Piccolo and Tillitson decided to take their Crime Sketch images of Puckett to Emma Rawley’s home rather than have her come to the office. It was becoming more difficult every day now to keep the investigation from the deputies.
Emma Rawley lived on quiet tree lined street in south Marbury. She invited them into her cluttered kitchen where she served hot tea even though the temperature outside was eighty degrees.
“Now you’ve got to realize my memory isn’t what it used to be,” she said looking over the top of her floral decorated tea cup.
“Well you gave us a pretty good description of that suspicious man at the town beach,” Piccolo said pleasantly. Tillitson opened his folder and took out the Crime Sketch photo he had created. The digital photograph of his floppy hat was superimposed onto the cropped photograph of Puckett. It looked like Puckett had been wearing it when the picture was taken. He handed it to Emma.
“Is this the man you saw at the town beach?” Piccolo asked.
“Well that’s something like him,” Emma said adjusting her bifocals on her nose. “Yes indeed. The hat isn’t exactly right. And the glasses…”
Tillitson showed her another print. This one had sunglasses with thicker rims.
“Does this look more like him? he asked.
“Oh yes,” Emma said enthusiastically. “It was the glasses. My late husband wore sunglasses like these.” She put the print down on the table. “What has this man done?” she asked obviously pleased in helping the sheriff’s department solve a case.
“Well we’re not sure yet, Mrs. Rawley, but you’re being very helpful. Are you sure though he’s the man you saw?”
“I’m most certain,” she replied sitting erect in her chair for the first time.
“Will you testify to that if called upon to do so?” Piccolo asked trying to keep the legalese out of his voice.
“In court?” She seemed pleased at the prospect.
“By all means.”
They spoke for a few more minutes, but Emma could have gone on for hours. She was enjoying this. Piccolo and Tillitson had to finally excuse themselves because of further work on the investigation.
“Do you think she’s a reliable witness?” Tillitson asked on the way back to the office.
“Yeah I do,” Piccolo replied. “That’s if we ever get our Mr. Puckett into a court of law. The government is going to do everything they can to make sure that doesn’t happen.”
“So how the hell do we get him?”
“I’m afraid it’s going to have to be a smoking gun, Roy. Unless we catch him in the act with that shark, the FBI is going to prevent him from being prosecuted.” Piccolo hesitated and then added, “plus we don’t know yet who Puckett has become or where he is.”
“Maybe those company reports from Wall street will tell us,” Tillitson said, “then we’ll be on an equal playing field with the Feds.”
“Let’s hope so Roy. Let’s hope so.”
The next day there were five FedEx boxes waiting for Piccolo and Tillitson when they got to the office. They immediately brought them into the “shark’s den” and closed the door. With the computer printout of an aged Tom Puckett between them, they began the search through fifty-five annual reports from government military contractors. It took them nearly three hours to find what they were looking for.
But there it was, on page three of Avionic Industries’ Annual Report.
Staring out at them was George T. Pasternak, founder and now director emeritus of the company. He was a dead ringer for the image Crime Artist had produced. A brief paragraph below his picture stated he had founded the company that was the sole producer of the Predator radio controlled aircraft currently used by the military.
Mr. Pasternak was the holder of twenty-two patents dating back to 1982 when he built the first radio controlled plane used by the U.S. military for reconnaissance purposes. Since then the plane’s capabilities had grown in leaps and bounds until Predators were used in actual attacks in Iraq and Afghanistan. Mr. Pasternak stated that, “radio controlled aircraft was the wave of the future in fighter aircraft. Avionic already had plans for radio controlled fighters with the capabilities of an F-111.”
“No wonder the government doesn’t want him prosecuted,” Piccolo said after reading the complete bio. “He’s an engineering genius.”
“Yeah. Those times when I used to think that maybe the shark wasn’t real, I’d always say that nobody could make one that perfect,” Tillitson said. “But this guy did it. And you can see how he was able to.”
The two men went through the rest of the annual report. Avionic currently had sales in excess of 1.8 billion dollars, this past year being their highest grossing. It was easy to see how Pasternak a.k.a. Tom Puckett, had been able to finance over fifty million dollars in real estate on Arrowhead Lake. The company’s figures didn’t indicate what percentage of shares was held by him, but it had to be considerable.
“He had to be the one behind the Swiss account,” Tillitson said. “Do you think they’ll admit it now?”
