow
millions to disappear and millions of others
to die in the earthquake and the war?"
"My friends say there are worse things to
come," Samuel said, "but this is God's way of
Mr. Goldberg smirked. "You have peculiar
friends. Nicolae Carpathia is my god."
Samuel fell to his knees. "I don't want to
disappoint you or disobey you. But I beg you
to consider that this may be the truth. On my
forehead is the mark of the sealed believer."
"Son, I see nothing on your forehead."
"You cannot see it because you are not one
"Oh, I get it. You have an exclusive club
where only the members can detect other
members. That would be brilliant if it were
true. What does this mark look like?"
Samuel looked at Judd. Judd shook his
head. He didn't want anyone knowing the
shape of the mark, especially a member of
the Global Community.
As Samuel continued, Judd noticed a light
blinking on Samuel's father's belt. Why
hadn't the man pulled a gun or tried to call
the GC again?
Nada jumped into the conversation. "I
know all about the Global Community
because my brother worked for the potentate."
"I don't care," Mr. Goldberg said. "You
have information about the followers of
Ben-Judah, and I want that information."
"I would never tell you," she said.
Judd knew something wasn't right. The
man was too calm, almost like he was trying
to keep the kids talking. A door slammed
Mr. Goldberg smiled. "You didn't think
unplugging my phone would keep me from
signaling my superiors, did you?" He pulled
back his coat to reveal a button. "When I
pressed this it was only a matter of time
before they got here."
"You shouldn't have come," Samuel told
Someone pounded on the front door.