FREE BOOK – The DEACON – Episode 18

“Just keep walking toward the fire.”

As I approached the fire, I saw Diane sitting on a log with her hands tied in front. She didn’t look too badly abused. She was still wearing the plaid shirt even though the hem was looking a mite raggedy. The look on her face told me she just gave up all hope. I knew better. There was a hope that never lets a gal down. It wasn’t me.

They tied me to a tree and gagged me. “We don’t need no sermons so we just goin’ ta make sure you cain’t talk. You must think you are really bad chasing a group like us. Read bad.”

I looked him in the eye and nodded as I tried to make my eyes smile. Once the tying was done they just walked away and left me there. Everson was nowhere in sight.

 

I WILL GO BACK AND PUT IN A MAGICIAN HIS FATHER KNEW THAT TAUGHT HIM A FEW TRICKS. You may think that’s cheating, but that’s the way it works when you are a pantser, writing by the seat of my pants.

 

When they tied me I had set my hands in the position the magician showed me back in Kansas City. I worked my hands a bit. By working my wrists flat together, I was able to gain a lot of freedom. Whether I could get my hands loose or not was another thing. There was going to be a showdown here shortly.

I knew they weren’t going to hang onto me for very long. As dangerous as they were I had beat them so far and they would want revenge and to make sure I wasn’t ever on their trail again. Don’t think I’m bragging here, it’s just the truth. Given half a chance, this orphan sitting across the fire from me would be free and they would all be in whatever condition I left them in after the escape. I could be dead alongside them, but she would be free.

It was as if she knew what I was thinking. She lifted her head and looked through the smoke at me with a pitiful smile on her face and shook her head. I nodded back. She just bawled all the harder. Her whole body convulsed from the sobs.

I had to do something before she had a total collapse.

The rag in my mouth was nasty tasting and caused me to try, without thinking about it, to shove it out and away from my mouth. As my jaw worked the bandana around my head began to slip downward. I was able to use my tongue to get the ball in my mouth moved above the head tie. I went into a shaking fit so I could dislodge it completely and drop it to the ground between my feet.

Something licked my hands.

The dog was here.

I froze wondering what to do now. I had a fighting partner in that dog. I looked over at Diane and nodded behind me. She looked at me, saw nothing, and went back to crying.

I laughed. I laughed out loud with the head tie on my chin. The whole bunch of supposed bad guys and outlaws jumped looking in every direction except at me. I said, “You big bad badmen all worried about a girl and a wanna be Christian preacher when nothing of this is going to benefit you one dollar’s worth. That fat man you work for is going to get it all and see to it that none of you live to tell about this. You will have killed a woman. They hang men for killing women out here, don’t they? Who wants to hang first.

“I have already killed and shot holes in a bunch of you. What? About half I’d say. You gotta kill me or there will be a witness to your killin’ a woman. You gotta kill her cuz that’s what the boss man wants.

“Why do you let that fat man boss you around like he does? He says go get a girl and off you go. He says kill the girl and you’ll do it. For what? Why? So the fat man can be rich while you work for $30 a month and food. Oh yeah, you’ll have to go steal the money he pays you with.

“Wait a minute. I have it. He wants a big ranch so he doesn’t have to outlaw any more cuz you guys have done all the killing and robbing and hell raising on the roads and in the cities around here. You get blamed and he is rich. Well, you better kill us now and scatter before he comes in and kills you off one at a time after he orders you to kill us. Or, you could cut us loose and get out of here. I do not lie. I will never tell anyone who any of you are.”

I quit. Then it hit me. They had listened and never tried to stop me. If I had been them with their evil minds, I would have just drawn my gun and ended all that speech. Instead, they had listened. They knew I was right. A few of them were looking at Diane shaking their heads. One was starring me in the eye.

“You know something, men. If you would get my Bible out of my saddlebags and cut my hands loose I could show you how to get forgiveness and change your life for eternity.”

I pulled my hand loose from the knots and brought both hands around to the front. “Just hand me by Bible, boys.”

It was like magic. Every one of them had a startled look on his face. Diane fainted and wilted into a pile across the log. Before my very eyes, this is true, the group of them wilted into the trees and began saddling their horses and leaving. I reached down to untie my feet before the rope around my waist fell to the dirt.

They didn’t leave us a thing to eat. One man walked back. “Ma’am, I am truly sorry for what I done. Please forgive me. I knew better.”

Diane was fuzzy. She looked at the man, old, wrinkled, and tears running down his cheeks, and just nodded her head.

“You been forgiven, cowboy. Now go and sin no more. If you’re looking for a job, see me in Denver in a week or two.”

He turned and walked away. He said over his shoulder, “I just might do that. I wanna hear more about this forgiveness stuff. My Ma usta talk of it when she drug me to the meetings. Shoulda listened, I reckon, shoulda listened.”

We listened as he climbed to the top of the hump. Once the sounds of them retreating were gone I went to Diane, “It’s over. We can go back to your ranch. How’s that sound?”

“You worry me. How do you just talk 16 men out of killing us and then calmly tell one you’ll get him a job and then tell me we’ll go back to the ranch, my ranch, and get things back to where they were. I was scared to death. They were going to kill me, but before they did, they were going to. . .”

“Stop. It’s over. There is nothing to fear except the usual things like snakes and such.”

She just looked at me like I was some kind of a loco lunatic.

“Diane, I have a God that is in charge. I am not in charge.” The dog walked up to me. “This dog came outta nowhere and has been in the middle of the whole thing. My horse belonged to the man who killed my Dad and that horse is a mind reader, or something of the sort. What just happened was me doing what that God I believe in told me to do. I don’t ever want to kill another man. That God allowed me to end this with no more killing. Who knows, He may have a good use for a few of them, just like he has for me. Where you were seeing no hope, I knew there was hope one way or the other. It was all up to that God.”

I hugged the dog and asked him to watch things for a bit while I got some shut eye.

Diane said, “You leave a dog on watch.”

“Yup. He can hear and see better than I ever have or will. Who else better to be on watch? Where’s your blanket?”

“I’ll get it.” She walked into the trees and returned, laid her blanket next to me and laid down on it. She pulled half over her. “Good night.”

I swear she was snoring before I even found my horse, let alone my blanket. I have no idea how long it took me to snore, but it was day light when I quit.

 

OKAY, YOU’VE READ THIS FAR. TELL ME WHAT YOU THINK OF THIS PLOT TURN.

23

 

We were half a day down the trail to the Rafter B when it hit me. The fat man hadn’t been there in the hollow. All those men were just hired hands, or at least working on shares. What happened to the fat man, Everson? How many men did he have still? Where were they? Was he still dead set on grabbing the Rafter B? There were a lot of questions and mighty few answers.

Long about mid-afternoon I saw a group of cows so I swerved off the trail to check them out. All were wearing the Rafter B except one old cow and a calf. The calf looked might stringy and the old cow didn’t have a bag to speak of. I shot the calf. Feeling bad about wasting a lot of meat, I rode off to catch Diane with only a hind quarter hanging on my saddle. We were going to have a meal tonight.

The sun was straight up the next day when we spotted the buildings of the Rafter B. “You wait here. I’ll check it out and wave bandana if it’s safe. Having to use the bandana reminded me I was going to have to get a hat next store we found, my head was frying through the hair.

No one was home. I waived my bandana and Diane joined me.

Other than dirt, the place was a mess. Coffee spills, dirty dishes, a broken chair, back door leather strap hinge at the top was busted, and the beds had been slept in with boots and spurs on. New spreads were needed on both beds. In the barn there were no oats left. The hay loft was a mess with cigarette residue all over the place. Did these clowns know nothing? Even I know better than to be in the barn, specially the loft, with a fire of any kind. The bunkhouse was a disaster. Food pieces all over the place and an obvious invasion of mice and rats destroyed the hominess of the place for me. I set up camp inside the barn next to Solomon.

Diane pointed out, “The two hands we left behind to watch the place are missing. My mother’s ring and my jewelry, cheap stuff, are all gone. The gun rack is empty. All the spare rounds are gone. I did find my dad’s hunting knife. It was stuck in the kitchen counter. From the looks of the counter, they left it there quite a few times. I will kill any of them I see. They killed my father and they have ruined this place, at least the memories. My mother’s tintype is missing. She was a beautiful woman and I’ll bet one of those cowboys is dreaming of her while he holds the picture up to the light. I’m sick, just plain sick of all this. Take me to Denver. I’ll sell the place to the meanest bunch I can find and go to San Francisco.”

“Let’s give it some time for the dust to settle before you make any big decisions. I’m not ready to go back to Denver quite yet, so I can stay here with you and help ya put it all back together. Light a fire and let’s eat.”

“There’s no food left except a few spuds in the root cellar. They broke all my canning jars, too.”

“Not too bad for only being here a few days or so. I wonder what the inside of the home ranch looks like.”

The sound of horses coming into the ranch yard called us to the window.

“It’s Buck and Shorts, the two hands we left here.” She turned and ran out the front door yelling the news and crying again.

The short of the story is that there were now three men and one angry woman on the place and Diane had turned a corner to be talking rebuild and make a go of the place. She knew there was money in the bank in Denver that she would have no problem getting when needed, and she knew the ranch had been making money. “So, why don’t we make it make more money? Dad always wanted to add a couple of line cabins along the edge of the heavy woods, one to the south and one to the west.”

“Excuse me, but wouldn’t it be better to find out what’s left of the herd and check out the graze before you start building projects for things that haven’t been done because they weren’t important enough. If there is no herd, there is no need for line cabins. If there is no herd, where did it go and how do we get it back,” the puncher named Shorts sounded like a wise man.

