~~ Ch. 3 ~~
Dr. Theophilus Hornby, Professor of Theology at Faithful Bible College, could hardly believe his luck. Well, “luck” was definitely the wrong word for a mostly-convinced Calvinist like himself, but he still felt “blessed.” Hmmm, he thought to himself. I wonder if the word “blessed” is used by Christians like unsaved people use the word “luck”?
Theo, as his friends called him, had just read the email from the college’s president that the faculty meeting for that afternoon had been cancelled. Is there any greater news at the end of the school year, Hornby wondered, than not having to attend a faculty meeting? “I guess I’m the recipient of sovereign, blessed luck!”, he chuckled to himself.
Faithful Bible College was located on forty beautiful acres of prime real estate in Western North Carolina, an area known for its spectrum of colors in the fall and its well-used ski slopes in the winter. Hornby had given up skiing for two reasons. He was, afterall, sixty-three years old, with knees that reminded him of his age whenever he skied or played tennis with other senior faculty at FBC. And, he had lost one of his best friends to a skiing accident just six months before.
Loss seemed to mark Hornby’s last several years. His only son Mark had vanished in Tibet as he had prepared to scale Mt. Everest with a climbing club from North Carolina. There had been a rash of kidnappings in that area of Nepal, but no group had made any ransom demands. On the eve of his team’s ascent, Mark had gone for a walk and did not return to the team’s lodgings. The sheer pain of not knowing what had happened to his son had severely tested Hornby’s faith, and he had had many angry and broken conversations with the Lord in prayer over his son’s disappearance.
Losing his wife Eleanor to cancer two years before had been especially difficult for him. They had no sooner celebrated their 45th wedding anniversary than she was diagnosed. He missed Ellie terribly, but he had slowly found some comfort in the Lord and in the Lord’s people.
Hornby sat in his old recliner and reminisced about Ellie. He remembered her trying to get rid of that recliner one Saturday by saying, “Theo, it’s old and ragged and has long out-lived its usefulness! Let’s get you a new one.” Hornby responded by saying, “The same three things could be said about me!” They laughed and laughed — but he got to keep his comfortable, form-fitting, cracked leather recliner. Hornby thought to himself that sometimes where one thinks deep thoughts is almost as important as the thoughts themselves.
Settling into his recliner with his microwaved Hungry-Man TV dinner and his ice cold can of root beer from the kitchen, Hornby said outloud to his cat Luther, “Let’s see what’s on the Classics channel.” Luther was a twelve-year-old Persian who was about 10 pounds overweight and moved slowly, deliberately, and, if it had a choice, infrequently. Luther was helped by Hornby up onto the foot of the recliner and his deep-throated purring was almost like the vibrator on one of those fancy new LazyBoys. Luther knew that Hornby would leave a little of the gravy and the meat and maybe some of the potatoes for him to enjoy after Hornby was finished.
“Let’s see what’s on the Classics channel” meant that Hornby was going to watch an ancient episode of “Columbo,” the detective show starring the bumbling one-eyed actor Peter Falk. Falk had had his right eye surgically removed in real life due to cancer when he was only three.
“Oh, good,” said Hornby to himself. “The show’s just starting. ‘The Case of the Overweight Mistress.’ Hmmm, Luther, I wonder if I have seen this one before?” Hornby had probably seen all 68 episodes of the show, but he always fell asleep in his recliner just before the show’s conclusion. Tonight was no exception. When he woke up, Hornby said, “Luther, I can’t believe it! I fell asleep! How did the mystery get solved by Columbo? Oh, well, I guess I’ll have to watch this one again sometime.”
Luther looked up from his corner of the recliner where he too had dozed off. His look seemed to say, “You’re surprised you fell asleep? But it happens every night. Now, did I hear you say something about the remains of your TV dinner?”
Hornby put down the dinner plate for Luther to finish up what had been left of his meal. A few minutes later, after Luther had been out to do his business, the two tucked in, with Luther taking his customary spot at the foot of the bed, curled up and ready for a long night’s rest.
Little did Hornby suspect that there would be a real-life mystery that would invade his world, a mystery for which Hornby would require two good eyes.