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LAST CHANCE

By 3tate4lace All Rights Reserved ©

Thriller / Other

Chapter 26

“The point is, I can’t stay hidden up here indefinitely.” Father Cass dried the last dish and put it in the cupboard. “I’ve been up here for eight weeks, and I don’t think I can count how many times you’ve been back and forth between here and DC, John. We’ve got to come up with another plan. I’ve got work to do, and time is running out.” He dropped into the nearest chair and rubbed his temples.

“Don’t worry about me. This isn’t the first time I’ve bounced around like a yo-yo between DC and Michigan. Just ask Anne. Though I’ve got to admit I do miss sleeping in my own bed. Coffee?”

“No thanks, I’ve had more than enough. I’m sure you do, and I’m sure your wife would love to have you home again, which is why we need to come up with a way to get me out of here and out there where I need to be. You’ve been bringing the newspapers back with you. You’ve seen how bad things are.”

“Sure, I’ve seen the headlines. But to tell you the truth, Cass, seems to me, unfortunate as it is, this has always been one screwed up little blue planet. That’s why I went into politics.”

“Agreed. Let me ask you this, John. Did you read the whole paper or just the headlines?”

“Fair enough. I scanned the front page and read the opinion pages, the sports section and Joe Frank’s column, so no I didn’t read the whole thing. What are you getting at?”

Cass picked up the most recent Detroit Free Press that was setting on the coffee table and began to read. “This is the lead story. I’ll just hit the high points-At least 250,000 of those living under siege are children, with many forced to eat animal feed or leaves to survive. “Sometimes my brothers and sisters and I go to bed and we haven’t eaten anything at all since the day before, because there is no food,” said Sami, a boy in rebel-held Eastern Ghouta. The impact of these conflicts extends to neighboring countries that are hosting refugees, straining the food resources of the hosts.

John cleared his throat. “Yes, I did see that story. It’s truly shocking.”

“The shocking thing about it is that it’s not only happening in Eastern Ghouta, it’s happening all over the world; even here in our own state of Michigan. When was the last time you visited Flint or Big Rapids. They might not be as hungry as they are in Eastern Ghouta, but trust me, John they’re hungry.”

“I understand.”

“Then there’s this. Race riots feared in not guilty verdict of Houston police officer, Michael Francis, tried in the shooting death of six-year old, Montel Abrams. Citizens have been urged to remain calm. The not-guilty verdict comes after the FBI released their report today indicating the 2019 rate of death for young black men was six times higher than white men of the same age. The total number of police killing unarmed black youths in 2019 was 1534, the highest number on record. Certainly not expected just two years into President Max Snyder’s six-million dollar program earmarked for the re-training of police officers.”

“I did read that. It’s appalling isn’t it?”

“I think it’s just incredibly sad.”

“So, what else do you have there?”

“Do you really want to hear any more?”

“Do I have a choice?”

“You always have a choice, John.”

“Okay, can you give me the an abbreviated version?”

“Sure. There’s a story about the corrupt re-election of the Sudanese president and a listing of all of the human rights violations that he and his regime are accused of violating. Then there’s mention, again of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict accusing the Israelis of genocide. Shall I go on? We can talk about Western Europe, the Ukraine or what’s going on in Georgia, perhaps Iran or China. Do you see why I have to get out of here and get on with my work?”

“I think I do, Cass. Yes.”

“Any ideas on how we might accomplish that?”

John poured himself a mug of coffee and joined Cass at the kitchen table. “Well, actually I have been kicking something around in my head, but I’ve got a feeling Arnold will be driven into a fit of apoplexy when he hears it.”

“Not to be boastful, but if I promise to heal his apoplexy, will you tell me what you’re thinking about?”

John laughed. “So you do have a sense of humor. That’s good to know.”

“I’ve got a sense of humor, John, and I’m sorry I haven’t shown it lately. But I cannot express to you how urgent it is that I continue my work. There’s no way I can do that from here. I thought you understood that.”

“I’m sorry, Cass. Yes, I understand and I promise I will get you out of here-soon, if not today.”

“Bless you, John. Tell me the plan.”

