STRANGER 456 Chapter Fifty-Eight

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    Captain Winston Jamal was pacing back and forth across the control room that had been set up for the Axel murders task force.

The Mayor’s Office had trusted him with this spiraling “red ball” of a case when it merely involved two missing females and now that it had morphed dangerously into a national media story involving the most audacious serial killer since Gacy, the hot light of scrutiny was on him twenty-four/seven. Like any senior police official he was worried about the political fallout from the killer’s latest abduction. He was worried about his career and the reputation of his unit. But most of all, he was concerned for the life of Deputy Bergstrom.

The Captain was a rare breed in law enforcement: a truly dedicated detective who refused to allow himself to get jaded or cynical about the job. While always alert to the wind direction from City Hall, he was entirely devoted to reducing the murder rate in Chicago and solving every open case in his files. In that sense, he was the antithesis of SSA Ronald Killebrew – a “public servant” who served only himself.

Jamal was the product of two devoutly religious cultures: Christianity and Islam. He’d come of age in such a conflicted household that he’d learned early on to think for himself and take responsibility for his own actions. He knew very little about the background of either Maddy or Dr. Forbes, but he shared one thing in common with them: he’d been up and he’d been brought very low and on his long road to redemption, he’d developed a credo that he liked to call “the blank slate method.”

He came to every case, every crime and every person he met, on either side of the law with an open mind. He did his best to jettison whatever prejudice or bias he might have, and take a purely empirical approach toward problem solving. Jamal was more concerned about the truth than the perception of the truth. That set him apart from 90 per cent of the senior law enforcement officials he’d come to know, but it had been the key to his success until now.

His father, Winston Bradley, had emigrated from Jamaica in the late 1960’s.  The son of a Kingston surgeon educated in England, Winston Jr. had enjoyed a privileged life. He’d grown up in St. Andrew Parish where he played cricket as a child. After attending “public schools” modeled on the British preparatory system, he graduated from The American International School, a coed interracial academy where diplomats sent their children.

Accepted to Northwestern in Evanston, Illinois on a full scholarship, Winston began his freshman year as an accounting major. At a Greek World “mixer” he met Genevieve Holmes, the daughter of a strict black Baptist Minister from Chicago’s south side. They dated briefly and had only one intimate encounter. But Genny soon left school after learning that she was pregnant.

Winston took on a series of work study jobs at school, vowing to help raise the child, whom they learned would be a son. Genny’s father married them in a simple ceremony, but he forbade the Jamaican immigrant from ever seeing his daughter or his new son again.

The year was 1968 and following the turbulent Democratic National Convention, Chicago was exploding with the “days of rage,” staged by the radical Weather Underground. After growing up as a privileged Commonwealth subject in Kingston, Winston began to realize that in the all white suburb of Evanston, he was just another “black man.” So he started to educate himself. He studied the writings of his fellow countryman Marcus Garvey. He read Richard Wright, Ralph Ellison, James Baldwin and the Autobiography of Malcolm X.

Winston  joined the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee led by the fiery young immigrant from Trinidad, Stokely Carmichael and soon began to find a new identity in the militancy that was sweeping the civil rights movement.

By 1969, Carmichael had begun a campaign to merge “Snick” as it was known, with the Black Panther Party and Winston became one of its first crossover members. With their full Afros, black leather jackets, and black berets, the BPP spoke to him in a way that the NAACP, CORE and other more placid groups could not.

In mid October, he dropped out of Northwestern and moved into an apartment on Monroe Street near the Panther Party’s Chicago office. By November, Winston was working as a community organizer under Fred Hampton, the charismatic leader who took over the Chicago BPP Chapter.

In the months before that, Hampton had drawn together the Panthers with a street gang called the Blackstone Rangers, the all white Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) and the Hispanic Young Lords. It was Hampton who first coined the phrase “Rainbow Coalition,” later used by the Reverend Jesse Jackson.

While other Panther “ministers” like Eldridge Cleaver and H. Rap Brown seemed more enamored with the media, Hampton set up a breakfast program for inner city children, and Winston became his right hand.

But the FBI’s COINTEL program soon fomented a split between Bob Brown, the Panther Party’s founder in Illinois, and Stokely Carmichael’s SNCC. The schism sent Hampton to the top ranks of the Black Panther’s national organization and Winston rose with him.

If J. Edgar Hoover mistrusted Dr. Martin Luther King, who had modeled his non-violent tactics after Gandhi, he loathed the militant Panthers and Hampton soon became a target. By May of 1969, his name was placed in the Bureau’s “Agitator Index” along with that of his “subversive cohort” Winston Bradley Jr.

Using wiretaps, anonymous letters and other tactics, COINTELPRO agents did everything they could to follow Hoover’s orders and “destroy what the Black Panther Party stands for.”

In addition to dirty tricks, like sending out racist cartoons mocking whites with the Black Panther logo, Hoover instructed his agents to disrupt the BPP’s grass roots organizing efforts and “eradicate its ‘serve the people’ programs.”

The Chicago PD under Mayor Richard Daley, became an enthusiastic Bureau ally, staging raids and ransacking the Party’s Monroe Street Office.

Hampton was prosecuted for the crime of stealing $71.00 in Good Humor ice cream bars and incredibly, the judge imposed a sentence of two to five years. But he’d been released on bond pending his appeal.

Then, in late 1969 after two Chicago police officers were ambushed and murdered, the CPD stormed the apartment where Hampton was living with other Party members. Multiple shots were fired and Hampton was wounded in the shoulder. But a Panther eyewitness later claimed that rather than taking him alive, the cops shot him in the head, effectively executing him in cold blood.

