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[00:00:11]

Hello. Hello, revisionist history listeners. Malcolm Gladwell here. I'm popping into the feed an extra time this week to share the newest show in the Pushkin family. It's called Deep Cover the Drug Wars, if you like, Coen Brothers movies or Narcos or any story that's too crazy to be believed. And I think you like to show. Deep Cover is hosted by Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Jake Halpern. But a year ago, Jake heard about a former FBI agent named Ned Timmons.

[00:00:41]

This story starts back in the 80s when he was a rookie agent at the FBI. One night he arrests a fugitive at a biker bar. The fugitive has some connections in the criminal underworld and Ned manages to flip him. He goes undercover with a biker gang, learns how to ride a Harley and goes a Fu Manchu mustache. It was the start of a double life that will go on for years. And eventually this investigation would uncover a vast criminal network that included celebrities, the CIA and a dictator down in Central America.

[00:01:16]

The ultimate result was a full scale U.S. invasion. Deep cover is produced by our own Jacob Smith, who careful listeners will know is someone who has been involved with revisionist history since day one. Jacob has gone off to audio college with this show, and it is fantastic. Here's the first episode of Deep Cover the Drug Wars. Give it a listen and then subscribe on Apple podcasts. Enjoy the ride. About a year ago, I got my hands on this novel.

[00:01:45]

Unpublished, but apparently based on a true story. It was written by this guy, Ned Timmins.

[00:01:57]

The overarching plot was pure pulp.

[00:01:59]

I mean, you could imagine the movie starring Steven Seagal and definitely straight to video.

[00:02:05]

It tells the story of a newbie FBI agent named Ned from Detroit who grows a Fu Manchu mustache, goes undercover in a violent outlaw biker gang and infiltrates a secret syndicate that smuggling hundreds of thousands of pounds of pot into the country.

[00:02:22]

And all that leads eventually to the invasion of a foreign country and the arrest of a brutal dictator. Skeptical. Yeah. So as I see I'm a journalist and my specialty. If you can even call it that, is stories that seem too crazy to be true, stories that are on the verge of urban legend. Most of them turn out to be bullshit, which doesn't bother me. That's kind of the crux of my job, actually, sorting through the bullshit.

[00:02:52]

So naturally, I had to go meet this guy. One, two, one, two.

[00:02:57]

Tell me tell me where we are. Your office. Describe where we are.

[00:03:02]

We're in Commerce Township, Michigan. Give me a little more than that. How long have you had your office here? Eighteen years.

[00:03:13]

Net is now in his early 70s, walks with a limp. He's bald. But you wouldn't know it because he likes to wear a weather beaten cammo hat nowadays. He's a private eye. His office is beige in a beige corporate park, totally forgettable except for the bear. It's the first thing you see when you walk up a 10 foot brown bear. Taxidermy in the classic rearing up to each you pose. Ned tells me he got the bear on a hunting trip in Alaska.

[00:03:42]

But the real trophy that Ned keeps in a plastic bag in his desk.

[00:03:48]

This is. Their penises. And wolf teeth in annuals believe that they will protect you. The bear has a bone in his penis. And I recovered this, like after you shot the bear, you not before I shot it. Nobody's going to take a bear, dick, when he's alive. The influence would make a necklace out of this to protect him.

[00:04:17]

I just keep it in a bag because I'm going to wear a bear penis necklace around the office.

[00:04:23]

Do you. Do you believe in it? I mean, do you believe in the like its power of keeping you safe?

[00:04:28]

Yeah, I do. I believe in it. I've been all over the Arctic, can live two weeks at 40 below zero and and all over Russia and you know where there's nothing. And I keep a bare penis with me. I think there's something out there that maybe it's only in your mind. It's in your mind and it works. I don't know. I'm still here and have had many, many close calls. So here I am.

[00:05:01]

Right. So at first read, Ned's unpublished novel seemed like a classic airport potboiler, typical of cloak and dagger, ex cop kind of stuff, like when the hero heads it on a case, it reads a quick shower and a breakfast of Alka Seltzer.

[00:05:17]

An aspirin had Ned feeling three quarters human again. That voice is the actor Walton Goggins. We asked him to read from Ned's novel. And in this novel, there are some great characters like the drug addicted pig and his pig. He guards a drug lab while munching on onions soaked in meth. The novel tells us the dark and well bristled.

