In Part I of our continuing saga, Auburn Intelligence Agent Ramone Jerdun was led into the secret lair of his arch-nemesis…
Trapped in Saban’s Lair, far beneath the Alabama football complex, with the hulking brutes Jones and Fluker behind me, I took a deep breath and forced myself to stay calm.
Saban sat regarding me with interest, stroking the marmot in his lap. I’d only seen him once before – and that was at a distance during the Epic Battle with Ken Stabler in the Mines of Brookwood back in ’09. Without his gameday makeup on, he looked harsh and malevolent, even in the dim light of his underground lair.
“Nice to meet you, ‘Coach’ Saban,” I said, mustering up my best respectful tone.
Saban smirked, then clapped his hands. AJ McCarron, whom I’d not noticed before, suddenly appeared from the shadows with a drink tray in his hands.
“Nice to see you’re training him for a career after football,” I said, studying McCarron intently: I could see from his pained eyes that he knew he’d made a massive mistake coming to play for Saban at Alabama and that he should have gone instead to Auburn. I felt pity for him, but suppressed the urge to gently tell him he simply wasn’t up to Auburn standards as a person or a player. He’d found out the hard way that three national championship rings did nothing to fill the emptiness in his soul.
Saban chose to ignore my dig while McCarron offered me a beverage. “A Natural Lite Lager Beer,” he announced. “Correctly chilled to 46 degrees Fahrenheit, served in a red Solo cup. Your drink of choice, I believe?”
I took a cautious sip and swirled it around my mouth. It was deliciously perfect.
“And I see the Born-On Date is less than two weeks old, ” I said approvingly. Saban smiled. I held up the red Solo cup in a toast.
“I didn’t think such a thing was possible in Tuscaloosa.” At this, Saban genuinely laughed aloud.
“That’s just the point, my dear Jerdun!” he exclaimed. “In Tuscaloosa, anything is possible! Why you, and your misguided ‘University’ can’t see that mystifies all of us!”
“I come from a noble place,” I said, sitting up straight. “A place where honor and virtue still have meaning! Something you’ll never understand!”
“You talk big, Jenkins,” Saban replied, his brow arched in condescension. “But your words are meaningless! The Cam Newton Affair proved that plain enough! You spent six months in hospital for trying to clean that mess up! And you still carry a bullet in your ribcage if my reports are accurate!”
“Mistakes were made,” I acknowledged. “But your evil plan to smear Cam failed; I saw to that! Cam Newton is an Auburn Man – pure and good in all his ways. And you’ll never be able to change that! And today, everyone outside of Tuscaloosa and across the country knows the truth: That Cam Newton and his father are upright, God-fearing men who would never take so much as an ill-gotten dime!”
“You won that round, Mr. Jenkins,” Saban conceded bitterly. “If only Mississippi State hadn’t started meddling around in my affairs…”
“Enough of this!” I said. “I’m here for the girl. Hand her over now.” Saban and his thugs burst into laughter.
“The girl is here of her own free will,” Saban said finally.
“Balderdash!” I replied. “No Auburn Lady would ever consent to consort with one of your thugs! The truth is plain enough to see! Miss Alabama was from Auburn! And you couldn’t stand for that! You had to steal her! Convert her! But it didn’t work! It was obvious even on national television that she was being held against her will! Release her now!”
“I’ll do no such thing,” Saban said, his thin lips bent in a snarl.
It was pointless, but I tried to appeal the man’s humanity.
“How many young lives will you destroy in your mad quest for glory? How many young men and their families will you ruin and then cast aside! And now, even women and children aren’t safe from your evil designs! This has gone too far! It must end, now!”
“You fool!” Saban shouted. “I care nothing for the girl! We took her simply as bait! To lure you here! Now that she has served her purpose, she is useless to me.” He glanced at his quarterback standing obediently by his side.
“AJ seems to have grown fond of her. I’ve decided to let him keep her.” He waved his hand dismissively while McCarron’s lit up with undisguised glee.
I took another sip of my delicious Natural Lite lager. “If you wished to talk with me, all you had to do was ask,” I said. “There’s no need for all these plots and schemes. No need to involve the girl.”
Saban looked at me with the same grudging respect and thinly-veiled fear his eyes betray whenever he scans the Auburn sidelines before an Iron Bowl kickoff.
“The truth is we need you here, Jerdun,” he said. I could see how painful this admission was. “The writing is on the wall. Auburn is finished. Everyone knows it!
“Soon, Operation Three-in-a-Row will signal its final defeat!” He eyed me shrewdly. “We could use a man of your talents around here. There is much work to be done… Ole Miss is suddenly a problem again. They will have to be dealt with. Harshly. The NCAA is a constant threat. And we know you’ve fought them on numerous occasions. What do you say? Your reward would be… substantial.”
I laughed. “As if you could ever buy an Auburn Man off with cash and gifts!” I chortled. “You know nothing about the Auburn Creed! You know nothing about Auburn – a fine school second only to Harvard in reputation and prestige!”
“I’ve read your silly little ‘creed!’” Saban snapped. “And I’ve had enough of you!”
He clapped his hands once more: Jones, Fluker and McCarron reappeared. “Take him to Cochran!” he commanded. “Let him spend a few hours on the practice field – as a blocking dummy! Then we’ll see if you’re willing to make a deal, Jim Jerdun!”
His maniacal laugh filled my ears as McCarron grabbed me roughly. I knew I was doomed if I didn’t act quickly.
McCarron glanced to his fellow henchmen, briefly turning his attention from me. That was when I made my move.
To be continued…