On the day I was betrayed, a wing mate leaving the cafeteria reported to me that he had just overheard some guys speak my full name and boast how badly I was going to “get it” that evening. I immediately went on high alert. I couldn’t be someone’s target, could I? But I also knew that only one person was probably behind it: John Zimmerman.
I could hardly concentrate in classes that day. Stressed by my academic and dorm responsibilities, I also had to represent the Communications department that evening on the ministry broadcast. This new threat, however, terrorized me; it was beyond my control.
I went to dinner promptly at 4:30, as usual, but I returned to my dorm and hid out in my friend’s rooms without indicating my real reason for visiting them. When it came time to ready myself for the taping at 8 o’clock, I shot back to my room, darted in and out of the shower, and headed straight for the studio.
My mind was fully occupied while on-set, but when it was over and I crossed the large parking lot back onto campus, I felt as if I was walking into a treacherous hinterland. This was my Gethsemane. Was I being tracked? I looked all around me. What was this and how did it start? Maybe the guy didn’t hear correctly and I would pass into the morning unscathed…maybe.
Not Tonight, Please
I had about thirty minutes until a counsel session with a new friend. I was happy to finally get the chance to meet and talk with him. He had shared very kind words with me about a brief oration I delivered months earlier and asked to sit down with me. We hadn’t got the chance because our schedules—my chaplain duties and his acting and writing—never permitted.
I needed to be near my room because I couldn’t afford him showing up and me not being there. Yet I refused to be holed up in the room for fear of being accosted. So I sat in the alcove just outside my room instead. I would be able to detect anything suspicious and escape. The hallway was octagonal with a few exits into the stairwell and an open-ended bathroom; and if those options failed, I could dart into my wing mate’s rooms. Solano, my trusted friend and fellow chaplain, stopped by for a few minutes, a comfort to me, then left. I mentioned nothing to him.
John—this night the name of both my new friend and the suspected enemy—arrived and we were happy to see each other, although I was exhausted in every way by now. It was 9:30. I welcomed him in and made sure to lock the door behind me. No sooner than we sat down to talk, the telephone rang. Not another distraction to this meeting, I thought. I debated answering it, but it was just a phone call; so I did: it was…John.
Not Without a Fight
I knew in my heart that the night had just begun. Zim’s voice was too cheerful and suspect and that caused my mind to race. Something felt evil. He made a strange request: look at the door. What? Nothing unordinary…no markings on the large mirror. But as I watched, the doorknob turned. I threw the phone down and lunged my body against the door, but his dorm group exploded into the room.
All these guys—Vasquez, Dingman, Elijah, King, and Michael—were my friends, but tonight they were loyalists. This was war. I fought as I had never done before, amazing myself as I beat back two at a time, wildly slinging some away and knocking others to the ground. At one point I thought I might escape, but Michael, a brawny guy—my roommate for three weeks at the start of the school year—and Zim’s best bud and roomie sent just for the purpose of matching me, clamped down on my legs and immobilized me.
I yelled to John the Good, still seated and calm but probably wondering what the hell was happening, to call Solano but this was futile: they took the phone. I told him to go a floor up and find him, but they threatened him if he moved. None of my wing mates were around, for a change; I was deserted.
Bound and gagged on my own floor, I laid there still in my eveningwear. Then, like a TV moment, Zim, the ringleader, entered the room. It was indeed John, my friend and co-laborer. He entered with his trademark smile laughing with glee at his triumph. I could have expected a signal kiss on the cheek had his men not already captured me.
He took control of the scene as he had done from afar up to this point. His guys stationed themselves at lookout points in the hallway and others secured the elevator. Once it was staged—hallway clear and elevator door open—I was carefully hoisted by my shoulders and roped hands and legs, facedown, and swiftly kidnapped from my room—stolen again from my meeting with the other John who was simply left there alone. I was taken to Zim’s room, my holding cell.
The Mighty Has Fallen!
Once there I was sat in a chair. John approached and slapped me, not with his hand but an insult. As if the camera makeup I wore already wasn’t enough, he used black and red lipstick to mark my face with mockeries and ransom slurs. A paper crown was placed on my head. The group took great delight in all of this—and photos.
While I sat there unable to free myself, I was appalled at the extent of their operation. They added the photos of me, the great Spiritual Life Dorm Director of Upper Michael now branded, helpless, and humbled, to a webpage they had created solely for my capture. The site included a scavenger hunt that would lead my dorm group to where I would be imprisoned for the night—after they had crisscrossed the campus.
Following this brief interlude, I was whisked away yet again to what was my final confinement: the dorm director’s room. Yes, he was part of this scheme, too; it is how Zim had gotten a key to my room. I realized I had been nowhere safe.
Some of my scoundrel captors were already present when I arrived, including Tim, the mastermind. They threw a festive party with cookies, chips, soda, and video games; it was a den of hell and I was the entrée. They told me the entire story, bursting to do so. Tim, my best bud in this group and the one I always playfully taunted, devised it all. A few of my guys and I had ganged up on him in the chapel weeks earlier and so sealed my fate.
The rogues looked into my face for some sign of equal enjoyment. I chose to play the part though, unwilling to add what (tired) enjoyment I was having to their spirited triumph. I spoke only when I addressed them individually to heap as much guilt as I could upon them. Some revealed after the ordeal that they feared they had truly offended me, although they hadn’t. I count that a small victory for me.
When the partying ceased, I was taken into the adjacent office and plunked down in an old upholstered chair and secured. Here was the end of the road. Had I waited a little longer, I could have worked my way out of the strap-down, but I was detected and painfully fastened. A call was made to tip off my dorm group—and with that the crew made their apologies and goodbyes and jetted.
It was about midnight now. The earthquake was over and the darkness settled in. My only fear was being left there alone until daybreak. The room was pitch black, except for the sliver of light that entered from beneath the door.
After an indiscriminate amount of time, I heard voices of those I recognized; they were at the elevators and my name was being spoken. Soon the doors opened and closed more actively and each time with more people racing through them until I became hopeful and proud. I detected there was an army of Upper Michael men searching for me, yet racing past me over and over again as they scavenged for me.
One Peek Away
It was near three o’clock when I was found. Everyone had so many questions, but it was all more than I could answer or even wanted to at this point. I was drained, humiliated, and frustrated; and I had a test in the morning, yet I ached for revenge.
I went to my room to decide how I might handle the situation at the moment. I needed to look for Zim right then, but I didn’t want to stir up too much trouble. There were about twenty guys ready for a fight—a real fight; however, they were a battalion that couldn’t discern the humor in it all, which I understood.
I led everyone down to Zim’s room and had them all wait in the stairwell, directly opposite his door. The lights were on; a few of my guys and I knocked at the door. Michael the Brute, awake and probably on guard, answered. If I had possessed a sword, I would have felled him on the spot, but I could only barge my way into the room and ask for John.
He was clearly absent; I was sure he stayed off campus for the night. I wanted to send guys to each of the perpetrator’s rooms and take them by force, but any unorchestrated and raucous event at that hour could have plunged the entire dorm into a riot and drawn in school officials. I drew down my guard instead and left.
What I didn’t know until later was that John was standing behind a wall I chose not to inspect—the only (self-made) partition in the room. Also, what I couldn’t have known was that he had garnered to himself the allegiance of all my fellow senior chaplains and their dorm groups. I had been vanquished, except everyone now feared my retaliation.
(By the way, John the Good and I finally got that meeting…two years later. We shared an entire year as neighbors, our private rooms facing one another.)