Mountain Brook, Wyoming, population 7,604. A quiet little burg in the shadow of the Teton Mts. A nice place to live if you want peace and quiet. If you want tourists and activities, there are plenty of other places in Wyoming to settle, or even just visit. Cheyenne, Cody, or the national parks. Lots of great natural beauty to enjoy all around, but for peace and quiet, a town the size of Mountain Brook is just right. And if you desire anonymity, it’s perfect. At least it was until yesterday!
Yesterday, just four days after the start of the new school year, a boiler exploded in the Mountain Brook Elementary School! The old furnace had been repaired time and again and for the last time this past summer. It was slated for replacement next year! Instead, it reached its limit this year and blew sky high, taking a good portion of the elementary school with it!
In a town like Mountain Brook, at a time like this, not only do the police, firefighters, and EMTs respond, but nearly the whole town does! Businesses shut down as fast as they can. Most of the owners and managers, even a good portion of the employees serve as volunteer firefighters, first responders, National Guardsmen or you name it.
Of course, the local police spear-headed the emergency situation. The State Police was notified, and they sent a few troopers that way. Parents of the elementary students quickly flooded the area. The local police quickly set up a perimeter and a liaison tent to handle the worried parents. Students and faculty were evacuated to this one central, safe location and efforts were made to account for everyone before matching parents with their children. Most were too far from the blast to be harmed in any way – they were merely frightened.
However, two groups were close to the blast. One of those was one of the fourth-grade classes doing artwork just across the hall to the west and one room to the north of the boiler room. The explosion had taken out the empty room next to the class and part of the adjoining wall. That wall and some of the suspended ceiling burst in and down upon the students with no warning! It was taking emergency workers a little time to get all those students and the teacher and his aid out safely. Preliminary reports said no fatalities and no serious injuries, though plenty of minor ones, but there was one more group to locate.
A group directly affected by the blast was another story altogether. Twelve students from the third-grade class of Freda Jackson had gone to the basement with the teacher’s aide, Kathy Maxwell. They were on a fact-finding assignment. A few years ago, no one would have been in the small room located just behind the room that held the boiler. It had been just a storage room, but a couple of years ago it had been retrofitted to make a special library annex for research specifically related to Wyoming’s rich history – especially relating to exploration, westward expansion, and Native American heritages.
The small room would only handle ten or twelve students at a time, so classes took turns and scheduled small group research and studies at different days and times. Unfortunately for these students and Ms. Maxwell, yesterday was their turn.
The explosion ripped through that part of the building and blew upward. Some of the main floor collapsed into the basement and blocked access to the research room. A pile of rubble of concrete, steel, and wood prevented the class from escaping. The wood was ablaze, and smoke was likely filtering into the room!
The concussion of the blast had knocked a few of the students to the floor as well as some of the shelf units. A few were hurt and all were terrified. It happened so quickly that there was no chance of escape. It took a little while at the evacuation staging area to realize part of the third-grade class was missing.
Authorities did soon learn the plight of that class though and began to organize rescue efforts there. There were other patches of fire to put out, but the research room became top priority. The fire had to be squelched first before rubble could be removed. Ambulances and EMTs stood at the ready close by.
The location of the blazing pile of rubble was problematic. On the main floor directly above the trapped students was the library. It had held but looked precarious. The next room had been reduced to rubble and collapsed to the downstairs blocking the research room. So, the library was not a safe place from which to fight the fire. The next room did not exist anymore. And debris and smaller fires blocked entry from where the fourth graders had been evacuated. They were able to get out the other way, but it would take some time to clear a path inward, just to be in position to fight the fire that threatened the research room.
Meanwhile, if anything happened to further weaken the library, it might collapse into the research room below it! With a “no-cellphone” policy in place for the students, there was no communication in or out of the research room. The school intercom still worked in other areas of the building but no longer here. Ms. Maxwell did her best to help the wounded and calm them all.
In about an hour, all other students, teachers, and administrative staff had been accounted for and students were united with their parents. No one wanted to go home, but the police and school officials encouraged them to do so or go to their churches to pray for those trapped in the research room. They had been identified by now and their families waited anxiously at the evacuation post.
Several of the other injured had been transported to the small hospital in Mountain Brook. Fortunately, so far, no one was hurt badly enough to take anywhere else. Of course, local and regional news reporters were on the scene, so all of Wyoming watched and waited. Much of the nation got continued updates. Every effort was being made to affect the rescue of the teacher’s aide and her twelve third graders, but it was slow going. If smoke was getting into that room, and no one could know for sure, it could be life threatening. And of course, that was assuming the class had survived the blast in the first place! Time was not an ally here.
