The cave was dark and dusty. McGumory held a handkerchief to his face with his left hand to keep the large particles of dust out of his lungs. He grunted with pain as his right hand held his left side with the feather end of an arrow sticking up between his fingers. He limped as his right leg still had a bullet in it from yesterday.
“That was dumb.” He mumbled to himself. “This is where you are going to die.” He limped to the glimmer of light emanating from the lantern he had lit earlier.
When he was far enough away from the dust of the entrance, he dropped the handkerchief from his mouth. McGumory leaned against wall of the cave and used it as he slid down to sit next to the lantern. His clothes were gray with dirt. He pulled off his hat revealing his matted gray hair.
He reached back and pulled his last stick of dynamite out of his back pocket and laid it to the side. “That was really dumb, old boy, you may have killed a bunch of them but you are not going to get out of here. This is your tomb.”
While keeping pressure around the arrow with his left hand he unhooked the gun belt and pulled it off. McGumory smiled, “Two bullets left.”
Though right handed McGumory was just as skilled in the use of a pistol with his left hand. It was what had helped him live to fifty-one. People often were so busy watching his right hand they didn’t notice the gun in his left.
None of that mattered now. He grunted as he put the last bullets in his gun. McGumory took a deep breath and held the pistol to his temple.
From the corner of the cave came. “That would not be a good idea.”
McGumory turned his head and pointed the pistol in the shadow.
Out of the shadow stepped a slim man dressed in all black. “Jamison Dickens but most people call me James. May I join you?”
McGumory’s left hand trembled a little. Not from fear but from hunger and thirst. He dropped his hand to the floor of the cave. “Why not?”
James sat opposite of the lantern and took off a back pack. He pulled out a canteen of water and took a sip. “You want some water?”
James handed the canteen over and McGumory took a long drink.
James, “You are thirsty.”
“I ran out of water this morning.”
“When did you last eat?”
James pulled out a granola bar, unwrapped it and made sure to put the foil wrapper back in his back pack. “It has bits of apple and chocolate chips in it. It should help you feel better. I would say you are early stage type two diabetes.”
McGumory took the bar and ate it down followed by more water.
James just sat and watched in patience.
McGumory asked, “What is diabetes?”
“Your body doesn’t handle...” James thought trying to find the right words, “Your body doesn’t handle sweet foods well or that lack of sweet foods. To long without the right food and you get the shakes.”
McGumory nodded, “It started a year ago. You a doctor?” he pointed at the arrow.
James sighed, “No I am not a doctor, I just have a really good insight into the human body. As for that arrow I would not touch it. It did not go all the way through so if you pull it out it will do more damage. Probably be dead in two minutes. You leave it alone maybe we have a couple of hours to talk before you die.”
McGumory feeling much better from the food and water smiles, “You are going to die as well. There is no way out of the cave.”
“There is for me.”
McGumory picked up the gun and pointed at James. “There is another way out?”
“Not for you. This is where you die.”
“How did you get in here?” McGumory in his heart knows there is not other way in or out except the one he dynamited.
“God dropped me in here. I do have some ointment that will make that hurt less.” James pointed to the arrow. He pulled a spray can out of the bag.
“How does it work?”
James moved slowly and when McGumory pulled his right hand away James sprayed the wound. The spot went numb. McGumory took the can and pulled the bandage from the bullet wound in his leg and sprayed. That went numb as well.
“I could have used this stuff a long time ago.”
“I figured I needed to bring it.”
McGumory swapped the gun to his right hand and pointed it at James’s head. “I think you have some explaining to do.”
“Sure, but you don’t need the gun.”
James sat back down opposite as McGumory kept the gun pointed at him. James open his backpack and removed a Bible from it. He then read the story of how Jesus just appeared in a locked room with the disciples and then he read how God moved Phillip in a blink of and eye. “I read this because this is what God has done to me. He told me to pack for the trip and when I was ready he just snatch me from my home and put me in the corner over there. I watched you lean against the wall and sit.”
“And why would God do that?”
“Because He loves you.”
McGumory replied, “You’re crazy or I am seeing things. God does not love me.”
“Yes, He does. That is why He sent me.”
“Do you know who I am?”
“Billy McGumory, notorious gun slinger of the Wild West. You were born 1839 and began your killing spree in 1858. You killed 37 men, 3 women, 1 kid, robbed 12 banks single handed and 3 trains, raped 2 women. You disappeared June 10, 1890. Some believe you escaped to Mexico. Some believe you died in Canada. But where I am from we now know that you died in this cave.”
