"The folks over at Game & Fish told me they don't have anyone working for them named B.J.," said Tom Mutz as he deposited a stack of forensic reports on Jason's desk. "They also said that Linda Joyce is doing a private contract survey for them and she works unassisted, so nobody from their office would be meeting her in the field."
"Thanks, Tom. How 'bout checking the gas stations and convenience stores around here to see if they have any charge tickets for B.T. Saunders. Let's see if we can find a paper trail on this guy. I'm going to run a records check and see what comes up."
Jason spent the rest of the afternoon at his computer terminal. He started his search with the Arizona Department of Public Safety database in Phoenix. They would have a record of all traffic violations in the state over the past three years. He typed in the name B.T. SAUNDERS, and waited while the system searched for any traffic offenses. Jason was sure that Saunders would show up somewhere in the various inter-agency police records. He was bound to have broken the law before. The Arizona state records check drew a blank.
"Darn!" exclaimed Jason. "Okay, let's try Utah." He connected with the National Computer Information Center. NCIC was used by the country's highway patrolmen when they pulled over a vehicle. The network kept a nationwide log of all stolen vehicles, outstanding warrants for arrest, missing persons, and convicted felons. When Jason punched in the name B.T. Saunders, he scored a direct hit. The NCIC computer immediately red-flagged the name, the code for a prior felony conviction.
"I knew it!" cried Jason as he slapped the top of the desk.
He keyed into the file. The first part consisted of his vital statistics: six feet four, 240 pounds, red hair, green eyes, several distinguishing scars incurred during military service. Saunders lived in Hurricane, forty miles west. Until four years ago, he had served abroad in the Army. Jason made a note to run a check on Saunders' Department of Defense records. After returning to the states, Saunders immediately ran afoul of the law. He was arrested in Salt Lake City for trafficking in illegal narcotics, busted for trying to sell a kilo of heroin to an undercover cop. Saunders eventually plead guilty to a felony charge of possession, and was given a sentence of four years at the maximum security prison. The Utah parole board granted his release two years early. He had followed all the conditions of his parole. Saunders had listed his occupation as a freelance pilot, however, none of his employers were mentioned in the file. All signs indicated that he had been a model citizen since getting out of prison, and as far as the state of Utah was concerned, B.T. Saunders was free to come and go as he pleased. He had three vehicles registered to his name, a 1980 Chevy Firebird, a 1987 GMC pickup truck, and a 1976 Harley Davidson Roadster. He had a valid Utah drivers license and was also a registered pilot, cleared to fly helicopters as well as airplanes. There was no indication that he had ever been involved in pothunting. Nor was there anything which linked him to any violent behavior, other than his military record.
It was a bit more difficult to access the Department of Defense personnel files. Jason started by calling a DOD personnel number in San Francisco and after identifying himself as the Grand County Sheriff, requested access to information regarding a former soldier named B.T. Saunders. He immediately hit a stone wall of silence. Military service records were not available to the public, even law enforcement. The problem with this inherently secretive system was that Jason had to already know what he was looking for before he called the DOD. The obvious place to start was whether Saunders had ever served time in the brig for drugs or assault.
It was early evening before Jason connected with someone in authority in the DOD. By now, he had been shuffled all the way to a facility in Virginia. The officer he spoke with was nice enough, once he confirmed that the Sheriff was who he claimed to be, but as soon as the Captain found Saunders' file, the conversation came to an immediate halt.
"I'm sorry, Sheriff, that file is classified."
"Well, can you tell me whether he had an arrest record while in the service?"
"I'm sorry, Sheriff, I'm not at liberty to discuss his military record."
Jason was persistent. "Listen, this involves two homicides in Arizona that may have been committed by this guy. It's extremely important."
The Captain didn't miss a beat. "I'm sorry, Sheriff, but I can't help you."
Jason lost his cool. "Listen, Captain, we're talking about murder here. How would you feel if a member of your family was gunned down, and the military protected the man who did the killing?"
There was silence on the other end of the line. "I could really get my butt in a sling if I talk to you about this file. All I can tell you is that the man has a very long and distinguished military record. He was Special Forces during the Vietnam War. After that, he served around the world in – uhmm – various capacities. I'm sorry, but that's all I can tell you, Sheriff."
"He was CIA, or doing some sort of secret spook work, wasn't he?"
"You didn't hear that from me, Sheriff."
Jason laughed without humor. "No. All I got from you, Captain, was that B.T. Saunders served his country with distinction." Jason angrily hung up.