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On Death Row
Sweat trickled down his face. It was one hour to execution time. For the first time in his life, he was scared. He hadn’t been scared when he was about to pull a job. No, the only feeling he felt then was a rush of thrill and excitement.
He relived the moment again when he had gotten caught. He had woken up that morning, knowing that something bad was about to happen, but he couldn’t just hide in bed all day. He had work to do. Just a week before, the boss had contacted him with a job to do. The gig paid thirty thousand dollars, ten now, and the rest after the job was done. He had to take it. The hit was on a man who owed a restaurant on Main Street. He was getting a bit to close to the boss for his liking. So he put out the hit, and it was his job to carry it out.
The hit had been easy. He followed him around for a few days, figuring out his routine. He jogged in the early morning, passing through a dark alleyway. It had been the easiest thing to push him against the brick wall, watching the blood run down his face, him crying for him to let him go. He knew that he didn’t have a chance, and it was all over for him. His last words were a prayer to God, for Him to save his soul from H*ll. He wondered if the prayer did anything for him when he died. It didn’t really matter. All that mattered was that the fact that he had the remainder of that thirty thousand about to come to him. If only he had gotten a chance to spend it.
He had stalked out of the alley, glad the job was done. That would have been his last hit anyhow. He had a wife and kid to worry about, something the boss didn’t know about. He had worked hard to keep his family a secret, so they wouldn’t be in danger. But he still needed the money, now more than ever. He had bills to pay, and the money would mean that his wife wouldn’t have to work so hard to keep Junior in school. While he was a sick, cruel hit man, he loved his family.
But he loved his mob family too. Being taken in by the Italian mafia was the best thing that had ever happened to him. They had trusted him, had loved him instantly. The mob was very close. And they weren’t all evil. Some of them were just like him, trying to make a living, and they didn’t have a problem with the killing. Like him, it was a rush.
If only he had noticed the blood stain on his shirt. If only he had paid more attention to that old woman walking the streets. She had looked in the alleyway, and had found the body. She ran to the nearest officer, who had tackled him down with his taser.
He had been arrested for the murder of Joseph Shea. But then they found out about the other murders. Countless times he had taken innocent people’s lives. His family couldn’t even look at him when they sentenced him to death, and took him away. They cried terribly, and held each other tightly, as if one of them let go, they too would be killed by the man that they trusted.
He had gotten one last look at his son. He looked him right in the eyes, and mouthed the words, “I’m sorry”. His son had shook his head and mouthed back, “No you’re not”. That had been the worst blow. Hot the trial, not the arrest, and not even the sentence had been worse than at that moment when he realized that he had lost his son’s trust.
He remembered the first hit he had ever made. He had been seventeen. It had been a forty-something year old man that had figured out about the boss. He had tried to run, but the thought of completing his first job was enough to give him the strength to finally corner him, and to kill him. Looking into a dead man’s eyes for the first time was a feeling he had never felt before. It wasn’t happiness, or fear, or any emotion like that. This was a feeling all on its own. And, even though he was about to die, even though it was the end of the line for him, it was worth it to experience those feelings.
If he could have done his life any differently, he wouldn’t. He was now glad that his father had walked out on him and his mom when he was born. He was glad that his mother was never around to take care of him. He was glad that he had been drawn to the mob, and its security.
He remembered when the boss had really welcomed him into the mob. It had been after his first killing.
“Nicky, I have to talk to you,” he had said. He had gulped.
“Come, come outside.”
He had followed him obediently into the alleyway behind their hideout. When they were both sure that they were alone, the boss had put his arms around him.
“Nicky, I am so proud of you. I have decided to allow you to be a member of our family. I think you would be a great asset to us.”
No one had ever said that to him before. It was the best feeling ever. He looked straight into his eyes.
“I am so glad that you have accepted me. It is not a bad decision, and you will not regret it, I promise you that.”
“Make sure I don’t.” he had replied.
They had walked back in to join the family, the family that Nicky was now a part of. They all treated him even better than they had been before. They always went with what the boss told them, and he had told them to trust him. And they did.
It had been three years later that he had met his wife. It was actually through a job. He had gotten a gig waiting tables at the coffee shop that the guy he was assigned to came every morning. Apparently he and his future spouse had similar tastes.
She had been crying, and he had asked if he could help her. She had replied that her father had just passed away, and she wasn’t sure how to deal with it. He had told her about his father leaving him and his mom when he was young. They had agreed to meet up later to talk. They had married six months later, and had a baby boy within the next year. On the outside, they were just a normal American family. But on the inside, it was much different. Nicky lived a life that no one, not even his wife, knew about. Only his mob family knew. And that was how he wanted it to stay. His two lives, neither one knowing about the other.
He warned his mob family to get out through his one phone call. The boss had a prepaid cell phone that he replaced every few days. He would then drive out to the Paria River, and dispose of it.
