Pro Bono Part 3
Ringo seemed to know exactly where he was going. He also didn’t seem at all concerned someone would be following him, he wasn’t taking any of the standard precautions a professional in the field would use to detect and/or lose tails. He
was moving so fast all I could do was follow a few hundred meters behind. As we entered the French Quarter I closed the distance to 50 meters because it was crowded and he could slip away unnoticed with ease. In the French Quarter there is a popular
open bar with what I presume are short time rooms above. Directly behind the bar was another building, this one nondescript in appearance, two stories, a single entrance on the ground floor in the front and a second story entrance by way of a
rusty staircase in the back. Someone must have been watching for him because the door opened before he reached the top of the steps and he quickly disappeared inside.
I continued to walk past in case anyone was watching and this gave me a view of three sides of the building. Once I was past a few hundred meters I stopped at one of the many vendors stalls and quickly bought two tee-shirts, one yellow and one blue. I usually carry a small black knapsack and I shoved the tee-shirts into the knapsack and headed down a quiet street and looped back to the building. It’s very difficult to hang about in public in a country where your skin is a different color and you stand a great deal taller than the average man. From this viewpoint I could see the fourth side of the building was nothing remarkable. There was no way I could get close enough to the windows to look inside during the day, and not being able to climb trees any longer I wouldn’t be looking in the second story windows either. I settled for stopping at a street vendors stall where she had some cheap plastic seats and ordering a coke and some sort of fried noodles common in this area. 30 minutes later I was still working on my noodles when the old lady running the stall had a teenage boy set up an umbrella over my seat. She must have noticed the sweat pouring from my body, in appreciation I ordered another coke and kept watch. By now Ringo had already been inside close to an hour. Reaching in to my knapsack I removed the blue tee-shirt and quickly peeled off my black tee-shirt and replaced it with the blue. I figured if Ringo had keyed on a guy in a black tee-shirt following him then he might not pick up a guy in a blue tee-shirt follow him from here.
Two cokes and 60 minutes later Ringo came out of the building quickly and headed back to his hotel. I followed him back and taking a chance followed him inside and heard him ask for the key to room 224. There was a gift shop and I went inside buying a tee-shirt with the hotel pictured on front and stuffed it in my knapsack. Waiting until a group was about to leave the hotel together I blended with them and left and went across the street to my own room. I really wanted to see inside the building Ringo had visited, and I also wanted inside Ringo’s room. About 40 minutes alter I watched him leave the hotel and go inside a nearby restaurant. Changing into the new tee-shirt I’d just bought and covering it with a outer button up shirt I left my hotel and once outside put on sunglasses and stuffed my outer shirt into my knapsack.
Walking straight up to the desk at his hotel I smiled and said “room 224 please?” Without even looking the girl watching soaps on TV handed me the key and I quickly turned and headed up the stairs deciding against the lift, I’d seen Ringo take the lift twice previously. Letting myself in the room I stood at the entrance listening for any sound that anyone else would be in the room. I stood absolutely still, listening carefully, for about three minutes before moving silently into the room and making sure no one was in the bathroom or bed. Once satisfied I searched the room making sure to not even disturb the dust, humans have an uncanny ability to know if things were not exactly how they left them, even a small disturbance could alert Ringo.
On the desk I saw his receipt and breakfast coupons. Without touching them I bent down and noticed he’d paid in advance for five nights and taking out a pad and pen wrote down the credit card number and name on his room receipt. Nasir Banilif was the name listed but I had no idea if this was Ringo’s real name. The bathroom held the standard shower bag, nothing remarkable. His luggage was more revealing. Inside were about ten prescription bottles so I wrote down the drug names I didn’t know on the pad. Some of the names I did know were sildenafil (generic Viagra), and some nitrates for high blood pressure, probably because Ringo had put on a lot of weight since I last saw him. Inside the front pocket was a map. I opened it and seeing it has some locations marked with hand written directions I laid it on the bed and taking out my new Olympus C-3000 digital camera carefully took several pictures of the marked areas and inspected them on the LCD screen to make sure they were usable. Putting everything back exactly as I found it I listened at the door to make sure no one was in the aisle, exited the room, went down the stairs, walked past the front desk putting the key on the counter and straight out the front door.
Once in the street I mixed in with the other tourists until I was a few hundred meters away then I pulled out my outer shirt and put it on, and put my sunglasses back in the knapsack. I needed an internet connection and I didn’t want to use the one in my hotel. I had my Dell Inspiron 7500 weighing down my knapsack, its 15.4” screen and nine pound weight was the smallest travel laptop available. With it’s Pentium III 700mhz CPU and 512k of RAM and the just released Windows XP it was state of the art. It also included a modem. The local mini-mart had some internet cards and I purchased two of them, there was also a local map so I purchased one also.
