“I don’t mean to speak ill of the dead, but my brother was a great disappointment to the entire family. He had such potential ... and what did he do? He ran an Internet order business out of a one-room office,” Dr. Patricia White, a nationally known neurosurgeon said, earning a nod of agreement from her brother, Charles Moore.
Rebecca Moore, wife of the late Peter Moore, growled, “You never understood him.”
Waving a dismissive hand through the air, Charles said, “We understood him well enough. I guess we shouldn’t have been too surprised by how he turned out. Pete was always a thinker rather than a doer.”
Patricia asked, “Do you remember when Carl Dewitt was bullying him?”
“Yes, I do. That guy was bad news.”
“Pete was lucky that Carl lost control and turned on his father.”
“I’ve always wondered just how much Pete had to do with that.”
“I’ll admit that whole affair was strange. He always denied any involvement in Carl’s arrest, but I don’t know...”
With the remains of a black eye, Pete subserviently approached Carl Dewitt and his gang of toughs. He was there to deliver the latest set of completed homework assignments. Every morning, he delivered completed assignments and every afternoon he was informed as to what homework was due the next day. He spent his evenings; well ... he spent 20 minutes of his evening, doing his and Carl’s homework. It was the price he had to pay to keep Carl from beating him again, although it didn’t always turn out that way.
His nemesis, Carl Dewitt, was huge. At six feet four, the guy towered over most of the people around him. He wasn’t just tall but muscular as well. Every day at school, he spent his entire gym period in the weight room working out. He spent several evenings a week studying martial arts at a dojo that emphasized developing a ‘take no prisoners’ attitude.
Despite the popular misconception that big men like him were stupid, Carl was intelligent. There was absolutely no reason why Carl couldn’t do his own homework and make good grades. Unfortunately, his intelligence wasn’t supported by a sense of morals that could have made him a force for good. He had no restraint in getting what he wanted, even if it belonged to someone else. Carl used his smarts to cheat and his strength to intimidate.
All of the way to the other extreme was Pete Moore. He was not a big guy, standing in at a mere five feet three and weighing a light 114 pounds. He had delicate features that would sharpen when he grew older but at the time his fine bone structure gave him an effeminate appearance. That alone would have merited a beating from someone like Carl, but his real crime was even worse than that: Pete was the smartest guy in school.
Pete stopped just within listening range of the gang and stood there submissively waiting for Carl to finish his morning business. He watched Carl hand out small plastic packets, each containing a white powder. He had two different styles of packets, one with a red zip and one with a clear zip. Pete knew that the one with red contained cocaine and the clear one held heroin. Carl owned the drug trade at the high school.
Once the drug business was over most of the guys there left. One of them remained with Carl. He glanced over at Pete with distrust. Pete acted like he didn’t notice and remained standing there, submissively looking down at the ground.
Ignoring Pete, Carl asked, “Did you get a date with Jenny?”
“Yes. I’m picking her up at seven, Friday night.”
“Good. I’ll make the arrangements and let you know where to bring her,” Carl ordered.
“Okay,” the guy agreed.
With a wicked grin, Carl held out a plastic packet, one with a red zip, and dangled it there. The guy’s eyes covetously tracked it like it was the most valuable item in the world. Pete glanced up at him. He didn’t know who the guy was, but he would learn his identity soon enough. He wasn’t sure what the deal was with him but knew that he’d learn the details in time.
“Here’s a little something for you.”
The guy grabbed the packet and said, “Thanks. I really need that.”
Now that his business was concluded, the guy ran off as if he wanted to put as much distance between himself and Carl as he could. Pete didn’t blame him for that.
Carl walked over to where Pete was standing. He held out a hand. Pete, knowing what he wanted, delivered the stack of homework papers. Carl placed it into his backpack. Pete was about to turn away when Carl straightened up, turned to face him, and, without warning, hit him in the stomach. Taken by surprise, Pete bent over and vomited. Fortunately for Pete, Carl wasn’t in the path of his ejecta.
“I don’t want you to get any bright ideas.”
Bent over at the waist, Pete kept gasping, trying to get control over his body. Carl reached over, put a hand around the back of his neck and pulled him so that he was standing fully upright.
“You do know what I mean, don’t you?”
“Yes,” Pete managed to get out.
Carl picked up his backpack and walked off. Pete slowly collapsed to the ground holding his stomach. He fell into the pool of vomit. He knew that he was going to be late to school once again.
It was Sunday afternoon at the end of that same week when Pete returned from a visit to the local branch of the public library. The time had been well spent, but it was going to take a lot more time to organize his thoughts around what he had learned. He dropped his backpack off in his bedroom before heading into the kitchen to grab a soda. He was almost to the kitchen when he ran into his eighteen-year-old sister, Patty. She looked pale.
