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©02 The Media Desk

the DESK of theHunter

ch 41

     "As long as you think it's for the best."
     I looked at my boss, his face was actually toying with expressing something that would pass for an emotion for him. "Yeah, when I heard one of those guys came here looking for me, I knew it was time for me to go."
     He nodded. Then a flicker of sadness blinked through his eyes, and his face became unreadable again. "You're probably right. But you consider the telecommuting again. You can still test applications from home." He looked at the urban renewal zone my desk had become. "That way you'd have something else to do. When you're not out saving the world from itself that is."
     I shrugged. "Let me talk to Keia. If she thinks it'd be OK... I'll let you know."
     He shook my hand again and stepped back. "Damn, I would never have expected you to be a real secret agent. But, maybe that's why it was a good cover."
     "Yeah, it worked out pretty good."
     He watched me pack for awhile, then he walked away.
     The others there had no idea why I was quitting. The rumors ran that I was starting my own business, that Keia had gotten a huge inheritance, that I was being fired for selling game secrets to some Korean outfit.
     I denied everything I heard and some I didn't and made up a good one about my going to work making gourmet pizza at the ballpark.

     It wasn't that hard to walk out for the last time.
     Keia helped me put my last box of stuff in the back of her van and we drove away to the waves of a few of my ex-co-workers coming back from lunch.

     "So what Huntie do now for day job?"
     Well, she had waited until we were about two miles from the office.
     "He wants me to do some testing by telecommuting."
     "That not full time job."
     "I don't need to work full time sweetheart."
     She glanced over at me as she sat at a traffic light, "Sweetheart-talking me not work for this Huntie. You need real job."
     "OK, so what can I do?"
     "Make computers for people." She said with a straight face. Then she handed me a piece of paper with a name and phone number written in her tiny neat hand. Under the name was a few lines of information about the type of machine they wanted.
     I thought about it. I could try it. "I'd have to get a business license." I said.
     "Bishop already do that. County say you can build them."
     I gave in, the great conspiracy against me was too much for me to fight.

     At the house Keia led me into the office. One wall had a workbench with boxes and bags and tools all over it. She looked at me with that light in her eyes that made me want to marry her all over again. "Paul at part store say this almost be everything you need."
     I smiled at her, with the stuff on the bench I could have outfitted the International Space Station with all the electronics it'd ever need. "You're too much."
     "I try not to be too much for Huntie." She smiled.
     I kissed her instead of saying something that would sound stupid.

     And so I changed my primary occupation.

     I concentrated solely on two machines. I made WEB surfers, or game platforms. Or on a couple of occasions, one machine that did both equally well. It simply depended on how deep the client's checkbook was.
     I had fun, and met some new people. And worked when I felt like it. The money wasn't that important.
     And the whole time I was running leads, chasing shadows, and putting the puzzle of the 81s together.

     Allied Forces, Tommy, made progress in fits and starts. Today he might be able to say a few words that meant something, and eat without drooling, and move his hand enough to hit the mute button on the TV remote during commercials, then tomorrow, he might sit there and whimper and watch Keia's monkey, unable to do anything.
     His therapists, and there were something like five of them, were nothing but encouraging. Talking about every little thing like he had won a Pulitzer. Which I guess was their job. But to me, the guy in the chair wasn't making anything like real progress, every time he got better, within a week, he had lost it all again.
     Conga came out when he could. Centre was there almost every weekend. Keia and I both thought the Bishop had been there a couple of times when an assistant came with the doctor, and then later, on-line, he'd refer something somebody had said.
     Second Grace, Thunder, Hopestar, even 1951 and some of the other female agents that I didn't see often came by to help with him when his nurse was off.

     The Bishop kept me hopping.
     Bishop42: You no longer have the rather lame excuse of having to be back at work Monday.
     theHunter: maybe i should get my job back then.
     Bishop42: I don't think that's an option, besides, this is a job I think you'll like.
     theHunter: Somebody has written subliminal messages on the girl's swimsuits at a 'best body on the beach' contest.
     Bishop42: I believe the correct expression to answer that would be 'Dream On'.
     >>>theHunter is shrugging.
     Bishop42: Read the incoming file.

