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12

From the journal of John Phoenix:

We live in a cyclical universe. It seems that everything repeats itself, and comes full circle given time. I know that to be true of life and death, love and hate. I am finding out that it is also true of war. Nothing stays the same in life or war, but in the end, nothing changes.

At one time, during one existence, the Mafia was my enemy and primary target. I believed that the disruption and destruction of their cannibalistic operations was the highest goal I could aspire to. With time, the "unwinnable" conflict resolved itself into something else, and I began to see a dim light at the end of the tunnel. And there was a victory of sorts, however temporary, but not before my war against the Mafia had gone full circle and returned to the city, to the ground where it had begun.

This is a new war, against new enemies, but I cannot escape a sense of deja vu. The circles keep on turning, and in time all the faces of the predators and victims take on a similarity that is inescapable. I begin to feel that I am fighting the old war all over again, this time dressed up in a new disguise. The names of the enemies have changed, their addresses have shifted, but down deep, where the soul rot takes root and consumes healthy tissue, they remain the same.

Terrorism is the target this time out. But was it ever any different? At its most basic, stripped of all the political and religious window-dressing, terrorism is nothing more than a frontal assault upon the safety and security of the individual, or of society. It violates with a vengeance the most basic human rights of all: the rights to life and personal security. In the final analysis, it matters little if the victims of terrorism are held hostage in a foreign embassy, or cornered individually in the darkness of an underground garage. The end result, the violation of the person, is exactly the same.

It is that violation, that rape of the body and spirit, which we fight against. The enemy is always the same. Only the battlefield changes.

Terrorism is a time-honored concept, employed in one way or another since primal man learned to hide in the dark and leap out at unwary neighbors with his club. It would be fundamentally inaccurate to think that only certain groups, or particular segments of our population, perpetrate the crime. Terror has no color, language or religion; it is a universal constant, the writhing of a soul in fear and torment. At the bottom line, terrorism can only exist at an individual level, one-on-one.

The Mafia was expert at this kind of personal, one-on-one terrorism before its founding fathers stepped onto the dock at Ellis Island. Generations before the Palestinians or South Moluccans turned to violence in their different causes, homegrown terrorists were bleeding immigrant ghettos in America and sending out their tentacles into the everyday world of business and commerce. That terrorism was no less real, no less lethal, for being stripped of pseudo-idealistic songs and slogans. The victims were real, and the cost to America, in dollars and bloodshed, is undeniable by any thinking being.

It was that local terrorism that I set out to combat in the old war. I find now that I was only scratching at the surface, picking at a blemish while the cancer grew in size and strength just below the surface.

And things do come full circle. Wherever I go, however far I range away from the original battlefields of my own private war, the echoes of that struggle call me back. The Mafia is like a fabled serpent, headless now, and hacked into pieces, but like the Hydra, each piece seems determined to grow a new head and put down deadly roots of its own. I expected that much when I charted my last mile against the Outfit, but I had hoped that it would take some time for the lethal new weeds to flower.

The time is now.

And terrorism, once again, has become very personal.

This one is for Toni, and for Pol. But it is also for myself, and for the other victims of a silent terrorism, past and present. Their blood cries out for vengeance, for a justice long denied them. If the war against the Mafia was unwinnable, quixotic, then this one against the violators can be little more than a localized delaying action. It may take a generation, and determined action by the courts and legislatures, to make our cities safe again for women — or for children, men, you name it. There is nothing that an Executioner can do to stem that tide of random rape and murder in our nation. A fighting man needs specific, individual targets, and just this once I have some.

I suppose it is the nature of the target that disturbs me. From the beginning of my home-front war against the mob, police have been untouchable to me. They are soldiers of the same side in a war against the creeping tide of lawlessness and violence that is terrorism at its most basic. I have met some cops — and some politicians, some lawyers, some doctors — who disgraced their oaths of office and their comrades by selling out to the very forces they are sworn to combat. I've been able to expose a few, and the reaction of their fellows in the field has been revulsion, the healthy body throwing off a contaminating parasite. In the end, with an occasional assist from outside, the lawmen have been both willing and able to police themselves.

And I have never fired on a policeman, or felt the urge to, before now. There were times, in that other war, when I could have eased my own way, or made the victory something more than partial, by taking out a cop. I do not believe you can defeat your enemy by becoming your enemy.

Sometimes, a man who is capable of bearing arms is faced with a positive duty to use those arms. At times, a man is duty-bound to kill so that others, the builders and civilizers, may go on about their tasks in peace. The predators must be held at bay, and there is no peaceful way to reason with the savages and cannibals among us.

But to kill a cop...

The knowledge of a limited police complicity — however high-placed — comes as no surprise to me. I've seen too much of the corruption men are susceptible to. But for the first time, I may find it necessary to bend my own personal set of rules, to revise the guidelines of my war.

It is a new war, after all, at least in name. And it may require some new tactics, some new perspectives.

If Benny Copa and Fran Traynor are correct, then certain highly placed officials in this city have been aiding and abetting an insidious campaign of terrorism over months and years. It may well be impossible to build a solid case against them, or to find a prosecutor willing to attempt the job. In any case, the justice they deserve for wasting lives and violating souls will not be found in any courtroom. That justice must be swift, sure, irreversible. For Toni, and the others. For the universe.

And yes, it may be necessary to change some perspectives that I've carried for a lot of bloody miles. It may be time to face the fact that beyond a certain point, when he has passed some particular mile marker on the road of violence and corruption, even a lawman becomes hopeless, unsalvageable. He becomes a traitor, in the truest, most basic meaning of that hated term, and the penalty for treason is inescapable.

Before now, it has been something unthinkable, like spitting on the flag or changing sides in the middle of my own private war. The sides never change, but people do, and perhaps it's time for me to meet that fact head-on with respect to the targets I've acquired. Even flags, when torn and soiled beyond repair, are destroyed to make way for newer, cleaner ones.

So be it. I take nothing for granted in this struggle, and I keep an open mind with regard to targets and solutions. If it becomes necessary for me to take the final step, I will take it not with eagerness or anger, but with sadness — the quiet, personal grief that accompanies the death of an ideal.

And the war goes on, unchanged, unchanging. The target is still terrorism, whatever its face, name or position in society. And the victims, the souls hanging in the balance, are the same — the builders and seekers, the gentle civilizers. They are worth saving, worth protecting at any cost, and with that decision made, the other questions answer themselves. The war goes on.


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