"We MUST do something."
"I agree. But what?"
There was a long pause while the first one thought about it. "I have an idea."
"I am listening."
"We hire somebody. Somebody to protect US."
The older one thought about it and agreed. Then he slowly moved his wrinkled hands with their manicured nails. "Do you have somebody in mind?"
The one with the idea smiled, showing her gleaming but just slightly uneven fangs. "Yes, yes I do uncle. Iíve heard about somebody...."
Unified Protective and Security Services is proud of their long history of offering complete but discrete security and litigation services to a variety of clients who need it. Celebrities, business executives, even some government officials who do not qualify for state police or secret service protection but feel they need someone to watch over them from time to time. Their officers and agents ranged from people who simply watch what was going on to armed specialists who had arrest powers and could function as full security operatives.
One of the companies that had been involved in the three-way merger that created UPSS had been in business for many years. And over that history, they had served some customers who were less than honest businessmen with above board interests. In fact, the archives showed that two of the primary customers of the company had been major Mafia bosses during the nineteen fifties. Part of the legacy of the company was that no client had ever been seriously injured or killed by direct action while they were under the protection of the company's officers, two plane crashes and one earthquake don't count. Another part of that legacy was the UPSS policy of near total secrecy and non-disclosure of any aspect of their clients under ordinary circumstances.
There are many clients in the world to whom that legacy is very important.
Mark Jones was the director of client services for UPSS's Atlantic City office. He had started in the field as uniformed security in a parking garage, then he moved up through various positions until he was a plainclothes guard assigned to certain high rollers at a couple of casinos. Several of those VIP's included elderly patrons who tended to 'wander' off the property into some of the more interesting parts of town or, more usually, some big shot who got somewhat 'rambunctious' when they overindulged in fun and liquor and would get into more trouble than they could handle. The routine celebrity, lecherous politician or billionaire playboy the casino staff was more than capable of dealing with. From there he moved into management.
Tonight he was staying late to meet a group of potential new clients.
The clients had requested the meeting after normal business hours and that there wouldn't be overly many office staff around during the meeting. Jones agreed to meet the client alone with only one officer in the office who would let the client in and out.
Ted Campbell had been a UPPS uniformed officer for several years and he thought that he'd seen it all. He'd worked conventions where initiates had performed stunts best described as stupid, and then it was left up to the security team and the fire department to get them out of it. His best story involved a wedding reception for the son of a union president when the ex-boyfriend of the bride and about a dozen of his buddies decided to make a statement. They made their statement, and the security force made theirs when they kept the guests from beating the ex's party half to death.
But tonight when the new clients arrived, Ted was sure it was a prank of some sort.
Until he looked into the eyes of one of them, then he knew this was something out of the ordinary.
"Mister Jones, the clients are here. Sir." Ted said with a very controlled voice.
"Very good. Show them in." Jones smiled his 'glad to meet you' smile.
"Yes sir." The guard turned around and stepped back. "This way please."
The smile froze on Jones' face for a second. Then it slowly faded.
The three clients walked into his office. The first man was dressed in a very carefully tailored black linen suit, he was completely at ease and very refined in his mannerisms. A striking young woman with a strong resemblance to him was wearing an evening outfit stood beside him. The other man was dress far more casually and looked out of place with the other two.
"Yes Mister Jones. We are what we appear to be. And we are in desperate need of your services."
Jones took a deep breath and tried to speak, but his visitors kept going. One then another speaking.
"We are being hunted to death."
"Several of my people came to live with me in Ventnor, and there, we are safe for now. But the others are facing almost certain oblivion."
"I know you wouldn't think that WE would need protection, but... We do."
Jones held up his hands.
"Yes Mister Jones?" The older of the guests said.
"Please sir. I don't mean to seem disrespectful, but..."
"You do not believe we are the genuine article. And that if we are such, that we would need your company's services." The older gentleman folded his hands serenely. "I am exactly what you perceive me to be. Ferenc Alsovar, at your service sir." He bowed his head slightly, then he continued. "This is my niece, Cecilia."
The sophisticated woman sitting to Alsovar's right nodded slowly. "Mister Jones."
"A pleasure ma'am."
"And this is my dear friend Trent."
Trent smiled as well. But his expression was somewhat simian with very pronounced canine teeth and somewhat thin lips and flattened nose outlined by unruly facial hair well up on his cheeks.
"Does Trent live with you as well?"
"No, I live on. Rhode Island Street." Trent said carefully.
"Actually Mister Jones. He lives somewhat beneath the Avenue." Alsovar said.
"Under the light." Trent smiled. "In the deep rocks."
It took Jones a minute to put it together. "You live under the Absecon Lighthouse?"
Cecilia chuckled softly. "Mister Jones, many of our, friends, live in somewhat unusual places."
"Yes." Trent said. "Light house. Stadium. Mar-een-a."
Alsovar's hands tightened as he spoke carefully. "Which is why we need your services. I have made arrangements to take over an estate in Somers Point. I wish to move as many of my associates there as possible and then to make a perpetual contract with your firm to ensure their security as long as it would be needed. Many of them will be moving on their own, or using a moving company I have a contract with, but others will need 'assistance'."
"Sounds like you have a definite plan."
"I do." Alsovar said. "Your firm will travel to the various locations and ensure safe passage to the estate for those that need or desire it. You see, some of them do not enjoy traveling, and others wish to avoid official contact, so an escort would be more than worthwhile to them, and to me." He paused for a moment. "Altogether there are a dozen families and perhaps thirty individuals in perhaps a dozen or so states."
"Are they all...." Jones asked, but wasn't sure how to put it.
"Like us? No."
Cecilia seemed to be enjoying Jones' uneasiness with the subject. "We are, of course, vampyres. Trent is, well, Trent is Trent. The Morrison's are what you would call a family of Zombies. Mister Foulks is a were-cougar." She stopped and nodded. "Yes. A were-cougar. He becomes a mountain lion at the oddest times."
Alsovar laughed softly. "I was with him one time when the transformation began during a recital. Imagine the audience's surprise when the feature pianist suddenly roared and ran from the stage almost on all fours to lock himself in his dressing room."
Jones couldn't contain his curiosity. "He plays piano?"
"Oh yes Mister Jones. Not all of us are extras in the Haunted Mansion on the boardwalk. Foulks is a renowned classical pianist and is right now on tour with the Cleveland Symphony."
"How does he explain his.... condition?"
"Everybody knows how eccentric some musicians can be." Cecilia said.
"He'll be joining us at the end of their present tour." Alsovar was still smiling. "I have a full list of their, as it were, special conditions. Locations. And other aspects of the moves on a disc." Alsovar looked at Trent and nodded.
Trent looked at Alsovar and grinned.
Alsovar looked at Trent and nodded.
Trent looked at everybody and grinned.
"The CD Trent." Alsovar said.
"Yes." He patted the side of his coat.
"Give it to Mister Jones."
"Oh." Trent reached into the pocket of his jacket with the local minor league baseball team's logo on it and eventually produced a CD in a clear plastic case. As well as several handfuls of other 'stuff'. Then he slid the disc across the table to Jones.
"My email address and other the information is in the ReadMe file on the disc." Alsovar said as Jones picked it up and looked at the label.
"You use computers?" Jones asked with some mild surprise.
"Of course. Doesn't everyone?"
Near the end of the interview the manager brought up the subject of the fee for such an unusual assignment.
Alsovar didn't waste any time trying to negotiate a discounted rate for multiple assignments and mileage. He maintained that he wanted the best officers we had and added the view that those officers must be up to the job and be able to maintain confidentiality given the unusual situation.
Jones finally came out and said it. "This may be the costliest assignment we've ever been given."
"Have no fear Mister Jones. I have made proper financial arrangements for this undertaking. And the majority of those whom we are moving will contribute for incidental expenses as well."
