Rubbing his five-o’clock shadow, the preacher flipped open his pocket watch. It’s time. Satchel in hand, black eyes stared back at him in the window revealing the entity within. He slammed a two inch steel pipe into the door handles on each end of the railroad car.
Startled, Ted Danford bobbled his complimentary champagne. Two seats over, Stanley and Mary Simkins, distant and selfish, sulked.
“One thousand six…one thousand seven. Lizzy! Seven! ”
“Steven, be quiet I’m…”
“SEVEN!” cackled Steven again, irritating his older sister.
Mitchell Covington turned from the window, spilling droplets of chardonnay on his gray suit.
In the rear, John Fowler read in his bible:
“…because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example...”
Staccato clicks from the black-clad preacher’s boots reverberated on the wood floor. His satchel rested on an adjacent table. A judge’s gavel lay next to it.
“This commemorative train, a replica of a branch constructed in the 1880’s…”
He turned off the recorded tour guide message. All eyes focused on the man in black.
A sawed-off shot gun appeared from the satchel. Chambering a round, he pumped the action.
“Good,” he smiled.
Holding the weapon, he quoted “the soul that sinneth…it shall die.”
“For the seven of you…that’s today.”
Then, he added, “in seven minutes”.
A collective gasp swept the room. Ted, the salesman, stood in disbelief. The goblet in Mitchell’s hand snapped causing blood to ooze. The others: paralyzed with terror. Only, John, headphones on, read his bible.
“You can’t do this,” demanded Ted, courageously.” You have no right.”
“I can and do have the right,” replied the preacher.
“God’s the only judge,” called out Lizzy, attempting bravery.
“Today, this is your god,” responded the preacher pumping the gun again, “and I’m your judge.”
“Judge is in the courtroom!” he declared.
“Ted, let’s start with you. Last night: Phoenix. Simone Peters. Mistress!”
“Stan: Two affairs. You’re hiding money in order to divorce ol’ Mary here.”
Stanley nearly choked.
“Mary: Gossip Central! Your poison has driven three ministers out of your church.
Mary’s jaw dropped.
Preacher looked at his watch.
“I’ll pay you,” pleaded Mitchell.
“Mitch, this isn’t about money…but of course, you are. Hmm. Embezzled your business partner and ‘Insider Trading’. True?”
Preacher flipped the watch open again.
“Lizzy: Let’s see. High school slut! College…what do they call it… slut! That’s it.”
“Young Steve: Sixteen. Too young to die? Never think that, Steven. Nobody’s too young. Pot head! Internet porn! You’ve no defense.”
Preacher checked the gun cartridge. Suddenly, John Fowler stood before the man in black.
“Johnny boy! Does 1988 ring a bell? Car theft! A bankruptcy in 96’.”
“Yes, the soul that sinneth….”
Waving the gun, he said, “god’s in my right hand.”
Everyone wailed, pleading for mercy, except for John.
“One minute,” preacher cackled.
He placed the gun under Ted’s chin.
“The wages of sin is death!”
Lizzy quivered, gaining preacher’s attention. Unbuttoning her top button, he whispered, “if I had more time, sweet Lizzy.”
Preacher repeated, “the wages of sin…”
“But, the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus…,” finished John, standing behind preacher now.
Preacher whirled around, cherry red flames for eyes.
“But, you’re not Him”
“He dwells in me and ‘bore my sins in His body on the tree,’” replied John.
“OK then,” said the preacher. “If one of you’ll die for the rest, consider the debt paid.”
“Rich Guy?” he said, pointing the gun at Mitchell.
Ted stood motionless.
“Maybe, our town gossip? Mary?”
“Hey, Joe Pothead,” he yelled at Steven?
“Stan, the man. Care to indulge?”
Slut City? Oh, Miss Lizzy?”
Preacher laughed wickedly.
Slowly, John stepped up.
“I will,” he said softly.
“Right, return to dreamland land, bible boy. There’s fear in your eyes.”
“Fear is irrelevant, preacher. I will die for them.”
Preacher jammed the barrel under John’s nose.
“Still want to die for them, Junior Jesus?”
“Yes,” he replied.
The barrel jammed into John’s forehead.
“Take it back and you’ll live.”
“What I’ve chosen, I’ve chosen,” replied John.
Preacher’s hand shook. The barrel jerked to the right. A deafening blast shattered the window behind John. Immovable, John stood. The barrel in John’s chest, preacher’s finger quivered on the trigger.
Finally, pulling the gun down and dislodging the chamber, he grabbed the satchel and walked to the door, removing the pipe.
“Grace has saved you all today,” he stated. “Heed it well. I will return.”
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