Chapter OneWhat's Gone On Before
Judd Thompson Jr. and the other three kids
living in his house had been involved in the
adventure of a lifetime. But it wasn't something
they would have chosen.
They had been horrifyingly left alone a few
weeks before when their families disappeared
in the global vanishings-or, in the case of
Ryan Daley, when his parents had been
killed in accidents related to the disappearances.
Judd was the oldest at sixteen, the only
one who could drive. His father, mother, and
younger brother and sister had disappeared
in the middle of the night.
Vicki Byrne, fourteen, had lost her parents
and her little sister, who had vanished right
out of their trailer home. Her brother, who
had moved to Michigan, had also disappeared.
Lionel Washington, thirteen, had lost his
parents, an older sister, and two younger siblings.
His uncle, André Dupree, had been left
behind too, but his recent murder had led to
the situation in which the four now found
They had stumbled onto each other and
a young pastor at a local church. The older
three of the four had been church kids and
knew immediately that the disappearances
meant only one thing: What they had heard
about in church, what their parents had
warned them about for years, had come true.
Jesus Christ had returned to snatch away his
church, his true believers, in the twinkling of
an eye. All over the world, millions had disappeared
right out of their clothes, leaving
behind everything but flesh and blood and
Ryan, twelve, had had little idea what had
happened. All he knew was that he was suddenly
an orphan. His father had died in a
plane crash when the pilot had disappeared.
His mother was killed in a gas-main explosion
during the chaos that followed the vanishings.
Ryan had been the last of the four to see
the truth and the last to make the decision to
believe in Christ, to trust him for forgiveness
of sin and to assure himself that he would go
to be with God when he died.
Vicki's trailer had burned to the ground.
Lionel's home had been invaded and taken
over by his uncle's "friends." Ryan was afraid
to stay alone in his own house, especially
after it had been burglarized. So, the four
new Christians had settled into Judd Thompson's
huge home in the Chicago suburb of
Mount Prospect, Illinois. They attended New
Hope Village Church and sat under the
teaching of Bruce Barnes. While dealing with
their grief and fear over the loss of their families,
they were also striving to learn as much
as they could about what had happened and
what was to come.
Bruce Barnes had been that rare full-time
Christian worker, on the pastoral staff, who
himself had been left behind. He had lost his
wife and small children to the vanishings. He
knew immediately that he had never been a
true believer and quickly turned his life over
to God. In his grief and remorse he became
an outspoken witness for Christ, telling everyone
who would listen that they needed to
come to God.
He also taught that the Rapture (Christ's
snatching away of the church) was not the
beginning of the seven-year tribulation the
Bible predicted, where the earth and its
inhabitants would suffer tremendous devastation
and loss. No, he said, prophecy indicated
that a great leader would arise, the
Antichrist, the great enemy of God. He
would make a pact with Israel, and the day
that was signed would signal the beginning
of the seven years.
The kids left behind were fascinated by
what Bruce taught, and they wanted to be on
the lookout for the Antichrist. He was, Bruce
said, a great deceiver who would appear to be
an attractive and articulate peacemaker and
would fool many. They didn't want to be
fooled. They wanted to stand and fight. And
they wanted others to come to Christ too.
But in the meantime, just surviving had
become a chore. Lionel's uncle André had
appeared to have committed suicide after
realizing he had been left behind. But when
Lionel went to identify the body, it wasn't
LeRoy Banks, leader of the small band that
had taken over Lionel's house, had murdered
an enemy and forced André to make it
appear the body was his own. André first
called Lionel's answering machine and left a
long, rambling, pitiful message about how he
was going to do away with himself. Then the
deed was done in André's apartment, and the
victim-about André's size-wore André's
clothes and jewelry and carried his identification.
When the body turned out to be someone
else, Lionel and his new friends set about trying
to find André. But when LeRoy found out
that Lionel had discovered the truth about
the fake suicide, he was afraid Lionel or
André would reveal the truth to the police.
He sent André into hiding, putting him in
the apartment of another friend, Cornelius
Lionel made Cornelius Grey's sister, Talia,
take him there to see his uncle. When LeRoy
found out, he was sure they were conspiring
to expose his murder to the police. Just after
Talia and then Lionel had left André, LeRoy
charged into Cornelius Grey's apartment,
shot André, and set the place afire.
