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Authors: Jon A. Jackson

Badger Games

BOOK: Badger Games
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Praise for
Badger Games:

“Terrifying … The minds and mountains of Montana are the perfect backdrop to Jackson's masterful and intricate suspense plot.”

Big Sky Journal

“Darkly loopy … [a] battle of loose cannons … [Jackson's] most audacious.”

Kirkus Reviews

“Freelance pistoleros Joe Service and Helen Sedlacek … [are] caught in a web of double- and triple-crosses between secret U.S. intelligence cabals and deep-cover agents from the former Yugoslavia…. Fun with sex, drugs, guns … [and an] intricate suspense plot.”

Publishers Weekly

Praise for Jon A. Jackson:

“He has been called the best-kept secret in hard-boiled crime fiction. Others have labeled him as one of America's best contemporary crime novelists. The comparisons run deep, from Elmore Leonard right on through to Charles Willeford. For years, Jon A. Jackson has masterfully chronicled the dark underbelly of Detroit's crime scene with his precision plots, deft dialogue and silky prose. The comparisons have been gratifying. But ever since Leonard flew to the steamy shores of Los Angeles and West Palm Beach, Jackson has taken over the Motown turf.”

—Louis Cristantiello,
Mystery Scene


Chicago Tribune

“How long can Jon A. Jackson remain the best-kept secret of hard-boiled crime fiction connoisseurs? The gravelly voice of this dark, droll chronicler of the Detroit underworld is bound to make itself heard…. Mr. Jackson's expressive characters revel in the arcane language and lore of their dirty trade…. Jackson always gets it right.”

The New York Times

Also by Jon A. Jackson:

The Diehard
The Blind Pig
Hit on the House
Dead Folks
Man with an Axe
La Donna Detroit

Badger Games

A Detective Sergeant Mulheisen Mystery

Jon A. Jackson

Copyright © 2002 by Jon A. Jackson

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the publisher, except by a reviewer, who may quote brief passages in a review. Any members of educational institutions wishing to photocopy part or all of the work for classroom use, or publishers who would like to obtain permission to include the work in an anthology, should send their inquiries to Grove/Atlantic, Inc., 841 Broadway, New York, NY 10003.

Published simultaneously in Canada
Printed in the United States of America

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Jackson, Jon A.

Badger games / Jon A. Jackson.
     p. cm.

eBook ISBN-13: 978-0-8021-9956-0
1. Conspiracies—Fiction.     2. Drug traffic—Fiction.     3. Montana—Fiction.     I. Title.

PS3560.A216 B33 2002
813′.54—dc21                                  2001056494

Design by Laura Hammond Hough

Grove Press
841 Broadway
New York, NY 10003

For Leonard Wallace Robinson … forgive me Nardo,
I know not what I do.

A Babe in the Woods

he first time Franko saw her she was walking around Tsamet, clicking snapshots of the minaret like any American or German tourist. She was tall and attractive in a curious mixture of exotic and wholesome. She had her hair pulled back, and the baseball cap she wore had a little opening that allowed her hair to billow out in a brownish-red ball. It reminded him of the hole in the pants of a cartoon character, through which Brer Fox's tail waved.

She wore faux expedition gear, lots of khaki with many snaps and epaulets and pockets. She left the top buttons undone on the shirt, revealing a formidable cleavage. The pants were relaxed fit, but the seat was well filled out.

When he got back to his crofter's cottage, up on Daliljaj's farm, he made a couple of quick pencil sketches of her. They weren't quite right—he hadn't gotten the nose or the eyes—but the wide mouth and full lips were okay. Later he had a chance to correct these sketches and ink them in.

He saw her a couple more times in town, or near it, in the next week or so. In the meantime, he went fishing, as usual. It was handy for making his connections with the smugglers. The
farmers hereabouts were used to seeing him walking in the fields, or the woods, along the streams, usually after parking his battered old Subaru Outback near a little stone bridge. He would have his knapsack with his sketchbook and lunch in it, binoculars for bird-watching, his creel, and his fishing vest and would carry his rod. And soon he would be casting into the stream, wandering across the fields, climbing fences, stalking trout, birdwatching, sketching. “The Naturalist,” they called him.

Under the bridge he would find the goods that had been left for him. They would go into the creel, or the backpack. Later, usually far upstream, where the stream ran through the wooded glades, he would encounter the young fellows to whom he passed the goods, with their instructions for delivery. Then he would go on.

He caught many trout. Very few people fished for trout in these parts. He was fascinated by these fish. They were small and easy to catch. He tied his own flies streamside, based on the insects he observed, using a handy portable device. And he would sketch the little trout. Some of them were an undescribed species, or at least a subspecies, that he couldn't find in the taxonomic records. They had greenish flanks with unusual vermiform markings on their backs. Most of them he released, but he always kept a few to give to his landlord, Daliljaj. He drew meticulous pictures of their guts, their organs, the insects they were dining on. He measured them carefully, and weighed them with a little hand-held instrument.

