The Invisible Man Turns the Cameras On – A Deviled Yeggs Mystery

I’m Detective Staff Sgt. Deviled Yeggs.  I work homicide in the big city of Tracy.  My partner is Detective Sgt. Jim Wednesday.  I am learning as I go about how to direct a taskforce that is tackling a problem that involves almost every division of the police force, and I have four federal agencies, at last count, that were “helping.”  I worried about leaks.

To catch everyone up.  It is now mid-morning on Saturday.  On Thursday evening a bank vault was blown up.  We are starting to get the idea that very little was taken.  The security guard was killed.  Evidence was planted that my GrandPa had done the deed, but they were really fingerprints of another criminal who had been dead for decades.  Hugh McAdoo had given us the name of the Rosales family who had lost their dictatorship, but not their criminal empire, and my father, the Old Man, had tied the Rosales family to the Rotten Apples.  We knew the motive was to flush GrandPa into the opening to seek vengeance, but the requirement of the law is that we needed hard evidence against specific people, not members of a large group of people.

Hugh entered my office that used to be an interview room.  I think Captain Hart was in the observation room on the other side of the mirror.

Hugh literally had hat in hand.  “Deviled, I came to apologize.  I have talked to my men at the cabin where Millennium Yeggs was staying, partly as his home, but partly to test the security system and the system failed.  We want to use it as a safe house in the future.  The guys saw Millennium go to the fridge and sip a beer, then go to bed.  After a little tossing and turning, Millennium got up to go to the bathroom.  He then went back to the kitchen for another sip of beer.  They never noticed that each trip was identical.”

My Dad grumbled, “And they never noticed that the level in the beer bottle was not getting any lower.  And they never checked to find that my father never drank beer.  You blew it, Hugh!”

Hugh looked at the mirror.  “Yeah, I know.  The guys will be reprimanded, but if we can find those three miscreants before they get hurt, it won’t be a reprimand that stays in their file.  They were there to find holes in the system.  I did not realize that the holes were their own stupidity.  They did not do the two-hour check, because they thought he was trying to go to sleep or get drunk.”

Lt. Tagiolini came in without knocking.  “I want to apologize for my outburst at the group meeting.  I pressed our financial guys and they said that there were a lot of weird things that did not make sense about the Orchard.  With the idea that the Rosales family is involved, they are starting to put things together, things that are quite suggestive.  No hard evidence yet, but we will burn the midnight oil.  I’ll work them overtime until we have something solid.  I’m sorry, we had the blinders on.  The lines of communication were sophisticated.  It looked like the Rotten Apples and the Rosales family never knew each other.  Before you say it, that is the way they wanted it.  The Rosales family wants to be anonymous.”

Hugh’s DEA friend, Sniffles Mulligan, entered.  I wondered if we were getting close to the room capacity.  Sniffles said, “I made some calls, and we went through old information.  We think that Red Delicious’ father needed money to set up the Orchard as a legitimate business, and he got it from the Rosales family.  Sketchy info, but it makes sense.”

I nodded, “Before that they were just a gang, disorganized.  Their businesses, legal and illegal, have all turned to gold ever since they set up the Orchard.”

My Dad said, “That was refreshing.  The first person who didn’t apologize when he came in.”

Sniffles asked, “What?”  I shook my head, so Sniffles continued, “And we stopped a shipment of apples from the Orchard that was about to cross the border and we stopped it for fruit fly inspection.  We’ll give it a thorough search.  The apples were going to where the Rosales family headquarters is but marked for ‘humanitarian aid’.”

Lt. Tagliolini asked, “A possible payment method?”  Sniffles shrugged, and sniffed.

Next to enter the tiny room was Det. Sgt. Poquette, from Robbery.  “I’m sorry for the delay on vault inventory.”

Hugh and my Dad said, “Three out of four.”

Sgt. Poquette shook his head, “No, not three or four.  There was a small stack of gold coins that are missing, being held for an investor.  There was $20,000 in cash, but there were ashes in the cash drawer, so we have no idea if they got any of it or it burned.  It doesn’t look like enough ash, so we are thinking that they took the ashes from the fire and dropped some in the box, so we won’t work too hard on serial numbers.  A few of the safety deposit boxes were opened by brute force.  We have not been able to canvas the owners, especially when a couple of them are people connected with the Rotten Apples.”

