I’ve blah-blah-blahed about being a writer and blah-blah-blahed about my Kickstarter to self-publish my book, but I haven’t really put my money where my mouth is, have I?
So today, I’ve decided to simply shut up and show you what I’ve got. Don’t worry, it’s a short sample, the first bit of Chapter 1 of Ferryman. Enjoy!
I am on my way to kill a man. But I am not going to murder him. That is the distinction that keeps me from becoming the villain everyone already thinks I am, or at least the villain they’re waiting for me to become. If I’m ever going to be accepted, I must have actions to back up my words. I must reinforce that just because I kill it does not make me evil.
I am a killer, not a murderer. A murderer kills because he hates. I kill because I can. It’s the gift I’ve been given. I didn’t get to choose it and I can’t return it. I’m not a killer because I kill; I kill because I am a killer.
Admittedly, it’s difficult not to cross that blurred line, especially with criminals. It’s hard not to hate a man who has murdered, corrupted, raped, or otherwise broken the law so frequently or so exquisitely that the state has decided to end their life.
Thus, when the state calls me, I don’t ask what crimes the condemned has committed. I just ask for proper, public documentation to make sure nobody is trying to trick me into offing a political enemy. People think I’m shady as it stands, at least those who recognize me.
Thankfully, I’m innocuous enough to the naked eye. Just another thirtyish white male in a country full of them. My hair is a bit wavy, but that doesn’t signal me as a killer. The dark color might, though. And I suppose my dark, button-up shirt, black slacks, raven gloves, and shiny shoes make me look rather, pardon the pun, grim, but this job and this life require professionalism and an appropriate somberness. Glib mockery will only enhance suspicion.
The shoes clap lightly on tiled floors. These back hallways are well-lit, clean, and a lovely way to bypass the inmates of a maximum security prison. I’m not scared of them, but I don’t want to run the risk of hating them. I don’t necessarily like this job, but I like getting paid, you know?
The security guy who escorts me is armed to the throat and thankfully silent. Some escorts like to chat me up, ask a lot of questions about what I do, or worst of all, tell me how the inmate has it coming. I prefer to remain as silent about my talents as I can, not glorify them unnecessarily.
He opens a door with a security key and lets me inside. The room is sparsely furnished with a few cabinets, a sink, and a scrawny black man strapped to a reclining chair. He can still move his head, so he turns and looks me in the eye.
“You’re the guy?” he asks.
I nod. “I’m the guy.”
I always feel I should introduce myself, but what am I supposed to say? Hi, I’m Charlie, I’m here to kill you.
This room is strangely scarce. True, we have two doctors, a state official, a chaplain, and the spectacled warden whom I have met before—this is Texas, after all—but no family or friends here to comfort the condemned. I’ve been to plenty of executions and there’s always somebody who loves the prisoner and stays with them until the end. Poor guy.
The warden shakes my hand first, as if to show the others it’s okay. The doctor and state official are more hesitant to touch me, even with the gloves.
I give them each a firm shake, as if to say, “I’m not here for you.”
The man in the chair breathes in long and slow, like the final drag of a cigarette. They all do that, and it makes me pity them. This is the last room the poor fellow will ever know, and it’s chilly enough to make goose pimples on his arms. These are the last five people he’ll ever see, and while I’m moderately attractive, this isn’t the hottest lineup. I want to make small talk, even if it’s pointless, so I ask the same question I always do.
“What did you have for your last meal?”
He says, “A bag of Jolly Ranchers.”
I shake my head and fail to stifle a laugh. “What? Jolly Ranchers?”
“It’s what I like.”
I’ve heard of gourmet dinners, high-fat fast foods, mama’s home cooking, and every pizza known to man, but this is new and I can’t help laughing. I know I’m not supposed to, but the inmate smiles and I think that’s something.
But then, he asks, “Hey, man, does it hurt?”
He’s the first person to say that, too. “No, it doesn’t hurt at all,” I tell him. It’s one of the reasons the government agreed to hire me: I am the most humane killer on the planet.
The state official reads off his official speech in an official way, all proper and grim. The inmate doesn’t cry like some do, doesn’t curse or act defiant, either. He seems to know the finality of his situation and I respect that.
When it’s over, the state man nods to me and I take off my gloves. The inmate finds he has another drag of oxygen and savors it. He’s nervous and I want to say something.
“Close your eyes and pretend you’re going to sleep.”
He does, breathing one more time. I place my hand on his shoulder and give him an affirming squeeze for comfort and to show him one last shred of respect.
Then, the Marlboro of life falls from his lips and snuffs on the floor. I remove my hand and reapply my gloves.
The doctor calls the time and we all sign the appropriate papers. The state man hands me a check. I thank him and the security guard escorts me back through the well-lit halls. He doesn’t walk as close to me as he did earlier. They never do.
I can control my power, but once people see that you can kill with a touch, they’ll do anything not to make contact with you.
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