The chill from the air conditioning made her wish she had brought a sweater in addition to the bundle of notepads in her purse. The chill that settled into her bones as the prisoner sat across had nothing to do with the air conditioning. She met his topaz eyes briefly before pulling out her first pad and a pen. She had plenty of those too, didn’t want to chance the ink running dry before he did.
“You know why I am here?” she asked.
“You want to interview me for a research paper, I believe,” he answered.
“Yes, my Criminal Behaviour, junior level. You have been through this before?”
“It is why I haven’t been put to death, you know. So the new generations can take a gander at me and be properly scared into not leading a life of crime.”
“Not just crimes, but murder,” she said. “You are the last murderer left alive. Of course we wish to study you. Would you rather be dead?”
“No, life is sweet so long as I get fresh air, and I would not get that if I did not cooperate you students,” he said. “Shall we get started?”
“Yes. Your name?”
She looked up, irritated. “Your full name?”
“But you know that already,” he smiled.
“You know how this works, we must start from the beginning. Now, your name?”
“Harris Fuller Drocker, you may call me Drocker for this interview.”
“Very well,” she nodded. “And why are you here, Drocker?”
“I murdered 15 people,” he said indifferently.
“Why did you murder 15 people?”
“It was my right.”
She looked up sharply. She had read all the other papers on Drocker, and many of the original reports of the cases. He had never said anything like that before.
“Yes. Survival of the fittest, eh? If I can kill you, then I have the right to do so.”
“I see. So if I could kill you, it would be my right?”
“Absolutely,” he agreed indulgently. “I don’t see how you could, but yes, it would be.”
“And how did you come to this philosophy?”
“Philosophy?” Drocker laughed. “Yes, I suppose it is my philosophy. I read a great deal in my youth. Classic literature, and Darwin. Darwin encouraged natural selection. The classics, well, there was a brutality in how life was lived that appealed to me.”
“Darwin, yes, ” she wrote furiously. “What would be a classic?.”
“What are they teaching these days?”
“That we don’t need to kill anymore?”
“Literature is still literature. The exploration of the human psyche, our dark thoughts. Darwin definitely needs to be taught. If a species is survive, the weak must be culled. That’s all I was doing. Predators take prey.”
“You consider yourself just a natural predator?”
“Yes, wolves do it for the elk and deer packs. They pick off the weak, the old.”
“You realize that there are no wild deer or wolf packs any longer, don’t you?”
“Is that your way of saying I have outlived my usefulness as well? Wait until society turns upside down, with the old and infirm draining the purses and time of the few young. At that point a few predators might be just what you need.”
“Is that why your victims got older as you progressed? You felt you were ‘culling’ the herd? It wasn’t simply because they were easier targets?”
“Are you trying to provoke me?” he asked. “Because it won’t work. I know my work was important. It needed to be done, and I was the one with the skills to do it.”
“If you were out there still, you would continue your work?”
“But of course,” he smiled reminiscently. “I enjoyed my work, you know. Not everybody can say that.”
“I have read all the case files and papers you have given to other students. None of this is in any of them.”
“No, generally I tell them what they come to hear. They want to hear that I am an aberration, that their world is safe from monsters.”
“Then why are you telling me?”
“Maybe I am getting old and wanted to tell my story properly. Or, maybe, you seem different from the rest.”
“Different? I assure you, I am no different from the last fifty students and no different from the fifty who will follow.”
He smiled at her protestation, inclining his head. “Then it must be the first, of course.”
“Is there anything else you want to tell me?”
“No, I think you know enough.”
She got up, hand extended to shake Drocker’s. He looked surprised, not many would have wanted to touch him, she surmised. His hand dropped suddenly and she realized she had jabbed him with the pen she still held.
“Oh, dear,” she exclaimed. “I am so sorry, is your hand ok?”
She reached out with her other hand to steady his shoulder. “Do you need the guards to look at it?”
“No, no, it’s just a pinch.” He looked at her, a strange knowing in his eyes. “I am sure I will be fine.”
Maddie shook the pin back down into her palm, and tossed it in a trash disposal. If they did find the mark on his shoulder, indications would point to a spider bite, especially as she had used black widow venom to kill him. Her grandfather would no longer have to sit for a procession silly students, eager to learn what they could never understand.
She had committed murder, she suddenly realized. And she would get away with it. She looked around with her own topaz eyes, wondering who to share her new knowledge with.