Chapter 4

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In Georgia, the moonless night painted the landscape a uniform dark. With night goggles, he had little need for moon or stars. The landscaped evergreens provided ample protection to scout the grounds. For more than two hours he had perched in the pine nearest the main building, observing so quietly a screech owl joined him in the tree. No security guards patrolled outside. How many penguins were in there? A hundred? Probably more. At $10,000 a head, he was well into seven digits.

The last light in the building had blinked out shortly past midnight, leaving only the faint red glow of exit signs leaking from stairwell windows. Thirty minutes earlier, a doe grazed on bushes close to the main building and did not trigger any motion sensor lights. Time to explore.

He slipped through the night to the back door. Using his body as a shield, he illuminated the lock with a penlight. A simple cylinder. He extinguished the light and selected a pick from his case. The nearby air-conditioning units running full blast drowned out any sound he made entering the basement.

As the cooler interior air with its hint of mold hit him, he realized how uncomfortable it had been outside in the heat. While waiting and watching, he had ignored the sweat trickling between his shoulder blades. The full-body camouflage was a useful safeguard, but hot. He surveyed the basement and found the furnace room ahead and on the left—precisely matching the building permit records. Besides the special apparatus and a few tools, all he would need on the big night was a stepladder to reach the ductwork.

His reconnoiter accomplished in the main building, he slipped out the door and explored the garage and toolshed until he found where they stored ladders. His smile shown from beneath the brown, green, and black face paint. Softly whistling “Nearer, My God, to Thee,” he melded with the night.

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