Light filled the dark room as the video screen sprang to life. The small audience could see a split image. One half showed a laboratory; two men in white coats separating piles of ivory powder into hand sized bags. The other was obviously a CCTV feed; a grimy street, signs and traffic lights glowing in the gathering dusk, two cars and a large white van sat on the edge of the frame.
In a sudden flurry of activity the doors to the truck were thrown open and six men climbed out. Each carried a gun, one hefted a battering ram. They were joined by another five from the two cars. All were covered in police insignia. As a single unit they jogged down the road. At the corner they turned left. That half of the screen switched to a different shot. The group could be seen moving towards a door. In the other section the men in the lab continued to fill the plastic bags.
Two swings of the battering ram and the officers were inside. An internal shot showed them running down a flight of stairs, the fish-eye lens enabled the viewers to watch as the group burst into a room. It was empty. The confusion of the police officers was obvious even in the silent images.
Lights sprung to life in the small auditorium and the screen went blank. The ten seated men blinked in the changing illumination.
Behind the podium, where she had been when the group were shown in, Jess Mendo let a faint smile touch her lips.
“Gentlemen,” she paused so their attention could switch to her. “What you have just seen is an example of the power my company wields. The police had been thoroughly deceived. They had staked out the lab for over a year, intercepting calls and emails. There was no reason for them to doubt what they had uncovered, because it was the truth.”
Jess let her gaze rest on the two she knew ran the drug gang. “What the police did not know was that we were monitoring them. Their mobile phones, mail, personal text messages; their trips to and from the office, where they lived and where they went in the evenings. We knew who they were, how they thought and what they were planning. The lab was moved a week before the raid. No panic, no rush and no mistakes.
“All of this is possible because of the world we live in. London has more CCTV cameras per head of population than any other city. It has traffic monitoring systems, hundreds of cell towers, radio transmitters and data centres. Someone with the right skills can capture the information that flows across this metropolis. We are those people.”
She let the silence for a moment. A few strands of black hair had come loose; she tucked them behind her ear. One of the men straightened in his seat; Lim Cado, second in command and most likely to ask the first question.
“So you’re saying you can protect us?” His voice was deep and resonant, belying his thin frame.
“We can’t protect you, that’s for your men to do.” Jess indicated the eight thugs. “What we offer is an early warning system. We give you the knowledge to protect yourselves.”
“And they don’t know you do all this high-tech …” he searched for a word, “snooping?”
Jess flashed him a smile. “It wouldn’t matter if they did. We’ll see them coming. They couldn’t catch us any more than they can the mist of the Thames.”
Lim gave a grunt. “Very poetic, but what if they change how they operate? I’m sure they will once they discover you’re watching them.”
“One of the best things the government ever did was to use private companies to run all those systems. What do the police control? Not a great deal. Even the wonderful new smart phones they use don’t send email and text messages on a private system, and you’d be surprised how many officers can’t get out of the habit of sending things via Gmail. I don’t think we’re the ones who need to worry.”
Jess liked throwing in a few lines designed to disturb the client. It got them thinking, and where there was fear there was a sale to be made.
“Do you always charge such a high price?”
The question came from Leo Alfre. He was the one in charge; the man who made the decisions in this little group.
Jess took it in her stride. Every client wanted to knock the price down. “A few dealers get hauled in and sent down, that’s not a problem for you. A lab is lost or a lock-up raided, that’s more of an issue. Your financial transactions get uncovered, that hurts.”
“You can stop that happening?” There was a hint of concern in Lim’s voice. His boss remained silent.
“We can’t stop anything, but if you employ us we can tell you when to re-route things.”
“I don’t trust you.” The boss stared directly at her. “How do we know you’ve not been checking on us. That even now your not about to sell us out?”
“You don’t, Mr Alfre, but there has to be some trust in this relationship.”
“I’ve not survived this long by trusting kids like you.” He stood up, and the others followed. “I didn’t like you from the moment you approached us and I like you less now.”
One of the thugs pulled out a gun, the others flanked Alfre and Cado. There was quiet pop from a silencer. A small hole appeared in the wall behind Jess. The trigger was pulled again; another puff of dust followed.
“What is this?” Alfre’s face betrayed his confusion.
“You’re surprised we knew about your plan?” The image of Jess continued to smile. “We’re still happy to work with you, it will simply cost you more. We’ll contact you in a week.” Her projection vanished.
27 August 2010
A police officer in the Philippines killed eight people he had taken hostage on a bus. He started shooting when he saw a broadcast of the SWAT teaming approaching on the news channel he was watching.
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