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Siss's Story

Bringing down the House

I like blowing things up. The big bang, the smoke, the colors, I like it all.

I figured that out in 4th grade when my rocket (science fair project) exploded on the launch pad. Apparently, I had my ratios wrong. That kind of sucked at the time. Not only did the rocket get destroyed (ok, assumed destroyed – it was found), and the launch pad was in thousands of pieces. But that explosion taught me several things:

  1. Test your components separately. It would have been better to just blow up the rocket motor.
  2. When mixing your own propellant/explosives, double-check the ratios. Measure, and then measure again.
  3. There are many ways to blow things up. The trick is to know ‘when’ and ‘where’ it is going to happen.
  4. Blowing things up is fun! I still get goose bumps! I consider it my art. I sometimes add a little sparkle or colored smoke just because…

It took me two weeks to get the propellant mix right, and if I do say so myself, it was a pretty kick-ass mix! You couldn’t buy a better rocket fuel. And in the process, I also figured out to make some pretty powerful explosives. Better than the old dynamite that I would steal from the construction sites…

I learned just enough materials science to get pretty good at taking down buildings… You always remember your first… It was an old two-story apartment complex. Rat infested and condemned. I took two weeks just planning out everything – structural members, steel and reinforced concrete supports. It took another week and a half to prep the building and just over twelve hours to place all of the charges. The building took less than a minute for it all to fall. I still get shivers thinking about it. Ok, I probably used twice as much explosive than I should have, but God… it was beautiful!

Meeting the Master

While shopping for supplies one day, I ran into Billy James, Master of Special Effects… Now that man knows a thing or two about blowing things up. You name a major picture made in the last 20 years that had an explosion in it, and you will find his credits. He took me under his wing and taught me a new profession: How to blow things up with finesse and style. Why use a quarter-pound of explosives when less that an ounce will do… He taught me how proper placement is everything. He brought me to a new level of the art.

Billy was the Master. He taught me a new realm of chemistry, one of smoke and light. He took my raw talent and shaped it in to a precision charge. He taught me how to make a boring movie really explode off of the screen. He showed me how to make awesome flash-bang grenades… just because the police would let us have them. That was the kind of man that Billy was. Then he had to go a die on me.

Years of excessive drinking and smoking had finally caught up with him. The man loved to party. I was there when he left. He said, “don’t worry…”I’ll be back.” He was joking to the end – he even booby trapped his house. But, his time was over too fast. I needed more time with him. He would have preferred be blown up in a building to the way that he went. There was no dignity in the end. Lying there in a hospital bed with tubes shove in just about every opening… I can still hear him saying, “Be a sweet heart, the nurse is gone, light me up a ciggy…”

Fast forward a couple of years later and I ended up making a lot of movies and features with special effects and yes, if I mentioned names you would recognize them; but it all just got old and boring, especially with Billy gone… It just wasn’t fun working without Billy, someone who had a real passion for their work; it was the constant learning. It was almost as fun as blowing up a building for real. Or getting even with someone by blowing out their tires at a well timed moment (a little invention of mine, self adhesive, remote detonator, about the size of a dime, relatively short range though… but I like to watch anyway)…

So I went back to demoing buildings. Big or small, it didn’t matter. As long as I could work on my formulas, I would keep blowing up buildings.

Meeting Mr. Wilson

Three months ago, I get a phone call from a Mr. James Wilson. He owns an old rundown tenement building that “has to go,” he says. I rattle off my standard rate, with plus ‘parts’ clause. He says, “No problem. Can we get this done in three weeks?” I even high-balled the quote… He didn’t miss a lick. So, I came back with, “well, that is going to be a rush job then. I need two weeks just to plan, at least a week of destabilization and week to rig, as a minimum.  Normal time frame is a month. I am going to need extra help just to get it ready in time…”

Mr. Wilson still didn’t even wait for me finish, “I’ll double your rate, and hire the riggers out of my pocket. BUT, I want that building gone by the 30th.”  Ok, so three weeks and a half… didn’t change my answer.

