The rain came down in sheets and the darkness of the Nicolet Forest ate my headlights. All I could hear was the hypnotic slapping of the wipers. It was 2 AM and I was losing my battle with the Sandman.
Then, a figure stepped out in front of me!
I stomped on the brake and swerved into the oncoming lane. There were a couple of thrilling seconds, as I did a 60 mile-an-hour fishtail down the slippery blacktop. I ended-up with the cruiser sitting crosswise half on the road, perhaps two feet from a huge fir.
And I was suddenly, VERY WIDE AWAKE!!
The mysterious apparition was female. She was a hundred yards back, straddling the white line. She was in no danger of being hit. There were no living creatures within 20 miles; except deer, bear and yours-truly.
I restarted the engine and drove to where she was standing. My headlights revealed a woman in a weird outfit. I would assume that she’d come from a Halloween party. But, they don’t hand out drugs on Halloween; at least in rural Wisconsin, and it was closer to Thanksgiving.
I turned on the flashers, got out, and approached her. The lights painted the rain with a red-and-blue tinge. The woman looked quizzically at my car and said, “What’s that, some kind of Studebaker?”
They hadn’t made a Studebaker in over fifty years. I thought to myself, “Great!! Two in the morning, and I’m in the middle of nowhere with a certifiable whack-job!!!”
I said, “How much have you had today Miss?”
She said, “Don’t flip your wig Mr. Fuddy-Duddy, all I had was a Sidecar.” Was that even English? I had no idea what she’d just said ... And was she chewing gum!!?
Seriously?!! This woman was standing in the pouring rain, with one hand planted aggressively on a jutting hip, chomping on a wad of gum and arguing with me about how much she’d had to drink?
I said, using my solicitous cop voice, “Why don’t we get in the car? I can take you someplace dry.”
She looked around, like she had just noticed the rain, and said in a distressed voice, “Where did THAT come from?”
I said, “It’s been raining all night.”
She said puzzled, “It wasn’t a couple of minutes ago.”
Yes indeedy! Bat-shit-crazy!!
I couldn’t leave her in the forest-primeval. So, I took her by the arm and led her unresisting to the passenger side of the cruiser. It was an old-fashioned Crown Vic with plenty of room up front, even with the swivel mounted computer, and the two shotguns.
She slid in, dripping on my seats. She didn’t seem to notice that she was soaked. I guess that’s the way it is, when you’re stoned out of your gourd. I went around to the driver’s side, put the cruiser in drive and started off home. The road featured nothing but wide spots until you got to where I was headed.
She said wonderingly, “How did you do that?”
I said, “What?”
She said, “Make it move without shifting.”
Really!!!?? That was disturbing. I said incredulous, “Are you telling me that you’ve never been in a car with an automatic transmission?”
She said conversationally, “I heard they had something like that on the Olds, but I’ve never seen one.”
Yep, nuts!! They haven’t made an Oldsmobile in going-on twenty years.
She looked at the onboard computer, which was sitting between us. She tentatively touched the space bar. The desktop lit up and she jumped back startled. She said surprised, “What’s THAT??!”
I was trying to figure out what kind of game she was playing. So, I said patiently, “It’s a laptop computer. It’s hooked to the Wisconsin CIB database. She looked mystified. I clarified, “Criminal Investigation Bureau. Every patrol car has one.”
She said, in a tone that sounded like she thought I was messing with her. “What’s a computer, is it some kind of fancy radio?”
That did it. I’m NOT a social worker. In fact, I mostly try to avoid people, which is a bit ironic since I happen to be the County Sheriff. I wasn’t going to say one more word until I got this woman’s head examined.
We have a clinic in town and the Doc is a smart dude. Maybe he could sort her out. Still, I couldn’t help appraising her in the dim light. After all, I AM a guy.
She was a real beauty, even though she currently resembled a drowned cat; perfect complexion, flawless features, and raven hair done up in some kind of World War Two upsweep; complete with a little pillbox hat.
She must have bought THAT ensemble from a theatrical supply store. Even the Goodwill didn’t carry stuff that old.
