John Davis Collins
Ed note: A preface is a requirement for the following tale. John Davis Collins, being an astute scholar, very likely has a mind which operates unlike most...ergo....basic explanation is required for many literary consumers.

Nationality in my stories of CID means little. Most national tags are hidden carefully in hints. You might guess Sergeant Halperin is at least half Italian, from references he makes about home. And Watson, well Watson's problem is that he's not very sophisticated in a world of Byzantine intrigue.

This is a story where a hyphenation may make a difference. How Watson is offered a second chance in a left handed way is a trade mark.


Power Play

....by John Davis Collins @1997 by John F. Clennan. All Rights Reserved

The law has little to do with my job, even though technically it falls under law enforcement. I face questions of power, expedience and objectives, based upon the auguries of the computer.

The lenses of Frank Miller's dark rimmed glasses steamed as he with ill timed jerks bowed his head to enter my dented silver trailer. I smirked.

I picked my battleground in a run down trailer park at the outskirts of town well. Compact like a small sturdy person, it made powerful men like the blue jacketed, white pants Miller the Chief of Criminal Investigations Operations at Fort Gates, Texas pay it homage.
Military Police Blotter was published by the legendary Bill Loepkey's Inditer Dot Com of Canada.

Against advancing illness and frustration which the legal system imposed, Bill Loepkey promoted literature and culture on the internet. It is no small recognition that his countrymen have hono[u]red Bill in their Bibliotek Nationale.

To its Special Branch, the overseer of Criminal Investigations Division, CID, the Army's independent world wide detectives division, local chieftains were numbers on a map. I had been sent to this remote camp-town of Cowboy bars and pawn shops to investigate an internal problem and make a difficult decision. With a nervous smile, Miller stumbled to the rickety table. His dark jacket was stained with more than rain drops.

My dossier on Fred Miller showed nothing exceptional, except for ambition. Although most CID operatives were content with their shadowy military status, Miller was toying with the idea of joining the officer corps, an odd career choice for a CID Agent who was nearing retirement eligibility. Money is not, I concluded, Miller's prime motivation in life.

I cut off Miller's clumsy attempt to engage in initiatory pleasantries. This was all business. The stat boys had identified a serious problem at the Fort Gates Office of CID.

I still call them boys. Now in 1977, most are comely women whose long hair flows over white lab coats while they pour over reams of computer paper through bottle rimmed glasses and create paradigms based on probabilities. Much had changed in Army CID's Special Branch since I was recruited 30 years ago out of an infantry trench in Korea. While we no longer search for communist pinkos, our mission remains unchanged: not so much to enforce the law, but to keep the CID system pure.

I silently studied Miller as he shuddered at another lightning strike in the apocalyptic Texas thunderstorm raging outside.

The stat boys conjured several dangerous scenarios from their numbers. It was for me to deal with the personalties to find out which answer was right.

"Watson, Thomas," I asked gruffly, "your opinion." Miller stared back at me unknowingly. When I called him I had not stated my purpose.

"Watson, Thomas, he's one of your men, you do have an opinion. You did recommend him to head drugs suppression."

Watson's file consisting of an official Army photo of a good looking man with the stubble of blond hair, a passable record as an MP Sergeant, and mediocre academic reports from the CID School, gave no clue of a double dealing agent. Independent of the Army, CID would have let Watson grow hair to a fashionable length, but did it also shield drug activity ?

"Head of Drugs Suppression," Miller mechanically answered, "New Agent on first tour. The office's superstar...numbers over shadow our greatest expectations."

Ah yes, numbers. The stats showed it improbable so may cases could be made at Fort Gates through the efforts of one informant...Henry Keyes...

"First tour in CID. Why is he in charge ?" I demanded.

"Luck. Right place in a rash of retirements."

I let the question hang to wait for Miller to flesh it out. "I promised." Miller continued, "The CID Commander at Fort Gates, I'd shepherd Watson. He had good potential. We weren't disappointed."

Miller leaned back in the chair, His mouth started to form words when I dismissed him perfunctorily. "Our business is concluded. Keep it to yourself and send me Watson today."

I reviewed Watson's file. Although a synopsis of his significant cases showed stellar performance, he had not won favorable account in CID School. An instructor who recommended dropping Watson from the CID program noted, "Sergeant Watson maybe a superior traffic cop but lacks the broader vision to effectively function in CID." Was he the criminal mastermind the statisticians predicted we'd find ?

Tall broad shouldered SA Thomas Watson stooped to enter my lair. If he were hesitant, it was not out of fear but respect.

I gruffly told Watson that I needed the rat to work a government property caper. "Too much shrinkage ends up in Russian hands. Lead him to me as a new dangerous face in the area."

Watson shook his head. "Ain't seen him. I'll call the unit and summon him to the CID office." Watson's tone was melancholy. His voice trailed away.

"A buy soured. A guy got killed...The informant ran away scared. Morale is low...We haven't made a bust in weeks..." Watson paused. "I shouldn't be mad at the informant. He came up to me and handed me busts. What did he get out of it? He almost got killed."

In an office memo, probably never read by Watson, Miller the sly Army bureaucrat expressed concern that too much depended on one "free lance" informant.

I offered SA Watson practical tips which might stir up activity. "It's a stat game. Your bosses 'll salute some little MJ busts for a while and compile them on a tote board as if nothing had changed."

