The Pendulum Swings

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In 1973 the Supreme Court handed down its decision in Roe v. Wade, and from that point on, women in the United States had access to safe medical abortions.  This was partly due to an activist group that formed in the late 1960’s comprised of medical professionals and an unlikely combination of religious clerics from Baptist ministers to Jewish rabbis.  There were 1400 across the country, who lobbied for legalized abortion while secretly offering places for women to get the help they needed.  The Pendulum Swings is written in memory of the thousands of women who lost their lives, some in the arms of their religious confidants, and of the brave spiritual leaders who saw the injustice and acted.  The intolerance of a patriarchal society was recognized by this group and summed up in the following quote by persons unknown… “There really can be no justification for treating fetal life as if fully human, when existent female human persons are not valued at least to the same degree.”  Today, in 2018, this conflict continues, only now religious groups are acting against a woman’s choice. With this in mind, my friends, I present to you, The Pendulum Swings.

Walking became running in the foot of snow that tripped and engulfed her when she fell.  The white fluff left bloody imprints of her body and she struggled furiously to reach her intended destination. What would her children think of her if they found out that she terminated the life of a future sibling? Her husband didn’t even know that she was pregnant for the ninth time, and to him it was what women did. It was a woman’s responsibility to bear children and keep a home.  Even now, in 1967, those old values plagued the lives of women. Mary stumbled up the stairs to the parsonage. It was almost midnight, but she banged screaming on the door until lights went on in the foyer. “Help me! Please, Reverend White, help me!”

“Mary! What has happened to you? Sandra, Sandra, come quickly, and bring lots of towels.” Reverend Richard White’s face turned pale. He knew what this was. He had seen it much too often.

“Dear God, Mary!” Sandra rushed to Mary’s side.

“Reverend, please don’t call the police, or… or the hospital. And don’t call Terry either.  He didn’t even know about the baby.”  Mary shook from fear and shock. Her face was drained of color.

“Don’t worry, Mary. You’re safe here with us. Stay with her, Sandy. I’m going to call Doctor Evans and then the convent.”

Richard was a member of an underground group of clerics and medical professionals that had formed a coalition to counsel and rescue women who were either seeking an abortion or to give them medical attention if they had made the inadvisable decision to find a back alley hack.  Some of the women did it themselves. Abortion was illegal and contraception was frowned upon, and the only safe places for them to go were their churches and temples. These women had nowhere to turn and what Dick saw over the last few years was nothing short of horrific. The desperation of young girls and women seemed to pounce on him from every direction once he finally surrendered to the nagging prod to help them.

“Dicky, hurry! We’re losing her!” Sandra screamed from the other room.

“Doc! Doc, this is Dick White. Come as fast as you can. We have another one.”

Although only ten minutes had passed from the Reverend’s phone call until Doctor Darryl Evans reached the parsonage, it seemed like it had been to the end of time. “Take me to her.”  Doc rushed through the door.

“She passed out a little bit ago, and she hasn’t stirred. Oh, Doc. Can we save her?” Sandra White was a devoted pastor’s wife and when Dick made the decision to minister to women on the verge of abortion, she was right by his side.

“Dick, help me get her onto the table. Did you call Sister Corrine?” Doc prepared Mary for surgery.

Dick grunted as he helped move Mary. “Yes. She is coming right over. She has to make up an excuse to tell her abbess, but she’ll be along any minute now.”

“Good, cuz she’s the best nurse I know. Come on, Mary darling, keep breathing.”

There was a knock on the door.  A frantic Corrine pushed her way in the second Sandra opened it. “Where is the patient?”

“Follow me.” Sandra escorted Sister to the dining room where Mary lay on the makeshift operating table.

“Oh, no, Doc. This is Mary Robinson. I met with her last week when she told me she was pregnant. I should have dug deeper. There was no happiness, just that hollow stare.”

“Don’t blame yourself, Corrine. Intolerance is to blame.” Doc began the procedure to repair any damage that had been done by the coat hanger Mary used to abort her fetus. “Geez, Mary, you really did a number on yourself. I don’t know how… uh-oh, no, no… she’s hemorrhaging. I can’t stop it. Quick, someone get some ice.” Sandra rushed back with a bowl of ice, but found only an empty and powerless silence. For all of their efforts, Mary had died.

“Goddamnit! This has got to stop!” Doc Evans threw a blood soaked towel onto the floor.

“You did your best, Doc. That’s all we can do right now.” Corrine wiped Mary’s blood from her hands.

Dick finished a silent prayer over Mary’s body and with a scary determination said, “No, no, it’s not. It can’t be. This has become an unacknowledged epidemic. Nowhere in the bible does it say that women should not have control over their reproductive rights. This is State sanctioned murder.” Dick was done.

“So, what do you want to do?” Doc stood tired and beaten.

“Our group is made up of Baptist, Episcopal, Jewish, Lutheran, Methodist and Presbyterian brethren. I say we band together and push for legalized abortion.

“Whoa, that would expose all of us. Are we ready for that?” Sister Mary Corrine didn’t know if that would work for her.

“For all of our faith filled efforts, for all of our prayers, this particular social condition is not going to go away. It’s much deeper than preaching to just “have faith.” Women are suffering at the hands of an unjust patriarchal system where they have never been recognized as much more than second class citizens.”

“Calm down, Dicky. There’s nothing more we can do tonight.” Sandra slipped her arm around the good Reverend to comfort him.

“Let me think on it. Right now, I have to call the Coroner.” Doc Evans waned. It was a never ending cycle. Sure, they could all walk away from it. They could take the stance the majority had taken that these women were sinners. They were loose, or crazy, or just plain stupid for getting themselves into the situation in the first place. But, it wouldn’t change a thing.  Abortions would continue, performed by hacks looking to make a quick buck or executed by the women themselves. It was a damn mess.

As the four waited for the Coroner’s arrival, Sister Corrine decided it would be best if she wasn’t there when they came to remove Mary’s body. She knew that this would never be sanctioned by the Church, especially because she was a nun. Corrine had a heavy decision ahead.  Was she a nurse or a nun first? The blood of all of these women plagued her. Their suffering, both mental and physical, was real and no one… no one was paying any attention to their pain.

“We’ll see you later?” Sandra smiled.

“Yeah… later.”  Corrine closed the door behind her engulfed in deep thought.

The Coroner finally arrived along with the police. “Reverend, I’m Detective Marty Bennet. You want to tell me what happened here?” The detective was smug as he sauntered over to Dick.

“Yes, Detective. The deceased is Mary Robinson. She is a parishioner of mine. Doctor Evans will confirm that she performed an abortion on herself and came to me for help.”

“You.  Why’d she come to you?  Why not her husband?”

“Well, I guess because I’m her pastor. Look, it’s a sensitive issue and I don’t think her husband knew she was even pregnant, so can you take it easy until we can break the news to him?”

