Chapter Nine: Closure
by Jeffrey M. Mahr
©2000 Jeffrey M. Mahr -- all rights reserved
"Paul was dead, but I wasn't even allowed to attend his funeral. It seems that Dr. Maldonado had prepared a bunch of phony records framing me, describing me as unstable since the experimental cancer treatment. There were counseling memos, pleading notes to the company's Employee Assistance Program to get me into therapy, even a couple of calls to company security asking that they be present whenever I was in the building as he feared for his life.
"They never found Maldonado's body, but that didn't matter to the DA's office as they had broken-jaw Tweedle's body and my confession to having kicked him. That was enough to guarantee Manslaughter and when the other two goons concocted a story about how I'd attacked them like a wild creature, breaking bones and shooting at poor Doc Maldonado, in a fit of rage as I accused him of sabotaging my work, they felt confident they had enough for Murder Two. You'd think they'd be too embarrassed to admit to have been beaten up by the little slip of a thing I was for the trial.
"The last straw was when the police went through my quarters at the base and found blueprints for BioLogInc.'s corporate office building as well as directions to a local swamp known for its quicksand deposits, a map with directions to Canada using local and back roads, and a box full of money. The fact that I had never seen any of that stuff before was absolutely irrelevant -- and besides, who the hell ever escaped to Canada except a few draft dodgers? That was the proof of premeditation that gave the DA his Murder One charge.
"At the time of the trial, it amazed me that no one asked how I could have beaten those huge, muscle-bound men so badly. No one asked who had shot and killed Paul, or even why he was there.
"Do you know what my attorney's advice was? 'Look innocent.' I cannot even imagine what she meant by that. I suppose that's why she sent me the Laura Ashley® outfits to wear. I hear it helped their sales, although the only thing it did for me was get me voted best-dressed woman on death row. I am wearing one now under this orange prison issue jumpsuit. You can just see the top of the turtleneck.
"Actually, as far as I could tell, the only person in that court room who believed I was innocent, excepting the Tweedles, was Patrice. We had been friends since my initial treatment and she came every day. I understand that she has tried to visit me, but she had not my immediate family, my attorney, or someone the State wanted to see me, so we haven't been able to speak in months.
"About now, she's the only one I've got left. Would you please give her a message? Tell her 'I love her and I'll never forget her.'
"So here I am Father, with no family, no friends, no job, and no future." I stopped him before he started the usual platitudes about how my faith will help me survive. "I know. God loves me. Well, if you were about to tell me to confess and free my soul, I've got a problem. That was my confession, I've confessed to being stupid, and naïve and innocent, but not to being guilty of the charges against me.
"My dreams of helping mankind are dead, even if I could find someone to fund me, it would be years before I could recreate my work to this still incomplete point. To put it bluntly Father -- and I apologize for the language -- I've been raped and screwed in the most basic, albeit figurative, terms. Just as Dr. George LaPierre's life ended when he contracted cancer, Dr. Georgette LaPierre's life ends in a couple of minutes."
"I shall pray for your soul my daughter." He kissed his rosary and crossed himself before rising.
"Thank you Father, but pray for this country and the world. Dr. Maldonado is still out there and if he's even half as ruthless as I believe he is, we're all in deep trouble."
The sound of a key rattling against the bars made us both start. A contingent of four burly guards and the Warden was waiting just outside the cell. For some reason the joke about the King and the Jester came back to me and I realized that I heartily agreed with the punch line, "No noose is good news." Which reminds me of the other joke I have not finished, the one about the vase. It is about an attorney making his opening address to the jury, in behalf of a client who is accused of breaking a vase. It goes something like this. "Your honor. Distinguished colleagues. Ladies and gentlemen of the jury. By the end of these proceedings, I intend to prove three things beyond a shadow of a doubt. First, I shall prove that my client never received the vase in question. Second, I shall prove that when she did receive it, it was already broken. Third and finally, I shall prove that when my client returned the vase, it was intact." I almost wish my attorney had been able to match the attorney in the joke.
The Priest silently stood and backed out of my way. I had actually been waiting for this moment -- or maybe it was that stupid noose joke -- but I gave him a jaunty wave and said, "See you later Father."
They added handcuffs and leg chains before letting me leave the cell. Then, we all did a slow march, the Warden in front, the Priest in back and me, surrounded by the guards, in the middle. My escort was silent and grim, but the cheers from the surrounding cells was deafening and could be heard even after the heavy steel door at the end of the corridor closed behind us.
I had had many discussions with attorneys, news people, psychologists and guards over the past year and a half while the required appeals were processed against my wishes, by do-gooders trying to help. As a result, I was not surprised by the crowd seated in the bleachers in front of the gallows. But then again, I had been planning this moment for quite a while now.
We continued our slow march to the top of the scaffold. Then, I got to listen as the Warden read my list of crimes and verified that I was Dr. Georgette LaPierre in accordance with state law. Were my situation different, I might have found it funny that after being in jail for almost two years, this was when they verified my identity. Finally, in a deep stentorian voice, he completed the ritual citing of the statute under which this execution was occurring.
Then it was my turn. I was asked if I had anything more to say. Still shuffling due to the chains, I stepped up to the microphone and glared out at the audience. "I have said it from the beginning and I say it again. I did not kill Dr. Carlton W. Maldonado. He is alive and he is amongst you plotting evil of such magnitude that it will stun you at the least, and could prove the undoing of this country, even the world.
