A pleasant time in Birmingham ensues.
Gyrich laughs. "You're an investigator. Go investigate." Once in the room, Gyrich closes the door and shakes his head. "The Bureau's got a way of sucking the initiative out of people. It can be bad for your career. If you're an agent, and you've got initiative and talent at, say, finding doughnuts at midnight in Alabama, you don't want your immediate supervisor to find out. He might get to thinking, 'You know, that fellow's got initiative and talent. That could make me look bad. Then, my immediate supervisor might promote him instead of me.'"
Gyrich laughs "Anyway, what I need is a basic statement. How things went down. The who, what, where, when, and why. Especially the where. We're going to have to collect evidence if we're going to keep these guys behind bars."
And so Malachi and Dark Angel tell their tale. In the process, they learn that Gyrich and his team have been in town, monitoring the situation with Fasces and Connors for some time now. They gather that things aren't going to go well for the sheriff. Dukes shows up with coffee and doughnuts.
"Want one?" Gyrich asks Dark Angel. "It's a jelly."
They also learn that Simbaand the other masked people who attacked the rallybelong to a radical group calling themselves the Black Panthers.
"Rumor has it they're funded by sympathetic parties out of Wakanda," Gyrich notes.
The conversation lasts about a hour. Gyrich dispatches agents to the site of the bunker. He thanks both heroes. As he is showing them out of the building, he hands Malachi a business card.
"Give me a call in a few days," he says. "I'd like for us to stay in touch. Who knows? We might be able to help each other out sometime."
"Thanks. And might be right at that. A pleasure meeting you sir." Malachi extends his hand and afterwards sprints off into the night.
Ghost Rider has gone. The four remaining heroes meet up at the colored hospital. Janet follows along, staying to the edge of the group. She feels somewhat out of place, being a stranger among strangers. She takes an empty seat in the corridor, and waits. She was filled in a little on what brought Malachi, or rather Sam to Alabama so she has no problem being patient. Besides, sitting makes it hurt less.
There are three menall black, all oldishon vigil in the waiting area outside Paul Wilson's room. Introductions are made. Hands are shaken. One of them, Justin, speaks happily.
"Where you been, son? People been going crazy trying to find you," he says to Sam Wilson. "Paul woke up about ten. Just for a few minutes, but he was pretty clear-headed. He asked for you, then went to sleep."
Sam actually looks chagrined. "Sorry, things got a bit hectic about the time of that rally. Let me see if he's awake."
"Go right ahead, Sam."
Adrian waits impatiently outside the door, glad beyond belief that his friend has recovered from the worst of his injuries, knowing that he has no right to barge in on the private meeting between father and son. After a few minutes he passes the time by questing the people present about Paul's condition and what the doctors think.
Cracking the door open, Sam looks into the room where his father lies. Very quietly, "Dad? You awake?"
Paul Wilson coughs a bit. His face is still swollen from the bruises, but he does look better nonetheless. There aren't quite as many tubes and wires present. The elder Wilson looks less like a project and more like a man.
"What kind of fool question is that?" he whispers back. "If I were asleep, how'd you plan on getting an answer?"
Sam moves fully into the room, letting the door close behind him. Smiling with relief, "Well, if you didn't answer I planned on leaving, and if you said 'No' you would be well enough to throw things at. What happened to you? Mr. Toomes and I have been worried sick."
While Sam Stern sleeps in the waiting room, Sam Wilson talks with his father. After a bit, Adrian and Janet are invited into the room as well. Paul is pleased to see Adrian, and most thankful for him helping out on short notice. Though he is weak, and obviously tired, Paul's wit is keen and he doesn't seem to have lost any of his drive to further the cause of the civil rights movement.
He explains that he had heard rumors from some local youths that there were strange goings-on the woods, something about armed men as well as Fasces and the Wasp. Knowing the local authorities wouldn't be any help, Paul went to investigate on his own. By his description, he was caught by Warmonger. All in all, it is a miracle he wasn't killed.
After several minutes, the night shift nurse enters the room and politely but firmly tells everyone they'll have to leave. Before going, Paul asks Sam and Adrian to go the First Baptist Church and see Fred Shuttleworth, to see if the reverend needs any more help with anything.
Sam, Adrian, and Janet think that is a wonderful idea. When they wake Sam Stern to leave and tell him, he also thinks the idea is wonderful.
The invitation to church and a march, Saturday:
The next morning, the four heroes, feeling much better after resting, rendezvous at the church. It is a fine Saturday morning. The weather is unseasonably cool, a welcome change from the heat. Shuttleworth is delighted to see everyone, and spends quite some talking about the shake up coming with the arrest of Fasces and his crew. So far, none of the dirt has hit Connors, but Shuttleworth is confident that the sheriff's days as a public official in Birmingham are numbered.
The four heroes and Shuttleworth and a number of volunteers spend the day in preparation for Sunday. There is a big tent church service planned, with all the congregations of Birmingham's Negro churches invited to attend. There will be music and preaching and praying, after which all of those able-bodied enough are going to march ten miles through the city in a great circle, coming back to the church for a potluck dinner and social. Shuttleworth's enthusiasm is infectious. He invites the four heroes to attend the entire event.
All four think that is a wonderful idea.
In the evening, Sam Wilson and Adrian go back to visit Paul, who is doing much better according to both the doctors and himself. It'll still be a couple of weeks before he can be released, but any danger he may have been has passed. Paul and Adrian spend some time reliving their glory days organizing unions, and Paul does his fair share of embarrassing Sam with stories about raising him.
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© 2000 Mark L. Chance et al