The man who engaged Kat Barringer days prior, followed her to Newport Lake's Beechwood Coffee and watched her enter the shop. He sat in his dented truck trying to figure out what he'd say to her. He noticed five people, in their cars, were waiting to get a parking spot. There aren't going to be any seats left next to her, he thought, and went inside, but used the wall partition to shield him from her view should she look around. His palms were sweating and no seats were available. Damn it. He decided to wait in his car until some of the joe drinkers left.
Kat pulled her laptop from its bag. She booted it and typed in her password. Her computer started running updates, so she got her usual Chai latte. When the homescreen came up, she went through her icons to figure out what some of them were. Let me get started on email. She clicked the envelope icon instead.
Agent Ryan Roberts logged onto the dating site “Around The Block.” He went into his fake profile with photo-shopped pictures of a nice looking man, a murder victim from Kentucky. He finished filing out its questions. After he saved the profile, he clicked on Kat’s dating profile, went through her pictures, and felt something stir inside himself when he came upon one of her with her good friend, Lexi Meyer. Kat’s head was tilted back and she was laughing with a drink in her hand. “Great smile."
Ryan clicked on “Send a Message” and typed inside the prompt. 'Looks like you know how to have a good time. I see you’re a realtor, and I’m looking for a three bedroom – two story home in Newport Beach. Maybe you would show me a few properties, and we can go for a drink afterwards?’ Ryan hit the “send” button, the box closed and a small message appeared: “Tracer Message Sent.”
“Who’s Joe Coffee?” Ryan could hear his boss, Ronny Quinn, the owner of Quinn Security talking in the hall.
“I’m on her detail,” Ryan called out.
Ronny entered the bull pen where Ryan was sipping coffee. “Tell me what’s been going on.”
“She’s been inside Beechwood for about half an hour working on her laptop."
"Get that keylogger working in her new laptop.” Ronnie bit into a cheddar bagel with egg whites.
"The 'tracer sent' notification showed after I sent her a dating site email.”
“Good, hopefully she won’t waste anytime opening it.”
“I wrote that I was “Looking for a Home” in the subject line. I don’t think it will be long.”
“She’s having financial difficulty. She should open it right away.”
Another notification popped up on Ryan’s screen. “Keylogger downloaded. Maybe it's hers.”
Ronny stood behind him to get a look at the computer screen.
Ryan opened the notification. “It’s Kat Barringer. I’m in.” He hit enter to see what she was doing on her new laptop. She’s typing me a response.”
“Good. Check in with me later.”
Agent Sylvie Sanders was letting water into a paper cup at the cooler across from Ryan. “Sylvie, I need a coffee shop set up," Ryan said.
“Do I look like an admin to you?” She put her cup down.
“I don’t mean that.”
“No, what’s your intention, Roberts?” Sylvie pulled an empty Glock magazine out and started to fill it with bullets.
“Have you been inside Beechwood Coffee in Newport Lake?”
“Yup. There’s a few cameras in there. We’ve got some bugs in a few spots because we’re collecting on the mayor.” Sylvie placed her gun into her holster.
“Are those cameras ours?”
“No. Anything else you don’t know go into the file.” Sylvie headed out to the reception area.
“Yeah, thanks.” Ryan grumbled. He accessed “Placed Equipment” records and typed Beechwood into the find section. Sylvie had been right, just like she always seemed to be. Sometimes her thoroughness irked him. He called Paul LaFonte at the supply company. “I need a few cameras placed at Beechwood.”
"Yeah, I have a few locations, we need taken care of. I'll get them to you."
“Are the bugs still working okay?”
Ryan scrolled down on the Beechwood report and checked the time stamps. He saw consecutive times on information. “Yes, looks like they’re recording fine.”
“Okay. It shouldn’t be too hard to get it done. Give me a couple of days in case there's a problem.”
“Thanks. We might have a stalker, so the sooner the better.”
“I’ll leave a verification call when it’s up and running.”
Kat had been working at Beechwood for a couple of hours, doing a market analysis with comparable comps. She was jittery. Some prices were almost forty percent less since the market crash.
At the far end of the coffee shop, a man was placing a ladder near a hatchway up on the wall. A wrench from his toolbelt whacked against a couple rungs as he climbed it. The coffee shop manager was standing at the bottom of the ladder. “Shouldn’t take me too long to do the maintenance on the hvac system.” He disappeared into the attic space.
