Account of a man sent to jail ...but why so happy with the punishment?
|“I don’t know, Michael. What do you think they’re saying about me right now?”|
“Well, Bo, all the evidence points to you as the murderer. I did everything thing I could, but I didn’t have much to work with.”
Bo took a long drink from the water fountain at the county courthouse. “I can’t go to jail. I’m too young to die,” he said.
At thirty-two years of age, Bo Redford had short brown hair and a lanky figure. He was often criticized for being so thin. Today, however, he was being accused of something far worse than being too skinny.
“Let’s go back inside. I have a feeling it isn’t going to be long before the jury reaches a verdict,” Michael said.
“You’re right. Let’s go.” Bo stared at the silver water fountain for a moment before moving.
“What is it?”
“I may have just taken my last drink of water as a free man,” Bo said somberly.
Bo and his lawyer walked back into the courtroom and took their seats. Bo closed his eyes, trying to savor what he felt were his last deep breaths as an innocent man.
The jury strode briskly into the courtroom, avoiding all eye contact with Bo and his lawyer, Michael Roberts. Judge Ricardo turned to the jury when the sobs from the plaintiff ceased.
“Jury, have you reached a verdict?”
“We have, your honor,” answered a young woman with brilliant blonde hair in the front row. She stood in front of the seated jury.
“And what say you?” Ricardo prompted.
“On the count of murder in the third degree, we the jury find the defendant, Mr. Bo Redford…guilty.”
Bo dropped his head to the desk and fought back tears. Roberts placed a hand softly on Bo’s shoulder.
“I did my best. Sorry, Mr. Redford,” Roberts said.
“The court hereby sentences Mr. Bo Redford to execution by the electric chair as soon as the state allows. Court dismissed.” And with that, Judge Ricardo struck the gavel and Bo stood slowly to his feet. As he reached the courtroom doors, a sudden calm overtook him.
“YES!” Bo screamed, startling the others still in the courtroom. “I am so glad I was found guilty,” he said to Roberts. The defense attorney’s eyes were wide, his jaw open. No words came out.
Submitted for your observation is one Mr. Bo Redford, a man found guilty of murder by a jury of his peers. This is a man who is inexplicably delighted to face his execution. Though he has not yet realized it, Bo Redford is not just about to step through those courthouse doors. Mr. Bo Redford, age thirty-two, is about to take a walk - on the other side of the road.
The bars slammed shut as Roberts tried to give Bo reassurance before the police could lead Roberts out of the prison. “Don’t worry, Bo!” Roberts said. “I’ll get you an appeal!”
Bo grinned, barely suppressing a laugh he knew he would not be able to control if he allowed it to escape his lungs. “So long, Michael. Thank you,” Bo nodded.
The guards locked Bo’s cell and lead Mr. Roberts back to the entrance. It didn’t take Bo long to notice he had a cellmate. The faintest hint of a smile danced across the gruff man’s cracked lips.
“Hey, stranger. What are you in for?” the man asked.
“You really want to know?” Bo said. The smile on his face appeared as though an artist had chiseled it on, becoming a permanent fixture on the convicted murderer’s face. “This guy I worked with at the factory, he kept flirting with my wife. Of course, both he and Julie denied anything was going on.”
“Julie?” The gruff man raised an eyebrow.
“My wife,” Bo clarified. “Anyway, I got mad when I found out he asked my wife what she was doing this one weekend.”
“So you killed him? That’s pretty sick, man,” the scruffy man criticized.
“I walked into his apartment and shot him straight in the chest with a pistol.” Bo’s smile suddenly melted from his face, replaced by a frown. “The man didn’t even have time to react. He just spun around when I tapped him on the shoulder. He only had enough time to realize what was about to happen.” Bo’s eyes grew sad. “He had a family. He had a wife, a couple of kids. Great kids.”
Bo’s cellmate shook his head slowly, then met Bo’s eyes and extended a hand. “The name’s Dale. Dale Stewart.”
“Hi, Dale. I’m Bo Redford. So what are you here for?”
“The view,” Dale said dryly. “I was accused of child molestation and murder.”
“Did you do it?”
“Let me put it this way: Every man in jail claims they’re innocent, but I truly am. I would never do something so repulsive,” Dale said.
“So when’s lunch? I’m starving.”
Dale laughed. “You have got to be kidding me. Sorry to say this, buddy, but you just missed the only half-decent meal of the day. I got back from the mess hall about ten minutes before you came walking in,” he said. “We’ll be lucky if they give us water and a slice of bread before Lights Out.”
