She is forced to marry someone she doesn’t love but an accident brings a scarred man to her doorstep. Will she listen to God’s calling and stand by her wounded soldier?
But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him.” Luke 10: 33-35
Prue is a caring young woman who works as a nurse in town. When an unknown man comes to the doctor’s, she runs to him, worried that he might end up like her now deceased father. Little did she know though that it was God who brought the stranger to her doorstep. How can she follow His plan when people around her urge her to abandon the young man?
Isaac could never imagine that his release day would also mean a tragedy. When he wakes up, bruised and beaten up by people he can’t remember, only Prue’s sweet face is his consolation. Slowly, he realizes that he’s not the Christian man he thinks he is and he used to be a sinner. How can he achieve redemption in God’s eyes when his past is still coming at him?
Standing before God with your other half needs an honest heart and clean soul. How will Prue and Isaac overcome their fears through their Godsent love against cunning schemers?
Millwood, Dakota Territory
“Prue! Come quick!”
Prue Farley turned around at Dr. Clelland’s urgent voice calling to her from outside the doctor’s tiny office. She had worked as a nurse for the aging doctor for a little over two years and had seen her share of emergencies, but for some reason, this felt different. Fear gripped her, wrapping itself around her heart like a big, ugly snake. She hurried across the dimly lit room, banging her hip on the wooden desk against the wall. She sent the doctor’s chair careening to the floor in her haste. She berated herself for being so clumsy. If the office had more than one window to let light through, that might have helped. When she looked up and saw who the doctor was bringing in, she froze.
“Pa!” Prue’s blood ran cold as she watched her father being carried into the room by two young men. Blood poured out of a gaping hole in his side, drenching the wooden floorboards in gore.
“Prue! Help me!” Dr. Clelland ordered, snapping her out of her momentary trance. She rushed to her father’s side, sliding her arm under his back. Warmth immediately soaked her sleeves as they lifted him onto the examining table. “Hold this to his chest.” Dr. Clelland handed her a white towel, and she pressed hard, her father wincing in pain. The room started to spin, and she took several deep breaths to try clear her head. This was no time to faint.
“What happened to you?” she breathed, tears springing to her eyes. Her father looked up at her, his eyes unseeing for a moment. He was fading fast, and there was nothing she could do about it. “It’s going to be alright, Pa. Just hang on.” As Marshal of the town, her father had been wounded plenty of times. But she had never seen him like this.
She glanced up at Dr. Clelland. After cutting his shirt off, he had begun examining the wounds in his abdomen. Prue helped remove the shirt, letting the edges dangling over the edge of the table. He had sustained three bullet wounds—one to the chest and two to the gut. He groaned as they situated him on the table, barely coherent. “Oh, God, please…” she prayed in desperation. When Dr. Clelland met her gaze, his eyes were filled with inexplicable sadness. He shook his head once and held a towel to the wounds in her father’s abdomen. Bile rose in her throat. “No!” Her mind shrieked. This could not be the end. “There must be something we can do…” she said fiercely.
He deftly shook his head, his eyes telling her what her mind refused to accept. “Use the time you have left with him wisely, Prue.”
Blood. There was so much blood. Prue closed her eyes for a moment and tried to focus. “Pa?” He blinked several times and was finally able to meet her gaze.
He sputtered for a moment, drawing in a ragged breath. “Evidence…”
Prue leaned closer, still keeping constant pressure on the bullet wound. “What? What is it, Pa?” Her voice sounded foreign to her own ears, trembling and terrified.
He tried to grab her arm, his grip weak, and she leaned in closer. When he spoke, his strangled voice sent chills up her spine. “Evidence…playing. Such good memories…” He coughed, and tried to lift his head, but it fell back to the table with a thud.
