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Did they really think they would get away with it?

“My son, if sinners entice you, do not consent. If they say, ‘Come with us, let us lie in wait for blood; let us ambush the innocent without reason,’ do not walk in the way with them,” (Proverbs 1:10-15).

I was looking forward to a nice, quiet summer. Born and raised in the city, I found myself living in rural Robertson County in May of 1988. I was the new, still-wet-behind-the-ears pastor of Pleasant Hill Baptist Church in the town of Orlinda.

Most of my church members were raised in the area. The majority were tobacco farmers or dairymen. Life in the country was hard but relatively quiet. But not that first summer. Hot, dry weather arrived with the advent of June, and so did numerous unexpected and often upsetting events, the first of which had the whole community on edge.

Marcia, the kids and I had barely moved into the church parsonage when the trouble began. I was sitting by the front picture window one afternoon, reading and occasionally looking out at the highway barely 10 yards away. Suddenly, two police cars roared by, lights flashing and sirens blaring. They were followed by two more. In the next few minutes, no less than 22 official police vehicles, both state and local, raced toward the small town. The sight was unnerving. What was wrong?

We all had our suspicions. A few days earlier, four prisoners escaped from the state prison in Eddyville, Ky., not far from our region. They must have surfaced in our area. Word quickly spread.

The dark clouds of that overcast day reflected the somber mood of the whole community. Traffic was light on the highway. Outside, no one stirred, for the escaped prisoners could be anywhere and possibly armed.

My family was oddly vulnerable in the parsonage. Located at the corner of the highway and a busy country road, we had no privacy. With easy-to-break panes of glass in all outside doors, anyone with ill intent could be upon us in moments. So, I called one of my deacons, trying to obtain the latest information and conveying my nervousness about our family’s situation.

The deacon asked, “Do you have any protection in your house?” I knew what he meant, and I did not.

“Well, keep your doors locked,” he warned. We were doing that already, but were still not safe.

In 1988, few individuals had even heard of the Internet. News was still somewhat slow in reaching our country neighbors. Word of mouth and the 6 p.m. or 10 p.m. news were our most reliable sources of updates. But the incident, whatever it was, had occurred too late to make the news at 6 p.m. So, we were left wondering and waiting anxiously.

Then, at 10 p.m., the incident was all over the news; only it was not what we had thought. The Eddyville prisoners were still at large, but probably miles away. Rather, two men had been shot and killed in a nearby barn in a cattle buy gone bad. The victims had agreed to buy rustled livestock from two young men. The exchange was to take place in that barn.

However, the sellers did not have any cattle, stolen or legitimate. They figured the buyers would have wads of cash on them for the buy. So, they hid in the barn and ambushed the pair when they arrived. One buyer pulled a gun out of his boot but was not fast enough. Both were gunned down and their money stolen.

Someone quickly found the bodies. The buyer with the gun was an undercover police officer, while the other victim was his informant. No wonder so many officers responded so quickly.

The two young offenders were captured within two days and faced the death penalty or at least life caged behind prison bars. Did they really think they’d get away with such a crime?

And the summer was just heating up.

“But these men lie in wait for their own blood; they set an ambush for their own lives. Such are the ways of everyone who is greedy for unjust gain,” (Proverbs 1:18-19).

Bill Horner lives in Campbell County. His column appears regularly in the Faith section. He also started a blog with human interest stories at www.aweintheordinary.com.