Case XI: Chapter 3: The Uses of Technology

 

Case XI: Chapter 3: The Uses of Technology

Matthew Dudley had barely entered the Lobby of the main building when Millicent Branch walked quickly toward him with a very agitated look on her face.  “Did you see that?  I saw some sort of UFO flying around the grounds a few minutes ago.  What is going on? What are you going to do about it?”

“Calm down, Mrs. Branch.  It wasn’t a UFO or anything like that.  Mrs. Shackleford’s husband brought her a beautiful bouquet of roses and delivered them with an unmanned helicopter.  He works at a company that makes those things and he used one to surprise his wife.  Personally, I think it was a very clever idea and thoughtful gesture.”

“Well, it looked like some sort of UFO to me.  We certainly don’t need that kind of thing around here.  I mean, things are terrifying enough when we had that murderer running loose. Was this thing also spying on people?”

“Please relax, Mrs. Branch.  There is no cause for alarm. It was totally harmless.  But, if it concerns you, I’ll speak to Mrs. Shackleford about it.  Maybe the next time her husband wants to send flowers, he can do it in person.”

“Well, you just make sure that nothing like that ever happens again.”

“Yes, Mrs. Branch.  I’ll take care of it.”

Dudley had only walked a few steps toward the center staircase when Señora Barela approached.  “Señor Dudley, I am truly blessed. I saw a spirit form outside in the air above a while ago.  I don’t know whose spirit it is, but I am certain that it is a loved one who has passed over recently. I am certain that there will be many more as Dia de los Muertos approaches. Please assure the Residents that they have nothing to fear from these spirit forms; it is a good omen.”  With that, she hurried on reinforced in her belief of visiting spirits.

Dudley made a mental note to talk to Debbie Shackleford and ask her to encourage her husband to be a bit more conventional in the future.  While the drone helicopter carrying the bouquet of roses with the streaming ribbons was a very clever idea, future episodes would be sure to create problems among some of the Residents.  He also was thankful that Paloma Angostura had taken the primary responsibility for working with Mrs. Branch and Señora Barela in such a constructive and diplomatic way.  If that task had fallen to him, he feared that his approach would have resembled the one used by Clyde Beatty!

Without further interruptions, Dudley was able to successfully complete all of the minor repairs on his daily ToDo list.  If he hurried, he thought he might be able to catch the Community Assist Team before they left for the day.  He entered the Conference Room as the Team was gathering their notes and papers and preparing to leave.  “I apologize for barging it at the last minute,” he said apologetically. “I’ve been unexpectedly busy today, but wanted to ask for a few minutes of your time.”

“It’s no problem,” said Beth Ford, the Team Leader.  “We don’t mind hanging around for a while.”

“Thank you, Ladies. Isabella and I would like to have sort of a brain-storming session with all of you in the very near future.  I’m sure you are all aware of the recent murder on the premises.  That incident raised several critical issues that we believe require some changes in our physical facility and our operating procedures.  Before we do anything, we think it advisable to get some input from the Residents.  We would also like to get your input.   If you would look at the schedule for your next several meetings and let Isabella or me know when we could get about an hour of time to talk about what we’re thinking and get your reactions.  Would that be possible?”

“It would obviously not be a problem, Mr. Dudley,” replied Beth. “While our primary focus has been the Community, you know the Team is committed to La Vida Aureo and all the Residents.  We’re scheduled to meet again in two weeks and I’ll make time for you then, if that’s convenient.”

“I really appreciate it, Beth.  Would you please send a note to Isabella to let her know?  And please include me so I don’t forget!”

“Got it.  While you’re here Mr. Dudley, if you have a few minutes, let me tell you about two issues that came up in our meeting today that are a matter of some concern. First of all, we are hearing more and more that many seniors are turning to Financial Advisors to help them manage their finances. That should be a good thing since many seniors are relatively unsophisticated and haven’t planned adequately for their future.  But, we are concerned about some of the stories we’re hearing and the degree to which people have given up control over their sometimes meager savings.  So far, we only have anecdotal evidence, but we want to keep an eye on this.  Some of the so-called Financial Advisors appear pretty shady.  Speaking of shady operations and operators, we have all noticed a significant increase in the number of cars and vans driving around town with some sort of Home Health Care Service logo on the side.  Based on what we’ve already experienced, it is hard to believe that every single one of these is reputable. It’s just an observation at this point, but we want to spend some time on this area in the near future to see if we can provide some guidelines for people before they sign up with one of these Agencies.”

