They would all be paranoid before the case ended.

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A VG Serial: Dark Continent Continental

Chapter 17

Branford Cooper glanced at his travel alarm.  Angus and Skeeter should be arriving in Dallas within the next half hour or so.  He straightened up the spread on the bed and picked up the phone.  He called room service and ordered a pot of hot coffee, cups, and an assortment of fancy hors d’ oeuvres

to be delivered at the approximate arrival time.

*     *     *

     “So, we’ll go sometime tomorrow and get our gear off the plane.” Brad announced to his captive audience.  “Now I am going to explain how we usually do this.  There is a small collapsible tent, a canopy, that goes around whatever door we use to access the residence.  Since we are starting before daylight, no one will probably be able to see anyway, but we pull our vehicle up flush with the tent and slide through the seat.  Anyone watching will not be able to see exactly what we are wearing, or what we are taking in there.  There will be a barricade up around the property.  A couple of guys from the Dallas PD will be letting us in, but they won’t be sticking around.  They will come back to close it up—we have to call them.”

“Sorry if I am jumping the gun, but where is the guy’s mail?  Recent mail he has gotten?”  Skeeter asked.

“Good question, Skeeter.  It has all been bagged.  They took it to a lab in Dallas to study.  They are going over it with the proverbial fine-toothed comb.  If the method of delivery is the US Mail we could all be in big trouble.”

“What are you mainly going to be looking for, Brad?”  Angus asked.

“I am going to be looking for something that came into the house somehow.  I am going to be looking for things that look out of place.  I have got several mini-vacuums, for example, and I will be using those a lot.  These little specialty vacuums, very high tech, have a cartridge of bags.  I will vacuum a surface, then remove the bag and label the origin of the contents.  Then I will do that again—as many times as it takes to go over every surface.  I will put all of these bags in a larger bag, seal it and send it to be analyzed in a lab.  I will vacuum, cut out carpet, bag it, send it to be analyzed.  I will be photographing all areas—to see if anything looks staged or out of place—and to also see if it has anything in common with the other victims’ residences.  The kitchen will be of special interest—spice bottles and the like.  Also the medicine cabinet.  It is similar to any sweeps you have ever made yourself, but with more sophisticated equipment.  I will see if the second pass I am making agrees with the first pass.  If something was moved, why?  How are things arranged?”

“What about his vehicle, Brad?  Have you got to sweep that, too?”  Skeeter asked.

“Good guess, Skeeter, but no, they have impounded it and are going over it, and will again and again.”

“Brad?”

“Go ahead, Angus.”

“Skeeter and I are going to stay out of your way.  We will be eyeballing everything, going right behind you—after you have already worked the area.  We brought tons of camera equipment and we will be photographing every nook and cranny.  Then, when we get back to Austin, we will use every minute of our spare time to go over them and over them, to see if anything on the premises could be a method of delivery.”

“Great idea, Angus.  Just take your time.  Be methodical.  That is a luxury I don’t have.  I get called off, go collect evidence, then, send it to be analyzed by others at our own labs.”

Then Skeeter said, “And we all keep saying ‘method of delivery,’ but we still don’t even know what it is that is being delivered.  But from your tone of voice, Brad, it sounds like you think it is a purposeful thing and not an epidemic.”

“Yes, Skeeter.  Between me and you, that is what we are concluding.  It is intentional murder.  We don’t know how the victims are picked.  And…how many are secondary victims such as the cop and mortician in the Louisiana incident, from coming into contact of some kind with a primary victim?”

“Not to change the subject, Brad, but what were you working on before they sent you to Louisiana?”  Angus asked.

“I was working on the same thing—it two other cities.”

“Nah—really?”

“Yeah.  The FBI has been involved almost from the beginning.”

“Actually, that does make sense,” Angus responded.

“I was called in on the last four cases.”

*     *     *

          On the way to their own rooms Skeeter decided to ask Angus a loaded question.  “If Brad has been working on these cases, before they were taking so many precautions…do you think…?”

“Nah, that has crossed my mind too, Skeeter, but the FBI is careful about that stuff and Brad would have quarantined himself if he thought there were any question.”

“You’re right.  I am getting paranoid.”

“We are all gonna get somewhat paranoid before this whole thing is over, Skeeter.”

Chapters of Dark Continental by Sara Marie Hogg will be published on Saturday and Sunday.

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