TCN

One summer head up the Big Muddy to St. Louis and hang a left. Now you’re on the Missouri, the longest river in North America. Go upriver past Sioux City, Iowa and hang a left again on the Niobrara River. Head west until you’re walking in a dry river bed. You missed it. Back up. The Squaw River is a shorter tributary of the Niobrara, yet it has a year-round flow despite winding across the most arid grasslands of the high plains. Bison used to reliably congregate at the edge of the Squaw River to drink, and the hunters of The People knew it.

On a ridge above Headwater is a pillar of rock carved by wind to look like an Indian woman carrying a papoose in her papoose, hence the name Squaw River. Just west of town the river bends around the south and west flanks of Green Dome and pours from an underground cistern.

Headwater is where the river begins, but it’s also where the railroad and pavement ends. Other than a few dirt roads and old wagon tracks, the land north, west and south of town is literally the biggest void in the lower forty-eight states. Headwater has nothing for tourists, even when it wasn’t wartime and there were tourists to be had. The view from the top of Green Dome was out over thirty-five miles of nothing. If you were from out of town you were only there to get hitched and your extended family put you up.

Special Agent Mark Felt drove to the strip of land where Hoover told him the FBI had dropped a trailer. It was unoccupied. Felt let himself in using a spare key he had obtained from the Wichita field office.

The kitchen was still a kitchen, but the living room was a workspace. He checked the trailer’s two bedrooms and saw they contained two cots apiece. After he cleaned himself up a bit Felt helped himself to the files stacked on the desks. One of them, with brittle yellowed paper that Felt instinctively handled with great care, was a report on the final days of Fort Price, a former Army outpost a number of miles to the east.

The report contained pages from the commanding officer’s journal and testimony of the six surviving soldiers, including one who had been captured and maimed. Felt stopped reading the Fort Price file when he heard the sound of a vehicle’s tires crunching up to the FBI trailer.

Felt had already met Clyde Tolson at the handshaking ceremony the previous year when Hoover inspected his graduating class but this fellow wasn’t he.

When the agent came in Felt thought the man looked more movie gangster than g-man, investigatee more than investigator, and somewhat later he learned he was one of the very few members of the Democratic Party to be accepted into the Bureau. “Are you William Mark Felt?” the newcomer asked.

Felt, who had been sitting ramrod straight in his chair, now stood ramrod straight on his feet and extended his hand. “Just Mark Felt, please.” And the newcomer remarked on their mutual good fortune, as he was Bill Sullivan, and two Williams would have been confusing.

Sullivan approached the desk to see what Felt had been reading, amused by Mark’s body language which seemed to dare him to say something derogatory about the presumption. “Ah yes, Cowboys and Indians,” he said when he saw the material a bit closer. “How far did you get?”

“The Indians dropped a couple cows,” Felt replied, “and the Cowboys dropped a couple Indians. If you hadn’t shown up, Bill, I’m sure I would have plowed my way through to the part where the US Army lost their fort. A lifetime ago. Is this one of Tolson’s special projects?”

“DECON,” Sullivan said. “Domestic Enemies Containment, Observation, and Neutralization. I’m sure the Director told you this was Special Projects but my advice to you is to play along with Special Agent in Charge Tolson on this. At least until you break the murder case.”

Felt silently absorbed this and nodded once, clearly accepting the advice. He donned his overcoat and said, “Where is Tolson, by the way? I’ve only just arrived from the Texas office and the Director gave me almost nothing in the way of a briefing.”

“Tolson is waiting for you at what qualifies for a hospital in this tiny hamlet,” Sullivan said. “It’s practically a one-room log cabin. He’s with Dr. Ian Trochmann. I’ll take you there, but I won’t be staying. I’ve got tasking of my own.”

As Sullivan drove Mark Felt to the hospital to take over the investigation Felt said, “You got me wondering why Tolson gives a damn about the Army losing a fort way back when.”

Sullivan shrugged. “It was the little brother to Custer’s Last Stand. One thing that really strikes me about the Indian wars was how the Indians gave as well as they got. We only beat them with numbers.”

“Numbers, time, and the fact that they weren’t really as blood-thirsty as people make them out to be. Did you ever hear of something they did called ‘counting coup’? No? It was the wartime equivalent of touch football. They went to war like we go to ball games.”

At Headwater’s only hospital a plump nurse in her fifties wheeled out a shivering boy with bandaged stumps where his feet should have been. She was followed by Deputies Bill and Bob wheeling out one boy apiece, each with identical injuries.

Sullivan led Felt up the walkway and made the first introductions. “Felt, this is nurse Ella Fader, and in the wheelchair is young Scott Hilling. Ella, this is FBI Special Agent Mark Felt.”

Felt couldn’t help grinning at her name. She saw that and shook her head to warn him off.

After that Sullivan introduced Deputy Bob Lurz, pushing Johnny Sunkel, and Deputy Bill Holsinger pushing Larry Porter. Felt wondered aloud why they were being rolled out to see the snow.

Deputy Bob said, “Special Agent in Charge Clyde Tolson was of the mind they needed fresh air for about an hour.”

Agent Sullivan told Felt, “The Indians here used to believe if they could make a captive scream his shade would be their servant in the afterlife. Some still remember. Not quite the touch football you mentioned earlier. There was a young Indian fellow in this little clinic a few days ago who was horsewhipped. Goes by the name of Gabriel Shybear. I think these three boys did it, and I think Gabriel’s friends worked them over with knives as payback. But nobody is talking, not Gabriel, and not these kids. Nobody wants to name names.”

“Oh, there you are Felt,” SAIC Clyde Tolson said when they arrived indoors. Felt remembered his oblong face and searing gaze from last year at Quantico when he inspected the graduating class 15 with Director Hoover.

