Not too surprisingly, I was sentenced to death. By the same jury that had convicted me. The papers liked to make a big deal about how I showed no emotion when the sentence was read but you know what? You can’t show what you can’t feel and I felt none.
Surprising. Somebody orders your death you’d expect to feel something. Maybe it was because I knew it would be years before it would happen and the odds were it wouldn’t happen at all. I would die on me own first.
Deep breathing probably helped. The fact I had some zero control over anything anymore didn’t hurt, either.
I was transferred, of course. I couldn’t be a condemned murderer and be kept in my relatively palatial surroundings. I said goodbye to Constable, a privilege I was grateful for and denied the first time. Abigail was there and prepared to take her home with her. I was cuffed up and chained, buckled up with all the accouterments someone condemned for die with a history of escape is entitled to. I was driven to an airport and was the only convict on a small plane. Still chained, I was strapped into a seat. To prevent me from overtaking the guards and jumping out of the plane the chair was in a cage. It wasn’t particularly uncomfortable, but it was a nuisance. I couldn’t move. I could sit there or I could bloody well sit there. After some time in the air they fed me a sandwich. For this my handcuffs were unlatched from me belt chain, but me hands remained cuffed. The sandwich was lousy but I was hungry so I asked for and received two more. They had some containers of milk, too. I hadn’t had milk in years but the novelty broke up the monotony.
We flew for several hours and landed at a small airport at the base of what I reckoned were the Rocky Mountains. They had to be. I would later find out I was right because one of the first things I asked Abigail when she visited was where was I?
There was a van waiting for us at the airport. It had a seat inside the usual cage waiting for me, to guard against me overtaking the driver. There were no windows so I couldn’t memorize the route and tell me comrades where I was so they could come escort me out the front door again. I was at what is called a Supermax here in the States.
Me cell had the charm of, well, a prison cell. Everything was concrete. Or metal. The toilet, sink and shower were metal. The bed, desk, stool and shelves were concrete. I had unrolled the mattress and made me bunk and sat down and, well, sat. There weren’t many other options. I could sit. I could lie down. I could shower and I could use the loo. That was about it. I sat.
I wondered how many people confined like this went bonkers. Abigail had told me what to expect and she hoped I decided to stay as strong as I could. Some don’t. Some can’t. Some say bloody hell and go crazy.
I was permitted to stay in my cell 23 hours a day. I got an hour a day to walk around a steel cage that was outside or in the bare indoor utility room because it’s cold in the winter here. Usually I was allowed to do these things. Sometimes I wasn’t and I was never told why outdoor cage time was cancelled. Actually, I was never told it was cancelled in the first place. No one ever came and got me.
I continued my deep breathing. Besides sleeping, it was literally the only positive thing I could do for meself. I was now rather an adept at it, usually settling in for sessions of two hours. The food was abysmal, which is rich coming from a man whose native country puts baked beans on toast.
The only human contact I had was with the screws and the barber, who I was allowed to see once a month. It was something else almost human I was allowed to do. I could not see other inmates. Abigail visited but I was not allowed contact with her. We were in a booth separated by plexiglass and talked on a phone. She sounded like she was on Neptune. She came out every couple of months, mostly to say hi because the courts were so backlogged my first appeal, an automatic one to a circuit court, wasn’t in any danger of being heard for years.
After about a month or so I got some books, bought by Abigail sent directly from the publisher because those are the rules. About a week later I got a letter from Abigail telling me to expect some books and to send her a list of any I wanted. She added Constable sent regards. It was the last I would ever hear of my cat.
I never heard from Monica. That’s all right, there was no reason for her to write me. I had pimped her out and made her rich and now I was buried in jail, warehoused to die.
There wasn’t a whole lot I could do that yielded a dividend, but I made sure to do those things. I deep breathed like a monk. I ate what I could. I read like a scholar. I did some writing. It is difficult to stay strong, not to mention sane, in this environment, but I managed to do that. Where a pimp and extortionist mustered the fortitude to do this isn’t clear. I was accustomed to a comfortable, leisurely life financed by a Swiss bank account. I was not accustomed to showing intestinal fortitude. It helped not to worry about the future. I woke up in the morning, determined what little I could for myself that day and went and did it.
