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Monday, August 16, 2010

"Heading Home"

Wow. That's my reaction upon reading John Robinson's thriller, Heading Home. This is an end-times story that will grab your attention and keep you turning pages. The characters come alive as the exciting events unfold. After all--when every Christian hears a message they believe is from God, what could go wrong?

When every Christian simultaneously receives a shattering word from God, revealing that time as we know it is over, the world is thrown into stark panic. In the midst of heartbreak and hope, two old friends, hardened combat veterans from the closing days of the Vietnam War, set out on a suspenseful quest to redeem that time.

John Robinson has been married thirty-seven years to the finest woman on the planet, his wife Barb. The father of two grown sons and grandfather of two, he’s also the retired owner of a successful financial planning firm. John hopes to go into full-time writing someday; as the author of the popular Joe Box suspense series, he’s well on his way. He’s made some good friends in the publishing world, including writers Karen Ball, Brandilyn Collins, Alton Gansky, and Christy-award winner James Scott Bell, and all of them greatly—and graciously—shared their talents in helping John hone his craft. In addition to his writing John is a much in demand speaker and teacher, having taught fiction tracks at the Glorieta Christian Writers conference just outside Santa Fe, New Mexico. He’s also acquisitions editor for Narrow Road Press, the even “edgier” imprint of Sheaf House Publishers.

The first title in his Joe Box series, Until the Last Dog Dies, was published by RiverOak Publishing in a three-book deal, which also included the hard-hitting When Skylarks Fall and To Skin a Cat. All three works received outstanding reviews. With the release of his apocalypse-with-a-twist thriller Heading Home (Sheaf House Publishers, August 2010), his mind-bending science fiction novel The Radiance (Narrow Road Press, August 2011), and the first of his new soldier of fortune Mac Ryan series, Relentless (Narrow Road Press, August 2012), John stands ready to continue to deliver more nail-biting, heart-stopping suspense.


(Every Christian on earth has been told Jesus is returning for his people sometime in the next seven days. In this scene the two main characters, company CEO Nick Castle, and CT Barnes, his best friend and head of security, are planning strategy on how they can locate the men they served with in Vietnam.)


Nick looked at his watch. Again. Nearly eleven A.M. Manny had sure called it right. Over two hours, and still nothing. CT had finished up with his friend quite a while back. Getting Social Security records, other than your own, was just a wee bit illegal, and CT’s friend said he would do what he could. But it would still take some time.

To pass that time Nick was finishing the draft of a memo to all the company employees. For those who weren't Christians, and so would miss the rapture, existence here on earth would go on for seven more years. And for at least the first little bit of that time life would be fairly normal. So he was, of all things, making sure those folks would get paid next week. After that they were on their own. Plus he couldn't be certain that there would even be a Castle Industries a week from now. Who knew? His vice-president of operations, Gary Kilgallen, was a Christian, so he’d be gone. As would the three assistant vice-presidents. And the treasurer. And the chief legal counsel. Come to think of it, there weren’t any officers of the company—except for the comptroller—that weren't Christians. So what should he do? Put an ad in the trade journals?


He shook his head.

“What?” CT asked. He was in one of the visitor’s chairs facing Nick’s desk, doing his own paperwork.

“This.” Nick threw his pen down on top of the memo. “Is this insane or what? I keep having to tell myself that it’s real, that we aren’t just going down to the Smokies and will be back next week.” He shook his head. “In less than a hundred and fifty-six hours we’re going to be in heaven. Can you believe it?” His chuckle was dry. “This is really, really hard to get my head around.”

“Tell me about it. You know Billy Montgomery, that kid I hired as my assistant last year?” Nick did, of course.

“He really took off fast,” CT said. “I’m proud of him. With just a little more trainin’, I think Billy could run Security as well as I can.” The big man shook his head. “Well, he ain’t gonna get it. The job’s his in less than seven days, ready or not.” CT scratched at his chin. “Thing is, I’ve witnessed to that boy ‘til I’m hoarse. No dice. The kid’s good, but cocky. Says he’s an agnostic.” He started back on his paperwork. “In less than a week he’s gonna find out if he’s a good one.”

Nick was about to reply when the phone rang. He snatched it up before the first ring was done. “Hello, Manny?”

Alverez laughed. “How did you know it was me? Couldn’t it have been a business call?”

Nick leaned back in his chair. “I’m not taking any today. My staff has the day off.” He winked at CT. “So, anything?” He switched the speaker on so they both could hear.

“Okay, first things first. I talked to Patrice, about you wanting to meet with Jack. It took some convincing; she watches him like a mother hen. But she finally said okay. I’ll give her a call and set it up.”

“All right!” CT said.

“Hey, who’s that with you?” Suspicion again.

“One of the good guys,” Nick answered. “Say hello to CT Barnes, another old doorgunner. He was with us that day.”

“Pleased to meet you, Mr. Barnes. Okay, let’s see, next, next . . . Okay, Franklin Edgar Malone. Present address 249 Boyle Street, Newark, New Jersey. No phone.”