Judd, who had been nearby waiting for
Lionel, raced into the burning building and
helped Lionel drag his uncle out. But it was
too late. LeRoy had murdered yet again.
Now Lionel was in danger from LeRoy, who
would have to keep killing to be sure no one
was alive who knew what he had done.
Judd enlisted the aid of Chicago police sergeant
Tom Fogarty and came up with a plan
to lure in LeRoy and his friend, Cornelius
("Connie") Grey. Sergeant Fogarty set up a
phony legal office in Chicago, and Vicki
Byrne called Cornelius to tell him that insurance
money might be due him because of the
fire in his apartment.
The plan was to call LeRoy from Ryan's
house, just in case he grew suspicious and
tried to trace the call. Ryan, Lionel, and Judd
sat quietly while Vicki dialed. She threw on
a very adult-sounding voice. Cornelius Grey
answered the phone.
"Mr. Grey, this is Maria Diablo from the
law offices of Thomas Fogarty in Chicago.
Mr. Fogarty is representing the insurance
company handling the settlements in the
destruction by fire of your apartment building
"Yeah, what do we get?"
"Well, sir, I'm not at liberty to discuss the
amount over the phone, but I can tell you it
is substantial. Unfortunately, the payout
must go to the payer of the rent over the last
several months, and our records indicate that
it has not been you."
"No, the rent's been paid lately by a friend
of mine, helpin' me out. Name is LeRoy
"Would I be able to speak to him?"
Judd and the others heard Cornelius Grey
quickly fill in LeRoy on their huge stroke of
luck. "Let me have that phone," LeRoy said,
"Who is this?" he demanded.
Vicki went through the same routine with
him, in its entirety, just the way Judd had
scripted it. Rather than let LeRoy build on his
doubts, she made the prize a little harder to
"Of course, sir, we would not be able to
issue a check of this magnitude unless you
were able to prove to us that you are the
same LeRoy Banks who has been paying the
rent on Cornelius Grey's apartment."
"Oh, I'll be able to prove it all right. What
time did you say Mr. Fogarty could see me?"
* * *
On the way back to Judd's house, Lionel
and Ryan congratulated Judd for his idea
and Vicki for her performance. When they
arrived, Judd prepared to call Sergeant
Fogarty to fill him in on how things had
gone. Not only did he want to tell Fogarty
when to expect to see LeRoy Banks and Cornelius
Grey, but he also wanted to beg to be
there himself to see the big arrest. It was only
fair that Vicki be allowed there too, but he
couldn't imagine the Chicago Police Department
allowing civilians close to what could
become a dangerous situation.
Still, he would ask. He wanted above anything
to see the look on LeRoy's face when
he found out he was not getting a check but
rather getting arrested for murder. When
Judd reached for the phone, however, it rang.
"Are you watching channel nine?" Bruce
Barnes asked Judd.
"No, we're in the middle of-"
"Turn on nine," Bruce insisted. "I've got a
hunch the guy they're interviewing could be
the one we're supposed to watch out for."
"You mean the Antichrist?" Judd asked,
grabbing the remote control. He wanted to
tell Bruce the story of the sting, but that
would have to wait until he talked to Fogarty.
He thanked Bruce and turned on the television,
watching in fascination. "You'd better
call the sergeant," Vicki suggested.
"Yeah!" he said, turning down the volume
and dialing the number.
Fogarty was ecstatic, and he wasn't closed
to the idea of Judd and Vicki being there
when it all happened. "We have a one-way
mirror at the back where my backups will be.
That's where they'll come from to surprise
these two when I give the signal. I think if
you two agree to stay there until it's all over,
you could have a great view and stay safe. It'd
be too risky to have your young friend there,
and we don't want the murder victim's
nephew in the neighborhood at all that day,
just in case."
"But Vicki and I can come, really?"
"Sure. Just be sure you're an hour early and
park far away."
Judd couldn't wait. As he hung up he
looked at his watch and decided he and Vicki
would have to leave within the hour to be
downtown in time to be in place. He turned
up the TV and watched more of the interview
with the man Bruce now suspected could be
Boy, would he and Bruce have a lot to talk
about the next time they got together!