It was a quiet night on Park Avenue. The swirling snowflakes falling from the clouds muffled the noises of traffic. Only the occasional car horn broke the melancholy silence.
He had chosen this street as his courthouse because the townhouses were built before 1944. Aside from being mostly abandoned and slowly decaying, they had basements and walls made of brick. Perfect for keeping sound from escaping out onto the street.
Although good bones were necessary in choosing a house, he had also taken every other precaution. Nothing was getting in or out until deliberation was complete.
He threw his trademark white plastic grocery bag over his head and gently cut out holes for his mouth, nostrils and eyes.
8 O’clock. It was time to begin.
He strolled down the hall and swung open the door to the basement, releasing a blast of desperate screams for help. With an outstretched finger he flicked on the florescent lights. They buzzed angelically to a horrific display.
A man with a pin striped blue suit stood shaking on a construct of wood. His hands restrained behind his back, and a noose of coarse rope around his neck.
Facing him was a captive audience. Twelve men and women from all over Clearwater County. Strapped to sturdy wooden chairs with zip ties and duct tape, they looked equally distressed.
He stepped up onto his wooden structure and ran his finger along the sweaty face of the well dressed man.
“You bastard!” The man retaliated with in an unbridled fury. “Do you know who I AM?! You’re DEAD!! DEAD!!“
He chuckled at the man’s attempt at a threat and then turned to the crowd. With a swift stomp of his foot, the cries died out and with a twitch of his head he began the proceedings.
“Hello. My name is Gallow.” He began in a gravely voice. “Or at least.. That’s the name you need to know.”
His plastic mask crinkled as he scanned the room. Making intermittent eye contact with every single person. He held up three fingers.
“Now there are three parts to the modern justice system.” He continued. “As you can probably guess by my whole vibe, I am the executioner.”
He paused to let the captives yell in the horror they must have experienced at that statement. As they struggled and looked at each other with terrorized expressions, Gallow glanced at his watch.
They usually come to a realization after about 5 minutes. He thought to himself. In this case, the realization that screaming isn’t going to change anything.
As per his prediction, the last voice hushed.
5 minutes and 17 seconds. He rolled his sleeve back over his watch face and resumed.
“As I mentioned previously, I am the executioner.” Gallow clapped his hands once and jumped from the wooden platform. “But you! You all are the judge and jury. I only carry out your will. And I DARE not question your final decision.”
A woman with tear smeared mascara shook in her seat.
“If you’ll do as we wish then LET US GO!!” She beckoned.
Several men yelled in agreement.
“All in due time madam.” Gallow cooed calmly as he paced in front of the jury. “But first! You must do your civic duty!”
“And remember!” He pointed up playfully. “God is watching.”
The man with the noose against his throat struggled violently on the stage.
“So you brought them all to judge me?! IS THAT IT?!” Saliva burst from his lips with every word. “And what if they all vote me innocent?? You’ll let me and them go unharmed?!”
With a lively crinkle, Gallow returned to his deliberate pacing.
“Well to put it plainly, yes. Yes I would.”
He could feel the relief of tension in the cold basement.
“BUT” He held up a finger once more. “You wouldn’t want to do that without hearing more about the accused.”
The jury clamored in protest, but Gallow peered back down at his timepiece and waited for their outbursts to expire.
He hopped back onto the platform and gracefully stroked an iron lever connected the floor of the wooden stage. He continued with a more somber cadence to his hoarse voice.
“Steven Wyatt.” Gallow’s bag rustled as he threw a piercing glare at the man on trial. “CEO of Wyatt Enterprises. Anyone heard of him?”
A short Asian man with a sweat-soaked maroon shirt raised his hand cautiously.
“Well, uh.” The man gulped with a nervous energy. “They’re the guys making groundbreaking cancer research right? I hear about them on the news all the time.”
“Correct!” Gallow beamed beneath his grocery bag mask. “Actually- half right. Wyatt Enterprises also dabbles in another business venture.”
He let silence reclaim the room for a dramatic effect.
Gallow took a moment to absorb the faces of the jury, but was still met with resentment towards him. The big reveal didn’t seem to work.