I wasn’t having any of “those kind” of thoughts. My mysterious lady was undeniably gorgeous. But she was clearly not right in the head. Plus, women have always been bad news for me. That’s why I avoid them like the plague.
It wasn’t always that way. Growing up in a small town has a lot of advantages. You’re plugged into a way-of-life that hasn’t changed much since the place was founded. It’s humble, and it’s relatively stress free. You just don’t get too worldly surrounded by people who are exactly like you.
That all changed when I joined the Army. There are only two reliable ways out of a small town, college, or the service. My old man thought that college was a waste of money; while the recruiter in Eau Claire was extremely persuasive.
I rang the bell on the ASVAB, and they gave me my choice of military occupations. The thing that jumped out at me was “helicopter pilot. I had visions of sitting in an Apache blasting evil-doers.
I lasted exactly one month in Army Flight School. Apparently, you need depth perception to be able to fly a helicopter. So, the Army, being the kindly institution that it is, found me alternative employment; Military Police!!
I knew a recruiter in Eu Claire I was going to kill.
They shipped me to Fort Leonard Wood. Let me assure you that; if they ever give the earth an enema, Fort Leonard Wood will be the place where they’ll stick the hose.
After that experience, I spent my first few years raising and lowering the gates at Fort McNair. It wasn’t glorious. But somebody had to do it.
During that time, I took online classes at UMUC. By my third year I had all the requirements to apply for the Army’s Criminal Investigation Service. I had to re-up to get into the Program, and of course the CIS Special Agent Training was back at the bastion of the Ozarks, also known as Hicksville on the Big Piney.
After my second sentence there, I was a certified CIS Special Agent, with a specialty in Special Victims.
The odds of a soldier being posted to any of the hundred bases in the South, or West, are pretty good. The odds of ME being posted to the frozen tundra of upstate New York were one-hundred-percent.
The average snowfall at Fort Hood, which is where the Fourth Infantry Division is based, is zero. The average snowfall at Fort Drum, which is where the Tenth Mountain Infantry Division is based, is 126 inches; or about ten feet. I think you get the picture.
They partnered me with a woman. That’s standard protocol for SVU Special Agents. I was the muscle and she was the empathy. Julie was a great partner. She was mid-thirties and moving toward her golden twenty.
The Tenth had just gotten back from hard time in Afghanistan. The incidents we investigated tended to go up after that. So, when a unit deployed or returned we handled a greater number of domestic battery and spousal rape allegations.
That was how I met Janet. A cruiser had responded to a call from the Mountain Community Homes area of the post. We arrived at 13:00 hours, just as the MPs finished squaring away the scene. Julie went straight into the house.
I asked the patrol sergeant what happened. He told me that an intruder had broken in and sexually assaulted the occupant. The call that had alerted them was placed by someone other than the victim. He said that his men were canvassing the neighborhood to identify who made it.
I gave our electronic investigation people a ring and told them to find the owner of the phone. I was pretty sure it was a cell. In the meantime, I went in to the interview.
The woman was sitting on the living room couch, with Julie in a chair opposite. Julie isn’t one of those, “Let me give you a hug and make you feel better,” kind of women. She’s a no nonsense criminal investigator.
The healing process from sexual assault takes a long time. Whereas, the first forty-eight hours are critical for what WE do. And, in Julie’s mind the victim had to understand that difference.
Julie was walking the woman through the details of the crime. My role is to observe the victim’s reactions. I immediately noticed two things. The first was that she was beautiful, dusky complected, thick dark-brown hair, perfectly symmetrical oval face and big brown eyes.
The second fact was more telling. Her behavior was way off. Rape isn’t an act of sex. It’s a physical assault that impacts a woman’s being to her core. Our instructors had beaten that into our head throughout training. Yet this woman seemed surprisingly unphased.
She was shaken up and crying. But when we told her we wanted to take her to the clinic, she was almost dismissive. She said, “I’m fine, I wasn’t hurt. I don’t need a doctor.”
Julie said kindly, “We still want to examine you. There might be evidence that we can use.”
