Tales from Death Row


Cheryl Gray


There are very few admittedly guilty people on Death Row, and those who do admit their guilt generally have good reasons for their actions. They all feel morally justified, whether it be directions from God, their dog or for the betterment of mankind.



Galbraith, Florida

It was the best of prisons; it was the worst of prisons... or so it was said. Galbraith Maximum Security Prison was the first high tech, experimental death row facility in the nation. Build in the middle of the Okefenokee swamp, with no roads or access except by swamp-boat, it was a two million square foot concrete-block encampment built on pillions that bored into the solid earth more than one-hundred feet. All the food needed for feeding the staff and prisoners was grown within the walls. The diet was vegetarian with experimental vitamin supplements that were by-products of their high-tech aqua-farming. Since the complex was surrounded by alligators, snakes and acres of swamp, it was no wonder that in the four years it had been open, no one ever tried to escape.

Prisoners were transported enclosed in an iron cage atop a heavily guarded swamp-boat. There'd only been one accident; the boat overturned after an incident with an alligator. The guards survived, but the two prisoners who were shackled inside the cage, drowned. There were a few outcries, but they soon died out and life moved on.

Nearly every state had prisoners at Galbraith. After all appeals were over, they would send their high profile, most heinous criminals there to be put to death. Galbraith offered several high tech solutions to choose from. Lethal injection, an improved electric chair that did the job in 2.3 seconds, or lasers which was used for those with no families, because nothing was left to bury accept a small pile of ash. No one was ever at Galbraith for more than ninety days.


Father Nathan Ruggles had bucked his conservative Episcopal bishop one too many times. His issue was not a lack of faith, but his beliefs that gays and women should be welcomed into the priesthood. His last sermon stating 'if you truly believe that God created everything, and you believe that God does not make junk, then gays and women must be allowed holy orders when called!'

The Bishop was not amused and Nathan was transferred to his current assignment of Chaplain at Galbraith prison.

It was his eighth year with no reprieve in sight. It's not that there wasn't enough to do, but some days the hopelessness got to him. All he could really do was convince the inmates that there was a better place beyond, and urge them to make peace with God. Daily in his prayers, he asked God why he was sent to such a soulless place – a place that on any given day seemed beyond redemption. Normally in priests life there were many moments of joy; weddings, baptisms, Sunday lunch in a parishioners' home... but not anymore.

Nathan was a nice looking man in his mid-sixties, of medium height with thick white hair, blue eyes and pink complexion. He'd hoped to someday re-marry after the death of his wife of thirty years, but now he wondered if he too would someday die in Galbraith and like so many others, no one would care.

Nathan walked slowly down the long corridor between cell block A and B. His foot steps echoed on the cold cement floor. Occasionally he'd have an urge to do a little soft-shoe, but not today. Today his mind was in turmoil; grey, like the floor, walls and ceiling. Nathan reached the 5th security door and opened his weary eye for a retina scan. The series of cameras scanned the hallway and the heavy door clicked open.

"Good morning, Father Nathan," nodded the guard attired in a white jump suit with a security nerve-blocker strapped on his wrist.

"Good morning, Clyde," he managed to smile.

"How'd the execution go last night? I know you seemed to spend a lot of time with that one."

"Yes, and Harold is at peace now, thank God. I've been thinking... have you ever heard of a woman around the swamp called Nauni Coco?"

Clyde scowled. "She's just a legend. You know, like the boogie man. Well, actually I think she's more a cross between Mother Teresa and Freddy Krueger," he smiled.

"Strange... her name seems to crop up several times a year. People say they go to her for advice or to cast a spell, and somehow their next step is Galbraith. I never paid much attention to it until the woman in cell block-C came to see me. She told a very strange yet believable story. You know how when you hear something, it just rings true?"

Clyde gazed at him blankly. "Two words, Father: Freddy Krueger. She is not real, but, what the hell, why don't you go and talk to Amos the cook. I've heard him tell stories about Nauni Coco. Maybe he can shed some light for you."

"Is there any news about the flu epidemic in China this morning?"

"The CDC said it was almost under control. Why?" Clyde scowled.

"I just wondered.... one more thing. What does this Nauni Coco look like?"

"The legend," he began emphatically, "says she is as old as time itself, born in and of the swamp, with an alligator for a father and a swamp rat for a mother. She is short and stout with very large teeth and eyes that burn like fire. Sounds like a perfect prom date, don't you think?"

"Old, short and fat... Strange, very strange," he muttered as he went through the door into the central hub and made a sharp right, heading towards the eating facility.

Galbraith was a true engineering miracle, built in a wagon-wheel configuration with a central hub and five spokes that not only housed the inmates, but all the supporting necessities; guard quarters, the warden's home, and modest chapel and housing for the prison chaplain. Built out of concrete blocks covered with slump stone, it could have graced the cover of Architectural Digest for its design and beauty.

He met Amos in the hallway outside the kitchen facility. "Do you have a moment, Amos?

"You betcha' padre. What can Amos do for you this fine day?" he beamed brightly with a smile.

"What do you know about a woman called Nauni Coco that supposedly lives around here?"

"You mean the woman of legend? Oh, there are some fine stories!"

"No Amos, I mean the woman who lives around the swamp and does magic and incantations. The real story— I need her help desperately!" pleaded Nathan.

"You need her help?" he whispered quietly in disbelief. "But you are Christian! You don't believe in or abide such things, Nathan!"

"I need to talk to her. I need her advice. I've already prayed about this problem, but God is a very busy man," he smiled sadly.

