Kelly, Mark and three security guards were waiting at the main gate as the dealer unloaded the Gator. I sent one of the day guards to pick up the supply’s we needed while we were waiting on the Gator. The tools for the job were gloves, wire cutters, box cutters and several cans of black spray paint waiting to cover all the odd color over spray that was on the fence.
I had left Marcy, Jenny, Lorrie and Cindy in the security office to check on business at home and catch up on e-mails. Jenny was going to transcribe her notes from this morning onto the electronic system.
As I started removing the first cardboard poster I instructed my crew, “Pull everything off the fence and cut it up into small pieces to fit in the dump body and touch up the paint as we go.”
The place was a real mess. There was a line of posters on the fence and dozens of empty spray paint cans all over the grass. We had our work cut out for us. I wanted to be in the air before dark.
The first load of cardboard posters was on its way to the dumpster with one of the day crew sitting on top to keep it from bouncing out. We used the time to pile up the empty cans and continue to take down more posters, and also touch up the fence paint.
As we started the clean up there had been a few artists, ‘I was told I needed to be more politically correct’ along the fence when we arrived but they had quickly gathered their things and left.
The Gator had just returned and we were stacking more in the dump body when a new group started our way.
The original group had been a mix of men and women. Now there were different men headed back. This group was all men and larger, and definitely not the same nationality as those that left. Instead of heading to a spot on the fence they came straight at us.
I wondered if this was part of the group that the agency was watching. The men had full uncut beards, the Arabic head scarf that they liked to wear to display the sect they belonged to and the black hood rolled up on the top of their head.
Another thought that came to mind was they never did anything on an individual basis. If you had the stomach to watch the gruesome videos they posted, one person beheaded someone and twenty more were with guns to put on a big show. All of them had their face covered with the black hood that ultimately showed the coward’s that they really were.
In Russia during the Stalin era, Hitler’s SS troopers and the Emperors soldiers didn’t hide behind a mask when they committed mass atrocities. They believed in what they were doing and were unafraid to be seen.
Today the men hid behind masks, used women and children as shields or forced them to be suicide bombers and needed a chanting crowd to give them courage.
The group was finally standing in front of me. One was in front with the other three standing behind him. “What do you think you are doing?” the one standing in front asked.
“I am cleaning the trash off my fence,” I replied. One of those standing behind him began speaking in Arabic. I understood everything he said but was going to wait for the interpretation before I responded. Play dumb in other words.
“Fence is public property, college is public property. How can you say you own fence?” he replied.
“The college is a private corporation; the students pay a fee to go there. Anyone can go to the classes at the college if they are qualified and pay the tuition fees,” I said then added.
“My company is in charge of student safety. I paid to have the fence installed; it is my fence. It was a very expensive fence, nice historic wrought iron. Posters and spray paint make it look it look like dog feces. I will not have my fence looking like that.”
The man behind him listened to his explanation and then gave him a long statement to counter what I had said as we continued to pile the posters in the Gator dump box.
“You are woman – you cannot own fence. We are a minority here and we have minority rights – you cannot stop us from using the fence,” he said.
I responded by saying “Everywhere you are a minority you beat the minority rights drum with a passion. Everywhere you are a majority there are no minority rights at all.”
Then continued by saying, “I own the fence; do not put posters or paint on my fence. You have plenty of places to hang posters and paint in the development you just came from.” Knowing they were Arabic and their customs and then just too really piss them off, I added: “If you deface my fence any more I will drape swine entrails over your doorways and swine blood on your door steps. You treat my property with respect and I will do the same with yours,” that statement was a major insult and a harsh warning. I was prepared to fight after I made the statement.
I thought the interpreter was going to have a heart attack or else he was in the process of crapping himself, “I cannot tell him that, he will be furious!” he replied.
To his dismay and surprise I stepped to side and repeated what I had said, this time in his Arabic language to his leader.
After a long silence and desperate fear in the expressions of the interpreter, the leader stepped to the front and said in broken English and finally in Arabic.
