I’d never attended an execution before. Well, at least not a legal one. My husband sat to my left. A reporter for Rolling Stone was on my right.
The reporter, Leslie Cowan, fidgeted nervously, and I looked over at her. I’m pretty sure this was her first execution of any kind. Rolling Stone had an upcoming issue dedicated to celebrity bikers. They thought it would be interesting to include a real biker story in that issue. The story of a girl who’d been abducted by a motorcycle gang in 1975.
That girl was me.
The remnants of Leslie’s accident three weeks before were still visible. The stitches had been removed from her forehead, but there was a thin red line where the cut had been. Her eyes weren’t quite as raccoonish as before, but it was apparent she’d recently suffered two severe black eyes. The swelling of her nose had almost gone down completely, and she’d been to a dental surgeon to replace her broken teeth.
When we’d first started the interview, she’d told me she wanted me to be completely honest about my experience with the man who was about to be executed. I’d spent the last three months with her and held almost nothing back about my relationship with him. Today was supposed to be culmination of the interview, a chance for her to truly understand the real side of that experience. To see the unpleasant alongside the rest.
Of course, a man’s death should be more than just unpleasant.
I knew as well as he did that he deserved what he was getting. It was strange. I thought knowing it and believing it would make it a little easier, but it didn’t. I thought I would get through his execution unscathed emotionally. But I was only fooling myself.
Just because I hadn’t been with him for almost fifteen years did not mean I didn’t have feelings for him. He was my first love. He was a true love. In fact, he was the biological father of my firstborn, though she would never meet him. He wanted it that way. And deep down, so did I.
The curtain opened. I was no longer aware of anyone else in the small viewing room around me. I stared through a large glass window at an empty gurney. I’d read up on what to expect at an execution. He was supposed to be strapped to the gurney when the curtain opened, wasn’t he? I’m sure that was procedure. But he was never one for following rules. I wondered how he’d managed to convince law enforcement to forego this important detail.
With a jolt, I realized someone had entered the sterile-looking room. It was him, along with two officers, the warden and a physician. No priest or pastor. He didn’t want one.
His name was Jason William Talbot. Such a normal-sounding name. It’s funny. I’d known him almost twenty-five years and it wasn’t until his arrest fifteen years earlier that I learned his real middle and last name. That is, if it was his real name. I’m still not certain.
He was always Grizz to me. Short for Grizzly, a nickname he’d earned due to his massive size and brutal behavior. Grizz was a huge and imposing man. Ruggedly handsome. Tattoos from neck to toe covered his enormous body. His large hands could crush a windpipe without effort. I knew this from experience. I’d personally witnessed what those hands could do. I couldn’t keep my eyes off them now.
He had no family. Just me. And I was not his family.
I immediately sense when he spotted me. I looked up from his hands into his mesmerizing bright green eyes. I tried to assess whether those eyes held and emotion, but I couldn’t tell. It’d been too long. He’d always been good at hiding his feelings. I used to be able to read him. Not today, though.
As he looked at me, he lifted his handcuffed hands and used the fingers of his right hand to encircle the ring finger on his left hand. He then looked down to my hands, but couldn’t see them. They were in my lap and blocked by the person seated in front of me.
Would I give him that last consolation? I didn’t want to hurt my husband. But considering I was the reason for Grizz’s impending death, I felt the stirrings of an old, old obligation to comfort him in those last moments. At the same time, I felt and uncomfortable thrill in having some control over him. In having the ability to be in charge of something, to be decision-maker, the empowered one.
Perhaps I was the empowered one all along.
I felt my husband’s hand on my left thigh, just above my knee. He gently squeezed. A memory almost twenty-five years old rushed over me of another hand squeezing my leg. A harder, crueler hand. I turned to look at my husband, and even though he was looking straight ahead, he was aware of glance. He gave me an almost imperceptible nod. He’d decided for me. I was okay with that.
I removed my wide wedding band and lifted my hand so Grizz could see it. He smiled ever so slightly. Then he looked at my husband, nodded once and said,
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Meet Beth Flynn
Beth Flynn is a fiction writer who lives and works in Sapphire, North Carolina, deep within the southern Blue Ridge Mountains. Raised in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Beth and her husband, have spent the last 16 years in Sapphire, where they own a construction company. They have been married 30 years and have two daughters (the youngest in high school) and two dogs. In her spare time, Beth enjoys writing, reading, gardening, church and motorcycles, especially taking rides on the back of her husband’s Harley. She is a four-year breast cancer survivor.