“Alright people! Agent Fawcett is moving into position now. Click your status into the ops control channel now.”
“Responses are in Director Barrick – we’re all green,” reported an analyst in the large panel truck two miles away from the small isolated beach home.
“Camera two has eyes on Agent Fawcett,” reported another. “She’s walking across the back deck towards our suspect.”
Barrick moved to look over the shoulder of the agent to watch as the long distance camera followed Agent Fawcett. She looked like a distressed young housewife, scared and uncomfortable and even confused but resolute that something had to be done – exactly as planned.
He glanced at his watch and wondered, where the hell is Tanner? He should have been here an hour ago and needs to see how this unfolds for his part.
One of the monitors suddenly came to life with audio from one of the remote surveillance microphones. “Hello, Mr. Edgarton,” Fawcett said meekly, “Thank you for seeing me.” She held her purse across her stomach and with the other hand held her sweater neckline closed against the ocean breeze.
Edgarton, stiffly turned his wheel chair to face her. He was elderly, balding with no facial hair but plenty of age wrinkles, dressed warmly, but also mostly covered by a plaid blanket and a long sleeve sweater. His facial expression screamed ‘barely understanding what was happening’. This guy is good, Barrick thought. No wonder no one suspects him of being capable of arranging murders.
“Agent Thompson, are we recording all of this?
“Yes, sir. I’ve got redundant channels capturing everything we see on our six monitors or hear from any microphone.”
“Who did the site prep and checked for counter bugs?”
“Masselli sir. He’s our best and did the whole screen and prep while the house was empty two days ago.”
“Good – good, but where is Tanner? Can someone try calling him again?”
“I’m on it sir.”
Barrick watched a screen as Agent Fawcett paused and waited for Edgarton to acknowledge her. His assistant had warned her that he would move slowly, rarely speak but could follow her words if she spoke loud and slow. He certainly looks infirm, Barrick thought. Edgarton, leaned towards Fawcett as if trying to focus on her, appeared to understand why she might be here and sat back into the chair,
“Yes?” he said inviting her next words.
“I’m Carry Wael. Your assistant arranged this time for us to talk?”
One of the cameras zoomed in closer so Edgarton’s face almost filled the screen and he appeared to realize what was happening and nodded. “Ms. Wael. Come sit with me.”
Fawcett settled into her chair and meekly arranged herself for the interview. His assistant warned her not to wait for him to ask but to just begin telling him her situation. Speaking is hard for him and the reason for her visit will already be known.
“Show time folks! Everyone – pay attention. Look for anything that could be his response. Who is monitoring wireless signals?”
“I’ve got it, Agent Ashberry sir, and the spectrum looks spotless. Not a peep from him or the house yet.”
Fawcett, as instructed, first described how a friend told her about him and how he helps people who have been let down by the justice system. Then she began her story and delivered a very credible portrayal of an abused, single mother of two children being extorted for sex by a police officer who had evidence of her struggle with drugs who threatened to expose her to child protective services who would take her children from her. She was fighting real tears as she finished her story and, almost has me believing her, thought Barrick. Nicely done Fawcett, very nicely done.
Edgarton listened without response as she’d been warned he would, and he nodded when she was finished. “You gave my assistant his name?”
“Yes, Jeff Tanner, officer Jeffrey Tanner from city police.”
“Let me look into this Ms. Wael.”
This was the expected signal that the interview was over. She stood and thanked Edgarton and turned to leave.
Barrick, noted that the operation had gone very well and the trap was now set. Agent Tanner would be the decoy and they might finally establish a solid connection between Edgarton and perhaps thirty two unsolved murders around the state.
“Did we ever hear from Agent Tanner? It’s not like him to miss an operation.”
“I’m talking to city police dispatch now sir. They may have found him.”
“Why would city police be looking for him?” Barrick thought but said out loud.
“You’re sure? — Okay, text me a photo. No, we can’t wait. Have your medical examiner text it to me immediately. We have a live situation here. Yes, I’ll do that ASAP. Thanks”
“What’s going on? Where’s Tanner?”
“City police found him, just three miles away on the coast highway. Sir – Tanner is dead. DOA from a single car going off a beach cliff. The police and M.E. are on the scene now.”
Barrick stood and yelled, “What!? When!?”
“The accident was two hours and twenty some odd minutes ago. That road is the same route we took here. Sir, Tanner died on his way here – and before Fawcett even went in.”
“I have something Director, screen three!”
Barrick spun again and stepped to the screen showing Edgarton’s face. “Sir, he hasn’t made a normal facial expression the whole time and look at him now.”
Barrick looked closely, “I’ll be damned! He’s smirking. That bastard knows and is smirking, but how could . . .? Oh crap! ALL units move! Secure Fawcett. Get her out NOW!”
The radio channel exploded with the sounds of boots running. “I don’t see her! Does anyone have eyes?”
“Team Alpha is negative.”
“Baker is negative. Sir – everyone is gone.”
“Team Charlie on perimeter – negative. We’ve seen nothing.”
Barrick put his hand to his forehead thinking, We’ve lost Fawcett and Tanner. We’ve been played and this op is blown.