Saturday, May 2, 1970

Revelation Point (Sample Chapters)

Chapter 1

Pine Hills was situated in the mountains, seventy-five miles north of Passion Canyon Methodist Church, where Dan Highland served as the youth minister. The campsite featured enough amenities that nobody roughed it, unless being bitten by a few bugs could be called roughing it. For over a month, the Youth Group had planned this weekend camping trip, and now, God willing, if everybody was finally, ready, they’d be on their way and might actually get to Pine Hills before it was time to make the trip back home.

Dan glanced at his wife Laura. They hadn’t seen one another long enough to touch base concerning the status of the cars, so neither knew for certain which were loaded and which were not. “How about Mrs. Fenton?” Dan asked. “Did she ever show up?” Margaret Fenton was supposed to drive a carload of the kids to the campsite. Laura nodded. Like her husband, she was a little out of breath and red in the face. 

“Yes,” she replied. “She had to stop for gas.”

Dan sighed, rolling his eyes. “She’s only known about the retreat for a month now. You’d think she’d have been able to top off her tank a little sooner.”

“At least she’s here,” Laura said. “How about Frank Hornsby? Did he make it?”

“Yes, he and young Frank are loaded and ready to go.”

“Well,” Laura said, “I think that’s everybody. Let’s do a final check. If everybody’s ready, we can get underway.”

The sullen teenager scowled at all who glanced his way.

“Brad’s decided he’d like to accompany you on this trip,” Paul announced, elbowing his son. “Isn’t that right, Brad?”

Brad glowered at one and all.

“It’s never too late,” Dan replied, thinking that they should have been on the road an hour ago.
There’s always room for one more.”

He held out his hand for Brad to shake. Instead, the teen, bag in hand, stepped past the youth minister as if he weren’t there. Dan smiled at the boy’s father. “Brad can ride with Mrs. Highland and me. Just toss your bag in the back and climb on in, Brad.”

Seeing the late arrival, Molly Panner looked disappointed. “Oh, no!” she said, nudging her friend Sarah Lesley. “Not him! He’ll make our trip miserable!”

Sarah rolled her eyes, and her lips drew back to show her disgust. “Yuck!”

Brad gave the girls a mock smile to show that their dislike and disdain were mutual.

Well, at least we can get underway now, Dan thought.

“You’ve never been to Pine Hills, have you, Brad?” Laura asked, smiling over her shoulder at the teen who sat slumped in the back seat, his arms folded across his chest. The boy said nothing.

“It’s really beautiful up there this time of year,” she said enthusiastically.

“Look,” the surly teen said, “I didn’t want to come on your stupid retreat. I don’t want to be here, in your stupid car with you, and I will not have fun with anyone. I’m here because my old man wants to get rid of me for a couple of days.”

Actually, Brad’s Uncle Claude, who worked as a maintenance laborer for the state’s Department of Parks and Recreation, which had a supply shed near the church’s retreat, had mentioned Pine Hills to Brad’s father, suggesting that Paul have Brad join Dan’s youth group. On one trip to the out-of-the-way supply shed, Brad had wanted to ride along, and his Uncle Claude had shown him around the place. Brad had shown quite an interest in the tarp-covered hole in the floor that opened into the crawlspace below the shed--and even more interest in the dynamite inside the shed, which the maintenance workers used to clear fallen rocks from mountain roads. Brad, usually taciturn, had opened up to his uncle on that occasion, telling him about how he longed to be accepted by his peers at school, but Brad had clammed up when his uncle had tried to pursue the topic. “The kids use that campsite five or six times a year,” Claude had told Paul. “Maybe Brad should join up. It might be good for him to get away once in a while and make some new friends at the same time.”

“Well, let’s make the most of it, anyway, Brad,” Laura suggested. “You can--”

“Just leave me alone, okay? I’ll do the same favor for you!”

They rode the rest of the way to Pine Hills in silence.

The caravan of pickup trucks, SUV’s, sedans, convertibles, sports cars, and vans wound carefully around the steep, two-lane asphalt road that corkscrewed its way up the mountain, displaying, on one side, the sparsely-vegetated granite slope of the still-rising mountainside and, on the other side, a panoramic view of the wide, deep valley, spotted with farmhouses, decorated with orchards, and quilted with patches of green and gold. Traffic was scant, but their progress was slow. A few had never driven to Pine Hills. They were relying on Pastor Dan, Laura, and Brad, at the head of the column, to lead the way.