Control what you could control.
The years passed and after five of them I was transferred to another prison. My first appeal was due to be heard in a few months, though Abigail said that had nothing to do with it and I suspected as much meself. I think it was a reward for not causing any problems at Supermax. I had good behavior every day. I did what I was told, buckled up when ordered and grabbed my groceries without outward complaint, only inward humiliation and misery.
The new prison was in the center of the country and this was where they killed prisoners. It was better, though, like getting a suite upgrade at a hotel. Me cell was cinder block, a significant upgrade from cement. It didn’t have its own shower, but that was a matter of no consequence. We were allowed out of our cells to use the dayroom from time to time, which was luxuriously appointed with a table, TV and microwave, where we could cook stuff bought at the commissary. It wasn’t great, mostly frozen dinners and whatnot, but it was better than the crap at Supermax. Plus, Abigail had me power-of-attorney so my commissary account was always strong, and I often bought stuff for others. We were allowed to play cards and chess, which I never got good at. In fact, it took a while before I was beaten in anything more than four moves. We could even send emails, though I didn’t have anyone to email except Abigail.
I made some friends. Some were in awe that I had done time at Supermax and they had questions and I told them this was the Ritz compared to that hellhole. After some time, I gathered I was the only one there who hadn’t been abused as a kid although maybe never being shown love is abuse. Who the hell knows?
It was still death row, though. We weren’t always partying it down in the dayroom, playing cards, watching people babble on the telly and eating microwaved food. We were often kept in our cells and the spectre of your execution was never farther away than your next thought.
My automatic appeal to a national circuit court was denied, the panel finding the whore trial judge committed no errors of fact or law, the fact I didn’t do it not appearing to bother them, either. They determined the sentencing phase was neither unlawful nor produced a sentence that was neither excessively severe or abusive.
Fine. Be that way.
Every now and then they took one of us off to die. It was usually the day before, and it was hardly a bulletin because you’re told a couple of months in advance that a date has been set. The room where they kill you is actually off in another building, so you get one last ride in a van and some fresh air. This is probably better than having the death chamber close by, which is how it was back home. You only had to wait a month for your death and your cell was conveniently located next door to the hanging chamber, though you didn’t know that until they came and got you and a wall opened up and 30 seconds later you were dead.
It was always very quiet on the row in the few days before an execution. Most fought it to the very end but one guy gave up. We had talked about it in the dayroom. He had grown weary of waiting and had no doubt every appeal he had remaining would be dismissed and he was ready to go anyway, he had no desire to stretch this miserable life out any longer than he had to. I made him his favorite macaroni and cheese from the commissary before they took him away and a few of us shared this meal, his last before he was taken to the death house.
I never thought about abandoning my appeals, though volunteering to die would be the ultimate example of controlling what you could control. I didn’t have much to live for, but I was determined to live for what I could.
After five years at the new nick Abigail died. I began to suspect something was up when she didn’t visit me on schedule and there was no word from her. Then I got a letter from a lawyer who knew her. She had had a heart attack, right there at her desk, died instantly and perhaps without too much pain.
Talk about a sinking feeling, this was worse than when I found out about the bad luck to me being nicked. I was so helpless. Abigail had me power-of-attorney and she was trying to keep me alive with our appeals. That’s what she called them, our appeals, just like it was our jury. Now that I think about it, it was about the only time in me life that anyone believed in me and she was doing more than anyone else for me. She was all I had. There was literally nobody else. It was the worst feeling. Utter despair. Worse than Rachel dying and worse than being nicked because some copper overheard something you said in the queue at a pastry shop, worse than being convicted of a murder you didn’t commit and worse than being condemned to die for it. Alone and helpless, utterly without hope, was the very worst.
