There is such a thing as good and evil and when they walk into town at high noon, the showdown is like a film real that replays supernatural violence. -Intellectual Shaman

The pale rider had blood on his hands that he couldn’t wash off, even though it was raining; he tried to wash them, time and time again and the burden of releasing so many souls to hell weighed heavily. He never took a life that didn’t need taking, even if he did it for personal gain; this used to bring comfort to him until he learned about redemption. Thomas was a changed man, but men don’t really change, even if they’ve had a change of heart. Past deeds haunt them, whispering who they are, and nothing gets rid of shame. A conscience grows out of thin air, making it difficult to breath and Tomas was like a scarecrow without a heart; the bullets went threw him and he kept staying alive. He was reckless and wild; calm when others were terrified. Now he took his Christian name and went to see Father Mulligan. It was a small church and despite his past where he had no feeling, he was anxious to know what Father Mulligan thought of him.

The Father was tending his roses outside of the white steeple. “Thomas, so glad you made it.”

“How do you know it’s me?”

“Nobody comes here, except when they need a small loan; and you don’t have a needy look about you. In fact, you look like you might die before asking a mortal for help. Am I right?”

“You see a lot Father.”

“That’s why I’m not going to give you advice. God will do that. He will direct your way. Now the sanctuary needs remodeling. Do you have any skill with a hammer?”

“I do.”

“Well, let’s get to work. Idle hands are the devil’s playground.”

Thomas worked at fixing the window shutters, repairing benches, and replacing new rafters in the loft. From above, he saw Father Mulligan asleep and for some reason he smiled. Thomas liked the old man, even though he was soft. Father Mulligan reminded him of a child, a loveable child to be taken care of. The day disappeared and Thomas woke the Father.

“Yes; oh my, I guess I let the day get away from me. Come to my cottage and I’ll feed you the stew that’s brewing. Good work today. I’ll pay you and then we’ll see about your religious instruction. Father Andrew said you were eager to learn; is that right?”

“Yes Father.”

“I can tell your hands have done evil, but God uses the worst amongst us for his glory.”

“Father, I’m not that man anymore.”

“I know you believe that, but once you’ve dipped your fingers in blood, you won’t hesitate to kill again.” Father Mulligan handed Thomas a box.

“Is that what I think it is?” Thomas asked.

“A Colt Peacemaker, if ever a gun was misnamed; it’s killed more than those engravings on the handle.

“Over two dozen?”

“And maybe two dozen more. We all have a past that will find us, and when it does, we have to accept it.”

“Who were you?” Thomas asked.

Father Mulligan kept silent.

That night, Thomas didn’t sleep. The Father’s words kept echoing in his ear. “We all have a past that will find us.”

It was Sunday morning the next morning and the quiet town that minded its own business came from near and wide to hear the words of God and the town gossip.

“Mary Allen is with child.”

“Is that so?”

‘Who is the father?

A drifter to be sure; not a fine upstanding man of our town.”

The mayor took his seat above everyone else. He was distinguished with brushed top-hat and polished shoes. He ran the local gambling casino until more people in the town owed him money than didn’t. He twisted an arm here and broke an arm there, until he had strong-armed the entire county. Nobody knew his past before 5 years ago, but most in a small town who say they’ve been there forever, can’t remember anything beyond 5 years. 3 years is a trial period; 4 makes you known; and 5 gives you the trust of the town.

Little Whiskey was out of whiskey because there wasn’t much there to begin with, and preaching against the evils of drink was shear lunacy, but it was comforting to hear words they didn’t need to work on.

Father Mulligan kept going and Thomas watched the crowd. It was instinct to look for enemies.

“And now we have a new Father in training; Thomas, why don’t you stand up?”

Thomas walked to the podium, so the whole congregation could see him. He looked at the crowd, the way one looks at a sleeping monster. A toenail can’t hurt you or a tooth, but when the whole beast is awakened, it becomes dangerous.

“I’m under the instruction of Father Mulligan, it’s nice to meet you,” Thomas said.

“Tom Haney. You are a murderer. You killed my brother. How dare you darken a house of God with your presence,” the mayor shouted.

“He had it coming, although I regret the killing,” Thomas said. “You were running folks off their land and killin them if they resisted.”

“How dare you accuse me of murder! A duel; pistols at high noon.”

Thomas looked at death the way most people looked at their lunch; he could eat it, or he could leave it.

“A single shot, then,” Thomas said. “If I kill you, I have to leave and if I don’t, I have to leave this life; either way, you get what you want.”

“I want my brother back you son-of-a-bitch.”

“Vengeance can’t bring anyone back; it belongs to God.”

“It belongs to me,” The mayor said.

“Father Mulligan offered the pistols on a cushion and they paced 20 feet.

“Turn to meet your opponent. Get read. Aim. Fire.”

Smoke shot from the mayor’s gun like fate and Mulligan fell to the ground. “You jumped in front of me!” Thomas shouted.

“Every man deserves a second shot; now kill that bastard.”

Thomas fired and the past caught up with him, like an echo heard around the world. When the smoke cleared, the body lay in the earth, and the pale rider left the white steeple for the darkening sunset where the future wouldn’t know him for a moment.

THE END

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