“Sounds like my father. Tell me about it.”
The deputy looked around. “Let’s go in that café. I could use a cup a coffee and maybe breakfast.”
“I got a dollar. I’ll buy.”
By the time the eggs and bacon, flapjacks, honey, and a slab of beef was set in front of them to enjoy, the cups that had been filled three times, the story came out.
The elder Fount had been in a notorious saloon on the edge of Denver. The poker game was wild and high stakes. The barmaid had brought another round of drinks to the drunken Right Reverend Fount and he grabbed her, pulling her into his lap. The gambler across the table told he to let her go. He refused. The gambler got up and smacked the retired phony preacher with his gun. The preacher challenged him to a duel for his honor. The gambler provided him with a gun and then stepped out the back door. The gun was empty, the gambler’s wasn’t. Three shots were fired and only one hit preacher Fount. It was a good one, a quarter inch over his right eye. He died instantly.
Daniel felt the catch in his throat and worked hard to hold back tears. His father would never have another chance to change his ways. “I’d like to go make arrangements after we finish here. Which parlor has him?”
The deputy slurped another slug of the acidic coffee before saying, “It’s just down the block and around the corner. I’ll walk ya down there. Need a formal identification for my report on the murder. That gambler is going to swing from the county gallows, my friend.”
“If I forgive him will that change anything?”
“No. Would you really forgive the man who killed your father?”
“Yes I would. I believe I can do that and be alright with the court’s ruling.” He turned to his meal, carefully cutting a fair sized hunk of beef and putting it in his mouth.
“Don’t think I could do that, Preacher Daniel. Matter of fact, I’m sure I couldn’t do that.”
“A week ago I couldn’t have done it either. Let me tell ya why I can now.”
Twenty minutes later the deputy said, “Maybe someday I’ll think that way, but not just now.”
“Don’t wait too long. Come tonight and I’ll tell ya more.”
In the funeral parlor, the Right Reverend Lawrence P. Fount was laid out on a marble slab boosted four feet off the ground by two marble pedestals looking right peaceful and dead. His head was covered with a cloth. “He died instantly, young Daniel, instantly,” was the mortician’s opening remark.
“That’s my father? I want to see his face.” was all Daniel could say for a few moments.
“Son, when a man is shot with a .44 in the back of the head, there is no face.”
The deputy introduced Daniel to the mortician, Ev Biscotti. “He’s the best there is in this town.”
“Why thank you, Tor. I’ll put that in my next flier.”
The mortician turned to Daniel, “It’s a shame he had to die like that, shot in the back of the head is painless, though.”
“Back of the head?” It finally sunk in enough for comment by the deputy.
“Why yes, the bullet went all the way through. When I got to cleaning him up, it was easy to tell that it went in the back and out the front.”
The deputy said, “You sure?”
“Oh, yes, quite.”
“That puts a bit of a different light on the argument that Bixby has. He says they stepped off the paces and then turned and fired. The preacher here supposedly fired first, but we found the gun had no casings left in it and didn’t smell like it had been fired recently. Bixby fired three times at him.” The deputy stopped and thought for a moment or two, “I knew that was a lie, because this man bled out not six feet from the back door. Old Bixby really wanted a sure thing then, an empty gun and then shoot in the back. Ain’t never heard of anything surer when it comes to winning a gun fight. He’ll hang, no doubt of that.” Tor turned and walked outside where he sat on the steps writing his notes while he waited for Daniel.
Daniel finally came out, turning toward the caravan without even seeing the deputy.
“What that your father, Daniel.”
“Yeah, I checked the stuff Mr. Biscotti took from his pockets and the rings on his fingers,” Daniel held his hand out showing three rings, “It was him.”
The deputy jotted down his affirmation. “What you gonna do now, Daniel.”
“Preach the Word and try to live like Jesus.”
“Man, you sure do have that stuff stuck in your head don’t you?”
“Sure do. Makes life easier.” He turned and kept on walking.
The deputy went to the office to file his report with the marshal, knowing he would have to go get the gambler, Bixby. He thought of how he could set up a fake breakaway by Bixby so he could kill the man, but then the words Daniel had said to him stopped him cold. Something about forgiving those that hurt you the worst. Not his normal way of thinking. He’d have to think on it.
By sundown, the gambler was in jail, alive, Tor was sitting in row four on the aisle, Daniel was ready for the night’s service, the place was packed, and Miss Evelyn was warming up to sing, ‘Amazing Grace,’ always a favorite of every crowd. The pianist began playing as Miss Evelyn strolled onto the stage from the wings.
