On Sam's desk were photos of Barrera with his friends—law enforcement types, the mayor, businessmen. In one photo Barrera stood next to my father. The Sheriff's '76

campaign, I think. Dad was smiling. Barrera, of course, was not.

Sam sat down behind his desk. I sat across from him in a large maroon chair that was strategically designed to be too cushy and lowset. I had the feeling of being much shorter than my host, trapped in an interrogation cup.

"Tell me." Sam leaned forward and stared and waited.

"Bootlegs," I said. "Sheckly's been recording his head liner acts, creating master tapes in his studio, then shipping the tapes to Europe for production and distribution.

More recently he's gotten greedier, started to import the CDs back into the U.S. That's why you and your federal friends have been stepping up the heat."

Sam brushed my comments aside. "What was in the boat?"

"First I want confirmation."

Sam curled his fingers. The wrath of God built up behind his eyes—a collected, intense darkness meant to warn me that I was about to be smitten from the earth. He looked around his desk, maybe for something to kill me with, and focused instead on the picture of himself and the Sheriff. Some annoyance crept into his expression.

"I suppose you will continue to screw things up unless I level with you, Navarre. Or unless I get someone to throw you in jail."

"Most likely."

"Goddamn your father."


Sam readjusted his belly above his belt line. He turned his chair sideways and stared out the window.

"The scenario you described is commonplace. Frequently someone at a venue records the shows. Frequently the recordings turn up as bootlegs."

He waited to see if I was satisfied, if I would give in now. I just smiled.

Sam's jaw tightened. "What is uncommon with the Indian Paintbrush situation is the scale. Mr. Sheckly is presently recording something like fifty name artists a year. The master tapes are sent through Germany to CD plants, mostly in Romania and the Czech Republic, then distributed to something like fifteen countries. More recently, as you said, his partners in Europe have been encouraging Mr. Sheckly to target the U.S. market, moving him from boots to pirates."

"What's the difference?"

"Boots are auxiliary recordings, Navarre—studio practice sessions, live recordings, cuts you couldn't get in the store normally. Sheckly's radio shows, for instance. Pirates are different—they're exact copies of legitimate releases. Boots can make money, but pirate copies undercut the regular market, take the place of legitimate work. They have massive potential. You make them well, you can even pass them off to major suppliers—department stores, mall chains, you name it."

"And Sheckly's are good?"

Barrera opened his desk drawer and got out a CD. He took the disc from the case and pointed with his pinkie at the silver numbers etched around the hole. "This is one of Sheckly's pirate copies. The lot numbers on the SIDs are almost correct. Even if the Customs officials knew what they were looking for, which they rarely do, they might pass this. The covers, once they're added, are fourcolor printing, quality paper stock.

Even on the boots Sheck's taken precautions. The liner notes are stamped 'manufactured in the E.U.' This is meant to make one think it's a legit import, explain the difference in packaging."

"How profitable?"

Barrera tapped a finger on the desk. "Let me put it this way. It's rare that you have one syndicate controlling the manufacture and distribution of so many recordings in so many countries. The only similar case I know of, the IFPI confiscated the receipts of an Italian operation. For one quarter, one artist's work, the pirates pulled in five million dollars. It'd be less for country music, but still— Multiply the number of artists, four quarters a year, you get the idea."

"Business worth killing for," I said. "What's the IFPI?"

"International Federation of Phonographic Industries. European version of the RIAA in the States."

"Your client."

Barrera hesitated. "I never said that. You understand?"

"Perfectly. Tell me about Sheckly's German friends."



"The syndicate is based in Luxembourg. Just so happens Sheckly made his connections in Bonn, does most of his business in Germany."

I shook my head. "Help me out, Barrera. Luxembourg is the little country?"

"The little country known for laundering mob money, yes. The little country known for maintaining loopholes in the E.U.'s copyright laws. The pirates love Luxembourg."

I sat for a while and tried to process it. I was determined not to feel out of my league, not to show Barrera I was going to run from the room screaming if he gave me one more acronym.

"Sheckly got himself into a dangerous association," I said.

Barrera came the closest I'd ever seen to a laugh. It was a small noise in the back of his nose, easily mistaken for a sniff. Nothing else in his face moved.

"Don't start shedding tears, Navarre. Mr. Sheckly's pulling down a few million extra a year."

" But Blanceagle's murder, and Julie Kearnes'—"

"Sheckly may not have ordered them but I doubt he had much of a conscience attack.

It's true, Navarre, bootlegging is usually whitecollar stuff, not very violent. But we're talking a large syndicate, into gunrunning and credit cards numbers and several other things."

"And Jean?"

