Stage (f)Right Part 8
From two blocks back, Miss Nameless followed, determined to pray, and wrestle the soul of Ritchie Jean from the Evil One. Darkness concealed her well as she slipped across the street to get a better view of Ritchie Jean's apartment.
When the light switched on in the kitchen, she made a dash across the street and up to the door. Underneath it she slid a tract about witchcraft. She hoped it would be enough to make Ritchie Jean think twice about his experiences, but that would be in God's hands.
When Ritchie Jean re-entered the room, the tract was in plain view on the floor. He bent over to pick it up while at the same time going to the window to see who might be there. Of course, no one was.
His interest in reading the paper was not what it had been before. Shu-Yi Huang saw to that. He quickly scrunched the tract into a tight wad and landed a perfect hook shot in file 13. The wad settled, and then it shot a good three feet straight up into the air. It settled again, and repeated its trick again.
Ritchie Jean could feel the presence of the unseen world all around him. As it settled one last time, a voice said, "Don't leave the paper in here. You must burn it."
Obediently, Ritchie Jean pulled a lighter from his pocket and carefully picked up the crumpled tract. As he did, it instantly burst into flames, and Ritchie Jean dropped it on the floor. His hands shook as he watched it go up in smoke, and burn out. Ritchie Jean was quickly becoming a believer.
Ritchie Jean was almost asleep when the phone rang. It was Allison. She wanted to see how her star guitarist was doing. She had read about his hospitalization in the papers. After some chit-chat, she brought up her real reason for calling.
"The tour's coming up fast. We have to get back into the studio. Are you going to be ready?"
The tour was the last thing on Ritchie Jean's mind, but he assured Allison that he'd be more than ready for the studio, and the tour to follow. She seemed satisfied with his answer and dropped it. Ritchie Jean climbed back into bed.
Again, just as he was drifting off, the doorbell rang. Peeking out from behind the curtain, he could see Pastor Reynolds and Jim Lockhart. A decision had to be made. Would he go to the door or just slip back into bed? The decision had been made. Pastor Reynolds' eyes met his from behind the curtain.
"Ritchie Jean, where have you been? We've been looking all over for you! Are you okay?
"You need to get back to the hospital. There are still some more tests that have to be done. Come on, I'll drive you."
"No. I'm not going back to the hospital. I have a tour to get ready for. Good night." And with that he slammed the door and crawled back into bed.
Pastor Reynolds immediately detected a very different attitude about Ritchie Jean. There was definitely a problem, but neither Pastor nor Jim knew what to do. They called the hospital to let them know that Ritchie Jean was home and safe assuming that he would be picked up and taken back to the hospital, but with the overcrowded conditions, all the hospital wanted was a signed release form from Ritchie Jean--which he gladly gave them.
For the first time since meeting Miss Nameless, Pastor Reynolds actually felt as if he needed to talk to her. Maybe between the two of them, they could get Ritchie Jean the help he needed. The only problem was finding Miss Nameless. What had been Pastor Reynolds battle was finally becoming God's.
"Lord, I need to find that woman. I don't know anything about her, but you do. You need to get us together. She was right. Ritchie Jean needs help, and if we as Christians don't help, who will?"
A still, small voice seemed to say, "Yes, John, but I'm not ready for you yet. Be patient and My purpose will be accomplished."
Two nights later Ritchie Jean was once again on his way to the residence of Shu-Yi Huang and the same cold, darkened, and windowless room. Once again, Ritchie Jean was to meet Kevin, but this would be a very different meeting. This would be Ritchie Jean's last meeting with Kevin.
As the candles flickered and finally were extinguished, Kevin spoke. "Ritchie Jean, it's good to see ya, man!" How many times Ritchie Jean had heard those words!
"Ritchie Jean, I'm full of sorrow tonight. This must be our last meeting. I have been called to other areas right now. Shu-Yi Huang will help guide you in your search, and there is someone else I want you to meet. He'll go with you all the way."
"But, Kevin," Ritchie Jean interrupted, "I don't want anyone else to go with me. We know each other. We respect each other. I want you to guide me."
