William H. Calvin, SYNCHRONIZED, the first novel in a series.. See
   also http://WilliamCalvin.com/bk-f/bkf1toc.htm.
   This is a draft.
                   copyright (c)1998 by William H. Calvin
   This 'tree' is really a pyramidal neuron of cerebral cortex. The axon
   exiting at bottom goes long distances, eventually splitting up into
   10,000 small branchlets to make synapses with other brain cells.
   William H. Calvin
   University of Washington
   Seattle WA 98195-1800 USA
   June 1998 DRAFT
   Send those comments to:
   [3]Email Calvin
   a novel of the internet era
   S Y N C H R O N I Z E D
   William H. Calvin
   The communications technologies (satellite phones, internet, Global
   Positioning System) are presented as slightly more streamlined and
   widespread than they are in 1998. Given the rate at which they are
   changing, and the delays inherent in traditional publishing, this is a
   novel set in the present. It is followed by a sequel, UNLISTED.
   End papers
       will have a map of Puget Sound in the front and of the Bahamas in
       the rear. They will be the only illustrations.
   William H. Calvin has written nine nonfiction trade books on brains
   and evolution since 1980, including "How Brains Think" (Basic Books
   1996), and a book on prehistoric astronomy entitled How the Shaman
   Stole the Moon (Bantam 1991). He is a neurophysiologist at the
   University of Washington.
   I hate doorbells in the morning for all the usual reasons. Also
   because it's usually the middle of the night before the elegant
   solution is finally found. Don't ask me why. We joke about a wave of
   epiphanies sweeping around the globe, leading the dawn by a few hours,
   as computer wizards rise from their keyboards, congratulating
   Wizards of the female persuasion seem to finish an hour sooner, closer
   to three o'clock than four. That's discounting, of course, the false
   alarms - those premature epiphanies of the more testosterone-soaked
   wizards, which start about midnight.
   And it was only two o'clock last night when I finished my
   call-screening software. I pedaled my exercise bike triumphantly for
   an hour thereafter, to allow my brain to slow down, and then I crawled
   into bed, feeling thoroughly virtuous.
   Technically speaking, I was awake when I heard the doorbell. Indeed, I
   was just starting my wake-up shower, my favorite bootstrap to higher
   levels of consciousness. Being in a very good mood, I only muttered
   pro forma curses as I stepped out of the stall and pulled on my
   terry-cloth bathrobe.
   Uh-oh. The bathrobe was missing its belt, for some reason. I reminded
   myself that I gesture a lot with both hands, and the belt is an
   essential precaution against an abruptly plunging decolletage. This
   disconcerts visitors.
   As I stood posed in front of the mirror contemplating the
   alternatives, the doorbell spoke again, more firmly than before. I
   could always, I supposed, pull on my bikini and pretend I was wet from
   the beach.
   Hmm. In late October? In Seattle? At ten in the morning? Perhaps not.
   I found a thin robe in my closet and headed out through the living
   room, leaving wet footprints as I tied the robe. This better not be a
   salesman, I muttered, or I'll invent a version of RingControl that
   will selectively silence doorbells as well as telephones.
   Then I saw the police uniform through the window. Great. I opened the
   door and lifted an eyebrow. "Good morning," I said tentatively,
   somewhere between a statement and a question.
   "Are you feeding the cats downstairs?" asked the cheerful young
   officer. I relaxed instantly, and somehow slipped into fast-talking
   actress mode.
   "I am indeed looking after Max's cats," I replied in mock
   exasperation, opening the door wider and smiling at the officer
   standing on my second floor deck. "What have they done this time?" I
   asked him, crossing my arms and leaning my shoulder against the door
   frame with a theatrical sigh. "Started shoplifting at the corner
   grocery? It's really only Cleopatra that plots these things, officer.
   Siam's quite innocent. How much do I owe the store for the potato
   Ever helpful Kate, that's me - the Medicean madcap, running on at the
   mouth. The policeman smiled, while trying to get a word in edgewise.
   "When did you last see Max Hempelman?" he asked, finally.
   "A few weeks ago, when he left for Florida. Why?"
   "Have you got an address for him? Know a place where we can reach
   him?" he persisted. "Even just a phone number?"
   I suppressed a real sigh because - well, it was a big secret that I
   wasn't supposed to know about. I had immediately jumped to the
   conclusion that our esteemed county prosecuting attorney wanted some
   more free advice from Max. And was getting impatient with Max's
   travels. It was, after all, the final week of his re-election
   campaign. "Well, I got a postcard from Max a week ago. An absolutely
   lovely picture of a genuine Palm Beach swimming pool. Want to come in,
   while I try to find it?"
   That's about when I realized that I'd forgotten to turn off the
   shower. I pulled my thin robe tighter in compensation for this
   all-too-audible shortcoming. Let him think that I showered with a
   companion, I thought, remembering that California bumper sticker from
   drought days, Don't Shower Alone!
   "It's back in the kitchen," I said, a little too loudly. "That's where
   the old mail resides on its way to the recycling can. One of these
   days, I'm going to rig a chute down to the alley, so all the junk mail
   can go straight into the recycle. And land with a satisfying crash."
   My mind wasn't really in gear yet. Those were just warm-up exercises.
   I'm better after a shower, a glass of grapefruit juice, and a double
   shot of espresso. Honest.
   I rummaged through the accumulation on the back of the kitchen table,
   laying aside the old Wall Street Journal and New York Times issues
   that needed tossing out. And there the postcard was, showing an
   unnaturally blue swimming pool, surrounded by nondescript hotel
   balconies totally lacking in individuality, topped by some cottony
   clouds that looked like overdone digital retouching to my jaundiced
   I looked at the flip side. "It's the `Sunrise Hotel on Route A1A,' it
   says here. Not his usual sort of hotel, I must say. He usually stays
   at the best place in town." I passed him the postcard after noting
   that Max hadn't written anything more than a sarcastic "Dearest Kate -
   Don't know what you're missing. Love, Max." Max knows my opinion of
   Florida. As a former New Yorker, Max was expected to like Florida. His
   daughter did. But he didn't.
   "Postmarked October 19th? And you haven't heard anything else from him
   since then? No phone calls?" I shook my head, no. E-mail messages on
   the internet would have been far more likely, but there hadn't been
   any of those, either. "Know anyone else that might have heard from
   "Just his daughter in New York - he usually talks to her every
   weekend." It was beginning to penetrate my thick head. This wasn't
   what I had blithely assumed.
   "Is she the next of kin?"
   I was getting alarmed, finally. "Yes. His wife died a long time ago.
   Now, suppose you tell me what's going on? What's happened to Max?"
