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MCKENZIE BRIDGE — Tuesday 22:30

The beep was soft but insistent; Larry silenced it with the push of a button, but the indicator remained lit, telling him something had energized the motion detector at the head of the roadway. No other indicators showed on the monitor.

He extinguished the lights in Tom Harris's bedroom and went to one of two dormer windows facing the driveway and waited. He'd already had one false alarm when a deer had broken a trip wire. When headlights became visible through the trees, he took less than ten seconds to restore the room to an undisturbed state. There were still no other indicator lights from the close-in trip wires; whoever approached wasn't bringing company.

Larry left the house by way of the roof. There was no moon, it was overcast, and he was now dressed in night-camouflage. He shouldered his bag of tricks, waited until the vehicle's headlamps no longer shined toward the house, and climbed out the window. The roof was steep but dry and uncluttered by leaves and moss. Moving sideways until clear of the dormer, he ascended to the roofline, crossed to the side away from the driveway, and climbed down the end of the porch. Expecting lights to come on momentarily, he flattened himself on the ground along the foundation at the end of the house.

Room by room, the visitors illuminated the entire first floor of the house. Larry smiled; this would be easy. Moving to the corner on the driveway side, he checked to make sure the car was empty before he moved into the open to assemble a directional microphone and attach it to his recorder. He could clearly see the three men. One was ill kept with long scraggly hair and a short beard; the other two were obvious government types.

Bits and pieces of conversation, interrupted by the speakers' movement and Larry's constant need to reposition, came through his earplug. The unkempt individual, apparently an informant, said he saw the suspect break hard cocaine into powder, put it in plastic bags, and secret it about the house.

The shorter and fatter of the three appeared to be the in charge. He led them into the large living room, and all three sat, putting them out of Larry's line of sight. He tried to keep listening by holding the mike over his head, but they were too far apart to cover all three with one position, and when one stopped speaking, he had to guess at the positions of the others to pick up the conversation. It wasn't working. He stowed the directional mike, crept onto the porch and attached a small suction mike to the large picture window. Stringing out the lead to the mike, he retreated from the porch and listened. He would be able to see them when they stood. From observing them during earlier conversation, he had already assigned monikers to match the voices.

“ ... and you watched the house, let's see, three times?” Short Fatty was asking the questions.

“Yessir, whenever it's rainin' I come down tuh McKenzie Bridge tuh watch. People don' much come tuh the hot springs when it's rainin',” Scrungy said.

“And you saw the suspect each of the three times?”

“Yessir, three times and the last time I see'd the dope an' called Mr. Schumaker.”

“What was he doing the first two times?”

“He was readin' so's I moved on tuh look at other houses. There's some good lookin' women down a ways an' don' nobody pull curtains on the river side cuz they don' think no one's out there.”

“We're not interested in that,” Short Fatty said. “What about the woman? What was she doing?”

“She was sittin' at the counter, like she was waitin' for him to finish. I figured she was a buyer cuz I didn't see her 'cept the last time.”

“Did they do any coke? Did you see them snort any?”

“Oh, ah, well I think so ... I mean they put their heads down a couple times ... yeah, they was doin' coke.”

“How long did you watch?”

“Till they turned the lights out. T'was real cold an' rainin' bad. I didn't stay afta they turned the lights out.

There was a pause. Larry thought he could hear the rustling of paper.

“If I could git some of those special binoculars what you can see at night with I could do a better job.”

The pause continued; no one answered his request.

“Sure is a nice place. Musta made lotsa money dealin' ... who's he with in the picture?”

Larry saw the head and back of the Sad Man rise into his view, stand and move a few feet, stoop, and straighten up.

“Could be his son. We've been told he has a son,” Sad Man said.

Another pause, but shorter.

“Oh, so's he must be the dealer's father?”

“No, Maynard, the younger one has to be the son.”

Scrungy's first name was Maynard. Larry filled in a slot.

“But that's the dealer, Mr. Schumaker.”

Sad Man's last name was Schumaker. Another slot.

“What?” Schumaker said.

“The man I see'd was this'n.”

“This man was the one crushing the cocaine?” Sad Man said.

“Yessir, I saw him plain's can be, standin' over by that counter.”

Short Fatty's body rose into view and moved next to Sad Man's.

“That's the suspect?” Short Fatty said.

“No, that's the suspect,” Sad Man replied.

“Wait a minute, that's the one who fired on you?” Short Fatty said.


Short Fatty's body dropped from view. Sad Man stepped back but remained standing.

“Maynard, put your finger on the man you saw crushing the cocaine,” Short Fatty ordered. He spoke again in a few seconds. “Jesus ... John, take Maynard to the car and wait there. I have to make a phone call.”

