Mark was sitting at my desk trying to solve a software authorization problem I had been having for days. “So tell me again what happens?” he asked for the third time.
“When I try to migrate my changes I don’t see them in the production system,” I say again. I don’t know how else to explain it. I’ve shown him the process I use – twice.
“Well, you’re doing everything right, it seems. Let’s look at the logs,” he says not even looking at me. It isn’t my job to look at the logs. I’d rather be writing my book than working my day job as a software architect. I sit there, frustrated, thinking about my protagonist’s latest predicament and how I’m going to get him out of it. I grab some scrap paper from my desk and write down some notes.
I feel the window by my cubicle rattle as a large truck passes by and jump at the sound of it. My office building is in a typical industrial park of single story buildings that house offices and warehouses. It isn’t unusual to hear trucks driving by. I roll my chair over to the window and peer through the blinds.
The truck was not the usual type I’m used to seeing around here. Most of them are a non-descript 40’ gray semi with a company name, logo and contact information. This one was yellow with green and white racing stripes, a picture of a racing car and the vehicle was at least 10 feet longer. The name on the truck said Matt 17 in big bold green letters. Below that was the word Racing in green script. The cab of the truck was green. There was a white circle at the top of the front of the cab with the number 17 over the numbers 14 21. What was a Racing Car hauler doing here? Just for kicks, I decided to take a picture of it with my phone.
“Mark. Come look at this truck.”
He doesn’t turn around. He just keeps working. “I think I found the problem,” he says. “There might be an authorization issue in the GUI.” He keeps on typing and flipping from one screen to another.
“Why would there be a huge carrier truck that transports racing cars doing in this parking lot?” I ask. Mark doesn’t say anything. He just keeps working.
“Give me a few minutes,” he says ignoring my question. I’m going back to my desk to try something.”
“Sounds good to me.” I assume he doesn’t care about the truck. I peek out the window, watching the truck back up to the loading dock of the Hanson Shipping warehouse in a neighboring building. I stand at the window for a while watching what they are doing. Eventually, I decide to go outside and take a better look.
By the time I get there, the back door of the truck is already open. There is a long hose going from the warehouse into the back of the truck. I wondered if they were cleaning it. I approached the driver who was just getting out of the cab. “Interesting looking truck,” I said to the driver. He looked at me but didn’t say anything.
Inside the warehouse, there was a crate on a forklift. The driver of the forklift loaded the crate into the truck and drove away. He parked it and sat at the desk against the far wall. “All that for one little crate?” I asked the driver. He smiled at me, walked away and got into the cab as the back of the truck closed. I watched the truck pull away. By the time it was gone, the bay door had already closed.
As soon as I sat down at my desk, Mark came over. “Got it. There was an authorization in the GUI. You should be all set. Give it a try and let me know if you still have a problem.”
“Thanks,” I said. “I’ll check it out now.” A few strokes on the keyboard and I see the changes in the production system.
By this time it was almost noon. I decided to walk down the street to my favorite mom and pop shop. They had great food and made a BLT. When I got back to the office, there were a bunch of guys from the office standing outside, taking a cigarette break. As I walked by, I overheard their conversation and stopped to chat.
“Can you imagine driving that thing? That guy did such a good job maneuvering that monster,” Paul was telling the other guys.
“Yeah,” said Thomas. “I saw it, too. Is there a race track around here?”
James tossed his cigarette butt on the ground. “No, but I bet they’re going to an event at the Coliseum.”
“I was surprised to see that truck, too,” I said. “That thing was huge but very pretty.”
“Hey, Peter. Was Mark able to help you?” I turned to see who was talking to me.
Simon was walking towards me. “Hey, Simon. Yeah. I’m on track now,” I said.
“That’s good,” said Andrew. “Bart was having the same issue. Whatever Mark did for you, he can do for him, too.”
One by one, we slowly strolled back into the office. While I was eating my sandwich, I took out my phone and stared at the picture I had taken of the truck. It sure was pretty.
