After Sunday school, Samson escorted John and Sarah to children's church, and then led Gram and Lila into the sanctuary. Lila paused at the back pew, clearly ready to sit there, but Samson and Gram continued up the aisle to where they usually sat on the third middle row. Lila followed Samson, and then Gram sat on her other side. Straight white teeth gnawed on Lila's bottom lip for a minute before member after member of the congregation came over to shake her hand and welcome her to church.
Her ultra-long mahogany hair was pulled back in barrettes on each side; the tresses were caught in a ponytail at her neck, resting over one shoulder down past her lap so she wouldn't sit on it, much too thick and long to try and put in a bun. Several women complimented her beautiful hair and Lila blushed, thanking them.
Although he and Gram sang out the hymns, Lila stood silent. Samson realized she didn't know the songs. She'd probably fit in with the kids, singing children's church songs. Hadn't she said she'd only gone to church as a child? Samson silently prayed.
Steve, his good friend and well-respected minister, opened the sermon. "'Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but when the desire is fulfilled, it is a tree of life.'"
Lila fidgeted with the hair lying across her lap. Gram was taking notes and handed the Bible to Lila. Lila held it for a heartbeat or two before whispering to Samson, "I don't know where Proverbs is."
Samson opened the Bible to the scripture and handed it back to her. He had his own Bible, turning back a few pages to the next scripture indicated by Pastor Squire. "'There are those who speak rashly, like the piercing of the sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.'"
AvengingAngel flashed across Samson's mind and he, who knew better than almost anyone not to ever truly bond with anyone online, prayed for her. She was headed for big trouble with that rash e-mail she sent, starting to play head games with a dangerous crew.
He'd met all kinds online, had worked under more aliases than he could recall, tracing hackers, tracking them to the exact spot where they transmitted when they broke the law. With warrants and working with the proper authorities for the various crimes, hard drives were seized and hackers were busted. He protected the National Infrastructure, yet never before AvengingAngel had he ever seriously thought of any of the people he met online other than during duty hours. He witnessed to her time and again online, forging a friendship, and prayed for her often as God laid her on his heart since the day they met nearly six weeks ago.
When the minister had finished a story related to the last verse, he quoted a final one. "'He who is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who is hasty of spirit exposes and exalts his folly.'"
Well this time Samson was certain Lila was uncomfortable, shifting in the pew until the service ended. People mingled and fellowshipped. While Gram visited with friends, and the crowd thinned to retrieve their children, Samson asked Lila, "So, what did you think?"
She shot him a lopsided grin. "I think you sat so close to the front that the minister was speaking directly to me."
Samson laughed. Yes, God was definitely convicting her. Yet he didn't understand how today's message really related to her. He'd never seen her angry or speak rashly, but he had seen a sad desperation she tried to hide . . . hope deferred.
As they made their way to John and Sarah, loading everyone in the car, he prayed for God's will again and then more. Jesus, help me not to fall in love.
Samson was equally attracted to two women. One woman was a sweet and lovely kindergarten teacher who had some hidden agenda; the other woman, a nice and funny woman online who was trying to play hard ball with the best hackers in the world. Neither were believers. Neither were possibilities for the union Samson insisted upon, a triangle of man and wife with God at the center. He had prayed and waited patiently for years now.
They ate out, but Lila tossed money down on the table this time. Samson had wanted to shove it back into her hand.
Lila wasn't supposed to be working today, so he didn't know if she would stick around for the day or not. She didn't, taking off with city map in hand. Yet when she came back home, she appeared bone weary and dejected. She smiled though, when the kids came running up to her in the living room.
Sarah rushed, "My tooth's loose. Feel." She opened her mouth.
Lila wiggled the obviously loose baby tooth and then she wiggled the one next to it. "You're gonna loose both top middle teeth. Then all your S's will sound like Th's. We'll have to take some pictures and make a cassette for your mom and dad."
John humphed. "That's nothing. Feel mine." He opened his mouth and wobbled an eyetooth with his tongue.
Lila obligingly felt the tooth and grinned. "Yours is holding on by a thread. Want me to pull it? I used to pull my sister's. Then you can leave it for the tooth fairy."
John snorted. So did Samson.
