The reminiscing of a man on death row. The first was posted yesterday.
Synopsis: Currently on death row in prison, only two days to live, Joey Jackson was once a naive young man who falls madly in love with a girl living across the street. Following her to work one day, he applies for an usher job at the theater where she works. Currently, he's just been hired and waiting for, he hopes, the girl of his dreams to explain the job to him....
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I waited in the lobby, becoming ever more nervous alone in the large room. The lights were off, though a row of glass doors in front let in plenty of morning sunlight. There was no place to sit, so I had to stand, legs a little shaky in anticipation of actually talking to my idol, or at least I hoped it was to be her.

At that early hour, I figured there weren't many of us in the building. Fingers crossed, I hoped no old lady would emerge to take care of me.

A staccato clicking of heels sounded on a fake marble floor, coming closer. I placed one hand on the glass surface of a popcorn machine to steady myself.

I mentally thanked the Lord as I saw it was her, striding around a corner with a smile on that lovely face, a smile for me ... for me.

"Joey? Joey Jackson?"

"Y -- Yes, I'm JackJoe ... Joey."

"Come on to the office with me. I'll tell you your duties and we'll fill out your paperwork. Then," she said with a grin, "I’ll put your butt to work. There are a thousand things to clean and check before we open at noon."

I nodded and followed her across the lobby, around a corner and into a small office near the auditorium itself -- a dark spooky cavern without lights.

We sat on both sides of a desk littered with paperwork. Two large aluminum bags stood just inside the door.

"Those are tomorrow's movies. If you take the day shift, one of your jobs will be to pick them up between the sets of doors out front and then up to the projectionist. His room is on the third floor. The movies are on a circuit and changed every two or three days."

It took a while for the pay records, such as filling out name, address and social security number.

"1272 Elm Street? Why, that's right across the street from my place, isn't it? What are the chances?"

"I know. I can see.... Is tha ... that so, ma'am?"

"You can call me Diane, but Mr. Temple is always Mr. Temple."

She then filled me in on my usher job. It was simple, riding herd on customers as they sat watching movies. I'd walk the aisles, quieting kids and separating lovers, helping older people to their seats and keeping trouble down. It would be easy, she said since, like a policeman, troublemakers would feel my authority and behave when they saw me in uniform.

"Since we're hiring two new people, including you, you have a choice of either shift." She went on to explain, "Morning is from eight to five, and afternoon shift is four to whenever the last movie ends and the cleaning people arrive, usually one in the morning or thereabouts."

It was a no-brainer. "Morning for me, ma'a ... Ms. Diane." Of course, I wanted to work with her, and still watch her window at night.

"All right. There's plenty of work to keep you busy until the first showing. Come on."

The rest of the day was a blur. Diane had me take the new 35mm film cannisters up to the projectionist. There was a broken window on the upstairs front for me to fix, as well as wash others. Then, changing letters on the marquee took until lunchtime. I had time for a couple of sandwiches at the lunch counter, it just then opening with the employees there readying for the daily chaos.

By five minutes after noon, the place was jumping. I looked for Diane but couldn't find her. I started my tours of the auditorium.

Like a lovesick puppy, I took every opportunity to talk to Diane. There was no way she could not know of my infatuation. At night, I continued watching her window until she retired. It might have been my imagination, but she seemed to stand by that window a lot, looking over at mine.

At work, she was friendly but very domineering. Before long, she stopped making suggestions, and they became terse demands. "Joey. Empty that trash. Now," and the like. Diane also began teasing me, sexually. I didn't realize it at the time, even welcomed the attention. As I found out later, it was to further her plans.

That was the way it went for many months. It was nearing Christmas and the theater was gearing up for extra hours, when Diane called me into her office.

"I'm hiring four temporary ushers for the holidays," she told me, "and need a supervisor. I can't be here all day. The job means more money, hours, and responsibilities. If you want it, you'll have to put in at least a twelve-hour shift, seven days a week."

Damn! Of course I wanted more money, but I wouldn't be able watch her window.

"Your job will be to keep an eye on the others, on both shifts. We'll have to spend a lot of time together. You'd sorta be my assistant."

Now, that was more like it. I might spend time sitting with her, way in the back of the theater, in the dark....

"Joey. Wake up. You want the job, or not?"

"Yeah. Sure I do ... Diane."

The following few months were happy ones. I spent a lot of my time with Diane, even rubbing against her when I could. We'd even ... really ... sit and talk for minutes at a time. After Christmas, Mr. Temple let me keep my supervisor job, though for less hours -- and I became an alternate if someone didn't show up for work. Sometimes, I could get off for awhile to walk Diane home.

