Eugene Sullivan could hear Adam screaming, and he could make out the word, “kill.” Sullivan wasn’t having too good of a time as it was in the trunk of the car already. He hadn’t known that he was as claustrophobic as he was finding himself to be, but, then again, he had never been in the trunk of a car. Now he was not only crammed tightly and uncomfortably in a small space, but he was also in complete darkness and still feeling the residual effects of the acid that his kidnapper, torturer, and interrogator had shot him up with.
And this guy was now screaming, “Kill!” at the top of his lungs and driving him somewhere. Sullivan’s mind again began to race wildly despite the fact that Adam had basically told Eugene everything that was supposed to happen from this point on.
Gene was scared, worried that Adam might kill him, worried that Adam might torture him again, and worried that the videotape might make it out. But he wasn’t, at this point, so much concerned for himself but for his family, and especially his children. As he continued to take stock of his most dire and unpleasant predicament, he focused his attention mainly on his oldest son, Andrew.
How would Andy handle it if I didn’t make it out of this alive? How would he handle it if the video were released?
Eugene decided to try his best to stop that particular line of thought. He tried to imagine black darkness in place of the images in his mind of the carrot video. But simply imagining blackness didn’t work; the awake mind having no tolerance for a vacuum. Eugene’s still-acid tripping brain went instead to thoughts of how the video would be copied into various versions and distributed if it were ever released. Did the students at Andy’s school have cell phones capable of playing such a video in homeroom class or on the school busses? Probably……definitely…..
No! No! No!! No, Gene! Stop thinking about that fucking video!
Eugene bit his hand and growled loudly out of frustration and found that the pain and the anger release did push out some of the embarrassing and unthinkable imagery. So he continued along this approach and made an effort to focus on the raw and burning blisters on his feet and between his toes, the memories of the hot oil torture, and the utter fear he’d had when the pot was held over his face. Yes, these were safe and comforting thoughts to be having. And if and when he got out of this alive, these would be the details he would focus on describing.
He bit his hand again harder and growled a little louder. Success.
Now finished with his brief stop in the store, Ed Hawkins was now ready to complete his final operational task. He started his vehicle and headed out of the parking lot turning west, going in the same direction along the same road as Adam and Eugene’s vehicle.
Ed retrieved one of his disposable cell phones and a list of phone numbers from the glove compartment. He slowed down a bit as he was not the type to use a cell phone while driving; in fact, he wasn’t the type to use a cell phone at all unless he absolutely had to. He cautiously dialed the first number, glancing back and forth between the road ahead, the phone, and the printed list.
The phone rang a few times before going to the familiar cookie cutter automated voice of answering service, and Ed quickly hit the “end call” button. “Damn!” Ed said.
He then took the phone away from his ear and fumbled around with it and the piece of paper as he dialed the second number on the list, hoping that someone would answer and trying to keep the Cherokee on a steady course. The highway was a straight one which made this a little easier than otherwise, but it also made it easy for the highway patrol and other police along the road to see everything and to notice a vehicle driving erratically.
Still no answer, and the phone call again went to an answering service, this one a human voice: “You have reached the Hanson residence; please leave a message.”
“Damnit! C’mon! Doesn’t anyone answer their phones anymore?!?” Ed said to himself. The sooner he got a real person, the easier this would be. The numbers Ed had tried were chosen completely at random. A random household would have been ideal, but, as Ed and Adam had expected, the chances of getting an answer weren’t all that good, and there wouldn’t be time to call dozens of random home phone numbers until someone picked up. So the next number Ed dialed was a number off of a Cragslist posting in the “vehicles for sale” section – not as good as a random number out of White Pages.com for the purpose at hand, which was to convey a message to the police anonymously. With the white pages numbers, there were addresses with them which meant that Ed could know the police jurisdiction where the person lived. With that information, it would be easier and quicker to determine, using his scanner radio, if the message was passed on and what the authorities’ reaction was. With Sullivan’s release time nearing, the kidnapping phase of The Plan was nearing its end, and the deception/blackmail phase was beginning.
And now, Ed resigned himself to the fact that this phase would now be taking a little longer than he’d hoped it would. While a Craigslist ad poster’s location was less knowable, thus making law enforcement response less knowable, such folks were, of course more likely to answer the phone.