“You called him?  He’s on his way?”

“Not yet. We wanted to wait until you got here. I’ll do that now.” Dick walked away feeling a little vulnerable.

“Is that right, Doctor?  Mrs. Robinson did an abortion on herself?” The cop had a toothpick in his mouth that he rolled from one side to the other as he waited for answers.

“Unfortunately, that is true.” Doc replied.

“It’s against the law. Abortion. It’s against the law. Why didn’t you call the police right away?”

Doc was just tired enough and just angry enough to let his belligerence show. “Because, Detective, she was bleeding to death. There wasn’t time and my oath is to save the patient not call the law.”

“Don’t go anywhere. I may have some more questions.”  The detective strolled away to further investigate the scene.

Dick whispered to Doc. “He’s a bit distrustful. What do you think he’s up to?”

“I don’t know. Did you call Terry Robinson?”

“Yeah. He’s on his way over.”

Just as the Coroner was hoisting Mary’s body onto the gurney, Mr. Robinson came rushing through the open door. “Pastor, what’s going on?  You said something about Mary? Oh, lord, is that her? Oh, lord. Mary? Oh, god, is she dead?”

“Here, come over here, Terry. Sandy, help me.”

“Terry, please. Come away from here. Come into the kitchen with us and let us tell you what happened.” Sandra gently maneuvered him to the kitchen and away from the bloody scene.

“Mr. Robinson, um… Terry, my name is Doctor Darryl Evans. I was called here by Pastor White. It seems your wife took it upon herself to perform her own abortion. It was crudely done and she hit the uterine artery and by the time I got to her there was nothing I could do to save her. I’m… I’m so very sorry.”

“A… a what?  An abortion… Mary wasn’t pregnant. Was she?”

“She was, Terry. She just hadn’t told you yet.” Sandra spoke the words so softly.

The peace was broken when Terry jumped up from the table. “That bitch! That thankless bitch! I gave her everything. She wanted for nothing and she kills our child?  She kills herself?  I can’t do this. I can’t do this right now.” As Terry raced toward the door, Dick tried to stop him in order to calm him down. Terry turned on him and punched him in the face. “What did you say to her? Did you tell her to do this? Mary wouldn’t have done this on her own. Is that why she came to you and not me?”

Doc helped Dick to his feet. “Terry, why would you think that?”

“Because. I know what you all do. We all know what you all do. Leave me… uh… leave me be.”  With that, Terry ran out the back door.

“Why didn’t you hold him here? I still have questions for him.” Detective Bennet stood at the edge of the kitchen.

“Really? Did you see what happened here? There was no stopping him and he’s grief stricken.” Dick was holding his bleeding nose over the sink.

“What’d he mean when he said that he knew what you all did?”

“I don’t know. He’s delirious right now.” Doc stepped up.

“Don’t worry. I’ll find out. It always comes out.” Detective Bennet strolled away.

After the Coroner and the police left, Doc, Sandra and Dick sat around the kitchen table.  “Hey, Rev. You have something a little stronger than coffee?” Doc Evans was spent.

“Yeah, Sandy, me, too, please?”

“Don’t worry fellas, me three.” Sandy pulled a bottle of whiskey out of the cupboard.

“Doc, now don’t go petering out on me at this stage of the game. I can’t do this without your help.”

“No. If it weren’t for the pictures of all of the girls and women who have died from hacked abortions embedded in my mind, I’d be out o’ here. But I can’t. So, I’m in. That Detective is suspicious about us, though.”

“He is, isn’t he? Well, one thing is for sure. We need another place for women to go for counseling and their surgeries. I think my parsonage is a hot spot for police to be watching us.”

“How much do we have in donations right now?”

“I don’t know. Sandy, do you know?” Dick and Sandra were a good team.

“Of course. We have around $2300. Is that enough to rent a place?”

“It is. But that’s just a start. We’re going to have to work harder to form a coalition with the others. Ours can be the first underground clinic and they can refer patients to us.”

“How many ministers and rabbis are we linked into right now?” Doc questioned.

“Around 500 on the East Coast. There are others forming across the rest of the country, especially in California. We could become a strong national group. You know, I believe this Detective Bennet is going to try to mess with us, but he may not realize how many cops will look the other way. Too many of them have seen what we see, and some have had to use the connections we have.” Dick wondered about his new calling sometimes, but those doubts all fell away when another woman was saved.

“Okay, then. Tomorrow we look for a place for the clinic.” Dick raised his glass. “To finally giving women value.” The three clinked their glasses, drank and went to bed hoping for a more just future.

In the months to come, Dick White and Doctor Evans found a small house they rented for a minimal cost. Women came by the hundreds within the first couple weeks. The stories ranged from those of women being raped, to young girls as young as twelve being molested and raped by a family member, to women like Mary Robinson, who just didn’t have the wherewithal, mentally or physically to have another child.

Detective Bennet had taken to planting himself outside the parsonage. Sandra tried to ignore the fact that he was there, and Dick made calls from his office in the church. They suspected that their home phone had been bugged. But, not all people were aware of the new clinic and one evening a black mother and her twelve year old daughter knocked on the parsonage door.

“May I help you?” Sandra asked.

“Please, please. Someone told me that you and your husband could maybe help us. May we come in?”

Sandra glanced around only to see Detective Bennet’s car parked conspicuously down the street. She took a deep breath and said, “Yes, of course. Come in.”

“Thank you. We are desperate and I didn’t know where else to turn. I mean, I could have tried to do something myself, but…”

“No, don’t. Perish the thought. Let me get my husband and you can tell us all about your situation.”

When Dick joined them in the kitchen, Sandra had already made coffee and sandwiches. “I’m sorry, I didn’t get your name.”

“Well, um, is it okay for us to tell you that?” The mother was distraught.

“Here, with us, you have nothing to fear.” Sandra smiled.

“Well, okay. Um… my name is Sarah and this is my daughter Latrice. About six weeks ago, Latrice was walking home from school when a man jumped her. He dragged her into a garage and beat her and raped her and left her for dead. She was barely alive when I finally found her and got her home. We didn’t want to draw attention to her shame, so I nursed her myself at home. She just went back to school a couple of weeks ago, but now… now, after all she has been through, she has missed a period. I think she might be pregnant.” Sarah’s eyes spilled tears as she finished her story.

“Sarah, listen to me. Latrice has nothing to be ashamed of.” Dick was always astonished when women perceived their sexual assaults as their shame. “She was attacked. This is not something that she brought upon herself.” A hard knocking at the front door startled them.

“I’ll get it.” Sandra volunteered. As she opened the door she realized who it was.  “Detective Bennet! What can I do for you?”

“I saw a colored lady and a girl come here. What do they want? You won’t mind if I come on in and ask them myself, now do you?” Bennet forced his way into the house.

“Detective Bennet. Would you like to join us for coffee and sandwiches?” Dick rounded the doorway into the foyer.

