Copyright© 2021 by Lumpy
“So explain to me why we’re going to the post office?” Whitaker asked as they pulled away from the EEOB.
“Well, we’re not going to the post office, exactly. I need to see if some of the feelers I sent out have come back.”
“At some point you’re going to stop being cute and actually tell me what your plan is, right?”
“Sorry,” Taylor said, flashing her a grin. “Like I said, one of the issues with Cole’s approach is he’s looking at Hubbard like a civilian. Even though he’s been discharged from the military, no one is ever completely let go. Registrations for the VA, applications to veterans affairs for loans, GI Bill applications. There are tons of stuff that connect us to the service even when we’re out.”
“You think he’s applying for benefits while trying to kill a candidate for president?” Whitaker asked, skeptically.
“No, but he doesn’t have a job and, as far as you’ve been able to find out, he hasn’t had one since he was discharged. He maybe crazy, he might even sleep in his car, but he needs time to eat, the parts for all his gadgets and explosives have to come from somewhere, and he needs somewhere private to work, since building a pipe bomb in a homeless shelter would rise more than a few eyebrows. Now, since we know he wasn’t personally wealthy when he went into the service and doesn’t have any wealthy relatives supporting him, the most likely answer is that he’s living off of his pension. A medical discharge doesn’t invalidate your pension. The Army is very good about keeping track of where those checks are going.”
“Since we don’t have an address on him and you don’t think he’s staying with friends, since he needs that privacy, you’re guessing he’s getting them sent to a PO Box, right?”
“We could have mentioned that to Cole.”
“Sure, and he would have shut us out as soon as we did. We wouldn’t get to look into the box, talk to the people who worked there, or see what else was mailed there. I know you like following procedure, but has Cole shown any ability to be able to make use of the information in front of him? He had everything we’ve had, yet he didn’t know Hubbards name until we got it, and he hasn’t thought to see where Hubbard’s been getting his money. That, at least, should have been a no-brainer. I mean, Jesus, he’s Secret Service. Their whole deal is investigating money.”
“You’re still planning on turning anything we find over to him, right?”
“As long as it doesn’t cut off an avenue of investigation for us. This guy is really dangerous, and his target is our friend. I’m all for helping out the overall investigation, but these guys can’t see past their preconceived notion. I’m sure they would have eventually thought to look up the crazy ramblings and see if they matched something they could follow up on. I’m also sure they would have looked into his benefits and followed up on those. In fact, I’m pretty sure that’ll realize that’s a lead to follow in the next day or so. My problem is, the Senator might not have a day or so. This isn’t a situation where we can wait for them to make the right calls. So, we’ll make the right calls and then tell them what they need to know once we’re on to the next thing or stuck.”
They got back to the Hoover building and Taylor started making some calls. Turns out, he didn’t need to bother. Cole had gotten a court order to allow the Taskforce access to various governmental records on Hubbard. While they weren’t officially on the Taskforce, the FBI had been included as one of the parties with access to his records, which meant Whitaker also had access, since nothing was classified or otherwise restricted inside the agency itself.
Within ten minutes of getting back to her office, they had the address of where Hubbard’s checks were getting delivered. As Taylor had predicted, it was a P.O. Box, unsurprising in D.C. not far from the mall. Taylor doubted that, once Caldwell became the center of his delusions, he got very far from wherever the Senator was. The Trip to Rochester had been a one off thing, and they’d just been insanely lucky to be there at the same time.
Of course, knowing where Hubbard’s checks were being sent wasn’t the same as catching him. P.O. Boxes were used for a reason. They were secure and generally disconnected from the owner outside of the paperwork that was filled out when renting the P.O. Box. Whitaker flashed her badge at the clerk and started asking questions.
They hadn’t received a warrant for the box yet, which meant they couldn’t look at what was inside it yet. The Post Office took seriously the laws on mail security and tended to be sticklers when it came to warrantless access to someones mail. That didn’t bother Taylor so much, since they would find out what was in it eventually. There were other things they could find out without seeing inside the box, however, including the paperwork on the box itself.
The first thing Taylor noticed was the name on the account wasn’t Hubbards, it was Stephen Abednego. Something about the name seemed familiar to Taylor, but he pushed that away for the moment, since he was more concerned by the fact that there was another name on the application at all. The Post Office checked IDs and were at least somewhat good at seeing a fake, which mean that Hubbard had been able to get a decent looking fake ID. Taylor hoped that he’d just known the right people to contact and buy one, because if he had someone else helping him, then things would get a lot harder. Taylor didn’t think that was likely, but it was a possibility they needed to start considering.
