Knowing that Kane was dealt with - or would be soon enough, Grace could focus on finding the Top Dog. She’d thought a lot about McCall and the best way to flush her out. The Queen Bee already knew about Kane, no doubt about that. She knew, and the order to have him killed had likely been sent before he even set foot in a cell.
But Kane could be explained away. He was reckless and feckless, and it was only a matter of time before the police had something on him. The statutory rape charge kept McCall and her business at a distance, as Grace had planned. But the boss would more than likely have him killed before he could speak her name and make a deal. That much was for sure.
Unfortunately, the arrest or killing of one of her senior guys as well… would stand out. That would be a big “hi, I’m coming for you” sign, and McCall would have to react. Would she go into hiding? Or would she put all her resources into finding the person that was messing with her business?
The other option was to keep things in Baltimore quiet. She knew she could get the information needed without getting too close and could leave this guy as she found him. That way, McCall wouldn’t see her coming. Besides, she could always return to finish things once she was through.
Before she left Miami, Grace sent her client an update. He was a little nervous the charges wouldn’t stick or that Kane would make a deal for himself. Grace assured him that neither she nor McCall would allow that to happen.
“Kane’s boss already knows he’s been arrested. My guess is they’ll handle it quick and quiet.”
“And then some other asshole will step into his shoes,” the client barked.
“We were never going to plug this bleed entirely. America’s been fighting that war since Escobar. And this is Miami. The streets will never be clean. But if we can get to the top of this particular mountain, that’s going to affect the whole network.”
The client had come to Grace’s boss a few months after his daughter’s death. The firm was known, in a select circle, as a way to solve problems. Men with money always needed such a service, after all. This client acquired their information from a friend of a friend and asked them to take out the people responsible for what happened to his little girl. He was some kind of well-known restaurateur and couldn’t be seen getting his hands dirty.
As usual, Grace’s boss met with the client and gathered the relevant information before contacting Grace and putting her in play. They discussed options briefly, but she was trusted to handle the logistics herself. She’d been doing this for a while now and never missed her target.
The flight to Baltimore was fast, and she was in a hot shower and a bathrobe before the sunset. The news from Miami was colorful but mentioned nothing of Kane’s inevitable demise. She rechecked the cell phone and nodded when it appeared in the city. Whoever’s phone it was, they’d been in Baltimore the whole week.
Grace guessed it was an assistant or bodyguard of some kind. Kane’s boss likely had many, each of them with a different cell phone, the numbers of which only specific people knew. He was the closest rung to McCall and would deal with the middle management guys in his part of the country, and maybe even some of the street thugs. Grace was confident that if she found the person with the cell phone Kane had called, she would find his boss.
Her suspicions were confirmed the following day. Guillerme traced the cell phone as it moved from a likely residence to a coffee shop downtown, and inside, she found only one guy that fit her profile. He was six foot three to four and well over two hundred pounds. Clearly, he spent a lot of time in the gym. The picture-perfect bodyguard. He used his phone to pay for his breakfast before taking a seat by the window. It was 7:30am, and the big man was taking some me-time before his workday started.
Grace was pretty confident in her assessment of this guy. She didn’t need to confirm. Instead, she got herself some breakfast and waited for the guy to finish. She watched him devour his egg and cheese bagel and overpriced coffee and half expected him to get a second round. All the while, the phone stayed in his hand, and he looked to be texting. Girlfriend? Boyfriend? The little smirk on his face suggested so. How sweet.
His car was out front, a few doors down, and Grace watched from her seat as he drove away. She had a bike waiting across the street: a Yamaha MT-07. Grace found motorcycles to be the best option for her work. They were loud, sure, but she could follow through traffic without losing her target. Up ahead, the black Charger stayed in his lane until it took a right onto East Lexington, pulling into the parking garage of an office and apartment building. City Hall was a stone’s throw away. That was interesting.
Grace spent the rest of the morning in surveillance mode. She checked out the building’s occupants, but nothing stood out as ‘drug dealer in disguise’ from the company names. So she waited. Again.
The coffee shop staff across the street didn’t mind her taking up a window seat after ordering a coffee and tipping them a fifty. They left her alone while she kept watch, her eyes moving from the garage to the front door to the tracer. When the big man emerged, she was quick to follow.
Her target looked to be like any other business asshole out there. Expensive suit, greasy hair, chest puffed out like he was the shit. It helped that he was surrounded by three bodyguards. He had a mob boss air about him as he unbuttoned his jacket and shrugged his shoulders. Her mark was bringing up the rear as they got into a car halfway down the street. Grace was in pursuit before they left the curb.
Like before, she kept her distance. With Kane, he gave her what she needed without her having to get close. She was hoping for the same result here, especially since this guy would have to deal with Kane, or at least delegate and confirm. It had been a day since the arrest, and she’d seen no news stories about his death. Kane was still in play. That meant this guy would need to make it happen and then confirm with McCall. She just needed to be there when that happened.
