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LEABURG — Thursday 07:00

Duncan went straight from bed to his computer and checked for e-mail. The encrypted file from Larry was waiting. He picked it up, decrypted and read it. It had the beginnings of a plan to embarrass the DEA, to focus attention on their local operation in hopes of making someone nervous enough to divulge what had actually happened. It would be a stab in the dark, but better than nothing. Duncan decided to consider the plan after running.

When he had run the day before, he had been too preoccupied with his grief to think of possible surveillance. This day he took that into account as he ran his usual four-mile circuit.

The route took him through two places where a car could be parked and left unattended without raising suspicions. First was an undeveloped area along the river used by fishermen to park and by transients, illegally, to camp. Second was a county park. His course took him through both areas twice, on the way out and again on the way back.

The undeveloped area was closest to his house; he memorized the license plates of the six cars parked there as he ran through. The county park had three cars; he added them to his mental list. After reaching the midpoint of his run, he retraced the route and added makes and colors to the list. When he reached home, he went to the computer, entered the information into a file, and saved and printed it.

It was now past eight. He phoned his attorney's office. Bill Batteman's secretary answered, and Duncan set up an appointment for three in the afternoon.

Next he composed a reply to Larry, agreeing with the principle of the plan, but supplying a better implementation. The last lines were a shopping list.

I need the following, which I don't want to be seen buying, and they must be untraceable.

A scanner that will pick up all law enforcement frequencies, especially those the DEA uses.

The smallest, lightest laptop you can find that has a 3.5-inch diskette drive. I'm assuming diskettes written on it may fall into DEA hands. A dozen diskettes for same.

A portable printer for the laptop. It should be as small and as quiet as possible. Printing speed is not a priority. Paper for same. Fifty sheets will be plenty. Again, the paper will fall into unfriendly hands.

I want a setup that will allow me to record what I see (i.e. car license plates, make, color) while on my daily run. It has to look like a CD or cassette player. You know, the kind you see runners wearing.

Have what you can get at Bill Batteman's office before 1430. I have a meeting with him at 1500. Getting the items has priority, but if you have time, I'll be in the University Library at the computer used to search newspaper abstracts from about 1300 until shortly before my meeting with Bill. You might be able to eyeball my tail. In any event, call me at Bill's at 1600.

Duncan exited the word processor, started the encryption program, and told it to encrypt his message. A few seconds later, two copies were on the computer's disk, the original and the encryption. He logged onto the Internet and sent the encrypted file to Larry's e-mail address. Knowing the technology existed to recover the last few overlaid bit patterns written on a disk, he used a utility program to overwrite both files seven times. The first pass wrote all zeroes, the second all ones, and the next five used randomly generated bit patterns.

Satisfied with his precautions, he spent the next hour making phone calls and then left the house and drove upriver. The drive out took him past the park; two of the three original cars were there, and an additional car had joined them. He penciled its license number and description to the printout with the others.

EUGENE — Thursday 08:00

John Schumaker knew his career as a DEA supervisor was over. It was rotten luck, the latest in a seemingly unending series of incidents in which people had let him down. The snitch had told him the name of the suspect was Tom Harris. How was John supposed to have known there was a son? He personally had inquired about Harris at the general store. McKenzie Bridge was only a wide spot in the road. Everyone knew everyone else and their business. They should have known Harris' son was staying with him, Schumaker thought; they should have told me.

And it didn't help that Wood had disappeared. Killough didn't seem concerned about that, and there had been no mention of it being related to the McKenzie Bridge bust. If Baxter was right, Wood was now chasing se­«▒ętas. But an agent under his control had run, and he had had no warning. They should have told me Wood was under suspicion, Schumaker thought; how can you do a good job if they don't give you good people?

But Baxter was his friend. Baxter would keep the others under control. All they had to do was tough it out, to stick to their story.

The recall to Washington had come yesterday afternoon. They had been nice about it, saying they wanted more people at headquarters with significant field experience.

Schumaker picked up his bags when he heard the car horn. Brian Killough was driving him to the airport. I hate that fat little shit.

MCKENZIE BRIDGE — Thursday 10:30

Duncan parked in front of Dolores's house feeling guilty he hadn't contacted her sooner. She had no phone. Dolores answered the knock, standing sideways, back a ways into the room, out of the light.

