When the sermon ended, Absalom shook the preacher’s hand before leaving the church. “That was quite the message, Pastor,” Absalom commented.

            “Thank you, son,” the old preacher said. “I’ve never seen you here before; you must be new here in town. I’m pastor Amos.”

            “I’m Abe.”

            “Oh, short for Abraham, I would assume,” Amos stated.

            Absalom smiled humorlessly. “Abe’s just fine.”

            The pastor talked with Absalom a few minutes while the rest of the congregation went around them, avoiding eye contact with the pastor and going back to their homes. “Hey, listen, I’m afraid the diner is closed today, just like all the businesses here in town. Why don’t you come to my place and have lunch with me?”

            Absalom looked outside at the town. No one went down the street. Every family that attended the service either walked back to their houses or rode out of town. He traced the scar on his face with his forefinger for a moment before answering Amos. “Alright then, Much obliged, Pastor.”

            Absalom followed Amos to his house, a small parsonage that sat next to the church. The humble house had one room, with a bed in one corner, a wardrobe in another, a stove and kitchen next to the front door, and a square table that sat in the center of the room.

            “Please, make yourself at home,” the pastor invited. Absalom sat down at the table. Amos asked him the polite questions that people ask when they make a new acquaintance. Who are you, what do you do, and why did you come here? Absalom replied politely, but did not add much to the conversation. Once they ate the stew that the pastor had made, Absalom thanked him and left.

            Absalom walked back to his hotel room and drank himself into a Sunday afternoon nap. When he awoke, he took out his guns. He disassembled and cleaned both his service revolver and his rifle, and then he sharpened his large bowie knife. Absalom ate some hard tack from some rations that he had brought for dinner, and after he ate, he went to bed early, just after sunset.


            The next morning, Absalom awoke at dawn. He put on his clothes and rode out to the Mormon farm. He walked out into the middle of ashy remnants of the burnt house, fell to his knees, and wept. While he cried, he noticed something in the charred ruins that didn’t resemble wood. He dug in the ashes a bit until he found bones. He stood and walked back and forth, digging through the ashes for more. The more bones he found, the more he sobbed. “I’m sorry,” he cried, over and over, until he felt the sun’s heat high above the back of his neck. “I’m sorry.”

            He stood and composed himself, taking deep breaths and wiping the tears from his eyes. He rode back into town and ate lunch. After lunch, he wandered around town until closing time, when the saloon opened. He walked inside and sat down at the bar. “Give me two bottles of whiskey, Josiah,” Absalom ordered. Josiah put down two bottles of whiskey and a glass. “Put a glass down for yourself,” Absalom told the man, and the old bartender poured himself a drink of Absalom’s whiskey. Absalom took a shot for himself, and then poured himself another, and another.

            When the four ranch hands walked in, they sat down at a table in the corner of the saloon. Absalom picked up his bottles and walked over to the table. He sat his bottles down and asked, “You men mind if I join you?”

            The four men looked at the bottles of free whiskey with greedy eyes and smiled at Absalom. “Go right ahead,” one of the men told him. “I’m Jack, by the way. These fellows here are Jonah, Brett, and Jimmie.”

            Absalom smiled and pulled a chair up to the circular table. He sat with his back to the corner of the saloon. “Pleasure to meet you fellas. The name’s Abe.” Absalom said, and he waved at Josiah. “Can I get four more glasses over here?”

            The waitress walked over to the table and set down four more glasses, after she successfully shrugged off a few unwanted advances from Brett and Jonah and escaped a grope from Jack. Absalom filled their glasses. They drank, and he filled them again. Soon, the cowboys finished a full bottle without any help from Absalom.

            As other customers began trickling in, Absalom just sat with a thin smile and watched them as they talked, contributing little to the conversation as the night went on and drinking little of the whiskey he had purchased. Absalom ordered another bottle of whiskey, but he switched to drinking beer while his new acquaintances continued drinking the free whiskey.

            “You boys like cards?” Absalom asked, pulling a deck of cards from his pocket.

           All four of the men hollered gleefully. “Do we ever!” Brett cheered. Absalom dealt the cards to the four men, and they began to play. The four drunk men liked Absalom even more when they realized that he had no idea how to play poker.

