[previous chapter]    [next chapter]


MCKENZIE BRIDGE — Monday 10:00

Dolores Rodriguez Flynn was Tom Harris's housekeeper. She arrived each weekday morning promptly at ten and left at three. There was comfort in habit; she had kept the same schedule for twenty years. She came even when her employer was out of the country, but Tom Harris had taken no extended trips in five years, and he had gone no further than town in the last year.

In the last few months, as his health had failed, his daughter-in-law, and his son when he was home, had spent most evenings with the old man, sometimes sleeping over. A few weeks ago, Ellie Harris had brought her computer and some of her and her husband's clothes and moved into one of the guest bedrooms. She and her husband had decided to spend as much time as possible with Tom.

Dolores didn't allow Ellie to do housework. When Ellie wasn't with her father-in-law, she worked at her computer. She wrote children's books and anticipated the arrival of her first child, which an ultrasound scan had revealed would be a boy, to the delight of both the future father and grandfather.

Each morning when Dolores arrived, Ellie returned to her own home twenty miles downriver to check the mail and the answering machine and do whatever small chores were necessary. Depending on whether she also went in to town or not, she arrived back at her father-in-law's either before or soon after Dolores left. Between the two women, Tom Harris was never alone for long, a precaution he felt unnecessary.

Dolores was a small woman of Mexican descent. Delicate and beautiful once, in middle age her hips had widened and extra flesh had accumulated, but she was not unattractive. She worried about her figure, and she worried about the future. She knew her employer wouldn't live much longer. Though she had always kept a respectful distance, she loved the old man in a man-woman sense. For twenty years he had supported her, paying her handsomely for the work she did, and he had given her a house to dote over, allowing her to decide where to place furniture, what color to paint a bathroom, even taking her on shopping trips to replace worn furnishings. Each evening she returned to the small, run down abode she shared with her alcoholic and abusive husband, but her real home was the spacious, well-furnished house on the river, and her real love was the gracious gentleman who valued her opinions.

A few days ago, when Tom Harris had brought up the subject of his impending death, Dolores had cried and refused to listen, but he persisted long enough to tell her not to worry, he had made provision for her. But she still worried. What would happen to her house? Who would sit on the leather sofa she had so much joy in choosing? Who would eat from her favorite dinnerware? What would happen to her? With Mr. Harris gone would her husband return to physical as well as verbal abuse?

Dolores saw the ambulance first. The sinking feeling in her breast kept her from noticing the two sheriff's cars and the unmarked car. She parked her car and rushed up the steps toward the open door. A sheriff's deputy sitting in a chair on the porch filling out paperwork rose and blocked her way.

“Ma'am, you can't go in there.”

Dolores stopped. What was going on? “Se&ntile;or Harris, is he alright?”

“I'm sorry, ma'am, this is a crime scene. It's off limits. What is your business here?”

Dolores was confused. “Ellie!” she shouted. “Ellie!”

EUGENE — Monday 10:40

Bill Batteman had a decision to make, and he had to make it in spite of his own grief. Dolores Flynn had called, crying and hysterical, with the most unbelievable story he had heard in twenty-five years of practicing law. Two close friends, clients as well, were dead as a result of having engaged federal drug agents in a gun battle.

Bill immediately called the sheriff's office and received the standard runaround: report not available, no details yet, have to notify next-of-kin. He hung up and called Sheriff Diekirk, a personal friend, directly. It was true. Tom Harris and Elaine Harris were both dead, shot by federal agents. Investigating officers and the coroner were at the scene. The bodies would be brought to Eugene for autopsy.

Duncan Harris had to be notified, but how and when? Should Bill wait for more detail? Duncan was expecting the death of his father from natural causes, had even completed all necessary arrangements should it happen while he was working, but now Ellie was dead. Bill picked up the phone; Duncan had long ago given him the number of Air Cargo International's dispatch center; he hoped it was still good. He would tell them only of the father's death; that would get Duncan headed home. One step at a time.

OVER SAUDI ARABIA — Monday 21:00

Duncan Harris was 35,000 feet over Saudi Arabia on a flight between Bombay and Brussels. The necessity of avoiding Iraq made a long flight longer, west from Bombay to Saudi Arabia, northwest up to Cairo, across the Mediterranean into Greek airspace, and up into Europe.

As 747 captains go, he was uncommonly informal. He never wore his uniform hat. The moment he reached the upper deck, he shed his coat and his tie. As soon as they leveled at cruising altitude, his shoes came off. But the informality was not accompanied by untidiness. A uniform shirt was pressed before donning it, and then worn only one day before washing. The pants were cleaned and pressed after each trip.

The informality extended to the way he preferred to be addressed. A new crewmember addressing him as Captain was gently advised that his name was Duncan, Dunk for short. Crewmembers enjoyed flying with him; he treated them as equals, and he was superb at what he did. Endowed with a near-photographic memory, an IQ in the genius range, and a love of flying and flying machines, he made a challenging job appear effortless.

