Day 1

Bayview District SFPD Dispatch Facility, 201 Williams Avenue, Portola Place, San Francisco 

January 7, 2018, 5:02 AM PST

“Sergeant, I’ve got a Major Daniels from the San Francisco Homeland Security Force on the inter-agency-task-force hot-line asking for a half dozen black and whites, a homicide team and the coroner’s wagon down at Trasker’s Yard. He’s telling me that the night shift in the secure facility has just dropped one of the shipping containers, and it’s full of dead bodies.”

The dispatcher listened for a few more seconds on her headset before toggling back into the desk sergeant’s circuit.

“Sounds like he’s calling in the Feds as well, sir.”

She patched through the panicky voice from the young military officer at the scene so that her desk sergeant could hear him. Her capable fingers flew across the touch screen, tracing the call, querying its routings. She was a large woman, a no-nonsense African American with twenty years of experience in the San Francisco City Police Department. She’d heard most everything there was to hear, and dealt with just about every level of incompetence it was possible to imagine.

“Dipshit!” she muttered. “He’s sending this out in clear. Every nut-job in the city with a police band scanner will know what’s going on down there.”

FBI Offices, 450 Golden Gate Avenue, 13th Floor San Francisco

January 7, 2018, 7:37 AM PST


Kathy Wagner, in a playful mood

A blue Mustang pulled into the parking garage of the FBI office building in San Francisco.  It came to a stop in a parking space near the elevator, and out stepped an attractive young woman.  She had long blonde hair that fell down past her shoulders, and beautiful blue eyes.  She was wearing a white silk blouse, a dark blue pencil skirt that came down to just above her knees, and a dark blue jacket that matched the skirt.  On her feet she wore a pair of black pumps with four-inch heels, and she carried a black purse.  The young woman closed and locked the door to her car and wasted no time in summoning the elevator.  A couple of minutes later she had arrived at the security desk. 


“FBI Agent Kathy Wagner, reporting for duty,” she said.

The young agent at the desk seemed distracted and took several moments to react to her arrival. Phones rang incessantly and Kathy Wagner had the distinct impression that this was not a normal morning, even for a busy office like San Francisco.

“That new agent just arrive, sir,” the young man on the desk finally managed to announce her through his headset.

“Yes, sir, I’ll send her right back.”

“It’s already a busy day, Special Agent Wagner,” he grinned at her as he guided her through the security check point, validating her  ID, inspecting her weapon and scanning her handbag. “Agent in Charge Gregory Mancino is expecting you, all the way back on the left. You can’t miss him. Six four, two fifty, expensive suit. Blue pinstripe today.”

There was faint air of hero worship in his voice.

“You might want to hurry, Ma’am, I think they’re ready to roll.”

Kathy lifted an eyebrow as the young man guiding her through security described what the boss was wearing that day.  She wondered if he paid that much attention to everyone’s fashions, or just the boss’s.  Well, the bureau did train its agents to be observant.  She gave the man a friendly smile and glanced toward the back of the office where the man had indicated she could find Agent Mancino.  “Thanks!  You’re a peach!” she said, then quickly sashayed down the hall to the last door on the left.
She knocked on the frame of the open door and peeked inside.  Agent Mancino was just as the man at the security desk had described, and he towered over Kathy despite her four-inch heels.  She extended her hand in greeting and said, “Hi!  I’m Special Agent Kathy Wagner!  Happy to be part of the team!  I take it there is something big going on this morning?”
Eyes followed her as she threaded her way through the warren of tiny offices and cubes. Men sat a little straighter in their chairs as she passed by. This was as it should be. It had unnerved her when men started ogling her around the age of twelve or so, but by the time she was thirteen she was used to it, and by sixteen she understood at a deep level that was how her species worked. Sexual attraction was build in at the deepest level of the genes and every healthy human could not help but pay attention to attractive people.
It worked both way, but men had much less control over their bodies than women did.
gregory_mancinoShe smiled in a bland way at the appreciative looks and found her way to Mancino’s office in the back. The agent in charge looked like he’ stepped out of a GQ shoot and was on his way to audition for the role of Clark Kent. He was tall and powerful with wide shoulders, big hands and a shock of dark hair over steady blue eyes. His suit looked like it cost well over a thousand dollars, and she tucked it away as a datum about him that he had more money than a Federal employee earned doing honest work.
He glanced up at Kathy as she peeked inside the door and announced herself. She liked the quick double take, but kept her face neutral as his eyes traveled up and down her slender frame.
“Wagner! Just in time.” His voice boomed with an authoritative base tone that sent a little shiver down her spine. Unbidden a voice from the past spoke in her ear, the ghost of her grandmother, Kitty, for whom she was named, when she was near the end and had lost all sense of propriety, whispering to her over a glass of bourbon: “You know what they say, my dear, the deeper the voice, the longer the reach.” She managed not to blush at the automatic association, but Mancino seemed preoccupied with material on his desk for the moment and probably would not have noticed anyway.
“Got an apparent homicide down at the docks. Multiple victims. SFPD is on site, but we’ve been called in by the Department of Homeland Security. The location is a secured storage facility, part of the US Customs storage area. So it’s technically federal property. There’s going to be a turf war with the local police, that’s for sure.
“You good to go right now, or do you need a minute? I realize you just got here.”
Mancino made quite an impression with his tall stature, powerful build, and booming, authoritative voice.  He had a certain charisma that had no doubt helped him achieve his leadership position here.  Kathy could better understand why the man back at the security desk had seemed to hold him in such high regard.  She was curious about where he got his money, though; she liked him so far, and hoped he wasn’t involved in any illegal dealings.  She stepped from the doorway more fully into the room with an in intentional but subtle seductive sway to her hips.
“I’m ready to go right away.  I can drive, or ride with you, whichever you prefer,” she said with enthusiasm.  “I think it’s pretty clear that our jurisdiction in a crime committed on federal property trumps any that the local police might have.  They may not like it, but I’m sure we can convince them that they need to let us take point in this investigation.  I can be pretty persuasive when I need to.”  And it was true; she had often found that she could get people to let her have her way, and it was especially true of men who were impressed by her looks.  She understood that her appearance gave her a certain advantage when dealing with men, and she was perfectly willing to use it.
It was important to Kathy to make a good impression, so she offered an analysis of the situation based on what she knew so far.  “Multiple murders at a Customs-controlled secure storage facility suggests a possible attempt by some group to break in and steal something that they were attempting smuggle into the country but that got confiscated.  Another possibility is that some terrorists smuggled themselves into the country in a sort of ‘Trojan horse’ and killed some people while breaking out.  If that’s the case, it’s imperative that we find them as soon as possible to prevent whatever attack they may be planning.”

