Up All Night
The morning after I was released from jail, I was back in the airplane. I rode the trike to the strip, then I towed the plane to a spot where I could take off into the prevailing wind currents. The little canary rolled out nice and got enough lift to take off in a very short distance.
After two hours in the air, I settled back on the ground as gently as a butterfly. It was a great experience flying the canary. I was getting to be a confident, if not really experienced pilot. Being able to use the plane in the business a little had made it a business expense, so I informed the bookkeeper of it’s change in status. I expected to find other ways to use it so I felt like all the money I had spent on flying lessons, the field, and the canary should be deductible. Even the riding lawn mower and hanger should be included. Hey some things just lose money, but are still business expenses.
“Rita called to say she was leaving,” Wilson said as he greeted me. “She said to keep in mind what she said about the hotel. What does that mean?”
“She wanted me to be careful not to invest more than I could get out of the hotel,” I explained.
“I agree you should be careful, but I wouldn’t make that the end all of your decision making,” Wilson said and I agreed.
I was still letting the owner stew a couple of day later when I got the call from Monument Distributing Company. “Miss Porter, I was wondering if you would meet me for coffee?” the CEO of the distribution company asked.
“Of course when and where?” I asked.
“I was a driver for 15 years and I can’t get a decent cup of coffee in this town. But I do have a wife, who can make a good cup. How about you come over to my house tonight at 7 PM?” he asked.
“Sure, just give me the address and I’ll be there,” I said. After he hung up I realized I didn’t get his name. I looked it up on the internet and found his name was Nathaniel Borgis. The names just kept getting more and more strange. The day past with me looking up things on the internet other than Nathaniel that is. I found out that a metal balcony for the Hotel would run several hundred dollars each. It was all probably a waste of time, since I didn’t own that hotel yet.
“Sylvia Porter,” I said extending my hand to the man who met me at the door.
“Nathaniel, but you can call me Nate,” he said stepping away from the door so that I could enter. He and I went into the kitchen where it was cold with the air conditioner going full blast. His trophy wife came through and spoke to me. Well it was not really speaking to me she kind of acknowledged my existence with a nod of her head.
After she left the kitchen Nate poured me a coffee that should have tarnished the stainless spoon. “Wow that shit will put hair on your chest for sure. And I really don’t need that. And no you can’t have it back,” I said taking another sip.
“Yeah, we make strong coffee here. The wife thinks it’s very European therefore real classy. It’s really what they serve in most truck stops across this country,” he said.
“That’s good to know,” I said. I had about two more sips before he spoke again.
“The reason I call you Sylvia is someone told me you were a first class problem solver. Needless to say I have a problem,” Nate confided in me.
“Well I hope I can help,” I said.
“We have had trucks hijacked twice this month. The bad guys took them somewhere unloaded the merchandise then dumped the trucks in a Motel parking lot in the watchtower section of town. They were different spots, but both were in Watchtower. I just got this email today,” he said turning his laptop to me.
‘Mr. Borgis, due to your two large losses of merchandise in such a short time, we will be forced to cancel your cargo insurance, should you have anymore losses. It is our desire that you stay a customer, but we can no longer afford to insure you.’ “Without cargo insurance I will be ruined, if I have an uninsured loss.”
“Tell me a few things about your operations. Have the hijackers taken expensive and easy to move merchandise, or has it been just random merchandise of no particular value?” I asked.
“One load was one of the new smart phone shipments. We run eighteen foot cube vans. We can get one heck of a lot of those phones in a truck. The second truck was filled with cans of caviar from Norway. That was also a very expensive load. Meantime plastic toys and baskets meant for the dollar store markets go through undisturbed,” he informed me.
“You think the thieves have inside information,” I asked.
“Yes I do,” Nate said.
“Okay give me a list of all your employees and all the pertinent information on them. Also give me the date and locations of the thefts.” I demanded. Nate passed me a large manila envelope. It contained all the personnel information.
I stood to leave as soon as I had the envelope. “Thanks for the coffee. It was really quite good. Next time come to my place. Mine isn’t too bad either,” I said as I headed to the door.
During the drive to the barge I thought about his problem. If he lost that insurance he could send a half million dollar truck load of game units out to be lost. Since that was the case he really was motivated to stop it.
Since the bad guys knew which were the valuable loads, they obviously had someone alerting them. My guess was the inside man called them in time to get to a point where they could intercept the truck. There was one thing I could do to improve the client’s chances to avoid a repeat right now.
