COUGAR HOT SPRINGS — Friday 06:00
Larry and Richard parted after their surreptitious entry into Kevin Brestle's apartment, Larry to get a few hours rest before catching a plane to Washington, D. C., Richard to prepare for an all day surveillance at Cougar Hot Springs.
That Maynard Lippa had told the DEA of Larry's fictitious plan to deal cocaine Friday afternoon and evening was a safe bet. That the agency would set up a surveillance was a reasonable gamble. That Brestle would try to contact Maynard was anyone's guess, but Larry wanted to report whatever happened to Duncan. He detailed the task to Richard.
The assignment pleased him. Increasingly, as his skills improved, Larry treated him more as an associate than an apprentice. It was he who had made the entry into Brestle's place while Larry served as lookout. And he had decided to place the material snug against the door, ensuring that Brestle could not leave without moving it. Not being able to use the door for his exit had required Richard to rappel out of the third floor apartment. Larry had berated him for that, telling him it had been an unnecessary risk. Richard knew Larry was right, but it had been fun and spoke of a certain style.
Richard drove past the hot springs parking lot at first light. He stopped and left his backpack beyond where Larry and he had previously unloaded. Continuing, he turned up the same side road as before. Not liking to use the same place twice in a row, he passed the earlier parking place and found another. After the ritual of hiding the van, he started off on the bicycle.
Arriving back at his pack, he hid the bike, put on the backpack, and continued on foot. He assumed that Maynard and any accompanying agents would approach from above the springs on the side of the ridge to the north. The site was closest to Maynard's camp and afforded the best view. Using his GPS receiver, he navigated to the opposite ridge, approaching from below the springs.
After locating the pools, he scouted about for a secure position with a view, finally finding a natural depression under a fallen tree. It couldn't be seen from the back or sides from more than ten feet away. Frontal exposure, towards the springs, was a shaded slit three feet long and eight inches high in the middle. From the depression he had a clear view of the pools, the last hundred yards of the trail, and the hillside above the springs, but was far enough away that anyone wanting to see detail would be between him and the pools.
The springs were empty, still in deep shadow. Richard pulled a sleeping bag from his pack, took off his shoes, crawled in and set his watch alarm for eleven a.m. Sleep came quickly.
LEABURG — Friday 09:00
Duncan had returned from running a single four-mile circuit. He had worn the modified Sony Walkman supplied by Larry, and each time he passed a parked car, he spoke the description and license number. Once home, he played back the recording, adding to his list of license numbers.
After showering and dressing, Duncan sat in his living room, windowed walls in front and in back of him. He knew that someone was probably observing the back of his neck, but it mattered not, he was watching the ever-changing river in front of him. When Ellie had died, how long had it taken the water that was at that moment running by his father's house to reach here?Where was it now?Had it yet reached the ocean?
He decided about the ashes. He would scatter them into the water in front of his father's house. They would sweep down past where he still now mourned, into the Willamette, into the Columbia, into the Pacific. They had died together; they would be committed together.
Defeated for the moment, Duncan felt the pain of his loss sweep over him anew. He rested his head on his hands, but he did not weep.
EUGENE — Friday 10:00
Kevin Brestle didn't see the material on the floor until he was leaving; it sat inside the door, centered in the doorway, snug against the door itself. What appeared to be videotape was on the bottom, a computer diskette was on top; paper sheets separated them. It scared him for a moment, but then he became angry. Someone had violated his privacy.
The television reporter squatted in front of the small pile. It was, indeed, a tape. The protective case was clear plastic; he could see the cassette inside. The diskette was the three and one half-inch variety that didn't require a sleeve for protection. He stood and looked at the door. It couldn't be opened without moving the pile. Whoever had left this had to have exited his apartment some other way.
He considered trying to preserve fingerprints, but gave in to his impatience, rationalizing that no one clever enough to do this would be dumb enough to leave prints. The single-spaced, printed note read:
Kevin pressed the power switch on his VCR, popped in the cassette and hit the play button. He then crossed to his computer and turned it on. The leader on the tape gave him time to move to his always-on computer and insert the diskette. Maynard's image came on screen. Kevin required but a few seconds of watching before picking up the phone and dialing the direct line to his news Director. He didn't bother identifying himself. “I've got a hot one. I'll be there in half an hour. We're going to need legal in on this, the station manager, maybe even a rep from the owners, and tell editing I'm bringing in a VHS cassette that's going to need a delicate touch.”
COUGAR HOT SPRINGS — Friday 11:00
Richard's watch alarm awoke him at eleven. He stowed the sleeping bag in his pack after taking out binoculars, a spotting scope with a tripod, the video camera, a 35-mm. camera and a radio frequency scanner with earpiece. Inserting the earpiece, he turned off the squelch on the scanner, making it a nuisance to listen to, but giving it maximum sensitivity.
