You never know when I might play a wild card on you!
and the book:
Multnomah Books (January 6, 2009)
Al Lacy has been an evangelist for over 30 years, and he combines his love of the Old West with his passion for the Gospel in Christian fiction. Previously writing under pseudonyms Morgan Hill, Bill Reno, and Hank Mitchum, Al published 47 novels in the general market. Now Al writes under his own name.
JoAnna Lacy, Al’s wife and longtime collaborator, is a retired nurse. The Lacys have been married over forty years and live in the Colorado Rockies.
With over 3 million books in print, Al and JoAnna Lacy are co-authors of the popular Kane Legacy series, as well as the Frontier Doctor, Orphan Train, Mail Order Bride, Shadow of Liberty, and Hannah of Fort Bridger series. The Lacys have been married over forty years and live in western Colorado.
List Price: $12.99
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Multnomah Books (January 6, 2009)
AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:
Dan rubbed his eyes, rolled over in the bed, and glanced at the large window, which was on the east wall of the room. The eastern horizon was rose-flushed and golden. Above the glowing rim of the sun, the intense purity of the blue sky was a sight to see. “What a beautiful world You made, Lord,” he said in an appreciative whisper.
The owner of Haddock’s Furniture Store rubbed his eyes again, and this time when he opened them, his line of sight settled on a ten-by twelve-inch framed picture that sat on the nearby dresser. Suddenly, as he focused on the face of the lovely woman in the photograph, Dan was overcome with emotion. His eyes filled with tears as he stared with infinite tenderness at the face.
He swallowed hard. “Oh, Rebecca, darlin’. I miss you terribly!”
Suddenly his mind was filled with precious memories.
Dan thought of the day he first met Rebecca Jardine when they both attended a tent revival in Jefferson City, Missouri, in June of 1856; he was nineteen and she a year younger. When the evangelist who preached the meeting finished a powerful gospel sermon, both had walked the aisle and had received the Lord Jesus Christ as their Savior. Both were baptized in the church that had sponsored the tent revival and attended the services whenever the doors of the church were open. They began seeing each other on a regular basis and soon fell in love. They were married in October of that same year, after he turned twenty and Rebecca nineteen.
Dan thought of when they moved to Denver in July of 1871 and opened the furniture store. They very much loved their new church in Denver and enjoyed serving the Lord.
His mind then went to March of 1885, when his dear wife came down with a serious case of pneumonia and, despite the excellent care she received from the doctors and nurses, died in April at Denver’s Mile High Hospital.
Heavy of heart and missing Rebecca so very much, Dan sat up in bed and lifted his Bible from the nightstand. Needing comfort, he turned to Revelation 21:4 and read about the future of the saved people in heaven’s holy city, the New Jerusalem: “And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.”
Tears spilled down Dan’s cheeks, and he sniffled. “Oh, Rebecca, sweetheart, when you and I are together in heaven, God’s going to wipe away all our tears. There won’t be any more crying—” He choked and brushed the tears from his cheeks. “There won’t be any more crying, darling, because there’ll be no more death, no more sorrow, and no more pain.”
Dan drew a shaky breath. “Oh, dear Lord, I’ll be so glad when Rebecca and I are together again. Of course, Lord Jesus, when I first get to heaven, I want to see You, look into Your eyes, and thank You in person for dying on the cross for me and for saving me that day at the tent revival… Then I want to see my dear Rebecca and hold her in my arms again.”
This time Dan used the bed sheet to dry the tears from his eyes and face, then rose from the bed and made it up. After shaving and grooming himself and dressing in one of his business suits, he went to the kitchen and cooked breakfast.
At eight thirty, Dan descended the stairs and entered his furniture store through its rear door. He had swept the store clean after closing late Saturday afternoon, and as he made his way toward the front door, he smiled as he looked around and admired the tidiness.
When he reached the large front windows, he lifted the shades and waved at a man and his wife who were walking along the boardwalk toward their clothing store. They smiled and waved back. Dan then flipped the Closed sign on the door window to Open and unlocked the door. He was ready for the new business day.