The manager must not have seemed convinced because Cecilia leaned forward and almost whispered. "Mister Jones. When one has lived as long as my uncle, one has opportunity to establish a considerable reserve fund for matters such as this."
Alsovar grinned. "Well, having been born into European Nobility has helped some as well."
That surprised Jones where nothing else had. It evidently showed.
"Yes sir. You see, my grandfather was a Hungarian king of some reknown."
"There are several castles named after us." Cecilia said dramatically.
"She embellishes the facts somewhat. But it is true nonetheless."
"Fascinating." Jones said. There was no other word for it.
"And you haven't asked me how old I am Mister Jones."
"It doesn't matter, because I don't rightly know. Since I have been keeping track I have celebrated ninety-three years." He laughed softly. "Since I have no idea when I was born I have adopted the same birthday as my thoroughbred horses." He paused.
"January First." Jones offered.
"Very good sir." He smiled and nodded.
After a few more details Alsovar thanked me cordially with a slight bow, his niece smiled warmly and thanked me again for taking their case.
Trent shook Jones' hand energetically and smiled broadly then he followed the others like a child.
After they left Jones put the CD in his computer and checked the contents.
He was still half expecting a file to open up and declare the whole thing a great joke at his expense when Ted and the guard that had been at the front desk came in.
"Mr. Jones. What just happened?"
"I did a pre-assignment interview with a client."
"Yeah. But the client was, ahhh..." The other guard said.
"It's like this Ron. He's an eccentric millionaire from an old European family, his niece and a servant."
Ron nodded slowly.
"I see. OK." Ted nodded as well. Then he licked his lips to speak. "What did they come to us for?"
"Extensive estate protection and some travel escorts for various family and friends." Jones said looking at the list.
"Did they request anybody in particular?"
Jones looked up. "No, just experienced officers with a good ability to maintain the discretion the situation calls for."
"Doing what?" Ron asked.
Jones looked at the list and clicked on one of the names. "Well here's a good one. Somebody needs to go to Chicago and pick up Mister and Mrs. Campidto and bring them back here. With minimal contact with the authorities."
"OK. No problem."
"And the Campidtos can only travel at night as they have a medical condition adversely affected by the sun."
"That would make life interesting. But it could be done."
"How would you do it?" Jones asked.
"I'd rent an RV and black out the bedroom and maybe the hall and bathroom. Tarpaper over the windows and like that. During the day, they can stay in there while the driver and escort catches some Z's in a motel or something. Then at night, we roll. If they want to avoid official contacts, they couldn't fly or take the train or anything. So that means overland travel." Ted said thoughtfully.
Jones nodded. "I agree." He clicked on another name. "Here's another one your RV could serve. Ms Pretta Seimon. Is known to have random fits and may need restraint. She's in some town I've never heard of in Virginia."
"Exactly. We take a straight jacket with us, and maybe a nurse to keep her in the back and drive it straight through." Ron said.
With their assistance Jones formed a plan. They would lease a Class A motor home, make the modifications he had mentioned to the windows and other light access points, including putting security screens over them in case some of the clients acted on the idea of trying to get away.
Then with the plan in hand he called the number in the file for Mr. Alsovar.
Cecilia answered on the first ring with "Yes Mister Jones."
Jones told her that they had developed a plan for the actual transportation of their associates to the estate. She asked me to hold while she got her uncle. Then he ran down the entire idea to him.
"Very good. Please proceed with the preparations. However, instead of leasing the vehicle you mention, please find an appropriate unit and make arrangements for me to purchase it. That way we may make any modifications we need to with impunity, and we will have it available for future use if it is so needed."
"Yes sir." Jones said and made the note. "How will you purchase it?"
"I will pay cash Mister Jones. Just give me the name and location of the dealer and I will meet you there some evening at their convenience for the transaction."
"Have you considered the needs of the others on the list that may not be able to travel by coach?"
"Yes sir I have. We'll develop a second traveling team to see to individual cases like that. But I believe most of the individuals on your list can be picked up by the RV."
"I agree. Let's proceed along those lines. I'll make sure the estate is ready as your teams make their trips. Please let me know who you will be moving and I'll see to their needs on this end."
"Yes sir." When Jones hung up he grinned at the two officers in front of him. "He bought it. We're go. And you're it. So, you two ready to go RV shopping?"
"Yes sir." They said.
The next day the legal department drew up the contract and called Mr. Alsovar for more information and hammer out the payment details. Once that was firmed up they ran down the list of his friends which we would move in the RV and the order to move them. Then they discussed the other group to be moved. Those that required even more elaborate arrangements, including in one case, a large bathtub full of brine, would be handled in other ways.
Ron Green, Ted Campbell and Mister Jones went RV shopping and found the perfect unit at the second dealership on the Black Horse Pike, which they thought was appropriate given the nature of the client. The motor home was one model year old, and a very simple unit without slide-outs or other luxuries, but it looked like exactly what they needed.
The RV wasn't a customized tour bus, but it was the next best thing with a massive diesel pusher engine, two huge fuel tanks, and all the amenities of a well-furnished apartment. The cockpit, there was no other word for where the driver sat, featured controls for nearly every inch of the camper including a global positioning and mapping device as well as a state of the art communications system. They discussed the customization they said the client had wanted with the service department and got a time estimate for the modifications. Then they called Mister Alsovar and arranged for him to come inspect the rig and approve the purchase. He told the salesman that he would be there that evening if that was all right.
"Sir if you are making a serious offer on this unit I'll stay as late as I need to." The salesman said.
"Yes sir. I am. I will see you later this evening. We shall be there at eight."
"Yes sir. I look forward to meeting you." The salesman said and hung up, then he looked across the desk at the two security men. "Well, I've dealt with some odd cookies, I guess your Mister Alsovar will just be another one."
Jones nodded with a grin, "Yes sir. You could say that."
At five minutes to eight they saw a large black car pull into the parking lot. Mister Alsovar got out of the passenger seat and adjusted his crisp suit. If anything, he was even more formally attired than he had been yesterday, complete with bright red sash with some sort of crest embroidered on it. His niece got out of the back seat wearing a cocktail length gown accessorized with a tasteful array of jewelry.
Ted and Mr. Jones expected Trent to be with them again, but he never emerged from the car, and from what he could see the driver was a more or less normal person. Alsovar extended his arm to his niece and they walked toward the RV dealership's office.
"Well, he dresses better than most of our customers." The salesman said.
"I'll go meet them." Ron Green said.
"You're just trying to make a good impression with Cecilia." Jones smirked. While Ted suppressed a laugh.
Ron shrugged. "Something wrong with that?"
"She's a client."
"For now." Ron said and went out to meet them as they opened the front door.
Jones and the salesman both stood to greet Alsovar and his niece. And within a few minutes the sales manager joined them.
From the beginning it was clear that Alsovar was running the transaction. He questioned the salesman and his manager about the RV's features and the customization they needed to do and what that would cost and the available warranties on the base unit and what the changes made would do to the warranty. But he didn't mention the overall cost of the entire unit until everything else had been discussed in depth. And when he did mention it he did so with one sentence.
"Very good sir. This unit will do quite well. Now. What is your best price for it?"
The sales manager had been quietly working as the salesman had negotiated. She now had two figures on her notepad. The larger number was the total retail cost of everything mentioned. The lower number was the base cost of the unit to the dealership. She would make an offer somewhere between.
She told them what the full retail cost of the unit as discussed was, then offered Alsovar a number about twenty percent below that with a smile that had been practiced for years to be disarming.
Jones was almost dumbstruck by the price.
Alsovar didn't even blink. Instead he stared at the manager with his hands in a pyramid in front of him. He seemed to be thinking about the price but he never spoke.
The sales managerís gentle smile faded slightly. "I believe we can do a little better by that." She said, then she made another offer significantly below the first.
"Done." Alsovar said with his own smile. "Prepare the document."
"I will pay you half now. The other half when they pick up the vehicle."
