Two new titles are available on Amazon. The first is the fourth of the State of Arizona series, STATE OF CONFUSION. It takes Tan and a new Governor to new heights of trouble at the southern border along with trouble in the capital between the new Governor and everyone else, particularly Tan.

The second book is the second of the DEACON series, DEACON UNDERGROUND. The Deacon is caught up in three or four problems that all wrap around Gold. He has to go underground to get to the bottom of it all.

See posts and link here soon.

Archives: gun fights

I REALLY WANT . . .

I have been reviewing my site now for over two hours. It looks cool and has a hint of what I’m all about as an author. It’s not just a time filler for an old, retired geezer, it exciting. I haven’t had this much fun since I woke up and found water flowing down the passageway where water wasn’t supposed to be on the submarine I was serving on at the time. That will get your heart thumping and exercised.

Bottom line after two hours. Needs some work. BUT, Nanowrimo is at hand.

So, I will write for Nano and then when I run out of words I will do what I can to make the site an awesome experience for my readers.

Why?

Because it’s all about our relationship.

Currently working on four books. The Nano book is DEACON 3. Two of the books are good, kick butt westerns in the style of BLOOD ON THE ZUNI and VENGEANCE. The third is a sequel to SAILOR, with a working title of THE SEA CALLS. All should be up to my self stomping standards.

Love and hugs till next time.

doug

FREE BOOK – The DEACON – LAST EPISODE

I rolled.

All sound stopped, but my hand was on my blood red engraved pistol handle.

Another foot step.

I rolled fast, pulling the hammer back and letting a lead slug fly toward the shadow that appeared as I opened my eyes. The shadow dropped with a grunt and intake of air a man makes when he’s hurt bad.

I rolled again.

The shadow, which I couldn’t see now, fired two quick shots into where I had been. All I could think was that makes two more holes in that saddle blanket.

Now I was blind due to the flash of his gun.

I heard him or her running into the woods downhill toward the mine. I waited until the moon came out from behind a cloud and my night vision began to come back. When I could make out trees and tell them from a horse, I moved downhill taking a wide sweep to the left where I remembered there was thick brush in places and lots of trees, big trees.

I turned Solomon loose as I went past him and told him to stay close unless something happened to me. Like he understood or something.

I walked, my boots crunching everything they touched. I took them off and hung them on a couple broken off branches so I could find them later. I walked quieter, much quieter.

The sound of splashing through the stream, probably the pool, told me a lot. If there weren’t two of the enemy here, the one had just gone in the mine.

Picturing the mine, I thought perhaps he had a smallish cowpony in the mine waiting for him.

Something moved off to my right. Something big. I went to ground. A fair sized pine was between my position and the big thing. I was ready to shoot when I realized it was a horse. A small cowpony. I let it walk right up to me and stood to greet it.

I knew the horse. Only one man had ever ridden it until he died. That man was Shorts. Shorts’ horse had come all the way here. I might believe that he would go to the ranch, but no out here.

I buried Shorts so I knew it wasn’t him down there in the mine. There was just one other man that might have brought that horse here.

Stepping out in the open I yelled, “Cicero, come on out. I’ll see ya get a fair hearing.”

No reply. The horse walked to the creek, bent down and drank.

“Come on, Cicero. It’s all over. You killed a lot of people, but you’re done, finished, it’s all over.”

No sound.

“I’m coming in, Cicero.”

I walked keeping the horse between me and the mine mouth. As I approached the line sight kept me drifting down stream until I stepped over the stream and walked along the wall toward the mine. Every two little steps I stopped to listen.

Nothing.

I arrived at the edge of the entrance to the mine. There was no way I wanted to do what I had to do. He had ridden with me. We shared the hunger of the hunt. Then at one point I think he even saved my life.

“Cicero,” I said softly, “Come out, now. Toss your gun out first and then come out.”

After a few moments of listening to the music of the stream, I heard, “I’m hurt. You hit me bad. I can’t come out.”

“I’m coming in. Put your gun on the ground and I’ll come get you.”

“Come get me and take me out of this hole so I can die looking up at the moon.”

I could hear the pain he was feeling in his voice. He was a hurting man. “I coming in.”

I moved into the entrance of the cave. He should have been able to see me silhouetted by the light of the moon behind me. I slid into the hole along the left side, my back rubbing the wall and my sixgun pointed deep into the cave. “Where are you?”

“Here.” A grunt and then a shot.

A line of flame come toward me and finished off my night vision again. My hand started pulling the hammer back and then the trigger until I had fired four rounds.

He screamed again.

This time I could hear death grab him and wrestle him deep down to hell where the unrepentant go.

I went outside, started a fire, got the pine knots, lit the unused one, and returned to drag Cicero out and across the stream where I laid him out like he was in a coffin before I went back in to find a shovel at the face of the mine.

With him buried I rode back to the Rafter B, sleeping in the saddle as Solomon took me where I needed to go and the dog tagged along.

 

The sun came up on me lying in my blanket in the dirt behind the house. Now I could tell Nancy and Buck that it was really over. Nancy could get a few miners to work the mine. Within days of beginning work there, she could afford all the cows she wanted. Buck could ramrod for her, he was a capable man.

I, I could got back to Evelyn and figure out what was next in my life of being the Deacon, a servant to the Church.

Another dream.

 

Last chapter

 

Two days later, with Solomon all packed up and another horse from the outlaw Laze E crew packed with almost nothing, I headed for Golden. The plan was to load up the pack horse with food and other supplies, I had a list, and hire a couple of hands to bring it back to the ranch and work there while I went on to Denver and the Caravan, hopefully with Evelyn if she waited. Oh, I wasn’t going to marry here, but we made a good team for the Lord. I had two or three great sermons in my head that needed to be preached.

Arriving at the main street of Golden, I checked the horses in to the livery down the alley from the hotel and then walked into the hotel. The lobby was busier than on the last visit. The windows had been fresh washed and the furniture was polished and waxed to shine like the sun itself. On one of those shiny pieces of furniture was a familiar face.

“Daniel, come and sit down.”

“Tor, what’s up with you? I sent you in here to recuperate, not hibernate or retire.”

“Well, I’d like to tell ya right now, but it’s my bed time. I am under strict Doctor’s orders. If I don’t live up to those orders I will be fired and the good Doctor’s bill will be mine to pay.” He got up stiffly and walked to the stairs with the stiffness of a very old man with all kinds of rheumatism.

“I’ll meet ya here in the morning. What time?”

“Make it about 8. And, do I have a surprise for you. Sleep tight and don’t let the bedbugs bite.”

The desk man yelled, “We have no bed bugs in this hotel.”

Tor chuckled. “See ya a 8. I’ll bring the surprise.”

“I can wait. I need the sleep.” I turned to the desk, “Sir, a bed now or I perish.”

“Boy. Take this man to room 305 and hang the ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign out for him. His rig is right there by the settee. Make it quick before he faints from exhaustion, Boy.”

“Yes, Sir.”

It was everything I could do to keep up with the young man he called, Boy, but I made it. He did hang the sign after my gear was put on a rack next to the door. The lamp was turned down. I blew it out as he closed the door with, “Good night.”

“Wake me at 7 please and have the barber fill a tub for me.”

“Yes, Sir.” I heard from the hall.

The pounding on the door was deafening. “I’m coming.”

“It’s 7:20, Sir. I’ve been trying to rouse you for twenty minutes.”

“I’ll be down for the barber in five. I’ll want a shave and a bath.”

“Yes, Sir. The bath is waiting. It might be a touch cool by now.”

“Get out of here. I’m coming.”

I grabbed the cleanest clothes I had, the ones I had on for the last week, and headed down the stairs.

The barber was waiting with hot water, a razor, and soap.

As I finished and was getting ready to dress, he returned. “Sir, you cannot surely wear those same clothes. I had the Boy iron out the store creases in these. Your Mr. Tor has paid for them. He stated that he would be waiting in the café you ate breakfast in last.”