Just as he was turning away from the door, he noticed a young man ride up on a white horse and pull rein at the hitching post. His face looked vaguely familiar, but Dan couldn’t think of where he might have seen him before. He was probably going to do business in one of the other stores.
As Dan walked toward the counter, he smiled. “Thank You, Lord, for helping Haddock’s Furniture Store do so well since Rebecca and I opened it here almost sixteen years ago.”
His smile faded as Dan thought of Rebecca again. He missed her so very much. However, as he walked behind the counter, he reminded himself that whenever it was the Lord’s time to take him to heaven, he would be with Rebecca again…and this time forever.
Dan then bent down to get into the safe below the counter. He glanced at the .45-caliber revolver that was on top of the safe as a security measure, then quickly turned the dial, working the correct combination. When the dial gave off its satisfying click, he opened the safe’s door and lifted out a bag of currency. He took a specific amount of money from the bag and placed it by denomination in the various sections of the cash register’s drawer. He placed the rest of the money back in the safe, closed the door, and spun the dial.
Just then the front door opened, and Dan looked up to see the vaguely familiar young man step into the store with a fierce look in his eyes. Dan’s eyes immediately took in the revolver in the man’s hand as he closed the door behind himself.
Fear gripped Dan’s heart, black and cold. He recognized the man now. He was an outlaw named Hank Kelner. Dan had seen his face several times on Wanted posters on the big board in front of chief United States marshal John Brockman’s office at the federal building in the center of downtown Denver. Dan’s blood froze.
The look in the outlaw’s eyes was even more piercing as he rushed up to the counter, pointing his gun at Dan. He spoke harshly, through his teeth. “I’ve been watchin’ you through the window, mister! I saw you put that money in the drawer, and I know you have more down there behind the counter. I want it all. Give it to me now, or I’ll kill you!”
Dan’s chest was tight, and he could only breathe shallowly, but anger welled up inside him. He leaned down as if reaching for the other cash but instead grabbed his .45-caliber revolver. As he raised the gun, Kelner fired first. The roar of Kelner’s weapon thundered throughout the store. The bullet struck Dan in the chest, and he collapsed behind the counter.
Kelner hurried around the counter to the safe. As he gripped the handle, he knew immediately that it was locked. Realizing that someone on the street might have heard the shot and called for the law, Kelner opened the cash register drawer, grabbed the money there, stuffed it in his pockets, and dashed out the door. He swung into the saddle on his white horse and galloped away.
Three men on the boardwalk about a half block away had heard what they thought was a gunshot in one of the store buildings along the street. When they saw the man rush out of Haddock’s, swing into the saddle, and gallop away, they agreed the gunshot must have come from Dan Haddock’s store.
As people on the street gawked, Cal Hardy, Rupert Blomgren, and Roscoe Nelson dashed down the boardwalk and hurried into the furniture store.
Once inside, they looked around. Seeing no one, Cal Hardy called out, “Dan! Dan! Are you in here?”
A slight groan sounded from behind the counter. Rupert and Roscoe followed Cal as he rushed in that direction. They saw Dan lying on his back, the chest of his suit coat wet with blood. He was gasping for breath.
Dropping to his knees beside the wounded man, Cal examined the wound as the other two crouched on the opposite side of the bleeding store owner. “Dan, what happened? Did that guy who ran out of your store rob you?”
Dan nodded slowly. Hardly able to speak, he said, “Yeah. When…I tried to stop…him, he shot me. He’s a…well-known outlaw. Name’s… Hank Kelner.”
“Oh yeah!” Cal said. “I remember seeing Kelner’s picture on the Wanted board several times.” He looked at Roscoe and Rupert. “We’ve got to get Dan to the hospital.”
The wounded man’s eyes were closed, and his jaw and mouth were set in angles that indicated the pain he was experiencing.
