EUGENE — Tuesday 12:45
Duncan had jumpseated aboard a five-forty-five a.m. America West flight out of JFK to Phoenix and then did the same to Portland. He caught a commuter flight down from Portland and arrived within five minutes of the estimate he had given to Larry's answering machine.
His grief had not allowed him to sleep on the leg from Brussels to New York, and the cramped cockpit jumpseats on the domestic legs had precluded even trying to rest. When he came through the gate at Eugene, he had been awake for thirty-two hours. The grief and fatigue were showing, but he was in control.
He spotted Larry lounging against a wall. Neither man gave any sign he recognized the other. Duncan headed for the nearest rest room and entered with another passenger in trail. There were three latrines. Obeying the need for personal distance exhibited by westerners, the two men each took an end latrine, leaving the middle one open.
Larry entered a few seconds later, checked to ensure the stalls were empty, and took the middle latrine. He was dressed in black boots, black leather jeans, and a leather vest—no shirt. There were three earrings in his left ear, four in his right, and both nipples were pierced with rings. Assorted menacing tattoos showed on his arms and what could be seen of his chest underneath a large-linked silver necklace chain. A short black beard and mustache were the only hair above his neck. No one ever complained about his appearance. At six feet four inches tall when barefoot, he carried no extra weight, and, when not on an assignment, he did a hard two-hour work out every other day, specializing in the bench press.
Larry turned his head left and looked at the passenger who had entered with Duncan, stared to make the man nervous, and then slowly turned his head right and looked at Duncan. Duncan returned the look with a forced air of amusement and resignation.
Larry smiled pleasantly and, in a loud and clear voice, said, “Hello, are you gay?”
The other passenger gave a start, tried to terminate his stream and zip his fly at the same time, dribbled in his shorts, and left hurriedly.
Duncan pointedly looked at the ear and nipple piercings he could see and then shifted his vision downward to Larry's open fly. “What, no Prince Albert?” he said.
“Would that get you to pay me some non-professional attention?”
“No, I don't consort with leather freaks.” Their friendly insults had a long history.
“I trust you realize that men have died for less insulting remarks than that.”
“Oh, I know. I watched once, remember? Anyway, gotta go. Here's some information.” Duncan handed over a single folded sheet. “Give me a half minute lead. Glad to see you, my friend, glad to see you. I'm in need of friendly voices.”
Larry took the note, thinking it was uncharacteristic of Duncan to express emotion. When Duncan had left, Larry entered a stall, sat, and opened the note:
“There is no justice in this world,” Larry muttered, and he regretted the frivolity he had used in making contact.
He went to his van, removed the earrings and nipple rings, filled the holes in his ears with makeup, put on an expensive hairpiece, and donned a conservative business suit. Returning to the terminal, he called Richard Lee at the hotel room they had rented on their arrival in Eugene. He told him to take a cab to the airport and retrieve the van, take the rest of the day to do anything he wanted but to go easy on the cruising, and to check the hotel for messages no less than every two hours.
Larry employed his usual procedure for assuring randomness in the selection of a car rental company. He strolled the line of rental counters and then returned to the one with the most attractive young man. If all the counter attendants had been women, he would have selected the counter with the least attractive. Today Avis won; a slender, young Asian male staffed their counter. Larry had a weakness for Asians.
On his way out of the airport parking area, he stopped by the van and transferred several bags to the car. Twenty minutes later he arrived at the River Valley Inn. Before entering the lobby, he walked the length of the hotel complex on the bike path running alongside the river. When he checked in, he requested a ground floor room on the river side, casually remarking that a friend had told him the rooms on the upstream end had the better view. The desk clerk assigned a room as requested.
Brian felt good. He had been on site less than twenty-four hours and had completed in depth interviews with all five team members except the missing Wood. They had all told the same story, echoing the report. After the last interview, he and Schumaker had gone to lunch.
“Next I want to talk to the informant. How soon can we do that?” The words were slurred by Brian's attack on his hamburger.
“The soonest would be tonight, but it's a hassle to get to him. He lives a half mile off the road up by one of the local hot springs. He gets back to his camp after dark. If you can wait a couple days, he'll come to us. He checks in by phone every Friday morning, hikes out and catches a ride down to McKenzie Bridge.”
“No,” another bite, “this is Wednesday. I don't ... want to wait two days. We'll see him tonight ... and I want to take him to the crime scene ... and have him show us ... what he saw.” Chewing and speaking simultaneously wasn't working well.
“In the dark?”
“Why not? You made your assault at night. I'll be seeing the scene under the conditions of the assault. That's good.”
“Okay, you're the boss, tonight it is.”
Brian stopped eating for a moment. “Yes, I guess I am.”
They finished eating in silence, which Schumaker finally broke. “I'll pick you up about seven? If you don't need me, I'll get some rest; it could be a long evening, and I still haven't recovered from Monday night.”
“Good idea, but let me take the car. I'll drop you at home, pick you up at seven. I want to see a little bit of the town. As I said, this is a vacation for me.”
