The Daughter : I'm getting chilled to the bone. What can Freddy be doing all this time? He's been gone twenty minutes. The Mother : Not so long. But he ought to have got us a cab by this. A Bystander : He wont get no cab not until half-post eleven, missus, when they come back after dropping their theatre fares. The Mother : But we must have a cab. We can't stand here until half-past eleven. It's too bad. The Bystander : Well, it ain't my fault, missus. The Daughter : If Freddy had a bit of gumption, he would have got one at the theatre door.
If it were, `What is Freddy doing all this time', I could understand it. But the use of `can be', which expresses ability, instead of `is' causes confusion in me to understand the exact meaning of the sentence.