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The gates to Walla Walla are lit up so bright it could pass as midday, the media making the scene a world stage as a few dozen people on each side of the entrance shout their personal beliefs towards the cameras.
That is until they spot my attorney’s car approaching, their eyes now lasering in toward the back seat they know I’m in. It’s a wave of energy I’ve grown accustomed to over the years, half of it filled with so much hate, the other half, love and understanding. For the most part I’ve trained myself to zone out all, the barrier of my sunglasses keeping me on my side, the barriers set up by authorities keeping the protestors and supporters on their sides.
I remove my barrier long enough for the guard at the gate to verify that my face matches the one on the I.D., the face he has seen countless times on the news. He looks at me like they all do, through eyes of conjecture.
The gate now opens, the crowds on both sides pushing in despite the barriers and guards holding them back. This is what I fear most, being right in the middle of it as we try to get from point A to point B, the intensity of it all feeling as though it will crush you. I shut my eyes but can still see what my ears hear, what my body feels. The angry faces, pounding fists, opposing signs like Eye for an Eye and Thou Shall Not Kill.
Finally we enter the grounds, but a new unease hits me as we drive towards the building I have fought so hard to get to. The pit of my stomach is now twisting, my hands beginning to tremble.
Once inside we’re escorted down long cold dim corridors, our footsteps echoing off the surrounding stone that was built for one purpose. A purpose I share with it.
We enter a room filled with about a dozen witnesses, all seated in plastic chairs and facing a plate glass window which encloses a chamber, on the other side a gurney with distinguishable armrests. One I have imagined countless times.
All eyes follow me as I’m ushered toward a side door and through it, somewhat relieved when it is shut behind me.
But then I see the setup, multiple IV lines, each attached to a syringe, a bag of saline solution hanging above them all, a curtain just a foot away acting as a barrier to where all those tubes go.
I’m seated in a plastic chair, like the ones they have outside for the witnesses. With the chamber being quite small, the only other place to rest my eyes is upon a phone and P.A. system. That phone is my biggest concern right now. That it will ring and stop all that is supposed to happen. I turn away from it, trying not to feed it my nervous energy.
Back to the syringes and their lines. With all the instruction I’ve had to have with them over the past few weeks handling them has become second nature, so much so that I believe I can even administer them in my sleep. Then again, they’re already there, just as much a part of my nightly dreams as Nick and Annie.
The clock on the wall is quite big, no doubt to be part of the precision.
One hour and forty-one minutes left. How am I supposed to sit here for that long alone in my thoughts. I have to tear my gaze from those ticking hands, but to where, back to the I.V.s? That phone which threatens everything?
I close my eyes, only to see more images I’d rather not. The ones that have given me nightmares over the past ten years, the ones I’ve had to absorb myself into entirely.
The interviews, the petitions, the filings, the court hearings.
It took half that time to pass Annie’s Law, and another half decade to get the then-governor’s moratorium defeated, all while Garcia exhausted his appeal process.
I’ve had to look at my beloved husband and precious daughter’s pictures every day for the past four thousand and nine days in the pursuit to get justice for them, each and every time being taken back to the worst day of my life. Coming home to find Nick in the hallway soaked in red and cold as ice, the trail of blood leading from the kitchen showing that he did all he could to try to get to the bathroom before his body just gave out and wouldn’t work anymore.
The bathroom; where I rushed in to find my absolute worst fear, my precious Annie floating face down, as blue and red as her father with almost as many stab wounds, the destruction of her innocence in every way possible instantly taking me down to my knees as I pulled her into my embrace and erupted in anguish.
Only after intense therapy was I able to breathe enough, to think enough to start fighting for Annie’s Law, which would allow a loved one the right to become the executioner of the monster who took their life away. Their life, their love, their everything.
And now here I am, the long and hard fight bringing me to the doorstep of redemption.
From past heartache I’m abruptly yanked back to the present by footsteps of the condemned and those who surround him, including the warden, who is the only one to walk around the curtain that separates us, the veil of death that I’ve been told must stay in place keeping me from seeing Garcia as he’s laid down and strapped to the gurney.
“How are you holding up?” whispers the warden as he embraces one of my hands with both of his. Such consoling takes me back to Nick and Annie’s funeral.
“I’m fine.” I say, matching his hushed tone. But I fear he knows the truth, that I’m barely keeping it together, convinced that my shaking knees are as loud as they feel.
He explains the procedure in brief one last time, including the threat of that phone ringing. That the line of communication is open between the governor’s mansion and here, and that a stay of execution can come at any time leading up to carrying out the sentence.
I can only hope it does not.
In gloved hands, the state’s executioner and I step up to the table of I.V.s and syringes. Near retirement age, he is only at my side to assist, to flush the tubes after each injection and to take over just in case I cannot follow through.
The curtain which drapes the plate glass window of the death chamber can be heard being drawn back, the assembled witnesses now able to see what I cannot; Garcia breathing his last few minutes of life. But I can hear the breaths. They sound controlled, and unusually loud.
Is this intentional? His last defiant attempt to get me to break?
Maybe he knows something I don’t. That that phone is going to ring and add another ten years to my life sentence of sorrow.
If this were to happen would I have enough time to reach for that last full syringe and thrust those deadly chemicals on into the I.V. before anyone could stop me?
I inch my hand closer to that third syringe, the aging executioner’s peripheral vision not catching sight of my subtle movement.
A guard stationed at the P.A. system flips the mic on,
The only thing keeping me upright is the strength of Nick and Annie, my concentration more on them than on the fact that I’m about to kill someone. No, this won’t bring them back, but it is an act of justice that they deserve. An act of justice that I also deserve.
My baby girl…
Both taken from me, ripped away from my heart by this evil person.
I deserve this.
The guard on the P.A. reads the court order. Although all in attendance know who will be administering the lethal cocktail my name is not mentioned, something I am grateful for.
Garcia is now asked if he has any final words.
“Let her see me,” his voice echoes through the P.A. system and through my being. At first I think I’ve misunderstood. He couldn’t have said-
“It’s what she wants.
“It’s what I want.
“It’s my final wish.
“She deserves this. She has the right.”
I look to the warden with focused eyes and slightly nod.
He walks over to the curtain and pulls it back, Garcia’s head already turned my way.
As he turns back around the warden gives me the signal to begin the execution. The first syringe I pick up is for the anesthetic, Sodium Thiopental, which is the first mercy drug, as it will render Garcia unconscious.
I wrap my hand around the syringe and look him in the eyes. I’ll never really know why my face is the last image he has chosen to see but I match his stare, refusing to shed a tear as I push the medicine into the I.V.
My assistant flushes.
Garcia is the one to break the eye contact, his lids becoming too heavy to hold open. They dart to the left and right, then back at me…
Before they have to give in to the last sleep.
I look down to the second syringe, the second mercy drug, Pancuronium bromide, which will paralyze him, ensuring he won’t feel any pain. A mercy my loved ones were not shown.
My assistant flushes.
I now take hold of the third syringe, the Potassium Chloride. I no longer feel the need to look at this abomination, for we are now staring each other down soul-to-soul.
Slowly I push the deadly chemical out of the needle and into the final line, watching as it travels all the way to his arm.
I now see it in my mind’s eye, entering his veins, limbs, each and every cell. Being it as it invades his heart and causes cardiac arrest.
Being the justice for my innocent Nick and Annie.
Being the final act that will allow me to finally let go. Not forget, never forget, but to finally have such a heavy burden lifted from my spirit.
And with such affirmation I let the syringe go.