The Red Line of Courage

 Story by Simon Nguyen


In the 1920s, the city of Chicago was terrorized by the notorious Al Capone and his associates. The gang ruled the city with an iron fist; killings and illegal dealings were rampant. Anyone who dared to stand up to the gang was quickly disposed of.

Not only Capone had tremendous wealth and loyal men at his disposal, he also had the service of Eddie -- one of the country's best lawyers. Eddie earned so much money from working for Capone that he was able to build a dream mansion -- one that was so large that it covered an entire street block.

Even though Eddie worked for Capone, he was never fond of the guy. Like many people, he was disgusted by Capone’s crimes. Yet, he often equated working for Capone to a typical lawyer defending his client. He was just doing his job, he argued. He thought that once the crime boss had the city at his fingertips, he would scale back on his crimes. Unfortunately, Capone would instead become even more emboldened; his disregard for justice and human lives had only increased. Eddie was very troubled by this, but chose to continue his silence.

One afternoon, Eddie was working in his office when he saw his teenage son coming home from school with bruises all over his body. When Eddie pressed his son on the cause of the injuries, the son remained silent refusing to disclose what happened. The next day, his son came home from school with yet more bruises. The young boy would remain steadfast in his silence however. Even when Eddie transferred his son to another school, the result was the same. Perturbed, Eddie decided to secretly follow his son to school to find out the truth behind this mystery.

Immediately upon entering the school’s entrance, his son was confronted by a group of teenagers who grabbed him to the side and gave him a good beating. What was puzzling was the fact Eddie’s son, who was by no mean a coward, did not fight back. It was as though the son actually wanted the group to beat him up. Just as Eddie was about to intervene, he overheard one of the bullies revealing an explanation as to why they were beating his son.

“Capone has done so many evil things. Yet, your dad is helping him getting away with it. Every time we see you, we are reminded of our murdered fathers, uncles and friends. Someone must pay for it.”

These words were like sharp arrows piercing through Eddie’s heart. Up until now, he was not aware of the burdens his association with Capone put on his family. Eddie was determined to right his wrongs and he knew exactly what to do. In the next three years, he secretly gathered evidences of Capone’s wrongdoings. Capone was arrested in 1933, convicted of tax evasion.

Eddie’s undercover work for federal authorities was later revealed. Upon learning this, Capone was enraged. He ordered his men to exact revenge on the ungrateful traitor.

Eddie was on his way home one day, when his car was ambushed by gunmen at an open field. Numerous shots were fired. Eddie’s car windows were completely shattered; his body was covered with blood. Convinced that their victim had died, the men quickly left the scene. But their victim had not died yet. Summoning his remaining strength, Eddie got out of his car and slowly crawled toward a telephone booth nearby.

All he wanted to do at that moment was to be able to talk to his wife and son for the very last time. But before Eddie could get to the booth, numbness had taken over his body; he could no longer move. His breathing was rapidly losing strength. A young girl, who was playing nearby at the time, witnessed the whole incident -- sad and confused.

Chicago’s police later discovered Eddie lying dead near his car. They found in his pocket a crucifix, a poem clipped from a newspaper and a small notebook. What was particularly interesting was the fact the notebook had not been updated since a particular date in 1930; Eddie kept it with him until the end.

On an autumn day in 1949, thousands of people gathered at the newly built international airport in Chicago to celebrate the dedication of the facility to a fallen World War II hero. The hero's father was an attorney who used to live in darkness, but found the light at the end. Among the gatherers was a woman who held tightly in her hands an old notebook. Long after the ceremony ended, the woman remained seated. She was busy filling up the last page of the notebook. A happy ending? We certainly hope so.

Every day in our life, we face a fine line between right and wrong. Do we have the courage to do the right thing?

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