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Mrs. Shaeffer's Last Days

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Bh5

Assistant executioner
Hi all,
It's been some time since I've written anything, but this story idea was twirling around my head for some time. I concede it's nothing revolutionary or fantastical, but I hope you enjoy it nonetheless. I'll post a few short installments each day. As always, please comment to let me know what you like or dislike. Without further ado:


Mrs. Juliet Shaeffer was the quintessential model of a homemaker. She was of average height but of slight frame. Her bust was larger than what one might expect from a woman of her body type, but she always dressed modestly to hide her figure. Her complexion was fair, and her facial features looked as if they had been chiseled out of white marble. Piercing blue eyes accentuated these features, and well kempt blond hair completed the framing of her face.

Juliet rarely spoke first in conversation, but always appeared to have a happy disposition. She had been a cheerleader in high school, and later the vice president of a sorority at a private women’s college. Many boys, and later men, made advances on the beautiful young woman, but she had always politely declined. She made a special allowance only for David Schaeffer, whom she had grown up with. Although David wasn’t the man of her dreams, she happily accepted his marriage proposal just after her college graduation, and the couple moved in together shortly thereafter.

Since then, Juliet had devoted her life to the care of David and their life together. Her days were spent cleaning and running errands to keep the home nice for her husband. In her free time, she made sure to keep abreast of all the latest happenings and rules that governed the lifestyle of a conservative middle class woman. Juliet seemed outwardly content with this life. She kept convincing herself of that too even when David decided that he didn’t want children, and she only complained sparingly in private to her friends when David uprooted them from their comfortable life in the city to the country parish where David’s company was building a new textile mill. Juliet’s inner emotions only boiled to the surface when she drank.

One spring evening, Juliet and David invited several old friends from the city to visit. Wine was poured graciously, and Juliet’s annoyance at David mounted as the cool wine was tossed back with abandon. The couple got in a row, much to the amusement of some of the others in attendance, which moved upstairs as David tried to extricate himself from further embarrassment at the hands of his wife. When he gripped Juliet’s forearm to keep her from drinking more, she shoved him hard in the chest instinctively. Juliet saw her husband lose his balance on the stair runner, and tumble backwards down the spiraled staircase. She heard a woman scream, and one of the men ran outside to get help from the doctor who lived down the street. When she saw the blood coming out of his mouth and nose, Juliet knew instantly she had killed her husband.
 

Bh5

Assistant executioner
Juliet sat listlessly on the stairs as her friends tried to console her until an ambulance arrived nearly half an hour later. She was disappointed when the medical personnel informed her that they didn’t have the authority to take her into custody when she asked. A sheriff’s deputy pulled up a few moments later. The young officer looked confused when Juliet offered her wrists to him and requested that she be charged with murder before he had even stepped foot out of his vehicle. Almost reluctantly, the deputy cuffed her extended wrists and carefully coaxed Juliet into the backseat as her neighbors looked on in a mix of disbelief and curiosity.

Juliet spent an hour pacing around one of the empty holding cells in the parish jail before the Sheriff could be contacted. When he was told of the situation, the Sheriff agreed to charge Mrs. Schaeffer with the murder of her husband; if anything because he was unsure how else to proceed. Juliet’s mugshot was taken by the deputy, but she was led out to the reception area instead of back to the cell. Her friend Rosalind Smith stood waiting for her in flannel pajama bottoms and a t- shirt. One of the neighbors had called when Juliet was arrested, and Rosalind had raced down to the jail to post her bail. The sheriff had settled on the arbitrary figure of $500 for bail since he was still unsure on the details of the arrest, and since both Mrs. Schaeffer and Mrs. Smith were generally regarded highly within the community.