“Why, yes. Thanks. Don’t mind if I do.”

“Sarah and Latrice, this is Detective Marty Bennet. He has a purpose for visiting of that I’m sure, but, right now I don’t know what it is.” Dick laughed as he spoke.

“Well, I was just wondering why a colored lady and her daughter would be visiting you on this end of town, Reverend White. That’s all.”

“On this end of town?  Really, huh. Well, that’s easy. Latrice needs to be baptized by immersion in order for her to attend a Baptist retreat for young teens happening this weekend.  Her minister is gone on a mission trip and won’t be back for another month. So, they have asked me to do it.”

“This retreat, uh, they have coloreds and whites?”

“No, Detective.” Dick was annoyed. “It is a retreat sponsored by their own Baptist church.”

“You sure it’s not more like this little girl got herself into trouble and she and her mama come here to ask for your help?”

Sarah held her breath. Latrice’s eyes grew wide and then Sandra said, “Detective, I am going to ask you to leave our home. You can’t come here and insult our guests and consider yourself welcome. I’m asking you to please leave. Now!”  Sandra’s face was stern and Bennet knew when he was outgunned.

“Certainly. Sorry miss, ma’am. Mrs. White, thank you for your hospitality. Reverend.”  Bennet sauntered out in his normal irritating fashion.

As the front door closed and Dick came back into the kitchen, Sarah and Latrice breathed out a sigh of relief, “Do you think he knows, Reverend White? We don’t want to bring you any trouble.”

“Listen to me. You are not causing me trouble. This is my ministry to help girls and women in your daughter’s predicament. But, first, we should probably determine whether Latrice is pregnant. I’m going to give you the address of our clinic. If she does have to have an abortion, we charge $200. If you don’t have the money, that’s okay. We’ll work around it. Come to this address tomorrow morning.”

Sarah and Latrice’s eyes were so sad, but grateful. Everything that Latrice had been through was traumatic enough without having to worry about a pregnancy at twelve years old conceived from a vicious attack. The assault alone would stay with her for a very long time; one from which she may never recover.

The challenge which intensified by the day was the game played between Dick and Detective Bennet. The reverend had to leave his office from the back door and then walk to the clinic undetected. Doc Evans experienced similar surveillance episodes. His were even more daring since his generally involved meeting with the patient before going to the clinic.

All of their efforts were brought to a head when sixteen year old Juliet, who refused to give them her full name, walked through the doors of the clinic. She had been referred by Sister Corrine and despite Corinne’s urging to reveal her full identity, Juliet insisted on complete anonymity. “I can’t take the chance that my name will come out. You have no idea what this will do to my father. It has to be this way.”

“But, Juliet. This procedure for you is life threatening. Not only is the pregnancy ectopic, but you are a bleeder. I’m not going to lie to you. I could lose you on the table. Look, your pregnancy is ending on its own anyway. Let me put you in the hospital so that the proper resources will be available if complications set in. Don’t you want your mother, at least, to be with you?”

“No. No one must know what I did. I can’t… I can’t let them bear the shame and I won’t make trouble between my parents. This is my fault and my responsibility. Please, Doctor Evans, just do this for me. You are my only hope.”

“Alright.” Doc sighed and looked up to see Sandy rush into the office. “Oh, great, Sandy, you’re here. Will you prepare Juliet for the procedure. Juliet, I wish you would change your mind.”

Juliet dropped her head in defiance. Doc knew he needed to go forward despite his apprehensions. He turned to Sandy, “I need to be prepared for anything. Make sure we have lots of ice available in the room. I gotta tell you, Sandy. I don’t like this one at all.”

“Then don’t do it, Doc. And I don’t want to increase your anxiety, but Detective Bennet followed me here.”

“Well, damn it all anyway. The thing is, we don’t have time. She’s already starting to bleed hard. It needs to be done now.”

Meanwhile, Marty Bennet had already called for backup, intending to go in fully loaded.

Juliet’s procedure was underway. Everything seemed to be moving along according to medical protocol when a spurt of blood became a large flow of blood. Doc panicked. “Sandy, ice.  We need to clot the blood.”

In through the operating room door rammed Detective Bennet and his backup police force.  Doc yelled, “Get the hell out of here. I’m losing this child and you don’t belong here.”

“Juliet?  Juliet, what the… What’s my daughter doing on that table? What do you mean you’re losing her?” Marty Bennet was paralyzed. “What did you do to her?  You son-of-a-bitch!”

Doc and Sandra exchanged looks of shock as they continued to work on their patient amid Marty’s admonitions and the police holding him back. “Sandra, call an ambulance. I stopped the bleeding, but she needs a hospital. Exposure be hanged.”

An ambulance arrived and took Juliet away and the others followed her to the hospital.  Sitting, in the waiting room, Marty reflected in a sea of confusion.  Doc Evans pondered what he might have done differently. Sandra was joined by Sister Corrine and Dick. They were there for Marty, but he barely noticed. His little girl was near death and he hadn’t even known that anything was wrong.

“Did she, um, I mean, did she come to see you about this?” Marty wanted to understand.

Corrine sat down next to him. “Yes, sir. Juliet came to me yesterday when she started to spot. She already knew she was pregnant, but was unsure about what she was going to do. We talked it through and she wanted to see Doc Evans before making any kind of decision about an abortion. By that time, the bleeding had increased and Doc had to act.”

“I’m sorry, Detective. I tried to convince her to go to the hospital, but she didn’t want to disgrace you and your wife, and as the bleeding increased we didn’t have a choice.”

“Disgrace us? How could Juliet ever disgrace us? She is the sweetest child. We never would have felt ashamed of her. She could have come to us.” Marty began to cry.

Juliet Bennet died that day. Her parents lost their only child and the significance of her death and the deaths of thousands of others resounded through the churches and the synagogues, the courthouses and the Statehouses until Norma Leah McCorvey Nelson, also known as Jane Roe, lied about a pregnancy from a presumed rape in order to obtain an abortion.  Ironically, her lie of desperation resulted in the landmark decision by the Supreme Court declaring the ban on abortions was unconstitutional.

Reverend Richard White and his cohorts continued fighting for justice even after the 1973 Supreme Court decision, where they continued to fight for a woman’s right to choose. By the end, 1400 clergy and medical professionals all across the United States, had seen enough bloody carnage to know that choice was the only option for women who had already made up their minds to abort.  A woman’s decision, like her spiritual peace was for her alone to direct.

ILLEGAL – Chapter Three – Charlene the Queen of It

Three years had passed since the trial in Laredo.  For a while the Pena family feared retaliation for Rush’s testimony that convicted two white men for murder, but Laredo was now experiencing the sublimation of another evil; drug running.  Violence broke out on the streets on a regular basis.  Some folks moved away just to avoid the chance of getting caught between the bad guys and the good guys and sometimes it was hard to tell the difference.

