Art Adkins
Author & Leadership Instructor
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Mindwalkers- Chapter 21

Chapter 21

“What does he want me to research?  Give it to me again.  Mind Walkers?” asked Professor Johansen, writing down notes on a piece of paper.  “Did he give you any other information?  Yes, yes, other than that.” 

Angela Caruso stared at her boss and watched as he cradled the phone against his ear while writing.  It had to be Bubba on the other end of the phone.  After several minutes Professor Johansen nodded his head in agreement as if the caller could see him.

“I’ll call as soon as I get something.  This is not my field of expertise, but I’ll see what I can dig up.  By the way,” added the Professor, “be careful.  Two of you have been shot or do I need to remind you?”  Laughter punctuated the room as he hung up the phone.

“What now?  What are Mind Walkers?” asked Angela.  She had come with Professor Johansen from Michigan State University and had remained when the Professor had taken over the research department for Shirley at Waterbury Enterprises. 

“I don’t have a clue young lady.  But Slade called Bubba who called me and asked if we could dig up something on it.  Seems Slade believes it could have something to do with the ability to ‘see’ or have ‘visions.’  I’m not sure about all of this stuff.”

“How many people do you want working on it?” asked Angela, turning to her computer.

“We’ll need several.  In addition to research on Mind Walkers, Bubba was asking about a research facility on an island in the Pacific tied to a Brain Institute in Colorado Springs.  Thinks there may be a connection.  He’s going to bring over some information later today that a Professor…”  Professor Johansen glanced at his notes.  “A Professor Marse from Johns Hopkins University sent Slade.”

“Does this have anything to do with the man who was killed in St. Augustine that Slade went to meet?”

“Slade believes it does and that is why there is a sense of urgency.”

“Where’s Slade?” asked Angela.

“Fairbanks, Alaska.”  Professor Johansen stared off into space and Angela let him.  When he ‘returned’ he found most of his staff was staring at him.  “Slade went to meet a young man who is suffering from a severe case of autism.  Has the ability to fold pieces of paper in animal shapes within seconds…”

Angela cut the Professor off.  “You mean origami.”

“Yes….I believe that’s what Bubba said.  Said the young man was incredible and could create any animal you could name.”

“He’s an idiot savant.  The more accepted term today is autistic savant.  Idiot referred to a simpleton, while savant, a French word, means a learned one.  I took a class at Michigan State and was fascinated by the discoveries being made by scientists in trying to cure the affliction.” 

“I wonder what the connection is, if any, between autistic savants and Mind Walkers.”  Professor Johansen looked over at Angela.

“I don’t know, but I’m sure we’ll find it if it exists.  I’ll get a couple of the others to help and we’ll start tracking down information on the other stuff Bubba and Slade wanted as well.” 

Without another word, Angela turned to several members of the staff who had been listening and started to divide up the work.  They routinely conducted research for Slade when he was off on a case and they enjoyed working with him.  It seemed there was always a world of discovery right around the corner with Slade.

“You’re telling me you don’t know who tipped you off the other night on the dope arrest?” said Bubba, rolling his eyes toward the ceiling.

“Come on, Bubba, you know how this works.  This source has been good to us.  I’ve made five pops in the last month off his information.  I don’t want to burn him.”  The young Cedar Key police officer looked pleadingly at Bubba.

Bubba, June and Dustin Zane were in the small Cedar Key Police Station behind the Friends of the Library main building.  It was a small structure, but there were only six full time officers on the force.  The young officer trying to avoid answering Bubba was seated behind the only desk in the small office.

“What if he’s the man who sold out Shirley?  You went to school with her, Robbie.  How would that play on your conscious?”  Bubba had leaned forward, staring at the younger man.  “I know you’re cracking down on the smuggling.  Had the same problem when I was Chief here.  They’ve been trying to stop it for years.  What, with all the out islands and oyster bars.  It’s virtually a gift for dope runners.  But I need the name.”

Robbie shifted uncomfortably in his chair and stared out the window.  Finally, he met the stern gaze of the older man.

“I don’t see how a source giving me information on a dope case can be tied to an assassination attempt on Shirley.  It doesn’t make sense, Bubba.  Come on.  You’ve been down this road.  Dopers stick to their own kind.  It just doesn’t add up.”

