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My Little Mystery Part 15

My Little Mystery Part 15

Cricket takes over. The company has trouble. Gus and Hans stir up trouble.

Breakfast was a noisy affair today, with all the information passed out the night before. A lot of the banter was premature, because Cricket, Eric and Erin knew more than everyone else. Cricket got her information from Roger her ghost lover, Eric and Erin got theirs from the data collected from video, audio and searches of company data. Things happened a lot faster now, but it still confused everyone. Gus and Hans offered more information, but it consisted of more questions than answers. One thing stood out this morning, Cricket seemed more animated and eager to get this resolved than she had in the past. Everyone noticed and felt pleased to have her back at the helm. Once breakfast finished and the dishes cleared away the room got very quiet. Everyone waited while Cricket stood taking the lead.

“Good morning, I hope everyone got a good night’s sleep, we have a long busy day ahead of us. I have information regarding the company. Eric and Erin have news of the next team to arrive here. We have a lot to review from last night too. Eric would you mind filling us all in on what Erin and you found last night?”

“Thank you, Cricket, its nice having you back. Yesterday after our morning meeting Cricket asked Erin and me what type of cameras and sound sensors we had monitoring the grounds. She suggested we add thermal imaging and sonar acoustics, which we did. Last night they paid off big time. We had monitored the airport for private plane arrivals and caught a plane from Minnesota landing. The people on the plane were of interest to us. Leo Carter and Emily Plough got off the plane. Leo is the CEO of Hooligans Ltd. Emily is a former classmate of Crickets who has a grudge against her. We followed them to a hotel and to downtown Southampton to a newly rented storefront. They moved a lot of equipment and supplies into the storefront. It appears there is another assault team coming to attack us. Early this morning the alarms went off as someone crossed the driveway coming up to the house. We monitored their progress as they went around for fifteen minutes then left.”

Erin took over. “Today we will set up a stakeout on the storefront to watch when the team arrives and how big it is. Stefan and Natalia will have the first shift of twelve hours. Eric and I will take the second shift. We seem to be no closer to finding out who hired Hooligans. We are tracing the money but it is cleverly hidden, so it is slow going. Does anyone have any ideas we can use?”

Mr. Wagner spoke up, “Have you checked the ownership of the jet that Leo and Emily flew in? Hooligans Ltd does not own a corporate jet. They usually rent one but not this time. It appears their client lent them one.”

Erin replied, surprised, “I never thought of that. Thank you, Gus. I will get right on it after we are through.”

The meeting continued for another fifteen minutes with little tasks assigned to the rest of the group. Cal and Natasha took over running the company while Damon and Cricket searched for fraud and proof of the sub-standard materials in use in the Gulf of Mexico. They also checked out investing in the Chinese solar industry to get a hold on their technology. The group was buzzing today like a swarm of bees. It made everyone feel more productive than they had been in a long while. For the first time, things moved quickly in a very positive direction.

Gus and Hans sat at the dining room table feeling good. They helped the group and watched as the group delegated tasks and moved forward with finding out the antagonists after Cricket. Now they planned the next test for the group. They got up from the table and walked outside over the grounds of the estate. It was rather large and had been a small vegetable farm when it was first built. Although the gardens disappeared, the flat land made for a beautiful lawn. Gus and Hans envisioned a new classroom building there with the house being the administration headquarters and dining area. The vision included a dormitory building by the barn to house about fifty students. With these modest plans growth was still possible in the future. The training facility for the bomb testing area was located some miles away in an old farm area with a large wood forest border with no houses around for many miles. It was where the training accident that killed Monica occurred. They investigated all the local ordinances concerning building a private school on the grounds and were satisfied it was a worthwhile project. Now all they had to do was convince Cricket and Cal to fund and build the school. As they continued walking they decided that the next test would be to try and break the group apart. They knew that Natalia and Damon had a past. Natasha and Damon were together now. In spite of playing matchmaker to Stefan and Natalia, they wanted to shake up the harmony. The only way to do that was to spread rumors about Natalia and Damon’s past. They knew that Natasha had a volatile temper, time to test it now.

“How do we leak these rumors?” Hans asked.

“That is easy; we just start a conversation with Natasha about her relationship with Damon. As we hear about their life together, we ask if she knows why he was sent to Cricket.” Gus replied.

“Why was he sent here?”

Gus answered, “He was sent to increase the number of students mentored here. Natasha knows the rules about fraternization among students and the consequences. All we have to do is hint that there was something going on between Damon and Natalia. As punishment for that Damon was sent away here. She does not need to know that we don’t and never will punish students for mingling.”

“I see; by planting a small seed of doubt in Natasha’s mind, she may conclude that Natalia will try and steal Damon back. That is nasty, but it could backfire.”

“If it backfires that is alright. We will see how she handles it and get Natalia in trouble. Damon will be the real unknown here.” Gus responded.

