Prompt Day #337: Stage or fake an execution.
Sometimes weird coincidences happen. For instance; I always read the next day’s prompt the night before so I can sleep on it. I usually wake up with a vague idea that I knead and mold in my head all day so that by the time I get home, I know what I want to write about. Well, this one last night stumped me. How was I supposed to write about a fake execution? Besides the obvious of someone trying to escape prison or justice and pretending to be executed, I couldn’t think of anything. So I picked up a book (I have one in just about every room so I always have something to read) by my bed. This is an excellent book by the way by William Hjortsberg. An oldie but goodie called Falling Angel. If you haven’t read it, you should. Anyways without giving anything away, I came to a part where he talks about The Hand of Glory. I looked it up and low and behold, the entire short story folded out as easy as that. It was like Madam Rosalita….I was simply pulled to where I needed to go. I hope you enjoy this little story. It could be longer and a little more detailed but that’s for the rewrites. Enjoy!
The Hand of Glory
The red and gold colored wagon rolled into town in the early evening. A hand painted placard on each side declared:
Miracle Charms, Spells, and Potions
Lucky and Magical Charms
In smaller print across the bottom it read: Occult and Macabre Fetishes for the discerning customer.
Of course the strange new addition brought an onslaught of townsfolk. Nothing like this had ever rolled into their neighborhood. Would they open shop tonight? Should they wait around to see?
Madam Rosalita peered through the small side window curtains. This was good. The rubes looked fascinated. She turned to Hank.
“Well, have you got any plans for your last day on Earth?”
“What you offering?” he asked and laughed.
“Hey now, mind your place, Hank. That’s my girl you’re talking to.” Jack said. There were four of them in the wagon not counting Old Stoney, their driver. He wasn’t good for much more than minding the inventory when they were out procuring the artifacts. Luke sat on the small stool cleaning his fingernails. He rarely spoke, just showed up to do his job, collect his pay and eat his share of food. That was fine with the others, everyone had a role to play. Hank and Jack always took turns being the killer but Luke was too big for that, he was always just Luke, the executioner.
“You gonna go out there tonight, babe? Rile them up a bit?” Jack asked Rosalita. Her real name was just Rose, but she’d changed it because Rosalita sounded more legit.
“Nah, I’m just gonna go hang this up and let them rile themselves up.” She grinned and held up the smaller sign reading One-time special, available tomorrow only: The Hand of Glory! Opens every door! Magically prepared for the right buyer on the spot!
The sign was hung and the occupants could hear the murmurs of the crowd. They continued until well past midnight before silence replaced them. The five occupants of the traveling charm wagon slept well and dreamt of what they would do with the windfall that awaited them the next day.
The noise of the crowd woke them at daybreak. Peeking outside Rosalita was pleased to see so many eager to part with their hard-earned dollars. It was already promising to be a good haul, once they realized they would be treated to a real-life hanging, it could only get better. She moved to let Jack have a look. He smiled.
“Well, Miss Rosalita, are you going out there or am I?” He kissed her nose. Old Stoney handed them each a cup of burnt coffee (his specialty). “Wake up Luke before his snores bring the whole place down” Jack told Hank who was busy wiggling into the harness.
“Let’s do this one together, after all, this is a one-time only special.” She laughed. They put their coffee down and headed out the back where Old Stoney had set up the stage complete with gold awning.
“Hiya Folks!” Jack said commanding immediate silence and attention from the crowd. “I’m Jack and this beautiful lady is Madam Rosalita, a sixth generation gypsy, endowed the powers of foresight. Her charms and potions are sought after the world over. Why she’s sold love potions to queens, Hex spells to Generals, and many more to everyday folks just like yourselves. But today, and today only, Madam Rosalita has brought me and my hired hand Luke to offer something so special, so unusual, the likes of which no one has seen since the days of King Arthur and Morgan le Fay! And this extremely strong magical charm can go to one person only, that’s right, there’s only one like it in the world and Madam Rosalita has determined the person who needs it most is right here in this town!” Jack stepped back letting his wife step forward. She summoned her best Romanian accent.
“Hello and thank you for your hospitality. Yes, I am a gypsy with many powers. I have been taught they ways of magic by my mother and her mother before her. I have many powerful spells, but today, today I bring you something in such a way that you will see its authenticity with your own eyes. I have sold many things to many great people but something drew me here to you, because I feel there is someone in this very crowd who needs this powerful object today. Yes, my friends, it will be sold and I wish I could give it away, but as Jack told you, I have journeyed many miles along with him and Luke and another you will learn of shortly. I have fed and sheltered them all of this out of my own pocket. I do not ask much for my charms but this one, this one will go to the highest bidder. I think when you see the source of its magic, you will find any price a fair one. You will know if it is meant for you. I know it is, otherwise, how would I have found this very place?” She paused, letting her words sink in. Jack stepped forward again.
