I kill rich people 2, p.32

I KILL RICH PEOPLE 2, page 32

 

I KILL RICH PEOPLE 2
 



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  He pulled away from Owen’s grasp and walked quickly outside, leaving Owen wide-eyed, staring into space without registering anything in his view.

  *****

  Liam leapt for the telephone first. “Hi Dad!”

  “Daddy!” Casey echoed in the background.

  “It’s mine!” Liam asserted. He sounded more like the older brother than he usually did, not allowing Casey to tug the phone away from him.

  “Hi buddy!” Owen responded, soaking up their voices as they wrestled.

  “Dad, I can throw a slider!” Liam reported proudly. “I made the tryouts! I’m going to pitching camp! I’m going to have three pitches next year!”

  Pitching camp? Owen wondered. It was the first he had heard about it. “Show me tomorrow. I’ll bring my mitt when I pick you two up. Nine o’clock!”

  “I can’t tomorrow, Dad. We’re going to the beach.”

  “Ok. We’ll all go. We can practice there.”

  Casey’s voice replaced his older brother’s. “Dad!” Casey yelled excitedly.

  “Hi tiger! I’ll see you tomorrow. You ready to get your head underwater?”

  “Are you coming?” Casey asked, sounding confused.

  “Here,” Liam told Casey, who relinquished the phone without a battle. “Dad, we’re going overnight,” Liam told him. “Dr. Marc invited Mom and us to go to his beach house.”

  Owen stopped talking. Finally, he ordered Liam, “Put your mom on.”

  “Mom’s not here. She’s shopping.”

  “Ok,” Owen muttered. “I’ll call you later.” He tossed the phone onto Tremaine’s coffee table. It slid to a stop up against his service weapon. He stared at both, taking rapid, short breaths. Mercedes convertible. Beach house. Pitching camp.

  He reached out for the phone but pulled his hand back before dialing Callie’s cell. He got up instead, going to the refrigerator for a glass of milk and checking the clock on the way. Don’t phone when your emotions are running high was right at the top of the department-assigned therapist’s instructions. Listen.

  “Breathe,” he reminded himself. “Wait ten minutes and calm down.” After swallowing back the milk, he decided to walk to where he knew there was a pay phone in front of the mini-mart on the next block.

  Callie answered on the first ring.

  “Hi. I understand you made plans for boys this weekend.” Calm. Level. No yelling.

  “What is this number?” Callie asked him.

  “My phone is on the charger,” Owen lied. Because when I call on my phone, you never pick up.

  “I thought this was my weekend,” he continued.

  “Something came up. I was about to call.”

  “‘Dr. Marc invited Mom and us to his beach house.’ Liam told me.”

  “Um hum,” Callie told him. Owen could picture her. She’d be chewing on her lower lip now.

  “So you admit it?” Still level. Keeping it light.

  “He has the girls this weekend, Owen.” It was her voice getting higher, not his. “He thought it would be fun for the kids to be together.”

  “Fucking the boss, Callie?” he asked quietly. “Really? And bringing the boys along?”

  “How was I married to you? You’re such an asshole!” she yelled. She disconnected the line, leaving Owen smacking the handset off the phone box. Afterward, he did one of his therapist’s breathing exercises, reaching his arms out and gathering them back with each intake, looking like a shaman, then casting out the bad air again with his arms spread wide and his fingers extended as far as he could stretch. He stayed at it until his heart stopped pounding and his hands stopped closing into fists.

  He didn’t care how many people stared while they walked by.

  *****

  He ambled in the direction of Tremaine’s place, watching the sidewalk and forcing his heavy feet to step over every crack. What was the point of going there? He hated the silence; he kept picturing the pistol on the coffee table, too, and wanted that image to go away before he went back inside. How was I married to you?

  “We’re still married!”

  Owen trudged a long lap around the block, all the time trying in his head to picture Callie with another man. He never got angry about it; he just couldn’t do it, it didn’t compute. Was she just going away for the weekend? Was he really the asshole?

  “Detective?”

  Owen looked up suddenly. The voice startled him. Some man in a white cowboy hat was coming toward him from the steps up to Tremaine’s doorway.

