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The Hobby

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					THE HOBBY/McDougal

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All human beings are limbs of each other, Having been created of one essence. When time afflicts a limb with pain, The other limbs cannot at rest remain. If thou feel not for other’s misery, A human being is no name for thee. Sa’adi, Persian poet, 1210-1290

Chapter One

Killing someone is an extraordinarily simple act. For instance, it’s much easier to accomplish than it is to perfect a good tennis back hand. Particularly if you are a killer who lacks any sense of compunction. Can you shoot a snake? Or a rabid wolf? Then you should be able to kill someone who deserves that fate. I’m not talking humans with souls here. I’m talking vicious animals who think they’re human. However, pulling off the perfect murder is another matter. I ought to know. I’ve done it nearly two dozen times, even though I am a quite ordinary fellow. Well, perhaps not ordinary. Actually, I’m really good at it. Most people who attempt it are not. Consider Roswell “Ros” Gorman. He was a terrible practioner of the art. Well, in truth, it was the part about getting away with it at which he was not very good. He should have been assigned to a witless protection program. Besides being stupid, he was evil through and through, almost always a lethal combination. To

THE HOBBY/McDougal

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comprehend the wickedness that permeated Roswell Gorman’s soul you must know something of his victims. I did. A house painter by trade, Ros had done work for Mrs. Wilma Cordery, a wealthy and attractive fifty-five year old widow. Wilma was a woman who had fared well in life by marrying a man destined to become wealthy. Frederick Cordery had started in business as a sewing machine salesman. In order to perfect his sales pitch, he had become adept at tailoring. At first he sewed modest garments. Later, he began to produce women’s blouses and suits with a certain flair that brought him to the attention of the retail trade. As his business prospered, his wife assisted in the promotion of the business. She suggested the motto that became famous. “Look smart, dress smart, be smart.” After Fred died, she sold the enterprise for eleven million dollars. She was a good, honest, decent capitalist. When Roswell Gorman was hired to paint the upstairs rooms at Wilma’s, he discovered a safe in one of the bedroom closets. He painted around it, but didn’t forget it. As a matter of fact, he thought of little else for the next two weeks. Over the course of several evenings at the Pastime Lounge on Greenville Avenue, he perfected a strategy with his friend and fellow house painter, Arthur Schoen. Art was full of doubt at 6.p.m. each time they met, but by ten he was usually drunk enough to believe they could steal anything they wanted. Fortunately for Arthur, Ros decided to perpetrate the robbery at midday on a Thursday. Schoen was stone cold sober and disinclined to want to return to prison, where he had previously spent an unhappy two years, much of the time bent over at the waist, ostensibly

THE HOBBY/McDougal trying to pick up a bar of soap. Consequently, he turned down Roswell’s offer to share Mrs. Cordery’s wealth.

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The day of the crime, Roswell parked his pickup truck on the circular gravel driveway in front of Wilma Cordery’s mansion in the upscale Dallas suburb of Highland Park. Paint bucket and brush in hand, he rang the doorbell. When Mrs. Cordery answered, he said he had returned to perform a follow up check on his paint job. If there were any places that needed touching up, he was there to take care of them. Mrs. Cordery invited him into the house. As she closed the door, Gorman pulled a large hunting knife from his pocket and after setting down the paint bucket and brush he grabbed Wilma from behind. He forced her to accompany him up the stairs to the room where the safe was located. The excitement of the moment caused Gorman to delay checking the safe. He decided instead to rape Wilma Cordery, which he proceeded to do twice. Wilma’s resistance slowed considerably when Roswell slugged her in the face, breaking her jaw. After he had taught her this lesson regarding who was boss, he forced her to open the safe. He removed approximately $20 thousand in jewelry and $1,800 in cash. Since he knew Mrs. Cordery could identify him, he slit her throat and left her to die. As he turned from her body, he heard a noise from an adjoining room. He went to check on the sound and found little Jessica Cordery, Wilma’s three-year-old granddaughter. The child smiled at him and showed him her dolly. He hit her viciously and lifted her up. He carried her into the bathroom, where he upended her into the toilet and held her

THE HOBBY/McDougal head under the water until she drowned. His elimination of witnesses gave him a false sense of confidence. Roswell figured that the jewelry would be too hot to pawn in Dallas, so he drove thirty miles to Fort Worth, where he pawned the lot for $850. The Dallas police found it within three days. The owner of New World Pawn had turned Roswell in for the $30,000 reward that the family had posted. His pal, Arthur Schoen, did likewise. Art and the pawnbroker eventually split the money. The police arrested Roswell at the Pastime lounge, where he was spending money like a drunken house painter. Roswell copped a plea to avoid a trial. For a sentence of twenty-to-life, he agreed to take care of all of his past

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business, which included seven rapes and a homicide committed two years before in Mexia, Texas. The Mexia killing was the result of a drunken argument with a bar patron regarding the pronunciation of Mexia. Locals called it muh-hay-yuh. Roswell, ever the dumbass, insisted it was pronounced mex-ee-yuh. A bet of twenty dollars was made. When Roswell lost, he beat the winner with a beer bottle, rendering him unconscious and within a few hours, dead. He left town quickly, never to return. Twenty-three years later, Gorman was paroled conditionally. This event was chronicled in the Dallas Morning News, in the Metropolitan Section. The handle on the story dealt with interviews of Wilma Cordery’s friends and relatives. Without exception, they were all highly pissed off. I did not know Wilma, but I was also outraged by what I had read. You see, I’m in the justice dispensing business, on a freelance basis. I’m a serial executioner.

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My service is not a state sanctioned enterprise, but is probably appreciated by some as much as if it were. Don’t get the wrong impression. A serial executioner is differentiated from a serial killer by the nature of his choice of subjects. The classic serial killer usually victimizes innocents, generally to live out some sick sexual fantasy. An executioner, on the other hand, puts to death only those people who have earned that fate. All of my subjects have been men and women who deserved what I deemed to be appropriate justice. Though I am quite good at my…hobby, modesty prevents me from taking a bow. But please imagine that I have. Last year, I took early retirement from the bench, where I had served as a Texas judge for ten years. It was soon after that that I took up my new found vocation, which might be euphemistically described as an elimination service. Being Judge Duncan Travis in a small claims/misdemeanor court for ten years had taken its toll. I was sick of whiny litigants, stupid defendants and smarmy lawyers. I wanted out. At fifty-three I retain most of what had once been a handsome face. I’m no Russell Crowe, but some call me distinguished looking. I have the bearing of one whom people trust, deservedly or not. As a participant in the legal system, I have come to believe there are almost no successful rehabilitations of murderers, rapists or child molesters. I am convinced that nearly all will commit crimes again. I’m not in this for fun or profit. I’m not a soldier of an avenging God. If anything, I’m you. Would you not defend your life or your family’s life against a mad dog? Well, sir or madam, perhaps you won’t have to if I do it for you, in a preemptive sort of way. And it’s not a racial thing. I am biased only against evil

THE HOBBY/McDougal people. When I was in ‘Nam, John Houser, a black corporal, gave me his sure-fire racist test. He asked, “If you had a choice, at age fifty, would you, a white man, rather be a handsome, intelligent, well-to-do, twenty-five year old black man? If

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you have to think that over before you make your decision, you are probably a little bit racist.” For me, it had been a no-brainer. Black is beautiful. But back to Gorman. A call to a friend in a constable’s office in Dallas County got me Gorman’s address. The parolee was to reside in a halfway house for a period of two years. The usual complement of idiots in the system had judged him rehabilitated. He was deemed to be a “model prisoner.” Ironically, he had been by following the example of Arthur Schoen, performing modeling duties in prison. He was forced to model a revealing frock in the shower room whenever it suited some of the more aggressive inmates. As he aged, he was gradually released from that duty. The halfway house at 1613 Mulberry Lane in Dallas was not a house. It was a seedy apartment complex with even sleazier tenants. It contained more dashed hopes and broken dreams than you could find in a bank loan officer’s file cabinet. All of the residents were criminals. Within a five-block area surrounding the Majestic Apartments lived many more crooks, for the moment uncaught. It was a very bad neighborhood. The Majestic had thirty-six units. Thirty-five of them housed two former inmates each. Apartment number one was where Harmon Leftwich, the House Manager, resided. He was a contract employee of the State Board of Pardons and Paroles. He had a staff of two who supposedly kept track of the parolees in

THE HOBBY/McDougal residence. Roswell Gorman was assigned this abode upon his release from incarceration. It was conveniently on a bus line, since most of the men living there did not have their own transportation. Roswell sought employment in a desultory manner. If a job were to fall in his lap he vowed to his P.O. that he would accept it. He checked the halfway house bulletin board daily, but alas, nothing appeared which suited his talents, i.e., house painter, wine taster or aging gigolo. A week after Roswell had moved into the halfway house I bought a disposable cell phone at a mall in Arlington and tucked it away in my pocket. The next morning I parked two blocks from The Majestic and meandered toward it. I carried with me a stack of flyers that I had run off on my computer’s printer. They advertised a fast food chicken place, located nearby. I entered the halfway house

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and pinned one of the ads to the bulletin board. I also tacked on a small four by five card. “Professional house painter wanted. Mr. Wilson. 555-4432.” If anyone noticed me they would remember only a guy handing out broadsheets. Someone named Victor Juarez called the next day. I told him I would get back to him later. An hour after that, Gorman the painter called. Bingo. I made arrangements to pick Roswell up in front of the Majestic at ten the next morning. We were to go to the job site, where he was to give me an estimate of the cost of painting. He was sitting on the curb when I arrived. Gorman had not aged very well. His once youthful slimness had deteriorated. A too-tight t-shirt revealed a fat paunch .His gray thinning hair was combed back, held in place by a rubber-banded ponytail. A wispy moustache

THE HOBBY/McDougal drifted across his upper lip. His face was pocked badly, as though he had received treatments from an acupuncturist on crack. A pack of Marlboros was rolled up in his left sleeve. He still wore prison issue jeans. When he saw my car stop he got up and meandered over, leaning on the windowsill on the passenger side. Resting on his elbows, he squinted at me and asked, “You Wilson?” I answered, “Yeah. You’re Gorman?” “That’s me.” I said, “Get in. I’ll take you out to the site.” He opened the door and slid into the passenger seat. We headed toward the

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North Central Expressway. I said, “The place is up in Collin County. Relax. We’ve got about forty-five minutes of driving.” He asked, “Mind if I smoke?” I said, “No, it’s okay. Keep your window cracked.” After a few minutes of silence, Roswell asked, “Do you know that the Majestic is a half-way house for cons?” I answered, “Yeah, I know.” “So, why are you hiring an ex-con? Don’t that bother you, just a little bit?” I smiled in his direction. “I pulled a deuce for breaking and entering when I was a kid. I had to work like hell to get over that. I even legally changed my name. So, that’s me. What were you in for?” I expected him to lie and he did. “Armed robbery. Mostly 7-11’s. For a couple of months I made more from those stores than the stockholders did.”

THE HOBBY/McDougal “That’s funny. How did you get nailed?”

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“The cops had a roving shotgun squad assigned to convenience stores. They waited in the backroom. I picked the wrong store.” I figured Roswell had picked up that story in prison. I remembered when the Dallas cops actually did that. They killed two felons on two successive nights. They finally stopped when the criminal lobby pointed out that the police were skipping around the court system, acting as judge, jury and executioner. Most folks thought that was a sensible, time saving device. The Dallas chapter of the ACLU and the City Council didn’t. I had a nine-millimeter Glock fitted with a silencer in a holster fastened to the left side of the driver’s seat. To fit a silencer to a pistol requires the installation of a new special longer barrel. If I used the weapon during a job, I would toss the barrel but keep the frame and silencer. A new barrel was all I needed to be ready for the next encounter. Consequently, the lands and grooves were always different from each barrel. I also disposed of my brass carefully. Weapons forensics could never get a handle on me. The choice of a Glock was intentional because it is a popular weapon with police departments. Since all of my subjects were bad guys, anyone working the case(s) might get the idea that someone on the job might have taken the scumbag out. A red herring here and there couldn’t hurt. As we drove north, I began to anticipate what was to come. I wanted to see the shock in his face, then the fear and the groveling. I wanted him to experience red fear in his heart. I wanted his bowels to loosen. I wanted him to plead and beg.

THE HOBBY/McDougal The one thing I did not care, or expect, to hear from him was an apology or remorse. About two miles from McKinney, I took a farm road. A mile down that, I turned onto a gravel road that ran through an area of chaparral and mesquite. Roswell groused, “Man, this place is sure as hell way out in the boonies.

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You know, I ain’t got no car. If we make a deal, somebody gonna have to fetch me every day.” I said, “No sweat. I’ve got a company van. You can use it.” Within a few minutes, I saw the creaking, rusted windmill I had been looking for. I pulled the car over onto the shoulder of the road and stopped. “Might have a low tire. I’m gonna check.” Gorman shrugged and lit another cigarette. I took the keys and opened the door and slipped the Glock from its holster. I walked around the back of the vehicle, keeping the pistol hidden from view. I faked checking out the right rear tire. I yelled, “Come take a look at this.” He opened the door and got out and saw the Glock aimed at his belly. “Hey, man, don’t point that damn thing at me. It might go off.” I gestured with the pistol toward the roadside brush. “If you don’t do what I tell you to, you might be right. Let’s take a little walk.” “What the hell. Why do you want to go out there?” “You’ll see. Now, move it.” “Hey, man, I never did nothing to you. What’s this all about?”

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I said, “This is not about me. It’s about you. Now, get moving or, by God, I really will shoot you.” He stumbled toward a break between two mesquites. A barbed wire fence blocked our path. I said, “Climb through. When you get through, sit down, facing away from me.” I didn’t want him to try to make a run for it. He did as he was told. After I got through the fence, I told him to stand. We walked about fifty yards into the scrub, until we came upon a small clearing where the windmill was. There was a small circular stock tank adjacent to the mill. It was open at the top and consisted of three-foot tall corrugated metal sections, held in place by metal fence posts. A blue vinyl liner made it impervious to leaks. The tank was full of water, fed by a mill-operated pump. Dried cow patties were scattered on the ground around the area. A float valve kept the surface of the water about four inches below the upper edge of the tank. We were well hidden from the road. I said, “Okay, this’ll do.” I ordered, “Sit on the ground, Gorman.” He looked as though he were about to try to escape. I said, “Don’t go for it. You wouldn’t get three feet.” He sat abruptly and blubbered, “Don’t hurt me. Whatever has you pissed off, I can make it right. Please, man, please.” I commanded, “Shut up.” He did. After a couple of minutes he began to calm down. Then I asked, “Do you remember Wilma Cordery, and her granddaughter, Jessica?”

THE HOBBY/McDougal There was instant recognition in his eyes, but he lied. “No. Never heard of them.”

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You don’t forget the people you murder, particularly when you do a quarter of a century behind bars for the crime. I said sternly, “I’m going to ask you again, and if you lie again, I’m going to shoot you in the balls. Do you remember them or not?” He stammered, “Yeah, I know who they are…were. But I’m square on that. I done my time. All that’s over, now.” I shook my head. “No, Gorman, it’s not over. You’ll never be square with that, not in a million years. You raped that woman, cut her throat and drowned that sweet little girl in the toilet. In the toilet, for God’s sake! How could you think you were even-up on that?” “Well, the law says I am.” “The law? You say, the law? Why, you asshole, you never paid attention to the law in your entire lousy life. Don’t talk to me about the law. Let me tell you about the law. Out here in these mesquites, I am the law. I am the sheriff, the judge and the executioner.” He began to cry as his head shook back. I asked, “Do you have anything to say?” He didn’t reply. I pulled a roll of duct tape from my pocket. I stood behind him. “Put your hands in your pockets, Roswell.” I wrapped his torso with the tape, locking his arms tightly at his side. I put a few turns around his ankles to deter him from running.

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I said, “We are going to be out here for a while. You will need to drink some water or the sun will kill you.” I pulled him to his feet and dragged him to the edge of the tank. I commanded, “Drink.” As he bent to the water, I grabbed his legs and upended him into the pool. He struggled futilely to get his head above the surface. Finally, I jerked him upright. He was gasping, a watery foam running out of his nose. I pulled his head back by his ponytail and whispered into his ear, “This is how little Jessica felt, you son of a bitch. You showed her no mercy. Well, here’s your reward.” He got out a gurgling scream as I pushed him down again. He tried to hold his breath, not an easy task for a smoker. Before long, bubbles began to rise to the surface. I held him under for five minutes, until all of the twitching stopped. I pulled him out again and removed the tape. Then I dumped his body into the tank. When society metes out retribution, it does so without imagination. I don’t. I believe the punishment should fit the crime. That day, it did. On the way home, I swung by the halfway house and removed the employee-wanted card. That night, my shoes, the wadded up tape and the cell phone all made their way to the bottom of the Trinity River.

E-mail the author: mcdougal8@verizon.net

THE HOBBY/McDougal Chapter Two

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My wife, Dori, died of breast cancer six years ago. She was only forty-three. The enormity of my loss was almost too much to bear. There was such a sense of injustice about it, a sensation of unfairness so huge, that I was sent into a profound depression. For much of our married life, we had struggled to get by. Dori was determined to make us succeed. She had worked as a secretary in an oil company while I struggled to make it on my own in a small electronics business. More than once, her paychecks had paid my business’s rent. Through good times and bad, her optimism never faltered. Ten years ago that hopefulness paid off. A small patent I held attracted a buyout by a semiconductor company. I netted two and a half million dollars. Dori and I had been active as volunteers in party politics so, more or less on a lark, I ran for public office and was elected a Republican Justice of the Peace in Dallas County. In Texas, being a lawyer is not a requirement to serve as a justice of the peace and I am not one. In fact, since that level of the judiciary is often referred to as ‘the people’s court,’ it’s actually considered an asset not to be an attorney when running for the post. My winning smile won. The fact that the J.P. Precinct was bulletproof Republican probably had more to do with it than my grin. But I had evolved into a politician quickly, so I believed more in me than in numbers. I enjoyed serving as a J.P. I had two jurisdictions, a civil docket with jurisdiction up to $5,000 and a misdemeanor docket covering traffic citations, hot checks and truancy. During my time in office, I also performed over 2,000 wedding

THE HOBBY/McDougal ceremonies. Some of these were more than unusual. One I remember in particular was a Hispanic wedding. I performed many of those as I was able to do them in

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Spanish. Se hablo amor. When I arrived at the designated home, I was given a seat of honor in the living room while we waited for the bride to make her appearance. As I sat there a cute little girl, about six years old, came and sat beside me. As was my style, I was wearing a black suit and was carrying a bible. The kid stared at me for a long moment and then asked, “Are you God?” I smiled beatifically at her and answered in a somewhat sonorous tone, “No, I’m not God.” She hesitated a few seconds and then said, “Well, you look like God.” So, if you ever wondered what God looks like, it’s me. Somehow, staying in public office after Dori’s death lost its appeal. She had enjoyed my success as much as I had, and jokingly referred to herself as “Mrs. Judge.” Her loss, more than anything else, precipitated my stepping off the bench. Acceptance of loss comes with time. And it’s strange that as the months and years have passed, I have forgotten almost all of Dori’s faults and remember mostly our good times together. I loved my wife a lot, most of the time. Sometimes, not as much. And on rare occasions, I wondered what a divorce lawyer would charge. Now though, a half-dozen years later, I am delighted that I opted to leave office when I did. Had I not, I would have probably never taken up the hobby that has transformed my life and helped lift me from my state of melancholy. My new vocation is more exciting than anything I have ever done before. It is unlikely that God will ask me to write an addition to the Old Testament. If he did, though, The Book of Duncan would include these verses.

THE HOBBY/McDougal “The strong must protect the weak.” “Good men must vanquish evil men. If a good man does not, some of the evil shall stain his own soul.” “To kill an evil man is to save those upon whom the evil man would eventually wreak his havoc.”

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For me, the prospect of killing men is not daunting. I am a Vietnam veteran. I was a gunner in a gun truck squad. In the well in the rear of the deuce and a half truck was mounted an electrically operated swiveling turret. On the turret were four .50 caliber machine guns. Originally designed as an anti-aircraft unit, it was actually used much more for ground support. On more than one occasion we faced large groups of North Vietnamese and Viet Cong troops. We left hundreds of them dead. Not many infantry troops could stand against thousands of high caliber rounds cutting through their ranks like a scythe. I knew that many of the enemy had been pressed into service just as I, a draftee, had been. I supposed that many of them did not want to be there any more than I did. But I slaughtered them anyway. They had mothers, wives, sweethearts. Eventually, that was not something upon which I spent a lot of thought. I rationalized that I couldn’t go over the hill because the other side of that mountain was 11,000 miles and an ocean away. But it seemed to me that they could desert with ease. Their hooch was next door. If they stayed in the battle and tried to kill me, then I didn’t give a shit what happened to them. In the time I served, dozens of enemy dead became scores, which became hundreds. I remember that the first time, I had fired out of fear. Later it was out of revenge. Finally it became automatic, to survive until rotation day. Duty became but a small issue.

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And now, for six years I have fought a new war, dispensing justice to those who managed to avoid it the first time around. Mine is much more appropriate and is certainly not the inadequate justice that had previously been meted out to them by stupid juries or bleeding heart judges. I expect to make it to some sort of Heaven when I cash in. Probably on the back row, but I’m fairly certain I’ll be there. To date, I have dispatched twenty-one to Hell. Escaping detection has been made easy because law enforcement really hasn’t tried very hard, if at all, to find out who killed them. Lawmen simply didn’t give a shit about those mutts. That is, until recently. I hit a speed bump on the road to number twenty-two. But more about that later. What immediately follows is an accurate accounting of a few more of my successes. They are not listed in chronological order.

E-mail the author: mcdougal8@verizon.net

THE HOBBY/McDougal Chapter Three

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Idaho is a land with more than a few iconoclasts. The western versions of nutty homeless persons are the survivalists and the latter day mountain men who live off the land, poaching deer and elk and on occasion, protected species. Most have no respect for the law. In many instances, they follow commandments that they make up as they go along. When arrested or sued, their writs are as goofy as any documents ever presented in any court, full of idiotic suppositions and facts that never were. Waldo Greenhill was one of these. At twenty-eight, he had already lived in the woods for six years. Prior to that he had performed odd jobs, never lasting more than a few months at any of them. Waldo’s problem was that he simply couldn’t abide authority. This led inexorably to regular stays in various Idaho and Oregon jails, mostly for fighting while drunk. One time, a judge in Klamath Falls, Oregon, gave him a choice. Two years in prison for felony assault, or join the Marines. He was to report back to court in a week to make his decision known. That was the last Klamath Falls saw of Waldo. To his credit, he had gone by the Marine recruiting office. He knew they worked with guns. While they were explaining why his police record was a disqualifier, he angrily threw a chair through the plate glass storefront and took off. Eventually, he moved away from society and became a forest recluse. He staked out a claim to a spot in the Sawtooth Wilderness Area in Idaho, where he lived mostly off the lean of the land, there being precious little fat. He had become

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gaunt, with a full beard and long, matted hair. He affected the manner and dress of a mountain man, wearing home sewn, fringed buckskins. He wore a fur hat in the winter and fleece-lined boots, made from sheepskin. The hides were from sheep he killed and stole from valley ranchers. He was clever enough to make it look like the work of wolves. He had constructed a log framework over which he had draped a surplus army tent. A circle of rocks in the center of the floor was his fireplace. Directly above that was a webbed smokehole in the top of the canvas abode. On several trees ringing the clearing in which he lived he had nailed crude signs that read, “Stay the hell out. Private property. Proceed at your own risk.” The site was actually quite beautiful, surrounded by Douglas fir trees. A small stream cut through the edge of the area. It was lined with chokecherry bushes and Idaho swordferns. About twenty yards upstream, there was a small ten-foot waterfall. It fell into a pool of icy water. The small pond was the home to undersized brook trout. Waldo found them large enough to eat, however. During the summer months, Waldo cultivated marijuana interspersed among the chokecherries. In the early fall each year, he packed two large bales of weed onto a wheeled travois and hiked down to Stanley, Idaho, where his contacts were. He converted his cash crop into enough money to buy supplies for the coming year. These he lugged back into the wilderness on the travois. His campsite wasn’t private property, of course. But Waldo had somehow convinced himself that if he lived there five years he could claim a right of homestead. This was a self-written statute that sounded good to Waldo. Like

THE HOBBY/McDougal everything else he did, it seemed that he had heard of or read about such a law somewhere. Greenhill was poor in cash, but rich in guns and ammunition. He had a Remington .30 caliber rifle, a Winchester .12 gauge pump shotgun and two .38

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revolvers. He shot anything on four legs that was edible. Upstream about a quarter of a mile from his camp Waldo kept salt blocks, which he had stolen from ranchers near Stanley. Deer and elk loved the stuff. Waldo would wait there, downwind, when he was hunting. Most of the time he didn’t have to wait long. Paradise began to unravel for Greenhill in June of 1990 when a young, backpacking couple chanced upon his encampment. There was an altercation when the young people took exception to Waldo’s claim that he owned the property and that he would shoot them as trespassers if they didn’t leave. He actually fired a warning shot at them and they left rapidly. They made their way back to their Volvo and then to the ranger station in Twin Falls, where they filed a complaint. Chief Ranger Arthur Constantine had already heard from other hikers about Waldo’s transgressions, but this was the first report of him using a firearm. He decided to go up Rocky Creek to Greenhill’s encampment and lay down the law. He would offer to let the threat to the couple slide, but he would demand that Waldo break camp and clear out. The following day, he and Ranger Kate Stackbole drove to the foot of Aspen Trail, which roughly followed Rocky Creek. They parked their Jeep there and headed up the trace. They both carried holstered .45 automatics. That was a new addition to their equipment. When Constantine first became a ranger twenty-

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five years before, his duties were primarily to assist visitors and to care for the flora and fauna. More and more, he had to assume the duties of a policeman. He didn’t like this new role and he was looking forward to retirement because of it.

The following has been reconstructed from eyewitness accounts and court records.

It was a beautiful, crisp morning. Even though it was already summer, the rangers’ breath fogged out as they labored up the trail. They came upon Waldo in a small meadow about a quarter mile south of his place. He was in the act of flensing the hide off of a young doe. His arms were bloody. The buzz of flies was audible in the quiet of the woods. His rifle was propped against a boulder next to him. Constantine and Stackbole drew up short. The Chief Ranger asked, “You would be Waldo Greenhill?” Waldo stood up straight from his task and asked in return, “Who wants to know?” Constantine said, “I’m Chief Ranger Arthur Constantine and this is Ranger Kate Stackbole. We’ve got business with you, if you’re Greenhill.” Waldo replied belligerently, “Well, I’m him, but I don’t believe we have anything to talk about.” Constantine said, “Look, Greenhill, you are squatting in this area against federal law. And you’ve killed that deer illegally. You’ve also fired on people who

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have accosted you. I’m willing to let all that skate, but you’re going to have to clear out of here within twenty-four hours. Do you understand?” Waldo picked up his rifle. He said, “That’s bullshit. This here is my land. I’ve met the homestead requirement and I’m not leaving.” Ranger Stackbole spoke, “There is no homestead law which applies to a federal wilderness area. You’re mistaken.” Waldo snarled at her, “Shut up, bitch. Us men are talking. You stay the hell out of this.” Constantine knew that Kate was hot-tempered. Before she could reply, he said, “Waldo, we don’t want any trouble. Are you going to leave here or not?” Waldo replied, “Not.” “Then you are under arrest, for unlawful trespass and poaching. Lay down that weapon and put your hands behind your head.” Kate unsnapped her holster and drew her pistol as Constantine walked toward the troublemaker. Waldo fired his Remington from the hip. The first shot hit Constantine in the chest. The second destroyed the top half of his head. He fell forward, dead before he hit the ground. Shot number three slammed into Stackbole’s left forearm. She returned fire and hit Waldo in his right kneecap, a shot that undoubtedly saved her life. Greenhill staggered toward her, firing several shots wildly. Kate Stackbole was bleeding profusely and needed to apply a tourniquet. Waldo Greenhill could barely stand, but was still deadly. It was obvious there was nothing to be done for her partner. Her best bet was to retreat, which she did. She

THE HOBBY/McDougal

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scrambled back down the trail to her Jeep. Luckily, she had been the driver earlier, so the vehicle’s keys were in her pocket. She guessed correctly that Greenhill was not following her, but was tending to his wound. At the Jeep, she hurriedly wrapped an Ace bandage from her first aid kit around her upper arm, twisting it to stanch the flow of blood. Driving with one hand, she radioed the Blaine County sheriff’s office in Hailey and made arrangement for deputies to meet her at the Saint Luke Wood River Medical Center in Ketchum. They were waiting for her when she arrived. While she received medical attention for her wound, she brought the sheriff up to speed. “Greenhill is nuts. He shot Arthur without warning. It’s only by the grace of God that I’m not lying dead up there as well. Now he’s like a wounded bear. He isn’t going to come out of there easy.” Sheriff Demonte reminded Kate of Jimmy Stewart. Even though she was fifteen years younger, she wouldn’t have turned him down for a dinner date. He spread a topographical map out on a stand next to the gurney where Kate was sitting. “Show me where his camp is. I’ll radio the State Police and get one of their helicopters up there. We’ll put men in the vicinity and see if the ‘copter can flush him out.” She marked the map where she believed the camp to be. She also pinpointed the location of Constantine’s body. She said, “Waldo isn’t going far on that leg, even with a homemade crutch. My advice is when you catch up with him, you shoot

THE HOBBY/McDougal him before he shoots you. He’s a mean lowlife snake. He doesn’t deserve a warning.”

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Sheriff Demonte said, “Thanks for the advice, Kate, but you know we can’t do that. We’ll get him without firing if we can. You take care of that arm and get set to testify at his trial.” He squeezed her free hand and said, “Damn good work.” It took three days to corner Greenhill. The searchers had pushed him into a box canyon a couple of miles west of Rocky Creek, at the headwaters of a small tributary stream. When the helicopter pilot pinpointed his location, Sheriff Demonte, heading a posse of his deputies and park personnel, demanded over a bullhorn that Greenhill surrender. By then, Waldo’s leg was throbbing with intense pain. He had a choice. Suicide by cop or give it up. Like most bullies, when faced with really bad odds, he opted for self-preservation. He surrendered and was taken to the same hospital where Kate Stackbole had been treated and released. Since the crime had been perpetrated in a National Wilderness Area, Waldo was turned over to federal authorities. After his release from the medical center, he was held in the Bannock County Jail in Pocatello until his trial date in the federal court. Waldo’s court appointed lawyer was Fred Bessemer, a young hotshot who made up for his lack of experience by being smart as hell. The U.S. Attorney assigned to prosecute was Barbara Samuelson, equally smart and very experienced. She had tried nearly twenty murder cases and had won ninety percent.

THE HOBBY/McDougal

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Bessemer’s strategy was to present Waldo as a desperate man who had acted in self-defense. It didn’t hurt his case that Kate Stackbole had actually shot a marijuana cultivator the summer before. After that her nickname in the valley was Killer Kate. Fred Bessemer also cleaned up Waldo. A haircut and shave, a new suit and an innocent demeanor were established to appeal to the women on the jury. And charm them he did. There was more eye contact between Waldo and the female jurors than you would ever find between a rattlesnake and a group of field mice. Bessemer very nearly made the case that the rangers had meant to kill Waldo. Kate admitted on the stand that even though Chief Ranger Arthur Constantine had not drawn his weapon during the arrest, she had. Barbara Samuelson asked Kate, “Did you really feel it was necessary to draw your weapon?” Kate replied, “He had already indicated he was going to resist arrest. He had a rifle in his hands. Damn right I felt it was necessary. And then, when he shot Arthur, that proved I was right.” When Bessemer cross-examined, he asked, “Isn’t it true, Ranger Stackbole, that you shouted at Mr. Greenhill that you already had one notch on your gun and you wouldn’t mind having another?” Kate replied, “Absolutely not. This isn’t the wild west.” Bessemer asked, “But isn’t it true, Ranger, that you shot an alleged marijuana farmer last year and that you actually do have a notch carved into the handle of your pistol?”

THE HOBBY/McDougal Kate’s jaw clenched and her lips whitened. She hesitated too long for credibility and finally answered, “Yes.”

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Bessemer tilted his head in a quizzical manner and asked his final questions. “Would you agree, Ranger Stackbole, that the placement of the first notch on the handle of a weapon actually anticipates the placement of more such nicks? If not, and assuming that the shooting last year was justified -- an inquest did clear you -why in the world did you decide to emulate Billy The Kid and decorate your .45?” Poor Kate resembled a gasping lake trout lying on a wooden dock, her mouth opening and closing as no answer spilled out. Bessemer turned on his heel and said, “No more questions for this witness.” Waldo might have gotten off Scot-free at that point if he hadn’t let his natural belligerence boil to the surface. As Kate left the stand, Waldo whispered, “Bitch!” Half the women in the jury turned and looked at him, their lips suddenly pursed in disapproval. As it turned out, in the final analysis the majority of the jurors must have decided Waldo was too handsome to spend the rest of his life in prison. Consequently, they convicted him of voluntary manslaughter instead of first degree murder. The judge sentenced him to ten to twenty years and he was sent to the Federal Correctional Institute in Sheridan, Oregon. Waldo Greenhill was eventually released in 2003, having served the minimum time. Prior to his discharge, I had never heard of him. His arrest and subsequent trial in Idaho had been a local cause celebre at the time. When he left prison, it was big news in the Gem State. I was visiting a cousin in Southern Idaho

THE HOBBY/McDougal

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at the time and recognized that Waldo might make a great target of opportunity. My cousin’s comments typified the feelings of most of the residents. “The son of a bitch got away with murder and he’ll do it again.” Over drinks at The Hungover Cowboy in Glenn’s Ferry, cousin Jake Porter told me the whole sordid story of Waldo Greenhill. Jake finished by saying, “Somebody is going to get that S.O.B. and be the hero of Idaho.” I asked him, “Where do you suppose he is, Jake?” “That’s easy. I heard on the radio today he went straight back to Stanley. The reporter said he’s looking for work. I think that’s probably b.s. He’s going to be back in the woods before the month is out.” Nonchalantly, I asked, “So, where is Stanley?” Two days later, I checked into Danner’s Log Cabin Motel in beautiful downtown Stanley. Beautiful is in reality an understatement. Located in the midst of the Sawtooth Wilderness Area, in a lush valley ringed by snowy peaks, it serves as a jumping off place for backpackers, river rafters and fishermen in the summer and snowmobile enthusiasts in the winter. I decided the best way to find Waldo was to chat with waitresses. In a small town like Stanley, they were certain to be only one or two degrees removed from the culprit. I was right. During my second breakfast at the Bridge Street Cafe I asked Magda, the counter waitress, for ham and eggs and coffee. Her age and her chest size matched. She appeared to be around forty. She grinned and said, “Comin’ up, mister.” Then she addressed a man in the first booth by the door. “You ready for some more coffee, Waldo?”

THE HOBBY/McDougal

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I glanced in his direction. He was a hairy guy, with a good start on a beard. His clothes were new and already dirty. There were flecks of egg white in his whiskers. He was reading a day old copy of the Twin Falls Times-News newspaper. He looked up and said to Magda, “Well, sugar, I guess my fifteen minutes are over. My name ain’t in the paper today.” She smiled at him and said, “Now listen here, Waldo Greenhill, all good things come to an end eventually. Since you ain’t famous no more, I reckon you’ll have to get a job.” “Yeah, I guess I should. I been checkin’ the want ads and there don’t seem to be anything out there suitable to my special talents.” Magda laughed and said, “What you’re good at, sweetie, ain’t goin’ to be in the paper. Ray Calabrese told me he ain’t had no good…crop…since you left. Why don’t you take up farmin’ again?” Waldo pensively pulled at his beard and looked in our direction. “I been thinkin’ that’s what I want to do, but I need a stake to hold me until harvest time.” I recognized my cue. I said, “Maybe I could help. I’m looking for someone to help me pack in and out of the Sawtooth. I’m putting together a photographic book on national wilderness areas. This will be my first excursion. I need a guide who’ll assist me in carrying some of my gear and helping set up camp. If you know the area, maybe we can make a deal.” Magda said, “Mister, you ain’t goin’ to find anybody who knows the Sawtooth better than Waldo. He’s a mountain man, for sure.” I looked at him and said, “Is that right?”

THE HOBBY/McDougal Waldo said, “Yeah, I’m a regular Kit Carson. What you’re talkin’ about sounds like it’s right up my alley. How long do you plan on bein’ in there?” I answered, “About ten days. I’m particularly interested in animal shots. I suppose that might take a while.” He said, “Not with me along. I know exactly where to go for deer, bear, birds and even a mountain lion. Anything you want.”

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“Well, you sound like the man for the job. You do understand it’s going to be a lot of hard work, don’t you?” “Sure. By the way, how much is this going to pay?” “I’ll give you $300 a day, plus when we come back, you can keep the equipment I provide for you.” He perked right up. For an experienced trapper, he sure didn’t recognize real bait when he saw it. He said, “A hell of a deal. When do you want to go?” I said, “I’ll go down to Twin Falls to the outfitters tomorrow and get what we need. I’ll pick you up here the day after. We’ll have breakfast and take off about 8:00 a.m.” He said, “I could go to the Falls with you if’n you want.” I shook my head. “No, that’s not necessary.” It would have been easier to pop him on a trip to Twin Falls and be gone. But I had a more dramatic denouement in mind. Anyone can kill someone directly. It takes a master to do it with panache. I mentioned to you before that I wasn’t following my pursuit for fun or profit. Well, that’s not entirely the way it is. I do get a degree of enjoyment out of it. Each

THE HOBBY/McDougal encounter becomes a little playlet, with me as the star and my subject as the supporting actor. Authenticity is the key. I got off my counter stool and walked over to his booth. I put out my hand and said, “I’m Sylvester Twining. I’m from Pennsylvania.” We shook and he said, “I’m Waldo Greenhill. Pleased to meet ya’.” I pulled out my money clip and peeled off three one-hundred dollar bills. “Here, this is an advance on your fee.” As he accepted the cash, I noticed he paid

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special attention to my roll. If he wasn’t hooked before, he certainly was then. I’m sure he was thinking that this was going to be easy. I had the same assessment. The next day, at Idaho Outfitters in Twin Falls, I bought backpacks, sleeping bags, solo tents, a variety of Adventure brand foods, a pot, two pans, two canteens, a large spoon, two small spoons and a ten-inch hunting knife. I also picked up a gallon jug of water for the canteens. We wouldn’t need much. That night back at the motel I stowed my share of the gear in my pack. I included the Glock, the blade, my digital camera and a portable global positioning system device. I had a special purpose in mind for the GPS. The following morning, after checking out of Danner’s, I headed for the Bridge Street Café. It was a delightful summer morning, the air holding just a bit of mountain crispness. When I arrived at the restaurant just before 7 a.m., Waldo was already there. I took a seat opposite him in his booth. He was expansive in his happiness. He was flirting with Magda, telling her how he would take her over to Boise for a good time when he and I got back. I thought, Maggie, don’t buy a new dress. You won’t need it.

THE HOBBY/McDougal

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It was then that something occurred which nearly sent my train off the track. A uniformed female ranger entered and took a seat at the counter. Waldo gave her a hard look, then said, “Well, if it ain’t ‘Lucky’ Stackbole. How’s the old arm? Does it hurt when it rains?” I knew who she was. The last thing I wanted was for a trained professional to see Waldo and me together. This was very unfortunate indeed. I pulled the bill of my cap a little lower and avoided her eyes. She got off her stool and walked slowly over to us. She smiled enigmatically and said, “I hear you’re limping a bit these days, Waldo. And by the way, I went ahead and put a half notch on my pistol. In your honor.” Waldo was obviously trying hard to contain his anger. I knew how much he must have hated her. He looked at me and said, “Let’s go. It’s getting late.” Kate Stackbole said, “What’s your hurry. Why, you haven’t even introduced your friend to me.” Not waiting, she stuck out her hand to me and said, “I’m Ranger Stackbole. Waldo and I are old…acquaintances.” As we shook, I said, “I’m Sylvester Twining. I’ve engaged Mr. Greenhill as a guide for a few days. I’m going into the Sawtooth to take photos.” She raised an eyebrow as she asked, “Do you know who this guy is?” I answered, “Well, I really don’t know much other than he is supposed to know the Sawtooth pretty well.” Stackbole said, “Oh, yeah, he knows it. But if you’re going in there with him, you better watch your back. That’s all I have to say. Just be careful.” With that, she said to Magda, “I’m not hungry after all.” She left the café.

THE HOBBY/McDougal I asked Waldo, “What was that all about?” Nervously, he said, “Oh, that’s just the way she is. I was caught raising weed up near Rocky Creek. She’s a hard ass and we kinda got into it when she arrested me. Nothin’ serious, but enough to get me a stretch in the federal pen. If that bothers you, we can forget about our deal, I guess.”

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I was silent for a moment, then said, “No, that’s okay. I smoked a few joints when I was younger. If that’s the worst thing about you, I’m okay with it.” I got to my feet and picked up the check. As I paid Magda I said, “We’ll see you in a week or so. Keep the oven warm.” We went outside and got in the car. As I pulled into the street, I went over with Waldo the supplies I had bought. This was to strengthen his confidence in the legitimacy of our arrangement. Waldo said, ”Sounds like you got most everything, except coffee and mugs. Pull into Ace Groceries up ahead and I’ll run in and pick them up. Don’t need a percolator. We can make cowboy coffee. Just boil the grounds right in the water.” In the Ace parking lot, he got out and headed for the door. He stopped to talk to two men before he went in. They must have been friends, as much backslapping went on. During the conversation, he turned and pointed in my direction. The men took notice of me and the Jeep. This again caused me concern. At this rate, I thought, half the town would have seen us together. When he returned to the car and got in, he said, “I notice you’ve got Texas plates. I thought you were from Pennsylvania.”

THE HOBBY/McDougal I was ready for that. “I bought the car last year in Houston. My sister lives there and I picked this up while I was down there on a visit. You ever been to Texas?” “Nah. I never been south of Idaho. This here is God’s country.”

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“Well, it certainly looks like God’s favored it. I told my Sis that the people who think Texas is the greatest just haven’t been anywhere else.” From Stanley to the trail head was only about a fifteen minute drive on an unpaved road. Gravel clattered against the bottom of the Jeep. As we ascended up the slope we entered a grove of aspens, the trees quivering and shaking across the horizon. Deep ruts in the dirt made the going increasingly difficult. We passed an area of tree stumps, old and gray. Waldo pointed out, “This here is an old logging road. A lot of timber went down this mountain before the federals took it over. Back then Stanley had a real reason for being there. Now it’s all that phony shit catering to people who can’t make it on their own.” He paused as he mulled over what he had just said. “No disrespect intended.” I said, “None taken. How far before we park the car and start hiking?” “The road peters out in about a half mile. We’ll trek up to a clearing I know. It will be a good place to camp tonight. Fairly flat and near a creek.” We soon came upon a melting snow bank that stretched halfway across the road. Waldo said, “This is it. We’ll park here.”

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We got out of the Jeep and strapped on our packs. Waldo took the lead. The ground around the snow was soggy, with lichen and ferns growing there. I noticed that we were leaving tracks in the squishy earth. I didn’t like that. I followed the woodsman as he made his way through the underbrush. Before long the elevation caught up with me and my breathing became labored. I said, “If it is going to be much farther, I’m going to have to take a break.” “It’s only a couple of hundred yards from here, but if you want to rest, we can.” “No, I can make that. Let’s go.” There was an alpine chill in the air. Normally, I would have found it invigorating, but the excitement of what was to come had already set me shivering. I had to try hard to keep my teeth from chattering. Before long, we broke out of the woods into a small meadow, which was bordered on the upside by a low cliff of granite. It was a picturesque place, one that would look good on a postcard. A bright shaft of sunlight slashed through the trees, brightening a small patch of purple Camas lilies and Blue-Pod Lupine blossoms. From what I had read about Waldo’s crime, I suspected this was the place where he had murdered Arthur Constantine. Waldo said, “We’ll pitch our tents over by the cliff. If there is a breeze, the wall should cover us.” We had the camp set up in twenty minutes. Waldo assigned me to make a small fire circle with rocks while he gathered deadfall wood.

THE HOBBY/McDougal

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When he returned, he dumped the kindling onto the ground and said, “I been thinking. Maybe it would be better if you paid me now all the money you agreed on. It’s not that I don’t trust you, but you know, I really don’t know you.” As he spoke, he was squatting by the ring of rocks, shaving wood slivers with a large knife. He looked at me and tapped the knife on one of the rocks. Its blade glinted menacingly in the sunlight. I figured that what he really wanted was the money, all the equipment and the Jeep. I decided that the moment had come for me to act. I hesitated, as though thinking it over, and said, “Why not? You’ll earn it anyway. I’ll get it for you. It’s in my pack.” As I reached into the backpack, Waldo rose and took a step in my direction. I pulled the Glock out and pointed it at him. “Maybe you better sit back down, Waldo. And drop that knife.” He hesitated, trying to understand what was happening. His hand clenched the handle of the knife, moving the blade in small circles. As he appeared to be calculating whether or not he could take me, I said, “Forget it, Waldo. I’m a hell of a shot. Drop the blade and sit your ass down. Now!” He threw the knife to one side and sat on the grass. He said, “Hey, mister, you’ve got it all wrong. I mean you no harm. And I really don’t mind waiting for the money. Honest.” I said, “This is not about the cash, Waldo. It’s about you. And Arthur Constantine. You remember Ranger Constantine, don’t you?”

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He frowned as he replied, “Yeah, I remember that son of a bitch. He tried to kill me.” “That’s not the way I heard it. They say he was enforcing the law and it didn’t suit you so you murdered him.” Waldo said, “He was trying to run me off of my homestead. I was here legally and he was giving me a bunch of bullshit, and so was that bitch ranger with him.” I shook my head sorrowfully. “Come on, Waldo. We both know that’s a load of crap. You were squatting on public land, growing marijuana and poaching animals. When they showed up to put a stop to your arrogant, criminal ways, you decided to kill them. I think that had always been your plan if you were cornered. What would you have done if you had gotten them both instead of just Constantine? Bury them and park their vehicle miles away? Yes, I think that is what you would have done. Shoot, shovel and shut up.” He asked, “Just who in the hell are you anyway?” “Some might say I’m Arthur Constantine’s brother. Not his blood relative, but a brother all the same. I am the brother of all the innocent people slaughtered by scum like you.” With false bravado he said, “What are you going to do? I’ve already served my time. I didn’t steal your money. You’ve got nothing on me.” “It’s really rather simple. You did a ten-year stretch for killing a man. I don’t think that was an appropriate punishment. I’m here to bring you the justice you deserve.”

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He asked, “So are you going to put me in some kind of homemade jail? You could never do that. I’ll probably outlive you. What happens then? “Imprisoning you is not what I had in mind. I’m going to give you what you gave Constantine.” He began to shake his head slowly from side to side. He moaned, “Oh, no, mister. Please let me go. I’ve learned my lesson. Honest I have.” I had heard enough of his blubbering. I shot him in the forehead, just a bit off center. I never claimed to be a perfect marksman. But when it comes to head shots, an inch one way or the other doesn’t matter. For good measure, I pumped two into his chest. He had slumped to one side. I moved him onto his back and put his legs together, then crossed his arms on his chest. As an added artistic touch, I plucked a Camas lily and slid the stem between his cooling hands. I had a fleeting thought that it might be nice to take a picture of him and send it to his mom. I decided against that. After all, I’m not a cruel person. I didn’t want to hurt her feelings. On the other hand, she may have been happy to see that the evil child she had spawned would kill no more. I took the portable global positioning system device from my backpack. I checked the latitude and longitude. On a piece of paper I scribbled the coordinates. I placed the paper on Waldo’s stomach and snapped a picture of the body with my digital camera. I also took a closeup of his face. The next forty-five minutes were spent piling rocks on the corpse. I wanted it to be intact when the sheriff would find it. When I was through with the task, I

THE HOBBY/McDougal policed the area, picking up my cartridge brass and all the camping equipment. It took me three trips to get everything down to the Jeep.

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The sun was setting as I drove through Stanley. I drove on to Twin Falls and checked into the Gem Motel. After all my exertion I slept quite soundly. The next morning I slipped on a pair of latex gloves and visited a digital photo lab. I printed two sets of the snaps of Waldo. I visited the post office next and bought two stamped envelopes. I mailed one group of pics to Kate Stackbole and the other to Sheriff Demonte. Two days later I was back in Texas. I heard from my Cousin Jake a few days later. He had phoned to let me know that some fine citizen had killed Waldo Greenhill. The sheriff had said in a press conference that they had no leads.

E-mail the author: mcdougal8@verizon.net

THE HOBBY/McDougal Chapter Four

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It might seem to you that there is a great degree of coincidence in my being where the criminals whom I dispatch are located. Happenstance has little to do with it. The fact is that there is an abundance of felons from whom I can choose, no matter where I go. It is not a matter of seeking candidates, but rather, of winnowing them out. The ones I find most satisfying to eliminate are the murderers who blame their iniquities on anything or anyone else other than themselves. You know the defenses. “I was high on drugs, or I was drunk. I have a dependency disease. I am bipolar. My father beat me. My mother left me. I can’t help doing what I do.” And on and on goes the litany of bullshit excuses. These are the ones who will, more likely than not, never stop killing because in their minds they have rationalized evil. Once a killer excuses his malevolence, he can act without compunction. After all, he thinks, it’s not his fault. And God forbid that some judge or jury excuses him because they have become convinced he is a nut case. Nothing emboldens evil more than to exonerate it because of the belief that no sane person could do what the wicked criminal did. I am not the pot calling the kettle black. I am not a psycho. If I were, you, dear reader, might be in danger. Or some other law-abiding citizen could be in jeopardy. But this is not the case. A crazed individual might do you in someday, but it certainly won’t be me.

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Distributing retribution means a lot to me. It’s what really counts. I find that a lot of what passes for importance is really nothing but sentimental bullshit. I remember the maudlin sobbing of the thousands who mourned the passing of that renowned druggie, John Lennon. Twenty-five years later they and their kids blubbered again, crowding into Strawberry Fields in New York’s Central park to pay homage to a man they called ‘genius’. Yoko Ono received as much adulation as Eleanor Roosevelt ever had. I will probably be around to observe the golden anniversary of his achieving room temperature. Oh, happy day. In the meantime, I have bigger fish to fry. When it comes to killing, I accept that I am small potatoes. Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini, Ho Chi Minh…were responsible for the deaths of millions. But I can’t say for sure that any one of them actually caused a death with his own hand. So what does that make me? A larger menace to humanity? No. I am a threat only to the scummy detritus of a society that breeds murderous villains who have no moral compass that would keep them on the straight and narrow. Many things have influenced me and led me to the path I’m on. Knowing Joshua Fishbein, for instance. I don’t worry inordinately about my health, but if my heart or my colon is about to double-cross me, I want to know about it. Josh Fishbein is a general practioner in Dallas and has been my family doctor for several years. He actually cried the day he told Dori and me that she had cancer. Dr. Fishbein’s grandparents perished at Treblinka. His sister, Sarah, was blown to bits on a bus in Tel Aviv while on vacation in Israel. He has a small oil portrait of her hanging in the waiting room at his clinic. She had been beautiful, with a haunting

THE HOBBY/McDougal sadness in her painted eyes. Because of the travail that had been visited upon him and his family, he had become an incredibly empathetic physician. Even all that sorrow never diminished his great sense of humor. I remember one time when I

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called to see him because of an unusual dizzy spell. By the time I saw him, I had no more spells to report. In his wry manner, he said, “Well, Duncan, here you are, all dressed up and no vertigo.” I saw him at least once every few months. My relationship with Joshua and my awareness of the tragedies that had affected his life have helped to mold my attitudes about crime and criminals. My daughter, Elizabeth, and son-in-law, Gerald Corrigan, live in Brooklyn, New York. The day I had long hoped for arrived when Beth gave birth to a sweet baby daughter, Kayla Corrigan. It was on the trip to New York to see my first grandchild that I learned of the circumstances which set the stage for justice to embrace yet another miscreant. There had been an account in the New York Post concerning citizen outrage in a Jersey shore community over the release from prison, three months early, of one Edward Savoy. He was not a well regarded man as you will see. Janice Lenz had been a cheerleader in high school and later, in college. Unlike many of her friends, she did not date football players unless they were smart. She had more brains than beauty, and that said a lot, as she was indeed a very pretty girl. She fell in love with a boy in her university sophomore class. He was a math whiz and couldn’t catch a football, much less throw one. Don Burden told his friends that he had fallen in love at first sight with Janice. That she felt the same way about him was the high point of his life. They were married the day after

THE HOBBY/McDougal graduation, at Saint Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church in Sandy Shores, New Jersey. Don went to work for an insurance company as an actuary. Janice found a

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job at the First State Bank in Sandy Shores, where she eventually attained the rank of assistant manager. Her work area was adorned with pictures of her family; her husband, Don, and her daughter, Laurie, six months. Her father, Arthur Lenz, had returned from Vietnam in ’68 with a Silver Star on his chest and ambition in his heart. He went to college on his veteran’s benefits and became a lawyer. In 1986 he ran for the office of Mayor of Sandy Shores and was elected. Jan’s mother, Katherine Lenz, was a stay at home mom who devoted several hours each week to volunteer service at Sandy Shores Medical Center. In 1983, she was honored by the hospital as the Volunteer of the Year. The family was held in great esteem by the citizens. Janice Burden was twenty-five years old when she died. Her death was grisly in the extreme. Her left arm was ripped from her body just before she was decapitated. She had been driving home from work. As she crossed Highway 36, a man driving a 1983 Buick ran a red light and smashed broadside into Janice’s Toyota. It was estimated that he had been going more than eighty miles per hour. Edward Savoy’s blood alcohol registered three times the legal limit. As so often happens when a drunk driver kills an innocent person, the felon escaped with only minor injuries. Mr. Savoy was not a novice drunk driver. He had been arrested eight times before for DUI.

