The Harker File

The Harker File

by Marc Olden

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Chasing a scoop on the CIA, a reporter finds his own name on the hit list

In Madison, Wisconsin, a dairy farmer drops dead of a heart attack. A few days later, a small-town citizen in Iowa is killed in a three-car pile-up. Few men know the connection between these deaths, and only one is willing to talk to Harker, an investigative reporter with sources on the inside of every agency in Washington. His source at the CIA is named Trotman, and he knows things that men cannot discuss in the light of day. The two dead men were CIA agents, defectors from Communist states living under assumed names. Trotman tells Harker not out of civic duty, but because the reporter will be one of the next to die.

Getting the story of this terrifying conspiracy down in print is Harker’s only chance for survival. He must work quickly to stay alive, but that’s no problem. Reporters like Harker love deadlines.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781453260609
Publisher: Road
Publication date: 06/26/2012
Series: The Harker Files , #1
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 204
File size: 2 MB

About the Author

Marc Olden (1933–2003) was the author of forty mystery and suspense novels. Born in Baltimore, he began writing while working in New York as a Broadway publicist. His first book, Angela Davis (1973), was a nonfiction study of the controversial Black Panther. In 1973 he also published Narc, under the name Robert Hawke, beginning a hard-boiled nine-book series about a federal narcotics agent.  

A year later, Black Samurai introduced Robert Sand, a martial arts expert who becomes the first non-Japanese student of a samurai master. Based on Olden’s own interest in martial arts, which led him to the advanced ranks of karate and aikido, the novel spawned a successful eight-book series. Olden continued writing for the next three decades, often drawing on his fascination with Japanese culture and history. 

Marc Olden (1933–2003) was the author of forty mystery and suspense novels. Born in Baltimore, he began writing while working in New York as a Broadway publicist. His first book, Angela Davis (1973), was a nonfiction study of the controversial Black Panther. In 1973 he also published Narc, under the name Robert Hawke, beginning a hard-boiled nine-book series about a federal narcotics agent.

A year later, Black Samurai introduced Robert Sand, a martial arts expert who becomes the first non-Japanese student of a samurai master. Based on Olden’s own interest in martial arts, which led him to the advanced ranks of karate and aikido, the novel spawned a successful eight-book series. Olden continued writing for the next three decades, often drawing on his fascination with Japanese culture and history. 

Read an Excerpt

The Harker File

By Marc Olden Road Integrated Media

Copyright © 1976 Marc Olden
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4532-6060-9


Trotman said, "once is an accident. Twice is queer."

"Not when you're in love," I said.

"Yes, sireee. Twice is pretty damn fucking queer. Two dead people. Not one but two."

I watched him slowly stroke his flat nose, using a thumb the size of a knockwurst. Large thumbs go with a man two hundred and forty pounds and barely six feet tall. We sat in darkness, in the front seat of Trotman's Chevrolet parked in an apartment-house garage just off 15th and F Streets in Washington, D.C. The June night was Washington summer weather at its worst: hot and humid, hard to breathe, and thick enough to kick a hole in.

A mosquito whined near my ear. In the darkness, I felt it brush the back of my hand, its touch as light as an old man's whisper. I smacked myself quickly, zapping the mosquito. Rubbing my palm against my thigh, I blended the remains of the little bastard into my new tan summer gabardine.

Trotman's eyes closed to slits as though in prayer. Trotman praying? Now there's a thought. Trotman on his knees at night, head bowed, thick hands folded, praying to God to please send him a dog to kick. Trotman worked for the CIA.

Trotman cared about America, about what was being done to it by some of the people he worked for. That's why we were talking.

"These people shouldn't have died," he said, his voice hard to hear. "No reason for it."

I started playing investigative reporter. "Did you know them?"

He nodded yes.

I lifted an eyebrow, eyes on the big man. He'd shown me local newspaper clippings of the funerals. One funeral had been in Madison, Wisconsin, involving an ordinary dairy farmer named Rankin who had died of a heart attack four days ago. Nothing unusual. No police inquiry, no insurance company tearing his life apart to avoid payment.

The other clipping, dated six days ago, was from a small town in Iowa. A sixty-two-year-old man named Conway had been killed in an automobile accident involving three cars.

