EUGENE — Wednesday 19:00
When Duncan arrived at Bill Batteman's office a few minutes before five, his attorney informed him that Judy Batteman expected them both for dinner and wouldn't take no for an answer. Duncan acquiesced.
The Battemans lived in the south hills of the city, in an expensive but conservative home, a home paid for in no small measure by Bill's services to the Harris's, father and son. Judy Batteman had been a close friend of Ellie Harris, serving as her matron of honor when she married Duncan.
The dinner was somber, but filled with welcome small talk. Duncan appreciated the semblance of normalcy. No one mentioned business or the tragedy. Following dinner, attorney and client adjourned to the study, and Duncan laid out what he knew—all that Larry had found.
“Your friend does impressive work,” Bill said. “Getting from metal filings on the gun cabinet lock to Schumaker's finger prints on the kitchen knife he used was quite a feat. Tie that in with his prints overlapping Tom's on the TV controller and it pretty much says it all. The problem is, Larry obtained the evidence illegally. First, he violated the police line around the house. Second, he trespassed on government property; the house had already been seized. By the way, phone tapping by anyone but the government is illegal.”
“Neither he nor I knew about the seizure.”
“The notice may not have been posted yet, but a prosecutor would say that if he had followed proper procedures, he would have been informed of the seizure.”
“So what would have been the proper procedure?” Duncan asked. His voice dripped with sarcasm.
“A motion for discovery, legal permission to enter the house in a search for evidence.”
Duncan shook his head in disapproval. “If we had applied for permission, we'd never have gotten the evidence. Their blunders were mistakes made under pressure. They swept them under the rug quickly. Tell them somebody is coming to look under that rug, and they'd have gone back and cleaned up. And we'd still be waiting for legal permission.”
“You're right, of course. All I'm doing is giving you the correct legal procedure,” Bill countered.
“So you're telling me there's no way, through the legal system, that I can see those agents in jail for what they did.”
“I'm telling you that once the judge throws out illegally obtained evidence, you have nothing to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that they did what you and I know them to have done. Even if the evidence were admitted, it's not certain a prosecutor could get a conviction. The drug hysteria in this country isn't easy to overcome. All those agents have to do is stick with their story. They're the good guys; anyone opposing them is a bad guy.”
Duncan paused, thinking. “Let's talk about the property. I don't understand how they can already have seized it. Nobody has been adjudged guilty of anything yet for Christ's sake.”
“As I said over the phone, unnecessary, seizure is a civil—not a criminal—action. They don't have to prove guilt. All they have to claim is that the property has been used in drug trafficking or purchased with drug money. It's then up to you to prove it wasn't. To do that you'd have to show evidence they planted the cocaine. Which, again, you and I know they had to have done because we knew Tom and we knew Ellie. But it'd be your word against theirs, and the court always gives special weight to the testimony of police officers.”
Duncan shook his head, again disapproving. “You know dad had left that property to Dolores in his will,” he said.
“Yes, when I made the change for him, I thought it unusual and questioned him on it. He said she took care of it like it was her home. You didn't need the place, so she should get it. He didn't leave the matter open for discussion. He'd made up his mind.”
“Could the fact that the property is going to someone who otherwise has nothing, could that be used in negotiating with the authorities? Would that influence them?”
It was Bill's turn to shake his head negatively. “The DEA is the only police organization in the nation whose agent's promotions are tied to the amount of drugs and property they seize. They won't give up penny one.”
Duncan's voice rose. “Bill, I can't allow Ellie's death to go unpunished ... to be meaningless.” He paused in frustration ... then slammed his fist onto the desktop. “If I can't get justice within the law, I'll go outside the law. And that house is going to go to Dolores. That's what Dad wanted; that's what he'll get.”
“Duncan, don't ... do anything rash. It could cost you everything you have, including your freedom.”
“When they killed my father, they wiped out my past. When they killed my wife, they destroyed my present. When they killed my son, they took my future. I have nothing more to lose.”
“You have your life, my friend.”
“I'd rather have justice.”