Desperately, I became me own solicitor and it took a while but I was finally able to get a hold of the court handling me appeal and tell them me solicitor died. It was deemed important enough for me to travel back to the city I was convicted in. I stayed in me old cell
We were in the judge’s chambers. The judge asked me if I had an attorney lined up. I said no. He asked if I had anybody to take care of me affairs and I said no. No family? No family. No friends? No friends. Who had arranged for Abigail? She wasn’t from the public charity office. I told them some associates I had no way of contacting had sent her over. He asked if they were from the Firm and I said of course. Such is life when for a pimp and an extortionist and a ransom collector: you end up in the nick with nobody. I suppose it was inevitable. The judge said he could arrange a solicitor for me, a public defender he called him, but I would have to fill out some forms showing I was destitute. I wasn’t destitute and told the judge I could pay for me defense. He said that wasn’t the way it was done but he could make it work.
Eventually I got a visit from an attorney, a dour, older sort, Abigail’s colleague who had sent me the letter telling me of her death. He was wearing a trilby hat and his perfectly tailored suit was blue and pinstriped and included a waistcoat. He was easily older than me and had the same bearing of competence that Abigail had. He also had a bearing of, I don’t want to say indifference, but I got the impression he was there as much for his personal amusement as for the prospect of hiring on for a fee.
He said Abigail had spoken of me over the years, had said I was an OK bloke – high praise from her, he noted – and that she highly doubted I was a killer and that she’s known a few killers in her time and that if she ever died my case might provide some amusement for someone. He said drolly that he highly doubted that, but here he was, reporting for duty. This made me laugh.
He said he had sufficient money and that it was a bother “lawyering for money” anymore and he would prefer to take the case pro bono. I told him I was not broke and could afford to pay him and he said he knew that and, OK, he’d bill me for expenses. As an afterthought he pulled a 3×5 card out of his pocket and gave it to me. It had a drawing of the Firm’s logo on it and Mauricio’s neat signature. A recommendation. I didn’t ask if he knew anybody named Monica. There was no briefing on Constable.
As it was my new lawyer – who preferred to be called Colonel – said appeals based on the trial would be a tough go. The trial judge had done her work fairly well, in the context of ruling in accordance with established law and precedence not guilt or innocence, so I wasn’t surprised when these appeals were turned down, too. He said our next appeal concerned the challenging the legality of the drugs they would OD me on to kill me. He tried to detail the drugs, but I waved it away. I didn’t really want to know what they were or how they would go about their assigned duties in killing me. Every other method of execution we humans have ever mustered has been painful and there was no reason to think a lethal injection would be any different. Given my druthers, I would have preferred to have been shot. I’d heard getting shot felt like getting punched really hard and then you bled to death, but I didn’t have a choice.
Finally, all me appeals died out. The Colonel said he had a couple of last-minute ones just to muddy things up right up to the end, which I’ve learned is par for the course here, but there wasn’t much to do but wait. One day in the spring, after 15 years of confinement, I was called into the warden’s office. I knew it wasn’t to discuss the weather.
The warden was a large man, a friendly sort with a full head of mussed hair and a pleasant enough face. He seemed nervous. Heck, he was nervous. He hadn’t been on the job long and he said this was his first execution and that he hoped I felt he was always treating me with courtesy. He thanked me for being a good prisoner and said he had a letter for me.
The letter, in accordance with the orders of the presiding court, fixed the date of the execution of my death sentence as August 30, which was exactly 90 days in the future. It fixed the hour at 6pm and the method was listed as lethal injection as if that was a bulletin. The purpose of the letter was to inform me of the date and to advise me of all relevant aspects of me execution.
That was funny. The only relevant aspect, from my point of view, was that it was bloody well happening at 6pm on August 30th. The warden, however, had a list of things he needed to do and needed me to do. The letter advised that I was entitled to a spiritual advisor, two attorneys and three friends who could attend me death. I did not have to crap their names now – I had until 30 days until me death to do that – but these were some of the relevant aspects of me execution the warden was obliged to keep me posted on.
Not much happened for the next couple of months. Getting an execution date, of course, set me apart from others on the row. I stayed in my cell mostly for a while. After a week or so I came back out, but I wasn’t very chatty. Grateful though, for the company.