After twenty minutes, the corkscrew became a serpentine series of curves that continued to require slow progress and vigilant driving. In most places, there was no guardrail to save a vehicle that careened down (or up) the road and left the shoulder in favor of the open air. The drop was precipitous and deadly. On the way up, Dan had learned to watch for out-of-control drivers for whom “straightening out a curve” was a challenge no matter how many sharp curves lay ahead. On the way down, Dan knew to respect these same curves while keeping a wary eye out in front for drivers who cut across the center lane and a cautious eye out behind for speeding drivers coming around the mountain at a dangerous speed.
They passed Lardner’s Log Cabin Store, the last outpost of civilization, if one could call it that, which signified that the rutted dirt road that led to their campsite lay a half-mile ahead, around the next sharp curve.

“Well, we’re finally here,” Laura remarked.

Dan glanced in his rear view mirror at their passenger. Brad was fast asleep.

“Well, some of us are, anyway,” Dan replied.

Mothers hugged sons and daughters; fathers hugged daughters and shook sons’ hands. The teens stood with their parents, bags and baggage unloaded at their feet. Dan and Laura had stepped out of their SUV with their luggage as well. Now, they watched as Brad pitched his olive-drab green Army duffel bag from their vehicle. It landed hard on the hard-packed soil, raising a cloud of dust. He opened his door, stretched forth his long legs, and boosted himself to his feet, a study in slow motion.

“For those of you who don’t already know him, I’d like to introduce Brad Lannigan. He’s decided to join us for the weekend. Let’s all give Brad a hearty welcome and make sure he has a good time.”

The teens stood silent.

The tall, lanky boy stalked away from the group.

“Brad!” Laura called after him.

“Let him go,” Randy Stewart suggested. “Who needs him?” Randy was the local high school’s star quarterback and a natural leader among his peers.

“Maybe he could use some friends,” Laura said.

“I’m disappointed in you, all of you,” Dan admonished the group. “You’re supposed to be Christians. Is that how Jesus would have behaved?”

You don’t know him,” Randy observed. “You don’t have to go to school with him. The guy’s a real creep.”

He is,” Sue Martin agreed. “No one at school likes him. He has, like, zero friends.”

Maybe that’s all the more reason for us to befriend him,” Laura pointed out.

Dan glared at the group of teens in his charge for another long moment. They squirmed satisfactorily. He shook his head. “Go ahead,” he told them. “Get your stuff into your cabins. Somebody help Marshall.”

At the mention of his name, the mentally handicapped youth replied, “Passer Dan!” He stepped forward from his place in the circle and hugged Dan. The youth minister wished that everyone could be as open as this dear boy, handicapped or not.

“I’ll give him a hand,” Randy said. He put a hand on the slight youth‘s shoulder.

“Let’s go, big guy,” he said. Marshall squealed with delight.

“He’s staying with me,” Dan said. “I’ll move my stuff in after everyone else has gotten settled.”

“Right,” Randy said. “Come on, Marsh.”

Dan smiled as Randy, his arm still draped casually over the other, slightly built boy’s shoulder, walked off with Marshall. As unlikely as it seemed, Randy and Marshall were true buddies, both in the Youth Group and at their high school. Randy’s popularity among the other kids no less than his brawn had saved Marshall many a wound from the would-be verbal slings and arrows of their peers. It was another wonder how the macho jock, with his proclivity for barbed repartee, had taken the awkward, mentally handicapped Marshall under his wing.

The group had pre-selected their roommates, subject to Dan’s approval, in the hope of facilitating their occupancy of the A-frame cabins, each of which accommodated two. As a joke, Randy and Sue had signed up for a cabin, on the theory that a football player and a cheerleader naturally belonged together, which had caused a furor among some of the more easily scandalized elders and deacons until, at length, Dan had been able to assure them that the teens had meant their reservation as a joke.

Laura was occupying a cabin by herself in the girls’ section of the camp, just as, normally, Dan would be rooming alone in a cabin in the boys’ section of the camp.