COUGAR HOT SPRINGS — Wednesday 20:00
Larry and Richard reached the ridge top overlooking the hot springs at sunset, but the sun hadn't shown here for two hours, having been blocked by higher ridges to the west. Both men were having trouble reading the map and compass in the available light. The coolness of evening had already overwhelmed the heat of day.
They couldn't see the springs; the pools were concealed by heavy timber, and that was good. Maynard Lippa would be close enough to keep bathers in view, which meant he was down-canyon from them. Not knowing on which side of the canyon he was positioned, the two split up. Larry took pity on his partner, loaded down with the extra weight of the heavy batteries, and crossed to the opposite side while Richard rested.
Both men were dressed in camouflage and had nightscopes. They communicated via voice-activated headsets modified to an illegal UHF frequency to keep their transmissions from being picked up by commercially available scanners. The headsets were set to respond to a whisper and amplify to the level of normal speech. Transmission power was adjustable and had been set to carry no more than one half mile to avoid detection by random FCC checks for illegal frequency usage.
They proceeded downstream slowly, a step, maybe two, occasionally three or four depending on the cover, and then a scanning pause. They used their GPS units to keep abreast. Richard was the first to see features he knew to be directly above the springs.
“Holding. I can now see the little bluff on my side that has the remains of a campfire on it,” he said.
“Roger, standby,” Larry replied.
The two men had automatically gone to a much-used procedure, one watched while the other moved.
· · · ·
“I can't see the bluff, but I've picked up the compost toilets abeam the upper pool. I'll scan here,” Larry said, dropping to one knee.
“I don't see him. It's getting dark enough for him to move closer. I'm moving.”
· · · ·
“I'm moving again,” Larry said.
“Roger, holding and scanning.”
· · · ·
“Bingo,” Richard said. “He's below the bluff, standing. His binoculars are down. He's staring downhill. You're safe to keep moving.”
“Can you see the pools yet?”
“Okay, I'll go far enough to see the pools. Yell if his head moves.”
· · · ·
“Beautiful, I've got the pools and I've got him. I'm on him. You can move,” Larry said.
· · · ·
“He's moving downhill, looking downhill. Come up fast ... keep coming,” Larry ordered.
“Right ... eyeballing him ... closing ... he's crouching ... holding. I lost sight of him when he crouched.”
“No problem. I can see him and you. Stay low and advance thirty feet.”
· · · ·
“Holding,” Richard said after crawling the thirty feet.
“Okay, he's on his knees, stationary. Probably waiting for the light to fade some more. He's about fifteen yards in front of you. Stay down and check our rear. After that, move down into the creek. As soon as he gets in closer, we'll hook up there.”
· · · ·
“Damn,” Larry said.
“No, but I may have wasted five hundred bucks.”
“He's not watching our couple. I can't even see them; they must be in the third pool. He's watching one of the couples we saw when we reconnoitered. They're standing in the second pool, embracing. They're the only ones left in the first two pools. Move ten, no, fifteen feet downstream. He can't see you.”
· · · ·
“Hold ... he's moving ... Jesus, flatten ... he's going to cross ... he's on top of you ... freeze.”
· · · ·
Larry watched intently. Maynard had descended into the creek bed immediately in front of Richard. He stood in shallow, running water, less than a foot from Richard's head. If Maynard turned around and looked down, the operation would be blown. But he didn't turn, and after several seconds continued across the creek.
· · · ·
“Relax, he's out of the creek bed and on my side,” Larry reported. “The couple's out of the pool. They're gathering their clothes. Shit, now I can't see him. Move down the creek twenty feet and ease uphill on your side and you should be able to get him.”
“Moving ... I could have touched him.”
“I know, I could see.”
· · · ·
“I've got him and the couple,” Richard reported. “He's sitting, probably waiting for them to leave ... and I can see the third pool. Our couple's in it. He's sitting with his back this way. She's facing him, facing this way, giving him a massage. The available light's going to hell. If our man doesn't move soon, we may have to hook up to see where he is.”
“I know ... what's she massaging?”
