The following is part twelve of a completely fictional story illustrating one possible way in which private citizens might address problems stemming from the abuse of prosecutorial discretion using means that are 100% “outside the system.” While not advocating such tactics described, I did try to come up with tactics that make maximum use of leverage, that is, those tactics requiring the least amount of personnel, time, and resources to achieve the most significant result. This story is not about heroes and villains, good guys or bad guys. The characters are NOT intended to be role models, only to be as believable as possible while still doing things that, to my knowledge, have never been done before. Warning: This is not what you expect. It describes dirty, underhanded tactics which
some most will find shocking and revolting.
Tuesday, October 30 – 12:55 PM
Ed and Jason arrived at the decoy safe house in Richmond. Ed backed his SUV into the carport; he didn’t want anyone seeing the Cherokee’s telltale bumper stickers or see him messing around in broad daylight at a foreclosed home. This was especially true because Ed expected the house to become a crime scene by the end of the day, a burned one if everything went right.
As soon as the vehicle stopped moving, Jason opened his front passenger door, which he’d already unlocked, and then hurried to the vehicle’s rear and opened the hatchback. Ed and Jason quickly donned gloves, grabbed the trash bags full of evidence and carried them inside, dumping the handcuffs, rags, blue tarp, and other items on the floor in the living room. They then took the camping stove and set it up with the stock pot on top of it, trying their best to set things up as they had been in the real safehouse. They even went to the effort of putting fresh canola oil in the pot, not knowing if a forensics team would be able to tell the difference but also not wanting to take chances where they didn’t need to. Ed switched the stove on just to check and make sure it still lit properly and then turned the flame back off.
Adam put the blindfold back over Sullivan’s eyes. The peak moment of Sullivan’s LSD trip had come and gone. His ego had been thrown up in the air, and it was in the process of landing in a place and in a manner that was all part of The Plan. As Eugene had watched the videos, he had not only experienced guilt, shame, and fear, but also experienced powerlessness. He, the Prosecuting Attorney of Lafayette County, had been put in the position of begging someone not to ruin his life. With the video made, the power was all Adam’s, and Sullivan understood this completely. And with his ego in no position to guide his thinking, Adam was also in a position to fill the gap. As planned, Sullivan had looked to Adam for guidance and instruction in his most lost and desperate moment of need.
Meanwhile, Ed and Jason were now approaching their next destination, Adam’s apartment complex in Independance. As Ed saw on his GPS that Adam’s apartment complex was just ahead, he made a turn onto the street before the main gate. They made sure the SUV was as clear of evidence as it could be, putting the disposable gloves they’d used in a fresh ziplock bag and making sure Jason had on his person all copies of the blackmail videos, except of course, for the tape that Adam still had back at the decoy safe house. Ed stopped the Cherokee by the curb, let Jason out, and then continued on his screening mission in the Cherokee. And, so far, as far as the the radio scanners were concerned, no news was good news.
Jason went back into the woods behind the complex and found the low spot in the fence Adam had told him about. He scaled the fence and continued on into the complex, pulling down his ball cap just to make sure no one would remember his face if they were ever asked. Fortunately, it was a blue collar type of neighborhood of younger to middle age renters and not too many retirees, which meant that there weren’t too many people with time on their hands out looking around and gossiping.
Jason came out of the woods and near the back of Adam’s building. Keeping his head down, he walked around the side of the building and into the parking lot. He found Adam’s car, got in, and drove out the front gate of the complex. With his crossing out the gate, there was now a video record of Adam’s car leaving the complex. And, so long as no one had seen Jason’s face too closely, the video evidence would support the claim that Adam was at home until around 1 PM. That is, unless someone had seen Adam get into the rental Malibu in the wee hours of the morning, but that was pretty unlikely. Besides, their insurance policy video would probably prevent the investigation from getting that far anyway, and, even if the investigation did get that far, the insurance policy would still ultimately protect them. Rather than try to get together elaborate cover stories, Adam and the boys worked out a few basic lies they could easily remember and corroborate. They also agreed that after answering no more than 2 questions from police, if it came to that, that they would then simply lawyer up. Lawyering up too early would point the spotlight right on them; lawyering up too late could mean their stories might come apart.
