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About the Author: Robert Lopresti's 100+ short stories have won the Derringer and Black Orchid Novella Awards and been included in the Best American Mystery Stories series. He blogs at SleuthSayers and Little Big Crimes.

Scott Preslow.

I’ve always loved dogs. Must have had a dozen over the years when I was growing up. We lived in a small town in Utah so there was plenty of room for them.

I was incredibly lucky to get a job as a dog handler for the Drug Enforcement Agency. These animals are fantastic. I signed up three years ago, back in 2005, and after my training I was paired with a German shepherd named Scout.

And when I say paired, I mean partners 24/7. I trained him, played with him, fed him, and he slept at the foot of my bed.

Just incredible animal. He could sniff out half a dozen kinds of illegal drugs. Didn’t matter how tightly wrapped or what else you stuck in a package to try to fool him.

We were working in Phoenix that summer and one day I took him to the warehouse for Logistre, one of the big package shippers. We walked up and down the aisles for an hour without a peep and suddenly Scout alerted. That means he ran down the aisle, with me hanging onto the leash. He sat in front of this big cardboard carton, just shaking with excitement.

Well, the first thing you do after he alerts is pull out his towel. That’s his reward: we play tug of war with his towel. He knows when he finds something he gets to play his favorite game. Amazing dog.

Then I contacted my supervisor, Agent Davies.

Jessica Davies.

Once the canine officer alerted us to the suspicious package we had no trouble getting a warrant to open it. The carton was found to contain 30 pounds of cannabis, wrapped in several layers of plastic, interlaced with coffee grounds in the hopes of concealing the scent.

The address on the package was:

Allison Barducci

125 Silver Crescent

Vanaca, Maryland

I immediately contacted the police department in Vanaca and spoke to Lieutenant Gonzalez.

Alex Gonzalez.

When the DEA informed us of the suspicious package we agreed to take custody of it as soon as it reached Maryland and perform a controlled delivery to the alleged drug dealer.

Engaging with miscreants of this type is inherently dangerous and for the safety of my officers and the community I knew we needed maximum security and, if necessary, fire power.

Unfortunately, and despite my persistent requests to the powers that be,  the Vanaca County Police Department does not have a SWAT unit. I was therefore forced to contact the Vanaca County Sheriff’s Department, a separate law enforcement agency, which has a fully-functional, properly-trained, and adequately-funded SWAT unit.

I want to make it clear that my team exercised due diligence. They drove past the suspect’s address and found it surrounded by a high fence, not unexpected where a criminal enterprise is taking place. We saw a Lexus in the driveway and determined that it was registered to Allison Victoria Barducci, the addressee of the package. We had every reason to believe the sheriff’s team would be able to make the delivery and the arrest safely.

Michael Roe.

My deputies did nothing wrong. As sheriff of Vanaca County I take full responsibility for the actions of my men, but I repeat that nothing that happened was our fault.

We received the suspect package on Wednesday, July 28, and Judge Wesley immediately granted us a warrant. In coordination with the county police, my SWAT team prepared a complete and highly professional plan for the next evening.

I repeat that my officers carried out their operation with thorough professionalism. I acknowledge that the outcome was less than ideal, but I would not hesitate to make the same decision. We will do whatever is necessary to take dangerous drugs off the street.

Douglas Durn.

It was my first undercover assignment. That’s what they called it, kidding me, because it was all of ten minutes long. I’m the FNG, the rookie, so they gave me the easiest part.

I wore the uniform of a Logistre delivery man and drove the truck up to the house on Silver Crescent. (Not alone; two of my fellow officers were hidden in the truck, just in case.)

This story appears in our FEB 2024 Issue
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