LAST CHANCE

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Chapter 29

United Nations 74th Session of the General Assembly New York

Through the opening, she raised the weapon and got him in her sights. As she focused the hatch marks on his forehead, he raised his head and appeared to be looking right at her. Stunned, she lowered the gun. She looked around her. There was no one there; there was no way she could have been discovered, and it was impossible that he could actually see her from where he stood. She was completely concealed in the alcove and the curtains gave her great cover. She raised the weapon again and took aim. He looked up at her again and smiled, the smile drew on her memory; from a place and perhaps even a face she once knew. A tear escaped her left eye and slid down her face. The index finger of her right hand made contact with the trigger and squeezed.

The unexpected shot rang out like a sonic boom in the large auditorium.

People as a unit dove to the floor, hands over their heads as if delicate skin and bones could protect them from gunfire. But there was only one shot fired, and the bullet had found a target. Standing just to the left and behind Father Cass had stood Arnold Park, though he was not standing now. That split second of emotional weakness sent Amanda’s bullet sailing past Father Cass, just missing the left side of his neck and his carotid artery, and found a home in the mahogany paneling behind Arnold, after it had entered his right cheek and exited through the back of his skull.

Arnold was cradled in John Gardner’s lap as he appeared to be bleeding out on John’s expensively tailored suit and the thick carpeting beneath them. Against all odds he was conscious, and as Father Cass got down on the floor beside him, he managed to utter something that sounded like, “bullet you.” There was so much blood in his mouth, understanding him was difficult. John tried to tell him not to talk, which in the long run was irrelevant because within seconds he closed his eyes and died.

At this point Father Cass was kneeling in a pool of Arnold’s blood, but barely seemed to notice it or his surroundings. He lifted Arnold’s hands into his own and kissing them he said, “Close your eyes and pray, John.” Then he closed his eyes and for a few moments the entire room became quiet. Soon the people who had been on the floor with their hands over their heads began to stand and they quietly watched what was going on up in the front of the room. No one spoke and strangely no one really moved. Two or three minutes passed, and still holding Arnold’s hands, Father Cass leaned back on his knees and opened his eyes. Then he spoke, “Feeling better?”

Arnold opened his eyes, and John and Father Cass helped him to sit up. There wasn’t a mark on him; his wound was gone. It was completely healed and the blood that had pooled on the floor was nowhere to be seen.

The three men got up and went to the podium, and then Father Cass spoke. “Please everyone, please be seated.” The people, still stunned, slowly returned to their chairs. “What has happened was unforeseen, but perhaps it was a blessing in disguise as it will help to put things in perspective for some. The world has been in conflict for far too long. Countries are at war with each other, people within one country are at war with each other, this religion is at war with that religion, there is a war on women, on drugs, on poverty, hunger cannot be defeated and the earth is dying. There are so many issues to argue and fight over, one doesn’t know where to begin, but perhaps there is a very simple answer if one is serious about wanting peace. You have just seen what happened to my associate, Mr. Park. This was not planned and I do hope that whoever did the shooting does not suffer severe consequences, although I believe some serious introspection would be important. There have been other healings and they have all been done in the name of God. So I can already anticipate your question-which God? The answer is this-God, there is only one. My God, your God, his God, her God, their God. This is not an answer that many people will appreciate. The Vatican has sent people to stop me, so have other people and organizations, but just hear me, please. Listen to my offer to you, to all of you.

I offer you this: an end to war, hunger, poverty and strife. Peace and goodwill to all mankind until the end of time. What do I ask in return? It is simple. It is this: All in mankind are created equal and shall be forever free, and no one faith shall rise above another, for all gods lead to the one God, none being above another.

To prove that my offer is real, beginning one hour from now, at three p.m. Greenwich Mean Time until three p.m. Greenwich Mean Time tomorrow, a full twenty-four hours, I will give you a sample of what I have promised. Then you will give me your answer. I will give you this advice: in the end, money will never love you. You cannot wear it and you cannot eat it and you cannot live upon it when the earth has been destroyed, so consider wisely. Thank you for your time. I will return in twenty-five hours.” Amid shouted questions he, Arnold Park, and Senator Gardner left the podium and exited the building.

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