Tag Archives: fiction

“STUNG! A Theophilus Hornby Mystery” (Ch. 26)

~~ Ch. 26 ~~
Mrs. Scarlett O’Leary arrived at FBC’s library at 7:30 am as was her custom. “That’s odd,” she said. “The front door to the library is unlocked. And there are some lights on in the reference section.”

As she entered the lobby of the library, she could see a large man standing, looking at some weighty tomes.

“Excuse me,” she said. “How did you get into the library?”

John Smith looked at her, not at all surprised that he was no longer alone. He had piercing brown eyes and his face seemed to show no emotion or expression.

“I’m so sorry, but the night watchman let me in. He said you’d be along in a few minutes. I only needed to do some research. I hope you’ll forgive me being in such a hurry.” John Smith closed the reference book he had on the table and started to put it back on the shelf.

“That’s okay, Mr., uh . . .?”

“My name is Smith. John Smith. I know. I know. Can one have a more common name?” Smith smiled, but it seemed forced and almost mechanical.

“It’s just that FBC’s library is for students and faculty only. You’ll need a day pass if you wish to do research here. And, please don’t reshelve that reference book you were using. I’ll be glad to do that for you. You know, students are always putting books back, often in the wrong spot, and they sometimes are lost forever.”

Mrs. O’Leary moved to her desk behind the check-out counter as she said this. She couldn’t stifle a small gasp as she watched Smith stand up. He looked to be over six feet tall and probably weighed over three hundred pounds.

“Of course, I understand, Mrs. O’Leary,” Smith said, noticing her name plate on her desk. “If you don’t mind I’ll apply for a guest pass the next time I’m here.”

Mrs. O’Leary watched Smith gather his backpack and head for the library’s front door.

“Would you mind if I ask you a question, Mrs. O’Leary?” Smith used his right arm to gesture toward her.

“No, of course not. That’s why I’m here. You know, we librarians love questions!”

Smith looked at Mrs. O’Leary with what appeared to be a penetrating, almost diabolical gaze. “Do you happen to know if Dr. Hornby is in today? I was hoping to meet up with him a little later.”

A very slight blush made its way from Mrs. O’Leary’s throat up to her face as she thought about Theo and how much she wanted a relationship with him.

“I’m sorry, but I don’t know Theo’s, I mean, Dr. Hornby’s schedule. You might want to check with Dean Miller’s office. It’s right down the hall to the left.”

“Thank you, Mrs. O’Leary. I’ll do that. Have a pleasant day.” Smith exited the library and as he did, Mrs. O’Leary quietly followed his movement, noticing that he did not turn left, but right, as he left the library.

She returned to the table Smith had been using and picked up the reference volume lying there. “Why would he be researching Respiratory Ailments in Senior Citizens?”


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“STUNG! A Theophilus Hornby Mystery” (Ch. 25)

~~ Ch. 25 ~~
“Anyone there?” Bubba screamed, but no one answered. He felt that he was completely alone.

“I must be in a coma. And this must be a dream.”

He reached down with his hand and pinched his leg. “Ow! That hurt! And it felt like a hot iron. This is no dream! How do I get outta here?”


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“STUNG! A Theophilus Hornby Mystery” (Ch. 24)

~~ Ch. 24 ~~
“Officer Bondo?”, Hornby asked as he lightly tapped on the hospital door.

“Yes?”, came a weak, strained voice.

“Officer Bondo, my name is Theophilus Hornby and I’m a teacher at Faithful Bible College. I wonder if I could speak with you for a few minutes?”

Bondo struggled to sit a bit upright. His two legs were in casts and he looked pale and exhausted.

“I promise not to take too much of your time,” Hornby said.

“How can I help you, is it Dr. Hornby?”

“Please call me Theo. All my friends do. I am so sorry about your car accident. Would you mind if I prayed for you after our conversation?” Hornby had never had anyone refuse his invitation to pray for them.

Bondo smiled. “I would appreciate your praying for me. I’m doing better, but I’ll take all the prayers I can get! What did you want to talk about?”

Hornby explained a bit about his concern for his student Michael whose Uncle Bubba was killed in a car accident. “I understand you were doing a bit of investigative work on that accident?”