“That is going to be impossible, “I said. “It will take longer than that to get the permits.” Mr. Wilson quickly countered, “I already have the permits. I just need a specialist to do the work. Look, I have construction contracts that are going to cost me a bundle if that building isn’t down. “

It only took me about 30 seconds to say Ok… I mean, double my rate, and I didn’t have to hire riggers. Those bastards will bleed you dry and eat all of your profit. And you have to put up with them hitting on you…

So I uttered the fateful words, “Send me the blue prints.” Mr. Wilson said that a courier would have them to me in an hour.

The courier showed up, on time, sweating profusely… I felt sorry for him and gave him a good tip and a bottle of water. I unrolled the blue prints and started going over them. This is going to be a piece of cake…built in the early 40’s; a bit of structural destabilization, coupled with the appropriate explosive charge and down she goes. This is going to be an easy job.

But we’re going to have to start on the destabilization immediately. This is going to take lots of manual labor. I start drawing up the plan; identifying the walls to come down, and the pillars to weaken and where to place the charges… Six hours later, I have a plan. I run the computer simulation over a dozen times… perfect. Even with the worst environmental variations, it still falls within 2 points. I am just that good.

I document the plan detailing which walls and pillars need to be taken out and which ones need to be weakened and where all of the charges need to be placed by kind and type. I add the specifications for the job. Work requirements, equipment and supplies. Mr. Wilson has some work to do as well. I will add the standard disclaimer that I have not performed a site visit and estimates may change based on the site visit. I add a cover letter requesting a time within the next two days to perform a site visit and a synopsis of the job and requirements. 

I package up the plan, address it, and make a call. The courier service will pick it up in a couple of hours. I need sleep. But first, I need to eat and place an order. This will be the perfect test of my new formula. This is going to be awesome. I eat some leftover take out as I inventory my hazard locker. Only two things to order: one chemical, and Jensen blasting caps.

Safety Tip Number One: Never scrimp on the blasting caps – ever, period.

The courier arrives on queue. I hand him the package, tip him well and send him on his way. Time for some sleep…

It seemed like I’d just gotten to sleep when the phone rang. I look at the clock… I had been asleep for over six hours. Time enough, I get up and get the phone.

“Can you meet me at the building in an hour?” Mr. Wilson asked… No hello, no how are you? Nothing.  No pleasantries today. “Make it two and you have a deal,” I replied.  Mr. Wilson readily agreed… Did he seem a bit on edge?

A quick shower, a bite to eat, and grab some gear: the blue prints, pad of paper, marking spray, pen and pencils, infrared tape measure, voice recorder, big flashlight, and digital camera with flash and extra batteries. Oh, and the hard hat…

Safety Tip Number Two: Never forget your hard hat. Ever. Some smart ass will remind you usually with something heavy. 

I arrive with a good five minutes to spare. Mr. Wilson is waiting with his “driver.” A more apt description would be “goon.” At least Mr. Wilson has manners now, he came over and introduced himself and apologized for the short notice and appreciated my quick turnaround time. As we walked in the front door, he asked, “What do you want to see first?” I reply, “The basement; let’s start at the bottom and work our way up.”

This building should have been condemned years ago judging from the mold, rot and obvious rat infestation. Mr. Wilson leads the way to the back of the first floor and opens a door. Dark stairs lead down. It smells bad and looks very wet, water standing everywhere. And he is wearing very expensive shoes… What a shame. I make note of the slick stairs and the exposed reinforced walls.

I take several measurements and photos of the basement. Everything looks good, measurements match with the prints. I ask Mr. Wilson about the old fuel oil tank in the corner of the basement. “That was drained months ago,” he says as he taps on it. A hollow sounding thump echoes back. I just nod as I complete my inspection. I take a quick look at the prints and start marking the pillars that need to be cut thorough. There is a balance to be struck here… take out enough, and weaken enough so when the charges blow, then drop straight down... Too many, the building falls before you are done and worse: not straight down.