“What’s the matter?”
“I just got a call from Cindy. She said that Jenny Conrad committed suicide Friday night.”
Pete froze suddenly feeling sick to his stomach. Hoping against hope, he asked, “What happened?”
“The story that I heard was that she was kidnapped and raped after the guy she was with was attacked during their date. The guy is in the hospital.”
“How do they know it was suicide?” Pete asked.
“She left a note.”
Pete looked down at the floor marshaling his thoughts. It was with mixed emotions that he stood there. He was sad for Jenny. He was angry at Carl. He was mad at himself for not realizing what the exchange between Carl and Ted meant.
“She was such a pretty girl and had so much going for her. It’s a real shame.”
“Maybe she was too pretty.”
“I suggest that you don’t go on any dates for a while,” Pete said.
“I can take care of myself!”
Pete sighed. He should have known that would be her response. The one thing no one could accuse his sister of was a lack of confidence in herself. Of course, she did have three years of training in the martial arts and could defend herself if prepared.
“Anyone, including you, can be surprised. There are people who are bigger and stronger than you. More importantly, there are people who are more ruthless than you can imagine.”
“You’re talking about Carl, aren’t you?”
“He’s a good example.”
“Just take a Taser to him. When he’s down, cut off his balls. The sudden and permanent absence of testosterone will calm him down ... forever,” Patty declared.
Shaking his head, Pete said, “If life were only that simple...”
“Do you know what your problem is?”
“I wasn’t aware that I had a problem. What is it?”
“You never stand up for yourself.”
“I’m not exactly built like Conan the Barbarian.”
“Mom and Dad have offered to pay for you to learn Karate. In two years, you could defend yourself against anyone.”
“Not every problem in the world can be solved by getting medieval on someone’s ass.”
“Anyone who tries anything with me is going to have to work at it,” his sister said hitting her right fist into the palm of her left hand.
Unimpressed, Pete said, “I’m going to get something to drink and go to my room. I’ve got a lot of work to do.”
“Stuff,” Pete answered sharply.
Lisa Clark strode across the library heading for the public use computer, MCPL-10048. The little bastard was still at the machine and she was going to catch him before he had a chance to get away. So far, whoever it was hadn’t done anything all that wrong. She figured a stern warning would perhaps scare the kid who, based on the clumsy attempts to get into the system, was still a novice at hacking. At least, she thought that until she saw who was sitting at the computer. It definitely wasn’t six-year-old Jimmy Smith. She stopped just a few feet short of the workstation.
“Pete! Did you just get here?”
Everyone in the library knew Pete. He was one of the few kids who spent hours every week at the library perusing material that wasn’t readily or cheaply accessible on the Internet. Sure, the technical journals the library carried were on the web, but some of the websites required stiff fees, or memberships to the organizations which published them, to access the articles.
“No. I’ve been here for a while,” Pete answered with a knowing smile.
“What are you doing here?”
“I was stomping around in your system, trying to get your attention. Based on your presence here, it would appear that I’ve been successful. A better question is: Why am I here?”
Lisa folded her arms across her chest. She knew he was smart, but based on what she’d watched him do breaking into her network; he wasn’t all that good of a hacker. At least he wasn’t claiming innocence.
“I’ll bite. Why are you here?”
“I’m here because I’m wrestling with a moral dilemma. I thought that I would get your opinion, since the outcome of what I decide will affect you. Actually, it will affect your reputation more than affecting you personally.”
“Affecting my reputation does affect me personally.”
“Would you prefer to maintain your sterling reputation as an IT watchdog for the county or...” he paused significantly, “ ... would you prefer to get revenge on the men who raped you eight years ago?”
“Fuck!” she said unable to control herself. She angrily stomped her foot while glaring at Pete. She thought she had put that behind her, but his question had blindsided her. Apparently, she wasn’t as over it as she had thought.
After logging out of the account he was using, he said, “I think we should talk somewhere more private.”
With a bitter chill in her voice, she said, “I couldn’t agree more.”
She turned and stalked away. Pete picked up his backpack and followed behind her. At sixteen, he wasn’t above appreciating a well-shaped derriere, and he had to admit that she had a pretty fine one. She marched into one of the meeting rooms and turned to glare at him.
Calmly, he took a seat at the conference table. Tensely, she stood there looking down at him ready to unload on him.
“Please, sit down. We have a lot to discuss.”
Standing like a marble statue, she asked, “How did you find out about my rape?”
“Please, sit down. I’ll explain everything.”