While firefighters continued to rain on the blazes and rescue workers cleared debris as quickly and safely as possible, the authorities conferred and plotted possible strategies to get those trapped people out of there. But one man did something else. The school janitor, Calvin Sampson, just couldn’t stand idly by anymore. He knew this building like no one else. He had cleaned it from top to bottom for twenty years. He knew every inch of floor space, every nook and cranny. He knew its strengths and its weaknesses. Others wondered about the integrity of that library above; Calvin knew it wouldn’t last. He knew the supporting walls of the research room were barely enough to hold the library up. With the explosion and possible damage, plus the fires, he knew it had to have weakened.
It was time to get those kids out of there! He went to his custodian workroom and quickly went to work. Not cleaning, but making something – homemade bombs! He got some chemicals, some pipes, tape, and a few other things he would need and soon he had two pipe bombs and was headed back to the boiler room area. Obviously, he had done this before.
Calvin slipped through the barricades and cordoned-off areas to make his way downstairs to what used to be the boiler room. The debris and fires were on the opposite side. Knowing the layout of the erstwhile boiler room, he was able to crawl through the rubble toward the research room. He had to manhandle some debris occasionally, but he was able to reach the backside of the rubble pile that had blocked entry to or escape from the research room. It was still burning pretty good and as yet, the firefighters were not able to work there.
Calvin carefully scanned the rubble pile and did some mental calculations. He planned to set off his two bombs in such a way as to blast the rubble away from the wall of the research room. The explosions would have to be directional. The blasts had to push the rubble away, not just anywhere. He had designed his bombs to do just that, if he could place them where and how he needed.
That would be the tricky part. He needed the two blasts to be about ten or twelve feet apart in a line close to the research room and parallel with its west wall. Of course, the position had to be just right to blow the rubble away and not hurt the wall. He knew it would work if he could position the bombs correctly and control when they went off.
Calvin knew that if he could just crawl over there and set the bombs, he could light the fuses, crawl away, and watch the fireworks do their job. But he couldn’t do that. With a little work he could rig the first bomb, but he couldn’t get far enough into the pile to set the second one. Without it, the first one would be a waste of time. It would take two consecutive explosions to do the job.
What he needed was to burrow a tunnel into the debris just a couple of feet out from the research room wall. That two feet of debris would help protect the room from the blasts and could easily be cleaned once the big rubble pile had been blasted away. He also knew that even if he cleared a spot for his first bomb, he could never tunnel further along to plant the second bomb. He couldn’t tunnel into a loose rubble pile – it would just collapse, even if he could pry debris away.
He could only think of one way. It was risky, even if he could make it work. He hoped if he could clear a spot for the first explosion and have bomb number two ready, and if he was fast enough, the first explosion would temporarily clear a path where he could get the second bomb to where he needed it to be.
He would only have a second or two before debris from the first explosion would resettle on top of him, if the second blast didn’t carry it away. Even then, he wasn’t sure he would survive. If he failed, the kids were no worse off. If he succeeded, they could be reached soon after. He didn’t know if they were alive, but he felt like it was worth the risk.
He worked as fast as he could to clear and brace a small cavity in the rubble to house the first pipe bomb. It looked good. He was pretty sure the blast would make a good start at clearing the rubble pile. It might even help with the fire. The question was, could he protect himself from the blast so he could stay close enough and steady enough to quickly set off the second bomb in the newly created space. He was about to find out!
Calvin cut the fuse on the second bomb short and got his lighter out. He placed the first bomb just how he knew it had to be set. He lit the fuse and laid down behind the concrete blocks he had set to protect himself. He held bomb Number Two with his lighter ready.
Boom!! The word hardly fits what took place. Calvin lit the second fuse and looked up. It was dusty and smoky, but he saw floor space just ahead. Debris was coming back down. He tossed the bomb up ahead to the space created by the first explosion and dropped down below the blocks again.
Boom!! The second blast sent more rubble into the air combining with the debris that was settling down from the first blast. Calvin dared not raise up yet. He was being showered with some debris – but not much. He needed to stay well enough to start clearing the rubble next to the wall and the door.
Meanwhile, firefighters had heard the blasts and quickly reacted. Calvin had definitely gotten their attention! They maneuvered to see the source of the explosions. They could tell the blasts had come from near the research room, but no one was in a position to see yet. What they could see was that the fire near the research room had nearly been smothered out!
