“Three drugs will be administered to you by intravenous injection in the following order: First, ‘Midazolam’ will sedate you in the same fashion those poor devils on their knees were made compliant prior to being beheaded by the Taliban. If administered in the proper dosage, you won’t give a damn what happens to you. Second, ‘Pavulon’ will cause muscle paralysis and respiratory arrest. You’ll stop breathing and may have a sensation of drowning or being tortured by ‘waterboarding’. Third, ‘Potassium Chloride’ will stop your heart.”
“Give me that Valium you promised me and get your ass back to your cellblock.”
“I have one more examination to complete, Officer Jackson. Drop your pants, inmate.”
“You know this isn’t necessary, Doc.”
“I want to clear up some ambiguity in the chart about this inmate.”
“If the inmate wants the last hours to be easy when sedated by Valium, the inmate will comply.”
“I’ll comply, Officer Jackson.”
“There it is! Your testosterone therapy is producing the desired effect. Pull up your pants. Had you visited my clinic, I would have helped you surgically become ‘all you can be’ like the Army slogan.”
“Cut out the sick humor or I’ll have you reassigned to a cellblock where the inmates will make you drop your pants! I’ll take that bottle of Valium, Doc.”
“Goodnight, Officer Jackson.”
“Bon Voyage, inmate.”
“What was his crime, Officer Jackson?”
“Call me Priscilla. He had his medical license revoked for negligent homicide and manslaughter. That quack country doctor performed discount ‘Brazilian Butt Lifts’ and ‘Liposuction’ procedures, killing one woman and hideously deforming another lady.”
“So, I’m going to be executed in forty-eight hours by a quack doctor who doesn’t like me.”
“He doesn’t participate in the execution. We have a trained team who administers the drugs from behind the wall in the execution chamber. I want you to take two of these Valium tablets right now. They’ll calm your nerves and you’ll get a good night’s sleep. When I clock out in the morning, I’ll give you two more. The Valium combined with the ‘Midazolam’ might enable you to make it through the administration of the paralysis drug without any sensation of drowning. You’ll start to feel relaxed and sleepy soon. It’s after midnight already. You want me to pull up my chair and sit with you?”
“Yes, and play your sweet seventies soul jam.”
“I’ll play the ‘Temptations’.”
But it was just my imagination
Runnin’ away with me
It was just my imagination
Runnin’ away with me…
“Priscilla, you look like the mom of a friend of mine from high school!”
“I heard about your friend the wide receiver who burned to death in the car wreck. I’m sorry for your loss.”
“The Valium just hit me and I’m getting tired.”
“Lay your head back on the pillow. Tell me your story and how you got here?”
I’m one of four friends who grew up together in a small town segregated by race and the “have’s and have nots.” I was one of the latter.
I lived in a trailer park full of run down, rusting, single and double wide trailers. The trailers were packed tightly together like sardines inside a rotting can.
I was an only child and from an early age identified as a boy. Mom called me a “misfit” and couldn’t relate to a daughter who acted like a son.
Mom’s good looks and shapely physique got her work at the town’s dive bar as a cocktail waitress. She entertained a succession of men she named “uncle.” She ordered me to sleep in the beat-up old station wagon outside the trailer when entertaining her tricks.
Mom aged prematurely from alcohol and pill popping which got her fired. Mom invited a man to live with us and since there wasn’t enough room inside the trailer, the station wagon, now broken down and inoperable, became my permanent home.
He and mom defrauded the Social Security Administration and county like experts feigning physical and mental disabilities, raking in welfare benefits which they used to buy booze and pills. I’d be sent to town on foot to buy groceries and booze from an “uncle” who owned the town market.
School and my three pals were my salvation from the inebriated hell of life with mom and her boyfriend who were determined to “doll me up” like a “proper woman” so I could find a man to marry, and leave the household.
Mom fell asleep inebriated, and he came at me one evening.
“I wouldn’t kiss you with your mom’s lips but I’m gonna’ let you know what it feels like to be a woman, and maybe straighten you out, baby.”
It felt good to use my fist and laid him flat on his ass. He never tried it again but mom was chilly towards me afterwards.
