Stage (f)Right Part 7
As she turned the corner and started up the stairs to the church a strange sensation overtook her. It was nearly midnight, and as was her custom, she stopped at the church to pray every Tuesday after the campus group met for Bible study. Even though she was several years older than the oldest student in the group, her youthfulness allowed her to still carry on a much needed ministry in the mainstream of college life.
Her ministry allowed her to do extensive traveling as well as work from her home base at the University. When she was in town, she never missed the opportunity to stop at the church and pray on Tuesday nights.
This Tuesday night was different--very different. It was hard for her to focus, to concentrate, to pour out her heart to God; but at the same time she felt a desperate need to intercede for Ritchie Jean.
"Father, I don't know why I feel this way. I don't know if Ritchie Jean is in some kind of danger, but please protect him. He needs You even if he doesn't realize it. Save him! Bring a man of God into his life. He needs someone."
With that an equally strange peace fell on her as if the Lord was saying, "I already have that man in position." She brushed her auburn hair away from her wet face and started down the street.
As was also her custom, she passed Ritchie Jean's apartment. Inside she could see two men walking about in the dim light. Cautiously she approached and asked the natural question, "Are you guys friends of Ritchie Jean?"
"Yes, well sort of. I met him for the first time tonight. I'm Pastor John Reynolds, and this is my deacon Jim Lockhart. Ritchie Jean had an accident tonight and we just came over to check on things."
"Well, I don't think I can really say at this point. I'm not really sure what happened."
"Well, have a nice night," she whispered, and disappeared back into the darkness of the night.
Wednesday Morning 3:00 a.m. found her on the second floor of the hospital tracking down Ritchie Jean's room. Sneaking past the information desk and two nurses, she headed down the corridor checking the names on each door she passed. The next to the last room had the information she was looking for. BAKER, RITCHIE JEAN--and she began to read the doctor's report. Sneaking back out the same way she got in, she headed for Ritchie Jean's apartment with the report under her arm.
By this time Pastor Reynolds had left, and the only way into the apartment was through a window that had inadvertently been left ajar. As quickly as possible she lifted the window and climbed in. Under her breath she muttered a prayer, "Lord, protect me," and began to look around.
Everything looked normal, but as she was leaving she found a note by the phone. "Ritchie Jean, miss ya man!" Keep your heart and mind open. I'll be contacting you soon. Kevin."
She climbed out and headed for home. Grabbing the yellow pages she turned to the "R" section. J e, J i, J o, John, John Reynolds,
"Pastor, I'm sorry for calling you at such a late hour. This is the woman that stopped by when you were at Ritchie Jean's apartment. Ritchie Jean's in great danger. I need to meet with you right away."
"What? Who did you say this is?"
I'm the woman that stopped by Ritchie Jean's apartment tonight. He's in serious trouble. I need to talk to you."
"Pastor, it's too hard to explain over the phone."
"What did you say your name is?"
"Pastor, I know this is an unusual call, but I can't say right now. Ritchie Jean's in trouble, and I think you can help."
"For someone that's not going to give me a name, the best I can do is tomorrow morning at 10:00. Meet me at my office."
"I'll be there. Good night, Sir."
Ritchie Jean slept like a baby. The medication allowed him to get the rest he so badly needed. When he did awake, the trouble was still there. The hospital was one place Ritchie Jean definitely didn't want to be. He had to locate Kevin. He had to find out what happened to the time he couldn't account for.
Pastor Reynolds was off to the hospital to check on Ritchie Jean before his 10:00 appointment. As he walked into the room, Ritchie Jean was just finishing breakfast.
"Good morning, Ritchie Jean. How are you feeling?"
"Really quite well, thanks. I'm ready to get out of here. There's too much I have to do. Pastor, how was my apartment last night? I can't help feeling something happened there, but I can't remember what."
"Actually, it looked pretty good to me. I'll tell you what! For a bachelor, you keep a very neat place. Ritchie Jean, I know things have been confusing lately, but have you ever thought about what's going to happen to you when you die? I don't want to alarm you, but that's something everyone of us needs to consider."
"Yes, preacher. I have thought about it, but to tell you the truth, my mind's not functioning too well at all right now. That is why I made that appointment with you the other day. I'm concerned about that and I do want to talk about it, but I'm not really able to concentrate on things for more than a few minutes at a time. When I get out of here, will you stop by, and we can talk?"
