The time is twenty years from now. Capital punishment has been re-introduced in all its forms and is shown prime time on television. Carnelian Smith is approached by Gene Twice – liaison for the Office of Administers – and is given the commission for the execution of serial killer Thomas Dalton. Before he can accept this commission he must interview Dalton, as in this society the executioner is ultimately responsible, for they must judge the judges. Prior to this interview Gene Twice’s boss, Ethan Mason, is killed in a hotel room.
Smith accepts the commission: he will behead Thomas Dalton at the appointed time. Meanwhile the police have discovered something strange about Mason’s death. There is genetic evidence at the murder scene that Jennifer Feldane, a woman executed some years before, was present. They investigate.
As things proceed with the execution, Smith grows closer to Gene and the press pack close in. The police discover that the woman present in the hotel room with Mason was Jennifer Feldane’s daughter, Polly. They have discovered that the murder Jennifer Feldane was executed for, was her attempt to cover-up the fact that she had cloned herself. Hence the genetic match.
Smith carries out the execution of Dalton and the whole thing is televised. After, he goes to meet Gene in a hotel. The police have meanwhile discovered that Gene Twice is Polly Feldane. They surmise that she is exacting vengeance for the execution of her mother – Mason signed the death warrant and Smith carried out the sentence. They hurry to find her and Smith before she kills him. They arrive and arrest Gene.
Anomalies in the evidence lead the officers to suspect that Gene is not the killer they thought. To prove this to themselves, and at Gene’s request, they call Smith in to give her the pre-execution interview before the trial, as the opinion of the executioner can stand as evidence. Soon convinced of Gene’s innocence they see the obvious: that it was Mason’s wife who did the dirty deed. With Smith in tow they go to arrest her. Upon their arrival Mason’s wife, terrified by the sight of Smith, kills herself.
Ends with TV program introducing the latest method of execution.
Running time: One hour