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CHAPTER 4


EUGENE — Monday 14:45

Schumaker was so scared he was sick. The sicker he became, the more scared he was. The events of the last few hours had unnerved him.

He and Baxter had argued over the final wording of the report, not finishing it until 0430. Schumaker faxed the report to Washington and climbed in bed at 0530. At 0700 his telephone rang. Washington instructed him not to release the report to local authorities until further notice. He called his secretary at home and told her to hold the report she would find waiting at the office. It took an hour for him to convince himself the reason for the call was no cause for panic; he didn't asleep again until 0815.

Fifteen minutes later, his secretary called. Washington was on the line and wanted another copy of the report faxed to them for verification; was that all right? He okayed it and started getting sick. He thought of calling Baxter but decided against it.

At 0930 the DEA's Regional Director had called from Seattle wanting to know if there was any problem with last night's bust that he should know about. Washington had been on the line concerned about public reaction to the death of an eighty-five-year-old and a woman during a no-knock entry. Was the report accurate? Schumaker assured him it was, hoping his panic didn't show.

Sick, and with his circadian rhythm telling him he should be awake, Schumaker gave up on sleeping, showered and dressed, and went to the office. Had they made some incredible blunder in writing the report?

When Washington called at 1130 and said the report could be released to the local authorities, he convinced himself the only problem had been the public relations concern over the age of one subject, the sex of the other, and the lack of a significant drug seizure to counter-balance the deaths.

At 1300 the OPR chief called and told him to pick up an Agent Killough at the airport. He would arrive on an agency Learjet at 1445. It would park at the executive aircraft terminal. The OPR chief stressed that he should meet Killough alone and that Killough must call Washington immediately.

Schumaker's hand had trembled as he called Baxter. Baxter's advice was simple; they would stick to their well-rehearsed story.

It had been a miserable drive to the airport. Schumaker left and locked the car in a loading-only zone, swallowed more antacid tablets, and walked into the executive terminal.

Brian exited the cramped Lear cabin through the small door with as much self-importance as he could muster. He was, after all, representing the DEA hierarchy in a remote field station. A large, slightly rumpled and solemn middle-aged man with a protruding gut approached him. The man looked like he needed sleep.

“Brian Killough? I'm John Schumaker.”

“Yes, Agent Schumaker, glad to meet you.” The handshake was perfunctory. “I understand you led the bust last night.” It was a statement, not a question.

“Yes, I'm the field supervisor here.”

“We need to talk about what happened, but first I need to make a phone call. Where's the nearest pay phone?”

“In the lobby, sir, through that gate. They said to make sure you called ... ah, to request you to call.”

“That's what I'm doing, John. You can wait outside if you like.”

“Yes, sir, the car is there,” Schumaker pointed. “We can leave as soon as you're ready.”

Brian entered the lobby, found the phone, readied paper and pencil, and made the call. He felt he and Agent Schumaker were off to a proper start.

The phone rang only once. “Gregory Ballentine speaking.”

“Sir, this is Brian. I'm checking in as you requested.”

“Good. How was the flight?”

“Fine, sir, fine.”

“Is Schumaker there?”

“He's outside, sir.”

“Is he alone?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Good. I still want you to represent your investigation as a formality insofar as the bust is concerned,” Greg continued. “Do whatever you can to put Schumaker at ease. I talked with him on the phone earlier. He's nervous as hell, probably guilty as hell too. Now, in the report he said they started the evening's surveillance with all five members of the team, but before they moved in Agent Wood got sick and Schumaker sent him home. I've checked Wood's record; he has never taken any sick leave in his entire time with the agency, and people that worked with him in Miami can't recall that him ever being ill. Talk to Wood. Find out if he was really sick. Press him on it, I want to make him nervous. I think he lifted three hundred thousand in seized funds a couple years ago, and I want to use this to get him to run for it. You can tell Schumaker that we're looking into Wood's conduct because of past allegations, might even tell them you wouldn't have made the trip if it hadn't been for Wood being listed on the report.”

Greg continued, giving Brian the details on the Miami operation in which Wood had been involved. Brian wondered how he was supposed to tell them he had come only for the fishing and also only because of Wood, but he kept silent.

“Within the next forty-eight hours you may encounter a man named Duncan Harris. He's the son of the male suspect killed in the raid. The woman who was killed, Elaine Harris, is or rather was Duncan's wife. Duncan is an international air freight pilot, and he's out of the country, but he'll be hot-footing it home as soon as he gets the news. He is why you are out there instead of me.”

“He's the one you were previously involved with?”

“Yes, you know that I came to the DEA from the CIA. I was one of the sixty CIA agents that came in when the DEA started.[REF0401]

Harris flew for the CIA. He was an Air America contract pilot based in Laos. We didn't get along at the last. If they rigged the bust, he'll figure it out. If necessary, we'll try to buy him off, but I don't hold out much hope on that. Money's not much of a motivator for him.”