THE HOBBY/McDougal By any measure of the word, Savoy was a loser. And being one gave him the impetus to drink. As he drank, he became in his mind less a loser and more a man, accepted by his only friends, the other habitués of Jersey bars. Six years before, he had roared through a school zone and killed Millicent

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Roland, a crossing guard. At the time of that crime, he had no driver’s license and no chance of ever having one again. When he was arrested at the scene, he mumbled, in a drunken stupor, “Thank God she was just a nigger.” Judge Garner West, a distinguished African-American jurist, presided at Savoy’s trial. Judge West was known for his stern demeanor. However, when he informed Savoy that he would be spending seventy-two months in the East Jersey State Prison at Rahway, he pronounced with a smile. Most people figured that at least half of the sentence was due to Savoy’s racist comment about Millicent. Some attributed all of it to Savoy’s stupidity. He was paroled in five and a half years, after convincing the parole board that he was sober and would stay that way. His first day on the outside found him showing his good faith by going on a three-day bender. He killed Mrs. Burden a few months later. He was driving his sister’s car. After the smashup with Janice Burden, Savoy was immediately arrested. At the subsequent trial, his defense was that he couldn’t help himself, that his alcoholism was a disease. The jury found him guilty of vehicular manslaughter. The judge, who saw something in Savoy that no one else did, gave him only four years and sent him back to Rahway. He was released after doing all but the final ninety days of his stretch. His sister, Juanita Montana, never gave up on Edward. She took him in and offered to help him find a job. The immediate problem she faced was

THE HOBBY/McDougal that prospective employers wanted sober workers. She sent Edward out the door

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each noon with twenty dollars and a copy of the newspaper help wanted ads. She no longer had an automobile, so Eddie was forced to ride the bus. She optimistically circled the advertisements that she thought he might be qualified to answer. After ten days she was out $200 and Eddie was happy as a clam. It was about this time that I decided to go looking for Mr. Savoy. I wanted to buy him a drink, always a good way to meet someone. Juanita’s name had been mentioned in several of the newspaper accounts of the brouhaha over Savoy’s release. She was listed in the Monmouth County phone book at an address in Eatontown, New Jersey. The central Jersey communities of Monmouth County are quiet burgs, existing as bedroom communities for the most part. Much of the local economy is derived from the summer influx of weekenders and vacationers who came to enjoy the surf at the shore. It was late spring when I checked into the Holiday Inn in Tinton Falls, adjacent to Eatontown. As I lay in bed that night I put together a plan for Mr. Savoy. I rehearsed in my mind the scolding I would deliver to him before the coup de grace. In a macabre way, I thought of such a rebuke as a “Hannibal Lecture.” This pun would not be passed along, but as I nodded off there came a smile to my face. That was a good one, I thought. By now, I imagine you are somewhat taken aback by what appears to be a cavalier attitude I have shown in my dealings with the people I dispatch. Actually, I don’t care what you think. I believe that I am doing society’s work, where society can’t or won’t. As we are all part of mankind, the excision of the criminals among

THE HOBBY/McDougal us is self-defense. Look upon me, if you will, as a white corpuscle in the body of man. Your life is infinitely better because of my dedication. I do not believe God will punish me for the men I killed in Vietnam. My hobby is an extension of that war, no more, no less. And of course, you’re quite welcome.

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The next morning I drove to the local Staples Office Supply. I purchased a sturdy executive office chair, the kind with nice wheels. Staples was coincidentally next door to The Home Depot. After loading the chair into the back of my Jeep, I visited the super hardware store and bought duct tape, a knife, and a sixty-foot length of rope. After a stop at Dunkin Donuts, I parked across the street from Juanita Montana’s wooden frame house. The yard was a mess, the paint was peeling and one window had masking tape criss-crossed on it to hold it together. It appeared that Edward was no help at home either. As I waited and watched, clouds began to roll in while I listened to a talk show on WABC radio. It was after two in the afternoon before Savoy exited the house and meandered down to the corner bus stop. I recognized his sallow face from the newspaper clipping on the seat next to me. He was a skinny man, typical of those who attain most of their sustenance from a bottle. After he boarded the bus ten minutes later, it moved off in a pall of diesel exhaust. I followed it down Broadway Street until Savoy got off. He waited for the bus to depart, then scurried eagerly across the thoroughfare and entered a nondescript tavern. I waited for an hour before I left my car and entered the lounge. McNulty’s Bar in Sandy Shores is a neighborhood lounge where the same faces can be seen nearly every day. Dark inside, until your eyes adjust to the

THE HOBBY/McDougal dimness. Smell of stale beer and decayed dreams. A non-future with a head on it.

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The opposite of “Cheers.” That was Brian McNulty’s place, the place where Eddie Savoy chose to spend his days and his sister’s money. There were a half dozen people in the joint. Eddie was sitting at the bar, a draft beer in front of him. He was alone, and seemed interested more in drinking than anything else. I took a stool two seats away from him. The bartender, whom I took to be McNulty, was a taciturn man who responded to his customers’ needs without extraneous conversation. Eddie was already four Buds toward becoming a scintillating conversationalist. His comment when he saw me was, “New here, aren’t you?” I looked at him a moment before I responded. “Yeah, just passing through. I’m on my way to Atlantic City. Drove down from Boston. Got leg cramps, so I checked into a motel here. That happens to me a lot. I’m supposed to take potassium for it, but I forgot my pills. I’ll pick up some tomorrow before I leave.” He nodded sympathetically. “Going to try your luck at the casinos?” I answered, “Yeah. An insurance man doesn’t get a lot of excitement..” McNulty moved to where I sat. “What’ll you have, mister?” “Bourbon, neat, with a large glass of water.” I ordered it that way so I could get rid of the whisky surreptitiously without drinking it. I would be sober as a judge (ha,ha) when I made my move. I said to Savoy, “My name is Jefferson Clement.” I stuck out my hand. He shook it with a soft, weak paw and told me his name. I asked, “What do you do?”

THE HOBBY/McDougal He answered, “You mean besides drinking?” I laughed. We were already buddies. This might be easier than I had thought. He continued, “I was in the merchant marine. An oiler. Mostly on foreign registry tubs, non-union. I’ve been around the world three times. That’s where I learned to drink. Nothing else to do. Couldn’t develop a relationship with anyone because I was never any place long enough to learn her last name. It’s not easy to

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get blackballed in the third world navy, but I did. They will allow a drunk to work, but not to fuck up. I laid up a Panamanian freighter with ruined bearings because I was shit-faced on the job. That did it. So now I’m looking for a land job. They aren’t easy to find. Especially when I have to ride a fuckin’ bus everywhere. Soon as I get some money ahead, I’m going to buy a car.” Eddie back behind the wheel of an automobile was the very last thing New Jersey needed. I said, “Yeah, jobs are hard to come by sometimes. I was lucky. I was never out of work for very long. And the insurance business isn’t too bad. You have to have the gift of gab, and I’ve been blessed with it.” “I thought about insurance sales, but what do you do when you run out of relatives?” He chuckled at his lame attempt at humor. “That’s not really where the business comes from. Represent a good line of companies and sell a variety … life, home, car. Spread it out.” By now, I was sure that everyone who heard us was convinced I was an indemnity salesman. For an hour, Eddie pissed and moaned about his bad luck, but

THE HOBBY/McDougal never talked about his prison record. When I offered to buy him a drink, he accepted without shame, and since he wasn’t paying, he switched from beer to Absolut Vodka.

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By eight that evening, Savoy was wobbling, in danger of falling off his seat. The free liquor had been too tempting. Outside, I could hear the rumbling of a spring storm. Before long, even above the jukebox noise, I could hear the drumming of rain on the roof. There was a puddle of whisky on the floor where I had been disposing of the Maker’s Mark. The only sober person in the place, besides me, was McNulty, and I didn’t think he had seen me dumping my drinks. I said to McNulty, “I hope we haven’t bored you with all our blather.” He said, “No sweat. It’s all research for my book. Going to call it, ‘Drinking Out Loud.’” I laughed and said, “That’s a good one on which to end the evening. I better head back to the hotel. I would wait for the rain to end, but it doesn’t sound as though it’s going to let up.” I turned to Savoy and said, “You got a way to get home?” McNulty looked at me over his glasses. “He doesn’t have a car anymore. He rides the bus.” I cocked my head as though I was thinking that comment over. I said, “What the hell, Eddie, I’ll give you a lift to your house if you would like.”

THE HOBBY/McDougal Nearly comatose, Savoy shrugged assent and struggled to stand erect. I grabbed him under the left armpit. I nodded to McNulty and said, “I’ll take him home. No doubt, he’ll see you tomorrow.” The barkeep nodded, his hands on the mahogany surface in front of him. “Need any help with him?” “Naw, I can handle it okay. Good night.”

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Outside, the downpour had not abated. As I steered Savoy toward my Jeep, rain sloshing down his neck partially revived him. He looked at me in the dim light of the tavern sign. “Who are you?” “I’m Jeff Clement, the insurance guy. Remember?” His head bobbed drunkenly as he slurred, “Oh, yeah. I need to get home. I gotta catch the bus.” “Eddie, I’ll take you home. Give me your address before you pass out.” He mumbled a street name and number. I didn’t catch all of it, but it made no difference. We weren’t going there anyway. I opened the passenger door and pushed him onto the seat. He dragged his legs in and slumped down. I shut the door and sloshed through the rain to my door and opened it. The wet clothing made it chilly. I started the engine and turned on the heater. The smell of alcohol emanating from Eddie was strong. Savoy was out cold. His fun was over. I drove to a large shopping center on State Highway 35 and pulled in. The stores were still open, so I drove to a place in the parking area where there were no cars. I waited there until one in the morning, when all the stores were closed and

THE HOBBY/McDougal everyone had gone home. By then the storm had passed. The streets were wet,

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reflecting refractions of the street lamps. My passenger slept soundly, snoring most of the time. There were several exits from the center. One of them had shrubbery growing on both sides of the opening. It was ideal for what I had in mind. Eddie Savoy had destroyed people with two tons of speeding metal. It was only appropriate that he face the same fate. Remember, this is not revenge by proxy I am describing. It is elimination of a criminal threat living in our midst. The method I had selected would assist him in understanding why he deserved what was about to happen to him. The rain had stopped and a thin ground fog had rolled in from the shore. I opened my door and went to the back of the SUV. I swung open the rear door and removed the chair. I stuck the roll of duct tape into my pocket. I rolled the chair to a spot adjacent to the passenger door of the vehicle. I opened it and shook Savoy awake. He was still drunk. He muttered, “Are we home?” “Not yet, Eddie. You need to get out of the car for a minute. Here, I’ll help you.” I grabbed him by the arm and pulled him out. He wobbled as I pushed him into the chair. He looked around groggily. Confusion showed on his face as he asked, “Where are we? What the hell am I doing in a chair?” I said, “Hold still for a moment.” I hurriedly wrapped the tape around his chest, arms and the chair, completing a half dozen turns. He began to emerge from the haze and said, “What are you doing?”

THE HOBBY/McDougal I didn’t answer. Instead, I wrapped some tape around his ankles. I looked at him as he sat there. He struggled futilely before giving up. He wasn’t going to get loose.

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I went back to the rear of the Liberty and removed the coil of rope. When I returned to Savoy, I said, “Let me jog your memory, Eddie. Do you recall Millicent Roland or Janice Burden?” He didn’t respond. “Sure you do, Eddie. They are both six feet under, and you put them there. Mrs. Roland’s head split open when it hit your windshield. Mrs. Burden’s head was lopped off when you hit her car. I think it might be sweet justice if something similar happened to you.” I held up the rope. “I’m going to tie this to your chair. Then I’m going to stretch it across this street. I’ll wait on the other side for an eighteen-wheeler to come along, and then at the last possible second, I’ll pull on the rope and drag you in front of the truck. With luck, the huge mass of metal will mangle your body very painfully. It should kill you, but if it doesn’t, you will probably wish that it had.” Fright spread across Savoy’s face. “In God’s name, why are you doing this. I never did anything to you!” And then, the old familiar refrain. He said, “I’ve done my time. I’ve paid my debt to society, for God’s sake. You can’t do this. You can’t.” He began to cry, tears streaking his cheeks. I studied him for a moment, then said, “Well, actually, Edward, I can. As for the reason why I am doing this, it is primarily to deter you from repeating your sins.

THE HOBBY/McDougal But there is a larger issue. Look at it this way. There are thousands of people who have maimed and killed others by causing wrecks while they were driving drunk.

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Now, logic dictates that it would be nigh impossible to take them all out, so I have chosen you. I am going to crucify you, figuratively speaking. Edward, you’re going to pay with your life for all those sinners’ transgressions. You’re the chosen one, the man who will lift the burden from the backs of all the alcoholics who have murderously crapped on the rest of us. Your name should be on a plaque in every bar in the country, but I’m afraid it won’t be. But I’ll know what a great sacrifice you will have made.” His crying became a wail. He sobbed, “I’ll never do it again, Mister. I’ve learned my lesson. I’ll quit drinking. I can turn my life around. Please, for God’s sake, give me one more chance.” “Sorry, Eddie, but you’ve had all the chances you are going to get.” He began to scream. I wrapped tape around his mouth. He groaned like a soulless animal. I bent and tied the rope to the base of the chair, then reached underneath and released the spring that held the chair in a low position. It bobbed up high enough that Savoy’s feet were off the ground. He was positioned in the shopping center exit, hidden from both directions by shrubbery. I waited until there was no traffic and trotted across the roadway, letting the line lay on the pavement. I squatted by the curb, hidden by a postal collection box. A few cars went by. No one seemed to notice the rope. Finally, I could hear the engine and tires of a large truck approaching.

THE HOBBY/McDougal “Do you hear that, Eddie?” I called out “That’s the devil, coming to get you.”

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Dimly, I could see him trying to break free. I couldn’t see his eyes, but I am sure they were full of terror. At least I hoped they were. The huge vehicle came closer, and closer, and at the exact right moment, I hauled the line as rapidly as I could. A split second before it smashed into Eddie, the driver hit the brakes. Too late. Savoy and the chair tumbled end over end fifty feet down the roadway, stopping finally beneath a street lamp. I could see he was a bloody mess. As the driver dismounted and ran toward Savoy’s remains, I slipped across the road behind his truck. I walked swiftly to my car and left the parking lot unnoticed. Another enemy combatant had bitten the dust. News of Eddie’s demise made the front page of the local paper. The police said they had no clues. I guess the rope, the chair and the tape didn’t qualify as evidence. When they identified Savoy, the reports of his death moved quickly to a cold case file jacket. As the detective assigned to the case said to a reporter, “Too many suspects. Half the population of Sandy Shores, or more.”

E-mail the author: mcdougal8@verizon.net

THE HOBBY/McDougal Chapter Five

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By now, you are either with me or ready to call law enforcement and turn me in. But this is a piece of fiction, so that is not an option. Or is it? Could it be that this is really an autobiographical book, a thinly disguised confession, and could it be that I am really as horrible and evil as some of you may believe? After all, dear reader, I really am a retired judge from Texas. How much else herein is true? Are the cases I recount camouflaged accounts of actual assassinations? And so what if they are? Given the chance, wouldn’t you shoot Osama bin Laden? So what is the difference between you and me? Simple. I do it and you don’t. You may also have noticed that there is nothing personal in my alleged misbehavior. In fact, the choice of subjects is made almost entirely on an impersonal basis. I usually go after the ones who interest me. Revenge is not a factor. Justice is. This has always been true even when my good friend, Evan Jacoby, was murdered during a carjacking. The perp, Alonzo Goshen, was captured the same day. He did not get bail, and was later sentenced to life without parole. It was entirely coincidental that Goshen was later stabbed to death by Muhammad Jackson in the laundry at the Ellis Unit of the Texas penitentiary system. It was further by chance that Jackson’s wife received ten thousand dollars in cash two days after I withdrew an identical amount from my savings. Deepak Chopra wasn’t far off the mark when he said, “When you live your life with an appreciation of coincidences and their meanings, you connect with the

THE HOBBY/McDougal

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underlying field of infinite possibilities.” Well, coincidentally, Alonzo is infinitely dead. Was it I who crossed the line between assassination and murder? Who, me? Shame on you for even thinking that. And then there was Dieter Schlecter. He was never known to be a ladies man. His friends all said he was a loner who kept to himself. They never saw him with a date. At forty-one, he was still on his first job, working as a furniture deliveryman for New York’s Giant Home Furnishings in Brooklyn, New York. Giant was way down on the low end of low end furniture companies. They gained some notoriety when they survived a challenge in court by the New York football Giants due to alleged name infringement. The apostrophe “s” on New York’s saved the furniture dealer from a financial setback. Most of its customers are poor blacks and Hispanics. To African-Americans, it is bad sticks. To Latinos, muebles malo. But in most cases it is all they could afford. Dieter Schlecter was the ideal deliveryman for a sorry company like Giant. He was someone who would never find even the bottom rung on the ladder of success. Lifting heavy bureaus and tables had helped him develop a strong body. He usually had underarm odor equally as intense. His face had a doughy look, with pocked cheeks and a bulbous nose. He never drank on the job, but made up for that the moment he got off work. True to his German heritage, his favorite beverage was beer. He drank it from quart bottles, and the cheaper the better. His choice of alcohol was indicative of all his life preferences. Inexpensive food, clothing and lodging. After work each evening, like a snake in a rocky hole, he ventured out only to pursue food, drink, or sex. And he certainly never paid for

THE HOBBY/McDougal

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sex. He got his share, but it was only because he was a rapist. His choice of victims was selected from among those whom he had reason to believe would not resist. When he was drunk, he usually went after the first female target of opportunity that came along. Most of his prey were prostitutes who plied their trade in the poorer parts of Brooklyn. His modus operandi was simple. He negotiated sex and then simply refused to pay for it after completion of the act. When the hooker complained, he would beat her nearly enough to put her out of business. Complaints to the police, when there were any, were scoffed at by the hardened cops who didn’t believe the vics. If some guy had taken a working girl off the street for a while, it just made their job easier. It seemed, then, that Dieter had hit upon the perfect scheme to satisfy his lust and need to dominate. Schlecter was oblivious to much of the world around him back in 1983. Tom Brokaw was the new NBC anchor, the Soviets shot down Korean Air flight 007, Metallica released their debut album, “Kill ‘Em All,” and Tennessee Williams died. Dieter had no clue regarding these events and wouldn’t have cared one way or the other even if he had. He was an ignorant man, apparently happy to stay that way. Maria Santos was not a prostitute. She was, in fact, a medical assistant who worked at the Flatbush Free Clinic. Employment there was less a job than it was a calling. Low wages, long hours and no hope of advancement. But Maria knew that her reward would come in time, when the Holy Mother would some day clasp her to her bosom and caress the years of care away. She had been at the health center for eleven years, since she was eighteen.

THE HOBBY/McDougal

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Maria lived with her mom in a fourth floor tenement apartment. It was hot in the summer and cold in the winter. But it was all they could afford. Her mother, Alberta, was a janitress at P.S. 77. She was not anywhere close to being among the hierarchy of janitors in the New York Public School system. Many of the head janitors were wealthy, living high on kickbacks from the vendors who sold the schools cleaning supplies, toilet paper, towels, brooms and more. It was the Albertas of the system who did the work. So the two hard-working decent women lived a life of gray and oppressive penury. Their working hours were different, with Alberta leaving for her tasks about an hour after Maria came home. They usually ate dinner together, and enjoyed Sundays, their one day off which coincided. Dieter Schlecter saw Maria at the clinic when he went in to have the doctor check his penis to see why it was exuding pus. The diagnosis was gonorrhea. He joked with the doc and told him that his father, who had served in the Far East, called it gone-to-Korea. Doctor Grimes didn’t think that was humorous. He asked Dieter where he had contracted the disease and was told, “In an alley. I didn’t catch her name.” He prescribed an antibiotic and told Dieter to come back in a week. Most men, even one as reptilian in nature as Dieter, have a vision of the ideal woman. It could be that she resembles a girl on whom he once had a secret crush. Or it might be that she possesses a certain combination of facial features that he finds appealing. In Dieter’s case, Maria had the misfortune to look a lot like Bonita Bazooms, a Latina porn star whom Schlecter had viewed many times on his DVD player.

THE HOBBY/McDougal In interviews later with a prison psychiatrist Dieter said that the vision of Bonita and Maria began to meld into one. He said he began to attribute erotic qualities to Miss Santos. The thought grew that she would perform sexually like a

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porn star were she to be sufficiently aroused. He would act on that impulse as soon as he could. He convinced himself that once his cock was inside Maria, she would succumb to the desires that she (and all women, he believed) had but were reluctant to show. When he went back to see the doctor for a follow-up visit, he saw Maria again. He began to stalk her, at first from a distance and later from a closer proximity. Finally, one evening as she left the Dominican bodega near her building, he spoke to her. He came up behind her and grasped her elbow. “Where are you going in such a hurry, Maria?” She turned, alarmed. She asked tremulously, “What do you want?” “I just want us to be friends. You know me, from the clinic.” She said, “Leave me alone. I have to go home.” “I won’t hurt you. I just want to talk to you.” She tried to pull away and said, “Well, you are hurting me. Let me go. And, yes, I know who you are. You have a disease.” He said gutturally, “Not no more, I don’t. The doc cured me. You wouldn’t have to worry none about that.” She pushed at him with her free hand and said loudly, “Leave me alone! Let me go.”

THE HOBBY/McDougal People on the sidewalk passed them by, thinking they were witnessing a domestic quarrel. No one wanted to get involved.

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Dieter pulled her close and whispered in her ear, “You come with me or I’ll kill you, bitch.” His foul breath made her gag and she shook with disgust. It was then that she felt the pain in her side. He had stuck a knife a little way into her flesh, barely a scratch, but painful. The early twilight of November had helped mask this part of the attack. Maria couldn’t believe this was happening to her, out in the open with people passing by. A man approached and she looked into his eyes and he averted his face and hurried on by. In desperation, Maria began screaming. A young man with a knapsack had just passed the couple, but turned when he heard her. He went back to them and grabbed Dieter’s shoulder. “Hey, mister, leave her alone,” he shouted. Schlecter growled, “This is my woman. Fuck off.” Maria shrieked, “He’s going to kill me. He’s got a knife. Help me!” The man who had stopped to help moved back slightly. He hadn’t volunteered for a knife fight. However, as other people began to gather around, Dieter turned and ran through the crowd, disappearing down the first side street. A woman in the cluster had a cell phone and had already dialed 911. Moments later, the wail of a police siren was heard, echoing between the tenements. Maria staggered to the closest stoop and slumped onto the bottom step. An old woman came down the stairs and sat beside her, comforting her. A chill not due to the cool evening wracked Maria as she began to sob.

THE HOBBY/McDougal She was transported by an NYC EMS vehicle to the Brooklyn Hospital

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Center on DeKalb Avenue, where she was treated and released. Detective Joe Sloan of Special Victims who interviewed her assured her that Dieter Schlecter would be arrested and that she had no reason to fear him. Dieter made his way to his apartment and locked the door. Two detectives were at his door within an hour of the assault. He tried to explain that it was simply a domestic dispute between a man and his girl. His reasoning fell on deaf ears. He was cuffed and transported to the precinct house. His employer, Grant Simpkins, visited Dieter in the jail the next day. He assured the wayward deliveryman that he would put up his bail as soon as it was set at arraignment. He did so, and Schlecter was back on the job the following day. Dieter was unaware of the promise that Detective Sloan had made to Maria. He let two days pass, to allow things die down a bit. On the third day, he waited after work for Maria in the vestibule of her tenement building. It was nearly dark there, the only illumination emanating from a dim sign next to the fire door. The sign said XIT, the E having been broken long ago. The burned out hall lights were never replaced by the tightfisted landlord. Dieter’s breath fogged in the cold of the stairwell as waited for the love of his life to come home. Let me point out that some might call Dieter a sicko. I never would. He was not sick, he was evil. Evil is the driving force behind all criminal acts. The perps do not see themselves as wicked. They don’t even admit to being selfish, cruel bastards, which is what they are. Again, their iniquity is why they can never, ever

THE HOBBY/McDougal be rehabilitated, and indeed, has convinced me that rehabilitation almost never works.

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So Dieter Schlecter lay in wait, like a python with only one goal. He stood in a small alcove where an inoperative fire hose hung on the wall, coiled and molding. Someone named Chaco had tagged the wall opposite him in huge spray painted red letters. Residents trickled in, heading for home. The stale smell of the building began to succumb to scents of aroz con pollo, frijoles negros, curtido Salvadoreno and chapina. Dieter recognized only the cabbage fragrance, but all of the blended odors made him hungry. But his lust for Maria was stronger than his desire for food. His patience was rewarded at five forty-five when his target entered the building. As she walked past him, he slipped up behind her and put his left arm around her, his hand resting on her right breast. His other hand covered her mouth, preventing her from crying for help. He said, “You keep quiet, Maria, and you won’t get hurt. Let’s go to your apartment.” He shoved her forward to the stairs. Too frightened to resist, Maria let him shove her up the steps. They stumbled up the four flights, coming finally to Maria’s door. Schlecter said impatiently, “Come on, Goddammit, open it. Let’s go in there where it’s warm. I been freezin’ my ass off, waitin’ for you, Honey.” Maria fumbled in her purse for her key, stifling the urge to scream. She did believe him regarding his threats. When the door clicked open, Dieter shoved Maria violently into the apartment, which was little more than a large room and a bathroom. A white curtain, hung by shower curtain rings on a stretched wire, separated twin beds from the rest of the quarters. It was then that he saw Maria’s

THE HOBBY/McDougal mother, Alberta. She stood by the kitchen stove, her head turned to see what the commotion was. Dieter exclaimed, “Who the hell are you?”

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Maria had moved across the room to her mother’s side. Schlecter kicked the door shut and asked again, “I said, who the fuck are you.” “I’m Maria’s Mama, Alberta Santos. And who are you, you disrespectful man, to come in here like this, with your foul mouth? Maria, who is this man?” Fright showing in her voice, Maria answered, “It’s Dieter Schlecter, Mama, the man who attacked me on the street. He forced his way in.” Alberta said, “You leave us alone. I will call the police.” “Fuck the police, old woman. They don’t want me. They let me go.” Schlecter strode quickly across the room, shoving Alberta away and grasping Maria’s arm. “You two shut up. I’ll do the talking. You do what I want and nobody gets hurt. Maria, you are my woman, and you can’t change that.” Alberta lunged at Dieter, a small kitchen knife in her upraised hand. The universal instinct of a mother gave impetus to her act. Schlecter released Maria and grabbed Alberta’s arm. It was no contest. He snapped her forearm like a flower stem, then slammed her jaw with his fist. She slumped to the floor, unconscious. Maria stood in shock, too frightened to move. Schlecter pushed her past the curtain and threw her bodily onto one of the beds. He raped her, and when she did not react with enthusiasm, he cursed her and raped her again. Throughout the ordeal, she sobbed and prayed in Spanish to God

THE HOBBY/McDougal for help. This reaction to the sexual act enraged Dieter. He stood and pulled his pants up. Frustrated, he did what any self-respecting rapist does. He beat her until

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she was barely conscious, then left. Her eyes were swollen, her face was bloodied, her upper body covered with purple welts. Barely able to move, she rose from the bed and went to check on her mother, who had regained consciousness and was moaning with pain. Maria left the room and stumbled across the hall to the apartment of Jose and Graciela Principio. Mr. Principio called 911 and Mrs. Principio tended to the two women until an ambulance arrived. By midnight, Dieter was in the jail at the 67th Precinct on Flatbush Avenue. This visit began a long period of incarceration for the evil Mr. Schlecter. Mr. Simpkins did not respond to Dieter’s phone calls, and in fact, never spoke to him again. Randolph Wiskall, the public defender assigned to Dieter’s case, met with him two days after his arrest. He listened to Dieter’s story and determined he was guilty as sin and had absolutely no defense. Wiskall persuaded him to cop a plea. The Assistant District Attorney agreed to a sentence of ten to twenty years for rape and felonious assault. This was more than most first time offenders receive. However, both the A.D.A. and the judge were agreed that Schlecter was obsessed with Maria and that she could be protected only by locking her attacker away for a long time. Maria and Alberta eventually recovered from their injuries, though Alberta was not able to resume her duties at the school. She found work as a private maid for a family in the Park Slope section of Brooklyn, at less pay.

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I became aware of the story when an article appeared in the New York Post regarding Schlecter. It seems that Maria was not an only child. She had a younger brother named Cristofero who had been in Puerto Rico when his mother and sister had been brutalized by Schlecter. By the time Cristofero Santos made his way to New York, Dieter was already in the Bare Hill Medium Correctional Facility. Senor Santos was understandably highly irate about the attacks. Schlecter served nearly the full twenty years before his release. Santos never forgot for a moment what had happened. Three days after Schlecter was released, Cristofero attempted to take his revenge. The rage he had nursed for two decades boiled over. He confronted the rapist outside his parole officer’s building and fired a pistol at him at point blank range. Cristofero had never before fired a weapon. He missed his target. Schlecter did not stick around to see who the crazy Puerto Rican was. He ran for his life. Santos chased him, firing five more times, missing with every blast. Thankfully, he also missed numerous bystanders, who also ran for their lives. Police and parole officers ran into the street and chased after the shooter. They collared him as he was attempting to reload. Dieter was long gone. Poor Cristofero was held without bail and copped a plea to illegally possessing a handgun and to firing at Mr. Schlecter. He was sentenced to six months, to be served at the Rikers Island jail. After reading of the account in the newspaper, and also of the history of Dieter Schlecter’s crime, I decided that Schlecter had not paid nearly enough to society, which of course, always includes me in its number. I suspected that Schlecter was probably destitute and would be in need of cash. I phoned Robbie

THE HOBBY/McDougal Wilson, Schlecter’s parole officer, and told him I had read about the fracas on Jay Street and felt sympathy for Schlecter’s plight. “I am in the warehouse business and currently need a man to drive a delivery truck. If Schlecter needs a job, I’d like to help. Do you have a phone number for him?”

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Wilson thanked me for my offer, which I knew would make his job easier. “Well, I’m really not supposed to give out any information on these mutts, but I guess he needs help, for sure. He doesn’t have a phone but he lives at 2201 Driggs, in a flophouse run by the state. I ought to warn you, though, that I don’t think he’s going to make it on the outside. He’s a mean son of a bitch. But you never know, do you?” I said, “No, you don’t. But I’ll bet I can turn him around. Give me a week or two and I’ll wager his bad-ass days will be over.” That afternoon I dropped by the Driggs Street address. A seedy looking clerk sat behind a counter atop which a wire cage wall separated him from the riffraff. The place smelled of stale mop water, moldy wood and the ubiquitous odor of urine. I said to the man on duty, “Looking for Dieter Schlecter.” “Who wants to know?” I handed the man a business card, one selected from a variety I keep for most purposes. It said, “Dashiell Condon, Attorney at Law.” It also listed a phone number, which was actually the Mayor of New York’s office number. That should be good for laughs in a day or two. “I ain’t sure what his room number is. He ain’t been here long.”

THE HOBBY/McDougal I said, “Look it up.” He paused, his head cocked to one side. “I don’t know. He might not want any visitors.”

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I pulled out my money clip and peeled off a five spot. “Here’s five dollars. That’s all you’re going to get, so cut the bullshit.” He didn’t need to refer to the register. “3-B.” I climbed the dingy stairs to the third floor, looking for 3-B. It was two doors down from the stairwell. I knocked politely. A muffled voice asked, “Who’s there?” I answered, “Dashiell Condon. I’m an attorney. I believe I may have good news for you.” The door cracked open. Schlecter peered at me through the two-inch vertical aperture. “A lawyer with good news? Where the fuck were you twenty years ago?” “Not here, that’s for sure. Are you going to let me in?” He opened up and I walked in. The room was filthy. The remnants of Chinese take-out were on a maple coffee table. The bed was unmade. An empty quart beer bottle served as an ashtray. It was half full of stubs. There were no chairs. Dieter looked as though he felt right at home in the clutter. He was as unmade as his bed. His clothes were dirty. His belt was unfastened, the buckle swinging as he walked. His prison pallor was still with him. He sat on the bed and asked, looking at my card, “So what is the good news, Mr. Condon?”

THE HOBBY/McDougal I set my brief case on top of his dresser, after moving more empty food containers. “Mr. Schlecter, did you know the man who tried to shoot you?”

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“Hell, no. I mean, I didn’t know who he was until I read about it in the Daily News. He’s got some kind of grudge against me, says I hurt his mother and his sister.” “Well, did you?” “That was a big fuckin’ misunderstanding. That bitch Maria was leadin’ me on. When her mama found out, she lied about us. I hurt the mother, but she had it coming. She tried to kill me. It was self-defense. Then they both lied about me and I ended up doing nearly twenty years for their lyin’ shit. No tellin’ what they told that crazy Puerto Rican son of hers.” I said, “So you were actually innocent of the crime they sent you up for?” “Damn right. And as soon as I can find Maria, I’ll straighten her ass out once and for all. But you still ain’t told me what the good news is.” I could have drawn it out for another few minutes with some cock and bull crap that would have gotten his hopes up. But I had heard enough. He had no remorse and intended to do further harm to Maria Santos. “The happy news is that all your troubles are over.” He frowned a stupid glower and asked, “What do you mean?” “Oh, I’m sorry. Did I say your worries were over? I meant the Santos’ family will have no more worries, at least as far as you are concerned.” “I don’t understand.”

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I slipped on a pair of gloves, took the pistol with its silencer attached out of my briefcase and pointed at him. I said, “Of course you don’t, you asshole.” He had a hard time figuring out what that meant. He seemed surprised to see a lawyer holding a gun. I said, “Move over to the chair, Dieter, and sit down.” “What the hell? What are you doing?” “Do as I say. Sit down. I want to talk to you.” He started to make a quick move toward me. I fired the Glock before he had a chance to complete the maneuver. The round hit his left hand, shattering the fourth metacarpal bone. He froze, emitting a garbled scream, “Aarghh! You shot me, you son of a bitch!” “I’ll shoot you again if you don’t do what I tell you. Now get in the damned chair and shut up.” “I’m bleeding. Oh, God, I’m bleeding all over the place.” “Take the pillowcase off the pillow and wrap it around your hand.” A flicker of hopefulness crossed his face as he thought I might not kill him. And in fact, it was not my intention to exterminate him. I don’t kill every one of my targets. Dieter had not killed anyone, so I had decided to give him a life lesson that he would never forget. He wrapped the linen around his hand and stumbled to the wooden chair. I moved behind him and took out the roll of duct tape. “Now, don’t move, you son of a bitch, or I’ll blow your head off.” While he was distracted in tending to his

THE HOBBY/McDougal wound, I quickly wrapped the tape around him and the chair back. His arms were pinned. Another few wraps and so were his legs. Finally, I ripped off a short piece and placed it over his mouth. I went back to the briefcase and removed an expandable police baton, pulling it out to its twenty-one inch length. I moved directly in front of Dieter. He was sweating with fear and useless exertions. He was tied down like the pig he was. “Dieter, I want you to listen to me very carefully. Your life will depend

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upon your following my instructions to the letter. First, you are to never, ever have any contact with Maria Santos, Her mother, Alberta Santos, or Maria’s brother, Cristofero Santos. Further, you are to never hurt another woman as long as you live. You get a Goddamned job and stay out of trouble.” I threw that last part in for good measure. “Now, I am going to give you some of what you gave Maria and Alberta. And if you don’t obey the orders I have given you, I will come back, find you and kill you. I didn’t ask for a sign of assent from him, but he nodded his head in the affirmative anyway. For the next ten minutes I worked him over with that baton until he was barely conscious. His balls throbbed with pain, his arm was broken as well as some ribs. His nose bled and his eyes were puffed nearly closed. Dealing with the scumbag that day made me aware of how easy it must be for some police to drift from apprehension to brutality. When I had completed the job, I dropped the

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police baton on the floor next to the chair. No telling what the cops would make of that when they discovered it. I hoped that would be the end of Dieter Schlecter, psychotic sadist. If it were, then the average collective goodness quotient of mankind would have moved up slightly. Hooray for me, and please, dear reader, no applause. Two blocks away from the hotel, I used a public pay phone to call 911. I told the operator that someone was dying in room 3-B at 2201 Driggs, and to send an ambulance. When she asked me for my name, I told her I didn’t want to get involved and hung up. There were others. For instance, the girl in Connecticut who had talked her boyfriend into killing her parents with an ax, herself got a few whacks. The man in San Francisco who, in a jealous rage, threw his pregnant wife off the roof of a tenstory tenement failed also to be able to fly when he went off the top of the same building. And the fellow who placed a pipe bomb in his neighbor’s mailbox, thereby removing the unfortunate fellow’s right arm and his head, failed to survive a detonation while sitting on a similar explosive device.

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THE HOBBY/McDougal Chapter Six

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When I’m in town, I never miss the Friday Rotary Club meeting in Oak Hill. I like it there because, even though I am no longer in office, everyone still calls me Judge. I often smile to myself since they don’t know how right they are. Then the day came when my life took another one of those unexpected turns. I was early for the meeting and took a seat at a table near the back of the room. My old friend, Precinct Constable Ralph Cotter, and another man sat down across from me. I recognized Cotter’s companion, Special Agent Donald Grant. I’d met him at a judicial conference in Austin, where he was a speaker. Grant worked out of the Dallas office of the FBI and was the Rotary luncheon speaker today. He was a particularly homely man. Thinning hair above a beefy red face on a chunky body, the type of build that makes suits rumple. He was around fifty and had figured in some large cases in the past. One of the biggest was his solving of a series of armored car robberies that had occurred in several different cities. Grant had determined that the common denominator was the manufacturer of the trucks. It turned out that an assembly foreman who installed a new type of rear electronic door lock in the vehicles had put in identically coded locks in fourteen vehicles. His cohorts had specially configured remote devices that popped the locks. They simply walked up and opened the wheeled treasure troves. Guns in hand, they made off with millions before Agent Grant and his team took them down. I greeted them. “Hey, fellas, catch any crooks lately?”

THE HOBBY/McDougal Cotter tried to smile, but as usual didn’t quite make it. It was hard to tell when he was scowling, since that was a normal face for him. Even when he was happy, he rarely wore a grin. People who didn’t know him well often believed he didn’t like them. This was a bad trait for an elected official, but he overcame that obstacle by being one of the most effective law enforcement officers in Dallas County.

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Cotter said, “Good to see you, Judge. Agent Grant here was inquiring about you. Wanted to know if you would be here today. Didn’t know you two were going steady. Back to your question, Judge, business has been good. And by the way, we sure miss you in the courtroom. The new guy just doesn’t have your sense of humor.” He finally grinned as he said to Grant, “You should have seen the jerks who used to say, ‘I never wrote no hot checks’. The judge would ask them, ‘is that a confession or, since you are under oath, simply a clever use of the double negative?’ The deputies used to bet on whether or not the hot check artist would answer, ‘Duh.’ ‘Duh’ almost always won.” I was not happy to hear that an FBI agent was asking about me. Hmm. Grant said, referring to my courtroom humor, “That’s a good one. I’ll have to remember it. And also to answer your question, we’re covered up too, Judge. More and more, our focus is on the terrorist threat. Takes some getting used to. The Bureau has always been the solver of crimes, not really focused on prevention. But we’re getting there. I’m going to address some of that in my talk today.” I said, “Well good luck on that. The terrorists seem so damned irrational. I don’t know how you can get a handle on those people.”

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Then came a statement I shall probably remember until my dying day. “I’d like to visit with you after lunch, Judge. Something has come up and I need to discuss it with you.” Cotter cocked his head slightly and gave Grant a sidelong glance. I didn’t like the sound of that. Oh, my, I thought. So his interest in me might not be a friendly one. The FBI had never before discussed anything with me. Why would they start now, I wondered. I could think of twenty-one reasons. Cotter was the program chairman that month. When he introduced Grant he deadpanned, “I had originally tried to get Benjamin Netanyahu to speak today. He was polite, but said his schedule wouldn’t permit it. So I thought for a bit about any other yahoos that might be available, and our speaker for today, FBI Special Agent Donald Grant, came to mind.” When the guffawing subsided, Grant took the podium. During Grant’s talk, he described in some detail his efforts to root out Middle Eastern murderers right there in North Texas. He also let us Rotarians know what we could do to thwart their evil plans. Be alert. What really caught my attention, however, was his description of a new national file-sharing program. He described the plan with relish. “Before I close, let me tell you about a new FBI program. It’s downright amazing. We have set up a section at headquarters in D.C. that compiles data without initially trying to make any sense out of it. The process is called link analysis. Connections are made from looking at massive amounts of random data. It was originally developed by the Pentagon, and has been

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effective in the war on terror. The Bureau receives information covering cold case murder files from local and state law enforcement officers all over the country. The staff categorizes the information into twenty-eight categories. Some are descriptions offered by witnesses, types of victims, clues left at the crime scene, license plate numbers, M.O.’s. A wide assortment of information. The computers are set up to analyze the info, looking for matches. “Just this week we have begun to run the crosscheck part of the program to see if any matches pop up. I’m not at liberty to divulge the results in detail, but I can tell you we have had four hits on a license plate number of a car owned by a North Texas man.” Have you ever sat in church listening to the pastor’s sermon, and begun to believe he was speaking directly to you? Do you remember the droplets of incriminating sweat that began to bead your furrowed brow? Well, that same feeling swept over me while Agent Grant spoke. Was it my imagination, or was he looking sternly into my eyes? After his speech, I joined the line to deposit my dirty dishes and silverware into the plastic tubs on the table next to the kitchen. Grant sidled up to me and asked, “How did you like the talk, Judge?” I said, warily, “I was intrigued by the new cold case program. Sounds like a pretty good one to me.” As we exited the building, he took my elbow and steered me away from the crowd. He said, “Yeah, it’s better than good. Which brings me to the reason I want to visit with you. The license plate hits I mentioned…they were yours, Judge.”

THE HOBBY/McDougal He paused, searching my face for something to validate his suspicions.

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I am a very good poker player. My face did not give him what he wanted. I said, “I’ll be damned. My license number? How could that be?” “I was hoping you might be able to tell me that.” I shrugged my shoulders, indicating I had no clue. He said, “Also, as you know, Judge, when you were inducted into the Army back in the seventies, one of the things that happened to you was that your fingerprints were taken.” Oh crap, I thought. Here it comes. “Well, in one of the cases a scrap of duct tape was found, stuck to the victim’s clothing. There was a perfect match for your thumb on it.” I knew that was a con. I never handled duct tape barehanded. I always slipped on a pair of latex gloves before using it. We were next to Grant’s Buick. He gently said, “Duncan, You look as though you need to sit down. Let’s get in my car.” He opened the door and I got in. Oddly, I was not frightened. I knew that some day I might be arrested, and had actually worked out in my mind a trial defense that would rely heavily on jury nullification. I would go public and insist on standing trial for all the assassinations at the same time. I believed I could convince a jury that I did nothing more nor less than what the state does with lethal injections. Perhaps I could at least attain a degree of glory. Errol Flynn, playing George Armstrong Custer in They Died With Their Boots On, said, “There’s something to be said for glory. When it’s your time to go, you can take it with you.” Words to live by.

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The last thing I would do would be to file an insanity plea. I am not a nut. I have always been convinced that the elimination of evil is a noble calling. It is a duty. And what the hell, it’s very fulfilling. Agent Grant circled the government car and got in on the driver’s side. After he sat, he turned to me and said, “All the victims were bad guys. What threw us off the track at first was that the killer’s M.O. was different in nearly every case. And yet a pattern developed. It was evident, and this is highly unusual, that they were dispatched in a manner consistent with the crimes they had themselves committed. A la The Mikado. The punishment should fit the crime. And like Dante wrote in the Inferno. Have you read Dante?” Before I could let him know that I actually had read it in college, he said, “He categorized wrongdoing into several circles of Hell. He theorized that each sin has a specific punishment. I think that is what somebody was doing, Judge. Meting out specific punishment.” I said, “You don’t say. Is that murder, or is it justice?” “You tell me, Judge.” “Well, since I am not your man and I don’t have the details, I really can’t say. Who were these people anyway?” Grant recounted briefly the history and circumstances of death of each of those he suspected were my candidates. One, which I can’t take credit for (but wish I could) was the murder of a pedophile in Idaho who had brutally and repeatedly raped a seven year old boy over a three day period. The child’s anus was so terribly torn that he nearly bled to death. Devon Carter, the molester, was arrested on largely circumstantial evidence. He was out on $20,000 bail awaiting trial when he

THE HOBBY/McDougal was found tied across a park picnic table in Dierkes Lake Park in Twin Falls. The big end of a greased baseball bat had been inserted two feet into his rectum. Someone had taken a knife and had raised splinters that acted as barbs all around the bat. It had been pumped in and out of the victim, causing painful tearing, a bloody mess. I remembered that park. Coincidentally, I had sat on a bench there and ate lunch. It was when I had been in town to buy camping supplies, and it must have been about the time the pederast got his reward. But not administered by me. Grant had most of the details correct. Where he did not, I was sorely

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tempted to fill him in. I had often given advice to defendants in my court to remain silent as much as possible. Sort of a courtroom Miranda warning. You would be amazed at how many times a miscreant will dig his way into the jailhouse with his tongue. When Grant paused, I said nothing. Finally, he asked, “Does any of this ring a bell?” I answered cautiously, “Sorry, Donald, but it’s all news to me. I would think, however, that if you ever catch the perp you should give him a medal.” Hmm. No laugh. He said, “Judge, some people might be tempted to say to you, ‘Gotcha’. But I am not as indelicate as that. I would like to see you tomorrow, somewhere private. Maybe at your home. I have some files I would like to show you.” He had not read me my rights, which I took to be a good sign. Still I was filled with a feeling of trepidation. If ‘Gotcha’ was the operative word, why prolong the proceedings? I asked, “To what end?”

THE HOBBY/McDougal He said, “We’ll go over that tomorrow. Okay?”

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I shrugged (bad body language, I know), and replied, “Alright, say about ten in the morning at my house. You bring the donuts.” He said, “Fine, I’ll see you then.”

E-mail the author: mcdougal8@verizon.net

THE HOBBY/McDougal Chapter Seven

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My home is in the southern part of Dallas County, in the quiet burg of Westville. Our major products are high school football and hanging out. Friday nights in the fall, half the town can be found in Cougar Stadium, cheering some years and groaning others. Murder is a very rare commodity there, though some have vowed to kill the football coach at the end of a losing season. My wife and I bought our house new in 1987. It has tripled in price. The saplings everyone planted in their yards back then have, for the most part, matured. It has become a very attractive area. The neighborhood, once pristinely white, has slowly integrated as middle class blacks found it. A few people bailed when the first African-Americans moved in. Too bad for them. Because there are more upscale blacks than there are nice homes in Westville, the law of supply and demand has increased property values considerably. Hooray for integration. A little before ten the morning after my conversation with the Fed, his car pulled up and parked in front of the house. I watched as he and another man got out and walked up to the front door. Grant was carrying a briefcase. I waited for their knock and then opened the door. Grant handed me a small box marked Dunkin Donuts and said, “Good morning, Judge. Okay to come in?” “Certainly. Who’s your pal?” “This is Joe Waldrip.” No explanation as to who the guy was. He was about sixty and looked older. His lined, craggy face had the gray pallor of impending

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death. His suit was three sizes too big. As we shook I noticed his hands were waxy, as if he had been prematurely embalmed. I led them into the kitchen and gestured for them to have a seat at the dinette table. I set out three mugs and took the coffee pot off the stove and set it on a trivet. After getting cream from the refrigerator, I sat down. Waldrip picked up the pot and poured for all of us. When he picked up his mug, he cupped it with both hands, as if to warm his palms. Grant put his case on an empty chair and snapped it open. He pulled a manila folder from it and handed it to me. Inside were a hundred or so pages, interspersed with many familiar photos. Held in place by an Acco fastener, they appeared to be in chronological order. I flipped the sheets slowly. Before I had gone through a dozen of the pages it became abundantly clear that my ass had been nailed. I continued through the folder for about ten minutes and then closed it. There were sixteen cases in it, eleven of them for which I could take credit, though I was not about to begin bragging about them. I slid the folder across the table to the FBI agent. I smiled and said, “Very interesting, Don. I assume you believe I may have some knowledge of these cases. If so, why am I not in an interrogation room downtown instead of here?” He didn’t answer immediately. Both he and Waldrip stared at me, as if examining a specimen, an interesting beetle stuck with a pin to a board. I could hear the cicadas whirring outside the window. The grandfather clock in the adjacent

THE HOBBY/McDougal living room ticked, ticked, ticked loudly, like Poe’s Telltale Heart. They were waiting for my confession. I was not ready to cooperate.

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Finally, Agent Grant said, “We have you solidly on seven of them. We have strong leads being developed on the rest. You know us, Judge. The FBI never loses. We always get our man.” If this was a bluff, it was a good one. Trying not to bluster, I said as casually as I could, “Well, you are off the mark on these. I know law enforcement doesn’t believe in coincidences, but that is what is evident here. For instance, I visit Idaho fairly frequently. My cousins are ranchers near Glenns Ferry and it is a great place in which to vacation. And my daughter and her husband live in Brooklyn, New York, so I am in and out of New Jersey a lot. As for the drug dealer that was dispatched in Corpus Christi, I have friends there. Old high school pals that still keep in touch.” (That part is true. However I didn’t visit with any friends when I shot a double dose of heroin into Senor Alfredo Montemayor’s arm.) Grant said, “Your thumbprint on the duct tape is not a coincidence. It’s evidence.” I didn’t believe for a minute that they really had that piece of tape. I had not been that careless. Again, I had never handled tape without latex gloves. I said, “There is no print. What else, Don?” Again, the cicadas and the clock took over. Then Waldrip finally started to speak up, but was gripped instead by a paroxysm of coughing. It finally subsided and he pulled a handkerchief from his pocket and wiped small flecks pf phlegm

THE HOBBY/McDougal from his lips. Leaning forward he said, “Sorry about that. Anyway, Judge, this might not be as bad as you probably think it is. There is a way out of this mess.” Grant looked at Waldrip and held up a cautionary hand. Waldrip moved back in his seat. I said, “Mess? I don’t think there is any sort of trouble. If there were, we wouldn’t be here drinking coffee. Just what is all this about?”

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Don Grant said, “Well, maybe I was mistaken about the tape. But don’t get me wrong. If we’re right, you have provided a real public service. Perhaps you were merely exorcising your demons.” I laughed. “So, if that’s true, then where’s the gratitude? And Don, my demons might also be yours.” Agent Grant paused as he looked around, visually changing the subject. He said, “Nice house. Been here long, Judge?” I answered, “You know how long, Don. You also know my social security number, the citations I earned in the army, my anniversary date and every other bit of minutiae in my life. So, what do you want?” He said, “You’re right, of course. I even know your high school nickname. They called you Rattlesnake because you dated girls prolifically and indiscriminately. As the saying goes, a rattlesnake will strike at anything and so, apparently, did you. But back to the main subject. Assuming for the moment that you really are guilty of having assassinated a segment of the scum of the earth, I have to say that you did a pretty good job. The people who were eliminated were not pussies. They were, for the most part, mean as hell. That makes you either very

THE HOBBY/McDougal smart or very lucky. Moreover, it credits you with the capability to be a valuable asset…to some.” I frowned. Asset? What did that mean? A thrust, a parry, we danced about.

