Copyright© 2020 by Lumpy
As soon as they were out of the elevator, the officers started yelling ‘hands up.’ Of course, Taylor and Whitaker’s hands were already up, but that wasn’t uncommon. People build up a lot of adrenaline during intense situations, which takedowns usually are. He’d seen it before when working with law enforcement. The suspect would be prone on the ground, and the cops keep yelling for them to ‘get down’ or their hands already up, and the cops keep yelling ‘hands up.’
Taylor curses himself for not being more careful. The woman upstairs must have told her secretary to call the police while she kept them busy. It was a dumb mistake, and both he and Whitaker knew better. He had been distracted by focusing on getting the information they needed and took the woman’s placid nature at face value. It was a rookie mistake. He only hoped they had enough information to at least place doubt in everything that had happened and get off the hook.
Two of the officers holstered their weapons and moved to take the pair into custody. Taylor was turned around and shoved hard against the outside wall of the elevator, his arms yanked behind him. His head was turned with his cheek pressed against the wall so that he could see Whitaker going through the same thing.
Out of habit, Taylor turned his wrists as the cuffs were applied and pulled down so that the wider part of them plus some meat of the base of the hand would be against the turning side of the cuffs. This allowed him to rotate his wrists once they were double-locked and have a bit more room. While he hadn’t been in trouble before, he’d had a buddy in the service who had been in a lot of trouble before enlisting. They’d messed around with stuff like handcuffs and other things his buddy had learned. He’d been warned that an observant officer, or one who followed strict procedure, would double-check the room in the cuffs before double locking them and get rid of the extra room.
The guy cuffing him didn’t. He just hastily slapped on the cuffs and double locked them. Either German procedure was different, or the adrenaline of the situation had him making mistakes.
Taylor looked at the officer’s badges to see if this was whatever the German equivalent of SWAT was, but he didn’t know enough about the structure of the German police force to work out what the patches on their uniforms meant. In big cities, at least in America, tactical response teams tended to have their own chains of command, which meant they wouldn’t be directly under the control of Graf.
That hope was dashed once they were marched out of the office lobby. Standing next to a large police van stood Graf, looking exceptionally pleased with himself. He didn’t say anything to the pair as they were loaded into the van, handcuffs secured to the benches that ran along its walls. Two officers followed them, one sitting next to each of them after Taylor and Whitaker were secured.
They rode in silence. Graf wasn’t in the front of the van, and the officers that were guarding them didn’t seem inclined to talk. Taylor didn’t waste his breath, trying to explain to them that Graf was dirty. For one, they would have heard all kinds of stories from prisoners in the past and wouldn’t have any reason to believe anything Taylor said. They’d just chalk it up to another criminal desperate to talk their way out of trouble.
Even if they had listened to Taylor, these weren’t the people that could do anything. He needed to talk to a prosecutor, or better yet, Whitaker needed to get in touch with Joe Solomon. What they really needed was someone high enough to countermand anything Graf ordered.
The longer the van drove, the more Taylor doubted their chances for any of that to happen. Ten minutes passed, and the van kept driving. Taylor didn’t know German procedures, but he assumed they would have taken them to the closest precinct for booking.
Twenty minutes passed, and Taylor started to think he hadn’t given Graf enough credit. They were reaching the outskirts of the city, well away from any of the station’s Graf would conceivably take them too. Even if German procedures were different, there wasn’t any conceivable reason they would have taken the pair to a minor station outside of town.
Taylor had assumed the tactical team was whatever group was on call when the banker had her secretary call it in. Taylor was pretty sure now that wasn’t what had happened. The secretary hadn’t called the police. She’d called Graf.
Graf must have had a team of guys he could trust standing by, waiting for Taylor and Whitaker to pop up on the radar again. He would have known they were digging around for evidence of what happened. The fact that they’d shown up at his banker’s offices proved him right. Graf was a smart man and would have had to have been prepared. Even if they hadn’t gotten anything from the banker, he couldn’t have afforded to let them start talking. The suggestion Graf was dirty would have been enough to get some of his fellow officers thinking twice, enough so they might notice the next time he was asked to do something.
This was doubly true with Whitaker, who wasn’t just some random suspect. She reported directly to the director of the FBI or had before she’d taken a leave of absence. Her accusation would at least be listened to if it got to one of Graf’s bosses.
When the van pulled to a stop, and the back doors were pulled open, Taylor’s concerns were confirmed. They weren’t at a police station. From all appearances, this was an abandoned, or at least closed, construction site.
They were pushed out of the van and then down to their knees a few steps from the van. Taylor tried to turn his head to see what was around them, only to be almost knocked down when one of the men smacked him in the side of the head.