"I know that you do not believe me. I know that you consider me the evil one. It saddens me that I have not been able to convince you to join me to fight the evil that is Dr. Maldonado, but fight him I shall, to my dying breath. One last time, I implore you to release me and join me."
The silence was deafening. A guard shuffled his feet and the Warden checked his watch against the large clock mounted on the scaffold. It was almost time.
The guards escorted me back to a marked position on the trap door and offered me a hood, which I declined. Then the noose slid over my head and down my neck. Someone, one of the guards, was thoughtful enough to pull my hair through so it was not trapped between the noose and my neck. The chains stayed on; I guess they figured it would be added weight to insure that my neck snapped, then they added a sandbag attached to each foot. When I had been prepared, the Warden nodded to someone behind me, declining to look into my face although I looked into his, and the ground fell out from beneath me.
For more than six months I had been preparing for this moment. I had read of this moment and I had dreamed of this moment. I had interviewed anyone who could tell me anything about it. I had even spent time on the Internet researching gallows construction and the medical details of hanging. I was at peace, knowing what would happen.
The first feeling was that of falling. My shoulder-length hair floated up creating a golden halo in the morning sunlight.
Then, the thick hemp rope snapped taut and it was over, but for the perfunctory medical exam. I can honestly say that there was no pain.
They let me hang for several minutes. I guess no one ever told the Warden that asphyxiation as the actual cause of death in hanging is an old wives' tale -- or maybe he was just being cautious.
Did you know that hanging does not kill you by asphyxiating you? The actual cause of death is the landing, so to speak. The actual cause of death is the combined multiple insults to the body including the trauma to the brain as it is bounced about, the spine as it is severed, and the essential organs as they stop receiving messages to function. Trust me; I speak from personal, first-hand experience.
Finally, they took me down and lay me on a gurney. The jail physician took out his stethoscope any listened for my heart, checked for a pulse, and flipped my eyes open to see if there was any pupillary dilation. There wasn't.
From then on, it was just a matter of time. I had asked for immediate cremation at the funeral home that had cared for my parents' remains, but like most bureaucracies, it took almost five hours, lying on a freezing metal slab, before my body was released for pick up.
Right about now, you're probably thinking of the ending of any of a dozen "B" horror flicks Paul and I watched on Sunday mornings as we grew up. Someone always seemed to end up intoning in a somber voice, "There are some things man was never meant to know." At least in the context of wondering how I could possibly know about things like my death and the events that occurred after it. If it will help, I could tell you that it was beautiful up here and "a far, far better place to which" I have gone. However, I can assure you that I am not a ghost, nor am I some other type of supernatural being. My personal experiences are the result of living through my own death.
I told you I had been researching executions for months. After all, I am a research scientist. I also told you how a properly administered hanging actually works. Remember I had quite a bit of time for independent study during those many months in solitary confinement on Death Row. Thus, I practiced and honed my ability to change shape until it was effectively instantaneous. In the process, I discovered that the only limitation is my ability to properly visualize the biology, to imagine the change in sufficient detail that it is able to function. This means I can even assume various animal shapes, even in between shapes like a half-man half-animal. For some reason, I am partial to large, white-furred, ape-like creatures.
As the noose went around my neck, I created a shell-like exoskeleton under my turtleneck sweater extending down my spine and under my crotch. The upper part prevented asphyxiation and a snapped neck. The lower frame served as a support so I would not snap some other portion of my vertebrae. Once the trap door opened, I just played dead, removing the lower exoskeleton first so it would not be noticed when they lowered me off the noose. Then, I just moved my heart well away from my chest so that my internal organs dampened the sound until it could not be heard by the good doctor. Finally, it was just a waiting game until the funeral home picked up my body and placed it in a casket to be cremated. When no one was looking, I just swapped another body for mine and disappeared amongst the next group of mourners.
From there, it was a quick bus ride to Patrice's apartment to borrow some money, collect some clothes and say our tearful goodbyes. I cannot afford to lose my last true friend and I know Maldonado would kill her without a second thought if he thought she was helping me, but I am not worried. I can still call her if I finish the conversation within sixty seconds, or drop her an e-mail, even a letter to return the money she lent me. Besides, she gave me the hope that this will one day be over and I can again be with her. It will not be the same as it would have been with Paul, but no one should ever give up a friend without a fight.
Now I am free to seek out Maldonado. It will not be easy. I do not know her new name. I do not know what she looks like. I do not know where she is. I do not even know what her goals are. I just know she's out there plotting, organizing and controlling more nefarious criminal activity and she must be stopped before she does to others what she's done to me. She will also have the same ability as me and when I catch her I will have to tell her she is a lousy lawyer. I am certain she is still planning for our next encounter. She will believe I am dead as much as I believe she is dead.
I never wanted to be some kind of a hero. I never once thought to save the world. I just wanted to help my fellow man. Now, I have a mission -- and I will succeed. I have to. I cannot let down Paul, or my parents, or those of you who have no way to protect yourself from Maldonado's machinations. Like in the comics still at the cabin, I need a name, but most of the good ones are already taken, so I have combined the two things that are most prominently me. I am a biomorph and, as Carlton sneeringly pointed out, I am a Boy Scout.
Prepare yourself Maldonado. I am coming for you. BioScout is coming for you.