[00:05:40]

Pig was eyeing them with a disturbing, calculating look that pigs give many of the details in the novel like the pig.

[00:05:49]

We're so quirky and distinctive, they felt like they had to be true. Other scenes seemed contrived, pure Hollywood. I kind of felt like I'd gotten myself a guidebook that was about half accurate. There was a true story in here, a real piece of history. If I could just, you know, extract it. Yeah. Easier said than done. I started making a to do list like I was going to the grocery store or something. Only mine went something like this one.

[00:06:19]

Reach out to your contact at the FBI. Make sure Neds not a kook to call the CIA here like they'll tell you anything. Three. Visit the guy who smuggled three hundred thousand pounds of pot into the US in a single shipment, supposedly now lives in Hawaii. Four track down that long lost mistress who's living somewhere in South America. Shit, all of a sudden, the story felt like one of those five thousand piece puzzles that my kids like to open up on vacation and just spill across the floor.

[00:06:55]

And then you see a corner piece and a matching edge piece. And damned if they don't fit. And then, well, there goes your vacation. I'm Jake Halpern, and this is deep cover. Episode one, The Masked Man. All that I really remembered about the drug wars of the 1980s was there was this huge problem that the government was trying to fix with slogans you might remember just say no. That was the battle cry of President Reagan and his wife, Nancy, distributed all the way down to our teachers in high school.

[00:08:01]

I remember these lectures and thinking even then that they were an idiotic remedy to the drug war. I even wrote an op ed in my student newspaper just saying no k n o w to just say no corny. I know I was 14. A little slogan was not going to kill the demand for an entire drug market.

[00:08:21]

And it sure as hell wasn't going to stem the flow of marijuana that was pouring into the country.

[00:08:26]

And he kind of had to wonder, where was all that marijuana coming from anyway and how was it getting in?

[00:08:35]

Historians are still debating this question. You can find reams of conspiracy theories like it was the CIA behind all the drug smuggling. That's still a hot one. In fact, the CIA will eventually figure into this story along with celebrities, politicians, heads of state.

[00:08:54]

But we're getting ahead of ourselves now because this story really starts in Detroit with Ned Timmins. At a rowdy roadside biker bar.

[00:09:08]

The bar was a roadhouse out in the sticks. The dirt parking lot was, for most of it, motorcycles. Nearly all of them Harley Davidsons. Those are the opening words of Ned's novel. And we will begin our story. It's the early 1980s. Ned Timmins is in his mid thirties and early in his career at the FBI. He's working fugitives, just basically going down a checklist and rounding up wanted men. This was not a desk job. It was an assignment for guys who wanted some action, as Ned tells it.

[00:09:45]

He got a tip about a fugitive who was supposed to be at this biker bar on the outskirts of Detroit. So Knight grabs his change jacket and his 357 Smith and Wesson and heads out. Do some mean motherfuckers in there? You know, there was hard ass hardcore biker bar doing shots and drugs and it was a scene out of a movie or a novel.

[00:10:13]

In fact, here it is in Neds novel, a single sodium streetlight out on the far edge of the parking lot, shown down on a payphone from that lonely pool of light. The darkness of the parking lot reached out a good 25 yards before the glow of neon beer signs signal the borders of another America. This was the lawless America. This was the rebel yell. This was easy money, fast bikes and girls that were easier and faster than both.

[00:10:46]

Nowadays, it's hard to appreciate just how right are novelist is about the lawlessness of Byker borders in the 80s. Today, we might think of these guys as old greybeards who putter around and three wheeled Harley's, but not back then. These were dangerous men drugging, partying and fighting. Here's Ned novelist again. The smell was the first thing that hit old beer piss BAEO reefer, smoke and puke. The second thing to hit was a cover charge, two bucks and a guy demanding it was the size of a freezer.

[00:11:22]

Bikers seem to come in one of only two sizes big and really fucking big. Probably smells like sweat and beer and and Jack Daniels all mixed up together all the time.

[00:11:44]

That's Cathy Timmons, also an FBI agent in the Detroit office and Ned's wife at the time. She remembers going to one of these biker bars with Ned on another night just to serve as cover, you know, his actual wife pretending to be his girlfriend.

[00:12:00]

And then if people actually need to breathe, they go outside because the smoke in the bar would be just that thick that even a smoker couldn't tolerate it. You know, I mean, people, you know, with a big fight going on over here and everybody else over here to sit and talk and other people are shooting pool.