In appearance, Bill Batteman and Duncan could have been brothers; they had the same blond hair and gray-blue eyes. Bill was the younger by a few years and not as muscular. The similarity ended with appearance. Whereas Duncan was by nature a risk taker, Bill was careful to a fault.
The attorney practiced contract law and handled his clients' business affairs, a task he had done for Tom Harris for twenty years and for Duncan for fifteen years. The elder Harris had retained him as a young lawyer establishing his own office. Bill had enjoyed working for them. They had been a window to the world of international finance and investment, a world to which he otherwise would never have had access.
Bill watched Duncan read and reread the report; he watched the anger build.
“The informant that told them dad was dealing cocaine, I'm going to have a little chat with him.”
“That's impossible. They won't identify him. They protect their sources.”
Duncan looked up, looked at Bill directly. “I'll be talking to him.”
Bill didn't respond. He knew Duncan was angry, hurt, blowing off steam, but that look ... he had never seen Duncan like this.
“Assholes, fucking assholes, dumb fucking assholes.” Duncan looked away from the report for a few moments. “All they had to do was walk up to the door, knock, and ask for an explanation. But, oh, no, they were out there hiding in the bushes, watching, putting their own interpretation on anything they saw. Goddamn idiots! Jesus, how can we allow people to do this, to trespass on private property without a warrant, hide in camouflaged clothing, all without evidence of wrongdoing. Somebody needs to put a stop to this crap.” Duncan turned back to the report.
“My god, no way,” he said. “This business about the guns in the nightstand is nonsense. Dad kept his guns in the gun cabinet in the den, and he hadn't opened it in years; he'd lost the key. And the .45 is memorabilia from World War II; there wasn't any ammunition because it isn't usable. He removed the firing pin years ago when he became a pacifist. They gunned them down, Bill, they gunned them down and now they're trying to cover it up.” Duncan put down the report on the raid and picked up the autopsy report.
Bill had already read it and knew it would hit hard. The clinical language did little to obscure the ferocity of the attack. He watched Duncan closely.
Duncan read it silently, finished, and remained with eyes downcast, staring at the floor. Finally, he raised his head, making and holding eye contact with his attorney. His voice was strong, angry, but there were tears in his eyes, “Ellie took two killing shots at point-blank range, one of which tore through our son's head. Dad took four.” How much terror had they faced together in that last moment? “They had no right, Bill. They had no right to do that. God damn them, they had no right.” Duncan stood and walked to the window.
The phone buzzed, and Bill picked it up.
“Dunk, a Larry Tanner is on the line. Do you want him to call back?”
“Put him through. Hit the speaker.” Duncan turned, now completely composed. “Larry, where are you?”
“River Valley Inn, ground floor, river side, upstream—as directed. Ah, are you on a speakerphone?”
“Yes, but it's okay. I'm with Bill Batteman. Bill's my attorney, and he's a friend. Do you have fax capability with you as well as your usual bag of tricks?”
“Yes on both counts, and I'm up to three bags now. One has to keep up with the competition.”
“Okay, I'll send you a copy of the report on the raid and the autopsy reports. Check out my father's house as soon as possible. Pay particular attention to a gun cabinet in the den and a .45 that should be on or near a nightstand by his bed. Also, I'm interested in anything that might be mistaken for cocaine by someone watching the house. Check the crawlspace under the house to see if there are crushed mothballs there. Also, at the outside of the north end of the house you'll see the end of the center beam for the roof. At the bottom of the beam there's a small gap. Shine a light in there to see if there are any mothballs. Be careful while you're doing it; there may be bats inside, and they'll defend their young. Questions so far?”
“Who are we up against?”
“I don't think we're up against anyone other than the drug enforcement people. I think they botched an operation and that's all. I can't see this having anything to do with my past. It's been over twenty years since I worked for the Company, and the world has changed too much for anybody to care what I did back then, but we'll have more maneuvering room if we keep your presence to ourselves.”
“So you expect them to be watching you?”
“I don't know. Precautions. It's something I would do if I were them. Not having a real case against my father, they might decide to check me out. If I was dirty and they got lucky, they could try to link us for publicity purposes.”
“How do you want me to contact you?”
“Be out on the patio of your room at 2200 tomorrow. I'll jog past on the bike path between you and the river. It's a popular running route that's used at all hours, especially during this hot weather. I'll be in black shorts and a black tank top coming at you from the east.”
“I'll be waiting,” Larry said. “Duncan, pick up the phone for a moment.”
Bill lifted the handset and gave it to Duncan. “I can step into the next room if you like?” he asked. Duncan shook his head no.
“Go ahead, Larry.”
“First my apologies for the approach I used, had I known ...”
“You didn't know, and that shouldn't make any difference anyway. The way to handle this is as dispassionately as possible. No problem, my friend, no problem.”
“Dunk, you should know I now have an associate. His name is Richard Lee, a Chinese-American in his mid twenties. He's my apprentice.”
