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Kill the Reporter

Kill the Reporter

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Kill the Reporter

207 pages
Jun 26, 2012


Harker uncovers a cult whose members believe in peace, love, understanding, and torture

Rudolph Franklin thinks his biggest problem is reelection. A battle with a fellow senator about military spending is getting ugly, and if he can’t scrap out a victory, his career will be dead in the water. He calls Harker, a crack investigative reporter, to leak a story for him. Franklin thinks his problems are political—until his daughter disappears. 

In Barbarann’s bedroom, Harker finds pamphlets for the Children’s Crusade, a hippy-dippy cult best known for selling buttons and hard candy on street corners. But Harker learns about the crusade’s darker side—the enforcers charged with keeping members in line, and keeping the press from asking questions. His first warning is a dead cat, hung from the ceiling of his hotel room, paw sliced off. If he crosses the Crusade again, the next paw they take will be his own. 

Jun 26, 2012

Despre autor

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. 

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Kill the Reporter - Marc Olden







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Kill the Reporter

The Harker File #4

Marc Olden

A MysteriousPress.com

Open Road Integrated Media






















THE YOUNG MALE VOICE on the other end of the line hadn’t volunteered its name, but the slight stutter and polite arrogance belonged to Cameron Braizer, the only son of a major California defense contractor. Cameron was a fanatic who crippled and terrorized people in the name of religion, which also made him a sadist and possibly a murderer.

H-home early, Mr. H-Harker. What’s the matter, Washington embassy p-parties boring these days?

I cradled the receiver between my shoulder and chin and removed my cufflinks. Met a Bolivian divorcée tonight who nibbled on my ear and asked me if I wanted to come back to her place and tie her up. You two would get along well together, Cameron. It hurts so good, know what I mean?

Some kinda m-mouth on you, Mr. Harker. Some kinda mouth, yes, sir. That’s your trouble. You been all over town asking about th-the Children’s Crusade. Twice you been told to back off.

"You mean the two threatening phone calls I got from your wacko friends telling me to leave the Children’s Crusade alone or else? What’s or else mean, Cameron? A broken leg? Two broken thumbs? A lump of coal in my stocking? I don’t like being told to back off. No reporter does. It just makes our noses get longer. We dig in our heels, we stay on your case. You might also tell your friends that it’s bad public relations for a religious group to use obscene language. That is what you people are, right? A religious group, it says here."

Cameron snorted, then spent the next few seconds inhaling and exhaling in my ear, the most he could do with his hostility until he got within punching distance. He was eighteen, stocky and hard-muscled, with the year-round tan and blond good looks that made California’s young seem formed from pieces of the sun. He was also a member of the Children’s Crusade, a fast-growing, youth religious cult based in Los Angeles. Kids between the ages of fourteen and twenty-five were joining the Children’s Crusade by the hundreds, proudly wearing its lapel pin, a red-white-and-blue rhinestone cross. In sunshine and rain, the kids stood on street corners in packs, selling rhinestone crosses, along with hard candies and pink paper roses.

No one in the organization was giving out any figures, but it wasn’t a secret that the cult was getting rich with each tick of the clock. You couldn’t step outdoors without being stampeded by grinning adolescents with rhinestone crosses in the lapels, braces on their teeth, and the same kind of inner fire in their eyes that Dracula had each time he saw a vein throbbing on the side of a pretty blond’s neck. Those nickels, dimes and crumpled dollar bills collected seven days of the week added up. The Children’s Crusade owned property in six states, and its leader, the Reverend Ivan Thackery, had just paid six hundred and fifty thousand dollars for a mansion and one hundred acres of land in upstate New York.

Cameron Braizer didn’t work street corners collecting spare change for God’s work here on earth. The Children’s Crusade had a secret goon squad called The Companions, who kept the kids in line by any means necessary. All of the information I’d turned up so far indicated that violence was the means most frequently used. Cameron was the leader and chief enforcer of the Companions and when it came to hurting people, he was happy in his work.

Tonight wasn’t the first time he’d tried to scare me.

