By Cindy and Walt
After a stop for a bacon egg and cheese biscuit Eddie arrived at the address fifteen minutes before the nine o’clock starting time. He had time to scout the abandoned parking structure. He would have but he couldn’t get in.
The gate to the eight foot chain link fence with barbed wire on top was locked. Eddie looked around, since he couldn’t believe he had the right place. He was sure that he had the right address, since the whole block was occupied by the parking structure. The sign on the gate informed him the area was not to be trespassed upon. It also stated that failure to adhere to the rule would result in arrest and prosecution. The parking garage was the property of the United States Government. There was a phone number on the sign, but Eddie decided that if no one else showed by 9 AM, he would be heading home.
Just as Eddie started the car the first of them showed up to work. It was Lucille obviously the others didn’t care about first impressions. Well, it wasn’t his team so if Lucille couldn’t be on time then no one would, including Eddie in the future. Lucille unlocked the gate.
Lucille: The others here yet? (walking past his car)
Eddie: I have no idea. I have been waiting since before nine and I have seen no one. What the hell are we doing in a parking garage?
Lucille: I thought you would approve of not drawing attention to ourselves. The Dog has friends in high places.
Or high friends in low places, he thought but said nothing. Eddie stayed in his car and followed her inside. They drove up the parking garage to the third level just below the roof structure. On the stairwell side of the third level sat an enclosed structure that looked a lot like a double wide mobile home. The enclosure turned out to be big enough for eight desks and a bathroom. Much more impressive was its state of the art communication center.
Eddie: (after looking the place over) Did you have that awful graffiti painted on the outside.
Lucille: After 911 Dick Cheney got paranoid about security. He wanted small operation centers everywhere. This is just one of them. It has never been used till now. The Senator requisitioned it for office space last year. You and the others are why he did it. He didn’t know your names, but he knew what you were going to do.
Eddie: I see. So where are the others?
Lucille: That’s a very good question. We give them ten minutes then we start looking for them.
Eddie: If we have to look for them, I’m out. Do you understand? An investigator’s hours maybe erratic, but you must have confidence that someone is available to support you when you call.
Lucille: Don’t be such a Prima Donna.
Her voice was sharp and cutting. She knew she was allowing her anger and disappointed to show it. She also knew Eddie was correct, but she didn’t like being threatened. She knew that all this was on her. She had assembled the team of misfits. She could have gotten a squad of Federal Police to do the investigation, but she would have no control over them. It looked as though she had none over the team she had assembled.
Lucille: I’m sorry I snapped at you. You are the only one taking this seriously it seems. I will get them here on time tomorrow, if I have to carpool every fucking one of them.
Eddie: You were five minutes late. Maybe you should lead by example.
Eddie took a closer look at his desk. Both he and Lucille’s desk was set up to look over the others. It was on a lightly raised platform. The simple stage must have been built as a place for a briefer. Eddie didn’t like it but it was there so he would live with it. That is if there was anything to live with.
May (Addressing Lucille as she entered): Sorry boss, I had to stop by the dry cleaners. (Actually she had to go home to shower and change)
Lucille walked her outside the door into the parking garage.
Lucille: What do you think people will say when I fire you. How is that going to look on your resume? You pull this shit again and I am going to terminate you on the spot. Now you can quit right now and it probably won’t look so bad on you, or you can stay and do your fucking job. What you will never do again is to embarrass me again. Do I make myself clear?
May: I will think about it.
Lucille: Don’t bother just get back in your car and go back to DOJ. I’ll call ahead and advise them it didn’t work out.
May: Wait a minute, it won’t happen again. I really want this task force on my resume. I promise to play nice.
Lucille: If you can’t get up in the mornings on time then sleep in your own fucking bed. Now get in there and make nice with your new boss.
May: Hold on I didn’t sign up to work for a fucking cop.
Lucille: The door is still open. If you can’t play nice, do us all a favor and walk out of it now.
May didn’t answer. She just turned to walk into the office area.
Lucille followed her inside. She put her briefcase down on the second desk on the stage area.
Lucille: (throwing the files on Eddie’s desk) Those are files on your team. Now I have to go round them up.
Eddie just glared at her, but he opened the files and began to read.
Lucille (into the phone): Where the fuck are you? (There was no way she would hide her anger) You bet you skinny drunk ass I’m pissed. I can fire your ass even faster than I hired you. You are a fucking consultant, not a government employee you are not protected. So get sober and get in here.
Eddie: Wesley I presume.
Lucille: Yeah he may prove to be unmanageable.
Eddie: Yeah sometimes they can’t be resurrected. Give him one more try but only one. ‘One more chance’ can also be an addiction.
As they spoke a middle aged woman walked into the ‘Hole in the Wall’.
