Declyn James paced the floor of their loft purposefully, understanding that the introduction of new ideas would always be met with resistance. It takes more time for some concepts to be digested and then accepted as self evident than others. And even within their anonymous cell, known publicly only as The Equalizers, her anticipated escalation in action was bound to be controversial.
Declyn opened the meeting.
“On Sunday morning, vivisector Richard Bergero attended the 9:00 am mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral again and we can now be confident that a pattern has been established. For the past 3 weeks, he’s left his penthouse at 8:30 am accompanied by his wife, Katie,and their children, 10-year old Johnny and 8-year old Mary. The BMW remains parked in the garage and the family takes a taxi to church. Afterwards, they stroll to a diner on Third Avenue for brunch and arrive home in Yorkville between 12:30 and 1:00 pm each week.”
John Simms didn’t miss a beat. “So we have all morning to wire his car while the family worships.” He continued with a chuckle, “The Lord works in mysterious ways!”
Declyn smiled, “Indeed. But I think it’s time to escalate our actions. Remember the tormented, dejected eyes of Bergero’s victims. Rattling their terrorist may make us feel better, but thus far, with very few exceptions, our successes have not translated into relief for the animals.”
‘We would all be in those labs in a heartbeat if we could penetrate their fortresses. But those animals are entombed in underground prisons, behind steel and cement, with security systems and alarms, panic buttons and armed guards in place. We already know the general location of the primates. But I just don’t see how we could liberate them. It would be a suicide mission.”
“I agree, John.” Declyn countered. But what if we had a magic key that would open those cages, free all the victims, and shut Bergero down permanently? Would you be willing to use it?”
“I want us to start thinking in the same terms as our enemy … to understand them better. As we know, the only interests served by the Animal Welfare Act are those of industrial abusers. It allows them to declare war on the innocent and commit their atrocities in a legal sanctuary. We need to redefine the AWA and understand it to be the Animal Warfare Act – a treaty in which the animals and their defenders were never consulted. Therefore, we have the right and responsibility to define our own rules of engagement with no warning or consultation.”
“Okay, Bernadine,” Simms interrupted smiling, “what about the ‘magic key’?”
“You flatter me,” Declyn winked. “The ‘magic key’ is named ‘Little Johnny’.”
The pregnant silence was deafening.
Finally John spoke, “That child is innocent. He is not responsible for the sins of his father and I will have no part of hurting children. Frankly, I think you’ve lost your mind.”
“Who said anything about hurting him? If we could simply ‘borrow’ him for a short time, we could negotiate the release of all of Bergero’s victims and his retirement for the safe return of Johnny.”
“Kidnapping! You want us to erase all the boundaries and face possible lengthy prison terms! The ends don’t always justify the means.”
“We’re talking about the enslavement and unmitigated torture of every species on an incomprehensible scale. So, if we can stop the horror and liberate the animals from their hell, then, yes, the ends justify the means every single time. And as far as prison, the only time any of us has ever served was for using words and waving signs. We all know it is far safer to be an underground operative than an above ground activist. And if we are going to risk incarceration anyway, we need to accomplish as much as possible.”
“Johnny is an innocent child.”
“And the millions of animals in labs are innocent children too. And one human child can hold the freedom of untold numbers of slaves in their hands.”
“That’s the same logic our enemies use: sacrifice the few to serve the many. Do you really want to emulate the most vile ideas of those we loathe, Declyn?”
“Having scruples against an enemy that has none is a liability.”
As Declyn’s word lingered in the air, a calm and thoughtful voice rose from the far corner. Matthew Ross had listened to the exchange without interruption and seemed to weigh his words carefully. “No matter how pure our intentions and no matter how much we’re willing to risk, we’re all just treading water. Maybe now is the time to start pushing even harder until the dam breaks and the war criminals are swept up into the madness they created.”
“So, Matt, you’re telling us that you have no compunction about kidnapping a 10-year old boy?
“No, John, I never said that. The correct observation would be that I have no compunction about doing whatever it takes to liberate the animals! I think we should view little Johnny as a tool just as the vivisectors view our nonhuman cousins. This is not personal as far as the kid goes. But his father owns the playing field. Declyn is simply talking about the rules of engagement.”
“People will think we’re insane,” Simms argued.
“People already think we’re insane,” Declyn continued “I prefer to think of The Equalizers as results-oriented. What will the enemy think when they realize the rules have changed?”
“More importantly,” Matthew interrupted, “what will the animals think when they’re free?”
John turned his attention to the fourth member of the cell who had remained quiet. “Well, Maggie, what do you think?”
“I don’t know,” Maggie Stewart replied.
One month later, Manhattan’s wealthy and elite enjoyed the first crisp, clear Sunday of Autumn mulling through the latest estate acquisitions at Sotheby’s when their peaceful afternoon was shattered by an explosion. A BMW exploded in a parking garage across York Avenue on East 72nd Street. The blast was deafening. Flames clouded the sky with thick black smoke.
The next morning, Little Johnny and his sister boarded the school bus and joined their 15 classmates on their way to their prestigious private school in midtown. Twenty minutes later, the bus stopped in front of St. Catherine’s and Little Mary and her 15 classmates exited. The doors closed. Little Johnny and the bus driver kept going.
Written in the Dickerson Detention Center (February 2012)