We have seen how this euphemism for killing
insinuated something on the order of medical therapy,
along with a standing that was more legal than legal.
~ Robert Jay Lifton in The Nazi Doctors
0930 Hours, 16 September 2013, Mudford County Coroner’s Office, California:
Hank entered the county coroner’s office, not knowing how he would be received. A staff assistant in blue scrubs came through a door. “I can’t answer any questions so, please wait here and someone will be with you in a moment.”
Hank waited while she left to walk to another office. He stood there with his hands in his pockets. What am I doing here?
The girl in scrubs returned. “Doctor Keyes will see you now.” She pointed to his office.
Hank walked to the desk and introduced himself to Doctor Keyes.
“Can I see a report?” Hank asked.
“Who on?” Keyes asked.
“What is your relationship to Mr. Sweet?”
“I’m his doctor. He died September fifth. He—”
“Yeah, yeah. Found high levels of potassium chloride in tissue on toxicology.”
“Someone put his lights out,” Keyes said. “If he didn’t inject himself.”
“Why would the police chief say the case is closed?”
Doctor Keyes shrugged. “I can’t control the police statements. My guess is they’re investigating quietly. The chief’s in a political struggle.”
1010 Hours, 16 September 2013, City of Mudford Police Department, California:
Hank walked into the Mudford Police Department, determined to get some answers. The foyer was well lighted. The natural oak trim, stainless steel, and glass interior was nineteen-eighties design. He walked to a window where a uniformed officer was seated, at the information desk.
“Can I speak with someone about a case?” Hank asked. “The Matthew Sweet case.”
“Are you a relative?”
“No. I was his physician.”
“Hold on. I’ll check.”
The desk officer made a telephone call, talked to someone, then placed the phone receiver in the cradle, looking up at Hank. “If you’d have a seat, an officer will be out to see you.” He said, nodding his head toward a row of chairs along the wall.
A man opened the single door and walked into the foyer. He had white hair styled in a comb-over on top of his bald area. The hair had been sprayed until stiff.
“I’m Detective Ed Rimmler. Can I help you?”
“Yes, I’m Doctor Houston. Matthew Sweet was a patient of mine as well as a friend.”
“Come on back to my desk. I hate talking out here.”
Hank followed Rimmler down the hall toward the detectives’ offices.
“Where exactly do you come in?” Rimmler asked.
“He was in pretty good health, for one thing. And another thing, I just learned that the coroner found an excessive amount of potassium chloride in the toxicology—”
He broke off as they walked into a room of cubicles and desks and a row of glass offices along the east wall. At Rimmler’s desk, they both sat down.
“Yeah, we know all about that. We figured the guy was suicidal over the loss of his daughter,” Rimmler said.
Hank raised his eyebrows. “Well, since you aren’t psychiatrists, how did you come to that conclusion?”
“Look,” Rimmler said. “He was down here, more than once, trying to get us to nose into the investigation back East. Our guys thought he was a little off base.”
“Well, what are you, the police, going to do now?” Hank asked.
“Nothing. To us, it’s a closed case. The guy died of a myocardial infarction.”
“They found excess potassium chloride in his tissues.”
“So,” Rimmler countered. “The guy took drugs. He overdosed himself.”
“He wasn’t a drug user,” Hank said, emphatically. “Besides, he was mostly unconscious from his MI.”
“Maybe he gave himself a dose before he came to the ER?”
“Come on. Potassium chloride into your veins in enough concentration will kill you immediately.”
“Some guys, you don’t know,” Rimmler said.
“Listen,” Hank said. “Matthew Sweet was rocked by his daughter’s death. But he was not suicidal over it. He was my friend. He talked to me. I would have noticed any signs.”
Rimmler shook his head. “Not necessarily. And are you a shrink now? We have seen plenty of suicides where there were no signs, as you say. Just last week we had a sixteen-year-old kid. No signs. No note. Not a word to his friends. And he had a lot of friends, too. Not a loner. No apparent reason.”
“Matthew Sweet was not a sixteen-year-old kid who was hiding his feelings or whatever some mixed up kids hide.”
“Doctor Houston, we need evidence of something in order for us to proceed. It just isn’t there. Do you have some new information?”
“No. Except that his last words to me were, ‘Find out who killed Dana. They got me, too.’ That’s what Matt said.”
“I’m sorry, Doctor. That has to be hard to hear from a friend who is dying. But that wouldn’t hold up in court.”
“What about the Coroner’s report?” Hank persisted.
“We’ve had problems between our two departments,” Rimmler explained. “Some cases, the way they’re handled, leave a lot of room for doubt. Frankly, they’ve made a lot of mistakes up there. Lately, we’ve heard criticism of the FBI lab, too. And we’re just a town of four-hundred thousand.”
Hank sighed, resigned. “Well, thanks for seeing me.”
