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Escape from Heaven cover

Escape from Heaven
A Novel by J. Neil Schulman
Chapter 20

Until Zero Hour on October 11th, Jesus’ return to earth was the closest held military secret since D-Day.

The Anorexic Party had to be notified that we were placing Jesus’ name on the ballot, but they had no way of knowing that we wouldn’t be running an absentee campaign for him. As far as they knew, since they had thrown up what they considered an impenetrable blockade around the Celestial Palace, we had no way of getting any of the Trinity out of their “St. Helena” exile, much less squire one of them back to earth.

I’m not going to take even a smidgen of credit for the plan by which we opened up the tunnel from the Celestial Palace to our fortress on Mt. Shasta and returned Jesus to earth. The idea, the plan, and the entire solo operation was entirely General Lindbergh’s.

Charles Lindbergh had more flying hours than anyone else in human history and he had established speed records that even today are classified military secrets. His proposal to me, made privately just after my first meeting with the Central Committee, was to place himself on round-the-clock watch for the possibility that the Anorexics would break treaty and open up a tunnel. If and when they did, he was going to fly like all get-out and place himself inside that tunnel before it closed up again.

Once inside, he was going to climb into the auto-control systems and program them to open gates at his command. He then opened up a communications gate back to my desktop so tiny that it was undetectable. He’d found a similar microgate already in operation between Heaven and the Anorexic Party headquarters in Hong Kong, but left it alone because tampering with it would have alerted the enemy to his presence.

He used the new microgate he’d set up to send me the first coded message. Then Lindy hunkered down, took some sandwiches and a thermos of coffee out of a satchel he’d packed, and waited for my signal.

You know, things just go so well when you can work with the best of the best.


For once Duj Pepperman, Los Angeles’s top-rated evening-drive-time radio-talk-show host, was going to be useful to the campaign.

I didn’t base the appeal of my current show on guests so much as call-ins. But I’d been in the radio business for most of my adult life, and over thirty years, with changing tastes and formats, I’d had more top-rated celebrities sitting at my microphone than you can find in the audience of most award shows.

Radio is a volatile business. I’d always prepared for a day when my ARB’s might take an unexpected dip and station management might decide a restructuring of my format might be needed. Celebrity guests could be good for ratings in a crunch.

I’d sent out expensive gift boxes of Mrs. Fields cookies every Christmas to my “A list,” and with the thank-you letters I got, I’d kept my Rolodex up to date.

I needed to get an immediate booking with the top-rated syndicated TV talk-show host in the country—the man who knocked Oprah into the number two ratings slot the way she’d once pounced on Phil Donahue—and when you’re in a hurry, you can’t call a show’s booker; you have to have the unlisted phone number of the star, himself.

I had the unlisted, NSA-safe spread-spectrum, voice-encrypted, PCS cell phone number of Uncle Nimlash.

I caught him early Monday morning, October 10th, as he was driving his classic Tucker ‘48 into the parking lot of CBS’s Television City. He had a policy of answering his phone by yelling, “Yeah?!” at the top of his lungs to intimidate anyone he didn’t want to talk to; I’d gotten used to it and didn’t let it bother me.

“Hey, don’t shout at me, you filthy bastard,” I answered him, “or I’ll stuff a banana up the tailpipe of that old junker of yours.”

“Hey, Pepperman, you old fart, how’re they hangin?”

“More snugly than you’d believe, my friend,” I told him.

“Hold on a second while I unhook my phone,” he said, and after a few seconds I heard a door slam, the chirping of an alarm, and he came back on, “I’m walking into my office,” he told me, “You have thirty seconds to sell me on whatever favor you want.”

“It’s not what you can do for me, Neil,” I said, “it’s what I can do for you.”

“Bullshit walks,” he said. “Give me the deal, not a blow job.”

“One question first,” I asked him. “Have you booked Eve?”

“Yeah, right,” he said. “I told my bookers I’d give the one who got me Eve a year’s salary as bonus, and they came up with bupkas. She’s not doing any show where she needs to answer questions. Why, are you saying you can deliver her for a sitdown? Name your price if you can.”

“Forget Eve; she’s yesterday’s news. I can give you Jesus Christ.”

Under normal circumstances, Nimlash would have made a wisecrack and hung up on me … but Eve’s appearance yesterday had shaken the foundations of “normal.”

Cal Tech hadn’t released its formal report yet but inside sources were leaking a draft that said in its executive summary, “After presenting this personage with an extensive series of controlled tests in our own laboratories under conditions we controlled exclusively and which she could not possibly have anticipated or manipulated, we have found no evidence of fraud and must allow for the possibility that a genuine series of paranormal actions have indeed been performed.”

“How much?” he said.

“Not a penny to us, but there are conditions. It’s tomorrow or never. We get the whole hour. Jesus will be bringing a slew of guests; you don’t see the list. No breaks, commercial, promo, or PSA’s, except for FCC mandated station ID’s. We do the show live in your New York time slot, all satellite uplinks running, plus you put your watermark on it and allow every other network, independent station, and cable outlet who wants it to carry it live or delayed. All newscasts and magazines get to use the footage until November 1st. We’ll provide our own security detail. I’ll be faxing over some sheet music; you keep your band on overtime after today’s taping, rehearsing it with stand-ins for the vocal parts, who’ll be singing nonsense lyrics that match the real ones. If a word of who your guest is gets out to anyone prior to five minutes before air time tomorrow, including to your producer, your wife, or your make-up artist, we’ll know it immediately and walk. But you get your syndicate to promote this like the Second Coming, because, my friend, that’s exactly what I’m offering you. Do we have a deal?”

He sounded like he was breathing heavily. I extended my presence to make sure he wasn’t having a heart attack. His blood pressure was 160 over 90 but his heartbeat was steady.

“Duj, you got me a job interview when I was stuck in Tucson doing weather. You know how little weather there is to report on in Tucson? I’ve never forgotten that. But I have to ask you. Is this one-hundred percent? Because this means I have to call in every marker I’ve got and tell my affiliates I’m ending the show if they don’t carry me live tomorrow.”

“It’s one-hundred-percent, 24 karat guaranteed,” I said.

“Then, he said, “deal. But if I don’t have a faxed contract from you in my office within 20 minutes, then no deal. I’m sending a notary over to your condo in one hour to witness your signature.”

“The Fedexed contract with my notarized signature was signed for by your secretary eight minutes ago,” I said, “and your word was all I needed to proceed.”

He paused.

“You’re ending my career if one of us is being scammed, Duj, and I don’t think either of our business managers will be able to save even our pension annuities from the lawsuits. Matter of fact, we’d both be lucky to stay out of prison.”

He hung up.


Next in Escape from Heaven is Chapter XXI.

Escape from Heaven is
Copyright © 2002 J. Neil Schulman &
Copyright © 2010 The J. Neil Schulman Living Trust.
All rights reserved.

My comic thriller Lady Magdalene’s — a movie I wrote, produced, directed, and acted in it — is now available for sale or rental on Video On Demand. If you like the way I think, I think you’ll like this movie. Check it out!

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