By Cindy and Walt
Since my new schedule seemed to be set until noon anyway I began to enjoy the few afternoons off Steve allowed me. I wasn’t supposed to be working at the farm any longer, but things kept coming up. I began to wonder if the term of the lease was going to be enough time for him to pick up all the nuances of the pot business. Of course that got filed in my mind under ‘Not my problem’.
I wasn’t at all surprised when at breakfast on a Friday, Steve asked, “Rose are you going to be busy today?”
“Well I have to inspect building number two’s renovations, why?” I asked.
“I need you to keep me from killing someone,” Steve said.
“Don’t they have meetings for that kind of thing,” I said with a laugh. He really did look upset. Obviously Sterlin knew what was wrong but Bart and I were in the dark.
“Very funny,” he said.
“So what’s the problem?” I asked expecting it to be a late delivery or something harmless.
“Some clown sent me a letter that came yesterday,” he said. “The letter said he was going to plant a bio-bomb in our greenhouses unless we paid him protection money. Some kind of mold spore.”
“I see, do we know who he is?” I asked.
“No, if I knew he would already be dead,” Steve said.
“Well that’s a new threat to me. I never heard of such a thing. Bio extortion,” I said. “So did you save the letter?” Steve passed a plastic bag over to me with the letter inside.
“I doubt you can do anything with it,” he said.
“You just never know,” I said. “First of all we are not going to kill anyone, yet. We are going to call the Federal Police. We are not going to call the Rural Police they are useless. We are going to call the Feds who will probably bring in Homeland Security. This, my young, friend is bio terrorism. So when and how are we supposed to pay.”
“They want the money digitally transferred somewhere. They are going to call day after tomorrow to give us the account,” Steve said.
“God there are so many things we could do, but I think we need a computer hacker to follow the money. When do we need to pay it, the same day we get the information?”
“I think so. He says he will know if we alert the cops and will launch the attack,” Steve said.
“The only way to prevent it is to find him and neutralize him. We could easily lose everything,” I said. I wasn’t all that concerned since I had moved on from the farm but it still pissed me off. We sterilized everything just to prevent that kind of infection. It was a concern for sure. It would be easy to introduce something into the closed environment of a greenhouse for sure.
Before I called it terrorism, I decided I needed to talk to a cop for advice. I only knew one I trusted. Special Agent Mission who had moved up since my days working for her. Mission was with the Federal Police of course as everyone else in law enforcement was in those days. She had moved up to what had once been the FBI headquarters in Washington DC.
I had no idea how they assigned cases and that is what I wanted to know. Who do I talk to about it? I asked myself. I decided to ask Mission once I found her. I had to call everyone I knew to find someone who knew where she was working. They finally gave me enough information to locate her in DC. She was working from a desk inside the Federal Police Investigation Force. Like I said the new replacement for the FBI.
When I found her for sure, I dug out one of my old burner phones and followed the directions to activate it. It could be traced with my bank transfer for the activation but not in time to listen to a live conversation.
“This is Rose Seabold, do you remember me Agent Mission?” I asked when I finally got her on the phone well after lunch.
“Of course I remember you. I might have forgotten, but your profile gets pulled every once in a while,” she said.
“Oh why is that?” I asked.
“Some of it is training and some of it is for further investigation. Nothing ever stuck to you, but I do wonder if it will now that Sylvia is gone?” Mission questioned.
“Not me, I don’t do that any more. I haven’t for a long time,” I said.
“I heard about the one that went wrong in the Islands. Glad to hear you made it out in one piece.” she commented. Then went on, “So Rose what can I do for you.”
“Did you know I owned a pot farm,” I asked.
“No I didn’t know that. So what kind of favor do you need?” she asked.
“I wanted to ask what you know about bio terrorism? Have you heard of anyone trying to extort money by threatening bio sabotage?” I asked.
“Hold on let me check,” she suggested. She came back on the line several minutes later. “Okay I got something. A pot farmer in Florida had blue mold released into his fields. It cost him a million dollars in lost crops. He refused to pay an extortion demand. Since he didn’t pay and didn’t report it till after the mold, the trail got cold quickly.”
“So do you know anything at all about the guy who planted the mold,” I asked.
“No, he got away clean. It may not even be the same extortionist. Word got out in the criminal community, so it might be a copy cat. Would you like me to send you an agent?” Mission asked.
