PART TWO: SATAN’S WEB
The phone rang in Pastor Dan’s study, but he hesitated for a moment to answer. It rang so often in those days that sometimes he just really didn’t want to answer it. Between church business, church problems, people volunteering to get involved in the Decency Movement, and people needing help, it seemed the phone never stopped ringing. He had considered having his study phone switched to a private number, but decided against it. After all, who would he give it out to?
If he gave it to those who needed to talk about problems, soon everyone would have it anyway. If he reserved it for church members only, it would soon spread anyway. If only his family had the number, it wouldn’t really be worth the money. So it remained public knowledge and the public used it often. He tried to keep the Movement business routed to the office downtown, but too many people wanted to talk to him personally.
He gave in on the fifth ring. He figured somebody really needed him. He was hoping to hear someone from his church ready to volunteer for either ministry at church or involvement in the Movement. If not that, he would settle for one of his flock needing some spiritual guidance. It was none of those.
He didn’t recognize the voice of the woman asking for help. She asked if he had time to listen to her troubles and he replied, “Sure. What’s troubling you?”
She would only identify herself as Suzanne and said she had seen and heard so much of him lately that she just knew he was the one to help her. Bro. Dan caringly asked how and she began her story.
She said she had been sexually abused as a young girl and grew up distrusting men. She had successfully fought off lesbian feelings over the years and basically battled her fears and frustrations with alcohol. Though she had tried drugs a couple of times, Suzanne said that she had been able to avoid that trap.
She had never married – just bounced from one relationship to another. She was sure she had never known true love of any kind. Not from her family while growing up, nor from any of the men she had known. She felt so unloved and alone in the world. What she longed for was some sense of purpose in life, somewhere to belong.
Bro. Dan asked her what she thought about God and if religion had ever been a part of her life. She said she believed in a Creator, but that’s about it. If God was more than that, if He really loved people and got involved in their lives, then why, she asked, was there so much pain in the world. “Never mind the world,” she added. “Why is my life so messed up? If God loves me, why doesn’t He prove it once in awhile with some good in my miserable life?”
Dan tried to explain about people being free to choose and having a sinful nature which leads to wrong choices. He told her that sin was the cause behind the pain and suffering in the world, not God. “We bring on the problems by making wrong choices,” Dan said.
“Well, that part is definitely true!” Suzanne replied. “I’ve made too many wrong choices in my life already. And I’ve sure paid for them!” She paused, then added, “One bad choice was to stop going to church when I was young.” She had gone to church a time or two as a child, but not at all in the last twenty years. She was twenty-eight now.
Bro. Dan began to tell her that his God was more than just a Creator. He was a loving heavenly Father who wanted an ongoing relationship with people. She said that sounded good, but was a little hard to swallow. She asked what time their services were and said maybe she would come sometime. She thanked Bro. Dan for his time and even though he offered to continue talking since he really hadn’t helped at all yet, Suzanne hung up. Dan figured he would probably never hear from her again.
He was wrong. Two days later Suzanne called back. In fact, every two or three days for the next three months she called Bro. Dan’s study. Each time she revealed a little more of her troubles and let Dan share a little more about Jesus and how He could help her. She never gave up any information that would let Dan know who she was or where she lived. She simply remained Suzanne, the young lady who needed help. She refused to come to the church and she didn’t want to talk to Dan’s wife or any of the counselors set up by the Decency Movement. “Maybe later,” she always said.
Dan felt bad that he couldn’t quite get through to her. She had lots of questions and he thought he had answered most of them to her satisfaction, but she always stayed just out of reach. Once or twice Dan thought Suzanne was about to surrender her life to Christ, but then she would abruptly change the subject and soon end the conversation altogether.
Each time Dan wondered if that would be the last time he would hear from her, but she always called back. He couldn’t quite reach her, but he hadn’t driven her away either. As time went on, he began to wonder if there was any point in continuing the calls. There are some people you just can’t help. Some, especially those with problems, just want to keep talking. They seldom even try to affect any changes in their life, usually won’t take advice, and stay in the some old problems. However, they keep coming back to talk. Maybe it’s some kind of therapy for them, maybe they need a friend and the listener makes them feel as if they have one. It seldom helps though, especially when the real problem is a spiritual one.
