Tessa – Bobbi Smith

The wizened old woman gazed at the minister, her expression one of heartfelt emotion. “Reverend Trent, you are the answer to my prayers!” “I’m just glad I could help, Mrs. Andrews,” he told her, and he meant it. There was nothing John Trent liked to do more than bring joy to the lives of the less fortunate. Lola Andrews clasped the package of direly needed food close to her breast as she smiled up at him. “You’re a living saint.” John chuckled and blushed a bit. “I’m no saint, Mrs. Andrews. I’m just a man trying to do Gods work.” “Well, you’re doing a fine job, and I’m going to tell Him so,” she said as she pressed a kiss to his cheek. “Thank you.” In the sea of sadness that Lola’s life had become, Reverend Trent was an island of comfort. Her husband had died earlier that spring, and since then her own health had been failing. She had no relatives to help her through these difficult times.

She had only her friends from the church to rely on, and Reverend Trent was always there for her. It never ceased to amaze her how hard he worked to take care of those in need. He visited her regularly and always brought his young son, Jared, with him. “And you, young man, it’s so good to see you again, too,” Lola told Jared, smiling warmly at the tall, sturdy, dark-haired youth who stood slightly behind his father. He nodded and smiled in return. “Men don’t come any better than your father, Jared. Always remember that.” “Yes, ma’am,” he answered respectfully. “And you’re going to grow up just like him, I’m sure of it,” she stated firmly. She could already see the goodness in him, and the strength.

“I hope so.” The old woman looked back up at the reverend. “He’s going to do you proud.” “Yes, he will,” John agreed as he cast a warm smile at his son. “Now, you take care of yourself, Mrs. Andrews, and if you need anything else or an emergency comes up, you just send word. I’ll get help to you as fast as I can.” “I’ll do that, Reverend,” she promised. “God bless you!” “God bless you, too,” he responded. “Good night.

” John started off down the walk from her small, run-down house, his son by his side. They had quite a distance to travel back to their own home on the other side of town, but they were in no rush to return. As they drove away in their carriage, he kept their pace leisurely. John was always on the lookout for people needing help, and if he traveled too quickly he feared he might miss someone. “You’ve gotten awfully quiet, Jared,” he remarked. Jared glanced over at his father. “Mrs. Andrews really appreciates your visits, doesn’t she?” “She appreciates our visits, son” he answered gently. Jared smiled, pleased with his answer. “You’ll find there are some folks who seem to be forgotten by everyone else,” John explained.

“They’re the ones who need our help the most. We have to seek them out. It’s our duty in life to bring joy to others whenever we can.” “She’s very nice.” “Yes, she is,” he agreed. “We’ll check in on her again next week and make sure she’s doing all right.” “Good.” John stayed off the main streets, choosing instead to use the less traveled roads. It was not the safest route, especially in the evening, but it afforded him the opportunity to see if there was anyone else in need this night. They were just coming up on an alleyway in one of the least respectable areas of town when John saw two men fighting.

One was viciously pummeling the other as he dragged him into the darkened passageway. “Wait here!” John ordered. He reined in and jumped out of the carriage to go to the man’s aid. “But Pa!” Jared knew a moment of fear. “The man’s in trouble. I have to help him.” John ran after the two, following them into the alley. He was intent on stopping the assault. As he entered the alley, the attacker came running at him. The man said nothing, but shoved John roughly aside as he passed.

“Stop!” John called out, but the assailant had already disappeared into the night. John peered down into the darkness and spotted the other man lying facedown in the mud and filth. He ran to him, fearful that he’d been grievously wounded. Reaching his side, he knelt down and carefully started to turn him over. The stench of alcohol almost gagged John, but it didn’t deter him. He was only concerned that the man might have been seriously hurt. “Are you all right?” “Get your hands off of me!” the man bellowed in a slurred voice, fighting against him. Drunk beyond all reason, he knew only rage at having been beaten and robbed. John could see that the man was bleeding, and he knew he needed to get him to a doctor. The drunk, thinking John was the assailant, wanted only to protect himself.

