Master Post on my LJ
Master Post at sentinelbigbang
Warehouse, industrial area off of exit 209, I-25, Denver
Sunday, near to midnight, August 19, 2001
Jim stood next to Greer on the loading dock of the run down old warehouse with its cracked and potholed parking lot and watched as Blair expertly backed up their rented truck into the left docking bay. A semi occupied the right bay, and Jim knew that Blair's cargo would be transferred to the larger truck. Greer, by paying Jim in cash for the illegal guns, was only the first in line to take the bait. The rest of Team Seven was in place to follow the semi to the bigger shark that Greer was supplying with guns. This was going to be a major bust and Jim was more than ready to give up his identity as Jim Anderson, right-wing gunrunner, and go with Blair back home to Cascade.
Jim knew all of Team Seven's positions, and he trusted them to pull his and Blair’s nuts out of the fire, if the deal soured. But so far, everything had gone like clockwork. Greer touched his arm, as Blair turned off the ignition.
“As soon as the cargo is counted and loaded, then you can leave, Anderson. I’ll call you when I need to place an order again.” Greer motioned for Jim to open the back of the truck, and then the two of them settled to the business of opening crates, counting guns, and repacking them. When they’d finished, Greer’s men used hand trucks to load the semi, and Jim settled with Greer, counting the money carefully.
Almost done. He and Blair would drive away and meet up with Chris, the money logged as evidence and the semi followed to the meeting with Greer and the bigger shark. The deal would almost certainly be concluded tonight, Greer quickly passing on the arms for cash or drugs, to decrease his chances of being caught holding the goods.
He waited for Greer to indicate that he was free to go, but a blond man with a worried expression on his face had sidelined Greer. Jim listened to the two men speak and decided he and Blair needed to haul ass out of there immediately. Greer’s driver was sick, probably with food poisoning, and couldn’t hardly stand up, let alone drive an eighteen-wheel tractor-trailer. Of the three other drivers Greer’s men had tried to contact, one’s cell phone was disconnected, one was drunk and in no shape to drive, and the third driver’s wife said he had taken a load down to Houston this afternoon and wouldn’t be available to drive till Tuesday.
Jim had just opened the truck passenger door when Greer called out for him to wait.
He turned around, hiding his dismay; he knew where this was heading.
Greer strode over. “Anderson, I’ll have one of my men drop you off where you can get a cab or if you prefer he can take you back to your vehicle. I need your driver.”
Jim said mildly, “Don’t think he’s got time to help you out, Greer. He’s got family waiting up for him.”
Greer’s expression darkened. “Not your business anymore, Anderson. I need a driver, and he’ll do.”
Crap. Jim knew it would look suspicious if he kept objecting, but having his partner witness the second transaction would put him at risk. Blair would be alone, without immediate backup, and Greer or the other buyer could decide he was expendable.
Greer pulled the door open and appraised Blair. Apparently Blair passed his inspection because Greer said, “My driver’s sick. Do you have a CDL?” Jim willed his partner to say no, but instead Blair nodded. Greer said, “Let me see it.” Blair pulled his fake license out his wallet and passed it over. Greer studied it a moment, then gave it back. “Okay, Jacobs. You’re going to drive the semi and I’ll make it worth your while. I need this shipment delivered tonight, and we’re loaded and ready to go.”
“How long will this take? My wife thinks I’m just out at a bar, but she’ll give me holy hell if I come back to her mother’s house really late. And can I get out of this truck, now? I’d like to stretch my legs and use the john, before I have to drive again.”
“You understand that this is private business, Jacobs? You don’t need to know what’s in the truck; it’s in your best interest not to be curious. And your wife is your problem. There’s a bathroom through that door.” Greer pointed to the far corner of the loading dock. He didn’t answer Blair’s question about how long he could expect to be tied up tonight.
Blair hopped out of the truck and walked around to Jim. “How about you pay me now, Anderson? If you have any more work for me, you can get in touch with me at Mickey’s. I’ll come back here later tonight or in the morning…” Blair glanced over at Greer for confirmation, and Greer nodded, “And I’ll drive the rental truck back to where you rented it. I’ll just park it; you can come by and do the return paperwork.” Blair turned his attention to Greer. “Just how much are you going to pay me? I’m trying to knock off some of my mother-in-law’s medical expenses for her surgery, and a nice chunk of change would sure help to smooth things over with the wife.”