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“Assuming also, and hypothetically, that I have even an inkling of what you are talking about, how does that make me an ‘asset’? And for whom?” Grant said, taking off on another tangent, “Judge, you were in the army. From a soldier’s perspective, how should a war be fought?” I answered, “An enlisted man does not view the big picture that a general sees. The grunt is in the meat grinder, and he knows that if he doesn’t kill some son of a bitch, then that SOB will probably kill him. It’s not rocket science. Individuals doing what they are supposed to do win battles. If enough battles are won, a theater engagement is won, and inevitably, the war is won.” “You’re right, of course. But what would that soldier do if he knew who an enemy combatant was, he could see him, and his superior officers told him not to shoot? Suppose courtrooms were to be set up in tents all along the front line and suppose further that our soldiers were ordered to arrest the enemy and turn him over for trial?” “We could not win a war like that. What’s your point?” “The fact is that the so-called war on terror is, for the most part, being fought that way, at least here at home. I can name dozens of terrorists right now, operating clandestinely here in the U.S., whom we can’t touch. The reasons are many, but most often it is because they haven’t actually killed as yet. If we can

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prove them guilty of conspiracy, or if we catch them with bomb-making materials, we can bring them in. When we do, they clam up and the rats we missed scurry down a different rat hole. And the Imams who preach Jihad in the mosques, who say it is the duty of all Muslims to murder us…well, those bastards are getting off Scot free. The powers that be are too politically correct to stop them.” Waldrip interjected, “The really bad guys are acting with impunity. They don’t think they can be arrested and they are usually correct in that assumption. They’re also arrogant as hell.” Grant said, “I have come to the conclusion that there is really only one way to throw a monkey wrench into their terrorist machinery. It’s simply to kill them. Skip the warrants and the fucking trials.” He paused, studying me carefully for a reaction to that statement. A slight smile on my face must have been the feedback he was looking for. “Does that suggestion tickle your funny bone, Judge?” “I’m a good listener. I’ll laugh at almost anything. But as for your statement, well, I’m shocked…shocked, I say, that you would suggest such a thing, Don.” Now he laughed. “Sure you are. Why, you wouldn’t hurt a fly, would you?” I said, “ Not unless it was resting on a child molester’s nose.” He nodded. “Of course.” I was tiring of the waltz. I asked, “This is leading where?” He said, “Okay. Here it is. There are some people who are fed up with the namby-pamby non-war on terror that the administration is waging here at home. The Supreme Court has dealt us bad cards and we don’t want to play them. Our

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small organization has plans to correct that. I would like to tell you more but can’t until we get something straight between us.” I thought I could see where this was going. By now, It was clear that these guys knew exactly what I had been up to, and I was about to become a draftee once again in a new army and a different war. “The truth is, we’ve got enough to indict you tomorrow, if we wish to. It would pain me to do so. I have admiration for what you have done, that you had the balls to do it. But we simply can’t look the other way, unless…” Hang on, folks. Here it comes. I said, “Unless…” “Unless you would like to join us. “ “Uncle Sam wants me?” “Not exactly, Judge. But I’m sure he will appreciate your service.” “Aside from your admiration of my alleged talents, what else makes me a candidate for membership?” “Good question. One of your desirable attributes is your knowledge of Farsi. I know that your in-laws are Iranian-American and that you learned the language to get along with your wife’s folks, who were from the old country. Many of the people we are going to deal with are also fluent in that tongue. Another thing you have going for you is your almost uncanny ability to gain people’s trust. In your case, perhaps too much. And we also like your style. You have a flair for dispensing real justice.”

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I thought for a moment, then asked, “The FBI is not aware of what you are doing, is it?” Don said, “That’s classified, Judge. However, I’m FBI and I know about it, don’t I?” “You referred to a ‘small’ organization. I wouldn’t call the FBI undersized. Just who, or what, is your group? And will I meet any of them?” “You will meet only those whom it is necessary to for you to know. I’ll decide that.” “What happens if I turn you down?” Joe Waldrip said, “Then you’re fucked.” I said, “A trial might be fun. The trial of the century.” Waldrip said wryly, “You’ll get the same trial your victims got. Don will read the eulogy at your funeral. It will be a wonderful affair. You would be proud.” I softly drummed the fingers of my left hand on the table. ”I have several questions, of course, and more will occur in the next day or so. Why don’t we recess this kangaroo court until tomorrow. We can iron out the details then.” Grant said, “Okay. We’ll meet you inside the Galleria Mall. There’s a bench outside the entrance to Nordstrom’s on the lower level. Ten o’clock in the a.m.” Before the arrival of my guests, I had taped a holster under the kitchen table. The Glock was there. I did not plan to shoot anyone, but rather, to illustrate that I was not an easy mark. “Fine. I’ll see you then.” I slid the pistol from the holster and lifted it above the table, then laid it next my coffee cup. “You fellows are a bit

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rusty. I hope you are more cautious when you are dealing with real crooks, and not with amateurs like me.” They both were transfixed on the gun like a priest on a golden crucifix. Finally Waldrip guffawed, “Damn, Judge, I knew you were the man for the job.” Don said, somewhat red-faced, “Yeah, you got us for sure. Ha, ha. We’ll see you tomorrow.” We got up and I ushered them out the door. I watched as they got in their unmarked Buick and pulled away. It occurred to me that if I went along with them, and I probably would (I’m not nuts, you know), that I might also be on a payroll. That would be nice. I went back to the kitchen and got a plastic baggie out of a drawer. Carefully, I put Waldrip’s cup into the plastic bag and zipped it shut.

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THE HOBBY/McDougal Chapter Eight

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The Galleria would not have been my first choice for our meeting. It is usually packed with shoppers. I rarely go there without running into someone I know. When I found the bench where I was to wait, it was occupied by a young African-American guy. He was dressed in hip-hop fashion, complete with ball cap turned sideways. He was listening to an iPod, performing a seated dance to the music. His skin was an unusual ochre color, with reddish freckles. He glanced at me with remarkably brilliant blue eyes. As it turned out, our get-together did not take place there. I received a cell phone call just as I arrived at the appointed place. It was Grant. “Change of plans, Judge. We will meet you at the Holiday Inn in Richardson. Room 208. And don’t use your phone. We are monitoring it.” He hung up abruptly. Richardson is a suburb north of Dallas. It is home to Texas Instruments, about 100, 000 Republicans and twenty-five or so Democrats. I knew the area well, having attended local G.O.P meetings there several times over the years. As I pulled into the parking lot at the hotel, I saw Joe Waldrip exit his car and watch me park. He nodded but made no move to join me. With a hand motion he directed me to go into the Holiday Inn. I assumed (correctly) that he was checking to see if I was alone and if I was being followed or surveilled.

THE HOBBY/McDougal I took the elevator to the second floor, found 208 and knocked. After a

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moment, Agent Grant let me in. He had thoughtfully set out a couple of Diet Cokes and a bucket of ice. “Cold drink, Duncan?” “Yes, thanks.” Whoops, I thought. He has never before called me by my first name. Is this good? The door opened and Waldrip entered. He said, “All clear, Don.” Grant said, “As I expected. You’re a loner, Duncan. You’d have to be to have lasted in your business as long as you have. That’s a good thing.” Waldrip came up behind me and gave me a quick pat down. “No more funny stuff with the Glock. Okay, Judge?” This caused him to endure another small coughing spasm. “Sure. That thing yesterday was just for grins anyway. Someday when I write a book about this, I’ll really enjoy reporting about the time I got the drop on the FBI.” Grant said, “Disabuse yourself of that notion right now. There isn’t going to be a book, Judge.” “Okay, fellas. No book. So why don’t you tell me what it is I won’t be writing about.” Grant leaned back and tented his fingers together. He asked, “What do you know about the war against terror?” “Well, I listen to what the President’s people have to say, that we are on the verge of success, and I also pay attention to the lefties in Congress, who are positive

THE HOBBY/McDougal we are going downhill fast. I suppose the truth is somewhere in between. But I don’t have an inkling regarding the grand plan, if there is one. I’m not even sure who the real enemy is.”

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Grant said, “The terrorist movement is literally worldwide. What gives our side some semblance of hope is that the fanatic factions are fragmented, alliteratively speaking. There are as many agendas as there are terrorist leaders. Most of them rail against America, the Great Satan, as part of their recruiting program. The truth is that nearly all of them would rather overthrow the governments where they operate rather than ours. Its power they want, and power, like politics, is mostly local. Even the al Qaeda cells have begun to exercise independence. The leaders of the various movements are as selfish and greedy as any other politician you can find. They love the authority they have. That’s one reason why you never hear of one of the high-muckety-mucks strapping on a bomb and dying for the cause. “It’s not the Army of Omar in Pakistan or Abu Nidal or Hamas or Hezballah that we are concerned about. It’s the few organizations that really want to do us harm, that would like to nuke Manhattan or D.C., that make me sweat. I have come to the conclusion that the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps is the principal organization in that category. These guys already have the supremacy in Iran. Nobody can take them on and live to talk about it. It’s regional power they are after and they see us as the great impediment standing in their way. As far as we can determine, they support three subset organizations, IRGC-Iraq, IRGC-Syria and IRGC-U.S.

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“Baghdad has signed an agreement with the Iranians that commits the Iraqis to recognize anyone who has a paper saying they were émigré’s living in Iran to escape Saddam Hussein. The problem is that the Iranian government is the issuing authority for the documents. They are flooding Iraq with their agents using the papers as a subterfuge. In addition, the Iraqis have agreed to let thousands of Iranian Shi’ites visit the holy cities of Karbala and Najaf in Southern Iraq. No one in Iraq is keeping track of these people. You can see the problem that creates. A Koran in one hand and an AK-47 in their suitcase. “The mission of the Iraqi group is to raise enough hell there that we will decide to throw in the towel and pull out. We have identified a number of Shiite leaders in Iraq who are sympathetic to the aims of the Iranian Shiite majority. Some are prominent in the new Iraqi government. They are working behind the scenes to derail any progress the government is making. “And what is worse, the IRGC has decided that even though al Qaeda is Sunni Muslim, they have enough goals in common that they have entered into an alliance. When the Taliban fell in Afghanistan, many of Osama bin Laden’s lieutenants crossed over into Iran. The Iranian government huffed and puffed and said that they had placed al Qaeda operatives under ‘house arrest’ and that they would be tried. That was horse shit. “The Syrian IRGC is there to fuck up the Bathist government just enough to keep it from grabbing Iraq when we are gone. It is also the conduit organization that supplies Hezballah. The IRGC long-range goal is a regional Islamic Empire stretching across the Middle East and totally under their control. They are virulently

THE HOBBY/McDougal anti-Semitic, of course, but killing Jews is not their main goal. Again, the Jewbaiting rhetoric is part of their conscription effort. Iranian President Mahmoud

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Ahmadinejad has already expressed a desire to ‘wipe Israel off the map.’ He claims that the holocaust never happened. His version of the ‘final solution’ is for European nations to donate a portion of their land to relocate the nation of Israel. He is a historical revisionist who insists that Jews are newcomers to the Middle East. Given the opportunity, he would murder them all. When he gets his nukes, he might try to do that just for the hell of it. He’s that nuts. At least, that’s our opinion. His latest claim is that he has thousands of Iranians signed up to become suicide martyrs. Maybe, maybe not. Anyway, I believe the suicide bomber movement is nature’s bizarre way to practice eugenics. It eliminates the morons from the general population.” I smiled at that. “A bit cynical, aren’t you?” “This job makes you that way. But back to Ahmadinejad. There are some, I won’t name them, who think he is practicing economics. They say that every time Ahmadinejad makes one of his crazy speeches, it unsettles the oil market and the price of crude goes up. Since Iran is the world’s fourth largest producer of oil, that directly benefits their economy. I say that’s a stretch. He will kill us if he gets the chance. Anything to get us to leave the Middle East.” I interrupted, “That’s all very interesting, but what is your group able to do about it, and why are you telling me all this?” Grant responded, “The terrorist leadership is a Hydra, with dozens of local leaders. The best way to kill a snake is to cut off its head. And therein lies the goal

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of our operation. We have targeted three dozen of the select few worldwide who are their true leaders. Five of them are here in the United States. If we can take out the ones in the U.S. it will set their scheme back at least ten years, maybe forever. They are not your average, everyday ragheads. They are sleepers who have moved into positions of power and influence in American society. If I tell you their names, you will recognize at least two of them, I’m sure.” I thought this over, seeing myself assuming the role of Grand High Executioner. If what Grant said was true, I would need some help. Getting to them would not be as simple as what I was used to. They would have people around them who watched out for their welfare and safety. There would be no pop, pop and so long, pal, with this bunch. I asked, “And these five would be assigned to me?” Grant answered, “Well yes, some of them would be yours. Maybe all of them, we’ll see. Later, after you have polished them off, if you want to continue, there could be further assignments. But five at the most are all we expect from you. After that, you’re off the hook, free as a bird.” “And what happens if the locals grab me? What then?” “We would take you into federal custody and send you into the witness protection program. Your career would be through. We would have as much at stake as you in seeing you out of harm’s way.” I said, “Okay, assuming I go along with this zany conspiracy, what sort of assistance can I expect?”

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Waldrip, who hadn’t said much up to that point, took over. “That would be my job. I will provide all the info you will need regarding the subjects in question. I will also supply you with new identities and cover stories. The dossiers we will hand you are extraordinarily detailed. You’ll know every detail of their lives. And you will also know why we want them eliminated.” I leaned back and clasped my hands behind my head. I licked my bottom lip and otherwise tried to appear unsure of what I was going to say. I knew I was going to acquiesce, but wanted to get as many concessions out of them as possible before we shook hands. It would be nice to walk away after I’m through with a million or so of their cash in the bank Finally, I asked, “Is money a problem, regarding expenses?” Waldrip answered, “No sweat. Money is the least of our worries. The group has plenty.” I said, “Well, that’s good, because here’s my proposition. I’ll do it, but I want to be able to improve my lifestyle when it’s all over. It will be necessary for me to go where I can’t be found. I want to go where nobody, even you guys, can find me. I’ll tell you where to wire the money. I want $500,000 per hit, tax-free.” Waldrip frowned. “Are you nuts? We’re getting off the track here. We really expect you to do this with only a small amount of compensation. We can’t talk our people into that kind of money.” Grant waved him to be silent, saying, “Duncan, if you deliver, we have a deal.”

THE HOBBY/McDougal Hmm, I thought. No argument or bitching. Too easy? The tiniest worm of

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doubt began to burrow its way into my mind. But the thought of the alternative that awaited me if I didn’t go along squashed the wriggler flat. I said, “We do have a deal. Now, who are the five candidates?” Grant said, “We will give you the identities consecutively, one at a time, as you complete each assignment. If you are grabbed, it would be a bad thing for you to know all their names.” “That makes sense. Who’s first?” Grant handed me a manila folder. “His name is Alfred Said. He is an officer in a branch of a foreign bank. It’s located in New York.” Waldrip said, “Study the material tomorrow. I’ll call you in a couple of days and give you an address where we can meet. Any questions?” I stood and tucked the file under my arm. “None now. I’ll wait to hear from you.” Grant got to his feet and shook my hand. “No easy outs, Duncan. We’ll live up to our end of the bargain. You will deal almost exclusively with Joe, but I’ll take your calls if necessary. And one last thing, amateur hour is over. You’re no longer an independent agent. Your contract with us requires exclusive rights to your services. Understood?” I nodded assent. “And by the way, Judge, off the record, how many did you actually do?” “Off the record?” “Yeah.”

THE HOBBY/McDougal I put my hand on Grant’s shoulder and leaned in to whisper in his ear. “Twenty-one.” He said softly, “Well I’ll be damned.”

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THE HOBBY/McDougal Chapter Nine

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I sat at the desk in my study, with the file and a yellow paper pad, a magnifying glass and a pen. Even though dusk had not yet arrived, I snapped on the crookneck lamp and spotted the light directly on the file. One thing was slowing my enthusiasm for the project. I was beset by a tiny nagging second thought. Heretofore I had chosen my candidates with the sure knowledge of their culpability. Now I had to rely on someone else’s choice and on the information they provided. I would be acting on faith alone – assurance that the facts were true and accurate. What I would glean from the files would be the determining factor as to whether I would go forward or not. Still, it was problematic because it was information put there by someone other than me. Whoever had prepared the dossier on Alfred Said had felt that it was necessary to put his life in complete context, which included historical references. I have had a lifelong fascination with the study of history. The principal lesson I have learned in my examination of the past is that it makes understanding human motivation much easier. It is said that there is nothing new under the sun. History proves that as far as human behavior is concerned, the maxim is probably true. The culture that shaped Said’s life was one rooted in an ancient civilization, in an ethos that is the antithesis of modernity. I believe it is one that is hell bent on returning its devotees to the twelfth century. Which made Said all the more a paradox. A wealthy successful man who is a cohort of fanatics. But why?

THE HOBBY/McDougal The first page was an 8x10 head shot. He had the look of an Arab sans

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burnoose; closely trimmed black beard, dark eyes from which I thought I detected arrogance melded with malevolence. He was forty-two years old, and had graduated from New York University with a degree in economics. He was a banker, the President in charge at Banco J. G. de Honduras, N.A. in New York City. Why a covert Middle Eastern terrorist was an officer in a Central American bank was the first question I jotted down. Included in the collection of papers was a short history of banking in Iran. Even though he was a naturalized citizen and had never worked in an Iranian bank, it was known that he had a sub rosa relationship with the Central Bank of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Mr. Said was a family man. His wife, Ghodsi, was a professor of economics at New York University. Her photo was in black and white. She wore a chador that covered her hair, but had no face veil. She was active in OTIIAR, the Organization To Improve Iranian-American Relations. As far as I could determine, OTIIAR’s principal purpose seemed to be to throw impediments in the path of American agencies using the Patriot Act. Madame Said had participated in protests against racial profiling, even where none existed. The couple had one son, Heydar, a junior at Princeton University. As I worked my way through the file, it became clear that Said operated a complicated scheme to receive money from The Iranian Revolutionary Guard and disperse it to the cells for which he had responsibility in the U.S. Large sums were sent periodically by courier from Iran to three separate banks in Switzerland. Later, cash from those accounts was wired to banks in Toronto, Mexico City and Tokyo

THE HOBBY/McDougal and deposited to sham commercial accounts. Corresponding company accounts were established at el Banco. Money from the foreign accounts moved to the

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corresponding commercial accounts at Banco J. G. de Honduras, N.A. It was easy enough then for the companies to disperse funds to pay vendor invoices. Those vendors appeared to be fronts for the cells. It was also evident that the bank, or someone in the bank, was clearing a ten percent surcharge on all the transactions. I guessed that was probably Said I wondered if the bank was a legitimate enterprise that Said had infiltrated. Or was it a sham depository for the Iranian Revolutionary Guards? It was located on the second floor of a nondescript structure on Broad Street in the financial district in Manhattan. Not exactly conducive to attracting the walk-in trade. That meant that I probably would not be going there under the pretext of opening an account. More questions to scribble on the pad. Alfred Said was the second son of Sharzeh and Farideh al-Said. Mr. al-Said had been the curator of the Shah of Iran’s Museum of Antiquities in Tehran. In 1979, the Shah went off to Panama to die, proof that even kings know when their number is up. The salubrious air of the Isthmus revived him temporarily, whereupon he left for Cairo, where the air was not as good. He died there. When the Shah skipped out, the al-Saids booked passage on the first plane out of Iran. They took with them four suitcases, three of which were packed with clothes. The fourth contained certain items of rare historical significance valued at approximately three million dollars. When it comes to antiquities, good things often do come in small packages. Had it not been for the Iranian hostage crisis, the State Department would

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have required the al-Saids to return the purloined items. Instead, they responded to back channel demands from the Iranian Minister of Culture by telling him to go stuff himself, in so many words. The al-Saids left behind all their furniture, two dogs and their eldest son, Farrokh. Farrokh al-Said was too busy throwing rocks at the American embassy in Tehran to accompany the family. According to the account in the file, he became an influential member of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. A posed picture of him was in the folder. He was wearing a burnoose and holding a scimitar above his head. This was not his regular attire. He was currently a high officer in the Bank of Iran, in charge of foreign accounts. This included dealing with foreign oil companies who paid for the resources they purchased from the modern Persian Empire. His position dovetailed nicely with his brother’s vocation in the States. Now, back to the principal subject. Alfred Said had few interests outside of the bank. His one extracurricular passion was sailing, which I thought rather odd for a former citizen of the desert. He kept a 36-foot Catalina sloop at the HudsonView Marina in Jersey City, an upscale yachting club with an excellent seafood restaurant. I made a mental note that here was something that Mr. Said and I had in common. Eating and sailing. I had been a lake sailor for years, sailing on Lake Texoma in North Texas. The last boat I had owned was also a Catalina. I liked Catalinas because they are the “Fords” of boats, a solid production vessel, with parts readily obtainable. Sailors are a gregarious bunch, sociable beyond the norm. I figured it was because we were all in the same boat, to coin a phrase. Boating people love to talk about their disasters or near calamities. Being with other boating

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enthusiasts is a great leveler, somewhat like being among your peers in the military. All skippers are captains. Bankers as well as bakers or candlestick makers … or judges. Perhaps I could use this common interest to get along side Said, to use a nautical term. Notes to that effect went onto the pad. There were photos of the exterior of the building on West 85th Street where the Saids owned an apartment. Also included was a photograph of the interior of Mr. Said’s office at the bank. On the wall behind his desk was a large painting of two America’s Cup boats battling for first place. I took off my glasses and rubbed my eyes. I snapped off the lamp. While I had been studying and rereading the file, darkness had taken over. I sat in the gloom and imagined what the motivation behind Alfred Said’s choice to work against America could be. He had what very few have obtained. Wealth, influence…a good life. He was not a stupid man. He could see what the United States really is better than those persons overseas who plotted our ruin. And yet he chose to side with the terrorists. I wondered if he was so inextricably bound to them that he couldn’t be turned. In the half-light, I wrote down that question. It didn’t seem that religion played a significant role in his life. He visited a mosque in Brooklyn only infrequently. I assumed that meant he had contacts there, but information to that effect was not in the folder. A further scribbled note on my pad. So if he was not driven by Mohammed, then by what, or by whom? As I meditated upon Said’s motivation, I pondered my own. I thought, perhaps I had taken on more than I could handle. My mother, a Saturday night

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penny ante poker player, had given me some of the best advice any mom could ever impart to her son and that was to quit while you’re ahead. It was too late for me to do that, but I was afraid that in the next few months, I would wish mightily that I had.

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THE HOBBY/McDougal Chapter Ten

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The next morning, I called Ralph Cotter and offered to take him to lunch. I could detect the hint of a smile in his voice as he said, “If you’re buying, Judge, you must want something. Come on by about 11:30. I’ll see you then.” Constable Ralph Cotter presided over the largest precinct in Dallas County. Those who knew him well recognized that he was the most influential politician in the area. He was serving in his fourth four-year term. When he had first been elected, he took over a small office with three deputies and no prospects for glory. That all changed one day when the constable’s office attempted to serve eviction papers on a man named John Jefferson Cody. Mr. Cody was of the belief that the State of Texas was never properly joined to the United States, and was in fact still a republic. Consequently, he refused to recognize the authority of the constable and of the justice of the peace court where his eviction case was to be heard. It was coincidentally, the court over which I presided. When Deputy Willingham went to the door to serve the paper, he was greeted by an armed John Cody, who gave the deputy fifteen seconds to get off his property. He was gone in five. It was well known that Ralph Cotter did not like people who took the name of Texas in vain. Consequently, when Deputy Willingham reported back that he had been shooed off the premises by an armed resident, Constable Cotter decided to serve the paper himself. What happened next has become folklore in Dallas County.

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Cotter put on a white HAZMAT protective suit. He and Deputy Willingham drove to the Cody residence. They parked their vehicle at the curb. Willingham took a position behind the car, holding what appeared to be a rifle with a grenade launcher attached to the muzzle. Cotter walked to the door and knocked. Cody, still armed, opened the door. He snarled angrily, “Didn’t your half-assed deputy tell you we ain’t leaving? I don’t recognize your authority, so you get the hell off my door step.” Cotter replied calmly, “Can’t do that, Mr. Cody. You threatened my deputy with a loaded weapon. That right there is against the law, both Republic law and State of Texas law. So you are under arrest. Put down your rifle and step outside.” “Like hell I will. Now you get the hell out of here.” Cotter said, “Mr. Cody, aren’t you curious about why I’m wearing a HAZMAT suit?” Cody frowned just a bit as he said, “I really don’t give a shit why you’re dressed that way.” Cotter said, “Well, you ought to know it’s because my deputy is about to fire a grenade in here. It contains deadly Sarin nerve gas. It will kill every living thing in this house, and very quickly, I might add.” Cody responded nervously now, “You can’t do that. It’s against the law! I’ve got rights, by God!” “And just what law is that, Cody? Where in your Republic law books does it say I can’t do that?”

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Cody began to shake with frustration and anger. His breath came heavily as he tried to formulate a response. “You’re trying to trick me, you son of a bitch. You know you can’t do this.” Cotter raised his hand. “When I count to ten, my hand is coming down and Deputy Willingham will fire. I am not bullshitting you. And holding your breath won’t help. This stuff can enter the body through the skin. But I digress. “One. “Two “Three.” “You bastard!” “Four. “Five.” Willingham took careful aim at a window. He shouted, “I’m ready, Chief!” With his frustration grossly evident, Cody sagged visibly. He lowered his weapon, stooped and placed it on the doorsill, and stepped outside. His wrists were placed in front of his body in the criminal position of supplication. Cotter cuffed him and escorted him to the Constable’s car. He and Willingham took Cody to the Dallas County Jail and booked him. Later, when the media got wind of what had occurred, Cotter said, “That’s really funny. I would never use Sarin gas, even if I had some.” When the reporter from The Dallas Morning News asked why he wore a HAZMAT suit in making the arrest, Cotter smiled and replied, “I heard there were

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some skunks in there. You can never be too careful around a bunch of polecats.” He paused, and added, “Oh, by the way, I hope you noticed no one was hurt.” A Texas Ranger came by a few days later and inventoried Cotter’s weapons. He reported that no trace of Sarin was found. That ended that matter, but was the beginning of Constable Cotter’s reputation as a local hero. There are not a lot of people I would want covering my back. My section chief in ‘Nam, Sergeant Dotson, was one. Another is Ralph Cotter. I parked in front of the small sub-courthouse in Oak Hill in a space marked “Reserved For County Official”. I no longer filled that designation, but I knew nobody would object. I was doing a number of things lately just because I could get away with them. I thought to myself, you may have pushed things a bit too far, Pal. Be careful. I entered the door that led directly into the constable’s squad room. One wall was covered with Cotter’s commendations, including a tongue-in-cheek court order I had authorized when I was on the bench, citing him for bravery. He had gotten into an argument with the county commissioner in whose district the Justice of the Peace/Constable precinct lay. The issue was whether or not constables should be writing traffic citations. The commissioner thought not. He had been getting heat from officials in the municipalities in Cotter’s precinct who were upset at losing traffic ticket revenue. Cotter’s position was that he was elected to uphold the law, and he was by God going to do it whether the commissioner liked it or not. After weeks of bickering, the commissioner’s court realized that Cotter’s office had become a major revenue source for county government. They threw in the towel

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and I commended Cotter at his annual fund raising barbeque. It didn’t hurt me that I did it in front of several hundred voters, who loved Cotter and learned to like me. Surrounding the citations on the wall were several law enforcement shoulder patches. There were insignia from over two hundred agencies, including one from Hong Kong and another from Scotland Yard. I said hello to Stacy Wilkins, the Chief Deputy. “I’ve trapped Ralph with the offer of a free lunch. Is he ready to go?” She smiled and said, “He sure is. Go on in.” Ralph sat with his feet on his desk, a posture he invariably adopted when old friends or important people dropped in. Look at me, it said. I’m secure in my position and I’m going to stay that way. That puts me in a place where I can help you more than you can help me. Cotter was smart with people. He looked up at me over tented fingers. “Hey, Judge. Good to see ya’.” “Same here, Pal. You’re looking as prosperous as ever. Are you ready for some smoked brisket?” He set his boots on the floor and rose up like a latter day Wyatt Earp, adjusting his belt and holster as he gained his feet. “Dicke’s okay with you?” Dicke’s Convenience Store was a small combination grocery and barbecue joint in South Oak Hill, run by Ma Dicke and her two sons, Little Dicke and Big Dicke (not their real given names). Texans are funny about names. We once had a governor named James Hogg who named his daughter Ima. Nowadays he would have been turned into child protective services for such a callous act. The best part about Dicke’s, besides the food, were the folks who gathered there. It was a favorite

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haunt of South Dallas County officials, elected and otherwise, as well as members of all the professions, including, on occasion, the oldest one. During every election cycle, politicians who were running for office beat a path to Dicke’s door, hoping for a favorable nod from Ma. When I ran the first time she blessed me with the royal thumbs up. Ralph told me later that she couldn’t stand the incumbent and I would have had her approval even if I were the doofus of the county. At the time, I may have been, but I’ve improved somewhat since then. Ralph ordered for both of us while I visited with the matriarch. I could hear his banter, which rarely changed. “We want the real meat today, Big. The county road gang tells me you’ve been going out early and beating them to the squashed armadillos.” Little said, “Ralph, they tell me that where you come from, ‘dillo is a delicacy. I hear your mama serves it on the half-shell.” I paid Ma for the sandwiches, slaw and two Diet Dr. Peppers. We worked our way to the back of the adjoining room, slapping a few backs as we went. Ralph picked a table where we could talk without being overheard. After a few bites, he asked, “So, Judge, what’s up?” “I need some help, Ralph. I need some in-depth background on someone.” Ralph nodded and asked, “Sooner or later?” “Sooner.” “Go ahead.” “His name is Joe Waldrip. He was introduced to me by Don Grant. Grant said he was ex-FBI. I’m not sure if that’s true or not. And that’s about all I have.”

THE HOBBY/McDougal Ralph frowned. “Not much meat on that bone, Judge.” “Sorry, Ralph, but that’s all I have except for a physical description, and

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this.” I pulled a plastic bag from my coat pocket. It contained Waldrip’s coffee cup. “It has his prints all over it.” Ralph took the baggie and slipped it into his pocket. “It might help if I knew a little bit about your relationship with Waldrip. Can’t you give me a little bit more to go on?” I really wanted to tell Cotter the whole story. I had begun to feel very lonely out on the limb where I had found myself. But I knew that would be a disaster. The last person I would be able to confide in would be an honest cop. I shrugged. “Wish I could, Pal, but it’s just not in the cards. Maybe later I’ll be able to do that.” Cotter ate a bite of his sandwich. “Well, they used the real meat today. More meat than I’m getting from you.” After an awkward moment, he said, “Okay, Judge, I’ll run some traps this afternoon and check his prints through AFIS. I’ll call you in the morning.” “Thanks, Ralph. Sorry to impose like this, but I really need the information.” “No sweat. You are gonna owe me after this.”

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THE HOBBY/McDougal Chapter Eleven

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I heard from Ralph that night. He called about ten o’clock and said, “Judge, Mr. Waldrip is not who he says he is. There really is a Joe Waldrip who is ex-FBI. He retired as Agent-In-Charge of the Denver field office. He lives in San Jose, Costa Rica, now. He was there all last week for certain. Which leads me to the identity of the fake Waldrip. “His prints belong to Constantine DeMarco. The closest he ever got to the FBI was their top ten most wanted list. I’m not sure what you’ve got going with him, but I don’t like the looks of it. His rap sheet is bad. Dozens of arrests but only two convictions. Those are big ones, however. He was nailed twice for conspiracy to commit murder. Background says he was a contract killer, working out of Detroit. He spent eighteen years in Joliet and was released in 1999. He never reported to his P.O. He just disappeared after that. The only reason I can conjure up for him to be associated with Grant is that the FBI has recruited him for some sort of covert work. Bottom line, old friend, is that I wouldn’t trust this guy to feed my dog.” I was not feeling happy. I tried to sound casually interested as I said, “Hmm. Strange stuff. I’m glad I asked you to check on it. Let me give you my home fax number. Could you send me a copy of his sheet and his mug shot?” “Sure thing, Judge. I’ll shoot it out right away. Be careful.” “Thanks. I will. And Ralph, I can’t tell you why, at least not now, but I may not see you again for a long, long time.”

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He paused before responding. “I’ll try to make it on visitor’s day. Goodbye, friend.” Fifteen minutes later I had a photo not suitable for framing, and a two-page printout of Mr. DeMarco’s life story. The picture, while not the best, was that of the man I knew as Joe Waldrip. A bad boy indeed. Now I knew more than Grant thought I would. But what to do about it? I wished I could take Cotter’s advice and just back out of the deal. But of course I couldn’t. So I would have to use the knowledge to my advantage somehow. And in a perverse way, it was comforting to know a convicted murderer was my backup. I thought I might confront DeMarco at our next meeting. But to what end? As I sat sipping coffee in my kitchen, it slowly dawned on me that having a contract killer following my every move might lead to a denouement that I had not foreseen. It might be that when I had completed my last assignment for the group, I might become DeMarco’s next assignment. Not a pleasant thought. The assassinations I was to complete were more than likely political bombshells. If, for instance, knowledge of them could bring down a government, then getting rid of me would be the prudent thing to do. I was becoming a real worry-wart, but never a dumbass. My knowledge of Demarco’s true identity would remain my secret. Joe Waldrip called me the next morning. “Duncan, it’s Joe. Have you had a chance to study that file thoroughly? If so, I figure you might have a question or two.” “Yeah, I do.”

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“Okay, Let’s meet at the Moody Parking Garage on the SMU campus. It’s across from Moody Coliseum. I’ll be waiting in a green ’99 Towncar. Bring the file with you. Be there at one.” He hung up without waiting for an answer. Before I could get out of my chair, the phone rang again. It was Bitsy Wagnall. At 43, She was a childless widow, and a handsome woman at that. She had lost her husband in a horrendous traffic accident, the result of a drunken driver swerving into Greg Wagnall’s lane, killing him instantly. She was clever and a dedicated Republican volunteer. Her fresh beauty made her a gorgeous addition to the North Texas body politic. Perhaps it was the commonality of our backgrounds or our mutual loneliness since the passing of our spouses that had drawn us together. What began as friendly coffee dates had become a semi-courtship on my part and was recognized as such by her. She did nothing to discourage me. In the political milieu of Dallas County, we became an ‘item’. Not quite a steady thing, but close. Some time later, when I took up my new vocation, our time together became limited, but more prized. As I became more deeply involved in bringing raw justice to the world, whether it wanted it or not, our time apart caused Bitsy to be increasingly impatient with me. I, of course, had not leveled with her. I couldn’t. And my excuses were seen, I’m sure, as the paper-thin sham that they were. I had told her that I traveled as part of my research on a book I was writing. More than once she had hinted that she would like to go with me when I traveled and each time I had weaseled out of it. I tried to stay in touch with her no matter where I was, but she wanted more than phone calls and deep down, so did I. I foolishly told myself, who knows, perhaps when this business is completed…

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Bitsy said, “Duncan, you’re as difficult to get a hold of as money. Where in the world have you been this time?” I purposely sounded flippant as I said, “Well, Bitsy, m’love, it was Idaho this time.” Her words took on a stiletto-like sharpness. “A fun trip, I presume.” I was glad she could not see my expression. I was in an uncomfortable box of my own construction without an obvious exit. “No, it had to do with research again. And the hell of it is I have to leave right away, this time for New York.” “Oh, not immediately I hope. I wanted to invite you to go with me to the Dallas Music Hall. They’re playing a revival of ‘Showboat’.” I was tempted to take her up on the offer, but I couldn’t. “Bitsy, I can’t think of anything I would rather do, but there’s simply no way. Let me take a rain check and I’ll call you as soon as I’m back in town.” “If you can’t, you can’t. Do call me.” It was obvious that I had chapped her. I could hear the disappointment in her voice. I was really beginning to regret my course. “I will, I promise. And thanks for thinking of me. I love ‘Showboat’. It would have been fun.” “Yes, it would have been. Goodbye.” “’Bye.” It might be a year or more before I would be through with my assignments, and returning to Dallas permanently was not going to be probable. My life was getting more screwed up by the day. When I had originally embarked on this crusade against evil and malevolence, it was much as if I had rejoined the military.

THE HOBBY/McDougal Now I would again leave hearth and home for a long time. That included the

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abandonment of friends. Dear friends. If you have comrades you have come to love, you must realize this was for me the bitterest hurt of all. Friendships are a precious thing. We are not born into these relationships. They evolve through experience, supportive behavior, love and trust. That I discarded this part of the heart of my life is the true test of my devotion. Was it a wise choice? I don’t know, but it was the one I made. When I returned from my first war, from Vietnam, I was met by my parents at the airport and by an ambivalent and sometimes hostile nation. Mom and Dad were overjoyed to have me back all in one piece. Since they could not see inside my head they didn’t know that part of me was forever gone, wrested from me in the paddies and elephant grass of ‘Nam. Most Americans I met later had little first hand knowledge of the war in which I had been involved. Further, for the most part they didn’t want to know about it. That was my homecoming. There would be no such return this time. A different war with no publicity. Me against all the bad guys. Mano a mano. I pulled into the Moody Coliseum Garage at Southern Methodist University thirty minutes early. I wanted to see who might be coming and going and if Joe Waldrip arrived alone. It was hot in the structure. Early September in Dallas is usually warm, but this was unseasonably sweltering. The garage was nearly deserted except for flocks of starlings that fluttered and flittered in and out of the open sides of the building. It was that time on campus between the end of the summer session and the arrival of students for the fall semester. The few cars there

THE HOBBY/McDougal probably belonged to coaching staff and folks employed in the gym as support workers. No one came or went while I waited. Twenty minutes after my arrival,

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Waldrip pulled into the slot next to mine. He signaled me to join him in his Lincoln. He reached back and opened the rear door behind the passenger seat. I got in and said, “Hot as hell. Why don’t we go find a nice air-conditioned café?” “No can do, Duncan. I picked this place because no one will bother us, and because we can see everyone who comes in the garage.” “Okay. So what’s next?” “Grant seems to think you are a genius at getting next to people before they know what’s going on. He says you’re like a chameleon. Me, I’m not sure about that. But anyway, he says to listen to you and see if you have a plan to take out Mr. Said. Do you?” “Maybe. I’ve got some questions first. Answer if you can. “Top of the list, why is Said an officer in a Central American bank? That seems out of the ordinary.” “The home bank of El Banco J.G. de Honduras is a sham organization. It consists of an office in the back of a bodega in Tegucigalpa. The ‘J.G.’ stands for Jorge Guzman. He is un abogado, a lawyer. He answers written inquiries, but conducts no business. Of course, there are very few inquiries. The banco is chartered by the Honduran government. Said sends a retainer of $2,000 per month to Guzman. Said operates under the imprimatur of a phony institution. Makes him appear legitimate.” I asked next, “How does Said stay in contact with the cells in the U.S.?”

THE HOBBY/McDougal “He doesn’t. He is simply the money man. The bank pays the invoices

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submitted by the terrorists. Everything, including shifting money around, is handled through the mails. No wire transfers for the NSA to pick up on. Said does occasionally visit the Muslim American Society at a mosque in Brooklyn. We don’t have anyone in there so we are not sure who he talks to.” I said, “Alfred Said enjoys the life of a wealthy American. He has lived here most of his life and can see what a great country this is. He doesn’t seem to be religiously or ideologically driven. Is there a chance he could be turned?” Waldrip shook his head. “We don’t believe so. Even if we did, it would probably not be worth the trouble. It is much simpler to kill him. That’s what we want done.” “Have you given any thought to possible unintended consequences? Some of those results might be good, and some not satisfactory at all. Now, what if we knock off Said and he is replaced somewhere else in the system by someone of whom you have no knowledge. Couldn’t this unintended outcome work to your detriment? At least you know what Said is doing. You can use him to your advantage if he is alive.” Waldrip shook his head in the negative. “Judge, you’ve missed the point. When he dies it will send shock waves throughout the terror network in the U.S. It will do so because we will let them know it was not by some accident that he was killed. They will know it was deliberate and that more is to come.” I gave that some thought and then said, “Okay, I get it. I am to be your terrorist.”

THE HOBBY/McDougal Waldrip smiled. “Now you’ve got it. What else do you want to know?” I said, “Tell me what actual terroristic acts have been committed by the people receiving funds from Said. I have to be sure that these individuals are the bastards you say they are.” “Grant thought you might ask about that. He said if you did to give you this.”

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He handed me a manila folder. I looked through it. It proved conclusively that monies from Said had paid for flight lessons for four of the 9/11 hijackers. It also provided strong evidence that Said’s funds had been used to purchase over two tons of high nitrate fertilizer which were sitting as yet unused in a warehouse in Bayonne, New Jersey. There was also convincing substantiation that two weapons bought by members of a radical Islamic mosque in Detroit had been used to murder three police officers. Altogether, over two dozen instances were listed, many of which had backup verification consisting of either newspaper clippings, FBI files or witness testimony, extracted from court records. When I finished examining the material, I handed the folder back to Waldrip. “Okay. Thanks.” Waldrip asked, “What else?” I said, “That about covers it. Now, I’ve given some thought to how I might meet Mr. Said. Since the bank is a bullshit institution, I can’t go in to open a Christmas account. However, I have one interest in common with him. We both are sailing enthusiasts. I believe I can get next to him by exploiting that.” “Go on. That sounds like a plan.”

THE HOBBY/McDougal I spent the next thirty minutes detailing my strategy. Joe took notes on a yellow pad as I talked. I could tell that Joe was becoming enthused. It was also evident to me that he was a journeyman and not an architect. I was going to get little or no help in devising schemes. That was going to be left to me. He would supply the materials and personnel I would require to be able to pull them off. When I was through, he said, “Duncan, I believe this will work. I’ll have everything you need. I’ll call when it’s ready.” “We need to move fairly quickly. There are only a few months left in the New York sailing season.” He said, “I’m on it. It’ll take about a week. You will have a new identity,

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complete with passport, birth certificate, Army DD214 and everything else a man might accumulate in a lifetime.” He handed me an envelope. “This is expense money to get you started. Don’t go to Vegas.” He started to laugh at his own joke, but endured a small coughing fit instead. I opened the door of the car and got out. Joe drove slowly out of the garage. I got into my car and turned on the air conditioner. The starlings had left two milky deposits on my windshield. If this was an omen, it was not a pretty one. The ball was rolling, and I was feeling the old excitement forming in my gut. Or maybe it was the chili I had had for lunch.

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THE HOBBY/McDougal Chapter Twelve

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The euphoria of youth is a precious thing. When we are young, we don’t recognize it as such, which is a shame. We would certainly appreciate it more if we did. When I was in my twenties, life was a quest, an adventure driven by daydreams leading somewhere not over the rainbow but into that great land called success. What made it exciting was the uncertainty of it all. It was as though my early existence was nestled somewhere in a rack of billiard balls waiting for the cue ball to release it and send it careening on its way. Now the vagueness is gone. Because the distance between now and the finishing line is shorter I can see where I am headed almost as if I were clairvoyant. And while that takes some of the fun out of it, life experience also takes a good bit of the risk away. As I contemplated the evil Alfred Said, my mind anticipated the future meeting, the friendly overtures, the camaraderie leading to the fatal denouement. Careful planning had served me well up to now, and would with Said as well, I was sure. While I was always mindful of the words of Robert Burns, “The best laid plans o’ mice an’ men gang aft a-gley,” my record of twenty-one and zero might have justified a feeling of overconfidence. When I got home I opened the packet Waldrip had given me. It contained a cashier’s check for twenty thousand dollars. Nice walking around money, indeed. On an impulse, I decided to begin my escape plans immediately, so that when the time came to disappear I would be totally prepared. I Googled Swiss banks on my PC and got a complete listing. I chose the GBL Kantonalbank in Zurich. I dialed the

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overseas operator and asked for +555.82 244 67 22. I heard a pleasant female voice on the other end announce the name of the bank. I asked to speak to an account executive who spoke English. She replied in English, “One moment please. That will be Herr Draughter.” Herr Draughter was most solicitous, his unctuousness sounding very bankerlike. “How may I help you, Mr. Travis?” “I wish to open a numbered account.” “Of course. And in what amount?” I had decided to transfer a chunk of my personal savings to begin with. “Two hundred thousand American. More later.” “That is most satisfactory. We have certain requirements which I am prepared to relate to you.” I smiled at his prissy European urbane discourse. “I would expect that you have conditions. Please list them.” “First, where is your domicile?” “Dallas, Texas, in the U.S.A.” “Excellent. We are represented in your city by International Financial Services.” He gave me a name and local phone number. “Contact Mr. Weber there and he will give you our bank’s routing information. It will also be necessary for you to fax him a copy of the I.D. page of your passport. He in turn will provide to you a code key that you must use to decode your account number. We will wire you a set of numbers for that purpose. Is all this clear, Mr. Travis?” “Yes.”

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“Good. When you have the information you need in order to transfer funds, please do so at your convenience.” By the following morning I had an account in Zurich. Everything worked as smoothly as a…well, as smoothly as a Swiss watch. With that completed, I called Bitsy Wagnall. “Bitsy, my plans have changed slightly. How would you like a trip to the Caribbean?” Bitsy was not one to waste time on being falsely miffed. “It will take me thirty minutes to pack.” “Bitsy, I’m sorry about…” She interrupted, “I know.” I said, “I’ll make the flight arrangements and get back to you shortly.” “Duncan, you wouldn’t know this, but I still look pretty good in a bikini. I’ll be ready when you call.” My Lord, I thought as we disconnected, what in hell am I doing? Suddenly, I’m acting as though I’m James Bond’s older brother. This was not simply living on the edge. This was ripping along toward the rim of the Grand Canyon with no brakes and taking an innocent passenger with me. I almost picked up the phone to get Bitsy back and call it off. But my stupid side cancelled the thought. Instead, I called Callejo Travel. I booked two tickets to Grand Cayman Island, and a room at the Grand Carib Resort. Deborah Callejo was an old friend who had utilized my court for many years to collect hot checks given her by travelers looking for a free ride. I would drop a check for her in the mail at DFW Airport. I didn’t want to leave a credit card trail. I had the growing impression

THE HOBBY/McDougal that I was living on borrowed time. I hadn’t felt that way since ‘Nam. The

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impression was more profound this time, tempered perhaps by experience. And this time, it would be without a helmet. I decided to hire a limousine for the trip to the airport. I didn’t want my car sitting out there for Waldrip or any one else to see. I called Mid-Cities Limo Service and arranged for them to pick me up outside the Dillard’s store at the Irving Mall. I set a time with Bitsy for me to pick her up. She was ready when I got there. She looked absolutely beautiful. She enjoyed keeping her hair short and her skirts as well. Some misguided young people reading this narrative probably visualize love between people in their middle years as a clacking of bones, rubbing of parched skin against someone else’s dried out epidermis. Well, kids, in actuality it’s really not much different for us than it is for you. And the emotional part is often heightened with experience. The second time around can be terrific. After all, who would turn down a trip to the circus simply because you had gone once before. Bitsy was traveling light, with only two bags. When we settled into the limo, she asked, “Any special reason for this trip, Duncan?” “Sure. I wanted to romance you.” “That’s very flattering, but I don’t believe a word of it. But that’s okay. I’ll enjoy the trip anyway.” She was sharp, for sure. The truth was that to some extent I was using her to cover the real purpose of the excursion. Anyone who got wind of the ‘vacation’ would believe it was simply Travis having a fling. The reality was that I was going

THE HOBBY/McDougal to the Caymans to open an offshore bank account, one in which I would deposit funds which later would be transferred to my account in Switzerland. A pass through account would make it more difficult for someone tracking my funds to keep up. I know I could have also opened this account by phone, but what fun would that be? After all, Bitsy and the Caribbean. The perfect exacta.

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The limo driver deposited us at Delta’s terminal ‘E’. After checking in we wandered down toward our gate, with forty-five minutes to spare. My Glock was in my checked luggage. I intended to declare it in the Caymans. I saw that she drew glances from other men, and a few women as well. I observed that she noticed, too. I said, “How about a drink while we’re waiting?” “That’s a splendid idea. I’m not a great flyer. A little Scotch will help.” We sat at a quiet table and ordered. She said, “My friends think I’m going to New York for a shopping trip. I didn’t know if you wanted anyone to know what we’re really up to.” “That’s okay, but I really wouldn’t have minded if they knew.” She smiled. “Well, maybe I would. Duncan, I haven’t been out with anyone but you in the last two years. It’s not as though I haven’t been asked. I guess I’m rather picky.” “I accept that as a compliment.” “It is.” “I don’t get many of those any more. Thanks.” She looked at me quizzically. “How long were you and Dori married, Duncan?”

THE HOBBY/McDougal “Twenty years.”

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“Same as Greg and I. Sometimes it seems as though it had been forever, and other times, like a week. It’s still a muddle in my mind. I loved Greg, but now I love…life.” “I invited you to come with me because I like you, Bitsy, and because we make a handsome couple. Let’s go with the flow, as the kids say.” “Yes, let’s do that. If I had long hair I’d let it down.” We both laughed. We finished our drinks and went on to the gate. It appeared to me as though everyone else waiting there was on his way to open a Caymans bank account. It did not look like a vacation bound bunch. When they announced we could board, Bitsy and I lined up, passes in hand. It was then that I noticed a young African-American man in a black suit. As we were entering the gangway, he picked up his brief case and headed toward the exit, intent on leaving the terminal. He had an unusual ochre complexion. At the last moment, he turned and winked at me. It wasn’t until the 737’s wheels went up that I remembered who he was. He was the hip-hop guy from the Galleria Mall. So they knew where I was going.

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THE HOBBY/McDougal Chapter Thirteen

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Bitsy hadn’t been kidding about being a white-knuckle flyer. After the drink cart made its way past us down the aisle, she seemed to perk up as she downed a double Cutty Sark. She forced a grin as she said, “It’s not that I get airsick, Duncan. It’s the thought of the wings falling off or the engines quitting or the pilot and copilot dying of food poisoning or the flight attendant going berserk. I’m ordinarily not afraid of death. But the thought of dying at five hundred miles per hour does get me going.” I tried to make light of her phobia. “Don’t worry. If any of those things happen, your niece is going to be wealthy.” “Does anything bother you enough to make you sweat?” “Well, it was hot in Vietnam. I sweated gallons.” That elicited a smile. “Or was it the hot nights in Saigon?” “I went through Saigon on the way to the zone. It was in the back of a deuce and a half truck the day I arrived. The only other time I saw Saigon was on my way to Da Nang and the flight home. In the interim, I saw lots of people trying to send me home in a box. Dodging them didn’t leave much time for anything constructive, like chasing co-deps in the capital.” “What did you do over there, Duncan? Did you get any medals?” “I got no medals for bravery. All my citations were only for being there. Like nearly everyone else, I did my duty and didn’t bug out. I hated it, but paradoxically, I’m glad now that I went.”

THE HOBBY/McDougal “Weren’t you scared while you were there? I can’t imagine what combat must be like.”

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“Yeah, it seems as though in those days I was frightened a lot. In college, I was scared I would lose my student deferment. When I lost it, I was scared I would be drafted. When Uncle Sam grabbed me, I was scared I would have to go to ‘Nam. When I ended up there, I was scared I would be killed. Later, in combat I was scared I would disgrace myself. In the end, being scared was a positive thing. I wasn’t killed and I didn’t disgrace myself.” I didn’t mention the time I crapped my pants or the time I was so damned petrified that I couldn’t do or say anything or even fire the fifties. Somehow I thought that might diminish my aura of brave G.I. Or the time Willis pounded on my helmet and shouted, “Goddammit, Dunc’, shoot the sons of bitches.” I changed the subject. “Janet Houseman told me you had been a catalogue model. Now that is something I’d much rather talk about.” “Actually, that was what I was doing when I met Greg. He was working for Cantrell Advertising in Dallas. He was an account executive for a Dallas based clothing line and hired me to wear their clothes in the 1982 Neiman Marcus spring catalogue. That was the high water mark of my modeling career. A year later I was married and happy to be a wife.” “Are you happy now?” I was, of course, fishing for a compliment. I think I caught one. She finished her drink in one gulp, then gave me a sidelong glance before answering. “Yes, very. Did you think I might not be?”

THE HOBBY/McDougal “Well, is it because of us?”

