Lake Wanaka and the Mt. Aspiring National Park had always been a special place for Sam. He’d often gone there as a young man, even before the National Park existed. The clean mountain air blew away so much of the city’s thinking and worries. You could commune with nature, and you could see the world through clear skies and clear eyes.
The delay on the roadside at the start of his trip meant he arrived later than planned, and the approaching darkness blended with the golden rays of a setting sun as he pulled into the carpark outside a building called ‘Wanaka Heights Motel’. He turned off the motor and sat there for a moment, feeling a little self-conscious.
What if people are waiting for me here? Get a grip, man. You made the booking online. There’s no reason for anyone to suspect who you are.
He climbed out of the car and entered the door under a sign that read ‘Reception’. Moments later, he re-emerged following a lady who was carrying a wonderful smile and a bottle of milk. The two of them walked down the path and up the steps to a pleasantly furnished room with a view out over the lake. The lady then returned to her office, leaving him to reflect on the reflections in front of him. Max’s place in the Sounds was wonderful, but so was this.
You’ve made an incredible world, haven’t You?
“Thank you, Sam. I’m glad you’re enjoying it. But now you’re here. What do you plan to do?”
I plan to sleep—provided that’s alright with You. I’ve had a long drive, and I’m bushed.
“That’s what happens when you choose to drive yourself, isn’t it?”
Come on, we’ve been through all that. But I’m here now; that’s the main thing.
Sam bent down and scanned the service directory for a place to eat.
I think I’ll take a stroll down the main drag and see if I can get a good feed, and then I’ll be ready for an equally good sleep.
What do You mean, ‘uh huh’? Do You know something I don’t? Sorry, dumb question.
“Enjoy the seafood, Sam.”
How did You know…You know, You are…
“Yes, I am.”
Sam reached into his overnight bag and took out a light jacket. Past visits informed him the temperature could drop quite quickly once the sun decided to hide from sight behind the mountains. He draped the jacket over his shoulder, picked up his room key, and headed for the door, the road, and the food.
Wanaka had become something of a party town. While nowhere was as well known as the more iconic Queenstown—barely 40 miles away—Wanaka could still pull in a crowd. And that crowd would invariably want to party. Sure enough, good natured revellers were spilling out onto the main street and the lakefront park. There was a real buzz about the place, the pounding base underlying barely discernible music, the bon amie of the well lubricated, and the mystery of barely suppressed hormones being released. It looked and sounded like they were in for a fine time in the old town tonight.
Sam had no problem locating the seafood restaurant, upstairs and over one of the waterfront bars. The view was at least as good as the one from the motel, so he just sat there and drank it in while waiting for his meal.
“I think you’d better go downstairs, Sam.”
Oh, come on. I’ve just sat down and ordered. You’re the One who recommended the seafood. Please don’t tell me I now have to miss it.
Silence. He knew what the silence meant. He looked down at the description on the menu. It sounded too good to pass up. His eyes drifted across to the wine list. But…It was no use. The continuing silence said it all.
Sam got up and walked across to the front desk. “Look, I’m sorry,” he said, “but I have something I must attend to urgently. Can you ask them to hold my meal for me? I’ll pay now if it makes things easier.”
The girl behind the desk looked him over, not sure how best to respond. Finally she said, “Of course, sir,” with an accent Sam couldn’t place. She had to be on a working holiday and was waitressing to pay the bills. “You can still pay once you’ve had the meal.”
“Thank you, Carolyn,” he said, having noticed her nametag. “I’m sorry to mess you around. I’ll come back as soon as I can.” Sam walked slowly down the stairs, not sure of where to go or what to look for. I don’t like not knowing what’s going to happen next. Can You give me a clue?
“No time and no need.” The reply came as Sam stepped out onto the pavement of the street below. He instinctively looked to his left as if about to cross the road. He heard it before he saw it. ‘It’ was a late model sedan that someone had modified to reflect the current fashion of boy racers. And he had lowered the car’s suspension, barely leaving space for the big bore exhaust needed to deliver an acceptable sound. The driver had obviously lost control as he tried to turn, and the car was coming directly at Sam.
Was it instinct or something else? Did it matter? Sam pushed aside the man standing beside him, but with his back to the road. It didn’t seem like much of a push, but it moved the man who was at least 6’6” and very solidly built. And it didn’t just move him a few metres—he sailed through the air and slumped into a group of half a dozen others who effectively cushioned his fall.
