A Day of Reckoning
There had been two national presidential elections since martial law was relieved. The Aryan Nation, while stronger than they'd ever been, came in a dismal third to the Republicans and Democrats who, like before the Defining Point, as John White liked to refer to it, were still in charge.
Efforts to increase anarchy backfired when the American public realized that the only way to defeat lawlessness and terrorism was to strengthen law-enforcement and band together under the Constitution. Patriotism was never higher, and an unforgiving public were more likely than ever to vote a scoundrel out. The rule of law prevailed. The Free Press sought out and uncovered every scam, sham, and crooked scheme used to take advantage of the time when the country mourned its great loss.
What was fantastic was the rebuilding. Most of the countries of Europe, Japan, Russia, China, and Australia had come to America's aid. The cleanup of the old Washington D.C. area and the Potomac estuary proceeded at an unheard of pace. The area was set aside perpetually as a national park. Wildlife was already returning.
John White was angry; angry enough to do something rash. The money spent on his futile presidential campaigns had left the compound strapped and owning money and favors to everyone from the Righteous Right to the Mob. His meetings became ever more bizarre. His supporters on national television and radio came to see him for what he was, a raving hate monger.
White posed in front of the mirror, putting the pistol in his mouth and maneuvering it so that it would blow his brains out the back of his head in a nice pattern on the wall. He wanted to film it, so that the world would see the error of its ways. If the Moslems could have martyrs, then why couldn't the Aryan Nation? He could handpick his successor. By martyring himself, he could only increase understanding of his cause. It was a simple, eloquent solution. Why hadn't he thought of it before?
Rob Johnson had done some terrible things at John White’s direction. He was afraid of what was happening to his fearless leader, but he could do nothing about it. He was now caught up in the conspiracy that had tried to bring the country to its knees. He knew the story. He saw the evidence. He could not bring himself to turn John White in. If John White were to go down now it would unravel the hideous life he had led, and then he would go down with White. Still, something had to be done. White was unstable and dangerous. Something had to be done. But what?
"Charlie, get Rob over here.” John White yelled to an aide impatiently. If now was a time, then he would do it. Name somebody nobody knew. Put him in the spotlight. Let those bastards know that he was in charge. He laughed. Nobody heard. It was a laugh of a crazy man.
"You wanted to see me, Sir?" Rob entered White's domain with his usual timidity and politeness. He didn’t want to rile the old man.
"Why yes I did, Rob. I've been thinking about putting you on my Wednesday night TV show. The ratings have been dwindling lately and I need a blonde, blue-eyed young California surfer guy like you to help me pump them up. I'll just introduce you at first and you can keep your trap shut. Gradually, I'll let you take over portions of the broadcast until I can make you the main man. You have a good voice and a pleasant demeanor. Just what I need to offset the negative publicity I've been getting lately. Are you up for it?"
"I guess so, Sir. Never thought you'd want me on the show. I thought you had another assignment for me.”
"Well I don't. Just keep your trap shut. And do as I say. Who knows, you may become a celebrity someday!" There was venom in his voice.
Rob left shaking his head. He had heard that the FBI was on his trail for that work in California. The video from that San Mateo County Sheriff's deputy stop on the bridge had surfaced after all these years. The Old Man had probably heard it too. Maybe White was going to make him a scapegoat for his political troubles. The thought made him shudder. He could skip, but that wasn't wise. The last guy that tried that ended up in the shredder. He'd have to go and face the music whatever it was. Once under John White's power, always under John White's power.
Rob was to the studio in the compound and a half hour early at. 7:30 p.m. He was dressed in a powder blue suit, with a white shirt and dark blue tie covered with miniature American flags. Rob couldn't remember dressing like this before except at those high school proms so many years before. The suit did bring out his blue eyes--something John White insisted upon. He waited while they added make up and wondered what his role was to be.
White arrived five minutes before airtime. There was just time for the makeup man to soften his face with powder before they went on the air. They positioned Rob at the left just off camera, to go on camera when White signaled. No one had gone over the script. Everyone expected John's usual harangue that often continued after the allotted one-hour time slot on the Christian Channel was over. It was embarrassing seeing him whipping up dead air. No one would stop him, though. It was just too dangerous to cross in front of John White in the middle of a tirade.
The director counted down, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, a rendition of Larry Gatlin's “God Bless the USA” played, and the Most Reverend John White was on the air: "My fellow Christians, White Citizens, Aryans, and Americans. Tonight is indeed a momentous occasion! As you all know we have fought long and hard in the eyes of the Lord to bring this nation to the way the Lord tells us to be. We have fought long and hard to secure a foothold for the righteous in this world full of the ungodly and to make a stand for the right. It has been a long, uphill fight. But we have persevered. We have struggled, and we have pressed on. The time has come for a change of leadership. My time at the helm has run its course. I am most pleased, indeed proud, to present to you the man I have selected to carry the Aryan Nation well into the 21st Century" (White motioned with his hand for Rob to come over) .