"Cash?" The manager said with wide eyes.
"My uncle enjoys haggling, but once he is satisfied with the deal, he closes the sale and moves on." Cecilia said.
"I see." The salesman said.
Mister Alsovar had reached into his suit jacket and taken out a thin leather bound book. He opened it up and wrote out a check for half the amount of the RV. "When we accept the unit, I will give you the balance in currency."
"We'll have to clear this through the bank bef..." The salesman began.
"I expect no less. Treat this transaction as you would any other sale." Alsovar said quietly as he put his bankbook away.
"Yes sir." The sales manager said. "Thank you."
"Now." The gentleman said as he stood up and adjusted his vest and jacket. "Shall we go see the unit?"
"Of course." The salesman said.
The huge camper was right where they had left it that afternoon.
Alsovar walked around it, then they went inside and he inspected everything carefully.
"Very good." He said at length. "I believe you are correct Mister Jones. This will serve nicely once the modifications have been made."
"Thank you sir." Jones answered.
"Call me when they are finished with it. Now, we are off to the reception for the Deputy Prime Minister." The gentleman said. Then he shook hands all around and carefully walked down the unit's stairs. He assisted his niece with an outstretched hand then they walked back to the car as elegantly as they had arrived.
They others watched as they got in their car and it pulled away.
"Well?" Jones said to the salesman. "Odd cookie?"
The salesman took a deep breath. "The oddest."
While the vehicle was being modified Mr. Jones and Ted had to decide on the rest of the two road crews. One crew, with Ted as Officer In Charge and Ron as principal driver, would take the camper and handle those that would need such an arrangement, the other crew would move the clients that would need extra special accommodations in whatever vehicle they needed, including a rented panel truck and begin once the other operation was well underway. Mr. Jones wanted two or three people to make each trip. That way there would be one to drive, one to navigate and communicate, the third member of the 'crew' would see to the passengers. They both agreed that all three should be able to do all three jobs and the hardest one to do would most likely be the 'taking care of the passengers' part of the trip. As far as driving the motor home, they simply pulled the personnel folders and checked hobbies and past jobs where the employees had listed their outside interests and skills, some had indicated they had experience with large vehicles and even Class A motor homes. That had been the easy part.
Then they checked the psychological profiles of the other employees. They wanted individuals with both a good sense of duty and the absurd. And they wanted those with the ability to work well on their feet and deal with unusual situations. The best prospects went onto a short list of those to be interviewed.
"So when do you think we should tell them about who the clients are?" Ted asked.
Jones shook his head. "It shouldn't matter if the client is the devil himself."
"Well, not the devil, but maybe a close relative."
They laughed. But then the manager thought about it and stopped. "Which means we should take Bill Cheron off the list." Ted said.
Jones paused a second and then nodded. "And Betty." He looked down the list. "How about Paul Sessions? He's pretty religious."
"I don't know him that well. Buck's religious, but he's been OK on other odd jobs." Ted answered.
The manager looked at the names on his hand written list. "Let's call in the ones we got and see how it goes. Buck's pretty easy going, he'll be OK."
They decided to fill the last spot on Ted's crew first.
Elizabeth Hoywell was the first interview. Ted had thought she'd be perfect for the assignment for several reasons.
"She was on duty with me during the last Sexpo." He had said.
Mr. Jones nodded. "I read some of the reports. Was it really that tough?"
"Some of them went out of their way to try to provoke us into an incident. I had to work at it to stay cool. Elizabeth wasn't even phased by them."
"Good." Jones put her name at the top of the list.
"So you've been on some unusual assignments and maintained professionalism and confidentiality." Mister Jones said to her.
"And if another assignment with some unusual clients came up and we were looking for volunteers to work it, would you be up to the challenge?" Ted said.
"It's a most unusual client and assignment." Jones added.
"Sounds better than sitting in the cash room of a casino." She grinned. "How unusual is the client?"
Jones and Ted looked at each other.
"That unusual." Elizabeth said then looked right at Ted. "Just how weird is this guy?"
They looked at each other again.
"Dang. Then what's the assignment?"
"Well." Jones said. "It'll involve some travel."
"To move some of the client's associates."
"Oh no, no." The manager said quickly. "They're... well... different."
"Now I'm getting worried about it."
"So. How do we explain it?" Ted asked Mister Jones.
"Got it." He turned to Elizabeth and set his face. "We are going to provide transportation to a group that thinks they are... classic movie monsters. Amongst other ... things."
She started to laugh, but then caught Ted's expression. "You're serious."
"So are they."
Elizabeth paused a second. "But they are... like us, right?"
Mister Jones shrugged. "I guess so."
Ted had an answer, "Well. The client of record isn't like most of us, he's seriously rich."
"Eccentric." She said with a small smile.
Elizabeth pursed her lips and made a face, "Well. OK. Sounds like fun. I'm in."
Ted Campbell OIC, Elizabeth Hoywell, Ron Green
Campidto family move
Chicago, IL to Somers Point, NJ
Full mission narration by Ted Campbell
The RV road crew met with Mr. Alsovar at the estate to discuss the upcoming trip. He told us about the Campidtos and showed us where they'd be living at the estate. Then we went over the itinerary for the trip. We were planning on driver straight through to Chicago, taking turns behind the wheel and moving as fast as possible with minimal stops. But the trip back would be somewhat more relaxed as Mr. Alsovar wasn't sure the couple would be comfortable traveling during the day.
I commented that the bedroom of the camper had been completely blacked out and that once the privacy screen was closed you the room could serve as a darkroom for film developing, including two fixtures of red light bulbs and the others with regular bulbs so dim you could barely tell they were on with the door open. He said he had seen that on his tour of the finished vehicle when it was taken for a shakedown cruise. But that he still wasn't sure they'd want to travel during the day. We all agreed we'd let them get settled in the RV and then see if they wanted to try daytime travel.
Then Mister Alsovar's niece focused her attention on Elizabeth and asked her if she understood what the Campidto's special condition was. She said that Mister Jones and I had briefed her about the clients and some of their more unusual personalities. Then Cecilia called her by name and smiled and said that while some of the clients were a bit over the top, not all of them were acting.
Elizabeth was actually incredulous. She did not believe anything of the sort and said she'd been in this business a long time, and served in public health for a few years after high school and she'd seen almost everything. Then Mister Alsovar called her name softly and simply looked at her. I did not hear anything he said, nor did I see any change in him or his niece, but the effect on Elizabeth was unnerving to witness. Her eyes narrowed for a second and she seemed to be ready to say something to him, but then her mouth closed and her eyes got very wide, then she shivered and moved sideways in her chair away from Alsovar. Finally she shook her head and said something about the Rosary. Which was odd, because Elizabeth isn't Catholic.
I asked Alsovar what he had done to her but he didn't answer. Instead he put his hands together in front of him as seemed to be his habit and he appeared to be meditating. Cecilia spoke instead. "I believe my uncle just convinced her not to be so doubtful." Is exactly what she said.
In a few minutes we went out to the RV and hit the road. Ron drove the first leg while I went over the route with Elizabeth and we checked various items like the satellite phone and the GPS map system. Then I sacked out in the back to catch some sleep until it was my turn to drive.
I woke up when we stopped just inside Ohio for fuel. Ron reported that he had driven for about four hours, then Elizabeth took over. They had had no trouble with either the RV or the road. I volunteered to take over piloting duties as we walked through the travel store for a few items and to stretch our legs.
The RV had been fully stocked with staple foods and drinking water, but we had neglected to purchase over the road snacks and soft drinks. Something we now corrected. With fuel in the RV and three bags of snacks and drinks in the cabinets and fridge, I got behind the wheel and drove out of the service plaza and onto the highway. During our shakedown drive with Mr. Alsovar we had taken a short trip out on the Garden State Parkway, but we didn't have a chance to do some serious driving. Now I was able to wind it out and set the cruise control at just over the speed limit and see how it did. A few hours later I stopped in Indiana for a bathroom break and to firm up our directions once we got close to Chicago. The RV was a joy to drive.