Amos stared at the white haired man. He took a handkerchief out of his pocket and wiped the priest's forehead. His hand looked exceptionally black next to the priest's bright pink complexion.

"I am a Baptist by baptism, but my cultural roots run deep, Father. I believe in the Christian God and Jesus. Do not doubt this. This there is a part of me that also believes in another power; not God and not the devil. But it is a power of this earth, and Nauni Coco is its representative. You are right, Nathan. She is a real woman, but you don't just make an appointment to visit her," he chuckled shaking his head.

"Then how..."

"I am told that you must buy six ounces each of dark rum, beetle juice and pure virgin olive oil, all of the highest quality. They must be wrapped in burlap and placed under the south side of a red mangrove tree, on the north side of the swamp at midnight, during a full moon. Then you sit down on the east side of the tree, and wait. If she is interested in your problem, she will come. If she is not, you leave the gifts and go home at dawn."

Nathan sighed deeply.

"Is all of this about the man that was executed last night?"

"Yes. He told me the whole story, the poor bastard!"

"Most Christians would just say he was demented, or even worse, possessed. Why did you believe him?" asked Amos.

"I believe that truth has a ring to it. Whether it is something you've embraced for years, or it is a new concept you've just encountered. His story had a ring of truth to it. And then there is Justin, the man who just came in. Have you talked to him? I trust your instincts, Amos."

"I watched him on television many times. He was so exciting, but in the end he was a sad man... resigned to his fate. But there is also something else.... total despair, but not for himself.... I just don't know yet. I'll let you know, Nathan. But if you are to contact Nauni Coco, you had better hurry, tonight is a full moon, or wait until the next one....."

"Where do I buy beetle juice?"

"New Orleans is the only place I know, but you don't have time. Because we share the same belief in the Christian God, I'll loan you the required gifts. When you can, you can replace them. Deal?"

"You are a good man, Amos," nodded Nathan as he embraced the short man and hugged him tightly.

"I feel the weight of your problem, Nathan. Do you want to share it with me?"

"No my friend, this is better carried alone. When I get back from my pilgrimage, we will talk again."

"Come, then. Let go to my quarters and I'll get the gifts!"

"What exactly does she look like?" asked Nathan as he entered Amos' modest housing quarters.

"The easiest explanation is that she is a shape shifter. She presents herself in different forms to different people and locations... maybe. Around here, she is tall and thin as a reed, with the color of café au lait. She looks a lot like a young Diana Ross. She dresses in a traditional blue dashiki, wears a turban and no jewelry at all. That's very unusual for a mambo. Bling is usually very much a part of their dress."

Nathan nodded and made a mental note to look up the word: mambo. He placed the burlap bundles in his pocket and headed back to his chapel to review his journal. He wasn't looking for anything in particular, just as much information regarding Nauni Coco as he could find. Part of him knew this was insane, but he felt he had nothing to lose.

He sat down at his desk and set his alarm for 10:00 PM. That should give him plenty of time to exit the prison, check out a swamp-boat and make it to the required spot before midnight. He opened his journal and began reading:

"Moose Rutledge, God rest his soul. Definitely not a Nauni Coco's incident. His was more of a deadly paradigm shift! Poor, Moose...... "


Moose Rutledge

Steven Rutledge attended the University of Miami and maintained a consistent 3.8 grade point average, while majoring in computer science. Moose, as everyone called him, was the captain of the football team, captain of the debating team as well as the President of the student union. He was tall, blue eyed and muscled. He had everything, or so Pars Narsmith thought.

Pars' father was a heavy contributor to the college, so when Pars wanted to room with Moose, his father made it happen. Born Martin Narsmith, he changed his name to Pars because it sounded more European, thus more respectable. He was short and thin with dark hair and glasses. Although he had 20/20 eyesight, he wore glasses for effect. He felt they made him look more intelligent and sophisticated, which fit in with his chosen career in psychology. Pars admired Moose, but more importantly he wanted to study him.

"What if I told you that I saw your girlfriend Mindy kissing Brad?" asked Pars with a modicum of real concern.

Moose was furious. He stormed off into his bedroom and called her. His yelling could be heard three rooms down. Mindy, of course denied it and hung up crying hysterically.

"Par, did you see Mindy cheating on me or not?" Moose yelled.

"No, of course not! I said, ‘What if I told you?' See how that works? You get sucked in every time. But I now have the data I need on jealousy. Good Mouse!" he said patting his immense arm. "That's a good mouse!"

"I should choke the crap out of you!"

"Bad Mouse, bad!" Pars scowled as he tapped Moose' nose and shook his head laughing.

"Stop this shit or else!"

"Face it, my beefy friend, you are my laboratory mouse. Rooming with you will replace years of experimentation. I will simply try every theory or trial situation on my own, very large guinea pig."

"Piss off, Pars. I just won't buy into it," shrugged Moose with a clenched jaw.

"Of course you will," Pars laughed and left the room.

The next evening, Pars watched Moose as he studied. Every time Moose looked up, Pars would look away.

"You tell me what's up your ass, or I'm going to throw you out the window, you little freak!"

"I cheated on a test and I don't know what to do," said Pars earnestly.

"Just don't do it again, but don't get suicidal about it. Everyone cheats sometime," advised Moose.

"Have you?" pleaded Pars.

"Yeah, sure."


"Uh, last semester".

"What class?" pressed Pars.


"No you didn't, you're just trying to make me feel better, but you can't. I'm going to the dean and confess. I'll get kicked out and disgrace my family, but I deserve it. I'm scum!" Pars wept.