After Bible reading and prayer that night, John stuck around after Sarah went to bed. "I don't believe in the tooth fairy." In an instant, he yanked out the eyetooth and handed it to Samson. Never having experienced this situation before, unsure how his brother dealt with pulled baby teeth, Samson pulled out his wallet and handed a bill to John.
"Five dollars!" Lila exclaimed. "Wow. I used to get a quarter. Inflation or what? At that rate, after Sarah loses her two, you'll bankrupt the tooth fairy. I teach kindergarten, I know. It'll be a regular pull-a-thon, baby teeth everywhere."
Samson laughed and they all said goodnight.
First thing the next morning, Lila surprised him in the kitchen. He was usually the first one up, starting and ending each day on his knees, worshiping the Lord. Although she was drinking coffee and had the morning newspaper open in front of her, she was gnawing on her bottom lip. When she saw him, her face blazed hot pink and she slapped the newspaper shut, saying in her honey-dripped drawl, "Good mornin'."
"It is seeing you first thing."
Although her face reddened again, she folded the newspaper carefully and laid it on the table where he usually sat. Then she rose and retrieved a mug before glancing his way. "Want some coffee?"
Samson almost said yes. "No. Thanks anyway. I want to get to work extra early to talk to someone. Have a blessed day, Lila." With that, he strode from the house so she wouldn't start questioning him about his work.
If he were correct, then AvengingAngel was in the central time zone. At least her chatting schedule fit in with someone working morning to late afternoon for that time zone. What he believed were her evenings and nights had been his hours when he worked that crazy twelve hour night shift for his buddy last month. At least until the other day after she sent the e-mail; then she was logged on during the hours he thought she worked.
But she wasn't in the chat room when he logged on under a different alias, one of the ones the international set of hackers knew well and accepted as one of their own . . . a computer genius. There were only twelve of them, including him, in this chat room started by the most elite hackers of the time. However, according to the room count, there were thirty-five people there. That's how many computers were logged on from the dozen.
His heart beat a little faster as the day progressed and this time instead of simply toying with ideas, the hackers hatched a plan, a big attack, the United States of course, developing a grand scale invasion. They wanted to choose their targets carefully, wage war against multiple targets simultaneously. Big names. Big companies. Cripple them. Hold them hostage while they stole all the business and member information. And naturally, leave an untraceable trail.
Nothing definite was decided but the stage was set. Samson was in. These guys were going down. Some of these hackers were bored teenagers, college students, and hackers by profession. Then talk shifted to AvengingAngel and her e-mail. Nearing the end of his shift, he was almost livid with her when she logged into the chat room.
He logged onto a different computer, into the same room but with the nickname she knew, and sent her a private message immediately. It took her a very long time to answer. He wondered how many of the other hackers were sending her private messages.
PromiseKeeper: I told you to stop coming in here!
AvengingAngel: Howdy to you, too! Missed me, huh? Don't talk to me now please, PromiseKeeper, I'm busy with the bad hackers. I can't concentrate on head games with them when I chat with you.
PromiseKeeper: A third of them are furious over your e-mail, another third will never stop coming on to you, and the last third are considering your proposition into apprenticeship. You are more than a blip on their radar. Your hacker book couldn't even touch on what these people can do. Get out of here now. Change your e-mail address, your nickname. Change Internet providers. Do not EVEN play head games with these people.
AvengingAngel: Are you my friend or my known enemy?
PromiseKeeper: I could be the best friend you ever had or your worst enemy, Angel.
AvengingAngel: Thanks for narrowing that down.
As Samson sat in front of the keyboard, his co-worker, Bill, a non-Christian, slapped one palm down hard on Samson's shoulder. Bill laughed, "Buddy, I rarely have seen you angry. This woman is under your skin. Trace her. Find out who she is."
Samson raked one hand down his face, shaking his head. He should just boot her offline every time she signed onto chat. "I really wouldn't feel right about it. She's done nothing wrong."
"Not yet," Bill said. "Personally I have no qualms about it whatsoever," as he punched a few buttons to start the trace.
"Do not tell me anything about her! She's leaving." So Samson sent her another private message.
PromiseKeeper: How many people are you talking to in private message besides me? They could tell you, Angel. They could fix it so that they see every keystroke you make. I could. I could tell you where you are right this second. In a minute, I'll have it. Go. Now!
AvengingAngel: Maybe they'll teach me. Maybe they already are. Maybe I'm not stopping until I find my sister!
Then boom, she exited the chat room and logged offline.
