Four-year-old Mark sat in the back of the ambulance as the paramedics tended him. Firefighters put out the last of the flames. Detective Miller walked over, flashing a badge.
“Can I talk to him?” Miller asked.
The paramedic nodded her head. “Yeah he’s clear.”
Miller sat down next to Mark. “Hey kid, how you holding up?”
“Where’s Mommy?” Mark asked.
Miller winced. “I’m sorry, Mark—she didn’t—she was still in the house.”
Mark began crying. “You mean she—she—she’s dead?”
“I’m sorry Mark,” Miller said as he hugged the boy. “They’re both gone.”
Mark began sobbing. Miller held him tight.
“A couple of neighbors said they’d take him for the night,” a deputy said as he came over.
Miller nodded his head. “The Richardos? They’re probably his best choice.”
“Senor Carlos?” Mark asked. “He was Daddy’s best friend.”
“Si chico,” Mrs. Richardo said as she and her husband came over. “Your parents were very good amigos.”
“What happens to him after tonight?” Carlos asked as his wife took the boy to their house.
“Generally speaking the next of kin would take him,” Miller said. “But since the boy doesn’t have any next of kin, he’ll probably end up in foster care.”
“What if we took him?” Carlos asked.
“We’d have to get a lawyer,” Miller stated.
“Si—Russell; Charlie Russell,” Carlos suggested.
“That may not be a bad idea,” the deputy said. “You’re friends; familiar faces; he’d feel comfortable with you.”
“No relatives?” Carlos asked.
“Stephanie’s parents died seven years ago; Richard’s dad was killed in a car wreck and his mother is in a nursing home,” Miller answered. “Both of them were only childs.”
“Can’t ever be easy, can it?” the deputy said, shaking his head as he walked away.
Miller looked at Carlos. “I’d take the kid but I’ve got no way to take care of him while working cases; it’s better if you and Rita take him.”
“And he’ll see you every Sunday when you’re in town,” Carlos said. “You’re a good friend, senor.”
“I’ll call Russell tomorrow; let him know what’s going on,” Miller said. “In the meantime, count on housing the boy temporarily.”
“Si,” Carlos said.
“See you tomorrow,” Miller said.
“Si, buenos noches,” Carlos said.
Miller picked up Charlie the next morning, and the two of them arrived at the Richardos’ house.
“Let’s talk on the porch,” Carlos suggested. “The others are still asleep.”
“Did you tell Rita about this?” Charlie asked.
“No,” Carlos replied. “I didn’t want to get her excited until we were sure.”
“That’s good,” Charlie said. “This process could take a while; you said there’s no next of kin?”
“There’s a distant cousin in Oregon; otherwise no,” Miller said.
“We’ll have to check with him before they take him, you know,” Charlie said.
“Except that he’s constantly traveling and not exactly father material,” Miller said.
“Done you’re research?” Charlie asked.
“El acosador,” Carlos muttered.
“No, profundo,” Miller stated.
“And that is why I hate working with you guys,” Charlie remarked. “We’ll still have to check over that option for the court’s sake.”
“Burocria molest,” Carlos muttered.
“Oh for crying out loud,” Charlie said. “English, please?”
“Red tape, senor,” Carlos said. “Lo siento.”
“That means—” Miller began.
“Sorry; I know,” Charlie stated. “I’m not completely stupid.”
“Well how long will this take?” Carlos asked.
“Between six months to a year at least,” Charlie answered. “You’ll have to prove Mark can live with you; plus all that ‘red tape’ you love so much has to be cut.”
“In the mean time Mark can stay with you,” Miller stated. “I’ve pulled some legal strings and you’re his guardians until this is all over.”
“Gracias,” Carlos said. “I’ll do whatever I can to help.”
“Yes Rita, you can keep the boy for now,” Miller said as he looked toward the screen door.
Rita stepped out onto the porch. “Sorry, just curious.”
“How long have you been standing there?” Charlie asked.
“Distant cousin in Oregon,” Rita answered.
“Chica furtiva,” Carlos muttered. “Volver a la casa me ocupare de ti mas tarde.”
“Si papi,” Rita remarked smugly.
“What?” Carlos asked.
“Just funny,” Miller answered. “You two are a cute couple.”
Carlos glared at Miller. “Whatever, you helped us stay together, you know.”
“You’re welcome,” Miller said.
“Okay great,” Charlie said, “if you three are finished, I’d like to start the paperwork for this case.”
“Alright,” Carlos replied. “Keep me updated; we’ll talk later.”
