The tangled, secretive world of Kevin P. Mulcahy, a former CIA technician set to testify against former CIA agents about arms deals to terrorist nations, ended with a whimper Monday night against the locked door of a rented cottage in this tiny Blue Ridge mountain town.

A case of 12 empty fifth bottles of Gallo Rhine wine he apparently had consumed over the last six days was left inside his cabin along with his pickup truck keys, inadvertently locked inside when he was asked to leave the motel Sunday afternoon after being accused of shooting bird shot from a 12-gauge shotgun through a window in his room.

The 39-year-old Springfield man, who was credited with triggering the CIA's investigation of alleged arms dealing and terrorist training in Libya by Edwin P. Wilson and other former CIA agents, was found wedged between the screen and front door of cottage No. 1 at the Mountain View Motel Court, where rooms rent for $50 a week or $150 a month. Mulcahy had told the motel manager when he arrived about 1 p.m. on Oct. 20 and rented a cottage under his own name that he was a reporter working on a story about migrant labor problems. He said he was planning to stay three weeks.

Clad only in street clothes -- a gray sports coat and slacks that were dropped to his knees -- Mulcahy was discovered at 8:01 a.m. by Linda Messick, 25, an occupant of cottage No. 4, as she walked her son Jonathan to the school bus on his 5th birthday.

"He was in a hunched-up position with his arms crossed," she said. "I didn't touch him or nothing. I just screamed."

The death of Kevin Mulcahy, a man who for years had been obsessed with the investigation of an alleged rogue operation of ex-CIA officials and who won notoriety after a New York Times Magazine article detailed his personal pursuit of the operation, brought immediate speculation that his death was related to his upcoming testimony. A horde of newspaper and television reporters descended on this town about 90 miles west of Washington, where they apparently found not intrigue, but rather a man who had lost control of his life.

Preliminary autopsy reports today concluded that Mulcahy was suffering from bronchial pneumonia and advanced emphysema, but further tests will be run, said Dr. James C. Beyer, Fairfax County medical examiner. He said the exact cause of death will not be known for "days or weeks." He said he had no reason to suspect foul play, though it had not been ruled out. He also said exposure had not been ruled out. He said a "relatively low" blood alcohol level of .11 was found in Mulcahy's body.

Della Morris, 71, a year-long resident of a cottage next to the one Mulcahy rented, said Mulcahy stayed in his cottage alone throughout the week, except for two trips when he returned carrying boxes of what she believed to be alcohol. Morris said Mulcahy also received a visit Oct. 21 from two well-dressed women in their 50s who arrived in a tan automobile and stayed for about 20 minutes. Police officials said they were trying to find the women.

After motel owner David Stalker Jr., 35, told Mulcahy he would have to leave, Stalker piled Mulcahy's belongings into the cab of his blue 1968 Chevrolet pickup truck at about 5:30 p.m. Stalker then left for his father's business, the Hamilton Motel, five miles south on Rte. 11. Though Stalker said Mulcahy had told him that he was leaving for the University of Virginia Hospital in Charlottesville to get a second opinion on recently diagnosed cancer, Mulcahy did not leave. Police later found the keys to his truck on the bed inside the locked Cottage No. 1.

Shenandoah County Deputy Sheriff Gary Dalton said that when Stalker later opened the room for police he was surprised to see the truck keys on the bed. "So that's why he didn't leave," Dalton quoted Stalker as saying. "Mr. Stalker just routinely locked the door," said his attorney Phil Grabill Jr. "It wasn't a question of locking him out or anything."

"He was staggering," Morris said of Mulcahy after he was put out. "He kept slumping over the steering wheel and would lean on the horn every so often. Then he started hollering for David, David for about 20 minutes. He kept fading off. I didn't hear no more of him the whole night."

Because Morris said she was once chastised by Stalker for reporting a barking dog to police, she said she did not call police as the honking continued. "He Stalker told me not to put my nose in his business," Morris said. When Messick found Mulcahy's body the next morning, she asked Morris -- the only motel resident with a phone -- to call police, and she did.

Rain, which had fallen throughout the day, continued until midnight, sheriff's deputies said, and temperatures dropped to the low 40s in the early morning. When Deputy Dalton arrived at the scene at 8:05 a.m. "the body was rigid and extremely cold," he said.

In Mulcahy's truck county police said they found found five suitcases, a quilt, a carton of Camel cigarettes, the 12-gauge shotgun and a canvas windbreaker containing an unopened bottle of wine. Three of the suitcases were filled with documents from the CIA, notes and tape recordings, said Shenandoah County Commonwealth's Attorney William H. Logan Jr. The three suitcases were given to the FBI, he said. The truck was towed to the local high school bus garage to wait for Mulcahy's relatives to retrieve it, said Deputy Rick Rinker.

Mulcahy had frequented this area of the Shenandoah Valley before because he had friends in the area, but Stalker told police Mulcahy had never stayed at the Mountain View before. On the day he checked in, Stalker, skeptical of Mulcahy's claims of being a reporter, asked the sheriff's office to check whether the tenant was wanted for any crime. The check proved negative.

In a county best known for farming and garment factories and where "the biggest problems we have are dead cows," according to Sheriff Marshall Robinson, the unorthodox death of the former CIA technician has caused the biggest uproar since a major fire earlier this year.

"Our investigation has turned up nothing," said Logan. "There is no foul play involved."