“Everyone be quiet and stay calm and no one will get hurt,” the gunman commanded. “The shot was an accident. No sudden noises.”
Antonio knew that if the police were not outside by now, they would be soon. He also knew the gunman was becoming more nervous by the minute and he did not want to get caught in the middle, which was now an increasingly likely situation.
“The police are going to be here soon, if they aren’t here now. I’d like to help you if I can,” Antonio said in the most calming voice he could muster with his nerves on overdrive.
“Why would you do that?
“Because I’m a preacher and it’s my job to help people with their problems.”
“So how can you help?”
“I have a cell phone with the number of the sheriff and he will listen to me.”
“Why would he do that?”
“I helped his family out. Like I said, it’s what I do.”
“Why should I trust you?”
“I’m a preacher, for God’s sake! I don’t have an ulterior motive.”
“A reason for lying to you. Just let me call him. If you don’t like what I say you can shoot me. And I wouldn’t give you a reason to do that. But I need to know why you’re doing this. Are you here to rob them?”
“I’m not here to rob the place. I’m not sure how things got this far. Make the call.”
Antonio could sense desperation in the man’s voice. He hadn’t always been a preacher and he knew the difference between an evil man and a desperate one. He pulled out his phone and called Sheriff Martinez.
“Hello, Antonio. I’m a little occupied at the moment.”
“No more than I, Oscar. I’m in the restaurant with the gunman’s arm around my chest.” He felt the gunman relax his hold a bit.
“Was anyone hurt by the shot?”
“No, someone dropped something in the kitchen which surprised him and he reacted. The bullet went into the counter after going through a chair.”
“What does he want?”
“That’s what we’re trying to ascertain. If you’ll let us get to the chapel, we’ll try to resolve the situation without involving the people in here. We’ll be coming out the main door.”
“You got a line on this nimrod?”
“So far anyway. But remember, he’s one of God’s people.”
“But not one of the chosen, Antonio. Call me when you’re in the chapel.”
“First chance I get.” Antonio hung up the phone and returned it to his pocket.
“What’s the chapel?” the gunman said in his ear, tightening the grip on his chest.
“The semitrailer in the parking lot. I’m surprised you missed it.”
“I wasn’t looking for a chapel.” He pushed Antonio toward the door between the two rooms.
“Point taken,” Antonio said as he reached out with his hand and unlocked the door.
The gunman put the pistol in his pocket and stayed behind Antonio. Antonio nodded slightly to Fred as they passed the cash register. The two men walked out the front door of the truck stop and headed for the trailer. Police cars were parked in front of the restaurant. A group of officers gathered behind the cars watching the two walk toward the chapel. .
As the two men walked up the steps of the trailer, Antonio glanced toward the restaurant. A couple of deputies were coming out of the door looking toward the chapel. The gunman followed Antonio into the chapel and locked the door behind him. Antonio walked over to his desk, swiveled the chair around, and sat down facing the gunman.
“So now that we’re here alone, what do I call you?” Antonio asked him.
The gunman held the gun on Antonio and looked confused. He was trying to get straight in his head the significant turn his original, albeit on-the-fly, plan had taken.
“I’m Jason,” he said finally.
“Well, Jason, I’m Antonio. Brother Antonio. Sheriff Martinez is expecting me to call him shortly and have the answers to some questions. Why don’t you tell me your story and let’s figure out how to wrap this thing up, whatever it is. What brought you to the truck stop with a gun?”
“A flat tire, an escapee from jail, a woman, two barbeque sandwiches, and a few bad choices,” Jason said with a sigh and look of resignation.
[Peace be with you.]