I've been warned about him. Repeatedly.
Prison staffroom gossip goes a long way, and for those of us who watched the news on the television installed for lunch hour breaks in the staffroom, we were aware of who he was, what he was capable of.
None of us were prepared for the reality. A day in, he's calm, he's dignified, he's quiet and rather charming. A few days later and some of the female staff; the eternally hardened, women who learned to become tougher than men in essentially a man's world-- they're admitting to rather liking him.
This was when I started to suggest moving his initial consultation up; he'd refused it upon admission, and since he seemed to have no overtly dangerous or self-harming tendencies, it was, at this stage, strictly optional. I was worried about him seducing staff, undermining them. They had a hard enough job, the last thing they needed was this master manipulator messing with their circuitry.
We made an appointment. He chuckled easily and I couldn't pinpoint why I was scared of him. I'd been in the job a decade. I'd dealt with criminals from all walks of life, men whose minds had become a cauldron of toxic slush thanks to repeated drug abuse, head trauma and their own demons. I'd seen serial killers, sexual sadists, mass murderers. I'd been propositioned and threatened and at times, nearly physically assaulted by all manner of monsters: they were the dregs of society, they were forced to see me, and they resented the hell out of me.
I couldn't hate them, not entirely. If I hated them, I wouldn't be working here, I'd have a private practice in a nice neighbourhood, I'd be charging two hundred an hour and dealing with neurotic, bored housewives and their cocaine-addict hotshot husbands. I'd be talking to spoiled Valley girls with eating disorders and angst about losing their virginity.
I wouldn't be here. It was a job that you loved, in a way, a job that grew around you and became part of you like ivy on a brick wall. Over the years it changed me, became part of my identity, unshakable, a parasite, until we were both locked into it and it couldn't survive without me and I couldn't exist without it. Sure, I had my fantasies about leaving every now and then, a bad day at the office could have me leaving at the end of the day desperate for a bottle of Scotch and an extended holiday. But that was everyone, a perfectly normal reaction to the pressures of fulltime employment in a difficult industry. On the whole, my job was me. I was going to stay here, I was born into it, I'd retire from it. And my golden years would be spent reminiscing about various men I'd seen and dealt with and possibly helped on their way through the system or back into the community or down that long stretch with the white light at the end known as the green mile.
"At least it's interesting," I'd tell outsiders who'd only come as close to a prison as seeing one on a cheaply made sensationalistic documentary.
Gavin was unnerving. It was the stillness, the ease with which he seemed to glide around the place, like he'd always belonged here and it wasn't going to rattle him, couldn't get under his skin, and wouldn't at all change him. He was sharing a room with one of the old-timers, a elderly gentleman by the name of Ruce, who'd been here longer than I had. Ruce was no threat to anyone, he kept out of everyone's way, he had nothing of value to any of the rest of the prison population. Gavin was a decent choice of cellmate, I thought; and seeing him there, I agreed-- neither were at risk of harming the other, and since they both preferred to stay in their cell most of the time-- and neither was a big conversationalist-- it appeared to work better than most of the times complete strangers are forced to share a room and their lives for an extended period.
"So-- next Tuesday-- three o'clock-- you'll be brought down to my office, and we can talk." My false cheeriness was the way I disguised fear as I scheduled a follow-up session after some policy changes which had affected some of the inmates. Procedural, of course. He'd kept out of my way and I'd kept out of his for awhile, and I liked it like that and he seemed to as well. It would all be perfectly simple.
I didn't like the way he just stared at me. I'd seen sociopaths do that when regaling some story about some woman they raped or some animal they tortured. Ten years here, and I knew the look.
"Thankyou, doctor." He smiled then, sunshine and lightness, betraying the cold-blooded killer who'd thought nothing of double-murder and setting up his supposed friend to take the fall.
I could see how someone could fall for that smile, though. It disturbed me how easily he smiled.