Just when Bro. Dan had decided that was Suzanne’s case and was prepared to tell her, if she called again, that there was no use to call anymore until she was ready to do something serious with God, she showed up at the church.
Right after the church secretary left for lunch, when Bro. Dan was alone at the church, Suzanne drove up. She got out of her car, deliberately looked around as if to see if anyone was watching, and then hurried inside. She found Dan’s study and introduced herself. Dan recognized her voice and offered her a seat.
During the course of their many phone conversations, Dan had tried to imagine what the mysterious caller might look like. It was sort of a hobby of his – a game he played or a mental exercise. He got so many calls from people he had never met that he liked to form a mental picture of the person to whom he was talking.
Much of the time he never met the caller and would never know if he had imagined a likeness anything close to the real person on the other end of the line. Often, he would eventually meet a caller and he would search his memory to recall the mental image for that voice and see if he had come close. He thought he was pretty good at it, but in actuality he was way off base at least as often as he was close. In Suzanne’s case he was way off.
Dan had pictured a tall, slender blond with long stringy hair. He imagined her to be pretty, though a little hard looking, probably the result of the hard life she described. In his mind, she was always dressed in a slightly seductive outfit which he imagined was to play up to the men from among whom she hoped eventually to find Mr. Right. He sensed that she desperately wanted a loving, fulfilling relationship with a man, but had just never learned how to go about getting one.
When Suzanne walked into Dan’s office and introduced herself, he knew he had sure missed the call on this one. She was a medium height brunette, not too thin, and not overweight. In fact, Dan couldn’t help noticing she had a really nice figure. She wasn’t drop-dead gorgeous, but she was very pretty and, if her story of abuse and hard life was true, one would never know it by looking at her.
She was dressed in an expensive looking blue dress that showed off her figure. It was short enough to reveal her shapely legs and showed just enough cleavage to attract attention. She didn’t flaunt herself, though. She didn’t have to – she was that good looking.
After exchanging a few pleasantries, Dan asked if she had finally decided to give Jesus and the church a serious look. She said, “Not completely, but I’m getting closer. I just thought I would come by and meet you face to face. I thought if I came by the church on an off day, it might be easier to come some other time when the crowd is here.”
She asked about counseling for alcohol and smoking addictions, intimating she might be ready to give them both up. Dan wrote some names and phone numbers for her and said he could gladly recommend any of those on the list.
They talked about church for the next twenty minutes. Bro. Dan shared with her some of the many benefits of being part of God’s family, the church. He hoped that she would see that the love, acceptance, and purpose she often spoke of wanting could be found right there in his church. Unconditional love from a good heavenly Father – inner peace and power to overcome addictions – a supportive family – a sense of belonging and purpose as she discovered ways to serve God by ministering to others.
Dan asked her to trust Jesus, to seek His forgiveness and give her life to Him. She hesitated with her head bowed slightly and he thought she was going to pray. Instead, she raised her head to look Dan in the eye and said, “Not yet. I really like what you’re saying, Pastor, but I just don’t think I’m ready for any big commitment. This is all so new to me. I’ve got to think it over some more,” she added.
“Don’t put it off too long,” Dan warned. “You know none of us has any guarantees in this life.”
“Are you trying to scare me into making a decision?”
“No, but I feel I must remind you of the dangers of putting off such an important decision,” Dan replied. “There is no way to guarantee you’ll have the chance to decide some time later. Besides the constant threat of dying, who is to say you’ll feel better about it later?”
“I appreciate your concern, but I think I need more time to make up my mind,” she insisted.
“And there is something else you may not know,” Dan continued. “God is loving and patient, but He can be pushed to His limit and unless He draws us to Himself, we will never seek Him. Be careful not to put Him off too long.”
“You’re right – I never looked at it that way before. Still, I’m not quite sure it’s all the way you say. I don’t mean to doubt you and I’m sure you believe everything you’ve told me. But it is a matter of faith and I’m not quite ready to trust, yet.” She paused, then added, “But I am much closer than when I first called you.”
Then she got up to leave. Dan felt good that she felt closer to making a decision than before. He walked her to the door and assured her that God loved her. He also encouraged her to think about what he had said. He stepped outside, holding the door open for her. She took hold of his free hand with both of hers and smiling, said, “Thanks for your time. You’re so sweet.”
