!!SPECIAL EFFECTS!! "THOUGHTS"
My senior partner and I were on a plane to Hernando, Mississippi in Desoto County. From there we were to go a city called Memphis. That's Memphis, Mississippi as opposed to Memphis, Tennessee. There were so many reports of atrocities of the Ku Klux Klan which were the most prominent in Memphis that even the F.B.I. were made aware of what was going on. These atrocities had picked up in volume and brutality ever since Blacks in the South got the right to vote and the right to franchise. The KKK had been really incensed by the success of the Civil Rights Movement. Their numbers hadn't increased as far as we knew but finding out who the members of the Klan were ranged from difficult to impossible.
"This will be a tough job, Rosenthal. So I want you to pay attention. If you want to back out, now is the time," my senior partner said gravely as he regarded me. He was middle aged with a little bit of grey hair at the temples. He stood at six feet four with a wiry build. He so resembled Van Williams, the actor who played the Green Hornet along with the late Bruce Lee who played his sidekick, Kato. In addition to his moderate good looks he smelled really good. I had always wondered what kind of aftershave or cologne he wore.
"I've been dreaming of this all my life, sir. I'm not backing down now!" I told him, staring back at him with a resolve I hoped would impress him.
"All right, Rosenthal. I'm glad you're not chickening out," he said unimpressed much to my chagrin. "But you better be prepared to follow orders. These the Ku Klux Klan is very dangerous. And it's all together possible the Nazis are backing them up. You've seen the German weaponry some of them have used against the U.S. marshals who've tried to enforce the new voting laws. Where else could they have gotten those 88 mm guns? So look alive!"
"I understand, sir. I'm sure the Nazis are behind some of this. I'll have no problem dealing with the Klan or the Nazis," I said cracking my knuckles as I looked back at him, giving him a look of fearlessness.
"Take it easy, Rosenthal. We don't want you going off half cocked."
"I'm not half cocked; I'm fully cocked!"
"Belay that, Rosenthal! That's an order!"
Yes, sir!" I said, snapping to attention even though we were still on the plane. By the time we landed at the airport in Thatchapee, Mississippi, it was almost dark. FBI Agent, Maynard Williams, picked us up from the airport and drove us to the nearest FBI office in a large, black, Mercedes Benz with tinted windows. He drove the car smoothly and expertly. As Eric and I walked into the car he sat next to Maynard in front while I sat in the back. The Benz had that new car smell which was almost breath taking. The vinyl leather seats were so comfortable I felt as if I could just sit down and fall asleep after that long flight.
"This is going to be a tough case, Eric," the driving FBI agent said with a nasal like New York accent. He was sharply dressed but he looked more like an accountant than an FBI agent. His coke bottle glasses, nerdish appearance and turtle neck didn't help at all. "The people here don't much like us G-Men, seeing us more like invaders than lawmen." He had looked over his shoulder and given me a strange look which I wasn't able to interpret when he had said "G-Men" but I said nothing and turned to look around at the country side.
"It's like they're circling the wagons against us. Sometimes these people act as if the Civil War is still on. Heck some of guys got gunned down just a few days ago. A bullet proof car, the kind J. Edgar Hoover had in his day, was blown up by what some said was a German 88 mm anti tank gun. In addition to that, they've been killing coloreds like there's no tomorrow."
"I'm not worried about that. We'll just bust this case wide open and find out who's doing all the lynching and killing," I interjected with obvious, rookie enthusiasm.
"You got a live one here, eh, Eric? I should tell you something, dear," the driver said with a little bit of contempt, belittling me for being a woman. "The people out here don't like women law enforcement officers of any kind. I hope you learned how to fight really well at Academy, Sweetheart."
"I'm not your sweetheart or dear. And yes I learned how to fight. Not just at the Academy but long before that as well. You want to try me? I asked, giving him an intimidating look.
"Um, that won't be necessary. My mom taught me not to hit women anyway." I decided not to press the issue any further since the guy was obviously intimidating by the "stare of death" I had given him. But my senior partner looked over his shoulder and gave me a harsh, admonishing look.
