Hunter



Hunter
By Andrew Macdonald

VIII

Oscar really did intend to think about what Harry and Colleen had said, but as it turned out he became preoccupied by other matters the very next day, and it was more than two weeks before his thoughts returned to their conversation. What absorbed his interest meanwhile was the continuing furor over his anti-miscegenation campaign and the assassination of Horowitz. It had been nearly a month since he had killed a racially mixed couple - Tyrone Jones and his two girl friends - and the news media were still in a virtual frenzy.

He still could not understand the intensity and duration of this frenzy. Drug gangs killed as many people on the streets of half a dozen of America’s larger cities every two or three days as he had killed in his whole campaign. Furthermore these drug-war victims were nearly all non-Whites and so were especially beloved of the media. Yet a recent drug shoot-out in Washington which had killed five Blacks and a Colombian mestizo didn’t even make the front page of the next day’s Washington Post, which was taken up almost entirely with a report of the shooting of another interracial couple in Chicago, a heavily policed public demonstration in Manhattan by interracial and homosexual couples demanding more police protection, and the latest statements from the FBI about their investigation of the Horowitz assassination. He suspected that a new plague could break out and carry away a million victims in a week, and the news media would not give it as much coverage as they were giving to his killing of Horowitz.

Part of it, he reasoned, was a special perversity on the part of people who went into journalism as a profession. Beyond the role of the media themselves in fanning the flames, however, there evidently were various special interests at work - interests which felt threatened or offended by Oscar’s activities. There were, he was surprised to learn, a number of organized groups of racially mixed couples, even one consisting solely of White males with Filipina wives. As he read of the existence of that particular group he felt regret that he had not devoted any of his nighttime efforts to its members.

Then there were the queers, who, despite their general antipathy toward the heterosexual world, seemed to have an affection for race-mixers, even those of the “straight” variety. Feminist groups also seemed to be especially incensed over his attacks on mixed couples. He couldn’t figure the connection there either. Was it that all spiritually sick people, no matter what their malady, felt that their interests coincided?

The churches, however, were easily the most vociferous of the boosters of the race-mixers. Right down the line, from the primitive charismatics of backwoods Fundamentalism to the blandest of Unitarians and the trendiest of Episcopalians, they roared out their approval of miscegenation and their solidarity with its practitioners. There were memorial vigils almost daily, for one or another of the couples he had shot, by groups of ministers and priests on the Capitol steps. If there were any Christian groups which were not marching in lockstep with the others, it was only one or two of the smaller Eastern Orthodox churches, whose congregations consisted mostly of aging refugees from eastern Europe.

Now the churches were formally joining hands with the race-mixing groups, the homosexuals, and the rest. There was a full-page announcement in the Washington Post of a mass march on the Capitol to demonstrate public support for a new package of legislation being debated by the Congress. The march, scheduled for the middle of the following month, was being organized by a new coalition of leaders from 30 or 40 groups. It was called the People’s Committee Against Hate, and the announcement in the Post listed several dozen of its members. The list was replete with bishops, cardinals, rabbis, and right reverends.

The legislation they were backing had been prepared by Horowitz and would have been introduced to the House by him if Oscar’s garrotte had not cut his legislative career short. Its key bill was called the Horowitz Bill in his honor. It would outlaw all organizations which restricted membership on the basis of race. It would ban all books, periodicals, and other printed matter which might “promote racial hatred,” and it provided for the establishment of a Federal Publications Board to examine and rule on any publications against which complaints were lodged. It would make any person who uttered, in the presence of witnesses, any statement denigrating a member of another race or expressing hostility toward members of his own race who associated with other races, liable to ten years imprisonment.

The news media conducted opinion polls three or four times a week and excitedly reported a growing public sentiment in favor of passage of the Horowitz Bill and its corollary legislation. Nearly 60 per cent of the public were for it, according to the latest poll. Oscar could only shake his head in wonder at the ease with which the American people could be manipulated by the media. It seemed as if all the media had to do was convince the public that everyone else was in favor of something, and then the sheep would fall all over themselves trying to get on the bandwagon.

The People’s Committee, Oscar noted, was headquartered in the Connecticut Avenue Congregational Church, just north of Georgetown in the District. Meetings were taking place there practically every day, with religious leaders, members of the Congress, Hollywood celebrities, and other public figures as guest speakers. The principal purpose of the meetings, so far as he could see, was to provide a continuing input to the media. All of the television news programs featured snippets from each meeting.

As Oscar turned over in his mind the idea of attacking the People’s Committee, he reflected on the fact that his assassination of Horowitz had not slowed down the race-mixers and their friends at all. If anything it had given them more ammunition to use in their campaign to stampede the public into accepting the massive curtailment of civil liberties which was inherent in the Horowitz Bill. He was pretty sure that if he shot one or two of the most prominent leaders of the People’s Committee or blew up their headquarters the news media would manage to turn that into another argument for passage of the bill.

Oscar realized that he was no strategist. Part of the problem was that there were too many variables involved in making the sort of decisions with which he was faced. He just didn’t have the time or the sources of information necessary to analyze each situation and predict the probable outcome of a given action on his part. He needed a general staff for that. He also needed a guiding principle, a program, a clearly defined goal, so that his individual actions reinforced one another. As it was he was acting on the basis of instinct, gut feeling, impulse, or whatever one wanted to call it.

