Ch. 22 — The Buffalo Top Gun

According to eyewitness reports to police, the criminal team follows its standard ‘modus operandi’ (M.O.) and successfully blocks the armored car in a side street, using a front-end loader.

Team members [Do keep in mind that these are the bad guys,] drive a garbage truck into place immediately behind the hapless vehicle, to prevent its slipping out via a convenient back alley or any other quick detour which offers a possibility of escape.

The crime scene is a T-junction street in Buffalo, N.Y., which has at its intersection a parked 5-ton truck, with its rear door facing the armored vehicle, which is now stopped on the through-street, blocked on three sides.

The flak-jacketed, hooded criminals gather in a ring around the cornered truck, and their leader, a tall, steely-eyed individual, stands beside the back end of the five-ton and beckons to the driver of the armored car for five seconds. As if time were nothing, he waits a further ten seconds and beckons again.

Inside the heavily armored vehicle, the crew is concerned, but still confident in the ability of their truck to get them out of this situation. The driver calls the attention of his companion in the passenger seat and laughingly points to the team-leader and his still-beckoning finger.

In the rear compartment, where the valuables are stowed, the two guards are peering out of their peepholes and gun ports, enjoying the view from inside their little fortress. The truck’s contents (mostly banknotes) are intended for use in filling ATMs in the suburban areas with cash in preparation for the high demand normally experienced on weekends.

The passenger seat’s occupant joins his driver in nervous laughter. It is abundantly obvious that neither one is about to open the door and lead the way to a capitulation, and handover of the car’s contents to these criminals.

The team-leader gives a signal to one of his henchmen and the single perpetrator runs past the tall man to the rear end of the five-ton blocking the side street.

The thug slides the rear door of the vehicle upward to expose an additional masked criminal, seated, similarly jacketed in a bulletproof vest.

To the horror of the crew inside the armored conveyance, they can see that this latter individual is manning what has the appearance of a 40-mm cannon, a huge anti-aircraft weapon that can fire projectiles easily capable of penetrating the steel plating of their truck, exploding inside with deadly effect.

It takes only seconds for the four to realize that refusal to yield the truck to these criminals can only leave their goose well and truly cooked.

Since there is obviously not enough time to raise their dispatcher on the truck’s radio, the crew has a quick conference, which lasts all of five seconds, following which the doors slowly open; back and front. The guards are outnumbered, outmaneuvered, and completely powerless to prevent this robbery.

Laying eyes upon the enormous weapon stowed in the rear end of the 5-ton, all the neutral onlookers flee the scene, realizing that they are better off as live eyewitnesses, than dead statistics. Some time will pass before they pluck up the courage to contact the police with their story. From here on in, the CSIs will be on their own in trying to sort out what happens next.

Once the members of the crew are outside their transport, the criminals quickly stick duct tape over the eyes and mouth of each guard, restraining their hands and feet with plastic ties. The four are unceremoniously thrown into the shovel of the loader.

Now the bad guys can make a leisurely job out of transferring the load from the perceived security of the armored car to the interior of the five-ton.

The front-end loader and the garbage truck are left parked on the side street with the armored car squeezed between them. It might be hours before anyone notices the three vehicles in this secluded area of Buffalo.

Well inside five minutes, loaded with all the criminal types, the truck roars away from the scene with much loot in the highly desirable form of cash; used bills, unmarked and with unrecorded serial numbers.

Since interstate crime is a Federal offence, the FBI is called in to handle the investigation. Now, three very similar crimes are being handled; twice before, the Agency has been called with reference to other near-identical crimes apparently committed by this gang; the first, two months earlier in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; a second, a month ago, in Cleveland, Ohio; now the current job in Buffalo in north-western New York.

Some weeks prior to this latest case, the FBI had asked its field offices in the two earlier cities to get any information that might be picked up by informants with an ‘ear to the ground,’ but to date no one has received any concrete data. The agency has its reputation to maintain, and would desperately like to solve these cases.

This third incident using exactly the same M.O., and in yet another state, generates a meeting of the minds that is held at the FBI’s headquarters in Washington, D.C.

One agent, an avid TV viewer, who gets all his news from NNN, makes the proposal that the head of the agency call Ethan Thomas at the news network to ask if his contacts with the time-traveling HDTV would be willing to provide their technology and expertise in resolving these incidents.