Following the overly cologned men into an overly masculine restaurant, Grace got close enough to hear someone call her target, Mr. Holden. After a quick lunch, she found him and his ‘business’ in the building directory. From the same spot across the street, she spent her time doing some research into the man she hoped would lead her to one of the East Coast’s biggest drug lords.
Holden had been a small-time stockbroker about ten years ago. He wasn’t very good, according to his records, and filed bankruptcy after a particularly bad year. It wasn’t clear how or why McCall had taken him on, but it was clear when . An influx of funds around seven years ago was a distinct marker for her involvement. Holden had been flush since.
Over the next few days, Grace watched him as she had watched Kane. Things were pretty similar, minus the Miami heat and the morning runs. The fact that Holden wasn’t a gym junkie was emphasized by the vodka in his morning OJ and the daily steak dinner. His body was no temple, but he drank and fucked much like Kane: a new girl whenever he got tired of the ‘old.’ Grace was sure to get plenty of pictures but was disappointed he wasn’t outwardly doing anything illegal. He kept himself squeaky clean - minus the golden showers he received once a week, according to his calendar.
Getting bugs on the bodyguards’ phones was a nonstarter. Still, she had devices on Holden’s phone in his office and managed to place monitoring software on his computer. She didn’t know how he would contact McCall, so she kept her laptop charged and ready.
But by the fourth day, Grace was beginning to think she had the wrong man. Kane was still alive, and this guy hadn’t been in touch with anyone other than a bunch of other suits with little to say. The cell phone matched, but it was possible Holden wouldn’t deal with Kane. Maybe she’d been wrong, and this guy had a boss, who had a boss. Who knew how many layers of protection McCall was paying for?
So when she was woken at 4am, Grace breathed a sigh of relief. Her screen came to life, and she watched as Holden clicked and typed in real-time:
Holden: MD1 confirm? \
Unknown: Confirmed. Report.
Holden: Erased. Confirmed.
Holden: Scheduled. \
Unknown: Confirm shipment.
~unknown left chat~
Holden scrolled up and down for a minute before closing the chat down. They used an encrypted software, which Grace knew required an access code. Though the chat was readable through her mirror of Holden’s desktop, access to it was limited to those with a key. This key would change for every contact, no doubt.
How did he get the key? She’d been through his calls, emails, and texts and seen nothing that could have been related to this chat. There was a missing link somewhere and somehow, she’d missed it.
Grace kept an eye on Holden’s activity as he watched porn in his office. On a split-screen, she turned her focus to the last few days, going over the feed from the camera she used through the coffee shop window.
She smacked her forehead when she saw the bike messenger from earlier in the day. He arrived at the office building with several packages, and not five minutes later, Holden left for lunch. She followed Holden instead of checking the mail. That had to be it. And that would be her breadcrumb to McCall.
The morning paper held no mention of a Miami drug dealer’s death, but Grace found the article online. Holden must have sent a guy down there right away since she hadn’t seen or heard any orders being given. She sent the link to the client with a note of her progress.
When Holden left for his daily cheeseburger, Grace knew she had a solid hour to find the package. She doubted he was smart enough to destroy whatever it was. It was more likely he’d simply thrown it out. And since he’d used it at 4am, she knew it would still be there.
She was right. On top of his little trash can by the desk, next to a cum soaked tissue, was a burner phone, and it had one number programmed in. Of course, the key wouldn’t work now. It was a one time use kind of thing. But she didn’t need access to some encrypted chat to find McCall. It would’ve taken weeks to find anything anyway, and she didn’t have that kind of time. Finding whoever sent the package to Holden, however, that turned out to be much easier.
McCall had numerous levels of security between herself and her illegal businesses. She paid lots of people to do the things she didn’t want to, and it had been working well. She had distance and plausible deniability. If someone was going to be caught by the cops, it wasn’t going to be her. So it was almost amusing that something as simple as a bike messenger would be her downfall.
The bike messenger worked for a company that delivered to Holden’s building frequently. That company kindly kept records of all their deliveries, and the desk jockey was vastly underpaid. It cost Grace $500 to look at the files, another $500 for copies of the pages she requested, and a further $1000 for the contact information of the person supplying the package. She walked out happy and informed. The desk jockey sat smiling and ignorant. A perfect transaction.
The person supplying the packages that were sent over to Holden was a woman named Kathy Scott. She lived in Virginia, was a mother of three little blessings, and the wife of a truck driver.
Kathy contacted the courier service and paid for the deliveries.
Kathy’s husband dropped the package at the courier office on his way up I-95.
Kathy had no record, enjoyed semi-regular trips to Hawaii, and her kids went to private schools.
Kathy wasn’t McCall.
She was nothing more than a small town mom that everyone would, and did, overlook. She was a mule and appeared to be well paid for her efforts.
Kathy was also on Facebook and extremely easy to find.
Kathy gave up her contact after nothing more than a threat.