“Oh, Señor Duncan, it is so good to see you. I tried to call you when ...” Her hand went to her mouth, her eyes tearing.

“You did the right thing, Dolores.”

“I haven't been able to clean. They won't let me in. They say the house now belongs to the government. What is happening, Señor Duncan?” As she spoke, she forgot to keep her face turned.

Duncan recalled his father's warning that when Tom died, Joe Flynn would again become physically abusive. Tom had charged Duncan to do whatever was necessary to protect Dolores.

“Dolores, is your husband home?”

“Yes, Señor Duncan, he is asleep in the bedroom.” She looked down.

“Let's step outside.” Duncan led the way. “You know you don't have to put up with him striking you. You can have him thrown in jail for that.”

“But he is the father of my children, and when he got out of jail ...” She trailed off, looking away.

“Dolores, on Sunday I'm having a gathering at my house in memory of my wife and my father. It'll start at three in the afternoon. There'll be no funeral or religious observance, only this gathering. For now, I want you to go to my house every day like you went to my dad's, and I want you to prepare for Sunday.” Duncan fished in his pocket. “Here's money, a set of keys to the house, and Judy Batteman's phone number. You remember her. Call her, she'll tell you how many to expect, and you and she can decide what you need.”

“Yes, Señor.”

“Dolores, did my father tell you what he wanted to happen to his house after he died?”

“No, Señor.”

“Okay, I think you should go to my house now.” He wanted to tell her his father's house would be hers, but it was too soon, and there was the problem of Joe Flynn.

“To your house, now?”

“Yes, now. You'll be able to find everything you need. I want to talk to your husband.”

Dolores scurried into the house, returning with her purse and keys. She drove off, remembering the last time a Harris had wanted to speak to her husband privately. It had been over ten years ago, and he hadn't hit her since then—until this morning.

In Joe Flynn's dream, he couldn't breathe. A snake had wrapped itself around his neck, choking him. He was on the ground trying to get the snake off and trying to get up. With a mixture of panic and adrenaline, he threw off the nightmare and awoke to reality, but he still couldn't breathe and he still couldn't get up; there was something on him. He started flailing his arms and legs ... and the pain hit harder. It took a few moments for him to realize that when he struggled, the hurt became unbearable; when he relaxed, it subsided. He lay still and found he could breathe—a little. He could see, too, not clearly without his glasses, but enough to realize a man, a strong man, had him pinned to the bed.

The heel of his assailant's left hand was under Joe's chin, pushing his head back. The other hand encircled his larynx, squeezing Joe's esophagus between his cricoid, the ring-shaped cartilage at the lower part of the larynx, and his spinal column. His panicked response came from the pressure on his cricoid.

His assailant spoke. “Your wife worked for my father. Now she works for me. If you hurt her, I hurt you. Understand?”

Joe felt the grip relax. He could breathe now. The panic subsided, allowing him to think. He now knew. It was Tom Harris's son. He tried to speak but started coughing. The vise on his throat started to tighten.

“Do ... you ... understand?” Duncan said each word separately, loudly, and distinctly.

“Yes ... yes.”

As Duncan drove away from the house, he kept his eye on the side streets. On one he saw a dark blue four-door sedan parked facing his way. It appeared to be unoccupied. He caught the three letters of the license plate, SUL, with his peripheral vision but didn't catch the three numbers. He didn't have to, he knew they were 434. The game was in progress.

LEABURG — Thursday 11:15

The two agents in the bushes above Duncan's house were part of the group flown in to maintain a twenty-four hour surveillance. When Duncan had left, they had turned him over to the team in the park and maintained their surveillance on the house. When Dolores drove in, they noted the time and the car's license, make and color and had the glasses on her before she opened the door.

The two agents had only met yesterday. One was older, the other young, a trainee; he was keeping the log, the older man telling him what to write.

“Female Hispanic, probable courier,” the older said.

“Probable courier? How can you tell?”

“I can't, but that's what you write. Makes it look better later if you're trying to get a warrant. Besides, most of the time a spick or a nigger comes to a white suspect's house you can count on them being a mule or a user.”

The younger didn't like what he heard. His wife's maiden name was Gonzalez.

