Monday, July 30, 2007

Radu-Chapter XVI (A Novel by Patrick Kelley)

Previous Installments:

Prologue and Chapters I-X
Chapter XI
Chapter XII
Chapter XIII
Chapter XIV
Chapter XV

RADU-Chapter XVI
A Novel by Patrick Kelley
24 pages approximate

Harvey Caldwell was determined the April Sandusky case was not going to be forgotten by the people of Baltimore, by the media, or in fact by the nation. He had worked too hard in his career to right the wrongs perpetrated on people of color throughout the many centuries of American history. He was at Birmingham. He was at Selma. He was in Washington in 1963. He had been in march after march, had done jail time, and was once beaten badly. The beating he took in Mississippi resulted in a badly damaged tooth, and he still had the gold crown he wore as a reminder. He would never forget where he came from.

He had met Doctor King, in the early days of the Civil Rights struggle, and had marched with him, though he in fact was a mere lad of fifteen at that time. He had just turned eighteen not too long before the death of King in Memphis. When he heard the news in Baltimore, he cursed. He felt he should be there, at the scene. He had just enough money to get there by bus. He was not in the least bit annoyed by the fact that everybody on the bus looked at him as if he might at any minute step out of line. He had come to expect it by then.

He visited the scene of the King assassination. Many of the brothers there in Memphis talked about burning the motel to the ground, but he told them they should view it as sacred ground, as a place where a martyr willingly gave up his life for the cause of justice and equality. Naturally, they did not understand. He reminded them about King’s earlier speech about his feelings that he might not be long for the world. Despite this, he was concerned not for himself, but for the cause. Caldwell always believed that he saved that hotel from being overtaken and destroyed, but he could never prove it. That bothered him greatly.

What good did it do to accomplish great things if there was nothing to point to in the way of a public record? He may have temporarily changed the minds of a small number of brothers, but he could not hope to change their hearts permanently. For that, he needed a following.

Caldwell decided to become a preacher. For a while, it was rough sledding. He attracted a small following. He started preaching about the corruption of the city of Baltimore, and the nation. After a decade of toiling tirelessly, he finally found himself with an ever-growing congregation. After a decade as a virtual unknown, his sermons attracted attention on a statewide level. Jesse Jackson visited him and offered him a position as an executive in the Baltimore office of Operation Push. It was a tempting offer, but Caldwell declined.

He would be required to open up his books to the light of day, and a great many things would not meet with approval. He received a great deal of financial support from sources of dubious ethics. He accomplished great things with those funds, but at the same time, he understood all too well that much was expected of him. He started the Blackbirds Nest, a home for unwed mothers, and the Baltimore Renewal Center, a drug addiction and alcoholic treatment facility. He founded Operation Resume, which aided convicted felons in their quest for educational and job training opportunities.

Finally, he started Operation Crackdown, an agency designed to offer counseling to gang members, establish a community liaison to the police, and a neighborhood watch group, all geared toward cleaning up the inner city neighborhoods.
Of course, he continued as an unabated and unabashed force for cleaning up City Hall, and reforming police corruption.

He was getting sick of it. Nothing ever really changed. He was at this point 51 years old and had his own comfortable nest egg. He wanted to quit while he was ahead. He wanted to live while he was yet young enough to enjoy it. At the same time, he realized it could not hurt to keep the money coming in, and the only way he could do that was by appointing adequately qualified officials to run his different agencies, people he could trust. They would just have to know enough to keep the operations running smoothly. He would still be the executive director, of course, and would have to put in appearances at various meetings and file the appropriate paperwork, but that would not be a problem.

He filled most of the positions easily enough, but the one problem area was with Operation Crackdown. That particular organization required a firm hand and, more importantly, political acumen and a media savvy sense. Not just anyone would do, and he worried greatly as to how he would pull this off.

In fact, he had many sleepless nights due to this dilemma. One night, he dreamed he was standing in front of that old hotel in Memphis. He found himself realizing he was dreaming, and wishing he had burned the motherfucker down. Sure, he would have went to prison, but after a small amount of time, he could have gotten out of prison, went through a reformation process, found the lord, and as a result would have started out as a famous person as opposed to all the thankless years he devoted to the process in virtual obscurity. He could have retired ten years ago with twice as much money as he now had.

Then he saw the Memphis hoods whose names he no longer remembered. He looked at them and suddenly, their faces became clear to him again, and he even knew their names. Out of the roughly thirteen or fourteen there that night, one of them was named Jimmy, one was named Earl, and one was named Ray. Now by God, how could he have forgotten that? He looked at them now, sweating, angry, and afraid, some of them obviously high. Yet, one of them looked at him with steely cold determination.

“We’ll do whatever you tell us, brother”, he said.

Caldwell woke up almost immediately, the first time in years he woke up fully aware, refreshed, and in fact-awake. Damn, he thought. Why the hell didn’t he tell me that before? On that night, so many years ago, he just looked down at the ground, while a couple of the others just laughed. Yet, in the end, they did what he said.

He looked over now at his wife, who still slept, and who, now that his children were grown and away from home, looked older than ever.

“I should have burned the motherfucker down”, he said.

His wife stirred when he said this, and opened her eyes, obviously still dazed.

“Just don’t let me know about it”, she said.

“Oh, just shut up and go back to sleep, Wanda”, he said.

That very day, he called a meeting with a former gang member named Marshall, a kid who just turned twenty, a kid he had just two years ago put through rehab and encouraged to renounce his former gang lifestyle, yet at the same time, a kid who was street smart and savvy. Marshall was a smart kid, an A student, and wanted to go into politics, and considered a law degree to that end. Caldwell offered him another deal, a better deal. He would offer him a job with Operation Crackdown. While there, he could still go to community college as a first step in pursuing a law degree. Sure, it was not Harvard, but if it worked out, it would have a lot more credibility than any Ivy League institution-at least in the streets and, more importantly, at the voting booth.

“Do you really think I’m qualified for this?” Marshall was amazed at the offer.

“If I didn’t think so do you think I’d make the offer?” Caldwell knew he had the right man. Marshall was ambitious, talented, energetic, and creative. He was also suitably ruthless. Caldwell knew that Marshall left the gang lifestyle, but the gang lifestyle never left Marshall. He would fit right in with his little organization.

He agreed to the offer, tentatively, whereupon Caldwell drove him on what he called the “grand tour”. He introduced Marshall to all the appropriate contacts at City Hall, in addition to various church and civic leaders. Finally, he took Marshall on the most important part of the tour. A warehouse, one that while not wholly abandoned, and thus still kept under suitably passable maintenance, was otherwise unremarkable.

Caldwell pulled up to the front of the building and started walking back toward the loading docks.

“What are we doing here?’ Marshall demanded.

“Just follow me, and when you see the inside, don’t act surprised. It would really be a good idea if you don’t say anything to anybody, either.”

Marshall knew of course what the place was, so it was easy enough to follow Caldwell’s instructions to not be surprised by the seemingly thousands of pounds of marijuana being loaded off trucks into crates. When Caldwell saw that Marshall, in fact, was not in the least surprised, his jaw dropped. It worried him greatly.

“You knew about this?”

“Of course I knew about it”, Marshall replied. “Hell, everybody knows about it.”

He took a few deep breaths, as he felt he might collapse there on the spot. Finally, he regained his composure and, pulling himself together, he looked at Marshall and gave him what amounted to the first order to his newest Administrative Assistant to Operation Crackdown.

“Let’s get the hell out of here”, he said.

.“So who the hell is everybody? How in the hell did they know about the warehouse? How the hell did you know about it?”

They were now out of sight of the warehouse, and Caldwell was now beginning the process of making phone calls, to his various contacts in the capital, and to those at City Hall. Many of them he had just this day spoken to, but he had to be sure of something. He had to be sure someone was not getting ready to send him up the river.

“It ain’t nothing to worry about”, Marshall told him. “Just the guys on the street, you know, the real brothers. Nobody you have to worry about. What you thinking, the guys are going to snitch on you? Get real, Brother Caldwell.”

“Bullshit! I am going to have to shut down operations there and move probably out of the fucking city. Do you know how dangerous it is for too many people to know about that place? Especially people that I do not even know about? How long has this been public knowledge anyway?

“Look, I’m glad you told me all this,” he said, “and I appreciate you thinking it’s no big worry, but one thing you got to understand, some things you just can’t spread around. A warehouse full of drugs constantly going in and out at all hours of the night is one of them. So if there’s anybody you know of that knows about this shit, I need to know about it.”

Marshall gave him a list of names-seventeen in all that he knew for a fact had knowledge of the warehouse business. They were all, as he said, brothers-former gang members who, although they had criminal records, were at the same time, technically, law-abiding, upstanding citizens of the community. They knew better than to open their mouths. In fact, it was all the difference in being able to sleep with your gun within arms reach, and having it under your pillow with your finger on the trigger.

Caldwell met all of them over the course of the next three days, and on the last day, in June of 2001, the 17th Pulse was born. Marshall, however, was not wholly convinced of his place in Caldwell’s organization. Marshall was trustworthy, and somebody like that, with his obvious talents, did not come along everyday. At the same time, his concerns made sense. Marshall had street credit-perhaps a little too much street credit. Also, he was young, and would be an oddity as even an Assistant Director of a large organization.

The more Caldwell thought about it, the more certain he was that this was the case. Marshall, he decided, would be more valuable as the de facto, yet unofficial head, of all Caldwell’s enterprises-an enforcer. All decisions would go through him.

One of the first projects Caldwell put Marshall in charge of was in promoting and encouraging investment in black businesses in the inner city. Far too many blacks in Baltimore were frequenting white owned establishments, who of course owed nothing to the good offices of the Reverend Harvey Caldwell.

It came to his attention that an establishment known as the Krovell Funeral Home conducted the funeral arrangements for the three first victims of the 17th Pulse-three people who also knew a little too much about the good Reverends enterprises than was good for either him or, especially, themselves. Caldwell sent Marshall to check out the Krovells. Unfortunately, he could uncover nothing of any significance about the family, or the business, which was one of nearly a century’s duration in the city.

