At Providence's Gate
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Chapter Six

     It was Monday.  John was sitting at his desk next to the back door of the diamond exchange.  Preoccupied with formulating his step-by-step plan in his head for the robbery he would pull the following Tuesday, John didnt hear the UPS truck pull into the back parking lot.

     A knock came to the back door, startling him from his reverie.  Looking through the peep hole, he saw the familiar face of the regular route driver, Kevin.  John opened the door and said, What have you got for us today, Kev?  Five large and heavy boxes John, Ill bring them in one at a time, the driver replied.

     John was somewhat bewildered.  Abe had not told him to expect a delivery today.  He called him on the intercom and the old jeweler told John hed be back in a minute.  By the time he arrived, Kevin had put all the boxes in the middle of the floor and was having John sign for the shipment.

     Abe inspected each box carefully and walked over to John with a satisfied look on his face.  John, theres a business card for Alamo Alarm Company on the right upper portion of the blotter on my desk, Abe told his assistant as Kevin left. It as Frank Mercados name and cell phone number on it, give him a call and tell him the equipment is here and I would like him to install it in the morning, he said.

     John walked back to the outer office and watched as Abe was removing the packing lists from each box. What is all of this stuff? he inquired.  Its our new monitoring system.  Inas idea and a good one it was, Abe said.

     He told John that Ina felt the security system needed upgrading if the exchange was going to store close to five million dollars worth of diamond.  In fact, the insurance company required the upgrade or Great American Indemnity would not cover the value of all that inventory.

     It was a state-of-the-art security system that provided for 24 hour monitoring of the exchange from Alamo Alarms central office.  There was a video tape back up but the eyes of an actually human monitor would be the first line of defense.

     John told Abe he thought it was an excellent idea. Just as he was about to ask the old man where the cameras would be mounted the phone rang.  It was Frank Mercado of the alarm company.  Abe told John he would take it in his office.

     When Abe left, John looked at the boxes and began to see his plan of more than a year begin to unravel.  Round the clock security would certainly be difficult to defend against, especially four different cameras, John thought.  Suddenly his one-man job required some reinforcements.  He decided to call a meeting with his four cohorts.  Since he had them dispose of their mobile phones months ago, it was necessary for John to visit each man.  Luckily he had their home addresses and he also knew where Frank worked.

     At lunch time, John drove six blocks to Carrs Cars, having called to ask Frank to go t lunch with him.  Frank was waiting for John outside the service area of the dealership.  Hey, long time no see, how they hanging bud? Frank called out as John drove up.  Could be better, he replied grimly, Get in, well go to Hung Fungs, John said.  The mention of San Antonios oldest and most popular Chinese restaurant made Franks mouth water.

     Ive got a major problem, John said once Frank was in the car and they were on the road.  What kind of problem, asked Frank.  John told him about the state-of-the-art monitoring system that had been delivered to the exchange less than two hours before and Frank just sat back with a big grin on his face.

     Whats so funny, Franky? John asked, just a little bit annoyed. Well, you dont have a problem I cant handle and you will need a crew to make the hit, he responded.  The boys and I were hoping we could have an active role in this hit.

     What kind of active role? asked John.  Well take out the monitoring system for you is all, Johnny boy, Frank said confidently. How are you going to do that? John wanted to know.  Just let me sweat the small stuff. Ill get the guys together for a meeting tomorrow evening.  How does 6 pm at your place sound?

     John told Frank to stay away from his house and then told him to get Mel and Al and the four of them would meet at the same picnic table in Breckenridge Park that they used for the reference meeting so many months before.  He definitely didnt want anyone to know where he had been living for the past year, especially his boys.

     John was first to arrive at the meeting site, 20 minutes before the appointed time.  He had spent a good part of the day watching the installers from Alamo putting the cameras in and testing the system.  It was on line by 4 pm.

     There was a camera placed at the front door and another covered the back. A third camera was in the hall outside Abes office and it would show anyone walking down the hall into the office, the vault room and the new fabricating room.  Since the front camera reached out into the front parking lot, the fourth camera was placed about 30 feet off the ground in the back and showed the outside of the back door as well as a good portion of the parking lot.

