TC-Felt

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IEA: Young Mark Felt had been with the Bureau just one year but the quality of his reports filtering back to Washington from Texas had brought him to the notice of the Director, J. Edgar Hoover. On the eve of Special Agent Felt's transfer to DC Hoover telephoned him personally.

IEB: Felt tried to maintain a respectful tone with the Director but he knew he was in for disappointment. The San Antonio field office was deemed a punishment detail where agents were sent to be toughened up, and it was particularly hard on agents who were married.

IEC: When it came it was every bit as bad as he thought it would be. Felt's transfer to Washington to work on counter-espionage was put on hold until he solved a simple homicide in the middle of the country. Hoover took this one personally; and so, natch, the FBI did as well.

IED: "You'll be coordinating with Special Agent in Charge Clyde Tolson on this one," Hoover said. "Do you know him?" Felt could only answer that he knew Tolson was the SAC at a division of the Bureau known only as DECON, but none of his associates knew what the initials meant.

IEE: "In Clyde's pretty little head," Hoover said with a nervous chuckle, "DECON stands for Domestic Enemies Containment, Observation, and Neutralization. But to me, you, the other agents and most important of all, Congress, Tolson heads up the Special Projects section."

IEF: "I understand sir," said Felt. "But what if, by some misfortune, my work runs at cross-purposes to those of SAiC Tolson? Which case takes precedence?"

"Yours, of course," said Hoover. "You are to mesh with Tolson as best you can, but your reports must come straight to me.

IEG: "Also you will have the complete cooperation of the local law enforcement community, such as it is. Not even Tolson has that. But bear in mind that Headwater is a small town at the ragged edge of nowhere. You will be shocked to find it lacking in most basic amenities."

IEH: Hoover wrapped up with a few more details, saying Agent Felt this and Agent Felt that. In twenty years Mark Felt would draw close enough to J. Edgar that he would just be called "Felt" but he'd never be on a first-name basis like "Clyde" which was just fine.

IEI: Mark Felt did win one important concession. He received permission to draw a Bureau sedan so his wife Audrey could proceed to DC as originally planned while he took his own car north through most of Texas and three other states to fix this burr under the Director's saddle.

IEJ: One summer head up the Big Muddy to St. Louis and hang a left. Now you're on the Missouri, the longest river in North America. Go upriver past Sioux City, Iowa and hang a left again on the Niobrara. Head west until you're walking in a dry river bed. You missed it. Back up.

IEK: The Squaw River is a shorter tributary of the Niobrara, yet it has a year-round flow despite winding across the most arid grasslands of the high plains. Bison used to reliably congregate at the edge of the Squaw River to drink, and the hunters of The People knew that well.

IEL: On a ridge above Headwater is a pillar of rock carved by wind to look like an Indian woman carrying a papoose in her papoose, hence the name Squaw River. Just west of town the river bends around the south and west flanks of Green Dome and pours from an underground cistern.

IEM: Headwater is where the river begins, but it's also where the railroad and pavement ends. Other than a few dirt roads and old wagon tracks, north, west and south of town is the biggest void in the lower forty-eight states. Mark Felt learned that when he found no motel.

IEN: Headwater has nothing for tourists, even when it wasn't wartime and there were tourists to be had. The view from the top of Green Dome was out over thirty-five miles of nothing. If you were from out of town it meant you were there to get hitched and your family put you up.

IEO: Special Agent Felt drove to the strip of land where Hoover told him the FBI had dropped a trailer. It was unoccupied. Felt let himself in using a spare key he had obtained from the Wichita field office. The kitchen was still a kitchen, but the living room was a workspace.

IEP: He checked the trailer's two bedrooms and saw they contained two cots apiece. So the trailer could sleep four agents. Before anyone else arrived he shat, showered, and shaved to make himself presentable once again after two days and two nights on the road.

IEQ: When he was finished Felt was still alone in the trailer, so he helped himself to the files that were stacked on the desks. One of them, with brittle yellowed paper that Felt instinctively handled with great care, was a report on the final days of the US Army's Fort Price.

IER: The report contained pages from the commanding officer's journal and testimony of the one surviving soldier. In August 1864 the army established Fort Price six land miles (and ten river miles) downstream from Green Dome two years before the town of Headwater was founded.

IEQ: Capt. John Smalley commanded a company of mounted rifles detached north from the 6th Cavalry regiment. He maintained good relations with the local Indians who were named by the Sioux the Kuwapi, or the Ones Who Were Chased Out, but who called themselves simply The People.

