“Nice car security.” I said as I walked back in.
“She can look after herself.” English replied. “Screen please.”
I stood around peering over his shoulder while English connected up the machine. He fired it up, and I swear the lights dimmed as he hit the switch. I’d got used to my old box - most of the time it did the job, and I’d got in the habit of switching it on and then getting a drink. By the time I’d finished it, the machine was up and running.
This however, was in a different league. Get a drink? I wouldn’t have time to exhale before this was up and running. I began to think that giving English an unlimited budget may not have been the most sensible idea. Still. I needed something, and where else can you get a custom built machine in three hours? The bill was a bridge I’d cross when I got to it.
“You’re up.” he said, as he finished tweaking a couple of settings. “I installed Interconnect 4.2. I don’t know what else you had on the old machine, but presumably you took regular backups?”
“Umm...” I vaguely remember backing something up... last June maybe?
“Your loss. This will back up to a remote server every eight minutes.”
Much as I’m interested in tech, I find it difficult to get excited about backups. Strange really, given what I did for the Police for seven years. Ah well.
“Right.” I muttered to myself. “Let’s try this again.”
I plugged the datastick into the new box and once the copy was complete, fired up the code. An ‘estimate to completion’ box popped up.
“That’s new.” I said.
“I tweaked the code a while back,” said English, as he rummaged through the bags I’d brought up from the car. “optimised it a little and made it a bit more user friendly.”
As the code finished a preliminary scan of the data, the estimate box populated itself.
“Eleven minutes! What the hell’s under the hood of this rig?”
He reeled off a shopping list of some pretty serious hardware. I needed Chastity to be pretty darn grateful...
I watched the icon spin until English snapped me out of it.
“Here,” He said. “not a lot of point in installing security if you can’t even shut the door.”
He put a large bolt down on the desk.
“It’ll do until you can get the door fixed tomorrow. Got a screwdriver?”
I went off to attach the bolt to the battered door. It took a bit longer than I expected, but eventually I managed to locate a screwdriver and an assortment of screws. As he said, at least I’d be able to close the door.
“So. What else?” I said, turning back.
“Well you now have a webcam feeding back an image of the office, every three seconds, to the same server that your backups go to. If you get raided again, at least you’ll be able to see who did it.”
I looked around. “Where is it then?”
He looked up and smiled. “You’re the detective.”
I groaned inwardly. I knew full well that a decent webcam could be tiny, making it extremely easy to hide. It could draw juice from the machine wirelessly, meaning it wasn’t tied to a power outlet... It could be anywhere. I also knew that English would find it hilarious to let me stew for a while before giving up the location. If I knew how to access the server where the backups were, I could tell from the image where the cam was located, but I knew better than to ask. Spied on in my own office!
He disappeared out into the corridor and I started hunting around. Where would a good vantage point be? High? Somewhere with wide angle of view? Gotta be somewhere overlooking the door. Must be over by the window somewhere - he didn’t come near me while I was fixing the doo...
English stood in the doorway with a smug grin on his face. “Found it yet?
I shrugged. “Wasn’t looking.”
“Ok, you’ve got another camera with infra red and a motion detector, down at the end of the corridor, overlooking the last flight of stairs. Watch the screen.”
He walked over to the doorway, screwing up a sheet of paper as he went. He leaned out and lobbed the ball down the corridor. Suddenly my machine let out a soft ‘ping’ and a small window opened up in the corner of the screen. I watched the paper ball as it bounced down the stairs.
“It’s a start.” he said. ‘It’s all a bit passive. Wouldn’t be any trouble to put a few thousand volts through the doorhandle. Add a gas curtain to the lintel?” He walked over and examined the desk. “Drill a horizontal hole through the desktop and install a compressed air dart system. Put a knee trigger until the desk. Then, next time the bad guy’s got you covered...” He put his hands up with a look of mock terror on his face. “You just lift your knee and ‘Pft’.” He pointed to the floor to indicate where our imaginary gunman was now lying incapacited.”
“Hmm.” Visions of me crossing my legs and rendering clients unconscious - or worse - swam through my mind. “Let’s keep it simple for now, eh?”
“Peace through superior firepower.’ said English, as he packed his bag. “I have some other ideas. I may come back. The bill,” he nodded at the machine, ‘will be with you shortly.”
Moments later my machine pinged again and I watched English as he headed down the stairs.
o o o o o
Time, somebody once said, don’t hang around for nobody. Or something. I’d been on the case for nearly fifteen hours, it was 11.50pm and in ten minutes there would exactly seventy-two hours until some lawyer opened Norm Lillywhite Snr’s will. I was no closer to getting to the bottom of this, and I’d also done precisely zip on Russo’s little side mission.
The nagging thought I’d had earlier came back. Something that Chastity had said this morning was bothering me, but I couldn’t remember what it was.
I guess I’d have to wait until my memory decided to pay my brain a call. In the meantime, the code was on it’s final countdown. As the counter reached zero, the icon stopped spinning and a list of bullet points started scrolling down the screen. Black for known facts that had been cross-referenced elsewhere. Blue for facts that had been provided, but no corroborating evidence had been found. Red for facts that were contradicted, either by the data provided, or by stuff that the code had found elsewhere on the net. Green for suggestions of new avenues to follow.
I scanned down the list. For the most part, it was all black. Names, dates, places. A few blue’s. A couple of reds stood out, but they were minor points that could probably be put down to typing mistakes.
Much of the green list seemed to consist of Lily & Jezebel’s ex-boyfriends. Jezebel was clearly a woman who was free with her affections, while Lily had been rather less promiscuous. The first name on that particular section was Rex Hayden.
Well, well, well. Lily was engaged to a Senator!
Rex Hayden was a clean living, God fearing Republican senator who loved his country and damn if he wasn’t going to let everybody know about it. He didn’t smoke, didn’t drink, had made his name with a failed, but very high profile campaign to make pornography illegal, and strongly believed that abortion was simply murder.
And as a Republican, he also held that American citizens should be free to have their own private arsenal of weapons in their home, but called for the death penalty for shooting people.
Hayden was a man of many parts, but apparently a sense of irony wasn’t one of them.
He’d got engaged to Lily about a year and a half previously, and the wedding was set for next summer.
I fired up the web a did a little surfing of the gossip sites. It seemed that they’d met when Lily took a job in PR for the senators office about two years ago. That would tie in with Norm’s laying down of the law. I guess Lily wasn’t ready to give up that generous allowance. It looked like she hadn’t been there long (and most of the sites suggested she’d only got the job on the strength of her name), when she caught the eye of the Senator. Since then, she’d nominally still been employed by his office, but her main job seemed to be appearing on the Senator’s arm at society functions.
Jezebel’s list of beaus was considerably longer. None of them had been about for very long - I guess she bored easily. And they were all of a type. Good looking and not too bright. Her current arm candy was an up-and-coming actor, Matt Kennedy. I knew nothing about him - I’d have to check in with Nancy again.
I suddenly realised I’d been staring into space for a couple of minutes. It had gone midnight and I’d been up ridiculously early - way before ten am. I decided to crash and pick things up again in the morning.
The sofa folded out into a bed for those occasions when I couldn’t be bothered, or wasn’t able, to drag myself home. Five minutes later, I was asleep.