All three men stood, and Cal bent down over Dan’s head. “I’ll lift his shoulders. Each of you take hold of one of his legs. It’ll be easier carrying him to the hospital this way.”
They nodded and bent down to place their arms under Dan’s legs.
As Cal was adjusting his grip, he noticed Dan open his eyes and look upward, focusing on the ceiling. His down turned mouth slowly curved into a smile.
“Wh-what’s he looking at?” Rupert looked up at the ceiling.
“And what’s he smiling at?” Roscoe also lifted his eyes to the ceiling.
Cal licked his lips, glanced overhead, then looked back down at Dan Haddock.
Dan shifted his gaze to Cal. His smile widened, and he said in a weak voice, “I’m going to be with Rebecca shortly. My…my…Savior is calling me.” He closed his eyes and went limp. His head slumped to one side as he let out his last breath.
Cal bit his lower lip as he placed the palm of his right hand against the side of Dan’s neck, feeling for a pulse. He held it there for several seconds. Tears welled up in his eyes as he looked at his friends. “He’s— he’s gone.”
Rupert Blomgren and Roscoe Nelson were also Christians, both of them belonging to a solid Bible-believing church in Littleton, one of Denver’s suburbs. Both men also had tears in their eyes.
After a long moment of silence, Cal said, “Since I belong to the same church as Dan, I’ll go tell Pastor Robert Bayless what has happened. I—I know it will bless his heart to hear about Dan’s smile just before he died, that he said his Savior was calling him and that he would be with Rebecca shortly.”
Both men nodded, blinking back tears.
“I know Pastor Bayless will preach the funeral service, of course,” Cal said. “And he will see to it that one of the undertakers picks up the body and prepares it for burial.”
Rupert said, “Roscoe and I will go to Chief Brockman’s office and tell him what happened.”
“Let’s go.” Cal headed toward the front door of the store. He flipped over the Open sign so the Closed side showed through the window. “Let’s leave the door unlocked so the undertaker can come in to get the body.”
Breaking into a run, Cal Hardy covered the three and a half blocks from Haddock’s Furniture Store to Denver’s First Baptist Church in a matter of minutes. He hurried to the rear of the church building, where there was an outside door to the pastor’s office, and knocked on the door.
He could hear footsteps from inside the office, and the door swung open. He was greeted by a smile from Pastor Robert Bayless, who was in his early fifties, his dark brown hair beginning to show some silver. “Hello, Cal. What can I do for you?”
Cal cleared his throat. “Pastor, I have some bad news for you. May I come in?”
The pastor’s features pinched. “Why, of course. Please come in.”
At the Denver jail, chief U.S. marshal John Brockman was sitting at a table in a small room with Norman Yanek, whom he had just led to receive the Lord Jesus Christ as his Savior. Brockman had personally pursued and caught the thirty-year-old Yanek after he’d robbed Littleton National Bank the previous week.
Yanek had faced trial in Denver, and Judge Ralph Dexter had sentenced him to ten years in the Colorado State Penitentiary at Cañon City. Brockman was all set to personally take him there the next day.
In his early forties, the chief U.S. marshal stood six feet five inches tall, a strikingly handsome man with short black hair and a well trimmed matching mustache over a square jaw. His right cheekbone sported a pair of identical white-ridged scars. It appeared to Yanek that Brockman’s eyes were pools of gray that sometimes seemed to look straight through him. Brockman was slender in the hips, yet had broad shoulders and very muscular arms that showed off his light gray uniform with its shiny gold, shield-shaped badge. His lawman’s look was completed by a low-slung, tied-down Colt .45 in a black-belted holster, the handle grips of which were bone white.
John Brockman smiled. “Norman, I’m so glad that you listened to the gospel and opened your heart to the Lord Jesus.”
Yanek was still holding on to the Bible Brockman had brought with him. He matched John’s smile. “Sir, I very much appreciate you caring enough about this wicked sinner to show him how to be saved.”
“Norman, I want you to keep that Bible. Take it with you to prison, and study it every day.”