   The patrolman was busy typing into his little clipboard computer, his
   thick black fingers just as nimble as my long white ones. "All I know
   is that we've got a missing-person's query from the Palm Beach P.D. A
   hotel got worried when he didn't check out, and left his suitcase
   behind in the room. Then it turns out that a boat he rented for a week
   wasn't returned."
   Max, missing? Max, of all people?
   IF MINDS CAN UNDERGO A CHANGE OF PHASE, the way that H2O goes from
   water to steam, that's when mine popped out of actress mode. It
   snapped into dead-serious mode and didn't lighten up for days.
   "Well, didn't they conduct a search?" I asked indignantly, rising to
   my full six feet.
   He squinted at the display on his clipboard and poked a key
   repeatedly. "Seems the Lantana cops found some kids using the
   "Lantana's just south of Palm Beach on the coastal waterway," I
   explained, trying to curb my rising impatience. Or was it panic?
   "The kids eventually admitted that they had found it washed ashore a
   few days earlier. And naturally, since the kids hadn't reported
   finding it, no Coast Guard search was ever conducted for him," he
   continued, paging down through the file. "It seems to have taken a few
   days for all of the jurisdictions to consult one another - and then
   wire Seattle." He added a grimace of disapproval, as if the Seattle
   Police were more efficient.
   "But that simply does not make sense," I said emphatically, shaking my
   head in disbelief. "Max knows all about boats. He's one of those
   absolutely careful people who never makes a stupid mistake, because
   he's thinking two steps ahead, all the time. Never even drinks beer
   when he's sailing. And he's in good health too. He may be 70, but he
   plays tennis twice a week, and beats most of his friends too.
   Certainly me."
   The policeman, whose name tag read "Freeman", was tapping it all into
   his clipboard computer, one almost as fancy as those used by the
   parcel service delivery people. He took down parts of my description
   of Max: three inches shorter than my six feet, perhaps 165 pounds, an
   athletic build despite the rounded waistline, a full head of white
   hair, a wicked tongue, intelligent brown eyes, perpetual half-moon
   reading glasses, and a book in hand. Sometimes two.
   "Has he ever gotten lost or confused?"
   "Max Hempelman get lost? He's the least likely person I know," I said,
   standing up straight and pulling at my thin robe, which was sticking
   to wet spots. "Max always knows exactly where he is, almost
   intuitively. I found that out when he introduced me to piloting float
   planes. And, if he did get confused, he's one of those people who has
   a GPS chip inside his belt phone that gives a readout of his exact
   latitude, longitude, and altitude from triangulating on satellite
   signals. No, Max Hempelman is not likely to get lost - not unless he's
   had a stroke or something."
   "Any idea why Mr. Hempelman was visiting Florida?"
   "No, can't say as I do know," I said, pondering, realizing that I
   really ought to know the answer to that simple question. "And I know
   him pretty well, too. He's never mentioned any friends in Florida. He
   travels there on business when he can't avoid it - he's a consultant
   on things like mergers and takeover attempts. The last time he was in
   Florida, about a year ago, it was to Palm Beach for a board of
   directors meeting or something like that. The Breakers, as I
   "Is that a company?"
   "No, an elegant old hotel and golf course."
   "Know the name of the corporation?" Officer Freeman asked, hopefully.
   "No. But it was only a temporary consulting deal, that last time. He
   had to make a presentation at a board meeting about checking out a
   merger proposal. He left as soon as he could. He really doesn't like
   Florida, and would never go there for a vacation."
   "I'll put all this on the net," he said, tapping away. "But can you
   also tell me his daughter's name and address? They'll want to notify
   "She's still in New York," I explained, "but I don't remember whether
   she's changed her last name. I've never met her. She's one of those
   insular New Yorkers who seldom travels west of the Hudson River -
   probably thinks it's all like Joisy but even worse as you go farther
   Officer Freeman smiled. I wasn't trying to entertain him, however, so
   much as trying to cheer myself up.
   "But I probably have her name and number in a computer file. Come on
   into my office." It opened off the kitchen. Large computer,
   large-screen monitor, split keyboard, and the most comfortable office
   chair I could find. Bookshelves everywhere except for windows and
   doorways. "She sometimes takes winter vacations in Florida, but Max
   never visits her there," I continued. "He hates the place. Besides, if
   he visits her in Manhattan, he can get in his semiannual dose of art
   galleries at the same time."
   Should I offer him some coffee? I badly wanted some myself, I realized
   as I touched the keyboard. But, before I could say anything, my
   personalized menu popped up on the screen. In a flash, it popped into
   the name-and-address file and found Max's daughter. As well it should:
   I am always customizing my own computer so that it obeys my whims,
   instantly. I'm trying to get it to anticipate me, but that's another
   "Carrie Hempelman. And that address," I said, pointing at the screen,
   "is on the Upper East Side. Max gave the address to me about five
   years ago, when he was going to be in China for several months, as
   someone to call if I needed some more money for the remodeling on our
   duplex. He's always thinking ahead like that. I hope his daughter
   hasn't moved since then. She's got a rent-controlled apartment, so she
   probably hasn't."
   I finally realized that I was rambling on and on. And so came to an
   abrupt stop. To cover my confusion, I hit the function key that
   autodials the phone number displayed and then picked up my desk phone.
   "Let's phone her," I said, purposefully. "Maybe she can clear this
   But a machine answered in New York. I listened to the whole
   announcement, evidently her everyday version. Prompted by the beep, I
   left my name and number, adding that it was urgent that she phone me
   I looked at the computer entry again. I didn't have her work number,
   or a Florida number. And I didn't remember the company for which she
   worked. Officer Freeman copied everything off the screen and then
   typed in my name and phone number, copying off the business card I
   gave him. To my surprise, he even copied off my internet address,
   kate@medici.com, and my fax number. The bureaucracy may be sluggish
   but it eventually adapts.
   He flipped the clipboard machine shut with a neat little motion and
   tucked it under his arm, all in one smooth movement. "OK, it's already
   on its way to Florida. I told them to look around for Carrie Hempelman
   down there, if they couldn't find her in New York." I offered him some
   coffee if he had time to wait for it, but duty called.
   AFTER HE LEFT, I didn't know what to do. I felt fatigue after the
   momentary surge of adrenaline. I finally had the presence of mind to
   turn off the water in the shower. I realized, after a disconnected
   moment, that I was going to have to wait quite a while for the hot
   water heater to recover.
   Finally, I went back to the kitchen and made some coffee, going
   through the full ritual slower than usual, staring out the kitchen
   window at the crows in the neighbors' back yard as I ground the beans.
