August 1974, Richard Nixon resigned the Presidency of the United States of America. The first of a new generation of Independent Operators becomes active to deal with possible fall-out from the unprecedented situation. A few years later one of these Independent Operators breaks up an assassination plot against James Earl Carter. The public never hears of this, but the Secret Service, and others, take note.
Soon after this Independent Operator comes into my life. Back into my life, actually. For this deadly Agent of Justice saved my life not only here in my home town, but in Saigon as well. What does he look like? Nobody knows. Anybody who has knowingly met him calls him the Voice. His extremely rare public speech sounds like nothing else in the annals of history.
I don’t know much more than that. And I am what passes for his biographer. Plus, maybe a bit of a therapist, too. Most of his work involves gathering information on people who make life worse. Criminals, bad or incompetent politicians, and public servants, societal bullies, it doesn’t matter. He finds the dirt and turns it over to the police, prosecutors, or the media.
My name is Erwin K. Roberts. I worked in Saigon for Havens International Media. Stateside I became editor of the local paper in the Clarion newspaper chain. When the Voice popped up in my life in recent decades it was usually to relate a story. A case that hasn’t gone as expected. Or gotten too big. For when lives are on the line he becomes about the most deadly man in the world. I help him get it off his chest. He truly hates to kill. Letting me write up his exploits seems to help him.
The Voice stayed active from 1974 until at least December of 1999. I last heard from him after a very tragic case. He may have moved his operations elsewhere. He may have retired. And if he did retire, the woman he let into his life in this 1989 case probably helped make it happen.
September 21, 1989
Well, here I sit. Nobody’s taken a shot at me for the last fifteen minutes. Half way up the side of one of the rockier Rocky Mountains. Being looked for by a full squad of Rambo wanna-be’s.
I’m surprised the girl hasn’t started to panic. This was going to be such a simple operation. Just roust some rich twenty-something who gives drugs to girls so he and his friends can party. Now I wish I had more ammo, warmer clothing. Euell Gibbons should drop by and tell me just -which- parts of these pine trees are edible. How do I get myself into these things?
September 16, 1989
It all started when two mid-level drug wholesalers sat down for their regular lunch. One worked the northern suburbs. The other’s territory covered the southern side. These guys had a few more practical brain cells than most. With all the territories between them they had little chance of conflict. They realized that they shared common problems. I’m not saying they were totally honest with each other, but both benefited by sharing information and gossip about the local trade. I had both of them pretty well wired. I mean if somebody’s got to deal drugs, I rather have them than lots of others. Neither wanted the problems that territorial expansion would cause. Both simply supplied a demand and did nothing much to increase that demand. That’s why I only had them on my watch list.
The information I picked up from them often gave me the angle I needed to attack other, less restrained operators. When they become the most dangerous drug wholesalers in town by default, then I’ll go after them. Anyway, I almost always attended their luncheons, one way or another.
That day it was easy. They had lunch at a private booth at the back of a Thai restaurant. The owner mixed Thai decorations with American Bizarre. My bug sat between them on the booth wall, hardwired into the nose of a Jackalope.
The talk meandered as usual. About this cop, about that supplier, who’s in jail, who’s out, what drug’s going up, which is declining in use. Then it got interesting.
“I hear one of Jake’s boys in midtown ran into problems selling to people at the Girls’ Shelter,” remarked Mr. Northside. “They say he saw a couple of his regular customers there. Started to talk to them and got run off by a couple of big toughs in crew-cuts. I mean who wears crew-cuts but Marines.”
“Hadn’t heard that part,” said Southside, cutting at his Prime Rib. “Fits though. Seems th’ Parker runs that place buys from one of my people. Down in my territory. Parker called my guy. Said he’s happy with the quality and price and could he arrange that the shelter was off limits to every local street guy. I called Jake. Jake now gets a grand, direct, a month to keep that block clear. Really no big deal. Most of th’ broads are trying to get clean anyways, while they’re there. Most don’t stay clean in the long run, so...”
Well, I kept on recording, but I stopped listening. Mentally I called up a metro map and tried to remember what Jake’s territory currently consisted of. Unlike those two, Jake always has a minor turf war or two going on. Jake likes to recruit new users. Jake’s on my prime list of people we can do without.
When the luncheon broke up I found a safe phone and dialed a non-existent phone number. In the back room a Sanchez Electronics & Communications an answering machine picked up and immediately beeped. “Midtown. Drug wholesaler: Jake. Addresses all fitting Girl’s Shelter his territory.”
George Sanchez’s business keeps him pretty busy these days, but he always comes through. Knowing I’d have an answer pretty soon, I hurried to do the other things I’d planed for the day.
That evening I prepared a Snare Package in one of my apartments. The DA would love the night scope enhanced shots of a package exchange between two supposed enemies. I’d left the short-wave radio system up and running rather than recording. George’s encoded signal came through the decoder, ran to the text processor of the Commodore 64 computer, then out to the noisy printer. I made a mental note to upgrade to a better system with a quieter printer.
The list was short. Since neither the Catholic nor the Buddhist operations were likely to have crew-cut bouncers I checked them off. That left two. A couple of phone calls later I figured that the Renaissance Shelter for Troubled Women sat in my bulls-eye.