Rosalind drove quickly out of the town center in case the sheriff changed his mind. The drive was only 15 minutes but felt like an eternity. The truck’s radio softly crooned in the background as they sped along empty streets. The women exchanged a hug over the center console when they arrived back at the Schaeffer residence. Juliet exited wordlessly and watched as Rosalind threw the pickup into reverse before heading back to her own family. The lights were still on in the house, but the guests had long since left. Juliet cleaned up the dishes from the evening, and poured the rest of the wine down the drain. Before she went to bed, she made a concerted effort to clean the hardwood of the dried blood stains.
 

windar

Teller of Tales
This is interesting. I write crime fiction here now and then and I approve of the guilty party immediately turning themselves in. That leaves the cops more time for the important stuff-donuts and coffee and bad jokes.

I look forward to reading more.
 

Barbaria1

Rebel Leader
Staff member
The sheriff was certainly accommodating. Nice story start. Keep posting.
 

Bh5

Assistant executioner
The trial wasn’t scheduled for another two weeks, and in the meantime Juliet tried to continue about her normal routine. She kept the home spotless although now she wasn’t cleaning for anyone but herself. News of David’s unexpected death had traveled quickly, but people still treated the new widow respectfully. Aside from a few sideways glances and whispered remarks in the grocer, Juliet’s reputation in the community was virtually unchanged.

When the trial began, Juliet plead guilty to the murder charge unprompted and without consulting her lawyer. Judge Hartmann, in his nearly four decades on the bench, had never seen a defendant plead guilt to such serious charges willingly. To the shock of all present, Juliet confirmed her plea without hesitation when Judge Hartmann asked if she wanted to reconsider.

Crime was rare in the parish, and the most serious punishment regularly doled out by the court was a few days in jail. However, everyone, including Juliet, knew what the punishment for murder was likely to be. Juliet nevertheless collapsed into her seat when Judge Hartmann pronounced that she was to be ‘hanged by the neck until dead’ at the sentencing on Friday. She sat in disbelief as the judge banged his gavel to hush the mummers of those in attendance. The judge then decreed that her execution was to be scheduled for next Saturday. She had been given only a week more to live.

Judge Hartmann allowed Juliet to return to her home until the day of execution because of her upstanding reputation in the community, but warned her that any attempts at escape would lead to the revocation of this privilege as well as significant fines. Juliet could only nod meekly when she was asked whether she understood all the terms of her sentencing; she couldn’t bring herself to look the judge in the eyes.

Juliet and her lawyer were the last ones to leave the courthouse. On the steps outside, Juliet curtly shook her lawyer’s hand one last time before walking hurriedly back to her car. At home, she opened the nearest bottle of wine and drank for the first time since the night of David’s death. She drank as if the wine was the only thing that kept her alive, and blacked out just before midnight.
 

Bh5

Assistant executioner
Juliet woke up to the sun shining brightly through the living room windows, and sat herself up on the couch where she had passed out the night before. Her phone’s voicemail box was full of messages from concerned friends and neighbors. She only listened to a few messages of distraught relations going on about how terrible they felt for her or how unjust the situation was before she deleted the remaining messages; before she deleted each message, she made sure to note the callers so she could send thank you cards later.

Her distress passed quickly as she threw herself into getting her home in order for her impending departure. She began packing her belongs, and soon piles of boxes dotted the hallways with the contents listed neatly on the side in pen. She only left her bedroom and a few dishes unpacked. She left a message for a relator, and tallied a rough estimate of all the assets she could think of; she would need help drawing up the final will, but the task kept her from thinking about more morose events for a few hours. When Rosalind arrived later that afternoon, she found most of the house already packed up, but Juliet eagerly put her to work doing deep cleaning that Juliet had never found the time for.

As Juliet busied herself, she began to receive an endless stream of gifts and cards. It seemed that anyone who had met Juliet sent something. Home cooked meals were delivered virtually every hour, and although Juliet was moved by the outpouring of kindness, she was slightly annoyed as she had no possible way of eating everything. Juliet always hated wasting food. Rosalind came up with an ingenious solution: each evening, Rosalind drove whatever parcels weren’t eaten that day out to the few poorer families in the area. She never mentioned that the meals were originally destined for a condemned woman, and Rosalind’s popularity skyrocketed. Scores of bouquets were also sent to the Schaeffer home. When the gardens were filled beyond capacity, Juliet arranged the inside the house so that each end table or empty counter top was adorned with tulips, roses, or orchids. When the afternoon sun shone through the windows, the flowers radiated their colors throughout the house to give it a lively and festive appearance. Rosalind tried not to think of the juxtaposition of the gay scene and the impending doom of her friend.
 