Standing not quite five feet tall in his high heeled riding boots, he still looked like a big man. Muscles rippled as he moved, his back was straight, the left side of his face had a deep purple bruise from a discussion with one of the outlaws when they rode into the place, and his clothes were well used up.

Buck was a good six feet tall, slim as a rail, and mad as a wet cat. “Them boys was talkin’ takin’ the cows, Mizz Diane. They’s gonna kill us till Shorts whipped their big man, not the fat one but the one that thought he could whip his weight in wolverines. Shorts showed him the error of his ways. After that we just saddled up and rode out. Ten to two left us no choice and they never even tried to stop us. I think most of the cows is over to west of here. Leastwise, that’s where we stashed the ones we found.”

Diane hugged them both, again. “Thank you, you both have a job here as long as there is a here.”

Ten hard days of riding showed us that most of the stock was still around. Diane figured she was a couple hundred short, but we hadn’t worked much to the north yet.

At dinner that night, I said, “We need supplies. That sack of oats Shorts here found in the barn has helped us, but it’s almost gone. Oatmeal mush and beef just isn’t my idea of great grub. It might keep our ribs from showin’ but it ain’t making me any fatter. A man’s gotta have a gut if he’s to be a big shot preacher, you know.”

Diane said, “Hush up and say the grace.”

Next morning Shorts and Diane rode for Denver while Buck and I started digging the cows out of the brush north of the ranch house.

Five or six miles to the north we found over a dozen cows bellowin’ without calves. All of them were bagged up to the leaking stage. “These here mama cows got calves somewhere. From the looks they ain’t nursed in two days. Two days ain’t much of a lead when it comes to trackin’ them baby critters,” Buck was angry. He pointed his horse north, writing big S’s in the dirt with horse tracks as he searched for the trail of them calves. The cows kept up their chorus of bellows as I rode off to join him. My S’s were made to the east of his, me knowing where the Lazy E was let me point right for it.

Half a mile later with the bellowing following us, Buck whooped and waived his hat. I waved the raggedy hat I found in the bunkhouse back at him and rode over. Sure enough, calf tracks separating from the cow tracks. The cows had been forcibly pushed back by two riders while three moved the calves north. While we were sorting out the tracks, the cows trotted on by us still bellowing.

“Let’s follow them,” Buck shouted.

I nodded and we were off at a pretty fair clip to keep up with the cows. They didn’t run far, maybe two miles at best, when we went over a rise and there below us in a patch of green grass with a trickle of water running through it, were a dozen calves. The cows called and the babies come a running.

One after another they hit a teat and commenced to sucking.

One after another they cried and backed off.

Looked at Buck, “That normal?”

“No.” He shook out a loop and laid it over the head of the nearest calf. “Get down there and lay that poor critter down so’s we can check it out.

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FREE BOOK – The DEACON – Episode 12 – Comments requested

15

 

Long about noon, Daniel caught sight of a rooster tail of dust off to the west. In moments he realized that the dust was being followed by dust. “Solomon, someone is being chased over there. We better check it out. Tor and Miss Diane might be in trouble.”

Daniel had just crossed the trail of tracks from their moving toward the Lazy E. The dust was coming straight for him. He moved off to the side of the trail to a group of rocks and scrub trees of some kind where he found a safe place for Solomon and a nest for him to set an ambush.

Just as he laid his Winchester over a rock he saw a woman riding Tor’s horse leading Tor on the pack horse and, from Tor’s position, he was hurt. No sooner had he figured that all out than eight riders topped the rise not a hundred yards behind. The woman was nice to look at even if she was dirty, sweating, and scared. He stood so she could see him and then squatted back down triggering two rounds toward the gun hands just as three of them decided it was time to shoot at the gal and Tor.

One man rolled off his horse under the hooves of the horses behind. The Deacon was fascinated by the dance of the wounded with the horses. One horse hit the man and tumbled. Now there were two men and a horse involved in the dance. “Not a pretty sight even if it is interesting,” he said to the rocks.

The gal led Tor in behind a group of trees fifty feet past the Deacons position. The Deacon saw that Tor was covered in blood down his left side and the gal was on the edge of panic as she frantically jumped off her horse and tried to catch Tor as he fell off the wrong side of his horse. The deputy landed in the dirt with a plop like a watermelon dropped off a roof. The gal screamed and tried to get around the pack horse that was in a panic himself.

The Deacon looked back at the gun hands. They still came. None of them were firing their guns. Deacon figured all their targets had disappeared. As the six remaining riders slowed they spread out into a line like a cavalry charge. Behind a ways, one rider was running trying to catch up his limping horse and the second was sitting up in the dirt watching the blood run from his arm and trying to tie his bandanna around the wound. The man in the middle of the line became his target as he fingered the trigger. The man fell and five riders came straight at him firing as fast as they could.

He moved down so his long gun was situated between two rocks and the two rocks gave him a tremendous amount of cover. Two shots brought down two more riders causing the other three to pull off into the trees up sloped from the trail. One man got up and staggered to a rock to hide behind while the other two just stayed still.

One man shouted, “You give us the woman and you can leave in one piece and upright.”

“You go back and tell the boss that ain’t gonna happen,” the Deacon replied.

“There’s still three here to your one.”

“There used to be eight. What’s that tell you?”

“You got lucky from ambush, that’s what.” The man moved as he spoke.

Deacon saw the move and splattered rocks all over the man. A few pieces of rock cut deep and drew blood. “I could have killed you, hombre, but I’m feelin’ a bit generous. I don’t know what you 8 had in mind for the young lady, but I’ll find out and your boss will hear from me. I don’t stand for a bunch of big strong growed men picking on one woman alone. You ought to be ashamed.”

The speaker for the ranch said, “Tell ya what. Let us ride outta here and we’ll share your words with the boss. I will leave one man here to make sure you don’t go nowhere until I get back.” There was a laugh in his voice.

The Deacon simply replied, “Nope. You all leave taking your wounded and dead, right now, or the buzzards and coyotes will feast tonight. I’ll just kill the rest of you.” He fired one shot and took the heel off the man’s boot. It had been showing since the last move. “I coulda put that right next to the knife scar you have on your cheek, hombre. Now move or die. If you move this direction or stay you will die. I promise.”

“Who are you? Why’s your nose in none of your business?”

“They call me The Deacon. I’ll be happy to say the service over you graves and read a few select passages from the Good Book. Now git!”

Silence reigned for about ten heartbeats.

“We’ll leave.” The man stood up in plain sight, turned, and went for his horse. He looked across the trail and yelled, “Come on, boys. Let’s gather the horses and pick up our casualties and go back to see Everson. I ain’t goin’ against that gun over there for no amount of money.”

He climbed aboard his horse and trotted after two of their horses grazing back down the trail.

Daniel stayed alert until he saw them cross the high spot. He rode to the high spot to watch them gather up another horse and keep on down the trail to the ranch. It was over.

He went back to where the girl and Tor had turned in.

Tor lay in the dirt with the girl working with pieces of Tor’s shirt trying to stem the bleeding from his side. “Ma’am. Let me get on that. I’ve done it before.”

“So have I.” There was a definiteness in her voice. “Get me some water.”

“Yes Ma’am.”

He handed her his canteen.

“How’d he get hit.”

“Lucky shot. Everson’s gun fighters and rustlers were behind us a good two hundred yards when one of them up and pulls his Winchester out and lets one go in our direction. First shot. One shot. Zap it nails this man right through the ribs. Ain’t no air bubbles, which is good.”

“There is no exi

t wound either,” Daniel said.

“I see that. Nothing we need to worry about now. Who is he?”

“Man’s name is Tor. He’s a deputy city marshal outta Denver. We’re on a fishing trip.”

“And you are?”

“My name is Daniel Fount. Lately of Denver.”

“Fount? You that preacher?” She smiled from a dirty face.

“Yup. That’d be me.”

“Tor here told me we needed to ride and meet the Deacon.”

“That’s be me. He give me that name. I ain’t likin’ it much.”

She turned back to the wound. Daniel watched as her straw colored hair caught the slant of the sun light. He had seen her eyes in the discussion and was startled to remember they were green, a deep pale green. “We buried your father right proper. And, went looking for you. Almost lost you after the rains. If it hadn’t a been for a man in that little town, Black, we woulda never found ya.”

She started as if stung by a bee. “Pa is dead. He told me that Pa had been taken care of and that’s how you found out about me.”

“We did take care of him. He was dying when I found him and talked a bit before he died. I found out you are Diane and someone named Everson owned a ranch and was givin’ you trouble. He also said to watch out for someone or something that starts with ‘Bur’.”

“Bur?”

“Yep, he said kill Bur and died.”

“I know no Bur whatever follows.”

“It’s a mystery we need to figure out. For right now let’s get him on his horse with the saddle and move away from this spot. I’d rather not be here when the rest of the riders come back as I’m sure they must. This time they’ll bring the boss.”

“Everson is a killer and thief.”

“Perhaps we can end his sin if he shows up. Where’s a good place to defend with water, food, and a clear area for a battle ground?”

“The Rafter B. Pa’s ranch. Oh, I guess it’s my ranch now. Ma’s been dead for three years. Typhoid got her.”

The rode.


16

 

They spent another hour working at hiding their tracks as they traveled just north of west. Daniel spent much of his time looking back from every high point.  They came over a hump to find a small stream flowing in the opposite direction of their travel. Making a point of entering the stream at an angle up stream, they turned down stream once they were in the water.

