Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Crime and Punishment (not about the book) (07/21/11)
TITLE: Marked Redemption
By Mona Purvis
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Pastor Troy Hanson was well-seasoned in church adversity having weathered church scandals and gossip better than most over his thirty-plus years in the pulpit. He was sure he had heard it all. Until today.
“Are you sure, Jeff? Really, sure? ” Pastor Troy sat in his customary booth at Mama Jasmine's Cafe stirring a third sugar pack into his coffee. He had known Jeff Potter since he was a chubby, shy lad in the youth group at church and had sponsored him into the police academy a few years later.
Jeff laid out a twenty-dollar bill on the worn, red-checkered, oilcloth-covered table between them. “See for yourself, Troy. Another one this week. That makes six in as many weeks. Don't know how many weeks we've missed catching them. They're not turning up anywhere else in town.”
“Someone in my congregation is putting marked bills into the collection plate every Sunday? I just can't believe it. Jeff, I know every member like I know the back of my hand. It can't be. There has to be some mistake. And, now you're telling me these bills are part of a bank heist? It's just not making any sense to me.”
“People have secrets even you don't know Troy. You see the best in us, always have. Someone out there has their hands on money that was stolen from Federal Savings Bank over twenty years ago. Don't forget, the bank guard was shot and killed. We're not only looking at a bank robber, we're looking at a cold-blooded killer. This is the first clue in a very old case, Troy, and someone in church did this or knows who did.”
Jeff took back the twenty and laid a couple ones on the table.
“Gotta go. I'll be in touch. Keep this quiet, Troy.”
Pastor Troy sat there awhile watching people come and go. He knew them all. A murderer? No, it can't be...can it? In his congregation? God help us.
* * *
Tuesday was Miss Millie's baking day. Had been for years. She started peeling apples every Tuesday no later than daybreak, not that she had ever been one to sleep late. No, she had been through a lot of hard times in her seventy-eight years. One thing she had learned, hard work left little time to feel sorry for yourself.
Miss Millie's apple pies were highly prized and always in demand; but, she gave more away than she sold. She loved loading them up into her old Nash station wagon and taking them down to the local homeless shelter. Wally Brown worked hard feeding those in need there. He gave of himself tirelessly as he ran the shelter. He always bought two pies for himself pressing a twenty into Millie's palm with a hug. She passed it on each Sunday.
* * *
Sara Wilcox knew just how Sam Gowan liked his eggs. Every Saturday he pulled up to the table at Mama Jasmine's Cafe and ate a breakfast of three eggs over easy with a side of skillet potatoes. Had to have hot sauce and lots of black coffee. He had the nicest smile and the best manners. She knew he liked her because he always left her a large tip, a twenty. It gave her a little something to give at church.
* * *
Martin Long looked forward to the weekly visit from his grandson Johnny. He could always count on Johnny to check on him, bring him groceries, watch a football game on TV with him. He didn't deserve anyone loving him, certainly not this thoughtful twelve-year-old kid. He always made sure he left with a twenty-dollar bill in his pocket. Johnny never failed to put it into the collection plate.
* * *
The cold dark night closed in on him like a heavy black velvet curtain. Tears streamed down the craggy face. Rough hands clasped each other in agony. God, how could I have been so evil? Why would You ever care enough to forgive a sinner like me? I am so guilty, so wicked, so unworthy. Jesus, show me what You'd have me do and give me courage to obey. I love You so much...
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