By Gary McGath
Copyright 2014 by Gary McGath. All rights reserved.
This is a work of fan fiction. All trademarks, references to published works of fiction, and allusions to familiar characters are for purposes of entertainment or satire only. This is not a commercial work and is not offered for sale.
"So, Mr. Marley," said the prosecutor, "you're charged with fatally shooting the sheriff and his deputy. Two charges of second-degree murder."
"I ain't guilty of either one. I didn't shoot the deputy. The sheriff, yeah, I shot him, but only because he was trying to kill me. Kill me, not arrest me."
"Why should the sheriff have been trying to kill you? Maybe because you were trying to kill him first?"
"No! I swear it was in self-defense. It's a rather long story. May I, Judge?"
"Go ahead," said the judge. "We've got time. But I'll cut you off if I don't see some relevance."
"I've got a cousin in England, his name's Jacob. Same last name as mine. Or rather, I had a cousin. Died early this year. I found out when his ghost came to me."
"We haven't got time for ghost stories here, Marley," the judge began, but the prosecutor said, "Oh, let him tell his tale. I don't mind if he hangs himself with it. Let me guess, this ghost told you you had to kill the sheriff before he killed you?"
"No, not at all! He told me I'd been living a nasty, violent life, and I ought to mend my ways before it's too late. He was pretty convincing, too, I tell you. I could feel the hellfire when he talked to me. So I told him I'd stop my fighting and drinking. You all know I'd been doing too much of those. Now I knew it."
"So you're now a reformed man?"
"I hoped I'd be. But Jacob said there's something really important I had to do. He let me see things about the sheriff. Horrible things, you wouldn't believe."
"I see," said the prosecutor, grinning broadly. "Please do go on."
"He said I had to go into the old Lawson house."
"The plague house. Where we found the bodies in front of."
"That one. But it's not a plague house. You might not believe me, but I'm talking about the big war between Heaven and Hell, and the sheriff was on the bad side. He nailed that house up 'cause of what was in it. My job was to free the prisoner."
"To free a prisoner. A live prisoner in the Lawson house, which no one's entered for three years."
"'Tweren't no ordinary prisoner. And it weren't no ordinary prison. I went down in the middle of the night. It was a lot of work getting the door unbarred, and I guess I wasn't so quiet. I got it open, went inside, and I saw ... Lord, what I saw was glory! But then I heard. Behind me. It was the deputy, saying, 'Hey, Marley, what you doing there?'
"I told him, 'Just look! This is what the sheriff's been keeping locked up in here.' Poor deputy. He was a good fellow. He saw what I saw, and said, 'Holy Lord!' It just took him a minute, then he started helping me. There were still things, wards, Jacob called them, that I had to undo. We almost had them all done. Then there was a shot. The deputy fell over. I turned around and saw the sheriff. He said, 'Nice try, Marley, but I can't let you do this.' He was ready to get off a shot at me, would've done it if he hadn't stopped to gloat. But I had my gun out as soon as I'd heard the deputy shot, and I got him first."
"Nice story, Marley. If you hold with ghosts and demon powers and all that. I don't suppose you have a witness?"
"No, I'm afraid I —"
"He has a witness."
The courtroom was suffused with glowing light. Everyone could feel it, not just the illumination but the aura of holiness, of being in the presence of something divine. Even the words they heard seemed to have a tinge of purple.
"Marley sought me out and freed me from my imprisonment by the demonic powers, aided by their human servant the sheriff, who tried to kill him for his brave act. The only aid I gave him was to enable him to shoot first under implausible circumstances. Marley is innocent. He is blessed, and may the Lord's blessing be upon you all. I return now to my heavenly abode."
The light faded. The crowd was dead silent. The prosecutor leaned against the wall for support and said, "It appears we have to drop the charges against you, Marley. He tried to kill you because — because —"
"Because I sought the seraph."