By the time Kelly drove past the exit to downtown Richmond, Kathy had already been on the ground working for hours. After identifying herself to airport security, an electric car took her out to the forensic team in the parking lot. She didn’t know any of the team. It was obvious they had taken their briefing seriously. Their only question, was she the agent who found the Professor in Myrtle Beach. Kathy said, “Yes, now what can you tell me?”
Jackson, the team leader said, “We found his prints and some hairs on the headrest that should give us DNA. No documents, papers, maps, rental agreements or even food wrappers were found in the car. From the time he left the hotel in Myrtle Beach until he pulled into the parking lot, according to parking lot cameras, four days ago, Friday at 1:25 PM, the timeline indicates no stops along the way. He probably stayed within the speed limit. At 60 mph the driving time matches the time available between his departure and arrival here. He didn’t use the car phone and the nav system is not like Onstar. We cannot back-track his movement. We found some slight scratches on the back of the mirror that may have held a rental sticker. We’re running the VIN number against a number of databases and should have something soon. We know where he’s been but don’t have a clue to where he went in Richmond, and we are not likely to find any clues to his current whereabouts in this car.
“We haven’t worked the airport camera coverage. Our very clear instructions were to leave that to you. We’ll hang around Richmond until you clear us to go back to Washington. We’re putting up at the Jefferson. If you need us, one of us will be on call in the hotel. We haven’t checked in yet, but I’ll give you my cell number. I’ll be listed under Bill Jackson in the hotel records.”
Kathy thanked the crew and turned and walked back to her security-provided jitney and driver. The driver took her back to the Chief of Security, Oscar Connor. Kathy said, “Before we check passengers on every flight leaving here to anywhere during a four-hour period. I have some very clear photos of the wanted man and a definite time period. Using our deduced time, standard facial recognition software and your judgment of what route he would have taken from his car in the lot to a plane or exit, we should be able to find him. Can you spare a couple of your best people to help me?”
“Sure can, and I’m one of them. Let’s get started. Grab a cup of fresh coffee, and we’ll head down to the monitor room. My assistant will join us there.”
Kathy outlined the problem to the monitoring supervisor. “A green Passat entered the parking lot last Friday at 1:25 PM. I need you to determine the routes from his parking spot to buying a ticket, boarding a plane or exiting the airport. Then, using a timeline, narrow the video search. I have a clear photo of the man to enter into your facial recognition program. Is that enough for you to get started?”
“Yes, that’s a lot more than we usually get. Give me a few minutes to lay out probable routes and to get the photo scanned into our search parameters.”
In ten minutes the supervisor was ready to go. He found the car entering the lot immediately and was able to follow it to its current position. The image of the man exiting the car wasn’t good enough for facial recognition, but they could follow the man walking to a parking lot bus stop and getting on board at 1:35 PM. The cameras picked him up getting off the bus. Here the facial recognition software gave them a hit. The cameras lost him in the crowds. Kathy said, “This guy is a pro. He knows about cameras. Check your imagery of the major ticketing area, boarding areas, security check processing and exits.” It wasn’t until they focused on the exits did they get another hit. This time he was still carrying his one bag with his topcoat over his shoulder and wearing a hat and glasses. The Professor could be seen getting into a blue and white Citizens Taxi. The taxi number and the license were clearly visible as it pulled away.
Kathy said, “Great job! Please make a copy of the video footage we found on our subject and give it to Mr. Bill Jackson. He may still be examining the car in the parking lot. If not, he’s staying at the Jefferson. Now I need to rent a car. Thank you very much. You certainly understand your facility. It’s a pleasure to work with dedicated professionals.”
Mr. Conner was obviously pleased with Kathy’s praise and called for an airport cart to take her to the car rental section. Kathy selected a Ford Mustang and set off for the Citizens Taxi terminal. On the way she called Frank and told him that the Professor left the airport in a taxi no more than 30 minutes after parking his car in the lot. She promised to call again after checking out the taxi terminal.
Kathy thought her outfit was perfect for playing lady cop. Faded, but not new jeans, a black tee just a little on the tight side, dark leather pull-on half-boots and a tan linen jacket that covered her SOCOM .45 caliber sidearm in a tilted holster far back on her right side. She fastened her badge on the left front of her belt, well removed from any possibility of its interfering with a fast movement to bring her weapon into play. Her inch under six-foot height, shoulder-length natural blond hair and athletic 140 pounds rounded out her image. She wasn’t above using that image to help in eliciting information. Her steadily improving skills in Hapkido improved her confidence in handling situations without using her firearm. She was pleased with the way she had dealt with Hankins without even thinking about drawing her weapon.
The taxi terminal was just on the fringe of the ‘Fan’ area of Richmond. Once inside the smoke-filled entrance area, she went directly to the dispatcher’s desk. Her badge and gun were clearly showing.