“Thank you.” I wanted to toss him a dollar, but I was broke until I could get to the bank and get some dollars for the gold in my bags.

“Mr. Tor said for you to not worry about money.”

“Thank you.”

Then I thought, ‘What is this guy, a mindreader?’

I dried and dressed. Brushing my hat was a waste, but I did it.

The café was a hole in the wall where an old roundup cookie held sway with a spatula and a cleaver. Tor was waiting for me in a back corner table sipping a cup of what I assumed to be coffee. I sat down with him and told the waiter, “I’ll have what he’s having.”

Tor smiled.

The man delivered the cup and I took a testing sip. “TEA! You’re drinking tea?”

“Yeah, according to this Doctor I have, it’s supposed to promote healing and I need all the promoting I can get.”

“How much longer before you can ride back to Denver with me?

“Don’t know that I’ll be going back to Denver. Sent the Marshall a note to tell him I’m probably out of the law business. Thinking about ranching with my new partner.”

“New partner?” That was a surprise, but then a lot had happened since we separated not that long ago.

“Order up. I’m hungrier than a sore toothed bear.”

“So what’s the surprise?”

He put a dumb grin on his face, “It’s comin’. Don’t you be worrying none.”

My mouth was full of steak and fried potatoes when Tor whispered, “Here she comes.”

“She?” I turned to see who he was talking about.

Coming across the room was a stunning young woman in a wool shirt and denim trousers. Her hair was the darkest of blacks. The way she walked said ‘look out here I come and I am confident.’ Then her eyes focused on me. Those eyes were dark and seemed to penetrate deeply whatever they focused on. “And, who is this lovely young lady?”

“This is my new partner. She has nursed me and wants me to work her ranch with her. I asked her to marry me last night and she is supposed to answer this morning.”

“Oh.”

I could not take my eyes off her.

Arriving at the table triggered my manners. I stood. She stuck out her hand which I took strictly out of habit. “I’m Nancy. This man here has told me all about the Deacon.”

She looked at Tor, “The answers ‘yes’ to your question last evening. I have already talked with the local Parson and he can do the ceremony this afternoon if that’s what satisfactory with you.”

“Whatever you say, Dear.” He tried to stand to greet her.

“Sit down. You aren’t ready for standing alone and walking, yet.”

“How’d you get here, then?” I asked.

“Got me a fancy chair with wheels. The boy from the hotel pushes me around when Nancy’s not available.”

“How can we have two Nancys in our lives?” I asked.

“We can’t. One of them is a fake.”

I sat down. My brain went to work with the extra pressure on it. “Nancy is a fake.”

“One of them is.”

I looked at the strong woman still standing at the table and stood up again. Sliding her chair out, “Would you care to join us at the table and have some breakfast?”

“I would.” She sat and slid herself up to the table.

I sat. “So, tell me about all this. I am, shall we say, befuddled.”

“Dad had come to Golden to meet me coming back from school in Philadelphia. I got here and he wasn’t here so I was waiting when Tor came in. My training was Nursing, in part, so the Doctor asked me to wait on him hand and foot until he was well. He’s been ordering me around forever. The gal you chased all over the country and rescued was an imposter. I am sure she was the daughter of that Lazy E owner. They been after the ranch for a long time and Dad was getting a bit leery of their activities. We were missing cows and hands were leaving without notice. They would just come in, get their gear, and leave. My last letter from Dad said that someone was shooting up the place without really trying to hit anything. He was worried they would start shooting to kill. So, here I am. I left school and caught the next train. I had wired the Doctor here to let him know I was coming.”

“Sorry about your Dad. Wish we had gotten there sooner.”

She looked at Tor, “When do you want to do the wedding?”

“When I’m ready for the honeymoon.”

“I am not waiting that long before I go to the ranch, cowboy. Today or six months from now. Take your pick.”

“Now, of course.”

I chimed in with, “I was told in Denver I could do weddings.” I smiled.

“Who said that?” Tor asked.

“Evelyn.”

“Who’s Evelyn?”

“My singer.”

“We’ll use the Parson,” Nancy ended the conversation.

We talked a bit longer while we finished breakfast. I left to get a spring wagon from the livery along with a couple of horses to pull it. The wrangler was very understanding and was willing to anything for Miss Diane and her beau. “That’s a right purty woman there. Women rare enough out here and purty are impossible to find. Danged if I can even find an ugly one.”

I chuckled as I drove off to the front of the hotel.

It was three days later when we stopped on top of the rise and looked down on the ranch house. I was mad. Tor was hurting. Nancy was ready to spit nails at the phony Nancy down below.

“I will ring her neck first and then slap her silly,” Nancy spit out like venom.

“Nancy. Hate will burn you for the rest of your life. What happened happened. We can get things straightened out and you will have your ranch with the gold for the rest of your life.”

“Don’t be preaching at me, Deacon. I’ve heard it all before and it did nothing to keep my Dad alive.”

“Everything dies. Why should you be exempt from death in your life?”

“Don’t even try to give me that religious garbage, Mr. Deacon. I have had it up to here,” she waived her hand above her head.

I pointed to my heart, “You only need it in here.”

“Shut up and drive.” She kicked Solomon in the ribs and headed for the ranch house as fast as he would go.

I had to take is slow. Tor was hurting and whining. Not that I could blame him any.

He said, “Catch here. That woman down there will shoot her out of the saddle if she gets half a chance.”

I saw Nancy jump off Solomon in the middle of the ranch yard and run to the house. The front door open and the false Nancy walked out. The two met at the edge of the porch in a collision I thought was going to kill them both. I could see the fur fly from my bouncing seat as we zigged and zagged down the slope to the yard.

We got there just in time to see the false Nancy catch Nancy with a beautiful roundhouse swing that caught her in the left ear. Nancy went down into the dirt hard.

My eyes must have bugged out because she bounced up and laid the false Nancy backpeddling onto the porch and flat on her back. Her head hit the wood with a resounding boom and bounced. She laid there still with a small pool of blood growing under her head.

Nancy moved forward and rolled the unconscious one on her side and began doctoring the head wound. Within moments the false Nancy looked like a war hero with a bloody bandage around her head as she sat up on the edge of the porch.

Nancy said, “Why?”

No answer.

I moved Tor into the wheeled chair on the porch and into the house. Neither of us worried about the battle on the porch.

After returning to the porch I asked, “Where’s Buck. Did you kill him, too?”

False looked up at me and said, “I have killed no one, ever. Buck is out checking a rumor from a passing rider that over two hundred head of my cows are over to the west in a large hole in the lava country. Who’s the tramp?”

“The real Nancy who was raised on this ranch, whose mother is buried up on that rise, whose father was killed by the Lazy E, that’s who.”

I watched. She never blinked. “So who am I if not Nancy who was raised on this ranch, whose mother is buried on that rise, whose father was killed by outlaws?”

“Beats me, lady. I have no idea. Who are you?”

“I am Nancy.”

Nurse Nancy came through the door. “No, you are not. I am the Nancy and I can prove it. Deacon, in the top drawer of the dresser in the room Tor is in you will find a tintype. Bring it out here.”

I did.

I looked at it as I walked out. There was no longer a doubt in my mind. I handed it to false Nancy. She took one look at it and began crying. As she shook her head the ends of the bandage flapped in the breeze.

“It’s not true. She planted that tintype while she was in there. I am Nancy.”

I was taken aback by her anger and pain. Why would she continue to cry and fight with the picture settled it? The tintype was definitely Nurse Nancy. I asked, “When was this picture taken, Nancy.”

“Around spring last year. Dad wanted me to get the picture so he could put it on his dresser. We never got around to getting a frame for it.”

I looked at False Nancy. “If you are you the real Nancy, what do you have for proof?”