Jack Strap’s family was a prominent political family. His older sister, Susie, is state Attorney General.
Jack was quarterback and the brunt of teasing from opposing teams shouting ‘Jock Strap.’ The taunts provided Jack with the motivation to throw harder, longer, and with precision leading our team to state semi-finals for two years.
Hector Gonzalez was the first Mexican the town ever met. His family picked apples until they saved enough money to open up a Mexican restaurant which became a favorite in town although the customers muttered, “Wet backs.” Hector was our football team’s punter with an uncanny range and accuracy.
Earnie Jefferson Grant was a tall and strong Black kid. His parents picked lettuce, saved, and purchased the hardware and feedstore. Earnie seldom talked about it, but he overheard racial slurs whispered amongst the customers when he helped his dad at the store. Earnie’s speed, agility, and determination made him a stellar wide receiver on our team.
Me and Hector shared a bond. He was kind and sensitive. I noticed Hector’s admiring stares at the athletic physiques of his teammates, but Hector was trapped within the religious mores of his family, not to mention his macho teammates, and would never come ‘out of the closet.’ We had intercourse together which was a liberating experience by confirming our sexual preferences.
We’d spend hours together practicing his punting. I became a very able placeholder of the football, and when summer football practice began, Hector demanded the coach make me his placeholder and allow me to suit up with the team or he wouldn’t play. The coach conceded but assured the team I wouldn’t receive special treatment and demanded I be treated as an equal by my teammates.
I wore my hair “high and tight,” my football jersey over a pair of jeans, and work boots.
Our football skills never earned us a scholarship to college. Jack’s parents could afford the tuition at the state university. Hector joined the family restaurant putting on a white apron every day working sixteen-hour days. Earnie went to work stocking shelves and delivering for the family business. I was always a welcome guest for dinner at Hector’s and Earnie’s homes, and took home leftovers. I suspect their parents knew there wasn’t much food in our trailer.
I didn’t tell anybody mom moved away with her boyfriend leaving me behind to live inside the broken-down station wagon after our decrepit trailer was repossessed for back rent.
I joined the Army and completed Airborne training. I was deployed to Afghanistan and found a home in the Army where I met people sharing my sexual identity. I completed two tours and came home to find work.
Our state university was playing for a national championship and Jack suggested we reunite for a road trip to the game. It was nice seeing the guys, but except for Jack who was a law student being groomed for political office, Hector and Earnie looked older than their age. The sparkle in the eyes of bright-eyed high schoolers was replaced with the darkness of what the future wrought. Except for the exhalation from a touchdown by our team, our conversation was no longer easy. We strained to connect despite the beer and joint smoking. I was the ‘designated driver’ and remained sober.
Jack left for the bathroom and returned agitated.
“Let’s leave and beat the traffic. We’re gonna’ lose anyway.”
Jack drove a monster SUV the kind I drove in the Army. Despite my protest, Jack insisted on driving,
“It’s me in the cockpit or all of you thumbing a ride.”
I buckled myself in and rode shotgun while Earnie and Hector slumped down in the back seat, falling asleep. I was preoccupied with Jack’s reckless driving to notice our friends weren’t buckled in.
Something was different about Jack. I knew him as a drunk puking his brains out and falling asleep, but he was noticeably high on something.
“What did you take, Jack?”
“Crystal Meth! You shoulda’ seen the look on that ticket takers face when I robbed and stabbed him.”
“Why did you do it, Jack?”
“I got into business with some bad dudes who want their money!”
Jack was happy again as if he threw a winning touchdown. I was back in Afghanistan, terrified.
Bob Seger’s ‘Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man’ roared through Jack’s high performance sound system,
But I got to ramble (ramblin’ man)
Gamble (gamblin’ man)
Ramble (ramblin’ man)
I was born a ramblin’ gamblin’ man…
“A tractor trailer is changin’ lanes to your left! Get the hell over Jack!”
I grabbed the wheel and just barely made a turn onto an offramp heading into some small town with no time to stop for the flashing red lights warning of an oncoming freight train.
“Hit the gas, Jack!”