"Come on, Pars. I'm telling you everyone has cheated at least once in their life, even me!"


"Yeah, really."

Pars just stared and waited.

"Uh, last semester I found the answer sheet to my trig exam and I used it."

"Where did you find it?"

"I found it in the professor's office, for Gods sake!"

"What were you doing in his office? Students aren't...."

"Looking for him, Pars!"

"How did you take it and not have anyone see you?"

"Damn it, Pars! No one was in there. I simply slipped it into my pocket. Okay?"

"Thank you, Moose."

"No problem, now quit beating yourself up over this cheating crap. Yes, it's wrong, so don't do it again."

Pars smiled broadly, nodded and left the room.

That evening with his girlfriend Mindy, Moose mentioned how upset Pars had been.

"Yes, I know. Pars told me how you confessed that you had cheated and all."

"But I didn't cheat. I just told the little jerk-wad that just to shut him up! He said he had cheated and he was going to the dean to confess and get kicked out of school. Mindy, I swear!" Moose pleaded.

"Oh Moose, there's no need to pretend, with me. I remember that test. You were really sweating it, and then you pulled an ‘A'. Pars told me how sensitive you were about the whole thing," she smiled, patting his hand gently.

"He is such a weasel! I only made up that story to stop his whining about his cheating!"

"Pars said he'd never cheated, so he couldn't fully understand what you were going through," she said with a frown.

"Someday I'll wring his pathetic neck, I swear!"

When Moose confronted Pars about the whole scenario, he said he was researching ‘compassion' and Moose passed favorably.

When asked why he brought Mindy into it, he said he had to practice his sincerity for future use. Moose simply punched the living room wall and stormed off.

Next day he requested a room transfer, but was denied. The Narsmith money ran deep.

Pars became increasingly creative in his deceptions and each time Moose was sucked into his research. Each time when Moose found out, he threatened to kill him.

The humiliation was always private, but Moose knew that would be just a matter of time. Moose hated for the first time in his life.

Then at a frat party, about 1:00am, there were eleven people, half drunk and dancing in dim light. Two armed, masked men came in and grabbed Pars by his neck.

"Give me all your money and jewelry or I'll blow this nerds head off!" demanded the tall one.

"Kill the little pain-in-the-ass," laughed Moose.

"Sssh, Moose. They aren't kidding!" urged Mindy.

"Ah, screw him! He's a geek and I hate him. In fact, I could kill him!"

"Moose, please help me. I don't want to die," sobbed Pars. "Please!"

"How much did you pay them? At least you could have hired someone believable!

God knows your daddy has enough money. They're almost as pathetic as you!"

"Please Moose!" Pars pleaded. "I'm sorry, I won't ever..."

"Nice try, dimwit!"

"I mean it man, I'm going to blow this pussy away!" shouted the masked man nervously.

"No please..." groaned Moose. "Let me do it! I've hated this little puss-bag ever since the first day I met him. I'll blow his damned head off for you!" he said as he grabbed the gun away from the shocked thief.

"Let's get out of here, he's nuts!" he shouted to his accomplice as they fled the room.

"Thanks, buddy," sobbed Pars as he attempted to embrace Moose.

"No sense in wasting a good idea. Prepare to die, you little turd!" roared Moose as he glanced around the room and laughed.

"Moose, stop it! You're drunk! Mindy cried.

"Tell them, Pars. Tell them right now, or I'll blow your stupid head off!"

"I swear Mouse, this time I didn't... I mean Moose!" he panicked.

"Good-bye, you parasite!" he growled as he put the gun to Pars' head and pulled the trigger.


Moose tried to explain that it really was an accident, but no one ever witnessed Pars' experiments or abuse. His attorney argued, unconvincingly that it was a classic case of ‘I didn't know the gun was loaded', or a paradigm shift; ‘everything's the same, while nothing's the same'. The jury didn't buy it.

As far as all the witnesses knew, Pars idolized Moose. He had publicly said so on many occasions. Mindy testified through tears and a plea for leniency. She told the judge that Moose just a blind spot when it came to poor Pars.

The trial took only one day and the jury brought back a guilty verdict in only ten minutes. He spent his last three weeks in Galbraith laughing, ‘paradigm shift' over and over again.


Falling Through the Cracks

Nathan shook his head and sighed. "Poor Moose... But Harold was a victim of a paradigm shift, also," he sighed deeply and began to pore over his notes. A prominent psychiatrist Harold Heinz— convicted of murdering a female patient by pushing her out an open window...

"She was my earthwalker. I had to eliminate her, but she's not really dead. Well, she is, but she's being recycled. She'll return as someone else's earthwalker, to keep working her evil, century after century. I know how this all sounds, but it is very real and quite logical. By God, she won't make me fall through the cracks!"

"Please explain, Harold," soothed Nathan.

"A new patient of mine told me that life is a matrix of boxes, ledges, walkways, all made of skinny, thin Popsicle sticks... of sorts. You walk and live and navigate as long as you are not aware or think about how fragile it all is."

"I've never heard that before. That's fascinating."

"Yeah... fascinating. Every soul that is born has a guardian angel as well as an earthwalker attached. Sometime during the course of lifetime the earthwalker surfaces and makes a play."

"I don't understand."

"To sin and err, means the same thing. Did you know that? Sin is the same as the archaic term for err. It was an archery term meaning ‘miss the mark'.

Nathan nodded.