Once we got to the FBI office which miles away from town Eric and I were briefed and brought up to what had been going on with all the details. After a good night's sleep we acquired an FBI issued black Pontiac Sedan with tinted windows. This car was also bulletproof and drove smoothly as Eric drove the automobile.
Thatchapee, Mississippi was much like a small one horse town, looking like something out of Lil Abner. It almost looked like an old west movie set. The people of the town who were dressed in what was a little better than hand me downs and home spun stared at us with a sense of hostility I had never seen. Even the people who were against me as a woman joining the FBI didn't look at me with the kind of hatred I noticed in the citizens of this town.
After having given the town a once over we parked the car in front of the local sheriff's ofice. As we walked inside the deputies there gave us looks from hostility to suspicion. "What are you Feds doing in my town? I figured you'd turn tail and run after what happened to those U.S. Marshals," the sheriff said with unconcealed contempt. He was a big fat guy with large muscular arms. Despite being fat, he was obviously strong and tough.
"I'm FBI agent Eric Larson and this is Agent Laura Rosenthal. I believe you know why we're here, Sheriff." Sheriff Clem Wallace looked at Eric with a sneer and would shoot me a harsh glare every now and then as Eric and I showed him our credentials. "There's been a lot of lynchings going on here. That's what we're here to investigate."
"What goes on here in my town is none of your business, G-Man! J. Edgar Hoover was tolerable. But ever since he passed away the whole FBI has gone to pot. They even allow prissy little girls in. I can hardly believe it," Sheriff Clem Wallace said looking at me with a leer which I ignored.
"I earned my FBI badge, Mr. Sheriff. Welcome to the Seventies," I said, returning his harsh glare.
"I doubt that. Who'd you have to screw in order to get a job as an FBI agent, girly?"
At this point I was livid! But before I could say anything, my senior partner put his hand up, telling me to be silent.
"Agent Rosenthal here has earned her badge. You would do well to keep that in mind. Regardless of gender she's an FBI agent. Now cut the crap and tell us what you know about the Ku Klux Klan around these parts!"
The fat sheriff didn't say anything for a moment as he just looked at Eric for a moment. "I got nothing to say. Now git!"
"Who do you think you're talking to?!" I yelled, getting in the fat sheriff's face. "We're with the FBI! You can't just brush us off! Why I'll..."
"Enough, Laura! We're leaving." With that Eric took me by the arm and dragged me out of there. I wasn't kicking and screaming but I felt like doing these things.
As we got in the car with the hostile stares of some of the locals, Eric turned towards me rather testily. "What was that in there, Rosenthal?!"
"I just thought he shouldn't have talked to us that way. It's obvious he knows something. He may be a member of the KKK for all we know," I said with a sense of certainty.
"Don't go making unsustantiated accusations like that! We don't know who's in the Klan. Let me set you straight. We're here to make a perfunctary investigation not make waves."
"You mean we're here just to pretend as if we care but not really do anything?"
"That's not what I meant and you know it! If we can find out what exactly happened so be it. If not we go home and leave this mystery unsolved."
"I would very much like to solve this case and nail the people who have been going around in white sheets and causing terror. If I was being terrorized in such a manner I would like someone to come and help me," I said looking up at him with intensity in my eyes.
"Well, aren't you wide eyed and bushy tailed. Listen up, Agent Laura. The people here see us as invaders as it is. I want to find the ones who've been lynching the Blacks here but we won't do that by offending the townspeople needlessly. You got that?"
"I got it," I said, appearing to be chasted.
"And try not to compare the people here to the Nazis in Germany. Many here fought in the navy when we had that undeclared naval war with Germany a few years ago. So take it easy!"
"All right. I'll take it any way I can get it."
My senior partner turned to me for a moment and gave me a sharp look then said, "yeah. I'm glad we have that settled." The conversation being over we drove off to headquarters.
The next day in the morning I went to the black run and mostly black patroned waffle house I normally attended for breakfast. I got strange looks when I first sat down and ordered my meal of waffles or pancakes according to my preference at the time, sausage and eggs with orange juice on the side, but eventually everybody got used to seeing me there after talking in hushed whispers at first. However, the few whites who showed up there gave me the most hostile of looks. The food there was very good and fortunately I had learned long ago how to increase my metabolism at will so I wouldn't get fat enjoying a good hearty meal. I ate at a this place despite the fact my fellow FBI agents felt that food at a Black owned establishment would be inferior; how wrong they were. There were no secrets in this town so everybody knew who I was and what I was doing there. I had hoped someone would talk to me and tell me what was going on but no one talked to me unless they absolutely had to. The waitress was polite but wary of me. After having given her rather large tips she slowly began to warm up to me.