"Sure. I better be going now and let you get your rest. I'll talk to you later. Bye."
From down the hall he called, "Oh, Dr. Walinski. It's me, Pastor Reynolds. Can you tell me anything about Ritchie Jean's condition? He seems to be doing fine."
"Ritchie Jean's been through a lot. Touring like he does and the added strain of losing his best friend to suicide have been an awful lot for him to handle. He's physically as well as mentally exhausted. What he needs is plenty of rest and someone to check in on him once in a while. That's about all I can tell you right now."
"Thank you, Doctor. I will check in on him from time to time. Have a good day."
Meanwhile back at the office, Pastor's 10:00 appointment had just arrived. "Well, if it isn't Miss Nameless," he announced from behind his desk.
"Yes, Pastor. Thank you for taking the time to see me this morning."
"I believe we would have a more trusting conversation if I knew your name."
"Pastor, I've committed two crimes last night. I can't tell you my name, but Ritchie Jean's in a lot of trouble. We've got to help him!"
"Before we discuss your crimes, what kind of trouble do you seem to think Ritchie Jean's in?"
"After you told me about Ritchie Jean's accident, I couldn't sleep. I went over to the hospital and stole the report hanging on his door. Then I broke into his apartment to look around and I found this note by the phone."
"Look, Miss Nameless, Jim and I went completely through his apartment. He did seem to be concerned about something happening there, but I assure you, that note wasn't there. The table by the phone was one of the first places we looked. Who's this Kevin, anyway?"
"Kevin--Kevin Henry. He used to be Ritchie Jean's best friend and keyboard player in his band. Pastor Reynolds, Kevin's dead."
"Is this your idea of some sort of a sick joke?" "NO! No, it's not my idea, and I don't think it's a sick joke. Did you happen to see that picture on Ritchie Jean's piano? That was Kevin, and did you also notice it was autographed? The signature on the picture and the note match perfectly.
"Now, for the doctor's report. Something happened in his apartment that night that scared him out of his mind. Because of his position in the media, the hospital is playing it like he just physically and emotionally collapsed. The truth is something happened so terrifying that his mind chose to block it out--no memory."
"I just got back from the hospital a short while ago. I spoke to the doctor in charge of Ritchie Jean's case and he assured me Ritchie Jean just needed a good rest. Now, who am I to believe--a credible doctor or a thief that won't give me her name? May I see the report?"
"I don't have it. I knew I was wrong to steal it so I sneaked it back into the hospital."
"Thank you, Miss Nameless, but I really have other matters to attend to at this time. Good day."
"Pastor, you know what we're wrestling with here. We can't see them, but they're there and fighting for the mind of Ritchie Jean, fighting maybe even for his body, but they're definitely fighting for his soul. Pastor, if God's people don't do something, they'll get it. Good day."
As he looked out of his hospital window, Ritchie Jean could see the sun setting over the western horizon splashing pinks and yellows across the azure blue sky. As he lay there in that dreamy state, somewhere between being awake and being asleep, he could hear the voices.
"Ritchie Jean, we have come to show you the way to god. We know that Kevin seeks you. He will also help you find the way. You must go to 2642 Clairmont Avenue and ask for Shu-Yi Huang. She will assist you in finding Kevin. One other thing, Ritchie Jean, you must stay away from that preacher man. He perverts the truth. He will slow you in your search for god considerably. Shu-Yi Huang will take you to Kevin."
A frantic Dr. Walinski was searching the hospital room--throwing bed sheets on the floor, tearing through closets, checking under beds. Ritchie Jean was gone! Really gone! A call to his apartment turned up nothing and with no known next of kin in the area, a call went out to Pastor Reynolds.
"Pastor Reynolds, this is Dr. Walinski. Have you heard anything from Ritchie Jean since you were here this morning? He's missing and it's imperative that we find him!"
"He's missing? No, I've not seen him since this morning. Where could he have gone?"
"Pastor, please, I need to explain some things to you. Can you--will you come down to the hospital right away and see if we can't piece some things together?"
Pastor was in the car before the doctor had finished his last sentence and was forcing himself to drive the speed limit. His lead foot wanted to take over. He yanked the car into a parking space and streaked across the asphalt to the automatic doors, but the electronic eye wasn't working fast enough to suit him. He pried the door open. Once inside the hospital, he made a beeline to Ritchie Jean's room. Doctor Walinski was already there, still looking under beds and in closets.