   And tapped down the espresso grind. And steamed the milk. And poured
   it over the double espresso.
   After all that, the latte didn't even taste right.
   ALL I COULD THINK to do was to hop on a plane to Palm Beach and start
   asking around. Surely, I realized, I wasn't thinking straight,
   particularly for someone used to "traveling" more quickly via the net.
   I needed to talk to someone about this. I was stunned, just as I had
   been ten years earlier when my parents were killed by a truck.
   Max has always been like an uncle to me, and I felt a terrible sense
   of loss. I couldn't help but think of how he usually knew what book to
   loan me, if I was in a foul mood and needed distraction. During my
   breakup with my ex-husband back in graduate-school days, Max said that
   people change a lot during their twenties, almost as much as they do
   during their teens, and that people grow apart. Always think they're
   grown up at 20, he said, and they're always surprised upon turning 30
   at how much they'd changed in a decade. Including preferences in
   partners. Having joined the over-thirty a few years ago, I had been
   feeling somewhat wiser. But now this.
   So I popped open a talk window on my screen and doubled-clicked on
   Melanie in the macro list. Melanie Coltrain may live in Moab, Utah,
   but she's a net surfer by both vocation and avocation, living in the
   desert overlooking the Colorado River canyon while confined to a
   wheelchair by multiple sclerosis. She's always got three things going
   at once, usually via the net. She didn't answer immediately, which
   probably meant that she was taking a break out in her cactus garden.
   That reminded me of all my talks with Max in our shared garden,
   especially after my thesis advisor was disabled by a stroke. After the
   rearranged supervisory committee finally gave me my Ph.D. degree, Max
   persuaded me to strike out on my own as a computer consultant rather
   than taking a high-paying microserf job. When I was feeling guilty
   about taking off big chunks of time between jobs just to explore art,
   Max pointed out that resumes weren't everything. If I have too much
   self confidence, it's all his fault.
   Melanie, too, has gotten a lot of career-development advice from Max
   over the years. He routinely uses her to do his economic data base
   searches, Securities and Exchange Commission reports, and the like.
   She's a self-educated black woman, an Air Force brat raised in Europe
   who has made a niche for herself by reading a lot. And, in recent
   years, exploring the net to find new friends, new interests, new
   business opportunities.
   A window popped open, announcing "You have mail from Melanie Coltrain.
   Read while waiting?" Sure.
     Date:Fri 30 October 01:58 Mountain Time (GMT - 7h)
     From: Melanie Coltrain
     To: Kate Medici 
     Subject:Update on Steven
     Hi, Kate,
     Yes, I'm awake again. And kicking myself. I was in the bookstore
     again today while Steven was behind the counter, and I was sitting
     there in my wheelchair chatting with him about what we've been
     reading lately (yes, I admit, I've been making the bookstore trip a
     lot more often since he started working there last summer, after he
     gave up being a boatman).
     While he loves books, he hated to stop being a boatman, and so he's
     been trying to figure out what to do with himself -- and I've been
     giving friendly advice. I said he'd have to stop being a boatman
     sometime anyway, and better to do it while he's 29 than later when
     switching careers would be more difficult.
     So at some point I asked him to get me a book from one of the upper
     shelves in the back of the store. And I watched the way he walked,
     and then braced himself while reaching up to the high shelf. When
     he came back with the book, I kidded him about being saddle sore,
     asked where he'd been riding. Hadn't been, he said, that he didn't
     know why his feet felt funny. Said it was like having tight socks
     on, all the way up to mid-calf. Both sides, I asked? Yes, even when
     he was wearing sandals all day with no socks. Said he'd seen a foot
     doc, who said his feet were fine, no circulation problems.
     Deja vu, I'm afraid. So I asked him if he'd been having any trouble
     with his eyes. Yes, but it cleared up before he got back to Moab
     from his last float trip.
     So I took a deep breath and told him that he needed to see a
     neurologist. And, since there is only one neurologist in Moab, that
     meant Dan, my neurologist. I didn't tell Steven what I really
     thought, which was that he had MS too. I just said that symmetrical
     problems with both feet like he had was something that neurologists
     knew all about. I even called up Dan's receptionist and got Steven
     an appointment for tomorrow (today).
     I'm kicking myself for being the bearer of bad tidings, when I
     could have avoided it by being a bit more subtle and just
     recommending Dan as an alternative. But I know those symptoms; if
     it's not MS then it's something else wrong back in his spinal cord
     or his brain. And he's going to look at me in a wheelchair and see
     what happens to a third or half of the MS patients.
     More later, Melanie
   As I was digesting that, the talk window finally became alive.
     [talking with Melanie Coltrain
     Hi, Kate! I was outside -- there's a pair of eagles sitting in that
     old cottonwood across the river, looking as if they might build a
     nest there. I see from the other open window that the guy in
     Amsterdam has almost checkmated me. So, how's your RingControl
     software coming, now that you've disposed of that middle manager
     that disposed of his competition? I haven't heard from Steven yet,
     his appointment isn't until afternoon.
     A policeman just came to the door to tell me that Max is missing,
     has been for a week. Didn't return a rented sailboat in Palm Beach;
     some brats found it washed ashore and just played with it for days
     without reporting it.
     Max? That doesn't sound like the Max I know and love. Merde. And in
     Palm Beach? I thought that Max *hated* Florida? 
     I know. I can't figure out why Max went there. He always tells me
     where and when he's traveling, because I feed the cats. But he also
     usually tells me the reason for it. And he didn't this time. Didn't
     even have me drive him to the airport, come to think of it.
     Damn. Damn. Damn. What's he been up to, recently? He hasn't had me
     doing much work for him, not since early summer.
     Let's see. Max's previous trip was back in August, down to SFO. It
     was a meeting of his financial friends - it's some sort of
     investment club, that meets on the net every week. This one,
     however, also gets together occasionally for a weekend of talk,
     face to face.
     Then there was the trip to New Mexico last summer, to go on a
     museum-sponsored tour of archaeological sites with an old college
     girl friend recently widowed. But I don't think that much came of
     it, since I never heard the old friend mentioned again.
     I remember that trip; he stopped through Moab and had dinner with
     me, talked about it. So, what did the cops say?
     There are three different police departments in Florida, trying to
     figure out who has jurisdiction - and they took several days to get
     around to sending a missing-person query to the Seattle Police.
     They are still at the next-of-kin stage; I had to tell them about
     his daughter Carrie - who's not answering her phone in NYC.
     The Coast Guard search didn't find any trace?
     Didn't even search, what with the delay in reporting it. God, I
     don't know what to do next.
     So, did the Seattle cops search Max's place downstairs?
