The custodian at St. Mark's had just scraped three inches of snow off the sidewalks when the man with the cane appeared. The sun was up, but the winds were howling; the temperature was stuck at the freezing mark. The man wore only a pair of thin dungarees, a summer shirt, well-worn hiking boots, and a light Windbreaker that stood little chance against the chill. But he did not appear to be uncomfortable, nor was he in a hurry. He was on foot, walking with a limp and a slight tilt to his left, the side aided by the cane. He shufﬂed along the sidewalk near the chapel and stopped at a side door with the word "Ofﬁce" painted in dark red. He did not knock and the door was not locked. He stepped inside just as another gust of wind hit him in the back.
The room was a reception area with the cluttered, dusty look one would expect to ﬁnd in an old church. In the center was a desk with a nameplate that announced the presence of Charlotte Junger, who sat not far behind her name. She said with a smile, "Good morning."
"Good morning," the man said. A pause. "It's very cold out there."
"It is indeed," she said as she quickly sized him up. The obvious problem was that he had no coat and nothing on his hands or head.
"I assume you're Ms. Junger," he said, staring at her name.
"No, Ms. Junger is out today. The ﬂu. I'm Dana Schroeder, the minister's wife, just ﬁlling in. What can we do for you?"
There was one empty chair and the man looked hopefully at it. "May I?"
"Of course," she said. He carefully sat down, as if all movements needed forethought.
"Is the minister in?" he asked as he looked at a large, closed door off to the left.
"Yes, but he's in a meeting. What can we do for you?" She was petite, with a nice chest, tight sweater. He couldn't see anything below the waist, under the desk. He had always preferred the smaller ones. Cute face, big blue eyes, high cheekbones, a wholesome pretty girl, the perfect little minister's wife.
It had been so long since he'd touched a woman.
"I need to see Reverend Schroeder," he said as he folded his hands together prayerfully. "I was in church yesterday, listened to his sermon, and, well, I need some guidance."
"He's very busy today," she said with a smile. Really nice teeth.
"I'm in a rather urgent situation," he said.
Dana had been married to Keith Schroeder long enough to know that no one had ever been sent away from his ofﬁce, appointment or not. Besides, it was a frigid Monday morning and Keith wasn't really that busy. A few phone calls, one consultation with a young couple in the process of retreating from a wedding, under way at that very moment, then the usual visits to the hospitals. She fussed around the desk, found the simple questionnaire she was looking for, and said, "Okay, I'll take some basic information and we'll see what can be done." Her pen was ready.
"Thank you," he said, bowing slightly.
"Travis Boyette." He instinctively spelled his last name for her. "Date of birth, October 10, 1963. Place, Joplin, Missouri. Age, forty-four. Single, divorced, no children. No address. No place of employment. No prospects."
Dana absorbed this as her pen frantically searched for the proper blanks to be ﬁlled. His response created far more questions than her little form was designed to accommodate. "Okay,...