Thursday, October 17, 2019

The Shrewd King 13.4: Looking the other way

Quinn was deeply disappointed by the performance of the sensors in the field.

They rarely picked up pedestrians and vehicles had to be within fifteen feet for the sensor to register.

Quinn sent a message to Dmitri claiming the senors did not work. Dmitri made the ten mile trip to support the installation. It was a twenty mile round trip by bike the day after he made the fifteen mile round trip to the M-99 bridge by bike. Dmitri was not a happy camper.

“Show me the installation.” Dmitri commanded.

Quinn showed him the upside-down plastic cup on the side of the road, right where the shoulder transitioned to tall weeds. Quinn chose to put the sensor where the road was below grade on the far side of the bridge.

Dmitri asked, “Did you adjust the sensitivity screws?”

Quinn gave him a blank look. “What screws?”

Dmitri shook his head in disgust. He was sure they had covered that in training but Quinn had undoubtedly been in over-load mode.

Dmitri sighed. Pulling the sensor off the T Quinn had used to pin it to the ground, Dmitri turned it over and pointed to the heads of two screws that were visible. The little screw adjusts the sensitivity of the low frequency. Low starts with “L” and little starts with “L”. The big screw adjusts the high frequency.”

Dmitri had a limited number of transistors to play with and was only monitoring two frequencies. “Low” frequency was four Hertz and “high” frequency was thirty Hertz. It was a judgment call on his part. The cup was flimsy and its ability to track frequencies above thirty Hertz was limited.

“The other thing is that you did not pick a great place for the sensor. You need to pick a place where the road drums” Dmitri said.

“What does that mean?” Quinn asked. By now they had an audience as the other fighters, Roger and Randy were listening.

“Drums! Like a bowl full of jelly. Wet, spongy soil drums. Bridges drum. New fill drums. Packed gravel and sand...well, not so much.” Dmitri explained.

Quinn raised an eyebrow in an unspoken question.

“Move the sensor half-way between here and the bridge, where the road is above grade.” Dmitri commanded.

Manuel did as Dmitri commanded.

“Now walk down the road.” Dmitri said.

Manuel was twice as far away when the tell-tale started strobing.

“That is still not sensitive enough.” Quinn said.

Dmitri rolled his eyes. He plucked the sensor off the T and pulled a small screwdriver out of his back pocket. “In is more sensitive. That is clockwise.”

Dmitri gave both screws a quarter turn clockwise and re-installed the sensor.

“Try again.” Dmitri said.

This time Manuel was four times farther from the sensor when it lit-off.

“It is still not sensitive enough.” Quinn insisted.

“Why are there two screws?” Jason asked.

Dmitri easily dropped into lecture mode. “A sensor can fail in two ways. It can not signal when it should and it can signal when it should not. Giving you two frequencies to fiddle with means you can better tune the sensors into the specific site and still not have lots of false alarms.

Dmitri kept notes as Jason, Miguel and Quinn messed around with the sensor. They finally got it dialed in to where they were happy when Dmitri directed them to place it mid-span on one of the bridge beams, out of sight from the road bed.

There the sensor proved exquisitely sensitive.

“Can it be too sensitive?” Jason asked.

Dmitri shrugged. “There aren’t many deer left so they won’t set it off. Mostly, you need to worry about stray dogs and raccoons. If they don’t set them off, then you are probably OK.”

What Dmitri did not consider was the fact that there was a surprising amount of nocturnal traffic, none of which wished to be noticed. Some of it involved the pursuit of non-marital intimacy. Some involved the sale and trade of stolen goods or illicit substances.

Quinn made an executive decision. The locals were the people he had been sent to protect. He could not do his job without their support. That support would evaporate if he threw any of them under-the-bus.

The second night, when his fighters were rudely awakened and detained an amorous, married man crossing the bridge to take a “walk on the wild side”, Quinn told the man “I can turn a blind eye to your cheating but only on two conditions.”

The man asked, “And those are?”

“You cross the bridge at exactly the same time every night...or you don’t cross it.” Quinn said.

“What is the second condition?” the erstwhile lover asked.

“That you are armed.” Quinn said. “If we are lowering our guard so you can scratch-your-itch then you have to carry and carry heavy so we are not left swinging naked in the breeze.”

The man blinked in surprise. “You are going to let me keep crossing the bridge?”

Quinn said, “I would rather have you use the bridge rather than to beat a path through the brush that invaders could use to sneak across the river and get behind us.”

“What does ‘carry heavy’ mean?” the man asked, not quite believing his good fortune.

“AR or AK with two extra magazines.” Quinn said. “You go out like you are still hunting deer and you come back the same way, slow and quiet. What you do inside whatever house you are going to, I don’t care. But coming and going you have to be our eyes and ears because we are turning ours off to let you cross the bridge.”

That wasn’t going to be exactly true, of course. The alarm would sound and if it was at the agreed-upon time, the fighters might look down at the bridge but they wouldn’t rush down there to challenge the bridge crosser.


The interactions with the smugglers went much the same.

Most of the merchandise were salvage goods that somehow evaded being logged into Benicio’s inventory and was being sold in Capiche or points south for personal profit.

The first smuggler offered Quinn a bribe to look the other way. After briefly considering, Quinn refused.

“I am here to guard this bridge.” Quinn said. “You need to have absolutely no doubt that if you ever become a threat that I will not hesitate to pull the trigger.”

And then he let them cross, unmolested. Quinn did not see how his job of guarding the bridge had anything to do with protecting Benicio’s economic interests. He allowed free passage as long as the smugglers passed word ahead of time when they planned to slip through.

Quinn’s crew held the information about the smugglers close to the vest. The smugglers would find another way to infiltrate or would be executed if word of their identity and activities leaked out. Quinn's belief was that it is better to have a grudging truce with the devils you know than to open the gates of hell and let new ones out.

Quinn impressed upon the entrepreneurs that his ONLY interest was protecting Capiche and that any scuttlebutt or rumors that might impact the safety of Capiche would be much appreciated.



  1. Nicely done little twist on the surveillance!

    1. The difficulty of applying policy in the field and the inventiveness of the people given that task are nearly always underestimated by the honchos at headquarters.


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