Yet, Krovells was not in close proximity to the neighborhood, and in fact, it was in the Northeaster part of the city, close to the Baltimore County line. Despite this, they did a significant business in Baltimore, and it did not take Marshall long to understand why-Krovell’s offered competitive rates. Marshall attended the funerals for all three men, and found himself the object of attention from someone who turned out to be the Krovell’s then sixteen-year-old son, Marlowe, who seemed to view him with a great deal of curiosity.

The younger teen approached Marshall, and after engaging in casual conversation for about ten minutes or so, took him off to the side. Something was obviously on his mind.

“Did you kill these guys?”

“Hell no”, Marshall replied uncomfortably, shocked that this kid would even consider asking him such a thing.

“Bullshit”, Marlowe said. “You might not have pulled the trigger yourself, but you know something about it. You are the only person who attended all three funerals. I can tell you are nervous about something. Plus, you act like you don’t really care anything about them.”

“Well, hell, Sherlock, what am I supposed to do, cry my eyes out, or maybe I should sing some kind of negro spiritual? C’mon man, you are silly.”

“Awright, if you say so”, Marlowe replied. “Look I don’t give a shit. I just want to buy some pot from you.”

Whoah, wait up here”, Marshall replied, now even more indignantly. “So ‘cos I’m black you just know I can sell you some reefer? Kid, you are too much.”

“Well, I really want something stronger, but I figured you would want to be sure you can trust me first”, Marlowe said.



That was the beginning of a long-standing relationship between Marlowe Krovell and Marshall Crenshaw, who saw this as an opportunity to insinuate himself into a different social circle. Marlowe had the appearance of a Goth, with his dark clothing and jewelry, his long, jet black dyed hair, and dark eyeliner. Although he turned out to be pretty much a loner even as a Goth, his association with Marlowe eventually led to other contacts. He met the more socially active Marty Evans through Marlowe, which led to still other contacts, including eventually a man, just turned eighteen, by the name of Milo Jackson.

Milo became one of his best wholesale customers, in fact, and through him, he met a girl by the name of Raven Randall, who at the time lived with a seemingly affable yet dim-witted guy named Rhino. Raven wanted a change, and so he set her up with Marlowe, who fell madly in love with her. She soon after died of a drug overdose, and though Rhino was distraught, Marshall suspected him of complicity. He was stupid, but he had friends other than Milo who were more than happy to tell him about Raven’s betrayal. At first Rhino refused to break up with her, insisting she was just using Krovell. In fact, she confided to him she wanted to get embalming fluid from Marlowe, lots of it. When Marlowe refused, she broke up with him, then died several days later.

Now, Marlowe was distraught, and wanted more heroin than usual, but Marshall was more than happy to oblige him. Shortly afterward, Milo was busted and sent to rehab, for about the fourth time in his life. Out of necessity, Marshall began dealing directly with Milo’s best friend, Joseph Karinsky, a person who really gave Marshall the creeps. Nevertheless, he was for now his lifeline into the Goth community, and Caldwell wanted that lifeline kept open.

It was a minor competition with the Russian mafia, which operated out of The Crypt. As long as it did not get too far out of hand, the competition was good for business. In fact, it helped insure a steady stream of merchandise from one source when, for whatever reason, the other experienced difficulties, as was the case from time to time. As long as it remained not too obtrusive, it would not be a problem.

In fact, Caldwell’s gang, through Marshall, formed a kind of loose trial partnership with the mob, a tentative agreement to provide a guaranteed secondary supply of drugs when needed. Marshall merely agreed to insure quality, and to adhere to obvious limitations outside of those rare times when the mob needed Caldwell’s suppliers. The money was not that important, in fact it was actually negligible. To Marshall-and to Caldwell-that lifeline was what mattered.

It was a practical arrangement for Milo, and later for Karinsky, as well. For some reason, they were not well regarded in the Goth community, though they seemed at first glance to fit right in. There was something about that bunch that was mysterious and even foreboding. Marshall could not quite put his hands on it, but Marlowe told him that, according to Raven, Joseph Karinsky ran what amounted to a cult with himself as, not just a High Priest, but what amounted to a living god. When Marlowe asked her what kind of rites they practiced, she told him Dionysiac. He assumed that meant merely that they drank wine, got high, and worshipped Dionysius.

Marshall thought there was more to it than that, and when he heard rumors of body parts being found scattered about the outskirts of the city and county, of how they seemed completely drained of blood and were actually murdered by being torn alive, limb from limb, he heard rumors pertaining to the involvement of the Karinsky cult. He also heard what was rumored to be the real reason for the death of Raven Randall. She did not merely die of an accidental overdose-she was murdered. Her breakup with Marlowe was the apparent reason for it. She had not broke up with him over an argument, or for his unwillingness to supply the embalming fluid it was rumored the gang used to heighten the effects of the marijuana they purchased from Marshall-a charge which Karinsky staunchly denied. The truth, however, was perhaps as sinister, or more. She broke up with Marlowe to protect him from Joseph, and from what he and the others had planned for him.

When he confided this to Marlowe, his long time associate said nothing, and betrayed no feelings one way or another. That was the last time he ever saw Marlowe, until soon before the murder-suicide of his parents, and his own near murder. At any rate, Crenshaw had long maintained the Krovell funeral home should be off-limits to any kind of boycott by any of Harvey Caldwell’s followers, and Caldwell acceded to that.

For the most part, Marshall Crenshaw proved to be every bit as valuable as Caldwell imagined he would be. He soon became the de facto enforcer, keeping tabs not just on the inner workings of Operation Crackdown, but on all of Caldwell’s civic organizations. He cut staff, those he considered dead weight, and in other ways cut or minimized expenses, while bringing in fresh blood in the form of community volunteers. He increased the effectiveness of the various organizations. Because of this, he increased the flow of contributions, both the legal and the illegal ones. To this end, he kept his own set of books, books that were privy to no eyes but the Reverend Harvey Caldwell.

Within four years, Harvey finally became a millionaire, with money in offshore accounts that required not one dime of taxes, yet which was easily accessible. At the same time, all of his various charitable organizations were enjoying greater influence than ever. That meant greater political clout, as well as the greater potential to do great works. Harvey Caldwell believed in keeping it real. That was, after all, what it was all about, and justified the increased personal wealth from which he benefited.

However, things started spiraling out of control over the course of just the last few months. First, Caldwell discovered, somewhat belatedly, that Marshall arranged a date, of sorts, between Marlowe Krovell and April Sandusky. This resulted in the unfortunate woman’s savage murder, her throat reportedly ripped open and the blood drained from her body. Word then got out that April, far from being the devout Christian woman she portrayed herself to be, had been involved with the 17th Pulse, who were now widely suspected of complicity in the crime.

As if that were not bad enough, almost an entire high school basketball team lay dead, as the entire city mourned along with their community, school, and in fact the nation. Only two survived, for now, and both would live the lives of complete vegetables. The cause seemed to be marijuana soaked in lethal amounts of embalming fluid. The perpetrator seemed to be a sixteen year old girl from Virginia, rumored to be a member of the Gothic sub-cult whom Marshall himself supplied.

Now, the girl was in jail, and currently also charged with the murder of her own family, who died, suspiciously enough, in the same way April Sandusky had been murdered. Originally, a fire was set which disguised somewhat the nature of the deaths, as well as the amount of time they were actually dead. However, a great deal of circumstantial evidence pointed to their deaths as being of several months duration. Investigators derived this evidence from the carcasses of several cattle which had wandered off and which had died at various intervals. There were as many as twelve carcasses found all together. One had been dead for as long as four months, and was all but a skeleton.

Further forensic evidence revealed the evidence of nicks on several of the human skeletal remains, which intimated that a bloody, barbaric crime had occurred of the utmost savagery. Also dead and similarly butchered-though this crime was determined to have occurred at a much later date-had been a private investigator by the name of Peter Domenic.

Caldwell found this worrisome-very worrisome indeed! Domenic was more than just a private investigator. He was, although a former FBI agent, a hired gun of the Russian mafia, with a more specific connection to its Romanian branch, which was a particularly violent branch of an organization that was itself a notably ruthless one. Why were they involved in this?

More importantly, to what extent was Marshall involved, and why?

Then, when he did not think things could possibly get any worse there was what seemed to be a terrorist attack at, of all places, John Hopkins University Hospital, which left 38 people dead. Caldwell prepared a statement to the effect that this terrible incident should not detract from the overall needs of the community, or in the effort to bring to justice the true killers of April Sandusky. He started to make the accusation that the whole incident was a ploy specifically meant to draw attention away from the murder, and from the demands for justice and accountability. Understandably, he realized in retrospect, his PR people strongly advised against this type of language.

“No offense, Reverend Harvey, but that kind of thing can really come back to bite you on the ass,” one of them warned him. He acceded to what he assumed was their better judgment, hard though it was to do. He had yet not issued a statement. He was too worried about Marshall, who had unfortunately disappeared. No one had seen him for over two weeks, and no one seemed to know where he was. Caldwell called the current leader of the 17th Pulse and, though it was irregular, asked to meet with the gang.

Spooky Gold, the leader of the gang, was not in a good mood, and made no bones about it.

“I’m sick of hearing about this bitch”, he said. “She was a ho, she was my ho, his ho, everybody ho ho, but everybody be talkin’ like she was some kind of goddamn Mother Theresa. Now I can’t walk down the street without the cops bustin’ me for anything they can think of, includin’ spittin’ on the sidewalk or jaywalkin’. So what the hell happened to you and this clout I keep hearin’ so much about?”

“Oh, fuck you, Spooky Gold, I got you out didn’t I?” Caldwell was incensed at the insinuation that he could no longer take care of his own. “What the fuck do you want, a public apology? Give it time, I’ll get you that, and a lawsuit against the city on top of that. They know they fucked up, that is why they be looking and acting hard. Just suck it up for a while, and they will settle before the lawsuit ever goes before the bench.”

