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Chapter 2

Katherine paced in front of the pay phone to mentally prepare herself for the phone call she was about to make. So far, all of her prep work had been done in books, in observation, and in secret. This would be the first time she had ever spoken to another person while she pretended to be someone she was not.

She had already made sure there were no external CCTV security cameras on the buildings around her, ATMs, traffic cameras, or any other stray recording devices near the solitary phone mounted to the brick wall of an old corner store.

Katherine had taken four taxis, three bus transfers, and one subway train to reach her current location. Not to mention, the flight that brought her to Cleveland for the genetic sequencing conference she was attending—or supposed to be attending.

The wig made her head itch and she had to continuously remind herself to not touch it or scratch lest she draw attention to her disguise. Though her latest self-reminder to not draw attention to herself made her realize that pacing in front of the telephone was bound to draw more attention to her than simply scratching her wigged head would. It was time to make the call.

With gloved hands, she picked up the receiver; she removed one quarter from a fresh roll she obtained from a bank in another city six months ago, rubbed the quarter off just to make sure, and then inserted it into the phone. She dialed the number she had memorized, and heard the line ring four times.

Hello, thank you for calling Marc’s. How can I help you today?

“Hello, um, hi. This is Detective Sweeny with the Cleveland Police Department. May I speak with a manager or one of your loss prevention specialists?”

Of course. I’ll grab Suzie, give me just a minute.

The wig itched more as sweat broke out underneath it.

Hello, Officer? This is Suzie, can I help you?

“Yes, ma’am. This is Detective Sweeny with the Cleveland Police Department. I’m following up on a theft reported from your store a few months ago. We might have a new lead so I have a few follow-up questions.”

Of course, Detective. Do you have the case number? I’m afraid my memory isn’t all that great when it comes to anything from longer than a week ago. –Chuckle- I can look through our files, though, to get you what you need.

“That’s okay, Suzie. I don’t need any case-specific information. I have a few general questions.”

Sure. What do you need to know?

“It appears the patrol officer didn’t get any security footage from that day. I was wondering how long you keep that stuff around.”

Thirty days. Well, let me clarify that, we keep each month for thirty days after the end of the month. So I guess we keep the first day of the month for sixty days. When was the theft? I can see if we still have it.

“It was three months ago.”

Oh, I’m sorry but I know we don’t still have video from that far back.

“Oh, that’s too bad. Okay, well I have just a few more questions.”

I hope I do better on the next one. –Chuckle-

“The credit card gift cards that you sell—does your store place a limit on the amount a customer can put on a card? And is there any way for you to track the cards once they’re purchased?”

We have a five thousand dollar limit on those cards. I’m sure you already know this, but any cash purchase over ten thousand dollars has to be reported to the IRS for money-laundering purposes. We don’t want to have to hassle with the paperwork for that, so we impose a limit even if the particular card the customer is buying has one that’s higher than five thousand.

As far as tracking, I’m not sure I understand what you mean? After the card leaves the store, we don’t know what they buy with it if that’s what you mean.

“No, ma’am. What I mean by tracking is, if we found one of these gift cards being used in other illegal schemes, is there any way to track the card back to your store to show it was purchased there? You see, in the original report, the officer says the thief purchased one of these gift cards and then on his way out he grabbed the car keys from another customer who was checking out and wasn’t paying attention. He then stole the customer’s car.

“We have a suspect, and we found a gift card in his possession. We want to know if we can track that card back to your store to prove he was the one in the store on the day the car was stolen. Without the security video to prove that, this may be the only way we can tie him to the event location.”

Oh, I understand what you mean. And yes, we can. Well, we can’t, but the card company can. We had a theft where someone stole a whole rack of those cards. The idiot thought the cards already had money on them. So he stole a bunch of useless plastic. But anyway, I talked to our vendor for the cards, and I found out that once the card is purchased, our computers talk to theirs and verifies the amount that was put on the card. The card company knows which store sold the card, the date and time, even the register identification number from our system.

If you have all of the card info, you can call the company, get the date, time, and register number the purchase was made from. Get that info to me, and I can find out who was logged in. You can come in and maybe do a photo lineup or something to see if the cashier recognizes anyone.

Katherine was taken aback by Suzie’s detective skills. “Whoa, Suzie, maybe you should have my job,” she joked, though she felt anything but jovial.

Covering her tracks might be harder than she first thought. She tried to look on the bright side, though; this conversation was a good lesson to remember that she couldn’t think of everything and she learned some valuable information in the process.

Ha! I don’t think I could do your job. I’ve just been managing retail stores my entire adult life. I am no stranger to store loss and I have a pretty good idea of the procedures. But anyway, let me know about that info and I’ll find out who the cashier was. As long as it wasn’t one of our college kids, I should be able to easily set up a meeting.

“One of your college kids?”

Yeah, our high schoolers go away to college and then sometimes come back home for summer vacation and we give them seasonal work in their old positions.

“Got it. That’s nice of you guys. Well, I don’t want to take up any more of your time. I’ll get back to you, Suzie, as soon as I have more information. Thank you so much for your time. Have a great day.”

No problem, Detective. What was—

She didn’t let Suzie finish. The receiver was already back on its holder before the question was finished. Katherine had the information she needed and the next bus that would take her to Marc’s was due to arrive any second now.

The gift credit cards could be tracked back to the store, but the security footage would only be kept for two months at the most. And she didn’t plan to use the cards until at least a year from now. She doubted any cashier would remember her, even without a disguise, that long after the fact.

Though, she was going to be buying a five thousand dollar gift card, which might make her more memorable to a cashier. Still, Katherine thought, if things went to plan, it would be years before her first kill. If the police were even able to track any of her purchases back to the cards, no cashier would have that good of a memory.

Katherine was jolted out of her thought process when the city bus screeched to a halt in front of her. She stepped up, paid her fare, and took a seat towards the middle of the bus. She pulled out her bus map and looked at the ten Marc’s stores she had circled on the paper.

Katherine was about to spend a good chunk of her insurance money, but the end goal was worth it. Besides, she wasn’t really spending it yet: just putting it into another medium that she would use later, to buy herself the supplies she would need to…to what? Work on her project? Her goal? Her plot? Project sounded best to her. To work on her project.

She smirked to herself at the irony of her step-father’s insurance money being used to fund her new project. At least in the end, he had been good for something, she thought.

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