The rest of the building was pretty much the same. Take out a wall here, a post there. I take lots of measurements and photos, talking into my recorder the whole time. The charge placement and timing in jobs like these is where the art comes in. Anyone can blow up a building. Take a look at the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building; McVeigh did that building… what a mess. Time it right, with the proper charges and placement; it’s like a ballet.

 I give Mr. Wilson the go ahead to start the destabilization work. I figure it will take at least a week and a half. He said, “I have a team here tomorrow at 7 am.” “Awesome,” I reply as I head to my car. I can splurge on a good meal and a good night’s rest. The next week can be long or short depending on the foreman. A good foreman, I can have short days. A bad one will make for a very long week.

I was still a bit hung over when I woke in the morning. Eating and showering mechanically… I grab my gear and head out to the site.

Meeting Joe Cartelli

I was immediately taken back by the foreman. He was all over it. Kind of ruggedly handsome and a commanding presence, shouting orders, not cutting anyone any slack… 7:15 a.m. and work has already started. “You must be the specialist. I am Joe Cartelli, the foreman,” he said. I introduce myself and asked if he had any questions. “Nope. The instructions are clear, and I checked all of the markings myself this morning. We are good to go,” he said. Like I said, a good foreman makes for a good job.

“Let’s go walk the site,” Joe said. And we proceed though it methodically, starting with the basement. Joe almost immediately started barking orders at a couple of guys for not having their safety gear on. Then pointed out that some of the pillars are going to take a bit more work; the builders had used some additional reinforcement material in them that shouldn’t have been used. Then he told me that he has seen this before, and that it is more of a nuisance than anything else.

Mental note: Increase basement charges by 10 percent.

And so it went through the building. Joe tells me that the stairs will be the last thing to destabilize as they move out of the building, noting that they aren’t in great shape now. As we finish the walk through, I ask Joe how long does he think that he is going to take to get his part done.

“Mr. Wilson has promised each of us a bonus if we get it done in a week. Starting tomorrow, we are working 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.; and we are going to get it done in a week,” Joe said. I like this guy.

Mental note: Get Joe Cartelli’s business card. I will use him for all my future jobs.

The rest of the week proceeded methodically through to the end. I thanked Joe and his crew for the awesome job. That was when Joe said  ”You can’t get rid of me that easy! Mr. Wilson hired me to manage the riggers as well.” This is awesome. I asked him about his previous experience with demolitions projects. This guy has done a lot. Added bonus.

Tuesday

Joe sends in the drillers and electricians to start prepping the site. Once they are done, there is nothing to do but wait until the day before the job. The drillers go to work like a nest of ants, fanning out though the building. Pretty soon all you can hear are the sounds of the impact drills drilling deep into concrete. The concrete dust filling the air was making it hard to see and, if it weren’t for the filter masks, the concrete dust that fills the air making would hard to breathe as well. But everything proceeded at a frantic pace. And by mid afternoon, the building was prepped for the charges.

It looks like we have a couple of days to spare. Guess I am getting a bonus too.

I call Mr. Wilson with an update. “It looks like we are done here until Friday. The site will have to be secured from the Friday until we blow it. Do you have security available?” I asked. Mr. Wilson responded, “Excellent! Great job! Yes, yes… security will be on site the day prior up to and including the blast day. Consider it done.” “No worries then,” I said. “You will need to notify the Police department as soon as possible to cordon off the streets Friday morning and for the Fire Department to be on standby. I am looking for a blast window of 8-10 a.m.,” I told him. He replied, “I’ve got it covered. See you on Friday morning for the big event. “ 

Wednesday

It was Wednesday before I realized my blasting caps hadn’t been delivered. So, I had to get angry with my supplier. He grovels a bit, apologizes and tells me that they will be delivered tomorrow morning to the site. Not too bad. At least I don’t have to transport those too. Moving hazardous cargo is always a pain in the ass.

Thursday

Thursday is here. I had spent the rest of the week prepping my charges. Measuring twice, mixing once. I carefully labeled each charge with a location and charge number. I packed them away in reverse order of placement – one box per floor. Things will go very smoothly tomorrow. Hiccups on rigging day never bode well for blast day.