“Suck it up, hell”, another of the guys said. “I can’t leave my crib without them driving by, driving by my momma’s house, and got everybody on the street afraid to even say ‘hey now’. What the fuck is up with that shit?”

All the other gang members nodded and voiced agreement with this.

“Look, I know it’s hard, but these things take time”, Caldwell was saying as he found it increasingly hard to hide his agitation. “You guys are supposed to be tough, you supposed to be able to take it. God, what is all this whining about? Do you guys think you can stand up to the Russians? Shit, those people are going to run you out of here in under six months if you don’t pull yourself together. You know it could well come to that if you show weakness. Those people are not our friends. They just tolerate us as a matter of convenience. By the way, has anybody heard from Marshall? For all I know they done away with him already.”

“We put feelers out, just like you said. The only person I heard anything from was that old preacher from April’s church”, Spooky said.

“Brother George, yeah, that’s right”, another one said. “But he said he wants to talk to you in private, says he refuses to talk about it with anybody else.”

For a few seconds, Caldwell took all this in, and then slammed his fist on the table.

“Fuck that senile old fool, I ain’t got time for him”, he said. “His idea of community action is makin’ sure the boys and girls ain’t feelin’ each other up in the church pews on Sundays. He’s ridiculous. In the meantime, we got the feds crawling all over Baltimore because of a fucking terrorist attack at John Hopkins. People are going around ripping people apart and drinking they dead momma’s and daddy’s blood. Somebody is poisoning high school ball players with pot laced with embalming fluid that, by the way, probably came from Marshall. In the meantime, the neighborhood is under lockdown in all but name, and so business is going to hell. Yet, I’m not supposed to worry about any of it getting’ back to me.”

He looked around, desperately wanting to kick their asses or do something to get them in gear and back out on the street doing something-anything. Now they suddenly could not even look at him. They just looked all around at each other, one was whispering to another, and they were obviously worried about something.

“All right, what the fuck is going on?” he demanded. “You know something I don’t know and that’s not good. In fact, that worries me greatly. Whatever the fuck it is, spill it. Spooky? Toby? Ratchet? Hacksaw? I’m fuckin’ waitin’.”

“It’s about Marshall”, Spooky finally spoke up as the mood in the room suddenly became oppressively dismal. “And it’s about”-

He looked around the room, then back to Caldwell.

“It’s about what happened at the hospital. Ratchet, you want to tell him or should I?”

Within the space of four seconds, a good deal of the color went out of the face of the Reverend Harvey Caldwell, and for a brief instant, he saw himself back as an eight year old. He found himself inexplicably back in the late 1950’s, at a fair in Virginia, on a long ago summer day when he and his siblings went to visit their uncle. They attended the fair, and were amazed to see so many black people in the same place with so many white attendees.

He separated himself from his brother and sisters and out of curiosity attended the “minstrel show”. All of the performers were white, sung incredibly bad renditions of a few negro spirituals, but mostly white folk songs, while all made up in black face. They seemed to have black shoeshine polish all over their faces, with white grease paint around their eyes, and heavy red lipstick over their mouths meant to facilitate the illusion of what he heard derogatorily called by the crowd “nigger lips”.

At one point somebody in a white sheet that looked suspiciously like Ku Klux Klan attire came walking out with his arms up in the air and moaning in a high pitched wail at one man who acted with the persona of a tough, street wise black that put Caldwell in mind somewhat of a pimp. When he saw the Klan ghost, however, his eyes widened, his lips quivered, and he seemed to lose control of his voice. “WU-WU-WU-WU-WU-WU-WU-WU-WELL” he screeched, and then hurriedly explained to his gathered friends that he just thought of something he had to do. None of the others seemed to see the apparition.

Well, who the fuck would not be afraid of that, Caldwell thought to himself. He overheard somebody offer a woman a drag off his cigarette while telling her not to “nigger lip” it. By that time, he had enough, and left the tent, where three men and two women then confronted him. One of the women gazed at him in mock lasciviousness.

“You want to go out with this woman, boy?” one of the men asked him.

“No”, Caldwell said.

“You sayin’ I ain’t good enough for you, colored boy?” the woman demanded.

“He’d damned well better not be sayin’ that about ma sister”, another of the men said.

“I didn’t say that”, Caldwell replied.

“Oh, so you’re sayin’ you think she’s good lookin’ then”, another man said, and produced a knife, which he began paring his nails with, while glaring ominously at young Harvey Caldwell.

“No, I just sayin’ I don’t mess with white womans or white girls either one”, Caldwell said. He knew the whole crowd was obviously drunk. “I believe in stickin’ to my own kind.”

“You better not be lyin’ to me, boy”, one of the men now said in the most threatening tone Caldwell ever heard, before or since. “Cos I’d rather come home one day and see my woman getting fucked by a dog or a monkey as to see her in bed with a fucking nigger”.

“I swear I would never ever mess with a white woman, mister”, Caldwell pleaded as the man suddenly advanced toward him with the knife.

Then, the man stopped, and looked down at the ground, and suddenly, the others in the group looked unsure of what to say, as they glanced around at each other uncomfortably. The man then backed up and told him to “go ahead and get the hell out of here”.

He ran, as fast as he could, until he found his siblings, looking agitated at him having disappeared. Yet, they could tell he was terrified at something, one of them remarking that he looked like he had “seen a ghost”.

He was afraid, in fact, that he came close to becoming a ghost that day, but he did not say anything. He felt humiliated by his fear and was loathe giving voice to it. He told them he was afraid because he lost track of them. He was never so relieved, in fact, as when he found them that night. He never told them or anyone, what happened, until years later in the nineteen eighties, in one of those church services where he finally opened up and laid his soul bare to the congregation. It was one of those more memorable sermons, and established him as a major voice in Baltimore racial politics and civil rights advocacy.

Now, his brother was a lawyer, married to a white judge, and his sisters were married to successful businessmen, one of whom also was white. They barely remembered that day, and acted as if they wondered if he made the story up-though of course they never openly said as much, at least not to his knowledge.

Yet, on those rare occasions when he felt fear, or any kind of alarm, he remembered that day, yet another instance of how his innate skill with the spoken word got him out of trouble, or swayed a group of people in one way or another. Now, the original, seventeen charter members of the 17th Pulse looked at him strangely, as though waiting for his instructions. They waited for his permission, to either speak or not speak. The news they had was obviously grim, and Caldwell was for once at a loss for words.

“You know, I never fucked a white woman in my life”, Caldwell said. “I never really ever wanted to-but you know something? I think I’m going to, just one time before I die. God damn, I deserve it.”

“Hey boss, you want a woman I can get you one, any color any time, no problem”, was the exuberant promise made now by Toby, considered the Romeo-in fact the lead pimp-of the group. As he was in charge of the prostitution racket the Pulse operated within the inner city, he felt confident he could deliver on such a promise. However, Caldwell had no interest in any inner city crack whore or heroin addict, of any color.

“If I want a sex change operation, I’ll go to a surgeon”, he said. “I ain’t going to let my fuckin’ dick rot off to save a few thousand dollars.”

“That’s cold, boss”, Toby said with a somber shake of the head.

“No, what’s cold is you keeping shit from me”, Caldwell said. “I know Crenshaw is the man who keeps me in the loop, but he’s evidently either run off, or he’s dead. I think you know which one it is. I hope you are not about to tell me he died in that hospital blast. I know he went there a couple of times to see that Krovell kid. I saw the names of people listed as dying in the blast, they were all released, and his name was not there as either dead or injured. So what exactly are you saying?”

He waited impatiently as they just looked around at each other, unsure of how to tell him. He was starting to get more pissed off than worried.

“Damn, somebody spill it”, he demanded. “Waiting for you guys to say something is like watching grass grow. What the fuck is wrong with y’all?”

“I was the one that made the bomb”, Ratchet finally said.

“I was the one that delivered it in that old Fed Ex truck, and took it to the psychiatrists office. I stood there whistling like an idiot while he signed for it. Psychiatrists give me the creeps.”

This came from Mercury Morris, who seemed the most nonchalant one of the group. Caldwell gazed over at Toby the pimp.

“I guess you’re the one that killed the doctors wife and kidnapped his kids”, he said.

“That was me that killed the wife”, replied Spooky Gold. “I didn’t have shit to do with the kids though. That was Big Fish.”

“Hey, I was good as gold to those kids, too. I brought along halal snacks and brought them each a milk shake. I figured Washington would be a long trip without their mother with some black guy they never seen a day in their lives. They were crying when I got them to the mosque. I guess they were glad to see their own kind.”

Caldwell just looked with his arms folded, his head cocked, as he bit his upper lip with his eyes narrowed in suspicion.

“You guys are real fucking funny”, he said. “Do you think this shit is something to joke about? Well, I tell you, if anybody ever hears you talking like this, do you know they will probably be only all too happy to take you serious? You might want to think about that before you start pulling these kinds of sick ass jokes. This ain’t the fucking fifties, you know. We don’t all have to be comedians just to get by or to make ourselves feel better about our misery.”

Then he looked at all of them and saw that no one was laughing. No one was smiling. No one was winking, or trying to control their mirth. They were all not only serious, but also grim.

“Okay, where the woman’s body? I’m talking about Raghda Tariq. I know part of her was stuffed in that box, they found a piece of her skull and a couple of teeth and some hair that matched her DNA. Somebody stuffed her head in the box, at least.”

“I took her brains out and stuffed the detonator up inside her skull”, Ratchet replied. “Marshall said the doctor needed to see her head in that box, and wouldn’t be likely to mess with anything else in there. I used her head to hide the detonator just the same.”

“Me and Toby dumped her body in the Delaware River,” Spooky continued, “in eight different suitcases, weighted with lead. Don’t worry, I doubt it will ever turn up.”

