General Fiction posted November 22, 2023 Chapters:  ...70 71 -72- 73... 

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One day at a time

A chapter in the book One Man's Calling

One Man's Calling, ch 72

by Wayne Fowler

In the last part Hank Larabee and Seth close in on Ben and Beth in Fortuna. Seth and his female partner had kidnapped a child that Ben and Beth found lost in the woods.


“There he is,” Hank told Seth, pointing to the corral with his forehead.

Seth nodded. “This gun… I gotta get close.”

Hank looked at his holstered pistol, figuring either Seth had bad eyes, or was just a bad shot, maybe both. He thought about Seth’s huge hands. He’d seen men with very large hands handle a gun, the pistol grip made for average-to-the-smaller fist. He imagined the barrel inching to the right as Seth’s thick finger pulled instead of squeezed the trigger, his third and fourth fingers not even on the grip.

Hank nodded understanding.

They waited across the street in the shadow until Ben came into the street at about noon. Ben waved first to the livery owner, saying something about tomorrow and shoeing a horse, and then at the woman who was approaching on the boardwalk across the street. Ben didn’t look their way.

“You,” Seth yelled as he stepped down from the boardwalk and approached Ben, waving for Hank to do the same. “Over here. I wanna see you.”

Ben turned to look at him, not recognizing him from anywhere. At first, he thought maybe the law recognized him from a poster, then he thought maybe one of the escaped prisoners who had ought against him for whatever reason. Maybe he was a husband whose wife had been saved and he took offense. He was at a loss as he turned toward the approaching man. “Can I help you?”

“You can help me,” Hank said from Ben’s left. “Get down on your knees.”

Seth glanced at Hank, confused, thinking to himself that that was no way to gun a man down.

“On your knees!” Hank shouted.

Ben stood his ground. Both adversaries were armed. Ben was not. He thought to his deputy sheriff days when he stood armed men down. He had a gun back then, though he never had to use it. He glanced toward Beth who obviously saw the entire thing, though she hadn’t said anything. Neither had she slowed down.

Ben recognized Hank, immediately knowing that the larger man to his right would be the greater threat. He stepped closer to the larger man, keeping Hank in his peripheral vision. Beth was not within his focus at this point, or he would have changed directions.

With each step Beth prayed for Ben, for his safety, for his strength. Hearing Hank order Ben to his knees filled her with vigor and energy. She swelled herself tall and full. She forced that energy into her prayer, believing that the God who’d twice saved them from this man’s bullets would save them now. She quickened her pace, her eyes boring into Hank who then turned his head to see her come within feet of him, but not stopping until in his space, within his reach.

Ben saw Beth’s action and trusted God, keeping his focus on the stranger as he continued to edge close to him.

Hank’s mouth fell agape as his eyes widened. His pupils shrank to tiny pin holes. He saw Beth transform to a brightness that outshined sunshine, only phosphorescent, a whiteness unlike anything he could describe. Like lightning striking him in the eyes, he might say. He was mesmerized.

Continuing her glare at him, Beth reached down and took his gun from his holster. Continuing to glare, she commanded, “You get down on your knees.”

He did.

Disgusted, Seth turned, pulled his gun, and snapped off a shot at the pair, Beth and Hank, striking Hank across his gut, in on the left side, and out on the right. Ben had him down and was on top of him in an instant, Seth’s gun in Ben’s own hand. Before giving it a thought, he came down with it, striking Seth on his forehead and knocking him out.

“I’ll take that,” the sheriff said, his hand asking Ben for the gun. He already had the one Beth had taken from Hank.

As Ben moved toward Beth, the sheriff told him to take care of her, and then come to the Sheriff’s Office to make out a report.

Ben nodded understanding and agreement as he reached for Beth, who calmly accepted his hand.


“That’s about it, Sheriff. Everything we know about either one of them, and what happened just now.”

The sheriff looked up from his notes at both of them. “I only saw the tail end, where you clobbered the big one,” he said still looking at Ben. “And you standing over the one that got shot, you holding his gun.” He’d moved his eyes to Beth. “I’ll get witnesses to fill in our blank places.

“You, though, Ben Persons …”

“Sheriff, why don’t I take Beth to the hotel and then I’ll come back to answer your other questions.”

“I’ll stay. I’m all right,” she said to Ben.

“Look. It’s way past my lunch time. My wife hasn’t seen me come in late for lunch in years. You go eat. I’ll do the same and then get my witness statements. Then I’ll write it up the best I can for you two to sign, or correct and sign. Come back here, say, three o’clock?”

They agreed and went to clean up, Ben his sweat, and Beth, Hank’s blood.


Both Ben and Beth sat across from the sheriff, who sat dumbfounded. Beth insisted on being there in case Ben was arrested.

“Too bad we didn’t have Brett Harte still up here. He’d sure know how to make a story outta that.”

Ben told all the relevant parts of his tale, including having sent for whatever documentation he could get. “You could telegraph Henry Halleck, or the warden at San Quentin, or the state District Attorney, for that matter.”

The sheriff waved the suggestions off, though he would later change his mind and wire the prison warden.

“Don’t know what I can hold Larabee for. Some misdemeanor of disturbing the peace. He never drew his gun and was subdued, on his knees.

“The other one, the big guy, he’s back there.” The sheriff shot his thumb over his shoulder toward the back of the sheriff’s office. “He’ll be up for attempted murder. I can charge him for shooting Larabee and leave both of you completely out of the whole affair. You, either one, won’t even have to testify. Got enough local witnesses. Soon as you get what you need, you can travel on. That is, unless you decide Fortuna might be your new home. No reason on my part why you shouldn’t.”

Both Ben and Beth looked to one another and smiled. They had yet to talk about what had really happened, Ben desiring to let Beth tell in her way, in her own time.

“Let’s hitch the horses and take a drive,” Beth suggested.

They made it to what they later learned was Table Bluff where they waited for a magnificent sunset view on the ocean. That was when Beth described the events of the day as she saw them. Neither one, of course, saw her as had Hank, though they both knew that God had stepped in. The trip down the 200-foot decline was a little dicey, but the horses managed it fine.

“This calling is really real, isn’t it Ben?”

Ben reached for solid purchase, drawing her into himself.

“Only thing I don’t like,” Beth said into Ben’s neck, “is Larabee walking away.”

“Don’t think he’ll be walking for a while,” Ben replied. “Gut shot like he is.”

Ben Persons: a young man following God's calling
Beth Persons: Ben's wife
Seth: the male partner of the ones who stole the little boy from his momma
Hank Larabee: heir of Henry P. Larabee, ranch and town owner
Henry Halleck: San Francisco lawyer friend of Ben, elected mayor
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