It was a gloomy, bone chilling night in January. The type of chill that makes your soul cringe. Thick wet dark clouds were rushing across the sky as if they were angry and in a hurry to deliver bad news. Between the clouds, the icy, desolate moon appeared every now and then as if it had no place of its own in the universe. It would soon be raining hard.
A man was suddenly awakened by a flash of light. His first conscious thought was of the chilly wet sensation all over him. His second thought was of how real and hard it was to wake up from his nightmare. His stomach and head were throbbing with pain. His mouth was beginning to fill with his own blood. He tried hard to spit it out. As he raised his head slowly, he felt fine dirt settling on his face. He opened his eyes to see what was happening. At first, it was too dark and he could not focus on anything. Then, a flash of light fixed on him. He tried to get up, but he was in excruciating pain and the wet dirt around him made it virtually impossible to move. In the distance he could hear voices. Then he remembered.
Reality hit him harder than the shovel full of dirt that brought him to the full realization of his predicament. He was being buried alive at the bottom of a freshly dug hole by the riverbank. He tried to scream but his mouth was filled with another shovel full of dirt.
(3 Days Before)
The sun had set on the city. The streetlights at the corner of each intersection began to illuminate one by one. From the surrounding suburbs, it seemed like the whole of downtown was afloat in the night. From the west, the dark clouds gradually began to cover the city.
Wearing dark shades, the man was sitting in the back of a black limousine. He always enjoyed cruising the city in this luxurious car. Today he wore his blue pin striped suit. His “power” suit. He was looking out the window as the people went about their nightly routine. There was a certain feeling of power that went with being able to see the people this way. Knowing they were trying to see who was passing through their neighborhood in a limousine. He knew they would think that the passenger must be someone very important. This was his dream.
Since childhood he had wanted to be respected and envied. What he really wanted deep inside was to be feared by others. That was true power; to be able to command their respect simply because he could hurt them. It wouldn’t have to be said. He knew and they knew that was enough. That was his destiny, their fate, his right, their problem. It was the natural order. The way it should be.
He instructed his chauffeur to drive through the busy streets of downtown. In front of the bakery on the corner, the limousine stopped at a red light when something caught his eye. He slowly opened the tinted window of the limousine and removed his glasses to get a better look. There were two well-dressed Asian women leaving the bakery. They were approaching the corner where the limousine had stopped. The women stood under a bright streetlight, they interacted like a mother and daughter. But the older woman seemed much too young to have a daughter that old. She reminded him of someone in his past. He recognized the type of dress she was wearing. He had seen it many times before: a light blue ao dai (Vietnamese dress) around her slim figure. Her long dark hair danced across her face in the cool evening breeze as she stopped at the corner. She was beautiful. The man reflected on his past for a moment. He had vivid memories of a young Vietnamese girl who looked so much like the woman who was standing right in front of him. This girl in Vietnam was also beautiful and full of life. Her white teeth gleamed. Her skin was dark from the scorching sun. Then he remembered the painful expression on her face. Her sharp cry echoed in his head and he smiled at the memory.
The man continued to watch the two women at the corner curiously. With a smile, the older woman approached the other and gently straightened the collar of her leather jacket. The young woman returned her smile with a slight look of annoyance. The girl was about 16. She was tall and had a much lighter skin complexion than her counterpart. No long hours laboring in the sun for this girl. She had the look of a model not a farm girl, with shiny chestnut color hair and a figure that was complimented by tight fitted jeans. The man thought that her father must be a white man. He had seen many children of mixed races in his life, though it was rare to see them in this part of the country. The man stared at the young woman. She was quite beautiful in a strangely familiar way.
The limousine slowly moved forward as the traffic light changed to green. The man thought of the time he had spent in Vietnam during the war. The war was not a pleasant memory but he couldn’t help but smile. He certainly was a different man that arrived back home than the one that left for the war. He had witnessed death and violence, of which he could not have imagined seeing before he was called to serve his country. He still had flashbacks.
He had arrived in Vietnam as Corporal William Stacey in 1966. He came home as Corporal William Stacey but the name and the rank were the only things that remained the same. He was young and wild before he left for the war, but was not mean and resentful. This William Stacey, Bill as he was known by most, had the answer to all of the world’s problems. He knew the cause and the solution. While others puzzled over the problems, Bill had learned how to handle them. The Army had taught him well. It was simple, really. First, when confronted with a problem, identify the cause. Second, decide the best way to eliminate that problem. Third take direct and forceful action. It was that simple - One, Two, Three. You name the problem; he had the solution. His ability to take the third step was what separated him from others. It’s what he saw as his true talent. He knew from his experiences in Vietnam that step three was where the rewards were. He had seen others in combat take action and got promoted. He should have been promoted more during the war. He deserved it! He saw what happened in that other field of action, the bars, what step three could get you. He knew that direct and forceful action meant gratification. He had seen others do it with no consideration for the consequences. No one cared about the consequences so why should he? When he finally worked up the nerve to do it he saw that he could get away with it.