We had driven through the night and arrived in the city about noon the following day. We stopped briefly for lunch and to top off the RV's tank and to review everything for the move. Then we got back on the road.
I looked through the file and noted that while Mr. Campidto was working for a security company and had an outstanding record, his wife had recently been fired for dubious reasons and they were now feeling some pressure from their neighborhood association about certain private matters. I noticed that Mr. Jones had promised a good position at a casino on the late shift for Campidto once they were settled in Jersey. I closed the file and wondered what the neighbors were thinking about our clients.
When we reached the exit just outside Chicago we followed the directions exactly and stopped in the narrow driveway of their townhouse. It was exactly as it had been described in the email. Elizabeth and I went up to the door to check on the Campidtos while Ron secured the camper. A quiet voice answered our ring on the intercom and invited us in.
Walking into the house was an adventure in and of itself. The entranceway looked normal with stairs going upstairs and a small bathroom under the stairs and a door beyond to the living area. It was after we opened that door that things became unusual. Behind the door to what should have been the living room was another door at the end of a short hallway. I noticed that both doors had heavy weather stripping around them and were somewhat difficult to open and close. The room beyond the doors was lit with red bulbs that reminded me of a photo darkroom, but it was otherwise normally furnished.
An attractive dark haired woman greeted us with a slight Spanish accent. "My husband had to work last night." She indicated a security guard uniform from a rival company. "He's getting some rest now. I stayed up to finish packing since Fernec said the bed in your RV was so comfortable to sleep on."
"Yes ma'am." I said. "It's very comfortable. I had the opportunity to break it in on the trip over here."
"Excellent." She smiled. "Please. Be at home. We are ready to leave tonight, but you know, leaving one's things for others to pack isn't pleasant."
Elizabeth nodded. "No it isn't."
"Do you have your travelling bags ready to go? I can take them out now."
Mrs. Campidto said that indeed she did and indicated a small stack of luggage near the kitchen. I helped Ron take it out and we stowed the bags in the bedroom of the camper in what we hoped were logical places.
When we went back into the house Mrs. Campidto was preparing a meal and talking to Elizabeth about their mutual impressions of Mr. Alsovar. She gave us cold drinks and bid us once again to make ourselves comfortable in the living room.
Just before sunset Mr. Campidto came in and apologized for oversleeping. "I had wanted to get up earlier, but last night was nonstop and it took a lot out of me."
All three of us knew how that was and nodded in agreement.
"Drunks or dumb stuff?" I asked.
"Both." He chuckled. "When my relief came in I couldn't wait to get out of there. I thought my last night on the job would never end."
"Oh. One of those. Ouch." Ron said with feeling.
Mrs. Campidto provided us with a spicy dinner that was a virtual tour of Latin America on a plate. Including something made with goat, a rice dish that made my eyes water, and home made corn flour flat bread that was absolutely delicious. Then we helped clean up and make sure the house was secure and made final preparations to go.
I walked with Mr. Campidto to the house across the street to give them the keys for the movers. He introduced me to his neighbor as one of the supervisors at the company he was going to work for 'out East'.
"You're getting a good man sir. We're sorry to see them go. They's good people." The old woman said. "Now you just forget all those terrible things those busybodies have been saying. They's a bunch of fools if you ask me."
We chatted for a few minutes then went back to the camper. Mr. Campidto was very impressed with it and offered to drive it out of town 'the back way'.
"It's the truck route, you avoid a lot of traffic and about fifteen stoplights." He said.
"Sold." I said and showed him the basic controls.
Later while waiting on the others I noticed several people drive by while staring openly at us and the camper. Others were gaping out windows, some with phones to their ears. Now I understood why they wanted to move.
Within the hour we were on the road. Mrs. Campidto and Elizabeth sat in the back talking about New Jersey and what awaited the couple on the other end. Ron took the opportunity to doze in one of the reclining chairs while I co-piloted and sent a message to what we considered Mission Control that we were on our way.
Just out of town the truck route met up with the interstate. I commented that coming out that way had saved us about half an hour and a lot of headaches with the traffic. Mr. Campidto nodded and merged into the fast lane.
He drove for several hours, then I took over while he navigated.
As the sun peeked over the mountains Mr. Campidto and the others moved to the back room. They had inspected it and said would serve nicely and that we could keep going as Ron pulled out of the rest area.
Even though we knew it was a technical violation of the various legal codes involving passengers in an RV to be in anything but an approved seat with a seat belt, we also didn't see any other way to accomplish our mission. Mr. Jones had had a long conversation with Mr. Alsovar and they agreed that as long as we weren't breaking the speed limit by 'too much' and there was a problem with the police that way, he would have one of his 'associates' see to our defense in court. Now we would put the arrangement to the test as we crossed our first state line with extra passengers.
After while Elizabeth came up and said they were all tucked in and watching one of the movies we had stocked for just such an occasion. With the curtains buttoned up tight and the two dividers closed the room was as dark as a cave.
"Which movie?" Ron asked.
"The documentary about wizards and alchemists."
"Good choice." He grinned.
With Mr. Campidto having driven the first leg slightly faster than I would have we were far ahead of schedule. Elizabeth drove the last bit into New Jersey and I called the estate to warn them that we were coming in.
Per Mr. Alsovar's instructions we pulled the camper directly into the oversized garage bay and the door shut behind us.
Cecilia was waiting for us and greeted the Campidtos warmly then she welcomed us back with a slightly warmer smile for Ron.
We unloaded the couple's belongings and went over the trip with Mr. Alsovar briefly then we drove the camper back to the office.
"Well. First one done." Ron said as he backed into the dedicated place for the RV. "When's the next one?"
Elizabeth sighed. "I'd forgotten about that." She said. "This coming weekend isn't it?"
I nodded. "We had built two days built into the trip back from Chicago, so. We've got a couple of days off."
"Good." Ron smiled.
"We're leaving when? Friday?"
"We leave Friday morning for South Carolina." I said. "Mission briefing, say, Thursday afternoon?"
"Why don't we do that Thursday morning and leave then? Instead of breaking our necks trying to get down there?" Elizabeth suggested.
"Fine by me." I said. "Ron?"
End Chicago Narration
Mr. Jones read the initial report with some relief. Everything had gone smoothly. He called Mr. Alsovar and they discussed the trip and what the Campidtos thought of it.
"They are most satisfied Mister Jones. Your people made them feel totally at ease. I do believe we have a working solution."
Jones thanked the man for his confidence. "Ted said they are planning to leave Thursday for South Carolina. Is that all right with you and..." He was searching for the name of the client to be moved.
"Vince's family. He's one of Trent's people."
"Ahh yes. Vince and Tina and their two children." Jones read off the screen.
Bright and early Thursday morning the RV team met in Jones' office for their briefing. They went over the route and the special requirements of the client and other details. Since Vince's family had no restrictions against traveling by daylight they expected to be back sometime Sunday morning.
"There is the matter of their unusual diet." Mr. Jones said.
"I was looking at that." Elizabeth said. "But I think we can manage."
Ted nodded. "Lots of supermarket delis have things like rotisserie chicken and stuff. Just for one day or so, we'll be OK."
Ron hadn't read all of the briefing notes. He flipped through it and read quickly. "They only eat meat?"
Jones nodded. "From what Mr. Alsovar said, Vince and his family eat something like eighty percent meat. But nothing that's been heavily processed like hotdogs. Roasts, whole chickens, hams, things like that."
Ron grinned. "Sounds like my kind of dinner."
"Not entirely. Usually they will eat beef and pork raw or nearly so, and they don't like anything breaded and fried."
Elizabeth shook her head. "OK, so that truck stop we had planned to stop at is out."
"Well, we'll still have to get fuel." Ted said. "So I can still get my chicken fried steak and gravy."