The sheriff was also there and Sullivan made the introduction, “Special Agent Mark Felt, this is Sheriff Roddy Walker.”

Mark decided to hit the ground running. Even as he shook Roddy’s hand he looked at his watch and said, “Sheriff, it’s quarter of four and I am assuming responsibility for this investigation. The Bureau expects your full cooperation.”

“Special Agent Felt, this department will pull out every stop to cooperate with your investigation. But I am curious about one thing: why start now? Ten years ago there was another murder victim found just a few yards over the state line. My father was the sheriff at the time. He reported it up to the Bureau and expected a federal response but he was just told to handle it locally.”

Felt said, “I don’t know the particulars of your father’s case. In this one the deceased is already involved in a DECON investigation by Special Agent in Charge Tolson, and whoever perpetrated the crime arranged her corpse in such a way that deliberately goaded the Director.”

As Hoover had cautioned him, he refered to the Special Projects section by the acronym coined by Tolson. Hoover had told him to mesh with Tolson’s investigation where practical but that his reports were to go directly to DC. This particular case irritated Hoover so much he even issued a Bureau sedan so Felt’s wife could proceed to DC as they originally planned, knowing this would smooth over any resentment Felt had over being diverted on this side trip. That was uncharacteristic of the Director. More typically, Hoover deliberately imposed hardships on his agents in the field to “toughen them up” without regard to what it might do to their marriages.

For his part Tolson appeared pleased by Felt’s can-do attitude and that he didn’t need to be reminded of his preferred term for the Special Projects section. Unaware of Felt’s conversation with the Director he suspected Sullivan was instrumental there.

Sheriff Roddy introduced Dr. Wahkan to the federals. A man donning scrubs was introduced in turn as as Dr. Ian Trochmann, part of Tolson’s DECON project. He said he was preparing to perform the autopsy all over again for the federal side of the house.

“There’s not going to be much of the girl left after that,” said Dr. Wahkan, in a vain attempt to call the whole thing off.

Sheriff Walker found a sudden need to be outside and Sullivan followed him. On the way out they heard Dr. Wahkan said, “Agent Tolson, my prayer is that you find whatever you are looking for quickly, and never again return to Headwater. Not even uncivilized men treat their dead in this manner.”

The sheriff heard Special Agent Mark Felt’s stomach growl and guessed the man might not have eaten since breakfast. He invited Felt to dine out. Felt heartily agreed, so long as the sheriff remembered not to talk about the case in the restaurant. Roddy decided on Bea’s Chicken Inn only five blocks east of the hospital. Headwater wasn’t a very large town. Roddy took him over in the half-ton truck and along the way Felt invited him to spill what he had uncovered up to that point.

Roddy said, “We have what is very likely the murder weapon, and it has fingerprints. We have many photographs of the scene with tire and boot marks in snow. That house coming up is the home of the deceased. I made contact with her twin sister there, one Robyn Zinter, who recently moved to Headwater. She already knew Kim was dead and described circumstances of that death. I didn’t bring her in because I knew this was going to be the Bureau’s case from the gitgo, and also because some of the things she said were pretty crazy.”

Bea’s Chicken Inn was kitty-corner to Robyn’s house. When Roddy pulled into the parking lot he gave Felt one more item from the case. “The murder weapon came from a set of knives, and this morning we recovered the set, based on a lead. The source of the lead was the aforementioned Miss Robyn Zinter. But the lead was too good to risk passing up.”

“Do you think she’s indulging in misdirection, sheriff?”

“I can’t figure her out at all. She expresses zero sorrow for her sister. None. She intelligent and sweet but half the things that come out of her mouth make no sense at all.”

When they went inside and were seated Roddy remarked that the place was much less busy that it used to be on weeknights. “Coal was the mainstay of the town and that’s drying up.”

Felt said, “I heard wartime meat rationing will start in a month or two.”

Roddy nodded. “Places like this won’t close up, but they’ll have to collect ration cards from customers and put them all together to get resupplied. I suppose it’ll be even less crowded then.”

“I have a law degree,’ Felt said, ‘and I was leaning toward the intersection of business and government, but the war intervened. In wartime our country becomes, temporarily, a military dictatorship with all hands on deck. So as with your coal miners here my own work dried up too.”

“Your education was not criminal law?”

“Well, make no mistake, I was immersed in criminal law at Quantico. But the crimes that draw my attention don’t happen in towns like Headwater. I want to go after spies.”

The waitress came to take their order. She took the menus but left the two silver half-dollar coins that had been on the table when the men were seated.

“The people who ate at this table before us were from the Red Wing of the Church,” Roddy said confidently.

“How do you know?”

He gestured at the two coins. “Those half-dollars. 1942. The mint mark should be D for Denver, but they’ll both be O be- cause the die was worn and nobody caught it in time.

Mark Felt looked at both coins and saw Roddy’s guess was true. “How strange. But what’s the connection to the Red Wing?”

“There’s a fellow I know here who runs a pawn shop, he brought these to my attention. Normally a mint mark of O would make these collectible. This fellow found out the Denver Mint had struck about a hundred of these flawed fifty-cent pieces before their quality control spotted the problem and halted the run. But there are many more than a hundred of them circulating here in Headwater. Everywhere you go in Headwater you’ll see them, always from the Red Wing, usually retirees living on social security, this old fellow gets a tube for his radio at the hardware store and leaves a half-dollar, that old lady gets her hair done and leaves some more.”

“Do you think somebody in Headwater is counterfeiting coins?”

“If they are, Agent Felt, I really don’t see how they would profit by it. If you melt a silver half-dollar down all you get is a half-dollar’s worth of raw silver bullion.

“But Pawn Shop Guy says the little O under ‘In God We Trust’ makes it collectible.”

