James Devlin finished tying his tie with a single Windsor knot. Quickly running a comb through the silver-streaked remnants of his hair, he brushed his clothes absently before leaving the bathroom. Passing through the bedroom, he looked absently over to the queen-sized bed, empty but for rumpled sheets and carelessly tossed pillows. He could faintly catch the traces of Catherine's fragrance. He took the last piece of toast from the breakfast tray and, utterly without appetite, crunched on it as he descended the main staircase.
Jessica Waters, his long-time legislative assistant, stood at the bottom of the stairs with his briefcase and hers, Daytimer, portable computer, and a bemused expression on her face.
"Let me in on the delights, Jessica." He shrugged into his Burberry.
"Mrs. Devlin has the same intense expression."
"The First Lady and I share many interests."
"Including today's event?"
James Devlin turned slowly and gave his assistant a prolonged and terrifying eye fuck.
"I would hardly call the final adjudication of the laws of this state to be an event."
Jessica found herself diminish, until she saw the faintest glimmer of amusement in the eye of her employer. She smiled very lightly, testing the waters, and was rewarded with a smile in return.
"Save it for the cameras, Governor," she said.
He took his briefcase from her. Looking up, he saw his wife, Catherine Pease Devlin, in the doorway into his study, watching. Handing the briefcase back to Jessica, he walked over to her.
"I've asked the telecommunications coordinator to have the closed circuit feed come in here. You'll be able to see the execution."
"Myself and who else?"
"It's purely internal. Never leaves the prison. You're the only external audience." He frowned. "You knew that."
"Show your best side to the camera, James. Look presidential when you take the call."
"I always do," he replied. Mindful of the presence of the household staff as well as his aide, he did not embrace her as he would have had they been alone. Instead, he bent slightly down, appreciative as always that his wife took care to only wear flat shoes. Kissing her lightly on the cheek, he ran his hand down her arm to her hand, grasping it lightly and squeezing it, while looking into her eyes.
"Wishing you a good day at the office is a touch ghoulish, but yet..." she shrugged.
James lowered his voice. "Catherine, do whatever you have to, but make sure for God's sake that you watch this alone."
"You have my word."
They broke apart. Catherine turned back into the study, James lingered in the doorway.
"Stay out of my Scotch," he said in an attempt to lighten the mood. Catherine acknowledged the effort with a wan smile.
Bad day ahead, James thought. Jessica walked over to guide him to the door. Thank God Jessica was there to keep things going smoothly.
Bad day ahead, thought Jessica.
The reconciliation between the Governor and his wife had surprised Jessica quite a lot, but the Devlins most of all. It had happened against the backdrop of Oswald Correctional Facility, following a virtual kidnapping of the First Lady which could have had fatal consequences. Ryan O'Reily had seen fit to inject himself into the literacy tutoring sessions by Mrs. Devlin with his brother Cyril; taking advantage of circumstances, he'd moved in quickly to take control of both her and his brother, under the eyes of the prison administration. It had fallen to Devlin to authorize the means by which her release was gained. Now Devlin found himself speeding again toward the prison.
This would be the sixth prisoner executed since Devlin had reinstated the death penalty. The first three had been fought vociferously by the usual array of do-gooders, in Devlin's estimation. Then came the boon that always come to those like he; the perfect execution candidate. A prisoner serving a life sentence for murder kills an inmate. Opposition was silenced, and Devlin smoothly took the death penalty to the quietly efficient level, dispatching the accused in record time, to the envy of his fellow governors.
The fifth execution was of a serial murderer. Again, the accused was double-timed to his own personal choice of the gas chamber.
This sixth execution was the master stroke, even Devlin had to admit. It wasn't often that scion of a rich and powerful family actually had to pay the going rate for his crimes. But this one would, and under his aegis. Devlin practically writhed in his seat with excitement.
And Catherine would know he had done this. They alone would know he was doing this for her.
