FanStory.com
"A Shadow On The Street"


Chapter 1
Raven and Elizabeth

By papa55mike

We think we know what someone is feeling.

But do we?

A child's smile can hide a mountain of guilt and shame.

Her hearty laughter covers a breaking heart.

His confident stride conceals the crippling fear inside.

How many disguises do we use to mask a shroud of misery from others?

Put on any face you want, but no one can hide from my presence. I have a unique talent if you can call it that. It feels more like a curse to me.

My name is Lewis Bradley. I'm a former Pastor who one day began to see and feel what no other can. I know what a person is thinking. Their desires kept hidden from all-seeing their path for the future from the decision about to be made.

People have tried to explain my gift as reading Auras, the field of bioelectricity that surrounds all things. But that is a New Age belief, and there's nothing Biblical about it. It deals with Spiritism, a practice clearly denounced by the Bible, saying, "There is no light in them."

The light shines brightly within me. I feel the Lord has shown me it's a gift of prophecy from the Holy Spirit, fully developed as long as I use it in faith. Many people have tried to exploit my gift for personal gain. That's when I went into hiding. I'm known as the shadow on the street - a hooded figure that moves silently through the night.

It's hard to avoid people during the day, so I travel through the alleys in the cover of darkness. My hooded coat doesn't protect me from others, but it hides my knowing of a person's mood or thoughts. There are so many evil desires in this world. It burdens my soul continually.

Memphis is the 24/7 city of the Blues. It speaks of the music and the pain we carry along with us. I've always loved the people of this town. They're hard-working and very caring. It's challenging to dodge so many people downtown, so I drifted to a place in the ragged part of the city. No one looks at the other; gangs spread fear down the streets - my kind of place.

My best time to get supplies is right before daylight. The moon is parting the clouds, guiding my way. Tony's Grocery opens early for the people on their way to work. These people work in
 thankless jobs in the city. Janitor, cook, cashier, garbage collector, and bus driver. I envy their perseverance.

I've been visiting Tony's for a year now; he's the only friend I have in Memphis. It's an hour before sunrise when I walk into the store. Tony's dark brown eyes spot me, he smiles. "Good morning, Lew."

I feel that Tony's wife and daughter are feeling better; both of them have been fighting the stomach flu. "It's good to know that your family is feeling better, Tony."

"I can't hide anything from you, Lew. What am I thinking about right now?"

"Well, you have the Tiger's game playing in your mind, but there's also a thought about the redhead that just left. That cute butt will get you into trouble, Tony."

"You're amazing! How do you do it?"

"It's a gift from the Holy Spirit that might be a curse. All I have to do is be close to you. If I was across the room by the cooler, I couldn't feel a thing. I need two-country ham and biscuits. I'll get a gallon of milk from the cooler."

While Tony is making my biscuits, a young woman with blonde hair carrying a baby walks to the counter. She has on a blue Old Navy jacket and a fleece blanket wrapped around the baby. With a quiver in her voice, she asks, "Can I get a pack of Newport 100s?"

Tony smiles at her.
"You can if you have some ID and the money."

She shows Tony her driver's license and hands him a ten. The baby squirms a little and starts to cry. She picks up her change and cigarettes when I put the milk on the counter.

Her frightening thoughts make my body shudder in pain - a devastating beating by her boyfriend, along with his demands of selling the baby for five-thousand dollars. She knows he never wanted a child, but hid the pregnancy until the last trimester.

The young woman walks towards the door, and the link breaks.

I stop shaking and ask Tony. "How much, my friend?"

"That's eight-sixty-five, Lew."

"Here's a ten, keep the change."

"Thanks, Lew. See you in the morning."

I quickly exit the store to find that young woman. She's sitting at the bus stop breastfeeding her baby while trying to light a cigarette. Her hands are shaking uncontrollably.

I sit down and open one of my biscuits, pretending not to notice her. I know the bus will be a few minutes. Her thoughts soar into my mind again. The young woman's name is Raven, and the baby's name is Elizabeth. Both of them are very hungry.

"Would you like one of my biscuits, Raven? You have to keep your strength up if you're going to breastfeed Elizabeth."

She coughs out her first drag on the cigarette then asks, "How do you know me?"

"It would take too long to explain. I also know you don't want to sell your baby to those people. Is five-thousand dollars worth giving up your child?"

A tear falls from her eye. "Mister, you're freaking me out!"

"I don't mean to; I'm trying to keep you from making the biggest mistake of your life. Elizabeth will never be out of your mind. Every birthday will be a reminder of this sweet child that you sold for drug money. That's what Jonathon wants to do, isn't it?"

"Yes, it is," Raven's body begins to shake with fear. "He says that money can be turned into twenty-thousand dollars on the street."

"Selling heroin will ruin so many lives, including yours. Do you think Jonathon loves you?"

"I don't know."

"Wasn't it Jonathon that talked you into running away with him and selling your body on the streets? No man who loved you would ever ask you to do such things, Raven."

"What am I supposed to do now? I can't go home; he'll track me down and kill both of us."

"I know a place that will protect you and Elizabeth. Second Avenue Church Of Christ has a battered women's program that will place you and Elizabeth in a safe house. Jonathon will never find you there."

"I don't know."

"Raven, it takes incredible courage to break away from death's grip on your life. Do it for Elizabeth, and your undying love for her."

"Can I think about it?"

"You don't have that much time. Jonathon and his friends are coming for Elizabeth today. I want you to know one thing; Jesus loves you and Elizabeth with all of His heart. Don't give up your daughter to those evil men. He will save both of you if you let Him." The bus pulls up to the stop and opens the doors. "It's up to you, Raven."

Raven rises to get on the bus and turns to me. "Thank you for caring."

"You're welcome."

She boards the bus and disappears in a cloud of smoke.

"I did my best; it's up to you, Lord."

Author Notes Well, let's see if I can write two books at once. When I finish with the last chapter of Hammie & Sarabeth, I plan to start the final Gabriel Hope book titled: The Walkers.

Many thanks for stopping by to read.
Have a great day, and God bless.
mike


Chapter 2
A Cold Morning.

By papa55mike

My trek to Tony's is brutal this morning. The temperature is fourteen degrees, with the wind howling down the alleys. Now, I'm the only person on Fourth Street. The little bit of snow and ice are no problem, but my prayers are with the many homeless who didn't find shelter and had to suffer outside through this frigid night.

Tony's sign is a beacon of warmth and food. The basic comforts all men crave. I notice the cigarette prices on the signs beside the door. "Eight dollars a pack to kill yourself. What a country!"

The warmth escapes when I open the door. It gently caresses my face. "Tony, I can't remember it being this cold three-weeks before Thanksgiving."

A young black man in a dark hoodie and jeans turns away from the counter then heads back to the cooler, pretending to look at the beer.

"I do. It was about fifteen years ago. The low that night was seven. Are you frozen, Lew?"

"To the bone." We both laugh. "Let me have a sausage, egg, and cheese biscuit along with a large cup of coffee."

"Well, are you splurging this morning, Lew?"

"I'm trying to keep the inner man warm. I'll get a half a gallon of milk from the cooler. I hope it doesn't freeze before I get home."

I walk to the back of the store while Tony gets my order ready. With a smile, I greet the young man. "Good morning, son."

He smiles a little. "Good morning."

When I open the cooler door, my mind fills with his thoughts. There's a young woman in a car across the street. Their daughter is asleep in the backseat. The gun in his pocket is a 9mm, and he plans to rob Tony. Now, I see blood on the floor. I turn towards the counter, and the link breaks.

I set the milk on the counter while Tony pours me a cup of coffee.

"Here's your coffee, Lew. I need to make some fresh eggs, and it will only take a minute."

"Thank you, Tony." I then whisper. "He has a gun and plans on robbing you."

Tony reaches for a button under his counter.

"Before you send for the police, let me talk to him."

"He'll kill you, Lew."

"That's a definite possibility." I turn to the young man and try to look him in the eye. Walking towards him, I wonder if it was my blood I saw on the floor. "It's a cold morning, Caleb. Why aren't you with Cathy and Amy across the street?" I hear Tony wrapping my biscuit behind me.

"What did you say?"

"I just asked you about your family. They sure will miss you while you're in prison."

"In prison for what?"

I watch his grip tighten on the gun in his jacket pocket. "You plan on robbing Tony. That's why you have that 9mm in your pocket."

His face hardens. "Mister, you just bought yourself a bunch of trouble." Caleb starts to pull the gun out of his pocket.

"Listen to me. If you pull that gun out of your pocket, you will spend the next ten years in prison. What will happen to Kathy and Amy then?"

His dark brown eyes peer into mine.

"I know that you were thrown out of your home a month ago. Since then, you've been living in your old car. It takes five dollars worth of gas to stay warm through the night. It's awful when you can't feed your family and have to live on one meal a day from the soup kitchen. I've felt that pain before, but it's not worth spending the best part of your life in prison."

Caleb eases his hand out of the pocket without the gun. I feel the thoughts of robbing Tony are fading.

"I want you to know that God hasn't given up on you." A thought comes to mind. "I usually don't do this, but I know a place where you can sleep in a warm bed. You won't have to worry about the police, or the gangs, busting in your old car. You can relax and know you're safe."

Caleb studies me. "Where's this place?"

"Three streets down, at the old Brown Shoe factory. I've rented part of the building. It has full bathrooms, a kitchen, cable television, internet, and warm beds for all. You are more than welcome to stay."