The nameplate said he was Clarence Fox. Kathy said, “Mr. Fox, I need some cooperation.”
Three of the smoking loungers crowded up around the desk.
Turning to face them, Kathy said in her toughest voice, “Go away. If I need you, I’ll call.”
They laughed and jeered. Kathy stepped hard on the nearest instep and, when the man reached for her, she pressed a nerve on the outside of his forearm below the elbow. He yelled in pain. Kathy moved closer and said, “Now beat it, before I really hurt you.”
Holding his forearm, he moved away followed by his friends. Mr. Fox said, “Lady, you are welcome here anytime. Buck is a real problem. I can’t handle him and the boss won’t fire him. You certainly took him down a few pegs. Watch your back. He’ll be thinking about getting even.”
“For his sake, I hope not. Now, I’ve a couple of questions. Last Friday at about two o’clock, this man was seen getting into taxi number 12, plate GHY 617. Can you tell who was driving that cab and where he is now?”
“Yeah, I think so. It’ll be just a minute.”
Kathy waited, looking around the room that was the terminal for Citizens Taxi Service. This must be a job opportunity for ex-cons, judging from the tats and attitudes of drivers hanging around.
Mr. Fox motioned her over and said, “Got him. It was Bobby Anderson. He’s a regular. Pretty dependable. He’s nearby, I’ll call him in.”
Bobby showed up ten minutes later. Kathy was getting tired of being ogled by the creeps and asked Bobby if he would mind stepping outside.
“No, Officer, I’m okay with that.”
Once outside, Kathy showed Bobby the picture of the Professor and refreshed his memory about the fare.
Bobby asked to look at the picture again and said, “Yeah, I picked him up at the airport. Light luggage which he kept with him in the back seat. The odd thing was, he gave me no address. Just to drop him off in the historical part of the city. He’d tell me where. He did and I dropped him. He gave me a good tip. I was curious. What well-dressed guy, carrying a suitcase, gets out of a cab in the middle of a street. I was nosy enough to swing back around and saw him going into the Jefferson Hotel. I guess he didn’t want nobody to know where he was staying. In this business you see a bunch of strange stuff. Anything else?”
“No. That helps us a lot. Thank you very much.”
Bobby went back to his car and drove away. Kathy was parked a half-block down the street. When she got to the Mustang, Buck and one of his pals was leaning on her car, blocking the driver’s side door.
Buck outweighed Kathy by 80 plus pounds. A muscular type with bulging tat sleeves on his forearms and a belly gone to fat. He pointed at her and said, “Let’s see how tough you really are. Nobody pushes me around. Gun, badge, whatever, it doesn’t matter. So if you’re gonna call for backup, do it while you can.”
Kathy said, “Let’s just drop it. I’m sorry if I hurt your male pride. It will be better for both of us if you just move aside and let me drive off.”
Buck said, “No way, bitch. I’m gonna slap the shit out of you.”
Kathy relaxed, ready to take what opening he gave her, while watching the second man who didn’t say a word and looked unhappy. Kathy thought, the second guy wants no part of this. Buck’s charge came with surprising speed. Kathy pivoted to her right and side-kicked him just above the knee, stopping his momentum dead. His intended one, two combination never got untracked. He was down, white-faced, trying not to scream and holding his broken knee with both hands.
Kathy called to the second man and said, “Take care of him, and I won’t drag you both in. Next time, you both go to the slammer, if you’re still alive. Get away from my car, I’m leaving.”
The second guy ran inside and Kathy drove off as two men came out to drag Buck inside. She thought, my instructors were right. Stay calm, don’t think, take what you’re given, strike hard and end it quick. They were also right. The knee is a weak point. I could feel his knee going. He got off easy. Lucky for him neither Jack nor Shadow was here.
Next step is to check into the Jefferson. Haven’t been there for ten years. Not since I was a CIA trainee. Doesn’t surprise me that the Professor stayed there. He is very well educated, and Frank said he always enjoys fine things, has good taste and has no trouble mixing revolution with luxury. Charlestown, Richmond, maybe this terrorist is old world. Where will he go next? My guess is that he’ll continue north to DC and places like Baltimore, Philadelphia and New York. Frank knows him and has a feel for his overall plan. Jack and Kelly will soon be in McLean. Wish I was there now. My memory of Jack’s house is of a burning shambles. To be honest with myself, I’m jealous of Kelly being in that house with Jack and Shadow. I trust them both, but that’s just the way it is, and I think always has been.
Kathy ended her musing as she drove up to the main entrance of the Jefferson. Before she checked in, she asked to see the Chief of Security. The front desk called him and he came over. Taking in Kathy’s badge and gun, he asked, “Officer, what can I help you with?”