What Julie was saying was that we wanted to run a rape kit. I could see in the victim’s reaction that that was the last thing she wanted.
I said to Julie, “Come outside, there’s something I want to show you.”
As soon as we hit the front porch I said, “She’s lying. I think she knows her attacker. There’s a lot more to this story than an assault.”
Julie nodded. We went back inside. This time, Julie sat NEXT to the victim. She said, “We are going to insist that you do a rape kit, darling. And we are going to identify whoever did this because I’m sure his DNA is in the Army system. Now ... Is there anything you want to tell me before we do that?”
The woman looked horror stricken. She said, “You can’t make me!!”
Julie said ominously, “We can always get a warrant Sugar. What’s the matter Baby? Is there some reason why you don’t want us to identify your attacker?”
It was obvious that Julie meant every word and the victim knew it. She lowered her head and began to sob, “My husband will find out if you do!!”
Julie went for the kill. She said, “I assume that the perpetrator is somebody who you have been having extra-marital sex with.”
The woman wailed, “YES!! I had a sexual relationship with the man who raped me. I don’t know what I was thinking. I love my husband. I tried to break it off, but he wouldn’t let me. He kept pestering me and finally he came over to force me. I tried to fight him, but he was too strong.” She began full throated sobbing.
Julie said, “What is this man’s name? We can protect you from him. But, we have to know his name.”
The woman looked pleadingly at Julie. Julie gave the woman her patented, “grow up girl,” stare. That stare has been known to intimidate cats out of trees and racoons out of trash cans.
The woman looked at Julie and said very hesitantly, “Steve Marquesan.”
Wow!! No wonder she was acting so weird. She was fucking the Colonel commanding the Brigade that was about to be deployed. That was going to cause a major ripple all across the Division. Julie looked at me, and I looked at her, and we said simultaneously, “We need that sample!!”
That is how we nailed Colonel Robert Marquesan’s hide to the barn wall. He had a fetish about fucking the wives of his subordinates. He regarded the spouse of anybody who served under him fair game. The woman who brought him down was the wife of a Captain in his headquarters unit.
We finally traced the phone call. The husband was the one who made it. He had probably discovered them making the two-backed-beast and turned it in as an assault in progress, which got law enforcement’s wheels turning.
I didn’t like Marquesan, when he was a bird Colonel. I liked him even less as a rapist. As far as the Army was concerned, Marquesan was a disgrace to the uniform. The forensic evidence all lined up and he went down for rape and enough violations of the Universal Code of Military Justice to keep him enjoying Federal hospitality for the next ten, to fifteen years.
I met Janet during the Court Martial. She was a 46-Quebec, Army Public Affairs Specialist. She was there to make sure that the story was spun the way the Army wanted it. Naturally, I was one of the people she interviewed.
Janet was a stunner. I guess that’s why she worked Army PR. She was medium height, perhaps five-six and a little on the heavy side. But that was because she possessed the biggest pair of tits and the most erotic hips, since the Greeks chiseled up the Venus de Milo.
There was just something overtly sensuous about her. Her look was direct, but it was also suggestive. You could see the roaring fires, beating drums and bounding savages back there. I was attracted to her; to say the very least.
She had thick auburn hair and an oval face with even features and very compelling eyes. Her boobs were so big that the fruit salad on the front of her uniform was a lot closer to me than her face. She had a surprisingly, narrow waist and big utilitarian ass. I wanted to grab those hips, mount up, and yell “Yeehaw!!”
I told her that the investigation didn’t require Sherlock Holmes. Since, the two parties weren’t exactly criminal masterminds.
The Colonel must have been suffering from temporary insanity to do something that stupid. He had to know he was leaving behind evidence. He probably didn’t think his paramour would rat him out.
The wife was just a dumb slut. She wasn’t facing criminal charges. But the subsequent divorce didn’t sit well with her.
I had to hand it to the husband. It was a brilliant move. Instead of doing something very stupid involving a gun. He had done something very smart by immediately phoning it in. That way we did all the heavy lifting.