"Why?"

"If you're this desperate today, Caleb. What will you be willing to do tomorrow? I know that you're broke, and the car is almost out of gas. Please, let me help."

"But I'm a black man with a white wife and a mixed daughter. Nobody else wants to help us. Why you?"

"Because Jesus never cared about the color of our skin. He died to save everyone. The only color that matters is red, the blood He shed for all."

Caleb smiles. "So, are you going to preach to us the whole time we're there?"

I chuckle. "I'm usually a quiet person." I point to the door. "Why don't we let Kathy decide?"

"Okay." Caleb smiles, then leaves.

I put the half of gallon of milk back and grab a gallon. "You better make two more biscuits, Tony. I'll grab some cereal."

"Are you sure you want to do this, Lew? I know you love your privacy."

"Well, I could let Caleb rob you."

"Not today. Aretha is putting a beef roast in the crockpot." We both laugh. "I plan to be extremely hungry when I get home at seven."

I throw Tony a twenty. "Put the change on my account. I'll see you tomorrow."

When I walk out the door, a cold wind blows against an old blue Chevy Impala. Six pleading eyes welcome me into their car.

We pull behind the crumbling old factory. "Around the corner, there's a garage door. You can park in the building." I feel Amy's brown eyes study me. Understandably, Kathy is very apprehensive, I don't blame her.

I get out and open the large door, and Caleb pulls inside.

"This way, my friends." I motion towards a series of steel doors. The warmth inside greets the weary wanderers. "The bathrooms are on the right. The kitchen is through here. I have bowls and spoons for cereal, Amy."

Kathy speaks up. "I'll get them for her, thank you."

"In the cabinet on the left, by the sink."

Caleb asks, "What do you do here?"

"I look for opportunities to help. That's why I'm glad you decided to stay. You are welcome here as long as you need."

I hear Amy crunching her Fruit Loops, and Kathy asks, "Who are you?"

"My name is Lewis Bradley. A friend."

Author Notes With the help of my friend, giraffmang, I've fixed a few of the plot holes. Lew has lived in Memphis for a year now because he loves the people. The owner of the market he visits, Tony, is his only friend. Lew gets his breakfast there, every morning. I also took out some of the gloom and doom. I can add that later. I want to thank everybody who has already helped with this project!

Many thanks for stopping by to read!
Have a great day and God bless.
mike


Chapter 3
The Price Of Unbelief.

By papa55mike


The night was dreary, but the rising sun is always a blessing through my window. I'm usually on my way to Tony's by now, but I have to be at the bank when it opens. The rent is due, and I'm never late.

I've been searching the internet for jobs in Memphis, which are down for this time of year. It seems the only places hiring are the big department stores for the Christmas rush. Great jobs, but they won't last long.

Caleb, Kathy, and Amy are sleeping in the bedroom down the hall. It was once the President's office; the sign is still above the large oak door. It has a bathroom and a fridge.

The door to the President's office opens, and Kathy sleepily ambles towards the coffee pot in her ankle-length purple robe. After pouring a cup, she takes a sip then intently turns to me. "I'm not getting close to you. Caleb told me you could read my thoughts if I did."

"I understand."

"Well, that's good." Kathy sits down across the kitchen table.

"I've been looking on the internet for jobs. The only thing I can find is Christmas work at the big stores. Most factories won't start hiring again until after the holidays."

"Thank you." Kathy brushes her long brown hair out of her eyes and tucks it behind her ear. She begins to study my face.

"I wish I could see your thoughts right now."

"My mind is full of questions." Kathy peers into her coffee.

"Ask away." I take a sip of mine.

"Caleb says that you were a Pastor. Why aren't you at your church?"

"I was a happy Pastor for twenty years at Main Street Church of Christ in Milan. That lasted until my wife decided she didn't want to be a preacher's wife anymore. I knew about all of her affairs, and so did most of the town. The Elders decided that it was in the best interest of the church that I resign. They didn't want a divorced Pastor. I guess they didn't care what Sandra did."

"Well, it wasn't your fault," Kathy's stare eases a little. "Is that when you came to Memphis?"

"Well, it took a couple of years of drifting before I made it here."

"Why did you stop Caleb from robbing that store?"

"Because I didn't want to see him throw his life away. I knew why he was doing it. It was his love for you and Amy. But all he needed was a place to stay and something to feed his family. I knew I could help him."

"What else did you see in Caleb's thoughts?"

"Blood, all over the floor." I sip my coffee again. "Whether it was mine, Tony's, or Caleb's, I don't know."

"So, you essentially saved someone's life," Kathy smiles.

"I would never say that, but I guess we'll never know. Caleb is lucky to have you in his life."

"Why do you say that?"

"Because you're a strong, beautiful woman who is not afraid to fight for what she has."

"Thank you. I have kicked my share of butt before. Including Caleb's, a couple of times. What's next for you, Mr. Bradley?"

"Call me Lew. It's whatever the Lord wants me to do. I do need to go to the bank this morning."

"I can get Caleb to drive you?"

"No, thank you. I need the exercise."

~

It's nine o'clock in the morning, and I'm standing in the alley at Third Street and Riverside Drive. The sidewalks are full of people shuffling off to stores downtown, or their office jobs while working their phones to death. I now see why China designed a particular lane in airports for people glued to their screens. They are oblivious to their surroundings.

The Regions Bank I use is down two blocks, and I'm waiting on a break in the traffic. I'm trying to prepare myself for the short distance I have to walk. There might be fifty people my mind touches along the way. "I need to focus on my footsteps and nothing else." I step in behind a small group and take my chances.

A few minutes later, I arrive at the bank. I have to pause beside the door to collect myself. "Why is everybody so focused on sex and themselves? I see why God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah," I whisper to myself. "If I didn't need the cash, I would do all of my banking online." After a few deep breathes, I go into the bank.

The young teller is very friendly, but it's all superficial. She has her mind focused on the fight with her abusive husband last night. How can people smile while they're so broken inside? Before leaving her, I say, "I'll pray for you and your husband."

For a second, she let her pain show.

After waiting for a break in the crowd, I start back home, dreading this torturous journey.

I see a man in a quality blue suit with an unbuttoned brown overcoat coming towards me. He has a black briefcase in his right hand. The power of his murderous anger flows far ahead of his body.

My body cringes when he walks by. His fury assaults my mind.

He has a gun in the briefcase and plans on killing his wife. He knows about her girlfriend and the apartment they share. If it were another man, he'd understand, but not another woman. His foul language batters my mind.

When the link breaks, I turn to get a good description. The man is about five-ten, two-hundred pounds with gray and black hair. He turns down Riverside Avenue, and I've got to find a cop before he gets away.

In Memphis, they have a foot patrol downtown. You can usually find an officer every few blocks, but I don't see one right now.

When I look down Riverside, the angry man walks right by one. I run towards the policeman and stop him. "Officer, that man is going to kill his wife. He has a gun in his briefcase. Please stop him."

The policeman rolls his eyes at me. "How do you know this?"

"You wouldn't believe me if I told you, but it's true. That man will kill his wife over the affair she's having."

"You didn't answer my question, sir."

I drop my head then say, "I saw it in his mind." Looking up, I see the man in the blue suit enter one of the apartments on Riverside Avenue. These lavish suites rent for over ten-thousand a month, which includes a beautiful view of the Mississippi River from the back deck.

"Oh, you can read minds. What am I thinking now?"

"I don't have to see into your mind to answer that one. You think I'm crazy. But in a few minutes, that man will shoot his wife. Her death will be on your conscience. Explain that to Captain Adams when you fill out the report."

The officer's shocked eyes find mine. "How do you know my captain's name?"

"I saw it inside your mind," I try to focus harder. "Your wife, Isabella, is expecting your first baby in a few weeks." It's difficult to find his thoughts with so many others around me. "You were so thrilled when you found out it was a boy. Now, you're worried, I'm right."

Suddenly, a lady runs screaming down the stairs. "I heard gunshots next door!"

The officer runs down the street a few steps then turns back to me.

In agony, I shake my head and turn for home.

Author Notes This is one of the main ideas I wanted to write about in this book. The frightening knowledge of a murder about to be committed, and how do you make someone believe you.


Chapter 4
The Homeless Network

By papa55mike

Looking behind me, I see the sun rising between the buildings. It's casting long shadows on the homes. I'm standing in front of Tony's Grocery, thankful that I have a friend like him. Tony accepts me for who I am and seems to know my pain. I push open the door with a smile. "Good morning, Tony."

"Well, good morning, Lew. I haven't seen you in a couple of days."

"I've been hiding."

"From the police, maybe?" Tony asks.

"Not necessarily. Are the police looking for me?"

"I read in the newspaper about the murder on Riverside Avenue. The paper said a man in a dark overcoat warned the officer on duty before it happened."

"The killer walked by me with murder blaring from his mind." I pause to check my feelings. "I told the officer what was about to happen, and he thought I was crazy. Then a woman ran screaming out of the building. I felt completely worthless."

Tony puts a warm hand on my right shoulder, and says, "You did the best you could, Lew. It's not your fault they didn't listen."

"What good is this gift if I can't get anybody to believe me?"

"The police believe you now, Lew. They have you listed as a person of interest in the case."

"Great! Have the police been here?"

"Yeah, I sent them in the other direction."

"I can't thank you enough, Tony."