“Hello.” The woman answered.
“Hello,” Ed spoke, affecting a little bit of a fake sounding southern redneck accent, “I saw your ad on craigslist for the Honda Civic for sale.”
“OK, well if you’re interested in having a look at it, either me or my husband can show it to you later in the evening around 6:30 or 7.”
Ed’s voice lapsed back into his regular Midwest accent as he tried to sound as serious and intimidating as he could. “Now, ma’am, I’m not calling about the car….” He paused, trying to get more into character and sound like the creepy stalker type, someone who would prompt someone to call the police, someone who would not be dismissed as a prank caller.
“Uh, OK. Who is this?” The woman said.
“My name’s Mike. Now I’m not callin’ about your ad; I’m calling to give you some information to pass on to the police. You are in danger, now, trust me, so listen very carefully to what I have to say. I’m not threatening you, I am warning you, do you understand?”
“Well, I will call the police, that’s for sure!”
“Just relax and listen, try to remain calm.” Ed said. He could hear her voice starting to tremble a little, and he could hear her breathing through the phone. This meant she was scared; that was good for Ed’s task, but he felt bad for trying to scare someone he didn’t even know. This was most unnatural for him, what he was doing. So he decided he’d achieved his purpose and backed out of the creepy-angry stalker character a little.
“Now I don’t know what this is about, we just started putting the ad out on Craigslist a couple days ago for the first time.” said the woman, a 45 year old housewife named Ashley Willis.
“Now, I need you to get a pen and paper and write something down. Let me know when you have a pen and paper ready.” Ed said.
“OK, got it got it ready.” she said, complying out of fear as she could sense from the tone in Ed’s voice, despite the fake accent, that this was most likely not a joke.
“Your gonna write down a message, and your gonna give this message to the police. You’re gonna call them as soon as we hang up. Now start writing this down and repeat each part back to me once you have it written down.”
“This is the Modern Sons of Liberty.” Ed said.
“This is the Modern Sons of Liberty.” the woman repeated back after writing it down.
“You will hear more from us soon, but for now we are advising you that we have captured one of your leaders.”
She again repeated Ed’s line after writing it down. The two continued in this manner, and, after about ten more minutes, the entire communication read:
“This is the Modern Sons of Liberty. You will hear more from us soon, but for now we are advising you that we have captured one of your leaders. The detained leader in our custody is Lafayette County Prosecuting Attorney Eugene Sullivan. We are now at war, and the only rules of war we will adhere to are our own.
Our list of immediate demands can be found buried in a plastic container at grid coordinates 38 54’ 13.50” N 93 32’ 01.87” W. A string of fishing weights are tied to the top of the container making it easier for your metal detectors to find.
If our demands are not met within 24 hours, we will not hesitate in executing Eugene Sullivan and continuing further operations without further warning.
We have sat idly by for too long and have finally decided to strike back. You knew it would only be a matter of time, didn’t you?”
Adam was still saying his “kill” mantra to himself as he neared the decoy safehouse, only by now he was only saying it in his head and not out loud. He could hear Sullivan growling and yelling in the trunk, and it seemed to Adam a fitting background noise so he didn’t really think much of it. As a human being, Adam would ordinarily have taken notice – the man was obviously in a lot of physical and emotional pain, but he was now numb to these sounds and the alarm bells that would ordinarily be going off in his head were being bypassed.
His mantra faded out, as he no longer needed it. And despite the anguished noises he could hear coming from the trunk of the car, Adam’s mind quieted down almost completely into a calm “this is what it should be” kind of state. He knew what he needed to do in order to make everything right; he no longer needed to think about it. His muscles relaxed to a bare minimum level of tension, including those holding his eyelids open and his mouth closed. What remained of his sense of identity was now nothing more than a short series of simple instructions.
Handle the car. Get to the house. Handle the hostage. Handle the dope. Handle the gun.
Eventually Sullivan quieted down as well, although more out of fatigue than out of any kind of meaningful understanding or acceptance of what was going on. As a matter of energy conservation, his brain set aside, if only temporarily, his worry and dread as his thoughts turned to what he would say and how he would act if and when he was released. No sense dwelling on all the “what-ifs,” no matter how nasty and undesirable they were. He concentrated more and more on his story.
