Beyond the Horizon

A piece of flash fiction by C H Clepitt

Walker checked his watch.  It was new.  A company just on the edge of Smoke, called Claymore and Tims, (which always made him think of a weedy little man trying to wield a huge sword), had just started developing this ‘wrist watches’.  They were smaller than pocket watches, and he always worried that he would push the tiny winder too far and break the spring. As such, he leaned towards underwinding, and his watch subsequently lost time.  Now, he was wondering just how late Judge Thompson was.  He kissed his teeth and leaned back in his chair.

“The judge will be with you shortly,” Jenkins, the judge’s clerk poked his tiny spherical head out from the office.  His thick spectacles engulfed his face, the lenses reflecting the room and giving the youth an almost mechanical look.

Walker held his watch to his ear to check that it was still ticking.

“Oh! You’ve one of the new wrist ones! How do you find it?” Jenkins asked eagerly.

“Small,” Walker said frankly. “And damned if I don’t always check my pocket first, every time!”

“Jenkins!” The voice of the judge boomed from the office behind them. “Stop your chit chat and send Walker in! You’re worse than my wife for gossip, boy!”

Jenkins’ cheeks flushed and he opened the door fully. “The judge will see you now, Sir.”

Walker nodded, rose gathering his papers and headed in.

“That will be all, Jenkins,” Judge Thompson dismissed the terrified youth. “So, Walker, how is it you always end up with the no win cases, eh? Damned bad luck, or are you cursed?” He laughed, leaned back in his chair and opened the walnut box on his desk, producing a thick cigar.  As he lit it and inhaled; a heady scent of cigar smoke filled the room.  Taking his queue from the judge, Walker took his cigarette case from his pocket and lit one.  He took a seat without waiting to be offered and looked at the judge for a moment, studying his countenance, his self satisfied grin that was permanently emblazoned on his face. The look of a man who knew he’d been born to privilege, and was going to exploit it.

“I volunteered,” Walker said calmly, blowing smoke across the office.

“Why the hell did you do that, man?” Thompson asked incredulously. “That woman is going straight to the noose! Amazed she escaped it before, killed her husband, apparently.”

“Because everyone deserves representation,” Walker maintained a calm exterior, but the grip on his cigarette tightened. “And I have a witness that says he was in there mutilating girls. It could have been self defense.”

“Witness! What witness?” Judge Thompson sneered. “Some whore? Who will believe her? Sir Thomas was a member of my golf club, for gods’ sake!”

“Then, are you sure you are the correct person to be trying the case, Judge?” Walker asked carefully.

“Don’t give me that bull, man!” Thompson snapped, waving his cigar ash over the desk in a flurry. “I can try a case based on the facts, it’s just that the facts scream guilty.”

Walker gritted his teeth and studied the judge.

“Anyway,” he continued. “Doesn’t exactly scream innocent to run away, does it?”

“Run away?” Walker repeated.

“Yes!” Thompson laughed. “That’s why I called you here, sorry, chap! Yes, your client has fled, with some boy. Last seen lurking at the train station. If she doesn’t report for court tomorrow, I’ll have no choice but to pass an automatic guilty verdict.”

“No choice?” Walker repeated. “Of course, that would wrap things up quickly.”

“No odds to me, man,” Thompson snorted. “Just thought I’d give you a chance to bring her in peacefully.”

“Right, yes, thank you.” Walker stood up. The long strip of ash that had been burning down his cigarette dropped onto his shoe. He shook it under the desk and left the butt in the judge’s ashtray. “I’ll see what I can do.” He left the office.

He knew this woman stood no chance in Judge Thompson’s court. He had already decided on her guilt.  The victim was most likely the slasher that the police had been half heartedly hunting for the last two years, but he was a member of the right golf club, so who cares? Walker strode towards the station. He knew the judge would have a man on him, and if he didn’t at least try to be seen to be seeking out his client, there would be consequences. Professional. He was already unpopular due to the anti-establishment cases he took pro-bono. The system was broken, and this was the only way he knew to fix it.  

It was dusk now, and as he left the dimly lit streets of Smoke for the station he lit another cigarette. The smoke was barely visible in the dusk, but the orange tip glowed brightly. Smoking calmed his nerves.  The station was deserted.

“Right, that’ll do, mate,” he turned to the judge’s man, who had been rather conspicuously tailing him. “Either walk next to me and have a chat, or go home, the creeping about in shadows is… well…”

The man was holding a walking cane, with a silver horse’s head as a handle. He raised it. “The judge wants you to let this one go,” he said as he brought it down hard.

Walker raised his arm to block the blow, and swore and the cane struck it.  The man swung again, but Walker rushed him, tackling him to the floor. The cane struck the ground as the two men tussled. Walker struck several blows, he had boxed at university, and although he was out of shape, he still knew how to land a punch. As they scrambled to their feet, Walker was on his toes, fists raised.

“Come on then, mate, let’s see how brave you are without your cane!”

“I’ll have you for assault!” The man responded. “They have just been waiting for an excuse to put you down.”

“Better make it worth it, then!” Walker responded with a series of blows to the face and torso.  The man reeled and turned, stumbling across the tracks to the other side, Walker in hot pursuit. He scrambled towards the scrubland on the other side and suddenly disappeared. “What the…” Walker looked around. There was nothing. He frowned. His face felt sore and a bruise on his cheek was starting to rise. Taking his cigarette case from his pocket he placed another between his lips and struck a match. The light of the flame revealed something shimmering in the dusk. He moved the match over it, studying the iridescent colours. He dropped it with a curse as it burnt down to his fingertips, only to see it disappear inside the portal. He struck a second match and picked up a rock, watching it disappear within the shiny prism of light.

“Well, I’ll be…” he said to himself, finally lighting his cigarette and rising from his crouching position. “The won’t find you there, will they?” he smiled to himself and patted his pocket before remembering and checking his wrist. The face of his watch was cracked. Time had stopped. Beyond the horizon he could see the streetlights of Smoke glowing. It was his city, and it was broken, but it could be fixed.  He walked slowly across the railway tracks and picked up the fallen cane. Like a javelin thrower he launched it at the area of the scrub where its owner had disappeared. It too vanished. Taking his cigarette from his mouth, he tapped the ash onto the ground. That was an interesting evening.

Find more stories by C H Clepitt here.

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