Stunned. Rob hesitated for a moment. But seeing White's right hand motion get more furtive and agitated, he walked over, breaking out in cold sweat, to White's open left hand. That hand gripped his left arm tightly and pulled him into full camera view. Rob was pale as a sheet. Only his makeup belied his condition. His mind was a blur and he thought he was going to pass out.
John White continued, "I wish to announce to you all my loyal television viewers that I am naming Rob Johnson, a loyal follower and great Aryan to be my successor to lead the Aryan Nation.” He stopped speaking. There was a silence in air for a moment, and then a flickering of applause from the few people in the studio. White reached quickly under his coat as if to get something to give to Rob. Instead, he pulled out his 45 pistol and stuck it in his mouth. Before Rob could reach for it, White pulled the trigger and a plume of blood and brains exploded on the white wall behind them. The two white vases filled with red roses did little to soften the horror of the scene. Ten million cable watchers saw it live.
The camera followed the scramble to save White for a few moments. The right side of Rob's face could be seen, spattered with blood as he tried to lift the already dead John White from the floor. Mercifully, someone found a picture of White that they placed in front of the camera while they played gospel music until their hour on live TV was over.
Getting John White's body to the funeral in Harrison was easy. What was hard was the chaos that followed in the compound after his death. His chosen lieutenants all bickered and argued long into the night about who would do what. Except for his statement about Rob, White had maintained total and absolute control of his boys. Although he trusted some more than others to do his dirty work, he never outlined a firm organization for everyone to follow. For his part, Rob wanted no part in the leadership of the Aryan Nation. He told them so. But some on the council felt that since White had named him--that he should take over the helm.
Needless to say, White's death was national news within five minutes of the gunshot, and the media and law descended upon the compound like locusts before the night was out. The secrecy of their operation was about to become public knowledge.
White's funeral was the largest Harrison had ever seen. Since John had only blown the rear of his skull off, the Davidson Funeral Home made him quite presentable as he lay in rest in an open casket before over ten thousand weeping mourners who clogged the roads coming into town for hours.
The number of corporate jets and helicopters at the airport professed to his power over the faithful. Rob stayed out of sight, fearful they might seek him out and ask him to give the eulogy or speak for the future of the Nation.
Later, the Night of the Funeral
Rob went back into town looking for Slim. He found him at the Good Times bar near midnight. Slim was roaring drunk. Slim never drank. Rob dragged him off the bar stool, and helped him to the car. Slim slept until they reached a roadside rest area near the compound where Rob pulled out to talk.
"Why are you drinking, Slim?"
Slim woke up and rubbed his eyes. "Oh, man, he had to go do it. Had to go shoot himself. He was all that I believed in all these years and now he's gone and done it. Now I’m the only one who really knows what happened. They're gonna come after me for sure, and I'm gonna burn in hell for what I done.”
"What do you mean, Slim? We've done some pretty nasty things on White's orders. Even killed. I know they're gonna come down pretty hard on us because of what he did, but you know I ain't gonna rat on you. And you sure as hell ain't gonna rat on me.”
"You don't know the half of it, Man. In the beginning there was only me and Wally Shanks, another Vietnam Vet friend of mine. Because I was an explosive expert in Nam, White figured me for his arms supply man. I took Wally along because I trusted him and could always use a backup in tough negotiations and a wheelman on long runs. We were down in Houston going to gun shows, at some horse kickin ' redneck bar in Pasadena, when we met two fellows who were into guns and worked the docks on the ship channel. They told us that they could get us a lot of cheap Russian guns and ammunition. It was hard to believe them because they were drunk, but we decided to follow them down to the ship channel that night to see if they were lying.
"Anyway, we got down there to this warehouse after midnight, and those good ole boys started talking to some Pakistanis guarding the warehouse. It was pretty scary and I was about to drive off, when they asked us to come on in the warehouse. There was a sea/land truck container in there filled to the brim with AK-47s, 50 mm machine guns, grenades, other small arms, and enough ammunition keep them firing for year! I asked the Pakistanis how much? And they gave me a very reasonable price, even after paying off the good ole boys. We paid them cash for half a it. The next day we rented a truck. We met those guys again at the bar that night. After midnight, we drove to the warehouse and they opened it so’s we could drive on inside. We paid them the other half and the Pakistanis loaded the container on the truck's bed and we drove off for Arkansas.
