Copyright© 2020 by Lumpy
Taylor spent several more hours poring over documents with no luck before shutting his computer down. He’d found some general background information, what he really needed wasn’t going to be found in searches. There were two possibilities he could see at the moment for getting more direct information, but both would require help to get.
He decided to call back to the States first. It was still morning back home, but the help he needed would have to be started soon before it got too late in Germany.
“Senator Caldwell’s phone,” Loren answered.
The volume of noise in the background suggested that the Senator was again at some kind of function. Considering how much the campaign season was heating up, that wasn’t a huge surprise.
“Loren, its Taylor. Can I speak with the Senator a moment? I’m calling from Germany.”
“I’m aware of where you are, Mr. Taylor. Hold one moment.”
The campaign must have been taking its toll on the Senators’ aid. Dashel was normally obnoxiously polite, even when it was clear Taylor annoyed him, and rarely came back with snippy responses.
“John, how’s everything going over there? Have you found Loretta?”
“Not yet, Senator, but I do need a little help. I need to get in to talk to someone from the Wissler family about Frederick Wissler, Whitaker’s relative, but I’m not sure how to go about doing that. I’m guessing for people at their level I can’t just go round and ring the doorbell. I was hoping you could call them and get me the high society pass for a meeting.”
“There’s high society, and then there’s ‘old’ money. I don’t know anyone from the family personally, but I’ve dealt with their peers before, and they usually consider anyone from our side of the pond as nouveau riche. Still, I’m not without my charms. I’ll make some calls and see what I can do.”
“Thank you, Senator. I’m sorry for having to ask for so many favors lately.”
“Don’t worry about it, John. Just remember this the next time I need you to come speak at an event.”
Taylor groaned internally. Her tone suggested she was playing with him, although that didn’t mean she wasn’t serious either.
“You can count on me, Senator.”
“Okay, I’ll call you back after I work my magic. It will take some time, so I can’t promise it won’t be until very late there.”
“That’s fine, Senator. Call me as soon as you can.”
They said their goodbyes, and Taylor dialed the next person he needed to speak with.
“Mr. Taylor?” Graf said.
“Yes, Chief Inspector. How’s the arm?”
“It’s fine. The bullet fragment just passed through some muscle. The doctors said that, in a month or so, I should fully recover.”
“Good, I’m glad to hear it. Any news on the files or the shooters?”
“The files are just a mix of records, old photos, things like that. We will keep going through them, but on first pass, there doesn’t look to be anything pointing towards your friend or the reason for Frau Wissler’s death. It is pretty clear someone has gone through these files, which means there’s a good chance that anything important was already removed.”
Taylor knew that Graf meant Whitaker when he said ‘someone.’ He also knew that their check through the files was focused on clues that would lead to her. Since they had already written off Frederick’s death as natural causes, Frieda’s suspicions as the delusions of an old woman, and decided her death was at the hands of Whitaker, they had no reason to look beyond that. Which also meant they could have, and probably had, missed something. That didn’t mean that Taylor would be able to figure out what that something was that they missed since any clues into Frederick’s death and Frieda’s request to Whitaker would all be guesses at this point. He still had to try, though.
“I know you’ve gone through them, but is there any way I can look through the files?”
“I don’t think so. Those files are evidence in a murder and now an assault on a police officer. We can’t have you messing up the chain of custody.”
“What if you had an officer stay with me while I looked at them at your station? That wouldn’t break custody, and I might find something that you missed. Whitaker had the address for this stashed away, and the files were still inside, so they had to contain something of use. Besides, if I’m wrong and you’re right and whatever was in the box was already removed, they wouldn’t help you at trial anyway.”
There was silence on the other end of the line for a long time. He could hear small noises on the other end, so he knew Graf was still there and thinking it through, so Taylor waited him out.
“I will let my department know you are coming and that you should be allowed to view the files under supervision only,” Graf said, emphasizing the last point. “None of those files are to leave, do you understand Mr. Taylor?”
“Perfectly. What about the gunmen. Any word on them?”
“We got back preliminary identification on them. They are local criminals known to work in that area. One was wanted in a recent armed robbery of tourists on the same street, in fact.”
“It seems a stretch that we go to that specific address and would be jumped right before we went inside by street criminals. I find it hard to believe it isn’t connected.”
“I admit the coincidence seems extreme, which is why I said our preliminary identification. We will continue looking into the men’s backgrounds, but they are known to us. These men were common street criminals. They have no history of working as muscle for anything organized and have no association with anything that would suggest that. Everything in their history supports the conclusion that it was an unrelated attempted robbery, as farfetched as that seems. Still, I have men working through their known associates to track down their third friend as well as looking for a connection between them and this case.”
“So no foreign connection, then?” Taylor asked.
“No, like I said, common street criminals with no history of any kind of foreign contacts. Why?”
“No reason, I’m just having trouble believing this is unrelated.”
“I understand your misgivings, and as I said, I share them. We will continue to look into it.”