"I digress. The earthwalker then tries to lead the soul astray or more precisely tries to make the soul see the fragility of life itself. Once it's recognized, it's too late! And the worst part is that after you've slipped through the cracks, you see with a clarity you never had before. But so what? It's too late, you're already screwed."

"Your patient... what was his particular problem?"

"He recognized his earthwalker and fell through the cracks!"

"I don't understand, Harold. What do you mean, fell through the cracks?"

"Someone comes in to your life that you do, yet do not know. You are drawn to this person, although you don't necessarily like this person. They are always negative in nature, but not overtly. It starts out just a little, until you get used to it and don't protest. Then a little more and more over time, you're caught in a negative spiral, and don't even recognize it."

"Okay, so you have a friend that you don't especially like and you're caught in a negative spiral. And...?"

"You get used to talking and seeing everything as dark and grim. The glass is half empty, sort of thing. Then it happens. Your life starts falling apart— your relationships, you lose your job and cannot find another, everything you ever believed in comes in to question, and because of your dire outlook, you cannot pull yourself out."

Nathan nodded as if he understood, but he didn't.

"Don't you see? You have nothing positive to hold on to, and you give up. That is falling through the cracks.

"Okay, so what exactly does that mean? I mean exactly? It sounds like you just had a real run of bad luck. Do you die? If not, there's always hope."

"That's just it. There is no hope when you're in a black cloud. If you recognize it in time, and dispatch your earthwalker, all returns to normal, unless of course, you end up here."

"Let's back up for a moment. Your patient tells you about all of this. He obviously recognized his earthwalker and...?"

"He killed her. Shot her and dumped the body in the ocean. He was lucky and never got caught. He's doing fine now— everything is back to normal.

"Knowing this, why did you choose to kill your earthwalker in such a blatant manner? Surely you didn't think you'd get away with it."

"It all happened in a moment of blackness and despair. I'd planned to drug her and dispose of the body, but she taunted me to the point of insanity and it happened. So, in fact she won. She will regenerate and I will die.

"Let me ask you... if you truly believe in earthwalkers, then you must also believe in guardian angels, right?"

"Of course..."

"Then why didn't your guardian angel help?"

"Guardian angels can only help when invoked. You can't imagine how black of a cloud envelopes you, Nathan. But I'm at peace with my angel and my God. In telling you my story, I'm hoping you will get the truth out and save some lives."

Nathan nodded with a smile and continued taking notes.

The jury thought he was simply mad, but following Texas' sensibilities, Florida adopted the idea that crazy people were fair game for execution. I truly feel for Harold, but at the end, he found peace.


Jingle Balls

This one troubles me greatly. Somehow a woman being put to death is still worse than a man. I guess I'm just getting old...


Betty Scott was caught in a fashion time warp of the 1950's. She was a short, thin woman, with bleached blonde hair, worn up in an Audrey Hepburn bun, dark red lips, black mascara, full skirts, heels, and always a strand of pearls. She also was one of only two women ever held in Galbraith prison, and scheduled for lethal injection for killing her husband...

Betty's husband, Bob was tall man, with thinning dark hair, and diabetes. They had a good not-quite middle class marriage, and owned their own mobile home. He adored Betty and worked two jobs to try and give her everything he could. She was always picture perfect and he'd never seen her without makeup. She was his princess. She bought all his clothes from Sears— polyester from head to toe. They were happy together.

Then a miracle happened, and they won the lottery. One ticket— one-hundred million dollars— good bye mobile home, hello Boca Raton mansion. Then suddenly, Betty was transformed into a Boca princess. She walked, talked and acted as though she was born to royalty. Even with all the money and luxuries, Betty still didn't really seem happy. Bob hit on an idea. The next afternoon he brought a beautiful Persian cat home for Betty. She was thrilled and named him Jingle Bell. Bob called the cat, Jingle Balls.

"What will the servants think?" she squealed.

"Who gives a royal poop?" Bob huffed. "I'll pay them extra to ignore it."

"The cat was the center of attention. Things she would normally never allow were now okay. Betty would lounge on the sofa in the afternoon with a tall gin and tonic, after a long day at the country club. Jingle Bell would sit next to her and play with the ice in her drink. Cat toys were all over the house and Betty doted on the cat, night and day.

Over the course of the following weeks, Betty begins to feel ill and it quickly progressed to being really sick. She was exhausted, had aching muscles, then a headache, dizziness, chills, which progressed to vomiting and diarrhea. Bob quickly hired a full time nurse to care for her. He was really worried, because he knew her well enough to know there was something very wrong.

Their local doctor suggested he take her to Mayo Clinic for a battery of tests. The testing took almost an entire day. Three days later, the doctor called Betty at home.

"We have found you've ingested Hantavirus."

"Okay. Is that what's making me ill?"

"Yes..." he said cautiously.

"What is it? I've never heard of it."

"Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS) is spread by rodents."

"I don't own any rodents," Betty said smugly.

"Of course not, but rodents are everywhere, whether you see them or not. Humans contract the disease when they come into contact with their urine and droppings. I know, I know, you have handled neither. So....."

"How could that happen? Wait! You mean then, it's deliberate and not just something I picked up?"

"I don't know for sure... unless someone is trying to make you sick. This isn't like cyanide; one dose and you're dead. This takes a period of a month or more and if untreated, you die.

"But maybe someone doesn't know that," she mumbled.

"I can't believe someone has a reason to kill you," he laughed. "You're such a lovely and gracious lady! We have to start treatment. There is no time to waste. I want to see you in my office right away. Do you understand me?"

Betty said nothing, and hung up the phone quietly.