Before he even had time to respond, Suzanne leaned forward quickly and gave Dan a kiss on the cheek. He was startled, but it was innocent and over in a second. She waved good-bye and hurried off. Dan went home for lunch.
He told Kathleen what had happened. She knew who Dan was talking about, as he had shared about the ongoing phone calls, though not any detailed conversations. Privacy was very important to him. Kathleen laughed at his concern and assured him that it meant nothing and would never be a problem.
Boy, was she wrong! Two days later pictures came out in the local newspaper. One showed an attractive young brunette apparently looking to see if anyone was watching as she got out of her car in front of Dan’s church. Another showed her holding Bro. Dan’s hand at the door. A third photo showed the kiss on the cheek. The caption read: “Who’s That Kissing Decent Dan?”
The article quoted an unnamed source alleging that Dan McClain, leader of the local Decency Movement, wasn’t so decent after all. The photographer said he had received an anonymous phone call suggesting that he should be at Center City Baptist Church at noon to see who Bro. Dan had been spending lots of time with.
He reported that he went and watched the young woman wait in her car just up the street until the secretary left, then drive up to the church and get out of the car. He said she looked around before going inside and about twenty or twenty-five minutes later came back out along with Pastor McClain. He took pictures as they parted and, of course, captured on film the held hand and kiss on the cheek. According to the article, Bro. Dan could not be reached for comment, but the truth was nobody had tried to reach him. The whole city was shocked! What really happened?
That afternoon the McClains were flooded with phone calls and visitors. Church members, reporters, and volunteers working for the Decency Movement all wanted to hear Bro. Dan’s explanation. Rumors were flying wildly all over town. Dan knew he had been set up by the mob to discredit him and set back the Movement. He and Kathleen prayed for wisdom and strength.
The chairman of deacons from his church called to set up a meeting with the deacons and both Dan and Kathleen at 4 o’clock. They needed to hear the truth and figure out how the church should handle the situation. Bro. Dan agreed, assuring him that it was not what it appeared to be. They stopped taking calls and visits until after their meeting with the deacons. They would need advice on how to respond to these ludicrous allegations.
At the meeting, Bro. Dan explained to the deacons what had happened and they unanimously believed him and agreed it was a setup. They suggested a statement to the church that could be repeated at a press conference, very calmly, but firmly denying any wrong doing. They agreed not to speculate publicly as to who might be behind the allegations. They figured the press would take care of that.
The chairman would also talk to the congregation and assure them that they intended to support their pastor. He would share their opinion that everything should continue at the church just as if nothing had happened. They wanted the city to know they didn’t believe the allegations and planned to support Bro. Dan all the way. In the weeks to come, they found all of that much easier to say than to do.
The media played both sides of the street. They continued to dig for more evidence of wrong-doing by Bro. Dan, yet they speculated freely as to other explanations, such as a frame-up to discredit the minister. Subsequent reports began to add to Bro. Dan’s problems. Suzanne Kirk finally came forward and corroborated the first report. She stated to the press that she and Dan had been having a love affair for a couple of months and that they had met the day the pictures were taken for sexual relations in his study.
The whole community reeled with her confession. People are often quick to believe gossip and some seem especially eager to believe when moral and spiritual leaders are accused. Kathleen stood by her husband and most of his church members remained loyal, but over the next few days it got increasingly hard. Naturally, the rumor mill churned out juicy tidbits and innuendo by the score. That was bad enough, but the real damage came from more revelations from Suzanne.
The press stayed right on her story, playing it up really big. She detailed several clandestine meetings with Bro. Dan at the church, her apartment, and motels out of town. She offered no proof, but then, Dan couldn’t prove she was lying either. She, or someone, had been watching Bro. Dan’s activities very closely and carefully chose dates and times for which he had no way to account and prove they had not been together.
Prayer meetings were held around the clock, not only at Dan’s church, but at other churches around town. Suzanne Kirk had not offered any real evidence. It was basically her word against Dan’s, but the damage was done. The Decency Movement had suffered a major defeat and Center City Baptist Church was in a tailspin downward. Pastor Dan’s credibility, and therefore his ministry, was in serious jeopardy.
Kathleen faithfully stood by her husband . She never doubted him, not even for a second. However, her faith in Dan didn’t ease the suffering. Her faith in God got her through it all, but she still hurt. It was hard to ignore the stares and whispers of others as she shopped at the local stores, but she refused to leave town just to shop.
