the Remembered Saints: My Life and Subsequent Death
Execution of the Sun"
Among the Jellyfish"
of the Manfestation"
Cake and Double Talk"
Tisdale, Jr., a two-time killer and the last surviving
member of the so-called "Poison Club" which
killed several people, including two police officers,
was executed last night by lethal injection.
Asked if he had a last statement,
Tisdale said, "Merry Christmas." He was pronounced
dead at 11:13 p.m.
Tisdale was the third man executed
in Virginia this month. The execution of Dr. Roger Ragland
is scheduled to take place Monday. The Tisdale execution
moves Virginia, with seven executions this year, ahead
of South Carolina and Missouri for the most executions
in the country for 1997. Since the resumption of the
death penalty in 1982, Virginia's previous annual record
Jaco watched his wife carry a cup of latte into the sun
room and set it on the wicker table beside him. The early
winter sun peeked through the Palladian windows and warmed
her face. Her blond hair glistened in its rays. Gloria
was one month shy of her forty-second birthday, and a
decade of sitting beside the pool nursing gin and tonics
had not yet taken its toll. She could still pass, in office
parlance, as a trophy wife, though she didn't act like
one. Not anymore.
As Jaco watched his wife, he did not
see himself. Jaco, fifty-three years old, stood a modest
five feet, nine inches tall and weighed well over two
hundred pounds. The navel on his protruding stomach peeked
through the gap in his robe. Hairy white legs reached
out below the robe and connected to feet tucked inside
worn slippers. His other end wasn't much better. It featured
a balding head on which Jaco would have draped a toupee,
had this not been a weekend. But it was, and he didn't.
Jaco's wealth, and the toupee, concealed little, though
he had allowed himself to imagine otherwise.
She did not look at him.
He took a sip of the coffee and winced.
Not enough sugar. Damn. She reached across him and turned
on the TV. The morning news show entered the room as the
weekend anchor read a story about Len Tisdale's execution.
"Have you gotten the paper yet?"
Jaco grunted and shifted in his seat.
The paper was his job. She did coffee, he did the paper.
That was the Saturday morning division of labor, established
by time and habit. To alter it would require communication,
and he would rather just get the paper than become involved
in a mindless conversation with his wife. He'd do it in
a minute. Through the artificial Christmas tree, he watched
the wind blowing leaves around in the backyard.
"Montaldo's is having a sale,"
she said, mostly to herself.
Grudgingly, Jaco took a sip of coffee
and climbed out of his chair. Before opening the door,
he pulled the sash on the robe to cover his stomach and
tugged the collar tight around his neck. Not that he needed
to. It was, he discovered, stepping into the sunlight,
almost spring-like. A week before Christmas, and here
he was actually tilting his head back to let the sun fall
on him like a warm shower. He took another sip of coffee
and relished the sound of the door clicking shut behind
The dog met him at the fence, loping
up with its hair puffed out over its eyes. Damn show dog.
The dog had become unusually affectionate since its twin
died, a year ago. To the dog, Jaco was the replacement.
It was the best he could do. Jaco gave it a quick pat
and opened the gate. As always, River Heights was silent.
The houses, though not far apart, snuggled in secrecy-Leyland
cypresses and mature English boxwoods helped provide a
shield from each other and the outside world.
It wasn't until he got halfway down
the driveway that Jaco could actually see over the boxwoods
that separated him from the next-door neighbors. Not that
there was anything to see besides a rather old but proud
baby-blue Mercedes and a Volvo with a child's seat in
the back seat. Strange, Jaco told himself: didn't know
they had kids.
Without realizing it, Jaco began to
whistle a tune under his breath. He composed it as he
walked. At the end of the driveway, he stooped to pick
up the paper. The Tisdale execution covered much of the
front page. The paper had used the occasion of the execution
to review the crimes that led to it, including accounts
of other Richmond police officers who had died in the
line of duty. But all that research was wasted on Phil
Jaco. He lingered only a moment before clumsily shifting
his coffee from hand to hand so he could skip to the Business
The main story was a fluff piece on
a local businessman who said he was going to donate a
portion of his Christmas sales to the United Way. Jaco
shook his head and turned the page. They should have called
him before running the story: he'd have given them a little
dirt to spice it up. Everybody's got some dirt on them,
and more often than not, Jaco could tell you what it was.
Not that founding a small cookie empire hooked him directly
into the underground dirt line, but he had his connections.
Still, he had to admire the guy's salesmanship. Maybe
next year he'd do something like that to help the holiday
sales. He turned the page and held the fold open into
Behind the paper, he heard soft footsteps
coming down the road. The rubber patter of a jogger's
shoes, he thought, glancing over the real estate stories.
Then the dog growled, and the paper exploded from Jaco's
hands in a crisp flash.
blow caught Jaco on the cheek and spun him against the
mailbox. The second sent him to his knees. By the time
the attacker kicked him in the stomach, Jaco was close
to blacking out. Still, with the evenly timed rhythm of
someone working on a punching bag in the gym, Jaco's attacker
continued to work him over, and somehow, Jaco remained
"Help," he wanted to say.
"Somebody help me!"
But all he could manage was a stifled
gasp, as the attacker rolled him over and kicked him gruffly
in the small of the back. Then, as suddenly as he had
appeared, the attacker disappeared in a patter of nonchalant,
jogging strides. And Jaco, lying on his back in a swath
of stray newspaper sheets, listened to the high-priced
stillness return to River Heights.
that Jaco actually needed someone—a neighbor raking
the leaves, say, or a mother pushing her child in a stroller—the
silence was decidedly less appealing. Only Jaco's dog
stood by, sniffing curiously at the blood that ran in
a crazy-veined pattern from Jaco's nose and mouth and
through the cracks between the driveway's fashionable
cobblestones. The dog studiously ignored Jaco himself
and proved, yet again, how useless show dogs can be. Perhaps
it thought of its lost mate and wondered if the substitute
would also be taken away. After a moment, the dog loped
back toward the house, tail curled between its legs. He
didn't even retrieve the paper.
Years seemed to pass before Gloria appeared
at the top of the driveway, shrieking. She'd never been
exposed to violence, and now that she'd stumbled onto
it at the foot of her own driveway, she found herself
unable to move. For a moment, Jaco merely stared at her
with the blood gurgling from his mouth.
"Damn it," he sputtered. "Do
She stared uselessly at him for a moment
longer and then hurried back up the driveway with the
dog close behind her. Another eternity seemed to pass
before Jaco heard sirens in the distance. In the wailing
sound, he found hope, as he lost consciousness and leaned
back against his mailbox.
The sirens, however, were not for him.
1 | Chapter
2 | Chapter
3 | Chapter
Cox is the news anchor for WWBT
NBC-12 in Richmond, Virginia. He is also the author of
Glazed Donuts and Peccadilloes and Other Strange
Animals. The Sunset Lounge is
his first Chandler Harris mystery.
here to read WAG's extended essay about him.