We left the club and drove out of the parking lot before Tom checked out the pictures. “Shit this screen is so small I can’t tell what is there. I can see that there are no hookers in there though. It is all metal shelves with stuff on them. I can’t tell what it is, but it doesn’t look like a cutting and repackaging room. Shit all that and neither of us are going to win the bet. They are just storing some kind of shit in there.” he said.
“When we get to the motel, we will hook the computer to the camera and see what they are storing,” I said as I continued to drive toward the motel.
“Lets stop for breakfast and take a look at that laptop. I’m hungry and I want to see,” Tom said grinning.
“Oh alright,” I said pulling into a waffle house restaurant. The problem was it was full. I didn’t want to run the pictures in front of that many people. Tom agreed.
“I’ll have the big breakfast,” Tom said to the older waitress.
“Make mine a bacon egg and cheese sandwich on a bagel,” I said after checking out their standard menu items. After the waitress left I said to Tom, “They are doing something illegal with that warehouse, I just don’t know what.”
“They could be smuggling, just not what we originally thought. Something else but not the obvious.”
“Well Tom it is obviously not the obvious,” I said with a smile. “I have a good idea that between the two of us we will know, when we see the pictures.”
Tom could hardly wait to get back to the motel to see the inside of the warehouse. He obviously made him feel young again. Back to the chase, I thought.
I plugged the wire which connected the computer to the camera into the usb port. I loaded the software and it was ready to go. When I clicked on the icon, I was able to follow the files until a picture came onto the screen. The first image was the size of the camera almost. The enlargement was a shot of the warehouse over all. There ware several rows of shelves and on those shelves were a hell of a lot of cages, the kind in which you might keep gerbils.
“What are those gerbils? Tom asked. “Why would anyone want that many gerbils and what are they going to do with a hundred gerbils.”
“The aren’t gerbils they are mice. The are being used as snake food. Look on the side by the outside wall. The cages are much bigger there. I’ll bet you that those are Burmese Pythons, or some other large snakes in those cages. It is hard as hell to get an import license for exotic animals. These guys are bringing them in and reselling them without an import license.”
“Why would they do that, when they could be smuggling cocaine.” Tom asked.
“Well for one thing, you don’t have anywhere near the risk of getting your ass shot by your competitors. There are no python sniffing dogs, and it is very unlikely the pet stores are going to roll on you. If and when they are questioned about their drug habit. In other words it is a very safe operation.” I said.
“Hell I can see that, you and I thought they were smuggling much worse things. If they get caught it will likely be a fine equal to a half dozen snakes and they will be a ‘go and sin no more warning’,” Tom added. “Yeah I can see it. The club noise wouldn’t bother the rats or the snakes I guess.”
“I guess not. So we have solved the case and without breaking any laws. Damn good job,” I said. “Let’s have a drink to celebrate.”
Actually Tom had several drinks. After four he asked, “What shall we do about the great snake smuggling caper?”
“Nothing, as far as I can see he isn’t hurting anyone, just cheating the government. Aren’t we all doing that a little?” I asked in return.
“I suppose we are at that,” Tom said. “So they are laundering the money through the night club.”
“That would be my guess yes.” I said “It would also explain the club in the same building.”
“They do have a sweet operation.” he said.
“Tom you are not a cop anymore and they didn’t piss us off, so there is no reason to drop a dime on them.” I said. “Don’t forget who is paying the bills. If Swamp Dog finds out you did that, they will most likely replace you.”
“If I call in on the tip line, they won’t look for me. Like you said it’s a very low level crime,” Tom added.
“Tom everything doesn’t have to end with the cops. Hell they never end with the cops. Half the time you never knew what happened with a case you are working on. So let this end with us. There is no sense making an issue. We will be on the road to Memphis tomorrow.” I said.
“Okay, Okay, I will drop it,” Tom agreed.
I had a feeling that he was going to call in an anonymous tip tomorrow while I ran, but I couldn’t stop him. I just hoped he wouldn’t take me down with him.
Tom came to my bed that night and we had straight sex and it was fine. I like ordinary mom and pop sex now and then. When he left my bed I was tired enough and calm enough to sleep through the night just fine. My 6AM run didn’t start till 10AM.
I dressed and ran off into the damp morning air. The sun was hiding behind storm clouds so I was glad we were leaving Florida. Florida and the whole gulf coast was like a hurricane magnet. Not that I objected to a small one. All those thoughts ran through my mind as I ran for the hour. Since I checked my drive time calculator, and it showed a two day drive time, I decided to take Sunday off and do laundry. I decided that while I ran as well.