It was two Christmases ago that Dolores had last been in Ellie and Duncan's home and she took time walking through each room. The house had a far different atmosphere than her river home. The furnishings were equally fine, but they were light and airy, the choices of a younger woman. Dolores longed to be in the home of the elder Harris.

She entered one of the bathrooms to put more makeup on her right eye.

EUGENE — Thursday 11:45

The funeral home was Duncan's first stop. Tom Harris had given instructions several years ago for the disposal of his remains, cremation with the ashes to be turned over to his son. Duncan made the same arrangements for Ellie, signed the necessary papers and paid the bill. The bodies had been brought over that morning. Duncan declined to be present during the cremations and asked that the ashes be held until further notice.

Driving toward the University, Duncan parked at the nearest unmetered space he could find and walked three blocks to a small Chinese fast-food place popular with students. Ellie and he had often eaten there together, both always ordering pork fried rice, teriyaki chicken, and a coke. He took his tray to the booth Ellie and he preferred, sitting as usual with his back facing the street outside so that his wife, opposite him, would have the more interesting view.

Duncan looked across at the emptiness, smiled wanly to no one, slid his food across the table, and moved to the other side. He ate watching the passing students, the occasional customer entering, wishing one of them could be Ellie.

Duncan bought a roll of quarters from a bank on the edge of the campus. From the bank he proceeded to the University library, entering it at one p.m. with his laptop computer in its fabric case slung over his shoulder. He made no effort to check for Larry or a tail, but went directly to the computer used for searching newspaper abstracts, and retrieved four diskettes from the laptop's bag.

Having saved nothing from his earlier visit, he again started with 1992-93 and searched for DRUG AND RAID. Instead of displaying the results on the screen, he ordered them written to a diskette. Next he requested a search on DRUG AND INFORMANT NOT RAID. This produced all abstracts with the words drug and informant but eliminated any with the word raid. Thus he didn't duplicate the abstracts obtained during the first search. When the results of the second search had been transferred to the diskette, he removed it and labeled it 1992-93.

Next he requested 1991, waited for the automatic selector to load the new CD, repeated the same two searches, and wrote the results to a diskette labeled 1991. He repeated the process for 1990, the oldest year available on the machine, and filled two diskettes for that year.

Duncan collected the four diskettes and moved to a study table away from the few other people present. He set up his laptop and started a word processing program and inserted the diskettes one by one. In each case he accessed the results of the two searches on each diskette and inserted at the front of each file lines with the year and the search words. Then he caused the modified files to be written to the diskettes under a different file name than that used by the newspaper abstract machine. The result was that each diskette had two files on it written by his laptop and two files written by the newspaper abstract machine. Each computer had left its unique differences in signal recording, a difference traceable to whichever machine was used.

Duncan pushed aside the laptop, retrieved an eight and a half by eleven pad of paper and walked to one of the on-line catalog computers. He did a number of searches by subject and keyword, making occasional notes on the pad. Afterwards he disappeared into the stacks for fifteen minutes, returning with three books in hand.

Arriving back at the laptop, he was disappointed to find there were still four diskettes alongside it. He would have to be more obvious; his opponents had no daring. He looked at his watch and then quickly began packing his laptop, putting his notes and the diskettes in a side compartment of its case and hurrying off. A single diskette, the second copy of the 1990 abstracts was left lying on the table.

Larry Tanner smiled, when, one minute and ten seconds after Duncan had left, a man walked by the table and pocketed the diskette; Larry got him on film.

Duncan entered Bill Batteman's office at three to say he didn't need to see him, that he had come needing a secure place to work. Bill showed him to a conference room, giving him the video that had been delivered at eight-thirty and a large box delivered at noon. Duncan asked Bill to join him with a VCR at the end of the workday and to ask Judy Batteman to join them with Mexican takeout food around seven.

Duncan unpacked the just-purchased laptop computer, installed a word processor, and used it to scan the abstracts retrieved from the University machine, starting with the most recent and proceeding back in time. If the reported event contained no mention of error or official misconduct, he deleted it; otherwise he saved and printed it.

He was looking at a report from October of 1992, shaking his head, when Larry called. Duncan briefed him, asking him to retrieve everything from the office after everyone left and to deliver two packets he would find, the first to a local television reporter and the second to Washington, D.C.; instructions for the time and manner of delivery would be with each packet. In turn, Larry advised Duncan on his tailing agents' position and that they were driving a dark blue four-door sedan, license number SUL434.

