It was an activity that brought Bill great satisfaction. He had a manifest listing the required order. He was stacking them up so as invaders were matched up with vehicles at Zero-dark-thirty, they would gush out of the parking lot like warm champagne out of a shaken bottle.
Bill was a perfectionist. That is why he had been given this job. He was going to keep it, too. If anything, the vehicles would be parked more perfectly than perfect.
Right now, he was parking the modified ladder trucks and the drivers were getting the rough edge of his tongue. “Listen, nigger, you gotta be watching and listening to ME. I will tell you what is a straight line. I will tell you how close to park.”
Billious was a very dark African-American. Consequently, he was allowed to use the n-word with impunity. He used it loudly, lavishly and with a singular disdain for those he called that name. After all, HE was the load-master and none of the hundreds of other drivers were.
Billious wanted the vehicles parked exactly 6’-2” from the front bumper of one vehicle to the rear bumper of the one in front of it. Purely by coincidence, Bill’s wingspan was exactly 6’-2”. Billious saw it as a message from God.
Billious was watching the distance between bumpers slowly close and the driver was anxiously watching Billious...
Lenapé continued to demand that she weld. Her friends had informed her that artists who can weld have very high status. It was honey to Lenapé’s ears. She craved status and easy jobs above all else.
Thibodeaux could not get her off the damned ladder or away from the welder. Ordinarily, he would have fought it but he knew he would lose.
As an observer of human nature, he knew that spoiled brats whine when they pass the rack of candy bars at the grocery check-out. They go into a full-bore, store-clearing caterwauling after they snatch one up and their mother then tries to pry it out of their hands.
Thibodeaux didn’t mind a dust-up. In fact, he enjoyed them, but only when they were on his terms.
Thibodeaux documented the work scrupulously. More important, he detailed in excruciating detail exactly which work Lenapé did in his daily status reports to his boss, Gilmour Hendry, and Hendry’s boss.
Hendry made the tactical error of bumping one of the boss^2’s comments back down to Thibodeaux. The comment read “About f---ing time”
Thibodeaux’s intransigence had been an embarrassment to the entire organization. In addition to the official chain-of-command there were parallel chains. There was the usual old-boy’s network, the old-girl’s network, the old-n____r’s network and so on.
Being of the same race, gender and “orientation” as Lenapé, Hendry’s boss was in Lenapé’s back pocket in a manner of speaking. Hendry’s boss had been part of the conversation when Lenapé learned that welding was the skill of artists.
What could Thibodeaux do? He wasn’t blind. He knew Lenapé had friends in high places. He also knew he would be hung if there was a conflict. He knew he would be held responsible if the bridges collapsed.
As the country music song advised, if you find yourself going through hell, hit the accelerator.
After Lenapé left work, Thibodeaux would stage more rolls of wire next to the welder. He staged the solid wire that required gas.
He had also swapped out the tank of gas and put an empty in the rack.
Every time Lenapé reached the end of a roll, Thibodeaux would make a show of walking toward the crib to get a roll of filler wire and Lenapé would chew him out. “What the fugg you doin’. You ain’t goin’ on a break now. Put dat spool a wire on da welder. I just got goin’”
No doubt, it gave her great satisfaction to know that the shop was wired for sound and video to ensure that a “hostile work-place environment” could not happen. Lenapé had every expectation that she would be supervising Thibodeaux within a matter of a few weeks. She had been promised as much. And then the fur would fly.
Billious angrily made a motion for the driver to cut the wheels. The truck had drifted a couple of inches to the side.
That is when portions of the bridges atop the two ladder trucks attempted to occupy the same space at the same time. Cutting the steering wheel sharply to the right resulted in the front of the bridge tapping the rear of the bridge in front of it. The tap shattered the brittle “welds” that joined the linkages to the undercarriage of the moving truck.
Billious almost made it clear of the toppling bridge. His hyper-focus almost caused him to miss the pending disaster.
Bill dived for safety.
The 18,000 pounds of metal dropping from a height of 12’ crushed his lower legs effortlessly and pinned him to the ground.
Ann Arbor Health and Safety regulations were unbending. Even Bicklebaugh could not change or deflect the investigation even though the invasion was scheduled for the very next day.
The staging yard was red-tagged, nobody in-or-out except for certified specialists.
Thibodeaux was placed in...observation. That is, Thibodeaux was placed in jail while the details were sorted out. Everybody fully expected 100% of the blame to fall on him. Sabotage, even in Ann Arbor, was a Capital offense.
It took three days to determine that Thibodeaux had done everything officially proper to try to inform management.
That might have been overlooked except Thibodeaux implied that he had copies of the video records from the shop and there might be copies time-activated to distribute if he didn’t deactivate them.
Hendry would have dismissed that as bullshit, but a quick review of the video logs indicated that somebody had gone into the system and made lower-resolution copies of the videos and emailed them off-system. The electronic fingerprints indicated it was Thibodeaux. Hendry doubted that Thibodeaux had enough brains to do that, so that indicated that Thibodeaux had others in the loop.
Hendry argued for leniency for Thibodeaux. After Hendry tipped off his boss, she also tipped the decision toward leniency.
Lenapé became Thibodeaux’s boss.
It took two days to find qualified welders to repair the bridges. Nobody trusted Thibodeaux or Lenapé anywhere near a welder.
It took another day to find suitable, mobile equipment and move it to the staging area. Then it took the replacement welders eight days to identify the welds Lenapé had made, grind them out and to remake the properly. They were able to move more quickly than Thibodeaux had in the shop because, except for the two bridges that had collided, they did not have to position the members before re-welding.
Benicio’s intelligence had been accurate. The invasion had been scheduled for April 18 with a three day window to account for inclement weather.
Instead, the invasion had been pushed back a full two weeks and into early-May.