This story is by Eve Garnier and was part of our 2018 Summer Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
Sitting in a rocking chair on the terrace of the sheriff’s office, the vice sheriff was taking a break from his shift. His hands tensed on the shotgun resting on his knees when he saw an armed man approaching. He didn’t recognise him at first, standing up, gun down to avoid any hostile gestures. The man relaxed he saw the face under the hat.
“Doctor Wright, what brings you here? Coming to collect a debt from our sheriff?”
“Not today William, I’m here to report a murder.” answered the man pulling off his hat.
“Whose?” asked the vice-sheriff intrigued.
“Lieutenant Andrew John Lewis of the 3rd Cavalry, by yours truly.” the man replied handing over a rifle. “Here is the murder weapon.”
Silence filled the room as the sheriff sitting at his desk was trying to make sense of all this. He had sent the vice-sheriff to find the doctor’s brother. Looking through the records of the citizens and visitors of the city, he couldn’t see the name of the victim.
“I’m sorry George, but are you sure about-.”
“I am, you can see the dry blood on the cross of the weapon.”
“Arum, yes, I believed you said it was during the war. Under such circumstances, we do not-.” attempted the sheriff, but George cut him off again.
“No, that time it was different, it was with premeditation, and he was one of us. I am ready to write a full confession.” the doctor took a breath, voice trembling.“I… I killed him. Knocked him dead with a sharp hit on the head. I knocked him dead.” George repeated, grabbing his face with his hands.
The sheriff raised from his chair to come around and give a pat on the doctor’s back.
“You’re going to be alright Doc’, don’t worry, we’ll find your brother and clear this all story out.”
“No! He must not. I…I can’t do this to him. It would break his heart.” he started to fiddle in his pocket and pulled out a picture. “Look, this is me, Isaac and Andy. Sorry, I meant Lieutenant Lewis. H-He was our best friend. He is the man I murdered.”
The sheriff took the picture. He recognised the two brothers in their blue uniform with a third unknown man. They seemed happy despite their tired faces and worn out outfits. A faint smile of sympathy stretched on the sheriff’s lips, patting the other’s back again.
An hour later the door of the office opened. Dressed into a banker suit, Isaac Wright walked towards the sheriff’s desk.
“I was told George was here, talking about murder?”
“Yes… Ahem, a certain lieutenant Lewis,” Replied the sheriff as he handed him the picture. “Your brother is in the back. He asked me to lock him up… I left the door open.”
Isaac’s heart skipped a beat seeing the picture, giving a simple nod to the sheriff as he headed toward the cells. He slowed his pace when he reached the one where his brother was. Taking a moment to look at him, Isaac, then, entered, sitting on the wooden bench by his side.
“I told them to lock me up.” Mumbled the doctor, avoiding to look at his brother.
“So I heard… What is this all about George?”
“The truth. I killed Andy, Isaac, I killed him and got away with it.”
“No, you didn’t, it was in different circumstances.” Tried to reassure Isaac reaching for his brother’s shoulder.
“No, it’s not like that, I… knew… I saw… I saw you two…”
“What are you talking about?”
“I saw you two together! You kissed him! And I was angry, angry at you, angry at him for letting you do it and what the folks back home would think. I had to, to prevent him to ruin your future.”
The two brothers fell silent. Isaac stood up, pacing in the cell for a couple of minutes before turning back towards George.
“Why didn’t you tell me something then?”
“I wanted to forget it, hoping it was a phase. I… I lost it, saw an opportunity and struck him.”
“No, you didn’t this has nothing to do-.”
“You were not in my head Isaac!”
“But I was there, George. Think for a moment. You saved our lives that day, remember?”
Time seemed to flash before George’s eyes.
They were on the ground, crawling as quietly and quickly as they could after successfully escaping their cells. They had not passed the enemy lines yet when the sound of canons started to resonate in the distance. The fort where they were detained for the last couple of weeks was under attack. They had to move fast, avoid getting caught by the enemy or killed by their own. Isaac was in front of the group of prisoners. His brother and Andrew Lewis closing the march when a cannon flew over their heads landing close to them. Too close. At first, George thought he was hit, unable to move, frozen by shock, until he heard a scream of pain behind him. His friend was laying on his back; both legs shred to bits of flesh and bones. An opportunity, light in his eyes, he grabbed the gun he held and knocked him down with it.
“I… I knocked him down… I wanted him dead,” repeated George waving his head, trying to get the images out of his head.
“No, you didn’t. Remember, when the cannonball exploded…”
“Andrew got hit, he screamed and I…”
“The night watchers, they called out our escape.” said, Isaac, as he sat back down to help him remember.
“They heard him scream, I… I remember…” George closed his eyes, taking a deep breath, his brother holding his hand. “I crawled to him… Oh my god, there is too much blood, he lost his legs. You…” he opened his eyes to meet his brother’s gaze.“You asked me to keep him quiet. ‘We must not attract attention,’ you said, the Rebs are close. I put my hand on his mouth to try to muffle his screams of pain… Shhh…” Echoed Georges as if he was back there. They heard footsteps. “Shhh, shhh Andrew you must keep quiet…” tears were starting to pour on George’s face as he continued. “Shhh… Oh god please, you need to be quiet Andy, I’m sorry…”
Tears were running on a younger George’s face. He meets his friend’s gaze, reading a plea as he struggled with the pain. Andrew wiggles, using his last strength to hand his weapon over to the other. They exchange an understanding nod, and George takes it, taking a deep breath, aiming for the skull. One blow was enough to knock his friend dead. Strapping the rifle on his shoulder, he crawled away to rejoin the group. They signed him to stop moving, he freezes. They wait. Finally, the soldiers in white uniforms rushed back towards the fort under attack.
“I remember he was… I had to or…”
“We’d all be dead that night,” Isaac said finishing his sentence.
“All those years… I thought I killed him, killed him to protect you.”
“Yet, you kept this picture of us.” remarked his brother, handing him the old picture.
“I did,” replied George as he looked at the picture, “so I would never forget.” George fell into tears, hugging his brother tight as they held each other in the silent cell.