“Father of the Executioner”, you call yourselves. And by that I suppose you mean “father of death”, “murderer of innocents”. You are more of a death-dealer than even you know. That is why I am writing this: to tell you how justice will be visited on you. To tell you of those you have killed without knowing it. Yet.
My friend John was a good man, the kind the Prophet, if you cared about such things, would have approved of. He was generous of spirit, a proud but open and thoughtful man with an often self-deprecating sense of humour. Highly intelligent, too. He had led a varied and adventurous life, but of all he had achieved, he was proudest of his two daughters. He, you see, was a father of life, not of death.
This is the man you killed. Because you wanted money.
When we were eleven years old, John and I were close friends. My friend Joanna was John’s girlfriend, and my boyfriend Donald was John’s friend. Together we were a gang of four, the popular kids in our Grade 6 class. We ruled benevolently, however. We were inclusive, not exclusive.
I don’t remember now how it came to begin, but we four wrote cryptic love notes to each other. Joanna and I would create a cryptic code, and each send a letter in that code to our own boyfriend. John and Donald had to crack the code, and then they would send letters back in a different code, which we had to discover. I think the attraction in the idea was that we could say what we felt, safe in the idea that the code would never be cracked, and yet knowing it would be. The sweet contradictions of young love.
It was a wonderful year, the best year of my childhood. And then, sadly, I moved away, and never saw any of those friends again. Until one day in my last year of high school, there was a picture of John in the newspaper—he had come to my city to attend a school there. I phoned the school and left a message for John. We dated for awhile. I still remember that first evening, as we left my home, my sister reminding me, in French, that I had to be in by midnight. I don’t know why she believed that any Canadian high school student would not understand her textbook French. Later that evening, John said to me, “So I have to get you home by midnight.” I was beyond embarrassed, not least because midnight was such a pathetically early curfew, but John’s smile took the sting out of it. He could have humiliated me. But he was generous, the man you so viciously killed on Monday.
Then we lost touch again. And then, many years later, as is the way of the internet, we connected again. Over many long emails we reminisced, and we caught each other up on our histories and our present. What a life he had led! So full of travel and adventure and courage and daring! Not much left on my bucket list, he said. He had visited, lived and worked in so many countries, so many dangerous and beautiful places. The only country he really wanted still to see was Argentina. And yet he was proudest of his daughters and the chance he had given them in life, raised in so many different places, seeing so much of the world and how others lived. He had given them open minds.
John insisted on reading one of my books and took the trouble to give me a serious critique. So many people don’t read a friend’s book, nervous they may not like it and won’t know what to say, or because they just can’t be bothered, or, in my particular case, because they ‘don’t read romance’. John had no such inhibitions. He told me he had ordered more of my titles because both he and his partner enjoyed them.
But he did wonder “why sheikhs?”. I’m guessing he’d have wondered that even more, facing your villainy every day for seven months. Ya sheikh! But you give everything you touch an evil name. Islam included. You and the executioner you are father of.
I know that other of his friends could give a much fuller, richer picture of John, but whatever else they said, they would attest to his kindness and generosity, his sense of adventure, his intelligence, his humanity.
But you wanted money. So none of that mattered.
There is one more thing about John, however. I wonder if he told you, I wonder if he tried to warn you…did he? Is that why you seemed to single him out for especially vicious, merciless, clumsily brutal treatment? Did he protest that you were in danger from him?
Only a short while before you kidnapped him for money, John had been diagnosed with tuberculosis. He was astonished, of course. People like us just don’t get TB. He complained that he would have to take the drugs for nine long months before he could be considered cured. Did you know that? Did he warn you that he needed his medicine? Perhaps you didn’t pay attention.
You should have.
Tuberculosis. Did he cough and sneeze during those seven months when you held him prisoner and so bravely stood over him with guns and machetes—father of executioners that you are—when you brutalized him? Did you care? No? But you should have cared. Even if you never came nearer to him than to bathe your hands in his blood when you murdered him, you should care. Because everyone who breathed near him now has the bacteria in their lungs. And sooner or later, one in ten will develop the disease.
I know that you are the one. I know it. You have the disease now, and it will manifest—oh, soon! You will think it is flu, probably, but you are a dead man. Oh, yes, this is a disease that will kill if it is not treated, and how will you get treatment, a wanted man, a hunted killer? You will not even know you should try.
But it’s not only yourself that you have killed in killing my friend. Oh, no, for you are truly Father of the Executioner, Father of Death! You bring death to all you meet now. Do you breathe on your wife when you climb on her like the mule that you are? (For I am sure that you ignore the Prophet’s instruction to ‘send a kiss as messenger’, as you ignore all his precepts.) Then you have also killed your wife. Do you exchange caresses with the one whom you call your friend, whom you love like a brother and more than a brother? You have killed him, too. Do you kiss your mother? Your father? Your daughters? They are dead already.
And this is most certain of all—your lovely, sweet son, the child you dote on more than anything else in life, the one who carries your bloodline into the future—will you kiss him when at last he is born? Stroke his beautiful curly head? Carry him against your neck? That sweet boy—you are his murderer as surely as you murdered John. And that, I know, will hurt you more than mother, father, sister, brother, daughter, friend, companion and wife together. Your son is the joy of your heart, isn’t he? The jewel of your soul, your all. He is dead. By your own hand, oh Father Executioner, Father Death.
You will have time to say goodbye, probably. None of John’s family or friends had that, but you will be able to watch your lovely boy begin to cough, to sicken, to become weak. Probably before you die of the disease yourself, you will be able to see him fade away, hold his hand on his deathbed as the blood comes coughing up, and know that it is you who have killed him, that it is your touch, your kiss that has dealt this blow.
Will you see the justice of it, I wonder?
Lo, you are become Death, the Destroyer of your own world.