“Yes, until I had my accident. I still don’t know how I lost my brakes. There was nothing that I could do!”

Hornby’s eyes showed a deep concern for Bondo and his almost losing his life. “Were you able to find out any information about Delvaney’s accident? I understand the inquiry is officially closed?”

“Yes, and I’m not at all happy about that! In fact, I went to the Delvaney family’s favorite restaurant to ask my questions.”

“Really? That took some courage! Michael, my student, told me that they are reputed to be major players in the Chicago crime world. In fact, his family changed their last name to Delganey to distance themselves from those relatives.”

“I did not know that,” Bondo said. “After some initial hesitation, the family talked to me and actually wished me well in trying to find out why Bubba would simply drive off a cliff.”

“Were you able to gather any new information in meeting with them?”, Hornby could see that Bondo was getting tired, so he started to wrap up their conversation.

“It’s the strangest thing. One of the family members met me at my car and said that there was only one thing that Bubba feared in life.”

“What did he say that was?”

“He said that Bubba had a deathly fear of . . . wasps!”

“Really? What happened then?”

“I thanked him for talking with me — and then I got in my car, noticed the brakes were quite loose, and crashed into some trees.”

“Officer Bondo, I’m so glad the Lord spared your life!”

“Me too! I’m not ready to meet my Maker just yet!”

“I really appreciate your time and I will pray for your full recovery. And just so you know, I’m not just a professor of theology. I’m also a kind of pastor. And I love to talk to people about the often-avoided topic of getting ready to meet their Maker!”

With those words, Hornby laid his hand on Bondo’s shoulder and prayed for him.

“Thank you again for meeting with me, Officer. Mind if I drop by again to check up on you?”

Bondo smiled a weary smile. “Not at all. And God bless you as you try to help Michael.”


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“STUNG! A Theophilus Hornby Mystery” (Ch. 23)

~~ Ch. 23 ~~
Do I really believe that there are no accidents in life?, Hornby thought to himself. God uses human agents to fulfill His purposes. Human beings make choices. And their choices impact — sometimes catastrophically — the lives of others.

He was thinking about his student Michael who had lost his uncle to a car accident. I wonder if I could get access to the police report?, Hornby asked.

The next day Hornby called the Detroit/Fayetteville Police Department and his call was directed to Sargent Sanders.

“Yes, sir, can I help you?” Sanders said.

“Well, Sargent, I’m Dr. Hornby, a teacher at Faithful Bible College and I’m concerned about one of my students.”

“What seems to be the problem, Dr. Hornby?”

“My student is Michael Delganey and his uncle Bubba Delvaney died in a car accident last year. I’m just wondering if I could get a look at the police report?”

“Why would you want to see the report, Professor?”

“I’m just concerned about my student. Was the cause of the accident determined?”

“No, unfortunately,” Sanders said with what appeared to be a bit of embarrassment. “It looks like he just drove off the cliff. And there’s no evidence that he was considering suicide. So, we’ve had to close the case. But I have no problem with your looking over the report.”

“That’s great, Sargent. Would I be able to talk to the investigating officer?”

“Of course. But you might get more details from one of our deputies who wants to become a detective. Although that might be a bit of a challenge.”

“Why’s that, Sargent Sanders?” Hornby asked.

“Well, Officer Bondo is still in the hospital recovering from his own car accident.”

“I’m sorry to hear that. When did his car accident take place?”

“Oh, about a month after we had closed the Delvaney investigation. I’d be glad to give you Bondo’s room number at Bethesda Hospital.”

Sanders asked his secretary to make a copy of the police report and email it to Hornby. Hornby thanked the Sargent and hung up the phone.

After he received and reviewed the police report, Hornby got in his car and drove to Bethesda Hospital. He stopped at the nurses’ desk in the critical care unit and asked to see Officer Bondo.

“He might be sleeping, uh, Dr. Hornby was it?”

“Yes. I appreciate your help.”

“You can go in, Sir,” the nurse said. “He is awake and just finished his lunch.”

Hornby entered Bondo’s hospital room, hoping he could get some answers to his questions. He did not notice the large man sitting in the visitor’s lounge just across from Bondo’s room.

