Read The blue nowhere-sa Online

Authors: Jeffery Deaver

The blue nowhere-sa

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Jeffery Deaver - The Blue Nowhere

When I say that the brain is a machine, it is meant not as an insult to the mind but as an acknowledgment of the potential of a machine. I do not believe that a human mind is less than what we imagine it to be, but rather that a machine can be much, much more.

- W. Daniel Hillis, The Pattern on the Stone

I

THE WIZARD

It is possible to commit nearly any crime by computer. You could even kill a person using a computer.

- a Los Angeles Police Department officer

CHAPTER ONE

The battered white van had made her uneasy. Lara Gibson sat at the bar of Vesta's Grill on De Anza in Cupertino, California, gripping the cold stem of her martini glass and ignoring the two young chip-jocks standing nearby, casting flirtatious glances at her.

She looked outside again, into the overcast drizzle, and saw no sign of the windowless Econoline that, she believed, had followed her from her house, a few miles away, to the restaurant. Lara slid off the bar stool and walked to the window, glanced outside. The van wasn't in the restaurant's parking lot. Nor was it across the street in the Apple Computer lot or the one next to it, belonging to Sun Microsystems. Either of those lots would've been a logical place to park to keep an eye on her - if the driver had in fact been stalking her.

No, the van was just a coincidence, she decided - a coincidence aggravated by a splinter of paranoia. She returned to the bar and glanced at the two young men who were alternately ignoring her and offering subtle smiles.

Like nearly all the young men here for happy hour they were in casual slacks and tie-less dress shirts and wore the ubiquitous insignia of Silicon Valley - corporate identification badges on thin canvas lanyards around their necks. These two sported the blue cards of Sun Microsystems. Other squadrons represented here were Compaq, Hewlett-Packard and Apple, not to mention a slew of new kids on the block, start-up Internet companies, which were held in some disdain by the venerable Valley regulars. At thirty-two, Lara Gibson was probably five years older than her two admirers. And as a self-employed businesswoman who wasn't a geek - connected with a computer company - she was easily five times poorer. But that didn't matter to these two men, who were already captivated by her exotic, intense face surrounded by a tangle of raven hair, her ankle boots, a red-and-orange gypsy skirt and a black sleeveless top that showed off hard-earned biceps.

She figured that it would be two minutes before one of these boys approached her and she missed that estimate by only ten seconds.

The young man gave her a variation of a line she'd heard a dozen times before: Excuse me don't mean to interrupt but hey would you like me to break your boyfriend's leg for making a beautiful woman waitGenerated by ABC Amber LIT Converter, http://www.processtext.com/abclit.html

alone in a bar and by the way can I buy you a drink while you decide which kneecap?

Another woman might have gotten mad, another woman might have stammered and blushed and looked uneasy or might have flirted back and let him buy her an unwanted drink because she didn't have the wherewithal to handle the situation. But those would be women weaker than she. Lara Gibson was "the queen of urban protection," as the San Francisco Chronicle had once dubbed her. She fixed her eyes on the man's, gave a formal smile and said, "I don't care for any company right now." Simple as that. End of conversation.

He blinked at her frankness, avoided her staunch eyes and returned to his friend. Power it was all about power.

She sipped her drink.

In fact, that damn white van had brought to mind all the rules she'd developed as someone who taught women to protect themselves in today's society. Several times on the way to the restaurant she'd glanced into her rearview mirror and noticed the van thirty or forty feet behind. It had been driven by some kid. He was white but his hair was knotted into messy brown dreadlocks. He wore combat fatigues and, despite the overcast and misty rain, sunglasses. This was, of course, Silicon Valley, home of slackers and hackers, and it wasn't unusual to stop in Starbucks for a vente skim latte and be waited on by a polite teenager with a dozen body piercings, a shaved head and an outfit like inner-city gangsta's. Still, the driver had seemed to stare at her with an eerie hostility.

Lara found herself absently fondling the can of pepper spray she kept in her purse. Another glance out the window. No van. Only fancy cars bought with dotcom money. A look around the room. Only harmless geeks.

Relax, she told herself and sipped her potent martini.

She glanced at the wall clock. Quarter after seven. Sandy was fifteen minutes late. Not like her. Lara pulled out her cell phone but the display read NO SERVICE.

She was about to find the pay phone when she glanced up and saw a young man enter the bar and wave at her. She knew him from somewhere but couldn't quite place him. His trim but long blond hair and the goatee had stuck in her mind. He wore white jeans and a rumpled blue work shirt. His concession to the fact he was part of corporate America was a tie; as befit a Silicon Valley businessman, though, the design wasn't stripes or Jerry Garcia flowers but a cartoon Tweety Bird.

"Hey, Lara." He walked up and shook her hand, leaned against the bar. "Remember me? I'm Will Randolph. Sandy's cousin? Cheryl and I met you on Nantucket - at Fred and Mary's wedding." Right, that's where she recognized him from. He and his pregnant wife sat at the same table with Lara and her boyfriend, Hank. "Sure. How you doing?"

"Good. Busy. But who isn't around here?"

His plastic neckwear read Xerox Corporation PARC. She was impressed. Even nongeeks knew aboutGenerated by ABC Amber LIT Converter, http://www.processtext.com/abclit.html

Xerox's legendary Palo Alto Research Center five or six miles north of here. Will flagged down the bartender and ordered a light beer. "How's Hank?" he asked. "Sandy said he was trying to get a job at Wells Fargo."

"Oh, yeah, that came through. He's at orientation down in L.A. right now." The beer came and Will sipped. "Congratulations."

A flash of white in the parking lot.

Lara looked toward it quickly, alarmed. But the vehicle turned out to be a white Ford Explorer with a young couple inside.

Her eyes focused past the Ford and scanned the street and the parking lots again, recalling that, on the way here, she'd glanced at the side of the van as it passed her when she'd turned into the restaurant's parking lot. There'd been a smear of something dark and reddish on the side; probably mud - but she'd thought it almost looked like blood.

"You okay?" Will asked.

"Sure. Sorry." She turned back to him, glad she had an ally. Another of her urban protection rules: Two people are always better than one. Lara now modified that by adding, Even if one of them is a skinny geek who can't be more than five feet, ten inches tall and is wearing a cartoon tie. Will continued, "Sandy called me on my way home and asked if I'd stop by and give you a message. She tried to call you but couldn't get through on your cell. She's running late and asked if you could meet her at that place next to her office where you went last month, Giro's? In Mountain View. She made a reservation at eight."

"You didn't have to come by. She could've called the bartender."

"She wanted me to give you the pictures I took at the wedding. You two can look at 'em tonight and tell me if you want any copies."

Will noticed a friend across the bar and waved - Silicon Valley may contain hundreds of square miles but it's really just a small town. He said to Lara, "Cheryl and I were going to bring the pictures this weekend

- to Sandy's place in Santa Barbara"

"Yeah, we're going down on Friday."

Will paused and smiled as if he had a huge secret to share. He pulled his wallet out and flipped it open to a picture of himself, his wife and a very tiny, ruddy baby. "Last week," he said proudly. "Claire."

"Oh, adorable," Lara whispered.

"So we'll be staying pretty close to home for a while."

"How's Cheryl?"

"Fine. Baby's fine. There's nothing like it But, I'll tell you, being a father totally changes your life."Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter, http://www.processtext.com/abclit.html

"I'm sure it does."

Lara glanced at the clock again. Seven-thirty. It was a half-hour drive to Giro's this time of night. "I better get going."

Then, with a thud of alarm, she thought again about the van and the driver. The dreadlocks.

The rusty smear on the battered door

Will gestured for the check and paid.

"You don't have to do that," she said. "I'll get it." He laughed. "You already did."

"What?"

"That mutual fund you told me about at the wedding. The one you'd just bought?" Lara remembered shamelessly bragging about a biotech fund that had zoomed up 60 percent last year.

"I got home from Nantucket and bought a shitload of it So thanks." He tipped the beer toward her. Then he stood. "You all set?"

"You bet." Lara stared uneasily at the door as they walked toward it. It was just paranoia, she told herself. She thought momentarily, as she did from time to time, that she should get a real job, like all of these people in the bar. She shouldn't dwell so much on the world of violence.

Sure, just paranoia

But, if so, then why had the dreadlocked kid sped off so fast when she'd pulled into the parking lot here and glanced at him?

Will stepped outside and opened his umbrella. He held it up for both of them to use. Lara recalled another rule of urban protection: Never feel too embarrassed or proud to ask for help. And yet as Lara was about to ask Will Randolph to walk her to her car after they got the snapshots she had a thought:

If the kid in the van really was a threat, wasn't it selfish of her to ask him to endanger himself? Here he was, a husband and new father, with other people depending on him. It seemed unfair toƒ

"Something wrong?" Will asked.

"Not really."

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"You sure?" he persisted.

"Well, I think somebody followed me here to the restaurant. Some kid." Will looked around. "You see him?"

"Not now."

He asked, "You have that Web site, right? About how women can protect themselves."

"That's right."

"You think he knows about it? Maybe he's harassing you."

"Could be. You'd be surprised at the hate mail I get."

He reached for his cell phone. "You want to call the police?" She debated.

Never feel too embarrassed or proud to ask for help.

"No, no. Just would you mind, after we get the pictures, walking me to my car?" Will smiled. "Of course not. I don't exactly know karate but I can yell for help with the best of them." She laughed. "Thanks."

They walked along the sidewalk in front of the restaurant and she checked out the cars. As in every parking lot in Silicon Valley there were dozens of Saabs, BMWs and Lexuses. No vans, though. No kids. No bloody smears.

Will nodded toward where he'd parked, in the back lot. He said, "You see him?"

"No."

They walked past a stand of juniper and toward his car, a spotless silver Jaguar. Jesus, did everybody in Silicon Valley have money except her?

He dug the keys out of his pocket. They walked to the trunk. "I only took two rolls at the wedding. But some of them are pretty good." He opened the trunk and paused and then looked around the parking lot. She did too. It was completely deserted. His was the only car there. Will glanced at her. "You were probably wondering about the dreads."

"Dreads?"

"Yeah," he said. "The dreadlocks." His voice was flatter, distracted. He was still smiling but his face was different now. It seemed hungry.

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"What do you mean?" she asked calmly but fear was detonating inside her. She noticed a chain was blocking the entrance to the back parking lot. And she knew he'd hooked it after he'd pulled in - to make sure nobody else could park there.

"It was a wig."

Oh, Jesus, my Lord, thought Lara Gibson, who hadn't prayed in twenty years. He looked into her eyes, recording her fear. "I parked the Jag here a while ago then stole the van and followed you from home. With the combat jacket and wig on. You know, just so you'd get edgy and paranoid and want me to stay close I know all your rules - that urban protection stuff. Never go into a deserted parking lot with a man. Married men with children are safer than single men. And my family portrait? In my wallet? I hacked it together from a picture in Parents magazine." She whispered hopelessly, "You're not?"

"Sandy's cousin? Don't even know him. I picked Will Randolph because he's somebody you sort of know, who sort of looks like me. I mean, there's no way in the world I could've gotten you out here alone if you hadn't known me - or thought you did. Oh, you can take your hand out of your purse." He held up the canister of pepper spray. "I got it when we were walking outside."


Page 2

"But" Sobbing now, shoulders slumped in hopelessness. "Who are you? You don't even know me"

"Not true, Lara," he whispered, studying her anguish the way an imperious chess master examines his defeated opponent's face. "I know everything about you. Everything in the world."

CHAPTER TWO

Slowly, slowly Don't damage them, don't break them.

One by one the tiny screws eased from the black plastic housing of the small radio and fell into the young man's long, exceedingly muscular fingers. Once, he nearly stripped the minuscule threads of one screw and had to stop, sit back in his chair and gaze out his small window at the overcast sky blanketing Santa Clara County until he'd relaxed. The time was eight A.M. and he'd been at this arduous task for over two hours.

Finally all twelve screws securing the radio housing were removed and placed on the sticky side of a yellow Post-it. Wyatt Gillette removed the chassis of the Samsung and studied it. His curiosity, as always, plunged forward like a racehorse. He wondered why the designers had allowed this amount of space between the boards, why the tuner used string of this particular gauge, what the proportion of metals in the solder was.

Maybe this was the optimal design, but maybe not.

Maybe the engineers had been lazy or distracted.

Was there a better way to build the radio?

He continued dismantling it, unscrewing the circuit boards themselves.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter, http://www.processtext.com/abclit.html

Slowly, slowly

At twenty-nine Wyatt Gillette had the hollow face of a man who was six feet, one inch tall and weighed 154 pounds, a man about whom people were always thinking, Somebody should fatten him up. His hair was dark, nearly black, and hadn't been recently trimmed or washed. On his right arm was a clumsy tattoo of a seagull flying over a palm tree. Faded blue jeans and a gray work shirt hung loosely on him. He shivered in the chill spring air. A tremor made his fingers jerk and he stripped the slot in the head of one tiny screw. He sighed in frustration. As talented mechanically as Gillette was, without the proper equipment you can only do so much and he was now using a screwdriver he'd made from a paper clip. He had no tools other than it and his fingernails. Even a razor blade would have been more efficient but that was something not to be found here, in Gillette's temporary home, the medium-security Federal Men's Correctional Facility in San Jose, California.

Slowly, slowly

Once the circuit board was dismantled he located the holy grail he'd been after - a small gray transistor and he bent its tiny wires until they fatigued. He then mounted the transistor to the small circuit board he'd been working on for months, carefully twining together the wire leads. Just as he finished, a door slammed nearby and footsteps sounded in the corridor. Gillette looked up, alarmed.

Someone was coming to his cell. Oh, Christ, no, he thought.

The footsteps were about twenty feet away. He slipped the circuit board he'd been working on into a copy of Wired magazine and shoved the components back into the housing of the radio. He set it against the wall.

He lay back on the cot and began flipping through another magazine, 2600, the hacking journal, praying to the general-purpose god that even atheist prisoners start bargaining with soon after they land in jail: Please let them not roust me. And if they do, please let them not find the circuit board. The guard looked through the peephole and said, "Position, Gillette." The inmate stood and stepped to the back of the room, hands on his head. The guard entered the small, dim cell. But this wasn't, as it turned out, a roust. The man didn't even look around the cell; he silently shackled Gillette's hands in front of him and led him out the door. At the intersection of hallways where the administrative seclusion wing ran into the general population wing the guard turned and led his prisoner down a corridor that wasn't familiar to Gillette. The sounds of music and shouts from the exercise yard faded and in a few minutes he was directed into a small room furnished with a table and two benches, both bolted to the floor. There were rings on the table for an inmate's shackles though the guard didn't hook Gillette's to them.

"Sit down."

Gillette did.

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The guard left and the door slammed, leaving Gillette alone with his curiosity and itchy desire to get back to his circuit board. He sat shivering in the windowless room, which seemed to be less a place in the Real World than a scene from a computer game, one set in medieval times. This cell, he decided, was the chamber where the bodies of heretics broken on the rack were left to await the high executioner's axe. Thomas Frederick Anderson was a man of many names.

Tom or Tommy in his grade school days.

A dozen handles like Stealth and CryptO when he'd been a high school student in Menlo Park, California, running bulletin boards and hacking on Trash-80s and Commodores and Apples. He'd been T.F. when he'd worked for the security departments of AT and Sprint and Cellular One, tracking down hackers and phone phreaks and call jackers (the initials, colleagues decided, stood for

"Tenacious Fucker," in light of his 97 percent success record in helping the cops catch the perps). As a young police detective in San Jose he'd had another series of names - he'd been known as Courtney 334 or Lonelygirl or BrittanyT in online chat rooms, where in the personas of fourteen-year-old girls he'd written awkward messages to pedophiles, who would e-mail seductive propositions to these fictional dream girls and then drive to suburban shopping malls for romantic liaisons, only to find that their dates were in fact a half-dozen cops armed with a warrant and guns. Nowadays he was usually called either Dr. Anderson -when introduced at computer conferences - or just plain Andy. In official records, though, he was Lieutenant Thomas F. Anderson, chief of the California State Police Computer Crimes Unit.

The lanky man, forty-five years old, with thinning curly brown hair, now walked down a chill, damp corridor beside the pudgy warden of the San Jose Correctional Facility -San Ho, as it was called by perps and cops alike. A solidly built Latino guard accompanied them. They continued down the hallway until they came to a door. The warden nodded. The guard opened it and Anderson stepped inside, eyeing the prisoner.

Wyatt Gillette was very pale - he had a "hacker tan," as the pallor was ironically called - and quite thin. His hair was filthy, as were his fingernails. Gillette apparently hadn't showered or shaved in days. The cop noticed an odd look in Gillette's dark brown eyes; he was blinking in recognition. He asked,

"You're are you Andy Anderson?"

"That's Detective Anderson," the warden corrected, his voice a whip crack.

"You run the state's computer crimes division," Gillette said.

"You know me?"

"I heard you lecture at Comsec a couple of years ago."

The Comsec conference on computer and network security was limited to documented security professionals and law enforcers; it was closed to outsiders. Anderson knew it was a national pastime for young hackers to try to crack into the registration computer and issue themselves admission badges. Only two or three had ever been able to do so in the history of the conference.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter, http://www.processtext.com/abclit.html

"How'd you get in?"

Gillette shrugged. "I found a badge somebody dropped."

Anderson nodded skeptically. "What'd you think of my lecture?"

"I agree with you: silicon chips'll be outmoded faster than most people think. Computers'll be running on molecular electronics. And that means users'll have to start looking at a whole new way to protect themselves against hackers."

"Nobody else felt that way at the conference."

"They heckled you," Gillette recalled.

"But you didn't?"

"No. I took notes."

The warden leaned against the wall while the cop sat down across from Gillette and said, "You've got one year left on a three-year sentence under the federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. You cracked Western Software's machines and stole the source codes for most of their programs, right?" Gillette nodded.

The source code is the brains and heart of software, fiercely guarded by its owner. Stealing it lets the thief easily strip out identification and security codes then repackage the software and sell it under his own name. Western Software's source codes for the company's games, business applications and utilities were its main assets. If an unscrupulous hacker had stolen the codes he might have put the billion-dollar company out of business.

Gillette pointed out: "I didn't do anything with the codes. I erased them after I downloaded them."

"Then why'd you crack their systems?"

The hacker shrugged. "I saw the head of the company on CNN or something. He said nobody could get into their network. Their security systems were foolproof. I wanted to see if that was true."

"Were they?"

"As a matter of fact, yeah, they were foolproof. The problem is that you don't have to protect yourself against fools. You have to protect yourself against people like me."

"Well, once you'd broken in why didn't you tell the company about the security flaws? Do a white hat?" White hats were hackers who cracked into computer systems and then pointed out the security flaws to their victims. Sometimes for the glory of it, sometimes for money. Sometimes even because they thought it was the right thing to do.

Gillette shrugged. "It's their problem. That guy said that it couldn't be done. I just wanted to see if IGenerated by ABC Amber LIT Converter, http://www.processtext.com/abclit.html

could."

"Why?"

Another shrug. "Curious."

"Why'd the feds come down on you so hard?" Anderson asked. If a hacker doesn't disrupt business or try to sell what he steals the FBI rarely even investigates, let alone refers a case to the U.S. attorney. It was the warden who answered. "The reason is the DoD."

"Department of Defense?" Anderson asked, glancing at a gaudy tattoo on Gillette's arm. Was that an airplane? No, it was a bird of some kind.

"It's bogus," Gillette muttered. "Complete bullshit." The cop looked at the warden, who explained, "The Pentagon thinks he wrote some program or something that cracked the DoD's latest encryption software."

"Their Standard 12?" Anderson gave a laugh. "You'd need a dozen supercomputers running full time for six months to crack a single e-mail."

Standard 12 had recently replaced DES - the Defense Encryption Standard - as the state-of-the-art encryption software for the government. It was used to encrypt secret data and messages. The encryption program was so important to national security that it was considered a munition under the export laws and couldn't be transferred overseas without military approval. Anderson continued, "But even if he did crack something encoded with Standard 12, so what?

Everybody tries to crack encryptions."

There was nothing illegal about this as long as the encrypted document wasn't classified or stolen. In fact, many software manufacturers dare people to try to break documents encrypted with their programs and offer prizes to anybody who can do so.

"No," Gillette explained. "The DoD's saying that I cracked into their computer, found out something about how Standard 12 works and then wrote some script that decrypts the document. It can do it in seconds."

"Impossible," Anderson said, laughing. "Can't be done." Gillette said, "That's what I told them. They didn't believe me." Yet as Anderson studied the man's quick eyes, hollow beneath dark brows, hands fidgeting impatiently in front of him, he wondered if maybe the hacker actually had written a magic program like this. Anderson himself couldn't have done it; he didn't know anybody who could. But after all, the cop was here now, hat in hand, because Gillette was a wizard, the term used by hackers to describe those among them who've reached the highest levels of skill in the Machine World.

There was a knock on the door and the guard let two men inside. The first one, fortyish, had a lean face, dark blond hair swept back and frozen in place with hairspray. Honest-to-God sideburns too. He wore a cheap gray suit. His overwashed white shirt was far too big for him and was halfway untucked. HeGenerated by ABC Amber LIT Converter, http://www.processtext.com/abclit.html

glanced at Gillette without a splinter of interest. "Sir," he said to the warden in a flat voice. "I'm Detective Frank Bishop, state police, Homicide." He nodded an anemic greeting to Anderson and fell silent. The second man, a little younger, much heavier, shook the warden's hand then Anderson's. "Detective Bob Shelton." His face was pockmarked from childhood acne.

Anderson didn't know anything about Shelton but he'd talked to Bishop and had mixed feelings concerning his involvement in the case Anderson was here about. Bishop was supposedly a wizard in his own right though his expertise lay in tracking down killers and rapists in hard-scrabble neighborhoods like the Oakland waterfront, Haight-Ashbury and the infamous San Francisco Tenderloin. Computer Crimes wasn't authorized - or equipped - to run a homicide like this one without somebody from the Violent Crimes detail but, after several brief phone discussions with Bishop, Anderson was not impressed. The homicide cop seemed humorless and distracted and, more troubling, knew zero about computers. Anderson had also heard that Bishop himself didn't even want to be working with Computer Crimes. He'd been lobbying for the MARINKILL case - so named by the FBI for the site of the crime: Several days ago three bank robbers had murdered two bystanders and a cop at a Bank of America branch in Sausalito in Marin County and had been seen headed east, which meant they might very well turn south toward Bishop's present turf, the San Jose area.

Now, in fact, the first thing Bishop did was to check the screen of his cell phone, presumably to see if he had a page or message about a reassignment.


Page 3

Anderson said to the detectives, "You gentlemen want to sit down?" Nodding at the benches around the metal table.

Bishop shook his head and remained standing. He tucked his shirt in then crossed his arms. Shelton sat down next to Gillette. Then the bulky cop looked distastefully at the prisoner and got up, sat on the other side of the table. To Gillette he muttered, "You might want to wash up sometime." The convict retorted, "You might want to ask the warden why I only get one shower a week."

"Because, Wyatt," the warden said patiently, "you broke the prison rules. That's why you're in administrative seclusion."

Anderson didn't have the patience or time for squabbles. He said to Gillette, "We've got a problem and we're hoping you'll help us with it." He glanced at Bishop and asked, "You want to brief him?" According to state police protocol, Frank Bishop was technically in charge of the case. But the detective shook his head. "No, sir, you can go ahead."

"Last night a woman was abducted from a restaurant in Cupertino. She was murdered and her body found in Portola Valley. She'd been stabbed to death. She wasn't sexually molested and there's no apparent motive.

"Now, the victim, Lara Gibson, ran this Web site about how women can protect themselves and gave lectures on the subject around the country. She'd been in the press a lot and was on Larry King. Well, what happens is, she's in a bar and this guy comes in who seems to know her. He gives his name as Will Randolph, the bartender said. That's the name of the cousin of the woman the victim was going to meet for dinner last night. Randolph wasn't involved -he's been in New York for a week - but we found a digital picture of him on the victim's computer and they look alike, the suspect and Randolph. We thinkGenerated by ABC Amber LIT Converter, http://www.processtext.com/abclit.html

that's why the perp picked him to impersonate.

"So, he knows all this information about her. Friends, where she's traveled, what she does, what stocks she owns, who her boyfriend is. It even looked like he waved to somebody in the bar but Homicide canvassed most of the patrons who were there last night and didn't find anybody who knew him. So we think he was faking - you know, to put her at ease, making it look like he was a regular."

"He social engineered her," Gillette offered.

"How's that?" Shelton asked.

Anderson knew the term but he deferred to Gillette, who said, "It means conning somebody, pretending you're somebody you're not. Hackers do it to get access to databases and phone lines and passcodes. The more facts about somebody you can feed back to them, the more they believe you and the more they'll do what you want them to."

"Now, the girlfriend Lara was supposed to meet - Sandra Hardwick - said she got a call from somebody claiming to be Lara's boyfriend canceling the dinner plans. She tried to call Lara but her phone was out." Gillette nodded. "He crashed her mobile phone." Then he frowned. "No, probably the whole cell." Anderson nodded. "Mobile America reported an outage in cell 850 for exactly forty-five minutes. Somebody loaded code that shut the switch down then turned it back on." Gillette's eyes narrowed. The detective could see he was growing interested.

"So," the hacker mused, "he turned himself into somebody she'd trust and then he killed her. And he did it with information he got from her computer."

"Exactly."

"Did she have an online service?"

"Horizon On-Line."

Gillette laughed. "Jesus, you know how secure that is? He hacked into one of their routers and read her e-mails." Then he shook his head, studied Anderson's face. "But that's kindergarten stuff. Anybody could do that. There's more, isn't there?"

"Right," Anderson continued. "We talked to her boyfriend and went through her computer. Half the information the bartender heard the killer tell her wasn't in her e-mails. It was in the machine itself."

"Maybe he went Dumpster diving and got the information that way." Anderson explained to Bishop and Shelton, "He means going digging through trash bins to get information that'll help you hack - discarded company manuals, printouts, bills, receipts, things like that." But he said to Gillette, "I doubt it - everything he knew was stored on her machine."

"What about hard access?" Gillette asked. Hard access is when a hacker breaks into somebody's house or office and goes through the victim's machine itself. Soft access is breaking into somebody's computer online from a remote location.

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But Anderson responded, "It had to be soft access. I talked to the friend Lara was supposed to meet, Sandra. She said the only time they talked about getting together that night was in an instant message that afternoon and Lara was home all day. The killer had to be in a different location."

"This's interesting," Gillette whispered.

"I thought so too," Anderson said. "The bottom line is that we think there's some kind of new virus the killer used to get inside her machine. The thing is, Computer Crimes can't find it. We're hoping you'd take a look."

Gillette nodded, squinting as he looked up at the grimy ceiling. Anderson noticed the young man's fingers were moving in tiny, rapid taps. At first the cop thought Gillette had palsy or some nervous twitch. But then he realized what the hacker was doing. He was unconsciously typing on an invisible keyboard - a nervous habit, it seemed.

The hacker lowered his eyes to Anderson. "What'd you use to examine her drive?"

"Norton Commander, Vi-Scan 5.0, the FBI's forensic detection package, Restores and the DoD's Partition and File Allocation Analyzer 6.2. We even tried Surface-Scour." Gillette gave a confused laugh. "All that and you didn't find anything?"

"Nope."

"How'm I going to find something you couldn't?"

"I've looked at some of the software you've written -there're only three or four people in the world who could write script like that. You've gotta have code that's better than ours - or could hack some together."

Gillette asked Anderson, "So what's in it for me?"

"What?" Bob Shelton asked, wrinkling up his pocked face and staring at the hacker.

"If I help you what do I get?"

"You little prick," Shelton snapped. "A girl got murdered. Don't you give a shit?"

"I'm sorry about her," Gillette shot back. "But the deal is if I help you I want something in return." Anderson asked, "Such as?"

"I want a machine."

"No computers," the warden snapped. "No way." To Anderson he said, "That's why he's in seclusion. We caught him at the computer in the library - on the Internet. The judge issued an order as part of his sentence that he can't go online."

"I won't go online," Gillette said. "I'll stay on E wing, where I am now. I won't have access to a phone line."

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The warden scoffed. "You'd rather stay in administrative seclusion--"

"Solitary confinement," Gillette corrected.

"Just to have a computer?"

"Yes."

Anderson asked, "If he was to stay in seclusion, so there was no chance of going online, would that be okay?"

"I guess," the warden said uncertainly.

The cop then said to Gillette, "It's a deal. We'll get you a laptop."

"You're going to bargain with him?" Shelton asked Anderson in disbelief. He glanced at Bishop for support but the lean cop brushed at his anachronistic sideburns and studied his cell phone again, waiting for his reprieve.

Anderson didn't respond to Shelton. He added to Gillette, "But you get your machine only after you analyze the Gibson woman's computer and give us a complete report."

"Absolutely," the prisoner said, eyes glowing with excitement.

"Her machine's an IBM clone, off the shelf. We'll get it over here in the next hour. We've got all her disks and software and--"

"No, no, no," Gillette said firmly. "I can't do it here."

"Why?"

"I'll need access to a mainframe - maybe a supercomputer. I'll need tech manuals, software." Anderson looked at Bishop, who didn't seem to be listening to any of this.

"No fucking way," said Shelton, the more talkative of the homicide partners, even if he had a distinctly limited vocabulary.

Anderson was debating with himself when the warden asked, "Can I see you gentlemen up the hall for a minute?"

CHAPTER THREE

It had been a fun hack. But not as challenging as he would've liked. Phate - his screen name, spelled in the best hacker tradition with a ph and not an f - now drove to his house in Los Altos, in the heart of Silicon Valley.

He'd been busy this morning: He'd abandoned the blood-smeared white van that he'd used to light the fires of paranoia within Lara Gibson yesterday. And he'd ditched the disguises - the dreadlock wig,Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter, http://www.processtext.com/abclit.html

combat jacket and sunglasses of the stalker and the squeaky-clean chip-jockey costume of Will Randolph, Sandy Hardwick's accommodating cousin.

He was now someone entirely different. Not his real name or identity, of course - Jon Patrick Holloway, who'd been born twenty-seven years ago in Upper Saddle River, New Jersey. No, he was at the moment one of six or seven fictional characters he'd created recently. They were like a group of friends to him and came complete with driver's licenses, employee ID cards, social security cards and all the telltale documentation that is so indispensable nowadays. He'd even endowed his cast with different accents and mannerisms, which he practiced religiously.

Who do you want to be?

Phate's answer to this question was: pretty much anybody in the world. Reflecting now on the Lara Gibson hack, he decided it'd been just a bit too easy to get close to someone who prided herself on being the queen of urban protection.

And so it was time to notch the game up a bit.

Phate's Jaguar moved slowly through morning rush-hour traffic along Interstate 280, the Junipero Serra Highway. To the west mountains rose into the specters of fog slipping overhead toward San Francisco Bay. In recent years droughts had plagued the Valley but much of this spring - like today, for instance had been rainy and the flora was a rich green. Phate, however, paid the expansive scenery no mind. He was listening to a play on his CD player - Death of a Salesman. It was one of his favorites. Occasionally his mouth would move to the words (he knew all the parts).

Ten minutes later, at 8:45, he was pulling up into the garage of his large, detached house in the Stonecrest development off El Monte Road in Los Altos.

He parked in the garage, closed the door. He noticed a drop of Lara Gibson's blood in the shape of a sloppy comma on the otherwise immaculate floor. Careless to miss it earlier, he chided himself. He cleaned the stain then went inside, closed and locked the door.

The house was new, only about six months old, and smelled of carpet glue and sweet paint. If neighbors were to come a-calling to welcome him to the neighborhood and stand in the front hallway, glancing into the living room, they'd see evidence of an upper-middle-class family living the comfortable life that chip money has provided for so many people here in the Valley. Hey, nice to meet you Yeah, that's right - just moved in last month I'm with a dot-corn start-up over in Palo Alto. They brought me and half the furniture out from Austin early, before Kathy and the kids they'll be moving here in June after school's over That's them. Took that one on vacation in Florida in January. Troy and Brittany. He's seven. She's going to be five next month. On the mantel and on the expensive end tables and coffee tables were dozens of pictures of Phate and a blond woman, posing at the beach, horseback riding, hugging each other atop a mountain at a ski resort, dancing at their wedding. Other pictures showed the couple with their two children. Vacations, soccer practice, Christmas, Easter.

You know, I'd ask you over for dinner or something but

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this new company's got me working like crazy Probably better to wait till after the family gets here anyway, you know. Kathy's really the social director And a lot better cook than me. Okay, you take care now.

And the neighbors would pass him the welcoming wine or cookies or begonias and return home, never guessing that, in the best spirit of creative social engineering, the entire scene had been as fake as a movie set.

Like the pictures he'd shown Lara Gibson these snapshots had been created on his computer: his face had replaced a male model's, Kathy's was a generic female face, morphed from a model in Self. The kids had come from a Vogue Bambini. The house itself was a facade too; the living room and hall were the only fully furnished rooms - and that had been done exclusively to fool people who came to the door. In the bedroom was a cot and lamp. In the dining room - Phate's office - were a table, lamp, two laptop computers and an office chair. In the basement well, the basement contained a few other things - but they definitely weren't for public view.

If need be, and he knew it was a possibility, he could walk out the door immediately and leave everything behind. All his important possessions - his serious hardware, the computer antiquities he collected, his ID

card machine, the supercomputer parts he bought and sold to make his living - were in a warehouse miles away. And there was nothing here that would lead police to that location. He now walked into the dining room and sat down at the table. He turned on a laptop. The screen came to life, a C: prompt flashed on the screen and, with the appearance of that blinking symbol, Phate rose from the dead.

Who do you want to be?

Well, at the moment, he was no longer Jon Patrick Holloway or Will Randolph or Warren Gregg or James L. Seymour or any of the other characters he'd created. He was now Phate. No longer the blond, five-foot-ten character of slight build, floating aimlessly among three-dimensional houses and office buildings and stores and airplanes and concrete ribbons of highway and brown lawns chain-link fences semiconductor plants strip malls pets people people people people as numerous as flies This was his reality, the world inside his monitor.


Page 4

He keyed some commands and with an excited churning in his groin he heard the rising and falling whistle of his modem's sensual electronic handshake (most real hackers would never use dog-slow modems and telephone lines like this, rather than a direct connection, to get online. But Phate had to compromise; speed was far less important than being able to stay mobile and hide his tracks through millions of miles of telephone lines around the world).

After he was connected to the Net he checked his e-mail. He would have opened any letters from Shawn right away but there were none; the others he'd read later. He exited the mail reader and then keyed in another command. A menu popped up on his screen.

When he and Shawn had written the software for Trapdoor last year he'd decided that, even though no one else would be using it, he'd make the menu user-friendly - simply because this is what you did when you were a brilliant codeslinger.

