It was just after nine pm, and Josiah Sanchez was still tinkering around in the little church that he had resolved to restore to new life in the little town of Four Corners. He was just considering calling it a night and heading over to the Saloon to join the rest of his friends for a drink, when he heard the front door open and looked up to see the black clad form of Chris Larabee drifting inside.
The ex-preacher frowned as he watched his friend and leader. The man’s head was down and he was moving very slowly, using the pews for support as he made his way down the isle and to the front row, where he carefully lowered himself down with a sigh. Alarm made its way through Josiah when Chris took his hat off and ran a blood stained hand through his blonde hair. “Chris?” Sanchez questioned, hurrying over. “You all right?”
Chris’ eyes were fixed on a spot ahead of him as he answered, “Bandit on the trail.” He paused, then asked, his voice soft and filled with the anguish of a soul in turmoil, “Can I ask you something, Josiah?”
Josiah nodded, sitting down as he realized that Chris was in need of guidance and that, for once, he had not gone searching for it in a bottle. “You can ask me anything,” the big man said softly.
Chris was silent for a moment, then said, voice still soft and filled with pain, “When a man dies, do you really think he gets to see his loved ones again? Even if he’s going to Hell, do you think he still gets to see them one last time?”
Josiah studied Chris carefully as he considered the question…read between the lines and deciphered what the man was really asking. Finally, he asked quietly, “What makes you think you’re going to Hell, Chris?”
A snort of humorless laughter escaped the black clad gunman. “Oh please. I’ve killed a lot of men Josiah. More than a few I didn’t have to but did anyway. Because I could…because I wanted to. Because I wanted them to be as dead as I was whether or not they deserved it. How could I not be going to Hell?”
Josiah sighed and put a gentle hand on Chris’ shoulder. “You’re a good man, Chris. All good men get a little lost at some point in their lives. Start walking the wrong path. Not all of them find their way back to the right path. But you did. You have done so much good in the time I’ve known you. Helped so many people. You’ve even inspired the loyalty and devotion of six other lost men. Guided them back to their own right paths. There ain’t no way the good Lord would send a man like you to Hell. I have no doubt, that when your time comes, that you’ll enter the Kingdom of Heaven with full honors and get to be with all your loved ones again.”
A little smile crossed Chris’ lips and the anguish seemed to dissipate. “Must be why they look so happy,” he breathed, eyes still glued to that spot ahead of them.
Josiah frowned, looking at the spot Chris was looking, then back at his friend. “Chris?” he questioned, the earlier alarm rising up again.
Chris slowly turned his gaze to Josiah and whispered, “Bandit on the trail,” before his eyes rolled up in his head and he slid sideways into Josiah.
“Chris!” Josiah exclaimed, coming to his feet and gently guiding his friend the rest of the way down on the pew. Quickly pushing aside Chris’ duster, Josiah’s eyes widened and he let out a curse. Blood stained Chris’ black shirt and, lifting the cloth up, Josiah discovered a bullet hole just above the man’s lower rib on his left side. Fear filled the preacher as he looked back up into the now colorless face of his friend. “Chris!” he called, lightly slapping the cheeks. “Chris!”
Story Continued in JUST A LITTLE MORE GUIDANCE
© Lanna 2010