     No, though they might eventually be interested in doing so, I
     Maybe you should do that now - read his mail and computer files,
     see what might have taken him down to Palm Beach. That's what I'd
     do -- and you can do it far better than the cops possibly could.
   Sipping the strong coffee, I was nodding agreement. And I noticed the
   pile of borrowed books next to my front door - books that I needed to
   carry back downstairs. Max has loaned me hundreds of books over the
   years, from his collection of a half-century of voracious reading.
   Damn near every wall of his apartment has a bookshelf.
     You're right, as usual. I should have thought of it myself. I can
     hardly think straight. I keep wanting to talk to Max about this
     problem, how to handle it. I'll get back to you. Thanks for the
     shoulder - and the good advice.
     I'll keep the talk window open and, if I'm not sitting here, I've
     got the priority set so it'll route through to my pager. Ring me
     anytime, day or night, Kate. Even if you just want to complain
     about the cats eating your flowers.
     Let me know what I can do from here. I'll clear the decks, if you
     want any searches. Come to think of it, I'll start searching the
     last week of newswires and FL papers. And I'll go over my files, of
     the work I've done for him so far this year.
     Cheer up -- we're in this together.
   I felt somewhat better, with Melanie helping. So, I thought as I
   dumped the coffee cup in the sink, was I tuned out when Max told me he
   was off to Florida, was I so wrapped up in that last consulting job
   that I didn't hear what he was saying? It's been known to happen.
   No, I decided as I showered and got dressed. I'd even taken up jogging
   again to distract myself from that tedious business. I would have
   welcomed the opportunity to get myself thinking about a different
   problem, if he'd wanted to talk about it. Maybe Max really didn't want
   to talk about it, maybe that's why he didn't ask me to drive him to
   the airport.
   I was officially between consulting jobs again, finishing up my
   RingControl product and getting back into my artistic efforts. I'd
   been trying to get up my courage to scrap my existing composition and
   take it again from the top, completely fresh this time. But today was
   not going to be the day for that. Not tomorrow either, not until Max
   was found.
   I STEPPED OUTDOORS onto the upper deck and felt the Indian Summer
   sunshine of a late October in Seattle. Our duplex was situated on the
   two-story bluff overlooking Portage Bay, an outpouching of the
   east-west waterway through the city. Looking north across the water,
   we could see the university spread out on the hillside. Fifty miles
   behind them, to the north and east, the North Cascade Mountains
   created a sawtooth horizon. I automatically looked for boats on the
   waterway and checked to see if there was anyone tied up at the
   university's dock for float planes. No such distractions today.
   My eye was caught instead by the hideous new physics-astronomy
   building, now looming like a high-rise prison over the southwest
   corner of the main campus, thanks to a famous architect. The
   neoblockhouse school of architecture, reflected in the water on quiet
   mornings. And to build that monster, they'd cut down some of the
   oldest trees on campus. My physicist friends are getting defensive,
   reminding everyone that they'd had no say in the selection of the
   architect. Fortunately, the older parts of the main campus were as
   nice as they come, an Olmsted Brothers layout from the turn of the
   century, as are some of the Seattle parks. The brothers also did
   Central Park in Manhattan, but I like their Seattle efforts even
   The maples had started to turn color, thanks to a week of cool nights.
   But the days were warm, almost short-sleeve weather. No rain yet, I
   reflected, and everyone was getting nervous about next summer's water
   supply since the reservoirs were so low already. It's El Nino again,
   the experts thought. I felt doubly guilty about the two tanks of hot
   water, so far this morning.
   Most people in Seattle even enjoyed the excellent weather of "Black
   Friday," the stock market crash a week ago when stocks lost almost a
   third of their value, repeating their performance of 1987. Enjoying
   the wonderful weather then seemed incongruous. The image of Nero
   fiddling while Rome burned had crossed my mind last weekend, as I
   ritually raked the leaves and the squirrels ritually hoarded the nuts.
   And the cats ritually chased the squirrels.
   I had most of my money out of the market already, thanks to Max's
   cautions, but I'd worried about the panic in the market, and recalled
   wishing that Max hadn't just left town because I wanted to talk it
   over with him. In particular, I'd wanted to see what he thought about
   the rumors that the programmed trading of stocks by many desktop
   computers had triggered the panic. I'd posted some e-mail messages to
   Max but he hadn't replied as he usually did when he traveled, checking
   in every day or two with his laptop computer from some hotel-room
   telephone with a modem jack. He'd said when he left that he might be
   out of touch for awhile.
   But surely, I now realized suddenly, the market crash would have meant
   that, wherever he was and however busy he was, he would check in with
   his stock market buddies, who all use the same computer conferencing
   system that Max and I do. And since Max was inseparable from his
   laptop computer, he would have surely hitched it up to the net and
   connected to The Conf's computer, just to see what his friends had to
   say about the market's erratic behavior. So, I thought, why didn't he
   answer even one of my messages?
   Back then, I'd assumed he was just too busy, or that his laptop was
   busted. But with that market crash, I now realized, he'd surely have
   used a public terminal in a hotel lobby. Hell, he'd have just rented
   another laptop somewhere. I should have thought of that a week ago.
   So, did Max send e-mail to anyone else? I knew how to find out; it
   wasn't even wizard-level maneuvers. I went back into my home office
   and sat down at the desktop machine, punching the T key on the menu.
   And soon I heard the computer beep as it made connection with the
   computer in California, then my automated login sequence rolled up the
     Please login: kate
     Encrypted password challenge sent.... correct answer received.
     Hello, Kate Medici. Welcome to The Conf.
     Your last login was Friday, 30 October at 02:24am, from medici.com
   When did Max last log onto the system? That was "public" information,
   and all I had to do is to use the finger command. I tell all my
   friends to use the pulldown menu software, designed to make the net
   more bearable, but I use command-line mode myself.
     Command (? for help): finger maxh
     Login name:maxh@conf.sf.ca.us
     In real life:Max Hempelman
     economics consultant
     Directory: /uh/62/maxh
     Shell: /bin/csh
     Last login:Wed Oct 21 at 20:37 PDT from link22.palmb.fl.us
     Mail last read on Wed Oct 21 at 20:39
     Mail last arrived on Fri Oct 30 at 00:43 
     Net-info file:
     Consulting is always arranged via preliminary inquires to my
     longtime agent, Elaine Eccles , who is
     very good at explaining what I can do (and can't do, or choose not
     to do). For the net-impaired, her phone is +1(206) 286 1600 and her
     fax is +1(206) 462 0674.