We beat the train but were hallin’ ass down a dark, lonely road.
I tried to wrestle Jack away from the wheel and gas pedal. Just ahead I saw the faint headlights of an oncoming car becoming brighter by the second.
Everything happened in slow motion when we ‘T-Boned’ a compact car throwing it like a football down the road catching on fire.
I fell unconscious but was awakened by the sounds of sirens approaching. My eyesight was impaired from the blood streaming down my forehead. I heard chatter and the sound of a saw blade. The air was thick and putrid from the smell of burnt flesh and death I experienced in war.
“This kid is Jack Strap. His family don’t want a scandal. No time to wait for paramedics with his skull falling apart. Help me carry him to the squad car, and drive him over to the football field where a chopper is landing to airlift him to university hospital.”
“What about the passenger ridin’ shotgun, Chief?”
“Just a minor head contusion, doc can stitch up.”
“Want me to write up the accident report when I get back, Chief?”
“No. Forget what you saw here and get going!”
I was dragged across into the driver’s seat.
“I’m gonna’ wipe Jack’s prints from the steering wheel and place your hands around the wheel. Wake up! Grab the damn steering wheel!”
I complied. The flash from a camera helped me regain my composure, but I was still too weak to protest.
The Chief pulled my head back by the hair, inserted the neck of a bottle, and kept pouring despite my choking.
“Take some big swallows of this tequila. Swallow it!”
“What about my buddies?”
“The ‘Juevos Rancheros’ smeared all over the hood is your Mexican friend, and the big projectile hole in the windshield on the driver side was put there by your Black friend ejected from the back seat, striking like a missile into that burned up car down the road carrying three teenage White girls goin’ home from Bible study.”
I was in shock, couldn’t process Hector’s death, and wouldn’t look at his remains.
“Is Earnie alive?”
“He got burned up in the fire with the three girls. Looks like a ‘S’mores’ dessert, don’t it?”
“Your gruesome metaphors about my dead friends are beneath the dignity of your shield, Chief. Where’s Jack?”
“You’re the driver and your license say ‘Patricia’ but the national background check says you’re named ‘Patrick’ on your Army service records. Army says you were a member of the 101st Airborne. Is the Army so desperate they got the likes of you jumpin’ out of planes?”
“I’m havin’ difficulty imaging you as Chief of Police.”
“When I write up the accident report, do I call you ‘male’ or ‘female’?”
“You can check the box, Whoop Ass.”
“Ain’t no use arguing out here in the middle of the night. I’ll leave the box unchecked. Sit in the back seat of my squad car and keep your mouth shut. I won’t run the siren and wake everybody up. We’re takin’ the short cut which is a dirt road with plenty of potholes. But a member of the 101st won’t mind a ‘bumper car’ ride over to doc’s place, will ‘ya?”
“Chief, please allow me to remove Hector’s remains in a dignified manner. He was a sweet, sensitive, and kind man who deserves to be returned to his parish for a proper burial.”
“How the hell are you gonna’ remove that goo from the hood in the middle of the night on a pitch-dark road?”
“With my hands and a plastic bag if need, be.”
“Why do you give a damn? Were you lover boys?”
“Can’t you find it in your cop heart to show some respect and empathy for my friends?”
“The mere thought of handling a bag of that mess makes me want to puke.”
“Let me pay respects to Earnie and the three teenage girls.”
“I’ll do a slow drive by and you can say your peace.”
“Fella’s, I know you and your families suffered horrible bigotry but you chose to take out your anger on the football field and were never bitter. You inspired me. Darling young ladies, there’s nothing adequate I can say except you’ll live on in my heart and memory forever. May God bless your sweet, innocent souls.”
“On second thought, I’ll skip the dirt road and drive you over to the doc’s place comfortably on the main highway.”
I awoke in a small-town county jail. My forehead was bandaged and I had a hell of a headache. I was greeted by an old sheriff holding a tray covered with a white linen napkin.