Ed stopped at a full service car wash in Independence on his way back to Lexington and parked his car in line to be cleaned inside and out. He wanted to be as sure as he could that his vehicle was as clean as he could get it, because The Plan now called for him to be a lightning rod for any police attention that might be pointed in the team’s general direction. In all, the wait at the car wash was about 20 minutes from the time he dropped his keys off until the time he paid and got them back. He then continued on his screening mission, going slowly along the route back through Lexington. If the cops were on to them in any meaningful way, they would most likely be out in force along the route that was originally used to transport Sullivan. It didn’t so much matter at this point whether or not the cops had gotten wise to a kidnapping of the prosecutor; what mattered was that they didn’t have a clue as to where the safehouses were. But if the cops did get wind, the boys wanted to know this as soon as possible.
Sullivan would now be coming down for several more hours, still feeling the effects of the drug and his mind now integrating the lessons he had learned. The relatively light tripping session would not, in itself, be anything too life-changing for him. He would still be the same old Eugene Sullivan at the end of the day, still be the same old go-along-to-get-along Mr. Nice Guy that he was. But his brief foray into egolessness at the not-so-tender mercy of a very determined ex-Army interrogator would leave its imprint on his mind no less. Perhaps some changes and lessons might remain. And, if they didn’t, there was always the dirty little carrot video that could be used to keep him in line.
As Sullivan’s body began the slow process of metabolizing the drug and his brain began the slow process of re-aligning itself, Adam continued to repeat the line, “Think about why you’re here,” at longer and longer intervals, going from 30 seconds to a minute, then to five minutes, then to ten.
“Think about why you’re here.”
As Adam kept repeating the line, it was having it’s desired effect on Sullivan, aiding along the rape-victim-self-blame and Stolkholm syndrome kind of reactions that Adam was hoping to cultivate in his subject. But as kept saying the mantra, Adam couldn’t help but think of what the line meant for him, why he was here doing what he was doing.
Think about why YOU’RE here, Adam thought.
He answered himself, I’m here because there was no other choice. Sullivan wasn’t just going to enforce the law on his own. If I wasn’t here doing what I’m doing, then more cops would just be able to beat the shit out of anyone who pissed them off in the least. I’m here because the rule of law is dead, so I may as well break the law anyway.
But why are you here? Why you, Adam Warren? Why take the risk? Why take the time? Why all the sacrifice?
Adam again answered his own question: Someone’s gotta do it, why not me? Otherwise it just wouldn’t get done.
Oh, so you’re just making a big sacrifice, aren’t you? You’re just a selfless Patriot doing what’s right, huh? You’re taking all that risk – death, real hard jail time, vilification in the press, torture by the police if you’re caught….. but why? Because you have so much to live for? And yet you’re answering the call of duty because you’re just such a noble and self-sacrificing crusader, right?
Is that what Captain Bowen would say if he could just put the words together? Is that what Sergeant Ryan or PFC McGinnis would say if they were still alive? Is that what Ryan’s widow and children would say?!? Is that what McGinnis’ parents would say?!? That you’re just a selfless patriot doing the right thing, yet you let them die because you were tired, you were hungry, and you didn’t feel like doing your job that night?!?
Adam could feel the lump in his throat, and he could feel the moisture quickly accumulating in his eyes. He had to face the facts: He was only risking his life and freedom on the Sullivan mission because he didn’t see much value left in his life anyway. He had a body and a brain and he was going to use those things for a cause greater than himself. But he knew that even if the mission went down as a 100% success, it would never make up for the deadly mistake he had made back in 2004 in Samarrah. He knew that the guilt in having allowed two lives to be lost and one to be virtually ruined would be something that would haunt him the rest of his life. It would mean that there would always be a limit as to how happy he would allow himself to be, a limit on how much he would be able to enjoy life. And that limit would be extremely low.
He thought about how Captain Bowen’s family must have first reacted to hearing the news of his condition. Was it over the phone? Did the doctors wait to tell them in person?
