(Continued from Part 7: The Dark Web)
I recognize Morales’ voice. Pushing the door open, I see Patterson, Morales, and Newton sitting around the office beyond. It’s obviously Morales’, as he is slumped in the only comfortable chair in the room. Patterson is sitting on a hard side chair, and Newton has pulled up a cardboard box that looks to be collapsing under his weight. Looks like our Paulie left his fighting weight back in the Corps.
I let Maggie enter ahead of me, and we both drop our bags in the pile of others near the door. She then steps aside, as the rest of us exchange that weird bro-hug thing that guys do. Then Patterson pulls Maggie over and gives her a peck on the cheek.
“I see you found her, Cameron.”
I smirk. “It’s more like she found me, as you well know, smartass.”
I turn to the others, whose faces reflect their confusion at the unknown beautiful woman in our midst. “Guys, this is Maggie Murphy. She is…was… Jimmy Flanagan’s cousin.”
They all speak at once, surprise filling their voices, as recognition dawns. The family resemblance is marked, especially once you know it exists.
I introduce Carlos and Paulie, and then add, “And, of course, you already know Ed.”
Patterson chuckles. “indeed. Maggie is our—and Lafcadio’s--secret weapon.”
The smile on Maggie’s face is intriguing. And now we’re all confused.
“We’ll talk about that later. Right now, let’s put the final touches on it. Tomorrow is the big day.”
Carlos Morales nods. “Come on into my little command center.” He gives Patterson a smirk as he says it. We all know who’s in command here.
He turns and walks over to a door on the opposite side of the small office just as I’m wondering where we are all going to sit. On the other side is a spacious room, looking more like the squad room on a TV cop show than anything else. On one side is a large conference table surrounded by half a dozen desk chairs. Scattered around the rest of the space are several computer stations, too small to be called desks, but big enough to hold a large monitor and some paperwork. Beneath each is a pull-out tray with a keyboard and mouse, and on the floor, a CPU. On two of the walls hang large white boards covered in notations, photographs, and diagrams. The fourth wall has a projection screen hanging in front of it.
“Wow.” Paulie Newton speaks for all of us. Carlos’ little command center ain’t so little.
For the next several hours, we sit around the conference table, talking about what’s going to happen tomorrow and the work that’s led up to it.
“Our go time is just before 9am,” Ed begins. “I’m confident that no one has caught wind of our plans. I’ve got ears on every phone conversation in Alcázar’s headquarters. And through those phones, I know where all the key players are. So far, it’s business as usual, such as it is.”
“What do you mean?” Maggie asks.
“Well, you know what Alcázar Sentinel Security is.” She nods. “They provide military-style security and training to customers here and abroad. Of course, we know they were in Afghanistan to ‘protect’ the NATO forces we were attached to.” Paulie makes a rude noise at that. “But they’ve got lots of big multi-national corporate clients too, companies worried about kidnappings, theft, technology espionage, etc.”
“Talk about having the fox guard the hen house,” I comment.
“Right. Because, yes, Alcázar is just as billed. But they are so much more. Their client roster offers a buffet of bounty laid out for the taking, just like the opium trade in Afghanistan. Needless to say, business as usual is quite profitable for our friend Adam Knight.”
Maggie looks at Patterson. “So, if Alcázar is all that, how are you able to bug their phones undetected? I would think their security would be a huge obstacle.”
Ed smiles. “I haven’t bugged the phones, Maggie. ‘Bugged' isn’t quite the right word, but I bugged their freaking towers. So to speak.”
Morales laughs. “Adam Knight is no match for Mr. Telecom Patterson here. Conquering stumbling blocks is easier when the conqueror Is in tune with the infinite. Except Ed here wrote the tune. Maybe we should call him Pa Bell.”
“And speaking of key players,” Ed adds, “Knight is in town, happily ensconced in his office. Right where we need him to be. Good work on that, Corcoran.” He’s referring to the interview that I’ve arranged for Knight. It’s to be filmed in his office tomorrow morning and aired on the evening news. The man never passes up a change to get his face in front of the camera.
Paulie Newton pipes up. “Not that it matters, but speaking of his office… You should see the fucking place.” He pauses to offer a gesture of apology to Maggie.