     For encrypting e-mail to send me, or verifying my digital
     signature, my public key (which expires at year-end) is:
     -----END PUBLIC KEY BLOCK-----
   Max hadn't logged in since two days before the market crash! I was
   stunned by the thought. Even sick in bed, Max would have communicated
   with his financial friends about that crash. Everyone on the streets
   of Palm Beach surely knew about that crash. Those television news
   vultures thought it exhilarating, the best thing since the last
   presidential assassination attempt.
   He couldn't have missed hearing about it. Maybe Max is dead, I
   thought. My heartbeat was pounding in my ears.
   Elaine. Maybe Elaine knows something, I thought. I phoned her, but got
   the answering machine. So I tried sending her e-mail with the news.
   Two seconds later, I got a reply.
   Now e-mail is fast, but it's not that fast. A reply in a mere two
   seconds means one of two things. My message couldn't have been bounced
   for a bad address, because my mail software isn't allowed to make
   mistakes like that. Sure enough, it was an automated reply.
     Date:Fri 30 October 10:51 Pacific Time (GMT - 8h)
     From: Elaine Eccles
     To: Kate Medici 
     Subject:I am on vacation (Automatic response)
     Regarding your message "Max missing": Sorry that I can't respond
     personally, but I'm in Europe until the third week of November --
     escaping phone, fax, and net in favor of cathedrals, museums, and
     Phone: +1(206) 286 1600 Fax: +1(206) 462 0674
   Elaine's annual pilgrimage. I logged off the system reluctantly. I
   looked out the window again, staring into the distance. Max was not to
   be seen.
   IN LESS THAN A MINUTE, something jumped up in front of my line of
   sight. I startled. But it was only a large cat, landing on the flower
   pot ledge. He then peered through the window at me. "Brrrth!" he told
   me in no uncertain terms.
   It was Max's part-Siamese male. Siam always `talks' to people. I
   smiled and went out on the deck to say hello to him. He came rubbing
   up against my legs, giving me the old "Time for food" routine. I tried
   picking him up to hold him tight, but he squirmed restlessly until I
   finally put him down. He had his priorities.
   I patted my pockets to make sure that I had my keycards, then
   remembered to reset my phone to ring through to my cellular belt
   phone. Siam followed me inside. I also checked my ring controller on
   the computer, to make sure it allowed all calls through.
   Siam had disappeared, but came charging out of my bedroom as soon as I
   called him. As I walked down the outside stairs to the ground level,
   he kept trying to rub against my legs. It's a very disconcerting
   habit, especially when I'm carrying a clothes basket down to the
   laundry room that I share with Max. I've finally learned to feed the
   cats first, and then make another trip with the laundry basket.
   It's hard to train cats; they do a much better job at training people.
   MAX'S APARTMENT smelled of books, with a slight overlay of cat. A
   smell of new leather lingered, I noticed as I was escorted down the
   hallway by Siam. Max likes comfortable leather sofas and recently
   bought a lovely Italian one, costing more money that I could possibly
   Cleopatra, Max's somewhat overweight Abyssinian female, came running
   out of Max's bedroom, where she had undoubtedly been sleeping on the
   bed. But she's all awake now, tawny and sleek and muscular, murmuring
   about the prospects of breakfast, moving with a purposeful quickness
   that would doom a mouse, should one mistakenly venture into the
   apartment through the little cat door in the pantry. All of those
   granary-guarding ancestors can be seen in Cleopatra's competent
   Cleopatra is also quick mentally. She has been known to get her own
   breakfast, even the kind that comes from the grocery store. She can
   open the cabinet door, pull out the right box from the top shelf,
   extract the little foil-lined pouch in which her favorite food comes,
   carry the pouch in her teeth down to the food dish, rip it open, and
   eat the food.
   When Max told me this, I didn't believe him and regularly kidded him
   about it. Finally, one night when we were sipping scotch in our shared
   garden, Max heard something inside, listened a moment, and then
   beckoned me over to his kitchen window. And sure enough, there was
   Cleopatra, opening the box of cat food atop the kitchen counter.
   Max never has been able to train Cleopatra to feed Siam while she was
   at it; cat-sitters are still needed when Max travels. I unlocked the
   bicycle padlock that I had looped through the handles on the cabinet
   doors. Cleopatra hasn't solved it yet. But she sometimes picks at it
   with the claws on her right paw. It's only been a week since I started
   using it, so she may just be a little slow.
   ONCE SIAM AND CLEOPATRA were busy working over the morning's
   offerings, I wandered around the apartment, seeing Max everywhere I
   looked. Suddenly, I felt uneasy. Has someone been poking around this
   place? Is there someone here, now?
   I'm not prone to sudden shivers, but I must admit that I was getting
   close, right then. But I certainly wasn't going to call the cops, just
   to help me search Max's apartment. Surely Cleopatra wouldn't have been
   sleeping on Max's bed if there had been a stranger in the apartment
   when I entered. So I held my right hand rigid, in the position to
   deliver a chop to the throat, and systematically looked in all the
   rooms and closets.
   No one. At least, not now. I looked at the mail on Max's desk - is it
   the way I left it yesterday? I wasn't sure. I went outside and looked
   at all the ground-floor windows for signs of pry bars. Nothing.
   Back inside, I gave up the search and returned to my original problem:
   Max. I looked at the books on the table next to Max's favorite chair,
   bookmarks in them from the Seattle bookstores. No, one had a strange
   bookmark that wasn't from a local bookstore - it was from Kepler's, in
   San Francisco. I decided that it must have been the trip where Max
   spent a weekend with his financial friends from the computer
   And he'd been reading a history of statistical thinking that he had
   purchased at the Harvard Coop earlier in August. I remembered picking
   up Max at the airport, back about then, when he came back from a quick
   business trip to Boston.
   One tattered book on Max's reading table was a paperback, yellowed
   with age, and I sat down to browse through it. The book appeared to be
   a journalistic expose of stock-market manipulations of the 1950s, back
   before computers replaced punched cards and carbon copies and long
   delays. Max is interested in white-collar crime. And given the
   fascination he'd developed for computers since getting his first one a
   decade ago, I guessed that he might have been thinking about
   white-collar crime via computer. Probably involving the stock market.
   Max, too, is a consultant, mostly about economics. He is, I reflected,
   considerably more independent than I am, fussy about wasting his time,
   never taking jobs equivalent to my last one, having Elaine filter out
   90 percent of the requests. He waits for good ones to come along -
   sometimes Max takes jobs advising big corporations fighting takeovers.
   He's good at that, I mused; his law training comes in handy in
   devising solutions - such as making it hard for takeover artists to
   stampede the board of directors.
