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Then he phoned me last February, the first time in more than two years. Recently, for the first time since he'd been incarcerated, he hung up a photo of his children in his cell.

"I'm not going to make it to my thirty-sixth birthday," he announced. He saw it on the seven-inch flat-screen TV he keeps in his cell, a picture called Seven Pounds, about a guy who's so distraught after killing his fiancée and six others in a car accident that he decides to commit suicide and donate his organs to people in need. He'd give away his heart and lungs and liver and corneas and bone marrow and whatever else could be salvaged. It was a studio shot, one I'd seen at his trial, the three kids gazing smiley and wide-eyed into the camera, heartbreakingly cute.

Longo had always dreamed of becoming a roving journalist, and while in Mexico he attempted to fulfill that fantasy. I'd been fired by the paper because I fabricated an article I wrote about child labor in West Africa, combining quotations from several individual laborers into one fictitious composite character.

A local aid agency uncovered my lie, and after it was reported to my editors, my career there was finished.

When Christian Longo asked if I wanted to watch him die, I told him I did.