“Sure, if there was only a hundred of them. There’s probably a hundred thousand of them now and they’re breeding. I chalk it down to one of the many unexplained things about this town.”

“Just before we met I was reading how Chief Wanica and a boy named Tashunka somehow fought off a half-dozen armed men.”

Roddy was tempted to tell Felt this Tashunka found the deceased, but that would break Felt’s rule: it was germaine to the case.

The waitress arrived with their food. The sheriff withheld his reply until after they were served. Then he said, “My guess is Special Agent in Charge Tolson is running that old mystery to ground. But I don’t want to break your rule and talk about active cases while we’re eating.”

They stopped conversing and ate while Mark Felt expressed his appreciation for the food with grunts and eyebrow gestures. Roddy asked, “How many spies have you caught, Agent Felt?”

“None so far,” Mark admitted. “I’ve only been with the Bureau for one year. Half of ’42 was spent at the Academy and in DC, and for the rest of the year I was in Texas in hot field offices doing little more than interviewing references people had listed when they applied for government jobs. Hardly the exciting life of a g-man that I envisioned.”

“How’s the pay?”

“About sixty a week.”

“Not shabby at all, Special Agent Felt.”

“What is shabby is having to pick up and move every few months. My wife Audrey and I were in the middle of another move to DC so I could catch spies like I wanted, but I got diverted here.”

“How long have you been married?”

“Four years, twice as many relocations, and somehow my beautiful girl still puts up with me.”

At the station after supper Felt had his first look at the evidence in the case, the photographs and the fingerprints and the knife found near the scene. And there was the set the knife came from, retrieved from Bergin’s trash. Felt began to interrogate the sheriff and the deputies as though he were some pricy city lawyer Paul Bergin might retain.

Felt asked the sheriff, “What made you think to dig in Mr. Bergin’s trash?”

“Bergin and Hansen,” Walker corrected him. “They’re wrapped up in some nasty politics presently going on in the Church of Green Dome, which is sort of a big deal here in Headwater. I was given that tip by Tashunka, the same fellow you mentioned over dinner. The boy who was with Chief Wanica., He was also the one who found the body. We didn’t find any evidence in Hansen’s trash.”

Felt turned to Deputy Bob. “Are you sure this came from Mr. Bergin’s house, Deputy?”

“I counted four stops after I got in the garbage truck. There are three houses between the Bergin place and where I crawled inside.”

“But did you actually see that you were in front of his house?”

“No, Agent Felt. I was inside the truck. I didn’t have a clear view to the side.”

Deputy Bill shook his head when Felt glanced at him. He had also been well out of sight. “But the driver of the garbage truck and the pick-up man both said they saw Paul Bergin throw this bag in his trash can just before they picked it up,” he said.

When Agent Felt absorbed all this he looked simultaneously pleased and troubled. “Sheriff Walker, I’m pleasantly surprised by what you’ve managed to get so far, but I wonder if you do see the glaring hole in our case?”

Walker nodded. “I do, Special Agent Felt.”

“I can give you their names if you wish, Agent Felt,” said Bill. “The trash men were deputized for this operation just like the Sheriff told us to do. That gives them legal standing. ”

“It also gives them elevated responsibility, Bill,” said Roddy, “and I hope you explained that to them when you swore them in.”

Felt said, “Then I think we’re ready to see a judge. We might have just enough now to fingerprint both Mr. and Mrs. Bergin.”

Sheriff Walker approached a large cork board to look at photographs pinned thereupon. “And if his boots and tires match what we posted here, Special Agent Felt, then we will have a little bit more than just enough.’

Felt nodded with obvious pleasure. But the homicide investigation experienced the first headwinds from Judge Karl Porter when he was visted by Felt and the sheriff at his house and declined to allow them to to bring the Bergins to the station for fingerprints. He also declined to let them bring Robyn in for more for questioning. The judge mused, aloud, “Your case is starting to become a fishing expedition.”

If Felt was disappointed it didn’t show. “Let’s go visit the Bergin place anyway,” he told the Sheriff outside the courthouse. “I want to see if I can shake something loose.”

“Do you want Bob and Bill to tag along?”

“No, I need them to make a phone call. Tell your men to get the number of Bergin’s plates, then have them go up to the temple and take photographs of his tire treads.”

“Oh, we already have Bergin’s plate number on file,” Roddy said. “He doesn’t think the wartime speed limit of thirty-five miles per hour applies to church deacons.”

Agent Felt smiled in admiration. “Sheriff, this is one of the smallest towns I’ve ever seen, but the way you run your department is a G-man’s dream.”

When they arrived at Bergin’s home Mark Felt took copious notes beginning with the fact that no vehicle was present. And Felt thought the most striking thing about the woman who answered the door was how unattractive she was. If she hadn’t worn a dress Mark might have thought Deacon Paul himself was standing there. He cleared his throat and identified himself and Sheriff Walker.

“How may I help you?”

“Is Mr. Paul Bergin at home?”

She shook her head. “He works at the temple. I’m his wife Ruth.”

Perhaps you can help after all, Mrs. Bergin. It seems a young woman was attacked with a knife recently.”

“Good God! Is she well?”

“It’s hard to say at this point,” said Felt. ‘But we found the knife that was used in the attack. It has a unique wooden handle. It’s hand-crafted, you see. Only a very few sets were sold, Ruth, and we think you might have one of them.”

Ruth gasped. “You can’t think that I or that Paul did this.”

“Not at all ma’am! A criminal investigation is much like tracing out every rabbit trail even when they just come to a dead end. If you show us your own kitchen knife set then the sheriff and I will back out of this here rabbit trail and be on our way.”

“We never bought our knife block,” Ruth said. ‘It was made by old Owen Bergin when Headwater was first settled and has passed down from father to son ever since.”

