Friday, March 10, 2023

Heller and Shannon: Fallout

Shannon sat in the comfortable chair in a back-corner of the hospital waiting room in Grand Rapids, 110 miles as the crow flies from the hospital bed in Post-Op where Turner was recovering from surgery.

She was dressed in a baggy sweatshirt and sweatpants and was wearing a headscarf tied to  cover all of her hair. She was also wearing a facemask. Shannon’s eye-makeup was heavy, dark earthtones and she had smudged in the shadow of a unibrow.

Shannon found the ethernet port that Garth told her would be there. She plugged in her just-purchased-at-a-thrift-store-with-cash laptop and logged in: “Imaging_Test”. It accepted her ID and asked for her password. Shannon typed “Tachy_GTA”, the only hint that the ID was used by gamers surreptitiously using hospital resources to play video games.

The system accepted her login. She now had the same access to the hospital information technology as the radiologists who moved and manipulated massive image files.


Shannon had done a quick preview of the hardware Heller brought home from his expedition to Ann Arbor. She would learn later that Heller had shot the home-owner. She was under the impression that Heller had merely trussed him up.

The quick preview showed that the thumb-drive Heller had removed from Turner’s neck was the mother-load.

Shannon plugged the thumb-drive into the burner laptop and let it open.

Then she opened a browser and opened two windows: One to the website of the major crypto-currency where Turner had the most accounts and another to one of the four crypto accounts she had recently opened.

Per Garth’s coaching, Shannon had opened accounts with some lesser known crypto-venders based in Helsinki, Finland; Bucharest, Romania; Sophia, Bulgaria and Belgrade, Serbia. This second tier of crypto was deemed by Garth as being least infiltrated by the IRS...and in Shannon’s mind, by the CIA and FBI.

Shannon didn’t even keep track of the amounts she was brooming out of Turner’s accounts and transferring the assets to her accounts. There is time enough for counting when the game is done.

The number of accounts Turner maintained was impressive, even to Shannon. It became increasingly clear that he co-mingled personal and business funds, but being a privately held entity Heroton, and Turner, was not exposed to the same scrutiny as a publicly held company.

Shannon typed. She sipped on her water. She typed even more.

Accounts in Venezeula caught her eye. She wondered, as she power-typed, where Crasqui, Venezeula was.

Shannon glanced at the balance at her account in Helsinki and blanched. She switched to the one in Bucharest. She really did not want to put all of her eggs in one basket...or punch through some amount that triggered scrutiny.

She kept typing…..


FBI Agent Jeffrey McCafferty was not having a good day.

Not surprising, given that he had been awakened by a phone call at 1:30 in the morning.

It could have gone either way, whether it was FBI jurisdiction or not. A home-invasion was not but the home-owner had been trussed up like a Thanksgiving Turkey and his superior made the case that it could be looked at as kidnapping.

Within a half an hour, it was clear that the victim of the home-invasion was not your average Joe Lunchbucket. The man had “juice”.

McCafferty’s boss demanded that he be informed of every development because he had been called by the Governor personally. McCafferty deduced that if the victim had connections in Lansing, he probably had connections in D.C. and that McCafferty was going to get a lot of “help” in this case.

That meant that he needed to run it text-book. Screw it up and he would be transferred to Minot, Whichever Dakota. Succeed and he would never have to work another day in his life.

Not much of a choice.

McCafferty had his first teleconference at 10:30 in the morning. No media was invited but he had several “pings” of listeners hooking up from area codes originating in the D.C./Beltway area. Whoever listened in was undoubtedly sorting through their email as they kept an ear on developments.

McCafferty asked everybody to round-robin identify themselves. The DC area-codes declined to participate. No surprise.

“Larry, can you level everybody up with an over-view?” McCafferty started out.

Then he repeated who Larry was for the folks reading their email...the ones who were too busy to identify themselves “Larry Lambert is a detective with the Michigan State Police who is our point person with local authorities”

“The Ann Arbor Fire Department responded to a routine call reporting a structure fire in Simpson Ridge Subdivision. Simpson Ridge is an affluent area in the extreme northwest corner of Ann Arbor” Detective Lambert said.