Trapdoor

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Main Menu

1. Do you want to continue a prior session?

2. Do you want to create/open/edit a background file?

3. Do you want to find a new target?

4. Do you want to decode/decrypt a password or text?

5. Do you want to exit to the system?

He scrolled down to 3 and hit the ENTER key.

A moment later the Trapdoor program politely asked:

Please enter the e-mail address of the target.

From memory he typed a screen name and hit ENTER. Within ten seconds he was connected to someone else's machine - in effect, looking over the unsuspecting user's shoulder. He read for a few moments then started jotting notes.

Lara Gibson had been a fun hack, but this one would be better.

"He made this," the warden told them.

The cops stood in a storage room in San Ho. Lining the shelves were drug paraphernalia, Nazi decorations and Nation of Islam banners, handmade weapons - clubs and knives and knuckle-dusters, even a few guns. This was the confiscation room and these grim items had been taken away from the prison's difficult residents over the past several years.

What the warden was now pointing out, though, was nothing so clearly inflammatory or deadly. It was a wooden box about two by three feet, filled with a hundred strips of bell wire, which connected dozens of electronic components.

"What is it?" Bob Shelton asked in his gravelly voice.

Andy Anderson laughed and whispered, "Jesus, it's a computer. It's a homemade computer." He leaned forward, studying the simplicity of the wiring, the perfect twisting of the solderless connections, the efficient use of space. It was rudimentary and yet it was astonishingly elegant.

"I didn't know you could make a computer," Shelton offered. Thin Frank Bishop said nothing. The warden said, "Gillette's the worst addict I've ever seen - and we get guys in here've been on smack for years. Only what he's addicted to are these - computers. I guarantee you he'll do anything he can to get online. And he's capable of hurting people to do it. I mean, hurting them bad. He built this just to get on the Internet."

"It's got a modem built in?" Anderson asked, still awed by the device. "Wait, there it is, yeah."Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter, http://www.processtext.com/abclit.html

"So I'd think twice about getting him out."

"We can control him," Anderson said, reluctantly looking away from Gillette's creation.

"You think you can," the warden said, shrugging. "People like him'll say whatever they have to so they can get online. Just like alcoholics. You know about his wife?"

"He's married?" Anderson asked.

"Was. He tried to stop hacking after he got married but couldn't. Then he got arrested and they lost everything paying the lawyer and court fine. She divorced him a couple years ago. I was here when he got the papers. He didn't even care."

The door opened and a guard entered with a battered recycled manila folder. He handed it to the warden, who in turned passed it to Anderson. "Here's the file we've got on him. Might help you decide whether you really want him or not."

Anderson flipped through the file. The prisoner had a record going back years. The juvenile detention time, though, wasn't for anything serious: Gillette had called Pacific Bell's main office from a pay phone what hackers call fortress phones - and programmed it to let him make free long-distance calls. Fortress phones are considered elementary schools for young hackers, who use them to break into phone company switches, which are nothing more than huge computer systems. The art of cracking into the phone company to make free calls or just for the challenge of it is known as phreaking. The notes in the file indicated that Gillette had placed stolen calls to the time and temperature numbers in Paris, Athens, Frankfurt, Tokyo and Ankara. Which suggested that he'd broken into the system just because he was curious to see if he could do it. He wasn't after money.

Anderson kept flipping through the young man's file. There was clearly something to what the warden had said; Gillette's behavior was addictive. He'd been questioned in connection with twelve major hacking incidents over the past eight years. In his sentencing for the Western Software hack the prosecutor had borrowed a phrase from the judge who'd sentenced the famous hacker Kevin Mitnick, saying that Gillette was "dangerous when armed with a keyboard."

The hacker's behavior regarding computers wasn't, however, exclusively felonious, Anderson also learned. He'd worked for a number of Silicon Valley companies and invariably had gotten glowing reports on his programming skills - at least until he was fired for missing work or falling asleep on the job because he'd been up all night hacking. He'd also written a lot of brilliant freeware and shareware

- software programs given away to anyone who wants them

- and had lectured at conferences about new developments in computer programming languages and security.

Then Anderson did a double take and gave a surprised laugh. He was looking at a reprint of an article that Wyatt Gillette had written for On-Line magazine several years ago. The article was well known and Anderson recalled reading it when it first came out but had paid no attention to who the author was. The title was "Life in the Blue Nowhere." Its theme was that computers are the first technological invention in history that affect every aspect of human life, from psychology to entertainment to intelligence to material comfort to evil, and that, because of this, humans and machines will continue to grow closer together. There are many benefits to this but also many dangers. The phrase "Blue Nowhere," which was replacing the term "cyberspace," meant the world of computers, or, as it was also called, the Machine World. InGenerated by ABC Amber LIT Converter, http://www.processtext.com/abclit.html

Gillette's coined phrase, "Blue" referred to the electricity that made computers work. "Nowhere" meant that it was an intangible place.

Andy Anderson also found some photocopies of documents from Gillette's most recent trial. He saw dozens of letters that had been sent to the judge, requesting leniency in sentencing. The hacker's mother had passed away - an unexpected heart attack when the woman was in her fifties - but it sounded like the young man and his father had an enviable relationship. Gillette's father, an American engineer working in Saudi Arabia, had e-mailed several heartfelt pleas to the judge for a reduced sentence. The hacker's brother, Rick, a government employee in Montana had come to his sibling's aid with several faxed letters to the court, also urging leniency. Rick Gillette even touchingly suggested that his brother could come live with him and his wife "in a rugged and pristine mountain setting," as if clean air and physical labor could cure the hacker of his criminal ways.

Anderson was touched by this but surprised as well; most of the hackers that Anderson had arrested came from dysfunctional families.

He closed the file and handed it to Bishop, who read through it absently, seemingly bewildered by the technical references to machines. The detective muttered, "The Blue Nowhere?" A moment later he gave up and passed the folder to his partner.

"What's the timetable for release?" Shelton asked, flipping through the file. Anderson replied, "We've got the paperwork waiting at the courthouse now. As soon as we can get a federal magistrate to sign it Gillette's ours."

"I'm just giving you fair warning," the warden said ominously. He nodded at the homemade computer. "If you want to go ahead with a release, be my guest. Only you gotta pretend he's a junkie who's been off the needle for two weeks."

Shelton said, "I think we ought to call the FBI. We could use some feds anyway on this one. And there'd be more bodies to keep an eye on him."

But Anderson shook his head. "If we tell them then the DoD'll hear about it and have a stroke about us releasing the man who cracked their Standard 12. Gillette'll be back inside in a half hour. No, we've got to keep it quiet. The release order'll be under a John Doe."

Anderson looked toward Bishop, caught in the act of checking out his silent cell phone once again.

"What do you think, Frank?"

The lean detective tucked in his shirt again and finally put together several complete sentences. "Well, sir, I think we should get him out and the sooner the better. That killer probably isn't sitting around talking. Like us."

CHAPTER FOUR

For a terrible half hour Wyatt Gillette had sat in the cold, medieval dungeon, refusing to speculate if it would really happen - if he'd be released. He wouldn't allow himself even a wisp of hope; in prison, expectations are the first to die.

Then, with a nearly silent click, the door opened and the cops returned.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter, http://www.processtext.com/abclit.html

Gillette looked up and happened to notice in Anderson's left lobe a tiny brown dot of an earring hole that had closed up long ago. "A magistrate's signed a temporary release order," the cop said. Gillette realized that he'd been sitting with his teeth clenched and shoulders drawn into a fierce knot. With this news he exhaled in relief. Thank you, thank you

"Now, you have a choice. Either you'll be shackled the whole time you're out or you wear an electronic tracking anklet."

The hacker considered this. "Anklet."

"It's a new variety," Anderson said. "Titanium. You can only get it on and off with a special key. Nobody's ever slipped out of one."

"Well, one guy did," Bob Shelton said cheerfully. "But he had to cut his foot off to do it. He only got a mile before he bled to death."

Gillette by now disliked the burly cop as much as Shelton, for some reason, seemed to hate him.

"It tracks you for sixty miles and broadcasts through metal," Anderson continued.

"You made your point," Gillette said. To the warden he said, "I need some things from my cell."

"What things?" the man grumbled. "You aren't gonna be away that long, Gillette. You don't need to pack."

Gillette said to Anderson, "I need some of my books and notebooks. And I've got a lot of printouts that'll be helpful - from things like Wired and 2600."

The CCU cop said to the warden, "It's okay."

A loud electronic braying came from nearby. Gillette jumped at the noise. It took a minute to recognize the sound, one that he'd never heard in San Ho. Frank Bishop answered his cell phone. The gaunt cop took the call, listened for a moment, flicking at a sideburn, then answered, "Yessir, Captain And?" There was a long pause, during which the corner of his mouth tightened very slightly. "You can't do anything?

Okay, sir."

He hung up.

Anderson cocked an eyebrow at him. The homicide detective said evenly, "That was Captain Bernstein. There was another report on the wire about the MARINKILL case. The perps were spotted near Walnut Creek. Probably headed in this direction." He glanced quickly at Gillette as if he were a stain on the bench and then said to Anderson, "I should tell you - I requested to be removed from this case and put on that one. They said no. Captain Bernstein thought I'd be more helpful here."

"Thanks for telling me," Anderson said. To Gillette, though, the CCU cop didn't seem particularly grateful for the confirmation that the detective was only halfheartedly involved in the case. Anderson asked Shelton, "Did you want MARINKILL too?"

"No. I wanted this one. The girl was killed pretty much in my backyard. I want to make sure it doesn't happen again."

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Anderson glanced at his watch. It was 9:15. "We should get back to CCU." The warden summoned the huge guard and instructions were given. The man led Gillette back down the corridor to his cell. Five minutes later he'd collected what he needed, used the toilet and pulled on his jacket. He preceded the guard into the central part of San Ho.

Out one door, out another, past the visitors' area, where he'd see a friend once a month or so, and the lawyer-client rooms, where he'd spent so many hours working on the futile appeal with the man who'd taken every penny that he and Ellie had.

Finally, breathing fast now as the excitement flooded into him, Gillette stepped through the second-to-the-last doorway - into the area of offices and the guards' locker rooms. The cops were waiting for him there.

Anderson nodded to the guard, who undid the wrist shackles. For the first time in two years Gillette was no longer under the physical domination of the prison system. He'd attained a freedom of sorts. He rubbed the skin on his wrists as they walked toward the exit - two wooden doors with latticed fireglass in them, through which Gillette could see the gray sky. "We'll put the anklet on outside," Anderson said.

Shelton stepped brusquely up to the hacker and whispered, "I want to say one thing, Gillette. Maybe you're thinking you'll be in striking distance of some weapon or another, what with your hands free. Well, if you even get an itchy look that I don't like you're going to get hurt bad. Follow me? I won't hesitate to take you out."


Page 5

"I broke into a computer," the hacker said, exasperated. "That's all I did. I've never hurt anyone."

"Just remember what I said."

Gillette sped up slightly so that he was walking next to Anderson. "Where're we going?"

"The state police Computer Crimes Unit office is in San Jose. It's a separate facility. We----" An alarm went off and a red light blinked on the metal detector they were walking through. Since they were leaving, not entering, the prison, the guard manning the security station shut the buzzer off and nodded at them to continue.

But just as Anderson put his hand on the front door to push it open a voice called, "Excuse me." It was Frank Bishop and he was pointing at Gillette. "Scan him." Gillette laughed. "That's crazy. I'm going out, not coming in. Who's going to smuggle something out of prison?"

Anderson said nothing but Bishop gestured the guard forward. He ran a metal-detecting wand over Gillette's body. The wand got to his right slacks pocket and emitted a piercing squeal. The guard reached into the pocket and pulled out a circuit board, sprouting wires.

"What the fuck's that?" Shelton snapped.

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Anderson examined it closely. "A red box?" he asked Gillette, who glanced at the ceiling in frustration.

"Yeah."

The detective said to Bishop and Shelton, "There're dozens of circuit boxes that phone phreaks used to cheat the phone company - to get free service, tap somebody's line, cut out wiretaps They're known by colors. You don't see many of them anymore except this one - a red box. It mimics the sound of coins in a pay phone. You can call anywhere in the world and just keep punching the coin-drop-tone button enough times to pay for the call." He looked at Gillette. "What were you going to do with this?"

"Figured I might get lost and need to phone somebody."

"You could also sell a red box on the street for, I don't know, a couple of hundred bucks, to a phone phreak. If, say, you were to escape and needed some money."

"I guess somebody could. But I'm not going to do that."

Anderson looked the board over. "Nice wiring."

"Thanks."

"You missed having a soldering iron, right?"

Gillette nodded. "I sure did."

"You pull something like that again and you'll be back inside as soon as I can get a patrol car to bring you in. Got it?"

"Got it."

"Nice try," Bob Shelton whispered. "But, fuck, life's just one big disappointment, don't you think?" No, Wyatt Gillette thought. Life's just one big hack.

On the eastern edge of Silicon Valley a pudgy fifteen-year-old student pounded furiously on a keyboard as he peered through thick glasses at a monitor in the computer room at St. Francis Academy, an old, private boy's school in San Jose.

The name of this area wasn't quite right, though. Yeah, it had computers in it. But the "room" part was a little dicey, the students thought. Stuck away down in the basement, bars on the windows, it looked like a cell. It may actually have been one once; this part of the building was 250 years old and the rumor was that the famous missionary in old California, Father Junipero Serra, had spread the gospel in this particular room by stripping Native Americans to the waist and flogging them until they accepted Jesus. Some of these unfortunates, the older students happily told the younger, never survived their conversion and their ghosts continued to hang out in cells, well, rooms, like this one. Jamie Turner, the youngster who was presently ignoring spirits and keying at the speed of light, was a gawky, dark-haired sophomore. He'd never gotten a grade below a 92 and, even though there were two months to go until the end of term, he had completed the required reading - and most of the assignments

- for all of his classes. He owned more books than any two students at St. Francis and had read the Harry Potter books five times each, Lord of the Rings eight times and every single word written byGenerated by ABC Amber LIT Converter, http://www.processtext.com/abclit.html

computer/science-fiction visionary William Gibson more often than he could remember. Like muted machine-gun fire the sound of his keying filled the small room. He heard a creak behind him. Looked around fast. Nothing.

Then a snap. Silence. Now the sound of the wind.

Damn ghosts Fuck 'em. Get back to work.

Jamie Turner shoved his heavy glasses up on his nose and returned to his task. Gray light from the misty day was bleeding through the barred windows. Outside on the soccer field his classmates were shouting, laughing, scoring goals, racing back and forth. The 9:30 physical ed period had just started. Jamie was supposed to be with them and Booty wouldn't like him hiding out here. But Booty didn't know.

Not that Jamie disliked the principal of the boarding school. Not at all, really. It was hard to dislike somebody who cared about him. (Unlike, say, for instance, hellll-ohhh, Jamie's parents. "See you on the twenty-third, son Oh,

And, for instance, refusing to let the boys go to harmless rock concerts with their older and way responsible brothers unless their parents had signed a permission slip, when who knew where the hell your parents even were, let alone getting them to spend a few minutes to sign something and fax it back to you in time, no matter how important it was.

Love you, bye

But now Jamie was taking matters into his own hands. His brother, Mark, a sound engineer at an Oakland concert venue, had told Jamie that if he could escape from St. Francis that night he'd get the boy into the Santana concert and could probably get his hands on a couple of unlimited-access backstage passes. But if he wasn't out of the school by six-thirty his brother'd have to leave to get to work on time. And meeting that deadline was a problem. Because getting out of St. Francis wasn't like sliding down a bedsheet rope, the way kids in old movies snuck out for the night. St. Francis may have looked like an old Spanish castle but its security was totally high-tech. Jamie could get out of his room, of course; that wasn't locked, even at night (St. Francis wasn't exactly a prison). And he could get out of the building proper through the fire door - provided he could disable the fire alarm. But that would only get him onto the school grounds. And they were surrounded by a twelve-foot-high stone wall, topped with barbed wire. And there was no way to get over that -at least no way for him, a chubby geek who hated heights - unless he cracked the passcode to one of the gates that opened onto the street. Which is why he was now cracking the passcode file of Herr Mein Fuhrer Booty, excuse me, Dr. Willem C. Boethe, M.Ed., Ph.D.

So far he'd easily hacked into Booty's computer and downloaded the file containing the passcode (conveniently named, "security passcodes." Hey, way subtle, Booty!). What was stored in the file was, of course, an encrypted version of the password and would have to be decrypted before Jamie could use it. But Jamie's puny clone computer would take days to crack the code and so the boy was presently hacking into a nearby computer site to find a machine powerful enough to crack it in time for the magic deadline.

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Jamie knew that the Internet had been started as a largely academic network to facilitate the exchange of research, not keep information secret. The first organizations to be linked via the Net - universities - had far poorer security than the government agencies and corporations that had more recently come online. He now figuratively knocked on the door of Northern California Tech and Engineering College's computer lab and was greeted with this:

Username? Jamie answered: User.

Passcode?

His response: User.

And the message popped up:

Welcome, User.

Hm, how 'bout an F minus for security, Jamie thought wryly and began to browse through the machine's root directory - the main one - until he found what would be a very large supercomputer, probably an old Cray, on the school's network. At the moment the machine was calculating the age of the universe. Interesting, but not as cool as Santana, Jamie thought. He nudged aside the astronomy project and uploaded a program he himself had written, called Cracker, which started its sweat labor to extract the English-language password from Booty's files. Heƒ

"Oh, hell shit," he said in very un-Booty language. His computer had frozen up again. This had occurred several times recently and it pissed him off that he couldn't figure out why. He knew computers cold and he could find no reason for this sort of jamming. He had no time for crashes, not today, with his 6:30 deadline. Still, the boy jotted the occurrence in his hacker's notebook, as any diligent codeslinger would do, and restarted the system then logged back online. He checked on the Cray and found that the college's computer had kept working away, running Crack-er on Booty's password file, even while he'd been offline.

He coulda--"Mr. Turner, Mr. Turner," came a nearby voice. "What are we up to here?" The words scared the absolute hell out of Jamie. But he wasn't so startled that he failed to hit ALT-F6 on his computer just before Principal Booty padded up to the computer terminal on his crepe-soled shoes. A screen containing an essay about the plight of the rain forest replaced the status report from his illegal cracking program.

"Hi, Mr. Boethe," Jamie said.

"Ah." The tall, thin man bent down, peering at the screen. "Thought you might be looking at nasty pictures, Mr. Turner."

"No, sir," Jamie said. "I wouldn't do that."

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"Studying the environment, concerned about what we've done to poor Mother Nature, are we? Good for you, good for you. But I can't help but notice that this is your physical education period. You should be experiencing Mother Nature firsthand. Out in the sports fields. Inhaling that good California air. Running and kicking goals."

"Isn't it raining?" Jamie asked.

"Misting, I'd call it. Besides, playing soccer in the rain builds character. Now, out we go, Mr. Turner. The greens are down one player. Mr. Lochnell turned left and his ankle turned right. Go to their aid. Your team needs you."

"I just have to shut down the system, sir. It'll take a few minutes." The principal walked to the door, calling, "I expect to see you out there in full gear in fifteen minutes."

"Yessir," responded Jamie Turner, not revealing his huge disappointment at forsaking his machine for a muddy patch of grass and a dozen stupid students.

Alt-F6ing out of the rain forest window, Jamie started to type a status request to see how his Crack-er program was doing on the passcode file. Then he paused, squinted at the screen and noticed something odd. The type on the monitor seemed slightly fuzzier than normal. The letters seemed to flicker too. And something else: the keys were a little sluggish under his touch. This was way weird. He wondered what the problem might be. Jamie had written a couple of diagnostic programs and he decided he'd run one or two of them after he'd extracted the passcode. They might tell him what was wrong.

He guessed the trouble was a bug in the system folder, maybe a graphics accelerator problem. He'd check that first.

But for a brief instant Jamie Turner had a ridiculous thought: that the unclear letters and slow response times of the keys weren't a problem with his operating system at all. They were due to the ghost of a long-dead Indian, floating in between Jamie and his machine, angry at the human presence as the spirit's cold, spectral fingers keyed in a desperate message for help.

CHAPTER FIVE

At the top left-hand corner of Phate's screen was a small dialogue box containing this: Trapdoor - Hunt Mode Target: JamieTT6hol.com

Online: Yes

Operating system: MS-DOS/Windows Antivirus software: Disabled

On the screen itself Phate was looking at exactly what Jamie Turner was seeing on his own machine, several miles away, in St. Francis Academy.

This particular character in his game had intrigued Phate from the first time he'd invaded the boy's machine, a month ago.

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Phate had spent a lot of time browsing through Jamie's files and he'd learned as much about him as he'd learned about the late Lara Gibson.

For instance:

Jamie Turner hated sports and history and loved math and science. He read voraciously. The youngster was a MUDhead - he spent hours in the Multiuser Domain chat rooms on the Internet, excelling at role-playing games and active in creating and maintaining the fantasy societies so popular in the MUD

realm. Jamie was also a brilliant codeslinger - a self-taught programmer. He'd designed his own Web site, which had gotten a runner-up prize from Web Site Revue Online. He'd come up with an idea for a new computer game that Phate found intriguing and that clearly had commercial potential. The boy's biggest fear was losing his eyesight; he ordered special shatterproof glasses from an online optometrist.

The only member of his family he spent much time e-mailing and communicating with was his older brother Mark. Their parents were rich and busy and tended to respond to every fifth or sixth e-mail their son sent.

Jamie Turner, Phate had concluded, was brilliant and imaginative and vulnerable. And the boy was also just the sort of hacker who'd one day surpass him. Phate - like many of the great computer wizards - had a mystical side to him. He was like those physicists who accept God wholeheartedly or hard-headed politicians who're devoutly committed to Masonic mysticism. There was, Phate believed, an indescribably spiritual side to machines and only those with limited vision denied that.

So it wasn't at all out of character for Phate to be superstitious. And one of the things that he'd come to believe, as he'd used Trapdoor to stroll through Jamie Turner's computer over the past few weeks, was that the boy had the skill to ultimately replace Phate as the greatest codeslinger of all time. This was why he had to stop little Jamie T. Turner from continuing his adventures in the Machine World. And Phate planned to stop him in a particularly effective way.


Page 6

He now scrolled through more files. These, which had been e-mailed to him by Shawn, gave detailed information about the boy's school - St. Francis Academy.

The boarding school was renowned academically but, more important, it represented a true tactical challenge to Phate. If there was no difficulty - and risk to him - in killing the characters in the game then there was no point in playing. And St. Francis offered some serious obstacles. The security was very extensive because the school had been the scene of a break-in several years ago in which one student had been killed and a teacher severely wounded. The principal, Willem Boethe, had vowed to never let that happen again. To reassure parents, he had renovated the entire school and turned it into a fortress. Halls were locked down at night, the grounds double-gated, windows and doors alarmed. You needed passcodes to get in and out of the tall razor-wired wall surrounding the compound. Getting inside the school was, in short, just the right kind of challenge for Phate. It was a step up from Lara Gibson - moving to a higher, more difficult level in his game. He coulda--Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter, http://www.processtext.com/abclit.html

Phate squinted at the screen. Oh, no, not again. Jamie's computer - and therefore his too - had crashed. It'd happened just ten minutes ago too. This was the one bug in Trapdoor. Sometimes his machine and the invaded computer would simply stop working. Then they'd both have to reboot - restart - their computers and go back online.

It resulted in a delay of no more than a minute or so but to Phate it was a terrible flaw. Software had to be perfect, it had to be elegant. He and Shawn had been trying to fix this bug for months but had had no luck so far.

A moment later he and his young friend were back online and Phate was browsing through the boy's machine once more.

A small window appeared on Phate's monitor and the Trapdoor program asked: Target subject has received an instant message from MarkTheMan. Do you want to monitor?

That would be Jamie Turner's brother, Mark. Phate keyed Y and saw the brothers' dialogue on his screen.

MarkTheMan: Can you instant message?

JamieTT: Gotta go play sucker I mean SOCCER.

MarkTheMan: LOL. Still on for tonight?

JamieTT: You bet. Santana RULES!!!!!

MarkTheMan: Can't wait. I'll see you across the street by the north gate at 6:30. You ready to rock n roll?

Phate thought, You bet we are.

Wyatt Gillette paused in the doorway and felt as if he'd been transported back in time. He gazed around him at the California State Police Computer Crimes Unit, which was housed in an old one-story building several miles from the state police's San Jose headquarters. "It's a dinosaur pen."

"Of our very own," Andy Anderson said. He then explained to Bishop and Shelton, neither of whom seemed to want the information, that in the early computing days huge computers like the mainframes made by IBM and Control Data Corporation were housed in special rooms like this, called dinosaur pens.

The pens featured raised floors, beneath which ran massive cables called "boas," after the snakes, which they resembled (and which had been known to uncurl violently at times and injure technicians). Dozens of air conditioner ducts also criss-crossed the room - the cooling systems were necessary to keep the massive computers from overheating and catching fire.

The Computer Crimes Unit was located off West San Carlos, in a low-rent commercial district of San Jose, near the town of Santa Clara. To reach it you drove past a number of car dealerships - EZ

TERMS FOR YOU! SE HABLA ESPANOL - and over a series of railroad tracks. The rambling one-story building, in need of painting and repair, was in clear contrast to, say, Apple ComputerGenerated by ABC Amber LIT Converter, http://www.processtext.com/abclit.html

headquarters a mile away, a pristine, futuristic building decorated with a forty-foot portrait of cofounder Steve Wozniak. CCU's only artwork was a broken, rusty Pepsi machine, squatting beside the front door. Inside the huge building were dozens of dark corridors and empty offices. The police were using only a small portion of the space - the central work area, in which a dozen modular cubicles had been assembled. There were eight Sun Microsystems workstations, several IBMs and Apples, a dozen laptops. Cables ran everywhere, some duct-taped to the floor, some hanging overhead like jungle vines.

"You can rent these old data-processing facilities for a song," Anderson explained to Gillette. He laughed.

"The CCU finally gets recognized as a legit part of the state police and they give us digs that're twenty years out of date."

"Look, a scram switch." Gillette nodded at a red switch on the wall. A dusty sign said EMERGENCY

USE ONLY. "I've never seen one."

"What's that?" Bob Shelton asked.

Anderson explained: The old mainframes would get so hot that if the cooling system went down the computers could overheat and catch fire in seconds. With all the resins and plastic and rubber the gases from a burning computer would kill you before the flames would. So all dinosaur pens came equipped with a scram switch - the name borrowed from the emergency shutdown switch in nuclear reactors. If there was a fire you hit the scram button, which shut off the computer, summoned the fire department and dumped halon gas on the machine to extinguish the flames.

Andy Anderson introduced Gillette, Bishop and Shelton to the CCU team. First, Linda Sanchez, a short, stocky, middle-aged Latina in a lumpy tan suit. She was the unit's SSL officer - seizure, search and logging, she explained. She was the one who secured a perpetrator's computer, checked it for booby traps, copied the files and logged hardware and software into evidence. She also was a digital evidence recovery specialist, an expert at "excavating" a hard drive - searching it for hidden or erased data (accordingly, such officers were also known as computer archaeologists). "I'm the team bloodhound," she explained to Gillette.

"Any word, Linda?"

"Not yet, boss. That daughter of mine, she's the laziest girl on earth." Anderson said to Gillette, "Linda's about to be a grandmother."

"A week overdue. Driving the family crazy."

"And this is my second in command, Sergeant Stephen Miller." Miller was older than Anderson, close to fifty. He had bushy, graying hair. Sloping shoulders, bearish, pear-shaped. He seemed cautious. Because of his age, Gillette guessed he was from the second generation of computer programmers - men and women who were innovators in the computer world in the early seventies.

The third person was Tony Mott, a cheerful thirty-year-old with long, straight blond hair and Oakley sunglasses dangling from a green fluorescent cord around his neck. His cubicle was filled with pictures of him and a pretty Asian girl, snowboarding and mountain biking. A crash helmet sat on his desk, snowboarding boots in the corner. He'd represent the latest generation of hackers: athletic risk-takers,Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter, http://www.processtext.com/abclit.html

equally at home hacking together script at a keyboard and skateboarding half-pipes at extreme-sport competitions. Gillette noticed too that of all the cops at CCU Mott wore the biggest pistol on his hip - a shiny silver automatic.

The Computer Crimes Unit also had a receptionist but the woman was out sick. CCU was low in the state police hierarchy (it was referred to as the "Geek Squad" by fellow cops) and headquarters wouldn't spring for a temporary replacement. The members of the unit had to take phone messages, sift through mail and file documents by themselves and none of them, understandably, was very happy about this. Then Gillette's eyes slipped to one of several erasable white-boards, against the wall, apparently used for listing clues. A photo was taped to one. He couldn't make out what it depicted and walked closer. Then he gasped and stopped in shock. The photo was of a young woman in an orange-and-red skirt, naked from the waist up, bloody and pale, lying in a patch of grass, dead. Gillette had played plenty of computer games - Mortal Kombat and Doom and Tomb Raider - but, as gruesome as those games were, they were nothing compared to this still, horrible violence against a real victim. Andy Anderson glanced at the wall clock, which wasn't digital, as would befit a computer center, but an old, dusty analog model - with big and little hands. The time was 10:00 A.M. The cop said, "We've got to get moving on this Now, we're taking a two-prong approach to the case. Detectives Bishop and Shelton are going to be running a standard homicide investigation. CCU'll handle the computer evidence with Wyatt's help here." He glanced at a fax on his desk and added, "We're also expecting a consultant from Seattle, an expert on the Internet and online systems. Patricia Nolan. She should be here any minute."

"Police?" Shelton asked.

"No, civilian," Anderson said.

Miller added, "We use corporate security people all the time. The technology changes so fast we can't keep up with all the latest developments. Perps're always one step ahead of us. So we try to use private consultants whenever we can."

Tony Mott said, "They're usually standing in line to help. It's real chic now to put catching a hacker on your resume."

Anderson asked Linda Sanchez, "Now, where's the Gibson woman's computer?"

"In the analysis lab, boss." The woman nodded down one of the dark corridors that spidered out from the central room. "A couple of techs from crime scene are fingerprinting it -just in case the perp broke into her house and left some nice, juicy latents. Should be ready in ten minutes." Mott handed Frank Bishop an envelope. "This came for you a few minutes ago. It's the preliminary crime scene report."

Bishop brushed at his stiff hair with the backs of his fingers. Gillette could see the tooth marks from the comb very clearly in the heavily sprayed strands. The cop glanced through the file but said nothing. He handed the thin stack of papers to Shelton, tucked his shirt in once more then leaned against the wall. The chunky cop opened the file, read for a few moments then looked up. "Witnesses report the perpetrator was a white male, medium build and medium height, white slacks, a light blue shirt, tie with a cartoon character of some kind on it. Late twenties, early thirties. Looked like every techie in there, theGenerated by ABC Amber LIT Converter, http://www.processtext.com/abclit.html

bartender said." The cop walked to the whiteboard and began to write down these clues. He continued.

"ID card around his neck said Xerox Palo Alto Research Center but we're sure that was fake. There were no hard leads to anybody there. He had a mustache and goatee. Blond hair. Also there were several frayed blue denim fibers on the victim that didn't match her clothes or anything in her closet at home. Might've come from the perp. The murder weapon was probably a military Ka-bar knife with a serrated top."

Tony Mott asked, "How'd you know that?"

"The wounds're consistent with that type of weapon." Shelton turned back to the file. "The victim was killed elsewhere and dumped by the highway."

Mott interrupted. "How could they tell that?'"

Shelton frowned slightly, apparently not wishing to digress. "Quantity of her blood found at the scene." The young cop's lengthy blond hair danced as he nodded and seemed to record this information for future reference.

Shelton resumed. "Nobody near the body drop site saw anything." A sour glance at the others. "Like they ever do Now, we're trying to trace the doer's car - he and Lara left the bar together and were seen walking toward the back parking lot but nobody got a look at his wheels. Crime scene was lucky; the bartender remembered that the perp wrapped his beer bottle in a napkin and one of the techs found it in the trash. But we printed both the bottle and the napkin and came up with zip. The lab lifted some kind of adhesive off the lip of the bottle but we can't tell what it is. It's nontoxic. That's all they know. It doesn't match anything in the lab database."

Frank Bishop finally spoke. "A costume store."

"Costume?" Anderson asked.

The cop said, "Maybe he needed some help to look like this Will Randolph guy he was impersonating. Might be glue for a fake mustache or beard."

Gillette agreed. "A good social engineer always dresses for the con. I have friends who've sewed together complete Pac Bell linemen uniforms."

"That's good," Tony Mott said to Bishop, adding more data to his continuing education file. Anderson nodded his approval of this suggestion. Shelton called homicide headquarters in San Jose and arranged to have some troopers check the adhesive against samples of theatrical glue. Frank Bishop took off his wrinkled suit jacket and hung it carefully on the back of a chair. He stared at the photo and the white-board, arms crossed. His shirt was already billowing out again. He wore boots with pointed toes. When Gillette was a college student he and some friends at Berkeley had rented a skin flick for a party - a stag film from the fifties or sixties. One of the actors had looked and dressed just like Bishop.

Lifting the crime scene file away from Shelton, Bishop flipped through it. Then he looked up. "The bartender said that the victim had a martini and the killer had a light beer. The killer paid. If we can get a hold of the check we might lift a fingerprint."

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"How're you going to do that?" It was bulky Stephen Miller who asked this. "The bartender probably pitched them out last night - with a thousand others."

Bishop nodded at Gillette. "We'll have some troopers do what he mentioned - Dumpster diving." To Shelton he said, "Have them look through the bar's trash bins for a receipt for a martini and a light beer, time-stamped about seven-thirty P.M."

"That'll take forever," Miller said. But Bishop ignored him and nodded to Shelton, who made the call to follow up on his suggestion.

Gillette then realized that nobody had been standing close to him. He eyed everyone else's clean clothes, shampooed hair, grime-free fingernails. He asked Anderson, "If we've got a few minutes before that computer's ready I don't suppose you have a shower 'round here?" Anderson tugged at the lobe that bore the stigmata of a past-life earring and broke into a laugh. "I was wondering how to bring that up." He said to Mott, "Take him down to the employee locker room. But stay close."


Page 7

The young cop nodded and led Gillette down the hallway. He chattered away nonstop - his first topic the advantages of the Linux operating system, a variation on the classic Unix, which many people were starting to use in place of Windows. He spoke enthusiastically and was well informed. He then told Gillette about the recent formation of the Computer Crimes Unit. They'd been in existence for less than a year. The Geek Squad, Mott explained, could easily have used another half-dozen full-time cops but they weren't in the budget. There were more cases than they could possibly handle from hacking to cyberstalking to child pornography to copyright infringement of software - and the workload seemed to get heavier with every passing month.

"Why'd you get into it?" Gillette asked him. "CCU?"

"Hoping for a little excitement. I mean, I love machines and guess I have a mind for 'em but sifting through code to find a copyright violation's not quite what I'd hoped. I thought it'd be a little more rig and rage, you know."