“Good mornin’. I’m Sheriff Pottinger and brought you breakfast. The doc said give you something easy on your stomach, so the diner prepared you soft boiled eggs, dry toast, and some orange juice. I’ve got a pot of coffee brewing if you want some. I put some aspirin on the tray thinking you’d need it. You walked away with a simple laceration to the forehead the doc stitched up. More than I can say for your accomplices.”
“The Mexican and Black guys.”
“Jack Strap was the driver and didn’t tell us about the robbery until we left the stadium! Jack Strap killed the ticket taker and my friends, sheriff!”
He opened the cell door, handed me the tray, and sat down beside me lighting up a pipe. He didn’t fear me, and had a kind, grandfather type demeanor.
“I believe you. I was an accident investigator with the state highway patrol for twenty years before becomin’ Sheriff. I just left the accident scene and completed my own investigation before they cleaned it up. The driver’s seat was set for a tall person. It wasn’t possible for you to reach the pedals, and see over the dashboard with that seat setting. You were ridin’ shotgun ‘cause your buddies were ejected from the backseat.”
“Then why am I here?”
“Their blaming all this mess on you because you come from a no-good thievin’ family with a mama who died in stir doin’ a dime for welfare fraud, and your daddy was a petty thief who died of a heroin overdose. You also look different than women around here. Jack Strap’s sister, Susie Strap, is State Attorney General who’s ridin’ your case as a get tough on crime and transgender protest freight train all the way to the Governor’s mansion come election time. The mayor is demanding justice for the slaughter of his three teenage girls. The accident photos are gruesome. Public sentiment is solidly against you.”
“What’s my sexual identity got to do with anything, sheriff?”
“Attorney General Strap is arguing the testosterone used in your gender transformation messed with your head! You’re gonna’ be arraigned in court tomorrow for ‘Gross Vehicular Manslaughter’ and ‘First Degree Murder’ in the commission of a felony.”
“Get me a public defender, Sheriff. I’m not takin’ the wrap for Jack Strap! Jack told me his motive for the robbery, ‘I got into business with some bad dudes who want their money!’ My attorney will force him to admit he committed the robbery.”
“Jack’s head got wrapped up inside the steering wheel keeping him from being ejected like your buddies. Your alibi, Jack, is brain damaged to the point of not knowin’ his own name. There’s no proof you weren’t in on the heist.”
“Hector and Earnie’s parents will testify I wouldn’t plan a robbery. My attorney can use them as character witnesses in court.”
“Both sets of parents are feelin’ the heat because of being Mexican and Black. Hector’s parents left for Mexico and can’t be located. Earnie’s parents are in protective custody.”
“My attorney will haul you into court to tell the truth, sheriff.”
“No attorney will take your case. They’re scrounging up a public defender from a nearby state to represent you, and I assure you, it won’t be no ‘Perry Mason’. Tellin’ the truth will cost me my pension and my wife ain’t havin’ a broke-ass former Sheriff as a husband. Even if I testified you weren’t the driver, you’ll be convicted under the ‘Felony Murder Rule’ which makes you guilty for murder as if you pulled the trigger! I’ll make you as comfortable as possible. The diner food is pretty good and you’ll get ‘three squares’ per day, water, soda pop, and all the coffee you can drink.”
I was arraigned the following day.
For weeks, I sweated trial. True to his word, the old Sheriff made me comfortable. I didn’t share the cell and the food was good. I would have swapped his cozy little jail cell for the station wagon I lived in. I kept at the Sheriff, decrying my innocence.
The breakfast, lunch, and dinner trays stopped coming. They were replaced by a “Prison Loaf” which is a brick of grotesque, packaged, processed, flavorless mixture of ground beef, vegetables, beans, and bread crumbs delivered by a new deputy.
“Where’s Sheriff Pottinger?”
“Retired. I’m runnin’ things here until a new election for sheriff is held.”
“Did the Sheriff tell you about me? I wasn’t the driver!”
“You know the old line, ‘everybody is innocent’ in jail. I’ll bring you some fast-food condiments to make that gut blowing prison loaf somewhat eatable. I was in the Army, too. Sheriff Pottinger pulled some strings and kept you in his jail longer than necessary. They want to transfer you to a correctional facility while you’re awaiting trial but need you to stipulate your gender.”