[00:12:16]

Just chaos on this particular night. Ned says he was looking for a fugitive named Toby Anderson. Toby had quite a rap sheet.

[00:12:25]

Apparently, Toby's file was about six inches deep in a lot of real violent stuff, you know? So someone guns down in Kentucky and and, you know, this guy was a career criminal.

[00:12:37]

He also happened to be a country western singer. And his band supposedly had a gig that night. This was one of their hits. Snitches and rip balls must die. Balls must be called sucker monocular, kill the fuckers that tried to steal something, as Ned tells it.

[00:13:03]

The bar was crowded with outlaw bikers. Ned knew that walking in here is a plainclothes agent was extremely dangerous. Everything was about the brotherhood, the code. Your fellow bikers, even the music. So Ned had his eyes on the band looking at the singer. He knew that Toby was supposed to make an appearance on stage tonight. But could it be that the lead singer of this band, the guy up on stage right now, was his guy?

[00:13:32]

There are a lot of good people sitting in jail. Well, we could end all of that if start killing snitches for. So Ned says he saunters up to the bar, takes a seat on a stool and just waits for his partner to show up. It wasn't his regular partner, just a guy providing backup. That particular night in the novel, Ned describes him as a blue blooded preppie who arrives at this biker bar dressed in penny loafers and a tie.

[00:14:15]

The two of them watch the stage together, trying to find their fugitive, figure out just who Toby was. All they had was one flimsy clue. A picture there was six or seven years out of date.

[00:14:28]

There wasn't really any mark scars or tattoos, which is nice of you. You know, the guy's got a swastika on his cheek or something. There was nothing we could look at other identifiers.

[00:14:40]

We just we weren't sure. Ned waited for the band to take a break. Then he went to suss things out.

[00:14:48]

I followed him in the bathroom and, you know, was taking a piss beside him. And I said, hey, aren't you Toby Anderson? He goes now, OK. I was down in the keys with Toby, and I'm swear you're Toby. He just kind of. No, man, you get the wrong guy. And I said, don't you remember? So-and-so is boat on Big Pine Key with party down there. And he was the. I'm Toby.

[00:15:19]

You know, what the fuck's that to you? So we just, you know, I had a good time. Then I will reach out to shake hands with him and I and I get his hand and I'm shaking hands with him and I just clean up to his ear and say, Toby, FBI and I guess, fuck you. And he starts to swing. OK, let's freeze frame right there in mid punch, because this is not exactly textbook arrest protocol.

[00:15:47]

I mean, there are other ways to handle this, like waiting until Toby headed out to the parking lot or even just following him home.

[00:15:55]

But this is the first thing you need to understand about Ned. And it's also the first thing that Kathy ever knew about him going back to when they first met as Small-Town cops.

[00:16:06]

If somebody was in a foot chase, you know, you might you know, we got his I.D., we got his car. You know, we can pick him up tomorrow, whatever. Needwood Chase that guy down until he got him.

[00:16:16]

She tells this story about Ned before they even started dating. Ned knew where family would be celebrating St. Patrick's Day. So he just showed up and blended right in as if he were some long lost cousin, chatted up.

[00:16:29]

Her dad got along famously with everyone.

[00:16:32]

Most people don't have that level of confidence to be able to just walk in and just immediately become a part of the crowd.

[00:16:40]

So cornering Toby in a bathroom, aggressive, a bit reckless. Classic Ned. OK, back to the biker bar.

[00:16:53]

And just lean up to his ears and told the FBI and I just fuck you. And he starts to swing.

[00:17:01]

And right then Ned's partner comes into the bathroom. We kind of overwhelmed them. So we get him in cuffs. We were going through the bar and everybody started to realize he's in handcuffs and he's like, there's superstar. And people are pushing and shoving. And Ned says he and his partner Frogmarched Toby through a bar. Drunk bikers and out the front door. I had Toby on the hood of the Bronco and he's still wrestling around with his handcuffed behind himself, behind his back.

[00:17:30]

So he had Toby. I actually can't be sure if this story at the bar is 100 percent true. I talked to Ned's partner from that day and he didn't remember it. I talked to another biker who knew Toby very well and he remembered hearing some version of this story at the time. Unfortunately, I can't ask Toby himself since he died back in 2004. But I did track down Toby's son, who gave me at least a better sense of who this guy was.

