Everything about Daniel Jones bore witness of the ironclad control he exerted over every aspect of his life. He wore polished black dress shoes, dress pants, a shirt, a vest, and even a coat of matching colour. The only part of his attire that was not black were some of the details on his coat. Well, with the exception of a crimson tie, in light of the season, and a pocket watch attached to a silver chain. The gloves he wore, thin smooth leather, would probably not have been very functional if the temperature dropped much further below freezing. This kind of disregard for the weather was one of the only elements in Daniel’s life that closely resembled chaos.
Daniel had the kind of stoic expression that kept strangers at a safe distance. In the rare cases where it didn’t, a subtle irritated eyebrow would change that stoic indifference to cold hostility. His sister often joked that he could stare down anyone, even a grizzly bear if he was ever given the chance. However, Daniel knew with certainty that such was not the case. There were at least two people he knew that seemed unaffected by his gaze, his five-year-old niece, Mathilda and Bob from work.
Out of the two, his niece was currently occupying his thoughts, which was also why the rare occurrence of a smile graced his face. He had stopped outside a toy store on his way home from work. Scratching a well-trimmed chin, he tried to figure out what would make a good Christmas present for a little girl. He knew very little about what children liked, he would even admit to knowing almost nothing at all about children. Toy guns, dolls, and games all seemed varying degrees of pointless. Observing a set of Lego in one of the corners he contemplated it for a moment. It seemed like a good idea, ideally fostering creativity and intelligence. It also seemed like a relatively genderless gift.
Just as he made up his mind and whisked out a notebook from his inner coat pocket to write it down someone called his name from behind him somewhere. Annoyed he looked up and was not surprised to see Bob approaching.
“Fancy seeing you here!” Bob called out to him. “I didn’t know you had kids?” Bob added once he arrived at the store window.
“I don’t,” Daniel replied and returned his stare to the toys. He furrowed his brows, what was it that he’d been about to write? Ah, he thought to himself as it returned to him. The Lego.
“Oh, gotta love the season anyway, right?” Bob laughed nervously.
“If there is something you want, Bob, you can send me an email later and we can discuss it at an appropriate time. Right now I’m busy.”
That earned him a moment’s worth of silence, just enough time to write down the name of the Lego set, how much it would cost and a reminder to compare it with online retailers.
“Are you headed home?” Bob ventured eventually.
“Why do you ask?” Daniel returned, eyes narrowing.
“Great! Why don’t we go for a bite to eat?” Bob exclaimed, regaining his annoying exuberance, and put a hand on Daniel’s shoulder as if to pull him along. “See, I could really need your help with something.”
Seeing their reflection in the window something snapped within Daniel’s mind. He closed his notebook and put it back into his coat pocket with slow and deliberate care. Then he stretched his hands, felt the fabric of his gloves strain under the force of the motion. Curling his right hand into a fist, he grabbed Bob’s collar with his left hand and heaved the man into the window. The force of the first punch sent a tremor along the length of his arm that made him shudder. Unable to contain himself, Daniel threw punch after punch at the cowering Bob, working his arms like a pair of sledgehammers.
When Daniel finally came to, his hands throbbed and a dull ache had settled into his bones. Blood smeared his gloves and stained his face. He was laughing, he realised, and concluded he’d finally gone mad. In spite of his newly acquired madness, however, he felt lighter than he had in many years. The weight of a decade’s worth of stress and forced overtime had somehow been lifted off of his chest.
Looking down on the unconscious mess and red-stained snow, he spat and panted, “Merry Christmas, Bob.”