He drew his gun and fired point-blank at the man laying hands on him. Jared had remained in the carriage, intent on obeying his father, but when he heard him shout and saw the other man run out of the passageway, he feared his father was in danger, Jared jumped down from the carriage and ran after him to try to help. He had just entered the alley when the drunk fired his gun. “Pa!” Jared’s scream rent the night as he watched the horror unfolding before him. The blast of the gunshot hit his father in the chest. John collapsed and lay still. “Pa?” the drunk repeated dully, as he staggered to his feet and looked from the boy to the man lying in the mud. “You killed him!” Jared cried as he ran to his father. He dropped to his knees beside him and saw just how terrible the wound was. The drunk sobered, realizing what he’d done.

He threw his gun aside and charged off as fast as he could go in his inebriated state. For a moment Jared considered chasing him, but he knew he couldn’t leave his father, not like this. “Pa,” Jared said softly, reverently, as he reached out to touch him. He had never seen anyone shot before, and it was something he would never forget. “Pa . don’t die, Pa!” As if from a great distance, John could hear the sound of his son’s frantic call. He dragged himself back to reality by sheer force of will and opened his eyes to look up at his son one last time. “Jared. I love you, Jared.” It took all of his energy to reach inside his coat pocket and pull out the small Bible he carried with him at all times.

“Here, son. Take this.” He pressed the holy book into his hands. “But Pa . ” Jared stared down at the bloodied Bible staining his hands now with the proof of his father’s passing life. “Tell your mother that I love her,” John whispered, blood seeping from the corner of his mouth as his eyes drifted shut. People who lived nearby had heard the gunshot and were coming at a run to help, but it was too late. When they reached Jared, John was already dead. Jared stood apart from the crowd of people who’d come to the house to offer their sympathies on his father’s death. The funeral had been that afternoon, and now, as the darkness of night claimed the land, it also claimed his heart.

“We’re so sorry about John, Elizabeth,” Audrey Taylor was saying to Jared’s mother. “If there’s anything we can do for you—anything at all—just let us know.” Cecelia Burnhart added, “John was such a good man. He was always helping others. It’s horrible that something like this would happen to him.” “Have they found the one who did it yet?” Margaret Rollins asked. “No,” Elizabeth Trent responded tightly. “The sheriff hasn’t learned anything yet.” “That’s terrible! I hope they find the man soon! The world won’t be the same without John,” Audrey insisted. “He’s in a better place now.

” Cecelia tried to be reassuring. “He’s happy with God,” Margaret added. “He was such a wonderful man. No one cared about others more than John. He was always kind and so generous.” Audrey couldn’t praise him enough. As Jared listened to their remarks and the talk of others gathered around, fury slowly filled him. They were wrong! They were all wrong! His father might have been a kind and generous man, but he had also been a fool! Jared was nearly shaking from the power of the emotions surging through him. Sure, his father had cared about others, but look what it had gotten him! He was dead. He’d been killed because of all his kindness and generosity.

He’d been shot down in cold blood by a ruthless, stupid drunk! Jared’s hands began to shake as the power of his emotions gripped him. He silently quit the room, seeking solace away from the crowd of well-meaning but maddening visitors. He didn’t want to hear any more of their comments about his father. He didn’t want to hear how much everyone was going to miss him. He didn’t want to know that the world was going to be a sadder place without him. There was only one thing he wanted, and that was justice. He wanted to catch the man who’d shot and killed his father. He wanted him locked up behind bars or swinging from a noose. He’d committed murder and should pay the price. Jared left the house and went outside.

He needed to be alone, to be away from all the noise and confusion. He found no peace in the night, though, only more turmoil and anger as he replayed in his mind the horror of the scene in the alley. For the first time, then, Jared allowed himself to grieve. Tortured sobs racked him as he mourned the loss of the father he had so loved and admired. When at last the storm of his tormented emotions had passed, Jared drew a ragged breath. An undying, savage need for revenge began to burn within him, searing away his sorrow and hardening him against gentler emotions. It branded him forever with its power. He would not waste his time helping those who might shoot him for his efforts. Instead, he was going to concentrate on seeking justice and revenge. He was going to become the best lawman ever.

He was going to hunt down killers and criminals and see that they paid for their crimes. Instead of relying on the Bible to save people, he was going to use a gun. He wanted to make certain that no one was ever gunned down again the way his father had been. Any innocence in Jared’s soul had been killed by the same bullet that had taken his father’s life. When Jared returned to his mother’s side sometime later, he was no longer a boy. He had become a man. He knew what he had to do.

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