No one was supposed to know about her rape except for her and the people who raped her. How did this kid find out about it? She had to know. Based on how he was calmly waiting for her to sit down, she decided that she’d have to play the game his way. She moved around the table and sat facing him. She crossed her arms.
“If knowledge is power, then, at the moment, I may well be one of the most powerful people in the city.”
She was very tempted to call him a pretentious little shit, but she managed to keep control over her mouth.
“A couple weeks ago, a young woman went out on a date with a guy she thought was a nice fellow. She didn’t know that he had agreed to take her to a place where she would be abducted and raped. After being serially raped, she was dumped near the high school. I don’t know how she managed it in her battered condition, but she made her way home, sneaked past her parents, and committed suicide that night by slitting her wrists in the bathtub.”
Lisa looked ready to explode upon hearing the story. She knew only too well how that young woman felt. She had experienced it herself. She had seriously considered suicide after her rape. Nothing that she had ever experienced before that night had prepared her for the humiliation she had felt and the abuse she had taken. She knew how the girl had arrived at home. She had crawled, leaving a trail of tears behind her.
“The idiot who sold her out had actually helped set up her kidnapping. He believed that he’d get a couple packets of cocaine from the main drug dealer working the local high school. All he got was one little packet on the day when he informed one of her rapists that she had agreed to go out with him. Instead of getting more packets on the night she was taken, he got beaten up so bad that he’s still recovering from it.”
“I only know about how the boyfriend sold out the young woman, because I was there when he received the packet of cocaine. I was there because...”
This was the straw that broke the camel’s back. The pretentious shit knew it was going to happen, and did nothing! Furious, she jumped up from her seat. Her action was so abrupt that she knocked over the chair on which she had been seated.
She shouted, “You son of a bitch! I’m calling the police right now!”
Holding up a hand to stop her, he said, “The person who planned and executed that rape, is Carl Dewitt, Junior.”
On hearing the name, she gasped. She started to sit down, but realized that the chair had been knocked away. She moved over and sat down in the next chair. She could feel the onset of a panic attack building.
“I see that you recognize the name. You’re right; he’s the son of one of the men who raped you.”
“I’m going to call the police.”
“I wouldn’t do that if I were you.”
“Don’t threaten me.”
“I’m not threatening you, Lisa. I just want you to be aware that if you call the police, you will be raped again, and by the same guys who raped you eight years ago. I know they’ve done that in the past when one of their victims tried to expose them. They might even kill you, this time. I suspect they’ve killed people in the past.
“I expect that you have a fifty-fifty chance of surviving if you do call the police. The odds could be worse, since you won’t have me to protect you. If you make that call, I’ll be dead.”
She sat back and stared at him.
“We live in an age of corruption. The whole system is corrupt. It’s corrupt beyond redemption. We are no longer a nation of law. There are those of us who must live within the law and there are those for whom the laws no longer apply. Carl Dewitt and his family believe that they are among those for whom the law doesn’t apply. For all intents and purposes, they are correct in their belief. They are above the law because they own the law.
“The first time I was assaulted by Carl Dewitt Junior, I went to the principal of the school and complained. That afternoon, I was given another brutal beating by Carl. The second one was even worse than the first one. The principal stood there and watched.
“I learned a very important lesson that day.”
Bitter, Lisa said, “You got away cheap. I was beaten and raped.”
“If nothing happens to Carl, then my turn at being raped is coming. You see ... Carl lives to humiliate people. One day Carl will realize that rape is an even more effective way to humiliate a guy than beating him. I suspect he’s quickly coming to that conclusion. I’ve got a couple of months, maybe less, before he has me bent over.”
Lisa Clark stared at him incredulous at how calmly he was talking about the possibility of getting raped. If he really knew how horrible it was, he’d be shivering in fear.
“Of course, that assumes that he’s still around.”
“Are you going to kill him?”
“Me? No way! I’m a non-violent kind of guy. When I go after someone, they’re completely destroyed by their own actions, not mine. I merely facilitate their downfall.”
“What are you going to do?”
He opened his backpack and retrieved a portable hard drive. With exaggerated care, he placed it on the table between them. She stared at it like it was a viper. It took her a moment to realize that it was the largest USB drive in terms of storage capacity she had ever seen.
“On that drive are four imaged files ... that is, exact copies of the hard drives of four computers. One of them is the personal computer owned by Mayor Stephenson. Another is owned by Councilman Carl Dewitt. The other belongs to Gary Dewitt, owner of Dewitt Contracting. The last one belongs to the computer of Mayor Stephenson’s secretary, Susan Hill.