   And his solutions tend to be part economic; he says there's a lot of
   white collar feather-bedding that, while rewarding to the employees,
   can make the corporation unprofitable for the stockholders and ripe
   for takeover attempts. Conversely, some managements give themselves
   big bonuses as a reward for holding down employee wages - which Max
   considers an example of a looting mentality, not much better than
   lawyers that deplete an estate by creating endless amounts of legal
   After a few months of helping out on a case like that, Max refuses
   even nice consulting jobs for a year thereafter. Those big jobs pay
   well - but even for small ones, we consultants try to instill
   confidence in our abilities by charging large sums for our wisdom. Max
   likes time to think and pursue his own library projects or pro bono
   work. He recently spent three months helping out our local prosecuting
   attorney, trying to unravel a complicated insider trading scheme,
   engineered by a young tax accountant whose life style demanded larger
   and larger infusions of cash. He must have been mainlining cash, Max
   had quipped.
   A reason for someone to search Max's apartment? Still, I had nothing
   more to go on than an uneasy feeling - nothing in the apartment looked
   disturbed, so far as I could tell. I was, I decided, a little tired
   and jumpy, besides being seriously worried about Max.
   SO WHY, I asked myself for the third time, why didn't he tell me any
   details about this trip? Because he'd promised a client to tell no
   Still, I reflected, he related what was happening in the prosecutor's
   office all through that insider-trading case, after swearing me to
   silence. A leak could have caused destruction of records, people
   fleeing to South America with a suitcase of money. What project of
   Max's could be more confidential than that? Someone's life at stake,
   which could be endangered by a little slip?
   As I sat in Max's chair, listening to some of his favorite Bach,
   trying to think like Max, a twelve-pound weight landed on my right
   shoulder. Some cats are lap cats, but Cleopatra takes flying leaps
   onto a shoulder, whereupon she demands to be scratched behind the
   ears. I complied, absent-mindedly, staring at her face. Cleopatra's
   face always fascinates me: an inverted triangle, the broad upper face
   tapering into the narrow jaw. The large triangular ears only
   exaggerate the face.
   "Sorry, Cleopatra," I said to the insistent cat. "But you can have
   this nice warm chair in compensation." The cat complained anyway when
   I got up, but claimed the preheated spot. I had finally decided to
   open all of Max's mail and listen to all of his telephone messages.
   WHILE THERE WERE NO CLUES in the phone messages or the accumulated
   mail, Max relies mostly on e-mail for correspondence. And Max's
   desktop computer would know how to read that e-mail, I reasoned,
   because Max used exactly the same communications software as I do, at
   my recommendation last year.
   The computer started warming up, but promptly beeped and asked for the
   power-up password. Oops. Fortunately, I remembered the password,
   having set up Max's machine for him when it was fresh out of the box.
   It was Cleo+Siam. I'd told him that it was too simple, and he said
   he'd change it later, but apparently he hadn't.
   Finally, the scroll came up the screen welcoming me to The Conf - but
   using Max's login name instead of my own:
     Please login: maxh
     Encrypted password challenge sent.... correct answer received.
     Hello, Max Hempelman. Welcome to The Conf.
     Your last login was Wednesday, 21 October at 
     20:37pm PDT from link14.palmb.fl.us 
     You have more mail.
   I asked for the mail and found more than three dozen messages piled
   up, awaiting Max.
     Command (? for help): mail
     Pine mailer Type ? for help. 
     Folder "INBOX" opened with 39 messages (39 new)
     N 1 Oct 21 Andre Chen Re: PBI trip
     N 2 Oct 21 Michael Gruber Re: The Deli Situation
     N 3 Oct 22 Leslie Asherman Re: query
     N 4 Oct 23 Kate Medici What's happening to Dow?
     N 5 Oct 23 Andre Chen Re: PBI trip
     N 6 Oct 23 Laurie Hwang Crash of '87
     N 7 Oct 23 Leslie Asherman Immediate! (Pls phone soonest)
     N 8 Oct 24 Andre Chen So what happened?
     N 9 Oct 24 Kate Medici Wow! What happens Monday?
     N 10 Oct 24 Mike Hardine Bears Rampant? What's up?
     N 11 Oct 25 Leslie Asherman Concern about Monday
     N 12 Oct 26 Laurie Hwang Panic of '29?
     N 13 Oct 26 Andre Chen Still no word....
     N 14 Oct 27 John Harrison Next meeting of board
     N 15 Oct 27 Carolyn Hayden CC: Where's Max?
     N 16 Oct 27 Elaine Eccles Off to Europe, ta-da
     There are 23 more new messages.
   May as well just start from the top, I told myself, and hit the key.
     Message 1: 
     Date: Wed 21 October 20:51 Pacific Daylight Time (GMT - 7h)
     From: Andre Chen 
     To: Max Hempelman 
     Subject: Re: PBI trip
     Cipher: [Unknown]
     Encryption key AE.
     QmOTsWSw4jTTSb3cflhVkf8hVUVpMFQThafV0CmV5hLjHqW bdAAUR
     Checksum 127736.
   So, it's encrypted. But not using Max's public key. And they left the
   topic in the clear, which is bad form when security is involved. "PBI"
   is what Palm Beach International Airport is called on the luggage
   tags. I hit the return key and went on to the next message:
     Message 2:
     Date: Thu 22 October 21:01 Pacific Daylight Time (GMT - 7h)
     From: Michael Gruber 
     To: Max Hempelman 
     Subject: Re: The Deli Situation
     Yeah, good rye is hard to find. Don't know about delis north of
     Miami proper, but surely the deli situation down there in P.B. is
     some improvement over that in Seattle. You probably remember
     Schwartz Brothers, the Seattle eatery that tried to reproduce the
     NY delis of my boyhood. They had photomontages of the old
     neighborhoods and famous delis, the same menus, Dr. Brown's Celery
     Tonic, pickle tubs on the tables, and they dressed their waiters in
     those tan jackets that NY deli waiters wear.
     Unfortunately, the rye bread was the insipid soft crap that passes
     for rye in Seattle, the pickles weren't half-sours, the corned beef
     didn't ooze hot grease over your fingers, and the Dr. Brown's came
     in a can instead of those marvelous brown long-necks with the
     sunrise label. Also the waiters were corn-fed Scandinavian kids
     instead of surly middle-aged Jews. They didn't have a clue about
     how to insult a customer - and when I tried to insult them, they
     grew nervous or fawning.
     Now I know how a guy from Hong Kong probably feels in a `chinese'
     restaurant in Sioux Falls, the kind that uses frozen egg rolls and
     has make-believe Mandarin characters on the door.
