The Third Brother

Home > Mystery > The Third Brother > Page 7
The Third Brother Page 7

by Andrew Welsh-Huggins

  “Maybe I forgot to mention it. It seemed sort of random at the time. Does it mean anything to you?”

  “Not really.”

  I told him about the Google search I’d done to no avail.

  “Could be a business or a person,” McQuillen said. “It’s not ringing a bell. You never know with these guys. I’ll run it through the database.” He minimized his Internet browser, and I caught a glimpse of his desktop background: a young boy and a tall, thin man. Father and son?

  “This guy Derwent,” I said. “He was a white supremacist?”

  “A high holy one. He was also one of the original Sovereign Citizens in Ohio.”

  “Sovereign Citizen?”

  “It’s an antigovernment group. One my father was investigating. They don’t recognize any law enforcement authority except sheriffs. Won’t get driver’s licenses. File a lot of liens against people—especially judges—and specialize in not paying taxes and teaching others how not to either.”

  “He was one of them?”

  “Not just one of them. He was their king.”


  MORE SOLDIERS BOUNDED INTO VIEW ON the TV. I caught something on the crawl about heightened security alerts in Belgium. I wondered under what conditions I would ever drink Mountain Dew.


  “Closest analogy I’ve come up with.”

  “King in what way?”

  “It’s a bit of a long story.”

  “I’ve got time.”

  “But I don’t. Got an e-mail address?”

  I gave it to him. He turned and his fingers danced across the keyboard, the clacking like dozens of beetles scrabbling over a sheet of hard plastic.

  “Just sent you all you need to know about David Derwent and Sovereign Citizens and the 1776 Sentries and more. You could also check Wikipedia, except I wrote that entry, and this is more up to date. Yours is a little stale, by the way. Didn’t you catch a serial killer last year?”

  “By the skin of my teeth, if that counts.”

  “It does in my book. I can update it, if you want.”

  “That’s OK. I need a little mystery in my life. So you think those guys in the parking lot were from this Sentries group?”

  “Fifty-fifty,” he said. “Fits the profile, and the tattoo might cinch it. Except sometimes they filch each other’s insignia to throw people off. Some of these guys are actually smart in addition to being batshit crazy.”

  “If it is them, what’s their thing?”


  “What do they believe in?”

  He leaned back in his chair and took another pull of Mountain Dew. “Well, short version is anti-immigrant, anti-government, anti–Federal Reserve—probably against their own grandmothers if pressed. Opposed to pretty much anything that smacks of authority. Also, they’re truthers, birthers, deathers, 3 percenters, and every other conspiracy theory du jour.”

  I held up my fingers and ticked them off as I spoke. “9/11 was a government conspiracy; Obama was born in Kenya; Osama bin Laden is still alive. With you so far. But 3 percenters?”

  “That’s a good one. They believe only 3 percent of colonists fought in the Revolutionary War. It’s their way of justifying so-called patriotism against heavy odds.”

  “Sounds a little scary.”

  “A little? Some of these guys bake cakes on Hitler’s birthday, for God’s sake. Then there’s the Third Brother thing with Derwent, which is a whole other set of kookiness.”

  “Third Brother?”

  “It’s all in the e-mail. But essentially, according to the theory, Adam and Eve had a third son, Seth, to replace Abel. He was supposed to be this particularly righteous guy. Derwent claimed he was a descendant of Seth. A pure, lily-white descendant, naturally.”

  “A descendant of the third brother?”

  “That’s right.”

  “So, another reason you call this place the Garden?”

  “You’re catching on. Maybe you don’t have CTE after all.”

  “That dynamic duo in the parking lot. Are they followers of Derwent?”

  “Hard to say. The older guy could have been around in those days. But the movement sort of imploded after Derwent died. He had two sons, neither of them up to the job—not for any lack of trying, I might add.”

  “Are they still around?”

  “One’s in the supermax, the other’s on death row. The only thing they’re leading these days is the chow line.”

  “They were his only kids?”