“Does your information show how he’s doing?” Nick asked.

“No, just the address and the fact he’s drawing both SSI and vet disability. That’s how I found him.”

“Huh. Jersey,” CT grunted. “Well, I thought he sounded like he was from New York. Close, though, right across the river.”

“Have you ever been to Newark, Mr. Barnes?” Alverez asked.

“No, just knifed a guy from there once, that’s all. It was back in my rowdy days.”

There was a pause. “Uhh . . . okay. Next. Trevor Ames. Now this one took a bit of doing. I called the London Observer. Over there it’s already afternoon and on the phone the place sounded like it was coming down in pieces. Anyway, I finally got some kid to tell me that last’s night’s, well, message, was big news, and he said he’d try to help me if he could. I had him access their system, and it turns out that Ames does still live right outside of London.”

“Is he working for them now?” Nick asked.

“No. According to what they have, the Navy flew Ames to Bethesda Hospital in Maryland the day after he’d been brought aboard the Kitty Hawk. Bethesda had him for a week, until his paper paid to fly him home. He was released from his contract with them under their medical retirement clause. He draws a small pension and that’s about it.”

“Address and phone?”

“Twelve Harrowgate Lane, South Essex, London. No phone.”

CT shook his head in disgust. “No phone. Two for two. Looks like Nicky and me are gonna rack up a whole bunch of frequent flyer miles we’re never gonna get to use.”

“And right here’s where I ran out of luck,” the sergeant said. “I accessed both SSI and the VA, and I found seventeen Dooleys, all in the right age group. Eight served in Vietnam, the rest in other places. Of the seventeen, none of the guys had been burned. Gunshots, landmines, punji sticks, you name it. No burns, though, and none of them had ever set foot on the Kitty Hawk.”

“So where does that leave us?”

“You tell me,” Alverez snorted. “Even Walter Reed has no records of him. I have one trick left, but again, this’ll take some time. How old do you figure Dooley was when you knew him?”

The two men looked at each other, shrugging.

“I don’t know,” Nick answered. “It was hard to tell with him. He looked like a kid, just a farm kid. I know he was from the south . . . I don’t know, what do you think, CT, maybe seventeen, eighteen?”

“I turned twenty when I was there, Nick.”

“Yeah, and I turned twenty the day I left the MASH. The staff made me a little cake to take with me. And I know Dooley was younger than us, so I would say yeah, maybe eighteen.”

“All right then,” Alverez said briskly. “Here’s what I plan to do. I’m going to access the records of all Army inductees with the last name of Dooley and having birthdates ranging from 1 January 1955 to 31 December 1956. I’ll then narrow the search to those from the southern states who were sent to Vietnam.” The sergeant paused. “You know this is going to take a while, gents.”

“Maybe I’m a bit slow, Manny,” CT said, “but that gets us Dooley when he went in. It doesn’t tell us where he went when he got out.”

“That’s because you don’t understand the southern mind, Mr. Barnes. You’re from where?”

“Gary, Indiana. So?”

“So,” Alverez replied, “you were born in Gary, Indiana, but you’re living in Cincinnati. As a rule these southern boys tend to go back home when they leave Uncle Sam’s employment. So figure if, say, Muskrat, Arkansas, sent Dooley to Vietnam, and he ended up in your unit, he probably returned to Muskrat or close to it when he left.”

“Sounds like a generalization to me,” CT growled.

“Mr. Barnes,” Alvarez shot back with some heat, “I’m doing what I can.”

“And we appreciate it,” Nick jumped in. He glanced at CT, shaking his head. “We really do.”

“Okay.” The sergeant sounded somewhat mollified. “I’ll be in touch.”

They hung up, and Nick looked over at his friend. “Almost blew the deal, there. We really don’t need to be antagonizing this guy. He’s just trying to help.”

CT sighed. “Yeah. Sorry. I guess I’m gettin’ antsy. I need to get out of here for a while, catch some rays.”

“Do that. Go up on the roof. I’ll stay here and wait for Manny’s call.”

He sighed again, briskly scratching his head. “Naw, man, I’ll wait, too. Don’t mind me, I was just poppin’ off.” Then he scowled. “It’s just that I’m not lookin’ forward to flyin’ clear over to England and back, I’ll tell ya that for free.”

“Want to stay here in Cincy?” Nick asked. “Go over your paperwork? Check timesheets?” He went on with a grin, “Watch cartoons? Tell you what, you stay here and I’ll bring you back a nice present.”

CT faked a punch at Nick’s head. “Jerk. No, I’m in it till we win it. ‘Whither thou goest, I will go,’ and all that.”

“Why CT Barnes!” Nick fluttered his eyes. “Sarah was right. You are a sweet thang!”

This time he barely slipped the punch.

Order your copy here.

1 comment:

John Robinson said...

Thanks so much, Robin; this was very kind of you!