James dropped his cigarette butt to the floor, trod it carefully into the ground and looked around for somewhere to place it. As he picked up the butt he could feel the cold cobbles sucking heat out of his hands. His gloves didn’t seem to be helping at all, or rather they weren’t helping enough. There wasn’t a bin and so he flicked the butt into the river. James silently cursed himself for not thinking of this first, he could have done without bending over. And somehow he always liked the way a lit cigarette looked as it flew through the year, rather like a very cheap firework.
James walked up the path towards the bridge. From the darkness suddenly came a voice, “Who’s that?”
James heard the noise of a lamp being unhooded as he saw a wild tangle of hair and beard revealed. Somewhere from within a voice spoke again.
“You aren’t crossing the bridge tonight.”
“It ain’t a question. It would be murder to let you cross. From mid-point to far side it is completely iced over. There’s no way you can cross it.”
“But I must cross. I am already late for an appointment.”
“What kind of man holds appointments at this time of night?”
”I do not need to prove what kind of man I am to you.”
”That you don’t, I suppose.”
James made to move forward but the old man’s hand was upon his arm. In the low light his hand looked completely white as it tightly gripped his overcoat.
“You’ll have company in the grave tonight. An old man set off just 5 minutes ago.”
James realised who it might be and whispered, “Julius?”.
“Did you know him?”
“Not yet,” said James. He wrestled free of the old man’s arm and ran on to the bridge.