Family Ties
Chapter 9

Copyright© 2020 by Lumpy

The next morning Taylor and Whitaker both seemed to subconsciously need to constantly touch each other. Passing each other in the small motel room, they repeatedly reached to make physical contact. A slight caress of the back or brief hand hold seemed to reinforce they were really together again, even if their underlying problems hadn’t been completely solved.

Since both of them only had the things they’d been carrying when they went on the run, it didn’t actually take all that much time to get ready. Neither had a lot of cash on them and they couldn’t use credit cards since Graf would almost certainly have flagged those by now. Taylor had already pulled the battery out of his cell phone, but thankfully Whitaker had a burner she’d picked up. Overall, their supply situation was severely lacking.

“Where’d the bike come from?” Taylor said as he worked through the things that, if used, could come back and haunt them.

“It was Grace’s. Actually, it was an old boyfriend of hers who left it behind when they broke up. She’d just kept it in case he ever came back for it.”

“So, it’s in his name?”

“Yea. Unless Graf is really thorough, I don’t think he’ll be able to trace it.”

“Graf seems pretty thorough. He might figure it out and put a BOLO out for it.”

“So, we need to dump it?”

“Maybe not. Let’s go see my friend; he might be able to help us out.”

She gave Taylor a peck on the cheek before sliding on the bike helmet. Taylor thought briefly that he needed to get one too. Not just to make sure his brain stayed in his skull if they wrecked, but also because it was an excellent way to keep himself anonymous as they drove around town.

Any APB on them would include their descriptions and the fact that it was a man and a woman last seen on a motorcycle. The last part wouldn’t mean much if he was wearing a helmet, since there were a fair number of motorcycles in the city, and many of them had a male and female rider.

Although the trip to Bryant’s shop didn’t take long it was nerve-wracking as they looked for any sign of police. Whitaker let Taylor drive since he had more experience on a motorcycle, but she was still the one wearing a helmet since it didn’t fit Taylor.

It was still early when they arrived at the shop, just a few minutes till it was supposed to open. Thankfully, Bryant was there and the only one inside when Taylor and Whitaker walked in.

“You really turned everything to shit, didn’t you?” Bryant said as soon as he saw Taylor.

“Things went sideways, yeah.”

“What happened?”

“The cop I was working with turned out to be dirty. He told me those guys you checked on were just basic street thugs, and they were just looking to rob us. He got the drop on me as soon as I got off the phone with you. Thankfully, that was the moment Whitaker decided to show up.”

Taylor tilted his head in Whitaker’s direction to indicate her.

“So, you’re the lady behind all the trouble?”

“Something like that,” she said as she looked around the repair shop.

“We could use some help,” Taylor said.

“No, kidding. What, you need to get out of town?”

“No, we’re going to find out who killed her aunt and get the evidence to prove we’re innocent.”

“You realize there are warrants for the attempted murder of a police officer out for the both of you, right? Any cop that finds you isn’t going to be gentle and will probably err on the side of lethal force if you give them the chance.”

“We realize that, but we can’t just run. Even if we convince the US authorities that we’re innocent and not to extradite us, Whitaker’s career would be finished.”

“Let’s not forget the minor detail of making sure the person who actually killed Frieda gets brought to Justice,” Whitaker said, picking up a broken radio and looking it over.

“That too, I guess,” Taylor said.

“Okay. Well, you’re here. What do you need from me?”

“Partially, we’ve already gotten it. I assumed Graf would do something like this, but I wanted to make sure.”

“I can do some more checking if you give me a few minutes.”

They waited, poking around the shop as Bryant did his digging, logging into different databases he apparently had access to. Most were in German, which made sense, so Taylor didn’t know what he was actually doing.

Eventually, Bryant pushed away from his computer and said, “Aside from the warrant, they’ve put out notices to the airports, ports, and bus and train stations. You’ve both been called ‘armed and dangerous.’ I give it until tonight before your faces start popping up on news broadcasts.”

“Shit, that’ll make everything harder.”

“I imagine. She’s got the right idea,” Bryant said, pointing at the helmet in Whitaker’s hand.

“Yeah, but we only have the one.”

“I have one that should fit you, plus a riding jacket. Keep it on as much as you can, and you should be okay. It’s not that uncommon to see people walking around with their helmets on if they’re not too far from their bike.”

“Thanks, I owe you.”

“You sure as hell do,” Bryant said as he headed to retrieve the helmet and jacket.

Taylor and Whitaker didn’t stick around long. They both wanted to be in a position to grab the building manager as soon as possible. The longer they were out in public, the more dangerous it got. Especially if Bryant was right and their faces would soon show up on people’s TVs. Considering they were wanted for trying to kill Graf, the news getting interested seemed to be a no brainer.

There was a small park across from Frieda’s apartment building with a handful of benches. They parked on the other side of the park from the building just so they weren’t sitting directly in front of it, staring and sat on a bench with the most unobstructed view.

