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"I'd say one at the most. I don't think he would have used his real name."

"I don't blame him."

"But he may have kept the initials."

"Well, let's see." She tapped away at the keys, periodically rolling her eyes while she waited for the machine to respond. "Every computer's faster than the last one," she said, "and they're never fast enough. You get so you want it instantaneous. More than that, you want it to give you data before you can even think to ask for it."

"Same with people."

"Huh? Oh, right." She giggled. "At least computers keep improving. Do you see what I'm doing? I'm starting with USAir, and I'm asking if there's a Wishniak on Flight 1103 on the fifth, and there's not, and now I'll ask about Flight 179 the same day… No. Okay, the other date's the sixth, right? So we'll try 1103… Nothing, and now we'll try 179. Is that the right number, 179? It is, so we'll try it. Nope."

"I don't think he would have used his real name."

"I know, but I wanted to rule it out because with the name I could access the records. With just the initials I can't."


"Let me try Midwest Express," she said. She did, and United as well, and wound up shaking her head.

"There's another name you could try," I said. "He had a brother who anglicized the family name, and Arnold's borrowed the name in the past."

I told her the name and she repeated it and frowned. "Spell it?" I spelled it and she hit keys. "It's a familiar name to me," she mused. "Where did I hear it recently?"

"No idea," I said. "Of course there's the ballplayer, Dave Winfield."

She shook her head. "Since the strike," she said, "I don't pay any attention. Flight 1103, on the fifth. No luck there. Flight 179, also on the fifth…"

Nothing on any of the flights in question.

"There's still a good chance he used the initials," I said. "But you can't access it that way. Suppose you just pull up the passenger manifests for each of those flights. Can you do that?"

"I can't."

"Who can?"

"Some computer genius, probably. Or somebody at the airline who's got the access codes." She frowned. "This is important, huh?"

"Kind of."

She picked up a phone, flipped through a Rolodex, dialed a number. She said, "Hi, this is Phyllis at JMC. Who's this? Judy? Judy, I've got this very good customer of mine who happens to be a detective. He's on this case that involves a noncustodial parent… Right, you hear about stuff like this all the time. I know, it's amazing. They don't pay child support and then they come and kidnap the kids."

She explained what I needed to know. "He wasn't on any of those flights under his own name," she said, "but the detective thinks he may have kept the initials. No, I understand it's confidential, Judy. You would have to have a court order. Right." She made a face, then forced a smile. "Look, could you do this much? Without telling me the name, could you see if there's a male passenger on one of those flights with the initials AW? Yes, Philadelphia to Omaha."

She covered the mouthpiece. "She's not supposed to do this," she said, "but she'll bend a little. My guess, she's divorced and not on the best of terms with her ex." She uncovered the mouthpiece. "Hi, Judy. Rats. None at all, huh?"

"He probably paid cash," I said.

She was quick. "Judy," she said, "he probably made up a name, so he probably paid cash. If you could… uh-huh. Uh-huh. Right, I understand."

She covered the mouthpiece again. "She can't do it."

"Can't or won't?"

"Won't. It's against the rules, she'd get in trouble, blah blah blah."

TJ said, "Could you do it? If you had the access codes?"

"But I don't."

"But she does."

She considered, shrugged, and uncovered the mouthpiece. "Judy," she said, "last thing I want is for you to get in trouble. For curiosity, though, tell me something. Is that information there to be pulled up? Like whether a ticket was purchased cash or charge? I mean, suppose a customer comes in and pays me cash, and… Uh-huh. I see. So anybody could access it. I mean, I could get it myself if I had the access codes, is that right?" She grabbed up a pen, jotted down a phrase. "Judy," she said, "you're a doll. Thanks." She broke the connection, grinned fiercely, and held up a clenched fist in triumph. "Yes!"

* * *

We still had a ways to go. What she managed to produce, after a lot of head-scratching and keytapping, was a printout of passenger manifests for flights on the three airlines in question from Philadelphia to Omaha and as many return flights two days later. An asterisk next to a name indicated a non-credit card sale.

"Cash or check," she explained. "There's no distinction in the data bank. Also, these are just the cash and check sales made by the airline. Sales through travel agents are just listed that way, with no indication as to how payment was made. That's not what she told me, but if there's a way to separate it out, I can't figure it out."

"That's all right."

"It is? Because do you see the names coded with a C? These are all customers who bought their ticket through another airline, probably because their trip originated with another flight segment on the issuing carrier. For all I know they paid for their ticket with Green Stamps."

"I think the manifests are all I need."

"You do?"