Although it rankled him, like stroking a cat from back to front, in view of the lack of progress in the case on the other fronts, and with pressure growing from political sources, and endless media inquiries, this third case really is ‘the straw that broke the camel’s back.’

Ethan’s telephone rings, and an unusually humble voice speaks to the news anchor, “Listen, Ethan. I’m desperate. I have to get these three cases behind me, and get the Bureau back on the road. We’re dying here,” he pleads.

He explains how he has heard agents at the FBI speaking of ‘the family with the HDTV.’ He knew it had recently been introduced on Ethan’s show, but was not familiar with the situation, except through conversations with others.

“I’ll get hold of the family and see if anyone is available to help you,” ET responds.

“It’s possible, Tony, that the family will do this operation as a freebie, a sort of personal demonstration just for you. But, in future, you should expect to be dealing with a non-profit foundation that will looking for you to take out some sort of a contract. Someone has to help it to pay its way.

“Hey! That will allow you to set up your own surveillance network using the System technology. Then, it’s yours; it will be a standard agency resource, and you will be free to use it for anything you like, whenever you feel like it; that is, if you can get the Foundation to agree to whatever it is you want to do.”

“Thanks, Ethan; that sounds like a proposition I could probably live with. Do I have to contact the folks, or will I be hearing from them?”

“I think after this expedition, they’ll be calling you. Anyway, I’ll get back to you later this morning.” Ethan is pleased that the FBI stands to be the startup client for the Foundation, that is, if the chief’s word counts for anything.

#

“Ethan, Russell’s out. Do you think the Bureau could wait till the kids come home after school?” Dianne asks.

“Well, if you’re stuck, I guess I’ll have to let the people know that it’ll be around three o’clock this afternoon before they get to hear from you.”

“I’ll get James to call you as soon as he comes in the door,” she assures him.

#

Naturally, James gets a whole earful when he arrives home from school. His mother fills him in on the gist of the conversation with Ethan. She includes the information about the Director of the FBI; the armed holdups, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Buffalo; the modus operandi; and the ubiquitous 40-mm cannon in the back of the five-ton truck.

Ethan’s mobile rings and DJ greets the news anchor. “Mom filled me in on the gory details, Ethan. How did you want to handle this?”

“Up to you, Deej, but I thought maybe we could get over to Buffalo and locate the scene of the most recent holdup, then backpedal in time until we can ID the perpetrators, and get the info over to the FBI’s head office in Washington or its Buffalo field office,” the New Yorker proposes.

“I guess we could handle it that way; plus we can follow them until we locate where they’re hanging out at this moment and tag that info for the police, too.” This is now ‘old hat’ to James since he has already handled other assignments that have similarities to this job.

“Can I get you to pick me up at NNN, here in New York, along with the camera crew I’d like to bring along?”

“Be there in about ten minutes,” the boy advises.

#

“DJ! Coffee?” Dianne asks.

“Thanks, Mom, there will be four of us by the time you get here. I have to pick up Ethan and he’s coming with a crew.”

#

The house phone rings again and Ethan has another request: “Would it be possible to pick up a fourth person, a guest this time?” Ethan inquires.

“Who is it,” James asks.

“It’s Tony Elliott, the Director of the FBI. His office is in Washington, DC. For a street address, you can use ‘Federal Bureau of Investigation, J. Edgar Hoover Building, 935 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC.’

“You mean the head honcho of the FBI is coming to join us?” the boy asks.

“That’s it. I told him that you’re forming a non-profit organization and that you’d probably do this job for him as a one-off demonstration, but that he should expect to take out a contract with you for his future use of the System. I guess he wants to have an eyeful for himself, before he invests.”

“All right! Hey, I’ll start the meter and let Mom know that she has her first potential client. OK, I’ll head out and pick you three up in New York and then we’ll zip over to Washington to get Mr. Elliott. See you in a few.”

#

“Mom,” James calls, “can you add another coffee? There’s a guy from the FBI joining us with ET.”

“Very well,” Mom responds, sounding like the commander of a submarine acknowledging the helmsman’s repeat of his verbal instructions.

The NNN and FBI pickups are accomplished without incident. As usual, all visitors and ET are warmly made welcome and assigned seats in positions around the main large-screen TV set.

