Tuesday, July 3, 2012
Chapter 3 – Forgiveness
Riding Tom’s horse was uncomfortable, but it did help speed up the search for his son. John allowed the steed free reign as it trekked towards to what he had hoped to be one of the Beverly Brother’s lairs. John knew the horse would eventually find its way back to familiar territory, and surely that would be the perfect opportunity for John.
Night crept in on the heels of a growing summer storm, giving him an uneasy feeling. He would need to seek shelter soon, before darkness and the storm overtook him. Up ahead, he could make out the shadowy shape of a building forming on the horizon. The silhouette looked familiar, but he couldn’t place it.
As the thunder grumbled overhead, the shape of the building became clear. It was the old abandoned mission. For years it had stood, welcoming strangers and offering a safe refuge from whatever unpleasantness the desert dished out.
John sighed in relief as he reached the entrance. He slid off the horse and tied it to the post nearest the door. He scanned the area looking for anything or anyone that might mean him harm but the winds from the brewing storm kicked up so much dust it was impossible to tell. Unable to detect a threat, John turned around and headed into the mission.
The interior was dark, but the smell of fresh lilies filled the air putting him on his guard. With each flash of lightning he could make out the benches and the cross hanging over the nave. Thunder rumbled over head drawing his attention to the roof. Not a single hole in the roof or a broken window. It was as if the building was still being used.
John turned from the door and made his way inside. From the corner of his eye, he caught a shadow moving through the darkness. Hand on his gun, he stepped further into the room and leaned against a pillar for cover.
“Who’s there? Show yourself!”
Silence filled the building. He knew his eyes were not playing tricks on him, and his belief was confirmed when the shadow moved again, this time swooping from one side of the room to the other.
John figured it might be a barn owl. He waited behind the pillar for the owl’s screech, but was greeted with more silence. Peering around the pillar once more, he waited for the shadow to move again. He found himself leaning further from the pillar as he listened for movement, but there were no sounds. No footsteps, no animal cries, nothing. Surely the heat hadn’t gotten to him already.
Standing up straight, John turned back to the door to find himself face to face with a priest.
“Can I help you?” the priest asked.
“I could have killed you. Why didn’t you answer when I asked who was out there?”
“I’m sorry, I have trouble hearing. It’s the weirdest thing, one moment I hear like a young’un, and the next
I’m deafer than a mule.” The priest said as he lit a candle by the door. “What brings you here?”
“I was taking shelter from the storm.”
“Storm you say? Turns out you are not the only one claiming to hide from a storm.”
“There is someone else here?”
“Why yes, he rode in right before sunset. Since you both seem to be gun men, I remind you that you are in a house of God and should respect it. That means no shooting and no fighting.”
“Not a problem,” John said.
They walked to the front of the mission, the priest lighting more candles along the way. As the light filled the building, John could see the care put into its construction. It was more than a refuge from the tortures of the desert. It was also a place where people could worship and seek God’s comfort.
As they made their way into another room, John saw the stranger the priest had mentioned. He was sitting in a chair with his back to them. He had obviously been out in the desert for days. Dust clung to his sweaty skin, and the rusty desert sands had stained his clothes with a reddish hue.
“Gentlemen, I expect you both to be on your best behavior.” the priest said.
The stranger stood up and turned around. It was Bob Collins. Bob was the Beverly Brother’s number one man. He could kill a man and holster his gun before his victim’s lifeless body hit the floor. John quickly placed his hand on his gun as he stared into Bob’s eyes waiting for him to make the first move.
“You boys gave me your word that you would respect this place, so kindly take your hand from your side and SIT!”
Wary of his nemesis’’ skill, John positioned himself in a seat where he could keep an eye on Bob. John was not as quick on the draw as he used to be, and he knew he wouldn’t stand a chance against someone like Bob. One wrong move and the man would quickly end his life.
“I see you two know each other.” The priest said attempting to ease the tension.
“This man is known for his careless acts of gunning down innocent men,” John said.
“What do you mean ‘not anymore?”
“After the Beverly Brother’s did what they did to you and your kin, I knew something wasn’t right. I can’t do those things to children. That is where I draw the line. Sam Beverly told me if I didn’t like it to leave, so I did.”
“I don’t believe you. I have seen the results of your actions.”
“Yes, against men who tried to draw against me. Believe me, sheriff, I would not have killed those men if I didn’t feel it was my life or theirs.”
“See, he is a changed man,” the priest said. “All can change.”
They sat in silence for most of the night but the tension between Bob and John was so thick even the priest grew uncomfortable. The holy man shifted in his chair and stuttered in his talk no matter how many times
John assured him he wouldn’t disrespect his rules.
When the sun peaked through the mission windows, John rose from his seat. Exhausted he made his way out of the room followed by the priest and Bob.
“There is forgiveness for everyone, no matter what they have done!”
John broke eye contact with Bob and looked to the priest. “This man is part of the group that took my boy.” he said.
“I’m sorry, but I recall him saying he left that.”
“All I care about is getting my boy back, and he knows where they took him.” John paused and looked to
Bob. “Is he still alive?”
“He was when I rode out yesterday. Didn’t have a scratch on him.” Bob said.
John sighed inside holding a tough look on the outside so Bob wouldn’t think he was off his guard. Knowing Billy was still alive ignited a spark of hope inside him. He planned to hit the trail again, but there was still one thing he needed to know. The question was: would Bob tell him?
“You said you left the Beverly Brothers, so where are they?” John asked.
“Sheriff, you know there is a code. I can’t tell you that.”
“You said you drew the line at what they did to children. The least you could do is point me in the right direction so I can save my boy. We are still in the mission. Whatever you say here stays here, as far as I care.”
John watch Bob pause as he awaited an answer. John knew Bob would be marked for death if he helped, but John was willing to do the same if he didn’t help.
“Son, there is forgiveness in doing the right thing,” the priest said to Bob.
“I will point you in the right direction, but I can’t give you anything else.”
“That works for me.”
John stepped out of the mission and was blinded momentarily as his eyes adjusted to the morning sun. He mounted his horse and said goodbye to the priest while Bob mad his way around the mission. As he headed away from the building, John heard the priest wish him luck in finding his son. He waved in acknowledgement and urged his horse eastward. Around the side of the building, he found Bob loosening his horse’s tethers.
As John rode past, the faint click of a revolver being cocked reached his ears.
“Hey Sheriff,” Bob said, “I was looking for forgiveness, but your dead body will get me much more.”
Turning in his saddle, John drew his gun and fired. The bullet hit Bob in the forehead and threw his body to the ground.
“You’re forgiven.” John said as he turned away and rode on in search of his son.
Posted by EW Bradfute