“I’ll ask again,” The Deputy continued, shifting his weight nervously from one foot to the other, “What’s your business here?” Deputy Abel James already knew the answer, but wanted the old man to play along, since there were many patrons present in the tavern. Some of those same patrons had made complaints about the strange old man, who seemed to be asking a lot of penetrating questions of the people. To them this stranger was just nosing around too much and the small, close community of dairy and produce farmers found him unsettling.
“You know,” the old man responded, I’ve been around a whole lot of places, I’ve met all kinda people, but I ain’t never met any who didn’t welcome me, feed me and put me up if I needed a place.” he paused guzzling down the last of his beer, “Until I came here, so I'll be leaving now.” The old man added as he stood up. Giving the deputy a final glare, he made his way to the door. Turning back once more, he faced down the stare of the bar’s patrons. “You people ever read Hebrews chapter thirteen, verse two?
The people only continued their starring in silence, Deputy Abel as well.
“It says, Don’t neglect to show hospitality to strangers,” he said wagging his pointer finger at them, “For some have entertained angels without knowing.”
“Ok, that’s it!” Deputy Abel said, grasping him by the shoulder to forcibly push him out.
"Shoulda gave them some good book teachin' in all the time you been here." The old man whispered close to the Deputy's ear.
"Later, now please go." Deputy Abel hissed at the man when he knew he was out of ear shot from the people.
Outside the glass door of the bar, the old man gave the deputy a nod. The deputy returned the acknowledgement, then came back, taking a seat at one of the side tables.
"Why didn't ya arrest him, A.J.?" A man asked from a nearby table.
"Nothing to charge him for," the deputy replied.
" But he was meddling folks, " A lady at another table added.
"And came trespassing on our land when he did." Said her husband seated with her.
As others in the bar joined in a chorus of complaints, a soft voice at his side drowned them out, "Want coffee AJ?"
Looking up at her with a weak smile, he nodded.
Sherrie poured the coffee, giving a gentle touch to his shoulder as she headed back behind the counter, adding her voice in support of AJ, “Give him a break, people. I mean after all, he chased those gangs out of here a few years back.What makes you think he can’t handle one little old man?”
AJ simply smiled as he took a deep drink of his black coffee. He could always count on Sherrie to back him up and she could always count on him. They had become close after the victory over some violent hired thugs a few years ago. She, being a young widow with two small children, was in need of more than just a casual friend and despite his best efforts, he was becoming more than casual. AJ found her to be warm and welcoming even with his distant manners. As an added issue, he found he enjoyed being around her children and struggled against growing close to them as well, but was also losing this battle.
AJ had celebrated over the expulsion of the troublemakers with her, becoming excessively drunk and passing out in her bed. He awoke remembering nothing of the night, just sensations of warmth and comfort as he laid beside her. AJ didn't want to hurt her, but he somehow managed to convince her there could be nothing more than friendship between them. Josette became more endearing when she didn't seem upset. She only sighed, said she understood and assumed he had another love in his life. Not wanting to dwell on thoughts of her for too long, he returned attention to the matter at hand.
“Listen folks,” he began, as he straightened in his seat, “I did some checks on the old man. His name is Amos Jacobson and he’s not an agent of the Comer Oil Company like some of you were suspecting. He’s not sent here by anybody trying to take your properties from you. He’s just a wandering old man that isn’t good at making friends.”
Some of the people exchanged glances among themselves, while others snickered softly.
Building on the assurance he was giving them, he continued, “You all remember how we fought hard to run out those hoodlums Comer Oil had sent in and how you all stood strong, not giving in to selling to them even when they were setting fires and trying to turn you all against each other to get you to sell. You won because you all stood together. As long as you keep that up, there’s no one that can come against you and win”
“Amen!” Sherrie shouted from behind the counter, ”Couldn't have said it any better!”
“Well, I believe that,” Mrs. McCall said from her usual corner seat in the tavern, “And I remember when things got rough and that gang wanted a fight, our AJ took them out!”