Yanek’s eyebrows arched. “Really? You’re giving it to me?”
Tears misted the prisoner’s eyes. “Sir, thank you for your kindness and generosity. I promise I’ll study this book every day.”
At that moment, the door of the small room opened, and Sheriff Walt Carter stepped in with one of Brockman’s deputies, Roland Jensen, at his side.
As they walked toward the table, the sheriff said, “Chief Brockman, Deputy Jensen has some bad news for you.”
Brockman frowned and stood, towering over the sheriff and the deputy U.S. marshal. “What is it, Roland?”
Roland told the chief about Rupert Blomgren and Roscoe Nelson coming to the chief ’s office with the bad news that Dan Haddock had been robbed and killed just over half an hour ago by outlaw Hank Kelner.
Brockman’s heart lurched in his chest. His face paled, and his eyes widened. He was obviously jolted to hear about his dear Christian friend, and it showed more as the ridges of his twin jagged scars turned even whiter and tears filmed his eyes.
Deputy Jensen then told Chief Brockman that Cal Hardy was with them at the furniture store after Dan was killed and where Cal had gone afterward.
Brockman nodded. “I’m glad Cal informed Pastor Bayless. Now how do we know Hank Kelner was the one who robbed and killed Dan?”
“There’s no doubt,” Jensen responded. “Rupert and Roscoe said that before Dan died he told them and Cal that it was Kelner. He had seen Kelner’s picture on the Wanted posters in front of your office.”
“All right.” Brockman nodded again. “Now what about Kelner?”
“Some people on the street saw him as he galloped away from the furniture store. They told Rupert and Roscoe that he was on a white horse, wearing a red jacket and a low-crowned black hat. Apparently he galloped eastward on Colfax Avenue and no doubt was headed out of town.”
Brockman rubbed his angular chin. “Well, Kelner is from Kansas City. I’d bet he’s heading home.”
“Mm-hmm,” Jensen said. “I’d say that’s where he’s going, all right. He must figure he has pulled enough holdups in Colorado to do him for a while.”
“Tell you what, Roland,” the chief said. “As you know, I was going to take Norman Yanek here to the Cañon City prison tomorrow.”
The deputy laughed. “But you’re thinking of going after Hank Kelner now and want me to take Norman to Cañon City.”
Brockman grinned. “You’re pretty smart. Remind me to get you a pay raise.”
Sheriff Walt Carter chuckled. “Let me know if that happens, Roland.”
The deputy chuckled as well. “Oh, I will, Sheriff !” Then in a more serious tone he said, “Chief Brockman, I’ll tell the other deputies what has happened and that you’ll be pursuing Kelner. How soon are you going after him?”
“Just as soon as I can get to the hospital and tell my wife where I’m heading.”
“I figured you wouldn’t let any grass grow under your feet. Yanek and I will leave early in the morning.”
“Fine,” Brockman said.
“I hope you catch Kelner real quick,” Roland said.
“I’ll do my best.”
The sheriff and the deputy U.S. marshal left the room as Chief Brockman looked down at Norman Yanek. “I often take prisoners I’ve arrested to the Cañon City prison. I’m sure there will be more, so I’ll see you soon.”
Norman rose to his feet and picked up the Bible with his left hand. “Chief Brockman, thank you again for leading me to the Lord and for giving me this Bible. I’ll look forward to seeing you next time you’re at the prison.” He extended his right hand.
Brockman reached out and gripped it tightly. “It’s been my pleasure, Norman. I’ll look forward to seeing you too.” He headed toward the door. “I’ll have to lock this door, you understand. One of the sheriff’s deputies will be coming soon to take you back to your cell.”
Norman smiled and nodded.
“And if for some reason we don’t see each other here on earth again, I’m glad to say that I’ll meet you in heaven.” With that Brockman stepped into the hall, closed the door, and locked it. He dashed outside, mounted his big black horse, and galloped a few blocks to Denver’s Mile High Hospital. After dismounting and tying the reins to a hitching post, he hurried inside.