“Mr. Elliott, I’d better explain to you that we don’t have any idea why this phenomenon works; we just know that it does.

“What we’re going to be doing is heading out to the scene of the latest robbery in Buffalo, and once we get there, we’ll back up in time to the moment that the crime actually takes place and we’ll make a video record of the whole operation.

“After that, we’ll follow the gang through any vehicle changes and try to figure out what happened to the money, and also what sort of venue the crooks are using as a central location for their jobs.”

#

The FBI Director, ET and the crew from NNN, and James each receive a large coffee from Dianne, along with a plate heaping with cookies.

“You’ll need something to be nibbling on; often these operations take a while,” she consoles.

“James,” Elliott says, “Ethan told me you need the street address of the holdup site for the GPS. The holdup actually takes place under the Interstate-190 at the Pearl Street overpass. I figure the nearest place is possibly the Buffalo Naval Park at 1 Naval Park Cove, Buffalo 14202. It will be very close to that museum.”

“Good,” James responds as he enters the information onto the touch-pad of the GPS device. The museum site’s address pops onto the screen and DJ hits the ‘Go’ button and slips the device, with his ancient watch, onto the home-made platform through the TV screen to allow the device to guide him to Buffalo.

The GPS takes the group above the Interstate highway routes all the way into the heart of Buffalo, and quickly they find themselves in the presence of three refurbished World War II vessels:

USS Little Rock, a guided missile cruiser at the time of her decommissioning;

USS The Sullivans, a destroyer, named for five brothers from a single Iowa family, all of whom lost their lives on USS Juneau in November, 1942, during the naval battle for Guadalcanal; and, finally,

USS Croaker, a 1,525-ton Gato-class submarine that provided sterling service in the Pacific theater, during the ‘great unpleasantness.’

Elliott is able to point out the precise position of the holdup, and also gives the teenaged ‘driver’ the exact time of the incident.

After James gets into position and reverses in time to the moment of the holdup, the quintet is able to observe all of the action as it took place.

With James recording every byte on the DVD recorder, and the NNN crew following ET’s direction and recording all the activity, not much escapes the intense scrutiny of the folks in the Richardson house.

With the incident concluded, the group of criminals escapes by traveling west to east on Hanover Street, turning north on Washington Street. Next, they take the ramp onto the I-190 driving east to S. Rossier Avenue, where the Interstate turns south to merge with I-90 to the area of Manhasset Street. Here, they exit at the junction with Highway 400 (the Aurora Expressway). They depart the expressway at Route 574, Jamison Road, in Elma, NY, then onto Bowen Road (Route 242).

The crew pulls in at a deserted site, formerly an auto dealership at 2925 Bowen Road, still in Elma, NY. Large abandoned buildings behind the dealership provide ideal cover for the transfer of their loot to other vehicles stored there especially for the purpose.

The crooks have long since removed their masks and flak jackets and James finds it very simple to position the System immediately in front of each one and, for his own records, takes a series of photographs and the usual video to add to the family’s collection of ‘mug shots.’

James pauses for an extra few seconds to make sure that he has good clear pictures and video of the tall man, the leader of the group.

Every move James makes is mirrored by the NNN crew, and police will thus have spectacular pictures to use for identifying the bad men once they get them into custody. A police lineup will not be necessary in this case.

Again, a leisurely switchover from the initial getaway truck to two small pickup trucks and the group is ready to be on its way, much richer and no one the wiser; they think.

Two men drive off in each of the pickup trucks; the others take their own cars, which have been stored inside one of the abandoned sheds.

One of the perpetrators gets help from others of the gang to disguise the sides of the truck, using materials already stored in the shed, and then drives off.

The World-War-II artifact, the 40-millimeter cannon, will be useful for future operations, without a doubt. The entire truck, complete with its weaponry, will be put into storage until required for another heist.

Leaving at intervals of two minutes, they scatter in every direction and wait to hear from the leader, with whom they have now been dealing for three highly successful jobs and he has promised them to let them have their cut as soon as possible. The loot has to be counted then divided into equal amounts for distribution to the individual players. They have plenty of money from earlier jobs prior to the “top gun” jobs that they can be using while they are waiting.

[Unknown to the family, or to the FBI, the gang’s members have agreed to avoid spending large amounts of cash for at least two years to prevent the drawing of undue attention to themselves.]

