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HOME INVASION 8 AND FINALE!
Sunday night, KP and Duane sit in the Lincoln parked right where they can see the house at 7837 Woodland Drive. “Private, gated, “KP starts to take stock, “lots of land with trees, very quiet. And according to this assessor’s map, it also has a private pool in the back so the neighbor’s can’t see anything that goes on here. “
Duane nods in agreement. “Thinkin’ about buyin’ it when this guy gets spooked after his house gets trashed on Tuesday in broad daylight?”
“My thoughts exactly,” KP laughs. “It’ll sit on the market as stigmatized property anyway, so I’ll just make a backdoor deal with my realtor friend to buy it under one of my business ventures. I’ve been looking for a new house anyway. “
“I’ll tell you one thing “ Duane starts, “I am glad Tuesday is the last day we’re working with those New York guys, they are way too uptight and nervous for me. I can see why they get caught so easy out there and die early of heart attacks. That Mike guy is just too high strung for California.”
“Well, if we want to make a name for ourselves, we have to have an East coast connection, so just play it cool with them for one more operation,” KP says in an even voice, “and hope next time Verrano sends some competent guys when he trusts us.”
“Look, there’s the owner.” Duane and KP both pull out binoculars to look at the form moving behind what looks like the formal dining room curtains. KP looks back down at the floor plan of the house he got online from the county records. “He’s in the dining room, looks like he’s working on a laptop. So this weekend, the other guys have only seen him going in and out except for the maid today, and the lawn guy yesterday. “
“That’s right,” Duane replied, “Seems to be a loner, maybe recently divorced or some business executive. The maid also carried out his dry cleaning and took them to Harvey Lee’s on Sunset. The only person I can see us possibly running into is whoever cleans the pool; we haven’t seen one of those yet. Maybe tomorrow or not until later in the week.”
“Well, if we chain lock that gate behind us, we don’t have to worry about anyone getting in, just calling him. Is there a security alarm?” KP asked.
“Oddly enough, no.” Duane said.
KP stared at him. “That is odd. But it’s not like the man is normal on all other counts, after all he lives alone and has done no entertaining all weekend.”
Mike is up early Tuesday morning with a weird feeling in his stomach and strange dream fragments haunting him. He walks to the kitchen, barely lit with the first morning light. “Dis early risin’ is for da birds.” He mumbles to himself. Mike turns on the coffee maker and calls Johnny’s cell.
A groggy voice answers on the other end, “Why in the hell are you callin’ me dis early? An’ it betta be a damn good reasin!” Johnny says.
“I dunno about dis job Johnny.” Mike says, “I have dis feelin’…”
“Look,” Johnny is not happy, “I still have two hours da sleep an’ your feelin’s aren’t gonna ruin dat for me. We have ONE more job ta do. Ya hear dat Mikey, ONE! An’ den we’re on da way home wit a truck full of goodies for Mick. An’ maybe, just maybe we can get outta this racket all t’getha. Jus’ hold y’self t’getha anotha 24 hours, okay?” Johnny tried to reassure him.
Silence on the other end of the phone. Mike was just so confused, tired and ready to go home now.
“Look, Candyass – if I hafta come ova there…” Johnny started.
Mike cut him off, “No, I’m fine. I know. Jus’ one more. See ya at eight.” Mike hangs up quickly.
I woke up this morning in the bedroom of a house rented by the LAPD in Beverly Hills across the street from the “target house”, 7837 Woodland Drive. Erik told me they only rent these on monthly lease, furnished, for operations like this one. I can only imagine the budget for something like this, but I’m sure they’ve taken down whole networks of criminal activity this way.
From all of these windows of the upper floor of this house, we have a clear view of the front of the target house and most of the east side. The SWAT team members were up before first light to take positions in the wood around the house and inside. This weekend, cameras and microphones were hidden all over the house and yard. Surveillance teams are based in this house and in some vehicles parked on the street. The suspects have been seen casing the target house all weekend.
