[previous chapter]    [next chapter]


EUGENE — Wednesday 21:30

Duncan entered the University of Oregon's Knight Library an hour and a half before closing time. He was no stranger to the building. As an undergraduate, he had used its enforced quietness as his preferred place of study, and the potential of the floors of books—the stacks—never failed to inspire him. In knowledge was power, the power to achieve your end, the power to avoid the mistakes others made. In those days Duncan had believed that if you studied hard, the inherent justice of the American system assured success.

After the confusion and death of southeast Asia, he had returned to the University as a graduate student, and again sought out the library's calmness in which to study, entering and leaving each day on a rigid, self-imposed schedule. In those days Duncan believed that knowledge and preparation would enable him to hold his own against a government that had betrayed him.

The lure of flying again seduced him after his graduate studies, but from time to time he returned to the library, perhaps to research a developing country prior to investing there, or to learn more of a culture he had come in contact with during his travels, or to brush up on one of his fields of interest. In those days Duncan believed you needed all the information you could find to confront the choices presented by an existence ruled by chance.

And Ellie and Duncan had met at the library. She had been trying to use one of the on-line catalog computer terminals to find a book published after the Library had discontinued updating their old card reference system. She had hated the computerized system, and her search had not been going well. Duncan had sat down at the next computer and was obviously manipulating it well. She thought he had a kind face and sought his help. Their romance blossomed from there.

This evening Duncan headed for another of the computers, the one holding abstracts of all articles published in the nation's eight major newspapers for the last several years. The question in his mind was whether what had happened to his family was an exception or had it happened to others. Was he dealing with people who normally behaved reasonably, or was it otherwise?

The computer he needed was available; summer session on the campus was a relaxed time. He knew from previous usage that the abstracts were organized by year. Each of the computer's compact disks held a separate year with the current year included on the CD containing the most recent full year. Duncan selected 1992-93 and a keyword search. An input box appeared asking for the search words. He entered DRUG AND RAID and sat back to wait. Ninety seconds later the computer reported one hundred and three abstracts with both of those words. Duncan brought them up on the screen one by one, scanning the contents, pausing if the screen reported conditions comparable to his.

His first reaction was amazement, then disbelief, then despair, and finally anger. How could this happen this often in the United States? What has happened to our civil rights?

For his next search he used the key DRUG AND INFORMANT NOT RAID. The computer came up with thirty-one entries. Again, abstract by abstract, he reviewed the results, mesmerized as tales of human misery and duplicity flashed across the screen.

A student worker broke the quiet with a loud voice informing all that the library would close in five minutes. Duncan hadn't even finished 1992-93. He decided to return in the morning and to bring diskettes. He would initiate the searches, transfer the resulting abstracts to a diskette, and review them at home.

COUGAR HOT SPRINGS — Wednesday 22:45

“Hello in the camp. We're lost. Can you give us some directions?” Larry shouted.

Maynard Lippa retreated from the fire, toward his lean-to. “Who are ya? I don't have any ... anythin' here.”

Larry and Richard walked within reach of the fire's light and stopped. “I'm Alan, that's Peter. We were trying to find some hot springs that are supposed to be up here someplace. Somebody said the women go naked in it. We figured we might be able to have a little fun, but then we got lost trying to circle around the back of the springs. Then my friend, here, fell in the water. He could sure use a little warmth from that fire.”

“Sure, come on in,” Maynard replied uncertainly.

“Jesus, I can't believe he bought that,” Richard said under his breath as they walked toward the fire.

“Never overestimate an idiot,” Larry replied in kind and then returned to his normal volume as they reached the fire. “Hey, many thanks. How far are we from the road?”

Larry and Richard faced Maynard across the fire. Richard took off his jacket, turned it inside out, and held it off to his side, closer to the fire than he.

“It's thataway, down the creek, 'bout half a mile. There's a path.”

“Great! Boy was I glad to see your fire. We were beginning to think we'd have to spend the night in the woods,” Larry said.

Maynard sized them up, noticing their clothing. Steam was rising from Richard's drying jacket.

“Y'all wear camouflage all the time?”

“No, but sometimes it's better,” Larry said. “I mean, some gals don't like to be watched, so we thought we'd be discreet about it. You know what I mean.”

Maynard brightened immediately. “Oh, yeah, an' they do a lot more when they don't know what yur watchin'.”

“You got that right.”

“T'nite there t'was a gal fuckin' a guy. She knew how ta do it, too.”

“No shit? You saw that? Wow! I wish I'd been there,” Larry said.

Richard turned, presented his back to the fire and Maynard, and gave Larry an incredulous look. He returned a smile.

“Say, if you go to the springs maybe you can help us out,” Larry said. “We're up from L. A. on vacation, but we thought we'd mix it with a little business. A friend of ours told us he'd done a little dealing at these springs. He said people here liked to do something a little stronger than pot, maybe a little nose candy. You know what I mean.”

Richard turned his eyes skyward.

