Iustitia

by Tara Coffin

When the fever finally left me, I found myself lying on a hospital floor. Stumbling to my feet, I tried to find a nurse who could bring me water, but in my emaciated state I could barely keep upright. I nearly collapsed before a strong hand caught my arm and held me steady. It was a  gentleman in a summer suit, watching me with intelligent eyes.

“Thank you, sir,” I said. “Are you a doctor?”

He smiled. “Not quite, although my purpose is to cure the world.”

“My apologies; I’m still dazed from the fever. What do you mean?”

“You should surely know, seeing as you made me.”

“I did what? Good fellow, it seems you too are suffering a delirium. Let us find a nurse.”

“No need, I am quite well.” He sat on one of the other beds, careful not to disturb the man lying there, and undid the buttons of his shirt. “You named me Holmes, after your schoolfriend, and you brought me here for one purpose.”

My legs were trembling but I could not look away from the madman. “What, pray tell, would that be?”

Holmes opened his shirt to reveal thick stitching across his breastbone. “You saw many horrors in this war, saw men become murderers and villains no better than crawling demons. You wanted someone uncorrupted to come and cleanse them. But you knew you yourself were just as wicked as they, so I was brought into being.” He picked at the threads, loosening them. There was no blood. “I can look into the hearts of man and take the evil from within them.”

Holmes suddenly plunged his hand into the chest of the soldier he sat beside, sinking it nearly to the elbow but leaving no marks on the body whatsoever. I stared, astounded, as he withdrew a blackened shrivelled lump of meat and pressed it into the opening in his own chest, which swallowed it like the mouth of Hell itself.

I fell to my knees. “My God, man; what are you?”

He took my arm and helped me gently to my feet. “Why, my dear Watson, I am Justice. Now, let us go to the centre of this world of villainy and evil, and let us drive it out of its home.

“Let us go to London.”

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Crimeculture was created Summer 2002 by mother and daughter editing team, Lee Horsley and Kate Horsley. We feature reviews of film and fiction and interviews with writers as well as essays on crime fiction, crime films and representations of criminality. Our current series, 'Pulp Nostalgia' delves into the childhood memories, favourite books, films and bad girls of current crime writers, editors and reviewers.

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