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    <Warning - This story contains racist language which is historically pertinent. The setting is 1890s Texas>

    A holy man may commit evil deeds for the salvation of another, for, even though he is holy, he is still but a man.

    Those who say otherwise is a liar.

    The hot July wind began to kick up the dirt. There had been no rain for 2 weeks and the topsoil had shown this as truth. The youth, with his raven hair and leather-tough skin, could feel the sting of the debris across his face. He winced, but rode forward on his mule. His humble steed’s appearance hinted at a deep-rooted sickness, evinced further by the mule’s barely-bulging eyes. The youth fared better, his figure slightly fattened but still work-toughened. On him were only his clothes and a saddle bag full of money, spare clothes, and a deck of cards.

    The youth raised his gold and white floral-pattern serape to his face and kicked the mule with his heels, hoping to get to his destination more quickly. The longer he stayed out in the winds, the more likely he would lose sight of where he was hoping to go.

    Forward they trekked. The youth sought out to prove himself a man, hoping to spot out a landmark of his goal as the wind finally started to die down.

    Night. The moon rose. A coyote howled. Off in the distance, a white horse galloped across the barren land as if chased by a pillar of holy fire.


    The same wind had pierced the town of Sholen, Texas. So small a town that the cartographers had left it off the map. Not that the townsfolk minded. They had their own businesses to attend to and appreciated the prevalent calm. Every now and then, a bar fight would break out between visiting out-of-towners too drunk to throw a punch without hitting themselves. Outside of that, the only break in the calm (and only real entertainment) comprised of parties and socials at one of the locals’ barns.

    Those who sat outside for fresh air drank their chilled Degen brew, constantly enticed and teased by the sweet and hearty smells of koláče and klobása baking in Isador Lev's shop. Those who were smart stayed inside their shops. One could always tell an out-of-towner or a visitor to these parts, no matter what the season, thanks to the year-round dusty wind. One purchasing himself a black suit for the Sunday meetin’ would cross the fifty paces long trek from Samuel Yasek’s tailoring and cobbling shop to the Blessed Sacrament parish and find himself wearing all gray for church. The locals found their main shelter, other than the gothic structure that was Blessed Sacrament, to be the Sunday Saloon owned by Dan Phillips; the parlor still bore its storm-broken sign that was once a testament to the owner’s rather unusual sense of humor. Now and then, a "jak se máš" or "jak se máte" would be heard, betraying the Czech heritage of Sholen, but other than that, it was rather quiet. Usually.

    Sholen itself only had a few buildings. General store with its wares and goods. Tailor, tannery and saddlery. Hotel with eight rooms for guests who were few and far between. The Sunday with the best whiskey west of Tennessee and local brews. The livery stable with its normal $3 fee, run by the freedman Toby Pratchett and his son, Aaron. Barber with an available bath: heated water extra. A single clock tower, barely taller than most of the buildings in the town itself. The church, of course, was the grandest edifice of Sholen, standing out against the drab wooden buildings which were painted with the hands of men and aged by the hands of a god. The owners of the local business lived in their shops (if they had spare rooms – if not, they built one outside the shop); the priest lived in the rectory attached to the church; everyone else lived within 5 miles of town on their own homestead, though the ranch house might be only a lean-to built onto the barn. The local livestock would be taken to the trains and butchers in San Antonio, of all market towns the closest – though not by much.


    Outside of town, a lone man was busying himself with some carpentry. A new building – a school for some of the children of families who had ranches outside of Sholen. The man had to work fast – the new school year was supposed to start in September and he wasn’t even done with the frame of the building. His short, auburn hair was caked with sweat and grit, his scarred and eternally bruised face gleaming with the saline oil. His darkened skin, a product of years of riding and labor, started to show some leather, though the builder otherwise looked no older than 35. His pure-blue eyes gave severe contrast to the rest of his appearance, enhancing the look of experience with a hint of dark knowledge attained against his will.

    He paused for a moment to look to his right – southeast, according to what the sun was showing. He felt the presence of someone coming and had a vague suspicion he knew who this person was – an old acquaintance. The builder resumed his work, wishing only to get so much done before any new guests arrived.


    The only regular visitor to Sholen had been the bishop of the local diocese. The holy man would normally stay a week, baptizing recently-born children, making his sermons, performing priestly duties with a somewhat aloof air to his personality. In his regular sermon, he would always reference “he who spreads sin and death amongst us with his ways” – an obvious blast against one of the residents of Sholen.

