Thursday, April 1, 2010

The Tale of Roger's Tragic Demise (Part Two)



This is Part Two of a true story of wealth and intrigue, kissing and secret passages, airplanes and stalkers, and the FBI that occurred on the campus of Bob Jones University in the Fall of 1991. Thankfully I lived to tell the tale.

Read Part One here

Signs of Trouble


As the semester wore on, two important events dimmed the brightness of our developing relationship with Roger. The first was that Roger became “campused” for what was falsely labeled “inappropriate behavior.” To be “campused” is to be restricted to the campus without permission to leave. After Roger explained what had happened, Brian and I were appalled at the injustice of the matter. What brought it about was by no means Roger’s fault: Throughout the semester, he had been spending more and more time with the daughter of a faculty member. He bashfully explained that she had a thing for him and had recently invited him to her house for dinner and television. When her parents were out of the room, she scooted over on the couch and kissed Roger on the lips. Unfortunately for Roger, her father walked in at that exact moment and immediately sent him home. Later, the father reported his indiscretion to the Dean of Men. Physical contact is strictly forbidden between men and women at Bob Jones University. No amount of presidential connections could rescue Roger from this horrendous faux pas. The response of the University was to immediately campus Roger for the remainder of the semester. Roger was despondent, and Brian and I were more than happy to commiserate with him. Unfortunately, there was little we could do about it, and Roger began spending his free time in the library.

The second event was much more significant and alarming. It started with a phone call one Saturday evening. As we were lounging on our bunks, Roger got up to answer the phone. The call was short and involved nothing more than a few brief “yes’s” and “no’s.” He hung up the phone with a very concerned look on his face. We read his expression immediately and begged him to tell us what was wrong. He knew he would have to eventually, so he explained slowly and seriously.

“Several years ago, a man with severe mental problems began stalking my family in Arizona. He followed us, trespassed on our property, sent us threatening letters, and even made some bomb threats. It became clear that he was a dangerous and persistent man. We took steps to protect ourselves and, eventually, we succeeded in getting him arrested and prosecuted, after which he was remanded to a treatment program. That call was to notify me that this man has escaped from his treatment facility and was last seen heading this way. We do not know for sure, but there is a strong possibility that he may be trying to locate me.”

Roger was no ordinary student, and his family had planned for such scenarios. The phone call initiated a process so amazing and efficient that Brian and I were flabbergasted to learn its complexity. He packed everything except his essentials into boxes and stored them on the bottom of the triple bunk. He took a blanket and hung it over the bunk to hide the boxes from visitors to the room. He enlisted our help to keep it quiet, and of course we agreed. Over the next several days, Roger relayed the extent to which his family was willing to go to protect him from harm. Roger explained that if the stalker breeched the campus, a private security detail would immediately whisk him away to the airport where his personal jet would be waiting to transport him to safety. Since such a breech would likely happen at night, we would need to be prepared for the team to break into the room commando-style, cover him with a sheet, and rush him out under armed escort. It was very important, for our own safety, that we not panic when this happened.

To further limit the threat of danger, two additional measures were initiated. First, state police patrols and roadblocks would monitor the South Carolina border for the stalker’s vehicle. Second, since the stalker had crossed state lines, he was also the concern of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, who would constantly monitor both Roger and his closest friends, namely Brian and me.

Men in Bushes


Over the next two weeks we learned the extent of this surveillance. They bugged our dorm room and tailed us around campus. They were stationed in cars in the parking lot behind the dormitory at night and roamed incognito around the campus throughout the day. Armed snipers were stationed on the roofs of a few key buildings, including the dormitory across the street. Apparently, agents were everywhere. Brian and I guarded our conversations and kept our eyes open. In our efforts to find privacy, we went so far as to check the bushes to ensure no one was hiding in or behind them.

The FBI was good at covert surveillance. On only one occasion were we certain that we had actually identified one of our watchers. As Brian and I entered the student activity center on our way to the game room one evening, we saw a man staring at us from the corner of the room. Wearing a tie, black trench coat and sunglasses, he matched every FBI stereotype that we knew. When he saw that he had been made, he quickly turned his head. We stiffened and nervously made our way past him to the game room. Due to the weight of surveillance and suspense, Brian and I found it very difficult to enjoy our game time. We were relieved to see that he was gone when we returned to our dorm room later that evening. The whole affair was oppressive. Roger tried to lift our spirits by telling us that he would get us a transcript of everything that we had said since the surveillance began. Apparently, my FBI code name would be listed as “Buffalo.” Roger giggled as he explained that the transcript would be at least a ream thick. It was hard to laugh with him.

A Tragic End


Our worst fears were realized over the next several days, cutting short Roger’s life of wealth, power, and celebrity. Tragically, the end came, not at the hands of the stalker we feared, but by another who also knew Roger’s secret. Even I had an unwitting role in his demise.

It happened late at night, two days before Thanksgiving. I went door to door on the hall to ensure that all lights were out and everyone was in bed. As I passed one of the dorm rooms, a young man named Jamie poked his head through the door.

“Psst,” he said. “How’s Roger doing?”

I froze in my tracks. Did he know something? How did he know and how much? I looked at him in the darkness of the hallway, carefully forming a discrete response in my mind.