Larry jerked on the lead to the microphone. It came away cleanly, and he returned to his position along the foundation at the end of the house, stowed the area mike, and readied the directional mike. He then tried to position himself to pick up Short Fatty's end of the conversation. It wasn't possible. The phone was mounted on a wall between the kitchen and the living room and Short Fatty faced the wall. Stowing the directional mike, Larry crawled the length of the house on the river side to the end nearest the driveway and started feeling along the foundation for the exterior phone lead. He had seen the small green stanchion at the head of the drive that indicated a buried line. Finding the lead, he connected the headphone first and followed with the recorder.

“ ... a twenty-four hour surveillance on Duncan Harris.” The voice was Short Fatty's.

There was a pause.

“Brian, is there any lightning in the area?” Larry put a first name to Short Fatty.

“Lightning, sir?”

“Yes, lightning. The weather, what's the weather like?

“It's a pleasant enough evening, sir. There're no thunderstorms.”

Another pause. Larry grimaced. Whoever was on the other end had noticed the click created when he made the tap. He could visualize the man waiting, listening for further dissonance, trying to decide whether it had only been random line noise.

“Sir, are you still there?” Short Fatty said.

“Yes ... the phone you're using, is it a cordless phone?”

“No, sir, it's a wall phone ... with a cord, sir.” Short Fatty was obviously puzzled. He didn't have a clue to what was going on.

“Alright, go ahead with the surveillance. I'll get people headed your way to help. Call me immediately with any news ... Brian, this call, you didn't direct dial it, did you?”

“No, sir, I used my phone credit card number. I followed standard procedure, sir. I always follow standard procedure.”

Larry waited until the driveway motion detector registered the car's exit before scanning the approaches to the house with his nightscope. When five minutes had passed with no activity, he reentered the house and went to the phone Short Fatty had used. He took it off-hook, placed what appeared to be a tone dialer on the receiver end and pressed the phone's REDIAL button. He hung up when the number Short Fatty had called appeared on the modified dialer's LCD display; there had been no connection. Next he lifted Short Fatty's fingerprints off the phone and Sad Man's and Scrungy's prints off the picture of Duncan and his father.

He had to warn Duncan of the coming surveillance. It took several tries on the hand-held CB to wake Richard. The agreed-upon code to get the young man started on foot for the house sounded like commonplace CB drivel. Larry continued his work; he would send Richard to warn Duncan.

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Wednesday 03:00

Greg had approved Brian's request to investigate Duncan Harris on the basis that Maynard Lippa had seen him crushing cocaine. Giving the approval had been a matter of covering his ass. He knew it would be a useless effort, would even complicate matters if they had to negotiate with Duncan and he found out. Duncan would not be involved with drugs, and even if he was, he would never place his father at risk. But as he thought about it, temptation overcame judgement. Maybe Duncan had changed; twenty years was a long time. The idea began to appeal to him. It would be a fitting capstone on his government career to put away the man who had been the cause of his leaving the CIA. Greg had been thinking about retiring; he had milked the drug war for all it was worth. One last brilliant operation would let him leave at the very top.

The nightmare started as soon as Greg went back to sleep. He was back in Laos, on the ground, not able to move, and there was a great weight on him. He kept trying to twist his head to see what was pressing him into the earth. Each time he succeeded in turning his head slightly, a small amount of dirt entered his mouth, only it wasn't dirt, it was shit; the ground was covered with shit. Finally his mouth was full of shit; he was choking on it, but he could finally see what was holding him down. It was Duncan. Duncan was sitting on him ... eating a sandwich.

LEABURG — Wednesday 01:30 local

Richard Lee was apprehensive. In addition to filling him in, Larry had regaled him with tales of Duncan's Southeast Asia exploits during the drive upriver. Richard had no doubt that some exaggeration had crept in, but it was clear he was about knock on the door at four a.m. of a man who wouldn't hesitate to kill if he thought it needful, a man who now had to be stressed out and mad as hell. Crap, he could kill me just for waking him up. But Larry had insisted.

Richard pulled into the parking lot. Lights came on before he came to a stop. The parking area, the outside stairs leading down to the front of the house, and the front door were all lit. The van had come within range of a motion detector. The lighting was not sinister, merely practical.

He firmly closed the door to the van, wanting the sound to convey that there was no attempt at stealth on his part, went to the door, and knocked. When he received no reply, he knocked again. He was about to knock a third time when a voice spoke from the darkness to his left and slightly behind him.

“My guess is that your name is Richard.”

Richard started, but caught and calmed himself before replying. “Mr. Harris, my name is Richard Lee. I'm an associate of Lawrence Tanner. He asked me to come see you.” Richard's rehearsed words spilled forth.

“Go on in, the door's unlocked. The light switch is on the right. Make yourself comfortable. I'll join you as soon as I get some clothes on.”