    One resident of Sholen and his friends. The locals were rather divided on his presence; some shared the bishop’s view on him, while others argued that he did “a damn-good job at keeping peace ‘roun’ here.” Perhaps no one really liked him all that much, as he was equally strange and a stranger, but all agreed that he was a protector for them – a savior with no messianic (or any sort of redeeming) qualities. A man of the gun and knife who knew his way with murder as if he was blessed by God with His righteous fury and touched by His left hand. Luckily, many out-of-towners did not know of the existence of the killer, but those who did rarely got anything out of him other than a string of swears or a bullet, if they were eager enough for an earful or an early death. But for those who were granted his assistance, many would argue that the employer was better off selling his soul to the Devil himself for the salvation of another.

    No matter how the townsfolk tried to hide the man, visitors seeking death kept coming.


    The mule –riding youth arrived in Sholen on July 19 at night from the southwest. It was quiet, as most of the town had gone to bed except for the drunks, Dan and the hotel owner, Mitchell Perry. The youth considered himself lucky to be carrying some money left to him by inheritance as he entered the hotel, seeking an available room. His intention was to find this “Devil of Sholen.” Such was truth, even though the youth had no idea of what to do after he met this person. Killing him had no reason to it, nor did the youth feel the need to hire a gun. But first, sleep.

    Mitchell gave him a room on the second floor. Back corner. One window, but the traveler, like all people staying in Sholen, knew to keep the window closed. The traveler set down his bags and disrobed, using an available towel and wash basin to clean himself as best could without going to the local barber. The next day would be busy.

    As the youth was dealt with and paid for a week ahead, Mitchell felt no need to loiter. He resumed his post and reflected on the youth’s appearance and arrival.


    The traveler had slept for 2 nights and 2 days straight. His body commanded such.


    It was during this long sleep that another traveler had rode into Sholen in a stage. The new guest walked in after barking at his drivers to have the horses boarded at the stable. Mitchell welcomed the man, dressed too richly for a small town’s visitor, as one would welcome a potential partner for a lucrative business. The guest signed in as Samuel Coleson - “of Coleson & Davis Co.,” he didn’t fail to mention. Coleson’s colleague – Mitchell assumed him a servant – carried the rather copious amount of luggage to the magnate’s room … so much for such a small purpose which would only take a few hours to fulfill or fail. Coleson’s outward appearance consisted of a newly-grayed suit with matching boots and a cane with a polished gold head. Both his luggage and outfit revealed how much he was willing to sacrifice or brag for, short of his life. He told the hotel manager that he would spend a few days in town, see what was in store. Mitchell knew otherwise, as did Dan and all of Sholen; no man seriously came to Sholen, save for the Bishop, who did not seek “him.”

    Coleson was under the strangest belief that $50,000, vast sum though it was, would be the only requirement to persuade a person in this town and twice that to persuade “him.”


    Dan and Mitchell spoke to each other of these two men. The only terms they saw fit for them were “tax collector” and “Pharisee.”


    Both the drifter and the magnate knew that the man who was referred to often as the 11:13 holed himself up in one of the upper rooms of the Sunday. A strange nickname for a so-called brigand, 11:13. Many speculated he killed precisely at 11:13, whether evening or morning. Others assumed he was born on November 13 or at 11:13 and that his birth killed his mother. Some thought he was named for the 11:13 stage - the one that took criminals on a capital charge to the hanging judge’s court in San Antonio. The priest of Blessed Sacrament connected his nickname to a passage from the Gospel of St. Luke for a sermon: "Vy, hříšní lidé, nikdy nedáte dětem, co by jim uškodilo. Tím spíše váš nebeský Otec vyslyší vaše vytrvalé modlitby. Usměrní vaše přání a dá to, co vám skutečně prospívá." <"If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!”> No one quite understood why or how, but the mention of these numbers inexplicably sent epileptic chills down the spine of any god-fearing child of man or beast. The only thing they did know was this - reputation was the only advertisement this man of death had, or needed.

    Though many sought out the killer, Sholen’s natives also knew of the killer’s kindness towards others and his willingness to assist and protect its citizens.


    A rider in black off in the southeast. He was not bothered by the dusty wind – in fact, he seemed familiar with it. His brown horse showed no mind to the wind and only trotted onward.

    He was one hour out of Sholen.


    All were awake on the third day. The rider was first to arrive at Dan’s bar. The barkeep recognized the rider and wanted to speak, but said nothing. There was no need for the other guests to know what was going on. The saints did not want to bring unnecessary attention to themselves while praising their god. The rider found a good table on which to rest his boots and proceeded to sit and relax, knowing what was coming.

