Plumes of dark grey smoke arose in the distance, evidence of the arsonist’s hatred of the man. The man’s thumb had pressed on the syringe that delivered a fatal dose of poison to the condemned prisoner’s bloodstream. The person the State murdered by lethal injection was the arsonist’s father. The arsonist: Lemma Cartwright, the dead man’s daughter. Jacob Targus had volunteered to inject the lethal chemicals into the inmate’s body. By volunteering, Jacob became eligible for a three hundred dollar bonus. By performing the State’s death duty, Jacob became the target of Lemma Cartwright’s smoldering rage. And Jacob Targus suffered Lemma Cartwright’s immeasurable, burning hatred. Jacob’s agonized cremation at Lemma’s hand was Lemma’s first act of revenge against the State of Florida and a host of contributors to her father’s death.
Lemma Cartwright was sixteen years old when her father, Gideon Cartwright, was convicted of murdering Father Bryan McDaniels. The priest’s body was never found—only scraps of bone among charred remains—but the evidence of his death and the circumstantial evidence of Gideon’s guilt was enough to convince a Florida jury to convict Gideon and sentence him to death. Gideon’s steadfast denial of his guilt was enough to convince Lemma that the jury had convicted the wrong man.
“Dad, every single person involved in this horrible miscarriage of justice will pay with their lives,” Lemma told her father as he was escorted from the courtroom after sentencing.
Gideon Cartwright blew her a kiss as he was led away. “Honey, my appeals will go on for years. Don’t be foolish. Let the system work.”
And she did. She let the system work for seven years. Until it stopped working, when the final appeal was rejected and the governor refused to grant a reprieve. Four days after Jacob Targus carried out his murder-for-hire function. Lemma began to implement her plan to make everyone who played a part in her father’s death pay with their lives. She had tracked the roles of each player; she decided to execute her plan in reverse order of involvement. Jacob Targus was the last to fail her father, so she chose him as the first to pay for his inhumanity. The governor, who refused the reprieve, would be next on her list.
Governor Lawrence Throp was, in the words of Lieutenant Governor Brace Purifoy, “as stupid as the day is long.” Yet there he was, the top elected official in a state known far and wide as one of the most corrupt and intellectually bankrupt fiefdoms in the United States. One investigative reporter had labeled Throp “a genetic mistake, proof that the spawn of apes and spinach can thrive in a nutrient-rich petri dish fed by dung and malfeasance.” Not surprisingly, though, that investigative reporter’s body was found days later in his car. Beside his body, and next to a hose attached to the car’s muffler, was a “suicide note” that apologized for the genetic mistake comment and praised the governor for his “wisdom in leading Florida to be the best state in the whole United States.” The reporter’s colleagues wrote snide comments about the intellectual capacity of the people in the governor’s inner circle. “Even dimwits don’t buy that suicide note,” one journalist wrote, “but there’s nobody in the man’s circle-of-stupid smart enough to realize how obviously bogus it is.” Yet that situation, which took place a year before Gideon Cartwright’s execution, simply faded into the background. Only after Lawrence Throp’s body was discovered in a fifty-five gallon barrel filled with wilted spinach and the corpse of a dead chimpanzee was an investigation launched into the reporter’s death.
Okay, that’s enough exercise for today. I haven’t written much fiction in months…and months…and months. I’m out of practice. I hope my rusty fingers simply need some oil and a few high-energy workouts. Unlike most of my fiction, this little “story” is almost completely worked out in my head. But, fortunately, it’s only an outline up there, so I have plenty of room to maneuver and modify.
Onward. I need some breakfast fuel.