“I’m sure as hell not going to pay him. If you want to take a crack at him, I will cooperate. If not we can handle it I’m sure,” I said.
“The Special Terrorism Task Force will be in touch. The farm crops are too important to risk destruction,” Mission said. She seemed to be taking it more seriously than I would have expected for some reason.
“Okay but try not to look like cops when you come,” I suggested.
“I won’t be along, but yeah I’ll pass it on,” Mission said. She added a pretty limp wrist goodbye.
“Well fuck you very much,” I said into the dead phone.
“Steve,” I said into the burner. “I called some people, if they show up in time to help us fine, if not we will take care of it ourselves. One thing we are not going to do is pay the extortionist. One way or another we will take care of this.”
“Good, so let me get this straight. We are going to give the FBI a shot, or is it homeland security?” he asked.
“I have no idea, I called my only high level contact in the Federal Police Force. She is going to send someone to talk to us. Whoever that someone is we are going to cooperate. Cooperation does not mean we are going to lay down and get screwed,” I replied.
“Good, that’s what Sterlin and I want to do. We want to go after the fucker,” Steve said.
“If the cops can’t get it right and we can find him, we will do just that. I promise.”
“We had been given three days to raise the money. I had the money, but I sure as hell wasn’t going to give it to someone else. They might ruin me, but I had started over more than once with less.
I knew that I could walk away. That knowledge is why I never borrowed money for a project. Nobody else was on the hook, if I fucked up. Even if my cash, which was all more or less earned legally at the moment, got tied up, there was always my batteries filled with small easy to move diamonds and some gold and silver. Those were all nice and portable assets.
Unfortunately I doubted that Steve and Sterlin had that kind of back up. So for their sake and that of the dogs, I wasn’t going to let some asshole leg breaker into my life. Well not for more than five minutes after I found him.
With that in mind I decided I had less faith in the Federal Police than I did in myself. Once I made the decision I placed a message on a bicycle message board. It was on of those sites that Forensics Ink monitored. Forensics Ink was the alias for Wilson.
I think I am having trouble with gremlins in my trike. I need a master diagnostician. The message I left read.
I banged around the net for a while but nothing happened, so I went to dinner. When I came back I went back on the net to do research on cannabis’s natural enemies. It appeared that the introduction of mold into the closed environment would be devastating, not to mention expensive on a grand scale.
I called Steve late that night. “Steve I want you to place all our extra seeds in airtight containers, then bring them to me in the morning. I plan to bank them in the unused basement of building one. If the bastard does get the houses we will have the seeds to start again.”
“You don’t think it will come to that do you?” Steve asked.
“Not if I can help it,” I suggested. “But I also want to plan for every contingency.”
Under the watch pot law of perversity, I checked the bicycle message board just before bedtime.
So what seems to be your problem. I have a trike as well maybe I can help. The message was sign WET BUT NOT COLD.
I guess I need someone who knows how to trace a problem. I expect I will call in a day or two. I also included the coded number for the burner cell phone
It was the middle of the night when my burner phone rang. “What do you want now?” the voice said from the bottom of a barrel. “When do you think we will ever be finished with one another?”
“As long as I live and have the scars from my time in prison, you are going to owe me you prick. You are only alive because you can be useful,” I said.
“Look I made a mistake, it is as simple as that,” the voice said.
“It is never as simple as that. The more I think about it, the harder it is to believe you weren’t part of set up,” I said.
“I had nothing to do with that cruise ship fiasco,” he said.
“Mr. Fix It, it is all connected. A butterfly farts in the Amazon and a hurricane forms. You burned me in New York and I wind up in a jungle prison. It’s all connected.”
“What is that some kind of perverted Zen?” he asked.
“No that’s why you are going to trace an Internet account when it come to me. I’m supposed to move some money into the account within ten minutes of its location being sent to me. You are going to trace it before the bad guy figures out that instead of 100k I sent him $10. The call will come to you day after tomorrow. The old FBI guys are going to try as well, but you are going to do it right,” I said.
“Or what?” he asked.
“Or all the devils in hell can’t protect you,” I said. “I have a new understanding of pain. One you will learn to appreciate if you fuck with me. Neither of us have Porter to protect us now,” I said seriously.