"My pleasure, Lew. How is that family doing?"

"They're doing well. It's only been a few days, but Caleb has a job interview at Home Depot tomorrow. They need a crew to work through the winter, changing the store around. I've been praying for him to get it."

"I swear, Lew, you're just a beacon of light."

"I wish!"

We both start to laugh.

~

I feel something a little different walking back home this morning. Talking with Tony put a smile back on my face. "It's two weeks before Christmas and time to find some Christmas joy. I know a family that desperately needs Christmas."

I open the door to my office home; Caleb and Kathy are waiting for me at the kitchen table. "Good morning, my friends."

"Good morning," Caleb picks up his cup of coffee. "Lew, one of our friends, has a big problem."

"Is there anything I can do?"

Kathy gets up and pours herself a cup of coffee. "I hope so, but first, I need to tell you about the Homeless Network."

"The Homeless what?"

"There are over a hundred homeless living in the back alleys, behind restaurant dumpsters, sleeping in hidden corners all over downtown. Many are living in their cars as we did." Kathy sips her coffee then continues. "All most everyone has a cell phone. No one can call anybody with our unpaid bills, but we can text each other. We came up with the idea of the Homeless Network."

"It was Kathy's idea," Caleb sips his coffee.

"Whatever. We started logging in each of our numbers into phones all over downtown. When someone would hear about an opening at a shelter or a place with free food, they would text it to the next person that would share it with the entire network."

"That's amazing. I had no idea that many homeless are downtown."

"In a way, we are all like you, Lew," Caleb drops his head. "Hiding from others in disgrace."

Kathy takes Caleb's hand and says, "It was no disgrace what happened to us, sweetie. That's for another time." Kathy turns back to me. "Have you heard of the Vigilante Killer, Lew?"

"I don't watch the news, but I read about it on the internet."

"He took another victim last night." Kathy looks out the window. "One of the members of the Homeless Network saw it happen."

"If that person is an eyewitness, they need to go to the police."

"He can't, Lew. The killer is a cop." Kathy looks directly at me.

"Oh, then we have to get him here. To keep him safe."

"I was hoping you would say that," Caleb sets his cup down.

"How far away is he, Caleb?"

"Ten blocks. I can pick our friend up, but I need to do it without anybody seeing us, Lew."

"Where is he exactly? I know every alley downtown."

"Two streets from the courthouse on Crestwell Avenue."

"There's an alley that runs behind the pubs on Main. Have him meet you behind Danny's on First Street."

"Great, he'll only have a block to walk. Let me set up a time."

Thirty minutes later, I raise the overhead door and let Caleb pull inside. Once I close the door, a man and a young boy sit up in the backseat. Caleb gets out and says, "I never knew Terrel had a son, Lew."

"It's okay, Caleb. That's one less child on the streets tonight."

The man and his son slowly get out. You can see the confusion and fear in their eyes. "I don't mean to be rude, but my son and I haven't had a shower in a month. I won't talk about what happened until we get clean and something to eat."

I smile at them and say, "This way, my friends."

When they pass by me, I feel the intense determination to survive inside the father. There, in the back of his mind, I see the face of the killer.

The father and son have been in the locker room beside the kitchen for over an hour. Kathy and I are talking about what to do.

"We don't know if he's telling the truth, Lew."

"He is, Kathy. I saw the killer's face in his mind."

"What else did you see?"

"Well, his son's name is Earl. They're not from Memphis. Oakland, Tennessee, I believe."

"That's right, mister. We're from Oakland. How did you know that?" Terrel and Earl walk into the kitchen, looking completely different. Terrel is dressed in blue jeans and a navy blue tee-shirt. Earl has on a pair of khakis and a red polo. Both of them have their thick black hair combed back.

I get up from the table and reach out my hand for Terrel to shake. "My name is Lewis Bradley, but you can call me Lew. I want you to know you're welcome to stay here."

"Thank you, mister. But we're powerfully hungry."

Kathy walks up to Earl, and asks, "How old are you, Earl?"

"I'm seven, ma'am." Earl's southern drawl is priceless.

"What's your favorite thing to eat, Earl?"

"Oh! Peanut butter and jelly sandwich. I haven't had one in so long." His thick black hair falls into his eyes.

With a beautiful smile, Kathy pushes his hair back in place. "I'll make you a big thick sandwich. Would you like water or milk?"

"Milk, please, I'm so tired of water."

Amy hears her mother taking orders for food. "Me, too, mommy."

"Okay, sweetie," Kathy asks Earl. "Would you like to watch television with Amy?"

"Yes, ma'am!"

"Go ahead. I'll bring you two a plate."

"Thank you," Earl grabs Kathy and hugs her neck.

"That sounds fine to me," Terrel speaks up. "Do you have some pretzels to go with it?"

"Of course, I'll be right back."

Now that everyone's hunger is satisfied for the moment, Kathy, Caleb, Terrel, and I are sitting at the kitchen table with some coffee.

Kathy asks, "How did you two end up on the street, Terrel?"

"The same as most of us. I lost my job after my wife died two years ago, then we lost our house. We were living in our car until they found it."

"It always happens in stages," Caleb frowns.

"That's right, Caleb," Terrel smirks. "You're powerless to stop it unless you have a job."

"What about a shelter, Terrel?" I ask.

"If we go there, human services will take Earl away from me. He's all I have left."

I don't have to look inside his mind to see the pain. "Tell me about that night, Terrel."

"There's not much to tell you. Earl and I were hiding in the shadows beside a dumpster when this lawyer comes out of his office. It's right behind the courthouse. Earl was asleep in my arms when another man stepped out of the shadows. The lawyer seemed to know him. They laughed and shook hands. The lawyer waved and turned towards his car. The cop reached into his jacket - not his holster. Then he pulled a big gun out and shot him three times in the back. The weapon barely made a sound."

Caleb says, "The gun must have had a silencer, Lew."

"Probably," I turn back to Terrel. "What color was his uniform?"

"Khaki, the same color of Earl's pants."

"Then it wasn't a cop," Kathy smiles. "They all wear navy blue. I'd say it was a sheriff or an officer of the court."

"If we could get into their files," I shake my head. "I know they have pictures of all the employees."

Caleb laughs then looks at Kathy. "Do you want to tell them?"

"That's an easy hack, Lew," Kathy chuckles. "I can be in there in five minutes or less."

"What do you know about computers, Kathy?" I ask.

"I have a Masters Degree in Computer Science from the University of Memphis."

"And you guys were homeless?"

"It's because I have a felony record, Lew. I hacked a bank and got caught. I didn't steal anything. Just did it for the fun of it. After that, I couldn't get a job anywhere."

"Well."

Caleb gets up from the table. "I'll get your bag of flash drives."

"Since then, I developed a file that wipes out every trace I go on the internet. It's never failed before, Lew. Can I borrow your computer?"

"Sure, the police are looking for me already."

"For what?" Caleb asks.

Before I can answer, Kathy turns to me and asks, "Were you the man that warned that cop on Riverside?"

"Yeah."

"So that's it," Kathy shakes her head. "I knew something was wrong."

"Who is reading minds now, Kathy?"

She doesn't answer.

After Kathy installs two files and hits Google Search for a moment, she replies, "I'm in! We'll start with the courthouse. Fewer people to search through." Her fingers dance across my keyboard.

I stand next to her, watching different files pass on the screen in milliseconds. I can see inside Kathy's mind, and it's moving at the speed of light. "Your brain is on fire, Kathy."

"Who is reading minds now, Lew?"

I don't answer.

"Finally, the personnel files. We know it's not the judge or attorneys. So, let's start with the bailiffs."

Terrel sits down beside her and begins to study the screen.

"Here's the first one, Terrel."

"No." Kathy and Terrel begin to go over the files.

Caleb walks over to me and asks, "What do we do when Terrel finds the man, Lew? He's not going to the police."

"Then we bring the killer and the police here. Maybe we can wrap him with ribbon and a bow. A nice little present for the police."

Terrel hollers, "That's him!"

Caleb and I walk over to the computer.

I see murder playing out in Terrel's mind, and say, "William Davis. He's been a bailiff for twenty years. There must be a trigger somewhere?"

Kathy begins to look over the file. "It says here that Davis was recently on a three-month leave of absence after the murder of his wife."

Caleb says, "Bingo!"

"Now, we need to let the killer know his identity is breached and set up a meeting. I know I can get the police here by walking down the street, but I think there's someone that would want a chance at redemption. Do you know somebody that can pass Mr. Davis a note without him knowing?"

Caleb and Kathy both say, "Jack Johnston!"

"He can steal your underwear without you knowing it." Caleb laughs.

"Let me guess. Mr. Johnston is on the Homeless Network?"

"Yes," they both answer.

"Then he can slide a note in the killer's pocket without him knowing. It looks like I'm going to the bank again to meet an old friend."

~

The downtown foot patrol changes shift at six in the morning. I decided to be at the corner of Riverside and Third at seven. It will help me avoid a lot of foot traffic and plenty of time to get off the streets before the rush hour starts.

A cold wind blows off of the Mississippi River and billows around me. I'm standing beside the streetlight, watching the police officer I warned check doors while walking towards me. His eyes finally meet mine. "You know I can arrest you right now. Why didn't you answer our call in the newspaper?"

"I don't read the paper. Before you call for back-up, I wonder if you would like to meet the Vigilante Killer?"

"What!"