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She said, “If you must drag it out of me, I will admit I am without shame. From the first time we met, I felt attracted to you. I was married and I loved my husband, but I still thought you were something else. Is that understandable?” I was surprised at her honesty. “Sure, Bitsy, I understand. I’ve had the same latent feelings about you. I never acted on them for obvious reasons. But it’s like Dori once told me, ‘The wedding vows require you to love and honor me, but not to go blind.’ And now I’m feeling as goofy as a teenager.” Bitsy leaned into me and kissed me. The scent of her cologne and the scotch were a heady combination. Suddenly, I began to think I could mix business and pleasure and get away with it. My success in pursuing my new vocation had been due to my lone ranger attitude. If I didn’t reveal to Bitsy what my life was really all about, I thought, perhaps I could pull it off. I knew better, but I did want something that I hadn’t had for a long time. It did occur to me, though, that this path might screw up Bitsy’s life as well as my own. That would be unfair. Unfair won. As the plane began its descent to Grand Cayman, Bitsy said, “Duncan, this is going to be a great adventure. I’m going to love every minute of it.” We skimmed over incredibly emerald water. It was a paradise rendered in pastels. The landing was smooth. I hoped that it was an overture to a fortunate week. Like beauty, I suppose, happy is as happy does. I determined to enjoy myself if it killed me. It could have. E-mail the author: mcdougal8@verizon.net

THE HOBBY/McDougal Chapter Fourteen

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A week earlier, and eleven hundred miles northwest of our location on Grand Cayman, Karim al- Hadji, A/K/A Joseph Samuels, had opened his private mailbox at Postal City in Houston, Texas. He removed a single envelope addressed to Samuels Imports. The return address indicated it was from El Banco J. G. de Honduras, N.A. in New York City. Mr Samuels slipped the envelope into his jacket pocket and stepped outside into the bright late summer Texas sun. He crossed the parking lot and got into a white panel van. Before he started the engine, Samuels opened the envelope and pulled out the check it contained. The amount brought a smile to his thin lips. He drove to the First National Bank of Houston, where his business account was located. He converted the check and all but two thousand dollars of the remaining balance in the account to a single cashier’s check. From the bank he walked across the parking lot to the Worldwide Travel Agency. He purchased a round trip ticket to London. The tickets were round trip because he had learned from media accounts that people who bought one-way tickets were automatically brought under scrutiny. He had no intention of using the return portion of the fare. In England, he would purchase another ticket to Berlin. From there he would fly directly to Tehran. The departure for London was for six P.M., seven days hence on the 11th. Two weeks prior to this a shipping container had been dropped at the door to the small warehouse operated by Samuels Imports. The shipper was Neyram

THE HOBBY/McDougal Pistachios in Masshad, Iran. Joseph Samuels personally broke the U.S. Customs

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seal and unloaded the two hundred bags of nuts, carefully setting aside two of the burlap bags. After pulling down the overhead door and locking it, he ripped open the two selected sacks. From one, he removed five eight-pound blocks of plastic explosive, hermetically sealed to avoid detection. From the second, he took blasting caps, wire and electronic devices, including three cell phones. There was as well a bomber’s vest with ten pockets, together with a Houston police uniform, carefully stitched to be accurate in every detail. The nametag on the shirt read ‘R. Martinez’. Also included was a police issue leather belt and holster, holding a police special .38. The warehouse contained nothing else except for a Maclaren baby stroller. Samuels was now the complete terrorist. Before locking the storehouse he stuffed one pocket of his jacket with pistachios. Samuels’ neat moustache and swarthy complexion allowed him to pass as a Mexican, not an unusual sight in Texas. At twenty-eight, he had entered the United States two years before on a student visa. He was to have enrolled in the University of Texas Medical School in Galveston. Instead, he disappeared into the free society of America. He had known little about the country except what the professors at the University of Tehran, the ‘mother university’, had told him. He had adapted quickly. In the beginning, recruiting him for his mission had been relatively easy. Like many families in Iran under the Shah’s rule, his had been brutalized and nearly destroyed by SAVAK, the Shah’s vicious secret police. He was taken to safety in the countryside by his uncle Rahim after agents of SAVAK murdered his mother

THE HOBBY/McDougal and father. He was told that General Nematollah Nassiri, Chief of Savak, had personally put a bullet in the back of the heads of his parents. When he was later

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taught at university that SAVAK had been formed under the guidance of the CIA and Israel’s secret service, Mossad, all his career dots were finally connected. However, sometimes life proves to be quirky. Before his arrival in the U.S. he was prepared to carry out his mission without reservation. Like most spies, he had a handler, to whom he was required to report all his activities. He had been vetted by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard before leaving Iran. He had memorized two years in advance what he was to do. In Tehran he had been told that it would not be necessary that he receive further input. Once in position, this was not the case, however. His handler, Seyed Mahmood, who was assigned to the Iranian Mission to the United Nations, was an obsessive compulsive personality who pestered Karim incessantly. As far as Mahmood was concerned, the IRG didn’t have free agents. Contact between the two became irritatingly frequent. Mahmood called it fine tuning. Finally, Karim lost his temper. In a conversation two weeks before the event, Karim told his handler, “I have decided I will not become a martyr. I am not going to blow myself to smithereens. If you believe someone has to die to complete the mission, then you come down here and do it yourself.” Mahmood was outraged. “What in the name of Allah are you talking about? Have you become a coward at the last fucking minute?”

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Karim answered vehemently. “Don’t call me cowardly, Seyed Mahmood. I don’t see you or the imams or the mullahs or Ahmadinejad or any of the hierarchy at home rushing out to obey their own fatwahs. I will complete the assignment without taking a premature trip to paradise. I will do it for the greater glory of Allah, Iran and even you. I hate the Goddamned Americans and their Jew lackeys as much as you. Trust me.” “What has brought this about, Karim al-Hadji? Have you become Americanized? Is that it?” “No. Just accept that I want to have some glory here on earth before I have it in paradise. Anyway, what if my virgins all looked like Golda Maier. No one said Allah did not have a sense of humor.” Seyed Mahmood figuratively threw up his hands. “Well, will you be kind enough to tell me your new plan?” “Not now. I’ll get back to you in a few days. I have a few details yet to work out. Again, you’ll have to trust me.” “I’ll come to Houston. I want to see for myself what is going on. Is it a woman who has changed your mind?” Karim al-Hadji replied in guttural tones. “You are not welcome here. Stay out of this business. When it is over, I will give you all the credit for its success. Do you understand me, Mahmood?” The handler breathed a sigh of resignation, “Yes, I understand.” Samuels had a better plan, one that would be as effective but would not require the ultimate sacrifice on his part. He would carry it out in his own fashion

THE HOBBY/McDougal and return to Tehran a hero. Perhaps he would find earthly virgins instead of the seventy-two he had been promised. This change in plans presented a new problem, however. When he had

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entered the U.S., he had used a Jordanian passport and student visa papers provided by the IRG. Since he had not reported to the university to begin his studies, he assumed that the American Department of Homeland Security would have by now flagged his name. If he showed up at an airport with his original passport, intent upon leaving the country, he might well be on a no-fly list. He began to try to make contact with someone who might be able to provide a new set of documents. For a remuneration of one hundred dollars, he was finally given the name of a man at Esquival Printing, located across from Guadalupe Plaza Park, who ‘might be able to help.’ When he drove by the address he had been provided, it did not appear to be a place of business, but rather, was a pastel blue house. The name on the mailbox read, ‘Jorge Esquival.’ Karim drove to the opposite side of the park and left the van. He walked across the deserted playground to the Esquival house. He approached cautiously and knocked on the door. A Hispanic woman answered. She was about thirty and had a baby perched on her left hip. She held a cigarette between the thumb and first two fingers of her right hand. The smell of boiling chicken permeated the air. She did not seem happy to see Karim. Karim said, “I would like to speak to Mr. Esquival. It’s about business.” The woman sighed, turned her head and shouted, “Jorge, Un hombre está aquí verle.”

THE HOBBY/McDougal Senor Esquival emerged from the back of the house. He looked at the woman and jerked his thumb over his shoulder, motioning her to leave. She did. Esquival appeared to be in his forties. He was a tall, skinny man with a Pancho

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Villa mustachio. He wore a tank style undershirt. A Mexican eagle tattoo was on his shoulder. “I’m Esquival. Who are you?” “My name is Karim al-Hadji. You were referred to me by Joseph Contreras. He said you might be able to help me.” The Mexican lifted his hand and moved his raised forefinger backwards, indicating Karim should follow him. They walked through the house and out the backdoor. Esquival led him across the yard, skirting a muddy wet spot where the house’s septic tank had backed up. There was a slight, musty odor of sewage. They went to a ramshackle 2-car garage and Esquival unlocked a side door. Inside was a dusty Ford Focus with a dented side panel. Esquival chuckled, “That scar on my auto was caused by cerveza. But don’t worry. We are not going for a ride.” On the other side of the vehicle was a plasterboard wall with a steel door. Even before the door was opened, Karim could smell the telltale odor of printer's ink and benzene. The Mexican pulled a key ring from his pocket and unlocked the deadbolt in the door. He pushed it open and reached inside for a light switch. Karim followed him into the other half of the garage. The walls were finished in white plaster. On a metal table in the center of the room rested a Kodak Eversmart Supreme II copier, an extremely high-resolution piece of equipment, a Mac computer, and a Jackson-Hirsh laminator. Next to that was a small offset

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printing press. Esquival took a seat at a glass light table and motioned to Karim to take the stool next to his. Drafting tools, and several pens with different nibs lay scattered across the surface of the table. In a small shelf unit at one end of the table were thirty or more bottles of varied color inks. On a larger stand against the wall were stacks of paper. A small blender and a paper mold were there also, indicating the printer sometimes made his own paper. “So what is your story, Mr…I’m sorry. I’ve forgotten your name already.” “It is Karim al-Hadji. I have not much of a story, only a need for your services.” “And that would be for?” “I entered this country on a student visa. For various reasons, I never became a student. I am probably on some sort of list now and that is making me uncomfortable. I need a new passport and a different, more current visa.” “Perhaps we can alter your old passport. Let me see it.” Karim pulled the passport from his jacket pocket. Esquival put on a headband from which protruded a magnifying lens. He pulled the magnification unit down across his eyes. He looked at the passport very carefully. He opened a page and held it down on the light table. He flicked a switch and the paper became transparent as the light shown up and through it. He inspected the leaf meticulously, turning it over to check both sides. Finally, he pushed the lens back from his eyes and said, “You know, of course, that this passport is not genuine. If you want a new one, why don’t you simply go back to your forger?”

THE HOBBY/McDougal Naturally, Karim could not do that. The original artist was at IRG headquarters and never expected to see Karim al-Hadji alive again. Karim said, “That would not be possible. So, do you want to help me or not?”

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“Of course. And here is what you will need. A new passport. It is surprising you made it this far with such shoddy workmanship. And a corresponding visa. Everything will be stamped to indicate you have been in the country only two weeks. When are you planning to leave?” “Soon.” “I suggest we provide you with an entirely new set of papers. Have you used an alternate identity since you arrived?” “Yes. I have posed as an importer named Joseph Samuels.” “Okay. Then perhaps you should be a Canadian importer. A Canadian passport, birth certificate, driver’s license and a visa. A nice package.” “How much for all that?” Esquival decided to highball an amount. “Twenty thousand dollars. Cash.” Karim shrugged as he said, “It is a very high price, but I am in great need of your services. I will pay it, if the product is good.” “It will be better than good. I am the very best in Texas, maybe in the whole country. You will see. Come back next Sunday at five in the afternoon. Bring the money with you. And leave your passport here. I will need the picture.” Karim said, “I’ll be back. And it better be good. As the Americans say, ‘Don’t bullshit me.’ I’ll see you then.”

THE HOBBY/McDougal At the appointed date and time Karim repeated his parking procedure, leaving his van on the opposite side of Guadalupe Plaza Park. He carried a small

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briefcase. Today the playground was crowded, with a small pickup soccer game the center of attention. He heard snatches of conversation, all in Spanish, as he entered the area. He passed a bench with young Hispanic men drinking Corona beers, their eyes on senoritas strolling by on the gravel path. Karim skirted the action as if he were invisible and went directly to Esquival’s house. A knock on the door was answered by the master forger himself. He smiled and said, “Nice to see you. I have something for you.” Karim returned the smile. “And I for you, amigo.” They returned to the print shop where Jorge spread the prepared documents across the table. He gave Karim a magnifying glass and said with a pleased grin, “Check these, Mr. Samuels. They are perfect. You couldn’t get them this good in Toronto.” Karim studied the papers for several minutes, finding no flaws. At last he said, “These do appear to be what you say. Perfect. I have your reward.” Jorge Esquival leaned forward in anticipation as Karim opened the case. The Iranian withdrew his police special .38 and shot the Mexican in the chest. Esquival slumped sideways and slid to the floor, gasping as blood bubbled from his lips. Karim shot him once more, through the forehead. He collected the papers and stashed them in the briefcase. With a rag from the case he carefully wiped the surface of the table and then tossed the cloth in a corner. He took the time to delete all the files on the Mac, then took Esquival’s key ring and stepped through the

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doorway into the other half of the garage. He locked the door and left, circling the house and turning left at the street. Instead of cutting through the park, he walked around it. Before getting into his van, tossed Esquival’s keys into a storm drain. He muttered to himself, “The infidel bastard knew who I was and still wore a crucifix around his neck. Well, his Jesus didn’t help him today.”

E-mail the author: mcdougal8@verizon.net

THE HOBBY/McDougal Chapter Fifteen

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On September 11th and 12th, the Conservative Action Committee of America would hold its annual convocation in Houston at the George R. Brown Convention Center. Like most large organizations, they designated the dates and locations of their meetings years in advance. This information was posted on the internet and was known, even in Iran. It was at the convention center that Karim (let’s call him by his real name) was intended to have his rendezvous with the seventy-two virgins. Of course, those assignations would be delayed somewhat since Karim was not quite ready for martyrdom. On the afternoon of the first day of the meeting, at three P.M., AfricanAmerican Senator Joseph Hamlin, (R) South Carolina, was to make the keynote address at the convention. On the platform with him would be five well-known conservative congressmen and the U.S. Secretary of Education. The Senator would be introduced by Darwin Linden, the foremost radio talk show host in America, billed by Darwin’s publicist as ‘the most feared man in the U.S.’ There would be at least three thousand attendees on hand for the speech. Some in the audience probably did fear Linden, but only because he tended to talk too long. Karim’s neighbor at the Houston Palms Apartments was Lakeisha Broadlee, a young African-American single mother. She and Karim were ‘hello’ and ‘goodbye’ acquaintances. One morning, Karim generously offered Lakeisha a ride in his van to the Gingerbread Day Care Center where she left her infant son, Dawson. Since she was running late that day, she was happy to accept. Lugging the

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baby’s stroller on and off the bus each day was a hassle she was glad to forego. She also thought that the swarthy Joseph (as she knew him) was rather handsome, though his Mexican accent made her laugh sometimes. It was as if he were not really from Mexico. He also seemed to like children, and had given a cootchy-coo to Dawson on more than one occasion. On the morning of the 11th, Karim got out of bed and brewed a cup of coffee. He watched from his window as Lakeisha and her baby made their way to the bus stop. Before his second cup, he showered and shaved, smoothing his jet hair back in the manner that he had found appealing to women. His principal vice, and he had a few, was the pursuit of the female of the species. He loved everything about them. Long, short brunette, blond, dumb or smart, he desired them all. His favorite hunting ground was Bossier City, Louisiana, a few hours from Houston. Bossier had been a sinful burg for a century or more, a place where straight up Cajuns and Texans could let their hair down. With the advent of legalized casinos, it solidified its reputation in that area. A survey of the parking facilities there on any given day would show thousands of Texas license plates. The average age in the gambling halls was well over fifty. The Social Security System keeps many an old person from starving. It also makes casino operators wealthy. Karim’s youthful good looks made him the exception at the blackjack tables. Getting connected was rarely a problem. Karim found that terror was a good business. Little work and high pay. And lots and lots of extracurricular fun.

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Now, however, there was more important business to attend to. He dressed carefully in the policeman’s uniform. It was a good fit. He smiled at his reflection in the mirror. He made a dashing cop.

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THE HOBBY/McDougal Chapter Sixteen

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Clearing customs would have been easier if I had not brought the pistol with me. The inspector was a fat man with a drooping mustachio. His rumpled khaki uniform was sweat stained at the collar and under the arms. He did not appear to be enjoying his job. When I declared the Glock, the examiner’s eyebrows elevated visibly. “Do you wish to keep the weapon with you, Mr. Travis, or would you prefer to check it with us until you leave the Caymans?” “I would like to keep it. Is that a problem?” “No, but we do have certain restrictions. You may not carry the pistol on your person. You must also declare the ammunition you are bringing in and account for all of it upon departure from our country. If you follow those rules, there will be no difficulty.” “I will certainly obey the law. You may have noticed in my papers that I’m a retired judge. I will not give you cause for worry.” Bitsy had been standing beside me through this inspection. She put her hand on my shoulder and asked, “You’re not expecting trouble, are you?” “No, not at all. I’ve always taken a weapon with me when I travel. It’s just a habit, I guess.” The one thing I didn’t declare was the Glock’s silencer. It was secreted in the handle of my suitcase,

THE HOBBY/McDougal After recovering our luggage from the customs people, a friendly black

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porter transported it with us to the taxi area. He said, in a singy Jamaican accent, “Is this your first trip to the Caymans?” I said, “Yes. We’re here on holiday.” “And where are you staying?” “At the Grand Carib.” “A wise choice. My brother, Alfred, is the bell captain there. I am Roger. Tell him I said to take very good care of you.” “I will, indeed. Thanks for the help.” I tipped him a ten spot. I could tell by his expression that it was too much. I didn’t want to be remembered, and now I would be. Not a good thing. But I didn’t want Bitsy to think I was a cheapskate, either. Already, I was beginning to listen to the wrong head. You would think that by now I had my covert life down pat, but I still made simple mistakes. I sometimes got the feeling that my luck might be running out like that of a bad baseball team in the bottom of the ninth. I hoped for extra innings. We checked into the Grand Carib. The place was awash in a sea of flowering bushes. Hibiscus with huge blooms and bougainvillea were everywhere. Bitsy loved it. At the front desk I requested adjoining rooms. I wanted to make Bitsy feel at ease about our stay. Actually, I wanted both of us to feel that way. I expected I would need some time alone to take care of business. Well, those were my thoughts at the time. Again, things seem to go off on a tangent when least expected, as I would find out later.

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The hotel was a cut above, based on Caribbean standards. Air-conditioning that worked, a terrific view and a room service menu that was outstanding. I checked it for conch chowder. They had that and conch in four other formats. I love the stuff. As luck would have it, Alfred the bell captain had already heard by phone from his brother about our impending arrival. He personally got us to our rooms and made the necessary AC checks, TV checks and towel checks, in order to qualify for a gratuity. I was trapped, so I gave him fifteen dollars. However, it was an investment, since I thought I might be calling on him to provide some discreet information later. Bitsy said she wanted to rest for a while, and we made arrangements to meet at six for dinner. Alone, I pulled the slim phone book from the drawer in the nightstand and riffled the pages until I found the listings for banks. At this juncture, I was flying blind. I hadn’t a clue as to which institution would best meet my requirements. I knew there would be no FDIC to cushion my fall if I made the wrong choice. I decided to make the decision, one that would involve large sums of money, by asking for a recommendation from that famous financial advisor, Alfred the bell captain. Dumber decisions have been made, I’m sure. Just ask Amelia Earhart. I called my new friend, Alfred, on the house phone. He answered, “This is Alfred. How may I serve you?” I said, “This is Duncan Travis. I have an unusual request. I’m hoping you can help me.”

THE HOBBY/McDougal “If it is legal, I’m your man.” ‘Man’ sounded like ‘mon.’

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“Well, yes, of course. I am thinking about purchasing some property here, and I wondered what bank you would recommend.” “Ah, that’s easy. The Benjamin Private Bank in George Town has the very finest reputation. If I had a sum of money to deposit, I would go there.” He gave me the phone number before ringing off. Before I could dial the number, there was a knock on my door. I checked through the peephole to see if it was someone I knew. The way things were going, I half expected Joe Waldrip to show up. It was a stranger, a youngish black man in a suit and tie. Suits and ties in the tropics generally mean trouble. I thought he might be a cop. Maybe to quiz me more about the Glock and my reasons for having it. Before I let him in, I decided to hide the pistol where it would be easily accessible if I needed it. I didn’t know who in the hell that guy was. I slipped the weapon under the cushion in an armchair. Reluctantly, I opened the door. The visitor stuck out his hand in a friendly manner, and said in an American, southern drawl, “Hello, Mr. Travis, I’m Fred Jasper from the American consulate in George Town. May I come in?” “Sure, but I would like to see some identification, if you don’t mind. You know how it is. I’ve read all the State Department warnings to travelers. We can’t be too careful, can we?” “Certainly. Can’t say that I blame you.” As he went inside his jacket with his hand, I tensed up, prepared to … do what? Give him a karate chop? Knock him

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out with my powerful right cross? A boxing match with a man half my age was not my idea of an amusing pastime. To my relief, he produced a small flat leather case, which opened to reveal that he was indeed Frederick Jasper, Cultural Attaché at the United States Embassy in Jamaica, on temporary duty with the U.S. Consulate in the Grand Caymans. I said, “Come in, Mr. Jasper. May I offer you something from the mini bar?” “No thanks. I really won’t take much of your time. It seems you have some influential friends in the States. We received an e-mail this morning from FBI Special Agent Donald Grant asking us to look you up and to see if there is anything we might do to make your stay more enjoyable.” He smiled sheepishly. “So, that’s why I’m here, to let you know that we stand ready to assist you in any way possible.” He had no clue as to who I was, but he wasn’t taking any chances. If I were truly a VIP, he wanted to be my friend. Well, I thought, that’s that. They were on me like an evening gown on J. Edgar Hoover. I said, “It’s very kind of you to go out of your way like this, but I’m okay. This trip is strictly for pleasure. We plan to go to the turtle farm and to swim with the dolphins. Just tourist stuff.” “Oh, I see. Agent Grant had thought you might need some help with the local banks. But if not, then I’ll be on my way.” I said, “Thanks. If you reply to Don Grant, send him my regards.” We shook hands and he left, happily I assumed. I retrieved the Glock and fastened it with a strip of duct tape to the bottom of the bathroom counter. It’s not

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true that man’s best friend is his dog. For modern men, it’s duct tape. I never leave home without it. It was close to six so I showered and dressed in a white tee and jeans. I called Bitsy’s room. “I’m mucho hungry. How about some dinner?” We walked down the outside of the hotel, past the pool and the cabana bar. The dining room was already busy. I could hear a half dozen languages melding together in a Caribbean mélange, pleasing to the ear but also cautionary. Two of the people I recognized had been on the plane with us, a robust German man, red-faced and verbose and a heavyweight blonde with him whom I took to be his wife. She wasn’t pretty enough to be a mistress. When we entered he nodded in my direction. Why did he do that, I thought? Does he want to speak to me? Does he have to speak to me? Am I paranoid? Perhaps all of the above.

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THE HOBBY/McDougal Chapter Seventeen

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Karim al-Hadji admired himself in the police uniform. It accentuated his lean, muscular build. He had packed a small suitcase the night before. It contained all he would take with him in his flight from the United States. Included were a change of clothes, his new passport, plane tickets and an envelope containing the cashier’s check representing all the remaining funds from the Samuels Imports account, a bit over thirty thousand dollars. Everything else in the small apartment, including the hard drive from his computer, had been bagged and taken to the trash the night before. He checked his watch. It was nearly one-thirty, time to go. He picked up the case and took the outside stairs to the parking lot. At the van, he stowed the bag next to a baby stroller, the one from the warehouse. He took a moment to check the diaper bag in the bottom of the stroller. A small antenna attached to a cell phone protruded from the side of the bag. The phone was wired into a detonator that would trigger the plastic explosive in the bag when he called the cell’s number. He settled into the driver’s seat and dug into his pants pocket for the van’s ignition key. As he pulled it out he was startled by a sharp rapping on the glass next to his head. He looked around, a scowl on his face. The intruder was Frank Wickoff, the apartment manager. A ‘recovering’ alcoholic, Wickoff would never get better. Today, he was already half way into the bag, his eyes bleary and his voice slurring as he said, “Is there a problem I need to know about, officer?”

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Karim shook his head ‘no’ and started the engine. Wickoff, a confused look on his grizzled face, said, “Hey, wait a minute. You’re Samuels. Since when did you join the police force? And your nametag says ‘Martinez’. What in hell is goin’ on here?” Karim cranked open the side window, his eyes narrowing to malevolent slits. “None of your fucking business, you drunken piece of Yankee shit.” Wickoff responded angrily, “Hey, you can’t talk to me that way.” “Yes, I can, asshole, but what’s the use?” He slipped his .38 out of its holster and without hesitating, fired a round through the tip of Wickoff’s nose. The curious manager fell backwards, oozing blood with a .08 alcohol content from the exit wound in the back of his head. Calmly, Karim dropped the shift lever into drive and drove out of the parking lot onto the service road running along side the Katy Freeway. He was beginning to enjoy the day. Wispy clouds, azure sky and American blood on the ground. He chuckled. That’s the kind of American red, white and blue he liked. He eased through traffic until he spotted a quiet side street. He turned the corner there and went two blocks before stopping at the curb. Reaching behind the passenger’s seat, he lifted two magnetic signs. He got out of the van and fastened one sign to each side of the paneled van. The signs were identical and read ‘Houston P.D. – Traffic Division’. Back in the vehicle, he did a u-turn and headed back for the freeway. He drove for five minutes before he arrived at the Gingerbread Day Care Center. He parked in the small circular driveway and got out. He went to the front door of the frame building, which looked more like an old house than a place of business. A

THE HOBBY/McDougal plywood cutout of a gingerbread man was nailed to wall beside the entrance, its brown paint faded and cracked. Inside he saw that the structure was in fact

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someone’s home. Grubby toys were strewn along the base of the wall to his left. A television set was on, showing a cartoon with a bird chasing a cat. The bird had an ax in his hand. The feline looked terrified. Seven small kids sat on the floor watching the murderous canary. It’s never too early to begin educating a child. He could hear more than one baby crying in an adjacent room. A woman yelled, “Becky, go stick a bottle in those kid’s mouths. This headache is killin’ me and that squallin’ ain’t helpin’.” A large Becky, with two nipple-tipped bottles in hand, waddled into the room where Karim stood. She was surprised to find a cop there. Embarrassed, she said, “Whoops. I didn’t know you was here. What’s up?” Karim said, “I need to speak to the boss lady. It’s an emergency.” Becky said, with an alarmed look, “Oh, Lordy, what is it? Are we in danger or somethin’?” He looked at her sternly. “No. Now get her in here quickly.” “Yes, sir, right away, sir.” She moved as quickly as she could into the next room, shouting, “Doris! Hey, Doris. There’s a cop out here. He says it’s a ‘mergency.” Doris Johnson, even fatter than her subordinate, lumbered into the room, a wet rag held to her brow. She said, “Migraine. Hurts like hell. What’s this ‘mergency business all about?”

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Karim spoke rapidly. “I’m Officer Martinez. Do you have a baby boy here named Dawson Broadlee?” Doris nodded yes. “Yeah, we’ve got him.” “His mother, Lakeisha, has been severely injured in an accident at her work. She’s in critical condition at the hospital. The family has asked me to pick up little Dawson and take him there.” Doris clapped her free hand to her forehead. “Oh, my God. Is it bad? What happened?” “I can’t go into it now. I have to rush the baby to the hospital. Please get him right now.” “Lord, yes. I’ll get him right away. Oh, this is awful.” She disappeared into the room where the crying babies were and returned in a moment with little Dawson. He was one of the criers. She handed the child together with a diaper bag to Karim. He said, “Thanks. Someone will call you later today to let you know how Lakeisha is doing.” Doris said. “Tell her we love her. I hope she’ll be okay.” “I’ll surely let her know of your concern.” Outside he opened the rear door of the panel truck and climbed in. He set the wheel lock on the stroller and strapped Dawson in. He leaned across the passenger seat and popped open the glove box. He removed a small flat case. He snapped it open and removed a syringe loaded with a dilute solution of diphenhydramine hydrochloride, which, if injected into an infant, has a powerful sedative effect. Karim had obtained the chemical from antihistamine caplets.

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Dawson was still sobbing, his nose running mucous from the effort. Karim turned the child on his side and stuck the needle into his small hip, and injected the drug. An overdose would be fatal, but that was not his principal concern. He was relying on advice gleaned from an alternative medicine website that this was the proper dosage. He smiled at the baby. “May Allah grant you sweet dreams, my little friend.”

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Chapter Eighteen

Karim al-Hadji drove the van onto Interstate 45 and headed downtown. He checked his Houston street map and made his way to the Avenida de las Americas. The George R. Brown Convention Center loomed ahead. It had been designed in a glass and steel retro fashion, a form designed to be fashionable well into the middle of the 21st century. It might not make it. Hints of rusty steel and cracked glass. Overuse and a bureaucracy that was stingy when it came to upkeep had taken its toll. There were two events taking place simultaneously on the 11th, the conservative confab and a restaurant trade show. Eight of the loading docks in the rear of the building were busy unloading trucks for the restaurant group. Karim parked his van across from the drive-in freight door next to dock fifteen. He stepped out onto the pavement and went directly to the rear doors of the truck. He glanced around, making certain that no one was watching him. He reached in and released the wheel lock on the stroller and pulled it out of the van. After slamming the doors, he pushed the Maclaren across the avenue and into the cavernous entrance. Before he reached the elevator, he had to pass a security station. A florid faced white man manned the post, looking uncomfortable in his too tight uniform. Karim took the ill fitting clothes to be a good sign, indicating the probability that the man was new on the job and perhaps could be easily bamboozled.

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Karim did not intend to stop unless challenged. The guard appeared to be puzzled by the appearance of a policeman with a baby. He grinned and said, “Couldn’t get a babysitter?” Karim smiled back and said, “No, this is the grandson of one of the speakers upstairs at the conference. I’m taking him up to his mother.” The guard shrugged. “I thought they was a bunch of right-wingers. Wouldn’t expect one of them to be black.” “I don’t know about that. I’m assigned to the mayor’s detail and I just do what he says to do. I’ll see you later.” In the freight elevator, he pushed the button for level three. When the doors opened, he went past the cafe. There were a few conventioneers there, chattering about the program for the day. Most attendees were already in the main hall. Karim pushed little Dawson to the entrance of the George Bush Grand Ballroom, where he was met by yet another security detail. A man with a very well fitting uniform stopped Karim. If the first guard’s sloppy uniform had been good news for Karim, this man’s creased pants and captain’s bars could bode ill. He spoke to Karim, “Officer, do you have a pass or some sort of convention credentials?” Karim thought, this is the test. It all comes down to this. Two years of preparation could rise or fall depending on how he handled this official. He could feel the muscles in the back of his neck begin to constrict. Stay calm, he told himself. “Well, actually no. I’m Officer Martinez, assigned to the mayor’s detail.”

THE HOBBY/McDougal He gestured toward the sleeping baby. “This is Senator Hamlin’s grandson. His mother is in there somewhere and I have been asked to take the baby to her.”

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The captain cocked his head and bit his lower lip. “Maybe I should page her and she can come here to get the child. What’s the mother’s name?” Karim picked a name out of the air. “Jennifer Watson.” The security man called someone on his walkie-talkie and requested that he page Ms. Watson and ask her to report to main door ‘A’. The announcement was repeated three times with no answer. Karim said, “Look, Captain, my ass is really going to be in a crack if I don’t get in there and find Ms. Watson. How about it?” The official reluctantly, and with an audible sigh, said, “Well, okay. On your way out, let me know for sure that you found her.” “Will do, and thanks.” The room was set up with a movable stage at the front and two thousand metal folding chairs aligned in theater style. A Dixieland band was located to the right of the stage, the members in candy striped jackets and straw hats. They were belting out a rendition of a jazzed up Stephen Foster song, ‘Old Black Joe’. They had not a clue that this was not the best tune to play just before an African American senator named Joseph Hamlin would take the podium. Most of the seats were already occupied as late-comers straggled in. Several young people were serving as convention pages, assisting folks in finding their seat. Most of the youths had been recruited from local chapters of Young Campus Conservatives. Karim made his way to the stage area and gestured to a young girl who wore the blue blazer and pleated red skirt uniform of a female

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page. She walked to where he stood with Dawson’s stroller. She said, “My, what a cute baby. He sure needs his nose wiped, though. He’s got a lot of mucous. Is he sick?” “No, he just cried himself to sleep and his nose does that. He’s Senator Hamlin’s grandson. His mama is going to be here in just a minute to pick him up. Would you mind watching him until she gets here? I would appreciate it greatly. I’m supposed to be somewhere else right now.” The girl replied exuberantly, “Why, yes, I would be happy to do that. Isn’t that just something, a little VIP baby!” She offered her hand to Karim. ”I’m Rachel Jacobsen, Officer Martinez. Now you run right along and do your duty. I’ll take good care of …what did you say his name is?” Karim stammered slightly as he shook her hand and answered, “It’s Godfrey, Godfrey Jefferson. And thanks for helping out.” “My pleasure, officer.” Karim made his way slowly and deliberately back to entrance ‘A’. He saluted the captain and said, “I found her. All’s well.” “Okay. See you.” He felt a great rush of relief that he had managed to plant the bomb in full view of thousands and at the exact best spot where it would do the most damage. He grinned as he thought of his unknowing accomplice, a nice little Jew girl named Rachel. He stopped at the caterers and bought a Coca Cola. He took it with him back down the elevator and out to the loading dock. The security man was checking a bill of lading and only glanced at Karim as he passed by. Karim crossed the street

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and climbed into the van. He started the engine and pulled slowly into the traffic. Just before he entered I-45 which would take him to the Bush Intercontinental Airport, he pulled into the parking area of a convenience store. From the dashboard glove box he retrieved a throw-away cell phone. He said aloud, as he dialed a number, “May it please Allah, may many infidels die today.” In the Bush Ballroom where the conventioneers were applauding the introduction of Darwin Linden, a blinding flash and thunderous blast occurred as the bomb in the stroller detonated. Little baby Dawson and Page Rachel Jacobsen vaporized. Their bodies become a bloody spray that flew to the fartherest corners of the room. Eighty-seven people in the first three rows were killed as well. Over one hundred others were grievously wounded and maimed. Everyone on the stage died instantly, including Darwin Linden, Senator Hamlin and his wife, five congressmen and the entire board of directors of the Conservative Action Committee. The captain in charge of security at the door was blown backwards, blood trickling from his ears. Torn body parts were glued to the back wall, blood oozing down in a macabre terrorist art form. Infidel Baptist hearts mingled with infidel Catholic lungs and infidel Methodist muscle tissue. An infidel grandmother was decapitated, her head bouncing across the floor like an Iranian soccer ball. Horrendous screams melded with terrible moans. Brain goo and cardiac matter were scattered everywhere, giving the lie to the belief of some liberals that conservatives possessed neither. The wall at stage right blew out and collapsed on the dining area, killing eight workers and a half-dozen patrons. Ruptured water pipes flooded the area and shorted out the electrical system for the third level, making the elevators inoperable.

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A fire broke out and began to spread toward the back of the building. Workers in the restaurant show section on the first level fled in a panicked race to the exits. Karim left the convenience store parking lot as the distant wailing of sirens echoed. He drove until he came to a large shopping center, where he parked in an area not crowded with shopper’s cars. He changed clothes in the van and then went around the outside of the vehicle and removed the magnetic police signs. The signs, the police uniform, the pistol and the throwaway cell phone were stuffed into two large plastic garbage bags. Carrying the bags and his suitcase, he walked to a dumpster adjacent to a large grocery store. The plastic bags went into the trash bin. He walked around to the entrance to the store and used a public phone to call a cab. He made a second call to the local NBC television affiliate. When the operator answered, he asked to speak to someone in the newsroom. His call was picked up by a reporter who was just about to leave for the blast site. “Jenkins. Who’s this?” Karim said, “Record this. I’m the bomber. I won’t repeat any part of this. I’m a member of Jihad in America. Today’s attack is in retaliation for the thousands of Muslims America has slaughtered. This is but the first of many such attacks, and will not stop until America abandons its vicious adventures in the Middle East and its support of the Zionist murderers.” The reporter asked, “Who in the hell are you?” Karim answered, “Not in hell, but you are close. I’m in Houston.” Smiling, Karim hung up.

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Forty-five minutes later he was at the American Airlines terminal where he would depart for London. As he sat in the waiting area he watched the television account of the terrible blast. The initial reaction was that it had been caused by a leaking natural gas pipe. Minutes later, NBC flashed a ‘Breaking News’ banner on their screen. George Jenkins of their Houston affiliate station stood, mic in hand, outside the burning convention center. He said breathlessly, “NBC has information that the disaster may have been the work of a radical Muslim group called Jihad in America. We have shared the facts we have gathered with the FBI.” Later, on the plane, the talk was of little else than the terrible disaster that had occurred in Houston. Karim nodded in solemn agreement when his seatmate said, “The bastards who did that should be shot on sight. Skip the fucking trial.”

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THE HOBBY/McDougal Chapter Nineteen

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The effusive German in the hotel restaurant was actually a friend of America. He got up from his table and came to ours. “I am so sorry about the terrible disaster in your Texas. It is quite shocking. I wish to express my condolences to an American, to you.” I was puzzled and said, “I’m sorry, Herr…” “It is Goebbels. Ludwig Goebbels. No relation to my country’s most famous liar, thank God. And this is my wife, Helga.” “Well, you have the best of me. I’m at a loss. You say a disaster?” “Oh, I thought you must have heard. It seems a terrorist bomber killed many people at some sort of a political conference in Houston, Texas. Several of your national legislators died, is what I heard.” I didn’t know what to say. Bitsy blanched as she asked, “Did you catch any of the names? I know some people who were supposed to be at that conference.” The German shook his head in the negative. She turned to me as she stood. “It was the Conservative Action Committee. Chet Bascomb was to be there. Darwin Linden was to be a speaker. Let’s go back to the room. Maybe we can get more from CNN.” Chet Bascomb was Bitsy’s congressman. She had worked on his campaign every time he ran. They were good friends. I said, “Sure. Let’s go.” To the German, I said, “Thank you for your consideration. We’re going to the room, perhaps to call home.”

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Believe it or not, Herr Goebbels stood, bowed slightly and clicked his heels together. “Good night, Herr Travis.” Only later did I wonder how he knew my name. Back in the room, we turned on the TV and punched in the number on the remote for CNN. It was the big story. The reporter ticked off a list of familiar names. We knew, or knew of, most of them. Bascomb, his wife and daughter were among the dead. Bitsy picked up the phone and said, “I’m going to call Margaret Beauchamp.” I nodded Margaret was one of her closest friends. I heard only Bitsy’s end of the conversation. It was not good. Her free hand went to her forehead and then wiped tears from her eyes. Finally, she lowered the receiver to its cradle and turned to me. “It’s true. They’re all dead. Jenny Creighton and Marge Howie were there, too. They are missing and presumed dead. Oh God, Duncan, what a horror. I am so angry. If I could, I would kill the sons of bitches who did this myself.” I pulled her close and held her for what seemed a long time. It was perhaps only five minutes, but long enough for the unexpected to take place. In that time I felt a bond was forged, cemented in a shared hatred. Finally she said, “Let’s get out of here. I want to go down to the beach. I want to walk for a while.” We went to the lobby, and on a hunch, I asked if I had any messages. The clerk, an officious older black man, checked my box. Without speaking, he handed me a folded piece of paper. On it was written, “Have a nice day. Your pal, Joe.” I tucked it into my pocket. Bitsy asked, “Business or pleasure?”

THE HOBBY/McDougal “Both, I suppose. A guy I know wishing me a good day. We’re not great friends. It’s his way of letting me know he resents me being here while he has to work. Nothing really serious. He’s just a jerk.”

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We passed the bar and exited onto the veranda. The moon was full, hanging low over the horizon like an old illuminated Gulf Oil sign. Bright moonlight was glistening in dancing diamonds on the surface of the sea, cutting a jiggley path across the surf just a hundred yards away. A scent of flowers was in the air. The day’s heat lingered. I felt it down to my bones, and it was first-rate. I have never been a fan of cold weather. When the time would come to bug out of this current life, it would be to a southern clime. The warmer the better. The path to the beach was bordered by cactus thickets and native palms. Low trees which appeared to be mahogany held small orchids. We passed a small swampy inlet, with several buttonwood trees. Though I didn’t see it, Bitsy said she saw a blue iguana scampering through the brush. On the beach, we trudged through the loose sand until we came to where it was hard packed by the water and the walking became easier. I wasn’t surprised when Bitsy took my hand. We strolled that way for a few minutes before she stopped. I noticed that she had begun to weep again. She looked at me and said, “This is all so painful. Those dear people. They deserved so much more from life than to be murdered by some fanatic…” I said, “I know. I’m mad as hell. And I…” I stopped before I said too much. Finally, she said, “Duncan, tell me the truth. Why are we really here?”

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So here came the big choice. Lie and write her off. Tell the truth and in all likelihood, write her off anyway. I turned to her and looked into her very inner eye. I knew that the day I would make my escape from all this, I was going to live out my life in loneliness. But maybe I wouldn’t have to. In nearly everyone can be found a desire to have a companion, and if we are lucky, a love. Odysseus had Penelope, Mark Antony had Cleo, Romeo tried to have Juliet and, of course, Pierre Curie lucked out when he snared Marie. Two out these examples ended in tragedy, but fifty percent is not too bad. We were alone on this stretch of the shore. A weathered, gray log was nearby. I pointed to it and said, “Let’s sit for a while. I want to discuss something with you.” She cocked her head curiously and looked at me. “Something serious?” “Deadly serious.” As we sat, she said, “Go ahead.” “What are your plans for your life, Bitsy?” She forced a half smile. “Why, Duncan, is this a proposal?” “Well, not exactly in the way you might expect. If it were, it would require from you more than just a declaration of love and fidelity. It would be almost like a blood oath. Oh, hell, that’s not what I mean. I want…need to tell you something which would require that you promise never to reveal it … ever.” She hesitated. “I’m not sure I could make a promise like that until I knew what we were talking about.” “I understand.”

THE HOBBY/McDougal We sat and watched the phosphorescent waves roll in, hissing across the

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sand and then receding. Where the water had been, small holes appeared, spurting out tiny jets of liquid before the next wave covered them up. A small piece of Styrofoam came and went in the ebb and flow, white against the dark sea, jarring the harmony of the all-natural beauty. Finally, I said what my heart could no longer suppress. I bit down hard on my teeth to keep them from betraying my nervousness with chattering. “Bitsy, it appears I have fallen in love with you.” After what seemed an interminable time had passed, she said, “Well, I’ll be damned. I didn’t think I would ever be able to pry that out of you. I…I love you too, you old coot.” She touched my cheek and turned my head toward her. She leaned in and kissed me on the lips. “I hope you didn’t think I would go to the Caymans with just anybody, Duncan. The reason I asked you out to the theater last week and then agreed to this trip was because I had decided to make a last ditch effort to ensnare you with my charms. And now I’m going to acknowledge that life is too short for B.S. I do want to be with you, and I doubt that there is anything you could tell me that would dissuade me from that. So, yes, I promise to keep your confidences. Is that bold enough?” “Yes, it’s the perfect answer.” “Are you in trouble, Duncan? Is that why you brought a gun with you on this trip? Is that what you want to say?”

THE HOBBY/McDougal “It’s not that. At least, it’s not anything I can’t resolve. I only brought all

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this up because I felt that we might have a future together and if that were to be the case, there are things you would have to know.” “Go on.” Well, says I to me, here we go. I took a deep breath. “Okay, Bitsy, this is it. This is what I do. It’s the real reason why I have been traveling so much of late. In this world there are criminals who are beyond the pale, men and women so cruel and malevolent that the world would be infinitely better off without them. I know who many of them are. In one way or another, some have managed to escape justice and, I believe, pose a real threat to decent people everywhere. I stop them before they can kill, rape or molest again.” Her brow furrowed slightly as she began to ask, “But how…?” There are soft words for what I have done, like ‘eliminate,’ or ’eradicate’. I opted to tell it without an implied apologetic phrase. I raised my hand slightly and said softly, “I kill them.” Her mouth made an ‘O’, but she said nothing. For the next hour and a half I unloaded. I spent a lot of time on the rationale behind my actions. I didn’t discuss all of my hits in detail, nor did I talk about the thrill in my gut that living so close to the edge had aroused. And then I told her about my meetings with Grant and Waldrip and the arrangement that I had with them. I also told her that I knew that someday I would have to call it quits. I said that this new phase of my life, this arrangement with Grant, would lead to the end of the killing. And probably soon.

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Finally, I said, “These are things I can’t undo. I have no regrets, but would have if it caused you to change your mind about me.” She was silent for a moment, shaking her head slightly. Then she said, “Dear God, Duncan, I can’t believe it’s really you saying this. You’ve always been such a gentle man, or at least that’s what I thought. That’s what makes it so hard for me to reconcile what you’ve told me with who I thought you were. I do remember Wilma Cordery and what happened to her. I was a high school kid when that man killed her and drowned her granddaughter in the toilet and, I, like everyone else, was outraged. When they caught him, my Dad said he could actually pull the switch on the bastard if they gave him the death penalty. And now you tell me that, figuratively speaking, you did.” We sat silently for several minutes. Finally she let out an audible sigh and took my hand. She said, “Let’s go back to the hotel. I’ve got to think.” Bitsy went to the door of my room and entered with me. “I don’t want to be alone. I’m going to stay with you.” In the room we got ready for bed. I laid down and pulled a single cover over me. She slid across under the sheet and nestled her head on my shoulder. She said, “Duncan, if I go with you to wherever it is you are going, I can’t do what you do. Well, I suppose if our lives depended on it I could, but only then. Do you understand?” I answered, “Yes. I wouldn’t expect you to.” She said, “And when we are through with the forced assignments, you will really hang up your guns?”

THE HOBBY/McDougal “I promise.” She asked, “Did you ever see Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid?” “Sure. One of my favorite movies.” “Well, if you recall, Katherine Ross agreed to go to Bolivia with them

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because she was twenty-six, a school teacher in a Podunk town and was bored to tears. She wanted spice in her life. I have more reasons to go with you than she had to hang with those two cowboys.” “Does that mean I’m better looking than Robert Redford?” She smiled, “What do you think?” “Probably not.” “Duncan, I’ll go with you to the end of the road, wherever it takes us. I’ve had a great life, but never a thrilling one. And I can understand why you wanted to do the things you have done. I believe many people would do the same things if they just had the nerve.” Then, deadly seriously, she continued, “Duncan, I’ll help in non-lethal ways. I’ll watch your back. And who knows, maybe this son of a bitch Alfred Said is the one who arranged to kill our friends. ” So we would become partners in a great life and death con game. “Okay. Your life is going to be turned topsy-turvy. When we’re through, we’ll have to vanish like a couple of wisps of old smoke up a chimney, to a new time and place where I hope we will live an extraordinarily comfortable existence.” She squeezed my hand. “It’s okay, partner. Let’s shake on it. I’m in.” I pulled her close. “You’ve got a lot to learn. But first, I’ve got a job for you.”

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She smiled and kissed me. “That’s easy.” I had meant that she would have to study the Said file. But perhaps pleasure before business might be a better idea. I held her long enough to realize that I wouldn’t need Viagra. We made love like it would be the last time for either one of us. As it turned out, it wasn’t the last time ever. And neither was the next one an hour later. I was certain of one thing. I wasn’t going to give this up for anything. Perhaps it was the exhilaration we both felt, or the softness of the bed, but we both fell asleep smiling. The sun was rising when Bitsy woke and jostled me awake. “This tropical air is working wonders for me. I feel as good as if I had just had sex.” She giggled at her own joke. “Sure,” I said. “It must be the air. It makes everything really swell.” That set us both off, and we laughed like teenagers. “So what do we do now, Duncan?” “I’ve been thinking that over. Why don’t we do something really wild … like getting married?” She paused before replying, her eyes tearing up. She said, softly, “I do.” I kissed her with fervor. Lots of fervor. “I’ll call Alfred the Bell Captain right now to see what we need to do to get hitched in the Caymans.” Bitsy jumped out of bed and spontaneously clapped her hands. “I’ll need a new dress. I didn’t bring anything that will do. And I’m not going to get married in shorts or slacks!” “And you’ll have one, with a ten-foot train if you want it.”

THE HOBBY/McDougal “That’s a bit much, but I think a hat would be a nice touch. Yes, a white,

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broad-brimmed straw with a bold red band.” She grabbed me and kissed me again. “Oh, Duncan, what a life we are going to lead. I do love you.” I rang for Alfred and asked him what two Americans would require to get married in the Caymans. “Ah, Mr. Travis, the tropical love bug has bitten you, yes? It is fortunate you have called me. By coincidence, my sister, Elena, is the foremost wedding arranger on Grand Cayman. I will have her call you in just a few minutes.” “Thanks, Alfred. Somehow I knew you would have the answer.” I suspected that it wouldn’t have made any difference what the question might have been, good old Al would have had a solution. Ten minutes later, Elena was on the line. She told me that we would need to procure a license from Deputy General’s office in George Town. The official would need the name of the person who would perform the ceremony. As she gave it to me, I wrote down the name of Judge Lawrence Blasingame, a local Justice of the Peace, whom Elena said would recite the vows. She also would make arrangements for the use of a ‘delightful little gazebo’ located on the end of the hotel’s fishing pier. Champagne and a small cake would be made available. Her $500 fee would include everything, except the license. I would have to pay for that myself when we picked it up. She suggested we catch the minibus to George Town this morning and have the ceremony at sunset later today. I relayed all this to Bitsy. I had also obtained the address of the best couture boutique in Georgetown. It also had occurred to me that if I opened an account at

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the Benjamin Private Bank, Joe Waldrop would know about it before the ink was dry on the signature card. But if Bitsy made the transaction, they might not pick up on it. “Let’s get some clothes on. As much as I enjoy looking at you like this, the hotel restaurant will probably require that we dress for breakfast.” We dressed slowly, watching each other. In a way, seeing her slip into her clothes was almost as sensual as seeing her take them off. Then I put my forefinger upright across my mouth in the international sign for ‘shush.’ I pointed to the patio door and took her hand. We stepped outside. The air was heavy, enveloping us in its moist scents. A band of darkness hung on the northwestern horizon, presaging a rainy front on its way. I spoke quietly. “After breakfast we will hop on the minibus. After we get our marriage license, we’ll catch a cab. You get out at Dorothea’s Boutique in George Town. When you are through shopping, catch a minibus back to the hotel. Wait fifteen minutes and then get on another bus back to George Town. Go to the Benjamin Private Bank on Edward Street, across from the post office, and open an account. I’ll give you a check for fifty thousand. Open it in both our names. Pick up a signature card for me to sign and mail in later. Tell them you want a pass-through account and that we will be sending large sums of money which they are to immediately forward by wire to another account. Tell them that the routing instructions will come with each deposit. Inform them as well that they should take three percent of all future deposits as their fee for sending the money along to its next stop. When you are through, catch a cab and come back here. Got it?”

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She appeared thoughtful for a moment before saying, “Yes. And to start this partnership off right, I’ll put fifty thousand of my money in as well.” I was going to protest, and then thought better of it. It would be best to have both of us invested in this joint venture. “Okay, that’s a deal.” And it was.

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THE HOBBY/McDougal Chapter Twenty

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The bus, which was actually an oversized van, was crowded with locals filling all but the two seats Bitsy and I took. The rain indicator I had seen earlier began to strut its stuff. Tropical sized drops began to splat on the windshield. The driver turned on his worn wipers which did not seem to be helping much. I tried to close the window next to me without success. The citizen next to me leaned over and snapped an aluminum protuberance that held the glass in place. He said to me, “Try it now, mon.” I did, with a better result. The laugh for the day came just as we entered the outskirts of Georgetown. Some tourist with a sense of humor had erected an official looking road sign next to the thoroughfare, which read, “Snow Emergency Route.” I was still smiling when I noticed a small black car pull out of a side street and take a position behind us. As we moved into the city, I also noted that he made all the same stops we did. We hopped off the bus at the Administration Building on Elgin Avenue and went in to the Deputy General’s office for our marriage license. There were a few couples in line ahead of us. Love comes in all sizes and surely has no age limits, but it did appear that we were the oldest that day. Fifteen minutes later we were back on the street hailing a cab. Mr. Black Car was waiting for us. He followed our cab as we stopped across the street from Dorothea’s Boutique and Bitsy gave me a peck on the cheek as she opened the door. “See ya’.” After a few minutes I left the taxi across from The Royal Bank of the Caymans. The driver of the black car pulled to the curb and parked. I decided to

THE HOBBY/McDougal ignore the tail, if that was what it was, since I wanted them to see me go in the bank. The institution was housed in a large modern building, faced with white

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stone. Inside, I went to a desk where an attractive black woman sat. The device on her desk indicated she was the receptionist. She smiled as I stood in front of her. “And how may I help you, sir?” “I would like to speak to someone about opening an account.” “And your name, sir?” You could have poured her voice over pancakes. “I’m Duncan Travis.” She rose and said, “Please come with me.” She led me to an elevator. We were serenaded with recorded steel band music as it rose. On level three, the door opened and I was steered to another receptionist, this one a male. My escort said, “This is Mister Travis. He is interested in establishing an account here.” She said to me, “Thank you for your interest in our institution, Mr. Travis.” Before I could reply, she turned and went back to the elevator. My new handler smiled and picked up a phone. He punched in two digits. “Mr. Denton, I have Mr. Travis here. He has expressed an interest in opening a new account.” Moments later a rotund black man, about forty, dressed impeccably in a pinstriped suit which very well might have originated in Savile Row, came out of his office and introduced himself. “Hello, Mr. Travis. I am Canterbury Denton. Please, won’t you come in?” He had taken my hand in a firm shake, and had used his other hand to cup my elbow. He knew his business. I already felt like his sort of

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close friend. He stepped to my side so that we moved into the office together, like pals. The room was quite magnificent. The motif was piscatorial, with two tremendous aquariums, one on each sidewall. A large bronze sea turtle statue stood on a pedestal in the center of the room. As I sat in the low chair in front of his desk, I said, “Canterbury. An unusual name.” “Yes, I know. My mother’s master’s thesis was on Chaucer. She loved his work. I have always been thankful that she wasn’t studying Attila the Hun.” He laughed at his joke. I’m sure it was at least the hundredth time in his life that he had done so. I forced a chuckle. We were really hitting it off. “Now, I believe you are here to open an account?” “Yes.” “Well, you have chosen wisely. The Royal Bank is a strong institution, one with a history of solidity dating back many years. And rest assured, we are the soul of discretion. Your money and your identity will be safe with us. Unlike the financial centers in many countries, strong measures have been taken by the Cayman Islands Government in recent years to protect and enhance the reputation of the islands as a base for offshore financial operations. This action includes the signing of a Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty with the United Kingdom and the United States aimed at narcotics-related and other crime, though specifically excluding tax offenses, which of course do not exist in the Cayman Islands. Even though at least 40 of the world's top 50 banks have branches or subsidiaries in the Cayman Islands, fortuitous circumstances have brought you to the door of the best.”

