Sunday, October 2, 2011

William, Marcus and Eve

There are these two kids here in Durham County, North Carolina -- two kids literally out of thousands of teenagers in the county.  For example, my daughter went to one of six high schools in Durham, which had a population of over 2,000 students.  This is typical of all of the schools. 

The kids in my daughter’s school range from A to Z in terms of who they are, their interest, and how they live their lives.  One girl, an African American, let's say on the "A" side of the scale, was accepted into Yale, the only student in my daughter's class that went to that illustrious university.  

However, this story concerns two African Americans on the "Z" side of the scale.  In fact, one of them is a drop out from my daughter's school.  He is 17 years old and tired of working menial jobs.  His friend is 19 and in a similar situation.  

They have been in trouble with the law all of their lives and are currently on probation for a number of offensives, including breaking and entering and terrorizing a family with a baseball bat.

Unfortunately, the North Carolina's probation system is overworked, and probation officers have too many cases.  In fact, no one has checked in on these two boys in months.  Not that they are hiding, they simply are sitting on the couch at William's home egging each other on as to how they can make some easy money. 

The younger boy, William, who is the drop out from my daughter's school, has moved up in the world since the bat incident.  He now has a 22 caliber pistol that he bought from a friend several months back, and it is the one possession that he owns in which he is most proud.  

He constantly reminds his other friend Marcus, about something he did two months earlier after getting the gun.  William had broken into an apartment of a Muslim student going to Duke.  After pistol-whipping the boy and taking all the money he had in his possession, about $50, William put a pillow to the student's head along with the barrel of the pistol and, while the student literally pleaded for his life, shot him several times through the pillow killing him instantly.  

No one heard the gun, and it wasn't until several days later that anyone found the body.  The incident barely made the papers and certainly no one knew it was William who had committed the crime.  In fact, the word in the press was that the Muslim student probably had been a drug dealer.  

So William and Marcus agree that this was something they could do together this time.  However Marcus was concerned that he didn’t own a gun.  He suggested that he could steal his stepfather's shotgun and that that might be the additional firepower they would need.  

So they agreed to try it a second time, only this time they would go over to Chapel Hill and find one of those rich Carolina girls...    

So, one early spring night, they drive to the university town about ten miles away and begin the hunt, trying to find the right person, the right place, trying to work up the nerve.  

All night they drive the streets of Chapel Hill getting more and more agitated.  Finally, they spot a small house on a quiet lane and one of the boys thinks it might be a sorority.  They see girls coming in and out of the house and decide that, if they are going to do it, this is the place.  

So, after things settle down, at around 5 AM in the morning, they go to the door and simply walk in.  The house is unlocked.  It turns out no one is home except for one person.  She is pulling an all-nighter working on a paper that has to be handed in that morning.

She thinks she hears something, turns from her computer, and there they are, William and Marcus, with pistol and shotgun in hand, demanding money.  She has no money; she is exhausted and can't believe that this is happening.  

This girl, Eve, is an incredible person.  With blonde hair and good looks, she easily could have been a cheerleader – a Carolina girl through and through.  In fact, she is in her element.  She grew up in Athens, Georgia, the home of the University of Georgia, and is quite used to campuses and life alongside a major university.  

She is at Chapel Hill because she received a Morehead - Cain Scholarship, which is one of those incredibly unique scholarships in which anyone in the world can apply but only a select handful receive.  The Morehead-Cain pays for everything, every year, every summer, every trip abroad, every meal, everything.  

She, in fact, has used her scholarship already to go to an extremely remote area of Ecuador to work with an elderly doctor in a one-room clinic treating the indigenous people of that region.  

Eve, however, was no innocent abroad, and it is clear she understood that she was alone in a remote, rugged part of Ecuador in which horrible things could happen.  She did it though because she truly believed she could make a difference – a trait for which she was famous and that had earned her the scholarship.  

She comes back to Carolina that much stronger and that much more confident in her beliefs and abilities and decides to run for student government president.  

Amazingly, she convinces enough kids, whites, blacks, Hispanics, everyone, that even though she’s a blonde-haired beauty who easily could have been mistaken for a rich, sorority chick, she could represent the students at UNC better than anyone else.  

She wins the election and takes the leadership position on the student government as well as the seat that comes with it as the student representative on the University of North Carolina’s Board of Trustees.  

Well, at 5 AM one night in early spring, all of Eve's dreams and hopes and accomplishments are reduced to a single moment standing by a computer, staring in shock at William and Marcus screaming demands at her.  But Eve gets them to stop shouting and suggests even, when finally they are prepared to listen, that she can find an ATM machine and give them what they want – only, however – if they will let her go.  

They agree and get into Eve's Pathfinder and start driving around Chapel Hill visiting first one ATM machine and then countless others until they have withdrawn more than $1,500 from Eve's checking account.  

Finally she has no more money.  They are back on a side street trying to decide what to do next.  

Eve reminds them that they said she could go free, but William knows they will be free only if she is dead.   Marcus wasn't involved in the Muslim student slaying and now is not so sure he wants to go through with it, especially with her sitting next to them, calming, asking for her life.  

Finally, Eve, with all the power of persuasion that she has accumulated from all of her life experiences, from all of the committee meetings, from countless interviews for the Morehead - Cain, convinces them to let her go.  

She gets out of the car slowly and starts walking down the street.  William watches her walk a few yards but knows clearly what must be done.  He opens his door, aims his pistol, and shoots her in the back.  

He gets out of the car and in point blank range shoots her four more times.  Only Eve's not dead....  

Marcus gets out of the car and cannot believe this.  There is Eve still moving, maybe even begging for her life.  

William has no more bullets in his pistol and yells at Marcus to do something.  Lights are coming on in houses nearby.  Marcus lifts his stepfather's shotgun and aims it at her at point blank range and, with William screaming at him to do it, shoots her, straight on, right there, killing her finally.  

The boys run back to Eve’s Pathfinder and drive to their car and back to Durham and the safety of William's mother's couch. 

 Only, now the community is awake to the horror of what has happened.  A student body president, a member of the Board of Trustees of the University of North Carolina, a Morehead - Cain Scholar a year returned from saving indigenous lives in remote Ecuador is now dead, riddled with bullets on a sleepy side street where professors and lawyers and good people bring up their children to be like her – in fact, just like Eve was brought up in Athens.  

She is one of their own, one of their best – and she is dead.  

After a couple of days, William thinks he has gotten away with it, once again, but then, with the morning papers, he realizes that this one wasn't as clean as the Duke one.  The papers are showing front page, semi-blurred pictures of the three of them taken from an ATM camera in which Eve is at the wheel, William is beside her and Marcus is in the back.  

The heat is on for anyone knowing who the boys are, and Marcus, in a state of panic, tells his girlfriend what they've done, looking for her help in getting William and him out of town.  

However, it's too late, too many African-Americans in the Durham community recognize the two of them, and within hours they are arrested, and, shortly thereafter, Marcus' girlfriend tells the police everything.  

The hunt is over.  

The combined forces of the Chapel Hill and Durham police have them squarely.  Even the Feds are involved and have them nailed for aggravated kidnapping.  

For William and Marcus, it is over.  

The full weight of justice is upon them.  However, William is a minor and cannot be put to death for either of his crimes; he gets life in prison without parole.  Marcus, an adult at 19, plea bargains and, because Eve was adamantly opposed to the death penalty, also gets life without parole.  

Finally, with a parting gift from Eve, an incredible person who easily could have been mistaken for anyone, it's over.