The basement box gets my extra special attention. The new formula will be used exclusively in the basement. All of the charges are prepped. They just need caps… What fun!

I go over the timer, distribution, and safety boxes. I end up replacing two timer modules. They seemed to work ok, but I don’t like the way the lights flickered just before going full on. May be nothing, may be something, but I don’t take chances when blasting.

Tomorrow is going to be a long day. It’s time to call it a day. Get something to eat. Get some sleep. I rehearse the rigging in my sleep – walking each floor, saving the basement for last. I delicately insert the blasting caps into the charges, crimping the wires, and laying out the wiring, one charge at a time. I managed to get everything done, right down to the system’s continuity check, before my alarm went off. Five a.m. comes awful early, I don’t care who you are.

 Friday - Rigging Day

The Hazardous Materials driver shows up with his truck and we load start loading. Loading the hazard locker is always difficult. It is heavy and awkward. The electronics cases were the easiest. And there was no additional paperwork for transporting the blasting caps with the explosive. Sweet.  And as long as we don’t hit any traffic, we should be a little early.

Joe and the riggers are right on time. I start unpacking the hazard locker, each floor’s box clearly labeled. Joe starts barking orders. He has them set up in five teams of two. Each pair grabs a box starts for a floor. Top down is how I like to lay out my charges…

About this time I realize my blasting caps haven’t shown up yet. Shit! As I am reaching for my phone, the truck turns the corner. My supplier almost lost his balls. I yell to Joe that the blasting caps have just arrived and ask if he could get them up to the top floors and leave a box for me. Joe just waves and goes to meet the truck.

It took them about 15 minutes or so to offload the truck and do the paperwork. Joe heaves the heavy box on his shoulder and starts climbing the stairs. When I finish unpacking the hazard locker, I make my way up to the top floor of the building and check on the riggers. As expected, things are proceeding like clockwork. I meet up with Joe on the fifth floor and he outlines how his riggers are going to proceed from the top.

Since Joe has it well in hand at this point, I say, “Joe, I am going to start on the basement. You have the rest under control and it is going to take me at least two to three hours to get the basement done.” But then I remember that I hadn’t seen any security. I ask Joe, “Have you seen the security detail for the building yet.” Joe responds, “No, but I will call Mr. Wilson.”  He says as I head down the stairs.

I just finish lugging my charges and caps down to the basement when Joe sticks his head in and says, “Mr. Wilson wasn’t happy; apparently they were supposed to be here at eight. He said they will be here within the hour. And if they aren’t to call him and he will personally bring them here.”

Great, what is he going to do?  Personally secure the building? We should have had the site secured this morning before we started. At least he has his taken the lead on it. I suppose it has to work. Back to work.

The security detail arrived within 20 minutes.  The rest of the rigging was uneventful and tedious. My final walk though and continuity check went off without a hitch. One last walk through, memorizing each wire and charge, looking for anything out of place. Nothing seemed amiss. All is well.

Security is posted at front and back of the building. I called the Police Desk Sergeant and gave him a heads up about tomorrow’s blast which, he informed me, he was aware of. I just wanted him to keep an eye on the security detail at the building. An extra drive by or two wouldn’t hurt. He said he would see what he could do. Typical desk sergeant, no promises, but he’ll make it happen.

I tell Joe that I will see him in the morning. Joe says, “The boys and I will be here bright and early! All of the fun happens tomorrow!” He has a couple of his riggers load my empty hazard locker into my truck and I head home.

Nothing left to do but sleep.

Blasting Day

 I didn’t sleep well last night. Not too sure why. I mentally went through every step of the blast and it went off without a hitch. Something didn’t feel right though. But, the building went down, just like it was supposed to – not a brick out of place. I check the weather reports, all good there. I grab some food, take a shower and head for the site. I will be early, but I want to walk through it again.

