He approaches the man at the white picket fence. The man holds a garden hose and is watering his tiny cut of lawn in Hacienda Heights.
“That’s me. You two are new.”
“I’m Elder Laws. This is Elder Smith.”
“Ohh. You guys are the zone leaders the other two were talking about.”
“We missed an interview with you today.”
“Yeah, I didn’t go. Melissa and the kids were there.”
“The other missionaries thought you were ready to be baptized.”
“Yeah, I thought so too, but maybe not.”
“Wanna talk about that?”
“I mean, not really. If I did, I would have gone today.”
The missionary smiles. “Well, since I’m here now …”
Edgar lowers his head and looks at the water pouring out.
“The missionaries you’re working with are preparing you to join Melissa and the kids in the temple to be sealed forever. What could get in your way of that?”
Edgar gazes across the street and doesn’t meet his look.
“I got a history, man. I done a lot of bad stuff.”
“Sure, that’s what repentance and baptism are for.”
“You know, I change my cellphone every couple of months. I used to hang bad paper, and this one cop has been tracking me forever. Every once in a while, he gets my number somehow and calls me and tells me that he’s coming for me. So we move around a lot, change numbers and stuff.”
“You used to write bad checks?”
“I done a ton of bad stuff. Back before Melissa and the kids. I don’t do that stuff no more.”
“What other kind of stuff?”
“I was in a gang. All the stuff you do in a gang. Robberies, drugs, fights, bad checks, counterfeiting.”
“Ever kill anyone?”
Edgar takes a step back, whistles, and looks at the sky.
“It happened when I was young. In South Central. There was a gang of us. We killed a guy.”
The missionary nods. “Ok. So your feeling was right. You can’t be baptized right now. You would have to be approved by the First Presidency, and they will want you to go to church for at least six months before taking your application. So I will let the other missionaries know to keep working with you, and you all can take it from there.”
“That sounds good.”
Back in the car, he looks at Elder Smith. “Let’s head back to the pad. I gotta finish packing. I’m due at the mission president’s home in an hour.”
“How did you know he had killed someone?”
“Taught a lot of gang members. If they were blood in and they say they’ve done all kinds of gang stuff, they’ve usually killed someone. And they feel guilty about it now, like they don’t deserve their lives.”
This is the last official missionary assignment he will complete. The next morning, he will fly home to Texas.