“So, Erik, what did you do for Christmas?” Sebastian was seated across my desk from me, and he rested his feet on the top.
I frowned and slapped them off, but he only grinned as he put them back on the floor.
“You really want to know?”
“Of course I do. I want to make sure you didn’t lock yourself away and mope for two weeks.”
“Oh, no,” I said, leaning back in my chair. “My Christmas was much more interesting than that.” I rotated my right shoulder and winced; it was still very sore.
“Erik,” Sebastian said slowly, “what are you not telling me?”
“Sebastian,” I said with a contented sigh, “my greatest desire was fulfilled this Christmas.”
He narrowed his eyes and frowned. “Well, since I doubt your mother came back from the dead, I’m going to assume you found out your father is dead.”
My eyes widened in surprise, and then I smiled. “Better than that even.”
“Better? What could be better?”
I cocked my head and studied my friend for a moment. “He is dead,” I confirmed, “but better than that is the fact that I killed him myself.”
He bolted to his feet and fisted his hands on the top of the desk. “You did what?”
“You heard me,” I said calmly. I slowly pushed a copy of The New York Times dated December 26, 1938 toward him. It was folded over so that a small article was centered, and I had circled it with a black pen. Sebastian stared at me in horror for a moment, and then he picked it up. I knew what it said; I had memorized every word.
Body Found in Central Park Christmas Day
The joy of Christmas morning was shattered for two unsuspecting lovers as they moved off the path in Central Park to have a tryst in the trees just east of the Ramble. Instead of the seclusion they sought, they instead found themselves in the company of the body of a dead man. The man, dressed in dirty, ragged clothing is assumed to be one of the many homeless people living in our city, perhaps from the Hooverville in the Park. Although a gun was found with the body, sources say that the man was beaten and strangled but not shot. However, the same sources told this reporter that police indicated that the gun had been fired recently, leading them to believe that the man died during a fight, perhaps in a robbery gone wrong, perhaps with another vagrant. They are scouring the streets and shanty towns for anyone with a fresh bullet wound, but for now, this John Doe will go down in the annals of history as just one more tragic death among many.
“You did this?”
I nodded, cautiously watching my friend’s reaction.
Anger flowed through me at the question, and I leaned forward, placing my hands on the desktop.
“What do you mean why? How can you possibly ask me why?”
“But what, Sebastian? I did exactly what I have wanted to do all my life. I killed the man who terrorized my mother and me, and I enjoyed every second of it. I finally saw in his eyes what he must have seen in mine every day, Sebastian. Terror. In the end, he knew he was going to die, and he was terrified.”
“But you murdered him!”
I sat back in my chair and shook my head. “It’s not murder to put down a rabid dog, and that is all I did. He was an evil, dangerous, rabid dog, and I put him…and me out of our misery. Besides,” I shrugged and winced again, “I only killed him after he tried to kill me. It was self-defense.”
I slowly removed my jacket and tie and unbuttoned the first three buttons of my shirt. I pulled the fabric away from my shoulder, and Sebastian’s eyes went wide when he saw the fresh, red, raw scar.
“There’s another on my back,” I said, letting him process what I was saying.
“He shot you?”
I nodded and redressed myself. “After he told me I was going to pay for my mother killing herself. He meant money, Sebastian. He was going to try and get money from me. And he tried to shoot me twice, by the way, but the gun jammed or something.”
“But if it was self-defense, why didn’t you go to the police? Why didn’t you tell them what happened?”
He nodded, still horrified at what I was telling him.
I sighed and stood up and looked out at the park. “Two reasons. One, I am not going to risk my freedom over that animal. It truly was self-defense, but I can’t take the chance that the authorities won’t agree with me. I will not go to jail for him, Sebastian! Two, it serves him right to be a nobody, to be buried in a pauper’s grave with not even his name to follow him into whatever hell he landed in.” I turned and looked at my friend. “After what he did to us, he deserved this, Sebastian. He deserved worse. He deserved to be tortured to death, to feel what we felt every day. If I’d had the time or the strength, I would have made sure his death took a very long time and was incredibly painful.” I stopped and saw that Sebastian was watching me carefully, but the horror in his eyes seemed to have dimmed somewhat. “At least he felt the terror at the end. That is some justice.”
“His death isn’t justice enough?”
“Not quite,” I said softly, moving back to my chair and sitting down, “but I’ll take it.”
“Erik, you’re scaring me.”
“Because you are so cold about this, so calm. Do you have no conscience at all?”
I clenched my teeth. “Don’t you dare talk to me about conscience. That bastard had no conscience as he beat us bloody or while he enjoyed it! He was a sadistic son of a bitch, and he would have killed me, Sebastian! What about that are you not understanding? He shot me, and the only reason I’m alive is because he was a lousy shot, because the gun malfunctioned, and because Doctor Adams’ office wasn’t too far away.”
“The doctor knows about this?”
“He does. I was on my way there to get my cast off when I was ambushed in the park. The doctor is the one who fixed me up.”
“And he didn’t call the police either?”
“No, he said it was a justified killing.”
Sebastian shook his head and fisted his hands in his hair. “I don’t know what to think about this.”
“I’m sorry about that, Sebastian, I really am, but I am completely at peace with what happened, and I am not going to think about it anymore.”
“I…” He stood up and moved toward the door. “I have to think about this, Erik. I have to…”
“Wait.” He stopped with his hand on the knob. “I have something to show you that might help you come to terms with what I did.”
He looked back at me, and I saw tears in his eyes. “What is it?”
“They’re upstairs. Will you come and see?”
He nodded and slowly followed me to the stairs. We were silent as we climbed them and as I led him to my studio.
“Sit,” I said, pointing to the stool in front of my drawing table. He did, and I went to the shelving on the wall opposite the wall of windows. I went straight to a collection of eight sketchbooks with black covers. I took all eight and placed them gently in front of him on the table.
“What are these?”
“An explanation for my seeming lack of conscience. The best I can give you, anyway.”
I stepped to the windows and watched as my only friend moved the top book in front of him and opened it. The first drawing was of the day my father stomped on my four-year-old hand, and the second was of him backhanding my mother as she tried to reach me. The third was the beating he gave me afterwards, and the fourth was of him beating my mother for trying to help me. The drawings continued in this way—me being beaten and then my mother. Sometimes it was just me, for there were many times my mother was not around when the violence started.
It took almost an hour for Sebastian to flip his way through all eight books, and at the end, tears were streaming down his face. He reverently closed the back cover of the last book and dropped his head into his hands. He sobbed, and I felt my heart rend as I watched him, but I stayed where I was, willing myself to stay calm. After many moments, however, I couldn’t stand it, and I walked out onto the balcony and rested my hands on the railing. I sighed deeply and closed my eyes as I listened to the faint sounds of the city fifty stories below and of my friend weeping in the room behind me.
I remained where I was until I couldn’t feel my fingers, and then I turned back toward my studio. I was not surprised when I saw that Sebastian was gone, for I had heard him leave. My jaw tightened as I struggled to keep in my tears, but my lower lip trembled as I appreciated that I was now unequivocally alone, that I had driven away my one and only friend with my actions. The first tear trickled down my scarred cheek as I walked back inside. Mechanically, I replaced the sketchbooks back on the shelf, and I was about to leave the room when I saw a small scrap of paper on the floor. I picked it up and read it.
I’m sorry.I dropped it as I sank to the floor and curled into myself. I wrapped my arms around my knees and buried my face in them. Moans and sobs came from deep within me, and I gave myself up to them.