"Only one-hundred million reasons to kill me," she sighed quietly.

Betty asked around all the social circles and was put in contact with a psychic named Nauni Coco. Betty went to her small but plush office on the outskirts of Boca. She was an old, weathered Cajun woman that was very seldom open and only took on clients she was truly interested in... and only those with a lot of money.

Betty related her story and was told, "Someone you hold very dear is responsible for your illness. Someone you hold dear will inadvertently be responsible for your death."

"What shall I do," Betty cried.

"I can tell you what is happening and the eventual outcome if you do not act. You think about it, and you'll know what to do."

Betty dried her eyes and left. She thought long and hard as her nurse drove her home. Then it came to her in a perverse stroke of genius! "I know what to do, and I won't even have to be there! Then I'll start feeling better, and can spend the money any way I want. Now, I just have to convince Bob.

Later that evening, she tried to convince him to go to a mountain cabin on a lake for a little relaxation and fishing. Bob fished a lot before they became rich. After the win, Betty said that fishing was for poor people and unless it was deep sea fishing, he couldn't do it any more.

"You're ill, Betty. How could I possibly leave you at this time? I'll be right here by your side, taking care of you, my love," he said trying to smile.

"Don't be silly! Just look at me, I'm feeling much better now. I have reservations for you to leave tomorrow morning for a whole week in the Pisgah National Forest... in a cabin on a lake with the babbling brook, and fishing! I know how you've missed it and the people at the club will never have to know you actual enjoy fishing.

"Lake resorts are full of children and drunks. What kind of rest would that be?"

"Not this place. You'd be taken in by helicopter and dropped off. Just you, the cabin, fully stocked with food, and a million fish. Then seven days later, the helicopter picks you up and brings you home."

"That sounds wonderful, but seriously, this is not the time. What if you feel worse?"

"I have twenty-four hour a day nursing, and you'll have your cell phone and charger. I can always get you back here within two hours. I'd just call the helicopter and they'll come up a get you. Please Bob; this will make me feel so much better knowing you're having a good time. This has been harder on you then me. I can see worry in your eyes.

"If you're sure, my love," he smiled weakly.

"Oh, I'm positive."

The helicopter pilot found Bob's body a week later curled up in the bed. The coroner said he'd been dead about forty-eight hours. After a simple lab test of the insulin bottles, the death was ruled murder.

Betty was arrested but insisted it was self defense and he was trying to kill her. She told the police the whole story of Nauni Coco and the Hantavirus. The medical examiner sent a team to her home and discovered the virus in the melt-water in her drink glass that Jingle Bell played with every afternoon.

Betty was confined to the infirmary at Galbraith and died just two weeks later. Her dying words were cursing Nauni Coco and the damned cat.



Better Be Sure

Even in her dying words she insisted she killed a man that was already dead. I just wish I'd had more time with her...


Dorothea Hearst-Harper was a very wealthy woman in her own right, born into high society and studied at the very best schools. Everyone said she married beneath her. Steven J. Harper, was a college graduate, but only a state university; Dorothea graduated from Yale. She managed the servants, the estate and all the social engagements required of someone born to her social status. Steven went to work at a very reputable law firm as an attorney, but not a partner, which in itself was an embarrassment.

Suddenly, Steven died of a heart attack. She was devastated. After all, they had a perfect relationship. The funeral was lavish, and friends bemoaned his loss; Dorothea descended into a very dark and lonely place. She searched for weeks and finally found a voodoo priestess who put her in touch with Nauni Coco, a very wise and powerful young woman with black piercing eyes and a shaved head.

"I'm told you can bring loved-ones back to life," Dorothea whispered with a shaky voice.

"If I could, it would be a very dangerous thing. You had better be sure this is what you want. I can see that money is not a consideration, but I warn you again... choose wisely."

"I don't care what it costs! I want my husband back!

"Even if it were possible, it would cost you $200,000 cash in small bills, and you'd have to pick a precise date and time you want him restored to. It must be in your house within the last two years. He would simply appear, just as if nothing had ever happened and the events of that day and time are relived as if for the first time.

"Wonderful! I want to do this! I'll have the money for you tomorrow morning. Can you do it then?" Dorothea laughed and hugged herself at the thought of having her dear, sweet Steven back. He'd been impotent for the past two years, but just holding him again would be enough.

The next morning Dorothea sent her entire staff away for the day, went to the bank and withdrew two-hundred thousand dollars, and waited for Nauni Coco to arrive. She'd decided to bring him back to the night he gave her a full length mink coat, a year earlier. That was the happiest night of her life. They didn't make love, but he held her until she went to sleep.

"I must ask you again. Are you certain? You had better be sure. There would be no going back. Do you understand?"

"What is there to understand? I want my husband back. You make it sound as if there could be consequences! Stop with the mumbo-jumbo and just do it," Dorothea growled as he threw the money down on the table.

With a long and sinister incantation, green smoke and the smell of sulfur... she heard her husband laughing upstairs. She raced upstairs and froze just outside the door when she heard Steve's secretary, Shannon.

"Don't laugh at me! You're the one who bought this old-lady coat, not me! God, I look like your wife! And are you sure she's gone for the day?"

"Yes, yes, all day, my little sex kitten. I'll just give her the damned coat and take you on a cruise! I was going to surprise you with these tickets after you did your special little thing that only you can do, but what the hell, I know you're good for it," he laughed.

"Hold that thought, Steve. Where are we going and when?" she giggled.

"Dorothea thinks I'm going on a recruiting tour of the west coast, for the office.