I pulled over and dialed his number. When he answered I said, “While I look for your inside man, you need to paint your trucks and have the cargo cube sandblasted. Take all the markings off them. Then have them painted a common color and have them age the paint.”
“Okay,” Nate said. But why?”
“They are having to make contact with your trucks some where outside the plant and trail them to a spot to hijack them. That will make it harder for them, and that will have to make it easier for us.”
“That makes sense,” he said.
“Tonight before midnight call your warehouse. You want to clear it with the guard to let us inside. We are going to sweep your trucks for trackers, and then add one or two of our own. Are they all back from there shipments by midnight?”
“Yes they all should be parked by the fence,” he said.
“Is there one that would stand out even after it is panted?” I asked.
“We only have one International Harvester,” he said.
“Okay, that’s fine. We will be there at midnight plus five minutes, so have the guard expecting us and be sure he leaves us alone to do our work.”
“Very well and I will schedule the painting tomorrow. We will have to pull them out of service to paint them,” Nate said.
“Good and be sure if they sandblast the cargo box they do it all. No sence removing a decal if the removal marks the box so it can still be recognized,” I replied. “Do the International Harvester first.”
“Yeah,” he said and hung up.
My plan was to put our tracker on the International Harvester truck. We could have Nate use it for the next high value load. I called Wilson next. “Stand by Wilson we are going to be working late tonight,” I said.
“Want to stop to pick up some Chinese food?” he asked.
“Sure I’ll get me a couple of egg rolls and some shrimp or beef fried rice,” I suggested. “What do you want?”
I took his order then drove out to Jefferson Island before I returned to the barge. It wasn’t crowded at the walk in, walk out with your food restaurant. To call it a restaurant was using a pretty loose definition of restaurant. It had a walk up counter like a food court restaurant and four picnic tables along one side. Most people took their Styrofoam container onto the beach or at least home with them.
When I finally got back to the barge it was 9:30 PM more or less. “Come on Wilson dinner is served.”
We sat at the small dining table filled with Styrofoam containers. I emptied all my food onto a plastic plate. I refuse to eat or drink anything out the that crap. I used it in rope net bags as floats, or buoys but I never ate from it. While I sat at the table eating my shrimp fried rice, Wilson ate his chow mien and perused the names in the envelope.
“So you want financial profiles on these people in general, but specifically a week before and a week after these two dates?” he asked.
“Yes first of all any unusual bank transactions around those dates, failing that, anyone in financial trouble who might have used cash to supplement a bailout,” I suggested.
“There are five names here. If I start on it right now I might have something by sunup,” he suggested.
“Do it and I will try to arrange a day off tomorrow,” I said. “Oh by the way are you and EZ still friends?”
“He stops by now and then about the wrecker payments. You asked me to follow up with him about that. He also agreed to handle any evictions on a case by case basis. He just doesn’t want to work for you regularly.”
“Okay, well you can at least get a name from him, if we need some help,” I suggested.
“I expect so what are you going to need?” Wilson asked.
“We might need some muscle on this job,” I replied. “Tonight we need an extra body but I can manage. Give me the GPS tracker sweeper. Also I want one of our markers to attach to the truck.
After dinner Wilson went to the office and began working on the financial information. It was easy because the distribution company paid with electronic deposit. We had most of the bank information from Nate.
At eleven I left with the sweeper and the new GPS marker for the International truck. Since the trucks were solid bodies the marker should be fine. They wouldn’t be switching the trailer for another one.
When I finished I said good night to the guard on the gate and started to leave. Then I had a thought. “Nate called and told you to cooperate right?” I asked.
“Yes ma’am he did,” the guard said.
“So tell me when you check a truck out through the gate on it’s run do you know it’s destination?” I asked.
“No we just check that the seal is not broken and that it is the right seal on the truck. Most of the time the trucks are left packed and sealed in the parking lot overnight.” he said.
“That’s nice to know. So you verify that no one has tampered with the cargo before the truck leaves?” I asked.
“Not really, just that no one has tampered with the seal,” he said.
“Well thanks for the information.” I had a pretty good idea we wouldn’t have to worry about the guard on the gate unless he had gotten too friendly with the dispatcher.
I knew better than anyone what the next days were going to be like so I went home and bypassed the office to fall right into bed on the barge.
Edited by Walt