"Righty-oh then." Field and Hamm, the two workers who'd escorted me down into A-wing-- motioned for me to step out of the room. Gavin stepped away from his door, offering no resistence. Hamm was only five-four, in his fifties, and looked like he was made of putty. Had Gavin wanted to put up a fight, it would have been childs' play.
But he didn't. He clutched his book to his side-- I made a mental note to ask him bout his reading interests during the session-- and smiled again, watching me step out.
"I bid you farewell," he said. "Until next Tuesday unless we meet before."
"Yeah," I said. "See ya then."
It seemed cocky and arrogant of him to suggest that I'd see him before the assigned time, and I didn't like it when they did that. It was an attempt at them gaining control; passive-aggressively, but it was still there. Gavin, according to his files, liked control. The only thing I was looking forward to about seeing him was that he appeared pleasant enough, and intelligent. The fact that he wasn't psychotic or suffering the repercussions of ice or hooch were also positives.
He was right; I didn't have to wait until the following Tuesday.
Friday evening I was called back for an assessment; there'd been an incident in A-wing-- it had come as a surprise; the docile long-timers as well as a few of the less-violent resided there, usually, or the non-affiliated hotshots with too much media attention to walk freely in a crowd. I'd been expecting more DeMorales-Kitaki drama from E and D wings; not this.
I suspected senility had set in for poor old Ruce.
I didn't expect to be walked through a unit on lockdown, past walls smeared with blood, and down into solitary. The isolation room door hung open, no risk to anyone since the unit was locked down-- and I could see bloodied handprints, like childrens' fingerpainting, stamped around the lemon walls.
"We have a problem," Towne said in monotone. "A big fucken problem."
"Who is it this time?"
I knew it was him. And I didn't want it to be, but there was a curling in my guts that made me know my suspicion was correct.
"Daniels?" I asked. Sexual sadist and murderer of twelve women on a spree that spanned three years, eight years ago. Reasonably well-behaved since he'd started serving a life sentence.
Towne laughed grimly. "I'm talking about our friend Gavin. Wouldn't have picked him, actually."
I nodded sternly. "Looks like he came off second-best."
"No, that was Wellington, who'll be seeing you when he's stabilised and ready to talk," he said. "And Parke's said he's not having him back on the unit until he's in a reasonable condition. The bastard made a mess of him."
Where were the staff? I wanted to ask, but didn't. I nodded instead.
"Parke's down with Wellington in the hospital; they had to take him outside to emergency. I'm running the floor right now: the place is on lockdown and we want Gavin assessed and moved off the unit if at all possible, tonight."
"That sounds hefty."
"We can't get any of the senior psychs in to approve meds for him, and we're worried he's going to escalate." He patted me on the shoulder as we reached the door. "You're the man, doc."
I watched him slide the window on the door open, and peeked in.
Gavin was sitting on the floor, legs crossed. He could have been doing yoga to an outsider.
I knocked on the door. "Mr. Gavin?" I asked.
He looked up, recognising my eyes and voice, and smiled again, a glimmer coming into his eyes. "I thought I'd be seeing you before Tuesday," he said warmly.
And that was when I started feeling really ill around him. The calmness in the middle of such chaos? I hadn't really seen that before.
Of course, they don't like staff getting hurt here, and they don't like us taking stress leave or trying to get compensation for what this place does to you.
It's not a natural working environment, you're not in normal settings. You either get in, and get out quickly, or the strangely seductive lull of prison life draws you in; you like the routine, you get used to the faces, the violence you hear about only starts to cut so deep. You rationalise and don't judge about things, and you make sure you get the hell out of that headspace when you leave the place at the end of the day.
They like their specialists here, because they're hard to acquire. Harder to keep.