“Right. I attended the University of Wisconsin for my undergraduate degree. During that time I became very good friends with a classmate named Steve Blackman, such good friends that he and his wife stood as godparents for my daughter, Melanie. Of course we still see them socially as often as we can, considering we live in different states, but we manage it a couple of times a year. Anyway, I went into law and then politics, and Steve went into communications and is currently the president of ABC.”

“I don’t mean to hurry you, but I’m not following you as to where you’re going with this.”

“Be patient, Cass. So I was thinking about the safest way to protect you and still allow you to complete your mission, so to speak, and then I had an epiphany. You need to go public.”

“Public? I’m not sure I know what you mean by that?”

“If you can go absolutely wide-open public, bare everything and tell your story, really tell your story, the Vatican can’t touch you; it would be suicide for them. Do you see?”

“Maybe. Go on.”

“Well, it hit me yesterday morning when I was watching Good Morning America on my laptop. A promo ran for their show next Wednesday. Joe Frank and Hank Wozny will be their special guests. You restored Hank’s hearing, didn’t you?”

“It wasn’t me, John. It was God.”

“Right, I understand that. But here’s what I was thinking. What if I were to call my old friend, Steve and offer him an exclusive interview with you, to be combined with Joe and Hank? They can devote the entire show to the three of you. Although I’m guessing that they’ll spend most of it on you. What do you think?”

“Hmm. Good Morning America? You know, John that might be just the vehicle we’re looking for; it could work. It really could. Make the call.”

“I think we should talk to Arnold first, don’t you?”

“No. I think we should call your friend Steve.”

“Let me call Arnold first. He’s the expert on this kind of stuff, Cass. I think we need to appreciate that.” He picked up his cell and dialed Arnold’s number. After a few seconds Arnold answered. “Arnold, what would you think if we broke this on Good Morning America? You know, hide in plain sight?” Cass could hear Arnold’s voice from the opposite side of the table. “Okay. Take a breath and think for a moment. Once he’s out in the open, they’re stuck. Their hands are tied…Right…I have a secure connection, positively no leaks…okay, consider it done.”

“What did he say?”

“He wasn’t happy, that’s for sure. But in the end he agreed it was the best solution.”

“So now what?”

“Now I call Steve and set it up. Cross your fingers.”

“If you don’t mind, I think I’ll just pray.”

“Right.”


Arnold sent Fran to the local CarMax dealer with the Park, Ltd. American Express Platinum card, and she purchased a 2016 black BMW X1 SUV with tinted passenger windows. It had been decided that flying to New York was out of the question, as was taking the train, so obviously driving was their best bet, and an unknown vehicle would make that bet even better. So, early in the morning on Tuesday, July 8th John and Cass piled into the BMW with Arnold at the wheel and headed off to New York City by way of Niagara Falls and Buffalo. It was a ten-hour trip, so they had decided to divide it into two days, doing the majority of the driving on Tuesday, stopping a couple hours outside of the city, and then finishing up in the early dawn hours of Wednesday morning.

They had taken turns driving, but as they approached New York City, Arnold took over. He had spent a couple of years as a cabbie there when he had first migrated east and knew the city like the inside of his eyelids. Unfortunately for John and Cass, he also drove like a New York cabbie. For a good part of the ride they felt as if it would be their last. Good Morning America was broadcast live at seven a.m. so they had arranged to meet Steve Blackman at the rear delivery entrance to his office on W. 66th Street at five. Arnold pulled up at four fifty-eight and John texted Steve that they had arrived.

In less than a minute a black stretch limousine had pulled up alongside their vehicle and Mr. Steve Blackman stepped out. John stepped out of the BMW. The two men embraced, spoke for a moment, and then John nodded and both Arnold and Cass exited the BMW and quickly entered the limousine. As soon as all four men had entered the vehicle, it sped off. The screen between the driver and the passengers was raised so there was no possibility that Cass could have been identified. Once inside, introductions were made, and the order of the day was explained.

“Father Cass, before we begin I’d like to thank you for the trust you’ve placed in me. I want you to know that I’ll do my best to facilitate this, shall we say, project for you. I can assure you that everything has been handled with absolute confidentiality. At this point, the only thing the people at GMA know is that they’ve been told to cancel all guests except for Joe Frank and Hank Wozny and the only host we’ll need is Ms. Roberts. They don’t even know that another guest is arriving, which I suppose wasn’t exactly fair, but that’s one of the perks of being the head guy. I imagine I’m probably going to get a memo from Ms. Roberts about that, but I’m sure she’ll be forgiving. The other cohosts may not feel the same. I hope that meets with your approval?”

