Chapter 18

Tommy began to  speak again and everyone looked back at him…but he was talking to me.

“Hey!  I like your idea.  What’s your name?” He called to me.

I shouted out my name.

Tommy said as he pointed to me…”That’s a great idea, Riley,  We need more ideas like that.”

“I think a hunger strike and chaining a few of us to that tower would get a lot of attention…but think…just think what would happen if we just blew the damn thing up.”  And then he paused…

Shocked silence at first…but then quiet murmuring and a smattering of applause.

So far the protests on this campus had been basically non-violent…peaceful…but some colleges and universities…Wisconsin for example…had seen major conflicts between the police and war protesters.

But so far…not at the University of Minnesota or at any  other locations around the state.

Tommy handled the reluctance and surprise of the crowd with ease.

“But…I wouldn’t want any protesters chained to the tower at the time…of course…” he joked and with that comment he again had the crowd completely with him.

Then he quickly shifted focus and stressed that civil disobedience like “hunger strikes” and “blocking roadways” would get massive coverage in the press…and that was the important thing.

He also mentioned again the “Snelling Avenue water tower idea” and my name…

And then after a couple more speakers… the rally was over.

 

Chapter 19

Later…at a little bar in Dinky Town…I saw Tommy siting with a bunch of other kids I had seen at the rally.  They were all sitting in a huge booth by the back wall.

I went over and introduced myself…just in case he had forgotten who I was.

I told him how impressed I was with his speech and told him I was eager to help in any way.

“Riley.  Of course I remember you!  Here sit down next to me.”  He said and patted the space next to him and everyone slid over.

Tommy said he had been talking to other anti-war protest leaders on other campuses across the country and they had been sharing strategies.

He was flying to Washington D.C. tomorrow to plan the inauguration protest…if Nixon was elected..

We sat and talked that night for hours and over the next several weeks, we got together to plan strategies and share more ideas.

We were all students…so we had to fit everything in around classes…but winter break was coming.

It was the middle of January when Tommy brought up the water tower idea again…only this time the plan was to blow it up.

“It’s the only way to get the press to pay attention,” Tommy said.  “And it will be safe…no one will be around in the dead of winter…I’ve checked it out many times and the place is always deserted…not one foot print in the snow.

“I talked with a couple of guys from New York and California and they all said…and I agree…we have to start making people sit up and take notice.”

“Blowing things up will do that…and we’ll get the front-page headlines we deserve.”

Everyone agreed with Tommy…but I did not.

“No.  Sorry…no violence.” I said.  “I’ll lay in the street.  I’ll get arrested.  I’ll chain myself to a building or whatever…but no violence that could possibly hurt innocent people.  Absolutely not.”

Sheila Baxter and her boyfriend Gerald Michaels were sitting next to me.  They were also working toward law degrees and had known Tommy when he was in California.

They also had come here on scholarship.

Another boy, Mikey Longwell was the organizer of a small group of kids who had been at the Wisconsin Dow Day protest…where there had been injuries…it was the first university protest to turn violent.

They listened to me and then turned back to Tommy.  It was like I hadn’t said anything at all.

I sat for a few more minutes shaking my head in disapproval.

Finally, I had enough.  I stood up and started to put on my jacket.

“I’m leaving.  I’m not doing this.” I said and started to walk out.

Tommy got up and followed me to the door.  He grabbed my arm so I couldn’t leave.

“You better keep quiet about this, Riley.  Remember all those people at that rally a few months ago?”

“They heard one thing over and over again…that ‘staging a protest at the water tower’ was your idea.”

And then Tommy smiled and my whole body suddenly got so cold I shivered.

I knew then that Tommy Clark could be very dangerous if you made him mad.  I think I just did.

I angrily pulled my arm away and walked out the door.

 

 

 

Chapter 20

I immediately went home and told my mom and dad about Tommy Clark’s plans.

They called my uncle, Carl Andrews, a retired St. Paul homicide detective…and then..everything happened very fast.

Within twenty-four hours, Tommy, Sheila, Gerald and Mikey were all  picked up for questioning by the St. Paul Police Department.

I, too, was questioned.  Initially, I was being considered the “instigator” of this plot…since Tommy and his friends had all said it was my idea…but California police records showed quite a history of “trouble making events” for Tommy Clark and that lifted all suspicion from me.

But I did have to admit the “chaining” and “hunger strike” plans were my idea.

We then had to appear before a grand jury to see if there was enough evidence for a felony charge.

Unfortunately, the grand jury determined there was not enough conclusive evidence that a crime was actually going to be committed.

Instead, they determined it was more likely just some “bragging” by some college kids who had had too many beers to drink…

And that Riley Sanderson…who had also been drinking when she had heard of these “let’s blow up the tower” plans…had just misinterpreted the whole thing.

Since no charges were filed, our names were never released but everyone knew quickly who we were…and Tommy was a hero to the more militant side of the anti-war movement.

