Out of Retirement Ch. 01byDinsmore©
No sex whatsoever . Depending on the response, there will be additional chapters.
"Can I help you, gentlemen?" The voice came from a speaker above the door collocated with a video camera.
"We're federal agents; we'd like to talk to you. Would you step outside please?"
"Do you have a warrant of any kind?"
"Well...no...we just want to chat."
"Hold your identification one at a time up to the video camera---not the badge; hell, you can buy one of those at damn near any pawn shop---the other part. Okay. Now the other one. Are you both out of the local office?"
"Yes, sir, not that I..."
"After I've called the local FBI office and ascertained that you two fellas are indeed who you say you are---I'll get back to you. How long that takes is completely dependent on how screwed up your office is. Awful damn early...not even eight o'clock."
Five minutes passed. The voice again. "Agent Hawkins! What's your dog's name?"
"Agent Wilson. Who is the worst golfer in your office?"
"That would be me."
"Outstanding!" The sound of several significant locks opening followed; the reinforced steel front door swung open.
A trim, fit man of around six feet with piercing blue eyes, a full head of grey hair and a set to the jaw that said he was not a man to be trifled with greeted them.
"Come in. I'm Fred Stevens. Do not touch anything I don't give you permission to touch or look at anything I don't tell you to look at. Your entrance pass is limited to the front hall, the family room, the breakfast nook and the kitchen----that's it. You two can sit there or there. I'm going to sit over here but first, my fresh pot of coffee just stopped dripping. I'm going to have a cup---with real cream and sugar. You're welcome to some; it's an excellent, fresh ground---roasted less than three days ago---Columbian Supremo. I also have bottled water and sweet tea. What's your poison?"
"Coffee sounds good." Both agents replied; one wanted black, the other cream and sugar. In short order the three men settled in the family room.
"How can I help you men?"
"We're investigating an incident across the street at your neighbor's house which occurred at..."
"Pretty damn close to 2:16 A.M. this morning. I should know; I called 911."
"How sure are you of that time?"
"Absolutely sure. I nodded off early; woke up at 1:34 to take a leak. I have a couple of those atomic clocks that are always updating themselves from a radio signal. Decided to have a cup of decaf and a smoke. Opened my MacBook™ to see if anything had happened in the world or if anyone---my kids, old friends---had sent me an email. One thing led to another and I started reading over a story I was working on. At 2:16---remember, I was in front of a computer at the time--- all three dogs went nuts and alerted to the front window. The dogs....they're in the back yard...it's getting damn hot out there...you two aren't afraid of dogs, are you?"
Both men indicated that they were not.
"Good. I'm going to let them in. They'll bark---might even growl---but they won't hurt you...as long as I tell 'em not to."
The man went to the back door and admitted three dogs: a massive blue Great Dane, an oversized grey Weimerarner and a brown sled dog of unknown breed. The dogs barked once each, growled, sniffed and then laid down in a semi-circle in front of the agents. The two larger dogs appeared to nod off; the brown one did not. Her eyes never left the two strangers.
"The little one is the only one you really have to worry about; she's a little pscho when it comes to her homestead...she was an orphan. Where was I? Oh, yes. Anyway, I went to the front of the house and looked out the window---not that I could see anything. I heard two people---a male and a female---talking loudly and with what I would characterize as a sense of agitation. I open the windows at night to let some fresh air in. I heard a front door slam. I heard what I believe was a front door being kicked in. I heard two shots---small caliber handgun, bigger than a .22 and smaller than a .45. Probably a 9 mil or one of those .40s like you guys are carrying now---the .40 Slow and Weak. I heard a car back out of the driveway, clip the mailbox and lay rubber going east.
"I had my cordless in my hand and dialed 911 and got some moron who asked all the wrong questions for at least five minutes before sending a cruiser out. I don't know those folks across the street. They were here when I moved in. We nod at the mailbox occasionally but that's about it. There is or was a young man living there named Brian Evans; he missed the corner here late one night and his car ended up in the middle of my yard---but he was decent enough to leave a note in my mailbox with his name on it apologizing and indicating that he'd get it moved as soon as he got home from work.
