Evil shall slay the wicked; and they that hate the righteous shall be desolate.
- Psalms 34:21
It was the first time Lori felt normal, and the first time she used her new name. Her apartment felt normal, although in a city she’d never been to. She was no longer in the spotlight, not here, Denver was new to her, her life was new too. She wouldn’t want anyone to see it anyway. Her collection of decorative knick-knacks, that at the time seemed so hip and smart to purchase, now looked unimportant, versus her experiences over the last year. She had been barely sleeping for the past year, neither in a hotel or the secret, secluded rental house in Virginia. This bed felt good, the temperature was right. She recalled the celebration dinner from last night, although that is not what Ralph and Jack called it. It would have been a bit morbid to say it out loud, celebration, which created an unforced, but unnatural smile in the soon to be sunlit darkness of her apartment. The apartment she didn’t have a year ago. Things had changed. She didn’t have a single modern appliance and if someone didn’t know better, you’d think it was the fifties, except for the alarm clock with its modern digital display plugged in across the room. She strained to see it but gave up quickly. She had lost her ability to sleep from the never-ending angles her unprecedented murder prosecution case had taken and now she was examining the previous year in the same way. She needed the sleep.
Last night, when she was still called Mary, she even had the rare drink, or was it drinks, she couldn’t recall, at dinner to initiate the process of healing. Ralph had been there, Jack was there and she had laughed more than she had in awhile, about a year to be exact. She knew Jack had planned this as the beginning of the healing process for her. He thought he was sly, but she knew better, she paid attention to the details, all of them. Jack was settling the past and beginning his own future too. The last year was a busy one for him too, and his years to come, joining Joe Callahan’s campaign and then being appointed as the new President’s Attorney General wouldn’t be a walk in the park, even for the famous Jack Rucker. The campaign was run on judicial reform, and she had contributed in a very odd way. She smiled again and her thoughts of the details caused her to doze off into much needed sleep, in her new life as Lori Philbus. She was adjusting her pillow haphazardly and attempting to get a few more minutes. She knew for the first time in a long time, she didn’t have anywhere to be, no details to discover and nothing to worry about.
She closed her eyes and remembered it now. Thinking back to just a few days ago, she was then Mary and was surprised how she couldn’t look away when the time came to kill another human; even though it scared her on the inside however steadfast she may look on the outside. Jack was there, as she later discovered he was always there to see the closure to his efforts, and hopefully there for her much needed emotional support too. In the quiet observers room, she looked up to him, it was what she would hope to aspire to, a lawyer with principal and ideal, never waning from the truth and always taking the fight, no matter the public opinion or consequence to your career. As Jack demonstrated, career wasn’t his objective; justice was, specifically for those victims where the judicial system had created the injustice to begin with. She never questioned his integrity; it would have been a different outcome if she did. She felt she was wise but knew she was naïve and the outcome of the last year followed that thinking.
She recalled the events over in her head, hopefully for the last time, even though she knew it would take a while to forget, if ever, the details of what she witnessed. She never saw someone die before. It wasn’t the death itself, it is what he said at his end, just before taking his last breath, that disturbed her now.
She had prepared herself for the execution. She had read books, seen pictures, even at the advice of Jack, she watched the movie with Sean Penn, Dead Man Walking, twice, to be sure the details were part of her record, not just her memory. She took a deep breath, her mind coming off the memories she wanted to forget. She was still in bed, ready to explore Denver as a new person. She was covered in blankets, she shivered a bit, realizing she was suddenly cold or suddenly disturbed. Seeing a man die was something she had wanted to prepare for as she didn’t know what her reaction would be and wanted, needed, something to rely on, something that she could use to support her, facts to the process, versus any surprise. Regardless of her preparation, the emotional impact and mental anguish was devastating. She wasn’t prepared for the last words, those said calmly, and then at the moment of death, those screamed words she would never forget. She only internalized as she didn’t want the others to see her as weak, but she would pray for the rest of her life to be forgiven.