If the FBI needs further information or verification of identification of the men, it is going to be necessary to pursue each one to find out his normal habitat, and where he can be picked up.

There is likely to be a future event involving a special interstate operation to apprehend all of the gang members at one specific time.

James fills in the director on these points and Elliott responds that he will take the NNN video back to Washington where he will have it analyzed and then advise the family as to further action, if any is required.

Without hesitation, Ethan expresses concern that NNN’s proprietary information is being hijacked by the FBI, and that the intellectual property his crew gathered is being taken without respect for NNN’s rights.

Elliott acquiesces, and agrees to let ET first duplicate the video. Director Elliott will accept a copy of the recording from NNN, if James can deliver it via the System later in the day.

However, Ethan has to agree, in turn, not to display the video until after the perpetrators are charged with the crime. To proceed otherwise might prejudice the government’s case against the hoodlums.

After a brief conference with his producer, Ron Pfeffer, via his mobile phone, ET agrees to this condition and the two men shake hands on the deal.

Ethan pipes up with a question on FBI procedure, “Tony, how will you establish how the gang got to be the owners of a 40-mm cannon, and where they were able to get their hands on garbage trucks and front-end loaders so readily?”

“Once we identify these men, the answer to those questions will be among those we’ll be seeking.

“In fact, there are others that we’ll have to be thinking about. Ask yourself, ‘What is the gang’s source of information about the armored car? Who told them the car would be carrying hundreds of thousands in cash? How did they know the roads the truck would be taking? Who helped them to find the hideaway locations? Who are the other people involved in this case over and above the front men? Are there any ‘inside’ men?”

“I see what you mean. Are you going to have to call on the Richardsons for more help?” he asks.

“That may be necessary, Ethan,” Elliott replies. “But, remember, one thing about criminals caught on video, is that they often realize that they’ve been caught with a ‘smoking gun,’ and will often simplify the court procedures by pleading guilty to the charges. We’ll likely try for that first and fall back on the family here as a last resort.”

“What is the likelihood that the FBI will want to take out a contract with the Foundation for a System setup for its own exclusive use?” he adds.

Ethan is an anchor and correspondent, not a sales person, but he’s certainly doing a grand job of work to get the first customer to pony up. It will certainly save the family from having to fight for the maiden contract.

“I’m already deeply impressed with the ease with which DJ uses the portal. I wouldn’t be surprised if some get the idea that this could lead us to a complete elimination of serious crime. By my present thinking, I would like to see us enter into a contract for supply within a week.” he allows.

“As a matter of fact, DJ, could you ask your dad to draw us up a contract for our first installation to be set up in my office in Washington as soon as he is able. Startup date: ASAP.

“Thanks, sir,” James says. “The Foundation will be pleased to supply you with its first client System, but you need to know that we are going to have special installation requirements and conditions with which you will have to agree. I’ll get Dad to give you a call about the service as soon as the NPO is set up.”

####

CLEVELAND

“DJ,” Elliott requests, “could we go over to Cleveland, the crime scene for episode two. You could use the intersection of East 19th Street at 2001 Payne Avenue, for your GPS info. The Payne address is home to a Police Community Station located in the Emergency Medical Services Building.”

Deej does the honors with the GPS and upon arrival, he backs up to about a month prior to the Buffalo crime.

Our group finds that the bad boys have stationed their heavy vehicles in the rear parking lot of the Police Station, where some fifteen to twenty police service vehicles are parked, along with the personal automobiles of many of the police officers and civilians who hold down jobs in the facility.

The target vehicle is easy to spot as it makes a left turn off Superior Avenue at the Tower Press Building, onto East 19th Street. Police now know that, as before, it is loaded with cash, and has been busy replenishing ATMs in the area of Burke Lakefront Airport, the Warehouse District and its associated industrial park.

Southbound on E. 19th Street the driver of the armored car is surprised to see the bad guys’ garbage truck suddenly jerk out of a parking facility close to Payne Avenue, on his right side. He slams on his brakes to avoid striking the huge vehicle.

No sooner has his truck come to a screeching halt, than the huge front-end loader rockets out of the northernmost of the two entrances to the parking area of the Community Police Station, which, as we now know, has the formal address of 2001 Payne Avenue, on his left side.

