Burying the Past
Copyright© 2019 by Lumpy
When they landed, a car from the local field office met them on the tarmac. The way Crawford started with the agent waiting at the car without prelude, suggested to Taylor that he’d either coordinated with this man ahead of time or knew him already.
“Where are we?”
“We’ve picked up the car, and the locals have three cars on a rotating tail. As soon as you give the word, locals will affect the traffic stop.”
“I want to be on hand before that happens.”
“We should get going then,” Whitaker said. “The longer they have the tail, the greater the chance that he’ll stop somewhere with people around or notice the tail.”
The unidentified agent nodded and headed around the car, with Crawford sliding into the passenger seat, leaving the rear of the vehicle for Whitaker and Taylor.
“What do we know about this guy?” Taylor asked as they pulled away from the plane.
“Not a lot. Facial matching couldn’t pick him out of any of the databases we’re tied into,” the local guy said.
“Really?” Taylor asked. “I would’ve thought you guys were tied into every system.”
“We are but facial recognition isn’t like fingerprints,” Crawford said, not looking back. “The angle of the picture, lighting at the time of the picture, resolution of the picture, and simple things like beards or glasses can throw it off. You also get a lot of false positives. It’s still a vital tool, but only picks out and matches the subject if they’re in one of our databases, about seventy percent of the time. While that sounds great, thirty percent is too big of a section to say this guy isn’t one of them.”
“So we need to get his prints?”
“Yep. From the description of the McDonald’s employees, he had an accent, so I’d bet he’s hiding in an immigration database, and we’ll probably find him as soon as we run his prints.”
They got quiet for a minute while Crawford pulled out his phone and called in to let Washington know they were on scene and get any updates. Once he hung up, Taylor asked his next question.
“What about the info from the rental company?”
“It looks to be like what you guys found in Arizona. The name on the ID he used is bogus, comes back to a guy in Montana who we’ve verified is still there,” the local guy said.
“What’s he been doing since you started tailing him?” Whitaker asked.
“He spent most of the time in a coffee shop, typing on a laptop.”
“Were you able to check out the car?”
“No, he parked out front, and the place had large windows. We couldn’t get to it without him seeing us. We’re thinking...”
The guy’s phone rang, interrupting him.
“Yeah? ... direction? ... what channel? ... ok.”
He hung up and clicked on the small portable radio he had resting on the center console, twisting a nob while half looking out the window. After a second, a voice started coming through the radio.
“514, he’s turning north out of the parking lot. We’re going to rotate off and circle around to get ahead of him. Do you have it?”
“He just left the coffee shop,” the local guy said. “We’re about two minutes out.”
“Ok, pull him over,” Crawford said
“Andy, we’re coming up now. Have the locals make the traffic stop,” the local guy said into the radio.
“Roger.” the voice on the radio said.
Their car turned another corner just in time to see the light bar on the top of a patrol car kick on, as the patrol car pulled behind the suspect. For a second, it looked like the suspect car was going to take off, and probably would have if another patrol car hadn’t blocked off the intersection ahead at that moment. The black SUV that pulled up nearly parallel with the blocking patrol car made any ideas of smashing through go out the window.
The local cops were just getting out of their car when the suspect surprised everyone by throwing his door open and stepping out, pulling an AK-47 out with him. The cop in the passenger side of the car that pulled him over managed to get one wild shot off before both ducked behind the doors of their car as a stream of bullets smacked into the patrol car.
Both men scuttled behind their car, knowing the doors would offer no real protection as two FBI SUVs pulled up behind it. Taylor was glad that the guy driving their car stopped a good ways back as the bullets started to fly since the locals had just about the worst fire discipline he’d ever seen. The guys who’d affected the stop started popping off rounds at the suspect, some blond bozos firing while they remained hidden behind the car. Their friends in the blocking patrol car did the same, creating a nasty bit of crossfire.
Taylor even saw a bullet impact the stopping patrol car’s windshield as the suspect stopped firing to reload, which had to come from the other locals down the street. If they kept this up, someone was going to get hit by friendly fire.
