Burying the Past
Copyright© 2019 by Lumpy
Taylor moved around the edge of the car he’d been using as cover in case more terrorists had come out while the tac team was clearing the building and holstered his weapon. Considering the tac team leader and the man with him both had their weapons slung over their shoulders, Taylor assumed there wasn’t any immediate danger, at least not from anything that a gun could help with. Considering the urgency in the man’s voice a few moments before, that didn’t mean there wasn’t any danger at all.
Taylor was just walking past the bodies of the two terrorists gunned down by friendly fire, when he suddenly stopped and said, “Well, shit.”
“What?” Whitaker, who had been headed around the other end of the car, stopped and asked.
Taylor pointed at one of the bodies, causing Whitaker to also swear, albeit silently when she saw what he was looking at. Taylor hadn’t gotten a good look at the face of the terrorist who’d thrown down his weapon when the shooting had started, partly because he was obscured by trees and partly because there were more important things on his mind at the time, like avoiding being shot.
Once Taylor had gotten a closer look and the situation had calmed down; Taylor recognized Justin Sampson, the boy who’d gotten involved with Mary Bennett. Taylor frowned as he looked at the young man. From how his parents had talked about him, it was pretty clear he’d gotten in over his head with the Bennett girl. The fact that, at the first sign of real danger, the teenager had thrown his gun down and surrendered was proof of that. While Taylor would have been happy to see the college student prosecuted for assisting terrorists, even if he’d been a dupe and not a true believer, he hadn’t wanted harm to come to the kid. Being shot in the back while you’re trying to surrender is a sad ending to the kid’s sad life.
Taylor made eye contact with Whitaker for a moment and was certain she was thinking similar thoughts about the kid. The moment passed and both headed towards the warehouse. While both felt bad about how the kid had ended up, they had a job to do.
Inside the building was essentially a large open room with an interior door on the far end. The front of the building currently stood open, and looked to lead to an office or some type of reception area. The front third of the building was taken up with rows of sturdy looking benches. Several of them still contained what Taylor could only think of as scientific instruments such as burners, beakers and large stoppered flasks.
The team leader stopped them from getting closer to that area.
“One of my guys got close to those tables and caught a whiff of something. He’s out front puking his guts out.”
“Have you called paramedics?”
“One of the guys on our team is trained as our team medic. He’s checking our man over now. I called the chopper to come airlift him out, just in case. We’d been briefed on what happened in Amberville, and our medic has been prepared for similar toxins. He thinks my guy will be okay, but considering what might be in those containers, I think it’s best if no one else goes over there.”
Taylor turned and looked towards the door they’d come through and on the floor next to the entrance were three nose and mouth style gas masks, apparently dumped by the gunmen before they came outside.
“Do you think this is where they’re making the stuff?” Taylor asked Whitaker.
“Possibly. What’s in those drums?”
Closer to where Whitaker and Taylor were standing, in an area without tables, were several very old metal barrels and large wooden boxes.
“I didn’t want to open them until hazmat got here, just in case, so I’m not sure. Both the barrels and the boxes look really old like they could have been here from where these buildings were abandoned.”
“I don’t think so,” Whitaker said, kneeling down to get a different view of the containers but still keeping her distance. “Look at the nails in that box, they’re all still silver, not rusted at all. That box says Allied Mechanical Systems ... I can’t remember exactly, but I know it from somewhere. It’s something recent but I can’t put my finger on it.”
“I bet that’s how they kept stuff here and managed to keep it under the radar. Put everything in old looking storage and the cops will think it’s always been here. All you have to do is pack away the stuff on the tables and take off. Everything else can sit in plain sight.”
“When the chopper gets here, we need to hitch a ride back on it to civilization,” Whitaker said.
“Shouldn’t we stay till hazmat clears this place and we figure out what all that crap is?”
“They’ll call it in. Something’s bugging me and I need to look into it. I need an internet connection and cell service.”
“We could use the trooper’s radio?” the team leader suggested.
“No, they can’t patch us into the phone system. The people I need to talk to are civilians. The hazmat team can reach us by radio, so we can leave you guys to babysit this mess till they and more agents drive out here.”
