Ice Cold Finale

 

Ever since my first day at Infants’ school when I was just over four years old Raymond had latched on to me. I never knew what I had done to be the focus of his attention, but he hardly ever let me alone. I was terrified of Raymond. He bullied and tormented me. I was body-whipped with a wetted rolled-up towel and I learned later that he had verbally abused me. I did not understand what that meant or know how to explain this at the time, but that’s what he did and I could never tell anyone.

Not long after that first day at school I became timid and withdrawn. Any confidence that I once had was seriously damaged and I had none left by the time I went on to Junior school. A scared little boy and nobody knew why. Over the years I forgot about Raymond, but remained somewhat introverted.

Several years later I realised that I enjoyed contact sports and with that my confidence began to grow. Rugby was my baptism by fire. Rough and tough. A great game. I felt very comfortable in this type of environment and it was hardly surprising that I should raise the level to the one-on-one combat sports of boxing and martial arts. I became a very capable fighter, yet not violent. Perhaps it’s self-confidence that determines the difference between assertiveness and just being aggressive.

One freezing day during my middle age, I was running as part of my regular training regime through a local park in the snow. A small lake near the middle was surrounded by trees and had frozen over. My balaclava, gloves and winter running clothes kept me warm while I sweated from the result of my exertions and in any case, I was used to outdoor sport in the Winter. I passed a lone man exercising his dog off the lead when I noticed the dog run onto the ice and then heard the man screaming at his dog to ‘come back, boy’. I stopped and turned towards the unpleasant sounding tone. The man was walking over towards the nervous looking animal as it stood still on the ice. As he approached, the dog ran off leaving the man standing near the bank, but on the frozen lake. I could see that he was a heavy man and the inevitable happened: the ice cracked under his weight and he began to slip through into the freezing cold water beneath gasping in surprise. I instinctively ran over towards the bank, though before I reached the edge I had already considered what I would do when I got there. Maybe I could get hold of him and pull him out, but I had consciously decided that I wouldn't venture onto the ice. I just knew I had to do something. There was nobody else about that I could see and even the dog seemed to have deserted his master. The two of us were alone.

By the time I had moved to the frozen-water’s edge, the man had managed to pull himself clear and was reaching out and trying to get a hold on the snow-covered bank. I could see that he was obviously in shock and as I looked down into his face instantly recognised Raymond, but he appeared to not know me. It was possible that his shock and my balaclava may have conspired to hide my identity, but all my early schoolday terrors suddenly returned and transformed into rage as the memories flooded into my mind threatening to drown me. In a moment of unthinking madness I kicked Raymond hard with the ball of my foot in the side of his head as he struggled to stand up. This single blow must have rendered him momentarily unconscious as he released his grip on the snow-covered bank. He slipped back into the freezing water this time disappearing completely under the ice. I never saw Raymond again, though I did retrieve the dog’s lead that had been dropped.

I wondered how long in advance it was necessary to define premeditation in first-degree murder. A day? A week or a month? In my case it was nearly forty years and I knew in a flash when I saw it was Raymond trying to reach the bank that I had wanted him dead for all that time. Still, was it premeditation or manslaughter maybe with diminished responsibility? Or me justifying it to myself? I didn’t care. Raymond was dead.

Three weeks later all the ice had disappeared and Raymond's body was found and recovered. Nobody had missed poor Raymond or his dog. His body was terribly bloated and smelled awful. A bruise on his left temple was still visible and it was concluded at the post mortem that he had lost his footing and struck the ice with his head. The ice had cracked, his body had slipped through into the freezing water and he had drowned. No explanation could be offered to explain his being on the ice and it was supposed he had lost his way during a snowstorm. In the absence of witnesses, the inquest returned a verdict of accidental death, but I knew differently. I had possibly managed to get away with murder and I felt not the slightest sense of guilt. On that fateful cold day I was not particularly proud of myself about what I had done. Killing a defenceless man, but I was at last free of those childhood terrors that I had harboured for so long.  The bully who had tormented his victim for years had at last met with his, very much delayed, comeuppance.

I stroked my newly adopted dog Raymond with the very foot that had dispatched his previous owner. I had told my friends that my dog was a stray I had found roaming in the terribly cold weather. They thought it very generous of me to give the animal a new home, though as he contentedly lay on the floor in front of me I smiled, confident that my damaged soul had finally been fully repaired.

 

© Louis Brothnias, v.1.5 (2010)

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