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Darrell Bain has been writing most of his life though he didn't get really serious about it until the purchase of his first computer which made correcting his typing so much easier. In the last ten years he has had a total of twelve books either published or currently under contract to be published. Two of his works have been nominated for the EPIC 2000 Awards and another for the prestigious Frankfurt e-Book awards. His writing ranges the gamut of genres from Science Fiction to Romance, from Non-fiction to Suspense and from Children's books to Humorous Adventure novels. Darrell Served a number of years in the military, including two years in Vietnam. His first published novel, Medics Wild was based in part on his time in Vietnam. His two brothers also serve as prototypes in his Humor/Adventure series featuring the Willard Brothers. After leaving the military Darrell obtained a B.S. in Medical Technology and managed medical laboratories in Louisiana, Texas and Saudi Arabia. Eventually he and his wife Betty settled in East Texas where they own a Christmas tree farm located--where else?--on a real road named Santa Claus Lane. Two of his books deal with adventures on a Christmas tree farm. Other members of the family include Biscuit the dachshund and Black Dot and Black Spot, the tomcats. Lately, Darrell has been writing mostly humor. He also has a free newsletter with at least on wacky story a month which can be gotten by clicking on dbain@lcc.net and typing "Subscribe" in the subject line. His web site is http://www.santa-claus-lane.com/index.htm

Here is one of his stories,The Good Book, a dark tale with a twist.

The Good Book
Darrell Bain

Jim Belton was usually called "The Professor" by his fellow inmates on death row. They called him "The Professor" because he always had his nose in a book. Actually, it was a misnomer. While intellectual enough, Belton wasnít a professor of anything; he simply loved to read.

Belton was reading now, stretched out on his bunk with one book in his hands and another beneath his head, overlaid with a thin, prison-issue pillow. He was totally absorbed, as always, even though he had long ago lost count of the number of times he had read this particular book. It was one of his all time favorites and he had shut out the world, trying to finish it one more time before his execution.

A guard walked down the aisle separating the double row of cells and stopped in front of the one where Belton was spending his last day on earth. The guard spoke Beltonís name, then raised his voice and repeated it when he got no response.

"Belton!"

Belton blinked and looked up. "Huh?"

"Thatís the third time Iíve called you," the guard complained. "Is it that good of a book?"

Belton sat up, then glanced down at the worn binding of his book. He smiled and a bit of tension drained from his face. He thought of explaining to the guard just how wonderful this particular book was then let it go. "Yeah, itís a pretty fair read," he said. "Whatís up?"

"Your lawyer is here."

"Oh. Okay." Belton folded the corner of the page he was on into the book to mark his place then remembered he had promised himself to quit doing that and use bookmarks instead. He had been promising himself the same thing since he was a small boy, wiling away summer afternoons while his contemporaries pitched balls and rode bicycles in the small east Texas town where he had grown up. He hesitated, then left the corner of the page folded over. Iíll start tomorrow, he told himself, then chuckled silently. If Iím still around, that is.

***

"Iím sorry, Jim, but your last appeal was denied," Beltonís public defender said, trying to inject a note of sympathy into his voice. "I thought for awhile I could get to the next appellate court but thereís a stickler of a judge presiding. He wonít consider any sort of motion unless itís submitted during regular court hours, and today is Sunday."

"Would he consider an appeal tomorrow?" Belton asked, wondering as he did why he had asked the question. He wasnít going to be around tomorrow.

"Possibly, but whatís the point, Jim? Youíre scheduled to be executed tonight," Beltonís non-descript little attorney exclaimed, sympathy dissolving into indignation at the thought that if today were Monday he could collect another hefty fee from the state for the appeal.

A hint of an idea was trying to form in Beltonís mind, tenuous as yet but somehow it seemed important. He stood up, still holding his book, wondering if he would manage to finish it one last time before he was strapped down for that awful injection. His rugged face was set in lines of resignation. "Thanks anyway," he said to his attorney. "I know you tried." A thought stirred in his mind then was lost again.

The little attorney fluffed the lapels of his jacket and stuck out his hand. "Is there anything else I can do for you?"

"No, reckon not," Belton said, shaking the attorneyís limp paw. "I guess Iíll get on back and finish my book." He turned to go then stopped in mid-stride, the elusive idea finally popping full blown into existence like three bars on a slot machine. Book, he thought. Executioner.

"Wait!" Belton called to his attorney. "Wait up! Maybe there is something you can do for me after all. Maybe you can!"

***

"Youíre sure, now," Belton asked for the third time, but trying not to get his hopes up too high. "If the regular executioner doesnít show up tonight theyíll have to postpone it until they find another one?"

"Iím sure of that much," Beltonís counselor agreed. "They canít find just anyone to pull the switch, you know."

"And you can reach him tonight? Youíre sure now?"

"Thatís no problem either, Jim. But why?"

Belton smiled grimly. "Okay, hereís the deal. Iím going to give you a book. You take the book to the executioner tonight, then you must insist that he start to read it right away. He must start reading it tonight."

"But what if he refuses? And whatís the point of it all, anyway?"

"Never mind what the damned point is," Belton said, his voice rising. "No, take that back. You can figure it out. Just make sure he starts the book. Tell him itís a good way to pass the time until midnight. Tell itís my last request. Tell him anything, damn it, just make sure he starts reading that book!"

"But--Oh! Oh, now I see it! Youíre hoping the executioner will get so involved in that book that heíll forget the time and not show up until tomorrow when I can file the appeal. Am I right?"

Belton smiled thinly. "It could happen that way. Itís a chance."

"A slim chance," his defender said, but his countenance brightened at the thought of an additional fee on the morrow, faint though the possibility was.

"Better a slim chance than none at all," Belton said. "Will you do it?"

"Why not? Iíve seen stranger things happen. Sure, Iíll do my best."

"Letís get that book," Belton said.

***

At one minute past midnight that same evening, Jim Belton was executed, right on schedule--and across the city a sudden flickering of lights interrupted Jim Beltonís erstwhile defender for the first time since curiosity had impelled him to open the book he was to give to Beltonís executioner. He gazed in horror at his watch, then to the open pages of the book and yet again at his watch. He stared blankly into space for a while but eventually he shook himself all around, shrugged his shoulders and settled back into his chair.

"Only a few more pages," he told himself. "Only a few more pages then Iíll go to bed."

It was a very good book.

The End


 



Bonnie Mercure, your Fiction Guide at the dowse Fiction Hub, is a dark fantasy author.
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