Cars parked on East 19th prevent his escaping to the right. His only way out is into the southern entrance to the rear of the police facility; he notices to his chagrin that this is now blocked by a five-ton truck which has backed up almost to the side of the armored vehicle.

He is trapped!

Like his later compatriot, his first instinct is to pick up the microphone to his two-way radio and contact his dispatcher to let him know of the threatening situation that has overtaken him.

He stops his motion when at double-time the eight-man picket line surrounds the truck, with the leader on the driver’s side of the armored vehicle again standing behind the five-ton that has blocked his way into the Police and Emergency Medical Service’s facility. He can clearly see the masks, hoods and the automatic weapon carried by each hood.

The tall figure raises his left hand and his index finger beckons to the crew of this armored car. The driver and guards inside the steel-plated truck know that their armored fleet is well protected and the company’s trucks had, over the years, withstood many a siege. Chances are they will be OK.

The head mobster makes his second beckoning gesture to the crew to indicate they should give up.

This driver reaches for his microphone, too. Again, he is stopped by a raised left index finger held up by the leader of the gang.

The chief bandito signals to his sidekick, who runs to the five-ton, and slides open the door to expose the other bandito.

Again, as in the later Buffalo incident, the newly exposed character is seated at the butt end of their 40-mm cannon aimed point-blank at the money truck. Fired now, it cannot miss.

The crew holds a quick conference, but the outcome is a foregone conclusion: capitulation. That cannon fires ammunition that can easily rip through the armor plating of their vehicle.

Reluctantly they open the doors, back and front.

Using duct tape over eyes and mouths; plastic ties on hands and feet, the crew is quickly disabled; handguns and shotguns are quickly gathered up and tossed into the five-ton.

With unbelievable speed, all four vehicles drive into the neutral parking facility on the east side of East 19th St.

The criminals careful conceal the sides of the hijacked vehicle with tarpaulins, as before, and then place it between the two larger pieces of equipment. Thus, no suspicion is aroused as the contents of the armored car are transferred to the five-ton.

The haul, as it will be in Buffalo in a month’s time, is made up mostly of $20 and $50 bills, unmarked, and with unrecorded serial numbers.

The bad guys are laughing as they pile the four guards into the scoop of the front-end loader, raise it ten feet into the air, and run back to the five-ton, and drive off, abandoning the garbage truck and the big loader, along with the armored car

Suspicion is not aroused until end of day when someone who works in the area collects his automobile, and questions the front-end loader with legs and feet hanging out of it frantically waving for help.

This sight results in a quick visit to the police station, which causes no small measure of embarrassment for the cops inside.

#

In order to clear the scene, the gang heads off on Payne Avenue, driving west to E. 25th St., turning north to St. Clair NE; briefly east on St. Clair Avenue NE, to a turn northbound onto E 26th Street; again, briefly to Lakeside Avenue, turning in at 3050 Lakeside Avenue East, where the welcoming arms of an abandoned warehouse are found waiting.

There is still plenty of time for National News and James to get the needed pictures and video of the perpetrators. In most cases, they are the same men as in the Buffalo operation. Elliott is delighted.

The five-ton drives right into the open doors of the empty building, already fitted out with the customary pair of pickup trucks. Little attention will be paid to movements around the building. Over recent months there have been several attempts to reactivate the old warehouse; one party had even had thoughts of converting the premises into condominium apartments.

With little worry over being discovered, and caught with their ‘hand in the cookie jar,’ the work of moving the money from the five-ton over to the pickup trucks takes mere minutes.

Spaced approximately five minutes apart, the pickup trucks pull out with the agreement of the gang leader.

The remaining mobsters collaborate on disguising the heavier vehicle, which will allow it to travel unobtrusively on the streets of the Cleveland area undetected by authorities.

The changed truck departs from the warehouse about 10 minutes after the second pickup.

Finally, the remainder of the gang departs with each one in his own vehicle, stored earlier in the ancient warehouse.

####

PITTSBURGH

Finally, Director Elliott requests James to check out the scene of the original, first robbery of the series, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Once more, the site is obscure, yet well within sight of one of the busiest places in all of Pittsburgh. Station Square is a well-known, much-loved, shopping mall in the downtown area.

