When she was outside, Kathy called Frank and told him the Professor used the name Harold Hollingsworth to register in the Jefferson Hotel. His forensic team was now going through the room he used. Kathy said, “He’s going north and needs wheels. I have a lead on where he might have picked up a vehicle. I’m going out there now to check some used car dealers in the 3000 block of West Broad. I’ll call you when I learn anything more.”
Kathy found a curbside parking space on West Broad beside a fire hydrant.
She sat in the car and put herself in the Professor’s position. He needs transportation. He has fake documentation but he doesn’t really trust it. None of the used car dealers along this street is going to take a check from anyone without checking with the bank. I don’t know how much cash he has, but he will have to have it to buy a car. The rental option is nonexistent. It is too controlled. He’s not in much of a position to bargain. I doubt he wants to carry his bag up and down Broad Street looking for the best deal. He can’t ride a cab into several car dealers. It would call too much attention to him. So he’ll want to make a deal in the first lot he tries. His taxi was traveling the same direction I did, and he wouldn’t want to cross the street in front of his driver who would remember his strange client. He would also want to use a place that had a large choice of cars and a number of daily sales so his cash purchase wouldn’t stand out.
Using her reasoning, Kathy decided to try Commonwealth Auto Sales. It had a big selection of cars and trucks and was on the right side of the street. She pulled into the lot and saw a salesman walking toward her before she was even out of the car. When the salesman asked how he could help her, she opened her jacket, revealing her badge and handgun and then said, “I’d like to see the sales manager please.”
“He’s over to your left, leaning on the Cadillac CTS.”
He waved his arm and called, “Charlie.”
Charlie looked up and walked toward Kathy who was moving in his direction.
He said, “Car shopping?”
Kathy smiled and said, “Nope, perp shopping. I believe you sold this man a car last Saturday morning.”
The manager looked at the photo and said, “What’s this all about?”
Kathy gave him her cop smile and said, “That’s not the way it works. I ask the questions. Let me try again. What kind of car did you sell this man for cash on Saturday morning?”
From the look on his face, Kathy knew she was in the right place.
While the manager was making up his mind about what to tell her, Kathy said, “I’m not interested in your operation. When I find out about what this man bought, I’ll be gone. If you decide to stonewall me, you will have made your last sale for a few days, while we go over your books, question your staff and search the entire lot. Now, which is it?”
“Your information is good. He was in here Saturday morning, but he didn’t buy a car. He bought a Ford 150 4W truck, and he did pay cash.”
Kathy said, “Good choice. Now, if you will please get me a copy of all documents involved in the sale, including VIN, dealer plate number, and the truck’s description, distinctive marking or damages and history. I notice you have some camera surveillance. I’ll want copies of all the tapes that show the man in question, and a short talk with everyone he talked to.”
“Okay. Come inside and have a cup of coffee while we get what you want.”
An hour later Kathy drove off the used car lot and headed for Route I-95 and McLean. When she pulled onto I-95, Kathy used her hands-free iPhone to call Frank. When he came on the line, Kathy said, “I have some new information. The Professor, using the same alias, bought a used 2006 white Ford 150 XLT 4×4 with 41,032 miles and Virginia dealer plates, DHL 1450 for $21,495 cash from Century Auto Sales, West Broad Street, Richmond. The truck has no distinguishing marks. I’ve alerted your forensics team to pick up a package containing all the paperwork and some surveillance camera footage. I’ve no evidence but I believe he is still headed north on I-95. I interviewed everyone at the car lot who had contact with him. Nothing turned up. He was strictly business, no small talk.”
“Kathy, great work. Nobody believes you could get so much information in such a short time. You are acquiring a remarkable investigative reputation. Okay, come up and join the rest of your team.”
Kathy heard the dial tone and thought, I guess Frank said goodbye. She knew she was a good investigator but recognized she was also lucky. Kathy had expected to have to visit at least a half-dozen car dealers and maybe more. She had reduced the search by some common sense analysis, but lady luck certainly helped. Now it was time to put the pedal down and get home to McLean and Jack.