“Looks like we have another actor in this little drama,” John Smith said to himself. “This is getting a bit more complicated than I had hoped.”


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“STUNG! A Theophilus Hornby Mystery” (Ch. 22)

~~ Ch. 22 ~~
Monday morning’s “Theology 101” class was one of Hornby’s most enjoyable. Because the students were freshmen, their questions created great discussions, sometimes generating debates between various perspectives.

“Debates are good,” Hornby said as he closed his office door and began walking toward the classroom. “I really want my students to think for themselves.” He remembered G.K. Chesterton’s statement in defense of good argumentation: “What good are words,” Chesterton asked, “if you can’t argue over them?”

Hornby especially appreciated the beginning few minutes of class, a segment his students also looked forward to. It was his practice to share a short devotional from the Bible in every one of his sessions, and today was no exception. He had been working his way through John 11, the story of the raising of Lazarus. Hornby had entitled this little series “Friends Don’t Let Friends . . . Die!” “But that’s exactly what Jesus did with His friend Lazarus, right, students?”

Hornby’s short devotional was followed by a vigorous discussion of God’s allowing — sometimes arranging — difficult circumstances in our lives for His glory.

After a brief word of prayer, Hornby said, “This morning, class, we’re going to talk about a subject that is very much related to our present discussion about the death — and subsequent resurrection — of Jesus’ friend Lazarus. The topic is the sovereignty of God.”

“But, Dr. Hornby, isn’t that a topic that pretty much divides Christians from one another?”, asked a young coed on the front row.

“Yes, I’m afraid so. Typically the topic of God’s sovereignty has divided believers into two categories: those who emphasize man’s free will (the Arminians) and those who put their emphasis on God’s control (the Calvinists).”

“Which category do you fit in, Dr. Hornby?”, asked Michael Delganey, obviously intrigued by the topic.

“Great question, Michael. But in some ways not a very easy one to answer.”

“How do you mean, Sir?”

“Well, above all I want to be biblical in my theology. And the challenge in this area is that there is biblical data on both sides of the debate.”

“What would be some of the data on the Armenian side?”, asked a student in the back.

“Great question,” Hornby said. “And I hope you won’t be offended, but the term you want is ‘Arminian’, not ‘Armenian.’ Armenians are those who come from the country of Armenia, a former Soviet republic in Asia. I guess you could have an Arminian Armenian, couldn’t you?”

The class laughed, including the student who confused the two terms.

“But back to your question. We get several Scriptures that emphasize man’s free will (the Arminian perspective) such as Mark 8’s statement about ‘whosoever will come after me’ and Joshua’s famous challenge in Joshua 24 to ‘choose you this day whom you will serve.’ The Bible is filled with expressions that imply man has the power to choose or not choose the Lord. In fact, Jesus says in Matthew 23, ‘O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!’ I’m quoting the King James’ version. It just sounds better! Such statements certainly seem to imply man’s free will, don’t you think?”

Hornby could see the students’ thinking hard.

“But, Dr. Hornby, what’s the evidence for the other side, the sovereignty of God side?”, asked an older student.

“Well, we do get verses about predestination, such as Romans 8 which says, ‘For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.’

“And we also get some challenging statements like Acts 13 which tells about the Gentiles who heard Paul and Barnabas share the gospel: ‘And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the word of the Lord: and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed.’ ‘Ordained to eternal life’ — hmmm,” Hornby said.

“So God sovereignly chooses who will believe in Jesus?!”, asked a tall, lanky young man.

Hornby thought for a moment. “We need to be careful not to overstate our position. I once heard a Bible college president (not ours here at FBC) say that our challenge is to “remain in the center of biblical tension.”

“What in the world does that mean, Dr. Hornby?”, asked the same student.

“It means that our theological perspective, our theological framework, should not have power over what the Bible actually says. We don’t determine what the Bible says and what it means by our theology. We should derive our theology from what Scripture teaches.”

“So, I believe there is truth in both the Arminian and the Calvinist views. For the Arminian, the emphasis is on responding to the gospel. For the Calvinist, the emphasis is on God’s electing those who will believe. The danger for the Arminian is that it can fairly quickly become a kind of works-salvation. The danger for the Calvinist is that it can degenerate into a kind of fatalism (God knows who will believe and there’s nothing for us to do).”