A drone was dispatched to hover over the area and with its video, they could see a man clearing rubble away from the research room wall – near the door. A quick conference with school officials identified Calvin, the custodian, and produced a theory that he must have gotten through from the boiler room area. Workers were sent in that same way.
As Calvin pulled and pushed away debris, workers found his path through the boiler room and joined him in the debris-clearing. They made quick work of the small pile that was left by the wall after the explosions. Within minutes they found and cleared the door. Forcing open the door they were delighted to see Ms. Maxwell seated on the floor in the middle of the room surrounded by the students. Students were all seated except two who were a little hurt and lying on the floor with their heads on her lap. Seeing their rescuers, the children all shouted with joy and leapt to their feet!
The rescue workers instructed them on how they would exit the room and crawl through the boiler room to get out. They would go directly to the area set up for checking their condition and their parents would be brought in. As the processional made its way to the staging area, Calvin fell back to the rear of the line and eventually slipped off on his own. Thirty minutes later, everyone had been cared for and had returned to home and family. The only thing left was dealing with continued debris-cleaning and firefighting – and of course, the news.
Everyone was looking for the hero of the day, identified as school custodian, Calvin Sampson. He was nowhere to be found. They got his address, but he wasn’t home. Police looked for him. Reporters looked for him. No one could find him.
In the days following, research found out very little about Calvin. He had been in town for twenty years, but no one really knew him. He kept to himself. Didn’t attend church or socialize. Seemed to have no friends. He did his job well, but that’s all anyone could say about him.
He was the hero of the day, yet no one really knew him, and he was nowhere to be found! The drone footage was shown on television and eventually picked up across the nation. Later some of it was posted on social media and even showed a zoomed in picture of Calvin as he cleared away rubble. But no one had seen him since the incident.
That picture of Calvin went viral since he was missing now. Four days after the rescue, a man saw it on the news in a bar in eastern Ohio. He went home and googled it. He downloaded the photo into his phone and called to set up a visit the next day at the state penitentiary in northeastern Ohio.
Gary Branch waited on his side of the glass partition for inmate 436 to join him. Thomas “Tommy Boy” Boyer was serving life in prison for crimes he committed thirty years ago in the ‘70s. Gary had served twenty-five for his part and was paroled five years ago. Minnie “Mousy” Malone had served fifteen of her twenty-five and was released ten years before Branch. The fourth member of the gang had gotten away and was never heard from again. He topped the FBI’s Most Wanted list for several years, but in recent times was seldom even talked about.
The ‘70s was a volatile time for protesting. It was the decade of the Symbionese Liberation Army, the New World Liberation Front, and the Weather Underground. Bombings had become so commonplace that most of the country had become numb to the news. One of the lesser known groups was Four for Freedom, headed by Tommy Boy. They had set off a dozen or more bombs around the Midwest, culminating with the one for which the three had been arrested, tried, convicted, and sentenced. Tommy Boy got life for setting the bomb that killed three people. The others hadn’t actually built or planted that bomb, so their sentences were lighter. They all believed, and rightly so, that the fourth member of the group had turned them in.
Branch asked Tommy Boy how he was doing. Tommy said, “Good as I can do in here. What brings you here?”
Branch asked if he had heard about the school explosion in Wyoming. Boyer said, “A little. A boiler blew, right?”
Gary replied, “Yeah, but the rescue of some of the kids is still kind of unsolved. Seems it took blasts from two pipe bombs to clear the rubble.”
“Well, they always did the trick for us,” Tommy Boy said, almost fondly remembering their protest years. “So?”
Gary pulled up the picture of Calvin Sampson on his phone and held it to the glass window between the two men. “This is the janitor they think set off the bombs and started the rescue. Anybody we know?”
Tommy Boy leaned up and looked closely. “You think it’s our boy?”
“Don’t you?” Gary asked. “I know it’s been thirty years. Picture some long brown hair, and a few less pounds and wrinkles… look at those eyes and that little scar by his left ear.”
Tommy Boy looked again. “It sure could be.”
Gary responded, “It’s him. I know it is!”
Tommy Boy sat back in his chair. “Stanford Carter,” he said.
“’Stan the Man,’ himself,” added Gary. “Alive and well in Mountain Brook, Wyoming.”
Tommy Boy asked about the latest reports and Gary told him how Calvin Sampson, the hero of the day, had vanished after the rescue. No one knew much about him. “In the wind again!” Tommy said.