“My pleasure, if I can help in some other way…”
Hank stood up and shook Rimmler’s hand. Rimmler walked him to the door at the foyer. Hank’s thoughts were mixed. I probably shouldn’t have come down here. Cops. How can you figure them? At least I tried. I can say I tried. And they’re just doing their job.
1500 Hours, 17 September, Mudford Police Department, California:
Rimmler’s phone rang at his desk. He reached over and picked it up. “Detective Rimmler.”
“Ed, there’s a call on line two, from an agent in Maryland. Wants to talk to you.”
“Okay, thanks.” Rimmler pushed the line-two button then rocked back in his chair. “This is Detective Rimmler.”
“Detective, my name is Phil Press, of the Safety Research Institute. We work as a security arm for DHS.”
“Oh? How may I help you?”
“We’ve had one of our investigators following up on a couple leads in Mudford. I just heard from the man tailing our suspect that a Doctor Henry Houston came to see you.”
Rimmler leaned forward and tapped a ball point on a yellow legal pad. “Who is your investigator?”
“I’m not at liberty to reveal his undercover identity at this time.”
“One of his contacts, who was our informant, is now dead,” Phil said.
Rimmler jotted down notes as he talked. “You must know his death was ruled natural causes as a result of an accident, then.”
“Yes, but we don’t buy that it was an accident. Sweet was working on a connection for us with a DHS suspect.”
“Go on.” Rimmler waved to Ford across the room, pointing to his phone. “What does Doctor Houston have to do with this?”
“We aren’t sure. Mainly we’ve been keeping tabs on Sweet’s closest associates. Our investigator said Sweet was due to meet him with some new information.”
Ford leaned over Rimmler and read the notes on the pad.
“That isn’t much,” Rimmler said.
“I know that. Our man says Houston was up to something. He thinks it may have something to do with Sweet’s death.”
“Not exactly. We’re wanting to know what, if anything, Houston has to do with another DHS issue?”
“So why are you calling me?”
“We’d like your department to search Houston’s home and medical office. Look for fatal drugs that could have killed Sweet and also any computer thumb drives or discs with any encrypted files.”
Rimmler made more notes. “Not much to base a search on. What else do you have?”
“Our guy bought some ammunition from Houston. All legal. And Houston refused to sell him a rifle now that he no longer has a federal license. But because of Sweet’s last comments, our guy thinks there was something going on. Then Sweet ends up dead. It smells.”
Rimmler was quiet a moment.
“You still there, Detective?”
“Yes. Sorry, I was thinking.”
“How about it?”
“All right. I think we can do a search utilizing the ATF based on his once having a federal gun license.”
“My number on your phone screen?”
Rimmler glanced at the LED display. “Yeah.”
“You can reach me at that number. Direct line.”
Rimmler wrote the number. “All right, Mr. Press.” He hung up. “Looks like DHS is going on a fishing expedition and they expect us to bait their hook.” Sighing, he raked his hand through his hair. “Get the district ATF on the line down in Fresno,” he told Ford. “See if they can do a search of his home as a former gun dealer.”
“What about his medical office?” Ford asked.
“I’ll get a warrant for our department for a search there.”
Ford turned toward his desk. Rimmler dialed the number for the District Attorney’s office.
1130 Hours, 16 September 2013, City of Mudford Police Department, California:
A uniform officer searched through a file cabinet in the Property Division. Another officer walked by. “What’s going on?”
“Detective Ford asked me to pull up a file on a local gun dealer.”
“For a support to the ATF who wants to search his property.”
“You find it?”
“Look for Sports Stores, Pawn Shops, and Dealers.”
The officer pulled another file drawer. “Here it is.”
The title on the file was simple: Henry Houston. The officer pulled it out and carried it to Detective Ford’s desk.
Detective Ford opened the file. He picked up the phone and dialed the number to a federal building in Fresno.
An ATF agent got a call from the call center. “This is Agent Walraven. May I be of assistance?”
“I’m Detective Ford with Mudford Police Department.”
“Yes, Detective, what is it?”
“We need to do a search of a possible perp and we know he was a past gun dealer. On a technical question, does ATF need a warrant to search his home?
“That depends. Was his gun business conducted there?”
“Yes, as far as I know,” Ford said.
“Then I think we can search without a warrant,” Walraven said. “We call it an inspection. We can drop in anytime.”
“I’ll pull his records up from Atlanta.”
“Couple of hours. Is there a rush?”
“Trying to coordinate with a warrant search of his business at the same time,” Ford said. “We can handle that location if you do the home.”
“What’s his name?”
Detective Ford hung up his phone and went to update Rimmler.
Agent Walraven hung up his phone and then picked it up again and dialed a number to another office in the same federal building.
“Hey, Darryl,” Walraven said. “Get the dealer’s license record from Atlanta for Henry Houston. A Mudford address.”
“Get another couple guys ready.”
“We’re going on an inspection.”
1300 Hours, 16 September 2013, Henry Houston Home, Mudford, California:
ATF agents and officers stormed into Hank’s home. They were all over the place, searching through everything.
Jenn was there alone. “Who are you?”