Greer named a figure, and Blair made agreeing noises while Jim pulled out four hundred dollars and passed them to Blair, making sure that his fingers touched his partner’s. It was just a fleeting caress, but he knew Blair would take it as a promise that they would be together again soon. Blair smelled nervous, but he was putting on a good front. His partner had guts, and Jim reminded himself that Blair was smart and thought fast on his feet. But Jim felt his own stomach tighten knowing that his guide would be in danger and he wouldn’t be there beside him.
Jim hated leaving Blair in such a precarious position, but it would be worse to make Greer wonder why he didn’t want “Jacobs” to earn some extra cash. Blair shoved Jim’s money in his jeans pocket and told Greer he’d be ready to go in five minutes. He gave a sketchy wave to Jim and walked off towards the bathroom. Greer motioned for one of his men, a hulk with tattoos covering his forearms, to come over and gave him orders to take Jim where he wanted to go. He was careful not to give Jim’s name away to his man, and Jim could see why it’d been difficult to really get any solid evidence on Greer, the way he kept things on a need to know basis with his men.
Greer reminded him that he’d be in touch soon, and Jim heard the dismissal in Greer’s tone. He followed the tattooed driver to a dark blue truck parked outside the warehouse and left his partner alone in the lion’s den.
Corner of Lincoln St. and E. 8th Ave, Denver, Colorado
Monday, two-thirty am, August 20, 2001
Chris blew down the mostly deserted city streets, anxious to get on Interstate 70 and wrap up this bust. Giving up a night’s sleep was a small price to pay to nail their quarry, but he didn’t like it that Blair was on his own, without immediate backup. He figured Jim Ellison was not a happy camper.
Buck had called to pass along where Ellison had told his driver to drop him off; he and JD would keep tailing the semi, sentinel style.
“I see him.”
Vin pointed to the far side of the Seven-Eleven on the corner of Lincoln, its bright lights beckoning late night wanderers to find refuge, and Chris pulled his truck up to the gas pump and hopped out. JD had suspected from what he was overhearing from Greer’s men that it might be a couple of hours before Blair reached his destination. The last thing they needed was to run out of gas just when the buy was going down. Ellison squeezed into the back seat of the truck cab, a large sports bag in his hand. Chris finished pumping, paid, climbed back into his truck, and headed for I- 70.
“That the money, Jim?” Vin asked.
Jim looked tense and unhappy at the turn of events. “Yeah. Damn it, everything was on track until Greer’s driver got sick. Blair… well, if he’d turned down the job it would have looked suspicious. JD and Buck are still on his tail, aren’t they?” Vin nodded and relayed the latest report.
Chris said, “Blair knows to keep his head down, and as soon as Greer completes the buy, we’ll move in.”
Chris remembered the stories Ezra and Jim had told about Blair outwitting some of Kincaid's Sunshine Patriot boys, armed only with a bathroom stall door and a vending machine. Blair was clever and quick-witted; he'd be fine.
Jim listened, but made no comment. Chris filled the silence by going over the surveillance plan once again. Hours passed as they followed the breadcrumb trail that JD and Buck left for them, traveling east on Interstate 70 and exiting onto a lonely highway in Lincoln County.
“You two should try to get some sleep while you can,” Chris suggested.
Ellison gave a curt shake of his head. Well, Chris guessed that if it was his partner in this sticky situation, that he wouldn’t be nodding off either.
Vin interrupted his thoughts by saying quietly, “Reckon I’d rather sit a spell with you, Chris. You might need me to talk to you, to keep you awake,” and damn if that wasn’t exactly like Vin to make sure you knew he had your back.
They left Lincoln County, the high plateau prairie lands continuing into Cheyenne County, darkness still covering the land. Chris calculated that it would be sunrise in about forty-five minutes; they’d driven a good three hours since leaving Denver.
He’d been in contact with all of his team during the long drive, and speculation was running as to where Greer intended to transfer the weapons to his buyer. There sure as hell wasn’t much in the way of towns out in this part of Colorado. They’d just passed through Kit Carson, population a proud 253, according to the sign on the outskirts of the small town, before turning onto Highway 59.
Shortly after heading south, Chris’ cell phone rang, its shrill tones invading the silence. Chris listened to Buck’s newest report and a predatory grin broke over his face. He supposed Ellison had listened in to what Buck had said, but for Vin’s sake, he repeated the news after disconnecting from his old friend.