“I’m not so sure,” countered Gary. “They started looking for him right away. Town is kind of isolated. His car is still at the school. No busses or trains out of there. Nearest airport is Cheyenne, two hours away.”
“So, you think he’s still hiding out somewhere close?” asked Tommy.
“I do,” answered Gary.
“He would need help to do that,” added Tommy Boy. “Maybe a grateful parent. Get Mousy. Get up there. Find him. I want him to pay!”
They talked some more and formed a plan. Gary and Mousy would fly to Cheyenne, rent a car, and go to Mountain Brook. They would pose as writers for an online magazine looking for human interest stories – positive, good stuff. “Talk to families, school heroes, see who knows anything about that local hero. See if anyone seems evasive but keep it all upbeat,” instructed Tommy Boy. He had a friend who could visit daily; he gave Gary her contact information so Gary could keep him posted through her.
Four days after the rescue, Jim Devlin and Sarah Jamieson registered at the Mountain View Motel at the edge of Mountain Brook. They spread the word quickly that they were writers looking for human interest stories for their e-zine. There was no way anyone could possibly know they were Gary Branch and Mousy Malone of the Four for Freedom.
Mousy had gotten herself back in shape during the past five years. She looked pretty good for a fifty-four-year-old ex-convict. Drugs and alcohol in her twenties, fifteen years of prison life, and ten more trying to re-adjust to living on the outside, had all taken their toll on the lady.
She married and divorced twice and struggled to keep a job. She finally became afraid she would die if she didn’t change. She hadn’t done drugs since her arrest but drank excessively and chain smoked ever since her release. It took five long years of exercise, a changed diet, and developing new habits, but she finally had it together.
She was now four years smoke-free, had reduced her drinking to an occasional beer, and had dropped thirty pounds and exercised her way to a pretty good figure for a woman her age. A little hair color and makeup, and as Gary said when he saw her for the first time in eight years, “Wow!”
Her new look proved useful, too. Her winning smile put people at ease – especially the men. And her new figure helped there, as well, getting them plenty of answers, except about Calvin. They learned that school had been temporarily set up at the National Guard Armory just outside of town, with a couple of portable class units added. Work was underway to clear the rubble away from the actual school building and re-build the damaged area as soon as possible. A few of the injured students hadn’t gone back to school yet, but everything else was back to normal, except for no custodian!
They met with school administration, quickly made friends, and had set up interviews with teachers. They met a few parents and actually got some decent interviews. A flirty smile even got Sarah, AKA Mousy Malone, a few minutes inside Calvin Sampson’s apartment. There was no doubt in her mind after that that he was indeed Stanford Carter.
But where was he? If he was still around, how could they find him. No one else had. Jim Devlin, AKA Gary Branch, called Tommy Boy’s contact and set up a visit. Tommy Boy had a plan to draw out Carter. It would require a trip back to Cheyenne for the pair and some risky business. The “Two” for Freedom would set off a couple of bombs ala Stan the Man Carter and let the FBI find him! They would frame Calvin Sampson by setting off bombs with his MO, which would also match the MO of ‘The Four’ from the ‘70s. The FBI would pull out all the stops to get him!
Two days later and it was all set. Gary and Mousy had purchased what they needed to make three bombs on the trip to Cheyenne and back. Gary had been taught by Stanford himself thirty years ago how to make and use pipe bombs. He wasn’t quite as good as Stan, but Gary could make it look like Stanford Carter, AKA Calvin Sampson, was working again.
It needed to be about more than just the kind of bombs. They needed to factor in directional explosions. It needed to be related to the school and the progress of the ongoing investigation. That was how Stan the Man had operated back in the day. It had to look like he was the one doing it this time, too.
So, the plan was to set off the first bomb at the new school building – the Armory. No one would be around at night. One of the portable classrooms would do nicely. It could be blown away from the Armory. The second bomb would be two days later. They would blow the pile of rubble that had been excavated from the old school basement, right back into the hole from where it had come!
Bombs made, the couple went into action the next night. The rental car had been parked toward the back of the motel parking lot. No security cameras at this cheap motel! At ten o’clock, Gary left his room to call on Mousy. If anyone did notice, well, you know what they would think! In a few minutes, Mousy helped him climb out the bathroom window to the rear of the motel. He slipped through the shadows to the car and slowly eased out of the parking lot into the back alley.
He turned on the lights as he pulled out into the empty street and drove out to the Armory. He drove on past to the next crossroad and turned left. He parked along the side of the road and taking the bag with the bomb in it, he walked through the field that separated the car from the back of the Armory. It took about twenty minutes to cover the distance through the field in the moonlight. He would pick up the pace on the return.
