THE PARANOIA FACTOR
The untamed `60s and `70s the shoot `em up days of Cocaine Cowboys and Marijuana Marauders,and the Palm Beach County Sheriffs Office is struggling to quash the blossoming narcotics trade. No computers, cell phones, fax machines, voice mail, beepers, not even a digital watch . . . just guns, guts, gumption and guesses. The Paranoia Factor explodes with deadly action . . . an enthralling novel-based-on-fact of the chilling war on drugs . . . like it was, and is today. Author Alan Peters, a Palm Beach investigative reporter during the legendary days recounted in this tale, captures an era through the eyes of an insider. A real story of real people. Agent J.C. Samson Lockhart, model for the Miami Vice television series, goes beyond the call of dutyhe's a crusader, whose mission is to eliminate drug smuggling in the U.S., while working against the odds within a greed-tainted system. Tenacious, honest Sam Lockharts vigilante approach to drug kingpins seldom boosts his popularity. As he goes about the increasingly dangerous business of keeping himself and his colleagues alive, you will follow a trail of smugglers from the shores of the Treasure Coast, to the Bahama Islands, and deep into the jungles of Columbia. This story will hold you spellbound as the powerful underground drug community slowly unravels and Lockhart prepares to shatter an empire.
Excerpt . . .
(This novel deals with a violent subject. In context, some characters use violent or profane language. Certain offensive words have been replaced with asterisks in this electronic format)
Patrick Quinn settled himself on the sofa with his glass of Dewar's and a copy of the Miami Herald. He glanced through the double doors of the main salon, across the aft deck, and watched as the walls of the Palm Beach condos, backlit by the afternoon sun, faded to the west beyond the wake of his yacht, Nighthawk. At the helm in the wheelhouse on the main deck, Quinn's bodyguard steered an easterly course over the flat summer sea. Cruising eight miles off the Florida coast on an easy ocean aboard the Nighthawk was like taking a Sunday drive in a tank. She was a vessel designed for battle conditions in heavy seas. In fact, John Trumpy and Sons of Annapolis, Maryland built the craft in 1961 for the British Coast Guard. She was ninety-four feet, eight inches long, with a twenty-two foot beam. The vessel was built for speed from cold-rolled mahogany sheets, but Quinn felt she was underpowered for his purposes. When he acquired her he refitted the Nighthawk with twin GM 16V149N diesels while, at the same time, transforming the craft into a luxury yacht. Quinn propped his feet up on the coffee table, took another sip of his drink, and turned the page of his paper. He switched on the intercom and pushed the button connecting him to the wheelhouse. Charlie, he called to his bodyguard at the helm, which was situated forward of the galley and the captain's stateroom. Listen to this story: Dateline, Mountain View, California. Quinn proceeded to read, A company called Apple that intends to make and sell small computers for personal use has been started by two young engineers, Steven Jobs and Stephen Wozniak, who have a total of $1,300 in capital and plan to establish their computer company in a garage. Both men work for established electronics companies but see great possibilities in personal computers. They originally planned to sell 100 computers for $50 each to make a quick profit, but local stores have already placed orders for four times that number. Hey, Boss, maybe we oughta order one of those personal kinda computers to keep things straight, the bodyguard called back to Pat Quinn in the salon. Whaddya think, Boss? I think I've managed to keep everything straight without any help so far and I intend to keep it that way. And that reminds me, Quinn added as he set the newspaper aside, I want you to go below and help straighten out our passenger. Quinn fingered his moustache while he considered what to do next. Patrick Quinn was forty-six and considered himself to be in peak physical condition. He claimed to be six-foot-one and no one questioned him. Quinn kept his weight to a trim 175 pounds by swimming laps daily in the oversized pool on the grounds of his oceanside estate on Palm Beach. Even when he'd been practicing law back in Chicago, women had told Quinn he had a dangerous, swashbuckling air about him, and he fostered the