     John related all of this information to his partners in crime and when he was done, he plaintively asked, What are we going to do?  Mel looked patronizingly at the former head of the Preppies and said, Not to worry fearless leader, old Mel has got everything under control.

     John gave his three friends a puzzled look and said, Okay assholes, what do you know that I dont?  Frank looked at each man present.  Everyone but John had a shit-eating grin on his face, except John. Go ahead Mel, it was your brilliant idea, Frank said.

     Well see John, its like this, Mel began with an air of self-importance.  We did a little recon today. Checked Alamo Alarm out, what was it my old man used to say, three ways from Sunday.  They cant watch whats happening at San Antonio Diamond Exchange all the way across town if they dont have electricity.

     A slight smile of returning confidence began to replace Johns look of doom.  Mel went on to outline his plan to knock out the power at Alamo Alarm for at least two hours.  It entailed crashing a stolen pickup truck into the power pole directly in front of Alamos central monitoring office.

     John smiled and said, Great, itll take hours for CPS to restore power once that transformer comes crashing down. Mel looked at him and said, Yeah, and around 45 seconds for the alarm companys emergency power generator to come on line restoring power to the whole operation.

     Wait a minute, John said, a slight panic in his voice, You said Mel interrupted, Not to worry, weve got the generator covered too.

     Mel went on to explain how easy it would be to pour a five pound bag of sugar into the generators fuel tank, thereby contaminating the fuel so the engine would not kick in.

     Ive heard about putting sugar in car gas tanks, John said, Will it work that quick? Im told it does, Mel replied.

     Youre TOLD it does, but you dont know for sure?  Youve never tested it? John said, raising his voice slightly.  So well test it on a different generator before we do the heist, Mel said calmly.  Where we going to find a big generator to destroy trying test a theory that may not work, John said after a long pause.

     Al had basically been sitting watching his three friend talk.  A simple man of few words, his friends had learned to listen when he talked because Als father was no dummy and he had taught his son well.

     My father is a volunteer firefighter.  He hangs out at the Alamo Heights fire station all the time.  I sometimes go with him, at least I did when I was a kid.  Whats that got to do with the price of hookers on  Broadway? asked John.  Al beamed as he gave his answer, The station has the exact same emergency power generator.  I am suggesting we do to the fire department what we plan to do to the San Antonio Diamond Exchanges security company.

     Finally John got it and he felt on top of the world.  Mels plan was a simple one. First, steal a pickup truck.  Then, crash it into the power pole in front of the fire station to cut the CPS power to the building.  The loss of power would trigger the emergency generator.  A bag of sugar dumped into the fuel tank of the buildings auxiliary power plant would effectively render it useless, if the theory was correct.

     The grand experiment was scheduled for Wednesday night, seven nights before the scheduled heist.  Frank and Al would steal the pickup truck.  Mel would be the sugar man and probably the most vulnerable of the team members.  If he were caught in the act of sabotaging the Alamo Heights Fire Department emergency generator, it would mean jail time for sure and Mel would essentially be on his own.

     To decrease the chance of Mel being caught in the act, Al would set a dumpster located behind the high school on fire.  The night of the experiment, Al set the fire at 10 pm.  Within 10 minutes, a neighbor noticed an orange glow in the sky behind the cafeteria of the school and called

9-1-1.  Engine #1 and Truck #1 immediately were dispatched to the scene of the reported fire, leaving only a busy dispatcher, who would be busy monitoring radio traffic and answering phones, left in the fire station.  Mel had no trouble accomplishing his mission.

     At the same time Al was starting the fire, Frank, who  was at Windsor Park Mall, after being dropped off there by Al earlier, looking for a likely pickup truck to steal.  He found a 1992 Dodge Ram, stole it and pulled into a convenience store parking lot on Broadway at exactly 11:15 pm as planned.