Mancino nodded in approval of her go-get-’em attitude, but he also cautioned against jumping the gun.

“Let’s take a look at the crime scene first, Agent Wagner, then base our conclusions on the facts. If it’s a terror threat, the SFPD will be the first to step aside and let us take the lead. If it’s some local gang war that’s spilled over into our territory, we may want the let them take care of it – while we observe closely from the side lines.

“Either way, we’ve got an invitation to the party and you’ll get to meet some of the other players in the Bay area.”

She placed his accent as North East, New Jersey or New York, but educated at an Ivy league school.

He lead the way down two flights of stairs to an underground parking garage where a small fleet of black Escalades brooded in the darkness. He popped the locks of the closest one with his key fob and climbed into the driver’s seat.

It made sense, he knew the city, but she didn’t like not being in control. He’s my boss, she reminded herself as she hopped up into the passenger seat. It’s a promotion. Play by the rules and get ahead. Yeah. All that crap.

He drove aggressively but not insanely. He didn’t run his siren and he stopped at red lights, but he took the corners at full speed and shot down narrow alleys at full speed from time to time, presumably to avoid likely congestion ahead.

“The container facility is down at the real docks. The working port of San Francisco, not the tourists traps down town,” he explained. “It’s there, but plenty of cargo moves through, and there’s money to be made.”

Ten minutes of hard driving took them from the nice part of town to the shitty part of town. Seedy warehouses, abandoned cars and crude graffiti dominated the streets, and she caught her first glimpse of the Bay ahead, a flat gray expanse stretching a mile or more to Oakland in the distance, partly hidden by the mist. Half a dozen industrial looking vessels moved on the swell, trailing streamers of fog from their deck-work. As they came upon the docks themselves she could see old rusted hulks chained up as if they had died in place and not been moved since the century before last.

Trasker’s Yard was not hard to spot. A high chain link fence surrounded a city block filled to overflowing with shipping containers, mostly stacked two even three deep. A dozen black and white flashed their lights and controlled the access routes, but they all slid aside as the Escalade came closer.

At the main entrance to the facility a Jeep Wrangler was slewed across the sagging gateway preventing further progress. A big man leaned against it, watching them roll through the barricades towards him. He was fair haired, built like a lumber jack and handsome in a scruffy way. He wore a battered bomber style leather jacket and work jeans with holes in them. As the Cadillac drew to a halt he grinned and waved at Manici.

“Listen, Wagner, the FBI chief spoke quietly as he put the vehicle in park and turned on the emergency flashers. “I know it’s your first day, and I know you want to make a good impression, but right now with this jackass, please do not rise to his bait. He’s an obnoxious son-of-a-bitch, but he is the very best homicide detective they have. And he will not be happy until he makes you lose your temper. Then he will be one up on you.

“Slow ride it if you can.”

Jake_MorrisHe climbed out of the big SUV beckoned her over to meet the blond giant.

“Detective Morris, I’d like you to meet the latest addition to our squad. Special Agent Kathy Wagner is here from Atlanta. She come highly recommended.

“Agent Wagner, this is Detective Inspector Jake Morris, one of San Francisco’s finest. He heads up the Major Crimes unit for the city.”

Morris grinned at her with his hands in his pockets and looked her up and down in a slow, deliberate appraisal.

“Damnation, Mancino,” he growled at last. “They sure do make ’em just fine in Atlanta, don’t they. Yes, sir. Just fine.”

He winked at her as he stood up and towered over her, taller even than Mancino. She judged his accent as being from Wyoming or Montana, Big Sky country. And he laid it on thick.

“You want some real shoes, honey? Them pumps may say ‘fuck me’ in five different languages, but they are just plain going to get ruined in there.”

He gestured over his shoulder at the shipping yards awash with greasy mud and piles of wet debris.

“More of an indoor girl, is she?” he stage whispered to Mancino, his eyes dancing with challenge as he continued to examine her anatomy with obvious relish.

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