            “Wow, Abe, I like you. You’re easy money and easy drink,” Jonah’s words slurred together as he attempted to pay Absalom a compliment.

            “Well, I’m not good at much, but I guess I’ve got charisma.”

            “What’s carsma?” Jimmie asked.

            “Charisma’s just being likable,” Absalom explained, and the four men laughed and nodded. “So, tell me,” Absalom said, “I’ve been hearin’ folks talkin’ a lot about a family of Mormons, but I don’t think I’ve seen any Mormons around town.”

            The four men looked at each other hesitantly, but then Jack laughed. “Well,” Jack said, “that’s because they ain’t around no more.”

            “Oh really? Why’s that?” asked Absalom.

            Jimmie, Jonah, and Brett, hesitated, but Jack kept laughing. “Man, he ain’t the law, it don’t matter none,” Jonah said to his three companions, then turned to Absalom, “they dead now, friend.”

            Absalom let out a sigh, and a small smile grew on his face. “That right? What happened to them?

            Brett, Jack, and Jimmie, all sat and looked at Jonah with their mouths open, surprised that he had said this, but not stopping him from saying anything else. The conversations of the other patrons began to die down a bit at the mention of the Mormon family’s demise. Jonah looked around at the other people in the room, and most of them stared down at their tables and their drinks. Jonah leaned closer to Absalom’s right side and whispered, “We killed ‘em.”

            Absalom nodded and bit his lip. “Tell me why.”

            “Well, uh, so,” Brett stammered, struggling to find a place to begin, “We work for a Bishop… uh… Mr. Bishop…”

            “…Go on…” Absalom urged.

            Jack took over for Brett. “Mr. Bishop’s daughter loved one of thems Mormons’ boys, see, but Bishop’s friend Amos wants to marry Ms. Charity.”

“Pastor Amos?” Absalom asked, and Jack nodded.

           Brett remembered what he wanted to say, “Preacher Amost and Mr. Bishop wanted to trick the Mormon boy, see?” he explained. “He said that they could use the church for some sorta Mormon hocust pocust… some kinda… Mormon marriage… uh…”

            “A sealing.” Absalom said.

            “Yeah that’s it, only it was a trick, see!” Brett explained. Most of the saloons’ patrons had left and Josiah ignored them by engaging in busywork. “We was waitin’ for ‘em inside the church. The four of us and Mr. Bishop and Preacher Amost.” Brett explained, and as he tried to keep himself from chuckling sadistically, he started laughing.  “We shot all a’ them poor shits dead.” Brett broke out into a real laughter then, and his friends just smiled awkwardly.

            Absalom rubbed his eyes. “How’d the law handle word of that?”

            All four of the men laughed then. “Marshall ain’t been around for nearly a year now,” Jack explained.

            “Yeah,” Jimmie joined in. “He probably dead.”

            “Nah, he probably just got bored,” Jonah reckoned. “Nothin’ much happens here.”

            Brett laughed hysterically then, and the three other cowboys followed him. Absalom said nothing. He just stared at each one of the men sitting around that table. Jimmie and Brett sat to his left, and Jack and Jonah sat to his right. His pistol rested on his left hip, and none of the cowboys noticed him unfasten the black flap on his holster. The pistol handle stuck out, pointed towards his right hand. His Bowie knife sat behind him on his belt, its handle pointed to his left hand. He sat back in his chair slowly and rested his hand on his stomach, close to the pistol grip. “Where does Bishop live?”

            The cowboys’ laughing died down a bit. “He lives west. That there road that leads into town goes straight by his ranch,” Jack explained.

            Absalom nodded. He traced the scar on his face with his finger. “That where y’all live?’ He asked them. The boys all nodded sluggishly and grunted a drunken “Yeah” in response.

            “So, let me get this straight,” he said finally. He looked at each of the men and their stupid grins. “The six of you- you four, your boss, and Amos- killed 17 people: 4 men, 5 women, 3 little boys, and 5 little girls?”

            Brett and Jack started to laugh again, and Jonah began again when he saw them. Only Jimmie  didn’t laugh. He looked slightly confused. “How’d you know th-“

            Absalom stood and threw the table onto Brett and Jack, who fell backward onto the floor. He drew his pistol and shot Jimmie in the head, and blood sprayed out the back of his head as he fell to the floor. Absalom turned and did the same to Jonah before he had the chance to pull his gun from his holster. Brett and Jack squirmed underneath the table, struggling to reach their own pistols and get the table off them. Absalom knelt down on top of the table and shot Jack in the head. The new, dry wooden floor quickly soaked in the blood and gray matter from the freshly dead men.

