Death Across The Decades

Death had started from this place decades ago. The short slim man wearing the thin brown leather jacket knew that but he continued to climb the structure. Three decades ago, this assembly of machinery and scaffolding and metal had known the sharp crack of a rifle and less than a second later, far less than a mile away, a middle-aged man’s head had exploded when a precisely machined and prepared bullet had entered his skull. And still the man climbed.

He paused half way up, and wiped his brow with a soft yellow cloth which he then folded neatly and returned to his jeans pocket. He passed a dirty hand through dirtier sandy hair and straightened, stretching. He had only been a child when it happened, but he still remembered the sounds and the smells and then the strange silence that had followed the deed before the clamour and fuss.

He continued the climb, thinking that it must have been easier for the assassin back then; he’d have been perfectly fit, perfectly trained. And the man who climbed was neither. He was a physics teacher at a school half a state away. But he had obligations, he supposed. As he reached the highest platform, he looked back three miles and thirty years to the town. He had been born in that place, and had left it as soon as he was able, returning for the first time four days ago to attend his father’s funeral. There hadn’t been much of a will reading, but then there hadn’t been much of an estate. The family had lived well enough, but he’d not been one of them. Not since he was 18 and gotten on a bus one day and just not come back.

Oh, he’d let them know where he ended up, after a few years but he’d resisted all entreatments to return home while his father had been alive. And the old bastard had lived long enough for any resentment the younger man had to have become comfortable, like a favourite sweater that had seen far better days. But the lawyer’s letter had been insistent so he came back. And he climbed the structure because the will had demanded it; the bequest would be found at the top, he’d been told. And so he’d climbed. And found, on the highest platform… nothing.

No message, no package, no bequest at all.

He stood at the point where the assassin must have stood, looking at where the killer would have aimed. He glanced down, as he noticed something flickering. A single small sheet of paper, taped to an upright strut, two words scrawled in a familiar hand; he stooped and picked it up, reading it. And then he laughed, a short unpleasant laugh. The old bastard never gave up; after all these years, his father still denied being the killer, even though with his own eyes, he’d seen the gun that day, seen his father’s face later that evening when he’d watched the news, seen the grim smile when they’d arrested the patsy, seen the smug grin when everyone stopped looking for anyone else.

The young man read the short message again, then pulled out a cigarette lighter and flicked it; the paper was bone dry and caught the flame quickly, flaring up, a spreading blackness quickly eliminating the two words. He dropped the remnants and watched them scatter.

As the young man started his way down, he suddenly stopped and laughed again; thirty years of the old man trying to get through to his son and he’s blown it every time. Yeah, the sandy haired man thought, you missed all right. You missed everything.

And the man continued climbing down; he’d been running away from his past for decades but he knew it would always be with him.

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