"Get it to go." Jones said. He looked down the list. "OK. I guess that just about covers it. Call in as usual. I'll let Mr. Alsovar know you are on your way."
Ted Campbell OIC, Elizabeth Hoywell, Ron Green
Vince Cave family move
Two adults, two children
St. Matthews, SC to Somers Point, NJ
"Next stop, Congaree Swamp." Ron said as he drove out of the parking lot.
I looked at the map. From what I could see it did look like they did actually live in the swamp itself. "Well, we have to find St. Matthews, and then follow these directions back to the north west. They don't live in the National Park, but just across the river from it."
Ron nodded. "We're going to be on 95 for a long time no matter where it's at."
"Yeah." I nodded. "How far do you want to drive?"
"First fuel stop." He said.
"I'll drive once we're through DC. There's no way I'm driving this bus on the beltway." Elizabeth said.
"So it's settled." I said with a nod. Then I opened the folder and looked at the picture we had of Vince and his family.
Vince could have been one of the guys in a popular 'cave man' set of commercials for an insurance company that ran recently. His wife Tina was slightly less unusual looking and somewhat attractive, but you could still see some of the same facial traits in her. Their daughter looked like just about any other twelve year old girl. But their son, their youngest, was a dead ringer for his dad.
According to the file Vince worked for the park service as a naturalist and guide. He was listed as having a bachelor's degree in forestry he had gotten some fifteen years ago and a brand new associate's in conservation technology earned over a couple of years of taking evening classes. Evidently Vince enjoyed night school. Mr. Alsovar had arranged for him to have an interview with the New Jersey state department that was in charge of managing the Pinelands.
Tina was described as a housewife with several paper craft hobbies. She also enjoyed going to her children's school functions and had been active with their PTA.
Aside from the fact that they ate raw meat, they were basically a normal family.
Then I turned the page and read the reasons for their move.
Somehow a local pastor had taken it into his head that this family was a threat to the moral fiber of the community. Some of his congregation had pulled their children out of the school the Cave's attended, others would get up and leave if they walked into a restaurant in town. Vince and Tina would just as soon stay and ride it out, but lately some of the local kids had been harassing their children about being 'devil's spawn' and other not so pleasant labels, so when Alsovar asked them about moving, they accepted.
Ted drove to a rest area on 95 just inside Maryland, we gassed up and I took over for the run through Baltimore and DC. I kept my cool and later rather than sooner we were closing on Richmond. I pulled over for a break. Elizabeth took over and we were soon looking at North Carolina when we stopped for the night.
The next morning we made it to the exit for I-26 in South Carolina and were soon looking for St. Matthews. The directions for Hedrick Lane were straight forward enough. But the countryside wasn't the most cooperative for out of towners to get around. Fortunately Ron spotted the moving truck they were using and we followed it until we were back on the right road and were parking in their front yard in a few minutes.
"We need to go talk to Robert." Vince said after the introductions.
"Who's Robert?" I asked.
"My uncle, Trent's father. He refuses to move, and I'm worried about him."
"OK. Let's go." I said.
"I'll go get the key to the boat." Vince said and went into the house.
Tina was charming, and their son was delightful, while the girl was almost in tears about leaving a couple of her friends. Elizabeth set herself to trying to cheer her up. When Vince came back he was wearing a sidearm.
"Do you have a gun with you?" He asked me. I nodded. "Get it. It's not a good idea to go over there without one."
"Where are we going?" Ron asked.
"Into the Old Dead River section. There's no trails to speak of, but there are a lot of moccasins." Vince grinned and put his arms all the way out. "Big-uns."
"I'll get'em." Ron said and went back to the camper.
We walked down the hill behind their house to the river. Vince unlocked a chain then untied a well worn boat and rowed upriver a little then we pulled up to the other bank. "Now we're in the park." He said.
"Where's Robert live?" I asked as we pulled the boat onto the shore after checking for snakes.
"Well." Vince looked around. "A couple of places. But this time of year he's usually up by the lake. But we'll check one of his caves on the way there."
"Lead the way." I said.
We stomped and stumbled into the forest and I was simply amazed at the size of the trees around us. Vince explained that the swamp was one of the last sizeable stands of old growth forest in the country. And that some of the trees around us were the largest specimens of their species ever recorded.
Ron was looking up. "I believe it."
We walked along a barely moving creek for some distance, then paused.
"There it is." Vince pointed to a rock outcropping. "Let me see if he's here, but I doubt it."
I stood next to Ron as Vince scrambled along the bank then up to the cave entrance.
"Look." Ron said pointing with one hand on his gun.
"It's OK. It's leaving." I said as we watched the long fat snake swim down the creek.
"Good. That thing was six feet long if it was an inch."
Vince was coming back. "He hasn't been here in awhile. Let's go."
Now the going was a little easier as we followed something of a rough path that ran along the creek then it cut over a low hill through some more amazing trees. I made it but it was still more of a hike than I had been expecting at breakfast that morning.
Then we broke through a tangle of undergrowth and were faced with a good sized lake nearly choked with vegetation.
Vince looked one way, then the other. "This way." He said and started off again.
We walked along behind him making sure we kept him in sight. Ron had mentioned that if we lost him, we might never find our way out of here.
"ROBERT!" Vince called out, then he waved at somebody across the lake.
"Howdy Vincent!" We heard somebody answer.
"Good." Me and Ron sighed at about the same time.
Robert had set up housekeeping between the trunks of two of the largest trees I had even seen. He had adapted the natural hollow between them and constructed a sort combination dugout and lean-to between them and had a nice place for himself complete with running water from a small spring in the hill nearby. I looked at the place and the surroundings. If you didn't know to look for it, even from the shore of the lake you wouldn't know it was there. And from the air, it was invisible.
The man himself looked the part of a backwoodsman from back in the Old West. He was wearing old blue jeans and a leather shirt over a pair of ancient boots. He was armed with a huge Bowie knife and an old sawed off shotgun hanging on a rope sling over his shoulder. On his head was a shapeless thing that might have been a cowboy hat at one time. But the man's face caught most of my attention. He looked like an artist's impression of one type of cave man or other I had seen in a grade school science book in the Seventies. Except Robert stood erect and his eyes were intelligent and determined.
"Howdy gentlemen." Robert said as he walked up to his place. He set an old metal bucket down with a large fish in it.
"Good afternoon sir." I said.
"Robert, these are the guys I told you about. They're here to move us up North."
"Ya'lls friends of Trents?"
"Yes sir." I said.
"Well good." Robert said. "But cha'll tell him I'll be fine out here. They leave me alone, and I leave them alone." He kicked at the bucket and the fish flopped. "I sure won't starve."
"But if the locals are riled up against you." I said.
"Pastor Aichens is an ass." Robert said with surprising venom. "He used to come out here hunting once upon a time. Then he got all self righteous. He don't worry me none."
"Do they know you're living out here?" I asked him.
"Nah." Robert said.
"I told them that he'd moved up to live with Trent after my pa died." Vince said.
"Good." Ron said.
"If you change your mind. Get hold of Trent and we'll come get you." I added.
"I will." Robert said. "Here, let me put him up and I'll walk ya'll down to the boat. You pull out in the slip or the creek?"
"Good boy." Robert smiled. He picked up the bucket and moved it into his house. Then as we walked he told us about his three homes in the woods. Once of them being a large grotto about halfway to Kingville. "It's only good in the winter. Too damp this time of year. But once she gets cold out I'll hole up in there for the duration."
"What do you eat?" Ron asked him.
"Fish. Bear. Deer." He grinned back at us. "Even moccasin snake."
"Tastes like chicken." I said half seriously.
"No. Tastes like snake." Robert laughed.
We said our goodbyes to him at the boat and he pushed us out into the river.
"Well. We tried." Vince said as he rowed toward where we'd started.
"I think the old boy'll be fine. Especially if that preacher doesn't know he's out there." I said.