Father Cass reached out to Mr. Blackman and took his hands in his, saying, “Bless you, you’ve managed everything beautifully. Thank you so much. I see John’s friends are people of great character, as he is.”

“Thank you, Father. I appreciate the compliment, but more than that, thank you for Margaret’s daughter, Amanda.”

“I didn’t do that, Mr. Blackman. God did that.”

“Yes. I understand, but in cases like this, we mere humans sometimes find difficulty in separating the two. Ahh, here we are. Let’s get this show on the road. No offense intended.”

“None taken. I suppose in a way there has to be a bit of showmanship involved when so many people must be reached.”

Steve Blackman smiled. “An astute observation, Father Cass, very astute indeed.” The limo stopped so close to the elevator, it almost seemed as if the car door wouldn’t have clearance to open. But it did, and as it did, the elevator opened and all four men piled in, rising from the underground level at the Times Square Studio at 1500 Broadway to the private/backstage area of Good Morning America.

Arnold, half a head shorter, leaned in to John, and in little more than a whisper said, “We’re sure about this, right?”

Father Cass, standing in front of him, turned around and smiling said, “Even if we’re not, the decision has been made. Let’s go.”

The senator chuckled and Arnold, for the first time since this whole job began, felt the first small fear that he might not be able to control everything from here on out. The doors opened and there stood the lovely visage of Ms. Robin Roberts, long time Emmy-winning host of Good Morning America.

Her lovely smile, known to millions of television viewers, was ready to greet her boss, Steve Blackman, who she knew would be getting off the elevator that had just opened. But that lovely smile went through a metamorphosis, changing from surprise to shock to concern to confusion and then to a pleasurable and happy triumph when she saw the rest of the occupants of the elevator. Robin Roberts was not just a pretty face; an author, a 2012 Peabody Award winner, an Arthur Ashe Courage Award winner, and the list went on and on. Seeing one of her favorite senators with the man, the priest that their own news outlet had been talking about on a daily basis, was definitely a cause for celebration and maybe even an Emmy somewhere down the road. She didn’t know who the other man was, but she knew all her questions would be answered soon.

She wasn’t disappointed. Steve took her and his guests from the elevator aside and quickly gave her a rundown of the revised schedule of guests for that day’s show. She was initially thrown, but Robin was, if nothing else, a trooper. She took five minutes in her dressing room to prepare, mentally figuring out the questions she would want to ask, and then she was ready. When the stage manager told her she was on in five, she checked her hair and makeup, said her usual pre-show prayer, and was in her seat with thirty seconds to spare.

Backstage Joe Frank and Hank Wozny were doing the best that they could do to maintain their usual levels of masculinity and cooperation, while at the same time trying to undermine every attempt that was made by the make-up and hair stylists to “just let me give you a little color in your cheeks-don’t think of this as make-up, think of it as enhancing what you already have.” and “I could do so much with your hair if you would just give me two seconds, I promise-just two seconds.” It was only by the true grace of God that in the midst of all of this the Stage Manager appeared and told them that Ms. Roberts was ready for them. Nothing could have made them happier. Joe nearly fell in his attempt to escape the hair stylist, and Hank actually did trip over a small make-up case, with the bonus of being caught by a lovely production assistant by the name of Madeline, who happened to be in the crossfire.

Like all the other women he’d ever come across, she took note of his smoldering blue eyes as she helped to set him on his feet again. Although this time, Hank seemed to be mesmerized by the sparkling green gems staring back at him. “Wow, thanks. Sorry I’m such a klutz. I’ve got to get going-I’m on the show. Will you be around later?”

“Definitely. See you then.” She turned and walked away.

“Whew.”

Joe grabbed his sleeve and pulled. “C’mon, we’re on.”

From the set they could hear the tail end of Robin Roberts’s introduction, “As you can all see from the interview we’ve just played, Hank Wozny was stricken with a severe case of the measles at the age of six that left him profoundly deaf in one ear and almost completely deaf in the other ear. After praying with Father Cass Radnaezewski of St. Florian’s parish in Hamtramck, Michigan, Hank’s hearing was restored. The world found out about this miraculous healing after reading an opinion peace in the Detroit Free Press, written by columnist Joe Frank. Today in our studio we are fortunate to have as our guests Mr. Hank Wozny and Mr. Joe Frank. And here they are. Welcome. Please, make yourself comfortable.”