“This riding in the water is losing time. It’s just plain slow, and I don’t like riding down in this little valley. No trees, no cover, anyone coming over that rim could see us a couple of miles away,” Daniel said in a low voice.

Tor said, “It can work.”

Daniel and Diane were both surprised by his comment. He hadn’t spoken during the ride.

“Welcome back.”

“Find a rock shelf or gravel and get out of here.”

They had passed a shelf a ways back. “Let’s go back to that red rock shelf where we almost dumped our horses, Diane. You remember, the rock was so slick we almost dumped the horses.”

“I remember.”

Daniel turned around and led the way.

 

The Rafter B wasn’t a large ranch. The headquarters consisted of a house about thirty feet square, a steep roofed barn, a small bunkhouse, and a couple of other small sheds and shacks. The corrals were bull tight and well laid out. The main corrals were dog boned with two large areas our on the ends and a narrow runway between them. Off the runway was three or four small corrals. Lots of gates swing in both directions allowed them to move and sort cows nice and easy with a minimum number of hands.

“Home sweet home,” said Diane. “And, it’s all mine. Only, I don’t want it now.”

“There’s no way a woman could hold a ranch like this alone.” Daniel was looking around as he said, “It is the best laid out place I’ve seen, but I haven’t seen many out this far.”

They rode up to the house. Diane stepped off her horse onto the porch with practiced ease, dropping the reins at the horse’s front feet. “You can stash the horses in the barn or the corral next to it. There’s a door that’ll allow the horses to go in and out. Should be feed in the barn unless some range rider used it all since we been gone. Ain’t happened yet, but Pa was always worried it would happen when we left the place. I’ll see if there’s anything left to eat.” She stepped through the front door.

Daniel led Tor’s horse to the bunkhouse and helped him down. Inside he laid him in a bunk on his good side and pulled the shirt bandages off slow and easy. Using his knife he cut around the one spot that was stuck to the wound. “Wooowee. You got more black and blue than you got pink. Good news is that the bleeding has stopped and I can see a bump under a rib just around the corner on your back. Let’s get some hot water and cut that slug out.” He looked around. “Stove over there in the corner with a dutchoven on top. Be back in a few moments, don’t go anywhere.”

“Sure. I’ll be right here for you to cut up like a side of beef.”

“Naw. I won’t do that. I just might carve the Lord’s Prayer in your hide though.”

A couple of old broken rails from the corrals and a match took care of the stove. Water from the well filled the dutchoven. An old shirt hanging on a nail made new bandages. Daniel found a whet stone in the barn next to the forge and worked on Tor’s knife a bit before he announced, “Okay, Mr. Deputy, it’s time for the Right Reverend Daniel Fount to get rid of the sin in your body. I will deal with it one slice at a time. Bite this.” He shoved a hunk of folded leather in the man’s mouth as he opened it to speak.

Daniel checked the lump again and with a quick move sliced a two inch gash over the slug.

“Man, leave a little there.” Tor was not speaking softly.

 

Free Book – The DEACON – Episode 8 – Tell me what ya think

“I wanted you to come back anyhow, but not this way. Did ya have to bring your friends?”

“They got a bit pushy. Who’s that you got there with you?”

“Wounded man. Still breathing, but that’s about it.”

Tor leaned into his rifle butt and squeezed off a round that took a horse out from under one of the riders. Daniel’s following shot sent the rider tumbling. The last rider pulled up behind a large fir tree filled with moss. Dan couldn’t see him. He put five rounds through the tree about man high.

Tor did the same thing as Daniel reloaded.

While Daniel was reloading, he could hear the wounded man trying to say something. He leaned down to listen. He whispered desperately, “They took her.”

“Who?”

“They took her, my daughter, they took her.”

“Where?”

“North . . . uuhhh . . . west.”

“What’s her name?”

He tried to sit up. Daniel held him down. “Calm down, we’ll help ya.”

“They took her.”

“What’s her name and why?”

Daniel could see that the man was getting weaker and weaker with every breath.
“What’s her name?”

“Diane. Just like her . . .  mother . . . Diane.”

“Where would they take her?”

“The ranch. Get her back. They’ll …. kill …” He tried to sit up.

Daniel eased him back down, “Who are they?”

He breathed a shallow breath. Blood oozed from the hole in his chest. Daniel could see him gather himself for one more answer. “Lazy E brand. My . . .Rafter B. . . save it for her.” He paused with a gasp that Daniel thought was his death rattle. “Kill . . . Bur…”

This time he did die. It was over for him.

Tor stopped firing as a horse ran out from behind the tree they had fired at. “Let’s go see what’s what over there.” He looked at the dead man. “He still alive?”

“No. Just died. We got a problem.”


11

“I don’t have a problem, yet. All we gotta do is make sure those three over there are dead or gone and then do some buryin’.”

“Tor, this man says they took his daughter and he has a ranch they are trying to take from her.”

Nothing had moved for a while. Tor stood up so he could see the ground just over the creek bank. Nothing. “Let’s ride.”

‘It is over,’ Daniel thought, ‘I killed at least one more man. God forgive me.’ He started shaking.

Tor walked his horse through the stream and up the bank into the campsite before looking back, “You comin’ or you gonna stand there and feel sorry for yourself. We defended ourselves from them killers and now we gotta take care the leavin’s.”

Daniel walked through the stream and started toward the fir tree he had filled full of holes. He was half way there when he remembered Solomon. The horse was off a couple hundred yards to the east grazing on the sparse grass alongside the creek. “Solomon, you’d do me a favor if you came here.” He whistled.

The horse lifted his head, looking straight at Daniel. He bowed his head for another bite and Daniel thought he was in for a long walk to get the horse. Instead, Solomon picked up his head and started trotting toward him with his head off to one side to keep from stepping on the reins. Daniel waited and when the horse got close, Daniel grabbed the saddle horn and climbed aboard wondering what else this horse could do.

At the fir tree, Tor was examining the bleeding man on the ground. “Bout time you got here. Check them other two. This one’s still alive. If them two are dead, check the horses for brands and clean out the saddlebags for letters and stuff that might tell us about these men. Did that other horse run far?”

Daniel looked around. “Nah, he’s over at the tree line munching on the grass.”

“Check him out. We could use a pack horse or two.”

Daniel checked the first man. Dead. The second was still alive, but just barely. He had a round through his middle just above his belt line and another in a lung which was bubbling pink blood.

He hunkered down next to the man, “Fella, you are dying. Are you right with your Creator?”

“You . . some kinda . . . idjot . . or what?”

“I’m a preacher.”

“You . . shot me.”

“You tried to kill me. What did you expect? Would it make a difference if I said I’m sorry.”

The man spit in his face. “Damn you.” He fell back and breathed one last breath as one last bubble popped on his chest.

“I think you are the one that is damned. I just need God’s guidance in a better way to deal with men like you.” Daniel was talking out loud as Tor eased up behind him.

“My man’s dead.” He heard what Dan said and added, “What other way is there to handle men that are coming at you shooting and trying to kill you and send you to heaven?”

“I don’t rightly know. Me and God will have a couple of long discussions about this.”

“Daniel, why do you think God gave you the gift of being able to hit a fly in the eye at fifty paces with a six gun and take out a running rabbit at a hundred?”

“So I can eat.”

“You really mean that don’t you. You’re not just talkin’?”

“Yeah.”

“Did you ever think that maybe God wants a Christian man to stand up for the weak and take care of the feeble, the orphans, the women, and such?”

“Well, yeah. Been thinking and praying on that, but God ain’t done no answerin’ yet.”

Tor swept his arm around the whole scene before them and said, “You really believe this isn’t God speaking. What’s it gonna take? You waiting for Him to boom out of the clouds with words loud and clear?”

“That would be nice and definite, wouldn’t it?”

“Yeah, but I don’t think He works that way. He’s a bit more subtle. He sends three killers after you while you’re helping an old man die. He tells you there’s a weak woman off someplace in trouble, a woman that can lose her ranch. We don’t even know if there’s kids involved. Matter of fact, we don’t know that the woman is a woman and not a snotty nosed kid still.”

“Let’s bury these four bodies and get on up the trail of the rest of the killers.”

“Sounds like a good idea. We done took care of a bunch of killers and put a dent in the forces of evil what took the gal. Come to think on that, did you think you were fighting evil here just as much as you would be in the tent or the opry hall or wherever? Too bad we don’t have Miss Evelyn here to make for a nice send off for these three hoodlums and specially the old man over there.”

“Shut up,” Daniel smiled. “Let’s get the burying done. You dig and I’ll say the words over their graves.”

“You help dig and I’ll listen to the words. How’s that?”

“What we gonna dig with? This dirt’s hard as a rock and filled with rocks.”

“Let me look around.” He rode off toward the trees.

Daniel caught up the only horse standing. He had to finish one that was wounded too bad to save. He found a bit of jerky and some pinon nuts in one set of bags and nothing else but a few rounds of ammo and a clean shirt. Tor claimed the shirt and they split the ammo.

The sun was low on the horizon as they set the last two rocks on the grave. “I really wish we could have given the old man his own grave and not had to bury him with his killers.”

“Get out of it. There was just this one big knocked down tree I could find. They all fit in the root hole and there was a mess of rocks up close. They are dead. You told me yourself as we laid them to rest, these are just casing for their souls. God will pick them up later.”

“I guess you could say it thataway, but I still don’t like it.”

“Daniel, when you get to likin’ killin’ and buryin’, it’s time for you to hang up your gun and spend the rest of your days praying.” Tor pointed toward their horses. “Let’s mount up and git. By the way, I like what that gunsmith did with the grips on your gun. That engraved cross in blood red says a lot about the man carrying the gun.”