Marshall, however, needed constant supervision, so Dan had decided that, this time out, he and Marshall would bunk together. When the dust had settled and everyone had moved his or her gear into the cabins, only Brad remained without a place. “Get your stuff,” Dan told him. “You’re rooming with me.” Somehow, they’d manage to cram a third person into their cabin.

Brad looked surprised, but he quickly rejected the offer. “No way,” he said, snorting his contempt at the idea. He wasn’t about to bunk with the youth minister, of all people. He wasn’t going to look like Pastor Dan’s pet. Besides, Brad Lannigan had never needed anyone in his life; he certainly didn’t need anyone now, especially a youth minister.

An idea occurred to Dan. The youth minister could bunk with his wife, and he said, “It’s either me or Marsh.”

“I’ll sleep under the stars, with God as my roomie,” Brad said.

“You’ll room with Marshall or me,” Dan repeated.

“I’ll take the brain-dead boy.”

“He’s mentally handicapped, Brad,” Dan corrected him, “not brain-dead.”

“Whatever,” Brad muttered.

“Marshall needs someone to look after him,” he pointed out.

Brad looked at the youth minister. “Isn’t that your job?”

Dan returned the defiant teen’s stare, his own manner easy, his tone self-effacing.

“I’ll be here for Marsh, as always,” he answered. “It’s just that I could use a little help.”

“Why should I care?”

“We should all care, just like Jesus.”

“Isn’t that what got him killed?”

Dan would have been angry, but he realized from Brad’s comment that the youth knew more about Jesus than he’d probably want to admit. Maybe there was hope for him, after all. “Will you help out or not?” Dan asked.

“I’ll keep an eye on him.” He grabbed his duffel bag and headed toward the cabin that Dan had indicated.

It’s a start, Dan thought. It may not be much of one, but it’s a start.

Chapter 2

Later, Dan checked in at Brad’s and Marshall’s cabin to see how they were doing.

Marshall had gone off with Randy already.
One of the bunks was occupied by a teddy bear. Dan smiled.

“That thing isn’t mine,” Brad said quickly.

Dan smiled again. “How about my famous, once-in-a-lifetime, first-timer’s-only tour of Pine Hills?”

“Why not? It’s not like I have anywhere else to go or anything better to do,” Brad replied.

Actually, Brad thought, as Dan showed him around the campsite, Pine Hills was, well, nice. In addition to the fifteen A-frame cabins that slept two campers each, the site was equipped with a dining facility, complete with kitchen and pantry; an assembly hall; shower and rest room facilities; a storage shed; and a small chapel.

Dan showed Brad the chapel last.

“Do you think we’ll be closer to God inside a building with stained-glass windows?” Brad asked sarcastically.

“God is everywhere,” Dan intoned. “You can run from him, but you can’t hide!” 
“Ha ha.”

The chapel was long and wide enough for the pulpit; a small, elevated stage; and, of course, the altar. There was also a “cozy box,” as the church’s minister, Pastor Barnes, referred to it, for the choir. On either side of the red-carpeted center aisle was a rank of six pews, each of which could seat six comfortably. Beyond that, Dan informed Brad, it was “standing room only.” The twelve stained-glass windows depicted various scenes from the life of Christ. The late afternoon sun shone through the window that illustrated the crucifixion, pouring crimson light across the burnished pine floor and pews, as if the dusk had literally spilled the treasure of Jesus’ blood across the chapel’s sanctuary.

Brad followed Dan down the red carpet, toward the altar, spread with a white linen cloth, that stood before the curtains of gold and purple. They crossed behind the red throne-like chair in which the minister always sat, awaiting the beginning of each service. Dan seldom explained the symbolism of the colors. Religious symbolism, he believed, worked better at the unconscious level. Once someone discerned the message communicated by the colors, the symbolism had done its work. Dan had been pleasantly surprised during their last retreat, four months ago, to hear Randy explain that the red carpet represented the blood of Jesus, that led to the white altar, symbolic of Jesus’ pure sacrifice to God, whose kingly presence was represented by the gold and purple curtains and whose reign was suggested by the red-cushioned, ornate throne-like chair in which, as a stand-in, Pastor Barnes or Pastor Dan sat. The choir, Randy had further explained, represented the heavenly host of angels, God’s eternal courtiers. One day, he hoped, Brad might also be able to explain the significance of the chapel’s “color scheme,” as Randy had done. Dan hoped that, eventually, all the members of the youth group would prove as astute, including, one day, even Marshall.