“What the…” was all the man got out before the car wrapped itself around the pole right where he had been standing.
The noise of the crash caused the crowd to go into a sort of suspended animation. Time slowed to a crawl, allowing Sam to see the four occupants of the car ejected from their seats, propelled by some unseen hand towards the car’s windscreen. Sam saw the face of the young woman who was in the front passenger seat as it passed through an asteroid belt of glass. He watched in horror as each sliver made contact, boring deep into tissue, blood vessels, nerves, even through her brilliant blue eyes. At the same time, the steering column and wheel parted company and the former pierced the chest of the young driver. His rib cage splintered, and the makeshift spear drove through the walls of the lungs beyond.
One of the two in the back seat fared better. He’d been sensible—or sober—enough to put his seat belt on. He twisted slightly in the seat and his head rolled forward. His chin hit his chest, his crown only gently impacting on the head rest of the driver’s seat. No major injuries there, at least none that Sam could see. But the second girl was a lot less fortunate. She left her seat, head first. Her head met the headrest and suddenly stopped. Her neck couldn’t. It parted.
Dear God…It was an instinctive, almost reflexive slip of the tongue.
I’ve never seen anything like this.
“Unfortunately, I have—more times than you could count.”
Is that girl…
“Yes, I’m afraid so. Unless…”
You don’t mean I have to…
But in front of all these people?
The answer didn’t come in the way he expected. Someone un-pressed the pause button, and life—and death—returned with a vengeance. The sound of screaming drowned the dying crunch of compressing metal, the moaning of the injured but conscious, and the surprised observers who didn’t know what to do or say, but said it anyway.
Sam walked the few paces to the tortured remains of the car. A man was trying to open the driver’s door without success. Sam gently said, “May I?”
The man turned. “Who do you think you…” He stopped in mid-sentence when he recognised Sam as the man who could obviously push a lot harder than he could. “Sure,” the man said as he stepped away from the door, “fill your boots.” Sam pulled on the door handle, and the door came away in his hand. He heard a reaction from the crowd behind him, but he ignored it and studied the scene in front of him. The girl lay very still, with the top half of her body through the front windscreen, and the driver was impaled on the steering column.
As Sam reached out towards the driver, he heard one voice out of the many behind him. “Excuse me, I think we should leave them where they are till the ambulance comes. I do know what I’m talking about. I’m a doctor.”
Sam turned slightly and looked up into the face of the man who had come through the crowd and was standing opposite him on the other side of the car.
“Jesus Christ,” the doctor suddenly went pale. He spoke very quietly. “You’re him. You’re that guy they call the angel, aren’t you?”
Sam nodded. “I can give you a full rundown on the injuries if you like. The girl in the back is already dead. The driver doesn’t have much time. That girl could survive, but may not want to. The other guy is bruised and is a great advertisement for wearing a seat belt.”
“I can see she’s dead. No one can survive a neck trauma like that. I’ll take your word about the others. What do you want to do?”
“I need to get them out of the vehicle, especially the driver. I can’t do much while he has that steering column buried in his lungs.”
The doctor was gaining some colour back. “This goes against everything I learned about what to do at the scene of an accident, but you’re right.” He nodded at the driver and continued. “There is no way he’ll survive the trip to Dunedin—even by air. What have we got to lose? Do it, and may God be with you.”
Sam nodded. He reached inside and literally pulled the driver off the column and sat him back in his seat. He placed his right hand over the gaping hole in the man’s chest, closed his eyes, and prayed silently. He opened his eyes and gazed at the expression on the doctor’s face framed in the opposite window. It told him all he needed to know. God was with him.
“Can you get some help to get the girl out of there, Doctor?” Sam asked, still speaking in hushed tones.
The doctor was clearly struggling with what he’d seen. It wasn’t possible. Nothing … no one … never… But Sam’s quiet words brought him back to reality.
“Sure.” His face disappeared from the window frame as he called for help from the crowd. The big man whom Sam had thrown into the crowd appeared almost instantly.
“Let me help,” he said. Sam looked up and saw the man mountain grin. He looked like a man who grinned often. “Least I can do, eh? After what you did for me.”
