But Not Defeated
By Jerry McGinley
this Shea. Did I wake you up?” I said.
“Been up since six, going through my tackle box and putting
new lines on my reels. Only two days till
we head north.”
looking forward to it. But right now we’ve got work to do. I just had a call to head
out to the county park just north of the city. Got a caravan of six or eight travel trailers.
The men were raising hell at the Women’s Health Clinic over on Bly Street yesterday.
Broke windows in a couple of cars in the staff parking lot. Took off before officers got
there, but apparently returned during the night and broke several windows in the clinic.
We got word this morning there was a group camped at the park that fits the
description of the pick-up trucks. Can I pick you up in twenty minutes?”
ready now. Just made a pot of coffee so I’ll have a mug ready for you. They sound
like gypsies. You plan to arrest them or just run them out of the area?” He said.
talk to them for starters. But if they’re the ones did the damage, we’ll take
they’ll be armed?”
threw rocks yesterday, but come prepared. Never know with groups like this. Lieutenant says they may be part of a cult called Sons of the Prophets
that have been causing trouble around the Midwest. Started in southern Missouri. Apparently,
hell-bent on enforcing the edicts outlined by Deuteronomy and Leviticus in the Old
Testament. Big on stoning and burning sinners. I’ll fill in the details in the car.”
wait to meet them. I’ll be waiting in the parking lot.” As always, Pat sounded
eager to go.
I started teaming with retired sheriff’s detective Pat Donegal, it was sort of off
the record and just on special cases. But now that he had official status as police consultant,
I pretty much had free rein to bring him in on any case I wanted help with. In spite of
our many differences, we somehow clicked and worked well together, and I actually enjoy
being with him. After a recent case, we decided
to take a long weekend and head north for some fishing. I haven’t fished since I
was a kid, but when Pat talks about it, he makes it sound like fun. Maybe we’ll be
at each other’s throats after three days, but getting away from the city should be
relaxing. One thing I like about Pat is he quickly learned that just because I’m
twenty years younger than he is, with many fewer cases under my belt, not to mention me
being a female detective, I am not willing to put up with any patronizing or being treated
like a little sister. He also knows better than to ever make sexual innuendos or inappropriate
remarks with me. I’m certainly not a prude, but coming through the ranks, I faced
more than my share of leers and lewd remarks. With Pat, I’m more likely the one crossing
the line of genteel behavior.
Pat spends summers in
a small, rundown cabin on the north shore of Lake Mendota. It’s owned by his old
friend Luke who runs a tavern next to the cabin. As I approached the Catfish Bar and Grill,
I saw Pat standing with two Packer mugs as promised. His place was only a few miles from
the county park where I hoped to find the clinic vandals.
fill me in on what we can expect.” Pat said as he climbed into the Crown Vic and
handed me a mug of coffee.
according to reports the Lieutenant read, there have been some pretty serious crimes committed
by this crew—if our guys are connected. In Missouri one of their so-called ministers
was jailed for setting fire to his own house with his teenage daughter sleeping inside. Apparently, he found out she’d been sleeping
with her boyfriend, and since one of the prophets decreed that if a daughter of a priest
should act like a whore or harlot, she should die by fire. So he tried to follow that law.
Fortunately, a neighbor busted out a glass patio door and rushed in to rescue the girl.
Father got seven years for arson and attempted homicide. Never fought the charges. Made
him a real saint among the other followers. Couple months later in Iowa, another member
beat his wife almost to death because she filed divorce papers—also punishable by
death according to the prophets. He too pled guilty and earned celebrity status among the
cult. Three or four other stories were reported
but not confirmed. One was in western Minnesota. Twenty-year-old kid came home from a night
of drinking and his father met him in the driveway with a barrage of rocks. Guess disobedient
children who come home inebriated also deserve death by stoning.”
thought I was the one that got us involved in bizarre cases. These guys definitely sound
dodgy,” Pat said.
