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Chapter VIII

The Chief flipped through Duchampski’s folder, pulling out photographs, inspecting each with faint distaste. Once or twice he sighed, removed a piece of paper and threw it into a waste bin.

“I’m not surprised you decided to enlist Dr. Duchampski, Spaceman, but you are of course aware of his reputation?”

“I’m aware,” said Spaceman, a hot towel draped across his forehead.

Agent Shield stood in the rear of Meeting Room Indigo, his arms crossed, feeling superfluous. The information from the herpetologist was cryptic, contradictory in places. Each paper contained a series of crude pencil drawings, a few mathematical formula and a list of letters arranged in two columns. It was like no code system he was aware of and yet the Chief and Spaceman read it with apparent ease.  After two years as an active agent, Shield saw how little he truly understood about the organization he fought for.

“Well, baby, it was the right thing to do,” said the Chief finally, setting both folders aside. Spaceman patted the towel gently, plucked it up by thumb and forefinger, and dropped it in the trash on his way out of the room. Agent Shield stiffened, expecting another diatribe from the Chief.

“The information the Doctor supplied points in only one direction, Agent Shield.”

“Which is?”

“Gunther Thulewaite.”

The chief sat back, as if waiting for Shield’s stunned reaction. Working his jaw, the agent confessed unfamiliarity with the name. The Chief shook his head.

“Gunther Thulewaite has been a person of interest in the intelligence community for some time. We know he was part of the Dallas Six, one of the original funders for the Kennedy Assasination. He’s got powerful friends in the CIA, NSA, FBI and defense industries. We’ve never been given the green light to go after him, but this might be the exception.”

“Who is he?”

“Kid, don’t you read the files? Gunther is basically THE concierge for the crypto-fascists. He is the man who hosts their parties, funds their policies and provides cover for their mistakes. Nixon? He discovered him. Batista? He supported him. McCarthy? The man basically held his hands during the hearings. The man is a blight.”

“What does he have to do with snakes?”

“Wildlife preserve. That’s sort of his retirement plan, as it were. He runs a ranch in Texas near Waco, where rich types can come and shoot whatever rare, exotic animal they choose. The place is air-tight but the man is connected. He’s got fingers in all of the pies. Now, he’s got this convenient ‘coincidence’ of a fellow Texan sitting in the Oval Office.”

Shield shrugged, still not following.

“Goddamn it kid, don’t you see? If there was one man in all of the United States with the access, money, and resources to raise a farm of Burmese Tiger Snakes, this would be the man.”
Marcus leaned forward, putting both hands on the table. “Then we get in.”

The Chief snorted. From the pocket in his white and black striped blazer, he withdrew an eighth and some rolling papers. Nimble finger bent a strip to appropriate saddle shape and then sprinkled the hash in a neat row. Two corkscrews and the reefer went between his narrow gray lips. “A little help?”

Shield reluctantly fished out his lighter, a silver souvenir from Berlin he never thought would see this use, and obliged him. “We can’t just ‘get in,’” said the chief testily. “The place’s is locked down, buttoned up, and damn near inaccessible. This requires finesse.”

“Spycraft, then. That’s why you recruited me.”

“I never recruited your dumb ass. But I know some people I did, and they might be able to help you.”

The chief scribbled a few names on a second rolling paper and offered it, folded, to Shield.

“Look, this ain’t gonna happen overnight. We’re gonna need aliases for all of your team. It’s a good thing Spaceman is back on board. That cat is a master of deception.”

“I’d like to voice my concerns that --”

The Chief slapped the table, skunky fumes filling the room. “Just read the goddamn list! That’s your team.”

Shield scanned the note on his way down the hall, nonplussed by what he saw.

Link to Next Chapter

Link to First Chapter


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