My Book

Excerpt from my upcoming Nonfiction Book, SOUND OF SILENCE
Copyright: Lori Cooper

I was driving home from my Mom’s house the evening after we’d had our Thanksgiving Dinner on November 24, 2016. I had my 8-year old Golden Labrador Retriever, “Sailor,” with me. He loved to ride in the car, and loved going to my Mom’s. Gahanna, Ohio is still where my Mom lives, where my Parents settled, where I grew up, and from where my Family and nearly all of my lifelong friends hail, a suburb of Columbus, Ohio, now the 15th largest city in America. Reading that statistic at the time gave me some sense of empowerment as I was driving with the flow of traffic on I-70 East.

“Yep. We’re no longer that Cowtown some of you Interstate drivers on your way to see your Families in Pennsylvania or New York used to think we were. Columbus is in the big leagues, folks. We’re nearly the same size as Chicago or Baltimore.”

I could see myself sharing that thought with the driver beside me, except he had no idea what I was thinking, and my grandiose delusions put me right into the mindset that in no way did we want the crime that either of those cities had been experiencing. I quickly dismissed my arrogance with the idea that Columbus was ‘hip’ and ‘cool’, but without the high crime rates as Chicago or Baltimore.

The 45-minute drive along Interstate 70 East isn’t my favorite drive. Once out of the city, Interstate 70 becomes a haven for semi-truck drivers who like to take heed to the road as if they own it. Eventually, I exit at Route 158, and make the 9-minute drive to my front door.

It was about 10 miles outside of the portion of 70 East frequently traveled by local people who eventually exit to their suburban destination when I noticed in my rear view mirror that I’d picked-up a white SUV, and not a ‘Mall Assault SUV’, the kind many Females drive, with a load of kids in the back to go to the Mall, but a REAL SCARY SUV. With its bright lights on continuously, I prayed aloud: “please move over into the left lane, or please turn-off those high beams you’ve got on there, Pal.” But he stayed with me, and was traveling slingshot. I was angry enough to have wished I could have slammed on my ‘Anchors,’ the slang term for brakes, without injury to myself or “Sailor,” but I convinced myself that I’d eventually lose whomever was behind me, especially by the time I hit my Exit of Route 158. I was sadly mistaken.

Now, I was even trying to make myself feel better with twisted humor: “The Juice is loose. What’s O.J. doing in Ohio,” I asked myself, until I realized that proposition was about as bad as this demented driver was. “Onward, Lori. You CAN do this.” I even daydreamed that it wasn’t ‘The Juice,’ since he was incarcerated in Nevada then, but instead, it was ‘A.C.,’ Orenthal James Simpson’s best friend.

“Right, Lori. It’s Al Cowlings in that White SUV.” I chuckled and was desperate to find some kind of humor in this nightmare. I knew I was being followed. I knew Mr. White SUV was following ME, but I didn’t know who he was or why he wasn’t even trying to disguise the tail.

The Columbus Dispatch had featured a glimpse into my journey of finding my late Dad’s perpetrator a few weeks before. He’d been a career criminal who shot him without so much as a second thought, a Columbus Police Officer who was just 29 years old. They made it their Front Page Headline Story. My mind was traveling in every direction. It was surreal. I kept repeating to myself over and over: “Lori. YOU did it. YOU found the man responsible.” But the real question became why I had to do so, and some 4-1/2 decades later, my Dad was gone, but his perp was very much alive.

We were all traumatized. I was 9 years old when all of it happened, but I made sure I never forgot the few things my Dad had shared with me, details I knew would become part of my purpose. I just didn’t realize it would be 44 years after-the-fact and possibly place my own life in danger.

I had to concentrate on one thing and one thing only at that moment, despite the various directions in which my thoughts were moving, and at high rates of speed: “travel in only one direction, Lori. Lose the SUV, and get home, and safely.”

I’d done enough research to uncover that at least one, if not two, of the perpetrator’s Family were into 81 World, the organized crime division of The Hell’s Angels. The 8 represented the letter “H,” because it’s the 8th letter of the Alphabet, just as the number 1 represented the 1st letter of the Alphabet, or the letter “A.” These same two members of his Family also alleged they were related to Charles Manson, coined the worst cult mass-murderer in American History. "How had all of this unfolded?" I spoke aloud. Saying it made it that much more real. I learned none of us in my Family had ever processed the trauma and pain. We'd been living in a permanent state of denial for over 4 decades.

With scattered memories of that horrific night on March 15, 1972, among them the shooting, the notification at our door by two Officers, the burglaries, the victims, my Dad’s death, over 4 decades of silence, the Media beginning to demand my findings, and a huge puzzle and mystery surrounding the events and subsequently, and a long history of serious crimes not only with the old man, but also with his offspring, and Family ties to Manson and organized crime, though I didn’t want to admit it, my armor was beginning to wear a bit thinly.

I worked hard to convince myself that being afraid wasn’t a part of my deck. It wasn’t who I was, and I wasn’t about to buckle, fold, or reveal my hand-to anybody. That was for amateurs.

I’d collected a whole lot of damning information, and though I had a couple of people I’d kept in-the-loop for my own safety, my silence was to ensure none of the possible players knew the cards I’d been dealt. I had a Royal Flush. All of it was so unbelievable, and only a story one could see in the movies.

Certainly, I didn’t have the imagination to ever create such Fiction. I was sad, too. It’s one thing to cheat in a game of Poker, but when the Joker wasn’t a part of the Poker Game, that was another. I wasn’t about to allow my late Dad’s legacy to be that of taking the heat for anyone who wore the Uniform or the Badge, anyone among ‘The Brass,’ much less being “the Joker to the thief,” as Jimi Hendrix sang in “All Along The Watchtower” in the late 1960s. Over my dead body. The perp should have been one ‘in the yard’ being supervised by every Guard “All Along The Watchtower.”

My list of people was long, and I was working it steadily, with every single person who was on the scene that cold winter night in March of 1972, some who’d already passed, along with those who were in positions of power to make my late Dad a Scapegoat and The Fall Guy then, and with those in power in the Administration serving at the time I found his shooter, who made egregious claims and committed nefarious misdeeds-an alleged high-ranking Female Officer who pretended to befriend me-a set-up. A trap. “Lori, don’t trust anyone,” was the advice I received from some who served alongside my late Dad and some who serve today; a nightmare from which it all felt I could never awaken, except I always knew the truth would prevail. Even at the expense of death.

But for now, it was time to make a clean sweep from Mr. White SUV. I was getting panicky. Afraid, even. I just didn't want to make that admission. I was about ready to learn why the silence for over 40 years was so damn loud.