Read Without Mercy Online

Authors: Jefferson Bass

Without Mercy (8 page)

BOOK: Without Mercy
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“Swell guy,” Miranda said dryly. “Thank God he's a lousy shot.”

“Wish he'd been lousier. That wasn't his first run-in with the law,” Laurie went on. She clicked a key on the laptop, and the image changed to a young, vigorous version of Miller, in what I guessed to be his thirties. In this photo, he wore what appeared to be a military uniform: green camo fatigues, a dark green beret adorned with a cross, and a patch on his left shoulder that I recognized as the Confederate flag. “Miller was a Green Beret who did two tours of duty in Vietnam. Shortly after Vietnam, he turned radical racist. He founded a KKK chapter in North Carolina in 1980, the Carolina Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, which morphed into the White Patriot Party. He formed a paramilitary group—he
looks
like a guerrilla leader, don't you think?—and mailed out five thousand copies of what he called his Declaration of War.”

“War against whom?” I asked.

“Well, let's just see,” she said, and clicked another key. Lines of typewritten words filled the screen, enlarged so that the words were six inches high. “I declare war against Niggers, Jews, Queers, assorted Mongrels, White Race traitors, and despicable informants,” one sentence read. The red dot of a laser pointer squiggled across the phrase “White Race traitors.”
Laurie explained that the phrase could mean anyone who didn't share Miller's white-supremacist views. “One of the white race traitors he mentioned by name was Morris Dees.”

“Morris Dees?” said Miranda. “Your organization's president?”

Laurie nodded. “Morris was on a hit list of liberals and civil rights leaders targeted for assassination. Miller assigned points to each target. Politicians and judges were worth fifty points apiece. ‘Prominent Jews' were worth twenty-five points. Blacks were worth one point.”

Appalling though the scheme was, I had to admit I found it intriguing. “And how much was your boss worth?”

She smiled slightly. “Morris was the jackpot. Killing Morris was worth 888 points to Glenn Miller.”

“Wowzer,” said Miranda. “Playing for keeps.”

“No kidding,” said Laurie. “His Declaration of War went on to say, ‘Let the blood of our enemies flood the streets, rivers, and fields of the nation, in Holy vengeance and justice.' Ten days after he mailed out his manifesto, he was arrested for violating parole. The U.S. marshals who caught him found a cache of dynamite, C-4 plastic explosive, twenty pipe bombs, sawed-off shotguns, pistols, machine guns, and a thousand pounds of ammunition.”

Miranda gave a low whistle of amazement. “Holy hand grenades, Batman.”

“Oh, right,” said Laurie. “I forgot—a bunch of grenades, too.” She drew a deep breath and then blew it out, as if to clear something foul from her lungs or her soul. “I had a point in bringing all this up. What were we talking about before I went off on this Glenn Miller detour?”

It took me a moment to recall. “Oh, motivation for our murder case. Race? Religion? Sexual orientation?”

“Right, right. So Miller's an interesting case. He spews all this white-supremacy venom—calls black people ‘bubble-lipped, blue-gummed niggers' and suchlike—but back in the eighties, around the time he sent out his Declaration of War on blacks and homosexuals, we hear tell Miller was picked up by the cops in Raleigh, North Carolina. Rumor is, Miller was in the backseat of his car with a prostitute—a black man in women's clothing.”

“Holy hypocrisy,” said Miranda.

Laurie laughed. “You think? Miller claimed he lured the prostitute into the car for a beating, but that didn't appear to be what was happening on the upholstery.”

“So,” I mused, “he wanted a taste of forbidden fruit?”


Über
forbidden,” said Miranda. “Like, forbidden to the second or third power—not just an African American, but a male African American. In drag. That's some world-class sinning, by his standards.” Her brow furrowed slightly. “So all this vitriol is just overcompensation for his own dark, forbidden desires?”

Laurie shrugged. “We'll never know. Hell, maybe Miller himself doesn't even know. Guys like him don't strike me as particularly self-aware, you know?”

Miranda made a face. “So Miller's on death row for shooting Christians he mistook for Jews. Any of his fine, upstanding friends look capable of this?”