 

Marty Shackleford continued to enjoy his work at Comanche Aeronautics; it remained challenging and he felt that he was learning more each day that passed.  His “Shadow”, Cruz Carabajal, was an eager student and expressed genuine interest in his assignments.  One of the things Marty enjoyed most about the company and its people was their enthusiasm for the technology.  While the majority of their work was confidential or classified, the employees found clever ways to release the tension of this restrictive environment. Most days at lunch many of the project engineers and technicians would gather in the massive parking lot to engage in various competitions with their individual unmanned vehicles.  It was supposed to be just fun, but it had a definite air of serious competition.  The only ground rule was that no none could utilize company proprietary technology, but this rule was typically bent.  There were competition categories of speed, load-carrying, maneuverability, etc.  One group of engineers had created a special category of electronic surveillance to see who could incorporate the most forms of observation and reporting into a single drone. It was one of these drones that Marty had used to deliver flowers to Debbie at work.

Cruz Carabajal had promised his mother that he would use this unique opportunity with Comanche Aeronautics to serve as the basis for a constructive life.  He was painfully aware that many of his contemporaries did not have this opportunity and their lives typically consisted of dead-end jobs and all-too-frequent run-ins with the Bernalillo County criminal justice system..

One Sunday as the Carabajal family gathered for dinner after church, Cruz’s cousin Jaime said that he wanted to talk to him in the backyard.  Cruz had always admired his older cousin even though it seemed as though Jaime was routinely in some sort of trouble with the police.  Once away from the house and the family, Jaime put his arm around Cruz’s shoulders and said, “So, Little Cousin, what have you been up to?  I hear that you got a job with a big company and haven’t been hanging around with your old group of friends.  What gives?  Are you getting too important to be with your Homies anymore?”

“Oh, no, Jaime.  I have a great opportunity and am working with some really cool stuff.”  Excitedly, Cruz told his cousin Jaime Carabado all about his position at Comanche Aeronautics, the kind of projects he was working on and his new friend Marty Shackleford.  He knew he couldn’t talk much about specific projects, so he told stories about the exciting lunch time activities.  He told Jaime about the time Marty delivered flowers to his wife at work, exaggerating the details to make it sound even more mysterious.

Jaime listened intently and asked Cruz a few questions about the drones’ specific capabilities.  “Well, Little Cousin, do you suppose you could borrow one of these drones?  I have an idea how we could make some easy money.”

“I don’t know, Jaime.  All of the guys keep their personal drones locked up, either in their locker or their truck.”

“Could you borrow your buddy Marty’s drone after work one evening?’

“I guess so.  What did you have in mind?  It isn’t anything illegal, is it?’

“Of course not, Cousin.  It would just be helping out a friend of mine. My lawyer handles a lot of divorce cases and it usually involves following the husband or wife to see where they go at night.  It’s a hassle to sit in his car outside of a motel for hours waiting to take a few pictures.  If one of these drones could do that for him, it would save him a lot of time and I’m sure he would pay us mucho dinero.  And, from what you’re saying, it could be done without alerting anyone that it was happening.  What do you think?”

“I’m pretty sure it could be done and I guess it’s the right thing to do.  I really don’t approve of cheating spouses.”

 

A few days later, Jaime Carabado drove his cousin Cruz to meet with Marvin Milagros.  What Jaime hadn’t bothered to tell Cruz was that he owed Milagros money for the last time Milagros bailed him out of jail and represented him in court.  At Milagros’ office, Jaime described what Cruz could do with his drones and how much that would simplify Milagros’ surveillance operations.  Milagros expressed interest and asked if there were a way to program the drone so that he wouldn’t have to sit in his car and wait.