By this time Rush was in high school.  He delighted in learning, so his high school experience was the best.  As for the label of being a rat, teens in Laredo loved the romance behind the legend.  Rush was a hero.  His outrageous way of always looking outside the box for answers became his signature; his shoes, his trademark.

This was his sophomore year.  He had waited for this year with wild anticipation because it was in this year of magnificent acquisition of knowledge Rush got to take Sociology. The Soc teacher had a reputation for unorthodox teaching methods and Rush was up for that. But, besides the teacher, he loved the world.  He loved different cultures and groups and organizations.  Appreciating each new experience outside of his own realm of experience only made him crave further adventures about the differences in people.

Room 108 bore a euphoric ambiance that reflected the unique characteristics of its inhabitant – Charlene Bogimill.  Rush stood at the entrance where he smelled incense burning. Huge posters of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Mahatma Gandhi, W.E.B. DuBois, and Mother Teresa hung in estimable repose.  The Chinese proverb, If you want one year of prosperity, grow grain; if you want ten years of prosperity, grow trees; if you want one hundred years of prosperity, grow people hung directly over Bogimill’s desk where Rush found her drawn intensely into work.  The sensation of awe was broken by a crackly, hoarse voice, “Speak it!”

“Excuse me, Ma’am?”  Rush was mesmerized.  He had never come into contact with such a person.  Her hair was wrapped in scarves.  She wore dangling earrings and a Mexican peasant blouse and a long skirt with sandals.

Undisturbed by Rush’s presence, Bogimill said, “Don’t just stand there.  Enter the abyss and state your purpose.”

“Yes, ma’am …”

Still unmoved she said, “Okay, let’s get one thing straight.  I am not anyone’s ma’am.  I’ve been called lots of things, but never warmed to ma’am, so cut it.”

“Sure, okay. Uh … well, I guess I’m going to be in your next period class, and well, I just wanted to introduce myself.  I’m Rush Pena.”

Bogimill slowly looked up from her work.  Over her reading glasses impeccably balanced on the end of her nose, she eyed the boy from top to bottom.  “Oh, so you’re the guy that took on the Alliance.  Bravo, fella, good show.  Welcome to my world.”

Rush felt the words of admiration wash over him.  It was better than winning his writing award.   He was so entranced by Bogimill’s eccentricities that he could hardly utter a word in response.

“Do you like sociology, Rush?”

“I do, so much.  I want to study social research.”

“See all those banker boxes against the wall?  Those are my babies.  All research projects.  If you want to work alongside me, I could use a good assistant.”

“Yes, I would like that very much.”  Rush could not believe what he was just invited to do.  This was his dream.

The shuffling of feet rustled in the hall and class was about to start, so he anxiously took a seat in the third row.  He did not want to appear to be the kid who sucked up to the teacher; Bogimill would hate that kid.

The regular crowd of high school students filled the classroom.  Prom queen destined cheerleader sat to his right, football jock in front of her, pimple faced math geek sat all the way to the back, but the person he was most interested in walked right over and sat down in front of him.  “Hey, Rush. Didn’t know you were in Bogimill’s class.  I’m glad.  Maybe we can study together.”

“Yeah, that sounds good.”  Holy crap, what a day this turned out to be.  I’m Bogimill’s research assistant, and my crush wants to be my study partner.  Janie Churchill was the typical girl-next-door.  She was blond, blue-eyed with a sweet personality.  Rush had known Janie his whole life it seemed, but really started to notice her last year.  She shed her braces and something changed.  She looked different somehow … a good different, but he couldn’t put his finger on it.  The ringing of the class bell interrupted.

“Okay, everyone.  Let’s settle down.  As most of you know, I’m Ms. Bogimill. Welcome to Sociology. I hope that you will learn much about the world around you and as C. Wright Mills nailed it, enhance your sociological imagination.  Today you are going to introduce yourselves to each other by describing your family ethnicity.  For example, let’s say your father is Native American and your mother is Irish.  Get my point?  Let’s start with, uh … yeah, Bradley Schmidt.”

Brad, the school’s up and coming star quarterback stood up next to his desk and wringing his shirt said, “Yeah, well, ah, I’m white and proud of it.”  Everyone broke out in laughter.  “Yeah, let’s see, uh, Dad’s side of the family is German and Mom’s is Irish.”

“Welcome, Brad.  White and proud of it?  What does that mean?”

“You know, it means we were here first.  It means we have more claims on this country.”

“Well, does anyone beg to differ with Brad?”

Rush raised his hand, “Whites were not the first people to inhabit the North American continent.  Before Europeans settled here, there were aborigines or what is more commonly known as Native American Indians throughout this country.  As the early Spanish explorers married Indians, they produced a biracial culture, especially in the Southwest, which was labeled Chicano in the 1960s.”

“So what?  You’re still nothin’ but a wetback Mexican who should go back to where you belong.  You’re a cockroach.  You’re no better than those kids who were killed by the Alliance.”

The cheerleader’s cell phone went off with, You’re darker than dark / You’re like bark, bark / On a tree, on a tree why you looking at me? /I want to kill you, kill you, kill you, cutting through the mounting tension.  Shaken by the outright racism and eyes wide with shock, Bogimill swung around in a sweeping circular fashion, pointed to the cell phone and in a shrill voice resounded, “Kill it!  Kill it!  Kill it, now!”   This type of bigoted banter unnerved her and she used the cell phone as an excuse to vent.  “Listen, in this class we will discuss many areas that might not agree with some of your own personal viewpoints.  That being said, I want you all to know that I expect you to treat one another with respect and dignity.”

The rest of the class seemed lackluster after the wild interaction between Brad and Rush, but ended on a good note for Rush because he and Bogimill were already planning a social project. Bogimill, who did not speak Spanish, was concerned for the undocumented immigrants who found it difficult to live in Laredo and along the border, particularly with vigilantes roaming all over.  Many Americans do not understand that because of the poverty that exists in Mexico, mostly attributed to the drug cartels, many Mexicans cross the border into the United States for shear survival.  The old insipidity that Mexicans come to the U. S. because they want a taste of “the American dream” is too simple, too ignorant to explain their migration to the States.  Making a living in Mexico is hard and until their government does something about the organized crime syndicates that commit murder on a daily basis more and more people will flee. Rush knew firsthand about the violence within Mexico and how it leaves many in fear of their lives, not just for the men, but for the women and children.  When they come singly, they find work and send the money back home to their families who are waiting for their return.  Their migration and their anticipated return to Mexico only becomes a problem when they marry in the United States and have children who then are citizens.

Bogimill’s hope was to start a food bank where anyone could come and get free food.  She especially needed Rush, not only for his bilingual talents, but he understood the dynamic of poverty.  He also could lend advice about Mexican cultural norms and folkways. Rush left school happy with that and the fact that Janie chose to sit in front of him.  Right now, life couldn’t get any better.