She wasn’t sure which was worse, the catcalls from men or the whispers of the women. She shopped as little as possible, but they did need groceries and household goods. Life, though completely fouled up, still went on and that meant having to go out in public.
The McClains tried to go on just as they had before, but it got increasingly hard. Dining out, they felt like a freak show. People would stare and even point as they lowered their voices to whispers. There could be no doubt about the topic of conversation. A couple of times it was so distracting and distressing that they just had to get up and leave.
Kathleen felt that every conversation she couldn’t actually hear was about them and every laugh she heard was made at her expense. They had become instant celebrities, but the notoriety was nearly all negative. They both longed for peace and quiet.
They had to change to an unlisted phone number, giving it out only to family and church members. Until then it had rung constantly. Obscene phone calls by men offering Kathleen ways to get even with her philandering husband or by women propositioning Dan. It was hard to believe people could be so cruel.
Neither could go anywhere without facing a reporter and “No comment” became their most used phrase. For a couple of weeks, their pictures were constantly in the paper and the media did all they could to play up the “No comments” as admissions of guilt. Incredibly, newspapers and tabloids offered money for Dan’s confessions and his side of the story. They didn’t believe he had no story to tell. The McClains felt as if everyone believed Suzanne Kirk’s story.
Once they sat down and actually made a list of all the people they felt really still believed in Dan. Of course their family did. They knew him better than anyone and never entertained the thought of his guilt for even a second. The problem was, they lived too far away to lend very much moral support.
Dan’s church was stunned. No one had ever had to face such a dilemma before. Some people began to get away from the scandal, either by switching to another church or by dropping out of church completely. Attendance suffered and a drop in financial support came with it. It began to dwindle a little at a time, but later there was a large surge of deserters. However, it soon leveled off at about half of what it used to be. The McClains figured that most of those who had stayed surely must believe Dan rather than Suzanne Kirk. A few of those who left still believed in him too, but couldn’t take the heat and embarrassment from the community of attending the church with the tainted pastor. That hurt Dan and Kathleen as much as disbelief, so those people didn’t make the list of supporters.
Those who believed in Bro. Dan didn’t want him to resign, but there were some who thought maybe it would be best for the church. Dan and Kathleen wondered if they were right. They wondered, but decided to stay on and wait and see.
Late one Saturday night, Dan got a phone call that saddened him, yet encouraged him at the same time. It saddened him because of one young lady in trouble and encouraged him through the faith of another. It was Julie Saunders on the phone.
“Bro. Dan,” she said with a little trembling in her voice. “I’ve got a real problem.”
Dan’s heart sank immediately. He felt like he had been kicked in the stomach and he didn’t even know the problem yet. His body practically went numb and he barely squeaked out the words, “What’s wrong, Julie?”
Julie sensed his fear and quickly eased his mind about her. “It’s not me,” she said. “It’s my friend, Sarah. Remember? The one we rescued from the porno shop.”
Dan felt a tremendous relief and even let out a sigh. He still hurt for Sarah, but he naturally was much closer to Julie and was so relieved she was all right. “Of course I remember Sarah. What’s wrong?” His voice was much stronger this time.
“She called me from a bar downtown. She is really bombed and threatening to kill herself,” Julie explained.
“Where are you?” Dan asked while reaching for a pen and paper. He wrote down the name and address of the bar and promised to get there as quickly as he could. “Don’t leave her alone for any reason,” he added before hanging up.
He told Kathleen what was up and they quickly dressed and hurried to the car. It was after midnight, but neither had been asleep. Nights were long in those troubling times and sleep was often hard to come by.
It didn’t take long to find the girls. Julie had gotten Sarah to go outside where she could get some cool, fresh air and try to walk a little. They stayed near the entrance to the bar where it was well lit for safety and so Dan could find them easily.
Dan and Kathleen pulled the car up to the curb and got out to help. They spoke softly to Sarah as they helped her into the back seat. Dan drove as the other three rode in the back. Sarah sobbed into Kathleen’s shoulder most of the way to the McClains’ home. Julie held Sarah’s hand and patted it while she kept repeating to her that everything would be okay. They knew they would have to get her sober just to find out what went wrong, much less begin to try to help her.
