Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Conversation (face to face) (10/07/10)
TITLE: Under the Painted Rock
By Virgil Youngblood
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A female guard in a tight, crisply pleated uniform had sealed the contents of Rory’s pockets in a large envelope and searched his Bible for contraband. Ushering him into a small interior room she pointed a crimson-nail index finger at a chair beside a stainless steel table. “I wouldn’t want your job, that’s for sure.”
Some days, Rory didn’t either.
Robert Dean “Buster” Brown came shuffling into the room dragging ankle chains, trailed by a burly guard like a noon-day shadow. After Brown plopped into the chair across from Carter, the guards locked the chains to a floor-ring.
“We’ll be back in thirty minutes” the male guard said.
Brown had been convicted of murdering a small town’s mayor named Massingale. When the police responded to a neighbor’s call he had been caught shotgun in hand. Though Brown never confessed or said anything in his defense, Rory wondered why he hadn’t sought an appeal or tried to delay his execution, or asked to see a chaplain before now?
“Preacher, I don’t have much time. Let’s cut to the chase. Okay?”
Rory nodded affirmatively, not speaking. Brown stared intently at him, his dark brown eyes unblinking. He was taller than Rory and surprisingly muscular, considering his inability to exercise, with a butch haircut and the pale skin death row inmates acquired from sunlight deprivation.
“Don’t worry about my salvation, Preacher. I’m ready to meet my maker. Now, the rest of this conversation remains confidential. It’s for your ears only. There is something you must do for me.”
“Is it okay if I call you Buster?”
“I won’t agree to anything illegal, Buster. Speak freely. Our conversation is not being recorded. I’ll help if I can.”
“You know the scripture, ‘greater love hath no man than he lay down his life for a friend’? My sister Chrissy, Massingale’s wife, is my best friend.”
“Are you saying…?”
“I didn’t kill Massingale. Chrissy didn’t either.
“I have a trust fund set up to provide for Chrissy and Nathan, her four year old son, until he turns twenty-five. That includes a place for them to live on a hundred acre ranch that’s paid for. That doesn’t concern you but I want you to know it.
“Massingale was leading a double-life, but Chrissy didn’t know that. He was involved with a drug cartel and his house of cards was collapsing. He made the mistake of stealing the cartel’s money and they threatened to kill Chrissy and Nathan and then skin him alive if he didn’t come up with the money. When the deadline expired, he decided to eat his shotgun. He forced Chrissy to hold the weapon. The scumbag wanted it to look like she killed him, so she couldn’t collect on his insurance. She had her finger on the trigger, but he pushed it. She fainted when he shot himself.
“I came into the room just as it happened. When Chrissy revived I told her Massingale had yanked the barrel up but I finished the job. The truth is, I fired into the ceiling so I would have powder residue on my hands. I made her leave and promise to never say anything about being there. That way, she could raise Nathan in a Christian home. I had to take the fall for that to happen, but that’s okay.”
“Couldn’t you have just told the truth to the police?”
“They would never believe Massingale shot himself. The mayor had everybody fooled.”
“You said you want me to do something. What is it?”
“If Chrissy dies of anything except old age, the cartel likely exacted revenge. They have long memories. If she dies prematurely, go to the ranch. There is a large rock with a cattle-brand painted on it next to the mailbox. Underneath the rock in a waterproofed box is a large envelope addressed to the FBI. Wear gloves so you don’t leave fingerprints. Put the correct postage on and mail it.”
“What’s in the envelope?”
“Insurance. There are videos of Massingale and cartel bosses committing crimes. I promised to bring them down if they harm Chrissy.”
“Wouldn’t those videos clear you?”
The sound of a door opening announced the guard’s return.
“Don’t worry about me, Preacher” Buster said, flashing a brief smile. “Tell Chrissy I love her. I’ll see both of you on the other side – someday.”
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