“You’re right, it doesn’t.  But I have a question to ask you and I want you to think about it long and hard.  Not much goes on here in Cedar Key.  Maybe a lost dog or a theft of something from a tourist’s car.  Very few break-ins.  The real problem here is the drugs.”  Bubba paused before continuing.  “But I want you to think back.  Whenever you did have a theft or a break-in and needed information, was the person supplying the information the same person telling you about the dope smugglers?  Has anyone else been supplying information?  Come on, Robbie, use some common sense.  Cedar Key is a small island community of artists and now home to Waterbury Enterprises.  Nothing happens here.  If you’re the broker of information, no matter what type of information, you can sell it to whomever.  You have a monopoly on it.  You look good to the bad guys and the good guys.  Play the middle and make a few coins.  Let me guess, you gave this guy some source money for the information didn’t you?”

They all waited until they saw Robbie’s head nod that he had.  Bubba resumed.

“Nice little set-up.  By the way, since you’ve had time to think about it, has anyone else supplied you with information?”

“Now that I think about it, he’s been the only one.”  Robbie paused and then his eyes clouded over in anger. “If he’s been playing me for a fool, I’ll tie an anchor around his neck and drop him in a deep hole.”

“Don’t do that.  Don’t even let him know that you’re upset.  Make him think you knew all along and have been playing him.”

“How?”

“We’ll help.  Sometimes a trap needs to be sprung when the person thinks they’re springing the trap.  We have a proposition,” said Dustin Zane. 

“What is it?” asked Robbie.

“Has your source contacted you with anymore information?” asked Bubba.

“Yeah.  He called me this morning.  Told me about some guys that are supposed to be running in some marijuana on air boats tonight around Snake Key.  They’re gonna bring it in on the north side, over by the flats,” said Robbie.  “Why?”

“Because while you’re tracking down the dope boys, we’ll be checking out his place.”  Bubba laughed and slapped Robbie on the back.

“Now, who is this hombre,” said June, speaking for the first time.

“Reggie Wayne.  Local guy.  Lives out on the edge of town by Rosewood, back near the edge of the marsh.”

“I know him.  No good type.  Always near trouble, but never really in it.”  Bubba looked around the office.  “You got a picture on him?”

“Yeah.  Hold on.”  Robbie rummaged around in his desk for several minutes before pulling a three by five picture out of the bottom drawer.  It was a picture of Reggie in a jail uniform.  “Here you go.”  Robbie handed the picture to Bubba who passed it along.

“Thanks.  Call me when you leave to make the bust.  Reggie doesn’t go with you does he?” asked Dustin Zane.

“No.  Just law enforcement.  I have a couple of buddies from DEA helping me tonight.”

“Thanks.  Don’t forget to call us.”  Bubba pointed at the young man as he left.

The call had come early in the evening.  Robbie and the DEA agents had left to intercept a load of dope.  Bubba and company had proceeded to Reggie’s home, parking a significant distance away and approaching on foot.  Bubba was still limping and the going was slow, as they forced their way through palmettos and other natural vegetation.

“Is this stuff always this thick,” asked June, mopping at the sweat running down his face.  A steady buzz of mosquitoes was swarming around his head despite the bug repellant he had employed quite lavishly.

“Things grow well around here,” replied Bubba, using a walking stick to aid his progress.

Trailing Bubba and June were Dustin Zane and five Florida Department of Law Enforcement agents.  Bubba had called them after meeting with Robbie.  Hopefully he was right and this was not a wild goose chase.

Breaking free of the dense foliage, they cautiously approached Reggie’s house.  It was like most homes where the occupant made their living from fishing and hunting.  The home was a four room cracker style building, with a porch that encircled it.  The porch was not only functional as a place to sit during the heat of the day, but it caught the rays of the sun keeping the interior considerably cooler.

There was an odd assortment of boats in the front and back yards.  Only two of them looked like they would work or float.  The others had been cannibalized and used for spare parts.  An old truck was parked by the front porch.

“That’s Reggie’s truck.  Means he’s probably home,” said Bubba.

“What’re we waiting for?” asked June.

