Justice

The man had killed his best friend. Killed him for the love of killing. At the point of a gun Greg had apparently handed over his wallet, then had been shot anyway. He would get him; he would kill him. There would be revenge, and there would be justice. He didn’t go to the police. This was personal.

He saw that the new tire tracks headed off along the old dirt road into the high country, a region of dry, broken up rock formations. He followed.

He came upon the man the next morning, in a little hollowed-out place in the rocks just fifty yards off the road. He was sitting on a gray rounded rock with Greg’s dark brown leather wallet on the yellowish dirt at his feet, drinking out of a red thermos. The early morning sun magnified and clarified everything. The wall of granite rock piled up high behind the man seemed indomitable, unyielding, unforgiving, ruthlessly dedicated to the truth.

When, some twenty yards away, he stepped out from behind the boulder, the man looked up, then went for his gun. He shot his hand and the gun lay where it was on the rock, sparkling in the sun. He said, “Stand up.” The man slowly rose to his feet, a big man, a healthy-looking man, in good physical condition, fairly young, too, not more than thirty. Then he ordered, “Now start walking to your left.”

Five minutes later they came to a deep, odd hole in the ground. At most, eight feet across at the top, smooth-sided, and gradually narrowing to about four feet at the bottom, some ten feet down. He said, “Get down in there.” The man hesitated, tried to lunge at him, but a swift, well-directed kick sent him down into the hole. He said, “Turn around and look up at me and hear what I have to say.” The man yelled, “You can’t leave me down here! That ain’t human!”

He said, in a hard, level, unemotional voice, like he was reading off numbers to someone writing them down, “You are evil; you have initiated physical force; you have stricken out the flame of an innocent man’s life. You will pay the price, and the last thing you will know on earth is justice.” He methodically drew his gun again, then shot the man’s one good hand and both his kneecaps, then turned and walked away.

The rising sun glinted and gleamed among the granite hills, and the boisterous wind blew sparkling bits of dust over the ground, while the great blue, unadulterated sky seemed to ring and clang like a giant bell, tolling, tolling, tolling, echoing the unforgiving soul of justice with a sound unheard, but felt by the evil man at the bottom of the hole. And the morning strode right on.

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