Judge Bruce was walking in the park one evening when he saw a man, apparently sleeping, on the park bench. It was a cold evening, windy, but dry. Knowing the temperatures would be dropping much lower this evening, and noting the man's especially shabby clothing and torn coat, he decided that waking the man and directing him to a shelter would be wise. He walked over to the bench.
Then he noted something. No apparent breath from the man on the bench. Judge Bruce reached out to shake the man. No response. Feeling the man's wrist, the judge found no pulse. He checked the man's neck. Again, no pulse. The man on the bench was dead.
Judge Bruce stumbled to the nearest phone, and called the Police. Then he went back to the bench., and gazed at the dead man. There was something vaguely familiar about him, but what was it? The face seemed distressed, sad but oddly at ease, too. Who was this man? Where had he seen him before? The nagging sensation of "I know you, somehow, from somewhere," tore at him. Judge Bruce shuddered slightly, but not only from the cold. He stood, soundlessly, offering a silent prayer for the man, and whatever family he may have had. And he waited. He waited for the police to come, the rescue vehicle. And all the while, he stared at the man's face while that eerie sense of déjà vu prickled him, rivaling the cold and wind.
The officer checked the body for identification. He found a couple of pictures in the wallet the man had, but little else. As he covered the body, one of the officers noted a paper sticking out of the man's shirt pocket. The pocket was visible through the tear in the coat. The officer pulled the paper out, and opened it. It was a letter addressed , possibly, to the man in question.
The officer began to read the letter and shook his head sadly. This poor man had been denied unemployment benefits because he had been found "ineligible" by a judge. The officer read through the letter, then looked up at the man who had found the body. "What is your name, sir?" asked the officer.
Surprised, the man spoke. "My name is Bruce. Jackson Bruce. Why?"
"Judge Jackson Bruce?" inquired the officer. And the man nodded.
As the officer removed the dead man's hat, he found a piece of paper in it. It was a letter. The officer read the letter. Then, he finished covering the body and turned to the Judge.
"Your honor," stated the officer, "There is something I want you to read. In fact, two things." And he handed the judge the letter pulled from the man's hat. As the judge read the letter, he was appalled by the lack of justice for the man.
The letter read thus: "We live in a free country, a country which is based on a strong Constitution, and the bill of Rights which guarantees us freedom of speech. And yet, I am here because my freedom of speech was denied. Rather than be censored by my employer, I left. I would rather live free than be censored. My unemployment benefits should keep me going for a while, until I am able to get that new job. But I am concerned-- there is an appeal by my former employer. I swear to tell the truth, and get what should be mine."
The judge then handed the letter back to the officer. And as the officer handed him the other letter, a very uneasy feeling passed over the judge. He shuddered, goose flesh appearing under his coat. And he read the second letter:
"Your unemployment claim is denied. You are hereby ordered to return the funds to which you are not entitled. If these funds are not returned within 30 days, we will be able to take legal action against you." And he stared at the signature at the bottom of the page. His own signature, in his own hand. The judge then fell to the ground. He grabbed his head, which had begun to pound. He screamed and blood flowed from his nose and mouth. A cerebral hemorrhage. There was nothing the officer could do.
Justice was served. And Death, as hungry as ever, had claimed two lives. The officer removed his hat. Then, he shed his disguise completely. And Death, who had masqueraded as the officer, floated away, in search of other victims. Death played no favorites. And he was Justice.