Ed stared into the void of the hooded robe for what felt like an eternity. He had learned one thing as the world's most confrontational interviewer: he could make any man break with his glare.
Nothing. Not a reaction. No flinching.
"Surely, something can prevent all this? Someone?..."
The hood stayed rock-steady still.
"What must I do?"
They rose once more...
"So this Happy Holidays...this is all a bunch of malarkey for you people, designed by liberals to destroy Christianity?"
"No, Ed, we don't want to destroy Christianity or Christmas or Christ. All we want is what Christians want: the right to practice our beliefs without reprisal or judgement. That's what this country was founded upon, and that's what we're entitled to in our Declaration: liberty and the pursuit of happiness."
"That's a load! This is a Christian nation! Our Founding Fathers were Christian and they even wrote about divine providence in the Constitution and the Declaration!"
"They also wrote about freedom of religion, which means that the government must respect all faiths, including the unfaithed, and by extension, so must society!"
"By taking the Christ out of Christmas?"
"No! But the holiday season has many more holidays than just Christmas."
"Oh shut up already! We'll be back after these messages..."
Ed felt the hand grip his shoulder once more, and they flew...up...east...to Long Island. Levittown, not Westbury.
They settled to the ground like two leaves, and stood at a graveside. The freshly turned earth smelled sweet. There was a ceremony going on. They listened.
"...to Thy servant departed, that he may not receive in punishment the requital of his deeds who in desire did keep Thy will..." Father Tom intoned.
A handful of people stood close by. A few scattered TV trucks, mostly NewsNet and its affiliates, and a smattering of gawkers, behind police tape about twenty yards away. Some carried signs: "Burn In Hell!", "Christians For Tolerance", and one or two carried old subway advertising boards. One bright light held up a "burning" Christmas tree, by pasting gold and red mylar to the branches.
Ed scanned the small group gathered graveside. There was Dad, of course, and two of Ed's three wives, and two of his children. Raquel looks like she skipped the service, but that's in keeping with her style: she was always jetting off somewhere. With someone. It was never enough for her.
And the head of NewsNet, a pixie-faced Aussie who made a boatload of money by first creating controversies and then attacking the same controversies. His master stroke? Publishing a book and then setting up a nationally telecast interview with a certain notorious killer, then killing the whole deal when his news division mercilessly attacked the idea. He made gobs of advertising money in the middle of the November sweeps, and still managed to release the book and make the million dollar advance back and much more. He was here all the way from Shanghai, with his lovely (fifth) wife.
And that was it.
Wait...that was it? None of the crew? OK, not Barb, but no one else?
"May his soul and the souls of all the faithful departed through the mercy of God rest in peace."
With that, the hooded figure reached up and pulled his hood back. Before Ed stood a tall handsome North African man.
"I am Joshua, son of Joseph. Some have called me Jesus. Ed, I am here to judge you."
With that, Jesus picked Ed up and flung him into the grave.
To Chapter Fourteen