  “Who?”

  Bishop reached out a hand as he got close. “Lieutenant Cullen, my name is Bishop,” he said, the ‘my’ coming up as ‘muh.’ Owen looked at the hand, leaving it to hang without responding.

  “My name is Bishop,” he repeated, letting his hand drop to his side. “I’d like to speak with you.”

  “What about?” Owen asked. He knew instantly that the other man was a cop.

  “About Jonathan Spencer,” Bishop responded. “Do you want to help get him?”

  Owen’s eyes came to life instantly. “Too right I do!” he blurted out, sounding exactly like his father. He flexed his forearms and clenched both fists in front of him. “I knew it!” he yelled. “I fucking knew it!” Owen looked around anxiously; ready to get inside a car and go.

  Bishop turned back toward Tremaine’s. “There are a few practical matters to tackle first.”

  *****

  “We had some difficulty locating you, Lieutenant,” Bishop told Owen. He held his Stetson by the hat brim and picked up a framed photo showing Tremaine Bull and Owen Cullen smiling, arms over one another’s shoulders. “On leave and you moved addresses.”

  Owen felt a surge of anger in his throat and swallowed hard. How did they know he was on leave? If they knew he was on leave, then they knew it wasn’t by his choice. Fucking Department psychiatrist. Leave or meds. Like he was going to sign off on having depression in his jacket?

  “Why me?”

  “In aggregate, the investigation and pursuit of your sniper expended law enforcement agencies over a million man hours.” Bishop turned the photo toward Owen. “You and your partner succeeded in getting to him twice. On the Hudson and at Citi-Field. Nobody else recorded a single contact.”

  “Succeeded?” Owen questioned. “He shot our boat out from under us the first time. The second time he killed my partner. It’s his place we’re standing in.”

  “You’ll be paid nine hundred per day,” Bishop went on, cutting to the chase. “Any partial day under four hours is $450. Hotel and rental cars, parking are all covered. Food stipend is $80 per day. Save receipts. We will not be doing withholdings so bear in mind to set aside for your own taxes. A 1099 will be sent out mid-February. You’re certain your clearances are current? I’m taking you at your word on that. You can’t be paid otherwise.”

  Owen understood. He had never signed off on depression; he’d never taken a single med. He’d been letting the union take its rake for fifteen years. All that money wasn’t for nothing. If they put any of that crap in his jacket, he’d have the LBA suing their ass.

  “Is there any conflict with your working for us while you’re on a personal leave from your department?”

  Owen crossed the room in two strides to get to the Glock. He dropped the magazine, looked and pressed to confirm a full load, and reloaded. He grabbed a jacket from the hall tree and told Bishop confidently, “I’m in. Let’s go!”

  “That jacket is not enough. Pack your things; clothing, shaving kit, medications, whatever you need, at least enough for a week to ten days. Our operations desk is in D.C. We’re bringing in one more specialist, a man named Miller, flying in from Kabul. He was Spencer’s operations lead in Afghanistan. Apparently, nobody knows Spencer better.”

  While he was ja
mming clothes into a duffle bag, Owen was happy, feeling useful for the first time in a long while. D.C. Another guy flying from Kabul. From Afghanistan! He had the chance to finish what they started.

  This was about getting right in his own head, too. Fucking nobody better get in my way.

  He’d have done it for free and jumped at the chance. Owen moved quickly toward the front door and turned back, looking at Bishop and wondering why Bishop wasn’t moving already.

  “I’ll call Callie from the hotel number tonight.” What they had was bigger than some weekend at a beach house. She’d know he had turned the corner. Even if he couldn’t tell her details, she’d hear it in his voice. Jonathan Spencer was their shooter; Jonathan Spencer had shot up the boat; Jonathan Spencer had shot twenty-two innocent people—he wasn’t wrong. The reason Gonzalez had warned him was because he was right all along!

  “Vosilych, my arse,” Owen muttered. “Everyone, up and down the line, they all wanted the red line, case completed. Suspending me? Me? Where were Tee’s other bullets? Where were the size thirteen feet?”