I put on some clothes and head down to the kitchen/command center for the operation. Coffee is brewing, donuts are waiting but obviously picked through, and Chief Newsome is briefing his men in the dining room. I join Chief Williams, Detective Morales, Detective Scarborough and others on the team in the family room.
Ret. Chief Nightingale left the target house at six this morning as planned. He’d been posing as “Marilyn” and “Maria”’s neighbor “Mr. Bocan” all weekend. We made arrangements to get him through the TSA security checkpoint in case anyone was following, but he came right back out at another end of the airport in his own clothes and drove home.
“We’re expecting the targets at 0830, plus or minus some time on either side since they won’t be in any hurry. “ Chief Williams began, “The moving van should arrive with personal cars and Raging Demons will probably secure the gate. We’re hoping that they usually bring the whole gang with them to their thieving events so that there are no loose ends to chase later. After we have enough evidence to connect them with the other crimes like the graffiti, signs of partying, some goods loaded into the van, etc. we will move in. This should give us ample time to assess the size of the group, each member’s location on the property, and how well they are armed. SWAT will do the initial assault; while they are distracted and being taken into custody, we’re moving in with a cement truck to crash the gate, block vehicles from moving out and provide assistance with any runners; and Chief Newsome’s team is going in the rear entrance to the property which I’m sure they don’t know about since we had it constructed last week. Hopefully, all will go as planned and we can leave here today and gather up more evidence to get these guys put away for a long time. Any questions?”
We all look at each other and it seemed to be all understood. We had this all mapped out before. Down to which section we would take when we got out of the vehicle to what kind of weapon we wanted to carry. Chief Williams ends with, “Be safe guys, nobody gets hurt today, alright?”
I walked away with Erik, to the deck facing East. “Gotta love that California sunshine!” he says cheerfully.
Yes, it’s going to be a good day for us.
KP arrives first in the Lincoln driven by Duane; two other younger members drive with them. Duane gave them the run-down on the way. “Party AFTER the work is done. Take valuables only, things easy to get rid of – Don’t waste time with aged furniture unless it’s antique; always take gold and silver, electronics- grab it all. Don’t be afraid to look in hiding places. We have tools, things can be removed like in-wall safes, and we can worry about opening them later. If there are any further questions, talk to one of the older guys.”
The younger guys just bob their heads in agreement waiting to get out so they could drink their coffee and scarf down their breakfast burritos; there was no eating or drinking in KP’s car. Duane made that clear when he saw them waiting for him that morning in front of the 7-11. As soon as they were parked in the driveway, they were out and sitting by the side of the house waiting for the others to arrive.
KP and Duane park on the far side of the circular driveway as the moving van backs in through the gate and up the steep hill; KP didn’t like being blocked in by any vehicles so he could leave anytime he wanted. The truck had already been repainted to display a furniture refinishing company with a beautiful logo. “That body shop had employed the best airbrush artist in L.A.”, KP thought to himself.
“That guy does some good work,” Duane said, obviously thinking along the same lines as KP, “I’ll go round up the boys.” Cars arrive and park in a back parking lot near the pool. The property really couldn’t get more secluded.
KP is glad to have Duane. “He’s a good right hand man” he thinks to himself, “I really don’t have to get my hands dirty at all, except when there’s something that goes wrong. The guys still need to know who’s making the decisions and who’s in charge. Luckily, Duane lets them know its me who is really running this show too. I only have to show my face a few times in this house today to enforce the discipline and watch the inventory. Never trust crooks.”
KP gets out of the car once he sees that Duane has the crowd assembled and ready to go. As he approaches, Duane steps a little to the right to allow him space to address the men. “Good Morning Gentlemen.” KP says in his deep voice, “Is the house open?”
A mousy guy that KP assumes is the computer tech and locksmith and all-around McGyver type in disguise steps forward, “I’ve opened all the outside locks and disabled an internal alarm system. We’re good to go.”
