Entering the Nashville area, Gary made a scheduled stop at a friend’s house on the way home. But as soon as he pulled in, he was urged to get back on the road. Linda had just called them with a distraught message to have her husband come home right away. Upon arriving, he walked into the jarring scene of bloody footprints on the floor. Limping toward him in bandaged feet, with a mixed expression of rage and relief, Linda found her way into Gary’s arms.
Earlier that night, she and the kids had already settled into bed when jolted in their sleep by the noise of shattering glass. Gathering her wits, she hustled into a dark hallway toward the children’s room. On the way she treaded over a course of piercing debris. Then a brick. Then the broken window at the end of the hall. In the kids’ room another window and a brick were strewn about. Gary Jr. and Curtise were crying hysterically, pointing her back to the hallway. Baby Noelle was not in her crib.
Grabbing a toy guitar, the only weapon in reach, Mom sprinted back into the hall, this time with the adrenaline to hunt a kidnapper on the soles of her lacerated feet. But fortunately that did not prove necessary. In a matter of seconds Noelle’s miniature body was spotted laying at the foot of the door. Scooping her up, Linda found her girl breathing and unharmed—and with a string around her neck. Its note bearing the one word: STOP
It was a message received. Broken down by the terror of his wife and children, the sight of bloody prints, the bricks, the glass, Gary knew what had to be done. At a volume for whoever was listening, he vowed “I quit.” And quit the investigation he did.
True to his word, Gary walked away from the investigation entirely, including regular visits to James Earl Ray at Brushy Mountain Prison (who he had come to know as “Jimmy”). Now back to performing country music, he had just finished playing at a hotel one evening when someone called the lounge bar phone requesting to speak with a Gary Revel. To his surprise, the voice that greeted him did not belong to his wife. It was the gruff masculine voice of stranger, warning Gary that his life was in danger because of the investigation.
“But I quit,” Gary insisted. “The investigation is over.”
“Nothing is over,” the man snapped. “You know too much. They want to silence you for good. There’s only one way now to save your ass. If you want help, find the young light-skinned black woman at the bar. She’s wearing an old motorcycle jacket. Tell her you want to speak with Cousin Billy.”
Before the matter could be debated, or some assurance given this wasn’t a trick, the call was over. Feeling it the better option, Gary placed his gamble on the stranger and spotted the woman at the bar matching the description. Out in the parking lot, she mounted a black Harley, strapped on a helmet, and handed him the second helmet. After 20 unnerving minutes of weaving through traffic at high speeds, to ensure they weren’t being followed, they arrived at their destination—an abandoned hospital on the city outskirts.
Entering with flashlights, they followed a series of masking-taped arrows through a labyrinth of graffitied halls until reaching an isolated room. Past dilapidated shelves, which still held jarred specimens in amber liquid, was a cluttered desk. Behind it sat Cousin Billy, barely illuminated by the desk’s oil lantern. Wearing a wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses, and fake beard, his intention of remaining anonymous for the time was made clear. The real item of importance, for this occasion, was the cache of documents placed in front of the chair set for Gary.
Stamped top-secret with the FBI seal, and without a single redaction, they were the files pertaining largely to Zorro—J. Edgar Hoover’s code name for the FBI and CIA joint operation to destroy Martin Luther King’s reputation, among other things.
As their content would indicate, the deceased FBI director was by no means alone in his determination to silence the civil rights icon. His branding of King as a communist sympathizer and threat to national security for objecting to the Vietnam War had spread among the three-letter agencies like a virus. Even those who pulled the trigger on him probably believed they were doing the right thing.
“Nonetheless,” Billy warned, “they are trying to cover up what they did, and anyone in a position to find out becomes a target.”
“You can relax though,” he added, seeing the dread form on Gary’s face. “Those files are yours now. Their information can save your life. If you know how to use it, people will be afraid to kill you.” But, he stressed, no one must ever know or suspect these files were in his posession, not even Linda or the Kershaws. The conspirators implicated—including Carlos Marcello—would stop at nothing to recover them.
The Heroin Pipeline
While Gary had no idea just who he was speaking with at the time, one thing about this “Cousin Billy” was certain—that in spite of the ridiculous outfit and fake beard, he wasn’t any hobo from an abandoned hospital. Quite likely, Gary believed, he was (or once was) high-level FBI with access to such files. Whatever the case, the man knew his stuff, and while Gary had no plan to revive his investigation, one question still gnawed at the back of his mind.
What would a mafia kingpin like Carlos Marcello want in the death of a civil rights leader?
“It was business,” answered Billy. The mob had the network to traffic heroin worldwide. Their nightclubs in Saigon became headquarters for one of the most powerful international cartels in history. CIA elements played a crucial role in it. To the knowledge of a select few, the U.S. warships in the South China Sea were smuggling massive amounts of heroin into the United States and beyond. Furthermore, mobbed up GIs were stealing billions of dollars in weapons, ammo, medicine, and food.
By 1967, however, the single greatest threat to this financial empire had begun to foment.
In the stirring thoughts of Martin Luther King, there in the book-filled surroundings of his private home study, something about America’s presence in Vietnam just wasn’t adding up. The rationale for the war, as often cited by prominent newsmen, and once to him personally by President Johnson, did not satisfy the common sense issues.
Why, for example, was the United States pouring so much blood and tears into “justice” abroad while neglecting its own social ills?
In questioning the narrative, which made him so dangerous to Washington’s cartel, King would eventually arrive at answers, and with those answers, plans to stir awareness of the war’s fraudulence. Like David before Goliath, he would go on to stand before a giant. (We know this giant as the hybrid monster). He knew and challenged it as the “Military Industrial Complex,” knowing full well this might cost his life.
Was his blood poured out in vain?
In a sense, that was now a decision for Gary to make. As Billy suggested at the start of their dialogue, and again toward the end, the battle wasn’t over. If all the information from Gary’s interviews was combined with what he now had in the files, a comprehensive picture of the crime could be pieced together. And in time, this could mean truth and justice on a public scale.