I was looking for a fourteen-year old runaway girl and Cameron wanted me to stop looking. She was Barbarann Franklin, daughter of Senator Rudolph Franklin of New Jersey, and according to the literature and brochures she’d left behind in her room, she had a strong interest in the Children’s Crusade. She’d been missing three days when I’d gone over to the cult’s Washington headquarters to talk with one of its local directors. That’s when I’d met Cameron Braizer, who after a few nasty words had let me know what he thought of investigative reporters by blocking my way and forcing me to walk around him. Since he had three smirking, snickering, and hulking teen louts with him, I walked around him and them, ignoring a crack about reporters who could end up typing with both arms in a cast. It was harder to ignore the paper clip one of them flicked from a rubber band into the side of my neck, but I managed.

I’d heard what the Companions did to anyone they thought was harming the Children’s Crusade, and if only half of it were true, Cameron and his friends made the Gestapo look like Munchkins. However, I wasn’t ready to admit to myself or anyone else that a bunch of adolescents had given me sweaty palms. So far, it was all happening from a distance, and besides, my pride was the bottom line. What kind of man was going to run scared because a bunch of kids were dialing his unlisted number and breathing heavy in his ear?

I d-don’t scare you, do I, Mr. H-Harker?

Cameron, it’s almost midnight, and I’m yawning. I’m tired, and I didn’t like the Bolivian canapés they served at the party, and I’ve been threatened before.

Kicking off my shoes, I flopped down on a dark brown leather couch, which immediately creaked like a chorus of mice. "Let you in on a little secret, Cameron. Everybody’s threatening reporters these days. They want to hit us with everything from lawsuits to a tire iron, and some of them even talk dirty about our mothers. But it doesn’t stop one of us from doing his job. Any day of the week, go down to your corner newsstand, and you’ll always find a newspaper there, and you know why? Because every time somebody like you gets upset about what he reads, a reporter grins. We grin because we enjoy seeing you upset. That’s right, Cameron. We rain on your parade because we like to. Good night."

Mr. H-Harker? Don’t hang up. We have something for you, f-for you.

"Oh? Wouldn’t be Barbarann Franklin, would it? No, guess not. Isn’t every day people like you get your hands on a senator’s daughter. If you’re offering me the chance to be born again I’m not up to it this week."

I burped and tasted anchovy paste, remembering that I’d eaten a cracker with something on it that looked like three-day-old snow.

Mr. H-Harker, your bathroom light is on.

I almost dropped the receiver.

Cameron’s voice was soft, but every word had the bite of a straight razor being drawn slowly across my throat. The bathroom light was on. When I’d left the apartment earlier tonight, every light had been turned off.

When I returned, the telephone had been ringing as I’d come through the door, and I’d grabbed it in a hurry. After that, I’d been busy talking with Cameron and hadn’t noticed the light coming from around the corner and to my left, but I noticed it now. Something in Cameron’s voice made me turn my head slowly toward the light and hold my breath.

The apartment wasn’t mine, so I was extra careful about what I did in it. It was one of three my paper, the New York World-Examiner, had in Washington and I preferred its privacy to working in the chaos and ego conflicts of the paper’s Washington bureau.

All of the lights had been turned off. All.

Mr. H-Harker? You still there? S-sure you are. Why don’t you go to the bathroom and have a l-look. Look. I’ll wait.

I stood up slowly, took a deep breath, and walked the four steps that placed me directly in front of the bathroom. I didn’t vomit, but I came close. A tan-and-white cat, its left-paw cut off, hung from the bathroom doorway, one end of a belt around its neck, the other end hooked onto a nail just above the doorway. Blood from the cat’s bleeding stump stained the white fur on its chest and stomach and spotted the pale pink tiles on the bathroom floor. I fought hard against the hot, sour taste trying to push its way up from my stomach and my throat. I fought hard.

On the phone, Cameron chuckled into my ear. "S-something for you, Mr. H-Harker. That’s how we work. Th-three warnings, then a blood warning. We draw a little blood, just a little. If you still refuse to get smart, then we give you the message. Know what that is?"

I had to swallow twice before my throat was loose enough to speak, and I gripped the receiver with both hands to stop them from shaking. "I know. The Companions don’t believe in killing, though I wonder if that’s ever stopped you, Cameron. You people warn somebody three times, and if that doesn’t work, then like you say, you draw a little blood. A small cut on the arm, the leg, nothing big. If he still refuses to do what you want him to do, then he gets the message. You cripple him or her. Maim them. No dead bodies crammed into car trunks. Just a broken leg, a crushed knee cap, an eye gouged out, some ligaments torn in an ankle so it’ll never work right again. I’ve been told of at least one broken back. The Children’s Crusade prefers a living example of God’s punishment where everyone can see and learn from it."

