Thursday, February 21, 2008

Mostly in this blog I tell stories that are my own. Sometimes, however, I come across someone else's story that they refuse to commit to a blog of their own, so I'm forced to write it up myself

Earlier this month I wrote briefly about my friend Scott and the task he had been given. I'm going to tell the same story again, but include details that I learned after writing that initial post.

As I covered previously, Scott had been entrusted with what was described as a "sacred ritual". He was to, upon his father-in-law's death, enter the man's private storage buildings, disarm the various traps, gather and catalog the man's "collection", and then sell it so that the proceeds could be distributed among the man's four daughters. Scott was aware that the man was a security nut and a paranoid survivalist, but wasn't really sure what the collection consisted of.

Scott spoke with his father-in-law over the phone a few weeks ago, and the man reminded Scott of his duty. Scott acknowledged it and asked for instructions on how to get past the various security measures that had been alluded to. The man agreed, but said he was feeling too weak that day. He suggested that they speak again soon.

Scott's father-in-law died before they had another chance to speak.

So, Scott flew out to the compound in Idaho, unsure exactly of what he was supposed to gather and how he'd go about it. What he found was a pack-rat nightmare. His father-in-law had completely filled a 5000 square foot garage, floor to ceiling with boxes of survival gear and assorted nonsense. There was virtually no room to walk or maneuver. The collection sat in a distant corner of the building, in a series of attics only accessible through ladders and crawlspaces.

Scott made his first trip up the ladder and slammed his head against a low beam near the top. As he flailed to keep his balance, that's when his arm knocked against a hidden wire. Scott froze, fearing that this was one of the security devices that the man had warned him of. Nothing happened and Scott breathed a sigh of relief, beginning to believe that perhaps his father-in-law had been more bark than bite.

Then he heard a low hiss and instantly his lungs filled with tear gas. Scott fled back down the ladder, through the box labyrinth and out into the cold Idaho winter, coughing all the while.

He let the building air out for the next 12 hours. That was day one. He spent time instead gathering up the various weapons that his father-in-law had stashed in the main house. He found that there was always at least one gun within easy reach of each place where the man had spent any time. There were guns under the couches, under the bed, in kitchen cabinets, etc. All guns were loaded, with the safety off, and often with the hammer cocked and ready.

Everywhere Scott went, he took with him a series of keys and access codes. Entering each area of the house, and the compound in general, required unlocking some security device. Often the access code to enter an area was different than the code to leave it. Forgetting any of these codes would result in the alarm system going off, which would be followed by a visit from the authorities.

One day two Scott reentered the garage. He became good at spotting the trip wires that led to the tear gas cannisters, that populated the most secure storage areas. The only other booby trap that he failed to spot was a piercing alarm attached to a motion detector that left Scott immobilized, hands pressed over his ears, waiting for the alarm to cease. When it failed to shut off, he eventually dismantled that alarm, along with all of its clones.

Let me note at this point that if I had to pick anyone in the world, that I personally know, to perform these types of feats, it would be Scott. He is the MacGyverest of all my acquaintances. He can program a computer, cook a meal, perform most any physical feat, restore a car, or fix virtually any type of mechanical system. Whenever I mention to Scott that I've called a repairman, or an exterminator, or a mechanic, he berates me for not fixing, killing, or lubing the problem myself.

Scott slowly began to gather and catalog the "collection". It was, as he expected, a large cache of weapons, optics, ammunition, explosives, and other high-end survival gear. Each box that he took from storage involved scooting through crawlspaces like an inchworm, going down the ladder, weaving through the narrow box labyrinth and then making his way around the outside of the garage on the icy ground to his car, praying that he didn't ever drop his boxes of explosives, tear gas, etc.

He eventually realized that he could reduce this "commute" if he could only get the massive steel garage door open. So, he spent a few hours moving boxes out of the way. In this cramped environment, doing that was like playing a massive version of the hand-held puzzle game where you try to put pieces of the puzzle in order by sliding pieces into the one open space. Finding space for each box was a chore. After he actually moved enough boxes to get to the door, he found that it was secured with a large lock for which he did not have the combination. Thankfully, a bolt cutter solved that problem, but the door still wouldn't open. He eventually discovered that his father-in-law had bolted the door to the frame of the garage in 16 different locations. So, Scott unscrewed each of the bolts, but the door STILL wouldn't open. After much head-scratching he finally found that his father-in-law had hidden three more bolts, covering them so that they would be invisible.

He eventually got the garage door open, but it took nearly the whole day.

By day four Scott had cleared out the vast majority of the "secret" areas. His final challenge was a safe that had been hidden in the corner of one of the attics. Of course Scott didn't have the combination to the safe, but he eventually found a metal grinder amidst the man's tools. So, he hunkered down with the grinder, drilling his way to the final treasure, sparks flying everywhere.

Scott paused for a moment, contemplating what was inside the safe and whether it would be affected by the flurry of sparks caused by metal grinder. He considered perhaps that it might be filled with explosives, which are definitely not spark-friendly. So, he put the grinder aside, and re-tackled the job with crowbars and mallets. When he finally got inside the safe, sure enough, in addition to a few valuable guns, it also contained a considerable amount of explosive powder, more then enough to blow up Scott and the entire garage.

Death averted.

On his final day there, Scott drove a van full of these boxes out to a storage place, planning on returning another day to begin the job of selling everything of value. The storage space operator watched Scott pack the boxes into the space and asked, "So, what do you have in there?"

Scott stared at the man for a moment and replied, "Memorabilia."


Anonymous said...

how old are you then?

Mike said...

As old as time itself, which is about 39 in people years.

David said...

As soon as I read "compound in Idaho" I thought that this would be some serious shtuff. For risking life and limb, I hope he got a good cut of the sale.

Mya said...

It makes absolutely no sense to me. Scott should go the doctor, make sure he hasn't picked up any nasty viruses.

Mya x

Mike said...

David, I don't think Scott is going to make much money off this venture. I'm sure he'd gladly have his time back instead.

Mya, mostly Scott was in danger of impaling, gassing, shooting himself. Probably the only disease he could have picked up is tetanus.

Avery Gray said...

What, no snake pit? No boiling oil? What kind of commando was this guy?

Mike said...

Avery, he was an old, paranoid, pack-rat, security freak, not Indiana Jones.