|CRIME AND COVER-UP by Gerald E Sheagren|
Frank McGrath approached the prison, noting the peaceful crowd of perhaps two-hundred people, many holding candles while others were brandishing signs reading such things as Stop Lethal Injections and God is Against Capital Punishment.
When he drew to a stop in front of the gate, a uniformed guard leaned over and looked in his window. “State your business, sir.”
McGrath displayed his badge and creds. “I’m Detective Frank McGrath. I’m here to witness the execution of Otis Weaver.”
The guard checked a list of names. “Okay, sir. Do you know where to go?”
“Yup. I’ve been here for an execution before.”
The guard chuckled. “Can’t get enough of them, huh?”
McGrath couldn’t help a chuckle of his own. “What can I tell you? I’m like a little kid at the circus.”
“The only thing is we’re not supplying popcorn and peanuts. Oh, and by the way. If you’re carrying your piece, leave it in your car.”
The guard flashed an O.K. gesture at a camera monitor and the electronically-operated gate slid open. Frank drove through then headed for a small parking lot at the rear of the prison. When he pulled into a space he leaned his head against the steering wheel and released a long, wounded groan. Despite his humour with the guard, this execution was going to be one hellish, bitter-sweet experience.
Five years ago, he’d arrested Otis Weaver for the murder of a college girl by the name of Tabitha Hastings. He’d violated her then strangled her to death, dumping her body in a swampy area some five miles from the city. The only thing is—he knew damn well that Weaver didn’t do it.
Wracked by guilt, his own brother, Dennis, had come to him and confessed to the murder. He’d beaten the kid nearly senseless then took him in his arms and vowed he would never let the truth come out. Luckily, Dennis, for whatever crazy reason, had kept one of Tabitha’s possessions—a gold locket with a picture of her parents inside. That had kicked the cover-up into full motion.
As with any sexually-motivated crime, the investigative process began with the checking out of
all sex-offenders throughout the city and the surrounding environs. It hadn’t taken him long to zero in on Otis Weaver—a three-time offender who’d served a seven-year prison term for rape. The man would be perfect for his scheme.
He’d found out Weaver worked a job as a forklift operator, leaving his apartment empty during the day. Perfecto! Picking the cheap lock of the apartment had been easy. Luckily, there wasn’t a solitary person around to witness him in the process. Then making sure the locket was wiped clean of his and his brother’s fingerprints, he’d slipped it under the mattress of Otis’s bed.
At five o’clock that day, knowing Weaver’s work shift had come to an end, he’d dropped the man’s name to his captain, saying that Otis was a person of interest, and a search warrant was quickly obtained in the event they needed it. The rest was history. Poor fuckin Otis—his arrest, trial, conviction, and death penalty sentence, had all gone so smoothly it was practically laughable. The only thing was—Frank didn’t find it particularly funny.
Ah, Jesus, I don’t really want to do this. You better never stop thanking me, Dennis. You better keep kissing my ass until the day I die.
Frank walked in and saw the four rows of chairs facing the glass partition of the execution chamber. Tabitha’s mother and father and two older brothers were present, as well as a number of newspaper and TV reporters and some state officials. He wanted to grab a seat in the last row, but they were all occupied. The only available chair was in the first row next to Tabitha’s mother. He groaned to himself, walked over and sat down.
The woman, who he remembered was named Clarisse, gave him a solemn nod then rested a hand on his knee. “Well, the time has finally arrived. I’m going to see the man sent to hell for what he did to my baby girl.” Then she patted his knee. “I know I’ve done it a hundred times before, but I want to thank you again for bringing the bastard to justice as quickly as you did. I light a candle in church for you every Sunday.”
“No thanks are necessary. I was only doing my job.”
Clarisse managed a smile. “And on top of everything you’re humble.”
If you knew the truth, you’d be cursing my very soul.
They waited in silence for another fifteen minutes until the warden and the three-man execution team entered the chamber. Moments later, Otis Weaver was led in by two guards. He was wearing an orange pull-over and trousers, his wrists handcuffed and his ankles shackled.