Well, too bad about that! He would just have to follow his conscience and continue flying by the seat of his pants for the time being. One thing that his conscience told him was that his efforts were better spent going after the promoters of racial mixing than its practitioners. He had had such a good feeling after killing Horowitz that he really had a hankering now to take out a Senator or a bishop or a university president. That fit in with his general reasoning that he ought to continue escalating the conflict and leave the lower-level work to his imitators.

The latter had been giving a rather disappointing performance lately. Their activity seemed to have peaked about two weeks ago, around the time of the Horowitz hit. Now the papers were reporting only four or five serious attacks per day on mixed couples for the whole country. Part of the falloff seemed to be due to the high rate of arrests initially; the police, under extreme pressure from the media, were throwing all of their resources into the investigation of attacks on interracial couples. Apparently the supply of wild men, who would get the idea into their heads that they ought to follow Oscar’s example by killing a pair of race-mixers and then would run out and do it without further deliberation, was being used up. The activists still on the loose were being more careful. Someone in Chicago – or perhaps it was more than one person - seemed to be doing quite well, and there was a string of six unsolved double killings in the Seattle area with the same modus operandi, but there weren’t many bright spots elsewhere.

Another reason - a more encouraging one - for the decline in the number of attacks apparently was that, the recent demonstration in Manhattan notwithstanding, the race-mixers were going back into the closet to a certain extent; there just weren’t as many targets on the street as there had been. The media were frantically trying to counter this trend. Every checkout-stand tabloid featured front-page photographs of mixed-race celebrity couples, week after week: an aging Elizabeth Taylor with her latest Black boyfriend, or Black basketball star Cleon Brown surrounded by an admiring throng of blond coeds. The television networks dredged up all the films with a race-mixing theme they had in their collections and began running them. Every news program featured an interview with at least one mixed couple, and there were hardly any other types of guests to be seen on the TV interview shows. But a large percentage of the race-mixers quite obviously were frightened and would continue to try to maintain a low profile.

The Connecticut Avenue Congregational Church was a large complex of interconnected stone buildings behind an old-fashioned iron picket fence. Oscar drove past the front twice and took several photographs with his Polaroid camera. He noted the two uniformed policemen standing at the top of the stone steps leading to the front entrance to the main building and suspected that there would be more inside. Then he drove slowly down the alley behind the complex. The fence, about seven feet high, ran along that side of the property as well, but there was a lot of tall shrubbery just inside the fence, and it looked like it might not be difficult to get onto the grounds from the alley at night without being seen.

Back home Oscar studied his photographs of the complex. There were, he noted, steel bars over all of the lower-floor windows: an essential feature for any building in the District of Columbia these days. Almost certainly every window and door also was connected to an alarm system. He didn’t know whether the People’s Committee held its semi-public meetings in the main sanctuary or in a separate auditorium. In any case, only two buildings in the complex were large enough for the purpose, and he quickly decided that one of them almost certainly held only Sunday school classrooms. So it had to be the main building, a really massive structure. Was there any way to get a bomb into the building?

The service gate in the alley fence led into a parking area behind an annex building. The rear door bore a sign reading “Deliveries.” If he pretended to be making a delivery of office supplies, almost certainly he would be able to get a bomb no further than the annex without arousing suspicion. The main building obviously had a full basement, as indicated both by a stair descending to a basement door in the rear and by window wells for basement windows along the sides of the building. Again, bars and a probable alarm system seemed to make entrance to the basement no easier than to the ground floor. Could he get to the roof and then come in through an unprotected roof entrance?

Oscar made another reconnaissance, this time at night. A meeting was in progress, and it was clear from the pattern of lighted and unlighted windows that it was being held in the sanctuary, on the ground floor. Three basement windows near the front of the building were lighted, but the rest were dark. There were floodlights at the eaves level around the building illuminating the sides more or less uniformly, and there was another light over the basement door well. There were, however, a few dense areas of shrubbery at the sides of the building, toward the back, and the general pattern of windows in the building suggested that there almost certainly was a basement window well behind one group of shrubs.

He drove a block beyond the church, parked on a side street, and walked back to the alley which ran behind the complex. At a point where the fence was deeply shadowed by tall shrubs, he hauled himself over and then made his way silently to another group of shrubs closer to the building. Crouched close to the ground he pushed his way into the shrubbery and, as he had suspected he would, found himself next to a basement window well. Slipping his arm between the security bars and feeling the window sash with his fingers, he noted that it was made of wood rather than metal.

He placed his flashlight against the window glass and briefly illuminated the basement room into which it opened. It was a finished room, with framed pictures on one wall, but there were large stacks of cartons on the floor and on steel shelving against the far wall. Apparently the room was being used for storage. It was quite a large room, about 25 feet from front to back and extending more than halfway across the width of the sanctuary. The far end of the room was probably directly beneath the pulpit. There were doors in three walls, but they were all closed.

Back at his car again he glanced at his watch and remembered ruefully that he and Adelaide had dinner plans. As he drove toward her apartment, he formulated his plan of attack on the church.