    The younger traveler arrived soon after, asking only for the bottle. Coleson arrived last, asking for a mug of beer, a bottle and glass. The younger one swigged a few shots straight from the bottle, mumbling some swears and something along the lines of “worse than wolf piss,” while Coleson nursed his ale. Dan’s nerves were starting to get the better of him and he wanted to laugh at the contrasting image before him – he stopped short of doing so, fearing being shot. He poured himself a glass and drank it down.

    The young one’s face was looking down, intent only on drink and thought. Coleson’s attention was scattershot about the place. He noticed it was lightly riddled … Shot, perhaps. Barely noticeable splintering of wood now if closely inspected, but easy to miss. No blood to prove violence except on two floorboards, the stain dried and embedded into the wood. The saloon reeked of whiskey and desperation.

    Dan saw the looks on their faces, Coleson’s eyes looking for a staircase but head not moving, and knew who they sought. He could only give his usual response: "He won't see you." The rich man glared at Dan for a moment and laughed, as if trying to ease the tension of the room. A dark, guttural laugh that betrayed many years of sloth and greed.

    "Sir, if the so-called ‘leven-thirteen refuses me after what I offer him, he will be shaming himself to the grave." He drank his beer and smiled, as if knowing already he would have his offer accepted. The youngster only kept drinking suddenly remembering that he owed Dan ninety cents, almost accidentally gave the barkeeper a reb nickel in his quickly-gained stupor. He knew he'd have to be drunk just to ask the man what time it was.

    Dan only replied again, "He won't see you. Don't think he'll be swayed by money, son."

    Coleson's good mood quickly soured and his voice reached an equal tone, which scratched on the ears of the other customers who were trying to enjoy some of Kosmas Ericson's bock. He pulled out a SAA from what seemed to be nowhere and aimed it right at Dan's head.

    "You tell me where he is or all that liquor will be stained by your brains."

    The traveling youth didn't stir one bit, still drinking from the bottle and feeling the courage course through him. The bottle finished, he didn't ask for another and started to quickly sober up. The headache moved in quick, but the stress of the wait was gone. So was the rich man, who apparently had found the staircase and gone up to approach the one called 11:13. The kid tapped the bar to get Dan's attention.


    Dan gave him a mug with cold water and watched the drifter gulp it down, feeling it better to not watch Coleson walk up the stairs to his death - his attention was called again by the kid tapping the bar again for more water.


    Coleson's rage transformed rather quickly into a falsely genteel air – a skill developed in his years as the owner of a mine that only recently dried up after twenty years - as he walked the stairs up to the second floor of the Sunday. He hid the pistol back in its shoulder holster under his single-breasted jacket and opened the solid wooden door adorned only by a sign that was in a language strange to him; the locals knew the sign translated from Czech to English as "All hope abandon, ye who enter here."

    The first thing to meet his sight was a small, crudely-constructed desk made of what appeared to be maple and weathered pine. Off to the side of the desk, a coat rack topped with a black hat and draped in a lone white duster, permanently scarred and stained with blood, dust and tears. On the desk itself rested a bowie knife about a foot long and a ledger with bookkeeping numbers. The man heard a click and “What the hell do you want?” from his left. Instinct identified the click as a hammer being pulled back. He jerked his head to the left and beheld a man with exceedingly dirty brown hair, clothed in black shirt, black pants, black belt and brown shoes, bearing the infamous x-shaped scar, bruises, and black-tinted spectacles on his face. Behind the glasses glared the pure blue eyes of the builder of the school. In his hand a Colt Navy, pointed right at the intruder. He was sitting up on his bed and staring angrily at the man he knew would offer money for his renowned services.

    “M-m-my name is Samuel Coleson. I ran the Coleson & Davis Co. until resources ran dry. I was wonderin’ if you could help me with a small problem.”

    The brigand called 11:13 and "Devil of Sholen" put the gun in his holster, Coleson believing it a sign of relaxation, though the killer’s face didn’t show any form of such.

    “Misser Coleson, yer a man who sounds well off anyway. You could pay an Army regiment to do whatever ya want. Why do ya need me to help ya?” Coleson’s expression and tone remained as calm as possible.

    “My problem is my workers. They’ve been getting anxious an-“ He cut himself off when he saw the infamous killer wave his pistol towards the door as if motioning for him to leave or be shot. His rage grew and concealed itself once more, but not in his voice. “Sir, let me tell you that I will pay handsomely for your services-”

    The man on the bed interrupted with a simple “Git out.”