He reasoned that the Vietnamese girl he had met a long time ago deserved her pain and it was his right to inflict that pain. After all, he was risking his life for her country. She owed it to him. Someone owed it to him and someone had to pay.
This thought suddenly excited Bill and helped place him in the right mental state. He was now ready to speak as the leader of his organization for tonight’s quarterly meeting. He was wound up.
After passing through downtown, Bill ordered his chauffeur to change direction. After a few minutes, the limousine approached the west end of town and drove up a hilly, tree-lined street. Bill decided to visit some of the memorable places in the city - landmarks from his past. The meeting would not start for at least another hour. The limousine was now driving through a residential area. This was where the wealthy lived. The orderly, pristinely manicured lawns were somehow reassuring. They represented an ideal, a way of life, a lifestyle that was slowly being destroyed by the uncivilized hordes that lived down the hill. Those who, if given half a chance, would devour everything that he had fought for and for which others had died.
Bill told his chauffeur to slow down when they approached one of the larger houses. Bill’s heart began to beat fast. “It happened here...” As the memory flooded his mind, a chill gripped his body while the car rolled toward the dwelling. He felt the same sensation he experienced many years ago in that same house. He turned his head towards the driver and told him to stop and shut off the engine for a few minutes so he could have a good look at the house.
Other than a few changes in the landscape, the house stood exactly as he remembered it. The iron-gate was located in the center of long stonewalls which seemed to disappear in the dark. The winding driveway from the iron-gate had led to a luxurious building that stood solemnly in the spot lights. There must be more than twenty rooms in the house, he thought. It was in this house that Bill executed the first assignment for his organization. How rapidly time flies, he contemplated. It had been more than 17 years.
He told the driver to start the car and make a right at the next corner. After fifteen minutes of driving down that street the limousine passed the industrial part of the town and finally reached the area where most of the blue-collar workers in the city resided. Again, Bill told the chauffeur to stop the limousine in the parking lot when they reached a grocery store in a small strip mall. Bill looked into the store. There was an Asian man sitting behind the counter, his face scarred with burns. The man seemed preoccupied with his thoughts. His fire-etched expression made him look permanently sad. Bill recognized the scarred man. He knew that this man was one of his victims in his past. The incident in this grocery store and others such as in the house he visited a short time ago made Bill a “somebody” in his organization. With a satisfied smile, Bill slowly closed his limousine window.
Bill was born in Alabama a few years after the World War II as the youngest son of 3 children. His father Jim was a large robust man who hated his work. Jim found no pride or dignity in being a common construction laborer. Life had dealt him a bad hand. It was his misfortune to get his girlfriend pregnant and he blamed her for not being able to go on to college or to see the world. In his mind, it was her that caused the war itself. All the responsibility of a family, a mortgage--it was all her fault. Without that responsibility he would not have had to take this menial, demeaning job. He could have been someone. Accomplished big things.
Bill’s father took all his frustration out on Bill’s mother and when the children got older he began to take it out on them. Bill saw it happen to his older brothers and then it was his turn. He never knew exactly what he did wrong but he knew it must have been his fault. Why else would his father hit him? It didn’t matter where he hid, he couldn’t avoid the beatings. Trying to avoid the beatings only served to raise his dad’s frustration level and the beatings got worse. It became so bad that just the sound of his father’s footsteps coming up the sidewalk to the house could make the hair on the back of Bill’s neck stand up and his stomach tightened. The most anxious moments were as his father entered the house after returning from work.
He never knew whether his father had a good day or whether he needed to run for cover. He intently looked for clues in his father's actions and hoped the first words out of his mouth were anything but curse words. Bill hoped that his mother didn’t ask dad how his day was. That was the part he could never figure out. That question always seemed to trigger the worse reactions. Why did she have to ask him every day? Why not let dad alone. Why say anything at all? Let him be, let him start the conversation. “How was your day, dear?” set in motion a series of responses that ranged from total silence, as if it was not heard, to a fit of cursing and objects being thrown, to outright physical violence. Yet Mom continued to ask the same question every day.
