Click Here for Part-I
I had never understood why I felt such rage and desire for vengeance. Violet had callously used me for her purposes without caring for me and I, after knowing about my condition, had no particular desire to live. So, why should Vince evoke so much rage in me? Every time I had tried to think about it I had felt an unreasoning panic and despair. It was no different now.
Billy should be coming any time now. Abruptly, my entire plan for escape and vengeance against Vince seemed foolish. Even if I managed to make my way to Billy’s cell – which was the logical place for the tunnel to start – why should Billy not just knock me out and escape? Even if he did take me along what made me think that I could evade recapture and prove able to kill Vince? Billy was a dead man walking anyway. I felt melancholy and had almost decided to do nothing when a glimmer of an idea sparked in my mind.
Billy walked in.
“Whaddya want, Scholar?”
“Listen, Billy! You know what I can do to your escape plans.”
His hands clenched and he glared at me impotently.
“I need you to kill a man, Billy!”
“Don’t ask me that, man! I never done no murder”
“Your choice, Billy! I am a dead man tomorrow and I have only you to rely upon. Either you swear to me on your mother’s soul that you will kill him or I shall squeal the moment you go out that door”
There was a look of pleading in his eyes and his mouth opened and closed soundlessly.
“Billy! This guy always has at least twenty-five grand in his safe. You could beat the combination out of him easy. You will need the money for your mom. So, why don’t you just promise me? He just has two bully boys with him. You and your friends could handle them all”
After much hesitation, Billy agreed and swore as I had wanted. I gave him the directions to Vince’s apartment and he left.
* * *
It was a restless night for me. I knew that, even if I had been mistaken in Billy’s superstition about promises to a dying man and his love for his mother, he would go after the money. Vince was bound to threaten him with his uncle and even Billy’s pea-brain would realize that killing Vince was his only way to keep the mob off his back. I found myself in the surprising position of desperately wanting Billy to escape.
Sirens hooting and people running here and there in the morning heralded the success of the escape. My execution, however, could not be postponed. A harried Warden came to my cell to seek my last wishes and was surprised when I asked him to be able to watch TV.
Billy may not succeed, may not succeed today or may not succeed in time for me to get the news. I was still on tenterhooks wishing to see whether my plans had succeeded. While waiting nervously for the news I wanted, my mind wandered over to my days with Violet.
She had been much the same as she used to be before she met me when we first started sleeping together. Over the weeks, she had started taking pains to make her face – not the garish come-hither make-up she used for street-walking but the softer make-up that a girl adopts for her man. She could never really be clean – but her attempts to stop being slovenly and sudden tears when she failed were so endearing. As a cook, she was a disaster but she would never stop making dishes for me. The memory of the look of bright expectation on her face which turned to crumpled disappointment suddenly moved me now and I felt the prickling of tears in my eyes.
Abruptly, my mind was dragged to the news. “Is this the start of another gangland war? Mafia Don Galliano’s nephew was found sodomized, brutally tortured and battered to death with two other people..” The excited voice of the TV anchor receded to background murmur to me as a tremendous wave of satisfaction roared through my entire soul. Vince was dead and Billy’s goose was cooked. Whether the AIDS or the police or the mob got him was immaterial. I had succeeded beyond all dreams.
All the anger and hate in my being were wiped clean – and left me face to face with my guilt and shame. All that anger at Violet and fury at Vince was only a camouflage for my own guilt. Guilt that my accusation of callously passing on AIDS had lead to her confrontation with Vince and her death! Guilt that I had not been with her to protect her! And guilt that I may have been the one to give her AIDS and not the other way round! Had I not been a drug addict and given to indiscriminate use of needles? How was I sure that I did not pass on the HIV to Violet?
I realized that I had been in love with Violet all along and she had loved me more than I deserved. A love so sublime that, in the face of a sentence of death, her only thought had been about putting me in danger and not fear for herself! And I? I loved her with all the love that was there in me but all the love that I could lavish could not even rise to offer comfort to her in her time of need. It shamed me to see myself so clearly.
I grieved for Violet for the first time. All that I had to show for my life was Violet’s love for me. Somehow, at that time, it seemed enough to justify my life.
The warden came in with his cohorts to escort me to the execution chamber.
I was strapped to the seat. I closed my eyes.
Maybe there is a life hereafter
There was a needle prick.
Maybe I shall meet her again
There was fire in my veins.
Maybe I shall look into those lovely blue eyes. And wipe out the hurt.