Adam then imagined what it must have been like for Mrs. Ryan to hear the news that her husband was killed and then have to turn around and tell her children that their dad would not be coming home, ever. He pictured the casualty call chaplain and entourage arriving at a house or apartment, most likely a small row house, Adam figured. They probably came while the kids were at school, leaving Mrs. Ryan a few hours to prepare herself. That’s how they did it, didn’t they? Did the kids come home to have their mother soberly deliver the news to them? Or was she still broken down and hysterical when they arrived home from school? And was the little one even in school yet at the time?
Tears began rolling down Adam’s cheeks as he felt another episode of authentic, well-deserved survivor guilt coming on. He ran up the basement stairs, trying desperately to make it to the top before losing control completely. He didn’t want Sullivan to hear him, as he could tell that this episode would be a big one and a loud one. Closing the basement door behind him helped a little, but as Adam began screaming and sobbing on his way to the kitchen, Sullivan could hear him through the floor. Adam caught himself and was able to transition from outright crying to a hissing whisper. But it wasn’t enough to calm his conscience and subdue his spasms of guilt and self-hatred. So Adam banged his head against the kitchen counter. It felt good. So he did it again. And again. And again.
The pain felt good, and it helped. Adam took a second to think about what he had just done. If it feels good, do it! He decided to bang his head down on the counter one last time. Make it a good one, Make this one really count. He made it a good one, and it counted; he even felt a little dizzy. It was enough for the time being, as it did stop the tears from flowing and help him to calm down. The guilt, the anger at himself, and the dispair were still there, but these feelings were no longer gushing out of control. They were now just flowing at a fast but controllable rate.
Adam felt as if the memory, as well as the reality, of his sin of omission in Samarrah was simply running its course. His hitting his head against the kitchen counter and the relief it provided was just the latest unfolding of what he felt needed to happen, what had been wanting to come out for so long. He’d been able to push it aside for the remainder of his tour in Iraq and then for his year long stint as a contractor. And, once back stateside for good, he’d been able to keep the memories at bay by staying busy and by drinking heavily. Now that The Plan he’d worked so hard on was finally in the process of being realized, there wasn’t much else going on in his life to keep his mind occupied. There was nothing between Adam and the memory of his unforgivable mistake, so he was left to stare directly at its hideous face. This was something Adam had no desire to do. The human cost of his laziness, his weakness, and his stupidity were so steep that Adam saw no way out of the hole he was in. He’d thought about killing himself before, but those times had just been fleeting thoughts; now he truly felt like taking his own life would just be the right thing to do. But, for right now, he would have to continue on the current mission; that was, after all, why he was here doing what he was doing.
“Think about why you’re here” Adam shouted through the floor to Sullivan.
Adam breathed a sigh of relief. His most recent surge of survivor guilt had went better than he had expected; he was still able to continue with the mission. Plus, he was pretty confident that this would be his last episode, as he had decided, once and for all, that he could muster the nerve to end his own life. Perhaps I’ll save some of the heroin for later, just to make it easier to pull the trigger, just in case I lose my nerve. I’ve still got a little left in the lunchbox. That’s how Kurt Cobain did it, didn’t he? I think I could pull it off. Yeah, I’m pretty sure I can do it.
Adam was now pretty confident that there would be no more dealing with the guilt. No more memories, no more drinking, no more temptation to jump head first into hard drugs, and no more living of the joyless lifestyle that he knew he deserved. As good as it might feel to just give up and indulge in crack-cocaine or heroin, which did feel really, really good to do, Adam knew that to destroy himself using those drugs would still bring too much pleasure in the process. No, he thought, better to just take myself out quickly and be done with it.
And he would not only end his life; he’d end it on a high note. His last significant act on Earth would be a daring and ingenius attack against an evil system of double standards, back room deals, and outright falsehoods that caused untold amounts of injustice and misery. Although such an undertaking would not atone for his deadly mistake, it was the most he could hope to do, given what he had to work with, he thought.
For the first time in recent memory, Adam smiled a genuine smile despite his tears. He wasn’t into religion much and hadn’t been to church since he was a kid, but he was now pretty confident that his last deed on earth would be a good one and that his raggedy old eternal soul would be earning a spot in Purgatory, perhaps even with a chance at parole.