“The contents of those four drives should represent sufficient evidence to get those four people life in prison for the crimes they’ve committed. They’re guilty of accepting kickbacks, bribes, dozens of rapes, assaults, and, possibly, murder. You asked how I learned about your rape. Simple. There was a video of it on one of the computers.”
“Oh ... My ... God.”
“As I said, the evidence on those computers should put them in prison ... Unfortunately, it won’t. The local and state police are powerless because the prosecutors at the local and state level are corrupt. There are even a number of corrupt police who have participated in some of the crimes documented on their computers.
“As I learned when I went to the principal, you’ve got to be careful who you approach when complaining about being a victim of a crime.”
“What can you do?”
“There is one agency that is ... special.”
“No. The IRS. The fools failed to declare their ill-gotten gains. Very few people are high enough in the food chain to be protected from the IRS. These guys aren’t anywhere near that level.”
“So what’s your moral dilemma?”
“I’m planning on hosting the image files on the library’s computers for the IRS to download as a result of a tip. There are two problems with my plan.”
“The first is that it will make you look somewhat incompetent at your job. The press will report that someone hacked into the computers here, left the files to be available to the IRS, and opened up a back door for them to enter your system.”
“I don’t like that.”
“The second, and more serious problem, is that there is evidence on one of those disks concerning your rape. Some people might conclude that you are the person responsible for breaking into their computers.”
“I really don’t like that.”
“With adequate preparations, we can protect you against both charges. I just want your permission to do it.”
“Are you asking my permission to host those files on one of my computer?”
“The answer is no.”
Pete sat back in his chair and sighed. “So be it.”
She asked, “Why one of my computers?”
“It’s government property of a very special kind.”
“What? I don’t follow.”
“Your computers are public property, not private property. Although the chances of getting prosecuted for hacking into a private computer are slim to none, the fact is ... it is against the law. I know it will sound stupid considering that I hacked into four computers already, but the way I figure it is that if they want to stand outside the rule of law, then their computers are standing right there with them. When you place yourself outside the rule of law, you also reject the protections of the law. Most people won’t see it that way, but I do.
“However ... I digress. Getting back to the subject of your computers...
“Your computers are public property, owned by the citizens of this county. They aren’t federal computers. There are federal laws about unauthorized access to federal computers. They aren’t state property. There are state laws about unauthorized access to state-owned computers.
“The fact that your computers are owned by the county is where things get tricky. There aren’t any laws in this county against unauthorized access of county computers, other than those used for law enforcement, financial, and education records. Even then, the crime isn’t gaining unauthorized access to the computer unless it involves physical trespass. The crime is in accessing confidential records of citizens under right-to-privacy protections. The laws were very poorly worded and, since they were written in the eighties, they didn’t take into account the Internet.
“Your computers fall into an even less protected category than your average county-owned computer. Your computers exist for the sole purpose of providing services to the residents of this county. You provide access to anyone with a library card. As a result, it is virtually impossible to be an unauthorized user. It gets even better. You even provide temporary storage space for users as a result of a policy dating back to when the library computers were used by the high schools for programming classes through dumb terminals.”
He laughed, “This is where it gets really funny ... Those areas were explicitly exempted from any educational record access protections. Anyone can do anything they want on those machines without violating any laws.”
“I don’t believe it,” she said.
“Believe it. Your computers are not protected by any kind of law except for the standard pornography laws.”
“Why are you even bothering to ask my permission?”
“Because it affects you.”
“And that worries you?”
Pointing a finger at her and then himself, Pete said, “You’ve been a victim of some very unscrupulous individuals. Unlike them, I have scruples. I won’t make you a victim. I am giving you the choice of protecting your reputation or going for revenge.”
She thought back to eight years ago when she had been asked to attend a ‘business’ dinner with Carl Dewitt to discuss improvements to the city’s computer systems. It wasn’t a business dinner. Rather than heading to a restaurant, he had taken her to a warehouse where five other men were waiting for her. When she protested, Carl backhanded her hard enough to fracture her cheek. Then it got really ugly.
The memories of what she had been forced to do that night brought bile to her mouth. They joked about making her air tight. She thought that was bad until they started on ass to mouth comments. She lived through six hours of absolute hell that night. It still gave her nightmares.
She jumped up and ran from the room, hoping to reach the bathroom before bringing up her lunch. Pete watched her run off. He had a good idea of where she was headed.
“They are going to pay. I promise you that, Lisa,” he muttered.
He carefully placed the hard drive into his backpack. Regardless of her answer, he was going to leave when she returned. His plan didn’t depend upon her cooperation, although he wanted to give her the chance to take back a little of her own. There was always the computer at library of the community college. The security on those machines really sucked.
Twenty minutes later, Lisa returned to the room. She handed him a piece of paper.
