A tale of birds and stones
When the package arrived two hours later, it was filled with walk around pictures and a breakdown of everything on board. It included the description of a very powerful and reliable two cylinder four stroke Honda gasoline engine. The engine is also used in very large pumps and generators. According to the mechanic, it can be removed very easily. It could be taken into an engine shop for overhaul, or replaced completely.
The pictures showed a yellow lightweight airplane just as the mechanic described. It also included a couple of flyover pictures of the plane. I could imagine the buzzing sound as it went over head. The only thing I didn’t like was the long hinged wings and the pusher propeller behind the cockpit. It did have a tripod landing gear, which meant the tail wasn’t as likely to get damaged by a rookie landing.
It got an honest 75 miles on a gallon of regular gas from the service station and the tanks were rated for ten gallons but the more you carried the higher the weight the better the performance and gasoline mileage. Because of that variable weight factor effective range was an honest 500 miles again depending on the variables, like winds.
Because of those long wings the plane would stay up with minimal power and glide long distances with no power. Frankly even the negatives were really positives, if viewed through a performance filter.
The price breakdown went like this…… body kit…..with wings and closed cockpit…..$20,000…..body assembly $3,000. Probably a little more than the assembly of the bolt together kit was really worth, I thought.
Motor and installation $3,000 including throttle and propeller installation. Plus installing gas tank.
Purchase of propeller and gas tank $850.
Avionics controls. Compass… airspeed…motor temperature gauge and oil gauge….altimeter….GPS navigational aid…..A simple attitude and directional gauges. Plus a few other non essential things. It also had a radio with limited range. Those added another $5,000 toss in another $5,000 labor for getting it airworthy tested and certified. In other words they were looking for a minimum of $37,000. So that was supposed to be a deal, I thought. I went on line and found a ton of ultralight aircraft, which had been used a couple of years for around $25,000 on the high end.
The enclosed cabin and other niceties accounted for the high end, since the stripped models were five thousand. I studied the package for two days and got back to the Hanford Mechanic. “Tell you what I am willing to do and this is only because I know you and trust you. Tell your brother this is a one time, 48 hour offer, no haggling take it or leave it offer. $32k and you deliver it. I will drive you back home.”
“I really don’t know what he will say, but I’ll make him the offer,” the mechanic promised. I was a little embarrassed because I really didn’t know his name.
Wilson and I went back into standby mode. We were waiting to see what the local Sheriff could do. If they failed to do anything, then it had to be the SBI as my next move. Since Brian operated in various jurisdictions it was likely to wind up there anyway.
Before I could worry myself sick about Brian or the Airplane I got a call. “Ms Porter this is Hugo Price. I would like to talk to you about the Security Coordinator position.”
“Will I have access to all the information, so that I can make a plan that supplies me and my people maximum safety, while still providing you with decent security?” I asked.
“You will have access to everything including the background files on my employees,” Hugo said.
“My partner and I can be there tomorrow,” I said.
“Good come to the warehouse on Tate street. The sign says H. Price and Associates,” he said.
“You will have a check for five thousand dollars ready to pay for the security evaluation. After the evaluation I will give you an estimate for the job whatever it is,” I said. I was really hoping he would say that it was unreasonable. I would be more than happy to forget it.
“Very well, I shall have your check waiting for you,” he said.
After he rang off I walked down to my office on the dock. I carried a towel and a pair of clean panties as well as a clean tee shirt. Might as well kill two birds with one stone. “Wilson pack up all the shit you will need to do background checks and that kind of shit. We are going down to do a security assessment. We might be taking on a very short job.” I said all that on my way to the shower.
Inside the bathroom I kicked off my flipity flops and stepped into the fiberglass shower stall. I stood with hot water pounding my body while I soaped and scrubbed my various body parts. Then I let warmer water run over my head. Warmer than I could get from the shower on the barge for sure. I dried off and dressed for the drive to Port Arthur. A small inlet on the state line.
I checked us into a business class motel for the night. We slept in one room with two beds. I trusted Wilson to behave himself, so I decided that we could discuss the gig and still get a good night sleep in that one room.
It was about 11 PM and I was ready to slip into bed, after slipping off my baggy shorts, when Wilson said, “Did you know I could hear you?”
“What?” I asked.
“About this time of night, when we are both home for some reason, I can hear you doing it,” he said.
“Doing what?” I knew what. I just needed time to think.