That morning I saw two of the sheriff's deputies come in the restaurant, give me a hostile look and then left.
On my way back to the office a Black woman "accidentally" bumped into me. "Sorry, Maam." But before I could say anything the woman had ran off, practically disappearing. I searched the streets for her for a couple minutes but couldn't find her or anyone else. The streets becoming deserted all of a sudden so surprising to me. I had the feeling what had just happened wasn't an accident but I kept making my way back to the office.
As soon as I arrived at the local FBI office I noticed there was a huge manilla envelope in my purse. "Where did this come from? Wait that lady who 'accidentally' bumped into me! She did leave the scene awfully quickly." After opening the envelope and perusing the contents I noticed several pictures of Klansmen doing their usual rituals burning crosses, raising their hands in the air, yada, yada, yada. But what interested me was the pictures of some of the Klansmen without their masks on. One of them was the Sheriff Clem Wallace!
"What's that you got their, toots?" I looked up to see Steve Watson. He was a good looking FBI agent who thought women shouldn't be part of the bureau. He was a former football star and star wrestler in addition to having been in the army as a commando in the Middle East. Because of his muscles and good looks he also saw himself as God's gift to women, a belief I was waiting to shatter in a million pieces.
"My name isn't Toots; it's Laura. Now bug off, I'm busy." At this point he was looking down my blouse. My shirt was buttoned up so unless he had x-ray vision he was using his imagination.
"Hey, babe. I... Ow!" After he put his hands on my shoulders and let his fingers do the walking downward, I grabbed his hands, removing but not before striking his meat hooks with shiatsu attacks that didn't break anything but caused him a great deal of pain.
"Back off," I said assertively.
"That wasn't very nice." My tormentor was stroking his hurting hand as he slowly backed away from me but the look on his face said, "this isn't over!"
"It better be over for your sake!" I called out to his departing form. I decided then and there to inform Eric about this when he showed up, looking at me like a teacher who had just caught me playing hooky. "Yes?"
"What just happened, Rosenthal?"
"What do you mean?" I said, looking up at him.
"You know full well what I mean! Was there some reason you decided to injure Steve's hands like that?!"
"That was getting too touchy feely if you know what I mean. If he needs a woman that badly he should go to Las Vegas and pay for it! And I didn't injure his hand; I just gave him a little pain."
"You need to be careful. You just can't go giving 'pain' to other FBI agents. Neither can you go threatening them as you did Maynard the other day. Stop trying to prove you're such a badass! You have a good career in the FBI; don't blow it! You got me?"
"Now what do you have there?" Eric said, motioning to the pictures I had been looking at. I then told him how I had gotten the manilla folder and how the streets had been deserted as soon as the lady who had "bumped into me" had left.
"It sounds like the coloreds in this area wanted to give us a clue. Is that why you ate at a predominatedly colored restaurant?"
"No. I actually like the food. I didn't think any of them would actually be of any help." Eric looked at me quizically for a moment then got straight to business.
"All right. Let's take a look at what we have here." He had a look of shock when he saw Sheriff Clem Wallace wearing a KKK outfit. "I feared as much."
"Should we confront Sheriff Wallace?" I asked, chomping at the bit.
"No. Not yet. We don't want to go off half cocked. We're going to look over all these pictures, make copies and inform all the other agents in the area to be careful. We're going to get as much information as we can." Then my senior partner stopped short for a moment.
"Yes?" I asked nervously.
"Tomorrow morning we both are going to have breakfast at the same place at which you've been eating for the last few days. Maybe if the people there see both of us eating there they'll start trusting the both of us. I suspect the colored people here have seen your anti-racism tirades and saw you as an ally."
I smiled at my good luck as we poured over the pictures.
AUTHOR'S NOTES: I hope you'll send me a review for this and tell me what you think of this.