“There was never a picture of me, but there is a picture of my mother in my room under the paper in the bottom of my jewelry box, the small wooden ammunition box on my dresser.”

I retrieved the box and handed it to Nurse Nancy. She fumbled the latch. “It sticks.” On the second try she got it open and laid out the jewelry on a small table like it was important to her, lifted the paper, and there was nothing there.

False Nancy grabbed the box and shook it. Nothing fell out. “Where did it … She took it. She stole my mother’s picture. Now I really do have nothing, no ranch and no picture.

Nurse Nancy said, “I found where you had hidden it and put it up on the shelf in the closet.”

I looked at the paper lying on the table. There was a slight change of color over a part of the paper that was close to the size of the supposed picture that I saw when Nurse Nancy brought it out.

I prayed, ‘Lord, I need wisdom and answers here. Please show me the truth.’

An idea hit me, I looked at false Nancy, “What’s the terrain like to the west?”

“Mostly slow rolling hills until you get to the mountain.”

“Nancy, which direction is the nearest water hole from here. Just point.”

She stalled as if to think, “I don’t know if the one over there, or over there.”

False Nancy said, “There are no water holes in that direction for miles.” She pointed and shook her head with a smile. She knew she was right.

“How old was your dad?”

“61. He married late and I took a couple of years to come along.”

I said, “Alright. Nancy, how old was your mother and when and why did she die?”

She looked lost. “What is all this questions crap? I am the daughter. I’ve been away for a long time and now you want all these answers.”

The real Nancy yelled, “My mother died six years ago from some sickness that withered her away like a hot wind on green grass. She went from a healthy woman to dead in less than four weeks. I helped dad bury her. Come to think of it, she’s buried up on the hill, but her feet are under the headstone. Dad wanted it that way so the pressure wouldn’t be on her head. If you look at the head stone you’ll see a five pointed star that I carved in the sandstone one day when I was up there crying.”

“She spied it all out while she was here alone with the cowboy. Tramp? You’re the tramp living alone with a cowboy.”

“Did up the coffin and see where her feet are. No one could know that except Dad and me.”

I picked up the tintype from the jewelry box and then I slowly lifted the paper. When I put the two together it was plain that the tintype had been in that box at one time under that very piece of paper.

Nurse Nancy turned and walked to Solomon as I was doing the match up. As I lifted my eyes from the paper, she swung onto his back and took off like a shot. I called, “Solomon.”

He spun on a silver dollar and gave about ninety-five cents change before returning to the hitching rail right in front of me. False Nancy the nurse landed in the dirt after her flight of fifteen feet or so.

I’ll give her this. She got up and started walking away from the ranch slumped in her defeat.

I went to retrieve her. There were still questions without answers.

 

The last chapter

for now

 

After a tough couple of days we found out that Nurse Nancy was really a Nancy, just not the right one for the ranch. Cicero had met her on a trip to Golden when he had the gold assayed first time. He got drunk and told her everything, so when XXX brought Tor in she figured she could worm her way in if the outlaws killed the real Nancy or there was a miracle and the real Nancy died of unknown causes.

Cicero had told her a lot about the ranch and where to find the gold when he was whiskey blabbing and had even invited her to the ranch where she could live at the mine and he could visit her. She liked the idea of living in a gold mine and sooner or later would have killed Cicero. The gold would have then been hers and she could get out of area from time to time to spend a lot of money. The first thing she was going to do was buy out the saloon and dance hall she was working in.

I made sure she didn’t change her mind to ride away by taking her to the law in Golden.

Bottom line, Nancy had her ranch and the Lazy E was not going to be a problem anymore. Buck was going to stay on. Tor cried because he mad at himself for getting suckered in. He decided to take on the Lazy E seein’s how he no longer had a job in Denver and all the owners were dead.

Me, I went home to Evelyn to get my head on straight after all the killing and rescuing and just plain miracles.

If God was for me, who could stand against me. I could see me getting real proud in a short time. My thinking could turn to – Since I am so good, no one can stand against me.

For the first time in my life I felt fear so deep I trembled and froze. Fortunately, I was on Solomon and he was headed for Denver.

It wasn’t all about the money at all.

FREE BOOK – The DEACON – Episode 24

Tommy went wide up the slope into the trees. I motioned for Buck to stay behind me. All of a sudden it hit me. I didn’t know what this horse would do if the shooting started. ‘Hey, Lord. Please keep an eye on this horse and let me hang on, Please. Thank you, amen.’

I rode along the steam.

A spot where the stream had been blocked a bit by rolling rocks across its width, causing a pool of fifteen feet across and two feet deep right in front of mouth of a cave. The cave looked like it was natural. The top of the dam lined up with the cave and on my side of the stream, fifty feet or so, was a pile of smaller rock that looked different than the rock the cave was in. There were no fresh tracks anywhere except for one set where Buck had come close a couple days before.

I got off the horse, dropped the reins, and walked across the dam. The cave opening was natural. No sign on it of any tools, but inside the mouth ten feet, I could see a pick and a single jack standing against the wall with a couple of drill steels alongside. A wooden box like one I had seen blasting powder in once over by Amarillo what seemed like a long time ago.

I walked up close and read the label. AJAX BLASTING POWDER. I lifted it and moved it up to the trees behind a bunch of scrub and rock with Buck’s help. Actually, he grabbed it and rode up there while I walked empty handed.

Returning to the hole was in a quandary. That hole was dark. How far could I go in and be safe. I had no light of any kind. ‘Lord, I need to see what’s in there. Any ideas.’ All I came up with was that small voice in the back of my head saying, ‘walk.’

I did, carrying my little pointy headed hammer.

Thirty feet in it was so dark the floor was difficult to see and there were no more colors, just dark shapes and space. Running my hands up the wall on the right side and across the ceiling I came to a foot wide hole in the ceiling. I checked it out by running my hand along the hole toward the entrance. It ended ten feet back. Now that I was looking in a different direction I could see a bit better. At the edge of the slot in the ceiling were whitish rocks with lines in them.

I went back to the thirty foot area, took a whack at the edge of the slot with the hammer, and brought down a fair sized slab of the roof, a few pieces hit me on my hat. Bending over, I grabbed the slab and made for the entrance.

In the noon sun the whitish stone looked white as snow and the lines were a rusty yellow. The rock crumbled with very little effort. The tough parts felt the hammer. Tommy came down from the trees, took one look, and said, “Gold, or my name’s little Suzy Brown.”

“Gold?” said I.

“Gold?” Buck said.

“Yeah, that’s gold. That’s the kind of gold miners love to see, cain’t remember what it’s called, but they love it. You can sit here with our little hammer and crumble it, separating the white quartz from the gold veins, and walk away with almost pure gold to take to town. Most banks’ll give ya 90 to 95 percent of the ounce price without any further refining. Why heck, you can refine it in a forge down to dang near the pure stuff.”

We all said, “Woooweee,” at the same time as we stood there gawking.

Tommy looked around and found a couple of sappy pine knots. Buck got a fire going. When we put the two together I had two torches to go in the mine with. They smoked a bit, but put out a fair amount of light. Forty feet in the veins of rusty yellow got bigger and the channel in the ceiling went wider and wider. All I could think of was, ‘Nancy’s gonna be a rich gal. This mine has enough gold showing to restock the ranch and build those line shacks she wanted.’ It was just a shame that her daddy wasn’t going to get to see it.

I left the mine without burning out the first torch. A dunk in the stream simmered it to out and both were put in a crack twenty feet south of the entrance so no one would see them if they happened to drop by.

We headed for the ranch house with some good news for a change.

Nancy cried all the way through the meal she prepared and set before us. I said grace and the crying started. It the time for me to eat the steak in front of me and five biscuits for her to settle down enough to talk about it. “What would I have done without you all? I feel so good and so bad all at the same time. Cicero missing. Tor dead. Shorts dead. All those gun hands dead and even that horrible Mr. Everson dead. All over gold. I wish it wasn’t there. Why couldn’t it be on someone else’s ranch? My mother homesteaded that section just because of the water. My father always said that place was a waste because it was so far out. I wish he was here now.” Her bawling wiped out the rest.