“His neck. She's facing him and massaging his neck.”
“His neck. Jesus, we need more than that. I'm coming into the creek. We'll hook up as soon as we can.”
· · · ·
“The other couple's moving out and our man is ... moving ... to a rock between the first and second pools,” Richard said. “He can't see you. You can go all the way down the creek to where it bypasses the first pool. There's another big rock there. If he holds his position, you should be able to get him and the couple with little camera movement by peeping over the rock.”
· · · ·
“I'm at the rock and about to look over. What's happening?” Larry asked.
“Our man is standing behind his rock. It's about waist high for him. I don't think he's can go any closer. You're safe to look over. He's watching the couple ... and he's got his dick out. He's playing with himself.”
“Get down here. We've got to hook up. This could be over too quick,” Larry ordered.
“On the way.”
“You're going to have to lie down.”
“Lie down?” asked Richard
“The rock is too high. I can barely see over it. I need to stand on something for a camera position. You're going to have to lie in the stream after we hook up. I'll stand on your back, on the battery pack.”
“I'll take off the pack and you can stand on it.”
“No, that'd put the batteries in the water.”
“They're supposed to be water proof.”
“Can't take the chance. You have to lay down in the water ... on your belly.”
“Jesus, you got to be kidding. This water's like ice.” Richard had reached Larry and pulled out the lead from the batteries. Larry had the camera ready, lights mounted.
“I'm not kidding, damn it, get down there.” Larry had taken the lead and connected it to the infrared lights. Richard dropped to all fours.
“You know, you're a real asshole, you really are. I'm on my hands and knees. We'll do it that way.”
“No, that's not stable enough. Get on your stomach or we're going to lose this.”
“Jesus, you owe me, Larry, you owe ...”
Richard's transmission stopped when his mike submerged. Larry smiled in the darkness and stepped up on the battery pack. He felt the initial give of Richard's body before it bottomed out on the creek bed. With the added height, and leaning against the rock, he topped it with his head, arms, and the camera.
First he tried enhancing available light. It worked ... barely. A few more minutes and he'd have to use infrared. He switched to it to check its coverage. Maynard showed up well; the couple was distinct but lacking in detail. He went back to enhancing available light and started recording.
Larry hoped the scene would become more incriminating, but if he got nothing more, what he had would suffice. Maynard was identifiable and could be seen fondling the beginnings of an erection. The DEA would shit.
Larry heard a slight varying hum through his earplugs. “If that's you, Richard, raise your head. Your mike is in the water.”
“ ... happening? What's happening?
“I'm getting it, same scenario you last saw, except he's got a real boner now.” Larry spoke slowly, concentrating on framing the scene.
“Larry, I can't stay down here long,” Richard chattered.
“You can handle it, and try not to move so much when you breathe ... actually, it'd be better if you stopped breathing.”
· · · ·
Larry switched on the infrareds when Maynard straightened and faced the third pool more squarely. “He's getting braver, standing up straighter.”
“Good for him ... I'm freezing. This is not fun.”
“I'm having fun.”
· · · ·
“Damn, she looked toward Maynard ... but he's not moving. I think she knows he's there. She's saying something to her husband ... getting him to move. Maynard's crouching. Husband is ... sliding his ass up out of the water, sitting on a small rock. She's playing with his dick, looking towards Maynard. She's got to know he's there. Five hundred bucks well spent.”
“I'm getting numb.”
“Don't move. She's still looking at Maynard. I think I'm about to get the pièce de résistance. Yup, she's straddling her man ... and Maynard is getting up on the rock ... he's standing on it in plain view.”
Several seconds passed before Richard complained again. “Damn it, what's going on? I swear I'm going to dump you.”
“May not take long. Maynard's a real jack-off artist. I've never seen anybody beat off like that. Our couple is doing pretty good too. Okay, he's going to do it.”
“Who's doing what?”
“Maynard. He's cumming ... Jesus ... helluva load. Richard, we've got a masterpiece, a fucking masterpiece.”