Watson signed. "Mr. Miller offered to put me on leave and rotate me out of drugs. I turned it down, I didn't want to give up at the first sign of trouble."

I admit I play God. That's my job. I have to determine what happened and proceed accordingly. That decision may be made instantaneously. What was said or how it was said must persuade me of the truth.

Watson was the obstinate type needed in that trench in Korea, but could he understand CID's long range policies and priorities ?

I ended the meeting on a high note, slapping Watson on the knee. "Set up a meeting with the informant in a cowboy bar."

For the next month, I worked the cowboy bars where reports would have placed the informant...Henry Keyes. In a short number of days, I had him under regular observation watching as the short, well groomed Keyes plied these dens of prostitution and drugs with an easy going verisimilitude.

Special Branch file showed a confusing picture. Though blessed with a superior IQ, Keyes had flubbed out of the defense language institute. Little other background information was available. Even Watson had said, "the cases Keyes made snowballed so fast we never had time to ask him for an autobiography."

I became such a familiar face in the Rocking Horse, a roadhouse hidden in a cedar grove off the main highway leading out of town that I had struck up a nodding acquaintance with Keyes. Soon I was confident enough to approach Keyes. "My principals are interested in parts of the new Abrams tank."

"Visit a pawnshop," Keyes recommended, "Underpaid GIs sell Uncle's stuff there to make ends meet.

"My principals want working parts, not junk the government is de-x-ing, throwing out."

Keyes casually promised to ask around. "Out of the box merchandise costs plenty."

Not long later, Watson dropped by the trailer with news that Keyes restored contact with him. "He's shaken the heebie jeebies and is anxious to work again. Do you still want the meeting ?"

Although I had already made contact, Keeping Watson's meeting would confirm my bona fides.

Watson planned an chance encounter in the Rocking Horse. Watson would finger me and Keyes would introduce himself. I arrived early at the box shaped cottage hidden in a cedar grove which housed the Rocking Horse Bar.

Mid week before pay day, the juke box didn't play and only one or two prostitutes nursed drinks at the bar.

I sat at the bar, back to the door. I saw Watson out of the corner of my eye. Keyes came up to me. When I turned to him, an evil self confident smile came across his face.

"Hank Keyes, this ain't your usual night here."

"I may have some word soon on your order."

"Really. How much will it run me ?"

When Keyes held up a finger as if to call the bartender, a burly man joined Keyes at the bar and asked Keyes to step outside to settle a debt.

"Problem," I opened my wallet displaying a sizable flash wad. I pick up my friend's tab."

"No sir," remarked Keye's companion. "I owe him."

"Money calls," Keyes said with a smile, as he hopped down from the stool.

It was after midnight when I summoned Watson to the trailer. "What happened ?" I demanded.

"Keyes gave the warning signal and Military Police backup team pulled him out."

When I asked for debriefing notes, Watson confessed that "I'm not really good with paperwork." Handing me a roughly typed sheet of paper, Watson added, "The chubby guy you saw banged these out:"

"2000-made contact - 2005 signaled bartender for drink, accidently giving abort code. 2006 contact terminated."

"Did Keyes claim he knew me or saw me around ?"

"No."

A sorcerer, this Keyes I thought. He intends to play both sides of the street right to the end.

"Who calls the back-up team ?," I asked.

"Me or the Chief of Operations."

"Anyone else ?"

"No."

I could easily sideline Watson out of play. Shutting a chief of operations away had political implications within CID Command.

I called Keyes at the barracks on a rainy Sunday afternoon and asked him to meet me in the cowboy bar. The clouds parted just before dusk to allow a spectacular Texas sunset ending the day. From the cedar grove I watch Keyes turn off the main road and bounce down the long gravel driveway toward the entrance where I met him.

"Now, Hank, are you just another little sawdust Hitler I'm wasting time on or can you actually get me the parts I need ? "

"Next week here. Bring your wallet."

I pointed to a car at random and said, "You leave your fat friend at home."

I called the Special Branch operations and explained my position. "I don't think either Watson or Miller is corrupt. Watson might blunder into saving Keyes. Miller might save Keyes to make the local office look good."

"Neutralize Watson, we'll handle Miller...," the voice paused, "Long range planning, based upon your reports, believes we can use Keyes. We've placed a priority on recruiting Keyes. Dump Watson, if you want."

The decision, a difficult one, had fallen to me. I never shirked a tough choice.

Special Branch was concerned with goals and objectives, not preserving the line between right and wrong. Personalities served the end. Those who don't meet policy guidelines can be sacrificed to it. Yet I shuddered at the option of trapping a dedicated soldier like Watson in a dirty game. I saw my solution.

I summoned Fred Miller to the trailer. Although apprehensive, he was much calmer. "Glad you caught me. I was about ready to depart. Change of station," Miller said, casually wiping fog off his glasses. "I just this morning received a direct commission as a Major and I'm off to CID Headquarters."

I smiled. Special Branch had moved quickly.

"I need Watson temporarily assigned to Special branch."

"Take him now or take him permanently for all I care, "Miller flippantly replied.

Within an hour, Watson reported to the trailer.

"The next few days," I explained, "the mission requires that you remain here with me on a 24 hour basis...When the deal goes down, I need you to man the wire."

I decided it unwise to test him whose heart was pure. I would watch Watson, while I cornered the informant.

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