notion with an Errol Flynn moustache and an excess of gold jewelry. Except for a few flecks of gray at the temples, his hair was jet black. He combed it straight back, letting it fall a bit over his collar. Patrick Quinn, who wore a navy blue pull-over, white trousers and deck shoes, deposited his empty glass in the galley as he made his way forward to the wheelhouse, past the captains stateroom and radio room, with its bank of state-of-the-art electronics. I'll take the helm, Quinn told the bodyguard. You go below and help extract the truth from our passenger. Charlie Randolph, clad in his customary muscle shirt and cut-offs, stood nearly six-foot-five and had a body-builder physique. Charlie grew up on the beaches of South Florida and it showed. At twenty-five, he still had a mop of sun-bleached blond hair and a deep tan. As always, the bodyguard did what he was told. Charlie Randolph walked aft through the salon and down the stairway to the larger of the two guest staterooms below deck. Charlie looked around the stateroom as he closed the door behind him. The afternoon sun streaked through the portholes, casting stark shadows onto the paneled walls. Vincent David Wheeler, Quinn's elfin second-in-command, sat in the armchair across the room rolling himself a cigar-sized joint from a shopping bag of marijuana while Russ Taylor, the reluctant passenger, lay on the bed with his right hand cuffed to the brass headboard. Russ Taylor, the rangy, pony-tailed gopher, didn't know why Quinn's muscle-bound bodyguard had come below, but instinct told him Charlie's arrival was a bad sign. Taylor had started out doing small odd jobs for the organization two years before, while he was still in high school. After his graduation with the class of `75, he devoted himself full-time to helping Patrick Quinn build the most successful drug smuggling ring that ever existed. Russ Taylor knew from first-hand experience that Quinn expected loyalty and traitors were dealt with harshly. Taylor shifted his position on the mattress and eyed his guards nervously. Charlie Randolph was still filling the doorway while Vincent David Wheeler, who actually preferred to be called V.D., lit up his oversized joint. Watching V.D. getting stoned, Taylor thought back to the scene he'd witnessed some months earlier in Miami's Little Havana section when V.D. Wheeler taught him the Pat Quinn approach to handling disloyalty within the organization. It's the Cuban problem, V.D. had explained as they sat for hours parked on a dark side street watching the front door of a white stucco house where a party was beginning to wind down in the early morning hours. Carlos Diaz lived there with his girlfriend, Anne. Carlos had been instrumental in establishing Patrick Quinn's money-laundering operation that passed drug profits through certain Miami banks. Carlos played a continuing role in the Quinn organization by helping to orchestrate the movement of large sums of cash, not only to the banks of Miami, but to drug suppliers, middlemen and officials in Central and South America. Sitting in the rented Lincoln, V.D. told Russ Taylor that Carlos had become greedy, demanding a larger percentage of the cash he moved. When a courier delivering a suitcase filled with currency to Panamanian officials was robbed by three Cubans in the parking lot of Miami International, Quinn blamed Carlos. A Cuban will always stab you in the back if he can help himself or another Cuban, V.D. said. Can't trust 'em for nothin'. Finally Carlos and his girlfriend appeared at the front door, waving goodbye to the last of their guests and went back inside. V.D. Wheeler, who usually wore a hat to make himself look taller than five-foot-four, popped a Yankees cap over his curly, silver hair and screwed the silencer into his .22 automatic. Then Russ Taylor followed V.D. half a block to Carlos' door as he'd been told. The fifty-year-old smuggler tucked the gun into the back of the waistband of his jeans and rang the bell. When Carlos peered out and saw V.D., he threw open the door and welcomed him in, as Russ Taylor remained hidden in the shadows outside. You missed a hell of a party, Carlos said, closing the door behind him. Russ Taylor could see through the living room window that Carlos offered V.D. a cold bottle of Carta Blanca, but the smuggler waved him away. Carlos took a swig of the beer and handed the bottle to Anne, a petite blonde who was curled up on one end