the smuggler’s bible


The people in charge send the new guy first thing in the morning. He gets off the train and picks his way through town toward the hill, carrying a calf-skin valise. He’s careful not to smile at anyone. Better to form impressions first and wait to decide upon the proper tack.

He finds Gül in the nave, leaning on the shovel.

“Did they fill you in?”

“Most of it, I think.”

“Get someone else to fix the floor. It’s better that way.”

“Of course.”

“Well, then,” Gül says, pulling on his coat and heading for the door. “Good luck, preacher.”


The mistake comes—as Gül knew it must—after several minutes in the tense darkness of the chapel. With a storm hammering on the roof outside, every rustle and creak in the dusty gloom starts to sound a lot like the other man’s finger on the trigger. It’s hard enough to stand for someone who isn’t a nervous wreck with a messiah complex.

The preacher tries to say something but barely gets a syllable out. Gül’s gun is already in his hand. He simply pulls the trigger.

Quickdraw work is for the circus, and nobody here paid for a show.


There was a preacher back east—seven, eight years ago maybe—who started to hear a voice in his head whispering about how the real sin was keeping something locked up that the lord had made.

After a couple weeks listening to that voice, he pulled his own teeth out with just a bottle of whiskey and blacksmith’s tongs. The next day, he planted them in the garden. Gül was there for the harvest. He saw what came out of the ground.

Now, standing in the dark, straining to hear anything over the rain—well, all strife ain’t created equal.


There aren’t any congregants inside, which is a lucky break. Gül hates the crowds, but not enough to change his approach. It’s just better optics if the job can get done without shooting up half the town.

He prowls along a row of pews, keeping a wall to his back. Up front, there’s a shovel leaning against the altar and dirt spread out across the floor near a few pried up boards.

“Looks like you have a ways to go yet, preacher,” Gül calls out. “You should have been digging for a month already if you wanted a real shot.”