Back in my room I transferred the Smart Media card from the Olympus C-3000 into the card reader and transferred the pictures of the map into my computer. Viewing the image at 100% on the screen I scrolled around the image taking care to copy the annotations on the newly purchased map. When done with each file I saved it. I wrote a brief request along with the name on Ringo’s credit cards, medication names, and images of the map and encrypting and compressing them in a small file I then set up a dial up string for the internal modem including the information on the first internet card before I closed the notebook and putting it back in my knapsack left the room making sure to take a phone cable with me.
I must have walked for a good hour looking for the right place. I wanted to use a phone jack without being noticed and using the jack in my hotel room wouldn’t do at all. The solution was crude but effective. Taking my combat folder I cut off one end of the phone cord, split the ends, and bared about two inches of wire on both leads. The exposed phone junction box on the side of the restaurant was mostly hidden from the street by a big brown and rusted dumpster. Kneeling I quickly chose a pair of green and red wires and wrapped the two exposed leads around them. Plugging the other end into the laptop I opened the lid and brought the Dell 7500 out of sleep mode relieved I didn’t have to reboot. I hit the “dial” command on the already opened dialer and listened to it ring twice before picking up followed by screeches and pops and tones as the connection was made. The internal speaker went quiet and entering a few commands I watched the progress bar slowly move to 1% as I mostly closed the lid to the laptop and covered it with a empty banana box. I stood there prepared to act like I was vomiting in the event anyone came into the alley, and silently prayed no one inside the restaurant would pick up on the line. The first time I lifted the box to check the file was 55% completed, the second time 92%, and finally finished. Pulling the phone wires free and stuffing them in my pocket I quickly shoved the notebook back into my knapsack and left the alley wondering how long my old friend at the NSA would take to discover my upload and do as I asked.
For now all I could do was continue watching Ringo, not knowing where he was I decided to head back over to my favorite noodle stand and observe any activities at the building. The lady selling the noodles didn’t even ask me what I wanted, instead she smiled and brought me over a coke with ice and started frying the noodles. Opening the notebook I deleted the file I’d just sent and the dialing string for the modem, emptied my recycle bin, and then started Norton’s Wipedisk and set it to wipe all the unused space six times with ones and zeros. I wondered if it would finish on the battery life it had left, and for the next hour I sat there drinking coke and eating noodles and watched Norton finish it’s task with about 15% of the battery left. I had just stuffed the notebook back into the knapsack when I noticed a big truck with an enclosed box on the back drive past, slow down, and then turn in behind the building. I wondered if the big truck had anything to do with the building I was watching.
Waiting until I heard the truck shut off and doors open I paid my bill and slowly getting to my feet started walking in a direction that would take me down the small street giving me a view of the back of the building. As I passed I could see from the corner of my eye the truck backed up to the rusty staircase and two men in tattered dirty clothes with well worn Uzi small machine guns (SMG’s) half hidden from view. These weren’t the newer machine pistols, but the old the Uzi’s originally issued by Israel to the Khmer Rouge decades before. The bluing was all but worn off, leaving only shiny well maintained metal surfaces. Not many know, but Israel supplied the Khmer Rouge with advanced infantry weapons in the early days, but then so did the USA, Russia, China, and let’s not forget the French. If there’s a franc to be made selling black market military weapons you can bet the French will oblige.
As I moved past the far end of the building behind them I took a huge risk and quickly moved behind an outdoor shed where I could watch from a distance. Pulling the Steiner Predator 10×42 mini-binoculars from my knapsack I took a closer look. The two men were standing around the back of the truck and kept looking at the door at the top of the staircase. One was holding his mobile phone and obviously talking to someone inside. A few minutes later the door cracks open and Ringo sticks his face out and barks a few commands. One man opens the back of the truck and both men start speaking urgently to someone in the back, when all of a sudden a single file line of very young Asian women dressed in farmers clothes hurries up the rusty staircase disappearing inside. I counted 13 women between the ages of 12-17, each looking at their feet as if afraid to look around. Once the women were inside the two men got in the truck and drove off. I stayed where I was for another 15 minutes watching the windows and doors for any signs of life. I wanted to know who was in there, what they were doing, and most of all if Ringo was alone.
Until next time..
Fact or fiction?