“It gives me a good grip, but I think it’s a bit dramatic.”

“Not for the showman for the Lord that you are.”

“I ain’t nothin’ but a servant in the Lord’s house.”

“Well now, let me do some figurin’ here. The Lord’s house is the Church, right?”

“Well, yeah, you could call it that.”

“And the servants of the Church are called Deacons, right.”

“Yeah. They were set up to help the weak widows and orphans.”

“So that makes you a Deacon, don’t it.”

“I guess you could say that. All I want is to be a servant of the Lord.”

“Okay, Deacon, you got yourself a name.”

“What? You’re gonna change my name?”

“Yup. God did that with Abram and Saul when they started working for Him. Why not you? I like the ring to the name, Deacon.”

“I ain’t too sure, Tor. I ain’t really cut out to be helpin’ widows and orphans and such.”

“Which piece is missing?”

The Deacon didn’t have an answer.

After tying two saddles to the saddle on the one standing horse, and making sure the guns were tied on tight, they rode into the trees with rifle butts on their thighs, leading their new packhorse. The tracks led them not more than a hundred yards into the trees before turning left and following the terrain through the trees until they cut to the right and uphill along a cut with a small trickle of water flowing and up over a pass a ways past the spring that fed the trickle.

Once over the pass, Tor called a halt for the night. “Gonna be too dark to see the track right soon and I’m getting’ a mite hungry.”

“I’m beyond hungry.”

The DEACON – Episode 7

“Well, how many times am I gonna be hitting my gun with a rock?”

“Probably never, but if you drop something on the hammer when it’s in your holster, you will have a nice groove down your leg for the rest of your life, which might not be very long. A shot like that just right and you’d bleed out in a minute, or get gangrene, or lose the use of that leg due to a shattered knee, or just plain have an ugly scar on a weak leg.” He handed the pistol back to Daniel, who slipped it back in its home on his hip. “All them options are not too healthy. A working man cannot afford to carry a round under the hammer. Once you get in the battle, the first time you reload you fill them all. If you know the battle is coming, you load them all. Got it?”

“Yes, sir. None of them options sound good to me. Don’t want the battle either.” He drew and shot a large rattlesnake coming out from a hole under the rock right next to Tor. “There’s supper.”

Tor jumped and landed about six feet away from where he started. “You eat snake?”

“Nope. Hear it’s good though.”

“I don’t eat snake,” he said as he continued to watch the reptile writhe in the dust making mud with its blood. “I’ll be back in a few minutes. Get us a fire going.”

“For supper?”

“Yup. You the eatin’est feller I ever rode with.”

“How do you think I keep my manly figure.”

Tor went hunting.

Daniel went fishing as soon as the fire was burning well.

The fish were not biting and Tor was not back after an hour. Dan had heard no shot and was beginning to wonder what was happening in the woods when the shot finally came. It sounded surprisingly close.

He gathered more wood and set the coffee to boiling as he waited. The fishing line got checked a time or two. Still no Tor. Dan strapped on the Bixby gun and saddled his horse. Just as he swung into the saddle, “Hey, you wanna come over there with that horse and help be bring this in.”

It was Tor.

Dan rode his horse across the stream and up to where Tor was coming out of the woods dragging a young doe, all nicely gutted and beheaded, toward camp. Dan pulled it up on the horses withers and gave Tor a hand climbing on behind him, turned the horse for camp and crossed the stream. As he was crossing the rock he had tied his fishing line to came off the large rock he had set it on.

He had a bite.

An hour later they were eating venison steaks in the dark and rigging a rack to make jerky on. The fish got away.

The coffee pot was empty nest to the embers of the fire when they rolled into the bedrolls for a night’s sleep. Each was full to the brim and content.


10

Two days later, the two of them rode into Golden. Tor wanted to stop and see an old saddle partner and Dan was just going to find someplace with a couple of books for sale. Didn’t make a difference what they were, he just wanted to unwind a bit in something other than the Bible. It had taken him a full day to make that decision.

Tor pointed in the direction of the hotel, “Meetcha there in a couple of hours. Two beds please. You roll and toss so bad I’ll end up on the floor. There’s a gunsmith down the block a bit that might be able to do something about the slickness of them grips on your Colt. Try him.” He rode away before Daniel could say anything.

Daniel was dazzled. He’d seen big cities before, but never had he seen a town with the hustle and bustle of this one. He had to guide his horse around wagons and people walking in the middle of the street. A wagon loaded with beer from the Coors brewery almost killed a man after the wagon driver took his eyes off the street to look at a dance hall gal on the balcony of a saloon. The man turned and saw the lead horses when they were about two feet from straddling him.

Dan eased up the street looking for the sign advertising a hotel in the midst of all the other signs. Seems like every building had three or more businesses or products to sell they thought worthy of having its own sign. “I ain’t seen this many signs since St. Louis, but St. Louis never had this many folks running around like chickens with their heads cut off.”

“Hey, quit star gazing and get outta the road, young feller,” came from his right. A pedestrian was held up by Daniel’s slow rubber necking of all there was to see.

“Sorry, old timer, I’ll push a little here now. How far’s it to the hotel?”

“Two buildings down. Only sign is on the winder, but ya cain’t miss’er a bit. Bright green paint around them winders.”

“Thank ya kindly, sir.”

“Now get outta my way.”

Daniel moved the horse with a gentle gig of the spurs he’d found in the saddle bag. Tor said they were cavalry spurs, short and stubby, and also reckoned that Bixby had been cavalry once upon a time “Cuz he rode so straight up and down like he had a ram rod for a back bone.” Sure enough there was the green trim on a pair of fair sized windows. One said HOTEL and the other said SALOON in large gold and black letters.

He had to sidle in between the hitching rail and the plank sidewalk in order to tie off the gelding he had named, Solomon. Not that the horse was wise, just that it sounded like a good Christian horse name. The horse would never have a thousand wives, but being a gelding it wouldn’t matter.

He swung down gingerly; his backside still wasn’t used to all the riding, pulling his Winchester out of its case as he did. After doing a couple of deep squats, he entered the hotel and walked to the desk. “Need a room with two beds or two rooms with one bed.”

“Very good, sir. Let me see what we have.” He turned to look at a bunch of cubbies behind him. “Aah yes, sir. We have two rooms side by side, each with one bed, both on the third floor facing the avenue. Will that do, sir.”

“Yeah. How much?”

“Fifty cents each. Dinner will be served in the Dining Room,” he pointed to a door behind Daniel, “In about an hour. Of course, they always have something to eat 24 hours each day. There is also the Saloon to your right,” again he pointed, “Serving the finest of liquors, beers, wines, and just plain everyday good whiskey. One of our local miners has a still and a local brewery makes the finest beer in the territory.”

Daniel plunked a ten dollar gold piece on the counter and said, “May I start an account and sign for meals and drinks?”

“Yes sir, you certainly may. Sign the ledger please and use the same signature on your tabs.” He turned and pulled two keys from adjoining slots, flipped a tab to red like most of the other rooms, and set the keys on the ledger as Daniel signed, ‘Daniel Fount, Denver.’

“Could you tell me where the best livery and gunsmith might be?”

“Why yes, sir. The livery is down the alley on the right side of the hotel,” he pointed, “And the gunsmith is across the street and uphill about a quarter mile. Can’t miss him, he has a large six shooter for a sign hanging way out from and above the rest of the signs on this street. Old German fella that I have only met once, but the best of reputations I assure you.”

“Thank you.”

“I recognize your gun, but you weren’t the man wearing it last time is saw it.”

“He lost in the game of life.”

“Oh, very good. Sir. He was not a very savory individual. Thank you for winning in the game of life.” He smiled and turned to the lady that had just walked in.

Daniel heard, “Who is that terrible man? He killed a man in the saloon the last time I was here,” from the lady.

As he walked to the gunsmith, he got to thinking that maybe, just maybe, he would be wise to change the grips altogether rather than just have them reworked. Tor was coming down the street, saw him, and pulled over to the plank sidewalk where he said, “You wanna double up?”

“Sure.”

They finished at the gunsmith with Daniel carrying a loaner and Tor guiding the horse to the hotel where Daniel picked up his horse and they rode to the livery up the alley.

“Ya seen one livery stable, you have seen them all,” Tor said.

“And smelled them all,” Daniel added.

Two days later they left town before the sun came up and the crowds hit the streets. His old saddle partner was no longer in Golden.

It was Sunday. The bells were ringing on at least three churches somewhere in the town. Daniel felt a pull, but he was not ready yet for the questions that would come inside the walls of a friendly church. Tor offered to go with him if that was the hold up and Daniel just turned his horse to the street all the wagons had been coming into town on during their brief stay.

Within an hour the sun was up, they were off the road and on a thin trail leading into the high country, and up ahead was a smoldering fire. They spread out without saying a word as they approached the smoke. No one was there.

A breeze picked up as they looked around. Nothing. A jumble of prints in the dirt told them nothing. At least four different horses had been over this site time and time again. Tor got down and started probing the ground with a stick he grabbed. Daniel watched with his newly adorned six shooter held in position with his elbow locked into his side. No one had to tell him something had happened here.

Tor finally tossed the stick, “No new graves.”

“How do you know?”

“The top inch or so is disturbed by the prints here, but after that inch or so the ground is rock hard. If there was a grave the dirt would be loose and the stick would have gone in deep from the pressure I put on it. Why don’t you dump your canteen on this fire so’s it don’t get away, fill up from the stream, and we’ll just mosey on our way. While you’re doin’ that, I’ll just take me a ride up towards them trees and see what I can see.”

