Updated: May 25, 2020
Patrick allowed himself to be dropped into the chair and strapped in. The executioner first secured his left arm, holding it so firmly that the blood stopped circulating. Then he strapped in the right one. This guy must be used to people putting up a fight, he thought to himself. Well, today the executioner had it easy, because Patrick wouldn’t do himself, or his family, the dishonor of struggling.
As a matter of fact, he determined that the electric chair would be more fitting of this execution, being as the trial he had suffered was just as barbaric. He knew that he was nothing more than the scapegoat for a more powerful man - one who had far too much influence in this city to be touched.
The Chief of Police - Monroe Santo- had framed him. And he went to great and careful lengths to do so, now that Patrick looked back on it. He remembered the Chief calling him into his office one afternoon.
“Officer Stone, I heard you’re a golfer,” he said, casually. Patrick rarely had informal exchanges with the Chief, so he wanted to impress him.
“I’ve worked my way around a golf course, Sir,” he said coolly.
“Great, my wife just got me a set of clubs. I’m wondering which one you prefer,” he said, pulling out the bag from behind his desk.
“Well, Sir, it really depends on how close you are to the hole, as well as other factors,” Patrick explained, choosing a putter from the bag. After he was finished telling the Chief everything that he knew about the different clubs, the Chief asked him to pack them back in their bag and dismissed him.
Patrick should have known then. It struck him as odd that Santo worked diligently to never touch his own clubs. But how could he know that the Chief would kill his own wife and use the fingerprints on the clubs as evidence against him?
“Your last words, Mr. Stone?” said the executioner.
Patrick rehearsed for this moment so many times, but now that it had come, it was like his brain was wiped clean. Looking through the observation window on the left, he could see that his wife had stood up. She pressed her hand against the glass, as she had done so often when they talked at the visiting booths. His daughter buried her face in the sleeve of the other arm. He was always tickled when he saw them together, with the same orange-red hair. But today he just couldn't be consoled by it.
In the window to the right, the prosecutor, district attorney and various members of the media sat nonchalantly, waiting for the execution to begin. He took a deep breath.
“The dishonesty of this establishment continues to baffle me. To sacrifice me to your god of immorality in front of my wife and child today is a testament to the cowardice to which the prosecutor and district attorney have succumbed,” he said coolly. Then with a warm smile he addressed his family. “Phoenix, baby girl, always take care of your mother, and let her take care of you. A teenager still needs mommy. And Felicia, my love, just know that I will always love you no matter what. They’ll take my body today, but not my spirit. You and our daughter will always have that.”
And then he was silent again, as the executioner strapped the wiry cap onto his head. Then, as Chaplain recited his last prayer, the executioner left the room to hit the switch. Patrick fixed his steely eyes on the prosecutor in protest and the state took his life away.
He didn’t require much electricity to go. His toes curled for the first three excruciating seconds. His body lunged forward. Then he slumped deeply into his chair and was gone. ∴∴∴∴∴∴∴∴∴∴∴∴
Felicia was aroused from her sleep by the smell of pears again. She had been smelling them for the last three weeks - since the day Patrick left. It reminded her of when they first bought the house. It was an old fixer-upper and the yard was in shambles, but it was theirs. One day Patrick came home from the police station with six potted plants.
“Look, babe, pear trees,” he smiled. “They were on sale for twelve dollars each. I saw them on my rounds today.”
“For real, Pat? Six of them?” She was incredulous.
“Well, the yard is crappy. The trees will spice it up," he defended. "Plus in the summertime, we’ll have pears!”
They eventually had so many pears that they had to can them, bake them into pies and give some away. Patrick made sure to never let one go to waste, so he often walked around with pears in his pockets and on his breath.
Felicia wanted to believe that the smell was a special message from him, but she also knew that a yearning mind could fabricate what the heart wanted. She sluggishly made her way downstairs to the kitchen where her aunt and uncle had already made breakfast. They were sitting at the dining room table, drinking tea.
“Morning, Linda… James,” she said as she kissed them on the cheeks. Through puffy eyes, she could barely make out the time on the oven clock: 11:11.