KP responds, “Excellent, Gentlemen, let’s get this truck loaded, no junk – we’ve got time. Party afterwards…on us. “ The group howls and runs off into the house like they’ve just been pumped full of caffeine and cocaine at once. They know what the party afterwards is like. One guy is not running as fast as the rest.
KP yells, “Pokey, front and center!” Mike’s heart drops to his feet as he turns and runs back to KP. “What’s the problem with you?”
“I…uh…nothin’ Sir.” Mike responds. “I jus’ didn’t sleep well las’ nyte.”
KP immediately recognizes the accent and knows he has to deal with this one carefully. “You’re one of the East Coast boys. You go back home after this job, I’d be happy if I were you, this is an easy one. Why don’t you take the dining room and Duane here will help you get some boxes together. I don’t need you freakin’ out on me…that’s a liability. You understand?”
“Yes Sir, One more job, I get it. “ and he turned back and jogged to the house.
KP turned to Duane, “Watch that one. “
As KP turns to go back to the Lincoln to start on some of the paperwork, he casually scans the parking lot of the boys cars. One of them was moving. Maybe it was just his eyes in the sunlight. No, its moving. He turns to walk toward the cars. It’s the Toyota Camry with the New York plates. Shit. Nothing inside the car, must be the trunk. KP pages Duane on the radio. “We’ve got a problem – I need you back here, alone. Tell the boys to start piling things up to move in the foyer, I want them all inside. And tell them to stay clear of the windows – we have surveillance. But to keep working…”
The crackle of a radio is heard. “Got it boss, be right there.”
We notice the arrival of all of the gang to the house and calmly watch as they almost militarily follow the orders of one leader. The cameras are taking pictures of all of the members and running them now against the FBI profiles of all known criminals in the database back in Washington. We don’t expect the results to be back before tomorrow but it will be helpful in keeping them if we can’t identify them after arrest.
SWAT members are texting movements of the gang inside the house and we are watching the cameras all over the property. They began ripping artwork off the walls, disconnecting electronics, piling everything in the foyer but for some reason, have not carried anything off the premises into the moving van. One man is working on removing the wall safe in the master bedroom and two others are going through files in the office. The operation is stalled until they’ve moved the stolen property and have begun their signature partying inside the house.
Duane sees KP in the parking lot. This can’t be good. KP’s face does not have a look of someone who is happy with the way things are going. KP stands facing the back of one of those cars belonging to the East Coast boys. The car is shaking.
“KP, don’t tell me what I think you are going to tell me.” Duane preempts his statement.
“Looks like one of the East Coast boys thought he needed ‘collateral’. Let them out of there, whoever he got.” KP is irritated, really irritated. This was not in the plan; the last time they brought an outsider on sight they had to kill her. And she was working for him. Not even really an outsider.
Duane pops the trunk and there was a female inside, hands bound with duct tape, feet bound and a gag over her mouth. She was trying to scream. “Stop crying, Girl. We have you. Nobody is going to hurt you. “ Duane says in his softest voice as he lifts her out of the trunk.
Duane cuts the duct tape from her feet. Luckily it comes off easily. “Now I’m going to remove your gag, but please don’t scream, it will draw attention. I just want to know who you are, okay?” As he brushes the hair gently from her face, he recognizes her eyes, and says aloud, “Oh shit. I’ll kill him.”
KP inhales and exhales in a huff. “If you tell me Mike…”
“I’ll f’in kill him, Gwyneth. “ He takes off the gag, Gwyneth just cries.
“I was not supposed to be here.” She sobs. “I was not supposed to be here. I stopped at my apartment early this morning to grab some things and I was leaving again right away…and he was in the back of my car that fast. “
“You’re here now, honey. But we’ll keep you safe. Duane put her in the Lincoln, but use the leather cuffs, I need precautions, no more surprises today. It’s not that I don’t trust you, doll … but I have a lot riding on this. You will be home safe in a few hours. The Lincoln is comfortable, -give her a blanket Duane- and its bulletproof. Stay with her for a bit, I’ll check on the guys.”
