By Tom Foster
“You prey on the unsuspecting and the unwary.”
“You bring pain to everyone you touch.”
“Yes,” the woman sobbed, “so much pain.”
There was a certain kind of satisfaction that came from making the unrepentant suffer, especially after considering what they’d done. Muriel said that it was a guilty pleasure, but Raphael figured it was warranted. He should have felt bad simply because the aggressor was a woman, or so his friend Arvin believed. But women could be every bit as evil as men, they simply weren’t as aggressive that often. Women tended to be aggressive, but in a manner that was far different than men. They were deadlier, in Raphael’s opinion.
Take this woman, for instance. Her name was Anna Parkasian, and she’d been married three times, and had six children. All of them were dead, either through suspicious means that could never be connected to Anna, or in ways that were deemed as self-defense. She’d killed one husband by stabbing him in the crotch, claiming that he’d been about to beat her to death with a hammer.
The truth that had never been revealed was that she’d killed him while he had been sipping at a glass of brandy and reading one of his favorite books for the second time. What she’d done to her children was even worse.
She had paid others to harm her children, even stooping so low as to find the most deranged and troubled youths that would accept fifty dollars or less to do her bidding. One of her children, a 12-year old boy named Avery, died of massive blunt force trauma caused by the impact of a Chevrolet pickup barreling into him at roughly 45 miles per hour. If that hadn’t been enough, Avery had survived for nearly an hour after having his skull crushed by the front left truck tire, as well as the rear tire.
The high school student that Anna had paid hadn’t been able to keep quiet, claiming that Anna had paid him to do this. In all fairness, he’d been looking down the long tunnel of a long prison sentence. But Anna had been smarter that time, as she always was. There had been no proof left to show that she had in fact had anything to do with the high schooler, whose name was Tim Goulter. Tim might have been serving out a decade-long sentence for manslaughter, had he not been shanked in the prison shower less than a month into his sentence.
It would be kind to state that he’d reaped what he’d sown, but that was Anna’s doing as well. A payment to the commissary of a cousin of Anna’s that was incarcerated in the same facility had ensured that a favor would be dealt. Unfortunately, Tim had become collateral damage to be tallied up when all was said and done. One more number to add to Anna’s long list of transgressions that were now coming due.
Raphael noted the beads of sweat that were rolling down Anna’s pallid, pain-wracked features, and he smiled. They were almost done.
“Do you ever think about what we do?”
Raphael shook his head, glancing briefly at Arvin as they made their way through the ephemeral corridor that allowed them to travel from one point in the world to another. This method of passage was unknown to the people they were sent to judge. It was faster than walking, faster than flying, and in fact only one known method was quicker. But that was reserved for the one that sat above all, the one that was spoken of but never seen.
“No. Do you regret it?” Raphael asked in turn.
“No. These people escape justice. We make sure it’s delivered. The human race is faulty, they let their morality get in the way of actual justice.”
Raphael thought for a moment, then replied, “They’re afraid. They don’t want to condemn their own to a single moment of pain if they’re not certain of their guilt. Even those that are guilty are seen as worthy of respect. They’re a strange race, that’s certain.”
They walked in silence for several moments, until Arvin decided to state, “Do you think we’ll ever be judged in the same way?”
“If we are, we’ll have earned it.”
There was no more talking as they continued to make their way forward. The tunnel walls began to shimmer and grow translucent, giving way to the world they would seen rejoin.
“Will this task ever end, do you think?”
Raphael snorted, “Humans are a simple but complicated species. They’re always busy, always finding ways to build or destroy themselves. Since they’re always busy, we’ll always be busy. At least, that’s what I believe.”
Arvin had nothing to say to this. As the pair kept walking, the world bloomed into existence around them, revealing a squat, wooden shack in the middle of what looked like an old-growth forest. Raphael sighed, wondering what could have possibly brought them to this place. Like he said, they would always be busy. Humanity would make certain of that.