“Yeah," her friend next to her, Mrs. Brown added, Sheriff Mason was helpless against them after he got injured. He would’ve died right then, if it hadn’t been for our AJ.”
One of the men at the bar broke in, “I was there when AJ took out about a dozen of them at one time, nobody was there to help him, we were all hiding, scared for our lives. That man,” he pointed at AJ, “ fought them all, it was incredible! Those left standing, crawled away. The rest of them had to be carried away."
The remainder of the tavern's customers began all talking at once in praise of their heroic Deputy Abel James, though he couldn't glory in any of it. Neither would he give thought to taking a bow for his deeds. Instead, he always sought ways to bow out, avoiding their praise. Sensing it was time to leave, he finished his coffee and waved off the pouring of a second cup by Sherrie. Standing and heading for the door, he did a quick closure on the matter that had brought him there in the first place. "Concerning Mr. Amos Jacobson, he'll soon be on his way, Ok?"
They all nodded, saying their goodnights.
He realized he could never make them understand what was done those years ago, was his job. It had been his assignment.
Before heading home, he went to the Sheriff's Office. His boss, Sheriff Emmitt Greene was working late as usual. He still made use of a cane to walk as the injuries he suffered healed slowly but steadily.
"What are you doing here, AJ?"
"Finishing up some loose ends. Why are you still here?"
"Well," Sheriff Greene sighed, "Since I don't get around so good yet, and you do all the leg work these days, I figure the least I can do is help Myrtle with the paperwork, less typos that way and I get to feel useful."
AJ chuckled softly, "You sure about the less typos part?"
The Sheriff gave him a dirty look, causing AJ to laugh harder. "You can go home now." The sheriff began in mock anger. Some thanks I get, making sure your reports are done. Somebody that can't type at all…"
"I know, I know and I'm grateful, Emmitt." AJs smile faded as he added, "Maybe the next deputy you hire will be a decent typist too, so you can go back to what you're really good at. Protecting these people and guarding their peace."
Emmitt, who had turned his back to continue typing, turned back to face his deputy. " So you'll be leaving soon, huh? "
AJ, his head lowered, could only nod.
The Sheriff sighed deeply, I knew it. The minute I saw how you looked at that old man, I knew it." He stood, walking the few steps to face AJ. "I knew it," he repeated as he added, "You knew his name without making calls. I knew it…" he whispered as his voice trailed off.
"I've already stayed longer than I was supposed to," AJ said quietly, "that's why he's here."
"How soon will you be leaving?"
"Probably tonight" AJ answered.
"I'm saying it to you now." AJ replied barely above a whisper.
Sheriff Emmitt turned his back walking the few steps to retake his seat at the typewriter. "No goodbye to her either?"
"You know I can't "
Emmitt turned in the chair facing him. One look at AJ and he understood. "I know you can't, it's not part of your job is it?"
AJ slowly shook his head. "No, it isn't. My assignment is complete. Your people needed to know oppression can be overcome, injustice can be rectified and peace can become lasting. Too many communities like this one have fallen victim to hate and then destruction, because they failed to call out for a Peacemaker. You and your people made that call.. I came as directed.
"Directed by whom?" Emmitt asked in wonder.
"By the Peacekeeper of course," AJ smiled, "There is only one, but of us there are many. Amos is also one of our many."
Emmitt smiled, "Well, he needs to learn not to be so creepy."
"AJ smiled widely, "Goodbye, Sheriff and I'll make that suggestion to him."
"Goodbye Deputy," he said softly.
The sun had just slipped below the line of trees. He was headed down the road to his small house, a home he had known for a few too many years. Amos will be there waiting to discuss with him his successes and perhaps failures if any from this assignment. This was Amos' job. AJ however, felt all was a success as he held on to the warmth he had felt with her. He soon realized what the warmth was. He had given peace as part of his job. Sherrie and her people had given him peace in his job. He smiled, feeling more than ready for his next assignment.