This is a favorite chapter of readers of The Wayfaring Stranger.
Joe looked at the knife he already knew too well. He had felt its cold steel against his neck. He was facing a killer and he was now at a great disadvantage.
They circled each other like two dogs. Amos was moving the handle of the knife from hand to hand. ”Which hand do you want me to kill you with? I’m pretty good with either. Do you have a preference, dead man?”
Joe couldn’t answer. First of all, he was too scared. Secondly, he was feeling with his foot for something—the Reverend had placed it and told him right where it would be, but he couldn’t find it at this moment he needed it most. He was afraid to take his eyes off Amos.
Then he felt something against his foot and knew he had found it. At this exact moment as Joe carefully reached down, a loud shout rang out from the nearby trees, “Unfair. Unfair.” It was the loud deep voice of an older man. It shook both Joe and Amos Long because of its volume and authority.
Amos turned to find the source of the shout.
A cold chill ran through him as he saw Father Joseph Willis—Reverend Joseph Willis—standing not twenty feet from he and Moore. Willis was a massive man and his physical presence was enough to gain the attention of any man, in spite of the fact that he was over eighty years old and leaning on two walking canes.
It was the rich voice shouting “Unfair” that stunned Amos. It was as if a clap of thunder had rumbled—or the very voice of God had spoken! Because to the Redbones of Ten Mile, Reverend Willis was the voice of God! Even to a non-churchgoer like Amos Long, this old man was respected.
Amos looked sheepishly at the knife in his hand and glanced at the boy standing across from him clad in only his trousers. The words as well as the glare of the old preacher—Unfair! burned into his mind. He turned away from Joe and opened his mouth as if to—
However, no words ever came from the lips of Amos Long—because suddenly everything in his world flashed a white hot, as his head seemed to explode.
The white heat centered in the right side of his forehead and seemed to settle down his neck and into his chest. Then he felt or remembered nothing. . .
Joe Moore stood over the collapsed big man, who was out cold. He smiled sheepishly at the old preacher as he held the pine knot club he had just used to hit Amos up side the head. It was a three-foot long heart of pine stick. On the hitting end, it had a large knot about the size of a man’s fist. It was perfectly shaped and weighted for what it had just been used for.
Joe said, “Reverend, that pine knot club was right where you said it’d be.”
“Well, Son, it looks as if you used it pretty well. That’s why I called it an ‘equalizer.’“ Pointing at the big knife still gripped in Amos’ hand, he added, “Babe, and it looks like you were in need of a good equalizer, too!”
“And I t’ank you, sir.”
“You’re welcome. I wouldn’t have missed what I jest seed for all of the tea in Chiner.”
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