So... we leave in three days. There's an envelope on the dresser with enough cash to buy you whatever you need, and remember with your body, the less the better! Now, do what you do best!"

"I'll bet Dorothea never gave you one of these," Shannon cooed as she stopped momentarily.

"You mean the ice-queen? You've got to be kidding! I don't think she's ever seen herself naked! That's why I love you, Shannon. You know what a man really needs and you are so giving."

Dorothea raced back down stairs crying, "He's the one who insisted making love with the lights off, not me! He's the one who gave up sex, not me. Lies, they're all lies!"

Nauni Coco smiled wistfully and shrugged.

"Send him back to hell," Dorothea said quietly.

"I cannot. I told you there would be no going back. You wanted this, now you live with it," she said.

"That will not happen. How much will it cost to kill him?"

"I do not generally kill things, I'm a vegetarian."

"Why would I give a shit what you eat? Why would I care about you at all except for what you can do for me? I have money and you are my servant!"

"Is that a fact," Nauni Coco said as her eyes hardened, but Dorothea was in such a rage, she didn't notice.

"I want him dead, rotting in his grave. I want worms eating his pathetic brain! What are you going to do to accomplish that?"

"You're on your own," she said coldly and got up to leave.

Dorothea broke down and started crying. "Please don't leave. I'm so sorry I spoke to you that way. I know I'm a bitch, but no one ever tells me ‘no'! Please! I gave that man everything and he's betrayed me with a whore! You're a woman... you must understand the need for revenge!"

"Of course I do. It's what I do best..." Nauni Coco began to whisper and Dorothea began to smile.

"This will cost you dearly. How much is that ring you're wearing worth?"

"Almost a half a million dollars; it's the seventh rarest gem in the world. I couldn't... What if I give it to you now, just until I can bring you the cash equivalent tomorrow? You get the cash and I get my ring back. Agreed?"

Nauni Coco nodded and smiled as Dorothea slipped the ring off her finger and handed it to her.

"How will you do it?"

"The same way he died the first time – a heart attack."

"What about Shannon?"

"I'm not killing Shannon. She's done you no harm."

"She stole my husband!"

"Why is it women always blame the other woman instead of placing blame where it belongs? I'll never figure that one out...." She sighed with a wave of her hand. "He had the commitment to you, she didn't. I will not kill her."

"I want revenge on her, too!"

"This is a very slippery slope you're on, Dorothea. You had better be sure!"

"Yeah, yeah, I'm sure!"

"You leave right now, go to a shop that knows you well, and stay there until I call. Your husband will have a fatal heart attack, Shannon will call an ambulance, and the coroner will find that digitalis poisoning caused his death."

"Digitalis is not a poison."

"Too much acts as one, and will cause a heart attack. Shannon will then be arrested for murder. How's that for revenge?"

"Perfect, but you don't know my cell phone number, how...."

"I'll call you," she said rolling her eyes. "Now, go!"

When the police arrived, Shannon was sobbing. The police became suspicious when Shannon claimed she and Steve were supposed to go on a cruise together, but the cruise tickets were issued to Dorothea and Steve Harper. A crime scene unit was called in to collect various samples, and the drink glasses. Dorothea arrived home in time to see Shannon being put in the patrol car crying hysterically wearing the fur coat.

Dorothea slept peacefully for the first time in years, but was awakened by her maid early the next morning.

"The police are here to talk to you, madam."

"Of course," she said trying to look sad. "My poor Steven," she kept repeating as she dressed and went down stairs.

"My poor Steven... she began, but was cut off sharply with the site of handcuffs.

"You have the right to remain silent," was all she heard --- the rest was just a blur of words.

"Shannon! You arrested Shannon for his murder. What are you doing? Do you realize who I am?" She was screaming hysterically.

"We know that your fingerprints are on the glass that your dead husband drank from that contained the drug that killed him. And the drug was purchased by you from an illegal distributor. We have a full description that matches you exactly," the police Lieutenant said calmly, know that with her money and power, he'd better do it exactly by the books, or he'd be writing parking tickets until retirement.

"It's not true. This is ridiculous! How could I have given him digitalis, when I wasn't even home!"

"No one mentioned digitalis, Mrs. Harper."

"I want my attorney."

"I would hope so," the lieutenant said as he led her to the police car.

Dorothea was silent as they drove to the police station. Her head was full of Nauni Coco's voice laughing and saying over and over again: "Now, who is whose servant?"

The wept as I lead her down the dimly lit hallway at midnight. "I'm telling you parson, he was already dead! How could I kill a dead man?" Then she began to laugh, and she laughed until the very end, saying "better be sure."



Thaddeus was a young child with what seemed to be appendicitis. His parents took him to St. Jude's hospital in Los Angeles, where the blood test came back normal. He was obviously in a great deal of pain, so the doctor prepared for exploratory surgery.

A tall blonde man with very sharp features, long ponytail and large eyes walked onto the surgical floor, along with his green haired assistant. A nurse stopped them and asked them to leave, but the guard just smiled, and then let them pass.

"Who the hell are you and what are you doing here?" barked the head doctor in the operating room.

"He shouldn't be in here," whined the male nurse. "He's not sterile."

The tall blonde man stared intently at the surgeon, who smiled, nodded and said, "Oh, yes, we've been waiting for you. I'd be honored to assist you, Dr. Zooid.

The surgery went smoothly and as Dr. Zooid left the operating room, another little boy caught his eye.

Eight year old Justin was hospitalized with epilepsy. He had the ability to see auras and sensed that Dr. Zooid and his green haired assistant were outworlders.

