Shooting the Works with Franklin Dixon
Part 1 of 3
There’s a lot of places this this could start but I’ll start with the girl. Because that’s fun. She was kind of dusky skinned and had long black hair – really, long, thick, Garnier-Fructis-ad-type black hair. She seemed to be looking at me or near me, and she smiled all of a sudden. Her smile made me feel incredibly happy. I wasn’t even sure if I was the target of the smile, but I really wanted to be, so my imagination decided that I was. She had a dark pink t-shirt that fit snugly and inky blue skinny jeans on the kind of body that does well in tight clothes. The t-shirt had a really gaudy gold pattern on the front, thick as vinyl, and there were rhinestones all over the seams of her jeans. First I thought she might be an over-tanned Jersey girl, but then I decided she was more Persian.
It was quarter to midnight the Sunday before last. I was in the Old School Pizza on Babcock Street, just south of the FIT campus. I had my laptop and my phone sitting on the table and I was eating pizza. My intention was to be writing a blog, which is what I’ve been trying to do for a living. I wish I could link to what I was writing, but all of that is gone.
“Hi,” she said. Just that one syllable sounded musical and kind. I was actually drawing breath to reply when a husky voice behind me beat me to it.
An olive skinned kid with a couple extra pounds crammed into a Hollister t-shirt and jeans even skinnier than hers brushed past me. I shouldn’t have been surprised when her eyes tracked him and not me, but I was horribly disappointed, and my gut took a roller coaster dive of embarrassment.
The two of them sat down together a table away from me. I tried to go back to writing but my pizza-eating fingers were greasy and so was my mind. I stared at my laptop screen without typing and stole glances at them like stop-motion film. In the first strobe she still looked ecstatic to see him, but by the second the happiness was gone completely. They were speaking urgently and quietly in a foreign language. The guy got up and walked out. Then she got up. She did look at me this time. Her eyes were cold an intent, and this time all I felt was stupid for the things I’d thought before. I looked down, away, and then out the window. She passed.
In ten seconds I realized my phone was gone. I looked around wildly. She was going out the door. Her long black hair was swaying down to the butt of her jeans and out of one rhinestoned pocket peeked the bdazzeled corner of my iPhone4. That’s right. I’m a twenty-nine year old man and my phone is four years out of date and has plastic gems hot-glued to it. I jumped up and ran after her, but when I got outside she was gone.
Back to the bedazzeled phone. It previously belonged to my ex-girlfriend. She left it behind when she left me and my “friends and family share plan” and upgraded to a new boyfriend whose plan was due for a discount on a Galaxy S5. Her old phone sat in a drawer for a month, and then three weeks ago the battery in my own not-bedazzeld phone stopped working and I couldn’t afford a replacement, so I swapped SIM cards and started using hers.
The pizza place didn’t have wifi so I rode my bike home as fast as I could. That phone was connected to my Facebook and Twitter and Tumblr and Match and Google+ and the gmail account that my credit card statements get sent to, and I’d turned off the lock-screen passcode. I opened my laptop and tried to connect to my apartment’s router, holding the computer in the crook of my arm as I ran up the stairs. It was no good. None of my logins worked. She’d changed all my passwords already. Was she some kind of hacker? Had she bricked the phone? Rooted it? Had she found that?
Let me digress again. This ex-girlfriend who’d bdazzeled the phone was not a fling, or a dinner and a movie once a week sort of girlfriend. We were already living together when that iPhone4 was new. I bought it for her. Our moms sent Christmas cards to each other. So when, last year, the clues that she was cheating on me started to coalesce, I felt a little creepy about rooting the phone and installing spyware on it, but not creepy enough to keep me from doing it.
I logged into the spyware service’s website on my laptop. It was one of the more complete services. I checked the call logs. Nothing new. iMessage: nothing new. Facebook: ding! My pizza parlor femme fatale was messaging someone from my account. She hadn’t thought to check for hidden apps.
The other party was named Rachelique J, but the first thing I learned was that that meant nothing.
Her (aka Me): Iqbal told me. I have a burner phone. Are you secure?
Rachelique J (aka God Knows Who) : Yes. This one was stolen from a woman in Atlanta yesterday. They will not know yet that it is out of the country and will not be monitoring it.
Her: So, I’m activated? After four years of nothing?
GKW: Yes Sleeper. You must travel to Bozeman, Montana and kidnap the grandson of John Kerry, who is, with his mother, visiting Mr Kerry’s ex-wife.
Sleeper: WTF? John Kerry?
GKW: WTF yourself? Have you not been paying attention to events? Have you actually become nothing more than a student at that school? Are you hoping to get your degree at the expense of the government of Iran and then defect? I warn you, we will not allow this. We will cut off your hands and your mother’s hands.
Sleeper: I’m so sorry. It is just that this is not the sort of mission I am trained for.
GKW: Allah will guide you.
Sleeper: What am I to do with the grandson of John Kerry?
GKW: You will take him to a safe house in Reno, Nevada and hold him as a bargaining chip, to use against the Americans in the ongoing trade sanction and disarmament talks. Are you aware of these negotiations, or are you only aware of your Java Development midterms and the beaches in Florida?
Sleeper: I am aware.
GKW: Then proceed to Bozeman, Montana immediately.
I looked at the spyware’s GPS tracker. Sure enough, the blip that was my ex-girlfriend’s phone was pulling out of a student apartment building near the FIT campus. I watched it go up Babcock street and then turn west on 192.
I needed the police, but I didn’t have a phone and was locked out of every social media service I had. I wasn’t sure what to do. I just stared at the screen. She reached the I-95 onramp and headed north.
Something blinked. She was making a call. I clicked to listen in.
“Jim Kagan, FBI, counter-surveillance,” answered the person she was calling.
“They said to call you if they ever activated me.” Her voice was shaking with adrenaline.
“What? Which one are you?”
“They said the passcode was Qbert.”
“Oh. Oh wow. What assignment have they given you?”
“I’m supposed to kidnap the grandson of John Kerry and hold him hostage in Reno Nevada.”
“I know, but,” her voice broke up. “I think they actually mean it.”
“Well, we’ll get a protective detail out there.”
“To do what? Kill me when I try? If I don’t try, they’ll torture my mother.”
“I need to conference this with some people. Where did they send you for the kidnapping?”
“Where are you now?”
“I’m on I-95 in central Florida.”
“Okay, that’s like a 35 hour drive. We have some time to plan. I’ll get back to you. Stall as much as you can."