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by Well-heeled 

Posted: 13 October 2004
Word Count: 1037
Summary: There are very few evil people in the world, just very many who disagree over what is good.

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The best thing about killing someone is the way their expression changes, as they realise the seriousness of their predicament. Take the youth I executed last night, for example.

We passed each other on the towpath of the canal near my home in Docklands, beneath a road bridge where the sodium lamps buzz and falter. I made the mistake of glancing at his face as he approached, so he scowled and occupied the centre of the thoroughfare, challenging me to skirt him or show some braggadocio. At first, I took the former option. Then I turned to meet his stare and hold it, until he wheeled around, clenching his fists.

“I’m terribly sorry to point this out,” I said, in the most plummy voice I could muster, “but your trousers seem rather too big for you.”

It was true. The gangsta-rap jeans were slung so wide and low they were practically falling off. Had I chosen to run at this point, he could not have given chase without tripping over his gnome’s crotch. For a moment, I found myself marvelling at the inefficacy of street-wear that would pin one’s knees together at speed; could he have a pair of quick-release, emergency braces hidden beneath the jacket, I wondered?

There was no time to ask. He evidently found uninvited looks and polite sartorial advice to be grounds for assault, and launched a slab-like fist at my head.

Too slow. I sidestepped the blow and used my left hand to pull the attacking arm forward, adding to its momentum and throwing the youth off balance. At the same time, I drove the nine-inch stiletto in my right hand directly through his heart.

No doubt you will form a moral judgement of this incident. However, before you do, let’s be clear about one thing: on my part, it was self-defence.

Admittedly, I knew the youth’s name, I knew where he lived and I knew when he was likely to walk here alone. I also suspected he would react with extreme violence to the kind of behaviour you or I would find inconsequential. I had even prepared a dossier of his criminal activities – grievous bodily harm, robbery, drug-pushing, terrorising the elderly - to plant on the body and send to the press. These were the premeditated circumstances of his death.

Yet, in the final analysis, had he acted like any normal person and resisted the urge to harass me, I would have permitted him to live. My actions on the towpath that night were entirely civil, while his reactions produced a crisis in which either I would end up savaged or he would end up dead.

The blade sunk quickly into the youth’s chest until the hilt slammed into his ribs. He tried feebly to bring his arms into a grapple but the pain took over immediately. I savoured the moment as his expression of malevolence turned to one of uncomprehending terror, then pushed him off the knife onto the tarmac.

There was very little time to spare before he lost consciousness, so I knelt down beside him and brought my lips close to his ear:

“This is for all of your victims, Joel,” I said. “You will never hurt anyone again, and the world is now a better place. Do you understand?” His head lolled towards me, blood seeping from the side of the mouth and down the chin. He was fading, but he could hear me all right. “Before you go, I want you to know that I discriminate against nothing but evil,” I said. “And you’re evil, Joel. Shall I tell you how I know?” The mouth opened and closed slightly. Blood gobbed from his chest like pond water from the penis of a garden cherub. “I know because you enjoy the suffering of others,” I said. “I’ve watched you laughing at their misery. I’ve taken photographs of some of the pain you’ve caused - just a fraction of it, probably. And I’m here to tell you that you’re part of a dying breed. There are very few evil people in the world, just very many who disagree over what is good. That’s why I’m such an optimist.”

I had more to say, but a movement from the canal suddenly caught my eye and I looked up to see a swan glide in silence to within a few feet of us. It stopped and looked at me quizzically, as if to enquire whether I might be dropping bread in the water today. The beauty of it stunned me for a moment, and I felt an overwhelming desire to apologise, not just for the ugliness of the scene, but for everything - the pollution, the fishing hooks that stole away too many cygnets, the orange street lamps that made it difficult to tell between night and day.

Most of all I wanted to apologise for human cruelty - just a few days earlier, I had seen Joel pouring paraffin onto a swan’s nest at the reserve further down the canal, and setting it on fire. I was too far away to stop the attack, but on reaching the scene had found him laughing with friends as screaming chicks tried to douse themselves in the stagnant water, too young to remain afloat.

Maybe last night's bird was from a different family. It peered at me for several minutes, unquestioning, and though I should have dashed from the scene I peered back, frustrated by its lack of exultation in what I had achieved. “I got the bastard,” I said quietly. “Look, you’re free. You’ve no need to be scared any more.” For some reason I sobbed a little, though no tears came.

When I tried to drag Joel’s body into the light, the swan started at my sudden movement and withdrew. It had obviously decided in any case that I was too occupied in human affairs to be of any help tonight. It turned gently and slid beneath the bridge, looking around for other sources of food or warmth or danger. And I watched it paddle silently into the distance, longing to be part of a world in which everything could be reduced to nothing more than sensation and instinct.

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Comments by other Members

scottwil at 13:15 on 13 October 2004  Report this post
Another fine piece, WH. Excellent writing and an exceptionally powerful first half. I found the convoluted self-justification in the second half tended to slow the pace a little for me.
I tripped over this line: 'They had stopped reporters from absolving each thug in death by concentrating solely on their questionably beneficent acts during life.'
There's nothing technically wrong with it, but by comparison I found it a bit overwritten.


