I am sitting at the table when the guards open the door and walk John Winston Fields across the room. His hands are cuffed and chained to a belt wrapped around his waist. He’s hunched over like an old man—an act, I believe—and because of the leg irons his white canvass slip-ons make this shushing noise as he shuffles across the concrete floor.
He has a beard now, his hair long and greased back, both new features since he took up temporary residence at Huntsville, and I make a mental note to ask him about it later. During the trial, the hair was short, his face clean shaven. It had been rumored that the defense attorney actually made arrangements for a make-up artist each morning before court. It had also been rumored the defense made arrangements for an updated wardrobe, too, all compliments of a set dresser who worked for a local television show. Nobody in their right mind believed Fields could have afforded the clothes he wore. Which is another change, looking at the fashion du jour, an orange jumpsuit with numbers stenciled across the left breast, and I make mental note to ask him about that as well. My readers will want to know how life has changed, how he has changed because of it. Not that justice is served, but I’m sure it will go a long way in their minds. It certainly has for me.
The three of them stop at the table and Fields looks first to the guard on his right, then to the other one, like he’s asking for their permission. According to the badge pinned upon a shirt the color of a paper grocery bag, the one on the left is Harper. Standing what must be over six feet, with arms as big as my thighs and a bald head the color of midnight, he’s an intimidating specimen. Certainly not one to be flippant with if you’re an inmate.
Harper gives Fields a nod and says, “Take a seat, Johnny.”
Fields gives the guard a dismissive smile. Throughout the trial, even in the media storm before and after, the world learned that the defendant demanded to be called John Winston Fields. His attorneys probably had something to do with that. With such a sophisticated ring to it, sounding almost like British royalty, the jury would have a difficult time looking at him as something evil. After all, that was the name on his birth certificate, punched there in black typewriter-ribbon ink, so why not use it to their advantage? Here, though, I see the guards hold no illusions. He’s not John Winston Fields; he’s just another Johnny who will one day take the long walk to the death chamber and it will be their pleasure to escort him in.
Seated, he finally looks at me. His eyes bore into mine and then take in everything else.
“When they told me a Rusty Kelton was here to talk with me”—his voice has a definite southern twang to it—“I thought I would be seeing a man. Imagine my surprise when I find out this Rusty has pretty hair, a nice pair of tits, and a box I can smell from over here.”
Harper gives him a backhand upside the head. “Mind your manners, Johnny.”
Fields looks at the guard and then at me. A shrug and a smile, and I can see he doesn’t take it personal. It’s just part of the game.
He says, “So, how’d you get a name like Rusty? Your daddy want a boy and didn’t get one?”
I shake my head. The truth is I earned the nickname a long time ago, before I knew how to hold up two fingers and say my age. My brother, thirteen years older than me, stopped by my crib. He looked at my curly auburn hair, and said I looked like a rusted nail. My parents found humor in that, and the name stuck. But I’m not about to tell Fields this. What would be the point?
“My real name’s Jennifer,” I say, “but everyone calls me Rusty.”
He looks at the top of my head and nods, and I can see he’s already pieced it together. One thing is for certain: though the time in lockup may have changed the man’s appearance, it has had no effect on his mind. He’s still the man who could write out complex formulas involving coefficients and then give you the answer before you could punch it all into a calculator.
I lay a recorder on the table. “You mind if I tape the conversation?”
He shrugs. “What do I care?” And before I can start in, he says, “Who’re you with again?”
I hold out a press card. “The Houston Chronicle.”
“Were you at the trial?”
He frowns at this. “I don’t remember you.”
“It was a big courtroom,” I say. “I was one face among many almost a year ago. How could you?”
He continues to frown, and I start to worry the interview is already over, that my readers won’t have the answers they want to see. But then he nods, and I push the PLAY button on my recorder.
“This is Rusty Kelton,” I say. “It’s the fifth of June, and I’m sitting with convicted murderer, John Winston—”
“Convicted lover,” he interjects.
I give him a long look. Before the trial, the only crime he confessed to was a sincere appreciation for women. A regular player at a local night club, he admitted to sleeping with several of them; that one never returned home was a coincidence. The detectives and the prosecutor saw things differently. Sure he was a nice looking man. He attended church and was a high school physics teacher, too. Those things aside, however, he still had one big flaw: he not only killed one woman, he had raped, skinned and buried six others as well.
S.B.: While clearly this is a series, it will not be as long as "Heroes Wanted." Two or three installments is all I envision right now.