So we're set up with the same sorts of tools as the regular staff here have at their disposal; the radios for staying in contact, the first aid kits in case someone requires first aid. The duress alarm, which sits on your hip and which you press when there's something you can't deal with. Everyone loves the duress alarm; it's comfort to the staff, and when one of those babies goes off, the whole prison gets to hear about it. You'll see them asking one another days later, "Who set the alarm off, man-- what happened?"-- and you hear stories embellished of what might have, men posturing to one another when the outsider goals and achievements have little value any more. Being able to strike momentary fear and panic into the hearts of others-- it's capital.
I'm lead to Gavin's cell on the Friday morning.
He's only been in there overnight, but I'm there to assess and meet with him, to see if he's at all moveable back to the general population.
I shake my head when I hear such a ridiculous suggestion. He's a livewire. He's dangerous. He's a chess player-- once the story of his physical prowess gets out to the rest of the inmates, all he need do is start getting in people's ears and getting other hands to do his dirty work. The fact that he looks so harmless-- and acts like such an angel most of the time-- is what makes him dangerous. I've seen it before-- he gets removed from J-wing, he goes back to gen pop, everything's calm for awhile, he's behaving like a choir boy, maybe he's won a few hearts, things slacken-- and wham-- someone isn't as lucky as Richard Wellington, who's going to be spending some time in the psych unit from what I was told this morning.
Wellington. I'd suggested protective custody from the initial consultation-- a cop killer and a hustler and a con man who conned cons-- a lethal combination in a place like this. Add to the mix his propensity for sounding like an over-educated smart arse and his somewhat weak constitution, and why they didn't put him there is a mystery to me.
Psych unit is in a different section; they have their own shrinks and their psychs work longer hours even though most of their clients are just drugged to the hilt anyway. Occasionally I get called there to evaluate when someone needs to come back to gen pop. A second opinion.
The solitary unit looks empty when I walk down the corridor. Privacy laws mean that the bastard's got to get just that; the workers can't accompany me within earshot since his visit with me is about confidential things. They get to wait down the hall. They get to run to my aid if I hit the duress alarm. My fingers run over it and its hard, worn leather pouch on my belt as I get to the door. No need to knock; it's the old-fashioned bars in here. Whenever we get budget, there are more pressing things than fixing the cells up this end-- technically if there is more than one prisoner here, they can yell out to one another, so "isolation" becomes a token buzzword only brought about by positioning. Gavin wouldn't be able to hear someone up by the doors leading back unto the unit.
He's sitting in his chair, in the middle of the room, reading something. It's a thick, full-looking book-- many of them read the Bible in here-- the thought of this one reading it is almost obscene.
He looks up when he hears the footsteps, sees who's coming, and then goes back to reading as though nothing out of the ordinary happened. They feed him, they bring him mail. Three times a day, nothing more. Maybe he's not used to the drudgery yet.
"Gavin," Towne say in a non-nonsense snap-- "Time for therapy."
He looks up and smiles, placing the book down gently at his feet. "Ah," he purrs, acknowledging me, "The rapist." Says it like it's one word, like he hasn't worked out how to pronounce "therapist." Towne glares at him and clears his throat.
"Actually," I offer, "I'm a psychiatrist."
The keys slide into the lock, and there's the click and the door swings open.
"No reason you can't be both," Gavin says evenly.
"No monkey business," Towne says defensively. "If I hear one word about you doing anything to doctor--"
"I harbour no resentment towards your esteemed colleague," Gavin says, standing up and waiting for the wand. I stand back as Towne sticks his arm in, waving a plastic object over the air around him, watching as he lifts his feet. He doesn't even have to request anything; Gavin's a fast learner. Usually it takes them awhile to pick up the microroutines of the place. They're checking him for abnormalities; contraband; weapons he might have fashioned from something-- and you see it all here. You can never be too careful. Look at an object, and get creative-- work out how the most benign of items could injure someone, and apply an understimulated imagination to the mix, and you're starting to see what I mean.
I watch him for movement, for any kind of gesture which might seem to indicate... something. But no; I turn to Towne and Field and give them a nod. "We'll be an hour," I say confidently as the door-- gate, really-- is shut behind me and the lock clicks ominously. I feel my hand reach down and my fingertips caressing the leather on the duress alarm all over again.