It was a long night, but shortly before sun-up on Sunday morning, they finally learned that Sarah had become so discouraged and distraught over Dan’s situation that she just couldn’t handle it. She didn’t know what to believe any more. Bro. Dan had been so good to her and such an inspiration, yet Suzanne Kirk was so believable. Sarah had been used by enough men to tend to believe they were all just sex fiends.
She had believed in Bro. Dan, though, and now she wasn’t sure. She got so confused, then so drunk, that she just didn’t care any more. Yet she called Julie. “God must have seen to that,” Julie said. “He’s not ready to give up on you and neither are we.”
Julie’s faith in God and Bro. Dan won the day. Sarah decided if Julie could believe in Dan, so could she. She fell asleep on Dan and Kathleen’s couch. Julie stayed with her while the pastor and his wife got ready for church. Thanks to Julie, they salvaged Sarah, but how many others would they lose because of this mess? How many people who used to believe or wanted to believe would be duped by Satan’s lie?
A few local pastors and a smattering of their parishioners continued to believe in Dan, but they didn’t offer much support and gradually distanced themselves from the scandal. The fact that they really believed Dan had never had the affair didn’t help much. The McClains needed friends and public support, not those who were “with them in spirit.”
The Decency Movement had to stop most of its activities until they could regroup and figure out what to do. The press was having a field day mocking their decency under an indecent leader. There was still a handful of workers who believed in Dan and remained loyal. Many who had been helped by the Movement stuck by him too. There were a few who believed Dan had been set up and feared they might be next, so they jumped ship. Those who tended to doubt him also began to doubt their mission, so they dropped out too.
Bro. Dan didn’t know if the people left because they doubted him, were afraid, or just wanted to get away from the whole thing. This scandal had first taken away their momentum, then brought them to a screeching halt, and threatened to wipe out the Movement altogether.
Some of these people had been with Dan from the beginning and had really been gung ho about the Movement. Dan felt they should have stuck with it even if he had been guilty. The cause was worth the fight. People were being changed. So what if they lost a leader or two, the battle must go on.
Part of Dan wanted to run away and hide. Just give up and walk away, like some of the others were doing. Let the people sort out the truth and their own problems. However, a bigger part of him said to stay put, keep the faith, and wait for deliverance. In the meantime, he should keep doing what he knew was right. His ministry was pretty much at a standstill, but he could continue to study and pray and even try to make plans for the future. Until asked to resign, he planned to pastor and preach to any who would come. There were fewer at each service.
Dan decided to put it all down on paper – what had happened, how he felt, how he and Kathleen coped with it all, and an ongoing diary of events as they unfolded. He felt it would be good therapy as well as a good way to keep himself occupied. “Who knows?” he reasoned, “maybe I’ll write a book when it’s all over.”
He wrote down the feelings he and Kathleen shared as they talked and prayed together. They had plenty of time for reflection about their ministry and trying to make some sense of this scandal. Their faith would get them through, so they tried to make some plans for the future.
It was awfully hard to get excited though. So little ministry was being done. The Decency Movement could no longer be called a movement. To be more correct it would have to be called the Decency Standstill. The only part still functioning was a soup kitchen for the homeless. Dan made it known that help was still available and people could still receive counseling, but no one called any more. There were no more rallies, no picket lines, no street evangelism, and soon, no more funds to keep the phone lines and publications going.
Ministry at the church wasn’t much better. Not only was attendance down, but so was morale. The Sunday crowd, if you could call it a crowd, was faithful, but defeated. The sanctuary that once rang out with celebration and praise was much quieter during those days. Oh, they still sang, but Bro. Dan felt like every service was a funeral! The praise band had disbanded and only the organist remained. Kathleen wished she had kept up the piano lessons as a young girl so she could help now that they really needed it.
Bro. Dan tried to preach positive messages, but he felt like the crowd never really listened anymore, just simply tried to be gracious. No one ever went to the altar. There were seldom any visitors and none ever came back a second time. No one stopped by or called for counseling. Dan felt like he was wasting his time, but then, he had plenty of time to waste.
Occasionally, there was some clean-up work to do. Vandals periodically stopped by either the church or the parsonage to redecorate the church property to coordinate it with its new “indecent character.” One morning, Dan awoke to a front lawn full of trash and a sign that read, “Home of Decent Dan,” only the word Decent had been crossed out and replaced with Deviant. Another time a big red letter ‘A’ had been painted on Dan’s front door. Once the church sign had been painted to rename the church, “Sinner City Baptist Church.”