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He chuckled, “And may I assume you are not in the narcotics business? Pardon me for asking, but the law requires that I do so.” “You assume correctly. And you’ve sold me on your bank. I’m ready to do business.” I pulled my wallet out and removed a check. “I want to make an initial deposit of $5,000. Of course, there will be much larger sums later. I am a consultant and my fees are quite handsome.” “I quite understand. We appreciate your faith in us and we will not let you down.” The truth was that I was setting up a red herring. I was in fact never going to use the account for any purpose other than to throw people off the scent. I would be writing off the five grand. When he had completed the deposit slip and I had chosen a check style, he asked, “Would you be my guest for lunch? We have a splendid executive dining room.” I didn’t want to spend any more time with Canterbury than I had to. The less he knew about me the better. “That’s very kind of you, Mr. Denton, and under normal circumstances I would leap at the chance to get a free lunch. But I am getting married this evening and I have a lot to do before the ceremony.” “Oh, my, how exciting. My congratulations. Where will the wedding be performed?” “At the Grand Carib. And thanks again for the offer of lunch, but I’m sure you understand.”

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He stood and proffered his hand again. “I do. Oh, that’s your line, isn’t it.” We both had a good laugh. I was a bit regretful that I would not see my new pal again. As I exited the Royal bank, I saw the black car pull out into the traffic and turn onto Shedden Street and disappear from view.

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THE HOBBY/McDougal Chapter Twenty-one

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Karim al-Hadji’s return to Tehran was not quite as he had envisioned it. To say his superiors were surprised to see him was a massive understatement of the facts. To say they were happy to find him at their door was very far from the truth. Seyed Mahmood had conveniently neglected to inform Tehran of Karim’s announced change of plans and had expressed phony outrage and surprise when he heard that Karim had arrived in Tehran, resurrected from the dead, as it were. Karim sat at a gray painted steel table in the basement of IRG Headquarters, in a sparsely decorated room, the only decoration being a portrait of Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamanei. Though he was shivering from the cold, and somewhat from apprehension, he was seething with rage inside. Across the table from the almost martyr Karim was Colonel Mansour el Mohammed, the chief of the interrogation unit of the IRG. He was a stiff-necked martinet, with a sallow complexion evidencing a lifelong tobacco habit. He took pride in his immense waxed moustache, and habitually twirled the end of the right side. He glowered at Karim. “You have disobeyed your orders and jeopardized the security of this agency. What possessed you to take such a foolhardy chance? If you had been apprehended, the world would have known it was us and not some nebulous group. This is a disgrace. You are a coward, Karim al-Hadji, who could not fulfill a mission for the Prophet as you were instructed. Now tell me, in great detail, what you did, exactly. Leave nothing out. If there is the slightest possibility that you left a trail, I must know of it. We cannot craft a plan to divert suspicion

THE HOBBY/McDougal from us if you are not scrupulously honest and accurate.” He raised his voice irately. “Do I make myself clear?” Biting his tongue to keep from retorting angrily, Karim answered, “Yes, Colonel. I will be truthful.” For the next hour, Karim recounted the plan and its result. Occasionally embellishing some points to make him appear smarter than he had been. He was

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interrupted frequently by the Colonel, who deftly used the technique of repeating questions to see if he would elicit a different response the second time. Karim stuck close enough to the facts that he was able to escape trouble in that area. Finally, the Colonel asked, “Did you find it difficult to blend in while you were in America?” “No, it was not difficult at all. Unless you break a law, such as while driving a car, no one bothers you. I could have gone anywhere in the country and no one would have cared. I carried no papers other than a driver’s license. The Americans are stupid when it comes to knowing who is who.” “There are some here who want you to be executed for your disobedience. I am not so sure that is a good idea. There are certain elements to your story that I find appealing. Your ingenuity, for instance, in transporting the bomb in a baby carriage. Now that was clever, very clever.” He paused while Karim thought that over. Karim sat stoically. He would show this hard-liner no weaknesses. The Colonel said, “Think about it, Karim al-Hadji. Why should we let you live?” He did think about it. A long minute crept by as he tried to formulate in his mind the perfect answer, the one that might save his life. “I have gained much knowledge about the way Americans are and how they think. This information can

THE HOBBY/McDougal be useful to others who may go to the United States. I can be valuable in the training of these people. Or, if I am fortunate enough to be assigned to another

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mission, I could be even more effective than before. I believe in our cause. Do not kill me for my momentary lapse in judgment. I really believed that if I returned to Iran I would be of much more use than if I died in America.” The Colonel showed a hint of a smile. “You do not really believe I am buying this dog shit, do you? In fact, Karim al-Hadji, you are a coward, a coward who has betrayed the trust we placed in you.” Karim could not contain himself any longer. The lean muscles in his face hardened as he glared at the Colonel. “Colonel, I did not anticipate a parade in my honor upon my return, but I did expect better than this. I know that you fought for Iran in the Iraq war. I know you were promoted after a successful action near the Shatt al-Arab. You fought in battle after battle. It is obvious that you grew in experience into a masterful soldier. It is also obvious you did not strap twenty pounds of explosives to your body and run into the enemy lines, intent upon becoming a martyr. Would I call you a coward for not doing so? Of course not. You were brave without being stupid. Well, so am I. If you want to let some lout chop off my head to prove a point, go ahead. But don’t call me a coward. I fought to live and fight again. If I were you, I would not throw that away.” Colonel Mansour al Mohammed looked at Karim to see if could detect madness. He had interrogated hundreds of men, and some women, and had never had one react as Karim al-Hadji had. This was an exceedingly clever rascal. His boldness in turning the tables upon his interrogator showed potential for greatness.

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But he could not acknowledge that. He must retain the upper hand, and he would. But he knew then that he was not going to have this man executed. He raised his right hand and snapped his fingers. The door to the room opened and a sergeant entered. He bowed ever so slightly. The Colonel said, “Oshnar, please bring us a pot of fresh coffee and two cups. And some date sugar and mare’s milk.” He said to Karim, “I have decided to give you another opportunity to prove your worth. This time it will not depend upon your dying, but rather, your living.” Karim tilted his head slightly and nodded. He said, “I hope the coffee is hot. It’s damned cold in here.”

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THE HOBBY/McDougal Chapter Twenty-two

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When I returned to the hotel, Bitsy was in her room. I called her on the house phone and asked her down for a late lunch. As we worked on bowls of conch chowder and a platter of jerked chicken and fried plantain, she let me know that her trip to the bank had gone off without a hitch. She was also delighted with the wedding dress she had bought. She was happy as a Caymanian clam. We topped off lunch with a bottle of champagne. I told her all about Canterbury Denton. I was sure by now that my ruse had worked. Bitsy confirmed that she had not seen Black Car after I dropped her off at the boutique. One thing I had not covered with Bitsy was how she should act when she would meet Waldrip and Grant. I said to her, “I don’t see any way to keep you out of the business. I had been thinking it might be better all around, and safer, if you did not let on how much you know about what we are up to. That maybe when you meet Waldrip and Grant, you should probably keep what you know under your hat. But they’re not going to buy that, not for a minute.” “Then I shouldn’t tell them I’m just a prisoner of love?” “No. I might get by with that, but not you.” After we ate, my bride-to-be went to her room to rest up before the evening ceremony. Back in my room, I found a large bouquet of roses and a card which read, “Congratulations! I am sure you will enjoy a ROYAL wedding. You can BANK on it. Best wishes, your pals, Joe Waldrip and Don Grant.” Gotcha, I

THE HOBBY/McDougal thought. Those guys were too clever by half. I didn’t expect to win every one

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against them, but I was hoping it would be the ones that really counted. There was also a message light blinking on the room phone. It was from Elena, the nuptial arranger. I called her. She said for an extra hundred bucks she could have the hotel steel band there to play the wedding march. That sounded like a nice touch, so I agreed. I called my daughter Elizabeth to let her know I was getting hitched. She knew Bitsy and I was relatively sure she would be happy for me. “Dad, that’s great news. I’m very fond of Bitsy. You made a good choice. When are you coming our way? Kayla needs to have some Grandpa time.” “I’ll be in New York on business in a few days. We’ll get together then. I miss you guys.” “It’s mutual, Pop. Can’t wait to see the two of you.” In the final analysis, the wedding ceremony was beautiful. I felt very fortunate to have broken the unwritten rule that almost handsome men hook up with almost pretty women. In my case, an almost handsome man had captured a beautiful wife. Judge Blasingame was a touch inebriated, but what the hell, so were Bitsy and I. The band was stationed on the beach next to the pier. When we arrived, they played, “True Love.” They were so good that Bitsy began to tear up. Seeing her give way to sentimentality made me shed one tear…or maybe two. I was happy as hell. I guess I’m just an old softie. Of course, if anything had gone wrong, I would have shot the person responsible. Hey, just kidding.

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Our wedding night was a replay of the previous night. The next morning we rented a couple of mopeds at the hotel and took a trip to the local turtle farm, mingling with dozens of tourists who were more interested in shooting pictures than in the lecture on the precarious life and future of turtledom. The German couple whom we had talked to in the restaurant was there and came over to say hello. “Turtles. I have not had much interest in them unless they were in my soup.” It came out ‘zoup.’ “And by the way, congratulations on your marriage. We watched the ceremony from the hotel. It was quite beautiful, at least the bride was.” Bitsy said, “Well, thank you very much. But I thought the groom was quite nice looking as well.” He said, “It’s all a matter of perspective, madam.” I smiled and asked where they were heading after they would leave the Caymans. He said, “We are going to the Virgin Islands. I have arranged for a sailboat charter there.” “Have you been there before?” “Oh, yes. I love sailing and try to get down there every year.” With a sly look at Bitsy he said, “Even though it is quite dangerous, you know. Caribbean pirates.” She grinned, “You are pulling my leg, Herr Goebbels. Pirates indeed.” He said, in mock seriousness, “On the contrary, Madam. Why, right here in the Caymans, in the sixteenth century, the fiercest buccaneer of them all made this his homeport. People are still looking for his treasure on Grand Cayman. Digging

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along the beaches is a national pastime. Yes, this was where Captain Red Shirt of the ship Sharkfin roved.” I said, “I can’t say that I have ever heard of him. Was he English?” “No one knows for sure. He preyed upon ships of all flags, including the English. The story goes that he was very bloodthirsty and also very brave. He was in the forefront of every battle. His First Mate asked him one day, ‘Why do you always wear a red shirt in every fight?’ Captain Red Shirt replied that he did not want the crew to become alarmed if he should suffer a wound. Consequently he wore a crimson pirate’s blouse that would not betray his bleeding. This satisfied the mate’s curiosity. Then one day, the bos’n in the crow’s nest shouted that there were ten British Man O’ War ships approaching, with far more guns than the Sharkfin. They carried more sail than Red Shirt’s ship. Outrunning them would be impossible, so he did the only thing he could do.” Bitsy asked, “And what was that?” Herr Goebbels said, with a straight face, “He sent the First Mate below with orders to fetch him his brown pants.” Bitsy laughed before I did. “That is funny as hell,” she said. “I didn’t know you Germans had a sense of humor.” Herr Goebbels grinned, pleased with his success as a raconteur. His wife said, “Well of course we have a good sense of humor. I married Ludwig, didn’t I?” He feigned a hurt look, and we laughed. Bitsy said, “Good luck on your sailing trip. I wish we could go with you, but we are on our way home tomorrow.”

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Ludwig said, “Of course. You have funerals to attend. Such a tragedy. This is such a dangerous world.” Then he looked directly at me and said unsmilingly, “You should be very careful, Herr Travis. Danger is around every corner.” Helga Goebbels took Bitsy’s hand and said, “Perhaps someday under happier circumstances we can get together again.” Bitsy said, “I would like that. Goodbye for now.” Outside, as we were strapping on our moped helmets, the Goebbels drove by, in their black car. It was the same one that had followed me the day before. Bitsy said, “Did you see what I just saw?” “Damn sure did.” She said, “And now I know how he had already known your name when we first met. He was right about one thing for sure. Danger lurks where you might least expect it, even across from a plate of sauerkraut.”

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THE HOBBY/McDougal Chapter Twenty-three

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The next day we landed safely at the Dallas/Fort Worth Airport. Not surprisingly, Joe Waldrip met us at the baggage claim area. He approached, a broad grin on his face. “Well, Judge, congratulations. And what a beautiful bride.” He offered his hand to Bitsy. “I’m Joe Waldrip, an old friend of the Judge. It’s Bitsy, right?” Bitsy gave him her most radiant smile. “Why, yes, Its nice to meet a friend of Duncan.” Joe said, “I’ve got the Lincoln in the parking lot. How much luggage have you got?” “Four bags and a box full of souvenirs. But you really didn’t need to go to all this trouble, Joe.” “Hey, nothing’s too good for an old pal…and his bride.” Bitsy took that as her cue to go to the restroom. “I need to powder my nose. Don’t leave without me.” Joe laughed, “Not a chance.” When she was out of earshot, he asked, “How much have you told her about us?” I answered sternly, “It would be easier to tell you what I haven’t shared with her. Joe, there’s no way I can lead some sort of a secret agent double life and get the job done. This is not True Lies and I’m not Arnold Schwarzenegger. She knows everything you know about me, what I’ve done and what I’m going to do.”

THE HOBBY/McDougal He cocked his head slightly and said, “Okay, Judge, if you say so. I hope you’ve told her to keep her mouth shut.”

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He pulled a folded sheet of paper out of his jacket pocket. “I suppose you heard about the disaster in Houston.” I nodded. I was also wondering why I hadn’t gotten an argument out of Waldrip. Maybe when the time comes, he thinks he will do a two-fer. “We’ve tied Alfred Said directly to the bomber. It didn’t take long to figure out what happened. The bomber drove up in a van with fake police markings on the side. External cameras at the Brown Center recorded his arrival and departure. He was dressed as a cop. He got the bomb in the building concealed in a baby stroller, with a real live child in it. We don’t know yet where he got the kid. The bomb was wrapped in a suicide bomber’s vest. We found minute shreds of it. We figure he was supposed to blow himself up but chickened out. We found the van, abandoned in a supermarket parking lot. This is a photocopy of one of the items they found in it.” He handed me the sheet of paper in his hand. It was a copy of an envelope. The return address was Banco J. G. de Honduras, N.A. in New York City. I said, “That son of a bitch. And what about the terrorist? Any leads?” “By the time we picked up his trail, he was out of the country. Best guess he is in Tehran.” Joe looked even worse than the last time I had seen him. He seemed to have dropped weight and his skin had taken on the grayish pre-death hue I had seen when

THE HOBBY/McDougal Dori was near the end. I said to him, “Joe, you don’t look very well. Are you okay?”

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He turned his hands palm up and shrugged slightly as he replied, “You’ve got a good eye, Judge. I haven’t been up to speed lately. Nothing serious. I’ll be alright.” I wondered what might happen if I outlasted Waldrip. Would they hook me up with someone who might be a worse threat down the line? I had Joe’s number. I might not be as lucky with someone new. Changing the course of the conversation, Joe asked, “Do you plan to take her with you to New York?” I said, “Sure. After all, I’m on my honeymoon.” “I don’t think that’s such a good idea. It could complicate things.” Probably too abruptly, I said, “That’s my affair. I’ll handle it.” “Well, I still think…” I interrupted him. “Butt out on that, Joe.” “Okay.” Lightening up, I said, “Thanks for picking us up. We’re going to stay at my place until we head north.” “Alright. I’ll drop you off and then I’ll see you in the morning. We’ll go over the stuff I’ve got ready for you.” Bitsy came back at the same time our luggage spilled onto the carousel. Joe smiled at her and said, “Nice powder job on your nose.” E-mail the author: mcdougal8@verizon.net

THE HOBBY/McDougal Chapter Twenty-four

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The interior of the Hezar Tehran Restaurant was finished in rich sandalwood and red velvet. Gold columns were situated between the tables that ringed the room. The center of the dining area was devoted to a small stage where Suri, a locally popular singer was singing the words of a Rodaki poem. Accompanying her was a traditional four-piece combo, four musicians playing a tanbur, a kamanchen, a ney and a daf. Colonel Mansour al Mohammed nodded smilingly to the reedy harmony. The amalgamation of sound they produced was conducive to dreams of Persia ascendant, of glory about to be regained. Perhaps rising on a fiery cloud above a devastated Tel Aviv or Washington. His dinner companions were the somewhat subdued and misguided Karim al-Hadji, who seemed to have learned the importance of obedience, and Assistant Minister Salim Jarsan of the Institute for Political and International Studies (IPIS). Minister Jarsan appeared too young to hold the important post he occupied. Not yet thirty, he was a rising star in IPIS. His membership in the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corp was one of his principal credentials. His personal ruthlessness was another. His actual duties at IPIS had nothing to do with the stated mission of the organization. Minister Jarsan was involved in the surreptitious spreading of absolute terror, horror which would solidify Iran’s role as the rising star of Islamic fundamentalism. His working hypothesis, the theory extant of his superiors, was that Iran should use the disparate radical Muslim forces across the

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globe to their own ends. When the time came that they would no longer need them, they would cut them loose. Jarsan said, “So, Colonel, this is the hero of Houston?” The Colonel laughed. “More to the point, the pragmatist of Houston.” Jarsan said, “Pragmatism is good, if it is exercised in the proper mix with dedication to a cause.” He directed a question to Karim. “Are you dedicated to a cause?” Karim answered slowly, “Most assuredly, Minister.” Jarsan asked, “And what cause would that be, Karim al-Hadji?” “The cause of a greater Iran. Or if you prefer a pragmatic answer, whatever cause you want me to embrace.” Jarsan laughed aloud. “Alright, Karim. We will talk some more about your dedication, but not tonight. I have ordered Karoshte Ghorme Sabzi for the three of us. You do like lamb stew, don’t you? Or were your tastes Americanized while you toiled in the land of the Great Satan? Perhaps a hamburger would be more to your liking.” “No, Minister. I have a fondness for lamb. It is a good choice. Perhaps a lambburger.” Jarsan laughed again. He said to Colonel Mohammed, “You’re right. He is a cheeky one.” Then to Karim, he continued, “ Now let us enjoy the evening. Tomorrow, come to the Institute at ten in the morning. I have something to discuss with you. For now, let us listen to the delightful Suri.” “Thank you, Minister. I will be there.”

THE HOBBY/McDougal “I’m sure you will.”

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THE HOBBY/McDougal Chapter Twenty-five

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It was good being back in Texas. After Waldrip dropped us off, Bitsy and I talked long into the night. I had gone over with her the information I had learned from Waldrip. She said “That son of a bitch! My intuition had already led me to believe Said might have had something to do with the bombing. Let’s go drop a hand grenade down his pants.” I said, “A big one. We’ll give him hell, Bitsy.” I said, “We’re coming up fast on that big fork in the road that will take us away from here for a long, long time. Perhaps forever. Why don’t you call Margaret Beauchamp and see if she and Gordon would like to get together for dinner tomorrow night. For auld lang syne. “ She sighed. Sure. I’ll call her tomorrow.” Later, as I lay on my back, holding Bitsy until she fell asleep, my mind raced fast-forward to Manhattan. It was difficult for me to drift off as I tried to develop a plan of attack, then modify it and amend it again. I aimed my thoughts at trying to uncover Said’s vulnerabilities. Everyone has some, although from what I had gleaned out of the file, he was a man with few points of weakness. Yet I hoped there would be one chink in his armor where I could slip in a stiletto. Gaining his confidence, even on a casual, social level would be important. A mini-epiphany struck me at two in the morning. The plan fell into place like a disassembled watch puts itself back together again when a film showing it being taken apart by a jeweler is shown in reverse. It would take some serious walking around money as well as an

THE HOBBY/McDougal assist by someone who speaks Farsi. I figured that if Joe had been able to find a

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Kraut couple to fly to the Caymans to keep an eye on me, he certainly ought to be able to find a Persian accomplice for my operation. The next morning Bitsy, who owned more clothes than ten average families, went off to the Galleria for more. “Texas duds just won’t work in Manhattan.” I agreed, of course. I had a second cup of coffee while I made notes on a yellow pad. At ten minutes to ten, Waldrip and Grant were at the door. I let them in and we settled down in the kitchen. Grant had again brought doughnuts. I put on a fresh pot of java. Grant said, “Congratulations, Judge. Joe showed me a picture of your bride. She is quite a looker. Is she here? I’d like to meet her.” “Thanks, Don. You’re right. She’s absolutely beautiful. She’s not here now. She’s shopping. And now she is in your file on me, complete with picture.” I smiled. “Anything I should know about her?” “Nope. She was a good choice. You’re going to have a new cover identity. And because she’s your wife, she will, too.” I asked, “So what have you got for me, Joe?” He snapped open his briefcase and pulled out a large folder. “Your cover name will be George Lampson. Your wife is Edith Lampson. You are a retired oil broker from Freehold, New Jersey. A set of identity papers for you and Mrs. Lampson is included in this file as well as a personal profile for each of you. Also included is an in-depth description of the oil brokerage business. Driver’s license,

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passport, DD214 from the army and birth certificate. Same for your wife, except for the DD214. There are also credit cards and information on your checking account at the Bank of New York. There’s plenty of dough in the account. Try to make it last.” Then, somewhat reluctantly, he added, “If you need more, let me know. “You have an apartment in Manhattan at 755 West 85th Street on the Upper West Side. Here are two sets of keys. A phone is already installed. It’s a doorman building. He has been notified of your new lease there. And here are first class tickets on American Airlines, D/FW to La Guardia. You leave tomorrow evening. This stuff ought to get you started. Now, is there anything you want that I haven’t covered?” “I mentioned before that I thought there might be an opening because of Said’s interest in sailing. I want you to contact the Hudson View Marina in Jersey City, where he keeps his boat, and rent dock space in my name for a seventy foot Swan sailing yacht.” Grant spoke up. “Holy shit, Duncan, how much does one of those cost?” I said, “Around two million, but don’t worry. I won’t need it. I simply want everyone at the marina to believe I own one and that it will be arriving sometime soon.” “Well, that’s a relief. If it comes down to it, though, I might be able to get one or something close to it from our seizure inventory.” “Good to know, but for now I don’t think that will be necessary. And finally, I’ll need someone on call who speaks Farsi. They’ll help me set up Said.”

THE HOBBY/McDougal Waldrip said, “I know of a guy in our organization who spent some time over there and he knows the language, at least enough to get by. He might need some coaching.” Grant said, “You’re talking about Les, I assume.” “Yeah.”

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“He would be perfect. Coincidentally, he knows the oil business. Set it up with him. He’s in L.A. Bring him in when Duncan says it’s time. What else, Mr. Lampson?” “That’s all for now.” The three of us stood and we shook hands all around. Grant said, “Good luck, Judge. We appreciate your cooperation in all of this. I know you feel that you were mouse trapped, and I suppose you were. But I believe you would have come in with us even without the stick.” I smiled as I said, “Probably.”

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THE HOBBY/McDougal Chapter Twenty-six

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The building housing Tehran’s Institute for Political and International Studies was large and bleak in appearance. It looked as though its designer might have been a particularly morose Soviet exile. Karim al-Hadji presented himself at the reception desk at precisely ten in the morning. He had noticed that Minister Jarsan had been dressed in western style when they had dined at the Hezar Tehran Restaurant, so he had donned similar attire for this meeting. He was taken by the receptionist down a labyrinthine stretch of hallways, finally arriving at a door marked in Arabic, “Section R.” The guide opened the door and gestured for Karim to enter. As he did so, the woman left, leaving him in a nearly bare anteroom. The only furnishings were two chairs and a small table. On the table were two bowls. One held a quantity of pistachio nuts. The other contained a handful of empty shells. On the wall opposite the chairs there was another door, unmarked. Karim sat down and waited. As he did so he reached for a few pistachios, then hesitated. He looked around to see if there were any cameras. People who took nuts uninvited might fall into disfavor. It might be wrong to take the nuts without being invited to do so. He did not take any nuts. In America, he could take all the pistachios he wanted, crack them and drop the shells on the floor if he wished, and when he grew tired of waiting, he could open the door and ask why there was such a big damn delay. But this was not the U.S.A. It was modern Iran and pistachio dissenters could

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very well be punished. It was his native land, and now it was a place where he had to fret about minute details that shouldn’t amount to a hill of camel dung. He was in danger of losing that boldness which had helped him commit the perfect offense against the Americans. Being in a police state does have a tendency to unnerve one. He ran his finger around the inside of his collar, betraying his nervousness. Then the door opened and Minister Jarsan entered with a smile and friendly outstretched hand. “Good morning, Karim al-Hadji. Thank you for coming by.” Karim smiled inwardly. The Minister knew Goddamned well he had no choice but to obey the summons. The Minister was dressed in traditional Arab garb, complete with a kafiya headdress. Karim felt like a fool with his blue suit, white shirt and tie. The bastard had thrown him off his guard and he didn’t care for the feeling. Minister Jarsan said, “Come into my office. I have fresh coffee brewing.” In the next room, there was no desk, only a long conference table surrounded by comfortable armchairs. A side table held an American Mr. Coffee and cups and saucers. Two blue folders were on the table. The cover of each read, ”Operation BHI.” The Minister invited Karim to be seated and then slid one of the files to him across the table. “Don’t open it yet. I want to tell you why you are here. You know, you are lucky to be alive. I know of at least three officials who wanted you shot. Actually, make that two. The other desired that you be beheaded. He was so angry that he said he would do it himself. He has done it before. I think he likes it. But I have

THE HOBBY/McDougal interceded on your behalf. I am your sole benefactor. The only one in all of Iran, outside of your family. Do you understand the importance of that?”

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Trying not to appear obsequious, Karim replied, “Yes, Minister Jarsan, I do indeed. Thank you and may Allah bless you a million times.” Jarsan said, “I already have Allah in my corner. It is your allegiance, your unquestioning obedience that I want. I am thinking of sending you on a mission. If you perform well, you can return to Iran and receive the glory and adulation you should have gotten on your last homecoming. Does it surprise you that I believe you performed heroically? It took ingenuity and bravery to pull off the blow to America that you did.” Karim sat silently for a moment. Experience had taught him to be wary of flatterers. Then Karim said, “Yes, I am somewhat taken aback. I hope you will not think me to be too immodest, but I think your assessment is correct.” “Do you want redemption?” “Yes, Minister, very much. I will do anything you ask.” “I hope you mean that sincerely. I am going to send you back to the United States to kill more Americans. There is one thing the Americans have done well. They have financed a very effective national security program, sending monies to their largest cities to implement the plans of their Homeland Security Department. I believe that we should show them that by doing so, they are leaving their smaller cities vulnerable to attack. When we hit them there, it will cause a great uproar among Middle Americans, who will demand a bigger share of the funds. The end result will be that they will have to spread the money around more evenly, which

THE HOBBY/McDougal will shortchange those places we would really most like to strike, making them

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weaker. If you are successful, Karim, you will have rendered an inestimable service to Iran, Islam and, of course, to yourself.” It was easy to see the validity of Jarsan’s plan. And the benefit to Karim was clear as well. “Quite clever, Minister. I am eager to begin.” Jarsan asked, “Have you ever seen the American movie, “Cape Fear?” “No, Minister, I have not seen that one.” “There were actually two versions. The first, with Gregory Peck and Robert Mitchum, was by far the best of the pair. The movie had fear as a theme. I bring this up because there is actually a real Cape Fear, in the American state of North Carolina. That is where you are going. And fear, in the name of Allah, is what the infidels will feel when you make your presence known.”

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THE HOBBY/McDougal Chapter Twenty-seven

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The dinner with Gordon and Margaret Beauchamp was particularly poignant for Bitsy, in that she didn’t know if she would ever return to Dallas and see her long-time friend again. We joined them at El Fenix Mexican Restaurant. I love TexMex food and knew it might be a long time before I would taste it again. Gordon was a successful obstetrician who knew every doctor joke that had ever been written. I liked him for his good humor and for his obvious fidelity to Margaret. He was affable and easy to get along with. She, on the other hand, had an opinion on every subject in the universe and didn’t hesitate to make them known. She looked like a former cheerleader should, cute. And like the song, ‘her hair hung down in ringalets.’ Gordon said, “So, why New York? I can think of a dozen more romantic places to go on a honeymoon. A cruise in the Mediterranean, for instance.” Margaret interjected, “Or San Francisco. It’s absolutely beautiful there, in spite of the politics. Or you could go south of the border. Gordon and I took our wedding trip to Mexico City. So romantic. Of course, we wrote it off on our taxes since Gordon attended a medical conference while we were there.” She looked at her husband archly. “You’re so smart, dear.” Bitsy said, “Duncan’s daughter, Elizabeth, lives in New York. She has a young daughter and that makes me a grandmother, so we thought we’d get a visit in, see some shows and then take a trip across Canada by rail.”

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Margaret said, “Oh, that does sound wonderful I hope you catch Spamalot. I hear it’s a riot.” We talked about our trip to the Caymans and Bitsy told the story about Captain Red Shirt. Gordon laughed uproariously. The waiter cleared the table and I ordered after-dinner drinks. Avoiding discussion of the disaster in Houston was impossible and broaching it caused a somber mood at the table. Gordon said, “I’ve believed all along that we should be fighting the war on terror, but it always seemed to me to be somehow removed from me personally. I didn’t know any of the 9/11 victims. But that’s changed now. I knew a dozen or more of the people killed at the Brown Center. It seems almost too horrible to contemplate. One was Walter Gaston, a cardiologist with an office in my building. His wife died, too.” He gestured toward me. “Duncan, I believe that if given the opportunity, I could kill the person responsible for the bombing. I haven’t felt that way since I was in ‘Nam. Working in the 95th Evac hospital at Monkey Mountain near DaNang, I saw so many of our kids come in with the most horrific wounds, many obviously fatal. Increasingly I became more and more angry. At first it was the Viet Cong I hated. Later, I realized it was LBJ and McNamara that really had me pissed. I guess I was just mad because I wanted to be an OBGyn and there I was, cutting off limbs and stuffing intestines back into body cavities. The men I saved, or tried to save, over there had a hard time understanding the mission. So did I. But you know what I’m talking about, Gordon. You were there.” Margaret said, “Come on. dear. Lighten up.”

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I said, “Sure. However, I was too busy trying to avoid being in a situation that would lead me to meet you or any of your colleagues to worry about the political aspect of the war. When people ask me now if I had been in the Vietnam War, I’m not sure whether to tell them I had been in it or whether it had been in me. In retrospect. it was a damned surreal experience. Gordon laughed cynically. “I understand. One of the most popular graffiti signs I saw over there was the one that read ‘Yankee go home.’ I suspect that most of them were painted on walls by our guys. You and I were lucky. We eventually did make it back.” Bitsy asked, “What happens now with Chet Bascomb’s congressional district?” Margaret said, “I hear the governor is calling a special election for sixty days from now. Janet Granbury, his first assistant, is rumored to already be the frontrunner. If it’s true, I think I’ll help her. I’ve always liked her and she certainly is politically correct. Of course, Duncan, if you were to throw your hat in the ring, I’d back you in a minute.” I said, “Not even a remote chance, Maggie. When I slid off the bench, I hung up my running shoes forever. Besides, I’m a newlywed. Romancing voters would almost be adulterous.” Margaret laughed and said, “Never thought of it that way. Bitsy, you’re not the jealous type. Why don’t you encourage him to run?” My wife looked at me as she said, “No way. We have other plans.” She feigned a yawn and continued, “Some of which are plans for tonight.”

THE HOBBY/McDougal I took her hand and said, “Yeah, I’m ready to hit the sack.”

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Margaret said, “You two are as randy as a couple of kids. Gordon, what’s the matter with us? Maybe we need a trip to the Caymans ourselves.” Gordon shrugged. “Could be, Babe. Could be.” I said, “This has been a delightful evening. I hope we can do it again soon. When we get back we’ll call you.” I felt lousy when I said it. The chance that we would have another evening like this was pretty slim. As we walked out to the parking lot, Gordon said, “Duncan, you seem somewhat preoccupied. More than being a newlywed would cause you to be. Are you okay? Medically, I mean.” “Never better. You’re very perceptive. Someday I’ll tell you all about it.” We shook hands as the women hugged their goodbyes. Our life was being changed in ways we would probably regret, but we didn’t know to what extent. It wouldn’t have made any difference. We were already past the point of no return.

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THE HOBBY/McDougal Chapter Twenty-eight

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I’m sure every self-respecting terrorist on the globe has a map of the United States in his hip pocket, with a red-circled bulls-eye drawn on New York City. And why not? It is America’s crucible, where every idea is tested to the max, where the arts boil and roil and reach their pinnacle, where every race is represented (and some would say, resented), a city of revered icons. The Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building, the Brooklyn Bridge, Yankee Stadium, Broadway, Times Square, Central Park, the huge, desolate hole in the Battery and the lights, my God, the lights. One cannot fly over Manhattan at night, as Bitsy and I were doing at that moment, and not be swept up in the lore and legend that is Gotham. Bitsy had the window seat. She held tightly to my hand as she looked out into the night. The illuminated spires upthrust from the teeming streets, all nestled between the two dark bands of the Hudson and the East Rivers, mesmerized her. “Oh, Duncan, it’s so wonderful. I wish we could live there forever. I know I’m going to love every minute we’re here.” I didn’t answer. Even though I felt much the same way, I knew that like any good soldier, we would live where the brass assigned us to be. At least until we resigned our commissions. In the cab heading in from La Guardia, the city became more real, but no less beautiful. Bitsy said, “I feel like Dorothy, running toward the Emerald City. It’s all just too grand. And I’m so happy and excited that we’re here together, Duncan.”

THE HOBBY/McDougal My arm was around her shoulder, and I pulled her close. “I feel the same

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way, but I can’t stop thinking about the reason why we’re here. I promise, though, that despite the circumstances, we’ll find time to enjoy our stay.” “I know that, Duncan. I have no illusions. Unless it’s expecting too much from the apartment Joe has gotten for us. I can’t help but think his taste is not going to be in the same ballpark as mine, or yours.” I smiled at that. That had not been one of my worries, but now that Bitsy had raised the issue, I was willing to bet she was right. Probably early Godfather with a bit of red, flocked wallpaper and lots of leather furniture. If that proved to be the case, I would turn Bitsy loose in Manhattan’s interior design shops post haste. My plans might include entertaining. I didn’t want to appear any more gauche than I already was. When the cabby dropped us off in front of the building, I was pleasantly surprised. An attractive structure with not a hint of post war modernism. It was ten stories of granite and ivy with intricately carved corbels flanking each window. The doorman, however, was nowhere in evidence. It was close to ten so I assumed he was gone for the night. I would let him know tomorrow that we were in residence. Our new abode was number 6-A. We carried our luggage to the elevator and took it to the sixth floor. The lift was the old fashioned kind with an inner brass expanding accordion door. As it moved slowly upwards we could see the walls of the shaft. A faint musty odor emanated from the bottom of the square tube, reminiscent of ancient grease and sixty year old dust.

THE HOBBY/McDougal The apartment key required a bit of jiggling, but finally clicked the lock

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open. I found a light switch to the right of the entrance and snapped it on. The entry hall led to a large parlor. It was elegantly furnished in shades of white and tan. Saffron drapes covered the windows. A carved stone fireplace dominated one wall. To the right was a dining area and off that a modern kitchen. It was a two-bedroom flat, both decorated in a fashion similar to the parlor. There were touches of elegant art nouveau in every room. The bathroom was finished in piranshahr green granite, which ironically is imported from Iran. Emerald towels and washcloths were hanging from polished brass fixtures. The bathtub was carved from jade-toned marble. The floor was tiled in the same stone. As we stood in the middle of the living room, Bitsy said, “Well, shame on me for doubting Joe Waldrip’s taste. This place is absolutely stunning. I won’t change a thing.” I said, “That’s one great relief, my dear. I want this trip to be as enjoyable for you as can be. There’ll be enough to contend with without having a lousy place to live.” “Well, you can quit worrying about that. I love it.” “Good. Right now I’m going to set up my laptop and check my e-mail. I’ll let Joe know how impressed we are with his elegantly sophisticated taste.” “I wouldn’t go that far. I think he probably got lucky. Maybe this was all that was available.”

THE HOBBY/McDougal Before I could turn on the laptop, the phone on the bedside table rang. I answered it. It was Waldrip. His voice sounded strained and weaker than when I last talked to him. “Hey, Judge, how do you like your new digs?” “Pretty damned nice, Joe. I didn’t know you had such good taste.”

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“I don’t. It was the only thing in that neighborhood that was available. I’m glad you like it. Don’t ask how much it is.” “I won’t.” “I got your membership in the yacht club. For you and the better half both. When I signed you up, I asked about Alfred Said. I know that wasn’t subtle, but sometimes direct beats cunning. Anyway, I didn’t say how I knew him or anything and the guy didn’t ask. He said that Said has dinner there every Saturday, like clockwork. And I also lined up the Farsi speaker, Les Bladen. He’ll be in New York in two days. He’ll call you when he gets there. Anything else you need right now?” I was really pissed that Joe had asked about Said, but I held my tongue. “No, that should do it.” “Okay. I’ve been a little under the weather. I’m going into Methodist Hospital here in Dallas for an oil change and a thousand mile checkup. Call me there if you need me.” That didn’t sound very good, in spite of Joe’s half-hearted attempt at humor. “Okay. Take care of yourself, Joe” “Sure thing, Judge.” He hung up.

THE HOBBY/McDougal I said to Bitsy, “Joe may have compromised us. When he acquired our

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membership at Hudson View, he inquired about Alfred Said. He doesn’t think he made an error. I sure as hell hope not.” Frowning, she said, “I don’t like that. No, not a bit of it. I wonder what else he’s done that might hurt us.” “Quien sabe?” “Yeah, who knows?” “He also said he’s going into the hospital for tests.” She nodded her head as she said, “The first time I saw him I knew he was dying. He has the same gray look that my dad had when he was about to die.” “You may be right. If he does, it’s going to change the dynamics of all this somewhat. We’ll see what happens.” “Yes, we’ll see.”

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THE HOBBY/McDougal Chapter Twenty-nine

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Bald Head Island is not New York City. It is about as un-New York as it can be. A beautiful small isle with fourteen miles of delightful beaches, it’s a developer’s dream. It’s located in North Carolina at the confluence of the Cape Fear River and the Atlantic Ocean. It’s accessible only by ferry or private boat. Bald Head Lighthouse, also known as Old Baldy or the Cape Fear Light, is the most prominent feature on the landscape. The original structure was built in 1794. The Frying Pan Shoals, a collection of shifting sandbars covered by a thin layer of water, extend twenty-eight miles from the southeast end of the island. Early sailors dubbed the area Cape Fear for good reason. More than a few mariners lost their ships and their lives on the shoals. Half the island is a nature preserve, including a picturesque maritime forest, primarily oak trees but including wild olive, yaupon and American holly. Deer, squirrels, raccoons and gray foxes abound. The island has a year round population of a couple of hundred souls. In the summer time, that number often swells to a couple thousand, attracted by the reasonable resort rates and the absolute loveliness of the place. This year, ‘The First Annual Bald Head Island Fish Fry Festival’ was expected to draw close to five thousand people on Thanksgiving weekend. The celebration was the brainchild of Johnson Gounod, a local developer, and in truth he was the only one expecting five thousand people to show up. Many of the islanders hoped no one would come. They

THE HOBBY/McDougal liked the laid back, remote-from-the-rest-of-the-world lifestyle they had paid for when they had purchased property there. Gounod, on the other hand, saw that

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attitude as counter productive to his ambition to make a lot of money. He had been working for over ten months to promote the festival, which would probably make or break him as a businessman. He had been struggling, mostly unsuccessfully, with the land developers’ art of modern alchemy, turning dirt into gold. He was actually an interloper of sorts and was not accepted into the coterie of other Bald Head realtors. The principal developers of the Island had done quite well in attracting buyers. Gounod had not, mainly because he was slightly…well, stupid. When his mother had died two years before, he had taken the proceeds of her bequest and invested in thirty parcels of land and a three-unit condo building on the island. He would have been better off putting his money in a CD at 1%. The fault lay not in his offerings, but in his offering. He could not be considered the world’s worst salesman, only because no contest exists which would certify him as such. Gounod hoped that this latest scheme, staging a holiday event, would prove to be the turning point in making Bald Head the ‘in’ place to be. Actually, though he didn’t realize it, it already was. It was his thirty subdivision lots that were not ‘in.’ No ocean views, but lots of bog views. Mosquitoes and no-seeums loved his lots above all others on the island. He thought that if enough people could just see the place, they would be as enraptured as he was. He had believed one of the problems he faced was the inaccessibility by automobile of the island. He figured that in a mobile society, leaving your car on the mainland and riding a ferryboat to

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your hometown was a real bump in the road. He had just wasted a year of his spare time trying to convince his congressman to earmark funds for a bridge over the Cape Fear River from the mainland to Bald Head. After all, he had complained, they did it in Alaska, building a ‘bridge to nowhere.’ Representative Bobby Slidelle was thought by some to be only two steps up from being an idiot, but even he was too smart to try to slip that one into the budget. The permanent residents of the place took a very dim view of the proposed bridge project. It is a village ordinance that no internal combustion vehicles be allowed on the island other than those used by the police and fire departments. Transportation is primarily by golf cart. Gounod had plowed ahead, expressing his belief that when a bridge would be built the islanders would change their minds and allow cars. This was not good thinking. The locals' unhappiness with Gounod’s proposal eventually translated to discontent with Johnson Gounod himself. He was not a popular figure. Today Gounod was working on signing a contract with ‘The Catalytic Converters Zoom Band’ to appear in concert at his festival. They wanted three thousand dollars to play. He was willing to spring for five hundred. They settled on fifteen hundred and a free night in one of his condos. They agreed to play from two until ten p.m., with fifteen minute breaks every hour. His other big expense had been to rent battery-powered tram cars to haul people from the ferry slip to the festival site, with a built-in detour that would take them past his lots. His desire to achieve big shot status on the island had overridden any small bit of business sense he may have been able to summon to the project. Too bad Gounod had never heard of Robert burns. It might have saved him from his own foolishness. Burns advice to

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us all: “Oh wad some power the giftie gie us, to see oursel’s as others see us! It wad frae monie a blunder free us, and foolish notion.” Meanwhile, at the Bald Head Island Marina, David Martin, a/k/a Karim alHadji was guiding his forty-three foot Carver motor cruiser into dock space number twelve. He was single-handing the boat and had prepared for docking while still outside the marina. This meant that fore and aft lines had been draped over the side so that the marina dockhands could grab them and secure them to the dock cleats. White rubber fenders swung loosely on the starboard side, where the dock would be. As he drifted toward the allotted spot he reversed the twin Cummins diesels and brought the forward movement to a halt. The boat nestled perfectly alongside the dock. After the Carver was secured to the wooden floating pier, Karim cut the engines and shouted thanks to the helpers. He stepped off the stern onto the weathered planks and hooked up the boat’s yellow power cable to a dockside shore power junction box. Before reboarding, Karim went to the marina office and checked in. The attendant asked, “How long do you plan to be with us, Mr. Martin?’ “I’m not sure. Maybe a couple of months. Could be longer. I’m thinking about starting a new business over in Southport. I’ll give you a check for a month in advance.” “That will be fine. And what is the name of your boat?” “It’s ‘Cash Float’.” “That’s funny. You a banker or something?”

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Karim smiled enigmatically. “Yes, something. By the way, is the electricity metered?” “Yeah. I’ll have one of my guys read the meter in a little while. Let us know if you need anything.” Karim said, “Do you have a calendar of events for the next couple of months?” “Sure do. Take this one. It’s free.” “Thank you. I will let you know if there is anything else.” Back on board, Karim sat at the navigation station desk. He had an open copy of a book, Nelson Demille’s “Up Country,” laid out. He spent a half-hour flipping the pages back and forth, writing a series of numbers separated by commas. He was preparing a classic book-code message, each number designating a page or a letter on that page. Virtually unbreakable unless you know the book being used and you have an identical copy. With millions of books in print, the chance of someone else deciphering was slim to none. After completing the communication, he accessed bancodehondurasjg.com and clicked on ‘Contact us’. He copied the entire text into the comment section in the e-mail and sent it. This communiqué was to the point. “On the island. Will establish storage facilities in Southport, a nearby village. It seems that Thanksgiving Day is going to be a good time to attack. There will be a celebration on the beach and many people are expected. Plan developing. More soon.”

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THE HOBBY/McDougal Chapter Thirty

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Alfred Said opened his e-mail and smiled. Another jumble of numbers from Mr. Martin. He picked up his phone and dialed the main number for the Iranian mission to the United Nations. When the male operator answered, Alfred said in Farsi, “Seyed Mahmood, please.” “One moment.” A click and two buzzes. “This is Mahmood.” “This is al-Said. I feel that I should praise Allah at noon on Friday at Masjid Al-Fatih.” Seyed Mahmood said, “Praise be to Allah, that he speaks to your heart.” He disconnected and jotted down the date and time he had just heard. Alfred Said closed the door to his office and took a copy of Up Country from his book shelf. He knew he was not supposed to be privy to the information that passed through his office to Mahmood, but he always took the time to decipher it anyway. Later, he tore up the transcription after placing the sheet of coded numbers in a file marked All-Sports Distribution. That evening, Alfred sat down to dinner with his wife, Ghodsi. He noticed that she had put on a bit of weight lately. She was looking more and more like his mother, an unsettling thought. She was complaining about a colleague at N.Y.U. “He’s a typical, overbearing Jew. He forever pushes the Israeli economic model as the epitome of what an economy should be. He is unwilling to acknowledge that much of its success has been built upon the blood, sweat and tears of the Palestinian

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people. He’s such an arrogant bastard, as if Jews were the master race. Those who see Israel as the new Third Reich are not far off the mark. I really hate the sons of bitches.” Alfred took these rants of Ghodsi with a few grains of salt. In last year’s contest for department head, Aaron Goldman had beaten Ghodsi. It had pissed off Alfred a bit, too. The group making the recommendation was laced liberally with Jews, who as he and everyone else knows, look out for their own even when there is no exceptional merit found in their candidate. Were it not for the prospect of eventually annihilating the Zionists Alfred would have been tempted to quit the intrigue that was such a huge part of his life. After all, he was an American millionaire. He could really do whatever he wished. But the prospect of spilling Jewish blood overrode all other aspects of his life. In truth, his extreme dislike of all things Jewish was his life altering obsession. And of course the knowledge that he would probably be killed if he tried to leave the network had some significance in keeping him a devoted American mujahideen. And then there was the money. He had become a wealthy mujahideen, which beat being a poor one all to hell. He was proud of his wife, but was afraid that her increasingly open radicalism might invite some to take a closer look at their lives than he wished. Alfred said, “I have the same abhorrence for the Zionist bastards that you do, but I must ask you, Ghodsi, to please tone down your public rhetoric. It might bring attention to the bank, and that could prove to be embarrassing.” She said petulantly, “Well, that’s just too bad. What I do is my business, not the bank’s. Besides, you should be proud of what I’m doing. It seems to be more

THE HOBBY/McDougal than you and your friends are willing to do. You never take a public position on anything, even when it would be easy to do.”

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“I ask only that you work more from the background and not squarely atop the barricade waving a crescent flag. Couldn’t you do this for me?” She was clearly miffed. She sat sullenly for a moment before saying, “I will think about it. My commitment is no small thing, to be tossed lightly aside. And don’t forget how you came to be the president of the bank.” He knew he should shut up and quit while he was ahead, but he couldn’t resist one more jibe. “As for your ‘commitment’, when was the last time you set foot in a mosque?’ Her voice rose. “This is about justice, not your damned patriarchy. If you want me to act the obedient Muslim wife, then treat with respect me and the things that I believe are important. People depend on me. I have some degree of significance in certain quarters.” “I know, and thank you for your consideration. I do respect you. But think about the big picture, if you will. The work I do at the bank is incredibly important to the cause.” Tartly, she said, “You’re welcome. Perhaps at the next ‘Support For Israel’ parade I will appear with a smaller pro-Palestinian sign.” “That would be nice, my dear. Please pass the bread.” She said, “You’re a silly man. Of course I know exactly what the bank’s business is and what you do all day down on Broad Street. And as long as I continue to make regular remittances to my brother who, as you must recall, made

THE HOBBY/McDougal your appointment possible, things will continue to go our way. One thing the Americans do have right is a sense of family values. And so do we, Alfred.” The following Friday Alfred journeyed to Brooklyn. Like most

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Manhattanites, he did not relish visiting other boroughs. Knowing that a limo might make him conspicuous, he rode the ‘L’ train to Bedford Avenue. The subway car was filled to capacity and he had to stand, swaying in unison with other riders, a clackety-clack ballet. His expensive black cashmere overcoat set him apart from his fellow travelers, most of whom wore jeans and logoed jackets. As the train picked up speed, he watched the tunnel lights begin to flash by rapidly, becoming an incandescent dotted line outside the car. His thoughts strayed, as they had so frequently of late, to the fortune he had accumulated and what he might do with it. He was jostled out of his reverie by a young ochre-skinned, freckled black man who was importuning every one in the car. He was an entrepreneur, a seller of dry cell batteries. The black man pushed his wares in Alfred’s face. “I got ‘em all. Double AA, triple AAA, C, whatever you need. How many you want, mister?” “Get away. I don’t need any batteries.” The young man fixed his piercing, oddly blue eyes on Alfred. “Sure. Thanks for nothing.” He made his way through the car, stopping at the rear door. Said thought, those people, they are everywhere. They are as bad as Jews, pushing and grasping. Alfred exited the train at the Bedford station and trudged up the two long flights of concrete steps. He glanced at his Rolex. It was 11:30. He quickened his

THE HOBBY/McDougal pace as he walked briskly down Bedford toward Greenpoint. Intent upon his mission, he didn’t notice the black battery salesman trailing a half block behind.

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The Al-Fatih Mosque was located in a busy section of Manhattan Avenue. It was housed in a modest four-story apartment building. The bottom floor was a storefront where the worshippers gathered. The upper three stories were occupied by the Imam’s quarters and a madrasa, where Moslem fundamentalism is taught. The school is closed to outsiders. Alfred was aware that this seminary served as a training ground for militants. After all, it was supported financially by Banco J. G. de Honduras, N.A. The Imam, Samiul Al-Badr, was recently interviewed by a reporter from the New York Times. He told the scribe, "We only impart religious education here. We preach non-violence. If the students later take up guns, it is not because of what we have taught. It is their reaction to the injustices visited upon Moslems in Iraq and Palestine by America.” As Said approached the mosque, he could hear the muezzin sounding the adhan, the call to prayer, from the mosque's third story window. If one closed his eyes, he would think he was in Ankara or Tehran or Baghdad. Well, maybe not Baghdad. The muezzin’s sing-songy chant was not accompanied by a car bomb percussion section. Alfred pulled a crocheted skullcap from his pocket and stepped inside the mosque. He knelt and untied his $1,500 A. Testoni shoes, slipped them off and set them aside by the door. He moved across to the main hall of worship. A painted line ran cater-corner across the room, so that worshippers might know the proper direction of the qibla, the compass bearing toward Mecca. He was happy to see that

THE HOBBY/McDougal the Imam had spent some of the bank’s money on new imported Iranian prayer rugs.

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Seyed Mahmood was already kneeling upon a prayer rug on the far right of the back row. Alfred went to the mat directly in front of him and knelt down. Imam Samiul Al-Badr entered with a dramatic flourish and began speaking. After the usual calls for Allah’s blessing, he got into the meat of his sermon. “Allah has blessed this mosque with loyal Muslims who believe in the mission of the madrasa. Without their support, we would perish as the desert flower under a hot, parching sun.” He smiled at Alfred as he said this. "We are convinced of the ultimate victory of Allah; we believe that one of these days, we will enter Jerusalem as conquerors, enter Jaffa as conquerors, enter Haifa as conquerors and all of Palestine as conquerors, as Allah has decreed. "Anyone who does not attain martyrdom in these days should wake in the middle of the night and say: 'My God, why have you deprived me of martyrdom for your sake? For the martyr lives next to Allah. “Our enemies suffer now more than we do. Why? Because we are convinced that our dead go to Paradise, while the dead of the Jews and the crusaders go to Hell, to a cruel fate. So we stand firm and steadfast, in obedience to Allah. "The Jews await the false Jewish messiah, while we await, with Allah's help, the Mahdi, peace be upon him. His pure hands will murder the false Jewish messiah. Where? In the city of Lod, in Palestine. Palestine will be, as it was in the past, a graveyard for the invaders, just as it was a graveyard for the Tatars and to the Crusader invaders, and for the invaders of the old and new colonialism.