IER: Smalley considered The People to be peaceful, but they were so poor they had nothing to sell except women. "Fort Price ain't exactly a charity outfit," he was often heard to say. At the end ten Kuwapi women lived at the fort. They were kept as busy as the cavalry was not.

IES: In 1866 eight white skins came mounted on horses, cracking whips, two on Point, two on Flank, and two on Drag, a cook with his own wagon in the rear and a man riding way out front picking the best path for five hundred animals bulkier than any game animal save the bison.

IET: The whites drove their herd to a large island in Squaw River where the best grass grew. They did this without the basic courtesy of offering Chief Wanica one or two head as toll. Miffed, the Chief dispatched hunters to take payment in kind with a few well-placed arrows.

IEU: The eight white men fired back. Two Kuwapi hunters were killed, which was more than Wanica could afford to pay to learn how the strange new animals tasted. The Kuwapi withdrew halfway up the eastern flank of Green Dome and watched as the herd was driven to the north bank.

IEV: Mark Felt stopped reading the Fort Price file when he heard the sound of a vehicle's tires crunching up to the FBI trailer. Felt had already met Clyde Tolson at the handshaking ceremony the previous year when Hoover inspected his graduating class but this fellow wasn't he.

IEW: When he came indoors Felt thought the man looked more movie gangster than g-man, investigatee more than investigator, and somewhat later he learned he was one of the very few liberal Democrats to be accepted into the Bureau. "Are you William Mark Felt?" the newcomer asked.

IEX: Felt, who had been sitting ramrod straight in his chair, now stood ramrod straight on his feet and extended his hand. "Just Mark Felt, please." And the newcomer remarked on their mutual good fortune, for he was Bill Sullivan, and two Williams would have been confusing.

IEW: Sullivan approached the desk to see what Felt had been reading, amused by Mark's body language which seemed to dare him to say something derogatory about the presumption. "Ah yes, Cowboys and Indians," he said when he saw the material a bit closer. "How far did you get?"

IEX: "The Indians dropped a couple cows," Felt replied, "and the Cowboys dropped a couple Indians. If you hadn't shown up, Bill, I'm sure I would have plowed my way through to the part where the US Army lost their fort. A lifetime ago. Is this one of Tolson's special projects?"

IEY: "DECON," Sullivan said. "Domestic Enemies Containment, Observation, and Neutralization. I'm sure the Director told you this was Special Projects but my advice to you is to play along with Special Agent in Charge Tolson on this. At least until you break the murder case."

IEZ: Felt silently absorbed this and nodded once, clearly accepting the advice. He donned his overcoat and said, "Where is Tolson, by the way? I've only just arrived from the San Antonio office and the Director gave me almost nothing in the way of a brief before I departed."

IFA: "Tolson is waiting for you at what qualifies for a hospital in this tiny hamlet," Sullivan said. "It's practically a one-room log cabin. He's with Dr. Ian Trochmann. I'll take you there, but I won't be staying. I'm still looking for the other fugitive, one Sofie Krause."

IFB: As Bill Sullivan drove Mark Felt to the hospital to take over the murder investigation he pointed at the mountain to the right. "Green Dome is not even one of the five highest points in the state but summit to base it's twice any other. That's where the Indians retreated."

IFC: "And over there," Special Agent Felt said, pointing left over the dashboard, "must be the north bank of the river where the cowboys managed to get their herd. What happened next? You got me wondering how the Army lost a fort and why Tolson gives a damn about all this."

IFD: Sullivan shrugged, because the report was incomplete and he truly didn't know. "I guess it was like the little brother to Custer's Last Stand. One thing that really strikes me about the Indian wars was how the Indians gave as well as they got. We beat them with numbers."

IFE: "Numbers, and time, and the fact that they weren't really as blood-thirsty as people make them out to be. Did you ever hear of something they did called 'counting coup' ? No? It was the wartime equivalent of touch football. They went to war like we go to ball games."

IFF: They arrived at Headwater's only hospital where they saw a plump nurse in her fifties wheeling out a shivering boy with bandaged stumps where his feet should have been. She was followed by Deputies Bill and Bob wheeling out one boy apiece, each with identical injuries.