I went for a walk. I had a lot of questions I would have liked answered. Why homestead a place that far out even with water? Who was digging the hole deeper into the wall? Who found it? “What do I do next, Lord? I really need You to tell me.”

Everything seemed so done. The kidnapper/killers were all accounted for. Nancy was safe. Every body we knew of was buried properly. The hands remaining were trustworthy. I could leave whenever I wanted to.

Tommy died that night.

Tommy had the first watch. He never woke up me or Buck. I woke at the first hint of dawn and saw Buck’s bunk occupied. I didn’t even bother to check my boots for varmints before I kicked my feet into them. Grabbing my gun belt I whipped it around my hips and missed catching the buckle. I tried again and succeeded. The yard was empty. The house was quiet. All the horse seemed to be in the corral. Solomon looked at me like, ‘What’s up, Deacon?’

I found Tommy in the kitchen with a cup of coffee on his finger. The coffee was ice cold. I put the pot on the stove and added some kindling, blew on the ashes, and had a fire in a minute or so. Buck ran in, saw Tommy, and asked very quietly, “What happened?”

I told him all I knew.

Tommy’s body laid on the floor just as I had found him. He had soiled himself and his face was one of agony. His back was arched backwards. The coffee that had been in the cup must have gone down his gullet because none was seen spilled on the floor except one large drop under his cup lip.

The pot on the stove boiled. I reached for a cup on the counter and handed it to Buck. He grabbed the pot and poured as I reached for another cup.

I dropped it and spun around, slapping Buck’s full cup from his lips. The hot coffee go on both of us. My shirt caught some, but I leaned forward to give the hot coffee distance from my skin. Buck wasn’t as lucky. The scalding coffee splashed on his cheek and ear before pouring off his face and down his back. He screamed like a gut shot horse. I grabbed the water bucket and doused him with half a bucket of water.

“Thanks, I think. What was that all about?”

“The coffee is the only way Tommy could have been poisoned.”

“How do you know he was poisoned?”

“The box in the far corner of the counter. See, the one that says ‘rat poison’ on it.”

“Oh, thank you, Deacon.”

Nancy walked into the kitchen with her wrong shaped robe wrapped around her and fear in her eyes. “What’s all the . . .”

She saw Tommy.

“Is he dead?”

“Yes. Poison,” Buck answered.

“Oh, my god.”

“Ma’am. I wish you wouldn’t say that unless you know God up close and personal.”

“How’d he die?”

“Poison. I already told you that.”

“You don’t have to yell.” The crying started all over again. “Damn gold.” She turned and walked back to her room.

I heard the door slam.

“Let’s get him out to the barn, Buck. Did you see that box on the counter at dinner?”

“No. No one puts poison on the kitchen counter.” He looked around. “Do they?”

“Someone did. Far’s I can see. Either you or Nancy put it there, cuz I know I didn’t do it.”

“You can count me out. I know I didn’t do it either.”

I just shook my head grabbed Tommy under his arms. He was cold and stiff. Buck grabbed his feet. The barn was cool and a board across a stall became his marble slab until the grave was ready for him.

Nancy was still in her room with the door shut when they returned to the house. “I’ll cook, you watch,” I said.

“I’m watching after I get rid of this rat poison.” Buck walked out the back door. I watched him go a hundred yards from the house and slowly pour the poison out of the box onto the ground in a thin stream. The morning breeze kicked up a bit to help disperse the poison. He brought the box back and threw it in the stove.

We both watched it burn to ashes. I stirred the ashes. It was gone.

Three of us on the ranch and one of us was a killer.

Then my brain kicked in again. It wasn’t me. The reason for the murder was important. Tommy knew where the gold was. Of course, so did Nancy and Buck. Nancy already owned  the gold mine. That only left Buck, and he didn’t act like a killer. He was genuinely startled and surprised when his saw Tommy on the floor. So was Nancy.

Was there someone else on the ranch trying to kill us off? Why? Because that someone else knew about the gold and did not have a prayer of getting it without killing us off. That had to be it.

My head hurt as I grilled some steaks in a fry pan and burned some biscuits in the oven.

We ate it all regardless.

I told Buck I was camping out a ways tonight and if he wanted to do that he could. I informed Nancy of my decision and she just shrugged, locked her bedroom door, and yelled, “All you brave men leaving a woman at home to guard the fort. Oh well, I guess it is my ranch so it’s up to me to keep it. I won’t move outta this room tonight and I want everyone to know, I have a Winchester and two pistols in here. I know how to use them and I can’t miss if you come through the window or the door. Goodnight.” Her lamp went out.

I had done so much figuring that I was wondering if I was guilty of the murder of Tommy, by accident. We had really torn that kitchen apart a looking for all we needed to cook and serve a big meal, any one of us could have left that poison on the counter. Although, I can say I don’t ever remember seeing it in the kitchen or anywhere before.

I just started riding trying to keep the moon light bright around me while I was in shadows and under cover. After a mile or so I just rode. The dog appeared beside me just sauntering along with the horse’s quick walk. So here we were so deep in the mystery, but all together like we had been shortly after it began. The dog wasn’t too talkative, so I just shut up and rode.

Without thinking I had ridden toward the mine and come in on the high side of the ramp down to the creek. We set up camp near the high side of the slope and settled in for a night’s sleep in peace and quiet.

Solomon grunted which woke me up. I didn’t move. I didn’t open my eyes. I prayed that my breathing hadn’t changed any. Someone was very close to me. How did I know? I don’t know, I just knew.

A foot step.

Another.

A sixgun rubbing leather as it was drawn.

FREE BOOK – The DEACON – Episode 17

Me, I just walked until I found another track closer to the trail and kept on going. I started singing ‘Amazing Grace’ as I rode along hoping to catch up before it was so dark I had a chance of missing her if she turned off.

“Who taught you to sing, cowboy?”

“My daddy’s star attraction,” was my answer.

“Got room on that horse for me?” She stood up right next to the trail not fifteen feet in front of me. The dog was at her side.

“Where’d the dog come from?”

“He’s been around off and on all day. Is he yours?”

I chuckled, “No. He belongs to him. No one is that dog’s master, unless he’s a hound from heaven and belongs to God.”

“Probably. Oh, it is good to see you up and about.”

“I’m feeling better, but I ain’t all the way there yet.” I stuck my hand out and down slightly, “Grab on and let’s get a bit further down the road before it is totally dark.”

She did and we loped along watching for something on our back trail and a place we could fort up and get some rest for the night. Just after it got really black, we crawled into a shallow cave. A rock wall about a third fallen, stretched across the mouth of the cave leaving an opening large enough for Solomon to get in. He refused the shelter and went out to dinner with the dog. The dog loved the place. I let her take the first watch at the rock wall to the front of the cave and I got some shuteye.

I awakened to a low growl from the dog. He was looking back up the trail and just rumbling under his breath. Diane was sound asleep leaning against the wall. Solomon was standing next to his saddle. We saddled in record time. I put Diane aboard Solomon and, leading the horse, I trotted down the trail. The dog disappeared so fast he might as well been smoke.

That running stuff is for the birds in or out of boots and I was wearing high healed riding boots. After a mile, I sent Diane on ahead with the horse and I took the rifle to set up a watch on the back trail. She got the small six gun. I didn’t think to give her extra shells for the gun.

After almost falling asleep in the first five minutes I was hunkered down to watch, I stood up. When I did a slug whanged off the rock right next to my head. The sound of a shot followed as I slid back down into my hidey hole. Taking a quick peek to see what I could see, I saw nothing. Someone else did. Another round went splat into the same rock. Either the first shooter moved or there was more than one. I went with two shooters.

