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Strait Flush Ch 19 1035 Wednesday
Strait Flush Ch 19 1035 Wednesday
The office was air conditioned and empty, slightly less dirty than the yard surrounding the warehouse. A noisy fan blew humid air through the main room with little effect. A desk in the corner facing the door was covered with papers and dust. A couch in front appeared to be an occasional bed whenever the forklift manuals and newspapers were removed. Rossi checked the window to see if anyone saw him enter, and, satisfied that nobody had, searched the desk for any additional clues. Most of the papers were written in Tugalog, some in English. Rossi jotted down addresses in the Philippines that were mentioned with high hopes of never having to check them out. No mentions were made of Malaysia or the UAE, or Bahrain. Maybe this was not the place. Maybe no place was. After a few minutes of sifting through piles of junk with no mention of incoming shipments from Seletar, Tom propped himself on the desk and thought intensely. There were a few workers in and around the warehouse. Rossi watched them unloading pallets in the doorway and stocking the shelves, obviously deeper in the warehouse. The office window was reflecting the sunlight from the late morning and hid Tom's presence.
The workers chattered among themselves loudly, talking over a radio that blasted a sort of Hindu pop music, a woman singing a high-pitched chant to a repetitious melody. Something about one of the workers caught Tom's attention. Rossi got up and walked to the window for a closer look.
It was only a week ago Saturday when he was unloading and inspecting AK-47s with Marty and six Filipinos. Though he didn't get to know any of the loaders personally, he was used to listening to their banter and mannerisms, not to mention their physical characteristics. They called themselves by their names, some of which he'd recognized in the computer hack on AMD. Now he was looking at one of the loaders that worked in Bahrain. Tom tried to imagine him then, in different clothes. He nearly jumped when the recognition was complete.
The man picked up a box and carried it into the warehouse. Tom immediately made up his mind to talk to the worker instead of going back to M. Ventura. He searched his memory for the man's name. Benji? Timmy? No. Benny? Benny. The others called him Benny. Tom thought for a moment and waited until none of the workers were in the warehouse doorway, then quickly stepped out of the office and scrambled toward the side of the warehouse, around the corner from the main loading door. The music masked the sound of his movement, so Tom walked cautiously back to the rear of the building in the hopes of finding an open rear door. There was one, positioned opposite the main door at the front of the building. This end of the building faced the back of a giant concrete wall. The shadow from the warehouse cast over the narrow access way gave the area an immediate relief from the heat. By one or two o'clock, the shadow would be from the wall and eventually cover the entire warehouse in the late afternoon.
The music was still loud from the opposite end, nearly seventy-five meters away. Rossi peeked into the building to get his bearings. The workers were loading to a series of shelves adjacent to the door's opening. He slipped in and quickly got behind several large crates, then counted out four workers, all busy. The warehouse floor was dusty concrete, the sides lined with meter-deep shelving. From the few exposed products, it appeared to contain plumbing materials. Several crates were stacked in the center of the floor, giving the area a sort of path through the building barely wide enough for a truck. There were several pallets stacked alongside the inner path with sheets of wadded plastic, possibly from a shipment earlier today.
Tom searched through the cardboard boxes for anything out of the ordinary, wondering if the hijackers would transfer the weapons into cardboard boxes, and whether or not the boxes would hold the weight. He searched through as many as he safely could, crossing the main path when he thought the workers were looking away. About the time he concluded the weapons weren't in the warehouse, the pallets were empty, and the activity changed. The workers began gathering the plastic and banding materials and carrying them out toward the metal dumpster alongside the ivy-covered fence. Rossi watched Benny amble back toward the middle of the warehouse, followed by another worker while the other two were outside. He began gathering the banding materials less than five meters from Tom's hiding spot. The second worker finished gathering his armload of plastic and started toward the door. Tom knew it was now or never.
Benny was bent over, his back to the cartons, one armload of materials tight against his chest. Tom stepped into the pathway to the Filipino's right side.