Periodically he searched the hillside with the binoculars. He conducted each search using a four-pass procedure. The first he did slowly with no filter over the binoculars' lenses, trying to spot movement. The next three passes were quicker, each with a different filter; the objective was pattern recognition. The whole process took five minutes, after which he rested for ten minutes.
Richard was eating the two sandwiches and drinking the chocolate milk he had brought for lunch when the scanner paused momentarily. He terminated the scan and manually backed up the receiver to the frequency on which it had paused. There was nothing but static, but he left it on the frequency and shortened the resting period between binocular searches to five minutes.
At twelve-thirty he heard a voice through the static, but he couldn't understand it. His ear told him the transmitter wasn't in this drainage. He knew an assault team would go to radio silence before getting close, but would open up again when they were secure. Radio silence was a pain in the ass.
Richard stopped resting between searches, keeping the binoculars on the hillside constantly. He smiled, knowing that successful espionage was often a matter of superior equipment, and Larry and he had the best money could buy. When that wasn't good enough, Larry knew how to modify it.
When nothing more came out of the static for ten minutes, Richard looked away from the hillside to reactivate the scan. When he went back to watching the hillside, he saw a suggestion of movement at the upper left perimeter of the binoculars' field. Centering there, he could see nothing unusual with the unfiltered lenses. Rapidly he attached the first filter. Nothing showed; he switched to the second. Something didn't fit. He switched to the third filter; it showed a pattern that didn't fit. He switched to the spotting scope, used its wide angle setting to center the target, and zoomed it to maximum magnification, zeroing in on the upper right side of a bush.
The scope showed the left shoulder and head of a stationary man using binoculars, looking down towards the hot springs. The man stayed put for fifteen minutes, obviously an advance lookout checking the area for other surveillants. Richard was pleased with himself, knowing that had he not arrived until now, he would have run the risk of being spotted, though thus far the man had kept his binoculars trained well inside his position. The four hours he had spent waiting had been time well spent.
The man raised a camouflaged arm, waving it back to front. Switching to his binoculars, Richard spotted six others coming down the ridge carelessly, assured by their lookout that all was well. When they came within sight of the springs, they dropped to a crawl and took up their positions. Of the seven men, Richard could then see five, and one of them was Maynard. The other two were out of sight in locations on Richard's ridge but well inside him. He noted each man's position on a pad of paper.
The waiting continued. For his part, Richard watched the trail with his unaided eyes. When someone came along, he looked them over with the glasses. Periodically he used the spotting scope and his notes to check on the locations of the other surveillants. They were usually in the same place. If not, he always found them within a few feet of each man's earlier position and updated his notes accordingly. The radio remained quiet.
COUGAR HOT SPRINGS — Friday 17:00
Kevin Brestle peeled down to the swimsuit he had put on underneath his pants. His companion, a young blonde female, did the same. They quickly entered the third pool, feeling out of place being the only two of twenty with any covering. It wasn't Kevin's first time in the springs, but it was his first with clothing. He had considered conforming, but under the circumstances had decided that he and Cindy would wear suits; it would cut down on the editing and forestall complaints to the station.
The conversation in the pools was friendly, and Kevin and Cindy joined in. It was a tolerant crowd. A few had beers in hand or propped against rocks. One couple preferred wine, accompanied by French bread and cheese. Those in the upper pools stayed in only for short periods, coming out to cool off, the braver ones sitting down in the ice-cold stream running alongside. The heating-cooling cycle was far slower in the third pool.
Kevin frequently leaned back and let himself slide further into the water; it was an excuse to look at the hillside. After a bit he would sit upright, then slide further around the pool's perimeter, then repeat the procedure. He saw nothing. Are people in camouflage really so hard to see?
Cindy kept pace with Kevin as best she could, trying to look around in a casual manner. If a body blocked their way, the two of them shifted toward the center. On one of the center shifts, Cindy leaned toward him.
“Do you see anything?I don't,” she said.
“Nothing. If he's there, he's well hidden. Relax, we've got three hours of light, and the guys will be here soon.”
“Three hours. I hope it doesn't take that long. I'll be a prune.”
One couple got out of the pool, dressed and left. A newly arrived pair preferring the second pool replaced them. The next arrivals were two men. Both wore caps, and one had a bright blue knapsack. The older of the two had a beard; the younger was Chinese.
Cindy leaned toward Kevin. “I think he looks good in a cap, don't you?” she chirped. “It goes with his beard. ”
Kevin didn't reply. Crazy female, her husband's trying to do a job, and she insists on coming along for the fun. Kevin hadn't objected, knowing it would appear more natural for him to arrive with a companion than alone. It wasn't the first time he'd had another man's wife in the springs, but it was the first with the husband present.
“Is that them?” Baxter asked. “Use your binoculars.”