ILLEGAL – Chapter Two – The Trial

Rush stared at his watery reflection, obscured as it was by the white porcelain toilet with which he had recently become well acquainted.  Trial anxiety produced vomit. This morning he had to face the monsters; the killers passing themselves off as patriotic Americans; the animals who kill children because of a foolish belief in white supremacy.  Rush was sickened by the fear clenching his gut.  He had to testify against them, not just for Jorge, Maria, and Elena, but for the hundreds of other undocumented Mexican immigrants who find themselves faced with unspeakable cruelties.

The killings made front page news in Texas, and it provoked everything from political animus by international human rights groups to cheers from Ku Klux Klan members. Hate groups seemed to crawl out of the dirt to defend the actions of the mall cops on trial for the murder of fifteen year old Maria Gonzalez, et al, and Rush was the center of attention.  He was the brown boy who outsmarted two racists and lived to put them away.  His testimony cemented life in prison or maybe even the death penalty for two good-old-boys from South Texas.  Yes, indeed, it was a hot day in Laredo, boy.

“Rush.  Are you alright, my son?”  Papi stood over him as Rush wiped his face with a wet cloth one more time.

“Yeah, sure, Papi.  Just a little scared, you know.”

“Jose, you are an honorable young man.  You are a strong American standing up for the rights of other Americans.  Our freedom is a precious thing, and one day all of this will be history, just like slavery is history.  Only you will have the pride knowing you were one of many who did what was right for our people, and you did it the right way – through the American Justice System.”

“Papi, those men … they will be there.  They will see my face again.  What if they send others after me?”

“They cannot, Rush.  Not without bringing more bad publicity upon their Alliance.  They need to be very careful now.  Besides, Detective Jimenez said he will make sure you are watched and protected; even if he has to do it himself.”

This case, unknown to Alex Jimenez, the Pena family and well, all of Texas, was about to energize every hate group in the United States, specifically, the Blacks for Equal Rights Committee (BFERC).  This group had stayed out of sight, but put its support behind the Federation for Immigration Reform, or FAIR, a group that liked to promote itself as a value-free research commodity whose assistance was hired by government officials.  It was the BFERC that would fade into the background to commit unsolved crimes against people and organizations in Texas.  However, for now, FAIR chose to create an image of itself that merely stood up for conservative citizens.

Rush was just a boy trying to do the right thing.  He experienced and witnessed heinous injustices and wanted to tell his story.  He combed his straight black hair, straightened his tie, and even sacrificed wearing his hot red cross-trainers given to him as a gift by Alex after Rush won an award for an article he wrote about poverty in Texas.  He wanted to give his testimony credibility and unfortunately, those red shoes showed a slightly different side of Rush’s personality.

It was time.  Alex Jimenez, Papi Pena and Rush arrived at the courtroom together. All were nervous.  All felt the pressure of the media, spectators, and the perpetuated infusion of hatred towards Mexicans in the border town of Laredo, Texas.  The courtroom was filled with concerned citizens; some sincere and others menacing.  It was tense.  Something up to this point in his life was unidentifiable, and now it caused Rush great anxiety and that something was called racism.

He sat waiting to be called to testify, filled to the brim with apprehension.  The defendants spotted him in the gallery.  Lawrence “Jinx” Calhoun and Jackson Schuler glared at Rush.  Their intimidating tactics only challenged the young Mexican-American to exert the power he held over them.  He glared back with steely indignation … “the prosecution calls Jose Miguel Pena to the stand.”

Rush, defiant, broke eye contact with the defendants and found his way, shiny black dress shoes and all, to the witness stand.  “Do you solemnly swear in this cause now before the court to tell the truth the whole truth and nothing but the truth so help you God?”

“I do.”

“On the night of September 22, 1995, were you arrested by the defendants Lawrence Calhoun and Jackson Schuler at the Laredo Mall?”

“Yes, sir.”

“For what exactly were you arrested?”

“I hid in the shoe store, The Footlocker, in order to steal some shoes.”

“For the record, have you been granted leniency by the court in exchange for your testimony today?”


“Could you please tell the Court what happened after you were apprehended at the Footlocker?”

“Mr. Calhoun handcuffed my hands behind my back.  He called Mr. Schuler on the walkie-talkie to join him.  Together they took me to an unmarked car and  threw me into the backseat … violently.”

“Objection, your Honor. I doubt if the defendants violently threw the witness anywhere.”

The judge looked narrowly at Rush.  “Sustained.  The witness will refrain from embellishing his story with unnecessary verbiage.”

“But, your Honor, these are the facts the way the witness experienced them.”  The prosecutor was a young attorney.  It was obvious that this trial weighed heavily on him, yet, if he was frightened, it didn’t show.

“No matter.  Continue, without embellishment.”  The judge was pandering to the press.  He did not want a riot in his courtroom and his only defense was to temper the testimony.

The prosecution resumed.  “Where did they take you?”

“The drive was a long way.  I was in the car for about forty-five minutes and when we got there, they took me into a barn all falling apart.  They unlocked a horse stall that had bars all around it and threw me in with another boy.”

“What did they say to you at this point?”

“Um, something like they were going to send me back where I belong and they accused me of murdering and stealing.”

“Did they ask you if you were an American citizen?”

“No, that never came up.”

“Were there others in the barn with you?”

“Yes, in the stall with me was a boy who told me his name was Jorge. He didn’t give me any other name.  In another stall, at the other end of the barn were two girls.  One’s name was Elena, and the other Maria.”

“How old would you say these children were?”

“Jorge was about my age, but the girls were a little older.”

“Were these children undocumented immigrants that you know of?”

“I don’t think that Jorge and Elena were documented, but Maria was an American citizen.”

“Jose, how could you know this?”

“Well, Jorge spoke only Spanish and so did Elena, but when Maria screamed as they were beating her, she spoke in English.”

“Hmmm, they were beating her, you say?”

“Objection, your honor, just because Maria spoke English does not mean she was an American.”


The young prosecutor raised an eyebrow, sighed and turned to Rush.  “Jose, how exactly do you know that Maria was a United States citizen?”

“Yes, sir. I … I know because as they were beating her,” Rush gritted his teeth in anger and tried to hold back tears, “she screamed at them that she was an American.”

“What did the defendants do after hearing that she was an American?”

“Nothing.  They ignored her as if she had said nothing to them.  They just kept beating her, and she screamed and Elena screamed, and we were all so scared.”  Rush’s voice cracked and tears rolled down his face.

“Do you want to take a break, Jose’?”

“No.  Please, let’s get this over with.”  Rush wiped his face with his sleeve.  “The two men left.”

“You mean the defendants.”

“Yes, the defendants left.  Elena told Jorge that Maria was beaten very bad and that she was worried she could die.  Jorge and I started digging the dirt out under the barn walls. He had already started it, so between the two of us we were able to dig a hole deep enough for us to squeeze through.”