Fossy

Senator
Juliet woke up to the sun shining brightly through the living room windows, and sat herself up on the couch where she had passed out the night before. Her phone’s voicemail box was full of messages from concerned friends and neighbors. She only listened to a few messages of distraught relations going on about how terrible they felt for her or how unjust the situation was before she deleted the remaining messages; before she deleted each message, she made sure to note the callers so she could send thank you cards later.

Her distress passed quickly as she threw herself into getting her home in order for her impending departure. She began packing her belongs, and soon piles of boxes dotted the hallways with the contents listed neatly on the side in pen. She only left her bedroom and a few dishes unpacked. She left a message for a relator, and tallied a rough estimate of all the assets she could think of; she would need help drawing up the final will, but the task kept her from thinking about more morose events for a few hours. When Rosalind arrived later that afternoon, she found most of the house already packed up, but Juliet eagerly put her to work doing deep cleaning that Juliet had never found the time for.

As Juliet busied herself, she began to receive an endless stream of gifts and cards. It seemed that anyone who had met Juliet sent something. Home cooked meals were delivered virtually every hour, and although Juliet was moved by the outpouring of kindness, she was slightly annoyed as she had no possible way of eating everything. Juliet always hated wasting food. Rosalind came up with an ingenious solution: each evening, Rosalind drove whatever parcels weren’t eaten that day out to the few poorer families in the area. She never mentioned that the meals were originally destined for a condemned woman, and Rosalind’s popularity skyrocketed. Scores of bouquets were also sent to the Schaeffer home. When the gardens were filled beyond capacity, Juliet arranged the inside the house so that each end table or empty counter top was adorned with tulips, roses, or orchids. When the afternoon sun shone through the windows, the flowers radiated their colors throughout the house to give it a lively and festive appearance. Rosalind tried not to think of the juxtaposition of the gay scene and the impending doom of her friend.
The build up is excellent. I am already looking forward very much to seeing the very righteous Juliet suffer her painful and humiliating end ...
 

Jollyrei

Angelus Mortis
Staff member
Scores of bouquets were also sent to the Schaeffer home. When the gardens were filled beyond capacity, Juliet arranged the inside the house so that each end table or empty counter top was adorned with tulips, roses, or orchids. When the afternoon sun shone through the windows, the flowers radiated their colors throughout the house to give it a lively and festive appearance. Rosalind tried not to think of the juxtaposition of the gay scene and the impending doom of her friend
Nice touch. This is a nicely odd little parish she lives in. :)
 

Bh5

Assistant executioner
Many apologies for the lapse in regular installments. It's been a busy week; thankfully not as stressful as Juliet's though. Love to see all the comments. Hope you all continue to enjoy.

Simultaneous to Juliet’s doings, a great debate raged amongst the leaders of the town over how the execution was supposed to proceed. From the moment Judge Hartmann’s gavel sealed Juliet’s fate, the most pressing question was who would carry out the grim task.

The last execution in the parish had been 30 years prior, and very few, if any, remembered the specifics of how it had been carried out. The old noose had been displayed in the town’s historical center, but had been relegated to storage after a few residents complained that it was too grim.

Judge Hartmann initially thought that the town physician, Doctor Elis, would be a prime executioner with his intimate knowledge of human anatomy, but the doctor refused him out of hand when asked Friday evening. The good doctor protested that his oath to do no harm couldn’t be violated, and Judge Hartmann felt inclined to agree. The Sheriff preempted his consideration for the role by letting Judge Hartmann know that he and his deputy expected to have their hands full managing the crowd, and Judge Hartmann was again foiled. His last pick was Dr. Bradford, a scientist who lived on the outskirts of the parish.

