“This is an outrage!” Makaio shouted. “Unconscionable! How DARE any of you call yourselves officers of the court!”

The first thin, bright fingers of dawn were only now reaching from the horizon into the windows of the Gomorra Sheriff’s Office, announcing the beginning of a fresh new day. Lawrence Blackwood was about to die and nothing about his attorney’s anger was going to change that.

“This man has a right to an appeal!” Makaio continued. “The primary evidence against him was a privileged communication, fraudulently obtained! When you’ve committed reversible error, the solution is not to make it irreversible by murdering the defendant before justice can be served!”

The gallows must have exactly thirteen steps. Lawrence ascended them, one by one, wood creaking ever so slightly under his weight.

“Bailiff, remove this man from the premises,” snarled Judge Somerset. “The trial is concluded. Defense counsel has no right to disrupt the carrying out of the sentence.”

The executioner must wear a hood, to protect his identity, so that’s what Prescott Utter wore. His beard was fully visible below it. Nobody seemed to care.

“So you mean to execute him in secret?” Makaio shot back. “At least Robespierre had the stones to carry out his injustices in public view! What’s next, doing away with the trial altogether? Why not? It appears you don’t care anything for the rule of law!” The bailiff, Tommy Harden, approached him and Makaio shot him a look that sent him stumbling backward as if he were punched in the gut.

The noose must have exactly thirteen twists. Lawrence stopped long enough to silently count them before he allowed Utter to slip it around his neck.

“Don’t you talk to me about the rule of law,” spat Dave Montreal. “I’m the one here who actually has to uphold the law, instead of just using it as a smoke screen. Don’t think any of us are ignorant of who you’re working for.” He nodded toward Harden. “If I was the man you said I was, I’d have you in irons for aiding and abetting the Sloane gang. I’d be able to talk the Supreme Court into believing my logic, but I’m not gonna do that, because unlike you, I don’t see the legal system as a toy.”

The trap door upon which Lawrence stood must be eight feet, six inches off the ground. As soon as Utter pulled the lever, it would open, Lawrence would fall, and his neck would break. Clean. Humane. Final.

“And you honestly think that the fact Sloane paid my retainer entitles you to execute a man based on an illegally obtained confession given while under extreme emotional distress?” Makaio sneered. “I can see now why this town elected Mayor Whateley. Even if everything you claim about him is true, he’s still a check on your morals.”

The condemned must be offered last rites, and Reverend Inbody dutifully did so. Lawrence seemed to think deeply about it before waving the Reverend off.

“The appeals process can be expedited in the case of great need or imminent danger,” said Dave, making his tone even, trying to show Makaio he wasn’t upset but really just confirming he was. “The raid I’m sure your boss is planning to get him out qualifies as both. I’d love to give your client his due, and take him all the way to the highest court in California, so THEY can tell him he’s guilty. And if you wanna file a posthumous appeal, you go ahead. If they find reversible error, find his execution was wrongly carried out, I will plead no contest to his murder. I’ll put my life on the line, because unlike you, I believe in the system. But I won’t endanger anyone else in the process. I ain’t the one who took away his appeal. Your boss did that.”

“Lawrence Blackwood,” said Somerset, booming over the conversation. “You have been found guilty of the murder of Eloise Applegate and in accordance with the laws of the Commonwealth of California, you are sentenced to hang by the neck until dead. Executioner?”

“Ya got any last words?” asked Utter through the hood.

“Yeah,” said Lawrence, and though barely a whisper, it quieted everyone around him. “Is killin’ me going to change anything? Is any of this?”

All that answered was silence … then, a snap.