Chicago: Hamond Engraving Industries
Chicago’s Midway Airport gate twelve. Neither knows what the other looks like this time, but Emile is wearing his red and white Atlanta Falcons cap. Video cameras are hidden and prolific these days. Distraction by trying to avoid them is not an option. Full disguise at all times is standard operating procedure. Their exchange is short—cordial, businesslike. “Nice face-job,” Teddy says as they ride the moving walkway.
Not one word since they’d picked up the Chevrolet Yukon rental at the airport. “Are you going to tell me what the hell this is all about? I’ve earned that much.” Teddy is well-aware first-hand of Emile’s quiet, introspective nature, and his competence; this is his second mission as an apprentice under Emile’s tutelage, but he feels vulnerable and insecure.
Emile castes a quick diminutive look at his apprentice. “You’ve earned nothing yet. Just do what you’re told. I’m still in the dark myself on some of this… We just follow the yellow brick road. That’s the way TFC is—there.” He points. “It’s up on the left.”
“Hamond Industries? So what.” Teddy from Spokane is not used to being kept in the dark. He wanted to become a member so he’d be a part of the process, not its executioner. Emile revealing he doesn’t know the details is causing trepidation. Missions typically held elements of danger, but not knowing anything about ground level was stupid. Going along means trusting Emile, who is trusting TFC’s president, a man Teddy has never met.
He does trust Emile. The guy has brains and loves the whole planning-mystery thing. Teddy wonders what he does for a living… He has to be some kind of professor. Where’s he from? Wife? Kids?
“This is where we get our ID cards.” Emile pulls the Yukon into the Hamond parking lot, shuts it down and reaches into the back seat for his backpack.
Twenty minutes later, Emile exits the Hamond parking lot. Teddy says, “That went smoothly.”
“It was set up a long time ago.”
“No questions. I like that… How much did you have to pay?”
“It’s really none of your business, and I’m reaching an irritation level with you.”
“I just want to know what’s going on. This isn’t like the simple delivery we made last time.”
Teddy watches Emile turn his head. His face is neutral and calm, glasses distorting the bright blue eyes of a condescending professor’s gaze. The mustache makes him look older.
“Be patient. We’ll know soon enough. In the meantime there’s a golf match coming up to enjoy.”
“That’s nice to know—almost enlightening—and where are we going now?”
“To Tampa, Florida, home of the Buccaneers.”
Emile and Teddy arrive in Tampa via Chicago and Atlanta. The two young men, about the same height and medium build, garbed in non-descript college attire, traipse down the moving concourse sidewalk, backpacks slung over their shoulders. One is in his early twenties with a Buccaneers’ baseball cap turned backwards; the other, perhaps thirty, with a red Atlanta-Falcons hat turned the other way.
Emile holds up, swings his pack onto the hand rail, and pulls out a beat-up brown leather wallet. “Here, you may need these, complements of Hamond’s.”
Teddy thumbs through its contents. “Different guy this time. Cool…disabled veteran?” He removes a flesh-colored ID card with name, rank, organization, and an expiration date of indefinite.”Department of Defense Uniformed Services, Identification and Privilege Card. “Sweet!”