LEABURG — Friday 22:00
At ten p.m. , Duncan slipped a cassette into his VCR to record the news from Kevin Brestle's station. Brestle wasn't at his usual seat at the news desk and no mention was made of his absence. Twenty minutes into the program, the newscaster announced they would go to sports earlier than normal to allow them to cover a late-breaking story at the end of the news time slot.
Not a sports fan, Duncan used the time to fix himself a cup of tea.
Following the sports report, the station cut live to Kevin Brestle laying on a gurney. Bloody bandages were arranged within camera view, and the reflection of still-flashing red ambulance lights showed in the background.
The camera closed in on the microphone in Brestle's hand.
Brestle signed off. The camera stayed on him as he was wheeled into the emergency room.
“Included in the information received were these receipts signed by the alleged informant, Maynard Lippa,” the station newscaster continued. The camera cut to the two receipts and, as the reporter spoke, video special effects highlighted Maynard's name, his signature, the amounts, and reasons for payment. “Finally, the anonymous source supplied a video of the alleged informant watching the hot springs. We've obscured portions to remain within the bounds of broacast limitations.”
Maynard Lippa's full-length image, blurred in the middle, came on the screen. A single pan to the couple in the pool, also appropriately obscured, was shown. “The unusual color is due to infrared lighting.”The view returned to Maynard with the couple at far right. “Infrared lighting is invisible to the human eye without special goggles or lenses.”Finally, the screen centered on Maynard's upper half for three seconds, after which the newscasters signed off with a statement there would be more on the story tomorrow.
Duncan stopped the recording and sat back, disturbed. He had expected Brestle to sensationalize whatever happened, but what Duncan had seen was too much. He wanted to embarrass the DEA, to place them in a vulnerable position for negotiating, not to back them into a corner. What had happened up there? He hoped Richard could fill him in.
Duncan went to bed at eleven p.m. after setting his alarm for one a.m. , but he didn't sleep. His mind rolled back through the years to his first association with Greg Ballentine. Their friendship had developed quickly, propelled by their being in a strange land, facing an implacable enemy. But their relationship involved more than that; they had truly liked each other. It was a friendship that would have taken root even if they had only met in the States, working at the most mundane of jobs. Had that been the case, they probably would have stayed friends.
It was the means the CIA chose to finance its secret Hmong army in Laos that had driven them apart. The Hmong had grown opium for years. The agency persuaded them to increase production manyfold, and ordered its airline, Air America, to fly the opium to CIA controlled laboratories for processing into heroin. When the pilots found out what they were carrying, they were told the drugs were for large-scale sting operations. When the truth became obvious, most either shrugged or demanded part of the action, but Duncan rebelled.
He had no objection to drugs per se, feeling people had a right to put whatever they chose into their own bodies, but the hypocrisy of his own government trafficking in massive quantities of heroin in Southeast Asia while imprisoning citizens at home for ingesting small amounts was too perfidious for his idealism. With his usual flair, he attempted to expose the operation.
The CIA chose Greg Ballentine to put down Duncan's rebellion. Greg believed the end justified the means; Duncan did not, and over that issue their friendship foundered. Greg's failure to contain Duncan ruined Greg's promising CIA career.
Duncan's contract with Air America was terminated. He was sent home with the promise that the agency would stop the drug running as soon as possible and admonished that it was his patriotic duty to not embarrass his government in this difficult situation.
Duncan returned to his father's home in Oregon and, from time to time, was visited there by friends as they bailed out of the failing U.S. Southeast Asian operations. Many of these friends stayed for extended periods while getting their bearings, and it became clear to Duncan from talking with them that the ready availability of drugs as a source of financing remained too great a temptation for the CIA to ever forego.
He again tried to draw official attention to the outrage, contacting the U.S. Representative from his district and both of his state's Senators. At that point, the duplicity of his former employers became clear. While publicly denying having anything to do with running drugs, they portrayed him as having been terminated because of evidence that he had been smuggling heroin. The evidence was recounted to those he had contacted. Duncan was written off as a malcontent wanting revenge.