Sam just nodded and then turned to the driver. The hole in his chest had closed over. Right. Now to get him out of the car. It looks like his legs may have been crushed. Sam gathered the young driver up, lifted him gently, and placed him on the ground. Sam placed his hand on the man’s shoulder, closed his eyes, and murmured another quiet prayer. But nothing happened. What’s happening. Why isn’t he being healed? It has always worked before.
“Leave him. Look after the girl, Sam.”
Sam was confused. This was new. What’s going on, Lord? Why won’t You heal him?
The ensuing silence told Sam it was time for obedience, not debate.
“Can you make him comfortable and keep him warm,” Sam said to the crowd in general and no one in particular. A woman came forward with a jacket rolled up for a pillow. Someone else offered another jacket for a blanket.
“Thanks,” acknowledged Sam. “Can you keep an eye on his breathing till the zambucks arrive?”
Sam saw the earlier woman nodding her agreement as he strode around the car to where the man mountain stood over the windscreen victim as the doctor examined her. The doctor saw Sam and stood up. “She’ll probably live,” he said. “But she has massive internal injuries, and her face will never be the same. Can you do anything?”
Sam looked him straight in the eye. “No. Sorry, Doc. I can’t do anything. It’s nothing to do with me. I just know Someone who can. It’s all up to Him.”
The doctor blanched, but he also accepted the statement of the obvious.
Sam leaned down, touched the girl lightly on the shoulder, closed his eyes, and prayed again. What would happen this time? Another surprise?
“I don’t believe it.” The tone of the man mountain’s statement was totally consistent with his words. Sam looked up into his round face, now many shades whiter than the natural brown of its owner’s Maori ancestors. “Look at her bloody face, man. It’s changing.”
Thank You, Lord. And all her internal injuries too. A compete healing.
“Now the girl in the back, Sam.”
Okay, whatever You say. I’ve no idea what’s happening, and even less of what I need to do. How on earth can I help her?”
“The same way I did, Sam.”
Okay. Here goes. “Can you keep an eye on her, Doc?”
“It’ll be a pleasure. What are you going to do now?”
“You wouldn’t believe me if I told you.”
“After what I’ve just seen? Try me!”
Sam swallowed, “It’s the girl in the back.”
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“This I have to see,” the man said, standing. He glanced at the girl on the ground then turned to Sam. “She’ll be fine for a moment—knowing what you can do.”
Sam was past listening. He pulled open the back door and looked at the limp body sprawled across the lap of the guy in the back seat. Her head lay at a very odd angle. Sam saw no sense of life or movement.
You simply took her by the hand, and the girl stood up, Sam forethought.
He leaned in through the open door and took the girl’s lifeless hands in his, closed his eyes, and simply prayed. “May Your will be done, Lord.”
What should I expect now? The hands. I’ll feel them move. The hands moved. Dear God, they moved. What now, Lord?
“You tell me, Sam.”
Her eyes, Lord. She’ll open her eyes.
“Her eyes have opened,” the doctor breathed.
Her neck will straighten, and she will turn her head towards us.
There was a camera flash through the window in front of him. He ignored it. The neck, Lord. It’s coming into line. I can see it coming into line.
“Holy Mother of God, look. She’s moving her head. She’s alive. I don’t believe it.”
You took her hand, Lord, and she stood up. Stand up, Lass. Stand up and show these people what the God of Creation can do in the lives of men.
The girl began to stir. Sam started to back out of the car, still holding onto her hand. The girl followed him as he backed out, slowly moved her legs out the door, and then began to stand up.
“Hi,” Sam said gently. “Welcome back. I’m Sam. This gent is a doctor. I’d like him to give you a quick check to make sure everything is okay. Is that alright with you?”
The girl looked at him with a beautiful smile. “I know who you are, Sam. Thank you. Sure, I’ll let the doctor look, but there’s nothing to find. Not now. I’m fine, thanks to you.” She turned away and towards the doctor while smiling an acknowledgment as she moved slowly towards him.
The moment was broken by the sound of sirens approaching. As one, the entire crowd turned towards the flashing lights coming up the street.
“Hey, what about me?” came a call from the back seat.
“Just sit tight, man,” Sam suggested. “Help is on its way.”
Sam walked back around the rear of the car to where the driver lay on the ground, watched over by the same lady he’d seen earlier. “How is he?” he asked.