Caldwell now had to set down. He knew he should be incensed, but for the time being he was too shocked, and too terrified, to allow himself to feel this emotion. Anger was a luxury he felt he could not afford to indulge. He only wanted to know one thing.


“Marshall said it had to be done”, Spooky replied, “but he couldn’t say why, only it was a matter of life and death.”

“Oh-my motherfucking God”, Caldwell said. “You’re all for real, ain’t ya? Ohh-my motherfucking God. And you all just went along with this shit? Why?”

“You told us to do anything he said”, Hacksaw replied. “Well, and we all got two hundred grand apiece.”

“WHAT? Where the fuck did that come from?”

“From Tariq’s bank accounts,” Hacksaw said, “seven different ones in four different banks, and a money market fund at some brokerage”, Hacksaw replied. “I transferred that much offshore to fourteen different accounts, in less than four hours, the very day all this was done. 3.6 million dollars total, including Marshall’s cut. The doc was loaded, more than seventeen million all together.”

“I got the account info from Ragda Tariq”, Spooky explained. “It was easy. All I had to do was keep reminding her how Big Fish had her kids and I could call him anytime.”

“So you all murdered 38 people for 200,000 dollars apiece? Incredible!”

“Yeah, I wish we could have got more, but Marshall said if we tried to transfer more than what I did it would raise red flags”, Hacksaw explained. “It’s too late now, I’m sure the codes have all been changed.”

“So how did you pull this shit with the cops watching you twenty four seven?” he demanded.

“Because they been stupid enough to let us know they be watching us”, Spooky said. “It was easy to give ‘em the slip.”

“But you”-he pointed now to Mercury-“you delivered the fucking bomb in a truck they probably know you use, and you’re probably all over the hospital security tapes. I hope you like where you sent your share of the money, ‘cos I advise you to be heading there pretty fucking quick, my friend.”

“Sent it all to the Caymans”, he replied, as the phone suddenly rung. Spooky Gold answered it, as Hacksaw continued trying to reassure Caldwell that “I wore a white toup and dark glasses with a bulky jacket, so nobody should recognize me. They don’t know about the truck, they have no reason to know about it. This was the first time we used it in more’n seven months, and it’s been stripped now, so no worries.”

“Oh, no-no worries whatsoever”, Caldwell shouted loudly, as suddenly Spooky waved to get Caldwell’s attention.

“It’s Marshall”, he said. Caldwell almost tripped over his feet lunging for the phone.

“Where the hell is you at?” he demanded, and waited for a few seconds for the address. “Good, you stay the fuck put and don’t let anybody in till I get there.”

“Did you sweep this place for bugs?” he then asked Hacksaw, almost as an afterthought.

“Yeah, not long before you got here, it’s clean.”

“Me and you got a little meeting to attend”, he told Spooky. “Let’s go. The rest of you stay put right here. Don’t call anybody, and wait till about four in the morning, then gets you asses home and stay there for a few days. I got a restraining order on the works against the Baltimore police, but it might take a few days for it to go into effect. I’m hoping they don’t come up with any reason to not approve it-or rescind it. You don’t need to be giving them any reasons.”

Caldwell actually would dearly love to take out the whole gang, including its sullen leader, who now accompanied him to his gray Land Rover. How, he wondered, could they do anything so brazenly stupid-so monstrous? Marshall had a lot of explaining to do.

When they arrived at the small apartment in an upscale section of Northern Baltimore, Caldwell hoped city officials, a good many of whom lived in this general area, would not notice him. He realized he was letting his imagination get the better of him, but he seldom found himself in danger of serious legal trouble. This was something that was completely off the charts. If his complicity in the Pulse’s activities ever got out, it would completely ruin him. Everything he ever worked to accomplish would turn to shit. He knocked on the door of the apartment. Marshall opened it almost immediately, and Spooky entered after Caldwell.

“Well, well, well, if it ain’t Osama Ben Crenshaw”, he said. “Quite a cave you got here.”

“It’s not like that”, Crenshaw said, but Caldwell just looked at him in amazed revulsion.

“38 people, dead”, he said. “38 innocent people.”

“I thought you always said there ain’t no innocent people”, Spooky Gold observed.

“Shut up!” Caldwell shouted.

“38 people”, he repeated.

“37”, Crenshaw replied.

“I wasn’t including the nut job they found down in the basement-or Ragda Tariq”, Caldwell snarled as he got up into Crenshaw’s face. “I was taking about 38 people on three floors of one hospital. 38 people, and you nit picking about the numbers? What the hell is wrong with you?”

“Marlowe Krovell was included in that number, but he wasn’t killed. He’s out there, somewhere”, he said.

“Is that what this was about? You went through all this shit to kill one man? Well, good for you, you sure got him, didn’t you? Not that it makes any difference now, but yeah, he’s dead, he tried to hide under Tariq’s desk. What the hell difference does it make if one man out of 38 is alive or dead, the point is-you, my friend, committed mass murder.”

“You all committed mass murder”, he clarified as he looked menacingly in Spooky’s direction.

“It was Krovell”, Marshall said. “That’s what I’ve been trying to tell you. It was his plan, to get out of there. He’s even the one that set the bomb off after Mercury delivered it. I don’t know about any body, all I know is he left some body parts there- some teeth, a little finger, and his appendix.”

“His appendix!” Caldwell looked at him in amazement. “You are really fucking fried ain’t you? That’s it, you’ve been smoking some of that embalming fluid. Look, I’m telling you they found Krovell’s body, under the desk-badly burned and blown all to hell, but intact, more or less. His uncle identified it from a birthmark and tattoos, and a couple of moles. Then it was confirmed through dental records.”

“I’ve seen him since then”, Marshall insisted. “He told me he’d protect me, but he lied. He said there is nothing he can do for me, so I came here. Look, I am getting the fuck out of here, but before I go-Spooky. You remember that promise you made a while back. The vow you and the guys made-the one I told you to drop?”

“Yeah, what about it?” the gang leader said.

“You have to do it.”

“Why? What’s the point?”

“Just do it, please. It is a matter of honor. If you don’t-”.

“Fine, I’ll do it, don’t worry.” Spooky flashed a sign that indicated the honor of keeping one’s vows. Marshall was relieved to see that the gang leader now indicated he would see this carried out. At the same time, Caldwell viewed this exchange with a great deal of suspicion.

“What vow?” he demanded. “Look, I don’t know what you’re talking about, but from now on you do nothing that you don’t put through me first, is that fucking understood?”

“This ain’t about you, Brother Caldwell”, Marshall replied. “This is about duty and honor. You do know what that is, I trust.”

“How dare you talk to me that way”, Caldwell hissed. “And what the fuck is that smell? Damn it smells like you bleached the whole place down.”

“No, just the bathroom”, Marshall said. “Somebody jumped me early this morning and beat the shit out of me. I never even got a good look at them. After I made it here I bled and puked all over the place.”

“Yeah, well you missed a few drops of blood outside the bathroom, there on the floor.”

“Shit, yeah, I guess I did”, Marshall replied, though he seemed unnecessarily agitated, even overly concerned, over something as relatively minor as a few drops of blood. He noticed something else that troubled him greatly about Marshall’s story. Caldwell approached him cautiously and looked him over.

“You don’t look beat up to me”, he said.

“I heal fast”, Marshall replied.

“Yeah-uh huh”, Caldwell said. “Speaking of this place, just whose fucking apartment is this, anyway? Maybe more important, where the fuck did you bury him-or them?”

“Oh, man, no, that ain’t right”, Marshall said with an agitated wave of his hand. “This is my girlfriend’s crib. She ain’t here right now.”

“Hey, is this your girlfriend here, Marshall? Wheew!”

Spooky Gold was obviously impressed at the photo of the young white woman with the long, flowing dark hair, who he now showed to the skeptical Harvey Caldwell. She seemed by all appearances clean cut, though she alluded to a sensuality that exuded even from the recent still photograph. She hardly seemed to be the type of girl who would associate with the likes of Marshall Crenshaw.

Marshall smiled and shook his head.

“She’s a catch, ain’t she?” Marshall said with a smile. “Her name is Lynette Khoska. This is her apartment, so you guys can’t be here much longer. She’ll be home soon. I don’t want her involved in this shit, any more than she already is.”

“Bro, I won’t open my mouth, I promise”, he said. “Please let me meet her. I’ll be what you call the soul of discretion, I promise.”

Spooky Gold was joking lasciviously, but Marshall seemed overwhelmed by depression. Caldwell could not help but feel that Marshall was genuinely agonized over something he just could not bring himself to discuss-or admit.

“I still want to know what this is, about George”, Caldwell demanded. “What is it this fool wants to talk to me about in private, something that has to do with you?”

“I told him about everything”, Marshall said. “I told him how your organization was a front for our drug and prostitution and gambling ring. I didn’t so much tell him as I just admitted it. He already knew. He wants to talk to you about it. You don’t have to worry about him going to the cops-he just wants your help.”

“You admitted all this shit to that busybody?” Caldwell was beside himself. “I think at this rate I. the one that better be heading to the Caymans.”

“I told you it wasn’t anything to worry about. Have I ever steered you wrong yet?”

“Oh, no, you’ve never fucked up, to my knowledge”, Caldwell answered scathingly. “Come on, Spooky, let’s go see what that old fool wants. As for you, my friend, we are far from finished here. We will be talking again. Count on that.”

“Yeah, I guess we will one day”, Marshall replied, then fell silent, until he finally addressed Spooky Gold.

“Goodbye, Spooky. Remember the code”.

“What?” Spooky answered strangely, but then held up a fist. “Yeah, right-the code. I’ll get it done, brother.”

It was close to midnight as Caldwell and Spooky Gold exited the apartment and made their way toward Caldwell’s Land Rover. Caldwell stopped about halfway down the steps that led from the apartment to the street below. His curiosity suddenly kicked in.

“I wonder where that girl is he’s living with”, he said. “With my luck she was in another room recording every fucking thing we was saying.”