“Take some tea?” Uncle James said. Felicia knew it wasn’t a real question though.
“Yes, please.” Felicia knew better than to fight it by now. They would force her to eat and keep her strength up, for Phoenix’s sake. She accepted the cup and took a sip.
Phoenix came downstairs shortly after, and Uncle James got up to fix her plate. Then the four sat in solemn silence. Until Phoenix finally spoke.
“I dreamt about Dad,” she said.
And Felicia had to walk out of the room so that her daughter didn’t see her face so contorted with grief. She permitted silent tears to run down her cheeks as she listened from the hallway.
“Go ahead, baby. Tell us about the dream. It will help to talk about it,” Aunt Linda encouraged.
“Well…” she began timidly. “In the dream, I was younger. I remember when I was young, he used to pretend I was a cowgirl and give me horse rides on his knee. Well, I was at that age again and he gave me a really fun horse ride. I didn’t wanted the ride to be over. But then he stopped…” her voice trailed off.
“You don’t have to finish, if it’s too much,” Uncle James reassured her. But she continued.
“He stopped and then he said to me, ‘I told you you’d always have my spirit. All you have to do is look for me.’” It was Aunt Linda and Uncle James’ turn to cry as they hugged Phoenix.
Days passed, but Feilicia remembered her daughter’s words. She still hadn’t figured out what Patrick meant by ‘all you have to do is look for me’. She had indeed been looking desperately for a sign of him, but to no avail.
On this particular night she laid in bed contemplating those words. As she drifted into sleep she imagined herself playing hide-and-go-seek with him. She looked under the bed.
“Nope, not there.” She said to herself. Then she snuck up on the curtains.
“Gotcha!” she said as she pulled them back. Nothing there. Then she walked over to the closet door and opened it. “I found you!” she said as he walked out, arms outstretched. Felicia fell into his arms, crying.
“Don’t cry, Fee,” he said. But it didn’t help. She went on for a few minutes until she was able to keep the tears from escaping her eyes.
“I’ve been looking for you,” she finally said.
“I’ve been here, waiting for you to find me,” he said.” I’ve always been right here.” Felicia thought about the smell of pears.
“So that was you?” she asked. “That is me,” he said. And they held each other in silence. After what seemed like hours, he finally spoke again.
“I need you to listen now, okay?” he said. “I’ve been snooping around the Chief’s house trying to figure out why he killed his own wife. I found out some pretty serious stuff.”
Felicia straightened up, listening intently.
“Remember when I told you Chief’s daughter had cancer? Well apparently he had been accepting bribes to pay for her treatment. That mob boss that we were perusing last year, Tajeda, started paying him off to look the other way.” He explained.
“Wow, no shocker there. I knew that man was crooked,” she said coldly.
“How does the wife play into it?”
“Well, apparently she didn’t like how far it was going. Tajeda was exploiting Chief to the fullest-he wanted to sleep with her. When Chief told her what Tajeda wanted, she marched into Tajeda’s business and played him a recording of some of the conversations he and the Chief had had. They were apparently pretty incriminating. She gave him two weeks to pack up his business and get the hell out of town or she would turn the tape over to authorities.”
“Wow, so Santo chose mob life over his own wife, huh?” she said.
“Well they didn’t really have the best relationship to begin with,” he said.
“But why you?” she asked. “It’s just not fair! Why did they have to set you up?” she felt herself becoming frantic. She started crying again. Patrick held her a little tighter. “I haven’t figured that out yet, love. There’s probably no real answer.”
Felicia was angry now. “What do we do? What do I do?” she asked him.
“There is something you can do. I’ve been debating whether I should tell you-whether I should put you in harm’s way,” he said slowly. “I don’t want you to act rashly,” he warned.
“Pat, you might as well tell me. You know I’m going to fight for you if there’s anything I can do. Of course I will act rashly. Now what is it?!” she said.
Patrick chuckled. Felicia had always been a fiery habanera. He was happy to see that she was acting more like herself again.
“Okay,” he said. “We have to be smart about it, so listen closely.”
To be continued…