If Juliet was know for her beauty and charm, then Dr. Douglas Bradford was known for his remarkable averageness. He was tall man with a small gut that he tried desperately to hide beneath oversized dress shirts. He spent most of his time in the fields outside the parish where he aided farmers in trying to eliminate pests and breed more resilient crops. In his free time, he collected specimens of local flora and fauna that he compiled in an almanac he hoped to one day publish. He was friendly enough, but never seemed to make any meaningful relationships outside a handful of farmers who jokingly called him ‘professor’, much to his chagrin.

When he was invited to the Mayor’s home late on Saturday evening, he had a gut feeling as to why. Dr. Bradford found the Mayor, Judge Hartmann, Doctor Elis, the Sheriff and Juliet’s old lawyer (Judge Hartmann’s nephew, now no longer in Juliet’s employ) waiting for him at a small table tucked into the corner of the parlor in the Mayor’s home. The men drank their whiskey carefully, so to preserve their judgement, and talked idly about the latest happenings outside the parish before settling in to business.

After much cajoling, Dr. Bradford grudgingly accepted the role of Mrs. Schaeffer’s executioner. With that settled, the next logical question was where was she to be hanged. The last execution took place in the town center, but the Mayor fused that it might interfere with the preparations for the Spring festival set to take place the weekend following the execution. The Sheriff suggested the county fairgrounds, but was rebuked by the Judge because the punishment was supposed to take place in an easily accessible public venue and he worried that the townsfolk wouldn’t want to commute half an hour to watch one of their neighbors swing. When an impasse seemed to be reached, Dr. Bradford suggested that they do away with the hanging altogether and that a firing squad would be much easier to arrange. At this, Juliet’s old attorney flew into a rage and insinuated that if the punishment specified by the law was to be voided then the law itself was toothless. All at the table were stunned by the elegance of the argument, and wholeheartedly agreed that hanging was to be the method employed. Even Dr. Elis agreed once he realized that his vote wouldn’t be the deciding factor. After a second glass of whiskey, the cohort of dignified gentlemen agreed that Hyde park, a small green space sitting in between the two main thoroughfares in town and in front of the Sheriff's office, would be best suited to the task.

For his efforts, Dr. Bradford was given a small budget and quickly spent it calling a carpenter on Sunday to help design and build the gallows. The design of the last gallows had to be requisitioned from the parish archives, but unfortunate water damage led the carpenter to guess some of the dimensions. As the carpenter made steady progress on the structure, Dr. Bradford shelved taxonomy and botany briefly to practice tying the characteristic hangman’s noose.

By Wednesday evening, the gallows was erected in Hyde Park, and was ready for it’s first test. After shoeing away interested onlookers, Dr’s. Bradford and Elis mounted the scaffold, each carrying the end of a sandbag that they estimated weighed as much as Mrs. Schaeffer. Dr. Bradford awkwardly tightened one of his best nooses around the mouth of the bag so that most of the weight was distributed below the noose. Once he checked that the bag was over the trapdoor, he sprung the trap and watched eagerly as the bag dropped towards the grass below. The bag dropped faster than expected, and Dr. Bradford heard the audible rip as the noose tore the top half of the sack clean off. He looked perplexed through the trapdoor as the top half of the bag fell lazily out of the noose and onto the pile of dirt scattered across the grass below the scaffold.

“Well I’m sure that won’t happen during the actual thing, right?”, he asked Dr. Elis, somewhat concerned. When Dr. Elis didn’t respond, he looked up to see the physician looking out across the street at Mrs. Schaeffer. She stood frozen, starring the spilled bag below the gallows. At first, she didn’t seem to notice them, and the two men stood paralyzed in fear of being noticed. Her gaze shifted up only for a moment before she hurriedly walked down the street and rounded the corner away from the park.
 

