The killer sold his soul to the devil. The Deacon has come to collect.
In the spring of 1878, legendary lawman Coble Bray, meets the fiery Maria in Big Springs and is swept off his feet. They marry and move to a small ranch in Missouri where Coble is content with his new life and bride.
That's when his old friend Priest shows up.
A woman Priest is courting has been murdered. A cross and a key are left in her mouth, along with a note from her killer... a note addressed to Coble Bray. What does it all mean? And what does it have to do with The Deacon? Fearing a connection to another unsolved murder the previous year, Priest asks his old partner to come out of retirement to investigate. Motivated by his sense of duty and the specter of another killer on the loose, Coble accepts—even after Maria kicks him out of the house for doing so.
Starting his new investigation where his last one ended, Coble ends up in Hard Times, Kansas. It's an appropriate name for the place, as well as his predicament. Lonely, and isolated, he has nowhere to turn as the killer engages him in a dangerous game of cat and mouse. Things grow even murkier when Maria shows up in town in the company of a strange man. Can The Deacon crack the case before the murderer strikes again? Or will the next victim be much closer to home?
The question is not settled if I’m smart or crazy. Murderers will be the judge of that.
“Think of it this way. I look for discord, like bad poetry that strains to rhyme. People trying hard to not be noticed often exist in syncopated time—they just don’t fit. And then the kicker is they tell me. Often they can’t help themselves.”
“Like daring you to catch them.”
“And by doing so they put themselves at a disadvantage.”
“Unless they kill you.”
“Unless they kill me.”