"Maybe I should talk to Captain Adams. Why don't you see if you can get him down here?"

~

Darkness has enveloped the warehouse except for one emergency light directly above me. Since this is my plan, and I didn't want to put Terrel in any danger, I decided to meet with Mr. Davis myself. I made sure in the letter that, if he didn't show, I'd go straight to the police. "It's exactly eight o'clock. Let's see if Mr. Davis takes the bait."

I hear the sound of the door open slightly then reclose. A tall shadow slowly moves towards me. The figure stops outside the light. All I see are the tips of his polished military boots. "Good evening, Mr. Davis."

"Are you the man who sent me the note?" He finally steps into the light. Mr. Davis is a tall man in a perfectly pressed uniform with a dark overcoat draped over his broad shoulders. His dark hair has streaks of gray around his temples.

"Yes, I sent the note."

"You're a brave man if I am the killer."

"No, I'm not," I open my Bible and continue. "Mr. Davis, I want you to know that you are a loved man. Jesus will forgive you for all the lives you've taken. Ephesians, chapter one, verse seven, says, we have redemption through His blood, for the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace." I close my Bible. "Your sins started with the deaths of those two gang members that robbed and killed your wife. Then it was Prosecuting Attorney, Jimmy Patterson. It wasn't his fault the evidence got thrown out on a technicality. I guess that made the Lab Tech next in line. Then it was time for the Defence Attorney, Doug Richards, to die. That's when I came into the picture."

"How do you come into the picture? I've never seen you before."

"I saw you shoot Doug Richards three times in the spine. He was dead before his head hit the asphalt. My guess is, Judge Roberts is next on your list. That should finish the task you started."

"It's still your word against mine."

"No, I think the gun in your overcoat will give the police all the evidence they need."

"It would, but they will never get it, and you will never tell anyone. I guess I'll have to add another name to my list." Mr. Davis reaches inside his overcoat.

The warehouse lights suddenly penetrate the darkness. The characters in this play dramatically increase. Walking towards Mr. Davis is Judge Roberts behind Captain Adams and three Memphis Policemen. Working the lights is Terrel and Caleb.

Mr. Davis collapses to his knees. Through his tears, he says, "I failed you, Bessie."

I kneel beside him and see his murdered wife's face inside my mind. "No, Mr. Davis. The only person you failed is yourself. I want you to know that God will forgive you for what you've done. Please, remember that."

Mr. Davis looks into my eyes and says, "I will."

Author Notes We need to remember that God will forgive us for our sins.

Many thanks for stopping by to read!
Happy Holidays and God bless.
mike


Chapter 5
Christmastime

By papa55mike

The digital clock on my computer flips over to midnight. It is now December Twenty-Third, or has my grandpa would say, "Christmas Eve, Eve." What a cantankerous old soul he was, but he loved people in a big way. Grandpa never met a stranger. For me, I avoid people like the plague.

The facts Kathy introduced me to the other day were staggering. A hundred people or more are living on the streets in downtown Memphis. I wonder how many are women and children? How do they protect themselves in the cold, snow, and rain? What keeps them from becoming hopeless? No wonder the pain is so extreme in Caleb and Terrel. Both of them feel like failures. I'd call them survivers.

There must be something I can do for these people. Any small step could change their lives. Even if it's just showing them someone cares.

I slide out of my office chair and get on my knees. "Father, Your majesty fills my life. Please show me a way to help these deserving souls. Let me show Your undying love for them in some way. In Jesus' name. Amen."

~

The coffee pot always starts perking at three-thirty every morning. I'm channel surfing my way to TBN; the nighttime commercials are always entertaining, but I see why they're not on after five o'clock.

I stop at a Food Giant commercial advertising a complete turkey dinner for ten people, and it's under forty dollars. A ham dinner is only thirty dollars. The dinner includes large pans of sweet potato casserole, green beans, dressing, rolls, and two pies for dessert. So, I can feed a hundred people for around four-hundred dollars.

I fall back to my knees. "Thank you, Father. Your guidance is astonishing. In Jesus' name. Amen!"

~

I pour my third cup of coffee at five-thirty when Kathy comes out of their bedroom. "Do you ever sleep, Lew? I heard you up at midnight."

"Since I received my so-called gift, I don't sleep much. Maybe three hours a night."

"Wow," Kathy sips her freshly poured coffee. "When did you acquire your gift?" She sits down across the table from me.

"I don't remember a specific moment that something happened. One Sunday, I was praying with a man who came to the Altar to receive the Lord, and suddenly I saw he was lying. He did it to get his wife off his back. I prayed with him, though."

"What happened next?"

"Well, I was greeting the congregation after service and began to see what people thought about me. Including my ex-wife, Sandra."

"Was there any good in their thoughts, Lew?"

"A few."

"I see why your gift is such a burden."

"The Lord gave it to me for a reason, Kathy. Maybe it was to save you and Caleb?"

Kathy's eyes begin to tear up. "Well, you certainly did that."

"Let's talk about you for a minute," I drink my last bit of coffee for the day. "Tell me about your felony conviction."

"According to the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, and the Fed's, I hacked the Region's bank computer to steal money. But I didn't. I wanted to check the balances of my friends to find out who I could borrow money from; they said I caused twelve thousand dollars worth damage. I got off with a five-thousand-dollar fine and two-years probation. It could have been much worse."

"We can get that charge reduced. I'll start looking for a way after the first of the year. How long ago was it?"

"Three years ago. We paid every dollar, Lew. Caleb worked, and I was a babysitter at home while pregnant with Amy."

"That was right before you became homeless?"

"Yeah, Caleb lost his job, and the downward spiral started." Kathy has a puzzled look on her face. "Why didn't you remarry, Lew?"

"How could I do that to another woman. The pressure would be enormous. Do you have any secrets hidden from Caleb?"

"A couple," Kathy shakes her head. "I see your point."

"Kathy," I get up and pour me an extra half a cup. "Is what you said about the Homeless Network true? A hundred homeless people live all around downtown?"

"The number 103 sticks in my mind, but I'd have to check my phone."

"Does that include the children?"

"No, I'd add at least thirty children. Why are you asking?"

"Because the Lord has put it on my heart to help them in some way. I was thinking about having a Christmas dinner for all of them here. We have plenty of room."

"You're going to cook that much food?"

"No," I chuckle. "Food Giant has a great deal on a meal that serves ten people. I was planning on ordering twelve of those meals if you, Caleb, and Terrel will help me. I'm so glad Terrel and Earl stayed with us."

"Me, too," Kathy wipes her eyes again. "You have the biggest heart, Lew. Of course, we'll help you."

"Great, let's talk about it when everybody gets up."

~

It's becoming a familiar scene at the kitchen table with all of us gathered around. Caleb, Kathy, Terrel and I are drinking coffee or water discussing the day's events, or sharing the dreams we all have. It's the closest I've been to a family in many years. The only difference is, they're at one end of the table, I'm at the other.

Terrel scoots his chair a little closer. "I can't believe you want to feed all of those people, Lew."

"Let me ask you a question, Terrel. If somebody would have done this for you and Earl last Christmas, would it have given you hope for the coming year?"

"Yes," Terrel wipes his face with his hands. "I remember last Christmas, so well. Earl and I were wandering the streets. I knew we would have to struggle to find a meal, and there was no present from Santa for Earl. You're right, Lew, I was utterly hopeless."

"That's why I want to do this, Terrel. If this meal gives a few people the hope to continue their struggle, then it's worth doing."

"Well," Kathy sets her bottled water down. "We're going to need more than just the food. There's plates, spoons, forks, glasses, and drinks to buy. What about tables and chairs?"

"I'm going to Tony's tomorrow morning, and I'll pick up all of that there. Besides, I think Tony will want to donate something. I think there are enough tables to serve everybody, but we'll have to sit on the floor to eat. A Christmas picnic."

"Believe me," Caleb nods. "That won't bother anybody."

"Great. So, Caleb and Terrel will pick up the food at noon, Christmas Eve. Kathy and I will set up the tables outside the office. The dinner will be at five. To avoid the majority of people, I'll work the kitchen warming the food up, and you guys will get to serve everybody. I want to pray with all of them before we start."

"You better!" Kathy laughs.

"I have a surprise for the kids. Caleb, in the back of that closet in your bedroom, is a long box with a big tote beside it. Can you bring them here?"

"Sure." Caleb sets off on his journey.

Kathy leans over to me. "What are you up to, Lew?"

"You'll see."

Caleb walks out with a face full of joy. "It's a Christmas tree!"

Earl jumps up from the television. "Did you say we have a Christmas tree?"

"Yes, Earl. I think we have two deserving families yearning to decorate this forgotten tree. I'll boil some water for hot chocolate."

The spirit of Christmas begins to fill the room.

~

The walk to Tony's is a little brisk this Christmas Eve morning. The wind is channeling down the streets. I have my overcoat pulled close, and there's nobody out at six o'clock. The cold wind follows me in the front door and blows newspapers around. "Merry Christmas, Tony."

"Well, Merry Christmas, Lew. Somebody is full of the spirit this morning."

"For some unknown reason, I bought Christmas presents for a few people. One of them happens to be yours. I didn't wrap it because I don't know-how." I give Tony a watch box. "I heard you say you broke your watch."

Tony slides off the top of the box. "What a beautiful pocket watch. Thank you, Lew. I didn't get you a thing, and feel ashamed."

