ON MY PHONE voicemail, “Calendar, thanks for getting back to me so fast. Here is Thomas. I would love to meet you tomorrow, just name a place for lunch or dinner.” I left Thomas the details for place and time.
My visit in San Diego came to an end. I had an early breakfast with my parents. Then I kissed them goodbye, took my bags and made a brief stop at the SDPD headquarters. Instead of taking the public parking spot, I simply drove onto the staff lot, being a police consultant and all.
The front desk sergeant called upstairs, authorized me and I walked up to Ron’s office. He and Juanita were not at their desks but I spotted them in a separate office with a large guy in a dark suit. Juanita came out, leaving a meeting room full of heated exchange.
“You came at the right moment,” she said and walked straight to the copy machine.
“What’s going on in there?”
Juanita started making copies of the papers in her hand.
“The big guy with Ron is FBI; they have an interest in the case because hacking is a federal crime.”
“The safe. The decided to call it hacking instead of cracking. Wordsmithing BS, but that’s the FBI for you.”
“And the papers?”
Juanita gave a sly smile. “That is why I took your arrival as an excuse to leave the office. It is the list of suspects from the FBI. Software engineers who have expertise in safe control computer software. Not too many, since the safe manufacturer is a small company. The FBI guy wouldn’t give us a copy, so Ron started an argument to distract him and I slipped out to greet you.” She was done and we walked over to her desk. “And took along Mr. FBI’s list.”
The argument in the office was over sooner than expected. Eventually, the door to the office flew open and the FBI agent stormed out, made a short halt at Juanita’s table, snatched the original list from her outstretched hand and left the detective floor, banging the door shut behind him.
Ron came up, gave a small victorious grin and sat beside Juanita’s desk. They immediately put their heads together and studied the list.
“Eighteen names. That’s a small list. But those ten names where the system had current addresses, we are talking all over the USA. Five on the West Coast, the rest in the South and East.”
“Can I make a crazy suggestion?” I ask.
“Sure, shoot,” Ron said, giving me ‘that look’ again.
“Apply the same technique you did when you identified me.”
“How did we identify you? You were in the computer… ” Ron said, not getting it.
Juanita patted his hand. “Come on big guy, this is for us girls. What Calendar means is, she doesn’t live in San Diego but was home for the holidays. Let’s find the parents’ addresses of the suspects on the list and see if anyone is living close by.”
“Don’t you think the FBI won’t think of that?”
“Not in the first round of investigation,” Juanita said.
“Right, it buys you some time and it gives you a head start,” I added.
“Good thinking. Unfortunately, there is not much we can do anymore regarding the regular line of the case. The preliminary reports all came in this morning, no more additional leads, except what the FBI got for us.”
“And the suspicious Altward books or financial affairs of Phoebe Eastman?”
“We dug a little bit deeper but came up with nothing more. Without a search warrant—no search. Without evidence—no search warrant.”
“You seem to take it easy,” I noted, dryly.
“I am the easy type,” he said but he didn’t smile. “We’re digging. If there’s evidence, it will appear.”
“A philosopher. Well, you got my number in Redondo, feel free to call,” I said in such a way that the unspoken ‘Anytime’ was obvious. Juanita gave a slight chuckle from her desk; Ron didn’t catch it. Typical man.