Damon and Cricket sat in the conference room with a table covered in reports and accounting ledgers. They poured over the data from the construction of an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico. So far as they saw nothing was wrong.

“We need some expert help her Cricket. I don’t see anything wrong yet, but I feel that we missed something important.” Damon pleaded exasperatedly.

“I know we missed it and it is here. I have just the engineer in mind to help us. He works here at headquarters in the engineering quality department. I trust him fully and he will see it right away.” Cricket replied tired. “I will call him in a few minutes. Let’s pick up this mess and take a break.”

Cricket and Damon moved all the papers and ledgers into neat piles and paused for a drink of water and some refreshments. She continued, “How do you like being here with us? We certainly like having you around. You have a sharp mind and are quick to pitch in where ever we need help. Your training has gone very well. Even the death of Monica just brought us closer together. Now all this chaos is testing us again.”

“I am enjoying my time and being here has been a good education. The group is a good cohesive unit. We seem to complement each other. Natasha is a super young woman. I like being around her.”

“Natasha is super. She has stepped into Monica’s shoes very well and I can’t be without her. She really likes you a lot and I see her in your future for a very long time. What is with you and Natalia?”

“Natalia and I ‘dated’ while I was at the Bard School. We were close but it was because we were the same type of person with similar backgrounds. We studied together and spent a lot of time doing sports and other activities. There was really nothing more than that between us.”

“Ah, I got it. That is good. Stefan expressed an interest in her when she appeared. That is why they are together on the stakeout. We hope they will get along as friends and have it grow as you and Natasha did. The Bard School likes students to pair up so that they become families, becoming part of a community and blending in. Let me get on the phone and get that engineer up here.”

About twenty minutes later, a man appeared in the doorway to the conference room and introduced himself as Herbert Swenson Chief Quality Engineer. He sat down as Cricket explained the situation to him. He shook his head at times as if he knew something was going on. He started looking at the purchase orders and the inventory records of materials used and left over. He did not look at the accounting data at all. After thirty minutes of reading and tossing papers around he was ready to explain things.

“On the surface things look as if they are above board, but digging into some of the records there is something definitely wrong here. Looking at the purchases you can see how much steel rebar reinforcing rods were bought. Knowing the quantity that should be used for a rig of this size it can be calculated using standard waste factors that not enough steel was used. There is about forty percent less steel used than should be. This rig will fail at some point from lack of strength. It may be tomorrow or it may be a few years. There is no way to know. The rods listed as purchased meet the standards we set, but as you can see not enough of them were used. Construction on this rig must be stopped immediately!”

“Thank you, Herbert. That is the data we needed. If you spend more time with these papers can you tell me if any one individual is to blame for this? Also can you tell who it is? Take as much time as you need. I will halt construction immediately. You have just saved the company millions of dollars and potentially billions. I am very grateful for your candor and honesty.”

“It was my pleasure ma’am. I am here to protect the lives and livelihood of our workers and our customers. I am just doing my job as best as I can.” Herbert said humbly.

“I will remember this in the future for you. Trust me. Now if you can dig deeper into this and find any more trouble it would be appreciated. I think maybe we need to go over our other projects like this and check their shortcuts and practices. Would you like to head up that investigation Herbert?”

“I…It would be my pleasure Miss Cricket. I will do anything I can that you ask.”

“Thank you, Herbert. Look for an announcement of this promotion for you and selection of a staff of engineers to support your efforts. Damon, get Natasha and bring her to my office. We have some serious things to consider. “

Damon left the conference room with Cricket behind him. She went into her office and called the construction foreman of the oil rig and shut down the rig. He was none too happy, but had no choice. She also told him to evacuate everyone back to the mainland and await a federal investigation force to inspect the work done to date. As she hung up the phone, Natasha and Damon walked in; she gestured them to sit at her small table in the office. She explained to Natasha what had been found and gave her instructions to get a task force together to investigate at the oil platform. There may be criminal charges levied against the individual or individuals responsible for this fraud. Natasha made notes and assured Cricket it will be done before the day ended. Damon loved watching Cricket, as she calmly maneuvered through these crises with ease. She was grace under fire.

At the stakeout, it got very boring. Nothing happened, but Emily and Leo showed up mid morning and set about setting up more equipment and going over the plans of the estate. They felt they had enough data to mount a good attack to take down Cricket. Natalia and Stefan watched from across the street out a window. Eric had placed a camera at the back of the storefront connected by the internet to a laptop with Natalia. No one of the group penetrated the inside of the office. That waited to be done after dark, by Eric and Erin. More cameras and listening devices inside made surveillance easier but increased the possibility of discovery.

With nothing happening Stefan and Natalia got to talking. “How long have you known Damon?”

“Damon and I have been friends for a little over a year. We met at school when we were paired for a project. We have a lot in common in our backgrounds and fell together easily. He is a very nice young man. We attended a few parties off campus and with friend’s families. It was never serious, but we knew the rules of the Bard School about it.”