“The first responders found the front door ajar. Entering the structure, they found the home-owner unconscious just inside the house.”

“Since the fire was spreading rapidly, they used improvised means to evacuate the home-owner before suppressing the fire.” Dectective Lambert informed the group.

A listener beeped in: “Please elaborate. What do you mean ‘improvised means to evacuate…’?”

“There was no time to get a stretcher. Even if they had one it is debatable that the first responders could have carried the home-owner out. He is a very large man and...well...two of the three first responders were women.”

“You didn’t answer my question” the disembodied voice pointed out. There was no heat or anger. Just a bureaucrat trying to glean every last detail.

“The first responders tied ropes to the home-owner’s upper arms and dragged him out of the house” Detective Lambert said. “Its called ‘the Columbus Drill’.”

“Then what?” McCafferty asked, helping Lambert along in his story.

“The Fire Department put out the fire. The structure was not totally involved but the exposed wooden beams were burning.”

“The Fire Department pretty much destroyed the crime scene. They really had to soak it down” Lambert said.

“Thank-you, Detective Lambert” McCafferty said, both thanking and dismissing Lambert.

“For those of you not in the room, I directed our Evidence Team to retrieve and preserve whatever physical evidence they could find” McCafferty said. "They informed me that it would take longer than usual to process the evidence due to the extra care required to sort through and wash the evidence."
McCafferty turned to the Agent he had assigned to interview the victim. "What did you find out, Agent Pyant?"
"I was not able to interview the victim but I was able to talk to his doctors" Agent Pyant said after looking down at her tablet.
"The victim has a severe concussion and the doctors did a procedure to reduce his intercranial pressure. They also stabilized his fractured limbs with external fixation after washing out his wounds" Pyant said. She was proud of her facile use of medical terms.
McCafferty was less than impressed. The guys listening in from D.C. wanted the news in easy-to-digest language.  "Can you tell us what that means using common, every-day English?"
Pyant said "The doctors drilled a hole in the victim's skull to relieve pressure on his brain. Due to the amount of damage to his bones the doctors put external framework around his limbs and will deal with that later."
"When will you be able to interview him?" a voice that chose to not identify itself came over the speaker.
"It will be at least three days. The patient was emotionally very agitated and is doped to the gills to keep him from thrashing around" Pyant said. "And even then the doctors aren't sure how much of what he will remember will be fact or hallucinations.
The disembodied voice grunted. That was not the answer it wanted to hear.

“Agent Singh, what were you able to pull from the security system?” McCafferty asked. Singh was one of the FBI Information Systems experts.

“Not much” Singh said.

Responding to McCafferty’s raised eyebrows, Singh said “For some reason the victim had turned off the security system an hour before the home-invasion. No cameras. No audio. Nothing.”

The silence was palpable.

Finally, McCafferty said “This is not a court-of-law. Can you offer any educated guesses about WHY he would have done that?”

Singh said “I would only be guessing, but according to the system logs he did that about once every three weeks. I don’t mean to imply anything, but I did some checking and those ‘outages’ occurred every time his wife was out-of-town.”


  1. And the noose tightens by a palpable amount. There is a disturbance in the Force and this could be trouble for many others.

  2. Mother Lode
    Mining term describing the core deposit or richest vein in an area of exploration. Typically the source of eroded or dissipated deposits of precious metals or gemstones

  3. Unintended escalations. Followed by the fog of war, and a mother lode of material for study.
    This is getting interesting, to say the least.

  4. It’s like we were paddling along a slow placid river, rounded a bend and suddenly found ourselves in the midst of some rapids. Great story telling! Point of detail-second paragraph, first sentence seems to be missing a word - “…and was wearing a tied to cover…”. Wearing a scarf, bandanna?

    1. Thanks! Fixed it.

      My fashion consultant chewed me out when I used the term "durag" so I left it blank waiting for more feedback.

      My bad.

  5. I love the whole chapter, and especially the punch line in the last sentence. Bravo Zulu, ERJ.

  6. Wow ERJ, that escalated quickly. This has come a long way from a rafting trip and a personal insult to be avenged. The somewhat disturbing thing to me is likely a lot of this is actually going on out there in the real world and I have no idea.

