A Frenchman named Chamfort, who should have known better, once said that chance was a nickname for providence.
-Eric Ambler: The Mask of Dimitrios
Was my life preordained, allocated to a certain destiny? Or, was I simply an actor playing a role—a role in a drama where the final act had already been written by some unknown playwright? I prefer to think I somehow managed to throw sand in the gears of destiny with acts of free will.
I was a party to two murders; this is why I do not particularly trust in fate. For this reason, I am writing to you tonight, as my life is fast approaching its end. Sadly, I will never have the answers to the many questions I’ve had throughout my long life.
Was it fate, my becoming a party to murder the first time? Especially when it was a murder that took place without my knowledge? I do not mean that as an excuse to lighten my guilt in the matter. In 1937, a private detective was murdered with an ice pick on my account. It happened on a railway platform in Montreal. That murder, so long ago, set in motion the entire chain of my life events, events I feel now, I was helpless to escape.
I did not know the man who was murdered, or even that he meant to do me harm. Men I would never know recognized the danger that detective posed to me, and with expert skill and efficiency, murdered him in cold blood, all on my account…
A finely sharpened ice pick is an ideal weapon to slip between the third and fourth rib, finding the heart with lethal accuracy. When the detective’s revolver was passed on to me later that night, I knew nothing of its provenance.
As I sit here this very evening, that same gun lies next to a notebook on my table. It stares at me now, accusing and mocking me. That gun has been my constant reminder of that long-ago murder in Montreal.
A mere coincidence, you might say—I had no real part of that murder, as my hands are clean. I might be persuaded by that argument, but for the fact I was involved in another murder eight years later, on the side of a rain-soaked escarpment in a place called Rattlesnake Point. I was a direct party to that second murder. Some might argue I was acting to save my own life and that self-defense is not murder. That is a point I do not wish to dispute as my body succumbs to disease.
I have given you, my last and only friend, my confession. It is now yours to use, or not, as you see fit. When you write the story, and should anyone read it, I hope it will impart a better understanding of the bond between fate and free will than I had as the events in this story took place.
Alestair Stuart Ferguson
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