"If the same name turns up going and coming back, that's more significant than how he paid for the ticket."

"I didn't even think of that. Let's check."

I gathered up the sheets of paper. "I've taken up enough of your time," I said. "The hard part's done. And, speaking of your time, I want to pay for it."

"Oh, come on," she said. "You don't have to do that."

I tucked the money into her hand. "The client can afford it," I said.

"Well…" She closed her fingers around the bills. "Actually, that was fun. Not as much fun as booking you and your wife on a South Seas cruise, though. Be sure and call me when you're ready to go someplace wonderful."

"I will."

"Or even Omaha," she said.

* * *

"The client can afford it,' " TJ said. "Thought we didn't have a client."

"We don't."

" 'Social engineering.' What you did is you used a computer. Only thing, it was somebody else's computer. And somebody else's fingers on the keys."

"I suppose that's one way to put it."

"Let's see the lists," he said. "See how many repeats we got."

* * *

"Mr. A. Johnson," I said. "Flew Midwest Express from Philadelphia to Omaha on the fifth, changing planes in Milwaukee. He flew back to Philadelphia on the morning of the seventh. Paid by cash or check. My guess is cash."

"You think it's him."

"I do."

"Whole lot of folks named Johnson. Right up there with Smith and Jones."

"Thafs true."

" 'Cordin' to Phyllis, you got to show ID to get on a plane."

"They've tightened up all their security measures."

"Case you a terrorist," he said, "they want to make sure it's really you. They probably do the same when you buy the ticket, if you payin' cash. Ask for ID."

I nodded. "Same with a check, but then they always want proof of identity for a check. Of course, it's not that hard to get ID."

"Store right on the Deuce, print up all kinds of shit. Student ID, Sheriff cards. Wouldn't make much of an impression on a cop, but you gonna look too hard at it if you're behind the counter at the airlines?"

"Especially if the customer's a prosperous-looking middle-aged white man in a Brooks Brothers suit."

"The right front gets you through," he agreed.

"And the ID may have been legitimate," I said. "Maybe he had a client named Johnson, maybe he hung on to a driver's license for some poor bastard who wouldn't need it while he was locked up in Green Haven."

He scratched his head. "We got a name of a dude flew to Omaha one day and back a couple days later. We got anything more than that?"

"Not yet," I said.

* * *

"I'm glad you brought him in," Joe Durkin said. "This is the very mope we've been looking high and low for. I'll ask him a few questions soon as I remember where I put my rubber hose."

"Bet I know where it's at," TJ said. "You want, I help you look for it."

Durkin grinned and gave him a poke in the arm. "What are you doing with my friend here?" he demanded. "Why aren't you out on the street selling crack and mugging people?"

"My day off."

"And here I thought you guys were dedicated. Seven days a week, fifty-two weeks a year, soothing the emotional pain of the public. Turns out you coast just like everybody else."

"Hell yes," TJ said. "I didn't want to do nothin' but work all the time, I be joinin' the po-leese."

"Say that again for me, will you? Po-leese."


"Jesus, I love it when you talk dirty. Matt, I don't know what gives me the idea, but somehow I think you're here for a reason."

We were in the squad room at Midtown North, on West Fifty-fourth Street. I took a chair and explained what I wanted while TJ went over to the board and thumbed through a sheaf of Wanted flyers.

"When you find one with your picture on it," Joe advised him, "bring it over and I'll get you to autograph it for me. Matt, let me see if I've got this straight. You want me to call the Omaha police and ask them to check hotel records for some zip named Johnson."

"I'd appreciate it," I said.

"You'd appreciate it. In a tangible way, do you suppose?"

"Tangible. Yes, I suppose I-"

"I like that word," he said. "Tangible. It means you can touch it. You reach out and it's there. Which gives rise to a question. Why don't you reach out and touch someone?"

"Pardon me?"

"You know the hotel, right? The Hilton?"

"That's the place to start. I'm not positive that's where he stayed, but-"

"But you'd start there. Why didn't you? Use their eight hundred number and the call's free. Can't beat that for a bargain."

"I called," I said. "I didn't get anywhere."

"You identify yourself as a police officer?"

"That's illegal." He gave me a look. "I may have given that impression," I admitted. "It didn't do me any good."

"Since when did you become incapable of calling a hotel and conning a little information out of a desk clerk?" He looked at the slip of paper in front of him. "Omaha," he said. "What the hell ever happened in Omaha?" He looked at me. "Jesus Christ," he said.

"Not Him personally," TJ put in, "but this dude who said he was real tight with Him."

"The abortion guy. What was his name?"