“Don’t try to sit up, Pa. What are you trying to tell me? There’s evidence? Of what?” Her voice trembled as the tears streamed down her face. “Doc, please, do something! He’s delirious with pain!” Dr. Clelland jerked back slightly as if she had slapped his face. Prue had never raised her voice at him. She softened, the grief settling like a ton of bricks on top of her chest, squeezing the breath from her lungs. “I’m sorry, Doc…”
Despite her pleadings, her father did try to lift his head again, and he touched the pistol in his holster. Prue placed her hand behind his head to try and help him, his head heavy in her hand. He motioned to his gun again and then pointed to her. For a moment, she thought he was asking her to end his life for him, to make the pain stop. “No, Pa. I can’t…” Frantic, she looked over her shoulder at the small supply shelf. The morphine was running low, but perhaps she could give him some opium to ease his suffering. She straightened and started for the shelf, but her father grabbed her hand.
He shook his head once, taking her hand and placing it on the butt of the gun. “Keep it with you…always. Town…not…safe…” What did he mean the town was not safe? This was all happening so fast, and she had so much left to say to him.
Prue looked down at the gun and then back at her father. “I promise.”
It took great effort for him to lift his hand to her cheek. He rubbed it gently with his thumb, gazing at her as if to take a memory of her face with him into heaven. Even as he lay dying, he was trying to care for her. Her heart twisted with grief. This was all so unfair! Please, God, don’t take him. I’m not ready! she pleaded silently.
“My Good Samaritan…always helping others.” Prue thought for a moment that he was gone, his eyes staring at the ceiling. But then he cleared his throat and took a breath, turning to her once more. “I…love you…” He was bleeding out fast, and when Dr. Clelland stepped away from the table, she knew it was hopeless. She grabbed at the towels the doctor had been holding to his side and pressed as hard as she could. She needed more time.
“I love you, too,” she choked.
“It’s okay…Prue. Let…me go,” his voice was barely more than a whisper.
She took her hand away from his side and hugged him close. “Pa, please don’t leave me,” she begged.
He gave her a sad smile and then coughed again. He gasped for breath. Prue straightened, afraid that she was smothering him. His hand dropped to the table and his head fell to the side. “So… proud…” He exhaled once and Prue watched the life drain from his eyes.
“Pa? Pa! No!” she screamed. She shook his shoulders, feeling for a pulse at his neck. Nothing. She draped herself over her father’s chest, willing him to come back. Her sobs echoed through the clapboard room. Dr. Clelland waited for a moment before touching her shoulder.
“He’s gone, Prue. I’m so sorry.”
Prue turned from the body of her once-vibrant father and into Dr. Clellands waiting arms. She felt her knees give way, hanging on him for support. He allowed her to cry until no more tears would come.
“I don’t understand. I just don’t understand. Who would do this to Pa?” She stepped away, her limbs shaking. She closed her eyes for a moment, trying to combat the dizzy spell.
“Here, wrap this around you,” Dr. Clelland instructed and handed Prue her shawl. “You’re going into shock.”
When Prue looked up, she saw that Doc had covered her father’s body with a sheet, leaving only his face exposed. Prue knew she would never be able to put the image of her father’s lifeless eyes from her mind.
“Miss Prue?” She looked up slowly, her mind numb. Her father’s deputy stood over her, holding his hat in his hands. “We’re ready to take his body away now, if you don’t object.”
Shaking her head, she stood and went to retrieve her father’s pistol and holster from his body. She gripped it to her chest, feeling something snap inside her as Dr. Clelland covered his face with the sheet. “Who did this, Jeb?” she asked, her voice hollow.
“We don’t know, yet. Marshal Farley said he had something to do at one of the ranches, that he had to go alone. I never should have let him out of my sight.” The deputy choked back his tears. “I’m sorry, Miss Prue.”
All she could was nod absently. The two young men who had brought her father in were now taking him out. They loaded him onto a crude canvas gurney with wooden poles, akin to something that would have been used on a battlefield. Indeed, the little doctor’s office looked like it had been through a battle.
