Smith looked at the cross and Lead. His eyes squinted in the light. He scratched the hair on his bulbous stomach.

“Come in, Preacher. May the knowledge of man and the intent of our Lord and Savior purge our inherited Earth of sin and filth which brought us into these dark times,” Smith recited back.

Lead walked into the Radioman’s home, a two-story survivor of the Storms. It was a true house of the Broken Times with space and carpet and luxury now soiled by odor, dirt, and the habits of its resident.

Lead followed Smith through the darkness of the lobby into a room sunlit by glowing, opaque plastic sheets. The floor was composed of tile, still beautiful despite its many long cracks and years. Smith’s radio sat on a kitchen counter. Next to it was a metal basin and a faucet harkening to the days of automatic water. In his mind’s eye, Lead saw water flow from the contraption, unending and unearned.

Smith watched Lead stare at the basin and assumed he had a taste for things worldly. His mind calculated odds and profits.

“If you stand with any spare notes, Preacher, I’m sure we can come to an arrangement for you to pay bounty on contraband.” Smith opened a cupboard and pulled down a cardboard box. He beckoned for Lead to look into it. The box held bottles of spirits and ancient picture books, once called magazines, laid open to pages of fornication and scantily clad women. Lead’s stomach tightened at the sight of all the banished goods and sin.

“Radioman, I suggest you turn over your contraband to the Havasu Parish or in the very least burn such items under the sun and in the presence of your Lord. To keep these is a sin and an abomination.” Lead said, keeping his voice cold and unexcited.

Smith’s demeanor changed instantly. He realized his miscalculation regarding the worldliness of Lead.

“I apologize sir…er…Preacher. If I have offended you with the sight of this…” Smith stammered. “After your work here has run its course, I will be sure to submit all to the Havasu Parish or burn it to ash.” Smith forced his face to show no surprise or frustration; he smiled again, flashing those tilted, stained teeth.

“It’s alright and unnecessary, Radioman, I’ll dispose of them.” Lead said. He placed a hand on the box and the other to his chest, over the Van Cleef, a gesture serving as a reminder.

Smith’s face kept its neutrality.

“Of course, Preacher, I would be honored if thou would dispose of this contraband on my behalf,” he said.

The two stared at each other in silence. Lead tightened his grip on his Van Cleef; Smith shoved the box towards him and turned away. Smith kept the fake smile on his face and continued as though nothing had transpired between the two.

“Here is the information on thy hunted Mark.” Smith said with increased formality. He took chunk of cardboard from his pocket and set it on the counter.

Lead slowly translated the markings. The interpreting of symbols and letters had not been a strength in his training and any reading he did was performed in slow deliberation.

The mark was in Yucca, domiciled in a hermitage alone amongst the sand and beasts. Here was a man whose life had brought him to a shack in the middle of blighted earth, without reason committed to paper. Here was a fugee. Lead traced his finger over the map. Here was a man found wrong with the Lord and Church and thus needed to be punished or smote.

“What did he do?” Lead asked.

Smith leered at Lead’s lapse in etiquette.

“Tis not for you to know or inquire, Preacher, a mark’s offense is between himself and the good Lord.”

Lead looked at Smith’s smug and hateful face. The reek of Smith’s dirty skin permeated everything. Lead felt smothered by it. A hatred swelled within Lead for this petty officer of the Church, this sinful feudal lord of Kingman, with his fools’ technology and backsliding.

Lead’s hand shot out with trained speed. His fingers twisted into Smith’s beard. Smith let out a surprised yelp and jerked his head. Lead spun the Radioman into a head lock, and planted a boot firmly behind Smith’s knee. They both collapsed to the ground, with Lead’s arms wrapped tightly around Smith’s head and neck.

“Don’t toy with me filth! For what offense must I apprehend?” Lead hissed into ear.

Smith struggled against the hold. Lead noticed a tattoo of a drop of water at the corner of Smith’s mouth disappear into a dimple as he swallowed.

“Tis not for me or you, Preacher, but tis for the Lord, and the mark, and the parish to know, ask not of me which I know not.” Smith gasped. The drop of water again disappeared into a dimple.

Lead shoved the Radioman away and rolled to his feet. He felt soiled from the physical contact.

Smith scuttled like a wounded beast into a shadowed corner of the room.

“Tisn’t proper for a Preacher to question Parish,” Smith whispered from the darkness.

Lead took a pouch of silver notes from his belt and tossed it next to the radio. He took the box of contraband.

“If I hear you have defamed me to the parish, I will smite thee with no hesitation or remorse,” Lead said and left.

That evening Lead hunkered next to a tumbleweed fire in the sand between Kingman and Yucca regions. The heat of day was erased and forgotten by night’s chill and all the desert’s creatures for which day does not exist.

Lead contemplated the night, set to the tune of crickets who were legion and insatiable. He took the magazines from the box and poured the bottles of spirits onto the earth. The liquid fell through the sand as though it were without corporal presence, absorbed without stain. The spirits joined the earth, where they had once started, where all life and matter had once started at God’s behest. Lead looked over pages of naked women, of men and women engaged in intercourse. His face was warmed by the fire and feelings he did not trust within himself, guilt and excitement built at the sight of blatant sin. More than the fornication, he was fascinated by the physical locations of the lovers. Some did their act on lustrous red vehicles, versions of which Lead had only seen twisted in the dust. Others fornicated in rooms with large beds, which made Lead think of home and mother and the comfort of a childhood that lived on in flashes and dreams. Some pictures showed daylight with a blue sky. Lead often thought of a blue sky. His sky was various shades of yellow and orange, with a sunset shift to purple and pink fire.

Lead looked at the wrist of a naked tattooed man adorned with a beautiful jeweled watch. He had seen such luxury on the wrists of Bishops, but only from a distance. It was brilliant as though crafted from the stars and bits of what falls from heavens during the darkest nights. Lead touched the page, wishing that the watch would become real and fall out and be his.

He spent the long evening staring at the watch before flinging it and the rest of the sinful books into the fire. He slept with dreams of himself riding a white steed in front a crowd of adoring followers, a beautiful, jeweled timepiece on his wrist.

Lead stood at the wrought-iron door feeling his breath enter and leave his lungs. He had left his mule tied to an overturned car a half hour away to ensure a quiet approach. Lead closed his eyes and felt the rough texture of the door under his fingertips. The shack was constructed from scrap boards and planks of plywood, tin, and iron. An old mare stood saddled and tied to a stake. A wooden shingle propped against the shack named it CIBOLA in uneven tar letters.

Lead pressed his palm against the door. Heat radiated from the iron. He pushed lightly, silently. It did not budge. Lead pulled his hand back and opened his eyes. He watched the sweat of his fingers evaporate from the door’s surface. Lead took two steps and kicked out.

The door flung off its hinges and landed in a cascade of dust. An older man sat on a leather coach inside, turning the page of a book. The man contemplated the busted door with apparent disinterest then returned to his book.

“About time you showed up, Preacher,” the man said. “I was thinking they had forgotten me.”

The man dropped his book to the dusty floor and placed his hands, palms-down, on the polished wooden table in front of him. He lifted his face to examine Lead with rheumy blue eyes.

“I’m glad the waiting’s done just the same,” he said.

Lead raised his silver cross. “I am here under the authority of our Lord and Savior to speak with Terence

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