Gallows

Dirty Work


......Other than himself, I am the only person who knows that Robert Jordan is innocent of the murder of his wife. As Jordan is to be hung in less than an hour, he will take his knowledge to the grave. When his body drops through the trap and swings from the rope, then I will be the only one who knows the identity of the actual killer of Sarah Jordan.
......He will be pacing the cold confines of the condemned cell now, as the minutes tick away, indignant and outraged by the injustice that put him there, perhaps beating the unyielding walls and screaming his innocence to the world. No one will hear him though; only the guard on his door, and he will have heard it all before. Eventually, as his final appointment approaches ever nearer, he will subside onto the bunk and anger will be replaced by a far greater emotion: terror. He will know pure liquid fear as his mind enacts the ultimate moments: the trembling walk to the scaffold, the strong arms supporting him at either side as he takes each faltering step up to the platform, the blackness as the hood drops over his head and steals his last sight of the world. Will he be one of those that stand firm and proud as he feels the rough bite of the rope round his neck, defiant at last in the face of the inevitable, determined to make his exit dignified and gentlemanly, befitting his station in life? Or will he succumb to base animal panic and have to be dragged kicking and screaming, begging and pleading, weeping and crying, to end his days a gibbering, cowardly wreck?
......Robert Jordan will be praying now, praying as he never has before, praying desperately for the last-minute reprieve that will never come. Every tissue of his being will be fervently hoping that the true guilty one will step forward, remorseful and conscious-stricken that another is being punished for his crime. It will not happen.
......A man in my position must be seen to be above reproach, to be beyond criminality. I must adhere impeccably to the law. The scandal would be enormous should it become known that it was I who killed Sarah Jordan.
......I had to do it. If only she could have been content to let our affair remain a secret. I thought that I had convinced her that it was for the best that we continue as we had for all those months. However, that night, that last night, when we met at her home while her husband was attending one of his many late-night sessions, she was adamant. No amount of reasoning or persuasion from me would sway her; she loved me and she wanted the world to know. She was leaving Robert; she had even written a letter telling him so. What could I do? How could I allow it to be discovered that I had been conducting a long-standing affair with the wife of a prominent MP?
......I am noted for my calmness and passivity; it is necessary in my work, but that night when Sarah showed me the letter with my name in it like an accusation I snapped.
......When the police arrived at the Jordan house, they found Robert standing over the body of his wife spread out on the bed and the stocking I used to strangle her clutched in his hand. The evidence against him, though circumstantial, was damning. At the trial, the housekeeper and other witnesses revealed the constant rows between the couple and Jordan's violent behaviour toward his wife in graphic detail. When it was further exposed that he had been conducting an affair (one of many) with his personal secretary, from whose bed he had come home that night and with whom he had often discussed how much he despised Sarah, the jury had little hesitation in finding Jordan guilty. No one was aware that the real culprit was viewing the whole procedure from the public gallery.
......It is almost time now. The door of the condemned cell will be swinging open to admit the escort who will accompany Robert Jordan on the long walk to his final rendezvous. What exquisite dread he must be feeling; I would not wish to be in his shoes.
......"We're ready for you now, Mr Blackstone."
......"What? ... Oh, I'm sorry officer, you startled me; I must have been daydreaming. I was just giving the equipment a final check. Everything seems to be in order."
......."Oh, I'm sure it must be, sir; I've never known you to make a mistake. Very professional you are, sir, if you don't mind me saying so. Though I couldn't do your job for a gold clock. Dirty work it is, being a hangman, and no mistake."
......"Why, thank you, officer; that's very kind of you. You're right, it is dirty work, but you know what they say: someone has to do it."
......"I suppose so, sir. Oh well, it sounds like they're bringing Jordan in now."
......"Yes, I'm ready."
......Dirty work, indeed, but I will make sure Robert Jordan's execution is as clean as all the rest.
......One should always take pride in one's work.

Copyright Scorpio Tales 2000. All rights reserved.


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