     I know you can't go home again, but I fail to see why I can't get a
     serious bagel in Seattle - or why, in the salmon capital of the
     universe, no one seems to be able to make lox.
   One of his New Yorker expatriate friends in Seattle, apparently.
   What's next?
     Message 3: 
     Date: Thu 22 October 07:12 Pacific Daylight (GMT -7h)
     From: Leslie Asherman 
     To: Max Hempelman 
     Subject: Re: query
     Cipher: Private Key Not Found: Enter your pass phrase!
   Another one! And from a different person too, this time using Max's
   public key, which I can't decrypt because I don't know Max's pass
   phrase that protects the file with his private key in it.
   Leslie? He or she? Well, I thought, at least I can find out more about
   these people from their finger files, send them e-mail. But who's
   next? C'est moi.
     Message 4: 
     Date: Fri 23 October 10:11 Pacific Daylight Time (GMT - 7h)
     From: Kate Medici 
     To: Max Hempelman 
     Subject: What's happening to Dow?
     Hello down there in the New Yorker's notion of Paradise, amidst the
     elegant denizens of Worth Avenue. Yes, I know that it isn't Friday
     the 13th, but isn't the stock market even worse than usual? So,
     should I sell short this afternoon if there's an uptick, financial
     guru? Will they rename Worth Avenue to Pauper's Row? Or maybe
     Bankruptcy Boulevard?
     Hey, speaking of elegant clothing, it looks as if I'll be back in
     blue jeans in just a few more days now! Those idiots downtown -
     this time it wasn't the usual push-push-push honchos who screwed
     things up; it was a middle-level manager who was able to delete the
     unread e-mail of other managers. And make them look bad. He got
     four "competitors" fired that way before I nailed him. I think that
     I need a higher class of clients.
     I take it back - the brass down there aren't idiots, merely stupid.
     Stupidity isn't from a lack on intelligence - Paul Goodman claims
     it's really a character flaw, seen even in an otherwise intelligent
     person when his ego gets in the way of dealing with something
     novel. No one there could even conceive of this kind of maneuver.
     The cats are fine, but I think that Cleopatra is working on opening
     cans next, it's probably in her Abyssinian genius genes.
     Love, Kate
   My first message to Max, unanswered because he never even saw it.
     Message 5: 
     Date: Fri 23 October 14:19 Pacific Daylight Time (GMT - 7h)
     From: Andre Chen 
     To: Max Hempelman 
     Subject: Re: PBI trip
     Hope you didn't lose your Junior Spaceman decoder ring. Or your
     belt phone. How are things, he says with bated breath.
     All best, Andre.
   It took me another fifteen minutes to read through the rest of Max's
   accumulated mail and save it away to a disk that I could carry back
   upstairs to contemplate. But other than some routine announcements, it
   consisted of repeated requests for Max to please, please respond.
   I wrote Max an e-mail note. It started out as an automatic matter of
   computer-system etiquette on my part, born of my odd jobs as a
   computer operator with superuser privileges who was expected to
   unravel account problems upon authorized request. If you have to read
   someone's private files, you make sure and tell them about it.
     To: maxh
     Subject: Reading your mail
     Dear Max,
     Since the Seattle Police and the Palm Beach Police are looking for
     you, I've taken it upon myself to listen to your phone messages,
     open your mail, and read your e-mail. The cats and I miss you very
     much. Love, Kate
   As soon as I re-read my message, I wondered if Max would ever read it.
   But I didn't delete it. It expressed hope. I hit the key and sent it.
   I SAT THERE staring at the screen, feeling depressed, getting up the
   energy to log off the California conferencing machine. Whereupon the
   terminal beeped twice and up on the screen popped:
     [Talk request from Andre Chen ]
     Hey, Maxie. You trying to give me a heart attack? Where you been
     this last week?
   Someone, I realized, must have looked at the list of people logged
   into the California machine, using the u command. And spotted maxh as
   currently on-line.
     Sorry but I'm Max's cat-sitter using his computer to check his
     mail, not Max himself. I'm really  under my own login. A
     policeman came to my door this morning and told me Max was reported
     missing in Palm Beach. Do you know anything about it?
     Damn! Pardon my manners, ma'am, I'm really pleased to meet you but
     I'm worried sick about Max. We were corresponding about his trip to
     Palm Beach and then he stopped responding, back the day before
     Black Friday.
     Yes, I know, I've just been reading Max's mail and e-mail, trying
     to figure out what he was doing down there. There are some
     encrypted messages from you and a Leslie somebody, then some
     messages in the clear asking what happened, to please reply. But
     Max didn't log on to the system after Wednesday, the 21th.
     Knew that already. But did the cop tell you anything more?
   Cleopatra landed on my shoulder unexpectedly, and I jumped. Pushing
   the cat off, I leaned forward again to the keyboard.
     The hotel called the Palm Beach cops because Max didn't check out
     and left luggage behind. Then it turned out he'd rented a sailboat
     for a week, and didn't return it. Some kids had found it but didn't
     report it, just used it themselves until the Lantana cops noticed
     it, days after it was reported missing by the rental place. Then
     the Palm Beach and the Lantana cops took several more days to piece
     two-and-two together with the sheriff's office. So, no Coast Guard
     search was ever made, the jerks.
     I talked to the hotel myself. So, what day did the kids find the
     sailboat? And did the luggage include Max's laptop computer and
     other such stuff? The hotel wouldn't tell me.
     The cop didn't say, and I forgot to ask. But this was just the
     uniformed patrolman stopping by, the Seattle Police trying to
     answer a routine missing-person query from the Palm Beach police
     about whether he'd been seen here. So, what was Max doing down in
     Palm Beach?
   The screen was quiet for a few minutes, then Andre started up again,
   abruptly asking me for my phone number and saying he'd be in touch,
   probably this evening after he talked to some other people. He
   disconnected from the talk window.
   A one-way flow of information, I observed with momentary anger. I
   picked up Siam, who had taken up his customary position atop the
   computer once it had warmed up sufficiently. I hugged him for a long
   time as I wandered around Max's place, feeling forlorn and trying to
   sort out the various strands of my unease. This time, Siam was content
   to be held. He even purred roughly.
   I SPENT A RESTLESS AFTERNOON at Max's computer. Early on, I
   established a talk window to Melanie, filling her in on Max's silence
   during the tumultuous events of Black Friday.
     [Talking with Melanie Coltrain,
     Max not in touch with everybody on Black Friday? That's a shocker,
     all right.
     No, I've never heard of Andre Chen.
     I've been looking over my MAX*.* files, and there's nothing that
     looks promising - lots of economic stuff from his Delaware case
     last spring, but nothing after that except for some background when
     he was ghostwriting a speech for the county prosecutor.