“Okay tell me when he gives you an address and I’ll follow the money but the Feds can do it better I expect,” Wilson said.
“You just need to make a good faith effort. Don’t tell me you did then do nothing or so help me I will make you pay,” I promised.
“Don’t worry, just tell me as soon as you know,” Wilson repeated.
“I’m waiting on the Feds. I’m not even sure they will make it here by the deadline. I want you to tell me what I can do to prevent a small drone from flying over?” I asked.
“I’ll send you a signal generator. It can scramble the ten most used RC frequencies,” he said.
“You mean there are other people worried about this?” I asked.
“You bet. Mostly they are conspiracy nuts, but there are enough to make it a good Internet item,” he explained.
“Okay send me one and the bill,” I said.
“If I track them faster than the Feds, are you going to pay me?” Wilson asked.
“We will talk about it,” I said. I fell asleep after I broke the connection with Wilson.
I awoke the next morning after less than five hours sleep. I was dressed and on the road to the DQ by 5:30. The four of us had began arranging to meet at 6 AM for some reason. I was no longer involved in the day to day running of the farm, according to the lease agreement. Steve and Sterlin were under no obligation to keep me informed as to the progress or lack there of. However the pot business in general was discussed at breakfast. I had to remind myself to stay out of it. I was simply an advisor, if they got in trouble.
In the case of the threat to the farm from outside, I was brought into the loop as I should have been. When I arrived at the DQ I managed to sit down before the questions began to fly.
“So what do we do?” Sterlin asked.
“I think I have done all that we can do for now. I have decided we don’t pay anyone to not attack us. That sort of shit never ends,” I said.
“You are fuckin A we don’t pay,” Steve said. “If we have to, we fight.”
“Well if they did their homework and I have to assume they did, they will know what kind of threat we bring to the table. Bart, if it comes to an altercation can we count on you?” I asked.
“Just about as surely as the sun is going to rise within the next hour,” he said. “You want me to make a defensive plan?”
“You are the military expert, so sure,” I said. “Communications and Intel are the biggest advantage we are going to have.
“For sure we need more cameras and to have them monitored,” Bart said. “Too bad you were never a combat operative.”
“Why do you think I need to have crawled through the woods to be of any use?” I asked. “These guy will probably drive up to the gate and try to con their way in.”
“I don’t know, they are going to want to make an example of you,” Bart suggested.
“They are threatening to destroy the crop not kill us. I think they will try to bring down one greenhouse with their mold spores. If they manage to do that, we need to contain the damage while we track the attackers back home and make their lives miserable,” I suggested.
“It would be better to strike first,” Bart said. “Of course we would have to know who to strike.”
“I contacted a highly place source in the Federal Police last night. She promised me some agents would be here today,” I said.
“Well if not they are going to miss the show,” Sterlin said.
“One of you will need to drive into Williamston to pick up a toy a different friend is sending. It will be at that dirt strip sometime today. I will call you when I hear it is on the way.”
“We need some more fire power,” Steve said.
“I’m not going to buy twenty firearms, so I hope you saved some of that bonus money,” I said. “Speaking of which, I will be out to pick up the extra shotgun. I’m going to start carrying it in the truck again. So get your ass to Walmart for a deer gun of come kind. It’s going to take too long for a handgun permit.”
“Handguns we both have from our last employer. It’s the rapid fire rifles we need. We should be able to pick up some semi automatic rifles at the gun store in Williamston,” Sterlin said.
“They really shouldn’t have given us time to prepare,” Bart said.
“Shit they are going to watch the compound. If they see us making any preparations they will launch an attack. The Federal Police had enough sense to sneak into town I hope,” I suggested. “One of you call Miss Sadie and have her ask around to see if there are any strangers in town. I will have my computer geek sweep the camera feed for intruders. That would be the easiest way to go for electronic surveillance.”
“Make sure you activate those sound sensors in the woods. Let’s expect a visit from the Feds as well. Listen to them they may bring something new to the table. I wouldn’t rely on them too much, they will be going home one day,” I said.
“Not soon enough,” Sterlin said.
“We need their Intel, so play nice,” I suggested with a smile. “However we don’t have to show them all our toys.”
After breakfast I called Wilson. “Don’t you ever sleep?” he asked.
