What was the Soldiers of Christ Ministry, and what did it believe? Divine Fury. Chapter 44
March 23, 2013
A VG Serial: Divine Fury
ENZO LEE WAS at his computer deep in his research on the Soldiers of Christ Ministry. There were numerous stories about Rev. Jimmy Burgess, detailing his background as a child prodigy on the rural, fire-and-brimstone circuit in Tennessee and his rise to national prominence as a leading televangelist.
The other theme was the political influence of the church. Meetings with politicians eager to curry favor with Burgess and SOCM. Press releases or speeches by Burgess announcing support or opposition for various causes and people. Only conservatives on the Supreme Court. No gays in the military. Mandatory prison time for first-time drug offenders. Outlaw all abortions.
The only other name that appeared in the web searches was Brent Daggart, the executive vice president of Soldiers of Christ. He was quoted in some of the political stories. Lee recalled that he’d been the other SOCM executive who showed up as contributing money to George Chapman’s campaign.
Lee was in the middle of a Washington Post story about religious organizations becoming more aggressive and openly political by directly raising campaign money for politicians when his phone rang.
“Hello,” said Lee.
“Hello,” said the female voice on the line, sounding tired and resigned. “This is Nancy Wilkins.”
“Wilkins…Wilkins?” Lee thought. Then, he could almost smell the garlic, vinegar and soy sauce. Pork adobo.
“Oh, hi,” said Lee. “How are you? What can I do for you?”
She was silent for a moment as if waiting for something, or making a final decision.
“Oscar came back,” she finally said. “We need to talk to you.”
* * *
NINETY MINUTES LATER, Lee was sitting across from Oscar Wilkins in his San Jose home. The pudgy programmer was wearing blue jeans and a white Guayaberas shirt with dark blue trim. His brow was furrowed in worry and he was fidgeting. Nancy Wilkins sat next to him, her hands folded in her lap.
“Like I said, I don’t work for the police and whatever you tell me goes no further unless you say so,” said Lee. “But if you want me to talk to them for you, I will. And, I know lawyers who specialize in criminal defense work who you can call.”
Both of the Wilkins’ nodded. Oscar Wilkins had already told Lee about his sudden return to San Jose. He’d gotten a private pilot to give him a ride from Nassau to Atlanta for $400 in cash. Then, he simply got the next flight to San Francisco and had his wife pick him up at the airport.
“I have more information now on Oscar’s case than what we discussed earlier, Nancy,” said Lee. “One of the key guys in the Harper campaign works at the Medical Center. They think his computer was hacked and that the night the kid who worked there was killed, someone was breaking in so they could plant the spyware.”
Oscar Wilkins stared down at the table.
“And they’ve got the DNA evidence that ties Oscar to the scene,” Lee continued. “They found a couple of hairs where the kid was killed. They matched it to Oscar.”
Oscar Wilkins glanced at Lee.
“They got all that?” he said.
“Yeah,” said Lee. “All of it.”
His wife gave his arm a not-so-gentle shove and she said, “I told him this. He didn’t believe me. That’s why I called you. He wants to run away like maybe they won’t come after him. I said he has to turn himself in. That’s the only way. I will not run from the police…from everyone. No!”
“Okay…okay,” Oscar Wilkins said, sighing deeply.
“Look, it wasn’t supposed to happen like that. Nothing like that,” Wilkins continued. “It was just get inside – there was even a door I found unlocked in the delivery area – and it was just a piece of hardware. I only had to attach it to someone’s computer.
“And then, the kid showed up,” he continued. “What the hell was he doing there…?”
“Oscar,” said Nancy in admonishment.
“I’m sorry,” said Oscar. “She doesn’t like me to swear. Anyway, the kid shows up and I panicked. I had a guy I knew outside. You know. On lookout for me. I called him and said, ‘There’s a kid coming out who saw me.’ And the guy says, ‘I’ll take care of it’ and he hangs up. He hangs up.
“And then he shoots the damn kid…oh…I’m sorry. But I get out there and the kid is lying there. And, there’s blood all over.”
Oscar Wilkins buried his face in his hands.
“Oh, god. Oh, god. Oh, god,” he said. Nancy grabbed his arm with both hands and held on as her husband continued to murmur through his hands. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m sorry.”
Lee wasn’t sure if the apology was only to his wife for ruining their lives or if it extended to Scott Truman as well and those who loved him. He waited for the programmer to regain his composure. They still had some ground to cover.
“She wanted me to come back,” said Oscar Wilkins. He nodded at Nancy. “She was going back to the Philippines if I didn’t and taking the kid.” He shrugged.
“They would have found you eventually,” said Lee. “And brought you back. They have extradition treaties. It’s not that easy to disappear for the long term. Unless you really know what you’re doing and have enough money to make it all work, they’ll usually find you.”
Wilkins nodded his understanding.
“So, can you tell me, Oscar, how this all started?” Lee continued. “How did you get into this?”
Wilkins said the Terminator, whom he also knew as Dirk Renstrom, although he suspected that was an alias, too, had hired him over the years to write specialized software and crack passwords and other security measures. He had paid Oscar $15,000 to write the spyware, install it at the medical center and set up the system to retrieve the data transmissions. When he asked Renstrom who the client was, the Terminator told him to watch a particular cable channel on Tuesday mornings. Wilkins didn’t need to because he knew who had that slot. It was Rev. Jimmy Burgess. Nancy tuned in every week.
“So you know how this usually goes, right?” said Lee. “The tradeoff is you give up the people higher up the chain. The Terminator. Burgess. Whoever. And the prosecutor gets you less time, maybe a lesser conviction.”
“I know,” the programmer said. “Look. There’s another problem. I thought about this a lot on the plane here. Eventually, the Terminator will want to terminate me. I know it. He might be coming for me now. I’m the link that leads to him. So, I’m in danger. Nancy. My kid. We’re all in danger.
“You’ve got a friend there? With the police? Working this case?” Wilkins added.
“I do,” said Lee. “She’s a good friend. The detective in charge.”
“Okay,” said Wilkins. “Then take me in. Let’s just do it now. The sooner the better. Call her.”
“Are you sure? You don’t want to get an attorney first?” said Lee.
“No,” said Wilkins grimly. “That could take a day or two. I want it in the papers tomorrow morning that I’m in a cell. If they know where I am, they won’t come looking here.”
Chapters of the serial are published Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday.
You can learn more about Divine Fury on Amazon.