I saw their faces. I’ll never forget their faces.
In order to prepare for worst case, he had to assume that someone had seen some of them. Only he’d seen their faces up close, some of them anyway.
Closer to the truth is better. Don’t contradict anything that another witness might say. Don’t contradict. Keep it short. Close to the truth, but not too close. Don’t remember the details. I saw two of the faces. It took two of them to torture me. They’ll show me mugshots. They’ll show me pictures from watchlists and FBI files. None of the pictures will be the guys. They’ll do composite sketches. They’ll use face selection software. I need to have an image of what they looked like.
Sullivan began constructing images of the faces he’d feed his investigators. He’d worked armed robbery cases before; he had a pretty good idea of how it would work. The facial selection software program was an improvement over the old way of manually sketching a witness’ description. Instead of a lot of questions as to what a suspect looked like, the program showed the witness a screen full of computer generated face images, and the witness would choose the face that looked the most like the one he saw. This face wouldn’t look completely like the one the witness saw, but it would lead to a new series of faces that looked similar to it. From this new series, the witness would again choose the one that most looked like the one he saw. This selection would again lead to a new series of faces to choose from and so on and so forth until the witness found a face that pretty much looked like a photograph of the person he’d seen. The witness didn’t need to be able to verbalize what features made him select the face, and the system basically took advantage of the natural ability of a person to recognize another. So for this reason he had to come up with a definite image in his mind and stick with it.
The details and the planning helped Sullivan keep his mind from straying into the kind of uncontrollable worrying, both of the paranoid and justifiable variety, as he’d been doing earlier. He’d managed to carve out a space within and surrounded by the dread and the what-iffing. You’d better get all this shit right…….or else!
“911 what is your emergency?” The operator at the Kansas City North Zone 911 center answered.
“Someone just called me and said that they kidnapped the district attorney, and they’re holding him hostage.” Ashley Willis said.
“They’re holding the D.A. hostage?”
“Are you in any danger yourself, ma’am?” the operator asked.
“I think so. This guy….who called me……he sounded very serious.” Ashley said, her voice starting to tremble. “Please send someone to help me.”
“Ok. We’re going to send someone. Just stay on the phone and try to remain calm, alright?
“OK,” the operator continued. “You’re doing fine. Just try to relax and we’ll have someone there to you shortly. Now what is your location?”
Adam backed his car into the decoy safehouse’s carport. He turned off the engine and sat quietly for a few seconds. The few seconds turned into a few more as the LSD he’d injected into himself worked its way further into his brain, amplifying and solidifying the state of mind he’d reached with his mantra recitation on the road a few minutes earlier. Acting out the remaining steps of what he’d resolved to do, he picked up the lunchbox containing the drug needles, got out of the car, and went inside the house. He set down the box on the kitchen counter. He noticed the effect the drug was having on his attention span as he stared at the picture on the box, but he fell back on his military discipline and training that he’d honed in combat in Samarrah and kept moving, kept operating, despite some signals in his mind telling him to do otherwise. So Adam looked away from the box and toward the front door, which was where he had to go next.
The acid was making it more difficult to operate as planned, in terms of physical movement. The drug was intended for use on Sullivan, but Adam knew very well his own limitations and knew that he would not be able to take his own life without a good deal of chemical assistance. While it made physical operation and concentration on immediate tasks a little more difficult, it did help to stiffen Adam’s resolve and to help him overcome his natural, reflexive human self-preservation instincts, those annoying, nagging, thoughts, which, in times of sobriety, kept telling him “Don’t do it; you’ve got stuff to live for.” Given the choice between the distraction of the drugs and the fear of death and pain that came with sobriety, Adam chose intoxication.
He reached the front door, opened it, and walked outside. He didn’t bother to close the door, and he didn’t bother to look around to see who might be watching him. He focused on carrying out his next few steps not so much despite his intoxication, in concert with it. He noticed the complexity and the beauty in the world around him; the sky and trees that he normally took for granted now seemed to pulsate and compete for his attention. He took note of it and moved on, arriving at the rear of the car under the carport, knowing that himself and his actions fit perfectly into the grand design of things in the same way as the sky and trees.
