tagNon-EroticEnvironmental Hazards Ch. 03

Environmental Hazards Ch. 03

byWifeWatchman©

This story is part of an ongoing series. The chronological order of my stories is now listed in WifeWatchman's biography.

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constructive criticism is very much appreciated, and I encourage feedback for ideas.

This story contains graphic scenes, language and actions that might be extremely offensive to some people. These scenes, words and actions are used only for the literary purposes of this story. The author does not condone murder, racial language, violence, rape or violence against women, and any depictions of any of these in this story should not be construed as acceptance of the above.


Part 11 - Crash and Burn (continued)

"The weather was perfectly clear." said the man from the National Transportation Safety Board that was on the scene, as I looked over the debris field. "There was no call for help, no radio transmissions declaring any problem."

"Two TCPD Officers on their way back from patrolling Point Hollow saw the plane coming down, almost over their heads." said FBI Special Agent Julius Jefferson, who had come over from the City. "They said everything seemed fine, no sputtering of the engine, but the plane just turned nose-down and dived into the earth."

The soil here was low and usually wet and swampy as water collected and ran towards the River from underground springs that bubbled up from the aquifer deep beneath us. The plane had dived straight into the ground, and the soil had swallowed half of it. The rest of the plane, including the tail section, had gone forward with momentum, and pieces were strewn in a line towards the airport, which we could see to our east.

"Forbes & Sehgal company plane?" I asked.

"Yes, Commander." said the NTSB man. "The pilot was named Stewart Payne. He'd piloted this plane for ten years, had 20 years flying experience before that. The plane's maintenance record is spotless; it just had an overhaul three months ago, and flew several times since with no issues reported."

"Where did it fly in from?" I asked.

"According to the filed flight plan, sir," said Julius Jefferson, "it came from Acropolis City, capitol of the State to our east, and the destination was listed as here, County Airport. But the timing is off; it should've been here an hour earlier than it arrived."

I nodded. "You might check with airports in a triangle between northern Midtown, Westphalia, and here. I'll bet Mr. Steinhart was not aboard when the plane left Acropolis City, and it picked him up somewhere not listed on the flight plan." Jefferson made notes.

"So the FBI has you investigating plane crashes, Julius?" I asked him quietly.

Jefferson grinned. "I happened to be in the area, at the Federal Building."

"Care to tell me what you're normally working on with the FBI?" I asked.

Jefferson grinned again. "Same thing I'm always working on, sir: Superior Bloodlines, White Roots. I'm not as well known as Mr. Muscone's team around here, so I've been at the FBI Building going over financial data."

"And maybe relaxing in a few clubs?" I said. "Particularly those in the Tenderloin District?"

"Not much gets by you, Commander." said Jefferson. "Let me ask you, sir: is this plane crash and the environmental lab stuff and that murder in Midtown connected to the white supremacy people in any way?"

"Around the edges, maybe." I said. "But this one keeps coming up Organized Crime."

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

I drove Cindy and myself home and parked the Black Beauty in the far side garage of the Cabin. And when we went inside, I heard a wonderful sound:

"Daddy!"

A three year old future Wildcat rushed me and hugged my legs. I picked Carole up and gave her a kiss on the cheek. "Good morning, Carole! Have you taken good care of Mommy and your brothers for me?"

"Yes, Daddy." said Carole. "And Bow-ser and Bud-dy, too!" Just then Callie and Laura came out of the kitchen.

"Someone has been helping us make pancakes, too." said Callie with her beautiful grin. She and Cindy hugged warmly. "How are you doing, baby?" Callie asked.

"Tired." said Cindy. "Food and some snuggling and sleep sound good right now."

Laura took Carole and gave me a hug and kiss. "I'll bet you're tired, too." she said.

"No, I dozed while Cindy drove." I said. "That's the only way to not have a heart attack at the speeds she drives."

Just then I was rushed by three boys: Jim, Ross, and Ian. We had a good session of 'dogpile Daddy', with Bowser and Buddy coming up to help...

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

At 9:00am, I was awakened from a nap by Molly, who handed me her cellphone. "Midtown PD. They couldn't get you on your phone."

"I'll bet the battery died." I said. I took Molly's phone.

"This is Detective Kimberly Wesson, sir." said the voice at the other end. "Keith Rollins came into our Precinct this morning. He said someone tried to kill him last night..."