SWAT radios into headquarters across the street as we’re all waiting to hear word about when we should move. The gates have been locked and the gang has been moving around all over the house for an hour. They seem to be staging and working on removing big appliances and wall safes. We see them remove a hostage from one of the cars and place her in the Lincoln. The Gang leader has gone inside the house.
SWAT Commander outside the pool area says he has been in touch with all of his men and the gang members are scattered all over the house. They are going to start taking them out one by one as quietly as they can but as soon as something is discovered or suspected, there is going to be a race to see what happens, we should take our positions to move into the property when this happens. Have cement truck ready to roll into position on his order or in fifteen minutes if he doesn’t hear from him.
We all move out. Erik and I and a few of Chief Newsome’s team are stationed at the back gate with a radio and earpieces.
KP walks into the house and a couple of the guys are just sitting on furniture in the living room. “Is this all that is valuable in the house? Has all the jewelry, office, gun cabinet, game room, entertainment centers, kitchen, the whole damn house been scoured already?”
“No, sir. Jose is working on the safe. Ty and Randy are working on the jewelry…” some unknown voice said.
“Don’t tell me what they’re doing! You all get going…we don’t have a week you know. I want this shit loaded into the truck now. I’ll run through this house myself, but you guys get back here quick because I expect some more profit that just that little pile. Am I working with a bunch of little girls?”
“No sir!” And finally, things started moving again.
KP almost runs into Mike and Johnny having a conversation in the kitchen, “Boys, you discussing what to take back with you? Because this house is loaded with art and appliances that would catch some fine coin – please help the guys get it all loaded. You know better than them the worth of all this junk. Or did I come at a bad time? Do we have any problems?”
“No KP, we were just about to run through some upstairs rooms and start lining the hallways.” Johnny answered.
“That sounds like an excellent idea. “ KP smiled and turned to Mike, “You feeling okay, man. You are not looking so good. I’m sure Mr. Bocana has some fine food and drink here if you are hungry or thirsty man – maybe even a coke to give you some caffeine after that bad night you had last night.”
“I’m fine, thanks. Just anxious to get on the road and back home.” Mike says.
KP wanders upstairs and to find Jose in the Master Bedroom drilling away at the safe in the Closet. “Think she’ll come out okay?”
Jose turned off the drill and chisels away at brick and stone, “May take a while, but she’s gotta give, they all wear down if you work them long and hard enough. Main alarm is disabled, seems to have taken care of this too. I haven’t seen a secondary.”
KP runs into another team member thinking he should really take time to learn these guys’ names before each op - but it only matters when they do outstanding work or really screw up anyway.
Unknown guy says, “Hey Sir! Nice to meet you! I’m Rod. I just found a goldmine. Seems this man collects museum art, the kind that are museum replicas. Not millions of dollars, but they go for thousands on eBay or Amazon. And they aren’t numbered or traced since they are replicas.”
“Nice find! Move them to the hallway and the other guys will cart them to the van. Nice to meet ya Rod. “ Maybe I don’t need to learn the names after all. With all the movement he hears going on in the house on both floors, KP is convinced the clearing out is running like a finely tuned machine now. Like he told Duane a few days ago, sometimes the boss has to show his face in the workspaces just to improve morale. Time to deal with the other issue he had and take inventory with Duane before things got ahead of him.
Jose likes knowing the technical end of things. He likes dealing with the computers, alarms, safes, codes. Much better this than one of those grunt jobs of hauling things out to the van and back. He could take his time or make this project last all day. This safe would probably take a few hours to get out though; it was in there nice and tight. He thought he saw movement from the corner of his eye. Probably one of the guys looking for valuables in the room, he’d have more drilling to do anyway.
