Evil vs. the Angels of Stony Island
by Jim Heaney

ON JULY 25, 1981, Dan K. Webb was sworn in as Acting U.S. Attorney for The Northern District of Illinois. The appointment became official a few months later. The next thing I knew, the U.S. Attorney’s office agreed to a sentencing agreement of a five- year probationary period. When I received the news, I felt like I’d climbed out of a coffin.
On November 23, I stood before Judge Bua and listened to Richard Stokis state that I had turned my life around and deserved the five-year probationary period agreed to by the U.S. Attorney’s Office. When it was Joan Safford’s turn, she described me as calculating con man who would strike again.
Judge Bua listened intently to both sides and then asked me if I would like to say something.
“I would just say that I have had a troubled life and have been going to Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. I believe that the whole key for me is not to drink ever again. If I do, you should lock me up and throw away the key because I’ll deserve it.”
Judge Bua granted the five-year probation period. In his final words to me, he strongly suggested that I never stand before him again.
After we left the court room, Richard Stokis and I stood in the hallway.
“Sure lucky you saved those files,” Richard said. I cleared my throat and raised my eyebrows but didn’t say anything.
“you didn’t save any files?”
Richard shook his head.
Over the following weeks, the guilty were sentenced to prison terms.
All except the nobody—Jim Heaney.

JANUARY 1982 to MAY 1989 | CHAPTER 25


MY YEARS OF STREET-TIME PROBATION started in January 1982. My probation officer was G. Fred Allen, about five foot nine, very thin, Jamaican ancestry.
G. Fred was stern and cool in the beginning, but over the next couple of months he mellowed and my check-ins actually became pleasant. He allowed me to go into business selling replacement windows for myself rather than for an employer and seemed fascinated with my progress as I told him about my success at the flea markets and the money I was making. He was like a therapist to me—concerned about my choices, applauding my successes.
Three years into my five-year probation, he petitioned Judge Bua for my early release. The Judge agreed and I was finally free…or so I thought.



THE WINDOW BUSINESS TOOK OFF and by the fall of 1984 I was making an enormous amount of money, all of it legitimate. eventually I would turn the window business into a full-fledged remodeling company, focusing on rehabilitating vintage structures. I had finally shaken off Nick Sure, but not the rest of my past. Peace was an elusive quality for a sexually abused child trying to come to terms with manhood.
I had spells where I’d be paralyzed with fear. even the safety net of a healthy bank account and thriving business didn’t exorcise the demons. I’d tremble over the smallest decisions, worried that some unseen monster lurking around the corner would grab me, or grab the business, or both, and I’d be back on the streets looking for day labor.
Worse than the fear was the hair-trigger temper I’d developed. I never knew when it would erupt, or what would set it off. It would be years before I learned that the anger was a cover for the fear. In the meantime, I had to cope as best I could. I thought if my life looked normal, the fear would dry up, so I bought a very nice home in the Beverly neighborhood, but most of the time I was restless and on edge as I struggled to find an ever-elusive maturity.
One bright spot was that I discovered I had a knack for gardening. Not only was it calming to spend an evening in the serenity of nature, I discovered that every time I planted a flower or bush, it flourished. These startling successes with living beings helped tame some of the fear of failure embedded in my soul, and I became determined to create a backyard haven. I enclosed the yard with a fence of yellow pine and poured a concrete patio, which I surrounded with an evergreen hedge and flowers. I planted a small red oak tree in one corner and white flowers that bloomed in spring. I enjoyed the yard and started journaling out- doors on a regular basis, both as a way to release stress and to try to understand my life.
One autumn day I stopped in a garden center for some tulip bulbs and saw a poster for a Native American retreat at a campground in western Illinois. Directing the retreat would be a Lakota named Chief Thunder Foot. He was traveling throughout the country instilling awareness in the white community about the survival of Mother earth. The retreat’s focus would be Awareness For Mother Earth And the Path of Forgiveness.
This spoke to me on several levels and I decided I had to go. As I drove into the campground parking lot a few weeks later, I saw about twenty people standing in a group talking.
“This must be the place,” Angel said.
“Why do you say that?” I asked.
“Maybe because of the guy wearing the deerskin suit and feathered headdress?”
The retreat grounds were an autumn quilt of greens, yellows, reds and gold. I turned off the car and attracted the attention of the crowd. I took a breath and closed my eyes. This was such a long way from Stony Island! And yet, I remembered Sister John showing me a book about American Indians. I wondered what clues I would find about healing, life, and God in this new place. I let go of my insecurity and opened the door.
After of few minutes of chitchat, the Indian gave us the ground rules.
“I am Chief Thunder Foot, and I will be your guide,” he said.

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