[00:18:10]

I remember right on the motorcycles with them, with me on the back. He was just kind of reckless and dangerous. I was screaming, hold on for dear life. Right. And you just thought it was funny.

[00:18:19]

Today, Jesse Anderson is an executive in the auto industry. Back when he was a kid, he got up real close view of all the madness and chaos that his father was in. I was afraid of my dad. Everybody is Fitzmartin. So, yeah, he was. He was reckless, which is what everyone said. The friend of Toby's told me that Toby would cut you or even shoot you without hesitation. And this gave Toby street cred in the criminal world.

[00:18:45]

He was the real deal which appealed to Ned. When we come back, Ned interrogates Toby, the prisoner. Look at Toby here.

[00:18:56]

Fact. OK. You bet. You've done time in seven fuckin federal pens. This time you're going back for life for a long time. So what do you want to do? Hey, Malcolm here. I want to tell you what, the second season of Land of the Giants. A podcast about the most powerful tech companies of our time. The second season is called the Netflix Effect. And it's hosted by Recode editors Ronnie Mola and Peter Kafka. They explore how a small DVD by mail service upended Hollywood and completely changed the way we watch TV.

[00:19:40]

It's a fascinating look at what really goes on behind the scenes at Netflix and how they continue to transform entertainment for you and me. New episodes are released every Tuesday morning. Go listeners subscribe to Land of the Giants, the Netflix effect for free on Apple podcast, or in your favorite podcast app from Recode and the Vox Media Podcast Network. If your news feed is a dumpster fire of alerts and the notifications on your phone look like Morse code on the media is here to help.

[00:20:15]

Co-host Brooke Gladstone and Bob Garfield are field tested media critics, and for nearly two decades, the On the Media podcast has been making sense of it all. Investigating how the media narrative connects to the facts. It's rough out there right now, but every week on the media has your back. Listen to on the media. Wherever you get your podcasts. Snitches and reforms must die. Snitches rip balls must. It shouldn't be a stand alone friend that calls should.

[00:21:00]

This is Toby Anderson singing one of his hit songs with the legendary chorus Snitches and rip offs Must Die. Ned Timmons still remembers going to question Toby. He brought him breakfast pancakes. He ate them with his hands. He had syrup all over his face and all of his fingers and probably and eaten in a day or so. You could see he was just I mean, he's is like totally burned out. And week nine didn't have all his buddies were gonna help him.

[00:21:29]

Look at Toby. You're fucked. Okay. You bet. You've done time in seven fuckin federal pens. This time he's gone back for life for a long time. So what do you want to do? We spent several hours with him, you know, and finally says, well, there's probably a couple of things I can do. So they started working together. Toby knew better than anyone the dangers of working for Ned, of becoming an informant for the FBI.

[00:21:55]

They had to be careful. Ned says they spread a rumor that the charges against Toby were dropped because no one wanted to testify against him. This story would keep any of his biker buddies from thinking that he'd flipped. Even while cooperating, Toby tried to maintain his own kind of biker ethics, he would not rat out friends or members of his own gang. But he willingly betrayed his enemies so he and Ned would find a target. For example, a drug house.

[00:22:24]

We'd set up undercover surveillance, sent him in there. And, you know, we had vans and different stuff with more high tech cameras and stuff that were on periscopes. Just little periscope comes on the top of the van.

[00:22:38]

Oh, the good old days when the drug dealers didn't know what every TV writer knew, unmarked vans with periscopes meant trouble.

[00:22:46]

So then we develop a raid plan and get a search warrant and kick in the doors. All the way up the 1970s, the bureau wasn't really focused on drug suppliers that had been the job of the Drug Enforcement Agency, the DEA. Now, the DEA did have some big investigations, but they were mostly one off busts. You know, they'd seized the drugs. Lay them out on the table. Big photo op. Busted. End of story. But by the early 80s, this approach wasn't cutting it anymore.

[00:23:21]

President Reagan's attorney general empowered the FBI to get involved in the drug wars. After all, the bureau were the ones taking down the mob. Something big had to be behind all of this. The feeling was this couldn't be just a bunch of local mom and pop drug dealers. Here's what the attorney general, William French Smith, said at the time. Quote, The popular notion that the syndicate or traditional organized crime stays out of drugs is simply not true.