“I’m pretty sure I could set it up to send the camera signal to your office computer and you could watch from here,” bragged Cruz.

“That would be just dandy, young man,”

Over the next few days, Cruz constructed a simple drone of his own.  He had to ask Marty for help several times and used the excuse that he was building a done to be part of the lunch time games.  He proudly showed his drone to Jaime and together they presented it to Marvin Milagros and set up his office computer to receive the signal.” Have to make sure I get the drone back to my locker at work in the morning,” said Cruz.  “If things work out to your satisfaction, I can launch again at another time.”

The first few runs were successful and Milagros said he would like to use this service again, perhaps in a few weeks.  On the way home, Cruz bragged to Jaime that he had watched the video stream on his own personal to make sure everything worked properly. “You should see the kind of stuff that goes on at night, particularly around some of these sleazy motels on Central Avenue. It’s fun watching the Albuquerque cops bust the pimps and drug dealers almost every night.”

“So,” asked Jaime, “You can really monitor everything that goes on?”

“My drone has a limited range, but, yeah, I can see everything in that area.  And, what’s really cool is that no one on the ground can see or hear me as I move around in the air.”

“Do you think you could hook it up so that I could watch on my smart phone, too?”

“Yeah, I can just give you the settings and you can just dial into the video feed from the drone.  Why?”

“Oh, no particular reason.  It might just be something interesting to do at night instead of watching more crappy TV.”

Once Cruz set up Jaime’s phone to receive the drone’s signal, Jaime spent the next several nights watching with particular interest on where the cops regularly patrolled and noting their routine/schedule. Using this information, he was able to conduct his drug sales with little fear of being caught.

After Jaime Carabado paid off his debts to Marvin Milagros, he suggested that the lawyer expand his surveillance and divorce practice. “If you would put up the money, my cousin could build a few more drones and you could monitor even more activities. It would improve your success rate and you could probably raise your fees.”

The idea made sense to Milagros and Jaime went to Cruz with the proposal and a portion of the money.  From Cruz’s perspective, this was a worthwhile cause and he was getting to build more of his own drones and try out additional capabilities.  For Marvin Milagros, it meant an ever-increasing divorce legal practice.  Jaime benefitted the most as he was quickly able to expand his drug dealing to additional parts of town with virtual impunity.

Jaime’s new-found success soon came to the attention of the Tecolote Gang who controlled the majority of the drug trade within the central portion of the City. Up to that point, Jaime Carabado had been a minor player in Tecolote’s overall operations. Now, the Gang wanted to learn how Jaime had been able to so quickly increase sales and his apparent ability to routinely avoid arrest, a most unusual feat. They initially assumed that Jaime was simply paying bribes to a few cops, but other Gang members and informants could not confirm that.  Jaime was brought to a warehouse at the eastern end of Central Avenue where he was hung by his wrists from an overhead girder and tortured until he explained the details of his success.

Using the information from the small fleet of drones, the Tecolotes were able to assume direct control of the retail drug operations, by eliminating most of the small-time dealers.  Some relinquished their territory after a single beating, while it was necessary to dispose of others completely.   Eliminating the middlemen increased Tecolote’s profitability and they soon came to Jaime demanding he provide more drones with enhanced capabilities.  Not only should the drones provide surveillance, they should be able to actually deliver packages of drugs to specific locations on demand.

Jaime was now under severe pressure to deliver and knew what would happen if he failed. He tried to act with his normal level of bravado when he approached Cruz with his request. Despite his respect for his cousin, Cruz was hesitant and initially resisted.  “I’m not sure I have the knowledge to make drones to do everything you ask, Jaime. And, why does the lawyer need so many and with these new capabilities?  I thought he was just spying on cheating spouses.  The last few drones were much more sophisticated than the first one, which seemed to do the job.  I just don’t understand.”

Jaime tried to make his case with reasons that Cruz found difficult to believe.  “Look, Jaime, I’ve got to get to a class this evening.  It’s a really important one and I can’t afford to miss a single session.”

