Dig Two Graves

“Here he is.” Leonard does not look at me as he speaks, but keeps his eyes on Felix. Felix looked from Leonard to me and back, nervous, confused… and then I saw recognition. Good.  That would save some time on explanation.

“You? But…”

I hold up a silencing finger toward Felix, and show him the darkness down the barrel of my pistol.  To Leonard, I say, “Thank you, Leonard.  Please, take the cuffs off him, then you can head for home.”

Leonard does as I ask, allowing himself to look nervous only when behind Felix. I appreciate his professionalism. I’m sure Felix would have only been more confused had he seen Leonard in that state– Leonard is half his age, twice his weight, and athletically slender in opposition to Felix’s scrawniness– but he might also have gotten ideas.  At this stage in the programme, I want to keep everything on track.  The timing is delicate.

I say nothing until Felix and I are alone. I could picture Leonard, using his long, muscular legs to sprint down the long path to the quay.  He could have taken the short route, it was still early enough, but… well, I wouldn’t have. Finally I say, “It has been a while, hasn’t it?”

“I never thought I’d see you again.” He’s still rubbing his wrists, like he’d been chained up with Edmond Dantès instead of held for a not quite a day in a nice guest-room.

“I’m sure. Until this week, I was working to keep out of your way.” I’m careful to keep at least two pieces of furniture between us, another prophylactic against Felix getting foolish ideas. While I would shoot him without hesitation if it looked like he was going to jump at me, I don’t want to shoot him.

Not after all the preparation.

On the other hand, if he broke for the door… but it’s a little early for that. “I’d offer you a drink,” I say, “but you’d probably think it was poisoned.” I wouldn’t have offered, in fact. A glass is a weapon.

“I did my time.  You can’t still hold it against me.”

I feel myself colouring a little at that. I lower the gun, adopting a terrible Film Noir posture. But this lets me rest my arm a little, and the barrel remains trained on him steadily, promising a gut-shot at any moment. “You call six months in a jail ‘doing my time?’ I’ve been in Hell for twenty years.”

He is honest enough to blush, to look at the floor.

“I knew,” I say, “the minute I saw what you had done, that the rest of my life was going to be about making you pay. I started digging, right then.”

“What?” Oh, how I hate that look on his face.  Not just confused, but resentful that confusion is occurring. Even before, back when we were friends, I disliked it.

“The old saying, Felix: who embarks upon revenge must dig two graves.” I smile, and lift my left hand from where it rests on my knife to show the damage I’ve done to my palm.  The right is similar, and I admit that I had been a little worried about being able to hold the gun. “As it turns out, I’ve dug a whole bunch of them.”

“You’re nuts.”

“Granted.” That jars him, which makes me smile again. “Honestly, no one who had learned the things I have over the past decade could be considered conventionally sane. Nuts or not, though, I am the one with the gun.”

I actually find a little spark of admiration, glowing in the thicket of hatred, for the way he squares his shoulders. Defiant in the face of doom. Good for him. “So, now you’re going to kill me, I guess.”

“No.” And that’s a look I prefer on Felix– the confusion without the truculence. At that moment, the drone of a motorboat comes through the open clerestory, almost smothered by the humidity of the tropical evening. “I’m nuts, remember? In a few minutes, I’m going to send you out that door, and let you try to get away.  If you get away, then Fate has spoken and I have to accept it.”

Felix glances behind him at the door I indicated. “I suppose there’s tigers out there, or something?”

“No tigers. No wild animals at all. This island isn’t that big.” The ugly version of Felix’s confusion was back. I imagine he looked that way just before Amanda died. “And I’m not even going to leave this room.”

“What’s out there, then?”

“Graves.” Oh, the start he gave! So rewarding! “I told you, I’ve been digging. The most direct path to the boat is through the old graveyard. I thought you could do with a little contemplation of mortality.  On what the afterlife might hold for negligent, complacent bastards.”

“Sure…” I can tell by the way he says it, he doesn’t believe me. To be fair, I am leaving out some important information.

I move my eyes enough to see the light fade in the clerestory, the sudden sunset of the tropics sweeping over us. Just about perfect.  I bring the pistol back up, removing the casual aspect of its menace. “One way or another, Felix, this is the last time we lay eyes on each other. Now, take a hike.”

He opens the door, still with that damn world owes me an explanation look on his face.  I walk forward, foolishly using the gun to gesture, urging him onward. He goes. I lock up behind him.

If he runs… maybe five minutes, given how long Leonard took.  More likely ten, and add a couple to figure out there’s no gas in the tank, if he actually makes it that far. Plenty of time.

I draw the knife. It’s sharp, but it still hurts when I slice into my left palm.  It’s the left hand I need for this work.  Kneeling, I say the last of the words, smearing my blood into the necessary shapes on the floor. When I’m done, I blow across the pattern, a breath that has twenty years of rage in it.

From half a hundred graves, howls.  They would be mad enough, being yanked from their rest like that, even without my own hate sprinkled on top. I can hear their fragile old coffins shattering as they burst out. No digging up through so many feet of packed earth, though. I’ve taken care of that, as part of my vengeance. Dig two graves? That’s nowhere near enough.

I just wish Amanda’s could have been one of them.

“Dig Two Graves” ©2018 Dirck de Lint. The story is developed from a writing challenge set by Chuck Wendig on the theme of vengeance.