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Friday, September 29, 2023

F³ Methods of Approach 32

             We pulled up to the cargo company’s hangar as the sun threatened to dip into the bay. Not quite twilight, it was close enough given the shade the hangar provided. Nikki and I got out of her car and strolled up to the building. They weren’t closed, yet, but looked to be going that route. One man marked our approach, tucked his tablet computer against his leg and walked to meet us while sizing us up.

            I was in my normal clothes. Shirt and tie and leather jacket. Some—Nikki—might criticize the look, but the leather jacket repelled the ample rain Belport was known for, so I didn’t care. Nikki was in a pinstripe skirt suit, looking like she should be an executive in a Midtown Manhattan high rise. Her confident stride in those heels ate up the tarmac as she closed the distance.

            “Can I help you?” the man asked. He wore a red polo with the company name on it. A little grey in his dark hair and full beard put him in his 40s, and in decent shape for his age.

Nikki came inside the man’s personal space. She showed him a picture on her phone, captured from the night vision camera showing the truck delivering to the Fairhaven Club. “I’m an official person. It’s in your best interest to cooperate with my request. You make deliveries to the Fairhaven Club. I want to know how often and what’s in them.”

For a moment the man frowned and his brow furrowed, looking like he was about to tell Nikki to go away, but then his expression softened. “Right now? Sure, I guess. Wish you people would call ahead for this stuff, maybe come earlier when we’re not closing up?” He turned away, beckoning us to follow. “Oh well, come on.”

“Much easier and faster than your approach,” Nikki whispered to me.

I rolled my eyes. I guess I would have to use my inspector ID another time.

“Show-off,” I whispered.

Friday, September 22, 2023

F³ Stakeouts Will Never Be The Same 31

             After that first night, Nikki didn’t join me on the stakeout. I didn’t blame her. I decided to take some of Nikki’s fee and go hi-tech. On Ira’s recommendation, I got a couple of good night-vision cameras and set them up. I had a down the street shot and one from above on the roof of the building across from the dock. The hardest part wasn’t climbing up the fire escapes, but remembering Ira’s instructions for setting them up.

            I didn’t even have to change tapes or memory cards as they uploaded to the cloud. From there, I could watch the cameras on fast forward, going through an entire day’s recording in about two hours. Stakeouts would never be the same.

The angles got me company logos and truck numbers, but nothing stuck out. Most were local places, bringing in the food, merch, and laundry for the club, which made sense. But then, on day four, I caught a break.

            Two box trucks came back-to-back. They turned out to be from a cargo place that worked out of the Belport airport. I had been expecting the port, especially if they were bringing it in from Japan, China, and Russia, but the airport was plausible for other kinds of goods. I wouldn’t put it past some private charter plane to slip things past customs.

            I called up Nikki. “You ready for the urgent part?”

Friday, September 15, 2023

F³ Detective Drudgery 30

             “Matthew, wake up.”

            Nikki’s voice was distant and jarring as it broke the dream I was having. The sensation of floating disappeared and I felt the weight of my eyelids as I forced them open, and tried to get my neck to work. It was sore from the angle my head had flopped at.

            “What is it?” I croaked. My mouth was dry.

            “A large truck just turned down the street. This could be the one.”

            I rubbed at my eyes, trying to force them to focus, then pulled up my camera. I had to blink a couple of times, but finally zoomed in on the truck’s logo to snap a picture. I did the same for the license plate. I couldn’t make either, out, but the camera could had a low-light function the same as any smartphone, the difference being my camera did it in about a tenth of a second instead of taking 10 seconds.

            Everything looked promising as they slowed down when they came up to the docks, but after about thirty seconds, they drove on, going two more streets down before turning a corner.

            “Sorry, toots, they don’t always pan out.”

            “I’m beginning to think that I should have left the drudgery to you.”

            “Yeah, stakeouts are definitely drudgery, but that’s detective work for you.”


            “What do you mean ‘Ha’?” I asked.

            “Matthew, your detective work has been anything but drudgery for many years. Vampires, a mystical serial killer, succubi, witches, wizards, and mystical artifacts. Hardly drudgery.”

            “You have a point, but then you generally are only aware of the terrifying parts. Even in all that there’s legwork and drudgery.”

            “But that time should have passed as you’ve already done it.”

            “Hate to break it to you, Doll, but even if that truck had stopped at the docks, the drudgery would continue. We don’t know if it’s that truck, or even if there’s only one. And there’s more drudgery after that.”