“See you,” Miller said.
“Bye,” Charlie said.
Stephanie stood by the window and sighed.
“Can’t sleep?” her new husband, Richard, asked.
Stephanie looked guilty. “Sorry,” she said, “it’s been two years I should be over it, I just—”
Richard silenced her with a kiss. “You’ve been through a lot,” he said, “the pain will be there. It means you’re human.”
Stephanie smiled back at him. “Yeah, but Mark needs both his parents.”
Richard hugged her. “He’s got both of them,” he stated. “You know, maybe we should take up that preacher’s invitation.”
“You think it would help us?” she asked.
“It might,” he answered. “It’s worth a shot, anyways.”
They arrived the following Sunday for morning services.
“Welcome folks, I’m Daniel. We’re glad to have you.”
“Thanks,” Richard stated. “I’m Richard; this is Stephanie and our son, Mark.”
“Find yourselves a seat; we’re not picky,” Daniel stated. “We’re glad to have you.”
“Thanks,” Richard said as they moved to a pew.
“Been a while since I’ve been inside a church,” Stephanie said. “Either of us, really.”
Richard nodded his head as he studied the bulletin. As soon as the piano began, Richard perked up. “Haven’t heard these songs since Sunday School, either,” he stated.
“Please take your hymn books and turn to number 300,” the pastor announced. “Number 300; please stand.”
More secure is no one ever/Than the loved ones of the Saviour the congregation began singing.
Stephanie leaned towards Richard. “This was my mother’s favorite song,” she said.
“My aunt loved this song,” Richard whispered, “she sang it all the time.”
“You folks from around here?” Daniel asked after the service.
“Other side of town,” Richard answered.
“Mr. Thomas, glad you could make it,” the pastor stated as he walked over.
“Pastor Garcia, thanks for inviting us,” Richard said.
“Please, it’s Jose; and we’re glad to have ya.”
“That first song has a history with our families,” Stephanie remarked. “We thought it special.”
“Yes, it’s one of my personal favorites too,” Jose stated. “You two come from Christian families?”
“Not exactly,” Richard answered. “Couple family members, that’s all.”
“You don’t know what to believe, do you?” Daniel asked. “You feel unsure; bad history with a previous church?”
“You could say that,” Richard said. “How’d you know?”
“Daniel’s a friend of mine and an FBI profiler,” Detective Miller answered as he walked over.
“Didn’t know you attended here, detective,” Stephanie stated.
“Mrs. Thomas,” Miller greeted her. “Glad to see you’re doing better. How’s the little one?”
“He’s not so little,” Stephanie said, pulling Mark from behind here.
“Hello little fellow,” Miller said, moving to Mark’s line of sight. “How are you?”
The families continued to talk for a bit before heading home. Richard sat on the porch swing later that evening, pondering.
“Penny for your thoughts?” Stephanie asked.
“You think there’s anything to what the pastor said?” Richard asked.
Stephanie sat down beside him. “I don’t know; my mother always seemed to think there was something to religion.”
“What about Miller?” Richard asked. “You trust him?”
“He’s done nothing to make me not trust him,” Stephanie stated.
“Really?” Richard asked. “Cause he still hasn’t found the killer.”
“Sometimes people can’t be found,” Stephanie stated.
“Or he’s already dead,” Daniel stated, as he and Miller came up from the sidewalk.
The Thomas couple looked at them.
“How long have you known?” Richard asked.
“We found him four days ago,” Daniel stated, handing them a photo. “He was found in Texas on Thursday.”
“Why didn’t you say anything?” Stephanie demanded of Miller.
“I told him I would,” Daniel said. “Anthony McNab was wanted on other charges in two other states. Since the FBI took him down, I told Miller I would tell you.”
Stephanie put her hand over her mouth. Richard put his arm around his wife.
“Where is he now?” she asked.
“In Hell, I’m afraid,” Miller stated. “I had to put three bullets in him when we found him.”
Richard looked up at Miller. “Is that what you actually believe?”
“You go to one of two places when you die,” Miller answered. “Heaven or Hell. Anthony wasn’t prepared for death; he had a chance and didn’t take it.”
“He shot at two other agents,” Daniel said. “With a twelve-gauge shotgun. Miller had to take him out or we wouldn’t have come out of there alive.”
“How do you do it?” Richard asked. “You’re both Christians; how do you do your jobs?”
“It isn’t always easy,” Miller answered. “But putting away bad guys is what I do.”
“Does your faith help?” Stephanie asked.
Daniel nodded his head.