Vince nodded but I could tell he was still worried.
"Tell you what. Next summer you come with us and we'll come back down here and look him up and make sure he's doing OK. And if he's not, we'll bring him home with us." I said. "How about it Ron?"
"Sure." He agreed.
Vince aimed the boat for the shore. "Yeah. OK. We'll do that."
It was night when we got back to the house. Everything they were moving had been packed and loaded and the moving truck was gone. We put the last few things they were taking in the RV and hit the road.
There were no problems on the return trip, and since we drove straight through and hit the DC area in the middle of the night, little traffic.
All in all, as long was we didn't have to share a meal, it was a most pleasant trip back to Jersey.
We dropped them off at Alsovar's and unloaded without incident, said our goodbyes, and took the RV back to the office.
It would need some cleaning and airing out before the next run. Not because Vince and them were excessively dirty or anything, we'll leave it at that it would need some extra cleaning and airing out.
End South Carolina Narration
Jones read the report and chuckled. He had heard a few off the record remarks by the RV team in the de-briefing about why the coach needed extra attention. But the statement in the narration was accurate, Vince's family and confined spaces just weren't compatible.
Tuesday Jones got a call from Mr. Alsovar.
"Good morning sir. A pleasure to hear from you. How're the Cave's doing?" Jones said after the client's greeting.
"They have made themselves to home wonderfully and Vince has his interview for the position later this week. Thank you. But I have called on a much more serious matter and we need your immediate intervention."
The tone of the man's voice got Jones' attention immediately. "Anything we can do sir."
"Thank you. Margaret Shallahenny and her mother need to be extracted from their home immediately. They believe their lives are in danger."
"That is serious. I'm bringing up their file. How serious do you believe the threat is? Should they call the local police for protection?"
"It may come to that point soon enough. There has been some minor property damage directed at them in just the last few days. In the mean time I would like your team to be on their way as soon as possible. And for their protection, I would recommend they go in uniform and armed."
"If the situation is that volatile I would agree. And I'll send another officer with them as back up as well." Jones looked at the file. Ms Shallahenny was an Old Order Pagan Wise-Woman with a laundry list of claims to 'magikal' powers and a picture showing her as an intelligent looking and rather attractive woman in her mid forties. More extraordinary was that while Margaret's dossier was very complete up to and including the fact that she preferred feather pillows, the only facts listed about her mother was that she was 'very old' and 'very shy' and she used the name Syrinx. There was nothing else about Margaret's mother.
"It is. When can they leave?"
Jones looked up at the clock out of habit. "I'll order it as an emergency response. The vehicle is in our service bay right now, I'll have them push it through and make it as ready as they can, the team should be on the road within the hour.
"Excellent. I'll let Margaret know. Thank you sir."
As soon as Alsovar hung up Jones was on the phone to the road team and had his secretary call Buck Phillips in from his regular assignment as well.
Buck had already been assigned to the other road team. But since they hadn't made a run yet he was still working at the airport. Once Jones explained the seriousness of the situation he said he would arrange relief and be there as soon as possible.
The others were all more or less available and agreed to come in.
True to Jones' word, in almost exactly one hour the team was rolling.
RV Team High Security Mission
Ted Campbell OIC, Elizabeth Hoywell, Ron Green, Buck Phillips
All officers working in uniform. Phillips signed out Remington 870 as precaution.
Margaret Shallahenny and Ms Syrinx
Two adults, 1 cat.
Cornwall Bridge, CT to Somers Point, NJ
"They have been threatened by a group who is protesting the permanent closure of the Dudleytown site by the Dark Forest owner's group. Although how the protesters decided that Ms Margaret and her mother are involved with the owner's group when they are not is beyond understanding." I read from the briefing documents as Ron drove north toward New York and then Connecticut.
Buck didn't understand. "Why are they targeting them if they don't have any connection to the owners?"
"Because they're different." Elizabeth said. "Makes them an easy target."
"Exactly. The owners are local residents and businesspeople. If they went after them, there would be serious repercussions." I said and the others nodded. I didn't think that their devotion to the 'true horned god- Pan' needed to be mentioned.
"Who are the protesters?" Ron asked from the driver's seat.
"Alsovar's sources say they are a collection of wanna-be ghost busters, paranormal enthusiasts, movie fans, college kids and the like. But the leaders for the group that want the site reopened have disavowed any knowledge of or responsibility for the attacks."
"I'm sure." Ron said.
" What is it? Why is it closed?" Buck asked.
"Dudleytown." I said after flipping a couple of pages. Alsovar's notes were amazingly thorough. "It all started when an actor who was promoting a movie several years ago claimed Dudleytown was the most haunted place in America. Well, it's not. It used to be a small farming village just outside the current town of Cornwall. Several people had made baseless claims about unexplained deaths in the area and started the legend of a curse. Then a series of supernatural movies promoted things like that, and well, it became something of a tourist industry. But the owners of the property don't want people excavating the historic site and holding seances around open fires in the middle of their forest."
"I understand that." Ron said.
"And, there have been several cases, one of them fairly recently too, of a group of hikers getting lost in the thick woods and having to be rescued. One rescuer fell and injured her ankle and had to be rescued herself, all because some kids ignored the no trespassing signs and went in search of a thrill."
"That doesn't make good public relations." Buck said nodding to me.
"But that doesn't explain why they're picking on Alsovar's friends." Ron said.
"No it doesn't. And it really doesn't matter." I said. I handed him one of the police reports. "When people are throwing bricks through your windows and setting your garden shed on fire, it's time to go."
Ron drove all the way to Cornwall Bridge. We parked the RV up the road and called the client.
"Oh. Thank you so much for coming so quickly. But I don't want to leave like this. They're watching the house. I think they know what's going on." Margaret said.
"OK. Let me do some checking and I'll call you back." I said and hung up the cel phone. Then I had to stop and think. "Liz. You up for a walk?" I saw our duty overcoats, they didn't have any patches or stitching to indicate we were security officers. "We'll wear those."
"Sure." She said.
I took the camera and we went for a walk through the historic town like we were tourists out for the afternoon.
We took the long way around, but walked right past their house. And just as she had said, there were two guys in a car sitting across from the house. I even made eye contact with the driver but smiled and nodded in a friendly manner as we kept walking and looking at the old houses. A few minutes later in the RV we briefed the others on the situation.
"Alsovar is afraid they might try to follow them down to his place and start trouble down there." I said.
"That's a possibility." Buck said. "So what do we do?"
"I don't know." I sighed. "Let's see if we can work out a plan."
We talked about it, but the only thing that seemed workable was the direct approach. We called the Connecticut State Police and explained what we were doing. The sergeant was all for it but it would take them an hour or so to make the arrangements.
When the unmarked car pulled up behind the camper we had everything set with the clients and were ready to go.
"Mister Campbell?" The officer asked after he knocked on the camper's door.
"That's me. Come on in."
"Thank you sir. You were right about the house being watched. The car and persons you described have been there for at least a couple of hours that I know of. I saw them earlier and they are still there."
"That's what I was afraid of." I answered. "We've got to get those women out of there before something worse happens than just the burning down of their shed."
"We agree." The officer said.
The plan was this. Ron would move the camper down the road to the Cornwall Inn. The rest of us would take a state police van to the client's home and get them and the few effects they were taking with them. In the meantime, uniformed officers would detain the subjects watching the house and prevent them from calling anybody else. Once we had Margaret and her mother in hand we'd transfer them to the RV and leave the area at top speed with a CSP escort to the border to make sure we weren't followed. Alsovar's movers would be up sometime soon to empty the house, he would see to the sale of the property himself.
What is it that they say about the best laid plans....?
The initial pick up went fine. We took the van to the house and found both women more than ready to go. The state troopers were questioning the fine upstanding citizens that had been watching the house as we escorted Margaret and her mother out to the van with a couple of traveling bags and the cat. Then we left for the rendezvous with the RV.