Felt made a note of that on his pad, then broke into a smile. He said, “You see, Sheriff? I knew we must be wasting our time.”

“I’m sorry, Ma’am,” said Sheriff Walker, “but we had to be sure. Still, do you mind if we take one little peek at the one you do have?”

Without showing it on his face, Mark Felt admired how Roddy caught his little game and slid right into his role without clashing gears. And Ruth went inside to fetch it.

The fact that Ruth didn’t know she was missing her knife set was recorded in Felt’s notebook. As he expected, she returned empty-handed and Felt recorded that too, not so much that he didn’t already know it, but for the affidavit he would have the sheriff type up for Judge Porter.

“I don’t understand,” Ruth said. “I used a knife from that set just this morning when I made breakfast for Paul and the children, but now everything is gone.”

“Oh no, Mrs. Bergin,” Roddy said, “that’s just what we didn’t want to hear. But I’m sure there must be a good explanation.”

“Ruth, do you mind if the sheriff and I come in so all the heat in your house doesn’t escape through the front door?”

She thought about that for longer than Felt liked but in the end Ruth nodded and opened her screen door to let them in. She asked them to sit on a couch. Roddy thought Ruth’s home was very similar to Kim Zinter’s place in size and design but different in almost every other way. There were no decorations at all, no paintings, no rugs, not even a single knick-knack. Only two books were in sight, a Bible and the Green Book.

There was another difference: when he visited Robyn she was playing music, but here it was silent.

There was no radio, no record collection, and no Victrola to play them on. Roddy marvelled how religious folk were so keen on a hereafter when life here on Earth was so miserable, by choice.

“I see you don’t have a radio, Mrs. Bergin.”

“There’s only one station in town, Sheriff, and more often than not they play race records. Paul says that’s the devil’s own music. Why, even the children in the Temple high school are playing that garbage these days, if you can imagine.”

“The girl who was attacked sang in the Temple school band,” revealed the sheriff. “It’d be a terrible thing to find out somebody stabbed her simply because she sang race music.”

Ruth’s face was impassive but her eyes darted at those words.

“It was very generous of you to allow us to come indoors, Mrs. Bergin,” Felt said. “I have no right to ask this of you, and don’t believe for an instant that we think you attacked the girl, but if I could just get one print of your thumb I could compare it to what we found on the knife and completely eliminate you as a suspect in this case.”

The sheriff had to restrain himself from whistling in admiration at Agent Felt’s performance right there. It was so beautifully done. Ruth would be thinking of self-preservation in the face of her own husband framing her for the crime.

“Will you have to take me down to the station for a thumbprint?”

“Not at all,” said Felt, and he used his pencil to make a thick dark spot on a page in his notebook. “Are you right or left handed?”

“Right, of course,” Ruth said. “Southpaws are cursed by God.”

And so with Ruth Bergin fully and freely willing, Special Agent Mark Felt rubbed her right thumb in the spot of graphite, then flipped to a fresh page in his notebook and rolled her thumb across it to get a perfect print. Then he carefully closed the book to preserve the print until it could be photographed.

“This schoolgirl, she was Erik Zinter’s kid, wasn’t she?”

Felt stood up from the couch still holding his notebook carefully open. He said, “I’ve been careful not to say too much and upset you, Mrs. Bergin.”

“I suppose it couldn’t be helped,” she sniffed.

Sheriff Walker scrambled to his feet at that remark and politely asked Ruth what she meant by making it.

She said, “I think only a believer would fully understand me, but Erik was putting our most holy relic to common purposes. Digging coal! Our God is a sovereign God.”

Roddy made eye contact with Agent Felt, who raised his notebook a bit and shrugged. He already had what he came for. Roddy said, “So God wasn’t content to take Erik’s life for what he did? He had to take the life of his daughter as well?”

Ruth was shocked. “She’s dead?”

“Yes, Ruth, she’s dead. What a terrible thing for Clara Zinter, don’t you think, losing her entire family for Erik’s sin? But whoever did it must have a death wish, or maybe he thinks God will protect him. He left the body draped across three states and elevated it to a federal case. It was already the Chair for the killer if I caught him.” Walker repeated that last part. “If I caught him.”

“But the Bureau always, always gets its man,” Felt finished.

Judge Karl Porter was directly descended from Alfred and Caroline Porter, who were part of the first wagon train to set down roots in Headwater. In any other town of the West, where family trees actually fork, this would be as prestigious as tracing one’s family back to the Mayflower.

From his corner office on the second floor of the courthouse Judge Porter could look down upon his ancestral family home on the north bank of the river. Most of the land of the homestead had long been sold off for the homes and apartments of the northwest quadrant of town.

The courthouse was five blocks away from the sheriff’s office on the same island in the Squaw River that formed the heart of the town. The sheriff was making another run at Paul Bergin, and this time, Porter suspected, he just might get him.

The judge glanced once more at the Affidavit in Support of Arrest Warrant submitted by Sheriff Walker. On a personal level he didn’t like where this investigation was going. Until the schism Paul had been the deacon of the Church and the Bergins, just like the Porters, were part of the town’s Old Guard.

The Church of Green Dome had secrets, the judge well knew. Something happened last summer to bring three agents of the Bureau sniffing around. After a few weeks they had abandoned their trailer outside of town but the death of this girl brought them back.

With that in mind Porter addressed Felt and asked, “Do you foresee a time when the Bureau will no longer be acting in cooperation with local law enforcement here in Headwater?”

“Certainly, yes Your Honor. After they are identified and apprehended the individual or individuals responsible for the crime will be transported for arraignment in Kansas City.”

Judge Porter said, “Then with the view of hastening that blessed day, Special Agent Felt, please lay out your evidence.”