“Now, we just can’t wait much longer folks, and I think you’ll understand why here shortly, I just want you all to know, that even if this one very special object isn’t right for you, I guarantee that Madam Rosalita has something in this old carriage that will work for you and your situation.” He hitched his thumb backwards towards the wagon. The wagon began to rock back and forth and angry shouts rolled out of it. The on-lookers’ eyes grew wide and they all began to fidget uneasily. “Now, you’re right to step back a bit folks. Me and my brother Luke, we’re bounty hunters. We were recently hired by a man to hunt down his wife and son’s killer.” The crowd gasped. “You heard me correct. A soulless murderer! And we did, we caught him. But when we brought him in, the man refused to pay us a fair price for the dangerous job we’d done. Well, we sure weren’t gonna turn him loose, were we Luke?” Just then Luke burst through the door holding onto Hank whose hands were now tied behind his back. A woman screamed, another fainted. “Just as we were about to do him in, Madam Rosalita came along. Somehow she knew what we was about to do and she stopped us. That’s when she told us about The Hand of Glory.” Murmurs broke out amongst the crowd. Rosalita and Jack let the wave of chatter roll through before Rosalita took over.
“The Hand of Glory is an ancient charm that my great grandmother handed down yet no one in my family has ever had the opportunity to obtain such a thing. But when I felt the need to go to where Jack and Luke were with this evil man, I knew this was my opportunity to make up and then offer the hand of glory to the person most in need of it. The Hand of Glory must be cut fresh off the left arm of a recently hung murderer. It is then properly preserved by methods I cannot disclose. After that it can be used to open any door, no matter how firmly locked. Even the door to another’s mind! There are no secrets that be kept from the holder of The Hand of Glory.” She let that settle in. the whispers were gaining in volume. Hank continued to writhe and tug against Luke who held him tightly.
“Madam Rosalita, I must ask you, why don’t you keep the hand for yourself?” Jack asked (on cue). Rosalita smiled.
“The cosmos does not work that way. I was not given this gift so that only I may prosper. I was pulled here to this town because this is where the hand belongs. If I try to ignore this calling, I will suffer the opposite effect of the charm. That is how it works.” She said.
“Well, let’s not put this off any longer. It’s been dangerous hauling this killer all the way across the country. Old Stoney!” Jack called out, the elder man shuffled out. “Let’s get the noose and find a tree.”
Luke dragged Hank across the village common, following the villagers who lead them to a large oak in the center of town. Jack and Old Stoney hung the noose (with the special adaptation to ensure no strangulation would occur if the harness Hank was wearing happened to fail. The put a step stool beneath it and Luke led Hank up. Luke affixed the noose around Hank’s neck and as the crowd chanted for Hank’s death, he attached Hank’s harness to the noose and handed Hank the raw, shredded meat.
Jack walked over and announced that Hank had been found guilty and was sentenced to death. The crowd cheered as he kicked the stool out from under Hank’s feet. Hank jerked and air danced with much drama before appearing to succumb to asphyxiation. The crowd was in a mob-like frenzy. Luke walked back around behind Hank and pulled a large knife out of his pocket. Making as if he was chopping off one of Hank’s hands, he pulled the fake hand out of Hank’s sleeve and held it aloft for all to see. Hank pulled his own intact hand back into his sleeve letting the bloodied, ratty meat hang out. Women screamed and squealed. Some fainted. Children cried. Luke tossed the wax hand to Jack who held it up for all to see.
“Now, should we start the bidding at one hundred dollars?” He shouted and began to march back to the wagon, followed by Rosalita and the crowd of townsfolk, some of them spitting on Hank as they passed.
When there was no one left to see them, Luke unhooked Hank and carried him back to the wagon.
“You better help me find that mummified hand we stole from that grave.” Luke whispered to Hank. Hank lifted his head slightly.
“You lost it? Shit, Luke, Rosalita’s gonna take your own hand if you don’t find it. They’re already up to three hundred I think.” Hank said before flopping back into dead weight as they approached the wagon. Luke would find the hand, and they’d all be eating steak and lobster when they got back to the city. Hank concentrated on not grinning as his dead body passed the crowd.