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This episode escalates Jim’s encounter with fraud, erupts in a hail of machinegun fire between Green Berets and Texas Grifters out for revenge. There’s also plenty of time for the twins to partner up with Jim for another series of trysts in the bedroom. All parties participating in sex are of age and willing and wanton. The conclusion is very, very different than where I expected it to be when I started this episode!
Getting poked in the eye by a sliver of light penetrating through a crack in the blinds is an annoying way to start the day. I squinted and turned toward the clock to ward off the offending glare. Holy Shit! I’d made it through the early morning hours without awaking to any of my past demons. ‘Fuck’n A’ I croaked out to myself as a reward for escaping my torment from the POW days. Last night was one of a very few peaceful, restful sleeps in my life that would be normal for most everyone else; except those like me who are carrying lots of ghostly baggage. My thoughts, the few I could recall, were the good ones evaporating from my dream state. These were the feelings of Gabby’s warmth, her softness, and the slight scent of stale sex as she lay cradled, asleep between my legs. In that dream state, I was basking in the pleasure of her petite bronzed body, bathed in perspiration, or as someone had once written ‘bathed in a radiant sheen of pleasure,’ since girls don’t perspire; they shimmer. In my morning dream she was blistering hot, and wet, and tight, and hell-bent on riding me until her body locked up tight with groans like an old Chevy running dry on oil. That sliver of morning light had interrupted my romp with her, leaving me with a stiff flagpole and in need of relief. I groaned, rolled out of bed, and lumbered off to the bathroom to drain down my piss-hard-on.
I called Mortenson with my suspicions, then telephoned Worthington right afterward. The three of us met first thing in the morning to review my documents and the numbers I had crunched Saturday and Sunday. In just the few documents I’d photographed, the potential loss to Mortenson’s company was well in excess of $25,000; perhaps just the tip of the iceberg. Mortenson was livid as I rolled rapidly through the pages and tallies of what and how many returned items were listed in Dick Hardon’s document’s log. As I kept adding evidence in my review, over and over, Mortenson kept cursing the son-of-a-bitch, the son-of-a-bitch’s fuck’n mother, and his horse-ass-ugly mother-fuck’n wife as well as the mother-fuck’n day he met him. To say Mortenson was pissed would be putting it mildly. It took a sharp command voice from Worthington to temper his anger; although not to the level of a simmering caldron of hate. It was more like – shoot the mother-fuck’n bastard in the head until he was dead, boiling type of fucking caldron. Mortenson was on a rant that was bound for disaster; if Worthington hadn’t dressed him down. His tone and demeanor cut through Mortenson’s cursing. It was the voice of reason, honed by years of Army experience, that helped bridle some of Mortenson’s anger. The most calming statement came when Worthington barked, “Patience, lieutenant, you have the resources to deal with this! My old rusty pipes are still at my place if we need them!”
I had witnessed this level of anger before; when command level officers lost men in combat situations that were fraught with fucked-up scenarios. Still, I was surprised at how Worthington’s remark about rusty pipes had the most calming effect on Mortenson. Although, I had no clue as to what the statement meant between them. It would be two months down the road before the meaning became chillingly clear.
Worthington made it crystal clear to Mortenson that we couldn’t tip our hand by making changes to the operational procedures at this point, not until we were sure the foreman was the lone operator or we could connect him to others in the scheme to defraud Mortenson. Chris was fuming at realizing he had to expect further losses for the sake of spreading a broader net to catch any others. Reaching in his suit pocket for a small notebook, Worthington searched for and dialed a number on speaker. “State Office, Fraud Division,” the distant voice answered, half grunt and half wheeze. I envisioned some old fat fart with a cigar chunked in his stained lips answering the line.
“Fish, that you?” Worthington queried.
“Worthington? I thought you was dead, you old dog!” came a more jovial response from the other end of the call.
Not wasting any time, Worthington introduced Mortenson and myself, then commenced filling in Detective Don Sturgis, aka Fish, on my initial data. Fish listened without response as Worthington spoke. At a few points Sturgis told him to slow down; I guess he was making notes as he listened to the data points.
“So, what’s this guy’s name again?” Fish asked after gathering some pertinent background.
“Dick Hardon.” Mortenson interjected.