“We know where the transfer is taking place. It's in Kiowa County. Blair’s been getting friendly with the man riding shotgun in the semi, getting him to talk about the area, and the guy told him about Brandon, a ghost town a few miles past the airstrip they’re headed for. He’s promised Blair that after they stop and move the cargo to the plane, he and Blair will pass through the ghost town on their way to Garden City, Kansas, where the remaining legit goods will be transferred. He said they could take a break, since the boss will head back to Denver, and he’ll show Blair the old buildings that were built in the 1800’s and abandoned some eighty years ago. There’s also a site of an Indian battle nearby, but he told Blair that it wasn’t open to the public. Blair’s trying to get him to show it to him anyway.”
Jim grinned, pride in his partner written over his face. Hearing that Sandburg was working to gain them intelligence, that he was okay and using his head, seemed to have relaxed him.
Chris said thoughtfully, “I’d like to know where that airstrip is at, but I’m a little leery of calling the Kiowa County Sheriff’s department. What if they’ve been paid to turn a blind eye to what’s going on in their county? We’ll bring the locals in after the bust.”
Vin rubbed his chin and said, “Call Mary. That lady’s got the resources to track down the airstrip’s location.”
“Good idea.” He tossed the phone to Vin. “Check with Mary. Tell her she can have an exclusive on the story, afterwards.”
He glanced up at the mirror to meet Ellison’s eyes. He sent a wordless message that Blair would come out of this all right and in one piece. Ellison nodded slightly, and returned to watching the flat landscape of the grasslands as the truck sped south into Kiowa County.
Keller Private Airstrip, Kiowa County, Colorado
Monday, 6:20am, August 20, 2001
Blair’s contemplation of the beauty of the Colorado sunrise ended when Masters, his truck driving buddy for the last four hours, yanked open the driver’s door of the semi and grinned up at him.
“Bobby, ol’ pal, get your ass down here. Boss man said for you to help load the plane. And the sooner that baby’s up in the air, the sooner we can take off to Brandon to check out the ghost town.”
Crap. Jim was going to love that. Blair had planned on staying right there in the semi, nicely tucked out-of-the-way, so that when the bust happened he wouldn’t be exposed to possible gunfire or grabbed as a hostage. But he could hardly refuse an order from his employer. He’d repeat Master’s words, hoping that either JD or Jim was listening. He had to take it on faith that they had successfully followed him to this small, private airstrip. No wonder Greer had picked this place; it was so out in the hind end of nowhere that a fucking UFO could land here and nobody would notice.
“Man, I’m getting paid to drive the truck, not to load and unload. So, I’m supposed to help transfer cargo from the truck to that plane out there?” Blair didn’t have to work to put a grumbling edge to his comment. After being up all night he felt tired.
Masters lost his grin. “There ain’t no union for this kind of work, and you don’t want to piss off the boss. You listen to me, Bobby. If Greer tells you to move you say, ‘Yessir, how high should I jump?’ He pays good money, but you don’t want to get fired by him. You understand what I’m saying to you? He won’t need you once we deliver the rest of the load to Garden City. You want the chance to make up with your wife, don’t you? Well, you can’t do that if you’re six feet under the sod.”
Blair’s eyes widened. “Are you saying he’s liable to shoot me if I give him trouble?”
Masters said quietly, forcefully, “You wouldn’t be the first guy he decided was expendable and who disappeared. So don’t give him any lip and c’mon down here and help. You’re lucky I’m the one who came to get you out of your nice warm cab; I won’t say anything to him.”
Blair followed Masters to the rear of the truck; Greer handed several heavy closed crates to him and he stacked them on a hand dolly and wheeled it over to the plane. Greer must have taken out the guns from their hiding places among the other cargo and repackaged them. Made sense he supposed; that plane could only hold so much weight. He handed the first crate up to the young man with Asian features standing in the plane’s doorway and had to work hard to keep from reacting.
Shit! Shit! Shit! He recognized Greer’s buyer. He was a member of a crime gang Jim dealt with years ago in Cascade. Jim and the ATF had arrested this man’s brother, a prominent member of the Yakuza, the Japanese Mafia, for buying arms from Maya Carasco’s father. One of Carasco’s men had rolled over when arrested and implicated Furukawa Akio. There was enough illegal armaments found in Furukawa’s possession from previous deals with Carasco that he'd received a prison sentence. This guy had come to the trial and had sent menacing looks towards Jim for testifying against his older brother.