Winston Bradley, who had nothing to do with the shooting, was arrested and convicted of felony murder as a result of his presence in the apartment. He did six years of hard time in Joliet State Penitentiary. But during that stretch he joined The Nation of Islam.

Paroled, after forensic evidence proved that he had taken no part in the gun battle, Winston came home to find that Genevieve had filed for divorce. Working as a community organizer he got joint custody of their five-year old son, Winston III, whom he renamed with his Muslim surname “Jamal.”

Young Winston III was brought up attending Friday prayers at the NOI’s flagship “Mosque No. 2.” Like his father, he wore severe black suits, white shirts and thin black bow ties. He shaved his head, ate no pork and preached the word of “The Prophet,” Elijah Mohammed. Meanwhile, on Sundays, his mother would come and “rescue” him and force him to sit through hours of revival services at his grandfather’s church.

The tug of war between his parents drove Winston III into the streets.

At the age of 13, he started hanging around the “corners” where the Chicago’s deadliest street gang, the Black P. Stones slung drugs. The gang had its roots in the old Blackstone Rangers that had formed the brief coalition with the Panthers.

By his fifteenth birthday, he was living on his own and earning $5,000.00 a week in cash selling crack. Two years later he was driving a tricked out BMW and living in a condo on the near North Side that he’d paid for in cash.

But at that point Winston III began using and he got careless. Busted by undercover narcotics officers with “felony weight,” he ended up in the notorious Cooke County Jail where he got his jaw broken resisting a rape attempt.

At the time of his arraignment there was a pilot project that allowed first time offenders to opt for military service rather than prison. The judge told him that if he could make it through basic training and stay clean for his two year hitch, his criminal record would be expunged.

Winston’s father and mother both showed up in court and begged him to take the deal. If he didn’t, they rightfully feared, he would end up in prison or dead.

Twenty-four hours later, he was on a bus to Fort Jackson, South Carolina. Just prior to his nine week Basic Combat Training, Winston III took a Dale Carnegie Course on “The Power of Positive Thinking.”

The Army offered the top recruit in each BCT platoon a shot at Officer Candidate School. So Winston spent his off hours bulking up, working out and studying long into the night.  He finished first in his Platoon and won the O.C. position. A week later, he was enrolled in the 12 week OCS course at Fort Benning, Georgia.

Winston Bradley Jamal was the product of two “true believer” mindsets: evangelical Christianity and Islam as interpreted by Elijah Mohammed. He now decided to believe in the U.S. Army.  He graduated fourth in his class, the only OC in his rotation without a college degree. After getting his Second Lieutenant’s bars he never looked back, deciding that henceforth, he would honor a code that he would write for himself.

After Benning, Winston had the pick of assignments and chose the U.S. Army Garrison in Stuttgart, Germany where he distinguished himself as an M.P. Given his father’s brush with death at the hands of the Chicago P.D. and his own arrest, law enforcement should have been last career choice on 2nd Lt. Jamal’s mind. So both of his parents were shocked went he wrote home that he’d secured a position in the 18th Military Police Brigade assigned to EUCOM at V Corps Headquarters in Heidelberg.

Then in 1990, at the age of 21, he had an experience that redefined his life. Attached to a special V Corps investigative unit probing possible war crimes by Serbian nationalists, he walked onto the huge unmarked grave that was the site of the Srebrenica Massacre. In a campaign of genocide and “ethnic cleansing” meant to wipe out the former Yugoslavia’s Muslim population, more than 8,000 men and boys had been killed there by the Scorpions, a unit under the command of General Ratko Mladic.

At that point in his life, the young, tight, black “Second Louey” from Chicago thought that he’d seen everything. But soon, he became weak in the knees as he worked with a team of U.N. pathologists who unearthed the skeletal remains of thousands in the mass grave created by Mladic’s shock troops.

The day he ended that tour of duty was the day that Winston Jamal decided who he was. He was a man who hated bullies; those who presumed; those who felt that they had an option on truth; those who used force to impose their own will on others. His time at the mass grave in Bosnia had convinced him that the ultimate act of a bully was homicide: The presumption that one person had the right to take another person’s life, for whatever reason: politics, God or greed.  It didn’t matter. The consequence was that the bully stayed alive and his victim was dead.

So after re-upping for another tour, Winston returned to Chicago determined that he would spend the rest of his career investigating violent death. Through intelligence, drive and an innate ability to earn the trust of his subordinates, he rose quickly through the ranks. He got his homicide detective’s shield after three years in uniform.

Now, approaching his forty third birthday, he was the head of the Squad and facing the most important multiple death case of his U.S. law enforcement career. Naturally, his father’s history with the Panthers and the FBI’s role in Hampton’s death made him suspicious of the Bureau. But long ago, he’d promised to bring a fresh pair of eyes to every case. So initially he’d given Killebrew his due.

Now, at that moment, as word filtered in though his contacts at DEA that Axel had led two helicopters and a pair of FBI Suburbans down the Chicago River with Deputy Bergstrom in the back of a boat, he was on a heightened state of readiness. The CPD had two Bell Jet Rangers and he would have them prepped and ready to fly as soon as he got word back from Forbes. There was little he could do in the meantime but wait.

But as he stared at the wall of victims in that control room, the Captain said two prayers: one to the carpenter from Nazareth whom his mother worshiped and the other one to Allah. He prayed that they would stop the bully Axel that night before he took another life.

 

 

 

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