Chapter 15 – It Takes More Than Two to Tango (Part III)

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“Schemes involving code breaking, I suspect,” she said. “I watched this World War II documentary on the History Channel where they talked about Enigma Machines and codes…I think that’s what they were working on. He and the rest of his Poker Night buddies—I’m not sure what they do on their Poker Nights, but it’s not poker. I can tell you that!”

Warren set the hand towel down and pulled a notepad from his pocket. “Would one of his buddies be a Professor James Shutters?”

“Ah yes, he’s one of his posse, shrewish, a little bit too fat for my taste,” she said. “It’s him, Professor Paul Linscott, and Professor Morehouse… Eric Morehouse. If only their wives knew what they were up to Thursday nights, they might have a riot. I barely know what mine is doing nowadays. It’s not poker.”

As she spoke, Warren hastened to write down those names, although she seemed pleased enough to get them in trouble.

“What do you think they’re doing?”

“I think they’re working on some get-rich-quick scheme,” she said. “I think it involves something called Bitcoin. It’s some sort of secret money. They wanted to use it for their students somehow… My Bert, he doesn’t really tell me things.” She gestured at the kitchen—then at the bread maker. “He buys me things because he thinks that it’ll help occupy my time when I’m at home. I guess he’s avoiding me right now.”

She sighed.

“If you’re looking into anyone, you should look into that Richard Harwood,” she said. “He’s got that shifty look and I don’t like how he talks.”

“I’ll be doing that,” Agent Warren said. Out of the corner of his eye, he noticed Toller exit the side hallway. She paused there for a moment and nodded to him. “Thank you, Mrs. Whitaker, but that’s all the questions I have for today. Here’s my card.” He handed her one of his contact cards that would ring to the hive back in D.C. “Please let your husband know I’d like to speak to him.”

“Absolutely,” she said. “Go ahead and let yourself out… I think that I’m going to stand here for a moment and make a cup of tea. The stove can at least heat water just fine. You’re welcome to come back any time! And maybe next time I’ll have bread. Lord willing.”

* * *

“She’s a handful,” Agent Warren said as he slid into the passenger’s side seat. Toller had pulled it all the way forward so he had to push it back—she did the opposite with the driver’s seat as he buckled in.

Toller simply smiled at him as she cranked the ignition.

“You found something in the bathroom, didn’t you?” he asked.

“I found the mother lode in the bathroom cabinet,” she said. “She has prescriptions for Lorazepam and Phenergan—those are both anti-nausea medications that my aunt was on when she was getting chemo. Oh yeah, and she’s got marijuana in there too.”

She turned the blinker on as she took the car out onto the main road and Warren shook his head. “That’s a little odd for someone to keep drugs in the open like that.”

“Medically prescribed, actually,” she said. “Not that I’m willing to bust that woman for pot even if it wasn’t legal. If my aunt had lived during a time she could get that, I would have driven across states to bring it to her. It does wonders for nausea.”

“I didn’t know your aunt had cancer,” Warren said. “I’m sorry to hear that.”

“She died when I was sixteen. You wouldn’t have known anything about that. I’m just saying, this woman has a very expensive medical condition. Her house is almost entirely empty; she has only a TV and a huge kitchen to keep her company. It all adds up that these professors might be doing something to help supplement their incomes.”

“Except it’s not showing up in their financials,” Warren said. “At least not obviously.” He frowned and tried to recall something he heard Toller say earlier. “That website you mentioned they’d been sending money to… Do you know if it has anything to do with Bitcoin?”

“Doesn’t ring a bell,” she said. “We could have the hive check it out.”

“I’ll check this out myself,” he said. “I hope that Rockefeller doesn’t have my head for this one; but something tells me that there’s more to what’s going on here than first meets the eye. I’ll put in a call to pull the financial records for these other professors to see how they’re related to each other.”

“Do you think they’re in it with Mercer too?”

“I’m not sure,” Warren said. “My gut tells me this must be entirely unrelated. I don’t see terrorism in this plot, unless it’s mathematical cyberterrorism. Is that a real thing?”

“I don’t know. With the way the Internet is going it might be a thing by now. Perhaps I should check by Blackberry.”

“Very funny.”

“Let’s hit up a Denny’s or something,” Warren said. “After that close-call with the bread maker and the huge kitchen, it’s given me a taste for some pancakes.”

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