"How 'bout Linda Sanchez?" Gillette asked. "She a geek?"

"Not really. She's smart but machines aren't in her blood. She was a gang girl down in Lettuce Land, you know, Salinas. Then she went into social work and decided to go to the academy. Her partner was shot up pretty bad in Monterey a few years ago. Linda has kids - the daughter who's expecting and a girl in high school - and her husband's never home. He's an INS agent. So she figured it was time to move to a little quieter side of the business."

"Just the opposite of you."

Mott laughed. "I guess so."

As Gillette toweled off after the shower Mott placed an extra set of his own workout clothes on the bench for the hacker. T-shirt, black sweatpants and a warm-up wind-breaker. Mott was shorter than Gillette but they had basically the same build.

"Thanks," Gillette said, donning the clothes. He felt exhilarated, having washed away one particular typeGenerated by ABC Amber LIT Converter, http://www.processtext.com/abclit.html

of filth from his thin frame: the residue of prison.

On the way back to the main room they passed a small kitchenette. There was a coffeepot, a refrigerator and a table on which sat a plate of bagels. Gillette stopped, looked hungrily at the food. Then he eyed a row of cabinets.

He asked Mott, "I don't suppose you have any Pop-Tarts in there."

"Pop-Tarts? Naw. But have a bagel."

Gillette walked over to the table and poured a cup of coffee. He picked up a raisin bagel.

"Not one of those," Mott said. He took it out of Gillette's hand and dropped it on the floor. It bounced like a ball.

Gillette frowned.

"Linda brought these in. It's a joke." When Gillette stared at him in confusion the cop added, "Don't you get it?"

"Get what?"

"What's today's date?"

"I don't have a clue." The days of the month aren't how you mark time in prison.

"April Fools' Day," Mott said. "Those bagels're plastic. Linda and I put 'em out this morning and we've been waiting for Andy to bite - so to speak - but we haven't got him yet. I think he's on a diet." He opened the cabinet and took out a bag of fresh ones. "Here." Gillette ate one quickly. Mott said, "Go ahead. Have another." Another followed, washed down with gulps from the large cup of coffee. They were the best thing he'd had in ages.

Mott got a carrot juice from the fridge and they returned to the main area of CCU. Gillette looked around the dinosaur pen, at the hundreds of disconnected boas lying in the corners and at the air-conditioning vents, his mind churning. A thought occurred to him. "April Fools' Day so the murder was March thirty-first?"

"Right," Anderson confirmed. "Is that significant?" Gillette said uncertainly, "It's probably a coincidence."

"Go ahead."

"Well, it's just that March thirty-first is sort of a red-letter day in computer history." Bishop asked, "Why?"

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A woman's gravelly voice spoke from the doorway. "Isn't that the date the first Univac was delivered?"

CHAPTER SIX

They turned to see a hippy brunette in her mid-thirties, wearing an unfortunate gray sweater suit and thick black shoes.

Anderson asked, "Patricia?"

She nodded and walked into the room, shook his hand.

"This's Patricia Nolan, the consultant I was telling you about. She's with the security department of Horizon On-Line."

Horizon was the biggest commercial Internet service provider in the world, larger even than America Online. Since there were tens of millions of registered subscribers and since every one of them could have up to eight different usernames for friends or family members it was likely that, at any given time, a large percentage of the world was checking stock quotes, lying to people in chat rooms, reading Hollywood gossip, buying things, finding out the weather, reading and sending e-mails and downloading softcore porn via Horizon On-Line.

Nolan kept her eyes on Gillette's face for a moment. She glanced at the palm tree tattoo. Then at his fingers, keying compulsively in the air.

Anderson explained, "Horizon called us when they heard the victim was a customer and volunteered to send somebody to help out."

The detective introduced her to the team and now Gillette examined her. The trendy designer eyeglasses, probably bought on impulse, didn't do much to make her masculine, plain face any less plain. But the striking green eyes behind them were piercing and very quick - Gillette could see that she too was amused to find herself in an antiquated dinosaur pen. Nolan's complexion was loose and doughy and obscured with thick makeup that would have been stylish - if excessive - in the 1970s. Her brunette hair was very thick and unruly and tended to fall into her face.

After hands were shaken and introductions made she returned immediately to Gillette. She twined a mass of hair around her fingers and, not caring who heard, said bluntly, "I saw the way you looked at me when you heard I worked for Horizon."

Like all big commercial Internet service providers -AOL, CompuServe, Prodigy and the others Horizon On-Line was held in contempt by true hackers. Computer wizards used telnet programs to jump directly from their computers to others' and they roamed the Blue Nowhere wijh customized Web browsers built for interstellar travel. They wouldn't think of using simple-minded, low-horsepower Internet providers like Horizon, which was geared for family entertainment. Subscribers to Horizon On-Line were known as HOLamers or HOLosers. Or, echoing Gillette's current address, just plain HOs.

Nolan continued, speaking to Gillette. "Just so we get everything on the table, I went to MIT undergrad and Princeton for my masters and doctorate - both in computer science."

"AI?" Gillette asked. "In New Jersey?"

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Princeton's artificial intelligence lab was one of the top in the country. Nolan nodded. "That's right. And I've done my share of hacking too."

Gillette was amused that she was justifying herself to him, the one felon in the crowd, and not to the police. He could hear an edgy tone in her voice and the delivery sounded rehearsed. He supposed this was because she was a woman; the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission doesn't have jurisdiction to stop the relentless prejudice against women trying to make their way in the Blue Nowhere. Not only are they hounded out of chat rooms and off bulletin boards but they're often blatantly insulted and even threatened. Teenage girls who want to hack need to be smarter and ten times tougher than their male counterparts.

"What were you saying about Univac?" Tony Mott asked.

Nolan filled in, "March 31, 1951. The first Univac was delivered to the Census Bureau for regular operations."

"What was it?" Bob Shelton asked.

"It stands for Universal Automatic Computer."

Gillette said, "Acronyms're real popular in the Machine World." Nolan said, "Univac is one of the first modern mainframe computers, as we know them. It took up a room as big as this one. Of course nowadays you can buy laptops that're faster and do a hundred times more."

Anderson mused, "The date? Think it's a coincidence?"

Nolan shrugged. "I don't know."

"Maybe our perp's got a theme of some kind," Mott suggested. "I mean, a milestone computer date and a motiveless killing right in the heart of Silicon Valley."

"Let's follow up on it," Anderson said. "Find out if there're any recent unsolved killings in other high-tech areas that fit this M.O. Try Seattle, Portland - they have the Silicon Forest there. Chicago's got the Silicon Prairie. Route 128 outside of Boston."

"Austin, Texas," Miller suggested.

"Good. And the Dulles Toll Road corridor outside of D.C. Start there and let's see what we can find. Send the request to VICAP."

Tony Mott keyed in some information and a few minutes later he got a response. He read from the screen and said, "Got something in Portland. February fifteenth and seventeenth of this year. Two unsolved killings, same M.O. in both of them, and it was similar to here - both victims stabbed to death, died of chest wounds. Perp was believed to be a white male, late twenties. Didn't seem to know the victims and robbery and rape weren't motives. The vics were a wealthy corporate executive - male - and a professional woman athlete."

"February fifteenth?" Gillette asked.

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Patricia Nolan glanced at him. "ENIAC?"

"Right," the hacker said then explained: "ENIAC was similar to Univac but earlier. It came online in the forties. The dedication date was February fifteenth."

"What's that acronym?"

Gillette said, "The Electronic Numerical Integrator and Calculator." Like all hackers he was an aficionado of computer history.

"Shit," Shelton muttered, "we've got a pattern doer. Great." Another message arrived from VICAR Gillette glanced at the screen and learned that these letters stood for the Department of Justice's Violent Criminal Apprehension Program. It seemed that cops used acronyms as much as hackers.

"Man, here's one more," Mott said, reading the screen.

"More?" Stephen Miller asked, dismayed. He absently organized some of the disks and papers that covered hiA desk six inches deep.

"About eighteen months ago a diplomat and a colonel at the Pentagon - both of them with bodyguards were killed in Herndon, Virginia. That's the Dulles Toll Road high-tech corridor I'm ordering the complete files."

"What were the dates of the Virginia killings?" Anderson asked.

"August twelfth and thirteenth."

He wrote this on the white-board and looked at Gillette with a raised eyebrow. "Any clue?"

"IBM's first PC," the hacker replied. "The release date was August twelfth." Nolan nodded.

"So he's got a theme," Shelton said.

Frank Bishop added, "And that means he's going to keep going." The computer terminal where Mott sat gave a soft beep. The young cop leaned forward, his large automatic pistol clanking loudly against his chair. He frowned. "We've got a problem here." On the screen were the words:

Unable to Download Files

A longer message was beneath it.

Anderson read the text, shook his head. "The case files at VICAP on the Portland and Virginia killings're missing. The note from the sysadmin says they were damaged in a data-storage mishap."Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter, http://www.processtext.com/abclit.html

"Mishap," Nolan muttered, sharing a look with Gillette.

Linda Sanchez, eyes wide, said, "You don't think I mean, he couldn't've cracked VICAP. Nobody's ever done that."

Anderson said to the younger cop, "Try the state databases: Oregon and Virginia state police case archives."

In a moment Mott looked up. "No record of any files on those cases. They vanished." Mott and Miller eyed each other uncertainly. "This's getting scary," Mott said. Anderson mused, "But what's his motive?"

"He's a goddamn hacker," Shelton muttered. "That's his motive."

"He's not a hacker," Gillette said.

"Then what is he?"

Gillette didn't feel like educating the difficult cop. He glanced at Anderson, who explained, "The word

'hacker' is a compliment. It means an innovative programmer. As in 'hacking together' software. A real hacker breaks into somebody's machine only to see if he can do it and to find out what's inside - it's a curiosity thing. The hacker ethic is it's okay to look but don't touch. People who break into systems as vandals or thieves are called 'crackers.' As in safecrackers."

"I wouldn't even call him that," Gillette said. "Crackers maybe steal and vandalize but they don't hurt people. I'd call him a 'kracker' with a k. For killer."

"Cracker with a c, kracker with a k" Shelton muttered. "What the hell difference does it make?"

"A big difference," Gillette said. "Spell 'phreak' with a ph and you're talking about somebody who steals phone services. 'Phishing' - with a ph - is searching the Net for someone's identity. Misspell 'wares' with a z on the end, not an s, and you're not talking about housewares but about stolen software. When it comes to hacking it's all in the spelling."

Shelton shrugged and remained unimpressed by the distinction.

The identification techs from the California State Police Forensics Division returned to the main part of the CCU office, wheeling battered suitcases behind them. One consulted a sheet of paper. "We lifted eighteen partial latents, twelve partial visibles." He nodded at a laptop computer case slung over his shoulder. "We scanned them and it looks like they're all the victim's or her boyfriend's. And there was no evidence of glove smears on the keys."

"So," Anderson said, "he got inside her system from a remote location. Soft access - like we thought." He thanked the techs and they left.

Then Linda Sanchez - all business at the moment, no longer the grandmother-to-be - said to Gillette,

"I've secured and logged everything in her machine." She handed him a floppy disk. "Here's a boot disk." This was a disk that contained enough of an operating system to "boot up," or start, a suspect'sGenerated by ABC Amber LIT Converter, http://www.processtext.com/abclit.html


Page 8

computer. Police used boot disks, rather than the hard drive itself, to start the computer in case the owner - or the killer, in this case - had installed some software on the hard drive that would destroy data.

"I've been through her machine three times now and I haven't found any booby traps but that doesn't mean they aren't there. You probably know all this too but keep the victim's machine and any disks away from plastic bags or boxes or folders - they can create static and zap data. Same thing with speakers. They have magnets in them. And don't put any disks on metal shelves - they might be magnetized. You'll find nonmagnetic tools in the lab. I guess you know what to do from here."

"Yep."

She said, "Good luck. The lab's down that corridor there." The boot disk in hand, Gillette started toward the hallway.

Bob Shelton followed.

The hacker turned. "I don't really want anybody looking over my shoulder." Especially you, he added to himself.

"It's okay," Anderson said to the Homicide cop. "The only exit back there's alarmed and he's got his jewelry on." Nodding at the shiny metal transmission anklet. "He's not going anywhere." Shelton wasn't pleased but he acquiesced. Gillette noticed, though, that he didn't return to the main room. He leaned against the hallway wall near the lab and crossed his arms, looking like a bouncer with a bad attitude.

If you even get an itchy look that I don't like you're going to get hurt bad Inside the analysis room Gillette walked up to Lara Gibson's computer. It was an unremarkable, off-the-shelf IBM clone.

He did nothing with her machine just yet, though. Instead he sat down at a workstation and wrote a kludge - a down-and-dirty software program. In five minutes he was finished writing the source code. He named the program Detective then compiled and copied it to the boot disk Sanchez had given him. He inserted the disk into the floppy drive of Lara Gibson's machine. He turned on the power switch and the drives hummed and snapped with comforting familiarity.

Wyatt Gillette's thick, muscular fingers slid eagerly onto the cool plastic of the keys. He positioned his fingertips, callused from years of keyboarding, on the tiny orientation bumps on the F and J keys. The boot disk bypassed the machine's Windows operating system and went straight to the leaner MS-DOS the famous Microsoft Disk Operating System, which is the basis for the more user-friendly Windows. The C: prompt appeared on the black screen.

His heart raced as he stared at the hypnotically pulsing cursor.

Then, not looking at the keyboard, he pressed a key, the one for d-the first letter in the command line, detective.exe, which would start his program.

In the Blue Nowhere time is very different from what we know it to be in the Real World and, in the firstGenerated by ABC Amber LIT Converter, http://www.processtext.com/abclit.html

thousandth of a second after Wyatt Gillette pushed that key, this happened: The voltage flowing through the circuit beneath the d key changed ever so slightly. The keyboard processor noticed the change in current and transmitted an interrupt signal to the computer itself, which momentarily sent the dozens of tasks it was currently performing to a storage area known as the stack and then created a special priority route for codes coming from the keyboard. The code for the letter d was directed by the keyboard processor along this express route into the computer's basic input-output system - the BIOS - which checked to see if Wyatt Gillette had pressed the SHIFT, CONTROL or ALTERNATE keys at the same time he'd hit the d key. Assured that he hadn't, the BIOS translated the letter's keyboard code for the lowercase d into another one, its ASCII code, which was then sent into the computer's graphics adapter. The adapter in turn converted the code to a digital signal, which it forwarded to the electron guns located in the back of the monitor.

The guns fired a burst of energy into the chemical coating on the screen. And, miraculously, the white letter d burned into existence on the black monitor.

All this in that fraction of a second.

And in what remained of that second Gillette typed the rest of the letters of his command, e-t-e-c-t-i-v-e.e-x-e, and then hit the ENTER key with his right little finger. More type and graphics appeared, and soon, like a surgeon on the trail of an elusive tumor, Wyatt Gillette began probing carefully through Lara Gibson's computer - the only aspect of the woman that had survived the vicious attack, that was still warm, that retained at least a few memories of who she was and what she'd done in her brief life.

CHAPTER SEVEN

He walks in a hacker's slump, Andy Anderson thought, watching Wyatt Gillette return from the analysis lab.

Machine people had the worst posture of any profession in the world. It was nearly 11:00 A.M. The hacker had spent only thirty minutes looking over Lara Gibson's machine. Bob Shelton, who now dogged Gillette back to the main office, to the hacker's obvious irritation, asked,

"So what'd you find?" The question was delivered in a chilly tone and Anderson wondered again why Shelton was riding the young man so hard - especially considering that the hacker was helping them out on a case the detective had volunteered for.

Gillette ignored the pock-faced cop and sat down in a swivel chair, flipped open his notebook. When he spoke it was to Anderson. "There's something odd going on. The killer was in her computer. He seized root and--"

"Dumb it down," Shelton muttered. "Seized what?"Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter, http://www.processtext.com/abclit.html

Gillette explained, "When somebody has root that means they have complete control over a computer network and all the machines on it."

Anderson added, "When you're root you can rewrite programs, delete files, add authorized users, remove them, go online as somebody else."

Gillette continued, "But I can't figure out how he did it. The only thing unusual I found were some scrambled files -I thought they were some kind of encrypted virus but they turned out to be just gibberish. There's not a trace of any kind of software on her machine that would let him get inside." Glancing at Bishop, he explained, "See, I could load a virus in your computer that'd let me seize root on your machine and get inside it from wherever I am, whenever I want to, without needing a passcode. They're called 'back door' viruses - as in sneaking in through the back door.

"But in order for them to work I have to somehow actually install the software on your computer and activate it. I could send it to you as an attachment to an e-mail, say, and you could activate it by opening the attachment without knowing what it was. Or I could break into your house and install it on your computer then activate it myself. But there's no evidence that happened. No, he seized root some other way."

The hacker was an animated speaker, Anderson noticed. His eyes were glowing with that absorbed animation he'd seen in so many young geeks - even the ones who were sitting in court, more or less convicting themselves as they excitedly described their exploits to the judge and jury.

"Then how do you know he seized root?" Linda Sanchez asked.

"I hacked together this kludge." He handed Anderson a floppy disk.

"What's it do?" Patricia Nolan asked, her professional curiosity piqued, as was Anderson's.

"It's called Detective. It looks for things that aren't inside a computer." He explained for the benefit of the non-CCU cops. "When your computer runs, the operating system -like Windows - stores parts of the programs it needs all over your hard drive. There're patterns to where and when it stores those files." Indicating the disk, he said, "That showed me that a lot of those bits of programs'd been moved to places on the hard drive that make sense only if somebody was going through her computer from a remote location."

Shelton shook his head in confusion.

But Frank Bishop said, "You mean, it's like you know a burglar was inside your house because he moved furniture and didn't put the pieces back. Even though he was gone when you got home." Gillette nodded. "Exactly."

Andy Anderson - as much a wizard as Gillette in some areas - hefted the thin disk in his hand. He couldn't help feeling impressed. When he was considering asking Gillette to help them, the cop had looked through some of Gillette's script, which the prosecutor had submitted as evidence in the case against him. After examining the brilliant lines of source code Anderson had two thoughts. The first was that if anyone could figure out how the perp had gotten into Lara Gibson's computer it was Wyatt Gillette.

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The second was pure, painful envy of the young man's skills. Throughout the world there were tens of thousands of code crunchers - people who happily churn out tight, efficient software for mundane tasks and there were just as many script bunnies, the term for kids who write wildly creative but clumsy and largely useless programs just for the fun of it. But only a few programmers have both the vision to conceive of script that's "elegant," the highest form of praise for software, and the skill to write it. Wyatt Gillette was just such a codeslinger.

Once again Anderson noticed Frank Bishop looking around the room absently, his mind elsewhere. He wondered if he should call headquarters and see about getting a new detective on board. Let Bishop go chase his MARINKILL bank robbers - if that's what was so goddamn important to him - and we'll replace him with somebody who at least could pay attention.

The CCU cop said to Gillette, "So the bottom line is he got into her system thanks to some new, unknown program or virus."

"Basically, that's it."

"Could you find out anything else about him?" Mott asked.

"Only what you already know - that he's been trained on Unix." Unix is a computer operating system, just like MS-DOS or Windows, though it controls larger, more powerful machines than personal computers.

"Wait," Anderson interrupted. "What do you mean, what we already know?"

"That mistake he made."

"What mistake?"

Gillette frowned. "When the killer was inside her system he keyed some commands to get into her files. But they were Unix commands - he must've entered them by mistake before he remembered her machine was running Windows. You must've seen them in there."

Anderson looked questioningly at Stephen Miller, who'd apparently been the one analyzing the victim's computer in the first place. Miller said uneasily, "I noticed a couple lines of Unix, yeah. But I just assumed she'd typed them."

"She's a civilian," Gillette said, using the hacker term for a casual computer user. "I doubt she'd even heard of Unix, let alone known the commands." In Windows and Apple operating systems people control their machines by simply clicking on pictures or typing common English words for commands; Unix requires users to learn hundreds of complicated codes.

"I didn't think, sorry," the bearish cop said defensively. He seemed put out at this criticism over what he must have thought was a small point.

So Stephen Miller had made yet another mistake, Anderson reflected. This had been an ongoing problem ever since Miller had joined CCU recently. In the 1970s Miller had headed a promising company that made computers and developed software. But his products were always one step behind IBM's, Digital Equipment's and Microsoft's and he eventually went bankrupt. Miller complained that he'd often anticipated the NBT (the "Next Big Thing" - the Silicon Valley phrase for an innovation that wouldGenerated by ABC Amber LIT Converter, http://www.processtext.com/abclit.html

revolutionize the industry) but the "big boys" were continually sabotaging him. After his company went under he'd gotten divorced and left the Machine World for a few years, then surfaced as a freelance programmer. Miller drifted into computer security and finally applied to the state police. He wouldn't've been Anderson's first choice for a computer cop but, then again, CCU had very few qualified applicants to choose from (why earn $60,000 a year working a job where there's a chance you might get shot, when you can make ten times that at one of Silicon Valley's corporate legends?). Besides, Miller - who'd never remarried and didn't seem to have much of a personal life - put in the longest hours in the department and could be found in the dinosaur pen long after everyone else had left. He also took work "home," that is, to some of the local university computer departments, where friends would let him run CCU projects on state-of-the-art supercomputers for free.

"What's that mean for us?" Shelton asked. "That he knows this Unix stuff." Anderson said, "It's bad for us. That's what it means. Hackers who use Windows or Apple systems are usually small-time. Serious hackers work in Unix or Digital Equipment's operating system, VMS." Gillette concurred. He added, "Unix is also the operating system of the Internet. Anybody who's going to crack into the big servers and routers on the Net has to know Unix." Bishop's phone rang and he took the call. Then he looked around and sat down at a nearby workstation to jot notes. He sat upright; no hacker's slouch here, Anderson observed. When he disconnected the call Bishop said, "Got some leads. One of our troopers heard from some CIs." It was a moment before Anderson recalled what the letters stood for. Confidential informants. Snitches. Bishop said in his soft, unemotional voice, "Somebody named Peter Fowler, white male about twenty-five, from Bakersfield's been seen selling guns in this area. Been hawking Ka-bars too." A nod at the white-board. "Like the murder weapon. He was seen an hour ago near the Stanford campus in Palo Alto. Some park near Page Mill, a quarter mile north of 280."

"Hacker's Knoll, boss," Linda Sanchez said. "In Milliken Park." Anderson nodded. He knew the place well and wasn't surprised when Gillette said that he did too. It's a deserted grassy area near the campus where computer science majors, hackers and chip-jocks hang out. They trade warez and swap stories, smoke weed.

"I know some people there," Anderson said. "I'll go check it out when we're through here." Bishop consulted his notes again and said, "The report from the lab shows that the adhesive on the bottle is the type of glue used in theatrical makeup. A couple of our people checked the phone book for stores. There's only one in the immediate area - Ollie's Theatrical Supply on El Camino Real in Mountain View. They sell a lot of the stuff, the clerk said. They don't keep records of the sales but they'll let us know if anybody comes in to buy some.


Page 9

"Now," Bishop continued, "we might have a lead on the perp's car. A security guard in an office building across the street from Vesta's, the restaurant where he picked up the Gibson woman, noticed a late-model, light-colored sedan parked in the company lot around the time the victim was in the bar. He thought somebody was inside the sedan. If there was, the driver may've gotten a good view of the perp's vehicle. We should canvass all the employees in the company."Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter, http://www.processtext.com/abclit.html

Anderson said to Bishop, "You want to check that out while I'm at Hacker's Knoll?"

"Yessir, that's what I had in mind." Another look at his notes. Then he nodded his crisp hair toward Gillette. "Some crime scene techs did find a receipt for a light beer and martini in the trash bins behind the restaurant. They've lifted a couple of prints. They're sending 'em to the bureau for APIS." Tony Mott noticed Gillette's frown of curiosity. "Automated Fingerprint Identification System," he explained to the hacker. "It'll search the federal system and then do a state-by-state search. Takes time to do the whole country but if he's been collared for anything in the past eight or nine years we'll probably get a match."

Although he had a real talent for computers Mott was fascinated with what he called "real police work" and was constantly hounding Anderson for a transfer to Homicide or Major Crimes so he could go chase

"real perps." He was undoubtedly the only cybercop in the country who wore as his sidearm a car-stopping.45 automatic.

Bishop said, "They'll concentrate on the West Coast first. California, Washington, Oregon and--"

"No," Gillette said. "Go east to west. Do New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts and North Carolina first. Then Illinois and Wisconsin. Then Texas. Do California last."

"Why?" Bishop asked.

"Those Unix commands he typed? They were the East Coast version." Patricia Nolan explained that there were several versions of the Unix operating system. Using the East Coast commands suggested that the killer had Atlantic seaboard roots. Bishop nodded and called this information into headquarters. He then glanced at his notebook and said, "There's one other thing we should add to the profile."

"What's that?" Anderson asked.

"The ID division said that it looks like the perp was in an accident of some kind. He's missing the tips of most of his fingers. He's got enough of the pads to leave prints but the tips end in scar tissue. The ID tech was thinking maybe he'd been injured in a fire."

Gillette shook his head. "Callus."

The cops looked at him. Gillette held up his own hands. The fingertips were flat and ended in yellow calluses. "It's called a 'hacker manicure,'" he explained. "You pound keys twelve hours a day, this's what happens."

Shelton wrote this on the white-board.

Gillette said, "What I want to do now is go online and check out some of the renegade hacking newsgroups and chat rooms. Whatever the killer's doing is the sort of thing that's going to cause a big stir in the underground and--"

"No, you're not going online," Anderson told him.

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"What?"

"Nope," the cop repeated adamantly.

"I have to."

"No. Those're the rules. You stay offline."

"Wait a minute," Shelton said. "He was online. I saw him." Anderson's head swiveled toward the cop. "He was?"

"Yeah, in that room in the back - the lab. I looked in on him when he was checking out the victim's computer." He glanced at Anderson. "I assumed you okayed it."

"No, I didn't." Anderson asked Gillette, "Did you log on?"

"No," Gillette said firmly. "He must've seen me writing my kludge and thought I was online."

"Looked like it to me," Shelton said.

"You're wrong."

Shelton smiled sourly and appeared unconvinced.

Anderson could have checked out the log-in files of the CCU computer to find out for certain. But then decided that whether or not he'd gone online didn't really matter. Gillette's job here was finished. He picked up the phone and called HQ. "We've got a prisoner here to be transferred back to the San Jose Correctional Facility."

Gillette turned toward him, dismay in his eyes. "No," he said. "You can't send me back."

"I'll make sure you get that laptop we promised you."

"No, you don't understand. I can't stop now. We've got to find out what this guy did to get into her machine."

Shelton grumbled, "You said you couldn't find anything."

"That's exactly the problem. If I had found something we could understand it. But I can't. That's what's so scary about what he did. I need to keep going."

Anderson said, "If we find the killer's machine - or another victim's - and if we need you to analyze it we'll bring you back."

"But the chat rooms, the newsgroups, the hacker sites there could be a hundred leads there. People have to be talking about software like this."

Anderson saw the addict's desperation in Gillette's face, just as the warden had predicted. The cybercop pulled on his raincoat and said firmly, "We'll take it from here, Wyatt. And thanks again."Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter, http://www.processtext.com/abclit.html

CHAPTER EIGHT

He wasn't going to make it, Jamie Turner realized with dismay.

The time was nearly noon and he was sitting by himself in the cold, dim computer room, still in his damp soccer outfit (playing in the mist doesn't build character at all, Booty; it just makes you fucking wet). But he didn't want to waste the time on a shower and change of clothes. When he'd been out on the playing field all he'd been able to think about was whether the college computer he'd hacked into had cracked the outer-gate passcode.

And now, peering at the monitor through his thick, misted glasses, he saw that the Cray probably wasn't going to spit out the decrypted password in time. It would take, he estimated, another two days to crack the code.

He thought about his brother, about the Santana concert, about the backstage passes - all just out of reach - and he felt like crying. He began to type some commands to see if he could log on to another of the school's computers -a faster one, in the physics department. But there was a long queue of users waiting to get into that one. Jamie sat back and, out of frustration, not hunger, wolfed down a package of M felt a painful chill and he looked quickly around the dark, musty room. He shivered in fear. That damn ghost again

Maybe he should just forget the whole thing. He was sick of being scared, sick of being cold. He should get the hell out of here, go hang with Dave or Totter or some of the guys from French club. His hands went to the keyboard to stop Crack-er and run the cloaking program that would destroy the evidence of his hack.

Then something happened.

On the screen in front of him the root directory of the college's computer suddenly appeared. Way bizarre! Then, all by itself, the computer dialed out to another one, outside of the school. The machines electronically shook hands and a moment later Jamie Turner's Crack-er and Booty's password file were transferred to the second computer.

How the hell had that happened?

Jamie Turner was very savvy in the ways of computers but he'd never seen this. The only explanation was that the first computer - the college's - had some kind of arrangement with other computer departments so that tasks that took a long time were automatically transferred to speedier machines. But what was totally weird was that the machine Jamie's software had been transferred to was the Defense Research Center's massive parallel array of supercomputers in Colorado Springs, one of the fastest computer systems in the world. It was also one of the most secure and was virtually impossible to crack (Jamie knew; he'd tried it). It contained highly classified information and no civilian had ever been allowed to use it in the past. Jamie supposed they'd started renting out the system to defray the huge cost of maintaining a parallel array. Ecstatic, he peered at the screen and saw that the DRC's machines were cracking Booty's passcode at a blistering rate.

Well, if there was a ghost in his machine, he decided, maybe it was a good ghost after all. Maybe it was even a Santana fan, he laughed to himself.

Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter, http://www.processtext.com/abclit.html

Jamie now turned to his next task, the second hack he needed to complete before the Great Escape. In less than sixty seconds he'd transformed himself into a middle-aged overworked service tech employed by West Coast Security Systems, Inc., who'd unfortunately misplaced the schematic diagram for an WCS Model 8872 alarmed fire door he was trying to repair and needed some help from the technical supervisor. The man was all too happy to oblige.

Phate, sitting at his dining room office, was watching Jamie Turner's program hard at work in the Defense Research Center's supercomputers, where he'd just sent it, along with the password file. Unknown to the sysadmins at the DRC the huge computers were presently under his root control and were burning about $25,000 of computer time for the sole purpose of letting a sophomore in high school open a single locked gate.

Phate had examined the progress of the first supercomputer Jamie had used at a nearby college and had seen at once that it wasn't going to spit out the passcode in time for the boy to escape from the school for his 6:30 rendezvous with his brother.

Which meant that he'd stay safely tucked away at St. Francis and Phate would lose this round of the game. And that wasn't acceptable.

But, as he'd known, the DRC's parallel array would easily crack the code before the deadline. If Jamie Turner had actually gotten to the concert that night - which wasn't going to happen now - he'd have had Phate to thank.

Phate then hacked into the San Jose City Planning and Zoning Board computer files and found a construction proposal, submitted by the principal of St. Francis Academy, who'd wanted to put up a gated wall and needed P approval. Phate downloaded the documents and printed out diagrams of the school itself and the grounds.

As he was examining the diagrams his machine beeped and a box flashed onto the screen, alerting him that he'd received an e-mail from Shawn.

He felt the ping of excitement he always did when Shawn sent a message. This reaction struck him as significant, an important insight into Phate's - no, make that Jon Holloway's - personal development. He'd grown up in a household where love was as rare as money was plentiful and he knew that he'd developed into a cold, distant person.

He'd felt this way toward everyone - his family, fellow workers, classmates and the few people he'd tried to have relationships with. And yet the depth of what Phate felt for Shawn proved that he wasn't emotionally dead, that he had within him a vast well of love.

Eager to read the message he logged off the planning and zoning network and called up the e-mail. But as he read the stark words the smile slipped from his face, his breath grew rapid, his pulse increased.

"Oh, Christ," he muttered.

The gist of the e-mail was that the police were much further along on his trail than he'd anticipated. They even knew about the killings in Portland and Virginia.

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Then he glanced at the second paragraph and got no further than the reference to Milliken Park. No, no

He now had a real problem.

Phate rose from his desk and hurried downstairs to the basement of his house. He glanced at another smear of dried blood on the floor - from the Lara Gibson character - and then opened a footlocker. From it he took his dark, stained knife. He walked to the closet, opened it and flicked the light on. Ten minutes later he was in his Jaguar, speeding onto the freeway. In the beginning God created the Advanced Research Projects Agency network, which was called ARPAnet, and the ARPAnet flourished and begat the Milnet, and the ARPAnet and the Milnet begat the Internet, and the Internet and its issue, Usenet newsgroups and the World Wide Web, became a trinity that changed the life of His people forever and ever.

Andy Anderson - who'd described the Net thus when he taught classes on computer history - thought of this slightly too-witty description now as he drove through Palo Alto and saw Stanford University ahead of him. For it was at the nearby Stanford Research Institute that the Department of Defense had established the Internet's predecessor in 1969 to link the SRI with UCLA, the University of California at Santa Barbara and the University of Utah.

The reverence he felt for the site, however, faded quickly as he drove on through misty rain and saw the deserted hill of Hacker's Knoll ahead of him, in John Milliken Park. Normally the place would be crowded with young people swapping software and tales of their cyber exploits. Today, though, the cold April drizzle had emptied the place.

He parked, pulled on the rumpled gray rain hat his six-year-old daughter had given him as a birthday present and climbed out of the car, striding through the grass, as streamers of rain flew from his shoes. He was discouraged by the lack of possible witnesses who might have a lead to Peter Fowler, the gunrunner. Still, there was a covered bridge in the middle of the park; sometimes kids hung out there when it was rainy or cold.

But as Anderson approached he saw that the bridge too was deserted. He paused and looked around. The only people here clearly weren't hackers: an elderly woman walking a dog, and a businessman making a cell phone call under the awning of one of the nearby university buildings.

Anderson recalled a coffee shop in downtown Palo Alto, near the Hotel California. It was a place where geeks gathered to sip strong coffee and swap tales of their outrageous hacks. He decided to try the restaurant and see if anyone had heard about Peter Fowler or somebody selling knives in the area. If not, he'd try the computer science building and ask some of the professors and grad students if they'd seen anybody whoƒ


Page 10

Then the detective saw motion nearby.

Fifty feet away was a young man, walking furtively through the bushes toward the bridge. He was looking around uneasily, clearly paranoid.

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Anderson ducked behind a thick stand of juniper, his heart pounding like a pile driver - because this was, he knew, Lara Gibson's killer. He was in his twenties and was wearing the blue jean jacket that must've shed the denim fibers found on the woman's body. He had blond hair and was clean shaven; the beard and mustache he'd worn in the bar had been fake, glued on with the theatrical adhesive. Social engineering

Then the man's jacket fell away for a moment and Anderson could see, protruding from the waistband of the man's jeans, the knobby hilt of a Ka-bar knife. The killer quickly pulled the jacket closed and continued to the covered bridge, where he stepped into the shadows and peered out. Anderson remained out of sight. He made a call to the state police's field operations central dispatch. A moment later he heard the dispatcher answer and ask for his badge number.