Daniel did as he asked while he looked around in the direction the horses had gone. All there was in that direction was a heavily forested area leading to the base of the biggest mountain around. The whole scene seemed strange to him as the water gurgled out of the canteen he watched Tor moving at a quick trot in that direction. When the gurglying quit, he rode down to the water and was just about off the horse when he saw him.

The man was sitting with his legs in the water next to a rock on the far side of the creek, still as the stone itself. A gun lay in his lap and the front of his shirt was bright red.

“Tor.”

No response.

“TOR!”

Daniel looked up to see Tor jerk his horse around and ride like the devil was after him toward the camp site. Out of the trees came three riders and as soon as Daniel saw them they opened fire. Daniel started to mount and then realized if he got in a good position he could cover Tor and the old man next to the rock. The rock looked like a good place to hunker down.

He crossed the creek and turned Solomon loose to fend for himself, squatted behind the rock, and then pulled the wounded man in with him. He laid the Winchester across the top of the rock, lined up the sights, and squeezed the trigger. The center of the three riders took a tumble. Tor kept coming straight across the campsite and on through the water until he jumped off his horse, rifle in hand, and took up a spot thirty feet or so downstream from Daniel.

“You okay?” Danile asked.

“Yeah, not a scratch

Free Book – The DEACON – Episode 6

NOTE: You are receiving this book fresh off the keyboard. The typos, misspellings, and other bugaboos are free just like the rest of the book. What I would like from you are suggestions, ideas, plot changes, or anything you think would make this a better book. THANK YOU for you help.

“He has killed over twenty that we know of. All have been clouded with lies good enough that we have never been able to hang him. This town is better off without him, you can bet on that.”

“I don’t bet on people’s lives.”

“Yes you do. Every time you preach you are betting that some of the folks listening will take to your message and become Christians just like you. Some you win and some you lose.”

“I win nothing. God wins it all.”

“Fine. I won’t argue the religious stuff with you.”

Daniel walked to the caravan door and went inside, emerging a few minutes later with rough clothes on and tucking a small sack of coins in his pocket. “I am going to the mountains to pray and think this through.”

He ducked under the caravan and returned with his Bible.

“Evelyn, the caravan and all that is left in it are yours. I will find you one day a couple weeks or so from now, and we will discuss the future. Deputy, where can if find a good horse at a fair price?”

Evelyn grabbed his arm, “All this is good for nothing without you.”

“There’s enough in the safe to keep you for as long as I will be gone. I’m sure you are well taken care of. If I were you, I’d find a nice boarding house for ladies and stay there. Join up with that Pastor’s church and sing in the choir. I will be back.”

The deputy said, “Come on, I’ll get you set up.” Something caught in his throat, “You know, the first time I had to kill a man, I was riding shotgun on a gold shipment. It hit me much the same as you for altogether difference reasons. I went fishing for two months to think it through. That robber got what he had coming just as this man on the ground here got what was long overdue. Would you mind if I tagged along with you for a week or so? I need a bit of a vacation myownself/”

Dan walked to Evelyn and threw his arms around her. “Thanks. You’ve been a good mother to me even if you ain’t my ma. I’ll be back. Don’t sell the caravan, yet.”

He turned to the deputy, “Where’s the fishin’ real good around here?”


First post – http://wp.me/p5dVRw-1L

9

A couple hours later the two of them were riding toward the mining country around Golden and the big fish along Clear Creek. Daniel was not used to a saddle and demanded a break at midday. “I need to get off this nag and walk on my own two feet for a spell, Tor. Besides all that, I am hungry.”

“If ya wanna get down we can for a spell, but if you’re hungry, you’re gonna have to shoot something.”

“What? You didn’t pack some food?”

“Not a bite. There’s a great spot to rest up about half a mile from here. See what you can shoot with that Winchester under your left leg on the way there. You take the lead.” He pulled his horse off the trail and let Daniel pass.

“Dan, that rifle is yours. Came with the rig. All you are sitting on is the outfit of Bixby. Livery man said Bixby owed him about $14 and he’d take what the man owed for the rig. I figured $14 was a good price for a horse, saddle, rifle, and whatever’s in them saddlebags. Ya might wanna air out that bedroll before it gets dark. Check for bed bugs and lice and such.”

Daniel jumped off the horse. “I can’t take the belongings of a man I killed. It wouldn’t be right, Tor. Not right at all.”

“You didn’t mind the deal when I found it for you. It’s just that it used to belong to Bixby. Is that the drift?”

“Yeah.” Daniel sat on a rock beside the trail. “I can’t do this.”

“Okay. So if you had walked into the livery on your own and the owner offered you this rig without you knowing where it come from, you would of turned it down. Is that right?”

“Well, no.”

“Then what’s the problem. I didn’t twist the man’s arm. I didn’t ask. He didn’t name Bixby until after the deal was done. All he told me was a man owed him and died. I grabbed it cuz it was a great deal. Danged rifle gun alone is worth the money. Take it or walk. I’ll buy it off ya. Matter of fact you still owe me the $14, you ain’t paid me back yet.”

“So it’s your horse and rig?”

Daniel climbed back in the saddle and said, “I’ll ride your horse and riggin’. Ya wanna sell it?”

“Yes I do. $300 for the lot.”

“What!”

“Well, you didn’t like the deal I got for you, now it’s my turn to turn a profit.”

“That ain’t a profit, that’s robbery, highway robbery and a swindle to match. Look at this gun. The bluing is rubbed off all along this side. The butt has a crack and it’s held together with wire. This horse is ugly. The saddle is so worn I can feel the horses backbone under the blanket that you can see through. I’ll give ya $20 for the lot.”

“You think I’d see $300 worth of rig and horse for $20? You must be counting on divine intervention or something.”

“Well, I could try asking the Lord to knock you off that horse your one and give you a Saul moment? But, He don’t work that way. $25.”

“Sold. I don’t wanna be know what at Saul moment is.”

Forty yards down the trail a young elk jump from the bushes. The rifle came up. Tor yelled, “No, you danged fool. We can’t eat that much.” He pulled his pistol and took the head off a large cottontail rabbit not twenty feet the other side of the trail. “That will do. Lunch time, Dan, lunch time.”

He walked his horse over and reached down a long way to pick up the rabbit before he took off in a trot to the great spot he was talking about. Dan followed thinking, ‘Don’t much care for rabbit. The Right Reverend, my pa, fed me that every time the count was down.’

As the rabbit roasted, Dan filled Tor’s request for an explanation of a Saul moment.

“Dang, knocked him to the ground. Made him blind. Yelled at him. And, then he used him to start new churches all over the world? Ooooweeeee. That’d be some moment in my life.”

“Sure was for Saul. God even changed his name to Paul and then Paul lost his head to the Romans in the end.”

“God ain’t too much on protecting folks from the government, is He?”

“I don’t think I want to touch that comment, my friend.” Dan dug in his pocket, “Here’s the $30 I owe ya for the rig.”

“About time. I was beginning to figure the interest on the loan of that fine animal and his riggin’.” Tor got up and walked to his bedroll, stuck his hand in the middle, and came out with a shiny Colt .44 in a worn holster. “Here this goes with it. Bixby’s short gun. It’s a good gun. Tried it myownself. Them grips are real mother-of-pearl, comes from some sea critter, and the .44 is an easy gun to find ammo for in these parts.” He tossed it to Dan.

The rig hit the dirt after Dan backed up and refused to catch it. “You lettin’ that gun lay in the dirt ain’t good for it. Get it on. They’s some wild and woolly boys up in these mountains and we may just have an Indian or two try to steal that nag of yours.”

He paused for a moment and saw that Dan was not going to move. He yelled, “Put it on or I won’t ride with you. This country is dangerous. The critters are dangerous, grizzly and lion, and the danged people are dangerous, male and female. Put. It. On.”

Daniel put it on.

“That was the funniest way of putting on a rig I ever did see. Thumb and forefinger of each and was all you used and it took you forever. Some morning when the world falls apart around us, you will need to get that one in a flash and get off all the shots you can in the poof.”

“Look, Tor. I am not used to a pistol. Never handled one and never owned one. This is Bixby’s, or was Bixby’s. I’m still getting used to sitting on his horse, let alone strapping on his gun rig. Look at that holster, it’s got a tie down. Only folks us them are gunslicks.”

“So cut it off.” Tor tossed his knife in front of Dan’s feet.

Daniel cut it off and tossed the leather string on the hot coals. “Show me how to use it if you’re gonna make me wear it.”

“You’ll get your first lesson tonight. Let’s move. I don’t wanna camp here, too public.”

Five hours later Daniel was standing with his legs spread shoulder wide, his arms dangling at his side, and the six gun on his hip loaded again after tearing the thing completely apart and putting all back together under Tor’s guidance. “You stand like you were watching a nice looking horse walk down the main drag.”

Dan shuffled a bit.

“That’s good. Now make a fist and open your right hand a few times.”

Daniel did.

“Now grab the gun butt, pull, ease the hammer back – whatever you do don’t let it slip – until it clicks the second time, and then pull the trigger while your pointing the gun at that whitish rock over there. The one on the bank of the hill.”

Daniel did. The whitish rock came apart. “Like that?”

Tor stood in his position with his mouth open. That whitish rock was a good 10 yards away or more. First shot and it was a dead rock.

“Do it again. This time get off two shots. Remember, you have to pull the hammer back for each shot.”

Dan put the gun back in the holster. “What you want me to aim at this time?”

“How’s about that branch stickin’ up on that dead tree?” He pointed.

