Jack looked around the room strewn with cardboard boxes. An overflowing box of fast food wrappers filled one corner. The only organized, clean area was where the optical surveillance equipment was set up. He said, “Kathy, I hope your mind
isn’t as cluttered as this pig sty. We need to come up with a plan. It’s damn clear we can’t let those car bombs be set off tomorrow in downtown Charleston. That’s the first priority. The second is to stop them and not spook the Professor. I believe we must destroy the bombs where they are and then be prepared to follow a bomber. At least one of them will be reporting to the Professor. If we fail, we lose our only link to the Professor. It will take some air assets. When we can get a plan together, I’ll call Frank to arrange for the resources to trail the bombers when they leave Charleston.”
Kathy said, “Okay, I agree that’s the strategy, but we’ll have to destroy the cars where they are with a fire. The explosives in those cars will probably burn. I doubt they will explode. If they do, better in their garage than in a populated area of Charleston. And I don’t want Hankins to get away.”
Jack said, “We need some immediate help. Call the hotel and get Lou to come now. Give him directions to park in the back of our building. When you get off the phone, I’ll call Frank and tell him our approach and see if they can handle the surveillance problem.”
After making the call to Frank, Jack was studying the garage through the tripod mounted scope, when Kathy said, “Lou and Storm are on the way. I think we can talk about the problem with them. Lou was one of the best B&E guys in the business. He broke into dozens of places and dealt with a bunch of problems. Usually he had to make it look like there had not even been an entry. In this case the fire will cover our tracks. I didn’t see any signs of an alarm system when I was in the shop. I doubt there will be one in the garage. But we can count on someone being on guard in or near the garage.”
After several hours of planning, they had a plan everyone accepted. Kathy brought in a bag of Big Macs, fries and coffee. It was now eight o’clock. Five hours from the kickoff. Everyone was resting in their own fashion. Responsibilities and communications were clear. Jack and Lou had the actual entry. Kathy volunteered to put a beacon on Hankins’ van, parked on the street almost in front of the rug shop. Storm was left to monitor activities from the OP.
If all lights in the upstairs section of the shop were off, 1:00 AM was the start. Limited-range, hand-held, two-way radios were the choice. Jack didn’t want cell phone activity in the area of the shop before the fire started. Cell phones were a start for fire investigators and the police. The explosive bomb residue will kick any fire investigation into high gear.
A few minutes after 1:00 AM, Jack and Lou, wearing black, slipped out the back door carrying some limited equipment and crossed Market Street a block east of the rug shop. From there, they worked their way back to the alley running behind the garage. A narrow trash-cluttered passageway ran between the garage and the next building. Their planned entry point was a window about seven feet above ground level. It looked as if it hadn’t been washed for several years. Jack crouched under the window, giving Lou a platform of his back to examine the window.
Lou whispered, “I can’t see through the window. I’m going to remove a pane. The caulking is nearly gone. I’ll only need a few minutes.”
“Do it. I can hold you.”
“Reach up with your left hand. I’ll hand the pane down to you.”
Jack thought this guy is good. I never heard a sound.
An instant later Lou stepped down and said, “I had a good view inside and didn’t see any guards. They may do periodic checks. What next?”
“Give me a boost. I’m going to check out the interior with my night vision gear. If I see anyone inside, I’ll take them out. No one upstairs will hear the silenced shot from my .22 High Standard. When I step down, I’ll give you a back to spray our two-gallon can of gasoline on the cars inside. Our hand pump sprayer should reach both cars. It should not leave any acceleration track for the investigators. Make sure you leave a trail of gas near enough to the window for a burning wad of newspaper to set off the fire.”
“What were you, a cop or an arsonist?”
“You’d be surprised what cops learn about the dark side.”
Sixty seconds later, Jack stepped to the ground and said, “No one inside. Your turn.”
Lou sprayed the two gallons of gas inside the garage, making sure to douse both cars and the entryway to the shop. He stepped off Jack’s back and said, “Just drop the burning newspaper inside the window. The gas trail starts there.”
“Okay. You take all our stuff and move now. When I drop it, I’ll move
fast. The gas vapor may have filled the
garage and give us an almost an instantaneous explosion. The shortest path for me is to go immediately behind the building at o
ur back. I’ll meet you at the end of the alley. Then we’ll split up and make our separate ways to the OP. Okay.”
Jack gave Lou 20 seconds, quietly broke the glass pane Lou removed, lit the newspaper torch and shielding the small flame with his body, dropped it in the window. By the time he took three steps behind the adjacent two-story abandoned brick building, he heard a soft woomp and the darkness vanished as the fire shot out the window behind him. By the time he joined Lou halfway down the alley, the fire was engulfing the entire building.