Security is still on the job. He stops me as I head toward the door and asks for my ID. As he is looking at me and my ID, he radios someone and asks if it is ok for me to enter the building. An affirmative is squawked back. He moves aside and lets me pass.  I turn on my flashlight as I head up to the top floor to start. It seems like a longer walk than yesterday…

I methodically make my way through each floor, checking each charge and detonator cap. I inspect each crimp. I really don’t care that the continuity check was good yesterday… it is a moldy, old, wet building… I need to know that it is right, now. And so it goes... I re-crimp a couple of caps, they weren’t bad, and I just needed to make sure they were really tight. Then I get to the basement.

The smell is worse than yesterday. Smells like rotten eggs. But I go through the same ritual, checking each connecting, tracing all of the wires. One more walk-through from the top…

T-Minus 1 hour

Mr. Wilson shows up with his driver. Joe and his crew are all present. Security is relieved by local police. Streets are blocked off. The fire department is on standby just outside the blast area. Joe and I make one more pass though the building. Man, that basement stinks.  We are a go. I still can’t shake that feeling. Continuity check is green.

 

 

T-Minus 30 minutes

Something still doesn’t feel right. I check the weather reports again… all unchanged as of 5 a.m. this morning. It’s a near perfect day for blasting. Weather is a go. Safety is a go. Police is a go. Fire Department is a go. Equipment is a go. Looks like it is count down time!

T-Minus 10 Seconds

Over the loud speaker you hear, “Clear the building! Clear the building! Clear the building!The building is clear! Blasting in 10…9…8…7…6…5…4…3…2…1.” That was immediately followed by a series of small explosions at the bottom of the building. You can just make out gray wisps of smoke coming out of the basement vents as the side walls start to sag. Then, right on cue, the next floor, and then the next. It was like poetry in motion… Beautiful! My new formula gave the smoke a pale green tinge…nice touch. It was all over in under a minute.

The Aftermath

Everyone on site started clapping. Not a brick out of place. Mr. Wilson was extremely happy as he came over and handed me a check. He also gave Joe a check. I assume that was his bonus. Everyone is smiling. But for some reason, something still doesn’t feel right. I can still smell rotten eggs. My job is done though. I clear my equipment; pull all of the safeties, neutralizing any connected but unexploded charges. I pack up and load it all up into my truck and drive away, still not sure what was off about it.

I drive off as the dozers and trucks move in. Maybe I can get some sleep now…

Two Days Later

After a two nights of fitful sleep, you know those dreams you have when you are trying to find something but you can’t… It was a series of those, and I still don’t know what I am looking for. I’d had enough and just got up at got some breakfast. I was almost done eating when there was a knock at the door. “Police, Ms. Siss; Please open up.” Shit. They must have heard me…

“What can I do for you officers?” I ask. “You need to get dressed and come downtown,” he said. Great… “What for?” I ask. “It is about the building you blew up three days ago. Please hurry, Maam, the DA is waiting” he said. More good news; I start to wonder about what this was really about. The building was text book case for building demo… I continue to think about everything leading up to the blast as I get dressed.

At least I look presentable for the ride downtown. And they haven’t arrested me yet. Both are positive signs. They drive into the Police parking garage and escort me inside the building through a maze of corridors and offices until we finally get to the non-descript “interrogation” room. He tells me to wait there as he closes the door. I definitely heard it lock as it closed. This is going to be a bad day, really bad.

While I am waiting, I look around the room. There is nothing else to do but wait. The room needs a coat of paint and some air fresheners. Besides the front door, there is a back door which I assume is locked as well. There is also a big mirror on one wall, obviously an observation room on the other side. Quaint, it all looks just like the movies.

After what seems like hours, the door finally opens and a well dressed gentleman entered, carrying a briefcase and file folder. He introduced himself, “I am Justin Grimes, DA, Ms. Sass. Do you know why you are here?” I am feeling pretty sarcastic about now, so I say, “Who died?”

The DA is not smiling. He opens the folder and shows me pictures of three very obviously dead people. “Hold on, now! What has that got to do with me?” I yell. The DA then says, “They were found in what was left of the basement of the building that you blew up three days ago. Now, you tell me, who are they?”