“Oh man, Marshall wouldn’t do that, would he?” Spooky replied. “You really think he would?”

“Yeah, if he hasn’t killed her and cut her up in a million pieces”, Caldwell said bitterly. “The shit he’s done lately, nothing would surprise me.”

As Caldwell spoke, Spooky noticed another of the apartment building residents walking toward his car. The man stopped and looked at the two of them suspiciously, as he got in his car and started it up. As he did this, however, he simultaneously began the process of making a call on his cell phone.

“You see that shit?” Spooky asked. “You don’t reckon he’s calling the po-po, do you?”

“What the hell for?”

“Uh-‘cos we black?”

Caldwell thoughtfully pondered the question, but decided it wasn’t likely.

“If anything he’s probably calling his wife to tell her to make sure she don’t answer the door and to keep them locked,” he said. “White people are crazy. Here, watch this, I’m going to walk over and motion for him like I’m wanting to ask something. I bet’cha he’ll burn rubber getting the fuck on out of here. Twenty dollars?”

“Yeah, okay, you’re on”, Spooky said. “I bet’cha he answer you anything you ask, and try to act like he thinks there ain’t a thing strange about two brothers in a white neighborhood at night. I bet’cha he’ll wet his pants, too, though.”

Caldwell nodded his head and chuckled.

“Well, I guess you want to throw your money away”, he said. “They’d love to see your ass coming in Atlantic City, nigga. C’mon let’s do it.”

Caldwell motioned for the man, but was not disappointed when he rolled down the window of his sedan and asked if he could help.

Caldwell asked if he knew directions to the nearest police station, as he thought he saw two suspicious looking men walking through the neighborhood. They were a couple of grubby looking white men, he said. The man regarded Caldwell’s remarks suspiciously, but at the same time gave him the directions he asked for, which was about seven and a half blocks from the spot where they were. Suddenly, Spooky Gold pushed Caldwell off to the side and, grabbing hold of the man’s shoulder, simultaneously flung the door open.

“Get your ass out of there”, he said, and pulled the hapless and terrified man out of the car. He then explained that he thought he saw something that looked like it was on fire, but all he saw now was a carryout box from a drive-through restaurant, with an insignia of red flames. Spooky Gold apologized to the man, who got back in the car and, obviously very angry, backed out of the driveway. When he pulled out, he did indeed squeal his tires.

Well, damn, I guess you won the bet after all”, Gold said. “Motherfucker didn’t even piss on himself. I must be off my game.”

As he said this, he extracted his wallet and produced a twenty-dollar bill, which he proffered to Caldwell, who just stood there and looked at him as if he was looking at a sub-human species of vermin.

“You keep it”, he said. “I have an idea you are going to need it, real soon like. I think we better get the fuck out of here before you get us killed.”

At that moment, however, the resounding noise of a single gunshot filled the quiet night air, as both men looked at each other in shocked silence.

“That sounded like that might have come from Marshall’s crib”, Caldwell said.

“Oh, shit”, Spooky replied, and ran up the steps in bounding leaps, overstepping the last one and nearly tripping. He entered the door quickly, and saw Marshall, slumped over in a recliner, his brains spattered out on the back of the chair and the wall behind him, as the gun slowly dropped from his now limp and lifeless hands to the floor below him.

“Marshall, why the fuck did you do that?” he asked the now lifeless body as he looked around the room. He looked once more upon the face of the still photograph of Lynette Khoska and, as a special television report showed the various faces of hospital staff and patients killed in the John Hopkins terrorist attack, he almost absent-mindedly picked up the gun. It was hot, so he wrapped it in a bandana, and, after seeing it still had ammo, he stuck it down his trousers.

He sat on the sofa as he wondered what he should do next. He watched the screen as the faces of Dr, Abdul Tariq and his wife Raghda suddenly displayed on the screen, under the caption “Terrorist Mastermind-No Love So Strong”. Good, he thought. As far as the police were concerned, Tariq was the perpetrator of the atrocity, as opposed to being just another victim. Doubtless, the many inexplicably large withdrawals of cash from his accounts to many unknown, hopefully untraceable offshore banks would further facilitate that illusion. Of course, there was the apparent contradiction inherent in his seemingly suicidal intent, but evidently, the speculation was that the bomb went off faster than he planned. The host of the CNN News Special now repeated the earlier theory that perhaps the one lone, unfortunate psychiatric patient in his office disrupted his plans.

“Krovell is still alive though, right bro?” He looked over at the still form of Marshall Crenshaw, and shook his head, silently bemused at the torment his formerly trusted associate obviously suffered. He started to leave the apartment, cautiously, fully aware that Caldwell had probably left already. It would be a long walk home. Luckily, he still had enough money to take a cab. Caldwell was right. Before he made it through the door, the phone rang, and Spooky stopped and listened to the voice of Lynette Khoska cheerily leaving the invitation to “leave your name and number and I’ll get with you soon”.

He then listened as the voice of the same woman, though not quite as chirpily, said “Marshall, it’s me, sweetie, I’ll be home a little late. I’m at grandfather’s church, and you know how that is.”

Damn, her voice is sexy too, Spooky mused, as he Marshall, wherever he now was, “what the fuck was wrong with you, bro?”

He decided he needed to take a piss. It was no telling how long it would be before he found a cab in this neighborhood, at this time of the night, and he was in too big a hurry to wait until he found a convenience store or other place with a public lavatory. He entered and as he pissed, the fumes from the excessive bleach almost overwhelmed him. He held his breath.

Damn, he thought, these white people around here are some motherfuckers, he thought, as he considered the possibility that Marshall’s new girlfriend might have had an ex-boyfriend, or possibly friends or family members that did not appreciate her flair for the exotic when it came to her choice in men. He finished pissing hurriedly as he fully prepared to walk out into the night, secure in the knowledge that if some group of white motherfuckers decided to jump him, they would learn a much-needed lesson in civility. That kind of thing pissed Spooky Gold off to no end and, as he finally made it out the door, he found himself actually hoping somebody would start some kind of shit like that with him.

Fortunately, Caldwell was also still there, to his surprise. The Land Rover was running, and Brother Harvey was politely attempting to extricate himself from the attentions of a neighborhood woman who now talked to him, probably someone who recognized him. Spooky walked up beside the woman and nodded.

“He’s not answering”, he then told Harvey clearly enough to make sure the woman heard him. “He must have left right after we left the last time. Too bad, he would have wanted to know about the concert.”

“Well, you should have remembered to tell him the first time we was here”, Harvey said with a wary attitude of dread, though playing along with Spooky’s dialogue for the benefit of the strange woman who did indeed recognize Caldwell from a number of TV appearances.

“Well, anyway, it is such an honor to get to meet you”, the woman was saying. “You do such great work, and I promise you I will certainly donate to The Blackbird’s Nest.”

Spooky got back in the passenger’s side of the car as Caldwell warily watched the woman, who turned once and, with a smile, said chirpily, “I might even volunteer for that.”

Caldwell smiled at the woman, while addressing his passenger.

“What the hell happened up there?”

“He’s dead. He shot himself.”

“That’s what I thought”, Caldwell said. “And here at least two people saw us right outside his apartment, and at least one of them recognized me. Can things possibly get any worse?”

“Not for him they can’t.” Spooky said. “That’s a hell of a way to go, though”.

“Yeah, it’s called the coward’s way out”, Caldwell declared as he carefully drove away.

“Everybody gots they breaking point, Brother Caldwell”, Spooky replied. “You, me, everybody. One thing at least, the girl is definitely alive, she just called and left a message telling that fool she’ll be late.”

“I feel sorry for her when she gets home from wherever she’s at. Finding somebody in your home that you know, dead, whether it is murder or suicide is something you do not get over in a hurry. Marshall never thought of anybody but himself, though, so that don’t surprise me.”

“Don’t worry, I’ll help her out”, Spooky said.

“Yeah, I know how you’ll help her out,” Caldwell declared as he put on a CD of an old rhythm and blues group called The Four Tops. “I need something to mellow me out. I guess you’d rather hear Nellie, but I’m afraid I left him out of my collection.”

“Yeah, too bad, but this is fine too”, Spooky replied. “Man that is one hot number. I kinda feel bad for her. That girl looks like she never had a hurtful thought in her life, and now here she is getting’ ready to find that fool and will be accused of killing him.”

“Yeah, they’ll question her and all, no doubt, but I’m sure they’ll see that no-good Marshall did himself in. I just hope they don’t ever get a clue why.”

“I guess the gun being gone will make it look more like a murder, don’t ya think? Maybe they might think her father killed him. She looks like she comes from a well-off family, just judging by her clothes, some of her furniture and other belongings. That’s probably why Marshall got his ass jumped. I didn’t touch anything either, though maybe I should have took something.

“Damn, yeah, that would make it look like a robbery”, he said as he snapped his fingers in frustration. “Well, I got the gun anyway.”

“You didn’t!” Caldwell shouted. “What the fuck did you go and do a stupid thing like that for?”

“To look out for her, that’s all”, he said. “I can find a lot of people that wouldn’t mind killing Marshall. Hate to say it, but he was kind of a smart-ass punk, and he could be a real asshole. I can always come up with somebody that was just a little too fucked up this night to really remember for sure where he was, and all I got to do is plant this gun on them and turn they asses in.”

“Yeah, then you get to be a knight in shining armor to the pretty little white woman, huh”, Caldwell said. “In the meantime here we are driving around with a gun that was just used in a homicide. The po-po could pull us over any time, especially after your shenanigans back at the apartment, where we just happened to be when he done himself in. You’re really batting a thousand tonight, you know that?”

“You still going to George’s house?” Spooky acted as if he never heard a word Caldwell said. He had other things on his mind. “’Cos if you are then I’m going too. Fuck that old fool. If he knows something that involves me, I need to know about it. There ain’t no telling what that fool Marshal told him.”

