Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The End

In a previous post, I asked your advice about creating a non-fiction story for a Surrey contest. I finally finished it and mailed it in.
I am posting it here for two reasons: a family crisis has stolen all my time for researching and writing a useful posting, so I am cheating. As well, I am curious to know what you think of it. (I dreamed about your responses last night! That bad?)
Anyway, I hope you enjoy the story.

The End

As a boy, he was fascinated with Hitler. Swastikas appeared on sidewalks and mail boxes in Prince Albert. He even made himself an SS uniform and insisted on wearing it to school. Carney was an unpopular bully. Jewish and aboriginal students quickly learned to stay out of his way. He went so far as to push some students down a staircase because he didn’t like what they had said. He was becoming a handful for teachers, manipulative and sly and unpredictable. He was almost frightening in his pose as a neo-Nazi. Surely it was just a bid for attention.
When Carney was finished with school, he joined his father, a sometimes biker, in Vancouver. Together, they started an import business, bringing in fresh flowers from Chile. His involvement with white supremacy became real when he became an active member of the Ku Klux Klan. Soon after, he quit his father’s import business and moved to the Aryan Nations stronghold at Hayden Lake, Idaho. His leanings were no longer a joke. He learned how to terrorize and how to kill. Carney was a full-fledged white supremacist.
Karl Hand, head of the most violent branch of the Aryan Nations, invited Carney to join his group in Louisiana as captain of the vicious Street Action branch. Carney loved the uniform and he loved beating up Jews and blacks. He became reckless, cruel and uncontrolled. He was a very dangerous loose cannon.
Abruptly, he moved back to Prince Albert. He promptly announced he was the leader of the white supremacists and head of the Church of Jesus Christ Christian Aryan Nations in Saskatchewan. His Northern Pawn and Gun Shop opened on River Street and was more noted for its grime than pawn items, but he did sell guns. As a white supremacist in Prince Albert, he seemed like a joke. His most daring act was to dress up in his Ku Klux Klan outfit one Hallowe’en and cause a minor disturbance in a bar. Most patrons didn’t notice.
But then Carney did seize attention. He appeared on national television news as an Aryan Nations thug providing security for an Aryan Nations meeting in Provost, Alberta. He was seen in full uniform leaning on a farm gate, armed with his favorite weapon - a pistol-handled shotgun. He was insolent and offensive toward protestors, including a survivor of Auschwitz. Worse, he had armed all of the Aryan Nations delegates.
An Alberta Human Rights Commission hearing into the Provost Aryan Nations Fest followed. Its report emphasized the hatred Carney Nerland, and Terry Long, founder of the Brotherhood for Racial Purity, held toward non-whites. The commission stated its alarming finding: there was no doubt about the lengths the two white supremacist leaders would be prepared to go, given the opportunity, to implement their evil plans. Carney the white supremacist had become a nationally known Aryan Nations threat, but, as yesterday’s news the incident quickly sank back into oblivion. That was deceiving because he was still quietly active.
Leo LaChance was as uncomplicated as Carney was complex. He was a middle-aged Cree man, living on a reserve. In his youth, he had picked stones from fields for farmers and he had picked corn and harvested sugar beets near Tabor, Alberta, but now there were machines for all that. There were no jobs for men like himself on or off reserve so he stayed where he was, living in poverty like nearly everyone else on the reserve. Occasionally he trapped a few squirrels and sold the pelts to Mr. Katz the elderly owner of Katz Bros. Fur, Hide and Metal in Prince Albert. With those few dollars, he and his friends bought Lysol or hair spray to drink and ‘partied’.
The evening of January 28, 1991 was a frigid 30 degrees below zero. Snow was falling as Leo walked across the Diefenbaker Bridge over the North Saskatchewan River. He climbed down the stairs from the bridge to River Street and walked the few yards east to the building housing Katz Bros. Fur, Hide and Metal, and Carney’s Northern Pawn and Gun Shop. Leo’s footprints in the fresh snow showed that he went to Katz Bros. first. It was locked up for the night. The footprints led into and out of Carney’s shop.
Leo had entered the gun shop although no one knows why. Two of Carney’s friends, Young and Brown were standing in front of the counter. Carney had just gone behind the counter to pour them a drink. He was still standing there when he saw Leo walk in. He yelled at him to get out. Without warning, Carney picked up an M-16 and fired two shots into the floor. Leo took the hint and quickly let himself out of the shop. As the door closed a third shot was fired. The bullet tore through the old wooden door at a bit below shoulder height.
Brown was angry. “You stupid bugger! You could of hit my car!” but no one went to look. Carney wasn’t particularly upset. He had shot at ‘mud people’ before and scared them good!
Leo walked about 50 yards and then pitched face first into the fresh snow. Three men stopped to help him. Leo had been drinking but obviously something else was very wrong with him. One man, Turner, noticed the gun shop was still open so he sprinted down the street and burst in asking to use the phone to call 911. Carney chuckled and said it was broken. Turner was incredulous. He didn’t believe Carney but what was the point of arguing?
As Turner ran from the shop, Carney exclaimed, “If I killed that Indian, I’m fucked.! My business is fucked!”.
What happened next was both confusing and disgusting. Young looked up the street but he couldn’t see anything. Carney grabbed three weapons and then Brown calmly drove them to the Canadian Tire Store to pick up a video. Carney was home in time for supper with his family. He wasn’t concerned. Who cared?
There was something seriously wrong with Leo. He had been shot and badly wounded. Local doctors sent him to Saskatoon and detectives there continued questioning Leo, going right into the operating room with him. All Leo had been able to tell anyone that night was the word ‘gates’. Sometimes he muttered about a tall guy who must have shot him. He didn’t add any more for detectives in Saskatoon. Leo died minutes after midnight of the internal injuries Carney’s bullet had caused. Now Carney, was a bully, a white supremacist and a murderer.
The native community was outraged. The public was appalled. Carney was scared. Things moved very quickly then but they weren’t going well. To charge Carney with murder, the Crown Prosecutor had to prove intent to kill. He knew Carney had murdered Leo but he couldn’t prove it. He was forced to allow Carney to plead guilty to manslaughter and be sentenced to only four years in a penitentiary . It didn’t suit anyone.
That should have been the end of the story. It wasn’t. Public demand for an inquiry into the ‘case that wouldn’t go away’ was granted and soon two years of sporadic hearings plodded forward. Anyone who was in any way involved in the case was questioned by seven lawyers and three commissioners in turn.
Few recognized Carney when he first entered the hearing room. The overweight, bombastic Carney Nerland had lived in fear even though he had been sent to a penitentiary in Manitoba for his safety. He had spent the whole time in solitary and he had eaten very little. He told the commission he was afraid to eat because native inmate cooks might have spit or put ground glass in his food. He looked so small, so charming, so different.
Without warning, the inquiry was jolted out of its doldrums. The leading detective was recalled to the stand. He was told not to answer the question which followed. “Had the RCMP contacted him, for any reason, during his investigation?” The lawyers and commissioners rose and left without a word. Minutes later, they returned. The commissioner looked very grave. Unable to say it specifically because such people must never be named, he hinted as strongly as possible that Carney Nerland was an RCMP informant on Aryan Nations activities. He was to be released immediately and hidden in the witness protection plan.
The audience was stunned into silence. That was all there was to be said. His story was finished.
Or was it?


