The Last One to Be Killed — a short story

Posted on 2019 June 2


There really are those who are willing to make poor people worse off in order to make rich people worse off. — Ronald Bailey

“I still don’t get it. Why am I to be executed?”

“They don’t need you anymore.”

“But that’s crazy! I’ve been their friend for years. I financed their revolution. Without me, they’d never have gotten power.”

“It’s true, you were a good friend to them. And now you’re a liability. They want people to believe the workers rose up and took over, when really it was your cash that helped engineer the coup. That’s an embarrassment to them. Now that they have your money, they don’t need you anymore. You’re a loose end.”

“I gave them all my money! I have nothing left. I can’t hurt them.”

“And you can no longer protect yourself.”

“They wanted justice! I sided with them. They seemed so happy with me.”

“It’s not about justice anymore. Now it’s about power. People who win a nation by force will rule it the same way. Fairness only works if it gets you power. After that…”

“But she guaranteed I’d be happy in the new order.”

“Yes, the Great Leader must make promises to set the plan in motion. Honoring those promises depends … on circumstance.”

“So she lied to me.”

“Maybe she believed it at first. But later her advisors will have pointed out that you’re the last wealthy person left in America who hasn’t been executed. And you were the sixth richest in the country. A huge symbol. Your death will make a fine statement about the total victory of the revolution.”

“I supported her way back when she was a freshman congressperson from New York City. She promised an open government, justice, fairness, equal shares for all.”

“You didn’t study your history. In real life, those promises are never kept.”

“Look, times are changing! Who needs history?”

“You inherited your money. You never had to learn how hard it is to make big bucks in a capitalist country. Hell, you never had to learn anything. You could indulge your fancy any way you saw fit. And you decided to back a revolution that changed history. You should be proud to die for the cause.”

“I don’t want to die for a cause! I just wanted—”

“—to thumb your nose at your father. Well, you sure managed that one. Wherever he’s buried, right now he’s rotating in his grave at about eight hundred r-p-m.”

“I really don’t get why they want me dead. It just doesn’t make sense. I’ve been their loyal friend!”

“Back in the day, there was a movie … Woody Harrelson, Robert Downey Junior … it was called, let’s see … “Natural Born Killers”. Harrelson played a brilliant crazy guy, and he and his girlfriend stage a series of daring and bloody mass killings. And Downey plays this journalist, a guy named Wayne, who tags along like a fan. In the end, they tell Wayne that he must die and become the last victim. In the revolution, you’re Wayne. You’re the last one to be killed.”

“Wait a minute! You’re rich, too! Why don’t they arrest you?”

“They don’t know about it.”

“What if I started shouting right through these bars, out into the corridor, and rat you out?”

“That’s already been handled. Remember at your kangaroo trial when they said you’re dangerously crazy? That’s the official word around here. The warden and all the guards are concerned you might go postal on them. Spoil the nice story. They have orders to tear your tongue out if you start yelling or acting crazy.” 

“Good God. This whole thing has gone horribly wrong. It isn’t what I expected at all when I first joined them.”

“Yes, well, bad people don’t succeed by telling their supporters the whole truth. Anyway, I came here to say goodbye and that I’ll miss you. You were a good friend to me, and I’m sorry it ended this way.”

“What will you do now? You can’t exactly go back to being CEO of your old company.”

“Well, it’s funny. I actually work as a consultant for the new government. They’re having trouble getting all the Southern states in line. There’s still a bit of a civil war going on down there. They need my advice. I’ve hidden my identity for several years now. I got in here to see you by promising I’d find out if there was any more of your money hidden away somewhere. I’ll tell them you had an attack of conscience and gave up your last stash. Then I’ll simply hand over a portion of my own cash and pretend it came from you. No big deal, I’ll have billions left over.”

“But you can’t ever spend your money openly.”

“Oh, there are ways. Besides, my computer simulations give this regime between eight and ten years, after which there’ll probably be a military takeover. China and the European Union and Russia and India will have moved so far ahead economically and militarily that America will look like a cash-strapped third-world banana republic. There’ll be a lot of catching up to do. I’ll make bank.”

“I don’t get it. Why aren’t you mad at me? I ruined everything for you.”

“All my life I’ve faced big challenges. This is just one of them. And it’s sort of working out for me. I may emerge richer than before. So what you did is more interesting than it is a problem. Don’t sweat it.”

“Now I wish I’d taken you up on that offer years ago, to go into business together. I wouldn’t be on Death Row, betrayed by the people I helped.”

“Yes, life is full of regrets. I must go. I’ll leave you to yours.”


Posted in: Fiction, Politics