I was starting to get a vibe that Janet was interested in more than information. So, I went fishing. I said, “It’s a shame that some people just can’t maintain a respectful relationship. I know that it will be for life when I marry.” Somewhere, the Gods laughed.
Janet said amused, “An unmarried soldier with genuine moral values? Wait, I have to write that down. How did they let you in the MPs with that attitude?”
I said lightly, “I grew up in a small town. You can take the boy out of there, but you can’t take the small town out of the boy, and I’m an MP because they couldn’t find anything else for me to do.”
I said, still fishing, “How did you get into Army PR?”
She said, “It’s the same old story. I was in love. We had been going together since junior high school. I always assumed we would be married. But, I found him in bed with my roommate. He didn’t even apologize. He said that he was, what he was; take it, or leave it. So, I left it.”
She paused, like she was getting herself under control and went on with, “I didn’t want anything to do with college and the bastard who was attending it. I was in Army ROTC and I liked the culture.” I nodded in agreement.
She continued with, “So, I talked to the cadre about active service. I’ve been in for two years. I love the work and I love the Army.”
I looked across at her. Her dark eyes were challenging, like she was daring me to take the next step.
Well!! As they say in golf, and other sports, “Never up, never in.”
So, I said, “What are you doing after we’re off duty?”
She groaned and muttered, “Come on baby – fuck meeee!! Don’t stop!!” The strain in her voice sounded like a jockey urging a racehorse down the home stretch. We’d been married for six years and the sex just kept getting better-and-better.
Janet had her “O” face on. Her eyes were scrunched up, her mouth was open and she was making loud effort noises, as she worked toward her orgasm. Her legs were straight up in the air, toes pointed. I could feel her hands reflexively gripping my butt and her pussy beginning to pulse, like it did when she came.
That tipped me over the edge. I came so hard that I must have changed the atmospheric pressure in her womb.
I flopped over on my back. Both of us were panting like steam engines. Janet was lying there staring at the ceiling, one big boob puddled on her chest and the other hanging off under her arm. She looked stunned.
I said, “Let me clean up first and I’ll fix breakfast.”
She said, “Go ahead baby. I just want to lie here and bask in the glow.” I took a gloat at her voluptuous body as she lay there naked, one arm shielding her eyes, long legs still spread wide and covered in a sheen of sweat. I didn’t know how I could get any luckier
It was one of those lazy Saturday mornings when there was nothing to do except enjoy the hiatus from work. I fixed us a couple of veggie omelets, whistling like a man who had just had his ashes seriously hauled.
We had both been out of the Army for six years. First, there was the adjustment to civilian life. That was inevitable. Janet went back to Madison to finish school. She only needed a year, to get a teaching certificate. I went back home, because I couldn’t think of a better place to live.
I hooked on almost right away with the Sheriff’s Department. The Post was near where I grew up. I had almost eight years of police experience, six as a Special Agent and they were happy to have me.
Janet and I were married later that year and she got a teaching job in the local elementary school. That was her vocation. But her avocation was politics.
Janet was from the Dells. So, it was just natural for her to have an affinity for countryside. That interest developed into a crusade for every far-out environmental cause; from ozone layers, to preservation of the Yellow-billed Cuckoo bird.
She threw herself into every effort with her legendary energy and dedication. Oil companies trembled when she entered the room; as did mining interests, big box store developers and tract housing contractors. Janet had the vision and personal charisma to make a difference in people’s lives.
That ability didn’t escape the tree-huggers. They talked her into running for the County Board of Supervisors. Of course, Janet was a shoo-in for election. Who wouldn’t vote for a package of energy, beauty, and sex appeal like her?
That was almost two years ago. Since then, she had become a rising star in the political firmament.
Me, not so much.
I was just a cop. The good news was that, being the only detective in the Department made me Number Two. It also gave me exposure to every kind of crime. Most of it was petty stuff, thefts and robberies. But I had a few real cases, like the ones that I had investigated for the Army; assaults, spouse abuse and even attempted rape.