Jim and Poached tried to enter, but the room was full.  I now knew how a sardine felt, that is if they had feeling at that point.  Jim deferred to Poached since he was thinner.

Poached said, “Sorry, we didn’t know you were throwing a party.”  A voice came over the speaker on my desk that was connected with the observation room.  It was Captain Hart, “Four for five.  Poached, do your report and leave the room.  I’m starting to smell the sweat through the walls.  And be professional about it.  I have the Feebees with me and they want to have a word with our dear friend, Hugh McAdoo, for inviting them late to the party, especially when he has no authority within the country.  I explained that I reluctantly deputized him, but they are still ticked.”

Poached asked, “Can I start?”  I nodded, and Poached continued, “We checked the security video feeds in a four-block radius, as well as weather cameras and such.  There is a camera for weather observation on a tower about a block away from the bank.  The guy that worked the explosives on the bank roof that blew out the bank’s backup generator is identified as Buff Apple.  He was looking right at the camera during a very convenient lightning strike.  He set the charge and then went down the fire escape before it went off.  We also caught an Orchard delivery van driving away after the explosions, a couple of blocks away, but going away from the bank.  It was driven by Daniel Apple.”

My Dad asked, “There’s a Daniel Apple?”  I nodded.

I asked, “What about the electrical substation nearby?  That’s the transformer that blew, a huge one.”

Poached lowered his head, “We’re still working on it.  Thought you would want to know that we have a clear ID on two Apples in the near vicinity.”

I nodded, “Good thing you can’t stay for the party.  Get on it.”  But as Poached left, the others left as well.  I sat there staring at an empty room with the knowledge that FBI eyes were looking over my shoulder.  I thought of the saying again, “We’re from the government, and we’re here to help.”  I may have a lot of help right now, but it did not feel so good.  I really felt that trouble was brewing.  We had no idea where GrandPa was or Mashie or Pauline Niblick.  We had drone footage of the Orchard, photo and infrared.  We had people stationed at every entrance and exit.  Only the streets and roads, we wanted to stay far enough back that they did not get suspicious.  We saw nothing going in or out.  It wasn’t unusual since they had no scheduled deliveries that weekend.

As the day turned into evening, Poached had returned to confirm that Buff, Daniel, and a masked guy that could easily be one of the three inside the bank were captured on the security video of the electrical substation.  The area where the transformer was located was not in camera view, but they had to know which transformer to hit as the outage knocked out the area around the bank for several blocks, but there were many areas nearby that still had power.  I talked to Lt. Tagiolini, and he put it on his things to do next week, to find who with the electrical company had been talking to the Apples recently.

Having Daniel Apple driving a vehicle was no big deal.  He was Paula Red’s personal driver.  We had nothing on him from a criminal standpoint.  Putting him inside the security fence at the substation might be his first job on the wrong side of the law.  While the court may show him leniency, I was going to press hard if I ever got him into my office – interview room.  If he wasn’t used to the routine, like Buff was, he might say something he wasn’t supposed to say.  Buff had a juvenile record a mile long.  I didn’t need a court order to unseal the record.  I arrested him while on the beat a few times for destruction or defacing of public property.  Some of it with fireworks.  It seems, as an adult, that he has moved up to more powerful things that go “boom.”

Jim came by with interesting news.  From the estimated height and the observed build of the three robbers in the bank, one was not identified.  One was obviously Lowell Apple.  Lowell had a slight limp that was evident in the video, and the build and height matched.  As for the woman, it could be Paula Red or Matilda.  They were close enough to the same height to not be sure.  Subsequent discussions with Lt. Tagiolini confirmed that Matilda was in Stout County that day.  She had been pulled over for running a red light.  We confirmed through Tuesday Wednesday, Jim’s wife and detective in Stout County, that she had given the officers a hard time, and they took her to the station for an interview.  Other than the traffic violation, they had nothing on which to hold her, so she was released, just about the time the bank job started.  We were thinking that her agitation over the traffic violation meant that she couldn’t provide reasonable doubt that the bank robber was indeed Paula Red.

