A 1000 word short story
The late night knock was gentle. Bernard was on his way to bed and wondered who it was. With the key-chain well secured he opened the door slowly. His heart was pounding. Whoever was around at this hour must be up to no good. No one was there. Bernard looked down, on the front step was a small parcel wrapped in brown paper tied with string. His name written neatly. Feeling safer he opened the door and stooped to get the box. Heart beating he went to the kitchen and opened the package. His eyes widened. He dropped it in shock. It was a man’s finger – there was a lot of blood.
He summoned enough courage and looked again. There was a note. “The finger of fate points at you. It points to your cowardice”. Fear rose in Bernard, icy and silent. He slid down and sat on the floor, he wanted to scream. He couldn’t.
Bernard was a successful divorce attorney who made a fortune from the misery of others. Custody, maintenance and guardianship were his stock in trade. Angry and bitter wives, vengeful husbands. Adultery filled his files. Bernard’s retirement was built on the wretched disappointment of his clients. His life was a fountain of vengeful wisdom. Claire was married to him for twelve years. In the end all she was left with were the clothes on her back and the love of her children. It was an extravagant battle and Bernard did it so well. In the courtroom Bernard was fearless.
“I hate the bitch and I want to destroy her.” Adrian came to see Bernard one Saturday morning and was bitter. His wife Fiona left him for a younger man. There was the inevitable ‘irretrievable breakdown in a relationship’ argument – left as the most convenient excuse for lust and deceit. Adrian felt humiliated and wanted revenge. “I have assets all over the world. I want you to hide them form scrutiny”. Bernard made notes – over a hundred-million in shares and cash? How do you hide such wealth? “I want her left destitute by the time we are finished. Destitute – do you understand?” Carefully Bernard made notes. “Yes Adrian, I understand.” If anyone did, it was Bernard. He utterly destroyed Claire in a similar gambit. Adrian was an avaricious shit, but his revenge was justified, Bernard thought.
After the meeting Bernard arranged to meet Megan at the Mugg and Bean in Parkhurst. It was a joyous meeting between father and daughter. It was the regular highlight of his week. “Hi Daddy” Megan was genuinely pleased to see her father. They ordered breakfast and huddled into the gossip of the week. No one noticed three men enter the restaurant and position themselves against the back wall and two entrances. A gun shot in such a small space sounds like an explosion. “Lie down, everybody lie down” Bernard’s heart was beating. Hard.
“Take out your wallets and your car keys. Do as we say and nobody will get hurt.” One of the armed men grabbed Megan by her hair and pulled her to her feet. “Bitch, I am going to fuck you and then I’m going to kill you. Just because I can”.
Bernard’s move was swift and fluid. He pushed Megan aside and hit the attacker with all the force in the world. As he fell he dropped his gun. Bernard picked it up in one unified movement and shot one of the robbers. He fell. He grabbed Megan’s assailant around the neck and pushed his gun to his temple. “Tell your friend to put his hands on his head – otherwise I’ll kill you.” It did not take long for the police to arrive and arrest the two and identify the body of the third. As quickly as it began – so it ended. Bernard was left numb.
“Dad, you are the most courageous person I know” Megan held her father and felt such pride. “ I did it because I love you – I always will” He held her tight and limped to the parked car. Bernard forgot to pay the bill.
That night the moon was full and bright. Bernard could not sleep and got up around midnight; he knew what he must do. Quietly he let himself into the garage and closed the door. He brought with him a bottle of whiskey. He took a long swig from the bottle and waited. Slowly he felt a familiar warm comfort as the alcohol took hold. Beyond fear Bernard placed is arm in the vice and tightened just enough not to hurt but enough to feel the flow of blood slow. His hand went pale; he could feel the pulse in his finger. Bernard took another mouthful and set the bottle down. He shut his eyes.
The axe he recently bought was sharpened, it glinted in the moonlight. He lifted and with a primal scream he brought it down hard with one swift movement. He cut off his index finger. Immediately the pain raced through his hand and up his arm. It raced to the top of his head and he opened his eyes. Wide. The shock was too much for Bernard and he collapsed on the floor. His hand slipped out of the vice tearing the skin off his wrist as he fell. He was panting hard.
For Adrian when the late night knock came, it was gentle and he wondered what this was about. “Who is it?” he called. There was no answer. Adrian opened the door and looked down on the front step. There was a small parcel wrapped in brown paper tied with string. His name was written clearly. He stooped to pick up the box. He went into his study and opened the package. His eyes widened and he dropped it in shock. Inside was a man’s finger, there was a lot of blood.
The note read “The finger of fate points at you. It points to your greed”.