IFG: Sullivan led Felt up the walkway and made the first introductions. "Felt, this is nurse Ella Fader, and in the wheelchair is young Scott Hilling. Ella, this is FBI Special Agent Mark Felt." Felt couldn't help grinning at her name. She shook her head to warn him off.

IFH: After that Sullivan introduced Deputy Bob Lurz pushing Johnny Sunkel, and Deputy Bill Holsinger pushing Larry Porter. Felt wondered aloud why they were being rolled out to see the snow. Bob said, "Agent Clyde Tolson was of the mind they needed fresh air for about an hour."

IFI: Felt remarked on the similarity of their injuries. Agent Sullivan said, "The Indians here used to believe if they could make a captive scream his shade would be their unwilling servant in the afterlife. Some still remember. So not the touch football you mentioned earlier."

IFJ: "Ah, there you are Felt," SAIC Clyde Tolson said when they went inside. Felt remembered his oblong face and searing gaze from last year at Quantico when he inspected the graduating class 15 with Director Hoover. "Special Agent Mark Felt, this is Sheriff Roddy Walker."

IFK: Mark decided to hit the ground running. As he shook Roddy's hand he looked at his watch and said, "Sheriff, it's quarter of four and I am now assuming responsibility for this investigation. The Bureau expects your full cooperation and coercion is never my preference."

IFL: "Special Agent Felt, this department will pull out every stop to cooperate with your investigation. I just wonder, why start with this case? A few years ago there was a murder over the state line. My father reported it up to the Bureau but was told to handle it locally."

IFM: Felt said, "I don't know the particulars of your father's case. In this one the deceased is already involved in a DECON investigation by Special Agent in Charge Tolson, and whoever perpetrated the crime left her body across three states, deliberately goading the Director."

IFN: Tolson appeared pleased by Felt's can-do attitude and that he didn't need to be reminded of his preferred term for the Special Projects section. He suspected Sullivan was instrumental there. Sheriff Roddy introduced another man, still wearing scrubs, as Dr. Wahkan.

IFO: And still another man was donning scrubs. He was introduced as Dr. Ian Trochmann, part of Tolson's DECON project, preparing to perform the autopsy all over again for the federal side of the house. Roddy didn't think there'd be much of the girl left after that.

IFP: Wahkan raised a bloody gloved hand and said, "You'll understand if I don't shake your hand, Agent Felt." Tolson said, "Dr. Wahkan has completed what is no doubt an excellent autopsy but that makes both him and the Sheriff, privy to information that I consider sensitive."

IFQ: Felt was puzzled. "What do you mean, sir? What did he find?" Dr. Wahkan removed his gloves in a careful, clever way that avoided any contact with his skin and started to remove his overgarment, knowing that he was finished.

He began, "The deceased was a Caucasian female.

IFR: The deceased was known from her appearance as one Kimberly Anne Zinter of Headwater, eighteen years of age, high school student, vocalist in the church choir. Fingerprints were taken." Looking at the sheriff he also said, "The deceased's next-of-kin have been notified."

IFS: "The deceased has been dead for approximately eighteen hours with little evident decay as she was discovered outdoors in sub-freezing weather. I counted thirteen deep knife wounds to the chest. Six of these wounds pierced the heart and were the proximate cause of death.

IFT: The actual cause of death was exsanguination, or in layman's terms, the deceased bled out. The size of each wound suggests something larger than a pocket knife but smaller than a hunting knife."

"Please get to the good part, Doctor," said Tolson, spinning his finger.

IFU: Dr. Wahkan sighed and got to it. "Protruding through the scalp at the back of the head of the deceased is a small structure of bone resembling a cup in the shape of the letter 'D' with the flat side toward the neck. Inside the cup are more than fifty small black bristles."

IFV: "That is the sensitive information," Tolson said. "Nurse Fader is not to know, the deputies are not to know."

Roddy Walker paced over to Kim's body and took a look at the bone cup himself, again, and feigned surprise. Once again, he said, "I'll be damned."

IFW: Tolson saw the smug grin on Wahkan's face and realized he'd been tricked into unnecessary spillage of the information. Roddy could have been sliced out of the loop as well, but now it was too late. He decided to retaliate. "Have you seen that bone cup before, Doctor?"

IFX: Wahkan said, "Last May the girl's mother brought her to me. Her friend came in too, accompanied by both parents. The skin was not broken, the girls only had bumps on their heads. Their folks didn't like what I told them so they went to another doctor for a second opinion."

