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Last Meal

No one is quite sure what caused a well educated, well-liked, middle class man to commit murder, especially thirty-seven of them. It seemed completely random. There weren't any clear connections between the victims. None of the usual preferences of women, or men, or hair color, or some trigger that would have caused him to seek them out. He was just a predator, killing people in the moment.

What was most confusing to everyone was when he turned himself in. He'd flown under the radar for thirteen years. The police hadn't even connected the dots between any of the missing people that he'd murdered. There wasn't any pressure on him, no risk of getting caught, he just showed up at the police station carrying his last victim, weeping that he'd killed her, that he'd killed my wife.

He'd snatched her one day right as he got off work to go on vacation. He tortured her for the entire two weeks. Then at the end, as she lay dying. He picked up her broken body, put her in the car and went to the police. She died in his arms as he carried her up the steps. The police had never seen anything like it. They'd had people turn themselves in before and admit to murder. They had seen people regret what they did, but never like this.

Lee Evan Miller killed thirty-seven people from sixteen states over the course of thirteen years. He kept extensive written logs about each victim, including the time and place they were taken, how they were tortured, how they reacted to each type of torture, how long they lasted, and how they finally succumbed. Only my wife's journal entry was unfinished. She'd lasted fourteen days. That was ten days longer than any other victim.

Thirteen of those days the journal entry ended with "she said 'I forgive you.'" Even on day six when he had snipped off her tongue with garden sheers, she had infuriated him by mouthing those words with bloodied lips. Somehow that statement both infuriated him and created some sense of remorse.

It was hard to think of a monster like that having remorse. How could a man so depraved ever be stopped by forgiveness. Only my wife could have done something quite so obstinate and so miraculous. She'd said it to me a hundred times. She'd chide me about it as I griped about a co-worker, or give me forgiveness when I snuck a golf game when I said I was working, she even forgave me for sleeping with her best friend in college. Those thoughts lingered with me, her willingness to look past anyone's damage to forgive them and find a better path.

It was those thoughts that kept me motivated the last ten years. I watched Lee Evan Miller wind his way through the court system. First prosecuted speedily based on his own confession, then the conviction overturned because of some legal snafu, then a new trial. The second trial was a sham. It was a bunch of do-gooders trying to prove that Lee Evan Miller suffered from psychological issues. Miller refused to help the defense. He ardently denied that there was anything wrong with him. However, it wasn't until he'd seriously injured one of the defense attorneys that they took him seriously.

When new attorneys took over the guilty plea was on the table again, and he quickly accepted it. After that a series of attempts to halt the death penalty created more small delays. Unfortunately or fortunately, it is hard to defend someone who keeps shouting his guilt to anyone who will listen.

Everyone knew he was guilty. They just didn't get why he did what he did. To me it didn't matter. He'd taken the one thing from my life that kept me anchored. What motivated me now was delivering a final message to him. To that end I worked and waited for the opportunity to strike.

I'd thought of all kinds of plans. I was fairly good with a rifle, I even had a concealed carry license for close range. I thought about bombs, since I'd had some good chemistry experience. Then it hit me, chemistry and food, poisoning. The last meal. His last meal.

I'd worked as a chef for twenty years. Using science to devise interesting new ways of presenting and eating food. I abandoned all of that after my wife's murder, all to pursue a career preparing meals for death row inmates, just so I could get close to Lee Evan Miller.

Then the day came. After 8 years of working the system I'd been able to transfer into Terre Haute with less trouble than I expected. Most of my duties were just same-old-same-old daily cooking. But every once in a while I got tasked with last meals. From that point on I kept close watch on the calendar and the meal requests. Everything was very tightly planned out. I had given a couple of problematic prisoners a bad case of colon blow, which got me in good with some guards. The guards would help me sneak in some extra food and supplies under the guise of screwing with key targets in the population. If a guard brought me a name and a severity I met out a gastronomical punishment to fit timed to avoid any investigation of the kitchen.

I needed that opening to get things through for later and to be trusted in case I needed to make a quick exit. I worked the kitchen staff and the warden to be able to try new dishes as part of a cooking class I was taking. Hotdog requests became Gormet Sonoran Hotdogs wrapped in bacon and served with fresh salsa. I learned how to improvise with the limited food stock. The prison didn't really let people have lobster and steak like everyone thinks they do. Last meals could be something that was already on the menu, some local delivery, or meals that could be made with things already on site.