Dan and Kathleen had mixed emotions about spending time away from Center City. Sometimes they felt they just had to get out of town and have some quality time alone, but they were afraid it might look like they were ashamed to be seen in their hometown. That would make Dan look guilty. Yet, to go out in Center City was to invite trouble. They hated being punished when they had done nothing wrong. At those times, Dan would usually turn to his Bible and read the Genesis account of Joseph, son of Jacob.
Dan was encouraged by the protection, deliverance, and ultimate promotion of Joseph by God for remaining constant in times of trouble. Sold by his brothers into slavery in a foreign land, falsely accused of rape and imprisoned, and forgotten by those whom he had helped – yet Joseph stayed faithful to God and continued to do good. Dan prayed for the grace to do as well.
In his free time, and there seemed to be quite a bit of that during those days, Dan would sit and try to think of a way to prove he had been set up. He could think of nothing. He concluded that either Suzanne Kirk would have to admit the truth or whoever was behind the frame up would have to expose her. Since that would incriminate them, that didn’t seem likely. Someone, somewhere must know the truth and have a way to prove it.
Someone did! At least that’s what the caller said. It was late one Saturday afternoon. Dan was home alone when the phone rang. The man on the other end said he could prove Suzanne Kirk was lying and maybe even prove who put her up to it, but Dan would have to meet him right away. He had a room over the pool hall on the corner of West Jackson and Fifth Street. Dan should go through the rear entrance, go up the stairs, and knock on the second door on the left. If he didn’t get there in the next twenty minutes, he could forget it.
Dan agreed to go, hung up the phone, and called his deacon chairman. No answer. He tried another church leader, but the line was busy. Kathleen wasn’t due home for at least another half an hour. There was no time to spare, he had to go alone.
He drove straight to the address, and found a parking space along Fifth Street. Until he had heard Julie Saunders’ story and gotten involved investigating the seamier side of Center City, Dan had seldom visited this section of town. Now it was familiar territory. The buildings were in much need of repair and painting. Graffiti adorned the sides of several businesses, though the worst words had been painted over or changed. It was still offensively obvious what had been written. A vacant lot directly across from the pool hall was cluttered with trash and broken bottles. A couple of empty buildings down the street had broken windows, while many windows in the occupied buildings had bars.
A year ago, this entire section of town would have been like a foreign country to Dan, but since he began the Decency Movement, he had been there many times. He had interviewed prostitutes on that very corner and once helped a drunk out of the pool hall and into a better life. He and others had established a food kitchen just down the street and a counseling center not two blocks away. At night, this part of town would be filled with victims of all ages – victims of drug abuse, alcoholism, prostitution, pornography, and crime. An army of Satan’s soldiers would patrol the streets and peddle destruction to an all too willing crowd.
However, it wasn’t quite dark yet and the streets were still quiet. Dan hurried to the back door of the building that housed the pool hall downstairs and, apparently, rooms to rent upstairs. There was no one around as he climbed the back stairs to the rooms. He went to the second door on the left and knocked. The door wasn’t quite latched and his knock caused it to swing open a little. He called into the room, “Hello! Anybody home?”
There was no answer so he pushed the door open a little wider and stepped just inside. He had gotten there in time, so the man should be there. Dan repeated his call as he walked into the dimly lit room. There was still no answer as he quickly scanned the room.
Whoever lived here certainly didn’t have much to call home. Even in the dim light, Dan could see that the walls needed painted. The room was fairly neat and though Dan had expected an odor, he was pleasantly surprised to find nothing more than a faint hint of perfume. He expected to meet a man, but the room showed signs of a woman’s touch.
There were flowers on an old table near the kitchenette. A small refrigerator, sink, and stove occupied the far corner to the right, separated from the living area by a metal table with a Formica top. A couple of matching chairs rounded out the dining room set.
Between Dan and the kitchen was an over-stuffed chair with doilies on the arms and back, a coffee table with magazines and photo albums, and a pullout couch with a flower design right out of the seventies. The only other door probably led to the bathroom. Next to it was a small, slightly cluttered desk with an old black desk phone on it.
Dan decided the man must have changed his mind about meeting with him. He thought that maybe he could come back some other time and get the man to help then. As he turned to leave, something caught his attention.