There were no security guards. This would be easy-peasy! He crawled under one of the portable classrooms and attached the bomb to the bottom of the trailer-turned-classroom on the Armory side. The bomb was designed to blast away from the Armory, blowing the classroom out toward the parking lot. Gary set the timer for thirty-five minutes. He slipped out from under the building and trotted through the parking lot and out into the field. He kept the pace up through the field but stumbled and fell once. He quickly recovered and continued the trot. He reached the car – still unseen by all the world – and drove off in the direction he had parked. He drove two miles, turned left, went back into town and back to the alley behind the motel at the other end. He turned out the car lights and slowly crawled the car into the parking lot, parking just where he had left a little while ago.
Mousy met him at the bathroom window and helped him inside. She was nervous and excited. They checked the time. Four minutes to go. They got a glass of ice water from the table and toasted each other. In the distance was a loud explosion!
In the morning, the town was alive with talk of the explosion. “Jim and Sarah” ate breakfast at a downtown café and joined in the discussion and speculation about the explosion. It was easy to point out the connection between this school explosion and the explosions from the rescue. It hadn’t been determined yet that it was a pipe bomb, so the couple was careful not to mention that. Later in the day, that news got out and they could fuel the Calvin Sampson connection, too. Who was he? Where was he? Jim and Sarah continued their good, human interest interviews allowing the others to continue the speculations.
Two days later, Gary moved on to bomb number two. Once again “Jim” slipped into “Sarah’s” room about ten o’clock that night. He crawled out of the window again, and Mousy handed him the duffel with the bomb in it. This time he wouldn’t need the car. His destination was the abandoned elementary school, which had been turned into a construction site. It was just a few blocks from the motel.
Gary snuck into the school yard and quickly made his way to the area that had been destroyed by the boiler explosion. Everything had been cleaned up down below and hoisted up to the ground and piled just outside the open building. It was to be hauled away in a day or two. Gary cleared a spot at the base of the pile and into it a little. He maneuvered a little of the rubble to help direct the explosion into the pile to propel it back toward the hole. He set the timer for thirty minutes and slipped away into the darkness. About twenty minutes later he was back in Mousy’s room.
Once again, they learned the details at breakfast in the morning. There was no need for them to steer the conversation toward Calvin Sampson. He was definitely a person of interest. The talk was that the FBI was joining of the search.
Following the explosion of the boiler room, the rescued children, along with Ms. Maxwell, were escorted by the rescue workers out of the school building. As they preceded, Calvin Sampson gradually fell back to the end of the line. As they crossed the schoolyard to meet up with parents and emergency personnel, Calvin slipped away in the opposite direction. One of the fathers noticed and watched Calvin’s path as his daughter came into the tent.
Little Beth Norman hugged her parents, as did all the others, and began to tell her story. Seeing that she was alright, her dad told her to stay right there with her mom and he’d be right back. He hurried off to catch up with Calvin, who had walked away trying not to draw attention to himself. He had left his car in the school parking lot and was walking away from the whole scene. “Calvin!” shouted John. “Wait up!”
Calvin stopped and turned around. Seeing only one man approaching, he waited. John held out his hand to shake Calvin’s and said, “Thank you! You saved my little girl – thank you!”
Calvin replied, “Glad I could help.”
John asked him where he was going. He pointed out that everyone wanted to thank him. Calvin explained that he didn’t want the attention. He’d rather just go home. Being a private, quiet man himself, John said he understood. He pulled a business card out of his wallet – not his own – and wrote his cell number on the back. Handing it to Calvin, he said, “If you ever need anything – you call me. We all owe you big time – I owe you so much. You call me – day or night – anytime!”
Calvin took the card and thanked him and moved on. John returned to his family and said nothing about his encounter with Calvin. They and the others returned to their homes, happy to be together as families. Calvin walked the few blocks to his apartment and packed a duffel bag with some clothes, a shaving kit, his phone charger, and a couple of personal items. He slipped unnoticed out the back and, keeping to the alleys and back streets, walked out of town.
Two days later he called John Norman. He told him he really needed that favor and asked John to meet him at the Boy Scout Camp east of town. John knew the place well from his scouting days as a boy. John went a roundabout way to the scout camp and hooked up with Calvin.
He asked about his welfare and how he could help. Calvin said he was fine, but out of food. He had slept there at the camp the past two nights. He explained to John that he had a past he did not want anyone to learn about. He also couldn’t have the police find out. He assured John he had not killed or even hurt anyone, but it was something he simply had to keep quiet. He just needed a better place to stay for a couple of days until everything settled down and then he would move on.