"He sees," whispered the assistant.

Dr. Zooid knew the boy was no threat and smiled.

"Interesting, don't you think, Julia?" he asks his assistant.

"Is Julia a woman?" asks the Justin.

"No, Julia is male. Why do you ask?"

"Oh, no reason," Justin smiled.

He touched the child and blinked rapidly. "Primitive, inexcusable. Why do we bother, Julia?"

Julia shrugged, backed into a cart and spilled some liquid. He waved a small circular hand held device over the spill and it disappeared.

"What planet are you from? Uranus, maybe?" Justin grinned.

Julia shook his head no and looked to Zooid.

"We're from Uranus.... when you think of Uranus, think of me. Yes, humor," Zooid smiled. Actually, we're from beyond the Milky Way, on the other side of many galaxies."

"You say too much, what if..." Julia began in a whisper.

"Now, now, Julia... Who would believe the child anyway? Adults of this planet treat their off-springs with less respect than they do their beloved pets. No matter," he said as he waved his hand, and Julia fell silent.

"Does your epilepsy bring you much unhappiness?"

"I don't have anything to compare it to. I was born this way. But I do envy my friends who can do anything, anytime without wondering when an attack will occur. I'm no longer embarrassed by it, which is good, I guess, but I do wish I was normal.

"Why on earth would you want that?" Zooid said with a nudge and a wink. "Humor!"

Justin laughed and shrugged.

"Just look around at all these worker ants. You see us for who we are, they only see what I allow them to see. They are blocked, and you are not."

"Does my electrolyte imbalance allow me to see?" He wondered aloud.

"Partly— I could have blocked you into confusion, but I think I have a more interesting plan, but first things, first." He firmly grabs the child by the shoulders and a soft vibrating sound started, louder and louder until the child yelped.

"Holy shit! That was cool!"

"You no longer have epilepsy. Simply tell your parents and doctor that you feel very strange. Make them run tests, because they of course will not believe you're cured. Call it a bonus."

"I'll make them believe. Boy, I feel like I could kick some serious ass and.... but why can I still know you if my electrolytes are in sink?"

"Because I choose for you to, and why do you suppose that is?"

The boy shrugs. "Probably something real interesting, I'd guess."

"Smart, don't you think, Julia?"

Julia nodded.

"There is a child here in the hospital that I just operated on for a simple hernia. During the operation, I implanted....

"Julia, please! If you don't stop interrupting, the next time I'll bring Roseanne!"

Julia sat down and looked away sadly.

"As I was saying... during the surgery, I implanted a micro-disc encapsulated in polymer. Over the period of thirty years it will cause an attack of appendicitis. When he's operated on, the cassette will be found and my mission will be a success."

"What if they throw the disc out with the rest of the goo?"

"When the disc is touched, the polymer will dissolve and the hologram will begin, in full color and loud enough for anyone within one-hundred feet to hear."

"Cool, but how can you be sure he'll live long enough to have the appendicitis attack, and all. It seems to me that you're leaving a lot to chance, aren't you?" Justin asked with a tilted head.

"Why? Is there a problem I've overlooked? Tell me," he commanded.

"Well, what if he's killed in a drive-by shooting, a car accident or maybe a freak accident at Magic Mountain? Then your message or whatever it is will be lost forever and earth will begin hurling towards Uranus. Sorry about the Uranus crack.... oops!" he laughed.

"Yes, humor... but I see your point. Alright, my bright child— what are my options?"

"Tell me the message and I can keep track of thing and if anything happens to him, I can deliver the message when the time is right," urged the boy, as his color suddenly improved to a robust pink.

"You will not like the message or the mission, and you are much too young to take on the responsibility. However, I have an alternative plan for you. Is that acceptable?"

"You bet! How often does someone like me get a chance to screw with the fate of a galaxy?"

"Or more importantly, Uranus?" said Zooid with a straight face.

The child laughed and extended his hand to shake. Zooid began talking in whispered tones as the child's eyes widen in shock...

Justin studied well and grew up to be a world class molecular scientist, working at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida. His passion was fulfilling the destiny Zooid granted him, and quantum mechanics, of course. He was on the radio, television and spoke at many charity functions around Florida. It wasn't often that a scientist had a fan club, but Justin was young and brilliant with rock star looks.

Over the course of thirty years he'd stayed close to Thaddeus' family, watching and waiting. It worried him a bit when the family suddenly packed up and moved to Florida, but all he had to do was send a letter of interest, and the Mayo Clinic extended him a lucrative offer of employment.

Then one month before the message was to be found and delivered, Thaddeus slipped and fell on a sandy boardwalk. He was taken to the hospital for an x-ray of his ankle. He had no broken bones, so he was given cortisone shot to help him walk. He was ready to leave the hospital, when he had an adverse reaction to the shot and within minutes, he died.

The deadline was just one month away, and Justin promised Zooid that if anything ever happened to Thaddeus, he'd recover the disc and take the information public. So good to his promise, he contacted the family about an autopsy... to determine the actual cause... for medical science. Much to his relief, the family agreed...

"What was the message, Justin?" asked Nathan sympathetically.

"It no longer matters, Nathan. You see, Zooid came from a planet where people were civilized, intelligent and responsible. He neglected to take into account our ignorance, fear and superstition."

"What about the message?"

"When the autopsy was being performed, the surgeon found the encapsulated disc. As he picked it up, the polymer fell away and the hologram appeared with Zooid standing on the open incision. It was really quite impressive," he smiled.

