This is a story about Doc Savage. There may be die-hard fans of Doc who will view this story as sacreligious. But what I am striving for in this story is to set the character of Doc Savage in a direction he has never gone in before, an adventure that reaches beyond the physical and temporal. If this doesn't appeal to you, stop reading here. I make no apologies for the concept of what I write.
THE DOC SAVAGE CODE reads: "Let me strive every moment of my life, to make myself better and better, to the best of my ability, that all may profit by it. Let me think of the right and lend all my assistance to those who need it, with no regard for anything but justice. Let me take what comes with a smile, without loss of courage. Let me be considerate of my country, of my fellow citizens and my associates in everything I say and do. Let me do right to all, and wrong no man."
He would have expected no less of an effort here.
July 1996 / August 1998
"Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, "Go south to the road-- the desert road-- that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza." So he started out, and on his way he met an Ethiopian eunuch, an important official in charge of all the treasury of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians. This man had gone to Jerusalem to worship, and on his way home was sitting in his chariot reading the book of Isaiah the prophet. The Spirit told Philip, "Go to that chariot and stay near it." Then Philip ran up to the chariot and heard the man reading Isaiah the prophet. "Do you understand what you are reading?" Philip asked. "How can I," he said, "unless someone explains it to me?" So he invited Philip to come up and sit with him. The eunuch was reading this passage of Scripture: "He was led like a sheep to the slaughter, and as a lamb before the shearer is silent, so he did not open his mouth. In his humiliation he was deprived of justice. Who can speak of his descendants? For his life was taken from the earth." The eunuch asked Philip, "Tell me, please, who is the prophet talking about, himself or someone else?" Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus. As they traveled along the road, they came to some water and the eunuch said, "Look, here is water. Why shouldn't I be baptized?" And he gave orders to stop the chariot. Then both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and Philip baptized him. When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord suddenly took Philip away, and the eunuch did not see him again, but went on his way rejoicing. Philip, however, appeared at Azotus and traveled about, preaching the gospel in all the towns until he reached Caesarea."
Sometimes, you never know what God has in mind until you get there.
My name is Perry Liston. I'm a street preacher. I've been down here on the streets of Portland, Oregon for a good many years, and the people know me. I preach twice a week in one of the missions down near the waterfront. I've seen hundreds of men in my years, but Clark stood out above them all. Literally.
I was at the mission, preparing for my evening sermon, when they opened the doors and the men shuffled in with their posessions in tow. They quickly claimed the seats closest to the kitchen, to be the first in line for the meal which followed the message. I looked them over as I had hundreds before them, trying to see beyond the facade of dirt and grime and tattered clothing, and see the hurting little child hiding inside.
Then my eyes caught one man walking in, and I was momentarily transfixed. He stood over six feet tall. Both his skin and hair color was a deep golden tan. The texture of his skin was rough. His beard was unruly, and it looked as if he had never really dealt with a developing beard before. He walked slowly, deliberately, cautiously. There was a hesitancy in his step, as if he was sizing up each movement of his body before he executed it. He scanned the room, and his eyes briefly caught mine. His eyes -- never mind the fact that they seemed to sparkle with a golden quality -- were clear. This was a man who had never succumbed to the bottle or the needle. He nodded his head at me briefly in respect -- that was something I had seen before, but rarely in a first-timer.
He took a seat in the back -- no surprise there -- and relaxed a bit. I have often referred to the accumulated presence of sin in a man's life as carrying a box of rocks on their backs, but I rarely saw such an example as was in this man. Inwardly, I started praying for this man specifically. I knew God had this tanned giant here for a reason, and at that moment I knew I was going to be a part of his life.
I continued looking around at the men, and the few women, in the mission, greeting some, talking briefly to others I knew, giving hugs to several regulars. But that was all too brief, and I went to the podium to begin the services.
The message was, as usual, straight and simple: sin in their lives has kept them from peace, and Jesus Christ died so that forgiveness could be made and they could find peace. Now it was time for the altar call. Corporate prayer for all that would accept the free gift of God's love, and turn from their former ways to a new life.
I smiled when I saw the tanned giant stand up, and move towards the front. There was no hesitancy in his step this time. He knew what he wanted, and we were soon kneeling side-by-side at the front of the room. His voice was strong, but I heard the crack of emotion as he prayed for forgiveness. My eyes snapped open when he confessed to murder and violent acts, but my heart went out as I saw tears running down his cheeks and dripping onto his knees. This was a man with a deep past, and that past was now being cleaned up by the blood of the Lamb.