A bit less than a month before me death I went to see the warden again. We discussed what was going to happen to me body after death and how my property and accounts were going to be handled. I told him not only didn’t I care what happened to my dead body, there wasn’t anyone else on this planet who gave a good goddamn either and they could chop me up and put me in a stew for dinner on the row that night for all I cared. The only real stuff I had was books, and I had a lot of those, and I would be happy if they could go to the prison library. Whatever was left in me canteen account could be split amongst those who had little in their accounts. I also told the warden I had no religious beliefs, much less a spiritual guide, but I asked if he had any recommendations on the off chance I wanted company those last few hours. He immediately produced a list of clergy, some employed by the prison and some not. I looked to see which ones were Catholic so I could pick someone else and settled, at random, on a hapless chap named Rob who had sentenced himself to serve some unproven deity that seemed to enjoy abandoning the innocent, insulting others still being one of the few privileges I’d retained.
The Colonel still had my power-of-attorney and we were discussing how my estate, still not-too-modest despite all the legal bills, would be distributed. I could see no reason for anyone to have it. The Colonel had set up a foundation that only needed my signature to go live. It would be funded with my fortune. I didn’t want that, though the Colonel pointed out it was a sight better than letting Swiss bankers loan it out at interest. I was asked who I wanted as me witnesses. I gave the Colonel Monica’s name, on the off chance she could be found and, if so, if she even cared anymore.
The following day the warden came by to verify what we had talked about the day before and to tell me the chaplain I’d selected was here to see me, if I wanted to see him.
I was strip-searched, of course, and buckled up and led to a room near the visiting area. He introduced himself as Rob. He was young, hardly 30, I supposed, and was dressed all in black with that funny, backward collar pastors wear. Surprisingly, and perhaps against regulations, my hands were unshackled. Rob and I shook hands.
He seemed completely comfortable talking with someone he’d never bloody met, someone scheduled to die in less than a month. He said he was Lutheran and asked what denomination I was. I said I hadn’t a denomination, that I didn’t believe in god, had no plans to, but I might need a friend over the next three weeks and I hadn’t a whole lot of options. Pastor Rob said that was fair enough and he was standing by to provide whatever friend services he could. I told him guilt or innocence was irrelevant right now. I told him I was sentenced to die and if I was a betting man right now I’d have to bet I was going to go.
He asked if I was scared and I said yeah, a little, and then he asked what I thought would happen to me after I died. I told him I some zero clue and then I kept quiet and thought about it for a while.
This was, literally, the first time I’d ever thought about this. Hard to believe, but it had never come up whoring out Rachel and Monica and Lindsay, or collecting ransoms. Eventually, Pastor Rob started whistling and tapping his fingers on the table, which made me laugh. Exactly how he knew I’d laugh, I never bothered to find out, but he laughed, too. After some more thought I told Pastor Rob I had no idea, but based on the experiences I’d had in me life I was guessing nothing. I died. I went into a dreamless sleep and never woke up. The light switch was shut off forever.
He asked if I was ever married. I said no, never came close, never wanted neither wife nor child. Because I asked, he said he was married, with two young kids. Said became a chaplain because he’d long wanted to be a preacher but he couldn’t afford college and the Army needed chaplains and they paid for his university training. The work was good, though the traveling that has attended army life since time immemorial was already getting old.
While he met with prisoners regularly, I was the first he’d met who was this close to dying.
I liked Rob. He didn’t try to convert me, though he did note that if God had put me in front of him there was a reason for it. We chatted a little more. He said he’d heard I’d always claimed I was innocent but whether I was or not, it didn’t matter to him. If I was guilty and I wanted to get some things off me chest, he was here to listen to that. If I didn’t do it and wanted to whine about the injustice of it all, he would listen to that, too. I told him I would be doing neither of those things.
We talked for an hour or so. I told Pastor Rob he was hired and he could come back if he wanted to.
The time passed rather quickly and soon enough the calendar of me life didn’t have too many days left on it. Five days before, I was moved, in the middle of the night, to another cell in a block that was otherwise empty. It wasn’t the cell in the death house, though, because you are driven to that and I was merely shuffled along – after being strip-searched and buckled up, of course – to this one.
