|Court in Session|
Alright, prisoners, ALBERT H. come forth. It looks like this is your big day!
Albert speaking, “If you say so,”
“I do say so! There's a noose waiting for you as soon as the lawyers get through playing their games. How do you feel about that?”
“A dead man has no feelings.”
“You ain't dead, that is not yet.”
“There's where you and I disagree.”
“Shut up that foolishness and get on in there you smart aleck. Sit over here until you are called and don't make a sound.”
“As you say.”
Again when Albert had a few moments alone the thoughts of the past tried to resurrect themselves only to be squashed by the power of his mind. He hadn't allowed the past with it pain to come forth for many years.
Time to him had long since lost it's meaning and waiting was not a problem. His existence was only evidenced by his breathing pattern. In and out, in and out.
The only thing that was different today was his dress. For several years he wore drab coveralls with a "C" painted on them by those who called themselves "Patriots."
The term collaborator was a second term used to identity him and set him apart from the rest of the prisoners.
Albert speaking; After some time I was told to stand up and march into the hall of judgment to be questioned. This had happened before in my cell but today was an official panel selected to in effect pass judgment on me.
Actually the outcome had already been decided, but this was for public consumption. All the usual protocol was followed and I the prisoner followed the proper decorum for of what use would belligerence be at this stage.
He was not one of the big name offenders where the press showed a lot of interest, it was merely for local consumption. His lack of appetite caused him to have a gaunt appearance and the lines on his face enhanced his degraded appearance.
It was obvious that anyone who looked like he did was evil personified.
As the trial began, he was not moved by the knowledge that there were many witnesses to be called and give testimony against him. The fact that most of their railings were just inventions of their mind and void of the truth was of no consequence at this stage.
An accusation that has been concocted within the imagination would serve the purposes far better than any truth so creativity was at work.
He was told to sit, which he did without any display of any arrogance.
Then the questioning began! Name, number assigned to him for identification purposes and date of birth, place of birth and all things pertaining to him just for the record.
He was if nothing else curt but respectful in all his answers.
The next day they called for the defense lawyer to step forward and plead for the prisoner. The lawyer certainly looked the part and Albert wondered what he was going to say for he had never spoken to him.
Being told to stand up and answer the question, "How do you plead?" the lawyer stepped forward and told him; say "Not Guilty."
For the next few days the witnesses came and gave testimony against him. As far as he knew none of them had any contact with him ever and the things they were saying scarcely were true.
It was as if he was a different person in a different world dealing with unknown persons for a specific purpose.
It was certain after the prosecution had finished whoever the person who was on trial was surely guilty.
Albert thought if he was on the panel he would adjudge him being as he was charged.
Having laid out the case before him that was supposed to show him how futile it would be to deny the charges against him the panel began to address him directly.
They each in turn asked him questions that seem to be germane to the case and he for the most part answered but not always to their satisfaction.
This caused them some consternation for he was guilty. The witnesses all had said so. After two days of probing he spoke up and asked, “What do you really want to know?
They said in unison; “The truth.”
He answered by saying, “Which truth? Your truth, the witnesses' truth, the opinion of the news media truth. Which truth do you want to know?”
The leader of the panel said, ‘There is only one truth and that is what we want.”
He replied, “Very well that is what you will get, and I'm the only who knows it. The time was early spring when the enemy captured my village and almost immediately the people were rounded up and identified. I being one of the town officials received more scrutiny than the rest.
I knew most everything about everyone. My family and I were moved to a large city and there I was interrogated on a daily basis always under the threat of death for me and my family. Each day I gave up someone from my village during the first months of my imprisonment always under the threat of my children being put to death.
I came to the place where I concluded, better for them to die than my children. After the villagers were no longer suspected of mounting an attack against the guards at the village; I was then charged with finding out who in the town might be a danger to the occupying forces.
When my performance fell below their expectations my children were taken from my home until I produced better results. This was my lot until the town was taken by your forces. Everyone knew of my involvement in turning over so many of the town's people to the enemy; so this is why I stand before you now.”
“Do you have any remorse for what you did to your people?”
“I have no regret, not in the least sir.”
“You went over to the enemies and caused your people to die and feel no remorse?”
“Yes that is true sir.”
“How do you justify that?”
“I do not intend to try sir.”
You must have a reason that you did it beyond saving your wife and children.”
No not at all for there were only the two opposite sides neither of which I belonged to and then was my family. My family was the only thing I cared about. Today because of this attitude I was labeled a traitor but let me tell you about many of those who are revered as patriots today.
Almost to a man others tried to make a deal similar to what I had. Their offers in most cases were rejected and I watched as their families perished. I succeeded where most failed.”
“You mean you sold out your fellow citizens just to save your family.”
“Yes that is exactly what I am saying.”
“Well you did something I could never do.”
“Perhaps you don't love your family as much as I did, sir.”
“We have just a few more questions about the whereabouts of this precious family of yours. Where they now and did you save them.”
“Yes I did save them. And where they are now is none of your business. The only thing I will tell you is; they are safe, they are happy and have families of their own and you will never find them. I would certainly do it again for there was the enemy.
There was you and there was my family and the only thing that meant anything and means anything to me is my family. I hope that satisfies your inquiry for that is the real truth concerning this matter.”
The panel of Judges retired to the room of judgment after telling the prisoner to be seated and there they conferred with each other.
The Superior Judge spoke first and said, “Does anyone doubt this man’s guilt after hearing his testimony?”
They agreed he had sealed his fate by saying I’m guilty of all charges. Does his stated reasons for doing what he did affect his sentence in any way?
They all said, “No it doesn’t change his fate for everyone has a reason for what they do.”
“Does what we would have done in his place enter in to how we judge his acts of treason?”
“No not in any way.” they all said.
“Is there any basis for clemency for him?”
Once again they agreed, “No not any.”
“Unless anyone has anything to add, submit your ballot, guilty or not.”
As the panel returned, the prisoner stood in respect of the Judges.
“Have you anything else to say before we pass sentence?”
The prisoner said, “Not unless you have any more questions.”
“Your sentence is for you to be hung by the neck until dead and may God have mercy on you and all you betrayed.
Tomorrow sentence will be carried out at six o’clock in the morning. Take the prisoner away.”
It was a long but restless night for the condemned man. He tried to keep his mind on the reason he was to be executed rather than the event itself.
Sleep came in short naps and he was awake when they came to dress him. They offered him some strong drink but he declined.
The chief jailer said, “There are thirteen steps to be climbed, do you need help rising to the top?”
The prisoner said, “I do not think so.”
The prepared new rope was placed around his neck and slightly tightened.
He had made his peace with all before he ascended to the platform and only one thing remained.
The priest read the Twenty Third Psalm then a deathly silence pervaded over the scene. Then there were only noises. There was the clunk of the lever that controlled the trap door as it fell back.
The dry hinges gave off a screeching sound as the trap door dropped open.
The thud as the slack was taken out of the rope as he fell, and a slight gasp. It was over.
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