            Absalom then moved the table, and when Brett finally grabbed his pistol, Absalom stepped on Brett’s pistol and shot the man three times in the arm: once in the wrist, once in the elbow, and once in the shoulder.

            Absalom pulled the gun from Brett’s holster and tossed it away. He then pulled out his Bowie knife, and started to stab it into Brett’s flesh. He stabbed Brett seventeen times, and he continued to stab the man after life left him, saying the names of all seventeen members of the family as he sank the blade deep into the dead man’s body.

            Absalom stood then and sheathed his knife after wiping the blood onto Brett’s blue bandana. He reloaded his revolver and slid it back into the holster. He picked up the scattered money from the game of cards and put it on the bar. Josiah didn’t say or do anything; he just stared at Absalom, dumbstruck. “Sorry for the mess.” Absalom said. He turned and walked out the saloon doors. He mounted his horse and rode into the night, toward Bishop’s ranch.

            He could see it from the town as he rode. The moon and stars illuminated the plains well, and light from the ranch burned into the night like a cigar’s flame. He followed that light until he could see movement around the main house. He dismounted his horse and pulled the rifle from his saddle.

            Absalom knelt down to the ground and watched the house for a few minutes. He saw little movement inside the house, and he heard no commotion. He moved quickly toward the house, staying low in the grass and keeping his eyes on the place. He knelt for a moment in the grass, less than fifty yards from the house, rubbing his scar. He fired twice in the air and let out a yell. “Brett! Keep that shit holstered!” he hollered at the house.

            The door opened and the short man from the church service emerged. “What’d I tell you boys about-“

            Absalom shot the man in the gut. The man stumbled back into the house, and Absalom chased after him. When he reached the door, he saw a woman seated at a table, screaming, and the man reaching for a nearby drawer. Absalom shot the man again, in the back, and the man’s hand fell to the floor. Absalom walked over to the man and kicked him over; the man’s dead eyes stared back at Absalom with fearful surprise.

            Absalom turned and looked at the petite woman he had seen at church the day before. She ran over to the man lying on the ground and wept over his body. “Which one did you love?” he asked her. Her sobbing died down a bit at the question.

            “What?” she asked without turning to look at him.

            “Which one did you love?” he asked again. “Was it Solomon, Nathan, or Daniel?”

            She turned and looked at the man who had killed her father and saw his face wet with tears. “Nathan,” she said. The man nodded, rubbed his eyes, and left her with her father.

            Absalom rode quickly back to the town, but he slowed his pace when he got close. As he approached he saw a crowd gathered outside the saloon. Word had spread throughout the town about how the outsider had killed four men inside the saloon, and folks wanted to see it for themselves. Absalom rode around the perimeter of the town and tied up his horse outside the church. He walked slowly towards the parsonage, looking inside the windows for Amos.

            While he peeked inside the house, someone grabbed his long black hair and pulled him backwards. Absalom saw Amos as he stabbed Absalom in the stomach with a thin blade. Absalom tried to grab his gun, but Amos caught Absalom’s right hand before he could reach it. Absalom reached back and grabbed his own Bowie knife, and Absalom stabbed Amos in the leg before he had the chance to sink the knife into him again.

            Amos stumbled back and yelled, surprised by the strength of the pain. He looked down at the knife in his leg and pulled it out, yelling as the warm, sticky blood flowed out of the wound and down his pants leg. He dropped the large knife and looked down at Absalom, who lay on the ground with his gun pointed at his head.

            Absalom pulled the trigger. The bullet went through the pastor’s neck and took the life from him as he choked on wet gasps.

            Absalom dropped his pistol and crawled toward his horse, chased by the sounds of the townspeople approaching. He had to struggle to climb his horse, but he managed, and he rode north, toward the Mormon farm.

            When he got to the place, he rode the horse all the way into the ashes of the home. He fell off his horse and laid flat on his back. As the blood drained from his belly, his eyes began to close, and Absalom slept with his fathers.





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Published by John Du