Although there are no eyewitness reports from individuals close enough to the scene to be able to give definitive details of the action, from a distance, observers have been able to describe to police the M.O. used by the bad guys.

The cops quickly realize that this crime has been perpetrated by a highly professional gang of well-trained, well-disciplined robbers.

As on the two later occasions, the blockading vehicles are a garbage truck and a front-end loader.

Our scene is the familiar T-junction, with a 5-ton truck, again having its rear door facing the armored vehicle.

The gang’s hooded men take their stance in a ring around the captive truck, while the tall, gaunt leader, stands behind the five-ton and beckons to the driver of the armored car for the now customary five seconds. He waits his further ten seconds and beckons again.

Once more, as with the later jobs, within the steel-reinforced sides of the vehicle, the crew maintains confidence in the capability of the truck to get them out of this predicament. The driver calls the attention of his three passenger-guards and points to where the head criminal is still beckoning.

Yet again, in the rear, two of the guards peer out of peepholes and gun ports, momentarily enjoying the view from inside their little fortress. Consistently, the truck’s contents are for filling ATMs in the area with cash.

All four men draw their ex-police service revolvers in anticipation of an opportunity to ‘bust a few caps’ at these criminal types. No one inside the vehicle has foreseen what will happen next.

As in the later robberies, the team-leader signals to one of his henchmen, who runs to the five-ton blocking the side street, and slides open the overhead door, revealing the additional bad guy, seated at the back of the cannon.

Like their fellows after them, it takes mere seconds for the four to realize that if they fail to yield control of the truck, they will be signing their own death warrants.

Realizing that the ‘jig is up,’ — there is no way to prevent this robbery from taking place, they ‘abandon ship.’

Understandably, upon laying their eyes on the huge weapon stowed in the rear end of the 5-ton, all the onlookers flee the scene. Again, it will be a while before they gather enough courage to dial 9-1-1.

The hoods leap into action; once the guards open the doors, each one is prevented from seeing and crying out, as once again, duct tape is used to cover their eyes and mouths and their hands and feet and secured. For the third time today, Elliott, Ethan, and the family, watches as the crew of the armored car winds up in the scoop of a front-end loader.

The cash is switched from the armored vehicle over to the five-ton truck.

A large tarpaulin is used to cover over the company truck. Now its distinctive square appearance will not rouse suspicion.

The split-second precision of the operation allows the crooks to escape inside their ten-minute deadline. With all the gang on board, the five-ton drives off, cannon and all, with ten happy hoods; another successful job, with a haul of hundreds of thousands.

#

“James,” Elliott asks, “can I get the copies of the NNN video over at my office later today?”

“How long will it take to duplicate your guys’ video, ET?” James inquires.

“Give us an hour, and we’ll have it all ready for you to pick up, Deej.”

“In a little over an hour, Mr. Elliott,” the teen replies.

“I’ll stay in my office until you arrive with them. Thanks,” he says.

#

With all of the visitors dispersed to a New York location, or Washington office, James has a moment to reflect on the afternoon’s activity.

‘Mr. Elliott is going to be hamstrung with Ethan’s video,’ he soliloquizes. ‘He is going to need to be able to link each of those criminals to each robbery including the dispersal of the cash. He’ll need to chase each one down after he leaves Hallock Street in Pittsburgh and find out exactly where he lives, and how, and when he takes possession of his share of the take from the holdup.

‘There will have to be continuity of involvement. Each guy will have to be recorded on video preparing for the event, participating in the holdup; then seen boarding the getaway vehicle, removing his mask, and transferring the loot into the two pickup trucks. It would not do for some lawyer to say that just because he got out of the getaway vehicle, there was nothing to say the crew didn’t pick him up as a hitchhiker.’ His soliloquy concludes, as the boy realizes that Elliott will be back with further requests.

#

Ethan calls and advises DJ that the copies of the video have been made and are ready for pick-up at his convenience.

True to his word, Elliott is still in his office when James ‘intrudes’ at the J. Edgar Hoover Building courtesy of the System. The lad delivers Ethan’s DVDs to the FBI head.

“James, if this works the way I hope it will, one day we might be able to make a start on eliminating major crime in this country,” he gushed.