Laurie frowned. “Our Intelligence Project tracks a lot of extremists. Many of them have called, at one time or another, for the slaughter of blacks and Jews. But my guess is, it's probably not a leader—not somebody with a high profile—who did this. More likely, somebody inspired by that kind of incendiary talk. Maybe somebody who wants to impress the leadership. Somebody who wants to prove himself, get into
the club, score points by committing a killing. There's multiple groups and ideologies that could fit with your case. But a lot of the groups have links to, or spun off from, one particularly influential hate group.”

She fiddled with the computer again, and the projector displayed a picture of a bespectacled white man in his fifties or sixties, photographed midsentence, his mouth slightly open, his index finger pointing to emphasize whatever he was saying. Despite what appeared to be an angry expression on his face, the man looked slightly nerdy, even to me—a grocery-store manager or McDonald's supervisor—but behind him was a large Nazi flag. “This cheery fellow, James Wickstrom, is a leader of what's called the Christian Identity movement,” Laurie said. “Christian Identity, or Identity, hard-liners despise blacks and other people of color. They consider them subhuman, and call 'em ‘mud people.' But they hate Jews even worse.”

“Why?” I asked.

She rolled her eyes. “You want psychology, or theology? The Identity crazies believe the Jews were created when Eve had sex with the serpent in the Garden of Eden. Wickstrom—”

“Excuse me,” Miranda interrupted, “but I misheard something there. The Jews were created when Eve
what
?”

“Had sex with the serpent. In the Garden of Eden. Cain—the ‘first Jew,' according to these folks—wasn't the son of Adam and Eve, according to Identity hard-liners, but the son of Eve and the snake.”

“But . . .” I paused, baffled about how to even frame a question about this bizarre twist on both biology and the creation story.

“Don't try to find any logic to it,” she said. “There isn't
any. Aryans are God's true Chosen People, say the Identity faithful, so they keep kosher, sort of. They don't eat pork, don't eat shellfish. They observe Jewish holidays.”

“So they're trying to
be
the very people they
despise
?” I persisted. “That makes no sense.”

“Like I said, don't look for logic. But they think the Jews—the evil Jews, mind you, not the good Aryan true Jews—are using the blacks to destroy whites. And they think that Armageddon will be a race war, one in which all blacks and Jews will finally be exterminated. This guy here—Wickstrom—has said he'd love to see every Jew fed through a wood chipper.”

“Ewww,” said Miranda.

“He's got a lot of vitriolic soul mates,” Laurie went on. “You know the book called
The Turner Diaries
?” I noticed Miranda nodding, but I shook my head. “It's a racist novel about right-wing militias overthrowing the U.S. government. It's become a sort of bible for the militia types. Tim McVeigh had pages from this in his car—with his favorite passages highlighted—when he blew up the federal building in Oklahoma City. Point is, that book was written by one of the founders of the Christian Identity movement.”

I held out my hands, palms up. “Where in the teachings of Christ—the guy who said ‘love your enemies' and ‘turn the other cheek'—do these folks find a rationale for murdering innocent people?”

“I keep telling you, it's not about logic, Dr. Brockton. Christian Identity is to mainstream Christianity as ISIS is to mainstream Islam,” she said. “It's a tiny splinter group that co-opts the name and twists the message. People've been killing in the name of God—one God or another—ever since the dawn of religion.”

“Reminds me of that Greek philosopher from way back,”
I said, “who talked about how we created God in our own image. Or images. Including our angry, hate-filled image.”

Laurie nodded. “Most of these haters are just big talkers. Unfortunately, some of them do walk the walk. They call themselves ‘Phineas Priests.' A couple years ago—”

“Hang on,” I said. “I hate to keep sounding so ignorant, but you've lost me again.”

Miranda grinned at me from across the table. “I'm so glad you talked me out of trying to do this by phone,” she teased.

I gave her a halfhearted scowl, then turned back to Laurie. “
What
kind of priests?”

“Phineas Priests. Self-proclaimed priests. Followers of an Old Testament character named Phineas.”

I was almost afraid to ask. “And what did Phineas do that these people find so inspiring?”