But it did seem a little out of place to me that a CIA man like Trotman would have known two ordinary citizens living in the boondocks.

"What's your connection with them?"

He sighed, large hands gripping the steering wheel as though he wanted to yank it loose and hit somebody with it. Trotman's hands were big enough to juggle typewriters as though they were oranges.

"I used to work with them." He said it so low that I almost didn't hear him. A CIA man working with two men whose lives and deaths should have been ignored by most of the world.

"When?" I said.

"Long time ago." His hands were still on the wheel, large hands made ugly by his line of work. Twice he'd been unlucky enough to be captured by the other side, and on at least one of those occasions, things had been done to his hands.

What they had done to his hands had stayed with him long after the pain had pulled back to some small corner of his mind. Today the hands were stiff, thick at the joints, and he would never be able to stretch them entirely open. It was my guess that he couldn't deal a deck of cards.

"Long time ago," he said, still looking through the windshield into darkness. "Knew them before they were born."

"Before they were born?"

"Yeah. When I knew them they had other names. The names on their tombstones ain't what they came into the world with."

Trotman's telephone call to me in New York this morning said get down to D.C., that what he had for me couldn't be said over the phone. And he wasn't going to break the habits of a lifetime and start putting anything down on paper. Nobody in the Company puts anything on paper. Rule #1 and don't you forget it.

Trotman was one of six sources I had in the Company. Like the others, he was nobody's revolutionary or leftist. The big man was a Republican; Caucasian in thought, word, and deed; Episcopalian; and as far left as Julie Nixon. For all I knew, he wore, red, white, and blue underwear and his idea of fun was arresting blacks for being niggers on a sunny day.

America was being hurt by men with power who hadn't been elected to power, men with a free hand, lots of public money, and the morals of a child molester. Washington was full of them. Men appointed, hired, and brought in by friends and acquaintances. Putting these people in charge of anything amounted to taking a 747 up ten thousand feet and turning the controls over to Daffy Duck.

That was the trouble with the CIA today. The CIA was a bunch of sinister adolescents with tire irons, roaming the world and crushing skulls in the name of the American way of life. And these bloodstained cretins didn't have to account to anyone for their private little body count.

This didn't bother Trotman much. It bugged some of my other Company sources, but not the big man. After all, he'd gone forth more than once in his forty-eight years with a tire iron of his own. "Terminate with extreme prejudice" was the way they put it. Having your brains smeared across your face was extreme.

No, what bothered Trotman was the practice of terminating agents when they weren't needed anymore. Agents who'd put their lives on the line for America. When you weren't useful anymore, the Company turned its face away and you were terminated, Jack. Killed, betrayed, left to be eaten by large rats in foreign jails. God help your ass when the Company looked the other way.

That's what Trotman didn't like. And I had the feeling it had something to do with what had happened to his hands and what might be happening right now in dark corners of the world to the hands of other agents. When you've been there, like Trotman, you knew.

That's what brought us together tonight.

I started to ask him about dead men with two sets of names. Trotman didn't give me the chance to open my mouth.

"Don't want to make this an all-night affair, Harker, so just listen. You'll understand why I couldn't go into this on the phone. We're losin' 'em. Givin' them up ... and that's what disgusts me. Somebody, one of us, is givin' up names. And somebody else is looking up these people and terminating them. It's that simple."

Not to me it wasn't. But I had the feeling now was the time to start taking notes in the dark. I swiveled around in my seat, feeling my underwear crawl up around my scrotum. It wasn't a nice feeling, but I couldn't think of another way to get my notebook out of my jacket.

"Specifics, Trotman. Something to go on." The heat wasn't bothering me anymore.

He was different now. His eyes burned into me, nailing me in place.

"Those two dead people I told you about aren't Americans. They're defectors. One's Russian, the other's Cuban. Both worked together in Cuba 'bout ten, twelve years ago. Worked for the Russian mission in Havana. I helped 'em cross over. Got 'em set up with new names, backgrounds, the works. I brought 'em over." He pounded his chest with an open hand and I listened for the sound of cracking bones. Nothing happened.