I prayed.

I prayed for that silly dog to show up and for Diane’s safety.

I had checked the terrain before I hunkered down and knew they could not get past me without me knowing it or being dead of course. I was watching for the first and didn’t want to think about the second.

One man popped up and right back down just like a prairie dog after a long winter’s sleep. I didn’t move. He tried it again. I didn’t move. The third time he lost his senses, I killed them with a bullet through his head.

The second, third, and fourth outlaw returned fire. There were some angry because I had killed number one. I crawled to a second spot off twenty feet or so.

The new spot did give them a route to get by me without me seeing them, but I doubted if they could see it from their angle. The way they had followed us and not cut us off told me they didn’t know this area at all and who would unless they stumbled on it like I did.

While I was trying to make up my mind what to do next, the sound of four or five shots rattled off the mountains from the direction Diane had gone. It was time to go.

I flung three shots in the general directions of the outlaws and started around the corner of trail behind me. Once I was clear it was back to running again. Those gun dummies were sure trying to murder those rocks back yonder. Must have fired off at least a box of shells. I smiled. I wasn’t there.

 

The trail went uphill for a short distance and then topped out in a nice campsite situated in the saddle. A problem became very clear. Going down the other side I would be in plain sight for at least five minutes even if I ran. The trail went zigzag down the mountain with one level not twenty feet above the next. Every time I was going across I was like a shooting gallery I saw in St. Louis once with a bunch of ducks moving across the scene and the object was to shoot them down as fast as they popped up. I never got to try that, but my dad did and didn’t do very well. He could hit a target standing still, but he couldn’t hit the slow moving ducks that were larger than the bullseye he could hit standing still. I was hoping the men behind me were as bad as my dad.

They weren’t. The first one to shoot took a chunk out of my rifle’s butt leaving splinters hanging out for me to poke in my face when I brought the Winchester up to return fire. When I got to the next switchback I just kept on going straight ahead. There was a stream at the bottom of the hill, but it was a long way down there.

After I cut out about half the downhill of the slope, someone saw me and fired a couple shots that sent twigs and needles falling on my head. I turned straight down the hill and did fairly well until I was fifty feet or so above the stream where I tripped and pretended to be tumbling act all the way to the water. The water and I met with no introduction, just a noisy, wet connection. The rifle was still in my hand when I came up for air.

The dog was sitting on the bank.

I reached for him and he took off downstream along a hard rock ledge and disappeared around a rocky corner. He was trying to tell me something, of that I was sure. The trail got a washing as I trotted in his steps shaking out the Winchester and my .44. In no time at all I rounded another corner and ran into Solomon. Solomon without Diane. He had a bleeding spot on his hip that I checked. It was a grazing shot that probably hurt more that it was dangerous.

He actually looked like he was happy to see me. I know I was happy to see him.


21

 

My position in the saddle gave me confidence that God was looking out for me. I yelled, “Thank ya, Lord,” and kicked Solomon into a fast walk. It was a gentle kick.

Down the trail we found a spot where the ground was all torn up. Must have been the place where the shots I had heard were fired. Three fired rounds lay in the dirt and a piece of wet plaid cloth that matched the shirt Diane had on was lying atop a rock like someone had put it there on purpose. More trail markers from Diane? I wasn’t sure of this one.

The dog barked from downstream. We took off after him. This time I gave Solomon his head and let him go his own speed which, due to the narrow trail, wasn’t very fast. Horse tracks with dog prints over the top of them filled the trail. I could smell fresh dust. Another piece of shirt was hooked on a branch to the high side of the trail.

It was her.

I gigged Solomon telling him to move faster. He held to the pace he had. I let him, he was smarter about the trail than I.

We splashed through the stream and up the other side a bit before going down and across the stream again. After six or seven crossings, I could tell by the water splashed on the bank still soaking in that we were catching up. I pulled back on the reins, not wanting to run into them when they had the advantage and I wasn’t ready. It was a good thing I did.

Around the nest corner there they were, just crossing the creek again into a tangle of aspen and scrub. The one at the back jumped off his horse and unlimbered his long gun. He was pretty good. From about 200 yards, he planted that slug in the tree right next to my head. I mean not even a foot away. Needless to say, I hit the dirt.

From a distance came the shout of victory from the shooter. He was sure I was down and yelled he was coming to get my scalp. Someone else told him to come back, but he kept coming. I could have, but I didn’t take his scalp. He was dead from a gunshot wound when I left him.

I didn’t shoot him, it was the outlaws chasing me.

All I could do was pray and say, “Oh goody, bad guys in front of me and bad guys in back of me. How can I miss?” Right then the story of Elijah and his servant came to me.

Seems the king of the country next to Elijah’s home sent an army to kill him because of his good instructions to the army of Israel. The servant got up in the morning and saw the army of this king lining the hills around the town Elijah and he were in. The servant ran back in the house and told Elijah they were going to die, there was an army surrounding this little town. Elijah didn’t even get flustered. He just asked God to show his servant His army. God opened the eyes of the servants to see the army of God, which was huge and ferocious and more powerful than the king’s army. Needless to say, the kings army got dealt with right smartly.

“Okay Lord. Let me see your army.”

All I saw was the view between my horse’s ears and I wasn’t too happy with that. There was no army between Solomon’s ears, at least not that I could see.

We took off to get in the tangle of trees and scrub before the ones behind us caught up any more. I couldn’t believe my good fortune when there was no one waiting for us there. The tracks just kept on going. The dog tracks were still there on top of the horse tracks. A patch of cloth was on the ground partially buried by a hoof print. It looked to me like the dog’s print had uncovered a big part of it.

What kind of dog was this?

I stopped just inside the dense stand of aspen and scrub, turned my Winchester toward the men behind me, and took another outlaw out of action and of the saddle right. He fell next to the tree that had the slug in it that had been fired at me as I emerged from that opening earlier. He went down and the two horses behind him rode right over the top of him. His scream wasn’t pretty. I really do hate to see men die. God works in mysterious ways His wonders to perform.

I know it’s Old Testament, but the Bible says that if you live by the sword, you will die by the sword. Somehow I was figuring that gun could be substituted for sword. But, then again, Jesus told his disciples that the time would come when they would need to sell their spare robe to buy a sword. Would gun fit there? I wasn’t sure. It sure seemed like God was setting up a bunch of bad men to stand in front of my gun. Would I die by the gun?

I quit thinking on the subject with that question.

Four shots were fired in my direction so I returned the favor with two rounds from the Winchester. Didn’t hit anything important, but it made me feel better. It also scattered the crowd behind me.

Solomon decided it was time to get us out of there. I had to hold the horse back or we would have smack dab into the tail end man ahead of us. We rode slowly along moving from cover to cover always keeping an eye on the back trail. I felt like a dumb kid first time he saw the big city and all the big buildings with his head swiveling as fast as possible.

As we rounded a corner on the trail I saw a fork. One path went up the side of the hill and the other stayed down along the creek in a bottom that was widening. From where I was I could not tell which branch the outlaws had taken with Diane. Both trails led to areas of wide open country. The bottom was wider and had fallen into a different type of growth, small trees far apart. The uphill branch was hanging on the side of the mountain by a hair, a very fine hair.

I crossed the creek through a mess of brush and saplings to get a better look at the uphill branch. There were no tracks on it. There were no tracks on the trail along the stream, either. The revelation was a strange and unfathomable to me as the Revelation of Scripture must have been to the human writers. How could this be possible?

It was a cinch they had not turned around. We would have collided. There was no sign of brushing out tracks on either path. They must have gone down stream walking the horses in the water. I took the path along the creek and began serious watching of both banks for an exit point. The problem became that I had to check out every solid rock exit point very carefully which meant I had to ride up every shelf and rock bottomed side cut until I could be sure they had not used it for an exit and started off in a new direction.