Mark Felt nodded at the sheriff. Roddy displayed a knife in a cellophane bag, a page from Felt’s notebook, and two closeup photographs of these. The sheriff said, “Your Honor, Mrs. Ruth Bergin, the wife of Mr. Paul Bergin, was kind enough to allow Special Agent Felt to take an impression of her right thumb and as you can see, it matches the single thumbprint we dusted on the knife found at the crime scene.”

“What in the name of God would make Mrs. Bergin give you her thumbprint, Sheriff? And why isn’t she named as a suspect?”

“I think, Your Honor, the answer to both questions is the same. She was shocked to find her set of kitchen knives had gone missing on the morning when the trash was to be picked up.”

Porter growled while he chewed on that item for a moment. Yes, the sheriff, or Agent Felt, or both, would have led Mrs. Bergin to think her own husband was framing her for murder. Still, there was no legal way to reject this new evidence. “What else do you have?”

The sheriff reached into his briefcase and removed two more photographs. ‘Your Honor, Paul Bergin’s vehicle is presently parked at the Temple and is under surveillance by my deputies. You can see here that his tire tread matches the tracks we found at the scene of the homicide.”

“The judge looked at the photographs and without further prompting he remembered that under wartime rationing Paul Bergin could only own four tires plus one spare. Porter realized the sheriff now had enough evidence to justify an arrest warrant.

“The court finds probable cause to believe a felony offense, to wit, the unlawful killing of Kimberly Zinter with malice aforethought, has been committed. The arrest of Mr. Paul Bergin at any hour of day or night is so ordered.”

Karl Porter’s law clerk began typing it up.

“Special Agent Felt, will it be sufficient to confine your search for more evidence of the crime to the home of Paul Bergin?”

Felt replied, ‘No, Your Honor. If Mr. Bergin was a layman his house would have been enough. But as a member of the Church leadership he has physical access to the whole Temple.’

“Very well, these are the rules of the People for your search: Let’s assume Bergin is hiding evidence in the Temple. When you make the arrest you will obtain his keys. Any door that is locked, but his keys can open, you may enter and search.”

“Thank you, Your Honor,” said Felt. “The Bureau accepts this limitation on the search.”

“Proceed with caution, Agent Felt,” Judge Porter said. “The Church of Green Dome is the very lifeblood of Headwater, and the Church was already going through its most difficult passage in nearly eighty years before this happened.”

“The words of Dr. Wahkan and Sheriff Walker have already sensitized me to the plight of the Church, Your Honor,” said Felt, “and I will indeed take great care. But if those troubles somehow led to the killing of Kimberly Zinter, and the perpetrator turns out to be a member of the local clergy, I don’t know how even more trauma can be avoided.”

Special Agent in Charge Clyde Tolson was waiting in the second-floor courtroom with Special Agent Sullivan when the sheriff and Felt emerged from the judge’s chambers. “It’s not carte blanche,” said Felt when he handed Tolson the documents, “but it’s the best we could do.”

When Tolson finished reading he didn’t seem to be too upset by the limitations imposed by Judge Porter. He said, “Edgar knew what he was doing when he put you on the case. For six months we couldn’t get one foot in the Temple door.”

Mark Felt hoped he only heard that wrong. It sounded like Tolson didn’t give two floating turds for the dead girl.

“Ruth asked me why the knife block was gone,” Paul Bergin told Klaus Hansen at the temple. “I told her I didn’t know anything about it. She said she let this FBI fellow take her fingerprints, and that makes me wish the knife was done away with like the clothes and other stuff.”

“What’s done is done,” Klaus said. “That was the murder weapon and I didn’t know how soon I could get rid of it. Bloody clothes I could explain. A bloody knife I could not.”

“What if the sheriff and this Agent Felt come here next?”

That made Hansen ponder a bit. He said, “Now maybe is a good time for both of us to be tending to the flock.”

Outside of the temple they looked down at the parking lot and saw three marked law enforcement vehicles and a rental. They tried to go back inside but Sheriff Walker and Special Agent Mark Felt were already waiting for them on either side of the front door.

Roddy said, “Paul Bergin, you are under arrest for the murder of Kimberly Zinter.”

Paul was frozen in shock, so Roddy grabbed his jacket sleeve and cuffed his bare wrist. Then he made Paul face one of the doors. After both arms were cuffed behind Paul’s back Roddy patted him down, removed his wallet, and unlatched the carabiner key chain looped to his belt. He handed both of these to Felt, then turned Paul over to his deputies who were coming up the flight of stairs leading to the temple. “Fingerprints, new home, not a word to anybody, boys.”

The deputies took Bergin away just as Special Agent-in-Charge Tolson arrived on the with Agent Sullivan in tow. Sheriff Walker introduced Hansen to Felt as the Apostle of the Church. Hansen was indignant. “Prophet of the Church, if you please.”

“I need to talk to you,” said Felt, “but first, we have a court order to search the Temple for evidence pertaining to the murder of Kimberly Zinter.”

Klaus demanded to see the order and Tolson let him read it. Then he said, “I will hold you to the absolute letter of this search warrant, as though it were sacred scripture. You may search only in the rooms which are locked with those keys.”

Gabriel Shybear was waiting for them just inside.

“What are you doing here today of all days?” Roddy asked.

“I’m here every day now, Sheriff. There’s been a reshuffling. I hold a very important office in the Church: Deacon. Mr. Hansen is the Prophet now, and Paul Bergin is the Apostle.”

Sheriff Roddy Walker caught up on all the required introductions. “Mr. Klaus Hansen, Mr. Gabriel Shybear, this is Special Agent in Charge Clyde Tolson of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and with him today are Special Agents Mark Felt and Bill Sullivan.”

Mark Felt said, “Gabriel, would you be so kind as to take the Sheriff through your temple so he can make a note of all the doors that are locked before we get started.”