The key to a stakeout is one person is always focused on the target. This sounds easy enough for most people, but the act of just staying at one place for long periods is both tedious and exhausting. Things can happen fast, so the person watching the target can’t look away to read or do something else, intermittently watching. It requires the watchers’ complete attention. The real hard part, though, is keeping your mind from wandering. Taylor knew some law enforcement listened to music or audiobooks while on a stakeout, but he’d found that it made his mind wandering worse.

The focus and monotony is why it’s usually best to have two people on a stakeout. Besides being available to give the other person a chance to use the restroom, the watchers could switch out frequently, resting their eyes and relaxing before the next go.

Even with a partner, though, Taylor hated it. More so now that he was with Whitaker. There was a tension that still hung in the air between them, despite their reconciliation the night before. They’d forgiven each other and even bent to try and see the other side, but the issue wasn’t resolved. He still believed he’d done the right thing, and she still believed he hadn’t. That wasn’t something that was going to change, but it was something they were going to need to deal with.

Ever since they’d started working together, it had been a problem looming in the background, waiting to rear its head. Taylor was pretty sure that, if they didn’t deal with it, then they wouldn’t last. The hard part was, he wasn’t sure what the compromise was. While he and Whitaker got along well, this would always be an area they completely disagreed on, and one they both thought was critical.

He knew Whitaker could feel the tension too, but he also knew that she was too professional to let something like that interfere with what they needed to do. So for now, it would just be sitting there, hanging above their heads, waiting.

It turned out they didn’t have to wait too long for the manager to show, at least as far as stakeouts go. After three hours of sitting on the hard park bench, Whitaker spotted the man leaving the front door of the building, walking away from it to the west.

Taylor hadn’t met him, but Whitaker had, and her description turned out to be really accurate. He was middle-aged, probably in his late forties, rotund with thinning black hair. Large glasses sat somewhat crookedly on his face as he walked down the sidewalk away from them.

Taylor and Whitaker got up at the same time, moving in opposite directions. This part they had discussed extensively the night before and again this morning. The hardest part of this would be actually making the snatch. If they had a car, it wouldn’t have been so bad. They could have just pulled alongside him and pushed him into the back seat. Taylor had been involved in a few snatches over the years when he was in the service, and it was always surprising how fast it could happen.

On a motorcycle, though, they didn’t have that choice. The area wasn’t particularly busy, but it also wasn’t empty. It was broad daylight, which meant that no matter what they did, they’d be visible. They’d eventually settled on the plan that Taylor would follow him on foot, and Whitaker would follow further behind on the motorcycle, ready to swoop in and retrieve Taylor if things went sideways.

Taylor fell in step behind the man, about twenty or so feet back. This section of Berlin wasn’t like Manhattan, with its near-constant wall of people, but it wasn’t empty either. There were maybe a dozen people on their side of the street that Taylor could see. He’d timed it so that there were two other pedestrians between them, making it less obvious that Taylor was following the man.

The hardest part in tailing someone is watching them while not being obvious about it. You didn’t want to be caught staring at your target for long stretches or running into objects because you were too focused on who you were following.

On the flip side, you didn’t want to be obviously not looking at your target either. Furtive movements looking this way, and that would also make the tail stand out. The key was looking bored. Most people do not enjoy trudging along the sidewalk on a warm summer morning, seeing it at best as a tedious activity required to get from point A to point B.

Taylor was doing more than observing his target, though. He was looking for a place where he and the manager could have a quiet conversation. The volume of people wasn’t the only way this section of Berlin differed from Manhattan. There weren’t long rows of buildings with the occasional alley. There were gaps between the buildings, but the gaps were larger and more obvious than the dark alleys someone might imagine when picturing an urban metropolis. These areas were too open to be secluded, but narrow enough to make it strange that two pedestrians would turn and walk down one.

The habits Taylor formed in the service helped him once again. The Special Forces made it a point that planning was the single most important part of any operation. They were trained to game out every situation and make a plan for as many contingencies as they could imagine, leaving as little to chance as possible. Taylor and Whitaker had scouted out the area before stopping to watch the apartment building, finding spots where they could grab the manager in all directions he might go. They’d also discussed options if he’d left the apartment complex by car, along with what they were going to do once they had him detained.

Luckily, the direction the manager had chosen was one of the better options Taylor and Whitaker had mapped out that morning. In between the wide-based office buildings, there was a wide-open section holding a bank with a drive-through and small parking lot. It was an hour after the bank would have opened, but not at lunchtime yet, so the bank parking lot wasn’t very busy. Most of the cars in the lot were parked away from the entrance, which probably meant they belonged to employees and not customers who could come out at any moment.

Taylor sped up his pace, passing the two pedestrians he’d used for cover, pasting a smile on his face as he caught up to the manager.

“Hey, long time no see,” Taylor said, still in a speaking voice but pitched up enough so the people around them could hear it.

Taylor matched the man’s steps and threw his left arm over the manager’s left shoulder in a one-armed hug. The man’s steps faltered as he tried to stop in surprise from the contact, only to be forced forward by Taylor, who continued walking, pulling the manager with him.

“Was...”

“I have a gun in my pocket. Keep walking, or I’ll leave your body here on the sidewalk,” Taylor said, much softer this time.

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