“The library computers at the community college actually belong to the library except I am not the administrator of them. The security there is horrible. I think the Russians use it as a training ground for their fledgling hackers.”
“I’m aware of that.”
“There’s an IP address on that paper of a machine that has no traffic on it. It was set up by the previous administrator as a test machine for library software and was intended to be used in isolation. It has a fixed IP address. Even more importantly, it doesn’t have a DNS entry so it can’t be found by name. None of the other machines have a reference to it by IP address. If you put a file there, no one will disturb it.”
“There’s a log-in and password on that paper. Use it when you upload the image files.”
“Who does it belong to?” Pete asked.
“One of the men who raped me.”
Pete looked over at her demanding an explanation.
“It’s the log-in for the Chief of Police.”
“He was one of the men?”
Pete said, “Sit down. I think we have a whole lot more to discuss and I think you’ll like what I have to say.”
“What?” she asked suspiciously.
It was a quiet Sunday evening with the entire family gathered around the dinner table. It wasn’t a special meal of any kind, but the family always ate together unless someone was away for some reason. The atmosphere this evening seemed a little tense.
Stan Moore fidgeted in his seat for a second as if trying to decide how to introduce an unpleasant topic of conversation. His wife gestured with her head to Patty.
Stan took an item from his pocket and held it up. He asked, “Do any of you know what this is?”
“Of course,” Patty answered. “I’ve seen a demonstration of its use at the Dojo.”
Rolling his eyes, Chuckie answered, “Yes.”
“I don’t need a tactical pen. I can manage without it,” Pete said dismissively.
His comment brought snorts of derision from around the table. Even his mother couldn’t contain her reaction.
“I can,” Pete protested mildly.
His mother said, “You need to face facts, Pete. You’re small and defenseless. You come home from school every other week having been beaten up by that Carl character.”
“It’s only the first round. He hasn’t won yet,” Pete replied without rancor.
Stan shook his head. He said, “I want all three of you to go to the dojo and get lessons on how to use one of these.”
Chuckie asked, “Why?”
“There was another brutal rape of a girl from your high school this weekend.”
“Damn. She’s in my class,” Patty said obviously upset.
“Sorry, Mom. This is getting scary. I mean ... Jenny was raped two months ago.”
Pete said, “Don’t worry, Patty. I’ll protect you.”
Everyone looked at him incredulously. He exhaled and then said, “I’ll be right back.”
Watching him leave the room, Patty said, “I worry about him. He’s a complete wimp and the bullies at school can’t resist hurting him.”
Chuckie said, “I don’t get it. He’s so damned smart, but he doesn’t have a very good grasp of reality.”
Stan frowned at the direction of the discussion and said, “He marches to a different drummer.”
“I gave up trying to understand him years ago,” his mother said.
Everyone stopped talking when Pete returned to the table. He sat down and said, “I just checked. There’s a video of the first five minutes of Vanessa’s rape on YouTube. You can’t quite make out Vanessa, but Carl Dewitt, his father, the police chief, and Mayor Stephenson are clearly visible in it.”
No one said a word.
“I thought it was significant enough that I sent a link to it to several of the local and national news services. I hope they download the video before it gets pulled. YouTube does have policies that ban those kinds of videos. Maybe one of the news services will broadcast it and some positive things will happen around here for a change.”
Everyone stared at him.
“Dinner is getting cold,” Pete said.
“Did you post that video?”
“No, but I have a good idea who did,” Pete said. He reached over, took the tactical pen out his father’s hand, and handed it over to his sister. “Take it. You might feel safer with it.”
Monday morning, Pete stood at his normal spot looking submissive while waiting for Carl to show up. The other dealers showed up, but Carl was conspicuous by his absence. When it was getting too late for the usual meeting, the group broke up and headed to school. Pete walked to school wondering if it was about time for him to find a weapon of sorts. He had a feeling that Carl was not going to be in a very good mood for the next few weeks. Still, that assumed that Carl was free to walk around.
The problem was that Pete didn’t trust the system to protect the public from animals like Carl. So far, it had failed in every way possible. Perhaps it was time for him to prepare for his defense. As the wise man said, “The best defense is a good offense.”
Pete paused on his way to school and made a quick call to Lisa. When she answered her phone, he said, “It’s time to go nuclear.”
There was a long moment of silence, although there were the clicks of someone typing, before she said, “Launch in twenty.”
“By the way, the IRS finally downloaded the image files last week. I’ve got a feeling that a world of hurt is on its way to town.”
“I didn’t believe that it would take this long for them to get around to it,” Pete said.
“My faith in the system has taken another major hit.”