  “What’s that mean?”

  “The word was that Derwent’s wife couldn’t have any more. No surprise, rumors cropped up over the years about him casting his seed elsewhere. I’ve never found anybody else, though. Closest I ever got is a story that some girl died in childbirth and she and the baby were buried in the woods someplace. But it could be all part of the mythology.”

  I thought about the young guy with the tattoo. I asked Mc-Quillen what the chances were that he was a lost bastard son of Derwent.

  “He’d have to be in his thirties to match. Your description made it sound like he was younger than that.”

  “You’re probably right. So what am I supposed to do with all this stuff, anyway?”


  “Everything you’ve told me.”

  “Whatever you want, I guess. Tell the police. Study up for the next time you run into them. Hunt them down yourself—though I’d be really careful if you go that route. I just figured you’d want to know. The more we can expose these people, the better.”

  I thought of Abdi Mohamed. “I’ll be honest with you. It’s not real high on my priority list. But I appreciate the heads-up.”

  “Whatever. I’m just letting you know your options.”

  “Thanks. So, how long have you been doing this?”

  “Doing what?”

  I spread my arms and looked around the room.

  “As something I get paid for? Since a few years after college. As my life’s work? Since the bombing, I suppose. No secret there. I loved my dad. I was only ten when it happened. It ruined our lives, in so many ways. My mom died a few years later, basically of a broken heart.”

  “Are you, I don’t know, making any progress?”

  “Fits and starts. These groups come in waves. A lot of it has to do with the economy. Militia types bloom in recessions, like mushrooms after a rain. But they’re around even when unemployment dips again. Like I said, the main thing is to be careful.”

  “Don’t worry—”

  He turned in his chair to face me. Something in his face had changed. In the blink of an eye he’d gone from bedraggled folksinger to a Renaissance depiction of an Old Testament prophet.

  “I’m serious,” he said. “Don’t underestimate them. They’ve killed just as many people as all these homegrown Islamic terrorists that people are bent out of shape over. Derwent’s a perfect example. After he blew himself up, they found a notebook he’d kept, with all these prognostications about his plans.”

  “Like what?”

  “All this lofty bullshit. ‘We will build a fire of pure white flame that reaches to heaven.’ Crap like that. The problem is these people seem kind of clownish sometimes. And their beliefs!” He shook his head. “Some of them think the last legitimate government was the U.S. postal service in the late 1700s. And they’ve got a whole theory about the government using citizens as collateral against the country’s foreign debts. Bonkers, I’m telling you. But that’s the mistake everyone makes. They’re dismissive. They write them off as nutcases. They focus on people wearing turbans. Then the next thing you know: Pow.” He smacked his right fist into his left palm. “Oklahoma City.”


  I FELT ODDLY RELIEVED WHEN I PULLED away a few minutes later, as if the Garden was someplace you’d have a hard time escaping if you weren’t careful. McQuillen’s expertise impressed me, despite the over-the-top image he presented. The vengeance-seeking son i
n full hacker mode fighting the good fight with NASA-caliber computing capability and an endless supply of Mountain Dew. The whole Seth/third brother thing was intriguing and chilling. And of course the irony, if Mc-Quillen was to be believed, that guys like the ones who attacked Kaltun Hirsi were just as dangerous as the radical Islamic fundamentalists they claimed to see behind every scarf, prayer cap, or robe.

  All this stayed on my mind as I drove up the street, pulled into the Upper Arlington library parking lot off Tremont, and checked my messages.

  How’s it going?? Freddy Cohen had texted, with customary abruptness.

  Nothing yet but I did find the Lindbergh baby

  He didn’t respond. I called and left a voicemail for the detective handling the parking lot assault case. I gave him McQuillen’s name and told him about the 1776 Sentries. After I hung up I checked the time. It was still early enough to try tracking down Abdi’s friends, whose names I’d pried from the chilly hands of Helene Paulus at Maple Ridge High. I examined my notes. The first kid was another Somali boy, Abshiro Ali, who was in Abdi’s graduating class. I called and texted him, but didn’t get an answer either way. I texted Abukar Abdulkadir to see if he could help track the boy down. With no elaboration, he texted back to say he’d see what he could do.

