Charles hated Robert and Robert hated Charles. They wrote angry threatening letters to each other and their hate grew over time.
They decided to meet to settle things decisively. They agreed on a date and a time and a place. They agreed that each must come alone.
In the days before the meeting, Robert planned how he would put an end to Charles. He settled upon a plan of a stealthy and silent stalk, before pouncing on his victim.
Charles, for his part, decided that he would sneak up on Robert from behind, and shoot him before he even knew what had happened.
Charles arrived 3 minutes before 11:00 o’clock in the evening, and Robert arrived 2 minutes before the hour.
It was dark, and each man chose a shadowy area in which to wait for the other. Neither man wanted to be the first to step forward because neither had the courage to do so at the agreed-upon time. Neither wanted to be visible — that would mean increased vulnerability, so they each stayed hunkered down in the shadows.
Charles was wearing an analog watch, and he looked at it repeatedly, even though he could not read it in the darkness. Checking one’s watch seemed to him like an appropriate type of action in the circumstances. After a while, however, he decided that he should stop, because it occurred to him that the face of his watch might reflect the light of the moon, and give away his location. The reflections were difficult to assess, because he didn’t know where his enemy was located, and how the angles of the light would play out.
Robert was wearing a digital watch, and with his sharp eyes, he would have been able to read the time in spite of the darkness, but in his agitated state, he wasn’t able to do it. He could have chosen to light his watch’s screen — squeeze two buttons at the same time — but he didn’t want to do this for fear of disclosing his location to Charles.
It seemed like forever to both Robert and Charles, but the truth was that it was now five minutes after eleven.
Charles stepped forward (so much for shooting Robert from behind). Robert looked up from his watch and was taken aback to see Charles standing in plain view.
Robert was armed with a dagger and he yelled out a primitive battle cry and ran towards Charles (so much for a stealthy and silent attack.) Charles turned in the direction that he heard Robert.
Charles was armed with a gun (the mode of battle hadn’t been discussed) and he shot Robert. He missed. Robert got nearer but when Charles shot the second time, he struck Robert. Robert dropped his dagger and fell. Charles, exultant in his final victory, began to speak triumphantly, almost in the fashion of a speech.
Robert was not dead, and the bullet-wound was such that prompt medical care could have saved Robert’s life. As it was, however, Robert was dying. He listened to Charles’ words.
Suddenly, Charles stopped short.
ROBERT: What? . . . What is it?
CHARLES: What are we going to do — they’ll find us like this —
ROBERT (also becoming alarmed): They’ll think — they’ll think — Phone the doctor, tell him, bribe him, he’ll do it, he’ll make it right — nobody will call us murd’rers
CHARLES: Phone him — I’ll phone him — his number — what’s his number man? Quick, what’s his number?
ROBERT (giving number)
CHARLES (dialing) Hello, is this Robert’s doctor? He’s here, he’s sick, he’s very ill . . .
ROBERT (moaning, unhappy at Charles’ choice of fiction)
CHARLES: He’s got a condition (naming some syndrome or problem) . . . please come — as quickly as you can. We’re here at such-and-such street (naming a run-down area of town) . . . near such and such an old hotel (giving fictitious name of hotel, such as Old Sullivan Hotel or Old Marshall Hotel) . . . (ending the call)
CHARLES (to Robert): Rob — he’s coming. Rob? ROB! Hey Rob!!!
Charles shakes Rob and then listens for his heartbeat. He remembers that Robert might be dead. He swears upon realizing that Robert is indeed dead and is frustrated and somewhat panicky about being stuck in the predicament of having to deal with the doctor by himself. For a moment he thinks to himself that he should have shot Robert after the arrival of the doctor, so that he wouldn’t have to wait.
He suddenly remembers Robert’s dagger and decides that he must find it. He looks around, but the moon is now behind a cloud and he cannot find it in the darkness. He walks right by it, and if he had stepped slightly more to the right, he would have tripped over the hilt of it. But he doesn’t see it at first. He is wearing boots and he walks around trying to come across it. Finally, after looping back over the cobblestone area, he finds it and picks it up. He is undecided as to what to do with it. He doesn’t want to keep it because that would raise suspicions — why would a man carry such a weapon? He decides to get rid of it. He looks at the ornamental dagger and sees that it looks expensive. He wants to ask Robert where he got it, but Robert is inconveniently dead.
As he looks at the dagger, he is impressed, and for a moment a dagger seems like a much cooler choice of weapon than a gun. He dismisses the thought. He tosses the dagger into some bushes at the perimeter of the cobblestone area, but somewhat lower down.
The doctor arrives, and notices that at that address, there is no hotel, and instead there is a largely-abandoned paved courtyard. The description of the location doesn’t match the impression that Charles had given. The doctor examines Robert.
DOCTOR: He’s dead. He’s been shot!
CHARLES: So you think that’s the problem?
DOCTOR: Damn, yes (or something to that effect)
CHARLES: So you don’t think it was . . . (names some medical condition)
DOCTOR: What? That’s not what you said before — on the phone
CHARLES: Uh —
DOCTOR: What’s going on here?
CHARLES: Uh —
DOCTOR: What happened?
