By Cindy and Walt
Hanes got the call on his phone after we had been sitting in the DQ for almost an hour. “I got good news and bad news.” He didn’t give me any options, he just started. “The good news is there are no microphones in your house. The bad news is your video feed and cell phone have been hacked.”
“Well it’s about as bad as I expected. The video and phone could be hacked from anywhere in the world. The bugs would have required someone to come to this small town. They would have stood out. So now let me make a call,” I suggested.
“Miss Sadie, this is Iris,” I said.
“Hello Iris, I have the information you wanted. There seems to be a couple of men staying at the fish camp, but they aren’t fishing. They told my niece they were here doing a survey of some kind. She said they have a lot of large black cases.”
“I see well I appreciate the information. By the way Steve says your nephew is doing great at the farm,” I said.
“Good I do hope that makes up for Hannah,” she said.
“I’m sure that unpleasantness is past,” I said. Then I broke the connection.
“You need to check out some guys at the fish camp. Send someone who looks like a fisherman. That is if you want to put these guy away for a while.”
“You bet that’s what we want,” he replied.
“Then you take care of them. I’m going back to my house,” I said.
I was back in the condo a half hour before I got the call from Wilson. “Okay the pilot told me his ETA in Williamston was 3 PM more or less.”
“Got it,” I said. I broke the connection before he heard me say, “Nice job.”
I called Hanes on the burner, “So where are we on your end?” I asked.
“I’m sorry that’s confidential,” he said. “You have to trust me.”
“No I don’t,” I replied and hung up the phone. My next call was to Steve. Head over to Williamston. You have about an hour and a half to get to the strip. If you want to buy anything while you are there do it first. Get back here as soon as you can with the package.”
“Right, but Sterlin already did our shopping,” he said.
“Good, just bring the package here then you can get back to the farm. We are going to make plans by burner cells. I am going to run the operation from right here, but you guys are going to have to do the work,” I said. “I’ll be by after breakfast to help you set things up in the morning.”
“Not a problem. I’m sure I have done worse for a lot worse reasons,” Steve said.
“Ain’t we all? Let’s just hope the Feds can be trusted,” I said.
I tried to remain calm but it was hard. I poured myself a drink then poured it down the sink. I decided stay sober since I had no idea when the moves would begin.
It was after 8 PM when the phone rang. Steve had made the delivery hours before and I still had half a chicken pot pie on the table growing cold.
“They haven’t been back to the fisherman’s cabin,” Agent Hanes said.
“Well that puts them on the loose somewhere around here. Did they pay by credit card?” I asked. I knew that with that number Hanes could run them to ground, if they checked into a motel or bought food in a restaurant with the same card.
“They paid in cash,” he said. “So I guess we try to figure out what they were planning to do next.”
“Well good luck,” I agreed. After I hung up I decided that they had to be staying somewhere that night. Unless they had already done their damage. They surely didn’t think anyone was onto them. We hadn’t done anything too obviously out of the ordinary.
I mean they had access to our cameras, but not the whole state’s network of cameras. They knew Steve left the compound, but he did that everyday. Someone out there was always going somewhere. So where had they gone?
The two who were obviously not fishermen had to be connected to this event. Hell it was all connected. So where had they spent the night? I wish I had cameras on them. You know I had stayed in that fisherman’s Guest House and it sucked. There was no heat in there. There had been a chill in the air the night before they packed up and checked out. My guess was that they went to Williamston last night. I would bet the farm they weren’t trained soldiers. They would have gone for the comfort. Hell if I was right, they weren’t even killers they were paid nerds.
My guess those two had flown drones over the compound to take a look see. They had gone to Williamston for a night of comfort before the big strike. The Catfish Farm was too great a distance from the boat landing to be used as a base for the short ranged drones.
There were several old farms in the area for possible use. The men would need very little space, since they could even be using the VTO drones. Those could be purchased in any hobby shop.
I went to sleep thinking about those two and woke up thinking about them. The best case was to catch them before they launched the drones. There wasn’t much chance of that, I thought. It wasn’t exactly the needle in the haystack scenario. It’s more the needle in the silver carpet scenario. Not finding it could prove very harmful indeed.
At 5 AM I was still thinking about it when I put Lady and Tramp outside to do their thing. The two girls were half asleep so there wasn’t much play. They came right back in and checked out the house before crawling back into the bed they shared.
I rode the trike to the DQ. From the mess on the table it looked as though Steve and Sterlin had been there a while. So guys you ready for this?” I asked.
