Castle Roland

On The Web

by Jack Scribe, of Honored Memory


Chapter 6

Published: 8 Apr 14

A Two Shot

by Jack Scribe


Morning couldn't arrive fast enough for Thad. His eyes popped open ten minutes before the early wake-up alarm would go off and he considered a plan of attack. He wanted to re-read the material that had accompanied the script to make sure his first day at work went well. 'Hopefully as well as my conversation with Dad yesterday,' he thought while he shaved. After being assured by the detective that all the sordid details of the car wreck were buried in the murder investigation, Thad had fudged the truth and told his dad the accident occurred because he didn't turn in time for a sharp curve. He also assured his dad that neither alcohol nor drugs were involved.

Over coffee, he studied the job description that Doug had copied from a WB Entertainment manual:

"A Second Assistant Director is responsible for information distribution and reporting, cast notification and preparations during the shooting process, recording of all data relative to the working hours of the crew and cast, management of the background cast (atmosphere or "extras"), preparation of call sheets, production reports, and other documentation. When needed, the Second Assistant Director will assume the duties of the First Assistant Director on a temporary basis."

He knew that basically the Second Assistant Director was the First Assistant Director's right hand person: the 'gofer' who made sure all the First AD's orders and directions were carried out. Doug had hand-written in the margin that the person in this job would assist the First by acting as liaison between the set or location and the production office, updating key personnel on the timings and progress of the shoot. It would mean juggling daily a myriad of details to keep several layers of people happy and hopefully contributing to make the film successful. Marketing and reviews would determine if it was box office worthy.

'It's a start,' Thad thought as he put on a loose shirt, 'A huge start on a feature movie working with a talented director.' He inspected his untucked shirt and khaki combination with his black Sketchers and decided it was a good, conservative look for his first day. 'I'll have to see what the other guys are wearing and adjust accordingly.' His last position as a grip on the TV series was basic tee, jeans and NB cross-trainers. 'But a Second AD is kinda like management,' he decided. 'I'll let Doug set the pace,' he thought as he stowed the script and other materials in his backpack, 'and be a sponge for everything I can learn.'

Thad was impressed that he made the Barham Boulevard entrance to Warner Brothers in only 15 minutes. Per Doug's instructions, he gave the gate guard his name and patiently waited to be issued a vehicle pass and a clip-on visitor's badge for the day. He thanked the guard, placed the pass behind the windshield of his rental car and pulled away. Even at 6:30 a.m., there was a lot of activity around the various sound stages as he slowly drove down the studio road. 'Must all be feature films,' he thought, 'because the TV shows are still on hiatus.' In another month, the television division of Warner's would be in production for the fall season. The only exception was the Ellen show. It was delayed-live production and wouldn't begin taping until September.

The garage was a tall, modern structure that could handle several thousand vehicles. Halfway up the floor-by-floor incline, in the farthest corner, he found open spaces that were marked for visitors. He gathered his backpack, locked the car door and looked for the nearest elevator. 'Better remember what this rental looks like,' he thought as he turned to briefly study the beige Saturn and the colored-coded number on the structure pillar. At ground level, he put on his sunglasses and walked down the narrow streets between sound stages.

There was a substantial film history inside the soundproofed walls of these large structures. Thad had thoroughly scanned the Warner Brothers websites the previous evening and felt the prominence of film history surrounding him. Cagney, Bogart, Gable, Berman, Davis, and Lombard...they had all been here. President Reagan had made his screen debut on Stage 5. Whereas MGM went in for bright, colorful musicals - in Hollywood's golden years from the late 1920s to the late 1950s - the Warner brothers preferred black & white, gritty, realistic dramas.

Ten minutes later he was standing at the corner of Stage 13. It was rich with history, starting with the classic Casablanca. These days, the perennial ER production occupied the premises - wrapping up its final season. He crossed the street and stopped at a long trailer sitting next to Stage 14. On the door of the office trailer was a block-lettered stenciled sign that stated "DI MARCO". The paint was fresh and the cardboard still not fingered. Thad took a deep breath, cleared his throat and knocked on the door before opening it. Inside the 10' by 50' space were a few desks, two long tables, files, an assortment of chairs and walls of poster board. At the far end were a larger executive desk and a small conference table. Behind the desk sat Doug DiMarco.

