Franz was reading his book on death row…
It was the ‘storm of the century’. On death row, Franz was reading his religious texts, looking for God, even as the inmates of the neighbouring cells were having an explosive argument about who should get to shower first. ’14 days to execution’, Franz thought, as he physically and mentally trembled. If there were ever a time for divine interference, it was now. That was when everything went dark.
‘This must be a power shortage,’ Franz mused to himself. ‘Wait, the backup generators obviously aren’t working either, or maybe just not yet. Maybe the electric doors are unlocked?’ Optimistically, Franz pushed on his cell door, which did give way!
Adrenaline now coursing through his veins, Franz realised that this was it. He got to his feet and ran through multiple corridors, none of which had working doors. Then, he spotted a lone guard running up the corridor, obviously out of breath. With a quick punch and jab, the guard was down on the floor, and Franz snapped his neck with the adroitness of a practiced fighter and killer, which he was after all. The commotion in the rest of the prison, added to the noise of the rain, covered the noise generated by the quick melee.
Searching through the guard’s possessions, Franz was delighted to find not only a wallet, but car keys! After quickly donning the guard’s gear, he ran towards the exit of the prison unstopped by anyone, and drove to his freedom. 300 miles away and in a small town of different state, Franz finally stopped to get what he needed after abandoning the car in the deep woods and taking along a bag-pack. ‘They’ll never find me now,’ he reasoned. It was then that he saw an extremely elegant lady with flaxen hair, walking down the street.
Franz was tall, dark, handsome, and extremely charismatic. Knowing his strengths, he approached the lady, posing as a bag-packer. Over a short but sweet conversation, he convinced the lady, Elise, to let him stay the night at her place. Once the television came on in the morning though, bearing Franz’s mugshot and a ‘shoot on sight’ recommendation, it quickly dawned on Elise that she was harbouring an Eastern-European gangster who was also a wanted serial killer.
‘NO WAY!’ Elise shouted at Franz, as Franz begged her to give him a chance. Ordinarily this would have just meant one more dead body. But over the night, Franz realised that he really loved Elise. Besides, from a pragmatic point of view a dead body popping up in this town would be of no help to himself, especially when the police search was centred 300 miles away.
Using every last drop of his linguistic virtuosity, Franz told Elise the very sad story of a child in a family of gangsters, who was born solely to be a mere pawn in the web of crime lynchpins. He managed to convince Elise to harbour him for just a few days. Those few days turned into weeks, then months, and eventually years.
Using a stolen identity, Franz and Elise were able to build a new life together, and enjoy everything that normal couples would. They toured the alpine paradises of Switzerland, and the caverns of Sonora. They enjoyed Italian operas, and American soaps. They engaged in extreme sports, and watched spectator games. But the one thing they shared a particular partiality for was comedy, in all its forms.
After 13 years of sheer unadulterated bliss though, Elise was hit by the sudden discovery that she had late stage cancer, and only a few months to live. The first few days after the revelation were marked with intense anguish and bitterness for the couple. But as they slowly accepted Elise’s cruel fate, the couple were able to push forward and live their lives to the fullest, despite the impending tragedy. Gradually though, Elise’s energy waned, and the couple went from spending their time out rappelling and rock climbing, to spending never-ending nights in the ICU.
One night, as she was coughing up blood, Elise whispered laboriously to Franz, ‘I think this is it. I don’t think I’ll get past tonight. Can you get him to come?’
Franz fumbled for his mobile phone and made a quick phone call. Over the last few months, Franz had managed to get a famous comedian to promise to do a stand-up routine for just himself and Elise, and he was now redeeming the promise he had extracted. After all, humour was the one thing that he shared with Elise most profoundly, and both of them wanted to spend their last day together, enjoying what they loved most.
A mere 5 minutes later, there was a knock on the hospital door. A surprised Franz opened the door, and found himself staring at an entire SWAT team and down the barrels of their guns. In that moment, he knew the game was up. Instantly he fully felt the delayed tiredness of all the last few months.
‘Is it him?’ Elise mumbled from her bed quite hoarsely and inaudibly. And as the last 14 beautiful years flashed in his head, Franz tiredly replied:
It’s not the joke. It’s the execution.