I had done two shelves and three side cuts before I hit the right one. It was a shelf of sandstone three feet wide and angled off uphill and away from the stream. There was a beautiful campsite centered on a flat red rock that would have made a great dinner table and kitchen next to the fire pit. I could see where someone not too long ago had set their saddle and blankets on the ground not too far from the fire and spent the night. A reasonably new flour sack was draped over a limb to confirm my findings.

That shelf went on for a ways, but fortunately, I saw two fresh strike marks where an iron horse shoe had recently hit the soft sandstone. About two hundred feet into it and there was a silver disc and a shred of plaid shirt. Diane was still thinking. Not too far after that point the tracks became clear as the path hit damp clay and I could pick out individual horse’s prints.

From the length of strides and position of the tracks I got to thinking they had started moving faster, but like a bunch of dummies they were going uphill and were going to tire their horses much faster. Having been on the trail for some time and on tired horses, they needed to find a campsite right soon or kill their horses.

The trail rounded a corner and started going down, at the bottom was a plume of smoke. Someone had just lit a fire of wood that wasn’t very dry and I had a real good idea who it was. Sitting in the trail was the dog. The location was ideal if they hadn’t started the smoke pouring into the sky. There was a ten acre hollow filled mostly with threes so close together you couldn’t see very far into the patch of woods.

Looking around offered me no way out of the fix I was in now. Thinking on the crowd behind me and the location of the ones with the smudgy I was the meat in the sandwich. ‘Charge, always charge,’ rang through my head. Solomon started walking down the hanging trail into the hollow as the dog stood and trotted into the woods. I lifted the rifle out of its scabbard and check for a round in the chamber and a full magazine. That was about as ready as I could get.

Nobody challenged us in any way as we approached the thick woods in the hollow. The dog came out of the trees and moved toward the creek we had been following, disappearing around a pair of rocks. Still no challenge. Behind the rocks I found the dog laying down in a sunny patch of sand in the bottom of a dried up pool not six feet from a drop off into the stream thirty feet below.

So, now I was not the meat in the sandwich. I had a hidey hole just big enough for the three of us as long as only one of us stretched out at a time. It was defendable, but it would be a fight to the death, there was no exit except the entrance. I sat myself in the entrance behind a clump of brush I pulled out at the side and moved to block the entrance and waited.

Within moments, a man walked out of the woods not a hundred feet from me. I could have shot him with the greatest of ease except for the idea that it would blow my cover. There was no way I was gonna do any shooting until the followers caught up and joined up with the ones in the woods with Diane. Then and only then would I know how many and where they were.

Solomon nickered twenty minutes later. The horses in the woods responded and so did a horse coming over the hump into the hollow. Both sides thought the nicker came from the other group of friends. The following group of men saw the smoke in the hollow and pulled their rifles out in preparation of finding me. I had to chuckle at that idea. Unless there was a trail out the other side, and I hadn’t seen one, I had them bottled up real nice. Of course I had no way of stopping a concerted charge of the whole bunch of them even if every shot was a killing shot. With ten rounds in the Winchester and six in the pistol, I’d be two bullets short of dealing with the crowd I figured was down there. Twelve men had just ridden in. From the sounds of things whooping and hollering down there, they must be old friends.

Two men walked to the edge of the woods and began walking back to the ridge on the trail. They were posting guards and the fox was already in the hen house. I guessed there wasn’t a decent tracker in the bunch if they didn’t see my tracks coming up that rise before the hollow.

Two hours later the dog woke me up with a paw on my lap. I looked around to see two more men coming from the woods with rifles in their hands, walking up the trail with rifles in their hands. The changing of the guard was nothing fancy like I’d read about in the paper a couple years back, but that is what they did. I went back to sleep figuring the dog and horse were gonna be on lookout.

I was wrong.


22

 

I was awakened by a gun prodding my ear and a voice, “You listen here, boy. I will blow your head off if you move sudden like. Keep your hands where they are a Lefty gathers your armament.”

I did.

“Now, stand up slowly, very slowly.”

I did.

“Walk on out here.”

I did.

“Lefty, get the horse and keep him covered from behind.”

He did. At least I suspected he did. I could hear Solomon walking not too far behind me as we walked out of the hidey hole and down to the tree line where we were met by three real bad men who welcomed me with a heavy handed slapping up-side of my head. I pretended to be knocked out and fell to the ground.  They kicked me until I got up.

The voice with the gun said, “Stop. Boss man wants him alive and whole. If he screams loud enough the girl might sign the papers.”

I just couldn’t keep my mouth shut. “Not if I have any say in this. She won’t.”

“Then she’s gonna die, preacher.”

Oh, so at least one of them had seen me in Denver or someplace earlier. “Lefty,” the speaker was behind me, “Did you listen to the sermon?”

“Yeah. Didn’t like you sayin’ we’s all sinners. I ain’t never sinned in my life, yet.”

“Did you just join this gang?”

“Nah. Did most of the horse wranglin’ for the ranch until you come along.”

“You must feel right proud riding with outlaws that are trying to take a ranch away from a woman after they killed her father, right proud.” He hit me in the back of my head sending my hat flying.

FREE BOOK – The DEACON – Episode 15 – comments requested

18

FROM HERE ON I AM INTERJECTING A DOG THAT SHOWS UP OUT OF NOWHERE WAY BACK IN CH -10 OR SO. I AM ALSO SIFTING TO FIRST PERSON BECAUSE I FIND THE THIRD PERSON USING DEAC’S POINT OF VIEW ISN’T WORKING FOR ME. I WILL GO BACK ON REWRITE AND ADD THIS IN. the dog will add more options to the story at every crisis point.

The Rafter B was quiet. There were horses in the corral, a couple tied with saddles on at the hitch rail by the bunkhouse, and one rider way off to the other side headed in. From the horse count, there were at least 22 men on hand to keep the party lively and me on my toes. As I watched from the same point Tor and I had used before, I prayed. It was a simple prayer, “Lord, help me please.”

I didn’t know what else to say.

Ezekiel, THE DOG, hadn’t been around for some time, at least since the shooting started after I was discovered at the Lazy E. No worry, sometimes I think that dog is an angel from God and other times he hits me like a demonic spirit. He does keep saving my bacon, at least on occasion. I could have used that dog right then. His smile and tail talk louder than most words.

As I watched, one man walked from the bunkhouse over to the barn. In a couple of minutes I could hear the bellows pumping in the forge and saw smoke come from the chimney. That gave me the location of two of the men. The front door on the house opened and out step Diane. She was looking back over her shoulder like someone was giving her instructions.

She flipped her hair by throwing her head around and walked to a swing chair. Her standing there was doing things to me. She had obviously had a chance to clean up and change clothes. There was no sign of any bruises that I could see from this distance. She sat and started rocking it back and forth with one foot while she tucked the other underneath her. As she rocked she kept throwing her hair. I got the feeling she was trying to say something to anyone watching. She knew it would have to be me because no one else knew she was a captive and her father was dead, except the outlaws of course.

‘What could she be trying to say, Lord?’

The flip was always in the same direction, to her right. Every time she did the flip her hair would fall over the right side of her head and promptly slide back to the left. What was she saying, if she was saying anything?

She lifted her right hand and arm so the arm rested on top of the swing back. She knocked on the wood a couple of time and then slowly extended her pointer finger and brought the hand to a quiet position with that finger pointed.

Okay, so there was something over that way that was important. The sun was over there and a couple of hours from setting. I was sure she was not pointing at the sunset. There were no colors painted, yet.

I tried to focus on the area to the west from her angle. There was nothing but wide open spaces, or so it looked from where I was. Then I saw the dog. He was sitting very still about two hundred yards out from the side of the house. Anyone not knowing what that dog looked like would only see a scrubby bush if he could see anything looking into the sun like that.

Had she given something to the dog to give me if I showed up? Was she her dog? Questions I had no answers for at that time. One thing was sure, I was going to move around and join that dog about sundown.