"Well, I can use your help. I have a few people coming for Christmas dinner this evening. I need plates, forks, spoons, cups, and drinks for a hundred and forty people."

"A hundred and forty people! Boy, have you changed, Lew. What brought this on?"

"Christmas, I guess."

"Let me guess; you're doing this for the homeless?"

"How did you know, Tony?"

"I read your mind. You have already taken in two families from off the street. How are they doing?"

"Well, Caleb has been working for a week. Terrel starts on his crew the day after Christmas. What a blessing that is!"

"How do you plan to carry all of this home? I'm thinking fifteen two liters, five gallons of tea, and a couple of gallons of milk."

"I have a hundred bill for it all if it can be delivered. I'll carry all of the utensils and cups. You better add some napkins. I hope you have some coffee and breakfast ready. I'm hungry!"

"I always close at noon on Christmas Eve, and it will be a pleasure to deliver the stuff. Let me make you a biscuit, and I'll start gathering all of this up."

"Why, thank you, Tony. I'll pour us both some coffee."

~

Quietly, I close the door to the old shoe factory, then try to imagine this massive room full of needy souls in fellowship. Let's take this evening to build a heavenly hope in each person. Maybe I see too much in this, but I serve a powerful God. I hope we sing some Christmas Carols.

I stop at the office door to enjoy the tree everybody decorated yesterday. The silver and blue glass spheres glisten in the flashing lights. Kathy mentioned that Amy has never smiled that much. She cherished every ornament put on the tree.

"I hope Amy's joy spreads to all of us."

Slowly, I make my way through the office door with all of the packages from Tony's. Sitting all of the bags on the table, I begin to feel the warmth of family in this room. I don't remember feeling this happiness in my life.

~

It's two o'clock in the afternoon. Caleb and Terrel left at eleven-thirty to pick up the food. "I wonder what's taking so long, Kathy?"

"Caleb texted me; they just left. It took them forever to load it all up!"

Ten minutes later, we hear the overhead door open, and Caleb pulls next to the office and gets out. "Lew, do you realize how much food you bought. They rolled all of it out on big moving dollies. I have a trunk full of turkeys and hams. In the back are thirty-six oven pans full of dressing, sweet potatoes, and green beans. That doesn't count the twenty-four pies and twelve boxes of rolls. I hope everybody shows up, or we'll be eating Christmas dinner for a month."

Kathy laughs. "We're talking free food. They'll be here."

"How many have you heard from?" Terrel asks.

"Eighty-five, so far."

"Well," I pick up two pans marked sweet potatoes. "Let's get it all in the kitchen."

Both families pitch in. Earl and Amy, start carrying the rolls and pies.

~

The first of our guests for the evening begin to arrive at four o'clock. They're thankful to be out of the cold rain that started to fall. It's incredible how many of them Caleb and Kathy know personally. There's not one person that hasn't hugged them both.

It's been a steady stream of people through the door. Families have spread blankets out everywhere. It reminds me of a concert in the park.

Caleb has everyone singing Jingle Bells in four-part harmony. What a beautiful voice he has.

Kathy and I begin to bring out the first hams and turkeys to thunderous applause. Kathy puts her hand to her ear while begging for more praise. We continue to fill the tables with food.

We're finally ready to start. Kathy holds up her hand; it becomes instantly quiet. I see the leader insider of her. "Our friend, Lew, wants to lead us in grace."

All eyes turn to me. I've never seen a room full of joy like this before. There's a beautiful smile on every face. "Let us all pray. Father in heaven, thank you for Your Son, who was born on this night. He came into this world to love us back to redemption and bring us all into a joyous, overflowing life in His grace. May we all have homes next Christmas. In Jesus' name. Amen."

Caleb holds up his hand this time. "We want the kids first, then the wives. All of the men will have to wait, including me."

The children quickly line up at the tables.

We're on the last of the turkeys and ham, but there's still plenty of vegetables. I start bringing out the pies already sliced. The first in line for pie is a young pregnant woman who might be eighteen. She looks ready to deliver at any moment. When she passes me, I see inside her mind. Her water broke this morning, and the contractions are increasing. Eight minutes apart and growing closer. Now, I see her squatting beside a dumpster with her boyfriend delivering a stillborn child. The young woman wraps the child in her sweater and places the baby in the trash. I drop the pan I'm holding with the link breaks.

Kathy runs over to me. "Are you all right, Lew?"

"Yeah, I need to talk to you in the kitchen." She follows me. "The pregnant girl that walked by me. Do you know her?"

"Yeah, her name is Cindy."

"Well, she's in labor right now. Cindy will deliver her baby on the street tonight, but it won't survive unless we get her to a hospital."

"What do you want me to do?"

"Go talk to her, and I'll call an ambulance."

It took ten minutes to talk Cindy and Jimmy into going to the hospital. Kathy had to tell them what I saw before they decided to go. All of this worry about the hospital bill could have killed their baby.

~

The rain stops before the guests start to leave. I'm standing in the door of the office watching Caleb, Kathy, and Terrel hug our last guests before they headed to where they were staying. I wish we could do more. They deserve it.

Kathy walks up to me, grabs my hands, and smiles.

I see the love inside of her, thanking me for the joy we shared tonight.

"You're welcome, sweetie."

Caleb, Terrel, and Kathy wrap their arms around me.

~

My digital clock on my computer flips to midnight again. It's Christmas Day. I take the two presents I've kept hidden and slowly put them under the tree. It's not much - a doll for Amy and a truck for Earl.

"Santa didn't forget you this Christmas."

Author Notes I don't know why I have a Christmas story in most of my books? But I do.

Many thanks for stopping by to read!
Have a great day, and God bless.
mike


Chapter 6
Warren Sledge

By papa55mike

Today is not the typical weather for January. It's sunny and warm instead of cloudy and cold. A beautiful blessing, but I feel something is about to change, just like the Tennessee weather.

I'm a block away from Tony's when I see two Memphis Police cruisers parked across the street.

"I see it now. I hope Tony is all right."

Before I push open the door, I stop to prepare for the worst.

A thought comes into my mind. "This isn't about Tony. They want me."

I push open the door, and in my usual tone, "Good morning, Tony."

"Good morning, Lew. We have a couple of guests this morning."

"I see that. How are you, Captain Adams?"

"Just fine, Mr. Bradley. I'd like you to meet Detective Holloway." He starts to walk towards me.

"Captain, unless you're here to arrest me, please stay there."

He stops. "We're not here to arrest you, Mr. Bradley. We desperately need your help."

"With what?"

"Have you heard of Warren Sledge?"

"No, sir. I haven't."

Tony speaks up. "I have, that's one evil man. It's been all over the news."

"He's right, Mr. Bradley." Captain Adams wipes his brow. "Two days ago, we captured him on video kidnapping a young girl. Yesterday, he made a mistake and came out in the open. Detective Holloway arrested him, but no sign of the girl. He told us that he buried her in a grave alive, and she only has forty-eight hours of air. If he's right, we only have ten hours left to find her."

"What can I do, Captain?"

"We need you to read his mind and find out where he buried her. I know that's asking a lot, Mr. Bradley, but you're our last hope. The clock is ticking away on her life."

I start walking to the back of the store, wiping my face. "I've seen so much evil recently, Captain Adams. It rips at my soul. You don't know what a burden it is to carry. But God will give me the strength to continue. I'll do it on three conditions."

"Anything you want, Mr. Bradley."

"First, I want to ride alone in the backseat with you driving. Second, I want the halls of the station clear on the way to meet him. Third, only you and I will talk to him."

"Mr. Sledge's lawyer will have a fit about the last one, but we'll work it out."

"Can I get some breakfast before we go?"

"Yes, sir. My treat."

"Tony, I think a tenderloin and biscuit and a large cup of coffee will do fine."

Tony looks me in the eye, and with a quiver in his voice, he answers, "Anything for you, Lew."

~

I've always wondered why they put the Greyhound Bus Station right next to the Memphis City Jail and Police Department. If you timed it right, it would make for a quick escape.  

Captain Adams slowly pulls into the parking lot.

I guess I'm trying to avoid the situation at hand. My fear is beginning to swallow me, but I refuse to be afraid - if God can save her life, who am I to say no.  

He pulls into his parking spot. Captain Adams radios ahead that we have arrived. The halls are clearing while we exit the car. "Mr. Bradley, you can wait in my office while we arrange things."

"Thank you, sir."

Captain Adams leads me into the building. While following just behind him, I feel the desperation inside of his mind. He's searching for where they went wrong in the investigation. The problem is, they didn't allow for the evil in Sledge's mind. "Right in here, Mr. Bradley. I'll see that you're not disturbed."

"Come get me when you're ready."

He slowly closes the door.

I could spend the next few minutes going over the awards that fill the walls of the office, but I need to strengthen myself for the battle ahead. I sit down in a leather chair, then bow my head in silent prayer, gathering power from the Holy Spirit. "This may be the greatest battle I've faced."

Fifteen minutes later, Captain Adams sticks his head in the door. "We're ready, Mr. Bradley."

I take in a deep breath, then exhale. "Let's get this thing over."

Walking down the hall, I feel the eyes of many upon me behind closed doors and drawn curtains. They're curious to see the man, and if it works.

Captain Adams stops at the door and turns to me. "I want you to know; there is no way he can hurt you."

"I understand."

He opens the door and walks in.