"You found the place...and on time," Doug said with a smile as he stood up. "That's a promising sign. Come on over and join me."

"As I mentioned in the interview, I worked over on Stage 6 earlier this year until they cancelled 'Viva Reno' after two episodes. I didn't understand the storyline when it was being made so just went with the flow." Thad sat down when he saw Doug ease back into his chair.

"Evidentially, the viewing public agreed with you. But I'm sure we'll have better luck with our movie."

"I read the script last night and reviewed your notes. It reads well and the cast looks terrific." Thad didn't want to appear to be sucking up, but he had really liked what he read. "I'm anxious to help wherever I'm needed."

"It'll be a busy eight months and you'll be stretched to the max on a daily basis. First, we'd better get you set up with Human Resources. Officially, you're not an employee of Warner's but they handle all the paperwork for the production company."

"I'm sure they still have all my stuff on file, but I've brought my I.D.'s just in case."

"Good. By the way, I spoke with Bryan last night on the phone after he got back to Palo Alto. He enjoyed meeting you and had several questions about who you were, et cetera." Doug grinned and rolled his eyes. "Be careful of us DiMarco men. We can be very aggressive."

"Bryan seems like a nice guy and I wouldn't mind getting to know him better when he returns from school. That is, if his dad doesn't object."

"Object? You're both attractive, intelligent adults and I really don't have much to say about who he sees. However, I'd be delighted if you two became friends."

Doug thoroughly explained the office setup and gave thumbnail background summations about the other members of the directing team. He said he preferred to work out of a trailer by the sound stage rather than in the more luxurious offices of the production company located elsewhere on the lot. Posted on the wall were a series of computer-generated storyboards and a rough shooting schedule that were tools to help finish the film on time.

By the time they had finished their chat, it was time to walk over to Human Resources. Thad thanked Doug for his time and promised to return within the hour. As he strolled past more of the fabled sound stages, the feeling of security and a sense of arrival swept through his body.

The driver's temperament behind the wheel of the GMC Denali alternated somewhere between road rage and forlorn passiveness as the SUV inched along to the dreaded I-405 'merge' into the 101. Not even Sir Arthur Bliss' A Colour Symphony on the FM classical music station helped. "Fuck," Oleg yelled at himself, "I'm an idiot for being on the freeway during morning rush." The traffic crept along at 5 miles per hour with no relief in sight. 'When in doubt,' he thought, 'go surface.' He aggressively worked his way over toward the right, one lane at a time, until he approached the exit to Ventura Boulevard. He noticed the time on a bank's sign as he left the commuting bedlam behind. 'This will give me enough time to stop off at the Starbuck's down the road and still get to Frat Loft on time. I need a little caffeine boost this morning...and a chance to mellow out.'

San Fernando Valley - 354 square miles of tract homes, strip centers and freeways on the north side of the Hollywood Hills - had the dubious distinction of being the location of 80% of the porn produced in the U.S. Vivid Entertainment, VCA, Wicked Pictures and dozens of other studios all churned out volumes of mostly hetero X-rated DVDs and videos. The bland, sun-baked warehouse buildings dotting the industrial neighborhoods didn't advertise what went on inside. Behind the anonymity of the Valley, the adult entertainment studios produced hundreds of new titles each year and created star-making machinery much like the old Hollywood studios.

But the business couldn't be considered 'equal opportunity'. With few exceptions, the average male porn star got $500 to $1500 a scene, or $300 if he was new. Some men did it for free, just to get their buns in the door. However, having good looks, a tight body and a large slab of meat wasn't enough. A guy had to deliver the goods: he couldn't fake it. There was a reason the orgasmic finale was called the 'money shot' in the industry.

Women, on the other hand, could make $100,000 to $250,000 by the end of the year. That was pretty impressive, and there were a handful of porn performers who got even more bucks for their bang than anyone else. 'Actresses' like Jenna Jameson, the reigning star of adult films, enjoyed big-dollar contracts with filmmakers who promoted them on web sites, movie display boxes and public appearances. And adult filmmakers and actors weren't the only ones making money. Mainstream cable companies, satellite providers and hotel chains offering in-room adult movie products produced in the Valley were generating record revenues.

