I had people sleeping everywhere. We were using Lois’s apartment, the TV guys apartment and my apartment and still barely had room to be comfortable, even with them all in full use.
Lucas was first up and out the door. I was in the shower when he left. I was still in a tee shirt and panties drying my hair when I heard a knock on the door. Without Lucas monitoring the cameras, I had to stop and be sure the knock was a friendly. The knock was from one of my shadow crew for the day.
“We are going to ride with Earl, I just wanted to let you know,” the girl said.
“Would you like a cup of coffee?” I asked.
“If you are having one and it wouldn’t be any trouble,” she replied.
“No trouble at all,” I said. “Opening the door wider. You can even take a cup back to your partner if you like.”
“I think, I will let him get his own coffee,” she said with a smile.
“I couldn’t help notice you have a slight middle eastern accent, Isreali?”
“Iraqi,” she answered.
“Wow, a female Muslim soldier,” I said.
“I never said that I was Muslim,” she replied smiling at me.
“Fair enough, I stand corrected. You are still a rare breed of cat.” I said.
“It get’s worse,” she said smiling. “We should save that bit of confession for another day.”
“Yes, I have to finish dressing, so that we can go. You stay and finish your coffee.” I said as I turned back to my bedroom.
I was dressed in just a few minutes. “I want to stop for breakfast on the way to the Home Depot,” I said to the young Iraqi woman.
“Good, breakfast is the most important meal of the day,” she said in a really good, but accented, English.
“So they say,” I replied. She left for Lois’s apartment to pick up her partner and I headed for the Cruiser. Of course, I did check the area before I went to the cruiser. I’m sure Earl and the two Swamp Thing operatives had to hustle to catch up.
I sat at a table of cops and nurses when I arrived at Helen’s Sit Down. “So Maxine did you hear the news about our cop killer?” one of the sergeants asked after I was seated.
“No, I didn’t hear anything since yesterday. Is he talking?” I asked more than a little concerned.
“He won’t be talking for a while. Somebody shanked him in the hall of the county jail. Damn guy was picked up a couple of hours after your man.”
“So what about the doer is he talking?” I asked.
“No idea,” the sergeant replied. “I think there was talk about the cops getting together and having a steak and a beer delivered to the jail for him.”
“Sounds like a plan. Put me down for a couple of bucks,” I said. I didn’t want them to know that I was just as concerned about the man’s killer, as I was about him. If someone led the cops to the Harvard Chink before I could get to him, I would be on the kill list as long as he was in the court system, which could be years.
I ate quickly so that I was outside of the home depot before they opened. Once I pulled onto the parking lot my phone rang. It sounded as a phone should sound. “Hello,” I said.
“Bad news Max, the mason can’t make it till Monday. All his men are busy. He probably told Ed he could make it, just to have a shot at the job. I’m sure he planned to stall us.” Lucas did not sound happy.
“I’m going to call the Preacher. He might not have a masonry crew but he will have some men who can do something even if it looks like crap.” I said.
“Yeah, I agree.” Lucas said.
I did not say, ‘I don’t give crap if you agree or not.’ What I did say was, “I’ll make a call and get back with you.”
“His laboring few Slocum,” the voice said.
“Slocum this is Maxine Stone, do you know who I am or do I need to call the preacher?” I asked.
“Everybody here knows you Ms. Stone. What can I do for you?”
“Do you have a crew available to build a wall?” I asked.
“What kind of wall?” he asked.
“I have a four foot high wall in mind. I need it to run around the office at 303 Chestnut street.” I said.
“Ain’t that Ed’s bail bond office?” Slocum asked.
“Yeah that’s it.” I replied. “I was thinking concrete blocks,” I said.
“I don’t have a crew that can do good block work. How about fake adobe. We have had some luck with a method of building designed for unskilled laborers in third world countries.” he suggested.
“Oh how does that work?” I asked.
“We have a big cement mixer. We mix cement pour it into burlap bags like they use for sand bags. then we just pile them up and spikes to each other till they set.” he said.
“I need to get that wall up today,” I said.
“Is it urgent or just a whim?” he asked.
“You said you had heard of me, what the fuck do you think?” I asked.
“I can have ten men and two mixers out there by 10AM. You get me a pallet of cement mix and a truck load of sand on site by then and we will have it done before we leave the site today,” he declared.
“I’m going to trust you on this,” I said.
“You want a price on it?” he asked.
“Get the men on the way, we can fight about price later,” I had no choice and I knew it.
“Done,” he said.
I called Lucas and gave him the news. “It’s going to look like crap for a while, but we can get it fixed,” I suggested.
“I trust you Max. I am going to get them started, then I’m going to Tryon for camera’s and repeaters.” Lucas informed me.
