Chapter 14 - The Pinch
Paula the elder
"Are you our of your ever-lovin' mind?" cried Detective Matt Pierson.
"Hold on," I said.
Pulling out my smartphone I made a show of checking it.
"According to this, that's the twenty-seventh time someone has asked me that question today. Since I lost my mind some time ago I guess I must be out of it."
When you spend the night crowded into a surveillance van you end up on first-name terms pretty quickly.
"Look Paula, I have to say we couldn't have gotten where we are without you and Titia helping us, but it's time for you guys to go home and leave the rest to the professionals."
"What? Just because my uniform isn't as snazzy as yours I'm no longer a professional?"
"Paula, you're private. I'm public. A cop. The fuzz. Hell, I'm a pig and you're a grandmother. It's supposed to be my job. Besides, you got promoted and don't wear a uniform any longer."
"And if any of my free-love friends from the sixties found out I wanted to hang out with the pigs my reputation would be ruined."
"Uh Paula," my partner - no assistant! - cut in. "You were in grade school in the sixties."
"And you weren't even born yet. Shut up - or don't you want to be there for the grand finale?"
"For that matter, I wasn't born yet," commented Matt. "Which is a good thing as that means I missed having to share those years with a smartass grandmother-in-the-making."
"And I love you, too, Matt."
"Just don't let my wife know."
"Only if we can wait with you."
"Damn! You're back to that again. No!"
"I really want to see Cody's face when we turn on the lights and he sees me waiting for him," Titia pleaded.
"It's not like we haven't spent the night in the place before."
"You are planning to be waiting inside the building for a surprise party, aren't you?"
"Look, just go and apply for the Force and have done with it, lady."
"And may The Force Be With You, Paula," Titia chortled.
"You two aren't going to give up, are you," moaned Matt.
"We always get our man, to coin a phrase."
"So you're going to go undercover riding a moose, fer pity sake?" queried Matt.
"Has more class than a patrol car, eh?"
"Alright! You stay back and out of the way, keep your mouth shut and let us do the work."
"No problem, Matt. We just watch and feel smug when you take him down."
"Get there early and bring a lunch - no calling out for pizza once we're there. And Titia?"
"Try to tone it down a bit, I don't want my men drooling over you and not watching for the bad guys."
4:17 PM, Saturday afternoon
The happy chirping of a cell phone interrupted the quiet conversation. Sitting in the lunchroom of Good Conduct Enterprises were Paul Abruzzo of Good Conduct, Detective Matt Pierson and patrolman Cerise Kelly, Brian Ledesma, Paula Foster and Titia Burns from One-Stop Security and Glen Ambrose of the research consortium that coordinated the research this lab and several others were doing.
Also present were a couple of empty donut boxes and the makings for a buffet for later in the evening. Waiting around for the bad guys to show up might be tedious, but it didn't need to be hunger-inducing.
"Yes?" Detective Matt spoke into the phone, one of several burner phones picked up that afternoon at Walmart - virtually guaranteed to be undetectable communications between the waiting reception committee, the guard shack and the people outside the complex.
"You don't say. Looks like they are getting smarter, spray painting a camera is bound to get somebody's attention. I'll let the boys know." Turning to his associates he said, "A so-called roofing company just accidentally damaged the camera watching this place. Looks like they're a little more organized this time. I'll have someone tail them." Punching the speed dial for the burner phone in the waiting surveillance car, he set it up.
"I hope someone brought Monopoly with them. It's going to be a long night."
"Please guys - and gals. Our company is trying to break the monopoly of fossil fuels on energy production." commented their host for the evening.
"I'd rather be playing Sorry! with these bozos," Titia spoke.
"While I fully expected waiting to be boring, I never thought of bringing any board games."
"I bet you'd appreciate a Clue, wouldn't you Matt?" asked Paula.
"Well this whole thing is quite an Operation."
"Is this what I'm going to have to put up with all night?" asked Brian? "I'm going to put in for hazardous duty pay!"
"You ought to try dating the Sasquatch if you want hazardous duty," quipped Titia.
"Jeez Titia," complained Brian, "you just got a raise and a promotion - now you want hazardous duty pay? Some people are never satisfied."
"I suppose that's been the story of my life up until recently." she answered. Paula had a hard time smothering her laughter. Other than Brian and Matt, nobody knew Titia was anything other than the woman she seemed.
So they played cards and whatnot, until eventually Paul got to talking about what they did in the place.