Trailing Maynard back to his camp turned out to be more difficult than Larry had anticipated. During his planning, he had checked the times for sunset, moonrise, and moonset, and knew that seventy-five percent of the moon's disk would be illuminated, that it would rise three hours and twenty minutes before sunset, and that it wouldn't set until after one in the morning. Given those conditions and with the nightscopes, he had concluded trailing wouldn't be difficult. He failed to take into account the old growth Douglas fir timber. Every tree was over one hundred feet tall. Their tops overlapped in a solid barrier between earth and sky.
As soon as Maynard moved away from the springs, Larry saw the difficulty. He stepped off the battery pack on Richard's back, ordered him out of the water, and explained the problem while retrieving a different infrared setup from his pack. This one was a single light with a tightly focused beam. He switched the battery lead from the camera lights, put on infrared-sensitive goggles, and swung the beam in an arc in the general direction of Maynard's departure. He saw him at the limits of the beam.
“We gotta move!” Larry said.
“Jesus, I can't ... nothing works ... I'm too cold,” Richard chattered through clenched teeth, half-standing, stumbling against the steep bank.
Larry made a quick decision. “We'll change packs. I'll track him. You can catch up later. Warm up in the spring.” He dumped his pack and helped Richard off with his, put it on himself and started towards Maynard's last known position.
Richard slowly dragged himself and Larry's pack out of the creek bed, left the pack beside the big rock, and waded into the first pool. Sitting down, he looked across to the third pool. He could make out the movement of the woman's head. Jesus, at least life isn't boring. He laid in the pool, feeling the hot water seeping through his clothes, filling his shoes, entering at his neck and flooding down his back. It was glorious.
Larry reached Maynard's last known position and swung the infrared beam across a one hundred and eighty degree arc in front of him. Nothing. He listened. Nothing. He swore and headed uphill, swinging the beam as he went. When he topped the first small ridge, he stopped to listen, but it wasn't necessary. Down ridge in front of him he saw the sweep of a flashlight beam. The same canopy that kept out moonlight prevented the growth of underbrush, and, but for the tree trunks, vision at the level of the forest floor was unobstructed. Larry started toward the moving light, closing rapidly. The forest floor was damp and quiet. Maynard was in no hurry.
It took only minutes for the first pool to become unbearably hot. Richard stood and waded out of the pool, water running down his clothing, steam rising from his body into the cool air. He had recovered but was exhausted. Looking toward the third pool, he saw no movement. He pulled a small penlight from a pocket hoping it would live up to its advertised waterproof capability. It did, and he used it to retrieve the pack. He upped the transmission power on the headset to maximum and tried to reach Larry. The lack of a response didn't surprise him; UHF was line of sight. Richard started uphill.
By the time he topped the ridge, the squishing in his boots had stopped. His clothing had cooled from the evaporation, but the physical effort had warmed him internally. He knew that he would either have to keep moving or return to the springs. Inactivity in the wet clothing would bring on hypothermia. He tried the radio again.
“Welcome back, what's your position?” Larry responded.
Richard found the GPS unit and hit the backlight switch. “Last four are north 0519, west 1438. What about you?”
“North 0572, west 1441. I'm one ridge-top ahead of you. Our boy is not careful; he doesn't vary his route. He's worn a path. Join up with me and we'll follow it in. Use a light all you want; there's a ridge between you and him.”
“On the way.” Richard punched Larry's coordinates into the GPS; it computed course and distance to his position. Every few minutes Richard stopped, pressed the compute key, and adjusted his direction.
Larry and Richard joined up in twenty-five minutes. Twenty minutes later they saw a campfire. They crept in close enough to identify Maynard and found him wolfing down a can of pork and beans.
Larry estimated them to be one hundred yards due south of the camp. Each twenty yards of north-south distance equaled a hundredth of a minute of latitude. He checked his GPS, accounted for the hundred yards, and recorded Maynard's camp as being at 44 degrees 6.64 minutes north, 122 degrees 14.47 minutes west.
“What now? I'm still wet, and I'm getting cold again,” Richard said.
“There's a fire going. Let's see how hospitable our friend is.”