Thursday, August 9, 2012

Starting Today: Ultimatum 
Looking for One Arm Lightning?

Episode One of Ultimatum

Reverend Nate listened to the music being performed by the church choir. They sounded good, for a collection of ranchers and homesteaders. But he admitted to himself that most of his attention was focused on the pianist, Angie Brighton. What would she think if he confessed that his interest in her went beyond planning the music for the Sunday services and Wednesday night prayer meeting?
And how would the rest of the congregation handle it? These were good people who had accepted a lot. Was he asking too much? Yet, he was a lonely man, and…
The music ended. Reverend Nate silently rebuked himself. A pastor shouldn’t spend Sunday morning agonizing over personal problems. He got up from his chair on the church platform and quickly walked to the pulpit which stood in the middle of the platform in front of the choir loft.
He smiled at the group of about seventy-five people sitting on wooden pews. He opened a large Bible to the place where he had tucked the red ribbon which served as a marker. “Our Scripture this morning comes from the New Testament--”
The church’s two front doors made a banging sound as they were shoved open and an arrow flew through the small building, burrowing into the pulpit. Screams filled the air as a group of sixteen Indians entered, forming a line along each side of the church. Their leader remained standing in front of the doorway, holding the bow that had made the shot. Seven of the Indians were carrying rifles: new and shiny and pointed at the people sitting in the pews. 
Reverend Nate gestured with both hands for the congregation to remain calm. He walked to the front of the pulpit, yanked out the arrow in a defiant gesture and threw it to the floor. The clergyman then stepped off the platform and walked up the center aisle toward the leader.
The man holding a bow spoke in a mocking voice. “The white man’s God has little power. Akando can scare His people with only one arrow.”
“Akando speaks with forked tongue,” Reverend Nate fired back. “Akando does not come alone. He brings many braves, some carrying guns. Akando knows the people of the Book never carry guns in a church. A church is sacred ground.”
“Nata has learned the ways of the white man well. He has even taken a white man’s name. He has forgotten his family, who are now with their ancestors because of the white man.”
Reverend Nate breathed deeply and held in his anger. “My family was killed in a tribal war by other Indians. I was orphaned at the age of eight. A man of the Book and his wife adopted me and raised me as their son.”
“They taught you the ways of the white man.”
“They taught me the ways of all men: that violence begets violence, that those who take up the sword perish by the sword. Akando would do well to heed such wisdom.”
Akando went silent. His eyes took in the tall man who now stood a few feet behind Nata. The man was named Bret Carson. He was a U.S Marshall. Like Nata, he was unarmed and, like Nata, still dangerous.
“We have come for a purpose,” Akando abruptly proclaimed. “You will hand over to us the man you call Tully Jones.”
Despite the guns being pointed at them, a few people in the congregation laughed. Reverend Nate purposely smiled in a condescending manner before speaking. “Akando brings no honor upon his name by associating with Tully Jones. Tully is a barfly. A lazy, dishonest man.”
“You will hand over to us the man called Tully Jones,” Akando repeated. “You have until the sun is at its highest peak tomorrow. I will wait at the top of the hill East of town. If you fail, my braves will kill every person in the town of Hardin and burn the buildings.”
Bret Carson took a step forward. “Akando, as far as I am concerned you and your so called braves are nothing but a band of outlaws. You’re renegades. Your own tribes want nothing to do with you. I won’t hand over Tully or anyone else. And if you attack this town, you’ll have the U.S. Calvary to answer to.”
Now it was Akando’s turn to smile. “The soldiers will need two days to journey here from the nearest fort. If you do not do as I say, when the soldiers arrive they will find dead bodies and ashes.”
Akando turned and walked out the door, his band of outlaws following after him. The last one to depart fired a shot, shattering a window in the side wall of the church.

Tomorrow: Episode Two of Ultimatum