Doil's voice was frantic. "That's 'cause I heard about them killings, watched the fuckin' TV an' figured, because of them others, they might think it was me. But it wasn't. Father, I swear! That's what I want forgiveness for. I didn't do it!"
Ainslie persisted, "Or is it because you think the Ernsts were important people and "
Doil cut in, shouting, his face flushed. "No! NO, no! It ain't fuckin' true. I done them others, but I don't wanna die blamed for what I never done."
Was it a lie or the truth? Superficially, Doil was convincing, Ainslie thought, but it was like flipping a coin for the answer.
He pressed on. "Let's clear up something else. Do you admit you killed the Tempones?"
"Yeah, yeah. I done that."
Throughout his trial, despite overwhelming evidence against him, Doil had insisted he was innocent.
"About all those killings the fourteen you admit to. Are you sorry for those?"
"Fuck 'em all! I don't give a shit! If you wanna know, I enjoyed coin' 'em. Just forgive me them others I never done!"
The demand made no sense, and Ainslie wondered if Doil should, after all, have been declared insane before his trial.
Still trying to reason, Ainslie said, "If you didn't murder Mr. and Mrs. Ernst as you claim then you don't need forgiveness. In any case, without contrition and penance for all you've done, a priest could not give you absolution, and I'm not a priest."
Even before the words were finished, Doil's eyes were pleading. When he spoke, his voice was choked with fear. "I'm gonna die! Do somethin' for me! Gimme somethin'!"
It was Lieutenant Hambrick who moved first. The young, black prison officer confronted Ainslie. "There's less than five minutes left. Whatever you were or weren't, or are now, doesn't matter. You still know enough to do something for him. Put your goddam pride in your pocket and do it!"
A good man, Hambrick, Ainslie thought. He also decided that, true or false, nothing would persuade Doil now to change his story.
He groped in his memory, then said, "Repeat after me: 'Father, I abandon myself into Your hands; do with me what you will.' "
Doil reached out as far as his belt-secured handcuffs would allow. Ainslie moved forward, and Doil placed his hands on Ainslie's. Doil repeated the words clearly, his eyes locked on Ainslie.
Ainslie continued, "'Whatever You may do, I thank You: I am ready for all, I accept all.' "
It was Foucauld's Prayer of Abandorlmerlt left for all sinners by the French nobleman Viscount Charles-Eugene de Foucauld, once a soldier, then a humble priest remembered for his life of study and prayer in the Sahara Desert. Ainslie hoped his own memory would last. He took it line by line.
"Let only Your will be done in me,
and in all Your creatures -
I wish no more than this,
O Lord, Into Your hands I commend my soul."
There was a second of silence. Then Hambrick announced, "It's time." He told Ainslie, "Mr. Bethel is waiting outside. He'll take you to your witness seat. Let's all move quickly."
The two prison guards had already raised Elroy Doil to his feet. Strangely composed, as compared with his mood of a few moments earlier, he let himself be led, walking awkwardly in his leg irons, toward the door.
Ainslie preceded Doil. A waiting guard outside, with the name tag BETHEL, said, "This way, sir." At a fast pace now, they moved back the way Ainslie had come, through concrete corridors, then circuiting the execution area and pausing at a plain steel door. Beside it a sergeant guard held a clipboard.
"Your name, please?"
The sergeant checked off the name on the clipboard. "You're the last. We saved a hot seat for you."
Behind him, Bethel said, "You'll make the man nervous, Sarge. It's not the hot seat, Mr. Ainslie."
"No, not that one," the sergeant agreed. "That's reserved for Doil, but he said to give you a good view." He regarded Ainslie curiously. "Also said you are God's avenging angel. That true?"
"I helped get him convicted, so maybe that's the way he sees it." Ainslie did not enjoy the conversation, but he supposed that if you worked in this grim place, a light touch now and then was needed.
The sergeant opened the door; Ainslie followed him inside. The scene ahead, with only minor variations, was as it had been three years earlier. They were at the rear of the witness booth, and immediately in front of them were five rows of metal folding chairs, most already filled. There would, Ainslie knew, be the twelve official witnesses whom he observed soon after his own arrival today, about the same number from the news media, and perhaps a few special visitors approved by the state governor.
Surrounding the witness booth on three sides was an expanse of reinforced and soundproof glass. Visible through the glass and directly ahead was the execution chamber, its central feature the electric chair made of solid oak, with only three legs, and once described as "rearing back like a bucking horse." The chair, built by convicts in 1924 after Florida's legal form of execution changed from hanging to electrocution, was bolted to the floor. It had a high back and a broad seat covered with thick black rubber. Two vertical wooden posts formed a headrest. Six wide leather straps were designed to secure a condemned prisoner so tightly that any movement was impossible.
Five feet from the chair, and also visible through the glass, was the executioner's booth, a walled enclosure with a rectangular slit for the executioner to peer through. By this time the executioner would already be in place hooded and robed, his identity a guarded secret. At the exact moment he received a signal from outside, the executioner would turn a red switch inside the booth, sending two thousand volts of electricity into the electric chair and its occupant. In the execution chamber a few figures were milling around. A prison officer studied his watch, comparing it with a large wall clock with a sweep second hand. The clock showed the time as 6:53.