Daniel brought the gun out with no apparent speed, two shots sounded like two shots from two guns one on top of the other like one was just a mite slower than the other. Two branches on the dead tree lying 15 yards or so away disintegrated in puffs of saw dust and bark.

“Reload,” was all Tor could say.

Daniel ejected three cases and inserted three fresh rounds from his belt. “How come?”

“Always reload as soon as you can after firing. You will never know when you might need all five shots.”

Daniel asked, “Why on five rounds? There’s six holes here. In a battle wouldn’t six be better?”

“How many times have your fired a pistol of any kind?”

“Just the three shots today.”

“Then how can you shoot so well. You hit the target and are moderately fast in gettin’ yourself in the fight. You amaze me.”

Daniel looked at him, “Ain’t that what a man’s supposed to do?” He flipped the loading gate shut and spun the cylinder. “Six shots loaded.”

Tor walked over to him and stuck his hand out, “Let me have your .44.”

Daniel lifted it out of the holster and handed it to Tor. “Here ya are. What’s the problem?”

“Watch.”

Tor walked over to the stream bed and grabbed a fist sized rock that was fairly flat on one side. He held the pistol with his hand wrapped around the grip. The hammer was down and his finger was not on the trigger. He smacked the rock into the hammer with the barrel pointed across the stream.

The gun went off sending a slug to ricochet off the water and into the hillside.

“That’s why.”

The DEACON – Episode 5 – Free book -Constructive Critique requested

“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.

“No.”

“Do you know how many other men like your father this man has killed one way or another?”

“No.”

The DEACON – Episode 4 – Constructive Critique requested

The food arrived and disappeared down their throats faster than a chicken will suck up a worm. Daniel stood, yawned, and stretched, “I’m for a nap. Let’s go move Dad out of the caravan. If he ain’t there, all the better.”

“He’s still you earthly father, Dan.”

“Yup, he is. He can move underneath with me. Plenty of room for two separate bedrooms under there.”

“He isn’t gonna like it.”

“That is really his problem. He passed the baton to me when he got so drunk he couldn’t preach. Now it’s my show and he’s welcome to tag along.

6

The two of them stood behind Miner’s Hall praying. The air was still and sticky telling Denver it was in store for a storm. “Let’s get inside before we get soaked.”

Evelyn answered, “I really don’t want to go in there. There are many ways for God to provide the answers to those prayers on the hilltop.”

“We’ll never know until the curtain opens.

They entered after knocking on the stage door to get the stage hand to open it.

He smiled, “I’m whipped. I never knew prayer could be such hard work. I joined Jesus last night after my wife explained some of it to me. I still need that conversation we were gonna have.”

“Congratulations. I forgot with all the excitement and the hilltop experience.” He motioned toward the hall, “How’s it look?”

“Don’t know. I’ll find out with you with we draw the curtain. It’s very quiet out there and there’s just five minutes til start up.”

They moved to the rope that controlled the curtain. The piano began quietly. No other noise could be heard. A quiet piano version of Amazing Grace lifted.

Evelyn walked to the middle of the stage still behind the curtain. As the piano got to the closing line of the verse and played the first three sections of the last line, she stepped through the gap onto the stage, down center, to the brightest stage light lifting from the biggest foot light, and began to sing as the piano continued.

Backstage there was still no sound from an audience.

Daniel listened as she sang. At the end of the first verse he stepped through the curtain. Every seat was filled. The side aisles and the back were filled with standing men and women. An occasional child could be seen, but all were quiet.

Daniel stood in awe. His body began to shake from fear. Only organized angry people could stay that quiet as they waited for the key word that would loose the lions on the two of them.

He looked out over that crowd with his Bible in his hand. They had come and by all that was Holy they would hear the word. He opened the Bible and began to read. “For God so loved, HE LOVES YOU, the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever, WHOSOEVER, believed on Him, THE SON, should not parish, DIE, BUT, BUT, hear me, BUT have everlasting life. Perfect life. No sorrow. No tears. No pain. No fear of death. The perfect life for all eternity, THAT MEANS FOREVER. From right now until FOREVER.

He nodded to Miss Evelyn telling her it was time to quit the song. Evelyn shook her head and sang louder. He lifted his arms high in a gathering motion, “Come, come as I did three nights ago. Come to Christ. Come find life anew. Come in faith that all this is true. Come, now is the day of deliverance from your bondage to the devil,” he shouted over the music.

Minutes went by. No one moved. No one made a sound. Then one young woman against the back wall began sobbing and walked toward the stage. A cowboy walked forward with his hat in his hands covering his face. A kid came smiling. A brushy faced old man hobbled to the front, shouting, “Hallelujah.” Some folks laughed, but even those were laughing without mocking. The man yelled even louder, “Hallelujah.” The crowd echoed his cry, “Hallelujah.” The windows rattled and dust fell from the chandeliers.

Daniel cried real big tears of joy. Miss Evelyn moved to the stairs and joined the growing crowd at the foot of the stage. A local pastor joined her in providing counsel to those seeming to be sobbing out of control and answer any questions put to them.

One laughing couple asked, “Can we be baptized now?”

The pastor said the river was a good place and began a march to the river that stopped at the first horse trough. First the pastor slid Daniel under the surface of the water and then Daniel moved across the street to another trough and began baptizing all those who were willing. Cries of, “Thank you, Jesus,” and “Hallelujah” were heard as the seemingly endless lines of people were dipped in the mossy waters of the troughs.

After an hour, Daniel noticed that the lines were down and a crowd was standing around, many of them dry as a bone. He jumped to the stand on the hitching rail and pulled himself up on the roof of the shade over the wooden sidewalk, where he shouted, “Come to the waters in faith all you sinners. Know the true God of this world. Live the life He designed for you.” He kept beckoning as the dry individuals slowly walked away or came crying to the trough.

As it was apparent that the folks were not going home, but were standing around praying, singing, or just plain watching, Daniel began the sermon he had prepared for this night. The street before him squirmed with live bodies trying to hear the Word. More people were caught up in the excitement and some were even directed to the trough where the Pastor continued to baptize all that agreed to the Sacrament.

At 1 AM, a local deputy from the Marshall’s office walked up to a position under Daniel as he stood on the roof, “Sir, I must ask you to stop preaching and allow these folks to go home. We do have a noise ordinance and there have been complaints. There are also laws against blocking the street and holding a parade without a permit.”

“My apologies, I didn’t note the time was so late.”

“I’ll give you fifteen minutes to disperse this crowd,” the deputy added with a smile.

Daniel spoke a few words and said a long prayer of thanksgiving before notifying all present that it was time to get out of the road and go home.

The crowd slowly dispersed with much cheering and singing as they went. Miss Evelyn was found seated on the edge of the sidewalk, sobbing. She answered Daniel’s query with, “I’m so happy.”

Daniel took her arm and led her to the caravan.

His father wasn’t home.

Pushing aside the canvas drapes, he crawled under the caravan and crashed into his blankets thinking he would hunt for him in the morning. He chuckled to himself when he realized it was early morning and shut his eyes.


8

Evelyn yelled and pounded on the bottom of the caravan, “He didn’t come home. We need to find him.”

Daniel used his boot to thump his acknowledgement to her call and crawled out of bed. Once dressed, he moved out from under the caravan and wondered which saloon or brothel he would find his father in this time.

Evelyn opened the side window of the caravan, “How much longer you going to keep hunting him down every other morning?”

“Until he’s dead or breaks the habit. Or, he could be hit by the truth of all those sermons he preached as a phony and then we could work together.”

“That would surely be miracle.”

Dan smiled, “No more than my change and last night.”

“Yeah, you’re right.” She paused, “Well, go find him. I’ll get dressed and get us some breakfast. Oh, did you bring the bucket home?”

“No. I’ll look for that, too.”

He trotted down the hill to the opera house. The bucket was there by the back door, but there was only one silver dollar in it. The silver dollar went in a pocket and the bucket was left at the back door. The nearest saloon was two doors down. No one was there.

He started walking.

Seven saloons and two brothels later, he met the deputy from the night before. “What you doin’ out here at this hour? The preaching don’t start till dark, does it?”

“You’re right. Dark. I’m looking for my father. Heavy man, white hair, clean shaved, about your height. Wear’s black broadcloth suits most of the time.”

The deputy stepped back. “I know where he is. I was just coming to see ya about your daddy.”

“Problems?”

“Not for me anymore.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“I think your father is at the funeral parlor.”

“Is he trying to do the services or something?”

“No,” he paused and took his hat off, “He’s dead.”

“How?”

“Got in a gun fight with a bad man gambler over a floozy.”

The DEACON – Episode 3 – Critique requested – enjoy

5

“Ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, I stand here before you a humbled man. As many of you may have seen last night, I was struck down by the power of knowing that I was a sinner and needed the Christ I have been preaching. My father was a fraud and I have been a fraud for almost four years. Now I am the new man I have spoken of many times. Now, I am one transformed to being God’s man by His power. I stand before you a true, renewed man of God, convicted of the truth of the words I have been preaching by the Holy Spirit, and ready to share those same words with you in truth and power.”

The audience sat or stood in silence. Vegetables fell to the dirt. Fruit was dropped. Bags and baskets were pushed aside. Miss Evelyn began signing softly to his right. The crowd slowly gathered in the words of the song, ‘Just as I Am,’ they stood and joined in the singing. Not one verse was missed. Not one person stood silent, they hummed if they did not know the words

Daniel stood with his head hanging and his hands clasped at his chest in awe of the power of the truth.

The first rotten thing hit him, a potato. The rancid stench filled his nose as the eggs and garbage flew pelting him harder and harder until he was covered in the slime of an angry city. He fell to his knees crying from the sense that he deserved all this and they had every right to vent on him.