The box itself had been opened a month after Hubbard had been kicked out of the service. It further cemented the fact that, despite being in the midst of a fairly severe psychological break, Hubbard had been able to take care of basic things he needed to survive. More so, it was the forethought that went into it. Caldwell had been in the news for a long time and running for President for more than a year, but the first letter showed up six months ago, which suggested that was when he became fixated on her. The box was opened several years before that, however. At the time, Hubbard wouldn’t have known he’d need to hide his identity, and yet he’d still given a fake name using a fake ID. Taylor had to wonder, why was he taking precautions when he didn’t need to? Was he planning this all along or was he just insanely paranoid?
Either way, Hubbard was rational and calculating when he needed to be, which put him beyond a lot of completely sane criminals, let alone the insane ones.
The other thing on the form that interested Taylor was primary address Hubbard had written down, which would have also been on the fake ID he had. Considering the fake name, Taylor was pretty sure the address would also be fake, but he hoped it would be a clue to something, at least.
They did a quick canvas of the postal workers, but none of them could remember Hubbard, even when Whitaker showed them his picture. That wasn’t surprising. Hubbard wouldn’t have stood around chatting and the workers saw a lot of people every day. Besides, the customer service area where the employees worked was separate from the area where all the boxes were held. From the desk area where they worked, the boxes themselves weren’t visible, so they wouldn’t have seen who came in and checked which boxes. Considering how paranoid Hubbard seemed to be, the layout was probably one of the reasons he’d chosen this particular post office.
As they left the post office, they called in the information to Cole who was, as usual, didn’t seem to appreciate their getting him leads. Taylor didn’t think much would come of it, but Cole was thorough enough to get a warrant to look inside the box itself. Taylor thought, at most, they’d find the latest benefits check. Cole would probably put men on the box, watching for Hubbard to come back, but Taylor knew that wouldn’t work. Now that things he knew he was being chased, he wouldn’t endanger himself needlessly. If he’d been likely to make a mistake like that, then the road blocks would most likely have worked.
After calling Cole about the P.O. Box they headed to the address Hubbard had used on his application. It turned out to be a derelict warehouse that, from it’s condition, hadn’t been used for years.
Whitaker made notes to talk to the property owners and started looking for occupied nearby buildings they could canvas, but Taylor knew it wouldn’t matter. He seriously doubted Hubbard had ever stepped foot in the building or anywhere around here. He picked the address because he knew it wouldn’t lead back to him. The neighbors all agreed that no one had used or even been to that building in years, how long they couldn’t even really say. It had been abandoned as long as anyone at the adjacent buildings could remember. After an hour of hearing the same story, Whitaker agreed to drop the canvas.
It was disappointing that the lead didn’t pan out, but that was how these investigations went sometimes. They weren’t go, go, go until you got the bad guy. There were false starts, dead ends, and a whole lot of waiting. With a few exceptions, every investigation Taylor had worked on had been a marathon, not a sprint. He still had a few avenues to chase down Hubbard, but they would take time.
He was working on hunting down people who served with Hubbard, but that wasn’t as easy as talking to someone in personnel, especially because he’d been involved in sensitive operations that left a lot of the service history for both his and the people he operated with not easily accessible. Instead of calling a friend of a friend to get the info immediately, he’d been forced to go through official channels, which slowed things down. Whitaker was also working on getting records she could track down on Hubbard. Taylor was certain that Cole was doing a lot of the same things, but he didn’t trust Cole to look at the information he got and see the full picture. Besides, Cole wouldn’t share anything he got with them. All of that meant they were in the hurry up and wait period of the investigation.
They went back to the Hoover building and worked for a few more hours, trying to get the next lead they could follow. They didn’t bother to call Cole about the warehouse. He’d either find it or he wouldn’t, but it didn’t matter either way, since it was a dead end.
They eventually gave it up for the day and headed home. Taylor was worried that it was taking too long to track Hubbard down. He was back in D.C. by now, and now that he knew he was being tracked he’d be pushed to make something happen sooner or later. Taylor had some of the same training that Hubbard had, and one of the things they learned is that, while planning and meticulous work was important, when things kicked off, you went for the goal.
Whitaker was better at disassociating her home life from her investigation. She’d been in law enforcement for long enough that she was good at compartmentalizing her life, even when the investigation meant something to her. Taylor tried, but he couldn’t stop thinking about it, working the problem over in his head.
It was just starting to get dark and Taylor was helping Whitaker get dinner ready when their home phone rang. That was unusual in-of-itself, since pretty much anyone that needed to reach them called one of their cellphones.