McGumory groaned, “It is just McGumory. I killed 44 men. Plus two more who died in the cave in. 3 women yes but I didn't kill the kid. Stupid deputy missed me and hit the kid. Banks and trains is right but there were 11 rapes. So, I know that God does not love me.”
“He does not love your actions but he sent me to talk with you.”
“To show you His love.”
“I got two bullets left maybe I should use one on you and the other on me.”
“You could or you could hear out the guy who God brought such a long way for you.”
McGumory put down the gun. “I just don’t have any fight left in me.”
“How did you end up here?”
“I was headed to Mexico. I was recognized in a little town north of here. Sherif, a couple of deputies and a couple of Indian trackers have been following me for a week, my horse died and I found this place. They tracked me here. Dang if one of those Indian’s didn’t get me with an arrow.”
James smiled, “I meant how did you end up as a 51 year old gunslinger who decided the law does not apply to him?”
McGumory didn’t want to say. He had never talked about it but he just felt compelled to. “I was eighteen and just married. They killed my father and tied me up. I was forced to watch as they raped and murdered my wife and my mother. They shot me last but the bullet only grazed my head.” A tear ran out of his left eye as McGumory pointed to the scar the bullet left, “I got free and it took me time but I hunted them down.”
“They would be the Cleveland gang.”
“And the crooked Sherif Johnson that was their partner.”
“That is what caused you to be hunted by the law. No one knew of his involvement.”
“Since the law didn’t care about me I didn’t care about it.”
“You became what you hated.”
McGumory dropped his head and the tears flowed. “I did. What they did to me I did a hundred fold. God, I deserve the hottest part of hell.”
James, “That you do! But so does everyone. We are all guilty before God.”
McGumory lifted his head. The tears washed streaks down his face and into his beard. “I don’t think any are worse than me.”
James, “There have been men and will be men that commit greater atrocities than you. Hundreds of years ago there was a man named Genghis Khan who lead his army to kill over 40 million people. Compared to him you are not that bad. But God does not compare us to other people. He compares us to Jesus. McGumory, you like myself, fall well short of that example.”
McGumory replied, “Hell shall be my home.”
James, “It doesn’t have to be. In John 11:26 Jesus said, “And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die...” Jesus just ask that you believe that when he died on the cross that he died for your sins, the murders, the thefts, the rapes, the lying and all the others. Jesus wants you to trust him about your eternal future.”
“You telling me that if I will just believe in Jesus that he will forgive me?”
“Yes,” James said, “It is that simple.”
“But why?” He looks at the arrow wound still seeping blood. “I’m dead. There is nothing I can do for him.”
“You can believe.”
“But that won’t be fair.”
James shakes his head, “No McGumory, it isn’t fair that the holy son of God, who never sinned, died in your place for your sins, and he offers you his righteous. The Bible says in Romans 3:25, ‘Whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.'”
McGumory, “God is willing to pass over my sins if I just have faith?”
“Yes, McGumory you know that you are guilty and deserve much worse than death, more so than other people realize their own guilt.”
McGumory interrupts, “I do.”
“God is reaching out his hand through Jesus saying. You are about to die but it does not have to be eternal. Jesus will justify you if you believe. Those sins will be punished on the cross. It is a peace beyond understanding.”
“I want that peace. How do I get it?”
McGumory looked up at the ceiling of the cave, “Oh, God, I am so sorry, I have lived a life that was worthless. Please forgive me for I trust that Jesus paid for my sins.” At that moment McGumory felt a change in the presence of his heart that amounted to the greatest relief in life. The burdens he had carried were all gone. His eyes streamed tears of joy.
James pulled out a hymn book and together they sang a couple of songs. Then James read passages beginning in the Gospel of John and skipping all over as McGumory asked questions.
“James, you said in the place you are from they know I died here.”
“Yes, I am from the future. An amateur historian doing research on you traced you to here. It took him awhile to get the resources but they dug out the cave mouth and found your body here.”
“But no one will know the importance of the decision I made.”
James, “What are you thinking?”
“In my pack over there is a little note book and pencil, my diary of a sorts. Give them to me.”
James dug though the pack and found the items.
McGumory took the note book and opened it up.
