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“If I could have just one wish. Heh. You mean, aside from the obvious?”

He sat back in his chair, looking more thoughtful than I’d ever seen him before.

“Y’know, I always used to say the best answer to that would be to wish for more wishes. What’s one measly wish gonna do for you? I guess I have a new perspective on that now. Yeah. I could do a lot with one wish.”

He leaned forward and clasped his hands in front of him.

“I know what I’d wish for,” he said.

I had to concentrate on not rolling my eyes. I’d figured out three interviews ago that when he sat forward like that, he was either going to lie or prevaricate. Still, the lies told almost as much as the truths, so long as you knew which was which.

“Something made me the way I am,” he said. “If I could have just one wish, it’d be for that something to go away. For me to be just like everybody else.”

Just like everybody else. What bull. I knew that he revelled in being unique. Still, I’d let him go down this route a little way. A bell rang somewhere off in the corridor; I wondered if the tape would pick it up, and leaned forward slightly to check it was still running. “And what was that something?”

“I don’t know, ma’am.” He sat up ever so slightly, perhaps surprised that I hadn’t challenged him. “Perhaps it was my upbringing. Perhaps if my father never beat me, perhaps if my mother had been there for me, maybe it would all be different. Growing up on those streets, I guess I never had a chance.”

I raised an eyebrow. “Your brother shared your upbringing. He turned out all right.”

The corner of his mouth twitched, but he didn’t miss a beat. “Well perhaps that was only the start of it. I do believe that pornography is to blame for my drives, ma’am. Dirty magazines changed me, they twisted my perception of women.”

“Thousands of men use porn. Millions, probably.”

He sat back and laughed. It was cold and humourless, almost supernaturally chilling.

“And the rest of them never turned out like me, that’s what you’re saying? Okay, then. Forget the excuses.”

He leaned forward again, fixing me with cold blue eyes that, to some, would probably be attractive.

“I’d wish for all those families to have peace. I’d wish for some way to make amends.”

It was my turn to laugh. “You’ve had plenty of chances to do that,” I said. “Yet you’ve consistently refused to actually follow through. You know what would give them peace, and you won’t do it.”

He stared at me, his eyes narrowing.

“What’s the point in lying now? Do you think it’ll actually achieve anything? Nobody’s falling for it. So just tell me the truth. If you could have one wish, what would you actually wish for?”

He sat back. My eyes flicked over to the tape deck again; it was still rolling. He stretched slowly before answering. Another bell rang somewhere outside.

“That’s the second bell,” he said. “You know what that bell’s for? Evening shift. The guards take all the inmates out into the yard for their exercises. that’s all the inmates, and all the guards to watch them, all out in the yard. That means it don’t matter how loud you holler, nobody’s gonna get in here for at least ten minutes. I could twist your head right off your shoulders before anybody could get in here to stop me. So I guess you could say that I just got my wish.”

© Kari Fay