“Great,” he said unenthusiastically.
“Aren’t you always the one going on about protocol?” Taylor asked as they walked out the back door of the warehouse and around to the front. “I’m surprised you’re just going to walk away from a crime scene.”
“I am following protocol. I’m assigning the task of securing the scene to qualified personnel until the scene is processed and released. SACs normally delegate the babysitting of crime scenes off, and sometimes it takes the techs days to clear a scene. You don’t think one person has to stay there the whole time.”
“Ok. It still seems unlike you.”
“Well...” she said and let it sit.
Taylor dropped it since he didn’t normally have a problem following gut reactions. The name on the crate didn’t mean anything to him, but if she had a feeling about them, he would go with it. He pulled out his cell phone and confirmed he still didn’t have any signal.
The ‘whomp-whomp’ of helicopter blades made him look up just as the Blackhawk cleared the tree line and set down in the middle of the road. Taylor and Whitaker jogged towards it as the side door slid open. They paused to let the tactical team medic get his teammate seated on one of the choppers’ benches. As soon as the medic backed out of the door, Whitaker and Taylor climbed aboard.
As the crew chief slid the door closed Taylor asked the injured man, “How’re you feeling?”
“A little nauseous, that’s all. I don’t think I got a lot of it, just a whiff.”
“That stuff is pretty nasty,” Whitaker said.
“That’s what the sergeant said. If it was up to me I’d stay with the team.”
“I get that,” Taylor said.
He could also see the sergeant’s point, the man did look pretty green and was sweating.
“Why not take you to a local hospital?”
“Closest one that’s set up to handle this kind of thing,” the co-pilot said over the radio headset they’d all put on as they were taking off. “We radioed ahead and the docs at Walter Reed said they thought he could make it there, and they’d like to look him over. They have guys there that specialize in chemical weapons.”
“If he was really bad they would have taken him to the first trauma center available and brought the expert to him,” Whitaker said.
“Let me guess, that’s the protocol?” Taylor said with a lopsided grin.
“Bite me,” She said as she smiled back at him. She turned to the crew chief and asked, “Chief, could you call ahead and see if the Bureau can have someone with a car waiting for us?”
The flight took several hours to get back. The sick agent didn’t seem to get worse, although he had to close his eyes a few times, and looked like he was close to letting loose again. Taylor was silently thankful the man managed to hold it in.
When they landed at Walter Reed they had to wait as a whole team of doctors and nurses rushed to the side of the chopper and put the man on a gurney. Taylor felt for him as he tried to convince them he could walk. Doctors, as they are wont to do, demanded he get wheeled in like an invalid.
As soon as the commotion cleared Taylor and Whitaker hopped off and walked over to a car that was sitting near the tarmac with an agent standing next to it.
“Agent Whitaker?” he asked when they walked up.
“Agent Crawford asked if you could call in as soon as you got a chance.”
“Thanks,” she said as she took the keys from him and handed them over to Taylor as she reached for the passenger door. “You drive. I want to look this stuff up.”
“Sure,” he said and got in. “Where are we going?”
“Just start heading out of the complex. I’ll have an address for you by the time we hit the exit.”
She had her phone out and was looking for something. Taylor put his phone on speaker and dialed Crawford.
“Taylor? Where’s Whitaker,” Crawford said when he answered.
“Sitting right next to me. She spent the whole trip back checking if she had cell service so she could look up a lead.”
“They radioed in and said you had something.”
“Maybe have something,” she said as she continued to stare at her phone. “I’m not sure if it’ll lead us anywhere. So far it’s just a name on a crate.”
“She kept saying something about the company she vaguely remembered and thought it might connect, but she can’t remember the specifics,” Taylor offered.
“Yeah, the team on the ground mentioned that. We looked them up here, but we didn’t see anything of note. Hazmat’s on-site and they opened the box you saw. It apparently had a mixture of mechanical parts and instruments from different manufactures in it. The best guess is they were using it as simple storage because it looked old enough that anyone checking on the buildings wouldn’t open it to see what’s inside. Are you sure it isn’t just a box Qasim’s people found?”
