I was driving back from the Easter Sunday gold mine. That's somewhere between Bisbee and Douglas, a few miles North of the Mexican border. I'm retired, but I still consult as a geological and mining engineer on the side. With the price of gold so high, a group of investors was considering buying the claim and re-opening the mine. They wanted me to see what shape it was in.

It had taken longer than I expected at the mine. Even Juan's muscles were tired after hauling the heavy gear up the hill to the mine entrance. The shaft was clear. Unfortunately, much of the adit was caved in. Rachel had to squeeze between the rocks to get the samples, but that's why I had hired these kids. They were both mining engineering students from Arizona State University, and I always tried to give the next generation of engineers practical experience.

When we were done, I should have just followed Juan and Rachel up Arizona route 80 to I 10 back to Phoenix. The sunset was beautiful as I drove along AZ 80, so I stupidly turned West onto a dirt road somewhere near Tombstone. I was looking for a pretty place to stop and take a picture. Maybe five miles from the AZ 80, I saw a small plane land on the connecting North/South road. I saw them turn the plane around and when it took off, a big, white King Cab pickup truck with dark windows started heading in my direction.

Everyone here knows what comes off those airplanes that land in the middle of nowhere. Black tar heroin, cocaine, speed or even just marijuana, they all spell trouble. I turned the truck around and started back to the highway, but that road was one long washboard. That fancy King Cab was kissing my bumper, and the driver was furiously pounding on the horn.

I looked at the rear-view mirror. Two angry men looked back. The passenger pointed to me and ran his finger across his throat. About halfway back to the main road, a herd of Javelina crossed right in front of me. Those piggies are built like bricks. You don't just damage your front end. You roll your truck when you hit one. Instinct took over, and I hit the brakes.

As I skidded to a stop, I felt their truck smash into my bumper. My airbag slammed into my face. I was stunned. Everything smelled like gunshots, and the truck cab was filled with talcum powder. Before I could even get my insurance information from the visor, my door was flung open. They ripped me out of my truck and threw me into the dirt. The two macho men loomed over me. One shouted: "You stopped too damn fast."

"I'm sorry," I said meekly. "I have insurance and towing."

"You are going to pay, little man."

"Everything will be paid. No deductible. I promise."

"Oh, you will pay." He ripped my cell phone from its holster, crushed it and flung it into the brush. "You will pay with your life."

While the second one watched, the first one went back to their truck and pulled out two samurai swords. He kept one and tossed a second to his partner. "Run, old man. Run to the hills. When we catch you, we cut you to pieces."

I ran for my life, and as they herded me further and further away from everything that I thought might be able to save me. They drove me away from the road and up the hill, whooping and laughing behind me.

I had one chance, and it required me to run them to death. Those brawny mustachios saw me as just a skinny old man they could slice up for fun, but I am a vegan and run five miles a day. As I ran, I silently prayed for help. I prayed to the Virgin, asking her to intercede with the Father because I needed my prayers answered mighty fast.

The course got harder as I ran up the hill, but a voice spoke inside me. It said that gravity and exhaustion worked even more on their nacho and beer guts than skinny me. It also reminded me of another secret advantage, hiking shoes instead of their slick soled cowboy boots.

The further they slipped behind me, the more confident I felt. But then I got careless. I heard the hiss of a scared rattlesnake. When I looked down, I saw my foot going down on the back of a Mojave Green rattler. The poor snake replied the way snakes do. With the speed of lightning, he clamped his fangs deep into my leg. His mouth felt like a bear trap. Then he let go and slithered away.

The snake didn’t wake up and decide to bite me. I was Godzilla destroying his Tokyo. Because he used up all his venom on my leg, he was probably going hungry tonight. Still, I was terrified. Everyone knows Mojave Greens are the most venomous snakes in North America. I had nobody but myself to blame for letting my grandkids talk me into those fancy Gore-Tex hiking shoes instead of my old cowhide boots, but that didn't take the pain away or make the venom any less deadly.

I begged Saint Barbara, the patron saint of miners, to intercede for me now. My family had trusted Saint Barbara for generations. Every mine they began always had a statue of Saint Barbara placed near the future tunnel portal during the groundbreaking. I did the same and had a sterling silver Saint Barbara medallion that had been blessed by Pope John around my neck. My Daddy had taught me a prayer he had learned as a boy from his Daddy back in Czechoslovakia, and with all the might I had I prayed it now.

O Saint Barbara, you who opened your mind to the light of faith through the work of reason, pray that my mind and heart might be ever open to Truth and may I embrace It with all the strength of my soul.

Embracing this Truth as you did, obtain for me the grace to persevere in all trials. Beseech your Divine Savior and mine to protect me from the dangers that press upon me.

Faithful Jesus, you who define yourself as Truth, shield me with your protection as you covered your beloved servant Barbara. Amen.

I knew that running was about the worst thing I could do on a snake bite because I was pushing that toxin all around my body. My calf was scalded, and I could feel my foot swelling in my shoe. Giving up would be so easy, but that voice inside me said I had a wife, children, and grandchildren. Pain or not, I had to keep running.

I could hear their curses behind me. Every breath was a fight. Finally, I stumbled, fell and couldn't get up. There I would die. Instead, something incredible happened. I looked up and saw two angels lifting me up. All my life, I had thought angels had wings. Everyone said they had wings, even in "It's a Wonderful Life." They did not. One was tiny, so short she looked no older than a child. Her skin was dark, and her nose was amazingly big. “I am Saint Barbara,” she said with a power that electrified me. “Your prayers have been heard by the Father, and He has sent us here to answer them.”