My Boss was the Sheriff. Big Jim Moore was a red-neck’s red-neck. So, every four years, our gun-toting, Bible-beating, relative-fucking citizenry would march to the polls and renew his mandate.
Big Jim was big in every category, six-six, two-seventy, big hat, big mouth, and if you believed his public statements big dick. He was also the biggest asshole in rural Wisconsin.
The people who didn’t know him thought of him as a, “tough and uncompromising lawman.” The rest of us just thought of him as a narcissistic d-bag, whose opinion of himself was unaccompanied by any real results.
Big Jim was a bully too. He always got what he wanted; mainly because he was willing to be the loudest voice and most unreasonable asshole in the room. And, since he thought he WAS the law, he sometimes stepped outside the lines. That would eventually come back to bite him.
Janet appeared at that point. Her t-shirt and painted on jeans showcased her voluptuousness. She has gorgeous hazel eyes that sparkle with intelligence and good humor. Right that second, they were sparkling at me. She plopped down opposite and said cheerfully, “Thanks for the fuck baby, and Don’t forget the fundraiser tonight.”
The Democrats were doing their annual fundraiser for fantastical beasts, adorable kittens and flying unicorns; or some-such liberal cause. I said, “Had it circled on my calendar for weeks. Even rented a tux.” It was formal.
I knew that I was the “plus-guest.” Janet was the mover and shaker. And she would be the person at the head table with the rest of the great and good. The Dems had made the necessary “charitable contribution,” so as to get their star up front. I was just happy to sit with the rest of the riff-raff and bask in her reflected glory.
Personally, I didn’t need it. There was far too much backstabbing, kowtowing, phony posturing, and downright sleaze associated with being a politician. I knew my wife sailed above most of the muck. But she occasionally had to roll in it. That’s just what politicians do to “get along;” as it were.
There was never any hint of real corruption. It was just that her actions were sometimes slightly amoral. She told me about it, which was technically a problem, since I was a sworn officer of the court. It was petty stuff, like looking the other way when an influential business knowingly violated county zoning regulations.
Since I thought most of those regulations were bullshit anyhow I applauded her “willingness to be flexible.” But she HAD been elected on an environmental ticket and some of that contradicted her personal beliefs.
I knew that she was rock solid ethically before she had started her political career. But apparently, she was learning to, “Work together for the greater good,” as she put it. That’s an infectious disease with politicians.
We arrived together, me in my rented tux and Janet in a ravishing little black dress. Actually, it wasn’t the dress that was so striking. It was the body that was stuffed in it.
She did the usual noblesse oblige with me. You know what I’m talking about. She was itching to get up to the main table. But, she couldn’t just blow off her husband. So, she hastily introduced me to a few of the lesser mortals and then hustled off to join the “somebodies” at the front.
I didn’t mind. She liked the limelight and I didn’t.
The folks I met all seemed like nice people. One guy was the local doctor. He’d been in the Army too. We chatted a bit about our service. He was hazy about what he did. But I’m a cop. I could see it in his eyes.
I met a few guys like him in my active service days. That type of dude is steady, level headed and, in most respects, kindhearted and humane. They ALSO just happen to be expert killers.
His wife was gorgeous. She was a nurse and she radiated her husband’s aura of superb capability, self-confidence, and strength. She was a Swedish blond, which was not a rare commodity in rural Wisconsin. But she had the sort of Nordic fire and ice sexuality that can get a rise out of any man. There was just something about her obvious strength of character and the way she held that perfect, nubile body that pulled you in like she had her own gravity.
My other table partners were teachers. He was the District’s Athletic Director much taller than the rest of us and with the greyhound frame of a runner. I asked him what he played in college, since it was obvious he had competed in something. He said matter-of-fact, “Soccer.”
Then he added playfully, “But Penny was the real star. She was a Badger cheerleader and she was engaged to.” He named a guy who played for the Packers. I wondered how the dude felt, being a tunnel buddy with an NFL All-Star.
The wife’s name was Penny. She worked with Janet at the local elementary school. That was why the whole group was there. Janet can be very persuasive when she is selling tickets.
