Headlights and running lights floated over the asphalt horizon. A diesel engine protested as the driver geared down cresting the rise. The Peterbilt truck slowed, gearing down repeatedly until it halted at the long front gate amidst squeaking and hissing airbrakes. Black exhaust smoke burped out of chrome pipes. Hinged rain caps mounted atop vertical tailpipes flapped open and closed with each black belch. Powerful headlights flashed a coded message, one short and two long. The truck would soon be the only vehicle inside the loading bay. Its predecessor had performed a quick turn-around and departed. No more than twenty minutes had passed between the time it entered the compound and now. The lone steel exit door farthest from this side of the loading bays looked promising.
“Time is against us, Bruce,” noted Kira observing the transport truck and trailer approach the gate.
“The foot patrol’s radio check-in schedule bothers me too.”
“What about the truck? Can we use it as a shield to reach the door over there?” she asked while nodding in the direction of the fire escape door.
The diesel engine rumbled as the driver shifted into first gear and released the clutch. Black smoke chugged into the night. Airbrakes hissed like giant anacondas. After the security guards completed their search with mirrors, the truck would have to swing around for the driver to line up with the loading bay and reverse his 53-foot-long trailer. Once the driver reversed his rig and joined it up with the cargo bay mouth, truck and trailer would not obstruct the view of the exit door, but during those manoeuvres, it would hide our presence from the gatehouse keepers’ views.
“Are you a gambler?”
“Father accepted you as a student.”
“With the driver’s attention focused on turning, squaring and then backing up his rig, I’ll pick the lock. Unless it happens to be unlocked.”
The simplicity of the task made it elegant. If the door had an alarm, our plan would have a fatal conclusion. I consoled myself by acknowledging there was little point in alarming a door within a compound manned by armed security.
“How can I assist?”
“If I’m slow and we end up exposed, shoot the guards with your toy crossbow before they shoot us.”
“Don’t be slow.”
“I’ll try,” she said around a quirky little grin that showed in the way her eyes crinkled at the corners, seen above the dark face cowling hiding her mouth and nose.
“Yoda said there is no trying. Either do or do not.”
“If by Yoda, you mean Father, he is very wise.”
“No, the real Yoda.”
The fence separating us from the compound shared a latched gate — enough to keep the dogs out of the compound, but not people. Playing the odds, the exterior door was a standard commercial issue, I pre-selected a probe and a torsion wrench. A competent driver might require sixty seconds to square his rig away, maybe less. No matter which way I sliced up the alternatives, I needed to speed pick. I knew commercial locks well. Picking it in shade increased the time interval despite any familiarity. I had not given Ace enough warning to find a modern trigger pick. I was doing it old school with a spatula and probe.
Speed picking, or raking, is a method whereby the probe travels back and forth across the pins. The danger lay in missing a pin, getting the pick jammed, or just not addressing each pin at the correct moment. Although I had practised raking, it did not produce the same results each time, even with the same lock. It could take fifteen seconds or it could take a minute. It would take me longer to pick it pin by pin in the dark. When the trailer blocked the gatehouse, we slipped around the corner and ran to the door where I depressed the thumb lever. Locked. Kira settled in two feet from my shoulder, mini crossbow resting easily on her knee. The first pin slipped off the probe’s shaking head. Willing my nerves to steady themselves, I re-lifted the pin, worked the torsion wrench forward and felt for the next.
The transport truck driver straightened his rig’s front wheels and pulled forward. The transmission, as it clunked into reverse, coincided with the fourth pin’s exile. Keeping tension on the torsion wrench steady, another pin fell victim as the long trailer rolled backwards, now twenty feet from the bay. Not enough time. Rather than abandon my task, I lined up the pick and raked it back and forth while working the torsion wrench. Nothing happened. An agonizing fistful of heartbeats passed before the last pin bent forward before springing back and up into position. We became visible to the gatehouse, and to the cameras.
The torsion wrench turned the cylinder three-hundred and sixty degrees. I cracked the portal open. Imitating a giant aquatic fowl, I duck-walked through the doorway. Kira slid inside next to me. The driver-side door slammed shut. Gravel crunched under the driver’s boots as he made his way toward the back of the trailer. The steel door clicked closed. I held my breath, waiting for an alarm to sound, or to hear running feet. Cries of ‘intruder’ went unspoken. I remembered to breathe. Kira looked out at me from behind her face cover where I imagined she wore an annoyingly calm and cool expression.
“Not bad, Bruce, but I should mention the guard shack was over forty yards away.”
“And that’s important why?”
“This crossbow is accurate to thirty yards only,” she informed me smiling. “Very useless after that.”
“In the future, feel free to offer pertinent information without prompting.”
“You already more nervous than a long-haired hippy sleeping among Tibetan Monks. Didn’t want to worry you over trivial details. That’s father’s profession.”
“He’s a bad influence on you,” I told her seriously.
“Funny, that’s what he says to me about you.”
Voices filtered through a door across the hallway from us. According to the drawings, shipping and receiving lay behind that door. Shouted instructions from within the shipping bay, which out-competed with the electric forklift truck’s engine, arrived garbled and muffled. It was difficult to understand more than two words in five. To compound matters, the instructions were given in Spanish. Cement stairs painted gunmetal gray headed up to the second floor. We ran up the long, double staircase, taking two stairs at a time. The first door we encountered was labelled Electrical Room #2.Silver levers, black plastic switches, green, red, and amber lights glowed from electronic control boxes and panel boards when we stepped inside the electrical room. In the corner, built into the ceiling, Kira found the roof hatch we had come for. A blue Mastercraft padlock secured the roof hatch. Bolted to the wall, an iron-wrung ladder provided access. Directly opposite the ladder, a simple hand lever kept a yellow, two by four-foot maintenance door closed. I climbed the ladder and removed my lock pick kit. Four minutes later, we popped open the hatch and stepped out onto the roof.