As he opened the trunk and looked at Sullivan, he was reminded that this grand design included so many apparent contradictions; the world was full of ugliness, evil, human error and stupidity.
And there he is….this guy….this piece of shit. What does anything matter when there are so many of these guys running around?
People like Sullivan, and there were so many like him, male and female, young and old, black and white, occupying so many roles. Sullivan was, boiled down to his essence, a bullshitter. Adam knew that people like this just went through life telling others what they thought they wanted to hear, telling themselves what they wanted to hear. And they even took pride in what they did. Phrases like “bullshit makes the world go ‘round” and “you can’t bullshit a bullshitter” came to mind. These people made life so difficult for those who simply wanted honesty in human interaction and honesty with themselves.
Sullivan looked helplessly at Adam from inside the trunk as Adam continued staring him down and continued his line of thinking.
You can’t bullshit a bullshitter, but you can find where he lives, you can kidnap him, you can torture him, you can sexually abuse him, you can blackmail him.
Adam nodded, realizing that the acid had shaken all the meaning from the word “bullshit” causing him to see the rest of the world in terms of it.
Maybe it does make the world go around. Maybe I’m just playing the same game.
Another quote came to Adam’s mind, this one along the same lines but a little more dignified. He didn’t remember the exact words, and paraphrased it:
“The world is absolutely perfect, including your frustration with it and your efforts to change it.”
Adam sobered up a little, and remembered that he was wasting his time looking at Sullivan’s face. It was useless trying to think of Sullivan as a fellow human being. Sullivan was the enemy, and, like the Iraqi insurgents and Al Qaeda foreign fighters he’d dealt with in Samarrah, it was easier to think of Sullivan as sub-human, an animal or a robot. Adam shook his head and helped Sullivan out of the trunk. “Come on,” he said, nearly drowning out Sullivan’s gasps of pain as he began putting weight on his burned feet. “You’ll be alright. Suck it up. Suck it up. We’re almost done, almost there,” Adam said in a tired voice with not too much empathy in it. The two entered the house, this time through the side door.
“Lafayette County Sheriff’s Department,” the Sheriff’s administrative assistant answered.
“Yes, this is Captain Bestwick with the Kansas City PD. We’ve responding to a call from someone about the Lafayette County Prosecuting Attorney being kidnapped. Don’t know at this point if it’s a joke or a threat or what; just wanted to see if you could check on your end. They mentioned Eugene Sullivan by name, saying someone was holding him hostage. So, if you guys are able to get eyes on him, then we can just treat this as a threat or joke….”
“Alright, lemmie put you on hold just a minute.”
The phone in Eugene Sullivan’s office at the Lafayette County courthouse rang.
“Eugene Sullivan’s office, this is Erin speaking how may I help you?” Erin answered the phone.
“Yes, Erin, this is Sheriff Ken Sterling, is Gene in today?” The Lafayette County Sheriff said.
“No he isn’t; he called in sick this morning.”
“Well, we have an urgent matter here; are you able to reach him?” The Sheriff asked.
“I can try his cell, but I’ve called it a couple times today and haven’t gotten an answer. I actually got a call from his wife a little while ago.”
Ed was on highway 210 driving west with the Missouri river between himself and the town of Lexington when he finally heard what he had been intently listening out for so far on one of his handheld scanners:
“All units 10-3, all units 10-3.” This meant that dispatch was telling everyone to stop transmitting. Ed hit the “hold” button on the scanner and waited a couple seconds.
“All units 10-21 dispatch ASAP. All units 21 ASAP.” This meant for all units to telephone in to dispatch. Ed smiled and said to himself “There we go. Game on! Bout damn time!”
He hit the “scan” button again, now listening out for something similar to come from the Missouri Highway Patrol Troop A frequencies. After a few minutes and a few stops on some non-pertinent traffic, Ed again found what he was waiting for on one of these channels:
“All units be advised 10-21 to main J-1, all units 10-21 to main J-1”
Lafayette County Sheriff Ken Sterling and Chief Detective Ron Baines sat down in front of Eugene Sullivan’s secretary’s desk. The Sheriff had a cell phone up to his ear and another one in his hand. Detective Baines introduced himself to Erin.