All of the doors except one along the wide carpeted foyer of A Wing were locked. While Gabriel and the Sheriff ranged through the rest of the temple, the Bureau agents went through Paul’s office like a tornado but it yielded nothing. The door to Gabriel’s office was wide open, so the agents could not enter there. They moved to the hallway that ran around the circumference of the Sanctuary and did a third of a turn to the right, checking some of the doors in Roddy’s notes, before entering C Wing. The rooms that Gabriel and Dory had cleaned were not locked.

“What’s behind that door?”

Klaus and Gabriel exchanged a glance, but the meaning of this was lost on the sheriff and the FBI agents.

“That’s a dry hole, Agent Sullivan,” said Gabriel. “It’s just my broom closet.” Nevertheless, Special Agent Felt found the appropriate key. Like Gabriel said, there was nothing inside but cleaning supplies.

Klaus said “lucky” to Gabriel and left the party for his own office. After that the sheriff and the three Bureau agents headed down the wide carpeted stairs to the basement cafeteria. There wasn’t much of interest to the FBI downstairs, which was open and airy, even in the kitchen, but the supply room on the north wall was locked and everyone gravitated to there.

“Is this the room from your report?” Tolson asked Special Agent Bill.

“Mecca,” Sullivan said.

Mecca turned out to have the same broken piano, hymnals, mason jars, and stacks of Green Dome coloring books that Gabriel had seen before when he took Robyn and Hunky and Dory into the supply room. Bill Sullivan pointed at the plywood board at the back wall. “Flashlights, gentlemen.” The board was moved aside, and presently the three G-men were standing around the rock cairn that formed the uttermost summit of Green Dome.

Felt didn’t like how the murder investigation had suddenly veered. Tolson’s agenda was intruding now. Stones were haphazardly torn away from the cairn and Tolson went inside. Then Felt heard Tolson utter an oath that was most unbecoming of an FBI agent, followed by, “There’s nothing here!”

After the search under the altar fell through SAiC Tolson left the temple and took Sullivan with him. Special Agent Mark Felt was fine with that. Conflicting agendas were never productive. That left only the B Wing of the temple to search. It was set up as a historical museum, although under the new management of Prophet Hansen the Kuwapi contribution to the Church of Green Dome had been stripped out. Some of the more valuable pieces were missing entirely. But something about B Wing stayed with Mark Felt for the rest of his life. Perhaps it was the variety of genuine articles dating back to the Civil War. Perhaps something in the way Sheriff Walker explained what he was looking at. Agent Felt found the experience profoundly immersive.

After that Felt found Klaus Hansen’s office, which was also in B Wing, and he walked right in.

This prompted an angry objection from Hansen. “You’re in violation of the judge’s orders, Felt. You know you can only search those rooms which are locked.”

Sheriff Walker held up his notebook and said, “Ah yes, but this room was locked at the time we served the warrant. In fact, you presence here is interference with a murder investigation.”

Walker and Felt searched every corner of the office and found nothing. Then Felt upended the waste basket on the floor. A large book with a green cover fell out. “What have we here?”

Walker thumbed through the pages and saw that it was the text of the Green Book, holy writ for the Church, entirely written by hand. He said, “Agent Felt, this is called the Printer’s Manuscript. It is said to have been copied in the other world from what they call the White Scroll.”

Felt said, “Gosh, sheriff, you would think something irreplaceable like this would be considered priceless. Yet somehow it ended up in the trash. I wonder why.” Then it was Felt’s turn to pour through the pages of the manuscript. When he saw the pages in the very front of the document he said, “Now that’s cute. This is like a kind of baby book for the Church. All the important decisions and events are recorded here, like this entry from 1931 marking when Klaus Hansen became the Apostle. Mr. Hansen, would you please write your signature in the sheriff’s notebook so I can see if they’re the same?”

“Special Agent Felt, I assert my Constitutional right against self-incrimination.”

“I see. Oh, look Gabriel, it says here Doriel resigned as Apostle, yesterday, on the very day your wife was murdered. Were you present when this entry was made?”

“Yes sir, Special Agent Felt.”

“Do you remember about what time of day it was?”

“It was about eight o’clock in the AM, sir.”

Sheriff Walker wrote that in his notebook.

Felt said, “Gabriel, I may need you to testify in court under oath to the same effect. Now let’s see who replaced Doriel as the Apostle. Why look, it’s Klaus Hansen! And he signed it. Gabriel, did you witness Klaus Hansen making this signature?”

“Yes sir.”

“So let’s back up a bit to an entry made in 1866. It says if the Prophet dies or resigns, the Apostle becomes the new Prophet. So here’s Klaus Hansen as the new Apostle, with the Prophet having only an hour or two left to live. Please Gabriel, tell me, what happened immediately after Klaus Hansen became, once again, the Apostle of the Church.”

“He had his own breakaway Church down at the bottom of the hill, with only white folk there. He said we should go meet with them and announce the division in the mother Church was healed. So Paul left with Kim, and Klaus took me separately in his own truck. But on the way down we got into a heated argument over race or something like that, and he just pulled over and made me get out before driving off. So I walked back up to the temple where Dory was waiting.”

Felt said, “The reason I’m asking, Gabriel, is there’s three final entries here, one declaring Kim to be dead, one making Klaus Hansen the Prophet, and one making Paul Bergin the Apostle. Did you, as the Deacon, witness any of those entries being made?”

“No sir.”

“I’m trying to ascertain the time.”

“Dory said no one returned to the Temple before I did, and that was about nine thirty in the morning. It was about ten when they returned, and they told me Kim was dead.”

“Sheriff, what time did old Tashunka arrive at your station and report the murder?”

“It was just about noon.”

