The Twinning Factor
Joseph McGee Private Investigator: Book Seven
McGee Faces A Conundrum
By Carl Douglass
Neurosurgeon Turned Author Writes With Gripping Realism
The twins had chosen the day, time, and place, for their effort to find; and hopefully, to rescue, the young hostages. The day was chosen because once a month the people in the house had a big, drunken, drug sharing, party with adult females who were not adverse to anything—for a price. The time—0200—was picked as when the denizens of the dark would have rendered themselves comatose from alcohol and/or other chemicals, and their bellies would be full creating a post-prandial, in addition to the post-coital, lassitude. The place did have vulnerabilities. There was a rear window on the second floor that backed onto a narrow alley facing a blank wall building. During their reconnoitering, the twins had never seen a guard in that area.
For the entire eight days prior to the action day, the twins took turns driving trucks from several wholesale seafood companies and parking them overnight in the alley to establish a benign and usual-for-the-area pattern. The trucks were beat up, purchased from a Portuguese New Jersey outlet—the Lisbon Frutes del Mar Wholesalers–that had done so well that it had bought an entire new fleet of refrigerated trucks. Jason hired painters to change the name emblazoned on the trucks to the “Brooklyn Fish Company”. They were registered to an associate of the mafia outfit who was willing to allow his name to be official for the price of getting four usable trucks free. Nothing came cheap.
The location and time were propitious; and the plan fit the locale, the level of activity, and the ambient noise. The New Fulton Fish Market on the intersection of Food Center Drive and Farragut Street came alive around midnight when the fish began arriving by a myriad of odoriferous refrigerated trucks. The traffic in the area increased exponentially after the New Seafood Market was moved from Manhattan to Hunts Point—5500 diesel truck trips through the neighborhood per week, handling two hundred million pounds of fish a year wholesale.
The apparent chaos was increased by the plethora of burly men transporting iced fish from the wholesale trucks to the stalls using hand trucks. Thousands of fish lovers invaded the neighborhood in search of the best of the best fresh fish every night. Once the customers made their purchases, the teams of loaders reversed the process and transported the fresh selections to the customers’ trucks, adding the cacophony of more truck noises to the ambient din. The Market was open from midnight to three in the morning. No one talked; to be heard, one had to outshout the competition. There are thirty-seven separate major wholesale seafood businesses operating within the massive enclosure–Unit 658. It was perfect for the unobserved ninja passing through in a nondescript Brooklyn Fish Company truck.
Jason drove James to the alley behind 2243 Farragut Street in the newly christened Brooklyn Fish Company truck and parked it next to the building, leaving plenty of room for local traffic to pass. Wouldn’t want an irate fish monger banging on the door of the traffickers’ house in the middle of the night because he got stuck in the alley. The twins had parked Jason’s car five blocks away on a dead-end street filled with small bistros and mom-and-pop stores that closed at dusk. He moved in and out of shadows to his car and pulled away unnoticed. He went home to wait for James to text him to come and pick up him and—hopefully—the rescued girls.
James threw a grappling hook up to the flat top roof. He had found it in an out-of-the-way army-navy store in Mott Haven, one of the—if not the, most dangerous—neighborhoods in the Bronx. No one went there unless there was a very important reason; there was no tourist traffic; and no one but burglars and bad women went out and about in the neighborhood after dark. He wore a clumsy beard as a disguise and paid cash. The gun-toting proprietor could care less as long as his customer’s cash was the real thing.
It took three throws to gain purchase on the flat top roof. When he did, James climb-walked up the brownstone wall to the second-floor window. He tried it and was more than pleased to find that it opened with two tries, and he did not have to create noise by breaking it. He was able to open it fully and to climb through the ample opening. It was pitch black inside, and James was not even sure that there was a floor below. He chanced flashing his light. The floor in the empty room was three feet below him. He lowered himself into the room noiselessly.
He eased the door to the vacant room open slowly and cautiously and paused to listen. There was loud snoring coming from everywhere, it seemed. Occasionally, a toilet flushed; but there were no threatening noises. Not a soul stirred through-out the house so far as James could determine. He saw no one in the second-floor hallway; so, he checked his weaponry and slid out into the hall, turned right, and moved along the wall of the rooms until he reached the corner. He took several quick looks to the right and to the left checking to see if he was going to encounter any hostiles as he tried to determine which room—or even which floor—was holding the trafficked girls.
To his right–five doors down the hall—were three men stretched out on the floor asleep, unconscious, or dead; he could not be sure which. There was also a young blond woman stretched out in all her glory lying apart from the men. She was in the same condition as them.
James fumbled in his backpack for a moment, extracted a bottle of chloroform, and poured a hefty quantity on one of his cloths. He took care not to get too close to the bottle or the soaked cloth for fear that he would succumb to the anesthetic and be found in the morning’s light still unconscious and perfectly vulnerable to attack.