Back at the Governor's mansion, Catherine remained closeted in her husband's study. Tourist traffic was re-routed through the gardens and into the ballroom and staff quarters, leaving the family living areas, and James' study, inviolate. It allowed Catherine to watch quietly as press coverage of the execution proceeded noiselessly across the screen of the television.
She left the sound off. She could hear the voice ringing across the years in her own head, and needed no last minute reminders as the convicted prisoner gave the now-obligatory "it wasn't me that did it, it was my inner demons" interviews.
Eighteen years rolled away as she remembered his voice. Coming to his family's compound on the arm of his cousin. Her debut behind her, she enjoyed her pick of men that her glittering family money brought to her front door. But this man, in whose company she first met the monster facing execution that day, had more than she: more money, more prestige, more power. Born into the near-equivalent of US royalty, he had charm and grace, and even though one of a huge thicket of cousins, a brilliant future. She saw herself part of that future.
Her pregnancy by him was not entirely accidental. They both took chances, stupid ones. They were besottedly in love, and with college graduation looming and his entrance to law school, they could choose their future.
Until that night, when she heard The Now-Murderer and Her Love talking, in the outer suite of the bedroom she was surreptitiously sharing with him.
"Eric! She is not trash! Her family is important, she has money, she's beautiful."
"Bobby, my boy, and so the hell what? So what? Her grandfather laid bricks, for God's sake. Go back two generations and find horse thieves."
"Eric, goddamn it, I am not going to listen…"
"Yes, you are. Yes, you are. She's been with more men that you know. Don't ask her, ask me. I know."
In the darkness of the bedroom, Catherine sat bolt upright. In their drunkenness, they forgot to lower their voices.
"The hell you do. Eric, you better think again."
"Bobby, what an ass you are. She caught you, but good. Yeah, and what's it gonna get you? Stupid." Catherine heard liquid being sloshed into a glass. "Stupid."
"Eric, that's it. You're drunk. Go to bed."
"I think you should just give her the money for an abortion and go with me to Bali next week."
Catherine crawled out of bed and slipped to the door. Opening it slightly, she could see each of them, although not together, through the sliver of light.
Bobby was sitting in a chair, his glass empty and his hands flexing. Eric was pacing, gesturing expansively.
"Did you hear about the party she had out on the Cape last summer? Police had to hush the whole thing up after one of her friends drowned."
"So what? That's not Catherine's fault."
"Know where they found her? In bed with the drowned friend's boyfriend."
Catherine gave an involuntary gasp, which both men heard. Eric strode to the door, reaching it first and yanking it open. Catherine fell through it. Bobby stood up and started to her.
"You bastard! You fucking bastard!" Catherine was near tears. "Elaine drowned, and I was there when she did."
"So you killed her, huh?"
Catherine swung at him, missed as he easily sidestepped her. With a laugh, he grabbed her arm and twisted it up behind her. Shoving her hard, he threw her at Bobby.
"Here, cousin mine. Hold her while I get my turn." Eric began to unbuckle his belt.
Bobby was holding Catherine, shielding her from Eric. Eric grasped Catherine's hair, pulling back hard, laughing. Catherine frantically resisted as he pulled her back to him. Bobby grabbed at his cousin, missing him, then making contact.
The three had struggled. Eric reached back, grasping at a Waterford crystal lamp. Swinging it wildly to strike at Bobby, Eric missed. The blow connected with Catherine's head, crushing her temple; it was the last clear memory she had for days.
Oh, she remembered snippets of conversation. Frantic calls by Eric. Mutters about what to do if she died, where they would have to hide her.
But in the end, she found herself slowly coming awake in a hospital room on the Upper East Side, her mother asleep in a chair by her bedside. She knew without being told that the pregnancy was ended, whether by accident or by intent, she dared not ask. All the hospital bills were being met by Eric and Bobby's smooth family attorneys.
The cover story for the incident, which could not be entirely hushed up, was a swimming one, with neat and terrible irony. The three had gone swimming late at night, after drinking. Catherine had struck her head on some shoreline rocks. The cousins had saved her. Pregnancy was never mentioned, of course, remaining entirely hidden to public eyes – as was the murderous streak exhibited by Eric.