After that, he gave up on the problem, defeated by the hopelessness of the task and his own growing cynicism concerning government, but he liked to think that he had had some small part in having made the CIA's alliances with drug traffickers common knowledge. He had watched in detached despair as the trail of drug assisted covert operations came to light down through the years, finally feeling vindicated when the details of Air America were published in a book that dealt openly with CIA complicity in the global drug trade. [REF1401]
At one a.m. the alarm sounded. Duncan rose but didn't turn on any lights. He dressed in a pair of black jeans, a black sweatshirt, and his running shoes. Though not ideal night-camouflage, it would do. His opponents would be relaxed, watching primarily for vehicular movement. He pocketed the roll of quarters he had bought earlier and exited the house through an open window on the river side. Moving immediately to the water's edge, he walked upstream and was out of sight of the house in less than fifty yards. He moved another ten yards and sat down to watch his back trail for fifteen minutes. Nothing happened.
Duncan knew his property and all of the adjoining area well, and without difficulty he found his way in the blackness along the river to the county park. The park and its parking area were deserted. The large, central restroom had two pay phones mounted at the center of its front wall.
Duncan opened the roll of quarters and cradled them in one hand. He used the first for a local call to Richard, who in turn gave him the number of a cellular phone in Washington, D. C. and told him the cost of calls to the Washington, D. C. area code. Duncan then asked for a briefing on what had happened at the hot springs. The account left Duncan smiling and shaking his head but thankful that no one had been seriously hurt.
Duncan made the next call using the credit card number.
“Good morning,” Larry Tanner answered.
“You missed an interesting piece on the late news tonight. Things got a bit out of hand.”
“So I hear. A friend recorded it for me. I'll have a look at it when I get back.”
“How's your position? Are you secure?”
“I'm good until the traffic picks up. I can see your package on the addressee's doorstep, and unless he snuck out the back, he's home.”
“I'm making the call now.” Duncan used his shoulder to hold the receiver against his left ear and picked up and put the second pay phone to his right ear.
WASHINGTON, D. C. — Saturday 05:30
The phone awakened Greg at precisely five in the morning. He swung to an upright position while repeating, “Gregory Ballentine speaking. Gregory Ballentine speaking.”He sought always to present an aura of preparedness, and he knew the first words spoken in the morning or words spoken while horizontal sounded sleepy. His solution was to never answer the phone until he was vertical and had twice repeated his greeting.
He picked up the phone and said for the third time, “Gregory >Ballentine speaking.”
“Hello, Greg. You sound awfully chipper for this time of the morning. Do you still do that bit of sitting up and talking to yourself before answering the phone?”
Greg felt his stomach knotting. “Who is this?”
“Duncan Harris here, Greg. You know, the man you told Brian Killough to keep under surveillance.”
“Duncan, glad to hear from you.” Shit! “It's been a long time, but I'm afraid I don't know what you're talking about.”
“Greg, you should be more original. That's what you said to me twenty years ago when I confronted you about having me fly drugs for the CIA.”
Greg didn't respond.
“Cat got your tongue, eh? I don't blame you. It's hard to think creatively right out of the sack, even if you have talked to yourself already. Greg, there's a package for you on your front porch. Read the material, look at the video, and call my attorney with your offer. By the way, tell Brian a good operative always clears a phone with a redial memory after calling out. Have a good day, Greg, have a good day.” Duncan hung up.
Greg thought about calling DEA security people to check his front porch, but decided against it when he recalled Duncan's weird sense of humor. He pulled on pants and a shirt and went to the front door, unlocking it but leaving the chain latched. Pulling the door open a crack, he looked out and down. A small, cardboard box sat on the porch. He closed the door, retreated backwards a few feet, and thought.
The box could be lethal. It was big enough to be a bomb, plenty big enough. He could call the bomb squad; that would be reasonable. When a high official in a federal law enforcement agency finds a package on his doorstep, the possibility of a bomb cannot be discounted. Damn you, Dunk! God damn you!
Greg found a broom; he would at least take simple precautions. Opening the door a crack, he extended the broom handle through and moved the box slightly. Nothing. Next he tapped the box on its top. Still nothing. Finally, steeling himself, he delivered three hard whacks to the top, drew in the broom, closed the door, and retreated to wait. It would be like Dunk to use delayed action. At that moment the phone startled him. He picked it up with a sweaty hand.
“Greg Bal ... Gregory Ballentine speaking.”