James asks, “What is in it?”
“I kept track of my crimes.” McGumory updated the men killed by two filling in the details of how. “I am glad it is the last entry of such.” Then he wrote, “To the man who finds this book. The record of wrongs that I kept shows the kind of man I was but in the last hour God changed me. I have no opportunity to spread the message of the Lord Jesus Christ except to you. Don’t waste your life like me. Serve the Lord. In 1st Corinthians it speaks of our works being tested by fire. I shall enter heaven smelling of smoke for I have no good works. I encourage you to do better.”
McGumory looked at James, “Will the notebook survive?”
James, “I don’t know. When I left to come here all they had announced was that your body had been found.”
McGumory smiled, “I suppose it is best to not know.” McGumory laid the notebook down and the pencil on top. “I don’t think I have much longer.”
“Read to me some more please.”
James opened his Bible and began to read. McGumory relaxed against the wall and closed his eyes. Twenty minutes later the blood having soaked his clothes McGumory stopped breathing. James stood and collected his things. He walked to the corner and was gone.
One hundred and thirty years later, Grayson Donald was standing at a table in a tent just outside the cave. He is ecstatically flipping through a little notebook, snapping high resolution photos of each page. He had been fascinated by Billy McGumory ever since his grandfather told him as a little boy that he was related to the famous outlaw.
Sandra his wife had chided him many times that being related to an outlaw was nothing to be proud of. It had been a let down a couple of years ago when he learned that his great, great, great grandmother Mira had been raped by McGumory. Though Mira had hated McGumory, she wrote in her diary that she had forgiven him because her son was a great blessing from God out of that great evil.
Sandra walks in, “Any thing interesting in the book.”
Grayson, “Yes, we are going to have to revise his kill count. He has most of the names of everyone he killed. Apparently in the rubble of the cave entrance we should find two more bodies.”
Sandra stood next to Grayson. He took the last picture and then sealed the book in a bag to try to preserve it. He slid his laptop over and transferred the pictures to it.
Sandra flipped through the pictures. “How much did you read?”
“I just glanced at it.”
“Did you know the last page is written to you?”
“What?” He sat down next to her.
They read together, “To the man who finds this book. The record of wrongs that I kept shows the kind of man I was but in the last hour God changed me. I have no opportunity to spread the message of the Lord Jesus Christ except to you. Don’t waste your life like me. Serve the Lord. In 1st Corinthians it speaks of our works being tested by fire. I shall enter heaven smelling of smoke for I have no good works. I encourage you to do better.”
Sandra started laughing. A couple of assistants came in. “What is it?”
Grayson just sat there with a dumbfounded look on his face.
Sandra had fallen to the floor and was rolling around laughing and thanking God. She relaxed and asked, “When did my husband say he would go to church with me?”
Claire responded, “He said if McGumory got saved he would go to church with you.”
Sandra still on the floor said, “Look at the computer.”
Claire and Dan read McGumory’s last passage.
Grayson asked, “Who tampered with the evidence?”
Sandra sat up, “Oh, honey you know better than that. You were the first in the cave. You collected the book. You have not let it out of your sight ever since. God has got you!”
A reporter came in, “So can I run with the story. It is the body of Billy McGumory, right?”
Claire looked at the reporter, “Yes, it is.”
Grayson nodded. He continued to sit in stuned silence pondering in his heart. Claire and Dan returned to their work outside the tent.
Sandra looked at Grayson’s face, “Going to church won’t be that bad. Pastor James is great and a bit of a history buff himself. He knew who Billy McGumory was when I told him about your hobby.”
Grayson turning to look at Sandra sighed, “I was thinking, could a man like McGumory be forgiven and what am I going to do now that I have found him?”
Sandra smiled, “Yes, McGumory could be forgiven by God. God’s Word is clear on that. As for what is next. Well, you’ve always been a little proud about being related to him. Do what he said. Do better.”
Grayson straightened in his chair, “Well, I believe I have.”
Sandra stood up and gave Grayson a kiss on his cheek, “Not stealing, not killing and not rapping is not what he meant by doing better. Read his last words again.” Then she pulled from her back pack that was laying on the table a new Bible that she had been waiting for the right time to give it to him. “Maybe you should make studying this your new hobby.”
Grayson picked up the Bible and smiled.
by Jessie Dasher
Thanks to Ronny, my every helpful editor and wife.