The set had been changed for today’s show. There were five chairs arranged in a semicircle on the set, with a large round coffee table in the center. Robin had placed herself in the center chair, and when her guests entered, she indicated that Hank and Joe should sit in the two seats to her left. This left the two seats to her right empty and this subconsciously heightened the anticipation in her audience, which was Robin’s idea; here was a woman who knew her audience better than they knew themselves.

Robin began, “First of all, I’d like to welcome both of you to Good Morning America. We’re so glad to have you here.” The audience broke into thunderous applause. Robin smiled and Joe and Hank didn’t really know how to respond. Joe was a little better prepared, having been a sportswriter, he’d been exposed to television cameras before-rarely, but it had happened. Hank was a virgin thrown into a harem. One could almost smell the unadulterated curiosity mixed with the raw fifteen-minute star power adulation. It was a bit unnerving.

Seeing the looks on both men’s faces, Robin calmed the crowd and began the interview. “So, Joe. I’m familiar with your column and I’m a big fan of your last book, The Reason for If.

“Thanks, Robin. I’m glad to know someone read it.” The audience laughed at that and there was a smattering of applause.

“He’s being modest. It was a wonderful book and it was on the New York Times bestseller list for a few months.” The audience applauded again. “But what I’m interested in is how you came to write the article you wrote about Hank. Can you tell us about that?”

“Why don’t you just ask Hank?”

“I definitely want to ask Hank some questions, don’t worry. But the world found out about Hank’s healing from your article, so I’d really like to start with that. Okay?”

“Well, it’s not a great story really. Okay, here goes. I grew up with Hank and we’ve been friends since we were, I don’t know, I guess since we could walk. But as it happens with all of us as we get older, we go to work, get married, lose touch and that’s kind of what happened with me and Hank. I didn’t know about what had happened with his hearing because I hadn’t seen him in a while.”

“About how long, do you think?” Robin asked.

“Oh, I don’t know, maybe six months? No, it was more like eight, I think. Right, because we went bowling around Halloween. Remember?”

Hank laughed. “Right, and you couldn’t get that last split to save your life.”

“True, but at least I didn’t get a gutter ball in the last frame.”

“I think we should try darts.”

“Darts could be our game.”

Robin looked from one to the other as if she were looking at a couple of kids on the playground and laughed. “Gentlemen, could we get back to what we were talking about?”

“Oh, right. Sorry. Anyway, I didn’t know about Hank having his hearing restored. So I’d heard that CHWI out of Windsor was doing an interview with some parishioners from St. Florian’s who claimed to have been healed. I thought that might be pretty interesting, but it was scheduled for the middle of the night, so I recorded it and watched it on a Saturday morning. It was interesting, but I nearly had a heart attack when the last guest turned out to be Hank, with no hearing aids of any kind, sitting there as normal as you or I. I nearly choked to death on my beer. Arggh, I shouldn’t have said that. I was having a beer on Saturday morning because I was a little hungover and I thought it might help. But I have to tell you, seeing Hank like that sobered me up faster than anything else I could ever think of, that’s for sure.

So I texted him and we got together to talk, and about two weeks later I wrote the article and, well, here we are.” The audience erupted into spontaneous applause, which gave Robin an opening for her next question. “Joe, in the opinion piece about Hank, you wrote, and I’m quoting here, “Some may say that this restoration, this healing, comes from a place or a person not from God, but I ask you this, if God in his wisdom allowed Hank’s hearing to disappear, who else but God could allow it to return?” The main character in your novel, The Reason for If experienced a severe crisis of faith. A lot of critics maintain that your book must have been partially autobiographical to have been as insightful as it was. Do you have anything to say about those comments in relation to what you’ve said about Hank’s healing?”

Joe gave the audience, most of whom were literally leaning forward in their seats, his most winning smile and said, “My book is a novel, Robin, and it’s sold in the fiction section at Barnes and Noble. If readers or critics want to believe it’s autobiographical, well I guess that’s their business. As far as Hank’s hearing goes, he got the measles and lost his hearing. You can call it bad luck or fate or destiny or God’s will, but when it comes to having his hearing restored in a matter of days with no medical intervention, well as for me, I have to call it as I see it, and I call that God.”