He then opened the basement door and walked a few steps down. He looked to see Eugene Sullivan still sitting obediently in his chair. Adam again shouted, “Think about why you’re here, Gene!” He added the ‘Gene’ at the end in an attempt to shut down the self-reflection the line had been causing him to engage in. No more time for self-reflection; he had to continue the mission, and the crying and head banging were not conducive to mission accomplishment. Adam, now fully functional again, remembered he’d left the AK pistol down in the basement.
Shit! The AK pistol’s still down there and Sullivan’s untied!
Adam raced down the stairs to find Sullivan had gotten up from his chair and was pacing around. The two made eye contact, and Sullivan stopped. Adam could see that Sullivan had been walking past where the AK pistol was laying. He’d obviously seen it. And it was also obvious, to both Adam and Sullivan, that he must have been thinking about picking it up while Adam was upstairs banging his head on the counter. And, as they stood there looking at each other, it was now pretty plain to see that Sullivan had just had his chance to escape but that he’d balked at doing so. Adam knew it. Sullivan knew it. And with Sullivan’s brain still amped on the acid, Sullivan also knew that Adam knew that he knew that they both knew everything they needed to know about Sullivan’s bravery and killing instincts. And, for that matter, they both also knew that Sullivan was not of the character to put up any resistance whatsoever to their blackmailing scheme or whatever else they wanted to throw at him. He was theirs, and it was now plain as day that he was theirs.
Sullivan felt a new but now-familiar rush of embarrassment. There was nothing he could say, and Adam didn’t need to say anything either. Adam simply walked a few steps, picked up the AK pistol, flipped the safety off and pulled back the charging handle a little to make sure there was still a round in the chamber. He didn’t even have to bother checking the magazine. He slung the gun back on his body and thought to himself, “OK, what do I do next?”
As he thought about the longer term stuff, he had to act in the immediate term, so he said to Sullivan, “Sit!” and pointed at he chair. Sullivan, his head still down in shame, did as he was told.
Adam continued to think to himself as to what to do next. He had already communicated most of The Plan’s desired end state and blackmail execution details to Ed and Jason, but, Adam knew that, as things presently stood, he would most likely be doing most of the communication with Sullivan once he was released to go back and do his politician duties. But he wasn’t going to kid himself into believing that he absolutely had to stay alive and live to a ripe old age just so he could keep blackmailing Sullivan the whole time. Ed and Jason were both perfectly capable of that. In conducting and rehearsing for The Plan they’d had just about as much on-the-job training in discreet communications as Adam had received in Army intel school. Ed had the stash of one-time-use “disposable” cell phones anyway. And both of them were trained in the use of the Tor browser and other online anonymizing programs, and they had the passwords and addresses to access the email accounts that would be used. They needed the redundancy and cross-training anyway; they had planned around a worst case scenario under which two of the three were caught or captured.
Adam knew Jason would be arriving at he safehouse soon to swap vehicles and move into the final phase of the mission, which would be the transporting of Sullivan’s release. After his release, The Plan called for the three to go their separate ways in their own vehicles, squaring away their loose ends and shallow cover stories on an individual basis. It also called for them to lay low, very low, for at least a week before even meeting again.
For several reasons, Adam now figured he needed to write a suicide note and do it quickly. Jason and Ed needed to know that he’d be dead by his own hand. This was both for the sake of The Plan’s success, but, Adam thought, his handing of the suicide note to Jason would help him to cement his decision, making it harder to back out if he lost his nerve.
Adam found some paper and a pen without too much difficulty, but he still needed to find a surface he could write on that was hard enough so that an imprint of the writing would not be left on it. The last dying message from an underground insurgent leader to his compatriots would be something of the highest secrecy level. He couldn’t find an ideal surface in the basement, and he didn’t want to leave Sullivan alone again, so he settled for the concrete floor.