of the sofa and looked to Taylor to be too drunk or drugged out to move. Taylor glanced down the dark, deserted street, then looked inside and saw V.D. reaching behind his back for the .22 automatic. The first shot exploded the beer bottle that was at the woman's lips. Her face was cut by shattering glass, but the bullet had missed her. Then Taylor watched as V.D. ordered the couple onto their knees and stood behind them. After V.D. fired two rounds through Carlos' head he dropped his gun and drew a straight razor from his pocket. He jerked the woman's head back by her hair and slashed her throat. Anne was writhing on the floor beside her boyfriend's body until V.D. grabbed the gun and put a round in her left temple. Then V.D. turned out the lights and walked out. It was a double execution that was designed to send a message to the Cubans and everyone else involved with the Quinn organization: Don't **** around with us. The memory of Little Havana reminded Russ Taylor of how serious his own situation was. He heard his heart pounding over the din of the Nighthawk's diesels. V.D., with his gold earring and unshaven face, puffed on his joint and stared at Taylor. You were seen with the narc, Lockhart, V.D. said slowly. You're going to tell us all about it, Russ, or there won't be much pleasure on this cruise. I'll tell you anything you want to know, V.D. You can't really believe I'd talk to that cop about us, do you? Convince me, V.D. said with a glance toward Charlie Randolph. That was the bodyguard's cue and he didn't miss it. Charlie moved quickly to the side of the bed and fractured Taylor's jaw with a right. The big man worked over the helpless teenager for twenty minutes before he left Taylor in a semi-conscious heap that was still handcuffed to the headboard. Charlie wiped the sweat from his upper lip and grinned at V.D. like he'd enjoyed the workout. I'm going back on deck, Charlie told V.D. When he comes around, he oughta be ready to talk. If not, let me know and I'll get tough with him. Taylor heard the bodyguard go out and close the door, but didn't move or open his eyes. He knew his jaw was probably broken and felt like a few of his ribs had been broken as well. A trickle of blood dripped from his nose and his left ear. Taylor tried to calm himself enough to think clearly. Taylor realized he had a major dilemma. He had met with Agent J.C. Samson Lockhart, a narcotics agent, and someone had told Patrick Quinn about it. The real problem was that he hadn't done or said anything to help Lockhart and so he had nothing to tell V.D. Unfortunately, the truth would not set him free. Taylor's first encounter with Lockhart had been two weeks earlier when he looked in the rearview mirror of his van and recognized the narc as the driver of the unmarked Chrysler behind him. Quinn posted pictures of all the known narcotics agents working in South Florida and even though Lockhart was a newcomer, his photo was in the lineup. Quinn had even mentioned to a few people that he was particularly concerned about this new agent. Something about the fact that Lockhart came from an old money family, not the sort to be bought off. Hoping it was simply an awful coincidence that Lockhart was behind him while he was delivering half a dozen bales of high-grade Colombian marijuana to a local dealer, Taylor sped north along the ocean on A1A. After racing a few miles up the coast, Lockhart pulled alongside the van, pointed a silencer~-equipped submachine gun out the passenger side window, and signaled for Taylor to pull off the road. Taylor's surrender was both immediate and unconditional. Agent Lockhart found Taylor a willing negotiator when a deal was offered. Lockhart offered to recommend to the prosecutor's office that only a lesser charge of possession of marijuana over five grams be pressed and that Taylor be put on probation. Taylor agreed to become a snitch. It was an agreement Taylor was uneasy with from the start. After all, Lockhart could have put him in jail, but Patrick Quinn could have put him to death. Russ Taylor mistakenly believed he could slither out of both sentences. Taylor thought he might wriggle free by tipping Lockhart to the location of a Quinn stashhouse when all but a few hundred pounds of marijuana had been moved out. The loss would be insignificant to Pat Quinn and Lockhart would have the pleasure of interrupting the smuggler's business as well as arresting a few minor