As a child, Bill couldn’t understand, and he couldn’t really understand today as an adult. All he could rationalize was that it was conditioning. She had been conditioned to ask like a dog that gets kicked but continues to approach with hope of being petted.
Bill’s mother, Beth, was a small gentle woman who worked at a local department store as a cashier. When she was in high school, she fell in love with Jim, Bill’s father, a natural athlete who was good at anything he attempted. He was a star on the football team, the baseball team, and the basketball team. As a star athlete, he was well built and had a look that attracted many of the girls in school. Beth admired Jim from a distance for a long time. Jim finally began to notice Beth only because she seemed to be around wherever he went. Beth was a gifted student. Jim had good grades and, along with his athletic achievements, he would be able to enter any university in the state. But he had never dated an intelligent girl before. At first, he thought it would be fun to go out with one of the smartest girls in his high school. He meant for it to be a joke, really something he could talk about afterwards in the locker room.
Jim asked her out one day and without hesitation Beth accepted. After all, she had been dreaming of going out with him for months. She was so innocent then. What she was expecting from her first date with Jim was to go to a movie and just to talk with him. She wanted to know everything about him - about the young man she had admired from a distance for so long. But she could not have imagined the devastating consequences of that fateful first date with Jim. A night that she came to regret for the rest of her life. A night that resulted in their forced marriage immediately after graduation, not for love, but because of their unplanned pregnancy.
Within a few months of married life, Beth realized that not only was her perception of Jim completely wrong, but that her expectations of married life were wildly idealistic. It was nothing like she had dreamed of as young girls do as they ponder a life shared with someone. She later admitted to herself that she was more in love with the thought of being in love than actually loving Jim. She never loved anyone else before. Jim was just a guy whom all the girls around her got really excited about. It could have been anyone. But all Beth wanted was to win Jim over all the other girls, like winning a medal or a trophy. Jim was a prize and that was all he was. Beth knew nothing more of Jim. But by the time Beth found who Jim really was, it was too late. They were married and she was about to have his child.
Jim’s frustration at being a young father was quite apparent. As soon as the baby was born, Jim began the verbal abuse. Jim had to give up his scholarship to one of the colleges for football because of their child and he resented this to his very core. Beth hoped that having their second child would change Jim, but he became more abusive after the second baby was born. That was when Beth decided not to have any more children. But Bill was born into the world, denying Beth’s wish. Bill entered the world unwanted by his own mother.
In her defence, Beth was a good mother. After Bill was born, she began desperately to shield her children from their father’s abusive behavior. Most of the time, she was not successful. Jim’s behavior got worse as he got older. Though Beth wanted to, she could not leave him. Her relatives and friends were against her wishes to leave and kept telling her to stick it out. Leaving your spouse just wasn’t done. Proper families didn’t break up. They persevered. Appearances were everything. You were expected to tough it out. He would change, they told her. He would mellow as he matured. The abuse was a “growing pain”. A byproduct of two lives trying to learn to live together. She did not have enough courage to stand up to her family. So she accepted her fate unwillingly. That was the way it was.
When Bill was young, he swore that he would never be like his father who was always miserable because of his low paying, unsatisfying job and diverted path in life. His father constantly ridiculed successful people as if they were some kind of criminal. He would say things like “They were born rich. If I had the same opportunities, I could be filthy rich just like them. Look at them, dressed in expensive suits, and wearing a pair of dark sunglasses. They look like peacocks in a cage trying to outdo each other.” Bill came to discover that his father was envious and afraid of these people and that those successful people were the ones who had power over him. Bill also learned that his father felt that he could never become one of them no matter how hard he worked because he lacked a decent education and experience.
Bill saw that his father was trapped in his own bitter world. Bill knew it was not too late for him. He knew that with the right education and hard work, he could escape from his father’s world. After all, he was living in America. As soon as he grasped this, he began to plan his life. He studied hard and kept good grades all though high school. At the same time, he worked at night to save money to go to university. Bill’s goal was not only to escape from his father’s world, but also to become one of those successful people his father hated. His craving for power over others was so great he was ready to sacrifice anything and anyone standing in his way. The obstacles started soon enough.