Luckily I had the guards help on sneaking in those few extra supplies without arousing suspicion. So I was ready on that cool October day when Lee Evan Miller was scheduled for lethal injection. I knew from reading his journals exactly what he'd order and had gotten the order just as expected seven days before the execution; A cheeseburger with everything, steak fries, lemonade, apple pie.

That's exactly what I gave him, but the best burger, fries and apple pie I could make. I snuck through some freshly ground beef made from aged chuck with a little goose fat for moisture and flavor. Some heirloom potato truffle fries with deep fried white wine vinegar pickle spears and an apple frite of my own design served on a small Belgian waffle with a drizzle of cream cheese and honey and a scoop of freshly made vanilla ice cream, and a nice lemon limeade with just a hint of mint. I had to sneak in a little more than usual, but I was lucky with some supplies as there was a garden on site that provided some fresh produce and herbs. The rest though was special, just for Lee, just for tonight. Every ingredient carefully thought through.

I made sure everything was prepared and plated. Then I slipped a little note under the plate, just for tonight's guest, hoping that he didn't miss it before going to went to the main event. I only wished that I could be there to watch him eat, to see him lick the plate with desire, knowing that he'd never be able to have another such meal and that he couldn't ask for seconds. Then the meal was sent on it's way and I left to take care of the next portion of the nights events. The show.

I left the prison and headed back to my hotel. I shaved my face down to a simple goatee and a nice shiny bald head and returned the clean look I'd had 10 years ago. I got rid of my frumpy uniform and traded it for a some slacks, a nice shirt and a sports jacket. Then I ditched my colored contacts for a thick rimmed set of glasses I was used to wearing. It was hard to recognize myself in the mirror anymore. It made me wonder what I was going to do after I'd exacted my revenge, but I tried not to dwell on the negative when I was so close to the pay off.

Then once I was refreshed I went to join the rest of the family members, press, and witnesses back at the prison. It was a somber affair. While others were there hoping for some new insight. Some supported capital punishment, some did not, but all of them wanted to see this through and get some sort of closure. I hoped that tonight was not a disappointment, although I fear it would be for a few too kindhearted souls.

The signal came. Everyone sad down and the show started. The curtain parted and Lee Evan Miller lay before us on a gurney seemingly sedate but a little sweaty. It made me wonder if he had struggled or they had to use force to get him in, or if he was as resigned to death as much as he'd previously stated. Some sick part of me hoped he was resigned to this, maybe even hoping for it.

He refused any last words and just closed his eyes. We waited for a couple of moments. There was always that tension of watching the countdown, wondering if the governor or some court was going to come through with a last minute stay. That wouldn't be the case this time. Everything started right on schedule. Even the screaming.

Two minutes in Miller started to convulse, shaking against his restraints, eyes wide open, looking out into a crowd he couldn't really see. People were aghast. The few who'd been at executions before had never seen anything like this and the ones who were first timers were stunned that something like this could happen. In the small room people rushed around attempting to gain control of the chaos I had created.

What they couldn't have known was that I had been dosing meals from Millers wing for quite some time, until I'd heard enough rumors of who'd gotten sick in various ways to determine which meals were going where. From there it was just a matter of dosing Millers meals slowly building up a tolerance to the sedative and eventually dosing him with a counter agent that further negated the drug. Then I fed the largest dose to him in his last meal. It was unlikely they'd be able to kill him tonight. Not after this fiasco.

Officers on the other side of the glass rushed to close the curtains and the warden and others on this side worked to move people to the meeting room just outside. The warden apologized profusely and wanted to assure everyone this was not the way things worked. Meanwhile reporters went straight for their phones, which were disallowed in the view room, but could now be used to call in their stories.

I couldn't smile at this event. My wife would have never allowed it. She would have just told me "I forgive you, but there are consequences." Tonight I had sent that same message to Lee Evan Miller. I forgave him, but there were still consequences.

I found out later that Miller ended up in a coma for three weeks. When he came out he was pretty damaged. He'd weathered most of the barbiturate withdrawal while in the coma but there were still issues that lingered after. For a month all he would do is cry apple pie every time they brought him his meal. After he was done eating he'd sit in the corner and cry for hours.

They talked about rescheduling his execution, but prisoner rights groups and Amnesty International came out with strong criticism of capital punishment as always and pressured some senators to start hearings on the matter. Eventually Miller's sentence was commuted to life in prison without parole. That was fine by me. I wanted him to sit in that cell remembering the sweetness of life, a sweetness he would never experience again. Just like my wife. Just like me.