The thud at the back door startled me.
“What’s that, Charlie?”
“I don’t know but nobody uses the back entrance except…”
“Shh…our customers might hear you and turn us in!”
“It’s probably a beloved that needs help.”
A quiet knock tapped on the door. One, two, three…one, two, three. I opened it to find a small boy hunched over his mother’s body. His tears wet her face.
“I’m sorry for barging in but we’ve walked so far. Momma kept telling me it wouldn’t be much longer. She could smell the rose bushes in your yard and saw the candle in the window.”
Charlie picked up the woman and laid her down on the corner cot. The thin clothes provided little protection against the cold, winter night. My arm wrapped around the boy and ushered him inside.
“Come over by the fire and warm yourself up. What’s your name son?”
His countenance lifted.
“My name is Joshua. My momma named me from the Bible. ‘He trusted the LORD’ she would always say.”
I filled a bowl with beef stew. The carrots, potatoes and meat would fill his tummy.
“This sure is a nice place you have here.”
“Thank you. It was my mother’s. I helped her run this motel ever since I was a little girl not much bigger than you.”
Some color returned to the boy’s cheeks as he gulped down the beef stew. He looked over at his mom lying on the cot.
“Do you think she’ll be okay?”
Charlie put his hand on the boy’s shoulder.
“I think she’ll be fine. After some food and rest, she’ll feel better. Then you will travel to the beltway. For now, you can stay here…downstairs with the others. Tomorrow the escort arrives.”
The bell on the door chimed out front. My heart quickened its beat but Charlie gave me an encouraging nod.
“Be quiet, young Joshua.”
Charlie unlocked the door to the lobby. An officer of the World Unified forces stood at the front desk.
“Can I help you, sir?”
”Yes, you can. I’m looking for this woman. Seems her employer reported her missing three days ago.”
Charlie looked at the picture. The same woman in his back room smiled from the photo.
“Has she done something wrong?”
“Seems she told a coworker about Jesus. The new World Unified law states that proselytizing is punishable unto death. We think she’s running to the beltway to escape punishment since the President segregated the Christians there. They have their own laws but now are called the…the…”
The officer’s gaze locked on Charlie.
“Do you know her?”
“Can’t say I do. Death seems like a pretty harsh punishment for talking about Jesus.”
“The President will only allow worship of the National Delegated Religion and its god, Suka. I follow his rules, besides Jesus never did much for me.”
“He died for you.”
“Are you trying to proselytize me, an officer?”
Charlie wanted to scream from the mountaintops his love for Jesus but the Holy Spirit prompted his heart to stay quiet.
“Now why would I waste my time doing that when it seems you’ve made your choice?”
The officer smirked and with a warning about the woman turned to go.
Charlie returned to the back room to see Joshua’s mom sitting on the bed eating stew.
“Wow, you look better.”
“Thank you for helping us.”
“Your welcome, but our help comes from Jesus and we’re not out of the woods yet especially if that officer returns. Rose, we need to get them downstairs until it’s safe.”
I ushered them down the steps into a hallway filled with old furniture pieces. Joshua’s eyes lit up as he saw the bookcase.
“Is there a secret passageway behind that?”
“Afraid not honey. That would be obvious.”
Joshua looked disappointed.
I pointed to a large frame hanging on the wall.
“See the picture with the vase of roses?”
“That’s the secret door.”
“They remind me of Jesus; his crown of thorns, his blood shed, his eternal beauty but most of all His love for you and me is more fragrant than any rose.”
“Thanks for letting us come.” His face held the innocence of a child. “I hope one day when we’re free, we can come back to…what’s the name of this place anyway?”
Charlie put his arm around me.
“We like to call it, Motel Rosie.”
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