He sat in the courtroom and let the words blow over him. Doctors, lawyers, police officers (real ones, not a damn security force), all of them making arguments back about his future. It didn’t matter. He’d known his future, made his choice. It wasn’t his fault no one seemed to believe he was old enough to have done so. It would have saved time if they had.
But his lawyer wouldn’t hear of a guilty plea. Not for a pretty little blue-eyed blonde boy like him. It didn’t play well for the cameras. And there were a lot of cameras. They lined the back wall of the court room, at least the ones he could see. On the news the night before there had been footage shot from the front, and he couldn’t see any there.
The headline had been: 10 Year Old Matricide Headed for Death Row?
Apparently it was an important question. Which explained why it was taking so long to answer.
“We will reconvene tomorrow. Court adjourned.” The gavel hit the block with an almost tinny sound that was far less impressive than it sounded in movies.
His lawyer clasped him on the shoulder just long enough for a good shot to be taken, and then the bailiffs lifted him from the seat. They lead him out the door with stony faces and silence. It was almost always a different bailiff, but they all had that same strict professional detachment. Compared to the overblown compassion shown by his lawyer and the red faced condemnation from the prosecutor, the act seemed real.
“Change and wait for your guard.”
They closed the door behind him, and he stripped off the suit his lawyer made him wear. Pressed white shirt, pleated pants, even a tie, it was a fake as the rest of it; he’d never worn anything like that before and was glad prison rules meant he never would again. Although the drab navy jeans and work shirt weren’t exactly his style either. Even in the months his case had dragged on, they still hadn’t become more comfortable. His skin started to itch as soon as he slipped them on, crawling like he had fleas again, but they kept those out of the cells.
The door opened, and he turned, holding his wrists up automatically. Instead of a uniform, the man in front of him was wearing a suit that looked about three times as expensive as his lawyer’s.
“That won’t be necessary,” the man said.
He put his hands down.
“My name is Gabriel Ryan.”
Pause. “That supposed to mean something?”
“No, I suppose not.” He sat down and crossed one leg over the other, before tugging his sleeves straight. “I’ve been watching you, on the television.”
“Tell me, Randall, do you want to die?”
“What I want doesn’t matter anymore.”
“It could. As I said, I’ve watched you. You aren’t even trying to participate in your own defence.”
“Waste of words. They can’t let this stand.”
“Maybe not. But maybe, when this is all over, you don’t have to die, not as long as they all think you did.”
He narrowed his eyes. “Yeah, and what price’d you put on that?”
“Nothing nefarious. I know why you did what you did.”
The man smiled. “That’s one of the things you’ll learn, if you accept my offer.”
“A new life. Away from the prison, and certainly away from death row. Are you interested?”
He crossed his arms. The scratchy fabric rubbed against the soft inside of his elbow like a Brillo pad. “Keep talking.”