A racist institution hires an assassin to kill a black professor who is about to become president of a southern university. However, he has friends in various walks of life, who step forward in an attempt to protect him.
William Holmes stood on a dock looking down at the gray abyss
of the Mississippi. It was late. The sun was descending on the horizon, lighting up the sky with a brilliant orange-yellow glare.
William thought of his day at New Orleans University. "Same as always," he thought, "but for one pleasant surprise." A new student had entered his class, a young adolescent of about seventeen who lived with his wealthy aunt in the famed Garden District, with its ornate buildings and gates. The boy immediately enthralled the professor, because of his interest in local history and sports, two areas that William himself favored.
Although the youth's physical presence was far from domineering, he carried himself with an air of confidence, such that gave him the charisma of someone much older. From his eyes shone a knowing stare, an innocent, yet omniscient one. All the students of Mr. Holmes' class, like William himself, felt the powerful radiance of the youngster.
His ferry approached the dock. He had watched it as he thought of his new student. The owner of the ferry, Tom Jenkins, gave him a slap on the back as he made his way onto the deck.
This man Jenkins was susceptible to gluttony, as his large paunch would attest, and had a pale, round face and beady eyes that were like sharp razors. He had operated the ferry for over twenty years of the fifty or so years of his life and William had been a frequent passenger for five years. Five years ago, in 1981, William had obtained his Master's degree in English at Louisiana State University and had begun teaching in his home town of New Orleans in the bayou.
"So how ya' all doin'?" asked Tom as William found a seat near the stern.
"Quite well," answered the brown-complexioned professor. "And how are things with you today, Tom?" his handsome, high-cheekboned face crinkling, the long sideburns and long afro static in the wind.
"The usual. Ma wife kind a' angry because a' been startin' drinkin' down where all them fine, young Southern belles are. She says she will leave me if she ever suspects anything at all kind a' serious. But I'll ne'er cheat on her. She been good to me for too many years. Our twentieth weddin' anniversary is comin' up in three weeks."
"Congratulations," said William. He was single and admired such long, cherished relationships, but then, there was one woman of French extraction that he was interested in.
"Thanks, William. A' really appreciate it. The only thing is that she been a real pest about me buyin' her a diamond ring. She been threatenin' me with that, too. Only... if a' had some mo' money." He looked up to the sky as if to ask for the help of God. The sky turned grey. He recoiled in horror. But his fear turned to anger. "That son-of-a-bitch," he said under his breath, as he fixed his gaze on the approaching lights of the dock.
William said "Goodbye" to Tom and got off the ferry with the others. Everyone was walking at a rapid clip, anxious to get home. The sky was now a hue of deep purple. The wind was angry, whipping at the faces of the people. Some cursed at it spitefully, as well as the overwhelming humidity in general. Only William was not bothered. He said joyously,
"Thanks for the welcome, friends."
William turned onto Maple Avenue. The pine needles of the imported trees emitted a sweet aroma and he breathed it into his angular body with vigor. Whenever a branch was within his reach, he stroked it tenderly, saying, "Hi, brother, how are you doing?"
He continued walking on Maple until he came at Frederick Street, where he took an extreme turn to the left. The industrial signs were immediately present. The large, expansive, brick and metal buildings dominated the skyline as did the belching smokestacks. William smelled the stench pervading the industrial area and breathed as shallowly as possible. Men were still at work, hauling metal pipes into the factories, the sweat glistening on their foreheads, their muscles bulging from strain, struggling red in a sea of gray. Their exhaustion was evident.