Therapy is now in session.
"I'd invite you to have a seat..." he says, letting his statement end there, looking apologetically at the lone plastic chair in the middle of the room, shaking his head, hand to his glasses-- the part that was unsaid obvious.
The lack of foresight on the staff's part is aggravating. What were they expecting me to do? Stand? I'm certain they wouldn't have expected him to.
"Of course, I could use the bed for my own seating requirements." He looks in the direction of the miserable-looking cot-bed. "Would you prefer that I do that, doctor?"
He's stunningly, perfectly polite.
"If you wish to," I say evenly, hoping that he will.
"I'd prefer to," he says. "I'd like you to feel that we're on the same level, doctor."
I don't know if he wants to rise above his own, or drag me down to it. He gets up from the chair and walks across to the cot, and sits on the edge, smiling at me, his hands folded in his lap.
"So what do you wish to talk to me about?" he asks. I'm trying to make myself comfortable in the plastic one-piece chair. They're perfectly molded, like childrens' chairs, no sharp edges, nothing to break off and use as a shank. Sitting where I am, I wonder if the cell has been assessed for dangers. I can already see potentially hazardous problems with the room, and it bothers me to think that he's probably noticed them, too.
"Where would you like to start?" he asks me.
"This session is about you, Mr. Gavin."
"Maybe you need to inspire me into conversation."
"I'd like to know what you want to talk about."
He looks down at the book on the floor almost painfully, and so do I. It's not the Bible. It's Ayn Rand. The Fountainhead. I remember it from high school. I'd written an essay about the damn thing to try and win a scholarship into one of the major universities back in the day.
I hadn't won. I guess I'm not much good at being an Objectivist.
"Maybe you could introduce me to yourself, then," I offer. I'm wanting to ask him about the book, but wanting to see how he describes himself first. The reports only go so far, and they leave out the little details. Beneath the casual sarcasm and the elegance and etiquette, there might just be a little boy lamenting that his mother never read to him at night.
"You already know me," he says.
"No I don't." It's my false cheeriness coming back, trying to smooth over sharp corners and make everything that much easier for everyone.
"You've already seen the reports and formed an opinion of me," he says. "You already know what you think of me." He's looking at me intensely. "I'm just another specimen to you, another client, another mind to assess and put into paperwork." He shrugs. "Where are your gaps, doctor?" he asks. "What are you missing?"
"I'd like to see what you can offer me," I say to him. "Sometimes it's more telling in your words."
That seems to appeal to his arrogance or to interest him. He raises his eyebrows slightly, and then falls forward slightly, rocking back and smiling then.
"I could be here a long time," he says.
"We have just under an hour today, and I can come back for subsequent appointments if you'd like."
"Maybe I'd like that," he says.
"So you're undecided about therapy?" That was interesting; Gavin seemed to be a man of absolutes, and I always figured that with his need for control and his tightly-guarded reality behind the smiles and the perfectly groomed mane which he wore in a spike which rested over his shoulder-- he'd either have embraced-- or more likely, dismissed-- the idea of therapy.
"I'm undecided about a great number of things," he says, crossing one leg over the other and looking at me, his eyes still piercingly, intensely blue behind the glasses. "If I see any value in this, I shall continue. Otherwise, I shall not." He leans in, as though he's addressed the subject, and then looks at me. "So what would you like, doctor?"
"I'd like to get to know you." I don't like the way he's vying for control of the whole thing. I've heard of people who go into this industry to control others, men and women who've felt powerless in their own lives-- and I'm not one of them. But his desperate need is just there, staring at me, bothering me.
"Your words," I say. "Let me meet the real Kristoph Gavin."
He leans back then, and smirks at me. No shame whatsoever, like he's amused by everything. "I suppose a disclaimer is in order then," he says, and with a flourish of his hand-- did the guy do drama in college?-- "I, Kristoph Volker Gavin--"
"Volker," I repeat. "That's an interesting name."