Joe turned to Hank and embraced him, and the audience went wild. Tears began to well up in Robin’s eyes, and before it became obvious to everyone, she gave the signal to the cameraman to go to commercial, which allowed her to excuse herself momentarily to fix her make-up.

“And we’re back in three, two…”

“Welcome back to a special edition of Good Morning America with our special guests, Mr. Joe Frank, columnist with the Detroit Free Press and Mr. Hank Wozny, who has a very special story to share with us. Mr. Wozny…”

“Please call me Hank.”

“Okay, Hank. Hank is a member of St. Florian Roman Catholic Church in Hamtramck, Michigan and for those of you who have been out of the country for the past few months or don’t watch the news or read the papers, let me briefly fill you in. Father Cass Radnaezewski of St. Florian’s has purportedly prayed with a number of his parishioners, and many of them have experienced amazing healings, from end-stage cancer to Parkinson’s Disease, and in Hank’s case his profound hearing loss, which has been fully restored. So, Hank, would you tell us your story, please?”

As usual, blue eyes blazing, smile flashing, Hank began talking, and within seconds every woman within the sound of his voice or in sight of those eyes was in love, at least temporarily. He covered all the information he had given in the CWHI interview, but Robin Roberts was a more experienced interviewer and she knew how to get the real story. “So you went from a normal, boisterous, fun-loving, hearing little boy to a boisterous, fun-loving, little boy who was suddenly locked in a silent world, no longer able to communicate with the people you loved. What was that like for you, Hank? Can you remember?”

His blue eyes, normally referred to as “bedroom blue” became deeper. Creases appeared on his forehead, his shoulders dropped, and his head tilted slightly downward. Joe, sitting beside him, heard a sound, somewhere between a sigh and a moan come from deep inside his chest. During that time the audience had been quieter than anyone at GMA had ever heard and Joe and Robin exchanged questioning looks as if to say, What now?, but Robin nodded to Joe indicating that Hank would be okay. Joe, on the other hand, didn’t look at all sure. Nearly a minute passed before he finally raised his head to reply to Robin’s question.

“It was like being caught in a nightmare. That’s the best way I can explain it.”

Robin put her hand on Hank’s. “That must have been really hard for you. You don’t have to talk about it if you don’t want to, but it sounds like maybe it would be good to get it out. What do you think, Hank?”

He took a deep breath in, and after he exhaled said, “Maybe you’re right. Maybe it’s time. But is this really the place?”

“This may sound strange to you, but when I had cancer, those strangers out there who were willing to listen to me and pray for me helped me more than they’ll ever know. I’m betting they’ll be happy to be there for you too. What do you say, folks?”

The audience applauded, not wildly but respectfully.

Hank rose from his seat and went out to the studio audience. He shook as many hands as he could and thanked as many people as he could, and when he returned to his seat, tears were streaming down his face. Robin had experienced this herself and clearly she understood the place of pain that Hank was coming from. Joe on the other hand, looked confused and nonplussed. At a complete loss, he offered Hank the red bandana he kept in his back pocket, but it was declined when Hank produced a white handkerchief from his inside jacket pocket and used it to wipe his face instead.

“So let’s get back to what we were talking about. Why did you describe it as a nightmare, Hank?”

“Nightmare is the best word to describe it because in the very beginning when I first lost my hearing, that’s what I thought it was-a nightmare. I woke up in my bed that morning and my mom was standing over me. She was talking to me. Well, her lips were moving, but I couldn’t hear her, and when I opened up my mouth to ask her what she was doing, pretending to talk like that-I couldn’t hear my own voice. That’s when I knew it must be a dream, only it was a bad dream because I couldn’t hear, so it must be a nightmare. The first thing I did was try to wake myself up, and the only way I could think to do that was to pinch myself really hard. I’d heard my dad say that to my mom when something good happened, like I remembered this one time when he got a promotion at work and he came home and told my mom about it, and he said, ‘Pinch me, Arlene, pinch me, cause I must be dreaming!’ So I pinched myself but nothing happened. I still couldn’t hear anything, so I pinched myself again, and then my mom grabbed me and shook my arm and she looked mad at me and then she went and got some ice to put on my arm where I’d pinched myself. That’s when I knew it wasn’t a dream or a nightmare. It was real. I couldn’t hear anything. All I wanted to do was put my blankets over my head and never come out, never. I thought I was going to die.”