“No problem, Paulie,” she says. “I’ve heard worse.” As she speaks, she gets up to look at the white boards.
He goes on. “The ceiling has a mural painted on it, with this giant crystal chandelier thing hanging from the center. And there is gold all over the place, on walls, the furniture, even the fixtures in the frigging bathroom. It is fucking ugh-ly.”
“Just so long your personal touches to the décor are in place,” Patterson says.
“No worries in that regard.” Newton winks. “All taken care of.”
Patterson turns to Morales. “How about your digital décor, Carlos? Everything good?”
“Yep. All set and ready to go. I’ve drawn a diagram on the board over there, showing all the connections. It’s like a system of hidden tunnels. Very commando of me, if I do say so myself.”
“I was just looking at that. It’s fucking brilliant.” Maggie winks at Paulie as she says it. “I’m impressed.”
Newton gets to his feet, and gives his best Lord Plushbottom bow to Maggie.
~After my long day, fueled by only a blueberry scone and the hot dog Paulie had run out to buy from a Sabrett’s cart on Fifth, I’m starving, and pretty damned tired. I can tell the others are feeling the same way, and Patterson takes notice.
Before winding things up for the day, he suggests we check the boxes and make sure we are good to go. He and Morales take seats at a computer, and soon their fingers are flying over the keyboards.
"I see no footprints in any of the systems I've used for my bit," Carlos Morales says. "Everything looks good. Hard to spot, easy to find," he chuckles. "At least with the map we're gonna give 'em."
"Excellent." Ed Patterson scrolls though several screens of data on his monitor. "Call logs show nothing out of the ordinary. And Knight is in the residence. I won't bother checking on the others. The interview tomorrow will be a command performance. They'll be there."
"I'm sure they will," I comment. "The man loves an audience."
"I've got nothing much to add," Paulie says. "I checked everything I put in place last night after hours. It's all right where I left it."
"Good. Maggie, are you ready?"
She winks, and reaching down to pat the purse at her feet, says, "Sure am. I can't wait."
The others and I look at each other, eyebrows raised. None of us know her role yet, but I'm sure we'll find out. Patterson must have his reasons. He always does.
With a clap of his hands, he announces, "OK, I think that's it. Good work, everyone. Carlos, I believe you’ve arranged for dinner and our accommodations?”
“Yes, indeed. Grab your bags, and follow me.”
He walks over and raises the projection screen, revealing a small elevator behind it. We all crowd in, no small feat, what with our bags and coats. Morales pushes a button and up we go. When the door opens, we find ourselves in an apartment on the top floor. I’d heard about these “secret” library apartments, established by Carnegie for the custodians who had to tend the library’s coal furnace back in the day. There was one in every branch, but most have either been repurposed or fallen into disrepair. But here in the main library, the apartment has not only been maintained, it has been expanded and refurbished. Pretty damn sweet, far better than my walk-up in the Village.
“Here you go. Welcome to one of New York’s best kept secrets.” Morales leads us in with a sweep of his arm. “There are three bedrooms. The guys will bunk up two to a room, and, Maggie, you’ll take the other. Both rooms have a bath.”
“Not too shabby,” Paulie Newton says with a grin as he wanders around the living room. "Not too shabby at all.”
“I’ve ordered pizza to be delivered to the catering kitchen downstairs. While I run down and get it, help yourselves to a beer. The refrigerator’s stocked.”
~After we’ve eaten every morsel of pizza, and possibly part of the boxes, Patterson raises his bottle.
“This is it, guys, the end of a long path to justice. I think we’ve done it. Tomorrow we can finally put the end to Adam Fucking Knight and his merry band of criminals. Here’s to Jimmy, the Lion Who Shot Back, and the end of the line.”
“To Jimmy and the end of the line! Lafcadio!”
To be concluded in Part 9: The Glurpy Slurpy Best-of-All
(Credit, and thanks, to author Shel Silverstein.)
(Credit, and thanks, to author Shel Silverstein.)
Posted for River of Mnemosyne Challenge No. 8, Muse 8: “Conquering the Stumbling Blocks Comes Easier When the Conqueror Is in Tune with the Infinite.”