“So, what’s the answer, Professor?”, asked a female student who was sitting at the back of the classroom.

“The answer, I would suggest, is to take all of the Word of God seriously, allowing every text to make its point, and not try to force any verses into our preconceived notions. The answer is that the gospel must be proclaimed and believed. And God will bless our efforts — both here and in other countries — to be faithful in our evangelism and missions.”

“There are other issues that are impacted by the Arminian/Calvinist debate,” Dr. Hornby said. “Such as the question, ‘Can one lose his salvation?’”

“The broader topic — God’s sovereignty — has very practical implications, students. It means, for example, that nothing in this life is accidental. God either ordains all things or allows all things. The biblical perspective is that He actively ordains some things and He, in a sense, passively allows other things. So human beings have, at least to some degree, free will or choice.”

“The book The Gospel of Coincidence makes the point that things don’t just happen. People do things.”

Michael Delganey thought to himself. “No accidents, huh? So what happened to my Uncle Bubba?”

Hornby did not miss the pensive look on Michael’s face and decided then and there that he would do a bit of investigating that critical event in his student’s life.


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“STUNG! A Theophilus Hornby Mystery” (Ch. 21)

~~ Ch. 21 ~~
“How’s it going, Son?” Henry Delganey asked over the phone. “Classes going well?”

“They’re going great, Dad,” Michael said. “I’ve made a few friends. I’m getting really challenged to do my best in my studies.”

“That’s wonderful, Michael. What are the teachers like?”

“Dad, that’s one of the best parts of being here at FBC. The faculty really care about us students.”

“Good to hear, Michael,” said his father. “So it’s not just a lot of boring lectures and endless homework assignments?”

“There’s plenty of work to do, that’s for sure. But I’m talking about the teachers’ making themselves available for the students.”

Henry squeezed Miriam’s hand as they were listening to their son on their cell phone’s speaker. “Have you had any serious personal conversations with any of the faculty?” Henry and Miriam were concerned with Michael’s grief over the loss of his uncle.

“Yes, as a matter of fact, I have. My favorite prof is a Dr. Theophilus Hornby. He teaches biblical studies.”

“Really?”, asked Michael’s mom. “But he’s spent some time with you?”

“That’s the great thing about it, Mom. We were talking in class about the after-life and what happens when people die without Jesus. And, well, Dr. Hornby pretty much laid in on the line.”

“What do you mean, Son?”, Henry asked.

“Dr. Hornby really knows the Scriptures and he showed us the awful truth that those who die without Christ are lost forever.”

“What happened then, Michael?”

“Well, Dr. Hornby could see that I was upset and approached me after class — and even had lunch with me the next day — to help me with my questions.”

“You’re referring to Uncle Bubba’s passing, right?”

Henry and Miriam had been praying every morning that Michael would find peace about that tragedy.

“Yes. And he sympathized with my sadness. But he didn’t water down or compromise the Bible’s teaching about eternal lostness. He did ask me a few questions about the accident.”

“Really?”, responded both parents in unison.

“And you know what I think? I think he’s going to do a bit of looking into Uncle Bubba’s car accident for himself.”

“It’s amazing how easy it is to wire tap someone’s phone,” John Smith said to himself. He had been listening to every word of their conversation. “Hornby, huh? I guess I’ll just have to look up this Hornby character.”


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“STUNG! A Theophilus Hornby Mystery” (Ch. 20)

~~ Ch. 20 ~~
“I have never felt such abandonment in my life!”, Bubba said to himself. “Where am I? Am I in a coma from the accident? There’s this searing pain throughout my body. Why aren’t they giving me drugs?”

As he tried to look around Bubba became acutely aware that he was in a dark place. Not a dark place like one’s closet or out in the woods camping. No. A darkness like being in the bowels of a damp underground cavern.

He remembered hearing a Sunday School lesson when he was a young boy about a darkness that “could be felt” which God inflicted on the Egyptians as He prepared to free His people from slavery. “I can almost touch this darkness,” Bubba said. His own voice sounded odd, ethereal, distorted, as if he were stuck in some deserted, isolated pit.

