“But I am Justice!”
“I think you misunderstood. I came to this town looking for justice. A rich man in my village robbed me, and I came here for justice.” The woman looked bewildered. Justice—for that was indeed his name—just looked stubborn.
“I’m Justice. People hear you wantin’ Justice, they call me. I’m Justice. What you want I do?”
Copyright © 2012 Henry E. Neufeld
This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance of the characters, places or events to anything in the real world is strictly coincidental.
“I want Justice!” she yelled. Then before Justice could frame his reply (he had been about to say “I am Justice” again) she got back on her donkey and started to ride toward home. She was nearly out of money. She couldn’t go any further. What’s more she was so disgusted with this joke that the townspeople had played on her, doubtless taking her for a rustic stranger, that she didn’t want to go further.
Justice wasn’t used to being left behind. Ever since he had started to grow into the muscular young man he was, he had been called to help with various problems. His mind wasn’t quick, though he wasn’t as stupid as he sometimes looked and acted. People joked about him. As the strongest man in town he was often in demand. “You want justice?” people would ask. “Just call him!”
So when this very troubled woman headed off down the road into the hills, Justice decided that he couldn’t leave things as they were. When people called him he was always able to help. It was like a law of nature in his mind. It never occurred to him that the reason he could always help was that people always called him to do things that required strength, like moving their furniture.
Nobody even noticed when Justice grabbed a bag, filled it with clothes, a few tools, and a little bit of food, and headed off down the road. They assumed he would be back sooner or later. He was a fact of life.
Five days later, Justice showed up in the tiny village of Marani. He settled himself in at the local inn and ordered ale. It was hard to miss Justice. In a room full of people he stood out. People were afraid of him. Not that he looked angry or made any threatening moves. It was just that he looked like he might carry off some of the furniture without noticing he’d done it, sort of like other people might pick up a coin.
It wasn’t long until someone asked him who he was and what he was doing there. “I’m Justice,” he said, “I here to help da lady.”
“What lady?” they asked. But Justice just kept his silence. The people thought he was being enigmatic, but the problem was that he didn’t know the lady’s name, nor did he know who it was who had robbed her.
By the next day the lady heard that Justice was in town. She didn’t go to see for herself. She didn’t want the Lord Mayor, as he styled himself, to realize she had asked for someone to come to town. Especially since she hadn’t.
By evening, however, the Lord Mayor got word that Justice had arrived in town. Justice, said his agents, was very large and muscular, and could doubtless carry away the inn on his shoulders should he choose to do so.
“Perhaps his presence here is just a coincidence,” said the steward.
“But he says he’s here to help the lady,” said one of the agents.
“It could be some other lady,” said the steward.
The Lord Mayor just looked at the steward, but his eyes said, “You idiot!” That was what he was thinking, because there really wasn’t any other lady that Justice could be here to help.
“If he wasn’t named Justice,” said another agent, “it might look different.”
“Yes, but he is,” said the Lord Mayor.
The next afternoon the Lord Mayor stopped in to see Justice. Justice seemed uninterested in the problems of ladies at the time, and just wondered if the Lord Mayor needed anything moved. The Lord Mayor concluded that Justice was very enigmatic, and was playing with him. The fact was that Justice was smart enough to realize he would need money if he was going to stay in the inn, and had already made quite a bit by moving large things for various people.
Next the Lord Mayor went to the lady and asked her, quite belligerently, whether she had asked Justice to come to town. She told him the truth, that the people in the town had sent her Justice when she asked for justice, and now that the young man had followed her here. The Lord Mayor laughed and laughed.
But when he got home he heard about Manny the pickpocket, and how Justice had broken his arm when he found it in someone else’s pocket. People were starting to say that justice had been done. By Justice.
Justice had no such plan. He just didn’t like to see people robbed or hurt. He hadn’t actually intended to break the man’s arm, but Manny had struggled so hard while failing to let go of the stolen purse, and Justice being as strong as he was, he accidentally broke Manny’s arm.
Perhaps there was more to this than he supposed, thought the Lord Mayor. So he told one of his agents to kill Justice. Maybe he was just a strong young man, but maybe not. Might as well be safe.
The agent spent all that evening looking for a chance to slip a knife into Justice, but he never really got a chance. Every time he got close enough he was somehow blocked. He was perfectly willing to do the deed in public. The Lord Mayor (as he styled himself, of course) would protect him. But he could never quite get into position. Justice was always turning to face him at just the wrong moment.
Now the Lord Mayor was really concerned. Could it be that this was an expert agent of the Baron, or perhaps even the Duke or the King? He needed to think of some way to do something about it, but what could he do? If the King, heaven forbid, was aware of his activities way out here in the wilderness, what else might he know?
He tried twice more to have Justice stabbed in the back. The second guy actually managed to swing his knife at Justice’s back, and cut him, but he just threw the attacker against the wall (a couple of broken ribs and a dislocated shoulder), and went about his business.
By this time the Lord Mayor was so worked up, he was convinced that an agent of the King was playing with him, and that it was only a matter of time until he was arrested, taken to the capital (so far away he wasn’t sure where it was), and doubtless beheaded.
After another quite day or two (ominously quiet, thought the Lord Mayor), he decided that his only option was to flee the town before he was taken. So he loaded most of his riches on a mule, and got on his best horse, and headed out of town early in the morning. What he didn’t realize was that Justice also went out for walks in the hills early in the morning. So as the Lord Mayor left town, there was Justice standing at the edge of the road, looking out over a valley.
Justice was just enjoying the view, but the Lord Mayor was certain that Justice was there waiting for him. He had one chance, he thought, and that was to push Justice over the endge of the cliff. The drop off wasn’t very high, but it would be high enough. He spurred his horse forward, intending to turn just as he hit Justice, and thus be rid of his problem.
But hearing a horse behind him, Justice stepped aside. The horse managed to stop right at the edge, but the Lord Mayor flew out into the air and with a scream fell to his death below.
Justice verified that the Lord Mayor was dead, then took his body, his horse, and the mule containing most of his riches back into town. The townspeople gathered around, and called the lady. She took the horse and the mule, and its load, and claimed the Lord Mayor’s house. It had all been stolen from her in the first place.
She made sure to reward Justice as well. “When they sent you to me, I thought they were playing a joke. But now I see they were right. You are justice.”
Yes, I am Justice,” said Justice. But he looked puzzled. He still had no idea what the lady wanted him to do.
(This story was written for and has been submitted to the One Word at a Time Blog Carnival.)