"Four three eight nine two," Anderson whispered in reply. "Request immediate backup. I've got a visual on a suspect in a homicide. I'm in John Milliken Park, Palo Alto, southeast corner."

"Copy, four three eight," the man replied. "Is suspect armed?"

"I see a knife. I don't know about any firearms."

"Is he in a vehicle?"

"Negative," Anderson said. "He's on foot at the moment." The dispatcher asked him to hold on. Anderson stared at the killer, squinting hard, as if that would keep him frozen in place. He whispered to central, "What's the ETA of that backup?"

"One moment, four three eight Okay, be advised, they'll be there in twelve minutes."

"Can't you get somebody here faster than that?"

"Negative, four three eight. Can you stay with him?"

"I'll try."

But just then the man began walking again. He left the bridge and started down the sidewalk.

"He's on the move, central. He's heading west through the middle of the park toward some university buildings, I'll stay with him and keep you posted on his location."

"Copy that, four three eight. CAU is on its way."

CAU? he wondered. What the hell was that again? Oh, right: closest available unit. Hugging the trees and brush, Anderson moved closer to the bridge, keeping out of the killer's sight. What had he come back here for? To find another victim? To cover up some traces of the earlier crime? To buy more weapons from Peter Fowler?

He glanced at his watch. Less than a minute had passed. Should he call back and tell the unit to roll upGenerated by ABC Amber LIT Converter, http://www.processtext.com/abclit.html

silently? He didn't know. There were probably procedures for handling this sort of situation - procedures that cops like Frank Bishop and Bob Shelton would surely know well. Anderson was used to a very different kind of police work. His stakeouts were conducted sitting in vans, staring at the screen of a Toshiba laptop connected to a Cellscope radio directional-finding system. Then he remembered: his weapon

He looked down at the chunky butt of the Clock. He pulled it off his hip and pointed it downward, finger outside the trigger, as he vaguely remembered he ought to do.

Then, through the mist, he heard a faint electronic trill.

The killer had gotten a phone call. He pulled a cell phone off his belt and held it to his ear. He glanced at his watch, spoke a few words. Then he put the phone away and turned back the way he'd come. Hell, he's going back to his car, the detective thought. I'm going lose him Ten minutes till the backup gets here. Jesus

Andy Anderson decided he had no choice. He was going to do something he'd never done: make an arrest alone.

CHAPTER NINE

Anderson moved next to a low bush. The killer was walking quickly along the path, hands in his pockets. That was good, Anderson decided - the hands encumbered, which would make it more difficult to get to the knife.

But wait, he wondered: What if he was hiding a pistol in his pocket?

Okay, keep that in mind.

And remember too that he might have Mace or pepper spray or tear gas. And remember that he might simply turn and sprint away. The cop wondered what he'd do then. What were the fleeing felon rules? Could he shoot the killer in the back?

He'd busted dozens of criminals but he'd always been backed up by cops like Frank Bishop, for whom guns and high-risk arrests were as routine as compiling a program in C++ was for Anderson. The detective now moved closer to the killer, thankful the rain was obscuring the sound of his footsteps. They were paralleling each other now on opposite sides of a row of tall boxwood. Anderson kept low and squinted through the rain. He got a good look at the killer's face. An intense curiosity coursed through him: What made this young man commit the terrible crimes he was responsible for? This curiosity was similar to what he felt when examining software code or puzzling over the crimes CCU investigated but it was stronger now because, though he understood the principles of computer science and the crimes that that science made possible, a criminal like this was a pure enigma to Andy Anderson. Except for the knife, except for the gun he might or might not be clutching in his hidden hand, the man seemed benign, almost friendly.

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The detective wiped his hand on his shirt to dry some of the rain and gripped the pistol firmly once more. He continued on. This's a hell of a lot different from taking down hackers at a public terminal in the mall or serving warrants in houses where the biggest dangers were the plates of putrid food sitting stacked next to a teenager's machine.

Closer, closer

Twenty feet farther on, their paths would converge. Soon Anderson would have no more cover and he'd have to make his move.

For an instant his courage broke and he stopped. He thought of his wife and daughter. And how alien he felt here, how completely out of his depth he was. He thought: Just follow the killer back to his car, get the license plate and follow as best you can.

But then Anderson thought of the deaths this man had caused and the deaths that he'd cause again if not stopped. This might be their only chance to capture him.

He started forward again along the path that would intersect with the killer's. Ten feet.

Eight

A deep breath.

Watch the hand in the pocket, he reminded himself.

A bird flew close - a gull - and the killer turned to look at it, startled. He laughed. And that was when Anderson burst from the bushes, shoving the pistol toward the killer, shouting,

"Freeze! Police! Hand out of your pocket!"

The man spun around to face the detective, muttering, "Shit." He hesitated for a moment. Anderson brought the gun even with the killer's chest. "Now! Move slow!" The hands appeared. Anderson stared at the fingers. What was he holding?

He almost laughed. It was a rabbit's foot. A lucky key chain.

"Drop it."

He did and then lifted his hands in the resigned, familiar way of someone who's been through an arrest before.

"Lie down on the ground and keep your arms spread."

"Jesus," the man spat out. "Jesus. How the fuck did you find me?"

"Do it," Anderson shouted in a quaking voice.

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The killer lay down on the ground, half on the grass and half on the sidewalk. Anderson was kneeling over him, shoving his gun into the man's neck as he put the cuffs on, an awkward feat that took several tries. He then frisked the killer and relieved him of the Ka-bar knife and cell phone and wallet. He had been carrying a small pistol, it turned out, but that had been in the pocket of his jacket. The weapons, wallet, phone and rabbit's foot went into a pile on the grass nearby. Anderson stepped back, his hands shaking from the adrenaline.

"Where the fuck d'you come from?" the man muttered.

Anderson didn't respond but just stared at his prisoner as the shock of what he'd done was replaced with euphoria. What a story he'd have to tell! His wife would love it. He wanted to tell his little daughter but that would have to wait a few years. Oh, and Stan, his neighbors, whoƒ

Then Anderson realized that he'd forgotten the Miranda warning. He didn't want to blow an arrest like this by making a technical mistake. He found the card in his wallet and read the words stiffly. The killer muttered that he understood his rights.

"Officer, you okay?" a man's voice called. "You need any help?" Anderson glanced behind him. It was the businessman he'd seen under the awning. His dark suit, expensive-looking, was dampened by the rain. "I've got a cell phone. You need to use it?"

"No, no, that's okay, everything's under control." Anderson turned back to his prisoner. He holstered his weapon and pulled out his own cell phone to report in. He hit redial but for some reason the call wouldn't go through. He glanced at the screen and the phone reported, NO SIGNAL. That was odd. Why-And in an instant - an instant of pure horror - he realized that no street cop in the world would've let an unidentified civilian get behind him during an arrest. As he groped for his pistol and started to turn, the businessman grabbed his shoulder and the detective felt an explosion of pain in his back. Anderson cried out and dropped to his knees. The man stabbed him again with his own Kabar knife.

"No, please, no"

The man lifted away Anderson's gun and kicked him forward onto the wet sidewalk. He then walked over to the young man Anderson had just handcuffed. He rolled him over on his side and looked down.

"Man, I'm fucking glad you're here," the cuffed man said. "This guy comes out of nowhere and I thought I was fucked. Get me out of these things, will you?

"Shhhh," the businessman said and turned back to the CCU cop, who was struggling to reach the terrible pain in his back, trying to touch it. If he could only touch it then the searing agony would go away. The attacker crouched down next to him.

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"You're the one," Anderson whispered to the businessman. "You killed Lara Gibson." His eyes flicked to the man he'd handcuffed. "And he's Fowler."

The man nodded. "That's right." Then he said, "And you're Andy Anderson." The awe in his voice was genuine. "I didn't think it'd be you coming after me. I mean, I knew you worked for the Computer Crimes Unit and'd be investigating the Gibson case. But not here, not in the field. Amazing Andy Anderson. You're a total wizard."

"Please I've got a family! Please."

Then the killer did something odd.

Holding the knife in one hand, he touched the cop's abdomen with the other. Then he slid his fingers up slowly to the detective's chest, counting ribs, beneath which his heart was beating so very quickly.

"Please," Anderson pleaded.

The killer paused and lowered his head to Anderson's ear. "You never know somebody the way you know them at a moment like this," he whispered, then resumed his eerie reconnaissance of the cop's chest.

II

DEMONS

He was a new generation of hacker, not the third generation inspired by innocent wonder but a disenfranchised fourth generation driven by anger.

- Jonathan Littman, The Watchman

CHAPTER TEN

At 1:00 P.M. a tall man in a gray suit walked into the Computer Crimes Unit. He was accompanied by a stocky woman wearing a forest-green pantsuit. Two uniformed state troopers were beside them. Their shoulders were damp from the rain and their faces were grim. They walked to Stephen Miller's cubicle.

The tall man said, "Steve."

Miller stood, brushed his hand through his thinning hair. He said, "Captain Bernstein."

"I've got something to tell you," the captain said in that tone that Wyatt Gillette recognized immediately as the precursor to tragic news. His look included Linda Sanchez and Tony Mott. They joined him. "I wanted to come in person. We just found Andy Anderson's body in Milliken Park. It looks like the perp

- the one in the Gibson woman's killing - got him."

"Oh," Sanchez choked, her hand going to her mouth. She began to cry. "Not Andy No!" Mott's face grew dark. He muttered something Gillette couldn't hear.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter, http://www.processtext.com/abclit.html

Patricia Nolan had spent the past half hour sitting with Gillette, speculating about what software the killer might've used to invade Lara Gibson's computer. As they'd talked she'd opened her purse, taken out a small bottle and, incongruously, started applying nail polish. Now, the tiny brush drooped in her hand.

"Oh, my God."

Stephen Miller closed his eyes momentarily. "What happened?" he asked in a shaky voice. The door pushed open and Frank Bishop and Bob Shelton hurried into the room. "We heard," Shelton said. "We got back here as fast as we could. It's true?" The tableau of shocked faces before them, though, left little doubt. Sanchez asked through the tears, "Have you talked to his wife? Oh, God, and he's got that little girl, Connie. She's only five or six."

"The commander and a counselor are on their way over to the house right now."

"What the hell happened?" Miller repeated.

Captain Bernstein said, "We have a pretty good idea -there was a witness, a woman walking her dog in the park. Seems like Andy'd just collared somebody named Peter Fowler."

"Right," Shelton said. "He was the dealer we think supplied the perp with some of his weapons." Captain Bernstein continued, "Only it looks like he must've thought that Fowler was the killer. He was blond and wearing a denim jacket. Those denim fibers crime scene found on Lara Gibson must've been stuck to the knife the killer bought from Fowler. Anyway, while Andy was busy cuffing Fowler, a white male came up behind him. He was late twenties, dark hair, navy blue suit and carrying a briefcase. He stabbed Andy in the back. The woman went to call for help and that was all she saw. The killer stabbed Fowler to death too."


Page 11

"Why didn't he call for backup?" Mott asked.

Bernstein frowned. "Well, now, that was odd - we checked his cell phone and the last number he'd dialed was to dispatch. It was a completed three-minute call. But there was no record of central receiving it and none of the dispatchers talked to him. Nobody can figure out how that happened."

"Easy," the hacker said. "The killer cracked the switch."

"You're Gillette," the captain said. He didn't need a nod to verify his identity; the tracking anklet was very evident. "What's that mean, 'cracked the switch'?"

"He hacked into the cell phone company's computer and had all of Andy's outgoing calls sent to his own phone. Probably pretended he was the dispatcher and told him a squad car was on the way. Then he shut down Andy's phone service so he couldn't call anyone else for help." The captain nodded slowly. "He did all that? Jesus, what the hell're we up against?"

"The best social engineer I've ever heard of," Gillette said.

"Goddamit!" Shelton shouted at him. "Why don't you just can the fucking computer buzzwords?"Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter, http://www.processtext.com/abclit.html

Frank Bishop touched his partner's arm, said to the captain, "This'd be my fault, sir."

"Your fault?" Captain Bernstein asked the thin detective. "What do you mean?" Bishop's slow eyes moved from Gillette to the floor. "Andy was a white-collar cop. He wasn't qualified for a takedown."

"He was still a trained detective," the captain said.

"Training's a lot different than what goes down on the street." Bishop looked up. "In my opinion, sir." The woman who'd accompanied Bernstein stirred. The captain glanced at her and then announced, "This is Detective Susan Wilkins from Homicide in Oakland. She'll be taking over the case. She's got a task force of troopers - crime scene and tactical - up and running at headquarters in San Jose." Turning to Bishop, the captain said, "Frank, I've okayed that request of yours - for the MARINKILL

case. There's a report that the perps were spotted an hour ago outside a convenience store ten miles south of Walnut Creek. It looks like they're headed this way." He glanced at Miller. "Steve, you'll take over what Andy was doing - the computer side of the case. Working with Susan."

"Of course, Captain. You bet."

The captain turned to Patricia Nolan. "You're the one the commander called us about, right? The security consultant from that computer outfit? Horizon On-Line?"

She nodded.

"They asked if you'd stay on board too."

"They?"

"The powers-that-be in Sacramento."

"Oh. Sure, I'd be happy to."

Gillette didn't merit a direct address. The captain said to Miller, "The troopers here'll take the prisoner back to San Jose."

"Look," Gillette protested, "don't send me back."

"What?"

"You need me. I have to--"

The captain dismissed him with a wave and turned to Susan Wilkins, gesturing at the white-board and talking to her about the case.

"Captain," Gillette called, "you can't send me back."

"We need his help," Nolan said emphatically.

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But the captain glanced at the two large troopers who'd accompanied him here. They cuffed Gillette, positioned themselves on either side - as if he himself were the murderer - and started out of the office.

"No," Gillette protested. "You don't know how dangerous this man is!" Another look from the captain was all it took. The troopers escorted him quickly toward the exit. Gillette started to ask Bishop to intervene but the detective was elsewhere mentally, apparently already on his MARINKILL assignment. He stared vacantly at the floor.

"All right," Gillette heard Detective Susan Wilkins say to Miller, Sanchez and Mott. "I'm sorry for what's happened to your boss but I've been through this before and I'm sure you've been through it before and the best way to show that you cared for him is to apprehend this perpetrator and that's what we're going to do. Now, I think we're all on the same page in terms of our approach. I'm up to speed on the file and the crime scene report and I've got a proactive plan in mind. The preliminary report is that Detective Anderson - as well as this Fowler individual - were stabbed. Cause of death was trauma to the heart. They--"

"Wait!" Gillette shouted just as he was about to be led out the door. Wilkins paused. Bernstein gestured to the cops to get him out. But Gillette said quickly, "What about Lara Gibson? Was she stabbed in the chest too?"

"What's your point?" Bernstein asked.

"Was she?" Gillette asked emphatically. "And the victims in the other killings - in Portland and in Virginia?"

No one said anything for a moment. Finally Bob Shelton glanced at the report on the Lara Gibson killing.

"Cause of death was a stab wound to--"

"The heart, right?" Gillette asked.

Shelton glanced at his partner then to Bernstein. He nodded. Tony Mott reminded, "We don't know about Virginia and Oregon - he erased the files."

"It'll be the same," Gillette said. "I guarantee it." Shelton asked, "How'd you know that?"

"Because I know his motive now."

"Which is?" Bernstein asked.

"Access."

"What does that mean?" Shelton muttered belligerently.

Patricia Nolan said, "That's what all hackers're after. Access to information, to secrets, to data."

"When you hack," Gillette said, "access is God."Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter, http://www.processtext.com/abclit.html

"What's that got to do with the stabbings?"

"The killer's a MUDhead."

"Sure," Tony Mott said. "I know MUDs." Miller did too, it seemed. He was nodding. Gillette said, "Another acronym. It stands for multiuser domain or dimension. It's a bunch of specialized chat rooms - places on the Internet where people log on for role-playing games. Adventure games, knights' quests, science fiction, war. The people who play MUDs're, you know, pretty decent businessmen, geeks, a lot of students, professors. But three or four years ago there was a big controversy about this game called Access."

"I heard about that," Miller said. "A lot of Internet providers refused to carry it." Gillette nodded. "The way it worked was that there was a virtual city. It was populated with characters who carried on a normal life - going to work, dating, raising a family, whatever. But on the anniversary of a famous death - like John Kennedy's assassination or the day Lennon was shot or Good Friday - a random number generator picked one of the players to be a killer. He had one week to work his way into people's lives and kill as many of them as he could.

"The killer could pick anyone to be his victim but the more challenging the murder the more points he got. A politician with a bodyguard was worth ten points. An armed cop was worth fifteen. The one limitation on the killer was that he had to get close enough to the victims to stab them in the heart with a knife - that was the ultimate form of access."

"Jesus, that's our perp in a nutshell," Tony Mott said. "The knife, stab wounds to the chest, the anniversary dates, going after people who're hard to kill. He won the game in Portland and Virginia. And here he is, playing it in Silicon Valley." The young cop added cynically, "He's at the expert level."

"Level?" Bishop asked.

"In computer games," Gillette explained, "you move up in the degree of challenge from the beginning level to the hardest - the expert - level."

"So, this whole thing is a fucking game to him?" Shelton said. "That's a little hard to believe."

"No," Patricia Nolan said. "I'm afraid it's pretty easy to believe. The FBI's Behavioral Science Unit in Quantico considers criminal hackers compulsive, progressive offenders. Just like lust-driven serial killers. Like Wyatt said, access is God. They have to find increasingly intense crimes to satisfy themselves. This guy's spent so much time in the Machine World he probably doesn't see any difference between a digital character and a human being." With a glance at the white-board Nolan continued, "I'd even say that, to him, the machines themselves're more important than people. A human death is nothing; a crashed hard drive, well, that's a tragedy."

Bernstein nodded. "That's helpful. We'll consider it." He nodded at Gillette. "But you've still got to go back to the prison."

"No!" the hacker cried.

"Look, we're already in deep water getting a federal prisoner released under a John Doe order. AndyGenerated by ABC Amber LIT Converter, http://www.processtext.com/abclit.html

was willing to take that risk. I'm not. That's all there is to it." He pointed at the troopers and they led the hacker out of the dinosaur pen. It seemed to Gillette that they gripped him harder this time - as if they could sense his desperation and desire to flee. Nolan sighed and shook her head, gave a mournful smile of farewell to Gillette as he was led out. Detective Susan Wilkins started up her monologue again but her voice soon faded as Gillette stepped outside. The rain was coming down steadily. One of the troopers said, "Sorry about that," though whether it was for his failed attempt to stay at CCU or the absence of an umbrella Gillette didn't know. The trooper eased him down into the backseat of the squad car and slammed the door. Gillette closed his eyes, rested his head against the glass. Heard the hollow sound of the rain pelting the top of the car.

He felt utter dismay at this defeat.

Lord, how close he'd come

He thought of the months in prison. He thought of all the planning he'd done. Wasted. It was allƒ

The car door opened.

Frank Bishop was crouching down. Water ran down his face, glistening on his sideburns and staining his shirt, but his sprayed hair, at least, was impervious to the drops. "Got a question for you, sir." Sir?

Gillette asked, "What's that?"

"That MUD stuff. That's not hogwash?"

"Nope. The killer's playing his own version of that game - a real-life version."

"Is anybody still playing it now? On the Internet, I mean."

"I doubt it. Real MUDheads were so offended by it that they sabotaged the games and spammed the players until they stopped."

The detective glanced back at the rusting soda machine in front of the CCU building. He then asked,

"That fellow in there, Stephen Miller - he's a lightweight, isn't he?" Gillette thought for a moment and said, "He's from the elder days."

"The what?"

The phrase meant the sixties and seventies - that revolutionary era in the history of computing that ended more or less with the release of Digital Equipment Corporation's PDF-10, the computer that changed the face of the Machine World forever. But Gillette didn't explain this. He said simply, "He was good, I'd guess, but he's past his prime now. And in Silicon Valley that means, yeah, he's a lightweight."Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter, http://www.processtext.com/abclit.html

"I see." Bishop straightened up, looking out at the traffic that sped along the nearby freeway. He then said to the troopers, "Bring this man back inside, please."

They looked at each other and, when Bishop nodded emphatically, hustled Gillette out of the squad car. As they walked back into the CCU office Gillette heard Susan Wilkins's voice still droning on, " liaise with security at Mobile America and Pac Bell if need be and I've established lines of communication with the tactical teams. Now, in my estimation it's probably sixty-forty more efficient to be located closer to main resources so we'll be moving the Computer Crimes Unit to headquarters in San Jose. I understand you're missing some administrative support in terms of your receptionist and at HQ we'll be able to mitigate that"

Gillette tuned out the words and wondered what Bishop was up to.

The cop walked up to Bob Shelton, with whom he whispered for a moment. The conversation ended with Bishop's asking, "You with me on this?"

The stocky cop surveyed Gillette with a disdainful gaze and then muttered something grudgingly affirmative.

As Wilkins continued to speak, Captain Bernstein frowned and walked up to Bishop, who said to him,

"I'd like to run this case, sir, and I want Gillette here to work it with us."

"You wanted the MARINKILL case."

"I did, sir. But I changed my mind."

"I know what you said before, Frank. But Andy's death

- that wasn't your fault. He should've known his limits. Nobody forced him to go after that guy alone."

"I don't care if it was my fault or not. That's not what this is about. It's about collaring a dangerous perp before someone else gets killed."

Captain Bernstein caught his meaning and glanced at Wilkins. "Susan's run major homicides before. She's good."

"I know she is, sir. We've worked together. But she's textbook. She's never worked in the trenches, the way I have. I ought to be running the case. But the other problem is that we're way out of our league here. We need somebody sharp on this one." The stiff hair nodded toward Gillette. "And I think he's as good as the perp."

"Probably he is," Bernstein muttered. "But that's not my worry."

"I'll ride point on this one, sir. Something goes bad, it can all come down on me. Nobody else has to take any heat."

Patricia Nolan joined them and said, "Captain, stopping this guy's going to take more than fingerprints and canvassing witnesses."

Shelton sighed. "Welcome to the new fucking millennium."Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter, http://www.processtext.com/abclit.html

Bernstein reluctantly nodded to Bishop. "Okay, you got the case. You'll have full tactical and crime scene backup. And pick some people from Homicide in San Jose to help you."

"Huerto Ramirez and Tim Morgan," Bishop said without hesitating. "I'd like them here ASAP if you could arrange that, sir. I want to brief everybody."

The captain called HQ to summon the detectives here. He hung up. "They're on their way." Bernstein then broke the news to Susan Wilkins and, more perplexed than upset at the loss of the new assignment, she left. The captain asked Bishop, "You want to move the operation back to headquarters?" Bishop said, "No, we'll stay here, sir." He nodded toward a row of computer screens. "This's where we'll do most of the work, I've got a feeling."


Page 12

"Well, good luck, Frank."

Bishop said to the troopers who'd come to take Gillette back to San Ho, "You can take the cuffs off." One of the men did this then he pointed at the hacker's leg. "How 'bout the anklet?"

"No," Bishop said, offering a very uncharacteristic smile. "I think we'll keep that on." A short while later two men joined the team in CCU: a broad, swarthy Latino who was extremely muscular, Gold's Gym muscular, and a tall, sandy-haired detective in one of those stylish four-button men's suits, dark shirt and dark tie. Bishop introduced Huerto Ramirez and Tim Morgan, the detectives from headquarters Bishop had requested.

"Now, I'd like to say a word," Bishop said, tucking his unruly shirt into his slacks and stepping in front of the team. He looked over everybody, holding their gazes for a moment. "This fellow we're after - he's somebody who's perfectly willing to kill anybody in his way and that includes law enforcers and innocents. He's an expert at social engineering." A glance toward the newcomers, Ramirez and Morgan.

"Which is basically disguise and diversion. So it's important that you continually remind yourself what we know about him."

Bishop continued his low, unhesitant monologue. "I think we have enough confirmation to place him in his late twenties. He's medium build, maybe blond but probably dark-haired, clean shaven but sometimes disguised with fake facial hair. He prefers a Ka-bar as a murder weapon and wants to get close enough to his victims to inflict a fatal chest wound. He can break into the phone company and interrupt service or transfer calls. He can hack into law enforcement computers" - Gillette now received a glance - "excuse me, crack into computers and destroy police records. He likes challenges, he thinks of killing as a game. He's spent a lot of time on the East Coast and he's somewhere in the Silicon Valley area but we have no exact locale. We think he's bought some items for his disguises at a theatrical supply store on Camino Real in Mountain View. He's a progressive, lust-driven sociopath who's lost touch with reality and is treating what he's doing like it's some big computer game."

Gillette was astonished. The detective's back was to the white-board as he recited all of this information. The hacker realized that he'd misjudged the man. All the time that the detective had seemed to stare absently out the window or at the floor he'd been absorbing the evidence. Bishop lowered his head but kept his eyes on them all. "I'm not going to lose anybody else on this team.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter, http://www.processtext.com/abclit.html

So watch your backs and don't trust another living soul - even people you think you know. Go on this assumption: Nothing is what it seems to be."

Gillette found himself nodding along with the others.

"Now - about his victims We know that he's going after people who're hard to get close to. People with bodyguards and security systems. The harder to get to the better. We'll have to keep that in mind when we're trying to anticipate him. We're going to keep to the general plan for the investigation. Huerto and Tim, I want you two to run the Anderson crime scene in Palo Alto. Canvass everybody you can find in and around Milliken Park. Bob and I didn't get a chance to find that witness who might've seen the killer's vehicle outside the restaurant where Ms. Gibson was killed. That's what he and I'll do. And, Wyatt, you're going to head up the computer side of the investigation." Gillette shook his head, not sure he'd understood Bishop correctly. "I'm sorry?"

"You," Bishop responded, "are going to head up the computer side of the investigation." No further explanation. Stephen Miller said nothing though his eyes stared coldly at the hacker as he continued to pointlessly rearrange the sloppy piles of disks and paperwork on his desk. Bishop asked, "Should we be worried about him listening to our phones? I mean, that's how he killed Andy."

Patricia Nolan replied, "It's a risk, I suppose, but the killer'd have to monitor hundreds of frequencies for the numbers of our cell phones."

"I agree," Gillette said. "And even if he cracked the switch he'd have to sit with a headset all day long, listening to our conversations. Doesn't sound like he's got the time to do that. In the park he was close to Andy. That's how he got his specific frequency."

Besides, as it turned out there wasn't much to do about the risk. Miller explained that, while the CCU did have a scrambler, it would only work when the caller on the other end of the line had a scrambler as well. As for secure cell phones Miller explained, "They're five thousand bucks each." And said nothing more. Meaning, apparently, that such toys weren't in the CCU budget and never would be. Bishop then sent Ramirez and the GQ cop, Tim Morgan, to Palo Alto. After they'd left, Bishop asked Gillette, "You were telling Andy that you thought you could find out more about how this killer got into Ms. Gibson's computer?"

"That's right. Whatever this guy is doing has to've caused some buzz in the hacker underground. What I'll do is go online and--"

Bishop nodded to a workstation. "Just do what you have to do and give us a report in a half hour."

"Just like that?" Gillette asked.

"Make it less if you can. Twenty minutes."

"Uhm." Stephen Miller stirred.

"What is it?" the detective asked him.

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Gillette was expecting the cybercop to make a comment about his demotion. But that wasn't what he had in mind. "The thing is," Miller protested, "Andy said he wasn't ever supposed to go online. And then there's that court order that said he couldn't. It was part of his sentencing."

"That's all true," Bishop said, eyes scanning the whiteboard. "But Andy's dead and the court isn't running this case. I am." He glanced over at Gillette with a look of polite impatience. "So I'd appreciate it if you'd get going."

CHAPTER ELEVEN

Wyatt Gillette settled himself in the cheap office chair. He was in a dim workstation cubicle in the back of the CCU, quiet, away from the others on the team.

Staring at the blinking cursor on the screen, he rolled the chair closer and wiped his hands on his pants. Then his callused fingertips rose and began pounding furiously on the black keyboard. His eyes never left the screen. Gillette knew the location of every character and symbol on the keyboard and touch-typed a 110 words a minute with perfect accuracy. When he was starting to hack years ago he found that eight fingers were too slow so he'd taught himself a new keyboarding technique in which he used his thumbs on certain keys too, not just reserving them for the space bar.

Weak otherwise, his forearms and fingers were pure muscle; in prison, where most inmates spend hours lifting iron in the yard, Gillette had done only fingertip push-ups to stay in shape for his passion. Now, the plastic keyboard danced under his hammering as he prepared to go online. Most of today's Internet is a combination shopping mall, USA Today, multiplex cinema and amusement park. Browsers and search engines are populated with cartoon characters and decorated with pretty pictures (plenty of those damn ads too). The point-and-click technology of the mouse can be mastered by a three-year-old. Simpleminded Help menus await at every new window. This is the Internet as packaged for the public through the glossy facade of the commercialized World Wide Web. But the real Internet - the Internet of the true hacker, lurking behind the Web - is a wild, raw place, where hackers use complicated commands, telnet utilities and communications software stripped bare as a dragster to sail throughout the world at, literally, the speed of light. This is what Wyatt Gillette was about to do.

There was a preliminary matter to take care of, though. A mythological wizard wouldn't go off on a quest without his magic wands and book of spells and potions; computer wizards have to do the same. One of the first skills hackers learn is the art of hiding software. Since you have to assume that an enemy hacker, if not the police or FBI, will at some point seize or destroy your machine, you never leave the only copy of your tools on your hard drive and backup disks in your home. You hide them in a distant computer, one that has no link to you.

Most hackers store their stash in university computers because their security is notoriously lacking. But Gillette had spent years working on his software tools, writing code from scratch in many cases, as well as modifying existing programs to suit his needs. It'd be a tragedy for him to lose all that work - and pure hell for many of the world's computer users since Gillette's programs would help even a mediocre hacker crack into nearly any corporate or government site.

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So he cached his tools in a slightly more secure location than the data-processing department of Dartmouth or the University of Tulsa. With a glance behind him now to make sure that no one was

"shoulder surfing" - standing behind him and reading the screen - he typed a command and linked the CCU's computer with another one several states away. After a moment these words scrolled onto the screen:

Welcome to the United States Air Force Los Alamos Nuclear Weapons Research Facility

#Username?

In response to this request he typed Jarmstrong. Gillette's father's name was John Armstrong Gillette. It was generally a bad idea for a hacker to pick a screen name or username that had any connection with his real life but he'd allowed himself this one concession to his human side. The computer then asked:

#Password?

He typed 4%xTtfllk5$$60%40 which was, unlike the user-name, pure, stone-cold hacker. This series of characters had been excruciating to memorize (part of his mental daily calisthenics in prison was recalling two dozen passwords as long as this one) but it would be impossible for someone to guess and, because it was seventeen characters long, would take a supercomputer weeks to crack. An IBM-clone personal computer would have to work continuously for hundreds of years before it spit out a password this complicated.

The cursor blinked for a moment then the screen shifted and he read: Welcome, Capt. J. Armstrong

In three minutes he'd downloaded a number of files from the fictional Captain Armstrong's account. His weaponry included the famous SATAN program (the Security Administer Tool for Analyzing Networks, used by both sysadmins and hackers to check the "hackability" of computer networks), several breaking and entering programs that would let him grab root access on various types of machines and networks, a custom-made Web browser and newsreader, a cloaking program to hide his presence while he was in someone else's computer and which would delete traces of his activities when he logged off, sniffer programs that would "sniff out" - find - user-names, passwords and other helpful information on the Net or in someone's computer, a communications program to send that data back to him, encryption programs and lists of hacker Web sites and anonymizer sites (commercial services that would in effect

"launder" e-mails and messages so that the recipient couldn't trace Gillette). The last of the tools he downloaded was a program he'd hacked together a few years ago, HyperTrace, which could track down other users on the Net.

With these tools downloaded onto a high-capacity disk Gillette logged out of the Los Alamos site. He paused for a moment, flexed his fingers and then sat forward. Pounding on the keys with the subtlety of a sumo wrestler once more, Gillette entered the Net. He began the search in the multiuser domains because of the killer's apparent motivation - playing a Real World version of the infamous Access game. No one Gillette queried on the subject, however, had played Access or knew anyone who had -or so they claimed. Still, Gillette came away with a few leads.

From the MUDs he moved to the World Wide Web, which everyone talks about but few could define. The WWW is simply an international network of computers, accessed through special computer protocols that let users see graphics and hear sounds and leap through a Web site, and to other sites, byGenerated by ABC Amber LIT Converter, http://www.processtext.com/abclit.html

simply clicking on certain places on their screen - hyperlinks. Prior to the Web most of the information on the Net was in text form and navigating from one site to another was extremely cumbersome. The Web is still in its adolescence, having been born a little over a decade ago at CERN, the Swiss physics institute. Gillette searched through the underground hacking sites on the Web - the eerie, Tenderloin districts of the Net. Gaining entry to some of these sites required an answer to an esoteric question on hacking, finding and clicking on a microscopic dot on the screen or supplying a passcode. None of these barriers, though, barred Wyatt Gillette for more than a minute or two.

From site to site to site, losing himself further and further in the Blue Nowhere, prowling through computers that might have been in Moscow or Cape Town or Mexico City. Or right next door in Cupertino or Santa Clara.

Gillette sped through this world so quickly that he was reluctant to take his fingers off the keys for fear of losing his stride. So rather than jotting notes with pen and paper, as most hackers did, he copied material he thought was useful and pasted it into a word-processing window he kept open on the screen. From the Web he searched the Usenet - the collection of 80,000 newsgroups, in which people interested in a particular subject can post messages, pictures, programs, movies and sound clips. Gillette scoured the classic hacking newsgroups like alt.2600, alt.hack, alt.virus and alt.bina-ries.hacking.utilities, cutting and pasting whatever seemed relevant. He found references to dozens of newsgroups that hadn't existed when he'd gone to jail. He jumped to those groups, scrolled through them and found mention of still others.

More scrolling, more reading, more cutting and pasting.

A snap under his fingers and on the screen he saw:

mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm

One of his powerful keystrokes had jammed the keyboard, which had often happened when he'd been hacking. Gillette unplugged it, tossed it on the floor behind him, hooked up another keyboard and started typing again.


Page 13

He then moved to the Internet Relay Chat rooms. The IRC was an unregulated no-holds-barred series of networks where you could find real-time discussions among people who had similar interests. You typed your comment, hit the ENTER key and your words appeared on the screens of everyone who was logged into the room at that time. He logged into the room #hack (the rooms were designated by a number sign followed by a descriptive word). It was in this same room where he'd spent thousands of hours, sharing information, arguing and joking with fellow hackers around the world. After the IRC Gillette began searching through the BBS, bulletin boards, which are like Web sites but can be accessed for only the cost of a local phone call - no Internet service provider is required. Many were legitimate but many others - with names like DeathHack and Silent Spring - were the darkest parts of the online world. Completely unregulated and unmonitored, these were the places to go for recipes for bombs and poisonous gases and debilitating computer viruses that would wipe the hard drives of half the population of the world.