A short time later, Pete was in class pretending to listen to a boring lecture. As usual, his mind was a million miles away, thinking through some of the problems he was trying to solve. He did keep that little slice of attention that would allow him to answer any question asked of him. It was a trick he had learned years ago when the school was convinced that he suffered from Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD). Their confusion was understandable. The school personnel had difficulty distinguishing between an inability to concentrate and being bored to tears. In all fairness, he had to admit the many of the symptoms were similar, particularly in a classroom setting.
His ruminations about society in general were interrupted with the sudden chiming of a dozen cell phones. He looked around, unsurprised that more than half the students hadn’t muted the ring tones on their cell phones. The teacher looked like she was ready to chew nails until her cell phone went off as well. She grabbed her purse, riffled through it, and pulled out her phone. She was well behind the curve in discovering the cause of the interruption. Others in the class were shouting their incredulity at what they were seeing. Pete looked around with obvious curiosity as to what was happening. His cell phone rang. He pulled it out and checked it. It was a text message, ‘drug deals @ HS.’ There was a URL to a video. He clicked it.
Before it had a chance to load, one of the girls in class shouted, “There’s a video of Carl Dewitt selling drugs!”
There was a short period of excited conversation before things got real quiet. All eyes turned to Pete. Making a production of looking down at his shirt, he asked, “What? Did I spill something on my shirt?”
“What are you doing at a drug sale?”
Rather than lie, Pete made a production of zipping his lips shut. His action was timed perfectly. The next bit of the film showed him getting bitch slapped twice before getting hit in the stomach. Even with the sounds of him retching, it was easy to hear the threat being delivered.
“Don’t get any ideas. I’ll ship your mother off to a Mexican whore house and I’ll use your sister as my personal slut. Your dad and brother will be dead men. You’ll be a cripple and have to watch me fuck your sister every day.”
Pete didn’t reply. He was still busy trying to empty his stomach. Carl said, “Do you hear me?”
“Yea ... ah. I he ... ar ya.”
Pete ignored the reactions of everyone around him. He started gathering his books and placing them into his back pack. His school books were big, thick, and lacking any information of substance. His personal books were small, thin, and densely loaded with knowledge. The big books made such a great screen for his more interesting books.
He picked up his backpack and stood up by his chair. His teacher asked, “What do you think you are doing?”
“I’m waiting to be called to the principal’s office.”
He was about to sit down when the speaker in the class sounded. “Please send Peter Moore to the main office.”
Without waiting for permission from the teacher, Pete turned and headed out of the room. He fiddled with his cell phone on the way to the principal’s office. The phone was nice and had many impressive features, but sometimes it was a little difficult to configure it to function properly. He finally managed to get it doing what he wanted by the time he reached the office. Just before opening the office, he slipped the phone in his shirt pocket. Aloud, he said, “Here I am responding to a summons from the principal’s office. Let’s see what the man has to say.”
He entered the main office. The secretary looked at him with a hint of sorrow for what was about to happen. Knowing that she was fully aware of the travesty that was about to occur, Pete shrugged his shoulders and waited. The secretary picked up the phone and made a call. By the immediate ringing the principal’s office, it didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that she was informing the man himself that Pete was waiting. Looking as if she had swallowed a lemon, she hung up the phone. Trying to smile at him, she said, “He’ll see you now.”
Pete entered the room to be greeted with a stern, “Sit down!”
“What did I do?” Pete asked innocently.
“What do you know about a video going around of you taking part in a drug deal?”
“I don’t know what video you are talking about. The video I saw had me observing a drug deal, not participating in one.”
“You are the leader of that criminal act.”
“Me? I’m afraid that you’ve got it all wrong. I was there under duress. You didn’t notice that Carl assaulted and threatened me and my family in that video?”
“What assault? All I saw was a little roughhousing.”
“You mean a little ‘roughhousing’ like you watched Carl do to me after I came to you complaining about having been assaulted on school property?”
“In any court of law that beating I took would have been called assault.”
“Listen, you little shit: You don’t know who you are fucking with. We’re going to bury you.”
“Yes, and we’ll take your family with you.”
Pete sat there as if deep in thought. A little beep came from his shirt pocket.
Pete said, “You’ve delivered your threat. Now what? Am I suspended? Am I supposed to return to class? Are we waiting for the police to arrive?”
“We’re waiting for the police.”
“Okay,” Pete said calmly.
He sat there staring at the principal. They hadn’t been staring at each other for long when his cell phone chirped loudly. He pulled it out and looked at it. With a couple taps of his fingers on the face, he had the messaging app up. He read the message and pressed the link. From the speaker came the following.
“What did I do?”
“What do you know about a video going around of you taking part in a drug deal?”
