A Spy in Exile: Chapter 18

“Ya’ara, we’re onto something!” Matthias said, distinct excitement in his voice.

They had met on the crowded platform of the express train from Hamburg. Ya’ara wrapped her arms around herself. It was difficult all of a sudden for her to make physical contact with Matthias, and he simply grasped her cold hands gently, as if to warm them.

“I don’t have much time,” he said, “I need to be on the train back to Hamburg in fifty-three minutes.”

The manner in which he informed her of his schedule made her smile. Precision was in their blood; they were raised on it from birth. Even Matthias, the hardened sea captain with the sun-etched face, was a stickler for precision.

“Then we’ll sit here, in the bar.”

And once again two half-liter glasses of dark amber liquid were placed on the table in front of them, but neither of them drank much this time. They had more pressing matters to attend to, and Ya’ara’s tastes when it came to alcohol tended to lie elsewhere anyway.

After ensuring there was no one nearby who might be listening in, Matthias got straight to the point, without any preamble. “I got a call last night from Tomas, my friend at the BfV, and we went out this morning for a run together by the lake,” he said. “He did it. He located Martina’s cellphone, and another phone she could be using, too, perhaps. As you know, the BfV have their special ways and means.”

“Can he triangulate them? Offer a pinpoint location for Martina’s phone and the second device he suspects she’s using?”

“Martina’s phone, the one we know for certain is hers, hardly ever moves. While the second phone, or the person using it rather, is quite active, moving from place to place. In the evenings, however, it appears to be at a location some thirty kilometers east of Bremen. A rural area. Forestland and agricultural farms. But there is a limit to what Tomas can do, to the number of queries he can submit. He isn’t even doing it on his own computer. It’s complicated. And dangerous. He’s already done a lot more than I could have hoped for. He really is a good friend. One more thing—a number of calls were made from Martina’s phone to numbers we were able to identify, but they were to a taxi station, the train ticket office, and a pizzeria in one of Bremen’s suburbs.”

“That’s excellent! So you know the precise location of the telephone that Martina seems to be using, and that means you also know where Martina herself is.”

“Not exactly. Like I said, it’s the countryside. The network cells in the area are very big. The location that Tomas was able to provide isn’t pinpoint accurate, but instead encompasses a number of cellular network cells. We’re talking about an area of almost sixty square kilometers.”

“Don’t you have a way of getting a more precise location?”

“Yes, our intelligence service has the capability to do so, but that would require implementing measures that are probably beyond Tomas’s means, and I don’t want to submit an official request on the matter. I can’t do that.”

“That’s what we’re here for. You must have brought a map with you.”

Matthias retrieved two maps from his briefcase, one of the city of Bremen and a second of the surrounding area. He moved the beer glasses aside and spread the maps out over the table. “Here,” he said, using a pen to mark several streets around Bremen’s central train station. “This is the area in which Martina’s cellphone was activated, and this is also where the other phone we think she’s using was turned on. And this is the area,” he continued, marking out a relatively large expanse on the second map, “where that second phone has appeared for the past five evenings.”

Ya’ara thought quietly for a few moments before commenting in a somewhat philosophical tone, “It’s time for some fieldwork. There’s no substitute, unfortunately, for pounding the beat.”

Matthias agreed. Despite all the technological innovations, you need ultimately to get physically close to your object of interest. Wiretapping, reviewing communications, and cyber work were all existing tools. But when it came to people, you needed to be able to touch them. Matthias preferred not to calculate how many years of his life he had wasted on fruitless efforts and plays in the field. But he couldn’t think of a single achievement, not even one successful operation, that hadn’t involved the most basic kind of fieldwork—surveillance, tailing, the questioning of passersby and neighbors, and initiating contact with the person of interest. Work that required patience, perseverance, waiting, scandalous quantities of bad coffee, lots of alcohol in dingy bars, rubbing shoulders and coming into contact with people you wouldn’t necessarily choose as your best friends, or even distant acquaintances.

“Matthias,” Ya’ara said, “you have exactly four minutes to make your train. Keep seeing what you can do from Hamburg. I’ll see what I can do with my team.” Again she chose not to tell him she was working with rookies. They both stood up, and Matthias held out his hand to her. She took it, but they soon sank into a warm embrace, and Matthias was caught by surprise by the fragrance of daffodils she exuded.


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