Bh5

Assistant executioner
Juliet was kept informed of the latest news on her impending date with the noose via the local paper. On Saturday, the day after her sentencing, the paper included a brief note on the back page:

Mrs. Juliet Schaeffer has been convicted in the murder of her husband, and has been sentenced to death next Saturday; time and location to be determined.

It was easily overlooked as it was wedged between ads for chicken feed and used vehicles. On Monday, the paper ran the results of a hastily conducted poll amongst the townsfolk as to the morality of the execution. Only a few people had been willing to comment, and the opinions never touched whether Juliet was being punished too harshly but whether the death penalty as an abstraction was moral. The completion of the gallows on Tuesday brought the issue back to the forefront. A picture of the newly constructed gallows set against an old driver’s license photo of Juliet was plastered on the front page of Wednesday’s paper, but again there was little written and much of the front page was dedicated to the latest speech from the premier and other national news.

On Wednesday morning, Juliet had just finished reading the paper while Rosalind was cleaning the last of the breakfast dishes when a sharp series of knocks rattled on the door. Juliet opened the door but no one awaited here. Instead, a letter had been laid on the front step; a man in a dark suit hurried away from the home.

Juliet opened the letter inside, and saw that it was from the desk of Judge Hartmann. It reaffirmed her sentence and detailed that it was to take place at noon on Saturday at Hyde Park. The letter detailed that she was to arrive at the Sheriff’s office at 10am Saturday, at the latest, to undergo preparations. Alternatively, she could choose to spend the night in the Sheriff’s office if she was worried her nerves would fail her the day of. Scrawled below this in pencil was a third option to spend her last night at the Monroe Inn, the most prominent in town located conveniently opposite the Sheriff’s office. Inside the envelope was a smaller envelope and postage so she could return her decision by Thursday afternoon at latest. The letter further detailed that she was allowed to choose her final outfit so long as they didn’t interfere with the execution of her sentence (such as ballgowns, high collars, or anything extremely indecent). Her hair was also to be either trimmed or pinned so that her neck was exposed sufficiently. Upon reading this, Juliet realized that her hair was past her shoulders for the first time in nearly a decade and thought a trip to the salon was in order regardless. The last typed paragraph reiterated Judge Hartmann’s earlier warning about the penalties of trying to shirk away. The letter ended in a short handwritten statement from the judge apologizing for the necessity of these measures, and expressing his admiration of her stoicism in these unexpected circumstances.

Juliet read the letter once over to herself again then out loud so Rosalind could hear in the kitchen. Her friend emerged from the kitchen with tears welling in her eyes, “I just can’t believe this is actually happening.”, she cried pitifully before Juliet’s embrace comforted her.

That afternoon, the women went into town to deposit more cards and notice of Juliet’s lodging preference at the post office. Rosalind took the thick stack of letters in her purse, and told Juliet that she would meet her at the salon when she was finished. Juliet’s path to the salon ran by the Sheriff’s office, and in front of the newly constructed gallows. Juliet tried not to glance at the foreboding structure, but kept getting glimpses out of the corner of her eye. Reluctantly, she gave into her impulses and watch two men fumble with a sack on the scaffold. She easily identified Dr. Elis, but somewhat unsure who the other man was.

The loud crash of the trapdoor opening caused her to startle, but she tracked the falling sandbag with pinpoint focus. She let out a soft gasp as the bag tore open and began to spill it’s contents onto the grass. She was transfixed on the now empty noose dangling just a few yards away when she felt the men’s eyes on her. She shot a glance upward and saw Dr. Elis, and someone else (maybe Dr. Bradford) looking meekly back at her. Her face felt flush and she quickly turned and hustled around the corner before they could say anything.