McGrath saw the man hadn’t changed a bit in the course of his five-year incarceration. In fact, it looked as though he’d put on some additional muscle. He was a good six-foot-four and three hundred pounds, with a completely shaven head and barrel chest, his massive arms emblazoned with tattoos from shoulder to wrist. He could have played an arch-villain in a movie.
Clarisse gasped and laid her hand on Frank’s knee again. “Look at that filthy monster. Just knowing he had his hands on my daughter makes me want to vomit.”
Weaver looked through the glass partition and his attention immediately fell on McGrath. He kept staring; his glittering eyes nothing short of laser beams, meaty lips curled into a sneer.
“He certainly hasn’t forgotten you,” Clarisse whispered.
Goosebumps broke out on Frank’s arm and legs. No, he certainly hasn’t. I don’t know how, but he knows a lot more than he should.
The handcuffs and shackles were quickly removed and Weaver was secured to a gurney with wrist, chest and ankle restraints. Then he was hooked up to an EKG machine which would monitor for a flat line once his heart stopped. Next, a stand was pushed in and an IV tube was set up in which to administer the three necessary drugs.
This whole process shouldn’t take more than eight minutes. Then it’ll finally be over after five longs years and three failed appeals.
Frank watched as the sodium thiopental was injected into the tube—a fast-acting barbiturate to depress the central nervous system, rendering Weaver unconscious in about thirty seconds. With that done, the pancuronium bromide was administered to cause muscle paralysis and respiratory arrest. Then the final ingredient was added—potassium chloride to stop the heart.
I’m sorry, Otis—I really am. But my brother came way ahead of a lowlife like you.
And then something happened—something so unbelievable and horrifying the execution chamber and the viewing area were thrown into an immediate pandemonium. Weaver’s body began to jerk and heave, and words started to slur from his mouth.
Clarisse fainted dead away and slumped, her head coming to rest against McGrath’s shoulder.
And then, with an astonishing display of strength, Weaver snapped his wrist and chest restraints, and sat bolt upright, eyes wild, mouth drooling, shouting “Vengeance will be mine” at the top of his lungs.
A reporter leapt to his feet in the back row of chairs. “Holy fuck—they can’t kill the guy!”
The room erupted with shouts and screams, chairs toppling over as the witnesses leapt to their feet.
McGrath looked on in shock. I can’t believe this shit! What’s that bastard made of?
In the chamber, the warden, two of the execution men, and three guards who had rushed in, were holding Weaver’s thrashing body down while the third execution man injected another dose of potassium chloride into the IV tube. It was an extremely large dose.
Frank tossed back his twelfth shot of Jack Daniels and chased it with a glass of beer. “Hit me again, Scott.
Scott McGregor raised a brow. “You’re in a real drinking mood tonight.”
“I haven’t even started yet.”
“I heard they really botched Otis Weaver’s execution.”
“I know—I was right there to witness it. That’s why I’m going to drink myself to oblivion.”
“No shit, you were there?” Scott snapped his fingers. “That’s right—it was you and your partner that nabbed Weaver.”
“Christ, they had to administer enough potassium chloride to kill an elephant. Make it a whole herd of elephants. I’ve never seen anything like it. It’s a thing for a Stephen King novel.”
“You’re kidding me, right?”
“I kid you not.”
After serving McGrath another shot and beer, Scott went off to wait on some newly-arrived customers.
Frank was getting a bit fuzzy-brained and blurry-eyed. Since he hadn’t had much to eat all day, he was drinking on an empty stomach. He fumbled his cell phone out of his suit coat pocket and hit the automatic dial for his brother’s number.
It took Dennis nearly a full minute to answer. “Hey, Frank, what’s up? How’d it go with the execution?”
“You haven’t been watching the news, huh?”
“No, I haven’t. Why?”
“I’ll tell you when you get here. I’m at McGregor’s place. Come over and join me.”
“Uh…I really can’t make it right now. I have some company—a very, very attractive lady, who can’t seem to get enough. She’s tuckering me right out.”
“Get your ass over here, right now. I have to tell you what happened.”
“If I do, this lady is not going to be very happy.”
“I don’t give a rat’s ass how unhappy she gets. Just get over here.”
“Give me about forty-five minutes, so I can sneak another quickie in, get dressed and drive the fifteen miles over.”
“Don’t forget who covered your ass, pal. Always keep it in mind.”