Maynard raised his field glasses, looking toward the two men. He had to adjust the focus; the walking figures were farther away than the blonde in the third pool.
He stared at the two men, the black beard, the Asian face, the blue pack, and wondered what he could buy with twenty-five percent of the replacement value of two kilos of cocaine. “Yeah, that's them.”
“We'll wait to see if they get any comers. If not, we'll send you down to make a buy.” Baxter keyed his radio, “Gentlemen, we have positive identification; we have probable cause. Move in as close as you can.”
Richard saw the two men approaching the springs and positioned a finger on his scanner. When he heard the transmission, he pressed the button that locked the frequency being received, put the radio down and reached for his camcorder and 35-mm. He watched the surveillants inch closer, capturing the process on video and getting closeups with the 35 mm.
Thirty minutes passed. The two men sat on a log away from the pools, the blue knapsack between them. The young Asian first noticed the man coming down the hill. He nudged the beard, who looked toward the springs and made a small gesture out of sight of the approaching figure.
The radio crackled, “Heads up! The bearded suspect gave somebody in the springs a high sign,” Longstreet said from his viewpoint across the creek.
“That's not good. Watch out for our man's safety. We're committed now,” Baxter responded, wondering if Maynard's account of his being beaten and the accompanying threat had been true.
Kevin saw his cameraman's signal, but couldn't see the reason for the signal until he stood. Recognizing Maynard Lippa from the video, he sloshed out of the pool and started up the bank.
“Man coming out of the pool,” Longstreet radioed.
In a few seconds both Kevin and Maynard were equidistant from the cameraman, on opposite sides. The man, who had been smiling at Maynard, turned his head and looked at Kevin. Kevin nodded. The cameraman leaned down, unzipped the pack and reached in for his equipment.
A torrent of words issued from Richard's radio, “... signal from the guy in the bathing suit ... opening the pack, going for something ... everybody watch it ...”
Maynard saw the man coming out of the pool and slowed. He couldn't make the buy with somebody else there. Maybe that guy will make a buy, he thought. Then he looked at the bearded man. He wasn't the same to him; something was wrong. He looked at the Asian, but that didn't help; they all looked the same. Maynard stopped and turned, looking up toward Baxter's position. What should he do?
Kevin scrambled past the cameraman, reaching toward Maynard. “Maynard Lippa, you're Maynard Lippa, aren't you?” he said. Maynard half turned, looking scared, and started running up the hill.
The cameraman's left hand closed around his wireless microphone. He drew its long, black cylinder from the pack and handed it to Kevin as he went by. Kevin grabbed it and extended it toward Maynard, hoping to record his first words.
“... there's a gun ... handoff ... aiming ... take him out ...,” the transmissions overlapped.
Longstreet was centered on Kevin Brestle's retreating back. He had a clear shot, but everything in him said, not again. He hesitated.
For Jameson, upstream from the pools, it was a shot at a target moving right to left and about to disappear. He had time for one just one.
Most on the hillside dropped to the ground at the report from the gun. Brestle went down screaming in pain. In the springs, the blonde saw her cameraman husband drop, heard Brestle's cry and thought her husband had been shot. She scrambled up the bank, shouting his name in panic.
Baxter stood and shouted into a bullhorn, “Everyone down, everyone down,” and then into his radio, “Close in, close in.” All six agents converged with guns drawn and pointed.
The bathers panicked. A man in the third pool took a deep breath and submerged. Most left the water in spite of Baxter's command, trying to wriggle between the large rocks beside the pools, shrieking when they scratched and cut themselves in the process. Some went for the few bushes around, usually slipping on the wet rocks, falling heavily and adding to the screaming.
A recently arrived couple who had just completed undressing chose to take cover under the rock overhanging the first pool. They jumped into the water and were immediately scalded. As they tried to get out, screaming, the man stepped in front of Longstreet as he crossed between the first and second pools. The two collided, sending both into the top pool's near boiling water and causing Longstreet to fire his weapon. The bullet ricocheted harmlessly, but the report set off another round of pandemonium.
Maynard collapsed in terror. Baxter charged down the hill to protect him. As he passed the prone snitch, his boot heel came down on Maynard's outstretched right hand, breaking three fingers and eliciting a high-pitched scream.
One couple managed to reach the trail. They were last seen running naked down the trail toward the parking lot, yipping loudly at each encounter with the trail's small, sharp stones.
Richard choked trying to stifle his laughter. He leaned back from the spotting scope, leaving the video camera running on its tripod, and buried his face in his pack to keep from giving away his position, though he doubted anyone would have noticed had he stood on top of the log and guffawed.
Kevin Brestle, whom Richard saw had only a leg wound, completed the slapstick comedy. He laid on the ground shouting, “I've been shot! I'm going to die! I've been shot! I'm going to die. . .”