The next few days passed uneventfully. I was no longer going out at night with 'Krispy', but getting sleep that I needed for attending academy classes.
Friday morning came and when I awakened, 'Krispy' was not home as he usually was. I was not awfully alarmed, since I was not his keeper, but I was a bit concerned at a change in routine.
Getting up and ready to leave, I continued to wonder what was keeping my friend.
Deciding to go to the station house to see if he was there, I hurried, praying all the while. I kept remembering the apparent pain in his side that he had been trying to play down.
Sure enough, when I arrived at the station, I went in to find the men huddled in a couple of groups talking quietly. As if in one entity, they turned to look at me as I entered.
"What?" I inquired.
I saw one of them knock on Captain Shannon's door; immediately he came out and motioned to me.
Feeling a dread wash over me, I walked numbly to the office, and at once sat down. My legs seemed not to be able to hold up my body. Somehow, my mind knew what was coming.
"I'm sorry to tell you this, Zeb. As you probably know, Jackson Finley has not been a well man for some time, not since he took the bullets a few years ago. The fire was also detrimental to his health as well. He was stopping the beating of a homeless person while ago and his heart gave out on him. The coroner suspects the bullet shrapnel had reached his heart and finally took his life."
By this time, I was sobbing unashamedly. What was I going to do without my good friend, now that I had found him. My loss seemed to have doubled, and my pain seemed greater than I could bear.
I arose and stumbled from the room, feeling more alone than ever before.
"How could this have happened?" I asked myself, then fell to my knees, asking God. "Why? Why did you do this? I don't understand?"
One of the men helped me to my feet and I stumbled out of the station, not having any destination in mind. I had never felt so alone. Now what?
For the next hour, I wandered aimlessly, then looked up and saw the steeple of a church. On top of the steeple was a cross. There on the sidewalk, I fell to my knees once again, hit anew with the realization of what the cross stood for. The Sacrifice made for all mankind.
I still felt the loss of my friend, but the cross put it into perspective. He would not want me questioning God for taking him, but to praise God that my friend was now at home with our Savior. I sent up a prayer of thanks to Him.
But I was going to miss my friend. I knew Jackson, 'Krispy' Finley would want me to go back to the station and see what I could do. I knew he had children that had to be notified, and I had an academy instructor that I needed to square things away with.
(To be continued)