I can’t tell you how much fun this story has been to write. It’s not over yet and the action should be ramping up as we come to the conclusion. I had no idea that this was going to turn into a government conspiracy theory type story when I started it. I think some of my writing may have been influenced by current events, but that is how stream of consciousness writing takes shape. With this story, I literally sit down at a blank screen and type until I hit somewhere between 1,500 and 2,000 words (the length of a book chapter) and then post it.
Thanks to those of you that have pointed out mistakes that need editing, I greatly appreciate it. I’m thinking this story might turn out to be another book using the Blood Orange characters. I’ve already pulled some in and have some crossover with Jonesy from my Frank Rozzani novels.
So, buckle your seatbelts and lets see how this turns out. If you want to read the previous parts, there are links after this installment of the story:
Road Kill Part 29
All eyes turned toward Maria Colluccio. She was a beautiful, statuesque blonde who was part of navy intelligence. She compensated for the ‘handicap’ of her beauty by being extremely intelligent. She had been instrumental in helping Brad Rafferty crack the case in the infamous Carrier Dome attack and had spent the time since proving that her value was no fluke. Now she had solved a problem that no one else had been able to resolve.
“This building was put up in the 50’s when strip malls were just getting started in Florida,” Maria said. “When Hurricane Andrew hit in 1992, a lot of building codes in Florida were changed based on the devastation that happened to commercial and residential buildings in South Florida.”
“So what does that have to do with this building,” Rafferty asked in an attempt to get Maria to cut to the chase.
“The fire sprinkler system. The code for fire sprinklers in commercial buildings changed. The number of sprinkler head per square yard increased with the new codes. In most commercial buildings, it was cheaper to put in a new system without removing the old one. The old system was just capped off and the pipes were left in place, often functioning as anchors for drop-down ceilings.”
One by one, light bulbs started to go off in the minds of those in the room.
“If we uncap the source, we can thread devices through the pipes,” Jones said. “The spots where the old sprinklers used to be will provide access points for some small surveillance devices. I think I can put together just the kind of gear that will help us do it.”
“The plan sounds good, except for one flaw,” Rafferty interjected. “How do we do it without being noticed?”
“It’s all about timing,” Maria continued undeterred. “I’ve been watching patterns of movement around the building. There is a predictable rotation of guards inside the building and a less frequent rotation outside. When a shift inside the building ends, every eight hours, the departing guards do a sweep around the outside perimeter and then leave. We have about 15 minutes when all of the guards are inside, presumably doing an update, when the shift changes and their attention is not as high as usual.”
“Fifteen minutes would be tight, but doable,” Jones interjected. “We’ll need a day or two to practice.”
“Well, we’ve got three days until the meeting,” Rafferty said. “Ideally, we need to have this stuff in place 24 hours ahead of the meeting. Maria, you and Jones get on this. Report back when you think you’re ready. Take whoever you need.”
Jones and Maria left the room as if they were on fire. They now knew the success of the plan depended on how fast they could work it out. The rest of us continued to sift through the correspondence that Donovan had given us access to. Like all roads leading to Rome, all of the emails and memos led to the meeting on the 27th of August.
We analyzed and cataloged until late in the evening and finally decided we had taken it far enough and headed for our bunks. Rafferty scheduled a meeting for 8 A.M.
The smell of coffee and bacon greeted me when I came into the meeting room at about five minutes before 8. The strength in numbers and the positive forward progress on the plan actually allowed me to get my first good night’s sleep in quite a while. I was surprised to see Jones and Maria at the white board busily plotting out a drawing and some steps.
At 8 A.M. sharp, Rafferty trotted into the room and called the meeting to order. There were no preliminaries. He immediately turned the floor over to Maria and Jones.
“As you know,” Maria started, “Jonesy…er, Mr. Jones and I spent some time working on the deployment of the surveillance gear. We estimated a window of 15 minutes to deploy it and we now have repeatedly finished the process and tested the results in 12 minutes or less. We feel like we’re ready.”