I went back to writing. Fast. I had the feeling, that funny feeling, that this trip was worth it. Can't explain ... I never could. It's something a reporter knows or doesn't. And I know it was starting to happen now, right here, in the front seat of a cheap Chevrolet that Trotman had either stolen or borrowed for this meeting.

I wasn't about to interrupt him. I scribbled words, half-words, scribbled fast and didn't worry whether or not I could read it back later.

"The defectors were given American names, and relocated. At the time, five defectors came in with that bunch, all of them part of the same operation. They were in Cuba during that missile crisis we had some years back. Combination Russian-Cuban team working between Havana and Moscow, setting up nuclear-type weapons and shit like that."

He paused to take a breath. I didn't.

"The Russians couldn't go back to Moscow because of that Cuban missile thing. The Russian leader got blamed for backing down, for making Mother Russia look bad. Almost got his ass burned permanently for that one. But he lived through it. Some of his buddies didn't. When the new premier came in, he kicked ass right and left. So some of the Russians in Cuba decided it was better to defect than return and maybe get killed 'cause their honcho fucked up. Naturally we were interested in getting our hands on them."

I interrupted. "You said something about losing them, giving them up. That sounds like, uh—" Shit, I wasn't sure what it sounded like.

Trotman was. He leaned closer, and I could see his big red face with its high cheekbones, flat nose, yellow eyes, and knife edge of a mouth. I held my breath, fingers in a white knuckle grip around my ballpoint pen. Trotman's face could curdle milk.

"I'm saying that somebody in the CIA is killing these people."

I listened and couldn't take my eyes off him. Then I forced myself to look away and started writing again.

"I'm telling you, Harker, that we either got super patriots in the Company, to pass judgment on these people, or information on where these people can be found is being passed to the KGB."

"Jesus." I exhaled the word, leaning back against the front seat. Too fucking much. The CIA giving up defectors. No. Couldn't be. Impossible. Hell, didn't I know better? Nothing impossible in Washington these days.

"Trotman, you're telling me—"

He was impatient now, a professional who knew how his game was played.

"Harker, shut the fuck up. I'm telling you, you ain't telling me. OK?"

I said OK. I wasn't that stupid.

"Harker, I'm telling you it ain't right. Two times is two times too many. Man, I know. In my business, you learn to distrust perfection. Perfection means somebody's workin' too hard to make it look good. Perfection sucks, let me tell you."

"So tell me."

"Harker, I been in 'Wet Operations.' I can smell one. And this is a wet one, believe me. Blood's being spilled, I'm tellin' you. I think you can do something with this one."

I sighed. I could ... but what? I was on a CIA story already, a story about Thomas Merle DeBlase, a sixty-nine-year-old right-wing Texas fanatic worth seven billion dollars. T.M. DeBlase would set up legitimate businesses in foreign lands to be used as fronts by CIA agents. I was trying to find out if the Company gave him economic tips not available to your average businessman, enabling T.M. DeBlase to grow richer.

I also wanted to know if T.M. DeBlase had encouraged the Company to meddle in foreign countries so he could make a profit on everything from helicopters to guns to tin mines.

I had my CIA story already, and it would be a goody if I could put it all together. That's why I was working six CIA sources. But Trotman's story. Now that was something, really something. The Company bringing defectors across, then zapping them. My, my.

"Want to show you something, Harker." His big hand came from beneath the seat with a brown manila envelope. He passed it to me, a corner of his wide, no-lipped mouth pulling up in what passed for a smile.

I took four photographs out of the envelope, and, beside me, Trotman flicked the cover off a lighter and thumbed it into flame.

The photographs were eight-by-ten blowups, glossy, grainy prints that reflected the flickering orange flame like a mirror. I got the surprise of my fucking life.

Trotman said, "The tall dude, the one with the white hair, long face, and nasty look is Walter Fragan. He works in the library at Winslow University out in Indiana. Fragan's real name is Viktor Mikhail Valentine. He used to be a KGB colonel in Havana. Mean, tough son of a bitch. Got to watch Fragan. And the other guy—"

Trotman was enjoying himself now. Somebody was hurting.

"Is me," I said.

I could practically hear myself sweating. I shivered, suddenly chilly in the heat, wondering just what the hell was going on with my life. I was scared.