we can ticket them for vandalism and get them out of the state. You’re armed I assume.”
friends Smith and Wesson with a 12-round magazine and two eight-round backups.”
be ready to use everything you brought. Never know with these kinds of groups. And the shotgun is loaded on the floor of the backseat. I hope I’m
being overly cautious, but you never know.”
county park had about thirty campsites, each equipped with an electrical outlet and a water
spigot. There was a central sewer stall for dumping and flushing holding tanks. At eight
o’clock Sunday morning, there was plenty of activity. Kids were chasing each other
on bikes and scooters. Adults were stirring the ashes of last night’s campfires and
reigniting fresh flames to take the damp chill out of the morning air. Men stood over Coleman
stoves, frying eggs and bacon. I eased the squad through the narrow gravel roads looking
for a cluster of pick-up trucks and trailers set apart from the family campers.
Pat rolled down his window,
and the aroma of brewing coffee and sizzling bacon wafted into the car. Pat took a deep
breath and sighed, “Ah, the fragrance of camp cooking. Smell that, Shea? Better get
used to it because that’s what our camp’ll smell like this weekend—except
we’ll add a delicate bouquet of freshly filleted Walleyes frying in bacon grease
and onions. I can almost taste them now.”
but you better control your salivating. We got work to do. I’m gonna ask this guy
up here if he’s seen any unusual groups around.”
I pulled up beside an
older camper pushing a wheelbarrow full of firewood. From the looks of the load, I guessed
he was probably staying for a while.
“Excuse me, sir,
can I ask a couple questions?”
wondering if you’d seen a group of campers that doesn’t seem to fit in here.”
mean the gypsies? There’s a big group down in the rustic overflow camping field. No water or electric down there. Usually saved
just for tenters. But I noticed an odd group down there when I was walking the dog yesterday
and early this morning. Bunch of old, battered travel trailers, look like they’re
from the fifties, and matching trucks that don’t look much newer. I’ve seen
the men come and go in their pickups, but the women stay inside most of the time. Seen
a couple women and three or four kids walking to the privies down there, but none of them
have come to the main bathhouse. None of their kids have come up to the playground. Course,
it’s fine with me if they keep to themselves. I made sure I locked everything up
before I went to bed last night. Something didn’t feel right about that bunch. They
not yet. Just want to ask them questions. I appreciate the information, and I’d just
as soon you didn’t say anything to the other campers. Don’t want to start a
panic here. Good chance these folks are just good campers like the rest of you.”
you’ll tell us, if they might be dangerous? Lots of families with kids here.”
I’ll stop back if there’s anything you need to be concerned about. Thanks again
for helping us out.”
follow that gravel road to the right. Ain’t more than a quarter mile into those tall
trees you can see.”
the help. Enjoy your breakfast.”
man grabbed the handles of his wheelbarrow and started toward his trailer.
like we found our suspects,” Pat said. “Now if we can get them to cooperate,
I can make it home for a few hours of fishing this afternoon.”
hope.” I said as I aimed the squad in the direction of the tall trees.
we approached the camp, Pat checked his Smith and Wesson and then placed it back in his
belt holster under his jacket. “Hopefully, I won’t be using it.”
to be prepared. Those trucks certainly fit the description of the ones seen leaving the
The caravan was parked
in a semi-circle with a large bonfire surrounded by seven men at the entrance to the central
area. No women or kids were in view. I counted eight trailers which probably meant at least
one of the men was not at the fire. This could present a problem if there was trouble.
“Listen, Pat, since I’ll be doing most of the talking, why
don’t you have your phone ready to call for backup in case things get out of control.
You never know about some of these yahoos. Could be armed to the teeth
and itching for a fight.”