CHARLES: Uh (remembering what Robert had said) — Just keep this quiet — I’ll give you (names a sum of money, but is scarcely aware of the amount that he offers) . . .
DOCTOR: Tell me what really happened here — I can tell that you know
CHARLES: No, here, take (names a larger sum than before) . . . Just keep it cool . . .
The doctor, being money-oriented, agrees to the bribe. He is unable to figure out exactly what happened, but he sees that Charles has a gun. Charles had been too preoccupied with finding the dagger to conceal his own gun, hanging from his belt.
The realization that this was a murder didn’t particularly shock the doctor; he had seen it before. The idea of a cover-up also didn’t jar him; he had taken bribes before. He knew the scoop with murders, suicides and hiding evidence.
As for the dagger, which had, on its hilt, a mixture of real and imitation gems, this was found by a young man, named Jonathan (who went by John or Jon — although some called him James) who had a rather large mixed-breed brown dog, with an appearance like that of a flat-coated retriever. The dog’s name was Rover, but sometimes John called him ‘Rove.’ (At one point, John had considered naming his dog after his favorite kind of car.) Although John was walking as part of a larger group, they were somewhat spread out. His brother was there, but his sister Eliza wasn’t. Her stated reason was that she was overwhelmed with work, but the real reason was that Eliza was rather jealous of his girlfriend Laura, and she was unhappy that she wasn’t seeing anyone currently. (Eliza’s own long-term relationship had ended only a month previous, following an argument about something stupid — her boyfriend Henry had been teasing her about her make-up — he had jokingly responded, upon her asking him after a social function about how she looked, that her makeup looked “rather extreme.” Eliza was mortified, especially when she remembered how many people had been at the function. She was very hurt and this ultimately led to the breakup, but years later, when she was at a fundraising event for a club, she happened to be talking to girls who said that there was a boy that all the girls were crazy over — Eliza then realized that they were speaking about Henry. The music playing was primarily jazz, but it varied, because there was also a live band. Eliza initially ignored Henry in a haughty manner and Henry didn’t recognize her with this attitude, and in addition, she was wearing a lot of makeup. They ended up dancing, and he recognized her. This felt suddenly very awkward for both of them. In an attempt at conversation, Eliza mentioned that all the girls were fawning over him. Henry was taken aback to hear this and it made him set his mind against them. Eliza and Henry began dating and eventually married. They had two children, a boy and a girl. The boy’s first name was Peter and his middle name was either Walter or Carter. Walter was the name of Henry’s father, but they felt that Carter sounded more original. They named their daughter Maya or Mia or Myra and her middle name was Samantha.)
John’s girlfriend Laura stayed on the main path, because she was more dressed up on this occasion of meeting his parents for the second or third time. The gems caught his eye in the sun, and the ancient quality of the dagger appealed to his imagination.
He picked it up and examined it. Glancing momentarily around the area, he didn’t see anything else remarkable. He held it discreetly as he joined the others. He showed it to his girlfriend, saying, “Look what I found.” She said “That’s cool,” or something to that effect, thinking it was interesting, but it wasn’t her type of thing. She didn’t find it as intriguing as John did. John, for instance, was the type to be fascinated by old rocks as well. To her, rocks were just rocks.
He took the dagger home, and initially he wasn’t sure what to do with it. He wanted to find out where it had come from. He wasn’t able to learn much, so he approached a museum thinking that they might be able to tell him more about it. They were excited about it, and John decided to make a donation of it. He received a token amount for doing so. The museum workers thought that all of the gems were real (as had Robert, and as had the vendor who had sold it to him — the person who sold it to the vendor, however, knew that some gems were real and some gems were just lip-syncing.)
The dagger is still there.
And in case you are wondering, John did later marry Laura. (And Eliza stopped feeling envious of Laura for the most part. It flared up a bit when people would compliment Laura’s appearance because Eliza thought Laura looked younger than she did — she was — and Eliza wanted to look young.)
John and Laura had four children: William, Jacob, Ann and Jessica.
As for pets, Laura owned a little white terrier which had puppies, but not as many as you might expect — only three. John and Laura’s children wanted to keep all three, but John and Laura wanted to keep only one. They tried to sell the other two, and Eliza’s family purchased one, but they didn’t manage to sell the other puppy. It was more gray than white — and white dogs are generally more popular. So in the end, the household wound up with three dogs — two terriers and John’s big brown dog. In case you are wondering about the father of the terrier puppies, he was owned by a former next-door neighbour, who was an acquaintance of Laura’s father. When this owner no longer wanted this dog, he offered it to John and Laura. They accepted, which meant that they had four dogs for a short time, and the children gave him a new name, but the parents and visitors to the house (and sometimes even the children) typically referred to him as ‘the 1682 dog’ because that was the number on the house of the next-door neighbour, and that’s how Laura’s family used to refer to their neighbour’s pet, even before they knew the neighbour. This latest-acquired dog, however, was unhealthy, and died after about three or four months. As it turned out, the 1682 dog was not a purebred terrier, but rather, a mixed breed. This explained the grayish colouring of one of the puppies.
In later years, Charles regretted killing Robert, and felt that although Robert was the more annoying of the two, he should have gotten the other one, and as a matter of fact, he did begin executing a cold-blooded plan to accomplish this, but it was foiled when his ride was late.