To the casual observer, the Frat Loft Productions buildings were just storage complexes or light-manufacturing facilities - identified only by an address with large, faded plastic numbers tacked onto the exterior wall facing the road. Oleg drove into the unguarded, almost vacant parking lot and found a shaded space in the corner alongside the only other car - a silver Honda Civic. 'This must be Andy's car. Lamanna isn't here yet,' he guessed, knowing the detective would use a pool-issued unmarked car. He turned off the engine, took another sip of coffee and studied the area.

Four tall, stucco structures with large retractable garage doors and smaller side doors lined one side of the drive. A smaller building sat on the opposite side of the parking lot with a small sign that stated, "FLP Offices. By Appointment Only." Oleg took note that the office structure butted up to a building that seemed to be attached with the neighboring compound of warehouses. On the side was a fenced-in, secure area that protected several satellite dishes. 'Not much activity,' he thought as he stepped out of the SUV, 'but Andy might have called off any shoots scheduled for the day. And the web chat rooms don't start operations until noon.' Oleg grabbed his laptop bag, hung it over his shoulder and closed the driver's door. He walked over to the office door, looked blankly at the sunscreen-mirrored window and pushed the buzzer. In the reflection of the window he saw a dark, unmarked, Ford Crown Victoria pulling into the lot. 'Good old Joe.' He watched as his detective friend, in a basic dark suit, eased out of the car at the same time as the office door opened.

"Morning, Oleg," Andy said at the doorway. "I got back last night, took the lead like you suggested and everything's under control. I spoke with the lead supervisors - they're cool with the plan to continue operations."

"Hey, buddy. Sounds like you've been a busy man. How was the rest of your weekend?" Oleg smiled at Andy and envied the guy's casual dress. He wished he could work in shorts and a tee. The camo shorts conspicuously bunched up around Andy's filled-out crotch. 'That little fucker is definitely packing some serious equipment. I hope his boyfriend is appreciative and knows how to handle it.'

"Eh...okay, I guess. Paul and I decided that maybe we're just going to be friends." Andy shrugged.

"Gentlemen, looks like we're on schedule." Joe Lamanna walked up to the door and continued, "You must be Andy Leeds, the office manager? I'm Detective Lamanna - LAPD." He offered his hand and Andy shook it.

"Yes, Sir. Oleg said you'd probably be out here this morning. Come on in." Andy stood aside as the two men walked inside the large room whose floor was clad with worn gray linoleum. In addition to a desk with a workstation, the other furnishings consisted of a basic conference table with metal chairs, file cabinets and shelving filled with videotapes and DVDs. "Anyone want coffee?"

"I'm fine and it looks like Oleg brought his own. Why don't we sit at the table so you can fill me in on the operations and any observations concerning Harvey Fine." Lamanna pulled out a chair, sat down and placed his notepad on the tabletop. "Let's review the search warrant, first, and get that out of the way. I'll also need a signature."

After Oleg slipped off his laptop bag, he sat down next to Joe and across the table from Andy. 'Wish I could check out Harvey's office,' he thought, 'but it wouldn't be good form to be in there before Lamanna.' Although they were friends, each conducted investigations with a measured discipline. Joe would be pissed if Oleg even suggested entering the office alone. Permission would be granted only after Lamanna was satisfied that procedures had been followed - then the detective would take the lead. However, Oleg had some favors to call in once they'd snooped around in the inner-office.

Over the next 20 minutes, after the warrant had been explained and signed, Lamanna patiently asked questions that produced answers similar to what Andy had told Oleg on Saturday. He did find out that Andy Leeds was originally from the Midwest, had an accounting degree and was a CPA. Andy verified that the lucrative chat rooms would continue in operation and that he had also spoken to the lead cameraman about continuing the video production schedule. He opened up his QuickBooks spreadsheets on the screen that showed a very healthy cash reserve in Frat Loft's accounts. Before Oleg and Lamanna moved on to enter Harvey's private office, the detective strongly suggested that all locks on the buildings be changed and that new passwords be assigned with the security system.