“There’s still something. I’m nearly sure of it,” Whitaker said as she showed Taylor the address of where they were headed.
“Since you’re already back in DC follow it up, but don’t take long though. Those barrels were full of chemicals, some of which are controlled. We’ve already been in touch with the manufacturers. These are pretty large quantities. I don’t think they bought them through separate distributors, or if they did, there can’t be a lot that had those quantities on hand. I’m hoping there’s a paper trail we can follow.”
“Wouldn’t that go the other direction,” Taylor said. “It’ll lead us to Qasim’s money and maybe where he was when he ordered everything, but not to where he is now. If this is what he’s been using to brew up those chemicals he used in Amberville, we already know what’s in it.”
“We’re pretty sure it is what he used. Everything we’ve found matches the breakdown the lab boys wrote up. It’s the best lead we have at the moment, so I have people on it. As soon as you’re done chasing down this lead of Whitaker’s, I want you to help us with this.”
“Will do. We’ll call you as soon as we figure out what set Loretta off,” Taylor said and hung up.
“Their offices are on K street and they’ve got a manufacturing facility outside of Richmond,” Whitaker said, still looking at her phone.
“Anything on their website help you figure out what’s bugging you?”
“No. They do specialty mechanical fabrication, which could mean anything. They have a lot of government contracts it looks like, but so do half the companies in DC.”
“You could call them and ask.”
“We’re almost there, plus I’m not sure what to ask them about. ‘Hey, have you guys done something that I should remember about you?’ isn’t an easy question to answer.”
“You’re going to have to ask the same thing when we get there.”
“I’m hoping something between now and then reminds me.”
It turned out Whitaker had a while to look up information on the company; partially because DC traffic is always bad, and partially because of the debates happening in a few hours. The streets were completely clogged with traffic.
When they pulled up to Allied Mechanical Systems a few minutes later, Whitaker was still scrolling through the company’s website trying to jog her memory. Like all of the buildings along the section of K Street that housed lobbyists and defense contractors, Allied was in a grayish, square building that wouldn’t have looked out of place a hundred years ago. There were no spots along the curb thanks to the heavy traffic. Taylor didn’t want to circle around looking for something, and decided this was one of those times he could abuse official prerogative that came with working for a law enforcement agency. He pulled up over the curb in a small gap, barely missing the fire hydrant that forced the cars to avoid that small stretch.
“You’re going to give the traffic control ladies a fit and they’re going to tell my boss on me,” Whitaker said as she got out of the car.
“Do you want to drive around and find a real spot?”
“No, I’m just saying don’t make a habit of that. The Bureau doesn’t like its agents to do stuff like this unless it’s urgent.”
Taylor didn’t reply since he thought the current situation fit that exact description as they both headed into Allied’s offices.
Whitaker badged the receptionist and shortly they were ushered into a small conference room just off the reception area, where they were met by a man named Tony Andopollis and one of the company’s corporate lawyers.
“How can we assist the FBI today?”
“We came across your companies name during a recent investigation. We have evidence that a suspect in an ongoing investigation bought something from your company as part of their criminal activities, but we haven’t been able to catalog everything they received from you. We are trying to figure out what they purchased from you.”
“Are you suggesting Allied is in some way supplying materials used to commit a crime?” The lawyer said.
“No, we’re simply conducting a routine investigation into a purchase. Yours isn’t the only company we are talking to about this. At this time, we have no interest in your company, as far as this case goes, beyond your ability to help us with getting a better picture of our suspects’ purchases.”
“That is fine for criminal investigations but we also have to worry about public opinion.”
“You shouldn’t have to worry about that. The FBI does not comment on ongoing cases and we have no interest in mentioning your company’s name to the press or anyone else.”
The lawyer looked at Andopollis and nodded.
“Sorry about that, we just have to clear these things. We of course always want to cooperate with law enforcement.”
“If you can tell us the name of the person who made the purchases, or a company they operated under, I can pull our records of everything we sold them.”
“That’s where this is going to get difficult. We think they may have used a cutout to make the purchases and we aren’t sure of that person’s, or companies, name.”
“Ahh, that does complicate things. How about what they purchased. We could then pull up a list of everyone who bought that item.”