“I wouldn’t try to find out, “ Piccolo said closing the Avionic annual report.
“I don’t want the FBI to know that we’ve found out Tom Puckett’s real identity.”
“What do the Swiss have to do with the FBI?”
“Maybe nothing Roy. But I wouldn’t be surprised if they’ve made some arrangement with them to be alerted if we try to contact Union Suisse with a name. The FBI would want to know if we had gotten that close.” Remember,” he said sternly, “we’re going to have to keep what we know to ourselves if we hope to get to Pasternak before the Feds do.”
“Yeah I know, but we still have to find out where he lives,” Tillitson replied.
“I’ve always thought he was somewhere right on the lake. And based on the last place the shark was seen…Brookdale Town Beach…my bet is he lives in Arrowhead Shores. It’s right across Sunset Bay.”
“Well a good way to find out is right in the local phone book. I’ll go get it.”
Tillitson left the room and came back shortly with the phone book. There were a few Pasternaks listed, but no George.
“Unlisted number naturally,” Piccolo said. “Okay, we’ll say I’m right and he lives in Arrowhead Shores. Call Brookdale town hall.”
Tillitson called them, but the clerk required some form of identification in order to give out the information. Tillitson said he would send her a written request by fax on sheriff department letterhead. Later Tillitson received a fax back with the address on it. He handed it to Piccolo in the “shark’s den.”
“Eighty Two North Lakeshore Drive,” Piccolo said smiling. “One of the houses in the Shores with an antenna on the roof.” He shook his head still staring at the fax. “The sonofabitch lives less than two miles from me.”
Piccolo couldn’t stop himself from driving slowly past eighty-two North Lakeshore Drive on his way home. He had gone by the house many times while jogging through Arrowhead Shores, but had never looked at it carefully.
It was a ranch with a three car garage attached nearest the street. Like many houses in the Shores, the property sloped down to the water so a finished basement with a view was exposed in the rear. It sat on a point with an expansive view of the widest part of Arrowhead. Echo Bay and Arrowhead Isle were on one side, Brookdale town beach on the other. The Echo Bay side was the main route for boats traveling north and south on the lake. Piccolo realized that Pasternak could have seen any boat moving in those directions as well as on the largest body of water on Arrowhead. Five of the seven attacks had taken place within view of the house.
As he drove slowly by, he saw a large antenna partially hidden by a tall maple near the road. It was one of three ham radio antennas in the Shores noted by he and Tillitson on their sweep of the five lake communities. Now the antenna took on a new importance to him. He saw that it looked like all the others, except for a small dish transmitter three quarters of the way up.
He wanted to stop his SUV, get out and storm the house. He wanted to catch Pasternak red handed at the shark’s controls and arrest him. When the Feds found out he had him in custody, he wanted to tell them Pasternak was his prisoner and he would be brought to justice. He would pay for what he had done to his victims but most of all for what he had done to his son.
Those of course were base emotions sending adrenaline surging through him and couldn’t be acted upon. What needed to be done instead was for him to act professionally and go by the book. If he was to keep Pasternak his prisoner and away from the Feds, he would have to dot the I’s and cross the t’s. No slip ups.
And he truly believed that when he booked Pasternak he would have to catch him with a smoking gun. If he simply caught him with a control room in the house, Pasternak could claim he was only working on new technology for the Predator. The mechanical shark could be in another location, one he’d never find. He had to catch him actually controlling the thing on the water. How? He didn’t have the slightest idea yet.
Piccolo drove past the house and continued along North Lakeshore. At the intersection of Twilight Lane he turned onto Mountainview Drive on the way to his house two miles away. Mountainview was the highest hill in the Shores with homes mostly without garages. As a result, cars lined the street especially at this time of day when people arrived home from work. They were in spaces created by the owners to keep the cars off the pavement.
Halfway down the street he saw a white van parked among the cars. It looked like the ones used by CableCom Communications, the local cable company in the Marbury area. Piccolo slowed down. The antenna on top of the truck was revolving very slowly. He drove past the vehicle, seeing a man in the driver’s seat turn his head away from him. Piccolo turned his marked vehicle around and came up behind the van. The man was watching him through the side view mirror.
Piccolo did a standard rear approach keeping his right hand on his sidearm. When he got to the door the man inside lowered the driver side window.