“Maria, you guys did this already?” Rafferty asked. “We just broke at 10 P.M. last night.”
“We worked a little overtime based on how important this is. We wanted to be sure.”
“Well, it’s appreciated. Do you think we’re ready to move on this today?” Rafferty asked.
“Yes,” Maria confirmed. “When the guards change shifts at midnight, we should be ready to do this. It will give us time to run it through with the team a few more times so we have this down like clockwork before they have to leave. I’ll go with them and make sure everything goes smoothly.”
“That’s fine,” Rafferty said. “Just don’t take any chances. These guys are heavily armed and I’ll bet they aren’t letting any intruders off with a warning. The stakes are too high.”
“Mr. Jones is going to stay here and run the app that controls the equipment,” Maria said as she walked through the steps on the white board. “By this time tomorrow, we should have audio and video of what’s going on in the building with the ability to shut it down when they do a sweep.”
“Good work, both of you,” Rafferty said. “This is an important step toward getting some details on Martin-Conway’s plan. Hopefully, she’ll show up for the meeting on the 27th.”
“If she does,” Donovan said from the back of the room, “It will mean that things are coming to a head. That woman doesn’t take risks unless there is something substantial in it for her. Getting eyes and ears on this meeting is huge.”
“Message received,” Maria said. “Thanks for ramping up the pressure.”
Her statement was answered with nervous laughter around the room. It was decided that her team would wear helmet cams so that we could see their progress and pull them out if anything went wrong.
At 6PM, an well-equipped van camouflaged as an electrical utility vehicle was loaded and headed toward Hialeah. It would take them two hours to get there and establish the presence of the van in the neighborhood. The team was equipped with utility uniforms and cones and tools to make their presence more believable.
The tension around the warehouse was palpable. Even though a small team of six went to Hialeah, it felt like everyone was with them counting on their success. The close proximity and common purpose had brought a feeling of family to the group.
At 11:45 P.M. most of us gathered in a conference room to watch the process of installing the bugs. Jones and a small team set up a command center so that they could remotely assist the team. Just before midnight, the graveyard shift guards entered the building, just as Maria had predicted. The big screen in the conference room showed movement from six separate camera feeds. Each person had their own well choreographed job.
We saw the team uncap the unused sprinkler system pipes that had been covered for over 20 years. As the snake that would deploy the devices was fed in, a seventh camera feed showing the inside of the pipe emerged.
For the first four minutes, everything went according to plan. Suddenly, the progress of the snake stopped abruptly and the camera feed went black.
“Jones, what’s happening?” Rafferty asked over the speaker phone connected to the command center. “Why did we lose the feed?”
“No problem,” came the answer. “We planned for this.”
Suddenly, a high pitched sound emanated from the seventh feed and the snake began moving again.
“What was that, Jones?” Rafferty asked.
“We figured that a pipe that’s been covered that long might have some blockages from residue and mineral build up. I put a little high-speed diamond blade at the end of the snake so we could cut through any blockages. We built those delays into our process.”
Rafferty just shook his head. This was a top notch team to begin with. The addition of Jones had raised it to a new level.
After ten minutes, the progress of the snake stopped and Maria reported that they were done and they were about to recap the access point in the pipe. This was the moment of truth. The team scurried back to the van. Jones activated the devices from the command center and all of the feeds on the big screen went black.
“Mr. Jones, what’s going on?” Rafferty asked. “Our feeds are all black.”
“Just a second,” Jones answered. “I just need to calibrate…”
Suddenly all of the feeds came on at once and there were 12 separate screens showing various views of the inside of the building. There was also sound. Jones was able to select a sound feed in the rooms where there was activity going on.
At the moment, there were 12 guards in non-denominational military-style uniforms gathered in a large room. Jones keyed the audio feed and adjusted the volume.