[00:23:48]

Many of the syndicates families have developed elaborate drug networks. Virtually every one of them is involved in drugs in one way or another, end quote. But that's not all. Smith also told Americans precisely who was distributing all the drugs for the syndicates. Quote, Over the past decade, some 800 outlaw motorcycle gangs have developed around the country and in foreign countries, and drugs represent their primary source of revenue. The strategies of the attorney general and Ned Timmons had what you might call synergy, as Ned saw it.

[00:24:27]

Toby was his way in and up the ladder. So the FBI came up with a plan. Ned would go undercover and become a biker.

[00:24:42]

Ned's wife, Kathy, remembers how quickly things changed. I didn't like that. He, of course, started growing his hair out and he had a Fu Manchu mustache in it when we would go out. We'd always people look at us and we'd get seated like way at the back of a restaurant, you know, like like we were creepy.

[00:25:03]

The mustache was just the beginning. Ned knew he needed to up his skills as a biker.

[00:25:08]

So like any good FBI agent, he went to school, the Ontario Provincial Police Motorcycle School.

[00:25:15]

Ned says he learned to ride his bike upstairs and lay the bike down at high speeds. I rode a bike a lot. For the FBI.

[00:25:24]

And you're very vulnerable. And after you've been in school, you realize just how dangerous a motorcycle is. After graduation, Ned went back to Detroit. He created a new persona and carefully chose a new name. Ed Thomas. Because you wanted something that was close to Ned a couple of times, I was undercover at an airport and told colleagues, buddies, Tarion and Tollman they're going a net. And it's an awkward situation if you're with a bunch of bikers.

[00:26:00]

Ned Timmins, Ed Thomas, it was close enough that you can stumble through it.

[00:26:05]

Ed Thomas, a bad ass biker with money and connections. If you wanted the chemicals to make meth. Ed Thomas is your guy. And the ruse worked. Ed helped the FBI take down other outlaw bikers on at least one occasion. Ned told me that they cuffed him as well at the arrest, made sure it looked like he really was a criminal. The FBI wanted to protect his cover because, Ned, he was really good at this. You know who is not so good at this whole undercover thing?

[00:26:38]

Toby. Ned's wingman, Toby, was still living the biker life. And increasingly there were problems. Like the time that Toby was out at a bar and watching another band play, the lead singer was playing this fancy and very pricey, less fall electric guitar. And Toby liked it a lot. What happened next is kind of a legend. I heard it from a few different people, including another biker who was there that night at the bar. So out of nowhere, Toby screamed FBI at the top of his lungs, whipped out his gun and started shooting.

[00:27:20]

He snatched the guitar and bolts out of the bar like he deputize himself as an FBI agent or something, and then totally went rogue. And for a while he got away with it. Toby now has this sweet Les Paul electric guitar. And right away, he started touring his local haunts with it. Not a worry in the world because that's Toby.

[00:27:42]

And because it's Toby. That's not the end of the story.

[00:27:46]

A few weeks later, Toby's performing up onstage and he gets shots.

[00:27:52]

Now, we don't know who did it for sure, but everyone I spoke to said it had to be the guy he robbed and stole the guitar from a few weeks earlier. So, Toby. He shot and bleeding out onstage across town. It's bedtime for Dad's house when the phone rings. And I get a call again, like 10:00 at night. So you better get down to this bar. Toby's been shot. And so I raced down it's like a 45 minute drive.

[00:28:24]

He's still laying on the floor in the bar shot. To get there and say, look at you gotta go, the fucking hospital is I'll go, go now if you go with me. I got a call from somebody in my family to say that my dad has been shot and that it was that it was pretty severe.

[00:28:43]

That's Jesse Anderson again. Toby's son. And that day, the day his dad got shot. It's always stayed with him. On the way to the hospital, they got stopped by a train and he almost bled out in the ambulance because the train was so long. And at this time, I now think I'm I think I'm about 12 years old. But again, for me to hear that my dad was shot. It's like going to the store. I mean, it's this stuff happened all the time.

[00:29:17]

Something like this happened all the time.

[00:29:22]

Toby recovered from being shot and just kind of carried on, as crazy as that sounds. This was normal life for the Anderson household. In fact, hearing Jessie talk about his dad like this. It helped me understand what life was like in Toby's world. May have just seemed to follow this guy everywhere. Everything was topsy turvy. Even jumping in the car to pick up a pizza became an event.