“Let’s just hope we make it that far”, Caldwell said. They drove for close to forty minutes before they finally made it to the home of the Reverend Christopher George. One lone light shined from the living room window of the house, which sat by the church at which George had been pastor for over forty years. Caldwell remembered George as a preacher in his late twenties, how he worked the crowd, how the spirit seemed to come alive. It was George in fact that encouraged the teenage Caldwell to devote his life to the ministry of Christ, who put him through Baptist Seminary, who sponsored him through donations from the church. It was George who allowed Caldwell to act as itinerant preacher in his own church, where he performed substitute duties, such as during the time when George married Cassie, the beautiful but somewhat egotistical deacons daughter who now suffered from the ravages of Alzheimer’s disease.

It was George who then got him established in the little mission church on Seventeenth Street, where Caldwell languished and toiled in obscurity for going on a decade, before the rape and murder of two young white girls by one of George’s parishioners. At first, there were rumors that the crime was committed by two Baltimore police officers, who then tried to lay the blame on the troubled thirty year old addict. Caldwell spoke openly and with great aplomb about the need for justice, and the need for the truth. For too long was the black man accused of crimes against whites, while the totality of crimes perpetrated by white society and the system itself on blacks for the most part remained unaddressed. He preached with a ferocity and intensity he never knew he possessed, and the marchers were out on the streets, demanding the release of Jacob Hartley.

Then, the unthinkable happened. Hartley called Caldwell to his cell, ostensibly for the purposes of spiritual guidance and reassurance. He then, in the privacy of his cell, confessed to the crime. The girls were fourteen and sixteen. He stalked them both over a period of three weeks each and, merely two weeks apart, raped and killed them. He cried and begged forgiveness. Caldwell informed him of two facts. One fact was that he was a dirty motherfucker. The second was-he would have him know-there would be no forgiveness for him if he allowed other innocent men to be falsely accused of the crime, whether or not they were convicted or even tried.

Caldwell convinced the man to confess to his crime, and then he swallowed his pride, and called a press conference, at which he apologized for any harm to the good names of the men falsely accused, and to their families. For a while, Caldwell was a pariah in certain segments of the black community, most especially to the Reverend George, who was astounded that, as he put it, Caldwell would “turn on his own kind.”

“He might be your own kind, motherfucker, but he ain’t mine”, Caldwell replied.

“Brother Caldwell, what has happened to you? Did it ever occur to you he might have been beaten or coerced into making that confession?” George was livid with Caldwell, and it was all he could do to keep from striking him down. However, Caldwell was unmoved by his anger.

“It might have occurred to me if I didn’t know for a fact I didn’t beat him or coerce him. Hell, he looked fine when I saw him. He even told me he knocked the girl’s teeth out to keep them from biting him. Did you know that? I didn’t. Now what do you want to bet another thing they ain’t yet released to the press is the fact that they had semen in their stomachs?”

“Somebody could have told him all that, it doesn’t prove a thing”, George said stubbornly.

“No, he’s telling me the truth”, Caldwell insisted. “I can tell when somebody’s lying to me, and that fucker ain’t lying.”

Caldwell started to walk out, and turned his back, but George was not finished. He reminded Caldwell of all the hard work they had done over the last decades, the small yet not insignificant gains made for the cause of civil rights and equality. Something like this could set those gains back a half century.

“No, you’re wrong”, Caldwell said, not in the least surprised at George’s reasoning, which he perfectly understood. “The only thing that can set us back is fear, and ignorance. Humble yourself, Brother George. Get down on your knees and pray for wisdom and guidance. It might feel good.”

Yeah, Caldwell now thought to himself, those were the good old days. Those were the days when he really, truly believed. Those were the days when he thought he was on his way to making his mark in the world, to making a real difference. Now, he knew one unsettling truth. Nothing ever really changed. Bigotry and intolerance reared its ugly head every day, only in more subtle ways. It never really went away, nor would it ever die. It just adapted to changing societal pressures. Nevertheless, the same degrading poverty still runs rampant through the black community, along with the fear, and the ignorance. Nor was it all necessarily the fault of the white societal power structure. It was not even the fault of those such as George and others in the black community-including himself-who played the system and perpetuated it for their own benefit. It was just an unfortunate fact of nature. The reality merely existed. The innate reality gave rise to the conflicting power structures, breathed life into them, and gave them power.

Voicing opposition to them provided an outlet for frustrations at them, but at the same time it also, in fact, strengthened them. Caldwell knew that all too well, and it bothered him greatly, as they approached the door of his old and former friend and mentor. He remembered how he had joined with Reverend George and the other protestors in a march to demand leniency for Jacob Hartley. How he in fact led a protest outside the prison walls, and continued that work after the execution, joining in the overall movement to abolish the death penalty as some cruel remnant of archaic Middle Ages European justice, usually reserved for the underclass of society.

It was not Caldwell, however, but Christopher George, who counseled Hartley on his last few days of life in the early nineties, when the final appeal was over. George convinced him to disavow his former confession. He declared himself a victim of police coercion. Evidence was produced that pointed to the white girls as being truants and drug users, of questionable character and morals, in trouble in school and with the courts. All this was true, as it was that the two police officers initially accused by Hartley’s attorneys indeed had been in contact with the girls and their families over some of these issues. Regardless of the facts, George was determined to renew the issue, and Caldwell found himself in the position of having to defend his own position.

It worked out well for him. In the long run, it not only proved a minor threat at best to his overall strength in the African American community-and this only grew stronger over time-but it enabled him to portray himself as a true advocate of racial peace and healing. As he knocked upon the door of Christopher George, however, he knew he would soon be in the presence, and home, of a man who demeaned him, publicly and privately, as an Uncle Tom. To George, Caldwell merely played the civil rights advocate like a court jester, a man who, in his personage as a firebrand, amounted to little more than just another black cliché’. Caldwell was, to George, a one-man minstrel show.

George in fact often referred to Caldwell as the Meadowlark Lemon of the Civil Rights Movement. Caldwell bristled when he thought of this. True, he had a lot of white supporters and contributors, but most of his supporters were black. He made a career out of attacking the system, and the institutional prejudice that permeated it. He was anything but a clown. He rarely even told jokes in his sermons or speeches, and when he did, there was nothing conciliatory about them. He suddenly found himself knocking on George’s door in outright anger.

“Open the door, you old bastard”, Caldwell demanded, suddenly feeling the frustration of two decades welling up inside him.

George opened the door, but when he did, Caldwell was shocked, and almost even humbled by the appearance of the defeated old man who stood in front of him. He reeked of fear and despair.

“I told you I wanted to see you in private”, George said.

“What you got to say to me you can say in front of him or not at all”, he said as he indicated Spooky Gold, who just looked at the old preacher with a menacing glare.

Georges’ mumbled assent was all but unintelligible as he opened wide the door and motioned for them both to enter. His wife was sitting on a recliner in the living room, and Spooky looked at her suspiciously, though she seemed unaware of their presence. She suddenly just laughed loudly and said hello to some unknown person by the name of “Jolly”, who she invited for a cup of tea.

“Don’t you think you should send her to a place where she can get some care?” Caldwell asked the older preacher.

“I can’t afford it”, George replied. “I can’t even afford to retire. All of us don’t have a business selling drugs and running prostitution rings, you know-and yes, I do know.”

“You don’t know jack shit, old man”, Spooky replied.

“You let me handle this”, Caldwell replied, whereupon Spooky merely harrumphed under his breath, and looked as though he was looking for a place to spit.

“Do you want to put her to bed?” Caldwell asked. “There’s no reason to involve her in this.”

“There’s nothing to involve her in”, George replied. “She don’t know what we’re talking about to begin with. I didn’t bring you here to talk about your business anyway. I just need your help. I want to get the hell out of Baltimore. It’s vital that I leave here. You might say it’s a matter of life and death. The thing is, I don’t have the money to leave here, not and live any kind of a decent life. I want your help. I would be willing to work for you in some capacity, if you insist. I know there is something somewhere I could do where I would be useful. But I have to leave Baltimore, the sooner the better.”

Caldwell looked then at the old man’s eyes, and saw he was exhausted. He looked as though he hadn’t had a good nights sleep in over a week. Something was very wrong here.

“So what exactly did Marshall tell you?”

“Just that the Pulse didn’t have anything to do with April’s murder, and I should stop pushing the police to arrest them for it”, he said.

“That’s it?” Caldwell was suddenly dumbfounded.

“That and she was actually murdered by somebody named Joseph Karinsky and some more people that run with him in some kind of Satanic cult”, he said.

“And this is the shit you wanted to tell me in private?” Caldwell wondered when it was coming, the threats of blackmail, and wondered why he had not actually come out with it by now. Suddenly, Cassie George was up on her feet, and started dancing, and singing some kind of nonsense about kissing under rainbows.

“Do you care if I take her upstairs? It won’t take but a few minutes.”

“Yeah, just hurry, I ain’t got all night”, Caldwell said.

The two of them watched as the old preacher led his wife up the stairs. She offered no resistance, though she curtsied and bowed to invisible attendees at some make-believe social event that was probably something akin, Caldwell realized, to a cross between Cinderella’s Ball and an introduction to hell.

“What do you make of that?” Caldwell asked Spooky, who looked to be growing more impatient by the minute.

“Just his bullshit finally is catching up to him”, the gang leader replied. “I know what he is about to tell you, but I am going to let you hear it from his own lips. I want to watch the old fucker sweat.”

Caldwell noticed now the TV was on, with the volume lowered. A news program was on, and now he saw the Karinsky gang, in news footage replayed repeatedly over the course of the last two days. All six of them were now under arrest, and the film showed them all and gave their names, but focused specifically on the sixteen year old Debbie Leighton, and especially on Joseph Karinsky who, while being lead away in handcuffs by police escort, looked toward the cameras and lasciviously bared his teeth in a mock vampire pose. For an instant, he forgot about Spooky Gold standing there behind him. He wondered if George was intent on revealing him to be the ultimate source of the drugs the gang used in their demonically inspired rituals, and in the course of their violent murder spree.

