Iron Angels – Snippet 35
They crawled past the first building, all brick, but with thick, smoked-glass windows and unlike some of the other businesses nearby, still in business. A fence surrounded the property so one couldn’t drive on to the complex, but the front of the building remained accessible by walking right up and ringing the front bell.
A row of vehicles populated a parking lot behind the building.
“Holy shit,” Jasper said.
Temple glared at him.
“Fine, why I’ll be a monkey’s uncle, that better?” He pumped his eyebrows up and down.
“And besides, you made a hump joke!”
Temple’s mouth twitched, an almost smile.
“Anyway,” Jasper said, “I can’t believe we found him — the Toyota parked in back is Carlos’s. “Keep rolling up this road and we’ll pause before turning around — looks like Hump Road dead ends anyway.”
Temple swung the car around at the end of the road. Buildings resembling hangars lined the road. Some appeared empty and dilapidated, while others were simply dilapidated, but still in use. This would make a great area for a cult to hide as well.
“What should we do?” Temple asked.
“I don’t know, what do you think?” She’d been allowing him to make a lot of decisions today, and he wondered if this was her way of apologizing or making him feel like he was part of the Scientific Anomalies Group.
“All right.” Temple drummed the steering wheel. “What are the odds he’s part of a cult whose members commit suicide at the first sign of cops?”
“I’d say low.”
“And what are the odds he’d phone in the tip on the kidnapped girl if he were part of this cult — which, by the way, we haven’t proven exists yet?”
“Pretty low.” Jasper chuckled. “Thank you for the bit about the phantom cult. I thought you made up your mind on the cult’s existence.”
“I think the cult’s real. It fits. Demons, cults, ritual suicide. We even have a name for them now, the Phantom Cult — I like it.”
“All right.” Jasper suppressed a laugh. “I’m not sold, but I suppose one of us should be a skeptic, right? Isn’t that how these things work?”
“How do you mean?” Temple asked.
“Like partners in any movie or TV show — one’s always a skeptic, right?”
“So if this goes sideways on us, I’m not wearing any body armor, my Kevlar’s baking in the trunk of my bucar, and I doubt you’re wearing any.”
“Let’s hope this doesn’t get ugly on us and let’s hope Carlos isn’t a bad guy.” Temple smiled. “We’ve all done stupid things over the course of our careers, what’s one more thing?”
“Yeah, unless this time is the last stupid thing we do. You know what? I’m gonna call us in with the Merrillville office’s switchboard, so they know where we’re at.”
Jasper would have called in on his bu-radio, but again, it was installed in his bucar, so he used the smartphone. Boy, he wished he’d talked Temple into taking his car rather than the rental, but he’d been so out of it this morning.
“All right, we’re set.”
A metal sign attached to two metal poles jammed into the ground identified the business as Wayland Precision. No witty tag line, only the name of the business with a blacksmith’s hammer beneath. Spartan, but word of mouth and reputation rather than advertising likely brought them business. Also, there’d no doubt be no receptionist eagerly awaiting new clients inside the front door — especially on a weekend, but the nature of Wayland’s business probably didn’t require the services of a person out front.
Crab grass littered the patchy strip in front of the red brick building. A cracked sidewalk and brick steps led to an imposing metal door, which wouldn’t be out of place in Fort Knox.
“The door must weigh a ton.” Jasper pointed. “They expecting to repel an assault or outlast a siege?”
“Maybe they’re a bunch of doomsday types — ”
“Oh, you mean like those people out in Wyoming? What are they called? Survivalists?”
“Something like that.”
They ascended the steps and the tiny porch provided a respite from the pummeling waves of heat.
“Oh, there’s a doorbell and intercom, exciting.” Jasper jammed the button; a buzzer inside the building was loud enough to elicit a wince from both him and Temple.
“Makes sense for a machine shop, eh?”
They stood for a few minutes and still no one answered the door.
“All right, I’ll give the intercom a whirl.”
He reached for the button, but the speaker rattled: “Yes?”
Jasper pressed the button: “I’m Special Agent Jasper Wilde with the Federal Bureau of Investigation. I’m here with my partner, Temple Black. We’d like to speak with someone.”
A long pause.
“What is this about?”
“Carlos Ochoa, He works for you. His Toyota is parked out back. No one is in trouble.”
“Yes, Carlos is an employee of Wayland Precision. What is this about?”
Jasper pinched the bridge of his nose. “A few questions regarding some kidnappings, is all. We need to speak with him.” Jasper hoped for Carlos’s sake his employer was not part of some criminal enterprise — which was why he didn’t reveal Carlos was an informant for the FBI. The Bureau protected the identities of informants, but in this case, they needed to get to the bottom of Carlos’s activities and motivations. Jasper would only reveal Carlos’s role if necessary.
“Give us a minute. We’re in the shop, someone will be up to greet you.”
Jasper took a step to one side of the door and Temple did the same on the other side. Standing in front of the door was not tactically sound, even with a door capable of repelling a medieval battering ram. He cursed himself for wearing the baby Glock on his ankle today, or his hand would have been at his hip poised to draw.
Temple’s hand retreated to her hip.
At least one of them was in a better position, more tactically prepared.
Latches and locks clunked and turned from the other side before the door creaked open.
“Hello?” A female voice asked.
Jasper leaned to the left and Temple took a step to her right.
He waved his credentials and displayed his badge. Temple did the same.
“We’re with the FBI — ”
“So you said.” A solidly built blonde woman stepped into the light. She wore not a hint of makeup on her strong Nordic features. The only fitting description of her was as if Freyja herself came to life — if his memory of Norse mythology was still any good.
Jasper’s tongue was suddenly incapable of producing words.
Temple shook her head ever so slightly, and stepped forward. “I’m Agent Black, and this is Agent Wilde.”
“What can I help you with?” The woman who answered the door didn’t offer her hand.
“We need to speak with Carlos Ochoa,” Temple said.