Like Janet, Penny put new meaning to the term “brick-shit-house.” She had auburn hair. But, she had a heart-shaped face with stunning china blue eyes. I thought to myself, “I’ll bet this woman is super-hot.” I don’t want to disillusion you, girls. But men carry that scorecard around in our heads everywhere we go.
Penny was glaring daggers at her husband. She said, “Jake likes to tease me. I could have a loving marriage with a perfect man. Or I could spend my life wondering who my husband was sleeping with. The choice wasn’t hard to make.” I thought to myself, ‘Hot AND with genuine values.”
It was a pleasant evening. Janet was the star of the show. Her stemwinding speech about wetland preservation had all the nature lovers on their feet. That included my asshole boss, who had about as much sensitivity to the environment as a strip mining company. Janet acknowledged the cheers with the glowing demeanor of a true politico. The girl was a natural.
After the speeches, we mixed for cocktails. It was time for me to be at my wife’s side, acknowledging my luck at being married to such a “visionary woman;” their words, not mine. Unfortunately, Janet was standing in a group that included Big Jim.
I have to deal with that rectum all week. So, I thought I’d hang with my new friends and let Janet wheel and deal on her own. I knew she would come to me when she was finished.
Janet seemed to be doing a couple of odd things as I watched her socialize. Why did I notice them? I’m a detective. I detect stuff.
First, she was getting smashed. That was a new wrinkle. Lately she had been drinking more. I didn’t know why she was doing it. It was almost like she was anesthetizing herself. That was strange, since we had a great life.
The second and most eye-opening thing, was that Big Jim was monopolizing her time. The entire County Board was standing in a herd talking and laughing. Jim was hanging around that group because he never misses the opportunity to brownnose.
He was telling one of his off-color jokes. How did I know it was off color? Because, Big Jim was telling it. The whole group chuckled uneasily, except Janet. She laid her head back and gave the asshole a full-throated laugh. Then she put her hand on his arm.
In the time we had been together I had seen that gesture thousands, maybe millions of times. But this was something different. Maybe her hand lingered a fraction too long. Or, maybe it was the look in her eye. But I knew that it was something that I had to investigate, if nothing more than to ease my suddenly troubled mind.
I think it was the abrupt change in attitude that caused my unease. I had never heard Janet say a good word about Big Jim. That’s because culturally, he was as far on the other end of the human spectrum as you could get. Janet was smart, caring and generous. Jim was the most aggressively self-righteous yokel on the planet.
Both Jim and Janet were icons to their own constituencies. It was just that they represented polar opposite groups. Janet was educated and socially aware. Big Jim had built his public image around his ignorant and narrow-minded attitudes, and he never missed the chance to brag about it. It was like being “King of the Great American Underclass” was a badge of honor for him.
Janet had made it clear that she thought that Jim was embarrassing. That was the reason why her touching him in an overfriendly way immediately drew my attention.
There was nothing overtly sexual. It was just so out of character. It wasn’t like I could confront her about laying a hand on Big Jim. That would have made me sound insanely paranoid. But I DID file it away under the heading of, “To be looked-into.” I’m a cop. We file a lot of stuff for future reference.
Janet was absolutely ravenous when we got home, and I don’t mean she wanted to eat. Well, she wanted to eat something. I ate something too and we fucked in novel ways. I know the drinking loosened her up. But it was like she was working something out of her system.
A gentleman called a couple of weeks later. He asked if we could meet at the local diner. I told him to come in to the Sheriff’s Office. Since, having coffee with strange dudes who call from out of the blue did not fall under the heading of “proper procedure.”
The caller added, “I really think you need to talk to me Senior Special Agent Schwartzwalder.”
THAT got my undivided attention. Whoever this was had just used my Army title. I had not been called that in over six years. So, this was probably somebody from my past life. I said tersely, “Meet me at the Hot Spot in a half hour.”
The Hot Spot is in the next town, which is like across the street in rural Wisconsin. It is legendary for good food, and atmosphere. The guy sitting at the two-top in the back, stood out like an ostrich at a turkey farm. He just screamed Fed. The locals were eyeing him like he was a zoo animal.