Sunlight blinded her as she followed them outside. Townspeople had crowded around the door on the wooden walkway and dusty road. News of the marshals murder had spread like wildfire. Go away! She wanted to rail at them. It was then the full weight of what had just happened struck her. I’m an orphan… Loneliness and despair threatened to suffocate her, as if she were trapped in a collapsed mineshaft.
But then another Voice sounded in her thoughts, bringing peace to her troubled soul. Her heavenly Father would always be with her. Her pa had taught her that. Prue’s mind resounded with the promise from scripture: “I will never leave you nor forsake you…”
Wisconsin State Prison, Wisconsin
Twenty-three-year-old Isaac Olson started from a dead sleep as thunder rolled outside the thick prison walls. The cell that had been his home for the last three years was chilly, and he sat up still in a daze.
He wrapped the thin blanket around his shoulders and raked his hands through his sandy blonde, shoulder length hair. Nightmares had plagued his sleep almost every night since his aunt turned him away, refusing the help he so desperately needed at the time.
It had been almost four years ago that he had ridden up to his Aunt Bess’s ranch outside Millwood in the Dakota Territory. At nineteen years of age, he was still just a boy in many ways. He remembered how his heart had thundered as he made his way up the little dirt path to her door.
At first, she had been ecstatic to see him. But when he told her of the life of crime he had been forced into after his father’s death, she had quickly turned him away. The pain of her rejection was a scar that haunted him to this day.
He stood up and stretched, letting the blanket fall to the ground. The tan brick that made up his cell was only broken up by a long, narrow window set high in the wall. Grey light was starting to creep into the cell, crawling slowly across the ceiling. His cot was narrow, too, like everything else in the prison.
They seemed to pride themselves on cramped hallways, slim windows, and scant cot beds that were too short to fit comfortably. That is what he was looking forward to most, sleeping out under the stars where he could stretch his legs all the way out.
Today was his last day in confinement. When the sun rose, the warden would come and set him free. How fitting that they released prisoners at sunrise. It was the start of a new day and a new life for him. The symbolism was even more poignant since he had found Jesus as his Lord and Savior. This was like his own morning of resurrection.
For the past three years, he had been locked up in the Wisconsin State Prison in Waupun. Clayton Sewell, his old gang leader, had seen to that. From the time Isaac first entered the gang at nine years old, Sewell had threatened to make his life hell if he ever tried to leave or give them up to the authorities. When he was nineteen, he had finally saved up enough of his own money to make his escape. But when his aunt had turned him away, his very last place of refuge disappeared. He made his way back to Milwaukee and found work on the docks, not knowing what else to do. It took all of two months for Sewell to find him.
Isaac bent and picked up the blanket, folding it in the grey light of dawn. He shook his head, remembering how angry he was when he first arrived at the prison. Sewell found out Isaac had friends who lived near the dock. One night, Sewell laid a trap for him, breaking into the house and stealing everything of value. When Isaac had arrived at Elizabeth and Garrett Newton’s home, he had instinctively known something was wrong.
When he walked in the front door, he found Elizabeth and Garrett tied up in the bedroom, both of them knocked out cold. As he tried to untie his friends, the police rushed into the house and arrested him. No matter how he tried to claim his innocence, the police would not believe him. As he had been carted away from the scene, he spotted Sewell across the street in the shadows, smiling maliciously.
In that instant, Isaac knew Sewell had kept his promise. There would be no escape for him, and so he let the police lead him away, promising that he would get revenge on Sewell for all the pain he had caused him. For two years, he had kept his rage close like a rabid mongrel, lashing out at anyone who tried to get too close to him. He worked hard in the prison wagon factory, using his rage to fuel him.
