Satisfied that the potatoes were done, she turned the stew off, and took the dinner rolls out from the oven. She cocked her head, the voices were quiet. Curiosity put the rolls down, their dinner was forgotten for the moment. She walked into the dinning room.
Buck and Jim were staring at Mark’s photo, “What’s going on, Jim?” she asked, realizing something had just happened between them.
“Buck knows about Mark.”
Jim gulped, leaned against the wall, “Buck shot Mark.”
Andrea, not understanding what Jim just said, looked at her husband who’d pulled a chair out from the table and was sitting in it, sobbing. Slowly Jim’s revelation sunk into the stunned woman who also sat down. So many years behind them not knowing who killed their son and why; now here was the man who’d shot him, standing in front of them.
If husband and wife had both known it, they would have been surprised at the very same question with the very same words directed urgently to God, “You brought our son’s killer to eat with us? Why?”
The loaded silence from above gently broke in answer to both Jim and Andrea’s pain filled anguish, “Be merciful for I am merciful.”
Mercy? Mark was their only son. A son who came to them late, after they’d given up hope of ever having any children at all. He’d been a son of promise, a son of miracles. Now he was gone. To show mercy to the thief who took his life was an impossibility! How could God ask it of them and expect obedience?
“With God nothing is impossible.”
“No, Father, I can’t,” man and wife cried in unknown unison.
Buck just stood in front of these who’d invited him in their home for a meal. They’d been ready to sit him down in the place their son should have been sitting but for his bullet. He’d never intended on killing that kid. It was an accident. The guilt he felt, the guilt that had been haunting him for ten years, guilt he’d been trying to hide from himself since that shot hammered in his ears, was a guilt that ate away at his soul. Over and again he’d asked himself why it bothered him. He’d killed other guys.
Time seemed to freeze the three in their places at the dinner table. Finally Jim brought himself to ask the next question, a question he could barely whisper out, the question that had been most on their mind since that horrible day at the hospital.
“I didn’t do it on purpose. It was an accident. That shot was intended for someone else. It was an accident. He surprised me. I didn’t see him until it was too late.”
“Why are you here?”
“I was sent to watch you and report to Mr. Monroe everything you did, and when a certain person came in and out.”
“Why were you supposed to watch us?”
“I think Mr. Monroe was going to have me kill you if Victor doesn’t do as he’s told.”
“Because the girl we were watching has disappeared, and Mr. Monroe needed something to hold over Victor. He’s said he was going to have you taken care of when Victor’s job is done anyway.”
“When I went into your church the first time I was tailing Victor I heard your sermon and it made me want to change. Mr. Monroe doesn’t want me to change. He wants me just the way I am.
“I’m tired of living this life. I’ve done a lot of bad things. I need to change” Buck began to weep.
A soft knock came to the door. Wanting to escape, not believing they were suddenly thrown into turmoil, Andrea quickly slipped out the dinning room to answer. It was Victor.
“Andrea, where’s Jim?” Victor demanded immediately seeing her red eyes.
Almost running over Andrea to get past her, Victor rushed in. With one look he brought Buck in his sights. All of the fear and anguish from loosing Jazz erupted, threatening to engulf Buck. Jim could clearly see murderous rage in Victor’s face and eyes as he rushed the other man who was preparing himself for the onslaught. His natural pastor instincts kicked in; terrified, but determined, Jim tackled Victor with a full body slam. Both men landed on the floor with Andrea’s “STOP!” reverberating in their ears. Victor pulled Jim to his feet and slugged him in the face, sending the preacher sprawling back against the wall, knocking a hole in the sheet rock and pictures to the floor. Realizing what he’d just done, Victor backed off from both Buck and Jim.
Andrea lunged toward Jim, “How dare you strike my husband in our own home? What more do we have to expect Victor, especially after taking you in?”
“Andrea, I...” Victor looked at Buck then at Andrea sobbing, and then at Jim.
“I’m alright Victor.” he said shakily standing up straight, rubbing his jaw. A black bruise was already forming. “You have quite a swing.”
“Why did you get in my way? Do you know who this man is?”
“Yes, I know. This is Buck. He’s one of Monroe’s men. He’s just confessed to us that Monroe has sent him and his intention is probably to have Buck kill us. Victor, you’ve got to calm down. Nothing good will come of your anger. We still don’t know what Buck’s intentions are.”
Victor paused a moment, collecting himself. He needed his head clear. “I’m okay now, but I want to know why he’s here.”
“I don’t have to answer to you. I’d not intended to tell them anything, but I’m glad they know. I don’t want to hurt them any more than I already have.”
”What have you already done?”
“Buck is the reason we don’t have Mark anymore,” Andrea sobbed.
Jim put his arm around his wife and held her for a few moments while she cried.
“Leave the room.” He told the other men.
Victor and Buck walked into the living room. Quiet fury returned to Victor, “I got a call from your boss a few minutes ago. He told me you were watching Jim and Andrea. I want you to back off, or you’ll find yourself in my sights. I don’t miss.”