Following the leads - losing himself in Web sites, newsgroups, chat rooms and archives. Hunting This is what lawyers do when they paw through hoary old shelves searching for that one case that willGenerated by ABC Amber LIT Converter, http://www.processtext.com/abclit.html

save their client from execution, what sportsmen do easing through the grass toward where they thought they heard the snarl of a bear, what lovers do seeking the core of each other's lust Except that hunting in the Blue Nowhere isn't like searching library stacks or a field of tall grass or on your mate's smooth flesh; it's like prowling through the entire ever-expanding universe, which contains not only the known world and its unshared mysteries but worlds past and worlds yet to come. Endless.

Snap.

He had broken another key - the all-important E. Gillette flung this keyboard into the corner of the cubicle, where it joined its dead friend.

He plugged in a new one and kept going.

At 2:30 P.M. Gillette emerged from the cubicle. His back was racked with pure fiery pain from sitting frozen in one place. Yet he could still feel the exhilarating rush from that brief time he'd spent online and the fierce reluctance at leaving the machine.

In the main part of the CCU he found Bishop talking with Shelton; the others were on telephones or standing around the white-board, looking over the evidence. Bishop noticed Gillette first and fell silent.

"I've found something," the hacker said, holding up a stack of printouts.

"Tell us."

"Dumb it down," Shelton reminded. "What's the bottom line?"

"The bottom line," Gillette responded, "is that there's somebody named Phate. And we've got a real problem."

CHAPTER TWELVE

"Fate" Frank Bishop asked.

A Gillette said. "That's his username - his screen name. Only he spells it p-h-a-t-e. Like p-h phishing, remember? The way hackers do."

It's all in the spelling

"What's his real name?" Patricia Nolan asked.

"I don't know. Nobody seems to know much about him - he's a loner - but the people who've heard of him're scared as hell."

"A wizard?" Stephen Miller asked.

"Definitely a wizard."

Bishop asked, "Why do you think he's the killer?"

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Gillette flipped through the printouts. "Here's what I found. Phate and a friend of his, somebody named Shawn, wrote some software called Trapdoor. Now, 'trapdoor' in the computer world means a hole built into a security system that lets the software designers get back inside to fix problems without needing a passcode. Phate and Shawn use the same name for their script but this's a little different. It's a program that somehow lets them get inside anybody's computer."

"Trapdoor," Bishop mused. "Like a gallows, too."

"Like a gallows," Gillette echoed.

Nolan asked, "How does it work?"

Gillette was about to explain it to her in the language of the initiated then glanced at Bishop and Shelton. Dumb it down.

The hacker walked to one of the blank white-boards and drew a chart. He said, "The way information travels on the Net isn't like on a telephone. Everything sent online - an e-mail, music you listen to, a picture you download, the graphics on a Web site - is broken down into small fragments of data called

'packets.' When your browser requests something from a Web site it sends packets out into the Internet. At the receiving end the Web server computer reassembles your request and then sends its response also broken into packets - back to your machine."

"Why're they broken up?" Shelton asked.

Nolan answered, "So that a lot of different messages can be sent over the same wires at the same time. Also, if some of the packets get lost or corrupted your computer gets a notice about it and resends just the problem packets. You don't have to resend the whole message." Gillette pointed to his diagram and continued, "The packets are forwarded through the Internet by these routers - huge computers around the country that guide the packets to their final destination. Routers have real tight security but Phate's managed to crack into some of them and put a packet-sniffer inside."

"Which," Bishop said, "looks for certain packets, I assume."

"Exactly," Gillette continued. "It identifies them by somebody's screen name or the address of the machines the pack-ets're coming from or going to. When the sniffer finds the packets it's been waiting for it diverts them to Phate's computer. Once they're there Phate adds something to the packets." Gillette asked Miller, "You ever heard of stenanography?"

The cop shook his head. Tony Mott and Linda Sanchez weren't familiar with the term either but Patricia Nolan said, "That's hiding secret data in, say, pictures or sound files you're sending online. Spy stuff."

"Right," Gillette confirmed. "Encrypted data is woven right into the file itself - so that even if somebody intercepts your e-mail and reads it or looks at the picture you've sent all they'll see is an innocent-looking file and not the secret data. Well, that's what Phate's Trapdoor software does. Only it doesn't hide messages in the files - it hides an application."

"A working program?" Nolan said.

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"Yep. Then he sends it on its way to the victim."

Nolan shook her head. Her pale, doughy face revealed both shock and admiration. Her voice was hushed with awe as she said, "No one's ever done that before."

"What's this software that he sends?" Bishop asked.

"It's a demon," Gillette answered, drawing a second diagram to show how Trapdoor worked.

"Demon?" Shelton asked.

"There's a whole category of software called 'bots,'" Gillette explained. "Short for 'robots.' And that's just what they are - software robots. Once they're activated they run completely on their own, without any human input. They can travel from one machine to another, they can reproduce, they can hide, they can communicate with other computers or people, they can kill themselves." Gillette continued, "Demons are a type of bot. They sit inside your computer and do things like run the clock and automatically back up files. Scut work. But the Trapdoor demon does something a lot scarier. Once it's inside your computer it modifies the operating system and, when you go online, it links your computer to Phate's."

"And he seizes root," Bishop said.

"Exactly."

"Oh, this is bad," Linda Sanchez muttered. "Man" Nolan twined more of her unkempt hair around a finger. Beneath the fragile designer glasses her green eyes were troubled - as if she'd just seen a terrible accident. "So if you surf the Web, read a news story, read an e-mail, pay a bill, listen to music, download pictures, look up a stock quotation - if you're online at all - Phate can get inside your computer."

"Yep. Anything you get via the Internet might have the Trapdoor demon in it."

"But what about firewalls?" Miller asked. "Why don't they stop it?" Firewalls are computer sentries that keep files or data you haven't requested out of your machine. Gillette explained, "That's what's brilliant about this: Because the demon's hidden in data that you've asked for, firewalls won't stop it."

"Brilliant," Bob Shelton muttered sarcastically.

Tony Mott drummed his fingers absently on his bike helmet. "He's breaking rule number one."

"Which is?" Bishop asked.

Gillette recited, "Leave the civilians alone."

Mott, nodding, continued, "Hackers feel that the government, corporations and other hackers are fair game. But you should never target the general public."

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Sanchez asked, "Is there any way to tell if he's inside your machine?"

"Only little things - your keyboard seems a little sluggish, the graphics look a little fuzzy, a game doesn't respond quite as quickly as usual, your hard drive engages for a second or two when it shouldn't. Nothing so obvious that most people'd notice."

Shelton asked, "How come you didn't find this demon thing in Lara Gibson's computer?"

"I did - only what I found was its corpse: digital gibberish. Phate built some kind of self-destruct into it. If the demon senses you're looking for it, it rewrites itself into garbage."

"How did you find all this out?" Bishop asked.

Gillette shrugged. "Pieced it together from these." He handed Bishop the printouts. Bishop looked at the top sheet of paper.

To: Group From: Triple-X

I heard that Titan233 was asking for a copy of Trapdoor. Don't do it, man. Forget you heard about it. I know about Phate and Shawn. They're DANGEROUS. I'm not kidding.

"Who's he?" Shelton asked. "Triple-X? Be good to have a talk with him in person."

"I don't have any clue what his real name is or where he lives," Gillette said. "Maybe he was in some cybergang with Phate and Shawn."

Bishop flipped through the rest of the printouts, all of which gave some detail or rumor about Trapdoor. Triple-X's name was on several of them.

Nolan tapped one. "Can we trace the information in the header back to Triple-X's machine?" Gillette explained to Bishop and Shelton, "Headers in newsgroup postings and e-mails show the route the message took from the sender's computer to the recipient's.

Theoretically you can look at a header and trace a message back to find the location of the sender's machine. But I checked these already." Nodding at the sheet. "They're fake. Most serious hackers falsify the headers so nobody can find them."

"So it's a dead end?" Shelton muttered.

"I just read everything quickly. We should look at them again carefully," Gillette said, nodding at the printouts. "Then I'm going to hack together a bot of my own. It'll search for any mention of the words Phate,' 'Shawn,' 'Trapdoor'or Triple-X.'"

"A fishing expedition," Bishop mused. "P-h phishing." It's all in the spelling

Tony Mott said, "Let's call CERT. See if they've heard anything about this."Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter, http://www.processtext.com/abclit.html

Although the organization itself denied it, every geek in the world knew that these initials stood for the Computer Emergency Response Team. Located on the Carnegie Mellon campus in Pittsburgh, CERT

was a clearinghouse for information about viruses and other computer threats. It also warned systems administrators of impending hacker attacks.

After the organization was described to him Bishop nodded. "Let's give them a call." Nolan added, "But don't say anything about Wyatt. CERT's connected with the Department of Defense." Mott made the call and spoke to someone he knew at the organization. After a brief conversation he hung up. "They've never heard about Trapdoor or anything similar. They want us to keep them posted." Linda Sanchez was staring at the picture of Andy Anderson's daughter on his desk. In a troubled whisper she said, "So nobody who goes online is safe."

Gillette looked into the woman's round brown eyes. "Phate can find out every secret you've got. He can impersonate you or read your medical records. He can empty your bank accounts, make illegal political contributions in your name, give you a phony lover and send your wife or husband copies of fake love letters. He could get you fired."

"Or," Patricia Nolan added softly, "he could kill you."

"Mr. Holloway, are you with us? Mr. Holloway!"

"Huh?"

"'Huh?' 'Huh?' Is that the response of a respectful student? I've asked you twice to answer the question and you're staring out the window. If you don't do the assignments we're going to have a prob-"What was the question again?"

"Let me finish, young man. If you don't do the assignments then we're going to have some problems. Do you know how many deserving students're on the waiting list to get into this school? Of course you don't and you don't care either. Did you read the assignment?"

"Not exactly."

" 'Not exactly.' I see. Well, the question is: Define the octal number system and give me the decimal equivalent of the octal numbers 05726 and 12438. But why do you want to know the question if you haven't read the assignment? You can hardly answer-"The octal system is a number system with eight digits, like the decimal system has ten and the binary system has two."

"So, you remember something from the Discovery Channel, Mr. Holloway."

"No, I-"If you know so much why don't you come up to the board and try to convert those numbers for us. Up to the board, up you go!"

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"I don't need to write it out. The octal number 05726 converts to decimal 3030. You made a mistake with the second number ƒ 12438 isn't an octal number. There's no digit 8 in the octal system. Only zero through seven."

"I didn't make a mistake. It was a trick question. To see if the class was on its toes."

"If you say so."


Page 14

"Okay, Mr. Holloway, time for a visit to the principal." Sitting in the dining room office of his house in Los Altos, listening to a CD of James Earl Jones in Othello, Phate was roaming through the files of the young character, Jamie Turner, and planning that evening's visit to St. Francis Academy.

But thinking of the student had brought back memories of his own academic history - like this difficult recollection of freshman high school math. Phate's early schooling fell into a very predictable pattern. For the first semester he'd get straight A's. But in the spring his grades would plunge to D's or F's. This was because he could stave off the boredom of school for the first three or four months but after that even going to class was too tedious for him and he'd invariably miss most of the second-semester. Then his parents would ship him off to a new school. And the same thing would happen again. Mr. Holloway, are you with us?

Well, that had been Phate's problem all along. No, basically he hadn't been with anyone ever; he was light-years ahead of them.

His teachers and counselors would try. They'd put him into gifted-and-talented classes and then advanced G programs but even those didn't hold his interest. And when he grew bored he became sadistic and vicious. His teachers - like poor Mr. Cummings, the freshman math teacher of the octal number incident - stopped calling on him, for fear that he'd mock them and their own limitations. After some years of this his parents - both scientists themselves - pretty much gave up. Busy with their own lives (Dad, an electrical engineer; Mom, a chemist for a cosmetics company), they were happy to hand off their boy to a series of tutors after school - in effect, buying themselves a couple of extra hours at their respective jobs. They took to bribing Phate's brother, Richard, two years older, into keeping him occupied - which usually amounted to dropping the boy off on the Atlantic City boardwalk video arcades or at nearby shopping malls with a hundred dollars in quarters at 10:00 A.M. and picking him up twelve hours later.

As for his fellow students they, of course, disliked him on first meeting. He was the "Brain," he was "Jon the Head," he was "Mr. Wizard." They avoided him during the early days of class and, as the semester wore on, teased and insulted him unmercifully. (At least no one bothered to beat him up because, as one football player said, "A fucking girl could pound the crap out of him. I'm not gonna bother.") And so to keep the pressure inside his whirling brain from blowing him to pieces he spent more and more time in the one place that challenged him: the Machine World. Since mom and dad were happy to spend money to keep him out of their hair he always had the best personal computers that were available. A typical high school day would find him tolerating classes then racing home at three P.M. and disappearing into his room, where he would launch himself into bulletin boards or crack the phoneGenerated by ABC Amber LIT Converter, http://www.processtext.com/abclit.html

company's switches or slip into the computers of the National Science Foundation, the Centers for Disease Control, the Pentagon, Los Alamos, Harvard and CERN. His parents weighed the $800

monthly phone bills against the alternative - missed work and an endless series of meetings with teachers and counselors - and happily opted to write a check to New Jersey Bell. Still, though, it was obvious that the boy was on a downward spiral - his increasing reclusiveness and vicious outbursts whenever he wasn't online.

But before he bottomed out and, as he'd thought back then, "did a Socrates" with some clever poison whose recipe he'd downloaded from the Net, something happened.

The sixteen-year-old stumbled onto a bulletin board where people were playing a MUD game. This particular one was a medieval game - knights on a quest for a magic sword or ring, that sort of thing. He watched for a while and then shyly keyed, "Can I play?"

One of the seasoned players welcomed him warmly and then asked, "Who do you want to be?" Young Jon decided to be a knight and went off happily with his band of brothers, killing orcs and dragons and enemy troops for the next eight hours. That night, as he lay in bed, after signing off, he couldn't stop thinking about that remarkable day. It occurred to him that he didn't have to be Jon the Head, he didn't have to be the scorned Mr. Wizard. All day long he'd been a knight in the mythical land of Cyrania and he'd been happy. Maybe in the Real World he could be someone else too. Who do you Want to be?

The next day he signed up for an extracurricular activity at school, something he'd never done before. What he picked was drama club. He soon learned that he had a natural ability to act. The rest of his time at that particular school didn't improve - there was too much bad blood between Jon and his teachers and fellow students - but he didn't care; he had a plan. At the end of the semester he asked his parents if he could transfer to yet a different school for the next, his junior, year. Since he said he'd take care of all the paperwork himself and the transfer wouldn't disrupt their lives they agreed. The next fall, among the eager students registering for classes at Thomas Jefferson High School for the Gifted was a particularly eager youngster named Jon Patrick Holloway. The teachers and counselors reviewed the documentation e-mailed to them from his prior schools - the transcripts, which showed his consistent B+ performance in all grades since kindergarten, counselors'

glowing reports describing a well-adjusted and -socialized child, his outstanding placement test scores and a number of recommendation letters from his former teachers. The in-person interview with the polite young man - cutting quite a figure in tan slacks, powder blue shirt and navy blazer - went very well and he was heartily welcomed into the school.

The boy always did his assignments and rarely missed a class. He was consistently in the upper-B and lower-A range - pretty much like the other students at Tom Jefferson. He worked out diligently and took up several sports. He'd sit on the grassy hill outside the school, where the in-crowd gathered, and sneak cigarettes and make jokes about the geeks and losers. He dated, went to dances, worked on homecoming floats.

Just like everybody else.

He sat in Susan Coyne's kitchen and fumbled under her blouse and tasted her braces. He and BillyGenerated by ABC Amber LIT Converter, http://www.processtext.com/abclit.html

Pickford took his dad's vintage Corvette out onto the highway, where they got the car up to a hundred, and then sped home, where they dismantled and reset the odometer.

He was happy some, moody some, boisterous some.

Just like everybody else.

At the age of seventeen Jon Holloway social engineered himself into one of the most normal and popular kids in school.

He was so popular, in fact, that the funeral of his parents and brother was one of the most widely attended in the history of the small New Jersey town where they were living. (It was a miracle, friends of the family remarked, that young Jon just happened to be taking his computer to a repair shop early Saturday morning when the tragic gas explosion took the lives of his family.) Jon Holloway had looked at life and decided that God and his parents had fucked him up so much that the only way he could survive was to see it as a MUD game.

And he was now playing again.

Who do you want to be?

In the basement of his pleasant suburban house in Los Altos Phate washed the blood off his Ka-bar knife and began sharpening it, enjoying the hiss of the blade against the sharpening steel he'd bought at Williams-Sonoma.

This was the same knife he'd used to tease to stillness the heart of an important character in the game Andy Anderson. Hiss, hiss, hiss

Access

As he swiped the knife against the steel Phate's perfect memory recalled a passage from the article, "Life in the Blue Nowhere," which he'd copied into one of his hacking notebooks several years ago: The line between the real world and the machine world is becoming more and more blurred every day. But it's not that humans are turning into automatons or becoming slaves to machines. No, humans and machines are simply growing toward each other. We're bending machines to our purposes and nature. In the Blue Nowhere, machines are taking on our personalities and culture - our language, myths, metaphors, philosophy and spirit.

And those personalities and cultures are in turn being changed more and more by the Machine World itself.

Think about the loner who used to return home from work and spend the night eating junk food and watching TV all night. Now, he turns on his computer and enters the Blue Nowhere, a place where he interacts - he has tactile stimulation on the keyboard, verbal exchanges, he's challenged. He can't be passive anymore. He has to provide input to get some response. He's entered a higher level of existence and the reason is that machines have come to him. They speak his language.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter, http://www.processtext.com/abclit.html

For good or bad, machines now reflect human voices, spirits, hearts and goals. For good or bad, they reflect human conscience, or the lack of conscience, too. Phate finished honing the blade and wiped it clean. He replaced it in his footlocker and returned upstairs to find that his taxpayer dollars had been well spent; the Defense Research Center's supercomputers had just finished running Jamie Turner's program and had spit out the passcode to St. Francis Academy's gates. He was going to get to play his game tonight. For good or bad After twenty minutes of poring over the printouts from Gillette's search the team could find no other leads. The hacker sat down at a workstation to write code for the bot that would continue to search the Net for him.

Then he paused and looked up. "There's one thing we have to do. Sooner or later Phate's going to realize that you've got a hacker looking for him and he might try to come after us." He turned to Stephen Miller.

"What external networks do you have access to from here?"

"Two - the Internet, through our own domain: cspccu.gov. That's the one you've been using to get online. Then we're also hooked to ISLEnet."

Sanchez explained the acronym. "That's the Integrated Statewide Law Enforcement Network."

"Is it quarantined?"

A quarantined network was made up of machines connected only to one another and only by hardwire cables - so that no one could hack in via a phone line or the Internet.

"No," Miller said. "You can log on from anywhere - but you need passcodes and have to get through a couple of firewalls."

"What outside networks could I get to from ISLEnet?"

Sanchez shrugged. "Any state or federal police system around the country - the FBI, Secret Service, ATF, NYPD even Scotland Yard and Interpol. The works."

Mott added, "Since we're a clearing house for all computer crimes in the state, CCU has root authority on ISLEnet. So we have access to more machines and networks than anybody else." Gillette said, "Then we'll have to cut our links to it."

"Hey, hey, hey, backspace, backspace," Miller said, using the hacker term for hold on a minute. "Cut the link to ISLEnet? We can't do that."

"We have to."

"Why?" Bishop asked.

"Because if Phate gets inside them with a Trapdoor demon he could jump right to ISLEnet. If he does that he'll have access to every law enforcement network it's connected to. It'd be a disaster."

"But we use ISLEnet a dozen times a day," Shelton protested. "The automatic fingerprint identificationGenerated by ABC Amber LIT Converter, http://www.processtext.com/abclit.html

databases, warrants, suspect records, case files, research"

"Wyatt's right," Patricia Nolan said. "Remember that this guy's already cracked VICAP and two state police databases. We can't risk him getting into any other systems." Gillette said, "If you need to use ISLEnet you'll have to go to some other location - headquarters, or wherever."

"That's ridiculous," Stephen Miller said. "We can't drive five miles to log on to a database. It'll add hours to the investigation."

"We're already swimming upstream here," Shelton said. "This perp is way ahead of us. He doesn't need any more advantages." He glanced at Bishop imploringly.

The lean detective glanced down at his sloppy shirttail and tucked it in. After a moment he said, "Go ahead. Do what he says. Cut the connection."

Sanchez sighed.

Gillette quickly keyed in the commands severing the outside links, as Stephen Miller and Tony Mott looked on unhappily. He also renamed the CCU domain caltourism.gov to make it much harder for Phate to track them down and crack their system. When he finished the job he looked up at the team.

"One more thing From now on nobody goes online but me."

"Why?" Shelton asked.

"Because I can sense if the Trapdoor demon's in our system."

"How?" the rough-faced cop asked sourly. "Psychic Friends' Hotline?" Gillette answered evenly, "The feel of the keyboard, the delays in the system's responses, the sounds of the hard drive - what I mentioned before."

Shelton shook his head. He asked Bishop, "You're not going to agree to that, are you? First, we weren't supposed to let him get near the Net at all but he ended up roaming all over the fucking world online. Now, he's telling us that he's the only one who can do that and we can't. That's backwards, Frank. Something's going on here."

"What's going on," Gillette argued, "is that I know what I'm doing. When you're a hacker you get the feel for machines."

"Agreed," Bishop said.

Shelton lifted his arms helplessly. Stephen Miller didn't look any happier. Tony Mott caressed the grip of his big gun and seemed to be thinking less about machines and more about how much he wanted a clear shot at the killer.

Bishop's phone rang and he took the call. He listened for a moment and, while he didn't exactly smile, the cop's face grew animated. He picked up a pen and paper and started taking notes. After five minutes of jotting he hung up and glanced at the team.

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Page 15

"We don't have to call him Phate anymore. We've got his name."

CHAPTER THIRTEEN

"Jon Patrick Holloway."

"It's Holloway?" Patricia Nolan's voice rose in surprise.

"You know him?" Bishop asked.

"Oh, you bet. Most of us in computer security do. But nobody's heard from him in years. I thought he'd gone legit or was dead."

Bishop said to Gillette, "It was thanks to you we found him - that suggestion about the East Coast version of Unix. The Massachusetts State Police had positive matches on the prints." Bishop read his notes. "I've got a little history. He's twenty-seven. Born in New Jersey. Parents and only sibling - a brother - are dead. He went to Rutgers and Princeton, good grades, brilliant computer programmer. Popular on campus, involved in a lot of activities. After he graduated he came out here and got a job at Sun Microsystems doing artificial intelligence and supercomputing research. Left there and went to NEC. Then he went to work for Apple, over in Cupertino. A year later he was back on the East Coast, doing advanced phone-switch design at Western Electric in New Jersey. Then he got a job with Harvard's Computer Science Lab. Looks like he was pretty much your perfect employee - team player, United Way campaign captain, things like that."

"Typical upper-middle-class Silicon Valley codeslinger/ chip-jockey," Mott summarized. Bishop nodded. "Except there was one problem. All the while he looked like he was Mr. Upstanding Citizen he'd been hacking at night and running cybergangs. The most famous was the Knights of Access. He founded that with another hacker, somebody named Valleyman. No record of his real name."

"The KOA?" Miller said, troubled. "They were bad news. They took on Masters of Evil - that gang from Austin. And the Deceptors in New York. He cracked both gangs' servers and sent their files to the FBI's Manhattan office. Got half of them arrested."

"The Knights were probably the gang that shut down nine-one-one in Oakland for two days." Looking through his notes, Bishop said, "A few people died because of that-medical emergencies that never got reported. But the D.A. could never prove they did it."

"Pricks," Shelton spat out.

Bishop continued, "Holloway didn't go by Phate then. His username was CertainDeath." He asked Gillette, "Do you know him?"

"Not personally. But I've heard of him. Every hacker has. He was at the top of the list of wizards a few years ago."

Bishop returned to his notes.

"Somebody snitched on him when he was working for Harvard and the Massachusetts State Police paid him a visit. His whole life turned out to be fake. He'd been ripping off software and supercomputer partsGenerated by ABC Amber LIT Converter, http://www.processtext.com/abclit.html

from Harvard and selling them. The police checked with Western Electric, Sun, NEC - all his other employers - and it seemed he'd been doing the same thing there. He jumped bail in Massachusetts and nobody's seen or heard from him for three or four years."

Mott said, "Let's get the files from the Mass. State Police. There's bound to be some good forensics in there that we can use."

"They're gone," Bishop replied.

"He destroyed those files too?" Linda Sanchez asked grimly.

"What else?" Bishop replied sarcastically then glanced at Gillette. "Can you change that hot of yours - the search program? And add the names Holloway and Valleyman?"

"Piece of cake." Gillette began keying in code once more. Bishop called Huerto Ramirez and spoke to him for a few moments. When they hung up he said to the team, "Huerto said there're no leads from the Andy Anderson crime scene. He's going to run the name Jon Patrick Holloway through VICAP and state networks."

"Be faster to just use ISLEnet here," Stephen Miller muttered. Bishop ignored the dig and continued, "Then he's going to get a copy of Holloway's booking picture from Massachusetts. He and Tim Morgan are going to leave some pictures around Mountain View, near the theatrical supply store, in case Phate goes shopping. Then they'll call all the employers Phate used to work for and get any internal reports on the crimes."

"Assuming they haven't been deleted too," Sanchez muttered pessimistically. Bishop looked up at the clock. It was nearly 4:00. He shook his head. "We've gotta move. If his goal is killing as many people as he can in a week he might already have somebody else targeted." He picked up a marker and began transcribing his handwritten notes on the white-board. Patricia Nolan nodded at the board, where the word "Trapdoor" was prominently written in black marker. She said, "That's the crime of the new century. Violation."

"Violation?"

"In the twentieth century people stole your money. Now, what gets stolen is your privacy, your secrets, your fantasies."

Access is God

"But on one level," Gillette reflected, "you've got to admit that Trapdoor's brilliant. It's a totally robust program."

A voice behind him asked angrily, "'Robust'? What does that mean?" Gillette wasn't surprised to find that the questioner was Bob Shelton.

"I mean it's simple and powerful software."

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"Jesus," Shelton said. "It sounds like you wish you'd invented the fucking thing." Gillette said evenly, "It's an astonishing program. I don't understand how it works and I'd like to. That's all. I'm curious about it."

"Curious? You happen to forget a little matter like he's killing people with it."

"You asshole It's a game to you too, isn't it? Just like him." He stalked out of CCU, calling to Bishop,

"Let's get the hell out of here and find that witness. That's how we're going to nail this prick. Not with this computer shit." He stormed off.

No one moved for a moment. The team looked awkwardly at the white-board or computer terminals or the floor.

Bishop nodded for Gillette to follow him into the pantry, where the detective poured some coffee into a Styrofoam cup.

"Jennie, that's my wife, keeps me rationed," Bishop said, glancing at the dark brew. "Love the stuff but I've got gut problems. Pre-ulcer, the doctor says. Is that a crazy way to put it, or what? Sounds like I'm in training."

"I've got reflux," Gillette said. He touched his upper chest. "Lot of hackers do. From all the coffee and soda."

"Look, about Bob Shelton He had a thing happen a few years ago." The detective sipped the coffee, glanced down at his blossoming shirt. He tucked it in yet again. "I read those letters in your court file - the e-mails your father sent to the judge as part of the sentencing hearing. It sounds like you two have a good relationship."

"Real good, yeah," Gillette said, nodding. "Especially after my mom passed away."

"Well, then I think you'll understand this. Bob had a son." Had?

"He loved the kid a lot - like your dad loves you, sounds like. Only the kid was killed in a car accident a few years ago. He was sixteen. Bob hasn't been the same since then. I know it's a lot to ask but try to cut him some slack."

"I'm sorry about that." Gillette thought suddenly about his own ex-wife. How he'd spent hours and hours in prison wishing he were still married, wishing that he and Ellie had had a son or daughter, wondering how the hell he'd screwed up so badly and ruined his chances for a family. "I'll try."

"Appreciate that."

They walked back to the main room. Gillette returned to his workstation. Bishop nodded toward the parking lot. "Bob and I'll be checking out that witness at Vesta's Grill."

"Detective," Tony Mott said, standing up. "How 'bout if I come along with you?"

"Why?" Bishop asked, frowning.

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"Thought I could help - you've got the computer side covered here, with Wyatt and Patricia and Stephen. I could help canvassing witnesses maybe."

"You ever do any canvassing?"

"Sure." After a few seconds he grinned. "Well, not post-crime on the street exactly. But I've interviewed plenty of people online."

"Well, maybe later, Tony. I think Bob and I'll just go alone on this one." He left the office. The young cop returned to his workstation, clearly disappointed. Gillette wondered if he was upset that he'd been left to report to a civilian or if he really wanted to get a chance to use that very large pistol of his, the butt of which kept nicking the office furniture.

In five minutes Gillette had finished hacking together his bot.

"It's ready," he announced. He went online and typed the commands to send his creation out into the Blue Nowhere.

Patricia Nolan leaned forward, staring at the screen. "Good luck," she whispered. "Godspeed." Like a ship captain's wife bidding her husband farewell as his vessel pulled out of port on a treacherous voyage to uncharted waters.

Another beep on his machine.

Phate looked up from the architectural diagram he'd downloaded - St. Francis Academy and the grounds surrounding it - and saw another message from Shawn. He opened the mail and read it. More bad news. The police had learned his real name. He was momentarily concerned but then decided this wasn't critical; Jon Patrick Hollow ay was hidden beneath so many layers of fake personas and addresses that there were no links to him as Phate. Still, the police could get their hands on a picture of him (some parts of our past can't be erased with a delete command) and they'd undoubtedly distribute it throughout Silicon Valley. But at least he was now forewarned. He'd use more disguises. Anyway, what was the point of playing a MUD game if it wasn't challenging?

He glanced at the clock on his computer: 4:15. Time to get to St. Francis Academy for tonight's game. He had over two hours but he'd have to stake out the school to see if the patrol routes of the security guards had changed. Besides, he knew little Jamie Turner might be feeling antsy and want to slip out of the school before the appointed hour for a stroll around the block while he waited for his brother. Phate walked down to the basement of his house and took what he needed from his footlocker - his knife, a pistol, some duct tape. Then he went into the downstairs bathroom and pulled a plastic bottle from under the sink. It contained some liquids he'd mixed together earlier. He could still detect the pungent aroma of the chemicals it contained.

When his tools were ready he returned to the dining room of his house and checked the computer once more in case there were more warnings from Shawn. But he had no messages. He logged off and left the room, shutting out the overhead light in the dining room.

As he did so the screen saver on his computer came on and glowed brightly in the dim room. The wordsGenerated by ABC Amber LIT Converter, http://www.processtext.com/abclit.html

scrolled up the screen slowly. They read:

ACCESS IS GOD.

CHAPTER FOURTEEN

"Here, brought you this."

Gillette turned. Patricia Nolan was offering him a cup of coffee. "Milk and sugar, right?" He nodded. "Thanks."

"I noticed that's how you like it," she said.

He was about to tell her how prisoners in San Ho would trade cigarettes for packages of real coffee and brew it in hot water from the tap. But as interesting as this trivia might be, he decided he wasn't eager to remind everyone - himself included - that he was a convict.

She sat down beside him, tugged at the ungainly knit dress. Pulled the nail polish out of her Louis Vuitton purse again and opened it. Nolan noticed him looking at the bottle.

"Conditioner," she explained. "All the keying is hell on my nails." She glanced into his eyes once then looked down, examining her fingertips carefully. She said, "I could cut them short but that's not part of my plan." There was a certain emphasis on the word "plan." As if she'd decided to share something personal with him - facts that he, however, wasn't sure he wanted to know. She said, "I woke up one morning earlier this year - New Year's Day, as a matter of fact - after I'd spent the holiday on a plane by myself. And I realized that I'm a thirty-four-year-old single geek girl who lives with a cat and twenty thousand dollars' worth of semiconductor products in her bedroom. I decided I was changing my ways. I'm no fashion model but I thought I'd fix some of the things that could be fixed. Nails, hair, weight. I hate exercise but I'm at the health club every morning at five. The step-aerobics queen at Seattle Health and Racquet."

"Well, you've got really nice nails," Gillette said.

"Thanks. Really good thigh muscles too," she said with averted eyes. (He decided that her plan should probably include a little work on flirtation; she could use some practice.) She asked, "You married?"

"Divorced."

Nolan said, "I came close once" She let it go at that but glanced at him to gauge his reaction. Gillette gave her no response but he thought, Don't waste your time on me, lady. I'm a no-win proposition. Yet at the same time he saw that her interest in him was palpable and Wyatt Gillette knew that it didn't matter that he was a skinny, obsessive geek with a year left on a prison term. He'd seen her adoring gaze as he'd hacked together his bot and he knew that her attraction to him was rooted in his mind and his passion for his craft. Which'll ultimately beat a handsome face and a Chippendale body any day.

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But the topic of romance and single life put in his mind thoughts of his ex-wife, Elana, and that depressed him. He fell silent and nodded as Nolan told him about life at Horizon On-Line, which really was, she kept asserting, more stimulating than he might think (though nothing she said bore out that proposition), about life in Seattle with friends and her tabby cat, about the bizarre dates she'd had with geeks and chip-jocks.

He absorbed all the data politely, if vacantly, for ten minutes. Then his machine beeped loudly and Gillette glanced at the screen.

Search results: Search Request: Phate Location: alt.pictures.true.crime Status: newsgroup reference

"My bot caught a fish," he called. "There's a reference to Phate in a newsgroup." Newsgroups - those collections of special-interest messages on every topic under the sun - are contained on a subdivision of the Internet known as Usenet, which stands for Unix user network. Started in 1979 to send messages between the University of North Carolina and Duke University, the Usenet was purely scientific at first and contained strict prohibitions against topics like hacking, sex and drugs. In the eighties, though, a number of users thought these limitations smacked of censorship. The "Great Rebellion" ensued, which led to the creation of the Alternate category of newsgroups. From then on the Usenet was like a frontier town. You can now find messages on every subject on earth, from hard-core porn to literary criticism to Catholic theology to pro-Nazi politics to irreverent swipes at popular culture (such as alt.barney.the.dinosaur.must.die).


Page 16

Gillette's bot had learned that someone had posted a message that included Phate's name in one of these alternate newsgroups, alt.pictures.true.crime, and had alerted its master. The hacker loaded up his newsgroup reader and went online. He found the group and then examined the screen. Somebody with the screen name Vlast453 had posted a message that mentioned Phate's name. He'd included a picture attachment.