Taylor had stopped thinking of the armed men as cops. It was possible they were all dirty too and working for Graf, but that seemed like a stretch. There would be too much risk in paying off that many actual police officers. More likely, this was some of Graf’s hired muscle dressed like a tactical team.
Graf walked into view as Taylor pulled himself back upright.
“You two have been very busy,” he said, stopping a few steps in front of them. “We know that Fredrick had a notebook he was always writing in. A notebook that was missing from his apartment and wasn’t with the other documents you hid. Where is it?”
They both stared back at him, neither responding.
“I know that the old woman had it, we’ve confirmed that. The only person she would have given it to is you,” he said, stepping up in front of Whitaker. “Tell me where it is.”
Whittaker just stared up at him, hatred covering her face.
Graf stepped back and gave a nod to one of the guards, who hoisted Whitaker up. A second guard stepped forward and smashed the butt of his rifle into Whitaker’s stomach, causing her to double over in pain.
Taylor started to force himself up, only to freeze when the muzzle of the guard’s gun behind him pressed into the back of his head. Taylor knew there was nothing he could do, considering he was unarmed and handcuffed, and there were about ten guys with guns standing around, but he hadn’t been able to stop the involuntary response to seeing Whitaker hurt.
“This can only get worse for you if you don’t tell me what I need to know.”
“Go to hell,” Whitaker said.
Another nod from Graf sent on of the soldier’s fists smashing into the side of Whitaker’s face. She collapsed to the ground, lying on her side in the dirt. The guard behind her pulled her back up into the kneeling position.
“We can keep this up for some time.”
“Good, I like it rough,” she said, spitting blood out into the dirt and sand.
Graf sighed and pulled the weapon out of the holster on his hip. Lifting the gun to point at Taylor’s head but not turning to look at his target, Graf said, “I will ask you this one last time, and then I will shoot your friend. You came to save him last time, so I think you might make the smart decision and do it again, yes?”
Whitaker looked side-eyed at Taylor and then deflated, her head hanging. “It’s at a place called Larger Ort Schivelbeiner near the Arnimplatz.”
“See, that wasn’t hard,” Graf said before looking up at his watch and then at one of the guards. “Give me fifteen minutes to get there and confirm it’s there. If you don’t hear from me by then, kill them. Make it look like they were trying to escape. It will be easier to explain that way.”
Taylor couldn’t help but noticed Graf had said that last part in English. He wanted them to know what was in store for them. Wanted them to worry. It was a petty man’s way of taunting his victims.
Without saying anything else to the pair of them, Graf turned and walked back to the waiting car. All but two of the armed men went with them. With Taylor and Whitaker unarmed and in handcuffs, they must not have seen the pair as any kind of threat.
They knelt there quietly for several minutes, waiting. Eventually, boredom got the better of the guards, who began talking to each other in German, taking their attention away from Whitaker and Taylor.
“Sorry,” Whitaker whispered. “I froze and couldn’t come up with somewhere fake to send him. I had to say something, so I told him the real location.”
“No, it’s not. Even with everything we’ve gotten, the journal was still the most likely bit of proof that ties everything together. Without it, we can’t show why Graf was asked to kill Frieda. We’re already weak on evidence. If we want to get out of this, we need that journal.”
“Well then, I guess we’re going to have to go get it.”
“How? I’m all out of ideas, here.”
“We could...” Taylor started to say before he was stopped by a rifle butt smacking him in the back of his head.
“Quiet,” the guard behind Taylor said, stepping closer to Taylor.
Taylor managed to not fall forward on his face, but just barely. He was lucky the guy hadn’t gone all out with the reminder to be quiet. Rifles make fairly effective clubs, and the guard could have knocked Taylor out if he’d wanted to. It was probably only Graf’s instructions that kept them from being more brutal. If they wanted to make this look like a legal arrest that went sideways when Taylor and Whitaker tried to escape, they couldn’t afford for the pair to be beaten to a pulp first. Not if they wanted to make the escape attempt look believable.
That all worked out in Taylor’s favor. Although his head now hurt like hell, this was the moment he’d been waiting for. He fell forward, pulling a leg up to keep from falling over. Instead of kneeling on two knees, he was now up on one bent leg and one knee.
The trick his friend had taught him about positioning his wrist to make room in the handcuff hadn’t been about comfort when being arrested. It had been step one in how to escape from handcuffs, which is why several of the guys in his unit had tried to learn it. Working in remote places with not always trustworthy locals, there was still a chance someone would try to detain them, and this would be a trick that could save their lives. It turns out that was now coming true, in a manner of speaking.
The first step was the easiest step. Adjusting the wrists to make room in the handcuffs prevented the person cuffing you properly securing the cuffs to keep you from making them looser than they should be.