"I can't give you details, but if you're bored enough I can give you my Alternative Energy 101 spiel that I give to the people we want to invest in us."
They all agreed, after all - what else did we have to do?
"OK. So anyway, right now solar and wind are the most viable sources of alternative energy. And before you ask, hydrogen fusion would be ideal, but getting it to work has been twenty years in the future for as long as I've been alive. That isn't going to happen quickly, so we go with what we got.
"Conversion efficiency is one concern - solar panels convert about fifteen percent of the sun to usable electricity and some of the newest solar-to-steam can be well over seventy percent. No-brainer what the people investing the money would like to have the best efficiency possible.
"The downsides are obvious. No wind, no wind power. A cloudy day and your solar power is much reduced. Night time - no solar at all. One path is to find a way to store electricity. We can use batteries, but there are some pretty severe limits on how much juice they can store and how much rare materials they use up, so there are lots of people looking at other ways to do it. Not a simple job and maybe even one of those twenty-years-in-the-future things like fusion. Not my area so I really don't know.
"What I do know is that until we solve this problem we will have to rely on fossil fuels to generate power when the green sources aren't available. Unfortunately, that means that the cost of power from the fossil fuel places will go up if they're only used half the time - maintenance and staffing still costs the same and you're selling less power to pay for it. Nobody ever said the solution would be easy…
"Anyway, it doesn't take a genius to figure if you put your solar generator in a desert you don't have to worry about clouds very often so your efficiency is much better. Two problems with that - if you're using solar-to-steam where do you get the water (not my job, either) and no matter how you generate the power you have to get it from the desert to the place where people use it?
"If you're like most people, you don't realize that when you run electricity through a wire it isn't perfectly efficient. The resistance of the wire generates heat and you never get as much power out of the end of the wire as you put into the beginning. The longer the wire, the less comes out the other end. Next time you're using a space heater, just feel the wire or the plug. It's going to be a bit warm - that's the electricity in the wire being lost as heat. If you're trying to heat the room, that's not a problem.
"When you figure a wire from the desert to a city far away, that is a lot of lost power. What we're trying to do is find a way to improve the efficiency of those wires, so more power makes it to where we want to use it. There have been a lot of hair-brained ideas on how to do it over the years, and plenty of con-men, but we hope we can come up with something better than what we have, and - by the way - something cheap enough that it can be used without costing more than it saves.
"So, we're a small cog in that research, but we think we may have some good ideas. Now all we have to do is make them work."
"It's always in the details, ain't it?" commented Matt. "Just like police work, screw up one tiny detail and you've blown the whole case."
"Not a bad analogy. What we do in research has a resemblance to following up a bunch of odd clues and trying to make them fit together. That and praying for some genius to come up with a theoretical breakthrough for us."
"Well now," at least we have some idea of what we were guarding," Paula said.
10:46 P M
Having talked themselves out, the room was quiet except for the various noises from the cell phones. When nothing else is happening, haul out the cell phone and play a game.
"Damn! My battery is going dead."
"Not a problem around this place," said Paul. "We have more USB cords and chargers than you'll find at the Best Buy. Hang on a minute…"
He returned shortly with a handful of wires and everybody moved close to a plug and connected their cell phones to the cords.
The burner cell phone started it's little chirpy dance tune, jolting the dozing company to alertness. Matt pushed the answer button.
"Yes? … Thanks, guys. We'll be ready."
He hit the hang-up button.
"Our hidden camera is showing some movement. We got the party hats and noisemakers ready for our guests?"
"Darn!" said Titia. "I knew I forgot something!"
"I guess handcuffs will have to do, said officer Cerise. "I have several all nice and shiny new so maybe they'll be impressed."
"Oh, they'll be impressed. Surprised, too - I hope," said Titia.
"Trust a woman to be ready for a party," snarked Paula.
"OK, just to make things clear," continued Matt, "this is a police operation. I know you all have a stake in it, but I don't want you to get hurt or do anything to cause a problem. Once we get word the suspects are near the building, I'll leave the cell phone on speaker so we all know what's happening outside. Everything but the usual night light will be off and Officer Kelly and I will be on either side of the door when they enter.
"If they stick to our little script, we'll wait until they close the door, then officers outside will wait outside the door in case something goes wrong. Once the door closes, Paul can turn on the lights, since it's his place and he knows where the switches are. With any luck we put on the cuffs and we're done except for the paperwork. I'm just hoping our Sasquatch isn't going to get upset and try to send anyone else flying.