Physically his fifty-five years had been good to him. A combination of good genes, not abusing alcohol or nicotine, and a lifetime concern for physical fitness had paid off. A three year obsession with body building in his mid-twenties had produced a good physique, and he'd kept the flat stomach and much of the chest development down through the years. His one hundred and seventy pounds included no fat.

There were small problems. His knees were a little worn; they began to hurt when he ran over five miles, and lately he was having to get up in the middle of the night to urinate; he knew he'd eventually have to get his prostate opened up.

The autopilot was flying the airplane. Duncan had his seat back and his stocking feet on the bar below the instrument panel when Saudi air traffic control passed a company request for Air Cargo International 547 to contact the airlines dispatch facility.

Duncan followed the usual procedure and asked his flight engineer to set up a phone patch using a high frequency radio. Requests to contact the company in this manner, while not everyday occurrences, were not unusual.

The flight engineer established the phone patch through Berna Radio in Switzerland.

“Air Cargo 547, your Dispatch is on the line. Go ahead, Dispatch,” said the Berna Radio operator.

“Dunk, Jerry Bradwell. Can you hear me?”

The moment Jerry addressed Duncan by name rather than Captain and identified himself with his name rather than saying Air Cargo Dispatch, Duncan knew it was a personal message and knew it would concern only one thing. He took his feet off the bar and brought the seat up.

“Yes, you're clear but weak. Is this about my father?”

“Yes, it is.”

“Has he died?”

“Yes. I'm sorry, Dunk.”

Duncan paused. He had expected his father's death for several months. He had planned for the possibility of it happening while he was working. Everything had been taken care of, but it was sobering to know he was gone.

“Thanks, Jerry, thanks for notifying me. Who called you, Ellie?”

“No, a William Batteman, he said he was your attorney. Dunk, he said you should call him as soon as possible. If you like, I'll call him back and patch him in.”

Duncan considered the offer and decided against it; he didn't want to discuss personal affairs through two dispatch centers and over the open airways. “Thanks, Jerry, but I'll wait 'til Brussels. If you would, give his office a call with our ETA and tell him I'll call within twenty minutes of arriving.”

“Will do. Dunk, everybody here met your father at one time or another. We all send our sympathies. He was a great guy.”

“He was that, Jerry, he was that.”

“Berna, Air Cargo Dispatch is clear.”

“And Air Cargo 547 is finished. Thanks for the patch, Berna.”

“You're welcome, and I extend my condolences, sir.” The Berna Radio operator had monitored the conversation. It was standard procedure.

“Thank you. My father was a fine man who lived a long life. He'll be greatly missed by a lot of people.” Tears welled in Duncan's eyes. “Bob,” he addressed his first officer, “You have the airplane. I'm going in back for a while.”

“Sure, Dunk. Anything we can do?”

“No, but thanks for the thought. I need to be alone awhile.” Duncan was a secure man. Admitting his emotions carried no embarrassment for him.

The back of the 747 freighter's upper deck had four first-class seats. On this trip, all four seats were empty. Duncan took the nearest seat, removed a handkerchief from his right hip pocket, and dried his tears. He was glad to be alone. Ellie had to be terribly upset, too, to have had Bill call dispatch.

The tears kept coming. His father was dead. The kindest man he had ever known was gone. He would never again hear that understanding, caring voice.

His father's life had been long. In good health until age eighty-four, only in the last year he had begun to fail. Even then, he insisted on remaining in his home. Duncan began spending more time at his father's home than at his own.

He considered the conversations they had to be priceless. Though the old man's body was failing, his mind was alert and rich with memories of the life he had shared with the woman he loved and who had preceded him in death, full of memories of the only child who now was such a comfort at life's end. They talked and laughed and sometimes cried. Duncan treasured each visit and looked forward to the next. Finally, he asked Ellie to move enough effects to his father's house to enable them to live with him. Duncan hoped the old man would live to see the birth of his grandson; that had seemed to be a reasonable expectation.

Light turbulence jostled the aircraft and brought his mind back to the present. He wondered at the need to call immediately upon reaching Brussels. Had he overlooked some detail? Whatever it was, he had taken care of the major items. Ellie would handle anything he had missed. His father had been specific in his wishes, no embalming, immediate cremation, and a helluva party at his house. The party would be a bash; his father had loved to socialize and had many friends.

Duncan felt drained, but he had stopped crying. His eyes were puffy, and he could feel a slight chafing of his upper cheeks from the repeated drying of his tears. He returned to the cockpit.

“Bob, you keep the airplane, and you take the landing.”

“Sure, boss.”

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Monday 15:00

Everyone at the table in the operations meeting, including the Director, had agreed that the Oregon operation was an acceptable bust. Greg's first problem was to have that decision rescinded without making any more enemies. Most at the table disliked him already, some even hated him; that had been an unavoidable consequence of his position, but he needed friends, allies, not enemies.

