Sargent Malloy was quite shocked to see an email from the Governor’s Office on a Sunday! He was even more shocked to see that it was from the Governor himself rather than from an assistant as would be the norm.
The email began:
I am very sorry to learn that Mr. Watkins has passed and am very curious as to the details of the “accident.” It’s not often that I would be personally motivated to know such things, but this case is one of personal interest as you will see when you read the details I have attached in this email. Please find the information you requested in the two attached files and kindly give me further information once you have confirmed the identification of the victim.”
Sargent Malloy opened the first of the two files. Inside was the vital information of Clarence Samuel Watkins. There were two documents. The first had two pictures. One dated 1952 which was a mug shot of a much younger Clarence Watkins. The second, dated just weeks ago, was indeed the man Sargent Malloy had watched die. The document recorded his crime. Armed Robbery and Attempted Murder. Sentenced to 100 years for robbing a store and striking the owner with a crow bar late in the fall of 1951.
The second document was his history. Clarence Samuel Watkins had once been “Clarence Doe.” Last name not known. That was when he was six years old and taken into custody after being found on the streets alone. According to the authorities he didn’t know his own last name and efforts to find his parents had proven “fruitless.” He had been officially declared an orphan and the State had taken custody. The State records indicated an adoption had taken place 3 years later. Then there had been nothing until his incarceration when he was 16 years old. Robbery. Attempted Murder.
The second file was a letter to the Governor from Inmate #714623-12.
Sargent Malloy’s eyes grew wide as he read it. Then they filled with tears and he began to sob as the written words of Clarence Watkins echoed in his mind.
I am writing to you because you are my last hope.
I have appeared before the parole board on numerous occasions to no avail. It seems that they do not believe that I can exist in society. They tell me that because I am an orphan I have no support outside these walls. They say that I have proven that material things mean more to me than human life. If you read my records, you will no doubt have reason to believe the same.
I am a simple man, so I will keep this simple and make it short and to the point in my bid to help you to see a different truth than what the records would indicate.
It is true that I was an orphan when I was very young. My mother left me alone and I never knew my father. Then for a while I wasn’t an orphan because a kindly minister and his wife adopted me. They taught me to read and they taught me to write. They gave me a Bible which you will find enclosed here.
Then, when I was 15 years old they were killed in an automobile accident. I was an orphan once more.
I was angry and desperate that day. I just wanted money so I could go far away from the deep sadness. But the clerk wouldn’t give me the money and I struck him with that bar. They tell me I took one of his eyes that day. Even now as I write this I hold deep sorrow for those actions. But I no longer hold any guilt because I have been set free by a much higher power than even you.
I am already free from this prison you see, and only this worthless old body remains inside. So there’s not much for you to release in that regard. It’s just a shell. But I still need it for one last thing. What that is, I don’t yet know and can only find out if you release me from these walls.
Now I mentioned the Bible sir. I would ask you to take the time to flip through the pages. Within you will see that I have underlined my favorite scriptures. You will see the notes I have made, notes beside many of the scriptures. You will see that they mention other scriptures that say the same thing. I say this so you might know that I have read the Word of God many times over the years. Many times sir. But what is most important are two scriptures that I pray might convince you to let me finally leave these walls.
The first scripture is one that tells me that God so loved the world that He gave His only son. Sent Him here to die for my sins. It says that I can be forgiven and have everlasting life. So you see, my soul has already been pardoned and will soon be set free of this broken down prison they call a body.
The second scripture tells me that I should love my God with all that I am and tells me to love my neighbor. It’s that second scripture that I need your help with.
You see, the parole board says I can’t be free because I am an orphan and have no support outside. But, they are wrong because I am no longer an orphan. I have a Father in heaven and will soon be going home to be with Him. The second thing they said is that I hold material possessions in a higher value than I do human life. I want a chance to prove that false sir. I want to love my neighbor sir. I want a chance to be selfless. I want a chance to give whatever I have to someone in need. Now I don’t have much and I don’t know what opportunity awaits me, but I do know that I need to be outside these walls to find that opportunity.
The doctors here tell me I have just months to live. Maybe a year. Seems as though my old ticker is done ticking sir. So you see, there is no real reason to keep me here. I do have a Father sir. All I need is just one chance to do something kind for someone before I go home. Please sir, just one chance.
Now I understand that you have no real reason to believe me. Just like I have no real reason to believe what’s in that old book when I am in this terrible place. But I do believe. It’s a thing called faith. I am asking you to have just a little bit of faith in me sir. I won’t let you down.
Either way, can you please be sure and return my Bible?
God bless you sir.
Inmate Clarence Samuel Watkins”
Sargent Malloy cried again. He sat there staring at the words through blurry eyes and just sobbed and shook his head in wonder. But it was what he saw next that would send chills down his spine and would forever change the way he viewed the world. It was something he had missed before.
The governor’s closing statement.
“If you need further assistance, please contact my assistant Sherry. She is aware you may be calling. I have to leave immediately to catch a flight. I learned yesterday that my granddaughter was in an accident. She is going to be okay, but nearly drowned after crashing her car into the river right there in your town, so you will understand if I turn this over to Sherry.
Governor William Anderson”