            “I had thought asking a detective to untangle political intrigue would be more . . . urgent.”

            “Only in the movies. Got any more coffee?”

Friday, September 8, 2023

F³ Probabilities 29

             Nikki had also brought gyros from Kairos’s, just a couple blocks away from my office, which, if she hadn’t been a vampire, would have been enough in my book to make her a saint.

            “However did you discover these loading docks belonged to the Fairhaven Club?”

            I took her through my bureaucratic adventure at the city planner.

            “And you are sure that work was done to connect them to the club?”

            “Uh-uh,” I said with a mouthful of gyro. “I love this tzatziki sauce. It’s good enough to be a drug.”

            “So we are relying on your detective acumen in deduction for this?”

            “Pretty much.”

            “Please tell me you are not going to quote Holmes, now.”

            I shook my head. “Holmes had it easy,” I said after swallowing. “Sure, you always have to eliminate possibilities, but when you got five suspects because they’re locked in a mansion, train, boat, whatever, it’s pretty easy. I can’t eliminate all the possibilities or impossibilities, especially when dealing with the supernatural. But I can look at what’s probable. Let me ask you, what’s more likely, a super-secret warehouse a mile away with an underground railway to the club or a speakeasy-era tunnel that used to smuggle booze and now smuggles antiques and artifacts?”

            “I see your point. Well, we should see the arrival of these trucks over the course of the night, correct? Darkness for dark business, as it were?”

            I shrugged. “Maybe, but then again, maybe not. Depends on how well they dummy up the paperwork for customs. Can you imagine a better way to get the stuff here than to have regular union guys doing all the work? If we get people coming at midnight, then they know what it is they’re bringing in. Not saying that’s the case; I’m sure some of the guys in your secret club are brilliant criminal masterminds, but I’m sure some of them are not very bright.”

            “And what makes you say that?”

            “Well, they kept you out of it, for one thing.”

            She smiled at that.

            “Any chance you brought more coffee?”

            She produced a large thermos from the bag from Kairos’s.

Friday, September 1, 2023

F³ The Way to A Detective's Heart 28

The Fairhaven Club was just that, a club; well, they would no doubt call it a private society. Semantics aside, they didn’t do that much business. Even Nikki’s Blackthorn Club boasted a higher number of people that used the place. And no matter how much merch the Fairhaven Club had, no matter how much food and booze they consumed, they didn’t take in that much in deliveries, so there was no need for loading docks. But if the members were filling those storage rooms underneath, then they were using the place to smuggle stuff in. Antiques and artifacts, especially, would take up a lot of room, like on a freight truck.

The building with the loading docks had once been a furniture place with its own shop to actually make the stuff. But they went out of business decades ago, and, like lots of places that had been upgraded over time, the original building had been sliced into pieces with partitions put up, converting them all into little shops. The shop with the docks was the smallest of the bunch, and likely why it was just a kitschy souvenir shop.

            My jaw cracked as I yawned again, covering my mouth with the back of my hand. Stakeouts were very boring. It was even worse when I had only gotten a few hours of sleep. After I was done at the city planner’s office, I needed to be parked somewhere inconspicuous with an eye on the street accessing the Club’s loading docks. For once, something was in my favor.

Fairhaven was an old town. Not as old as those in my old stomping grounds of Boston, but old enough to predate cars. A lot of the streets were one-way because they were narrow; large trucks needed wide lanes in order to back into the docks. This street wasn’t that wide, but it did have signs that prohibited street parking on that particular stretch. However, I was parked on the connecting street with a clear view of where any trucks could turn into those loading docks.

Unfortunately, there was no way to know when, or how often, a freight truck would drop something off at the docks that the Club had appropriated. I spent all day watching and tracking the trucks. Mostly it was the usual suspects, UPS, Fedex, Amazon, DHL, and a couple of local places, Speedway, OnTime, etc., but I saw a few private delivery trucks, too. These were the smaller box trucks, but they could have the stuff I was looking for.

It was evening, and I swear I had only closed my eyes for a minute when there was a knock on my window. I thought I was going to have to explain to some cop why I was there, but instead it was Nikki, bearing coffee.

At first whiff, I said, “I love you.”

“Had I known I would receive your affections just for coffee, I would have provided you all that you asked,” Nikki said after passing me the extra-large cup.

“I was talking to the coffee,” I said.

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