Interview with a Killer
by Tony Lindsay
The Tuesday morningís headline is startling, ĎDawes to be Executed, first in Illinois since 1999í, the sub headline reads, Ďfirst ever to be carried out in the Metropolitan Correctional Center.í I lower the paper to the table. Maxine is a social worker there. I pick up my coffee mug and take small sip of the green tea Nancy just fixed me. An interview with Dawes will sell, and sell well. Through all the protests and media coverage, he has not granted one face-to-face interview.
"What do you think about me interviewing William Dawes?"
Nancy rolls her brown eyes up at me quickly then back to her oatmeal, "The killer?" She brought her own oatmeal, refusing the bacon, eggs, and English muffins I have in the refrigerator.
What other Williams Dawes would I be talking about, "Yes the killer, but he was a policeman before he killed." I sip the tea again.
"Ok then, the policeman murderer? How would you interview him?" She is mixing the melting butter into her oatmeal. She came to the small kitchen table half nude. Seeing her breast in the morning pleases me. Weíve been dating for six months, and I am nowhere near my usual six-month boredom; everything about her still excites me. We celebrated or anniversary last night which included her staying over.
"What do you mean how? I ask questions he answers . . ." I put the mug down.
She looks up, "Ok, what I mean is how will you get around his overt hostility towards the media. He has not granted one interview?"
"That was before he had a date of execution. I would imagine an attitude change occurs when one knows their exact date of death."
She presses her lips together which is her tell for thinking, "Mm, that could be, and if you got the interview, it would sell." She loads her spoon full with oatmeal and slips it into her mouth. I hate oatmeal, but I love watching her eat.
"How about your customer, ex-boyfriend, boss connection? Do you think he would buy it?"
"Huh, I donít know; he was looking, but he hates you, but . . . I hear he has tried every avenue available to get a reporter to Dawes. Yep, he would buy it in a heartbeat and pay premium."
Her ex started as one of her weed customers then she got a temp assignment where he was and is the boss. He hit on her, but she didnít like him enough or trust him enough to get intimate, but she did go to a bunch of plays, dinners, and movies with him. When I met her, she was out with him.†
†"He only hates me because of you." I smile at her.
She smiles back, "You did steal his girl."
The smile shows only the tips of her very white teeth. I lean towards her and we kiss. I pass my thumb over her nipple. She giggles and jiggles her breast. I do love morning sex.
††††††††††† ††††††††††††††††††††††† *
I couldnít afford a lake view, not while freelancing and working as an adjunct at Columbia. The view from the bedroom is to the west, and looking out I see the Metropolitan Correctional Center in the distance. I run two blocks beyond the prison every morning for coffee. Nancy being here stopped my morning run. She doesnít like me drinking coffee. †
This will be the first execution in the MCCís history. I should shower before I call Maxine; I sound more alert showered. Sitting back on the bed, I rub Nancyís flat stomach and kiss the tip of her nose. The nose is safe if I go near her lips we might go back at it; we turn each other on something fierce. I reach over her to the end table and my phone.
Maxine is my brotherís wife. We are cordial with each other, nothing more. She doesnít like me being unapologetically gay, and according to my brother she was upset because she couldnít tell I was gay by looking at me. She kept going on about him hooking me up with her younger sister until he told her that I had no interest in dating her younger sister because I liked men. She was shocked and still hasnít quite accepted the fact that her "gaydar" failed her.
She answers on the second ring, "Good morning, Jackson."
"How can I help you this morning?"
"Maxine...this call could be a friendly greeting. Why assume I want something?"
"Because you do. In the five years I have known you, three of which I have been married to your brother, you have never called me with a good day greeting, so how can I help you?"
I want to hang up because it unnerves me to be obvious, but I need an in, "William Dawes?"
"Damnit, your brother told you he was on my case load, didnít he? I told him to wait until I had approval. When did he tell you?"
