Out in the real world, they were convicted criminals. Killers, rapists, monsters; all the things that go bump in the night. But inside these walls they were victims. And I was the only voice they had left.
Most people would say that they’re getting what they deserve. Because all those people see is the horrific image the media paints of the man being stabbed. A witch hunt to crucify the first scapegoat that happens along. What they don’t see is the glee in his eyes as he taunts the other man. The pleasure he takes in admitting the body of the other man’s wife will never be found.
So here I was. Six months and eight letters later at the Florida State Prison. Here to talk to Kyle Manning, to tell his story.
The lights above me were bright, harsh. Their constant buzzing echoed in the otherwise quiet room. A deputy stood just inside the doorway, his arms crossed over his chest, still and silent. I smiled at him, his stoic demeanor holding steady. I had already been waiting for over an hour and each minute lent more to my overworked imagination.
He’d be tall for sure. Huge and overbearing, veins p.opping out of his forehead. It was like being on a blind date. Except he wasn’t a school teacher. Or a graphic designer. Or a garbageman. Well, in all fairness he could have been any of those things. But not now. Now he was a convicted felon. On Death Row for the murder of a man he hardly knew.
The door finally clicked and swung open. My nerves did a swan dive into my stomach as two officers escorted him into the other half of the room. He wore an orange jumpsuit, his hands cuffed and chained to shackles that surrounded his ankles. A strange feeling washed over me as he trudged over to the bolted down stool. He was nothing like I had expected. His hair was long, wavy. Probably grown in the months he’d been locked up in this place. A days worth of shadow lined his jaw, setting off deep cheekbones and a wide mouth. But it was his eyes that caught me off guard. They were the tiredest eyes I had ever seen. Like everything inside him had given up and curled into a lifeless hazel cloud.
“Hello, I said.” He shook his head and brought his hands, still cuffed together, up to point at the mounted telephone.
Oh. I picked up the receiver from my side of the plexiglass and put it to my ear.
“Hello,” I said again. He looked at me through the window, his face impossible to read.
“My name’s Abigail Lawson.”
“I know who you are Ms. Lawson.” His voice was deep, gravelly, a southern drawl faint but still present. “You’re very persistent.”
“You don’t want my help.” It wasn’t a question.
“There’s nothing you can do.”
“They still haven’t found your wife.” That struck a chord. Pain flashed in those hazel eyes for a brief second and I think I fell in love with him a little bit even then. Everything about this man screamed innocent. The second I laid eyes on him only confirmed my gut instinct.
“And you think you can?” Ridicule fueled his words.
“If nothing else I can remind them not to forget about her. She’s out there somewhere. Dead or alive. Don’t let her die with you.”
“What do you want to know?”
I pulled out my tape recorder and hit record. “Start from the very beginning.”
Written for FFC52 week twenty 27 @ Thain in Vain
Prompt: A journalist writing a story about living on death row begins to fall for one of the inmates she’s interviewing.