“You be damn careful, but stay where you are for at least an hour,” I demanded.
I walked across the parking lot to the shadow crew. “They are not going to run at me first. They are going to go for Lucas. You go shadow him for the day. I’m going back to the apartment and hole up. The ambush team can cover me.” I said.
“Are you armed,” the Iraqi soldier asked.
I opened my my lightweight jacket to show her the but of a .357magnum Colt revolver with a two inch barrel. I bought it from a dealer, who had bought the inventory of a small town in Georgia’s police force, when they went with the Semi Automatic Brownings. I would have preferred my smaller, lighter, hammerless .38, but the cops had it.
“And Earl,” my Iraqi soldier asked.
“I’ll look after him.” I said.
“Don’t worry about me,” he said showing her the butt of the 9mm Glock. it was also bought surplus, when a police department decided they need more bang for their buck with the 10mm.
The doors to Home Depot opened and my trucker wasn’t there. First I went in and found the cement I needed. Contractor sales informed me that they indeed had a full pallet. He also informed me that they had a pallet of bagged sand to mix with it. They did not sell loose sand and I didn’t have time to find someone who did.
The trucker still hadn’t arrived when I got to the check out, so I arranged to rent a truck and to have one of the pallets loaded onto it. I decided to go with the sand first. While they were loading the pallet onto the truck with a fork lift, I called Slocum again. He agreed to send men over to unload the truck immediately. He was still gathering his crew but there would be enough to get started by 10AM he assured me.
“This is great fucking TV,” Earl said even while he was filming the the forklift loading the truck. “You are so damn macho.”
As I passed by the female soldier I asked, “What is your name?”
“Abra, but they call me Abby,” she said.
“Well Abra, I want you and your partner to stay with Lucas today. He is going to be on the move. He will be our best chance to grab a bad guy,” I said.
When I delivered the sand, I found four men, who looked as though they might still be in detox. It didn’t make a damn to me, as long as they could last to get the truck unloaded. I drove to the corner of the parking lot, where they began to throw the bags of sand off the truck.
“You two shadow Lucas, Earl and I will be fine. They are going to go for Lucas and I want one of them alive.” I said.
“Why do you think Lucas instead of you?” Abra asked.
“Because they will assume that he is the softer target. Not because he is less competent, but because I have a lot of people with a financial interest in keeping me alive. They will expect me to have body guards by now. That doesn’t mean they don’t want me. I think they will try to grab Lucas to get me to give myself up to them.” I said.
“Would you do that?’ Abra asked. “Give yourself up to save him.”
“It wouldn’t save him, but I might walk in with a bomb on me. Or drive a truck through their front door with an IED.” I said.
“Damn right,” she agreed. I knew right then I was gonna really like her.
I went back to the home depot followed by Earl in my car. He had given his car to Abra and her much older partner to use in the shadowing of Lucas. I had a pallet of cement put on the truck before the return trip. It had gotten busy at the home depot from drop off to return too me a half hour. When I got back the crew from ‘His Laboring Few’ was hard at it.
One man was mixing cement in one of the two mixers. While another was carefully filling burlap bags from a second mixer. There was a short line of men holding the bags to be filled. As they filled their bags they carried them to the edge of the parking lot where a shallow trench had been broken from the concrete drive. Into the trench the went bags end to end.
“Where did you get the cement?” I asked.
“We had a few bags left from the last job. Figured I’d just replace it with what was left from this job,” the young but drug ravaged man said.
“That sounds perfect. If you will get a couple of guys to dump this cement off the truck we should be good to go for a while,” I said.
“That uptight dude who was here this morning said to leave an opening for a walk gate but no car gate?” the young man who must have been the job foreman asked.
“Yeah we don’t want any cars in the compound,” I said. “Did he tell you where to leave the opening?”
“Yeah, right over there where the orange paint is,” he said.
“Yeah that’s fine, so keep up the good work. He will be back in a couple of hours I expect.” I handed him a card. “Call me if you run into anything.”
“Not much to run into unless the building inspector drives by. We don’t have a permit. Boss said this was rush, rush.” the foreman said
“He was right it is rush, rush. You can’t leave till there is a four foot more or less wall around this place.” I saids smiling.
“How you gonna stop me,” he said challenging me. I moved the jacket to show the butt of the pistol again. “That wall is a matter of life and death to me. So lets make it one to you as well.” I said with the same smile. If he tried to walk off, I wouldn’t have shot him. Slocum or the preacher maybe, but not him.
The phone rang again. “Hello,” I said.
“Maxine it’s your marine sniper buddy here. You probably want to come home real soon. We have a present for you.”
“Oh my so quickly, I’m on the way.” I said.