  I had better luck with a boy named Mike Parsell, a soccer teammate who answered on the third ring. He was at home, and didn’t mind if I came by.

  “I wish I knew where he was,” he said, his lanky frame sprawled on the couch in his living room in a house off McCutcheon, a mile or so from the high school. His parents were at work.

  “He didn’t tell you he was going anywhere?”

  He shook his head. “We were supposed to hang out this summer.”

  “Were you surprised? That he disappeared without saying anything?”



  “It wasn’t like him.”

  I asked him about extremism and recruiting and any residual anger from Abdi’s brother’s overseas death that might have made him go around the bend.

  “Hassan was a prick,” Parsell said. “It’s hard to believe they came from the same family.”

  “So I’ve heard. You knew him?”

  “Enough to know he was a jerk. He had this huge chip on his shoulder. Everyone was against him and he never did anything wrong.”

  “Was that before or after he converted?’

  “I didn’t know him after. He’d graduated. But I saw him once at the coffee shop. Seemed like he was still an asshole, just one wearing a robe this time.”

  “Coffee shop?”

  “Place near the school. A lot of us hang out there. Do homework.”

  “So Abdi wasn’t like that? Like his brother?”

  “No way. Friendliest guy you’d ever meet. Even my parents liked him.” He lowered his voice a notch. “They’re a little prejudiced, even though they say they’re not.” He was slouched on the couch, his hands idly holding a video game controller, though the screen across the room was dark. You could tell he was itching to play.

  “Your principal—Helene Paulus? She said there’s a gang problem at the school.”

  “Yeah, I guess.”

  “Any chance Abdi could have, you know, gone that way?”


  “You sure?”

  “Yeah.” He sat up. “The thing is, he tried to talk guys out of that stuff. You’d see him, joking around with them.”

  “He wasn’t scared?”

  “Not really. Not that I knew. I mean, I was. Those guys were rough.”

  “I bet.”

  “This one kid, DaQuan or LaQuan or something? He was a real badass, but Abdi was always messing with him, teasing him, telling him he should just play soccer instead.”

  “Did he?”

  “I don’t know. I think he dropped out.”

  “Abdi talked to him at school?”

  “Sometimes. Maybe at the coffee shop or something. Wherever.”

  I pulled out my notebook. I wrote, DaQuan or LaQuan. Then I wrote, Grasping at straws. But as I did, the obvious occurred to me. “Did Abdi have a girlfriend?”

  It took him a second to respond. “I’m not sure.”

  “Not sure how?”

  “Just that,” he said quickly. He relaxed back into the couch and feigned boredom. “It didn’t seem like any of the Somalis did. Dating wasn’t part of their culture or something.”

  “But what about Abdi? Did he have a girlfriend or not?”


  “Well what?”

  He lowered his voice again and looked out the window. “There’s this one girl. Sister of a kid on the team. I don’t think you could call it dating. But they liked each other.”

  “Who was it?”

  “I’m not sure . . .”

  “Not sure what?”

  “Thing is, I don’t want to get in any trouble.”

  “I’m just asking for a name. If anybody’s in trouble it’s Abdi. And if there’s anything or anyone who can help him, I’d like to know.”

  He wrestled with his thoughts for a moment. Finally, he said, “Faith Monroe. Paul Monroe’s little sister.”

  “You know where she lives? Who her parents are?”

  “Couple streets over. But—”

  “But what?”

  “I don’t think her parents knew they were, well, whatever it was. And her dad’s a pastor. And he is prejudiced.”


  A GIRL WHO LOOKED TO BE IN HER LATE teens answered the door at the home of Felicia and David Monroe a few minutes later, wearing flip-flops, shorts, and a Maple Ridge Riders T-shirt. I was guessing it was the daughter, Faith, but didn’t ask her point blank. My suspicions were confirmed when I told her who I was and—without bringing up what Matt Parsell had divulged—my efforts to find Abdi Mohamed. “Mom,” she yelled, a stricken look on her face. She turned and disappeared down a hall.