“Got 911 on speed
dial. Let’s just keep it friendly
till we know if these are our guys. Then
we’ll bring in support. It’s too early in the day for a fight.”
pulled the car up to about thirty feet from the campfire and shifted into park without
shutting off the engine. If we needed to make an abrupt exit, I wanted to be ready. I had
my 40 caliber Glock in my belt holster and a 25 caliber in a holster at the small of my
we approached the camp, the men stood and faced us. A square-shouldered man who looked
to be in his early forties moved toward us. The rest of the group flanked him, three on
each side. They were all dressed in work clothes, overalls and flannel shirts. Most wore
baseball caps, though the man in the lead was bareheaded with a closely cropped crew cut.
I spoke first to establish alpha dog status, “Gentlemen, my
name is Detective Shea Sommers. I am with the Madison Police Department. This is my associate,
Pat Donegal. We are here to ask some questions about some trouble reported at the Women’s
Health Clinic yesterday. You know anything
know it’s a sin to work on the Sabbath,” the leader spoke calmly. “Bible
says, They found a man that gathered sticks upon
the Sabbath day. ... And the LORD said unto Moses, the man shall be surely put to death:
all the congregation shall stone him with stones....” The group took three or
four steps toward us before waiting for my response. “Figure that pertains to cops
the same as anybody else, so maybe you should go home, Detective, and come back tomorrow.”
you could tell your Lord that if he’s willing to make criminals take Sundays off,
then my boss might let me take off as well.”
“In our society, women know their place and stay out of
men’s business. Come back tomorrow with a man willing to speak to us, and perhaps
we’ll cooperate.” He turned to walk back to the campfire. The other six followed
“Sir, I asked you
a question, and I have no plans of waiting until tomorrow to get an answer. I’d like
to know what you had to do with the attack on the Women’s Clinic yesterday and early
this morning. Speaking of this morning, does your religion consider vandalism a violation
of the Sabbath?” As I finished my sentence I realized I might be crossing a line
The man with the crew cut turning to face me responded
without emotion.“The Lord said, I do not
permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet.”
I did not come here to listen to Scripture or hear about your religion. I am here as a
representative of the Madison Police Department investigating a crime. I will appreciate
your cooperation. If you are unwilling to cooperate, then you will be arrested and taken
to the police station for questioning. Is
that clear to you?”
say again, the Lord said, I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority
over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. I will not answer questions asked by an
employee who does not respect the Sabbath. And I will not answer questions asked by a woman.”
your group have a problem with procedures performed at the Women’s Clinic? Is this
about abortion? Is that why you attacked the clinic and threw rocks at the cars in the
staff parking lot?”
The leader faced me,
his stoic expression about to explode. His goons waited to see his reaction.
will tell you this, people who murder unborn children are sinners in the eyes of God. Deuteronomy said, Cursed be he that taketh a bribe to slay an innocent person. Accepting payment
to terminate an innocent life is exactly what the workers at the clinic are
doing. Whoever attacked that clinic was simply
doing the Lord’s work.”
am hired to enforce civil law, not Biblical law.”
“There is no other law than God’s law.”
it is time to call for backup. Ask for as many units as are available.”
leader turned his stare toward Pat. “Sir, why do you take orders from a woman? She
has no authority over you.”
After completing the
call for assistance, Pat spoke for the first time. “Because she’ll kick my
ass if I don’t do what she says. And believe me, she’ll kick yours too if you
refuse to answer her questions.”
are both blasphemers. You will both suffer the wrath of the almighty!”
should have held my tongue, but I did not. “Sir, your idea of religion is much different
from mine. Now I have been very patient asking for your cooperation, but now Pat and I
are going to return to our car and wait for backup officers to arrive to arrest you.”
I turned to walk to the car, I heard the leader shout loudly, “Blasphemer! Sinner.”
I turned around I saw him pointing at me. His faced had suddenly lost composure and had
grown burning red. As if his shout was a signal, I spotted two young men, probably still
in their teens, rush from behind the trailer parked closest to the campfire. Each one was
carrying, more accurately dragging, a white plastic five gallon pail full of stones, some
as large as a softball.
of the teens shouted, “Leviticus said, he that blasphemeth the name of the LORD,
he shall surely be put to death, and all the congregation shall certainly stone
“Death to the blasphemer!”