Bill entered while Duncan was scanning mid 1991. He pushed a three-tiered cart with a television on top and a VCR on the middle shelf. Duncan continued scanning, acknowledging him by sliding a pile of papers in his direction.

Judy entered shortly after seven with the food, and all three ate while reading. Bill relayed the material he had finished to Judy page by page. After the food was consumed, there were three recurring sounds: Duncan pressing the computer keys, the little printer's soft whir and Judy repeatedly saying, “My God.”

Duncan pushed the computer away and spoke. “A diskette with a copy of everything you've read is going to be delivered to Kevin Brestle tonight.” His reference to the local, sensationalistic investigative TV reporter raised both Bill's and Judy's eyebrows. “It'll serve as background material to the video, which will also be in the packet.” Duncan turned on the television, standing in front of it with the cassette in hand.

“I've edited the material to make all occurrences of the word informant stand out in bold whenever the informant was later shown to be lying or mistaken or didn't exist.” He inserted the cassette but didn't press play.

“In this case the informant's name is Maynard Lippa. He's a not-very-bright young man they pay to watch people in the McKenzie Bridge area and at Cougar Hot Springs. The reason I want you here, Judy, is to get your reaction. The video is gross, but Brestle's a sensationalist. He'll blur only as much as he has to to make it legal and then air it. The story I want to feed him is this: here's the informant responsible for drug agents killing a prominent writer of children's books and the decorated World War II hero for whom she was caring. And here's how he spies on people.” Duncan pushed play.

It took a few moments for their eyes to interpret the infrared coloration filling the screen. The zoom lens pulled back, covering Maynard on the left and the couple in the pool farther out on the right. Maynard crouched behind a rock half his height. The couple was submerged to chest level.

The microphone had been on, but there were no human sounds, only running water. The camera centered on the couple and zoomed in close enough to show they were man and woman. The woman's cleavage showed, but her nipples were below water. The camera panned left to Maynard, pulling back to frame his full length. Details were clearly visible.

“He's disgusting,” Judy said.

The camera zoomed in on his head, the sound following. Water noise diminished. After several seconds, the camera pulled back and settled on Maynard's full profile, staying there except for an occasional zoom-out to show the couple. The pullbacks didn't allow pickup of detail on them, but they appeared to have shifted position to the edge of the pool. Then, with the camera on his full profile, Maynard climbed up and stood on the rock. A final pullback verified the presence of the couple and a last close-up of Maynard's head. The sound picked up heavy breathing over the background noise. The lens returned to include all of him, staying that way to the finish.

“This is sick. He's a pervert,” Judy said.

“He's a trusted instrument of the U.S. Government. His word, and that alone, was sufficient to send a heavily armed team against an author of children's books and a dying old man,” Duncan said.

“Turn around. Drive back they way we came—slowly.” Larry said when the van headlights picked up the sign that said Skinner's Butte Park was closed from eleven p.m. to six a.m. Richard gave him a questioning look, but he didn't supply any more direction.

Richard had grown used to this oft-played game. He refused to give his mentor the pleasure of asking aloud what they were about, remaining silent in spite of his curiosity, a curiosity aroused when they had stopped earlier at a convenience store. Larry had bought a can of chicken noodle soup and a can opener. When Richard asked what the items were for, Larry had simply smiled at him.

“Park there,” Larry said, pointing to unoccupied curbing two blocks from the park.

Five minutes later, they entered the park on foot. Larry led the way to a large, open grassy area.

“This looks as good as any. There should be plenty of them here. What do you think?” Larry said.

Richard kept his silence, not giving in. Larry opened the can, taking care to leave part of the top attached.

“Do you like chicken noodle soup?” Larry asked.

“Not cold.”

“Didn't think so.” Larry swung the open can, dispersing the contents over a wide area. “The can is the important thing. Here, you hold it, I'll catch'em.”

“Jesus, I may be a city boy, but I'm not going to fall for a snipe hunt.”

Larry smiled. Richard had asked, however indirectly. “We're not snipe hunting.”

Richard pursed his lips, refusing to be led further.


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