“Where were the men while you were digging the hole?”

“They were drinking. I could hear them yelling things, and talking about how drunk they were getting, and how Jorge and I were next.”

“What happened next?”

“We squeezed through the hole and started running.  The defendants, um … chased after us firing their rifles at us.  All of a sudden Jorge fell to the ground.  I couldn’t stop running … I was so scared.  Then I heard two more gunshots.”

“Where did you go?”

“I found a tree to climb.  My brothers and I use to make a contest out of who could climb a tree the fastest and … well, I climbed a tree and hid in the branches.”

“What happened to the defendants?”

“They tried to find me, but couldn’t, so they got back into their car and drove away.  When I knew they were gone for sure, I hiked to the road and bummed a ride into town.”

“No further questions for this witness, your Honor.”

“Very well.  It’s almost lunch time. Let’s recess until 1:00 where cross examination of this witness will commence by the Defense.”

“All rise.”  As the judge and jury left the courtroom, Rush stepped down from the witness box.

Jinx Calhoun walked away, but Jackson Schuler broke away from the Marshals. He grabbed Rush by one arm.  “You little wetback!  You ain’t pumpin’ us full a poison.  Better watch yo’sef, boy!  You ain’t near as protected as ya think.”

The Marshals regained control of the defendant, but the attack on Rush acted as a contagion to send members of several hate groups sitting in the gallery into delirium.  One woman lunged at Alex while he shielded Rush from the descending herd of hate filled factions that would soon become a constant presence in Laredo as well as other Mexican border towns.

After Rush’s testimony, the circus at the courthouse lasted another week.  The trial finally came to a conclusion where the defendants were found guilty, and sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole in thirty years.  After four weeks of insane protests in the streets of Laredo from all sorts of human rights groups, immigration reform groups, Mexican-American rights groups, and of course, the Alliance Against Illegal Immigration, a twelve year old boy, by the name of Jose “Rush” Pena remained the center of the controversy. His family received threatening phone calls, hate mail, and their house was spray painted with graffiti renouncing the Pena family as American citizens. All of this, not to mention the endless stream of media coverage which haunted the Pena’s everywhere they went, affected Rush in ways even he did not recognize.  It sealed his future, but not in the way one might think.

On the day of sentencing, Rush wanted to be in the courtroom.  Against the advice of Alex and the prosecuting attorney, he planted himself directly behind the prosecution’s table.  As the sentence was delivered, Calhoun and Schuler looked at Rush, and Schuler said, “No matta’ whea’ ya go … you dead, boy.”

The Marshals pushed the murderers toward the exit, but Rush could feel their burning hatred.  From that point on, Rush’s life took on a new purpose which was searching for and practicing social justice.  Forever branded you dead, boy into his brain, he remained conscious of killers lurking behind him.

ILLEGAL – Chapter One – The Birth of an Identity

Lacing up his shoes; bringing down the house, Jose Pena tracked through the world of despair and hopelessness to leave a little truth and righteousness.  After the trouble, his academic career soared, but during those difficult times he thought himself to be a coward because he was not allowed to participate in the prevention and exposure of the heinous acts of violence set upon his family and friends.  He was too recognizable, too much of a target.  But after, he showed no mercy to those who made their life hell.  Those unknown kidnappings, rapes, murders, and acts of oppression came out and appropriate culpability identified.  What he accomplished, was the rooting out and exposure of hate groups all over the United States through his research.

This was the plan for his life and he knew that he would be successful in his efforts to right the social injustice around him. He was an academician and proud of it. Yes, he was a little eccentric.  But, that was all part of his charm, and Janie kept him grounded.  Thank god for Janie.  They were a team, and their children were definite reflections of the team in every way imaginable.

Jose “Rush” Pena was grateful for the acts of kindness shown him as a child and later this assisted in obtaining his coveted scholarships to Harvard.  As immigrants from Mexico, his parents only hoped for the chance to feed and clothe their children.  School was a happy byproduct of the American dream. His mind was always active, always looking at the conditions surrounding him and his family and neighbors, especially recognizing the inequalities because of the color of their skin.  Brown was a common skin tone in his hometown, but the people in power were white.  Their progeny were never taught the ideology of inclusive equality among all Americans, and it was easier to implement business as usual.  Mexicans were accused of crimes, stopped on the street for no reason, held back for employment promotions, and treated like second class citizens in school.  These were all injustices that Rush vowed to abolish when he could.  This oath was strengthened when he and his family endured brutal prejudice and the heartbreak of violence.

There was a span of time, from his age twelve to around nineteen, that Rush and his family suffered the most hateful acts Mexican-American immigrants and undocumented immigrants bear at the hands of vigilantes and bigoted hate groups.  In addition, the drug cartels from Mexico had a profound effect upon border town communities.  This trifecta created violent living conditions and increased poverty and despair.  Even though a common belief was that hate groups dominated the Southern states, Rush discovered that many of these prejudices prowled all over the United States and were not confined just to his part of the country.

His neighborhood was in the Mexican community of Laredo, Texas; a border town affected by the drug trade.  They lived and loved together and celebrations were a clear celebration of the Mexican identity.  The neighborhood Catholic Church was led by a Hispanic priest so all of the baptisms, weddings and sacraments were celebrated Mexican and the quinceanera was incorporated into the church landscape as if it were a sacrament originated by Jesus himself.  Our Lady of Guadalupe was its patron so her prominent image was present in most Mexican-American homes.

Rush’s most peculiar characteristic was his sense of style.  He loved the color red; like a red hot chili pepper.  Red tennis shoes, jogging shoes, running shoes, were his trademark, and oh, who cared, he loved them.  Owning seven pairs of various styles and brands, he jazzed through high school, college, and graduate school in his hot, red shoes.  Even when money was short, Rush found a way to buy his shoes.  Nothing, not anything could stop his soul’s eruption; a signal that a brilliant comet had arrived on the scene.

This mission to clarify his identity was what got him into trouble in the first place. It was this constant hustle to distinguish his essence that christened Jose Miguel Pena with the simple but appropriate name of Rush.  The development of his persona began after an encounter brought about by his own impatience.  He was twelve years old.  In the mall, the Footlocker had the juiciest, reddest, cross-trainers Rush had ever seen, and that lightning bolt appliqué on the side just sweetened the deal.  He yearned to own such a unique label of his bold and powerful personality.

The problem was they were $89.95 and a poor, twelve year old Mexican immigrant didn’t have that kind of money.  Selling blankets, his mama still worked a stand in Mercado Maclovia Herrera in Nuevo Laredo, and his father found work in Laredo as a janitor.  They managed to make ends meet without financial help from their children, and they were proud of that, and so was Rush.  He never felt denied anything, except when it came to his shoes.

