Tribulation Force, pp. 437-440
Buck Williams answers the telephone. Here is what Buck will learn from this phone call: Bruce Barnes is in the hospital in a coma.
I’ve told you that much ahead of time to save you from doing what I did when I first read this section — going back to re-read Jerry Jenkins’ account of this phone call to marvel at how strange the tone of the caller is for someone relaying such news:
In the morning Buck took a call from one of the women who helped out in the office at New Hope. “We’re a little worried about Pastor Barnes,” she said.
Unlike the inner-inner circle of the Tribulation Force, the outer-circle members of New Hope Village Church don’t get to call Bruce by his first name. Especially not the women who help out in his office — they don’t get even names themselves.
“He was gonna surprise y’all by comin’ down there for lunch.”
“We thought he might.”
“But he picked up some kinda bug in Indonesia and we had to get him to the emergency room. He didn’t want us to tell anyone, because he was sure it was something they could fix real quick and he could still get down there. But he’s slipped into a coma.”
“Like I say, we’re a little worried about him.”
The likeliest explanation for the chirpy, cheerfully inappropriate tone of this phone call is that Jenkins has an awkward, tin-ear for dialogue and is incapable of writing anything that sounds like actual human conversation.
An alternative theory is that while Bruce was traveling, “one of the women who helped out in the office at New Hope” found out about the secret personal shelter Bruce has been building with the congregation’s offering money. In this conversation, she’s just giving Buck the same cover-story she gave to the EMT — “some kinda bug in Indonesia.”
That should be just misleading enough to keep them from testing for ethylene glycol in the autopsy.
Rayford and Amanda met Earl Halliday at O’Hare at ten that morning. “I’ll never forget this, Ray,” Earl said. “I mean, it’s not like carting around the potentate himself, or even the president, but I can pretend.”
“They’re expecting you at Kennedy,” Rayford said. “I’ll give you a call later to see how you liked flying her.”
Just then “Amanda answered a page from Chloe” and they too learn that Bruce is in a coma, in the hospital, in Arlington Heights.
Jenkins worked for Moody Bible Institute in Chicago for many years. He’s put Bruce Barnes in an actual Chicago-area hospital — Northwest Community. This is in Arlington Heights, and Jenkins knows just where that is and the best way to drive there, either from downtown or from the airport. And he’s very excited to share this information with readers.
Buck and Chloe were waiting at the curb in front of the Drake when Rayford and Amanda pulled up. After quick embraces all around, they piled into the car. “Northwest Community is on Central, right, Chlo’?”
“Right. Let’s hurry.”
Spoiler: If the suspense is too much for you, here are Google Maps’ directions from the Drake Hotel to Northwest Community Hospital. It’s 25.7 miles and — apart from rush hour and/or the second horseman of the apocalypse — about a 39-minute drive.
The couples bask in the glow of their togetherness:
Despite their concern for Bruce, Rayford felt a little more whole. He had a four-person family again, albeit a new wife and a new son. They discussed Bruce’s situation and brought each other up to date, and though they were all aware that they were living in a time of great danger, for the moment they simply enjoyed being together again.
Buck himself seems to have forgotten all about this. He’s the publisher of a major newsmagazine and he knows that armed conflict is about to destroy two American cities, but he’s not checking in with the office, or even checking the radio for breaking news. He’s just sitting in the back seat, holding hands with Chloe and thinking how much better his new family is than his old family was:
How refreshing to be with people who were related and yet loved each other, cared about each other, respected one another. He didn’t even want to think about the small-minded family he had come from. Somehow, someday, he would convince them they were not the Christians they thought they were.
Buck knows what his own family needs to hear to be saved from the Antichrist and the Devil, and somehow, someday, he’s going to tell them about it. He’s been meaning to, really he has. Just because he hasn’t managed to find time for a visit or a phone call in the first year and a half of the Great Tribulation doesn’t mean he doesn’t care about them. There’s still plenty of time before the end. After all, we haven’t even seen the second seal opened with the second horseman of the … hey … what’s with this traffic jam?
“What’s this?” he heard Rayford say. “And we’ve been making such good time.”
Rayford was trying to exit onto Arlington Heights Road off the Northwest Tollway. Chloe had told him that would put them close to Northwest Community Hospital. But now local and state police and Global Community peacekeepers were directing a snarl of traffic past the exits. Everything came to a standstill.
Since the authors haven’t bothered to sort out how this one-world “Global Community” government is supposed to work, I’ve settled on my own theory. The state police here relate to the OWG in kind of the same way that Herod’s client state related to the Roman Empire. They’re independent and in charge of their jurisdiction, except when they’re not, which is whenever the OWG says.
But I still can’t figure out whether these local police would be armed or not.
Rayford rolled down his window and asked a cop what was happening.
“Where’ve you been, pal? Keep it moving.”
Amanda fumbles with the radio, looking for a news station. It still doesn’t occur to Buck that he really ought to know exactly what’s going on and to realize that it’s the sort of news that will be covered on every station.
They stopped again, this time with a Global Community peacekeeper right next to Buck’s window. Buck lowered it and flashed his Global Community Weekly press pass. “What’s the trouble down there?”
After more than 800 pages, this is the closest Buck Williams has ever gotten to actual reporting.
“Militia had taken over an old Nike base to store contraband weapons. After the attack on Washington, our boys wiped them out.”
“Our boys” refers, apparently, to the OWG military of “Global Community peacekeepers.” As far as we readers know, that military seems to be made up of the former U.S. military, but wearing new uniforms.
“The attack on Washington?” Rayford said. “Washington, D.C.?”
“Keep moving,” the officer said. “If you need to get back this way you can get off at Route 53 and try the side streets.”