The rest of the evening went by slowly. Bo and Dale passed the time by telling stories of their lives before prison. Before long, it was time for Lights Out. Bo wondered how many days would pass before his execution, then quickly erased the morbid thought from his mind.
“Lights out! Bedtime, ladies,” an officer called.
The prison went pitch black.
“Well, good night,” Bo said, lying on the hard bed frame missing a mattress.
“Sweet dreams, Bo Redford,” Dale answered.
Bo awoke and jumped to his feet, letting loose a scream so loudly he received some vulgar requests from the other convicts. It was a jubilant scream.
“What the hell are you doing, boy?” Dale mumbled. He rubbed his eyes and sat up.
“My life is perfect!” Bo hollered again, jumping up and down and rattling the cell bars. “Don’t you see? You’re in here for the wrong reasons. You say you didn’t commit the crime you’re accused of, right?”
“Yeah…” Dale answered slowly.
“Dale, I killed a man! Don’t you know what that means?”
“It means you’re going to die here,” Dale said matter-of-factly.
Bo nodded vigorously. “It means I have a reason to die. If I were innocent, it would be different. You understand, don’t you? I have a reason to die,” Bo repeated softly. His dark brown eyes were filled with wonder.
A bald guard walked up to Bo’s cell, keys in hand. “You’ve got a visitor,” he mumbled. The guard unlocked the bars and slid the gate open.
Bo strolled down the dark, musty hallway past cells of taunting prisoners. The guard opened a door for him at the end of the hall. Inside was a single black desk, one pane of thick glass secured in the middle. Two chairs sat opposite each other, a phone hooked up on both sides of the desk.
Bo saw Michael Roberts sitting on the side of the glass opposite himself. Bo sat, unable to suppress his smile as he picked up the pale green phone receiver. “How’s it going, Roberts?” he said.
Roberts wiped the glistening sweat off his brow and fumbled for the phone. “Hey, Bo, how’s life on the inside treating you?”
“What do you think?”
“I only ask because you won’t have to be here long. I asked Judge Roberts about making an appeal, but he didn’t agree with any of my points. I’m sorry, Bo, but you’re scheduled to die in less than seventy-two hours,” Roberts informed.
“Michael, I must say I couldn’t be happier,” Bo said.
Roberts’s left eyebrow raised, a puzzled look distorting his young, smooth face. “The sincerity of your voice makes me wonder if you haven’t lost it.”
“Lost what? Oh, wait, you mean you think I’ve fallen off my rocker?” Bo could no longer hold back the abundance of air building up in his lungs. He let loose a loud laugh. “No, I’m still paddling with both oars.”
“Judging by your whereabouts, the river’s run dry,” Roberts said dryly.
“The point is I’m happy. You see, I have a reason to die now, Michael. A reason!” Bo burst out laughing again and the guard shot him an annoyed look.
“I’m sorry I couldn’t get you an appeal, Bo. I’m truly sorry. I do have good news, though,” Roberts said.
“You just saved a bunch of money on car insurance by switching to Geico?”
Ignoring the joke, Roberts motioned for the guard to open the door. A tall, gorgeous redhead walked in, a tissue pressed firmly to her eyes to calm the tears that had been flowing.
“Veronica,” Bo said. He hadn’t seen her in two days, yet it seemed like at least a month. Her long, fiery hair flowed majestically over the most delicate pair of shoulders Bo had ever laid eyes on. He sure knew how to pick a wife.
She took the receiver from Roberts and took his place in the chair opposite Bo’s. “Oh, Bo, tell me you didn’t do it. Tell me you didn’t kill poor Gary.” Veronica tried to control her sobs.
“I did it, sweetheart,” Bo admitted.
A long silence passed, Veronica stuffing the used tissue down into her black leather purse and meeting Bo’s eyes with her own. “Timmy and Beth are a handful without you there, Bo,” Veronica said at last. “They just keep asking where you are, when you’re coming home.”
Bo shook his head. “I wish it didn’t have to happen like this, but at least I have a reason to die. I never wanted to hurt you or the kids. I did what had to be done, and now justice has been served.” A light began to dance in Bo’s eyes.
Veronica saw it, and it scared her.
The light danced feverishly and all at once Roberts realized what was happening. The maniac was getting that adrenaline rush again.
Bo started to laugh, softly at first, then louder. “Don’t you see?” he yelled to Veronica. Veronica dropped the receiver as her ears were suddenly assaulted with the decibels of Bo’s scream. “The jury was right! The judge was right! I killed a man and now I am going to die. And do you know what, Veronica?”