"I get your point, detective. Harvey may have given the password to people not known to me. I'll have everything done today." Andy stood up and grabbed his keys. "I'll unlock Harvey's office," he added, as he walked over to an unmarked door and inserted the key in the lock.

"And join us for a moment so you can show us the general layout," Lamanna replied. "Since the owner and occupant of these premises is the deceased, I didn't think it was necessary to get a search warrant. However, Andy, I want to make sure you have no concern about this search."

"I have nothing to hide...and Harvey certainly isn't going to be complaining" Andy replied with a shake of his head. "If this helps you find the murderer, I'm happy to assist." He unlocked the door, reached for the switches and turned on the lights.

The three men walked into the spacious, private office that had obviously been carefully designed for function as well as aesthetics - rather than the coldness of fluorescent office fixtures, the office was bathed with ceiling-recessed halogen lighting. Three large LCD screens hung flush against the taupe, ultra suede-covered walls. Beneath was a long, open ebony wood cabinet that housed several DVD and VHS players and a sound system. A separate shelving unit held an impressive collection of DVDs and tapes. Harvey Fine's desk consisted of a thick slab of textured, surface-sculpted glass supported by an art deco-designed black metal base. Behind the desk and black leather chair, stood a credenza-style PC workstation.

"Old Harvey knew how to live," Oleg said as he looked around. Erotic Chinese art throughout the office was carefully lighted, and a black-lacquered antique Coromandel screen with gold and jade decorations sat behind a low, minimalist leather sofa. 'This has got to be the epitome of casting couches,' he thought with a grin, 'with appropriate refreshments'. The nearby recessed wet bar was well stocked with premium liquors.

"I'd say the porn business has been very good to Mr. Fine." Lamanna pointed to a door next to the credenza and asked, "Where does that lead?"

"As far as I know it's just used for supplies," Andy replied. "I don't have a key, but there should be one in the top drawer next to the keyboard. Harvey kept all sorts of private stuff in those drawers. Is it okay to touch anything?"

"Be my guest," Lamanna said with a broad arm gesture. "This isn't a crime scene."

Andy reached over and opened the drawer. Amongst credit cards and a small black book were two keys on a ring. Tucked in the back was a snub-nosed hand revolver. Andy raised his eyebrows at the discovery and silently handed the keys to Detective Lamanna.

"Cute little Smith and Wesson 360PD .357," Lamanna said as he took the keys. "Wonder if Harvey had enemies we're not aware of?" He tried the first key in the lock and couldn't get a fit. The second key, however, easily slipped into the slot and turned it. A click signaled the lock was disengaged. He opened the door just a crack and a light automatically turned on.

"The only thing I can think of is that because Harvey worked here in the early morning hours and on weekends...maybe he just needed general protection?" Andy answered, as he moved to one side.

Lamanna slowly swung open the door. U-shaped, built-in shelving were on either side of a narrow walk space meeting at the far end. On the shelves were a mix of office supplies, VHS tapes and boxes with dates handwritten on the front.

"Was he often here late at night?" Oleg asked.

"More like very early in the mornings. Once, when I asked him about the hours, he told me he was able to get a lot of things done if he came in around 2:00 a.m. He'd often have me make a McDonald's run."

"Did he come in early very often?" Oleg figured that Harvey's early schedule had allowed him to contact the U.K. and Europe during their morning business hours.

"This was maybe a couple times a week."

"Hmmm, we'll just have a look around the premises," Lamanna said as he surveyed the storage room and office. "Andy, it's probably best to go back to your desk. But before you leave, could you turn on Fine's computer and log on with his code if a code is necessary?"

"That I can help you with." Andy walked over and hit the power button on the PC tower. "Once, Harvey had some problems with the 'puter and asked me to help. If he didn't change it, I can do it in a jiff. I'll be back in a few minutes when it's up."