“You must have been terrified. Do you remember how long it took before everyone figured out that you’d lost your hearing?”

“I don’t think it was long, because I remember sometime after my mom brought the ice I started to cry, and then I started screaming that I couldn’t hear her and I just couldn’t stop screaming. I don’t remember much about what happened that day. I’m guessing they called the doctor and gave me something to sedate me. That’s probably what I would’ve done. Anyway, I went through all the hearing tests, and then it took forever to get the hearing aids, which by the way aren’t even close to what they have now. I’ll say that they helped, but not much.

The problem was that I had no real way to communicate. This had happened halfway through first grade. Sure I knew the alphabet and could read some, but I wasn’t even in the bluebirds reading group, not like Joe over here. We had the Bluebirds, the best readers, then the Robins, the middle readers, and then the Wrens, the bottom readers, or as the older kids called them, the bottom feeders. I was a Robin. My mother always told me that I could have been a Bluebird if I had worked up to my potential, but at six years old I didn’t know what potential meant, so it was kind of a ridiculous thing to tell a kid. But the point is that it wasn’t as if I could just write notes to everybody as a way of communicating with them, because I just didn’t have the skills. So as you so aptly put it, Robin, I was locked in a world of silence. And it wasn’t until my parents enrolled me in the Detroit Day School for the Deaf and I learned ASL, I’m sorry, American Sign Language, in addition to reading lips that I felt as if I was myself again.”

“Thank you so much for sharing that with us, Hank. I hope it’s helped you to let go of that weight that you’ve been carrying with you for so long.”

Hank’s familiar smile had returned; not a trace of worry lined his face. “It has, Robin. I don’t know why I held on to it for so long. Thank you.”

Joe turned to Hank and asked, “I never knew you felt like that. We always felt like you were just like any one of us. Did you see it any differently?”

“Only once, Joe.”

“When was that?”

“That first year, when I started going to the school for the deaf. I would get home about half an hour after all you guys did; you’d be out in the street kicking a ball around or something else, and when I came over, it seemed like everyone suddenly had to go home. It wasn’t until about third grade that something changed and you didn’t all run when I came to play. After that we all got along great, but before that I mostly played with my dad in the backyard or my cousins when they came over. It was really hard, man.”

Joe Frank looked stricken. If someone had just told him that he owed back taxes of sixty-three thousand dollars, he would feel better than he did at this moment. Going to confession would never ease the guilt he knew he would carry with the knowledge of this childhood transgression. “Oh my God, Hank. I can’t tell you how sorry I am. I don’t have a reason or an excuse or anything. I don’t know what to say except to tell you that I am so sorry.”

“Joe, it’s okay. I’m over it, really. It was too many years ago to mention, and I’m sorry I brought it up. Really. Can we get back to the here and now again? I’d really like to do that.”

Robin took the hint and moved the conversation forward. “Let’s do that. Moving on to the present, Hank. Would you please tell us about your healing, specifically?”

“Sure. As I said in the interview after the first prayer circle, I went home and then right to bed, so I wouldn’t have noticed a change in my hearing. The same goes for the next morning when I went into work, because the Detroit Day School for the Deaf isn’t really a place that reaches airport levels of decibels during the day, or night for that matter. The only thing I did notice in the next few days and weeks was that I was continually turning my hearing aids down, which for those of you who don’t use hearing aids, means I was turning down their effectiveness. If you remember I told you I was in the Robins reading group? Well it took me until I had turned my hearing aids off completely to realize that I was hearing perfectly well without them; maybe they should have put me in the Wrens group after all. If you can have your cameraman focus in on my ears, you’ll see that I am wearing no hearing aids of any kind, and if you’d like to further test my hearing, I’d be happy to participate in anything that would satisfy you and your audience.”