John said to lay low and he would be back in just a little while with some provisions, until he could figure something better out. Calvin trusted him and John was trustworthy. He returned in about a half an hour with food, a sleeping bag, and a pillow. He told Calvin he would be back in two days with a plan.
Two days later, John returned and took Calvin back home with him. He had cleared out a room they had over the garage and fixed it up a bit for Calvin. It wasn’t the Ritz, but it was better than the camp. A small fridge held some water and food. There was a pitcher and bowl and towels, plus extra gallon jugs of water. John had even set up his Kindle tablet so Calvin could watch the news or other shows. He told Calvin his wife knew about and was good with the arrangement. Little Beth did not know. Calvin could stay as long as he needed to.
A few days later, things changed. An explosion rocked the Armory, destroying one of the portable classrooms! Calvin had heard the explosion that night and was concerned. He had an uneasy feeling he couldn’t tell John about.
The next day, he searched the internet on John’s Kindle and wi-fi, but not much was out there yet. When John came home from work, he slipped out to Calvin’s room to talk to him. He told Calvin that it had been a directional pipe bomb that took out the classroom. He asked if that sounded familiar.
Calvin said what he figured John already knew anyway, “That’s what I used to rescue the kids.”
John responded with, “You wanna tell me what’s going on? I know you didn’t do this, but others are talking.”
Calvin told him that he had a suspicion as to who was behind it. Then he told John his whole story! John sat in silence an absorbed it all. He told Calvin that he should consider going to the police, but Calvin said that no one would believe him. John said he did. They left it at that for the time being.
Two nights later, the rubble at the school was blown back into the hole! John came calling the next day to Calvin’s room. As they talked it out, Calvin pieced it all together. John had seen this couple in town and even been interviewed by them. Calvin said it had to be Gary and Mousy – Tommy Boy was still in prison. They were out to frame him as revenge for turning them in.
John told Calvin that he heard the FBI was coming to town. He could stay if he wanted, but maybe he should turn himself in. Calvin said he would need some time to figure it out. He just did not think he stood a chance with the police.
Two days later, Calvin watched for John to come home for lunch. When he pulled in the drive, Calvin stepped out of his room and called out to him, “Let’s talk!”
Up in his room, Calvin told John that he wanted to talk to the FBI, but he hoped he could make a deal first. He asked John to talk to them for him – John said he would. Calvin hoped for amnesty from his activity in the ‘70s, exoneration from these recent bombings that he had nothing to do with, and placement in Witness Protection. In return, he felt that not only did he know who was behind these bombings, but that he could help catch them. He would need it in writing, and it needed to be before tonight.
“Why so quickly?” John asked.
“I think they are going to strike again tonight,” replied Calvin. “It’s been two days. I’m still on the loose and not necessarily the only suspect. One more bomb with my MO and I’m cooked!”
John agreed to be Calvin’s liaison and went to the police station. The FBI had arranged for a small portable building to be set up behind the station as a command center. The work had been done and four agents had settled in. Two ran the equipment and support operations, while agents Brad Valance and team leader, Phillip Stockton ran the actual investigation.
John parked his pickup behind the police station and approached the FBI command center. Everybody in town knew about the center. One local officer, Greg Bass had been assigned to keep people from bothering the FBI unnecessarily. John knew him – they played softball together.
“Hey, John! What’s up?’ Greg asked.
“I need to talk to the agent in charge, Greg,” John replied.
“Really?! What have you done now?” joked Greg.
“I know something about Calvin Sampson that they need to know,” John answered.
“No foolin’? Wait right here.” Greg stepped inside the command center and quickly returned with both of the agents. “Agent Stockton – John Norman,” Greg said.
John shook the agent’s hand as he nodded in the other agent’s direction and said, “Agent Valance.” He shook John’s hand, too.
Agent Stockton asked, “How can we help you?”
John said, “I may be able to help you. You’re looking for Calvin Sampson. I may be able to shed some light on that.”
“How so?” asked Valance.
John said, “Well, first I can tell you that he had nothing to do with these latest two explosions but might know who did.”
“Go on,” encouraged Stockton.
John continued, “Calvin saved our kids. He has lived and worked here for twenty years, but I just recently learned who he really is.”
Agent Valance asked, “Who is he?’
John replied, “I think you suspect he is Stanford Carter.” He could tell from their lack of reaction that he was right.