"German," he says with a shrug. "After my great-grandfather. Being the oldest male child means there are some traditions one gets burdened with, I suppose."
"Do you resent any of them?" I've gone into psychiatrist mode before I've realised what I've done. Gavin raises an eyebrow at me.
"Do you realise--" he asks smoothly, "How condescending you sounded just then when you asked me that?" He smirks nastily, and I feel like I've caught a glimmer of teeth even though I'm sure his mouth has stayed shut. "I've tried to kill men for less, some would argue."
And that's when I open my big, stupid mouth. "Tried to? The report says you were successful, that the traveller Shadi Smith died after you hit him over the head. And the Mishams..."
"They're the ones everyone knows about." He raises an eyebrow. I've seen this before, the great wild goose chase. The bit of amusement I can potentially provide him.
"May I remind you," I suggest tactfully, "I'm neither a priest nor a legal representative. Your secrets aren't necessarily safe with me."
"I'm fully aware of that, doctor." Still smiling. Maybe he was telling the truth. I assure myself that he wasn't before continuing.
"So..." I can feel my palms sweating, and that lump in the back of my neck which flares up with too much stress or Thai food flaring up. "Kristoph Gavin... you're in for life-- no possibility of parole-- and you're... wanting to spend the rest of your days here?"
"I suppose so," he says.
"Is that something else you haven't decided upon yet?"
"Partially. I'm just reeling from the spell of good fortune I had which has spared me the death penalty. I'd been thinking about it and then the capital punishment legislation was overturned in this jurisdiction, wasn't it?" His voice is smooth and satin. This was why I was meant to be seeing him on Tuesday: to talk to him about the change in legislation: So You're not Going To Die.
"Yes," I say. "Were you contemplating your own death?"
"Of course," he says. "I was aware of the usual bleeding hearts and liberals pushing for the laws to change, but in the time I've spent here since that ruling, I've had to deal with a great number of things. Leaving my lovely solitary cell, being dragged out to court and having to face a number of people I wished not to-- and then being transported back here." He sighs dramatically. "I miss number thirteen. My unlucky number; had I been lucky, I wouldn't have returned to custodial services at all."
"You still would have served the remainder of your time for the murder of Shadi Smith," I point out. I'm speaking about murder so casually. This is what I'm paid to do.
"Would you like to talk about that?"
He shrugs. "What would you like to know, doctor? I'm an open book."
I hate the way he says that. Because seeing that smile and that light in his eyes, I know I've pried open a nasty little box, and I'm going to be hit at full force with whatever his id's wanting to bring forth.
"Let's talk about the murder, then," I offer weakly. I don't want to. I hear the note in my voice change, then; I've dropped my defenses for a second, the sadist in him is going to tell me about his glorious murderous rage; how his pulse raced and he felt the same kind of buzz as the first time he realised that you could hurt things and make them shriek in pain for as long as you could hold out; how he'd fled the scene and been scared of getting caught because after the efficiency that hit, he needed to jerk off so badly, that it was hard to stop smiling--
"It sounds as though you'd rather not discuss that," he says politely. "A notion which is entirely understandable; after all, as you previously stated, you hardly know me." He chuckles to himself. "I shall discuss the murders with you at a later stage if you wish; for now, what do you require from me?"
"Let's discuss your narrow escape from death." I glance down at the Ayn Rand book on the floor. "Maybe you should be thankful for those bleeding heart hippies."
"I'm not convinced of their influence," he says, then pauses. "Though I am convinced of my brother's."
I fold my hands. "Your brother?"
The look on his face changes for a moment then.
"Would you like to talk about my brother?" he asks.
I've seen the casenotes. Brother is a top prosecutor, funnily enough. Brother was one of the people involved in his elaborate plans and deception. Brother still visited him on a regular basis.
