Samuel awoke with a start. His head was exploding with pain. He had to be at work soon. After mulling over calling in sick, he decided against it. Half asleep, he ran his hands all over his night table and found the clothes he had left there last night. He brushed, bathed and ate breakfast at the kind of speed people tend to develop when they have the same routine every day. As he was slow to get up that day, he was running late for work. He rushed towards the door of his home, paused briefly to grab his walking stick and went out the door.
Samuel worked as a telephone operator for Shire Insurance, a local company in the small town of Lockshire.
Lockshire was a quaint little place and Samuel had lived there his whole life. It lay just east of Sherwood, on the border of Nottinghamshire.
As he was a longtime resident, the roads and the people on it were very familiar to him. As he walked by, a few of them passed pleasantries as they did every day.
He reached work on time, to his relief, and sat at his desk ready to make calls to his clients. He was usually the first to enter the office, so he was initially taken aback by the sound of calls all around him.
He was leaning over his desk, about to call his first client, when he heard an unfamiliar voice above call out his name.
“Samuel Bardsley?” said the voice.
“Yes. How may I help you?” he replied. In his many years working at this company, no stranger had approached him. He thought perhaps the firm had hired an assistant for him at last.
“My name is Joseph Sidebottom. I’m the new deputy sheriff here. Can you come? I need to ask you a few questions.”
Samuel was surprised by the sudden nature of this request but was willing to cooperate nevertheless.
“I think we should be able to use one of the empty offices, if that will do,” Samuel offered.
“This is quite sensitive, could you come with me to my office? I do not wish to be disturbed. I’ve already spoken to your boss about this,” said Joseph.
Samuel felt that Joseph genuinely needed his help and decided to comply. Joseph escorted Samuel to the Sheriff’s office.
Once seated, Samuel asked what information Joseph needed.
“It’s about your wife, Mister Samuel,” Joseph said cautiously. As he had expected, Samuel’s expression morphed almost instantly.
Samuel’s face had gone from eager to help to a mixture of pain, regret and sorrow.
“I’d rather not talk about that. Ask me about anything else, if you don’t mind,” Samuel said, clearly still flustered.
“I’m sorry to upset you, but I need the details of her death,” he replied, measuring his words carefully.
Samuel’s wife had been murdered some years back. The police could find no evidence regarding who the killer was, but Samuel had always known the true culprit. Out of fear for his own life as well as the life of the rest of his family, he had always kept quiet.
“I’m sorry, officer. I refuse to tell you anything more on the matter. Now unless you have a reason to keep me here, I’ll be leaving,” he said finally losing his cool with the nosy deputy.
As he got up to return to work, the Sheriff walked in.
The Sheriff, Phil Miller was a formidable man. He was tall, fit and quite well built. He had been the Sheriff in the area for many years and was a decorated officer of the law.
“Samuel? Is that you, old friend? What in God’s name are you here for?” he said, with a big smile on his face.
Samuel was keeping mum, so after an awkward pause, Joseph filled in the Sheriff. After being brought up to speed, he didn’t appear to be fazed.
“Well, if he doesn’t want to talk, he doesn’t want to talk. Come on then Sam, you should be getting back to work. Take your things. Don’t forget that stick of yours.” he said jovially.
Still refusing to open his mouth, Samuel went straight back to the office. In the hours that followed, he was completely preoccupied. He was not working efficiently. In fact, the last time his work had been this shoddy had been in the weeks after the death of his sweet, innocent wife. Not particularly uplifted by the irony surrounding the matter, he prepared to head home.
After the death of his wife, he had often considered moving into a smaller house and starting over somewhere else, but this had been his home for far too long and he always found it difficult to adjust to new surroundings and new people.
Still deep in thought, he slowly walked up to the door. He fumbled for his keys and once he found them, he put it into the keyhole and turned the key slowly.
He pushed the door open and stepped inside. As he was about to set his walking stick aside, it all happened very fast.
He heard the door shut and felt a sharp knock to the back of his head. He fell to the floor and let out a dull shout of pain.
He heard a voice. “Hello there, old friend.”
Mustering every ounce of his strength, Samuel spoke.
“Why, Sheriff. I kept up my end of the deal. I didn’t tell anyone.”
The Sheriff laughed maniacally.
“My deputy is very nosy; it was too much of a risk,” he said slowly.
The Sheriff stood above the limp body of Samuel looking triumphant. 4 years ago, Phil had signed off on many false insurance claims due to which many rich car owners got large sums of money from Samuel’s company. The victims of course, were the innocent middle class policy holders.
When Samuel became privy to Phil’s scheme, he threatened to rat on him. Phil in order to restrain Samuel, went ahead and killed his wife.
“Are you going to kill me now?” asked Samuel, resigned to his fate.
“I’m sorry, old friend.”
At this moment he heard the voice of the deputy, who had been silently watching from the door.
“Sheriff, you’re under arrest for attempted murder,” said Joseph.
The Sheriff was still for a few seconds and then Samuel felt him turn. Mustering the last of his strength, he pushed the Sheriff just as the gun fired. The Sheriff’s bullet missed him narrowly.
Knowing that such a day might come, for 4 years, Samuel had been walking around carrying a gun of his own. As he searched for the gun in his coat pockets, he felt the other two tussling. After what seemed like forever, he found the gun and began to aim.
He heard sirens outside the door.
He pulled the trigger, shot the sheriff and fell to the ground, knocked out cold.
“You, blind man, wake up,” said a voice.
Samuel regained consciousness. His head was ringing. He didn’t know where he was. He reached around, searching for his stick.
“Why did you shoot the deputy?” said the same voice.
His hearing was becoming more and more clear.
“The deputy? I shot the Sheriff, but I did not shoot the deputy,” replied Samuel, confused.
The ringing in his head stopped completely.
“I am the Sheriff, you shot the deputy,” said the same voice Samuel now recognized as the voice of Phil Miller, the Sheriff of Nottingham.
Samuel fell quiet. Was all that for nothing, he thought. The Sheriff pressed on.
“Blind men shouldn’t be given guns. The results are often… catastrophic.”
Samuel began to reach around, trying to touch everything around him. He couldn’t stand it. He needed his stick and new places made him uncomfortable.
“Please. Don’t kill me. I’m just a blind man who works for an insurance company. Who am I going to tell?” Samuel begged.
“True, you may be blind, but dead men tell no tales,” said Phil coldly.
He raised his gun, pointed it at Samuel who was scrambling around. He aimed for his head and pulled the trigger.
Samuel awoke with a start. His head was exploding with pain.
– Ashwin Krishnan