“How do you know all this?” asked Agent Stockton.
John explained that he would tell them later, but they needed to hear what Calvin thinks is going on. They told him they were listening. John told them Calvin says he knows who is planting the bombs, why, and how they can be caught.
Stockton asked, “And in return for his help?”
John said he wanted amnesty for his ‘70s crimes and to be put into Witness Protection.
“Witness Protection!?” exclaimed Valance. “Why?”
John explained that the bombers are setting Calvin up. They want him – if not dead, then in prison. He hasn’t done any crimes since the ‘70s and he helped bring down the ones who had killed. He has been clean ever since.
“Then why hasn’t he come forward instead of sending you?” asked Stockton.
“It looks like he’s guilty of this. He wants a guarantee that if he comes in, you’ll let him help you catch the real bombers and not just arrest him instead,” John replied.
Agent Stockton looked at Officer Bass. “You trust this guy?”
Bass said,” With my life!”
Stockton shifted his look toward John and asked, “And you trust Stanford Carter – the guy you know as Calvin Sampson?”
John said, “I do. He risked everything to save those kids – my daughter. And I know he didn’t do those two explosions that brought you here.”
Stockton said he would have to make a call and see what could be done. If John would give him his number, he’d call him. John added, “It needs to be done this afternoon.”
“This afternoon!” exclaimed Valance.
John continued, “Calvin says there may be another explosion tonight.”
Stockton asked John how Carter could know that – was he in touch with the bombers? John answered, “No. It has to do with continuing the pattern for the frame-up. Copying his MO, pushing you guys to find him and take him down.”
Stockton asked him, “But he’s just guessing, right?”
John answered, “I guess so, but he seems very confident.” He handed the agent his phone number as Stockton said he would see what he could do.
They shook hands and John left to tell Calvin. They spent the afternoon talking and finally Agent Stockton called. He said he got the amnesty and U.S. Marshals were already working on a WitSec plan. They’d be in Mountain Brook in a couple of days. He needed Carter to come through now. John said he would pass the word and get back to him.
At five o’clock, John pulled his pickup into the parking lot near the FBI command center. Greg Bass was still on duty and opened the door of the command center to call in that John Norman was here. Agents Stockton and Valence came out to meet John who was walking their way.
“What’s the word?” Stockton asked. “Is he good with it – is he going to help us?”
“Have you got papers to sign – something guaranteeing your part?”
“We have,” offered Valance, holding up a manila folder with the agreement inside.
Stockton spoke next. “If he’s convinced there’s going to be a bomb tonight, we need to have a face-to-face.”
“I’ll take you to him,” John said and motioned for the agents to follow him. As they approached the truck, Stockton asked where they were going. John pointed to the truck and simply said, “Here.”
Calvin Sampson, AKA Stanford Carter, AKA Stan the Man, stepped out of the truck and came around to meet the agents. They all introduced themselves. The agents had lots of questions about the bombers. Carter explained that he believed that Tommy Boy Boyer had orchestrated this frame-up to have the FBI track him down – either so his people could kill him or so he would go to prison.
His people were Gary Branch and Mousy Malone. Stanford believed that’s who had set the two bombs. Made them and set them just as he himself would have if he had done it. John interrupted, “The online magazine writers who’ve been interviewing all of us!”
Stanford continued, “I’d say so. I haven’t seen them, but it’s likely. Whoever it did it, it worked. The FBI is here and hot on my trail.”
Stockton whispered something to Valance, who returned to the command center, then asked Carter about tonight and how to catch them. “Set a trap,” suggested Carter.
“How?” asked Stockton.
Stanford Carter laid it out. He believed they would try to blow up the command center! One more explosion with his MO, not just the bomb type, but in his style. Attack the authorities. Show contempt for their efforts. Show them how vulnerable they are. That’s what he would have done thirty years ago. That would pretty much seal his fate as far as the FBI is concerned.
Stockton admitted it all made sense. Carter said it had been two days and that was the pattern. He suggested everyone go home by 6 o’clock as usual – or at least give that impression. Let them work their plan. Mousy would be waiting just outside of town. Branch would come in – probably around ten and set the bomb under the building. His plan would be to rejoin Mousy and head out for Cheyenne. When the bomb went off, they’d be long gone – not even suspects. The police could have a couple of patrol cars drive around the edge of town – likely near the road to Cheyenne – and pick up Mousy in their rental car.
Agent Valance returned with some information. “The couple checked out of the motel this morning. They told the manager they had an early flight out of Cheyenne tomorrow, so they’d get a room there tonight. Here’s the make and model of their rental.”