  Was anything about this Vosilych ever real?

  “Miller comes in from Frankfurt in four hours,” Bishop continued. “Cullen, I have you booked Delta, 5:40 p.m., into Reagan National. Take a cab to the Sheraton Crystal City. I’ll see you and Miller in the lobby at 9 p.m.” Bishop supplied Owen with Miller’s ID photo.

  “I’ve got to catch an earlier flight,” Bishop told him. “I’ll brief you both tonight. Sheraton Crystal City, 9 p.m.”

  *****

  “Phone Bishop,” Stephen shouted. “Right now! I’m getting a hot hit.” At his elbow, Dilip continued entering data points.

  Stephen ordered, “Whatever you’re doing, stop! This is more important. Somebody in West Virginia is pulling a background check on Jonathan Spencer.” Jonathan Spencer, U.S. Army, Virginia.

  Dilip switched screens and began running location software to track the West Virginia server. “A public library. Fayetteville.” He pulled the server location, framed it on screen, and then pulled the library card number used to access the computer and the credit card information used for PeopleSmart to buy the records on Spencer.

  Felicia Diane Reynolds, DOB 12/24/85, WVDL#Y290003, 230 Kanawha Avenue, Dunbar, West Virginia. Five-foot-three, 105 lbs., mousy blond hair, green eyes.

  Kip, another tech on Stephen’s four-person team, typed at warp speed while keeping his eyes glued to the monitor. Stephen watched from behind Kip’s chair.

  The background check on Felicia Diane Reynolds indicated Cabell Alternative High School, South West Virginia Community and Technology College, current address 230 Kanawha Avenue, Dunbar, West Virginia, six prior addresses showing. Employment: Olive Garden Restaurant 111 Cross Terrace Garden, prior employment Student Union, South West Virginia College.

  Stephen looked away just long enough to scream: “Where’s my phone?!”

  DUI Arrest 3/17/11. No record of conviction.

  “And there she is. Bingo!” Mouse appeared within the center frame on Dilip’s screen. Blue jeans and a yellow t-shirt. Her hair was cropped short now.

  “Ok, Felicia Diane Reynolds. Now why are you looking into our guy?” He could see letters tattooed on her neck, froze frame and zoomed in, but could not make them out. He pulled up a mirror image of the keyboard she was using and proceeded to track her strokes.

  She was alone, standing at a bar-height counter with four computer terminals. Behind her, an upright cutout suggested Beatrix Potter stories. Low tables and tiny chairs.

  As Stephen yelled out again for any phone so he could get a hold of Bishop, she hit the print key. Six pages ran, then once the printer icon stopped flashing she hit Exit and logged off, immediately turning around and moving toward the main desk.

  “She’s on the move! Dale, stop what you’re doing and get me Bishop!”

  Dale removed his earphones and wandered behind to look over his shoulder.

  “Whazzup?”

  “Fayetteville, West Virginia. Street cams. Security cams. Throw a ring around the fucking town and get them all up. Now! She’s going to leave! And give me your fucking phone!”

  “Ok,” Dilip narrated. “Well, we have no street cams. No parking lot security. No parking lot. We are showing fifteen live feeds for the whole area. We have the courthouse, Quality Inn, Arby’s, Wendy’s, McDonalds, two Subways, Dairy Queen, Taco Bell, Sunoco, Shell, and two Little General Stores. Do you think all their generals are little?” he quipped.

  On screen, Reynolds was counting out a dollar bill, a quarter, a dime, and two nickels and five pennies. The librarian handed her the printouts and she was off-screen before he realized he hadn’t recorded any of it. The only photo showed her with hair down to her shoulders.

  Dilip waited for confirmation. There are only two million people in the entire state. How long could it take?

  “Screw waiting,” Stephen shouted. He reached over Dilip’s shoulder to take command of the keyboard, his fingers racing across. He pulled up the link to her driver’s license photo and then compared it side by side against a real-time likeness of the woman in front of them, the cropped hair, the scripted GV on her neck. “We have a winner!” Stephen exclaimed.