In 1966 right after his high school graduation, the army draft sent him to Vietnam to serve his country. Despite how devastating it was to his life plans to receive the draft notice, he came to realize that the Vietnam experience would expedite his blueprint, not slow it down. In due time, the experience would leave him with the contacts and tools that he would need to carry out his design and succeed. With his success in high-school, and the precise decision making skills and aggressiveness he acquired during his training as a soldier, he was able to qualify for any of the universities in the state after returning from the war. Accepted by one of the better universities, he obtained a degree in Finance. When attending to his undergraduate studies Bill kept to himself socially. While other students were trying to join a fraternity he was focused on getting his degree and securing his future. He didn’t go unnoticed though. He was approached off campus and invited to a meeting of “like-minded” students. An organization where he was assured his army training, skills and intelligence would be highly prized. Bill attended reluctantly but quickly found a group of people that made him feel welcomed and valued. A feeling he had never had before. Because of his membership he was offered a high paying job from one of the big banks in town, even before graduation. His plan was coming together .
After a few years at the bank, he decided to go back to school at night to obtain a master’s degree. This allowed him to climb the corporate ladder quickly. By 1985 he was a vice president and in charge of the district branches. He was reaching his goals of obtaining power over others. He was the one who could influence the financial health of many companies, and many workers in the city. He was now one of the ones wearing expensive suits, dark sunglasses, and cruising in a luxurious black limousine. He often wondered what his father would think of him if he were able to see him now.
During his years at the bank Bill continued to attend meetings of the organization called Organization of the Superior Race or O.S.R. He had found a home amongst the hushed comrades and became a trusted member. Their message of white superiority and “god given rights” rang true for him and he was willing and able to take any action that was needed to assert those rights. After a few years he was recognized as the leader and took the dwindling organization and raised its membership through actions rather than words.
Within a few years the hardcore brotherhood grew to almost one hundred dedicated men, barnacled by another fifty or so thrill seekers. These hangers-on were of the type that wanted to be considered dangerous but hoped they never had to prove it. Because of his special skills he had been continuously elected to be the leader. Tonight was the first quarter meeting of the organization for 1985 and Bill was supposed to give a speech at the end of the meeting.
The room was full of the usual contingent of regulars to the meeting. One Hundred men from all walks of life, all looks and shapes and sizes, and from most economic backgrounds, with the majority from the middle to higher strata of the economy. Except for two critical characteristics, skin color and religion, this could have been a meeting of the local Rotary Club or any other well-meaning public service club. In fact the men in attendance thought of themselves as simply that of public servants. They were there to serve their race. The defenders of the blood, their way of life!
“Gentlemen!” Bill’s voice boomed in the large, well lit, meeting room. Chairs were arranged in neat rows about 10 seats each, facing the front where Bill stood. The din of the men quickly subsided as their attention was drawn to Bill’s easy command of the room. He was so confident of the loyalty of the men in the room that he could discuss any topic with them.
“I would like to thank all of you for your efforts in making 1984 a successful year. If we continue our hard work I promise you that we will continue to be successful this year. There’s still work to do and the tasks are many. To reach our goal we will have to take it one step at the time. Bill spoke for the next thirty minutes bringing everyone up to date on administrative and financial matters before getting to the real reason why he and the others were there. Our first task this year will take place next Monday, that’s three days from now., . Bill raised his voice, “I need four volunteers for this righteous action; who will step up to defend our way of life and our families!” The crowd came to life. Hands shot up all through the hall. Bill smiled knowing that there was never a shortage of volunteers for this sort of action. The men were all too eager for the chance to prove their dedication to the cause. Men that, during the day, wouldn’t or couldn’t look you in the eye but were ruthless when the sun went down and had the advantage of surprise and superior numbers and, most of all, guns.
Bill chose the four he wanted for this action. These men had proven their worth on other nights and in other operations. Bill concluded his speech by congratulating some of the prominent members for their extraordinary efforts in 1984. Hearing the applause, Bill and the four selected members removed themselves from the meeting and went to a side room which was much smaller and quieter to discuss the details of the plan.
“You will refer to this event only as “Code Panther”. Our target is the lawyer, who has worked to thwart our efforts. That man has saved his last half-breed! Even though we have done this many times before, we will be very careful to follow procedure. I should not need to stress the utmost emphasis on secrecy! Without it, we cannot continue to carry on our crusade.” Bill continued.
“The target is that trouble making lawyer downtown. He’s been getting more vocal recently and making a lot of noise about racial issues. There are rumors that he might be helping in the investigation of one of our past operations. We must terminate him or our organization’s future will be jeopardized. We cannot allow that to happen. We must stop him right now.”
“We need to exterminate him!” One of the chosen yelled.