Detective Lamanna walked around while he waited for Andy to leave. He stopped at the media credenza and observed, "Looks pretty sophisticated." Lamanna leaned down for a better look. "Wouldn't mind having some of this equipment...although I'll leave the DVDs alone. I see several with Rory Reed's name on them." The detective pulled a couple of DVD boxes off the shelf and studied the covers. "The action pictures of Rory come under the heading of 'too much information' for my investigation. However, I can see why he's popular with the guys and gals."

"What's wrong, Joe? A little penis envy?" Oleg replied with a snicker as he looked around Harvey's workstation.

"The missus has never complained, thank you. And this is more up your alley."

"Up my what?" Oleg broke into a full grin. "You know what they say about 'not knocking it until you've tried it'. I've seen a few of Rory's movies and was very impressed with his...ah...talents."

"I'll take your word for it." Lamanna walked over to the desk, looked at the XP login window on the screen and added, "Why don't you nose around the workstation and I'll check out the boxes in the storage room?"

Just then Andy returned to the office and walked to the computer keyboard. After a quick move of the cursor, he typed in the password and the desktop screen with several icons appeared. No one commented about the wallpaper; a reclining, sultry, nude Rory Reed showing a very impressive flaccid phallus hanging over two very plump balls. Andy shrugged and said, "There you go. I'll be at my desk if you guys need anything else."

"Thanks...and please close the door behind you." Lamanna watched Andy leave the office and didn't move until he heard the hardware latch.

"Joe, rather than going through all the files, why don't I use memory sticks and transfer everything from Harvey's hard drive? Then I can make copies for your office within an hour or so." Oleg wasn't sure how much material was saved on the PC but was pretty sure one of his 32 GB Sony Pro sticks would do the job. From the icon titles, he felt the computer files would reveal a few gems for his primary investigation. He was also seeking this valuable evidence without specifically asking permission. With Detective Lamanna, there had slowly grown an understanding about a strategic way of bending rules and regulations between the two men.

"If it'll save me time and the taxpayers some money, go to it. I'll go look in the boxes with the most current dates notated." Lamanna walked into the storage room and scanned the handwritten notes.

Oleg set down his laptop bag, eased into the leather-upholstered swivel chair, reached down and quickly slipped the memory stick into the computer tower connection. At the keyboard, he clicked on Windows Explorer and scanned the contents. He highlighted the hard drive, typed in a few commands and heard a quiet whir as the files started being transferred. 'Might as well check out the other drawers,' he decided as he turned slightly. In the second drawer, he found a small plastic folder containing two CDs. 'This might be interesting reading,' he thought as he picked up the CDs. He was torn between turning over his findings to Joe and keeping the CDs for analysis back at his office. Satisfied that any information on the CDs had nothing to do with the murder investigation, he slipped the folder into his bag.

Inspection of the other drawers yielded nothing interesting. He looked at the screen and was satisfied the files were being properly transferred. 'Should just take a few more minutes,' he judged as he stood up. Oleg walked into the storage room and saw Joe wading through receipts and other paper minutia in one of the boxes. "Anything here?"

"Looks like a complete bust - just backup for taxes. The late Mr. Fine musta been operating his companies under several corporations." Lamanna continued to dig into the box and randomly look at the bundled receipts and other documents.

"And probably completely on the far as an auditor could tell." Oleg knew that men like Fine had enough legal subterfuge to bury any secrets. He walked over to a corner of the U-shaped shelving and studied some of the titles on the spines of the VHS covers. 'Must be old Frat Loft and Raunch Ranch tapes,' he decided. 'Probably some of these guys are pushing middle-age.' One tape case caught his attention; the title was in German and appeared to be a basic instructional tape teaching the English language. He reached up and pulled on the case from its base. It would not budge. He moved his hand higher and tugged from the top. The case slowly pitched forward at an angle and stopped. Oleg heard a few clicks and a motor from behind the shelving seemed to engage.

"I think we've found something," Oleg whispered. He tapped Joe's arm as he stepped back. The shelving unit at the opposite end from the door slowly and quietly started sliding open.

