But Rorian Gracie says, "It's not true. I know we have a common acquaintance. He's never learned the system from us. I remember he came to visit the school one time, but he never registered. He never trained. He never took classes." Gracie goes on to say that the "common acquaintance" never attained appreciable rank at his school, either.

Stant pooh-poohs rank, claiming that he can take on the baddest black belts. And, indeed, just as one can win a Pulitzer Prize without going to journalism school, one can be a formidable fighter without going to a karate school. One can also be a formidable fighter and still not have the proper credentials to make a living teaching martial arts. A year and a half ago, Stant met Leslie Thomas at a scruffy bodybuilding gym in Portland where they both worked out.

Thomas, 23, is blond with blue eyes, and she has the kind of big, wholesome smile that sells milk and Wonder bread on billboards. The first time Stant approached her at the gym, she was wearing socks monogrammed with the Greek insignia of her sorority at Oregon State University, where she was a student. Stant asked if they were her initials.

She rolled her eyes in exasperation without looking at him and snapped back, "Those are Greek letters, like, duh . . !" and he retreated. A few days later, she saw him reflected in a mirror while he was coming out of the locker room and the pheromones kicked in--love at second sight. He realized she was gawking at him and recoiled, in case she was going to insult him again.

She was his first girlfriend. They moved in together with Shane's grandmother. Derrick Smith, who is married to Stant's mother's sister, was living there, too, and so Thomas and Smith became the first constants in Stant's life.

Smith had a plan to move to Arizona, buy property near Tombstone, and open an Outward Bound sort of survival school. But the school was to be decidedly more oriented toward surviving one's fellow man than surviving nature. He and Stant thought they'd market to the security departments of Fortune 500 companies or to regular Joes who wanted "a little bit of excitement for two weeks out of the year." They'd teach firearms and wilderness skills; Stant would teach rappelling and hand-to-hand combat.

In late October 1993, Stant and Thomas, Thomas' brother Lance and his fiancāe, Smith and his family--they all packed up and headed south.

@body:Stant had no idea who Nancy Kerrigan was when Smith first brought up the job that Shawn Eckardt wanted done; he still mistakenly believes that she was relatively unknown outside of the skating world before his attack. And although he claims that he only knew of Eckardt through stories that Smith told him, a lawsuit that Fred Merrill, Stant's former attorney, filed against him last week makes different claims. Part of that lawsuit, a chronology of events supposedly transcribed when Stant first hired Merrill, claims that Stant had earlier dealings with Eckardt, who was Tonya Harding's personal bodyguard. Smith, Eckardt and Harding all lived in the Portland suburb of Milwaukie. Stant was "Derrick's [Smith's] little muscle," at least according to Robert Silvert.

In April 1993, according to Merrill's chronology, Eckardt had called on Stant because Jeff Gillooly, Tonya Harding's husband, was angry with Harding, and wanted someone to steal or destroy her truck. Stant never did it. That summer, again according to the chronology, Stant procured 15 pounds of marijuana, which he sold to Smith, who passed it on to Eckardt, who gave it to Gillooly.

The plot against Nancy Kerrigan rose out of the distorted egos and intertwining ambitions of Eckardt, Harding and Gillooly. As Harding so bluntly put it after winning the U.S. Nationals, "What I'm really thinking about are dollar signs." She and Gillooly saw endorsements; Eckardt thought that if he could prove that skaters were targets and that security was lax at skating events, he could market his bodyguard services around the circuit. He called on his friend Derrick Smith, who brought Stant into the picture.

Stant claims that Eckardt's first request was far more serious than what he ultimately did. "My uncle said this guy needs a job done," Stant says. "I talked to [Eckardt] and said I'm not interested in doing it. First, he wanted me to cut her Achilles tendon, and I said, 'Yeah, it can be done, but I'm not going to do it.' I said, 'What's the least that has to be done?' and they said, 'She just can't skate at the Nationals.'

"I said, 'In that case, all that has to happen is she has to have a swelling of the leg, maybe a sharp hit. She doesn't have to be crippled.'"
Initial reports in Newsweek estimated the bounty on Kerrigan as high as $100,000, but it was really only $6,000 apiece for Smith and Stant, plus a promise of bodyguard work, since they were proving how bad security is at skating events. Paltry as that sum may be, it was more money than Shane Stant had ever made in a year, and $5,500 more than the rent that was due.

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