“Don’t forget, Mr. Elliott, that when Thomas Edison improved the light bulb to the extent that it could be used for street lighting, someone said that this would wipe out nocturnal crime, but here we are 135 years later, and nighttime crime is still on the increase.” James remembers this from some research done in connection with a trip he has been planning, to go back to see Edison.

“I’ll pass these on to my crime lab and get them to do an ID on each of the hoods, and see if we can’t get them off the streets,” Elliott assured.

#

The two bid each other ‘goodnight,’ following Elliott’s promise to the boy to advise him as to the findings on the research done by his crime lab.

James ‘shows himself out,’ and heads the System off in the direction of Tampa Bay and lets his instinct do the rest. He is back at home in less than twenty seconds.

Over supper, James bubbles with excitement over the three missions carried out at the request of Director Elliott of the FBI after school. He details the three holdup operations, and the escape routes used by the bad guys.

It is not difficult to see why the modus operandi of the gang causes police authorities to consider the three jobs to be the work of a single gang. The plan of attack is identical in every case. After the first job, the use of abandoned buildings or empty houses with heavily treed lots give a sense of déjà vu to the FBI agents investigating the crimes. These hoodlums had been unbelievably consistent. Virtually every feature of the crimes seems identical.

The outstanding feature of the three holdups had been the fearsome sight of the 40-mm cannon mounted in the five-ton truck. The FBI will likely want to get a serial number from it in order to trace the item and establish exactly how the gang had come into possession of such a huge piece of weaponry.

James couldn’t help but laugh as he told of the look of horror on the faces of the crew members of the three armored cars when the anti-aircraft gun was shown to them.

It is sobering to reflect on how that same terror had appeared on young Bartlett James’ face on Iwo Jima, when he was faced with a life-threatening situation, on his first visit to the Richardson homestead.

At eleven p.m., which is bed-time at the Richardson’s house, the phone rings. Elliott is on the other end and is himself very excited. He introduces himself to Russell and asks to speak to James.

“Mr. Elliott. I didn’t expect to hear from you so soon,” DJ says.

“James, this is hard to believe,” he says. “I’ve just finished a meeting with my top lab staff and we’ve identified thirteen men with Ethan’s video. They have an ID for every last one of them. Most of the guys were in every one of the holdups; but some were only in one or two.”

“What’ve you got on the tall, strange-looking guy who was the head honcho?” James queries.

“You’ll have to keep this to yourself for now, James, but his name is Johnny Heath. He’s a native of New York City, but the last address we have on file for him is in Cheektowaga, near Buffalo. He’s 43, and according to his rap sheet, he’s been in and out of jail for most of his life. He probably thought he was on to a good thing with this 40-mm cannon gimmick; but he didn’t count on running afoul of your System.

“I’ve set up a meeting of our legal advisers in the morning to assess the value of the DVDs from NNN and I’d like you to be present to answer any questions the legals might have about the System. Mostly they’ll be interested in whether the footage was obtained by legal means or not, whether the gathering of evidence by this means will stand up to constitutional challenges by defense attorneys in a court of law. Can you be here, James?” the FBI chief questions.

“Wow, that sounds awesome, Mr. Elliott, I look forward to it. What time would you like me there?”

“If you show up at 8:45, that would be fine. It will give me a few minutes to introduce you to my legal team.”

“I’ll be there at eight forty-five on the dot,” James promises.

#

At the appointed hour James ‘intrudes’ via the System into the Washington office of Director Elliott of the FBI. Parking the portal in a darker corner, he disembarks into Elliott’s office.

Clad in a dark blue suit contrasted by a white dress shirt, and a neatly Windsor-knotted dark blue tie with white stripes, he is wearing black shoes over black socks, and is a picture of sartorial splendor, suitable for a men’s magazine cover photo shoot. Except for his youth, he looks for all the world just like one of the ‘suits’ already there.

Elliott spots him and greets him with a handshake and a warm smile, and, “Let me introduce you to my legal team, James,” he says as he ushers the young man over to the small group of well-dressed men and one woman. Elliott introduces James as “Mr. Richardson, a consultant for a non-profit corporation specially formed to handle research into unsolvable crimes, cold cases.”

Coffee in hand, James takes his seat at the conference table in Elliott’s office. The Director has assigned James to sit at his right hand side.

Elliott begins, “Lady and gentlemen, I want to begin by giving you a little background information on my activities yesterday. It will help you to get a grasp on the immensely helpful technology that recently surfaced in Florida.

