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January 1943. Six months of fighting at Stalingrad sputtered to an end when Soviets encircled the invading Germans and compelled them to surrender. At Guadalcanal after a similar span of hard jungle combat the Japanese began to evacuate the island. Globally, the Axis had been rocked from offense to defense. In America huge swaths of the high plains lie under snow that first fell in November, but it was a dry cold. The roads have been cleared. From the air Headwater looked like an abstract map drawn in fine black ink on paper bleached an unearthly white.

The man who found the dead girl was called Tashunka. He was older than the town of Headwater but yet a boy of the People when the Golden Gift came to Wanica in the last hunt. The biggest animal he ever killed was a coyote he baited with a rabbit he caught in another trap.

Tashunka almost didn't see the girl. Her body was dangling at a roadside "attraction" that had always bored him. On a map somewhere one line termi- nated on another. Three states came together at this place, but even when there was no snow Tashunka had never seen any lines. What caught his eye was not so much that the dead girl was naked, but how her head and arms bent slightly back, and how her feet didn't touch the ground, as though she were nailed to an invisible cross. So he backed up his truck and parked in the little tri-state corral.

There was another set of tire tracks in the snow and two sets of footprints which became a tangled net near the body. Tashunka halted his approach to leave the site clean for the sheriff, but he could see no movement of the girl's chest and no condensation from her mouth. The dead girl was too pale to be one of the People, but she was certainly White Wing of the Church of Green Dome. Her ponytail gave that away. And Tashunka wept with frustration that he could not do the simple kindness of closing her frozen eyes staring out upon eternity. Then Tashunka recognized the dead girl: Kimberly Zinter. He wept more deeply, knowing why she was murdered and guessing who the killer must be. Of a certainty the unhappy union of the Red Wing and White Wing of the Church was finished. He retraced his steps to the truck.

An hour later Tashunka returned with Sheriff Roddy Walker to the little fenced-off area nigh to the road. The tri-state marker was a wooden beam embedded in the ground, one foot square with a sloping top, and Kimberly's back rested on this, held fast by her frozen blood.

The sheriff told deputy Bill to start snapping pictures while deputy Bob followed Roddy around with a notepad and took down a running commentary. "I need to steal your sole with my camera, Chief," Bill said, "so lay it out there." Tashunka smiled and lifted one leg. o;?Bill got a photo of the bot- tom of both the old Indian's boots to make sure they could differentiate his footprints from that of the perps. Then Tashunka was left behind as Bill methodically photographed his way to the girl's body. Roddy and Bob followed in his wake.

Old Tashunka watched from the road. When the sheriff and his deputies com- pletely surveyed and documented the murder scene they all pitched in, lift- ed Kimberly free of the survey marker, and laid her gently on a foldaway stretcher that sheriff Walker had brought with him. Tashunka was surprised to hear the sheriff shout an oath. Roddy has read the plaque that Kim's body was covering and realized they were at the exact place some surveyor decided the corners of two states ran flush against the border of a third. That made the case Federal.

Then they walked the body out of there, pausing a moment for Tashunka to get his first close look at it. "This was Kimberly Zinter," he told them, and he put his fingers on her face just long enough to melt the eyelids so he could close them. "I've seen her at Temple."

The sheriff dug around in the glove box of his truck and came back with a manila folder containing a photo, which he compared to the dead girl's blood-streaked face. "The gentleman is right, boys. This was the local girl the FBI was looking for. One of the two, anyway."

After the deputies carefully loaded the body of the girl in the canopy of the department's green 1940 Dodge half-ton truck, Bob said, "So this wasn't gonna be our case from the gitgo, even if she wasn't lying dead spread out over three states. What do we do now, sheriff?"

"We're going to do our job 'til somebody says different, Bob. Go back to the marker and start walking around it in a spiral that grows four feet wider on every turn. Try and find something that could be the murder weap- on. Looks to me like that would probably be a knife."

Tashunka said, "I remember when you were just a boy, sheriff, and I remem- ber when you left us. None of your men are Greendomites. You might not be up on Church politics and they can't help you. I don't know who did this terrible thing to the girl but I can tell you why."

But inactivity had cooled the sweat under Roddy's coat and he shivered in the face of a stiff wind from the frozen plains. "This is not the place, Tashunka," he said, "This body must go to our little hospital. Meet me at the station in an hour and I will listen to you."

After that Sheriff Roddy, deputy Bill and the dead girl were motoring around the large hill near the crime scene named Green Dome. It was almost five thousand feet above sea level, but only eight hundred feet above the town of Headwater, and never green at all in January. "I just can't win, Bill," Roddy lamented. "Half the male population of Headwater between 18 and 45 is off killing Japs and Krauts and Eye-talians. Things were getting real quiet around here. Then the FBI sets up shop and stay all summer. Now I got my first dead girl."