I told the Colonel and Pastor Rob I didn’t want to be bothered for three days, Sunday through Tuesday, before me execution. Me execution was on a Thursday and I wanted those three days for meself. I didn’t want to bother with appeals or last meals or anything else. I wanted three days for meself, to see if there was any peace to be found in this disaster and, if there was, to claim it.
Because there is nothing that can take your mind off this. You are going to die. Not only that, you know the day and the time. More not only that, you are a captive, meaning you can’t skip off for one last retreat. You will die when you are told to die and before that you will do what you are told to do.
I was tired. Worrying about what might, what could, happen outside your cell did you some zero good. So I worried about what was happening inside me cell. For the next three days I was in self-imposed exile. My cell wasn’t opened and I told the Colonel and Pastor Rob I was only to be bothered if me execution was stayed. That was it. Otherwise, leave me alone. I wanted the opportunity to have some peace before I died.
The screws pushed some food through the slot from time to time. I’d eat it or not as I saw fit. Part of me saw no point. I was merely eating to tide me over until some people I didn’t know in a country I wasn’t from could kill me. On the other hand, sometimes I was hungry. I slept, fairly well, deep breathed a lot and read. I thought about Thursday only when it refused to be ignored, which wasn’t as often as you might think.
For the first time in many years I allowed meself to think of the luxurious times I’d enjoyed. I’d always forbade them in the past because they made me bitter, but bitter was a choice and I was beyond bitter now. Rather than mourn their loss, I let meself be grateful that I’d experienced them in the first place because not every bloke gets the best restaurants on the planet with the world’s most beautiful women. I did, more than once. Blow me. That wasn’t doing me a whole hell of a lot of good now, but it was fun to look back on – and fun was something I hadn’t a lot of the past decade or so.
I thought of the deaths I’d contributed to at the Games, where we blew up a light rail train. I didn’t tell meself I deserved to die for those because I believed in the cause, but I did allow meself some peace by saying I was merely another casualty of that evolution. Looking back, it hadn’t changed a thing. These things seldom did.
I think I got as much peace as there was to be had from these three days. On Wednesday morning I woke up feeling peaceful, ready to avail meself of whatever remained for me in this world. It would be unique, something few others ever experienced. It was not, of course, an experience I’d choose to repeat or even be able to look back on later, but that’s the way the world is built sometimes.
There wasn’t any news. Me execution was still a go, of course, and Pastor Rob had a message from the Colonel. They talked on the phone regularly and the Colonel had said, with typical crypticity, that some people were trying some things but I was not to get me hopes up. Fair enough. For his part, Pastor Rob said he respected my control -what-you-can -control embargo on news about me so he never said anything, but I was in the news regularly and so was the Colonel. If I did die, it wasn’t for a lack of effort on the part of an awful lot of people.
I was moved to the execution building a couple of hours after I woke up Wednesday. I was strip-searched, of course, even though I hadn’t left me cell since the last time I was strip-searched, then buckled up and taken outside to a van. The drive was short. We pulled up next to a door of a brick building. I stopped before we entered, closed my eyes and took in me last breath of fresh air. I was hurried along and in a few steps I was in the cell, my final home. There was somebody watching me every second from then on out.
Pastor Rob came and saw me. I was glad to have a visitor, frankly. Me cell, well, it had a completely different feel than anyplace else I’d ever been and I’d been alone in a lot of rooms over the years, from death cells to 5-star hotel suites. I had always liked time to myself, but this was different. This was final and it felt final. I would not be leaving this building and I would be leaving this room only to go to another room to be killed.
I sat on the bunk – I refused to call it my bunk – with me back to a wall. Pastor Rob sat in a chair a screw had brought. He said he was glad I called for him, that he’d be here to the end, that he wanted my last hours on this planet to be with someone who cared about him and liked him. I told him I was grateful for that, that it was more than some people got at the end of their lives.
I asked him if he liked football, what you in the states idiotically called soccer. He said yes! That he had actually played it in college and his small school had made the national tournament. I told him I saw field hockey played up close at the Games one year.
He asked what I did well. I told him my only real talent was racketeering – making money off illegal things – that I’d made a fortune running high-class call girls, extorting people and collecting ransoms. He asked if I felt guilty, Of course not, I said. The girls could quit at any time. Besides, they got rich going to 5-star restaurants and getting laid in the finest suites.