“Ah, yeah, sure, people in the springs sometimes do coke.” Maynard paused, his eyes darting back and forth between the two men. “You goin' to be dealin'?” he asked tentatively.

“Maybe, but not much, we only brought a couple kilos with us, and no heroin,” Larry replied. “We don't do heroin, that's bad stuff. Scares me. But we thought we'd pay for our vacation by selling a little coke.”

“Ya got some with ya?”

“No, we don't carry it until we've had a chance to look around,” Larry said. “Safer that way. But if you want some or know somebody who does, we're carrying when we've got a blue knapsack with us. If you want to do a little dealing yourself, we can give you a good break on quantities of an ounce or more.”

Richard turned around and faced the fire.

“I might be int'rested. How much an ounce?” Maynard asked.

“A thousand bucks, and it's good stuff, uncut,” Larry answered.

“So yur goin' to be at the springs tomorrow?”

“No, I figure Friday afternoon. You know, the start of the weekend crowd. Think that'd be a good time?”

“Yeah, Friday night, Saturday Sunday, they're all good. An' after it gets dark people go ta the campgrounds up beyon' the res'rvoir. They gotta be two miles away afta dark. I could maybe show ya where the campgrounds are.”

“Hey, we could spot you a couple of lines for that,” Larry offered.

“So where kin I meet ya? Ya could come here an' I could show ya where the springs are.”

“We know how to get to them from the parking lot. We didn't get lost until we tried to circle around behind them. Friday we'll go into the springs, act like everybody else, get in the water. You have to talk to people to make sales, and if they're naked, you know they don't have a wire on them, right?”

“You mean y'all will git nakid?”

“Sure, we do it all the time,” Larry said.

Richard put his hand to his forehead, shielding his face.

Larry and Richard left the camp by the path along the creek. As soon as they were out of sight, they circled right to retrieve their packs and watch Maynard. By the time they were in position, he was packing a knapsack. When he finished, he put out his campfire and started down the trail.

They waited until his light had disappeared and then reentered the camp. Richard watched for Maynard's possible return while Larry inspected the contents of the lean-to. It didn't take long; there was little there. He copied information from some letters and pocketed two small pieces of paper.

“What did we gain by all that?” Richard said as they walked the path to the road, their headsets on again with the transmission power at the lowest level.

“The least we'll have done is shake the DEA's confidence in their man. He'll report to them, they'll set up for a bust, we won't show. It'll make'em nervous. And maybe we'll come up with a better idea by Friday. Besides, it got you warm, didn't it?”

When the two men reached the road, Richard shed his pack and started jogging toward the bicycle left in the brush. Larry stayed with the equipment. Richard recovered the bicycle, rode it to the van, and drove back to Larry's position, reaching it an hour and fifteen minutes after having left him.

“About time. I was starting to get cold, and you know how that bothers me.”


EUGENE — Thursday 01:30

Larry spoke as he got out of the van at the River Valley Inn. “I should have said we'd have a yellow knapsack. Do they make yellow knapsacks?”

“You've got an idea?” Richard said.

“Blue knapsacks are too common. I should have come up with a knapsack so unique it would draw them in regardless of who was carrying it. It still might work. I'll run it by Duncan and see what he thinks.” Larry closed the van door and walked toward the lobby, leaving Richard shaking his head.

Larry started working on his laptop computer as soon as he entered his room. Thirty minutes later he e-mailed an encrypted file to Duncan and checked if there was anything for him. Duncan and he had agreed to check for e-mail each day upon rising and before retiring.

Before crawling into bed, Larry called Richard, who answered on the second ring.

“Glad to see you're there instead of out cruising.”

“I'm a little tired tonight. Some asshole caused me to get hypothermia.”

“Yeah, well, sleep fast. I want you to make a copy of the video and of the two receipts I found and have them at Duncan's attorney's office at 0900.” Larry followed that with the address.

MCKENZIE BRIDGE — Thursday 03:00

Her husband's shouting awakened Dolores Rodriguez Flynn. As usual, he couldn't get the key in the lock. “Goddammit, you fat Mexican whore, open the door.”

She jumped out of bed, pulling on a housecoat as she hurried to the door. She unlocked and opened it and stood off to the side to close it once he came through. He lurched into the room, paused in front of her and stared. She stayed still, eyes downcast. He raised his right hand to the top of his head, smoothed his hair, and then, with all the force his drunken body could muster, brought the hand down across his wife's face, knocking her to the floor. She screamed and curled into a fetal position, crying. He kicked her twice in the back and was trying for a third when he lost his balance and fell. Righting himself, he stood over her, swaying, and shouted.

“Things are goin' to be diff'rent aroun' here now that that meddlin' old man is dead, real diff'rent.” And he stumbled off to bed.

Dolores lay sobbing. She had not felt so alone in all her life. When she stopped crying, she went to the kitchen and cleaned the blood off her face. Her right eye was already swelling. From the kitchen she went to the bedroom and crawled into bed next to her snoring husband.


[previous chapter]    [next chapter]