“Every man has his price, sir.”

“I hope you're right, Brian. I truly do. Look, if you run into him, be as friendly as possible, as unofficial as possible. Don't antagonize him. He'll come across as cooperative, quiet, and passive, but he's extremely intelligent and, if he feels it necessary, is capable of attempting anything. Don't underestimate him. He can be a dangerous man, and we've wiped out his entire family. We've put him in a position where he has nothing to lose.”

“But if he's a civilian now, what could he possibly do?”

“I don't know, Brian, I don't know. A lot of people out there owe him their lives. In Laos he specialized in extracting people from tight situations. Sometimes he did it even if there wasn't any flying involved. He's big on loyalty, and he's inventive. Before we had our falling-out, he got me out of a mess by interrupting his lunch to kill a petty drug lord. Then he sat down on the man's body—used it for a chair—and finished his sandwich. He likes to do the unexpected; he likes to shock people, and he's not squeamish. We lost count of how many people he killed.”

Brian swallowed.


Schumaker drove, listened, and hoped the sound of his beating heart couldn't be heard outside his body. Brian started talking as soon as the car started rolling.

“First, let me assure you my investigation is mostly a formality.”

Schumaker's heart beat louder when he heard the word investigation and then immediately slowed when he heard the word formality.

“I'm going to be taking a vacation soon, and I've heard Oregon is very scenic. When I saw a chance to come, I jumped on it.”

Schumaker's heart rate dropped towards normal.

“I'll, of course, interview everyone involved in the raid—got to make the trip look good—but I want to have a serious, in-depth talk with Agent Wood. When you let him go home, how sick was he?”

“He said he was about to heave. I couldn't see him in the dark, but I felt having to depend on someone ill would jeopardize the others. I saw no problem continuing without him. We didn't expect resistance; it was only a man and his wife. I couldn't believe it when he shot me.” Schumaker's heart rate was climbing.

“I agree, you did the right thing; it's just that we checked Wood's record, and during all his years with the agency he has never taken any sick leave or been known to be sick. Maybe it's nothing, but I want to find out if he had an ulterior motive for being sick.”

“I guess there's a first time for everything.”

“Frankly, we watch Agent Wood pretty closely. He came out of Miami—but then you know that—and there was a bust there a couple of years ago where somebody skimmed off a three hundred thousand. There was this raid. The target's name was Renlek. We know he had at least half a million on the premises, maybe more, but only two hundred thousand was seized.” Brian paused for effect. Schumaker remained silent, eyes straight ahead on the road. “Has Wood ever said anything to you about that raid?”


Schumaker called Baxter. Baxter called Wood, who now hung up the phone, his hand shaking. Wood knew he had to decide.

Could the OPR link him to the money from the Renlek bust? If they could, the game was over. How much did Baxter know? Would he try to negotiate himself out of the present mess by ratting to the OPR? What if all the OPR was onto was last night's cover-up? He hadn't participated; all he had done was not report it. That would cost him his job, but that should be all. He hadn't stayed around to see how good a job Schumaker and Baxter had done. Damn, maybe Baxter was lying; maybe there wasn't even an OPR man in town. It was too quick, but if there was, this soon, they were all in trouble.

The phone rang. Hand still shaking, Wood picked it up and identified himself.

“Agent Wood, this is Brian Killough. I'm the Assistant Chief of the Office of Professional Responsibility. I'm in town to interview all agents involved in last night's bust. I understand you're due in the office at three.”

“That's correct.”

“Fine, I'd like to start the interviews with you. I understand you got sick and left the surveillance?”

“Yes, I think I ate some bad food. The agent in charge sent me home.”

“That's what he said. I understand it's the first time you've ever been sick in all the time you've spent with the agency. Well, we'll see you at three. Oh, my boss wanted me to clear up some details on a past matter. If you still have any notes on the Renlek bust, bring them with you.”

“The Renlek bust?”

“Yes, you know, that bust in Miami you were on before you transferred here, the one where we should have found half a million but only seized a couple hundred thousand.”

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REFERENCE MATERIAL


[REF0401] In 1973, Richard Nixon attempted to quell the competitive fires by creating a ‘superagency,’the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). The reorganization only internalized rivalries: the new agency was a confederacy of cliques of agents who had started out together in New York, Los Angeles, Miami, the Southwest, Europe, or the Far East. They jostled and schemed like Chinese tongs. Five hundred Customs agents expert in drug investigations had transferred to the DEA. They formed yet another clique, and their transfer did not stop the new agency from fighting with the Customs Service, which had retained authority for enforcing the anti-smuggling statutes. Another faction was composed of sixty CIA veterans, among them Lucien Conein, who figured in the 1963 coup that resulted in the assassination of South Vietnamese President Ngo Dinh Diem.” Epstein, Edward Jay, Agency of Fear : Opiates and Political Power in America, p. 34.

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