Finally, Jaime grabbed Cruz by the shoulders and said.  “Cruz, I’m in big trouble with some really bad guys.  I sold a few of the drones that were supposed to go to the lawyer and I don’t know exactly what they’re being used for.  I can’t be sure, but I’m pretty sure it’s something illegal; I just don’t know what.  Now, these guys have threatened me and demanded I get them more drones with these additional capabilities.  I don’t know what to do.  I hate to admit it, but I’m afraid of what they might do to me if I don’t deliver.”

Cruz Carabajal had always been aware that his cousin was frequently in trouble and that he hung around with a bunch of tough-looking guys.  But, he had repeatedly told himself that Jaime was primarily involved in minor stuff and never any serious criminal activities.  He also knew that Jaime often exaggerated situations to make himself sound more important.  “I don’t know, Jaime.  This sounds pretty dangerous and I’m not sure I want to get involved.  I’ve worked really hard to make a decent future for myself and this doesn’t seem like a very good idea.  I’m really sorry, but you’re just going to have to tell these guys to get what they need from someone else.”

Jaime continued to press his case and Cruz was trying to end the conversation and get to class.  Finally in desperation, Cruz said, “Look Jaime, I really can’t help you.  Not because I don’t want to, but I just don’t have the necessary skills or access to the technology to build what you want.”

Jaime was nearing panic and grabbed Cruz by the shoulders again and shook him. “OK, if you can’t do this, at least tell me who could; give me a name, somebody in one of your classes, somebody you work with, whatever.”

Cruz was now convinced that he had to get away from Jaime before the situation got completely out-of-hand.  “Look, Jaime, I don’t know; maybe one of the guys at work; maybe someone like Marty Shackleford; maybe no one; I don’t know.”  With that, Cruz broke free of Jaime’s grasp and hurried off toward his class.

The Tecolotes were unimpressed by Jaime’s excuses and beat him again to make sure he understood their request. Before the beating stopped, Jaime had promised to try again with his cousin or find someone else, if necessary.

The next few days were difficult for everyone.  The Tecolotes applied pressure to Jaime every night; they were becoming increasingly impatient.  Cruz went to work as usual, but struggled to maintain his focus on his daily assignments. He was worried about his cousin, but hesitant to risk his own situation. Marty Shackleford noticed that something was bothering Cruz and encouraged him to talk, but with no success.  Marty wanted to spend more time with Cruz, but he was exhausted. He was awake most nights with his new baby daughter so that Debbie could get some much needed rest.

Jaime repeatedly tried to talk to Cruz, but Cruz managed to avoid him by staying at work or at school. Now in a total panic, Jaime followed Cruz to work at Comanche Aeronautics and confronted him as Cruz walked toward the office building.  “Look, Cruz, I’m in real danger here.  I need your help.  I’ve got to have some drones.  It’s really, serious, man.”

The bruises on Jaime’s face were obvious. Cruz wanted to help his cousin, but it was clear to him now that Jaime was somehow involved in an activity that Cruz wanted no parts of. “I’ve got to get inside, Jaime.  There’s a meeting starting in a few minutes and I can’t be late.”

Jaime began to shout and grabbed Cruz and shook him violently.  “Cruz, you’ve got to help!”

Cruz broke away and ran into the office building.  Jaime stood in the parking lot, screaming at the top of his voice at Cruz, accusing him of abandoning is family and calling Cruz all sorts of names.  Marty was standing at the entrance and held the door for Cruz as he rushed inside. “Cruz, is everything OK?  Who is that in the parking lot?  What is he yelling at you about?”

“It’s nothing, Marty.  It’s my cousin and it’s just a family squabble.  I’m OK.  Let’s get to the meeting.”

Much to his relief, Cruz did not hear from Jaime for the next two days. When he arrived at work the following morning, the parking lot was full of police cars, two fire trucks and an ambulance.  Marty came up and put his arm around Cruz.  “The maintenance crew discovered a badly beaten body in the dumpster this morning.  You’d better come inside with me.  There’s a police officer in the Conference Room and he wants to talk with you.  The body they found was your cousin.”

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