They passed a stretch of national grasslands where the Bureau still had a trailer. There were no lights on, no smoke from a wood stove. Bill said, "The FBI was here last summer but now people are saying they're back. Said they saw some G-men staking out the bus station."

"Our victim and another girl named Sofie Krause have been in custody some- where for half of last year, but they escaped and made the FBI look ... hell, they are incompetent. But they wouldn't kill the girl for doing that if your thoughts are trending on those lines, Bill."

Roddy had driven around the northern slopes of Green Dome and Headwater came into view, the biggest town for a hundred miles around, home to 1,200 folks but down to a thousand now owing to the war. Bill asked, "What do you want me to do after we give the body to Dr. Wahkan?"

"Develop the film and file it," Roddy told his deputy. "Then get back to the scene and help Bob look for the murder weapon. I didn't see any prints leading away from the marker so I figure the perpetrator either tossed it or kept it. Either way is a good thing to know."

The town's one doctor was Wahkan to the People, but the whites called him Plenty Practice. No one had ever died under his knife, but not even a local legend such as Wahkan could call back the dead. "Kimberly Zinter," he said when he saw the bloody corpse. "Heartbreaking." Dr. Wahkan donned a pair of rubber gloves. "I have never carried out this protocol for you, Sheriff, and for your father of happy memory only five times." He felt behind the girl's head and discerned the bump had opened to become a bone cup as he knew it would last year.

"Thank you, Doctor," Sheriff Walker said. "Headwater is indeed a very good place, but now I am compelled to make a telephone call to the outsiders who have made things not so good for the last few months. They will take Kim- berly away from us. Try to learn what happened."

"I saw her last year," said Dr. Wahkan. "And the other girl, Sofie, with the same symptoms. But they were safe. Nothing happened to them that hasn't been known by the People for a human lifetime and more but their mothers would not listen to me. Now we have the outsiders."

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. 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 in the FBI where agents were sent to be toughened up, and it was particularly hard on agents who were married.

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. "You'll be reporting to Special Agent in Charge Clyde Tolson on this one," Hoover said. "Do you know him?" And 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.

"In Clyde's pretty little head," Hoover said followed by a nervous chuckle, "DECON stands for Domestic Enemies Containment, Observation, and Neutrali- zation. But to me, you, the other agents and most critical of all, Con- gress, Tolson heads up the Special Projects section."

"I understand sir." Hoover wrapped up the telephone call with a few more details, saying "Mr. Felt" this and "Mr. Felt" that. In twenty more years Mark Felt would draw close enough to J. Edgar that he'd just be called "Felt" but he'd never be a "Clyde" which was just fine. 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.

Tashunka waited outside the sheriff's office long past when Roddy said he'd meet him, trying to stay warm inside his running truck. Roddy apologized for the delay and invited the old fellow in for some fresh coffee. "Doctor Wahkan had some interesting things to say."

Tashunka followed the sheriff inside and sat shivering in his seat until the coffee was ready. "And what of the three stupid white boys who took a bullwhip to a plains Indian and didn't think he'd have friends who could think of doing something far worse in retaliation?"

"The three stupid white boys were still there looking perfectly miserable until they laid eyes on the dead girl. That seemed to make their whole day. Would that Headwater had a bigger hospital. They wouldn't tell me what was so funny. I figure you're about to tell me."

Tashunka leaned back in his seat nursing the coffee. His eyes landed on a photograph of the elder Sheriff Walker, now deceased. Two years already? "Everyone greatly loved and respected your father, Roddy, both White Wing and Red Wing alike. I was there at his Final Rite."

Roddy flushed with sudden anger. "And I, his only son, trained to replace him, was not permitted to be there at his precious 'Rite' because I don't believe in fairy tales about angels and sun gods and killing relics and I made the mistake of letting everybody know that."

"Sheriff, if you allow your heart to grow black then you will take every- thing I tell you as coming from the left hand with the damned. What you call the 'killing relic' sets the Church of Green Dome apart from all other faith assemblies. It is divinity which can be seen."

Roddy glared at him while he took another sip of coffee, then lowered his eyes. Soon he was calm again and said, "You are absolutely right, Tashunka, and I know how important the relic is in the life of your Church. So let us call it by its right name, the Golden Gift."

"You know Mark Lange was the first Prophet of the Church, and Wanica was his Apostle. When Wanica died, Prophet Lange chose Peter Twofeathers to replace him. Then Lange himself died, making Twofeathers the Prophet, and he in turn chose Klaus Hansen to be the Apostle."