Lucille: It’s about time. What’s your excuse?
Salina: I stopped to pull a bully off a three year old. Here is the cops badge number, since I’m wearing this thing he thought I might need it.
Lucille: Okay yours is the desk with all the monitors by the wall.
Salina: I don’t know shit about computers. I can use one, but I can’t find anything more than porn or a movie.
Eddie: The monitors are the CCTV for this office. There might be other feeds from time to time but someone will show you how it all works. You are a smart lady you can handle it.
Salina (smiling at Eddie): Thanks boss I’ll give it a try. (Eddie nodded)
Lucille: I just have to go get our computer genius.
Michael: No you don’t. My mom finally found the place. We have been looking since nine.
Lucille: You call ahead next time, or the next door you hear slam will have bars.
Eddie (opening the door to the stair well.): Lucille, could we have a talk? (When they were outside) I will have a talk with them. We just need to get everyone to work now.
Lucille: You are suddenly less angry than me.
Eddie: I’m sure you have a reason for tossing me in with this gaggle of misfits and losers. I will do my best to make some order of it all. That’s what I do best.
Once back inside Eddie went from desk to desk meeting and then explaining each person’s task for the day. Mostly it was going to be a get acquainted with the equipment and create working relations with other branches of the Federal Police and computer archive systems.
Eddie: Michael, pull up all the files on the Carlos Delgado murder five years ago. Then run a search for the word cartel and copy any names that come up. Pull the intelligence file on that Cartel so we can read the background.
Then give it all to Salina. Salina did you hear that. (she nodded) I want you to read it all and pick out anything that stands out to you. Look for paramilitary type operations against the cartel. It is operations that are unexplained or unauthorized that interest us.
Salina: Right boss. You looking for black ops?
Eddie: Any kind of raid pulled off like a combat operation. (he turned his attention to May) May call your friends at DOJ and find out if there were any rumors as to why the investigation was canceled. Not the facts we know but any rumors.
May (surly): I know what you want and I don’t think that will do my career any good.
Eddie: Fair enough, would you mind taking out the trash and sweep the floor.
May: You are kidding right?
Eddie: Not at all it’s the only totally safe job we have here. Everything else carries some kind of risk.
May: I’ll make the call. But I will not risk damaging my career for some pie in the sky investigation.
Eddie: That’s fair. You are young still and have a future, unlike the rest of us. You should remember careers are made not on the safe track, but by standing out. Sometimes you have to bend the rules to get noticed.
Rough looking middle aged man: So what you want me to do?
Eddie: I want you to find me someone to talk to about the Cartel that took the rap for the murder of a Carlos Delgado.
Wes: Tell me which Cartel and I’ll make some calls.
Eddie: Michael is checking on that now.
Wes to Eddie: Can we talk?
Eddie (opening the stairway door): Sure step into my private office.
Wes: You know I drink a bit.
Eddie: Sounds like a song.
Wes: It has never caused me to fuck up a job. I never, ever got anyone hurt because of it.
Eddie: That’s good to know cause if we go Tactical you will be my partner.
Wes: Good. Just wanted you to know I’ll be standing there hung over or not.
Eddie: Maybe you can at least draw fire.
Wes: If we can’t kill them, at least we can confuse them.
Wes extended his hand to Eddie who took it. They went back inside without saying anything else.
Eddie (holding the door to the stairway open): Michael, a word please.
Michael: Sure boss (he said walking outside.)
Eddie: Something smells about this whole thing, so I want you to watch yourself. Mainly I want to know why they think Carlos was connected to the Swamp Dog crew. There is a potential for a shit storm. Try not to get caught without an umbrella.
Michael: I can find out if there is anything connecting the Swamp to the killing in the system. I am sure I can do it without getting caught in their web.
Eddie: I know I have loaded a lot on your plate. There is one more thing. Let’s keep this between us. Lucille doesn’t need to know. Some things are bigger than Lucille. But be careful protect yourself first, then do the job.
Michael: I understand she has a lot of clout.
Eddie: Yes she does. Follow her orders, but protect yourself.
Eddie (holding the door open for Michael): Salina, a word please.
Salina: Sure boss.
Eddie (once the door was closed): You’ve got the biggest job of all. You have to keep us all safe. From the time the first one of us steps foot in this building till we all leave you are charged with keeping us safe. Don’t get the idea that being on the desk is just a make work job. You are just as important as Wes or me. You do understand that?
Salina: Yeah I get it now. I also give great CPR.
Eddie: At my age that’s a good thing to know.
Eddie intentionally did not have a chat with May or Lucille. It was obvious to everyone who he felt he could depend on, and who he didn’t trust. Why would he? A lawyer and a political operative, talk about your whores, he thought.