"It can't be that way, man. I don't give the orders around here. I'll miss you, man. I must go, but Shu-Yi Huang will help you find Johnny Travers.
"He's been a musician from way back. In the 1400's, he studied with prominent Flemish composers such as Dufay. His writings were performed in the Papal Chapel at Rome and in St. Mark's Cathedral in Venice. He studied with several other major composers over the centuries and also took his turn as a fifer during the Revolution. He's been in the presence of royalty. He's been on the battlefield. He knows it all. He'll take good care of you.
"Ritchie Jean, I love ya, man. I must go."
The candles burned again. Kevin was gone--forever. It was Ritchie Jean, Shu-Yi Huang, and memories that seemed as if they'd never fade.
"Mr. Baker, you must meet Johnny Travers. Close your eyes, please."
As he was led into a state of altered consciousness, Ritchie Jean met Johnny Travers. As Ritchie Jean sat in a field of wild flowers, looking into a sunlit sky, Johnny Travers approached on a fluffy, white cloud.
A peace seemed to fall on Ritchie Jean. Johnny seemed to be very friendly and gave the impression of sincerity--two qualities that were important to Ritchie Jean. Even though older than Ritchie Jean, Johnny radiated a youthful enthusiasm that also appealed to him and for the moment, all thoughts of Kevin were gone.
"Ritchie Jean, I've heard much about you. I'm pleased to meet you. I have come, by Kevin's request, to take his place as your spirit guide. Unfortunately, Kevin still has some things to learn, but I am ready and I'm at your disposal to show you the way. "I must warn you, however, that there are two people that could interfere. Pastor Reynolds will definitely get in your way. It's imperative that you stay away from him. You did the right thing by closing the door on him the other night.
"There has also been a woman following you from town to town as you play, leaving those silly religious papers for you to find. Don't read them. Destroy them.
"Ritchie Jean, you can and you will be the greatest guitarist that ever lived if you allow me to guide you and direct you and if you play by my rules. For that privilege, I will promise you more fame, more money, more of everything the world has to offer. Is it a deal?"
The gentleness in his eyes was all Ritchie Jean needed to be persuaded. Another soul was bought. Another soul was sold.
Pastor Reynolds sipped at his coffee as he picked up the Morning Times. He had just finished his prayer time fervently praying for Ritchie Jean and for the opportunity to meet with Miss Nameless again. As he opened the paper, he could hardly believe his eyes. There on the front page was Miss Nameless.
The caption read, "Lisa Briscoe heads up new group at Campus Ministries. With that information Pastor was digging up the phone number of Campus Ministries, Inc. His fingers drummed impatiently on his desk while the phone was ringing.
"Yes, I'd like to speak with Lisa Briscoe, please. This is Pastor John Reynolds calling in reference to Ritchie Jean Baker."
"Who did you say you wanted, Sir?"
"Lisa Briscoe, please."
"I'm sorry, Sir. There's no Lisa Briscoe here. Are you sure you have the right number?"
"Yes, I'm very sure! I know she's probably mad at me. I can understand that, but it really is important that I talk to her. Please have her give me a call when it's convenient. My number's 990-3813."
"Sir, I'm sorry, but there really is no Lisa Briscoe here. Have a good day."
As Pastor Reynolds continued to read his morning paper, he came across an article to the left of the picture featuring Lisa Briscoe as the top notch real estate salesperson for the county. There was no mention of Campus Ministries. Apparently the newspaper had misprinted the information. Pastor quickly called the real estate office to set up a meeting with Miss Briscoe who saw it as a chance to sell some property.
Upon meeting, it was obvious that this Lisa Briscoe was not the same one that was in the paper. The Morning Times had really messed up this time and a still, small voice seemed to say, "John, I'm still not ready for you yet."
Meanwhile Miss Nameless was keeping a faithful eye on Ritchie Jean from a distance. She could feel the unseen forces at work as she watched and listened. She knew Ritchie Jean was in over his head, but other than to pray, she didn't know what to do. He would be leaving in a few days for the recording studio and then, the tour. Whatever she would decide to do, she would have to do quickly.