He was wearing his night vision glasses which made vision good enough to proceed without bumping into anything or anyone. It took some getting used to for tolerating the glowing green-yellow color of the world through the lenses. He stood silently among the four people lying on the floor. He bent over and determined that they were all asleep and dead drunk judging by the ethanolic halitosis coming from their open mouths. One at a time, he administered what he had predetermined to be an anesthetic dose and not a lethal one taking into consideration the state of inebriation being enjoyed by the guards and their special friend. Chloroform was highly valued during its period of usefulness because of the speed of achieving a level of unconsciousness that permitted painless surgery to take place.
Since there were no other guards to be seen, James deduced that he was standing in front of at least one of the rooms holding the girls. He took one last careful look around and tried the doorknob. It was not locked.
He pushed his way into the darkened room with great caution, taking care to look down to avoid triggering booby traps. A man and woman were in one bed; he was awake enough to continue semi-conscious desultory restless turning over in the bed. She appeared to be out cold. James crept up to the side of the bed opposite to the direction the Chinese man’s head was pointing and soundlessly put him into deep anesthetic sleep. To be on the safe side, he gave the blond girl a small dose as well. Both of them were barely moving air with their shallow breathing.
James looked around the room without moving. To his right, he adjusted his vision enough to be able to make out the small forms of what had to be sleeping children. They were largely in the fetal position, holding on to rag dolls, and keeping the thin dirty blankets up over their heads. A small night light glowed in the middle of them. James presumed that some of them were afraid of the dark. They had plenty to be afraid of in the darkness of that pit of vipers.
He debated about chloroforming the children but decided that it would be impossible to get them all out of the building if they were unconscious. Carrying them one at a time would take an eternity, and he only had minutes.
He decided to take a chance. He noted a medium sized head with long braids wearing a strange cap that could only be that of an ultra-orthodox Jewish girl. The girl was likely to be Ruth Rachel Rabinowitz, the girl whose photograph had appeared constantly in all the news media for the past week. He knelt down beside her and softly put his hand over her mouth and whispered,
“Ruth, wake up; but be quiet. Don’t make a sound. Do you understand me?”
It was Ruth, and her eyes popped open wide, startled and afraid.
She started to move, but James shushed her and tapped her arm which was still fidgeting.
“I am here to help you. Don’t make noise, or the bad men will come and hurt all of us. Can you do that?”
Ruth was now fully awake. She nodded a yes.
He sat her up and helped her into her dress and shoes.
She looked at him with questioning eyes.
His longing to find his little sister Elle overcame his keen sense of purpose.
“Ruth, have you heard of a young woman called Elle?”
She recognized the plaintiff note in his voice. She sadly shook her head, “no”.
“I’m so sorry,” she whispered.
“That’s all right, my dear. We have work to do. We have to wake up every girl, get them up and dressed, and all without anyone making a sound. Our lives depend on it. Are you up to that?”
“Ikh bin greyt. Ikh vel nit farlozn ir oder Got.” [From Yiddish: I am ready. I will not fail you or God.]
James paused a moment to think. He thought that he understood the gist.
“Good girl. You take the girls next to you, and I will start across on the other side.”
Aside from a few muffled moans and cries, the process went about slowly but successfully. It took a little over forty-five minutes to get all the girls awake and dressed. James checked the time on his chronograph: 02:20.
He gathered the girls around him and told him his plan whispering just loud enough to be heard and understood.
“We are all going down the hall to an empty room where there is an open window. Below is a truck. You will hide in there; then we will drive you to a police station; and they will get you back to your parents. Keep quiet as little mice, no matter what you see or hear. Okay?”
The girls were all willing coconspirators by this point, and they all nodded silent “yeses”.
James checked out into the hall first. The three inept guards and their lady friend were all still exactly where he left them. He put his finger to his lips and guided the girls out of the prison room and into the hall taking care not to step on any of the sleeping bodies inadvertently. So far, so good.
He led them to the room where he had entered the building and had them all sit in the dark close to each other by the window. He still had work to do for his mission to be able to succeed.
It was now 02:51. The racket from the trucks and the fish peddlers outside as almost deafening. James thought he could go around the house yelling and still be safe, but he kept to his strict personal code of silence as he went from room to room checking on the presence or absence of traffickers.
Every room holding a prostitute and a man or more than one of either or both was presumed to be a criminal monster. He chloroformed all those men and women. No one stirred; so, he went about with satisfying efficiency. He had covered all floors and all rooms, and he was satisfied that he was not going to encounter any opposition. Without having informed Jason, James had so much hate to expend, that he had brought gasoline and thermite to remove the pest hole from the earth permanently. It was laborious, but he swiftly threw women two at a time over his broad shoulders and carried them out into the trash strewn front yard of the building. When they were all safe so far as he could tell, he ran to the rear of the trafficking house, gathered up his stock of gasoline and thermite into a large backpack, added a special forces black nylon folding ladder and made his way back up the nylon rope attached to the curved spikes of the grappling hook affixed to the edge of the roof.
He hissed, “Shush. No noise. I am coming back for you. It is almost time.”
He had garnered the trust of the girls, and terrified children were completely obedient making life and decisions much easier than it could have been.
Now, he had to get the most dangerous part of the entire mission underway. Any slipups could mean the death of a child or even the death of all the children and him.