“Sunday School!, that was a joke! What a bunch of nonsense that whole church thing was! What a waste of time!”

Bubba’s pain seemed to be increasing. He reached his right hand to touch his side and his side felt really strange, almost numb. “How am I ever going to get out of this place?”, he cried out in the darkness.


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“STUNG! A Theophilus Hornby Mystery” (Ch. 19)

~~ Ch. 19 ~~
Wednesday morning was one of Hornby’s most anticipated classes. He had taught “Eternal Destinies” as an upper-level theology course for several years, and, although only five seniors had signed up for it this semester, he was pleased with their enthusiasm.

With the Dean’s permission, Hornby invited leaders of several cults to come to his class and lecture on the topic of the end times from their perspectives. As he lined up his guests, he gave each of them a brief overview of the course and the kind of Evangelical students they would be speaking to.

For the next eight weeks Hornby scheduled 30 minute lectures by such guests as: the head of the Jehovah’s Witnesses in the state, a female orthodox rabbi, two Christian Science ladies, a couple of Mormon elders from the neighborhood, a Buddhist priest, and a chiropractor who represented the Baha’i religion.

“I hope this year’s class will be as courteous as previous years,” Hornby said to himself. Those former students had conducted themselves admirably as they listened, took notes, and asked questions of the guest speakers from the various cults and religions.

Hornby’s students had been trained well for they usually asked two probing questions of each of the guests after their lectures were finished: (1) What is your final authority for what you believe? and (2) What is your perspective on the Person and Work of Jesus Christ?

I’m sure this semester’s class will be just as polite — and perceptive, Hornby thought to himself.

He remembered a previous year when the leader of the local Jehovah’s Witnesses Kingdom Hall gave his guest lecture. The students had challenged him on his dismissal of the biblical truth of eternal hell and had pretty much bested him on the topic of Jesus’ deity.

After the class was over, Hornby made it his practice to walk the guest lecturer to his or her car, giving them a small gift of appreciation for their lecture. He also took the opportunity to share the gospel as best he could.

He remembered talking with Mike, the Jehovah’s Witness leader, about the gospel. Mike was dressed in a three-piece suit and was doing his best to leave the campus as soon as he could. After he accepted Hornby’s small gift, Mike began jumping up and down and slapping at his legs! This was unusual behavior for a Jehovah’s Witness.

It turned out that Mike had been standing on a red ant hill and was being bitten by those fire ants! It was all Hornby could do to keep himself from saying, “You know, Mike, bad doctrine sometimes brings bad consequences!” But Hornby simply waved goodbye as Mike drove off.

Bad doctrine does bring bad consequences, Hornby thought to himself, as he got ready to lecture to his “Eternal Destiny” students. And what worse consequence could there be than eternal hell?


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“STUNG! A Theophilus Hornby Mystery” (Ch. 18)

~~ Ch. 18 ~~
“Who’s in charge here?”, growled Sargent Sanders. “Where’s my Officer Bondo?”

Sanders gripped the ER nurses’ station, leaning over to bark at the thin, blond young woman who was filling in charts.

“Sir, I’m afraid Officer Bondo is in the ICU. Only family members are allowed to see him.”

“I AM family, Miss Hunter!” Sanders looked like he was going to jump over the desk when the attending ER physician came around the corner. “What’s happening here?”, he asked.

“I’m Officer Bondo’s boss — and I want to see him right now!”

“I’m afraid that’s impossible, Sargent. He’s in a coma.”

“A coma? What in the world happened to him? His wife called me and told me he was taken to the hospital.”

“I’m not sure what happened, but he crashed his patrol car into a patch of birch trees off Highway 77.”

“Highway 77? That’s way out of our jurisdiction. And nowhere near Bondo’s home.”

“Well, all I can tell you is that he will survive. He’s got two broken legs, a ruptured spleen, and a pretty severe concussion. If it hadn’t been for the patrol car’s airbags and the patient’s excellent physical condition, I don’t think he would have made it.”

“Doc, please call me when he wakes up. He’s young, but he’s an excellent driver. I need to know what happened to him.”

“Will do, Sargent Sanders. Now, if you will excuse me, I’ve got some other patients to attend to.”