“Jesus, Greg, quit beating on it. Just get it and open it. It won't hurt you. You leave it out there much longer and somebody's going to steal it,” Duncan said and hung up.
“Damn you! Damn you!” Greg slammed the phone down, crossed to the front door, opened it, and stood on the porch trying to see from where he had been observed. All was quiet, nothing moved. “Damn you!” He picked up the box, took a final scowling look up and down the street, and retreated inside.
The box opened easily once he straightened out the dents from the beating. Inside he found a sheaf of papers, videotape, and a small can. The can had had its top removed with a can opener and then had been reclosed by reattaching the lid with a single piece of packing tape. Greg pulled the top off and looked inside. He had opened a can of worms.
Greg watched the video, read the documentation and Duncan's demands, and wondered how it was that God had planted on this earth a man so gifted as Duncan with the ability to frustrate the lives of others.
Greg then called Brian Killough in Oregon, waking him out of a sound sleep, and politely asked if there was anything amiss. Brian said no, the day had ended with the people sent out from D. C. watching Duncan—he was at home—and the local agents on an operation unrelated to the Harris case. Since it was Friday, Brian had decided to sample the local nightlife, which had turned out to be non-existent.
Greg was about to switch from polite to threatening when he heard the call-waiting signal; he put Brian on hold. The caller was the Director of the DEA.
“Talk to me, Greg. What the hell is happening in Oregon?”
“It's ... confusing, sir. I'm getting two conflicting stories. I'm talking to Brian Killough now, trying to straighten things out. What do you know?”
“What I know is that a Senator wakes me out of a sound sleep wanting to know if we make a regular practice of shooting journalists and using sexual deviates for informants, that's what I know. I can't reach anybody in Oregon. What the fuck is going on?”
Damn you, Duncan. I don't know anything about any journalists being shot, but I think I know where the sexual deviate business is coming from. Did the Senator say who his source of information was?”
“Talk radio. He's in California driving home from a party and hears some blabbermouth talking about seeing the late news on TV out of Oregon. This nut is saying they had an interview of a TV reporter in the hospital claiming he'd been shot by the DEA, and then they showed a video of some pervert beating off who's supposed to be one of our informants. Greg, does this have anything to do with your ex-CIA buddy?”
“I believe it does. He called me this morning to tell me there was a package on my doorstep.”
“Jesus. He knows your telephone number and where you live?”
“Obviously he found out.”
“What was in the package?”
“A video of our informant beating off.”
When the Director finally hung up, Greg switched back to Brian, who had dutifully stayed on the line. “Brian, did you watch the late news on TV there?”
“No, sir ... should I have?”
“Yes, Brian, you should have,” Greg answered in an exaggerated, long-suffering tone. “It would have enabled me to have an answer for the Director—his was the call waiting—and would have enabled him to have an answer for the Senator who got him out of bed.”
“Has something happened?Do you want me to do something?”
“Yes, Brian, I do. I want you to get your ass out of bed and find out what has happened there. I want you to find out what was broacast on the late news there. I want you to find out what is going to be appearing in the morning paper there. I want you to find out why we can't reach anybody on the phone there. I want you to find out why a video of our snitch with his hand on his dick appeared on TV there. I want you to find out why we shot a journalist there. ”
His volume had increased with each succeeding sentence. When Brian didn't immediately respond, Greg screamed into the phone, “Are you there, Brian? Say something, goddammit!”
EUGENE — Saturday 08:00
Duncan knew from Richard's briefing that Kevin Brestle's wound was minor. He suspected Brestle had checked into the hospital to sensationalize his having been shot. If so, Brestle wouldn't stay there long. Inactivity was not his style.
Duncan arrived at the open door of Brestle's private room at ten after eight in the morning. Brestle was dressing and already had his pants on. The left pant leg of an expensive pair of slacks had been unnecessarily cut off below the knee. A large bandage was wrapped around his calf. Brestle was looking downward, pressing on the bandage. He looked older in person than on TV. Duncan guessed him to be in his early forties instead of the late thirties. Duncan decided to be straightforward.
“Back in the sixties in Laos, if we wanted the blood to show through a bandage, we'd put alcohol on the wound to thin the blood and then wet the bandage a little,” Duncan said. “Impressed the hell out of the women.” Duncan extended his hand. “I'm Duncan Harris.”