I sat down warily. He was tall and gaunt with the classic uniform, cheap suit, wrinkled white shirt and partially undone tie. He somberly checked me out and said, “What I’m about to tell you is part of a Federal investigation. You may be subject to prosecution if you reveal anything. Should I continue?”
That was a little disturbing. I’ve been right to the top of the mountain in the federal clearance space and so the threat wasn’t THAT intimidating. But this was small town Wisconsin, not the CIA. I couldn’t imagine what he had to say.
He was staring back to me with arched eyebrows. I finally said, “Okay, fire-away. I understand the consequences,”
He said, “I’ll need you to sign this,” and produced a document. I signed. I was committed now.
He said, “My name is Barnestaple and I’m with the FBI.” He produced the credential. That was a laugh. The Feebies have their own special look. I wondered if the stick up his ass was installed when he graduated from Quantico?
He said, “We checked you out before we contacted you. We know you were a hotshot with Army CIS and we know that you are currently number two in the County Sheriff’s Office.”
I said, “There are only nine of us so that’s no big deal.”
He looked at me seriously, and said, “Are you familiar with the Leptis trucking facility?”
I said, “Of course, my wife was one of the people who had to approve the easement. She’s a major tree hugger and there were some environmental issues with the trucks and traffic going in and out of there.”
He said, “How does your wife feel about drugs?”
I didn’t think I’d heard him right. My brain was processing the concept of Janet and drugs. It came back with, “Error 404 – Not Found!” I spluttered, “What the fuck are you trying to say??! Janet would NEVER be involved in something as stupid as that!!”
I realized I had just implied that she might be interested in something LESS stupid, but I think he got the gist. He said, “We’ve been surveilling James Moore for the past three months. We have evidence that he is running a distribution network for opioids coming into the U.S. from Canada.”
Canada? that didn’t make sense?? I said, “Wrong border buddy. Aren’t you talking about Mexico?”
Barnestaple looked pained and said, “Nobody thinks the Canadian border is a threat, whereas Mexico is a political talking point. The Border with Canada is four thousand miles of very hard to surveil, tree covered terrain. Whereas, the Mexican border is a mere two thousand miles of easy to watch desert, and the U.S. Border Patrol is sitting on every inch of it.”
He poured a little more sugar into his coffee and said mildly, “So, which border would you pick if you wanted to run shit into the U.S.?”
I thought about it. He had a point. There is nothing but miles of trees and mountains on the Canadian border, with no major river barriers in the stretch from the Great Lakes to the West Coast. There had to be some observation. But there was no way to prevent a person who knew his way around from walking from one country to another, or four wheeling, or snowmobiling, or even driving an 18-wheeler through the Fort Fisher Border crossing.
When it’s minus-two outside and the snow is up to your ass, inspecting trucks in the middle of nowhere isn’t the same vibe that you get when you’re working the Reynosa, or Tijuana border crossing. It got my cop instinct cooking.
I said, “Okay, let’s say it’s possible that some dude in Moose Jaw is trying to flood the market with home cooked Fentanyl, or Demerol, or whatever. Why would they choose our hick County?”
Barnestaple laughed and said, “That’s the point. Your County is perhaps the least obvious place in the universe for a major drug operation. So, if you wanted to stay off law enforcement’s radar would you set up shop here, or in Chicago?”
Then he added ominously, “And, if the hillbilly Sheriff in that hick County is one of the main cogs in the network, then WHY NOT? It’s a straight shot down 53 from Canada and even if there wasn’t much product on the truck when it exited border control, there is a lot of surrounding forest where couriers can load up a 60-foot trailer.”
He added by way of explanation, “The FBI got called because the drugs are coming in from another Country and moving across State lines. It’s the same situation with folks running coke, or smack in from SOUTH of the border.”
I mused to myself, “Hmmm, the Feebs think Big Jim’s dirty? How delightful!!”