"If you'd like to." At least that's an opening. I can see him relaxing a little, leaning forward, interested.
"Well... I suppose." He smiles. "Klavier Gavin." He relishes the name, sighing to himself. "My little brother."
"He was involved in your incarceration, wasn't he?"
"Yes," he says. "He was somewhat pushed into it, however." There's a wave of one hand and he pushes his glasses up the bridge of his nose. "Phoenix Wright was behind that..."
All of a sudden, I don't like where this is going. It's teetering on the edge of him talking about the murders. Maybe I don't want to hear about them just now, not necessarily because I'm squeamish, but because I want to keep an open mind about him. I want him to trust me, to talk to me-- and he's not going to do that if he senses judgement.
"Klavier," I say, remembering the man's image. I've never seen him in the flesh, but my daughter's a Gavinners fan. She was devastated when the group fell apart after their guitarist was put away for murder. His action was betrayal; not just to the people whom he was on tour with, but to his enormous fanbase as well. The media went wild. Teenage girls went into a state of what seemed like an eternal depression.
It always seems eternal when you're that age.
Or when you're in prison.
"He's the rock star, right?"
"Was," he says. "He didn't take too well to the change in lifestyle after his band fell apart." He shrugs. "He was always a better lawyer than he was a celebrity, anyway." He doesn't seem either pleased or upset about what he's telling me. "He can focus much better on his work, I suppose."
"So you're quite concerned about his career?"
Something changes in him again. "I've always been concerned about my little brother," he says. "Klavier and I have an... interesting relationship."
Interesting. I don't like the way his voice changes and his eyes flash excitedly. It's another expression I've seen, one that I know well. Amongst sex offenders.
Gavin isn't here for anything like that.
"Interesting?" I ask. I'm trying to keep my voice even.
Sometimes you learn about other things they've done, things the legal system never knew about before they were sentenced. Sometimes you hear embellished stories, things you're sure never happened and hope didn't.
"We were very close," he says slowly, his fingers curling into his palm thoughtfully.
God, I hope this is one of his attempts at disturbing me in order to gain control over me.
"Close?" I ask. I need clarification. I need to know that he's not really that bad, that the paperwork is accurate, that he's just a calculated murderer and that we know the worst about him from his paperwork. I don't like the potential, the bottomless depths that he could potentially have sunk too.
It seems... limitless and underestimated. An abyss.
"Yes," he says smoothly. "Klavier and I were seven years apart, yet he idolised me." He shrugged again and smiled. "I was like his first mentor, I suppose. I taught him the majority of what he knows."
I raise an eyebrow. "You seem quite confident about that, Mr. Gavin."
"Our parents were remarkably busy people, and when they lost a lot of money on the stockmarket back in 2010, our nanny left the house and Klavier became dependent on me."
"How old were you when this happened?"
He smirks, in a do-the-Math kind of way. "I was seventeen, nearly eighteen-- he was nine." He sounds taunting, like the bastard can read my mind and wants to hear my fears, what I don't want to verbalise because I can taste bile in the back of my throat and feel the spot on my neck throbbing.
His words fail to alleviate any concern I may have had.
"He was a child prodigy," he says evenly. There's nothing awed or parental or touched about his voice, he's merely stating fact. "I was the one who discovered what a fast learner he was."
I want to retch. I want to hit the duress alarm.
But I don't want to show him I'm afraid.
"You were the one who introduced him to law?"
He nods. And for the first time, he looks proud of himself.
"He started watching me read, looking over my shoulder," he said. "Initially I found it irritating, I was studying myself-- but in the end I learned to tolerate him." He smiles then. "He was only doing it because he was in awe of me. Whatever I did, he wanted to do... and he started asking me about words in my law books, what things meant, to explain the concepts behind the terminology... like a child does when learning to read."
There was a softness in him then, something I hadn't seen before. For a moment, he'd let the mask slip. Suddenly my thoughts that his behaviour with his little brother could have been inappropriate seemed sick. But that was my suspicion, not his action. He genuinely loved his little brother, it seemed.
