Copyright© 2020 by Lumpy
The sun was still peaking around the edges of the thick motel curtain when Taylor woke up. Turning, he found Whitaker already awake, propped up on one elbow, staring at him.
“I missed this,” she said once he looked up at her.
She rolled over, draping her body over half of his, her head nestled in the crook of Taylor’s arm.
“Have you talked to Kara since you’ve been here?”
“A couple of times.”
“She’s going to be thrilled.”
“She’s going to accept it as us coming to our senses and take it in stride.”
“Maybe. Any luck figuring out what you were missing in the video.”
“No. It’s still right out of reach.”
“Then let’s call Kara now.”
“Sure,” Taylor said.
Whitaker rolled off him, and both began to pull on clothes.
“Hello?” Kara’s said, answering with the cautious tone of someone not recognizing who was calling them.
“Hey,” Taylor said.
“What number is this?”
“A disposable Whitaker’s using for the time being.”
“You found her?” Kara said, her voice suddenly getting excited.
“Yep,” Whitaker said.
“Will you be coming home soon?”
“Not yet,” Taylor said. “We have some things to take care of first. You might not be able to get a hold of us. Things have gotten a little tricky, so I’m going to have to keep my phone shut down for a while.”
“Can I be calling you back on this number?”
“No, since we’ll also keep it off unless we have to, but we’ll call you from it or another disposable when we can.”
“So you are in trouble again, yes? Switching phones to stay hidden?”
When he didn’t answer, Whitaker looked up at Taylor.
“Kara, sorry, we have to go. We’ll call you again in a few days.”
“Okay,” she said, her voice sounding a touched concerned at Taylor’s tone. “Be careful.”
“We will. Bye,” Taylor said.
He disconnected the cell phone and dropped it on the bed, getting up and moving the few steps to the rickety hotel desk, opening the laptop, and powering it on.
“You figured it out?”
Taylor pulled up the video and brought it back to the frame he’d been looking at earlier.
“What was it?”
“One of those things you register but never think about. I was around Graf for a while, and he made a lot of calls. He used a pretty new smartphone, capable of all the crap people use it for these days. He’s a busy guy who has to stay in touch.”
“Okay,” Whitaker said, not sure where Taylor was going.
“Look at that,” he said, pointing at the image of Graf, cell phone to his ear, looking up at the camera.
“It’s a flip phone,” she said, understanding creeping into her voice.
“Yep. A crappy flip phone, and not even one of the later flip phones. Look at it. It’s a piece of crap prepaid flip phone, the kind that you couldn’t even get in a mobile store. You’d have to find that at a discount store or convenience store. Hell, I bet it was one of the options you could have gotten instead of that,” he said, pointing at the disposable Whitaker held in her hand.
“So he has two phones. A lot of cops have two phones. Usually, a personal phone and one for work.”
“Yeah, but he’s an important guy. You saw his townhouse. It might not have been downtown, but it wasn’t in that bad an area either. He wouldn’t be going to a discount store to get his personal phone. He’d want email and Internet and all the bells and whistles. That thing can barely do calls and texts.”
She stared at the image, nodding slowly.
“So, where does this get us? We already know he’s dirty, so of course he has a burner.”
“True but remember he’s about to walk through that door and murder Frieda. He’s not making routine calls at a moment like that. People who are about to murder in cold blood like that, they’re focused. Look at his face. Serious. Determined. He’s either making arrangements or telling the people he’s working for that he’s about to do the deed. Either way, the person on the other end of that phone is connected.”
“Damn, you’re right.”
“What’s more, we know where he was when he made the call, and the exact moment it was made, down to the second. We can use information from the nearby tower and find out what number he was calling. It’s probably another burner, especially if he’s making arrangements for the body, and not calling to report to whoever he’s working for. He didn’t know you were going to be back so soon. He might have hoped to just make the body disappear. If the family was dirty, they might never report her missing. She didn’t have a lot of friends, so they might have thought she could just disappear. You’re showing up screwed that up, forcing them to scramble. I’ll bet if we look at the same area within a few minutes of you walking in the front door, we’ll find another call, probably to the same number, calling off whatever he told them.”
“I have a friend that might be able to get that information for me,” Whitaker said.
Whitaker scooped up her burner phone and dialed as Taylor looked back at the screen into Graf’s eyes as he stared up at the camera, trying to get into the man’s head. Taylor tried to work through how he would have done it if he was Graf. Would he have paid someone to come sneak the body out and clean the apartment? The family could have told the building she moved to a home. Being family, and the people paying her bills, they could have ordered her mail forwarded to him. The whole thing would have quietly disappeared. Everything he’d found suggested Frieda was a shut-in. There hadn’t been friends to talk to. It’s why the old woman had been so desperate for someone to help her get justice for Fredrick. He’d been her only friend.
Whitaker stopped pacing the room and dropped the phone on the bed.
“My friend said she’d check and get back with me. She said it might take some time since that’s a busy area with a lot of calls. Even knowing the exact moment, tens of thousands of people live in the area of that one tower. She’s going to weed out all the ones that belong to real people. She pointed out in a downtown area with that kind of population, even a higher-end one like that, there might be other prepaid phones in use at the same time.”
