While Kashuba was chasing Rix down, Tian-yun began his inspections of the other takeover properties. He made good progress until he got to the property on the north side of the harbour.
My communicator buzzed.
“Echo, it’s Tian-yun. I am at the address Kashuba gave me for the harbour property, but there must be a mistake. This property isn’t vacant.”
I was sitting at my desk, so I called up my file that detailed all of the takeover properties. I read out the address.
“Yes, that is where I am.”
I read out the description of the property.
“Yes, that certainly describes what I am looking at.”
The file included several images of the property, taken from different vantage points and different angles. Two of them showed portions of the neighbouring properties. “There should be a timber yard on one side, and an electric vehicle service centre on the other side,” I said, reading as much of the names as I could see in the images.
“Yes, those are correct,” Tian-yun said, “so I am definitely at the right address. The gates are closed and locked, but the place is certainly in use. There are shipping containers in the yard, and it is obvious that trucks have been through the gates only a matter of days ago.”
“Tian-yun, do you have your camera with you?”
“Yes, I do.”
“Take a few photos, but don’t do anything more. Come back to town and meet me in Errol’s office. Can you make it by four o’clock?”
“Yes, 1600 in Errol’s office. I will meet you there.”
We ended the call. I looked at my watch, a gift from Darm, who had got sick of my always losing track of time. I had a couple of hours. I went across to Darm’s study and found him doing homework.
“Do you have time for a bit of reconnaissance work?”
“Ooh, sounds exciting! What’s up?”
I explained what Tian-yun had found. “Do you reckon we could go and have a look?”
That was all it took. Darm was always up for a bit of excitement, so he filed a flight plan and received approval for our ‘mission’. We headed for the IG hangar, Darm dressed in his flight suit, me clutching a camera.
The address was just across the harbour, so it took only a few minutes to get there. I recognised the building from the file images, and took photos as we hovered above it. There was no name or any other identifying marking on the front of the building. As Tian-yun had said, there were several shipping containers sitting out the front and the gates were locked. The back of the place was more intriguing. The property backed on to the harbour and there was an expensive-looking cabin cruiser moored there. Darm flew down close enough that I could get pictures of its name and registration number. We were back out over the water, about to head home when a door in the back of the building opened and a man stepped out. Darm switched on the facial recognition scanner and turned the zimmer to get a clear view of the man. The scanner beeped with a hit.
“Mamma mia!” Darm exclaimed. “Let’s get out of here!”
Darm flew a circuitous route back to the hangar in case the man had realised we were spying. We didn’t know whether he had the means to take action against us but we weren’t going to take any chances. On the way Darm transmitted the photo and the facial recognition data to the IG intelligence room, along with the photos of the property and its location.
By the time we landed a surveillance team was already on its way to the property. We were summoned to the intel room, where the chief intelligence officer was waiting for us. We gave a full report of what we had seen.
“Why were you there?” the chief asked.
“Sir, the property is owned by DöhmCorp, and it is supposed to have been empty since the company that operated there was closed down after DöhmCorp took it over. Help Incorporated, which I head, is now responsible for the property, and our builder, Tian-yun, went there this afternoon to inspect the property so he could report on its condition before we decided what to do with it. He found it obviously in use, with the gates locked, and thought he had made a mistake with the address. He called me. We confirmed that he was at the right place, and I asked him to take some photos and to return without doing anything else. We arranged to meet at Errol Daventry’s office at four o’clock so that we could look at the photos and decide what to do next. In the meantime I asked Darm if we could get some aerial photos so that we would have a better idea of what was happening there.”
“You know that Jezek, the man you saw, is one of the federation’s most wanted criminals?”
“Yes, sir, but we had no idea that we would see anyone. Tian-yun thought the place looked deserted when he was there, and before we left here Darm followed standard procedures and checked whether there was any operational reason we should not go there.”
At that moment a message came in. “Subject appears to be preparing to leave premises via water.”
“Take him. Check premises thoroughly for others. Report.” The chief rapped out the orders.
We waited. The chief was relaxed but it was obvious he was concerned.
Several tense minutes passed, then there was a message.
“Subject in custody and on way to IG HQ. No casualties. Searching building and boat now.”
“Affirmative. Report when search complete.” The chief exhaled. “That was a hard call. Was it best to nab him and risk missing out on his colleagues, or keep him under watch and hope he would lead us to the rest? We’ve been after that guy for a long time. It’s good to have him at last. But…” He shook his head. “I guess time will tell whether I made the right call.”
We waited again, but this time the feeling wasn’t so tense. After about half an hour the call came, “All clear.”
“Affirmative. Seize the boat and take it to IG Waterborne. Keep the premises under surveillance. No further instructions.”
The chief turned to me. “Echo, we will keep a watch on the property, at least until it is clear what we have there. In the meantime, may I seek DöhmCorp’s cooperation?”
“Absolutely, sir. I will inform Errol and everyone who needs to know. You have our approval to take any action you deem necessary.”
“Thank you, Echo.” He looked at his watch. “Now, I believe you have ten minutes to get to your meeting.”