Kathy introduced herself and said, “I’m almost 100% certain that this man stayed here for at least one night starting last Friday.” She then showed him the picture of the Professor. He took the picture and walked over to the front desk, conferred with the staff on duty and came back to Kathy.
He said, “You’re right. This person stayed here Friday night and checked out Saturday morning.”
“What name did he use while here?”
“Should I first see a warrant?”
“If you want to be uncooperative in a Federal Investigation you can insist on a warrant. I can call Washington right now and, rather than a low-key inquiry, they will flood the hotel with agents, close off the room he used and question staff and guests. Is that what you want?”
“No need to threaten the hotel.”
“Excuse me! That was not a threat. Read promise. I’m tired. You’re holding up my investigation. I haven’t even asked you how a high-ranking terrorist checked into your hotel under an alias with questionable documents and no credit cards. Check the desk and you will find he paid in cash, and you never even thought that was unusual. Where have you been the last ten years? Now, which way do we go?”
The Chief of Security went back to the desk with a worried look on his face. When he came back he said, “The man you want registered under the name Harold Hollingsworth, and he did pay his bill in cash.”
“Okay. Now I want a copy of everything he signed, including his bill. Also I want to question everyone with whom he had contact on the hotel staff. If the room he used is empty, I’ll need to see it. How did he leave the hotel? Did he have a car? Call a taxi? Did the doorman call the taxi? Can you make all that happen?”
“Yes, I can, and I’m sorry we got off to a bad start. Can we start over?”
Kathy smiled and said, “Of course.”
The room hadn’t been occupied since Harold Hollingsworth checked out. Realizing it would probably be a wasted effort, Kathy called the forensic team in to search the room. They were all booked in the Jefferson and were in the room in 15 minutes. Kathy briefed them and then left to interview the housekeeping staff and doorman. The interview of the housekeeping staff only revealed that Hollingsworth was a pleasant man who tipped well and took dinner the day he checked in and breakfast the next morning in his room.
Her interview with the doorman was slightly more productive. The doorman told Kathy he remembered the man in the photo. He turned down his offer to call a cab just after nine o’clock in the morning and walked down the street carrying his bag. Just before he turned the corner at the end of the block, he flagged a cab. When Kathy questioned him about the cab, he said it was one of those blue Citizens Taxis. Kathy thanked him and had the doorman call for her Mustang.
She knew exactly where the taxi terminal was, and 15 minutes later walked into the reception area to see Mr. Fox. The word had spread. The loungers in the drivers’ area got quiet, and Mr. Fox stood up when he saw her come in.
Kathy said, “Good morning, Mr. Fox. I have a few more questions. Can you help me?”
“Yes! Of course I can help you, Officer. What do you need?”
She showed him the same picture and said, “This man got into one of your taxis about 9:00 AM last Saturday on the corner of West Franklin Street and North Jefferson. I want to talk to the driver.”
Mr. Fox checked his aged PC and said, “Harry Ingram was the driver. Hey, Harry, come over here. The lady wants to talk to you.”
Kathy was amused, Harry was the quiet partner of Buck the taxi driver who tried to attack her earlier. Harry approached the desk in a hesitant manner and said, “I’m sorry about that. I knew nothing about Buck planning to waste you a bit. Doctor said he could begin to use crutches in a couple of days. He still doesn’t know what happened.”
“I’m not here to talk about our meeting. Give my best to Buck. If he wants to meet again, I have a room for him in the federal pen. He needs to work on anger management before it’s too late. Now, a few questions. Mr. Fox, please tell Harry what we need from him.”
“The officer wants to know everything you know about the man in the picture on my desk.”
“I don’t know this guy. He might have been a fare. I just don’t know.”
Kathy said, “One more chance and then you come with me. I know you picked this man up around nine o’clock Saturday morning near the intersection of West Jefferson and West Franklin streets. Think before you answer. It is a felony to lie or withhold information pertinent to a Federal Investigation. Do you understand? Answer truthfully and you are home free. Tell me.”
Harry said, “As I remember this fare was walking along West Jefferson carrying a suitcase. He signaled and I thought he looked like he was going to the airport, so I stopped. It’s a good fare out to the airport and often a better one coming back. He gets in and tells me to take him to the 3000 block of West Broad Street. I drop him there. He gives me a good tip and I drive off.”
“Did he ask you any questions or did you talk to him at all?”
“I asked him if he wanted me to wait. He said no, I’m meeting a friend.”
“No, I swear that’s all.”
“Okay, Harry, we’re done here. Thank you.”
When Harry left, Mr. Fox, the dispatcher, said, “You put the fear of God into these guys and they don’t scare easy. When you were walking up to the door, one of them said, ‘Be quiet! Here comes fucking Wonder Woman. Do not mess with her.’ Coming from them that’s high praise.”
Kathy smiled and said, “Just doing my job. Thanks, I don’t think you’ll be seeing me anymore.”