     Al followed Frank into the store and they both purchased large fountain drinks.  As they walked out, Frank told Al to get behind the wheel of the still-running Ram.  This experiment was to be a test of Als ability to take down a 36 foot power pole as it was a test of the theory that sugar in a generator fuel tank would disable it.

     While Frank, as the son and employee of an automobile dealer probably knew more about vehicles, Al was chosen as driver because when he was 17, he actually did severe a power pole while driving a stolen Grand Am.  Although he had managed to evade capture by the police following the accident, he remembered few of the details leading up to it, having consumed about 12 cans of beer before it occurred.

     Al didnt have the benefit of liquid courage on this night, just the constant encouragement of Frank who was riding shotgun.  Making the final turn onto the street where the fire station was located, Al slammed his foot on the gas pedal.  The powerful V8 engine of the Dodge Ram immediately responded with a roar and careened toward its target.

     John and Mel had arrived minutes earlier in a black Econoline cargo van that was also stolen.  They parked about 100 feet from the power pole they all hoped would soon be history.  The sound of the speeding Ram pickup instantly provided John and Mel with a dose of adrenalin.  John attached the ignition wires and the vans engine turned over.  The headlights of the Ram grew larger  as it closed in on the power pole.  As the powerful truck made contact, the sound of splintering wood and toppling power pole was like the report of a Howitzer cannon.

     Before Al and Frank, who were lightly dazed and bruised from the jolt, were able to pull themselves from the wreck, the transformer struck the pavement and burst into a huge array of white hot sparks, lighting the area for an instant.  Aside from the sparks, no other lights could be seen for at least a block.  John pulled the van up next to the wrecked Ram and Mel opened the back door, allowing Frank and Al to scramble inside.  As the van pulled away, the disabled generator sputtered but did not kick in.

     The four rouges abandoned their stolen van on a road behind Fort Sam Houston where Johns Mustang was parked.  It was decided they would drive by the Alamo Heights Fire Department to see the fruits of their labor before going to the Whataburger on Broadway to critique the test and talk about the upcoming real thing.

     As the red 1995 Mustang approached the fire station, the four noticed that the lights were still out there.  In front of the station one policeman was inspecting the pick up truck and another cop was directing traffic around the fallen power pole.

     Before the four men entered the fast food restaurant, John reminded them to keep their voices down.  There were only a few people inside, but this particular eatery was frequented by park police and San Antonios finest as well.

     Since the experiment had gone so well, Frank felt this was a good time to ask John about their cut of the expected loot, a topic that had not been discussed in any detail.  John had no intention of telling his cohorts the expected take from the diamond exchange was in excess of five million dollars, two million more than he had initially told them.  That would mean more money for him and confirmed the adage that there is no honor among thieves.

     Like I said guys, the value of the take will be about three mil, but after we manage to actually fence these stones, well be lucky to have a mil, John quietly explained.  I think its only fair I get 700 Gs and you guys split 300.

     Now wait a minute, Johnny Boy, Frank said boldly, you arent the only one taking risk here you know.  I think a better split is 400 G  to you and 200 G a piece to you, anything more, you keep the difference, any thing less and we  will all divide the costs separately.

     No way Im going to take less than the three of you put together, John calmly announced. Ill go 550 G for me and 450 for you guys, thats 150 G a piece and its my final offer.  Mel, Frank and Al looked at one another and silently signaled assent.  John smiled and thought to himself, That will leave more than a mil for me after I pay these jokers off.

     While they ate their burgers and fries, the quartet firmed up the preparations for the date of the heist.  They all agreed to purchase cell phones and keep them turned on at all times.  The timetable for the heist would mirror the one used for the experiment, with John being the only one missing because he will have hidden himself inside the diamond exchange before it closed.  Johns movements and activities for H-Day were still to be determined, but he would be the only one to know those details.

     When the four broke up and left the Whataburger to go their separate ways, they agreed to meet sometime during the weekend to go over any last minute details and glitches.  As they approached their cars that had all been parked earlier in the back of the restaurant, John gave the other three the high sign and said, Men, I love it when a plan comes together.