Hugh explained that when someone in the Rosales web of organizations did something wrong, the leaders had to get their hands dirty to fix the problem.  While Fuji had already taken control of criminal activity, according to Lt. Tagiolini, the lack of eliminating GrandPa may have been the error that the Rosales family could not forgive – while Paula Red was running things.

But then, Hugh got a phone call.  He ran into the squad room and typed in some codes for the television displays.  Suddenly, the monitors around the room lit up with various views of the Orchard compound.  We had been there enough times to recognize the views.  Guy Salley, Hugh’s ATF friend, jumped up and pointed to the family room monitor where Gala Apple and three others had been found dead.  “That’s Arturo Rosales!  We’ve got him on American soil.”

Everyone in the room grabbed their phones.  I yelled, “Put the phones down now!  If you can’t prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that your organization has no leaks, especially leaks leading to the Rotten Apples, this information does not leave this room.”  I said that specifically for the FBI benefit in that three operations within the past year had been leaked to the Apples which thwarted Lt. Tagliolini’s efforts to take out major players and maybe Paula Red and Fuji.  The local FBI were the only other people who knew about it.  I heard several growls around the room, but I continued, “We have no idea how we just got this video.  We have no warrant.  We cannot use this unknown video feed as information toward that warrant because I have a feeling that it was obtained by illegal means.  Their security footage is hard wired with no Wi-Fi involved.  They have their own security cameras to catch us coming toward the entrance to the Orchard.  Now, do we have enough to get a warrant?”

I smelled a waft of perfume behind me, and I recognized her scent.  Gisele, Captain Hart’s secretary, said softly, “I have one better than information for a warrant.  I just got back from the judge’s home.  Here is your warrant.  No worries, the judge is one that we can trust, and he owes Captain Hart a few favors.”

As I looked over the warrant, Captain Hart explained.  “I want this job done right, to put as many away as possible.  As the evidence started mounting, I thought we had enough for a warrant.  This is personal for me.  Do you know why, Yeggs?”

Poached spoke up, “I do, Captain.  The security guard was a distant cousin, but he was your age and he lived down the street from you when you were growing up.”

Captain Hart smiled, “Nice detective work, Poached.  I was wondering if everyone in this room had forgotten the person that lost his life in this adventure.  He was like a brother to me.  We were inseparable growing up.  Now, I agree with the taskforce leader, for once, so don’t get the big head, Yeggs!  We go in with enough to prevent anyone slipping out the backdoor, but no more.  One too many, and they’ll get wind and fly away.”

With the crowd that we had in the immediate area, looking for GrandPa, we already had a small army.  Only a couple of calls were made for more specialized help with strict instructions to talk to no one else.  The raid went off without a problem.

In addition to the video feeds, there was a homing beacon that Hugh was given the link to by his observers.  When we followed it, we found GrandPa, Mashie, and Pauline, sitting on top of a hill in the orchards at the Orchard.  They were wrapped in a blanket that confused infrared and acted as ground camouflage.  While the hill was covered in fruit trees, it was no ordinary hill.  The orchard hid a tunnel leading to an underground bunker, filled with weapons, ammunition, and explosives.  My only question, at the time, was to Mashie who was wearing the uniform of the Orchard service staff, the mechanics that fix electrical problems and take out the trash.  They got word at security that there was an electrical problem in the same room as the video feeds that went to the security office.  They never noticed Mashie walk in, splice into the feed with a Wi-Fi router and exit.  As Mashie said, “No one pays attention to the service personnel, not even the crooks.”

