Chapter 2

The night was cold. Watching the activity on the docks from a begrimed window high on the wall of the warehouse across the quay, Jake was thankful for being in, out of the wind whipping in off the Atlantic. Tall, halogen arc lights illuminated the scene before him. A roadway on the quay ran across his field of vision, directly below him. Traffic was sparse this early in the evening; most of the longshoremen were probably off on a dinner break. On the other side of the quayside a large asphalt area presented itself. Ordinarily it was full of cranes and containers and trucks coming and going with cargo to be loaded onto the container ship tied up at dockside on the far side of the quay, nearly a quarter mile away. It was empty at the moment after the departure of the “Conte-Maru,” but would soon start filling again in anticipation of the arrival of the “Vincente-Maru.” That was the activity Jake patiently awaited now.

Distantly, the sound of one of the yard engines idling throbbed in the night, almost like a heart beat. “If hearts beat 360 times a minute,” he thought to himself. The old yard engine was an antique and should have been retired years ago. Something made in the twenties or thirties, it had a Fairbanks-Morse two-cycle diesel engine. A huge air intake duct expanded and contracted with each inhalation of the pistons. He remembered rides on a very similar engine as a kid, visiting his uncle down to Searsport. Uncle Howard was the engineer of the yard engine back then. A tall, big man in overalls and a real engineer’s hat made of blue and white cotton ticking, a bandana around his neck and a wipe rag perennially sticking out of a rear pocket. He had sandy colored hair then and usually sported a couple days worth of beard. And his eyes were a haunted blue that bore through you as if you were no more substantial than a ghost. He’d been an engineer with the Bangor and Aroostook Railroad for nearly twenty years. A full engineer at that. He’d been one of the team of engineers that worked the passenger line, picking up passengers and mail and freight in Bangor at the big granite Union Station on the Penobscot River at the foot of Harlow Street, hauling the transferees from the Maine Central’s bound for the North Country – Houlton or Millinockett, with lots of other stops in between on the locals.

Jake had never ridden that train as it stopped before he was born. But he’d heard the story seemingly hundreds of times of the night his uncle near lost his life when the train he was running fell into Sebois Stream after the railroad bridge had washed away in a spring freshet. He shuddered, remembering. Movement across the way caught his eye. Putting his field glasses to his eyes, he made out the hump-backed shape scurrying between containers. Rattus Nordicus, a Norway rat. A big one, too. Momentarily, Jake was glad to be high in the warehouse rather than crouching under a container with rodents the size of Scottish Terriers crawling around.
A chill ran from the top of his head to his tailbone. Jake hated rats with a passion.

~ ~ ~

Chapter 2, Continued...

Jake had been Federal Bureau of Investigation Special Agent for four years when he got his big break. He’d been assigned to the Atlanta Bureau in 1988 after completing his rookie year in Chicago field office. There, he’d mostly done background checks and local inquiries for cases going on elsewhere. He’d been assigned to S.A. Charles Murphy for his training officer. Agent Murphy had immediately let it be known that he was to be addressed as “Charley” outside of the confines of the office, except when superiors were present, of course. Charley was an easy-going bull of a man. Easily 6’2” and 250 pounds, he still ran the required 5 miles each week in under 30 minutes – heck, he ran a sprint mile at a near record pace of 4 minutes 32 seconds at the “company” picnic the summer of 1985, at the age of 41.

Charley had once been on the fast track to stardom, according to the scuttlebutt around the water cooler. In 1980, he was assigned as Special Agent In Charge to investigate one John Warnock Hinckley, Jr. on referral from the Secret Service detail guarding then president-elect, Ronald Reagan. Charley had been an agent for 10 years by then. He found that Hinckley was a 23 year old , mixed up kid with a penchant for some actress named Jodie Foster.

“John Warnock Hinckley Jr. was born in Ardmore, Oklahoma, on May 29, 1955. He was the youngest of the three children of John W. Hinckley Sr., called “Jack,” a successful businessman who became chairman and president of the Vanderbilt Energy Corporation, and homemaker Jo Ann Moore Hinckley,” started the damning document.

He didn’t think Hinckley posed much of a threat to the President and said as much in his report. Famous last words, akin to “What Indians? I don’t see any Indians.” From General George Custer as he rode over the hill towards a place known to the Sioux as “Little Big Horn.”
Charley was transferred from Denver to Fargo, North Dakota for five years after that. Only a spectacular, single-handed arrest of two bank robbers (sought by the FBI without success for over two years) that were numbers three and four on the FBI’s “Most Wanted” list of fugitives restored Charley to the semblance of good graces with the powers that be in Washington. Even with no real chance of advancement, Charley had resigned himself to being the best FBI agent he could be and in a short time was transferred to the SID division in Chicago. “Special Investigations Department” was a misnomer, of course. All they ever did was background checks and historical research. Someone in Washington got a stiff breeze up their skirt at the thought of “Special Agent in Charge – Special Investigations Department.” So “SID” it remained.

An old saying goes “Once burned, twice schmart.” At least, that’s how Charley had learned it from an old babushka down the way in Southie when he was a kid roaming the streets, looking for trouble. She’d been the grandmother of someone he went to school with and typical of her kind, wrinkled skin, red, swollen cheeks from years of field toil and too much booze, a doughy, dumpy exterior, scarf over wispy gray hair, and beady black eyes you could lose your soul in. It was the eyes that held him as she castigated him for stealing a cabbage from her kitchen garden; it was the eyes which made him bend over and accept the switching from her whistling cane for his transgression; and, it was the eyes, welling with tears and telling him to “be a good boy, stay out of mischief…” he remembered as he looked at the neophyte agent in front of him. Something about him reminded Charley of himself as a younger man. Not as young as the miscreant cabbage thief, but something … it was the eyes. “They were old beyond their years, dark, liquid pools a soul could fall into…” Charley gave an almost imperceptible shake and refocused on the file in front of him.

“Agent LaMott, here in the SID we pride ourselves on the thoroughness with which we prosecute our tasks,” Charley began the standard spiel. “Unfortunately, that task is complicated and hindered by the utter stupidity
of the Special Agent in Charge and the extreme obtuseness of our fearless leaders in Washington, including his Majesty, Royal Ronnie.”

“Oh my God, he’s lost his mind,” thought Jake, as he struggled to keep a straight face.

Charley observed Jake’s struggles for a moment. LaMott never let on he was appalled and aghast at Charley’s unorthodox welcome to the office. “Good for him,” thought Charley. “he’ll do just fine” as he allowed a small smile to grace his lips.

“Let’s go get us some crooks!” exclaimed Charley, leaping from his desk and grabbing his coat and hat from the stand in the corner.

“Yes, sir.” Jake managed, stifling a laugh.

“Maybe this won’t be so bad, after all, he thought.” The rumor mill at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia had led Jake to believe his first assignment would be a stinker; that all training agents were by-the-books sticklers for the rules with all the social graces of a broom handle shoved up one’s ass.

Walking briskly through the sub-zero garage, Jake noticed his top coat, often too warm for the outside training exercises conducted at Quantico and at the headquarters in Washington, DC, where he did his internship, was totally inadequate to the job of keeping him warm in Chicago, Illinois, in January. The wind ran through it, and through him, like an old clipper ship running before the gales of the Screaming Fifties as it rounded Cape Hope – unstoppable. He’d have to do something about that – and soon. He needed something like the old green wool army top coat he’s had in high school. Although, he suspected a $600 black cashmere coat was expected for official winter garb for an S.A. in Chicago, judging by what “Charley” was wearing. He’d stopped the elevator on the way down from the office to the garage and proceeded to tell him in no uncertain terms that he “would be addressed as “Agent” or “Special Agent” only in formal situations. At all other times, unless they had superiors within earshot, he was to be called ‘Charley,’ got it, asshole?”

“If that’s what he wants, that’s what he gets,” Jake muttered through chattering teeth to himself as they approached the car.

“Stop shivering and drive,” said Charley, tossing the keys to him.

~ ~ ~


Blogger Wil said...

WITHOUT compromising national security or yourself, does anyone know which building the FBI is located in in Chicago? Atlanta or Miami? The names of streets that those buildings are on? It is for the story - I am not planning any dastardly deeds - just looking to maintain continuity. All help is appreciated.

2:04 PM  
Blogger Unhinged said...

Another strong chapter, Wil. Very good writing, quite good considering the pace you're moving at.

I'm not going to offer any critiquing, though. No nigglers to slow you down. Ain't gonna do it.

As for the FBI offices--have you tried Google?

Keep it up!

11:26 AM  

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