"Jean Kraus. He's beaten murder raps in three countries. One victim was a young French boy, about thirteen, son of Jean's girlfriend. He decided to lift some of Jean's petty cash. They found the kid in an alley in Rouen, thrown out a fifthstory hotel window."


Barrera nodded. "Kraus is smart. Probably too smart to get caught. He's over here encouraging Sheck's CD distribution network in the U.S. It's only a matter of time before Jean and his bosses start using Sheckly's trucking lines for their other interests—guns, especially. That's finally what got the D.A. and the Bureau and ATF interested. It takes a lot of firestoking to get them excited about stolen music."

"Your big league friends."

"We've got a case for mail fraud in four states, interstate commerce violations—orders placed and filled with some of Sheckly's distributors. Even that has taken years to assemble, to get a judge interested enough to grant access to Sheckly's bank statements and phone records. Throw in the fact that Avalon County law enforcement is in Sheckly's pocket—it's been tough going. Ninety percent of a case like this has to be informants inside."

"Les SaintPierre. He made himself your solution."


"Something his wife said. He was your in."

"To Julie Kearnes, yes. And Alex Blanceagle. And all three of them disappeared as soon as they started talking. We may lose the interest of the State Attorney's Office if we don't get more soon, something solid. Now it's your turn. What was in the boat?"

I took out the addresses I'd found in the ice chest— locations with dates next to them.

I handed them to Barrera.

Barrera frowned at the paper. When he was done reading he looked out the window again and his shoulders drooped. "All right."

"They're distribution points, aren't they? Dates when shipments of CDs will arrive."

Barrera nodded without much enthusiasm.

"You've got locations," I prompted. "You know what Sheckly is doing. You can stage a raid."

Barrera said, "We have nothing, Navarre. We have no grounds for requesting a search warrant—no evidence linking anyone to anything, just some random addresses and dates. Maybe eventually, that information will lead us somewhere. Not immediately. I was hoping for more."

"You've been building the case for what—six years?" I asked.

Barrera nodded.

"Chances are Sheckly knows," I said, "or he's going to know soon that this information is compromised. You don't move on it now, they'll move the goods, change their routes. You'll lose them."

"I'll go another six years rather than get the case thrown out of court because we acted stupid. Thanks for the information."

We sat quietly, listening to the A & M Fighting Aggie clock tick on Barrera's back wall.

"One more thing," I said. "I think Les fled to the Danielses. Or at least he considered it."

I told Barrera about the phone call from the lake cabin.

"He would be stupid to go there," Sam said.

"Maybe. But if I got the idea Les might've enlisted their help, Sheckly's friends could get the same idea. I don't like that possibility."

"I'll have someone go out and talk to the family."

"I'm not sure that will help the Danielses much."

"There's nothing else I can do, Navarre. Even under the best of circumstances, it will be several more months before we can coordinate any kind of action against Mr.


"And if more people die between now and then?"

Barrera tapped on the desk again. "The chances of the Daniels family getting targeted are very slim. Sheckly has bigger problems, bigger people to worry about."

"Bigger people," I repeated. "Like thirteenyearold boys who steal Jean Kraus' petty cash."

Barrera exhaled. His chair creaked as he stood up. "I'm going to say what I said before, Navarre. You're into something over your head and you need to get out. You don't have to take my word for it. I've levelled with you. Is this something an unlicensed kid with a couple of years on the street can handle?"

I looked again at the photo of Barrera and my father. My father, as in all his photos, seemed to grin out at me as if there was a huge private joke he wasn't sharing, almost certainly something that was humorous at my expense.

"Okay," I said.

"Okay you're off the case?"

"Okay you've given me a lot to think about."

Barrera shook his head. "That's not good enough."

"You want me to lie to you, Sam? You want to go ahead and arrest me? Avalon County would approve of that approach."

Barrera sniffed, moved over to his window, and looked out over the city of San Antonio. It was deadly still on a Sunday morning—a rumpled gray and green blanket dotted with white boxes, laced with highways, the rolling ranch land beyond a dark bluegreen out to the horizon.

"You're too much like your father," Barrera said.

I was about to respond, but something in the way Barrera was standing warned me not to. He was contemplating the correct thing to do. He would have to turn around soon and deal with me, decide which agency he needed to turn me over to for dissection. He would have to do that as long as I was a problem, sitting in his office, telling him what was unacceptable to hear.

I removed the problem. I stood up and left him standing by the window. I closed the office door very quietly on my way out.


The day heated up quickly, By eleven, when I exited the highway for WJ Ranch Road 22 in Bulverde, the clouds had burned away and the hills were starting to shimmer. I took the turn for Serra Road, then drove over the cattle guard and pulled my VW under the giant live oak in front of the Danielses' ranch house.