     My machine beeped and checked the file for viruses. Then I opened it.
     John Kunsler was back. My teeth were instantly on edge at the mere sight of the child porn dealer's name.
     He had made parole last month after a sentence reduction by some lightweight judge who thought that since he wasn't a violent criminal, he could go home.
     And he wasn't out a week before he was right back into his racket up to his elbows. One of his associates had set him back up in business. And this time he was in the US.
     The information had a phone number to call with your computer to access his wares. It was a toll call, you had to enter your credit card number and swear you had no connection to law enforcement and were coming to the site for your own personal use.
     I had to call it, if for no other reason than to try to get a real world address of him and his equipment. I made a cursory once over of his site. The pictures and other offerings left no doubt about it, John was back in business. And he was using some of his old stuff as well.
     His 900 number pointed into several other numbers in the oddest configuration I had ever seen. But eventually it led to a Greenwich Village address. The four hundred block of 17th street.
     Without a word to anybody I was on my way.
     On the drive up, I swung between simply dropping him in the Hudson or turning him over to the cops again.
     But neither proved to be workable.
     The landlady let me into the room rented in John's name, and all I found was a telephone plugged into a switching machine and another line going out.
     Dead end.
     I figured throwing his switch into the river would simply be an inconvenience to him and let him know somebody was onto him. I thanked the lady and paid next month's rent for John, then I went down to my car and got my laptop and some support hardware and sat up shop in John's room.
     It was child's play to plug into the rather simple auto dialer and begin tracing incoming calls and recording what they did on John's kiddie porn BBS.
     Then, I sent the file, credit card number and all, to the local police department in the town they were calling from. I did this for three days before the incoming traffic even slowed down. I had busted people, men and women by the user names and credit card files, other computers, and even one fax machine.
     I thought about going to Tijuana to track him down at the other end of the phone, but it was most likely a dead end. For some reason, I believed John was here, in New York. Call it instinct, call it not wanting to fly across the country on a wild goose chase. But I was staying here.
     Then I got the break I had needed. From the mailman no less.
     John's long distance phone bill came from a company I had never heard of.
     It was a good-sized envelope full of gibberish. But on one of the inside pages, I found what I wanted. The machine in the apartment was calling the Mexican number, and it was calling another number, a local New York number. I ran it.
     And within ten minutes I was sitting outside another boarding house, not a block from where I had been.
     And there was John, walking down the street with a grocery bag. I went back to his other room and made my plans. And forwarded some more of his customers info to the authorities.
     The next morning John left again on another errand.
     As soon as he was around the corner, me, two NYPD detectives and a Federal Parole Officer went through his room.
     OK, it was a pigsty.
     They got what they needed for evidence, and when John came back, they scooped him up and took him away. I set his site up to refer the information on anybody that even came near it on the dial in line to the FBI, while the 'customer' reviewed three specially selected pictures so we had time to trace the call back to its source. Then I cleaned out his files, his back ups, his tapes, the pictures he had to scan, and everything else.
     There was even notebooks of names of people that would rent kids for cash, or worse. Those went to the DA.
     The calls kept coming in. I watched as my changes to his equipment worked and forwarded the call to the local FBI office. Their computer recorded the info and sent it on to the special agent in charge on the case. At some point in the transaction the caller figured out something was up and broke the connection. But it was too late. They were busted. Or at least, they would be.
     I didn't even see Interstate 95 as I drove home.
     In my back yard I built a bonfire, and burned most of John's stuff.
     It stunk almost as much as his room did.

     Bishop42: Good job. I am relieved you did not do anything violent to our old friend. He was, after all, your only repeat customer.
     theHunter: The thought had occurred.
     Bishop42: So Keia is watching your typing?
     theHunter: No, worse. 2ndGrace.
     Bishop42: so she'sa makin fershore youse types goodly
     theHunter: something like that
     theHunter: She wants to know, "Is he going to do the rest of his time?"
     Bishop42: And more, he's got a whole new set of charges, including interstate, and international, wire fraud. Seems he was also over billing some of the credit cards for services never used.
     theHunter: Grace just said, "He was a nice guy all the way around."
     Bishop42: Model citizen.

     I showed Second Grace how to use the majority of the features of her new computer, and gave her detailed instructions on how to put it back together, then I loaded it into her car for her.
     "You sure you don't want me to come with you to set it up?"
     "I'd love you to, but you can't." She said.
     "Because of where I live."
     I just looked at her.
     "I live in a convent." She said with a straight face.
     I didn't believe her.
     Keia said it was true, she had been there a couple of years ago. "The sisters are real nice, but they don't let mans in there."
     "The last man that was inside the walls was a plumber about fifteen years ago. Since then, they've found female electricians and all. No men allowed."

     Sometimes the real world is just too much to take. I went back to the office to hide. On the TV I found an Aussie-rules football game and logged on to play the newest edition of the space trading game. In this one, I was playing a bad guy, and spent most of my time attacking a good guy player.
     As I took yet another of the bishop's ports, I grinned and sent him a message. 'Nothing Personal.'

     The next day I found myself drifting in an escape pod wondering what had happened to the majority of my planets, ships, ports, and marker beacons that had been flashing messages like, 'You want fries with that torpedo?'
     The bishop had left me a message.
     'Nothing Personal At All My Friend.'

End 41 desk

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