"You brother canít hold water when it comes to you. The man loves you to a fault. Ok, Dawes wants to talk to a Black reporter, not a TV reporter, but a newspaper reporter. He doesnít want any pictures taken, so no photographers. †He wants his words to be on the mind of the public, not his image, and those are his words not mine. I think he should have forty-five photographers in here. When I told this to your brother, he suggested you because of Nancyís newspaper connection. By the way, how is he, sorry, she doing?"
That was a jibe at my sexuality and I know it, but I donít respond because I do need her. Once Maxine found out Nancy was born male she stopped hugging her and kissing her on the cheek, and she stopped the double dates we use to go on.
To be clear that I have a valid reason to be getting happy, I ask, "Thomas suggested me for what exactly, Maxine?"
"Dawes is requesting to speak to a reporter, and I just got the ok this morning. I was going to have your brother call you this afternoon, but as usual he jumped the gun."
"I can be there within the hour."
"That will be fine."
I click the phone off and say, "God is good."
"All the time," comes from Nancy. "What did Malcontent Maxine have to say?"
"You are going to slip and call her that to her face one day."
"I hope so, well what did she say?"
"Dawes wants to grant an interview to a Black reporter, and my brother suggested me because of your newspaper ties."
"Wait, before you called her, you were already lined up for the interview?"
"Pretty close because of my brother and you. How sure are you that Mr. Uninformed will buy the interview?" I call him that due to him not knowing that Nancy was born Nelson.
"He is not uninformed. He is deceived, and he is miserable because he thinks he lost me to a freelance reporter with very little money and no car." She rolls closer to me and places her head on my naked thigh. "Heíll buy the story, have no worries."†
At the Metropolitan Correctional Center, I have emptied my pockets into a little green plastic bowl, and I put it and my belt on a moving conveyer. I raise both hands as ordered, and an officer passes over my body with a security wand. These suit pants are not the best fitting, and I have a real worry of them sliding down especially with my hands in the air. I guess the wand isnít good enough because another officer comes and pats me down. I purposely put on a suit and tie to look more professional, but I am still getting the gangbanger, terrorist treatment.
"Walk though the detector straight head and keep your arms above your head."
God please keep my pants up.
Through the detector gate an officer hands me the green the bowl and asks, "The reason for your visit today, sir?"†
"Heís with us officer."
I look up from the green bowl and see Maxine with two officers. I grab my belt and frantically start putting it on because people are behind me and the line is moving. I get all my belongings back where they belong and follow behind Maxine.
Quietly into my ear she says, "Cheap suit. I thought your kind dressed better."
It is a cheap suit; I got two for $175, but they are functional.
"Just trying to fit in and look the part of a civil servant, like you."
"Funny, this is an Anne Kline suit, you deviant. You wonít be able to take in your notebook, ink pen, or phone. You can use you digital recorder."
"Why no notebook and pen?"
"Because those are the rules." She said with finality.
We get to a bank of elevators and one of the officers inserts a card and enters a code. They havenít spoken to me, so I havenít spoken to them. The doors open immediately.
††† There are no floor markings on the elevator panel. The officer inserts his card again and enters his code. The door closes and we begin to go up.
"I hope this interview helps. I believe the protestors are helping. They raise a valid point; he is being railroaded. Hopefully your interview story will bring additional light to that fact."
"But, he plead guilty."
"I know that, but that doesnít excuse the speed in which they are executing him. My God Jackson, the shooting only occurred five weeks ago. Arrest, trail, and conviction in a little over a month that is extreme. Not to mention executing him here in a federal institution that has never housed an execution. It is all madness."
She has a point, but any race conscious person knows why the rush is on. The powers that be in this country want the event out of Americaís consciousness as soon as possible.†
We exit the elevator.
"He refused counsel and threw himself on the mercy of the court, Maxine."
"There was no mercy, Jackson. None."