  “May I help you?”

  Felicia Monroe had the same strong brow and high cheekbones as her daughter, the same dark brown complexion and a similar, suspicious glare. The look only got worse when I repeated my spiel and handed her my card.

  “I have no idea where he is. I just hope the police find him in time.”

  “In time for what?”

  “In time to stop him from doing something bad.”

  “You think that’s what he’s up to?”

  She stared at me. “Don’t you?”

  “I’m not sure. First I need to figure out where he is.”

  “Maybe look a little harder. But it’s nothing to do with us. Now if you’ll excuse me—”

  “I’m told your son—Paul?—was on the soccer team with Abdi. Is he here?”

  “He’s at work. He won’t be home for a while.”

  “Your, ah, daughter? Did she know Abdi?”

  “Not really. Listen, this isn’t a good time.”

  “I understand. I just figured someone might know something that could help me find him.”

  “And like I said, I hope you do. Everybody knows about his comments on Facebook. What he threatened. And of course his brother . . .”

  “But those comments were after Abdi disappeared, right? How about before?”

  “How should I know? What difference does it make?”

  “People said he was a good kid.”

  “You mean, like his brother?”

  “Everyone I’ve talked to says Hassan was different. A troublemaker, extremist or not. They say Abdi was the opposite. That he’d never do something like this.” I relayed the story Mike Parsell had told about DaQuan or LaQuan. “That’s why I was hoping to talk to some of his friends. Like Paul or Faith. See if they know where he might have gone.”

  “They don’t know,” she said firmly. “Either of them.”

  I was starting to understand Mike Parsell’s reluctance to tell me about Abdi and Faith. What I couldn’t tell was whether, as Parsell speculated, Faith’s parents didn’t know a
bout their relationship. Or conversely, that they did and were in deep denial.

  “Was he ever over here? Abdi, I mean?”

  She hesitated, the lie she wanted to tell stuck on the tip of her tongue like something bitter she needed to spit out but couldn’t quite bring herself to.

  “Once or twice. We had pregame potlucks. They were a good bunch of kids. Mostly.”

  “It sounds like it. I don’t mean to pry, but was there any possibility that Faith and Abdi were, you know, involved? Dating?”

  Her brown eyes flared with anger. “Who told you that?”

  “Is it true?”

  “No,” she said, unconvincingly.

  “Could I speak to her?”

  “Absolutely not.”

  “What about your husband?”

  “What about him?”

  “Perhaps I could talk to him.”

  “That would be his choice. But he’s not here either.”

  “I understand he’s a pastor?”

  “That’s right.”

  “What church?”

  “Mount Shiloh Baptist.”

  “Could I get a number for him?”

  “Sure. Look it up online.”

  She folded her arms across her chest in a pose that meant the same thing in almost any language: get the hell off my doorstep. Reluctantly, lacking any counterargument, I did.


  I DECIDED FOR NOW AGAINST WHAT I WAS guessing would be a fruitless trip to Mount Shiloh Baptist. Instead, I settled in at a nearby Tim Horton’s with a cup of coffee, connected to the wireless, and checked my messages. McQuillen’s e-mail was waiting for me in my inbox. His address was [email protected]. I clicked on the PDF attachment and sat back to read the document titled “76SentriesAbstract.” It was a fascinating story, whatever its relevance was to the parking lot escapade.

  According to McQuillen, David Derwent was a back-to-the-lander originally from Cleveland. A spoiled only child, he’d been an authentic hippie in the seventies, on the far left of the political spectrum, when he failed out of Ohio State—which took some real doing in those days—and decided to chuck it all to live in a tent in the Ohio woods. He got by doing a series of odd jobs in local towns, thumbing his nose at anything close to a real occupation, which he deemed the province of the patriarchal establishment.


‹ Prev