Everybody spent the rest of the day checking files and extracting the relevant data. The investigation was taking form. The story line was forming but it was all speculation and rumor. There was not a single fact to back any of it up.
The story line was the Senator made a call to the Swamp Dog people and it just happened. They found out who the killer was even before cops had him on the radar. They dispatched a crew of assassins and the deed was done. Then the cartel took credit for the kill for some reason. There were hundreds of possible scenarios for each of those events. Each of them would make a completely different story line.
Eddie: Wes, a moment please. (Eddie walked to the stairway before he spoke.) Does the farm know anything about Swamp Dog?
Wes: Like what? I mean they know they exist, but not a lot more. The Swamp is closed mouthed but so are the controllers at the farm. Someone might know something, but they aren’t going to share. I personally had no contract with anyone down there. The CIA and Swamp Dog are probably incestuous. That might also be true of military special ops soldiers.
Eddie: There is always a former member of any organization with an ax to grind.
Wes: I’ll ask around, but don’t expect much.
Eddie: He doesn’t need to have been familiar with our case. We just need some background on the outfit. Listen though, if you think they might come after you don’t do it.
Wes: I never heard of them doing that and I would have. They hid behind the curtain of silence and political clout. They never needed to silence anyone outside their own people. I don’t even know that they did that.
Eddie: Just be careful.
Day Three ended with no real progress made, but with a lot of information having been processed. May left first right at 5 PM, then Salinas a few minutes later. She had been told to go since Michael could monitor, if they decided to work late. Ten minutes later Wes left along with Michael. Wes had agreed to take him home.
Since Lucille had left much earlier, Eddie was the last to leave. He locked the door, shut off the lights, then locked the front gate. The drive to Bishops Crossing took only thirty minutes even with the traffic. It was unusual for the traffic on the crowded roads to move right along, but it did.
Once he got to Bishops Crossing and passed the shopping center there, it was a nice back road drive to his little piece of dirt. He managed to get the Econobox into the drive, even though the drive was just a muddy mess after all the recent rains. He knew that paving the drive was not a priority but couldn’t be put off forever.
Eddie had to force the front door open since it stuck terribly after a serious rain. Eddie hadn’t gone out for lunch so he hadn’t even known it rained. He did a quick walk through and found no new water stains.
There were so many things that had slipped through the cracks while Eddie had been living in the studio apartment. The apartment was only a few blocks from his office, so he stayed there for the last five years. The leaky roof was only one of the things he had neglected. It only leaked when it rained, and even then he visited the place only sparingly over the years, so he just let it slide.
If he had taken advantage of all the opportunities to take payoffs under the table, he could have paid off the mortgage much faster. As it was he paid it off the same year he retired.
He had planned to do most of the work on the place himself, but now that he had agreed to work for the Senator, he had extra money and no extra time. It looked as though he would need a handyman.
He had a list of handyman type workers provided by a local policeman. He had checked with the local coppers when he first bought the place. Those names led to other names before he knew it.
Eddie: Hi there. Are you still doing floor refinishing?
Painter: I do small repairs to the flooring as part of the painting contract. I really don’t like floor refinishing.
Eddie: Well I got a little five room house that needs paint and some kind of flooring work. I’m not sure how much.
Painter: You need to do the flooring first, then paint.
Eddie: That sounds about right. Do you know anyone who does flooring? The place is about forty years old and has carpets. One of the corners came loose and I think there is hardwood under it. I would like to get that refinished if it’s possible.
Painter: You speak Russian?
Eddie: No why?
Painter: I ran into some guy from the Ukraine. He gave me his card, but his English is shit.
Eddie: Give me his number and I’ll see if I can communicate.
Once Eddie had his number he changed his mind about calling. If he had a communications problem, it would be better to see him in person. First day he had off Eddie decided that he would hunt down the Gerick person. So he had a beer as he settled in for the night.
Michael was home in his mother’s basement. He was using his home computer to access the office computers, which he used to remotely hack into the DOJ files and the NCIC computer. He was working off the clock, because it was more fun than playing virtual reality games.
Wes brought a six pack home and got drunk.
Salina sent and received emails to her long list of friends. Some of them really were friends. Others were virtual friends.
May stayed in even when she was invited out by the State Department worker. She was asked to her friend’s home, not really out for a date. Just show up, fuck her, and leave. It somehow didn’t sound as exciting as it had the night before.
Lucille stopped on the way home for Chinese take out. Her kids loved it, even if it was reasonably healthy food. They watched TV for a couple of hours until she had all the preteen comedy she could stand. When she had them in bed by nine, she went to her half of the king sized bed and fell into it. Thus ended day three.