Lobster Tails and Eskimo Pies.
© Jerry A.G. Ericsson 8/23/00
Darin Martin needed killing. Of this idea, there was no doubt in the community. Everyone knew of his evil ways, the way he beat his wife, and had sex with his young daughters. It was rumored that he kicked his dog and even his cat if it happened to rub up against the drunkard. Well today was his day of reckoning, and Gary Nelson was the man to serve it.
Gary was Darin’s wife’s eldest brother. The role of protector fell upon his strong shoulders. The day that Susan Martin came to him to ask his protection from her father’s sexual abuse was the last day of Darin’s life and the first day of hell for Gary.
The murder, no execution was a simple matter. Gary, upon hearing his nieces request drove his ancient 1947 Ford pickup truck over to the Martin home. He parked in the back yard, and entered the home through the back door. Mary, Darin’s much abused wife was in the kitchen preparing the evening meal, in anticipation of her husbands return from the local pub. Gary told her of his conversation with Susan, Mary plead with him not to do it, but she knew it would do no good. Gary was the head of their family now that their father was gone, and what he said was in their family the last word. Gary sent Mary to his home, to care for her daughter who was waiting for her. Then Gary went into the living room, and waited for Darin to come home.
Gary didn’t have to wait very long, when the front door slammed open, and Darin staggered through the door. No words were spoken, none were needed. The look on Darin’s face, that look of shock, of fear, of shame told the story. The Smith and Wesson .357 magnum in Gary’s had told the rest. Gary fired twice. Darin fell to the floor, a pool of blood quickly formed around his lifeless form. Gary walked to the coffee table and put the still smoking revolver down, then picked up the telephone and dialed 911.
“I have just killed my brother-in-law.” He told the 911 operator.
“I will have an officer there shortly.” The shocked operator told him, then asked him to hold on while she talked to the officer. Gary let the receiver drop to the floor and sat back, his face in his hands, and wept. Not for his actions, not for the man who lay dead on the floor, but for his sister and her children. For the hell that he had allowed to go on for so long, and because it had taken him so long to respond.
In a few minutes, the police were there. Gary heard the sirens, and saw the red lights flash through the windows of the house. He stood, and walked to the door, and opened it. Then he stood in the doorway, his hands over his head, and waited for the officer to come and take him into custody.
The rest was a blur of lawyers, judges and police officers. Guards lead him from the jail to the court, then back to the jail, and finally to the prison, and to death row. It seems that in Texas, even when the victim needed killing, you still get the death penalty. That was in 1980, twenty years ago. For twenty years, Gary sat there, on death row. He saw many men come and go his lawyers filed endless appeals, to the courts in Texas, and the US. Supreme Court, but to no avail, he was guilty, of this there was no doubt, but was his crime so horrible that he should be put to death? He did not know, but he knew it was coming. The death warrant was in the hands of the warden now, and his execution was to be tonight at midnight.
Why midnight he wondered, why not at sunrise, or more appropriately, at sundown a time when things ended, not at midnight, the time of the birth of a new day. He had placed his order for his last meal. Lobster tails were always his favorite food, although he had only been able to afford them three times in his short life. Eskimo Pies just because he used to love them when he was a kid, and because he hadn’t had one for over twenty years.
His dinner arrived, as did his sister and her daughter, they were here to share the last few hours of his live. He didn’t regret killing Darin, Darin needed killing, and in his way of thinking, he was only getting what society said he deserved. His only regret was that he had to go so soon, and that he had waited so long. His hopes of reprieve were gone, his lawyer told him that all the appeals were spent, the Governor had refused to intervene. After all it was first-degree murder, he met the words of the statute. He had planned, with malice and forethought the murder of another, then he had carried out the plan without mercy. Yet Darin needed killing, he knew that. The police had done nothing when Mary went to them and asked for help. The school had been no help to Susan when she asked the school nurse for help after her father raped her. What choice did he have, he had to kill the bastard, it was the only way to stop him.
Quietly, he sat there at the card table, and pulled great chunks of the delicious white meat from the lobster tail, dipped it into the melted butter, and chewed the tender meat. Then he washed it down with one of the three beers allowed with the meal, it was over twenty years since he had enjoyed the mellow taste of Coors beer, it was so good. When he was done with the beer and lobster tails, he opened the first Eskimo Pie and ate it down without stopping, then tackled the next, this one he ate slowly, enjoying the bar, stopping between each bite and smiling. Mary and Susan looked on, tears running down their faces, knowing that in a matter of hours, their protector would be dead. The dinner done, Mary and Susan were escorted from the cell by Father O’Malley, the prison chaplain. Then the Father sat with Gary, and together they prayed for his soul. Their prayers went on for a few minutes, then Gary asked the Father to say a few prayers for his sister and niece. The Father complied.
The Warden appeared at the door to the waiting cell, and nodded at Father O’Malley. The Father understood, and turned to Gary.
“It’s time my son.” He whispered.
Gary began to cry, but he stood, and taking Father O’Malley’s hand, they walked with the warden down the green hallway, and into the death chamber.
The Death Chamber was a small room, about eight feet long by five feet wide. In the center of the room was a hospital gurney, to which were attached two boards, leading off to the left and right sides, designed to hold the prisoner’s arms. The room was painted institutional green, that horrible color that once graced the hallways of such places as schools, army barracks and insane asylums. There was a large picture window on one side, which allowed the witnesses to the execution to see into the chamber, and along another wall was a small window to allow the executioner to see his victim.
Gary was lead through the door, and nearly collapsed when he saw the gurney. Father O’Malley held him up on one side, the Warden on the other, as they guided him to the gurney. Two guards from the cellblock were there to help Gary up onto the gurney, and once he was there, strap him down. Straps were buckled around his legs, pelvis, chest and three around each arm. A male nurse was there, he quickly tied a rubber strap around Gary’s upper arm, then tapped a vein on his arm, to bring it to the surface, so he could insert the IV needle. Then the nurse used an alcohol swab to prepare the site for the needle, and pushed it into the vein, he was very good at his job and this being Texas, and he had lots of practice. Why bother with the swab Gary wondered, but his throat was so tight, he couldn’t ask. The needle in place, the nurse attached the IV tubes, and started the saline drip, then pushed the executioner’s needle into the tube. All prepared, all left the chamber except Father O’Malley and the Warden. Father O’Malley began the prayer, while the Warden read the death warrant allowed as required by law. These steps out of the way, the Warden left, and after a final prayer, so did Father O’Malley.
Gary was alone now. He looked at the small window, but could only see a shadow of the executioner, who was awaiting the final order from the warden. He turned and looked at the picture window, as he looked on, the red curtain was drawn open, and behind it he saw the prosecutor who put him there, the police officer who arrested him, his sister and niece, and the brother of Darin, who represented the victim’s family. A loud speaker behind the gurney crackled, and the voice of the warden asked Gary if he had any last words.
“I love you Mary, Susan…”
With these words, the warden pushed a small red button. A red light lit up in the executioners area and the executioner pushed a small lever forward, this allowed a strong sedative to be released into Gary’s IV, and in a short time, Gary went to sleep. Seeing this reaction, the executioner pushed another lever, and allowed a strong mixture of potassium solution to be released into the IV, this stopped the heart of Gary Nelson.