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Kill Or Be Killed
By Robert Scott
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.Copyright © 2004 Robert Scott
All rights reserved.
Cottonwood, California, April 28, 1998 — Midnight
Darkness covered the hills over the sleeping northern California town of two thousand souls as the clock struck midnight. Winding Cottonwood Creek ran silently through the dense trees as a pair of headlights swept along Gas Point Road and swung into a driveway near a mobile home. It was mainly a rural area with long distances between houses, and the locale was deserted at this hour. The driver dimmed the lights of his SUV, cut the engine and stepped into a yard. He carried a large, orange-colored, 11" x 14" manila envelope in his hand as he walked toward the mobile home on the wooded property. Underneath his jacket, protected from the cool air and preying eyes, his right arm displayed an Irish Republican Army (IRA) tattoo. The tattoo portrayed an American flag and an Irish flag, with ONE BUT NOT THE SAME written beneath the banners. The tattooed man who stepped out of the shadows and into a pool of light in front of the mobile home was twenty-seven-year-old Todd Jesse Garton.
Slowly another man stepped into the circle of light and faced him. Even though the man's face was boyish-looking for a twenty-eight-year-old, his jaw was now set with grim determination, reflecting the seriousness of the moment. The boyish-looking man was Norman Daniels III and occupant of the mobile home.
The two men were not strangers. In fact, they had been on an assassination mission together. It had taken them across state lines up into Oregon with a vehicle filled with weapons, a huge cache of ammunition, disguises and silencers. As Garton handed the package to Daniels, Norman looked down at the lettering on its cover. Two strips of clear plastic tape revealed letters spelled out in block form. The letters read, NEWBIE RECRUIT, PATRIOT RECRUITER. Daniels knew that he was the "newbie recruit" and that Garton was "Patriot." It was a code name given to him by a shadowy organization of hired killers. The organization seemed to be filled with ex-CIA operatives, former military Black Ops specialists and just plain soldiers of fortune. Daniels had gathered all this information by listening to Garton's stories about his dangerous exploits on behalf of the organization.
Daniels turned the package over and noticed a wax seal that appeared to bear the head of a ram. But his eyes deceived him. In fact, it was an impression from Garton's Navy SEAL pin. The wax displayed the headpiece of a diving bubble, the insignia of the SEALs. It was an emblem steeped in stealth, covert operations and quick death.
Just as Daniels began to place his thumb under the wax seal, Garton spoke up and said, "Hold on. Wait a second! I warn you, before you open that, if you open it, you are going to have to do what it tells you in that package. Or you will end up dead."
Daniels responded, "Well, I already opened the seal, so it looks like I'm going to have to go through with this."
Garton grunted and said, "Okay."
As Daniels looked at the contents of the package, he immediately noticed a small pager. It had instructions and an 800 number to call on how to make the pager operational. There were also instructions made of labeling tape, the same kind of labeling tape used on the front of the package. These instructions advised Daniels that he must give his recruiter the pager number. In other words, Todd Garton.
Also in the package were several news articles related to the turmoil in Northern Ireland. They spoke of the Irish Republican Army and Sinn Fein, their political affiliate. One of the articles dealt with an IRA leader who had died recently and showed a picture of people mourning at his funeral. Another photo was of a crowded Belfast street in Northern Ireland. One of the articles discussed an anonymous female who dealt with IRA "political prisoners." Another was about an unknown female who planted a bomb at a British bookstore. Daniels vaguely wondered if the women in the articles might be Todd's wife, Carole Garton. Todd had told him previously that Carole had been an IRA operative in Ireland when she was a teenager. He'd indicated that she'd helped plant bombs and even gun down British soldiers. He said she was a crack marksman.
The most potent material in the package were three photographs. The first photograph portrayed Carole Garton, a woman that Norman Daniels knew well, wearing a completely black outfit and dark sunglasses. She was looking back over her shoulder at the photographer. It was hard to read the expression on her face.
The second photo was of Carole Garton at a waterfall near a bridge and rocky cliff area along a stream. There were dense woods in the photo. Strangely enough, the scene looked like an area east of Cottonwood, where Norman Daniels and Todd Garton had gone rappelling in years past. As a matter of fact, the photo itself looked familiar. Daniels was sure he'd seen it in Garton's home. Maybe in a photo album. He asked Garton about this, but Garton replied, "I've never seen this photograph before."
The third photograph was the most potent of all. It portrayed Carole Garton, Todd Garton and an anonymous male on a stage. There was sound equipment in the background and a large audio speaker. Todd was sitting on the stage up against a wall. The unknown male was standing with his arms crossed. Carole was front and center. She wore a hat and sunglasses and held one arm aloft with her head tilted to the side. She seemed to be posing for the camera. The most unusual thing about the photo was that both Todd and the unknown male's heads were x-ed out with a marking pen, but Carole's head had a large circle drawn around it in yellowish green ink. Daniels knew from previous instructions that his target to kill was whoever had his or her head circled in a photograph. He was not to do it with a rifle from ambush. He was to kill his target up close and personal with a pistol.