  He tossed the phone at Dale yelling, “Now would you get me on the fucking phone with Bishop?!”

  “I let you use it,” Dale responded sheepishly.

  “It would have helped if you entered your passcode!”

  Dale looked at the blank screen. “Oh.”

  *****

  “I sent you a link straight into the file!” Stephen reminded Bishop. “Open the message and hit the link.

  That was two hours ago. Don’t you check your texts?”

  The lead should have had elicited a positive response, but Bishop felt more like Nussbaum’s voodoo technologies were cheating. It wasn’t fair to track a man from ten thousand feet or spy on him from hundreds of miles away using a gas station security camera. It also pissed him off to know that any one of the geeks might be his boss one day soon. I messaged you two hours ago. Don’t you check your texts? Chicken shit.

  “Her cell phone is registered to a Dunbar address, same as her driver’s license,” Nussbaum explained, talking fast. “But eighty-seven percent of all calls going back a year originated through towers located between here,” he pointed out Fayetteville, “and here, Mt. Hope.”

  His fingers raced across the keyboard to switch screens, bringing up a checking account. “Her cell phone bill is paid with a debit card through the Bank of Mount Hope, where she has, as of this moment, twenty thousand, nine hundred and thirty-one dollars and fourteen cents in a joint account with one M.L. White, of whom there are sixteen in the nation and just two shown living within a one-day drive to Mount Hope, West Virginia! We set up keyword intercepts for Google, Yahoo, Bing, Ask.com, Dogpile, Duck Duck Go,” he went on. “We’d get inundated with noise going off every hit, but when the algorithm is massaged a bit, so rather than ‘Jonathan’ or ‘Spencer’ we filter for conjoined searches, and then add we add a little spice to the mix with ‘army,’ ‘armed forces,’ ‘military,’ ‘Virginia,’ etcetera, the universe contracts fast… six degrees of separation in reverse.”

  Nussbaum finally took a breath, and then said, “Within forty-eight hour windows, we’re at 97 percent accuracy now. I knew he was either getting help or he was holed up in Bumfuck. The guy needs to eat, drink, and shit. If he’s in urban America, this software would have found him. You can’t outrun law enforcement anymore, not unless they let you. Inside five years we’ll have an exclusionary model that takes that into account. I mean, what is the point of looking at New York or Chicago or LA or two-thirds of the population centers when we have complete visibility in every one of them? Nevermind, I digress.”

  Bishop approached the lead with a bias he could not restrain,
even if it was the single possibility they’d generated in days. He hated hotshot data guys. Twenty-four years of hands-on experience getting wiped away, a smear on a windshield. Fuck ’em all. They were putting him out of business.

  “You haven’t got Spencer,” Bishop reminded gravely. “Where’s the proof of any connection?”

  The geek looked at Bishop like he couldn’t be serious. All three of his fellow geeks tuned in, too. “What, you want empirical proof of climate change before you act on 99 percent probability models? Ok, ok.” Stephen slowed down and explained it as though he were speaking to the world’s biggest ignoramus. “She hasn’t made an outgoing phone call since Spencer broke out. There has been no public announcement mentioning any Jonathan Spencer before the capture or since he escaped. So this young woman, who shows no record of prior contact with any Jonathan Spencer, not in elementary school, not in middle school, not in high school, and not in her year at community college, decides out of the blue to Google Jonathan Spencer, U.S. Army, and then pays to do a background check, two background checks, on Jonathan Spencer?

  “Fayetteville, West Virginia is four hours and twenty minutes, two-hundred-seventy-five miles from Spencer’s last known location, three-hundred-and-eight miles from this spot right here. So maybe it is just a coincidence. Bishop, if I’m wrong, at least five people don’t get burned up in their apartments thanks to your North Carolina whack jobs. Do they?”

  CHAPTER SIXTEEN

  Miller ordered a double Balvenie. Beside him, Owen fidgeted in his bar stool, swerving side to side, aware that his tweed jacket and woven tie were out of place amongst the laptop crowd ordering tapas he couldn’t pronounce. He was frustrated that Bishop was delayed.

 
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