Coming back to the present, Catherine shuddered to think how close she had come to being his first homicide. And she watched his face across the television screen, the overly dramatic rewind of his charmed life gone awry. His face was unchanged across the years, as he had inflicted all of his pain onto others while remaining untouched by the passage of time.
Father Mukada left the small cell after giving a final blessing. He could not give Last Rites; the prisoner refused to exhibit penitence.
"I can only give the Rites to save his soul," he said to McManus. "You believe he has one?" McManus answered. The two men reflected on the gruesome yet incomplete legacy about to be left behind by the man on Oz's own Green Mile. At least twelve known victims, possibly as many as twenty. No one would ever know – even now, Eric taunted them all with half truths.
Diane Whittlesly appeared. "Governor Charming, Prince of Darkness, is here."
"Ah, the Little Zeus himself."
"He's his usual charming self." The three began to walk back toward the execution chamber, falling easily into step.
McManus sighed. "I probably should have told him that Glynn wasn't handling this one. Did you tell him, Diane?"
"Didn't have to. Murphy broke the news." They turned the corner, and Diane continued, "He's breathing fire at the moment. I put him in the receiver room." This room, just off the main execution chamber, carried voice and visual contact with the execution, without the public witnesses or condemned being able to see the occupants – unless the occupants so chose. Closed circuit televisions within the room broadcast UHF pictures of the execution chamber itself into the receiver room, the same feed that would extend to the governor's mansion only this once.
Devlin was comfortably sprawled in an uncomfortable chair. McManus hated him just for looking pressed and relaxed in the crummy little room. Devlin hated McManus just because he could. Guy probably owns stock in LL Bean, which would explain his questionable taste in plaid shirts, he thought.
"Let's move on this, gentlemen," Devlin said with exaggerated politeness. Jessica watched McManus flush, looking for the opening.
Sean Murphy stepped up. "As the prisoner has chosen lethal injection, he is currently having an IV inserted by Dr. Nathan."
"Good woman. Knows how to make a deal." Devlin casually lit a cigarette, in the non-smoking prison environment he had demanded of the prisoners. Exhaling partially through his nostrils, he grinned a mirthless smile. He did look, for all the world, like a small scale, fire-breathing dragon.
McManus glared at him. Mukada remarked, "But she won't be delivering the lethal drugs."
"No. She can't under terms of her Hippocratic oath. Someone with medical training will administer the drugs, from behind a screen." McManus had to say something to create an illusion that he had the event well in hand; it was weak, he knew, but he was compelled. Glynn's absence was not a factor, he told himself grimly.
"I'll bet there was a huge rush on that job this week." Devlin could hardly contain himself. He laughed to himself, waiting for McManus to explode. It might be a good day after all.
Eric was wheeled into the room. Devlin sprang like a panther to the small window, taking the primary view. The rest of the fools could look over his shoulder, he thought, or at the closed circuit television feed..
At the Governor's mansion, the broadcast feed was cut and the closed circuit, video-like images from within Oz began to flicker on the television screen. Although alone, Catherine involuntarily glanced over her shoulder. Executive privilege, she thought with bitterness, I have the inside view of the forbidden. She could only see Eric, the odd angle of the camera making him seem foreshortened.
Eric turned his head to see the witnesses in the open room, then rotated his head until his eyes locked with the Governor's. He mouthed something that James could make out clearly. Devlin's eyes narrowed; the flash between the two men took on a nearly corporeal presence. Allowing a small smile to touch his lips, James Devlin twisted his head while holding his eyes on Eric's.
"Push it," he clipped out. Mukada and McManus exchanged startled glances. Mukada spoke up, "Sir, he has the right to a final…"
"Did you fucking hear me?" He whirled to Sean Murphy. "Push it!" Murphy went to a microphone implanted in the wall, and barked the command. McManus and Whittlesly exchanged glances, hers resigned, his indignant. Murphy turned back to the Governor, and nodded, a gesture lost on James Devlin.