“Bet your ass,” Steve said. “You forgot to come by for your spare shotgun, so I have it in the truck.”
Head on over to Walmart and get a couple of boxes of bird shot before you go home. Did you buy shotguns when you were there,” I asked.
“Yes we got a couple,” Sterlin said.
“Load them with bird shot and keep them handy,” I suggested. Then I explained about the drones.
“You have to be kidding, toy airplanes?” Sterlin said.
“Yeah that is your problem. Don’t get caught on camera with the shotguns,” I suggested. “Let’s keep that a secret. Make that duck shot not game birds. The duck shot will work on people, if it comes to that.”
“So what is the plan?” Steve asked.
I looked up to see Bart approaching the table. “If we wind up on our own, and they try to raid the place, then the drill will be for you to engage the attackers and call for me and Bart. We will come in from behind which should leave them nowhere to hide.”
“I think I will put Sheba and Rex in the fence this morning. They have a real dislike of strangers,” Sterlin said.
“I am really not expecting an assault. I’m sure they have flown over to take pictures and know there are dogs and lots of sharp wire. The drone is my weapon of choice, if I’m them. Even so when they get the money, kill the power on the circuit to the CCTV feed. We want them blind when we go looking for them. And for gods sake turn that generator on when the call comes in. They might be circling even then.
I took Steve’s Phone and returned to the condo. Wilson better be by the phone, I thought. I fed the girls then went to the shower while they were outside. I had a cup of coffee by the dressing table as I applied the small amount of make up I wore ordinarily. I planned for the day to look normal in every way. The call came in at noon exactly. I pushed the FBI panic button to alert them and I also sent the message on the burner phone to Wilson. Then I counted four more rings then answered.
“What can I do for you,” I said into the phone.
“Are you Rose Seabold?” the heavily accented voice said.
“That would be me,” I agreed. “An what should I call you?”
“You may call me Roman. So Miss Rose are you tracing this call?” Roman asked.
“Of course I am,” I said.
“Good, you are being honest. Do you have my money?” he said.
“I have my money,” I replied.
“You will transfer $100.000 to this account. I will send the account number to your email account. No tricks or you will lose much more than the $100,000. I will expect the money within the next fifteen minutes.”
“I’m not great with the computer so give me a few minutes grace while I get the bank on line. You want to hold?” I asked.
“I think not. We will not be in touch again either way,” he said.
Right I thought. I switched from the phone to the computer. I went to my bank with the alert going to Wilson who surely was standing by. I made the transfer of exactly $10 just so that Wilson could follow the trail. I put the zeros in front of the $10 just in case they would show up in the transfer. It would be nice if there was the correct number bits of information, even if they meant nothing.
As the money winged its way to where ever it’s final destination might be. I rushed down to meet Bart. He drove his truck toward the farm. We rode up and down the roads around Catfish Farm looking for cars that were too fancy, too clean, or rentals. I had no idea what the FBI was doing, but I knew we were doing all we could. By that time I was sure that Roman knew the transfer was for ten bucks.
The burner phone rang. It was Wilson. “I followed the trail all the way to Kiev.”
“Russia,” I asked.
“Actually the Ukraine. Also one of the Mecca’s for hackers. They are going to need some new equipment. I do hope they backed up their files. Actually I hope they didn’t,” Wilson said.
“You should be paying me. You love this shit,” I said.
“It was a bitter pill you swallowed somewhere in your life,” he said.
“Wilson just for your information, torture either breaks you, or it twists you. It didn’t break me,” I said.
“Gotcha,” he said. “I’m going to send you the information just in case the Feds didn’t get there before they broke the connection.”
“Send me a bill,” I said.
“Okay, but like you said, I should be paying you. Later,” he said before the connection went dead.
We were driving down a dirt rode inside the drone’s range when I spotted the Mercedes sedan parked by an abandoned barn. I expected the two operators were around somewhere. I had to trust that the generator or the two retired mercenaries were capable of taking the drone out.
“So what do you want to do about them?” Bart asked.
“Hell, let’s stroll over there and offer them a job,” I said.
“Hell no let’s drive over,” he said making a high speed turn and then went roaring up the dirt farm road. We bounced all over the place but finally did a broadside slide into the rear of the car.
“Well that Mercedes ain’t going nowhere,” I suggested.