"You were there?" Nathan gasped.

"Of course I was there. My mission was to retrieve the disc."

"Then how did it all go wrong?"

"Just as I warned Zooid all those years ago — chance is a bitch. You can't plan for everything, and the superstitious nature of man is one of them."

Nathan gestured with open palms.

"The coroner's assistant, was a mere child from Cuba. He showed great promise and worked hand, but when the hologram started, he freaked. I lunged for the disc, but he got it first and took off running. He made it up to the roof of the hospital, which by that time was in turmoil from what they heard. He moved closer and closer to the edge, crying and praying in Spanish. I tried to explain what it was and that the devil had nothing to do with it."

"He screamed that I was evil and he would not let me win, just as half the hospital personnel came out on the roof. He held the disc out for everyone to see the evil apparition of the Prince of Darkness. As I lunged for the disc, he stepped back and fell to his death."

"With the disc, I presume?"

"Yes, and when he hit the pavement, the disc shattered, the image faded and the message was lost. The people of Florida broke into two factions: those who thought the man fell and it was just an unfortunate accident. And those who believed the Cubans that said I pushed him, and I'm getting away with it because I'm famous. Until a grand jury could be assembled, the city officials took me into protective custody and sent me here, to Galbraith prison for safe keeping."

"Oh, I see," muttered Nathan.

"No, you don't. You think it's just an excuse, tied neatly up in a bow. But it's terrible, or wonderful, depending on how you view it, and it simply doesn't matter!"

"Of course it matters, my son..."

"No Nathan, it doesn't. I am immune, but most of the world isn't."

"Immune to what?" frowned Nathan.

"You know that pesky flu that's ragging in China? It is actually a hybrid strain of the New Shanghai, and in exactly three weeks, it will be declared a pandemic. No one really should be surprised; the world is long over-due for one."

"How are you immune, and how do you know you are?" The priest started to sweat.

"It was a gift from Zooid. I haven't had any illness from the day I met him. I guess it was his insurance policy for the mission to be successful."

"But the CDC said they expect it to be contained and there is no need for worry....." his voice fell off with the realization that containing a plague that has already killed several hundred million people was simply meant to allay panic.

"Since the holographic-disc was not heard and seen by anyone who could do anything with it, the scientific breakthrough didn't happen, and the vaccinations were not done. Simply put, the world as we know it, will cease to exist in six months... except for me.'

"But why didn't you tell them and then..."

"I tried to tell them, over and over again, but I was called mad. By the time one of those pompous so-called scientists actually wakes up, it will be too late. Oh sure, 4 to 5 % of the populous will have a natural immunity, but the cholera, Ebola, black plaque and whatever, that will follow from the millions of dead bodies, will wipe out the rest, in a short order.

"Justin, you paint such a dire picture," whispered Nathan with a frown.

"Not for you, you'll already be dead. There will be no grand jury to hear the facts of my case. I will simply starve to death slowly, in my cell... no food, no water; nothing but dead bodies to keep me company."

"Can nothing be done?"

"Not unless you know some magic or voodoo, Father.

"Nauni Coco..." he mumbled.

Justin turned toward the cell wall and said no more. Resigned to his fate, he simply sighed.

Nathan left the cell with a heavy heart and headed down the hallway to see Amos. Everything seemed to be unusually quiet since the new strain of flu began in China. Everyone seemed to be hiding or just holding their breath as they waited.

"Amos, I'm glad you're still here," Nathan said staring intently. "I have to go— you know I do."

"I was hoping you'd change your mind."

"There's no longer any choice. Please take my journal and give it to the new priest, just in case."

"Nathan! Just what are you planning to do?"

"This time I will not leave without a promise of help! Time is running out."

"That is a very dangerous position to take, my friend. Nauni Coco is not to be taken lightly. She's been around since the beginning of time. She's an element, an integral part of nature, with no rules and no sense of humor. Whatever she is, she's not a muse.

"Please, Amos. Just take it! We all have nothing more to lose, my friend... And everything to gain."


Father Jericho, the new priest finished reading the journal and put it down on the table. The warden told him that Nathan went into the swamp on some kind of mission two week prior and never returned. The prison searched, but found nothing. The swamp was just too formidable and they had to give up the search.

Jericho sighed deeply as he glanced up at the television. The newsreader looked like he was fighting back tears as he read the evening news.

"The death rate has reached 72% worldwide. Even if those of us left do not succumb to the flu, the cholera, typhoid and everything else that results from the billions of dead bodies will make this a life-extinction event. Of course, there will be small pockets of human around the globe, but they'll go back to the dark ages when the cities decay and fall.

Wild animals will roam lose and multiply. No one will be around to maintain the electricity, water, government or law... and every other freaking thing we civilized people take for granted. I apologize for that... and to all of you.

This will be my last broadcast. I'm sure someone else will fill in, but I'm going home to be with my family and wait for the end. It is no longer a case of ‘will the world survive', but at what hour will we all cease to exist. May God have mercy on those who remain...."



Author Bio

Cheryl Gray has a background in advertising and public relations, as well as a Masters Certification in Project management from George Washington University School of Business. However, it's writing what some call dark and quirky novels that walk the line between the paranormal and reality, that feeds her soul.

When she's not writing fiction, she's writing her blog: The Sabertooth Sisterhood, [when you've evolved past, and outgrown the cougar stage and boy-toys.]




"Tales from Death Row" Copyright © 2012 Cheryl Gray. All rights reserved.
Published by permission of the author.


This page last updated 07-14-12.

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