Everyone knew their job and by the time I got back from the mall, they were hard at it. Earl had filled his rental car with boxes and headed to the neighborhood where the chinks had set up shop. The boxes were filled with cameras, repeaters, and other odds and ends, His mission was to set up video surveillance without anyone knowing.
His surveillance was geared to the outside of the building. We wanted a view of the parking lot, the loading dock, and the neighborhood around the old chemical plant. The plant wasn’t quite as bad as my fears, of five football fields under one roof, but it was two, half football fields, one on top of the other.
Along the outside walls were true two story portions, while the center area was made up of a few rooms with ceiling thirty feet tall. It was a layout that was going to make cornering the bad guys extremely difficult, but much easier than an old textile plant would have been. That information about the building came from the blueprints Lucas was able to find, then convert to a 3D image on his magic computer.
When I left to be the shadow team’s bait once again, Lucas had already been missing for several hours. Where ever he went, he had to leave before sunup to get there when they opened. When he returned around noon, it was with a few small boxes and a huge smile.
While he was gone Earl finished his work. Earl was a more talented man than I had expected. He managed to talk his way into some places and break into the one he couldn’t. “I probably could have conned the owner, if he had been around,” he explained. “It had to be that building, since it was vacant and had a perfect view of the loading dock. A camera in the second story window would look down into their parking lot.
“Well Lucas, Earl has the outside of the building wired for video and some sound, what magic trick do you have up your sleeve to top that?” I asked smiling.
“I want you to meet the rat cam,” he said smiling as he handed me a furry little critter. “I have two of these that will patrol the place 24/7. They each work a shift and then go home to recharge. Their heads are live digital cameras. The resolution is poor, but it is a picture. The computer is housed inside their body along with a compartment which holds 20 tiny bugs. The bugs fall out on demand just like rat turds,” he said smiling.
“Don’t tell me what this little bastard is going to cost me until this is over.” I demanded.
“It’s CIA gear. The man said that they had a favor to ask later, but didn’t tell me what it was. The guy just said that you wouldn’t be bored.” Lucas said.
“And how did you find this guy?” I asked.
“Last night on the phone, Mike said you knew him,” he replied.
“I don’t think I know any CIA types, but then everyone probably knows one, but don’t know that they know one. How confusing is that?” I asked.
“Yeah, that’s why they call them SECRET agents,” he said with a laugh.
“Never look a gift rat in the mouth, I guess.” I said it light hearted, but I didn’t like the government being even a little involved.
I finally was able to get Abra alone again. “Abra, tell me something, who the fuck is in charge of your little band of merry mercenaries?” I asked.
She laughed at me, then said, “I suppose it is Robinhood, if we are the merry men, and that would make me Maid Marion.”
“Okay, now that I know you are well versed in western literature, who is in charge?” I asked again.
“It doesn’t quite work that way. However the man responsible for passing along orders and other information is the older man. His name is Damien. Surely you have spoken to him?” she asked.
“Yes, but the Admiral gave me no real idea who was the leader.” I said.
“It’s because Swamp Thing, as you call us, hires only leaders. On a job like this, one person is responsible to pass on information and see that we all have whatever we need. On this job it was Damien. It could just have easily been me.” she said.
“Every soldier a leader, it is an interesting concept,” I replied. I really did find it interesting. In a small unit with a close bond that would work, I supposed.
I had not known the middle aged man’s name, but I would make a point to remember it. I left Abra in my living room and went to find Lucas. I found him not in my apartment at all but in the TV studio apartment.
“I needed a soldering iron,” he explained. “So what can I do for you?”
“I need you to see if you can find out what kind of alarm system they have in the new warehouse. We are going to need to get in there a couple of times at least. That’s the downside of having such a big place, it should be easy to find a way in and out without being spotted.” I informed him.
“Yeah I need to deliver these little guys,” he agreed. “I got about twenty more minutes of work on them, then I will hop right on it.”
“Lucas, we also need to move this whole operation to the new office compound for a while. It isn’t so spread out.” He nodded his understanding.
I left Lucas in the TV Studio apartment, working on his rat cam. I walked over to Lois’s apartment to find Damien. “We need to talk,” I said when he came to the door.
“Fair enough, how about we go for coffee while these little worker bees make good things for us?” he suggested.
“Sure, why don’t we drive by Helen’s for coffee to go. We can take it to the marina.” I suggested.
“Terrific,” he said.
Thirty minutes later we were sitting on the veranda of the marina’s office, drinking coffee and looking out at the water. “So Maxine what did you want to talk about?” he asked.