I didn’t think of the truck again. Not until a few days later when I walked into the office and picked up the local paper in the front lobby. I took it back to my desk and read it while my computer was coming up. On page four, there was an article that caught my attention.
Phillip Jeffries of San Leandro was reported missing by his wife yesterday evening. He was last seen Tuesday morning at Hanson Shipping, where he has worked for almost two years as a shipping clerk. His manager says he didn’t seem him after the morning break and his car was still in the parking lot on Wednesday morning. Mr. Jeffries is twenty-eight years old, married and the father of two young children. He was born and raised in San Leandro. His father says he has a history of seizures and is hopeful that he is well and will show up soon. Police are investigating his disappearance.
That was the same day the Racing Car Hauler was picking up that crate at Hanson Shipping. Coincidence? I decided to call the police. I dialed the non-emergency number.
“San Leandro police non-emergency. Can I help you?” The woman who answered sounded very bored.
“Hi,” I said. “I just read the article in the paper today about Phillip Jeffries. I think I have some information you’d be interested in.”
“Can I have your name and number?”
“Ah, sure.” I gave her the information she requested.
“Someone will be in touch. Thank you for calling.” The call ended.
My curiosity kicked in again. I decided to find out more about the truck. Many years ago I had worked at another company that sponsored a racing car. I thought maybe Hanson Shipping had sponsored one, too. Maybe my protagonist would like a racing car. I added that idea to my paper scrap for my book.
I opened a browser and keyed in Matt 17. What came up surprised me. I was staring at a list of pages long referring to a chapter in the bible – Matthew 17. I thought that was very strange. I was not familiar with the New Testament and decided to read this chapter. There were four themes to this chapter; The Transfiguration, Jesus heals a demon-possessed boy, Jesus predicts his death a second time, and the temple tax. That was all very interesting but I didn’t think it had anything to do with the truck.
I tried to get back to work, but it was hard to concentrate. I went back to the open browser and opened a new tab. I keyed in Matt17.com. Things started to make sense – sort of. The website described a mobile service for exorcisms and baptisms, specializing in healing and removing demons. This sounded a lot like it could be a modern version of tent revivals.
I took out my phone and opened the picture of the truck. I wanted to check the numbers on the front of the cab. That was it! Those three numbers were the chapter and verse in Matthew. Matthew 17:14-21 that describes Jesus healing a demon-possessed boy:
14 When they came to the crowd, a man approached Jesus and knelt before him. 15 “Lord, have mercy on my son,” he said. “He has seizures and is suffering greatly. He often falls into the fire or into the water. 16 I brought him to your disciples, but they could not heal him.”
17 “You unbelieving and perverse generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy here to me.” 18 Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of the boy, and he was healed at that moment.
19 Then the disciples came to Jesus in private and asked, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?”
20 He replied, “Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” 
Did Phillip Jeffries join a traveling ministry? People come up with all sorts of wild ideas. This was probably the wildest I had ever heard of. Or was it possible that Phillip Jeffries father hired these people to help his son? He had said his son had seizures. I called the police again.
“San Leandro police non-emergency. Can I help you?” The woman still sounded bored.
“Hi. I called earlier about the Phillip Jeffries case. I have some more information and really need to talk to …”
“Hold on,” the woman said. I read the testimonials on the site while I waited. She came back on the line. “I’m going to put you through to the Detective on the case.”
“Detective Judah Stevens. May I help you?”
I told the detective about what I had found online. After I finished, Detective Stevens said “That all very interesting. It sounds crazy, but I believe almost anything after being in the police business for 26 years in the Bay Area. Thanks for the information.” He gave me his email address so I could send him a picture of the truck.
“I just sent you the picture,” I said. “Good luck. I hope you find him.”
“Me too,” said Detective Stevens. “His wife is pretty frantic.”
After the call from the Detective ended, I sat at my desk just staring at the screen. “Why can’t I write stuff like this?” I wondered. I decided I was going to make my life a little more interesting, so I packed up my stuff, got into my car and drove around looking for that truck.
