Matt sat up straight in his bed, torn from a rather amusing dream by the sound of the family land-line phone in the hallway. His was the nearest bedroom, so he normally answered it at night. He leaped from his bed and rushed to the door, only then realizing that he needed clothes, so he scooped up his khaki shorts from the floor and slid them on before he ran to answer the phone.
He grabbed for the handset, knocking it off, to the floor. He really wasn’t awake yet and had a bit of trouble grasping onto it. He fumbled for a few moments then lifted it to his ear. “Hello, Hamblins’,” he said, his voice still husky from sleep.
“Yes,” came a tinny voice. “Might I speak with Nicholas Hamblin, please?”
“Who, may I say, is calling?”
There was a pause, and a slight exhaling of breath then the voice continued. “Yes, this is Lars Andersen.”
Again the pause, this time, it led to a rather uncomfortable silence, over the sound of traffic.
“Uh, yeah, I’ll see if he’s still here...” Matt almost hung up the phone in his confusion. He stumbled down the hall, away from his and his brother’s rooms, past the bathroom, through the family room to the stairs where he called up to the parents room above. “Dad, some guy named Anders Larsen is on the phone for you.”
“Andersen Larson?” asked his dad. “I don’t know anyone named anything like that.” He came down the steps grumbling and scowling.
Matt walked back toward his bedroom and saw his just older brother Dave who took one look and said “Matt. Do your pants up! And get a shirt on.” Matt looked down and saw that he really wasn’t very modest. He pushed past Dave into his own room, did up his fly and put on his brand new Rolling Stones tee-shirt. He’d actually gotten tickets for the concert. He was excited about going.
His dad’s voice came through the door “Alright, now,” he was saying. “Who do you represent again?” There was a space where Matt assumed the Larsen guy was speaking. “Little Cottonwood Canyon High School? I don’t think I’ve ever heard of...”
Matt craned his neck to hear what his dad was saying. “Is that near the Granite Mountain Vault that the LDS Church runs?” Matt rubbed the sleep out of his eyes and came into the hallway with his dad and brother. He stood behind Dave, listening. Anything about any high school would surely involve Dave and him.
“What?” his dad said. “You’re pulling up in front of my house!? Now?”
“Glad you got covered up,” whispered Dave, elbowing him gently in the chest. Both teens looked through the front room and out the windows. A very well cared for, black, 1996 Cadillac Seville came to a rest directly in front of their house. The headlights turned off and out stepped what could only be described as a twenty-five-year-old cowboy: all in black, from the cavalry hat, the long flowing duster, and the baggy wool trousers down to his boots. The only thing that was not in black was the white, button-down shirt.
“He’s coming up the sidewalk,” said Dave heading back to his room to get on a tee-shirt, himself. Soon the doorbell rang and Matt strode over to open it. But, his father beat him to the punch. Matt flipped on the light in the front room and looked back as his mother came out in her bathrobe, her hair less than presentable.
“Good morning, I am Lars Andersen,” said the tall cowboy, still standing on the front porch. Matt could now see that there was a bright blue circle on the bottom of the otherwise black tie. “I have the letter, that I told you about, from the LDS Church President introducing the School and explaining the offer and scholarships.” He held up the letter. “You must be Nicholas Hamblin.” He reached out his hand, which Matt’s father shook. “And you must be Melissa Hamblin.” Matt’s mother reached out and shook the man’s hand. Andersen looked from Dave to Matt and back, and then settled on Matt. “And you are why I am here. Might I come in?”
Mr. Hamblin took the letter and read it briefly. “It looks like the official letterhead. But, that could be faked...”
“I talked to your ward bishop. He recommended Matt.” He stood there at the door but took off his hat.
Mr. Hamblin turned abruptly and walked back to the phone. There he dialed the Bishop’s number. The conversation was very short. The sound of the phone hanging up and the clicking of more numbers echoed in the front room.
A few moments his dad returned. “I caught him just as he was leaving for his work and I called mine telling them I’d be late,” He said, gesturing toward the easy chair. “Won’t you come in and sit down?” He then gestured to the couch and a hard back chair while indicating toward his family members. Mr. and Mrs. Hamblin and Dave took the couch while Matt sat on the hard, straight back, dining room chair. “Please, do tell us what this is about.”
“Certainly,” said Andersen as he reached behind him and grabbed the tails of his duster. He pulled them out like wings and sat in the overstuffed chair. The tails lay over the arm rests, hanging down to the floor. He reached to an inside pocket and pulled out a brochure. This he handed over to Matt. “This is about Little Cottonwood Canyon High School that trains young, LDS, teen-aged boys to be part of LDSSecurities.”
“Do you mean ‘the Destroying Angels’ that Rockwell set up?” Matt blurted out.
“Matt!” said his mother. “Are you going on about that conspiracy theory again?”
“This is an actual school, Son,” said his father. “Not some whispered, spooky nonsense.”
“Matt, you studied French in both eighth and ninth grades, correct?” asked Andersen.
“Uh, yeah.” said Matt quite nearly forgetting that he had even taken a foreign language at all.
“Mr. Hamblin, do you mind if I ask Matt a few questions --in French-- to see how much he’s learned?”
He snorted and then said, “Go ahead.”
