SAN FRANCISCO — Thursday 19:00
Duncan caught a late morning flight out of Anchorage, changed planes in Seattle, and arrived in San Francisco at seven p.m. He took a cab to the address given him by Larry Tanner. The sign over the entrance read THE JACKHAMMER. From inside the cab he could see another sign in the entryway saying DRESS CODE ENFORCED.
“This is it?” he asked the cab driver.
“This is the address you gave me, buddy, and I can tell you, you're not dressed for it.”
Duncan smiled. Anyone following him wouldn't be dressed for it either. He paid the driver and went in.
The cabby was right; Duncan wasn't dressed for it. Rarely had he felt so out of place, and having his flight bag in one hand and his luggage in the other didn't help. All eyes were on him, maybe because of his bags, but probably because he was dressed in tan Gramicci pants, running shoes, and a white sweatshirt rolled up at the sleeves. Everybody else had black leather boots, black leather pants, and either some kind of black leather vest or a black leather harness.
Duncan's discomfort was ended when a young man in black leather shorts approached him. The combination of the shorts and heavy boots seemed incompatible.
“You must be Duncan?” he said, extending his right hand. “I'm a friend of Larry Tanner's.”
More than a friend, I'll bet, thought Duncan. He set his luggage down and shook the offered hand, but fumbled when the boy used a handshake Duncan didn't know, one that started with a clasping of fingers and ended with wrapping the fingers around the other's thumb. Duncan finally struggled through.
“Duncan Harris. Your name is?”
“Tim. Larry said the first civilian through the door would be you.” Tim reached down and grabbed Duncan's luggage. “He said if any other civilians entered behind you, we weren't to be friendly.”
Duncan looked about, his eyes adjusting to the dark interior. “I'm glad you're not unfriendly toward me. If you were, I'd be wondering about my chances of survival.”
Tim smiled. “This way to the basement.”
The basement was darker than the street level floor, and it had the trappings of a torture chamber. A sign at the top of the stairs had read “Dungeon Every Friday and Saturday 9:00 p.m. “After the basement came a utility tunnel, another basement, and an exit through what appeared to be a leather boutique. Tim motioned Duncan into a car stopping in the street. Richard Lee was the driver. He made five turns in five blocks and pulled to a stop alongside a fire hydrant. Larry Tanner appeared folding up a cellular phone and climbed into the back.
“You were followed to the bar. We're not being followed now. You feel like pizza?”
WASHINGTON, D. C. — Thursday 23:45
Greg Ballentine took the telephoned news that Duncan had shaken his followers with equanimity, having expected no less after the CIA had refused to maintain surveillance beyond Anchorage. Greg had been forced to use DEA agents in San Francisco, and they were used to following drug dealers, not the likes of Duncan.
The CIA had agreed to maintain the phone tap for awhile but, for the time being, would do nothing more. Their analysis of the contents of the hard disk on Duncan's computer gave them no cause for alarm. The only thing of interest they had found was a copy of a public-key encryption program capable of encoding files using the Rivest-Shamir-Adleman algorithm and a few recent ciphers that were output from or input to that software. The program was widely distributed, used as much by cheating husbands to send messages to their lovers as it was by tax cheats, drug dealers and espionage agents. Its presence raised no red flags. The RSA encryption scheme it used had never been cracked, not even by the National Security Agency. They knew of no way to decrypt the messages short of the brute force method, trying all possible combinations of the binary key length, and that would take a very long time even on a supercomputer.
At The DEA's request, the CIA lab had compared the diskette delivered to Kevin Brestle, the television reporter, with those written by Duncan's desktop and laptop machines. No match was found, and the single printed sheet delivered to Brestle had not been printed on Duncan's printer. None of the material provided a provable link to Duncan.
That last fact made Greg uneasy. Could Duncan have been that far out in front that soon ... and who was working with him? Were they in San Francisco? That seemed likely given that he had gone there directly from Anchorage and had been immediately successful in dropping from sight.
And how had Duncan figured out that he had ingested cocaine? The CIA had been vague about that, avoiding answering by saying they had dosed him with enough to make the drug test positive but not enough to impair his performance. Clearly Duncan had embarrassed them by tumbling to their scheme in time to avoid giving the urine sample. What had gone wrong?