In this instance the situation presented him with a solution to his first problem. No one would feel put down if he had been alerted to a problem by something the others could not be expected to know. With this thought in mind he entered the Director's office.

“Greg, sit down. I had a good lunch. I think I'm making some headway convincing a couple of senators that we should not be merged into the FBI. Anyway, do we have a problem?”

“Possibly,” Greg sat down and continued, “I have a policy of checking the names of all agents involved in exceptional operations against a list I maintain of those who have been suspect in the past but against whom nothing was ever proven. As usual, I checked all the agents listed on this morning's two exceptional operations against that list. One of the men on the Oregon bust, an Agent Wood, is on the list. I think he skimmed a couple hundred grand off cash seized during a bust in Miami two years ago, but I couldn't prove it. I alerted the operations chief of my suspicions and talked him into transferring Wood to Oregon to get him away from the big money deals. I hoped he'd run for his money when he realized he wasn't going to be in a position to make any more big scores.”

“But he didn't run?”

“No, but I may get him to yet. Anyway, like everyone else in the meeting, I initially didn't see any real problem with the Oregon operation,” Greg lied, “but Wood's involvement made me look at it closely, and I picked up on something I had missed; that's when I inadvertently said impossible. I made a number of ...”

“Wait a minute. Something you had missed?”

“Yes, sir. The eighty-five-year-old suspect was named Thomas Harris. Years ago I visited at the home of a Tom Harris in Oregon. I made a number of phone calls to find out if it could possibly be the same one.” Greg paused for effect.


“Sir, I knew the man. I was a guest twenty years ago in the house our agents raided.”

“Are you kidding?”

“No, at first I couldn't believe it myself.”

“Wait, wait. You knew the man twenty years ago? I find that hard to believe, but let's say it's so for now. How does that make the operation a bad bust? I assume that's what you're thinking, that it was a bad bust?”

“Yes, sir, that's what I'm thinking. Tom Harris was a passionate and outspoken pacifist. There is no way he would ever attempt to even harm, much less kill, another human being.”

“A man changes in twenty years.”

“He didn't when it came to that. In the last hour I've been on the phone with two people who knew him and talked with him on the subject within the last few years. Apparently, he had become even more passionate in his pacifism. They both said you couldn't talk to him for any length of time without him talking about pacifism.”

“So, you think the report has some inaccuracies?”

“It certainly has inaccuracies. It has the two suspects as man and wife, and I already know that Elaine Harris was not the man's wife, she was his daughter-in-law. I think the report is a total fabrication. I don't think he fired on the agents, and I don't think he would have had anything to do with cocaine, either as a dealer or a user. From what I've been able to find out, he was in poor health and any hard drug usage would have been unthinkable. In short, I think we've got another Malibu-San Diego situation on our hands. Only this time it's worse; in addition to no drugs and a cover-up they planted cocaine.”

“Christ, Greg, if you're right, this could sink us. The FBI'll be dancing in the streets if it gets out. But you're throwing out the word of experienced agents in favor of an opinion based of what you think about a man you haven't met for twenty years? I can't buy that. Besides, maybe the woman was the real dealer?”

“She was the wife of Duncan Harris, the old man's son. I assure you that no wife of Duncan Harris would be a user or dealer of cocaine.”

“That sounds like you're going to tell me you knew this man, too.”

“Yes, I did. He flew for Air America, the CIA's airline. He was a friend. They kicked him out of Southeast Asia when he tried to expose CIA drug trafficking in Laos back in the sixties.


“There's more, sir. Much more.”

OVER IDAHO — Monday 14:30

Brian was trying to figure out what Greg knew that he didn't when the call came through. The pilot leaned back and shouted to him.

“Mr. Killough, the Director wishes to speak with you. Pick up that phone on the bulkhead in front of you.”

Brian started, recovered, leaned forward and lifted the phone off the cradle.

“Hello?” he said.

“Brian, how's your flight going?” Brian recognized the Director's voice.

“Fine, sir, I believe we're less than an hour out now.”

“Yes, that's what your pilot said. Too bad they had to stick you in that little Lear. Next time we'll get you something bigger.”

“Oh, this is fine, sir. It's a dandy little airplane.”

“Brian, I had a long talk with Greg Ballentine. He explained the situation. I want you to know I agree with him completely. I told him to handle it in any way he sees fit. He has a lot of experience at handling unusual situations, and I think he selected the best man for the on-site work.”

“Thank you, sir.”

“Greg wanted me to remind you to call him from a pay phone when you land in Oregon. He emphasized that you must call before talking with the local people.”

“I'll do that, sir, first thing.”

“Goodbye, Brian, we're counting on you.”

“Goodbye, sir.”

Brian felt better, more secure, but at a loss about what to start thinking of first.


[previous chapter]    [next chapter]