Sunday 14 – Monday 15 August 2011
Everything comes to an end, sooner or later, and hopefully for the best.
The Correctional Facility
Hannah’s possessions were packed into a non-descript cardboard box. There weren’t very many of them, and her last words to Stevie Tudor, were to deliver them to charity. As Stevie’s last act as warden of Waterstone, she abided by Hannah’s last wish. As she picked up the box, Stevie took one last look around the cell that Hannah Thomas had occupied on death row for twelve years. It had been a week since Hannah had last sat on the bed, but the woman’s presence still filled the cramped and cold cell. Stevie marvelled at the strength that Hannah must have had to survive twelve years on death row, knowing that she was innocent.
Stevie, engaged in the moment, didn’t hear her husband arrive at the cell door. His words startled her back to reality.
‘It’s not your fault, Stevie. We tried. There’s nothing more that we could have done.’
‘It was too late – we were too late. I was. This isn’t how things were supposed to be, Dunc,’ she spoke quietly but with determination. She turned around to face him, and he, rather gracefully she thought, took the box containing Hannah’s things from her arms.
In the months since Duncan had engrossed himself in investigating the Thomas murder, he had lost a lot of weight, she thought. He was never a large man, but he had once been a solid build; now, he was lean and wiry, and his once dark brown hair was peppered with grey. It was a case that had taken its toll on everyone involved: Sheriff Smith had retired, Deputy Laurie Hills had moved away to start a family, Duncan had been disbarred despite finding Bernie Thomas alive and well, and Stevie had been stood down as warden for providing assistance to a fugitive. But everything they lost paled in comparison to what Hannah Thomas had ultimately lost – her life.
‘At least we brought Bernie Thomas to justice,’ Stevie said as she and Duncan walked down the corridor to what was previously her office.
‘I have to say, the best moment in this whole thing for me was when Hills Tasered him. She warned him, but he went to run. That lady was fast. Hit him in the chest and dropped him like that,’ Duncan tried to click his fingers to illustrate his point but was impeded by the fact he was carrying the box of Hannah’s belongings.
‘Dunc, be honest,’ everything about Stevie screamed that she was a stressed woman, ‘do you think he’ll be convicted?’
Duncan thought about the question. A few years ago he would have said yes straight away, but today, with the miscarriage of justice that Hannah Thomas faced, and the fact that she ended up on death row with no one believing in her innocence, that surety eluded him now. He stopped outside of the office that Stevie had two days left to vacate, and leaned against the doorjamb.
‘I don’t know. I hope so, but I have no idea any more. It’ll help that they found the bodies. He can’t possibly get around that.’ Duncan hoped that Bernie Thomas wouldn’t get around murdering two people and stealing twelve years from one of his wives, not to mention the dignity of the first wife.
Almost nothing was the same for Hannah once she was released from prison, and her conviction overturned. The world had changed significantly in the time she’d been incarcerated. She had changed. With one last fight left, her battle for compensation from the State for wrongful imprisonment, loss of income, and emotional distress, Hannah’s financial future would be set, but she had no idea where her life was heading. Everything she’d known was gone, and due to the publicity surrounding her escape and overturning of her conviction, she was well recognised everywhere she went. There was no quiet life in her future, but she thanked God that she was free.
The one constant for Hannah over the last twelve years, the one thing that remained the same now that she was free, was that despite being surrounded by people, she was still alone. The fifty or so other people in the lounge bar were just background noise to her. She slowly sipped her gin and ginger ale as she waited patiently for her dinner date.
Looking through the front window of the building, Kathryn Hayes-Thomas immediately recognised Hannah’s form at the bar. The connection she had with the wrongly convicted woman had become quite strong in a short space of time. Kathryn adjusted her clothing and made her entrance, slipping her hand into her purse as she walked to Hannah’s side.
‘Hannah, it’s lovely to see you again,’ she said as she waved the bar tender away. She’d had enough to drink before coming out. Hannah smiled. She was happy to be out with someone who would give her their undivided attention. It was a far cry from being in the exercise yard at Waterstone. Adept at reading people, a skill she’d been forced to learn in prison, Hannah saw that something was bothering Kathryn.
‘What’s wrong?’ she asked.
Kathryn couldn’t bite back the anger she felt any longer. It was a feat of self-control that she managed to keep her voice down.
‘You took my husband. You seduced him, suckered him in, married him. You took him away from me.’
Hannah couldn’t believe what she was hearing. The woman she thought of as a friend, the person who had fought to keep her out of prison after the escape, was vilifying her for being married to Bernie Thomas.
‘I didn’t know he was married. He never told me. I didn’t – ’
A burning pain shot through Hannah’s chest before she finished speaking. She looked down at the spot where she felt pain. Liquid oozed from her chest, her blue cotton shirt turning a deep shade of purple as it absorbed Hannah’s blood.
‘What did you do?’ Hannah whispered, clutching at Kathryn as she fell to the floor.
‘I helped you to get you to this point. I didn’t want the State to have the pleasure of taking your life. I wanted that pleasure for myself. You took my husband. I’ve taken your life.’ Kathryn shook Hannah off, turned on her heels, and left the lounge bar. The police would know who had killed her; Kathryn made no attempt to hide her identity from the CCTV cameras in the bar.
As Hannah lay dying on the floor, the irony of having left death row with her life hadn’t escaped her. She silently laughed, and with each laugh the last wisps of air trickled from her lips.