On the back of this photograph, in clear tape with black lettering, was information and instructions. The information gave Carole Garton's birth date, social security number and the license plate number of her Jeep Wrangler. The instructions read, Carole Garton — TO. TO meant target of opportunity.
The instructions also stated, WO — 12:01 on the 28th of April until May of the 20th. WO meant window of opportunity — in other words, the amount of time Daniels had to carry out his mission.
The very last thing on the instructions was the admonition, If you don't complete this mission, you will be terminated. Daniels understood this to mean that he would be killed.
Even though Daniels had been on the assassination mission to Oregon, this one startled him. He knew and admired Carole Garton. He turned directly toward Todd and said, "No way!"
Todd took the photo of Carole from Daniels, looked at his wife's face and sighed heavily.
"I can't do this!" Daniels exclaimed. "I'll get caught. You've got to call someone and change this."
Todd reluctantly took Daniels's cell phone and began to dial some numbers. Then suddenly he pressed the power button and hung up. He ran his hand over his head as Daniels kept repeating, "I can't do this. I'm going to get caught. I'm a dead man."
"You've got to do it," Garton finally replied. "There's no way out."
Then Garton sat down heavily on a chair near the porch of the mobile home, saying that they both ought to get drunk. He looked as forlorn as Daniels felt.
Finally after staring at his wife's circled face in the photo once again, Todd sighed and said, "Well, at least it isn't me."
Norman Daniels first met Todd Garton at Shasta College on the north side of Redding, California, in the spring of 1993. With its buildings tucked in a beautiful, rolling wooded area, the campus looked more like a park than a college. To the northeast, fourteen-thousand-foot snowcapped Mount Shasta rose majestically over the countryside. Surrounded by myths and legends, ethereal Mount Shasta at times seemed to float above the terrain as if it were not really connected to the earth. There were stories of underground passages beneath the mountain and lost kingdoms. New Age devotees flocked there seeking enlightenment. More sportsmanlike devotees flocked there for good hunting and fishing. The area lived up to its chamber of commerce title, "the Shasta Cascade Wonderland."
Norm Daniels bumped into Garton in the college's Mac lab, a room filled with Macintosh computers for students to do homework and assignments. Garton happened to be doing homework on a Mac when Daniels noticed him wearing a military shirt. Since Daniels had been an army paratrooper, he asked if Garton had been in the military as well. Garton said that he was still in the military. They struck up a conversation and Todd said that he was a lieutenant in the marines and had injured both of his legs in a mission. He was currently in the process of being rehabilitated and not on active duty at the present time. During this period of convalescence he was taking classes at Shasta College to further his education. As a matter of fact, that was the reason why he was in the Mac lab. He was doing an assignment for his geography class.
Daniels sat down beside Garton and they continued to talk about the military and the world in general. As they talked, Daniels noticed that Garton was having trouble with his computer program and it was obvious that he was a novice in this regard. The same could not be said of Norman Daniels.
In 1993 Daniels was a computer science major with experience in programming in Basic and C + + 3.1. He knew DOS, Disk Management Plus Systems operation for Linux machines and had Internet experience. He was also a computer program designer.
As Daniels watched Garton fumble around with his program on world geography, he offered to help. Soon they were both looking at maps of the world. Todd Garton pointed at Central America and said, "I've been there." The conversation that followed led Norman Daniels into a world he had never dreamed of. It was filled with romance, danger and excitement.
Garton explained that he was a field grade officer; in other words, he had not gone to officers' school but had enlisted as a private and risen in the ranks to lieutenant because of his abilities in the field. He pointed at Guatemala and El Salvador and said that he had done antidrug cartel work there with the marines. Of course it had all been very hush-hush and covert in nature.
Daniels vaguely knew about these secret operations. He'd heard of the Iran-Contra Affair and U.S. Marine Corps colonel Oliver North's involvement in it. And he'd heard of other CIA operations that were mostly kept hidden from the public eye. These tales generally concerned covert operations and sometimes assassination missions. Every once in a while stories would filter into the newspapers about some drug operation destroyed or some drug lord killed.
Garton said he'd been so good at his job that the marines had loaned him out to the DEA. If the marine missions had been secretive, the DEA missions were doubly so. He'd done scouting and reconnaissance work. On his recon missions he would spy out the enemy positions and ascertain how many people were there and what kind of weapons and vehicles they had.
Garton also said, "I did missions where I had to destroy drug labs and the like. I was sometimes a sniper and had to take out people."