And that's when things got interesting.
We had just pulled up next to the camper when a small car with New York license plates stopped behind the van. Several people got out of the car and walked towards us with angry expressions on their faces.
Buck had been standing guard just in front of the van, when he saw the people coming our way he moved between Margaret's mother and them with the shotgun in Port Arms position. Elizabeth took the older woman by the elbow and hurried her into the camper.
Two of the people began shouting at us about being in league with the Devil and contributing to the 'abuse of a historical site for nefarious purposes'. Which is an exact quote from the short man with the curly hair and cowboy boots. I took a deep breath to brace for trouble and faced them.
"Do you know WHO they ARE?" The woman shouted at us pointing at Margaret who was following her mother up the steps. The unmarked police car pulled in behind their car and the officer turned on the strobe lights while talking into his radio, probably requesting backup.
Neither me nor Buck moved.
"They are our clients." I said firmly and slowly unsnapped the can of pepper spray on my belt.
Ron was standing in the camper door, blocking the way, with his hand also on his sidearm.
It was a long tense minute.
The state trooper stepped between us and the irate citizens. "You folks need to go back home."
They started to argue with the cop, but then a county sheriff's car pulled in with another state police car behind it and they thought better of it.
The sheriff held the people and their car there while I got into the driver's seat and turned the RV around.
In a few minutes we were on our way out of the state with one police car in front of us and another behind with everybody watching for somebody following us. But even then nobody relaxed until we were across the line and well into New York.
When we crossed into New Jersey Margaret relaxed enough to thank us. "Bless you all at home and work, bless you all with more than gold, bless you all and all you love, bless you all for blessing us." She said with a slightly serious voice.
"Blessed be." Her mother added quietly from her seat. I glanced into the mirror and caught her eye and smiled gently to her. The impression I had gotten from the woman in the dark wrap was that while she was very elderly, she was not frail in any sense of the word. In fact, she seemed quiet, but friendly considering the circumstances. Except for her eyes. Even in the mirror her eyes seemed odd. Like those of a store window mannequin, life like, but not alive. As I looked back at the highway I felt a long chill right between my shoulder blades.
"Our pleasure ma'am." Buck said with a nod to the two women.
We didn't push as hard on the return trip as we did on the journey to Connecticut, but we didn't waste a lot of time either. Buck drove the remainder of the trip to Alsovar's place after we stopped for fuel and other necessities.
When we dropped them off Margaret blessed us and the RV once again and her mother simply nodded to us then walked into the house with the old woman on Cecilia's arm.
After a few minutes discussing the mission with Mr. Alsovar, Buck drove the RV back to the office while the rest of us took a few deep breaths.
End Cornwall, CT narration.
Even though it was the middle of the night, the road crew was still too worked up to go home. They sat in Jones' office and related the events as best they could to the manager.
"So, what did you think of the witches?" Jones asked Buck.
"All told?" Buck said after a pause. "They were less trouble than the people up there who had been harassing them."
The rest of the crew agreed with that assessment.
The high priority trip north had skewed the schedule somewhat. But Ted and his crew agreed to bank the days off the company owed them and proceed the next day for the next pick up.
Buck was tasked with the job of getting his partner up to speed and signing out a large delivery van for another move that would be somewhat less tense, but no less interesting.
Panel Truck Team
Buck Phillips OIC, Bob Jones- report writer
Baltimore, MD to Somers Point, NJ
We were to meet a private transfer team that was coming in from the Front Royal area to pick up the client just west of Baltimore at a truck rest area on I-70. We had read the file about the client, but I am certain we both had doubts about its accuracy. The sign we were to use to identify ourselves to the other team was a red bucket sitting on the ground in front of the truck. The bucket, a small plastic fire bucket, had been provided by Mr. Alsovar.
We had only been waiting a few minutes when a tall man walked down the line of trucks and saw the signal. He walked up to the driver's door and asked me if we worked for Mr. Alsovar. Buck nodded and we got out of the truck to follow him to his vehicle and discuss the transfer.
They were in a slightly smaller moving truck. We walked to the rear of it and the man paused before opening the door. He asked us if we knew about Sylvester. We both replied sure. He said OK and opened the door.
The file did not do this man justice.
It had described him as very tall and very large, seven foot nine inches tall and over five hundred pounds, which was why this move was not taking place in the RV. What it forgot to mention was that he looked like an obese Bigfoot in a huge set of bib overalls. But he was calm, and spoke to us with a deep voice and said he was looking forward to the trip being over.
We agreed and I volunteered to move our truck over to where theirs was to avoid as many prying eyes as possible as Sylvester moved himself and his things over.
The exchange, including us helping him move the oversized recliner he had sat in for the journey into our truck took only a few minutes. Once he was situated we got back on the highway and headed east.
Sylvester was glad our truck was open so he had somebody to talk to instead of just listening to his portable CD player and trying to sleep like he had been in the other truck.
He asked us questions about Alsovar and the Somers Point area. Then he wanted to know how we'd drawn the job of chauffeuring him around and what we thought of his favorite music group. Then he told us about where he'd been staying and some roles he'd had as an extra on a TV show. We both laughed when he told us about his receiving a check from the producer for him to pay his private makeup artist. "Then they wanted to know who had done it because they wanted to hire them for another show." He had tugged on his long flowing sideburns. "It's all natural me, no makeup." He laughed with us.
The only problem came when Sylvester had to take a 'break' while we were on I-95. We took a slight detour to a back road in Maryland and found a wooded area. Sylvester put on his old straw hat which only partially hid his features and walked into the woods. We waited a few minutes, then he came back out smiling and soon we were back on the road. After a brief stop for sandwiches and fuel, Sylvester liked BBQ so we stopped at a barbeque stand near where we'd gotten off the highway, we didn't make another stop.
A few hours later we arrived at Alsovar's compound and Sylvester greeted the stately man with a huge hug. We helped move the chair into the apartment they'd fixed for him with extra high ceilings and doors and a TV remote with buttons about four times the size of normal ones. Sylvester was most appreciative and high-fived us both as we left, which meant we both had to vertical jump as high as we could.
Then we drove the truck back to the office and left for home. It had been a long but successful trip out and back.
End Baltimore narration
Ted Campbell OIC, Elizabeth Hoywell, Ron Green
Ms. Sonya Juris Esq.
Boston, MA to Somers Point, NJ
The mission briefing on Ms Juris was most interesting. Especially when we all had to practice on putting someone into a straight jacket and face mask when they were resisting our doing so. After several practice sessions, and some minor injuries, we could accomplish it with some proficiency.
We were also given permission by Mr. Alsovar to use an electrical stun gun if we had to. I signed it out as Officer In Charge and checked the batteries in it.
"I don't believe it. She can be that dangerous?" Ron said looking at the picture of the very pretty petite young woman with slightly Oriental features in a business suit.
There was a video tape that went with the briefing. It had been made to establish that Ms Juris belonged in Alsovar's extended family. It began by showing Mr. Alsovar and another man talking to the woman about establishing a trust fund. Then a note flashed across the screen that some of the recording had been edited to save time. After the message we could see by the time on the tape that about two hours had been edited out. But there was a noticeable change in the woman. At the beginning she had been calm and professional, but now she was slightly agitated. Her hair, skirt and jacket which had been immaculate were now slightly unkempt. The other man was talking aggressively about tax code violations being somewhat ignorant in his remarks and was using a condescending tone of voice about the 'woman' not knowing her subject to Alsovar.
After a few more minutes of that sort of treatment Ms Juris began growing more edgy. When he called her a fool she fell back in her chair and began breathing heavily. Alsovar and the other man continued their discussion of the trust fund with the man continuing to pour on the insults and abuse of the female attorney.
