The day was drawing to its end, the sun had already started its last fall to the West and people were moving from their coffee to wine, beer or spirits, and the mood was changing along with it.
People were at the old convent in the inner city, all there for their own reasons, some to meet others, some to wander, and others for therapies of some sort; she was there to meditate with “like minded people”. It was nearing the end of break time in their programme and those she had taken some refreshments with were finding their way back to the meditation room.
She stayed awhile by herself, watching the groups form and disperse as they do; greeting and farewelling, laughing, reminding each other of future meetings, calling kids in etc. This pleased her sense of belonging.
The property was large and dour; perhaps it’s past looming still. The wider community having reclaimed the space and giving it back a life driven by love and kindness; so they say. She had never liked the place; it was always dull to her, grey and cavernous. She knew some of its history and had long ago stopped wondering why the church behaved as they did and still do. Power is power and it can and will corrupt.
The first she noticed was the noise, a man’s voice demanding attention from someone, not a warm “happy to see you” call out, rather a threat and call to arms!
People were alerted and starting to gather themselves and kids and move to a safe distance when she noticed a tall lanky older man, enraged, red faced and intent. She reckoned he could not be stopped, even by his own account. A shorter fatter man stood up to him and yelled back in defiance and equalled rage.
A couple of bulls squaring off, this was not going to end easily, no agreement to differ here, one would fall and one would steam on.
People had now moved well away but she was frozen to her seat. Her hips were not going to kick into any sort fast action to lift her from her place, her ankles would crumble and her knees seemed to be already screaming in pain and resistance. She could not move and she did not move; she sat there, now the closest audience to this rutting.
A knife was pulled and plunged deep into shorter fatter man’s belly, in and out several time in a frenzy such that counting was impossible. Blood everywhere, piercing screams and abusive accusations continuing.
Knife work complete, the perpetrator paused and with ballet like balance, threw back his right leg and landed his boot fair and square into the downed man’s face. Was this in some way how it was within these walls one hundred or so years ago?
The shorter fatter man lay on the ground, slumped and still, never to move again, the lanky older man standing over him, visually calmer then when he arrived, his breathing was settling and his hunch relaxing.
He looked around and saw her sitting so still and their eyes met; she knew him, recognised him, damn she said to herself. Perhaps he had the same going though his head if there was any space left.
What now she thought as he moved towards her, was it now her time to slump and never to move again. He quietly sat at her table and she noticed his tear filled eyes, silence brought them together and surprisingly she felt safe.
He put the knife on the table, huge, bloodied and vile. “Can you take this?” he asked. “Sure Jack” she said surprised she remembered his name. His eyes widened and his back straightened; she fumbled in her handbag for her fold away shopping bag, she was not going to touch that knife!
“Who are you” he asked, “I know you, damned if I know why but I do”.
The knife bagged and quietly dropped under the table, she turned to him and reminded him that she had worked at a community programme 35 years ago and his family had been regulars there. She offered to get him a cup of tea; strong white with four sugars! “How did you know that” he gasped; how is it that we recall some seemingly useless information she thought?
The conversation gently rolled on; the murdered man deserved it he declared, he had been Jack’s son in law and had belted the daylights out of his daughter for just too long. He was old now, 57 years, and life was hard; he said he would be O.K. in gaol; he was familiar with it and not afraid. Furthermore he had given up the smokes so “this new poncy ban on smoking in the slammer would not bother him” he declared.
“You gunna call the cops?”
“No, someone else will have done that” she said and the telling sounds could just be heard speeding on their way. He drank his tea, looked upon her from a sweet place she recognised, glanced at shorter fatter man still lying still on the ground and waited; his work complete.
When the cops arrived, he told her to stay put, got up and walked towards them with his hands raised. They swarmed, yelling their demands to get down, and she wondered how it is that the gentle elements of this man could not prevail in his life; she also marvelled that it could not be killed off either.
She remembered his daughter and there was an ache in her heart that abuse had been such a constant part of her life; although 35 years ago an end like this was somewhat predictable.