Minutes passed. I heard the shuffle of men heading for the soup line. But we didn't budge from our spot. As he confessed and cried out for forgiveness, I put my arm around his massive shoulders and felt the love of God flow from me. I was also in tears, knowing that this man was being forgiven, and that all Heaven was rejoicing from it.
When we finally stood up, knees and legs aching from the strain, he raised to his full height, took in a deep breath, and virtually yelled out, "PRAISE THE LORD!!" This exclamation brought a spontaneous silence to the room, and all eyes were suddenly upon us. I was not embarassed, because I knew the joy this man was now feeling, and my eyes misted over with wetness. He turned to face me, and suddenly leaned down and gave me a massive bear hug! I had the wind knocked out of me, but I wasn't about to say anything to spoil this man's moments of rejoicing.
"What's your name, Brother?" I asked him, slightly out of breath.
"Clark," he answered.
"You got a place for the night?"
"No," he answered, slightly embarassed.
"You do now," I told him. "You'll stay with me. Where's your stuff?"
"All I have is this," and he indicated the clothes he was wearing.
I nodded. "OK. Let's see what we can do about getting you something better to wear. But first, let's get something to eat. When was the last time you ate?"
He paused. "Yesterday."
"OK. I know the guy in the kitchen. Let's see what I can do."
I got us some hot soup and a couple of better-than-average sandwiches, and we sat down to eat. He had three bowls of soup to my one, and I split my sandwich with him after his was gone. He refused the coffee -- good choice! -- and went for water instead. The cook brought us over a couple of cartons of milk, and told us that they'd be closing up the kitchen in about ten minutes. I told him thanks, then turned back to Clark.
"What's your last name, Clark?"
He paused, trying to stuff his mouth with food so that he wouldn't be able to answer. Finally, embarassingly, he relented. "Savage," he said softly.
We continued to talk. As his background emerged, it was obvious that Clark had been all over the world. He spoke of exotic locations and faraway lands. But there was something about it all that didn't quite compute. And details that I could see were obviously left out. I didn't press it. However, suddenly, I stopped. Clark continued to talk about some area in the Pacific, but I wasn't listening now. Something had clicked. Clark noticed the change in my face, and stopped talking.
"Pastor Perry? Are you all right?"
My head was tilted slightly, and my mouth was open. Both of us were silent. Then a single word came out: "Junior?"
Clark took a deep breath, exhaled, looked me straight in the eyes, and nodded once.
My mind could not comprehend what I was concluding, but I spoke anyway. "Clark Savage Junior. 'Doc' Savage?"
He tried downplaying things. "I have been called by that name."
I looked around. "You are Doc Savage?" I asked, my voice now soft - not to be overheard - but intense.
"But that was fifty years ago. I have read many of your adventures."
"Thank you. I've been through a lot."
The satire shook me out of my shock. "Well, that's an understatement of monumental proportions. Were they all true?"
"Yes. Maybe some of the details were exaggerated, but the events occured as reported."
Questions flooded my mind. "The Doc Savage of the novels lived over fifty years ago. Yet you hardly look like a man of ninety."
His face contorted as he struggled with his memories. "I am not entirely sure of what happened. I was in Maine. In the mountains." He paused, and corrected himself. "Actually, I was in some subterranean caverns under the mountains. I'd gone after....someone. Then there was a peculiar smell. I can only assume it was a gas of sorts, whether man-made or natural, I don't know. I succumed to it. When I awoke, I discovered that several decades had passed, I had not aged physically, and I had somehow been transported to Oregon."
I had heard a lot of things down on the streets, but this one took me by surprise. I leaned back in my chair. "No doubt, you experienced a massive culture shock."
A small smile crossed his lips. "No doubt."
"How long have you been....back?"
"Two weeks," he answered.
"Did you try and contact your base in New York?"
He shook his head. "Yes. No use. The telephone numbers I knew had been either replaced or discontinued long ago. And I don't fully know my way around this time's information grapevine." He took a deep breath. "Besides, what would I tell them, if indeed they were still alive?"
"Good point. You are a man out of his time." I paused. "But God has allowed it to happen, and there is a reason for it that we will soon know."
"I agree." He nodded with confidence.