A Hole in the Ground
Steve pulled into Colledge road, ahead he could see the flashing lights of emergency services up the road, as he got nearer he was stopped by a deputy.
He had driven six hours north from Miami after being called by a friend Dale. The FBI want someone they could trust to move some dirt for them. After some haggling they agreed terms Steve packed a bag, loaded his jeep on the trailer behind the front end loader and was on his way.
He bought the big Kenworth to a gentle stop and wound down the window, the deputy shouted over the big prime movers engine, “Roads closed, you’re going to have to backup buddy.”
Steve shutdown the engine and in the quiet said, “I got a call from the FBI to come out they want help at a fire, agent Dale South.”
The young officer moved off and using his radio and made a call. A few minutes later he came back and said, “You can pull off the road just past the next cruiser, the officer there will take you to the command post.”
Steve thanked the deputy and restarted the Kenworth, he drove it two hundred yards further down the road, he eased off the road just past next cruiser where another young deputy walked Steve to the command post as a light rain fell.
The mobile command post was located across from the property where the local fire department was still pouring water on it. Outside the command post a heated discussion was in progress between firemen, DEA, FBI, EPA and the US Marshals.
Steve thought it was nice that they all wore their agency’s jackets. He could imagine the discussion already in his head as he had participated in this type of confrontation before.
The fireman was probably a Fire Marshal or investigator and was not allowing anyone to interfere with his crime scene, the EPA was worried about run off pollution, the FBI want access to investigate the real crime behind the fire, the DEA likewise wanted access as there were drugs on the property, while the US Marshalls were there as there was a possibility of further misadventure.
As Steve and the deputy approached one of the FBI agent detached himself from the discussion and held out his hand, Dale had known and worked with Steve on and off for a while. He quietly said, “Hi Steve, it’s like the fire in Miami last year, their flexing their muscles.”
Steve nodded and as they shook hands saying, “Thanks for the call Dale, are they at the compromise stage so that we can get some work done?”
Dale, “it’ll be another half hour or so, go inside and grab a coffee, pots by the door.” He handed Steve an FBI tech ID and said, “Put it on it will stop the locals hassling you and have a look at the site.”
Steve said ok, put the ID on and grabbed a coffee, he walked back across the road and through the open gates. As he past them he noticed they had been rammed and the locking pin wrenched from the ground?
The gatehouse to the right had sustained some damage as well. It looked as if someone had sprayed it liberally with machine gun fire, the wall were pock marked with four broken window in the side facing the drive.
At the main house the firemen were still pouring water on it, it resembled a pile of hastily stacked oversized concrete playing cards. It looked as if someone had blown it up and the falling concrete panels had settled wherever they fell.
Steve looked at the pile and knew that there could still be people alive in the pile, however the amount of explosive used would preclude survivors, it was something he had seen a lot of in the sand death by concussion blast.
Steve walked around the fire staying out of the firemen’s way, trying not to piss them off as they would be working together soon. At the rear of the house was an open grassed area separating the pool from the house, only a few large chunks of concrete marred the area. The fire department had two hoses draining the pool to feed the fire engines.
Dale came up to Steve and asked, “Ready to be the voice of reason?”
Steve smiled and said, “As always, we’re going to need a crane and a rock breaker or saw.”
Dale, “You make the calls, we’ll do it the same as Miami, they bill you and we pay plus ten percent, are you going to be able to lift the panels enough to get the fire out?”
Steve said, “I shouldn’t have a problem with that, is there a reason the fire department isn’t using their heavy lift bags to open the space between the panels to put the fire out?”
Dale shrugged and said, “come on let’s ask.”
When they approached the group, the discussion stopped and Dale introduced Steve as their destruction expert, the small joke got some smiles. Steve took this as a good sign, they discussed the issues and Steve proposed an alternative.
He would dig a bund to contain run off, so the EPA could contain any potentially dangerous run off and test it.
Then working with the firemen, Steve would lift the concrete panels and allow the firemen to douse the area, they would work through the pile till the fire was out.
If time allowed they would then start removing concrete from the pile to allow body recovery and investigation, Steve said, “If there wasn’t sufficient time this evening to get to that stage that would be the next day's first task. They would proceed as the necessary equipment became available.
Everyone agreed rapidly to Steve’s proposal, relieved that they could proceed with their agencies mandate.
Steve walked back to his low-loader, lowered the ramps and unloaded the wrangler then the front end loader. As drove the loader into the compounds, a fireman stopped him and climbed up to pass a radio to Steve.
Steve rapidly dug the bund, gouging the immaculate lawn between the pool and the shore line.
In the next hour Steve went where he was directed and lifted panels where the firemen wanted. Once the fire was out the firemen cleared the site and attached listening devices to the concrete in the hunt for survivors.
After a further two hours of listening, the fire marshal handed the site over to the EPA. While this was happening Steve made some calls arranging for a crew with a crane and rock breaker.
At the same time the EPA did preliminary run off sampling for drugs and came up clean. They declared the site safe for investigation and departed will further samples for testing.
It was now nearly six pm and after discussing the FBI’s next actions Steve left the site till the morning. The FBI would start a preliminary investigation of the site, they already had half a dozen lighting towers deployed and lit up to aid them.
Steve moved the front end loader back to the low-loader refueled and lubed the chassis for work the next day, then parked it in the compound for security.
He drove to a little motel near Jacksonville where Dale had arranged a room for Steve.
Steve signed in at reception, retrieved a key and headed off to his room bag in hand. He quickly shed his smokey clothes and put them in a provided laundry bag, then had a long hot shower to wash off the smoke and grime from the site.
Once dressed he called reception and arranged to have his clothes washed this evening and returned in the morning, then headed out for something to eat.
He was at reception asking for a dinner recommendation when Dale and a few other agents arrived, Steve stood to the side as they registered. Dale came over and said, “we called it a night when the Bobby almost broke his neck, we’ll start afresh tomorrow, are you all set?”
Steve, “I’ve a crew and equipment arriving for a seven am start tomorrow, am I leaving the rubble on site?”
Dale, “At this stage yes, stack it out of the way. It doesn’t look like there are any relatives of the owner, we recovered his body before you arrived.”
Steve, “Do you have the buildings plans for me?”
Dale, “The plans, aerial photography, pictures of the house before and after, we have the plumbers and electricians that worked on the site coming in early tomorrow.”
Steve said, “Great, I wouldn’t want to put a crane in the sewage tank or poke a hole in a buried propane tank.”
They both smiled and ended up having dinner together at a nearby steakhouse.
Over dinner Steve mentioned that he was looking for somewhere else to live as he grown tired of the hectic Miami life style.
Dale, “Well you should relocated here, you’d be within six hours of Georgia, Alabama and South Carolina from here, you know we always need someone with your expertise.”
Later that night as Steve tried to get to sleep in a strange bed, he did think about it and decided to make a few calls to realtors.