“Good afternoon sir,” Piccolo said, “are you going to be here long?”
“No,” the man replied cautiously. “Is there a problem?”
Piccolo looked into the van. A clipboard was on the passenger’s seat along with an empty Burger King container and several empty Coke cans. The guy had been there awhile. There was a partition in back of the driver but Piccolo could see a little into the rear behind the passenger seat. The far wall was lined with electronic equipment.
“Well you’re parked in a public space here,” Piccolo said. “These people are coming home from work now. You’ll have to move.” He shifted slightly so the man could clearly seem the name tag on his shirt.
“Okay,” the man said. “I’ll have to turn off the antenna first.”
“What’s that for anyway?” Piccolo asked innocently. The man shifted slightly in his seat.
“It’s uh…it’s for monitoring cable reception. We want to make sure the proper signal is coming through."
“Oh,” Piccolo said looking up at the revolving antenna, “I thought cable came directly through the wires up on the poles into your house.”
“Yeah well it does, but we uh can check the signal from the pole with the disc antenna.”
“You don’t say.”
“It’s new technology. We’ve only been able to do it recently.”
“That’s interesting,” Piccolo said smiling. “I’ve seen some other trucks around the lake. I guess they’re doing the same thing, right?”
“Well try not to park on people’s property. I’m sure they want to get good reception but they need to park their cars.”
“No problem officer. I’ll be sure not to.”
Piccolo walked back to his car and noted the New York license plate number. When the van had pulled away he radiod his dispatcher.
“Base One this is car forty-seven.”
“Deputy Simmons, what can I do for you sheriff?”
“Run a plate check on New York DDR-4487 Bob.”
“New York DDR-4487. Stand by.”
The plate number had to be run through the state police’s database. It would take less then a minute.
“That number is registered as a U.S. government vehicle, sheriff.”
“That’s it? No address attached to it?”
“Okay Bob. Thanks.”
He suspected as much but it didn’t matter. Right now the Federal agent inside the van was probably contacting Washington. They’d know he was on to them. In fact…that he was one step ahead of them.
George Pasternak had chosen this spot very carefully.
It was in Arrowhead Knolls, a community twelve miles from his home in Arrowhead Shores on the opposite side of the lake. The house also had an antenna mounted on its garage, only this one was legitimately used for ham radio transmission and was the only one in the community.
An access path alongside the house led down to the lake where the community had a private beach in back of the property. The beach was closed because of the shark, but two young boys were there skipping stones into the water.
Pasternak, dressed in a Yankee tee shirt, shorts and sandals walked down the access path carrying his laptop, a beach chair and a small travel bag. He selected a spot where he could see across New Redding bay to Sail Harbor, another lake community. Settled in his beach chair, he took a set of high powered binoculars from the bag and trained them on Lakeview Point where he had seen one of the so called “cable vans” early this morning. It had been there all week and was of course, one of the government’s efforts to confuse Piccolo while they monitored his house in Arrowhead Shores for a signal.
This was going to be fun.
Who did the Feds think they were anyway? Did they think they were clever enough to outsmart him and prove that he was the one responsible for the shark? Never. They didn’t even have enough evidence to approach him indirectly while dealing with military customers Avionic dealt with every day. Nobody had said anything to him. Business was as usual.
He had laughed at the thought of their silly radio signal detection vans for what they were immediately. Now he knew they were in the area before they appeared near his home. He had built a new precaution into his remote signal sent to the shark. Before its electric engine was even started, a “silent signal” was sent out to see if it was being monitored. If it was, the signal would abort before the monitoring device even realized it.
He smiled at the thought of it.
He was actually working on the job for the government while he deceived them. The “silent signal” precaution had been developed for the shark, but much of its technology could be used in the Predator aircraft. The same held true for the laptop he now carried with him. Even though he could only minimally operate the shark with it, the possibility of ground troops guiding a Predator with small remote equipment was something to be worked on.
Pasternak got up from his chair. He passed by the boys on the way to the water.
“How you guys doin’?’ he asked.
“Okay,” one boy said picking up a stone.
“Watch out with those stones. I’m going in.”
“You can’t go in there,” he said pointing to a sign on the side of the lifeguard stand. “The beach is really closed. Don’t you know about the shark?”
“Oh yes the shark,” Pasternak said smiling. “He’s not going to bother an old fella’ like me.”