Within the witness booth a faint hum of conversation ceased, most of the assembled people watching curiously as the guard sergeant led Ainslie to the front row and pointed to an empty central chair. "That's for you."
Ainslie had already noticed that Cynthia Ernst was in the seat immediately to his left, though she neither acknowledged him nor looked at him, keeping her eyes directed forward. Glancing beyond, Ainslie was startled to see Patrick Jensen, who did look over and gave the slightest smile.
Abruptly, the execution chamber came alive. Five of the men who had been waiting in the chamber formed a line. A prison lieutenant in charge stood in front; behind him were two guards, a doctor carrying a small leather medical bag, and a lawyer from the state attorney's office. The prison electrician, surrounded by thick, heavy cables that he would shortly connect, was behind the electric chair.
In the witness booth a guard called out, "Silence, please! No talking." What little conversation there had been ceased entirely.
Seconds later a side door in the execution chamber opened and a tall man with stern features and closecropped, graying hair entered. Ainslie recognized him as the prison warden, Stuart Foxx.
Immediately behind the warden was Elroy Doil, staring fixedly at the ground as if unwilling to face what he knew must lie ahead.
Ainslie noticed that Patrick Jensen had reached out and was holding Cynthia's hand. Presumably consoling her, he thought, for the murders of her parents.
His eyes went back to Doil, and Ainslie was reminded again of the difference between the once robust, powerful figure of the past, and the pathetic, tremulous creature he had since become.
Doil was still restricted by leg irons, which allowed him to take only small, awkward steps. A prison guard was on each side of him, a third guard in the rear. Each of Doil's hands was secured to one of the guards alongside by an "iron claw" manacle device a single handcuff with a horizontal metal bar that enabled each guard to totally control one hand, so that any kind of resistance was impossible.
Doil was wearing a clean white shirt and black trousers. A jacket matching the trousers would be placed on him for burial. His shaved head shone where electrically conductive gel had been applied moments earlier.
The small procession had come down what was known as the "death watch corridor," passing through two armored doors, and Doil, when he chose to look up, would see for the first time the electric chair and the audience that had come to watch him die.
Finally he did, and at the sight of the chair, his eyes widened and his face froze with terror. He halted impulsively, averting his head and body as if to bolt away, but it was a split-second gesture only. The guards on both sides instantly twisted the iron claws, causing Doil to yelp with pain. All three guards then closed in on him, propelling him to the chair, and while he struggled in vain, they lifted him into it.
In his helplessness, Doil looked intensely at the red telephone on a wall to the right of the electric chair. As every condemned prisoner knew, it represented the only chance of a last-minute reprieve from the state governor. Doil stared at the phone, as if pleading for it to ring.
Suddenly he turned toward the glass separating him from the witness booth and began shouting hysterically. But because the glass was soundproof, Ainslie and the others could hear nothing. They simply watched Doil's face contort with rage.
He's probably ranting about Revelation, Ainslie thought grimly.
In earlier days the sounds within the execution chamber were transmitted to witnesses through microphones and speakers. Now, all that witnesses heard was the warden's reading of the death warrant, his prompting of the condemned for any last words, and whatever brief statement followed. Then for a moment Doil stopped and scanned the faces in the witness booth, causing several to fidget uncomfortably. When his eyes fell on Ainslie, Doil's expression changed to pleading, his lips framing words that Ainslie understood. "Help me! Help me!"
Ainslie felt beads of sweat break out on his forehead. What am I doing here? he asked himself. I don't want to be involved in this. Whatever he's done, it's wrong to kill anyone this way. But there was no means of moving. In a bizarre fashion, within this prison Ainslie and the others with him were prisoners, too, until Doil's execution was concluded. Then, when a guard on the execution floor moved, blocking Doil's view, Ainslie felt a flood of relief, while reminding himself that Doil had just confessed to fourteen vicious murders and dismemberments.
For a moment, he realized, he had fallen into the same warped trap as the mawkish protesters outside the prison caring about the murderer while forgetting his dead, savaged victims. Still, if cruelty was an issue, Ainslie thought, these last few minutes were probably the cruelest of all. No matter how fast the prison staff worked, the final procedures all took time. First, Doil was pulled back into the chair by the guards on either side and held there while a wide chest strap was cinched and secured; now, whatever else he did, he could no longer move his body. Next his feet were seized and pulled down into T-shaped wooden stocks, then secured by ankle straps so that neither foot could shift at all. More conductive gel was applied this time to his previously shaved right leg; after that a leadlined leather ground pad was put around the leg four inches above the ankle and laced tightly. Meanwhile the remaining straps had been cinched and tightened, including a chin-strap that held Doil's head immovably against the two upright wooden posts at the back of the chair. The brown leather death cap, resembling an ancient Viking helmet, which held a copper conductive plate inside, was poised above the chair like a Damoclean sword about to be lowered . . .