THE HOBBY/McDougal "A reliable tradition says: 'The Jews will fight you, but you will be set to

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rule over them. Who will set the Muslim to rule over the Jew? Allah. And what is Allah’s will? To kill the Jews, all Jews. The Muslim nation will spread throughout the world. "Oh Allah, accept our martyrs in the highest heavens. Oh Allah, raise the flag of Jihad across the land. If any among you would desire to travel to the land of our ancestors, to fight the crusaders, this mosque will find the resources to get you there." Another smile in Alfred’s direction. "Oh Allah, forgive our sins.” After the homily, Imam Al-Badr stepped off the low platform and made his way to Alfred and Seyed. “I am honored that you would travel so far to attend our service.” Seyed said, “Other Imams give us only salt. Occasionally, we like a bit of the pepper which you dispense.” Alfred smiled, “You are doing good work here in the Brooklyn vineyard, Imam. I will continue to do what I can to assist you in my humble way.” “You have been of immense help, honorable Said, for which we are most grateful.” Seyed Mahmood said, “Keep up the good work. And now, I must return to my duties.” They shook the Imam’s hand and made their way to the door, where each knelt and put on their shoes. Outside, Seyed said, “Nice shoes, Alfred. Your banking business must be better than my government business.”

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Said didn’t respond directly, but instead pulled an envelope from his coat pocket and handed it to Seyed Mahmood. “Some numbers from a friend.” “Thank you. I will take care of them. And by the way, I hope the FBI hasn’t wired this mosque. They would have gotten an earful today.” Alfred laughed. “This is America, Seyed. We have freedom of speech and the separation of mosque and state. Hooray for the red, white and blue.” An SUV with diplomatic plates pulled up to the curb. Seyed said, “May I offer you a ride back to Manhattan?” As the car with the two men in the rear seat entered traffic, the battery salesman across the street put his Nikon camera in his pocket and headed back toward the subway entrance.

E-mail the author: mcdougal8@verizon.net

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The same evening we heard from Waldrip, I called my daughter, Elizabeth, at her home in Brooklyn. She’s a freelance writer, primarily writing copy for websites. She’s quite good at it and is much in demand. Her life is another proof that things often don’t work out the way we think they will. From an early age she had wanted to be an artist. To that end, she auditioned to attend the Arts Magnet High School in Dallas, and was accepted. Later, she earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from North Texas State University. As difficult as it is to believe, it also proves that a kid can be smarter than her father. The following year, she was accepted at the San Francisco Art Institute as a graduate student. After one week of classes we received the devastating news about her mother’s cancer. Without hesitation, she left her studies and came home to help her mom through the horrendous ordeal. Seven months later, Dori, her mother, my wife, died. I love my daughter very much, but never more so than that time when she selflessly devoted her life to caring for her mother. Without getting maudlin about it, I will just say that she is one hell of a kid. If I had held a contest for a son-in-law, Gerald Corrigan would have won. His career path is similar to Elizabeth’s. He has a Master of Fine Arts degree, but long ago eschewed art as a vocation. He is in business for himself as a custom furniture manufacturer. Because he is an artist, the furnishings he produces are gloriously original and I must say, beautiful. I kid him by saying I would be a customer if I could afford it.

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When Beth answered the phone, I said, “This is Kayla’s Grandpa. Bitsy and I are here in the center of the universe and would like to come by and spoil the kid for a few hours.” “Pop, that’s wonderful. Only why don’t Gerald and I spoil you two instead. Where are you staying?” “I’ll get into that when we see you. How about tomorrow night?” “Great. Come by about seven.” I called the Hudson View Marina the next day and asked for the dock manager. Herman Greeley came on the line. I said, “This is George Lampson.” When he spoke he sounded eagerly solicitous. I figured his salary was partly commission. “I’m glad you called. We got your application and initiation fee. You’re on the fast track for membership. The board meets next week, but getting you approved is just a formality. Now, what can I do for you today?” “Will I need reservations for your restaurant for Saturday evening?” “That would be for this Saturday?” “Yes.” “I’ll take care of it. How many?” “Just three.” “Do you know how to get here?” “I’m not sure. What’s the best way?” “If you are not driving, the Jersey Waterways cutter has a landing next to the marina. Or if you prefer, there is a Path Subway station just a block away.”

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“Thanks. We’ll be there about eight.” I hung up the phone and filled Bitsy in on the latest marina news, as well as the invitation from Elizabeth. “The guy at the marina didn’t say a word about Alfred Said. Maybe we lucked out on that one.” “I hope so. So what’s the drill for Saturday night?” “As soon as I can get in touch with Les Bladen, I’m going to let him know that I want him with us. He’ll be posing as a former supplier of mine when I was in the oil importing business.” “Well, until we hear from him, why don’t we get out and do some of New York. There’s so much to see and do, I don’t know where to start.” “How about at F.A.O. Schwarz on Fifth Avenue. I’ve heard it’s the greatest toy store in the world. Let’s go by and let them prove it.” “A terrific idea. And I believe it's very close to another toy store dedicated to women of a certain age, Bergdorf Goodman.” We had a great time being briefly carefree as we shopped and did touristy stuff. I bought a new winter coat for Bitsy and a musical treasure box for Kayla. In mid afternoon we walked into Central Park through the Grand Army Plaza, trailing a gaggle of teen gigglers swishy skirting through the park. The centerpiece in the plaza is a gilded equestrian statue of General William Tecumseh Sherman. He is being led by a dramatically gilded woman whom, I supposed aloud, represented victory. Bitsy said, “Well for sure, she isn’t representing the women of Atlanta. I’m glad he was a Yankee. I wouldn’t have wanted the South to be associated for all time with someone like him. I read his memoirs in college. I was surprised to learn

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that after The War Between The States, he led the Army of the West. He said his proudest achievement in life was, as he put it, ‘to rid the plains of the worthless Indian’.” I was born a long time after the Civil War. However, my Texan grandmother carried a grudge about the outcome of that strife until the day she died, based on tales told her by her parents. In retrospect, I believe she did that more for the dramatic effect. It was fun for her to succumb to the vapors when she got too exercised telling anyone who would listen how the Yankees stole her granddaddy’s horses. When Grandma wasn’t around, my mother always said that the Yankees were merely stealing them back. We strolled towards the pond that covers a large part of the southern portion of the park and found a bench on the water’s edge. The trees were turning color, their upside down, rippling reflections in the water enough to inspire even the most inartistic to want to pick up a brush. Bitsy said, “It’s so delightful here, as if someone makes sure every day that Mother Nature is on her best behavior. And just a few hundred feet from a bustling city.” “Which do you prefer? This spot or the beach on Grand Cayman.” She laughed. “Neither. I liked the hotel room at the Grand Carib the best.” I put my arm around her and sat quietly, taking in our surroundings with an appreciation I had rarely felt before. A homeless man in a raggedy army coat and a scruffy black toboggan hat shuffled by us. He had passed us a few feet, when he did

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an about face and meandered over to our bench. He sat down next to me. I ignored him until he said, “Hello, Judge. How’s it going?” Startled, I turned and looked at him. It was my old friend, ochre-face. His cobalt blue eyes were squinted as he smiled broadly. “Gotcha.” I said, “Well, I’ll be damned. Gotcha indeed. You sure get around, fella.” “Yes, I do. We haven’t been formally introduced. I’m Able Kane. Don’t laugh. I’ve heard all the jokes a hundred times. I know who you both are. Glad to meet you as well, Mrs. Travis.” Frowning, she answered semi-politely, “Likewise, I believe.” I said, trying not to sound too sarcastic, “So what brings you to New York, Able? Going to take in a few shows?” “I might, if time allows. The truth is, you and I are colleagues in the war.” “I already had that figured. What is it specifically that you are up to?” “I’m here to help you. You may have guessed that Joe Waldrip is going to be out of pocket for a while. The truth of the matter is that he is a goner. Stage four lung cancer. He has brought me up to speed on your situation. So, bottom line, I’m your new Joe.” I said, “I’m sorry to hear that about Joe.” I was really unhappy about the news, but Joe’s welfare was the least reason for it. I knew a lot about Waldrip and what he might be up to later. I didn’t know squat about my new, blue-eyed handler. I didn’t like the disadvantage this put me in. Kane said, “I have some new information that you need to know.” He pulled an envelope from his coat and extracted several photographs. He flipped through

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them to get to the best one. It was a snapshot of two men, one of whom I recognized from other photos I had seen of Alfred Said. Kane said, “You probably recognize Said as one of the men in the photo. The other one is Seyed Mahmood, who is attached to the Iranian Mission to the United Nations. We believe he’s actually a high-ranking official in Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence and Security. They’re Iran’s domestic head-choppers who serve as the Ayatollah’s thought police. They’re also Iran’s very nasty version of our CIA. This picture was taken outside the Al-Fatih Mosque in Brooklyn. I’m not sure why they went to Brooklyn to meet rather than some place more convenient in Manhattan, but they did. Anyway, Alfred Said passed an envelope to Mahmood. I believe it contained something pretty hot. They, and the rest of the civilized world, are aware that the National Security Agency is probably reading their mail. Thus the face to face at the mosque.” “So how does this affect my job?” “It adds another facet to the intrigue. Don thinks if you get next to Said, you should be aware of the Mahmood connection. He might let something slip. That’s all.” I had always intended to pay close attention to whatever came up when Said and I would meet. I didn’t need my partners to caution me to do so. However, if they thought I was a little slow on the uptake, that might work to my advantage. Kane asked, “Now, is there anything you need from me?” I was a bit tired of feeling like I was being manipulated. “Actually, there is. Just who in the hell are you, Able Kane? I mean, how are you connected with the organization?”

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He paused, then said, “You really don’t need to know that, Judge. Suffice it to say, I’m just a soldier like you. What you really should realize is that I’m your friend and guide. We, you and I, will be walking through a minefield. Maybe not forever, but for a while, for sure. I know where most of them are buried, and if you let me, I’ll keep you out of trouble. If I succeed, then we both stay out of harm’s way.” “And that harm would come from…?” He grinned. “Why, the bad guys, of course.” “That’s not terribly reassuring, Kane. I have found that sometimes it is hard to tell the bad guys from the good ones.” He didn’t respond to that bit of wisdom, but he knew what I meant. He pulled a small pad and a pen from his pocket. He wrote a number down and handed it to me. “Here’s where you can call me if you need to talk. Please keep me up-todate.” I said, “Sure,” and wanted to add, and please don’t kill me someday.

E-mail the author: mcdougal8@verizon.net

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My granddaughter, Kayla, had just turned six. She reminded me very much of her mother at that age, especially because of her precociousness. She hugged Bitsy and said, “I am so lucky to have had three grandmothers.” I smiled at Elizabeth. She grinned back, proud that her daughter hadn’t muffed her line. We had homemade Texas chili, a real treat for Bitsy and me. After dinner, Kayla and Bitsy went into the den to watch a DVD of “The Wizard of Oz.” I stayed at the dinner table with Elizabeth and Gerald. I found it to be almost eerie that she resembled her mom so much. A complexion with an exotic hint of Bedouin. I would soon be absent from their lives for a long time, perhaps forever. I couldn’t let the evening pass without letting them know. I decided to tell them most of my story. “Elizabeth…Gerald, there’s something I’ve got to tell you.” I didn’t like the way that came out. This was not an old movie, but real life. They looked at me with a quizzical air. Elizabeth said, “So serious, Pop. Bitsy isn’t pregnant, is she?” When I laughed, it was hollow. “No, but every bit as dramatic I guess.” I went on. “When your mother died, Beth, I was in a real funk. I was mad at life, angry because of the cards I had been dealt. I took out that resentment in a way that most people would classify as over the top, in the extreme.” I didn’t leave much out. By the time Kayla clapped her hands in the next room over the melting of the Wicked Witch of the West, I was through. My

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daughter and son-in-law sat open-mouthed. Finally, Gerald said, “I don’t know…I mean, I guess the world is a hell of a lot better off because of what you’ve done, Duncan. You make a strong case. Like you said, I guess it’s a lot like being a soldier all over again. I don’t know what else to say.” I believe what he wasn’t saying was that now I scared the hell out of him. If confession is good for the soul, it’s also damned hard on your relatives. Elizabeth began to cry. “Oh, Pop, isn’t there any way out of this mess? I love you so much, it just kills me that we might never see you again.” It finally piled up on me. I had made my choice and now it tasted like bitter acid. I said, “I don’t know how it will all wind up. I hope it might have a happy ending. And if it does, there is a way for me to let you know. Beth, get a pad and pen and write this down. Tomorrow, I want you to get a new cell phone. Call me tomorrow and leave a message on my machine. The message must be a string of forty numerical digits. Beginning with the eighth numeral, put in your new number in reverse. Don’t say anything else. “When Bitsy and I settle somewhere, I will call that cell and leave a string of numbers. The four numerals beginning with the tenth one will be a latitude designation. Then skip eight numbers and beginning with ninth one after that, the next four will be the longitude. The last numbers, in reverse from the ending one, will be our phone number wherever we are. That is where you will find us.” We sat silently for a long time. Bitsy and Kayla came in, looking for ice cream. Bitsy could tell at once that I had let our secret out. She sat next to Elizabeth

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and put her arm around her. More sobbing. Kayla asked curiously, “Mama, what’s the matter?” Shaking her head, Elizabeth said to her daughter, “I’m sad because your Grandpa and Bitsy are going to be going away for a long time. I will miss them” Kayla said, “Oh, Grandpa, please don’t go.” I was too choked up to be able to answer.

E-mail the author: mcdougal8@verizon.net

THE HOBBY/McDougal Chapter Thirty-three

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Karim al-Hadji sat across from Josephine Garwood, the owner of Garwood Realty in Southport, North Carolina. She was a stunning forty-five year old woman, near the crest of the hill of life, but not quite over it. Her shoulder length blond hair framed a face that reminded him of the American movie star, Sharon Stone. Karim noticed that she wore no wedding band, but that her right hand was adorned with one that might have been a wedding ring in happier times. Two fingers over from that was a colossal opal, circled with diamonds. Under sharia law women should present themselves modestly. American women would laugh at such a restriction if indeed they had ever heard of the dictate. Ms. Garwood in particular. Her ample bosom had closed many a real estate deal for her. Money and beauty. This was intriguing enough to Karim that he felt a stirring below the belt. It had been too long since he had enjoyed the essences of a woman. And an older one always fascinated him. His first sexual experience had been on a hot Persian day in the pistachio orchard where he and his brother made summer money. A woman of the village, nearly twice his fifteen years, had approached him to help her carry her basket to the collection trailer. When he went with her to pick up her woven container he was surprised to see it was only half filled. A series of astonishing events followed in close order. He had gone nuts among the nuts. Twice. Ms. Garwood woke him from his momentary reverie. She noticed his gaze had lingered on her upper torso, a portion of her anatomy in which she took

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inordinate pride. She looked on her bust as being as important to her sales efforts as her book of multiple listings. “So, Mr.Martin, you are looking for a rental house and a warehouse. As you might have guessed, a small town like this does not present a wide choice of properties from which to choose. But I do have a few things that might interest you.” “Ah, yes,” he said, “I’m sure you do. Tell me about them.” She spun her chair around to face a computer monitor on the credenza behind her desk. She turned it on and then leaned to her right and dragged a straight back chair close to hers. Looking somewhat coquettishly over her shoulder, she patted the chair seat and said, “Come sit here. All my properties are on line. We can look at them together.” Karim walked around the desk. As he passed behind her he could see down her blouse to the valley between the hills of paradise. He sat next to Ms. Garwood. The scent of Fracas perfume filled his nostrils. As she clicked her mouse, his mouse began to click as well. She began a running commentary on the properties available. Her arm was extended to reach the mouse pad. She leaned slightly to her right and her breast brushed against Karim’s arm. It stayed there. He interrupted her patter and said, “I will require a fairly large house. I am going to be setting up a new distribution center for sporting goods and will have workers and suppliers in and out frequently.” She glanced at him and said, “That’s very interesting. What sort of goods will you be handling? I might want to see if I can get a wholesale price from you.” As she said this she grinned and leaned a tad closer.

THE HOBBY/McDougal “That is a real possibility. When my shipments begin to arrive, I’ll invite you over to see what I have.” She asked, “Where are you living at the moment?”

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“I have a boat at the Bald Head Island Marina. If I’m not being too bold, I hope you’ll visit me there soon. Perhaps we could go for a cruise up to Morehead City. I hear the seafood is really quite good there.” She evolved visibly, her Southern Belle persona taking over. “Why, sir, that is bold…but not too so. And by the way, my home is also on the island. I love it there. Would you be interested in a beach house over there? There are some real bargains right now. The summer season is over and there’re always a handful of people who decide to unload their property this time of year.” He did not want a house on Bald Head, but he wasn’t going to say so. “That’s an excellent idea. Perhaps you could come to the marina tomorrow, say about lunch time, and we could see what you have that I might be interested in. My boat is called Cash Float”. He was again checking out the peek-a-boo portion of her blouse, causing her to blush as she said, “Why, yes, I can do that. I have an early morning appointment here in town, but I’ll catch the eleven o’clock ferry back to the island. I want you to be my guest at the Shoals Club for lunch. The food is delicious.” He said, “Thank you. That’s very kind of you. I’ll look forward to tomorrow…eagerly.” She blushed again. “As will I.” E-mail the author: mcdougal8@verizon.net

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As a matter of courtesy as well as curiosity, I called Joe Waldrip at the hospital in Dallas. A nurse answered the phone. “This is George Lampson. May I speak to Joe, please?’ “I’m sorry, but Mr. Waldrip can’t speak with you right now.” I could hear Joe grumbling in the background, “Who in the hell is it, Janie Baby?” Janie Baby said with a bit of exasperation showing, “It’s a George Lampson.” “Give me the Goddamn phone. I need to talk to him.” “Well, all right, but just for a couple of minutes.” I could hear Waldrip ripping out his lungs in a whooping series of coughs. Finally, he was able to rasp out a sentence. “Judge, glad you called. I can’t talk long.” I said, “Yeah, I know. How are you doing, Joe?” “How in the hell does it sound like I’m doing? Lousy.” “I’m sorry. “ “Don’t be. I’m getting no worse than I deserve. Look, Judge, there’s some things about me that you don’t know.” I said, “Maybe I know more than you think I do, Constantine.” He was silent for ten or fifteen seconds before he said, “That name. How do you know that name?”

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“When you had coffee at my house, I tucked your cup in a baggy after you left. A friend ran your prints. I’ve seen your rap sheet.” “I told Grant you were too smart for us, that we needed a dumbass mechanic…like me. But he wouldn’t listen. Anyway, who is taking my place? Is it Kane?” “Yes.” “You’re lucky. He’s a stand up guy. He’s in the organization for the same reason you and I are. Grant has the goods on him, too.” “I thought as much. What’s his story?” “He’s a thief and a con man. We got him from a contact in the NYPD bunko squad. He would rather lie even when the truth would sound better. He’ll talk you out of your socks if you let him. But he’ll also watch your back as though you’re married to him. And Judge, he doesn’t see things the way I do, I mean, the way I did.” Another short spell of wheezing coughs. I said, “Maybe you better rest, Constantine.” He said, while gasping for enough breath to finish the conversation, “Judge, listen, there aren’t five targets. Only three. You…oh, damn. The pain.” He coughed a panting, rattling agonizing long moment. He gasped, “One more thing. Only Grant and I know about what you did. He says, his secret. That’s it. I’m through.” He hung up the phone.

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I snapped my cell phone shut and stared silently at the floor. Bitsy, next to me on the lounge, said, “So the cat’s out of the bag. He knows we know. How did he take that?” I recounted the conversation I had just finished. “He wasn’t through telling me whatever it was he wanted to get off his chest before he hung up. He’s in some really great physical distress.” Bitsy said, “Why would they tell you there were five people you needed to…deal with, instead of three, if that is really the right number?” “Worse case? They subscribe to the dictum that dead men…and their wives…tell no tales. They wouldn’t ever want us to tell what we know, or more specifically, what we will have done. So when I dispatch numero tres, I was probably going to become Joe’s number one.” “Those bastards. They don’t plan to ever let us off the hook. Our little hideaway in Brazil, or wherever, isn’t going to materialize if they have their way.” She took my hand. ”Duncan, this is scary.” It was scary, all right, but not overwhelming. Joe/Constantine only validated what I had suspected. And he had hinted that I really shouldn’t fear Kane. Well, maybe yes, maybe no. “Bitsy, the only way they’ll win is if we let them. I’m not going to let them.” She did not sound terribly confident as she said, “I hope so. Oh, Lord, I really do”

E-mail the author: mcdougal8@verizon.net

THE HOBBY/McDougal Chapter Thirty-five

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Les Bladen called on Friday evening. “I’m in town, at the Essex House. When do you want to meet?” I tested him as I answered in Farsi, “Tomorrow at noon, here at my apartment. I’ll fill you in then.” He answered in the same dialect, “Should I bring lunch?” “No, we’ll cook. You bring your appetite. The doorman will call me when you get here and I’ll get you in.” I gave him the address and we rang off. When he arrived the next day, he looked more like an Irishman than an Iranian. “You couldn’t pass for a Persian if you tried. We need a ruse that will explain your red hair and freckles.” “I may be ahead of you on that score. Grant said I was to be your petroleum supplier in Iran who dealt with you before you retired. The truth is that in my other life I was an American who operated a petroleum brokerage in the southern port city of Bushehr. So you can see his choice of a cover for you was no accident. I know the Bushehr area well and it would be hard for someone to trip me up. Grant gave me a cover name of Dave O’Herlihy, with enough identification to pull it off.” We spent the rest of the afternoon rehearsing possible scenarios that might occur if indeed we met the Saids that evening. Bitsy acted as inquisitor, asking common sense questions that Said or his wife might ask.

THE HOBBY/McDougal “How did you two first meet?” “How much business did you do between the two of you?” “Tell me about Bushehr, I have a cousin who lives there.” “Are you married, Mr. O’Herlihy? How did your wife like Iran?”

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And on through the afternoon. Occasionally, she would repeat a question, which I thought was clever of her, and of course, it was. I had decided that it might help my image as a wealthy oil man to arrive at the marina restaurant in a limousine. When the limo dispatcher learned where we were headed, she suggested we allow an hour to get there. “The Holland Tunnel is a mess that time of day.” The ride that evening was what I had expected, and the tunnel traffic is what had been predicted, a God awful mess. Four lanes squeezing down to two and eventually to one. The tube was old and looked it, with wall tiles missing and those remaining, sooty and discolored. We arrived at the marina on time, though. The restaurant was typically upscale, with a panoramic view of lower Manhattan, the lights of the towers rippling and glinting in the dark Hudson. We were led toward our table by the hostess, a young Asian girl whose name tag read ‘Lily’. As we passed through the room, I spotted the Saids almost at once. They were seated at a window table, which appeared to be the best one in the house. Miss Lily ushered us to a table across the room, but before we could be seated, Bitsy exclaimed to the hostess, pointing to a table adjacent to Alfred Said’s, “Oh, what a marvelous view. Please, could we possible be seated over there?” It was becoming more evident every day that Bitsy was a natural.

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I did not want to appear tacky, but I thought, ‘What the hell’ as I offered the hostess a twenty ‘for the inconvenience’. She apparently had no such compunction against tackiness as she tucked the bill into the bosom of her dress. As we settled into our much better chairs, I said in Farsi to O’Herlihy, “My, what a magnificent view.” He answered, “Yes, it is. Think how much more impressive it must have been before 9/11.” I said, “For some, perhaps. I rather like the open space that it left. And we won’t miss the Jews who were there, will we?” I glanced casually toward Said as I said that. He did not react, other than to let the smallest hint of a smile raise his cheeks ever so slightly. I was trolling in new waters, with a well baited hook. If I got a strike, it would be more than I expected for a first try. Dave continued to speak in Farsi. “You’re such a hardhead, George. I think I would like to change the subject. So, when is the big day? When are you flying to the Bahamas to bring that marvelous sailboat back?” Before I could answer, Bitsy did her part to get us out of the Farsi mode before we screwed up. “Come on, guys, let me in on the conversation.” “Sorry, Honey, we’re just showing off a bit. There are darned few Americans who can speak Farsi.” She said, “You’re rudeness is forgiven, my dear.” I said, “Dave was asking when I’m going to be bringing ‘Winged Edith’ up from the Bahamas. As you can guess, Dave, sailing a seventy foot Swan is not a job

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for a single-handed sailor. As soon as I can find enough experienced volunteers to crew her, we’ll get under way. Actually, I’m hoping some of the boaters here at this yacht club might want to give it a go. I plan to ask Herman Greeley, the dock manager here, if he can help me find a few folks who might want to spend a glorious week under sail. Edith has volunteered to supervise the galley, so we will need to recruit about six more hardy souls.” Dave said, “I’d love to do it, but seasickness is not something I ever want to suffer again.” Bitsy said, “Try ginger snaps. They work for me.” “I’ve tried everything, including ginger snaps, ginger ale, ginger root and a girl named Ginger. Nothing works.” Laughing, I said, “You’re excused. Too bad, too. You have the reputation of the Irish to uphold. Saint Brendan, the patron saint of sailors, was an Irishman.” Our food arrived and it was superb. I had the grouper and it couldn’t have been better. We exchanged small talk as we ate. Later, we were sitting back to enjoy an after dinner coffee when Alfred Said and his wife got up to leave the restaurant. As the Saids passed our table he stopped, a broad smile on his face. “I’m sorry to intrude, but my big ears could not help but overhear of your impending adventure. A Swan 70. What a magnificent vessel.” Mentally, I yanked back on my rod and set the hook deeply into Mr. Said’s jaw. I stood and put out my hand. “I’m George Lampson. This is my wife, Edith, and my friend, David O’Herlihy.”

THE HOBBY/McDougal He said, “I’m Alfred Said. My wife, Ghodsi.” He grinned then as he

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switched to Farsi, “There are more Farsi speakers than you may have thought. Here are two more.” “Well, the old saying about it being a small world was never more true. I hope nothing I said offended you. I’m happy to meet you.” Said retrieved a silver card case from his pocket and opened it. He handed me his card, which proclaimed him to be the president of Banco J. G. de Honduras, N.A. He said, “I heard only a pleasant conversation between two friends. Please, if it is not a great imposition on my part, give me a call at your convenience. I would be most interested in hearing about your proposed sailing trip from the Bahamas.” Ghodsi laughed, “Sailing. His great passion. Sometimes I wish I were a boat.” Bitsy smiled. “Now there’s something I can identify with.” I said, addressing Mr. Said, and hoping not to betray my exultation, “Yes, thank you very much Mr. Said. Perhaps I can do that.” Said said, “Well, then good night.” As I sat back down, O’Herlihy said quietly, “It was as though we had a script and he had read it. Grant was on the money, Judge, when he said you could get next to anyone. You would have made a great partner for me.” “Oh?” “Oops. Shouldn’t have said that. The bourbon has loosened my jaw.’” Bitsy smiled . “Oh, come on, Les. We’re old friends, aren’t we?”

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Les grinned and said, “What the hell. Sure we are, I guess. The truth of the matter is I was an almost completely successful con man. I operated from Iran legitimately for years working with a half dozen refiners here in the states. We developed a rapport based on trust. It occurred to me a few years ago that I could capitalize on that faith by pulling off one huge career-end scam. I got four U.S. firms to advance a total of eight million for a bargain basement buy of a huge amount of crude at 15% below market price. I gave them the wink-wink about baksheesh and they swallowed it. The money went into my Swiss account and I went over the hill. Believe it or not, I pulled it off. However, there was an ‘uh oh’ in there that I hadn’t planned on. One of my victims owned a private company in Texas. He was a pal of the President. He got the prez to use the resources of the federal government to track me down and haul me in. I thought I was safe, in a backwater spot in Brazil called Porto Alegre. One morning I got up to find three goons in my bedroom. The next day I was in the federal lockup in D.C. And now you know how I got Shanghaied into this company of devils. And by the way, the only one Grant made me pay back was the guy who sic’d the President on me.” Bitsy said, “It would be nice to meet even one person in this whole bloody mess who is not a sinner.” I said, “Sorry, my dear, but that is not likely. Not likely at all.”

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THE HOBBY/McDougal Chapter Thirty-six

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Karim opened his e-mail aboard ‘Cash Float’ and found an encrypted message from Seyed Mahmood. He got his copy of “Up Country” from the book rack and began the laborious task of decoding. When he had completed the job, he reread the communication. “I am sending Kahlil al-Udhma to assist you in your endeavor. He is a worthy mujahadin who has been trained personally by me. Treat him as your number two man. He will be driving a small van containing armaments for your mission. Please forward to me the details of your plan as it progresses. As you know, you were selected for this undertaking because of your ingenuity and flexibility. But I can not remain in the dark. I must know soon what you plan to do. Do not neglect to keep me informed. Also, do not send your future communications to the banker. Send them directly to me. I have confidence in this cipher.” Karim sat back in the captain’s chair and rubbed his cheek with his hand. Mahmood was getting nervous. Too bad. He said aloud to himself, “I will let him know what I want him to know, and nothing more. I do not want someone who is not on site to try to make decisions for me. And as far as Brother al-Udhma is concerned, it’s obvious he is being sent to act as an information conduit back to Mahmood. That will be no great problem as long as I am careful around the man.” His thoughts were interrupted by a knock on the hull. He frowned as he slid the pad between pages of the book and placed it in the drawer of the nav station desk.

THE HOBBY/McDougal “Permission to come aboard, Captain Martin?”

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It was Josephine Garwood, dressed in a swirl of white. Her skirt was above her knees, which accentuated her great legs. He went to the stern rail and gave her a hand aboard. She gushed, in her southern drawl, “My, what a beautiful boat.” “Would you like a tour, Ms. Garwood?” “Please, call me Josie. And yes, I’m dying to see what you have.” He overlooked the mild double entendre. He said, “And you shall see…it.” She marveled at the complete galley. “My word, Mr. Martin, is that a dishwasher?” Karim told her, “A lot of this stuff I can’t use when I’m under way, but it's nice when I’m plugged into shore power, like now.” He showed her the captain’s stateroom, with its walk around double bed and the head which featured a full shower. She said, “I’m very impressed, Mr. Martin. This is like a floating RV. And I do hope we can go for that cruise up the intracoastal soon. I’d love that.” “Please, call me David. And we shall take that trip before too long, I promise. But now, I would like to take you to lunch.” She said, “This time lunch is on me. As I mentioned yesterday, I’ve made reservations at the Shoals Club. And my golf cart is at the end of the dock.” The road to the Shoals Club ran the length of the island. A portion of the thoroughfare bisected the Maritime Forest Preserve. Karim said, “This is a very beautiful forest. It conjures up thoughts of the woods near the place where I grew up.” She asked, “Where was that.”

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He had made a slip of the lip. His thoughts had been of Iran. He said hastily, “Oh, New Hampshire. Yes, near Concord.” “It must be quite nice there. You must meet Doctor Welch. He’s retired here from New Hampshire.” The club was located on Cape Fear, at the tip end of the island. Over lunch, Karim pumped her for as much information as he could obtain. He was particularly interested in the Thanksgiving Fish Fry Festival. “Well, I’m not sure how successful that will be. It’s the first time it’s been tried. The promoter is our local doofus, Johnson Gounod. He has gotten an agreement from the village council to section off a half-mile of the beach for the event. Since that august body includes most of the real estate folks in the area, myself among them, we agreed to it, provided he lets us set up booths to offer our services to the people who show up. That ticked him off somewhat, since he had envisioned a captive audience for Gounod Enterprises.” Karim said, “You are a sharp business woman. Can I trust you to find the best price for me?” She reached across the table and touched his hand, a trick taught in salesmanship 101. “Why, of course, David. You can bet on it.” After lunch, they walked outside and stood by the pool for a moment. She said, “I would hope that you might let me put your name forward for membership here at the Shoals. Even in the winter, it’s the hub of Bald Head’s social life.” “Yes, I’m sure it is. But for now, I’m more interested in finding shelter.”

THE HOBBY/McDougal “Of course you are. Let’s go. I have some really exciting homes to show you.”

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“That will be fine. And while we’re out and about, perhaps you could show me where the city facilities, the fire and the police, are.” They got into her golf cart and headed back up Federal Road, turning left at South Bald Head Wynd. This avenue took them along the beachfront. At the corner of Loggerhead Trail, she pulled the vehicle over and stopped. Pointing west, she said, “The festival will be held here and run for about a half mile in that direction. The main attraction band stand will be set up between Inverness and Dunedin Streets. The biggest crowd will probably gather about two in the afternoon. My booth will be set up next to the event platform. If this thing turns out to be a winner, we’ll probably do it every year. And coincidentally, Southport Security will be all over the place. S.S., Inc. is another one of my firms.” A small alarm went off in Karim’s head. “Heavy security? Why is that necessary? “We aren’t sure what to expect. If we’re invaded by a bunch of drunks and druggies, we want to be ready. And believe me, we will be prepared.” “Are your men armed? Surely you wouldn’t shoot drunks having fun?” “Oh, Heavens no. They have batons, but no firearms.” Trying not to show his relief, Karim said wryly, “It has all the earmarks of being a success. I hope that it will be…for your sake.” “That’s sweet of you.”

THE HOBBY/McDougal She moved the gear lever into drive and the electric cart glided toward Muscadine Wynd. After stopping twice to show homes, they arrived at a small

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shopping area where the police and fire departments were located. His charge was to kill as many Americans as he could on Bald Head Island. It was clear now where and when he would accomplish this. When Josie Garwood delivered him to the dock that evening, she expected to be invited aboard. When an invitation was not forthcoming, she pouted. “I thought it might be nice to see the sunset from the stern of Cash Float.” “I’m sorry, Josie, but I have several phone calls to make. It is very tempting to want to spend the evening with someone as beautiful as you, but I really must take care of business. It can’t wait, I’m afraid. There will be other sunsets, I’m sure.” She sighed and said, “I’ll accept that as a rain check.” “Good. I’ll call you soon.” Later that night he amended the previously unsent message. He added, “The date certain of the attack will be November 25th, America’s Thanksgiving Day. A large gathering is expected for a fish feast. Praise Allah and the fishes of the sea.”

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THE HOBBY/McDougal Chapter Thirty-seven

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Back at the apartment, I mixed us each a King Alphonse after-dinner drink. We sat around the living room sharing banter about our successful opening night at the Hudson View Marina Restaurant. Bitsy said, “The very least we should have gotten is four curtain calls.” “And you, my dear, deserve a huge bouquet of roses. Getting us the table next to the Saids was a master stroke.” I addressed Les Bladen. His assignment had been to help me hook Said. That mission accomplished, I decided to cut him loose. “Les, it was a pleasure doing business with you, but now I believe it would be best if you take off. No use making this thing any more complicated than it has to be.” He nodded in agreement. “I should get back to Los Angeles soon anyway. The organization has something going on in Hollywood and I’m the star.” Bitsy said, “Oh, a Hollywood star. Tell us more.” He shook his head. “No can do, Bitsy, though after seeing you two in action, I believe you would be a welcome addition to our cast. Maybe when we have our wrap party I’ll invite you and the Judge.” He picked up the phone and booked a flight for the following morning. That accomplished, he asked me, “So how did you get roped into the organization, Judge?” I said, “What did Grant tell you.”

THE HOBBY/McDougal “Nothing. When I asked, he clammed up.” “It was parking tickets.”

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He smiled. “Okay.” He looked at me expectantly. “He didn’t tell me what was so important about Mr. Said, either.” “Ah, curiosity. Les, if you were a cat, you’d be dead by now, I’m sure.” He said to Bitsy, “I’m not going to get anything out of him, am I?” “Nope.” “Well, when you write your book, Judge, send me a copy. And now, I’m going to head for the luxury of the Essex House, which Grant is paying for.” We shook hands and he kissed Bitsy on the cheek. As I ushered him to the door, he said, “I really don’t know what Grant promised you, Judge, but I would take it with a big grain of salt. I have a suspicion that we will find it damned difficult to be free of him and whoever the hell it is that pulls his strings. I suggest you think about developing an exit strategy.” He opened the door and we shook hands once again. There was a strange sadness in his eyes that caused me to shudder inwardly. He had given me something to think about. It occurred to me that dispensing death was not as unsettling as contemplating my own. He showed a wry smile. “Didn’t mean to spook you. Good luck.” “Thanks. You, too.” After he left, I locked the door and walked slowly back to the den. Bitsy said, “I liked him. I wonder if we’ll ever see him again.”

THE HOBBY/McDougal “Probably not. Grant seems to have taken a page from the al Qaeda instruction manual. While the terrorists operate many cells, they have a rule that

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insulates one from the other. You noticed we didn’t get anything from him, and he certainly didn’t get anything from us.” Bitsy said, “How about another King Alphonse? Maybe with a little more cream this time.” As I was filling the bar order, she asked, “When are you going to call Alfred Said?” “This is Saturday. Next business day at the bank is Monday. I’ll let him dream for an extra day. I think Tuesday will be the best time.” “What are you going to tell him?” “Let’s kick that one around. I think a straightforward approach is probably the best bet. I’ve had a lot of success with K.I.S.S. ‘Keep it simple, stupid’.” “Good thinking. How involved do you want me to be?” “If he wants to get together with his wife and you, then we should probably do that. However, he is a Muslim man, and she didn’t sound as though she liked sailing, so I believe we will be mano a mano, more than likely.” Bitsy thought for a moment. “That sounds right. I’ll sit it out, unless you need me.” We sat pensively, each pondering the immediate challenge. Bitsy said, “Duncan, do you ever think about the futility of all this. People have fought evil for centuries. War after war has been waged for freedom, and here we are doing it again. What we’re engaged in is like chipping away at a hundred foot tall statue of

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Baal with a toy hammer. It all seems so useless. I remember a story I read, maybe in college, I’m not sure, but it was about a group of soldiers. They were on a rainy, windswept hillside. It was cold and they were huddled around a campfire. They wore grey ponchos. It was impossible to determine what army they were in. Each, in turn, told his story. It soon became evident they were from different armies, different times and different wars. One was a Roman soldier, another a Confederate trooper from Virginia. A G.I. who had died on Iwo Jima spoke last. He said, “Dear God, it will never end, will it?” It’s all so discouraging. I nodded my head. “I know we’re probably just fighting a holding action, but I can’t quit. Not quite yet.” Bitsy looked like she was about to cry, but she didn’t. “Well, I love you, Duncan. Your windmills are my windmills.” I kissed her. She was right of course. I realized I was a lethal Don Quixote. The only difference being I’m not as crazy as he was…I think. By the time Tuesday rolled around, I had decided to drop in on Said rather than to call him. I took the ‘6’ subway train down to Little Italy and got off. A short walk, fragrant with the smell of garlic and oregano, got me to the ‘M’ line, which in turn carried me to the Broad Street Station. I love the subway, even though half the people in it appear to be terrorists or related to terrorists. Hey, just kidding. Broad Street is more like Wall Street than Wall Street. A number of world famous brokerage houses are headquartered along its length. The New York Stock Exchange is located there, just south of Wall. With all the prestige to be found there I was surprised to find that the entrance to the Banco J. G. de Honduras, N.A. was

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but an old oaken door from which the varnish had long ago cracked and peeled off. The brass plaque adjacent to the entrance appeared not to have been polished regularly, if at all. I pushed through the entrance and climbed up a long, scuffed wooden stairway. At the top was a small hallway. An unmarked door was on the left and the only other door, on the right, had a frosted glass panel that went halfway down. On it in black letters was painted the name of the bank. I pushed the portal open and entered a small reception room. It didn’t look like any bank I had ever been in. The walls were paneled in cheap mahogany. An equally cheap looking receptionist sat behind a desk straight out of the Office Depot catalog. A young Middle Eastern man was perched on the corner of her desk. She was laughing at something he had said when she noticed me. She said, in a broad Bronx accent, “May I help you, Sir?” The young comedian stood and said, “Back to work for me.” He left the room. I heard him open and close the door across the hall. “I’d like to see Mr. Said. My name is George Lampson.” She looked puzzled. “Is he expecting you?” “No, I’m just an acquaintance. I was in the neighborhood and thought I would drop in.” She said, in that damned huffy New York manner that spoils an otherwise great city, “Well, this is highly unusual. I’ll ask if he can see you. Please wait a minute.” She rose and headed for the inner sanctum. She was a flouncer, and pretty good at it. She went into the next room and closed the door. I found it interesting

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that this bank was not used to people coming by unannounced. Almost at once she was back, holding the door open. Alfred Said came out, a wide smile on his face and his hand outstretched. He was obviously happy to see me. It was mutual. “Mr. Lampson. So glad to see you again. Please come in.” His office was the only thing that fit the description of what I would have expected to find in a bank. It was sumptuous. A rich maroon carpet underfoot, with solid oak antique office furniture. His desk was a table, just distressed enough to appear to be nineteenth century. Behind the desk was a traditional highbacked leather chair with four solid legs, no swivel. And behind the chair was a roll top desk where it was obvious he did his presidential work. Another chair faced the second desk. Several files were stacked there next to a computer. And above that was the sailboat painting I had seen in his file. From my vantage point, it appeared to be a genuine painting by someone named James Edward Buttersworth. The small brass nameplate on the frame bore the title, ‘Heading Home’. I made a mental note to check out Buttersworth on the internet. There was no overhead lighting, but several lamps glowed on small side tables scattered along the walls. A larger lamp, probably a Tiffany, was on the table/desk. Three side chairs faced his desk. “Please sit down, Mr. Lampson. May I offer you some refreshments?” “Coffee would be nice, if it’s not too much trouble.” “But of course. Maizie, please bring us coffee.”

THE HOBBY/McDougal Maizie? I had to suppress a laugh on that one. I said, “I apologize for not

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calling ahead, but I was in the neighborhood and thought I would take a chance on catching you.” He seemed a bit cagey at first. “No explanation is necessary. I am glad you chose to visit. I am curious. What is your profession?” “I’m retired. I was an importer of petroleum products.” “You are fortunate to have been able to retire at a young age. I envy that. And your Farsi speaking friend?” “He was my supplier. Iranian oil. He operates an oil brokerage in Bushehr. He’s in the States looking for new customers.” “He seemed a pleasant fellow.” “Yes, he is.” “And I assume you learned Farsi as part of your business?” “Not exactly. My first wife, who is deceased, was second generation Iranian. Her parents never learned English, so I learned their language in order to be a respectful son-in-law. It was this knowledge that helped me to seek a connection in Iran, which turned out to be O’Herlihy.” “Ah, life is quite complex, is it not? We never know where it might take us.” “And so it is.” I steered the conversation away from Les as smoothly as I could. “Your office is quite impressive. What sort of services does Banco J. G. de Honduras provide?”

THE HOBBY/McDougal “We are not what you would call a traditional bank. We serve more as a

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facilitator. We assist investors who wish to place their money in Central American enterprises. We also help channel funds from the World Bank. For a small fee, of course.” Hmm, I thought. This guy is a bigger bullshit artist than I am. I said, “That’s interesting. I have thought about some land purchases in Costa Rica. Perhaps you could assist me in that.” Now it was his turn to guide the conversation in a different path. “How long have you been a sailing enthusiast, Mr. Lampson?” As I was about to answer, Maizie entered with the coffee. He said, “A special Turkish blend. Very pungent, but quite delicious.” “I’m sure I’ll like it. And by the way, please call me George.” “And I am Alfred.” Pals already, I thought. Grant will be very proud of me when he hears about this. As I sat across from the son of a bitch I wondered why I had wasted any time contemplating what his motivation had been to be involved in the terror network. That he was a part of it was what mattered, and I shouldn’t give a shit what perverse reasoning had induced him to join those assholes. Maybe his brother had talked him into it. Maybe he simply wanted to get rich off of skimming their money. Maybe he hated Jews. Maybe, maybe, maybe. Well, maybe I was going to make him my big number twenty-two.

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I got back to his question. “I began sailing when I was a kid. My folks had a summer place on Lake George. I broke in on dinghies and gradually moved up to the Swan.” “Ah, yes, the Swan. A seventy-footer you said?” “Yes.” “How does she handle? I’ve never sailed a boat that large. My Catalina 36 is the biggest I have ever been on.” “I just bought her, and except for the demonstration cruise, from Port Lucaya to West End on Grand Bahama Island, I’ve never been out on her before or since. And the West End Marina is where she lies now. As far as handling goes, she is easier than most boats I’ve sailed. All electric Lewmar winches, for instance. No heave ho.” “Then this will be a great adventure for you, sailing her up the Gulf Stream to New York. Have you had any luck finding a crew?” “A little. I still have three slots to fill. I had hoped to use only amateurs like me, who would go for the love of sailing, but it looks as though I may have to hire a couple of hands.” I felt like holding my breath to see if he would rise to the bait. He said, “When would you be making the voyage?” “Soon, before the weather turns nasty.” With his eagerness showing, he said, “I know we have just met, but I would like to offer my services as a deck hand. I would love to make that trip with you.” I tried to look surprised. “You would? I’m not sure…”

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He was obviously disappointed, but pressed on. “I am a good sailor, George. And never a sign of mal de mer.” I would let him sell me. I said, “It’s just that it will probably be an arduous journey. Are you sure you would be up to it, physically, I mean?” “Oh, yes. I work out every day.” “And you could spare ten days away from the bank? You have someone who would fill in for you? I wouldn’t want you to be worrying about anything but sailing the Winged Edith.” “That would not be a problem. My Data Processing Manager, Ghadir AlSassani, can handle things for that period of time. I really want to make this trip. It would be the highlight of my sailing career.” I assumed that Ghadir was the young guy who was flirting with Maizie when I arrived. Now I knew his name, where the computers were and, since he would be left in charge, the probable number of employees. It looked like there were just three, counting el presidente. The hook was embedded deeply, and now it was time to reel him in. “Well, I have a good feeling about you, Alfred. Welcome aboard. It will be an honor to have you with me.”

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THE HOBBY/McDougal Chapter Thirty-eight

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Bitsy laughed out loud when I told her how things had gone. “You know, Les Bladen was right. You would have made a great con man.” “Have you forgotten I was a politician before I got into this racket?” “Ah, ha! Of course. But what comes next?” “I’ve been thinking about that. I can visualize several ways to administer the coup de grace to that bastard, but think about this, Bitsy. What if we could lay our hands on the bank records at the same time? We would know where all his terrorist pals are. Don Grant could send some of his people after them. We could set those sons of bitches back ten years.” She said, “So are you going to tell Grant about that?” “Can’t get around it. If we want to heist the computer data, I’ll need help.” Frowning, she asked, “And you think he’ll act on that information?” I cocked my head as I answered, “Sure, why wouldn’t he?” “Maybe because it doesn’t fit his game plan. You know, if there’s another horrific attack, it might finally move those fools in Washington to quit their bickering and by God do something. That might be what Grant and his people really want.” I shook my head. “My, you’re getting cynical. No, Bitsy, I don’t think so. If our job is to fuck up terrorists, why would he pass up a chance to go way beyond that and crush them?”

THE HOBBY/McDougal She shrugged. “It was just a thought. You’re probably right. I worry too much, I guess.” I could tell she was still not convinced. But at that point, neither was I. “I’m going to call Grant this evening. First, I need to think through my

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strategy to nail Alfred Said. In the meantime, let’s go out to someplace really nice and get something to eat.” We took a cab back down to Little Italy, where I had been that afternoon. As we strolled down Mulberry Street, I said, “You pick the restaurant, Bitsy.” She said, “I’ll let my nose do the choosing. Then you check to see if the Sopranos are in there before we take a table.” I laughed and squeezed her waist. “Bitsy, I’m falling more in love with you every day. Maybe I don’t show it enough, but I do respect your judgment. Sometimes I tend to move ahead too quickly.” “Well, it sure took you a long time to figure that out.” “Maybe a day late, but I’m on the money with this.” “You’d better be, Mr. Travis.” She chose ‘Il Troubadour’, which sounded as good as it smelled. Live mandolin music and red checked tablecloths were the lure. There is something about being in Manhattan that is different than any other place I have ever been. Except for the Maizies, I was going to hate leaving when the time came. Over a glass of red, I said, “How does this sound? I take Said down to Grand Bahama. I do the deed there. Obviously he has to be out of touch with the bank while someone from our bunch goes in and gets the files. Taking him out

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while in the Bahamas will make it a bit more difficult for the authorities to figure out what the hell happened. To the Bahamians, he will be a foreigner. Killing him in the U.S. would be more dangerous because law enforcement would be able to I.D. him almost immediately, either through fingerprints, dental records or whatever else the real FBI uses. For all I know, they may analyze his navel lint. At any rate, I’ve been over there before and I know the lay of the land. If I remember correctly, her name was Delonia.” She laughed, “Shame on you, Duncan.” Then, on a more serious note, she asked, “I have wanted to ask you for some time. Have you ever not gotten the person you set out to get? And could it happen this time?” “The answer is yes…and yes. Twice I’ve had to back off. Once because the subject would not move in the direction I wanted. He must have smelled a rat. The other time, the man I was after became the hunter. He was a guy who preyed on people he thought might have money, killing them and cleaning out their bank accounts with stolen credit cards. He thought my friendly overtures made me an ideal next vic for him. He brought out a gun just as I was about to make my move. I pulled a Wyatt Earp and shot him in the arm, then ran for my life. He was too fat to chase me far. I never went back. And to answer your second question, there is never a sure fire cinch in this business. Alfred Said is a smart man. Some men have a weakness for women or money or gambling or whatever. It’s usually the chance to fulfill some unsatisfied urge that propels them to try something new. In Alfred Said’s case, it’s adventure. He loves sailing, but he’s never had a true ocean journey, one that pits man against nature, so to speak. But he’s not a dummy. I feel

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safe in saying that I was probably smarter than all my previous subjects. I can’t say that with any degree of certainty about the banker.” Bitsy said, “This is not reassuring me, Duncan. Please be careful. I don’t want to set the world’s speed record in becoming a widow.” I looked at her over my glass. “That’s another thing we agree on.” I glanced at the dessert menu. “And now, let’s try the chocolate amaretti cake. It looks good enough to eat.” When I looked up, she was crying.

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The three-bedroom rental house Josie Garwood finally leased to David Martin was one she owned. It had sat empty for six months. It was located on a quiet cul-de-sac in the better part of town (better being a relative term. Southport is not Hilton Head.). She had high-balled the price and he hadn’t quibbled. She also had signed him to a lease on a small warehouse she owned about two miles from the residence. She was somewhat miffed that Martin had seemed to lose interest in consummating a romantic liaison with her once their business had been completed. She had been flaunting their relationship among her friends. To save her beautiful face, she dropped hints that he might be gay. She shelved the idea of suggesting him for membership at the Shoals Club. Kahlil al-Udhma arrived in Southport three days after Karim acquired the house. When he knocked on Karim’s door, he looked like a cartoon version of a terrorist. A five-inch beard hung from his chin. He wore a long-sleeved Cairo shirt and cotton baggy pants. A cotton turban hat sat atop his head. When Karim opened the door, Kahlil bowed slightly and said, “Salaam aleikoom. I am Kahlil al-Udhma. I believe you may be expecting me.” Karim said with obvious anger, “You fucking fool. Come in quickly, before one of my red neck neighbors sees you and calls Homeland Security.” He reached out and grabbed Kahlil’s shirt front and pulled him inside.

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Karim said, “This is Southport, North Carolina, not Tehran or New York, you idiot. And you are supposed to be my number two man in this operation? I don’t think so. As soon as we unload the van, Mr. Muslim, you shall be on your way back to Brooklyn. In the meantime, come with me. I have American clothes I will give to you.” Kahlil was shaken. He said, “I’m sorry, Karim al-Hadji. No one told me how to dress or really, what to expect. I am here to help you. I thought I would be greeted as a brother in arms, not as a fuckup. If you send me back, I will be disgraced. And Seyed Mahmood will be very angry with me. Please, let me stay and help…please.” Karim said, “Well, if you can somehow get your shit together and keep it there, I’ll give you a chance. Maybe. But for now, let’s make an American out of you. Come with me.” Karim took a shirt and a pair of jeans from a closet and handed them to Kahlil. “Give me the keys to the van. Then go in the bathroom and shave off that beard. And don’t give me any shit about growing it for Allah. Allah wants us to kill infidels, and we can’t do it if we are wearing a sign on our face that telegraphs our intentions. You do what I tell you without argument, do you understand?” “Yes, I do.” This was the first time any Muslim had spoken to Kahlil in that manner. The truth was that Kahlil was the former Thomas Garrity, a last year’s graduate of Brown University, who had converted from collegiate agnosticism to Mohammedanism while a senior. He had been a foreign language major, specializing in Middle Eastern languages. His exposure to these courses led to a

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study of Muslim ideology. He was swept up in the romance of the battle between the true believers and everyone else. He had thrown in his lot with the followers of Allah and had been lauded frequently for his acumen in being able to see whose side would eventually prevail. He loved the attention, since he had previously gotten very little of that in his young life. He hoped to someday win the hearts and bodies of his allotted seventy-two virgins in Paradise, which would be six dozen more than he had had here on earth. And the beard had been a welcome bonus. It had hidden his acne and weak chin. Karim went out to the driveway and opened the back of the van. Inside were three unmarked wooden crates. A small valise was in the passenger’s seat. He took the suitcase out and carried it back into the house. Inside, he set it on the kitchen table and opened it. It contained only clothes and a small kit bag with soap and deodorant. Kahlil came into the room, looking like an All-American dork. Karim asked, “You have no personal weapon?” “No. Mahmood said it would get me in trouble if I were to be stopped by the police.” “He was right about that. Let me see your driver’s license.” Kahlil pulled his wallet out and handed it to Karim. It contained a New York commercial driver’s license, a Visa card and two hundred dollars. “You had no trouble on your trip?” “No. I am a careful driver.” “Good. Now come with me.”