He had been so angry when he had first come to the prison. He railed at his jailers that he had been unjustly imprisoned, but no one would listen. For two years he allowed his bitterness to eat him alive, like a cancer swallowing up his soul. But then, one night, he overheard a lowly Catholic priest speaking to a small group of fellow inmates. The priest told the story of the Prodigal Son. Isaac had been determined to shut out his words. Plenty of preachers had come to the prison, preaching hellfire and damnation. Isaac had hardened his heart against them all. His need for revenge was the only thing that kept him from despair.
But for some reason, he could not get away from the priest’s quiet voice that night. When the priest came to the end of his story, Isaac was amazed to hear that the father had actually welcomed his son home, forgiving him for squandering his inheritance. What kind of father would do that? His own father had not been the gracious type, especially after his mother had died. And Clayton Sewell—the only other father figure Isaac had ever had, would certainly not have forgiven him. Before Isaac could stop it, tears of grief had spilled down his cheeks as the priest explained that they had all fallen short of God’s glory. But His Son, Jesus, had made a way of redemption by taking their guilt on Himself on the cross.
When Father Murphy had asked if any of them wanted to give their lives to Jesus, Isaac’s hand had been the first to shoot up in the air. From that moment on, he had vowed to live his life for God. Peace and love had filled his heart, setting him free from the guilt and pain of his past. And Father Murphy had been with him every step of the way as he learned what it truly meant to love God and love his neighbor as himself.
Smiling at the memory, Isaac thanked God for giving him a second chance at life.
“Up early, aren’t we?” Father Nolan Murphy’s Irish brogue greeted him from the opposite side of the bars, intruding on his thoughts. Isaac turned and smiled at the man who had led him back to the faith. He walked to the door of his cell and passed his hand through the iron bars. Father Murphy took his hand and shook it warmly.
“What are you doing here? I thought you said you’d meet me outside? You didn’t have to come in here.” Isaac was glad he had, though. It seemed fitting that the man who had helped him walk out of his spiritual prison would also be there to walk him out of this physical prison.
“This is a grand day, lad. I’ve a gift fer ye.” Father Murphy reached inside his leather satchel and produced a brand-new Bible with exquisite black leather binding and gold filigree.
Isaac took the gift gently in his hands, holding it as gently as he would cradle a newborn baby. “I’ve never seen anythin’ so beautiful, Father. Thank you.” Isaac held the precious book close to his chest. He would never be able to repay this man. Father Murphy had loved him during those first months of endless questions and doubts, had shown him that God was not angry as the other preachers had portrayed Him with their hellfire and damnation. God was kind, a good Father, full of mercy and forgiveness.
“What are you plannin’ to do, now that you are free?” Father Murphy asked, pulling a wooden chair over so he could wait with Isaac during his last remaining moments in this cell.
“My only family member is an aunt who lives out in the Dakota Territory. But when I tried to go to her four years back, she ran me off her ranch. Didn’t want anything to do with a thief.”
Father Murphy nodded slowly. “I would advise you to get out of Wisconsin, lad. Put as much distance between you and the Sewell gang.”
“I agree. It’s funny. As hard as the last three years have been, I hold no bitterness towards Sewell for framing me. I wish I could apologize to the Newton’s for what happened. I can’t imagine what they must think of me.” Isaac had been framed for housebreaking into his friend’s home. The look in his best friend’s eyes was worse than being imprisoned. A bout of nausea overtook him at the thought that he might never have the chance to make amends or explain what had really happened.
“Perhaps in time the Lord will lead you to reach out to them. But for now, I think you should go to your aunt and try again. She is the only family you have, and perhaps the Lord will move on her heart to see your past mistakes with grace instead of judgement.” Father Murphy stood and replaced the chair against the far wall as the warden came to collect Isaac.
The warden gave them both a gruff hello as he unlocked the cell, the sound of the key turning in the lock resounding down the long brick corridor.