“He’ll live,” she replied. “His breathing is fine. I can’t speak for the legs, though. Isn’t there anything you can…”
“No there isn’t, Sam.”
What gives here, Lord?
“It’s not over yet, Sam. Don’t bother to ask. Leave him to Me.”
The empty silence arrived again.
Sam saw the woman was watching him, waiting for an answer. “I’m sorry, there’s nothing I can do about that.” The woman’s face clouded over with an unasked question.
What do I tell her, Lord?
The stony silence continued.
Help me out here, please! I’ve done my bit. I’ve done everything You asked of me, but now I’ve got a problem I can’t solve. You’re the only One with the answers.
The woman’s face was still demanding an answer.
“I’m sorry, Ma’am. You must know that I can’t do these things. All I can do is ask. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.”
“The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away,” she murmured. “Is that it?”
“Perhaps. But it’s not over yet. God hasn’t finished with that young man. He’ll have His reasons. We just have to trust Him.”
The woman’s face softened. “Bless you, Mr. Long. And thank you for all you’re doing, whether we understand it or, as in this case, we may not.”
The crowd separated and a man and a woman wearing fluorescent yellow vests with the word ‘ambulance’ on them came through, accompanied by one of the local cops.
“Bloody late as usual, Charlie,” came a voice from the crowd accompanied by laughter from the rest. The policeman grinned and ignored them. What else could he do? The doctor and two ambos sorted out the loading of the casualties, and sensing the show was over, the crowd began to disperse.
What now, Lord?
“I believe you still have a half-cooked meal upstairs, Sam. You did promise to go back and eat it, didn’t you?”
Yeah, but…I mean they all know who I am now. I can’t…
“Run away, like you did the last time?”
Yes, something like that.
A promise is a promise, Sam.
I’m on my way, Lord. And, by the way, thanks for all you did out here.
“You’re welcome, Sam. As I’ve told you before, I want this to work far more than you do. Enjoy the fish.”
Sam quietly moved off into the darkness and moved around the back of the crowd. He climbed the stairs up to the restaurant once again and approached the girl at the desk.
“Sorry about the delay,” he said. “Is there a table available now by any chance.”
The girl seemed reluctant to do anything. She stood, staring at him.
“What’s wrong?” he asked.
“Are you alright?” she asked. Her slight accent became more obvious as she pointed to his shirt. He looked down and saw he was covered in blood. Suddenly, he realised he must look and smell disgusting.
“I’m sorry. You’re right. Perhaps I could go to your bathroom and clean up a bit.”
“That’s not necessary, Mr. Long,” came a voice from behind him. Sam turned to see the doctor, the man mountain, and another man. “It’s fine, Carolyn,” the third man said. “Mr Long is my guest. He turned back to Sam and said, “Mr. Long, my name is Jason Peters.” He extended his hand, which Sam was happy to shake. Peters continued, “I own this place. Please, if you want to clean up, go ahead. Then, if you have no objection, we’d love you to join us for dinner.”
What could he say but “Thanks, Mr. Peters. Please, call me Sam. I’d really like to clean up a bit. I didn’t realise what I looked like. I can hardly come in here like this, can I?”
“It’s Jason. And after what you did out there, Sam, you can walk in here stark naked and no one will complain.” He gestured towards the other men. “I think you’ve met David O’Connor and Manny Whataroa. Peters indicated the doctor and then the big Maori. Sam shook hands with both men.
The mountain had a huge grin as he said, “Man, I want to thank you for saving my life out there, Sam. I don’t know what you hit me with, but man, you threw me a bloody mile. How did you do that?”
Sam couldn’t help grinning at that. “The same way I did everything else out there, Manny,” he said. “It wasn’t me. You and I both know that no man can do what you saw.”
Peters interrupted cautiously. “Look, Sam. You’re about my size. I have some spare clothes in my office out the back if you’d like to try them? You may feel a little more comfortable.”
“Sure. Why not, Jason? I’d be happy to look at what you’ve got. You’re very kind.”
“It’s the least I can do. And we can talk over dinner. Carolyn, can you show these gents to my table. Come on, Sam. I’ll show you where you can clean up.”
“I’ll see you in a few minutes,” Sam said over his shoulder as he disappeared through a doorway into the work areas at the back of the restaurant.