CHAPTER TWO

Alex arrived at his officer early the next morning as usual. The building he drove into was in the poorer part of the city. It looked rundown and dilapidated; as if it had been deserted for many years. He pulled his car into a garage and the door close automatically behind him.

The inside of the building was totally different from the outside. Although there were no windows it looked like any of the more posh office buildings in the downtown area. He followed the corridor to a door at the end that slid open like something out of a science fiction movie.

Inside the room were several large computer machines. In the center of the room was a large table on which sat three computer monitors and three personal computers. Sitting at the table was Marty Mortensen. To one side of the room was another table. Brian James sat at the table working on some type of electronic device.

In one back corner were several pieces of weight training equipment. A very large man was currently lying on the weight bench pressing a barbell containing nearly 300 pounds of weights. To one side of the room was another door that led to another room.

"Jim, how many times have I told you that you should have a spotter when you press?" Alex asked. "If that bar should slip I'd lose a very valuable member of my team."

"No problem, boss," said Jim, putting the barbell on its resting bar and sitting up. "It's not even 300 pounds. Not much chance of it slipping."

"No sense taking chances," said Alex.

"Brian and Marty said you got the Tatterson account," said Jim. "Anything for me to do?"

"Well, you could help Brian with the security measures," said Alex. "I don't think it's going to take a lot of work. They're security is all ready pretty good. It just needs some tweaking."

"Whatever you say," said Jim.

"I have that information you asked for," said Marty. He handed several papers to Alex. "There's some good news and there's some bad news."

"Okay," said Alex, taking a seat in a chair next to Marty and taking the papers. "Let's have it. What's the good news?"

"Well," said Marty, "she's a girl and her name is Rebecca Anmon. She's one of the best hackers out there. I've been able to trace some of her work and I have to admit the girl has talent. She's only 22 but that shouldn't be a detriment. Most of the best hackers are younger."

"Great," said Alex. "If she's that good she should be a good addition to the team. So. What's the bad news?"

"She goes by the handle Coyote," said Marty.

"Well, that's certainly interesting," said Brian. "You go by Roadrunner and she goes by Coyote. Sounds like a match made in heaven."

"Very funny," said Marty. "But the bad news is she's currently a guest of the government."

"She's in prison?" questioned Alex.

"Technically, yes," said Marty. "She's doing time for some illegal computer hacking."

"Marty, I'm not sure about this," said Alex. "A convict? I'm not sure how that's going to affect our rating. Or our contract with the government. They usually take a very dim view on convicts working on top secret contracts."

"No one really has to know," said Marty. "She'll be doing what I've been doing which means she'll be in here most of the time. Unless someone specifically asks you really are under no obligation to tell anyone she spent time in prison."

"Is in prison," corrected Alex. "So tell me. What makes you think she's capable of replacing you? Is she really that good?"

"You remember that case a few years ago?" Marty asked. "The one where someone attempted to hack the White House?"

"Yeah, I remember reading about it in the paper," said Alex. "If I remember correctly they were able to find out who it is and stop them before they could do any damage."

"Yes," said Marty. "Actually, the paper wasn't exactly correct. She's the one who did it. And she not only attempted to hack the White House, she did hack it. She was into their system for 2 weeks and they had no idea she was in the system."

"So why is she in prison if they didn't know it was her?" Alex asked.

"She made the mistake of bragging about what she had done to one of her friends," said Marty. "The friend turned her into the government for a reward."

"How was there a reward if they didn't know she was in the system?" Brian asked.

"When he went to the government," said Marty, "they checked and discovered that someone had hacked their system. Once they knew the system was hacked they knew what to look for and discovered it. When they did her friend made arrangements to give them her identity for a nice hefty reward. And a guarantee not to divulge what he knew to the public. The government didn't want anyone knowing just how easily she hacked the computer system at the White House."

'Well, she certainly sounds competent enough," said Alex.

"Not very good judgment in friends, though," said Jim.

"That was 5 years ago," said Marty. "She got 15 years for her little stunt."

"Fifteen years for hacking?" questioned Alex. "Isn't that a little stiff?"

"Normally, maybe," said Marty. "But she did hack the White House. She could have been charged as a terrorist. The deal her lawyer made with the Attorney General allowed her to plead guilty to a normal charge instead of one as a terrorist. Believe me, all things considered, she got off pretty light."

"Well, there is the problem of her being in prison," said Alex. "And she still has 10 years left on her sentence. You know as well as I do we can't wait 10 years for her to get out of jail."

"Well, that's part of the good news," said Marty. "Dustin was the presiding judge. I would imagine he could help in that area."

"Maybe," said Alex. "He's not one for bending the rules within his courtroom."

"Well, considering the circumstances you could at least ask him," said Brian. "Marty's agreed to stay on until we find a replacement for him. You know there's a time constraint here. It's not fair to ask him to stay any longer than he absolutely has to."

"Thanks, Brian, I appreciate that," said Marty. "You could ask him to release her into your custody temporarily. Until we can find a permanent replacement for me."

"I'll ask Dustin about it," said Alex. "By the way, how is Barbara doing?"

"She has her good days and her bad days," said Marty. "Lately they've been pretty good. The new medication the doctor has her on seems to be doing some good. Hopefully she'll continue to do as well."

"Is there any news about any new treatments?" Jim asked. "You did say the doctor told you there were some experimental treatments that were just waiting for FDA approval for human trials."