Later, in the evening, Ritchie Jean set out for Shu-Yi Huang's house. He wanted to try to contact Kevin again before the tour. He also knew it would be impossible--and it was. The candles didn't even flicker when Kevin was called upon, but Johnny Travers did appear.
"Ritchie Jean, your next recording will reach an all-time high in sales, not just for you personally, but for the recording industry as a whole. You will be honored and praised for all your musical accomplishments, but you must do this.
"You must ask about the altar in the little back room at the studio and sacrifice to me. If you want my blessing, you must earn it. Take that mangy mutt from down the street and sacrifice him on the altar to me. I will bless your recording efforts beyond your wildest dreams. Shu-Yi Huang will instruct you as to the proper sacrifice method. Pay close attention."
At first, Ritchie Jean was repulsed. Then he saw it as his only way to gain more wealth and fame. He made plans to come back after the recording, steal the dog, and make his sacrifice to Johnny Travers. Once that was settled, he headed back to his apartment with Miss Nameless following close behind.
As usual, Ritchie Jean was in a state of depression after leaving Shu-Yi Huang. Sleep was what he wanted more than anything. He knew sleep would come, but he didn't know when. It was 2:45 when Johnny Travers came to him, and he was still very much awake.
He found himself and Johnny traveling through the universe high above the earth and the confusion that seemed to go with it. They were heading for a land so unlike earth, a land of love and perfect peace--Jupiter.
Upon arriving at the temple gate of Creszhazorah, they were immediately ushered into the presence of Rega, the supreme ruler of all Jupiter. Loving-kindness radiated from his entire being and such a feeling of total contentment, peace, and love was never experienced by Ritchie Jean before. He thought back to his father and wondered how he could have missed the "true meaning of life." Ritchie Jean wondered how he could have missed its meaning for so long.
Ritchie Jean could see in Rega's eyes a longing to heal him from all his hurt and sorrow and it was here that Ritchie Jean wanted to stay. Then Rega spoke.
"Thank you, Johnny Travers, for bringing me the best. I have great plans for Ritchie Jean Baker."
"Ritchie Jean, from this time forward you must use your music to tell others of the great peace that awaits them if they follow Rega. Out of all those on earth, it is you whom I've chosen to spread the news of everlasting peace. I have found you faithful in other areas. You will be faithful in this area also. Ritchie Jean, You have been commissioned."
It was with a grateful heart that Ritchie Jean headed back for his bed. The alarm clock still read 2:45.
He didn't sleep at all that night. His journey amazed him and Johnny promised to take him again, but Shu-Yi Huang would teach Ritchie Jean how to leave his body at will. With the events of the night and the promises of the future fighting to rule his thoughts, he was too keyed up to sleep or do anything else. He just sat on the edge of his bed and marveled.
The light of dawn found Ritchie Jean sitting on the front porch looking up into the sky. He longed to be away from the earth and all the problems that go with it. He wanted to sit at the feet of Rega and learn all he could about the "true" meaning of life, but yet he knew he had to call Allison--something he was not looking forward to.
"Allison, it's me, Ritchie Jean. Listen, we have to delay the studio for a few weeks. I have to rewrite my material. I know this puts you in a difficult position, but I promise you, if you give me three weeks, you'll have the best material I've ever produced and you'll be glad you waited. I promise. Allison, there's a lot I have to explain. For now, just trust me."
"Ritchie Jean, we can't wait! This is no game! This is your career, and mine. Nobody messes with it. We regroup next week--ready or not. And you better have the best material you've ever produced ready for the boys to rehearse."
Ritchie Jean got the point. Allison could be very easy to work for when she was in control, but when she wasn't she could make things extremely difficult. Ritchie Jean knew he had to play by her rules.
As he turned to his guitar, he knew he needed some magic to rewrite all his material to honor the great Rega. He turned to Johnny Travers for that magic.
