It was so long ago I've forgotten much of the details. I think it all began when I took over the group in 2004.
"Darren, you're the man to lead us now," Rusty said.
"Selmont won't get parole for a while?" I asked.
"All I know is, now that Lawrence v. Texas is in the history books, we're going to be unstoppable," Rusty said.
"Then I accept," I said. Every man's famous last words.
"But, Boston needs us now. Things are shaky up there," Rusty said.
"We'll have to be patient you know," I said. "We can't pop their minds open like one does a crate with a crowbar."
"The process will need to be like feeding a cow, more and more until it just dies from gluttony," I said.
I think the hatred started brewing in me then. Rusty always was a cocky bastard.
"If we want the American public to see us as normal, we've got to be normal. The folks next door, so to speak, who've been there all along." It was a good plan.
"Darren, enough of your fortune-cookie crap. We've got a plane to catch," he said. It was then that I realized why we called him Rusty. The freckles huddled on the edges of his face made him look unwashed.
Jasmine Flowers could make the guys take a second look, until they saw her eyes. Man, how the left eye darted around out of sync with the other. Sometimes I never knew who she was looking at.
"Jazz, listen," I said.
"I'm going to defend them, and you're going to lose," she said.
"You don't know what you're doing," I said. I was reaching for straws, of course. She knew exactly what she was doing. She was one of the best lawyers I've ever met.
"You may win the battle but...."
"Spare me the lecture Darren," Jazz interrupted. I'm defending them, and that's it," she said, with her bad eye looking over my head.
"You were on our side once Jazz, how can you do this?" I asked.
"I'm not on your side now. I'm different." If I'd been straight, I would have a fallen for Jazz. She was tough and her hands looked like smooth cream chocolate.
"Locus never stops fighting for its clients," I reminded her. She probably thought I was the biggest creep in the world, trying to bully her with words.
"My client has a right to restrict its positions for those who embrace their statement of faith," Jazz said.
"They're intolerant and spreading hatred." I loved this line. I can't tell you how many people I shot down with that line alone. People were so concerned with tolerance they never stopped to think where we were leading them. Except the intelligent ones like Jazz. They knew. But no one in our organization doubted that tolerance would win the day.
"We'll be in touch," she said as she slammed the door so hard it spooked papers on my desk. Stubborn woman. I knew she'd lose one way or another.
"Gay and proud," said a weasel of a guy holding his sign. He shivered like a wet poodle. The skin that barely covered his bones told me he was dying of AIDS. I thought for sure he'd hurl the sign into the crowd on the other side of the street. We saw this a lot, the look of hate in peoples' eyes at the protests.
"All fags will burn in hell, you queer," shouted the clean-cut man from across the street. They were ready to kill each other. I miss those days.
"Hey homophobes, who's next, Muslims, Blacks, Jews?" I just couldn't resist. This got them every time.
"We aren't Nazis. We just think homosexuality is wrong," one lady screamed. She looked like June Cleaver, but with Rosanne Barr's attitude.
"Yes, and Hitler thought it was wrong not to be an Arian," Ted yelled in his megaphone. "Why do we all have to be like you? Why can't you just accept that some of us were born gay?" Ted was smooth, in spite of his Woody Allen glasses.
"Maybe some of us were born to hate homosexuals. Maybe we can't help it," Jazz said. "Maybe we have a predisposition for not believing homosexual arguments." Finally, a smart one in the crowd.
That's when Nick whispered, "She'll have to go."
Ten years down the road, we met up with Jazz again in 2014 as we fought Mountain Road Church v. Smith, another significant case where a church wouldn't allow a gay man to join their staff. She'd beaten us before, but we were poised to win.
"Your honor," Jazz said, "the State can't impose its beliefs onto individual religious organizations. The Bible, their book of ethics, tells them homosexuality is wrong."
No woman made me as nervous as Jazz. The sweat gathered on my upped lip showed that she was about to win. Only because of Judge Hardy's sympathy to our cause did we buy some time.
Ted, Nick, and I sat that night digging through the cellars of our brains for the clue to end this case.
My closing summary still makes me proud: "The State does have the right to impose its morality onto other organizations. It does it all the time. Organizations aren't allowed to discriminate against people of color." I remember watching the eyes of the older man on the jury. They widened when I said that. I won him over in that instance. "What Mountain Road Church has done is to say that they have the right to discriminate against another human being. We wouldn't tolerate this behavior if Smith was denied a job because of his skin color, so why tolerate this injustice because he's not heterosexual?"