The worst was that to salvage the operation, Greg had had to call Sam Devlin personally to persuade him to fire Duncan solely on the basis of refusing a drug test. Now Devlin knew the DEA was behind the operation ... and he now knew the name Gregory Ballentine. The CIA said Devlin could be trusted, but they said a lot of things. They were right about one thing though; having Duncan fired for refusing a drug test was as good as having him fail one. Twelve years of drug propaganda had created a hysteria that would brand him as a druggie, and he would not be able to overcome that.
Greg made a mental note to have an anonymous call placed to Kevin Brestle about Duncan's refusal to take a drug test after having flown a 747 from New York City to Anchorage.
Greg was pleased. The operation wasn't as clean as he would have liked, but he had won. Duncan had lost. The report on the bust of Tom Harris and Ellie Harris would be allowed to stand. Greg would monitor the agents involved ... and get rid of them at the first opportunity.
He went back to sleep.
SAN FRANCISCO — Thursday 21:00
The first beers were downed as the three ate pizza, Larry and Richard listening as Duncan related between bites how he had been dosed with something, probably cocaine. He told of his firing and the futile attempt to find the man who dosed him.
Following pizza, Larry took them to a bar he and Richard knew. Larry could see Duncan needed something to take his mind off his problems, it was time to play.
Duncan was reluctant. “Is this one of your leather bars?” he asked.
“No, no, it's not even gay. Well, I mean there will be girls there,” Larry responded.
“Probably lesbians,” Duncan joked.
“Not all of them,” Richard said earnestly.
Larry looked at Richard in exasperation.
They were in a rental car, rented by Richard using false identification in case there had been trouble eluding Duncan's tail. They returned the car and took a cab to the bar.
As they entered the bar, Larry noted thankfully that there were women ... and they were talking to men.
The three sat at a table, and, when Duncan unhesitatingly ordered a large pitcher of beer, Larry knew his friend was hurting; Duncan rarely drank.
“How will this affect getting the DEA to admit they murdered your family?” Richard asked.
Larry kicked Richard under the table.
“They've succeeded in neutralizing me. They'll make sure my refusal and firing are reported to the press. It'll be in the paper, maybe even on TV locally. With nothing to fear from me, they'll drop their internal investigation. Case closed.”
A couple, man and woman, entered the bar. Larry saw them and waved them over. He had to get Duncan into another mode. The couple was married, but it was a marriage of convenience; he was gay, she was a lesbian. However, they were close friends and often went out together if neither had a date for the night.
Introductions were made. The conversation was refreshingly bland. Larry was pleased.
“I have a friend who recently vacationed in Oregon. She said it's beautiful,” the woman offered after learning where Duncan lived, “and she didn't have to worry about having a little pot on her, something about a liberal marijuana law.”
Larry wanted to kick her under the table. “Oregon is very scenic, especially the coast. Have you thought about making a trip up that way?” he asked loudly.
“If you're caught in possession of less than an ounce, all they do is give you a ticket with a hefty fine,” Duncan said.
“If you haven't been on the Oregon Coast, you really should visit it,” Larry tried again.
“I was at a bistro in Amsterdam a few weeks ago,” the man said. “Marijuana was on the dessert menu. It's completely legal there.”
“The Columbia Gorge between Washington and Oregon is a good trip, too.” Larry said, but all were ignoring him.
“The Dutch are a practical people. They legalized it a few years back,” Duncan said. “Usage dropped after legalization.”
“Personally, I think marijuana should be legalized here. It's no worse than alcohol,” the woman said. “But the hard drugs are a different matter.”
“I disagree. I think they should all be legalized, and then tax the hell out of them,” the man said.
The woman turned to Duncan. “What do you think?” she asked. Larry cringed and gave up.
Duncan's chair was pushed back. He was leaning forward, his elbows on his knees, his head down, and he remained silent for a few moments. Then, still looking down, Duncan spoke. “I think we should go back to the way it was before March 1, 1915. That was the day the Harrison Narcotics Act took effect. Prior to that, if you wanted the so-called hard drugs, you bought them at a pharmacy, no prescription required. By March 4 drug pushers had appeared on the streets, and the price of heroin went to ten times what it had been.”
Larry hoped he would stop with that.
