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The Admiral’s Daughter

Kristy McKay, a young woman from Mississippi living in New York in the early 1960s, is trying to expiate the original sin of slavery on which her family fortune was built. She is active in the civil rights movement in conflict with her father, a retired admiral who is a white supremacist. She suspects that he is behind the violence against civil rights activists in Mississippi, and unable to live with the possibility that her father is having people killed, she needs to learn the truth so that she can finally free herself from a legacy of guilt and hatred.


The next morning they went into town to buy some things at the general store. As they walked past a group of Negroes he could feel the controlled hostility directed at Kristy, which he hadn’t felt two days ago.

“Something has happened,” Kristy said.

“I know. I can feel it.”

They went into the store and found a local newspaper. She flipped through it, looking for something. Deep into the paper she stopped.

Looking over her shoulder Nathan saw a small article about a young Negro man who had been killed in a hunting accident. The story gave his name, age, and address but not his occupation. It said he had died of a wound from a shotgun, evidently from a hunter who had mistaken him for a deer.

“What is it?” he asked.

“It’s my father,” she said through clenched teeth.

She gathered the things they had come to buy, and when there were no other customers in the store she went to the counter and said to the owner: “Hey, Mr. Carter, how y’all doing?”

“I’m doing fine, Miss Kristy. How are you?”

“I’m fine, thanks. Do you know anything about this hunting accident?”

The man shook his head. ‘No, I don’t know anything about it.”

“Did you hear anything?”

“Well, I did hear some talk. But mind you, it’s just talk.”

“I understand. What did you hear?”

“I heard the young man was making advances at a white woman.”

“An older woman or a younger woman?”

“A younger woman. I heard they burned a cross in front of his house to warn him. But I reckon he didn’t heed the warning.”

“I reckon not,” Kristy said with a straight face.

“But you didn’t hear about it from me.”

“No. I didn’t. A bird told me.”

“Is this it?” the store owner asked, starting to tabulate her purchases.

“Yes, sir. That’s it.”

Back in the car Kristy dropped her composure and grabbed the steering wheel as is she wanted to break it. “That’s what the meeting was about.”

“What? You mean those two guys—?”

“They’re Klansmen. And they were planning to kill this man.”

“Are you sure?”

“I’m sure. I know my father.”

“They killed him because he was making advances at a white women?”

“That’s what it’s about – mixing the races.” She started the car and backed out of the parking place.

“Where are we going?”

“To confront my father.”

“Well, I’m with you all the way.”

“I know you are,” she said appreciatively.

She drove fast, and they got to her house within fifteen minutes. She marched into the house and headed for her father’s office with Nathan only a step behind her. Without knocking she opened the door.

“Where are your manners?” her father asked. “You’re supposed to knock before you come into a room when the door’s closed.”

“Forget my manners. Where are you values?”

“What are you talking about?”

“I’m talking about the man who was killed in a hunting accident.”

Her father looked at her blankly. “I didn’t hear about it. What happened?”

“You know perfectly well what happened.”

“Why on earth do you think I know?”

“Because you planned it.”

“Planned what? An accident?”

“It wasn’t an accident. It was a murder.”

Her father laughed. “You’ve read too many novels about the South. That kind of thing sells books, but it doesn’t happen in real life.”

“The man is dead. That’s real life.”

“Well, I’m sorry about it. But there’s no call to accuse me of murder. The poor man had an accident. That’s all.”

“So the cross they burned in front of his house was an accident?”

“I don’t know about any cross. You’ll have to ask the Klan about that.”

“You were meeting here with them yesterday.”

“They’re not Klansmen. They’re just farmers. We were talking about the new hybrid corn from DeKalb.”

“I know who they are.”

“You don’t know anything. You haven’t lived here for almost five years. She gets these ideas from the books she reads,” the admiral said to Nathan. “The ones by Faulkner and other writers who hate the South.”

“I think she has evidence to support what she’s saying,” Nathan said.

“What kind of evidence? Gossip that she heard in town?”

“I’m going to catch you,” Kristy said with determination. “One of these days I’m going to catch you.”