Today, however, the purpose of Dan’s visit wasn’t to study the chapel’s d├ęcor; it was to exhibit the contents of the subterranean cave beneath the chapel. 
Dan lifted back a section of the carpeting near the altar, exposing the trapdoor.

Brad’s eyebrows lifted. “What’s down there?”
“Let’s go down and have a look,” Dan invited.
For once, Brad seemed eager, and he followed Dan quickly down the rungs of the ladder.

The cave was larger than the chapel, and it opened upon the forest, providing a magnificent, panoramic view of the woods some sixty feet below.
“Wow!” Brad exclaimed.

“It is awesome, isn’t it?” Dan asked.

Brad nodded, speechless.

“We’ve recently stored some rappelling gear in the cave,” Dan told Brad. “Mrs. Highland and I are scheduled to take a course in mountain-climbing and rappelling this spring, just in case we ever want or need to use the equipment.”

Dan had waited until last to show Brad the chapel, because Brad’s father had told him that Brad was an expert at rappelling and had always enjoyed ascending and descending rocks and cliffs, the steeper the better, vertical being the best. 

However, if the sight of the rappelling gear excited Brad, the teen certainly did not show it. 
“I guess I’ve seen everything now,” Brad said, “except the really important stuff.

Where’s the TV?”

“We don’t have a television set,” Dan admitted, “but, I promise, we’ll find plenty of other things with which to occupy ourselves; don’t worry about that. We’ll go for hikes, swim, have cookouts, and--”

“Be still, my heart!” Brad cried melodramatically, throwing a hand to his chest.

Dan laughed. “The weekend may be more exciting than you think,” he said,
ignoring the boy’s sarcasm.

Once back at the cabins, Dan joined Laura in checking on the other campers.

“Dan!” Laura had spotted him from across the campsite. “Where have you been?

I’ve been searching all over for you.”

“Coming!” he shouted back at her.

He crossed the campsite, meeting Laura outside her cabin. His wife’s zany sense of humor was apparent in her having beautified the space beside the steps to her cabin’s door with a bed of plastic flowers.

“Your garden is absolutely Edenic,” Dan complimented her.

“How’d it go with you and Brad?” she asked.

“Not well,” he admitted. “Not well at all.”

“I guess what happened to him in that subterranean cavern was more traumatic than his father realizes,” she said.

“It would have been a terrible thing for anyone to see, let alone a teenager,” Dan agreed. “To make matters worse, his father says that Brad blames himself.”

“Well, his behavior toward the other kids isn’t winning him any friends,” Laura observed.

As they spoke of him, they watched Brad wander around the camp while the other kids relaxed in their cabins, chatting among themselves.

Although Brad seemed lonely and bored, none of the others would have anything to do with him. When they saw him approach, they’d stop talking and ignore him until he left.

Finally, with nowhere else to go, Brad returned to the cabin he was sharing with Marshall.

Grinning, Marshall shouted, “Bad, Bad, Bad,” in an attempt to say “Brad,” and, throwing himself across the small cabin, tossed his arms around the startled delinquent. Brad scowled. Roughly pushing Marshall away, he said, “That’s right, retard, I am bad, and don’t you forget it, even for a moment.”

Marshall looked hurt and puzzled.

“Go on, get away from me,” Brad demanded.
Marshall returned to his bunk, lying down quietly, in the fetal position, and sucked his thumb. A tear rolled down his cheek.

The pathetic sight of the innocent, vulnerable boy made Brad feel sorry for having rebuffed Marshall’s natural and spontaneous display of friendship, but he commiserated with himself by asserting that he didn’t need the friendship of a mentally handicapped kid. He wasn’t that desperate. He looked at Marshall, making a sour face as he explained, “Maybe I told the youth minister I’d look out for you, but that doesn’t mean I have to be your friend!”

Revelation Point

When teen campers' hike through the deep woods takes a terrifying turn, their adventure becomes a nightmarish struggle for survival. Alone in the remote wilderness, they must depend on the skills of outcast Brad Lannigan. Can they trust him with their lives? As Brad takes the lead, they're about to find out!


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