Eric's eyes closed briefly, opened, then slowly began to shift sideways. He lost contact with the Governor, who remained staring at him through the window. As the second drug was administered, his chest heaved once, twice, then stopped.
Miles and worlds apart, Catherine Devlin watched the life drain from his body. She felt cold and without feeling. Done, she thought.
In Oswald, everyone waited three agonizing minutes, then the curtains between the execution chamber and the witnesses pulled shut. Dr. Gloria Nathan entered the death room, going to the prisoner and checking his chest with her stethoscope. Her frown was uncertain; she groped toward the femoral artery.
Eric's eyes snapped open. He was staring straight at Devlin. Reaching up, he grabbed toward Dr. Nathan. McManus let out a cry of rage, and he and Sean Murphy flew from the receiver room in to the main room, Murphy yelling into his mike. Intercoms and radio transmitters crackled to life with an explosion of activity. Devlin remained exactly as he was, rigid with silent menace.
As though she were in the same room as this horror, Catherine Devlin let out a small scream and took a step backward. She felt pure terror run through her, and hot anger follow immediately.
"Push it! Push it again!" Sean cried out as passed up the curtained medical assassin. Frantic movements behind the screen said the action was already in motion.
Mukada took a step forward. "You can't! You can't do this a second time! It's murder." He looked pleadingly first at Diane, then the Governor. He stopped cold at the icy stare from Devlin's eyes, the blue-grey like hunter's steel.
Gloria Nathan continued to fight Eric's death grasp on her. McManus reached Dr. Nathan and Eric first; wrapping his arms around her from behind, he pulled with his entire body height to gain her release. Eric, weakened from the drugs, lost his grasp.
The second full push of drugs reached him. Defeated, he slumped back. Rolling his head, he tried again to find Devlin, who stood rooted, hands against the glass. Without making this last, futile gesture, Eric died.
James Devlin watched and waited. Raising his eyes from the corpse to Dr. Nathan, he silently commanded her to repeat her actions. She did – and nodded to him behind his shield. In a horrible symbiosis, they became, in that second, co-conspirators in this death.
Stepping back smartly, Devlin whirled. Snapping his fingers to Jessica, who was frantically working the phones, he said, "Who knows what?"
"Nobody now, sir." She listened another moment on the phones, and turned back. "No one picked up the audio from the radio transmitters, and the closed circuit cameras never were intended for broadcast."
"Never intended. Were they?"
"Prepare a statement. Quickly. Something about the humanity of the death given to him after his taking of life. Usual sheit. Move it."
McManus and Murphy entered the room with a shaken Dr. Nathan.
Devlin glared at McManus. "Another fine job from the penis-shaking minor god," he remarked.
McManus crossed the room in two steps, fist raising. Devlin conceded not an inch, while Murphy and Mukada moved to intercept. They caught him before he reached the Governor.
"Considering your distraught state of mind, and given your many failures," James said, buttoning his suit jacket, "I'll try to overlook this gross insubordination." His head was ringing; he had to get to Catherine now. He knew what she's seen, what he'd seen. "Let's make sure Glynn knows what went wrong."
James Devlin, fully in possession of himself, strode from the room. Meeting with Jessica in the hall, he grabbed her rapidly prepared notes and together they moved toward the expected battery of cameras and microphones. He handled them, as he handled everything.
In the limousine, he pulled his tie open and loose. Rapping on the glass, he had a brief command for the driver. "Move fast. Get me home."
Jessica poured out a double shot of Jameson's. "For the Irish." She poured herself another one; they clinked glasses and drank straight down. James felt the fire hit his belly and spread out slowly and warmly. Relaxing against the leather of the seats, he held out the glass for a refill.
"I'm canceling the day for you, aren't I?" Jessica said ruefully.
"Without a doubt." James let his mind roam ahead to the mansion.