“Alright, I’ve got his secretary right in front of me here. Here she is” Sheriff Sterling said as he took the cell phone off of his ear, covered the mouthpiece, and looked Erin in the eye. He said to her, “FBI,” and handed her the cellphone.
As Erin recounted everything to the agent on the phone, another agent was on scene at the home of Ashley Willis, the woman who had received the initial kidnapping claim call from Ed Hawkins.
Ed was now south of the Missouri River, having crossed it on route 291. As the road changed to Interstate 470 near the cloverleaf interchange with Interstate 70, Ed heard a click, then a long hiss, then a click from his other scanner radio, the one he had dedicated to Federal law enforcement frequencies.
As he got onto I-70 he could see a cluster of blue lights in his rear view mirror. The hissing and clicking of the encrypted transmissions on the scanner kept up, and Ed decided at this point to turn both his scanner radios off and put them in the trunk. He was able to do so just before the police convoy behind him, moving very quickly in the fast lane, began passing him. Ed looked to his right and saw two Missouri Highway Patrol cars leading a convoy of about 8 more vehicles which included a Highway Patrol Chevy Tahoe, several black, unmarked Chevy Suburbans and a couple of black Humvees, all with blue lights flashing but no sirens.
“These guys are getting their act together pretty quickly” Ed said to himself. By now, Ed was pretty sure that this convoy was on its way to the grid coordinate he’d put in his communication to Ashley Willis, and, judging by the unmarked vehicles, the feds had already taken charge of the response and investigation into the disappearance and kidnapping of an elected official.
The convoy enroute to 38 54’ 13.50 N 93 32’ 01.87 W, located within the Perry Conservation Area, had been dispatched from the FBI’s Kansas City, MO field office to assist in securing a perimeter around the grid coordinate. A few highway patrol units were already setting up roadblocks around the Perry Conservation Area in order to prevent anyone from entering the park as well as to photograph and interview anyone leaving it.
By the time Ed returned to his hotel room and turned on CNN, the news was showing live aerial footage of the Perry Conservation Area with the caption “Breaking News: Terrorist Threat.”
“If you’re just now joining us, what you’re seeing here is from our affiliate in Kansas City. This is a state park in Missouri where you can see numerous police and government vehicles converging. Authorities are very tight lipped at this time, and local residents are saying that a wide area is being cordoned off. “
120 miles away, Midwest Regional Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Director Robert Vance was also watching this footage on the large screen at the front of the Missouri Information and Analysis Center’s (MIAC) “war room”. Vance was seated at the head of the MIAC war room’s main conference table along with other representatives of state and federal law enforcement agencies. Seated to his left was DHS intel officer Jeff Dorsey, and to Vance’s right were MIAC Director Tom Gordon and Missouri Department of Public Safety (DPS) Homeland Security Coordinator Paul Fernwell.
Across the table were several empty seats, each with a name placard and each with its own individual two-way video screen. The space directly opposite from Director Vance had a name placard reading “Jeff Haywood, FBI SAC” in front of it. A video screen next to this name placard and its corresponding empty seat linked to the Kansas City FBI office, and the office’s Special Agent in Charge (SAC), Jeff Haywood was on the screen.
Director Vance sat quietly watching the CNN footage on the big screen as FBI SAC Jeff Haywood spoke through his video conferencing link across the table:
“So by now, I’m sure all of you gentlemen have read the communiqué from the ‘modern sons of liberty,’ or, well, at least from an individual claiming to be part of such a group. We’ve got the entire text of that communication up on one of our big screens here on our end…..”
“We’ve got it up here as well” Said Missouri DPS Homeland Security Coordinator Paul Fernwell.
“Good, and what’s the status on your end so far as getting your space ready for JFO war room configuration?” The screen with Jeff Haywood’s face on it said from across the conference table.
“We’re ready to rock and roll over here!” Paul Fernwell said aggressively.
“Hoo-ah!” said the Midwest Regional Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Director Robert Vance, a former Army infantry commander.
Several other ‘Hoo-ahs’ could be heard from throughout the large classroom-style MIAC war room as well as a few ‘Oo-rahs,’ a couple ‘Yuts,’ and at least one ‘Urrr-kill.’