The sun came up over the ridge off in the far distance to the East. Roger got up and ate an apple and drank some water. He really wanted a cup of strong coffee and a smoke but wouldn’t risk a fire or the smoke from a cigarette. He didn’t know if anyone was actively searching for him in these woods but he wasn’t taking any chances. He was running full stealth mode for the time bring. He packed his gear quickly and headed off further into the woods.
At the church, Jillian sat silently watching her children sleep. Their sweet innocence warmed her heart. She was troubled about what the two youngest had seen yesterday. They were too young to fully understand, but she knew that it could be surprising just how much they notice and retain. They were scared on the ride home last night but seemed to bounce back quickly after settling in here. Still, she was concerned about how it would potentially affect them. She sat and prayed in silence. She thanked the Lord for watching over and protecting them yesterday. She thanked the Lord for putting that man there at that time. She didn’t even know his name, but she felt very connected to him at this moment.
Karl Fairly would be riding into town alone today as Pastor decided to remain at the church. Karl wanted to question Jillian further but Pastor asked him to give her some time. He agreed although he knew the longer he waited the less chance he had of catching this stranger who killed these men in the alley yesterday. Still, at Pastor's request he would give Jillian some time.
When he arrived in town he went over to question the Foreman for the railroad work detail. He confirmed that one of the dead men did in fact work for him. He also reported that one of his workers had not reported for work this morning. He went to check on him and found his tent empty and the man gone. He gave Karl a description and the man's name. Of course when Roger had signed onto the work detail to establish a cover for his black market liquor operation he had given the Foreman a fictitious name. In fact when he prospected for the MC just after returning from VietNam he had given them a fake name as well. No matter how good his investigative skills were, Karl Fairly would never trace Rogers information to anyone real. The name attached to his social security number was not Roger or Frank. It was the name his Mother had given him at his birth. It was known to no one other than Roger. He hadn’t used it since he left the army decades ago.
Living and working with the MC hadn’t required any detailed documentation. Roger had the keen ability to adapt and overcome. He could become anybody or anything he wanted to now. He just had to concentrate on surviving until he could get away from this area. Yes, he thought. Put as much distance between him and this place as quickly as he could. That was his plan. Having started out early, he estimated that he logged almost six miles by noon. He had doubled back and around a couple times to make sure nobody was following his trail. As he hiked up onto the ridge across the valley from where had camped last night he walked between two very large granite outcroppings near the peak. The narrow opening led to an open field on top with a view of the valley below. He crawled in the prone position to the edge of the top of the granite outcropping and pulled his monocular out. He carefully surveyed the area from which he had just hiked and was sure nobody was following him. He had not hiked on any established trail, choosing instead to bushwhack. He knew only the most skilled tracker would have the ability to follow him.
Satisfied that he was alone he sat looking at the expansive view before him. He lit a smoke started a small fire to boil some water for coffee and make some broth from some dehydrated veggie soup mix he had in a sealed bag in his pack. While waiting for the water to boil he reached in his pocket and found the track Jillian had given him the day before on the platform outside the post. He read it several times. The notion that we are all sinners. All born with an inherent sin nature was easy for Roger to understand. It was the part about Jesus dyeing on the cross to pay for our sins that confused him. This notion that no matter what terrible things one has done throughout their life was able to be forgiven by God. That If he was truly sorry and repented of his sins he could be forgiven. That was overwhelming to Roger. He thought to himself “yeah maybe for some people, but not me. Not after all I have done throughout my life”. He read the part that explained that by asking Jesus to come into your heart and be your personal savior one could be saved and be assured of an eternal home in heaven . He thought that there was no way he qualified for this salvation they spoke of. That he was too far gone.
What he didn’t yet understand was that true biblical salvation comes from Gods grace. Grace is unmerited favor. Nobody can qualify for it. If we could it wouldn’t be unmerited. Still, he thought to himself, imagine if it could be so. He sat and smoked and stared at a beautiful sunny sky and dared to dream for a brief moment. Then he noticed a power line running East to west up on the mountain in the distance. He couldn’t explain it but he had a feeling that he could not ignore or suppress. He felt like he should follow that trail. No, he said to himself. Keep making your own trail. Follow your instincts and stay off the beaten path. His military training coming to bare. He knew he should stick to the dense forest. Still, as he looked at the power line he felt an overwhelming feeling that he should take it instead. Conflicted he just sat and smoked and looked over the area before him. Off in the distance adjacent to that power line he noticed a tower. He aimed his monocular on it adjusting the focus. It was a church bell tower he thought. His thoughts turned to Jillian. Being in town yesterday had nearly cost her her life as well as the lives of her children. And for what? Just to try to lure people into church. He wondered again, what was in it for her.
Then he closed his eyes and felt the warmth of her smile. The warmth of her soul. He looked at the picture of the church that was printed on the track. There he saw the tower. He looked again in the distance. He couldn’t be sure but he thought to himself it could be the same tower. He was fighting something inside his head. He shoved the track back into his pocket and said “NO, stick to the woods. Ill be safe there”. He reasoned that his whit and instincts had served him well his whole life. Why divert from that now. He had survived decades and countless trouble by relying on his own intellect. His own whit and instinct. Then it hit him. Yes he had survived. But that was all he had done. Just survived. Here he was, in his 60s, alone. No family and no real friends. Nothing to show at all for years of toil and sweat. Yes he had survived, but he had not prospered in any way whatsoever. He owned nothing but the things he could hastily stuff into a rucksack.
He could die today and not one single person on this Earth would care, or even notice the fact that he was gone. Even the club to which he had devoted his whole life was now seeking to destroy him. Then that unexplained feeling welled up inside him, overflowing out of every pore in his being. He knew then that he would follow the power line trail. He would walk down the unknown path. For the first time ever he would go against his instinct, against what he thought in his own heart and mind to be best. As he looked out at the view before him he felt at peace. He ate his soup and drank his coffee. He kicked out the fire and put his pack on. He started out toward the trail in the distance.
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