“…no unusual events during today’s eight to four and four to midnight shifts,” the guard who appeared to be in charge said. “Preparations for 16237 are complete. We just need to keep this place secure until then. Does anything have anything else?”
There were no questions and the meeting broke up. Six of the uniformed personnel remained in the building and the others filed out. It was time for the perimeter check. Once it was over, the plan was for the faux utility van to leave and head back to the warehouse. That was the plan.
The satellite feed of the building showed the perimeter scan going as planned until the very end. Two of the guards veered off and headed toward the van.
“Maria, you have two un-friendlies headed your way,” Rafferty said.
The team had planned for this and two of the members of Maria’s team exited the van with some tools and high powered lights and began to collect the cones as the guards walked up.
“Is everything okay here?” one of the guards asked.
“Yeah, some animals got into the transformer and we were here cleaning up the mess and replacing some parts,” one of Maria’s team responded as he motioned toward a plastic bin with spent transformer parts. “Did you experience any power fluctuations in your building?”
“No. None at all. Are you just about done?” the guard asked.
“Yup. We’re just collecting our gear and heading out.”
“Okay. Sorry to interrupt. We just wanted to make sure,” the guard said.
They seemed satisfied as they headed away from the van. Maria’s team members got back inside and the van made it’s way down the street toward the highway.
“That was a close one,” Maria said. “They gave up pretty easily. I guess planning for that contingency was worth it. Thanks to my team for thinking of having the old transformer parts. You can’t be too careful.”
“Just head back to the warehouse, Maria,” Rafferty said. “Great job by you and your team.”
About 90 minutes later, Maria and the team arrived back at the warehouse. There would be around the clock teams manning the command center making sure the surveillance equipment was operating correctly and that any impending sweep for bugs was anticipated.
The next two days was a series of routine meetings with equipment being moved into the building. The day before the scheduled big meeting, more personnel seemed to be present in the building.
At about 4 P.M.on the day of the meeting, some technicians with special equipment made their way into the building. Jones was in the command center with Maria Colluccio.
“This is it,” Maria said. “These guys are going to do a thorough sweep for bugs in anticipation of the meeting.
“I’m on it,” Jones said.
He brought up a console on his monitor and touched a button on the screen that had a skull and crossbones on it.
All of the feeds, both audio and video, immediately went dark except for the satellite feed showing the outside of the building.
“Well that seemed to work,” Maria said.
“Yeah, but that was the easy part,” Jones said. The hard part is going to be getting everything started again. The longer they take to do their sweep, the greater the chance we’ll lose some or all of the feeds.”
It seemed like an eternity before the satellite feed showed the technicians emerging from the building. When they finally did, Jones touched the button again and nothing happened.
“Okay, Mr. Jones,” Maria said, “Did we lose our surveillance?”
“Just give it a little bit longer. It takes a while for them to wake up from their deep sleep.”
The room was quiet until, finally, the feeds began to reappear one by one. After about 90 seconds, all of the feeds were restored.
“See, I told you it would work,” Jones said as he wiped sweat from his forehead.
At 5:45 P.M., activity in the building increased. Something was about to happen. Other faces that had not been seen before began entering the large meeting room. They appeared to be people of considerable power based on how they were treated as they entered.
At just before 6:00 PM, a very familiar face entered the room. It was Secretary Martin-Conway, the big fish. Now we just needed to get her on the hook.
The room quieted with her appearance and everyone seemed to focus on her.
“Welcome. This meeting is the culmination of months of planning. Now, let’s move forward as you help to change history and we seek to make America strong again.”
The meeting room in the warehouse was ominously quiet as we watched what was unfolding. The meeting was historic, but not in a good way.
Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9, Part 10, Part 11, Part 12, Part 13, Part 14, Part 15, Part 16, Part 17, Part 18, Part 19, Part 20, Part 21, Part 22, Part 23, Part 24, Part 25, Part 26, Part 27, Part 28