“Allow us a moment to pray, would you Warden?” Father Murphy asked. The warden gave a slight nod and stood to the side. Isaac came out of the cell while Father Murphy placed his hands on his shoulders. “Almighty Father, I thank You this day for my brother Isaac. Give him wisdom and strength as he goes from this place into the world. Help him to hear Your voice. Lead and guide his footsteps. In the name of our Holy Father, Amen.”
Isaac smiled as the warden led him down the long, straight corridor, Father Murphy trailing behind. Some of the other inmates were awake and they looked at him with jealousy and despair as he walked passed their cells. He felt for them, had tried to tell many of them of the saving grace of Jesus. Very few had listened, too mired in their own pain to give him heed. It was the ones who had listened that he was sad to leave behind.
They came to the end of the hallway and walked down a flight of stairs to the first story. As they neared the doors leading out into the big rectangular courtyard, he called out to the man in cell 119. “Remember the Lord, Harris! I’ll be praying for you!” The older man lifted his hand to wave goodbye. He limped over to the bars, his back bowed with age and hard labor.
Harris had been one of the men Isaac had been able to lead to God. “And with you, son. I’ll be waiting for you at the Pearly Gates.” Isaac smiled sadly. Harris would never see the other side the prison gates. He was serving a life sentence for killing a man during a robbery.
“No talking to the other prisoners,” the warden said gruffly, pushing him ahead of him out into the growing light of dawn. The prison was situated on a flat plain, with a two-story cell block on the north and south ends of an expansive courtyard. The east and west ends of the block were where the guards lived. Around the whole complex was a brick wall reaching fifteen feet high, with hexagonal watchtowers placed at each corner. Looming ahead, in the center of the southern cellblock, was the administration building. This is where the warden was taking Isaac, to finish the paperwork for his release.
“Here,” the warden said, walking up to a barred window. The man behind the bars nodded and passed a slender box through a narrow break at the bottom of the bars. “These are your belongings. There is a room just through that door where you can change.” Isaac took the box and went where the warden had instructed him.
“I’ll wait fer ye just here, lad.” Father Murphy motioned toward the heavy metal doors leading to the outer courtyard.
Isaac changed into the clothes he had been wearing when he had first been incarcerated. He set down his new Bible and took off the white and black striped shirt and pants he’d been given when he arrived. His faded red shirt no longer fit, as his muscles now bulged from all the years of hard labor in the wagon factory. His tan britches were also snug, but at that moment he didn’t care what he looked like when he walked out.
His heart surged with anticipation. I’m almost there! I’m almost free! He couldn’t help the smile that played at his lips as he slipped on his tattered grey woolen socks and his worn leather boots. The woolen socks felt scratchy on his feet after all this time. He wiggled his toes after he put on his boots. They were much more comfortable than the shoes he’d been provided by the prison. He would have to buy some new clothes when he got out, but who knew how long that would take?
He sat down on a low wooden bench and took out the last two things at the bottom of the box: a small knife and his mother’s locket. He picked up the locket reverently and rubbed the golden surface with his thumb. He opened the clasp that held a silhouette of his mother and father.
Mama had had faith in God and had tried to instill that same faith in him. How sad would she be to know that he’d gotten so far off track? God is always there to love and forgive us, son. Don’t ever forget that… Those had been her last words to him. Even though he was only four when she had passed, he still remembered them. And she had been right, of course. He undid the chain’s clasp and redid it around his neck, pulling his collar away so he could drop the precious locket under his shirt.
Standing, he took one last look around the room, folded his digs and replaced them in the box. He took the box back out to the warden, who handed them through the window once more. “We’ve got some paperwork for you to sign. Then you can go.”
Isaac thought it would take forever for them to finish writing down his information into the heavy leather-bound ledger. He signed his name at the end of a long of his personal information. He had to think for a moment to sign his legal name instead of simply writing his prisoner number. Prisoner 16546. Never again would he be called that, and the thought made his heart leap with joy.
“Alright, Mr. Olson. You are free to go. I’ll escort you out the gates.” For the first time the warden cracked a slight smile.
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