“I don’t think he much cares about young or old,” the other boy said. “Anyway you’re not allowed in the water.”
“Well I’ll just get my feet wet then. I don’t think he’ll come all the way in here to nibble off a few toes.”
“Guess not,” the first boy said whipping a stone out over the water. “But there’s a big fine if you get caught.”
“Well then maybe on second thought you’re right. I wouldn’t want to break the law you know.”
He stood looking at the water. Thirty years ago this place had been Fallon Pond. He had come here on his bike to swim with Freddy and Dave Fallon. Before the lake, the pond was only a three mile bike ride away. But that was a long time ago, before Dolan and Norton Utilities gobbled up all the land for the lake. Before Dolan and his cronies had killed his father.
Well now he controlled the lake that was over property taken from his family. He would say when it was time to go back in the water. These kids were warning him about the shark.
If only they knew…..He was the shark.
And it would terrorize them until he said otherwise.
He returned to his chair and picked up his binoculars. The “cable van” was still parked in Sail Harbor.
Now the fun part came.
He powered up the laptop. By just tapping a few keys he activated a predetermined signal on the sixty-one megahertz radio band that the van across the inlet was listening for. He sent the signal out to it, but the shark remained inside his boat house in Arrowhead Shores.
With the laptop running, he looked back into the binoculars. In just a few seconds he saw the driver get out of the van and open the rear door. He went inside. Pasternak smiled. And waited.
The agent inside the van had received a message from Washington earlier in the morning. It had notified him of Piccolo’s conversation with another agent in Arrowhead Shores yesterday. His superiors had ordered four of five other surveillance vehicles to stay out of the Shores. A permanent device that would monitor a signal sent from eighty-two North Lakeshore Drive would be set in the woods adjoining the house. Meanwhile all units were directed to other communities around the lake to serve as a continuing diversion for Piccolo and his agents. The orders didn’t affect him directly. He had been in Sail Harbor for two weeks serving as a diversion.
But now he was picking up a signal from across the water in Arrowhead Knolls. What the hell was going on? A week ago the shark had been sighted without a signal coming from eighty-two North Lakeshore and the agent covering it had been called on the carpet for missing it. Well he wasn’t going to miss this one.
Pasternak saw the agent get back behind the wheel of his vehicle and watched as it pulled out of Sail Harbor. It was a fifteen minute ride that would take him around the northern end of the lake to Arrowhead Knolls. The agent would lose the signal enroute, but would pick it up again about two miles away. By then Pasternak would be sending it from his SUV right in front of the house where it was now parked. Two or three minutes before the agent’s arrival he would stop sending it and leave. The agent would find the house Pasternak left to be the only one in the Knolls with a radio antenna and would assume the signal came from it.
Pasternak wished he could wait around and see the agent in his confusion, but it was time to get back to his vehicle. With the signal still emanating from his laptop, he left the beach.
Inside the SUV he watched the dashboard clock click down the minutes. At the two minute mark he turned off the signal from the laptop, then drove away in the opposite direction from the Knolls entrance. Just as he went around a curve, he saw the government surveillance truck turn into the entrance.
Perfect. Now they thought they had another house sending a signal to confuse them.
He drove out of the Knolls and headed for New York City where he would attend a meeting at his company’s headquarters. Oddly enough, the meeting was with senior Pentagon officials to purchase fifteen more Predator aircraft.
He wouldn’t return to Arrowhead until dark when he would park his SUV on the other side of the bay from his house. There he would leave the vehicle for his eighteen foot Chris Craft which he would motor across in and enter at the rear through the boathouse. He had reversed the procedure at 6AM this morning. As far as the Feds were concerned, he had never left home.
FBI Director Fritch learned of the new signal transmitted from Arrowhead Knolls later that afternoon. When his Director of Operations met with him and told him the specifics, Fritch realized his men were now totally confused. They had monitored eighty-two North Lakeshore in the Shores and yet the shark had been seen in Brookdale town park. Now they had another signal coming from a house in Arrowhead Knolls with an antenna on it. Either Pasternak had equipment in another house or he was playing with them.
He ordered continual surveillance in the Knolls. The permanent device would monitor the Shores. Meanwhile he wondered if Piccolo was as confused as he was. Because right now they were feeling the effects of dealing with a technical genius.