"I seriously doubt that I could pick him out of a lineup---never have met him. Same goes for the other man and woman that live over there. I do know the folks on either side of them. I saw lights on in Bobbie's house to the right as we're facing and called her. She wanted to go next door—she use to be an EMT but she's on disability. I urged her not to and suggested that she lock her door. We probably both heard the police siren coming up the main road about a quarter of a mile east so that pretty much ended the discussion.
"The neighbor on the other side---Roger---called me and asked me if I wanted to go over there with him. I said no since it sounded as if the cops were seconds away and I wasn't interested in getting detained, arrested---or shot---by some part time country deputy. About that time we also heard the other sirens---fire and rescue---coming around the corner. The fire station is less than a mile from here.
"I once made the mistake a few years back when I lived in Atlanta of sticking my nose in where it didn't belong---damned near got plugged by some idiot fat-assed local cop. Did in fact end up spending some time in handcuffs in the back of a cruiser and had a couple of baton bruises to show for it. Of course I sued those bastards; got a nice settlement. Paid for this house or most of it. My wife---God rest her soul---caught most of it from the side yard with the video camera. After that, I moved to a more hospitable section of the country and swore off all good Samaritan efforts. Gents, that is all I can tell you, though I do have one question?"
"The voices I heard---one male, one female. Every indication of some sort of domestic altercation. What in the hell are you guys doing in the middle of it?"
"I'm sorry, we can't release any information about..."
"Of course you can't; I understand."
"Do you have any firearms in the house, sir?" asked the younger of the two agents.
"Of course I do. All but one of which are locked in a seven tumbler one ton safe in the basement. The one that is not is in a quick touch gun vault at my bedside. I even have an NFA for a fully automatic weapon. Don't even think of asking if you can see them or for a listing of them---without a warrant."
"Do you own a 9 millimeter handgun, sir?"
"I've owned them, fired them and carried but I don't own any nines any more. They're pretty useless when it comes to the job for which they were designed. Same applies to the .40 S&W. I have some .22 target pistols but everything else is .45 cal or larger."
"A .50 cal Desert Eagle and a Barrett. The NFA piece is an AK---Russian, not Chinese. Never had a round through it. It was a gift."
"Where do you shoot?"
"I have ten acres here; I brought a Bobcat™ in and put in a shooting pit. I let all my neighbors shoot---they all have guns---so no ones complains. There's a pretty nice private club about thirty minutes from here. I used to shoot competitively---IPSC, IDPA, 1000 yard. Since I got into writing I just don't seem to have time for competitive shooting anymore. I've still got good reflexes but the eyes aren't what they once were."
"I take it you are retired, sir?"
"Twice. Seventeen years in the USMC until a sniper took out my right knee. Today things are different---they'd probably let me stay on active duty but back then, not a chance. The knee---Titanium---better than the original...100% disability. Pretty funny when you consider that I still ride a bike ten miles a day at least four days a week."
"You said you retired twice?"
"Twenty-four years with the feds---retired at fifty-eight...three years ago. Border patrol, then CIA and finally DEA—until some Mexican drug dealer took out my left hip---I did get the bastard. Also Titanium...long damn rehab but I don't even walk with a limp. My second dose of 100% disability. I did some private---government contractors--- security work for a couple of years but it just wasn't the same and I got bored."
"I'm a Marine; what did you do in the Corps?" asked Agent Wilson.
"A tour in Vietnam with the 3rd...Recon Platoon...sniper. OCS and TBO, back to the fleet, then an education, then back to the fleet. Retired as a light colonel...Battalion CO. Got shot in one of those places we weren't really supposed to be in a shooting war."
"You moved around."
"Border patrol was the only agency that would take me with a 100% disability at the time. I had some language skills and as the world changed, the CIA came courting. I wasn't a non-official---I was a glorified translator but the money was good. DEA gave me a chance to get back into the game. Then that Mexican prick pretty much ended it. I could have stayed on in an admin role but the disability kicked me up to a full pension. My kids were having kids, I didn't like where the government wanted me to live, always wanted to try my hand at writing but never seemed to have the time---so here I am."