She even showed me her apartment once, to help move furniture around. When she wasn't looking, I swiped little items of clothing out of a clothes hamper. Washing up before leaving I went through the bathroom cabinets and trash can, finding a lock of hair. They found a place of prominence in my lonely room, brightening it, at least to my eyes.

Oh the toil we lost and the spoil we lost
And the excellent things we planned,
Belong to the woman who didn't know why
(And now we know she never knew why)
And did not understand.

During the next June, two things happened. The first was that Diane began hanging around with this big tough-looking guy. They were very close and she never introduced him to me, but I learned his name was Ted. Once in a while, when I saw them together, he would look at me and grin. I didn't like that penetrating look, not at all, but he was a big guy ... you know.

The other thing was ... well, I'm sure things are different now, but our theater had this big safe upstairs in Mr. Temple's office. During the week, Saturday night through the weekend and on till Friday, he'd put the receipts in it after he and Diane counted them. Also, that was before credit cards or computers. Most of the factories in town paid every other week, and in cash.

That meant the factories needed a lot of paper money every Friday. For some reason, what the bank we used did was send an armored car on Friday morning, before the theater opened. They'd pick up our weekly proceeds to take with them and leave the factory money in our safe. One of Diane's duties was to sign for it. Mine was to help the guards carry the heavy bags up the stairs, and then sign that I saw a certain number of locked bags go into the safe. Both Diane and myself would shake the padlocks on the bags to make sure they were secure, then we'd lock the safe.

A few hours later, an armored car from another company would come and take the money, again with a lot of signing, checking the locks, and the like. It wasn't all that much trouble -- only one of the myriad of tiny tasks I had in that job. I think the theater got paid for the service.

That was where the trouble came in, though. I think it was Ted that talked Diane into stealing that money. She was too nice a girl to think of any crime like that by herself.

He didn't like me, but figured he'd need another man for the job. Let me tell you, some of those bags were heavy, and there were a lot of them.

Diane's job in the robbery was to open the safe and to get Mr. Temple out of the building. Mr. Temple made a point of being there when the money was dropped off and picked up. We'd only have a frame of a few hours to take it, and get away, before the second armored car service showed up. If everything went off right, nobody would be hurt and we'd have up to three hours of running before the money was missed. If everything worked right. If it had, I wouldn't be here, on death row....

***

I have to laugh. This police magazine article has me down as a hardened gangster. At one point, I bitch-slap Ted when he drops his pistol by mistake. He's a real klutz in the magazine story. In real life, I'd never have had the nerve. He was so much bigger and meaner than me.

Here's a paragraph where I shoot down Mr. Temple. Pure bullshit. It says....

"Please, Joey," the girl pleaded, "don't kill Mr. Temple. He's been a good boss, and never hurt you. Don't shoo--"

Joey Jackson, avoiding the arms of both his confederates,
pressed a large heavy .45 cal. pistol into his boss's stomach,
blowing his guts over the desk and wall behind it.

Ted Adams grabbed Jackson's arm, tearing the gun away.
"Why, Joey? Why did you do it, kid?"

"Screw that old man. He would have called the cops,
for sure." Jackson sneered.

Diane Peters, the gun moll, was more pragmatic.
"Well, unfortunate ... but it's done.

"Grab the loot and let's get out'a here," from Ted.


Ha, ha, what a laugh. Where was that writer standing when it went down? I wonder. Ted, the bastard, isn't around. I did shoot him, though Diane shot Mr. Temple. It wasn't her fault. The gun had a hair-trigger.

I'm the only one they could have gotten the story from, and I didn't say anything like that, though I was convicted of both murders. The way it actually happened was....

I was helping bring the factory money upstairs and our receipts were still sitting on the desk. We'd bring their factory money up, and then they'd take our receipts down with them. The bags were from two different banks and different colors so they couldn't be mixed up.

Diane was waiting by the safe, Ted down in Diane's office. She sent Mr. Temple somewhere or other. I have no idea where. When everyone had signed all the papers, the guards left with the receipts. Hearing them leave, Ted came up, towing a hand truck up the stairs, bumping on every step.

He and I had the thing loaded and Diane had just closed the empty safe, when we heard someone behind us. Mr. Temple.

"What's going on? Why isn't that money in the safe, and who the devil is this guy?" Meaning Ted.

"Joey, go find some rope somewhere," Ted ordered me. I looked over at lovely Diane, seeing her putting on rubber gloves and grinning.

She nodded at me. "Just you do it, Joey."

Ted grabbed at Mr. Temple, who was lifting a telephone receiver. Seeing him coming, the manager picked up the entire telephone and threw it at Ted. The fight was on, a short middle-aged fat man against a young tough.

Before I could leave, I heard a loud "Blam." It was much louder than in the movies.

I looked back and saw Diane standing, holding a pistol in her hand. I didn't know calibers from kumquats, but it was a big son-a-bitch. "Sorry. I was only trying to scare him," she said.