“I know that if I die, I’ll go to Heaven,” Miller stated. “I can look down the barrel of a gun and have no fear because no matter what, it’s in God’s hands. The guys I put away, however, they don’t have that courage.”
“How do you do it then?” Richard asked. “If you believe shooting someone will send them to Hell, how do you do it?”
“I give them enough of a chance to surrender, “ Miller said. “I know that when I shoot someone, they’ve had their last chance to fix their life. They made that choice to go to Hell; the ultimate prison cell.”
Richard stood up. “Thanks Detective. For everything. And for the spiritual advice. It means a lot.”
“Anything I can do to help,” Miller said, handing Richard a business card, “let me know.”
Richard nodded. “We will.”
Stephanie Richards admired her small, clean kitchen. With the baby soon to be born, it was nice to relax a minute and prepare for the future.
Stephanie woke up to see her husband Steve standing in front of her, smiling.
“Tired?” he asked.
“Sorry; I guess I was,” she replied, holding her hand out to him.
Steve took her hand and sat down next to her. “It’s fine,” he stated. “You’re fighting for two people these days, it’s bound to wear you out.” He kissed her cheek.
Stephanie smiled. “Yes but that doesn’t mean I can abandon my husband,” she said.
“I’d find you if you did, trust me,” Steve replied. “But dinner’s ready if you’re hungry.”
“Oh, you made dinner?” Stephanie asked, delighted. “Thanks.”
The two sat down to a quite meal and caught up on their day.
A few week later, Steve entered the hospital room and looked at his three-hour old son. “Sorry I’m late; traffic these days,” he stated.
Stephanie smiled. “He looks just like you,” she stated.
Steve smiled at his son. “My life has begun to change again,” he stated.
* * * *
Steve sighed to himself as he walked out the back door at the office two years later. “Another long day and nothing to show for it,” he muttered. “And the mortgage is due, too,” he added, opening the car door.
Steve turned to see the barrel of a pistol in his face, a masked man on the opposite end of the gun. “Give me your money—and if you move, I’ll shoot you,” the man ordered.
Steve slowly moved for his wallet. “Here, take it,” he stated, handing his wallet over.
The man took the wallet. “Good. Sorry, no witnesses; bad for business.”
Bang! Bang! Bang! Three shots rang out as bullets hit Steve in the chest and stomach. Collapsing to the ground, Steve looked up at his attacker. “Why?” he sputtered.
“Because I ain’t going to jail—and you’re the only witness here,” the man growled, before delivering a final shot to Steve’s head.
The next morning there was a knock on the door of the Richards house. Stephanie opened to find Detective Miller standing there with a somber look on his face.
“Is there something wrong?” she asked nervously.
“Mrs. Richards?” the detective stated, “I’m sorry to tell you, your husband’s been found shot at his office.”
“What? No, it can’t be,” Stephanie began to panic. “He didn’t come in last night but I thought he was working late; he’s been shot?”
“I’m sorry,” Detective Miller stated.
Emotion overtook Stephanie as she began sobbing violently. Her life was falling apart.
“We’re doing everything we can, but the killer was masked; it may take a while,” the detective stated.
“You have to find him,” Stephanie said through gritted teeth. “So I can see him fall.”
“I’ll do the best I can,” Detective Miller assured her.
The family had a quite funeral, placing Steve’s grave near his mother’s as was his request.
“I’ll get him, Steve,” Stephanie vowed as she stood by the grave. “I’ll see the man who killed you behind bars before I die; I promise.”
These are actually two versions of the same song. Sometimes you can actually find both of these in the same hymn book, depending on the hymnal. Usually, however, verses from both versions end up in one main song, so check your hymnbook and see which one it is! Who knows, maybe you’ll find a new favorite hymn.
Now it came to pass, about nine hundred years ago, that there was a king who wished to find a wife for his son. Therefore, this king commanded that a census be made of all the virgins in the city. When this census was completed, it was known that there were forty women that were available for the king’s son.
Whereupon the king called in his son and said, “My son, you must go out among the people and select a wife for yourself.”
“Father I will go,” replied the young man, whose name chanced to be Collin. “And I will return with her afterwards.”
So saying the father and son took leave of each other, and the boy departed for to seek a wife.
Now the father had prepared an escort for the son, which included twenty and five soldiers and four servants. These accompanied the prince and carried a list of names of the women for whom to speak to.
The first was the daughter of a rich landowner. She wished to be excused so that she might inherit her father’s land.
Another was a rich merchant who loved the riches of the city rather than that prince’s love.