“Masturbating what did you think I meant,” he said not acting as though it was a big thing.
“And is there some reason you are telling me this now?” I asked.
“Just that if you feel you need to do it after the lights go out, you don’t have to think you will shock me or anything,” he said.
“Thanks Wilson, but I can wait till I’m alone,” I said with a laugh.
“Sorry if I embarrassed you,” he said and I genuinely believed him.
“I’m not some shrinking violent that blushes easily Wilson, so forget it,” I said.
“Well I really can’t forget it, but I won’t mention it again,” he promised.
“Good now goodnight,” I replied.
We were laying in the dark in the big room with the two big beds when I asked, “What did you do when you heard me,” I asked.
“You know what I did,” he replied.
The next morning he had a problem looking me in the eye, until I laughed and said, “Wilson it really is no big thing. We are grown ups you know, well at least I am.”
“Well, you are a sexy lady. Even if you to look like some kid’s stick figure drawing,” he said with a laugh.
“So do a good job and I might let you watch sometime,” I said.
“How do you know I haven’t already,” he said with a wink.
“I do hope you don’t post that kind of thing on line,” I said. “Now you drive and lets find H. Price and Associates warehouse.”
I was lucky Wilson found it on the first try. After he parked the car, we walked through the warehouse to the office. There sat a very wrinkled Hugo Price.
“Let’s get right to it Mr. Price. What exactly is in the shipment?” I asked.
“Diamonds, they are rough cut stones. Cut but not polished. They do that in New York. The stones come in on a pack boat. They are unloaded on the docks of Port Arthur. We pick them up from the shipping office and bring them here to this warehouse where an Armored car picks them up.”
“So Hugo at what point are you personally responsible for the stones?” I intentionally had not asked him the value of the stones.
“From the time the stones arrive on the dock, until they leave the warehouse,” he replied.
“What security precautions do you take with them?” I asked.
“It always been based on subterfuge. First of all I’m the only one who knows when the stones are due. I leave the package unguarded until I stop by in the afternoon to pick it up. That way I am sure it has been logged in and is ready for pick up. Then I drive the box of rocks here to wait for the pickup by the armored car. Once they are in the car and signed for they are no longer my problem. That system has worked for years.”
“Then what makes you think it is compromised now?” I asked.
“I’m not sure it is. The diamond merchant in New York says he got a tip someone is going to try to steal the stones somewhere between the dock and New York City. If he is right I can’t afford to be the one to lose those stones,” he informed me.
“If anyone knows the operation, they will know you are the weak link. What I don’t understand is why the armored car doesn’t meet them on the dock,” I said.
“Because I’m the importer, and this has always worked before. The armored car is not allowed on the docks by Homeland Security. I’m not sure what their reasons are. The stones never arrive exactly when they think they will. They come in when the boat lands which can vary as much as a two or three days. They are unloaded and taken to the ‘will call desk’ sometime on the day the ship docks. There is no way to know for sure what the order of the cargo offload will be.”
“Okay, when they are at sea presumably they are safe because it’s a ship full of small packages and no one knows which one it is?”
“Yes that is exactly right,” he replied.
“The best way to get the stones is to wait till you have them and are headed back to the warehouse,” I suggested.
“You mean while I’m on the road?” he asked.
“Well it would be simple to grab you and the stones at the same time while you are in the car,” I said. “The other possibility is to grab them when you get back to the warehouse. The good thing for them in taking them at the warehouse is they can watch to make sure you have the stones before they grab you. In the car they can’t be sure that nothing went wrong at the ‘will call desk’. You could have been put off and told to come back. If they were to grab you in that case they would have you but no stones. The game would get ever so much more dangerous for them.”
“The other possibility and my favorite would be to take over the armored car. Then you hand them the stones, and you only find out when the real guards are found naked and tied up in a road side rest stop or dead in the woods,” I said.
“Son of a bitch,” he said.
“Now the least likely but still necessary for us to consider is that they recruited you into the gang,” I said.
“Never,” he said.
“Are you married?” I asked. “Any kids?”
“I am married and I have two children,” he said.
“How much are they worth to you?” I asked. “I would grab them and leave someone there. If I didn’t call the someone, he would kill them and just disappear. Maybe he parties with your wife first in front of the kids. I expect with that kind of threat you would go along,” I said.
“My god can you help me?” he asked.
“Give me a couple of hours to think about it,” I said.
Edited by Walt