The screen had gone blank after Eric's second death – mercifully, because Catherine Devlin was unable to stop watching of her own accord. The box switched back over to broadcast news, and Catherine watched as the cameras followed her husband's limousine as it sped away from Oz. She snapped off the television in James' study, and eyed his beloved Scotch. Hell, it's noon in Nova Scotia, she thought. Her hands shook violently as she tried to pour a glass.
She sank into the leather chairs that faced the sofa, away from the television and toward the large teak desk. He was dead, she thought. He was dead. Eric was dead. Dropping her head into her hands, she allowed the tears to come, sobbing quietly into the dim light of the study. Still morning, it felt like the twilight on a late fall day.
The limousine pulled around the circle in front of the house. Catherine heard the crunch of gravel against tires. Before the sound even stopped, she heard the car door open and footsteps on the stones, moving toward the house. James' steps were unmistakable. She remained, listening.
James came through the front door, opened for him by the staff, like demons were chasing him. He turned his eyes to the closed study door, then questioned the person holding the door with his eyes. At their nod, he turned back to the door. Pausing to gain composure, he rubbed his hands together.
"No calls. No interruptions. Under no circumstances." He felt the flush of alcohol hitting his veins, and a thrill of excitement nearing fear. Opening the door a few inches only, he slid inside.
At the sound of the lock's click, Catherine raised her head and stared at her husband, her face a tear-stained blank. James stopped in his tracks before moving over to her, bending down to run his hands across her face and head, stroking her hair.
"I saw the whole thing." Catherine wrenched her head away from him, rising and moving away. James was shocked at her reaction. She stood, her back to him, shoulders impossibly frail. He rose and stood, waiting for her next words. None came.
"Catherine," he called softly. He spoke more sharply, raising his voice in command. "Catherine!"
Still she did not turn.
He crossed the distance with quick grace, grabbing her shoulders from the back but not turning her. "Do you know that he's dead?"
"Almost fucked it up. Almost lost the chance," she hissed quietly. Turning around, her face reddened with fear disguised as anger, and with the Scotch she consumed. He started at her, unseeing.
Her voice, though not raised, rang in his ears. "He almost got away. If he'd lived, you'd never have been able to sign a second death warrant."
"He died. He died because I said he would, and I gave the orders."
"It's perfect, Catherine. He died once for you and once for me. I think it turned out to be poetry, in a way."
"Why didn't you make sure the first time?
"What would have had me do, Catherine? Take a firearm from a CO and shoot him myself?" James looked into his wife's eyes, and was startled to see not a flicker of embarrassment, shame or retreat. Astonished, he stopped speaking; catching the unmistakable excitement they both exuded, he pressed toward her.
Catherine held his gaze as he moved closer, on to her. Lowering her head slightly as he made physical contact, she continued to look at him from her upraised eyes.
James paused as his right leg brushed the silk of Catherine's left leg.
"Yes," she said softly.
"Yes." Catherine bent her head upward to crook her mouth toward his. "You should have," she let her mouth brush across his, without actually kissing him, "destroyed him where he lay."
James gently laid his hands on either side of her waist. Placing his left leg between her two, he lifted her toward him. With his knee, he parted her legs slightly as he bent his head down. Forced invitation, he thought wryly. Brushing her lips just as she had done to him, he ran his mouth across her face.
"I did," he said. "He's ashes in the wind, even now."
Catherine let out her breath and moved her chest to brush her breasts against him. The silk fabric strained across her breasts, and James raised his hand to run it along her body, neck, throat. Holding the side of her neck, he lowered his mouth to begin licking and kissing her throat and chest, teasingly slipping his tongue down into the neckline, to her breasts.
Catherine felt her nipples harden. In response to the nearly-instant arousal she felt, she reached for James instinctively. She pushed his jacket off his shoulders and down his arms, throwing it across the room to land roughly near the chair. Sliding her hand down, she found the bulge in his pants well-risen without direct help from her, and began to stroke and rub him. She licked at his ear, gently taking his earlobe into her mouth and sucking at it.
