Boyd Crowder: I was wondering if back when we were digging coal together that you had an inkling of the man that I might someday become.
Raylan Givens: You mean just 40 and still single?
- Justified 2.03 “The I of the Storm”
Once upon a time, Sam Chisolm was a very dangerous man. He still was of course. He could find a fugitive in the dark, blind and deaf, in a snowstorm, walking backwards. He could still kill a man faster than most people could say their own names.
But he was older now. Much older and when Jack Horne, legend of of the Southwest (along with a few places the federal government would never officially admit to having sent him) retired in a couple months, Sam is ready to step into his shoes as head of the Eastern Texas District. He’d take that position with the knowledge of everyone in the Marshal Service that it was a stepping stone to the Dallas or Houston office, then maybe L.A. or New York but likely D.C. and a position near the top.
When he was a young man, though, he saw war. He’d graduated high school two days before his 18th birthday in the summer of 1972 and enlisted a week later. He’d been admitted to Morehouse, Howard and KU but none of his scholarships amounted to a full ride and without that he couldn’t afford to go. There was no education exemption from Vietnam coming for him. So Sam reasoned he’d do better making the decision for himself than waiting for his draft card to arrive and he joined the Navy. He figured staying on a boat would keep him from getting too deep into a jungle war.
Then his drill sergeant noticed his skill with a gun, his speed on his feet, his high scores on his intelligence and aptitude tests. The surly old bastard had recommended him for the kind of training that made trucking through the rainforest a lot easier for him than for most of the poor Army boys who got dragged over unwillingly.
Sam wasn’t a drafted soldier though. He was a four year enlistee on-track to be an NCO, one with choices about what to do with those aptitude test scores, which included the option to develop the kind of highly specialized skill set and experience that could make him virtually irreplaceable in the field. He’d said yes, more because he liked the challenge than any real desire to kill the enemy.
Sam didn’t come home again until Saigon fell. He felt like he only had his boots on American soil for about fifteen minutes before he was back in the field again and he was dragged into the mess in South America almost as soon as he re-upped.
On both continents, Sam Chislom had been a deadly man. During all his tours of duty, he had seen men do things that human decency shouldn’t allow. In all the wars he’d witnessed, Sam had doused his hands in blood (and found that American brains explode out the back of a skull exactly the same way Argentinians and Vietnamese do when you shoot them between the eyes with a hollow point bullet, should a man need to stop them from doing something worse than simple murder).
He used to be a very dangerous man who did and saw terrible things but he was never like Goody. He was never a soldier for the sake of it. He tripped and fell into the profession more by circumstance than any true desire and had walked away from the military and into a GI bill funded education at Morehouse with very little guilt.
Those years at war brought him to the Marshal Service. They taught him what wrong-doing looked like; true evil. Justice, he has believed since a few months after crawling down some of those tunnels in the jungles of Cambodia, can be only be spread by the those who act in the face of injustice. He done his best not to disobey orders but he had always spoken up, acted when he could, protected and preserved.
He chose the Marshal Service because they did not build cases against the suspected, they didn’t search out unknown evil and try to stamp it out as some crusty collection of lawmakers thought best. No, he chose the Marshals because they were responsible for the wrongs already done. They hunted down people who had been guilty of some crime, they moved prisoners from place to place, they seized assets already forfeited to the courts, provided protection to judges and lawyers, and of course, they were responsible for the safety of the men and women willing to stand up and speak on what they’d seen or heard or done before the courts through WitSec (which he was not ashamed to say was his favorite detail, as he’d always been a people person no matter what his sisters said).
He likes the certainty of the Marshal Service. There isn’t much moral ambiguity to hunting fugitives or protecting people or moving inmates about from one big concrete box to another. He likes it that way.
So needless to say? He is not particularly thrilled to be sat in one of the less comfortable courthouse conference rooms across from his best friend and often-times partner and the best AUSA he’s ever worked with and made to fucking question his morals and his career path. Especially not when his answer could determine the entire course of said friend’s life.
He’s never been one to make a judgement without all the information though. And he has questions. “Why isn’t Jack in on this?”
“Because I wanted to talk to you first,” Goody says plainly. “It’s Billy, Sam and if you’re not with me on this, I need to know.”