Stockton took the information from Valance and added, “It sounds like you’re right on target with this. But we can’t let him actually set the bomb. We’ll have to take him when he first shows.”
Stanford said, “Let him set it. Arrest him. Take him into the police station, and then disarm the bomb. It’ll be a stronger case with the bomb actually set.”
Stockton remarked that they couldn’t possibly get a bomb disposal team there in time. Stanford said, “I’ll do it.”
Stockton looked at Valance and said, “Make it happen.” He shook Stanford’s hand and walked with him into the police station. John moved his truck away from the police station and walked back. The other two agents clocked out and went to the motel, where they had been staying. Stockton and Carter signed the papers outlining the deal. Then they outlined when and where they would all be tonight. Just after dark, everyone locked up the buildings, left the area, and gave the appearance of vacant buildings, as they took their places to wait for Gary Branch.
That morning the fake e-zine writers checked out of the motel. They thanked the manager for all he had done during their stay. They told him they had gathered about all the info they could for their magazine. They “hesitated” to add that it was now looking as if Calvin Sampson might not be the good story after all, so they had better just head back home. They let him know they had a flight out of Cheyenne early the next day so after just a couple more interviews this morning, they would head out after lunch.
They did indeed interview a couple more people just to confirm that things were going as planned. It seemed so. People had been hesitant to believe it of Calvin, but it seemed like he was indeed the one setting off the bombs. Now that the FBI was in town, hopefully he’d be caught. After lunch, they drove around the countryside outside of town and enjoyed the scenery.
Later, they actually bought some picnic food and drove out to an isolated spot in the country they had seen earlier and had a leisurely supper – al fresco! Just about dark, they returned to the car and began to put the plan into motion. Mousy drove to the edge of town where Gary got out and retrieved the duffel bag from the trunk. A kiss for good luck and he started off for the FBI command center as planned. “I’ll see you in about thirty minutes. Ten to walk in, ten to set the bomb, and ten to walk back.”
Mousy grinned real big and watched with a certain amount of admiration as her partner headed off to town. She waited patiently for his return, but in about thirty minutes, two squad cars suddenly rolled in upon her and officers ordered her to get out of the car with her hands up! She was taken to the Mountain Brook Police Station to join her partner.
Gary Branch had scoped out the parking lot behind the command center and quickly and quietly hustled up to the building. He crawled underneath the trailer that was now the FBI’s temporary headquarters and attached the bomb to the side nearest the police station. The direction of the explosion would send the ruins into the parking lot. Gary set the timer for three hours which should put Mousy and him in Cheyenne as the bombs exploded.
When he crawled out from underneath the trailer, Agent Stockton said, “Gary Branch, you’re under arrest!” Branch could not believe what was happening! Agent Valance helped him to his feet and cuffed his hands behind his back. He advised Branch of his rights as he escorted him into the police station, where Mousy Malone joined him about ten minutes later.
Stanford Carter, AKA Calvin Sampson, stepped out of the shadows. Stockton thanked him and asked what he needed. Carter replied, “A flashlight, wire cutters, pliers, and a screwdriver – maybe a standard as well as a Phillips.” His one and only friend, John Norman said he had all those in his toolbox in his truck. He would be right back.
A couple of minutes later, John had retrieved his truck and then got out the toolbox. Stanford got what he needed, crawled under the trailer, and returned in about three minutes with a pipe bomb – disarmed! Stockton pulled a couple of evidence bags out of his suit pocket and Carter placed the parts inside them.
Agent Stockton shook his hand and then John’s and thanked them both again. He said they would transfer Branch and Malone to their Cheyenne Bureau in the morning. Stanford should come by tomorrow afternoon and meet with the marshals.
The next day, the FBI, except for Agent Stockton, took off with the two prisoners. Stockton stayed to hand off Stanford Carter to the U.S. Marshals. Stanford said goodbye to John Norman, explaining they could never have any contact after this and thanked him for all his help. John said he still owed Stanford plenty for what he had done, then started to walk away. He turned and added, “You’ve got my number.” Then he left.
The marshals took Stanford Carter to Cheyenne that evening and spent the next day outlining his future. A new name and Social Security number; a new city; a new job – not as a custodian; maybe change his looks a little if he could – add some facial hair, drop a little weight; no contact with anyone from his past. They would help him become legally and safely what he had tried on his own, without success. They would help him go from being the Most Wanted to being what he “wanted most” – to be invisible!