Evelyn sang louder as she joined him on the stage. The target became her as she joined Daniel on her knees. Words like hypocrite and liar filled the air. The venom of the words was stunning to young Daniel’s mind. How could they hate so much that another had join the Kingdom of God? How?

Louder and louder the audience raged until all became silence as if someone turned off the entire group at once.

Daniel looked up. All he could see were the backs of twenty or thirty folks leaving the building. They were done. He felt that he had only begun. Tomorrow night they would be here with the power of the message, the Gospel of Jesus, and not the sweetness of a man trying to lure the dollars from the suckered crowd.

There was no time to mourn or pout, no time to second guess, he had to preach. All that he was told him that. “This is our baptism, Evelyn. Let’s get to work.”

There was no reply.

He looked to his right and saw Evelyn lying on the stage, blood coming from her forehead.

“Oh, God, please let her live,” he cried louder than he had ever spoken before.

“You care that much?” Evelyn asked.

“Yes,” he replied, startled.

“Let’s get this mess cleaned up. We got a service tomorrow night that will be a world changer, I’m sure.” His face was bright red and it wasn’t from exertion.

The cleanup took until the small hours of the morning. The stage hand had left around midnight leaving only Evelyn and Daniel. Daniel had peeled down to his shirtsleeves and trousers. Evelyn worked in the dress she started in. “It’s destroyed anyhow. The stains and the stink will never come out. I’ll trash it when we’re done.”

As they left the building, rolling the last two wheelbarrows full of garbage before them, Evelyn started singing, ‘More About Jesus Would I Know.’

“Where’d that song come from?”

“It’s a new one I just got the music on. I kinda like it. How about you?”

“It fits, somehow. I like it.”

They arrived at the caravan with both of them singing the song. As it ended again, “Goodnight, Dan.”

“Goodnight, Evelyn.”

An hour later his father came under the caravan to join Daniel. “She won’t open the door, Daniel. Make her open the door.”

“No, Dad.” He reached up and grabbed a blanket from a shelf he had built there years ago. “Here, Evelyn and I are living a new life now. You can join us in Jesus, stay with us as my father, or leave. Goodnight.” He rolled over as a very drunk and perplexed man tried to figure out what was happening and how to wrap himself in the blanket.

Noon found Daniel walking around town in his work clothes hanging new posters all over. The posters read, “The message is the same, but the heart delivering it is changed forever” at the top of the same old poster they had used for years. “Come hear the truth” was at the bottom.

When he finished he stepped into The Grub House to get something to eat only to be received with, “Boo, go away you phony.” A cry of “The imposter had arrived, give him an egg,” followed. The waitress walked up to him and said, “How could you fake your sermons so well. Only the devil himself would be able to do that.”

He replied, “The devil was truly at work.” He handed her one of two posters he still had. “Come see the real thing tonight.”

She turned her back on him and refused the poster.

A large man smelling of blood stepped up to him, “You better get outta town, faker. Most folks don’t care much for swindles and you been pulling a swindle. You get on that stage tonight and you just likely to get tarred and feathered before be lift by a splintery rail and carried out of town.”

“I wouldn’t try that if I were you.” Daniel turned and walked out with his head hanging.

Seven PM rolled around and Daniel watched the seats in the Miner’s Hall. Only two were filled. No one was coming. He had purposefully taken the offering bucket and stashed it in the caravan so folks could see he wasn’t after the money.

Daniel nodded to Evelyn telling her to step out and start singing. She did. Amazing Grace rang through the hall like it was being sung by an angel. Her new dress sparkled in the light of the candles and lantern as if it were a piece of the dark summer sky.

The two drunks in the seats were shocked into wakefulness. The first said, “What’s that caterwauling, Roger.”

Roger replied, “Some cow’s got her teat in a ringer and the farmer’s still trying to get more milk.”

The two of them laughed themselves silly and went back to sleep by the time Miss Evelyn got to the part about ten thousand days.

She finished her two songs and walked off the stage. “Daniel, we’re done.”

“Meet me on the hill behind the caravan in twenty minutes.”

“I can do that.”

“Wear old clothes.”

“I can do that, too.”

He turned and walked to the two drunks, woke them up, and escorted them out of the building so the stagehand could lock up.

The stagehand asked as he ushered Daniel out the stage door, “You done?”

“The hall is paid for the rest of the week. I will use it for the rest of the week and maybe, just maybe, if the Lord is generous, I will pay up on the option for another two weeks.”

“Works for me. I gotta be here no matter how it’s used or it ain’t. No matter to me. I would like to hear more of what you was talkin’ off that last night before you fainted.”

“I’ll be here at noon and discuss it with you.”

“Where ya off to, Daniel?”

“Up yonder hill to pray. Evelyn and I will be up there for quite a spell, I would imagine. I got a lot to confess and get off my chest, and then there’s a lot I think needs to happen in this town and I aim to find out if God agrees.” He started to walk away.

“Can anybody come up there, Preacher?”

“You?”

“Yeah. And my wife. She thinks you’re a great preacher and a very brave man.”

Daniel flustered, “Nothing great about me. I just let God go to work on and through me. Come on up and bring a friend or two. I don’t care.”

“See ya in about an hour. Gotta finish locking up, making sure all the lights are out, and the till is in the safe. Ooops, no till, no safe needed.”

Daniel set his face toward the hill and started walking, dropping his coat off at the caravan, and grabbing a heavier jacked to kneel on and use if it got chilly. The top was empty when he arrived, but the sound of small rocks being disturbed came from behind and he knew at least one other person would be there, Evelyn.

“I’m here,” she said.

He fell to his knees and began praying silently with his face raised to the heavens. Evelyn understood and joined him five feet away. Within minutes they were both on their faces with tears dripping from their noses into the dirt. Neither of them heard the stage hand and his wife join their small group. Twenty minutes later six others joined. The Presbyterian preacher brought a few with him a few minutes later. By 10 PM a crowd of over a hundred was on that hilltop praying, yet not a sound was heard except sobbing.

By midnight folks were leaving the hilltop, many of them totally wrung out before their God. At the sound of the city clock announcing 1 AM, the crowd was half diminished. As the sun rose in the east, only two were still there. Each of them was standing with arms outraised welcoming the new day, praying harder that it would be a new day and life for many in the city below them.

Daniel looked at Evelyn, “Let’s go eat.”

Evelyn replied, “I feel filled.”

“So do I, but I am still hungry for food.”

They walked down the hill and across the streets until they arrived at The Grub House. No one said a word except the waitress. “What can I getcha this morning, Preacher?”

“Coffee.” He looked at Evelyn, who nodded, “Make that two.”

“Hey, Jim. Two cups a wide-awake for the Preacher and the Singer.”

“Comin’ right up.”

The waitress handed them a copy of their morning offering which offered eggs, side meat, steak, taters, beans, and grits in any combination cooked any way the cook cooked them.

They both knew what the place had, Evelyn said, “Load a plate for me,” and looked at Daniel.

“Same here,” he said.

They sat at an empty table and just looked at each other. Two smiles began to grow until Daniel said, “God’s gonna do something in the hall tonight that will determine the rest of my life. I really feel like He told me that up on the hill.”

“That goes along with what I felt. I feel He told me that my work was just beginning. The other side of that is, He wants me to dump your father and stay with you as your opener.”

“Dad isn’t going to like that after these past years.”

“I can no longer live in sin with a man not my husband. He refused to marry me last time I asked him. He was drunk enough to give a bar gal a twenty dollar bill, but not drunk enough to marry an ex-saloon gal and singer. I’m done with him. God said it had to be. I felt I had to sleep with him or I wouldn’t have a home or a job. My own stinking thinking kept me there. Your dad even preached that sermon one time in a camp where folks were all livin’ together without benefit of marriage because a preacher had never come to town and he found out. In his case it had nothing to do with sin. He wanted the money they’d pay for the weddings. It worked. He did 22 weddings that after noon and the least he received was a five dollar nugget which I still have in my case. It’s been my mad money for almost six years now. Well, I’m mad but I ain’t the one that’s gonna be movin’ out. I may have been a saloon gal, but I am not one now.”

“Sounds good to me.” He looked at her with new insight into the complexity of life as a Christian for a woman with a history.

The DEACON – Episode 2 – constructive critic requested

3

The next night the crowd began to form on the hilltop more than an hour early. There was even some jostling for the prime seats down front. Two cowboys got in a fight over a chair that was the last one on the back row. Miss Evelyn was dressed and mingling with the crowd a half hour before the show was to start.

“Oh, yes, you will be amazed at what God can do with your life once you surrender to Him through Jesus, the Christ. It is such a powerful moment and it lasts for the rest of eternity,” Miss Evelyn told one painted young gal on the front row.

“I hope he’s done before my boss misses me at the Cowboy Corral. I’m one of his biggest attractions and he won’t treat me nice if I ain’t there when the boys hit town, it being Friday and all.”

“I know whereof you speak, gal. I was in your shoes not 24 hours ago. Now I belong to Jesus and no man is gonna make me do anything I don’t wanna do no more.”

“Oh, that sounds so sweet. Tell me more at the end. You can walk me back, can’t you?”

“Maybe. It depends on the response.”

“Response to what.”

“The Word of God. That boy delivers it like no one I ever heard before.”

In the caravan, the boy is being shoved into his clean, second best shirt. “You just go out there and tell them another Bible story like you did last night. How about the ten lepers? Remember? Jesus healed ten lepers and only one came back to say, ‘thanks.’ The rest went on their merry way without ever givin’ a hoot who it was that healed them.”