As best he could have loved anyone, anyway.
"It wasn't very long when he suggested becoming a lawyer himself. He had the still-childish dream of becoming a rock star on one hand, and then on the other, this beautifully organised legal mind. He had a sharp memory. Obsession. Focus-- far beyond what most children have at that age. Far more than I did some of the time."
"Did your parents encourage him to pursue either of those dreams?" I ask. "What about yours?"
I don't do this very often, but I'm wondering where and how it all came undone. Most of the men I see to in this context are easily understood; a childhood shattered with abuse and no stability and poverty and parents involved in criminal activities themselves tends to offer less than ideal adult role models, and it shapes and shatters developing self-identity. The Gavins weren't like this, however, Kristoph spoke no ill-will of his parents-- perhaps they were consumed with work, but it appeared their offspring never experienced the kinds of terrifying, traumatic abuse the rest of the inmates here are too acceptingly familiar with.
He looks to the wall, as if he's seen a bug on the brickwork. "My parents weren't particularly interested," he says. "With the business collapse following their failures on the stock market, they were otherwise occupied. They were busy trying to retrace their footsteps and fix the financial mess they were in." He speaks clearly, with no emotion. He sounds almost bored. "They were pleased for me when I was accepted into law, but were soon consumed with other concerns." He's looking back at me now, finger and thumb twisting his fringe now, as though he's about to make another sharp spike like the one over his shoulder.
I wonder if I've hit him in a sore spot, mentally speaking.
"Not that I blame them."
"No resentment whatsoever?"
"None at all. It would be childish of me to harbour resentment. They are guilty of nothing-- had they had ample time to enjoy their children and be emotionally invested in them, I'm sure they would have been." He doesn't sound interested or involved at all, merely like he's repeating the same damned statement for the millionth time to someone.
I wonder how many people have just wanted to assume that he blames his behaviour on a damaged childhood. Some of the smarter ones try that.
He's not just smart, he's in a league of his own.
"How long do we have remaining?" he asks.
And that's when I realise that I'll be seeing him for the long-term; his voice betrays him; he can sit there looking uninterested and serene, and yet there's an anxiety, a want, a need for the session to continue.
I wonder if he's actually not that disturbing, if my colleagues were merely jealous of him; jealous of his unshakable quiet, the stillness, the elegance. Maybe they wanted the upper-class, highly educated childhood he was granted, the opportunity to make a decent wage fighting for justice; maybe they resented the hell out of him for having it and throwing it all away.
Maybe they disliked that he got on so well with the female workers.
"We have about twenty minutes."
He nods. "Ahh," he says. "They won't allow me a clock in here."
"This isn't designed to be a permanent residence, Mr. Gavin."
He raises an eyebrow. "Oh?" he asks. "When I was relocated to these premises, I was advised to stay in here until I rotted by one of your esteemed colleagues." There's sarcasm in his voice. "And from my understanding, no moves have been made to reintegrate me into the general population."
I nod. I know all this. I wouldn't want him wandering around out there, either.
"I don't really know what they plan on doing with me," he says. He's still smiling, like there's a tragic kind of humour in his predicament. Someone once said that the reason comedy is so funny is because there's an inherent cruelty in it.
I don't say anything, but he continues. "I was thinking about my death since my return. It was a certainty; under the previous legislation, I actually had the option of choosing how they were to execute me." His smile is now a grin, like he's trying to stop himself laughing. "There's an option most of us never get-- how to die. It's almost quite science fiction, isn't it, being asked how you're going to get killed, as though to someone, somewhere, your opinion still matters." He sniffs. I'm finding the conversation nauseating.
Yes, I've had to deal with helping those on death row adjust to, and accept death. I compared it to being a regular counsellor with an office in the hills, helping someone deal with impending death from terminal illness. Except that they weren't convicted felons, and the death row inmates were perfectly healthy.