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They went back to the van and before they got in Karim said, “You drive. I want to see if you really are a cautious motorist.” Out on the street, Karim issued terse instructions to his new Number Two, directing him to the warehouse. The facility was a stand alone wood frame building, badly in need of paint. Karim had already had a local sign painter write the name of his pseudo business on the walk-in entrance next to the overhead door. In red letters, it said ‘All-Sports Distribution’. The day after Karim had firmed up the lease he called Carolina Security and made arrangements to meet one of their technicians at the building. His orders were to install a silent alarm system with motion detectors and door intrusion detection strips. The tech indicated that the alarm would notify the police by phone connection if a break in occurred. Karim had the man make the notification go to a buzzer in his house and not to the police. He said, “I’ll call the cops myself.” When Kahlil stopped the truck in the driveway of the warehouse, Karim alighted and unlocked the small door. He went inside and pulled the chain hoist which opened the main entry. He called to Kahlil to turn the truck around and back it into the warehouse. Once inside, he reversed the chain and lowered the overhead door. “And now let me see what you have brought us.” They unloaded the boxes and set them in a neat row along the side wall. Each box was stenciled in black with the legend, ‘Sporting goods’. Karim asked, “Do you know what is in these crates?”

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“No, not for sure. I’m aware of what they are supposed to contain, but I did not witness their packing.” “Where did you get them?” “They were in the back of the Al-Fatih Mosque in Brooklyn. Before that, I don’t know where they came from.” “Okay. Take this crowbar and prize the lids off the boxes, and be careful.” As Kahlil took off the pine tops, Karim removed the contents of each and stacked them in front of the box. The inventory consisted of eight Tec-9 9mm machine pistols and 200 50-round magazines, fully loaded. Karim was pleased. There was much more ammunition than he had expected. He said, “Kahlil, place the Tec-9’s on that work bench by the back wall. You’ll find a can of gun solvent, a barrel rod and several clean cotton rags in the cupboard below the table. Clean the cosmoline off the weapons and then put them back in the crate.” While Number Two was performing his task, Karim double checked each of the boxes to make certain there was nothing else besides the ammo in them. When Kahlil had completed the weapons clean-up, he helped him place them back in their cases. He looked the area over to make sure there were not any obvious telltale signs that this might be a terrorist’s lair, then instructed his assistant to open the main door. When it was raised, he backed the van out and then leaned out of the window and said, “Close the door and come out through the pedestrian exit.” While

THE HOBBY/McDougal Kahlil was taking care of that chore, Karim got out of the truck and met Kahlil

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when he came out. He said, “Get in the van. You drive again. I’m going to lock up.” On there way back to the house, Karim said, “I’m going to keep you on the project. With a bit of training you might become a worthy participant.” Kahlil was much relieved. “Hey, thanks Boss. I’ll do a good job. I promise.” Karim said, “Boss. I like that. Yes, I’m the boss. Don’t forget it.” Two blocks from the house, they passed the Piggly Wiggly grocery store. Karim noted the advertising marquee out front which said, “Order your turkey today. Only two weeks until thanksgiving.”

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When I finished with breakfast the morning after my meeting with my new crew member, I dug out the number that Able Kane had given me. I punched in the digits and he answered on the second buzz. He must have had caller I.D. He said, “Good morning, Judge. Having fun yet?” “Yeah, probably more than you. I need a sit down with you and Grant, the sooner the better.” “What’s up?” “I’ll tell you when I see you.” “Can’t we do this on the phone? It’s hard to get Grant out of Dallas.” “I’ll go there if necessary. I’m about ready to close the deal on our friend and I have some last minute stuff that has to be settled. I won’t go forward until we get together and discuss it.” Kane sounded slightly peeved when he said, “Okay. I’ll get back to you as soon as I can.” He hung up. While I was having my conversation with Kane, Bitsy had taken Said’s file out and had been going over it once more, looking for some small item she and I might have overlooked. She had almost closed the folder when she noticed an interesting tidbit about Said’s wife, Ghodsi, which we both had missed up until now. Mrs. Said was a naturalized American citizen who had emigrated to the U.S. in 1980. Her brother, Salim Jarsan, was a high official in the Institute for Political and International Studies in Tehran.

THE HOBBY/McDougal Bitsy said, pointing to the file, “Take a look at this, Duncan. I believe we may have a problem with Alfred Said’s wife as well.”

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I read the section she had underlined. Bitsy said, “I think Ghodsi may be a major player in this business. I wouldn’t be surprised if Mr. Said is the President of Banco J. G. de Honduras, N.A. because of her connections. I believe she may have gotten him the job. And if that’s the case, if something…unfortunate…happened to her husband, she could step in and take over his position without missing a beat. It has also occurred to me that she is the only person besides her husband who has seen us all together. When he goes off to sail the bounding main and never returns, she’ll be able to I.D. us.” I didn’t respond immediately. This was a curve ball I wasn’t prepared to hit. Finally, I said, “Look, Bitsy, we can’t expect to do this on a risk-free basis. She may be able to I.D. us later, but for her it will be like trying to identify a couple of wraiths. And as far as her assuming the reins at the bank is concerned, I don’t think that would ever happen. Remember, she would have to be approved by Muslim men. I don’t think they would pass muster on her, not in a month of Islamic holy days. And anyway, if we do what I’m planning, there probably won’t be any bank left for her to take over.” She said, “Well, maybe you’re right. I’m getting into this thing with a vengeance, maybe too much so. The more I think about our friends that were blown all to hell in the Brown Center, the madder I get. So I figured, what the hell, why not do her as well.”

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I didn’t say anything. Instead, I put my hand on her cheek. She placed her hand over mine. We sat that way for a long time. I was leaning in to kiss her (I love to do that, as you may have picked up) when the phone rang. It was Kane. “Grant and I will be at your place about eleven tomorrow morning. He can only stay for two hours. I hope that’s enough time.” “It’ll have to do. See you then.”

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THE HOBBY/McDougal Chapter Forty-one

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Kahlil was surprised that Karim had sent him out for hamburgers from MacDonald’s. He laughed about his leader’s choice of fast food over something more exotic. “Hamburgers? Are you such an American now that you eat burgers?” Karim said, “Blend, Kahlil, blend. Become a plain American citizen. Do nothing that is out of the norm. Blend.” After their meal, Karim took his new protégé to the ferry slip, where they boarded for a trip to Bald Head Island. It was a brisk, sunny day. A sailboat was tacking up the Cape Fear River, just in from the sea. The flag atop the ferry’s superstructure was snapping a staccato beat. Karim said, “What a glorious day to be alive. If we do our job as we should, there is an excellent chance we will stay alive for a long time.” As they rode toward the Bald Head ferry terminal, Karim explained some of the peculiarities that were the law on the island. “No gasoline powered vehicles are allowed, which I thought at first was going to present a problem. But the Americans are an ingenious lot. There is a company in the state of California that manufactures electric all-terrain vehicles called Gorillas. They are much more powerful and fast than the golf carts you will see all over Bald Head. I have ordered six of the Gorillas, and expect delivery in three days. When we attack, we will be highly mobile. Our heroes of September

THE HOBBY/McDougal 11th flew in American jets. We will ride on American ATV’s.” With a laugh, he said, “There is no end to the American’s spirit of cooperation.” The entrance to the marina on Bald Head leads directly in from the river,

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running inland for about fifty yards between rock walls before the narrow channel opens into the marina basin. On today’s approach to the entrance the wind was blowing toward the southwest, in the same direction as the river’s current. The tide was also going out at the same time. These forces working together made it a difficult feat of seamanship to get the ferry into the entrance to the marina. Karim noticed that the captain crabbed the ship much like an airplane pilot would do when trying to land in a strong crosswind, approaching the entrance almost beam to, and then at the last moment, turning the bow in and gunning the engines as he completed the maneuver successfully. Kahlil said, “Damn, that was close. I wasn’t sure we were going to make it.” Karim asked, “Have you been on boats before?” “Only the Staten Island Ferry, and it never bobbed around like this one.” Emboldened by the friendly manner that Karim was showing, Kahlil asked, “I was wondering, Boss, if this is your first mission here in the United States?” Karim looked at him, his face grim and threatening. “That is not for you to know. You are too curious, Kahlil al-Udhma. You would be well advised to keep those questions to yourself.” “I’m sorry, Boss. I won’t make that mistake again.” “You damn well better not.”

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The ferry had just entered the main body of the marina and was making a turn to starboard, heading toward the wooden pilings of the slip. Karim pointed to ‘Cash Float’. “That’s my boat. When we get off this tub, we will walk over there.” As they walked forward on the ferry deck, Karim saluted the captain. He called up to him, “A nice bit of maneuvering on the entrance.” The captain waved back. “Thanks. I’ve had plenty of practice.” Karim said to Kahlil as they walked onto the land, “The captain will remember me. He will think only friendly thoughts when I begin bringing Gorillas on his craft.” They sauntered around the perimeter of the marina basin. Alongside Cash Float, Karim climbed over the railing and went to the forward hatch. Kahlil followed, tripping on the railing as he tried to swing himself aboard. Karim shook his head and then gestured for Number Two to follow him below. In the main cabin, Kahlil marveled at the luxuriousness of the interior. “Boss, this is a beautiful boat. I didn’t know they made them this nice.” “Yes, it is nice. But that’s not why I brought you here. We have plans to discuss. First, though, I want to know more about you. You haven’t told me much.” “What do you want to know?” “Why are you doing this? Are you a dilettante, someone who wants to flirt with danger, to be associated with big, bad Muslims? Or is it that you hate America, the place of your birth? And if that is the case, why?”

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“I detest what America has become, what it stands for. It is an oligarchy, run by plutocrats who rape the people every day in every way. The only people I see who are standing against the international hegemony of the United States are those in the Islamic nations. So I became a Muslim and joined the cause.” “And you believe Allah is great?” “Honestly? I don’t know. I didn’t accept that there was a deity before I became a Muslim, and I’m not sure I do now. But I’m open to the possibility. I suppose you might say that I am a political Muslim more than a religious one. But I pray to Allah for enlightenment. I have brought my prayer mat with me. Maybe illumination will come. ” “Well, such candor is appreciated, but you had better be careful who you say those things to. Agnosticism can get you beheaded in some quarters.” “Thank you for the heads off heads up.” “You have a sense of humor, too. But also be aware that flippancy is not an Iranian trait. Another caution.” “Okay, Boss.” “What does your family think of your new found allegiance?” “They are not happy about it. We are estranged. I haven’t spoken to any of them in over a year.” “And how did you meet Seyed Mahmood?” ”I was the political vice-president of The Young Islamic Society at the university. Mahmood came there to speak to our group. He gave me his card and

THE HOBBY/McDougal asked me to call upon him after graduation. I did. He offered me a job as an interpreter. I accepted it.” Karim said, “You are not a seasoned veteran of the struggle. In many

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respects, you are still a callow youth. Why, then, do you believe Seyed Mahmood has sent you to be the number two man in this operation? I want an honest answer.” He looked sternly at Kahlil al-Udhma. “A very honest answer. And if I don’t get it, your ass will be on the next bus north. You see, I am not a fool. I am fairly certain why you are here.” Number Two involuntarily gulped before responding. Even in the cool of the cabin, sweat broke out on his face. “The truth is…well, the truth is that my principal duty is to keep an eye on you and report back to Seyed Mahmood all that I see and hear. Is that honest enough for you?” Karim laughed out loud. “Yes, my assistant. That is quite honest enough. And I didn’t even have to mention torture, did I?” Crestfallen, Kahlil al-Udhma said, “If you want me to leave, I will. I wouldn’t blame you. But since I have arrived, I have developed an admiration for you, for the way you get things done. I would like to stay, as a loyal soldier in your army.” “Okay, you can stay. But you must not contact Seyed Mahmood without me listening in. I am the leader of this venture, and no one else. It is my ass on the line, not his. I have no diplomatic immunity to shield me as he does if things go bad.” “Absolutely understood.”

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“I will watch you closely, my Number Two. You have thrown away your loyalty to America, and now you have dumped your allegiance to Seyed Mahmood. Your loyalties are mercurial at best.” Karim knew the answer to this next question before he asked it. “Have you ever killed anyone?” “No.” “How do you know you will be able to do so when the time comes?” “I just assume that I will. I know it has to be done.” “We will see about that…when the time comes. And now, sit down. I’ll go over the attack plans in detail with you. I’m not sure as yet what part you will play, but there will be something for you. Rely on that.” Kahlil felt relief flooding in. “Yes, and thanks. I won’t let you down.” “If you do, it will be the worst day of your young life.”

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THE HOBBY/McDougal Chapter Forty-two

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Don Grant sat down in my temporary living room. Kane had gone into the kitchen with Bitsy to help with the coffee. The FBI man was glum as he said, “Joe Waldrip died last night.” “I’m sorry to hear that.” I didn’t know what else to say. How do you commiserate about the death of someone who, in all likelihood, would have someday tried to kill you? In the end, Joe had done what he believed was the right thing. For that I was grateful. But for little else. Bitsy and Able Kane returned to the parlor with the coffee. Kane set the tray on a table by the couch and found a seat. Bitsy sat next to me. I said to Bitsy, “Joe Waldrip died.” She said the same thing I had said, but with a little more sympathy. Grant said, “He left you something. I brought it along.” He snapped open his briefcase and removed a police special .38. “He wanted you to have it.” I looked at him and smiled. “Are you nuts? I wouldn’t take it on a bet. You keep it.” That was just what I didn’t need, a pistol with a history of God knows how many mob hits. Did Grant know that and think I would be dumb enough to accept it? Well, now he knew better. He shrugged and put it back in the case. Kane grinned and winked at me. Grant said, “Before we get started, I have something for you and Bitsy.” He handed me a large manila envelope. I opened it and pulled out two photographs,

THE HOBBY/McDougal one of a man in a police uniform and the other an enhanced closeup of his face. “That’s the Houston bomber.” I studied the photos carefully. This was the man who murdered over one

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hundred innocent people, many of whom were my friends. I felt a visceral hatred well up inside me. I knew I would not hesitate to send that bastard straight to hell if I ever had the opportunity. I nodded without saying anything and handed the photographs to Bitsy. She looked at them carefully, then slid the pictures back into the envelope. Grant said, “Okay, Judge, this is your meeting. What have you got?” “I have a few questions to begin with, before I lay out my plans. First, what is the Institute for Political and International Studies in Tehran?” “We believe it is the ministry that oversees most of Iran’s overseas activist networks. Spies, terrorists, the whole kit and caboodle. It is also the propaganda arm of the mullahs.” “Alright, and who is Salim Jarsan?” Kane looked quizzically at Grant. Grant asked, “Where in the hell did you get that name?” I said, “You gave it to me. It’s in Said’s file.” Grant took in and exhaled a deep breath. “Jarsan is the principal control for most of Iran’s major players in the U.S. For instance, he supervises Seyed Mahmood, with whom you are familiar, and in turn, Said.” “Did you know Jarsan is Ghodsi Said’s brother?” “Now that you mention it, yes.”

THE HOBBY/McDougal “Is she going to be a problem when her husband bites the dust?”

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“That’s a possibility, but I don’t believe it’s something to lose sleep over.” “Not for you, perhaps, but I wouldn’t like her trying to find me.” “Okay, I get it. We’ll keep an eye on her. Now, what else?” “Well, when I was in the Banco J. G. de Honduras…” Grant interrupted me. “You have actually been inside the bank?” “Yes, I have. It’s a bullshit institution, no more a bank than the corner Burger King. I have set up Said to be lured away from el banco. And here’s the beauty part. While he’s away from the office it would be very easy to go in and take the bank’s records. They would lead you to the parts of the network that Said is supporting. The bank has only three rooms. A reception area, Said’s office and a computer room. The guy running the data processing is named Ghadir Al-Sassani. The receptionist is a ditzy gal named Maizie. I don’t believe she knows what’s going on, but you can bet Al-Sassani does.” Grant nodded and said, “Okay. We’ll get back to this in a bit, but first tell me how you are going to eliminate Said.” I explained at length how I had baited the trap with a sailing adventure. “I have told him the Swan is berthed at the West End Marina on Grand Bahama Island. I plan for him and me to fly to Freeport and rent a car. We’ll drive toward West End. I’ve been on that road before. It’s lightly traveled. Somewhere along the way, I’ll pull over, walk him into the brush and pop him.” “Judge, I can think of about ten different ways for that plan to blow up. For instance, how are you going to get your Glock into the Bahamas?”

THE HOBBY/McDougal “No sweat. I’ve done it before. They don’t x-ray checked luggage at the

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Freeport customs office. The gun will be under the bottom panel in my suitcase.” “And why do it down there? Wouldn’t it be less difficult to do it somewhere in New York?” “Probably, but the danger in that is that almost immediately, thanks to New York’s finest, Al-Sassani and half the country is going to know what happened. On the other hand, the Royal Bahamian Police Force will take longer; longer to identify the deceased and longer to come up with a suspect, namely me. It’s not that they are inept. To the contrary, they are spot on when it comes to dealing with their domestic crime. But they don’t have the Bureau’s Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System at their disposal. By the time they figure out who their vic is, I’ll be long gone. More importantly, Kane here will have had plenty of time to go into el banco and get the records.” Grant sat silently, obviously mentally examining from every angle what he had just heard. Kane sat back, a smile on his face. Grant said, “So you complete the job, turn around and go back to the Freeport Airport and fly home. Is that right?” “Yep. Pretty straightforward. A no frills trip to the Caribbean.” “And you’ll work with Kane to make sure he has a layout of the bank?” “Naturally. I have one small stipulation, however. I want a duplicate of the bank records.”

THE HOBBY/McDougal Grant shook his head. “No, Judge, that won’t happen. I told you at the beginning that you were not a freelancer anymore. I haven’t changed my mind about that.” “That was before we became partners; blood brothers as it were. Think

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about it. I know more than you ever wanted me to know. For instance, I know who Joe Waldrip really was. A Chicago mob hit man named Constantine DeMarco. What we have, Don, between you and me is a good old fashioned Mexican standoff. It won’t hurt you to give me a copy of those files.” Grant calmed down a bit. “Look, Judge, I can’t possibly fill you in on the whole story. At least, not for now. I have the responsibility for a number of ongoing operations. People are depending on me. Their lives could be in jeopardy if I screw something up. I can’t let you or anyone else go off on a tangent. I just won’t allow that to happen.” “The reason I want a copy is to see if there is anything that will help me on my remaining assignments. That’s the only reason. I don’t plan to take any independent action. Just call it research. How can that hurt?” Grant performed another heavy breathing exercise, then said, “How about this? I’ll let you see the files, but you take no notes and get no hard copies. What the hell, Kane is going to see them. You may as well, too.” He shook his head slowly. “We’ve got a Goddamn mini Freedom of Information request here.” It was obvious Grant knew he was on shaky ground. The last thing he needed was a mutiny.

THE HOBBY/McDougal I wasn’t going to push it any further. I smiled and stuck out my hand. “That’s a deal.” Kane asked me, “When are you leaving with Said?” “My plan is to fly down with him next Monday. We’ll take American to

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Fort Lauderdale and then Bahamas Air to Freeport. With luck, I’ll be back in New York the same day.” Kane said, “What time will your flight land in the Bahamas? I need to know because his cell phone will be out of range then. I’m sure you don’t want him receiving any calls from the bank.” “ETA is one New York time.” “Then I’ll hit the bank Monday afternoon. I don’t know how long it will take Mr. Al-Sassani to print out the data, especially if he is trying to do so with a kneecap wound.” I said, “Take some duct tape with you. Strap Maizie in a chair. She hasn’t done anything that deserves being killed.” Kane looked to Grant for guidance on that one. Grant said, “Yeah. Don’t harm her unless you have to.” Kane looked relieved. I knew from his background that assassinations were not his forte. Grant looked at us individually, then said, “Are we set here?” We all nodded in assent. He said, “Alright, here’s what I’m going to do. Bitsy, when Duncan leaves for La Guardia Airport, you take a cab to JFK. Take everything with you that you

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want to keep. You won’t be coming back here. I’ll have a ticket and a reservation for you on Delta for LAX. When you get there, check into the Sheraton Universal in Universal City. Before Monday, I’ll have a courier deliver a whole new set of identity papers there for you and the Judge. Duncan, same deal for you. When you are back in Fort Lauderdale, take an American flight to LAX. Stay in the Sheraton until you are contacted about your next assignment. That should do it. Oh, by the way, Duncan, where do you want your fee to be sent? To the Royal Bank of the Caymans?” He laughed as he asked. “No, just wire it to my bank in Dallas. You have all the info on that.” He hesitated a moment, then said, “Sure. I’ll take care of it.” He and Kane got up to leave. Kane said, “I’ll come by tomorrow and we’ll go over the bank operation. This is going to bust their ass bigtime.” I smiled, “That’s the spirit, old pal.” Grant shook my hand and said, “Good work, Judge. And if you thought this was exciting, wait until you get to California.” “I’ll be on pins and needles.”

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THE HOBBY/McDougal Chapter Forty-three

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When Kane and Grant had gone, Bitsy and I had a second cup of coffee. She said, “A lot to think about.” “Yes. A hell of a lot. I’d like to know what’s happening in the Golden State. And I wonder if it will involve Les Bladen. Maybe they’re going to offer us bit parts in his production.” I knew that if we didn’t report in at the Sheraton Universal, Grant might renege on my fee. “We’ll have to go out there and stick around until I can verify that our money has been transferred. Once that has taken place, if we don’t like what’s going on we can bail. Are you comfortable in going out there by yourself?” “Not entirely, but I’ll do it. What’s really bothering me right now is something more immediate. Now that we’ve gotten this close to finishing with Alfred Said, I’m getting frightened, not for me but for you. This is really starting to spook me.” I tried to look confident as I said, “Bitsy, please don’t worry. I’ll nail that bastard. During the final days and hours of all my previous tasks I’ve been almost clairvoyant in how I see things are going to take place. By the time he gets his I’ll be so damned focused that I simply can’t fail. There is a saying in football that the offense has a big advantage in that the defense doesn’t know for sure what is going to happen. They know something is going to occur and they still get caught off guard about half the time. Well, it’s even more true in my line of work…no, make that endeavor. Sounds better. If the subject doesn’t expect an offensive move, it’s

THE HOBBY/McDougal almost impossible for him to defend. I’m not trying to make light of something extremely serious, but you really don’t need to be anxious.” “I’m sorry, Duncan, but I’ll be fretting constantly until I see you in California. Remember, you did say he might be smarter than you. Can’t help worrying, Sweetheart.”

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That didn’t really settle much, but at least we had said what we both needed to. I said, “I’m going to call my sailing buddy Mr. Said and get him lined up.” I dialed the bank and Maizie answered the phone. “Bank offices. How may I direct your call?” I said, “Hello, Maizie. This is George Lampson. May I speak to Mr. Said, please?” She was much more friendly than the last time we had spoken, which I took to be a good sign. “Why, yes Mr. Lampson, I’ll get him for you right away.” Alfred was on the line in a few seconds. “George, nice to hear from you so soon. Good sailing news, I hope?” “The best, Alfred. We fly to Grand Bahama Island this coming Monday. And by the way, I don’t expect my volunteers to spend their own money. I’ve secured first class tickets for both of us on American Flight 342 out of La Guardia at nine next Monday morning. Pack for ten days, all casual. Bring boat shoes and your passport.” I could hear the excitement in his voice as he said, “That’s wonderful. I will be there for certain. And thank you for inviting me. I hope that I will do a good job as a crew member. Will other members of the crew be flying with us?”

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I said, “No, they are going down the next day. My wife has already gone. She’ll be laying supplies aboard. By next Wednesday, we should be at sea. And don’t worry. I am sure you will give it your all. I’ll see you Monday.” That evening, Bitsy went on the internet and found the names of everyone who had died in the Brown Center. She printed out the list and gave it to me. “When you leave that bastard, tuck this into his shirt pocket. It shouldn’t take long for someone to figure out why he was killed.” I took the sheet of paper and folded it carefully. Then I placed it into a plastic baggie. “In case it gets rained on.” My conference with Able Kane was set for the next morning. I had asked him to meet me at the Bryant Park Café, located adjacent to the New York Public Library. Bryant Park is one of the most beautiful of New York’s small parks. Lots of trees and benches and a great lawn on which to lie down. The bums love it. Kane was already there when I arrived. “Hey, Judge, you’re looking sharp. Is that a new suit?” “No, is yours?” “As a matter of fact it is. Unlike you, I can’t take all my goods with me when I move. So if it’s only the clothes on my back, I want good ones.” I didn’t ask why he might have to travel light. “That’s too bad for you. And speaking of moving, are you going to L.A. with us?” “Wouldn’t miss it for the world.” “So what’s going on out there?”

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“If you’re looking for the truth out of me, you will grow a lot older waiting for it. All I can say is that it is going to be very interesting. You’ll have a ball.” “I hope so. I’m not having one now.” “So tell me about the bank. Are you pretty sure there will be only two people in there when I go in?” “Like I said before, I’m not certain. My educated guess is that the receptionist, Maizie, and the D.P guy, Al-Sassani, are the only employees. If there are any more, they will be in the data processing room where Al-Sassani works. However, Al-Sassani will be the acting chief honcho in Said’s absence. He will probably be sitting in the president’s chair, smoking cigars and sipping Iranian shiraz. Another thing to think about. I’m not sure what volume of paper will be produced, so you probably ought to take a valise with you to carry it out.” He nodded. “Sounds like a plan, Judge. Have you drawn a layout for me?” I gave him an envelope from my pocket. He removed the diagram and studied it, then tucked it away and asked, “Do you think there will be any cash laying around in this bank?” I laughed. “Once a crook, always a crook?” If he could have blushed, he would have. “Just curious, that’s all.” “Anything else?” He said, “Yeah, I’m going in at three p.m. Said’s cell phone will be out of range, so we won’t have to be concerned about that.” He picked up a menu. “I think I’ll try the turkey club” E-mail the author: mcdougal8@verizon.net

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The Gorillas arrived in large wooden crates. Anticipating the need for a place to plug in six battery chargers, Karim had previously acquired the services of a local electrician to install the outlets. Within a few days, arriving individually on buses, were the prospective sportsmen who were to speed around Bald Head Island on the Gorillas. They were Salmak Mehmannavez, Sepehr Taheri, Melurnoosh Hassani, Mohsen Sadoughi and Ghalandar Taghi. These men, Muslims all, resembled transient agricultural workers, a fairly common sight in North Carolina. Their eagerness to serve and their obedience to his orders were enough to inspire some degree of confidence in Karim. Salmak had been to Afghanistan before the Americans had arrived. He had trained with al Qaeda at Tora Bora and had stayed on to kill as many of the Allahdamned infidel soldiers from the United States as he could. When it was obvious he and his fellow warriors were outgunned he slipped across the border into Iran where he was interrogated, feted and shipped back to America. Sepehr had been a cab driver in Detroit and a loyal member of the Motor City’s Masjid Qiblah. In fairness, he could have been faulted for his gullibility in that he believed everything about which Imam Ibrahim al-Hijazi sermonized. By the time he was offered a chance to go somewhere and do something really bad to Americans, he was so full of rage he accepted without asking any questions.

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Melurnoosh was the ultimate follower. He was a cousin of Sepehr and got on board when his relative boasted that he would soon be a hero of Islam. Melurnoosh was a clerk in a bodega and a long way removed from any path that might lead to great recognition. Becoming a star of Islam was a temptation too huge to resist. Mohsen was the only African-American volunteer. A former member of the Crips, at the age of twenty-four he had joined a radical group of Black Muslims while staying involuntarily in the Passaic County Jail in New Jersey, awaiting trial. After being found guilty, he was incarcerated for six years. His crime was having dared to wound a white man, even though he had previously been given minimum sentences and on one occasion, probation, for assaulting African-American members of the Bloods gang with a Tek-9. The infraction that led to his undoing was one he could have avoided, but chose not to. He was in the six-items-or-less checkout line at his local supermarket when he noticed that the young Italianlooking man ahead of him had eighteen items in his shopping cart. He brought the limit sign to the attention of the violator, who said, “Get fucked, monkey man.” Mohsen pulled a .22 caliber Saturday night special from his pocket and said, “Did you ever see a monkey shoot a loud mouthed white motherfucker?” He shot the man in the side, not fatally but certainly enough to make an impression. Some said that while they personally have often been tempted to do violence to those assholes who deliberately disobey the restrictions in checkout lines, they thought Mohsen’s action was a bit over the top.

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Ghalandar was an adventuresome lad who wanted to join the army. Since the American military appeared to be at war with Islam, he hoped to find an army that wasn’t. His Imam, a learned man who understood youthful exuberance, sent him to meet with Seyed Mahmood, who explained how he could best serve Allah by going to North Carolina. Karim and Kahlil welcomed these warriors for Allah, showing them their respective cots in the house in Southport. They had been recruited from the AlMumineen Mosque in Paterson, New Jersey and the Masjid Qiblah in Detroit, Michigan. With nine days left before T-Day (for Turkey), there was very little time left in which to train them, particularly when it became evident that only one knew how to load a Tek-9, much less fire it. There arose another problem. Only Sepehr knew how to drive. Karim angrily spoke to Kahlil privately. “I’m mightily pissed off at Seyed Mahmood for sending me men who don’t possess even the basic qualifications for this operation. I wonder if the vetting process has consisted of anything other than making sure they each had a prayer mat.” Kahlil proved his value to the operation when he said, “I’ll get Sepehr to spend all his time for the next three days teaching these fighters how to maneuver a Gorilla. At the same time, Mohsen can train them in the use of the Tek-9. Apparently, he learned that skill as a member of his local chapter of the Crips, before he converted to Islam.” The streets around the small warehouse district where All-Sports Distribution was located became a test track for the Gorilla trainees. They took to

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the task like a bunch of kids on bumper cars at a carnival. By the end of the second day they had become proficient enough to make it around the complex without hitting anything. Late afternoons were spent traveling in the van to a remote rural area in Brunswick County where target practice was held. After the second session, Karim decided they were proficient enough to be able to point and shoot. He spent some time stressing the importance of not getting caught in the crossfire. “And remember, the purpose of your undertaking is to kill as many of the American bastards as you can in fifteen minutes.” Only days before T-Day he said a silent prayer to Allah. “Oh great and glorious Allah, you have sent me on this perilous mission but you have sent me warriors who barely qualify as such. I pray that you will mold them into firebrands for Islam…and please hurry up.”

E-mail the author: mcdougal8@verizon.net

THE HOBBY/McDougal Chapter Forty-five

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Alfred Said was seated in the waiting area at American Airlines gate seven when I arrived. He was as excited as a kid going to Disney World. When I approached him, he stood and embraced me in the manner of Middle Eastern men. “Thank you again, George, for inviting me on this great adventure. The life of a banker is not a thrilling one. This break from my rather mundane existence is going to be very fulfilling.” Yeah, you asshole, I thought, if being instrumental in the murder of hundreds, maybe thousands, of your fellow human beings can be called mundane. I smiled at him as I disentangled from his clinch. “I’m very happy you are coming along, Alfred.” And that was the truth. On board, the steward came by for drink orders. I said, “I’ll have a scotch and soda, two cubes of ice.” I turned to Alfred. “How about you? Or do you follow strict dietary law?” He smiled. “Only at home. I’ll have the same as my friend.” After the steward had moved on, I said, “I hope you were not planning a big Thanksgiving celebration. We will most likely be at sea on the 25th.” “No. We have postponed the dinner until I return. My son, Heydar, will come into town when we have Thanksgiving. He is at Princeton, studying pre-law. He hopes to specialize in international law. There is a good future in that in New York, where I hope he will decide to practice. We are especially enthused about his

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coming home this time as he is bringing a young lady whom he wants us to meet. Do you have children, George?” I lied. “No, I have not been blessed. Your son sounds like a fine young man. I hope someday I might meet him.” “Yes, that would be my wish also. So, how did you like the oil business? And did you ever go to the source, Iran?” “I was very happy dealing in petroleum. It was extremely good to me financially. And I met many fine people because of what I did for a living. But no to your second question. I never went to the Middle East.” He said, “I was born there, in Iran actually. My parents worked in the field of archeology. You can imagine the wealth of activity to be found in that discipline in the Middle East. My father served for many years as the curator of the Museum of Antiquities in Tehran. I have not been back to Iran since I left as a teenager, but I can remember the beauty of the country.” I nodded. “My friends who have been there have all told me how impressed they were with the country and the people. Maybe some day I’ll go there, but probably not any time soon. Once I have Winged Edith in New York, I plan to outfit her for a long voyage, perhaps to the Mediterranean. The thought of sailing to the Greek Isles, for instance, is an exciting prospect for an old sailor like me. There are many ports of call I would hope to make in that area.” I looked at him conspiratorially over my glasses. “Israel is not on the list.” I shouldn’t have said that, I know, but I was looking for one more confirmation that he was what he was supposed to be.

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He moved his head up and down as he said, “For certain. What decent man would want to visit the criminal nation that has murdered so many innocents?” I replied vehemently, “Not me, brother.” If it sounds as though I had been psyching myself up for the task that lay ahead, you’re right. To get myself in the correct mode before a job I usually mentally recount the sins that I am going to cleanse from the scumbag in question. This son of a bitch facilitated the murder of hundreds of my fellow countrymen. He would do it again and again unless I killed him first. Believe me, all this helps. He changed the subject to the matter at hand, the great voyage that lay ahead. “How will we get from Freeport to West End? Is there a bus that goes there?” “Yes, there is, but I don’t like public transportation. I’ve arranged to rent a car on a no return basis. For a fee, they’ll send someone to West End to retrieve it. Besides, I thought you might enjoy seeing the sights along the way. There is one particular spot called Dead Man’s Reef that’s quite interesting. We’ll stop there so you can see it.” He grinned and said, “You are most kind. I’m glad I brought my camera.” We took the shuttle at the airport in Fort Lauderdale from American Airlines to Bahamas Air. The timing was close but we settled into our places on the Bahamian plane with ten minutes to spare. I insisted that Alfred take the window seat so he could see the Island as we approached Freeport. “The waters are spectacular,” I said.

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The customs clearance in Freeport was easy. The Bahamians know the value of tourism and do nothing to impede its growth. After picking up our luggage at the carousel, I said to Alfred, “I’m going to the john. Back in a minute.” In the restroom, I entered a stall with my bag. I opened it and reached under my packed clothes, grasping the side of the flat bottom. I slipped my fingernail under the edge and lifted it. Neatly stored there was the Glock. I pulled it out and nestled it into the ankle holster on my left leg. When I emerged from the men’s room Alfred decided he should probably use the facility, too. I said, “While you’re in there I’ll sign up for the car.” My arrangements had been made with Dollar Rentals. The car was a small Ford. I remember when Ford’s slogan was “There’s a Ford in your future.” Well, that would hold true for Alfred Said, even as limited as that future appeared to be. After tossing our luggage in the car trunk we headed toward West End on the West Sunrise Highway. We passed the industrial complex at The Bahamas Oil Refining Company and arriving at the junction with Queen's Highway we took the road northwest that ran to West End. The weather was what you would expect in a tropical paradise, warm by Yankee standards but delightful by any other measure. A few clouds drifted slowly toward the north on a gentle southerly breeze. As I drove along, I said, “The wind is out of the south, which is good. I once entered the Gulf Stream during a norther, and believe me, I’ll never do that again. The Stream’s current flows north and a contrary wind from the north kicks up some damned bad wave conditions. Really big ones out there are called elephants. They

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ought to call them snakes. They slither at you, building and building until they’re right on you, and you can hear them hissing out of their foamy mouths and then wham and the boat shudders and rolls and settles in the trough ‘til the next one strikes. A situation like that is hard as hell on a boat and doubly hard on the crew. If the wind isn’t southerly, we won’t go until it is.” He said, “Why not skirt the Gulf Stream and stay out of it?” “The Stream adds four or five knots to our speed. I don’t want to lose that.” Of course, this was all bullshit conversation, meant to screw with his mind and keep him thinking that I was his true sailing buddy. My Gulf Stream story was one told to me by Todd Linkenhofer, the man from whom I had bought my Lake Texoma boat. The snake part was my own embellishment. About ten miles out of town the landscape became dominated by Caribbean pine trees and scrub palmetto. We came upon a small marker on which was painted ‘Dead Man’s Reef’ in faded letters. It pointed down a sandy road to the left. As I turned in I said, “Here’s the place I was telling you about. You don’t want to miss this. You’ll remember it for the rest of your life, I promise.”

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THE HOBBY/McDougal Chapter Forty-six

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Able Kane tossed his unfinished Marlboro onto the sidewalk as he opened the street door to Banco J. G. de Honduras, N.A. He wore a leather jacket, zipped to the chin. He had a black Kangol cap on his head, the brim in the back. His Glock was in a shoulder holster on the left side and a roll of duct tape was in his inside pocket. He pulled a small wheeled black piece of luggage behind him. Lifting the Samsonite, he took the steps two at a time until he reached the top. He tried the door to the computer room and found it locked. He opened the door to the reception area and walked in. The woman he assumed was Maizie was reading a copy of People Magazine, her attention fully vested in Brad Pitt’s alleged ill treatment of Jennifer Anniston. She looked up at Able Kane with ill disguised annoyance. She looked more like an Arab than the Bronx babe Travis had said to expect. This didn’t surprise him since half the women in New York looked like they had just gotten off the boat. She asked, “May I help you?” “Yeah. I want to see Mr. Said. I’m Wilbur. I work in maintenance at his building and he said he had some work for me and to come by and talk about it so here I am.” She replied officiously, “Well, he isn’t here. He’s out of town and he won’t be back for a week or so.” “Well fuck me. I come all the way downtown and he ain’t here.”

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“Puh-leeze, whoever you are. Maybe you better leave and come back some other time.” “How about Ghadir? Is he busy? I could talk to him.” Her eyes cut involuntarily for a split second toward the door to Said’s office. She said, “He’s much too busy. Like I said, come back next week.” Kane unzipped his jacket and reached inside with his right hand. He came out with the Glock. “I’m not coming back. Get off your ass. Let’s go see Ghadir.” Her eyes widened with fear. “Don’t hurt me. I’ll do whatever you say.” “Then get up, Maizie, and let’s go in and see the acting president.” Her voice trembled as she asked, “How do you know my name?” “Don’t worry about it. I know all about you and this place. Now, get a move on.” Maizie stood and opened the door to the inner office. Kane pushed her through and saw Ghadir at the desk. His back was to them as he sat playing solitaire on the computer. He turned and saw Kane and the gun. He stood shakily and said, “What is this? We don’t keep money here. It’s not that kind of bank.” Kane said, “I know what this bank does, asshole. Come out from behind that desk. And you, Maizie, sit down in one of these side chairs. Now!” Kane tossed the roll of tape to Ghadir. “Strap Maizie down in that chair.” Ghadir said, “Look, man, I don’t know what you think you are doing here, but you are dealing with something that will get you into very big trouble. Powerful people own this bank. You should leave now before you really screw up.”

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Kane’s hand shook slightly as he waved the Glock at Ghadir, indicating he should move out from the desk. “Get around here, you Jihad motherfucker, and do as I say. If you think you can perform better with a bullet in your kneecap, then keep fucking with me.” The Iranian hesitated only a moment, then reluctantly came around and began taping his receptionist to the chair. She moaned a plaintiff, “Oh, dear God, he’s going to kill us.” Kane said sternly, “I might if you don’t shut up. Put a strip of tape over her mouth while you’re at it.” When she was secured, the acting president stood and glared at Able. Kane said, “Now take me into the computer room. Is anyone else in there?” “No.” “Let’s go.” Across the hall, Ghadir took a set of keys from his pocket and opened the door. An IBM z800 server was against the wall, with a heavy duty printer cabled to it. Inside, Kane instructed him to load the printer with continuous paper. “I want a run of all your open accounts, with six month history on each one.” It began to dawn on Ghadir that this was not a bank robbery, but actually could be something much worse. He said, “What do you want this information for? It would be of no use to you, I’m sure.” Kane smiled enigmatically. “You know why I want it. I want it to fuck up your cellular structure, asshole.” “I can’t do it. I don’t have the pass code to be able to run what you want.”

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Kane took careful aim and shot Ghadir just above the right knee. It doubled him over, screaming in pain. “You shot me! In the name of Allah, please don’t do that again. Oh, it hurts like hell.” “About that code. Do you happen to recall what it is now?” “Yes. Please, I will do what you ask. Don’t kill me.” “Then get busy.” Holding his knee, he hobbled to the printer and loaded it. He pulled the keyboard to the edge of the small workstation and entered a series of commands. The printer clicked, then began chunking out a long stream of information, the paper folding upon itself in a neat stack. In two minutes, it stopped . Able Kane walked over to the printer and tore off the report. He picked up the mound of data and put in his small valise. Ghadir sniveled, “Now, for God’s sake, will you leave?” “Not quite yet. I want the file folders on all the individuals or companies this bank does business with.” The wounded man, bent slightly to hold his bleeding leg, said, “And then will you leave?” “Of course.” Ghadir hobbled to the other side of the room, moaning loudly. He opened a file drawer marked ‘Active’. “Help yourself.” “Go back to the computer where I can keep an eye on you.” Ghadir did as he was ordered. Kane rifled through the files, then lifted them out in large handfuls and placed them in the luggage. There were twenty-eight

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folders in all. He zipped the top on the bag and put it upright on the floor, with its handle extended. He went to where his captive stood. “Turn around.” When he had done so, Kane shot him in the back of the head. After he fell to the floor, he shot him twice more in the torso. The violent act he had just committed, his first murder ever, almost brought him to his knees. He thought he would vomit right there, but steeled himself. Pulling the suitcase behind him, he went across the hall into the president’s office. Maizie stared at him with terrified eyes. He knew he should kill her also, but he found it was more than he could do. Ghadir had been the first person he had ever shot, and he wasn’t ready to do it again, at least not to someone who didn’t deserve it. He said to her, “Listen to me as if your life depends upon it, because it does. I’m going to let you go. When the police question you, tell them I wore a mask and you wouldn’t be able to identify me. If you don’t, if you tell them anything about me, I will find you and kill you. I know where you live. I know who your family is. I’ll kill them all. Do you fucking understand me?” The part about his knowledge of her family was a lie, but he thought if she believed him she would probably do as he demanded. She nodded her head in the affirmative. He removed the tape that bound her, and ripped the piece from her mouth. “Don’t do anything for thirty minutes. Then call the police and tell them what happened. Tell them I was looking for money, and

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that I got mad when there wasn’t any. If you do anything other than what I have just told you to do, you will be as dead as your friend in the next room is.” He backed out of the room, picked up the suitcase and took the stairs down to the street in the same manner as he had on arrival, two at a time. Outside, he began to tremble uncontrollably. He sat down on the upended luggage. His mouth was dry and began to fill with saliva. He fought off a rolling wave of nausea, then stood and grabbed up the bag and scurried down Broad toward the subway station. When Maizie heard the door below slam, she got up and went across to the computer room. She took in the disaster at a glance. Ghadir was obviously dead. The open file drawer told its own story. She went to the receptionist area, locking the door behind her. Back at her desk she picked up the phone. She hit the speed dial and waited for an answer. When someone came on the line she said, “Seyed Mahmood, please. Tell him it is Darya Saleh. I must speak to him at once. It is urgent.”

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The side road to the shore at Dead Man’s Reef was short, only a quarter mile. It was used infrequently by locals who went there to swim and fish. There was indeed a reef there, but no dead man, at least not yet. Thick on both sides with Caribbean pine trees and low palmetto brush, it was secluded for the most part from the nearby highway. Just short of the narrow beach, I pulled the car off onto the shoulder. “Let’s get out here, Alfred. It’s just a short walk to the spot.” We both opened our doors and stepped out onto the soft sand. I said, “We need to go through these trees. It’s only about a hundred yards.” I took off with Alfred in tow. In a small clearing I stopped and bent over to retrieve the Glock from its place on my leg. As I withdrew it, I pointed it in his direction and said, “This is the end of the trail, Alfred Said.” His face registered puzzlement and then shock. “What is this? What are you doing? I don’t understand.” “Sit down, Alfred, and I’ll explain it to you.” He didn’t move. He was so confused that he was unable to react rationally. In actuality, in spite of his former protestations to the contrary, he was a soft man, unused to any rough talk or violent activity. He began to tremble and I said, “Sit down, damn you. Now!” Said slumped to the ground, shaking his head in disbelief. “You’re not George Lampson, are you?”

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“No, I’m not. And you’re not a simple banker, either.” I took a baggie from my pocket and unzipped it. I removed the folded sheet of paper it contained. I handed it to him. He took it with a quivering hand. I ordered, “Look at it. Do you recognize any of the names there?” He studied the sheet and finally shook his head in the negative. “No, I don’t know who these people are.” “You should, you twisted Muslim son of a bitch. You were instrumental in the murder of every one of them. They are the people your bomber friend killed at the Brown Center in Houston.” His voice was shaking as he said, “I don’t know what you are talking about. I have no bomber friend. I really am just a banker.” “Bullshit, Alfred. I’ve seen absolute proof that you were financing the operation in Texas. The bomber was careless. He left an envelope from the Banco J. G. de Honduras in his van when he made his escape. Forensics revealed your fingerprints on it. We also have photos of you and Seyed Mahmood schmoozing on the steps of a mosque in Brooklyn.” He sat silently. I asked, “What’s the matter, Alfred, cat got your tongue?” He asked, “Who are you? Are you F.B.I.? Are you going to arrest me?” I answered, “If I were going to arrest you, why would I bring you all the way to the Bahamas to do it? Just to disappoint you about the sailing trip? Would I be so cruel? The reason we are here, of course, is because it would be easier to kill you in the Bahamas than some place in the U.S. If I decide to do that. Maybe yes, maybe no.”

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That shut him up. He was out of questions because it was becoming obvious to him what the principal purpose of the trip actually was. “Tell me the name of the bomber.” “I can’t. I don’t know it.” “You sent him thousands of dollars and you don’t even know his fucking name? You’re lying.” “I’m not. The network is set up so that no one knows anyone else. Yes, I send money. That is my job. But I don’t know the true identity of the recipients. I swear it.” This made some degree of sense to me. I already knew they had a rule to operate independently. “The big question is why do you do these things? What makes you do it? Do you hate America? Do you hate Jews? Are you a Muslim fanatic? Was your mommy mean to you when you were a kid? What drives you, Alfred? Tell me the real reason.” A long silence. Then, almost ashamedly, he said, “At first, it was the power I had. And yes, to kill Jews. Then it became the money and the prestige. Now, it’s mostly for the money.” I nodded to myself. This I understood. This placed him in the same general category with all my former hits. He was an ordinary, garden variety murderer. He said, “I can tell you where I send the money. If I do that will you let me live?” I put on a happy face. “Perhaps. Yes, I might do that.”

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He didn’t hem-haw around. “I have a small notebook in my pocket. If you allow me to get it, I will write down the names and places.” “Go ahead.” I didn’t tell him that at the same time he was making his list, Able Kane was getting the same information at the bank. I wanted Alfred’s listing just in case, as a backup. When he was through, he proffered the small sheet of paper to me. I took it and pointed the Glock at his forehead. “Is this list totally accurate? Do you swear on the head of Mohammed?” “Yes, I swear it.” “Good. Then you will not die…” He breathed a heavy sigh of relief. I finished my sentence. “…with a lie on your foul lips, you murderous bastard.” I shot him between the eyes. He began to fall forward and I pushed him back. He fell on his side. I fired another round, this one in his ear. I picked up the sheet of paper with the Houston victims’ names and replaced it in the baggie. I pushed it into his shirt pocket. I policed my brass and went back to the rental car. On my way back to the airport, I said out loud to myself, “Crusader one, Islamic fascist zero.” I hummed a few bars of “Onward Christian Soldiers.”

E-mail the author: mcdougal8@verizon.net

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Kane called Don Grant when he got off the subway at the 68th Street station. “I’ve got a bag full of hot stuff. I got a six month computer history on all the cells being supplied by the bank, plus active files on who the bastards are. There are twenty-eight of them. The only thing missing is what they might be planning.” On his end of the connection Grant made the sign of the cross and mouthed a silent, “Thank you, Jesus.” He asked, “Was there any trouble? How long before an all points bulletin goes out on you?” “Don’t worry. I took care of that.” “How did you take care of that, Able?” Kane’s voice rose. “I said I took care of it. Now what do you want me to do?” Grant paused before answering. He said, “I’m sorry, Able. That was really great work, but you need to get a grip. You sound like you’re dancing awfully close to the edge.” “Yeah, yeah. I know. So what the hell should I do next?” “Get on the first flight you can and bring that material to me. This may be the biggest Goddam break we’ve ever had.” Kane asked, “How about the Judge? Have you heard from him yet?” “Don’t worry about him. He can take care of himself. Just get here as quickly as you can.”

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“Okay. I’ll see you later tonight.” Kane hung up and hailed a cab. He said to the driver, “La Guardia. American Airlines.” Grant held the phone absentmindedly, then realized he still had not replaced it in its cradle. After hanging up, he drummed his fingers on his desk, deep in thought. Then he tapped the speed dial on his phone. When the person on the other end of the line answered, he filled him in on what had transpired. Finally he said, “I’m going to bring in some help to analyze what we’ve got. Goebbels and his wife are in Toronto, too deeply involved in the operation up there to get away any time soon. Les Bladen and his crew are only three days away from dropping the hammer in Los Angeles. I can’t pull them out now.” He checked his watch. “The Judge should be calling in soon. When he does, I’m going to divert him to Dallas. This means I’ll have to move Travis up a notch in the organization. I know that after the meeting in New York, we had decided to renege on our promise to let Travis see the files, but the situation has changed. I’m going to have to let him see them. I need help, and I need it fast. After all, three heads are better than two. And we’ve got to admit, Duncan Travis is smart as hell.” He listened for a moment, then said, “I understand it’s my ass. I’ll keep you in the loop.” He hung up Grant was seized by an almost overwhelming worry that the whole organization was careening off in a new direction and that he was close to becoming an engineer on a runaway train. With a heavy sigh, he glanced at the calendar. He grimaced. He said aloud, “Looks like I’m going to miss another

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Thanksgiving at home. No way can we do what we need to do in the next three days.”

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I called Don Grant’s cell number when I deplaned in Lauderdale. He picked up on the first ring. “Deposit my money, Don. It’s over.” “Difficult?” “No, I’ve had much worse. I got him to give me a list of recipients of the bank’s money. I asked for it in case Kane wasn’t successful.” “That’s good, but Able did extremely well. He has a goldmine of info. He’s on his way to Dallas as we speak, and I want you to come over as well. Duncan, I need your help in sifting through what he’s bringing. I’m hoping we’ll be able to use the intel to bag a bunch of these assholes. As soon as I can, I’m going to turn our organization in that direction. I’ve already made a reservation for you at the same Holiday Inn in Richardson where we met before. Kane and I will be there also. Ask for me when you check in.” I agreed to the meeting. “I’ll get there as soon as I can.” I hung up and went to one of the airport bars. I ordered a scotch and let my mild paranoia kick in. If Grant is on the level, I thought, he is moving me close in to the inner circle, or whatever their structure calls the leadership. If he is not, then he could be setting me up. I would be toast, he would be a half million bucks ahead and some other poor sucker would get recruited. On the other hand, if he is genuinely asking for my assistance, then I might have a chance to add some really dirty scumbags to my tally. I’d like that. But I felt like a wary mouse that’s checking out the cheese on a

THE HOBBY/McDougal little wooden platform. If this sounds like vacillation of the highest order, you’re

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right. I know what you’re thinking. How can someone who has done all the things I have done be so wishy-washy? Well, I’m human, just like you. And I’ve avoided a lot of pitfalls by dithering at the right time. Any more questions? I finished my drink and called Bitsy. I filled her in on the event in the Bahamas and the invitation to the meeting in Dallas. “I’ve decided to go. I’ve also made up my mind to bail out at the first opportunity. Here’s what I want you to do. Get out of L.A. as fast as you can. Fly to Panama on the first flight you can book. Go to the Gamboa Rain Forest Lodge. It’s about twenty miles inland from Balboa, at the confluence of the canal and the Chagres River. It’s a luxury resort, so you’ll be comfortable there. It’s not one of those tree house hotels. Wait for me there. I’ll get there as soon as I can. Check in under your real name. I’m not sure if they check passports or not. In the meantime I’ll clean out our accounts. I love you. Bitsy.” “Oh, I love you too, Duncan. Please, please be careful.” “I will. I’ll see you soon. Have fun in Panama.” “Of course I will. ’Til then.”

