It was nearly midnight when Jim Black drove his Harley into the driveway of his quarter-million-dollar home. A year ago, at the age of fifty, he had bought his first house. Four bedrooms were much more than he needed for himself and his computer equipment, but the house was close to Pyramid Church and it had fiber optic broadband access.
Jim had been cruising the Galleria area for two hours, postponing the inevitable purification ritual. It was his only means of absolution. He parked his bike in the garage and walked through the back yard to the tool shed. He went in, shut the door, and locked it. The windows were covered with cardboard and duct tape to seal in the light.
He picked up a cigarette lighter from the workbench and lit the three candles on the gold-plated candelabra. The act of flicking the lighter brought back the sensual memory of his smoking days—the aroma of that first cigarette in the morning or after a meal, the warmth filling his lungs, the beta-endorphins kicking in. Oh, how he missed it. He’d given up the habit twenty-five years ago, soon after entering prison, and replaced it with other pleasures, like murdering fellow inmates—and never getting caught. What a fun game it was. But then he found God. Now, on those rare occasions when it was necessary to take a life, it was not for Jim’s own pleasure, but in service to his Lord.
He plugged in the soldering iron and waited for it to heat up.
During the last year of his incarceration, Jim had found Jesus after listening to Pastor Kap Krenshaw on TV. The Pyramid Church pastor had spoken to his evil heart and somehow broken through. Now Jim would spend the rest of his days on Earth as a servant of God.
He removed his leather jacket, shirt, and undershirt, and placed them on the workbench. Jim’s arms and chest were unnaturally large for a man who didn’t take steroids. Twenty-eight years of pumping iron in the prison yard could do that for a man. He still worked out regularly to maintain his rock-hard muscles.
Jim sat down on a stool and picked up the soldering iron. The tip was beginning to smoke. He eased the hot tip toward his chest. It was at this point that he always became weak—and Jim hated himself for being weak. He prayed the words that Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane: O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me—nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.
But he already knew the answer—he must suffer for the transgressions of others. It was because of their sin that Jim had to kill them. And now, they were the cause of his suffering.
He touched the scalding hot iron to his chest, clenching his teeth to avoid screaming and waking up all his neighbors. Then he dragged it downward, creating a vertical line on his chest. The stench of burning flesh filled his nostrils. Next he pulled the tip away and placed it back in its original position and dragged it downward at a slight angle, then upward at an angle, and finally straight down.
Jim set the soldering iron down on the workbench and picked up a hand mirror. He studied his face, comparing it to the picture of Jesus on the wall. Same long hair and manicured beard. Then he angled the mirror to examine his chest.
Yes, it was finished. He had branded himself with the letter M.
End of Excerpt
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