“My, I'm impressed. How come you're so well informed on the subject,” the woman said.
“I've had reason to do a little research on the topic lately.” Duncan straightened as he talked. Larry wished his friend's voice didn't carry so well.
“So what you're saying is that overnight the government created a lucrative illegal industry,” the man said.
“That was the result, but certainly not the intention,” Duncan said.
“So what was the intention?” the man asked.
“From the government's standpoint? Congress was responding to two powerful pressure groups. Religious zealots were pushing for the law.[REF2101] They were the front men, but behind the scenes there was a less public group. The western states were having an influx of Chinese immigrants that worked hard and worked cheap, and that scared a lot of people, including the labor unions. The Chinese had brought their opium with them, and outlawing it was a legal way to harass them.[REF2102]
Larry was dismayed. Duncan was like a sponge when it came to soaking up what he'd read, and he had an obsession for dispensing it in detail when asked. Larry hoped the questioners would be put off by the detail, but he noticed two men at the bar had stopped talking to listen. One of them spoke.
“If they hadn't passed that law, I'd be able to buy marijuana now?”
“Hey, friend, you can buy marry-wanna now. How much do you want?” a voice said, and there was general laughter.
“I mean legally.”
“The Harrison Narcotics Act didn't outlaw marijuana; pot wasn't considered a narcotic. Outlawing of pot came in the thirties when cheap Mexican labor came into Colorado. They brought their cannabis with them and, like the Chinese before them, had their drug of preference used as a weapon against them.[REF2103] And, again, religious zealots were the public instigators.” Duncan had turned toward the man and upped his volume to answer.
“What about Prohibition? If we can blame the Chinese for getting hard drugs outlawed and the Mexicans for getting pot outlawed. Who do we blame for getting booze outlawed? The Irish or the Scotch?” the retort came from two tables away. Laughter followed.
“There was no minority group involved there,” Duncan responded loudly enough to cover the distance. “And that's why Prohibition failed. It targeted a drug in general use throughout the population, not just by a minority.”
More of the customers abandoned their conversations to listen, responding to Duncan's natural charisma when speaking. A few at the bar moved toward Duncan's table to better hear.
“With alcohol again legal, most Americans had their desired drug. And even with the spread of opium and marijuana out of the groups that introduced them, the number of users was still relatively small.
This is not good, Larry thought. He didn't wait for a question. He's running on his own.
“It was our own Government that really got the drug trade going; we turned heroin into an international commodity. In Southeast Asia we allied ourselves with opium warlords in the fight against communism. At its high point, the CIA's secret army in Laos numbered thirty thousand men, and it was financed by opium trafficking.[REF2104]
“Thirty thousand men? You've got to be kidding. You'd have to sell a lot of dope to support that many people,” a disbelieving voice said.
Duncan paused, his focus going beyond the room. “They did ... and I helped fly it out. But the money didn't go to pay the soldiers. They were Hmong tribesmen, conscripts. Towards the last they were just kids and old men ... I helped carry them too.&rdquo[REF2105] The room sensed Duncan's dismay, his regret. There was no sound for several seconds.
“The seventies arrived and Nixon needed an investigative agency he could use to control the bureaucracy. J. Edgar Hoover had his own agenda and his own file on every mover and shaker in government, using it to maintain his position. Nixon wanted to use that, but Hoover wouldn't cooperate, and he couldn't be fired; the FBI couldn't be used.”
“That fucking Hoover was a closet queer who persecuted his own kind. Slimy bastard,” someone said aloud. There was general assent.
“Nixon decided to set up his own group. A hyped up drug problem was a natural cover, and he signed ODALE into existence by executive order, shifting funds illegally from other agencies.[REF2106] A few people complained, but the drug hysteria carried the day. The people Nixon used to start ODALE went to jail for their part in Watergate, but by that time bureaucratic thrust had taken over, ODALE had become the DEA.[REF2107]
“You asked me what I think,” Duncan addressed the woman. “I agree with him.” he said, nodding toward the man. “Legalize drugs, tax them, use the money to truly educate, not just propagandize.”
“Tsk, Tsk,” a voice off to Duncan's side said. “You'd put all those DEA agents out of work.”
“Yeah, well at least then they'd stop killing people, people who were unarmed, people who had no drugs,” Duncan replied. He looked down ... and focused far away.