Part 12 - Echo Chamber

I was dozing in the shotgun seat of my Police SUV. Detective Theo Washington was driving. He had been on call, and I asked if he would like the chance to drive the Police Commander's SUV. He took the opportunity. My cellphone was charging as we drove; it had indeed died because I'd forgotten to charge it before.

I woke up as we got near Midtown. "Okay, Theo," I said, "you are officially deputized into the SBI Reserve for today. We'll talk later about that possibly becoming permanent." I then gave him all the details of the case to this point.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Instead of going to the Precinct, we first went to Rollins's apartment. There were a lot of magazines strewn about. Also present were Detective Steve Ruger and a couple of Uniformed Officers.

"The Crime Lab has been here and gone." said Ruger. "Back bedroom window shot out; we haven't found that bullet yet. A second bullet was fired into the window and struck the chest of drawers. They dug it out. It's either a .38 Special or 9mmP; we didn't have calipers to measure it here."

"Mmmm," I growled. "That's not good. Crime Lab should always have calipers as part of their equipment."

"Yes sir." said Ruger. "We're working on things like that. Anyway, Rollins said the attack happened about 5:00am. He got down on the floor and called the Police. We got there quickly, and he asked to be brought in to our Precinct. He says he wants to confess, but he wants a lawyer first, so he called one."

I looked around the apartment, then went out back. There were no footprints near the back window, which had been marked off with tape to prevent anyone from marring that area. Good thinking, I thought to myself. Further back was a creek that separated Rollins's apartment complex from another one on the other side. That was interesting, I thought to myself.

"Maybe someone shot at Rollins from a back window of one of those apartments." I said. Theo peered at the apartments.

"We're checking that out, sir." said Ruger. "We're going door-to-door to see if anyone heard or saw anything."

"What do you make of this, Theo?" I asked.

"After shooting Jimmy Shell by breaking into his place," Theo said, "I'm surprised they'd try to kill Mr. Rollins with a shot through the window. So maybe it's not the same killers."

"That's a thought." I said. I kept my mouth shut, but I was a bit displeased with Theo's failure to fully observe this crime scene...

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

At the Precinct, Rollins's attorney had arrived. He was Mr. Dennison, who was our County Employee's Union attorney.

"Mr. Dennison," I said when he came in, "I was not expecting to see you down here."

"Nor I you, Commander." he said, shaking my hand. "I've taken on work for the State Employee's Union, and got a call this morning."

"Okay, why don't you talk to Mr. Rollins, while I talk to these Detectives." I said. Mr. Dennison was taken to talk to Keith Rollins.

"He's scared to death." said Kimberly Wesson. "I think he wants to tell what he knows, in exchange for immunity from anything he might've done, including lying to us earlier."

"I think we can give him that." I said. "But we're going to play him first, not make it easy for him."

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

We went into the interrogation room. A very frightened Keith Rollins was sitting at the table, sweating, his wide eyes seemingly even wider.

Entering the room with me was State Attorney Jenna Stiles, who I'd called and asked to come down. Though Jimmy Shell had been murdered in the Midtown region of the State, Forbes Environmental National Laboratories was in the City's region, so getting a 'neutral party' State Attorney was perfectly legitimate.

After introducing Jenna to Mr. Dennison, we sat down. Mr. Dennison started the conversation: "My client has information that will be valuable in the case of the murder of James Shell. However, due to past conversations with you, as well as other factors, we must have an immunity deal in exchange for his truthful answers and future truthful testimony.

"We need to know just what that information is." I said. "Accessory to murder is a hard charge to dismiss in an immunity deal."

"Accessory to murder? Really?" asked Mr. Dennison, and I didn't know if he was play-acting or was genuinely surprised. Either way, he's a good attorney, I thought to myself.

"Here's what we know." I said. "Despite his earlier claims to the contrary, Mr. Rollins was contacted by James Shell. Mr. Rollins then made his own phone call to Forbes Environmental National Laboratories. Mr. Shell was murdered a short time later. We have solid evidence from other sources that Shell had proof of contamination at the Pine Valley project, and the amount of money invested in that project is staggering. It's definitely motive for murder, and if the killer or killers were alerted by Mr. Rollins's phone call, then he's implicated in that murder."