My mind is reeling. I checked everything three times, there was no one there. I am sure of it. The DA starts asking questions about the job, who had contracted the job, who I worked with…on and on, every detail. I just kept answering all of his questions. I have NEVER killed anyone…wanted to a couple of time, but never did. He kept bringing the questions back to Mr. Wilson and the foreman, Joe Cartelli.

Eventually, he said, “You can keep lying all you want. There is no Mr. Wilson or Joe Cartelli. They don’t exist. You are under arrest for Capital Murder, 3 counts, and if you are lucky you won’t get the death penalty. You have the right to remain silent…” It all kind of got blurry after that. There were more questions, different people asking the same things over and over again. I finally come to my senses somewhat and ask for a lawyer. I get my phone call and some quite for a while.

My lawyer finally shows up. I mainly use George Dawson for necessary paperwork: contracts, will, and such. I am really not sure if he can handle this.  George takes a deep breath and begins, “You are in deep kimchee. Nothing that you are telling them is checking out. I have known you for years, but I am not sure I can get you out of this one.” I just want to know one thing right now, so I ask, “Can you handle this or not?” George says, “I am not a criminal attorney. I do know someone though. Just tell me you didn’t know anything about the people in the basement.” I said, “George, you know me. I would never do anything like that. I am really careful. That building was checked three times and security was on it a day before we blew the building.” George said, “I know you didn’t have anything to do with it, but I had to ask. I would feel better if they could find some trace of this Mr. Wilson or Joe Cartelli.”

George continued, “I am going to call a Bill Parsons, all he does is criminal work.” George takes out his phone and dials… After a few short minutes, he says, “don’t say anything else until Bill gets here. He will be here in an hour or so.” Great, more waiting. I just want to go home.

Bill Parsons shows up right on time. Immaculately dressed, expensive everything. All I could think was that this was going to be expensive. He walked up and introduced himself then he asked me to tell him everything from the top… So, I did, from the top.

After I was done, he sat there for a minute and said, “Do you have the check he gave you when you finished the job?” I sat there stunned for a moment and said, “Yes. It is sitting on my kitchen counter. I was going to deposit it today.” He continued, “Good then. They have probably picked it up when they searched your home. There is proof that Mr. Wilson exists and he paid you for the job. Though, I do hope you have licenses for those chemicals you keep…,” he said as he headed for the door.

After about an hour, Mr. Parsons returned. “They didn’t find the check. Tell me exactly where you left it,” he said. “On the kitchen counter, to the left of the sink, right next to the phone,” I replied. He starts digging through a folder he had brought with him and pulls out a photograph. “Is this the counter and phone?” he asked. I stare at the photo… there is the phone, I can see the sink in the background, but there is no check, the phone bill is there… “Yes...” I respond weakly. Shit. I knew I should have gone straight to the bank with that check. I knew it.

“I do hope your phone records bear out your story. It is getting weaker by the minute,” Mr. Parsons said. “I hope so too,” I replied. “It looks like you are going to at least spend the night in jail. We will start first thing in the morning on bail. However, don’t hold your breath. Unless we can get this dropped, they aren’t likely to let a mass murderer, with demolitions experience out on bail,” he said. “I’ll see you in the morning,” was the last thing he said as he left.

Meeting Agent Alphonse 

I kept waiting for them to come and take me to a cell. But I guess this is a least has more room and as comfortable as a cell. I was almost enjoying the silence when the door opened.  In walked a rather non-descript older looking gentleman, with the exception of his clothes (Armani Suit, Italian loafers, very expensive watch, and silver headed walking cane). “Mind if we have a chat?” he asked.

“My lawyer advised me not to talk to anyone,” I say rather mechanically. “Ah, and good advice it is, if I were the Police or a Prosecutor. But I am not. Let me introduce myself, I am Agent Alphonse,” he said as he took out a badge and showed me what looked like a CIA badge. Now, I am a bit confused. What would the CIA have to do with a building being blown up and dead bodies being found?

