Cleaning up your own vomit should be against the law, but it wasn’t exactly like I could afford to find someone else willing to do it. My own mess was one thing, but I suspect the dead cat would raise a few questions that I was sure I didn’t want to deal with.
The odor from the poor creature reminded me of the times Dad and I had come home with a couple of rabbits we had shot. When I had turned thirteen, Dad decided that I needed to learn how to skin and dress wild animals. I put my mind on those experiences to keep my mind off the fact that I was dealing with a domestic pet and not a wild animal that would soon be a meal. It took the better part of two hours to clean up the mess that Al and his associate had left behind for me. I carefully tied off the two trash bags of debris and walked them to the trash can that was already at the curb.
As I was walking back to the front door, it suddenly dawned on me. How did Al know when I would be home? I felt reasonably certain that he hadn’t been waiting hours for me. It occurred to me a more likely scenario was that either I had been followed from work or there was some sort of tracking device attached to my truck. I stopped at the driver side door and pulled out my flashlight from under the seat. The odds were that it wasn’t inside the truck, because I carefully locked it before going in to work in the morning, and I didn’t see any telltale signs of forced entry.
I started my search under the truck. I almost missed it. Near where I had one of those magnetic hide-a-key boxes on the frame was one of those holes in the frame the factory puts at various spots. I never have been able to understand their purpose, but I digress. The area around the bottom side of the hole had a spot that was cleaner than around the rest of the hole. I figured maybe the bug had been placed inside the hole and the clean spot was the result of someone’s hand scraping the dust away. As I reached into the hole, I felt something being held in place by some sort of adhesive. I slid my finger along the bottom side and pulled the object through the hole. I’m no surveillance equipment geek, but I recognized some of the same circuits you would find on the motherboard of a cell phone that provided GPS information for your location.
I locked up my truck and brought the gadget into the house while I decided what to do with it. As I was pondering my dilemma, my cell phone rang. It was Mary. After minimal chit chat, she asked what time we should leave for Houston and wanted to know if she should meet me at my house or if I should pick her up at her house. I had only half listened to the chit chat, because I was contemplating that issue already. “I was just thinking”, I said, and “that in light of what has happened, maybe we should consider that some of Al’s friends might be following one or both of us.” There was a bit of a pause from Mary before she answered, “Okay Mr. Paranoia, what would you propose?” “Why don’t you meet me at the north entrance of the mall where we ate at recently?” I said. “Do you mean at” . . . there was a pause as she realized why I hadn’t said the name. One of the things about Mary is that she and I both love spy movies and had seen plenty together. “Oh, I know where you mean. Okay, what time?” “Let’s say nine o’clock. That should give us enough time to be at the restaurant by one in the afternoon.” I answered.
I tried my best to get some sleep, but the events of the day just kept looping through my mind. I decided to do some planning for the next day. First, I decided to leave the bug behind at my house until I could figure a better plan. I didn’t want Al’s buddies to know tomorrow’s destination. I also decided that I would go to the south mall entrance in the morning. There was usually plenty of parking near that door early Saturday mornings, before the teenagers woke and began invading their favorite designer stores. I would walk through and meet Mary at the north entrance. We could talk strategies as we made our way across to the south entrance where my truck was parked. Finally, the exhaustion of the day overtook me, so I set an alarm and fell gratefully off to sleep.
I pulled into the parking lot at the mall about 8:45. Mary is always punctual, so I allowed myself enough time to get to the north entrance and do a bit of surveillance of my own. I waited just inside the door, and I saw Mary as she drove into a nearby parking space close to the door. There was a black coupe that parked several spaces further away from the door. It caught my attention because I wondered why someone would park further away from the door than necessary. All the spaces between Mary’s car and the black coupe were empty. Mary stepped away from her car and walked briskly to the entrance of the mall. Two men, dressed a bit too nice for a Saturday trek to the mall, didn’t leave the coupe until Mary had reached the entrance. I let her get several steps into the mall, to make sure we were out of sight of the gruesome twosome.
I grabbed Mary by the arm casually, and quickly picked up our pace. “Why the big rush?” she asked. “You were followed!” I hurriedly explained. She looked at me incredulously as I explained about the two from the coupe. She chuckled just a bit when I referred to them as the gruesome twosome until she realized that I wasn’t joking. As we hurried along, I told her about the bug I had found on my car, but left out the bit about Al’s visit for now. When we got to the south entrance I chanced a quick enough glance backward to assure myself that the gruesome twosome had not caught up. After the mall, Mary wasn’t very talkative. I could tell she was very shaken by the ordeal, but was as much taken aback by the fact that she had not known that she was being followed.
The ride to Houston was the quietest I had ever experienced when the two of us were together. Normally, any time there was a pause, the other was always ready to leap at the chance to jump in.
If the morning’s adventure wasn’t harrowing enough for two otherwise boring bureaucrats, what was to transpire at the meeting with Brad would certainly prove to be the icing on the cake.
(But, that will have to wait for The Jury Pool – Part 5)