The University of Minnesota, however, looked at this incident differently and decided to use this as an example to other students at the University who may be planning acts of civil disobedience in protesting the Viet Nam war…

They placed a full-page ad in the Minnesota Daily…citing the University’s policy regarding protests and rallies and consequences for unlawful behavior.

We were all called into the Dean’s office and expelled without any recourse.

Tommy and his friends’ scholarships were rescinded…and everything went on our permanent record.

It didn’t matter to me.  I was heading north as soon as possible.  My parents would be joining me.

“Time for new beginnings…” my dad had said.  “For all of us…”

But…just as I was leaving the building I realized that I had forgotten my gloves and walked back to get them.

Tommy, Sheila, Gerald and Mikey were all huddled together at a table quietly talking.

I could see that Sheila had been crying.  I knew how close she had been to getting her law degree and how much she had looked forward to being a lawyer.

I grabbed my gloves and turned back to the door.  Tommy spotted me.

“This isn’t over, ‘little girl’… far from it.  You made a very big mistake.”

And…then he gave be that chillingly, cold smile that I would never forget.

 

…keep reading…

It was never a love story…not really…

Chapter 21

…Larson’s Grocery…

…NOW….

I stepped back…I could not believe that Tommy Clark was standing less than three feet in front of me…smiling that disgusting smile of his.

My heart began to pound like a jack-hammer.

I had been wrong…all these years…I had been so wrong.

Not everyone was dead after all.

They say…that if you are ever confronted by a vicious  animal, you should never run.  They will instinctively think you are prey and chase you .

And when they catch you…and they will catch you…they will kill you.

Instead, shout as loudly as you can or grab a couple of rocks and bang them together.

Your chances are good the animal will be momentarily startled at least for a short time…giving you a chance to escape.

I had no rocks.  My mouth was so dry I could hardly swallow…much less shout. And what exactly would I shout?   So I stood and waited.

“You look good, Riley.”

I suddenly felt dizzy and I swayed just a little.

“I need to sit down…” I said and made an effort to walk back to where I had been sitting.

But Tommy took my elbow and steered me out the door of Larson’s.

“I think what you need is a drink, Riley.  I know I could use one.  There’s a friendly-looking little bar a couple of doors down.”

It had started to rain ever so  slightly…and still holding tightly to my arm…he led me down the block.

Maybe Tommy had mellowed.  It had been so many years.  Maybe this was just a chance encounter.

Maybe his frightening smile was just a…smile.  Maybe this was a dream and I would wake up.

And maybe pigs could fly…

 

 

Chapter 22

Two doors down from Larson’s was the kind of neighborhood bar that seldom saw strangers…especially in the middle of a Tuesday afternoon.

Sure enough…when we walked in…the three men at the bar turned at the sound of the door opening…stopped talking and just looked at the two of us.

Tommy gave them a nod and then guided me to a booth way over in a corner by a window.  It was stuffy in the bar and Tommy opened the window a little.  The cool air felt good.

An older woman…perhaps in her sixties came right over and leaned against the side of the booth.  I had a feeling she may have been the owner.

She gave us a cool smile…and I’m sure she was thinking…”Now…who the hell are you two?”

But she said pleasantly, “Nice rainy day, right?”

I returned her smile…and desperately tried to think of something I could say or do to get me out of this booth…and away from Tommy.

I had decided…pigs can’t fly.

“Where is the ladies’ room?” I asked.

She looked away from us and pointed to a neon sign on the other side of the bar…past a few tables.

I made a move to get up…but Tommy reached across and put a restraining hand on my arm…

“Riley, can you hold on for just a couple of minutes?  Let’s order first.  I’m starving.”

He gave the waitress a big smile and said, “We’ll need a second or two.”

He reached for the little menus propped up by the salt & pepper shakers.  His jacket fell open a little.

That’s when I saw the holster…and the gun.

“Sure, blue eyes…I’ll be back.”

Tommy smiled at her again and then turned back…but there was no smile for me…he knew I had seen the gun.

 

 

Chapter 23

“Oh, don’t be scared, Riley…I’m not going to kill you.  The gun’s not for you.  I always carry now…it’s legal in Minnesota, you know…or maybe you don’t.  You’ve been gone for such a long time.”

But I do have a story to tell you and I want you to hear it.   I want you to know how…” he paused, folded his hands together in front of him, took a deep breath…and then began again.

“I want you to completely understand the consequences of your foolish actions that night when you and your uncle decided to call the police.”

I made an effort to speak but before I could say anything…

“No…let me talk.  I’ve waited a long time, Riley.”  Tommy seemed very calm…not angry at all.

I relaxed a little.

“Fine.  I’l listen to you, Tommy.  But I read about Sheila and Gerald in the newspaper.  I know what happened to them.”

“I read that about six months after we were all expelled from the University of Minnesota…they blew themselves up in an abandoned apartment building in New York City…along with four innocent teenagers who just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

“…and Mikey…I can’t help it that his marriage failed…or should I say marriages…and that he felt that suicide was the solution to his problems.”

“That’s not on me.” I said, feeling more sure of myself now…

“I’ve even kept track of you…Tommy…but I thought you were dead.”