"Benny." Tom half-whispered in a voice audible only to the target. The thin man stood quickly, almost startled and turned to face Rossi. Tom saw the man's eyes recognize him as his face contorted in fear.
Tom moved quickly, a bearlike hand clamping on the Filipino's throat with blinding speed, the other grabbing the shirt on the back of his shoulder. Rossi brought Benny into a vise, keeping the plastic and banding wad between them, and easily herded him into a niche in the carton wall and pinned him efficiently to the ground, a knee on his chest, his hand still on the man's throat.
"Benny. You know who I am, right?" The man gave Rossi a puzzled look. Tom squeezed his throat a bit tighter. "And I know you understand English because we talked in the warehouse in Bahrain, remember?" The Filipino nodded quickly.
Tom leaned closer and spoke softly into the terrified man's ear. "So you know why I am here, don't you, Benny. I could kill you in seconds without feeling a thing. I think you'd best tell me what happened, and since I already know a lot of the truth, I'll be able to tell when you're lying to me. I haven't killed anyone since all this started, so I think it's long overdue. Do you want to be the first?" The Filipino shook his head side to side. "So let's talk. How many loaders hid on board the plane?" Tom eased his hold somewhat on the man's throat.
"Two. Just two of us." His eyes rolled upward in a sign of resignation.
"It was you and who else?"
"Payyap. He in back of plane, too. "
"Payyap was dressed in dark blue shirt and jeans when we were in Bahrain, right?" Benny nodded nervously, his eyes displaying the fear of a caught rabbit in the jaws of a hound. "But Payyap was the leader. What happened on the plane?"
"Payyap say we unload the plane in the Philippines. I not know we were coming to Singapore. Payyap was going to get pilot to go to Manila, or somewhere nearby."
"But the pilot didn't do it, did he?"
"No." The Filipino breathed heavily. "Payyap had pistol in belt and never asked pilot to change course. He just climb into pilot's room and shot man in the back. I don' think he knew we were on board at all." Rossi's mind whirled for the correct questions.
"So Payyap was the pilot for the rest of the flight."
"Yes, he tell me to throw body out back door, but I did not know how to open door, so I hide body under coverings."
"OK, Benny, so far, so good. Now for the important stuff. Where's the fuckin' guns now?" Tom leaned closer, breathing into the scared man's face.
"We unload in airport and put in truck. Trucks come here, to this place." Tom glanced around quickly.
"Where? Where are they now?" His fingers clamped tighter around the throat. Benny coughed a dry cough and turned red as he mouthed something. Tom eased his grip.
"Eastern Lion? What the fuck is that?"
"Ship. We load onto ship two days ago."
"And where is this ship?"
"I don't know, maybe it still here."
"Where was it when you loaded it?" Tom's fingers got tighter again.
"Here. I helped load truck, truck went to port to unload and onto ship. I did not see ship, but I know it was Eastern Lion. Payyup was here when truck loaded. I do not know where it is going. I am telling no lie. Please..." Tom clenched tighter for a moment and leaned again to the man's ear.
"OK, Benny. But I am going to check this out. I have friends watching your friends. You know which friends I am watching. I will check out your story. If it is true, you may never see me again. If it is not true, or if your friends find out about our meeting....I know where you live. I know where your family lives. I will track you down like a dog and set you on fire. You helped kill my friend. I owe you nothing. Is that perfectly clear?" Benny nodded his head, a terrified look in his eyes. "Go back to work. This did not happen. Your fellow workers did not miss you. Pray tonight that you never see me again." In a movement of stealth and swiftness, Rossi was on his feet, checked the warehouse pathway, then disappeared out the rear door before Benny stood up.
Rossi checked out the far side of the warehouse and watched the workers enter the office building before trotting behind the dumpster. He walked quickly to the edge of the gate opening and ducked down the sidewalk behind the ivy vines.
In seconds he was driving away.
3/13/2006 11:21 am
wow.....you are back|
2/21/2008 9:04 am
Hi Ladies....I am so honored by you...thanks for stopping into my `lil blog. : )|