“Check the box, ‘Prisoner.’ Your time will be easier at the women’s prison. At the men’s prison, you’ll be segregated from the others for your own protection, and solitary up there is dark, dank, and depressing.”
“If I can shower and use the latrine with the men in the Army, you know which box to check!”
I was transferred to solitary confinement at the men’s correctional institution. The deputy didn’t lie about conditions inside solitary. It was like living inside a “black hole” with very little light, no sound, and lonely. I was fortunate to have the company of mice and cock roaches.
My case garnered attention, and I was represented by very fine pro bono lawyers, but their arguments weren’t strong enough to convince our state’s prejudiced jury pools.
In twelve months, I was tried, convicted, appealed all the way up to the state supreme court, lost, and sent to death row to await execution by lethal ejection within seventy-two hours of arrival. The legal system wants me dead before the election coming up soon!
“Even inside death row, I’m segregated from the other condemned prisoners. I’m fortunate to have your company, Priscilla.” I knew immediately you were kind, and I appreciate the seventies Motown playlist you listen to on your shift. My mom enjoyed the same music. The soulful lyrics bring me pleasure inside a place devoid of humanity.”
“Me too, baby. Me, too. Any news on your appeal?”
“The United States Supreme Court might issue a stay of execution if I plead, as the lawyers put it, ‘psychological impairment’ stemming from my gender transition medications which might get me a life sentence upon retrial.”
“They laid that on you?”
“I told them living a lie was worse than dying.”
“You’ve got character, Patrick. I picked up a snack for you at the drive thru and filled the soft drink with a shot of bourbon to help you sleep. You can wash down the Valium pills with the soda. I’ll be right outside your cell wearin’ my earbuds and readin’.”
“Would you play, ‘Just My Imagination’? It will help me sleep.”
Tell you it was just my imagination
Runnin’ away with me…
“You’re awake. How did you sleep?”
“Bad dreams within a deep, desperate sleep, Priscilla.”
“I’ve got two more Valium tablets for you to take but you have an important visitor, and I want you alert. Take them after the visit.”
“My legal team isn’t visiting so who the hell is the visitor?”
“Sheriff Pottinger. Come on in Sheriff. Take my chair. I’m clocking out. See you at midnight, Patrick.”
“What brings you here, Sheriff?”
“An old man’s memories get the better of him out on the front porch in the late evening.”
“One week I’m eatin’ diner food and the next week you’re replaced by a deputy feeding me prison loaf!”
“You were too hot to handle, and I retired.”
“I understand my lawyers couldn’t get you to testify Jack was the driver.”
“I suggested to them you were in shock and delirious. That was the end of it. I’m makin’ amends before I meet my maker. I’ve got colon cancer and won’t put myself through surgery, chemo, radiation, and livin’ life crappin’ into a plastic bag attached to my belly.”
“Pardon me if I can’t muster up any sympathy for you.”
“I don’t want your sympathy. I’ve got scores to settle and demons to slay. Let me tell you why. My pop and his brother fought in the Pacific during World War Two. Dad was a Marine, and his brother, Henry, was a sailor. I met my uncle Henry once, and he struck me as effeminate. Pop called his brother a ‘faggot’ and the two became estranged. Back in those days, gays kept their sexuality to themselves. Henry was a Gunner’s Mate on a destroyer. I suspect the other sailors knew who the gays were, but nobody cared. According to pop, there were plenty of nooks and crannies aboard ship for gay sailors to have sex. There weren’t women aboard ship in those days. Pop said it wasn’t uncommon for straight men to seek out a gay sailor on the ‘down-low’, as they call it today. Henry propositioned a straight sailor, embarrassing the sailor in front of his shipmates. When the ship made port, Henry was listed as ‘MIA’.”
“How do you go missing in action aboard a ship, sheriff?”
“Pop speculated Henry got thrown overboard into the ocean in the middle of the night. My dad regretted his estrangement from his brother, and the murder broke his heart. Helping you is a way to avenge Henry’s death, clear the slate with my maker before he takes me, and be a good cop, again.”