“Here is our plan for the lawyer. After his work, which is usually between 7 to 8 p.m., you will follow him on the way to his home. You’ll pick him up when he is alone, then take him to a remote area and perform the execution. After that, the target will be buried in the nearby riverbank. As for his car, you will drive it to the next county and discard it.” Bill instructed the men.
“Why bury him? Why not crucify him and set him on fire or at least hang him as an example for others who get in our way?” Bill marveled at the enthusiasm and cruelty the men exhibited.
“Gentlemen! As much as I would like to show everyone what we do to enemies of our race, we have to handle this discretely. He is very well known in the city, we cannot afford to leave any evidence. Everything must be done quietly and efficiently. We have to be careful about bringing the authorities into this. Besides, just picture him in the ground. He will suffer much more this way than being hanged. And his family,” he paused as the next thought stirred in him like a pot about to boil over. “They’ll suffer never knowing what happened to him. What’s better than that?”
“Then let’s bury him alive!” One of the other men suggested vigorously.
The others nodded their approval. They were getting agitated. Bill was concerned their enthusiasm for the operation might get the better of them. He didn’t need men ready to make a show of their assassination. That type of behavior would lead to sloppiness and get them locked away for a long time. These weren’t the good old days when you could get away with murder - nowadays people frowned on this type of action. Sure they liked to talk about it and suggest harsh solutions but there just wasn’t the stomach for it the way it used to be.
Bill raised his hand and gestured to the men to calm down.
“We have to follow our plan, boys. Let’s not get carried away. If you think burying him alive is better than shooting him then so be it, but remember there can be no room for error with this operation. We have to be efficient. We need to be brutal. We intercept him, do what we came for, and then get out. In short, we need this to be a clean military operation. This isn’t a game!” Then he continued.
“There are many other events that we’ve already planned for this year. We’ve taken the suggestions of the membership and those plans will be executed by us. Even if all these plans are successfully executed, we’re still a long way from reaching our ultimate goal”
There was silence. Bill thought of the places he visited just before he came to this meeting reminding himself of why he was taking these actions.. His emotion heightened. Then he raised his voice.
“Our ultimate goal is to eliminate all the inferior races that are among us! Isn’t it, gentlemen? Then let’s unify our efforts and become one strong force for our common goal!”
He stared at each of the men. “Are you ready to fight? Are you ready to conquer and rule this world?”
Bill raised his right hand halfway in the air.
“Long live O.S.R.!”
His voice was deep, husky, and very commanding. His speech was filled with passion and it made the four men in the room almost reckless with emotion and enthusiasm. They were truly ready to attack anything that might confront them right at that moment.
'They’re ready' Bill thought. “Gentlemen lets rejoin the party.”
Bill and the four men left the small room and joined the rest of the members in the large meeting room. The place was filled with people’s voices and the sound of men drinking and telling stories. The party atmosphere was just what Bill wanted. 'Keep them buzzing, keep them drinking, keep them happy and they will do anything I ask of them.'
Bill wiped his forehead with his handkerchief as he surveyed the crowd. Then he slowly made his way to the exit, shaking hands and slapping backs.
'Let them enjoy' he thought 'there will be plenty of work for everyone before this is over.'
Bill’s right hand man was standing by the door. Bill knew the routine; make a speech, assign the duties, then leave. Friendly but not familiar was his motto. He learned that from the military.
Bill whispered to Victor, his assistant, “I made sure to assign this task to those young punks. That way, it will be hard for the police to connect our organization with the death of the lawyer if anything goes wrong.” Victor nodded, then hastily disappeared into the crowd as Bill went out the door of the hall.
The black limousine was waiting for Bill in front of the building. The rain had finally arrived. The chauffeur quickly got out of the car and brought an umbrella for Bill. It was 11:00 p.m. The time had passed quickly, as it always did when Bill made a speech. Only now was he aware that it was raining. The driver opened the door and Bill climbed in. He felt content. The meeting went well. Despite having only one task tonight, to conclude the meeting with his speech, Bill was exhausted.
In the limousine, Bill poured a generous helping of scotch into his glass. He tried to look outside the window, but all he saw was his reflection. He saw a man whose eyebrows were thick and dark. His hair, which was dark brown with a touch of gray above his ears, made him look very distinguished. He was aging gracefully but he didn’t like it. He didn’t like facing his own mortality. The thought of aging destroyed his feeling of invincibility. He always hated looking at himself in a mirror, especially in the dark. In spite of his successful appearance, that which everyone around him saw, Bill saw a completely different person. He cursed at himself as he looked away from the window for a moment, evaluating, scrutinizing. He poured another drink, and another, eventually, falling asleep in the limousine.