Mott, Miller and Nolan crowded around the screen.

Gillette clicked on the message. He glanced at the header:

From: "Vlast" Newsgroups: alt.pictures.true.crime.

Subject: A old one from Phate. Anyboddy have others.

Date: 1 April 23:54:08 + 0100

Lines: 1323

Message-ID:

References:

NNTP-Posting-Host: modem-76.flonase.dialup.pol.co.uk

X-Trace: newsg3.svr.pdd.co.uk 960332345 11751 62.136.95.76

X-Newsreader: Microsoft Outlook Express 5.00.2014.211

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X-MimeOLE: Produced By Microsoft MimeOLE V5.00.2014.211

Path: news.Alliance-news.com!traffic.Alliance-news, com !Buda pest.usenetserver.com !Ne ws-out.usenetserver.com !diablo.theWorld.netlnews.theWorld.netlnewspost.theWorld.net!

Then he read the message that Vlast had sent.

To The Group:

I am receved this from our friend Phate it was sixths months ago, I am not hearing from him after then. Can anyboddy post more like this.

- Vlast

Tony Mott observed, "Look at the grammar and spelling. He's from overseas." The language people used on the Net told a great deal about them. English was the most common choice but serious hackers mastered a number of languages - especially German, Dutch and French - so they could share information with as many fellow hackers as possible.

Gillette downloaded the picture that accompanied Vlast's message. It was an old crime scene photograph and showed a young woman's naked body - stabbed a dozen times.

Linda Sanchez, undoubtedly mindful of her own daughter and her fetal grandchild, looked at the picture once and then quickly away. "Disgusting," she muttered.

It was, Gillette agreed. But he forced himself to think past the image. "Let's try to trace this guy," he suggested. "If we can get to him maybe he can give us some leads to Phate." There are two ways to trace someone on the Internet. If you have the real header of an e-mail or newsgroup posting you can examine the path notation, which will reveal where the message entered the Internet and the route it followed to get to the computer from which you have downloaded it. If presented with a court order, the sysadmin of that initial network might give the police the name and address of the user who sent the message.

Usually, though, hackers use fake headers so that they can't be traced. Vlast's header, Gillette noted immediately, was bogus - real Internet routes contain only lowercase words and this one contained uppercase and lowercase. He told the CCU team this then added, however, that he'd try to find Vlast with the second type of trace: through the man's Internet address - [email protected] Gillette loaded up HyperTrace. He typed in Vlast's address and the program went to work. A map of the world appeared and a dotted line moved outward from San Jose - the location of CCU's computer - across the Pacific. Every time it hit a new Internet router and changed direction the machine gave an electronic tone called a "ping" - named after a submarine's sonar beep, which is just what it sounded like. Nolan said, "This is your program?"

"Right."

"It's brilliant."

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"Yeah, it was a fun hack," Gillette said, noting that his prowess had earned him a bit more adoration from the woman.

The line representing the route from CCU to Vlast's computer headed west and finally stopped in central Europe, ending in a box that contained a question mark.

Gillette looked at the graph and tapped the screen. "Okay, Vlast isn't online at the moment or he's cloaking his machine's location - that's the question mark where the trail ends. The closest we can get is his service provider: Euronet.bulg.net. He's logging on through Euronet's Bulgarian server. I should've guessed that."

Nolan and Miller nodded their agreement. Bulgaria probably has more hackers per capita than any other country. After the fall of the Berlin Wall and the demise of Central European Communism the Bulgarian government tried to turn the country into the Silicon Valley of the former Soviet Bloc and imported thousands of codeslingers and chip-jocks. To their dismay, however, IBM, Apple, Microsoft and other U.S. companies swept through the world markets. Foreign tech companies failed in droves and the young geeks were left with nothing to do except hang out in coffee shops and hack. Bulgaria produces more computer viruses annually than any other country in the world. Nolan asked Miller, "Do the Bulgarian authorities cooperate?"

"Never. The government doesn't even answer our requests for information." Stephen Miller then suggested, "Why don't we e-mail him directly, Vlast?"

"No," Gillette said. "He might warn Phate. I think this's a dead end." But just then the computer beeped as Gillette's hot signaled yet another catch. Search results: Search Request: "Triple-X" Location: IRC, tthack Status: Currently online Triple-X was the hacker Gillette had tracked down earlier, the one who seemed to know a great deal about Phate and Trapdoor.

"He's in the hacking chat room on the Internet Relay Chat," Gillette said. "I don't know if he'll give up anything about Phate to a stranger but let's try to trace him." He asked Miller, "I'll need an anonymizer before I log on. I'd have to modify mine to run on your system." An anonymizer, or cloak, is a software program that blocks any attempts to trace you when you're online by making it appear that you're someone else and are in a different location from where you really are.

"Sure, I just hacked one together the other day."

Miller loaded the program into the workstation in front of Gillette. "If Triple-X tries to trace you all he'll see is that you're logging on through a public-access terminal in Austin. That's a big high-tech area and a lot of Texas U students do some serious hacking."

"Good." Gillette returned to the keyboard, examined Miller's program briefly and then keyed his new fake user-name, Renegade334, into the anonymizer. He looked at the team. "Okay, let's go swimming with some sharks," he said. And hit the ENTER key.

"That's where it was," said the security guard. "Parked right there, a light-colored sedan. Was there forGenerated by ABC Amber LIT Converter, http://www.processtext.com/abclit.html

about an hour, just around the time that girl was kidnapped. I'm pretty sure somebody was in the front seat."

The guard pointed to a row of empty parking spaces in the lot behind the three-story building occupied by Internet Marketing Solutions Unlimited, Inc. The spaces overlooked the back parking lot of Vesta's Grill in Cupertino where Jon Holloway, aka Phate, had social engineered Lara Gibson to her death. Anyone in the mystery sedan would have had a perfect view of Phate's car, even if they hadn't witnessed the actual abduction itself.

But Frank Bishop, Bob Shelton and the woman who ran Internet Marketing's human resources department had just interviewed all of the thirty-two people who worked in the building and hadn't been able to identify the sedan.

The two cops were now interviewing the guard who'd noticed it to see if they could learn anything else that would help them find the car.

Bob Shelton asked, "And it had to belong to somebody who worked for the company?"

"Had to," the tall guard confirmed. "You need an employee pass to get through the gate into this lot."

"Visitors?" Bishop asked.

"No, they park in front."

Bishop and Shelton shared a troubled glance. Nobody's leads were panning out. After leaving the Computer Crimes Unit they'd stopped by state police headquarters in San Jose and picked up a copy of Jon Holloway's booking picture from the Massachusetts State Police. It showed a thin young man with dark brown hair and virtually no distinguishing features - a dead ringer for 10,000 other young men in Silicon Valley. Huerto Ramirez and Tim Morgan had also drawn a blank when they'd canvassed Ollie's Theatrical Supply in Mountain View; the only clerk on hand didn't recognize Phate's picture. The team at CCU had found a lead - Wyatt Gillette's bot had turned up a reference to Phate, Linda Sanchez had told Bishop in a phone call - but that too was a dead end. Bulgaria, Bishop thought cynically. What kind of case is this?

The detective now said to the security guard, "Let me ask you a question, sir. Why'd you notice the car?"

"I'm sorry?"

"It's a parking lot. It'd be normal for a car to be parked here. Why'd you pay any attention to the sedan?"

"Well, the thing is, it's not normal for cars to be parked back here. It was the only one I've seen here for a while." He looked around and, making sure the three men were alone, added, "See, the company ain't doing so well. We're down to forty people on the payroll. Was nearly two hundred last year. The whole staff can park in the front lot if they want. In fact, the president encourages it - so the company don't look like it's on its last legs." He lowered his voice. "You ask me, this dot-corn Internet crap ain't the golden egg everybody makes it out to be. I myself am looking for work at Costco. Retail now, that's a job with a future."

Okay, Frank Bishop told himself, gazing at Vesta's Grill. Think about it: a car parked here by itself whenGenerated by ABC Amber LIT Converter, http://www.processtext.com/abclit.html

it doesn't have to be parked here. Do something with that.

He had a wisp of a thought but it eluded him.

They thanked the guard and returned to their car, walking along a gravel path that wound through a park surrounding the office building.

"Waste of time," Shelton said. But he was stating a simple truth - most investigating is a waste of time and didn't seem particularly discouraged. Think, Bishop repeated silently.

Do something with that.

It was quitting time and some employees were walking along the path to the front lot. Bishop saw a businessman in his thirties walking silently beside a young woman in a business suit. Suddenly the man turned aside and took the woman by the hand. They laughed and vanished into a stand of lilac bushes. In the shadows they threw their arms around each other and kissed passionately. This liaison brought his own family to mind and Bishop wondered how much he'd see of his wife and son over the next week. He knew it wouldn't be much.

Then, as happened sometimes, two thoughts merged in his mind and a third was born. Do something

He stopped suddenly with that.

"Let's go," Bishop called and started running back the way they'd come. Far thinner than Shelton but not in much better shape he puffed hard as they returned to the office building, his shirt enthusiastically untucking itself once again.

"What the hell's the hurry?" his partner gasped.

But the detective didn't answer. He ran through the lobby of Internet Marketing, back to the human resources department. He ignored the secretary, who rose in alarm at his blustery entry, and opened the door of the human resources director's office, where the woman sat speaking with a young man.

"Detective," the surprised woman said. "What is it?" Bishop struggled to catch his breath. "I need to ask you some questions about your employees." He glanced at the young man. "Better in private."

"Would you excuse us, please?" She nodded at the man across from her and he fled the office. Shelton swung the door closed.

"What sort of questions? Personnel?"

"No, personal"

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CHAPTER FIFTEEN

Here is the land of fulfillment, here is the land of plenty. The land of King Midas, where the golden touch, though, isn't the sly trickery of Wall Street or the muscle of Midwest industry but pure imagination. Here is the land where some secretaries and janitors are stock-option millionaires and others ride the number 22 bus all night long on its route between San Jose and Menlo Park just so they can catch some sleep - they, like one third of the homeless in this area, have full-time jobs but can't afford to pay a million dollars for a tiny bungalow or $3,000 a month for an apartment.

Here is Silicon Valley, the land that changed the world.

Santa Clara County, a green valley measuring twenty-five by ten miles, was dubbed "The Valley of the Heart's Delight" long ago though the joy referred to when that phrase was coined was culinary rather than technological. Apricots, prunes, walnuts and cherries grew abundantly in the fertile land nestled fifty miles south of San Francisco. The valley might have remained linked forever with produce, like other parts of California - Castroville with its artichokes, Gilroy with garlic - except for an impulsive decision in 1909

by a man named David Starr Jordan, the president of Stanford University, which was located smack in the middle of Santa Clara Valley. Jordan decided to put some venture capital money on a little-known invention by a man named Lee De Forrest.

The inventor's gadget - the audion tube - wasn't like the phonograph player or the internal-combustion engine. It was the type of innovation that the general public couldn't quite understand and, in fact, didn't care about one bit at the time it was announced. But Jordan and other engineers at Stanford believed that the device might have a few practical applications and before long it became clear how stunningly correct they were - the audion was the first electronic vacuum tube, and its descendants ultimately made possible radio, television, radar, medical monitors, navigation systems and computers themselves. Once the tiny audion's potential was unearthed nothing would ever be the same in this green, placid valley.

Stanford University became a breeding ground for electronics engineers, many of whom stayed in the area after graduation - David Packard and William Hewlett, for instance. Russell Varian and Philo Farnsworth too, whose research gave us the first television, radar and microwave technologies. The early computers like ENIAC and Univac were East Coast inventions but their limitations - massive size and scalding heat from vacuum tubes - sent innovators scurrying to California, where companies were making advances with tiny devices known as semiconductor chips, far smaller, cooler and more efficient than tubes. Once chips were developed, in the late 1950s, the Machine World raced forward like a spaceship, from IBM to Xerox's PARC to Stanford Research Institute to Intel to Apple to the thousands of dot-corn companies scattered throughout this lush landscape today. The Promised Land, Silicon Valley


Page 17

Through which Jon Patrick Holloway, Phate, now drove southeast on the rain-swept 280 freeway, toward St. Francis Academy and his appointment with Jamie Turner for their Real World MUD game. In the Jaguar's CD player was a recording of yet another play, Hamlet - Laurence Olivier's performance. Reciting the words in unison with the actor, Phate turned off the freeway at a San Jose exit and five minutes later he was cruising past the brooding Spanish colonial St. Francis Academy. It was 5:15 and he had more than an hour to stake out the structure.

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He parked on a dusty commercial street, near the north gate, through which Jamie was planning on making his escape. Unfurling a planning and zoning commission diagram of the building and a recorder of deeds map of the grounds, Phate pored over the documents for ten minutes. Then he got out of the car and circled the school slowly, studying the entrances and exits. He returned to the Jaguar. Turning the volume up on his CD, he reclined the seat, and watched people stroll and bicycle along the wet sidewalk. He squinted at them with fascination. They were no more - or less - real to him than the tormented Danish prince in Shakespeare's play and Phate was not sure for a moment whether he was in the Machine World or the Real. He heard a voice, maybe his own, maybe not, reciting a slightly different version of a passage from the play. "What a piece of work is a machine. How noble in reason. How infinite in faculty. In form, in moving, how express and admirable. In operation how like an angel. In access how like a god"

He checked his knife and the squeeze bottle containing the pungent liquid concoction, all carefully arranged in the pockets of his gray coveralls, on whose back he'd carefully embroidered the words

"AAA Cleaning and Maintenance Company."

He looked at his watch, then closed his eyes again, leaning back in the sumptuous leather of his car. Thinking: only forty minutes till Jamie Turner sneaks into the school yard to meet his brother. Only forty minutes until Phate would find out if he'd win or lose this round of the game. He rubbed his thumb carefully against the razor-sharp blade of the knife. In operation how like an angel.

In access how like a god.

In his persona as Renegade334, Wyatt Gillette had been lurking - observing but saying nothing - in the

#hack chat room.

Before you social engineer someone you have to learn as much about them as you can to make the scam credible.

He'd call out observations and Patricia Nolan would jot down whatever Gillette had deduced about Triple-X. The woman sat close to him. He smelled a very pleasant perfume and he wondered if this particular scent had been part of her makeover plan.

So far Gillette had learned this about Triple-X:

He was currently in the Pacific time zone (he'd made a reference to cocktail happy hour in a bar nearby; it was nearly 5:50 P.M. on the West Coast).

He was probably in Northern California (he'd complained about the rain - and according to CCU's high-tech meteorology source, the Weather Channel, most of the rain on the West Coast was currently concentrated in and around the San Francisco Bay area).

He was American, older and probably college educated (his grammar and punctuation were very good for a hacker - too good for a high school cyberpunk - and his use of slang was correct, indicating he wasn't your typical Eurotrash-hacker, who often tried to impress others with their use of idioms and invariably got them wrong).

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He was probably in a shopping mall, dialing into the Internet Relay Chat from a commercial Internet access location, a cybercafe probably (he'd referred to a couple of girls he'd just seen go into Victoria's Secret; the happy-hour comment too suggested this).

He was a serious, and potentially dangerous, hacker (ditto the shopping center public access - most people doing risky hacks tended to avoid going online out of their houses on their own machines and used public dial-up terminals instead).

He had a huge ego and he considered himself a wizard and an older brother to the youngsters in the group (tirelessly explaining esoteric aspects of hacking to novices in the chat room but having no patience for know-it-alls).

With this profile in mind, Gillette was now almost ready to trace Triple-X. It's easy to find someone in the Blue Nowhere if they don't mind being found. But if they're determined to remain hidden then tracing is an arduous and usually unsuccessful task. To track a connection back to an individual's computer while he's online you need an Internet tracing tool

- like Gillette's HyperTrace - but you might also need a phone company trace. If Triple-X's computer was hooked up to his Internet service provider via a fiberoptic or other high-speed cable connection, rather than a telephone line, then HyperTrace could lead them to the exact longitude and latitude of the shopping mall where the hacker's computer sat. If, however, Triple-X's machine was connected to the Net over a standard phone line via a modem - a dial-up connection, like most personal computers at home - Gillette's HyperTrace could trace the call back only to Triple-X's Internet service provider and would stop there. Then the phone company's security people would have to trace the call from the service provider to Triple-X's computer itself. Tony Mott then snapped his fingers, looked up from his phone with a grin and said, "Okay, Pac Bell's set to trace."

"Here we go," said Gillette. He typed a message and hit ENTER. On the screens of everyone logged on to the #hack chat room appeared this message:

Renegade334: Hey Triple how you doing.

Gillette was now "imping" - pretending to be someone else. In this case he'd decided to be a seventeen-year-old hacker with marginal education but plenty of balls and adolescent attitude - just the sort you'd expect to find in this room.

Triple-X: Good, Renegade. Saw you lurking.

In chat rooms you can see who's logged on even if they're not participating in the conversation. Triple-X

was reminding Gillette that he was vigilant, the corollary of which was: Don't fuck with me. Renegade334: Im at a public terminal and people keep walking bye, its pissing me off. Triple-X: Where you hanging?

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Gillette glanced at the Weather Channel.

Renegade334: Austin, man the heat sucks. You ever been hear.

Triple-X: Only Dallas.

Renegade334: Dallas sucks, Austin rules!!!!

"Everybody ready?" Gillette called. "I'm going to try to get him alone." Affirmative responses from around him. He felt Patricia Nolan's leg brush his. Stephen Miller sat next to her. Gillette keyed a phrase and hit ENTER.

Renegade334: Triple - How bout ICQ?

Triple-X: Why?

Renegade334: can't go into it hear. A moment later a small window opened on Gillette's screen. Triple-X: So what's happening, dude?

"Run it," Gillette called to Stephen Miller, who started HyperTrace. Another window popped up on the monitor, depicting a map of Northern California. Blue lines appeared on the map as the program traced the route from CCU back to Triple-X.

"It's tracing," Miller called. "Signal goes from here to Oakland to Reno to Seattle" Renegade334: thanks man for the ICQ. Thing is I got a problem and Im scared. This dudes on my case and the word is your a total wizard and I heard you might know somthing. You can never massage a hacker's ego too much, Wyatt Gillette knew. Triple-X: What dude? Renegade334: His names Phate.

There was no response.

"Come on, come on," Gillette urged in a whisper. Thinking: Don't vanish. I'm a scared kid. You're a wizard. Help me

Triple-X: What aobut him? I mean, about.

Gillette glanced at the window on his computer screen that showed HyperTrace's progress in locating the routing computers. Triple-X's signal was jumping all over the western United States. Finally it ended at the last hub, Bay Area On-Line Services, located in Walnut Creek, which was just north of Oakland.

"Got his service provider," Stephen Miller called. "It's a dial-in service."

"Damn," Patricia Nolan muttered. This meant that a phone company trace was necessary to pinpoint the final link from the server in Walnut Creek to the computer cafe where Triple-X was sitting.

"We can do it," Linda Sanchez called enthusiastically, a cheerleader. "Just keep him on the line, Wyatt."Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter, http://www.processtext.com/abclit.html

Tony Mott called Bay Area On-Line and told the head of the security department what was going on. The security chief in turn called his own technicians, who would coordinate with Pacific Bell and trace the connection from Bay Area back to Triple-X's location. Mott listened for a moment then called, "Pac Bell's scanning. It's a busy area. Might take ten, fifteen minutes."

"Too long, too long!" Gillette said. "Tell 'em to speed it up." But from his days as a phone phreak, breaking into Pac Bell himself, Gillette knew that phone company employees might have to physically run through the switches - which are huge rooms filled with electrical relays - visually finding the connections, in order to trace a call back to its source. Renegade334: I heard about this totally robust hack of Phates I mean totally and I saw him online and I asked him about it only he just dissed me. then Weird stuff started happening after that and I heard about this script he wrote called trapdoor and now Im totally paranoyd.

A pause, then:

Triple-X: So what're you asking? "He's scared," Gillette said. "I can feel it." Renegade334: this trapdoor thing, does it really get him in your machine and go through all your shit, I mean like EVERYTHING, and you don't even know it.

Triple-X: I don't think it really exists. Like an urban legend.

Renegade334: I don't know man I think its real, I saw my fucking files OPENING and no way was I doing it.

"We've got incoming," Miller said. "He's pinging us." Triple-X was, as Gillette had predicted, running his own version of HyperTrace to check out Renegade334. The anonymizing program that Stephen Miller had hacked together, however, would make Triple-X's machine think

Renegade was in Austin. The hacker must have gotten this report and believed it because he didn't log off.

Triple-X: Why do you care about him? You're at a public terminal. He can't get into your files there. Renegade334: I'm just hear today cause my fucking parents' took away my Dell for a week cause a my grades. At home I was online and the keyboard was fucked up and then files started opening all by themself. I freaked. I mean, totally.

Another long pause. Then finally the hacker responded.

Triple-X: You oughta be freaked. I know Phate.

Renegade334: Yeah how?

Triple-X: Just started talking to him in a chat room. Helped me debug some script. Traded some warez.

"This guy is gold," Tony Mott whispered.

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Nolan said, "Maybe he knows Phate's address. Ask him."

"No," Gillette said. "We can't scare him off." There was no message for a moment then: Triple-X: BRB

Chat room regulars have developed a shorthand of initials that represent phrases - to save keyboarding time and energy. BRB meant Be right back.

"Is he headed for the hills?" Sanchez asked.

"The connection's still open," Gillette said. "Maybe he just went to take a leak or something. Keep Pac Bell on the trace."

He sat back in the chair, which creaked loudly. Moments passed. The screen remained unchanged. BRB.

Gillette glanced at Patricia Nolan. She opened her purse, as bulky as her dress, took out her fingernail conditioner again and absently began to apply it.

The cursor continued to blink. The screen remained blank.

The ghosts were back and this time there were plenty of them.

Jamie Turner could hear them as he moved along the corridors of St. Francis Academy. Well, the sound was probably only Booty or one of the teachers, making certain that windows and doors were secure. Or students, trying to find a place to sneak a cigarette or play their Game Boys. But he couldn't get ghosts out of his mind: the spirits of Indians tortured to death and the student murdered a couple of years ago by that crazy guy who broke in - the one who, Jamie now realized, also added to the ghost population by getting shot dead by the cops in the old lunchroom. Jamie Turner was certainly a product of the Machine World - a hacker and scientist - and he knew ghosts and mythical creatures and spirits didn't exist. So why did he feel so damn scared?

Then this weird idea occurred to him. He wondered if maybe, thanks to computers, life had returned to an earlier, more spiritual - and more witchy - time. Computers made the world seem like a place out of one of those books from the 1800s by Washington Irving or Nathaniel Hawthorne. Sleepy Hollow and The House of the Seven Gables. Back then people believed in ghosts and spirits and weird stuff going on that you couldn't exactly see. Now, there was the Net and code and bots and electrons and things you couldn't see - just like ghosts. They could float around you, they could appear out of nowhere, they could do things.

These thoughts scared the hell out of him but he forced them away and continued down the dark corridors of St. Francis Academy, smelling the musty stucco, hearing the muted conversations and music from the students' rooms recede as he left the residence area and slipped past the gym-Ghosts No, forget it! he told himself.

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Think about Santana, think about hanging out with your brother, think about what a great night you're going to have.

Think about backstage passes.

Then, finally, he came to the fire door, the one that led out into the garden. He looked around. No sign of Booty, no sign of the other teachers who occasionally wandered through the halls like guards in some prisoner-of-war movie.


Page 18

Dropping to his knees, Jamie Turner looked over the alarm bar on the door the way a wrestler sizes up his opponent.

WARNING: ALARM SOUNDS IF DOOR is OPENED.

If he didn't disable the alarm, if it went off when he tried to open the door, bright lights would come on throughout the school and the police and the fire department would be here in minutes. He'd have to sprint back to his room and his entire evening would be fucked. He now unfolded a small sheet of paper, which contained the wiring schematic of the alarm that the door manufacturer's service chief had kindly sent him.

Playing a small flashlight over the sheet he studied the diagram once more. Then he caressed the metal of the alarm bar, observing how the triggering device worked, where the screws were, how the power supply was hidden. In his quick mind he matched what he saw in front of him with the schematic. He took a deep breath.

He thought of his brother.

Pulling on his thick glasses to protect his precious eyes, Jamie Turner reached into his pocket, pulled out the plastic case containing his tools and selected a Phillips head screwdriver. He had plenty of time, he told himself. No need to hurry.

Ready to rock 'n' roll

CHAPTER SIXTEEN

Frank Bishop parked the unmarked navy blue Ford in front of the modest colonial house on a pristine plot of land - only an eighth of an acre, he estimated, yet being in the heart of Silicon Valley it'd be worth an easy million dollars.

Bishop noted that a new, light-colored Lexus sedan sat in the driveway. They walked to the door, knocked. A harried forty-something woman in jeans and a faded floral blouse opened the door. The smell of cooking onions and meat escaped. It was 6:00 P.M. - the Bishop family's normal suppertime - and the detective was struck by a blast of hunger. He realized he hadn't eaten since that morning.

"Yes?" the woman asked.

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"Mrs. Cargill?"

"That's right. Can I help you?" Cautious now.

"Is your husband home?" Bishop asked, displaying his shield.

"Uhm. I--"

"What is it, Kath?" A stocky man in chinos and a button-down pink dress shirt came to the door. He was holding a cocktail. When he noticed the badges the men displayed he put the liquor out of sight on an entry way table.

Bishop said, "Could we talk to you for a minute, please, sir?"

"What's this about?"

"What's going on, Jim?"

He glanced at her with irritation. "I don't know. If I knew I wouldn't've asked now, would I?" Grim-faced, she stepped back.

Bishop said, "It'll just take a minute." He and Shelton walked halfway down the front path and paused. Cargill followed the detectives. When they were out of earshot of the house Bishop said, "You work for Internet Marketing Solutions in Cupertino, right?"

"I'm a regional sales director. What's this-"We have reason to believe that you may have seen a vehicle we're trying to track down as part of a homicide investigation. Yesterday at about seven P.M., this car was parked in the lot behind Vesta's Grill, across the street from your company. And we think you might've gotten a look at it." He shook his head. "Our human resources director asked me about that. But I told her I didn't see anything. Didn't she tell you that?"

"She did, sir," Bishop said evenly. "But I have reason to believe you weren't telling her the truth."

"Hey, hold on a minute-"You were parked in the lot behind the company around that time in your Lexus, engaging in sexual activity with Sally Jacobs, from the company's payroll department." The priceless look of shock, morphing into horror, told Bishop that he was right on the money but Cargill said what he had to. "That's bullshit. Whoever told you that's lying. I've been married for seventeen years. Besides, Sally Jacobs if you saw her you'd know how idiotic that suggestion is. She's the ugliest girl on the sixteenth floor."

Bishop was aware of the fleeting time. He recalled Wyatt Gillette's description of the Access game - to murder as many people as possible in a week. Phate could already be close to another victim. The detective said shortly, "Sir, I don't care about your personal life. All I care about is that yesterday youGenerated by ABC Amber LIT Converter, http://www.processtext.com/abclit.html

saw a car parked in the lot behind Vesta's. It belonged to a suspected killer and I need to know what kind of car it was."

"I wasn't there," Cargill said adamantly, looking toward the house. His wife's face was peering at them from behind a lace curtain.

Bishop said calmly, "Yes, sir, you were. And I know you got a look at the killer's car."

"No, I didn't," the man growled.

"You did. Let me explain why I know."

The man gave a cynical laugh.

The detective said, "A late-model, light-colored sedan -like your Lexus - was parked in the back lot of Internet Marketing yesterday around the time the victim was abducted from Vesta's. Now, I know that the president of your company encourages employees to park in front of the building so that clients don't notice that you're down to less than half the staff. So, the only logical reason to park in the back portion of the lot is to do something illicit and not be seen from the building or the street. That would include use of some controlled substances and/or sexual relations."

Cargill stopped smiling.

Bishop continued, "Since it's an access-controlled lot, whoever was parked there was a company employee, not a visitor. I asked the personnel director which employee who owns a light-colored sedan either has a drug problem or was having an affair. She said you were seeing Sally Jacobs. Which, by the way, everybody in the company knows."

Lowering his voice so far that Bishop had to lean forward to hear, Cargill muttered, "Fucking office rumors - that's all they are."

Twenty-two years as a detective, Bishop was a walking lie detector. He continued, "Now, if a man is parked with his mistress--"

"She's not my mistress!"

"--in a parking lot he's going to check out every car nearby to make sure it's not his wife's or a neighbor's. So, therefore, sir, you saw the suspect's car. What kind was it?"

"I didn't see anything," the businessman snapped.

It was Bob Shelton's turn. "We don't have time for any more bullshit, Cargill." He said to Bishop, "Let's go get Sally and bring her over here. Maybe the two of them together can remember a little more." The detectives had already talked to Sally Jacobs - who was far from being the ugliest girl on the sixteenth, or any other, floor of the company - and she'd confirmed her affair with Cargill. But being single and, for some reason, in love with this jerk she was far less paranoid than he and hadn't bothered to check out nearby cars. She'd thought there'd been one but she couldn't remember what type. Bishop had believed her.

"Bring her here?" Cargill asked slowly. "Sally?"Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter, http://www.processtext.com/abclit.html

Bishop gestured to Shelton and they turned. He called over his shoulder, "We'll be back."

"No, don't," Cargill begged.

They stopped.

Disgust flooded into Cargill's face. The most guilty always look the most victimized, street-cop Bishop had learned. "It was a Jaguar convertible. Late model. Silver or gray. Black top."

"License number?"

"California plate. I didn't see the number."

"You ever see the car in the area before?"

"No."

"Did you see anybody in or around the car?"

"No, I didn't."

Bishop decided he was telling the truth.

Then a conspiratorial smile blossomed in Cargill's face. "Say, Officer, man-to-man, you know how it is We can keep this between you and me, right?" He glanced back at house, indicating his wife. The polite fagade remained on Bishop's face as he said, "That's not a problem, sir."

"Thanks," the businessman said with massive relief.

"Except for the final statement," the detective added. "That will have a reference to your affair with Ms. Jacobs."

"Statement?" Cargill asked uneasily.

"That our evidence department'll mail to you."

"Mail? To the house?"

"It's a state law," Shelton said. "We have to give every witness a copy of their final statement."

"You can't do that."

Unsmiling by nature, unsmiling because of circumstance now, Bishop said, "Actually we have to, sir. As my partner said. It's a state law."

"I'll drive down to your office and pick it up."

"Has to be mailed - comes from Sacramento. You'll be getting it within the next few months."Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter, http://www.processtext.com/abclit.html

"Few months? Can't you tell me when exactly?"

"We don't know ourselves, sir. Could be next week, could be July or August. You have a nice night. And thanks for your cooperation, sir."

They hurried back to their navy-blue Crown Victoria, leaving the mortified businessman undoubtedly thinking up wild schemes for intercepting the mail for the next two or three months so his wife didn't see the report.

"Evidence department?" Shelton asked with a cocked eyebrow.

"Sounded good to me." Bishop shrugged. Both men laughed. Bishop then called central dispatch and requested an EVL - an emergency vehicle locator on Phate's car. This request pulled all Department of Motor Vehicles records on late-model silver or gray Jaguar convertibles. Bishop knew that if Phate used this car in the crime it would either be stolen or registered under a fake name and address, which meant that the DMV report probably wouldn't help. But an EVL

would also alert every state, county and local law enforcer in the Northern California area to immediately report any sightings of a car fitting that description.

He nodded for Shelton, the more aggressive - and faster driver of the two, to get behind the wheel.

"Back to CCU," he said.

Shelton mused, "So he's driving a Jag. Man, this guy's no ordinary hacker." But, Bishop reflected, we already knew that.

A message finally popped up on Wyatt Gillette's machine at CCU.

Triple-X: Sorry, dude. This guy had to ask me some shit about breaking screen saver passcodes. Some luser.

For the next few minutes Gillette, in his persona as the alienated Texas teenager, told Triple-X about how he defeated Windows screen saver passcodes and let the hacker give him advice on better ways to do it. Gillette was digitally genuflecting before the guru when the door to the CCU opened and he glanced up to see Frank Bishop and Bob Shelton returning.

Patricia Nolan said excitedly, "We're close to finding Triple-X. He's in a cybercafe in a mall somewhere around here. He said he knows Phate."

Gillette called to Bishop, "But he's not saying anything concrete about him. He knows things but he's scared."

"Pac Bell and Bay Area On-Line say they'll have his location in five minutes," Tony Mott said, listening into his headset. "They're narrowing down the exchange. Looks like he's in Atherton, Menlo Park or Redwood City."

Bishop said, "Well, how many malls can there be? Get some tactical troops into the area." Bob Shelton made a call and then announced, "They're rolling. Be in the area in five minutes."Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter, http://www.processtext.com/abclit.html

"Come on, come on," Mott said to the monitor, fondling the square butt of his silver gun. Bishop, reading the screen, said, "Steer him back to Phate. See if you can get him to give you something concrete."

Renegade334: man this phste dude, isnt their some thing I can do I mean to stop him. I'd like to fuck him up.

Triple-X: Listen, dude. You don't fuck up Phate. He fucks YOU up.

Renegade334: You think?

Triple-X: Phate is walking death, dude. Same with his friend Shawn. Don't go close to them. If Phate got you with Trapdoor, burn your drive and install a new one. Change your screen name. Renegade334: Could he get to me do you think, even in texas? Wheres he hang?

"Good," said Bishop.

But Triple-X didn't answer right away. After a moment this message appeared on the screen: Triple-X: I don't think he'd get to Austin. But I ought tell you something, dude Renegade334: Whats that?

Triple-X: Your ass ain't the least bit safe in Northern California, which is where you're sitting right at the moment, you fucking poser!!!!

"Shit, he made us!" Gillette snapped. Renegade334: Hey man I'm in Texas. Triple-X: "Hey, man" no, you're not. Check out the response times on your anonymizer. ESAD!

Triple-X logged off.

"Goddamn," Nolan said.

"He's gone," Gillette told Bishop and slammed his palm onto the workstation desktop in anger. The detective glanced at the last message on the screen. He nodded toward it. "What's he mean by response times?"

Gillette didn't answer right away. He typed some commands and examined the anonymizer that Miller had hacked together.

"Hell," he muttered when he saw what had happened. He explained: Triple-X had been tracing CCU's computer by sending out the same sort of tiny electronic pings that Gillette was sending to find him. The anonymizer did tell Triple-X that Renegade was in Austin, but, when he'd typed BRB, the hacker must've run a further test, which showed that the length of time it took the pings to get to and from Renegade's computer was far too short for the electrons to make the round-trip all the way to Texas and back. This was a serious mistake - it would have been simple to build a short delay into the anonymizer to addGenerated by ABC Amber LIT Converter, http://www.processtext.com/abclit.html

few milliseconds and make it appear that Renegade was a thousand miles farther away. Gillette couldn't understand why Miller hadn't thought of it.

