The Sinner & His Saint
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They thought that there was no comparison for the horrors of war… they were wrong.
Hettie Rogan knows devastation; she’s seen it in men’s eyes as they lie on her table dying. Heard it in their screams as they were separated from their limbs. Felt it in her soul as her husband, a good man died in her arms. Nothing could prepare her for the twist in fate that was given to her after that awful day, when healing the broken became more than just a calling – it became a God-given gift.
Cain Golden had no interest in the war. He wouldn’t even be out here if it wasn’t for his mamma begging him to look after his twin brother. His twin, a frail, sicklier version of him but with a far more wickedly sharp mind… and that sharpness came with a cruel edge. One that Cain did not share. Laid low by an ambush he found himself on Hettie’s table and he, by all rights, should have died that day… but for her.
Now the war is over, neither side really having won – because a bigger battle is to be fought on America’s soil. The battle between good and evil.
When the dead rise, and creatures of myth and legend walk… welcome to the strange and dark west of your nightmares.
When I was sure no one would wake, I went back outside.
The silvery pillar of mist had drifted closer, but it was still a way out from the porch.
I stepped off, and it twisted, lengthening toward the cloud-riddled sky and turning squat, as if someone pulled it like taffy at its middle, side to side, then squished it back together, making it tall again.
It drifted closer, and I could make out three gaping holes—two for eyes and one for a perpetually screaming mouth. I put my hat on my head and cocked my head, resting the butt of my rifle on top of my booted foot.
The thing hissed, a strangled scream, and rushed me. I stood my ground as it plowed into me, the chill of the grave sweeping up and over me.
“Ain’t so scary, are you?” I demanded. The thing screamed again, the hiss of anguished steam and I had to bet that if it had any, it’d gnash its teeth.
“Fuck off with you,” I demanded, and it drifted away like it was confused.
I knew there was plenty of shit out there that could try to hurt me, but a ghost wasn’t one of ‘em.
I sniffed and walked off in the direction of the split-rail fence, taking a seat up on it, and bringing up the collar of my coat against the chill, I waited.
A wave of guilt washed over me as I stepped through the door, towing Cane by his long fingers after me. He paused on the threshold and I looked back, to catch him castin’ his evil eye over the railing down into the common room.
He turned slowly and, catching me looking, made eye contact. I could see the silent question in them.
Are you sure?
The wave of guilt was swept away by that tingling rush you felt when you stood watchin’ the storm roll across the sky in your direction. It’s what I wanted. What I needed in the moment—the rain from that storm to wash me clean, to take this numb and awful feeling away, leaving something good in its place.
There was something about Cain Golden specifically that I couldn’t quite place but it was good. Talking to him, walking as we had, the way his arms circled me as we rode, how he was so careful of me and always watchin’.
I felt safe with him when I thought sure that I’d never feel safe again.
It was a heady thing.
He shut the door firmly behind us and stuck the key in the lock on this side, turning it.
Text Copyright © 2023 A.J. Downey DBA Timber Philips
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.
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