Down at the Dundalk Marine Terminal, Baltimore Port Authority, Dinah and her team had spent the best part of a week observing the actions of the members of Eight Snakes whilst pretending to move the contents of shipping containers into their fake truck.
As with most criminal enterprises, it was simple enough. Eight Snakes imported legitimate furniture from Asian countries, but Dinah was willing to bet they would find huge amounts of drugs tucked into chair legs and couch cushions.
The furniture was taken away from a wholesaling company dealing exclusively in the Asian market. The gang appeared to be careful: the company sent the same driver every day. The only way that Dinah could see to infiltrate the gang was to send some agents in as longshoremen, who would help get the containers off the ship and into the gang’s warehouse. The longshoremen were employed by the Port Authority and therefore could not be controlled by the gang.
She picked two of the broadest young agents for the task, and dressed them in Port Authority uniforms and high-visibility jackets. Strapped underneath their clothes was a tiny recorder each, which would pick up conversation. Dinah had no doubt that the gang would assume that the longshoremen, one of whom was white and one of whom was black, wouldn’t speak a word of Mandarin, and would talk freely in front of them.
In the meantime, the undercover agents would try to obtain a sample of any drug that they could find.
A week later, Dinah realized that she was wrong on many levels. The Eight Snakes gang members were smart and silent. When they did speak to each other, it was in fluent English and was as bland as awkward small talk between two strangers. Dinah picked up a few riveting sentences about the weather, a complaint about a sore back and a couple of swear words.
If Eight Snakes were importing high-grade drugs, they were being pretty quiet about it.
Dinah had to re-think the whole operation. So far, they’d proved themselves to be disciplined and sophisticated, flying under the radar of the Port Authority.
By the end of the second week, she pulled the undercover agents out and ground her teeth with frustration.
“We’ll have to follow the furniture after it leaves the port,” suggested Ferguson. “I don’t see any other way, short of busting open their furniture there at the terminal and giving ourselves away.”
Dinah glared at her computer as though it were to blame. “It would appear so,” she said, shortly. “Let’s tail their trucks from tomorrow.”
Ferguson was silent for a few moments. “You know, you can’t get everything right,” he said, gently. “Not even you.”
Dinah flicked a contemptuous glance at him. “I’m not wrong. I’m never wrong. We just have to find a different way.”
That night, she went home and drank two vodkas-on-ice. When Luke appeared in the doorway to ask if she was okay, she felt his judgment burning into her back.
“Leave me alone,” she snapped. She switched the television on and turned up the sound.
Luke stayed in the doorway for a few moments, then left. She heard his footsteps pad up the stairs.
Once, there’d been an unseen link between them, as fine and strong as gossamer silk. They never got too far away from each other, and they always came back to each other.
Now, the link was stretched, taut and stressed. Dinah wondered when she’d let him get so far away, this other half of her.