"Got it," Bill said.
Samson prayed, torn and undecided on what to do. He wanted to know. He knew better than to meet a woman online.
"Logged on right here in San Diego," Bill said in a singsong voice. "Sure you don't want to know?"
The trace hadn't run long enough to get it all, Samson reasoned. What could it hurt? The woman needed help. She needed Jesus. There wasn't time for her home address, but that would come with DNS number and the name. Did he want to know her name? Would he end up calling her in the city if he found out? God help me! What do You want me to do? Your will, not mine, be done.
As Bill scrolled down the screen, he uttered, "Well, well, well." In a blink, Bill exited the program, erasing the information Samson had wanted but couldn't get again without another trace.
"Well what?" Samson demanded. "Is she married or something?"
"Sorry, Samson old buddy, it's not meant to be. She's single, but her name is Delila. Samson and Delila. Even a heathen like me knows Delilah was the love of Samson's life and his downfall, the bane of his existence."
"Delilah!" Samson had a sort of knee jerk reaction. He ran one hand over the inch spiked hair over his crown. So, he finally met a woman named Delilah. Then he humphed, thinking AvengingAngel. "Delilah," he said again with a lopsided grin. "Samson's disobedience was his downfall but you're right, I'd imagine. It's not meant to be." Delilah? Did he know how to pick them or what?
Their commander entered the large room, a hacker's delight, and ordered, "Meeting in the conference room. Now."
Bill shot him a look filled with confidence that Bill wasn't busted for running a trace without reasonable doubt for security. And it wasn't, as their commander brought them up to speed while handing out copies of e-mails promising protection from hacker attacks and death threats if only the minor girl would come to him. Ten e-mails had as many different addresses, yet they were obviously from the same character.
Commander Boswell traced one finger in a slight arch against his graying eyebrow. "They were bounced off Russia, Holland, and Ireland, boys, but originated from the university here in San Diego. A public computer. Hacker attacks. Death threats. A minor. I want to know who sent these. Make it happen, McKade."
"Yes, sir." Looked like overtime for Samson. The voice in his heart told him immediately that this hacker was the man who AvengingAngel wanted to find to locate her sister. God moves in mysterious ways. God had answered his question and set him on a direct head-on course with Delilah. Samson went to work.
Before John left, Samson asked, "Did you catch her last name?" At the teasing look of perplexity and amused grin John shot him, Samson blushed. "Delilah's?"
"Sorry, Samson, I pretty much completely deleted it as soon as I saw Delila. Didn't think I should go any further to hook you up."
At midnight, Samson yawned and finally sat down at his kitchen table at home. The Bible and the newspaper sat before him. He fed on some scriptures, before the newspaper caught his eye again. Trying to be obedient to divine urging, he picked it up, flipped it open and turned page after page before he felt led to stop. The personal ads? That's something he'd usually never glance at.
There in bold print, a large ad read:
Rebecca Faith e-mail me now! Tell me where you are, if you're safe, and I'll come get you. Love you always, Delila.
Praise God! There is no such thing as coincidence as God was in control. So the minor sister's name was Rebecca Faith. "Got ya, Delila," he whispered. No h on the end like Samson's nemesis, Delilah. Delila Faith.
Yet there was no Delila Faith listed in the San Diego phone book. She said she wasn't at home. Where was home? Oh yes, he'd find out but needed to stay undercover. He needed to talk to her, to reassure her. Yikes. He wanted to make her a promise and keep it, just like the nickname he used and she trusted yet didn't. Indeed, he did belong to The Promise Keepers Organization for Christian men.
Maybe he'd scared Delila away online today? He hadn't meant to scare her, yet he wanted her out of that chat room. An e-mail would be too easy for the other hackers to access and track back to a cyber cop. She hadn't given PromiseKeeper even her e-mail address, although he knew of at least ten of her under different aliases. If worse came to worst, Samson would post a personal ad.
Samson prayed for God's will; he prayed for a long time on his knees, by his bed, even though it was super late and he was tired. He prayed for others before bolding approaching the Throne with his own problems. All he got in answer was a verse in Jeremiah. 'For I know the thoughts and plans that I have for you, says the Lord, thoughts and plans for welfare and peace and not for evil, to give you hope in your final outcome.'
Finally, spirit at peace, he crawled into bed and fell asleep.