The one thing that technology did was make surveillance a hell of a lot easier. With all the cameras and GPS trackers, I could sit in the motel room drinking coffee, while I watched the subjects of my investigation.
On day one of the new cctv deployment I noted that the twenty odd employees did almost no work. They punched in which seemed to be the height of their work day. They then sat playing with laptops and smart phones for their eight hours. The guys seemed to rotate at the loading dock but no trucks came.
About three days in a truck finally arrived. They quickly unloaded the boxes. Evans was there to sign for them. The employees stacked them in an area not far from the overhead door. I found out that night why it was after the midnight guard came on duty at the gate.
On the first camera I had installed I saw a cube van pull through the gate. The van backed against the dock. I recognized the two men as employees of the company. Neither of them were the men with records. Right away I knew most of the scam.
Evans had wanted to hire me as cover when he inevitably shut down. He was going to blame it all on someone in the employee pool no doubt. It was pretty stupid of him to think the regular employees, who sat around playing grab ass all day, weren’t going to roll his ass up. Nothing about the scam made any sense at all.
I mean I had a good idea how it worked, but I still didn’t know who Evan’s was. I also had no idea why he thought he could get away with such a poorly designed scam. I was just lost. Usually I could get inside the mind of the perp, but this time I had not a single clue what was going to happen.
I had met Happy in the chat room several times, but I didn’t let anything slip. Just for the hell of it, I had Wilson do and in depth background on Happy. Something about her almost stalking me set off alarms. Still there was no proof of anything.
I could lay out the facts but I didn’t really understand the why. Till I understood the how and why, I couldn’t say it was solved. I probably had at least another month of investigations to go. It was going to be impossible to infiltrate the crew, so it was just observe and follow up.
I felt pretty good about being able to solve the crime eventually. It was going to be a scam to steal the grant money and produce nothing. Exactly how and why, I didn’t have an answer, but I did have a clue.
At two in the afternoon while I watched the live feed there was a knock on my door. I pulled the .22mag revolver from my shoulder rig before I went to the door. I looked out the peephole and saw, of all people, Andrew.
I threw the door open and was shocked to see him using a walker type contraption on wheels. Andrew rolled it forward a foot or so, then walked into it. It was a pretty sad thing to see. In my mind’s eye I could see Andrew moving like a cat up behind someone, then silently cutting his throat. It appeared those days were gone forever. I wouldn’t be surprised at all to find that there was a throwing knife hidden somewhere on the walker contraption.
“Andrew,” I said hugging him so hard he almost fell.
“Easy Sylvia, I’m not the man I used to be,” he said.
“Bull shit you are every bit the man you used to be. You might have had to learn to do it differently, but I’m sure you can still do all the things you once did,” I said it and I meant it. Men like Andrew might slip and slide, but they never stayed down.
“Nice of you to say,” he said. His demeanor was all wrong. It wasn’t about him. There was something he was hiding.
“So what brings you here?” I asked.
“This,” he said handing me a DVD.
“What is this?” I asked.
“Play it and see,” Andrew suggested.
I added it to my laptop and it started to play. “Sylvia if you are seeing this I’m either dead or damn close to it.” The image and the voice belonged to Colonel Martin.
I hit the pause, “Is this his idea of a joke?” I asked.
“Martin had a massive heart attack yesterday. I was holding the DVD for him, but I hadn’t watched it. You need to finished viewing it,” Andrew said.
“What I have decided to do was put your name before the board. If you are seeing this they have approved it. So you have a job offer. You can be the next head of Swamp Dog Enterprises,” Martin said. “In case you don’t understand, you are being asked to keep Swamp Dog in operation. Mostly it will be your job to keep the operatives alive. So make a decision and do it quick.” Then the screen went black.
“Andrew are you sure this isn’t someone’s idea of a bad joke?” I asked.
“No it’s for real. Frankly I concur. You are the most ruthless operative I have ever met. When you tell someone you will kill every living thing in their life, they better fucking believe it. I never met anyone who doubted you. The men all know you won’t leave them behind, and that’s important because they proved they won’t leave you either. That is loyalty that transcends chain of command.”
“Andrew I can’t do this. I don’t even know what Swamp Dog does or how it gets its jobs,” I explained.
“That’s okay because I do. I’m going to help you get adjusted, if you take the job. It’s part of the six months transitional plan. Martin wanted to convince you to do six months and then decide,” Andrew said. “You owe us all that much.”