"Thank you for coming, Pastor. Please sit down. I wasn't completely honest with you this morning concerning Ritchie Jean's condition. You see, he's a big celebrity, and we need to try to protect him as much as possible. You must keep this strictly confidential.
"Something happened to him the other night that he can't explain because he doesn't remember it. He doesn't remember it because his mind chooses not to. The body reacts to fear in one of two ways, normally. The body either prepares to fight or to run. In Ritchie Jean's case, whatever he experienced was so frightful that his mind just denies it. His mind has completely blocked out the event so he doesn't have to deal with it.
"Now, the problem is this. What did he experience? What kind of danger was he in, or is he in? If he's not in some sort of physical danger, he certainly is in emotional danger. This is something that he must come to grips with and be able to work through. Otherwise, he's just a time bomb waiting to go off, and when he does. . ."
2642 Clairmont Avenue. This was it. An excited Ritchie Jean trotted
up to the door and rang the bell. A young boy of Oriental persuasion answered.
"Ritchie Jean Baker, you are expected. This way, please."
"Very polite and to the point," Ritchie Jean thought as he followed him down a darkened hall. Then another thought crossed his mind. How did this boy know his name? How was he to be expected? He didn't call for an appointment. Oh well! It didn't matter. He was just glad to be able to see Kevin again--alive and well.
At the end of the hall and to the left was a room closed off by a single black curtain. Inside the air was chilled, but yet close, a bit stuffy. Candles burned in each corner of the room, as did incense. In the middle of the room sitting cross-legged on the floor was Shu-Yi Huang. Her cold, black eyes seemed to stare through Ritchie Jean's soul. Instead of feeling he was there to see his long time friend, he felt more as if he were at a funeral. A strange emptiness surrounded everything. Then she spoke.
"Sit, please, Mr. Baker. You have come to see Kevin Henry, and so you shall. Sit on floor." That seemed a rather unnecessary statement to Ritchie Jean. There were no chairs anywhere. He'd have to sit on the floor.
"Mr. Baker, Kevin Henry's been trying to reach you. He has important message for you. Are you ready to hear from him?"
Ritchie Jean only nodded his head.
"Then you must relax, Mr. Baker. Breathe deeply and focus on my eyes. Kevin Henry, Ritchie Jean Baker is here at your request. Can you hear me?. . .
The candle flames flickered slightly as Ritchie Jean could detect a breeze from a window, but there were no windows. A single gust of air extinguished all burning candles, and now in the completely darkened and windowless room, it was Ritchie Jean Baker, Shu-Yi Huang, and Kevin Henry.
Ritchie Jean recognized the familiar voice. "Ritchie Jean, it's great to see you, man! I've been waiting for this moment for such a long time. First of all, I want to let you know that there is no Hell. If there was, I'd be there instead of here with you.
"Second of all, I want to help you along life's path. There is no Hell, but life doesn't end with death. It's an ongoing process. I want you to make the most of the life you have on earth, and there are certain things that you must understand.
"One of those things is that if you don't get it right this time around, you'll have another chance--reincarnation, you know, but Ritchie Jean, I want you to get it right this time. Someone of your caliber has probably had some past lives. You need to find out who, when and where you were before, then learn from those lives so you don't make the same mistakes again. Shu-Yi Huang can help you.
"Ritchie Jean, I'll be in touch again, but before I go you must have nothing to do with that preacher. He's out to harm you, and I'm not going to let him get in the way. Stay as far away from him as you can. I must go now."
One by one the candles began to burn again. Ritchie Jean sat there--numb. He wasn't ready for what he had experienced. A shaken Ritchie Jean made his way back down the hall and through the front door with the promise that he would call Shu-Yi Huang in a day or two to meet again.
His mind and emotions were swimming. How could Pastor Reynolds be out to hurt him. He seemed like such a good person. What was his angle? What was he after? Certainly, Kevin must know. He's seen things from the other side. Kevin, he knew, had his best interest in mind. He would have to avoid Pastor Reynolds at all cost.
The answer to Kevin's existence had been explained. In this life Kevin was indeed dead. It was hard for Ritchie Jean to deal with. When he left for Shu-Yi Huang's house, he planned to meet once again with Kevin, but not in the manner in which he did. Trying to piece it all together left a hole for depression to sneak in, and Ritchie Jean headed slowly for home.