Rollins was about to speak, but Dennison stopped him. Rollins whispered something, then Dennison spoke: "Even if what you say is true, you can't say my client is guilty of any part of that murder. He can't predict what others are going to do."

Jenna Stiles said: "But if your client was paid to inform that company of any issues at all, that becomes bribery of a State Official. And then we have first degree murder in the commission of a felony. Commander Troy is being generous in discussion 'accessory' or 'conspiracy' charges. Me, I'll go for first degree murder and the Death Penalty if we find you were paid to rat out any whistleblowers, Mr. Rollins." Rollins could not have looked any more scared if he'd tried to.

"I need to talk to my client." said Mr. Dennison. "But before I do... what are you prepared to offer in exchange for what he knows?"

"A suspended sentence." I said. "Essentially parole and no jail time, if your client truthfully answers all questions and truthfully testifies in Court. As part of that, he'll have to agree to resign from the State EPA, and to never again work in a Government job at any level, be it local, State or Federal. You need to understand that you would be pleading guilty to some charges, and that the judge could possibly reject the deal."

Jenna nodded her agreement with those terms. She and I left the room so that Mr. Dennison could save his client from absolute disaster.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Fifteen minutes later, we were called back in. Mr. Dennison said "My client agrees to your terms." Jenna and Rollins signed an agreement of the plea deal in writing.

"Okay," I said, "Mr. Rollins, were you contacted by James Shell, and when?"

"Yes." said Rollins. "Last Wednesday."

"What did Mr. Shell say to you?"

"He told me that he had proof that the Pine Valley project was badly contaminated with organic and metal poisons, and that Forbes Environmental National Laboratories was running fake samples to cover it up." said Rollins.

"What did you say to him?"

"I told him that I could meet with him this weekend, and would call back to arrange a time and place." said Rollins.

"What did you do then?" I asked. "No, let's just cut to the chase here: who at FENL did you call?"

"I called Mr. Brandon as soon as I hung up the phone with Shell."

"Were you paid by Mr. Brandon to report to him if anything like this happened?"

"I was paid in cash in a brown bag in a locker at the Midtown bus station." said Rollins. "I can't tell you that it was Brandon that put it there, but the amounts were exactly what he promised me when we had dinner one night a few months ago. I have a MFR of that dinner." A 'MFR' was a memorandum-for-the-record, which was someone's written account of an event. These sometimes were good enough for Court cases.

"Good, we'll need that." I said. "So you gave Mr. Brandon the information that Shell had contacted you?"

"Yes sir."

"Did Shell say he gave the information to anyone else?" I asked.

"He said his lawyer had the information." said Shell. "He didn't say who the lawyer was, but said he'd bring him to our meeting over the weekend."

"Him?" I asked.

"Yeah, but..." said Rollins, then stopped. "You know, he never said specifically 'he' or 'she'... just said 'my lawyer'."

"Good enough." I said. "Mr. Rollins, were you ever contacted by anyone else regarding contamination at the Pine Valley project site?"

"No." said Rollins.

"What about the Bexall Chemicals site?" I asked.

"That was all hush-hush." said Rollins. "It was common knowledge that it was one of the Bexall sites, but we all pretended that didn't exist. That's the kind of thing that the politicians don't want to hear about, especially U.S. Senator Russell. But to your specific question, that site was never brought up in the Pine Valley project meetings we had with the developers."

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

"We've got enough to go to a Federal judge." I said in the meeting with Jenna, Chief Soltis, Theo Washington, and myself.

"Why Federal?" asked Jenna.

"RICO." I said. "I'm going for Federal as well as State charges on this one. There's plenty of corruption to go around, and maybe we can take some Organized Crime people down. Additionally, the finances can and probably do cross State lines, and we may get to go after all of the FENL facilities in the country. But we'll go for State charges, too... including murder."

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

2:00pm, Saturday, March 25th. I had my case to this point well laid-out and tied up with a bow. The Federal judge did not take long to issue several warrants. I called Tanya Perlman and told her to get her Crime Lab ready for a massive influx of samples.

At 3:00pm I arrived at the Pine Valley site armed with a red crowbar, a Beretta 96 .40 S&W pistol, a warrant, a large team of State Crime Lab techs to take samples, and a massive contingent of State Patrol Troopers, FBI Agents, and even some U.S. Secret Service Agents, all wearing armor and very heavily armed. It was sheer pleasure to see the look on the site foreman's face when I handed him the warrant.