We were out of the car in a flash, me with the shotgun and Bart with what looked like a M16. I hoped that it wasn’t. The Guys looked hinky. “Gentlemen, you do not want to run,” I said.
“Damn Rose you are no fun at all,” Bart said.
“We are not going to run. We have done nothing,” the tallest one said with thick Russian accents. “We know our rights.”
“That is good. There is one problem, we are not cops. I’m the lady who owns the farm you just tried to attack with the drone,” I said looking at the controller lying on the ground.
“Me,” Bart said. “I’m just here for the experience. Kind of reminds me of old times in Iraq,”
“We don’t need them to talk Bart. We need at least one of them alive to carry the message,” I suggested.
“Then I can have one of them?” he asked.
“Take the tall one I didn’t like his attitude,” I said.
“Come with me comrade,” Bart demanded.
“I will not talk. He will kill my family in Kiev, if I talk.” the tall one said.
“I see. Well my friend people can stand only a small amount of pain. I can make this last for days. I am an expert. Trust me, “Bart said.
“Even if he doesn’t get the information from you, I will get it from your friend or from your telephones or you car rental information. Trust me I am going to get what I need,” I said. “It’s just a matter of how much pain you are willing to take. By the way, Bart and I don’t know your family at all, so it makes no difference to us.”
“Come along inside,” Bart said to the Russian.
My phone rang as they disappeared inside the old barn. “This is Rose,” I said. “You have sent me $10 dollars is this your idea of joke?”
“I thought I was being generous. By the way ask your nerds how their computers are doing at this moment.”
“They assure me we will be back on line in a few hours,” Roman said.
“Ask them if they are sure that they didn’t infect their backup files with the same poison I sent them.” I laughed at that point because Roman had no idea what I was talking about. He was just a thug. “Listen Roman,” I said walking to the barn then holding the phone out while the tall drone operator screamed.
“That my Russian friend was the sound of your man just before he gives your ass up. Were I you, I would get ready for a visit from a group of pissed off Mercenaries. You have seen that American Foreign Legion bullshit on TV?”
“I have seen it on the news,” he said.
“Well Roman it ain’t bullshit at all,” I said. Just for the pure hell of it, I handed the phone to Bart.
“Vive la mort, vive la guerre, vive le sacre mercenaire,” Bart said into the phone. It was the toast all the Swamp Dog Meetings ended with. “We will be coming for you Mother Fucker. You better run fast and far.”
A chill ran up my spine as I broke the connection. “Well comrade are you ready to tell me where Roman can be found?” I asked. It took a few more minutes to convince him, but he talked.
I bandaged his wounds as best I could, then put him in the car with his friend. Do not go back to Roman, or you will get caught in the crossfire. He is going to be more worried about saving his ass than taking retribution on your family. With a little luck he won’t be able to do that at all.
I used the burner cell to call Sterlin. “Sterlin are we okay?” I asked.
“For now. Steve shot down one of those helicopter looking things, but there maybe more,” Sterlin said.
“I don’t think so,” I replied. “Put Steve on please.”
“What do you need Rose?” he asked.
“The Feds are going to be all over you guys, if they aren’t yet. Tell them the truth don’t lie to them,” I demanded.
“What about you,” he asked.
“I am planning a road trip,” I said. “I have no idea how long I will be gone so have Sterlin look in on Lady and Tramp. Maybe bring them to the farm till I get back.”
“You got it,” Steve said.
“If Roman has any brains, he is headed for an airport somewhere,” I said.
“Well, I need to stop at the factory for a few minutes to make a call,” Bart said.
“You know the Feds will be waiting for us,” I suggested.
“How else are we going to know what they know?” he asked with a smile.
“True enough,” I suggested.
Sure as hell Hanes was sitting outside my building in his van. “So did you plant a microphone in the building?” I asked. I could tell from the look on his face that he had. “Damn Hanes I just finished that building. I guess I can sweep it, but I sure as hell hate to do that,” I said.
“You can’t get away from us,” he said. “So where is Roman?”
“Don’t you know? You have access to all the immigration records and Police Intel from all over,” I suggested.
“He is most likely Roman Boscovik, a low level Russian Mafia type,” Hanes said.
“So what you doing about him?” I asked.
“There were too many cut outs to tie him to the extortion,” Hanes said.
“Can you at least tell me where I can find him, if I want to talk to him?” I asked.
“You know I can’t do that,” Hanes said. “But we can trade.”
“I got nothing to trade,” I said.