As the pianist reached the second time through the melody, Evelyn began singing. The crowd went quiet and listened.
Daniel got up from his knees in the wings as she hit verse three. By verse four he was ready, standing behind the wing curtain with his Bible in hand, something he had not always done on nights before. The song ended as Evelyn sang verse one again ending it with a repeat of, ‘But now I see.’
The applause was tremendous.
Daniel waited until it began to die before stepping out.
The room went silent.
Daniel began with, “Tonight we will see. WE will see.” He paused, took a deep breath, and gave them the words that God had given the world in His book about the blind seeing.
An hour later the crowd was getting antsy. He felt it. He stopped and prayed.
The piano player played slow and soft, ‘Amazing Grace.’ Daniel invited them to come to the front and speak with him or maybe even the pastor from the night before. Miss Evelyn began to sing quietly, so quietly that the back rows could not even hear her, but they knew she was singing.
The deputy was the first one to meet Daniel at the front. Daniel threw his arm over the man’s shoulders and said, “Are you ready to be God’s’ man?”
“No. I’m only here to protect you. The gambler escaped and swore he would kill you before he was caught again. He also stated he would never be put in jail again. You and me need to be careful.”
“I will. Why don’t you move up on the stage and keep your eyes on the whole crowd and then those who want to can get down here to me.”
“I’ll be watching.”
Nothing more happened until early the next morning when Daniel heard Evelyn scream in the caravan above his bed. He leaped out of bed and through the canvas curtains that gave him privacy. A scuffle was going on in the caravan. He ran to the back and threw open the door to see Evelyn being pounded by the fists of an angry man.
“Where is that lying phony? I’m gonna kill him just like I killed that phony reverend of a father,” the man yelled in the face of the cowed woman.
Daniel said a quiet tone he didn’t feel, “I am here.”
The man turned and leaped at him. Daniel ducked allowing the man to fly over him and onto the ground. Daniel spun around and leaped on top of the man. The man sliced his arm with a knife Daniel had not seen. Daniel grabbed the man’s wrist and twisted his entire arm in a direction the arm was never designed to bend. The man dropped the knife and kneed Daniel in the groin. Daniel fell back bleeding from the cut on his arm and serious pain in his crotch.
In the background, Evelyn was screaming for Daniel to kill the man. Daniel looked to see Evelyn bleeding from the face and standing in her tattered gown which left nothing to the imagination. “Go inside,” he said, swinging at the attacker.
“I’ll kill you just like I did your father, kid.” The man spit at Daniel’s face, but missed, the plug of tobacco dribbled down the front of the gambler’s vest.
“I don’t think so. I am not drunk or helpless. Surrender and you’ll get a fair trial.”
The man swung a roundhouse blow that missed as Daniel stepped inside to deliver two heavy blows to the killer’s flabby gut. The man fell back.
Daniel followed hitting him with blow after blow, continuing even after the man was on his back in the dirt as he said, “Surrender. Surrender. Surrender.”
A hand came from nowhere and spun Daniel around, pushing him to the ground away from the bleeding gambler.
The deputy said, “That’s enough. He’s out.”
The deputy walked the two steps to the gambler and grabbed his arm to pull him up. The man offered no resistance. He offered nothing. The gambler was dead.
The deputy looked at Daniel, “He’s dead. You finished him and did the city of Denver a huge favor.”
Daniel could not believe his ears. “No, he can’t be dead. I can’t kill a man. All I did was hit him with my fists. God will not forgive me for murder,” he rambled. The rambling went on even after Evelyn, wrapped in a robe, took him in her arms.
“Daniel, he was going to kill us both. You had to do it, or we both would be dead. Don’t you understand, you were defending me. The Bible says believers are to defend the weak and helpless.”
“It doesn’t say to kill the attackers. Cain slew Able with a rock and God condemned him.”
“Sometimes you have to when they offer no other way. You tried to get him to surrender and he refused. He chose to die rather than surrender to trial and hanging. Now his only judgment will be before God.”
The deputy stood up from his examination of the body, “One of your punches caught him in the nose. His nose bone was driven up into his brain. I’ll bet you never thought a punch in the face would kill him.”
“No. He died from my fist. I killed him. Killing is wrong.”
“Would you have him kill me?” Evelyn asked.
“Do you know how many other men like your father this man has killed one way or another?”