“Did you tell her to check for ones that made a second call ten minutes or so later to the same number?”
“Yes, but I told her if she didn’t find it, to just give us the information on all the prepaid phones making a call at that time.”
“Good, although I’m dead certain I’m right. It doesn’t make sense he’d call his bosses before the deed was done. No, he was making arrangements to pick up her body. Telling them, he was going in and to give him ten minutes. Five minutes later, he leaves, and a minute after that, you walked in. He had to hurry to keep his clean up guys from running into you. There was a second call.”
“We’ll see. We should call Joe.”
“Keep it short.”
She dialed Solomon’s cell phone, not wanting to go through the switchboard, which would have taken time and put them on Bureau records that could be a problem if the Germans officially asked for help. If it was just to his cell phone, it gave Solomon more options to avoid handing anything over, if he chose to cover for them.
It was a risk, of course, since he wouldn’t answer if he was in a meeting, and there wouldn’t be a secretary to tell him the call was urgent. Thankfully, Solomon did answer after a few rings.
“Joe, it’s Loretta,” she said when he picked up.
“Whitaker, what the hell’s going on out there? Is Taylor with you? We got a notice this morning that he tried to kill Inspector Graf and currently has an arrest warrant out for him, too.”
“I’m here,” Taylor said.
“You two need to start explaining.”
“Graf’s dirty,” Whitaker said. “We’re positive he was the one who killed Frieda Wissler and are pretty sure he, or whoever he’s working for, had Fredrick Wissler killed, too.”
“Can you prove it?”
“Not enough. We have a video of him walking into Frieda’s building about seven minutes before I came back and found her body. He left that out of the video he showed you.”
“That’s not enough. He could say he was visiting someone else.”
“I know. We’re working on getting proof,” Whitaker replied.
“The fact that he said she was the only person seen entering into the building within the time of death and never mentioned he was there in that window says a lot,” Taylor said.
“I agree. The German government filed a formal request for any information on the two of you two hours ago. They also included something about you shooting up a university.”
“We didn’t shoot up anything. We just ... needed a diversion,” Whitaker said, looking at Taylor.
“I’ll slow everything down on our end as much as I can, but you two be careful. If you hurt someone, it doesn’t matter if Graf’s dirty, the Germans will want your scalps.”
“We know,” Whitaker said.
“I hope so. They’ll forget petty stuff to sweep him under the rug, but only if you have enough to prove beyond the shadow of a doubt that he’s dirty. Do you know who he’s working for? Can you get at him that way?”
“We have some ideas,” Whitaker said, “but it’s all conjecture and wild ass guesses. If it’s who we think it is, though, they’re going to be a lot harder to get to than Graf. We have a plan to get him, which should be enough. We just need some time.”
“I’ll do what I can. I’ll also see if I can get an official request for you to be turned over to us if you’re apprehended.”
“They’ll never go for it,” Whitaker said.
“Probably not, but it’s worth a shot.”
Taylor looked over at Whitaker and said, “We could use some support, though. We’ve basically just got the clothes on our backs. If we’re going to make this work, we could use transport.”
Joe was quiet for a long time, long enough that Taylor thought he might have asked for too much.
“I’m friends with the Berlin station chief. They’re used to doing some fairly shady shit. I can probably get them to part with some stuff, no questions asked. If we were to leave a car for you, where would we put it?”
Whitaker gave him an area a few miles from where they currently were.
“Call me back in an hour, and I’ll let you know if I can swing it,” Solomon said and hung up.
“He could have someone put a tracker on the car,” Taylor pointed out as Whitaker shut the power off on the phone.
“He could. Knowing Joe, he might do so, even if he doesn’t plan on handing the information over to the Germans.”
“What, to keep tabs on us?”
“Yeah. He’s a big believer in ‘just in case’ information, even on his friends.”
“A dangerous habit for a man in politics.”
“A necessary one. Joes’ a good cop, but he’s not beyond working leverage to get what he wants. Don’t worry; I know how to check a car for a tracker.”
“I hope so. So now we wait.”
“Yep, now we wait. We can’t do anything until I call my friend back in two hours. Even then, there’s no guarantee she’ll have the information we need, yet. She has to be careful. If her employer knew what she’s doing, she’d be out of a job.”
“What to do in the meantime,” Taylor said, looking suggestively at Whitaker.
“I think I have some ideas,” she said, leaning into him.
Whitaker’s friend came through, when they called her two hours later, in the form of several spreadsheets showing activity to the Graf’s burner phone along with the activity of the numbers that phone had called, all uploaded to a secure cloud drive. It actually turned out better than they could have hoped. The phone that Graf was using was activated the day before Fredrick’s death, which was suggestive in and of itself. It had only made two calls until the day Frieda died when Graf started ramping up his usage. Once Taylor had returned with him, Graf’s usage exploded. Taylor could almost track everything they’d done just by looking at the calls that number had made.
There was a call while he was checking out Whitaker’s original hotel room after they found the invoice for the storage locker and another a few hours after they’d been jumped at the locker, probably to see if the third gunman had survived unhurt. There were calls a few hours before the shootout with Grace Sharp and another a minute after it ended. There was also a flurry of calls after Whitaker rescued Taylor from Graf’s apartment.