Fish was silent escort sincan for a moment as he seemed to be writing, then chuckled.
“What’s so funny?” Mortenson fumed at his mirthful chuckle.
“Just his name, that’s all, bud. Sounds like a porn star name, to me.” Fish replied. “Hold on while I check something with my guys,” he added as he put the call on hold. During the silence, Worthington nodded to me, motioning to the door, and sent me up to get coffee. I could tell by the manner of his nod that he was looking for some alone time with Mortenson. I took my time heading to the second-floor lounge. Turning the corner, I met Sally and the twins standing in the lobby.
“Hi, Mr. Rawlings!” Sally called out, “How were your holidays?”
“Hi, Jimmy!” Carmen chimed in immediately as she turned and saw me. She was waving as though spotting a long-lost friend. I could see Gabby bump her; the age-old signal to tone it down, I guess, as Carmen quickly turned to read her sister’s pursed lipped expression. Carmen caught on quickly and toned down her exuberance as I walked up to the three of them.
“My holidays were busy, working for Mr. Mortenson and getting to know some of the city sights.” I half-lied not letting out any clues that would raise suspicions. Half-lies, whole-lies, and any other forms of the word ‘lie’ are allowable in military interrogation situations – I just expanded on that a little in this situation. I did work for Mortenson; the city sights I saw were the twin peaks of the Martinez girls’ breasts – and getting to know, intimately know, them was also a truth if you stretched your imagination.
“You two know Mr. Rawlings?” Sally asked the girls after hearing my answer. I suspected she really wanted to ask why they were calling me Jimmy. She knew I was a stranger in town and not likely to be on a first name basis with anyone outside of work let alone two plowgirls.
Gabby quietly answered for the two of them, “We met Mr. Rawlings at the old Radisson Hotel when we were scraping the lot the day before Christmas. He was kind enough to help us spread some sand on the walkways. He was moving in that day and told us Chris had hired him to be a nightwatchman for the old place and that he just started working here, too.”
“So, you found a place close by to live! That’s great news. Only two blocks away; that will make an easy commute during the summer. Give you a chance to stretch your legs, Jimmy.” Sally interjected as a bright smile lit up her face.
“Anyway,” Carmen continued, “Sally, we need to get these December invoices up to the accounting guys,” Carmen’s segue gave them the chance to slip away before Sally could ask any further questions.
I walked along with the girls to the stairwell, Gabby accompanied me while Carmen took the stack of invoices up the elevator. We met in the second-floor lobby and the girls helped me carry the coffee, three black, back to the ‘Ops command room.’
“Miss Sally has got the hots for you, Jimmy!” Gabby giggled as we walked down the stairs. “Didn’t you see the way she got so prissy when she called you Mr. Rawlings and then switched it to Jimmy?” she chuckled.
Honestly, I’d missed that point. But I tucked that nugget away in the back of my mind for future exploration.
“Sally,” I smiled as I replied, “doesn’t hold a candle to either one of you.” Something about Gabby’s mischievous smile, her sarcasm, the way she held herself, even the inflection of her voice, suggested to me that she has a real intelligence and personality. I liked this girl; perhaps a bit more than her sister.
Setting the coffee down before Mortenson and Worthington, I caught the tail end of Fish telling them that he would fly in tomorrow morning with a couple of agents to review the data. After the call ended, Worthington filled me in on what Fish had put us on hold to check on.
Richard Hardon, aka Dick Hardon, aka Frank Harding, and other aliases was prominent in a number of cases previously investigated by the state. He was tied to a group of Texas grifters who wrangled their way into intermediate-sized businesses, bilked them for a while, and then moved on before the companies could suspect their operations. The schemes included sending back so-called damaged goods and delivering them to another warehouse for re-sale or to other vendors at a discount – ones that operated with black-market procedures. Hardon was a low-level operator in the organization. The FBI had the group on their radar as well, but had been unable to tie the grifters to Hardon as the front guy in the other operations. Hardon wasn’t even on anyone’s radar under this new name. His appearance was ringing telephones across a number of government channels after Fish hung up.