“Have they really done that?” a woman's voice asked. “It seems like we'd hear more about something that bad.”
Duncan raised his head. The entire bar was listening. “They've done it several times,” he said and recited the facts of the newspaper abstracts he had read. His near‑photographic memory and natural charisma served him well, and with each name, the anger in him mounted. He told where and when each occurrence had happened, in which newspaper it was reported. He gave age and sex, told of a woman in her eighties and another with child, of a business executive, of a reclusive millionaire, of informants paid hundreds of thousands of dollars, of agents perjuring themselves to get search warrants.
“... and they did it again twelve days ago in Oregon. The names of the victims were Elaine Harris and Tom Harris. Elaine was my wife. Tom was my father.”
Duncan stood and turned away from the table, away from most of the crowd. Silence reigned ... Duncan turned back.
“My family's death is not going down as a killing of innocents. When the DEA realized they'd screwed up, they put a gun in my father's hand, and they planted a half kilo of cocaine. And you know what? They're going to get away with it. How many times have they done that? For every known atrocity, how many are there that they got away with? How many of the so-called justifiable deaths have really been innocent people?”
Duncan stopped. He bent, lifted the mug in front of him, drained it, refilled it from the pitcher, and noticed it had drained that. “Another pitcher please. Bring two,” he said.
The bar was full, but all occupants remained quiet, staying focused on Duncan.
“I talked to the agent who killed my wife,” Duncan continued. “Twenty-six years old, just a kid, just out of the DEA's academy, all fired up to defend his country against the evil drug scourge. He followed his seniors into a room filled with confusion and chaos. They were firing at my father. He had a TV remote control in his hand, and they took it for a gun. My wife was screaming, waving her hands, and this kid thought she had a gun ... and he killed her.
“Who was at fault? The kid? No, not really ... a simple knock, just a knock and an announcement of who they were would have prevented a massacre. The fault is a system that allows no-knock entries. The fault is a system that spawned an agency like the DEA. The fault is politicians who hype drug problems to get themselves elected.”
Duncan stopped. He was spent. The only movement was the barmaid putting the two pitchers of beer he had ordered on the table. He looked around and smiled sadly. “I'm sorry ... I got carried away,” he said and sat down.
As the crowd thinned, people came by the table. Some simply gave a thumbs up sign, some expressed a single sentence of sympathy, a few lightly touched Duncan's shoulder.
“You should become a politician and campaign on a platform of legalizing drugs ... or at least abolishing the DEA,” the woman said.
“Right now I'd settle for them just knocking before entering,” Duncan responded.
“You'd be settling for too little,” the man said. “If you could give that speech to every person in this country, and if you could get them to listen and think, and if it could be brought to a vote ...”
Duncan cut him short. “That's too many ifs. You're a liberal living in a liberal city. You have no idea how bad the drug hysteria is in this country. I might see the legalization of marijuana in my lifetime, but that's all.”
“You give up too easily,” the woman said. “You have your point, of course. But I can guarantee you that if a legalization measure appeared on the ballot in San Francisco, it would pass overwhelmingly. God knows someone needs to draw attention to the problem.”
Both the man and the woman eventually left the bar with acquaintances of the same sex. Duncan gave Larry a quizzical look.
“Hey, all I said was that there would be girls,” he offered.
After a few more beers, the three left the bar and went to Larry and Richard's apartment. Duncan retrieved the urine sample he had collected from himself, and set it on the coffee table.
“You know anyone who can run a test on this, off the record?” Duncan asked. “I want to know if I threw away my career needlessly.”
“In this town I can get anything done,” Larry said.
Richard, having drunk more beer than the two older men, squinted at the sample in the clear plastic bottle.
“Awfully yellow, looks a lot like beer,” he said. “Would anyone like more?”
“Beer or urine?” Larry asked.
At two a.m., Richard wove toward the bathroom, smiling affectionately at Duncan as he crossed in front of him. Duncan had switched from beer to coffee. He had been deep in thought for half an hour, ignoring the others' drunken conversation.
“It's your feet,” Larry said.
“Your feet. He's got a crush on your feet.”
“You're drunk, my friend.”