He waited outside the Footlocker in the mall until near closing.  About five minutes before, Rush walked in checking the inventory out like a regular customer.  The clerks were already busy with counting down the cash drawer and cleaning the store for lights out. Rush found a way to slip into the stockroom and hide behind a stack of boxes.  When the lights went out and the store was locked for the night, he stumbled out of the back room, walking into counters and knocking over displays.  Man, its pitch black in here.  Didn’t think this through real well, now did I?   A startling oot-oot-oot pierced the unnerving darkness.  Footlocker had a motion detector.  Before Rush could think about an escape plan, the doors sprang open and two mall cops were all over him.  As he was dragged out of the store, he took one more longing glance at the red hot, hot-tottiest shoes he had ever seen.

Rush imagined his mama and papi; so ashamed of their middle son.  The mall cops put him in an unmarked car amid attempted explanations and pleas for reprieve.  The jig was up and Rush felt stupid.  His parents, man, oh, man – his parents were going to kill him.  It seemed like they drove forever before reaching their destination.  They pulled into a deserted stretch of land where the only building seen was a decrepit barn leaning in the moonlight.

The fake cops pulled him out of the car.  “Come on you illegal brat.  We’re gonna send you back where ya belong.  Can’t be here in our country, stealin’ and murderin’.”

“Hey, man. I’m not illegal; get your hands off of me.”  The cops threw Rush into a horse stall that was now a jail with bars and a lock, and one of them spit his direction.  Rush turned to see another boy around his age in the stall with him.  “My name is Rush.”

The boy spoke to him in Spanish. “My name is Jorge.  You speak English.  Are you from Mexico?”

Rush responded in Spanish.  “My papi and mama are from Mexico, but they immigrated to the States before I was born.  I am an American citizen.”

“Oh, this is not good.  You need to get out of here.  These men are very bad.  My parents sent my sister and me across the border to get away from the killing, and you know, the kidnappings in our town and we met our cousin, who was waiting for us and who is American.  These guys caught us and brought all of us here.”  As Jorge spoke, a girl’s blood curdling scream came from the other side of the barn.

“No, don’t, don’t do this. I am an American.  You have made a terrible mistake.” There was a struggle and screaming and the sound of clothes ripping and flying fists punching and slapping against human flesh.  The girls’ screams were chilling and desperate.  The beatings went on and on.  During this insanity, a girl shrieked in Spanish.  “Stop, stop it. She is not illegal.”  The cries and screams of both girls were deafening, but they dissipated into the barren, rural air heard by no one of consequence.

Rush sat frightened and stunned while Jorge shouted threats and obscenities until there was silence.  The men left and muffled sobs could be heard from the unseen girls.  Jorge called out, “Elena, are you alright? Are you conscious?”

“Yes, but I think Maria is not and she is so bad she might die.  Oh, god, she is not conscious … Jorge, you must help us.”

The men were outside the barn drinking.  Jorge knew that any minute they would return to inflict their misguided, drunken wrath on them.  He had to work fast.  As anger flared in Jorge’s eyes, he began to dig in the corner of the stall where he had already started a tunnel under the barn.  Rush, adrenaline pumping, scrambled to help him and together they managed to dig a hole big enough to squeeze through.  Tearing skin and snagging clothing as they wriggled under the rough barn boards, they crammed themselves one at a time through the small opening.  The boys ran as fast as they could and gained only the length of a city block ahead of heavy running footsteps behind them.  A gunshot echoed loud and threatening in the black night.  Jorge’s fleeing body dropped.  Rush surged on frightened as he ducked into a wooded area.  He wanted to turn around to help Jorge, but he couldn’t.  They needed help.  As he ran, he listened for the sound of those heavy running footsteps behind him, but instead two more shots rang out; then silence.  Rush’s heart hammered against his chest as he gasped for breath.  Terror engulfed him.  Blood pumped through his eardrums, but not far away he heard the voices of the two men.  Frantic, Rush found a tree to climb.  High into the atmosphere she cradled him in the sanctuary of her leafy bosom.  He prayed that she would keep him safe from the savage men still looking for him. Down below, the men came closer.  He held his breath and froze.

“Little bastard can really run.  No matter, the Alliance will catch up to him.  Let’s go.  I’m tired and hungry.”  They walked away sporting shotguns over their shoulders as if they were merely hunting coyotes.

There, nestled in the tree’s branches, Rush found asylum until he was certain the beasts chasing after him got into their car and drove far away.  He was hesitant to leave the security of the tree, but he forced himself to work through the fear and somehow climbed down and started his hike to the nearest road in order to report the murder of his new friend.  The brambles of the woods clawed at his ankles and the anxiety he felt labored his breathing.  It seemed he would never reach his destination, and after what seemed like hours, the two lane highway trekked by the fake cops on the way to his confinement appeared.  A truck came rumbling by and stopped when Rush flagged it down.  The driver was a young Latina, a reassuring sight after his visit to hell.

“Hey, Niño.  Aren’t you a little young to be out here so late?  Can I give you a ride somewhere?”  Rush looked straight through the woman and before he could speak, passed out on the side of the road.  When he came around, the woman was holding him and patting his face.

In shock, Rush tried to speak. “I’m sorry.  It’s awful.  We, we were chased by cops and they shot and killed Jorge and … help me, please.”

“That’s okay, Niño.  Maybe the best thing is to get you to a police station.  My name is Lupe, by the way.  Come on; upsidaisy.”  Lupe struggled to help Rush to his feet, but once in the truck he was able to tell her everything that happened.  After a while, Lupe picked up where Rush left off.  The burden of conversation was too much for him, so her incessant talking proved to be a pacifier.  He was lulled into a state of sweet boredom by her even Texan cadence.

At the police station, Rush sat bewildered.  He needed to tell them about the murderous jack asses, but did he have to admit his guilt in an attempt to steal those shoes?  As his chin hugged his chest, he knew that not only his parents, but his brothers would be so disappointed in him.

The door flung open to the interrogation room.  In walked a tall Latino man.  His demeanor was bold but calm.  “Hello, Jose. My name is Alex Jimenez.  I’m a detective with the Laredo PD.  You want to tell me about these murders?”

“I, I still can’t believe it happened.”  Rush told the detective everything about his capture, and about the shoe store and how the mall cops put him into an unmarked car and drove him out to that horror-filled prison.

“Boy, you were caught in a shoe store?  Why?  There was no money there, so what did you want from that store?”  Detective Jimenez loomed over Rush like God himself.  He was an intimidating man, but Rush believed that there was concern in his voice not blame.

“Shoes.  There’s this cool pair of red shoes with a lightning bolt on the side.  I just wanted them so bad and, well, I have no money.”  Rush did not look at the man standing beside him.  He was too embarrassed.  All he could think was that he was a Mexican thief.  Was he a murderer, too, just like those brutes?  But, what was most important was what happened out there in that desolate place under the moonlight.  “The shoes don’t matter anymore.  What matters is what those men did to those kids.  The boy’s name was Jorge, and the girls were Elena and Maria.  I don’t know anything more about them, but I can take you there.  The men said that something called the Alliance would find me.  Can they do that?  Can they hunt me down like that?”