employees. Naturally, Patrick Quinn could not be tied to the ownership of any of his stashhouses. Or to any of his organization's vehicles, vessels and aircraft. Not even to the oceanside estate that was Quinn's home and the smuggling organization's nerve center. That was Samson Lockhart's problem, Taylor had assured himself. Russ Taylor certainly didn't appreciate Lockhart picking on him to inform on Pat Quinn's operation, but he could understand why he'd been picked. With the exception of V.D. Wheeler and Quinn himself, Taylor figured he knew as much about the smuggling ring as anyone. Quinn had set up the organization with the care of a corporate attorney, which he had been before becoming terminally bored with his life and Chicago's climate. A love of boating and a chance encounter with pot smuggling during a Florida vacation started Pat Quinn's unexpected criminal career. What Quinn discovered in the early 1970s was that Palm Beach was not merely a tourists' paradise, it was a smugglers' paradise. Palm Beach County boasts almost 50 miles of Atlantic coastline. Just 45 miles to the east lies the edge of the Bahama Islands, an extensive, intricate chain of 2,700 islands, cays and reefs that stretches 700 miles and that has served smugglers and pirates for centuries. From its beaches, Palm Beach County extends west through the sugarcane fields to the Everglades. Four major canals flow through the county to the Intracoastal Waterway, a navigable waterway running from Texas to Maine. There were four major navigable inlets from the Waterway to the Atlantic, and within an hour's drive there were four major seaports, three international airports and dozens of private airstrips. But most attractive from Pat Quinn's perspective was the fact that the entire area was covered by only 16 vice agents, who were more interested in harassing adult bookstores than interdicting drug smuggling. Even President Jimmy Carter seemed to be following his predecessor's policy of ignoring drug enforcement. There were a total of three federal Drug Enforcement Administration agents in the West Palm Beach office which covered eight counties and most of their time was spent on paperwork. Tons of marijuana smuggled into the country by Quinn's organization moved quickly and secretively like the pea in a shell game. Motherloads were transferred at sea to ocean-going speedboats which brought the contraband to shore and were promptly trailered away to stashhouses. There the pot was loaded into trucks, Winnebagos and U-Hauls for delivery to independent wholesalers in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and two dozen other cities. The process from the open sea to the open road took no more than 24 hours. Russ Taylor's body shuddered involuntarily and he sat up on the bed. He figured that if he could give V.D. an interesting yet innocent explanation for his meeting with Lockhart, that would be the end of it. The truth is, V.D., that the cop tried to get me to turn on you guys, but he didn't have anything on me, Taylor lied. I told him to **** off. V.D. said nothing, but walked over to the bed and ground out his burning joint in the flesh just below Taylor's right eye. On the deck above Pat Quinn was setting the yacht on autopilot before returning to the airy and elegant salon where Charlie Randolph, the bulky bodyguard, and V.D. Wheeler waited. V.D. swallowed the last of a beer and tossed the bottle into a foamy wake trailing the Nighthawk. Look at that water! V.D. exclaimed, pulling absently at his crotch. Flat as a ******* nun. Some nuns ain't that flat, ya know, the bodyguard answered. *****. Hey Quinn, Charlie's been scopin' out penguins. What is that, a cross fetish, Charlie? V.D. pried the cap from another Heineken and flopped down on a white wicker chair. With seas like this, we could make Baranquilla for Wednesday breakfast. We ought to turn the hell around and go for a load instead of wasting time on that punk we got below. What're we going to do about him? We're going to cut him up into bite-size pieces and troll for sharks, Pat Quinn said. But not until he's told us everything he gave that cop. Quinn pulled open a mahogany cabinet and shuffled through a stack of papers. He handed one sheet to his grubby right-hand man and waited while V.D. read the xeroxed page. It was a copy of a confidential intelligence report dictated by Agent Samson Lockhart on the arrest and development of Taylor as an