“He ran his spear through a mixed couple—a Hebrew man and a non-Hebrew woman. In the Christian Identity movement, the title ‘Phineas Priest' can be claimed by anybody who kills or beats up a mixed-race couple. Or a homosexual couple. Or someone who's considered a traitor to the white race.” She moused around on her laptop for a moment, then displayed a close-up image of an embroidered shoulder patch. At first glance, it looked almost like one we'd used on our Forensic Response Team jumpsuits until recently, featuring a white skull and crossbones stitched on a shield-shaped black background. Looking closer, though, I saw that this one was captioned
PHINEAS PRIESTHOOD
, and what angled down beside the skull was not a bone, but a spear shaped like a lightning bolt. Underneath the skull were the words “Yahweh's Elite.”

She clicked again, and the shoulder patch was replaced by a photo of a sneering young man proudly displaying a leather
jacket emblazoned with the words “Phineas Priest” across the back. “This is Daniel Lewis Lee. I took this picture of Danny at a white-power rally in Pulaski, Tennessee, in 1992. Back then, we didn't know what ‘Phineas Priest' meant yet, but we could tell he was mocking us with it. In 1996, Danny Lee and two buddies robbed and killed a gun dealer—a guy named Mueller, which they thought was a Jewish name—along with his wife and eight-year-old daughter. They suffocated all three by putting plastic bags over their heads.” Across the table, I saw Miranda wince. “Before they killed the girl,” Laurie went on, “they tortured her with electric cattle prods, asking about hiding places for guns and money. When they finally threw the bodies in a swamp, they joked that they were putting them on a liquid diet.”

She showed us another person—a handsome young man with close-cropped dark hair and a well-groomed mustache. He wore an orange jumpsuit, a bulletproof vest, and waist shackles. “Another guy strongly influenced by Christian Identity. Eric Rudolph. Remember him?”

“The guy who set off a bomb in Atlanta during the Olympics?” I ventured. “Back in, what, 1996?”

“Bingo,” she said. “He also bombed two abortion clinics—one in Atlanta, the other in Birmingham—and a gay bar in Atlanta. His bombs killed three people and injured more than a hundred. He said all the bombings were motivated by his opposition to abortion and homosexuality.”

“I'm having trouble connecting the dots,” I said. “What does bombing abortion clinics have to do with Christian Identity and hating Jews?”

“Remember that conversation we had about logic? My guess—and it's just a guess—is that Identity hard-liners don't give a flip about black women having abortions. But white
women having abortions? They're killing God's Chosen Babies. So those white patients—and the doctors and nurses in the clinics? They're not just murderers, they're ‘race traitors,' too, to folks like Rudolph.”

“Rudolph's the guy who hid out in the mountains of North Carolina?” said Miranda. “For a really long time, right? Like, a year or two?”

“Like,
five
years,” Laurie corrected. “Despite the best efforts of the FBI and ATF and U.S. Marshals. He probably had help—maybe from other Identity members, maybe from antigovernment militia types. The Identity movement helped spawn the militia movement of the 1980s and 1990s.”

“Of course,” said Miranda. “Speaking of the devil's offspring.”

“Any other reason you think the Christian Identity movement could be linked to our dead guy?”

“Maybe,” Laurie said again. She seemed to like the word “maybe” quite a lot. “For one thing, we've found Christian Identity groups in several parts of East Tennessee. Madisonville. Sevierville. Sweetwater. James Wickstrom—‘Wood-Chipper' Wickstrom—came down for several gatherings at a farm in Sevierville. She shrugged. “Sow enough seeds of hatred—at a Christian Identity meeting or a presidential campaign rally—and sooner or later, some of those seeds will sprout, and violence will follow.”

Miranda frowned. “You said, ‘For one thing.' I hate to ask, but it sounds like there's another thing? Another reason?”

Laurie nodded. “These hate groups are constantly morphing. Old ones weaken or shut down, new ones spring up in their place. When SPLC got started, back in the early seventies, it was all about the Klan. Then Christian Identity and neo-Nazi and neo-Confederate groups cropped up. People
looking for like-minded extremists can move from group to group, as their obsessions evolve, or as the groups rise and fall. Or people can belong to multiple groups at a time. There's a particularly scary guy named Tilden Stubbs, for instance. Stubbs started out in Christian Identity, but then he got involved in the Southern Heritage Council—another group I wouldn't entirely rule out in your murder case.”

“Southern Heritage? Sounds like a bunch of history buffs,” I said. “Civil War reenactors and such. Isn't that pretty tame stuff?”

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