Lying on the floor, behind the couch, a lady’s foot was sticking out slightly into view. Dan stepped over to where he could see behind the couch. It was Suzanne Kirk, lying in a pool of blood! Dan heard sirens approaching and realized he had been set up even worse than before. This time it was for murder!
He turned quickly to leave the room, but a man from across the hall shouted at him from the hall through the open doorway. “Hey, you! What’s going on in there? Don’t try nothin’ with me, the cops are comin’ !”
Policemen ran up the stairs with guns in hand as the man pointed into the room and shouted, “In there – he’s in there! I think he killed her!”
One policeman kept a gun on the man and backed him away from the door as two others rushed into the room shouting at Dan. “Police! Don’t move! Hands up!”
Dan was scared to death. He raised his hands shouting, “I didn’t do it! She was dead when I got here!”
One of the officers told Dan to turn around and put his hands on his head. Dan quickly complied. The policeman kept his gun pointed at Dan while he nudged him with his free hand toward the wall. The other policeman knelt down to the body and checked for a pulse and other signs of life. “She’s dead,” he said matter-of-factly.
“I didn’t do it,” Dan said. “I just got here myself.”
“That’s what they all say,” responded the officer with Dan as he quickly frisked him, searching for weapons. Finding none, he pulled Dan’s hands down behind his back and put handcuffs on him.
“You’re Dan McClain, aren’t you?” asked the first officer as he rose from checking the woman’s body.
“Yes, I am,” replied Dan. “Someone called me on the phone and told me to come here and he would give me proof that Suzanne Kirk had lied about us.”
“Maybe you had better not say anymore just yet,” warned the officer. Then to his partner said, “Read him his rights.”
The officer who had cuffed Dan read him his rights and the other policeman looked Dan over a little more thoroughly. “No blood on him – no signs of a struggle either,” he said.
“That’s because I didn’t kill her,” Dan repeated. “I told you – she was dead when I got here.”
“We’ll sort that all out later. For now, you’re under arrest for suspicion of murder.”
By that time, the third officer in the hallway had taken a statement from the witness and called into the station to report the situation. He informed the other two that an investigation team was on the way. Then he positioned himself outside at the foot of the stairs to keep away curious onlookers. One of the other officers kept an eye on Dan while the third one made a quick search of the room, being careful not to disturb anything.
Dan tried to remain calm while waiting quietly for more investigators. When they arrived, the county coroner examined the body and pronounced her dead. Crime lab experts began to search the room for evidence and dust for fingerprints while the detective in charge questioned Dan.
The detective then told the officers they could go – one back on patrol, the other two to the station to book Dan McClain on a charge of murder. The “lab boys” continued going over the crime scene.
They led Bro. Dan in handcuffs down the stairs and took him away in a squad car. The streets that had been empty just a little while ago had swelled to capacity with curious spectators. Everyone in the neighborhood was there to watch. Several recognized Dan and shouted out his name. By the time they got to the police station, the press was there waiting. The next morning the papers were filled with pictures of “Decent Dan” being arrested for murder.
Over the next few days the press had a heyday with the investigation. Dan had never needed a lawyer before, but Kathleen had gotten in touch with one and he met first with the police, then with Dan. He told Dan what evidence the police had so far.
It was a very good frame. No witnesses saw anyone enter the room before the man in the hall saw Dan already inside. He claimed he heard a lady scream and that’s what brought him into the hall. He looked through the open doorway and saw Dan standing over the body of a young woman. The police arrived shortly thereafter, responding to an anonymous tip. Supposedly, someone heard a man and a woman quarreling. She sounded scared, so they called the police. No one came forward as the caller.
The room had been rented to Suzanne Kirk for the past six months. She had a scrapbook in the room with newspaper clippings about Dan and the Decency Movement. Worst of all – she was killed with a letter opener that had Dan’s initials on it. Dan told his lawyer that one had been missing from his desk for a couple of days. He knew now that it must have been stolen, but of course, he couldn’t prove it.
It wouldn’t take long to go to trial. The prosecution felt they had an airtight case. The Decency Movement died out from embarrassment and lack of leadership. Dan’s church had dropped to a very small crowd and had little to say about the case. Kathleen remained loyal and adamantly affirmed her husband’s innocence, despite the evidence.
To be continued….