Johnny approached on his cloud, and told Ritchie Jean not to worry. "I'll write the songs for you. You just hold the pen to the paper and relax your mind. Take all the worry out of it. Empty it. Practice the breathing exercises Shu-Yi Huang showed you. Let me use you and we'll both have something Rega can be proud of."
Ritchie Jean fell into a trance and his pen began to race across the paper. In less than half an hour, all the material had been rewritten to honor Rega, to call those who would listen to worship, to call them to follow a religion that had at its core astral projection, clairvoyance, and witchcraft.
The music was everything Johnny had promised. The tour was under way, and the sacrifice was made on the altar in the little back room. Ritchie Jean was the biggest name the rock industry had ever known. Yes, It seemed like such a long way from that small town to worldwide fame, but he was enjoying every minute, at least until the lights went out.
Without the applause, Ritchie Jean still knew where he stood. He was tired of having to depend on his guitar for his self-worth, but apart from it he felt he was nothing. As each day dragged on, Ritchie Jean was becoming more and more discontented with his life. He thought back to the uselessness that Kevin often complained about and was beginning to understand.
Night after night the applause rang out, but was it really for Ritchie Jean? He remembered Kevin's statement about how the crowd only wanted raw drugs and sex and it didn't matter who was playing. It was an escape for them. Although they were there to see the great Ritchie Jean Baker, it could just as easily have been anyone else. When the applause stopped and Ritchie Jean could hear--when the lights went out and Ritchie Jean could see, he knew he was coming up empty.
So much of his life had changed. Even though he was rising above all other musicians, he knew it was really Johnny Travers. Even though he was completely taken in by Rega, Rega didn't satisfy his deep spiritual needs. Ritchie Jean came up empty every time when he was faced with himself--and himself alone.
He was empty and aching and didn't really know why. His life began to take on some very dark shadows--shadows of Larry Gross with no purpose in life, shadows of his beloved Kevin Henry with no purpose in life. Shadows of Andrea, joyful and happy, didn't seem real to him. How could anybody be happy? The tour continued.
Day after day, Ritchie Jean pulled himself through--another town, another show, but his life blood, playing for the sheer enjoyment of playing, was quickly draining from him. He pushed himself through the tour, but he would be very glad when it was over. His purpose, if it ever existed at all, had been lost somewhere between small town obscurity and worldwide fame. He had been cheated out of a real life by his drug of decibels and applause. The love he missed couldn't be found on the world's stages, and after years of searching for it, he still came up empty, dry, and alone.
The tour was finally over and the constant ache of his soul wouldn't let him alone. All the power and prestige that was his (thanks to Johnny Travers) was worth nothing. He just wanted to slip away, to check out one last time permanently.
He called on Johnny Travers. "Johnny, I thought everything was gonna be great. I feel like I've been used and abused and I have nothing left to give. I want you to go and never come around me again."
Johnny, standing over his left shoulder pointed to a twinkling star in the heavens. "That's your happiness, if you want it. Rega's there. He won't let you down, but if you'd rather join me and Kevin, come on down, Ritchie Jean Baker. We'd love to have you."
A strange force seemed to be controlling Ritchie Jean as he filled the bath tub and pulled out a brand new razor from the medicine cabinet. Immersing his arm under the cold water, he made one quick slice from the base of his palm to his elbow. As the water turned to scarlet, Ritchie Jean found himself in a dark tunnel being drawn by and toward a "wonderful" light at the end. The sides of the tunnel were pitch black, but yet Ritchie Jean was aware of eyes all along the walls of the tunnel. He was aware of the demonic activity that was taking place.
The light grew closer and warmer. Ritchie Jean could hear the sound of voices in the distance. As he got closer to the light, he could hear the voices chant, “We have you now! We have you now!”
Now Ritchie Jean seemed to be weighed down and was being dragged more quickly toward the light. There was absolutely no turning back against the tremendous force. Even though he was aware of demonic activity, he seemed very much at peace. The light was so warm and such a feeling of peace was something Ritchie Jean had not experienced, but it was to end all too soon.