“Molly, it’s me, Sean. Are you there?”
“Yes.” Sean could hear her sobbing on the other end of the line.
“Listen. I don’t have much time to talk. I’ve been forced into acting as if I was Billy Clarkson, it’s a long story, but I need you contact Mrs. Robinson. Do you still have the letter I left you?”
“I’ve already read it,” said Molly, “She’s right here, just a sec... ”
“Sean, Robinson here. Speak.”
“They’re trying to squeeze me, to put me away so no one can ask any questions. Find out who’s behind it—did you get the SD card?”
“I’ve got it.”
“The files should tell you everything you need to know. Do a massive analysis of them, there’s a common thread there and I think it involves a lot more than the Senator’s reelection campaign. Tag all proper nouns, and tabulate all names associated with them. I’m betting that the top three or four names will hold the key. I’m in a hospital in Virginia. They’re going to move me somewhere else tomorrow. Try to get that information out before I disappear. Make it seem as if it is coming from a hacker or Wikileaks if you have to, but just get it out.”
“Will do. Billy’s body is in the Seattle morgue, ID’d as yours, we’re working on getting dental records to end that cover-up as well.”
“Great, let me talk to Molly again.”
“Sean, are you all right?”
“I’m O.K., it wasn’t a real bad wound, but I’m pretty much tied to a bed for a couple of days. I’m being held against my will. They told me they’d put you in prison if I didn’t cooperate. Can you hide out somewhere?”
“I think so.”
“Then do it. I don’t know exactly what’s going on, but the people are ruthless. Uh oh, I hear people coming, I’ve got to hang up, I love you... ”
Sean had heard a commotion in the hall so he hung up and feigned sleep. He had been put in a private room but someone had evidently forgotten to remove the phone. The door opened and Senator Clarkson came in with some aides, a cameraman, and a reporter.
“Billy, how are you doing?” the Senator said, moving close to Sean, making sure that the camera and video operators had a good view.
“I’m hanging in there, Dad. I could be worse.”
“That’s the spirit, my boy. You’ll be up and around in no time.”
“When can I leave?” Sean thought it would be a good idea to put the Senator on the defensive.
“Well, that’s up to the doctor, but until we get the incident at the reception figured out we’ll be keeping you out of harms way.”
“If there’s anything I can do for your campaign—a press conference or something, let me know, I could do it from the hospital.” said Sean, laying it on thick.
A reporter asked, “Any idea who did it?” shoving a microphone in Sean’s face.
“No, whoever did it threw a jacket over my head before I was attacked.”
Sean saw one of the Senator’s aides whispering in the Senator’s ear.
“That’s enough for now, gentlemen, Billy is still weak, and we wouldn’t want to compromise the investigation.”
“Just one more photo with Billy, sir.”
The Senator moved closer to Sean’s head, so close that Sean was able to smell the Senator’s hair gel.
“This is my son, with whom I am well pleased.”
“What a sanctimonious prick,” though Sean.
When the group left one of the Senator’s aides took the room phone with him.
“He had to hang up,” Molly said.
“What did he tell you? Tell me exactly,” Mary said. Her voice had a steely edge.
“He said that he’d been forced into being Billy Clarkson. He the was told that I’d be put in prison if I didn’t cooperate. He wanted to know if I could hide out somewhere.”
“Do you have a place you can go—don’t tell me where—just say yes or no.”
“Good. We’ll need to keep in touch. You can use our dropbox.”
“Is it secure?”
“Very. Here’s how it works. Here’s the basic portal address. You need to compute a number to replace where the six x’s are. The number changes every day. Its first two digits are the day of the month added to the ID number I’ll give you. The next two digits are the day of the month added to itself. The last two numbers are are the first four added together. The date changes at 0000 hours GMT. Your ID number is 17. You got that?”
“I think so. Today is the 9th. Adding it to my ID will give me 26, the next two are 18 so the final two numbers will be 44.”
“Perfect. Memorize it. Check in at least once a day, leave a message if you have any information. I’ll keep you posted.”
“We’ll get Sean back, won’t we?”
“Sure, Molly. We’ve got to. Nobody fucks with my best employee and gets away with it. You should leave now—we really shouldn’t be seen together until this is all over. I’ll stay here and finish my drink.”
Molly drove home, packed a backpack and called in sick to work. She left her mother a note saying she would be out of town with some friends for the weekend. She then walked to the bus stop, boarded, and rode for a mile until she reached a transfer point. She then took a bus for the Fremont district. When she got off there, she found herself in front of a statue of Lenin. Molly thought it ironic that she had to go underground again; in the W.T.O. protests in 1999 it was for her politics. This time, it was for somebody else’s. She walked over to the small bookstore that was across the street. Molly went in and was met by the proprietor, a middle-aged woman who was wearing a gypsy dress.
“Hello Alice, it’s me again,” said Molly, “With the same old story. Do you still have that room? I need to disappear for a few days.”
“Yeah, you can crash there,” said Alice, “The same terms: no parties, no boyfriends.”
“Not to worry. I’ll be quiet as a mouse. You didn’t see me.”
“Still waiting for the Interurban, huh Molly? Man trouble, I’ll bet. When you gonna settle down, Mol? You know that you still have a chance to make it with me.”
“Aw, thanks, Alice,” said Molly, “But I’m too old to switch sides. But you’d be number one on my list if I ever did.”
“Here’s the key, and the store’s WiFi password. The back entrance usually has a dumpster in front of it, but hey! You’re in no position to be choosy.”
“You’re a pal, Al.”
Back at Applied Diffusion Research, Mary Robinson waited until everyone had gone home before she started processing the files which Sean had sent her. She knew it would take several hours. Mary had never gone so big, with so many names and keywords.
“This had better work... ” she said as she hit the ENTER key. In dozens of supercomputers, the data began its mad dance.
Mary opened her desk drawer and took out a bottle of single malt and a glass.