If Blair recognized the younger Furukawa, did he recognize Blair? He had spent plenty of time with Jim during that trial. Furukawa’s little brother might make him and then his cover would be blown, and he could be killed before Team Seven and Jim could break this party up.
Blair handed a second crate up to him and avoided making eye contact. But after he had lifted up the last box, Furukawa nudged him with his foot and stopped him from turning away.
“You. Have we met before?”
“Ah, I don’t believe we’ve been introduced.” That was true, and the best lies were misdirections. “Bobby Jacobs. Say, that’s a nice plane you’ve got here. What kind is it? It’s good that it can use a runway on a little airstrip like this. Me, I’m much more comfortable staying on the ground. I’d rather drive a truck than fly any day. But it’s cool that folks can enjoy flying. Do you enjoy flying? Or maybe you just tolerate it for work purposes?”
Masters calling his name interrupted Blair’s attempt at drowning the man in a sea of babble.
Blair smiled brightly at Furukawa. “Ah, hi–ho and all that. Back to the salt mines for me.” He turned his back and hustled back to the truck. Oh, man. As best as he could recall, he’d worn his hair tied back during the trial; his hair was down this morning and blowing around his face. Maybe that would keep Furukawa from remembering just why Blair had seemed familiar to him.
Crap. When were Jim and the other guys going to make their move? They’d surely witnessed enough of the transaction to bag both Greer and Furukawa.
Maybe they were having a hard time getting close enough without being noticed. There wasn’t a lot of cover around here. Shit, they would probably have to sneak up on foot. Maybe they needed him to come up with a diversion. He could do that; he could come up with something that would draw attention away from the perimeter of the airstrip. But would they be ready to move yet?
He’d made about twenty more trips back and forth from truck to plane along with the rest of Greer’s men, Furukawa staring perplexedly at him whenever he handed more guns up to the man, when he decided that he’d try to contact Chris. They were almost done loading up, and if they didn’t make their move soon, it would fly off to who knows where.
“Hey, I need a bathroom break.”
Masters gave a snort. “Can’t you wait till we’re done and the plane’s out of here?”
“Sorry, but I’m regular like clockwork and my alarm is ringing. I’ll --” and he tilted his head towards the small building next to the hanger.
Masters waved him on and returned to his work. Blair hustled over to the building and went inside and located the office. Locked, damn it. He felt over the doorway for a key but came up with nothing.
C’mon, c’mon. Tell me there’s a key hidden around here. He looked around and noticed a large fake plant at the end of the hallway, next to a rickety bench. This place was rundown and pared to only essentials; there were no pictures on the wall or anything else decorative. That plant was out-of-place. He walked over to it and lifted it. Sure enough, there was a key just waiting for him. He picked it up and after a quick look to make sure he was alone, he went inside and grabbed the cordless phone. He left the office with it and went into the bathroom, used the facilities – he hadn’t entirely been faking about the clockwork thing – and keeping an eye on the outside door, he dialed Chris’ cell phone.
”Larabee,” Chris answered quietly.
“Chris, it’s Blair. Look, when are you planning on starting this shindig? Do you need a diversion?”
“Jim saw you enter that building. Stay there, okay. Hide. Nobody wants you in the line of fire.”
“Yeah, I don’t want me in the line of fire, either. But man, it’s pretty flat out there, how are you going to get close enough to get the drop on these guys?”
We’re moving in now, low to the ground.”
“Look, you need a diversion. I’ll think of something and when everybody notices whatever I’m going to come up with, then you can make your move. It’ll be a lot safer for you guys.”
Blair shut the phone off before Chris could respond and actually order him to stay in the building. Now to come up with something spectacular. He considered an explosion, but there was fuel stored on this property and he didn’t want a fire getting out of hand. Man, that plane would be getting ready to leave soon. He needed to come up with something right the hell now.
Think, Blair, think.
And then he had an idea.
Chris made sure his cell phone was still on vibrate and thrust it back in his pocket. He whispered to JD, “Ask Ellison if he thinks Sandburg will stay put in that building.”
JD and Buck and Josiah were with him, and Ellison, Ezra, Vin and Nathan were together further away. Having a sentinel in each group made quiet communication possible. JD tilted his head and whispered that Ellison had heard what Blair had said and that there wasn’t a snowball’s chance in hell that he’d stay safely put.
They planned on converging on the airstrip in two parallel directions, and hopefully not shoot each other.
