Married to a Murderer Short Story Mystery with Romance by Alan Russell
Married to a Murderer
by Alan Russell
Page 3 of 3
Danielle didn't promise him anything at first, and he didn't ask.
Visiting a prison, talking through a reinforced window, isn't the
usual way men and women get to know one another. But there was an
intensity to their talks that neither could have imagined. They only
had minutes with each other, but those were the kind of minutes many
couples never experience. There wasn't music, or food, or a movie
between them. There wasn't physical contact, or shared passions.
There was only death around the corner, death and the discoveries
A week after they met, Danielle offered Clay her financial
support. Her money, she said, would buy him the best lawyers, the
best tacticians. If her wealth could buy him another day's life, it
was there for him.
There for the taking. Clay was usually good at that, but he
wasn't sure how to respond in this case. Now that everything was
being offered, he felt off-balance. He had heard about things like
this happening, but only in fairy tales. He felt like the frog being
kissed by the princess. Clay had always enjoyed stealing from the
rich because he thought it brought him closer to them, almost made him
one of them. And now everything was being offered on a golden
platter. She was his last wish come true.
"I couldn't just take," he said.
"It's not taking," she said. "It's sharing."
"Like we were married?"
"'Til death do us part."
"What would your friends say?"
"You know," he said, then struggled for the words, "if we were to
"They'd say," she said, "'Married to a murderer.'"
Neither of them spoke. The words hung between them. Each felt a
thrill. He, that this one in a million (no, make that one in fifty
million, he thought) woman could be at his side, and she, at the
audaciousness of his notion.
Married to a murderer. Each of them thought about that. Marriage
suited their desires, though each wanted different things. He wanted
respectability, and she wanted notoriety. Both perceived the other as
being powerful, as belonging to worlds they had only imagined.
"Will you marry me?" he asked.
"Yes," she said.
They didn't wait. Time was not on their side. Their nuptials set
off a media frenzy. Why would one of the richest and most desirable
women in the world marry a murderer? Danielle didn't offer answers,
so the media tried to find their own. The life and times of Clay
Potter were examined. If Danielle Deveron saw something good, and
noble, and attractive in the man, then the reasoning was that there
must be something there. Witnesses surfaced that remembered a
different Clay Potter than was evidenced on his rap sheet. Even
before his new team of lawyers went to work, the press began to call
for a reexamination of his murder conviction.
"There is a God," said Clay Potter. And he knew there was an
angel - his wife.
While desperate motions were filed, man and wife continued in
their jailhouse courtship.
"People whisper behind my back," Danielle confessed. "Everyone is
talking. And mostly what they say is, 'Married to a murderer.'"
"They're wrong," said Clay, his voice rising, red suddenly
appearing in his ashen face. "They're wrong."
He coughed long and hard, the coldness of his years of
imprisonment, and the harshness of the lies directed at his wife,
making him burn with anger. Danielle consoled him. He didn't
understand that she hadn't been complaining. Quite the opposite.
Being married to Clay set her apart, made her something novel. Others
might have five carat diamond rings, and Learjets, but she had
something they didn't: she was married to a murderer.
They were quite the odd couple, but to all appearances Danielle
and Clay savored their moments together. Despite all the tumult going
on around them, despite the clamor for a new trial, neither of them
expected that Clay would be alive for very long. In some ways they
found a freedom in his execution date. "Carpe diem," Danielle often
said. Clay didn't know the Latin meaning, but he did like the excited
look on her face.
The reprieve call never came from the governor. But Clay's
lawyers found enough extenuating circumstances to allow for a retrial.
Clay was ecstatic. He had been proclaiming his innocence from the
day of his arrest, and now, at long last, people were beginning to
believe him. Clay's retrial was blessedly short. On further
review of the so-called evidence, Clay was found innocent. In the
arms of his beautiful wife, Clay left the courtroom. He told the
media that he had never been happier, but he coughed all the while he
made the pronouncement. It was clear to all that Clay was very sick,
his body wasted from his long confinement. Many wondered whether his
freedom had come too late.
His death was announced a week later, and the press treated it
like a Greek tragedy. Center stage was the widow in black, poor
little rich girl Danielle Deveron, but the public was not quick to rid
itself of their early take on the story. Behind the widow's back,
Danielle still heard the whispers: "Married to a murderer."
The words were all too familiar to Danielle. They had been Clay's
last words to her. He had made his pronouncement minutes after his
last dose of medication. Clay had been obedient and adoring almost to
the end. It was only when he took that final swallow of medication
that he finally awakened. His face had undergone a remarkable
transformation, beginning with a cherishing gaze, to a questioning
glance, to a piercing stare, and then, at the end, a horrified look.
He was staring at death, and something else, something that must have
appeared even uglier to him.
From the first, they had both seen what they wanted to see, both
seen what wasn't there. For a time, each had thought the other
perfect for their needs. Danielle had been married to a murderer, and
her beloved was to die for his deeds. When it turned out Clay was
innocent (just her luck, she thought), everything changed. This
wasn't a man Danielle had wanted to spend a life with, but a death
with. She had married a guilty man. She had married a murderer. She
wanted that distinction, wanted the whispers. But even more, she had
wanted his death.
"Married," Clay had gasped, trying to shout out his last words,
trying to raise an alarm, "to a murderer!"
Then he died. Poisoned, but that was something only his widow
Of their relationship the public would always judge, "Married to a
They would never know, thought Danielle, how right they were.