Robin Roberts had a big smile on her face. “What do you say, shall we give Mr. Wozny a little test?” The audience applauded with gusto. Hank grinned. Robin had prepared for just this eventuality when her team had scored these two guests for her show. Her assistant walked onto the set carrying a blindfold and a lightweight black hood. She handed both to Robin and then exited the set. “Okay, Hank, this is what I suggest we do. I’ll blindfold you and then place this hood over your head to make sure that you are unable to see who’s speaking. In addition to that, I’m going to ask you to face the back of the set. Then we’re going to take the microphone into the back of our studio and ask a couple of members of our studio audience to ask you a question or make a statement, and then you will either answer the question or repeat the statement. Shall we give it a go?”

Hank nodded. “Sounds good to me!”

Joe grinned. “You’re loving this, aren’t you?”

“Why not?” Hank smiled as Robin placed the blindfold over his eyes and then placed the hood over his head.

“Okay, Hank, I’m going to lead you over to this stool. Have a seat right here. You are now facing the back of the set. Can you see anything through all that?”

“Not a thing, Robin. It’s black as midnight in here.”

“Good. Sit tight and I’m heading out to the studio audience.” The audience erupted in a fury of noise and raised their hands as Robin made her way to the very last row and chose a young woman, probably in her early thirties. “Hi, what’s your name?”

“Hi, my name is LaTonya.”

“LaTonya, do you have a question for Hank?”

“Yes, I do.”

Robin held the microphone towards her. “Okay, go ahead.”

“Hank, my name is LaTonya and I’m expecting a baby. I want to know if you believe in prayer.”

“Yes, LaTonya, I believe in prayer and I’ll be praying for you and your baby. Congratulations!”

The audience went wild, hands clapping, feet stomping. It took Robin more time than normal to get to the next audience member due to the raucous nature of the crowd. Senator Gardner had joined the audience at the last commercial break. He was seated in the back row on the far left. He was wearing a trench coat and fedora hat to hopefully conceal his identity until he chose to reveal himself. As they had prearranged it, Robin approached him and he stood up. She handed him the microphone without any introduction and he said, “Mr. Wozny, what do you say to those who claim that Father Cass is a huckster preying on people’s weaknesses?”

Hank pulled the hood off of his face and removed the blindfold as he turned to face the audience on the stool. “I would say that you should say that to my face, whoever you are, unless you’re too much of a coward.” Before he had finished his statement Joe Frank was also on his feet.

“Your sentiments are extremely admirable and appreciated, gentlemen, but entirely uncalled for,” said Robin as she walked out of the audience with Senator John Gardner one step behind her, sans hat and coat. When she reached the set, she made the necessary introductions. “I have the pleasure of introducing the honorable Senator from Michigan, John Gardner. Senator Gardner, this is Mr. Hank Wozny and Mr. Joe Frank. Welcome to Good Morning America.”

“Thank you, Robin. First of all I want to apologize for the statement I made to you, Mr. Wozny. It was designed simply for its shock value and in no way represents my opinion regarding Father Cass or the healings he is connected with, so please forgive me. However, it was also a warning. There are those in great number and in powerful places who will soon be making arguments and statements such as those, so I will only say to you, be ready and beware.”

“And with that we’ll break for a commercial. We’ll be right back.”

Hank spoke up first. “What’s going on? What do you mean, beware? Beware of what or who?”

Joe hopped in, “Is this some kind of political bullshit?”

“Guys, let’s all take a breath.” Robin stepped in as mediator. The last thing she needed today was a confrontation on the set causing the whole thing to fall apart.

“Not at all. I’m simply giving you an idea of what’s going on. First of all (and his voice dropped to a whisper) I want to tell you that Father Cass is backstage. An associate of mine and I have been protecting him from, let’s say, factions that wish him harm…”

Joe broke in, “Are you on drugs?”

“Do I look like the kind of man who is on drugs? Father Cass cured my granddaughter, Amanda of end - stage leukemia. I will do anything in my power to protect him and allow him to carry out what he feels is his mission. I would hope that both of you would have that same feeling. Am I incorrect? Now would be the time to say so.”

Both men said nothing, then looked at each other and then at the senator. Hank was the first to speak. “I’m in.”

“Me too.” Joe’s voice was quiet. “Sorry about that. Newspaper background-makes you nuts some times.”

“Not a problem. Okay, Robin, whenever you’re ready.”