Joe set down the box of tax files and watched the shelf part further into a recess. It revealed a gray metal door with a knob, separate deadbolt lock and a small window. The absence of mounted door hinges suggested it opened out. Oleg leaned in as soon as the shelf retraction allowed it and looked through the glass opening. On the other side of the door was a large room with a high ceiling - probably 50' by 50' - that was set up for video production. Lights hung from above. However, the three sets on one side of the layout had more of a feeling of children's playrooms than the usual porn riggings. Opposite the sets were two enclosed spaces with doors and glass windows. A small Hispanic woman was seated in a chair watching a small TV set.

"Holy fuck," Oleg exclaimed in a loud whisper, "check this out. I think you might want to call for backup." He stepped back to allow the detective to look into the room. Oleg felt numb as he connected the dots of what he had just seen. "Unless I'm off base, we just uncovered a studio used for making kiddie porn."

"Kiddie porn? My life just got more complicated." Lamanna groaned as he peered into the room and slowly shook his head. "Dirty sick bastards."

"You got that right." Oleg looked around and found the light activator in the frame of the door. He reached up, manually turned off the light and added, "Chances are this window is a one-way mirror on the other side, but I'm not going to gamble on it."

"Good call. Is this part of the Frat Loft facilities?" Lamanna asked while he surveyed the setup. "And who is the woman?"

"We're at the rear of the office building. My guess is that what we're seeing is the interior of a building in the complex behind Frat Loft." Oleg took a deep breath and added, "The woman is some sort of baby sitter. God only knows who she's watching." He had seen enough and decided to get out of the storage room. 'Need to retrieve the memory stick before the shit hits the fan.' The screen of the PC showed all files had been successfully transferred. Oleg clicked the 'finish' button, watched the sequence complete itself and quickly pulled out the memory stick. He put the memory stick in his bag and returned to Joe. The detective was just finishing saying something.

"...and I'll call this in right now." Joe turned to Oleg and shook his head. "Pretty smarmy."

"If you need me, I'll help rescue whoever's in those secured areas." Oleg knew that it was unwise to proceed until 'black and whites' were positioned at the front of the studio space as well as the storage room. 'With the woman passively guarding the facility, it doesn't appear urgent to get in until the backups are here and in place,' he thought, 'but we're in serious doo-doo if the bad guys arrive first.' He reached behind his waist and added, "I'm armed if there's an emergency before backup arrives." Oleg pulled out a Glock 17 9mm pistol from the small of his back and held it pointed down.

"Thanks, but I don't want to get civilians involved - no matter how qualified - if I can help it. Let's go back out to the front office and check with Andy on what's behind this building." Joe walked rapidly to the door leading to the utilitarian reception area and opened it. "Andy, we need some," he said as he walked to the office manager's desk.

"What's up, boss?" Andy swiveled around and looked at the two men with a puzzled expression.

"There's a separate building directly behind this office - is that structure related to any of the Frat Loft operations?" Oleg asked as he stood next to Joe. He had gathered up his laptop bag and was holding it by his side, and had returned the semiautomatic pistol to the small of his back.

"No...not at all. In fact I've never seen any of the neighbors." Andy stood up and added, "It's just a warehouse as far as I know."

"Stay with Andy and fill him in," Lamanna said to Oleg. I'm going to go outside and look around while I call dispatch." He pulled out his cell and flipped it open as he left the office.

"We've just stepped into something big. Harvey was involved in some bad shit that probably involved kiddie porn." Oleg paused and took a short, deep breath. "We found a secret door in Harvey's storage room that connects to the warehouse."

"Crap," Andy said expressively, "I hope you don't think I have anything to do with that stuff." His large eyes opened wider with a combined expression of fear and disbelief.

"No, not at all. But you need to protect yourself until we get this thing resolved." Oleg put his hand on Andy's shoulder and looked intently into his eyes. "Here's what I want you to do: take my laptop and go out to the black Denali right now. Get inside and stay there until the detective and his troops get things sorted out." He took out his car keys and pressed them into Andy's hand. "And lock the doors."

"You're serious?" Andy frowned and stared at Oleg with his mouth open.