We watched the tape absolutely transfixed, while the two men on the screen ignored her and the accountant berated her intelligence and experience, she changed. It wasn't like in the movies where it happened in just a couple of minutes, it took almost half an hour for her to turn from a beautiful and intelligent young woman into something out of a drunken playboy's nightmare. While she was still physically attractive, now she looked like a female professional wrestling character in full makeup, it would have been hard to believe the two were related, let alone that they were the same person.
She stood up and kicked her chair out of the way they she ripped off her jacket with obviously ferocious strength and began swearing violently at the other man. Alsovar just sat back and observed.
The man didn't back down. He talked about her legal degree as having come from a mail order catalog and asked her if she was trying to bring down the full wrath of the IRS on her client. Then he began talking about Alsovar needing to file a legal malpractice lawsuit.
Juris raged and swore and began to make menacing moves toward him with oversized hands that seemed to be animal-like claws. As she moved her skirt tore from the force of the action to expose heavily muscled thighs and hips. Her chest heaved with each angry breath. Even her hair, which had been nicely done, was now a thick unruly mane.
Alsovar was making notes on his legal pad. He appeared to be oblivious to the fact that his attorney was about to rip his accountant limb from limb.
The man asked her if she had passed the bar exam by sleeping with the test proctor and began questioning the intelligence of the senior partner that had hired her.
Juris went wild. She stood fully erect, spread her arms wide and flexed her muscles then she actually roared while huge fangs rose from where her perfect teeth had been. When she expanded her lungs what was left of her blouse shredded and hung off her like bunting, the remains of her skirt and hose suffered a similar fate as she transformed even more. Her face, which had until then retained some of her Eastern heritage, was now a mask from a horror movie. She took a violent step toward the unwavering man and grabbed his arm and began to lift him off the floor as she would a small child.
"OK. Sonya. I believe you." Alsovar said quietly.
The man she was about to disembowel immediately apologized for everything he had said and said she had been absolutely correct about what she had said about the trust.
Juris stood there almost as if she had been turned to stone. She slowly relaxed her arm and lowered the man back to his own feet. Some human characteristics returned. Then she shook her head and looked at Alsovar.
"I'm sorry, but we had to test you." He said.
"You ass." She hissed through her still protruding teeth. But then she sighed and looked at herself. "I'm billing you for that suit."
"Very well." Alsovar almost smiled.
It took almost an hour before she was completely changed back and wearing a sweatsuit she kept in her office closet.
The other man turned out not to be a lawyer or even an accountant. He was simply a man that worked for Alsovar.
Ron reversed his opinion of Ms Sonya and asked if we thought the straight jacket would be enough to hold her if she 'got really upset'.
"We'll see." I said and checked the batteries in the stun gun again. "I plan on being very nice and polite to her to keep her from getting upset."
"Good idea." Elizabeth agreed.
We left before dawn the next morning and drove straight through and arrived about noon.
Ms Juris lived in a very classy looking condominium complex right on the harbor with a great view.
Ron looked up at the building. "So how much would one of these go for?"
"They've already listed her unit for sale. Two bedrooms, one and a half bath. Just under one million dollars. With Spectacular view." I said.
"I'll pass." Ron said shaking his head.
Elizabeth almost whistled. "I guess lawyers do all right up here."
"Anywhere." I said as we walked in. I explained to the desk guard who we were and he rang her unit. In a minute we were on our way up to her apartment.
I braced myself in case she was having a 'bad day' and wasn't happy to see us. But instead of the monster from the tape a woman with gorgeous facial features and very pleasant demeanor opened the door and smiled at us.
As soon as we walked in and introduced ourselves we saw the attraction for the building. Even though her main room was a little small for the asking price, the view was wonderful looking north along the waterfront and the harbor. She showed us the amenities and said she had one more conference call to wrap up her obligations here, then we could leave whenever we wanted to.
"It should be short, so we can leave immediately. But I would recommend either getting out of the city then, or waiting until later tonight. Rush hour around here is absolute murder." Ms Juris said with the very precise speech of a professional.
Ron nodded. "I've been up here when the people on ninety put their cars in park and get out and socialize for awhile waiting on it to move."
Juris laughed. "It's not that bad now, but it still faster to walk sometimes."
We made ourselves comfortable while she was on her call. Then we all took turns in her bathrooms and were soon on our way down with everything she was taking with her.
The guard at the desk was sorry to see her go, but he said a promotion was a promotion and he wished her well. She thanked him and confirmed when her firm's moving company would be in to pick up the rest of her things. She had the majority of her stuff already packed and labeled so it should go quickly.
On the way to the camper she explained that this move was actually a promotion even though it didn't seem like it. "I will be opening my firm's first office in New Jersey. They're already printing new letterhead that says Boston, New Haven, Bangor, Providence and Atlantic City."
"Where's your office in Atlantic City?" I asked her.
"I have no idea. Can your people help me find one?"
We all nodded and Elizabeth said she knew of a couple of nicer storefronts that would probably do until she found just the right space to rent.
It was only about two thirty when we were on the highway trying to get out of the Downtown area but the traffic was already at a near crawl. But it kept moving, and soon enough we were well on our way.
Elizabeth made a careful point of keeping Ms. Juris cheerful and entertained. I spelled Ron driving for awhile, then we'd switch back as we got closer to home. Even given the heavier traffic and our long detour around the New York City area to avoid that nightmare it didn't take as long as the estimate said it would.
We were about an hour from our destination when Ms Juris asked us why none of us had mentioned her 'special condition'.
"We've been doing this for awhile now. We're kinda of used to it." Ron said from the couch behind me.
"Oh." She said. But she seemed like she wanted to talk about it.
Elizabeth had noticed too and wondered how long she had had it.
"Since I was a teenager." She smiled. "It started right after... how do I put it delicately? 'Became a woman' I guess. But it got worse until I was about twenty, then I was able to control it enough to finish school."
"You were like that going to law school?" Elizabeth asked.
I could see her nodding in the rearview mirror.
"It made going out on dates with some future Congressmen and Senators a lot of fun. I guarantee you that a couple of them will never ever try to take advantage of a girl on their staffs for as long as they live." She laughed and made a slashing claw gesture with her right hand.
Soon we were pulling up to Alsovar's estate and were met at the gate by some of our own security people. They recognized us and waved us through.
"That's new." Ron said from the driver's seat.
We delivered Ms Juris to the main house and helped unload her things.
The client and his niece greeted us warmly. I noticed that Cecilia seemed a little happier to see Ron than she was the rest of us, but I didn't have time to ask about it as the gentleman was speaking somewhat enthusiastically about something.
Mr. Alsovar explained to us that there hadn't been any trouble, but he also wanted to ensure that there was none as well. He took us on a quick tour of the estate and we finally got to see everything.
He had created an actual village on the property with various houses and even cottages for his 'people'. We saw Mrs. Cave near one unloading some groceries and greeted her with a smile.
Then we got to see the security features. There was a service road around the entire inside perimeter of the property with strategically located surveillance cameras. A tall chain link fence across the back of the property was concealed by bushes on the outside and trees on the inside. Alsovar pointed out the sensors built into the fence that would alert the on site security office if anything larger than a raccoon tried to climb it. The main gate was manned around the clock, the back gate was tall and heavy and accessed by either key or pass card.
From what we saw of the main security office they could monitor everything going on from either that location or an identical room in our main office. The systems included fire, intrusion and panic alarms in the houses and cottages, severe weather warning automatic warnings, and water pressure and HVA/C functions in the larger buildings and the complex as a whole.
"We can even monitor the incoming electrical voltage and the estates utility system protects everything downstream of it from voltage spikes." The guard at the desk said indicating a constant real time readout of service condition and voltage. "If it fails, it activates the generator and we're good for about twelve hours without touching it."
"Cool." Ron said.
"What do you do after twelve hours?" I asked.
"Put more fuel in it."
Very soon we left and went back to the office. Since none of us had slept in more than a day we all went home and rested. The debriefing was set for the next day.
End Boston narration
The story continues in Part 2