“I don’t know what video you are talking about. The video I saw had me observing a drug deal, not participating in one.”
Pete turned down the volume. He looked at the principal who was staring at his own cellphone which was now displaying the same link that Pete was playing. The man’s ears were turning red. Pete had never witnessed that phenomenon before.
Pete asked, “Don’t you know that in today’s world of technology, everything you do has a potential audience of seven billion people?”
The principal stared at Pete.
Pete stood up and slung his school backpack on his back. He smiled at the man who was now staring at him in horror rather than superiority.
Rubbing salt into the wound, Pete said, “I would be working on my letter of resignation if I were you. That recording is going to every student on campus ... and their parents ... and the school board ... and city hall. I doubt you’ll be welcome on campus after today.”
Pete left the office. The secretaries, who weren’t bent over their cell phones listening to the recording, watched him walk out of the office. He stepped into the hallway only to be met by his sister.
“Did you send out those videos or that recording?”
“No. I did make a call before going into the principal’s office. I guess the person at the other end of the call thought it made interesting listening material and that others might be interested in hearing it.”
“Just so you know, Dad got a copy of the video of the drug deal. He’s on his way here.”
“There’s no need for him to come here. I can take care of myself.”
He turned and started to walk away. Incredulous by how nonchalant he was acting, Patty asked, “Where are you going?”
“I’m going back to class. If I’m to be arrested, I want the largest audience possible. Everyone in my class has their cell phones out. There’s no chance of anything being secret.”
His cell phone rang. He pulled it out and looked at it. A second later, another video of the rape was being played. He watched it for a moment while shaking his head sadly. He looked up from it and said, “I bet those are the officers who were dispatched to arrest me. I wonder if they’ll show up. If I were them, I’d be headed home to explain to the wife exactly what I was doing in that video. Of course, it is rather obvious what’s going on.”
“Are you doing this?” Patty asked.
“As you can see, I’m here with you. I’m not doing anything.”
A girl ran past crying her eyes out. Concerned, Pete watched her stumble into the women’s restroom. He asked, “What was that about?”
“If I’m not mistaken, her father is one of the policemen on the video.”
“Oh,” Pete said visibly upset.
“I feel so sorry for her. I don’t know what I’d do if there was a video of Dad raping one of my classmates. It’s kind of ... I don’t know ... creepy.”
“I know what you mean. You might want to go help her. She definitely needs a friend at the moment.”
Patty said, “I’m not supposed to leave you alone.”
“I can take care of myself.”
Patty looked at him trying to decide if it was bravado or if he really was that confident in his abilities to protect himself. So far, it seemed that everyone who was going against him was losing ... big time. “Okay.”
The entire class was shocked when Pete returned to his seat as if nothing had happened. They had all heard the conversation in the principal’s office. For some reason, his presence in the room made people a little edgy.
Before the class bell rang, his father, mother, and little brother marched into the room. His father said, “You’re coming home where we can protect you.”
Gesturing to all of the cell phones which had suddenly made an appearance, Pete said, “Nothing is happening here. There are too many witnesses around for anything to happen. I wouldn’t mind a ride home after school, though.”
Raising a finger in the air, Pete said, “Someone has done this community a great favor. A horrendous crime of a despicable nature occurred last Friday. One of the students who attends this school was raped by individuals entrusted by the community for its welfare and by one of the students who attends this school. Now, not one of those criminals can take ten steps without a dozen people pointing the finger of condemnation at them.
“Every female on this campus just became a thousand times safer.
“Our classmate, a very gentle and sweet young woman, is being avenged by the actions of a very angry angel of retribution who is crushing everyone who attempted to make a victim of her. I, personally, want to share in the experience.”
One of the young ladies in the class said, “That was very nicely phrased, Pete. Now that you mention it, I do feel safer.”
“I’ll be by to pick you up after school,” his father said.
Enjoying school for a change, Pete went from class to class that day watching the reactions of everyone in his classes to the videos being sent out. There was absolutely no pretense of learning anything. Even the teachers had given up attempting to teach anything. Every twenty minutes a video or recording would arrive and throw the classroom into chaos. Drug sales, assaults, and the rape were each individually spotlighted. It was blatant overkill, but by the end of the day it was unlikely that anyone in the city was unaware of what was happening.
Waiting for Pete, Stan was leaning against the car which was parked next to the curb on the street in front of the school. He listened to kids talking about events when they walked past where he was standing. Much to his disgust, he heard many of them refer to Pete as a wimp who just accepted the beatings that Carl delivered. There was a lot of speculation about the source of the videos.