The sound of the drill whirs in his ears and his thoughts are far off, so he never sees or hears the man in black droop down behind him. He knows nothing until he felt the cold steel of a barrel in the back of his neck. He instantly stops drilling and hears a low voice from is other side that says, “put the drill down slowly, we have you surrounded.” Jose puts the drill down slowly, and another voice on his other side says, “don’t make a sound and we’ll let you live, now stand up.”
Jose stands up thinking a million thoughts a minute when he is gagged, his hands are cuffed in nylon strips and so are his feet. There are three men in black suits with AK-47s who pick him up, put him in the closet and close the door gently. They took his gun and tools long before he knew what was going on, and this closet was empty. What kind of man lives in a master bedroom and has an empty closet? It just dawned on him. This was a set up. They were being taken down. And he had no way to warn the others.
Ron sifts through all the artwork in the storage room. He wonders how he would be able to give most of the good stuff to the gang and keep some of the cheap replicas for his house. These pieces are just the kind of artwork he was looking for to decorate his new apartment but on what he was making, he’d be saving a few years before he’d be able to buy one or two pieces for himself. Ron wonders if he asked KP and told him of the street value if he would let him keep it. Compared to the other pieces, they were junk.
Ron takes all of the expensive items into the hallway for the other guys to take downstairs for loading into the moving van. Then he steals a few private moments to pick out some pieces for himself. He locks the door and marks out a space on the floor just the size of his living room. The red velvet couches, the marble chess set, the small replica of David, a Roman style Venetian lamp, a few ferns, an Aphrodite bust, a simple medium sized fountain; it all flows together so beautifully. And a final touch, a glass top table and a bearskin rug. Ron sits to relax in his new living room dreaming for a bit , putting his hands over his head and closing his eyes. Unbeknownst to him, his weapon also disappears, a strong fist grabs his hands and he has nylon cuffs on before he realizes what’s happened. He opens his eyes to a double barrel shotgun and a firm voice saying, “it would be wise to keep your mouth shut.”
Ron says, “Guys, I was only playing, I swear, I was going to load the stuff.”
The voice responds, “You don’t understand, you are under arrest. Make no move to resist and don’t make a sound or we will respond with deadly force for endangering a law enforcement operation.”
Ron understands now and simply says, “Oh shit.”
Again, like Jose, they gag him, tie his ankles like his wrists and leave him there on the couch, out of the view of the front door. Leaving it locked, entering the way they came, through the secret passages built in this house through the walls.
The SWAT team moves through the upper floor of the house and puts four in custody, hiding the gagged and bound gang members before radioing in an “all clear” for the second floor. They move back into position, keeping contact, each of the four guarding one of the men while they await further orders from the Commander.
Outside, KP has rejoined Duane and Gwyneth in the car. “So what now?” Duane asks nervously. “I promised her that if she helped with finding this one job, if she kept her mouth shut, she could go about her business. She was leaving town when that a-hole Mike grabbed her this morning. She wasn’t supposed to be part of this.”
KP looks at him slyly, and asks, “What’s so special about her Duane? Why do you care?”
“KP she has a real gift. And she’s a good woman. She was a friend of my mother. I asked her to come out because I was in trouble. She only came as a favor to me, knowing full well that I was in trouble with the law. She’s a good woman, she doesn’t deserve all this.”
KP gave him a hard look, “OK, family is family. I’m sorry Ma’am. We’ll keep you safe and drive you to the airport after this, ourselves. Promise.” Just then a cloud rolled across the sky and blocked the sun for a moment. “Duane you want to supervise that first floor, I just talked to the guys, and checked in on the guys upstairs – it’s the guys downstairs who need direction. They’ve putting all the stuff to be moved out in the halls.”
Duane felt better now. “Gotcha Boss. You’re in good hands Gwyneth. I’ll be back soon. KP’s got inventory to do here.”
For the first time Gwyneth spoke up. “I’m just happy to be out of that trunk, I’m okay now.”