“Mr. Richardson is here in an advisory capacity. Although still in his teens, he is the principal operator of what he and his organization have been calling the System, an unbelievable phenomenon that surfaced some time ago on his HDTV.

“As some of you already know, National News Network recently aired a series of expeditions which showed Mr. Richardson on a trip through time to the days of Christopher Columbus, back when he was on his ‘voyage of discovery,’ which ultimately led him to America in 1492.

“This will serve to illustrate for you that the System is capable of traveling in time over long periods, but, rest assured, it can operate in the short-term also, which leads us to get to the operation Mr. Richardson performed yesterday.

“At my request, he took NNN’s Ethan Thomas and me back to three different moments in time.

“Firstly, to a few days ago, in Buffalo, New York, where by courtesy of the System we were eyewitness to the holdup of that armored car that went down there with the loss of seven hundred and fifty thousand dollars.

“Using Mr. Richardson’s technology, he was able to get us in to point-blank range, and with the help of NNN’s cameras, we were able to get close-up photographs and video of each of the men involved. We got footage of the loot stored in the armored car, as well as the 40-mm cannon the gang used to convince the crew of the vehicle to surrender their load.

“Following the men after they left the crime scene, to their ‘safe house,’ where they switched vehicles, was no problem for him. We saw how they disguised the truck carrying the anti-aircraft gun, drove the loot out in pickup trucks, and dispersed individually in their own cars.”

Gesturing, he says, “In the folder in front of each of you, (marked ‘Buffalo,’) is a photograph of each of the men involved in the job, plus his rap sheet, along with a photograph of the vehicle in which he left the ‘safe house.’

“You have two other additional folders (one marked ‘Cleveland,’ the other marked ‘Pittsburgh,’) in which you will find identical information relating to the two matching crimes carried out in those cities; Cleveland: one month ago, and Pittsburgh, a month prior to the Cleveland operation.

“What I need is some input from you as to the constitutionality of what we have here. How is this going to stand up in court if some smart lawyer tries to say that the privacy of these men was being invaded? Could this video footage be thrown out of court by a judge for that reason?

“Mr. Richardson, I realize you’re not a lawyer, but what did you feel as you were taking the video of these men? Would you consider what we did yesterday as a violation of the constitutional rights of these crooks?”

“Thank you, Mr. Elliot; I appreciate the opportunity to express myself on this matter.

“Frankly, sir, it didn’t bother me one bit. I didn’t consider myself to be in violation of anyone’s rights at all. If you just think about it, I’m an outsider who just happened to be on that street while the robbery was going down. I happened to have two friends with me who had cameras handy; they took pictures of criminals robbing an armored car, and frightening the life out of four innocent guys.

“Like any citizen I gave chase and was able to obtain photographs and video of each of the perpetrators and the loot that happened to be stashed alongside a 40-mm cannon in their five-ton truck.

“If that’s wrong, then I need to go back to school to find out the difference between wrong and right,” James reasons.

“Don’t forget that we live in a country,” Elliott remarks, “where judges have ruled that property-owners are in violation of the rights of burglars who trip and fall through the skylight, while attempting to burglarize that entrepreneur’s building.

“Thank you, Mr. Richardson,” Elliott smiles.

“Does anyone have any questions for Mr. Richardson, before we adjourn to let you gentlemen consider the new data and consult with your legal volumes?”

“Can the gentleman tell us how his phenomenon works?” one asks.

“I’m afraid I’m as much in the dark as you are, sir,” James apologizes. “We don’t know why, but we do know that it does work. At home, we’re still trying to figure out why it came to our house, and not to someone here in Washington, or London. Sorry.”

Elliott continues, “For those of you who are staff lawyers, I have arranged a screening of the NNN video for you so that you can see the exact circumstances surrounding each of the holdups, and you can let me know how you think we ought to proceed against this gang.

“Miss Carruthers, and gentlemen, thank you all for being here this morning. Mr. Richardson, our thanks for your excellent input. I know you’ll be hearing from us in the near future”

The teen shakes hands all around as the members of the FBI’s legal team individually thank him for attending, and bid him a ‘good day,’ and watch with astonishment as he embarks through the System into his Florida home.

####

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s