informant. Patrick Quinn was at the helm of a $5 million-a-week smuggling ring. He could make more money in a single week than A1 Capone made in his entire syphilitic life. His smuggling organization was the most profitable business in the state of Florida. It outearned the heavyweight corporations comprising the Fortune 500. Congressmen returned Pat Quinn's phone calls. The ring had operated without serious interference thanks to the government employees on Quinn's payroll. But J.C. Samson Lockhart was not one of the friendly few, and coming from old money stock, Lockhart couldn't be bought off. So far, all of the cop's attempts to infiltrate the organization had been successfully short-circuited but Lockhart's persistence was wearing on Quinn's confidence. A salty breeze raked Pat Quinn's straight, black hair as he took the confidential report back from V.D. Wheeler's sweaty hand. Has Russ even admitted that he was arrested by Lockhart? Quinn asked V.D. Nah. He won't say ****. Then let's finish it, Quinn said. V.D. pulled frozen blocks of chum, a bloody mixture of fish entrails, out of the bait freezer and threw them overboard while Charlie Randolph brought Russ Taylor onto the aft deck. Within several minutes several sharks were competing for the fish guts floating off the Nighthawk's port side. Russ Taylor's hands were cuffed behind his back when he was led on deck and over to the port rail. He looked down and saw the sharks and smiled to himself. You don't get killed before your twentieth birthday, not for something you didn't even do. Taylor looked past the railing at the churning water below where five or six sharks were clearly visible just beneath the surface. As Charlie Randolph unlatched and raised the section of railing in front of Taylor, the teen thought Quinn was really going all out to scare the **** out of him. I'll tell you guys whatever you want to know, Taylor said, grimacing from the pain that shot through his broken jaw. I got busted by Lockhart and he offered me a deal, but I never told him anything. That's the truth. Over his left shoulder Taylor saw V.D. coming up behind him, the open straight razor in his hand. Taylor tried to turn, but Charlie Randolph had him by the arm. V.D. cut a deep gash from Taylor's shoulder blade to his waist. Blood poured from the ugly wound as Charlie Randolph shoved Taylor overboard. An hour after Russ Taylor was eaten by sharks, Charlie spotted an approaching vessel and pointed it out to V.D., who was at the helm. Just some hotdog. We'll get rid of him, V.D. said. V.D. Wheeler, who had captained boats through the Bahamas and the Caribbean for 25 years, distastefully regarded all fishermen as hotdogs. They all spent too much for fast boats and unnecessary equipment and invariably too little on provisions and fuel. They rammed into docks and rocks and each other. They were all hotdogs. The stocky figure on the approaching 36-foot sportfisherman appeared to be no exception. Ahoy, the fisherman called out as the smaller vessel came alongside the Nighthawk. Something we can do for you? Quinn called down. The fisherman, who was in his mid-30s and well tanned, shaded the sun from his eyes as he looked back up at the yacht. I was hopin y'all might be able to spare a couple gallons of diesel, the fisherman shouted. Been runnin' around out here a while longer than I planned to and I'm gettin' real low on fuel. I wish we could help you out but we're running on the dry side too. As a matter of fact, I was just about to make for the coast. Where're ya out of? Palm Beach. How about yourself? Oh, I chartered out of Freeport. What have you been catching? Quinn asked. Nothin' that'll be worth hangin' on the wall. By the way, I could sure use some fresh water if it's not a lot of trouble. Sorry, but we aren't provisioned for a cruise either, Quinn said as he pushed the Nighthawk's throttles ahead. Good fishing, my friend. V.D. Wheeler laid down the shotgun he'd been holding out of the fisherman's view and joined Quinn on the bridge. That's unbelievable, V.D. complained as the smaller boat headed away. What a hotdog. Jerks like that shouldn't be allowed in a bathtub let alone the ocean. A ******* menace to everything on the water, that's what they are. You know, I couldn't agree with you more, Quinn said. Incidentally, have you ever run into Samson Lockhart? Naw, not face-to-face. You have now, Quinn told him.
THE PARANOIA FACTOR
by Alan Peters