“I’m forty-eight hours from execution. You better have more for me than a guilty conscious!”
“I checked the freeway sign videos at the time you were passing underneath. It didn’t surprise me to find the videos were erased. I located Jack’s SUV in a wrecking yard in an adjacent state. I flashed my former cop credentials to the owner of the yard and was given complete access to Jack’s SUV. Jack was 6’4” and you’re about 5’. When Earnie went flyin’ out of the back seat, he collided with Jack’s torso, forcing Jack’s head down into the steering wheel.”
“Jack is tall, I’m short. So, what!”
“If you were drivin’, Earnie would have passed over your head and out the windshield. Jack suffered severe brain damage when his head became tangled inside the steering wheel which was cut to free Jack’s head.”
“Did the steering wheel confirm your theory, sheriff?”
“The steering wheel had been removed, and I couldn’t find it anywhere on board. It smelled fishy and confirmed my instincts about a high-level cover up designed to finger you, and put Jack in the shotgun seat. I asked about the whereabouts of the steering wheel. The owner pointed to the wall behind his desk where it was hanging and sold it to me for five bucks. It had the markings of being cut with a saw to free Jack’s head. I sent it over to a forensics lab out of state which found trace evidence of blood, hair, cranial, and brain tissue on the wheel. The lab results are in writing and your legal team simply needs to match the DNA with a sample from Jack. This will clear you as the getaway driver.”
“Your DNA evidence won’t clear me as an accomplice to the robbery. They’ll retry me under the ‘Felony Murder Rule’.”
“After ‘9-11’, most large venue arenas installed high resolution cameras which routinely scan the seats to spot suspicious activity. I gave a break in the past to a drunken driver who works security for the stadium, and called in my favor. I talked him up about the video scanning technology, and he offered to show it to me. I knew if I had your seat numbers or general whereabouts, I could identify the four of you at the game.”
“Officer Jackson asked me where we were sitting.”
“Jackson is nearing retirement and put her neck on the line for you because she believes you’re innocent. A corrections officer with her experience and tenure should be a captain working nine to five in a plush office. Because Officer Jackson is a lesbian, she’s remained on graveyard watch in death row most of her career. I gave him the date of the game and asked, ‘Tell me who was sitting at the fifty-yard line about ten rows up behind the home team’. His cameras revealed the four of you in your seats. The video resolution is so damn good I noticed Jack was wearing a gold Rolex! The game began at five and ended at nine. I left his office with date and time stamped images of the four of you sitting together at five, six, seven, and nine.”
“What about eight o’clock, sheriff?”
“I have an image showing only three of you.”
“Yeah, now I remember. Jack left and was gone about thirty minutes.”
“The robbery occurred at 8:20 as the money was being sorted before the armored transport pickup. The CCTV image captured a guy about Jack’s height wearing coveralls, a stocking mask and gloves.”
“Jack wore his high school jersey with the number ‘1’ over a pair of pressed designer jeans and red sneakers, sheriff.”
“Jack changed clothes before the robbery because the image shows him dressed from head to toe in black.”
“So how does all of this help me?”
“Did Jack wear a large ring on his left hand?”
“Yeah, his class ring on his wedding finger.”
“The image clearly shows a large ring on the wedding finger under the latex glove Jack was wearing. A forensic analysis by your attorneys can estimate the size of the ring, match it to Jack’s ring, estimate the length of Jack’s fingers to those in the image, and match the robber’s height to Jack’s to a fraction of an inch!”
“They might prove Jack was the robber because he was absent from his seat between eight and eight thirty according to your image, but I still don’t see how I’m innocent of being an accomplice?”
“Jack shed his disguise and put on his game day clothes. What did he say upon returning?”
“Jack was agitated and, in a hurry, ‘Let’s leave early to avoid traffic. Home team is losing, anyways.’ We did a fast walk to the SUV and left.”
“Your football coach was a heavy smoker, right?”
“How did you know that?”
“I traced him to a hospice dyin’ from lung cancer. I got on tape what your legal team will call a ‘Dying Declaration.’ The recording is admissible in court as if the coach was sittin’ there. Jack told the coach he didn’t want any ‘dykes’ in the locker room with him.”