A second guy climbed up into the space. “Run the blower on that a/c unit and change the filters,” Paul said to him, while he removed a light from the attic floor. He pulled a small camera from his pocket and wired it into the lighting fixture.
The man who'd been watching Kat approached her. Kat was glued to her computer and hadn't noticed him walk up to her. “You didn’t call me with anyone needing tiles,” he said, moving her computer bag to the side of the chair next to her and sitting in it.
Kat felt her spine stiffen as she recognized the tile guy. “I don’t have anyone that needs tile.”
“Oh, but maybe you need tile?”
“No, I don’t need tile." She typed search information for a four bedroom - 3 bathroom home into her Top Producer software.
The guy got quiet and stared at Kat.
She tried to focus on selecting a few comparable properties in another section of Newport Lake.
“Do you have a husband?”
Kat caught her breath. “Yes, I do.”
“No, you don’t,” he snapped at her.
Ryan was in his car not far from Beechwood listening to the tile guy’s conversation with Kat.
“Yes, I do." Ryan heard Kat insist.
Kat's respirations increased. She thought about her wedding rings being in her dresser drawer and her bare fingers.
Ryan pulled off the road and turned his car around. It would take him five minutes or so to get to Beechwood. His phone rang and he hit the bluetooth connect on his steering wheel while reading the phone number off the dashboard. “Yes, Ronny?”
“You at Beechwood?”
“I’m on my way.”
“You heard tile guy’s anger towards your detail?”
“Yup. I’m on it.”
“Astolfi’s on his way there. Call me.” Ronnie disconnected.
There weren’t any open parking spaces at the coffee shop, so Ryan made himself a parking space beside a 'No Parking' sign and went inside. There were only a couple of people in line. He pulled out his credit card and observed his surroundings while waiting for a drink that he wasn’t thirsty for, his ears stretched.
Kat was looking at her computer while sitting on a couch near the restroom, and a guy in the chair next to her was staring at her. His lips weren’t moving. Ryan noticed Kat’s forehead was wrinkled. Didn’t notice those in her recent photos, he thought, as the barista called his attention. “What can I get started for you?” the smiling barista asked.
"A small black coffee," he replied, not taking his eyes off Kat.
“Ryan,” Maverick called out to him.
“Get me a black tea. Will ya? I’m gonna grab a seat on that couch over there.” Maverick pointed to the couch Kat was occupying.
Ryan put their drinks down on the coffee table and sat as Maverick got up and punched him in the shoulder.
“Hey, what the fuck man? That hurt.” Ryan rubbed his shoulder, and looked at the tile guy.
“I’m just screwing with ya,” Maverick said, as Ryan punched him back and laughed.
They high fived each other, the tile guy still watching them, eyes wide.
Maverick turned towards the tile guy. “We just like to screw around.”
The tile guy shrugged.
“I think we’re bothering the lady,” Ryan nodded in Kat’s direction.
“Oh no. No bother. I was just leaving anyway.” She pulled the cord from the wall, she coiled it up, and stuffed it inside her laptop bag.
The tile guy got up.
Ryan felt his pockets. “I forgot my phone. Must have left it in the car. He walked outside as Kat headed out the door, the tile guy on her heels.
Maverick went outside and stood in the parking to kept an eye on the possible stalker.
Ryan opened his car door and got on his phone calling Astolfi. “You watching him?”
“My vision is good. Just saw the eye doctor this morning,” he said, as a lady carrying a tray of drinks passed him.
“He didn’t park on the side of the building where I am, so he’s not in my view.”
“He’s got an older red Ford pickup truck that he just got into, front fender bent. I’m looking up the marker plate.”
“Who's the jerk?”
"We should know in a couple of minutes. I'm sending the marker to Ronny right now." Maverick typed the marker plate into an application on his phone and sent it.
Ryan disconnected and dialed Ronny. "You got perb in your view?"
Next: Kat's 'Around The Block' Reply To Undercover Agent Roberts' Fake Profile
- Segment 4
Find out what Joe Coffee learns about the guy that's stalking Kat Barringer in Segment 4 of JOE COFFEE CHRONICLES.
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R.J. Grand is the author of the Fortier Series Mystery Books - THE PAINTING OF DECEIT and ON THE INSIDE.