“Did you just play the guilt card on me,” I said laughing. It was a nervous laugh. “How long to I have to decide?”
“There is no decision to make. You can have until Monday to either finish this up or turn it over to your employer,” he said. “Then we need you to be on site at Church Camp.”
“Alright, but I’m not sure I can sit behind a desk and send other people out to die,” I said.
“You send them out to do a job. Someone else chooses to end their lives not you,” Andrew said. “We all know what can happen. I hang around to remind people this could be them. The message for them is ‘be absolutely sure you are doing this because you have to, not to be a hero or something stupid like that’.
“Church Camp Monday at noon,” I agreed. He was hardly out the door when I thought about what to do about the Electric Car Company. I decided that I would just bust the guys taking the boxes out the gate at night. Make them prove they weren’t the thieves that they obviously were. To do that, they would have to roll over on someone. I really didn’t want it to be about interviews, I wanted it to be evidence that told the story. Still it was what it was.
I went to the Chattanooga Police department immediately after Andrew left. I got to talk to the detectives and pitch it to them that they would have a chance to bust the Watergate burglars. After they made all their calls, they were down for it without a single reservation.
I was with them when they entered the parking lot as the thieves loaded the truck. They made my job so much easier when they took off running. The guard on the gate was in on the theft of course.
They were in the police station and started to talk within fifteen minutes. They were battling to see who could name the most people.
They named some guy I never heard of as the foreman on the plant floor. He made sure the boxes were separated into piles that were salable and those that weren’t worth the effort.
“So what were you going to do with the pile tonight?” the Police Detective asked.
“We always take them to the same place. It is a broker for used tools,” they said.
“So you were taking new tools immediately to a used tool dealer?” the cop asked.
“They each nodded that it was the plan. Okay take us to the dealer and let’s see what he has to say,” the interrogator demanded.
“Hey,” I said to one of the detectives. “How about we ask the security guard who is in charge of the thefts. He may have a totally different perspective,” I suggested.
“Good idea, You want to be in the room with us?” he asked.
“Sure, I promise I won’t say a word,” I replied.
“If you got something to say bring it on,” the cop said.
“So Matt who you work for?” the cop asked the security guard a few minutes later.
“I work for the Electric Car Company,” he said.
“No dumb ass, who do you answer to there,” the cop asked.
“My supervisor is the day shift guard,” the security guard said.
“Okay, who told you to allow that truck into the compound?” the cop asked.
“He did, the day shift supervisor,” he said.
“Well we are going to ask him, so if you got anything that proves he sets the burglary up you better bring it or it’s going to fall on you,” the cop added.
It was like a line of dominoes. Each one was lined up with the next.
The list of twenty odd names I had of people who showed up and drew a check interested the police. They ran them since they recognized a larger public relations coup for them.
I stayed in the background while they questioned them individually. They found them all guilty of helping in the scam but they were just window dressing. Evans could name them as employees of the company, if pressed to do so when applying for an extension on the government loans.
It was the foreman who ran the day to day operation of ordering and then reselling the machinery. Those transactions paid for the salaries. The former burglars were his idea. He was going to try to blame them for the thefts.
Evans was part of that cover up I was sure. Why else would he have tried to hire me to find out who was stealing from him. Obviously he and the foreman planed to use me to finger the burglars.
So what was Evans plan to escape with what was left of the forty million start up money. I got my answer when I found out Evans was on the lamb to an island with a socialist tradition and no extradition treaty with the USA.
I called the Senator and explained Happy’s part was to help Evans get every possible penny from the government. The plan called for her to warn him, so he could take off. Rather than let the cops do the investigation she had me so that she would keep an eye on it.
Since the local PD listened to me and put out the all points alert quickly, Evans got picked up trying to rent a boat for a run across the gulf. He probably would have made it, but he waited for Happy not realizing anyone was on to her.
As usual I figured it out at the last minute. I had been awake for the better part of two days, so I needed the sleep that I tried to get. I had the Colonel on my mind and also my next job. I probably should have refused, but I really wanted to help the men of Swamp Dog make it until a new leader was selected.
It was a whole new life I was getting into for sure. I would have to learn to live without the work that had kept me sane. Okay at least as sane as I was at that moment.
The end of Sheriff Porter’s diary.
Edited by Walt