At 4:00pm, give or take, lawyers for M&C Project Development Corp. showed up, but saw quickly that they had no chance to stop what was happening. I did notice they were demanding the names of the sample-takers. I told them that they'd have to wait until the discovery phase of the trial to get that information. The lawyers asked which State Crime Lab would be doing the tests. I said they'd have to wait until the discovery phase of the trial to get that information. I then asked for their names, just in case my people were intimidated or threatened in the future. The lawyers said I'd have to wait until the discovery phase of the trial to get that information. But they shut up and stopped asking for names.

As I oversaw the sample collections in progress, I got a phone call from Chief Griswold. "Just a heads-up, Crowbar." said the Chief. "Governor Jared has been called by U.S. Senator Samuel Russell, who is upset about what you are doing at the Pine Valley Project. The Governor is not one to back down to the Senator, and he pushed back. But be prepared for flak coming your way."

"Thanks, Chief." I said. "It's a great day to take flak in the Klingon Empire." The Chief laughed heartily at that before we said our goodbyes and disconnected.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

It was late that night before all the sampling was finished. The vans taking the samples back to my County's State Crime Lab were guarded by a convoy of State Troopers, who had been sent at the express orders of the Governor of the State, Val Jared. I wondered why he was growing a spine about this, but did not look the gift horse in the mouth.

Lt. Tanya Perlman personally made sure the samples were stored properly and secured, and State Patrolmen were stationed to guard the building and its contents. I took Theo back to his car, then drove home, exhausted. But I had one more duty to do before finally going to bed, and I had a long talk with Laura over a late supper...

Part 13 - Testing, Testing

"This is Bettina Wurtzburg, KXTC Channel Two News!" shouted the lovely redheaded reporterette at 7:00am, Monday, March 27th, from in front of the State Office Building. "Channel Two News has learned that the State Legislature has again worked out a compromise budget bill that is acceptable to the Governor!"

"Sources tell Channel Two News that the one sticking point of the budget, additional money to arrest and turn over undocumented foreigners to the Federal authorities for deportation, was worked around by compromise language." said Bettina. "Over the objections of the Democrat 'Wall of Granite' group led by State Senator Katherine Woodburn, money was put into the budget for 'unspecified' law enforcement activities at the State level, with the Governor have strong discretionary power on where to allocate those funds. Though he can only use the money within existing agencies, critics fear that the Governor will earmark this money to sponsor Police assaults upon undocumented immigrants!"

"And in other State news," said Bettina, "Channel Two News has learned that Paul Brandon, manager of Forbes Environmental National Laboratories, was arrested over the weekend as a suspect in the murder of FENL employee James Shell near Midtown last week. Additionally, State and Federal warrants were issued to conduct new soil and water tests on the project known as 'Pine Valley', as evidence has been obtained that results may have been altered to mask possible contamination on the site."

Bettina went on: "The investigation into the Pine Valley project and the murder of Mr. Shell is in the hands of SBI Reserve Inspector Donald Troy, who is also our TCPD's Police Commander here. Commander Troy issued a statement Saturday that the State Crime Lab would test the samples, and that further investigations will follow based upon the results of the testing."

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

"The Black Beauty is re-armed and ready to go." Cindy reported at the coffee klatch. "My father and his mechanics were trying hard not to be happy like children on Christmas morning at the success of our mission the other night."

I grinned. "It really did perform admirably. Thank goodness I had a capable driver, too, Ms. Kato."

"Thank goodness you can shoot straight." replied Cindy. "So... should I be miffed that you left me behind to do car maintenance while you were having fun serving warrants in Midtown?"

"No, you shouldn't be miffed." I said. "I hope you got some sleep and some good food... and a good couple of days with Callie."

"That I did." Cindy replied, trying to look innocent, and failing badly but happily.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

"This is Priya Ajmani, Five-Alive News In the Morning!" shouted the beautiful Indian reporterette at 8:00am, Monday, March 27th, from in front of the State Crime Lab building just north of the University campus. "We have breaking news about the 'Pine Valley' case! Let's go to trusted reporter John Hardwood for the details! John!"

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