Brestle considered him for a moment and spoke as he shook Duncan's hand. “My guess is that you may be the person responsible for my having this wound, indirectly of course. ”
“I, of course, haven't the foggiest notion of what you're talking about. I came to give you a piece of information. The DEA has seized my father's house. His will leaves that house and property to his housekeeper of twenty years, Dolores Flynn. You can call his attorney for verification.” Duncan extended Bill Batteman's card. “I'm hoping the DEA can be induced to allow her to get the home. She deserves it.”
Brestle took the business card.”I won't be manipulated, Mr. Harris.”
“What you do with the information is entirely up to you, Mr. Brestle. It was nice meeting you.” Duncan turned to go, but then turned back and looked around the room. The pair of scissors Brestle had used to cut off his pant leg was laying on the bedstand. Duncan grasped the scissors in his right hand. He spread his left hand, tightening the skin between the first finger and thumb and snipped into it slightly with the scissors. Blood flowed immediately and Duncan squatted and rubbed the wound on the part of Brestle's bandage on which he had been pressing. “Put a little water on that now and it'll look great.”
Duncan stood and left, leaving Brestle open-mouthed.
OVER WYOMING — Saturday 12:00
For the second time in his life, Greg Ballentine's career rode on his ability to contain Duncan Harris. The Director had been quite clear about that. Greg had said the Oregon situation could be contained. They had proceeded on that basis, and the situation had gotten worse. The responsibility to protect the agency's interest was his.
Greg's confidence level was not high. The only comforting thought was that, should he fail this time, he was at least vested for full retirement.
“Marsh, what do you think?” Greg said, addressing Marshall Pressman, the DEA's senior legal counsel, seated across the aisle in the Gulfstream business jet, the agency's best.
“The evidence is damning. We wouldn't stand a chance if it were admitted.” Pressman removed his thick glasses and rubbed his eyes. “The agents would go to prison for manslaughter, violation of civil rights, and obstruction of justice. If you continue on your present course, you'll be putting yourself on shaky ground insofar as the obstruction of justice issue is concerned. ”
“Obstruction of justice? There isn't a day that doesn't happen inside the beltway. It's part of the job. ”
“True, but people do occasionally go to prison on that charge. Anyway, admissibility is the key. Evidence obtained illegally is normally not admissible. However, the courts have allowed such evidence when it has been shown that it could reasonably be expected that the evidence would otherwise have been destroyed. It hasn't happened often, but it is a possibility. Can Harris show that?”
“I don't know. Marsh, I want you with me through every step of this, especially when I meet with Dunk.”
“That's Duncan Harris's nickname.”
“Ah, yes, short for Duncan.”
“No, the similarity with his first name is a coincidence. When I first met him they were calling him The Dunker, but that got shortened to Dunk. They had this situation when they were flying rice into an airstrip at a Hmong village. All the able bodied men were away fighting the CIA's war and some degenerate was acting as the headman. He was holding the rice and making the women and children pay for it. Dunk landed one day on a rice delivery—he'd heard what was happening—and decided to fix the problem. He grabbed the headman and threw him into an open cesspool. Then he waded in and held the man's head under the slop, dunked him in it. Dunk nearly drowned the man and then told him he'd finish the job if he ever charged for the rice again.”
Marshall was silent for several seconds before speaking.”Is this man mentally stable?”
“Ha, ha, people did wonder, but, yes, he's stable. He has realized, though, that if you are willing to do the unexpected, the unthinkable, the outrageous, you have an advantage. It's an advantage he's often used, and when he does it, he hasn't lost his temper. Whatever it is, he does it coolly. You know, I didn't see the cesspool thing happen—I wasn't even in the country yet—but I visited that village, and I asked them about it. They fell over themselves trying to tell me the story. They loved it. But what impressed them most wasn't that he'd thrown the fellow in, but that he went in with him. It made everybody realize Dunk would do whatever he had to do to get what he wanted. By the way, the headman never again held anybody up on the rice.”
[REF1401] For details on Air America, see Alfred W. McCoy, The Politics of Heroin: CIA Complicity in the Global Drug Trade (New York: Lawrence Hill Books, 1991).