"Very," Oleg replied as he returned the frown. "This is just precautionary. Toss the bag in the backseat and sit tight. Oh, don't worry about your safety...the SUV's armored and the windows are bulletproof. If you see anyone other than the detective, uniformed police or myself, duck down. Okay? Now get going." He gave Andy the bag and nodded as the young man walked rapidly to the front door. He went over to the window and watched the office manager get into the passenger side of the large tank of a vehicle. 'Better go back to the storage room and see if anything has changed,' he decided, 'Joe will find me if I'm not out front.'

At the storage room door, he pulled out the key from the lock and studied the second key on the ring. 'This has gotta be the deadbolt lock key.' He continued into the room and looked once more through the small window. The woman was still watching the television and hadn't moved. He hoped she was engrossed in some telenovela and wouldn't be distracted by any noise coming from the door. Oleg guessed that since she hadn't heard the shelf unit earlier when it had slid aside, the studio was probably soundproofed. He carefully slipped the mystery key into the lock and was pleased that it effortlessly went in. He turned it just a quarter of the way and was satisfied that he could unlock the deadbolt. 'Best not to unlock it yet.' He left the key in the lock and returned to the outer office just as Detective Lamanna was returning.

"Just checked the woman and the studio. Status quo. Also verified that the second key unlocks the door." Oleg watched a very concerned detective approach him. He knew Joe well enough to understand that they were now in pre-takedown mode. "I left the key in the lock for fast access."

"Thanks for the update. I've got three units on a '10-18' silent approach - ETA, three minutes. There's no car in front of the warehouse, so the woman must have been dropped off earlier."

"Then I'll fade into the background while your guys handle everything." With three units coming, Oleg was relieved that he wouldn't be needed for an assist. 'I'm getting too old for this physical stuff.' "Any identification on the building?"

"There's an old sign above the door advertising Elbe Imports with an address."

"Dresden. That's the connection," Oleg replied with a confident, upbeat tone.

"How so?"

"The Elbe River runs through Dresden, and the kiddie porn operation my AOI associates are watching is located in Dresden. It's the center of commerce and culture for eastern Germany - located maybe 25 klicks to the Czech border and 50 to Poland. As soon as this site is secure, I'd appreciate you bringing in the FBI. There's another part of this ugly picture located in Colorado Springs and the BKA in Germany needs to be contacted." Oleg also wanted to get all of Harvey's computer files encrypted and uploaded for satellite distribution. 'Need to send everything to Dex in London and our guy in Colorado ASAP.'

"We'll work together and fill in the Bureau after this gets buttoned up. For the record, you're officially deputized until this emergency is resolved."

"Whatever I can do, I'm ready." Oleg nodded with steely determination.

"Let's go back to the storeroom and see what's happening. I'm wearing my earpiece and have just been informed the units are two minutes out." Joe started walking back to Harvey's office. "Where's the office manager?"

"Safely deposited in my SUV. I told him to stay there, doors locked, until you gave him the green light." Oleg decided blowing a little smoke up Joe's ass was warranted. "I know you're very concerned about this situation because it potentially involves children." He was right behind Lamanna as they approached the small room.

"I'm banking on any kids being out of harm's way because they're probably in separate rooms." Joe leaned into the window area and gasped. "Change of plans. Draw your gun...two men have just entered the studio." He took a small two-way radio out of his pocket, pushed a button and quietly said, "10-13. Two male perps have just entered the warehouse. I'm going in with one other armed assist. This channel will be left open. Secure both buildings upon arrival. Enter with weapons drawn." He quickly put the radio back in his pocket and drew out his shoulder-harnessed .357 SIG automatic service revolver.

"How do you want to play it?" Oleg held his Glock - safety off - in his hand and gritted his teeth. He saw that Lamanna had done the same thing with his piece.

"I open the door and go left. You follow and go right. In worst case, take out the person to the right...I'll handle the guy on the left."

"Got it." Oleg knew that 'worst case' was if the perp had a weapon drawn and would not surrender. He was not happy that the two-way radio was active, but understood the strategy.

"Let's go," Lamanna whispered as he released the lock. The metal click was very subtle. He firmly grabbed the knob of the door handle and turned it very carefully.

Previous ChapterNext Chapter