“If we are going to war, I want them to lose about 20% of their army before they even know they are at war.” I said.
“Shock and awe,” he suggested.
“More like the razor slash in the crowded bar,” I said smiling. “Nobody knows till the body falls.”
“These days everyone wants to know what’s the end game?” he asked.
“We kill this Ling Po and his lieutenant and then we walk away. The problem isn’t doing it, the problem is getting away with it,” I said.
“The real problem is getting them to be where we can do it,” he said. It was a subtle difference, but I recognized that his point was valid.
“You need to be sure your team has a plan to defend the office compound. We will be going to ground there. They will have to defend against a couple of dozen armed men,” I suggested.
“I see, are we going to be bait in a trap?” he asked with a grin.
“Why not, we have the high ground.” I said “So my next question is about taking hell to Ling Po. I need to know how we can stop the drug delivery truck, without shooting it up?” I could see him running it through his mind.
“How about we identify the trucks with the surveillance cameras, find a time to plant and EMP (Electro Magnetic Pulse) device on it then just fry the electronics whenever we want. That will sure as hell stop it.”
“Since we are going operational, we will be moving to the office compound and it is going to be tight,” I admitted.
“This can’t take too long the cops, FBI. CIA, DEA, and a couple of others want a piece. These are not patient people.”
“They are patient enough to let us take the chances. To do the groundwork, which they can’t do legally. They want to walk in to make a public arrest, but I don’t want these guys to keep trying to kill us from behind bars. There has to be a final solution.” I talked about it openly because I could kill the microphones, but I also trusted Earl to edit it to keep me out of jail, for one simple reason. He would be in a cell somewhere as well. For conspiracy, if no other reason.
“So,” Damien said interrupting my thoughts. “I need to put together a team to mine the cars they use.”
“Yes, let’s mine them all. That way we can control their movements.” I suggested.
“I’ll make the call. How are we going to make this clean at the end?” he asked.
“We are going to document everything and never say that our final goal is to see two men dead. Then we are going to show real remorse at the end when they are dead.” I said it and smiled.
“After that are you going to take me to The Cowboy’s Bar and Grill and buy me a beer?” he asked in his very formal voice. He also smiled a very prim and proper smile.
“No but I might let you buy me a beer, but only if we get out of this with all the dead guys being thugs.” I said.
He held up his coffee cup and said, “To all the dead guys being thugs then.”
I held my cup up as well and took a drink. He looked a lot like the movie version of a British Special Boat Service, Sargent Major. I drank the coffee with a smile.
Later that afternoon while looking at the four small monitors on Earl’s desk, I was impressed with the quality of the images. Lucas was still dicking around with his rat cams. “Lucas will your pictures be as good as Earl’s?” I asked.
“Not even close. Earl has real cameras, I have fake rats.” he said with a grin.
There were going to be three surveillance monitoring sections for a while. There was our own security to monitor, since I wanted as much advanced warning as possible. Even the thick perimeter walls made of concrete were no guarantee of protection. Still, Lucas had managed to keep His Laboring Few’s construction crew at it until they were done. They had even finished the stucco finish and the paint before we moved in.
The second station monitored the outside of the old chemical plant, which Ling Po had taken over. I was sure that our images were at least as good as those of the people inside the plant. Even so we needed eyes and ears inside the plant.
“So Lucas, what are you doing?” I asked.
“I’m waiting for dark to insert the rat cams. In the meantime, I am mapping blind spots in their surveillance system so I will know where to go in,” he said.
“Oh so you broke into their monitors?” I asked.
“Not the local alarms but the online cameras yes. It’s all basic stuff. They are really more worried about a warning of people in the building than of people throwing something through a window.” Lucas informed me.
“So you are telling me you can do this?” I asked.
“I’m telling you that even Earl could do this,” he said. Earl returned a humorless smile.
“Guys save the prick measuring for after this is over. Right now I need you working together,” I said. “So, do you have a plan for inserting roborat?” I asked after a short pause.
“Actually, it looks as though the backside is a blind spot, but only up against the wire and then inside against this one wall here,” he said pointing to a part of the building. The camera mount isn’t high enough to cover the walls at the bottom. The fence is close enough to the building there for me to slip in unseen and insert the camera.”
“No it isn’t. You are not going in there period. Teach on of the Swamp Thing guys how to do it. This is who are they Lucas, you are the guy who knows how to do all this.” I said waving my arms around. “Before you ask, I would not let Earl go in there either.”
“Nor would I want to go,” Earl said simply.