And so the search continued for many days. Some wanted nothing to do with the prince. Other some wished only to get into the castle, but wished to live their own life. Some wished to finish their own plans before joining the prince, and still others didn’t see a need of change in their lives.
And so the names on the list were blotted out as the search continued. As the names on the list dwindled in number, the chances became smaller for the prince to find a wife.
Now it came to pass on the last day of August, that the search reached its thirty-first day. All the names on the list had been blotted out save one: a girl by the name of Cornelia.
Now Cornelia at twenty-one was a year younger than Prince Collin. She was the daughter of a poor farmer whose wife had been a harlot, and whose son had been a thief. As Cornelia was their only daughter, she was tenderly loved by her parents.
Now this same Cornelia had been placed on the bottom of the list, the king’s scribes supposing that the prince would not want to see her. But Collin persisted in fulfilling the mission, and so went to see her.
Upon arrival to the place, Cornelia’s father came out trembling. Falling on his knees before the prince, this same farmer asked that the prince spare the family and not grieve them worse than what had already befallen them.
“I came,” said Collin, “out of mercy. I request to speak to your daughter Cornelia.”
“But sir,” spake the farmer, “you will not want my daughter for your wife. She is much too poor to join you in yonder castle.”
Nevertheless the prince prevailed with the farmer to speak to Cornelia, and the farmer brought in the prince to see Cornelia. The prince expressed his desire of marriage.
“Nay,” said Cornelia, “I cannot be your wife. I am too poor to join you and have no garment fit for the castle.”
“Nothing is required of you, dear girl, but to love me with all of your heart and soul and mind and to follow me withersoever I lead you.”
At this one of the servants shewed a garment which was as white as snow. “This garment shall become yours,” said Collin.
“If you can love me,” said Cornelia, “then I will love you.”
Therefore, the day was set for the wedding, and the two arrived at the castle three days afterwards.
The two were very happy, as was Collin’s father, the king. Cornelia was accepted by all of the servants, and many were certified that this same poor girl had become the king’s daughter.
But it came to pass after three years had gone by that Cornelia was taken in the act of stealing by one of the servants. When asked what he would do, Collin requested to speak to Cornelia privately.
“My dear,” said he, “what is this that I hear of thee? Thou art said to have stolen money.”
“My lord,” said she, weeping bitter tears, “I am sorry. The door was there and no one was watching. I wanted a little extra money; forgive me.”
“I truly believe thou art repentant,” said he, kissing her fondly. “Thou art forgiven.”
Now some indeed thought Cornelia should be put out of the castle, but Collin refused, saying that she had been forgiven.
But in the process of time, Cornelia was brought to Collin. “Your wife,” said a servant, “was taking a silver cup from the café.”
Collin again spoke to her, upon which she repented and was forgiven.
But when Cornelia was apprehended stealing a silver spoon from the kitchen, Collin placed her in ward for a week.
“My dear,” Collin said when he released her from prison, “take heed what you do. Forty lashes shall be given you if this occurs again. Steal no more, for worse punishment shall be given you.”
“Sir,” asked one which worked in the court, “why do you not divorce your wife and bar her from the castle?”
“Because,” said Collin, “she is my wife, and shall always be. I love her, and she truly loves me and does not want to steal. It is a battle for her to resist it. I believe she will not be found to steal again.”
Now it came to pass in the process of time that as Cornelia was walking along the fields that she happened upon some wildflowers. “How pretty,” said she, as she began picking them. “These would look nice on our table.”
Now a certain robber was also on the trail and traveling towards that castle. This same robber happened upon Cornelia as she was carrying her bouquet to the castle. Seizing her by the arm, the robber demanded her money, and threatened to slay her if she refused.
“Help!” cried Cornelia. “Collin, help! A robber!”
Collin immediately appeared with his sword drawn, while two other soldiers were not far behind. “Leave her alone!” he called out, “lest I smite thee.”
Whereupon the robber quickly withdrew, leaving the two in peace.
“Oh my love,” Cornelia said, “Thank you.”
“Thou art surely welcome,” said Collin. “Thou never needest to be afraid to call upon me. I will always be there.”
“And I, my lord,” said Cornelia, “shall always remember this day, and shall never again put my hand to steal.”
“I believe you, my love,” said he, kissing her.
The two walked home in peace.
“Well,” Steve stated Tuesday morning, “where are we going today?”
“I was thinking we could go to Meridian,” I replied.
“Well I’m ready if you are,” Felicity stated.Continue reading “Can You Continue?”