“You are no diplomat but a firm leader. I have no doubt that you own the fence. You stand your ground solid and are very confident in yourself. I suspect you may have been a soldier in a different life and you understand your adversary’s much more than they suspect. I cannot go to my people with the ultimatum you have presented to me,” he said. “There must be a way we can come to a workable solution.”
I thought for several long moments before I said anything.
“One day a week on the weekend they can hang posters and paint but no paint on the iron of the fence. At sunset all the posters come down and all the trash cleaned up and removed. If they are working on large posters they can take it with them and bring it back to continue working on it the next week,” I replied.
He studied a minute and then said, “Two weekend days, Saturday and Sunday?”
I waited and presented a look of deep thought before I answered.
“OK, on the second day one hour before sunset all the trash and unwanted posters get bagged up in trash bags and I will have one of my people haul it to the dumpster with someone from your group helping,” I replied.
He thought a moment and said, “OK good. Let me send these three to bring the artist over and we will explain the agreement then they will help you clean up this mess.” While his three guards were gone – and in reality that is what they were – we had a general conversation in Arabic.
Jason, Kelly and our helper – who I knew was one of the agency guys – stood quietly and listened to our exchange.
Three hours later, with the trash gone, the posters down, and a far less adversarial conversation, I agreed to see if someone from the arts department would come and judge the posters on the last Sunday of the month and give three cash prizes – 100, 75, and 50 dollars. Kelly and a designated individual of their group were to monitor that the cleanup was satisfactory each Sunday evening.
I had a hunch that the man I had confronted was one of the main individuals that the agency was watching. By allowing the poster painting that I was sure was being used as a message board or a meeting place to continue on the weekends, I had forced them to do a week’s worth of messaging in two days.
Or, I had forced them to use a secondary system. If the agency did not know what it was, the increased traffic on it would soon give it away.
Eric confirmed my thoughts on the flight home. It was a short, simple phone call in German, “I hear you are a diplomat after all. Congratulations. Well done.”
That answered another question that had been floating in the back of my mind. Eric’s people had been instrumental in pushing the complaints to gain more information from my visitor today.
If they did not have it before today, they had excellent facial recognition by the best quality video and digital voice recognition on him now that money and government could buy. The agency had replaced the cameras that East Coast had installed on the street and had the contractor send JBG the bill to cover their tracks.
The cameras were so powerful I could count the button holes in the buttons on a shirt halfway down the fence from my laptop and any facial imperfections they had.
That was why some of the checks that kept showing up on Marcy’s desk had little post it notes on them. We had paid the contractor two hundred thousand for the cameras along with installation and the check that arrived a few days later included an added 50% administrative fee. Marcy would do those kinds of transactions all day long.
The agency was making it very hard to decline any of their requests. The next group of twenty Rodney wanted trained were to start next week. The check arrived in advance and included a (quality demonstrative bonus for past practices) in the notation line equal to the training charge.
I had asked Rodney if he could suggest an agency accountant to consult how to make all that stuff look right for the taxes. He sent Marcy a retired IRS senior case investigator the agency used when they had special needs to audit suspected national or international criminals for money laundering.
The agreement was simple, we were to hire him full time and subcontract him back to the agency as needed, a minimum of 20 hours a week with markups. It was another cover as to who was doing what for whom.
Robert Alderman and his wife quickly took a liking to the JBG perks and benefits we offered. Another new Suburban that was paid for by the agency and leased through MAAR sealed the deal.
He had been working as an independent contractor. This arrangement gave him more cover and security. It was one more employee that did not need our medical coverage. All the extra office space we had built in with the last office expansion was filling up fast.
Robert had gone to work for the IRS straight out of college, putting in 20 years and taking the Federal 20 retirement plan. He was 44, his wife Maryann was 40. They had two kids – both girls – going to UV on athletic scholarships and are starters on the basketball team.
Edit by Alfmeister
Proof read by Joe H.