“I don’t think you are stupid, why do you think I am. You figured the drone thing out before us. You were ready for them. So what did they tell you?” Hanes asked.
“Nothing at all,” I said.
Bart and I made arrangements and then left for Baltimore by 9 PM that night. “So what’s the word on Rita?” I asked during the all night drive.
“She is spending most of her time in DC. She is advising Andrew on how to tell the truth without exposing anything,” Bart suggested.
That must be fun,” I said.
“It’s what she does,” he said. “She has sued presidents, so this is a piece of cake.”
“So, she is out of the pot business?” I asked.
“At least for now,” he said.
Later just before midnight I called Wilson. “So Wilson what’s the chatter?”
“The Feds have a file on Roman. I’m sending you a copy. They also have a wiretap up. I don’t have any idea why,” Wilson said.
“Thanks Wilson,” I said. I almost wanted to let him off the hook, but I wasn’t ready at that moment.
“Why would the government have a wire tap,” I asked.
“Trying to get more on him, or trying to get something on his people,” Bart said.
“Yeah they are not going to be happy when Roman dies,” I said.
“How we going to do it?” Bart asked.
“The old bike messenger trick, but it has to look like a mob hit,” I said.
“You are so lucky. I just happen to be a primo IED maker,” Bart said. We didn’t sleep at all. In the middle of the night he pulled off the interstate highway in order to buy duct tape and a can of that stuff you spray into the intake of a gasoline motor to make it start. He bought a whole lot of other crap I didn’t recognize.
I had a tape recording from Wilson waiting in my email when we pulled off the highway a second time. Bart built his IED and I checked the mail.
“I am not afraid of some Militia. Roman does not run from a woman’s threats.” the tape said.
“Stupid bastard,” I said. What Bart made fitted inside a ‘one price fits all’ mail box.
“So what is in there?” I asked.
“Oh I had to rush it, but there is one of those impact exploding targets inside a glass pickle jar. That is taped to the can of ether car starter, which then has your shotgun shells taped around it. It if doesn’t kill that fuck it will scare hell out of him,” Bart said with a smile. “We get him and his friends to come to the swamp, and the gators will have a feast.”
“Let’s end it here. How we gonna set it off?” I asked.
“You ride by on a bike just after they are in the car. Attach the box to the top of the car. I’ll shoot it and explode the target or the can of starter spray or both. That will send the shot from your shotgun shells and pieces of the can all over. I’ll try to swing the rifle around in time to hit Roman,” Bart suggested.
“Be sure you can Identify Roman before we do this,” I suggested.
Once the plan was made, we stopped at a thrift shop for a used bike and helmet. I didn’t bother to dress like a biker. The helmet and dark glasses would work fine. The gloves I needed were also in keeping with a bike rider.
I waited two blocks away on the well scrubbed bike. On the way to the cafe, I had spotted a park five blocks away. The plan was for Bart to meet me after I disposed of the bike. I planned to lean it against a pole and walk away. Most likely it would be in some kids house before dark.
At 5 PM Roman and two bodyguards came out of the sportsman’s bar and grill. They entered the Lincoln Town car. Before they could get the car started I rode by on the bike.
I leaned over and put the white box from the post office onto the top of the trunk. I pedaled like a madwoman away from the car. I was no more than a hundred feet when I hard the pop of a hand gun. It was followed, in less than a second, by the sound of a heavy rifle. Then there was the explosion of the postal box.
The small caliber pop was from the bar, not the car. The guards inside the car didn’t have time to react, since they heard the thump of the box being place on the trunk and only a few seconds later the car went up with a bang. I imagined them saying, “What the fuck?” Just before they died. I was in the park dripping blood five minutes later when Bart rolled in. The sniper rifle was behind the back seat wrapped in a blanket.
“Let’s get the fuck out of here and find a bridge over troubled water,” I suggested.
“You are bleeding,” Bart said.
“It’s a scratch,” I replied holding my hand over the wound. I looked back as some black kid rode off on the bike. “Run into a convenience store and buy some paper towels.”
I held the paper pad over the bullet graze to staunch the blood flow. It would have been a very long ride home. “I’m going to pull over once we clear the beltway and take a look at that.
Bart took a look then decided to stop at a Walmart. I always knew Walmart’s choice of locations would come in handy. Bart bought towels, dressings tape peroxide and a needle and thread. In a cheap motel he cleaned the graze, did a field dressing including three stitches.
“You’ll live,” he said.
“You do know, we gotta get out of this business,” I commented.