Warren Sledge is not who I thought he would be; I expected a lecherous older man with drool rolling from his chin. No, he's a handsome man who looks like he could teach Middle School. His brown hair is perfectly trimmed and he has a slight five o'clock shadow. Dark brown eyes peer through expensive glasses. They have him chained to the floor and the table.

He smiles when I walk into the room. "Who is this, Ben? Somebody who will get me to talk?"

"No, Mr. Sledge. I'm a Pastor sent here to save your soul."

"Ha, Ha, Ha, Ha!" His laughter is evil and sarcastic. "You're wasting your time, Preacher. I have no soul!"

Slowly, I sit down across from him. My body shudders when his depraved mind invades me. "I agree with you, Mr. Sledge. You have no soul." He's always thinking about every detail of the rape of this child. "She's alive, but not buried. He raped her many times then left her crying on the bedroom floor."

After a moment of silence, Mr. Sledge begins to holler, "Nooo...Get him out of my mind!" He begins to jerk and pull at his chains. Blood begins to seep from his wrists.

"I see where she's at now. There's an old trailer in the thick woods half a mile behind his house. The trail starts in the right corner of the fence. It leads you to a pond then curves to the left." The pain worsens in my mind. "She's not the only visitor to that place. Graves surround that trailer." I quickly get up to break the link and lean against the wall, gasping for breath.

Mr. Sledge screams, "Get that man away from me!" His wrists continue to bleed while he rips at his chains then screams like a deranged mad man. "Aaaaaargh!"

Captain Adams opens the door. "This way, Mr. Bradley. Do you remember the way to my office?"

"Yes, sir."

"I'll join you in a minute." He turns, then hollers, "Sergeant!"

A man pops out of the room beside ours. "Yes, Captain."

"Get that putrid piece of flesh back to its cell. I need all Forensic Teams, the Swat Team, and an ambulance. Round them up. We roll in five minutes!"

The excited man answers, "Yes, Captain!"

"I'd like to go with you, Ben. I know the way, and it will save a lot of time."

"Thank you, Lew."

~

I've never ridden in a Police caravan before; it's quite an experience. With sirens blaring, we careen around the corner then straight into Sledge's driveway. Cruisers pull in around us then block the street at both ends. The Swat Van pulls beside the house. Police officers in black uniforms pour out. Each is carrying an AR-15 and clearing the way.

I point to the fence. "The path is on the other side of the fence."

Ben screams out an order. "Swat, clear that fence away."

Three officers spring into action, cutting the fence and peeling the wire back.

Once it's cleared, I take off trotting down the path. "This way!"

We quickly find the pond then turn to the left. The trees thicken along the path; an eerie silence fills the air. A rectangular shape begins to appear in front of us. The trailer looks rusted and dilapidated with leafless saplings lining the trail to the door. The peeling tan paint and blackened windows create a sinister look.

I look at Captain Adams, "It might be booby-trapped, Ben."

He barks out another order. "Swat, clear that door."

Two officers place a small explosive by the doorknob. With a nod, they blow the door open. The entire team flows into the trailer. There's another boom inside the mobile home, then we hear. "All clear. She's alive!"

A collective sigh fills the air.

Ben drops his head and wipes the stress from his face. "Paramedics, let's move!"

I drop to my knees and pray. "Thank you, Lord, for her life."

A few minutes later, they exit with the girl on a stretcher. What a beautiful young woman with long blonde hair, how he defiled this innocent child - pure evil still exists.

My head begins to spin when I stand, and I grab a tree to steady myself.

"Are you okay, Lew?"

"Yeah, I guess I've had enough. Can I go home?"

"Yes," He turns to a young officer. "Johnson, escort Mr. Bradley home."

"Yes, Captain!"

Ben turns back to me. "I can't thank you enough, Lew."

"No need to, Ben. She's alive! That's all that matters."

~

Officer Johnson drops me at the front door and waves. Walking in, I feel the evil presence slipping away. My body feels completely drained, and my head is throbbing.

Both families greet me when I walk into the kitchen.

"Where have you been, Lew?" Caleb asks.

Before I can answer, the world fades to black, and the cold floor greets me.

Author Notes This story is another reason I wrote the book. To step inside an evil mind. What are the consequences of that act? We'll see.

Many thanks for stopping by to read!
Have a great day and God bless.
mike


Chapter 7
God Moves In A Powerful Way

By papa55mike

Officer Johnson drops me at the front door and waves. Walking in, I feel the evil presence slipping away. My body feels completely drained, and my head is throbbing.

Both families greet me when I walk into the kitchen.

"Where have you been, Lew?" Caleb asks.

Before I can answer, the world fades to black, and the cold floor greets me.


Chapter 7

My eyes flutter open, and I'm on the long leather couch in the living room. A pillow caresses my head, and I'm covered with a blanket. The last thing I remember is walking in the door then blacking out. Slowly, I start to sit up. My head still pounds a little.

Amy and Earl are watching Nick Jr. when Amy hollers, "Mom, Uncle Lew woke up."

Amy crawls into my lap and lays her head on my shoulder. Her simple thoughts leap into my mind. What a blessing, no evil desires. "Were you worried about me, Amy?"

"Oh, yes. Mommy and daddy, too."

"I'm better now you're with me."

She raises her tiny face and kisses me on the cheek. "A kiss fixes a booboo."

"It certainly does. Thank you, Amy."

Kathy walks in, then sits down on the end of the couch. "Are you loving on Uncle Lew, Amy?"

"I kiss him, booboo." Amy slides out of my lap then back to Nick Jr.

"I called Tony. He told us the police were waiting for you this morning. It's been all over the news about how they suddenly found that missing girl. No mention of you, though."

"That's a good thing."

"What did you see, Lew?"

"Every evil thing he did to that girl is now etched in my mind. It will take a long time to heal from this battle."

"Did you say, battle?"

"Yes, the battle between good and evil. Satan versus us."

"Don't you mean Satan versus God?"

"No. Satan is nothing but a whiny voice to God. That's why he attacks and condemns us continually. It's all he can do. He knows he's a defeated foe and wants to take as many with him as he can." My stomach growls. "I guess I'm hungry. Where's Caleb and Terrel?"

"They had to be at work by four. Supper is almost ready." She gets up then heads back to the kitchen.

"Thank you for all you do here, Kathy."

"No," she turns and smiles. "We owe you more than we can ever repay, Lew."

"Do me a favor. Don't try."

~

I wipe my face while sitting down at my computer. It's almost midnight and time for my silent journey through the night. The joy of two families sharing my home is a true blessing from God. I see the love shared between the parents and the children. A Godly love that helps me battle the evil inside my mind. 

I never told anybody about the incidents that changed Sledge's life. He was beaten and sexually abused by his uncle for many years, the same things he did to that young woman. Those events warped his mind into the evil sadistic man he became. It's how that curse spreads throughout time. I hope it stops here.

A weather alert appears on my screen, and I click on it. Severe cold temperatures are hitting the midsouth starting tomorrow night. The thought of Jimmy and Cindy with their tiny newborn baby fills my mind. What will they do when the temps drop to zero? How will my homeless friends find shelter from the bitter cold?

Deep in thought, I slide out of my chair, grab a bottle of water then start a journey around this massive building. Quietly, I close the door behind me.

I hear the wind begin to pick up from the south ushering in the storms that will bring those frigid temps behind them. "Show me what to do, Lord."

They built this factory in the 40s in an L-shape. The material would come into the warehouse on one end, shoes out the other end. I love walking the building at night to quiet my mind and hopefully hear a word from God. 

The vastness of this factory makes me feel small in comparison. I think about the time the workers spent here making a living for their families. What happened to them when the factory closed? Hard times, I would imagine.

A whisper from the warehouse. "Shh, a man is coming."

I walk into the warehouse and see movement in a dark corner. "Whoever you are, it's okay. If I can help in any way, please ask."

Three figures stand in the darkness. A female voice says, "I'm sorry to trespass, mister. We were looking for a place to get out of the cold. We'll leave the same way we came in."

The Lord's voice explodes in my mind. "Here's your answer."

"Please don't." I smile at them. "It's warmer this way. Follow me."

At first, they don't move, and then I hear the woman catch a sob. They slowly walk into the light. An older woman leads two young women towards me. "We heard about you, mister. Everyone says you're the kindest man they ever met. I believe them." 

"Ma'am, what I'm doing is sharing God's love for you. He longs for you to be happy and whole."

The lady looks to be in her sixties with dark brown hair and big brown eyes that have seen many hard years in her life. The young women seem to be in their teens. Their tattered clothes and thin jackets would make them victims of the frigid weather ahead. "This way, my friends."

We slowly make our way towards the office with me staying several feet ahead of them. I don't have to see inside their minds to find their pain. "What's your name, sweetie?"

"My name is Delores Compton. These are my granddaughters, Katlyn and Kayla."

After a few minutes of silence, we make it to the office. "Would you guys like to come in?"

"No, sir. We'll be fine, right here." They begin to settle in next to the office.

"Okay, I'll bring you some pillows and blankets." I've learned in helping people to let them take it in as they need it.

I come back with three blankets and pillows then begin to pass them out, keeping my distance. The girls are stunned when I hand them a blanket and pillow. I can tell they aren't used to kindness in their lives. "Be sure to stay for breakfast in the morning. Sleep well, my friends."

I close the door then pray. "Thank you, Lord. For my answer."