“You’d better not threaten me...”
Jim walked into the room feeling the tension charging the air; silently he asked his Lord if this is what he intended. His jaw still throbbed; he glared at the other two men in the room.
“Andrea and I are having a tough time with this and we’re not quite sure what we should do. My first inclination is to call the police, but something tells me that’s not what the Lord wants us to do. We need to find a solution to these problems. Let’s sit down.”
Reluctantly Buck followed Jim’s example, but Victor remained where he was. Fear threatened to freeze Jim’s blood at Victor’s menace, but the calm reassurance promised in difficult times brought new courage to the preacher.
“Victor, I believe God is telling me to give Buck a chance. After all, I know a man who claimed he wanted to change, and even went so far as to tell me that he has become a Christian. Not many people would believe him, given his career of choice, but nothing has happened to cause me not to believe him. Don’t you think I should extend the same trust in the Lord toward someone else?”
Buck looked at Victor, “You’re a Christian now?”
Relaxing only a little, Victor nodded, “It happened when Jazz came up missing.”
“You didn’t hide her?” Buck exclaimed.
“Victor tells us that your boss, and Johnson both want the other killed and they’ve both hired him.”
“Preacher, don’t tell him anything else. You’ve already put Jazz in more danger.”
“But Buck might be able to give some insight to a solution.” Jim replied.
Silence hung heavily in the room. No one really knew what was to be said next or by whom. Then Buck knew. He pulled a handgun out of his jacket, paused a moment scowling at Victor. He raised the barrel to the air. Andrea walked into the room, everyone held their breath. What was Buck was going to do next? He flipped out the clip and handed the gun to Jim. Conflicted, Jim received Buck’s gun in his hand. Was this the gun that robbed him of his only son? He didn’t want to ask.
His only son. The words came crashing in his brain to a brand new meaning, the contrast and similarity both so frightening that he would have fallen down if he hadn’t been sitting down. He wasn’t sure if he could breathe another breath without the rending, stabbing pain to his heart. As forceful as Victor’s hard right to his jaw, the hit man’s question came hammering back to Jim, “How sad could God have really been if God knew he was going to come back alive?”
Mark had been a strong Christian, even at fifteen. He’d brought several of his friends to know Jesus, and had heard the same call to be a preacher that his dad heard. Jim and Andrea knew without doubt that he was with Jesus at that very moment and was victorious, even in his early death. That knowledge did not lessen their pain. Now their son was delivering a message to his Mom and Dad fulfilling his vision to preach even after his life. Jim looked at Victor, “The other night you asked me how God could know sorrow at Jesus’ death.” Victor nodded, wondering why his friend was bringing that up now.
“God the Father had declared to the people multiple times that Jesus was His Son and He was well pleased with Him. Yet the people turned on Jesus. They beat, mocked and tortured him to death. That was bad enough, but then all the evil that had ever been committed before Jesus’ death and after lay on the shoulders of His Son, separating them to the agony of the Father and the horror of the Son while he hung on that cruel cross. Separation from the Father is what killed Jesus.
“‘Father forgive them,’ the beloved Son had prayed.”
Jim took Andrea’s hand, kissed it and got out of the chair. Jim gave a hug, heavy with manly affection, to each of the two men, surprising both.
“The knowledge God the Father had that Jesus would be victorious didn’t lessen his pain. Yes God knew, but the pain was still there. Yes Jesus knew, but the sacrifice was no less because of the knowledge. And we’re to forgive just as Jesus asked God to forgive us.” He looked up at Andrea “All this time we’ve had a small taste of what God must have gone through when Jesus died, and yet, Jesus is the path of forgiveness. How can we not forgive Buck?”
Victor and Buck looked at each other confused.
“I don’t see where you think anything you could have done was as bad as the terrible thing I’ve done. How can you say you forgive me?” Buck responded.
“We can’t forgive you, but God can help us know how.”
For the first time in his life Buck was hearing exactly what he most wanted to hear, even before the death of the boy Mark. God is a loving, forgiving God. Forgiveness he knew he didn’t deserve.
“This is more than I can understand. How can you extend love to this…” Victor struggled for the word he could use in front of Jim and Andrea, “..this man who killed your son. I don’t think I can believe in a God like that.”
“Victor, Buck didn’t do it on purpose.” Andrea said gently, surprising her husband. “You’ve killed too. You and he are a lot alike. And you know,” Andrea put her hand on Victor’s shoulder, “Jim and I have killed too, in our own way. Don’t look at me like that. It’s true. Anytime we’ve ever hurt someone with our words, we’ve killed part of that person. We’re no different than you and Buck. You…”
Victor’s cell phone suddenly rang. He put it to his ear, “Hello?”
The three waited to hear Victor’s part of the conversation, but he wasn’t saying anything. Finally he pushed a button, ending the call, “Its Johnson. He wants a meeting.”
To investigate a business that includes blogging, click here