Not only did the old man buy my argument that day, the jury bought it. It was the most significant case for our cause since Lawrence v. Texas.
Several months crawled by when the decision looked like it might be repealed by the Supreme Court. That's when things got out of control.
"Darren, you're going to lose this battle in the Supreme Court," Jazz said, standing in my office, pointing her finger at me. For some reason, I remember seeing her butterscotch knees peeping out just below her skirt, a red skirt that wrapped around her nice and tight.
"We'll see who loses, Jasmine. Don't think that people are always going to rule in favor of the Christians," I said.
"I'm quite aware of this country's disdain for Christians, but there's something more important at stake here than politics and religion," she said, still lecturing me.
It was then that her phone chirped. She walked swiftly out the door, hips swaying from side to side. I really wanted to smack her for her arrogance. No one could get in your face like Jazz.
That's when I made a call:
"Nick, it's time for us to activate the plan."
"You got it boss," and the phone clicked.
That's all it took. Just a call.
Sometimes you do things to win that you never thought you'd stoop to. But that's the dim basement of humanity's heart. It beats for its own purposes if left unchecked.
The next day, Rusty called from Tennessee saying he had the goods.
"How are they?" I asked.
"The mom's crying, but he's calm," Rusty said.
"Take them to our place and send the note."
I never thought we'd ever go this far. But we did. When I first saw Jazz's mom and dad, my heart thumped an extra beat. Maybe my heart was beating in protest, wanting out of the darkness filling around it.
Tears and mascara streaked Mrs. Flowers' brown face.
Her handcuffs rattled behind her, clanging of worse things to come.
"What do you want from us?" Mr. Flowers asked, almost calmly. Nature's gray frost had covered his hair. I could tell by the rattle in his voice that he frequently washed down his nicotine with coffee.
"Justice, Mr. Flowers," I said. "We want justice."
I never spoke to them again.
We had already bugged Jazz's house, car, and office. So we tracked her when she got our note. Her scream gave me chills. Then she sobbed. We knew she'd never go to the police. We had her parents, how could she?
But we never anticipated her heading off to Tennessee like she did.
"Boss, we've lost her down in a swamp. It may take a while," Nick reported on the phone.
"You need to find her, now," I screamed.
"Rusty just arrived with the dogs, so it won't be long," Nick said.
I must have drunk ten cups of coffee that night. I even threw darts to keep my mind occupied.
"What are you doing still up at this hour?" Ted asked. His two hairy legs holding up his tan body, shrouded by his yellow robe.
"We've activated the plan. She's on the run down south."
"I see." His forehead furled and one brow tilted toward the ceiling. He went back into our bedroom. I recall walking out into our yard that night in Boston, looking up at the starless sky. Frisky stood beside me with her tongue flopping. I stroked her white hair, and actually prayed that we find Jazz. Imagine that, praying to a God I didn't believe in to help me catch one of his own.
I stood outside Jazz's cell, watching her sleep. Because of the drugs, she'd been out for a while. I could see her eyes darting back and forth under her eyelids. What was she dreaming?
Later they wheeled her in on a gurney. She faced me as her judge.
I think by that point she knew she couldn't win her freedom back. Her eyes radiated the hopelessness of one of those black hungry kids in Africa, the kind you see on commercials when you're trying to eat dinner. They wheeled her away and that was the last time I talked with her.
"She wept when she saw her parents," Nick said.
"Shut up!" I demanded. "I don't want any details."
"Yes sir," Nick said.
"Is the job taken care of?" I asked.
"It's done. Rusty's in charge of the clean up," Nick said.
"The clean up? The ropes were his idea. The clean up?" I murmured.
We won our many cases, and Locus thrived. The bottle worked wonders to ease my mind. You can drown out a lot of voices with the right concoction.
We discovered that even the police were willing to look the other way for the right amount. Nick died several years later in a mysterious car crash. I've always suspected Rusty. He was next in line and seemed eager for me to retire.
Ted died of AIDS a few years ago. I cried face down into my pillow every night for three months straight. I recovered though. I've enjoyed my retirement the last several years. But Rusty is still around, leading the group on to more victories. How he got hold of the compromising pictures of me, I'm not sure. But, I hope he burns for his crimes.
I imagine my wheezing and coughing will stop soon, the ultimate cure, if you know what I mean. After three trips to the hospital, and coughing up blood, I figured it was time to write my story and get it in the mail. I wish I could see the look on Rusty's face when the story breaks tomorrow, but I will already have taken too many sleeping pills to be bothered any longer by this whole mess.