“He probably has some dogs runnin’ around and I don’t want to alert them if I can help it.”  Bubba craned his neck to stare off on either side of the house.  Luckily it was almost a full moon and he had far more light than he had hoped for.

“I hear some sounds near the rear of the house,” said Dustin Zane.

“Me too.  Let’s move and see if we can catch a glimpse of what’s going on.”  Without another word, Bubba started off down the side of the yard, being careful to stay in the shadows.  Three of the FDLE agents had moved to the opposite side of the house and were proceeding on a parallel course.  With tiny ear pieces they were able to stay in communication, by doing nothing more than whisper instructions.

Peering around the corner, they saw a woman and two young children sitting on some fold out chairs staring off at the water.   A small canal ran behind the house and it was obvious many a boat had been launched at the site, as the ground was worn smooth by airboats running up and down the earthen ramp.  Several trucks, newer than Reggie’s, were parked behind the house.  All of the trucks had campers on them.

Bubba squatted down on the ground and the others did the same.  It was a matter of waiting until Reggie and company returned.

“Do you have your other agents in place?” asked Bubba, looking over at one of the FDLE agents near him. 

“Yes.  They are about half a mile from here.  I just sent them the GPS coordinates and they are ready to move,” whispered the agent.

“Good.  Now all we have to do is be patient.”

The night crept along at a snail’s pace.  Only the sounds of the marsh came to them.  Frogs calling to each other.  A gator bellowing and the nocturnal cry of owls. 

The woman and children had put on a country music station and were listening to it, occasionally singing along to the songs they knew.  The woman was sipping from a beer can and sent the boy over to the cooler to fetch another one.  Popping the top, she joined them in singing.

The airboats could be heard in the distance, their huge engines drowning out the sounds of the night.  As they drew closer, the whine of the propellers became deafening.  Bubba and the others strained their eyes, peering into the night to catch a glimpse of them.  When they did come into sight, it was sudden, bursting upon the scene. 

The woman and children had moved back toward the house and when the first airboat arrived, it shot up the ramp and glided across the grass where they had been sitting.  Shutting down the throttle, the engine died and the propeller started to cease turning.  The first boat was quickly followed by three more.  When the last craft glided into the backyard, there was little space left.

On top of each of the boats was a rectangular object covered in tarp.  The entire front portion of craft was occupied by the package.  Bubba recognized Reggie as he stepped up next to the driver of the first boat.

“Good haul tonight.  I told you I could throw them off our trail.  They’re out chasin’ the little fish.”  Reggie threw his head back in laughter and what few teeth he had remaining glistened in the light. 

Secure in the knowledge they were alone, Reggie’s wife had turned on the porch lights and the men quickly uncovered the packages on each airboat.  Neatly wrapped in heavy plastic were bales of marijuana.  Each bundle weighed about a hundred pounds and each boat had at least four bales on it. 

Doing a quick head count, Bubba totaled eight men, plus the women and children.  Moving his hand, he motioned for everyone to get ready.  Rising from shadows, Bubba stepped forward and approached the men, his gun drawn and pointed.  The agents on the other side of the house moved in unison with them.

“Everybody freeze!  You boys are under arrest!”  Bubba had yelled as he hobbled forward.

The FDLE agents quickly fanned out, tightening the noose to snare all of the suspects.  For the briefest of moments there was total surprise on the face of the dope runners, then self preservation took over.  The man nearest June reached for a handgun tucked into his waistband.  As he drew the weapon, June shot him with a shotgun he was carrying, hurling the man against the side of the truck.

The gunfire ignited action on the part of the smugglers.  With the amount of dope on board the airboats, they each knew the chance of not doing some serious jail time was remote.  Most of them had been arrested before and the best case scenario was twenty to thirty years in state prison.  It was not where they wanted to go and they turned to fight.

The strategy by the FDLE agents and Bubba, June and Dustin Zane worked to perfection.  Catching the armed smugglers in a cross fire, three were killed instantly.  The others huddled near the rear of two of the airboats and put up a gallant fight.  Surprisingly they had quite a bit of ammunition and they continued to shoot. 

Reggie ran for the back porch of the house the minute the shooting started, the coward in him rising to the surface and dictating his actions.  It was Dustin Zane who sprinted for the front of the house and intercepted the informant as he came out of the shack.