Goodnight has been Sam’s partner for about five years now. It might not seem like it? But that’s a long time to know a person when you spend the kind of time together their jobs require. You learn a lot about a person, stuck in stakeouts for six, ten, fifteen, twenty hours at a time together. You learn about your partner’s families and favorite foods and pasts and futures and dreams and fears. You learn shit their dogs don’t know.
So yeah, Sam knows about Billy Rocks, the one who got away and took most of Goody’s heart with him. Sam took Goody's version of the man with a grain of salt Goodnight is one to weave a tale when given time to talk. According to the stories Sam has heard, Billy was a handsome vagabond who drifted into Goody's life from the ether, given him the best thirty months of his life, and vanished again like a ghost from a Victorian novel. Everything else sounded like it was either gross exaggeration or complete downplay.
From what Sam had been able to figure, the real guy had been a prostitute and a former user with the sort of skillset that would made him no surprise to find on their fugitive case list for a weapons or drug charge since he parted ways with Goody. He knows that Goody looked for Billy Rocks using every database he had access to (and many he didn't when he was maintaining the United States' national security with the Rangers) and never found a hint of his existence. He knows the guy was a cinephile and some of what they got up to in the sack (not that Sam ever needed or wanted that information but Goody was a chatty drunk when he was sad and lonely and being poured onto his couch). He knows that Goody spent more than a decade in Army but the only part of his service he talks are from when he was stationed at Ft. Benning, in his relationship with Billy because according to him, "Not much else from my time as a Ranger really matters to the man I am today and what does ain't any good." He knows that before Billy left, Goody had really thought that he would retire and then they were going to have a life - together. None of that would’ve led Sam to believe the famous, long-lost, well-missed Billy would be the type to have anything to do with a damn corporate criminal conspiracy and potential multi-bureau involvement.
“You want me to bring this to Jack with you?” Sam asks, stunned. “Is that it?”
“I wanted to tell you first.”
“But you waited until after Faraday?”
“I resemble that remark,” Faraday grumbles flipping through the files in front of him.
“He’s a lawyer.”
“Yeah I’m a lawyer and if Billy’s info is good?” He taps a few pages he made appear as if from thin air, “FBI and DEA are going to come in on this from out of town.”
“And you want me to back you up on taking point for the Marshal Service on this…Northern Pacific thing?” Sam asks, attention turned sharply onto Goody.
“No,” Goody replies. “I want you to.”
“Somebody’s got to,” Faraday points out. “It’s going to be a down right interagency jamboree in the Eastern District and Goodnight here is so compromised he’s practically Mr. Spock up in here.”
Goody smiles a bit at that. Sam has no idea what the hell that’s about because he doesn’t remember any episodes of Star Trek with Spock in love but what does he know?
“Besides Billy’s testimony, what have you got?”
“Special Agent Cullen from the Los Angeles FBI office has a potential connection from her time in Shanghai.” Faraday tosses one of the files in his direction. “And Agent Vasquez from the DEA has a definite case with ties to one of the shell companies Billy can connect to his time being trafficked from his time in the Manhattan office.” A second file on top of the first. “We’ve also got a lead from Interpol that isn’t solid as of yet but looks really promising.” That isn’t a file so much as a couple of memos stapled together.
“You should read Billy’s testimony,” Goody adds. “It’s…compelling.”
He pushes a yellow legal pad forward to the edge of the table in front of Sam. He flips through the pages. It’s full of a circular, slanted script written in green ink. Completely full.
He reads the first five pages while Goody and Faraday sit there, waiting. Faraday gets up and paces after the first thirty seconds but Goody doesn’t. He just sits and waits.
Sam gets past the first half a dozen deaths of innocent girls who just wanted a better life that could, at the very best, that would qualify as negligent homicide before his jaw clenches so tight it starts to hurt and that still has this Billy character outside of the continental US.
He makes it to Billy’s detailed description of his sister’s careful exchange of favors for cooperation, the fourth such exchange so far in this horror story, to keep him from being taken away with the few other boys upon landing at the Port of Los Angeles. ("I was five years older than the other boys. I think that’s why they let her convince them to keep me with her. I was close enough to the girls to work a different market, even though I was the wrong kind of pretty.") says a note parenthetical to the green words, this written in blue.