"Fuck!" the cybercop said, shaking his head when he realized his mistake. "That's my fault. I'm sorry I just didn't think."

No, you sure as hell hadn't, Gillette thought.

They'd been so close.

In a soft, discouraged voice, Bishop said, "Recall SWAT." Shelton pulled out his cell phone and made the call.


Page 19

Bishop asked, "That other thing Triple-X typed. 'ESAD.' What does that mean?"

"Just a friendly acronym," Gillette said sourly. "It means Eat shit and die."

"Bit of a nasty temper," Bishop observed.

Then a phone rang - it was his cell - and the detective answered. "Yes?" Then tersely he asked,

"Where?" He jotted notes and then said, "Get every available unit in the area over there now. Call the San Jose metro police too. Move on it and I mean big."

He hung up then looked at the team. "We got a break. There was a response to our emergency vehicle locator. A traffic cop in San Jose saw a parked gray late-model Jag about a half hour ago. It was in an old area of town where you don't see expensive cars very often." He walked to the map and made an X

at the intersection where the car had been seen.

Shelton said, "I know the area a little. There're a lot of apartments near there. Some bodegas, a few package stores. Pretty low-rent district."

Then Bishop tapped a small square on the map. It was labeled "St. Francis Academy."

"Remember that case a few years ago?" the detective asked Shelton.

"Right."

"Some psycho got into the school and killed a student or teacher. The principal put in all kinds of security, real high-tech stuff. It was in all the papers." He nodded at the white-board. "Phate likes challenges, remember?"

"Jesus," Shelton muttered in fury. "He's going after kids now." Bishop grabbed the phone and called in an assault-in-progress code to central dispatch. No one dared to mention out loud what everybody was thinking: that the EVL report had placed the car there a half hour ago. Which meant Phate had already had plenty of time to play his macabre game. It was just like life, Jamie Turner reflected.

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With no fanfare, no buzzing, no satisfying ka-chunks like in the movies, without even a faint click, the light on the alarmed door went out.

In the Real World you don't get sound effects. You do what you set out to do and there's nothing to commemorate it except a light silently going dark.

He stood up and listened carefully. From far off down the halls of St. Francis Academy he heard music, some shouting, laughter, tinny arguing on a talk-radio show -which he was leaving behind, on his way to spend a totally perfect evening with his brother.

Easing the door open.

Silence. No alarms, no shouts from Booty.

The smell of cold air, fragrant with grass, filled his nose. It reminded him of those long, lonely hours after dinner at his parents' house in Mill Valley during the summer - his brother Mark in Sacramento where he'd taken a job to get away from home. Those endless nights His mother giving Jamie desserts and snacks to keep him out of their hair, his father saying, "Go outside and play," while they and their friends told pointless stories that got more and more fuzzy as everybody guzzled local wines. Go outside and play

Like he was in fucking kindergarten!

Well, Jamie hadn't gone outside at all. He'd gone inside and hacked like there was no tomorrow. That's what the cool spring air reminded him of. But at the moment he was immune to these memories. He was thrilled that he'd been successful and that he was going to spend the night with his brother. He taped the door latch down so that he could get back inside when he returned to the school later that night. Jamie paused and turned back, listening. No footsteps, no Booty, no ghosts. He took a step outside.

His first step to freedom. Yes! He'd made it! Heƒ

It was then that the ghost got him.

Suddenly a man's arm gripped him painfully around the chest and a powerful hand covered his mouth. God god god

Jamie tried to leap back into the school but his attacker, wearing some kind of maintenance man uniform, was strong and wrestled him to the ground. Then the man pulled the thick safety glasses off the boy's nose.

"What've we got here?" he whispered, tossing them on the ground and caressing the boy's eyelids.

"No, no!" Jamie tried to raise his arms to protect his eyes. "What're you doing?" The man took something from the coveralls he wore. It looked like a spray bottle. He held it close to Jamie's face. What was - ?

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A stream of milky liquid shot from the nozzle into his eyes.

The terrible burn started a moment later and the boy began to cry and shake in utter panic. His worst fear was coming true. Blindness!

Jamie Turner shook his head furiously to fling off the pain and horror but the stinging only got worse. He was screaming,"No, no, no," the words muffled under the strong grip of the hand around his mouth. The man leaned close and began to whisper in the boy's ear but Jamie had no idea what he said; the pain

- and the horror - consumed him like fire in dry brush.

CHAPTER SEVENTEEN

Frank Bishop and Wyatt Gillette walked through the old archway of the entrance to St. Francis Academy, their shoes sounding in gritty scrapes on the cobblestones. Bishop nodded a greeting to Huerto Ramirez, whose massive bulk filled half the archway, and asked,

"It's true?"

"Yep, Frank. Sorry. He got away."

Ramirez and Tim Morgan, who was presently canvassing witnesses along the streets around the school, had been among the first at the scene.

Ramirez turned and led Bishop, Gillette and, behind them, Bob Shelton and Patricia Nolan into the school proper. Linda Sanchez, pulling a large wheelie suitcase, joined them. Outside were two ambulances and a dozen police cars, their lights flashing silently. A large crowd of the curious stood on the sidewalk across the street.

"What happened?" Shelton asked him.

"As near as we can tell, the Jaguar was outside that gate over there." Ramirez pointed into a yard separated from the street by a high wall. "We were all on silent roll-up but it looks like he heard we were coming and sprinted out of the school and got away. We set up roadblocks eight and sixteen blocks away but he got through them. Used alleys and side-streets probably." As they walked through the dim corridors Nolan fell into step beside Gillette. She seemed to want to say something but changed her mind and remained silent.

Gillette noticed no students as they walked down the hallways; maybe the teachers were keeping them in their rooms until parents and counselors arrived.

"Crime scene finding anything?" Bishop asked Ramirez.

"Nothing that, you know, jumps up and gives us the perp's address." They turned a corner and at the end of it saw an open door, outside of which were dozens of police officers and several medical technicians. Ramirez glanced at Bishop and then whispered something to him. Bishop nodded and said to Gillette, "It's pretty unpleasant in there. It was like Andy Anderson andGenerated by ABC Amber LIT Converter, http://www.processtext.com/abclit.html

Lara Gibson. The killer used his knife again - in the heart. But it looks like it took him a while to die. It's pretty messy. Why don't you wait outside? When we need you to look at the computer I'll let you know."

"I can handle it," the hacker replied.

"You sure?"

"Yep."

Bishop asked Ramirez, "How old?"

"The kid? Fifteen."

Bishop lifted an eyebrow at Patricia Nolan, asking her if she too could tolerate the carnage. She answered, "It's okay."

They walked inside the classroom.

Despite his measured response to Bishop's question Gillette stopped in shock. There was blood everywhere. An astonishing amount - on the floor, walls, chairs, picture frames, white-board, the lectern. The color was different depending on what substance the blood covered, ranging from bright pink to nearly black.

The body lay under a dark-green rubberized blanket on the floor in the middle of the room. Gillette glanced at Nolan, expecting her to be repulsed too. But after a glance at the crimson spatters and streaks and puddles around the room, her eyes simply scanned the classroom, maybe looking for the computer they were going to analyze.

"What's the boy's name?" Bishop asked.

A woman officer from the San Jose Police Department said, "Jamie Turner." Linda Sanchez walked into the room and inhaled deeply when she saw the blood and the body. She seemed to be deciding if she was going to faint or not. She stepped outside again. Frank Bishop walked into the classroom next door to the murder site, where a teenage boy sat clutching himself and rocking back and forth in a chair. Gillette joined the detective.

"Jamie?" Bishop asked. "Jamie Turner?"

The boy didn't respond. Gillette noticed that his eyes were bright red and the skin around them seemed inflamed. Bishop glanced at another man in the room. He was thin and in his mid-twenties. He stood beside Jamie and had his arm on the boy's shoulder. The man said to the detective, "This is Jamie, that's right. I'm his brother. Mark Turner."

"Booty's dead," Jamie whispered miserably and pressed a damp cloth on his eyes.

"Booty?"

Another man - in his forties, wearing chinos and an Izod shirt - identified himself as the assistant principal at the school and said, "It was the boy's nickname for him." He nodded toward the room where the bodyGenerated by ABC Amber LIT Converter, http://www.processtext.com/abclit.html

bag rested. "For the principal."

Bishop crouched down. "How you feeling, young man?"

"He killed him. He had this knife. He stabbed him and Mr. Boethe just kept screaming and screaming and running around, trying to get away. I" He lost his voice to a cascade of sobbing. His brother gripped his shoulders tighter.

"He all right?" Bishop asked one of the medical techs, a woman whose jacket was adorned with a stethoscope and hemostat clamps. She said, "He'll be fine. Looks like the perp squirted him in the eyes with water that had a little ammonia and Tabasco mixed in. Just enough to sting, not enough to do any damage."

"Why?" Bishop asked.

She shrugged. "You got me."

Bishop pulled up a chair and sat down. "I'm sorry this happened, Jamie. I know you're upset. But it's real important you tell us what you know."

After a few minutes the boy calmed and explained that he'd broken out of the school to go to a concert with his brother. But as soon as he'd gotten the door open this man in a uniform like a janitor's grabbed him and squirted some stuff in his eyes. He'd told Jamie it was acid and that if the boy led him to where Mr. Boethe was he'd give him an antidote. But if he didn't the acid'd eat his eyes away. The boy's hands shook and he started to cry.

"It's his big fear," Mark said angrily, "going blind. The bastard found that out somehow." Bishop nodded and said to Gillette, "The principal was his target. It's a big school - Phate needed Jamie to find the victim fast."

"And it hurt so much! It really, really did I told him I wasn't going to help him. I didn't want to, I tried not to but I couldn't help it. I" He fell silent.

Gillette felt there was something more that Jamie wanted to say but couldn't bring himself to. Bishop touched the boy's shoulder. "You did exactly the right thing. You did just what I would've done, son. Don't you worry about it. Tell me, Jamie, did you e-mail anybody about what you were going to do tonight? It's important that we know."

The boy swallowed and looked down.

"Nothing's going to happen to you, Jamie. Don't worry. We just want to find this guy."

"My brother, I guess. And then"

"Go ahead."

"What it was, I kind of went online to find some pass-codes and stuff. Passcodes to the front gate. He must've hacked my machine and seen them and that's how he got into the courtyard."Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter, http://www.processtext.com/abclit.html

"How about you being afraid of going blind?" Bishop asked. "Could he have read about that online?" Jamie nodded again.

Gillette said, "So Phate made Jamie himself a trapdoor - to get inside."

"You've been real brave, young man," Bishop said kindly. But the boy was beyond consoling.

The medical examiner's technicians took the principal's body away and the cops conferred in the corridor, Gillette and Nolan with them. Shelton reported what he'd learned from the forensic techs.

"Crime scene doesn't have dick. A few dozen obvious fingerprints - they'll run those but, hell, we already know it's Holloway. He was wearing shoes without distinctive tread marks. There're a million fibers in the room. Enough to keep the bureau's lab busy for a year. Oh, they found this. It's the Turner kid's." He handed a sheet of paper to Bishop, who read it and passed it on to Gillette. It appeared to be the boy's notes about cracking the passcode and deactivating the door alarm. Huerto Ramirez told them, "Nobody was exactly sure where the Jaguar was parked. In any case, the rain's washed away any tread marks. We got a ton of trash by the roadside but whether our perp dropped any of it or not, who knows?"

Nolan said, "He's a cracker. That means he's an organized offender. He's not going to be pitching out junk mailers with his address on them while he's staking out a victim." Ramirez continued, "Tim's still pounding the pavement with some troopers from HQ but nobody's seen anything at all."

Bishop glanced at Nolan, Sanchez and Gillette. "Okay, secure the boy's machine and check it out." Linda Sanchez asked, "Where is it?"

The assistant principal said he'd lead them to the school's computer department. Gillette returned to the room where Jamie was sitting and asked him which machine he'd used.

"Number three," the boy sullenly replied and continued pressing the cloth into his eyes. The team started down the dim corridor. As they walked, Linda Sanchez made a call on her cell phone. She learned - Gillette deduced from the conversation - that her daughter still hadn't started labor. She hung up, saying, "Dios."

In the basement computer room, a chill and depressing place, Gillette, Nolan and Sanchez walked up to the machine marked NO. 3. Gillette told Sanchez not to run any of her excavation programs just yet. He sat down and said, "As far as we know the Trapdoor demon hasn't self-destructed. I'm going to try to find out where it's resident in the system."


Page 20

Nolan looked around the damp, gothic room. "Feels like we're in The Exorcist Spooky atmosphere and demonic possession."

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Gillette gave a faint smile. He powered up the computer and examined the main menu. He then loaded various applications - a word processor, a spreadsheet, a fax program, a virus checker, some disk-copying utilities, some games, some Web browsers, a password-cracking program that Jamie had apparently written (some very robust code-writing for a teenager, Gillette noticed). As he typed he'd stare at the screen, watching how soon the character he typed would appear in the glowing letters on the monitor. He'd listen to the grind of the hard drive to see if it was making any sounds that were out of sync with the task it was supposed to be performing at that moment. Patricia Nolan sat close to him, also gazing at the screen.

"I can feel the demon," Gillette whispered. "But it's odd - it seems to move around. It jumps from program to program. As soon as I open one it slips into the software - maybe to see if I'm looking for it. When it decides that I'm not, it leaves But it has to be resident somewhere."

"Where?" Bishop asked.

"Let's see if we can find out." Gillette opened and closed a dozen programs, then a dozen more, all the while typing furiously. "Okay, okay This is the most sluggish directory." He looked over a list of files then gave a cold laugh. "You know where Trapdoor hangs out?"

"Where?"

"The games folder. At the moment it's in the Solitaire program."

"What?"

"The card game."

Sanchez said, "But games come with almost every computer sold in America." Nolan said, "That's probably why Phate wrote the code that way." Bishop shook his head. "So anybody with a game on his computer could have Trapdoor in it?" Nolan asked, "What happens if you disabled Solitaire or erased it?" They debated this for a moment. Gillette was desperately curious about how Trapdoor worked and wanted to extract the demon and examine it. If they deleted the game program the demon might kill itself

- but knowing that this would destroy it would give them a weapon; anyone who suspected the demon was inside could simply remove the game.

They decided to copy the contents of the hard drive from the computer Jamie had used and then Gillette would delete Solitaire and they'd see what happened.

Once Sanchez was finished copying the contents Gillette erased the Solitaire program. But he noticed a faint delay in the delete operation. He tested various programs again then laughed bitterly. "It's still there. It jumped to another program and's alive and well. How the hell does it do that?" The Trapdoor demon had sensed its home was about to be destroyed and had delayed the delete program just long enough to escape from the Solitaire software to another program.

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Gillette stood up and shook his head. "There's nothing more I can do here. Let's take the machine back to CCU and--"

There was a blur of motion as the door to the computer room swung open fast, shattering glass. A raging cry filled the room and a figure charged up to the computer. Nolan dropped to her knees, giving a faint scream of surprise.

Bishop was knocked aside. Linda Sanchez fumbled for her gun.

Gillette dove for cover just as the chair swung past his head and crashed into the monitor he'd been sitting at.

"Jamie!" the assistant principal cried sharply. "No!" But the boy drew back the heavy chair and slammed it into the monitor again, which imploded with a loud pop and scattered glass shards around them. Smoke rose from the carcass of the unit. The administrator grabbed the chair and ripped it from Jamie's hand, pulling the boy aside and shoving him to the floor. "What the hell are you doing, mister?" The boy scrambled to his feet, sobbing, and made another grab for the computer. But Bishop and the administrator restrained him. "I'm going to smash it! It killed him! It killed Mr. Boethe!" The assistant principal shouted, "You cut that out this minute, young man! I'm not going to have that kind of behavior in my students."

"Get your fucking hands off me!" the boy raged. "It killed him and I'm going to kill it!" The boy shook with anger.

"Mr. Turner, you will calm down this instant! I'm not going to tell you again." Mark, Jamie's brother, ran into the computer room. He put his arm around the boy, who collapsed against him, sobbing.

"The students have to behave," the shaken administrator said, looking at the cool faces of the CCU team.

"That's the way we do things around here."

Bishop glanced at Sanchez, who was surveying the damage. She said, "Central processor's okay. The monitor's all he nailed."

Wyatt Gillette pulled a couple of chairs into the corner and motioned Jamie over to him. The boy looked at his brother, who nodded, and he joined the hacker.

"I think that fucks up the warranty," Gillette said, laughing and nodding at the monitor. The boy flashed a weak smile but it vanished almost immediately.

After a moment the boy said, "It's my fault Booty died." The boy looked at him. "I hacked the passcode to the gate, I downloaded the schematic for the alarms Oh, I wish I was fucking dead!" He wiped his face on his sleeve.

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There was more on the boy's mind, Gillette could see once again. "Go on, tell me," he encouraged softly. The boy looked down and finally said, "That man? He said that if I hadn't been hacking, Mr. Boethe'd still be alive. It was me who killed him. And I should never touch another computer again because I might kill somebody else."

Gillette was shaking his head. "No, no, no, Jamie. The man who did this is a sick fuck. He got it into his head that he was going to kill your principal and nothing was going to stop him. If he hadn't used you he would've used somebody else. He said those things to you 'cause he's afraid of you."

"Afraid of me?"

"He's been watching you, watching you write script and hack. He's scared of what you might do to him someday."

Jamie said nothing.

Gillette nodded at the smoking monitor. "You can't break all the machines in the world."

"But I can fuck up that one!" he raged.

"It's just a tool," Gillette said softly. "Some people use screwdrivers to break into houses. You can't get rid of all the screwdrivers."

Jamie sagged against a stack of books, crying. Gillette put his arm around the boy's shoulders. "I'm never going on a fucking computer again. I hate them!"

"Well, that's going to be a problem."

The boy wiped his face again. "Problem?"

Gillette said, "See, we need you to help us."

"Help you?"

The hacker nodded at the machine. "You wrote that script? Crack-er?" The boy nodded.

"You're good, Jamie. You're really good..There are sys-admins who couldn't run the hacks you did. We're going to take that machine with us so we can analyze it at headquarters. But I'm going to leave the other ones here and I was hoping you'd go through them and see if there's anything you can find that might help us catch this asshole."

"You want me to do that?"

"You know what a white-hat hacker is?"

"Yeah. A good hacker who helps find bad hackers."

"Will you be our white hat? We don't have enough people at the state police. Maybe you'll findGenerated by ABC Amber LIT Converter, http://www.processtext.com/abclit.html

something we can't."

The boy now seemed embarrassed he'd been crying. He angrily wiped his face. "I don't know. I don't think I want to."

"We sure could use your help."

The assistant principal said, "Okay, Jamie, it's time to get back to your room." His brother said, "No way. He's not staying here tonight. We're going to that concert and then he can spend the night with me."

The assistant principal said firmly, "No. He needs written permission from your parents and we couldn't get in touch with them. We have rules here and, after all this" - he waved his hands vaguely toward the crime scene - "we're not deviating from them."

Mark Turner leaned forward and whispered harshly, "Jesus Christ, loosen up, will you? The kid's had the worst night of his life and you're--"

The administrator responded, "You have no say about how I deal with my students." Then Frank Bishop said, "But /do. And Jamie's not doing either - staying here or going to any concerts. He's coming to police headquarters and making a statement. Then we'll take him to his parents."

"I don't want to go there," the boy said miserably. "Not my parents."

"I'm afraid I don't have any choice, Jamie," said the detective. The boy sighed and looked like he was going to start crying again. Bishop glanced at the assistant principal and said, "I'll take care of it from here. You're going to have your hands full with the other boys tonight."

The man glanced distastefully at the detective - and at the broken door - and left the computer room. After he was gone Frank Bishop smiled and said to the boy, "Okay, young man, you and your brother get on out of here now. You might miss the opening act but if you move fast you'll probably make the main show."

"But my parents? You said--"

"Forget what I said. I'll call your mom and dad and tell them you're spending the night with your brother." He looked at Mark. "Just make sure he's back here in time for classes tomorrow." The boy couldn't smile - not after everything that had happened - but he offered a faint, "Thanks." He walked toward the door.

Mark Turner shook the detective's hand.

"Jamie," Gillette called.

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The boy turned.

"Think about what I asked - about helping us."

Jamie looked at the smoking monitor for a moment. He turned and left without responding. Bishop asked Gillette, "You think he can find something?"

"I don't have any idea. That's not why I asked him to help. I figured that after something like this he needs to get back on the horse." Gillette nodded at Jamie's notes. "He's brilliant. It'd be a real crime if he got gun-shy and gave up machines."

The detective gave a brief laugh. "The more I know you, the more you don't seem like the typical hacker."

"Who knows? Maybe I'm not."

Gillette helped Linda Sanchez go through the ritual of disconnecting the computer that had been a co-conspirator in the death of poor Willem Boethe. She wrapped it in a blanket and strapped it onto a wheelie cart carefully, as if she were afraid that jostling or rough treatment would dislodge any fragile clues to the whereabouts of their adversary.

At the Computer Crimes Unit the investigation stalled.

The. bot's alarm that would alert them to the presence of Phate or Shawn on the Net hadn't gone off, nor had TripleX gone back online.

Tony Mott, who still seemed unhappy at missing a chance to play "real cop," was grudgingly poring over sheets of legal paper on which he and Miller had taken numerous notes while the rest of the team had been at St. Francis Academy. He announced, "There was nothing helpful in VICAP or the state databases under the name 'Holloway.' A lot of the files were missing and the ones still there don't tell us shit."

Mott continued, "We talked to some of the places that Holloway'd worked: Western Electric, Apple, and Nippon

Electronics - that's NEC. A few of the people who remember him say that he was a brilliant codeslinger and a brilliant social engineer."

"TMS," Linda Sanchez recited, "IDK."

Gillette and Nolan laughed.

Mott translated yet another acronym from the Blue Nowhere for Bishop and Shelton. "Tell me something 1 don't know." He continued, "But - surprise, surprise - all the files were gone from their personnel and audit departments."

"I can see how he hacks in and erases computer files," Linda Sanchez said, "but how's he get rid of the dead-tree stuff?"

"The what?" Shelton asked.

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"Paper files," Gillette explained. "But that's easy: he hacks into the file-room computer and issues a memo to the staff to shred them."

Mott added that several of the security officers at Phate's former employers believed he'd made his living

- and might still be making it now - by brokering stolen supercomputer parts, for which there was huge demand, especially in Europe and third-world nations.

Their hopes blossomed for a moment when Ramirez called in to say that he'd finally heard from the owner of Ollie's Theatrical Supply. The man had looked at the booking picture of young Jon Holloway and confirmed that he'd come into the store several times in the past month. The owner couldn't recall exactly what he'd bought but he remembered the purchases were large and had been paid for with cash. The owner had no idea where Holloway lived but he did remember a brief exchange. He'd asked Holloway if he was an actor and, if so, wasn't it hard to get jobs?

The killer had replied, "Nope, it's not hard at all. I act every single day." A half hour later Frank Bishop stretched and looked around the dinosaur pen. The energy was low in the room. Linda Sanchez was on the phone with her daughter. Stephen Miller sat sullenly by himself, looking over notes, perhaps still troubled by the mistake he'd made with the anonymizer, which had let Triple-X get away. Gillette was in the analysis lab, checking out the contents of Jamie Turner's computer. Patricia Nolan was in a nearby cubicle, making phone calls. Bishop wasn't sure where Bob Shelton was.

Bishop's phone rang and he took the call. It was from the highway patrol. A motorcycle officer had found Phate's Jaguar in Oakland.

There wasn't any direct evidence linking the car to the hacker but it had to be his; the only reason to douse a $60,000 vehicle with copious amounts of gasoline and set it aflame was to destroy evidence. Which the fire did with great efficiency, according to the crime scene unit; there were no clues that might help the team.


Page 21

Bishop turned back to the preliminary crime scene report from St. Francis Academy. Huerto Ramirez had compiled it in record time but there wasn't much that was helpful here either. The murder weapon had again been a Ka-bar knife. The duct tape used to bind Jamie Turner was untraceable, as were the Tabasco and ammonia that had stung his eyes. They'd found plenty of Holloway's fingerprints - but those were useless now since they already knew his identity.

Bishop walked to the white-board and gestured to Mott for the marker, who pitched it to him. The detective wrote these details on the board but when he started to write "Fingerprints," he paused. Phate's fingerprints

The burning Jaguar

These facts troubled him for some reason. Why? he wondered, brushing his sideburns with his knuckles. Do something with that

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He snapped his fingers.

"What?" Linda Sanchez asked. Mott, Miller and Nolan looked at him.

"Phate didn't wear gloves this time."

At Vesta's, when he'd kidnapped Lara Gibson, Phate had carefully wrapped a napkin around his beer bottle to obscure his prints. At St. Francis he hadn't bothered. "That means he knows we have his real identity." Then the detective added, "And the car too. The only reason to destroy it is if he knew that we'd found out he was driving a Jaguar. How'd he do that?"

The press hadn't mentioned his name or the fact that the killer was driving a Jaguar.

"We have ourselves a spy, you think?" Linda Sanchez said. Bishop's eyes fell again on the white-board and he noticed the reference to Shawn, Phate's mysterious partner. He tapped the name and asked, "What's the whole point of this game of his? It's to find some hidden way of getting access to your victim's life."

Nolan said, "You're thinking Shawn's a trapdoor? An insider?" Tony Mott shrugged. "Maybe he's a dispatcher at headquarters? Or a trooper?"

"Or somebody from California State Data Management?" Stephen Miller suggested.

"Or maybe," a man's voice growled, "Gillette is Shawn." Bishop turned and saw Bob Shelton standing in front of a cubicle toward the back of the room.

"What're you talking about?" Patricia Nolan asked.

"Come here," he said, gesturing them toward the cubicle. Inside, on the desk, a computer monitor glowed with text. Shelton sat down and scrolled through it as the others on the team crammed into the cubicle.

Linda Sanchez looked over the screen. With some concern she said, "You're on ISLEnet. Gillette said we weren't supposed to log on from here."

"Of course he said that," Shelton spat out bitterly. "Know why? Because he was afraid we'd find this--" He scrolled a little further down and gestured toward the screen. "It's an old Department of Justice report I found in the Contra Costa County archives. Phate might've erased the copy in Washington but he missed this one." Shelton tapped the screen. "Gillette was Valleyman. He and Holloway ran that gang Knights of Access - together. They founded it."

"Shit," Miller muttered.

"No," Bishop whispered. "Can't be."

Mott spat out, "He fucking social engineered us too!"

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Bishop closed his eyes, seared by the betrayal.

Shelton muttered, "Gillette and Holloway've known each other for years. 'Shawn' could be one of Gillette's screen names. Remember that the warden said he'd been caught going online. He was probably contacting Phate. Maybe this whole thing was a plan to get Gillette out of prison. What a fucking son of bitch."

Nolan pointed out, "But Gillette programmed his bot to search for Valleyman too."

"Wrong." Shelton pushed a printout toward Bishop. "Here's how he modified his program." The printout read:

Search: IRC, Undernet, Dalnet, WAIS, gopher, Usenet, BBSs, WWW, FTP, ARCHIVES

Bishop shook his head. "I don't understand it."

"The way he wrote the request," Nolan said, "his bot would retrieve anything that had a reference to Phate, Holloway or Trapdoor in it unless it also referred to Gillette or Valleyman. Those it would ignore." Shelton continued, "He's the one who's been warning Phate. That's why he got away from St. Francis in time. And Gillette told him that we knew what kind of car he was driving, so he burned it." Miller added, "And he was so desperate to stay and help us, remember?"

"Sure he was," Shelton said, nodding. "Otherwise, he'd lose his chance to--" The detectives looked at each other.

Bishop whispered, "ƒescape."

They sprinted down the corridor that led to the analysis lab. Bishop noticed that Shelton had drawn his weapon.

The door to the lab was locked. Bishop pounded but there was no response. "Key!" he called to Miller. But Shelton growled, "Fuck the key--" and kicked the door in, raising his gun. The room was empty.

Bishop continued to the end of the corridor and pushed into a storeroom in the back of the building. He saw the fire door, which led outside into the parking lot. It was wide open. The fire alarm in the door-opener bar had been dismantled - just as Jamie Turner had done to escape from St. Francis Academy.

Bishop closed his eyes and leaned against the damp wall. He felt the betrayal deep within his heart, as sharp as Phate's terrible knife.

"The more I know you, the more you don't seem like the typical hacker."Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter, http://www.processtext.com/abclit.html

"Who knows? Maybe I'm not."

Then the detective turned and hurried back into the main area of the CCU. He picked up the phone and called the Department of Corrections Detention Coordination Office at the Santa Clara County Building. The detective identified himself and said, "We've got a fugitive on the run wearing an anklet. We need an emergency trace. I'll give you the number of his unit." He consulted his notebook. "It's--"

"Could you call back later, Lieutenant?" came the weary response.

"Call back? Excuse me, sir, you don't understand. We just had an escape. Within the last thirty minutes. We need to trace him."

"Well, we're not doing any tracing. The whole system's down. Crashed like the Hindenberg. Our tech people can't figure out why."

Bishop felt the chill run through his body. "Tell them you've been hacked," he said. "That's why." The voice on the other end of the line gave a condescending laugh. "You've been watching too many movies, Detective. Nobody can get into our computers. Call back in three or four hours. Our people're saying we should be up and running by then."

III

SOCIAL ENGINEERING

Anonymity is one thing that the next wave of computing will abolish.

- Newsweek

CHAPTER EIGHTEEN

He takes things apart.

Wyatt Gillette was jogging through the chill evening rain down a sidewalk in Santa Clara, his chest aching, breathless. It was 9:30 P.M. and he'd put nearly two miles between him and CCU headquarters since he'd escaped.

He knew his way around this neighborhood - he wasn't far from one of the houses where he'd lived as a boy - and he was thinking of the time his mother had told a friend, who'd asked if ten-year-old Wyatt preferred baseball to soccer, "Oh, he doesn't like sports. He takes things apart. That seems to be all he likes to do."

A police car approached and Gillette eased to a quick walk, keeping his head under the umbrella he'd found in the computer analysis lab at CCU.

The car disappeared without slowing. The hacker sped up once again. The anklet tracking system would be down for several hours but he couldn't afford to dawdle.

He takes things apart

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Nature had cursed Wyatt Edward Gillette with a raging curiosity that seemed to grow exponentially with every new year. But that perverse gift had at least been mitigated somewhat by the blessing of hands and a mind skillful enough to, more often than not, satisfy his obsession. He lived to understand how things worked and there was only one way to do that: take them apart. Not a single thing in the Gillette house had been safe from the boy and his tool kit. His mother would return home from her job to find young Wyatt sitting in front of her food processor, happily examining its component parts.

"Do you know how much that cost?" she'd ask angrily.

Didn't know, didn't care.

But ten minutes later it would be reassembled and working fine, neither better nor worse for its dismemberment.

And the Cuisinart's surgery had occurred when the boy was only five years old. Soon, though, he'd taken apart and put back together all the things mechanical in the house. He understood pulleys and wheels and gears and motors and they began to bore him so it was on to electronics. For a year he preyed upon stereos and record players and tape decks. Taking 'em apart, putting 'em back together

It didn't take long before the boy had dispensed with the mysteries of vacuum tubes and circuit boards, and his curiosity began to prowl like a tiger with a reawakened hunger. But then he discovered computers.

He thought of his father, a tall man with the perfect posture and trim hair that had been his legacy from the air force. The man had taken him to a Radio Shack when his son was eight and told him he could pick out something for himself. "You can get anything you want."

"Anything?" asked the boy, eyeing the hundreds of items on the shelves. Anything you want

He'd picked a computer.

It was a perfect choice for a boy who takes things apart - because the little Trash-80 computer was a portal to the Blue Nowhere, which is infinitely deep and infinitely complex, made up of layer upon layer of parts small as molecules and big as the exploding universe. It's the place where curiosity can roam free forever.

Schools, however, tend to prefer their students' minds to be compliant first and curious second, if at all, and as he moved up through his grades young Wyatt Gillette began to founder. Before he bottomed out, though, a wise counselor plucked him out of the stew of high school, sized him up and sent him off to Santa Clara Magnet School Number Three.

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The school was billed as a "haven for gifted but troubled students residing in Silicon Valley" - a description that could, of course, be translated only one way: hacker heaven. A typical day for a typical student at Magnet Three involved cutting P.E. and English classes, tolerating history and acing math and physics, all the while concentrating on the only schoolwork that really mattered: talking with your buddies nonstop about the Machine World.

Now, walking down a rainy sidewalk, not far from this very school in fact, he had many memories of his early days in the Blue Nowhere.

Gillette clearly remembered sitting in the Magnet Three school yard, practicing his whistle for hour upon hour. If you could whistle into a fortress phone at just the right tone you could fool the phone switches into thinking you yourself were another switch and would be rewarded with the golden ring of access. (Everybody knew about Captain Crunch - the username of a legendary young hacker who had discovered that the whistle given away with the cereal of the same name generated a tone of 2600

megahertz, the exact frequency that let you break into the phone company's long-distance lines and make free calls.)

He remembered all the hours he'd spent in the Magnet Three cafeteria, which smelled like wet dough, or in study hall or the green corridors, talking about CPUs, graphics cards, bulletin boards, viruses, virtual disks, passwords, expandable RAM, and the bible - that is, William Gibson's novel Neuromancer, which popularized the term "cyberpunk."

He remembered the first time he cracked into a government computer and the first time he got busted and sentenced to detention for hacking - at seventeen, still a juvenile. (Though he still had to do time; the judge was stern with boys who seized root of Ford Motor Company's mainframe when they should've been out playing baseball - and the old jurist was more stern yet with boys who lectured him, adamantly pointing out that the world'd be in pretty shitty shape today if Thomas Alva Edison had been more concerned with sports than inventing.)

But the most prominent memory at the moment was of an event that occurred a few years after he graduated from Berkeley: his first online meeting with a young hacker named CertainDeath, the username of Jon Patrick Holloway, in the #hack chat room.

Gillette was working as a programmer during the day. But like many code crunchers he was bored with that life and counted the hours until he could get home to his machine to explore the Blue Nowhere and meet kindred souls, which Holloway certainly was; their first online conversation lasted four and a half hours.

Initially they traded phone phreaking information. They then put theory into practice and pulled off what they declared to be some "totally moby" hacks, cracking into the Pac Bell, AT and British Telecom switching systems.