We are in a long white corridor with no office doors or windows. At both ends are doors; we are walking to the left.††
There is no handle on the door. I see a card entry slot, but the officer doesnít slide a card in. The door opens with a swoosh, and I follow Maxine in. We enter a tight six-foot square gray concrete room that has a ceiling to floor fence for a far wall. The officers remain by the entry door; I follow Maxine to the gate in the fence. There are two officers at a desk behind the fence. One comes to the fence and Maxine slides her identification throw a small opening.
"Give him your ID." She says to me.
I retrieve my license from my wallet and hand it to him. He clips both our IDís on a board, and opens the gate.
"Please raise you arms," the other officer directs and he pats us both down with Maxineís being just as intrusive as mine.
The officer with the clipboard and our IDís says, "This way Ms. Roberson and Mr. Roberson." I am sure I have seen him at my brotherís and Maxineís cookouts, but again he didnít greet me, so I didnít greet him.
"I have to be with you during the interview per Dawes request. He wants a witness to what he says."
She could have told me I had to do the interview on my head with my legs crossed and I would have said ok. Walking through the protesters and media to enter the MCC, I realized that this interview is going to be a game changer. Maxine is doing my career a greater favor than I understood this morning.
The officer opens a door to what I imagine is a staff meeting room because there is a meeting table with six chairs. I am relieved because I didnít want to do the interview in a cell.
In the furthest chair, I see a man whose face has been beaten beyond human recognition; there are lumps and burses and cuts covering his whole head. The sight of him makes me weak at the knees, and I collapse. The officer grabs me stopping me from hitting the concrete floor. Dawes looks like "Thing" from "The Fantastic Four."
I sit and exhale. Looking at him, the whites of his eyes are not visible; swollen flesh has hid them and the openings in his nostrils. The manís upper lip is as fat as a Polish sausage.
"Who has done this to you?"
"Which part? The arresting police swelled up the back of my head the day of the shooting" he exhales, talking is obviously a chore, †"my skull is fractured and it well remain swollen the rest of my life, my short life. The knots on my forehead are the compliments of a blanket party I received when I was on the bus getting transferred here. The fresh bruises you see on the front of my face happened two days ago, here. The power on my floor went out while I was asleep. I woke up to getting my ass whipped by ghost because there is no record of any one leaving their cells or assigned posts," he takes several labored breaths.
I look to the guard and Maxine and both lower their heads.
"Why did you refuse a photographer?"
I look to Maxine.
She opens a folder and slides me a piece of paper. It is a typed statement with Dawes signature requesting an interview with no photographers. I slide it back to her with no comment. I am beginning to understand why I was granted the interview; I doubt my brother had anything to do with it.
Maxineís bosses needed a pion to interview Dawes, someone with no real media pull, someone who would not insist on a photographer. They needed someone who would look impartial and who could be manipulated. I am certain they already have media sources lined up to accept and publish the interview. I am being played.
"Will talking bother your injuries, Mr. Dawes? If so, I can come another day."
He chuckles or at least think he is chuckling, "Donít have too many days left, young fella. Letís get it done."
Heís right. I donít know what I am thinking. He has two days left to live.
"Yes, sir. My first question comes after watching the videos of the shooting. I donít know if you aware they have released two more videos from two different angles and each shows you standing over the young man emptying your revolver and continuing to pull the trigger after the chamber of your gun is empty. At no time Mr. Dawes did you claim innocence, not that you really had the opportunity to claim innocence, but a guilty plea, sir. Why not another plea?"
He grunts and exhales, "Because I shot him. He reached inside his jacket and I shot him. Caught him in the arm with the first round. All I asked the boy to do was step aside, to clear the doorway so the ambulance drivers could bring the pregnant lady out. He spat in my face and told me, the nigger ainít been born yet that could give him orders. Mind you, I am in my full police uniform. I say, Sir, please step aside. He answers with fuck you and the pregnant black bitch and reaches inside his jacket. I pull my gun and shoot him in the shoulder. He was still holding his weapon and got off a round that wounded my partner. I shot him in his other shoulder and he went down. I went over to him and tried to kick the gun out of his hand. He fired again hitting me in the neck. I got right above him and shot his ass to death. I plead guilty because I meant to kill his ass.