It didn’t surprise me. I knew that the dude thought that he was untouchable, and I also knew that he didn’t have a moral, or ethical bone in his body. But why was Barnestaple talking to me?
I said, “Okay, I buy your premise. But, why am I involved?”
Barnestaple stirred his coffee and said with studied casualness, “That oughta be obvious. The FBI is national. We don’t just storm into local jurisdictions. That’s very bad optics. The press views things a lot more sympathetically if we are seen as working with the locals.”
That made sense. The FBI isn’t any LESS political than the rest of the apparatus in DC.
He took a sip and said, “We’ve backgrounded you, including your Army records. We’ve also done a bit of intensive combing through your personal info. We know you are exactly what you’re advertised, and we need you to run point on this.”
I said, “Let me get this straight. You have already done your investigative due diligence and you think you have the evidence to indict Big Jim and other players in his scheme – correct?” Barnestaple nodded.
I continued with, “And since I am home-grown law-enforcement, you want to make it look like you were coordinating with local cops all along - right?” Barnestaple nodded again.
I said, “THEN when the hammer drops you want me to serve as the resident center-of-gravity while all of the pieces hit the ground. Does that about sum it up?” Barnestaple nodded.
I wondered if enigmatic nodding was a course at Quantico.
I said, “Then I’m going to need you to put something on the record to confirm that arrangement. Since, I am fishing in deep water here.”
I added grimly, “If Jim is involved, my guess is that half the Sheriff’s Department and some of County Government was also neck deep in the Kim-Chi. And anybody poking around, like you’re asking me to do, could find themselves out of a job, or seriously dead.”
Barnestaple said, “We’ll document all of this for you. But, that’s not the problem. The REAL problem is that this is a complex tactical challenge. You can actually help us there.”
He said, conspiratorially, “This is an international ring and we only know who the main players are. We have to get every member of the network, or they’ll scatter and just rebuild after we’ve left. So, we want the local cops to help us sort it out.”
He laughed and said sardonically, “But, we can’t approach your boss, since he’s the main player.”
Barnestaple took another sip and added, “So far, all of our evidence has been gathered electronically, or through surveillance of the trucks via Global Hawk.”
He flashed me the square-jawed, forthright look that all Feebs learn in Feeb school and said, “We need boots-on-the-ground and that’s you. We can do the actual bust. But we need to have an advance scout, so-to-speak; somebody who knows the territory and call us in at the right moment.”
I said, “You already have Big Jim in the net - right? So, who else do you have locally?”
Barnestaple said, “We’ve got Esau Holmes, he owns Leptis and he has major Mob connections down in Chicago.”
That was interesting. I thought that the guys who were mobbed-up were all Italian. Holmes was in his sixties and he looked like the guy with the pitchfork in American Gothic. However, he WAS a big pal and political crony of Jim’s.
I said, “Who else?”
Barnestaple said, “Those two are the major players. The trucking company does legitimate business and most of the employees seem to be nothing but innocent bystanders. The people we are interested in do the exchanges in the middle of the night, they call themselves the ‘knight shift’ – get it?”
I gave him my, “Really??!!” look.
Barnestaple continued with, “Leptis is the delivery point for the small suppliers in the Upper Midwest. It would be a bit too obvious to have a semi pull up at a local bar in BFE and start unloading crates of pills. So, they run small shipments, in pickups, and vans, out to Wisconsin, Minnesota and the Dakotas. That’s where the shit actually gets sold.”
He added, “The Leptis facility is the hub of the network. It’s where they break the load into packages for transport into the sticks. So, when a shipment comes in it’s the only time they’re all in one place.”
Barnestaple looked frustrated as he said, “We have ironclad proof that will put away the big players. But we want the whole network. We can act, once we know that everybody is in the bag. That’s where you come in.”
Hence, a couple of weeks later I was sitting in the woods outside Leptis trucking. The word from Barnestaple was that a shipment was due. So, I told Janet that I was working on a case in Eau Claire and that I would be gone overnight. I didn’t want to worry her.
She gave me a rousing send-off. It was a spectacular night of sex, even by Janet’s exacting standards.