Thankfully, it didn’t have to continue. The suspect had just seated his replacement magazine when the first bullet found him. Considering the four locals and a handful of FBI agents who were all firing, from both sides, it was impossible to tell who’d made the first hit, but it didn’t’ matter as several more followed close on its heels.
Taylor, Crawford, and Whitaker all got out at the same time, each crouching low as shouts of ‘check fire’ were shouted out from multiple directions. No one lowered their guns, but at least they stopped firing.
“That was a shit show,” Taylor mumbled as he duck-walked past Crawford.
Looking around the SUV they’d started approaching behind, he could see one of the locals had closed in on the suspect and kicked the assault rifle aside, weapons still pointed at the man.
“No kidding,” Crawford said. “Someone’s going to get their ass chewed over this.”
“He’s down,” the local standing over the suspect said.
The way he blanched when he turned away from the body on the ground suggested the wound was gruesome enough that they didn’t need to check too closely.
The rest of the agents, stood up from their defensive positions and started edging towards the suspect’s car. While they all stopped pointing their weapons, Taylor noticed no one holstered them yet. At least they got that part right.
A woman yelled from somewhere on the sidewalk, blocked by the cars parked along the side of the street. Taylor noticed several of those cars also had shattered windows and bullet holes in them, although it would take crime scene techs to know if that was from the suspect or one of the officers. He could see the other officer in the stopping patrol car talking into his radio, most likely calling for medical.
Taylor ignored the rest of the officers as they started securing the scene and approached the suspect. When he was within a few feet, he could see what the local had seen. The hole where an eye used to be, did suggest the suspect was down for good.
“Don’t touch the body,” Whitaker said behind him.
“I remember,” he said.
On their first investigation together, she’d flipped out on him when he’d touched the body of a dead woman to search for clues before the medical examiner had looked her over. Of course, he’d been intending on searching this suspect pockets right before she said that, but he wasn’t planning on admitting that any time soon.
He started to step around the body towards the car when Whitaker grabbed his elbow. He looked back, annoyed when he saw the gloves she was holding out to him. He rolled his eyes and took the gloves. This would go faster if he could just do what he needed to do without all the crime scene rules, but he knew he and the FBI had different goals. He was just here to stop Qasim, they were here to put together a prosecutable case. Taylor didn’t think there was much of a chance this would end anyway, but with Qasim’s body sitting in someone’s morgue, so evidentiary procedure didn’t seem to have a lot of points.
Not that he could say that out loud without sending Whitaker into a tizzy.
He leaned in the open driver’s door and started looking through stuff in the center console. He saw the passenger door open up and Crawford leaning down into that side of the car.
“You’re guys shoot a civilian?” Taylor asked offhandedly while going through some papers he found in the center console.
“Probably one of the locals, but we’ll find out once the scene is done being processed. She was just winged, but an ambulance should be here for her shortly.”
To his surprise, it didn’t sound like Crawford was particularly bothered by what happened. He sounded matter of fact as he started going through the glove compartment.
“I would have thought your guys knew better than to set up overlapping fields of fire.”
“Trust me, if these guys were on my team, I’d have them shipped out to our Fairbanks offices by the end of the day. This is what happens when you have to rely on smaller local offices.”
Taylor popped the open trunk lever and said, “What you guys aren’t all...”
“Holy shit,” a voice came from the back of the car, interrupting him.
Both Taylor and Crawford stood up and went around to the rear of the car where one of the local cops was standing, looking into the trunk with a weird expression on his face. Clearing the back corner, Taylor could easily see what the guy was shocked by. Inside were several layers of brownish bricks clearly labeled C-4.
Taylor had seen enough of the stuff over the years, with its little warnings and labels to know it was the real deal.
Crawford whistled and said, “No kidding. You guys are lucky no one hit the trunk.”
Taylor glanced at the open trunk lid, with lighting showing through several prominent holes and shook his head. “It’s pretty hard to accidentally set this stuff off. I’ve seen one catch fire and not go off. What’s lucky is he was clearly transporting it and hadn’t rigged it with a detonator. If he had, he could have easily taken out most of the guys doing the shooting.”
“Uhh,” the local cop said, wide-eyed, looking at the stacks of plastic explosive.
He’d been one of the closest people to the car, and had it been set off, he’d almost certainly been blown to pieces.