“I’m going to need to corroborate this with Dory, but we have now is Klaus Hansen affirming, in writing, that Kimberly Zinter, or Kimberly Shybear if you will, was dead approximately two hours before Tashunka discovered her corpse. Mr. Hansen, do you have anything to say before you are placed under arrest for murder?”

“You can’t tie the murder weapon to me. You can’t tie the footprints to anyone. All you have is the word of an aggrieved husband.”

“You had motive. You led the White Wing out of the Church over the marriage of Gabriel and Kim, and only returned when such a marriage was made forbidden as an article of canon law.”

“All that means is the new Prophet had more common sense than the old one did.”

“Ah, yes, but that ruling left the original marriage in place, til death do they part. And you cannot account for your whereabouts between the time when you left Gabriel on the side of the road and the time you returned to the Temple, which also happens to bracket the time of the murder.”

“The girl was already dead when I got down there,” Hansen said.

“So you admit you were both there, and you deliberately made the case federal to get the FBI’s attention. Well, now you indeed have the FBI’s attention, Prophet Hansen. The floor is yours.”

“I will say this exactly once, Special Agent Felt. From here on out I will speak only to your superior officer, Special Agent in Charge Clyde Tolson.”

Klaus Hansen hobbled into the interrogation room with his ankles cuffed. He said he would only speak with Tolson, so Clyde consulted a brief Felt had put together for him before he spoke.

“Mr. Hansen, we placed your vehicle at the crime scene.”

“With tire treads, Clyde? How many different kinds of tires does town as small as this have?”

“Gabriel Shybear is willing to testify that you declared the girl dead before her body was found by the old Indian, who, by the way, immediately notified the sheriff while you did not.”

“I am the Prophet, Clyde, as you just said. If you keep me in custody Gabriel Shybear will hold Last Rites for his wife in a private ceremony and you will never see the Golden Gift. But if you swear to drop the charges, I’ll make her Last Rites public services. At the end you and your agents can descend on Gabriel and scoop up the Golden Gift at your leisure.”

Mark Felt gave a start, but he knew the Director would never tolerate letting Hansen go free. No judge would instruct a jury to ignore the other set of footprints, but even if one did, Bergin’s defense team would argue for a mistrial or at the least get his conviction overturned on appeal.

Sheriff Walker responded the way Felt initially wanted to do, “You can’t be thinking of letting him go. We’ve got him cold for conspiracy to commit murder at the very least.”

Felt said, “Sheriff, I’m dying to discuss this with you, but this is not the time nor the place.”

Tolson found that remark interesting. “Where are your thoughts trending, Felt?”

“Sir, when the Director sent me here he told me the case would be independent of your DECON work but unfortunately here’s a situation where the two investigations have run right into each other. The Director’s orders to me were to, quote, ‘mesh with Tolson where practical’ so I will look to the senior agent on site for guidance.”

“Excellent, Felt. Then let us go forward and see what shakes out. Prophet Hansen, you have my word as a federal agent the Bureau will not charge you with the murder of this girl. But if this is just a big bait-and-switch operation, if I don’t have the Golden Gift in my hand at the conclusion of all this, you will be right back in here and all bets are off.”

At the Last Rites Klaus had absolutely nothing to say about Kim at all. He never mentioned her parents. He never mentioned how she had gone missing for the last two months, and how she had been in quarantine for six months before that. Hansen didn’t know the girl, he didn’t know her family, nor her friends, nor their families. He had no feelings for her what- soever, other than the fact that he hated her with an abiding hatred for marrying Gabriel Shybear and thus, in his view, she ripped apart the One True Church. So instead of giving anything like a decent eulogy, Klaus embarked upon a particularly malicious Bible study about Solomon’s heart being turned away from the LORD by his foreign wives, and the “sin” of inter-marriage between races, until the Bunners were frantic, desperately wishing he would stop. Eventually he ran out of scripture.

The temple organist took her place at the edge of the raised chancel and began to play a Bach chorale prelude, “I Call You, Lord Jesus Christ”. The congregation sang the hymn in the original German from the words printed in the hymnal, though very few members still understood German anymore. The singing was therefore pretty lousy, but the underlying music was gorgeous. Mark Felt, sitting in the pews, took note of the musician, who looked remarkably like the deceased. Sheriff Walker told him the girl playing was Kim’s twin sister Robyn, whom he once interviewed on the afternoon of the murder but he had not been able to contact her since. “Shall I hold her?”

Special Agent Felt replied, “No. I think, Sheriff, that any need to question her further has been entirely overtaken by events.”

Wearing white robes in hez role as the Minister of the Final Rite, Deacon Gabriel Shybear stood behind the embalmed body of Kim, which lay face up on the altar, also clothed in white. Sofie Krause came out of the audience to stand next to him. She was wearing her green school uniform, like she always did when she went to Temple, since it was the most feminine garment she owned. Perhaps it was the only feminine one.

Special Agent Bill Sullivan gave a start. “Sir, that’s the girl I’ve been looking for! Sofie Krause!” Someone behind him snickered. The way he put it sounded hilarious.

Tolson restrained him with a hand on his arm. “Don’t move unless she tries to walk out of the temple. Oh yes, we have her, but my top priority is the artifact.”

“Most of you know me,” Sofie told the congregation. “I’m Sofie Krause. Kim was my age. Most of you know that she and her momma have had a pretty lousy time of it lately. Kim’s father died in the mines about nine months back. In school Kim always called me a scrub, but she never, ever turned me away when I told her I needed help with my class work. Somehow she had a way of explaining things to me better than the teachers did, and that kept me in D territory. Maybe, if she lived, she would have been a teacher herself one day. You already know she had a voice like an angel, and she could play the piano and the organ. I mean she could really play! It turns out her twin sister Robyn can play pretty good too, as you have just heard. Thanks for coming here and doing that for us today, Robyn. Me and my friends had dreams of pressing a swing record with her, but now they’re dashed flat and that’s a terrible waste!”