"White was ecstatic when he saw what we got. We were high on the hog when it came to militias. Besides, the AK-47 is one of the best guns ever made. I took the manuals over to old Mr. Minskoff, the only Russian we knew--dead now—and had him to translate the manuals for us. Everything worked very well considering they had come all the way from Russia through Pakistan.
"About two weeks after we got back, White got a call from those ole boys down in Pasadena. They said that the Pakistanis had an A-bomb warhead from an old ABM missile that they were willing to sell cheap. When White asked, “How cheap?” They replied, “$5 million U.S.” White said he would have to think about it and call them back. He thought about it about a week. The more he thought about it, the more he liked it. He told us that this was our big break. The way we would set ourselves apart from the other militias and Aryan groups. He sold some of his Wal-Mart stock and called in some markers he had out. And then he dipped into the church fund for television. We was only radio then. Finally he got the money together and called those guys down in Pasadena again. They told him the bomb was in Pakistan, but if he could get them 2 million in cash, they'd take the chance of shipping it to Houston. White asked if it was intact and explodable. They told him it had a detonator and timer, and the manuals to operate it. That's all White needed to hear. He sent me down to Houston in my pickup with $2 million riding alongside on the front seat—scary.
"The bomb arrived about a month later. When we got the call, Me and Wally headed out for Houston. This time, we bought a truck here, and drove it down empty. When we got there, we met the same ole boys at the bar that night, and follow them to the warehouse. The dang thing was in the same kind of container, but a whole lot heavier to lift onto the truck. We drove her back up here to Razorback with no one being the wiser. When we got here, we took the books over to Mr. Minskoff for translation. It turned out to be pretty easy. Those early missiles could be armed by the guys firing them on the spot in the field. Makes you wonder why they never fired any at Europe. Guess they didn't have the balls White had.
"Anyway, he picked the time and place. Wally and I just drove the dang thing to Washington D.C., waited until after midnight and then parked the trailer on a side street near some construction not far from the White House. I got inside the trailer and set the timer for 10:30 a.m. that morning with a flashlight. We locked her up, unhooked from the trailer, and drove off. By the time she blew, we were eating breakfast somewhere on the Pennsylvania Turnpike. We almost didn't get past Pittsburgh, the traffic got so bad after that.” He put his head and his hands and started crying.
"So now I've told you.” He sobbed. "So's I won't be the only one who knows what really happened. Old Wally couldn't take, what with his bad dreams about the Nam and all. He shot himself a month after we got back. I quit drinking because every time I drank I thought I'd spill the beans to somebody like you.”
Suddenly, there were flashing blue lights and spotlights glaring through Rob’s pickup windows. A loudspeaker blurted out, "Please raise your hands and get out of the car! Keep your hands up and walk backward toward us! "Rob and Slim slowly open their doors, raised their hands and started walking backward toward the lights and sound coming from the loudspeaker.
"What you boys doing out here in the middle the night!" The familiar voice of Sheriff Harvey Cox boomed out. "I thought you two were lovers. Thought I'd give you a scare. What the hell you doing out here in the middle of the night, Rob Johnson and Slim Slidell! Don't you know that there's a war going on? Homeland Security doesn’t allow no reconnoitering by the side of the road!”
"Sheriff, we just pulled over cuz Slim was drunk and I thought maybe he'd have to puke or something.” Rob shouted off into the woods, his back to the Sheriff and hands still in the air.
"Drunk? Slim never gets drunk. Don't tell me any bullshit, now. I'm not in the mood"
"Yessiree, Sir. That I am. John's death has caused me to fall off the wagon. But I ain't drivin ', so you ain't got no cause to arrest me like this.” Slim was adamant.
"OK, boys. You can drop 'em. I've been out here day and night trying to keep outsiders and reporters away from Razorback. John's death has really caused a ruckus. You boys best be gettin' on home. Looks like I'd better be gettin' some shuteye, too. Good night and have a safe trip back to Razorback.” Sheriff Cox then helped Rob get Slim back into the truck.
"It's a good thing we know local law, eh? Slim.” Slim didn't answer, he was fast asleep.
The coroner ruled White's death, a suicide. The fervor died down. Rob laid low. Thoughts of that video from San Mateo haunted him. But not as much as what he knew. Slim had told him the whole story. He didn't know if he could keep it in if the FBI interrogated him. Worst of all, he did know which of the guys new the truth. Slim didn't tell him who else was in on it. One? Two? Three? He didn't know. All he knew was that he knew too much, and while it haunted him now, it could lead to his death sentence later.