It was well past midnight when I was explaining to my wife, Glyce, about all the happenings.  There was a Federal warrant out on Arturo Rosales.  We could hold him with no connection to the robbery, and it seemed he was clean on that, although I am sure he gave the order.  We checked, and he did not have diplomatic immunity.  Neither did his son, Luis, who matched the sketchy image on the video as the third person inside the bank and the substation.  Luis might have walked with our sketchy identification if it were not for one small detail.  After all this lockdown mess, Luis did not wash his hands.  We found explosives residue on him and Buff Apple, two days after the caper.  We found a scar on Paula Red’s thigh where she had snagged a piece of broke metal.  We later confirmed her blood type once we knew where to look at the scene, sloppy trace evidence work on our part.  Just a scratch on Paula Red, but enough to put her at the scene.  Fuji was questioned and released.  We had nothing on him.  In leaning on Daniel, he made a number of denials, but in phrasing his “denials” he admitted the activities that were going on.  He had stayed in the truck as the driver for everything except when Buff needed help carrying the explosives into the substation.  Funny how a denial can often say more than a confession, especially after letting him know that aiding in a felony where a homicide was committed made his involvement a murder in the first-degree charge.  He started telling us all the things that he did not do.  His lawyer muttered, “What an idiot!”

In interviewing the three rogue agents, Mashie had acted as an electrician and walked into the main house to “fix” a problem in the main electrical room as if he had been there a hundred times before.  Pauline had rigged the video feeds for GrandPa’s escape and gave all the equipment for the video splicing for Mashie to use on the Orchard job, so all Mashie had to do was the splice work.  GrandPa had a new pet dog that the agency gave him.  The dog was retired from the agency, having previously been trained in explosive detection, a detail that Hugh had forgotten about.  GrandPa claimed that Mashie may have known that he was on Orchard property, but he and his adopted granddaughter, Pauline, were simply walking the dog, sitting underneath a specialized camouflage blanket, watching us on video taking down members of the Rosales family and a few Rotten Apples.

And Sniffles’ idea with the apple shipment paid off.  They emptied the huge box that was bolted to a pallet.  The box was empty.  They removed the box, and thought the pallet felt too heavy.  The timbers of the pallet were hollowed and filled with gold, hidden by the slats and cardboard box. No one noticed the increase in weight with the box filled with apples. Hugh’s people never noticed where the apples came from, but the Rosales family would make a big show of handing out apples to the poor.

Glyce smiled and said, “You aren’t the only one who got an eye full from a video feed, or maybe an ear full.  I know you have not slept in a day and a half, but do you have time for another video?”

“Only if you explain the nature of the video.”

Glyce nodded, “I needed to help Beth Anne get settled at home now that she has four children. I went there, as of now, yesterday afternoon.  Since you and ‘Grand Father’ were chasing bad guys, and Pauline was missing, assumed to have gone rogue, I was left with trusting that Easter would not cause any trouble at home alone.  After all, Blaise is at a weekend science experience and Sophie was at a soccer game.  Even after the game, Easter only had to watch her and not both children.  So, what do you think Easter did?  What do you think?”  I knew better than to answer.  “He invited Jemima over to watch television together.  Watching television shows that we would never let them watch. Two high school seniors … alone in the house .., madly in love … sitting in the den on a sofa large enough for all kinds of trouble.  You know we have an audio feed for that security camera, not all the cameras, but that is one we wired for sound.  Do you want to watch it with me?”

I finally mustered a little courage, knowing it was the wrong thing to do at that moment.  “I do not think we should watch this video.  It violates the trust we have with our son.  It violates his privacy.  It might prejudice the jury.  And I know we do not have a warrant to seize such evidence.”

“Nice try!  Sit down!”  She had the video set for the crucial moment, and she pressed the PLAY button.

Credits

“Sniffles” Mulligan as a DEA agent was too good to pass up.  If the “Sniffles” came from illegal drug use, like snorting cocaine, he would be in the stew.

Guy Salley was named for Guy Smiley, the muppet who was the television game show host, and the Salley came from a pastor we once knew in Pennsylvania, Pastor Salley.  When we first met the pastor (of a different church where my wife was going to give a talk), we asked if he had any relatives in South Carolina, he laughed and said that he was originally from there and his family was the founding family of Salley, South Carolina, where the annual Salley Chitlin’ Strut is held each year.  In the ten years that we lived in the area, we never made it to the chitlin’ strut – not being great fans of chitlin’s.

Fuji, Paula Red, Lowell, Buff, and Daniel are all varieties of apples.

The photo above is of our eldest granddaughter, now an adult. Since the Rosales family was involved here, there are roses behind her. We were travelling through the Napa Valley on our way to the San Francisco airport and we stopped at a couple of wineries.

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