~

It's seven-thirty when Kathy and Amy come strolling out of the President's office. Amy runs towards me, climbs in my lap, and nestles her head against my chest. "Good morning, sweetie."

"Amy loves you, Lew. That doesn't happen very often. She guards her heart."

"The feeling is very mutual." I kiss Amy on the forehead. 

"Will you watch Rainbow Warriors with me, Uncle Lew?"

"I will in a minute, but first, I need to talk to mommy."

"Okay." Amy crawls out of my lap and picks up the remote.

"What's up, Lew?"

"I got a weather alert last night. We have a brutal cold front heading this way. They're talking about temps near zero."

"Oh, my goodness!"

"I want to offer the Homeless Network a place to keep warm. We have plenty of room. All we have to do is turn on some heaters. That 140 people will fit in here again. Have you heard from Jimmy and Cindy?"

"Yes, the hospital got them into a shelter."

"That's great news! Praise, God. What organization feeds everybody, Kathy?"

"Most of us went to First Baptist Church, downtown. They have free breakfast and supper at their soup kitchen."

"I wonder if they will help us feed them for a day or two?"

"I think they will. I know Miss Sonia well. I went to college with her. You have that look in your eye, Lew."

"I think it's incredible how the Lord brings everything together. By the way, we have three guests outside the door."

"Who?"

"Delores and her two granddaughters. I can't remember her last name. I found them in the warehouse last night."

"Do you mean Delores Compton?"

"Yeah, that's them."

"Caleb and I haven't seen them for several months."

"I told them we would feed them breakfast."

"Of course. Let me see if they're awake." Kathy peeps out the door. "No, still sleeping, but it's great to see them."

"Old friends, Kathy?"

"Sort of, we liked to watch out for everybody on the streets. It's good to know they're okay."

"You're starting to sound like me."

"I guess you rub off on people, Lew." Kathy heads for the kitchen.

~

Kathy put out the text to the Homeless Network at noon. We had guests arriving before one o'clock. I went through this section of the factory, turning on heaters and checking windows. We need to make sure no wind gets in with the wind chills below zero tonight. 

We then put out an urgent text for anybody having extra blankets to please bring them to us. I sent Caleb and Terrel to Wal-Mart to buy as many of those two-dollar fleece blankets as a hundred dollars could buy. I thought the kids could cover up with them. 

Kathy walks out of the office, saying, "I can't thank you enough, Sonia. Yes, he is one of a kind. It will be good to see you. Bye." She turns to me. "Sonia is bringing the church's food truck here for supper. They're also bringing a bunch of blankets. You're something else, Lew."

"It's not me, Kathy. The Lord is bringing everything together. It starts with one person caring and trusting God."

Caleb and Terrel come walking in with huge smiles and several large Wal-Mart sacks. Caleb says, "You're not going to believe what happened."

Kathy asks, "What?"

Terrel speaks up. "We were loading a cart with the fleeces when the manager walks up and asks what we're doing. Caleb told him we were getting these blankets for the homeless. He pulls a twenty out of his pocket and gives it to us."

Caleb takes over the story. "By the time we loaded the cart, six more workers came by and donated what they had. We ended up enough money to buy seventy-five blankets!"

Kathy catches a sob then looks at me. 

I just smile. "Well, we already have some guests. Let's start passing these out to the children."

~

It's four o'clock, and most of the guests have arrived. The thunderstorms roared through about an hour ago, and now the frigid north wind is starting to blow. 

Caleb, Kathy, Terrel, and I are sitting around the kitchen table when I ask, "What's the story about Delores and her granddaughters?"

"Well," Caleb slowly answers. "Her daughter brought them over to spend the weekend so she could go party with her boyfriend. Delores hasn't seen her daughter since. That was six years ago, wasn't it, Kathy?"

"Yeah, the state wouldn't let her adopt them without the parent's consent. They couldn't live on just her check and lost their house a couple of years ago."

"I guess everyone living on the streets has a story like that."

Terrel smiles. "Yes, we all do."

Kathy gets up. "I'm going to check on the kids."

"How is work going, guys?" I ask Terrel and Caleb.

"Great," Terrel answers. "The boss came by last night and told both of us he wants to make us full-time. Mr. Travers loves the way we work."

Kathy hollers in the door. "Hey, Lew. You need to come here."

We all get up from the table and walk out the door. Standing by the outside door are three gang members from down the street. I've seen them a couple of times.

"I'll handle this. You two keep everybody back."

Slowly, I walk to the door. Big hoodies cover their faces. I stop in front of them. "Have you guys come by to get warm?"

The leader pulls out his gun and puts it in the center of my forehead. 

Gasps fill the air.

"No, cracker! We're here to run you out of town. We own this street; you're on our turf."

His thoughts invade my mind. "I see nothing but fear in you. You live by it. You're actually afraid to pull that trigger."

"I'll blow your head off, old man!" He screams at me. His spittle splashes my face.

"I know a man that can help you with that fear." I smile at him. "His name is Jesus Christ."

"What does your God have to do with this?"

"Everything! He brought you here to save your soul."

"My soul ain't worth saving!"

"It was before your father killed your mother. You were looking out the window when he shot her three times in the chest. She died in your arms. You still remember her blood all over your hands like it was yesterday. I want you to know, Kebon, that your life is worth saving. You don't have to live in fear anymore."

Kebon's lower lip begins to quiver while he lowers the gun to his side. "Let's get out of here." The three of them turn to leave.

"When you're ready, Kebon, I'll be here for you."

Kebon turns to me before leaving. His eyes connect with mine. It's not fear I see, but extreme grief. When I turn around, wonder fills every face.

~

It's after one in the morning. I'm sitting outside the office with my Bible in my lap, thinking about the love God showed out here today. All of these people would be freezing outside if it wasn't for the Lord, prompting me to action. Once we took that first step, He moved in a powerful way.

"Thank you, Father."

Author Notes I can't imagine the pain and suffering the homeless endure on frigid nights. Let us pray for them to find peace and a home.

Many thanks for stopping by to read!
Have a great day, and God bless.
mike


Chapter 8
Ronald and Julio

By papa55mike

We've had typical Tennessee weather this past week. It started Sunday and Monday with temperatures near zero, and today, we might reach into the sixties. 

It was a spiritual experience having all of my homeless friends in for a visit during the brutal cold. I've heard so many stories that would break any heart, but what I admired was the perseverance of each one. Despite everything against them, all of them are determined to rebuild their lives.

How can you not love that?

Since Caleb and Terrel worked late last night, and don't have to work until Sunday night. I decided to get breakfast at Tony's. It will be quiet in the office this Friday morning. 

Pushing open the door, Tony turns and greets me. "Well, good morning, Lew."

"Hi, Tony. It's been a while."

"Yeah, I'm going to sue Kathy for being such a good cook. She's killing my profit."

"My goodness," I start to laugh. "Maybe you need to hire Kathy to cook?"

"That's an idea."

"No, I like your biscuits better. Speaking of which, I'd like a tenderloin biscuit. I can get my coffee." I step behind the counter and pour a large cup.

Tony starts to make my biscuit. "I know one thing, Lew. For someone who wanted to hide from humanity, you sure have become popular. The whole neighborhood is talking about what you did Sunday and Monday. How many people was it?"

"Just a few friends. It was only 143, counting the kids."

'Yeah! You're hiding from humanity," we both laugh.

Tony hands me the biscuit. "Thank you. It looks delicious."

"By the way, Lew, you got a letter yesterday."

"Someone sent me a letter here?"

"Yeah, I almost threw it away. It doesn't have a return address, but it looks handwritten." Tony digs around the cash register. "Here it is."

I sit my coffee and biscuit down and examine it like it's going to blow up. "There's only one way to find out what's inside." I slide my finger inside the envelope and tear open the top. The letter reads:

"Dear sir,"

I am begging for your help. My son, Ronald Hernandez, has been convicted of murdering a man. I know in my heart that he is innocent. I feel an injustice has fallen upon him. He is not the killer but refuses to speak up for himself. 

I know you have recently worked with the police helping them to solve certain cases. I cannot tell you where I heard this. Please, will you see my son and talk to him. Maybe he will listen to you. If not, he will spend the rest of his life in prison for something he didn't do.

Sincerely, Maria Hernandez

"Tony, have you heard of Ronald Hernandez?"

"Yeah, he's a young man who was convicted of murder last week. I think his sentencing hearing is next week."

"Well, this letter is from his mother. She swears he's innocent."

"Don't all mothers?"

"Yeah, I guess so, Tony."

"Something tells me you want to find out, Lew?"

"God sure is leading me that way. If I can work out the logistics."

"Be careful, Lew. Remember what happened last time."

"Thank you for caring, Tony. I will. Now let me finish that biscuit. Can I get some more coffee?"

Tony laughs, "Sure, Lew."

~

Back at home, I pick up the phone. "Good morning, Memphis Police central office."

"I'd like to talk to Captain Adams. My name is Lewis Bradley."

"One moment, please."

After a few clicks on the line. "Good morning, Lew. How are you?"

"I'm doing fine, Ben. I need a favor, my friend."

"Of course."

"What can you tell me about Ronald Hernandez?"

"Well, it was an open and shut case. The officer found him with the body. The gun was lying beside the victim."

"Was it a robbery?"

"That's what the prosecuting attorney said, even though we never found the money. I brought that up to the defense, but he never used it."