She gave the producer a signal and shortly they got the cue. “…four, three, two…”

“And we’re back. “Our guests today are Mr. Hank Wozny, who has had his hearing restored after praying with Father Cass Radnaezewski, Mr. Joe Frank, columnist with the Detroit Free Press and Senator John Gardner joined us just before the break. Senator, before the break you mentioned something about people in powerful places wanting to do harm to Father Cass in relation to his healings. I think most of us have seen the bulletins that the Vatican has been broadcasting around the world. Isn’t it a fact that they are searching for him and no one seems to know where he is? Is that what you’re referring to when you say harm?”

“As art sometimes imitates life, Robin, sometimes life imitates art and things are not always what they seem.”

“I’m not sure I understand what you mean, Senator. Can you elaborate?”

“First of all I have to make an apology to my daughter. Maggie, if you’re watching, please understand that I’m doing this for Amanda, but not just for her. I’m doing it for you and all of the Amandas in the world. Please try and understand. Father Cass prayed over my granddaughter, Amanda when her leukemia that had gone into remission and returned with such a vengeance that my daughter and her husband were told to go home and plan her funeral. After Father Cass’s prayer circles the leukemia disappeared, so much so that the doctors could find no evidence of any cancer anywhere in her little body. She will see her fifth birthday and her sixth and seventh and as many more as the dear Lord will allow her.”

“That’s amazing, Senator. I’m so happy for you and your family.” Robin patted the senator’s arm.

“Thank you, Robin. But you see, I had to understand how, I had to know the why. Faith wasn’t enough for me. So I had an associate of mine find out everything he could about Father Cass-everything, from the time of his birth until now-no stone unturned. Let me tell you, I have seen things that cannot be explained except through faith, even when your own eyes have seen them. There is no other explanation other than faith. And suddenly I knew that this man would have to be protected. So I contacted him, and I told him what I knew. Actually I showed him what I knew and offered him my help, my protection, and when he realized just who and what his adversaries were, he accepted what I offered.”

“And what did you ask for in return?”

“Nothing.”

“Nothing? You wanted nothing?”

“No. In Amanda’s healing I’ve already received a gift more valuable than anything I could ever think of, so how could I ask for more?”

“Yes, I see. So, do you know where Father Cass is currently hiding?”

“Yes, I do.”

“Are you going to share that information with our audience?”

“Yes, I am.”

Joe cleared his throat, and Hank started to stand.

“It’s all right, guys. Really. The very best place to hide when your adversary is a public institution is in plain sight. Robin?”

“If you’re sure?” The senator nodded. Robin stood, and opening her arm toward stage left she said, “Ladies and gentleman, please welcome to our studio, Father Cass Radnaezewski.”

It was as if all of the air had been sucked out of the room with one massive intake of breath by the audience and then held as if in some sort of surreal suspended time warp. Only when Father Cass had walked out onto the set and was completely visible to even those seated in the very last row that the collective breath was finally let out in a common, audible “Ahhh!” No one seated on the stage, any of the crew, or those in the production booth had ever experienced anything like it and likely never would again.

Everyone on the stage was standing as Father Cass walked in, and Robin met him at center stage to bring him to the semicircle of chairs. She offered her hand to him by way of introduction, and he took it in both of his and then spoke. “It’s lovely to meet you, Ms. Roberts. Thank you for doing this.” Then he leaned his head close to hers and whispered, “Would you mind if we took a moment to pray together? I feel as if you’ve been worried about something.” Then he looked in her eyes waiting for a response.

Robin looked at this man, a man who looked no different from any other man she had ever seen, yet as soon as he touched her hand, the panic she had been pushing down since she’d seen her doctor last week, evaporated like fog in the sunlight. “Thank you,” was all she could manage to get out. She turned her back to the audience, and Father Cass grasped her other hand, closed his eyes, and for just fifteen or twenty seconds he prayed with her. Then it was over.

He let go of her hands and whispered. “Don’t worry.” Then he smiled at the audience and said, “Thank you so much for your warm welcome, Robin.” Before he could even get to his seat, the audience was on their feet shrieking and applauding as if their lives depended upon it.

There was nothing that could be done to calm the audience down in what was considered a reasonable amount of time, at least in the world of television, so GMA quickly went to a commercial. By the time they returned, most everyone had gotten their fill of standing, clapping, and shouting and were happy with sitting and listening, at least for now.

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