It was 1969, two years after the Summer of Love, when that crazy s.o.b., Charley, orchestrated killings that set a nation ablaze with revulsion and fear. A year later, he sat in a courtroom, staring vacantly at a judge.
I sat in the jury box, staring at him.
I’ll never forget Charley or the women dressed in black robes who came daily to view the court proceedings. His ‘family,’ he called them. I guess they were; they were nutty like him. Especially the youngest in the group, a girl with flaxen hair and cornflower blues eyes. She kept looking at me, trying to catch my eye, smiling like an angel.
Except there was something creepy about it, and I’d look away. Her blue eyes had the same dead look as Charley’s.
For months, we viewed prosecutorial evidence, listened to testimony of acquaintances, family and investigators. We studied grisly photographs of one night’s carnage, images so graphic that even now, forty-five years later, I have nightmares. I have dreams of what occurred in that house, to that pregnant woman, and I awaken, icy with fear.
I never put much credit in evil until I saw those photographs.
Until I saw Charley.
Until I saw those women show up one day, their heads newly shaven, swastikas carved into their foreheads, mindlessly chanting, ‘Charley is your savior, Charley is your god.’ They were quickly taken into custody and the courtroom cleared, but not before the youngest turned in my direction, giving me that angelic smile that sent chills up my spine.
No, never much believed in evil until then.
As jury foreman, I announced the verdict that put that bastard away for life, and never had a moment’s regret. I just wish we could have given him the chair. Sometimes, the only way to deal with evil is the way you deal with cancer – cut it out.
Charley was a cancer.
He never looked up when I announced the verdict. I had the feeling he was grateful, like he was going home. Maybe he always meant to live out his days in a jail cell. If so, I was happy to oblige him.
Five years later, watching the nightly news, I caught a glimpse of that young girl who used to show up in the courtroom. Her flaxen hair had grown back, but the eyes were as dead as ever. Her angelic smile was at odds with her attempt to gun down a president at a political event. Said she did it for ‘Charley,’ so people wouldn’t forget him.
As if we could. Half a lifetime later, I still can’t forget. Like me, he’s an old man now, still a guest of the state. Miss Angel Face is serving time, too.
Me? You might say I’m also a prisoner. I live with the knowledge that evil is a palpable thing and, like a cancer, spreads. It’s a hearty weed. Nothing is ever going to eradicate it. You can only contain it.
Word Count: 500
Author’s Note: This week’s tale is written in response to a challenge to write a 500-words or less story in which the protagonist is a member of a jury about to hear the sentencing of the criminal just convicted. You can check out these weekly flash fiction challenges hosted by ThainInVain here.