[00:29:47]

All I remember is pulling up to a stoplight. And up in front of us is a guy mugging another guy. And my dad's like, well, I'm not going to stand for this. Puts the car in park. Census Bureau up on top of the rough, gets out, beats the living crap out of the guy who was mugged and the other one stole all the money that he had split it with.

[00:30:12]

The other guy got back in the car with me, grabbed his beer and just drive down and the sun looks like we got some dinner money or something like that and just no big deal.

[00:30:24]

Didn't say another word. That's my dad. A little vigilante justice. That was it. Good night. But it could get darker with Toby, a whole lot darker. When we come back, Ned wades deeper into Toby's world.

[00:31:02]

He had that dark look, you know what I'm talking about, yeah.

[00:31:07]

That crazy look in your eyes that you think this guy is a psychotic person. Better not push his button.

[00:31:16]

Ned's wife, Kathy, met Toby on a number of occasions. I remember telling Ned that he resembled to me Charles Manson and Kathy knew the telltale signs of a dangerous guy at the FBI.

[00:31:28]

She works street gangs in Flint, Michigan. Toby didn't aspire to anything other than the moment when people only aspire to, you know, how am I going to get out of here in the next 15 minutes?

[00:31:43]

And they don't care. They don't think consequence. They don't think of any of that gang. Kids are like that. They they just do in the moment what they have to do. And and if it means killing you, they'll think about that later. So why did Ned just walk away from him? Let him go back to prison. Move on, because Toby was. Yeah, definitely dangerous, but also kind of like a dead end. I mean, he wasn't some kind of kingpin or even a trusted lieutenant.

[00:32:15]

He was just a violent and unpredictable guy. But Ned, he just had a hunch. He felt that by slipping deeper and deeper into Toby's world, somewhere along the way, there'd be a payoff.

[00:32:30]

And because he was spending so much time with bikers, Ned kept hearing chatter, warhead sources up in northern Michigan, bikers.

[00:32:39]

And they would talk about. OK. There's a shipment in or whatever. The bikers would get their supply, a weed. When when these big shipments would come in, you know, which is 50000 pounds, hundred thousand pounds or whatever, come into the Detroit warehouse if such a warehouse really existed.

[00:32:57]

It was the Eldorado of drug houses and confirmed what the attorney general had said, that elaborate drug networks lay behind all the small drug busts that have been happening.

[00:33:09]

So Ned goes and tells his bosses there's just huge deal out there and it involves shrimp boats and barges and airplanes. And so I tell my bosses about it, you know, and they're kind of saying, yeah, you know, I went, you know. Right. Tim Timmons, when he's smokin around the same time.

[00:33:25]

Ned says he arrested another biker and tried to flip him just like he'd done with Toby. Only it didn't work. In fact, during the arrest, the guy just taunted Ned. He says, well, he says you're missing the boat on one of the biggest fucking deals going out there, you know? No, it's under your own nose. But he alluded to this massive deal where there's hundreds of thousands of pounds of weed and coke coming in and then basically said, fuck you.

[00:33:53]

And that was a wasn't operating for Ned.

[00:33:57]

This intel was just too enticing. His bosses might have been skeptical, but Ned stuck with it, kept hanging with Toby.

[00:34:06]

It's just I knew he was out with them all the time.

[00:34:09]

I just until I would hear from him, I would. Many, many times just sit there and think, oh, my God, something's happened. And then he call and then I'd be relieved. And then I'd be mad because because of all the stress and the worry.

[00:34:25]

And it wasn't just Ned safety that concerned her.

[00:34:29]

Well, you hang around that long with the pinch bad guys and fitting in with them. Your behavior is going to change. And your your your own personal bars, you know, where you draw the line changes. This would be the first, but not the last time that Kathy was right to worry about her husband and where he was drawing the line, especially when it came to Toby. You know, was supposed to meet him or whatever, and I went down to the house on my motorcycle and pulled up in the yard and put down the kickstand, walked in, and there's a dead guy laying there in a pool of blood.

[00:35:13]

And I got told me, what the fuck? He goes, Bruss mass man came through the door, shot this guy. Guess he didn't like them and ran. It's all I know. A masked man. Come on. Really? This was Toby's story. A strange guy wearing a mask breaks into his apartment, shoots this guy who's currently lying on the floor and then runs away, leaving Toby to take the rap. I mean, this has got to be the homicidal equivalent of the dog.

