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David shut the door behind him and fell into one of the hard plastic chairs, his body cold and stiff. He removed his baseball cap and placed it on his lap. Covered with snow, it blended with his coat. He pulled his coat sleeve back and looked at his watch. 11:53. He had just made it.
Through the glass panel he could see the man who would be executed in little more than five minutes. The man was short and black. His head was completely shaved. Despite the distance between them, David could see sweat on the man’s forehead, which glistened in the overhead lights.
Rot in Hell, David thought.
He had good reason to think that. David had been the key witness in the trial which put Eddie Grouner in the electric chair. David was the first officer to arrive at the scene, the first to notify the police, and the first to speak to the media about the crime.
David looked again at his watch. 11:54. The time was crawling by. Any minute though, the chief warden of the Worthington Penitentiary would step up to the condemned man, say his lines, and the switch would be pulled and Eddie Grouner would be dead. So David really didn’t care what the time did. It was just that he was very, very tired. He hadn’t been sleeping well lately.
Staring at Eddie, David began to think back to that cold September night, and what he had told the police …
Cold. Swirling, wiggling cold, woke David up. He rubbed his eyes, and pinched the bridge of his nose. Where was it coming from? David pulled himself from the bed. It was coming from the window, he realized, and lumbered over to it. His hands pushed it shut, but he heard something. It was a horrifying scream from down the street.
Now jolted completely from sleep, David flung open his bedroom door and ran downstairs where he grabbed his coat, shoes and gun.
Four houses down, David found Megan Hooran, Eddie’s fiancée, on the floor. The body had at least five bullet holes in the head, and more in the chest, with blood seeping out, dyeing the carpet a dark, heavy red. Beside her ravaged body stood Eddie Grouner in a pair of badly faded gym shorts and no shirt. On the carpet next to his foot lay a sleek, black revolver.
That had pretty much been the end of Eddie Grouner. For a year he had remained clean, and some of the officers were discouraged that he would have committed such a hideous crime. Many, however, were not surprised. Eddie was a notorious criminal with no respect, and the majority of the officers (including David) hated him. Eddie had a list of robberies that spread for miles, but somehow he had managed to slip through the holes of the justice system unscathed. Even though staying clean for a year was something, it was not nearly enough to earn sympathy from the jury. Plus, the evidence against him was overwhelming. The bullets found in Megan Hooran’s body were all perfect matches with the Baretta .380 found at Eddie’s feet, which had showed up with his fingerprints all over it. That type of gun was also one which Eddie had used several times in small robberies. In addition, Eddie could not find an alibi, and could only insist wildly that David had committed the crime, not him.
David stared at his watch. 11:58. Footsteps boomed, and David looked up. The warden was on the platform, standing next to Eddie. David slouched back in his chair and thought, Let the show begin.
The warden coughed, cleared his throat and spoke, “Edward Smith Grouner, you have been condemned to die …”
David listened intently. Soon, very soon, he thought. You don’t look so smug anymore, Eddie. Is the thought of death bothering you? I hope so.
“ … God save the …”
It was all going well. But of course, why wouldn’t it?
“… anything to say before your sentence is carried out?”
Eddie narrowed his glance on David. He spoke in a low, calm voice. “I did not commit this crime. God knows this, and you, David, will never see heaven.”
A smile creased David’s face. So perfect. If only the police had checked.
A black mask was pulled over Eddie’s face. The warden approached the platform. Once again he spoke to Eddie, although Eddie could no longer see him.
“Edward Smith Grouner, electricity shall now be passed through your body until you are dead, in accordance with state law. May God have mercy on your soul.”
David’s smile widened. If only the police had checked his coat pockets that night. They would have found the pair of gloves David had used to carry the Baretta .380 to Eddie’s home. They would have found the silencer David had attached to the Baretta .380, a weapon confiscated two years earlier, which Eddie had used in a robbery – covered with his fingerprints. But, of course, they hadn’t checked David’s pockets. They trusted David’s story and accused Eddie of murder.
The next day David threw away the silencer in a bag of trash. The gloves he burnt in his fireplace. Now there was only one more piece of evidence that needed to be destroyed.
“Roll on two!”
The overhead lights dimmed and a dull buzzing noise filled the air. David realized at once this was the generators powering up.
A loud thump cracked the silence as Eddie Grouner’s body heaved against the metal restraints of the electric chair. After several moments, Eddie’s body stopped moving.
The buzzing halted abruptly, and the lights came on fully, illuminating the small room once more. David put on his cap and walked silently out the door.