“ATF, ma’am,” Agent Walhaven said.
“Why are you here?”
“Dealer inspections are our normal business.”
“My husband is no longer a dealer.”
“We know that.”
“Then you know that ATF has his records that he sent in.”
“True enough. But we are still conducting an inspection for any illegal weapons.”
“Where is your warrant?” Jenn demanded.
“We don’t need a warrant. Your husband was essentially an agent of ATF as a dealer.”
“But he isn’t any more,” she yelled in exasperation.
Walhaven remained calm. “Doesn’t matter.” He pointed agents to the garage.
Inside the home, two agents talked in Hank’s home office. “What do we have?” Agent Warren asked.
Agent Ducey pulled open a closet door in Hank’s office. The gun safe doors were opened. “The wife opened it for me. A lot of various pistols are here. A nine millimeter Taurus, a Czechoslovakian Tee Kay Cee in three eighty, a Rugar revolver in forty-four Remington Mag, a Colt in forty, two Remington black powder Navy forty-fours.”
Ducey pointed to each one as he listed. “A Moissin Nagant eight millimeter Russian, a Garand, a Chinese Mauser in eight, a Marlin lever in forty-four, a Mossberg twelve gauge pump, a Browning twelve gauge auto, an FN forty nine in eight millimeter, a Remington modal seven eighty eight bolt action in three-oh-eight, a Sako bolt in thirty ought six, a Norinco Type fifty six S with a thumbhole stock, and a AR type Daiwoo in five, five, six.”
“Nice little collection,” Walhaven said.
Agent Darryl came in. “In the garage are a three black powder rifles. A Springfield eighteen-forty-two, an Enfield, and a Remington two banded. No ATF files from his past business, but lots of ammunition and reloading supplies, and all legal guns,” Agent Ducey said then paused. “Nothing else.”
“Maybe,” Walhaven said. “Get all the serial numbers and run them. See if anything turns up. Any discs or thumb drives?”
“Several, but none with encrypted files. Just household stuff and a bunch of crap about the Civil War. Do you want Houston to produce receipts for all these weapons?”
“No,” Walhaven said. “That registration crap is just a bogus media thing. But run the serials.”
1300 Hours, 16 September 2013, Henry Houston Medical Office, Mudford, California:
A combined force of police, neighborhood POP, SWAT, and canine teams along with four detectives, raided Hank’s medical office. Cops and officers went through the landscaping and through all doors into the office complex.
Detective Worley looked over the reception counter. “Is Doctor Houston here?”
The receptionist’s hands shook. “No,” she said. “I mean, yes, but he’s in his office for a late lunch.”
Worley instructed the uniform K-9 officer to proceed with the dog through the office. He turned back to the receptionist and a nurse. “We have to ask you both to step outside while we conduct a search.”
“What about Jean and Helen?”
“Who are they?” “The accountant and another PRN.”
He ushered them out with hand motions. “All right. Go tell them to go out with you. I’ll talk to Doctor Houston in his office.”
When the dog team was through, detectives Worley, Powell, Rimmler, and Ford went through the cabinets in the small office lab area. Boxes of pharmaceutical samples and other medications were pulled from the shelves and drawers. Syringes of various sizes were piled on another counter.
“What are we looking for that was on the warrant?” Powell asked.
Rimmler snapped on his gloves. “Look for bottles of potassium chloride.”
“Or boxes labeled that,” Ford added.
“That’s what Coroner Keyes said he found in the autopsy,” Powell said.
Ford opened a bunch of small boxes. “What are you finding,” he asked Powell.
“I’ve found flu vaccine, cotton balls, gauze packets, tape, alcohol bottles and wipes, acetone, Cialis and Viagra samples, six kinds of statin samples, epinephren and syringes, and omeprazol samples.” He tossed a box of Epson printer ink cartridges onto the counter. “And office supplies.”
“What do we have?” Worley asked.
“No potassium chloride, a lot of supplies, and all legal medications,” Ford said then paused. “Nothing.”
Rimmler threw a box of plastic specimen cups against a wall. He picked up another plastic bag of syringes to throw and then thought better of it and dropped it back on the desk. “What a fuckin’ waste of time.”
“You got that right,” Powell said.
Worley looked around. “All right,” he said. “If the potassium chloride isn’t an everyday item in the office, perhaps he made a one-time order from a supplier.”
Ford nodded. “You’re reading my mind.”
“That one girl out there was the office accountant. Get Houston’s purchase records from her.”
“What about his prescriptions he’s written?” Ford asked.
“Good thinking. Check it out.”
“The other angle,” Worley continued, “is that the hospital pharmacy probably has that stocked for use there. Let’s get over there and see if Houston sign out any potassium there.”
All the police left shaking their heads. The Houston office raid had turned up nothing.
“Let’s keep an eye on Houston, just the same,” Rimmler said.
“Got it,” Powell said.
“We may need to ask Houston a few more questions, but first we need to fit some unanswered pieces of this together.”