Taylor slapped him on the shoulder and said, “Maybe go buy a lottery ticket.”
The man gulped, and backed away from the car, heading for the ambulance that just pulled up. More locals had also shown up, and cops were starting to swarm the area, pushing back the lookie-loos who’d started gathering around.
“What’s not lucky is our lead went dead with this guy,” Taylor said, putting his hands on hips.
“He’s connected to someone. Like you said, he was transporting this stuff. If he was the one using it, why would he risk hauling around a trunk full of military grade explosives?”
“Good point. Now we just have to figure out who he was so we can find his friends.”
Taylor nodded in agreement and started to try and plan their next step when one of the agents who’d picked them up called for Crawford’s attention. The man was bent over the driver’s body looking at the screen on a small, boxy device in his hands.
“His prints are on file.”
“Damn, that’s handy,” one of the locals who’d been looking into the trunk said as he looked around and realized what the agent had done.
“Yeah, saves time having to print him and send it to the office to have someone run it through AFIS. The range is limited, since it has to connect to the laptop in the car, but it does come in handy,” Crawford said.
Crawford turned and headed towards the SUV they’d come in. Taylor hadn’t dealt with this before, but once Whitaker started to follow Taylor figured he should join too. Crawford was just sliding into the passenger seat of the vehicle and swiveling the screen around when Taylor caught up.
“Name’s Saeed Antar. Yemeni citizen on a student visa issued last year.”
Crawford paused to type in some commands and started tabbing through various windows, which Taylor was just too far away to really make out.
“The address he has listed with the DMV is shared with four other men, who all happen to be on student visas outta the Middle East. Another guy from Yemen, two from Sudan and one from Egypt. Looks like they were all issued their visa last year too.”
“A kid with a trunk full of explosives rooming with four other students, all on visas issued around the same time. Looks like we found your cell,” Whitaker said, looking at Taylor.
“One of them at least.”
“Like I said before, from the kind of people he seems to be working with, I’d bet Qasim is drafting off of other groups. No one he trained would be driving with a trunk packed with explosives. They’d move it in small batches so if they lost one load, they would still be able to carry out their plan.”
“He could still be working for Qasim,” Crawford offered.
“Maybe, but it doesn’t feel right.”
“Will know more once we take his friends and question them,” Whitaker said.
“True. We can’t very well leave a bunch of guys trying to move cars full of explosives on the street.”
“It’s ‘we’ now is it?” Crawford said.
Taylor looked up suddenly and noticed a smile on Crawford’s lips. That caught Taylor a little by surprise. Other than Whitaker and Trevor Robels, he’d had a fairly adversarial relationship with most law enforcement officers. Something about a freelancer rubbed them the wrong way.
“Sure. We’re all on the same side, right? I figure we’re a team ... even if you are kind of an asshole.”
Whitaker whipped around to look at him, her mouth slightly opened, and then paused as Crawford chuckled. She didn’t say anything, but Taylor knew her well enough that he could tell from the way her eyes crinkled ever so slightly that she was thinking unkind thoughts about his gender. Law enforcement was a man’s world still, so she’d had to deal with the certain testosterone-fueled mentality, but Taylor knew she found it ever perplexing.
“Ok, so we’ll,” he said, emphasizing the word with a half-smile at Taylor, “leave a couple of the guys from the local Bureau office here to bring the car back and finish up with the scene. It will take them at least the rest of the day to go over everything. While they’re doing that, I’ll put in a request for the local’s SWAT team. Once they’re set up, and it shouldn’t be long considering they’re involved in the car stop, we’ll take this kid’s apartment and hopefully get his friends. Let’s try to take one alive though. It’ll be easier trying to get info from interrogation than waiting for the lab monkeys to find something for us.”
“Shouldn’t we call it in and get a Bureau quick response team instead? They’re better trained for dealing with this than any local ESU.”
“I don’t want to wait. They might be expecting Saeed to come strolling in the door any minute, and this stop wasn’t exactly quiet. There’s already news vans out there. No way we can keep this from hitting the news, and with this many locals, details like the trunk full of explosives are gonna leak. The last thing we want is for his friends to spook. Not if there’s more where that came from.”