Chapter 11

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Tuscaloosa, Alabama

Ben Gibson always wondered if he'd been meant for a higher purpose than being the manager of a Fatty Burger, but it's not like he'd had a lot of help in life. His parents were kind enough but had no money to help him go to college. He'd started working the drive-through as a teenager, met a girl somewhere along the way. He grew up, got married, had a kid and by thirty, he was pretty much set in his ways. The corporate fast food chain paid so little that he'd never escape poverty, but just enough that he kept coming back.

After a late shift wrapped up, he sent his employees home, closed up shop and locked the front door behind him. He was about to walk away when he heard a voice call out to him.

"Change, mister?"

That bum. He'd been there all night. His clothing was ragged and he wore a hat pulled down over his grimy face. Ben told himself to just walk away, but he didn't. He checked on the down and out fellow.

"How are you?"

"Oh, I've been better, mister," the bum said. "I've had my ups and downs and I do reckon this here is the longest down period I've ever had."

Ben reached into his pocket, pulled out what little change he had, then tucked it into the bum's hand. "Here you go."

The bum smiled. "Oh, thank you mister. God bless you."

"Say, listen," Ben said. "You can't stay here forever. I had a few customers complain you were hassling them for change."

"Oh, I'm sorry, mister," the bum said. "I'll be good. I won't bother anyone anymore. Please don't call the cops."

"I'm not going to call the cops," Ben said. "I just think you might be better off at a shelter. The church down the street runs a nice.."

"You know," the bum said. "I hate to be a burden but it's been so long since I've had a nice meal. If you've got anything that's just lying around, collecting mold, I don't care how bad it is. If it's just something you're going to throw away anyway, I'll take it."

Ben looked at his watch. It was late and his wife would be worried if he didn't get home soon. Even so, he was a religious man who went to church every Sunday. He offered the bum a hand, pulling him to his feet.

"Yeah," Ben said. "Follow me around back. I'll get you something."

The bum followed the manager around a corner to a locked door. "Bless your heart, mister. There's surely a spot in heaven for you for helping me, that's for sure."

"Yeah," Ben said as he pulled out his key ring. "Let's just not make this a habit, OK? I can't do this every night, but if you want, I'll give you a ride to the shelter and..."

Click. The hammer of a Remington brand .45 revolver was cocked. The cold steel was pressed against the manager's temple.

"Stick 'em up."

The manager put his hand in the air.

"Turn around."

Ben obeyed the command. He found himself staring face to face with a large man. He didn't know it yet, but he was in the presence of the last knight of humanity, and his trusty squire, who had just exercised his acting chops while portraying a bum.

"Fellas," Ben said. "We didn't have much of a haul tonight, but you're welcome to everything we have. I'll just go in, clear out the cash register for you and you can be on your way."

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