Well-heeled at 13:39 on 13 October 2004  Report this post
Thanks Sion, you are quite right. In fact, I've just re-edited the story and shortened it by several hundred words, to get rid of some of the over-complex stuff you describe. I'd strayed from the essential point of the story, but think it's now back on track.

roger at 14:06 on 13 October 2004  Report this post
Hi Paul,

I must have just read the edited version because it was smooth & fluent with no trip-ups whatsoever. As with your previous upload, brilliant writing that, for me, got right into the head of a vigilante – the belief in the justification of what he was doing. It’s also a big thought provoker…unless we do something about this crazy PC society that we live in now, people will be drawn closer and closer to this way of thinking, and that’s really worrying. Great quality, full of great lines, (as with your last piece), and a message to seriously ponder. What more can you ask?

old friend at 17:13 on 13 October 2004  Report this post
Another smoothly-written piece and again, full marks. This has a very strong common thread with your other piece... the contrast, the opposite ends of a fulcrum... the good and the evil.

I think they are both good stories but the other had, for me, a more original basis while with this one I could not help to have an image of Charles Bronson and his Death Wish films in mind.

This does not detract from the skill and creativity in your writing, add to this your very readable style and you have a winning formula.

All the best.


Shadowgirl at 18:32 on 13 October 2004  Report this post
Hello Paul,

This is a stunning piece of writing which makes me feel totally inferior. You display a talent which I can only admire, and that is clear from the very first sentence in both the pieces you have posted here.

The message in the pieces and the excellent standard of writing, leaves me unable to find the correct words to comment, other than exceptional.


Account Closed at 20:38 on 13 October 2004  Report this post
Yes, this is terrific. The contrast between the cold killing and the swan sent shivers down my spine.

ShayBoston at 20:43 on 13 October 2004  Report this post
Hi Well-heeled,

A wonderfully intense piece, flawlessly written. I aplogise for not giving detailed crit, I just thought it was excellent from start to finish. Welcome to WW. I'll make a point of going back to your debut piece and look forward to more.


Dee at 20:55 on 13 October 2004  Report this post
Oh… sensational.

WH, your work is a pleasure to read. I can’t fault the writing… I’ve tried… ;)

The opening hook is wonderful.

Blood gobbed from his chest like pond water from the penis of a garden cherub.
Love this – I hate those little algae-coated, dribbly buggers!

I watched it paddle silently into the distance
Something about this simple line really hit me where it matters. Not sure why. Maybe it’s the way it shows the dislocation between human society and the natural world.

Great piece of work.


Al T at 21:01 on 13 October 2004  Report this post
Hi Paul, I'm glad you joined up. I can only echo the above - a very accomplished piece of writing.



PS - I thought that setting fire to the swans' nest worked extremely well as a symbol of mindless violence and destruction, but shouldn't the chicks be cygnets?

Well-heeled at 13:49 on 14 October 2004  Report this post
Thanks Adele. Re: Your point about my use of the word "chicks". Yes, when I reread the story, I wasn't sure either. However, the dictionary definition says: "...a young bird, esp. one newly hatched". So I'm assuming I can apply it to all birds rather than just chickens.

Al T at 14:04 on 14 October 2004  Report this post
Hi, I'm not saying chicks is wrong, just that cygnets is more specific - after all, you've written about swans, not just birds.

Btw, Bright Lights Big City was my fave novel when I was 21.


Well-heeled at 14:14 on 14 October 2004  Report this post
Adele, what I meant to say was, I chose the word because it implied something small and fluffy. A cygnet can be quite large before it becomes a swan. Certainly, it could fend for itself. I'd have to say something like "newly hatched cygnets" if I wanted to change the line.

Are you saying "Bright Lights..." is only for the young? I think it stands the test of time, although I'm only 28. What's you're favourite novel now? [In case anyone wonders why we're discussing this, it's a reference to the thread under my other upload, which is called "Reality Check".]

Al T at 14:16 on 14 October 2004  Report this post
My fave novel now is the one I'm writing ;) Gotta run.

eyeball at 10:44 on 15 October 2004  Report this post
I've read 'Bright Lights' recently, which is probably why McInerney came to mind. Also like 'Model Behaviour'.

As to this piece, again, it pulled me in and refused to let me stop reading. You write compellingly and I can't find anything to fault in this edited version. It does feel, though, like part of a larger piece. Is it going to develop, do you think?


Becca at 13:09 on 19 October 2004  Report this post
Again Paul,
Beautifully written, beautifully controlled. I know that bit of the world around Docklands and could imagine the scene well. I felt absolutely with your MC as he did his deed, it's something to do with the quiet voice. I think, having read the two pieces of yours you asked me to look at, that I do hear a voice in your writing. I have nothing to say about it in the way of an improvement. What are you working on at the moment, and are you one of the novelists?

Now I go to look at what else has been written. I see that you've re-written it since. And that I am in accord with the other crits.
More stories coming?

crowspark at 20:55 on 24 October 2004  Report this post
Some fine fluent writing here. Great opening paragraph which gives insight.
I thought his justification with regard to the swan a little mawkish which for me gave substance to the personality of the central character.

Great stuff.

neilwills at 17:47 on 04 November 2004  Report this post
Very enjoyable. I really liked the subject and the way it was presented. The controlled consideration of the vigilante added to the atmosphere of menace you have created. Best thing I've read on here so far.

scoops at 11:12 on 19 November 2004  Report this post
What a terrific piece. It held me all the way through. I thought the line about taking photographs odd and extraneous, and it should be sank not sunk. Otherwise, it's perfect. Your character feels very real, from the deliberate provocation at the beginning, to the sudden realisation at the end that there's no going back. Shyama

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