“Slow down, Jose.  You are safe.  Are you sure they said the Alliance?”

“Yes, I’m sure.  I don’t think I will ever forget it.  What is the Alliance?”

“It’s an organization we have been tracking for a while now.  The full name is the Alliance Against Illegal Immigration, but what it really is, is a license to kill.”

Rush felt sick to his stomach.  After everything he had witnessed he still was just another Latino kid destined to be seen as a thief.  Stereotypes were to be avoided and he stepped right into a big one.  There was no room for childish mistakes in judgment.  Perceptions of Mexicans were unfair, and now he would be seen as lazy, not working for anything, and taking whatever he wanted.

“Really … red shoes.  Why?”  Alex scoured the boy’s expression realizing that there was more to this act of thievery than sheer greed.

“Look, are my parents coming?  They are going to be so mad at me.  I have never done anything like this before.  I, I don’t know what to say.”

“I’m sorry is a good start.”

“Yeah, okay.  I am sorry.  I don’t know what came over me.  Those shoes just called to me.”

“Why?  Why outrageous red shoes?  Some might think they are ugly.”

“No, man.  They are flashy and cool.  They make me want to go fast, run through life, you know?”   As he spoke, his parents burst through the door.

“Rush!  Are you alright?  It’s no wonder you weren’t killed, too.  What did you do?”   Mama Pena was shaken.  She had been wringing a hankie with one hand and holding her rosary in the other.

“Rush!  This is not the way of the Pena family.  You are an American citizen and you must be grateful for your freedom.  You have a responsibility to our culture.  What were you thinking, Nino?”  Miguel Pena was a stout man, and a righteous one.  He raised his children with calm and firmness and always included honor as part of the lesson.

“Mr. and Mrs. Pena, my name is Alex Jimenez.  I am a detective with the Laredo Police Department.”

“It is a pleasure to meet you, but I’m so sorry for the circumstances.  Rush is a good boy.  This is not like him at all.  And see what came from this?  Estupido!”  Rush’s father was mortified to the core.  His face was sullen, but he was upset by the thought that his son could have fallen prey to such horrific acts of terror used against undocumented immigrants.

“Let me tell you what is going to happen.  An attorney is going to be appointed on your son’s behalf.  Since it is his first offense, he most likely will be placed on probation.  More importantly, we want to nail the mall cops for the murder of those children.  If what Rush says is correct, one of the girls was an American citizen.  The other two were for sure murdered, and the men will face charges for that, but the case is strengthened if the one girl was American.  Then we can really go after them for murder here in Texas.  The only thing is that Rush must testify to what happened tonight.  Can you do that Rush?”  Rush nodded his head up and down furiously.  “As for the charges that will be levied against him for the attempted theft at the mall, I think Rush’s attorney can get the county prosecutor to drop them in exchange for his testimony.  Do you have any questions?”

“Wait.  Did you find the bodies?   Are they really dead?”   Rush wanted confirmation.

“As soon as you were brought in, the young woman who found you gave the police directions to where she picked you up and it was easy to find the barn you described.  It is the only structure for miles around – a good place for the Alliance to hand out their sanctimonious form of justice.”  Alex swallowed hard.  “I am sorry, Jose. The children were found dead.”

Rush felt sick and he now appreciated the enormity of the position he had been in and what could have happened but didn’t. “Did you find those cops?  They will come after me and kill me, too.  Did you find them … are they locked up?”

“We did find them, but let’s make one thing clear.  Those men are not cops, but sick, perverted bigots.  They were in a bar drinking and bragging about how they stopped three more illegals from entering the country.  Rush, those sonsa’ bitches are locked up away from decent people.  Now, it is your responsibility to put them away permanently with your testimony. Will you do it?”

Blood raced through Rush’s veins causing his head to pound with rage for the loss of three innocent children.  In other circumstances, they might have been his good friends. They might have laughed and shared stories and played games.  But, their lives were snuffed out – just like that.  He didn’t know them well, but he knew them well enough to conclude they didn’t deserve to die at the hands of those animals.  In a cold and determined voice Rush replied, “Yes, I will testify.”

“When does he have to go to court for his mistake?”  Mr. Pena’s voice was stern.

“They haven’t set an exact time, but within the next few days.  Since Rush has agreed to testify against those men, his appearance before a judge will be short and he won’t be incarcerated.  You can take him home after his initial appearance.  Mr. and Mrs. Pena, can I have a word with him alone?”

“Of course.”  Rush’s mother and father left the room feeling the burden placed upon their shoulders by a son they did not understand.

After they left, Alex said, “Rush?  Where did you get that name?”

“My mama always says that I am in such a rush to get places and to understand everything.  I guess I don’t stand still very much, so the nickname stuck.”

“Oh, I see. Well, Rush, can I call you that?”  Rush nodded.  “What do you think about all of this?”

“I want to make it up to my family.  This is not something that I ever thought about doing.  I’ve seen others in my neighborhood steal, but that was to survive.  Sometimes the old people will boost tomatoes from the market, or some fruit.  There are others who make a living from stealing, but those are gangs.  I’m not into that.”

“No one has ever asked you to join a gang?”

“Sure, plenty of times.  I try to stay away from their street corners.  Books are my thing.  I love to read about other cultures, other places.  I see how Latinos are treated.  It’s unfair. We just want a better life in America.  Someday, I am going to make a difference for people.”

“Yeah?  How do you think you can do that?”  Alex was starting to like him. Rush’s confidence in himself was inspiring and Alex could see why no one called him Jose.

Rush’s inner energy exploded.  “I don’t know.  I haven’t figured that out yet.  But I will.  It’s out there, somewhere.”  His face looked tired from the ordeal.  One he never expected to experience in his life, and one he never wanted to experience again.  He could not get the saying his grandmother used around the Day of the Dead out of his head, “Se me subió el muerto,” or, “the deceased climbed on me” (they really scared me).

Reviews and original press release for DEATHLINKS

Deathlinks cover


Deathlinks, Revised Edition, by E. M. Duesel now available on

Fort Wayne, IN (August 18, 2017) –Deathlinks, the revised edition, by E. M. Duesel, is now available for purchase by Kindle Direct Publishing on  The revised book (KDP, $19.95) captures life as the world must face the approaching Apocalypse.  It addresses the purpose of living, the sixth sense as a gift from the Creator, and a deeper perspective of predestined relationships and reincarnation.

Deathlinks has been reviewed as “ … a good EOTW thriller, one wrought with real-life apocalyptic horrors that can actually happen, to anyone at any time …” and “E. M. Duesel has conjured up a true winner.”