    Work note: Nothing more annoying than a teleconference where not everyone announces themselves.

  7. The State Police detective is interesting, Joe. Was he in the military earlier in his career? I cannot help wondering if he will retire to a retreat high in a remote location when all this is over.

  8. Mr ERJ Secret Agent man, ana mad max wi a shoe phone, or a wrist radio. Touch of Jim west. Disc as Bogart x S Tracy, a little bit McGiver an Jack Elan, But 009 at heart. Woody

  9. I like the way you formulate names! "Agent Pyant" .

  10. Wow!

    So in the space of a week or so they've gone from bumpkins installing root cellars, to grand larceny, wire fraud, arson, and assault with intent to do great bodily harm...

    ...nice plot twist Joe!

    1. One week by our time. I figure it probably took two months of diligent research to put the plan together because that is how long I chewed on the problem.

      First I was going to be complicated and high-tech. I was going to dump the power and sweep the house for bugs. Too much time. Reading too many other players in adds risk and insertion and extrication detection risks grow exponentially.

      In the end, a quick plunge of the dagger was the right answer. That, and throwing a butt-load of chaff out to dilute FBI efforts and have evidence get stale and fade.

    2. I figured I owed you readers a bit of action after subjecting you to the painfully-slow number analysis set-up.

    3. Was going to ask about story time. I figured a month at a minimum, just for Shannon and Heller to research Turner and then work their way to deciding that a "kinetic" response was the necessary course of action. Which is a huge departure from a catfishing expedition.

  11. Well, the story certainly took off like a scalded cat!

    Very interesting and entertaining story. Thank you. Looking forward to more. Your stories are what attracted me to your blog several years ago.

  12. Their playing with the big boys now. Someone with that many connections may get a .gov cyber sleuth looking into the same honey pots our little heroine is doing only from the other end. Let’s hope she’s off line before they meet in the middle. Garth better be good, real good.


  13. Just keeps getting better and better.

    Great use of tradecraft by Shannon. She has indeed been a very fast learner.

    Time for Heller and Shannon to go quiet. Most of what will happen next is out of their control and they need to be far out of the blast radius when things start to cook off.

    Best to sit back with some beverages and popcorn and watch the show.

    Abruptly removing a nasty player from the game, who has a lot of powerful connections will likely provoke factional paranoia and maneuvering for some perceived advantage. And counterstrikes to that maneuvering. The cascade might start a firestorm which could even sweep up Ce'Diff. She would never know what hit her.

    Tracking down Shannon and Heller won't actually be that high a priority for the FBI guys. Too many bright shiny objects to chase as investigators discover criminal activities in which Lon was involved. Too many connections to powerful individuals in various factions who will pull strings to redirect the investigators. The agents will be quite frustrated. They don't like being treated as minions by the factions. They (or their managers) will do something to reassert their "independence". It could be expensive for someone.

    Maybe they will just "round up the usual suspects" and call it good.

    Anything done with those crypto accounts has a possibility of being traced through the exchanges. One might reasonably assume that national governments have imposed "arrangements" on almost all of them. A trace is very hard to do but national governments have a lot of resources and can sometimes pull it off. Those funds should be washed through several layers of accounts and different exchanges before reaching their endpoints. The endpoints should be left cold for a long time.

    I have really enjoyed this story.

  14. i think i missed something
    did heller know it was whore night or was the lack of surveillance luck

    1. They knew that his wife would be out-of-town because the University published her schedule. Heller would not have to deal with a second person in the home...or so he hoped.

      The fact that the surveillance cameras were off was invisible to Heller.

  15. As ERJ has demonstrated, revenge can sometimes take one down unintended rat holes.

    IMHO, their best move would be to completely leave MI. Take the crypto, transfer it in bits a half dozen times then turn it into cash. Find somewhere else to be for the next few decades. Somewhere that still tolerates a desire for privacy, if such a place can be found.

    To say they've disturbed a hornets' nest barely covers it.


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