Brenda was a winner of our December 2012 Comment Contest. She received this custom Last Stand Chronicles short story as part of her prize from Author David Telbat. We thank Brenda for allowing us to share her story here with you. Enjoy!
A Last Stand Chronicle and Custom Fiction Short Story by D.I. Telbat
Chloe Azmaveth turned from the window of the Christian underground safe house. For a split second, she hesitated in speaking the Arabic codeword for danger that day. But those who had come for the Bible study needed to be warned. She cupped her hand around her mouth and spoke it calmly.
The word itself was a word of blessing, but today, in the City of Yabrin deep inside Saudi Arabia, it was a cry to forewarn, and Chloe had been entrusted to sound the alarm if need be.
From the back room, nearly twenty men and women quickly emerged with fear on their faces. A man with white hair, an elder in the local underground Christian church, directed the gatherers into another bedroom. Still, Chloe remained at the window.
“Come on, Chloe, we need to go!” Brenda urged in English. She was an American that Chloe had brought with her for the short mission trip to the country. Brenda’s cover in Arabia was as a restaurant consultant in Riyadh. Their business that week had been more related to spiritual food, but they really had met with legitimate restaurant servers in the capital city.
“Not until everyone is in the tunnel.” Chloe watched as the secret religious police, backed by Wahhabist supporters, exited their vehicles and marched toward the front door. Other officers were surrounding the house. There seemed no escape. “Go, Brenda! I’ll catch up.”
“We came together.” Brenda clutched a handful of Christian literature more tightly. “We leave together.”
Chloe, a veteran agent of COIL with numerous dangerous missions for Christ behind her, wished all their operatives had such commitment as Brenda did. She seemed to be an ordinary American, Chloe reflected, but a dedicated Christian who firmly stood on the gospel message was anything but ordinary.
As the first agents outside tested the front door, Brenda jumped. Chloe didn’t blame her; her own heart was beating rapidly. Saudi prisons were not known for their kindness toward foreign Christian women.
“It’s okay.” Chloe led Brenda into the bedroom and closed its door, which served as another sturdy barrier between them and the agents seeking entry. “The front door is reinforced. We still have a few seconds.”
Next to the bed, the carpet was peeled back, exposing a trapdoor and a wooden stairway. The last of the Christians were entering a hole in the floor.
The room itself contained stacks of Christian hymnals and Bibles that had been secretly printed.
“Sure is a pity we couldn’t get more of these treasures dispersed before confiscation.” Chloe moved to the trapdoor as the men and women moved quietly into the darkness below. “It’s not easy smuggling God’s Word to these people who need it so badly.”
At the sound of the front door being broken through, it was Chloe’s turn to flinch. The safe house contained a number of false doors built into the walls, which would mislead the police, but not for long.
Moving to a stack of Bible lecture CD’s, Brenda gathered an armful. Voices could be heard from the main room. The police were beginning their search.
“Okay, it’s time to go now!” Chloe whispered sternly. But still, Brenda collected more in her arms, and even stuffed pocket Bibles into her jacket. “Seriously, Brenda!”
Brenda complied, and Chloe moved aside as the woman descended steep stairs into the tunnel. Chloe shook her head, remembering the woman’s file. Now in her mid-fifties, Brenda had twice the heart for God than most young operatives who were full-time. Though many of Brenda’s past mission outreaches had been evangelistic or construction related, she obviously had the guts to think boldly under pressure as if she were a weathered COIL agent.
Chloe pulled the trapdoor closed as she ducked into the tunnel. Above, the bedroom door was being attacked by the secret police.
The tunnel sloped downward, then leveled, turning to the right. A string of bare light bulbs hung from the dirt ceiling every twenty feet. The walls were reinforced with plastic sheets, and timber braces supported the ceiling in stages.
“Move, Brenda!” Chloe urged. “They’re not wasting any time behind us!”
“I know. That’s why I was thinking we need to slow them down some.” Brenda shoved her armload into Chloe’s hands before Chloe could object. “We need to give the others more time to get away.”
“There’s nothing we can do now, Brenda, except catch up with them. Let’s go!”
“Hush, now.” Brenda set her hands against a wooden brace, then another, testing them. She paused at the base of the largest beam. “This meeting house is burnt now, which means this tunnel isn’t worth preserving. It’s served its purpose, right? I don’t know much about tunnels, but this seems like the right post. What do you think?”
Backing down the tunnel, Chloe was shocked that this supposed ordinary Christian woman was thinking so clearly—and so drastically—in the face of imprisonment, or even execution. She was concerned about the safety of others even if it meant her own life.
“That looks right.” Chloe nodded after eyeing the beam to the ceiling that seemed to support a number of other crossbeams. “You’re a lot more than a Sunday School teacher at your church, aren’t you?”
Brenda laughed as she gripped the bottom of the beam and planted her feet in the loose soil.
“The Bible’s full of God using us simple people, isn’t it?” Brenda winked at Chloe, and Chloe licked her lips, ready to run for her life. “I could use a little of Samson’s strength right now, though!”
Before Chloe could respond, Brenda tugged the bottom of the brace away from the wall. The impact seemed slight at first. A number of boards fell and plastic sheets collapsed. Brenda moved back, wiping her hands on her pants, and stood with Chloe to watch more and more of the ceiling crumble away.
But then dirt began to fall in their hair, and other support structures began to buckle and drop around them. The two women turned and ran, the tunnel behind them suddenly impassible.
Two hundred yards later, the man with white hair extended his hand to them as they ascended steps going up to a secondary safe house.
“Tell her I’m glad we could share our faith with her,” the man said in Arabic to Chloe, and Chloe translated for Brenda. “Our church members may have to separate for a few weeks, but I’m glad we were able to meet.”
“Likewise, Brother Usef.” Chloe moved with Brenda to the front door.
The believers left the house in pairs and walked to minivans parked on other streets. Two houses down from them, the first safe house was swarming with secret police, and the driveway was crowded with regime vehicles.
In accordance with the law of Hijaab, Chloe and Brenda’s burkas were in place, and they climbed into the back of one of the vans. As women, they were not allowed to drive, so one of the married men drove them with his family.
Brenda turned in her seat to look back at the neighborhood.
“We can never return to those houses,” Chloe said, then smiled. “Besides, I’d say the escape route is pretty well demolished. It’ll probably take investigators a few days just to figure out which house that tunnel led to.”
“Yeah, but I was just thinking…” Brenda sighed. “I wish we could have carried out more of the Christian material.”
Hooking her arm through Brenda’s, Chloe already felt like they were sisters. And the two women had only met just before the trip to Saudi Arabia.
“What you grabbed back there is going to help this church get resettled.” Chloe patted Brenda’s hand. “I think if you took the time to grab any more items, you’d be sharing it inside some dark prison.”
“Maybe next time I’ll be that bold,” Brenda said, her face set in determination.
Chloe couldn’t help but grin. Only a woman with a heart and vision for God’s message could say such a thing with such peace and conviction. She prayed that her sister in Christ didn’t make this trip her last. The mission field needed more Brenda’s!
We hope you enjoyed this unique Last Stand Chronicles adventure featuring Brenda! Thanks for stopping by! Come back often to read more of D.I. Telbat’s FREE weekly, adventure/suspense short stories, serialized novels, and Author Reflections. Please use our contact form to leave your comments. Click here to read other custom Last Stand Chronicles stories.