“But Dad, I ain’t never been to no Bible school like you. I ain’t a preacher.”

“That crowd last night said differently, Daniel. They ate it up. The offering was one of the biggest we’ve ever had. It’s all about the money, boy, all about the money. You get out there and wow them with another story. You can do it. Bout time I retired anyhow. Too many towns know me.”

“I’ll do’er one more time. Then that’s it,” Daniel looked him in the eye, “I hope.”

“Give them heaven and they’ll fill the bucket.”

“I’m a phony, Dad. I don’t believe any of this stuff. It’s all hooey or so you been telling me.”

“They believe it and they’ll fill the bucket.”

“One more time,” Daniel said as he left the caravan for the rock platform.

The crowd saw him coming just as he saw the crowd. Every seat was filled with a person whose eyes were on him. The crowd went totally silent.

Miss Evelyn looked up to see why and then moved to her position on the rock. She looked at him and smiled. After all, he had shown her the way to a new life. She began to sing a new song she had never sung for anyone before. She had heard it as a child in New Hampshire when her folks would drag her, practically kicking and screaming, to the Congregational Church just outside of town. She sang, “What a Friend We Have in Jesus.” She didn’t plan it, it just came. The words flowed through her mind and out her mouth, verse after verse, until she was finished.

Daniel stood on the platform in awe of the beauty he had just heard. The crowd sat or stood in silence, most with their mouths wide open as if to catch all the music. One cowboy sitting on his horse way off to one side, took off his hat and hung it on the horn of his saddle and started clapping. The crowd slowly and reverently join in as they stood.

Miss Evelyn yelled, “It’s all true. You can have a friend in Jesus.”

The clapping got louder.

The cowboy ground reined his horse and walked slowly to the front of the rock platform and sat down in the dirt. Daniel raised his hands as he had seen his Dad do to get the crowd’s attention. They just kept clapping for Miss Evelyn.

She bowed and raised her hands. The crowd went silent. “Thank you. That was a song I learned a long time ago against my will, but today I sang it from my heart in His will. Please listen to what Daniel has to say to you.” The crowd shifted their eyes to look at the twelve year old boy in a boiled shirt and scuffed shoes.

He stepped closer to the edge of the stone platform.

An hour later he finished with, “Most of you want to be able to see, but few of you will come to Jesus for healing. He, and He alone can open your eyes to the sin in your lives that requires you to repent in order to truly know Jesus as a Savior. Then there will be even fewer that will come to the front and truly repent in faith before the throne of God that this rock symbolizes. Come won’t you?” He looked down, “Cowboy, you’re gonna have to move.”

The cowboy moved. He crawled to the rock, put one hand on his face and the other on the rock, before he yelled, “Jesus, heal me.”

Miss Evelyn scurried to the back of the rock, down the ladder, and around to the cowboy. She kneeled beside him, “Cry out to God and tell him how sorry you are that your sins required Jesus to go to the cross and be the blood sacrifice for your sins.”

The cowboy cried. He cried so loud his friend came up to see what was going on. By the time they arrived, the area between the chairs and the rock was filled with people in tears and on their knees before this God that Daniel had presented to them. Miss Evelyn went from person to person talking, comforting, and testifying of the Grace of God in her life. She even yelled at one point, “Yesterday I was in darkness, but since I met Jesus last night, I can in the light. I am free. I am free.”

The young saloon girl she had talked to before the service caught her, “Tell me how I can hide from my boss and live with Jesus.”

Daniel carried the bucket to the back of the area where most of the folks had entered. As he walked folks tossed bills and change into the bucket. The bucket got heavier as he approached the spot he had decided it belonged. Arriving, he sat the bucket on a rock that stood about two feet tall and placed a small sign on a stick in it that read, “Donations accepted,” and walked toward the caravan.

Person after person grabbed him and asked him to pray. He prayed. He didn’t believe it would do an ounce of good, but he prayed. He must have prayed a dozen times before he broke through the crowd and was able to reach the caravan. The clutching hands of the crowd fell away as he shrugged his way through the last ones and into the clear behind the rock platform.

“Dad,” he said as he entered the caravan, “You just aren’t gonna believe what I saw tonight.”

His father wasn’t there. He was in a local saloon, fondling a dancehall gal and drinking all the unguarded booze left behind the bar.

The gal didn’t mind. He had money and was free with it.

Miss Evelyn reached the last person face down on the dirt to find the cowboy. He was crying and shouting his sins as he begged for forgiveness. Miss Evelyn said, “Cowboy, that Bible says that if we repent and ask God for forgiveness, He will forgive. That’s a promise He keeps on a daily basis in your life.”

“Miss Evelyn, I needed tonight. I knew I was living wrong and now I’m dealing with it thanks to you and that boy, that preacher. Jesus is my friend just like you sang at the beginning. Where’s the boy?”

“He left.” She knew the kid didn’t believe what he told these folks, but she knew that God would forgive him one day when he did repent and follow the Word he was teaching.

Three years later Daniel stood on the platform in the largest venue in Denver and looked out over several thousand people of all ages, creeds, and colors. The message was one of a thief that was dying from the nails in his hands and feet that held him. The thief was hanging on a cross next to the dying Jesus. The thief admitted he was guilty of his deeds and deserved to die, and told the world from his cross that Jesus had done nothing wrong. He was hanging there for no reason other than the jealousy of the priesthood of the church of his day. He was hanging there in reality because that’s where His Father wanted him. He was hanging there to pay the penalty before God for all the sins of a lost world.

As he taught that last sentence something happened in the heart of a 15 year old young sinner standing on a platform in front of thousands of people. Somehow he was convinced that all he had been teaching for three years was really true and that this same Jesus died for him. He knew that the bucket was sitting at the back of the room with its small sign. He knew it was overflowing with the donations of all these people. He knew that it wasn’t all about the money.

IT WAS ALL ABOUT JESUS.

HE BELIEVED IT ALL!

He fell to his knees and cried, “Father, forgive me, a sinner,” and fainted in tears.

4

The next morning just before noon the Denver Tribune put out a special edition with black headlines reading, “BOY PREACHER FALLS FOR OWN MESSAGE” in three lines above the fold. The article read:

Last night at the Miner’s Hall, 15 year old Daniel Fount came to the fount of Jesus in the middle of his own sermon. The young preacher, son of the infamous Right Reverend Lawrence P. Fount, was approximately half way through his usual sermon time when he swooned on stage.

Miss Evelyn, the singer with the preacher, says he has been working excessive hours with new believers in Jesus and was totally exhausted. His father, the Right Reverend, stated that he didn’t know what happened until this morning. Rumor had it that the father was in the notorious Bucket of Blood Saloon with one, Big Bottom Kate, on his lap for most of the evening throwing money around like it was confetti thrown at a political parade.

Dr. Elmont Goode, a physician, is reported to have said that he could find no reason for the young preacher’s nose dive to the stage. The good Doctor Goode repaired the man’s broken nose and received a $10 bill for his services.

Young Preacher Daniel Fount stated to this reporter that the Revival will continue tonight a 7 PM at the Minor’s Hall where he will explain everything. A hearty crowd is expected.

Miss Evelyn will sing.

 

At 5 minutes to 7 PM that evening, back stage in the Minor’s Hall Daniel looked at Evelyn, “Evelyn, I need you to sing like you have only sung once before and that was the night in Las Vegas when you sang ‘What a Friend We Have in Jesus.’ I want you to sing it just like you did that night.” He turned, “Dad, I want you well out of here. It could get dangerous. There were three notes delivered this afternoon concerning the phoniness of our ministry and the use of the funds donated by the audience. I may get hurt, but there is no sense anyone else getting hurt. Evelyn, you leave by the back door as soon as I begin to speak.”

“I won’t do that, Dan. I will be in the wings praying.”

“There is no reason for God to protect us tonight. I have sinned greatly and you have allowed it to happen even after you became a believer. So, go.”

“No!”

He gave up, “Thank you. I’ll need all the prayer I can get. But, if it starts getting violent, you run.”

“Lady don’t run too well dressed like this. I’ll be there praying.” She pointed to the left wing.

The stage hand that was still working with them came by and said, “Ten minutes, Preacher Fount. Miss Evelyn, the piano player asked if you would begin with a couple of songs starting now. The crowd is sounding rowdy and angry.”

“On my way. Pray for me, Dan.”

The stagehand said, “She’s gonna need it. I saw lots of rotten vegetables and fruit out there as I watched the front door. There was also a basket of eggs. Not a single person has dropped a penny in the bucket.” He paused as if he were looking for the right words to say. “I know how you feel, but remember – the Truth shall set you free, and Jesus is the Truth. I’ll be praying with Miss Evelyn.”

“Thank you. Stay away from me if it gets bad.”

“Don’t worry. I got a wife and three kids to think of. I’ll drop the curtain if you say so.”

“I won’t.”

The sweet sounds of Miss Evelyn’s singing drifted through the curtains and reached Daniel’s ears bringing him peace as he prayed which brought him total comfort in the midst of this turmoil. He checked the backstage clock. Six minutes until he would walk out there and put everything on the line for the cause of Jesus, this time, the first time in truth.

He walked to the edge of the down left curtain and peeked into the footlights illuminating Miss Evelyn at the down right stage corner as she sang, ‘What a Friend We Have in Jesus’ with her clear, carrying voice. The audience stirred like an ant bed a horse had just stomped on.

She finished.

He walked on stage to center front, three feet behind the center footlight.

FREE book, THE DEACON, brought to you live from beautiful downtown Witch Well, Arizona.

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