[00:35:46]

Ate my homework. I later asked Toby's son about it whether his dad was the kind of person who was capable of committing murder. It pains me to say it, but I know I don't blink when I when I say, you know, could he have done it? Did he do it? Has he done it? I'm sure the answer is yes to all of them. And I don't I don't think twice about it. Ned didn't tell Kathy about this whole episode with the masked man of the dead body.

[00:36:16]

Oddly enough, he seemed to take the whole episode in stride. So in a way, if you're a hundred percent certain it was Toby to kill him. It was just a technicality that you weren't there to witness it. Not a witness. I'm in charge of collecting evidence. The FBI doesn't investigate homicides. It wasn't my job to investigate a homicide. Just don't kill somebody in front of me. That's it. Yeah, pretty much. Ned says that he did call the police and so did Detroit police came and told him the same story and they didn't really give a shit.

[00:36:53]

You know, there's some shithead biker. Ned now had his line in the sand. The trick was keeping Toby on this side of it. Which you don't make progress in you unless you're dealing with sociopathic, homicidal, crazy people, that's who are in the inner circle of of drugs, violence and whatever. So this is just part of the deal. It's part of the deal here. So what are you saying to him in that situation? You know, I just song would be advantageous not to continue to have bodies laying around in your house or in your yard.

[00:37:42]

I said, tell the fucking mask man, to stay away.

[00:37:52]

After listening to Ned's story, you know, in the shadow of his 10 foot stuffed bear, I still just didn't know what to make of it.

[00:38:00]

When I got home, I reread his novel. Ned and his ghost writer were giving me everything they thought I wanted. With all the film noir settings and Raymond Chandler dialogue in the novel, Tobey's like that two dimensional villain depicted on a target at a shooting range.

[00:38:17]

You know, lone bad guy with a gun drawn. But what struck me most was what was missing from the novel. There's no mention of Jesse the Son or what it's like to grow up with Toby as your dad and Ned's wife and colleague Kathy. She doesn't even make a single appearance in the novel. I guess her Midwestern accent and by the book thinking didn't fit into the Hard-Boiled narrative.

[00:38:43]

It became clear to me that the truth, if I could extract it, was way better. But this wasn't gonna be easy. Honestly, I didn't know if I could fully trust all of Ned's memories.

[00:38:56]

Part of the problem is time. All of this happened 35 years ago. I mean, memories fade. And then those same memories have been taken off the shelf and reworked into fiction. But I was all in. And so for the last year and a half, I've been trying to put all the pieces together. I've been to dive bars and horse farms to backwater swamps and pirate museums. I've poured through FBI reports and court transcripts. The stories taking me to North Carolina, Maryland, Florida, Michigan, Hawaii and the Cayman Islands.

[00:39:30]

I've talked to agents from the FBI, the DEA, U.S. Customs to U.S. attorneys, pilots, ex girlfriends, Detroit felons and a bunch of big time drug smugglers. And all of this to find out whether a rookie agent from Detroit could really make a random bust in a biker bar one night and set off a cascade of events. The discovery of a gigantic drug warehouse, the collapse of a nationwide smuggling ring, a war in Central America and the overthrow of a brutal dictator.

[00:40:20]

Next time on deep cover, you know, you don't have to choose that path. You don't have to choose to work a case in that way. You don't have to choose to go deep cover, you know. But I know for him, he felt like it was just spinning into the next. Into the next, into the next. And and he told me that he felt like he didn't know how he was ever going to get out of it.

[00:40:56]

Deep cover is produced by Jacob Smith and edited by Karen Scourging. Our story editor is Jack Hitt. Original music and our theme was composed by Louise Garra and Flon Williams is our engineer. Fact Checking by Amy Gaines. Millo Bell is Pushkin's executive producer. Ned's novel is read by Walton Goggins. Special thanks to Julia Barton, Heather Fain, Carly Mikhaela, Aubrey Lee, Tom Molad, Maya Caning, Eric Sandler, Maggie Taylor, Kadija Holland, Zooey Gwinn and Jacob Weisberg at Pushkin Industries.

[00:41:32]

Special thanks also to Jeff Singer. It's still way entertainment. I'm Jake Halpern.