“His company literally buys human beings and uses them for chemical trials.” Gallow stressed. “He treats people like cattle! Most die. VERY painfully. And the police- They just turn a blind eye because of his political connections. Steven Wyatt is all that is wrong with America! Sure he appears to have good intentions. But in the end it’s all about money, and trampling over everything in his way! Including the laws of God and of this country!”
He looked around to see if he had swayed any opinions. His audience held the same expressions of hatred as they had before. None directed at the man restrained next to him.
“HA!” Mr. Wyatt spat. “They won’t fall for your little speech! YOU are a hypocrite!! YOU are the one with no regard for the law!!”
Gallow sighed and turned to the seated individuals.
“I’ll be taking your votes now.” He stated monotonously. “Keep in mind the verdict must be unanimous. Also that outside of this room, Steven will never face any consequences for his actions. Whatsoever.”
He started from the left and worked his way down the line of chairs. Pointing with a meaty finger to coerce a vote.
“Let him go and let us go. Not guilty.”
“You’re a monster.. Not guilty.”
“YOU LOSE. Not guilty.”
Gallow’s bag crinkled as he shook his head. The people had spoken. He mused.
“And I was getting all excited to pull that lever and watch him squirm.” He whipped out a pocket knife and put it in the greasy palm of an teenage girl, no older than 16. “As I said, you’ll be freed. And the accused will be spared.”
The girl squealed anxiously as she sawed her way through her plastic bindings. He watched patiently as she finished and passed the blade to the woman sitting next to her. The woman was in her mid-thirties. Frantic. Crying. Pregnant.
Noticing the violent sentiment growing in the room. Gallow decided to make his exit and strolled up the stairs. Towards the door leading back into the hallway of the townhouse. A few steps in, he snapped his fingers and spun around. The woman cutting the last of the zip ties around her arms froze mid-action.
“One last thing I forgot to mention!” Gallow slapped his hand against his forehead comedically. “Stupid me! Of course the jury is out on Mr. Wyatt, so as per our agreement, my hands are tied. But it would have helped if I had brought up some evidence during the trial.”
He shook his head playfully and gestured to the teenager shaking in her chair, trying to unwrap the duct tape from around her legs. He proceeded with a grave tone.
“Why don’t you go ahead and check under your seat for me sweetie.”
She stared at him with wild eyes. Slowly reaching beneath her seat while keeping her eyes on Gallow’s swaying figure. She moved her fingers around randomly until she grasped a large vanilla envelope. She picked it up and curiously dumped the contents onto her lap. She riffled through until she held up a white sheet of paper.
Her eyes widened. A new breed of fear rose from the bottom of her chest.
“Wha- What is this?!” She demanded. “WHAT THE FUCK IS THIS?!”
Gallow chuckled. His mask rustled as he brushed the thin plastic over his scalp.
“My dear girl. THAT is a bill of sale. Note your picture at the top and Mr. Wyatt’s signature there at the bottom. You see I-” He took a deep breath before finishing. “I found you all unconscious in a lab at Wyatt Enterprises.“
The man with the rope around his throat turned visibly pale. For the first time he stopped fidgeting and stood deathly still. All of his earlier confidence had vanished.
“I knew he wouldn’t recognize you because frankly- He’s a monster.” Gallow chimed. “But like I said, my hands are tied.”
Gallow stood at the doorway at the top of the stairs. He swung the door open, shot a wink, and closed it behind him.
The second he released the knob, muffled noise exploded from the basement. He methodically pulled off his mask and brushed up his sleeve to look at his watch.
After 5 minutes and 33 seconds the emotional, panicked screaming ceased.
After 5 minutes and 46 seconds he felt a satisfying *THWUMP* vibrate through his shoes.
Gallow leaned back from the door and cracked a wry grin. He ran his fingers through his hair and casually strolled out the front door and onto the snow laden Park Avenue. He was in no rush.
It could take up to twenty minutes for Steven Wyatt to die of strangulation. And Gallow knew that the jury would stay until justice had been served.