I started driving up one street and down another. Up the main streets, across the side streets, around the strip malls and even searching parking lots in the industrial area. Eventually I was criss-crossing the city until I was re-visting the same places I had already explored. After driving around for two hours, I decided to give up. All I was doing was wasting gas and getting very frustrated. By this time, I was deep into a neighborhood that I didn’t recognize. I turned on my phone’s GPS and was almost to the freeway, when I spotted the truck. My heart stopped for a split second. I called the police station and asked for Detective Stevens.
“San Leandro police non-emergency. Can I help you?” It was a new voice, but sounding just as bored as the previous operator.
“Hi, can I speak with Detective Stevens?” I asked.
“Hold on, please.” There was silence on the phone what seemed to be an eternity but, in reality, was only 90 seconds. “I’m sorry, but Detective Steven’s is not in the office right now. Do you want to leave a message?”
“No, you have to find him. I found the truck.” I said anxiously.
“Do you have the keys, sir?” was the resopnse.
I heard an engine starting. It was the Racing Car Hauler. It was going to leave. “No. It’s not my truck. It’s the one with Phillip Jeffries. It’s about to leave!”
“How may I help you, sir?” Her tone was really beginning to drive me crazy.
“Never mind,” I said. “I’ll deal with this myself.
“Okay, sir. If you need any further assistance, please call us back.” The phone went silent.
“That was a waste of time,” I thought.
The truck was pulling away. “Now what should I do?” No one answered me. I decided to follow the truck – at a safe distance, of course.
I had learned from the DMV manual that if you can’t see the driver in the side mirrors, he couldn’t see you either. I dropped the safe distance decision and drove very close to the back of the truck where I believed that the driver couldn’t see me.
The truck drove out of the residential area that and drove west towards the Marina. We crossed over the freeway and made a few turns going south and west. The truck finally slowed to a crawl as we approached the golf range. It turned into the parking lot. I drove another block parked the car in front of a house with a gnome. I thought that might bring me good luck.
Just before I left the office, I got a phone call from Detective Stevens. “I just called to thank you for the lead. It seems that Phillip’s father, John, is starting to suffer from delusions from some pain medication he is taking. Phillip had a seizure while he was visiting his father the other day. His father had seen the site you told me about. They do healings in your home or anywhere you choose. John had contacted them and hired them to heal his son. He didn’t want anyone in the family to know about it, so he sent them to Phillip’s place of business. With the picture you sent me, it wasn’t too hard to find the truck. They were parked at Eisenhower Park not too far from you. ”
“Whoa. That is amazing,” I said.
Detective Stevens continued telling me what the police found in the truck. “When we opened the back of the truck we found the crate that you told me about. Members of Matt17, as they call themselves, were sitting in pews facing the cab end of the truck. There were about twenty people. A huge cross was hung on the wall. Phillip was sitting under the cross facing the pews. Next to him was a hot tub filled with water – probably where they did baptisms. I have never seen anything like this.”
“They kidnapped him and put him in the crate?” I was amazed.
“Seems like it. The guy in charge, Reverend Falconer, told us they had talked to Phillip a few weeks ago and offered to do a healing – which he refused. The Reverend approached the shipping clerk and asked if he wanted to make some extra cash. The guy agreed and put him in a shipping crate and loaded him on the truck – just as you said.”
“How is Mr. Jeffries?” I asked.
“Okay.” Detective Stevens said. “We took him to the hospital so he can be medically treated for seizures.”
“I am so glad to hear, that.” I told Detective Stevens.
“As for the shipping clerk and Reverend Falconer, we arrested them on kidnapping charges and confiscated the truck.”
“That’s unbelievable,” I said. Detective Stevens agreed with me and hung up.
I thought this story was incredible. It was so incredible I was thinking that my protagonist might benefit from using the Racing Car Hauler and Matt17.