Sam never worked in any sort of special victims or vice specific task force but he spent his military career in the third world. He’s seen what men will do when poor and desperate children are available as easy and unobserved victims. He’s stopped it when he could, when it was his guys, but this sort of thing was a different level. It was sophisticated, callous, and completely commercial and Goody’s Billy would have been thirteen at the time, which means things he can’t even think about the rest of the people involved. That’s mostly because his brain is stuck on a loop of asking the same questions over and over. Where the fuck is the FBI? Where the fuck is Interpol? Where is the UN if something this big has been going on this long?
He stops on page six because at that point, the details begin about a motel room in ugly beiges and rusted oranges and Sam knows this story. He’s pulled enough fugitives from rooms just like the one described, running girls and boys through the same sort of swampy mires of ragweed ash, burnt metal, fast food grease and dried come, that he knows the entire song by heart. He’ll have to read all of this to have a full picture but until he meets the man, Sam doesn’t want to look at first-person account of his abuse. Besides, it’s a sad story but it doesn't explain the man's crimes in any satisfying way.
No, what does that is what he finds when he flips halfway through and gets to what Faraday calls, the good part. As in-
“Oh, shit, you got to the good part, didn’t’cha Sam?”
Sam frowns down at the words which are even more slanted, as if the hand had sped up here, trying to write as fast as the moment had occurred, pressing the pen as deeply as the importance of the moment had struck the writer.
“He saw one of his rapists on the news?” That happened. It was unfortunate but it wasn’t crime spree worthy and certainly not the kind that ended in immunity deals.
“His sister did.” Faraday crowwed. “And not just any shitbag rapist. This is the guy made sure human cargo went where it was supposed to, Mr. Sophie’s Choice Trafficker Rapist himself, all grown up.”
“Sophie’s Choice,” Goody muses to himself “That’s actually a good one. Need to remember you said that.”
“Don’t even fucking start.” Faraday snaps.
“Start?” Sam asks.
“He’s crazy, Sam. Ignore him,” Faraday demands like a hungry child trying to get their dad to pull off the highway at the next McDonalds to get him a Happy Meal, not a burger but a fucking Happy Meal with a toy and a coke. “So as a twenty-something, Sleezoid McScumbag is trafficking in illegal immigrants for sex slavery but now he’s in his thirties and he’s a chief executive officer of an international shipping concern? Yeah, that kind of mobility doesn’t happen, not for guys like that for no reason, especially when they never got their rap sheets wiped or even bothered to finish their AAs. I mean, I’m actually pretty sure Northern Pacific Multinational Incorporated paid some kid to take his GED exam for him so they'd be able to place him in the position within the requirements of the company.” Faraday is practically giddy. “When no one’s looking at you, you don’t have to hide that deep.”
“Until someone went looking.” Goody says. “Billy's statement puts every Assassin victim at the scene of or in the midst of sexual trafficking, they all have rap sheets going back to the 80s and 90s for shit like pimping, pandering, unregistered firearms and possession that just mysteriously clear up all at once, and all of them are tied to NPMI through at least one or more business concern. For some of them it's more. ”
“Which isn’t even touching on the less heinous crimes,” Faraday adds. “Ask me about the pangolins, Sam."
"Do not ask him about the pangolins."
"Ask me about how many innocent pangolins have come to this country because of these bastards. Go on."
"It's a serious issue, Faraday." Goody snaps tightly. "They're on the verge of extinction."
Faraday nods, as if this proves his point. "Because capitalizing on people and drugs isn’t enough. Makes you wonder what's next on their evil agenda after the drunken almost-armadillo, taxidermied bushbaby finger puppets and ocelot fur stuffed animals? ”
Sam doesn’t deign to respond to that. “When did you even have time to get this? He came back that night at the bar, yes? That was only a week ago.”
“We had brunch,” Faraday drawls, downright surly. “Apparently, Sid and Nancy have a hard-on for Waffle House.”
Goody coughs and both of them cut their eyes to him. He coughs again and again until his face is pink. “Swallowed wrong,” he manages.
Faraday covers his face and groans the groan of the put-on observer. Sam’s made it in the face of Tabitha’s various beaus and belles over the years more times than he can count. He doesn’t laugh (on the outside) but it is a damn near thing.