From these modest beginnings they began prowling through corporate and government machines. Their reputation spread and pretty soon other hackers began to seek them out, running Unix "finger" searches on the Net to find them by name and then sitting at the young men's virtual feet to learn what the gurus had to teach. After a year or so of hanging out online with various regulars he and Holloway realized that they'd become a cybergang - a rather legendary one, as a matter of fact. CertainDeath, the leader and bona fide wizard. Valleyman, the second in command, the thoughtful philosopher of the group and nearly as good a codeslinger as CertainDeath. Sauron and Klepto, not as smart but half crazy and willing to do anything online. Others, too: Mosk, Replicant, Grok, NeuRO, BYTEr

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They needed a name and Gillette had delivered: "Knights of Access" had occurred to him after playing a medieval MUD game for sixteen hours straight.


Page 22

Their notoriety spread around the world - largely because they wrote programs that could get computers to do amazing things. Far too many hackers and cyberpunks weren't programmers at all - they were referred to contemptuously as "point-and-clickers." But the leaders of the Knights were skilled software writers, so good that they didn't even bother to compile many of their programs - turning the raw source code into working software - because they knew clearly how the software would perform. (Elana Gillette's ex-wife, whom he'd met around this time - was a piano teacher and she said Gillette and Holloway reminded her of Beethoven, who could imagine his music so perfectly in his head that once he'd written it the performance was anticlimactic.)

Recalling this, he now thought of his ex-wife. Not far from here was the beige apartment where he and Elana had lived for several years. He could picture the time they spent together so clearly; a thousand images leapt from deep memory. But unlike the Unix operating system or a math coprocessor chip, the relationship between him and Elana was something he couldn't understand. He didn't know how to take it apart and look at the components.

And therefore it was something he couldn't fix.

This woman still consumed him, he longed for her, he wanted a child with her but in the matter of love Wyatt Gillette knew he was no wizard.

He now put these reflections aside and stepped under the awning of a shabby Goodwill store near the Sunnyvale town line. Once he was out of the rain he looked around him then, seeing he was alone, reached into his pocket and extracted a small electronic circuit board, which he'd had with him all day. When he'd gone back to his cell at San Ho that morning to collect the magazines and clippings for his excursion to the CCU office he'd taped the board to his right thigh, near his groin. This board, which he'd been working on for the past six months, was what he'd intended to smuggle out of prison from the beginning - not the phone phreaking red box, which he'd slipped into his pocket so that the guards would find that and, he hoped, let him leave prison without going through the metal detector again.

In the computer analysis lab back at CCU forty minutes ago he'd pulled the board off his skin and successfully tested it. Now in the pale, fluorescent light from the Goodwill shop he examined the circuit again and found that it had survived his jog from CCU just fine.

He slipped it back into his pocket and stepped inside the store, nodding a greeting to the night clerk, who said, "We close at ten."

Gillette knew this - he'd checked their hours out earlier. "I won't be long," he assured the man then proceeded to pick out a change of clothing, which, in the best tradition of social engineering, were the sort of things he wouldn't normally wear.

He paid with money he'd lifted from a jacket in CCU and started toward the door. He paused and turned back to the clerk. "Excuse me. There's a bus stop around here, isn't there?" The old man pointed to the west of the store. "Fifty feet up the street. It's a transfer point. You can get a bus there that'll take you anywhere you want to go."

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"Anywhere?" Wyatt Gillette asked cheerfully. "Who could ask for more than that?" And he stepped back into the rainy night, opening his borrowed umbrella.

The Computer Crimes Unit was mute from the betrayal.

Frank Bishop felt the hot pressure of silence around him. Bob Shelton was coordinating with the local police. Tony Mott and Linda Sanchez were also on the phones, checking leads. They spoke in quiet tones, reverent almost, suggesting the intensity of their desire to recapture their betrayer. The more I know you, the more you don't seem like the typical hacker After Bishop, it was Patricia Nolan who seemed the most upset and took the young man's escape personally. Bishop had sensed a connection between them - well, she at least was attracted to the hacker. The detective wondered if this crush might've fit a certain pattern: the smart but ungainly woman would fall hard and fast for a brilliant renegade, who'd charm her for a while but then would slip out of her life. For the fiftieth time that day Bishop pictured his wife Jennie and thought how glad he was to be contentedly married.

The reports came back but there were no leads. No one in the buildings near CCU had seen Gillette escape. No cars were missing from the parking lot but the office was right next to a major county bus route and he could easily have escaped that way. No county or municipal police cars reported seeing anyone fitting his description on foot.

With the absence of hard evidence as to where Gillette had gone Bishop decided to look at the hacker's history -try to track down his father or brother. Friends too and former coworkers. Bishop looked over Andy Anderson's desk for copies of Gillette's court and prison files but he couldn't find them. When Bishop put in an emergency request for copies of the files from central records he learned that they were gone.

"Someone issued a memo to shred them, right?" Bishop asked the night clerk.

"As a matter of fact, sir, that's right. How'd you know?"

"Wild guess." The detective hung up.

Then an idea occurred to him. He recalled that the hacker had done juvenile time. So Bishop called a friend at the night magistrate's office. The man did some checking and learned that, yes, they did have a file on Wyatt Gillette's arrest and sentencing when he'd been seventeen. They'd send a copy over as soon as possible.

"He forgot to have those shredded," Bishop said to Nolan. "At least we've got one break." Suddenly Tony Mott glanced at a computer terminal and leapt to his feet, shouting, "Look!" He ran to the terminal and started banging on the keyboard.

"What?" Bishop asked.

"A housekeeping program just started to wipe the empty space on the hard drive," Mott said breathlesslyGenerated by ABC Amber LIT Converter, http://www.processtext.com/abclit.html

as he keyed. He hit ENTER then looked up. "There, it's stopped." Bishop noted the alarm in his face but had no clue what was going on. It was Linda Sanchez who explained. "Almost all the data on a computer - even things you've deleted or that vanish when you shut the computer off - stay in the empty space of your hard drive. You can't see them as files but they're easy to recover. That's how we catch a lot of bad guys who think they deleted incriminating evidence. The only way to completely destroy that information is to run a program that

'wipes' the empty space. It's like a digital shredder. Before he escaped Wyatt must've programmed it to start running."

"Which means," Tony Mott said, "that he doesn't want us to see what he was just doing online." Linda Sanchez said, "I've got a program that'll find whatever he was looking at." She flipped through a box containing floppy disks and loaded one into the machine. Her stubby fingers danced over the keyboard and in a moment cryptic symbols filled the screen. They made no sense whatsoever to Frank Bishop. He noticed though that this must have been a victory for their side because Sanchez smiled faintly and motioned her colleagues over to the terminal.

"This's interesting," Mott said.

Stephen Miller nodded and began taking notes.

"What?" Bishop asked.

But Miller was too busy writing to reply.

CHAPTER NINETEEN

Phate sat in the dining room of his house in Los Altos, listening to Death of a Salesman on his Diskman. Hunching over his laptop, though, he was distracted. He was badly shaken up by the close call at St. Francis Academy. He remembered standing with his arm around trembling Jamie Turner - both of them watching poor Booty thrash about in his death throes - and telling the kid to stay away from computers forever. But his compelling monologue had been interrupted by Shawn's emergency page, which alerted him that the police were on their way to the school.

Phate had sprinted out of St. Francis and gotten away just in time, as the police cruisers approached from three different directions.

How on earth had they figured that out?

Well, he was shaken, true, but - an expert at MUD games, a supreme strategist - Phate knew that there was only one thing to do when the enemy has a near success.

Attack again.

He needed a new victim. He scrolled through his computer's directory and opened a folder labeled Univac Week, which contained information on Lara Gibson, St. Francis Academy and other potential victims in Silicon Valley. He started reading through some of the articles from local newspaper Web sites;Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter, http://www.processtext.com/abclit.html

there were stories about people like paranoid rap stars who traveled with armed entourages, politicians who supported unpopular causes and abortion doctors who lived in virtual fortresses. But whom to pick? he wondered. Who'd be more challenging than Boethe and Lara Gibson?

Then his eye caught a newspaper article that Shawn had sent to him about a month ago. It concerned a family who lived in an affluent part of Palo Alto.

High Security in a High-Tech World

Donald W. is a man who's been to the edge. And he didn't like it.

Donald, 47, who agreed to be interviewed only if we didn't use his last name, is chief executive officer of one of Silicon Valley's most successful venture capital firms. While another man might brag about this accom-plishment, Donald tries desperately to keep his success, and all the other facts about his life, completely hidden.

There's a very good reason for this: six years ago, while in Argentina to close a deal with investors, he was kidnapped at gunpoint and held for two weeks. His company paid an undisclosed amount of ransom for his release.

Donald was subsequently found unharmed by Buenos Aires police, but he says he hasn't been the same since.

"You look death right in the face and you think, I've taken so much for granted. We think we live in a civilized world, but that's not the case at all."

Donald is among a growing number of wealthy executives in Silicon Valley who are starting to take security seriously.

He and his wife even picked a private school for their only child, Samantha, 8, on the basis of its high-security facilities.

Perfect, Phate thought and went online.

The anonymity of these characters was, of course, merely a slight inconvenience and in ten minutes he'd hacked into the newspaper's editorial computer system and was browsing through the notes of the reporter who'd written the article. He soon had all the details he needed on Donald Wingate, 32983 Hesperia Way, Palo Alto, married to Joyce, forty-two, nee Shearer, who were the parents of a third grader at Junipero Serra School, 2346 Rio Del Vista, also in Palo Alto. He learned too about Wingate's brother, Irving, and Irv's wife, Kathy, and about the two bodyguards in Wingate's employ. There were some MUDhead game players who'd consider it bad strategy to hit the same type of target a private school, in this case - twice in a row. Phate, on the contrary, thought it made perfect sense and that the cops would be caught completely off guard.

He scrolled through the files again slowly.

Who do you want to be?

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Patricia Nolan said, "You're not going to hurt him, are you? It's not like he's dangerous. You know that." Frank Bishop snapped that they weren't going to shoot Gillette in the back but, beyond that, there were no guarantees. His response wasn't very civil but his goal at the moment was to find the fugitive, not to comfort consultants who had a crush on him.

The main CCU phone line rang.

Tony Mott took the call, listened, nodding his head broadly, eyes slightly wider than they normally were. Bishop frowned, wondering who was on the other end of the line. In a respectful voice Mott said,

"Please hold a minute." The young cop then handed the receiver to the detective as if it were a bomb.

"It's for you," the cop whispered uncertainly. "Sorry." Sorry? Bishop lifted an eyebrow.

"It's Washington, Frank. The Pentagon."

The Pentagon. It was after 1:00 A.M. East Coast time.

This is trouble

He took the receiver. "Hello?"

"Detective Bishop?"

"Yessir."

"This's David Chambers. I run the Department of Defense's Criminal Investigation Division." Bishop shifted the phone, as if the news he was about to hear would hurt less in his left ear.

"I've heard from various sources that a John Doe release order was issued in the Northern District of California. And that that order might concern an individual we have some interest in." Chambers added quickly, "Don't mention that person's name over the phone line."

"That's right," Bishop responded.

"Where is he now?"

Brazil, Cleveland, Paris, hacking into the New York Stock Exchange to bring the world economy to a halt.

"In my custody," Bishop said.

"You're a California state trooper, is that right?"

"I am, yessir."

"How the hell d'you get a federal prisoner released? And more important, how the hell d'you get him out on a John Doe? Even the warden at San Jose doesn't know anything or claims he doesn't."Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter, http://www.processtext.com/abclit.html

"The U.S. attorney and I're friends. We closed the Gonzalez killings a couple of years ago and we've been working together ever since."

"This is a murder case you're running?"

"Yessir. A hacker's been breaking into people's computers and using the information inside to get close to his victims."

Bishop looked at Bob Shelton's concerned face and drew his finger across his own throat. Shelton rolled his eyes.

Sorry

"You know why we're after this individual, don't you?" Chambers asked.

"Something about him writing some software that cracks your software." Trying to be as vague as he could. He guessed that in Washington two conversations often went on simultaneously: the one you meant and the one you said out loud.

"Which, if he did, is illegal to start with and if a copy of what this person wrote gets out of the country it's treason."


Page 23

"I understand that." Bishop filled the ensuing silence with: "And you want him back in prison, is that it?"

"That's right."

"We've got three days on the order," Bishop said firmly. A laugh from the other end of the phone. "I make one phone call and that order becomes toilet paper."

"I imagine you could do that. Yessir."

There was a pause.

Then Chambers asked, "The name's Frank?"

"Yessir."

"Okay, Frank. Cop to cop: Has this individual been helpful with the case?" Aside from one slight glitch

Bishop responded, "Very. See, the perpetrator's a computer expert. We're no match for him without somebody like this person we've been talking about."

Another pause. Chambers said, "I'll say this -I personally don't think he's the devil incarnate like he's made out to be 'round here. There wasn't any good evidence that he cracked our system. But there're plenty of people in Washington who think he did and it's becoming a witch-hunt in the department here. If he did anything illegal he'll go to jail. But I'm on the side that he's innocent until proven otherwise."Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter, http://www.processtext.com/abclit.html

"Yessir," Bishop said, then added delicately, "Of course, you could also look at it that if some kid could crack the code maybe you might want to write a better one."

The detective thought: Okay, now, that remark may just get me fired. But Chambers laughed. He said, "I'm not sure Standard 12 is all it's touted to be. But there're a lot of people involved in encryption here who don't want to hear that. They don't like to get shown up and they really hate it if they get shown up in the media. Now, there's an assistant undersecretary, Peter Kenyon, who'd shit bricks if he thought there was a chance our unnamed individual was out of prison and might end up on the news. See, Kenyon was the one in charge of the task force that commissioned Standard 12."

"I was wondering."

"Kenyon doesn't know the boy's out but he's heard rumors and if he does find out it could be bad for me and for a lot of people." He let Bishop mull these intra-agency politics over for a moment. Chambers then said, "I was a cop before I got into this bureaucracy stuff."

"Where, sir?"

"I was an M.P. in the navy. Spent most of my time in San Diego."

"Broke up some fights, did you?" Bishop asked.

"Only if the army was winning. Listen, Frank, if that boy is helping you catch this perp, okay, go ahead. You can keep him until the release order expires."

"Thank you, sir."

"But I don't need to tell you that you're the one who'll get hung out to dry if he hacks into somebody's Web site. Or if he disappears."

"I understand, sir."

"Keep me informed, Frank."

The phone went dead.

Bishop hung up, shook his head.

Sorry

"What was that all about?" Shelton asked.

But the detective's explanation was interrupted when they heard a triumphant shout from Miller. "Got something here!" he called excitedly.

Linda Sanchez was nodding her weary head. "We've managed to recover a list of Web sites Gillette logged on to just before he escaped."

She handed Bishop some printouts. They contained a lot of gibberish, computer symbols and fragmentsGenerated by ABC Amber LIT Converter, http://www.processtext.com/abclit.html

of data and text that made no sense to him. But among the fragments were references to a number of airlines and information about flights that evening from San Francisco International to other countries. Miller handed him another sheet of paper. "He also downloaded this - the schedule of buses from Santa Clara to the airport." The pear-shaped detective smiled with pleasure -presumably at having recovered from his earlier bumbling.

"But how would he pay for the airfare?" Shelton wondered out loud.

"Money? Are you kidding?" Tony Mott asked with a sour laugh. "He's probably at an ATM right now, emptying your bank account."

Bishop had a thought. He went to the phone in the analysis lab and picked it up, hit REDIAL. The detective spoke with someone on the other end of the line for a moment. Then he hung up. Bishop reported his conversation to the team. "The last number Gillette dialed was a Goodwill store a couple of miles from here in Santa Clara. They're closed but the clerk's still there. He said somebody fitting Gillette's description came in about twenty minutes ago. He bought a black trench coat, a pair of white jeans, an Oakland A's cap and a gym bag. He remembered him because he kept looking around and seemed really nervous. Gillette also asked the clerk where the nearest bus stop was. There's one near the store and the airport bus does stop there."

Mott said, "It takes the bus about forty-five minutes to get up to the airport." He checked his pistol and started to rise.

"No, Mott," Bishop said. "We've been through this before."

"Come on," the young man urged. "I'm in better shape than ninety percent of the rest of the force. I bicycle a hundred miles a week and I run two marathons a year." Bishop said, "We're not paying you to run Gillette to ground. You stay here. Or better yet go home and get some rest. You too, Linda. Whatever happens with Gillette we're still going to be working overtime to find the killer."

Mott shook his head, not at all happy about the detective's order. But he agreed. Bob Shelton said, "We can be at the airport in twenty minutes. I'll call in his description to the Port Authority police. They'll cover all the bus stops. But I tell you - I'm personally going to be at the international terminal. I can't wait to see the look in that man's eyes when I say hello." The stocky detective cracked the first smile Bishop had seen in days.

CHAPTER TWENTY

Wyatt Gillette stepped off the bus and watched it pull away from the curb. He looked up into the night sky. Specters of clouds moved quickly overhead and sprinkled droplets of cold rain on the ground. The moisture brought out the smells of Silicon Valley: auto exhaust and the medicinal scent of eucalyptus trees.

The bus - which wasn't bound for the airport at all but was making local stops in Santa Clara County had deposited him on a dark, empty street in the pleasant suburb of Sunnyvale. He was a good ten milesGenerated by ABC Amber LIT Converter, http://www.processtext.com/abclit.html

from the San Francisco airport, where Bishop, Shelton and a slew of police officers would be frantically searching for an Oakland A's fan in white jeans and a black raincoat. As soon as he'd left the Goodwill store he'd pitched out those clothes and had stolen what he now wore

- a tan jacket and blue jeans - from the collection box in front of the shop. The canvas gym bag was the only purchase still with him.

Opening his umbrella and starting up a dimly lit street, Gillette inhaled deeply to calm his nerves. He wasn't worried about recapture - he'd covered his tracks at CCU just fine, logging on to airline Web sites, looking up international flight information then running EmptyShred - to catch the attention of the team and to draw them to the fake clues he'd planted about leaving the country. No, Gillette was nervous as hell because of where he was now headed. It was after 10:30 and many of the houses in this hardworking town were dark, their owners already asleep; days begin early in Silicon Valley.

He walked north, away from El Camino Real, and soon the sound of traffic on that busy commercial street faded.

Ten minutes later he saw the house and slowed down.

No, he reminded himself. Keep going Don't act suspicious. He started walking again, eyes on the sidewalk, avoiding the glances of the few people on the street: A woman in a silly plastic rain hat, walking her dog. Two men hunched over a car's open hood. One held an umbrella and flashlight while the other struggled with a wrench.

Still, as he drew closer to the house - an old classic California bungalow - Gillette found his steps slowing until, twenty feet away, he stopped altogether. The circuit board in the gym bag, which weighed only a few ounces, seemed suddenly to be heavy as lead.

Go ahead, he told himself. You have to do it. Go on.

A deep breath. He closed his eyes, lowered the umbrella and looked upward. He let the rain fall on his face.

Wondering if what he was about to do was brilliant or completely foolish. What was he risking?

Everything, he thought.

Then he decided that it didn't matter. He had no choice.

Gillette started forward, toward the house.

No more than three seconds later they nailed him.

The dog walker turned suddenly and sprinted toward him, the dog - a German shepherd - growling fiercely. A gun was in the woman's hand and she was shouting, "Freeze, Gillette! Freeze!" The two men supposedly working on the car also drew weapons and raced toward him, shining flashlights in his eyes.

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Dazed, Gillette dropped the umbrella and the gym bag. He lifted his hands and backed up slowly. He felt someone grip his shoulder and he turned. Frank Bishop had come up behind him. Bob Shelton was there too, holding a large black pistol pointed at his chest.

"How did youƒ?" Gillette began.

But Shelton lashed out with his fist and struck Gillette squarely in the jaw. His head popped back and, stunned, he fell hard to the sidewalk.

Frank Bishop handed him a Kleenex, nodded toward his jaw.

"You missed some there. No, to the right."

Gillette wiped the blood away.

Shelton's punch hadn't been that hard but his knuckles had cut skin and the rain flowed into it, making the wound sting fiercely.

Other than offering the tissue, Bishop gave no reaction to the blow delivered by his partner. He crouched, opened the canvas bag. He took out the circuit board. He turned it over and over in his hands.

"What is it, a bomb?" he asked with a lethargy that suggested he didn't think it was explosive.

"Just something I made," Gillette muttered, pressing his palm to his nose. "I'd rather you didn't get it wet." Bishop stood, put it in his pocket. Shelton, his scarred face wet and red, kept staring at him. Gillette tensed slightly, wondering if the cop was going to lose control and hit him again.

"How?" Gillette asked again.

Bishop said, "We were on the way to the airport but then I started thinking. If you'd really gone online and looked up something about where you were going, you'd've just destroyed the hard drive and done it as soon as you left. Not timed that program to run later. Which all it did was draw our attention to the clues you'd left about the airport. Like you'd planned, right?" Gillette nodded.

The detective then added, "And why on earth would you pretend to go to Europe? You'd get stopped at customs."

"I didn't have a lot of time to plan," Gillette muttered. The detective looked up the street. "You know how we found out you were coming here, don't you?" Of course he knew. Bishop had called the phone company and learned what number had been dialed from the phone in the lab before he'd called Goodwill. Then Bishop had gotten the address of that location - the house in front of them - and they'd staked out the approaches. If Bishop's handling of the escape had been software, the hacker within Gillette would have called it one moby kludge.

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He said, "I should've cracked the switch at Pac Bell and changed the local-call records. I would've done that if I'd had time."

Shock at the arrest was diminishing, replaced by despair - as he looked at the outline of his electronic creation in Bishop's raincoat pocket. How close he'd come to the goal that had obsessed him for months. He looked at the house he'd been headed for. The lights glowed warmly, beckoning. Shelton said, "You're Shawn, aren't you?"

"No, I'm not. I don't know who Shawn is."

"But you were Valleyman, right?"

"Yes. And I was in the Knights of Access."

"You know Holloway?"

"I did know him, yes."

"Jesus Christ," the bulky detective continued, "of course you're Shawn. All you assholes have a dozen different IDs. You're him and you're on your way to meet Phate right now." He grabbed the hacker by the collar of his cheap Goodwill jacket.

This time Bishop intervened and touched Shelton's shoulder. The big cop released the hacker but continued in his low, threatening voice, nodding at the house up the street. "Phate's going by the identity of Donald Papandolos. He's the one you called - and you called him a couple of times today from CCU. To tip him off about us. We saw the fucking phone records."

Gillette was shaking his head. "No. I-Shelton continued, "We've got tactical troopers surrounding the place. And you're going to help us get him out."

"I have no idea where Phate is. But I'll guarantee you he's not in there."

"Who is, then?" Bishop asked.

"My wife. That's her father's house."

CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE

Elena's the one I called," Gillette explained. He turned to Shelton. "And you were right. I did go online when I first got to CCU. I lied about it. I hacked into DMV to see if she was still living at her father's. Then I called her tonight to see if she was home."

"You're divorced, I thought," Bishop said.

"I am divorced." He hesitated. "I still think of her as my wife."

"Elana," Bishop said. "Last name Gillette?"

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"No. She went back to her maiden name. Papandolos."

Bishop said to Shelton, "Run the name."

The cop made the call and a moment later nodded. "It's her. This's her address. House owned by Donald and Irene Papandolos. No warrants."

Bishop pulled on a headset mike. He said into his mouthpiece, "Alonso? It's Bishop. We're pretty sure there're only innocents inside the house. Check it out and tell me what you see" A pause of a few minutes. Then he listened into the microphone. He looked up at Gillette. "There's a woman in her sixties, gray hair."


Page 24

"Elana's mother. Irene."

"A man in his twenties."

"Curly black hair?"

Bishop repeated the question, listened to the response then nodded.

"That's her brother, Christian."

"And a blonde in her mid-thirties. She's reading to two little boys."

"Elana has dark hair. That's probably Camilla, her sister. She used to be a redhead but she'd change her hair color every few months. The kids're hers. She's got four of them." Bishop said into the microphone, "Okay, it's sounding legit. Tell everybody to stand down. I'm releasing the scene." The detective asked Gillette, "What's this all about? You were going to check the computer from St. Francis and instead you escaped."

"I did check the machine. There was nothing that'd help us find him. As soon as I booted up, the demon sensed something - probably that we'd disconnected the modem - and killed itself. If I'd found anything helpful I would've left you a note."

"Left us a note?" Shelton snapped. "You make it sound like you're running to the goddamn 7-Eleven for cigarettes. You fucking escaped from custody."

"I didn't escape." He pointed at the anklet. "Check out the tracking system. It's set to go back on in an hour. I was going to call you from her house and have somebody come get me and take me back to CCU. I just needed some time to see Ellie."

Bishop eyed the hacker closely then asked, "Does she want to see you?" Gillette hesitated. "Probably not. She doesn't know I'm coming."

"But you called her, you said," Shelton pointed out.

"And I hung up as soon as she answered. I just wanted to make sure she was home tonight."Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter, http://www.processtext.com/abclit.html

"Why's she living at her parents'?"

"Because of me. She doesn't have any money. She spent it all on my defense and on the fine" He nodded toward Bishop's pocket. "That's why I've been working on that -what I smuggled out."

"It was hidden under that phone box thing in your pocket, right?" Gillette nodded.

"I should've had them sweep you with the wand twice. I got careless. What's this thing got to do with your wife?"

"I was going to give it to Ellie. She can patent it and license it to a hardware company. Make some money. It's a new kind of wireless modem you can use with your laptop. You can go online when you're traveling and not have to use your cell phone. It uses global positioning to tell a cellular switch where you are and then automatically links you to the best signal for data transmission. It-Bishop waved off the tech-speak. "You made it? With things you found in prison?"

"Found or bought."

"Or stole" Shelton said.

"Found or bought," Gillette repeated.

Bishop asked, "Why didn't you tell us you were Valleyman? And that you and Phate were in Knights of Access?"

"Because you'd send me right back to prison. And then I wouldn't've been able to help you track him down." He paused. "And I wouldn't've had a chance to see Ellie Look, if there was anything I knew about Phate that would've helped catch him I would've told you. Sure, we were in Knights of Access together but that was years ago. In cybergangs you never see the people you're running with - I didn't even know what he looked like, whether he was gay or straight, married or single. All I knew was his real name and that he was in Massachusetts. But you found that out by yourselves at the same time I did. And I never heard about Shawn until today."

Shelton said angrily, "So you were one of those assholes with him - sending out viruses and bomb recipes and shutting down nine-one-one?"

"No," Gillette said adamantly. He went on to explain that for the first year or so Knights of Access was one of the world's premiere cybergangs but they never did anything harmful to civilians. They fought hacking battles with other gangs and cracked your typical corporate and government sites. "The worst we did was we wrote our own freeware that did the same things that expensive commercial software did and gave copies away. So a half-dozen big companies lost a few thousand bucks in profit. That's it." But, he continued, he began to realize there was another person inside of CertainDeath - Holloway's screen name back then. He was becoming dangerous and vindictive and started looking for more and more of a particular type of access - the access that let you hurt people. "He kept getting confused about who was real and who was a character in the computer games he was playing." Gillette spent long hours instant messaging with Holloway, trying try to talk him out of his more viciousGenerated by ABC Amber LIT Converter, http://www.processtext.com/abclit.html

hacks and his plans for "getting even" with people he saw as his enemies. Finally he cracked Holloway's machine and found, to his shock, that he'd been writing deadly viruses programs like the one that took down Oakland's 911 system or that would block transmissions from air-traffic controllers to pilots. Gillette downloaded the viruses and wrote inoculations against them then posted those on the Net. Gillette found stolen Harvard University software in Holloway's machine. He sent a copy to the school and to the Massachusetts State Police, along with CertainDeath's e-mail address. Holloway was arrested.

Gillette retired Valleyman as a username and - fully aware of Holloway's vindictive nature - came up with a number of other online identities when he began hacking again.

Shelton said, "Let's get the scumbag back to San Ho. We've wasted enough time."

"No, don't. Please!"

Bishop studied him with some amusement. "You want to keep working with us?"

"I have to. You've seen how good Phate is. You need somebody as good as me to stop him."

"Man," Shelton said, laughing. "You've got some balls."

"I know you're good, Wyatt," Bishop said. "But you also just escaped from my custody and that could've cost me my job. It's going to be pretty tough to trust you now, isn't it? We'll make do with somebody else."

"You can't 'make do' when it comes to somebody like Phate. Stephen Miller can't handle it. He's in over his head. Patricia Nolan is just security - as good as they are, security people're always one step behind the hackers. You need somebody who's been in the trenches."

"Trenches," Bishop said softly. The comment seemed to amuse him. He fell silent and finally said, "I believe I'm going to give you one more chance."

Shelton's eyes fluttered with dark resentment. "Bad mistake." Bishop gave a faint nod, as if acknowledging that it might very well be. Then he said to Shelton, "Tell everybody to get some dinner and a few hours sleep. I'm taking Wyatt back to San Ho for the night." Shelton shook his head, dismayed at his partner's plans, but went off to do what he'd been asked. Gillette rubbed his jaw and said, "Give me ten minutes with her."

"Who?"

"My wife."

"You're serious, aren't you?"

"Ten minutes is all I'm asking."

"Not an hour ago I got a call from David Chambers at the Department of Defense, who's about an inchGenerated by ABC Amber LIT Converter, http://www.processtext.com/abclit.html

away from rescinding that release order."

"They found out?"

"They sure did. So I'll tell you, son, this fresh air you're breathing and those free hands of yours - those're all just gravy. By rights you should be sleeping on a prison mattress right now." The detective took the hacker's wrist. But before the metal of the cuff closed around it, Gillette asked, "You married, Bishop?"

"Yes, I am."

"Do you love your wife?"

The cop said nothing for a moment. He looked up at the rainy sky then put the cuffs away. "Ten minutes." He saw her first in silhouette, lit from behind.

But there was no doubt it was Ellie. Her sensuous figure, the mass of long, black hair that became wilder and more tangled as it reached her lower back. Her round face.

The only evidence of the tension she'd surely be feeling was the way she gripped the doorjamb on the other side of the screen. Her pianist's lingers were red from the fierce pressure.

"Wyatt," she whispered. "Did they?"

"Release me?" He shook his head.

A glint in the shadow of her eyes as she looked over his shoulder and saw vigilant Frank Bishop on the sidewalk.

Gillette continued, "I'm just out for a few days. Sort of a temporary parole. I'm helping them find somebody - Jon Holloway."

She muttered, "Your gang friend."

He asked, "Have you heard from him?"

"Me? No. Why would I? I don't see any of your friends anymore." Looking over her shoulder at her sister's children, she stepped farther outside and pulled the door shut, as if she wanted to separate him and the past - firmly from her present life.

"What are you doing here? How did you know I was Wait. Those phone calls, the hang ups. They came up 'call blocked' on caller ID. That was you."

He nodded. "I wanted to make sure you were home."

"Why?" she asked bitterly.

He hated her tone. He remembered it from the trial. He remembered that single word too. Why? She'd asked that often in the days before he went to prison.

Why didn't you give up your goddamn machines? You wouldn't be going to jail, you wouldn't be losingGenerated by ABC Amber LIT Converter, http://www.processtext.com/abclit.html

me, if you had. Why?

"I wanted to talk to you," he said to her now.

"We have nothing to talk about, Wyatt. We had years to talk - but you had other things to do with your time."

"Please," he said, sensing that she was about to bolt back inside. Gillette heard the desperation in his voice but he was past pride.

"The plants've grown." Gillette nodded toward a thick boxwood. Elana glanced at it and for a moment her facade softened. One balmy November night years ago they'd made love beside that very shrub while her parents were inside, watching election night results.

More memories of their life together flooded into Gillette's thoughts - a health food restaurant in Palo Alto they ate at every Friday, midnight runs for Pop-Tarts and pizza, bicycling through the Stanford campus. For a moment Wyatt Gillette was hopelessly entangled in those memories. Then Elana's face hardened once more. She gave another glance inside the house through the lace-covered window. The children, now in their pajamas, trotted out of sight. She turned back and looked at the tattoo of the palm tree and seabird on his arm. Years ago, he'd told her he wanted to get it removed and she'd seemed to like the idea but he never had. Now he felt he'd disappointed her.

"How's Camilla and the kids?"

"Fine."

"Your parents?"

Exasperated, Elana asked, "What do you want, Wyatt?"

"I brought you this."

He handed her the circuit board and explained what it was.

"Why're you giving it to me?"

"It's worth a lot of money." He gave her a technical specification sheet for the device that he'd written out on the bus ride from the Goodwill store. "Find yourself a Sand Hill Road lawyer and sell it to one of the big companies. Compaq, Apple, Sun. They'll want to license it and that's okay but make sure they pay you a big advance up front. Nonreturnable. Not just royalties. The lawyer'll know all about it."

"I don't want it."

"It's not a present. I'm just repaying you. You lost the house and your savings because of me. You should make enough to recover that."

She looked down at the board but didn't take it from his out-stretched hand. "I should go."

"Wait," he said. There was more he'd wanted to say, so much more. He'd rehearsed his speech in prison for days, trying to figure out the best way to present his arguments.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter, http://www.processtext.com/abclit.html

Her strong fingers - tipped in faint purple polish - now kneaded the wet porch banister. She looked out over the rainy yard.

He stared at her, studying her hands, her hair, her chin, her feet. Don't say it, he told himself. Do. Not. Say. It.

But say it he did. "I love you."

"No," she responded sternly and help up a hand as if to deflect the words.

"I want to try again."

"It's too late for that, Wyatt."

"I was wrong. What I did won't ever happen again."

"Too late," she repeated.

"I got carried away. I wasn't there for you. But I will be. I promise. You wanted children. Well, we can have children."

"You have your machines. Why do you need children?"

"I've changed."

"You've been in jail. You haven't had a chance to prove to anybody - yourself included - that you can change."

"I want to have a family with you."

She walked to the door, opened the screen. "I wanted that too. And look what happened." He blurted, "Don't move to New York."

Elana froze. She turned. "New York?"

"You're moving to New York. With your friend Ed."

"How do you know about Ed?"

Out of control now, he asked, "Are you going to marry him?"

"How do you know about him?" she repeated. "How do you know about New York?"

"Don't do it, Elana. Stay here. Give me a-"How?" she snapped. Gillette looked down at the porch, at the spattering of rain on the gray deck paint. "I cracked your onlineGenerated by ABC Amber LIT Converter, http://www.processtext.com/abclit.html

account and read your e-mail."

"You what?" She let the screen door swing shut. Luxurious Greek temper flooded into her beautiful face. There was no going back now. Gillette blurted, "Do you love Ed? Are you going to marry him?"

"Christ, I don't believe you! From prison? You hacked into my e-mail from prison?"

"Do you love him?"

"Ed's none of your goddamn business. You had every chance in the world to have a family with me and you chose not to. You have absolutely no right to say a word about my personal life!"

"Please-"No! Well, Ed and I are going to New York. And we leave in three days. And there's not a single goddamn thing in the world you can do to stop me. Goodbye, Wyatt. Don't bother me again."

"I love-"You don't love anyone," she interrupted. "You social engineer them." She walked inside, closing the door quietly.

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