Dennis gave a weary sigh. “Boy, you’re going to milk this cow for the rest of your life.”
“You damn well better believe it. Now get the fuck over here. And make it a lot sooner than forty-five minutes.”
Frank made short work of his shot and beer. Then, as he was staring into the mirror over the bar, the wavering image of Otis Weaver appeared in the glass, his thick lips curled into that same sneer.
What the fuck!
McGrath closed his eyes, counted to ten and opened them. The visage was gone.
I’m so cocked-up my imagination is running wild.
He got off the bar stool and staggered to the men’s room to take a leak. As he was standing at the urinal, the room suddenly got cold—to the point of being frigid. Then something brushed past him and moments later there was a gale of throaty laughter. With his heart doing jumping jacks, he whirled and looked around the men’s room but there was nobody there.
I’m suffering from guilt. Yeah, that’s what it is. I saved my brother’s bacon but I’m still an honest detective at heart. I’m supposed to serve and protect, but I dishonoured my badge and did something unspeakable.
He zipped up his fly, washed his hands and headed for the door.
I’m going to need a lot more shots and beers to clear my conscious.
Frank wobbled toward his stool and motioned to Scott. “Hey, fix me up with another round. This time make it a triple shot and a whole pitcher of beer.”
“Uh-uh, no way. You’ve had more than enough already. If you get into an accident and maybe hurt or kill someone, I can be held responsible. I can get my ass sued, plus lose my liquor license and maybe my business.”
“I’m a police detective for Christ-sake.”
“That doesn’t make a lick of difference. Go home and sleep it off.”
Angered, Frank fished three twenties from his wallet and tossed them on the bar.
Frank shook his head to clear it but when he returned his attention to the road there were still three median lines and a slew of blinding headlights in the opposite lane.
Shit! I better ease up on the gas and watch my ass. If something bad happens, my job can be at stake.
Then, before he knew it, the same frigid coldness he’d experienced in the men’s room began to invade the car, causing him to shiver. The short hairs on the back of his neck practically stood up on end.
Ah, c’mon—not again!
Then he detected a sudden presence which made him even colder. In that split instant a deep, guttural voice sounded from the passenger’s seat.
“One bad turn deserves another, Frank.”
He snapped his head to the right and saw the oh-so-vivid image of Otis Weaver—complete with shaven head, dark, glittering eyes, orange duds, tat sleeves and that same fuckin sneer.
“It’s time to pay the piper, you sneaky, dishonest fuck!”
“No, no, this can’t be!”
Weaver crowded over, wrenched the steering wheel from Frank’s grasp and pressed his foot down on the detective’s to drive the gas pedal to the floor.
“What are you doing? This is crazy, this is crazy—it can’t be for real!”
The car picked up speed, going faster and faster and faster. Then, when a set of headlights appeared in the distance, Weaver steered the car into the other lane and set it on a collision course with the rapidly oncoming vehicle.
“No, no, noooo—you can’t do this!”
State police captain, Martin Greenwald, looked at the two twisted cars that looked as though they’d been welded together. Then he glanced around at the road, noting the shards of glass, the metal fragments, the half a muffler, and a blown tire, resting on its side. Up the road, down the road, and in the fields to the left and right, were other mementoes of the tragic collision.
He groaned, scrubbed his face with his hands and looked to the state policeman standing to his right. “So the license plate of the black car checked out to a Frank J. McGrath, who just happens to be a police detective?”
“Yup. What the hell happened here? Was he responsible for this? Was he driving under the influence? Or maybe the other poor guy was.”
“Your guess is as good as mine. If the forensics team can manage to collect some blood samples, we’ll find out soon enough.” The captain shivered at the thought. “I’m glad I won’t have to do it. Both of them are nothing but mush and broken bones.”
“Here’s something that’s going to knock you right out of your shoes.” The state policeman held up a badly twisted license plate. “This is from the other car. I was able to determine the letters and numbers and entered them into my dashboard computer. Guess who the car is registered to?”
The captain gave a weary sigh. “I’m not in a guessing mood. Just tell me.”
“It’s registered to one, Dennis James McGrath. I did some further checking and found out he was the detective’s brother. How’s that for some crazy-ass shit?”