The door swings open. An Armenian man in his mid-40s smiles and lets them in without a word. He is wearing alligator skin loafers, white jeans, and a black silk button-down shirt. A pair of sunglasses sits on the top of his head. The young man and Elder Judd sit on a plush couch.
“I’m Elder Laws,” the young man says. “This is Elder Judd.”
The man cocks his head to the side. “I am Abel.”
“Nice to meet you, Abel.”
“Nice to meet you, too. You need any water or anything?”
“I’m good,” says Elder Judd. “It’s not that hot today.”
“Same here,” says the young man.
“You’re from Armenia?” says Elder Judd.
“Yes,” says Abel.
“How long have you been over here?”
“Ten years or so,” he says.
“Any family around here?”
“Yes, my mother. She lives on the next block.”
The young man pulls out his scriptures from his bag. “I’m from Texas. Elder Judd’s from Wyoming.”
“You are far from home, then,” says Abel.
“Yes. We’re missionaries for the Church of Jesus Christ. We spend two years away from home and pay our own way to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”
“Oh, interesting,” says Abel.
“You work around here?” Elder Judd says.
“Yes,” says Abel.
“Cool. What do you do?”
“Uh, I’m in business.”
“That’s good. What business?”
Abel fidgets and looks down at his hands. “To be honest with you, drugs.”
The missionaries are quiet for several moments. Then Elder Judd says, “Like pharmaceuticals?”
Abel shakes his head. “No. Cocaine mostly. A little bit of weed, but there’s not as much money in that.”
They’re quiet again. The young man stares at him, stunned at the man’s straightforward answers.
“So where do you deal?”
“All over this neighborhood,” he says. “All the drugs around here come through me.”
“You control the whole neighborhood?” says the young man.
“Yes,” says Abel.
The young man leans forward. “Do you want to learn about Jesus Christ?”
“Why did you let us in?”
Abel shrugs. “I don’t know. I try to know everyone in the neighborhood. I wanted to see who you were. Maybe you were cops.”
“You would just tell us you’re a drug dealer?”
“You’re clearly not cops.”
“You realize you’re going to die young, right?” says the young man.
Abel shakes his head. “I don’t think so. I don’t have any enemies.”
“Anyone who controls territory or has a network has enemies.”
“I don’t,” he says.
The young man tucks his scriptures back into his bag. “You know, about two weeks ago, Elder Judd and I were working this same neighborhood a couple of blocks away. And we met this woman whose son was forty-two. He was also a dealer. Six months ago, he was murdered.”
Abel shifts in his chair and glances at the window. “That is too bad. The business has hazards if you are not honest and careful.”
“You know what his mother has done every day since?”
He shakes his head without meeting their eyes.
“Nothing. The shades are drawn, and she has not left her apartment in six months. She cries all day most days.”
“That’s very sad,” he says.
“You’re going to do that to your mother,” says the young man.
“I don’t think so,” says Abel.
Something is rising in the young man. “You are going to do that to your mother. You’re going to die young. You’re not going to see it coming. And it’s going to kill your mother.”
“I think I see everything.”
“You don’t see anything,” says the young man. “You are straight killing people on this block. You probably know the guy that was killed. Maybe you killed him or had him killed.”
Abel shrugs. “It is a business with hazards.”
“And you are dealing a product that enslaves people, that burns down their marriages and relationships, that kills them. How many people have died because of you?”
“It is not because of me. I give them a product they ask for. It helps them cope with life. They are responsible. If I am not here, someone else will do it.”
“The Lord sent us here today. He sent us here to save your life. To save your mother. To save the people in this neighborhood that you are going to kill.”
Abel looks at his hands, then out the window again, but says nothing.
“You need to stop,” says the young missionary. “You need to stop this second.”
Abel shakes his head. “I don’t think so.”
“The Lord sent us here today at this moment to warn you, to give you the chance to change before it is too late. You need to stop.”
Abel is slumped in his chair now, looking away. He says nothing.
“You need to stop.”
“When you die, you cannot say you were not warned. You need to stop.”
“As a servant of the living God, I rebuke you and command you to repent or suffer the consequences and death that will surely come.”
Everything is perfectly still except Abel, who fidgets with his hands. Finally, the young man grabs his bag and stands. Elder Judd follows him. They say nothing as they walk through the door and out of the apartment.
There’s a strange feeling between them. He cannot articulate what has happened or what he has felt. They do not speak to each other as they walk to the car. They do not speak until they are sitting inside the Glendale McDonald’s, and then it is to order. And when they finally speak to each other, they say nothing of what just happened. They don’t speak of it then. They don’t speak of it that night. In fact, they never speak of it. Ever. And they never know how, when, or if their warning is fulfilled.