Fifteen minutes to midnight. Just enough time to celebrate. The prosecutor had drawn his customary bath after yet another successful prosecution. Twelve to be exact; and he’d always been exact. He’d prosecuted countless more, but jury trials for capital crimes were the only ones that counted. A dozen guilty verdicts for Class A felons. He refused to call them defendants. These twelve were heinous criminals who had committed murders, brutal rapes, and other acts too horrific to speak of, and he had put them all away for good, all before the age of 33—just. He would celebrate that tomorrow. Tonight he’d drink his after-supper Opus One; a treat for such occasions.
Five minutes to midnight. Tonight he had uncorked his finest bottle, an Opus that had been crafted by the hands of the master himself, which now bled thickly into his glass. The prosecutor put the heavy-stemmed chalice on the wooden deck planks of his sauna’s claw-footed tub, and stepped in with deliberate care so as not to taint the porcelain. The television pantomimed silently as the prosecutor submerged beneath the bubbled water’s break.
Two minutes to midnight. He’d been waiting for this moment for three years now; ever since the sentencing. It had been his first capital felony trial; the most gruesome. The crime: the murders and rapes of a pastor and his family: a wife, a boy, and a baby girl. They’d been immolated in their parsonage. The criminal: a six-time loser who after seventeen years of sin, had decided to graduate to the big time on the night of his eighteenth birthday. No easier case for a virgin prosecutor to make his bones, though his more reasonable colleagues held to their doubts, as the courthouse corridors to their whispers. They were timid creatures needing iron-clad evidence to secure convictions. He didn’t have that luxury, but he’d found two witnesses: cellmates who testified in detail about the murders, the arson, and yes, the rapes; a fact that would have remained undiscovered but for their testimony.
The criminal had confessed to them there in his cell as he wept upon his knees—they swore. He had no alibi. He had recently been released from a boy’s home. He’d stumbled into the church that night where he slept. He was discovered at first-light prostrated at the altar. He’d helped himself to the Eucharist. Where he’d claimed hunger and thirst, the jury found sacrilege, and so his days were numbered. The criminal offered no words, no remorse, and strangely no appeals. He sought the comfort of swift justice.
One minute. The good people of the county had thanked the prosecutor with their votes. He’d thanked himself with the wine cellar to enjoy his guilty pleasure. The prosecutor opened his eyes to watch the television screen. The image of a man being strapped to a chair was blurred by the water’s refraction. Ten seconds. And then the chattering. It had always been there, resonating through the recesses since the wine cellar’s foundation had been laid. He’d been assured that it was settling; to be ignored. Yet now in the final moments, it grew into crescendo, and erupted from behind the television wall. The prosecutor rose through the water with a jolt. The rats had gotten their man.
© J. Manuel Writes