Making his way down the central hall, John entered the surgical ward and drew up to the main desk. The attendant at the desk looked up and smiled. “Hello, Chief Brockman. I imagine you’re wanting to see Breanna?”
“Yes, Millie. Is she available?”
“Well, as one of our leading nurses, she stays awfully busy, but you happened to come in at the right time. She just finished assisting Dr. Stockwell with an appendectomy, and she’s in the nurses’ washroom cleaning up. I’ll go tell her you’re here.”
“I’d appreciate that.”
Millie hurried from the desk and entered a door a short distance down the hall. In less than two minutes, she returned and told him that his wife would be out shortly. John thanked her, then moved down the hall and positioned himself close to the door.
A few seconds later, the door swung open and Breanna appeared in her white nurse’s uniform, smiling warmly as she moved toward John. “Millie told me you wanted to see me, darling.”
“Yes.” He smiled down at his blond, blue-eyed wife with love in his eyes. “Let’s move to a more private spot. I have to leave town right away, and I want to tell you about it.”
John took Breanna by the hand, and they walked down the hall.
“Don’t tell me. Let me guess. You’re about to chase after some outlaw to bring him to justice.”
“You guessed right, sweetheart. You’ve heard me talk about Hank Kelner.”
“Yes. His picture has been on your Wanted board for some time. I remember looking at it once or twice.”
“Well, he robbed Dan Haddock at his furniture store a little while ago and shot him.” John clasped Breanna’s hands. “Dan’s dead.”
Her body stiffened in shock. “Oh, John! This is terrible!”
“For sure. I’m going after Kelner immediately.”
Breanna nodded. “You’re going after him alone, like you do most of the time?”
Breanna took hold of John’s upper arms. “I know that you feel you must chase down this Kelner outlaw personally, darling, but can’t you take at least one of your deputies with you?”
“Right now all of my deputies are working on other assignments. Those in the office have important paperwork to do.”
Breanna’s eyes brimmed with concern.
John smiled. “Don’t you worry now, my love. I’ll be just fine. I know how you pray for my safety and success whenever I’m trailing outlaws. You just keep it up. That cold-blooded killer took the life of a good friend of ours. I’m going to make sure he pays for it.”
Breanna squeezed his arms. “I know you need to do this, John. I’ll be praying for you as always. Come back as soon as you can.”
“You know I will, sweetheart.” He wrapped his arms around her and kissed her soundly. “Tell Paul and Ginny that I love them.”
Breanna smiled up at him. “I’ll do that, darling. I’ll walk you out to Blackie.”
They made their way outside, and John kissed her again, telling her how very much he loved her. Breanna returned the sentiment. Then his big black horse whinnied at Breanna as John mounted up. She patted his neck. “Take care of him, Blackie!”
As Blackie nodded and whinnied again, John told Breanna one more time that he loved her, and she watched horse and rider gallop away. “Go with God, my love.”
When John and Blackie disappeared, Breanna turned and walked back into the hospital with a resigned smile, knowing she had placed her husband in God’s care. There were patients who needed her expertise.
As Chief John Brockman rode out of Denver on Colfax Avenue and onto the Colorado plains, he peered eastward toward the Kansas-Colorado border. “Lord, please let me catch Hank Kelner before he kills someone else.”
I got to page 48 in this book and at that point decided that it's simply not my cup of tea. Western novels sometimes work and sometimes don't for me. "The Stranger" is a recurring character who was apparently brought back by popular demand. Since I've only recently returned to reading Christian books, the earlier series books are unfamiliar to me. My personal opinion was that the writing is kind of awkward and stilted, especially the dialogue. However, I'm extremely picky about writing; it takes a pretty amazing storyline and a lot of excitement to keep me reading if I'm not blown away by craftsmanship. I'm convinced that there are probably a lot of historical-fiction readers who would enjoy this book. The Christian element is strong enough that I'd recommend this specifically to those who enjoy the kind of writing style that was in vogue with Christian publishers about 8-10 years ago.