What is justice when dealing with extremely heinous crimes?
Justice seems like a simple enough concept. You devise a legal code, with punishments set on an escalating scale depending upon the transgression. In theory, such a system seems to make sense. As a civilized country, you repudiate or at least extremely limit capital punishment to extreme crimes and circumstances.
But what do you do when you are in the midst of a war, especially a 20th Century war within which crimes against humanity are being committed on a vast scale?
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As a civilized people, do you refuse to allow emotion into your punishment, as reason and justice dictate? Or must extreme examples be made for extreme capital crimes?
That is the dilemma facing one U.S. Army Captain Frank Decker at the University of Strasbourg in France during the winter of 1944. He is in charge of a forward company that has pushed the Nazi's out of the area of the university. Although their most sought-after war criminal, Nazi Professor August Hirt, has eluded them, Decker has been informed that four of his assistants remain.
Decker wasn't trained for such decisions. He never expected such barbarous and inhuman behavior, even from Hitler's rampaging hordes. Decker is a soldier, not a judge, but he is appalled by the monstrous crimes he has been exposed to in the march across France, pushing the once seemingly invincible Third Reich's armies further towards their inevitable annihilation.
Decker is determined that his men process the meaning of these atrocities, and reflects on what he will tell his children when they grow up about the choices he made during the war. If he responds emotionally to this tragedy, with revenge masquerading as justice, will that make him as bad as the criminals he seeks?
A thorough search of the grounds turns up nothing, but the captain knows that his most trusted sergeant, the temperamental Zachary Isaacs, arrived a day before him when the four assistants were still there. Decker's lieutenant has told him that no one left the university in that time, so the four war criminals disappearance cannot be reconciled.
Where are they, and what does Sergeant Isaacs know about them?
ONE JUSTICE is one of the short stories in the anthology "No Place For Mercy," available at Amazon.com: