Shock and Awe Chapter 13. Waiting Room

Standard

Chapter 13. Waiting Room

Choking, face stinging, Leslie Murrie was still trying to catch her breath when the captain of the division walked up.

“Report.” Jevv Smith said in a no-nonsense tone. The eyes of the man glittered in the dark, reflecting the flashing lights of ambulance, fire and law enforcement light-bars.

“The unknown male just kicked our asses. The unsub has booby-trapped the waiting room. There were two grenades on the ceiling we didn’t know about. They are visible through the window now.”

“Why didn’t you see them before?” Captain Smith shook his head. “Do you need glasses?”

“Smoke, sir. The room was full of it.” She felt like a child called to the principal’s office. “Military grade and stun grenades like I have never seen. They kept going off.”

“Seriously? Maybe he tossed more in?”

“No sir, definite multiple discharge from a single grenade.”

“Never heard of such a that.”

“Same here, until tonight.” She nodded. “But the casings are in there. There were two kinds of flashes I think, but all were effective.”

“Okay, Sergeant. Head over to the EMS stations and have them check you out, you look like you have chicken pox.” Captain Smith looked her  face over.

“Yes, sir.” She touched her face and winced.

“Officer Holmes.”

“Yes, sir?”

“Find him, I want his ass. Use your dogs.”

“Yes, sir.” Stephanie Holmes said and walked off to her team.

“Cry havoc!” She whispered as she walked with purpose to her mission, then into the microphone of her radio. “Let loose the dogs on this son of a…”  

Listening to the radio, Officers Archer, Easton and Martin brought the dogs to the front door of the lobby and made a quiet entry, the dogs noses sniffing out in every corner of the room for a scent that might help in tracking the unsub.

Bomb specialist Oscar “Os” Greene moved through the K-9 units, declaring  the room clear of explosives. His hand-sized remote-controlled camera, his spy on mini-wheels had discovered one more grenade set to roll out into the middle of the mens room when they made entry.  The unsub did not leave lethal weapons behind, but it was all a delay tactic.

Captain Smith got the report that the waiting room was clear, the teams were making entry into hallways and both directions in the stairwell.

“Report.” The voice of the Chief echoed in the mobile command center. “Where is Captain Smith?” 

“Sir, he will be right here, we called him to the command post.” The blond woman said. Chief Whiting recognized her from the department baseball team. “Crush” If he remembered, for how hard she hit the ball with a bat. 

Captain Smith walked up to the Chief and the two men exited the command post to sit inside the Chief’s car where Captain Smith apprised him of the situation.  Chief Whiting sat and nodded while Jevv described the three layers of protection, the distance they had pushed public and press back. 

“No one that we do not know can cross anywhere without being spotted. He is inside, even if he is hiding on the roof, we will have a helicopter with a mini-sun in a few minutes. There is no way out.”

“Good job, Jevv.” The Chief nodded. “Do we have it narrowed down where he is?”

“Reports of shooting in dispatch, we have three teams, one team each heading down the two elevators, one team making entry from the stairwell. He has nowhere to go. We will get him.”

But despite the best efforts and the arrival of the helicopter overhead, the mountain man with the flintlock was never found. The only evidence he left of his entry was a bar code from a cereal box and tatters of paper from a string of firecrackers he dropped as a diversion during the smoke screen.

No other damage was obvious. The only damage to the building was the massive twin lead slugs that broke the bulletproof barrier and the officer shot by one of their own.

In the days that followed during the investigation, they discovered the hardcopy records destroyed in the most secure area of the department. 

The man was a ghost. The HR Department reproduced new records from the mainframe, no other damage could be discovered.  It was curious way the paper products in the cabinet of Human Resources had become dust over a weekend. 

Lucky they had a computer system to fall back on. 

Lucky, indeed.

 

Advertisements

Shock and Awe Chapter 11. Double Padlock Security

Standard

Chapter 11. Double Padlock Security

In the ceiling over Human Resources, Radio Check opened the vent slowly, the old hardware that held it in place had long broken by some service before he arrived. Once he had it opened, it stayed in place, then he used his cap once again for its lifting power.

He looked around before he stepped on the floor of the office of Human Resources, police personnel files were kept in a cabinet in hard copy format. Fingerprints, backgrounds, ID photos.

Everything.

Everything about a man or woman who worked in the county the HR Department backed up the computer files old-school style.

Under lock and key they existed, with the watchful organization of the obsessive compulsive director of personnel, she was confident in the system she ran. She never trusted the computer system.

Two hasps on a fireproof file cabinet. Each padlock secured with a combination padlock. Different combinations. No one person had access to the sensitive files, she had full confidence in that locked system.

Never slowed down by such things. In the back of each lock was a key access in the event someone forgot the combination.

He had both sides open faster than it would have taken the secretary to dial in the combination on one lock.

Rolling the top drawer open, he flipped through the folders, pulling back on the tabs to read names and ranks.

Each and every paper file on acid free paper, he flipped through them all. Secretary, detective, chief of police, patrol officer.

The files were all here. Two-hundred separate paper documents of combined sheriff, EMS, Fire Department and police. This office served them all, being the county seat and offices that they consolidated several years before.  The government centralized and condensed files, every officer, firefighter, paramedic and EMT, undercover, vice, homicide, mayor, secretaries, all from the lowliest janitor to the leaders on the top floor.

Right to this room.

From his backpack, Radio Check pulled out a thermos sized container with a “D” shaped handle on top. With measured movements, he twisted the handle and pumped it four times. Flipping the front of the sprayer down to expose the tip, adjusted it for a medium spray and dampened all the paper in the top drawer.

He repeated the same procedure in each drawer, he moved to the dozen cabinets in turn, in twelve hours, all the paper would crumble into dust. Closing and locking the files as he finished with each drawer. The entire time he checked his timer –  Only five minutes passed.

It had been thirty-five minutes since he pulled the triggers on his rifle and, by now, they had discovered he was not in the basement levels. That the officers would think they had driven him out and he somehow got up the stairs without being noticed. They would be looking to alternative exits.

It may have occurred to one of them that the elevator car had a service hatch. The police investigate that thought and if they did so on the basement floor, they would notice that the air return vent would be curiously clean.

It was time to move.

He hooked the toe of his shoe into cap that hung from the cable, he pressed the button for the winch to lift him. The sound was lower pitch, the powerful electric motor was slowing down. The batteries were nearly depleted, but this was its last time it would be needed.

Pulling up into the round vent, he reached down and pulled the ancient vent cover back into place.

And it would not stay! Radio Check swore for the first time in the mission. It kept swinging down, until he figured out that the trick to twist slightly and wedge it in place with a folded bit of newspaper from 1974 of an editorial giving opinions of Nixon’s resignation. 

Shaking his head, the irony of it all. An editorial about a crook in the government covering the traces of an intruder on a mission to expose crooks in the government.

It struck him as funny in one of those odd, ironic ways.

Shock and Awe Chapter 10. Going up!

Standard

Chapter 10 Going up!

 

He had nearly dropped the vent in the room of the mainframe, pulling it up by the tips of his fingers, he saw the officer walk by the window. Her shadow stopped and he knew she was coming back to look.

She saw it.

*Damn. Maybe she didn’t know what she saw. * He thought.

Crawling back to the service hatch, he opened it and could hear the verbal commands that squad leaders were given to the men while they were holding the elevator door. They still did not know where he was, this was in the plus column for the operation. One officer,  wounded in the crossfire when he dropped the Chinese firecrackers as a distraction, this went in the minus column. Officers shot was not according to plan, most uniforms were innocents.

Stinger grenades not counting. He stepped over to the positive pressure side of the system and opened the hatch. The inflated fabric balloon had done its job and now was time to retire it.

Pulling a boot-knife, he sliced the material and stuffed it in his backpack, restoring the airflow to the lower levels and data center. He did not want anything to overheat there. Closing the service hatch, he slipped back into the air return and made his way to the elevator shaft.

Stepping gingerly on the steel supports that anchored the box of the elevator car. He squatted down and became part of the machine.

“C’mon, Russ. You are doing okay, just in the car.”

He could hear the woman’s voice clearly.

“I’m so sorry I shot you. Really.”

Friends? Partners? It made him smile. Either way, if the shot officer was a good enough man, they would become closer friends.

Radio Service laughed inwardly, the only outside appearance of his humor was a smile nearly hidden under his long beard. He was a cupid in a twisted sense of the phrase.

The difficult part now accomplished. As an option, he could stop at basement level-1 and mess with the police even more, but he had nothing against the honest men of the SWAT team. The elevator slowed and came to a stop on the main floor. More swat team had come in. Listening to them talk, they knew he was no longer in the bathroom.

Yeah, time to leave. Messing with them now was a game of chance. Thus far, there was nothing left to chance. All according to plan. The Swat level was only an option if time and events looked positive.

Stepping off the elevator car as it began its descent to the dispatch level, he hung on to the service ladder in the shaft.

Four floors of a ladder climb.

Well, three and a half, he would enter into the return vent on the top floor and access the human resources office.

Second floor, detectives level. He should try to figure out something to do there. But— it was not in the plans, so he kept climbing.

Third floor. An option to enter, Commanders, Vice-chief’s office general admin. Nearly all of it on computer. Access was already granted. He would spend far more time looking for tiny bits of information that did not pay them back in benefits.

Cost versus benefit at this point. The cost was too much time versus the risk of capture.

Fourth floor. Chief of Police. Files that were still on paper. Physical access to the stand-alone system that belonged only to the administration and the Chief himself.

Into the exhaust vent he stepped. This one was smaller by about a third. He could not sit straight up, but he could recline comfortably if he chose to.

A first look. A secretary type office. File cabinets, locked with a simple combination padlock, the type that had a keyhole in back.

Worth a look. He tagged the inside of the plenum with a yellow flashing LED light and moved on.

Sliding his thin camera down the vent, he looked at another office. The Chief of Police worked here. A massive desk, sumptuous decor. Pictures on the wall. Books everywhere. A long table on the far side of the room. But a dead-end.

He looked another few meters down. There was another corner. He looked at the Chief’s office again. Nope. There was no room or vestibule to call for a vent.

Making the corner and then to the downward bend, he slipped his snake-eye through the vent. There, a computer. Looked to be cabled for internet. But it was not a city issued piece of hardware.

This was the Chief’s personal computer.

Excellent!

Twisting the camera around, there were small speaker cabinets at four points at the ceiling where the wall met.

Not speakers.

Video cameras.

Oh, quite sly, Chief, quite sly.

Pulling out his tablet, he opened up a sniffer program and let it run for a few minutes. He was ahead on the timetable so he could spare the minutes.

Before the uniforms began a floor by floor sweep, he would still be gone and they would have layers of cordons around the block to look for him.

This group never just sealed a block. They sealed a block three times normally. One might slip through a single line of cops, but the Croix Bay police? It was a minimum of three levels. They had their fair share of fugitives running from other law enforcement. No-one slipped past them, they always got their man.

Well, except for tonight. Around the building they would have all the available patrols. This is right where he wanted them. Running around in the basement, playing war with shadows while he was in the Chief’s personal entertainment system.

Maybe. He was watching the sniffer.

There! A spike in broadcast. A handshake. Data transmitted back and forth.

He sent a corrupted packet, knocking the wifi connection off. The item logging into the computer would fail and need to retry.

And it did. Two times, three times. He used the patience of the machine against itself.

Then he had a break. The complete log in sequence from the cameras. While the camera cycled for yet another attempt to log into the computer, he logged in using the camera’s MAC and identifier.

Although he was in the air duct, he now had control of the computer as if he was sitting at the keyboard.

Intercepting the camera signal, he successfully logged it into his tablet and download the images it had stored. One picture per minute. High resolution. Radio Check nodded, not an unreasonable setup, except for the outdated operating system. A bit of poking around, he found the password file.

The password file was not even encrypted. He downloaded it and sent it on to the radio service, packed up and crawled back to the HR office. Scanning around, a motion sensor was on the wall covering the room.

“Radio service radio check, hardware check.”

“Go ahead. You are on Vee-Oh-Eye-Pee with an IP address.”

“Sending you images. Do you have this under control?”

“Radio check. Copy sensor, it routes through to dispatch. Outer Limits. You are clear.”

It was the most talkative that radio service had been in a long time. Radio Service hated the sound of his own voice and was terse over the open air, but this was downright talkative for him.

He would have to tell Radio Service that he nearly talked Radio Check’s ear off in these few seconds.