He sketched everything on his almost daily fishing hikes: the views of the mountains, the houses, the farmers, the farmers' kids, the bridges, the haystacks, the stiles that got one over the rough stone fences—each farmer built different kinds of bridges, stacked his hay differently, had his own idea of a proper stile. But mostly he sketched wildlife: birds, marmots, foxes, the rare badger snuffling through a field, and especially the fish.

One day he was sketching a small trout and he'd brought along some watercolors, to try to capture the vividness of the green flanks, the red and blue flecks, before the color faded, as it did too quickly. He was in a little sunny clearing in the woods, barely a foot from the pebble-bottomed stream where he'd caught this fish—sitting on a crude bridge over it, in fact.

This was a bridge he'd sketched before: just some roughly hewn logs thrown across the stream and planks nailed to it. But the farmer who used it to get from one meadow to another had made a rough railing with extra logs, perhaps to make sure that his reckless sons didn't drive the tractor into the creek, and had planed off a place to sit.

The stream skirted the edge of the woods. It was only knee-deep in most places, but there were chest-deep pools, one close by, where he had caught the trout. Small, colorful stones lined the stream.

He was concentrating and didn't see the woman until she stepped onto the bridge. It was the American woman, whom by now he had learned was a representative of the American foreign-aid agency.

“Hi,” she said, and sat on the opposite railing to watch while he quickly finished the sketch and made some daubs of color in the proper spots, as a guide for later.

Franko set the book aside with the pages open to dry and said, “Hello.”

“Can I see?” she asked, coming across to reach for the book.

He let her have it. “That paint is still a little wet,” he said. He was gratified to see that she handled the book carefully, holding the freshly painted page open and merely glancing back at other pages. Up close, he saw that she was at least partly African-American, but her skin was very pale, like old ivory, and she had freckles. Her eyes were brown, with gold flecks.

“Is this me?” she said, finding an earlier sketch. “Do I really look like that? What a big butt you think I have!” She turned her rear toward him, mockingly. She was wearing khakis, as usual.

“It's just a quick sketch,” he said. “Here, let me fix it.”

“Oh no, you're right,” she said, smiling. “I do have a big butt.”

“Not at all,” he said.

“Some men are crazy for big butts,” she said. “Ah, here's that Romeo kid. He's very handsome. What eyes! Oh ho, and here's a buxom lass. What's that line of Walton's, about the trout in the milk?”

“It's Thoreau,” he said. “‘Some circumstantial evidence is very strong, as when you find a trout in the milk.'”

“Is that from
? Maybe that's how I got it wrong.”

“I think it's from the
” he said.

“Well, this picture is a trout in the milk,” she said. She showed him the picture, which he knew well. It was of a farm girl named Fedima—Daliljaj's daughter, in fact—and she was nude from the waist up. She was washing her upper body by a stream. “You don't want this to fall into the hands of the farmer.”

He looked rueful. “It was quite an innocent occasion, I swear. I just happened to see her. I couldn't resist the sketch—when I got home.”

“I'll bet,” the woman said. She handed the book back. “So, what are you doing up here, spying on farm girls?”

“I'm not usually that lucky,” he said, setting the book down beside him on the railing seat. He bent down to wrap the fish in ferns and started to place it in his creel. Instead, he said, “Would you like a fish?”

“My best offer of the day,” the woman said. “But no thank you. It's way too circumstantial. Well, what are you doing?”

“I'm fishing,” he said.

“Is that why you meet the young men in the woods?” she said. “You're not gay, are you?”

“Certainly not.”

“I didn't think so, with your eye for farm girls. I was just trying to get under your skin.”

She was quite close, propped on one knee on the seat to look over his shoulder at the picture of the trout again. He was uncomfortable, but he didn't want to move away.

“Would you like to sketch me?” she said.

“I'd love to.” He picked up the sketchbook. “This picture is dry,” he said, leafing over to a fresh page.

She sat down across the way. “Maybe you can get the nose right,” she said.

He began a preliminary line with a pencil. In a moment of daring, he said, “Or the butt.”

The woman laughed. “You're asking to see my butt?”

“Just joking,” he said.

“I don't mind,” she said. She stood up and began to unbuckle her belt, then looked about, cautiously. “Perhaps not here. There's always someone around that you don't notice until too late, isn't there?”

But there was no sign of anyone. They were alone on the little bridge. A copse of willow trees blocked the meadow to the west, and the little dirt road, after crossing the bridge, disappeared into a thicket to the east.

The woman stepped down from the bridge and wandered along it. He hastily assembled his gear and followed. She came to an old stone wall, now generally fallen down. Here she stopped, glanced around, and swiftly removed her boots, her pants, and her shirt. She wore no underwear. It was all he could do not to gasp. She had a fine, full-figured body.

“How's this?” she said, sitting in the sun on some moss. She leaned back gingerly against the rough wall, stretched her arms along the stones, and languorously extended her legs. She spread
them well apart, one knee drawn up, assuming a frankly wanton posture.

The sexiness of the pose was enhanced and mocked by the fact that she hadn't removed her baseball cap. He sketched very rapidly, eager to capture her careless sensuality. He was also fighting to suppress an uncomfortable erection. His problem was not unobserved by his model.

BOOK: Badger Games
11.19Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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