Hero

Had I lost my nerve or had I lost the faith entirely ?

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"The Hero Medal"
It was a late afternoon when Frank Miller, the neat trim Chief of CID Operations beamed at me behind his black frame glasses. Miller brought Hank Keyes, a boy barely old enough to shave to the drug's section. "Henry Keyes," the chief said, "shows promise as an informant. We could use a boost in our statistics. ..." Miller paused deliberately, "Fort Gates CID ranks to the worst in the Army."

At age 40, months away from the 20 year Army pension. I had seen enough in deep cover.

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Miller added sarcastically, "A short time ago, Agent Wilson, you came here a hero. I don't understand."

I took a breath and looked at my assistant Tom Watson fresh out of CID School. His neat beige suit and neatly knotted black tie rigidly adhered to CID standards. The glimmer in his eyes betrayed his thirst for action.

Action ? Young pups like Watson, in their mid 20's, didn't know what it was. I had seen plenty in my last assignment, deep cover in Germany.

I had heard the boy, Henry Keyes out. Short wearing neatly pressed green fatigues, Keyes spoke in genteel tones. "I'm the police," I growled. "I know the risks of my job. Some little brat playing cops and robbers could get himself and me killed." Tom Watson was convinced. His young brown eyes clouded with disappointment. Office work, reading and writing reports bored Watson.

I nodded to Watson to escort the soldier out.

On his return, Watson asked, "Why ?"

This is the Army and I don't have to explain. Burrowing ourselves up in the office gave us very poor statistics, which attracted the Chief's attention. A complaint from Watson could cheat me of a few months I needed to make retirement.

"Tom, drugs is deadly," I snapped, "People get killed who wander in for kicks." I paused. I spoke softer. "We'll run a raid, find a dirty leg snitch nobody I'll miss." I promised.

To keep Watson away from the Chief, I entrusted the planning of the raid to Watson. "It's not all lock-load and fire. It's a lot of boring details...making sure we get enough MPs and we teach them what to do." Drugs work is 1% splash and glitter and 99% boredom, waiting and watching.

In my deep cover assignment planning must be flexible. Turned loose with scenarios, options and alternatives, I watched all melt away as soon as I hit the street. My connection vanished a couple of days before my arrival under the guise of Specialist 4 PCSed, transferred in. I had no idea of whom or what I sought.

Watson accepted my decision and spent days with the MP Company planning and practicing the proposed raid. Crim Info (Criminal Information) Report had noted rumors of drug activity at the Post Bowling Alley's Bar.

The Chief of Operations accepted the plans with a sigh. "Watson is in contact with that informant you turned down. Why don't you reconsider ?"

Watson didn't talk much about a personal life. In drugs, there is no private life. All entanglements are dangerous. Leaving, the chief said, "Your plan relies too much on luck. If stats were good, I wouldn't mind that we played a long shot." Cops can't depend on luck even though good luck breaks many cases. In deep cover, I had been with my unit under my assumed identity for several weeks without success when a young private noticed me shuffling around for socks. "Hurry up, friend, there's an inspection, " he urged.

"Can't find my blasted green socks."

"I'll get you a pair, no problem."

Watson finalized plans for the raid, he pressed me for a date. I could hold Watson off only so long.

Pressing rigid time schedules are not possible in deep cover. I didn't know how long my contact telephone number would take "No Action," as a report before my mission was scrubbed as a failure. Situations have to develop naturally.

My young friend invited me out several times to local beer halls frequented by GIs, got introduced to his friends. Conversation was casual and light hearted. On one occasion my young friend nodded and his friends mechanically left.

"You're a quiet guy, stick by yourself and keep you mouth shut. You ain't a cop, are you ?"

Watson left work early. I don't know why. I really didn't care. His plans remained on my desk for approval when I turned out the lights and went to my apartment in Bachelor Officer's Quarters. I was dozing in a grease stained, wobbly army chair when I received the call from Operations: Watson had nailed three subjects in the NCO Club...the bartender and his patrons... selling and buying dope, right in the open. Watson was ebullient: he had confronted evil and overcome it. In deep cover, I learned a different aspect of good and evil.

"We sell dope...marijuana ... nothing big ... Keep it to user amounts, " my friend explained, "The Germans don't care and our officers look the other way," I had gained entry. I counted the seconds to the time of my contact point.

To my surprise, They were uninterested. "Small change." I was told, "we're thinking of yanking you, regardless."

"Give me half a chance," I protested.

Two more important busts quickly followed and Watson was the toast of the office. The Chief overruled my decision and accepted Henry Keyes as a legitimate informant.