The poor girl, I thought. It could happen to anyone.

"Screw it. Let's go, people," Ted said.

On the way to the narrow staircase, Diane passed me the pistol. "Hide this somewhere," she said. “When you got time, wipe off the prints and throw it away." I nodded, jamming it under my belt.

It took me and Ted awhile to get that heavy hand-truck downstairs. I don't know how those armored-car guards made it seem so easy. With him on top, holding the handle, I braced the wheels from below as we thumped down, one step at a time. Once on the main floor, we manhandled it up into the empty cavernous auditorium and down to an emergency exit. I used my key to turn off the door alarm and we wheeled the money out to where his car was parked.

As Ted and I tossed moneybags into the trunk, Diane found an empty paper shopping bag in the backseat. She stuffed a smaller bank bag with "$5" stamped on it into the sack and gave it to me.

"Me and Ted have to go, Joey. I know where you live and I'll bring your share over in a few days, after the thing blows over. Nobody'll suspect you of anything." She hugged me close.

I could smell her and feel soft breasts pressing against my chest. I was in seventh heaven, never thinking anything was wrong with her reasoning, comforted by being in and feeling her presence.

"You just go on back to work. When anyone asks, you know nothing. You helped bring the money in, then were working in the basement. Remember," she said kissing me on the cheek, "you know nothing."

When she stepped back, my face felt hot. I know I must have been blushing.

"It ain't gonna be like that, honey." Ted also had a pistol, a small one, aimed at Diane. "Why don't you both go back inside, you and the dunce? I'm keeping it all." He waved us toward the still-open door to the theater. "Unless you want to die, that is?" He was grinning.

"Wha ... What can I tell the cops?" she asked, backing up. “You can't do this to me, honey.”

"Not my problem. Now move it."

Diane, tears in her eyes, turned toward me. "For Christ sake. Do something, Joey. Shoot him."

I was scared, really frightened. I pulled her gun out of my pocket. Shakily, I pointed it at him with both hands.

"What's the wimp gonna dooooo, uh, twinky? You gonna shoot the bad man, are you?" He laughed, swinging his pistol toward Diane, who was still backing up, face going pale.

I still don't know, exactly. Was it the humiliation, the fear for my own life, the excitement, or to protect lovely, innocent, Diane? I don't know, but I shot the bastard, over and over, until the gun did nothing but click. By that time, he was on the ground, dead.

Diane recovered first. Thank God she was alive and unhurt.

"Get back inside, Joey. I gotta get out of here. Remember, your house in a few days."

She waved goodbye, throwing me a kiss. After she drove off in Ted's car, I stood for I don't know how long, looking at the body. It really shook me up. I'd actually killed a man and, in a few days, would be rich and have Diane to myself. Sure I would. When pigs fly.

The rest was like in the article. I told the cops that I didn’t even hear a shot. I’d been cleaning the basement all that time. They seemed to believe it, thinking me too dumb and naive to do such a dastardly deed.

That same night, before I could get rid of her pistol, someone called the police about me. I never did find out who but do have my suspicions. After all, only four of us knew I was involved, two dead and it wasn't me.

The cops came in, flooding my small room. They found the gun -- with my prints still all over it -- and the bag of money.

I still have the hank of hair. For some reason, they let me keep that....

The fool we stripped to his foolish hide
(Even as you and I!)
Which she might have seen when she threw him aside--
(But it isn't on record the lady tried)
So some of him lived but the most of him died--
(Even as you and I!)

***

I've finished my obligatory "last meal" and am lying down, knowing it won't have time to digest by the time I reach the prison morgue.

It's slightly uncomfortable wearing rubber shorts under an orange monkey suit. They're rubbing my butt raw and whatever is coating them feels hot as hell, but the warden doesn't want to dirty his nice leather seat. Juice goes in and shit comes out. Hot fried shit. Shit is the fina--

"The Father is here to see you, Jackson." It's the punk guard, interrupting my contemplation.

"Tell him to forget it. I'd rather contemplate shit."

"You said you wanted him?"

Yeah. I had a moment of weakness. "Now I say I don't."

"Here. You might want this." He threw a small box onto the foot of the bed. "Your final mail."

It's a cylindrical cardboard container, eight-inches long and a few wide, clumsily wrapped in fancy Christmas paper. I pick it up. It must have been pretty before the censors downstairs got their hands on it.

Inside is a single red rose made of plastic. The note inside says only, "D". Somehow, no tears come to my eyes.

And it isn't the shame and it isn't the blame
That stings like a white hot brand.
It's coming to know that she never knew why
(Seeing at last she could never know why)
And never could understand.
– Rudyard Kipling.

The End. The first half was posted yesterday.
Charlie