The Safehouse Upgrade

Ralph and I went up the stairs just as Lady Chief and David emerged again. We sat down where Elizabeth and Donald awaited. Elizabeth spoke first. Her voice was the measured and pleasant one of the safehouse keeper and not the tough and raspy one of the whorehouse Madam. Behind her back you’d have called her sweet, but ONLY behind her back. Since this actually was the first time that Elizabeth had spoken to all of us, I wondered what they all now made of the story that she’d faced down a professional assassin and shot him dead with a contraband gun.

“Donald and I agreed that the two most important things to fix by the end of tomorrow would be the three doors, front, rear, and garage entrance; and the entire set of exterior flood lights around the building. The last is easy, PI always has cleared electricians on call. The doors will be harder.” We were all as attentive as college students told that this material would be covered on the test.

Elizabeth continued, “What we truly need are steel doors, armor grade steel if we can get it; a completely new door hanging box designed to resist pry bars and other door breaching contraptions; true security locks; and the newly developed door barring system, Isobar, bronze plated steel ingots that bar the door from the floor and are controlled by mechanical foot panel.

“In the long run that last is very important. Barring the door with something that will not move and must be broken has been the time honored and most effective way of securing a door against attack and the protocol should always mandate barring unless the door is about to be used. But any barring system at chest height is cumbersome and doesn’t encourage or aid this protocol.

“We can’t get these in time, but Donald will start Helen researching for the new safehouses. So we must upgrade the rather flimsy doors we have. Right now, Ralph could simply kick them in. We need a complete replacement of locks to security standards (I’ve given Donald some brands) and we need a complete replacement of all the 1 inch screws in the current doors by 3 1/2 inch ones that actually bite into the wall studs and not just the door frames. Both the hinges and the lock panels will need replacement screws on both door and doorframe. We’re lucky that none of the current doors have windows and have to be completely replaced.

“PI’s in-house carpenters can do all this. They are already on their way over here to get the measurements. They will then go to the big box lumber and hardware store this evening to pick up locks, screws, two large steel U brackets with four very large lag bolts for either side of each door, a 12 ft 4×4 piece of hardwood for the bars, and doorstop mini alarms for each door. If all goes well tomorrow, they and the PI locksmith should have this done by mid-afternoon. Then they can start the work of more security on the attached garage door. With this we’ll have about 50% of the security we need. The doors will still be breachable, but it will take much, much longer and putting up with a loud alarm to do it.”

Most of our faces clearly showed an imaginative vision of the attempted breach and corresponding uproar.

Elizabeth went on, “The PI electricians will install low profile overhead radio controlled CCTV cameras on top of each door, with a small monitor unit beside each door. No one will need to look through the peephole and expose themselves to gunshots straight through the center of the doors. They will also install a dual system of floodlights around the entire house perimeter. This should also be done by the end of tomorrow increasing our security to about 60% of what is needed. We can then begin to develop door protocols for Emily.

“In addition, Helen will try to have glass block installers here by morning. We have the good fortune to have, except for these two picture windows here, and one window in the kitchen, only transom windows at the top of every other outside wall. They are for light and air only and not for vision. Each of these will be replaced by immobile glass bricks with small opening air vents in the center. This will take some time, but I think it can be completely finished, along with the garage door, by the end of the second day, if we offer the companies Double Time for the work to go on into the night. The kitchen window can be handled by outside bars, as the basement window wells already possess.

“Next comes the hardest part, these two massive picture windows. Donald will tell Helen that we need new fully opaque drapes, with translucent shims underneath, rather than the semi-opaque drapes currently here. There are two problems with the windows. First is the visibility from outdoors through the window; casual glimpses of the guest are not an option. Second, once the glass brick and wrought iron bars are in place and the doors are barred, the only cheap and easy access will be through these windows, both for quiet breaking and entering and for an armed attack on the safehouse. We can’t fully fix these without provoking the nosy interest of the neighbors. But we can make both a lot harder.”

Once again, imagination supplied the compelling picture in the mind for all of us.

Elizabeth went on, and I could see David’s face sprouting new respect for her analytic skills, “Tomorrow morning Helen and Donald will call local nurseries to find us 12 large and mature barberry bushes to plant close together in front of the windows giving the house some aggressive natural barbed wire on the outside. Once the electricians have finished the door CCTVs, they will continue installing the rest all around the outside of the house, then they will find us a control panel with a set of monitors, digital recorders and digital inputs for all the security electronics. Once we establish the most convenient place to put this, we can create more protocols for Emily.

“Managing the inside of these windows will be the most difficult task. With opaque drapes, we can only routinely cover about 2/3 to 3/4 of the window length during the day without arousing neighborhood curiosity about why the curtains are always drawn. The next step is to set up free standing Japanese screens one third of the way back from and parallel to each of the windows allowing for concealed movement across the room behind the screens. Then the furniture must be rearranged so that no chair or couch shows when you look into the window from outside.

“In addition to that, Helen will procure us some large and very tall indoor plants such as Coleus, Rubber Plant, or Heavenly Bamboo to place between the screens and the windows. These will both explain why the screens are there, to show off the plants through the windows, and give some breakup camouflage for the 1/3 of the window that will be open. At night, of course, the heavy drapes can be closed without any neighborhood remark and we’ll add this to Emily’s protocols.”

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