Then Sofie fell silent and stepped back from the lectern but she remained standing next to Gabriel on the chancel. She wasn’t a good enough actor to summon up any teares.

Gabriel did not follow up with a eulogy of hez own, though he longed to express the love che had for his wife, or even to mention that she had been his wife. Things had already gone overlong with Hansen’s sermon, and che did not want antagonize the congregation even more than Klaus Hansen’s sermon did. Instead che said, “On the surface this would seem to be a time of sorrow. But upon reflection, we see how that sorrow is really a sign of a deeper love. If Kimberly were a stranger to us, if she had no one among us who cared about her, we might feel, only a kind of indifference. Certainly not bereavement. And that, brothers and sisters, is the second most-important purpose of the Last Rite. We gather together in sorrow to recognize and celebrate the love that underlies our grief. So now let us bow our heads in prayer.

“Bless us, O Lord, as today we have come together to commit the body of our beloved sister in faith, Kimberly Anne Zinter, directly into your hands. Sown in corruption, let her body be raised in incorruption. Sown in dishonor, let her body be raised in your glory. Sown in weakness, let it be raised in power. Sown a natural body, let her be raised a spiritual body as we eagerly look for the life to come when she receives again the many years that were taken away from her on Earth. In the name of your only son Yeshua we pray.”

“Do you believe, as I believe, that when Prince Melchizedek first came to Father Abraham, he unveiled our most holy relic as a sure sign of our Lord’s divinity?”

Some members of the crowd, who knew the correct way to answer the Call and Response of the Last Rite, said, “I do.” Gabriel produced the self-same relic then, and held it high for all to see. Clyde Tolson leaned forward in his pew.

“Do you believe, as I believe, that when the Lord our God was made manifest on this very spot, the Island in the Sky, Chief Wanica took possession of our most holy relic, which we name the Golden Gift?” A more robust response came from the congregation. They were catching on.

“Do you believe, as I believe, that when the Kuwapi people were united with the pilgrims led by our first prophet, Mark Lange, the bodies of four fallen warriors of the People were committed into the hands of our God by the Golden Gift as a sign of their everlasting union?” A very hearty “I do!” erupted from the rest of the church.

Then, before the eyes of everyone in the sanctuary, Gabriel ignited the Golden Gift and used the hissing black shaft to make every scrap of Kim’s body disappear. He even took shallow swaths of the concrete altar along with it, although Gabriel was usually much more careful not to do so. Periodically a new altar surface had to be poured and cured. Che knew such measures wouldn’t matter anymore after this last Last Rite.

Clyde Tolson was frozen briefly as he took in this astonishing sight, but he quickly recovered and gave the signal to go. Sheriff Roddy Walker, however, did not recover. He sat transfixed, realizing his lifetime of unbelief had been entirely misguided. But that, after all, was the most important purpose of the Last Rite.

The sanctuary of the Green Dome Church was constructed as a hexagon, with aisles forming six spokes. Clyde Tolson, Bill Sullivan, Mark Felt, Dr. Trochmann, Deputy Lurz and Deputy Holsinger descended toward the altar, each man descending his own aisle, making straight for Gabriel, who saw them and quickly made the Golden Gift disappear into his little ready pocket of space-time. Clyde Tolson was the first to reach Gabriel, and he tackled him, flipping the young nephil face down. “Where is it, you son of a bitch?”

Gabriel was cuffed, poked, and prodded by four different men.

Some members of the congregation began to stream out of the temple. Others remained in their pews like the sheriff, bewailing that they had come to full belief only after it was too late. Some who had seen the Last Rites before shouted angry oaths at Klaus Hansen for permitting outsiders to witness and hence defile the Sacred Relic. This was the Abomination That Makes Desolate predicted in scripture. The Temple was defiled beyond redemptipon and the Church existed no more.

After the Sheriff recovered and rejoined his deputies they arrested Gabriel and Sofie and took them away. Tolson and Sullivan knocked over the massive altar in their search for the Golden Gift. They looked for any trap doors in the floor of the chancel where Gabriel might have tossed it, finally even tearing up the chancel carpet.

Mark Felt didn’t seem eager to help them. He looked at Robyn sitting at the organ, who winked at him. Felt sensed the search would be futile and Tolson would not get what he was looking for. He also saw Klaus Hansen standing there with his mouth wide open in shock at how things were turning out. Felt came up behind him and cuffed his hands behind his back before he had time to offer any resistance. Hansen’s shock was doubled.

“Hey, jerk!” Hansen screamed at Tolson. “We had a deal!”

Tolson ceased from his labors to look at Hanson and saw how Felt had already cuffed him. Good. Save him the trouble of doing it himself. He glanced at Sullivan, then dropped the corner of carpet he was holding. Sullivan followed suit. Tolson said, “We did have a deal, Klaus. And I don’t have the Golden Gift. That means all bets are off, just like I told you.”

Gabriel and Sofie were thrown into separate but adjoining cells. They spoke no words to their captors. Instead they put on implacably stony faces and conversed with Robyn by way of Doryphone. At an hour selected by Robyn, Gabriel produced the Golden Gift and cut hez way out of his cell through an exterior wall of the sheriff’s station. Once che was outside che cut Sofie out too. Dory and Robyn were pulling up in the woodie. Sofie looked back and saw how the holes were carved as silhouettes of of people, as though she and Gabriel had escaped by running right through the wall like Merrie Melodies cartoon characters frequently did. Her own escape hole was in the shape of a girl in pigtails and a dress. “Very funny, Gabe.”

It would, in fact, amuse Mark Felt to no end when he saw it in the morning.