“Okay, okay, but not drunk drunk,”Larry emptied the can in his hand. “When he came to your house in the night, he saw your feet. He likes feet. He thinks you have great feet. He says your feet are strong ... and tan.” Larry paused to think. “How the hell do you get tan feet?”
Duncan smiled. “By going barefoot on beaches.”
“Well, all I have to say is you better keep your shoes on tonight.”
“I think we should all take our shoes off and go to bed. I think I have an idea, but I won't know for sure until I'm sober.”
“Better,” Larry said, but then interrupted his sentence with a belch. “Better write it down or you won't remember it.”
Duncan thought for a moment. “This one I'll remember. Where do I sleep?” Duncan asked.
Richard staggered out in time to hear the question.
“In Richard's room,” Larry said, pointing to the smaller of the two bedrooms.
Richard grinned and gazed lovingly at Duncan.
“Richard, you're sleeping with me,” Larry added, rising and moving towards his bedroom.
Duncan smiled and looked at Richard.
Richard's expression changed first to a hurt look and then one of resignation.
Duncan entered Richard's room and closed the door. After undressing he climbed into bed. A minute later he climbed out, wedged the door with a chair, and returned to bed.
[REF2104] “By 1965 the CIA had created a Hmong army of 30,000 men that guarded radar installations vital to bombing North Vietnam, rescued downed American pilots, and battled Pathet Lao guerrillas.” Alfred W. McCoy, The Politics of Heroin: CIA Complicity in the Global Drug Trade (New York: Lawrence Hill Books, 1991), p. 304.
[REF2105] “A short time ago we rounded up three hundred fresh recruits. Thirty percent were fourteen years old or less, and ten of them were only ten years old. Another 30 percent were fifteen or sixteen. The remaining 40 per cent were thirty-five or over. Where were the ones in between? I'll tell you—they're all dead.” Edgar Buell as quoted by a New Yorker correspondent in Robert Shaplen, Time Out of Hand: Revolution and Reaction in Southeast Asia (New York: Harper & Row, 1970), p. 352.
[REF2106] “Despite the mater-of-fact acceptance of the Office of Drug Abuse Law Enforcement by the press and the public, there was little precedent in the annals of American law enforcement (or government) for such an investigative agency. It had been established on January 27, 1972, by an executive order of President Nixon, without approval or consideration by Congress. The office operated out of the Department of Justice, but, interestingly, its Director, Myles Ambrose, also had an office in the Executive Office of the president. ODALE was empowered by presidential order to requisition agents from other federal agencies, including the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs, the Bureau of Customs, the Internal Revenue Service, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, and to redeploy these agents into strike forces. These forces could use court-authorized wiretaps and no-knock warrants, as well as ‘search incidental to arrest’procedures. This unique office could also feed the names of suspects of a target-selection committee in the Internal Revenue Service, which would then initiate its own audits and investigations. The office received most of its funds not from congressional appropriations but from the Law Enforcement Assistance Administration (LEAA), an appendage of the Justice Department created by Congress in 1968 for the purpose of financially assisting state and local law-enforcement units (not presidential units). Most of its operations were financed by funneling grants from the LEAA to local police departments that participated with ODALE in its raids against narcotics suspects. This method was necessary because LEAA was never authorized by Congress to disburse its funds to federal agencies.” Epstein, Edward Jay, Agency of Fear : Opiates and Political Power in America, pp. 19-20.
[REF2107] “If the Watergate burglars had not been arrested and connected to the White House strategists, the Drug Enforcement Administration might have served as the strong investigative arm for domestic surveillance that President Nixon had long quested after. It had the authority to request wiretaps and no-knock warrants, and to submit targets to the Internal Revenue Service; and, with its contingent of former CIA and counterintelligence agents, it had the talent to enter residences surreptitiously, gather intelligence on the activities of other agencies of the government, and interrogate suspects. Yet, despite these potential powers, the efforts of the White House strategists had been effectively truncated by the Watergate exposures: Ehrlichman and Krogh were directly implicated in the operations of the Plumbers; Sullivan had been involved in the administration's wiretapping program; and Liddy and Hunt were in prison. The grand design could not be realized, and DEA became simply a protean manifestation of the earlier narcotics agencies.” Epstein, Edward Jay, Agency of Fear : Opiates and Political Power in America, p. 252.