“Jack and me both grew up in dysfunctional families with unreasonable expectations for their sons. He said many nasty things he didn’t mean, Sheriff.”
”Your empathy for and ability to forgive Jack is inspiring. After losing a game, Jack would cry his eyes out in the coaches’ office, afraid to go home and suffer the abuse and humiliation of losing. The coach often drove Jack home and accepted blame for the loss to Jack’s parents. Jack and your coach kept in touch over the years. Jack admitted to your coach he couldn’t live up to his family’s expectations, particularly with a successful sister like Susie. Jack was always talking about a quick money scheme to prove himself successful to his family. Jack asked for money from your coach saying he got mixed up in an oxy ‘pill mill’ who planned to leverage Jack’s political pull when needed, and he became addicted to his own supply. The coach told Jack he was broke and couldn’t help. The coach said the robbery was a desperate effort to raise cash to pay off his drug dealer partners extortion and the tab for his addiction.”
“Why did Jack choose to involve us in the robbery?”
“In Jacks drug poisoned, desperate mind, each of you would make a convincing patsy for the robbery, if necessary.”
“Will the coach testify?”
“He died the next day. I was timely in getting the Dying Declaration on tape. I just left your legal team and gave them all of the evidence. They tell me you’ll likely get a stay of execution. Your attorneys are submitting a motion for the state attorney general, Susie Strap, to recuse herself by threatening her with enough evidence to prove a political coverup to protect the Strap family reputation. Susie doesn’t want any part of a coverup and neither will her conspirators. They’ll be hell to pay for this conspiracy, and I bet the state’s case will be swept under the rug. Chief Price turned in his shield and resigned. I took these photos of him supervising the dignified removal of Hector and Earnie’s remains. He made certain each man received a proper funeral ceremony and burial.”
“Why did the Chief suddenly develop a conscious?”
“Likely the same as me. When it comes right down to it, if we had transgender kids, we’d want them treated fairly and respectfully. I hope my efforts help you, evened the score for Henry, and send me to heaven. Goodbye, Patrick.”
I hadn’t heard from my attorneys after meeting Sheriff Pottinger and gave up hope. Even with a stay of execution, I didn’t trust anybody within the Governor’s office or judicial system with the Strap family pulling strings.
I witnessed hatred serving overseas, but I never experienced so much hatred at home!
I was scheduled for execution at 8:00 am the following morning. I was told the Strap family and Mayor’s family would be in attendance.
I knew Priscilla had clocked in when I heard the sweet soul lyrics playing,
Every night on my knees I pray
Dear Lord, hear my plea…
“Did Pottinger give you any hope, Patrick?”
“I’m ready to give them a smile before I die, Priscilla!”
“You got eight hours of hope left. Don’t give up.”
“I want to thank you for reaching out to sheriff Pottinger for me. It means a lot comin’ from a woman who knows prejudice.”
“I want to show you something, Patrick. This syringe full of milky white liquid is called ‘Propofol.’ It’s a general anesthesia drug. It puts you to sleep and keeps you asleep during surgery.”
“Why do you have it?”
“If I inject you in the shoulder with this syringe tomorrow morning before they come to get you, you’ll be in a deep sleep and never experience the execution. You won’t suffer.”
“Does every inmate get this?”
“No. I asked the creepy prison doc if he had any ideas on making your execution painless, and the Propofol was his idea. He ordered it from a sleezy pharmacist, and I snuck it inside the prison.”
“Why would the doc help me after the humiliating examination?”
“Redemption. The death and maiming he inflicted must be unbearable for a physician.”
“Thank you, Priscilla, but if those before me didn’t get an easy death, then neither should I.”
“You have guts, Patrick. I won’t lie to you, sometimes the first injection doesn’t take effect like it’s supposed to, and when they inject you with the paralysis drug, and your lungs become paralyzed, I’ve seen grown men struggle and squirm like their drowning. It’s ugly.”
“Promise you’ll stay by me all night.”
“Of course, I will. You just lay back and close your eyes.”