After a few minutes she talked with someone inside the house, stood up, stretched like she was tired and going to bed, turned, and walked into the house with her left arm slapping the wall beside the door jamb three quick times with her knuckles. Three raps. Three shots. Danger or trouble. Most of the time it was the signal for ‘I need help.’ Was that what she was doing?

An answer slapped the back of my mind. She needs help to get to the dog or that way. Wait, she signaled she is going to bed for the night at a really early, too early for a young gal. She is going to sneak out of the bedroom on that side of the house and go in that direction and will need help. ‘Lord, you and I know she needs all the help she can get.’

I started sliding backwards toward Solomon. Once I reached him, we walked slowly, very slowly so we kicked up no dust, away from the house until it was relatively safe to mount up and head west.

The darkness took a long time coming that evening.

When it did, Solomon and I headed for dog.

There was no dog.

I could see the light of a lamp through the front room window. The window on the same side, but further back on the house was opened half way and dark. I watch standing in from of Solomon just in case someone saw us from the ranch. With the two merged figures a watcher would see neither horse or man, instead it would be some object like an old tree or something of the kind.

A dark figured eased out of the back window to the ground. It was easy to see the dark against the white wash on the wall. I assumed it was her and watched her move to the back corner of the house before dropping to hands and knees and crawling toward me ever so slowly.

The bunkhouse door swung open and one of the hands stepped out for an after dinner smoke. I had never seen them eat dinner. The thought just came to me.

A figure moved at the front room window. The fat man stepped to the window and looked out.

He knew she was leaving. He knew sooner or later I would show up. The hands were staying undercover so I would not be scared off by their movements or presence. This was all just one big trap to catch me.

Diane was confident of her escape through the open window that the fat man had left open on purpose, that she stood and walked rapidly all hunched over. Her in those dark clothes were going to be very hard to see from the house or the bunkhouse as she got further and further away.

She was coming right at me like she could see me.

I moved off her path a good fifty feet and covered Solomon’s muzzle so he would not make a noise.

The bunkhouse door opened again and two men stepped out. They gather two sets of reins from the horses tied there and swung into the saddles before riding to parallel her path. The outlaw in the barn came out on horseback and paralleled her on the other side. The fat man moved out to the porch and took up position sitting in the swing. He obviously planned on hold court from that position after his boys caught me and drug Diane back.

So, he still did not have her signature on the deed that he needed, was my first thought. My second was he would kill her this time and forge a signature or make up a very large story to cover his occupying the Rafter B. A third thought was that he could burn the barn with the two of us in the ashes and no one would be the wiser when he bought the place from her just before the accident.

Tor and I were the only ones that knew where her father’s body was and Tor was not going to do any talking. I was in his way as much as the gal.

‘Lord, I need Your help.’

 


19

 

As Diane came abreast of me I said, “Keep riding. You’re being followed. Don’t worry, I’ll meet up with you.”

She started a bit, but kept it calm. “Please hurry. I just know they’re gonna kill me soon.”

“Did you sign the deed over?”

“No.”

“Keep riding.”

I turned to check on the followers. The single rider was coming straight at me and the other two were out of sight in the dark and probably behind a rise in the land. Diane kept in going without changing pace.

There was a rope on my saddle, but I had never roped anything in my life. Even when the other boys were roping hay bales and fence posts, I sat and watched. Dad raised me to be a phony preacher just like him. I really fooled him.

As the single rider came on I moved toward him going from one tree to another until I was in a great position. He saw my horse and got real cautious, climbing down off his horse, and creeping forward. As he passed by position, I clubbed him on the back of the head with my .44. He fell like he was dead.

I rode to intercept the other two followers.

By the time I caught up with Diane she was out of the woods and moving quickly across an open grassy plain. Dark spots shaped like cows dotted the country side and a clump of what appeared to be trees could be seen in the distance. I decided the best thing to do was just ride up to her and escort her on her way. The two gun dummies could follow or attack, I really did not care.

We talked a bit as we rode. Out of the corner of my eye I watched for the riders off to the left and could not tell them from cows or elk in the grass. There were just dark shapes here and there. All I could think of was they were snakes in the grass and just as difficult to see..

We arrived at the trees which surrounded a spring filled a small pond where the cows in the past had left their sign of many visits in the past. “You keep on riding and I’ll see what I can do about them two.” I nodded in their direction.

Two dark spots turned to come straight at us as the distance between them widened. I said a quick prayer under my breath and settled in to a great spot behind a tangle of tree trunk and scrub brush, and waited.

The first one to catch sight of me had his six gun in hand. He started to to raise the pistol, so I shot him out of the saddle. As I fired, I heard a shot behind me and felt a round graze my left arm like a hot iron. I turned to see the a shadow bringing his sights to take another shot at me. He didn’t like it that I did not fall down and die with his first shot. His second shot missed. He needed some practice. He wasn’t going to get any practice, I shot him out of the saddle. He fired at the sky as he fell.

I rode like my horse’s tail was on fire to catch up with Diane. “Let’s ride.”

She kicked her horse into a run alongside me. We covered some ground for about ten minutes when I called, “Let’s ease’em down to a gallop and head toward the east and the mountains. We need some cover.”

 

Morning found us snuggled into a clump of rocks in the foothills with a small, very small fire keeping us warm. As soon as I could make out separate rocks a hundred feet away, I saddled the horse, woke Diane, and we left the place. Swinging up into the saddle caused my head to swim and I had to hold on with both hands to keep from falling. That wasn’t good at a time like this.

“You know how to get outta here to some civilization where we can find help and a bit of rest?”

“I think so.”

“You lead, I’ll follow.”

As we rode I told her my problem. The look of fear on her face scared me.

“Just keep going if I go down. You won’t be able to put me on a horse, so you get to safety. If you can hide me a bit, that would be good, but don’t leave my horse with me. Take him down  the trail a mile or so, and let him go.”

“What do I do then,” she asked.

We discussed that issue for a bit, until she went silent. I dropped back further.

 

It was dark, very dark. I was on the ground and it was cold. A blanket was over me, my head throbbed, and it was dark. Trying to stand was a failure for the first two times. I was able to stand only if I held on to something solid, like the tree next to my blanket. “Diane,” I whispered.

No reply.

“Diane,” I said in a normal voice, except there was a twinge of fear that I didn’t like in the sound of it.

No answer.

FREE BOOK – The DEACON – Episode 13

Daniel saw the muscles in Tor’s back convulse.

The skin spread of its own accord and the slug rolled out onto the bunk.

Behind him came a sigh and then a thump on the floor. He turned and saw Diane just settling to the on her side.

Daniel shoved a piece of the shirt in the wound with one hand and reached out to Diane with the other. That didn’t work. He tended to Tor who had lost enough blood already. Grabbing the needle and thread he had stuck in the post, he began sewing the wound just as he had seen a doctor do on his father’s head one time in a small Kansas town.

Diane moaned.

Tor cussed.

Daniel finished sewing.

 

After a meal of pan bread from the kitchen and beans from a can the two men sat around the table and Diane stood at the wall.

“I am not leaving this place. They will burn it and lay claim to it.” Diane stomped her foot not once, but twice.

“How you gonna hold off twenty or more gun dummies from Lazy E?”

“I don’t know. But, I will tell you one thing, they won’t take me alive. There’s two men in that group that are going to die at my hand and that’s a promise. They could not keep their hands off me and their hands were dirty. Filthy pigs! I’ll kill them.”

Tor’s head came up staring at the table. “What?”

“Men like that should be shot down like dogs,” Diane added as she stomped her foot, again.

Daniel was not liking what he heard. He was still torn between the image his father had taught him of the Christian that was always turning the other cheek and the man that knew this was wrong and knew he could help do something about it. The Bible says for Christians to turn the other cheek and never states what you do after that second cheek was hit. It also says to take care of the widows and orphans. Here was an orphan and a woman alone all in one. What was he to do? He had asked that a lot lately and still was not getting a straight answer.

