“The ‘Come to God’ Moment?”
'Hey daddy, tell me why the clown is crying.'
'Well son he's got the task of cheering up the ill and dying.
On top of that, everybody thinks that he's insane.
Can't fathom why he'd wanna ease their pain.'
-Sung by Atmosphere
While Coggen certainly had plans to put in place, so did we.
The FBI would have to be on hand, the “Rico” statutes would be in play, and they’d want to be on hand to take people into custody. They’d probably have to pose as new converts, but it was a lot safer than trying to infiltrate a criminal syndicate. After thinking about it, I wondered if that was actually true. Criminals often have some kind of code that they followed, while religious fanatics did not. Crooks had to get along with each other; the wing nuts in cults seemed, more and more, less likely to take prisoners, much less agree to what civil treatment of them would be.
Our job, right now, was to get them there, but that shouldn’t be any trouble. If they could put the Internationally Infamous “Killer Clowns” Case down in their collar column, it was likely that they would jump at the chance.
Arrangements to get Simonson freed were a bit trickier. Not impossible, but not something one does overnight. Luckily I had a couple of days. It would take that long to gather the church’s few original members and bring them to Kansas City. (We had agreed to the center of the nation as the best meeting place, not because it was my home base.)
Max and Chester were in charge of security, and that meant finding a place we could hold a thousand people and still promise our (my) safety until I had made the payoff and gotten a chance to convert our fanatics to sign the papers that would put those who were willing to be part of murder into the hands of the authorities.
We’d have to do this in a way that would escape charges of entrapment, but, if we paid them first and then asked them to join our “new” sect, that should do the job. They couldn’t say we had paid them to do something that they wouldn’t have done otherwise. Coggen was also paying transportation to all his listed members, so our output would only be putting them up and paying for the gathering place.
Kemper arena seemed the right place. It was big enough, and yet was not booked as heavily as in days before. It had been supplanted by newer, grander facilities.
It would also be somewhere that any of them could ask any cab driver in town and be brought without delay. Finally, it would add just the right note of legitimacy to the proceedings. It would say “Bona Fide” to them, in a big way.
I was on the phone for most of the next day. We booked the arena and a security staff in minutes. Kemper must be doing less business than even I had thought.
The FBI and K.C. police were both chomping at the bit to make the arrests, but were not so happy in the method we prescribed. Finally, after the Feds agreed, K.C. fell in behind. They’d be on hand, but out of sight. Luckily there was a nice camera system on hand and they could watch the whole thing, with their lawyers on hand to make sure they’d not trip over any legal stumbling blocks.
Then came the biggest obstacle: getting Simonson not only released, but very publically so. Harry handled the press in his usual masterful way by planting an anonymous rumor in a local newshound’s ear and letting the grapevine handle the rest.
The governor was someone I had met on several occasions and he was not fond of the way I did things. But with some nudging from the director of the FBI and a donation to the state college’s library fund that he could take credit for, we were in. I wouldn’t give re-election money to him, but, as long as the students got the value of it, I didn’t care who got credit for the donation. We settled that it would be a “Secret Donor” that he had recruited to give the money, so he wouldn’t have to explain where he got the money. The IRS and the election people were very suspect of politician’s giving away a lot of their money.
So all we had to do was fly back to California and pick up Simonson and we were ready to open the curtain on the final act of this murderous farce.
I actually slept fairly well that night. Taking some allergy medication might have had something to do with that, but I’d like to think that upcoming justice did also.
The call came in at 8 a.m. local time.
I had already been up, watching the CNN footage of Simonson being loaded into a limo outside the prison to be taken to the airport.
The report was that he was on his way to a meeting of his higher-ups in his church about re-launching their outreach program. He, it was said, had gotten another trial and somehow had gotten bail. They couldn’t do anything to keep him in custody under those circumstances.
It was astonishing how one call had brought a sea of news coverage. All the 24-hour services and most of the international news services were present, along with every one of the surviving dailies and weeklies in the state and most neighboring states were there.
Editorials were blasting California’s Penal System for allowing such an obvious threat to be back among the people. With the exception of the fear-inducing angle, I was proud of how outraged they were. Except Fox News, who took the tack that this was a 1st Amendment trial, and they also called the charges for all those weapons a travesty against the 2nd Amendment, just to be sure enough people would join them in their outrage. Simonson, it seemed, was just their kind of folk. They never once mentioned the murders he had ordered or the possible hundreds of thousands he had still targeted when he was caught. Tunnel vision is a spectacular thing when you see it in such focused relief.
That phone call I mentioned came in the middle of just these musings. It was Special Agent Higgens. We had worked on quite a number of cases before, and I was happy to see he was on duty at the scene.
“Mr. Savage?” came his less-than-confident-sounding voice on the phone.
“Yeah, Kurt?” I was quick to add, “You looked great on TV this morning. The transfer looked good. Any hitches?”
“I don’t know how to say this,” He was not building my confidence now.
“Are we on a secure line, Sir?”
I glanced at Harry on the extension, who nodded that he had taken care of that.
“Yes, Kurt, what do you want to tell me?”
“Don’t want to, but have to.”
“Did that son of a bitch escape or what?”
“No, we’ve still got him.”
“Well that’s good.” I relaxed a bit, “So, what is it?”
“Walter Simonson is dead, Sir.”
© C. Wayne Owens