When I got back, Tom had a nervous look. “I’m packed let’s get the hell out of town,” he said.
“I thought we would stay and do laundry today. Rest and hang out since there is a storm coming. It might be interesting.” I said.
“Let’s start driving today,” he said.
“Tom it’s almost noon. We aren’t going to get far today, unless we drive after dark. It would be better to leave tomorrow.” I suggested.
“Look Sylvia, I know you are the boss, but we should go now,” he said.
“Tom, what the fuck have you done,” I asked.
He thought about it a long time then said, “I called the tip line.”
“Why would that make a difference. It is supposed to be anonymous,” I said. I still didn’t like it, but I couldn’t see the need for panic.
“I am sure they traced the call to my cell. They kept asking for more and more information, and when I hung up I got a wrong number call.” He said.
“Voice recognition software,” I said. They wanted to be sure they had the right number. They had already traced the call to you. You made that call from the phone in your name didn’t you?”
“Yes,” he said quietly. “If I had known they would trace it, I would have gotten a burn phone.”
“Since you are packed we are getting the hell out of here right now,” I said as I threw shit in my duffel bag. I didn‘t shower eat breakfast or pack. “You have given them enough to make a case for a arrest warrant if they want.”
“But it is an anonymous line. It’s clearly entrapment,” he said.
“Tom you came to the police’s attention, Swamp Dog is not going to like that. Let’s get on the road and try to figure out a way to save this situation.” I said.
We headed for Albany Georgia while I tried to think of a way to undo what Tom had done. There was no way I could do anything. I could only hope the cops didn’t want him bad enough to trace him back to Swamp Dog. If that happened, I had no idea what would happen to us.
Shit why did he call the fucking cops? I should ask him, but he would just bullshit me. I had kidded myself into thinking he had my back. I had told him not to call the cops, but he did anyway. Not only that, he let them trace the call back to him. He wanted the fucking glory of being the lead that got the smugglers busted. Whether the cops bothered to do it or not, I no longer trusted Tom. What we did in the dark hadn’t mattered to him, so now it doesn’t matter to me, I thought.
“Tom you were a cop, you know how long it takes to trace a call. You also know what they can do with the information you gave them. If they get a search warrant based on your tip, and it goes sideways they can pick you up to testify at a grand jury, or some such thing. There was a reason they wanted to know who you are. They get you to tell them all about the smugglers and how you found out and I come into it. You are a fucking idiot.” I said.
“Stop it, I feel bad enough, you don’t have to make it worse,” he said.
“You showed lousy judgment, and now I can’t trust you any more,” I said.
“If you think you can talk to me like this you are crazy,” he said,
“Well I’m driving this car at seventy miles and hour, if you are ready to die just do something to me now.” I said logically.
“Alright, what should I do?” he asked.
Pick up that fucking cell phone and call Swamp Dog. Tell them you have a family emergency and quit. Do it now and without any notice. Then I’m going to drop you at the airport and you can fly back to Philly.” I explained.
“What if I say no?” he asked.
“Then I call them and have us both fired. You don’t get it, if the cops show up and haul your ass away, the job won’t get done. The same is true of me. When you quit don’t worry, I wont be far behind.” I said,
“Alright, but you don’t have to quit. I won’t give you up. They only have a misdemeanor offense, they won’t prosecute me for that. They might pick me up as a material witness, but for a misdemeanor they wont come after you. They just want enough to justify that warrant. They may not need me, but you are right. They might come get me and leave the job unfilled at the last minute. I fucked up calling, but you fucked up too.” he said.
“Yeah, I didn’t vette you well enough,” I said. “I thought you were who you seemed to be, You turned out to miss the days of glory more than I thought.”
Yeah you are right, I wanted to be part of things again. I guess I let them keep me on the line long enough to trace the call, so they would force me to come forth. They may not need to bother with me. But you will never be able to trust me to put this job first.”
“Exactly, that’s why you have to go Tom. I can’t work with someone who doesn’t have any loyalty to me and the job.” I said.
“Is that why you screwed me?” he asked. “To be sure I would take care of you first, before anything else,”
“Part of it was that, yes,” I admitted.
“Then I want to go. I will call the office as soon as we get to a town with cell service.” It was true that we were often out of touch while between towns.