I tell you I can visualize it all
This couldn’t be a dream, far too real it all seems…
“Wake up, Patrick. It’s time.”
“Can the condemned walk or do we need to use the gurney, Officer Jackson?”
“What do you prefer, Patrick?”
“I feel woozy, so I’ll take a ride on the gurney.”
I’m in a room smellin’ of bleach with a table resembling a crucifix. They’re sliding me off the gurney and strapping me to the table with both arms extended. I see a long clear tube extend from the table down the floor and disappearing into the wall behind where my executioners await the order to kill me.
The tiles are lime green and I’m struck by the clinical vibe of the execution with no semblance of humanity. A single light hanging above me, the kind you’d see in a surgery room is very bright and causing me to squint. The extra Valium Priscilla gave this morning made me docile. I know what’s about to come, but don’t care.
The guard is struggling to find my vein. I can feel the pokes from the needle and blood run down my arm.
He stopped poking, cleaned my arm, and wrapped the IV needle tightly down with tape.
They opened the drapes. I see Susan Strap and the mayor’s family seated. Priscilla is standing just inside the execution chamber, out of sight of the audience, saying: “Just let go. God bless.”
I feel chilly and know they’re running “Ringer’s Lactate” solution through my veins to open them wide like a subway tunnel for the lethal drugs to travel quickly throughout my body.
I’m slipping into unconsciousness from the first drug. It’s acting quickly but I fight to stay awake and enjoy my last seconds of life.
I won’t struggle or smile for my audience!
I feel a stinging sensation run through my veins. It’s the paralysis drug. My heart stopped racing. I can’t feel my body, lungs, or heart.
They said the first injection would put me out, but it didn’t take or somebody screwed with it to make me suffer.
I can’t breathe!
I struggle but can’t summon air!
I’m drowning inside my own body like somebody holding my head underwater.
I’m beginning to black out and hear ringing. I hope it’s Hector, Earnie, and the three girls welcoming me to heaven.
“Governor called. Stay of execution issued by the United States Supreme Court. Yank that IV line out of the arm, quick! Close those damn drapes. Nobody gonna’ see this!”
“Ain’t no witnesses left in the room, Officer Jackson.”
“The rats ran for cover.”
“I think were too late, Officer Jackson. The lips have turned blue.”
“Get out of my way. I’m climbin’ on top, doin’ CPR, and breathin’ life into this human being! Keep callin’ for the doctor. Don’t you die, Patrick! Live, damn it. Show those Strap’s what you’re made of! Breathe for me, Patrick. Don’t give those bastards the satisfaction of havin’ you die despite a stay of execution!”
“Doc’s here, Officer Jackson.”
“They sent you! Where’s the state physician?”
“Never showed, Officer Jackson. I’m the best you have, now get out of my way. Patient already receive Pavulon?”
“I’ll inject ‘Bridion’ to remove the paralysis. Find me a clean vein!”
“Here you go, doc.”
“Place the resuscitator over the inmate’s mouth and pump. We want air filling the lungs as I’m injecting the ‘secret sauce.’ Hand me my stethoscope, Officer Jackson. I’m hearing a strong heartbeat and air entering and leaving the lungs without the resuscitator. Everybody stand back as I lift the patient to a sitting position. If you can hear me, I’ll open your mouth, give you a whack on the back, and I need to see a volcanic eruption spew out of your mouth. Can’t have you choking on your own vomit.”
I felt a thud between my shoulder blades, my eyes opened, and vomit spewed from my mouth.
“You’re alive, Patrick. God have mercy!”
I recognized Priscilla holding my hand and standing in front of me was the creepy old prison doc covered with my vomit.
“Doc, I take back all the bad things I’ve said about you.”
“You could have broken his ribs performing CPR with your size and strength, Officer Jackson.”
“I’ll break your jaw if you don’t shut the hell up, but I won’t do it until after you enjoy the steak dinner, I’m sendin’ your way.”
“I still have the magic touch. It felt good to be a physician again. Take some deep breaths for me, Patrick. How do you feel?”
In the course of one year, I’ve known hatred, compassion, love, and redemption.
I think things are gonna’ work out for all of us.