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About the Author: Dr. Dennis E. Hensley is the author of more than 60 books, including the novels Pseudonym (Whitaker Publishers) and The Man Who Could Transfuse Time (By The Vine Press). He holds a Ph.D. in English from Ball State University.


Rev. Hal Cooper rechecked the handgun’s magazine, slapped it into the butt of the weapon, and dropped it into his right coat pocket. He leaned against a corner mailbox and turned up his overcoat collar. Detroit was always miserably cold in winter, but tonight seemed an especially bitter night for a murder.

But then, this couldn’t actually be termed a murder.  No, not a murder at all, God forbid.

God?

The young minister’s eyes narrowed. How would God ultimately judge this action of his? Would He understand the necessity?

Cooper shook his hands from his pockets and rubbed them vigorously. No … no, this was not the time to rehash the old debates, the arguments over good and evil, the rulings on just and unjust deeds. He had finalized his decision when he had purchased the gun yesterday, and he would stand by it: his adopted brother Gilbert Cooper would die tonight, December 10, 1975.

The anchoring heaviness of the loaded pistol weighted the pocket of the preacher’s dark overcoat. Though a complete stranger to weapons of any sort, Rev. Cooper felt a sense of awe and reverence and love for the powerful little mechanism. With it he held the power of life and death. With it he could be like the Most High God.

The weapon was not of the same metal that formed the gold cross around his neck, nor was it similar to the miniature bronze statues inside Brotherhood Chapel, the church he had founded three months ago after receiving his mail-order ordination papers. There was nothing mystical or sacred about the handgun. Cooper wouldn’t have to offer it a prayer. He wouldn’t even have to kneel before it. Instead, he merely would give it direction, apply pressure to it, and it would yield to his demands. No waiting, no hoping, and no rationalizing afterward if it failed to respond.

The young pastor automatically smiled as he considered these thoughts. Then suddenly his expression changed to panic.

“Good Lord!” he whispered hoarsely. “The safety!”

He stood erect.  With cautious hands he gingerly lifted the pistol from its makeshift holster. He held the weapon at arm’s length—as though it were dynamite that could explode in his face—and scrutinized it. The safety was on.

Cooper sighed heavily. Not being sure about things like that might cost him a foot or some toes. But he’d been lucky this time, thank God.

God?

Stop that! Don’t fear the name. It was through God’s teachings that this whole thing began. Why flinch when mentioning His name now that you’re coming to the end of it all?

Pastor Hal stamped his feet softly against the pavement to stimulate circulation. Cautiously, he stepped toward the nearby lighted sidewalk and peered down the street. No sign of Gilbert yet.

He checked his watch. Eleven-oh-eight. A little early yet. Gilbert’s shift at the factory had ended at ten-thirty, but he’d stop with his cronies at Jake’s for a few warmer-uppers before walking the eight blocks back home. Anytime now, though.

As the young minister slipped into the shadows of some shrubbery, his mind shifted back to his past. It had been a dark, cold night like this when he’d been taken from the orphanage to the home of Mr. and Mrs. Randall M. Cooper.

The Coopers already had one son, but childbirth complications left Mrs. Cooper unable to bear more children. The Coopers wanted a playmate for their only child. The procedure for adoption proved to be long and tedious. By the time they were able to receive a child, their own son Gilbert was already twelve. So it was then that ten-year-old Harold Metcalf (soon afterward known as Hal Cooper) was selected to become a member of their family.

Enmity between the two brothers was immediate. Gilbert had been accustomed to his regal position as the spoiled only child, and he very much resented having to share anything with the newcomer. Neither Abel nor Romulus had experienced the satanic tortures Hal endured under the neo-fraternal relationship he was thrust into.

Just thinking back to those early years caused the preacher to shiver. Gilbert had physically beaten him, once even cracked his ankle, and had never shown him an instant of benevolence.



This story appears in our NOV 2018 Issue
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