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The rich strains of the tenor's powerful voice filled the air with Mattinata. His second cup of freshly brewed espresso rested precisely four inches from the right of the laptop. It was a perfect day, the kind that made him glad he paid the extra money for the penthouse unit with its view of the waterfront. His hair was still wet from the shower. At home on the terrace, wrapped in a thick terry robe, he was comfortable, safe, and secure.
The only thing missing from his life was Mattie. All the money in the world wouldn't bring her back. He found grim satisfaction in making the system that robbed him of his happiness pay.
His wife had died coming home from work. In the wrong place at the wrong time, a coked up punk broadsided her car. The small time criminal responsible for killing his wife had also died at the scene.
Shoving the bitter memories into the seething pit of pain he carried inside, he logged on to the internet, and then his bank's website, a purely routine transaction, allowing him to verify that the funds he had transferred earlier in the week had hit his checking account.
A polite little notice flashed as he clicked on balances from the main menu. Account last accessed at 9:00 AM.
The sky changed to an irritating, mocking shade of blue. The espresso developed an oily film. The tenor's sweet voice taunted him with the serenade to a wonderful morning when his day had turned to shit.
Inside his head, the alarms screamed, accelerating his pulse. The cursor blinked with infinite patience, waiting for his instructions.
From then on, nothing was routine.
The firstcoherent thought, which made it past his steaming outrage, was--what else had been hacked?
Someone could be tracking his keystrokes. If they were, they'd gotten nothing except confirmation of his password and account number. Information they obviously didn't need. A second, colder, assessment of his bank balances assured him there was no money missing. How big a problem was this unauthorized access?
Stuffing his anger, he put first things first, limiting any further damage by turning off the laptop. Next, he went into his home office, shut down the desktop computer, and then unplugged the unit. An after thought made him disconnect the broadband.
From the adjoining dressing room, he selected today's clothes, a suit of English superfine in an almost invisible chesterfield plaid. After tucking in his shirt--pale blue, Egyptian cotton, custom tailored, the only way to go--he picked out a tie, Italian silk, and draped it around his neck. Sticking to his routine brought back some order and kept fear in check.
Once armored in the clothing of success, he called his computer expert.
"My bank account was accessed this morning."
"Yeah?" Sam mumbled sleepily.
Wonderful tech support. His system had been violated while Sam slept. Good help wasn't hard to find--for him it was impossible.
"I didn't log in until five minutes ago," he said slowly, waiting irritably for Sam to catch up with the conversation.
"You got hacked? Wow. They must have penetrated the firewall and backdoored the bank's security, too. Awesome."
He got no reassurance or comfort from Sam's enthusiastic response.
"Fix it," he enunciated the words through a locked jaw.
"Right, I'm on my way. Gimme fifteen minutes," Sam said with a stab at sounding business-like.
"Make it twelve," he snapped, slamming down the receiver.
Sam was twenty-two, old for this kind of work. Probably some fourteen year-old pimply faced nerd was behind the leak.
If he had any choice, he'd do away with the computer altogether. The system required skills he didn't have the time to master. Using the computer meant relying on Sam, an unavoidable evil.
He called Mike, the man who handled more traditional security issues for him, asking him to sweep the place for bugs. He hated the idea of anyone, even a trusted associate, in his personal sanctuary, but he couldn't afford to risk invasions that were even more hostile.
A chill stiffened the hairs on the back of his neck.
What if the hacker wasn't some nerdy teen?
Now wasn't the time to slack off. He'd sweated every detail for the last three years. Since he'd acquired the club, his life had been a high-wire juggling act in a three-ring circus.
He finished the espresso he'd brewed to replace the ruined cup and felt marginally better. Stupid to let some techno-punk ruin his day. It wasn't as if the account was in his name. He'd kept a separate identity for all of the club related financial transactions. The timing was unfortunate, now when his hard work was finally paying off. No one was going to ruin what he'd paid for in blood, sweat, and sobs for mercy.
Not always his own.
The timing on this little crack in the firewall made him nervous. Everything made him nervous. In his line of business, paranoia was a smart practice.
For a few seconds, he conceded he might be overdoing it. He would need to make a chemical adjustment soon. Not yet. He needed to stay sharp. There were still a few loose threads to tie off, a few dollars to bank, and a lousy little hacker to catch.
What the fuck was the point of breaking into a bank account and not stealing money?
Sure, kids could do things purely for the challenge. But this?
This was like blasting into the US Mint and then taking pictures of the currency.
Possibly, the hacker had downloaded his information. They could be studying it--following the money. Running a worse case scenario in his head, he concluded it was not disastrous. Unless the club accounts were compromised, too.
Rubbing the side of his nose, he tried to remember when he'd accessed the business bank account last. Yesterday or the day before? Probably the day before. He always let the money sit for at least twenty-four hours before transferring funds offshore.
Before Sam arrived, he cleaned the espresso machine, made the bed, and wiped down the bathroom. He always tidied up after himself, because he liked things orderly. He did not like people in his private space.
The hacker was one more mess he needed to clean up. Whoever was snooping around his business wouldn't live long enough to learn from the mistake. He dabbed at his nose, staunching the trickle of blood.
Posted February 23, 2011