James fumbled at the top of the dress, pushing it down to her waist and bending to take her nipples into his mouth, one at a time. Feeling the press of his hands against her shoulders, and knowing what he wanted, Catherine allowed her body to go slack, yielding as she slid to her knees. James half-turned so that he leaned against the desk as Catherine's experienced hands opened the front of his pants, releasing his hardened cock from inside.
He groaned as her mouth found the shaft. As always, he marveled at her ability to hit all the sensitive points without overloading him. Taking him deeply into her mouth, she ran her tongue along the underside of his penis, caused a shudder to run through his body. Sliding her mouth up and down, she rimmed the crown, and brought her mouth down the full length of him. Catherine had had to work long and hard to take all of James' member into her mouth; he was unusually large. It had been a pleasure to learn this, and the pleasure was reciprocal. As she felt him tremble under her hands and mouth, she felt a rush of power and pleasure, and in her submission to his wants found her own desires fulfilled.
James found himself unbearably close to coming, and unwilling to surrender over to it. With a shock approaching pain, he pulled himself out of her mouth and, placing his hands on her shoulders, pushed her backwards onto the carpet, dropping down on top of her. Sliding his hands up her smooth upper legs, he found to his delight that she had worn only thigh-high stockings. As he kissed her breasts, she laughed throatily.
"I see you still know the territory."
They laughed in a raw conjoined voice, as James' hands continued their free roaming into Catherine's vulva. Catching her breath, Catherine arched her back and head as James' fingers plunged into her, opening her body to him. Again using his knees to open her legs, he slid his body up until the tip of his swollen penis pushed against her. Reaching his right hand under her head and grasping her hair and skull, he forced her to watch his eyes as he pushed his way into her body.
In spite of her wetness and his expert fingering of her, it remained snug and slightly painful whenever he first entered her. It became part of their excitement, he watching her react to his largeness, her placing his needs before hers at this moment.
They paused, holding their breath together as they waited for the excitement to carry them forward. With a single outcry, James slammed hard all the way into Catherine as she thrust her hips forward to meet him. They began pounding together, fucking without regard to tenderness. Catherine flung her legs around James' hips, locking her ankles together and they thrust and panted, somehow together yet in separation.
James rolled to his back, Catherine straddling him. Taking hold of the rhythm, Catherine rocked her hips and pelvis over James' still-lengthening dick. He held the hair back from her face to watch as she edged though plateau.
Halting suddenly, Catherine stared into James' eyes with a look that approached desperation. Understanding her need, he thrust hard into her once, twice, a third time. She went spiraling out of her mind, her orgasm taking complete control of her soul and body and thoughts. Watching her come so hard, he felt his own orgasm wash up over and take him. Sensing the strong spurts of semen rushing through his penis, he cried out and grabbed Catherine roughly, forcing her body down to press against his chest.
They clung to each other as the last roars left their bodies, collapsing in to each other, bodies slick with sweat and clothes awry. Catherine straightened her legs down, keeping James' cock deeply inside her. They rolled gingerly over, so that he again was on top of her, still spitting her on his shaft as they continued to come back to a resting. Jointly, their breathing slowed, and they drowsed lightly, spent passion and alcohol pulling them down into complete relaxation.
Finally, James pulled himself from her body. They lay together a few minutes more, then James raised himself half up and began absently to kiss his wife' face. Tasting salt, he opened his eyes to see her again crying, quietly and noiselessly, tears streaming down her face.
"What? I don't understand," he said.
"You don't have to." Catherine lifted a hand to wipe away the tears. Brushing her hands down her body, she then raised them to hold James' head in her palms.
"You killed him."
"Then you understand."
They locked eyes again.
"I'm back to stay."
"I know. I believe this is called 'sealing a deal in concrete.'" James came to his knees, lifting her as he did. They knelt together.
"I'll have requirements. Demands." He said this without inflection."
Catherine and James had always understood each other.