Chapter OneThe Suspects
The newest member of the Young Tribulation
Force shook his head as Morale Monitor
Melinda accused him of working against the
They don't know where Vicki and Lionel are,
Conrad Graham thought as Commander
Blancka fumed. The Suspects
"You helped Vicki escape," Melinda said,
still groggy from sleeping pills Lionel had
given her the night before.
"You're crazy," Conrad said. "You and
Lionel blew that. I told you questioning her
was a bad idea!"
"That was part of your plan," Melinda said.
The commander interrupted. "Graham, tell
me about the call."
"Some guy said you wanted to see
Melinda," Conrad said. "I just delivered the
"You didn't verify it?"
"There was no reason," Conrad said.
"Besides, everything's been crazy around here."
"He knows something and he's not telling,"
Conrad turned on her. "How do we know
Melinda didn't set this up with Lionel? Ask
her what she was doing in that cell-"
"Lionel drugged her!" Felicia said.
"Enough," Commander Blancka said, glaring
at Conrad. "Until I sort this out, you'll
stay locked up like Stein."
"Take him away!"
* * *
Judd and the others inspected the underground
hangar and found scattered rocks and
dirt. Airplane equipment lay strewn about.
Mark pointed out the steel girders. "That's
why we're safe here," he said.
Judd found the wall the GC had cut
through to get to him and Ryan. Plaster and
flooring from above covered the hole.
"We have only one way in or out," Judd
said, showing Mark the collapsed secret door
in the hillside.
"We can dig a new opening," Mark said.
"Won't be fancy, but we'll have another exit."
The kids grabbed tools. After a few
minutes, Vicki threw down her shovel. "Have
you guys forgotten Darrion and Conrad?"
she said. "They're facing Blancka!"
"Darrion said the same thing about you,"
Judd said, "and look where she is now."
"At least she cared enough to do something,"
"Don't give me that!" Judd shouted. "I
risked my life to get back here."
"To do what?" Vicki said. "Save us?"
Mark and Shelly stopped digging.
"Settle down," Lionel said. "We're on the
same side, remember?"
"Yeah, but Judd always has to show us
who's boss," Vicki said.
Judd shook his head.
"The GC are going to figure out who
Darrion is," Vicki said. "We have to get her
"They'll probably trace the cycle back
here," Judd said. "That's why we're digging."
Vicki rolled her eyes. "My point exactly,"
she said. "You care more about yourself-"
"If Darrion had listened, she wouldn't be
where she is."
"Like you've never made a mistake," Vicki
"Judd's right," Lionel said. "Conrad's our
best bet to get her out."
"He might not even know they have her,"
Judd reached for Vicki's shoulder, but she
Lionel stared at them. "Is something going
Judd scratched his head. "Give us a
Lionel returned to help Mark and Shelly.
"You're upset about Darrion," Judd said.
"That's not all," Vicki said. "We got out of
there so fast there wasn't time to bring Phoenix."
"You're worried about a dog?"
"I promised Ryan. Maybe promises don't
mean that much to you-"
"Stop it!" Judd said. "I know you promised,
but risking your life for Phoenix doesn't
"You get mixed up with a biker gang and
try to jump a motorcycle over a river, and I
don't make sense?"
Judd took Vicki by the shoulders. "This is
partly because of us."
Vicki squinted. "Don't flatter yourself!"
"I care for you, Vicki, but-"
"Get this," she interrupted. "I don't go for
arrogant types who think they're always
right. If you want to be friends, fine. Other
than that, no."
* * *
Conrad sat back against the cell door.
"Know anything about Vicki?" Mr. Stein
said from the next cell. When Conrad hesitated,
Mr. Stein added, "I only want to know
that she is safe."
"If the GC don't know where she is, she's
OK," Conrad said.
Mr. Stein sighed. "You are one of them, are
"What do you mean?"
Mr. Stein told his story. His wife and
daughter Chaya had believed Jesus was the
Messiah before Chaya was killed in the earthquake.
Mr. Stein had laughed at them. "Now
I'm not so sure they were wrong. I read a part
of the New Testament last night, plus some
of Tsion Ben-Judah's Web site."
"The Web site got me too," Conrad said.
"Then Judd and Vicki explained it, and it all
"I do not know what to believe," Mr. Stein
said. "I have so many questions."
Conrad inched closer to the bars. "I don't
know that much, but like what?"
"All right," Mr. Stein said, "if Jesus really is
the Messiah, how could he forgive someone
who has been against him all his life?"
"That's me too," Conrad said.
"But-," Mr. Stein said. "I am a Jew who
rejected his Messiah. And the way I treated
Chaya! Surely God could not forgive such an
"There are stories in the Bible about
people who turned around," Conrad said.
"That is not my only problem," Mr. Stein
said. "If this is all true, God has caused
millions to die or suffer."
"I don't think he's mean," Conrad said. "I
think he's trying to get our attention."
"But there's another problem. If my wife
and daughter were right, Nicolae Carpathia is
the Antichrist. With all the good he has done,
how can I believe that?"
A guard came and took Mr. Stein away. A
few minutes later another prisoner was led
in. Conrad peered through the dim light to
see who it was.
* * *
Vicki retreated to a corner. She was crushed
but didn't want anyone to know. She had
hoped Judd had feelings for her, and several
times he had started to say something but
never finished. Under the desk in the rubble
of New Hope Village Church, she felt close to
him. But now he had changed, and Vicki felt
Shelly came and sat next to Vicki. "Mark
punched through the dirt wall about half an
hour ago, no thanks to you."
Vicki shook her head.
* * *
Judd sat by what was left of the Stahley's
pool, throwing in clods of dirt and watching
them break apart. He wanted to tell Vicki
how he felt, but it was clear her feelings
weren't as strong as his.
Evening shadows stretched across the
Vicki is too young anyway, Judd thought. But
her angry words had hurt him. They had
been through so much together. And now
Something caught Judd's eye at the edge of
the woods. Branches moved and leaves
rustled. He sat still. The sounds stopped.
Judd relaxed. Then came the squawk of a
radio. He dropped and crawled toward the
house. Inside, he moved to the window.
He quietly called Lionel and told him to
watch the other side of the house. Suddenly,
Judd spotted two uniformed GC officers
heading toward them and more scattered in
the woods. A helicopter flew overhead.
Lionel ran to Judd. "How could I have
been so stupid!"
"What?" Judd said.
"My radio! It has a homing device. I led
them right to us!"
* * *
Conrad motioned to Darrion. She seemed to
recognize him but looked cautious. Conrad
pulled back his hair and showed the mark on
his forehead. "Do they know who you are?"
Darrion shook her head. "The commander
kept saying he couldn't place me. I said I was
Laura Grover and that I'd found the motorcycle
in a big house. I have to figure a way out
of here," Darrion said.
"Hang tight," Conrad said. "They might
turn you loose in a few days."
"And if they figure out who I am?"
"Then I'll have to get us both out."
Vicki and Shelly ran to the others when they
heard the commotion.
Mark said, "The GC is tracking Lionel's
radio. Be ready to run."
Vicki frowned. "Give me the radio."
Lionel handed it to her. "I hope you know
what you're doing."