"Has Ronald Hernandez said anything about this?"

"Not a thing, Lew. He wouldn't make a statement, declined to speak at the trial. He convicted himself by his silence. The only people he has spoken to are his mother, brother, and sister-in-law when they visit him."

"Boy, none of this adds up."

"I know, Lew, but we did our jobs then handed the case over to the Prosecuting Attorney - even though there were still three questions in my mind that never got answered. What happened to the money? Who wiped the fingerprints off the gun? Why has he kept silent?"

"You always do everything you can, Ben. Can I talk to him?"

"Absolutely! I'd love to know the truth. It will be this afternoon before I can arrange it. Do you need me to send a car?"

"No, I think I've got a ride. Thank you, Ben."

"Not a problem. I'll call you later."

~

It's early afternoon, and I guess I'm a victim of old age. Caleb, Kathy, Terrel, and I are laughing at Amy doing some kind of dance to an annoying song called Baby Shark. Amy dances to it with perfection, matching every move in the video. It reminds me of something from the early 1990s called the Macarena. I didn't get it then, and I don't get it now. But laughter fills the room.

I hear the phone ringing and pick up the cordless receiver. "Hello."

Captain Adams answers, "We should be ready in about thirty minutes."

"Thank you, Ben. Let me confirm my ride." I place the phone against my chest. "Hey, Caleb, will you do me a favor? I need a ride to the Police Headquarters."

The happy mood falls through the floor, and concern fills every face!

"Sure, Lew. But what's this all about?"

"Don't be alarmed, my friends," I smile. "I'm going to talk to Ronald Hernandez. If he will talk to me."

Kathy steps forward. "Are you sure, Lew? Do you remember the last time?"

"It's not like that this time. Warren Sledge is evil incarnate. Ronald is a lost kid who I think is innocent, and so do a few other people. We want to know the truth."

Terrel walks over to me and puts his hand on my shoulder. "We want you to know, Lew, that everyone in this room loves you. We're worried about you."

"Thank you, Terrel. It means a lot to me." I reach out and hug him.

Caleb hugs and kisses Kathy and Amy. "Let me get my keys and jacket."

"I'll be there shortly, Ben." I turn to my friends. "Thank you, all of you."

We start towards the door when Kathy says, "Caleb, don't leave him."

"I won't, sweetie. See you in a bit."

I seem to be lost in thought until we pull into the parking lot. Caleb and I didn't speak a word until we get out of the car. He looks me in the eye and asks, "Are you sure you want to do this, Lew?"

"Our Lord is a God of Justice. If I can help in any way, then I need to."

"I understand."

I press the buzzer, and the voice asks, "Can I help you?"

"My name is Lewis Bradley. I'm here to see Captain Adams."

"Yes, sir," the door buzzes. "Come on in."

"After you, Caleb." I feel the worry in his mind. 

Ben's office is close to the entry, and he steps out when we turn the corner. "Hi, Lew. It's good to see you."

"Same here, Ben." I stop a short distance away. "I want you to meet Caleb Bell, a dear friend."

"A pleasure to meet you," Caleb reaches for and shakes his hand.

"Same here. Ronald is just down the hall, Lew."

"Caleb, you can wait in Ben's office. We'll only be a few minutes."

"You know I can't, Lew. I promised Kathy not to leave you."

"Is it okay, Ben?"

"Sure, but sometimes it isn't pretty. I warned you."

"I understand, sir," Caleb smiles.

We walk down the hall to the room where I met Warren Sledge. Vivid memories fill my mind, but I quickly cast them down.

Sitting there at the table is a small, broken young man. His body looks like it's carrying the weight of the universe. His black hair is disheveled, and his eyes peer at the floor. 

I walk over to the table, and he doesn't notice I'm in the room. Caleb and Ben lean against the wall. Another officer is sitting behind Ronald.

"Your mother is worried about you, Ronald." I pull out the chair and sit down. "She sent me a letter, begging me to talk to you." His thoughts begin to fill my mind.

Ronald raises his head. "It doesn't matter what she said in that letter. My life is over."

"I know you didn't kill that man, but you know who did. I see it in your mind. It's a record that plays continually. You walked up right after it happened then argued with the killer while blood pooled around the victim's head. He snatched the money then ran, but not you. It was you who wiped the fingerprints off the gun when you heard the sirens in the distance. Who are you protecting?"

"You know everything, tell me."

"I can't. You've blocked the killer's face out of your mind. All I see is a shadow running away."

"I'm done talking to you."

"You don't have to tell me, Ronald. Let me see his face in your mind."

Ronald hollers, "You don't hear very well!" He stands then kicks the chair out from under him, breaking the link. "Let me out of here."

I nod to Ben, and the officer takes Ronald from the room. Glancing over at Caleb, I see the shocked look on his face.

"Well, I got two of your answers, Ben."

"No, you got three answers. We know Ronald didn't kill that man. Did you see anything?"

"Only a pair of black Chuck Taylor's and ragged bluejeans."

"Every teenager in Memphis has those."

"Ronald knows him, Ben. He's close to him. Do you have the address for Maria Hernandez?"

"Yeah, but it's in a bad part of town."

"It can't be much worse than where we live, can it Caleb?"

"Probably not."

"All right. I'll alert the patrol car that you're coming so they can keep an eye on you."

"I appreciate that."

The drive over to Maria's house takes us out onto Highway 51, which leads to the casinos along the strip in Tunica, Mississippi. The only businesses out here are pawn shops, bail bondsmen, and liquor stores. We turn down Cantrell Street, and the houses look like they're held together with baling wire, and old cars sit on cinder blocks. Prosperity avoided this neighborhood like it had the plague.

"You sure haven't said much since we left the police station, Caleb."

"Let's say; I have a new appreciation for your gift. I've never seen anything like it."

"Yeah, that's why Ben warned you." 

Caleb pulls up to a small house. "I think this is it."

We both get out and walk up to the house. Daffodils are blooming along the porch. I reach up and knock on the door. A young woman with a baby in her arms answers, "Can I help you?"

"Yes, my name is Lewis Bradley. I'm here to see Maria Hernandez."

She turns and says, "Mama, there's somebody is here to see you."

Maria comes to the door. She's a short, stout looking woman with dark brown eyes that have seen too much pain. "Can I help you?"

"Yes, ma'am. Did you send me this letter?" I pull it out to show it to her.

"Oh, yes! You are the man who helps the police. Did you talk to Ronald?" She steps out on the porch.

"I tried to, ma'am. He didn't say much, but I think as you do, he didn't do it."

"What can we do now, Mr. Bradley?"

"We can find the killer. Can I meet your family, Mrs. Hernandez?"

"Yes, Rosie and Julio, come out here." Rosie steps out on the porch. Rosie is a tall woman with blonde hair and must be the sister in law. "This is Rosie and my grandson Jayden."

I reach out to shake her hand. "It's a pleasure to meet you." Her thoughts fill my mind. It's not her.

Maria hollers, "Julio, come out here!"

He slowly walks out on the porch. He seems disoriented, and his eyes don't look right - the pupils are tiny. Julio keeps his long sleeves pulled down, and he's wearing black Chuck Taylor's. I hear Caleb gasp.

I reach to shake his hand. "It's nice to meet you."

He barely smiles and shakes my hand. Julio's thoughts fill my mind. I see the argument he had with Ronald, then he snatches the money and runs down the street. 

"Mrs. Hernandez, I want you to know that we are close to catching the real killer." I look Julio in the eye. "It's someone who Ronald knows well." I won't take my eyes from Julio's. "We're hoping for the killer to come forward to save his bro..."

Maria speaks up. "Mister, I can't thank you enough for all you have done."

"It's my pleasure, ma'am. Can you walk to the car with me, Julio?"

He hesitates. Maria says, "Go with him. He's trying to save your brother."

We slowly walk to the car. Caleb, Julio, and I lean against the vehicle. 

"Can I see your arms, Julio?"

He quickly shoves his hands in the pockets of his jeans.

"That's why you killed that man. To get the money for a fix." Julio's bottom lip begins to quiver. "Now, you're committing a second murder by letting Ronald take the blame." 

Julio's tears begin to flow down his face and drip off his chin. "He wouldn't give me the money, then said he was going to kick my butt. I don't remember pulling the trigger, and he just fell. Ronald had followed me but didn't get there in time. I had to run. I have a wife and a son."

"You did until you stuck that needle in your arm. That evil habit forced you to kill that man. Come with us, Julio, and end this now. Tell the truth and lift that enormous burden off your soul. Please, for your mother's sake. Hasn't she been hurt enough?"

Through his sobs, Julio says, "Okay."

All three of us get in the car and head back downtown.

~

Two hours later, Caleb and I leave the police station to start back home.

"I have a headache, Caleb. I'm so exhausted."

"I can't quit thinking about Mrs. Hernandez, Lew. What will happen to that family now?"

"I talked to Ben. He's going to try and get the charges dropped on Ronald, but he's still an accessory to murder. He'll probably have to serve some time. I agree with you, Mrs. Hernandez lost both of her sons today."

"What can we do, Lew?"

"All I know to do is pray. I have something I want you to do."

"What's that?"

"I want you to take us home, then hug Kathy and Amy and tell them you love them."

Caleb smiles. "I can do that."

Author Notes We press on to chapter nine. Me and the Holy Spirit that is.

Many thanks for stopping by to read!
Have a great day, and God bless.
mike


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