While inside, Reggie had armed himself and he squeezed a shot off at Dustin Zane, narrowly missing his head.  Three rounds from the Colt 45 sent Reggie retreating back inside the front door.  Not bothering to wait, Dustin Zane advanced on Reggie, angry that he did not have full strength back in his left shoulder and arm. 

Stepping to the side of the front door, Dustin Zane leaned forward and delivered a back kick to the door.  The wood splintered and caved inward.  Reggie immediately fired several rounds at the door, punching holes through it.  As much as he wanted to, Dustin Zane did not blindly fire into the residence for fear of striking Reggie and killing him.  They needed him alive, not dead.

The shooting at the rear of the house had subsided.  The stand-off ended when two of the men tried to commandeer an airboat for escape.  One was killed at the controls and the other severely wounded.  The remaining two men surrendered. 

“Dustin Zane! Where are you?” yelled Bubba, motioning for everyone to remain behind cover.

“At the front door.  About to catch a rat.  You wanna’ help?”

“Absolutely.”  Bubba waited until the two dope smugglers who were still alive had been handcuffed and moved out of the line of fire.  Motioning toward Reggie’s wife and children who had hidden behind a pickup truck, he moved them to the custody of one of the FDLE agents. “Reggie, I’m coming in to get you!  I can either kill ya’ or you can give up.  What’s it gonna be?”

“Is that you Singletee?”

“It is.  Choice is yours.  Make it quick.”  Bubba had repositioned himself near the rear door, but not on the back porch.

“I ain’t gonna go to jail.  You’ll have to kill me.”  Reggie was inside his kitchen staring at the back door.  His eyes were wide with fear and he clutched his old shotgun with both hands, the white of his knuckles shining in the night.

“Then I’ll kill ya.  Don’t make no difference to me.  I got somethin’ to settle with you anyway.  An old debt.”  Bubba gestured to June.  “Keep them high, but give me plenty of rounds.  Remember, he’s tall.”  Bubba reminded June before the shooting began.

June moved so he could see the kitchen window and rear door.  Raising his shotgun, he started to fire at the top of the roof line, blowing off pieces of wood that rained down on the deck.  The other agents did the same.  Reggie could be heard screaming inside.

Dustin Zane slipped quietly inside the tiny house.  Moving to the kitchen door, he peered inside and saw Reggie curled into a fetal position with the shotgun clutched in his hands.  Stepping up by the informant, Dustin Zane placed the muzzle by his ear and cocked the trigger.

“Breathe the wrong way and I’ll blow your brains all over the floor.”

Already scared out of his wits, Reggie froze and Dustin Zane ripped the shotgun from his grasp, biting his lip as pain soared through his left shoulder.  Not good for the stitches.  Holstering his weapon, Dustin Zane used his right arm, pulled Reggie to his feet and moved to the back door.  The shooting outside had ceased.

“Package coming to you, Bubba.”

Dustin Zane hurled Reggie through the rear door and across the porch.  Rolling down the steps, the dope dealer opened his eyes to see flashlights and the menacing barrels of several guns pointed at his head.

Hello, Reggie.  Thought I’d drop by and holler’ at ya.”  Bubba grinned as handcuffs were slapped over the informant’s wrists.

When Reggie had been moved over to the side and searched, Bubba turned to the lead agent.

“Where are you taking them?”

“Cedar Key Police Station for now.  We need a place to interview them and I know you want to talk to them.”  The agent looked at the marijuana and marveled at the amount.  It was the most that had been seized in a while.  “How did you figure it out?” asked the agent.

“Simple.  I went back and read the police reports where Reggie had tipped off law enforcement about dope being smuggled in.  Each time it was a small amount, enough to interest the authorities, but not substantial.  More importantly, the suspects in each case were outsiders, competition.  To keep his little operation in place he needed to remove outside intervention.  What better way to do it than to have the police do it for you?” 

“Clever.  I hope he has the information you want.”

“He has it.  I just got to get it out of him.”

They all turned and looked at the man who they hoped held the information they needed.  It would be a long night of interrogation.

Read Chapter Twenty-two