Why would Marshall have confided in George as to Karinsky’s supposed involvement in April’s death? What purpose would there be in setting these people up to protect Marlowe Krovell, if that maniac was truly dead, as Caldwell knew he had to be? He watched in amazement as the young Leighton girl confided that she worshipped Karisnky, that he was an incarnation of God, of Dionysius, of some fool named Vlad the Impaler-and Adolph Hitler. She claimed her parents were of no importance, they were just another form of livestock who refused to evolve. Joseph was her father, her brother, her son, and her lover.

“Just keep talking, little lady”, Caldwell mumbled to himself as the Reverend Christopher George returned from upstairs.

“How do you know she’ll stay up there?” Caldwell asked him.

“I gave her something to put her to sleep”, George explained.

“Then let’s get this over with”, Caldwell said. “I don’t want you working for me, because I don’t trust you any more. I’m not saying I won’t help you. I’ll do that, within reason, for the sake of older and better days between you and me. But I want to know the truth, and that means everything. What is so important that you have to leave Baltimore, and what exactly does it have to do with me?”

“Because you are as responsible as I am”, George stated. “You are responsible for that girl’s death. It was your people that killed her, and I am responsible for driving her to them.”

Caldwell looked at Spooky, perplexed at what he was hearing.

“He’s talking about April”, he explained.

“She was doing volunteer work for me one night”, George explained, “and-we were alone, and I drugged her, and raped her. I did it with Marshall’s help. He was here once, trying to talk me into laying off the Pulse, telling me it was time to start preaching a different sermon. We were arguing, when April came in. I think he could tell by the way I looked at her, the way I suddenly changed, and mellowed in her presence-he knew I was in love with her.

“He called me a few nights later, asking me if I thought about what he said. We argued for a few minutes, and then he brought up April. I guess that’s when he knew he had me. He told me he would send me something in a day or two. All I had to do was put a few drops in any woman’s soft drink, and she would be mine for the taking. I could do what I wanted, and she would never know.

“Two days later, I got this shit in a bubble wrapped manila envelope, in a vial. I waited two weeks before I finally got up the courage to ask her to stay over one Sunday night and help me with some things in the church. She did it, and-God help me-I went through with it.

“I swear to God, it didn’t feel like rape at the time, but I did. I raped her, and when it was over, I hated myself, I swear I did. But then she woke up and, when she asked me why I did that, I knew she knew, she was aware of what I done, and she hated me for it. She said that she wanted to save herself for a good man, a worthy man, and now here she was, lost to a lecherous old hypocrite, her dreams ruined. She was crying, and I apologized, and she hit me, over and over, until I-I raped her again. Then I told her to get the hell out.”

“Well, you old motherfucker”, Caldwell said.

“Are we through here?” Spooky replied. He looked as if he wanted to leave, but Caldwell waved him off.

“I met that girl once, and she worked for me a few times doing volunteer work at the Blackbird’s Nest”, he said. “Was that some good stuff? God damn, I bet that was some fine shit. But you being the first to hit that? I don’t know whether to cheer or throw up.”

“Will you help me or not?” George now seemed beyond desperation. He seemed frantic.

“Why? What’s the point. She’s dead now, and you said yourself the people that killed her are those people that have been arrested for other similar murders. She ain’t ever going to tell anybody-not now.”

“Don’t you see you’re responsible?” Caldwell shook his head and said the hell he was.

“She went to Marshall, and Marshall set her up with the Pulse”, he said. “She didn’t tell him that she wanted the Pulse to kill me. They all had her, they all passed her around, and they agreed, but then Marshall said no, it would cause too big a police investigation. They would come after the Pulse, because I kept on preaching against gangs, especially them, urging people to keep their kids away from them and call the police whenever they knew of anything to report. Marshall said it would look too obvious, and besides, it wasn’t worth the risk, or the suspicion that would fall on not just the Pulse, but your whole operation. Your whole organization might be in jeopardy.”

“Is this all true?” Caldwell was now directing his attention to Spooky Gold, who affirmed that it was.

”Then April threatened to call the police, but by then Marshall had her on heroin, told her she had to forget about it. Said she had to learn to go on with her life. But she couldn’t forget about it. Then Marshall fixed her up with these people, and according to him, I guess they are the ones that killed her.

“They butchered her, just like they butchered that girl’s parents, and some other people they victimized. Then come to find out, Marshall has been selling drugs to these people, marijuana and God knows what else.”

“Oh my God”, Caldwell said. He knew what was coming. He had nothing to do with the girl’s death. He barely knew her. Nevertheless, if it got out that he had even an outside connection with it, it would be the biggest scandal to rock his organization since the one time one crazy woman accused him of rape.

That had been a lie, but it looked suspiciously like the truth, because Caldwell had appropriated funds for the woman’s sick mother, or so she claimed. In reality, she used it to pay off a drug debt, and then wanted more, but Caldwell refused. Then he found himself charged with a crime he never committed or ever intended to commit, and had to explain why he just handed over twenty thousand dollars to a woman that was obviously a drug addict.

He learned from that mistake, and quietly, secretly got the mothers of his two illegitimate children out of town. Now here he was in danger of accusations of complicity in a crime allegedly committed by a group of psychotic weirdoes, the true nature of whose activities he had never been aware of until a few short days ago.

And to beat it all, they were innocent of this one crime, which was actually committed by an even crazier motherfucker who somehow convinced Caldwell’s most trusted lieutenant to blow up a hospital. A man who, though he was obviously dead, Marshall claimed was alive. Now Marshall was dead, driven to the depths of despair that even the supposed love of the prettiest fucking white girl Caldwell had ever seen, at least in picture format, couldn’t drag him out of.

Why had Marshall told these things to George? Why drag him into it? He finally realized-he had no choice.

“Fine”, he said. “For the sake of my organization, I’ll do it. You decide where you want to go, and I’ll see that your wife is taken there. I’m assuming you want her there.”

“As long as I’m alive I do, yeah, but I want you to swear to me that if something happens to me you’ll take care of her.”

“I’ll do that now if you’d let me”, said Caldwell. “But if you insist on keeping her, fine, I promise, I’ll take care of her.”

Spooky Gold seemed touched by this, even misty eyed.

“That’s really good of you, Brother Caldwell”, Spooky said. “Do you really mean that? When he dies, you promise to take care of her?”

“Of course I mean that”, Caldwell replied. “I am a man of my word above all.”

“That’s all I needed to hear”, Spooky said. Then he drew Marshall’s gun from his waste and, right before Harvey Caldwell’s horrified eyes, he put one bullet into the chest of the Reverend Christopher George, who with a shocked and pained look on his face, moaned as he slumped to the floor.

Before Harvey Caldwell could say one word, Spooky Gold then walked nonchalantly toward the bleeding, dying Reverend Christopher George, and pointed the gun at his forehead.

Caldwell sprung into action. He stepped between the would-be assassin and his wounded, helpless prey. He did something he hadn’t done in months. He preached. He preached from the book of Matthew, from the Book of Revelation. He preached from the Old and the New Testaments.

“Get the fuck out of my way, Brother Caldwell”, Spooky warned him. “I made a blood oath to April, and I’m keeping it.”

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of all wisdom,” Caldwell now quoted desperately. “Fear not him who is able to kill the body, but fear Him who is able to cast body and soul into hell.”

“What is that supposed to mean”, Spooky replied with a look of agitated perplexity. “I ain’t afraid of him, or nobody.”

“You kept your vow, all right?” Caldwell was desperate and running out of Bible versus. “You shot the bastard, now let it go.”

“I didn’t pledge an oath to shoot him”, Spooky declared. “I pledged to kill him. Well, the fucker’s still breathing.”

“You also pledged to Marshall not to kill him”, Caldwell reminded him.

“He released me from that, just this night.”

“He wasn’t in his fucking right mind, though, ain’t that obvious? Even if he was, he’s the one that went back on his word.”

“Uh, just to be clear, let me remind you he’s the one that gave George the drugs that fucked her up the night that old vulture raped her.”

“Then his word ain’t worth shit”, Caldwell replied.

“Well, mine is”.

“No, wait”-Caldwell was desperate, and decided on one last, desperate attempt to appeal to reason.

“You kept your word to both of them. You shot him, and if he dies, well and good. You kept your oath to April. He’s not dead yet, though, so if you leave it at that, you kept your oath to Marshall. Even if the motherfucker lives, he’s going to suffer for the rest of his life. He’ll be a hopeless invalid because of this wound and probably be in pain the rest of his life. Even better, he’ll live what days he has left knowing the reason for his suffering, and the rightness of it. Now tell me that ain’t fulfilling your oath. Tell me April wouldn’t feel she got the justice she deserved. Look at him. He won’t ever rape anybody else now, that’s pretty fucking obvious.”

Spooky Gold looked down at the helpless, decrepit old man who moaned in agony, as his blood pooled around him. The chances of him living very long were slim, he decided. Even if he did survive, Caldwell had a point.

“Fine, I don’t know why you care, but yeah, it makes sense”, he said. “Enjoy your bullet, old man.”

Caldwell breathed a sigh of relief, but then started to wonder exactly what he would do now.

“All right, now I tell you what, you take my Land Rover to the strip club ten blocks from my house, lock it up, and call yourself a cab. Not from the club, though, call it from the liquor store seven blocks from there. If it has closed by the time you get there, call from the outside pay phone. And don’t say a word of any of this to anybody, including the rest of the Pulse.”

“Okay, but what’s this all about”, he asked.

“You let me worry about that. I’m worried some people might have seen us here. You just go out and take the car, and try not to let anybody see you.”

Spooky looked toward the old man on the ground, amazed that he was not only still alive, but desperately holding on to consciousness.

“Hope you’re ready for hell, old man”, he said. “What you be going through now don’t even begin to compare.”

“Let me do the preaching’, “Caldwell replied. “You just get the fuck out of here and do what I told you. And make it fast.”