Richard was seated on the couch when Duncan appeared, barefoot but dressed in jeans and a sweatshirt. The bare feet impressed him; he knew male Caucasians rarely appeared barefoot in front of strangers or peers. He decided Duncan possessed an abundance of self-confidence.

He stood as Duncan approached, hand extended. They shook hands and Richard was again impressed. The handshake was not the bone crushing American version. It was an Asian handshake, light and gentle, welcoming.

Richard's eyes shifted downward as both men sat. He liked feet, couldn't help looking at them. He found them exciting, and Duncan had good feet. Even in the weak interior light, Richard could see they were well tanned; the man was obviously frequently barefoot in the sun. The balls of his feet were wide and strong; the bones would not break when delivering a kick to an opponent in body armor. Richard suppressed an outlandish urge to remove shoes and socks and compare feet. Too bad Duncan was straight.

“Larry mentioned you earlier. He and I were to meet later today. Has that changed?” The words brought Richard out of his foot fetish.

“Yes,” Richard replied, explained what had happened at Tom Harris's home, played what Larry had recorded, and told Duncan what Larry had thus far uncovered. Duncan requested two replays of the taped phone message.

“I know that voice. I can't put a name to it, but I know it. Someone ... a long time ago, I think. Did Larry say anything about recognizing who it was?”

“No, but we have access to people who put names to telephone numbers. I'm sure he'll find out.”

“Oh, yes, Larry will find out. Larry always finds out. Now, about this surveillance ...”

“Sir, Larry has a suggestion.”

“Don't call me sir. My name's Duncan. Most people call me Dunk.”

“Yes, sir ... I mean, Mr. Harris ...”

“Duncan or Dunk.”

“Yes ... Duncan ... that's hard for me. I'm used to addressing older men more formally.” Richard smiled.

Duncan looked at Richard thoughtfully. “Easily handled, don't think of me as older. Anyway, the suggestion?”

“Larry wants to know if you've kept up on your cryptography skills. He said you enjoyed mathematical puzzles.”

“I still do, but I haven't done any cryptography in years. I've seen an occasional article on what's happening in the field, but that's all.

“Do you know what PKE is?”

“Public key encryption, I read about it when the first algorithms were developed, but I've never used it.”

“No problem, we've got the best PKE software available with us.” Richard produced a three and one-half inch diskette from his shirt pocket. “I'll have you up and running in thirty minutes. We can encrypt our communications and send them direct computer to computer or through one of the e-mail systems. When you left the message on our answering machine, you mentioned an Internet address.”

“ I check my e-mail daily, but when I'm in town call my computer directly. There's a separate line into it, 896-3910. Ellie ... Ellie got tired of my tying up the phone with the computer.” Duncan turned away for a moment. “I'll leave the machine on with a com program running. It'll auto-answer and give you a choice of file transfer protocols. It has all the standard ones.”

Duncan returned to bed after Richard left. It took only a few days of international flying to confuse his circadian rhythm. This trip had been terminated at twelve days, more than long enough to put his body into an indeterminate state. Duncan's procedure for returning to a normal sleeping-waking pattern included forcing himself to stay in bed during his normal sleeping hours. Having arrived home in the afternoon totally exhausted, he had immediately gone to sleep. When Richard's arrival awakened him, he had been asleep for nine hours. Back in bed, sleep did not come, and he couldn't keep from thinking, and that was like walking through a minefield.

He tried to focus on what needed to be done and that led to thoughts of Ellie. Thinking of where the best surveillance sites were, he remembered the walks he and Ellie took around their property each evening. Thinking of calling his airline to have them put him on leave for awhile, he realized he would have to have them take Ellie off their dependent records.

He fantasized. He would wait for the surveillance team. He had his bow hunting gear. He would wait back beyond where they would come, motionless, in camouflage. They would locate themselves, settle in, and he would pull the compound bow, he would set the sight ten inches below the left shoulder, eight inches in from the left side. The release would be smooth, and the heavy, four-bladed broadhead would pass completely through, severing arteries, veins, the heart itself, all with only the noise of a dull thud. Or maybe he'd sneak up on them and choke the living shit out of them. He had done that; it had been a long time, but he could still do it.

Duncan cried, sobbed aloud ... and finally slept again.

EUGENE — Wednesday 07:00

Larry had Richard drop him at the River Valley Inn. For flexibility, Larry told Richard to keep their first hotel room and Larry would keep the rental car.

He entered his room tired but satisfied with the night's effort. Information had been obtained and excitement enjoyed. Before crawling into bed, he retrieved the number Short Fatty had called. He recognized the Washington, D.C. area code and, from memory, dialed another number in the same area code. A sleep-laden voice answered.

“Rise and shine, Mike. The day's a-wasting. I've got a number I want to put a name to. Get everything available on whoever it is. I'll pay as usual. You can transmit the info as usual.”


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