“What do you want?” I ask. “It’s not what I want per say, but a choice I am going to offer you,” Alphonse says. I give him a quizzical look… “Let’s see if this starts making sense to you. A simple job goes wrong. Three people are dead. Evidence linking you to your employer disappears. What makes you think that your phone records are still intact? But let’s say they are for the argument’s sake,” he says in a matter of fact tone. “I think you have come to realize that your former employer and his associates are not going to be found. And the DA has to make someone pay for this crime, have you seen the evening news? My guess is that someone is going to be you.”

“Let me tell you what I think… I see this going one of two ways. First, you get convicted on three counts of capital murder, and go away for life, possibly a death sentence. Second, you get convicted on three counts of negligent homicide and go away for a very long time. Either way, you lose.” I am getting a sinking feeling in my gut… I don’t want to go to prison, at all. “I am here to present you with a third option,” he says with a smile on his face.

“You can stay here, and follow the inevitable path laid before you that will certainly end in prison, or you can go with me out the back door. Your choice,” he said. There was something I liked about this guy. I am not sure what it is, but I feel as if I can trust him. It took me all of about 10 seconds to decide.

 “Let’s go,“ I said. Alphonse did hesitate. I walked to the back door and rapped on it with his cane twice. There were two men waiting outside the door, looked like your stereotypical government agents. “Go with Agent Luis and Agent Marco. They will take care of you until we meet again. Do exactly as they say. Follow their lead. They say run, you run, they say jump you jump. Got it?” he asked. “Yes,” was all I managed to get out before one of the Agents grabbed my arm and pulled me into the hall way.

It did seem like Alphonse was enjoying this a bit too much. As soon as the door closed, Agent Luis pulls me close and says, “You are our prisoner, we are escorting you to the detention center.” Agent Marco grabs my other arm and they start walking.

Agent Luis nods to a couple of uniforms as we head back out to the parking garage. No one stopped us, no one questioned anything. We walk up to a black SUV and I get pushed inside, followed by Agent Marco. No sooner than the door is closed, the SUV is started and we are moving. Agent Marco hands me a pile of clothes. “Put these on,” he says. This is getting weirder by the minute, but I change clothes. Agent Marco gathers up the clothes that I removed and carefully places them in a plastic bag. “What are you going to do with those?” I ask. “They will end up on a dead body by morning,” he said without a hint of emotion.

I guess he read the concern on my face because he said, “Don’t worry. We aren’t going to kill anyone. We only need to find someone with your general body type, and then make them very hard to ID the body. I am thinking a very bad car accident with fire involved. What do you think Luis?” “Sounds like a plan, Marco,” Luis said. What have I gotten myself into?

After about an hour, the SUV finally came to a stop. The door opens and we are in a large warehouse. Agent Marco says, “This will be your home for the next week or so. Everyone here is a ‘friendly’. Do not leave the warehouse. We have guards outside and it would not be healthy to do so. Let me show you to your room.” He leads me to the back wall of the warehouse, I can see the guards along the catwalks up near the ceiling…. Nice… He opens a door to a room. Bed, nightstands with reading material and a phone, lamps, dresser, mirror, and a door on right wall to a small bathroom with shower, it is functional but not the Ritz Carleton. “Everything you may need should be here: toiletries, clothes, essentials, and some reading material. They will set up a buffet in the main area a meal times – you will smell it, and yes it is good. But if you need anything else, just pick up the phone. Either Agent Luis or I will answer. Anyone else answers, hang up,” he said pointing to the phone on the nightstand.

“Oh, and if you are inclined, there is a gym set up 3 doors down. It may help pass the time,” Agent Marco says. “Agent Luis and I have to finish your disappearance, but we will be back later. Stay out of trouble,” he said.

And with that he and Agent Luis got back into the SUV and took off. I just decided to hang in my room. At least it didn’t smell like the interrogation room. Suddenly, I realize how tired I am. Perhaps a short nap before dinner time…

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