The man stared at Kaplan and looked at Kaplan’s black and white ID tag. “Your name plate says Kaplan. Would that be Isaac Kaplan?”
“Senior Hospital Corpsman Ike Kaplan, how can I help you?” Kaplan shook the offered hand.
The gray suit smiled and produced his identification, “Adam Stokely, Special Agent.” Stokely didn’t add the “FBI” designator. “Can we speak somewhere private?”
“How about the cast room–the door to your left.” Kaplan motioned with his right hand.
They sat on shiny metal stools facing each other. Kaplan waited for Stokely to open the dialogue.
“You were briefed on the mission before you were shipped to Nam. Were you told the reason for our focus on orthopedic patients?”
“First they’re the most numerous of Vietnam casualties even before the dead. And second the heroin shipment increases are directly related to the number of ortho cases arriving in the air-evacs.” Kaplan got up and made sure no one was behind the closed door and walked back to his stool.
“I’m here to give you the real reason. We traced the Asian source of heroin to a Chinese gypsum supplier. Gypsum is calcium sulfate which is the main component of plaster of Paris.” Stokely leaned his left arm on the black-padded casting table which could accommodate a 6-foot-6 supine soldier-patient.
Kaplan’s jaw dropped. “You mean the Gypsum contains the heroin and gets incorporated into medical plaster fabric?”
“We think so.” Stokely lowered his voice. “We began our focused surveillance this month with medics and corpsmen as Agents like yourself. There are people like you in every Army, Air Force and Navy hospital throughout the country.”
Kaplan rubbed his chin with its emerging afternoon stubble. “So my stick to glue with Boomer–he’s my total body cast patient–was to really see if he had any special contacts.”
“And to keep an eye on that cast of his. The first cast change in the US is the primary transfer of the heroin from the military to the dealers for its extraction. The plaster has to get processed to remove the heroin–that’s step one. Step two is cutting the heroin from 100% pure to lower concentrations.” Stokely looked at his watch. “What time do visiting hours end?”
“Afternoon visiting hours are over at 1700. There’s a one hour visiting time from 1900 to 2000.” Kaplan stood up as Stokely rose from his stool.
“Agent Kaplan–Ike–you have to be vigilant. There has to be contacts here at Queens Naval Hospital. The chain requires an extensive infrastructure. I’m talking not only about visitors but staff personnel at any level are needed to get those imported plaster casts from the patients to outside the main gate.”
“I’m only one person Adam.”
“We have Agents posing as visitors and we have a few patients on your side that will identify themselves when the time is right.” Stokely bent his head closer to Kaplan and whispered. “We have to assume the drug cartels have patients on board here as well.”
“You think there are more than the orthopedic wards involved?”
“There has to be to administrate this set-up. The amount of heroin coming in via patients is huge. I’ll be stopping in from time-to-time. Here’s my number to call in an emergency. Some of our good guys are also DEA. I want a detailed report on your observations every Friday and sooner as you see activity escalate. There must be a pattern to getting the plaster out of the hospital.”
They shook hands and Kaplan walked Stokely to the ward entrance and walked back to Boomer’s bed. He looked again at the visitors. Some had to be from the drug cartel. But who? They all looked like innocent civilian family.
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