He left out names and specifics, addressing it, “To my fellow S.O.L.’ers.” The term S-O-L had been the working title for their small group, whose only real and permanent members were Adam Warren, Ed Hawkins, and Jason Parker. The acronym stood for ‘Sons Of Liberty,’ but, as they also knew, it stood for ‘Shit Out of Luck,’ as well. Obviously, the first meaning was a throwback to the original patriot-criminal organizations that had had a hand in various acts of vandalism and violence at the nation’s founding. The second meaning had been the “go-word” used as part of The Plan in the initial takedown of their target, but it also meant to them that what they were doing was only as a last resort, once the chips were down. They understood that they were shit out of luck when it came to the state of the rule of law in their county, their state, and, to some extent, their country, and therefore, the last resort option of anti-state violence was the only option left unless they wanted to continue living under the arbitrary rule of man as opposed to the rule of law. And, as Americans, they saw the rule of law as their birthright, and, as Adam and Jason had pointed out, even if they weren’t entitled to the rule of law by birth, they had certainly earned the right to live under it by virtue of their wartime service. After all, what was it that they had fought in the name of? A piece of land and a three-colored flag? A nation that claims to be just and free but allows for all manner of crimes to be perpetrated so long as the perps are well-connected or wear uniforms and badges?
Adam continued on his note:
You guys will have to continue the mission without me. We will not be able to meet again….”
Jason was taking the round about way from Independence to the primary safehouse in Carrolton, staying as far as he practically could from the route they’d taken that morning with Sullivan. He took the interstate east, past Concordia, and then turned north on a smaller highway going through the town of Marshall. He would soon be crossing the Missouri River on hwy 41, thereby avoiding just about all of the roads the crew had taken thus far. And, in a clean vehicle, his only worry would be getting pulled over and asked why he was driving Adam Warren’s car. But even if that happened it would just be a minor complication. It wasn’t as if the car had been reported stolen, and cops didn’t usually spend too much time nitpicking stories about borrowed cars unless one were acting “suspicious” or if there were other circumstances to make the story seem suspicious. Like most people, cops generally don’t like wasting time.
Andrew Sullivan, like everyone else in 6th period classes at Lafayette County High School, was ready for the bell to ring. When it did, he was one of the first out the door. As he walked through the halls toward the back of the building, he pulled out his cell phone to take a quick look. He saw that his mom had called, so he called her back.
She answered, “Hello.”
“Hey, mom, it’s me.” Andy said.
“Yeah, hey, I wanted to see if maybe you had talked to your dad, if he was gonna pick you up from practice.”
“Uh, no. He didn’t call me.”
“OK. Well, I had wanted to see if he was going to pick you up from practice or if I needed to this time. I’ll try calling him one more time.”
They hung up, and Andy made his way back into the building, walking somewhat against the flow of foot traffic. He came to his locker, where he opened it and retrieved his football helmet and shoulder padding for practice. As a Junior Varsity football player, he didn’t yet rate a separate locker at the gym for his equipment. But he was doing pretty good on the team so far this season, and he looked forward to making Varsity next year and not having to carry his stuff from one building to another. He also looked forward to turning 16 and getting a car so that he would no longer have to suffer the indignity of getting picked up or dropped off by his parents. And, from his conversations about the topic he’d had with his dad, the car thing was also looking pretty likely next year.
Rachel Sullivan called Eugene’s cell number one more time only to again get no answer. Still no answer or call back after three calls; this isn’t like him, she thought. She then decided to go ahead and try his work number, as two missed calls was established justification to do so, let alone three. She dialed Sullivan’s work number and got Erin, his secretary.
“Prosecuting Attorney’s office.” Erin said.
“Yes, is this Erin?” Rachel asked.
“Hey, Erin, this is Rachel, Eugene’s wife.”
“Oh, hello, Rachel; how is Eugene? He sounded pretty bad from that message he left.”
“What? Huh? I’ve been trying to call him on his cell. What are you talking about?” Rachel asked.
“He left a message saying he wasn’t going to be in, that he was sick. He sounded bad; he really did.” Erin said.
There was a long pause as they both simultaneously realized that Eugene Sullivan had told a lie that morning, and a pretty big one at that. Rachel was the first to speak, saying simply, “Well,……O.K.,……I see…….Thank you. Good bye.”