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THE HOBBY/McDougal Chapter Fifty

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Disgrace washed over Seyed Mahmood like the effluent from a backed up septic tank. He paced back and forth in his office at the Iranian U.N. Mission, trying desperately to put together an acceptable explanation of the disaster at Banco J. G. de Honduras. When Darya, his inside woman at the bank had called him an hour ago, his heart had nearly stopped. He had asked, “Where in the hell is Alfred Said?” She replied, “He has gone on a sailing trip to the Bahamas.” “At the very same time we are attacked by… whoever the man was. What a God damned coincidence. Who do you think he was, Darya?” “I’m guessing CIA. But that’s just a guess. Worse, I tried to call the number of the man Alfred went with. It’s disconnected. I fear Alfred is in big trouble, if he’s still alive.” “Oh, my God, this is a catastrophe. I’m ruined. They have…they have everything.” Darya said, “For all the good it’ll do now, I’m going to delete all the computer files and then get out of here. Before I leave, I will fax to you the latest contact numbers and e-mail addresses I have for all of our cell leaders, in the event that your files are not up to date. Good luck with Minister Jarsan.” She disconnected from Mahmood. Though Said was never aware she possessed it, she had the combination to the safe which was hidden behind the Buttersworth painting in the president’s office. He had been careless about leaving things like that laying about. She opened

THE HOBBY/McDougal the safe and removed the cash it contained. She quickly estimated the total to be

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about three hundred thousand. She knew he had been skimming, but it was unusual for him to let this much accumulate before moving it out of the bank. She smiled as she thought, perhaps he was planning an unannounced escape from the domineering Ghodsi. She then removed the Buttersworth painting from its frame. She used a metal letter opener to remove the tacks holding the artwork to its stretcher. After rolling the canvas up, she secured it with a couple of rubber bands. She knew from research that it could bring as much as a quarter million at auction. She said a quick prayer aloud, “Praise Allah for providing me such a nice severance package.” At the Iranian Mission, Mahmood’s secretary knocked on his door and then entered without waiting to be invited. She laid a fax from the bank on his desk and waited for instructions. He scribbled a note and handed it to her. “Send this to everyone on the list. Do it at once.” She read the message. “Stand down. Cease operations immediately. You have been compromised. Contact this office in six months. Mahmood.” “Please close the door as you leave. Oh, and call Ghodsi Said and tell her that it appears that her husband may not return from his trip to the Bahamas. It might be appropriate for her to plan a quick visit to Iran. ” When the secretary left, he opened his desk drawer and removed a revolver. He sensed the oily sharp metallic taste of the barrel as he placed it in his mouth. It was the last sensation he would ever feel. E-mail the author: mcdougal8@verizon.net

THE HOBBY/McDougal Chapter Fifty-one

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When I arrived, Kane and Grant were already hard at work, trying to prioritize the files. Kane stood and shook my hand. “So, how did it go down there, Judge?” “About the way I expected.” I gave him the details of the job. “And the capper was that when I forced him to tell me why he was doing what he was doing he said that in the final analysis, it was for the money. Thousands dead…for the damned money.” I forced the anger from my voice and asked Kane, “And now, how did the bank job go?” He filled me in, omitting nothing. “I suppose I should have taken Maizie out as well, but to be honest, I didn’t have the stomach for it. I’m convinced Ghadir was in as deep as Alfred Said. He had to go.” Grant waved me to take a seat. “Judge, you’ll never catch me second guessing either one of you. I might have done some things a bit differently, but I wasn’t there, was I? Right now we’ve got a lot to do and maybe not much time in which to do it. I understand that bringing you in on this alters our agreement to a large extent. I’m hoping you’ll assist in this investigation. If you do, then as of now I’ll consider you a volunteer, and no longer a conscript.” “And that means exactly what?” “That you’re free to go any time you wish.” I stared at the table and the mound of files, rubbing the back of my neck with my hand. I looked Grant squarely in the eyes. At this point it seemed he was

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relying on my patriotism. And I didn’t think he was double dealing. I extended my hand. He took it and I said, “I’m in. Let’s deal the cards.” He looked relieved as he began his instructions. “We are looking at each cell operation with three things in mind. First, what possible target might exist close to their setup. Second, since money is so important to eventual success, who is getting the most. And finally, do we have a line on any of the principal actors in the Bureau files. We are jotting down names that appear in these records. Tomorrow, I’ll run them through the database at the Bureau. Here’s a stack for you to work on.” I said, “Okay, but is it just going to be the three of us? How about calling in some help?” Grant leaned back in his chair and clasped his hands behind his head. He stared at me for a long time before he said, with an almost sheepish shrug, “I’m afraid our organization is not quite the grandiose group I had hinted that it is. There’s Les Bladen who really can’t be here, and there are the Goebbels, whom you met. The Krauts are part-timers and I don’t want them in on this. They’re busy in Canada anyway. Then there is our financier, and me and Kane. That’s about it.” I laughed out loud. “Hmm. Some big fucking cabal, Don.” I asked seriously then, “Which brings up another question. This info is volatile as hell. Why don’t we turn it over to the Bureau boys and let them pour on the manpower?” “By the time we got through explaining how we came by all of this, most of the rats in these files would have slipped down the nearest hole. You can bet your ass that each of them has been notified that they may have been compromised. And

THE HOBBY/McDougal anyway, I really don’t want to have to make any explanations to the brass at the Hoover Building. You know why, don’t you.”

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“Yeah, you don’t like the idea of spending time at Leavenworth any more than I do. And they would get their panties all twisted trying to work it by the book. Well, let’s get to work.” I thought Grant’s assessment of the data Kane had procured was on the mark. It was a treasure trove of information that could possibly set the American Islamic Jihadists back for months, maybe years. As we worked, we were sharing a road atlas. I made copious notes as I examined my stack of files. None of them jumped out at me as being a prime candidate. They either had no obvious targets, or were practically inactive. After a couple of hours had gone by, I was through with my first pass. “Sorry, guys. These are probably real assholes, but it doesn’t look to me as though they are about to pull another 9/11.” Grant said, “I may have one here. Let me see that map book for a minute.” He flipped it open to the North Carolina page. “Southport. Where in hell is Southport?” He cross indexed the location and examined it closely. He made a sharp intake of breath as he said, “Oh, my God, it’s about four miles south of a place designated as the Sunny Point Military Terminal. I’m not sure what that is, but it doesn’t sound good.” I asked, “What else?”

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“Well, for starters, Said has sent them nearly three hundred thousand dollars in four months. There are also four photocopies of encrypted messages in the jacket. I can’t tell who sent them or to whom they went. But apparently someone at the bank wanted to keep copies. One of them has a handwritten note on the bottom. It says. ‘up country demille hard copy first printing.’” “I know that reference. Up Country is a Nelson DeMille book. A helluva good one, I might add.” Grant said, “Okay, then these messages may be in a book code using Up Country as the key. Judge, do you still have your copy?” “Yes, but it wouldn’t help. It’s the paperback.” “First thing in the morning, we’ll hit the book stores and find the right edition. In the meantime, let’s see what we can find on the internet about the Sunny Point Military Terminal.” Thirty seconds later Grant’s laptop had the story. He said, “Let me read it to you. The Sunny Point facility is on a 16,000-acre, Army-owned site. The facility is the key ammunition shipping point on the Atlantic Coast for the Department of Defense. The Sunny Point installation, located along N.C. Highway 133, was built with a large undeveloped buffer zone and huge sand berms for safety. It’s the largest ammunition port in the nation, and the Army's primary east coast deepwater port. Military Ocean Terminal (MOT), Sunny Point, North Carolina, is the Department of Defense's key Atlantic Coast ammunition shipping point. It provides worldwide trans-shipment of DOD ammunition, explosives, and other dangerous cargo. Sunny Point is the military ocean terminal in North Carolina where

THE HOBBY/McDougal munitions are brought in by truck or train and loaded aboard ships bound for Europe. Kane said, “That’s it. But wouldn’t it take a small army to storm that place?” I said, “It would appear so. But maybe they have exactly that - - a small army.”

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We each sat quietly, waiting for a brainstorm to hit. It didn’t. Finally, Grant said, “I’m going to call the pentagon and tell them we’ve picked up some chatter that indicates there might be an attack at Sunny Point. I’ll recommend they go on alert status. If they want details, I’ll tell them I’ll have to get back to them. They are used to a certain degree of obfuscation by Bureau people. In the meantime, let’s get some shuteye.” I nodded in agreement. I said to Kane, “In the a.m., I’ll hit Barnes and Noble. You check out Borders” Kane looked at Grant. “Can I put the book on my expense account?” Before Don could jump down his throat, Able laughed quite loudly. So did I. Then so did Grant. We hooted until tears came to our eyes. I remembered the last time I had laughed like that. It was somewhere in the la Drang Valley. My squad was laughing then because incredibly we were still, by God, alive.

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THE HOBBY/McDougal Chapter Fifty-two

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On board Cash Flow, Kahlil listened as Karim twice read aloud the e-mail from Mahmood. His leader ranted loudly, “What in the hell were those fools doing? T-Day is only three days off. And what does it mean, ‘You have been compromised?’ How? And by whom?” He slammed his fist against a bulkhead. Kahlil shrugged. “Why don’t you call them and ask?” “No, I don’t think so. I say they can go to hell. If they are so chicken hearted that they would fold their tents at the slightest setback, then I say fuck them.” Kahlil said, “With all due respect, Boss, that doesn’t make sense. It would be better to find out what’s going on. If it’s really bad news, we can live to fight again. If it’s bullshit as you think, then we can move forward. Give Mahmood a call.” Karim weighed the advisability of calling New York. Finally, he snapped open his cell phone and hit the speed dial for the Iranian Mission. “Seyed Mahmood, please.” “I’m sorry, but Mr. Mahmood can not come to the phone.” Karim’s voice became angry. “God damn it, I want to speak to Mahmood immediately. This is Karim al-Hadji.” “One moment.” A few seconds later, a man came on the line. “Is this Karim al-Hadji?” “Yes. Give me Mahmood.” “I can’t do that. He’s dead.”

THE HOBBY/McDougal A pause. “Dead? How?” “He apparently shot himself.” Another long, long pause. The man at the Mission asked, “Did you get his message?” “Yes” “Then do as he instructed. Goodbye.” The line clicked off. Kahlil asked nervously, “What did they say?” Karim put his hands along side his temples and smoothed his hair back.

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“Mahmood has committed suicide. I would interpret that as really bad news. Very bad indeed.” “So we bug out?” Karim asked, “Bug out? That is an idiom I am unfamiliar with. What does it mean, bug out?” “Retreat. Get the hell out of here while we can.” “I realize we are flying in the blind, Kahlil. We don’t know who knows what. But we are so close to a big success. Can’t you taste it in your mouth, the sweetness of it, the glory of it? I don’t believe the Americans can get a force together in time to disrupt the attack. Here’s what I think we should do. I’m going to contact the Ocean Star. She should be three days south of here. If she has not been diverted from picking us up, I’m going to proceed.” He cast a stern look at Kahlil. “Are you with me?” “Yes, Boss, against all the better judgment I can muster, yes. I’m with you. And by the way, what shall we tell the men? Do you think we can trust them to stay if they know the truth?”

THE HOBBY/McDougal “They came here thinking they might achieve martyrdom. This doesn’t change that. They still might be screwing virgins before Thursday’s sunset. However, I think it might be unwise to tell them everything we know, unless we absolutely have to.” “Okay, you’re the boss, Boss. One thing for sure, you had better get our

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small army to use their prayer mats as much as possible. I know I’m going to wear knee holes in mine.”

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THE HOBBY/McDougal Chapter Fifty-three

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I found their last three copies of Up Country within minutes of entering Barnes and Noble. The checkout clerk commented that I must be a real fan of Nelson DeMille. I said, “Isn’t everyone?” On the way out to my rental car, I called Grant who in turn alerted Kane. My next stop was my bank. I talked with Walter Gottfried, the man I had dealt with there for the last ten years. The first thing I asked him to check on was the half million deposit from Grant’s group. That amount had been deposited overnight from a corporation called Elimination, Incorporated. Not very damned subtle. I gave Walter specific instructions regarding closing my accounts and converting my certificates of deposit to cash. I gave him the routing instructions to the bank in the Caymans. He promised to clean out the accounts before the day was over. He was the consummate banker and even though he must have been eaten up with curiosity, he didn’t ask any questions. And I didn’t offer any explanation. By nightfall, a tad over three million would be on its way. We were all back in the hotel room by ten-thirty. By eleven-thirty, we had deciphered enough to realize that something damned bad was about to take place in two days in North Carolina. I had ordered coffee from room service. As I poured for the three of us, Grant slapped closed his copy of the book and said, “I think that Sunny Point is a red herring, either deliberate or not. I am almost positive they intend to do something on Bald head Island. I don’t have a clue as to why they picked that place.

THE HOBBY/McDougal I’ve never even heard of it. On the map it’s just across the Cape Fear River from Southport. Let’s check it out.”

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Grant Googled Bald Head Island and a wealth of information came over the ether. Grant read, “On Thanksgiving Day, Bald Head Island will play host to several thousand visitors at the the First Annual Bald Head Island Fish Fry Festival.” He looked at me with an unspoken question on his face. I looked at Kane the same way. Kane asked, “Do you have to be bald to go there?” I couldn’t help grinning as I shook my head. “Able, I had a pal with a sense of humor like yours when I was in the army. Off the wall about half the time.” Able asked, “Yeah? What’s he doing now?” “Nothing. He’s still there. We never found enough of him to ship home.” “And the moral of the story is?” “No moral. Just a comment. I always thought that Jack let his good nature distract him at times when the circumstances were deadly serious. I wouldn’t want you to change, except that you might be a bit more focused, at least when my welfare depends on you being on the ball.” “Good advice, I guess. Not much different from the guidance I used to get from my mom. Now, you be serious, boy, you hear me? I’m working on not being a total wise ass.” “Your mom is the best friend you will ever have, Buddy. It would be a hell of a good idea if you concentrate on what she told you. And I mean, really think hard about it.”

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Kane contemplated his folded hands. He was indeed thinking hard about it. I knew I had probably come across as slightly chicken shit and domineering, but I wanted Kane to concentrate. Hard, and a lot. Grant dragged us back to the subject at hand when he said, “I think you two ought to go there, and the quicker, the better. I’ll get you into the Wilmington International Airport on a flight this afternoon. Wilmington is only about forty miles from Southport. I’ll put you aboard with Air Marshal’s credentials. You’ll be able to carry a small arsenal on board without any hassle. But this is strictly voluntary. Do I see any raised hands?” In spite of the old military maxim that I had always lived by in ‘Nam, never to volunteer for anything, I raised my hand, as did Kane. He glanced at me and said, “This doesn’t say much for our I.Q.’s, does it?” I said, “There you go again. And no, I guess it doesn’t.” Our meeting was interrupted by the telephone. Grant answered. His usually serious face took on the hint of a smile. When he hung up he said, “That was a friend. He just got word that Seyed Mahmood has eaten his gun. You guys have knocked over a big domino.” I observed, “My, my, isn’t that too damned bad. Since the Koran forbids suicide which does not lead to martyrdom, it is fair to assume that Seyed Mahmood missed the boat to paradise when he pulled the trigger. And now pity his personal allotment of the virgin population in the after life who must forever get by with no Mahmood lovin’. For their sake, let’s hope they’re all lesbians.” Kane said through his laughter, “Judge, now who’s being funny?”

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Grant said, single mindedly as usual, “Yeah, good one, Judge, but I’ve got one last thing. At the airport, I’m going to give each of you a pair of binoculars and confiscated MAC10 .45 caliber submachine guns with three loaded 32-round magazines. I don’t know what the terrorists will be packing, but it can’t be any better than what you will have. And remember, no warning shots. If you find them, kill them before they know what’s going on.” Kane smiled again. “Just your style, Judge.” I answered without a smile. “Don’t get in my way.”

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THE HOBBY/McDougal Chapter Fifty-four

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The Ocean Star was a rusty tub of a freighter of Panamanian registry. She was owned by World Shipping, a Saudi firm. On her present course she would be close by Frying Pan Shoals on Thanksgiving Day. Her cargo was edible oils and cereal grains from Argentina. Her ultimate destination was the Iranian port of Bandar-e ‘Abbas on the Strait of Hormuz, midway between Pakistan and Kuwait. This was not Captain Abdul Rashid’s favorite port of call. The harbor was ill sheltered and quite shallow. When he had to go there it was usually necessary to offload his cargo onto barges some kilometers out. However, his orders were to go there this time because of certain passengers who had been ordered to debark there. They were not on board as yet, but would be soon. He was operating under a directive from the Institute for Political and International Studies in Tehran. He knew quite well who those people were and he was not about to argue with an order from them. His current problem was trying to explain to his First Mate why they were proceeding at only three knots when they normally cruised at eleven. Regular speed would put them past the proposed pickup point in one day instead of two. And if he got there early and had to heave to, it might attract the attention of the U.S. Coast Guard. He had nearly thirty years of sea duty, long enough to be attuned to any sound from the hull that might be a harbinger of trouble. He noticed an almost imperceptible shudder as the ship pushed through the Atlantic swells, which was not normal for the Ocean Star. It could be caused by any number of things, but his

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years of experience led him to believe one of the screw’s shafts had twisted slightly out of alignment. If that were the case, it would be a risky and very slow Atlantic crossing unless they put into Norfolk for repairs. That could be real trouble if the men he was going to take aboard didn’t like it. Well, he thought, I’ll fuck that camel when I come to it. Jorash, his steward, brought him his morning coffee and a radiogram. The coffee was good, but the message was sour. Proceeding as scheduled. Pickup at 78º W 33.5º N 1700 Hrs. 25th. Confirm rendezvous. Captain Rashid frowned. He said to Jorash, “Get off a reply to the sender, confirming that we will be there on the 25th. And tell him they better be on time, because I’m not waiting.”

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THE HOBBY/McDougal Chapter Fifty-five

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The flight from Dallas to Wilmington, North Carolina, was uneventful. Nothing occurred that would call for the services of two intrepid Air Marshals. We rented a car at the airport and headed south. It was unusually warm and muggy for late November. We passed field after field of stripped cotton plants, the occasional missed white boll standing starkly against the brown landscape. As I drove, Kane said, “I assume you have some sort of a plan for us. How about sharing it. Or do you want to hear my plan first?” “Sure. What’s your idea? It couldn’t be worse than the one I’ve been kicking around in my head.” “I would like to know what we’re up against before we charge in, guns blazing. We don’t know where these guys sleep at night, unless it’s at the business address, which I doubt. We do have the address of All-Sports Distribution. I suggest we slip in there late tonight and case the place.” “Great minds in sync. That’s pretty much what I’ve been thinking. I’m not really good at breaking and entering. Have you had any experience in that area? He laughed. “Are you kidding, Judge? That’s how I got my juvenile record. I’m a whiz. Trust me.” “If you were caught in a B&E. you couldn’t have been too great.” “I got better. Practice makes perfect. You ought to know that, Judge.” He had a point. Kane turned on the car radio. “How about some music?”

THE HOBBY/McDougal “Okay. No rap.” “Did you say no crap?” “Same difference.”

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“Judge, there’s a lot you still don’t know about me. Why would you think I like rap”? I hesitated a long time. “All right. You got me. My bad.” “Sure it is. So you’ll know, I think rap isn’t music. It’s noise, and damned bad noise at that. Duke Ellington made great music, So did the Beatles and Mozart and Cole Porter and Gershwin. The point is, don’t misjudge me. Now, or when the chips are down.” “I won’t … pal.” He tuned in a rap station and we both laughed like hell. He settled on oldies from the fifties. In Southport, we checked into the Hampton Inn. The clerk gave us a city map. The hotel’s location was about three miles from our target. We decided to rest until two in the morning and then move in and check it out. At two, Kane shook me awake. He said, “I couldn’t sleep. Don’t you ever worry about anything, Judge? You’ve been snoozing like a baby.” “Not a baby, Able. Like a man with a clear conscience. And yes, I worry all the time. Doesn’t do a hell of a lot of good, but I enjoy anxiety so much I can’t give it up. Just call it a self defense mechanism.” I put the MAC10’s into a small bag and carried it out to the car. A heavy dew had soaked the sedan. Kane went back inside the hotel lobby and got the night

THE HOBBY/McDougal clerk to give him a handful of paper towels. When he returned, he wiped off the

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windows and the outside rearview mirrors. While he was getting that chore done, I took out my Swiss pocket knife and dismantled all the interior lights in the Chevy. There’s nothing more embarrassing than sitting in a spotlight when you are trying to sneak up on bad guys. Kane took the wheel. The drive didn’t take long. All-Sports Distribution was located in an old mixed use neighborhood near the river, with small warehouses butting up against rundown apartments and a plethora of frame shacks. The only large structure in the area was a municipal clinic, three blocks away. A single light on an old crooked neck holder hung above the pedestrian door at All-Sports. We parked out of the glow of the cone shaped lamp and examined the building carefully. Fog was swirling through the light, creating an eerie atmosphere straight out of a film noir. Kane said, “I’ll slip around back and see if there is any other way into the place besides the front door. Honk the horn if you see trouble, or if you love Jesus.” He grabbed his weapon and took off down the near side of the building. I lost him in the pea soup until three minutes later when he appeared from the right side of the structure. He moved close to the door and reached into his pocket. He came out with a handful of large pieces of gravel. He swung his arm back and threw the stones underhanded at the light. There was a small sputtery flash when it went out like…well, like a light. I could barely make out his form as he beckoned me to come on.

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I picked up my weapon and joined him outside the pedestrian door. He used his small pocket flashlight to examine the entrance, shining it between the door and the jamb all the way around. He clicked off the flash and said in a whisper, “This place is wired. I don’t believe we can get in without setting off an alarm. One of three things will probably happen then. A loud alarm may sound. Or a silent alarm might summon the police. I doubt that will happen because surely these guys don’t want the cops here under any circumstances. The last possibility and the most probable is that it will set off an alarm where those assholes are sleeping. If that’s the case, we’ll have to be in and out of there in one bigass hurry. Or in the alternative, try and shoot it out with them in the dark. I don’t think that’s a good idea.” I retrieved my flashlight from my pocket and said, “Get us in.” Kane proved his pedigree as a B&E man was genuine. He fished out a steel jackknife with an assortment of wires, half-keys and lock-picking tools. There were two locks, one in the knob and a dead bolt just above that. In less than a minute of jiggling, the door swung open. I could see a small electronic box with a blinking red light just to the right of the entrance. Kane said, “Don’t worry about that. It’s already done its work.” We entered and moved the beams of our lights around the room. The only things in there were six electric-powered four-wheelers, all plugged into chargers, and three empty wooden crates. The ATV’s appeared to be new, with bright yellow paint. On the front of each was a steel box which did not seem to be part of the original. Welded into place, the attached section had scorched and discolored the

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paint job where it attached to the body. A hinged lid topped each cube. I lifted one and shone my beam inside. There was a Tek-9 machine pistol and a large number of magazines. Moving to the next machine I repeated the process with the same results. Kane was working from the other end of the line, performing the same maneuver, I looked over at him and said, “They have enough fire power to kill half the town. But no explosives. Forget about Sunny Point. They would need a mortar or satchel charges or even a bazooka to blow up an ammo dump. These ATV’s are murder machines, meant to transport the bastards into a crowd somewhere.” Able said quickly, “Let’s grab the guns and get the hell out of here.” “No, that would only tip them off that we’re wise to them. They probably have more where they’re staying, and if they don’t, they’ll be able to get replacements overnight from the same place these came from. Let’s high tail it back to the car and see if someone shows up.” Kane said, “I think you’re wrong about the guns, but we don’t have time to argue about it. Let’s get the hell out.” We exited. Kane shut the door and said, “Hold your light on the locks. I’m going to pick them back into a locked position. They might think the alarm malfunctioned.” “Alright, but for God’s sake, hurry.” He clicked, clicked, clicked until the door was again secure. “Let’s go.” We barely made it back to the Chevy before a van pulled into the far end of the street. It slow-dragged past the warehouse, then drove past us. We had crouched

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down to avoid being seen. The truck went a few feet farther, then did a u-turn and drove back to the building. A figure in dark clothing got out of the van and went to the pedestrian door. I could see him looking up at the lamp before he took out his keys and unlocked the door. He went inside and in a few seconds a shaft of light from the open portal cut its way through the mist. My nerves were fraying by the minute. It had been years since I had felt real bowel-moving nervousness, but at that moment I was in the grip of an irrational dread that was enveloping me. The man in the warehouse was a terrorist who didn’t give a shit whether he lived or died. He would murder me and Kane and laugh while he was doing it. And then it hit me. He was no worse than the enemy I had faced in combat. The feeling that had me in its clutches was the same as that I had experienced when I was a short-timer in ‘Nam. The closer I had gotten to rotation day, the more I had feared facing the enemy. Back then, being within walking distance of the truck that would take me to Da Nang and the blessed plane that would carry me from evil made my deliverance all the more precious to me. And this was the same. If I survived this, I would be going home, figuratively and literally. Well, I thought, by God, I will stay alive and I will see Bitsy again. Our subject didn’t remain in the warehouse long. I had him sighted in my binoculars as he appeared again in the doorway, glancing around the area. I leaned forward as if that would bring his face closer to me. I didn’t need to. I recognized him almost immediately. I said under my breath, “Well, I’ll be a son of a bitch. I know who that bastard is. It’s the Houston bomber.”

THE HOBBY/McDougal Kane asked, “Are you sure?” “I’ve studied that scumbag’s picture a hundred times. I’m positive. It’s him.” Kane exclaimed, “Then we’ve hit the fucking jackpot. Let’s pop his ass

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right now. So what if we don’t get the other ones. They’re small fish anyway. This bastard is the King Kong of terrorism.” My mouth was about to agree, but before the words came out, Karim alHadji said something unintelligible. The back door of the van popped open and five men jumped out and filed into the building. I said, “The gang’s all here. Able, old pal, it looks as though this will be where we make our stand.” Kane nodded as he said wryly, “Correct me if I’m wrong, but weren’t those Custer’s last words?” E-mail the author: mcdougal8@verizon.net

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Karim slammed the door as Mohsen, the last man, entered. The leader lifted his hand and said, “There is bad news. The reason I rousted you out of your comfortable beds is because I believe someone may have discovered what the mission is. I don’t have any idea who they are or what they plan to do to try and stop us. I am afraid we may have lost the element of surprise, which is almost essential to the success of this operation. I am going to go ahead as we planned with a minor alteration. We must disperse tonight, with our vehicles. Try to find a place of concealment if possible. And go separately. In different areas. No one goes with another.” Karim held up a badge which he wore around his neck on a plastic cord. “This is my identification for the Bald Head Island Marina. On it is the name of the boat docked there on which we will escape after we have completed the operation. It is called Cash Flow. When we have completed our mission and are all aboard I will pilot the yacht to a rendezvous with the Ocean Star freighter off the coast at 5 p.m. the day after tomorrow, Allah willing. Tomorrow during the day make your way to the Bald Head Island ferry boat and make the crossing. Park your vehicles in designated parking at the marina and come aboard Cash Flow. We will sleep aboard her tomorrow night and then prepare ourselves for the attack. Do all of you understand?” Mohsen Sadoughi lifted his hand. “Yeah, I got it. I’m ready to kill those motherfuckers. I plan to do five hundred myself.”

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Kahlil smiled grimly. “Four hundred will do.” He pulled a sheaf of papers from his pocket. “There are two maps for each of you. One is of this town. The other is of the island. The Bald Head map shows you where to go to get to the festival. Study it carefully before you get on the ferry.”

Kane reached across the seat and grasped my shoulder. “Judge, you’ve got a set of balls. But are you sure you want to do this?” I answered, “Able, thanks for your concern, but I’m damn sure ready. It looks like we’re outnumbered six to two. We’ll have to surprise the shit out of them when they come out. We’re on a slight downhill grade here. Put the car in neutral and let it roll down until we’re directly across from the warehouse. And let go of my arm. I’m already married.” The Chevrolet moved infinitesimally at first and then gathered a little momentum. Fifteen seconds later Kane braked to a stop.

Each of the men opened the weapons box on his vehicle and stored the maps inside. Karim said, “One final thing. If you feel that Allah has not blessed you today and you want to go home, tell me now. When we leave this building it will be too late.” His eyes went from man to man. Pausing when he came to Melurnoosh, they stopped. The man was visibly shaking. His mouth was open with unspoken words.

THE HOBBY/McDougal Karim said, “What is it, Melurnoosh Hassani? You want to tell us something?” The terrorized terrorist had dreamed of glory, not danger. He started to

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shake his head and then blurted out, “Please forgive me, Karim al-Hadji. I have not the nerve for this. I…cannot do it.” The other men were stunned. Melurnoosh’s cousin, Sepehr, turned to him and slapped him hard across the face. He screamed at him, “You cowardly dog, you are shaming our family. God damn it, you have no honor.” Karim was outraged. He said, “Melurnoosh, you son of a bitch. This whole fucking operation is in danger of blowing up in our faces and you pull this craven bullshit on me.” His fists were clenched and he breathed hard. If this operation imploded, Karim al-Hadji was very unlikely to return to Iran to a hero’s welcome. There would be no parade, no colonelcy, no adulation. He produced a pistol from his pocket. “Actually, Melurnoosh, leaving is not an option. You have revealed yourself to be unworthy. I’m sorry.” He aimed the gun at the shaking man. Sepehr held up his palm. “It’s a matter of family honor, Karim al-Hadji. Give me the pistol.” Melurnoosh began to blubber and fell to his knees. “I was wrong. I can do it after all. Please don’t…” The bullet through his brain put an end to his plea. The body slumped sideways, his bloody head coming to rest on his cousin’s foot.

THE HOBBY/McDougal We could hear the shot. Kane exclaimed, “What the hell was that?” I shook my head. “Who knows? Maybe they’re having target practice.” “A little late in the game for that, I think.” I said, “Let’s get out and get ready.” I opened my car door and got out,

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taking a position behind the hood at the front of the Chevrolet. Kane took a similar position behind the trunk. I heard him retract the cocking lever on his MAC10. I repeated the action. I muttered, “Ready on the right.” Able said, “Ready on the left. Prepare to fire at will…or better yet, at Abdullah.”

Karim addressed the men. “Allah is with us in our fight against the crusader infidels. Americans will continue to attack the holy people if the infidels are not brought to their knees. Americans are weak and will beg us to leave them alone if we are successful here. They have thought that only their great cities would be assaulted. They had no dream of peaceful villages being destroyed. We will bring fear to every American. They will beg their president to leave our lands. We, this small band of freedom fighters, will drown the ambitions of the great Satan in his own blood. Allah akbar!” Each of the Muslims responded with their own shout of, “Allah akbar,” except for Mohsen Sadoughi, who shouted, “Go, motherfucker!”

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My right hand was trembling ever so slightly. I laid my left on top of it to steady it. In my head, staccato echoes of V.C. rifle fire cascaded down a mountain of memories from across the years and sent a shiver down my spine. I said, “Sounds like a bunch of Muslim holy rollers in there.” Kane laughed, “This is North Carolina. That’s the Iranian version of the rebel yell.” “Get ready, pal. That door is going to open any minute now.”

Karim ordered, “Get on your ATV’s, you warriors. When I open the door, leave rapidly and may Allah be with you.” The leader pulled the chain and the door began to clank open. Light spread like a carpet unrolling across the driveway. When the bottom of the aluminum door was high enough for the Gorillas to pass unimpeded, the first one moved out.

“Keep your head down, Able. Here we go!” I fired the MAC10 on full automatic, sweeping from right to left. Kane opened up on the left side, working toward the middle. The first man I killed was black, a hulking, fearsome looking soldier of Allah with a black, long-tailed do rag on his head. One of my rounds went through his neck and severed his spine, bringing him into a limp pile of rage on the floor.

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Standing with the door chain in his hand, Karim saw his entire army slaughtered in an instant. Salmak was on the concrete, his arm raised futilely for help, words frozen in bloody bubbles frothing from his mouth. Sepehr lay backwards across the rear of his Gorilla as it slowly rolled out into the night. Mohsen, his Nubian knight, was stone cold dead, as was Ghalandar. And Number Two, the eager-to-please assistant, shot through the back, was slumped over the open box on his Gorilla, where he had tried to retrieve his weapon. Karim shook his head fiercely and leapt to the wall by the pedestrian door, where he killed the light switch. He opened the single portal and peered into the foggy darkness. He could barely make out the shape of an automobile directly across the street.

I whispered, “There’s at least one left, the guy who doused the light. He isn’t going to try and make a break for it on one of the ATV’s, but he will try to get away in the van.” Kane said, “I’m going to shoot out the tires.” As he stood to get a good shot, the terrorist dashed out of the door, firing wildly with his pistol. All the bad luck Able Kane had avoided in his life caught up to him in that instant. A bullet from the Muslim’s gun caught him squarely in the chest. Kane dropped his Mac10. “Jesus God, I’m hit.”

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Karim ran in a low crouch to the far side of the van and yanked open the door. He threw himself across into the driver’s seat. He jammed in the key and turned it. The engine roared to life and he threw the shift lever into reverse, backing wildly into the street. He crammed it into drive and disappeared into the fog. He could hear bullets slamming into the rear of the vehicle before he turned the corner at the end of the street.

I fired at the fleeing van until the MAC10’s magazine was empty, then ran to my comrade on the wet pavement. He was bleeding profusely, gasping for breath. He wheezed, “Go, Judge! Get his ass.” I learned long ago that enemies are a dime a dozen, but buddies are precious assets. “I’ll get him later. Count on it. But right now we’re on the way to the hospital.” I lifted him underneath his armpits and dragged him to the car. I opened the rear door and pushed him across the rear seat. He wasn’t much help and I was exhausted from the effort and the adrenalin rush I had just experienced. I pushed his feet into the car far enough to close the door. Jumping behind the wheel, I started the engine and gunned it. As my tires screeched, I could hear the wail of police sirens coming nearer. In seconds we were shrouded from view by the fog. Three minutes later, I was inside the Southport Municipal Clinic, shouting at the nurse on duty to come to the car and help me get Kane. A young doctor looked up from the

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magazine he was reading and leapt to his feet. The three of us rushed to the car and carried Kane to a gurney. The doc asked, “What happened?” “Gun shot. He’s a Federal Air Marshal. We were making an apprehension that went sour. The perp got the drop on us and shot Able.” The doctor shouted at a clerk seated at a desk in the corner of the emergency area. “Call Dr. Slovenik. We need him stat!” Then the two medical people went to work. The Doc said something about severe thoracic trauma as they ripped Kane’s shirt open. I didn’t like the look on the medic’s face. I had seen that grimace before when I carried my platoon leader to a M.A.S.H. unit near Pleiku. Lt. Legler didn’t make it. I prayed that Able would. Ten minutes later a heavyset man in a running suit burst through the doors and went immediately to the screened off portion of the room where Able was. At the same time, the young doctor came out, peeling bloody latex gloves off. He shook his head. He looked at me and raised his arms chest high, palms up, and shrugged slightly. He said softly, “Sorry.”

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Karim al-Hadji pounded the steering wheel of the van in frustration at the horrible ending to his mission. His actions would make it appear that he was a fool, and an insubordinate one at that. He should have obeyed the directive from Mahmood and sent everyone packing. But there had been a chance, albeit a slim one, that he could have still pulled off stabbing the heart of Middle America. And if he had succeeded, he would have been able to bask in a brand of glory that would have brought him to the forefront of the Jihad, not only in Iran, but in the entire Islamic world. And now, it was all camel dung. Tomorrow, he would salvage what he could of the shambles his life had become. He had already closed out the All-Sports Distribution bank account. There had been a little over forty thousand left. He had taken the money as a cashier’s check. He decided to head south to Florida and unload the Carver. He estimated he could get close to two hundred thousand in a quick sale. With approximately a quarter million dollars he could disappear into the backwoods of the United States and live comfortably. Perhaps he would buy a small business. What he did not want to recognize was the incredible fear that had grabbed him by the throat during the attack. It had shaken him, it had turned his legs to gelatin, bringing him to the edge of collapse. And it was still there, sitting like a gargoyle on his head, whispering, whispering, whispering. He wept, not because of his failure or due to the death of his comrades, but because he had finally had to

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face the test of a warrior and he had not made the grade. When he wanted to shoot Melurnoosh it had been because he saw himself. And when the enemy had opened fire at the warehouse, he had stayed away from the doorway. He had not defended his men. Always before, he had been in control. What in the past had looked like bravery had always been masterful subterfuge, brazen effrontery. But when he at last had to face an armed enemy, he cowered like a child. Only he had known that any bravado he had shown in the past had been there because he had never stared down the barrel of an enemy’s gun. He saw an all night restaurant where he occasionally ate breakfast, its neon red glow shining through the fog. He pulled into the driveway and found a parking spot in the back, away from the street. The Café was three blocks away from the ferry slip. He would walk there when the sun came up. He went inside and ordered what Americans order. Ham and eggs.

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THE HOBBY/McDougal Chapter Fifty-eight

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I wasn’t sure what my next move should be, but I knew I had to call Grant and let him know what had happened. As I waited for him to come on the line, I tried to find the same sensation of elation fighting against gloom that I had always felt after action in Vietnam. It wasn’t there this time. Instead, I was experiencing a great weariness. When Grant picked up I said, “Don, this is Duncan. We found the bastards and killed them all except for the ringleader. He got away. I’ll send you an e-mail with all the details, but right now I’m worn to the bone. It was rough, Don.” My voice cracked as I continued. “And worse, Kane bought the farm. His body will be at the Brunswick County morgue. I told them he was an Air Marshal. I’d like someone to pick him up and send him home, wherever that is.” “Oh, damn it. He was…he was a hell of a guy. Yeah, sure, I’ll take care of it.” “And Don, the one that got away, he’s the son of a bitch you identified in the Houston bombing as Karim al-Hadji. I got a good look at him just before the shooting started. There’s no doubt.” “Well, I’ll be Goddamned. Do you have any idea where he is now, any clue at all?” “Just a hunch. I believe he and his fellow Jihadists assholes were going to launch their terrorist attack at a festival on Bald Head Island. The hotel guy said it’s

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a big deal. He’s booked solid for the next three days. He may be headed there. Have you been able to develop any intel on your end that might help me?” “Three weeks ago, Alfred Said sent a check for $270,000 to a company in Charleston, South Carolina. It was to purchase a cruiser for All-Sports Distribution. You find the boat, and maybe you find him. But listen to me, Judge. If you do locate his ass, don’t try to get him by yourself. He’s too hot. Call me. In the meantime, I’m sending Les Bladen to back you up. Do you understand me?” I hesitated, perhaps too long. He said again, “This is as direct as I can be, Duncan. Do not, repeat, do not go it alone. If you do and we miss him, it’s going to be hell to pay.” I said, with as much restraint as I could muster, “Hell to pay for whom? I’m already in shit up to my eyeballs. So get off your fucking high horse, Grant. I’ve been around the block too many times for this kind of bullshit. Let me fill you in. When Able was lying on the pavement where he was shot and al-Hadji was roaring off in his van, Able said to me, ‘Leave me. Get his ass.’ Well, I Goddam well didn’t. I stayed with my man. And now I’m going to do what he wanted me to. I’m going to get his ass.” I didn’t wait for any more crap from Grant. I broke the connection and walked over to the clerk in the E.R. “His name is Able Kane. Send him to the county morgue. Someone will claim the body soon.” And then the disillusionment that I knew would inevitably come hit me. I was tired of the killing, of the war, of monsters who murdered women and children for some horrid and nebulous thing they called the will of Allah. Centuries of

THE HOBBY/McDougal conflict and still no end in sight. Well, I thought, I have one final personal resolution to all this and it will come to pass soon. Outside, the gray mist was beginning to lighten.

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THE HOBBY/McDougal Chapter Fifty-nine

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Karim checked the clock above the cashier’s stand. It said 5:40 a.m. He paid the waitress and left the diner. Back at the van he reached under the seat where he had stashed his pistol. He tucked it into the rear of the waistband of his trousers, under his jacket. Patting his wallet to make sure it was still there, he slammed shut the van door and closed out his life as a terrorist. The first ferry departure time was 6:00 a.m. Karim bought a ticket and boarded the vessel. It was a trim craft with a white superstructure and blue hull. The steel deck was still slippery with the remnants of the night’s fog. He noted that the name of the boat was Adventure. The ferry was crowded, mostly with people who worked on the island. He took a standing position by the taffrail on the stern. A man next to him asked, “Is this your first visit to Bald Head?” Karim answered, “No. I keep my boat there. I’m going to take her out today. Fishing. I hear the snapper are running.” The man said, “Good luck. I’m not much of a fisherman. I prefer hunting, actually.” Karim said, “Thank you, but I’m sure luck will be on my side today.” He moved away toward the bow to avoid further conversation. Halfway across the Cape Fear River, the last wisps of fog lifted and the red dawn broke across the water. The island had never looked as good to him as it did then. An hour from now he would be cutting through the offshore swells, a free man. A sense of euphoria

THE HOBBY/McDougal came over him and he said to himself, Allah, if I knew for sure you were real, I would offer a prayer of thanks.

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As I walked aboard the ferry, Adventure, I saw him. He noticed me as well, but I knew who he was and he, of course, had not a clue as to my identity. He took a place near the stern and leaned on the rail. I pushed my way through the crowd of early riders and stood next to him. I struck up a friendly conversation. He told me he was going to go fishing. So was I, though I didn’t tell him that. He needed a shave, and I noticed some flecks of reddish brown on the sleeve of his khaki jacket. I assumed they were blood spatters from the soldier who had been closest to him when we mowed them down. During our brief dialogue he mentioned that he was going to his boat, which he kept in the Bald Head Island Marina. That closed another loop for me. At that point I estimated my chances of killing him were about sixty-forty. Even though I still had the element of surprise on my side, he was a smart, devious, vicious son of a bitch. When I made my move, the slightest glitch could reverse those odds in an instant and Bitsy would be a widow for the second time. As the ferry boat entered the marina basin I looked over the yachts docked there. There were a half dozen that looked as though they would be in the correct price range to qualify as the boat Karim had purchased. I decided to casually stroll in the same direction he would take when we debarked. From here on in I would be winging it, a course of action I hated. One thing for sure, I couldn’t pop him out in the open. That would leave me no exit, unless I wanted to swim back to the mainland, dodging police boats.

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The marina was completely full, every slip taken. This came as no surprise as I guessed that most were there for the festival. Boaters are usually early risers. When a sailor moves his boat from one port to another, he almost always opts for daytime. This is especially true of coastal sailors who like to spend the night in a marina or safe anchorage. Cruising after dark on a river or in the Intracoastal Waterway is fraught with peril for any but the most experienced mariners, so getting up at first light becomes a habit. As I walked along, I saw several boaters enjoying their morning cup of java on board. One trawler captain was regaling visitors with sea stories, and getting plenty of laughs. As I passed his vessel, I noticed he had a large seashell hanging from a leather thong around his neck. He waved in my direction and then put the shell to his ear and began carrying on a conversation. After a moment he said, “Hello. Hello. You’re breaking up.” He let the shell fall to his chest and said, “These damn shell phones. You can never depend on them.” Laughing uproariously at his own joke he sat down. I grinned and went on by, thinking how bizarre my life had become that I was laughing at jokes on my way to killing someone. Karim turned from the land onto dock ‘C’, where the boats were tied up alongside in a row and not in slips. Where I stood, there was a low concrete wall, painted with alternating blue and white stripes. I took a seat on top of it and watched my quarry make his way to the last craft on the floating dock. It looked like a Carver, somewhere between forty and fifty feet in length. He swung himself aboard and went into the pilot house. I heard the diesels rumble to life. It seemed alHadji wasn’t going to waste any time in clearing out. I began to work my way

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slowly toward his boat. A morning breeze began to ripple the surface of the basin, and causing the red, white and blue flag on the stern of Karim’s boat to move in gentle waves. He exited the cabin and stepped over the side to the dock, where he unplugged the shore power cable and began to coil it over his arm. I took advantage of his preoccupation with preparations for getting underway by moving swiftly to where he was working. I slipped the Glock out of my waistband and held it down at my side where he couldn’t see it. I said to him, “Need any help getting off?’ He glanced up at me with a perturbed look. “No thanks, I can handle it by myself.” I smiled my most friendly grin, and then pointed the pistol at him. “Actually, I believe you’re going to need a lot of help, Karim.” He stood immobile, thinking desperately, I’m sure, about how this could be happening. Finally, he said, “You’re the man from the warehouse.” “Yes, it would seem that I am. And you’re the son of a bitch that murdered dozens of my friends in Houston. You should have quit while you were ahead, you Islamic piece of shit.” His voice was quavering. “What are you…what do you want?” “Lay the cable down and move to the stern.” We both moved to the end of the Carver where the open deck offered easy access. I ordered, “Get aboard.” I followed him as he hopped from the dock to the boat. “Go into the cabin.” Inside, I said, “Lie on the deck, al-Hadji.”

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As he began to crouch, he clutched the small of his back. “My muscles are sprained. It is very painful to lie down.” My mouth was forming a strong, “Tough shit,” when he brought a pistol from behind him. In one fluid move he pointed it directly at me and pulled the trigger. I have heard that when your number is up, everything slows down and your sensory perceptions, hearing and sight, are magnified tremendously. I saw his finger squeezing and it was obvious he would complete the action before I could raise my Glock and shoot him. A smarmy grin spread across his face. He had the drop on me and was reveling in it. Doc Holliday probably had that same look when he shot the hell out of the Clanton gang at the O.K. Corral. My jaw clenched and my ass puckered as I waited for the round to hit me. Some people find it hard to believe that it is possible to actually see a bullet flying through the air. I’m not talking about tracers, but regular, ordinary rounds. I saw them more than once flying out of the elephant grass in ‘Nam. It might have been because of the way the sun glinted on the copper jacket. I don’t know. I couldn’t dodge them, but I saw them. I expected to see a slug fly out of the barrel of Karim’s weapon, on its way to my chest. But I didn’t. Surreally, there wasn’t a bang from Karim’s weapon. Instead, it gave a loud click. And then another click and another. He looked at the pistol and shook his head. The dumb son of a bitch had forgotten to reload after the shootout at All-Sports Distribution. I said, “Allah is fucking you over, Karim. Now, drop the weapon and lie down.”

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He obeyed and the gun clattered to the teak deck. When he was flat on his stomach, I moved around him, feeling for a second weapon. He was clean. I said, “Get up and sit in that chair at the nav station.” He did as I directed. “Where do you keep the duct tape?” Every boater in the known universe has duct tape. He pointed to a large drawer under the couch. I opened it up and found a roll. “Put your hands behind your head and swing the chair around so that you are facing the station.” When he was in position, I got behind him and instructed him to put his hands in his pockets. I looped a long piece of tape around his torso and then began taping him securely to the chair. I know what you must be thinking. I would be nothing without duct tape. Well, you’re right. When he was secured to my satisfaction, but certainly not his, I finished with a strip across his mouth, moustache and all. I went back on the dock and picked up the shore power cord and threw it on the aft deck. Next, I slipped the dock lines around the stanchions on the dock and tied them off on the boat, fore and aft. Back on board, I put the shift lever in reverse and let it idle, causing the craft to tug gently on the lines. I untied the stern line and pulled it aboard and walked forward to release the bow line. As it came free, I brought it in and ran the few steps to the wheel house as the Carver began to move backwards into the exit channel in the marina basin. I ran up the RPM’s on the starboard screw which turned the boat toward the channel that led to the Cape Fear River.

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I said over my shoulder to my passenger, “We’re outa here. Ah, a life on the bounding main. There’s nothing like it.”

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THE HOBBY/McDougal Chapter Sixty-one

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As we entered the Atlantic and passed the last green buoy I used the Global Positioning System to set the autopilot on a course south by southwest, with Charleston, South Carolina, as the destination. I synchronized the engines and set the speed at twenty knots, and then let the autopilot follow the GPS to the target. I scanned the horizon and found it clear. The sea had two foot swells, no whitecaps, which would make for a smooth voyage. I went to the bookshelf above the nav station and saw a copy of Up Country. I also noticed several books on seamanship, including Chapman Piloting and Seamanship, the bible for most mariners. Also there, nestled in the middle of the row was the volume I was looking for, a copy of the Koran, the bible for most terrorists. I pulled it down and sat on the couch opposite Karim. It contained a side by side printing of the holy words, with Arabic on the left of each page and English on the right. I riffled through the leaves, pausing to read occasional passages. I carried the book over to Karim and showed it to him. I wanted to ask him some questions and hear if he had any replies, so I ripped off the tape covering his mouth. He winced as a good portion of the hair on his upper lip came off with it. I said, “This is the Koran. Perhaps you can help me, al-Hadji. Can you tell me where to look for the part that says it is alright to murder little children with bombs? Even Muslim children?”

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He sat silently. “And where might I look to find the part that indicates it is okay to take innocent people hostage and cut off their heads. I can’t seem to find that in here either.” He didn’t open his mouth. It was not stoicism that kept him quiet. He was still because he knew those exact words weren’t in there. I threw the Koran in his lap. “The truth is that a handful of fanatical monsters like you have decided that doing those things will lead to your assuming greater power. It is really not for Allah, but for lust. The hunger for supremacy that has overwhelmed decency and morality. And it is assholes like you who prate about glorifying Allah when it is your own God damned self you are serving.” He finally asked, “What are you going to do with me?” I smiled. “That depends. Can you tell me the truth? Can you really say why you have done the evil things you have done?” He responded, “I can…yes, I can tell the truth about everything I did. The cause is bullshit, as you have said. I did it for myself, for the glory I thought might come to me. Please, mister, please don’t kill me.” I said, “Karim al-Hadji, I am taking into account your confession and your plea for clemency. My ruling is that I will accept the first and deny the second. May your soul burn for eternity and a day in the front row seat in hell you have so richly earned.” I pointed the Glock at his chest and fired. He screamed. The next round was in his sick, warped, malevolent brain.

THE HOBBY/McDougal I am not sure how many of the terrorists in the All-Sports Distribution

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warehouse were dead because of me, so I can’t give you an accurate final number here at the end of my career as an executioner. I am guessing I got two of them, so I am probably ending up with about twenty-five, including Said. All that was left now was to tie up the loose ends. I went back to the wheelhouse and throttled back the engines, pushing the gear lever into neutral. In the corner of the lounge was a plastic box labeled ‘Rescue Pod’. I opened it up and found a small inflatable life raft. I carried it out to the aft deck and pulled the cord that activated the CO2 inflation system. Ten seconds of hissing and I had a small raft with a built in red canopy. I tied a painter to it and shoved it off the rear transom. I went back inside and cut the bonds off Karim, and dragged him to the stern. I pushed him into the raft and went back to the nav station. I checked the GPS coordinates and jotted them down on a piece of scratch paper. I went back to the stern and cast off the line that secured the raft to the boat, letting it drift away. Back inside, I revved up the engines and headed for Charleston. As I cruised along, I called Don Grant’s number on my cell phone. When he answered I said, “It’s all over, pal. Karim al-Hadji is shoveling coal next to Seyed Mahmood as we speak. I figured you would want his body as proof that the Houston bomber is kaput, so I set him adrift off the coast of the Carolinas. Here’s the lat-long coordinates. Send the Coast Guard. The raft he’s on has a bright red canopy.” I gave him the numbers and then continued my conversation. “I’m resigning from the organization, Don, and I have a final request. I would like a set of papers for a 2005

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Carver 430 cabin cruiser. I’ll be renaming the boat. It will be the Bit-Sea.” I gave him the hull number. I reminded him that the previous owner was All-Sports Distribution. “Send the documentation to me, care of the City Marina in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. I’ll be there in a few days. Can you do that for me?” “Sure. Consider it done. I hate to see you go, Judge. You have gone above and beyond the call. And…well, thanks, Judge. I appreciate the hell out of you. By the way, where are you heading?” “Where it’s warm, Don. Nice and warm.” He said, “You take care, okay.” He sounded genuinely sincere. I believe he was. Except for the letter with the boat’s documents that I picked up in the Sunshine State, I never heard from him again. My next call was to Bitsy at the Gamboa Rain Forest Lodge. When she answered I said, “Hey, Sweetheart, it’s all over. I’ll be there in a week. We’ll be moving south as soon as I can pick you up.” She began to cry. “Oh, Duncan, I was so very worried. Thank God you’re okay. You are okay, aren’t you?” “Never better. I love you, Bitsy. The best is yet to come.” And that was a true statement if there ever was one. Here at the end of this remarkable period in my life, I am reminded of the beautifully sung words of my favorite songstress, Edith Piaf. Non, je ne regrette rien, No, I do not regret anything. And I don’t. True to the promise I made to my bride, I have hung up my gun belt. And O.J., if you’re reading this, this is your lucky day. You were high on my list.

THE HOBBY/McDougal Bitsy and I would love to have any of you drop by if you’re in our new

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neighborhood, but sadly, that won’t be possible since I won’t be telling you where it is. One thing for sure, though. You’d really like it here. It’s quite nice and warm.

E-mail the author: mcdougal8@verizon.net


				
Patricia Johnson Patricia Johnson Management Consultant
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