The law enforcement teams on the grounds got the okay to move into position. The top part of the house was secured and the ground floor is busy with loading the vehicle. “In a two story 64,000 square foot house that still leaves a lot of play space.” Erik says quietly to Erin. They move in slowly, approaching the rear of the house, using the many trees in the back yard for cover. When they reach the pool area, they find the pool house with no one inside and wait there. The pool is immaculate with a waterfall in the middle, excellent to cover any sounds they might make.
Other teams are moving in closer to the front edge of the forest in full view of the door and the loading activity. Some officers are on the far side of the house careful to avoid being seen through any of the windows. The airbrush artist must have been among the guys; he has already started his work on the walls with the gang symbols while the pile in the living room dwindles down to nothing.
Duane yells to Johnny, “Was all the things from the hall already brought down?”
“Yeah,” Johnny yells back. “But I ain’t seen Jose in a whi’l. He clowsed the bedrum door. I didn’t hear no drilling and the safe ain’t here yet!”
Alarms go off in Duane’s head. Not like Jose to close himself off from the rest of them. He draws his .45 and runs upstairs. The door is shut and behind it there is no sound. He notices the two other closed doors in the hallway. Duane runs back downstairs and yells, “Get this shit in the van now! Unchain that gate and get it the hell out of here!”
Duane radios KP, “We got trouble.”
Duane looks down the driveway and notices the cement truck blocking the gate. “Shit!”
KP comes back, “What!”
“Get ready for an ambush. Cops. We’ve been set up.” No sooner than Duane finishes his sentence, he realizes that the cops have the house and truck surrounded guns at the ready.
“Drop your weapons, and there will be no bloodshed here today.” Chief Williams started.
The guys look to Duane, he gives the signal to lower the weapons. “Do what they say boys, we’re done.”
Mike is standing in the doorway. “Down on the Ground! Push your weapons away from you, hands on your head! Now!” one of the cops is yelling, they all comply when Duane does. Except Mike, he runs back into the house, full speed. “Hey!” “Runner!” he yells into the radio. They proceed to cuff the guys in front and take the weapons.
Erin and Erik ambush Mike in the kitchen. Erik grabs him and knocks him off balance sending him sliding across the floor while Erin catches the .38 in mid-air. Erik falls on top of him while Mike wrestles with some kind of strange adrenaline to get loose. Mike eventually throws Erik to the side, grabs a kitchen knife, and lunges at Erin. Erin wasn’t expecting that but instinctively she pulled out the .38 in her back holster and shot him in the stomach just as he was coming at her, and then jumped to the side. Mike’s body fell like dead weight on the floor.
Erin radios for an ambulance and says that the runner is down. Swat moves through the house to make sure all the gang members are accounted for.
Meanwhile, SWAT moves in on the white Lincoln and amazingly all was quiet inside. They crack the back window with a diamond saw blade/hammer they had – and it shattered quietly. Two people were sitting up front but neither of them moves. Capt Dixon shouts to them, no response. Within seconds the car was opened to a grisly scene. KP had evidently shot Lady Gwyneth in the heart point blank; it hadn’t taken long for her to die. He then shot himself in the head. Evidently he wasn’t the super gangster that he thought he was. He chose death over jail. The coward’s way out. And with the bulletproof car and glass, with a silencer, no one heard a thing.
Erin moved back into her home long enough to sell it. She couldn’t stay after all that happened. And after all the bloodshed in taking down the new wanna-be gang, she decided she really didn’t want to be back in the thick of things – her heart really had changed. The second her bullet left the gun and entered Mike’s stomach, she got that sinking feeling again. Mike did survive, and moved back to New York to serve time there with his brother. The rest of the gang was serving their time in TheTwin Towers in L.A.
Erik came by on the day she was leaving for Colorado, “I want to say thanks for helping us out and for going way beyond the call of duty. I really enjoyed being your partner for a while.”
“Thanks for giving me the opportunity. There was still some doubt there, if I had done the right thing by leaving the force. Now I know for sure, I’m following my heart now. If you are ever in Colorado, look me up”
- Short Story: Home Invasion
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