“Is that all?” Duncan asked good-naturedly.
“No, of course not, you know me. Anyway, he's with me. He's still learning, but he can be trusted. You'll like him.”
“Understood. I'll look forward to meeting him. Does he have a good sense of humor?”
“Yes, but not as bizarre as yours.”
After hanging up, Larry unzipped his laptop computer from its protective case, plugged it into the phone line, turned it on and set it to auto-answer and receive a fax. He retrieved a pair of binoculars from one of his bags, opened the sliding glass door to the patio, and stepped outside. He ignored the bounce of a young woman jogging past, and started familiarizing himself with both banks of the river.
Back in the room he heard the distinctive tone generated by the fax software when it answered the phone.
He had already determined he was on the north bank of an east-west section of the river. His eyes followed the bike path eastward, up the river, on his side. Two hundred yards upstream, the path disappeared under a freeway bridge. Other than the small hedge separating the patio from the paved running path, there were no trees or bushes between him and the bridge, and there were no light stanchions. Dunk had chosen well. It would be next to impossible for the unaided eye to see him, but with Larry's equipment, anyone following could never cross the two hundred yards without being spotted.
The fax software generated an end-of-page tone.
Downstream, to the west, lay the bulk of the hotel and a large shopping mall. The farthest visible structure was a concrete footbridge leading across to the river's south bank.
Another end-of-page tone.
He scanned upstream from the footbridge. A narrow park ran the entire length of the south bank of the river. Another bike path snaked through the park.
By the time his eyes reached the point on the bank directly opposite, he had lost track of the number of end-of-page-tones.
He lowered the binoculars and took in the overall view of the opposite bank. It was some kind of botanical garden. A few couples strolled a rectangular grid of paths.
Upstream the south-side bike path ran under the freeway and could be seen to continue into more parkland. Larry turned and re-entered the room.
The fax software signaled end-of-transmission. Larry plugged the small, portable printer into the laptop and started printing the faxes. He read the report as it printed. A final page included a map showing how to get to Duncan's house and to his father's, descriptions and license plate numbers for his car, Ellie's, and his father's, and various phone numbers. Larry smiled. That was Duncan, always trying to stay one step ahead.
It was three-thirty in the afternoon, and it was going to be a long night.
LEABURG — Tuesday 1530
Had the events of the last few days been ordinary, Duncan would have driven directly to Ellie at his father's house. But things were no longer ordinary, and he knew his home, without Ellie, would be filled with pain. Bill had suggested that he stay with him and his wife for a few days, but Duncan declined; he would face his pain.
Duncan headed east on an elevated portion of freeway. Ahead the beginning of parallel ridges formed a notch that acted like a gun sight, targeting a distant, snow-covered mountain. As the valley narrowed, the city ceased. The road snaked through farmland interspersed with timber, joined with a river, and left the farmland behind. One hour after leaving his attorney's office, Duncan turned right, crossed the river on a small dam, and turned right again onto a gravel road. Six tenths of a mile later he turned into his drive. Instead of winding down during the drive home, Duncan had found himself constantly checking the rear view mirror for a tail; the twenty years since he had used countersurveillance procedures were dropping away.
He lived on a heavily wooded five-acre parcel stretching nine hundred feet along the McKenzie River. The home sat in second-growth timber, mostly Douglas Fir and Cedar. As the trees grew, Duncan periodically had a gyppo logger thin them. When a tree bumped the house or one of the decks while swaying in the wind, he would have it cut or have a tree surgeon thin the top to reduce the swaying. There were always two dozen or more trees within range of crushing the house if they fell. When it rained, a half-hour passed before the entire roof got wet. After a rain, an hour passed before water stopped dripping on the roof.
The original structure had been an isolated fishing cabin. The east and west walls of the family room were all that were left of the cabin. He had expanded north with a bedroom and south a couple of times, first with an enlarged kitchen, and later he built a living room and master bedroom with full bath. The living room, all glass on two sides, bridged a small creek. Finally, he had expanded upward, putting a second story on that part of the house north of the creek.
In spite of all the effort and time, the structure had been more a house than a home. Ellie made the difference. The day he carried her over the threshold, he gave her carte blanche to do anything she wanted to the house. She made no change to the outside; she completely redid the inside. But the physical changes didn't make the house a home; it was her, her presence, her energy, and her love. She changed his residence from a rest area between trips to a place to which he longed to return, a home he hated to leave.
Duncan brought the van to a stop in the graveled parking area. A single-car garage with an empty carport over its entrance stood waiting, but that was for Ellie's car. Duncan put his arms over the steering wheel, closed his eyes, and rested his head on his arms. Five minutes passed before he raised his head, opened his eyes. He looked at the structure in front of him. Once again it was only a house.
Duncan entered the house. There were messages on his answering machine; they were all mundane. Thankfully, none were the voice of Ellie or his father.
He had been up thirty-five hours; his need for rest overrode all else. He decided to sleep in the guestroom.