It was the beginning of June when I had my conversation with Roger DeCinces. School was just about coming to a close. The kids were already restless and bus drivers were promising their passengers that they could have a water fight on the bus on the last day. This was their way of keeping the kids in line. The drivers said that they would pull over into a store parking lot for a few minutes and the kids could go at it with water balloons and water guns. There were no large machine gun water guns yet and the stunt was relatively harmless. The weather was warm and the kids would dry off in not time. All we needed was not to have parents get really upset. Most of them thought it was great fun and supplied their kids with the proper weaponry.
How could you not love these kids? They were cooperative, smart and trending to be fine human beings. I do mean almost all of them. You could see the beginning of trouble for a few. I never said anything to anyone about John Applegate, one of my terrors. He had all the qualities of leadership, except for one. He really didn’t like anyone and thought that no one liked him. I never had a chance to follow up on his academic career because he moved in the summer of 1965 to California with his parents.
Daphne and I spent many hours going over our options. So far, we had come up with a number of possibilities- stay where we were, try and get a job at another local school district, like the one she taught in, move to another state, or another country or leave education and hope for the best. Since I was not eligible for the draft, I had already served; I was a very valuable commodity in the employment market. Many young men were being drafted and going on to Vietnam and other places on the other side of the world. I even let slip a thought that I might want to go back in and hide there for a time from whoever was killing these people.
My choices became very limited one day when I got a call from Benton Ellerbee, the FBI agent. He asked if we could meet some place for coffee, or breakfast and discuss a few things about this case. If I knew then what I know now, I would have slammed the phone down and walked away. However, once again, I was curious and my downfall began there.
We arranged to meet in town in the Baker Diner on Old York Road in Abington. Since we had moved into our new home there on Moreland Rd., I wanted to be as close to my home, so that I could get there quickly and report to Daphne. Ellerbee was waiting for me at 8:30 on Saturday morning. He exchanged pleasantries and he asked how the school term went after Miss Reinhold was killed. I told him that the faculty was very nervous and really happy when the school year was over. He said that he could understand how they were feeling.
I guess he knew that I was finished with chit chat and I wanted to get to the point of the meeting. “I know that you have been in contact with Roger DeCinces from time to time. He has told me about you and your service in the military. He told me that you were as reliable a person as he had ever met and that you were a straight shooter. I did take the liberty of reading you 201 file and also checked on your background. You appear to be just what Roger said.”
“Why were you checking on me?” I asked. Ellerbee took a large swig of coffee and said very quietly, “I know that you had some idea of going into the intelligence field after you graduated from college and that your first choice for an MOS was the intelligence field. You are, by nature, an inquisitive person who never stops looking for the right answers. Isn’t that all true?” I just kind of shook my head yes. I had no idea where this conversation was going and I did not like the tone of it. What could I possibly fit in with the FBI’s investigation\?
Ellerbee continued, “Have you ever heard of Herbert Philbrick?” I scratched my head and thought the name sounded familiar, but could not fit it in. “Was he a congressman or something. No, I think that I saw him on television on some kind of program. Yeah, it was called, I led Three Lives.” “ Right”, said Ellerbee. “He had a regular job as an advertising executive and he infiltrated local communist organizations to see what they were doing. I was his contact with the FBI during the latter part of the 1940’s. He was one of the most amazing people I have ever met and you are very much like him.”


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