"I speak and read Arabic fluently. My Farsi is decent. A few other languages with varying degree of proficiency."
"Do you have an internet connection? We're supposed to be getting those air cards but they're backordered," said Agent Hawkins as he retrieved his laptop from his briefcase.
"Sure. Do you have a WiFi card?"
"I use WPA-PSK with a 64 character hexadecimal string. Even at that, unless I authorize the access by a specific computer---yours---it won't work. When you're ready, I've got the passphrase on a 1 gig USB drive. When you're ready to access the net---and before you sign in to your VPN (Virtual Private Network)---you'll need to insert the drive---and then I'll need to enter a twenty-four character confirmation code and then, when the ping comes in, I'll have to authorize your specific computer from one of my own."
"I think I've got it."
Within a few minutes, Agent Hawkins was into the FBI database. "Fast connection."
"It's essentially an SDSL line for the price of an ASDL with 801.11n WiFi which is to say, the slowest link in the chain is your 801.11g WiFi card."
"Says here that you still have a Top Secret clearance?"
"Well, now you know something about me that I didn't know. I assumed that had expired or been terminated."
"Carry license as a retired federal agent?"
"That I did know but I avoid places where I might need a concealed weapon. At least it means I can keep the gun loaded in my car."
"Navy Cross...Jesus! You didn't mess around back in the Corps! Semper-fi!"
"Oo-rah and all that."
"You weren't exactly a peon at DEA."
"Which is why I probably shouldn't have been out in the mesquite where I could get shot."
"You passed over the education---a law degree?"
"Never joined the bar---never practiced law. Needed an advanced degree to climb to the next federal level and since they were paying for it---what the heck?"
"Your CIA stint...hardly a glorified translator."
"Titles are so worthless."
"Technically you could have stayed in federal service to sixty-five---even sixty-seven with a critical specialty waiver---even longer in an appointed position. You're only sixty-one."
"My wife got sick; I wanted to be with her that last year. Now I've got grand children. I travel a little, mostly to see my family and friends. She had a good career...life insurance. We were never big spenders. With two maxed out pensions, 401k's, insurance, decent investments...I'm more than comfortable. I've done my time and served my country."
"That you have, sir. I'd like to ask you to serve for just a little bit longer and it won't require you to go any farther than across the street. I just emailed your file highlights to my boss but I'm pretty sure what the response will be," injected the senior agent, Wilson.
"Something more than a domestic dispute?"
"No, that's exactly what it was---but it's what caused the dispute, what the woman---now deceased---who lived in that house discovered in the basement."
"Please don't tell me that my EOD (Explosive Ordinance Demolition) training as a Marine might be something I want to dredge out of the recesses of my mind."
"We have an EOD team enroute but a translator is twenty-four hours away---we're real short in that area. Also...also...a NEST (Nuclear Emergency Search Team). Our local guy has deemed the area safe but there are some traces of something that needs to be more accurately identified. We also are flying in a top computer expert."
"Well, shit. Let's go take a look."
Fifteen minutes later the three of them were in the unfinished basement across the street.
"Have you gotten anything off the computer?"
"We're a little afraid to try. Our local guy---new and almost useless---didn't have a clue as to how to proceed; they're flying a guru down from Quantico ASAP. It's password protected. But there is all this stuff that was printed off. What do you make of it?"
Fred scanned the dozen or so pages. "It's all jihad stuff. There doesn't seem to be any meat here, just slogan and exhortations. It's extreme radical shit. 'Death to America' and all that. That's not to say there isn't a coded message built in there somewhere but I'm not a cryptographer. On the other hand, as repetitive as some of the phrasing is, I'd bet there's a message somewhere. Who exactly is the unsub here?"
"The guy who drove into your front yard---almost certainly. The dead woman was his mother. The man who lived here was her husband but not the boy's father. He packed up and left about a week ago. We don't think he is involved but sense that he got fed up and just left her. We have a search out for the husband. It shouldn't take long. He wasn't trying to cover his trail when he left."