IFY: "What did you tell them, Doc?" Tolson asked. "That it was just a tick bite? Did you even take X-rays? We both know you did not. That leads me to believe you have seen this strange bone cup before, perhaps many times before. Doctor Wahkan, is that, in fact, the case?"

IFZ: After considering his reply, Doctor Wahkan said, "If I answer one way, I'm lying to a federal agent, which is a crime. And if I answer another way, I'm breaking doctor-patient confidentiality. So you will understand my position when I don't speak of this to you at all."

IGA: "You should be more worried about losing your license to practice medicine after failing to help me shut down what could very well be an infectious outbreak."

"Agent Tolson," growled Wahkan, "if you believed the girl was contagious you wouldn't even be in the building."

IGB: To this Clyde had nothing more to say. Dr. Trochmann flashed a raised eyebrow and wry smile at Tolson, as if to say, He's got you. "Excuse me, sir," said Felt, "but do you think this girl's bone cyst or whatever it is will have any bearing on the murder investigation?"

IGC: Tolson said, "This bone cyst and how the girl got it is part of the DECON investigation in Headwater. Her murder complicates things somewhat. It becomes a Bureau case, but we're not currently set up to carry it out. I put in a call to the Director, and here you are.

IGD: There is another young lady with the same bone cup, a Miss Sofie Krause, and I presume she's still alive and hiding somewhere in this very, very small town. So, Special Agent Sullivan, I thank you for fetching Special Agent Felt, but you know what, and you know when."

IGE: "I do indeed, Agent Tolson," said Sullivan. He put on his gray fedora, tipping it in turn to the sheriff, the two doctors, and Felt as he made his farewell. Before he left he turned to Tolson and asked, "And the six people freezing outside, sir, shall I send them back in?"

IGF: "Not now," Tolson replied, and he made a small gesture to Trochmann. The DECON doctor took up an electric reciprocating saw and proceeded to separate Kim's head from her body, heedless of the storm of blood and gristle that he unleashed or the loud objections of Wahkan.

IGG: Sheriff Walker found a sudden need to be outside and Sullivan followed him. Dr. Wahkan said, "Agent Tolson, my prayer is that you find whatever you are looking for quickly, and never again return to Headwater. Not even uncivilized men treat their dead in this manner."

IGH: In the awkward silence after Dr. Trochmann decapitated Kim Zinter's body and Dr. Wahkan's anguished objection to that, Sheriff Roddy Walker heard Special Agent Mark Felt's stomach growl and guessed the man might not have eaten since breakfast. He invited Felt to dine out.

IGI: Felt heartily agreed, so long as the sheriff remembered not to talk about the case in the restaurant. That gave Roddy very little time to bring Felt up to speed. He had decided on Bea's Chicken Inn only five blocks east of the hospital. Headwater wasn't a large town.

IGJ: Roddy took him over in the half-ton truck and Felt invited him to spill out what he had uncovered up to that point. Roddy said, "We have what is very likely the murder weapon, and it has fingerprints. We have many photographs of the scene with tire and boot marks in snow."

IGK: Roddy pointed out of the windscreen to the left. "That house coming up is the home of the deceased. I made contact with her twin sister there, one Robyn Zinter, who is not a resident of Headwater. She already knew Kim was dead and described circumstances of that death.

IGL: I didn't bring her in because I knew this was going to be the Bureau's case from the gitgo. And some of the things she said were pretty crazy." "After we eat I want to visit a judge. I want you to get a warrant to arrest Robyn Zinter. Let's see how crazy she is then."

IGM: Bea's Chicken Inn was kitty-corner to Robyn's house. When Roddy pulled into the parking lot he gave Felt one more item from the case. "I wanted to let you know we have a lead on the owner of the murder weapon. My deputies are set to move tomorrow unless you call it off."

IGN: "Why would I do that?"

"The source of the lead was the aforementioned Robyn Zinter. But the lead is too good to risk passing up."

"Do you think she's indulging in misdirection, sheriff?"

"I can't figure her out at all. She expresses zero sorrow for her sister. None.

IGO: If I understood her correctly, Agent Felt, this Robyn is not choked up over her sister's death because she's somehow a copy of her sister from just before she was murdered. She's intelligent and sweet but half the things that come out of her mouth make no sense at all."

IGP: "I can't wait to meet her," he said. "But first, Bea's Chicken Inn, you say? Did you know I haven't had a bite since early this morning in Witchita?"