“Oh, crikey, I’d better get going. Darm, can you fly me there, please? I’ll be late if I go any other way.”
We said goodbye to the chief and rushed back to the hangar. We landed on DöhmCorp’s rooftop pad, and made it to Errol’s office with a few seconds to spare.
Tian-yun was relieved that I had ordered him back to HQ. He had been tempted to go into the property and investigate. “I hate to think what might have happened if I had come face to face with Jezek. He’s been known to kill for a sandwich!”
Errol was furious that, apparently, no one at DöhmCorp had noticed that the property was in use. “These places are supposed to be checked periodically. Either the property division has slipped up, or…” He trailed off. “Or, someone within DöhmCorp…” He swore, something I’d never heard him do before. He spoke to his computer. “File. Takeover properties. Inspections.” He quickly found the schedule of inspections. The property in question had supposedly been checked two weeks earlier. It was marked, ‘Vacant, in good condition’. Errol swore again. “It is unthinkable, but we’ll have to check. Darm, are you able to contact the intelligence chief?”
“Yes, what do you need?”
“I would like to ask him to discreetly check out our property division. It looks like someone here is involved in this.”
Darm spoke into his communicator and a few seconds later was talking to the man we had just left in the intelligence room. “Sir, may I put you on speaker, please? I’m at DöhmCorp. Echo, Errol Daventry, and Tian-yun are with me. Errol is concerned that someone here is involved with Jezek. That property was supposedly checked two weeks ago and noted as vacant. That seems unlikely. Can you include DöhmCorp’s property division in your investigation?”
The intelligence chief cursed. “Yes, we will have to. Echo and Errol, do we have your permission to come in and speak with your staff?”
Errol looked at me and nodded. I replied for both of us, “Yes, sir, you have our full cooperation, and our permission to take whatever steps are needed.”
“Thank you, Echo. We will act discreetly so we do not tip anyone off. As a first step, can you let me have a list of people employed in the property division, and their home addresses? Would it be possible to flag anyone who might have had dealings with that property?”
I looked up at Errol. He responded. “Yes, if you give me an address I will transmit it electronically. Give us a few minutes to check the names and duties so we can mark it appropriately.”
“Thank you. I will keep you informed.”
Property came under Antonia’s administrative functions. Errol called her in and explained the situation. She immediately summoned the head of the property division. He checked the inspection schedule and told us who had supposedly inspected the property and who had updated the schedule. He named the supervisors of both staff members and the manager of the takeover properties section. He believed that if anyone at DöhmCorp was involved, one or more of those people would be most likely, but we included the whole property division, including the head, in the list that Errol sent to the intelligence chief. About half an hour had passed, and most staff had left the building for the day.
A short time later Errol’s communicator buzzed. It was the intelligence chief.
“The people whose names you flagged will be interviewed at their homes this evening. Since you indicated that it is possible that the property division head is involved we have put a tap on his communications and we will keep him under surveillance. So far he has not tried to contact anyone, so he may be clean.
“If necessary we will take people into custody. If the interviews are inconclusive we may need to attend DöhmCorp tomorrow morning to interview other property division staff, but I will let you know in advance if that becomes necessary. Thank you for your prompt action and for your cooperation.”
“You’re welcome,” Errol replied. “If anyone at DöhmCorp is implicated in this we don’t want them here, so we’re happy to help. And we would like to thank you for acting quickly.”
The call ended and we all relaxed a little. “Well, I guess we go home and await further developments,” Errol said.
The IG investigation got underway immediately and several DöhmCorp staff were questioned at their homes.
When he was interviewed, the man who had inspected the property claimed that he had reported that it was in use and that the lock on the gate had been changed. The person who was responsible for updating the inspection records confirmed this and at first she claimed to have entered that information in the database.
Under intense questioning she broke and told of a complicated cover-up involving herself, her supervisor, and the manager of the takeover properties section. The three were immediately taken into custody. It took almost all night but IG intelligence eventually sorted out the web of deception.
The section manager had become indebted to an associate of Jezek who had pressured the man to provide a location for one of Jezek’s illegal enterprises. He resisted at first, but caved in when the Jezek associate threatened to reveal details of his private life. His indebtedness was the result of gambling, and he was also in a relationship with the update clerk. He had a wife and family, and was supposedly a fine upstanding member of his local community. He made the property available to Jezek and later had to persuade his lover to falsify the inspection record when the property was inspected. The clerk’s supervisor caught her out and wanted in on the action.
Jezek’s associate was arrested and charged with blackmail and other offences. He broke under interrogation and implicated numerous other Jezek accomplices in various illegal businesses. A string of other arrests followed.
It was a busy night for the intelligence group at IG, and the weary chief contacted Errol in the morning, telling him drily, “You’re going to need to replace three of your staff.”
Fortunately that was the extent of the damage as far as DöhmCorp was concerned. The IG investigation showed that no one else at the corporation was involved in the scam. All of the people involved in the illegal business that had been using the property were arrested and the contraband they had been storing there was seized and destroyed.
That was not the end of the story, however.
Copyright © 2020 Alien Son