During the audit process, I discovered that Hardon had connections to two other projects Mortenson had underway at different locations. Those invoices and shipments came through the same storage where I was quartered. ankara escort In total, Mortenson was out over $175,000 in merchandise; a breaking point beyond recovery for him if he had to take a hit on the total amount pilfered by the Texas Grifters, as the FBI agents had labeled them. Later, I found out that Worthington acquired the background information on the shadowy Texans through Fish. I knew he was gathering intel, but was kept on the outer periphery of Worthington’s personal investigation. My hands were full with findings for Mortenson so I didn’t give it much thought at the time. I should have though.
January turned into February which turned into Spring. The spring thaw had taken the snow and any purity it held was converted to gray slush. Anything the plants didn’t absorb got sucked into the sewers. Mortenson was absorbed by his own rampage by the time the winter weather had slowly released its grip on the city.
The first ray of sunshine in the case to break came out on March 1st. I took the call from Fish that the bust on Hardon was about to go down in less than thirty minutes. Thanking him, I said I would pass the info on, but he told me to hold off until after the take down. I promised to do that. Loose lips sink ships; I knew the fewer people who knew about it the better. I assumed that he made a similar call to Mortenson or at least to his buddy, Worthington. My military training days frequently repeated an old military class adage: Never assume. It makes an ‘ass- out of – u – and – me.’ I hadn’t tumbled to the fact that Fish was purposefully keeping the two former Green Berets out of the loop – for everyone’s sake.
I hustled out of the Worthington building. If I sprinted across the park, I thought I could arrive at my hotel room before it went down. My thoughts were to be out-of-sight and observe from inside my room’s key vantage point. Before I could turn the lock to my room, the raid was underway. It wasn’t like the TV shows, all sirens and squealing tires. Just three sedans moving in swiftly, blocking the front exit and rapidly deployed themselves through the warehouse door. In under three minutes, I saw Hardon’s surprised face coming out with his hands cuffed behind his back. Hardon’s head spun left, in my direction, with hatred scourged across his face. It didn’t take much to figure out what he was thinking. I gave him my daily friendly wave and did my best to deliver a one-finger salute to him as the detective shoved his head down and rolled him into the back of the sedan. Then, they quickly sped out as fast as they had come in. Only one car and two detectives remained, to secure the warehouse office as evidence. The forensic team would be on its way, now that the threat of any possible danger was past. I chatted with the two dicks left in attendance; one I recognized as Fish’s right-hand man from one of our first gatherings to go over the evidence I collected.
Thirty minutes later, as I was about to walk out of the front gate, Mortenson arrived. He screeched to a stop and sprang out of his jeep with a .45 in his hand completely unaware of what had transpired. Fortunately for him, the two dicks were inside Hardon’s office gathering evidence and didn’t see him. It had been a long time since I’d put any tactical training to use but it was either that or see Mortenson storming the warehouse looking for Hardon and get himself or the dicks killed instead. He tried to brush pass me before I could warn him, a move not in his favor. A trained man, despite some missing fingers and a crippled hand had other means of disabling an opponent. My elbow smashed into his ribs and Mortenson crumbled, writhing in pain. I snatched up the muddy .45 automatic, noting the M1911A1 model from Vietnam days, and hissed in his ear, “The cops just took Hardon to jail!”
Mortenson pulled himself up, using the jeep door handle, and sat in the driver’s seat. Quickly, I filled him in about the State Fraud Detectives swooping in to pick up the ass-wipe Dick Hardon just a half-hour before he showed up. I explained to Chris that Hardon was about to be absorbed into the state sewer system, aka, state-lockup, and that he would eventually find his way to the federal facilities as his crimes tied to interstate grand-theft. Mortenson was left sitting in an empty parking lot, – no one in sight to take out his anger against. I removed the clip and ejected the chambered round, then reached out my hand. Slowly, I presented the weapon, butt first. He took possession and I suggested he go home. He nodded and left the complex.
I understood, now, why Fish didn’t want the word out about the bust; he probable knew Mortenson would want first strike against the guy who set the ruination of his business into play. My arms hurt like hell, probably put too much effort into stopping Mortenson, but better too much than not enough. From the cracking sound I heard as I jabbed my elbows into his ribs Mortenson, on the other hand, would etimesgut escort bayan probably need to see a doctor.