Spooky left, and in a couple of minutes, Caldwell could hear the engine of his Land Rover start, after which the vehicle sped away. He looked cautiously out the window, but saw no sign of anybody around. The old man was moaning pitifully.

“Please”, he begged. “Don’t let me die like this. Oh God, it hurts so bad.”

“Just try to hang on”, Caldwell said. “I’ll get you help, but I have to set it up. I have to know something first. You know you can’t say a word about what happened here tonight, right? As far as you know, I was here, I was in the bathroom, and somebody that you don’t know and never saw before came in and shot you, and took off in my car, right? You have no idea who it was, just some guy demanding money, looked like a crack head or something. I come out, heard what happened but didn’t see it, and I called the ambulance. Got that?”

“Yes-I swear”, George promised weakly, but Caldwell could tell he was sinking fast. If he was going to save this man’s life, he knew he had to work quickly. Yet, he had to try. He could not allow himself to be complicit in a cold-blooded murder, however justified it may have seemed. He was already responsible for too much turmoil, heartbreak, and tragedy. He managed to live with all of it, and deluded himself into thinking it was all part of the unavoidable realities of life. Now, he was looking his handiwork straight in the nearly lifeless eyes. Now, he was directly involved. He was staring hell right in the face, and it was not a pretty sight.

He rose, went to the phone, and called his home. His wife answered, and told him he would be home soon, he was calling from the house of Christopher George, who called and asked for his help. The two old friends turned long time enemies had made peace, and come to an understanding.

His wife was delighted, of course, and exuberantly praised the Lord. She knew that God could heal even an old wound such as this one, she reminded him. He listened impatiently for a couple of minutes, and then told her, somewhat bluntly, that he had to hang up. He would be home shortly.

He retuned to the side of the old preacher, who stared outward in horror. He was still breathing, though barely. He had lost a lot of blood, though luckily the wound inflicted by Spooky Gold, while disabling, would not ordinarily be a mortal one if treated quickly. At the same time, George was a relatively feeble old man, and time was running out.

Suddenly, Caldwell heard a noise from upstairs, and then he remembered-Cassie, George’s wife. He could hear her walking around, having evidently freed herself from her bonds. Caldwell had no choice but to go upstairs and check on the woman. He hurried up the stairs and into the master bedroom. Sure enough, there the woman was, in nothing but a nightgown, open at the front to reveal her panties. Caldwell found himself thinking that she was, for her age, yet an attractive woman, but she seemed understandably dazed. Caldwell saw no signs of any ropes, or shackles of any kind. He did see, though, that the woman had evidently vomited beside the bed.

“Help me”, she said. “Brother Caldwell, is that you? Oh my God, please help me.”

“You-you recognize me?”

Caldwell was now more mystified than ever. What else was going to happen this night? Cassie George seemed to be dazed, and weak, but at the same time, she seemed aware now not only of him, but of her surroundings. She also seemed to be desperately afraid. She was supposed to be suffering from advanced dementia due to Alzheimer’s disease, which she seemed to have contracted suddenly. George had explained that she had it for years-she merely “hid it well”.

Now, Caldwell looked desperately around for the woman’s medication, and found some unmarked medicine bottles that contained what looked to be Thorazine.

“Is this your medicine”, he demanded. “He’s had you on this?”

“Please-don’t make me take that. He makes me take that stuff because I know about”-

She started crying, and Caldwell just looked at her warily. He almost knew what was coming.

“He raped that poor girl, April. She come to me and told me about it. I confronted him and-“

Now she started crying uncontrollably, and Caldwell comforted her as best he could.

“Don’t; worry, Miss Cassie”, he said. “He’s never going to hurt you again. He’s never going to hurt anybody, ever again. You have my word on it.”

Caldwell now almost flung himself out of the room, and down the steps. He did not know now what to do. He had vowed to save the old fool’s life, and he would do just that. Unfortunately, he had never counted on this. George would have to deal with this issue the best way he could. One thing Caldwell would not tolerate, however, was any continued mistreatment of Cassie George. How she might deal with the matter once restored to her right mind and health was up to her. George would have to accept the consequences. It was time now for him to call the police. He would merely tell them that while here, he discovered the poor unfortunate woman in her current state after the shooting, and had no idea what was going on.

He called the police then, and phoned in the report as he planned. While visiting the home of the Reverend Christopher George, and while in the bathroom there, an unseen intruder entered the home and shot George, and then left. By the time Caldwell returned to the living room to find George lying in a pool of blood, he discovered his Land Rover stolen, thanks to him having carelessly laid his car keys on the coffee table in front of the sofa. He checked on George’s wife, only to discover George had been keeping her drugged on Thorazine.

Having completed the report to the police and assuring them he would wait until they arrived, he lit a cigarette. He needed to go the bathroom. What a night, he said to himself as, upon entering the lavatory, he suddenly noticed the blood. It was all over the place, though in spots. It was on the commode seat and inside the commode. It was on the bathroom floor, and on the wall. It was even on the inside of the door. Worse, the whole place now stunk, as if the entire Baltimore City Sewer system had backed up specifically into the bathroom of The Reverend Christopher George.

Caldwell pissed, and wondered what it meant. He finished, and when he opened the door, he saw more spots leading from the bathroom out into the hallway. The lights were now out, and Caldwell fumbled around in the dark as his eyes gradually adjusted to the enveloping darkness.

George must not have been as weak as he thought, he said to himself. He looked toward the floor where George had been sprawled, and saw that he had indeed pulled himself up, gradually, though he was on his hands and knees, groaning in pain, as he heard the voice of a woman. He then saw the feminine form standing behind George. Suddenly, she was down on top of him. How the hell did Cassie get down here so fast, he wondered? Oh my God, Caldwell realized-she is going to finish him off now. He had to do something.

“You are mine”, the woman said. “You are going to be my little toy for all eternity. Your soul belongs to me now, and I am taking it with me, straight down to my home in hell, right down in the sewer where you belong. I have until the end of time to slowly rip you apart, piece-by-piece, slowly, inch by agonizing inch, over and over and over again.”

George was wailing pitifully as he begged for mercy, but the hateful woman standing over him, even now tearing at his flesh, just laughed hideously, demonically.

“Cassie”, Caldwell said. “Please-you don’t want to do this.”

Suddenly, George wailed, as the woman stood and faced Caldwell, who suddenly recognized the woman who smiled sadistically as she slowly approached him, with her arms outstretched, a lascivious sneer on her lips, now covered with the blood of the all-but-dead Brother Christopher George.

He looked with unmitigated horror on the hellish sight of the woman-on the inhuman features of the living dead form of April Sandusky. Her throat ripped completely open in a gaping, horrendous wound, she advanced now on Caldwell, closer and closer, with her arms outstretched. She reeked of rotted flesh and blood, of the sewer, and of death and hell. Her dead eyes exuded a maniacal hatred.

“Do you want a piece of me, motherfucker?” she demanded in a guttural, animalistic, and otherworldly voice that reverberated from some black, unspeakable level of hell.

For a minute, he could say nothing, as his mouth opened, and he tried to form whatever words might come to his mind. No words of entreaties for mercy, however, were forthcoming. For once in his life, Harvey Caldwell was speechless. For once in his life, Harvey Caldwell lost control of both his bladder and his bowels at the same time. For once in his life, Harvey Caldwell was helpless.

“He is going to pay for what he did to me, for all eternity”, she said as she drew closer and closer. “Do you have any fucking thing to say about it?”

Harvey Caldwell’s eyes widened and felt as though they might bulge until they popped out of the sockets. April laughed insanely as she drew closer, closer. Caldwell’s mouth went dry as his lips swelled, and his hair seemed to stand on top of his head. At last, he found his voice.


For the first time in fifty years, Harvey Caldwell ran, out the door and into the streets, out into the darkness, as the evil, ravenous laughter seemed to follow him. He ran, until he no longer even realized he was running. He ran, until he realized he was no longer running. He no longer knew where he was.

He found himself strapped onto a cot on an ambulance, at the break of day, as the police questioned him. George was now dead, they said. As he reported to them, he was shot, but he was also, while still alive, subjected to as savage a degree of mutilation as ever noted, even by the standards of the most seasoned, veteran murder detectives. It was in fact one of the most brutal crimes in Baltimore history. His wife was alive, and would soon recover from the effects of the over-medication to which George had evidently subjected her. The Reverend Harvey Caldwell unfortunately had no knowledge whatsoever of what they were saying.

That was the night the Reverend Harvey Caldwell lost his mind. He was never able to speak of the events that occurred on that early morning, and so he was never able to give any kind of description or account, other than what he previously phoned in to the police, which he in fact also no longer remembered doing. The fact was he never really remembered what he saw or heard that night, the night that April Sandusky finally claimed the soul of the Reverend Christopher George.

Oh, Reverend Harvey Caldwell never forgot that, to be sure. Not for so much as one minute did he ever forget that. It was just every other memory of his life that completely vanished.

Cold Comfort

The US House of Representatives has sponsored a non-binding resolution calling on Japan to acknowledge it's role during World Warr II in forcing something like 200,000 Asian women to work in brothels for the pleasure of it's Imperial forces.

Of course, somebody has brought up the issue of reparations, which is apparently the main reason the Japanese have been reluctant to issue more than an official apology, while some have even denied responsibility on the part of the government or the Japanese military.

Seems like an easy enough way to compromise would be to find out what the going rate was for a blow job, a piece of pussy (or ass), and an around the world. Assume each one of these 200,000 women engaged in sex an average of twenty times a week, or maybe round it off to a hundred times a month.

200,000 times twenty dollars (let's just use that as an average) would amount to four million dollars a day worth of sex. Four million times one hundred would equal 400 million dollars.

Over a one year period, this adds up to 4 billion, eight hundred million dollars. Let's multiply this by ten, which is about the amount of time many of these brothels were in operation.

You now have a grand total of 48 billion dollars.

Come on now, guys, you had your fun-time to pay the piper.