“All hard-ons aside gentlemen, however literal they may be, you’re talking about undertaking a RICO case the likes of which really should be handled by a task force of dozens if not hundreds of agents including local police.” Sam leans forward. “And there’s no guarantee of success. Your boy Billy could end up in prison for the rest of his life if we can’t pull this together.”
“But we will.”
“But we might not.”
“But we will,” Goody repeats. “This is solid. It’s huge and it’s ugly and it goes high and far but it’s solid. Innocent people are being sold into slavery. They’re being murdered. They’re being-“ He breaks off. “People are making a profit off of human suffering on a scale that’s influences elections and builds cities. We can stop it but we have to actually stop it.”
Sam can’t help but be dismayed at that. “Elections and city building.”
“NPMI are behind more than a few super pacs,” Faraday says. “They all have really lovely names like Americans for Trade Deregulation and Tax-Free Trading USA and support 100% above board candidates.”
“Except for all the ones who are now in exile for things like allowing criminal activity or accepting bribes. Like I don’t know, not checking crates in ports for human cargo. They’ve put literal billions into the last midterm election in at least three states.”
“That we know of.”
“And you know I’m only political about a few things,” Goody says and boy does Sam know that - right wing on military and gun ownership, left on immigration and civil liberties, “But making room for people to get rich off the pain of people who are desperate? I can’t let it stand, Sam. I just can’t.”
Sam agrees with that. He didn’t get into the military for any noble reason but he did get into the Marshal Service because he liked the clear morality of it. It was picking up fugitives and moving prisoners and protecting innocent witnesses. If half of this was true, he couldn’t let it stand by. His morality was fairly clear on this point.
Sam's not kidding himself. He is well aware that Goody is in this fight to save his Billy Rocks. They're going the long way around to do it but he's not a big picture man, not really. If Goody could his man back and not save the world? He would. He can't so he is being noble but deep down, that's not what the fight is about for him.
Then again, it doesn't need to be. Justice and self-service are allowed to line up on occasion. Goody's motives don't have to be pure if he's taken care of the legalities and technicalities so that Sam can accompany him over the edge like a good partner should.
“Behind every great fortune there’s a great crime,” Sam muses, rubbing his left temple with a knuckle. “And this is one of those that’s too great to let stand, isn’t it gentlemen?" He asks, already knowing the answer because he can see the right thing to do is when it's sitting right in front of him. He just isn't particularly excited to throw himself into a hunt for something greater than a simple fugitive, the kind of thing that could take years to achieve
Faraday looks at Goody curiously. “What movie’s that from?”
Goody frowns “I think it’s one of The Godfather movies.”
Sam pinches the bridge of his nose. “It’s Balzac.”
“You’ll find it in Balzac,” Goody mumbles to himself, a comment and another of those small smiles that seem so random and out of place given the topic at hand. In the space of this single meeting, Sam has solved that strange tangents and soft expressions equal something to do with Billy. There is nothing else Sam’s ever seen that could elicit this sort of behavior from him except children and the occasional small animal and at the moment, neither were present.
“DEA and FBI you said?”
“Yeah. Sam, there’s a real foundation for us to build a case here. I mean, fucking Citizen’s United found corporations to be people right?” Faraday’s eyes are glittering like they only do at a courtroom or a card table. “So we even take a stab at pursuing NPMI itself same as we would a citizen undertaking criminal action, hold everyone at the top responsible using that president on top of all the other actual crimes we’re going to nail them for, set some new president of our own, do something good with that shitbox ruling. Come on, we can do this.”
“And there’s a few asset forfeiture leads on this,” Goody adds. “We haven’t collected on them yet, low priority, out of state, dead men not really needing their property and all that but those are still leads. It's a jurisdictional nightmare of leads for the Marshal Service but still inside the agency."
Sam sits back pulling the paperwork with him. He’s going to need to fish out his reading glasses. He’s still a dangerous man but he’s not as young as he used to be. “Right then. So I guess we’re doing this.”
Goody looks at him with wide, hopeful blue eyes. “Are we?”
“Never could back down from a fight I shouldn’t be able to win,” Sam replies. “I do like a challenge.”
“Great. Now there’s three of us. I can’t wait until the rest of the cavalry gets herel.”
For his part, Goody is beaming. “Me either.”