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The Sons of Daniel Shaye
He never expected that a handful of dirt striking the top of a coffin would make such a loud sound.
Daniel Shaye stepped back from his wife's open grave to allow his three sons to approach. One at a time they opened their hands and let the dirt fall. Each time it sounded loud as a drum to Shaye.
The three boys stepped back and stood abreast of their father, and the four of them folded their hands in front of them. As the townspeople filed by them, offering their condolences, the four men stood like stone. No one in the town had done a thing while Ethan Langer and his gang had ridden Mary Shaye down in the street while making their escape after robbing the bank. Neither her husband nor any of her sons would ever forgive them for that.
The last to approach them was the reverend.
"You can't hold these good people responsible for what happened, Daniel," Reverend Henry Mitchell said.
"Why not, Reverend?" Shaye asked.
"It was not their job to try and stop those bank robbers."
"Job?" Shaye asked. "Who's talking about a job, Reverend? They had a moral obligation to try to help my wife. Any sort of action might have caused that gang to stop, or swerve, or change direction. Mary was just crossing the street, carrying a bolt of fabric in her arms, and those animals trampled her into the dirt. That was no way for a woman to die -- no way for my wife to die. It was senseless."
"Still -- "
"Save your breath, Reverend." Thomas Shaye, at twenty-five, was the oldest of the three sons. Physically, however, he resembled his mother, favoring her slighter frame over his father's powerful one. "Ain't none of us listenin'."
"We wouldn't be listenin' if God Hisself was talkin'," said James, nineteen.
"That's blasphemy, boy," the reverend said sternly, but he took a step back when twenty-three- year-old Matthew, the largest of the boys, spoke.
"It was blasphemy what happened to our maw, Reverend!" he snapped. "If there even was a God, why would He let that happen?"
Henry Mitchell had been the reverend in Epitaph, Texas, for thirteen years. He'd known Daniel Shaye and his family since they moved to town twelve years ago. He not only considered himself the keeper of their souls, but he thought of Daniel Shaye as a good friend.
He recovered his composure and said to Daniel, "You should tell your boys not to blaspheme the Lord, Dan -- "
"My wife is dead, Henry," Dan Shaye said, cutting him off. "You think I care what you or the Lord thinks?"
"You're all grieving," Mitchell said. "I know you don't mean what you're saying -- "
"Reverend," Daniel Shaye said, "when have you ever known me not to mean what I say? And I raised my boys the same way. We speak our minds, and right now we don't have God in our minds, or in our hearts."
"What then? Vengeance?" Mitchell asked.
"You bet," Shaye said.
"As sheriff of Epitaph it's your job to capture those men, and bring the money they stole back to town, Daniel," Mitchell said. "Vengeance should have nothing to do with that."
"It's my job to catch 'em, Reverend," Shaye said, "but it's gonna be my pleasure to kill 'em."
With that he turned and walked away from his wife's grave. They had chosen to bury her out in a field behind their house, and not on Boot Hill with all the others. He had not wanted his loving wife to be buried with any of those miscreants on the hill.
Thomas, Matthew, and James Shaye all gave the reverend one last, hard look and then turned and followed their father back to the house.
The boys found their father standing in front of the cold fireplace, staring, arms folded. They exchanged anxious looks, but none of them said a word for several moments. When their father failed to acknowledge them, Thomas finally took it upon himself to break the silence.
Shaye didn't answer.
"Pa?" Thomas said again.
"Boys," Shaye said, without turning.
"What are we gonna do, Pa?" Thomas asked.
Daniel Shaye moved one hand, passed it across his face, then refolded his arms again.
"I'm going after the gang," he finally said.
"Alone?" Thomas asked.
"With a posse."
"It's been three days, Pa," Matthew said.
"That's okay, Matthew," Shaye said. "I'll find them."
"Can we come, Pa?" James asked.
Now Shaye turned to face his sons. "No."
"But Pa -- " Thomas said.
"No," Shaye said again, sternly. "Your mother would never forgive me if anything happened to you boys."
"Ma's dead, Pa," Thomas said. "We've got to do somethin'."
"I know that, Thomas," Shaye said. "The answer is still no."
"Pa -- " James started.
"The discussion is over."
He turned and faced the fireplace again. The boys looked at each other and remained silent, but they knew the discussion was not over.Leaving Epitaph
The Sons of Daniel Shaye. Copyright © by Robert Randisi. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.