Stefan asked, “Would you consider going out when this is over?”

“Sure, I think you are a super guy. I would love to go out with you. I heard about Monica and I am sorry for your loss.”

“Thank you, I miss her, but I realize I need to move on. I’d rather date someone from school rather than a ‘civilian’. Not that you are not special. I like that you were trying to start out on your own. It showed that you had initiative and were not afraid to try. I liked that.”

Natalia blushed and relied, “th… thank you Stefan. That makes me feel good to be noticed by you that way.”

Stefan’s phone buzzed. It was Eric inquiring about the storefront. Stefan reported nothing happened so far and it was very quiet. Eric reported that the airport was quiet too. They hung up and Stefan turned to Natalia and smiled at her. “I am going out to get some lunch; can you handle this place on your own for awhile? I will bring lunch back here for us to share.”

“Sure no problem, I have your phone number and Eric’s if I run into trouble.”

Natasha left Cricket’s office and started making the needed calls. Everything Cricket wanted got done and Natasha sat at her desk. Her phone rang; it was Cricket telling her that Mr. Wagner and Mr. Schultz wanted to see her at the estate. She told Cricket that everything was done and she left for the estate. When she arrived she found Mr. Wagner and Mr. Schultz sitting in the dining room chatting over coffee. She joined them and poured a cup of strong black coffee for herself. They made small talk for a little bit while they drank their coffee. They got up and left the dining room to sit outside on the patio.

“Natasha, once again we are sorry for the unfortunate kidnapping of you the other night. It was totally unplanned.” Gus said.

“That is alright Mr. Wagner. I have forgotten all about it. It was an opportunity for me to get some time away on my own. I thought about a lot while I was waiting for the rescue.”

“That was a good thing for you then. We are kind of curious about your relationship with Damon. How is that going?”

“Damon and I have started dating and getting closer. He is a fine young man and I am slowly falling in love with him. We are dating but it is difficult with all the chaos around us. I imagine that when it all gets solved things will be better. We can wait.”

“Are curious why we sent Damon here?”

“I have wondered, but that is Damon’s personal affair and I have no right to meddle. I thought he would tell me when he is ready. I have not pushed him on it at all. I know that he and Natalia are friends.”

“We probably should not tell you, but Natalia and Damon were more than friends when they were at the Bard School. They were dating quite frequently for over a year. They spent a lot of time together on and off campus. We warned them about dating twice. You know the rules of the school. When the time came to put someone here to train with you, he was our first choice for obvious reasons. When he left to come here, she was very unhappy and spent a lot of time alone in her room for several weeks. Part of the reason he was sent here was because of their relationship. Now that she is here, they may start over again.”

“I don’t believe that Damon will betray me and my feelings for him. He is a good young man and I am not worried about him and Natalia.”

“OK, it is your life and love.” With that Gus and Hans got up and walked off the patio toward the barn.

Once again Natasha thought about Damon and his devotion to her. Was it feigned or real, only time will tell?

The day was waning and everyone returned home. Eric and Erin spelled Stefan and Natalia watching the storefront. Nothing happened there all day. Maybe Eric and Erin could get inside and put up the interior cameras and sound equipment. Cal, Cricket, and Damon returned home weary from a day searching and maneuvering business matters. Dinner passed uneventfully and as things settled in for the night Damon and Natasha took a walk around the grounds.

Eric and Erin saw an opportunity to get inside the storefront and took it. They looked around and did not see anything special. There were pictures, maps and diagrams spread on the tables of the estate and the grounds. A few laptops were laying there which Erin opened and took the data off. While she did that, Eric mounted two cameras and three sound sensors with microphones. Just as they left, Emily and Leo drove up to the rear and parked. They were alone and entered the back door with more equipment. Eric and Erin sprinted across the street, up the stairs to the observation post, turned on the equipment and watched the two antagonists eat dinner and pour over the diagrams. Nothing was said but a lot of gestures passed between Leo and Emily. It appeared they were angry at something. If only they talked. They stayed for two hours and left back to their hotel.

Erin searched the markings and the jet at the airport and came up with a blind alley again. The jet belonged to a rental agency called Netjet, which rented jets and crews to people who were members of their organization. A member called Netjet requested a jet to pick them up in a particular city. Netjet found their closest jet and crew and dispatched it for the flight. It was a convenient way for executives and companies to have a jet at their disposal without having to own one. Erin tracked the reservation and found it booked by a company on Wall St. in New York City, an oil investment firm. This was the first solid clue as to who had the deep pockets, but not why they targeted Cricket.

This story is protected by International Copyright Law, by the author, all rights reserved. If found posted anywhere other than with this note attached, it has been posted without my permission.

Copyright © Copyright 2012, 2013 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 by Cal Erickson, aka frogprince

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