Roddy nodded. "Yes, the authority moving from White to Red Wing and back, over and over so long as heaven and Earth last. That was the theory, any- way. It worked like a charm until the day the authority actually moved to the Red side and the White side didn't much like it."

Tashunka said, "Red and White wings swap power but the Golden Gift stays in the Red Wing. God gave it to Wanica, who gave it to Twofeathers. Hansen says the Apostle should have it. Twofeathers thought it would quiet things to give it up, but he gave it to Jerry Shybear."

"Jerry Shybear. That explains how he got his whipping. He said his house had been ransacked too. They must have been trying to beat the Golden Gift out of him. It's a good thing I never embraced the Green Dome Church as my own, Tashunka. It's much too violent for me."

"It gets better," Tashunka said. "The instant Peter Twofeathers announced Jerry Shybear was the new Extraordinary Lay Minister of Final Rites half the Bunners stood up and walked out of the Temple. That must have been the Prophet's cue to lance the boil and bring things to a head."

Roddy smiled at Tashunka's use of the word "Bunners". By strict canon law all Greendomites had to wear their hair in a ponytail, even the men, but in the White Wing this ponytail was done up in a bun, even the men. He shud- dered at how close he had come to being a Bunner.

Finally Tashunka dropped his bomb. "Peter Twofeathers declared that he was setting aside the central discipline of the Church in a single case so that Jerry Shybear could be wed to Kimberly Zinter. Klaus Hansen himself left in protest, along with all the other Bunners."

Sheriff Roddy Walker leaned forward, rendered speechless, as Tashunka knew he would be. Even people who had nothing to do with the Green Dome Church knew about their biggest hobby horse. For a time the Mormons had polygamy. The Greendomites have mandatory cousin marriage. Roddy knew a deep current of racism ran among the Bunners but the requirement for consanguineous mar- riages kept a firm lid on it. Kim Zinter was fourth generation White Wing at least, she'd have no kin among the Red Wing. Her marriage would have blown the door wide open.

As though he could read Roddy's mind, Tashunka said, "Apostle Hansen would see this marriage between Jerry and Kim as a horrible disease infecting the body of the Church. Their children would have marriageable cousins in both wings and it would just grow worse from there."

Deputies Bill and Bob rushed in just then and threw a Cellophane bag on the sheriff's desk containing the murder weapon. "Found it," Bob said, "Just like you guessed, throwing distance from the body." The blade was thin, flexible, nothing more than a steak knife perhaps.

Roddy picked up the bag and frowned with disappointment. "This game isn't as fun when the other side isn't even trying to win. Not a run-of-the-mill Sears Roebuck kitchen knife: no, something handmade, something an admirer would make special just for the Church Apostle."

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. 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 hunt- ers of The People knew that well. 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 under- ground cistern.

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

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.

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. 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.

When he was finished Felt was still alone in the trailer, so he helped him- self 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 re- port on the final days of the US Army's Fort Price. The report contained pages from the commanding officer's journal and testimony of the lone sur- viving 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.

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. Smalley considered The People to be peaceful, but they were so poor they had nothing to sell ex- cept 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.

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 ani- mals bulkier than any game animal save the bison. 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.

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.

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. 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.

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 Sulli- van, and two Williams would have been confusing. 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 clos- er. "How far did you get?"

"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?"

"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."

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."

"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."

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."

"And over there," Special Agent Felt said, pointing left over the dash- board, "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."

"John Morrison, the man on Point who owned the cattle, told his boys to stand fast and defend the herd while he rode hell-for-leather downstream to Fort Price and told Captain Smalley he wanted to 'donate' twenty head but there was the slight matter of an Indian problem. Chief Wanica saw what John was doing, knew what was coming, and made his plans accordingly. Then he rode back down to the island with a boy sitting behind him, They started to field-dress one of the fallen cows. The boy, Tashunka, is still alive, he found the dead girl."

"Coincidence?" asked Felt. Just then, by chance, they crossed a small bridge to the very island Sullivan was talking about.