Usually people don't deal with the news and the discussion very well. The human race isn't good at contemplating mortality. Death scares the shit out of people.
"Am I making you uncomfortable?" he asks. He's peering at me now. "I don't see why I should be... death is a fact of life, especially in a place like this."
I try to will my heart to slow down.
"You're right," I tell him. "I suppose I'm only human."
"How long have you been working here?" he asks.
"And yet you call yourself only human." His hand drifts to his chin and I see faint traces of the identifying mark they've mentioned in the staffroom. The scarring. Yeah, it's there. I try to steal a glimpse as he scratches himself.
"Men get stripped of their humanity here," he says. His hand returns to his lap. "The inmates half-expect it," he says. "The workers don't."
He's right about that, too. This place has a way of eating into you and shaping you, and it's like weight-loss. You don't notice it because it happens gradually, but if they did before and after photos, you'd see it, clear as day.
"We were talking about you," I point out. "About your acceptance of death."
He looks like he wants to argue the point, and I'm half-expecting him to either say something creepy about me turning the topic around or to argue-- he's a smartass, and hewas a lawyer. He probably misses a good argument-- but he stops, and heads back in the direction of the conversation.
"I was given a little sheet to fill out. Comical, really-- a pamphlet explaining my legal rights and the methods of execution I could choose from. Unfortunately, my preferred option wasn't listed."
My heart's in my throat. I dare myself to ask what it was, and no sooner have the words left my mouth and he's laughing.
"What did you think I'd say?" he asks. "To be burned alive? To be tortured to death? To be paralysed by some brand of narcotic whilst forced to watch dispassionate surgeons slice me open and remove my internal organs, one by one until the remains of me failed to operate?" He smiles.
I wonder how much I really want to know about his headspace.
Unfortunately, this is what I'm paid for, and I hope my next client is some petty crim in for manslaughter who was off his nut on crack when he did it and who'll spend the hour trying to convince me he's innocent or calling me a brainy cunt.
He laughs. "Of course, my preferred option was to go out in the throes of ecstasy whilst being serviced by a bevy of supermodels."
"Oh?" I ask.
"Why the Oh?, doctor?"
I can't hide my surprise. Yes, it's an assumption, but the files say he's homosexual. He said that to someone at some point.
"I'm just-- surprised, that's all." Trying to retrace my steps, not cause offense-- "You do understand that executions were public under this jurisdiction, didn't you?" I pause. "That sort of caper doesn't seem fitting with your... sense of dignity."
"Klavier would have found it terribly amusing," he says. "If he wasn't writhing in jealousy."
I smile. Slightly. Before I have a moment to question him-- to think about questioning him about his motivation-- he's talking again. Smooth, even-paced, calm. "But-- yes. I was given a piece of paper which reminded me of the menu they slipped under the door the day before a court appearance when I was in detention previously," he says. "Check the box-- hanging? Poison? Electrocution?"
He's so casual about it.
"I wasn't the one who devised that system, vulgar and methodical as it is," he says. "That's the work of your system." He shrugs. "When it came to the crunch, I was partial to the idea of hanging, or by firing squad."
I'm surprised when I find myself continuing the conversation. "That hasn't been a standard method of execution for peacetime for..." I forget the history. "Years."
"I realise that," he says, "But I was wondering if I could appeal that decision."
Therein is the obvious question.
"Why death by firing squad?"
"Because the cruel and unusual aspect of it is minimised," he says, "Because I'd die quickly and relatively painlessly. Holding my head high."
That's what it's all about. Pride.
We sit there looking at one another for awhile, both of us silent, and my radio fortunately happens to be the bell which saves us from the awkward quiet after the morbid conversation.
"Recieved." I press the button and speak.
"Time's up," I tell him.
"You speak differently when you use that thing," he says curiously. "Remind me to tell you about an assistant of mine."
"Does this mean you wish for another consultation?"