In the salon, someone gave Juliet their appointment so she was seated right away. Her normal stylist was happy to see her and greeted her with the normal affectionate embraces and compliments that she’d been used to. Juliet requested her usual A-cut and the stylist threw in a complimentary shampoo and coloring without prompt. Conversations continued in the salon but were less vibrant than usual. Nearly everyone in the salon had walked past the gallows, and many couldn’t help thinking about the fate of the housewife who sat calmly only a few feet away from them. The Stylist’s own thoughts strayed at one point to her niece, who had snuck onto the scaffold the previous night and taken pictures of her and her friends posing on the trapdoor. Juliet was conscious of what everyone must have been thinking, but still kept lively conversation with the other patrons about more mundane subjects such as school fundraising and new pastry recipes. Rosalind meandered in about halfway through the appointment and sat to read a magazine near the entrance; occasionally she would look up and give a dirty look to anyone who stared at Juliet for too long, or who whispered something a little too loud. Juliet’s stylist refused payment, but Juliet just stuffed her normal fare plus a generous tip into the small tip jar at the front desk of the salon.

Once the women got back in Rosalind’s truck, Juliet sobbed. “How can I go on like this?”, she cried out between heavy sobs, “Am I some kind of pariah?”.

Rosalind awkwardly leaned over the center console and let Juliet sob into her shoulder. A few window shoppers took furtive glances through the car’s windshield before moving on. Juliet, conscious of the scene she was making, quickly collected herself, and wiped the running mascara from her eyes. Rosalind drove down alleyways and took the backroads home to avoid the sight of the gallows. That night Juliet was restless, and didn’t fall asleep until well after midnight.
 

Fossy

Senator
Juliet was kept informed of the latest news on her impending date with the noose via the local paper. On Saturday, the day after her sentencing, the paper included a brief note on the back page:

Mrs. Juliet Schaeffer has been convicted in the murder of her husband, and has been sentenced to death next Saturday; time and location to be determined.

It was easily overlooked as it was wedged between ads for chicken feed and used vehicles. On Monday, the paper ran the results of a hastily conducted poll amongst the townsfolk as to the morality of the execution. Only a few people had been willing to comment, and the opinions never touched whether Juliet was being punished too harshly but whether the death penalty as an abstraction was moral. The completion of the gallows on Tuesday brought the issue back to the forefront. A picture of the newly constructed gallows set against an old driver’s license photo of Juliet was plastered on the front page of Wednesday’s paper, but again there was little written and much of the front page was dedicated to the latest speech from the premier and other national news.

On Wednesday morning, Juliet had just finished reading the paper while Rosalind was cleaning the last of the breakfast dishes when a sharp series of knocks rattled on the door. Juliet opened the door but no one awaited here. Instead, a letter had been laid on the front step; a man in a dark suit hurried away from the home.

Juliet opened the letter inside, and saw that it was from the desk of Judge Hartmann. It reaffirmed her sentence and detailed that it was to take place at noon on Saturday at Hyde Park. The letter detailed that she was to arrive at the Sheriff’s office at 10am Saturday, at the latest, to undergo preparations. Alternatively, she could choose to spend the night in the Sheriff’s office if she was worried her nerves would fail her the day of. Scrawled below this in pencil was a third option to spend her last night at the Monroe Inn, the most prominent in town located conveniently opposite the Sheriff’s office. Inside the envelope was a smaller envelope and postage so she could return her decision by Thursday afternoon at latest. The letter further detailed that she was allowed to choose her final outfit so long as they didn’t interfere with the execution of her sentence (such as ballgowns, high collars, or anything extremely indecent). Her hair was also to be either trimmed or pinned so that her neck was exposed sufficiently. Upon reading this, Juliet realized that her hair was past her shoulders for the first time in nearly a decade and thought a trip to the salon was in order regardless. The last typed paragraph reiterated Judge Hartmann’s earlier warning about the penalties of trying to shirk away. The letter ended in a short handwritten statement from the judge apologizing for the necessity of these measures, and expressing his admiration of her stoicism in these unexpected circumstances.

Juliet read the letter once over to herself again then out loud so Rosalind could hear in the kitchen. Her friend emerged from the kitchen with tears welling in her eyes, “I just can’t believe this is actually happening.”, she cried pitifully before Juliet’s embrace comforted her.