Sullivan nodded his head. "Personally, I think so, but Tolson doesn't be- lieve there are such things as coincidences in this god-forsaken place. So the bugle sounds and Fort Price vomits seventy mounted men plus John Morri- son. Wanica and Tashunka are slicing the guts out of a cow, and the rest of his hunters, maybe twenty men, are four hundred feet above it all. When the cavalry shows up they ride down the hill. Smalley divides his forces and sends almost sixty of his men after the hunters, led by Lt. Lambert Welles, while he, Morrison, and twelve other soldiers begin circling Wanica and the boy and slowly close in. As they do Wanica's hunters ride downstream and a chase begins. Three miles from here is a low ridge running north to south, and the river, which is really a creek, cuts straight through it in a short twisting little canyon with steep walls and no path except the river it- self. So what do you think happened? Welles got his T crossed. Sixty sol- diers riding in single file and ten Indians waiting at the mouth of the canyon firing arrows as they came up one-by-one. So Welles ordered a coun- termarch, which was more FUBAR. The other ten Kuwapi rolled boulders down on them and broke the legs of their horses. After that it was like shooting fish in a barrel. The Kuwapi hunters left one soldier alive, tied to a tree, with one hand free to scoop up river water to drink, but the knot was too far away to unravel. It was their custom, so that tales of their feroc- ity would spread."

Felt grinned at the story, thinking upon the rookie move of LT Lambert Wells. "And what happened to poor Wanica and the kid back where they shot the cow?"

"More like poor Smalley and Morrison and the rest. Nobody heard from them again. Not even their bones were found."

"The soldiers of old Fort Price should have spent more of their time drill- ing," said Felt as Special Agent Sullivan crossed another small bridge to the south side of the Squaw River, "and less time taking turns at the wom- en. Besides, in 1866 owning people was illegal."

"There were five soldiers on the sick list who didn't make the raid, they were supposed to hold the fort. They found the surviving cavalry sergeant and cut him loose. While they were doing that the Kuwapi women made their way back to their people and no one came looking. Later the 6th Cavalry Regiment came up from Texas looking for the blood-thirsty warriors who wiped out a whole company of their men and found only a docile tribe of newly-Christianized converts helping white settlers grow some crops. So they broke up the fort and left. If you get a chance, Felt, go see the mu- seum over where the battle took place. It's 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. The whites beat them with numbers."

"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 foot- ball. They went to war like we go to ball games."

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. 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. After that Sullivan introduced Deputy Bob Lurz push- ing 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."

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 remem- ber. So not the touch football you mentioned earlier."

"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."

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 cooper- ation and coercion is never my preference."

"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."

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."

Tolson appeared pleased by Felt's can-do attitude and that he didn't need to be corrected with respect to Hoover's preferred term for DECON. He sus- pected Sullivan was instrumental there.

Sheriff Roddy introduced another man present, still wearing scrubs, as Dr. Wahkan. 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.

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 autop- sy but that makes both him and the Sheriff, privy to information that I consider sensitive."

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 is a Caucasian female. The de- ceased is known from her appearance to be one Kimberly Anne Zinter of Head- water, 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."


"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. The actual cause of death is 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.

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."

"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 him- self. Doctor Wahkan had made no mention of it before Tolson's order. "I'll be damned."

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?"

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."

"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 be- lieve you have seen this strange bone cup before, perhaps many times be- fore. Doctor Wahkan, is that, in fact, the case?"

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 po- sition when I don't speak of this to you at all."

"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."

To this Clyde had nothing more to say. Dr. Trochmann flashed a raised eye- brow 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?"

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. 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."

"I do indeed, Mr. Tolson," said Sullivan. He put on his gray fedora, tip- ping 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?"

"One moment," Tolson replied, and he made a small gesture to Trochmann. The DECON doctor took up an electric reciprocating saw and proceeded to sepa- rate Kim's head from her body, heedless of the storm of blood and gristle that he unleashed or the loud objections of Wahkan.

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, for not even un- civilized men treat their dead in this manner."

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. Felt heartily agreed, so long as the sheriff remembered not to talk about the case in the restau- rant. 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. Head- water wasn't a large town.

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."

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. I didn't bring her in be- cause 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 ar- rest Robyn Zinter. Let's see how crazy she is then."

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 getting the owner of the weapon. My deputies are set to move tomorrow unless you call it off."

"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. If I understood her correctly, Agent Felt, this Robyn is not choked up over her sister's death because she's literally 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."

"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 Witchi- ta?"

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

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."

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 your- self, Agent Felt. Why did you choose the FBI?"

"I have a law degree," Felt said, "and I was leaning toward the intersec- tion 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."

"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."

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.

"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."

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 at- tention. Normally a mint mark of O would make these collectible. This fel- low 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. 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."

"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 you get about a half-dollar's worth of silver bullion. These aren't silver-plated base metal."

"But Pawn Shop Guy says the little O under 'In God We Trust' makes it col- lectible."

"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."

"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."

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."

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 mys- tery to ground. But I don't want to break your rule and talk about active cases while we're eating."

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. 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 interview- ing references people had listed when they applied for government jobs. Hardly the exciting life of a G-man that I envisioned."

"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."

"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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Strangers In Paradise