The family had been wonderful to him. But even they couldn’t protect him from this. He was on his own now. He had known that if he had ever gotten caught, this was how it would be, but it was still a hard blow. He was terrified of what would happen soon. He realized that this was what he had made all of those other people feel. And, for the first time, he was really and truly sorry for all of those people he killed. And their families! Was that how they felt, like his wife and son had? Were they also filled with hatred for the man that had taken their son or brother or husband or friend from them? He could see how they could be, and how they should be.
He was wrong, and unethical. He had killed those people, and for what? Praise from his ‘family’? They weren’t even his family! They were just the people that had . . . that had taken him in when he had no one, and needed someone. But even that didn’t excuse him for all the murders. Not to their families, not to the judge, and not even to him anymore. He deserved to die, and he knew it. But even that epiphany didn’t stop the fear pulsing through his veins, threatening to make him snap. It didn’t matter. Perhaps it would be better if he went crazy before he died.
No. No, he didn’t deserve to go crazy. He deserved to be in total realization of what was going on up until the last moment. That was part of his punishment. Perhaps he would be like that last man, praying for his soul to be saved. But it was too late for his soul. He had played God, killing all of those people. He was going to H*ll, and he knew it. He prayed that the atheists were right, and there was just nothingness when you died. But if they were right, then praying wasn’t going to do anything, now was it? So he shouldn’t even have bothered. It was over for him, and he knew it. The door opened, and an officer walked in.
“Nicky Vermicelli?” he called. Then he laid eyes on him. Nicky began to stand up, but it was hard with the chains tugging at his ankles and wrists. The officer helped him. Nicky knew that that was the last bit of help he would get. He tried to stretch out his last moments as long as he could.
“How do you feel?” the officer asked him. Nicky decided that, for the last few minutes of his life, he was going to be as truthful as he could.
“I’m afraid.” He replied.
“You should be.” The officer said next. Nicky supposed that the officer had decided to be truthful too.
The officer led him to the room where he was to die. The whole thing would take about seven minutes. Ten years of waiting to die, and it was going to be over in seven minutes. He wished it was already over. But it would be soon.
They strapped him down to the table. He remembered his last meal, in the room just yards away from where he was now. He had requested a steak, with a salad and a bottle of water. That wasn’t his favorite meal. It was his son’s. He tried to pretend that it was his son’s birthday again, ten years ago, when he was only seven. That had been the dinner his wife had made, special for him. And now IV tubes were being slid into his arms.
“That’s a saline solution going into you right now,” the officer informed him. “The executioner is behind that wall, feeding it into the tubes.”
Nicky could almost feel his presence on the other side of the room. It was scary.
A curtain was drawn back, and Nicky could see his wife, now aged, behind the glass. Next to her was his son. He could barely recognize him now. He was all grown up. He would be going to college now. Nicky realized that he had totally missed seeing his own child grow up. That itself should have been a crime. He had been just as worse as his own father.
“Would you like to make a statement now?” the officer asked.
“Yes.” Nicky answered. “Yes, I would.”
He had worked hard on what he was going to say, and now was his chance.
“To my mob family, I will never regret you guys. You took me in when no one else would. And even though that landed me here, I am still grateful. Especially to the boss. I loved you, big guy. You were the first one ever to accept me into your family.
“To the families of the ones I killed, I am sorry. I am sorry of the grief I put you all through. Please remember that I was only doing my job, a job that even I detest now. What I did to all of you has been horrendous, and I know that this apology will never be enough, but it is all I can give now.
“To my wife, I’m sorry. I’m sorry I hurt you. I’m sorry I couldn’t have been a better husband to you. I love you, and I know I have a terrible way of showing it, and that you would have been fine without the money I made doing these things, but I love you, all the same.”
He took a deep breath before finishing. “And to my son . . . to my son I am the most sorry. My dad left me when I was born. I promised myself that I would never do that to my kid. And now look at me. I am so sorry that you didn’t have a father growing up. I am so sorry that I disappointed you. I was a terrible father to you. I wish I could have regained your trust, but I wouldn’t trust myself either if I were in your position, so I can’t blame you. But please remember that I love you. I love you, and I want the best for you. I was wrong to do what I did. Please don’t end up like me. Please, go to college, become whatever you want to be, and make something good out of yourself. Please, just please, don’t end up like me.”
He looked at the officer, who had recorded what he had just said. “That’s it,” he said.
“It’s time now,” the officer said to him. “This is Sodium thiopental; you’re going to fall asleep from it. Then, you’re not going to feel anything else. And soon it will all be over.”
It wasn’t twenty seconds after he said that that Nicky began to feel so tired. He fell asleep immediately. Then, the Pancuronium bromide was put in. Lastly came the Potassium chloride. Exactly one minute and forty-two seconds later, Nicky Vermicelli was declared dead.