9

Madison arrived at the restaurant shortly after eight. The sign inside the door invited her to seat herself, so she scanned the room. There was a group of retirees in the corner that she assumed were her quarry. She settled into an adjacent booth, facing away from them, put in her headphones and started swaying to the music that wasn’t playing from her phone. She figured that nobody would be concerned with a teenager listening in, if that teen was obviously lost in her own tunes. Next, Madison spread schoolwork over the table, and she slipped her Moleskine notebook into her lap. She noted the date, time, and place on the top of a new page, and she started listening.

She had counted six people in the booth, which matched the number of different color codenames she had read in the chat, not counting the missing Miss Gold, who she assumed was Judy. Each of them had notepads in front of them, except a distinguished man sitting at the end who had a notebook exactly like Madison’s. She could see him in a reflection off the windows, and he seemed to be writing in it continuously.

The distinguished man cleared his throat and the others in the group stopped talking. “Before we start, I just want to take a second to acknowledge Mrs. Blue’s loss. Hank was a fine man, and he will be missed.” Madison made a note as the mumbling of condolences washed around the adjacent booth. “Okay, so let’s get right to it. Mr. Brown—facilities report?”

“Space is good, Mr. Black,” Mr. Brown replied. “We’ve got the network up, both hard wire and secure wireless for the inventory control scanners. Inventory software is up and running. We added a third shift, so we’re going 24/7 now. Still building out the shelving systems. Safe was delivered, and we’ve got that bolted down.”

“And around the safe?” Mr. Black asked.

Another man spoke up. “Not done yet, but we’re planning two layers of fencing with razor wire on top.”

“Sounds good,” Mr. Black said. “Why don’t you continue with the security report, Mr. Green.”

“Yes, Sir. Well as you just heard the safe is in. Room for all the bullion and the armory. Ammo’s not been an issue. Getting that retail. But I’m having a hell of a time putting my hands on the hardware we need.”

“Can’t you just drive up to Chicago?” a woman asked.

“Could, but that’s going to be all handguns. The spec says AR-15s and the like, and those aren’t that easy to source without being detected.”

The conversation stopped abruptly and Madison glanced up from her notebook. The waitress was approaching her booth. Madison ordered pancakes and a milkshake. The waitress then refilled the coffees at the next booth. She proceeded back to the kitchen.

“Anyway,” Mr. Green proceeded, “my plan is to hit up the gun shows. That avoids all the paperwork, and since we have a few months, I figure I can just pick them up a few at a time.”

“Sounds good. We definitely don’t want the ATF to notice us,” Mr. Black said.

“No friends up there?” Mr. Green asked.

“Afraid not. We have friends at DEA and CBP, but we don’t have anyone in ATF, so we need to be careful. And speaking of which. Mrs. Blue? Medical?”

After a short delay, Madison heard someone whisper “That’s you, Nancy.” Madison smiled and made a note.

“Oh, sorry. I’m still getting used to that. So we’ve got a factory down in Guadalajara that can produce generics of a lot of the most popular drugs. Some of which aren’t technically off patent yet. I’m relying on you to get them across the border, Mr. Black.”

“Yup,” he acknowledged.

“And we’ve got a source for the narcotics we need up in Canada. So that’s going to be fine. But I’m having the darnedest time sourcing insulin, of all things.”

“Have you looked further abroad?” Mr. Black asked.

“Just starting to. Your friend at the UN is helping me reach a supplier he knows out of Jordan. Seems promising.”

“What’s the shelf life on insulin?” Mr. Black inquired.

“About a year on the label. If you’re careful, you can probably double that.”

“Okay. Let me know if the Jordan thing doesn’t pan out, and I’ll shake some other trees. Miss Violet, what’s the story on rations?”

“All good. We’ve got trucks arriving every week with MREs, canned goods, and so on. Cistern, well, and filtration is up and operational.”

“Excellent. Any other issues that should be on my radar?”

“Where is Miss Gold?” Miss Violet asked.

“Away,” Mr. Black replied. “But Mr. Green is covering.”

“Oh, I forgot to mention,” Mr. Green spoke up. “Private inside security is in place. They’re on the CLP payroll.”

“What do they know?” Mrs. Blue asked.

“Nothing,” Mr. Black replied. “They’ll get read in when the time is right, but for now, they just think they’re securing a distribution warehouse in the middle of nowhere for some big corporation.”

“Not inaccurate,” someone said.

“Indeed,” Mr. Black agreed. “Okay, if that’s all, I’m going to adjourn our little business meeting. I’m going to go ahead and order some food. If any of you want to join me, feel free. Just no shop talk. Or if you need to go, that’s fine, too.”

Madison saw the waitress come out of the kitchen with her dinner, so she moved her school books off the table to make room.

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