"You'd better make progress with that raid or..." the chief warned, "I don't even want to think of it."

That would be an invitation to retire, I wasn't ready yet. In deep cover, my years as a cop in the army had not prepared me for the dope ring I joined. Without horns or tails, they were a bunch of under paid GIs and some wives making ends meet on a small paycheck in the thriving German economy.

"Better than prostitution," my friend assured me. "Most Germans who buy from us are doing charity. They don't want us to starve and be replaced by Russians. They can get better drugs from Amsterdam than the Air Force can get us."

"The Air Force ?" I asked.

"Just tend to your route." When I gave Watson a date for the raid, he shook his head. "I have a controlled buy on post that night."

I don't know whether the caprice of leadership or jealousy caused me to snort, "Rearrange it. It's often done in drug deals." In deep cover, I learned drug deals had their little protocols and dealers met like heads of state. I remember the pimply faced Air Force Sergeant meeting my friend and me after several cancellations and last minute changes of location. At the end of one meeting, the Sergeant asked, "Can't talk you into bigger game ?"

My friend paused and shook his head. "Small stuff, nobody bothers with. Something bigger, with all the eyes watching and open mouths, the police will be on top of us."

I had chided my friend to try the big buy the Air Force Sergeant suggested.

"I won't be enough to retire off and invites attention from competitors. In this racket it isn't your enemies you have to watch; it's your friends," he said pleasantly.

The night of the raid,we hid the MP raiding party behind the post office.

I personally inspected the raiding party and its equipment and the plainclothes MPs who would report when they noticed any drugs sold. Unfortunately the staff car equipped with a phone was preempted that night and body wires weren't working. The message from the plainclothes MPS would have to be relayed by radio from the MP station.

For us, it was watch and wait.

In deep cover, the green light was a moment of ecstasy. I had received the green light from my contact point when my friend decided to do $5000. "That's close to record...if it comes off," I was told.

The ring, without question, raised the money as my friend requested and in short order we met the Air Force Sergeant. Beforehand, my friend told me, "The fly boy doesn't trust you, but he took my word. If I'm wrong I'm dead."

Although my contact point knew of the buy and I expected police to swoop down on us, the buy went off smoothly. "Next time," the Sergeant said greedily counting the bills, "We can do more."

My contact point explained, "Command decided to go for the record. We'll get a higher number on a second buy or on resale..." The plainclothes MPs...all women...knew their parts well when they left, but two hours had gone by. The MPs standing by in jeeps were getting anxious.

While I debated whether Watson or I should go in to check, the MP Lieutenant came up to my vehicle. "Special Agent Wilson ," he said, "Headquarters received a garbled phone communication. Do we proceed or abort ?"

After the buy, my friend vacillated. Should he cut the dope and sell it to users or resell it intact. "I might get as much as $10,000 on resale." His dope ring told him to do what he thought best.

"Lets do it," I told the Lieutenant. The MPs climbed up on their jeeps and raced for the bowling alley. Well rehearsed, they blocked off all the entrances to the parking lots and secured the doors. Watson and I threw open the doors to the bowling alley and trooped to the bar with the lieutenant behind. There were about 10 or 15 patrons in the bar who looked up from their drinks. When we trooped in I could tell from looking at the downcast expressions on the faces of the plainclothes MPs sitting by themselves at a circular table that nothing happened. I not sure whether my deep cover mission ended in success or failure.

The money and drugs on a darkened side street had just been exchanged when my friend yelled, "Rip Off." He had seen the glint of steel before me and had run off. High beams flicked on several cars parked along the street, motors revved up and shots rang out. I hit the cobblestone and rolled between parked cars and hid.

I had walked into a drug rip off. And where was CID ? They had known of the sale. Why hadn't they come ?

Footfalls rang out. It seemed like an the whole army was scouring the street. I peered up to see whether I could make a break for it. A pimply faced man stood over me. A gun was in his hand. I prayed. This could be the end.

He lowered his weapon to the ground and said, "Agent Wilson, are you okay ?"

On Monday, I came in early to the CID office at Fort Gates, and pored over my notes to come up with an explanation. While I had sweated out a defense, Tom Watson sheepishly stumbled to his desk to do paperwork. I knew the end was near. At 08:30, Frank Miller, the Chief of Operations stood in the doorway.

It was a long march to the Colonel's office.

I had had the long march to the Colonel's office once before. Ensconced in a guest house for two weeks following the incident in Germany. I was thrown a dress uniform one morning and hustled away in a jeep to CID Headquarters in Bonn where a cheerful colonel presented me with Meritorious Service Medal and a promotion to Chief Warrant Officer 4. I cried in anguish, not out of joy.



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