    Coleson’s anger finally became visible instead of audible. “You have no idea what kind of offer you are declining.” The brigand only held his pistol steady and mocked listening to Coleson, inwardly guessing by his accent he was from the Appalachians. “Now listen here, you sumbitch. I’m offering $50,000 for a single job.”

    The mercenary, cool and still aiming between the eyes, only stated, “I don wan no damn job, slick. I sed git out and I MEANT git out.”

    Coleson’s anger turned into pure fury. “You are a gun for hire! I can pay you to kill just about anywu-” Coleson’s words turned into a primal scream of agony as the sound of a gunshot penetrated his ears and a .45 slug penetrated his left shoulder.

    The rider in black still sat at his table downstairs, smiling.


    Coleson fell to the floor, on his knees, doubled over in shock and pain. The strange-named killer got out of his bed, walked to the kneeling and wincing Coleson who was cupping his wound in disbelief, and pointed the hot chamber of the down towards the floor, his hand itching to point the revolver straight at the magnate’s head. “No … I don’t kill just about anywun. I kill those who are worth the bullet. Now get the ******** out before I waste another bullet on you.” The gun-for-hire turned his head to the left and spit. “I kill justly, not mercilessly.”

    Coleson was more than angry. He could only feel a rage more powerful than his pain, ready and willing to scream at the mercenary.

    “YOU ********!!!!” His scream could be heard all the way to the church, though neither the scream nor the gunshot stirred the patrons from drink and card. “I have enough money to make you kill anyone I ask! Why the hell don’t you want my money?”

    Coleson tried to stand and after some stumbling succeeded. The traveler stood up from the bar when he heard the shot and ascended the stairs little by little, pausing to hear more from the killer, if not another gunshot. This youth felt that he and 11:13 had something in common – something savage and precise. He continued to ascend and opened the door to see Coleson bark at someone (he assumed the mercenary).

    The youth then saw the pistol twitching in the brigand’s hand as the injured man stood as tall as he could, still grabbing at his wound. Coleson’s angry tone grew more Appalachian and raw.

    “I can give you more money. $100,000! You name the price! The injuns and niggers I hired are trying to demand more money and land for their families.” The mercenary’s grip on the revolver tighted and his face twisted when Coleson said this. “Coleson, I’m givin’ ya one last chance to git out.” He used his left hand to point to the exit. “There’s the door. I’m not takin’ yer offer because I don’t kill innocint people, even if they’re niggers, injuns, chinks or what have ya.” He moved his left hand back to where it was before while his right thumb pulled back the hammer.

    Coleson, however, showing his grand stupidity in the face of death, kept talking.

    “I’ll give you $150,000!! I want this problem done and gone. Hell, once the workers hear I hired the ‘Grim’ ‘leven-thirteen, they’ll stop botherin’ me! I can’t just give out my money to undeservin’ coloreds who spent their wages on drink an-” The mercenary interrupted his sentence with a swift move of his pistol hand, the hot chamber so close to Coleson’s forehead the magnate thought his flesh was burning.

    “You just made yourself worth the bullet,” he said, right before he put a shot through Coleson’s head. The kid got a profile of the spray of bullet, bone, brain and blood as Coleson fell backward, his right arm dropping as he fell. He felt, even though experience told him otherwise, that such a sight was new and exciting, every time – the moment of death.


    A few moments of calm. Heavy breathing from the mercenary, pained and angry, as if regretting the kill. The youth stayed outside the room. The mercenary called from the room. “Quit standing there and show yerself.” The drifter started to walk in and saw the pale mercenary for the first time, mentally expecting this appearance and not surprised in the end. He saw a man of pale demeanor, rough soul and smoking gun just standing there, his sapphire eyes communicating regret. His eyes were speaking something else at the same time – a familiarity with this kid, something they knew or guessed. The mercenary continued; “Sorry you had to see that. Now help me carry this body down.” The kid did not show any shock at such a request, only watching the brigand put the revolver on the desk. He would have asked the same thing.

    “Sure.” The drifter grabbed the legs of the late Coleson while the mercenary grabbed the shoulders. None of the patrons moved from their drink and card to look at the blood and cottage-cheese’d brains dripping from the back of Coleson’s head onto the staircase. Dan silently fumed over the mess. The mercenary saw Dan’s face and knew he’d have some cleaning to do, but put his mind to helping kid carry the body out into the street. The coffin-maker was in town and would start building immediately upon seeing the body.