Upon spotting Pete, he waved to attract his son’s attention. Once Pete had acknowledged him, he went around the car and got in the driver’s seat. It wasn’t much of a wait before Pete settled into the passenger seat with his backpack in his lap.
Stan said, “I listened to the news on the way over here.”
“Anything interesting on it?”
Stan looked over at Pete incredulous that he could ask that question straight-faced. He shook his head and started the car.
“Mayor Stephenson committed suicide shortly after lunch.”
“I’m sorry to hear that.”
“Why are you sorry?
“He got out of it too easily.”
Stan snorted. “Carl Dewitt Junior shot his father. He’s in jail. His father is in the hospital.”
“I doubt his father will bail him out,” Pete said wryly.
“The State Police arrested the Chief of Police and two other officers this afternoon.”
“I’m sure they’ll find prison to be an interesting experience.”
“The FBI was called in to find out who was posting the videos.”
“Did they find out who it was?”
“Apparently it was a Russian hacker uploading the videos on a server at the community college and then posting them on YouTube.”
“I wonder how a Russian got involved in this,” Pete said.
“You know nothing about this?” Stan asked.
“I was in school all day. I couldn’t have been doing it.”
“The head of IT at the community college was fired. The President of the school is being asked to resign. The people at YouTube are getting blasted because they couldn’t stop very explicit videos of rapes from being uploaded on their site where young people could watch them. Federal agencies are crawling all over city hall looking for evidence of crimes.”
In a cold tone of voice, Pete said, “The head of IT at the community college is an idiot and was only given the job because he’s a relative of a trustee of the school. The President of the school is a criminal and has been stealing money from the county. The folks at a number of large Internet companies need to figure out that they aren’t the top dogs when it comes to technological savvy; and I really have to ask where the Federal agencies were when the crimes were being committed.”
His father pulled off the side of the road. He put the car in park before turning to look at his son.
“How much do you know about what is happening?”
“I know a lot about a lot of things. I read ... a lot. I investigate things on the Internet. I have my own web crawlers gathering information about everything, independent of any search engine company. I have servers in eight different countries working on analyzing data. I currently can link any two people in politics at a local, state, national, and international standing with each other. Oh ... I know a lot.”
His father blanched and swallowed heavily. The whole family had known that Pete was brilliant, but this ... this was frightening.
“I’m going to know more, very soon. I’m targeting businesses and charities next. I’m working on a model that will allow me to develop psychological profiles of all of the key people I identify. They will have no secrets by the time I’m done. I will own them.”
“Why are you doing this?”
“Simple. The entire power structure of the world is corrupt at a level that is unprecedented. What we have seen, and will see here, is nothing compared to what is going on elsewhere. Here, they were trying to hide their crimes. In some places, they don’t even pretend to hide their crimes.
“If something isn’t done soon, we will be slaves. I refuse to be a slave.”
“Who else is working with you on this?”
“No one. I’ve never told anyone until this minute.”
“I think neither of us should ever speak of it again.”
“I’ll take you home now.”
“I’d rather go to the library. There are some journals that I’m reading that may prove important.”
Sauntering casually, Pete entered the library and headed directly for one of the conference rooms. Lisa noticed his arrival, grabbed two sodas, and headed towards the room Pete had entered. She put one of the sodas on the table in front of Pete and took a seat.
“I got a ride.”
“So has anything interesting happened around here?” Pete asked with a twinkle in his eye.
“I’m the new head of IT.”
Pete opened the soda and took a sip of it.
“That’s good. I have a couple people I could recommend to help bolster the security over there.”
“Any of them on that list of names you gave me?”
“No. Those guys are the very very best of the best. They can make more on a single hack than you could pay them in a hundred years.”
“I could offer them a job.”
“You’d never be able to contact them to offer them a job. Those were disposable handles I gave you. They’ll never check that email account ever again. In fact, that computer doesn’t exist anymore.”
“I couldn’t believe they could hack into YouTube.”
“That was child’s play for them.”
“How is Vanessa?”
“She’s feeling a whole lot better now.”
“Good. How are you doing?”
“I’m good. I tell you ... that felt real good getting back at them like that.”
“You had a good idea to put the surveillance cameras in the warehouse where they raped me. You were right. They were too stupid to go somewhere else.”
“I just wish I had been able to protect Vanessa. I didn’t know they were going to take her,” Pete said scrubbing his face.
“It’s not your fault.”
Turning the can of soda in a slow rotation on the table, Pete said, “There’s always going to be that one last victim, the one who gets the criminal caught.
“It’s always been that way and will always be that way. Knowing how the world works doesn’t make it any easier to deal with it.”
“Isn’t that the truth!”
Edited by Morgan
Edited By TeNderLoin