I went to my room and dialed the office number. When a matronly voice answered, “Worthington and Worthington Accounting Firm,” I found myself abruptly barking to be transferred to Colonel Worthington. Just as quickly, I found myself correcting his title to Mr. Worthington. I took note of my adrenaline rush as blood was really pumping through my temples. I’d fallen back to military lexicon. My voice sounded like a military command rather than a business casual one. ‘This is no time to be relapsing,’ I cursed myself as the voice said frostily, “Just a moment,” while placing me on hold.
I heard a click and then a familiar voice came on the line, “Mr. Worthington is away from the office, may I help you, sir?” Sally had replaced the operator’s voice.
“Sally, it’s Jim!” My voice was agitated as I spoke, despite my trying to calm down. “I’ve got to speak with your dad, right away. Do you know how to get in touch with him?” I queried her.
“Well not right this moment, Jim, I don’t. If he were at the house, you could call him at home. But he said something about meeting some of his old buddies out at the old farmstead. So all of them will probably be out back of the barn. They wouldn’t hear a phone call out there. They were going to mess around with those god-awful rusty pipes he has,” she added. “Oh, and Daddy said he and the boys were planning on a trip out to Texas for some old soldier’s convention, so dad will be out of town. They’re going to leave from the farm so he won’t be back for – well I don’t know how long.”
“Why is something wrong that I can help with?” her offer to assist in something that dealt with hand-to-hand combat seemed a bit laughable at this point. Despite the situation, I found myself chuckling.
“Sally, thanks for the offer, but I’ll figure it out, okay. By the way, what are those old rusty pipes I heard your dad and Chris talking about?” I asked.
“Why, those darned old war trophies he keeps! You know, the guns all the guys brought back with them from Vietnam. Don’t you have yours?” the innocence in her voice spoke volumes. No doubt a few weapons went missing over there. Right about now, I began wondering what kind and how many ‘rusty pipes’ were stashed out at the old farmstead. I asked Sally for directions to the farm and a phone number for it before I hung up with her. I dialed the number she gave me; it rang for an eternity before I hung up and slumped down on the couch. My gnarled hands had swollen after pummeling Mortenson with my elbows. I needed some time to figure this out.
This was so fuck’n high up the chain of command and so goddamn way over my head, too. I found myself about to jump to another ‘assume’ situation of major proportions. Yet, if I followed the data, I kept arriving at the same conclusion. One Green Beret colonel plus one pissed and now poor hotel owner plus a platoon of Green Berets with an unknow number of rusty pipes equaled a small Texas range war with some unsuspecting grifters.
I wasn’t worried so much about the Berets getting hit as I was about the fallout if they were caught. The Grifters, well they brought down hell on earth upon themselves and they would just have to live with that – or die with it more than likely. My conscience was clear on the latter point; they brought the war – they would go home in body bags as a result of it. Of that I was certain. I toyed with the ideal of calling Fish and giving him a heads up. But then realized Fish had given Worthington the low down on the Texas Grifter’s file from the FBI cases. To my way of thinking, he had only one reason for sharing that confidential information with Worthington.
Was Fish to be considered law enforcement or Green Beret cohort? If I inform him of my suspicions and he stayed on the law side of it; it would end up badly for Mortenson, Worthington, and the other comrades in arms I didn’t know. If Fish was complicit, then he would warn Worthington and they would find another means of retribution against the Texas Grifters. Then I’d be in their cross hairs! In either fuck’n situation I saw myself as fucked. A mangled ex-Airborne Ranger surprising a Green Beret once was one thing. But driving out to an isolated farmstead and taking on an armed platoon of Green Berets … That was just like something David Morrell would have written in First Blood, for that Rambo character. Not even Rambo would be thinking he could pull off stopping that many Green Berets from a mission against the grifters; fuck, Rambo would be out in front of the pack leading the charge.
Fuck! Maybe that’s what I should do. Drive out and join Worthington’s charge.
Somewhere out of the past, the words of a damned old Ranger cadence began singing out around the room, ‘I want to live a life of danger! I want to be an Airborne Ranger …’ I felt myself entangled in a mobius loop; just circling around and around without an exit plan. My head began to spin as my breathing accelerated. Sweat beads rose and trickled down my face as I found the room darkening. I spiraled into another panic induced blackout.
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