That afternoon, the women went into town to deposit more cards and notice of Juliet’s lodging preference at the post office. Rosalind took the thick stack of letters in her purse, and told Juliet that she would meet her at the salon when she was finished. Juliet’s path to the salon ran by the Sheriff’s office, and in front of the newly constructed gallows. Juliet tried not to glance at the foreboding structure, but kept getting glimpses out of the corner of her eye. Reluctantly, she gave into her impulses and watch two men fumble with a sack on the scaffold. She easily identified Dr. Elis, but somewhat unsure who the other man was.

The loud crash of the trapdoor opening caused her to startle, but she tracked the falling sandbag with pinpoint focus. She let out a soft gasp as the bag tore open and began to spill it’s contents onto the grass. She was transfixed on the now empty noose dangling just a few yards away when she felt the men’s eyes on her. She shot a glance upward and saw Dr. Elis, and someone else (maybe Dr. Bradford) looking meekly back at her. Her face felt flush and she quickly turned and hustled around the corner before they could say anything.

In the salon, someone gave Juliet their appointment so she was seated right away. Her normal stylist was happy to see her and greeted her with the normal affectionate embraces and compliments that she’d been used to. Juliet requested her usual A-cut and the stylist threw in a complimentary shampoo and coloring without prompt. Conversations continued in the salon but were less vibrant than usual. Nearly everyone in the salon had walked past the gallows, and many couldn’t help thinking about the fate of the housewife who sat calmly only a few feet away from them. The Stylist’s own thoughts strayed at one point to her niece, who had snuck onto the scaffold the previous night and taken pictures of her and her friends posing on the trapdoor. Juliet was conscious of what everyone must have been thinking, but still kept lively conversation with the other patrons about more mundane subjects such as school fundraising and new pastry recipes. Rosalind meandered in about halfway through the appointment and sat to read a magazine near the entrance; occasionally she would look up and give a dirty look to anyone who stared at Juliet for too long, or who whispered something a little too loud. Juliet’s stylist refused payment, but Juliet just stuffed her normal fare plus a generous tip into the small tip jar at the front desk of the salon.

Once the women got back in Rosalind’s truck, Juliet sobbed. “How can I go on like this?”, she cried out between heavy sobs, “Am I some kind of pariah?”.

Rosalind awkwardly leaned over the center console and let Juliet sob into her shoulder. A few window shoppers took furtive glances through the car’s windshield before moving on. Juliet, conscious of the scene she was making, quickly collected herself, and wiped the running mascara from her eyes. Rosalind drove down alleyways and took the backroads home to avoid the sight of the gallows. That night Juliet was restless, and didn’t fall asleep until well after midnight.
'... “Am I some kind of pariah?” ...' - Answer: Yes you are!

Living through the prepartion for her own execution like this is just the most deliciously horrible thing! I can't help thinking that a possible plan to flee the town must be lodged in the recesses of her mind somewhere ...

Excellent narrative Bh ...
 
This is an interesting journey with great depth of character for Juliet in particular…

Her calm exterior surely belies a turmoil beneath, which may only surface after another drinking session.

Thank you!
 

Bh5

Assistant executioner
I'd like to thank everyone for the positive feedback. It gives me a lot of encouragement to continue to share these installments. Here's the next installment:

With the house cleaned spotless, Juliet directed her focus into taking in as much culture as she could with the little time she had left. She had always been well read, but now redoubled her efforts to finish the few classics she hadn’t yet read. At first, she was methodical and unrelenting in her reading. What books she couldn’t fit in, she had Rosalind give her the talking points from. However, Juliet’s engagement with high minded literature eventually faltered and movies or fashion magazines became suitable substitutes. Despite this seemingly relaxing routine, Juliet was still restless.

Juliet found herself unable to sleep again Thursday night, and curled up in a recliner under a reading light near the front door. She didn’t know what time it was when she heard a faint rap at the door. She thought her tired mind was playing tricks on her, but soon another soft pattern of knocks was banged out on the door. Juliet couldn’t make out the man definitively as she looked through the peephole, but recognized him as Dr. Bradford when the porch lights finally sprang on.

