Hunter



Hunter
By Andrew Macdonald

XI

Oscar hung his coat in the hail closet and headed for the kitchen to pour himself a glass of orange juice before beginning the night’s work. Halfway into the kitchen, he knew something was wrong an instant before he heard the voice.

“Freeze, Yeager! FBI! Raise your arms over your head and face the wall. Now step back one pace and lean forward with your hands against the wall.”

Oscar felt numb. For a fraction of a second he considered going on the attack. The man behind him, sensing his thought instantly, snarled, “Try it and you’re dead, Yeager.”

The man expertly frisked him, removing the Smith and Wesson Airweight .38 special which Oscar always carried tucked into his waistband.

“All right, Yeager, you can turn around now - slowly. Sit in that chair. We’re going to have a nice, long talk.”

For the first time Oscar saw the man who had disarmed him. He was a sturdy-looking, gray-haired man in his mid-fifties, about four inches shorter than Oscar, with steely blue eyes. He was wearing a business suit, and he held a revolver pointed unwaveringly at Oscar. He looked like an FBI agent, but Oscar already could sense that something other than an ordinary arrest was taking place. Why was there only one agent? The FBI never operated like that. He was not left wondering for long.

“Well, Yeager, let’s get right to the point. I know what you’ve been doing. I’ve known for the last two weeks, even before you smoked that Hebe Shapiro and his stooges in the church over on Connecticut Avenue. God, that was a good job!” The man chuckled approvingly, but his revolver remained pointed at Oscar’s chest.

“You could have been arrested as soon as I had you identified from the prints you left in the john at the Shoreham when you killed Horowitz. The only reason that we’re sitting here now is that I like your style, Yeager. And I have some work for you - some real man’s work, instead of the kid stuff you’ve been wasting your time with.”

“Are you telling me,” Oscar asked, unable to conceal his incredulity, “that the FBI approves of whatever it is you’re alleging I’ve done?”

“Hell, no, Yeager! If anybody else at the Bureau knew what I know, you’d be chained to the wail in one of our maximum-security cells in the basement of the Hoover Building right now. The point is, I didn’t tell anyone else. I kept my information on you to myself. It was pure luck that of all the potential evidence we picked up at the Shoreham I gave everything else to other agents to check out and kept for myself the one item which led somewhere— namely, the print of your right thumb on a page from your address book which you had wadded up and jammed in the lock on the rest-room closet where you waited for Horowitz. I ran it through our Fingerprint Section and came up with your name and Air Force identification number.

“At that point the only thing on my mind was a wild hunch that maybe, just maybe, you were the guy we were looking for-and that there was no need to share the glory in nabbing you with anyone else yet. So I made you my own special project, while everyone else was working on other leads, none of which led them anywhere.

“I slipped into your place one night when you were staying over at your cutie’s apartment and had a look at your layout in the basement. That’s when I knew. At that point I should have swooped down on you with one of our SWAT teams, cameramen from all three networks, and a prepared statement for the press. I would have gotten my salary raised three grades. Instead, I spent two weeks finding out everything there is to know about you: all the places you lived when you were growing up, what your teachers in high school thought about you, your record in the Air Force, your graduate studies in Colorado. I talked with two of the girls you dated there, told them it was for a security clearance. I know you better now than your mother does.

“And I stayed on your tail and watched you do the job on Shapiro’s People’s Committee Against Hate.”

“Why?” Oscar asked.

“Well, that takes a little explanation.” The older man leaned back in his chair for a moment. He still held his revolver in his hand, but he was resting it in his lap now instead of keeping it aimed directly at Oscar’s chest. He sighed. “I’ve been with the Bureau for 33 years. I’ve been the deputy chief of our Anti-Terrorism Section for the last nine years. I worked my way up back during the days when I was proud to be an FBI agent. Did you know that my father was in the Bureau for 26 years before I became a special agent? We were in the Bureau together for seven years, until he retired. He died two years ago.”

“I recognize you now,” Oscar replied, his numbness gone. “I saw you on the CBS Evening News last year, when the FBI was rounding up all of those Ku Klux Klan people. You were the one in charge of the FBI task force. Your name is Ryan - William Ryan.”

Ryan did not respond directly to Oscar. He paused to gather his thoughts, then began again, speaking with more emphasis: “I’ve watched the Bureau change from a first-class law-enforcement agency to a politicized, mongrelized, third-rate secret-police bureaucracy, with the level of morale and efficiency you’d expect to find in Panama or Nicaragua. In the last 15 years the Jews have taken over the place and ruined it. Not that you find them out on the street busting the Mafia or shooting it out with Colombian drug smugglers like the rest of us. No, they’re too busy running the ‘racial sensitivity’ classes all the agents have to take. And heading our Affirmative Action office. And worming their way into the Counterespionage Section, so that they can make sure we don’t catch too many more of their cousins from Israel swiping American military secrets.

“Things change slowly in the government. From day to day you don’t notice much difference. But it mounts up. It used to be a rare thing for an agent to go bad. Hoover would drum a man out of the Bureau for trying to beat a parking ticket or writing a bad check. In the last two years we’ve had 19 agents convicted on various felony charges - everything from selling drugs and pimping to spying for the Soviet Union. Eight others managed to beat the charges against them, and four of those guys are still with the Bureau!”