I whispered, “Well, I am not sure how much you know about Roger, but he is a pretty special guy.” I was walking a thin line, especially since I was under surveillance.

The boy secretively looked up and down the hallway and then said, “You know about Roger’s problem then, don’t you?”

I was shocked and fumbled for a response that would not give too much away. Before I could answer, he said something that caused my mind to swim and my vision to blur. I literally staggered against the wall as he continued.

“Roger is a liar.”

The moment of revelation was surreal and hazy. As I struggled to keep my composure, Jamie told me what he knew. He and Roger had been roommates the year before. They had developed a strong friendship until Jamie uncovered some very serious deceptions. Anywhere else, lying would merely result in broken friendships. At Bob Jones University, such fabrications nearly resulted in Roger’s expulsion. He had returned this year under probation, only to weave a fresh version of the exact same same story, with greater wealth, grander houses, bigger airplanes, and more exorbitant promises. I was stunned by the sudden thought that I knew nothing for certain about the pudgy but oddly slim man in my room.

Stranger in the Darkness


After our long conversation, I returned to my dorm room. As I stood at the door, I was keenly aware that the man inside was a complete stranger to me. Did I even know his real name? I opened the door and peered into the darkness. His lies were so obvious to me now. How could I have believed such extravagant schemes? I felt like a fool. But a more ominous feeling also came over me. Such sophisticated trickery was the act of a desperate man. Something about Roger needed to be hidden at all costs. What was Roger’s secret? Desperate men do desperate things to protect themselves. What else might he be capable of? I fearfully entered the darkness of the dorm room.

As I lay on my bunk in the blackness, I listened to the sounds of the room. Brian had drifted off and his breathing had settled into a steady rhythm. I tried hard to identify Roger’s breathing pattern, but could not make it out. Then—a slight sound of movement came from across the room. Did Roger know that the jig was up? I had been out of the room for an unusually long time. Perhaps he suspected something. I continued to listen, and then settled my own breathing into a deep, regular pattern. Perhaps Roger would not suspect anything if he heard me go to sleep quickly and easily.

Then, another sound of movement. The quiet sliding of legs and sheets. A soft thud as feet hit the ground. The quiet plodding of bare feet stepping gingerly across the room. The crack of an ankle joint, and then sudden silence. No movement. My breathing continued, deep and regular. A moment later, Roger took a few more steps to the foot of my bunk where he stood in silence. I could feel his presence. It seemed interminable. Should I say something? Should I scream? Should I attack him? Surely both Brian and I could take him if we had to. I was petrified with indecision.

Then I heard a quiet “click” as my desk light came on. I peered through my eyelashes without moving my head. The light revealed Roger leaning over my desk. I heard papers shuffle and drawers quietly slide open and shut. He was looking for something. The light clicked off, and again there was silence. He stood still for a moment, and again I could feel his presence at the foot of the bed. And then, once more, his ankle cracked as he turned toward his bunk, climbed between his sheets, and went to sleep. Eventually, I did too.

The Search


The next morning was the day before Thanksgiving. I said nothing as Roger silently primped himself and headed out the door. Later that morning, I conferred with the Dean of Men, who acted quickly. He explained that Roger had already been “campused” for missing classes off and on throughout the semester. But over the last two weeks Roger had missed more classes than usual. His expulsion was already in the works, pending a few details. The reason for the extravagant crescendo of Roger’s tale was now obvious: he had known the end was near.

The dean asked me to locate Roger and escort him back to the office. A small manhunt ensued, without the FBI, and eventually I found him deep in the library, blocked from view by some book racks, tucked behind an open newspaper, trying hard to look small and inconspicuous. We said nothing. He simply folded the paper, stood up, and silently followed me.

At the dean of men's office, he was informed of the disciplinary action, and then, according to University policy, I was tasked to escort him until he left campus.

I took him back to our room, where he quietly packed the remainder of his belongings. I tried to talk to him, to ask questions, to find out who he really was, why he did it, what he was hiding, but he had nothing to say.

The tale of Roger had ended.

5 comments:

  1. [...] Don’t believe it is true?  I promise, it is. Read the exciting conclusion here. [...]

    ReplyDelete
  2. don't believe it's true? unfortunately i can vouch for such a tall tale...but you should have seen the Secret Service guy...I KNOW he was real!

    Who knows, maybe it really WAS real and not a tangle of lies after all. Maybe Roger really did need to be wisked away in a way that didn't draw undue attention to him (getting shipped may not have been honorable, but at least it was regular). Maybe he's flying over Tahiti right now aboard his private plane, or sipping Arizona Tea on his island estate. Maybe it was all a conspiracy worked out by the top brass...

    we'll never know...but we certainly will never forget the man named "Roger"

    brian

    ReplyDelete
  3. That was very interesting. :)
    Tina

    ReplyDelete
  4. Had me thinking "Naaaah" and "Really, wow" alternately. Maintaining a crewed jet at GSP was out there, but not impossible. It really lost me though when the FBI and Secret Service arrived on campus--I worked nightwatch during that time, and I'm sure we would have been informed. The only time I remember something like that is when the Vice-President spoke at the FMA. Great story though! What an odd person. I thought my extremely effeminate roommate with the perfumed decorative tiny soaps on the sink that we were NOT allowed to use or touch was bad.

    ReplyDelete