Jana Richards said...

Hi Connie,
I remember this story. Very sad, very scary.

I assume you are entering this in a creative non-fiction category? I think you do a good job of telling the story without imposing too many (if any) of your own opinions into the piece. I have a couple of questions/points.

Towards the end when Carney was in the courtroom you say he was smaller, charming, different. I can see him looking smaller and different, but I can't believe this guy could ever be considered charming, no matter how much he cleaned up. Perhaps he just looked less threatening. I was also a little confused by the next sentence when you say the detective was told not to answer the question about being contacted by the RCMP. Do you mean he was told not to answer before he got to the courtroom, or did one person ask the question and another told him not to answer while the case was going on in the courtroom? I found it a little confusing.

You might want to check it over for punctuation. There were a few places where a comma was needed.

Good job, Connie. Good luck in the contest!

Karyn Good said...

Good luck with your contest entry, Connie. Fascinating story! When did this take place?

connie said...

He wasn't charming but he put on a pretty good imitation. Anyone other than those who had been dealing with him for two years would have found him charming.
The detective was called to take the stand again near the end of the inquiry. He was asked if the RCMP had given him any information that could not be released to the public. He was then told not to answer.
I slipped up if I let you think it was in a courtroom. There was no trial as he pleaded guilty. This takes place in the inquiry two years later.
By the way, I said in my weekly column that I now knew why Anglicans kneel to pray. The chairs are so awful. The next day the Bishop's throne, complete with cushion,was in my usual place.
Interesting comment on the commas. I am very much in favour of commas to help the reader understand a sentence the first time round. I find meager use of commas a pain as sometimes it is necessary to read a sentence twice to get the drift. Sometimes, without commas, the meaning of the sentence is totally changed. I am for commas! However, we seem to be in a minority, you and I. So, I chanced that the judges might be au courant and prefer a minimum of commas.
I should stick to my principles and ignore the confusion created by the commaless.
I came in at 1493 words in a 1500 word contest, or more would have been explained.
Thank you for you comments.

connie said...

Hi Karyn,
It is a fascinating story in hat who would ever have thought of Prince Albert as a den of neo-Nazism? But, it is not all that unique apparently. Saskatchewan had a very active Ku Klux Klan during the Great Depression era.
Leo was shot Jan 28, 1991 and died shortly after midnight January 29, 1991
Thanks for your comments

Helena said...

I am impressed with the amount of detail you were able to get into the constrained word count. I imagine this was a huge file of info -- a real challenge to get to the heart of the story in 1500 words.

My comment (other than the punctuation, because you all know that I am a bear about commas, etc.) related to paragraphing. Your format may have been altered by putting it into Blogger, but I think some of the information about timing, who was being directed by whom, etc. might have become more clear by separating the text into shorter paragraphs.

Basically, you want to know what we think of the story: I found it fascinating and well-told. I liked the beginning very much; the incidents from his childhood foreshadowed his adult behaviour very well.

Thanks for sharing it with us, Connie.

connie said...

Hi Helena,
Thanks for your comments. Yes, it was a tight fit and a lot of interesting stuff hit the cutting room floor.
I spent six months researching the book and six writing it. Right after it was published, people came out of the woodwork to tell me interesting things they knew. One of his teachers told me AFTER about his schooling and his mother. The teacher, Carney and the lead detective lived within three blocks of each other.
I was cross-eyed by the time I whittled it down to 1493 words. You are right about the length of some of the paragraphs. My aim at first, was to emphasize Carney's
progression by making each paragraph a bit longer, but, that eventually got lost in the shuffle.