You could hear the smile in Cameron’s voice. Is all of this really true, Mr. H-Harker?

Call it unproved rumor, so far. You’ve scared a lot of people, and not many of them feel like being quoted. Stay calm, stay calm, I told myself, remembering that someone had gotten past the doorman downstairs and through two so-called good locks on the front door of this apartment to leave me a grisly warning. I thought of blood dripping on the cat’s white fur and on the pink bathroom tiles, and I shivered.

Mr. H-Harker, leave the Children’s Crusade alone. Stop looking f-for Barbarann Franklin. Find something el-else to write about while you still g-got two eyes, two legs, and two everything else. Third warning this time. Next time, it’ll be your blood, and you already told me what comes after that.

There was ice in my stomach, and the back of my neck crawled as though spiders were square-dancing on it. You creepy little fuck.

Mr. Harker, you still don’t get it, do you? And you’re supposed to be so sharp, too. Dynamite re-reporter really loaded with smarts.

Get what?

Curiosity killed the cat.

Oh. Yeah, cute. There was no way I would stay in this apartment tonight. But what if Cameron and his friends were waiting for me to come outside?

Something else, Mr. Harker. Cat’s m-missing a paw. You notice? What’s that tell you?

He waited. I closed my eyes, flexing the fingers on my right hand, then balling them into a fist. I knew what he had in mind, and I waited for him to say it.

"Bet you couldn’t type so fast if one of your paws was missing, now, could you? Tee-hee-hee-hee." Cameron’s laugh was girlish, high-pitched and shrill, an ugly sound that was wire wrapped painfully tight around my brain.

That’s when I blew what little cool I had left. Standing up, I began pacing back and forth in front of the brown leather couch, fear and rage at war inside of me. Cameron, you think you and your sick friends can scare me? No way, no fucking way, you understand?

He gave me more of his eerie laughter. "Mr. H-Harker, don’t tell me, tell the cat."

He hung up as I screamed his name over and over.


IT HAD BEGUN TWO weeks ago when Senator Rudolph Franklin telephoned from Washington, asking me to fly down from New York and have breakfast with him the following day at his Georgetown duplex. I agreed, and we both hung up immediately. Franklin, a reliable source of information in the past, never did his talking over the telephone, nor did he put anything in writing. Since Watergate, anyone above rank of clerk in Washington lived with the fear that his every word might be taped, to end up either on the eleven-o’clock news or as part of some hooker’s paperback-book deal.

Whatever Franklin had to tell me was sure to make him look good in print and someone else look bad, otherwise he wouldn’t have dialed my number. A reporter with an ounce of brains knows his informants and sources are using him as much as he’s using them. This is true particularly in Washington, a town drunk on power and filled with people who carry a long knife and a short conscience. As long as I got a good story, I didn’t care who Franklin or any other source wanted to burn. Which is how the best stories usually came to see the light of day. Somebody bent on revenge found a reporter out for himself, and the two had a little chat. After that, the typesetters put it all down in black and white, and the whole world got to share in it. Sometimes the earth shook as a result, and heads rolled, and for one small minute I was proud of what I did, whether it was my story or someone else’s.

At 9:15 A.M., over mushroom omelets and whole-wheat toast, Rudolph Franklin leaned across a small kitchen table and talked with his mouth full. He was in a hurry to get to Capitol Hill and begin his day’s work. At the same time, he had something to tell me and didn’t want to be seen doing it in public. We’d been talking about Leon Braizer, a California defense contractor who was trying hard to get the Senate Appropriations Committee to award him a four-year contract worth a hundred million dollars. Braizer needed the money, and time to continue developing a new automatic rifle for the armed forces.

Harker, Braizer’s pushing. Never seen him push like this before. Fact is, everybody’s playing hardball on this one. The pressure’s really on to see that Braizer gets what he wants. All of us are getting squeezed.

I reached for the orange marmalade. Meaning Braizer’s using all the clout he’s got, which is the name of the game. Lobbyists, friends in Congress, the Pentagon, and in other high places. So?

"So Braizer’s calling in every IOU he’s got outstanding. Anybody in this town who owes him a

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