LENNY BROOKSTEIN LOOKED AT THE STRAPS on the bed and felt his insides liquefy with fear. He told himself it wasn't death that frightened him. It was dying like this, on someone else's terms. But now that he was actually here, he realized what a self-delusion that was. I don't want to die. I want to live.
"No!" He panicked, trying to back out of the room. "I...I can't do it! Help me!"
Strong, young male hands restrained him. "Easy."
He forced himself to calm down. The room was clean and white and sanitized, like a hospital. The three men inside it looked like doctors, with their blue scrubs and face masks and their clear plastic gloves. But they weren't here to heal him.
After all the years of struggle, in the end it had come to this. He would have appealed his sentence had there been even the slimmest hope of success, but Lenny was shrewd enough to know that there wasn't and too proud to play a game he could not win. Besides, what were ten more years of life in jail worth to him? He'd already lost ten pounds and he'd only been here a matter of weeks. You wouldn't give the food at Super Max to a dog.
Two of the doctors started to help him up onto the gurney but he shook them off angrily.
"I'll do it."
He lay down on the gurney. The doctors fastened the straps. Lenny was embarrassed to find his legs were shaking. He had once controlled a business empire worth more than the gross national product of some countries. Now he was not even master of his own body.
He turned his head and saw the prison rabbi standing awkwardly in the corner of the room. "What's he doing here? I said I didn't want anyone."
The rabbi stepped forward. "They're going to sedate you in a moment, Lenny. I wanted to give you a chance to pray with me. Or if there's anything you feel you'd like to say?"
"It's not too late to repent of your sins. The Lord's forgiveness is infinite."
Lenny closed his eyes. "I have nothing to say."
He felt the sharp prick of the IV in his arm. For a second the terror welled up again. He wanted to vomit, but his stomach was empty. His bowels, too, thank God. A few seconds later, the sedatives began to do their work. Lenny felt his heart rate slow, and a warm, sleepy feeling creep over him.
He thought about his mother. She was wearing the one pretty dress she owned, a floral, Liberty print, and she was dancing around the kitchen, and his father was drunk again and yelling at her, "Rachel, get in here!" and then he staggered in and hit his mother and Lenny wanted to kill him...
He thought about the Quorum Ball. It was 1998 and he was untouchable, a god, watching Wall Street's lesser mortals compete with one another just to be near him, to touch his clothes or hear him speak. He wished his mother could have been there...
He thought about Grace, her trusting, innocent face, her glorious, naked body that had once been his delight. She was talking to him, singing in that sweet child's voice of hers: I don't want children, Lenny. I'm so happy as we are. There's nothing missing, and he opened his mouth to tell her he loved her, and there was nothing missing for him either, but then her face changed and she was old and sad and angry and she was pointing a gun at him, not just pointing but firing, over and over and over, bang, bang, bang, and John Merrivale was screaming NO! but the shots kept coming...
He was on the boat, exhausted, the axe still in his hand. He tried to stand but he couldn't; he was slipping everywhere. The deck was slick with blood and water from the storm and the boat was lurching, rocking wildly, and he was sure he was going to go overboard. And he looked up and there was the chopper, fighting against the wind like a giant insect, and Graydon lowered the rope and he was climbing, hanging on for dear life, pulling himself up, up into the heavens, and Graydon was gone but his mother was there again, Come on, Len, you can do it, darling. You can do anything you want to... and he cried out, "I'm coming, Ma! I'm coming! Wait for me!" and her arms were around him and he had never felt happier in his life.
THE RABBI LOOKED AT THE DOCTORS. "Is that it?"
"That's it," said one. "He's gone."
"Not fair, is it?" said another. "For a heartless butcher like him to die with a smile on his face? He should have suffered."
The rabbi did not reply, but walked sadly away.