Skulduggery is Shawn Eckardt's passion. With no record of military service, Eckardt boasts that his skills include unconventional warfare, surveillance, psychological operations and something he calls the "Secret Service characteristics matrix for assassins." He claims to have worked as a counterintelligence specialist for a Swiss company 10 years ago -- when he was just 16 years old. He likes to pass on tales of working in Peru sabotaging pipelines and training in antiterrorist tactics in Israel. Having worked as Tonya Harding's bodyguard for two months, he is now passing along tales about her -- indeed, three different ones. The first clears the skater of any wrongdoing in the attack on her rival Nancy Kerrigan; the second implicates her on hearsay evidence; the third implicates her directly. Based on his past bouts of braggadocio, it's impossible to know which of Eckardt's allegations deserve a 6.0 for technical merit and which earn a 6.0 for what may be called artistic impression.
Yet unless police turn up new evidence quickly, Harding's participation in the Winter Olympics next month will depend largely on which of Eckardt's stories athletics officials choose to believe. With the U.S. Figure Skating Association (USFSA) facing a Jan. 31 deadline to name its Olympic squad, Harding, 23, remains an ambiguous character in the plot to cripple Kerrigan. Four men, including Eckardt and Harding's ex-husband Jeff Gillooly, 26, have been arrested and charged in the conspiracy. Investigators have uncovered money transfers and phone and bank records that link the four alleged conspirators to one another and the assault, but nothing in that paper trail either decisively implicates or clears Harding. That is unlikely to change unless prosecutors can squeeze new evidence from Gillooly, the only one of the four alleged co-conspirators who has not signed a confession.