“Alright, Matt. Close your eyes, I am going to focus you. I’ll need to touch you lightly on the face for a second.” Matt didn’t close his eyes but just sat staring at Andersen, whose left hand suddenly started to glow a pale gold and a shaft shot down to the floor. Andersen then reached out and tapped Matt’s left ear with his right index finger. He whispered “Faran,” then tapped Matt’s left temple and whispered “Noh.” He then tapped Matt’s lower lip and pulled his hand away saying “Nok.”
The golden light filled Matt’s vision and seemed to fill his whole head, and beyond. He looked at his family, the didn’t seem to have noticed a thing.
“Tu peux parler français, maintenant,” Andersen said. Matt understood it to mean “You can speak French now.”
“No I can’t!” said Matt --in French.
“You’re speaking French right now.”
“No, I’m not!” he protested again –in French. He turned to his brother and said: “Dave, on parle en quelle langue, nous?” Dave didn’t answer, he just stared blankly. “Dave, c’est pas du jeux! Réponds-moi! On parle en quelle langue?”
Dave’s expression went to a very puzzled state. “Matt, you know I don’t speak that Frenchy stuff. Your accent sounds pretty good, though. I’d swear you’re a native.”
Matt turned in a panic and said, still in French, “What did you do to me, Andersen? I saw your hand glow golden and then you filled my head with that light.”
“You actually saw it?” he asked surprised. “Generally, no one sees it at first. Look at your family; they haven’t noticed.”
“Oui, je l’ai vu!”
“When we’re done with this little conversation, I’ll make it so you can decide which language to speak in. Be calm and listen.” He looked over to the parents who obviously had not understood a bit of the conversation, or seen anything odd. In English, he said, “We have a little bit more to test. I am going to see if he understands the plus-que-parfait tense. We’re almost done here.” He switched back into French then said. “Yes, the school is a training camp for the Destroying Angels. But we don’t hurt people; we protect the General Authorities, other leaders of the Church and the Church’s property. The light you saw is called mana. So, the fact that you can already see it says you must be a natural mage. Most mages have to have their sensitivity to mana initiated before they can see it. No one else in your family will be able to become mages. Have you seen this light before?”
“Yes, up at the temple when we did baptisms on more than one occasion. The first time I saw it, it was very faint. I touched it and it filled me up. Then I could see it a lot more.”
“You’re a natural, alright.” He sat and nodded his head in thought a bit. Then said, “We need you to come to our camp, to train you. You would be a danger to your family and to yourself without this training. Will you come?”
“Oui,” said Matt. “Je viendrai.”
“Mr. and Mrs. Hamblin,” said Andersen touching Matt’s forehead. “You have reason to be proud of your son. His French is one of the best I’ve heard in a non-native. Let me tell you about the school. We award a state accepted high school diploma. And we train to be part of our security force. It’s like the Secret Service for the US president and first family. But this is for the Church as a whole.”
“Isn’t Matt a bit young?” asked his mother, suddenly losing her intense pride in Matt’s new found French speaking ability..
“We’ll train him for two years and then at the end of that time we’ll give him the option to join us or not. But, the type of training we do needs to be done this young. Reflexes and agility, and the like.”
“Where is the school?” asked his father.
“Up Little Cottonwood Canyon, west of Sandy in Salt Lake County.”
“Will we have to drive him up there every morning?”
“Oh, no, no, no,” he smiled. “It’s a boarding school. We’ll keep him all week and he’ll be back for the weekend. He can use one of the company cars to commute.”
“Well, I’m jealous!” said Dave who seemed to be feeling very ignored. “Can I come?”
Andersen’s upbeat expression went to a somber disappointment. “I’m sorry, Dave. You would’ve had to have come last year, to accomplish all we do there.”
Dave inhaled and took on a resigned look. “OK, I understand. So, are you going, Matt?”
Matt lifted an eyebrow and his lips pressed together. “Yes, I would really like to.” He looked calmly at his parents and said “Mom, Dad. I would like to do this, very much. Can I?”
“Well this is a bit fast,” said his mother.
“It’s even faster than that. We’d like to take him this morning.”
“Yes, in about five minutes, in fact.”
“Matt’s leaving?” came the voice of his little sister, still in her pajamas from the doorway.
“I really want to, Cassie. I’m waiting for mom and dad to say if I can.” He reached out to her and she came and sat on his lap. “I’ll miss you, Sis.” The two of them were close despite the age difference. He was fifteen, very nearly sixteen and she was nine.
Mr. Hamblin finished reading the papers and fished out a pen. “Before I sign, what does he need?”
“His scriptures, his journal and what he’s wearing right now. We’ll provide clothing, toothbrushes, pencils, food, everything else.”
Dad signed eight different places and handed them to Matt. “You have three places to sign. Then, come give me a hug.”
Matt signed, hugged everyone and then went to fetch his books. He came back wearing his flip flops. “You’re wearing thongs?” asked his mother.
“He said they’d provide everything, but I don’t know if that includes flip-flops, so...” After hugging everyone again, he followed Andersen out to the black Caddy in front of his house.
“Bye, Matt!” cried Mrs. Hamblin and Cassie through tears.
“Bye, I’ll see you Friday!” The car started and they drove off.