"Then you're in luck, Agent Felt, homestyle fried chicken is Bea's forte. I wanted to put Headwater's best foot forward."

IGQ: When they went inside and were seated in a booth Roddy remarked that the place was much less busy that it used to be on weeknights. "Coal mining was the mainstay of the town and that's drying up."

Felt said, "I heard wartime meat rationing will start in a month or two."

IGR: Roddy nodded. "Places like this won't close up, but they'll have to collect ration cards from customers and put them all together to get resupplied. I suppose it'll be even less crowded then." He shrugged. "Tell me about yourself, Agent Felt. Why did you choose the FBI?"

IGS: "I have a law degree," Felt said, "and I was leaning toward the intersection of business and government, but the war intervened. In wartime our country becomes, temporarily, a military dictatorship with all hands on deck. So as with your coal miners here my work dried up."

IGT: "So your background was not criminal law," Roddy surmised.

"Well, make no mistake, Sheriff Walker, I was immersed in criminal law at Quantico. But the crimes that draw my attention aren't the kind that happen in little towns like Headwater. I want to go after spies."

IGU: The waitress came to take their order, and both men, knowing they would later visit a judge at his own home after working hours, refrained from ordering wine. She took the menus but left the two silver half-dollar coins that had been on the table when the men were seated.

IGV: "The people who ate at this table before us were from the Red Wing of the Church," Roddy said confidently.

"How do you know?"

He gestured at the two coins. "Those half-dollars. 1942. The mint mark should be D for Denver, but they'll both be O because the die was worn."

IGW: Mark Felt looked at both coins and confirmed that Roddy's guess was true. "How strange. But what's the connection to the Red Wing?"

"There's a fellow I know who runs a pawn shop, he brought these to my attention. Normally a mint mark of O would make these collectible.

IGX: This fellow looked into it and found out the Denver Mint had struck about a hundred of these flawed fifty-cent pieces before their quality control spotted the problem and halted the run. But there are many more than a hundred of them circulating here in Headwater.

IGY: Everywhere you go in Headwater you'll see them, always from the Red Wing, usually retirees living on social security, this old fellow gets a tube for his radio at the hardware store and leaves some half- dollars, that old lady gets her hair done and leaves another stack."

IGZ: "Do you think somebody in Headwater is actually counterfeiting coins?"

"If they are, Agent Felt, I really don't see how they would profit by it. If you melt a silver half-dollar down you get about a half-dollar's worth of raw silver bullion."

IHA: "But Pawn Shop Guy says the little O under 'In God We Trust' makes it collectible."

"Sure, if there was only a hundred of them. There's probably a hundred thousand of them now and they're breeding. I chalk it down to one of the many unexplained things about this town."

IHB: "There's more?"

"There's much more, Agent Felt, as you'll find out after we eat and the judge eats and Robyn eats and we go visit them. Take Squaw River for one. It's the only stream in the tri-state area that flows year-round from its source. Geologists cannot explain."

IHC: Felt chuckled at that. "So the Church is named for Green Dome, but nobody knows what makes it so green. You might be right about all the unexplained things in Headwater. Just before we met I was reading that Chief Wanica and one boy somehow fought off a dozen armed men."

IHD: The waitress arrived with their food. The sheriff withheld his reply until after they were served. He said, "My guess is Special Agent in Charge Tolson is running that mystery to ground. But I don't want to break your rule and talk about active cases while we're eating."

IHE: They stopped conversing and ate while Mark Felt expressed his appreciation for the food with grunts and eyebrow gestures. After a time Roddy asked, "How many spies have you caught, Agent Felt?"

"None so far," Mark admitted. "I've only been with the Bureau for one year.

IHF: Half of '42 was spent at the Academy and in DC, and for the rest of the year I was in Texas in hot field offices doing little more than interviewing references people had listed when they applied for government jobs. Hardly the exciting life of a G-man that I envisioned."

IHG: "How's the pay?"

"About sixty a week,"

"Not shabby at all, Special Agent Felt."

"What is shabby is having to pick up and move every few months. My wife Audrey and I were in the middle of another move to DC so I could catch spies like I wanted, but I got diverted here."

IHH: "How long have you been married?"

"Just four years, Sheriff Walker. The Director moves G-men around for no better reason than to 'toughen them up' and he will never understand the toll it takes on the families of those agents. Somehow my beautiful girl puts up with me."

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