"Now, as far as we know these guys are not armed, but I'm not going to count on it. You just can't tell these days who has a gun and none of us wants to find out by getting shot. So stay in the break room until I tell you otherwise."
The phone once again started singing and they learned that there were two people at the door.
"We'll keep the line open from now on so we know all know what's going on," said Matt.
So they sat there in the dark and listened to the faint scratches and clicks from the door. At last, the door swung open and someone stepped in quietly. Then a whisper that was indistinct in the break room and some footsteps. Then the sound of the door closing and the hall lights flared.
"Police!" called Matt. "Stand still and keep your hands visible!"
"Oh shit!" came a baritone voice.
"Let's make this easy, fellows," instructed Matt. "Hands behind your back and let the officer put on the cuffs. I don't want any hassle, OK?"
"Oooof!" came from the hallway and Paula came flying out of the break room with Titia and Brian close behind, to find Matt on the floor and Cerise clinging to the Sasquatch's back.
"Dammit Cody!" shouted Titia. "Is that any way to treat a lady?"
"The Sasquatch froze with his hand on the doorknob, staring in amazement at the last person he expected to see in this place.
"Put her down. Now!" ordered Titia.
"What the fuck?"
"Sorry, Cody, but there's no way that's going to happen," replied Titia. Officer Cerise snapped cuffs on the man while he stood there confused.
Since Matt still had the breath knocked out of him, Cerise read them their rights, but was interrupted when the door again burst open with the arrival of the backup forces.
"Sorry, boys," said Paula. "You're late for the party. We've already wrapped up the presents and eaten all the donuts."
"You didn't save any for us?" asked one of the new arrivals. "That's just bad planning, that is."
"You'll have to wait for the next burglary, I guess."
"Stop by on Monday," offered Paul. "I'll be sure we have several boxes and can even give you the ten-cent tour."
"What the hell are you doing here, Titia?" asked the confused Cody."
"Waiting for you. Thanks for giving me the clues last night so we knew where you were going to be."
"You probably don't remember, but we met the last time you were here. You tossed me behind the dumpster. I've kind wanted to meet you again to return the favor."
"That was you?"
"Yup. I gathered you didn't care for girls in uniform since you ripped it off me, so I figured I'd wear something else the next time we met."
"Jesus! I think I want to go to there nice, sane jail cell now. This place is too damn crazy for me."
"We can oblige you, my friend. Take him away, boys." ordered Matt.
"Oh, and Cody?"
"When you get out, I wouldn't mind dancing with you again. My girlfriend was rather jealous watching us and wanted her turn, too."
Epilogue - Seven Months Later
"Thanks for coming over, guys," said Brian.
"Hey - when the boss calls, we come."
"Well trained, I see. I like that. I also like the job you're doing, things are running more smoothly than ever, not that there were any real problems when Al was there."
"Speaking of Al, how's he doing?"
"You should be getting a wedding invitation most any day."
"Sweet! Joanie popped the question?"
"Now Paula," grinned Titia, "I'm sure that any good PA would be able to arrange things so her boss thought it was their idea."
"And you should know…"
"Of course I do. It's my job."
"She's right, Paula," observed Brian. "Of course that's one scenario you won't have to worry about when you retire."
"Especially since either she or my granddaughter should be popping a question any time now."
"Paula!" cried Titia.
"You're living together, can great-grandchildren be far behind? You can never have too many great-grandchildren, you know."
"Maybe Joanie will come back for while when you're out on pregnancy leave, Titia," smirked Brian.
"Will you guys cut that out!?"
"So, that brings me to the second thing I wanted to talk about. Our bad guys finally copped a plea and have now been convicted. I have here two checks for some substantial reward money. Nice work, ladies!"
"Uh, Brian?" asked Titia.
"I may not need pregnancy leave, but I am going to be asking for two weeks medical leave very soon."
"What, planning to get sick?"
"Nope, planning to get better. I bet you didn't know there are places that offer medical vacations for the surgery I need for a fraction of the price for the surgery alone in the good 'ole USA, and this check ought to cover both me and my Paula quite nicely."
"Well, the money is yours to use as you see fit. Have a nice vacation."
If you liked this post, you can leave a comment and/or a kudos!
Click the Thumbs Up! button below to leave the author a kudos:
And please, remember to comment, too! Thanks.