Garton wove an intricate picture of a shadowy world, where the lines between the "good guys" and the "bad guys" blurred into an ethical haze. Todd said that he had been on these missions until recently. He'd been rappelling from a helicopter when suddenly the copter was fired upon. Knocked off balance, he lost his grip and had fallen from the rappel line and broke both of his legs when he hit the ground. That was the reason he was being rehabilitated back in the States.
Norman Daniels was fascinated by these stories. But they were only a prelude to Garton's next words.
Todd related that before he was a marine — in fact, when he was only sixteen years old — he had stolen a credit card and gone to Northern Ireland to help fight with the IRA. To prove it, Garton undid his shirt and showed Daniels an IRA tattoo on one of his shoulders. It displayed a Celtic cross. He said that he had always been sympathetic to the IRA cause and that he was of Irish ancestry himself.
When he landed in Belfast, he had hooked up with a cell of IRA sympathizers. Before long he was showing them how to maintain their weapons. As a boy, Todd Garton had grown up with guns. He knew how to shoot well and how to maintain his weapons. By the time he was seventeen, his services to the IRA went far beyond just cleaning weapons. He was sent out to snipe at British soldiers who patrolled the streets of Belfast.
One particular incident stood out in his memory and he conveyed it to Daniels with the art of a master storyteller. He and an IRA friend were lying in wait in an alley for a squad of British soldiers to pass by. They were hidden behind obstructions and both carried weapons with thirty-round "banana clips." The banana clips were so named because of their distinctive semicircular shape that somewhat resembled a banana. Unfortunately, Todd's friend was not as familiar with weapons as he was. When he jumped into a prone firing position and opened fire on the British soldiers, he bent one of the clips on the ground. This caused it to jam. While he was trying to fix his gun, he was shot and killed.
Todd had made no similar mistake. From his ambush position he opened up on the soldiers. Even though they were wearing helmets and flak jackets, he managed to shoot several of them in the face, killing them instantly. Todd's marksmanship as a boy paid off. He held the British survivors at bay and didn't take off for safety until he'd emptied most of his clip. He escaped down the alley and disappeared from the scene of carnage.
These stories of Northern Ireland really filled Norman Daniels with a thirst for adventure. In comparison to Garton, his stint in the paratroopers had been dull and prosaic. He had been well trained but had never seen real action. It had all been maneuvers and simulated battle field conditions. Before long, he and Garton were meeting over drinks at the American Legion Hall in Anderson and shooting the bull. Garton kept up his stream of war stories and Daniels drank it all in, imagining scenes in the steaming jungles of Central America or of the windswept, rainy streets of Belfast. Daniels knew he had what it took, the same as Garton. But he had never been presented with the opportunity.
Once Garton's legs were better, Daniels and Garton went rappelling off an eighty-foot cliff face near a bridge and waterfall near Shingletown. It was the same area that would look so familiar to Daniels in the photo of Carole Garton near a waterfall. To show how good he was at rappelling, Todd even did it off the bridge, which was a straight shot to the ground below. He may have been inept at computers, but he was good with guns and certain outdoor activities.
As they went on these forays, Todd Garton regaled Daniels with more and more stories. Norman Daniels believed all of them. After all, Garton used certain military terms that weren't common knowledge. And as Daniels said later, "I'm a trusting person. It's a fault, I guess. If someone told me they had a million dollars in the bank, I wouldn't ask to see their bankbook."
But in Todd Garton's case, Daniels should have looked at his "bankbook." In fact, Todd Garton had never been in Central America, never helped on a DEA mission, never been a Navy SEAL and had only been a corporal in the marines, not a lieutenant. He'd hurt his leg in a training exercise and been given an honorable discharge from the marines. He'd never been on a rappelling mission from a helicopter that took enemy fire. And most of all, he'd certainly never been to Northern Ireland as a teenager nor had been anywhere near the Irish Republican Army.
Todd Garton was the biggest con man since P. T. Barnum, and he had Daniels falling for his stories hook, line and sinker. These stories were vivid, exciting and filled with adventure. There was just one flaw — they weren't true.
Yet Todd was so consistent with his lies, so exact in his embellishments, that he had a lot more people than just Norman Daniels fooled. All of this might have added up to no more than good storytelling at the American Legion Hall — except for one thing. Garton's cons weren't ultimately harmless like P. T. Barnum's. Todd Garton's deceptions were about to lead down a road to conspiracy and murder.CHAPTER 2
The Hope Chest
The one salient thing about Todd Garton was that from a very early age he could spin a good story. Born Todd Jesse Garton in 1970, he and his brother had an upper-middle-class childhood. Todd lived close enough to a rural area so that he learned how to shoot guns and maintain them. He was bright and articulate, but the "real world" seemed mundane to him. He began to invent a world of his own, and his talent was making others believe in it as well.
Excerpted from Kill Or Be Killed by Robert Scott. Copyright © 2004 Robert Scott. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
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