Okay. Guess they’d wait for the diversion that Blair promised them before their final move, but they could lessen the distance some. They’d parked the vehicles a good half-mile away, behind a barn, and had moved up as close as they could before the darkness faded from the sky. There were a few Cottonwood trees near a dry creek bed that could give them some cover as they crept in nearer to the airstrip, but that was about it. There was a house on the property, probably belonged to the owner of the airstrip, but it was too far away to be of any use.
They were in their new positions, using the scant trees as cover and they watched as the rest of the guns were all transferred to the plane -- Josiah recognized it as a Short 360, built to haul a heft amount of cargo -- and Chris realized that they might not be able to wait for Blair’s diversion, when JD nudged him.
“Blair’s left the building. He’s heading towards the plane,” he said softly.
The team watched Blair arrive at the cargo door of the aircraft. “He’s telling the guy in there and the pilot that his boss asked if they would meet him in the office.”
Blair ducked around to the other side of the plane, where he would be hidden from casual observation. Two men climbed out, suitcases in hand, and headed toward the building Blair had come from.
JD frowned, and whispered, “He just said, ‘Here goes nothing.’”
Silence. The gun buyer and pilot reached the building and went inside. JD quietly reported that Greer, still in the back of the truck, wondered aloud what Furukawa thought he was doing and followed the two men.
The loud sound of an engine starting up broke the silence.
Chris’ group exchanged glances, as they realized just what Blair was planning for this diversion.
“Get ready,” Chris told the others quietly, and drew his weapon.
Startled men dropped what they were doing and started converging on the plane. Greer, Furukawa, and the pilot ran out of the building, chasing after the plane that was slowly taxiing down the runway. Then the plane did a 360-degree turn, and headed straight for the group of men who were screaming and yelling and pulling guns out of jackets.
“Sweet Jesus, here he comes,” Buck breathed out in awe.
The plane gathered speed, and did some zigzagging as it careened down the runway back to where the truck was parked, scattering men as it headed straight for them.
Greer's and Furukawa's men fired at the tires, apparently trying to blow out them out, but they missed.
Blair kept the plane right on going towards the end of the runaway right towards the team. He wasn’t going fast enough to take to the air and Chris didn’t think Blair knew how to fly. He’d had the distinct impression that Blair didn’t really like heights. So he’d have to either stop or turn onto the driveway, which would take him right past the trees they were using for cover and out to Highway 96.
Chris held his breath and cursed as a bullet hit the tire, causing the plane to wobble on its turn. Blair continued moving, the plane bouncing and swaying as it sped past the ATF agents and Ellison.
The sound of men running after the plane, guns in hands, came closer and as they came within target distance, Chris bellowed out, “ATF. Stop and place your guns on the ground, and lie down with your hands spread.”
Panting, the men stopped in confusion, including Greer, and when Chris repeated his instructions, several complied, curses practically turning the air blue.
Not everybody obeyed. Furukawa and one of Greer’s men aimed shots towards Chris' covering stand of trees. A volley of gunfire rang out, and Furukawa jerked back as he was hit, falling to the ground. The other man dropped his gun and imitated the other men already lying stretched out on the ground.
Both groups moved out then, securing weapons and handcuffing prisoners. Nathan attended to the wounded man. The sound of the aircraft engine had died shortly after passing them, and Ellison looked over at him and smiled.
“He’s okay. Kind of pumped up and he was talking to himself the entire time he was shanghaiing that plane. He’s gonna be up and down like a pogo stick for a while till he calms enough to center himself. I’m heading over there, all right?”
Chris waved him off, and while Josiah read the Miranda rights to the arrested men, he proceeded to give an early morning call to the Kiowa County Sheriff’s department and requested back up and an ambulance. There was gonna be a shit load of mopping up to do – paperwork to complete and they would have to inventory the guns on site -- and he sure was curious about what was in the suitcases Furukawa and the pilot had carried into the building. Money or drugs, he was betting.
Except for the court hearings, this would wrap up the investigation. Maybe they could wring some more intelligence out of these perps, somebody might take a deal so they could follow the pipeline of drugs and guns to another source.
But all he wanted for today was to secure the evidence, lock up his prisoners, and take his team home, including the Cascade contingent. Eat barbeque on his patio, offer some well-earned beers to his teammates, and afterwards, sit back and listen to the teasing that overlay the care they felt for each other.
Yep. Sounded like a plan to him.