“I have already been to breakfast. I need you to scan all these locations on line. I’m looking for hacks.” Then I sent him the list of our security sites. “Do you have my frequency generator?”
“I called Sylvia’s bush pilot he is going to pick it up before lunch. I will call you when he is on the way,” Wilson said. “You want to hold on while I do a quick scan?”
“No, I have the Federal Police on the way. I’ll call you later. Oh if you do fine a hacker backtrack it. I am going to want to send him a poison pill. I don’t give a fuck who it is,” I said.
“Oh god it’s just like old times,” Wilson said. “If I hit someone as good as me that could back fire. I will have to do a quick backup before I run the scan.”
“I don’t give a shit how you do it, just get it done,” I replied with an edge to my voice.
I had no idea how Wilson or the Feds were going to trace the bad guys. I was pretty sure the Feds weren’t going to share information with me. Which was why I had Wilson on the case. I was sure as hell not going to get stuck with no other source of information but the Feds.
I was out of the shower before Lady and Tramp returned to the door. I had a feeling the sound of running water was there clue to return. They ran around the condo just to be sure everything was still where it should be. Then they settled down to nap.
When the house phone rang, they paid it no mind. “Hello,” I said.
“Rose Seabold this is Agent Hanes, I am downstairs,” the very male voice informed me.
“Come on up I’m on the third floor.” I really hoped that he was not going to come in wearing a cheap suit, black shoes, and dark glasses. It would be a hell of a lot better to travel unnoticed, just in case I was being physically watched. I felt pretty sure someone would be tapped into my security cameras rather than sitting in a van somewhere but I was most likely being watched as well as the compound.
I opened the front door to allow Agent Hanes into the condo. To my surprise he was dressed as a construction worker right down to the hardhat. Nobody would notice him coming and going. I was having a lot of work done, that’s when it hit me. I had construction workers going in and out for the last few months. I knew the owners, but they had workers who came and went. I would not have noticed a ringer even if I tripped over him.
I held my finger to my lips. “You finally got here. Your boss promised me you would be here last week.” I found a piece of paper and wrote: BUGS ???? You need to sweep the place.
“Yes Ma’am let me get my tester. I’ll check to see what is wrong with that circuit for you.” Under my note he wrote: TAKE YOUR DOG FOR A WALK.
“How long will you be?” I asked. “I need to take Lady and Tramp for a walk.”
“It looks like something happened between the circuit breaker and the outlet. I’m going to need equipment and some help from the shop. I will go to lunch first if that’s okay. It will give you time to walk your dog.”
“That’s fine I will look for you at 1 PM then,” I said.
“Hanes left and shortly thereafter I left the condo with the dogs on their leashes. As I walked toward the town’s Alabama River landing, I thought, if they had bugs in my place we were truly fucked. They knew the Feds were on the case. They knew Wilson would be tracking them. They also knew I was scrambling the drone signals, worst of all they knew that there would be no payment so they would obviously do their mischief as a warning to others. In which case it would be pretty hard to take the fight to them.
I turned Lady and Tramp loose in the park. Even off leash they stayed pretty close to me. I’m not sure if they were afraid to venture out, or if they were protecting me. Either way they were close when Hanes drove up. He was driving a beat up panel van with no markings.
“I have a crew coming to sweep your place this afternoon. We are going to check for a video hijacker as well. What makes you think it is bugged?” Hanes asked.
“I really had no reason to think that it was until you showed up looking like a builder. That’s when I realized I have had builders coming and going for the last two months. It would have been easy enough to do, if someone wanted to see what was going to happen before it did.”
“Well it is a good idea to check. If they know we are coming we are pretty much screwed,” he commented.
You have no idea, I thought. The camera circuit I could live with. A bug in the condo. I had taken care to make the phone calls untraceable but an old school bug would have my end of every conversation.
Hanes sat for a while in the sunshine before he spoke. “Is what the boss said about you true?” he asked.
“Probably she knows most of it,” I suggested.
“So you were part of that American Foreign Legion?” he asked.
“No I just helped them out now and then,” I said. “Nothing so glamorous as the Foreign Legion.”
“Have you been following the congressional hearings on TV?” he asked.
“No I don’t want to know what they are up to. Politicians,” I said then turned my head and spat on the ground. It was very unladylike but I’m sure it got the point across.