Pastor Rob looked aghast that someone would whore out women about his wife’s age. I noted he didn’t seem happy with me. I could tell he was about to wave it away in deference to me but then he cocked his head, looked in my eyes and said yeah, no, he wasn’t happy with me. He asked what happened to Rachel and Monica. I told him Rachel died in a skiing accident and Monica, well, I had lost touch with her.
We spent a lot of time not saying anything. Pastor Rob’s capacity for keeping quiet was as enormous as it was welcome. It was nice having somebody around but I didn’t need them yapping the whole time. He never left. He had lunch and dinner with me, the same crap I ate, and he was there when I went to sleep for the last time and there when I woke up. It was nice not being alone.
My last meal came about noon. It was an utterly British meal of bangers and baked beans on toast and it was about as bad as any chef in me home country could have produced. I wasn’t particularly hungry and I was too close to death to appreciate the gesture, but I ate some of it and actually chuckled a bit at the absurdity of it all. Pastor Rob ate all of his and asked if they ate like this all the time in me home country and I said bloody well right we did and he said pity.
When I had about 30 minutes left to live Pastor Rob apologized and asked if he could pray. I told him sure, it’s what pastors do. After he finished I said hey God, it’s me. Thank you for checking in. What will be will be. Thank you for Pastor Rob, he’d been a blessing this past month, making what was beyond tolerance almost bearable. I didn’t say amen but when it was plain I was done Pastor Rob looked up at me and smiled. A good, friendly smile. Not a smug smile. Pastor Rob and I sat quietly, contentedly until they came. I hadn’t a whole lot of contentedly over the past 15 years. I was grateful for it.
A few minutes before the scheduled time the warden appeared at me cell. I stood and he entered and stood next to me. It was just him, me and Pastor Rob. He pulled out a flask and said it contained brandy. I said I wouldn’t mind some of that and he nodded and held the flask out and I took it and drank, all of it as it turned out, and it was a pretty fair amount. It wasn’t Louis XIII – that is simply not forgotten – but it wasn’t yak piss, either.
After that, he nodded and the screw at the door nodded and some more screws arrived. I held out me arms and Pastor Rob and I hugged fiercely and I thanked him and he would’ve said something except he was choking up. I patted him on the arm said it was OK, I was the one dying and not him. It helped a little bit. He wished me luck and offered every good wish.
Then they got down to business. I was told to remove me clothes. I was strip-searched for the last time, on the off-chance Pastor Rob had given me an Uzi to stick up me arse. I was given a diaper to put on in case, when, I crapped me pants, and I was given some khaki-colored shirts, pants and slip-on shoes to put on, the slip-ons obviously to prevent me from using shoelaces to strangle meself with. Then the warden took a sheet of paper out of a breast pocket, unfolded it, took a deep breath and began reading. His first death warrant. Mine, too. There were a lot of whereases and wherefores and whatnots and it sounded like a resolution passed by bloody Parliament. It was the order to kill me.
I was there and I wasn’t. The warden was in sharp focus, but his voice sounded like it originated in the hall. I took a couple of deep breaths. Whereas I had been duly convicted and whereas I had been duly sentenced and wherefore competent authority had set this date and time for my sentence to be executed. Whereas this and wherefore that.
I was led from the cell, the warden in front, Pastor Rob behind me with a hand on me shoulder and screws everywhere else. It was the first time I’d left a cell unbuckled. Immediately we made a right and a couple of steps later we made another right and there it was, the room I would die in.
From throne rooms to this.
I had thought about this a lot over the past 15 years. Instead of thinking of sex for 30 or 45 seconds of every minute, you thought about your death. You think about when you are going to die and how you are going to die and the life that got you there and the life you are obliged to live until you die.
More than anything, you wonder if your death will hurt. I was about to find out.
The lights were very bright and a gurney was in the center and I was led to it, hopped on without instruction and was pushed down. Expertly, I was strapped in. Needles were stuck in both arms. The gurney was angled up a bit and the curtains were opened.
It was time to die.