Veronica’s mouth was agape at her husband’s antics. This was not the man she’d married eight years ago. “What?” she managed to gasp.
Bo leaned forward and smiled, that same firefly dancing its dance of unbridled joy inside his eyes. “I couldn’t be happier.”
Veronica broke down in tears and motioned for the guard to take the murderer back to his cell. Roberts’s eyes were sharp daggers threatening to impale Bo’s flesh, and therefore Bo could not bring himself to meet his defense attorney’s accusatory stare.
When Bo stepped back into his cell, Dale was shaking his head in astonishment. “You’re sick,” he said.
“No, I’m not,” Bo said. “But in a few days, I’ll be flat-out dead.”
The next two days had everyone in the prison talking about Bo. None of the other prisoners recalled a man quite as happy as Bo passing through the jail in all the time they’d been there. There would always be the occasional homicidal sociopath so sick and twisted he occasionally laughed with glee at the memory of stealing a young man’s life, but Bo seemed to have that smile locked to his face every hour of every day since he’d arrived.
The penultimate moment drew ever closer in the same way the sudden calm signified the eventual arrival of a brutal tempest out at sea. For Bo Redford, however, it felt more like the last page in a long book: he knew it had to come to an end, and he was ready for it.
After devouring his last meal, which consisted of a T-Bone steak and pork chops, Bo was led from the holding room and down the long, brightly lit hallway. Prisoner after prisoner cheered him on, some of them expressing their thoughts with silent middle fingers.
The cheers fueled Bo’s joy. Almost overwhelmed, all he could do was laugh. He could not stop. He had a reason to die. There was justice in his execution. For the first time in years, he could laugh out loud.
“Justice has been served! Truth has triumphed!” Bo shouted.
The guards led him to the chair and strapped his arms and legs so tight it reminded Bo of his days at the hospital receiving blood tests. Those latex bands they wrapped around your arms were tight enough to practically cut off circulation; so were the straps on the electric chair.
Bo looked at the phone placed on a wall in the corner, just in case some judge realized a client was innocent and should not be executed. Bo silently thanked God when the phone didn’t ring.
As one guard reached for the switch, Bo closed his eyes and smiled.
“Bo, wake up,” a man’s voice instructed.
Bo opened his eyes and sat up slowly, taking in his surroundings. As much as he wanted to deny it, he was awake.
He was in Auswhich.
“That must have been some dream you were having, Bo,” said Michael Roberts. You were laughing and smiling almost the whole way through it.”
“It was the sweetest dream. Do you know what I dreamed, Michael? I dreamed I had a reason to die. I dreamed there was a reason for the way the justice system worked the way it does. I dreamed justice and truth had saved the day,” Bo said. He lowered his eyes to the dirt floor. No light danced in them this morning. No hope flowed through Bo’s veins.
“I wish there were a reason all of us were being killed, too. I understand how you’re feeling,” Michael assured.
“Any word from Veronica?” The statement from Bo was more of a ritual than an actual question, for in his heart who knew what had become of his darling wife and two children. They had gone to take showers one day, had never returned.
“I saw Veronica in my dream. Such a sweet, sweet dream. Such a-”
Michael put an apologetic hand on his friend’s shoulder, then hugged him tightly. Bo’s sobs brought tears to Michael’s eyes, too, and he didn’t even try to wipe them away.
The door slammed against the wall of the building. A tall man with eyes as dark as cobalt stepped in. His gun laid across his arms. He held it as a new mother might hold a baby. The Nazi barked at everyone to wake up, though he didn’t use those exact words. One word escaped the man’s mouth, a word whose impact equaled that of one thousand bullets hitting a man all at the same time, yet still not killing him.
“Showers!” the Nazi soldier shouted sternly.
Bo and Michael stood and followed the officer into the cold morning air, spotting the shower building from which they had seen smoke billowing just two days ago, shortly after Veronica and the children had gone missing.
Exit one Mr. Bo Redford and Michael Roberts who, in just a moment, will be taking a shower but will not be coming back. Mr. Bo Redford, who had has awoken from a dream many would find startling and scary, maybe even a nightmare. But to Mr. Redford, such a dream serves as a kind of fantasy. Because, you see, Mr. Redford dreamed there was a reason for his death. He dreamed of justice being served. Let us bow our heads in a moment of silence for Bo Redford and Michael Roberts.