The other boy shouted as he reached into the bucket and took out as stone the size of an
apple. Before I could make it to the car,
the kid hurled the rock at me catching me squarely in the shoulder. As I ducked to clutch my shoulder, another rock grazed the side of
my skull. I experienced a shocking explosion
of colorful lights. I fell backward and
apparently lost consciousness. When I came
to, Pat was lying on top of me sheltering me from a barrage of stones. As
I fought through my groggy fog, I heard a sickening shower of stones thudding against Pat’s
body. Blood poured from his head and ran
across my eyes and face. I struggled to clear
my thoughts. I considered pushing Pat off
of me and rolling on top of him to protect him.
But then my police instincts kicked in, and I grabbed Pat’s weapon from his
holster resting directly against my right hand. My reflexes took over and
I loaded a round into the breech and blindly squeezed off three rapid shots. I heard screams and realized the stones
stopped flying. I eased out from under Pat’s
weight and wiped the blood, both mine and Pat’s, from my eyes. Through
the bloody blur I made saw several shapes retreating.
I also saw two mounds lying lifeless on the ground in front of me.
staggered over to Pat. I heard him moaning as he lay curled like a fetus on the ground.
I fell beside him and put my hands on his face. He was covered with blood, but he was alive.
As I cradled my arm under his head, the sirens crept slowly closer. I was certain he was
going to die in my arms before help arrived.
stay with me. Help’s coming, but you need to stay focused, Pat.” I could see
his eyes rolled upward into his sockets. “You’re going to make it, Pat. Look
at me! You’re doing fine. Just hang on till the EMT’s get here. You’re
going to be fine.”
I placed my face directly
in front of his. His eyes seemed to focus. I thought I saw a wry smile on his lips, or
maybe it was just a silent grimace from the pain of countless contusions and broken bones.
He moved his lips, but there was no sound, just a weak breath of air.
it, Pat. Stay with me. Talk to me.You’re going to be okay. Just hold on a couple
more minutes till help comes. You’re going to be fine.”
squeezed his eyes closed, perhaps from pain but maybe trying to gather the strength to
speak. He was fighting to stay alive. He tried to speak again, but it was a faint whisper
I could not understand.
Then I heard what I thought
sounded like “fishing.”
“Yes, Pat, we are
going to go fishing. As soon as you’re feeling better, we’re going fishing.
We’ll have Walleyes for breakfast, lunch, and supper.”
I knew he was looking at me. His eyes were focused. The wry smile, or grimace, returned.
He spoke again, “A man can be destroyed,” he paused, “but not defeated.”
He closed his eyes and I’m sure this time he was smiling. He opened his eyes. “Spencer
Tracy,” he whispered.
said that in a movie?” I asked.
“Fishing,” he whispered.
a fishing movie? You’re going to make it, Pat. I see the ambulance. The
flashing lights are coming down the gravel road. I got two of the bastards that hurt you,
Pat. The rest ran back to their trailers. We’ll get them all.”
nodded slightly. The pain seemed to leave him. His face looked almost
peaceful now. My face was inches from his.
I was afraid the uncertainty in my expression would betray my words.
A fleet of squad cars screamed close by, and officers swarmed the trailer
park. Gun shots were fired. The ambulance crew arrived with two stretchers. The men on the ground would not need them. They loaded Pat first. I
stayed beside him until he was placed in the back of the ambulance. Then they put me on the other stretcher and loaded me right next to
Pat. I took his hand as we lay next to
each other. As the sirens screamed and
we raced through the campground, I was certain I felt my hand being squeezed in
a slow but rhythmic cadence.
Author of five published novels and over a hundred
published poems, stories, and articles, Jerry McGinley is the
founder and editor of Lake City Lights Online