As Sanders started to leave, he turned around and said to the young nurse, “I apologize for my abruptness, Miss. Please do all you can for my Officer.”

“You can count on it, Sir.”

John Smith was sitting close by in the patients’ section of the ER and was overhearing most of the conversations. “I hope this accident will discourage Bondo from doing any more investigating. I don’t really have any desire to finish off this cop.”


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“STUNG! A Theophilus Hornby Mystery” (Ch. 17)

~~ Ch. 17 ~~

Officer Bondo had been with the Detroit/Fayetteville Police Department for five years. And he so wanted to become a detective! Writing parking tickets and chasing drugged teenagers was not his idea of serious police work.

“We’ve closed the book on the Delvaney accident, Bondo,” said Sargent Sanders as he slapped the file down on his desk. “I guess we’ll never know why he drove off that cliff!”

Well, that conclusion just doesn’t work with me, Bondo thought to himself. He picked up the file to take it to the cold case locker, but first he stepped into the copy room to make a copy for himself. “I’m going to make detective, if it’s the last thing I do!”

Bondo drove home after his shift and began laying out his plan. “I haven’t had Italian in quite a while,” he said out loud. As he set his gps for Pontefiori’s Family Restaurant, he thought to himself, What are you getting into, Bondo? You just gonna grab a seat next to the crime family and pepper them with questions?! “Yes,” he said to himself. “That’s exactly what I’m going to do!”

He waited until about 8 pm. He had heard that the members of Bubba’s family gathered at Mama Pontefiori’s on Thursday evenings to report on their “businesses” and just to spend some time together.

When Bondo walked in he was not in uniform. He walked right up to the family table and pulled out a chair. “Hey, Buster, what do you think you’re doin’?” said Fernando, Bubba’s bodyguard.

“Calm down, my friend,” Bondo said. “I’m not here to make trouble.”

“Hey, he’s a cop from around here. What you want, Copper?”, said another rather large, muscled family member.

“I’m only here to ask a few questions. Our investigation of Mr. Delvaney’s accident gave us no answers why he would simply drive off that cliff.”

“No kidding, Einstein! What do you think you can do about it? You’re just a beat cop. You’re not even a detective!” This was said by Paschal, one of the older members of the family.

“You need to know that I don’t take delight in the death of anyone,” Bondo said. “But it bugs the heck out of me that my police department has given up finding some answers. That’s all I want.”

“Sure, Officer, uh . . .?” Fernando asked.

“Bondo. Alex Bondo. I may not be a detective. Yet. But I’d like your cooperation in my off-the-books investigation. What do you have to lose?”

“Lose? We don’t want no cop snooping around our business. Get lost, my man!” Paschal growled.

“Listen. My mamma always said I was stubborn. And I”m going to pursue this. Either with or without your help!” He swallowed hard, surprised at his own brashness.

“What do you need to know, Officer Bondo?” Fernando sat down and faced him. “We want to know what happened as well.”

He began with his list of questions about possible enemies, run-ins with competitors, angry family members. To each of his queries the family gave their best, but guarded, answers.

As he was about to leave, Bondo thanked the family and said he would do his best to get some answers. He hesitated as he thought about the last question he was going to ask. “But,” he said to himself, “this is no time to be timid.”

He turned to look at the table of Bubba’s friends and family and said, “I don’t know how to ask this, but was there anyone or anything that Mr. Delvaney was afraid of?”

Fernando let out an angry, “What?! That man was not afraid of anything! And how dare you imply that he was?”

Bondo almost feared getting slugged by the beefy bodyguard, but he quietly left the restaurant. As he was opening his car door, he heard someone say, “Officer Bondo?”


Paschal stepped into the street light. “I really want to find out what happened to Bubba and it may sound crazy, but there was only one thing that I can think of that terrified Bubba.”

“And what would that have been?”, Bondo asked.

“He was afraid of . . . wasps. He would jump sky high if there was a wasp in the room. In fact, a few of us were laughing about that at Mike’s Tavern the other week. Just thought you’d want to know.”

“Thanks, Paschal,” Bondo said. As he drove away from the restaurant, he noticed that his brake pedal was a bit mushy. “I’d better get my brakes checked at the motor pool this week!” But that opportunity would not, unfortunately, present itself.


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