“Yes, I read about several of those cases in the newspapers,” Oscar commented dryly.

“Hell, not a tenth of it gets in the papers!” Ryan exploded. “We’re able to keep most of it covered up. You know what I saw just last week? I went down to our analytical lab to check on the results of a test on some material from a crime site. There was no one in the lab, but I heard some noise coming from the stock room. I opened the door and found one of our Black special agents screwing the White lab technician on a table! And you know what? There wasn’t a damned thing I could do to either of them! I filed a report, of course, but these days something like that is regarded by the bureaucracy as in the same league with being reported for loitering at the water cooler.”

Ryan paused again, studying Oscar’s face for a minute before continuing. “What’s happening in the Bureau is just a reflection of what’s happening everywhere. When America started going bad, there was no way for the Bureau to escape the same fate. If I’ve got you figured right, you’ve had about the same reaction to the general decay, Yeager, as I’ve had to the decay of the Bureau. The difference is that you’ve done something about it, and I haven’t. I’ve just had to take it, year after year, and let the pressure build up.”

“So, there are still some decent men in the FBI!” Oscar exclaimed in surprise. “I thought you fellows had all joined the other side.”

“Oh, we have, Yeager, indeed we have, and you’d better believe it! You just don’t understand the secret-police mentality,” Ryan chuckled. “Don’t you ever get the idea into your head that you can confide in anybody at the FBI. There are lots of us over there, especially the old-timers, who have decent instincts, men who hate the same rottenness you do and would like to have their children grow up in the same kind of world you would want for your kids. But we work for whoever signs our paychecks, and we clobber anybody who raises his hand against the System we’re part of. We may be secretly glad when you waste some race-mixer in a parking lot, but we’d fall all over ourselves to be the first to nail you for it. We’re the Jews’ mercenaries, and we earn our keep. Not only that, we take personal offense when some son of a bitch like you challenges us.”

Oscar thought for a second, then responded, “In other words, you got more than 150 Klansmen convicted last year on charges of conspiring to violate the civil rights of Blacks, because that’s the job you’re paid to do, but you didn’t really enjoy it as much as you pretended to when you were describing the investigation and the arrests on tele....”

“Wrong!” Ryan interrupted. “You still don’t understand the secret-police mentality. I enjoyed busting those turds more than just about anything I’ve done for the Bureau. I wasn’t pretending at all when I described them as ‘the scum of the earth.’ I know what you’re thinking, Yeager. You’re thinking that those Klansmen’s hearts were in the right places, that they were just doing in their own way what you were doing in yours. But they were bums, losers. They were stupid. And they made the mistake of thinking they were smarter than we were. They challenged us. They waved their pricks in our faces. And so we cut their balls off.”

“All right. I guess I’ve challenged you too. So now what are you going to do about it, Ryan?”

“That depends on you, Yeager. If you’re a reasonable man, who knows when somebody’s got him by the balls and accepts the fact, then maybe we can work together. On the other hand, if you want to play hard-ass with me, I’ll crucify you. I’ll call in the media right now and let ‘em show me on the late news tonight walking you out of here in handcuffs.”

“I regard myself as a reasonable man. What sort of work do you have in mind?”

“That’s the answer I wanted to hear,” Ryan beamed. “Don’t worry about the work. You’ll love it. It’ll just be more of the same sort of thing you’ve proved yourself so good at. Except from now on I’ll be choosing your targets for you.” He paused for a moment, and the twinkle faded from his eyes. When he continued his voice was hard and icy. “Before we get into the details I want to impress on you that I’m a careful man, Yeager - a very careful man. There’s no way out of this for you, except to do exactly what I tell you. If you ever try to double-cross me, it won’t be handcuffs for you - it’ll be a cold slab. And don’t even think about trying to get the drop on me. It won’t solve your problem for you. No others in the Bureau know what I know about you now, but I’ve taken steps to ensure that if anything happens to me they soon will.”

There was silence as Ryan paused again to gather his thoughts. Oscar’s face remained expressionless, but his mind was busy. He doubted Ryan’s last claim; the man didn’t strike him as the kind to waste his time on a futile, post-mortem revenge. He wouldn’t have been likely to leave any of his evidence lying around his Bureau office where others might find it prematurely, because that would spell problems for him as well as for Oscar. If he really had taken any steps, then he should have spelled them out for Oscar. Only by being credible could they serve as an effective deterrent.

Suppose Ryan had left a sealed envelope with his wife. What could there be in it that would hold up in court, if Oscar had just one day to clean up a few loose ends and dispose of some incriminating items, such as his ordnance? A single thumb print by itself wouldn’t convict him. At the thought of that thumb print he kicked himself mentally. He had been so careful to avoid leaving prints every time he had carried out an action! And then he had left one during a reconnaissance! And he hadn’t even used that rest-room closet for the action!

Focusing on Ryan again, Oscar decided that if the man would let down his guard for just a fraction of a second, he could jump him, dispose of the body, and take some hasty measures to protect himself from a subsequent investigation - if there ever were one. If nothing happened for a month or two, he could then resume his former activity.

That course of action appealed to him much more than letting himself be used as Ryan’s private hit man. He tried not to let his new resolve show in a tensing of his muscles. Jumping Ryan would not be easy. He would need total surprise.