Taylor had heard the tone Graf used in the past enough to know that he wasn’t planning on looking into it seriously. He’d go through the motions and maybe assign it to someone else, but despite his protestation, Taylor knew Graf was done with that angle.
Taylor just couldn’t buy it. They might be just randomly hired armed muscle without any prior history, but there was no way that wasn’t planned. While Taylor knew coincidences happened, there were coincidences, and then there was this kind of thing. What he couldn’t do, at least not yet, was mention his suspicion of their being tied to the Russians. Graf was still keeping Taylor at arm’s length, and if this was a specific retaliation by the Russians on Taylor, it was guaranteed to make Graf freeze Taylor out.
“Ok. Well, I guess, let me know if anything on that changes. I also had an unrelated request.”
“I’m tracking back through Whitaker’s actions before Wissler died. She made a stop at the medical examiner’s office to ask about Mr. Wissler’s death. I wanted to go and talk to the Medical Examiner and ask questions about that visit.”
“We’ve already interviewed the medical examiner.”
“I understand that, but I want to get a feeling for where her head was at and where she might be going. I know Whitaker, and I know how she conducts investigations. I might hear something in his answers that you missed. At this moment, it’s all we have to go on to find her unless you guys stumble across her by chance. You don’t have a lot of leads at the moment.”
There was a long pause again while Graf considered. Taylor had played this card a lot so far, and, while it did lead them to the storage locker, it hadn’t gotten them any closer to Whitaker. Taylor had to be careful how many times he tried this tactic because eventually, Graf would stop buying into it.
“Fine. I will make a call for you to go be allowed in to talk to them. They will be closing shortly, so you will need to wait until the morning.”
“That’s fine. I can still go and see the files today, right?”
“Yes. I will call the precinct now and get you access.”
“Thanks. I’ll call you if I find anything.”
Graf hung up, and Taylor left the hotel and went to catch a cab to Graf’s precinct, where an officer was waiting to lead him into an interrogation room where they had the boxes of files waiting for him. An officer sat in the room the entire time, half watching Taylor as he read through one document after another, presumably to keep Taylor from taking any of the documents or messing up some part of the evidence.
It turns out they didn’t need to worry. Taylor read for hours, long enough that the officer watching over him changed twice before he finished. He read through or at least skimmed, every document in the boxes, and nothing stood out to him. It was all financial documents from the Wissler family going back decades. There was a chance something in these boxes did shed light on Fredericks’s death, but Taylor couldn’t see it. This was just the paperwork that builds over a person’s lifetime, important enough to keep but not important enough to ever look at a second time.
That, of course, begged the question of why this was important enough to put in a storage unit all by itself. It’s possible someone, even Whitaker, switched out what was in the boxes before Taylor and Graf found them, but Taylor couldn’t see the reasoning behind it.
Taylor knew he was missing something, but he still couldn’t see it. He was coming at this case sideways, working from the middle out. It was frustrating. Over the last few years, Taylor had gotten pretty good at this thing and usually had a feel for where things were headed.
This time, he had nothing. Just a bunch of questions.
He caught a cab back to his hotel and planned on calling it a night. Graf had sent him an email letting him know he could go by the medical examiners’ office the next day and, if the medical examiner wasn’t busy, he would talk to Taylor about Frederick’s autopsy and show him the files.
Taylor lay in bed, staring at the ceiling. It wasn’t really all that late, but there wasn’t a lot that Taylor could do until tomorrow. When Taylor finally fell asleep, his thoughts of Whitaker in danger out there somewhere plagued him.
Taylor was in the middle of a dream, back in the desert, except Whitaker was with him this time, tied up in one of the caves. Their torturers kept asking why Whitaker had killed her aunt. The bright glow of his cell phone threw shadows across the room, its harsh light making him squint. He was forced to rub his eyes several times before the screen came into focus enough to hit the answer button.
“Hello,” his voice croaked.
“John, I’m sorry if I woke you up,” Caldwell said. “I know it’s late over there.”
“Its fine Senator, I was up anyway.”
“You’re a terrible liar, John. I’m sure you’ll want to hear this anyways. I managed to speak with someone from the Wissler family just a little bit ago and they’ve agreed to meet with you tomorrow at eleven your time. You’ll be meeting with Albrecht Wissler. I’m not clear on his relation to Loretta’s relative, but my best guess is this is one of the lesser members of the family. They’ll also have one of the family attorneys present and they made it very clear that they are only doing this as a professional courtesy. While I’d never find fault with your methods, I’d advise that you ... temper your normal approach.”
“By temper, I take it that I shouldn’t go barging in headfirst like normal.”
“Please don’t take it as a criticism, I just have the feeling that they’ll look for any reason to shut the interview down.”
“No offense was taken, Senator. Whitaker regularly pointed out the issues with my normal approach. Heck, if she were here, I’d let her take this meeting without me, or at least try and stay silent through all of it. I’ll be good.”
“I’m about to step into a fundraising dinner, but don’t hesitate to call if you need anything else. I’ve been praying for you and Loretta.”
“Thank you, Senator. That means a lot.”