"Yeah, you, Harker. You." Trotman was smiling, actually smiling.

"You, Harker, right beside a man who came into the country with them two dead people ten years ago. A man who will probably be killed next, if I'm right about this shit that's goin' down. And you're right next to him. You think my story's worth your time?"

I looked down at the photographs.

"Do I think this story's worth my time? Does the bear shit in the woods? Do birdies sing in the morning? Trotman, what the fuck are you asking me dumb questions for?"

But I didn't take my eyes from those four photographs for long, long seconds.


Winslow, Indiana, was one of those small towns where the natives had long been in the habit of parking their cars and pickup trucks with the fronts facing the sidewalk. This means Winslow had a wide street running through the center of town called "Main Street." I knew there had to be at least two people in town making a good living teaching baton twirling.

Two weeks ago, when I was there, the booster club had stretched a banner across the width of Main Street announcing an upcoming county fair.

Today, as I drove through, I got the feeling the fair was still going strong. There were more pickup trucks around than I remembered from my last visit. Some had crates of live chickens stacked on the back.

At least half the population of seventy thousand appeared to be in overalls, and maybe it was my imagination, but the number of country-music stations seemed to have tripled since my last visit. I fingered the car radio until my wrist ached, but all I came up with was men and women singing in nasal voices about having a last cup of coffee in a lonely diner.

Driving through Winslow took me as long as it takes to unwrap a stick of gum. My rented Mercury carried local plates, so I didn't sweat a hometown sheriff leaning on me because I was a so-called big-time New York reporter. If they had a reason to do it, and if they knew who I was, they might. But I drove through town under thirty miles an hour, and when I was outside it with a clear road ahead, I put my foot down until the speedometer needle touched forty.

I'd stayed in Washington last night, spending a restless six hours at the Hilton with a lot of things on my mind. Trotman had shaken me up with those photographs, now in the mail on the way back to my office at the New York World-Examiner. We'd talked some more and I knew I wasn't going back to New York without first making a quick trip to Winslow University in Indiana. Walter Fragan had a small house near there.

Chances were he wouldn't be around, not if he was as smart as Trotman said he was. I could still come up with something, though—his friends, his interests, women, little boys, favorite television shows, what he wanted to be when he grew up. Something.

Also, I figured to get there first before the line formed. If Trotman was right, then other people would be poking around. Good guys and bad guys. And these days, who the hell knew which was which? Anyway, get there first, I thought, and you won't have any trouble. That's what I thought. Shows you how wrong a thirty-three-year-old investigative reporter can be.

Just wait till the word got out that I was working on this one. The shit would hit the fan by the barrelful. I'd gone through it before.

My paper, the New York World-Examiner, would be getting telephone calls by the dozen. The Company, naturally, plus the Justice Department, the State Department, and, if I was lucky, the White House would get in on it, too. At first, everybody would be as sweet as Annette Funicello, asking me on a buddy basis to kill the story. After I was my usual nasty, uncooperative self, they'd go over my head to my editors and probably my publisher, the grande dame Elizabeth Edith Evans herself.

Most of the time, I could count on Eddie—my nickname for Mrs. Evans—to be on my side. Hell, wasn't she paying me eight hundred dollars a week, with expenses? And didn't I deliver two Pulitzer Prizes and ten other journalism awards in five years? How's that for poking your nose in other people's business?

A sign on the left side of the highway came toward me: WINSLOW UNIVERSITY—FIVE MILES. On the car radio, a woman sang about a cheating man who was fooling around with her sister, her cousin Mae, and her grandmother.

My girl Eddie. Eddie for Edith. She'd go with me on a story until it looked like we might get sued because the other side had a case. Then she would call a meeting and have a little talk with me and I'd better be ready to back up my side of the story. Eddie didn't get rich by eating bonbons and watching daytime television.

So, I was driving out to Winslow University to get on Fragan in a hurry, to come up with something quickly and quietly. My story on Thomas Merle DeBlase and how he was using the CIA to make himself even richer would have to wait. And yet ...


Excerpted from The Harker File by Marc Olden. Copyright © 1976 Marc Olden. Excerpted by permission of Road Integrated Media.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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