"Gents, I do know a little bit about computer security. They had a WiFi connection---I'd see it on my system and for the longest time it had no security. Recently they put in WEP but it wasn't anything particularly sophisticated. Most people either use simple words as passwords---or they write it down somewhere. Mind if I take a look?"
"I don't have to tell you to be very careful."
Fred examined the screen, seemingly having a senior moment.
"It's just a Windows™ password, nothing very sophisticated. Can't imagine that it's tied into some sort of self-destruct program. Retrieving the password would not be hard at the registry level at all but let's see if there is an easier way. Nothing has been moved?"
Another apparent senior moment followed. His eyes focused on a CD rack to his left. His fingers carefully ran along the corners of the jewel boxes.
"He likes Metallica---addictively. I heard it booming out of his piece of shit stereo every morning when he left for work. Plus he has damn near everything they've ever done here. Pretty decent set of head phones too...damn! What was the song that was always playing when he drove off? Reload..."
"No, that was the album...let me see..." Fred turned his head sideways to read the spine labels on the CDs. Finding the one he wanted, he removed it gingerly from the rack. "The last song...considered by true Meallica freaks to be at the top of the list or a close second to Bleeding Me...Fixxxer...makes sense if he had bought into all the jihad crap...sees himself as some sort of fixer of the ills of modern western society...let's give it a try. I've always preferred Enter Sandman. Then again, they haven't done anything worth a crap in twenty years."
Before anyone could object, Fred entered the seven letters to include capitalizing the first one. The screen changed and a, "Welcome to Brian's computer" message appeared followed by a reasonable normal Windows XP™ desktop.
"We're in. Do you want to keep going?"
"How the hell did you do that when our computer guy was completely lost?"
"This was about music, not computers. I'm not a huge Metallica fan but over the years I've listened to most of their work trying to understand the attraction. I don't think they hold a candle to Zeppelin or even AC/DC but when you put out a body of work as huge as theirs, there have to be some good moments---and there are. Let's see what we have here."
"That looks like a laser printer so your forensics people aren't going to get any data off it; the on board cache is empty but we should be able to see what the last few things he printed were. Look. We can dig around his files, read his emails and so on but my gut tells me the most important thing here is probably something he printed off to take with him. We can dig around for hidden files but this guy was no computer geek. With a key stroke, I can reprint his last ten documents. Then we can look at the most recent emails and print them off. Do you want me to do it?"
The two agents scanned the pages as they came off; the concern on their faces increased with each page.
"Mother of God!"
"Power plants...maps, directions, internal layouts of power plants---one nuclear!"
"What does he do for a living?" Fred inquired.
"He worked at a local power plant---very low level security...essentially admin work."
"That's not good. Let's see what you've got."
Fred perused the printed pages, seemingly lost in thought. "They're all about the same driving distance from here---six hours give or take. They're all owned by the same company he worked for. He could have received dozens of potential targets to recon, then in the last couple of days it was narrowed down. Once he notified his control that he was exposed, he probably received the final target via a disposable cell phone or maybe he always knew the real target and the others were just diversions. I'm guessing that there is no way you folks can put a full court press on all four?"
"Not in a million years. We've got to go with the Nuclear plant---the most lethal."
Agent Wilson got on his cell phone.
"Maybe...maybe not. After 911, nuke power plants received the biggest boost in security. Even with a power company ID he's not going to get close to the control room, let alone the core. Hawkins, you're should still logged into my network---let's see some data on these plants."
The data was on the screen of Agent Hawkin's laptop within seconds. Fred scanned the information wordlessly.
"What are we looking for?" Agent Wilson asked.
"A weakness...maybe not obvious. Wait! Virtually all power plants today have alternate fuel sources---other than the nuke plants. This is coal country. Many of the plants that were petroleum based went almost exclusively to coal but they kept their oil fired capability. A few years back when oil was dirt cheap they could generate electricity with oil cheaper than with coal---those days are gone. Sometimes they fire up the alternate source during those times of year when demand peaks, weather delays coal shipments or they need to burn cleaner fuel to meet their environmental targets. Some also use natural gas ---which used to be cheap but based on my heating bill over the last two years isn't anymore---Liquid Petroleum or Propane."