"My wounded partner, grabs me from the back and wrestles me to ground and cuffs me. My partner, my partner of seven years does this; my partner who witnessed the whole shooting does this.
"When a sergeant got on the scene, I was cuffed and mad as hell about it. He asked me what happened, so I told him, ĎI killed the white motherfuckerí. Maybe that wasnít the smartest thing to say to white man, but thatís how I felt at the moment. My white partner had cuffed me and a white sergeant was asking me what happened, so I told him; ĎI killed the white motherfuckerí. And of course thatís the sound bite the media got." He pauses to take in several long breaths.
"They played the tape of me saying, ĎI killed the white motherfuckerí - while showing the video of me standing over the boy shooting him dead."
I saw the loop, and that pretty much convinced me that he had lost his mind. The video loop convinced me and most of America.
"Shit, nobody wanted to hear a damn thing I had to say after that. I was a Black man standing over a white boy firing bullets into his body; I was not a cop reacting to being spat on, shot at, and shot. Nope, I was just a Black man who was shooting a white boy. I was fucked...and I knew it."
He stops talking and breaths. I am taking in everything he just said. I look over at Maxine and see no empathy; she almost looks annoyed being here.
"I have been a policeman in this city for twenty-three years. I know how the system works. I didnít think I was going to make lockup."
I exhale and try not to sound too angry, because I have become pissed, not hearing his side of the story I just assumed he snapped and killed a white boy, but "It sounds like a justified shooting to me, why plead guilty?"
"Boy you ainít listening. My partner grabbed me from the back and cuffed me. I knew what this system was going to do to me; there wasnít any sense in taking my family through all of that. What I am hoping...is that this interview will get my pension to my wife; hopefully, you can get some of them Black organizations together and get my benefits to her. If you can get the truth out that will help her. They gonna kill me, so they are getting what they want, but I am hoping this story... this truth...will get me a little bit of what I want. So what you think, young fella?"
I am thinking maybe Maxine didnít play me, and that they do need Nancyís connection and me. If I can get the story in one source others will pick it.
"Why did you refuse to interviews before?"
"The lie was too strong to fight, the image of me standing over that boy and shooting him painted me as a racist."
I ask Maxine, "No way to get a photographer in?"
"I doubt it; I got that signed statement from my boss this morning with the approval for the interview. If Mr. Dawes didnít sign that letter that means those above donít want him photographed, and they are willing to lie to make that happen. I have done all I can."
I exhale and stand to leave because I cannot stand to look at the beaten Mr. Dawes any longer, and I have all I need for the interview, "I will get the story out, and get your last wishes to the media. I agree that enough exposure will make a difference. I have another question, Mr. Dawes; are you afraid?"
He looks up at me through those slits of flesh, "Of what, boy? Dying? Not really; I believe in God and an afterlife. My God saw what happened, and he knows my heart. No, boy, I ainít afraid."
"You requested a Black reporter because of your mistrust of the media?"
"I just requested to talk to the press, been asking for a week. I thought they beat my ass to stop me from asking, but you are here."
"Not after the guilty plea, I couldnít tell you his name."
Catching the elevator down with the officers, Maxine says, "That was the most he said since heís been here."
I donít answer her because sheís not right. Maxine is part of this man getting railroaded, and so am I. But, they made a mistake because I am going to blow his story up. When I am finished every print, television and radio source in this city will have this story even if I have to give it away. I swear to God every person in America will know this truth.†
Outside, walking through the protester my phone rings and vibrates. I recognize the number as Nancy job.
"You have an exclusive interview with William Dawes for sale?"†
Pap! Pap! Pap!
Someone is shooting. Protesters start running and so do I. More shots are fired.
Pap! Pap! Pap!
I feel two hot stabs in my back and a hammer hits me in the head; I see stars and drop to my knees...