“Good evening, Dr. Bradford.”, she said cordially as she opened the door slowly, hoping not to wake Rosalind sleeping down the hall.

“Mrs. Schaeffer… I’m..I’m sorry to wake you at this time of night…please call me Douglas…I saw the light in the window and thought you might…”, the man stammered as he shifted his weight nervously from one foot to the other. With each sentence fragment, he ran his hand through his hair nervously and instinctively.

“Would you like to come in?”, Juliet offered politely and stepped aside to give him a path in. He nodded curtly and stepped inside. Juliet motioned to an empty seat next to hers before heading to the kitchen, “Would you like anything to drink? Water?”, she said over her shoulder.

“Yes, yes, water please.”, Bradford said in an almost frantic inflection. He drank like a man in the desert when she finally returned, and had nearly finished his glass by the time Juliet sat down to face him.

“So, what brings you here Dr. Bradford?”, Juliet said naively. She still had the vivid image in her mind of the man before her staring dumbfounded back at her from atop the scaffold.

Bradford gulped hard, and tried to be lighthearted, “Mrs. Schaeffer, please call me Douglas.”. He paused then continued in a more somber tone, he spoke looking down at the table that separated him and his victim, “I don’t know how to say this but I thought you should know.”. He took another pregnant pause before finishing, “I have been tasked with executing you. I’m sorry, but I thought you had the right to know beforehand.”. He looked up at her face once he had finished; half expecting the woman to kill him there.

Juliet looked at him sadly for a minute before reaching out to touch his hand resting on the chair’s armrest, “I’m sure it wasn’t your desire, and I know you have to do your job. Thank you for your honesty.”, she said tactfully.

“There’s something else I need to tell you.”, Bradford blurted out.

“Oh?”, Juliet said with little interest.

“The doctor and I have been calculating and we are unsure whether the drop will be sufficient to break your neck. We fear that there’s a chance that if we try for the long drop that it will be more harmful to your person.”.

“I’m sorry, I don’t understand.”, Juliet said with puzzlement, “What do you mean by ‘more harmful’?”.

Bradford sighed deeply before explaining, “Typically, you drop from a high place so that your neck breaks when you reach the bottom, essentially killing you painlessly. The height of the drop is determined by your height and weight. If we were to drop you too high then you might be decapitated by accident, but Doctor Elis and I are unsure that the gallows is even tall enough to accommodate a person of your build in the first place. We think that a short drop is more reliable, but there is a significant likelihood that means that you would feel additional discomfort from strangulation.”. Juliet’s blue eyes grew soft and sad; they cut Dr. Bradford to his core and he scrambled to rectify his position in her eyes, “We are confident though that you’ll be knocked out after the drop and that you’ll pass painlessly”.

Juliet mustered a soft smile, and touched his hand again, “Douglas, I trust that you will take good care of me. Thank you for coming to me.”. Dr. Bradford felt immensely better after being absolved, in his mind, of any potential future mistakes and gladly took his leave shortly thereafter. Juliet led him outside and watched his awkward frame slowly disappear into the darkness of the night; only occasionally silhouetted by the streetlamps as he made his way back down the street.

Juliet listened carefully for a moment after she closed the door to hear if Rosalind had stirred. When she was sure that her guest was still asleep, she slipped off her shoes so that her socks slid silently along the floor. She found a silk scarf that had somehow evaded the packing boxes. She went into the dark kitchen, and gently looped the scarf around her slender neck until there were several tight coils. Grabbing the free end, she pulled gently upward with one hand and gasped when her airflow was briefly closed. She applied constant pressure until she could only take in smalls sips of air. When she began to get light headed and felt the blood pounding in her ears, she lifted her right foot and shook it violently; imaging how it might look when she strangled to death in front of her friends and neighbors. Carefully, she set her right foot back down and repeated the frantic display with her other foot. When she was happy with the vision of how she would strangle in her head, she unwound the scarf and tucked it away in a drawer. That night she slept heavily.
 
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