Print - Counter-Terrorism Is Getting Complicated - Esquire
Published in the February 2012 “Things We Can All Agree On” issue, on sale soon
The guys were coming over. That’s what Fred and Charlotte Thomas both called them — “the guys,” as though they were Fred’s poker buddies. Fred and Charlotte were both in their early seventies. They were retired. They were living in a place that was still new to them, and in some ways still foreign. They weren’t in the best health — Charlotte had pain in her legs, and Fred, just a month before, had endured having half a lung removed by doctors who had misdiagnosed him. They thought he had cancer, when in fact the growth was a fungus. Fred had lost half a lung by mistake, and now both Fred and Charlotte had trouble climbing the stairs in their tall, narrow house. It had been a tough year, and when Fred told her that the guys were coming over, she was just happy he had friends.
It was March 17, 2011, when they came over the first time. Saint Paddy’s Day. Charlotte and Fred had gotten some pizzas and beers so they would have something to eat. Then she went upstairs, to leave Fred alone. Or maybe she went out. She doesn’t remember. She didn’t know that many of the guys, anyway. Oh, she knew Dan — Fred’s friend Dan Roberts. The rest of them were new. There was a guy named Anthony, and another guy whose name she forgot. There was a guy named Joe, and then there was Joe’s son, also named Joe. The first Joe was much younger than both Fred and Dan — at least twenty years younger — and the second Joe was just twenty-five. Well, Fred and Charlotte were used to that. They were used to having younger friends.
The meeting went well. The men talked, ate, laughed, and went home. Fred talked a lot, but then he always did. Charlotte couldn’t imagine — who could? — that one of the guys was wearing a tape recorder, and that when the meeting was over, he gave the tape to a Department of Homeland Security agent named Scott Matthewson, who had staked out her house and was waiting nearby. And she couldn’t imagine that when Matthewson listened to the tape, he’d hear her beloved husband saying what would make him notorious:
“There is no way for us, as militiamen, to save this country, to save Georgia, without doing something that’s highly, highly illegal. Murder. That’s fucking illegal, but it’s gotta be done.”