Maya walked into the office of International Imports in Philadelphia, a cigarette burning in her left hand and a laptop bag hanging off her right shoulder like a rifleman might carry an extra belt of ammunition.
Maya passed the front door of the building by electronic key. She passed the guard at the front desk with a scowl. She got to the seventh floor by elevator. She entered the offices of International Exports with a ten digit entry code. There was nobody at the front desk.
She shouldered the door open to the conference room to find everybody already gathered. Lito, Natanya and Tariq were back from Canada: Lito impassive, Natanya bright and chatty, Tariq smiling into his coffee at something Natanya just said. Robert Cambria was also there, dressed in a former cop’s suit, looking through a sheaf of papers.
Seeing Maya skulk into the room, Lito said, “OK. Here’s what we know. The package we intercepted in Canada in the truck was a Russian lighthouse beacon.”
“What?” said Robert. “All that work for a big light bulb?”
“The Russians, sometimes, used a beta emitting strontium-90 power source as a radioisotope thermoelectric generator,” said Tariq.
“They had radioactive lighthouses?” said Robert, surprised.
“Sometimes,” said Tariq. “In remote areas. Back in the good-old 50’s when radiation was our friend.”
“What use is it today?”
“Somebody wants to make a dirty bomb,” said Lito.
The room was silent for a moment.
“Where was it going?” asked Robert.
“Lito had me do some checking. The package was going to Amadeo D’Onofrio,” said Maya.
“Oh shit,” said Robert. “I know him. He’s based here in town. Capofamiglia. He’s a bad ass out of New York. Has a team of pros. He got his start in murder-for-hire, drugs, prostitution, racketeering. He wasn’t afraid to crack some heads himself, in the old days, before two heart attacks and a pacemaker.
“They called him the Mechanic, because of some story about him taking apart a Ford LTD engine and putting it back together. Only, when he went to work on a person, he didn’t put them back together.”
“Nice guy,” said Natanya.
“From what I can tell from my initial search, he graduated to money laundering, including the use of remittance services in India and Asia,” said Maya. “Turns out the Mechanic has a head for numbers.”
“What’s a remittance service?” asked Robert.
“Parallel underground banking services,” said Maya. “Secret banks. Money flows in and out of the country delivered by hand, circumventing the ability to track it.”
“And now he’s graduated to weapons of mass destruction?”
“The same remittance services used by organized crime are used by terrorists,” said Maya. “It doesn’t take much of a leap to think he’s had the chance to get tied up with them. Maybe he has a customer.”
“And he’s local?” asked Tariq.
“He is,” answered Maya. “And I don’t like that. It’s one thing to get you guys information about stuff happening half a world away. But this badass is in town. I could run into him on the street.”
“Maya, it’s okay,” said Natanya. “He has no idea we’re looking into him. And we’ll have him wrapped up before you know it. The guy is 60 and has a pacemaker. He’s a couple of steps past his prime.”
Maya slumped in her seat. “I don’t know. I don’t like it.”
“Maya’s right,” said Lito. “Don’t get overconfident. This isn’t some kid with a pipe bomb. D’Onofrio is the real deal.
“Maya, get deeper into D’Onofrio’s life. Find his weakness. Where does he like to eat? Mistresses? Where does he go to church?
“D’Onofrio has a boat. Natasha, go over there and see what the situation is. Security? Oversight? Points of access?”
Lito pushed some photographs to the center of the table. “His primary car is a Cadillac Escalade ESV Platinum Edition. Best guess it’s bolstered with steel plates, ballistic nylon and Kevlar.”
“How can you tell that?” asked Robert.
Lito pointed to a photograph of the Escalade with the door open. “Here. See where the door has a third hinge? That means the door is so heavy two hinges won’t do. The kind of weight you get when you have steel plates in the door. You can see the third hinge here when the door is open.”
“I wouldn’t be surprised if he has Hutchinson run flat tires and a full security suite.”
“What are run flat tires?” asked Maya.
“Tires that are designed to go though the worst of everything and keep on going,” said Lito. “They can be shot at, blown up and keep rolling.
“Robert, I want a tracker on his car. Get it on there. Let’s close this guy down before he knows we’re after him.”
(c) copyright 2016, Eric Maywar
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