Of course, the fact that the orphan and woman alone was a very nice looking young lady all alone in a lonely patch of countryside did not have too much influence in the situation. “Ha ha,” he said outloud.”

“What?” Tor asked.

“Never mind. Just thinking.”

“How can you laugh at me?”

“Diane, I am not laughing at you. I am laughing at the choice I need to make.” Daniel got up from the table and walked out into the darkness.

The moon had not risen, but the stars were out providing more light than was necessary to walk around the ranch buildings. Daniel looked up in prayer. “Lord, you know what I am and all I am. I need your help. This gal needs your help. Tor needs your help. I am only one small man in your kingdom. Without you I am nothing. Guide me with Your wisdom and all the strength I need to keep this place safe. In Jesus’ name. Amen.”

His world went black.

 

The sun was two hands high in the sky when he opened one eye. The ground the eye could see was dark dirt with a red tint. His head hurt like never before. He smelled smoke. Moving each leg one at a time and then his arms, he found one arm was tingling like he had slept on it wrong. He used the good arm to feel his head. There was a line plowed across the back of his head and when he checked his hand there was blood.

“Okay, Daniel. You have been hit in the head, you are bleeding, and something is burning. Get up!”

After four tries he finally made it to his feet and was able to check out his surroundings. The house was in front of him looking like someone had kicked in the back door. “Backdoor? How’d I get here?”

He took two steps toward the back door and had to fight his way to his feet again. Entering the house, it had been ransacked. Nothing was where it was supposed to be. The small secretary in the corner had everything dumped out of it and the drawers were smashed to kindling. The coffee on the stove was cold when he tried it.

He walked out front, the blood red cross felt good in his hand. “Was there a fight? Better check this .44.” It was filled with five good rounds. He put in the sixth.

Out the front door and across the yard to the bunkhouse he stumbled only to find it empty. His gear and Tor’s were still in place on the top bunks. The bloody rags were still on the floor. The view from the door finally revealed the fire he was smelling.

The shack furthest out was afire and almost completely gone.

The horses were not in the corral. He called, “Tor. Diane,” as loud as he could which sounded like a dying frog to him. No reply.

Two buckets of water from the well dumped over his head cleared his vision and his mind enough that he was now sure the ranch had been attacked and he was the first one down. Someone drug him behind the ranch house from the middle of the yard and dumped him for dead. There was no sign of the girl or Tor.

“God. This is not the answer I was looking for,” he said to the sky. He walked to the house and looked for food. A box of stale hardtack, if it’s possible for hardtack to be stale, was all he could find. The flour was on the floor and any other basics he might use were gone. On can on the counter had a touch of brown sugar left in it which he dumped in his hand and licked between bites of hardtack he broke up with the butt of his gun.

An idea hit him as he crunched more hardtack in his mouth. Solomon had come when he whistled before. He walked outside and whistled. He waited. Nothing.

He went to the barn to see what was there he could use.

Nothing.

He walked back outside and there was Solomon walking down the slope behind the house. He whistled again. The horse lifted his head and ran. Daniel filled the well bucket for the horse.

“Okay, Lord. I think you want me to be the Deacon that Tor talked about. Kind of a protector of the widows and orphans. The question is, how far do I go? It’d take a lot of killing to eliminate the evil men in this world that would prey on widows and orphans. Do I just kill them or only in self-defense?” The word ‘defense’ ran through his head loudly. “So, just in self-defense it is. Thanks.”

Twenty minutes later he was mounted and on the trail of the riders leaving the ranch. He had not found Tor or the girl anywhere on the ranch. He had even checked the ashes of the burnt building. The Winchester was fully loaded and a round was under the hammer. His six gun held six rounds. The horse seemed to sense the urgency of the situation and would put his head down every now and then, bring it up, and move a little faster.

“I think this horse is a blood hound and on the trail of one, or both of his old running mates.”

Nobody answered.

A trickle of smoke eased through the boughs of the trees he was watching from a ridge line. The trees were alongside a stream the reflected the sun like cheap glass beads an Indian might wear. He doubted the presence of an Indian. The trail he was following led like an arrow to the smoke.

Just as he was set to go around and get ahead of them, they emerged from the cover of the trees and climbed the far side of the small valley. He could not make out a rider that looked like Tor, but the straw colored hair of Diane was a flag in the breeze. She was riding the pack horse with a saddle on it. Her hands were tied to the saddle horn.

All he could do was continue to follow, but first he had to wait for them to clear the far side and that would give them back some of their lead.

As he waited, Solomon got more and more antsy and ready to go. When Solomon could wait no more he whinnied and was answered from the trees. The Deacon watched the crowd going up the other side until they disappeared over the top before he untied Solomon and rode down to the campsite.

Tor was there and so was his horse.

The horse was lame. Tor was a mess. Blood oozed from cuts and holes all over his body. His scalp was gone. He was alive.

He smiled at Daniel. “I’ll see you in God’s house. I told Him after I was caught that I was His to do with as He pleased. I asked for forgiveness from my doubts and sins, and I did plenty. Hey, I even named a few that I thought would keep me from Him. He took me in. I feel nothing. Through all this, I felt nothing. Well, Deacon, the task is all yours. I’m going away and will wait for you in Heaven. Do what you know you gotta do, my friend.”

His head slumped and his entire body hung from the ropes he was tied with.

Daniel cried like a baby. “This isn’t what I asked for, either, Lord.”

He walked down to the stream and washed his face. He found Tor knife stuck in the tree on the back side form the body, pulled it out, cut the ropes, and buried the best friend he ever had.

The horse had a rock between the shoe and his frog. Daniel dug it out and walked the horse a bit after tightening the shoe, using a rock for a hammer on the nails. It wasn’t a good fix, but it was a fix. Now he had two horses.

 

He rode to the top of the hill as he thought about all the Lord had been dealing him. He’d asked for the enemy to be delivered to him and God had sent them to him. Problem was the Deacon had not expected the method that God had choses. He needed to be more specific in his prayers or watch out for all ways God could answer his prayers.

The top let him see the rooster tail of dust moving away from him and toward where he figured the Lazy E was located.

 

Staring into the eastern sky as the sun set behind him, the Deacon studied the problem before him. There were twenty or more gun hands and outlaws down there. Diane was in the main shack with the fat man whom he assumed was Everson. The Bur that needed killing was somewhere, probably down there. There were two men at the front door and two men at the back. Men with rifles were positioned in pairs and one trio on high points all around the place. Six men, as near as he could determine, walked the grounds seemingly at random.

“Okay Lord. That a bit much for me to tackle. What do you have in mind?”

All that came to mind was, ‘walk in and get the girl.’

“We gotta be serious here, Lord.”

He made sure no one was coming his direction from any direction. The two not a hundred yards away and uphill from him had not even looked his way. Everybody was watching the ranch yard. To his left was a shallow wash that would probably allow him to belly crawl in most of the way to the bottom of the hill, but from there to anything that could be called cover was a long way.

As the scene darkened, he saw the cook hang his apron on the door to the cook shack. One man left the lookout spot nearest him. He checked all around. Same thing was happening at all the points. The apron must have been a signal for the meal or watch change.

Without thinking, he stood up and walked straight for the cook shack. At the last minute he turned to the house. With his hand covering the butt of his Colt, he walked up to the back door guard on the house shack. “Wanna go eat. I got all I want of that swill.”

 

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

The DEACON – Episode 6 – Constructive suggestions wanted.

NOTE: This is right off the keyboard. typos, misspellings, and other bugaboos free just like the story. BUT, I am looking for your impressions, ideas, plot suggestions, and just plain thinking. THANK YOU for staying with me this long.

“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 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 2 – Constructive Critique please.

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.

© 2017 Doug Ball – Author