The second angel was dark as ebony. His nose was broad, and his lips were full. “I am Saint Augustine of Hippo. You have lived a good life and not returned evil for evil. But pacifism in the face of a grave wrong you can stop by violence is a sin. It is God’s will for you to defend your life and stop their sin.”

"How," I asked. "I can't even walk."

"Those that fight with you are more than those that seek your life. You will be strengthened to make it possible. Look at your adversaries and behold."

I glanced behind me and saw two other angels. One had a great sword of fire, and the other wielded a spear of lightning with both hands. “God sent them to hold back Satan’s legions.”

I looked beyond them to the drug mules and saw two forms. They were dressed just like the four angels. One was a tall man that had that perfect blond Aryan face and cold, heartless eyes that thousands of SS Death's Head troops only could dream of. The other was a petite oriental woman with a demure face and that beautifully thick and black Japanese hair. I looked at them in astonishment. "Those are demons? Aren't demons all …"

"Only in art," said Saint Augustine. "Satan transforms himself into an angel of light, and so do his disciples. They make good look evil and evil look good."

Soon I could see my truck. The door was still open, and the angels threw me in. “We will have to leave soon,” Saint Barbara said. “God loves you and loves your dear wife, Maria. Her prayers bring delight in Heaven.”

I put the key in the ignition, turned it, and absolutely nothing happened. The truck wouldn't turn over. I knew the fuel pump shut off because of the accident, but I didn't have time to start poking around for the reset switch.

Out of time, I grabbed the truck gun I kept under my seat. It was an old pistol one of my sons gave me. Genuine made in Bulgaria and Bubba had spray painted it baby poop green, but he bought it dirt cheap, and it always went bang. I didn't want to kill. I was a sissy vegan that never shot anything but paper and pop bottles in my life, but the voice of Saint Augustine thundered through my whole body. "Their wrongdoings compel you to wage war against them. You must defend the life of all their victims, even though it be by violence. If you do not, the sin will be upon you for defying God's will to prevent far greater wrongs."

The first Narco-Bandit to the truck was the one that had tossed me out earlier. He opened up that door again. Was he ever surprised when I swung that gun up and canceled his ticket. An even more horrible surprise happened next. That sweet little Japanese girl smiled, showing long teeth as she pulled the soul out of him. His soul glowed a dull yellow and his face filled with sheer terror. The universe behind him whirled, opening a spiral vortex in the ground. I could see the flames of Hell. Thousands of tortured souls screamed and scrambled desperately to escape. She pushed them back as tentacles snaked out and dragged that drug runner down to the pits of eternal torment. Then she dived in and sealed the door behind her.

Nothing I had ever seen or heard could have prepared me for that. "Stay focused," Saint Augustine said. "Keep in the now. Focus on what you need to do next."

The second drug runner had shock in his eyes. I leveled the heavy gun at him. The Nazi silently waited. If I killed that camello, I would be condemning him to a Hell that was more awful than my worst imagining, so I said: "Drop it."

The demon's ice cold blue eyes met mine, a smile on his face. "Kill him," he roared. The Narco raised the sword, yelled and tried to hack me in two.

"Fire," Saint Augustine thundered, and I did. I emptied the gun into him, and he landed near my feet, gurgled and shook a couple times and bled out.

I put my hands over my ears and closed my eyes as I turned away, knowing what was next. Nothing could block out the shrieks of those damned souls. Their pain and suffering bored right through my skull like a thousand dentist drills.

I collapsed to the ground, crying. I had just killed two people. Worse, I had damned them for eternity to a Hell more awful than I could have ever believed.

"You only did what God wanted to be done," said Saint Augustine, standing before me.

"You need help," Saint Barbara said. "Call an ambulance."

"How? They smashed my phone and threw it away." By now, I was sobbing, broken inside.

She pointed at the phone hanging from the bullet-ridden corpse in front of me. “Use that one.”

Half a dozen +P hollow points in the chest messed him up bad, and I never was good around blood and gore. I didn't want to touch his body, but Saint Augustine took me by the hand. "It's no good. It's locked."

"Use his thumbprint. He left it behind."

Somehow I managed to hold his hand up, unlock the phone and call 911. Suddenly, I was alone. My pain was indescribable, and I was struggling to breathe. I passed out.

I came to in Copper Queen Community Hospital in Bisbee, my sweet wife by my side. The doctor told me I was lucky. There were two types of Mojave Greens, the common deadly one and a rare but milder B type. That was another miracle for a fool like me. Thanks to that blessing, I even got to keep my leg. When I tried to explain about the angels and the two demons, the doctors told me that the snake bite made me hallucinate.

The hospital Padre listened to my story politely, a look of skepticism on his face. "Keep your vision sacred and private," he said. In other words, don't tell anyone or they will think I am loco.

Eventually, two cops came to the hospital and took my statement. They found almost 50 kilograms of fentanyl in the drug runner's truck, enough to kill everyone in the whole state of Arizona five times over. I told them everything that happened, including the angels, but they too shrugged my experience off.

Both the doctors and the police were unscientific in their pronouncement. As soon as I was able, I researched snake bites causing hallucinations and found descriptions of people who were addicted to being bitten by cobras in India and one case of someone describing euphoria and shimmering colors from a cobra bite. Not one word about hallucinations from rattlesnakes. They had jumped to a conclusion without evidence and against volumes of scientific literature. What is more logical, that a 70-year-old, 140 pound Vegan who had been bitten by the most deadly snake in North America could defeat two burly drug bandits in mortal combat or that angels came down from heaven?

Written by DrBobSmith
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