(In the late 1800’s, the battle between two competing electric technologies, AC and DC currents, turned brutal. For Thomas Edison, it was a life and death struggle. This is a fictionalized version of true events in history. Just joining us? Go back to Part 1.)
Eight months later.
March 29, 1889
The hatchet hung with the blade tipped toward the ground. The nails holding it were twisted.
William Kemmler's shed stank of old dirt and mildew. The remains of vegetable tops withered in the corners. He didn't work there anymore. In his warehouse four blocks away, morning sunlight oozed through grimy windows. His men emptied buckets of trimmed radishes and onions into the sale bins. Soon the women would arrive to buy.
A door slammed in the house hard enough to rattle the hatchet's handle. Dust drifted down in silence.
A slurred voice screamed. "What did you say to him just now?"
"I know that!"
Another door slammed. Feet pounded up to it and ripped it open again.
"What did you say to him?"
"You heard! I asked him to pick me up some sugar and salt."
The woman's voice couldn't bellow like the man's. Her words thinned.
"I heard the way you talked to him!"
"Oh? How is that?"
A stomp shook the walls. "And what's that?"
Another stomp. "There! Have you been packing your trunk?"
Silence for a few moments.
"I'm folding my things!"
"You're folding this? And this?"
"Put that down!"
"And what about this pretty thing? I've never seen this!"
"Put it down!"
"It's him, isn't it?"
"Get away from me!"
Something hit the wall.
"Don't! Leave me alone!"
"Where were you running off to? Where did the two of you decide to go?"
Someone pacing. Pacing and thumping the wall in rhythm.
"It's him. Isn't it? All along."
"You're drunk. You're always stinking drunk."
Quick footfalls. Light and attacking.
"You want to hear it? You want me to say it? Is that what you want?"
Heavy footfalls receding.
"You want me to say it?"
From the bedroom to the hallway.
Her voice chased him.
"You want me to?"
"Whore? You call me a whore? I've put up with your pig ways for years. Life with you is hell! You hear me?"
"How long have you two been together?"
"I hate you."
"Go to the pub. Maybe someone there will have you."
"It's been him all along."
"Stop saying that!"
"You smile and talk soft to him."
"Ever since I hired him, I bet. You've wanted him."
Movement back toward the bedroom. Now the heavy steps were stalking.
"He comes here every day. Looking at you."
"Why don't you go drink yourself to death."
"Nothing but a whore."
"Stop calling me that!"
Her voice screeched. "Yes! Yes! It's him! Him! Are you happy now?"
"It's him, and we laugh at you! We laugh at what a stinking fool you are! Are you happy now?"
Then harder. Harder.
"Where are you going?"
Through the kitchen to the back door.
"We laugh at you!"
And she showed him how.
The air whooshed as the shed ripped open. Tornadoes of dust whirled into the light.
A clawed hand with blackened fingernails yanked the hatchet from the wall. It swung with his strides. Blurring arcs marching forward.
In the kitchen, Kemmler raised the hatchet to his chest. A pot of chicken stock bubbled on the stove.
He kicked something in the hallway. It smacked into the bottom of the bedroom door. She was sobbing inside.
A kick splintered the wood. The doorknob dangled where the panel cracked.
A woman sat on the bed.
The hatchet flew up to the white ceiling.
The room raced, then the blade thunked deep.
She grunted, and the iron edge was bathed in the flowing dark.
On to Part 4.
Back to Part 2.