The prompt this week was three starter sentences, each chosen from Page 111 (coincident with the prompt’s date of 1/11) of three different novels. We were to pick one to begin our story with. I chose the third, which was from Vincent Zandri’s novel, As Catch Can. Please enjoy.
MY NEW FRIEND
I felt as if the whole world were about to slip out from under my feet. Have you ever been sitting in your living room, with a microwave dinner on your lap, watching the evening news, when an entire S.W.A.T. team barges in through your front door? I didn’t think so. Well, it happened to me. It was years ago, but I remember it like it happened this morning. That could be because I’m on Death Row, awaiting my execution for a murder I did not commit. I know you’re asking yourself, how in the world could something like that happen? Unfortunately, I don’t have an answer for you. I’m still trying to figure it all out. The problem is, in my case, time really is of the essence.
Everything transpired so quickly, it was like a blur. I was read my rights, arrested, jailed without any bond due to the brutality of the crime, assigned a still-wet-behind-the-ears attorney, and went to trial. As fascinating as the judicial system might be, it’s a nightmare when the prosecution’s got a needle full of lethal chemicals with your name on it aimed right at you. Talk about a slam-bam-thank-you-ma’am affair. Witness after witness testified to having seen me stalking the victim around the time he was killed. Interesting stuff since I’d never been in that area of town in my entire life. Too ritzy for me, you see.
Evidently, a comb of mine, which I never carried on my person, reeking with my DNA, had made it into his house and was found laying in a pool of his blood. It had fallen out of my pocket, the prosecutor had said. The whole proceeding was quite the fairy tale and there was no way anyone in their right mind was going to believe any of that crap. Right?
The jury deliberated for almost an hour before they came out, all solemn-faced, and pronounced me guilty as charged. Took them all of about 12 minutes to come back in and recommend death by lethal injection. The judge, God bless him, agreed immediately, categorized me as the spawn of Satan, and said he hoped I’d be shown mercy in the next life because there wasn’t any left for me in this one.
And so, off I was sent to sit and wait. And wait. And wait some more. I never saw my lawyer again. I thought they were supposed to follow up with you or something, but every time I asked a guard about it, I was told to relax and not worry so much. Oddly, that advice didn’t help me to sleep better at night. All that stuff on the television about automatic appeals, to this day, I have no idea if any were made on my behalf. I was not permitted to speak in the courtroom and I was not permitted to speak to anyone once I was put in a cell.
This morning when my breakfast arrived, I was informed that my execution was scheduled for one second after midnight tonight. I was told all my appeals had run out and my only hope at this point was a last minute phone call by the Governor. I was also advised that I shouldn’t put a whole lot of faith in that since the Governor had never made any last minute calls to the death chamber, and since I was such a bad-ass, I shouldn’t hold my breath waiting for that phone to ring.
They asked me what I would like for my last meal so they could arrange it. Don’t kid yourself about that last meal bit. You can’t order soufflés and champagne. When they say you can have anything you want, that part is true enough, but the catch is, you can have anything you want as long as the prison serves it on a routine basis. So I ordered a burger, fries and a diet coke. Kind of a last laugh for me, I guess, the ‘diet’ part. I’ve always meant to cut down on the high calorie soda I drink. I supposed this would be as good a time as any.
They asked me if I wanted a minister or priest to visit with and I told them ‘no‘. I knew he would try to get me to confess to the sin I was being executed for. I’m sure I’ve committed some here and there that I could ask him to try to wipe off my slate, but I refuse to ask to be absolved for the big one I did not commit. I decided if I only had a few hours left, I’d spend them like I’d spent the last few years--alone. Imagine my surprise when I was informed a few minutes ago, that on today of all days, I had two visitors. It was all I could do not to break into a dead run (please excuse the phrase) to the visitation area. I hadn’t realized how desperately I needed contact with someone from the outside. When I saw who my visitors were, my surprise quickly elevated me to a state of shock.
“David, it’s not that I’m not glad to see you, and your wife, I’m just a bit confused; although, at this point, I’m glad to be able to visit with anybody. Since all this craziness began, one by one, my so-called good friends seemed to evaporate. Now, on what is more than likely going to be my last day, literally, the only one who comes to see me is someone I met just before all this mess started? I mean, it wasn’t long after you had filled in for Sammy J at that poker game that a man I never knew was murdered and I ended up being arrested for it.
“As grateful as I am for the company, I have to wonder why you‘ve come. All these years on Death Row and you never tried to contact me. On top of all that, you bring your wife with you, not that I have any objection. It‘s a pleasure to see a smiling face for a change. One thing though, Marie, the minute you walked through the door, I had the feeling I’ve seen you somewhere before, but that’s not possible, is it? I’ve been inside all this time with no visitors, letters, nothing. I just can’t figure why you look so famil…
“Wait a minute. I know where I’ve seen you. It was in court at my trial. You’re the widow. You were married to the guy I supposedly killed. Your hair was a different color then, but I remember your face. And, now you’re married to David? What’s going on? Why are you both really here?”
“Now, Jer, there’s really no reason to get all upset. We just stopped by to thank you.” I didn’t care for David’s sarcastic tone. I have to admit I wasn’t too crazy about the smirk on Marie’s face either.
Something told me I wasn’t going to like how this all turned out. I felt like I needed to question everything. I always knew somebody set me up to take the fall for killing that guy because I didn’t do it. I know prison cells, as well as Death Rows everywhere are filled with ‘innocents’, but I really am. Since I didn’t do it, how did my comb end up there?
I lived alone and only my closest friends were invited inside. Out of nowhere, this new guy, David, shows up and sits in on our game. No one questioned his being there since we all had assumed Sammy J had sent him. We just dealt him in. Sammy had tripped over his mother-in-law’s cat and fell down a couple flights and ended up in the hospital with a broken leg. We got so used to David, we forgot to check it out with Sammy, who ended up being laid up for a couple of months anyway. Oh my God.
David, or whoever he really is, targeted me, pocketed an object of mine to drop at a murder scene, eliminated the husband of the woman he was after, and set me up. So, now, here I sit, with both of them gloating right in front of me, on the day of my scheduled execution. Conversations are recorded, so there’s no way either one of them is going to admit what they’ve done. I decided to be gracious about the whole situation.
“I get it, okay? I suppose now is the time I’m supposed to say ‘you’re welcome’?”
The guard came by and announced that visitation time was over since it was time for me to get ready for my last meal and a bit of quiet time before they turned my lights out--permanently.
David and Marie both smiled and winked at me on their way out. I wonder just when it was that the mysterious hand of fate made the decision to give me the finger…