"Not yet," said Marty. "Speaking of Barbara, would you mind if I take this afternoon off? I thought I'd like to take her to that restaurant she likes so much for a late lunch."

"Not a problem," said Alex. "You've been working hard lately. And the Tatterson account can wait a day or two. Especially since it's going to be as easy as you say. They won't be expecting anything for a couple of weeks so it won't be unusual if we don't have anything for a few days."

"Thanks, Alex," said Marty. "I'll give her your love."

"You'd better," said Alex.

"Anyone seen Preston today?" Alex asked.

"I saw him earlier," said Brian. "He said something about running a check on someone for one of his cases. He said to tell you he'd be in later this afternoon."

"Fine, fine," said Alex. "Well, guess I'll go give Dustin a call. He's probably in court right now but his clerk can give him a message to call me when he gets a chance. In the meantime, let's get started on the plans for the Tatterson account. If we get it done early Mr. Maxwell just might decide we deserve a bonus."

"Can't argue with that," said Jim. "I need to go work on the car. The carburetor is acting up. I think I need to rebuild it."

"Have fun," said Alex, heading for his office through the other door from the room.

Alex walked into a bar and took a seat at the on one of the stools. The bartender walked over and smiled at him.

"Your usual, Mr. Young?" asked the bartender.

"Yes, thanks Devon," said Alex.

There weren't many people in the bar at this time of day. He looked at his watch. He still had about an hour before he met Dustin at the prison to see about Rebecca Anmon. He decided to relax for a while before heading to the prison.

At the moment there were only a few men in the bar. They were probably business men stopping off for a drink before heading home. Alex spent a fair amount of time at this bar. It was usually quiet and they didn't water the drinks. As Alex sipped his gin and tonic he noticed a very pretty brunette walk in.

She was dressed in a very slinky red dress that accentuated her figure quite nicely. She had almond shaped eyes and a bronze look to her skin. She also looked to be just barely old enough to legally be in a bar. She walked towards the bar but before she reached the bar one of the men stepped up to her.

"Well," said the man, "this place is looking up. Where have you been all my life, sweetheart?"

"Oh, puh-leese," said the woman. "You can't honestly think a line like that will actually work on anyone. Now why don't you go back to your drink and leave me alone? You have no idea just how not interested I am."

"Come on, sweetie," said the man. "That's no way to be. A babe like you shouldn't be alone. Why don't you let me buy you a drink, honey?"

"I'm not your honey," said the woman. "I'm here to meet someone and it certainly isn't you. And I don't drink."

"Well whoever you're here to meet can't be as good as me, baby," said the man, putting his hand on the woman's shoulder. "I guarantee you we'll have a really nice time together."

The woman suddenly reached up and grabbed the man's wrist. She twisted the man's arm around flipping him on his back. She placed foot on his throat as she twisted his arm.

"Look, buddy," she said. "I said I wasn't interested. I tried to be nice but obviously you didn't get the message. Now I suggest you take that wedding ring out of your pocket, put it back on your finger to cover that tan line, and go home to your wife. Before you have to limp home."

"Crazy bitch," cried the man, obviously in pain. "I'll have you arrested as soon as I find a cop."

"You want a cop?" questioned the woman. She pulled a wallet out of her purse and flipped it open, exposing a gold badge and a police ID card. "You got one. Now, before you decide you want to cause any trouble, I just want to let you know that the legal definition of assault is an offensive touching. You touched me and I found it offensive. And I was simply defending myself. So unless you want a whole lot more trouble than you can handle I suggest you get out of here while I'm still in a generous mood."

She released the man's arm and took a step back, facing him as he stood up. There was no fear in her eyes.

"Insane broad," said the man. "I'll have you up on brutality charges for this."

"From what I saw you assaulted the lady and she defended herself," said Alex. "And I'm sure everyone else in here saw the same thing. Maybe you should just forget the whole thing and find another bar."

The man didn't say a word. He just left the bar rubbing the arm that the woman had twisted.

"You know you could have helped," she said stepping up to the bar.

"You seemed to be doing okay on your own," said Alex, smiling at the woman. "Besides, since when have you needed help with a jerk like that?"

"Point taken," said the woman.

The bartender sat a drink on the counter in front of the woman.

"On the house," he said smiling.

"Thanks," said the woman, "but like I told the guy, I'm not really interested."

"Hey, just a friendly drink," said the bartender, holding up his left hand to show a wedding ring on his ring finger. "Unlike that guy I'm quite happily married. I just like to see a woman who can take care of herself, that's all."

"Well, in that case, thanks," said the woman, picking up the drink. "Grapefruit juice, my favorite." She turned to Alex. "I suppose you told him what I drink."

"Devon," said Alex, "this is Anna Stratton. She's an associate of mine."

"Well, anyone who works with Mr. Young is welcome in here, Ms. Stratton," said Devon. "Especially someone who can handle the riff raff like you can."

"Necessity," said Anna. "I had four older brothers." She turned to Alex. "So what's this job you need me for?"

"Marty thinks he's found his replacement," said Alex. "I'm on my way to meet Dustin to check her out. If she checks out I'll need someone to take her back to the shop and show her around."

"A babysitting job?" Anna asked. "Come on, Alex."

"It's necessary," said Alex. "Come on. We have just enough time to get there."

"Get where?" Anna asked.

"The local prison," said Alex, smiling as he headed for the door.

"Prison?" Anna nearly shrieked. "Marty's replacement is a con?"