     So I'm now concentrating on Florida stories, especially the police
     precinct columns in the local papers. Say hello to the cats for me.
     And don't forget to feed yourself, too.
     I've lost my appetite. I've got lots of Max's files to read, but
     all the recent ones are encrypted. Still working backward.
   The files that weren't encrypted weren't very relevant, so far as I
   could judge. I scanned backward through his correspondence of the last
   few months, just to see when the encryption starts. Finally, I got
   back into the August sent-mail folder and found a message to Andre
   that wasn't encrypted.
   It was, to my surprise, all about me.
     Date: 24 August 20:52 Pacific Daylight Time (GMT - 7h)
     From: Max Hempelman 
     To: Andre Chen 
     Subject: re: Kate Medici prospects
     Attachment: GIF image file
     Re whether you met Kate when you visited me in Seattle, I can't
     remember - and I probably would, if we'd had dinner with her or
     something. But she's lived upstairs from me for years, so it isn't
     unlikely that you at least met her in passing, on one visit or
     another. Since I think it's important that we bring her in, let me
     try to jog your memory.
     I'm attaching a photo of her that I took earlier this summer out on
     our shared patio (the old "I've got to finish this roll of film"
     excuse), but it doesn't do her justice. I had intended to go study
     the de Medici portraits at the Uffizi when I was passing through
     Firenze last year, to see if there was a family resemblance; Kate
     says she doubts it, but has never inquired of her relatives. I
     think she's Scots-Irish on her mother's side.
     No still photo is going to do justice to Kate; her face, in a
     snapshot, isn't especially characteristic of her. When meeting
     someone, she always looks the person square in the eyes and smiles
     in a reticent way, maintaining eye contact as she talks.
     Another thing you notice is how expressive her hands and face can
     be. She's a wonderful mimic, and a very efficient one. Little
     shrugs of her shoulders with one-inch swings of her elbows (a
     typical gesture of her's) and she's mimicked a cross-country skier
     or a macho executive plowing blindly ahead - all while she's still
     sitting poised at a crowded dinner table. She'll rest her chin on
     her left hand as she's listening carefully to you, flexing her
     fingers and changing the hand's position a little from time to
     time. She won't necessarily be smiling (one reason that still
     photos don't capture her) but her eyebrows will be moving and she's
     likely to be smiling around the eyes. Her whole face will light up
     occasionally and she'll make some insightful remark while gesturing
     with her right hand: say, flapping her hand like a bird, or
     fishtailing it, or putting scare quotes around a word she's just
     spoken straight.
     She's very bright, though not intimidatingly so. Some bright people
     tend to show it more subtly - as by how quick they are, in social
     encounters, to guess what you're getting at, finding conversational
     shortcuts that let the two of you to cover a lot of ground quickly.
     You soon get the impression that she's knowledgeable, competent,
     and self-motivated. Despite all this quickly established rapport
     with most people (which makes her a whiz as a consultant; they're
     always trying to hire her permanently), Kate's a bit of a loner,
     wanting time by herself. She divorced a few years ago and seems to
     be thoroughly enjoying herself. If she goes out one weekend, she'll
     probably go sailing by herself the next weekend, turning down
     invitations to keep some time to herself.
     Kate's thirtyish and tall, something over six feet, beautifully
     proportioned. Thin but strong, and moves with the confidence of a
     dancer; she's one of those people who can stride ahead into a crowd
     with perfect assurance, while her head is turned to talk to the
     person walking behind her. Brownish hair cut short but stylish,
     usually wears padded-shoulder long dresses (that make her look even
     taller than she is) if she's dressing up, otherwise western-style
     blouse and jeans and running shoes. Sitting by herself on a sofa,
     her arms may be widely waving with every other sentence she speaks;
     you'll wonder what she looks like on a dance floor (uninhibited and
     tireless; just amazing - wish I were young enough to keep up). I
     can still beat her at tennis, though, despite those marvelous legs
     of hers. Experience still counts for something!
     So, I expect that if you'd met her - even just for a minute while
     she was coming down the stairs on her way to run in the park -
     you'd probably remember her, unless your life is routinely filled
     with such animated people. Our generation had few women like Kate;
     the changes in society in those 40 years have made a lot of
     Well, I got carried away, but you get the general idea? I've known
     Kate for eight years, seen how she's handled difficult
     circumstances, know what she values (and how hard she'll work to
     maintain those values). We've seldom recruited new members with
     someone on-board already being able to vouch for them in such
     All best, Max
   So that's how I appear to Max. What a generous, loving description.
   After a distracted few minutes, I forced myself to focus: bring me
   into what? What was this organization that Max was trying - and
   apparently failed - to get me into? And does it have anything to do
   with his disappearance? And that last sentence of his - he was really
   laying it on the line, saying that he was an expert on me and that his
   judgment ought to suffice, for their purposes. Yet I never heard a
   thing, and Max must have been forbidden to discuss anything with me.
   What was this organization?
   I forwarded Max's message to Melanie with a query, hoping that she
   would have a better idea. The month's worth of encrypted messages
   would presumably tell the story, if I could ever read them in the
   Unfortunately, I realized as I went for a walk around the block, the
   chances of cracking the encryption were very poor, even if I were to
   rent lots of computer time on one of the massively-parallel machines.
   My best bet would be to guess the password that Max had used to
   protect his secret.key file containing all his other passwords and
   cipher keys.
   People and birthdays, I thought. I found his address book and started
   in, even tried my own name and birthday. I found his deceased.adr file
   of people that had been removed from the active name-and-address file,
   tried them too.
   After an hour of frustration, I popped back into the talk window with
     Hey, Melanie. Earlier I e-mailed you a message that Max sent Andre
     back in August. Know what he was trying to recruit me for?
     And help me brainstorm about the passwords that Max might have
     used. I'm stuck.
   Siam stirred atop the warm computer console, and I noticed that it had
   gotten dark outside.
     I read Max's description of you - a wonderful characterization, by
     the way. I had no idea that Max is so good at describing people.
     No, I don't have the foggiest notion what organization he's
     referring to, and I've been searching my files for hours. Sounds
     like it's what he's been busy with, that hasn't involved me.
     Apropos passwords: you've probably tried the cat's names already.
     And your name, and his daughter's name. And birthdays in
     combination with them.
     Tried them all. Did you ever discuss security strategy with him? He
     seems to have bought some shrink-wrapped security software, along
     about July, without ever discussing it with me (though it's exactly
     what I would have recommended). Damn good stuff, too - I don't
     stand a chance of brute-force cracking it.
     When Max was through here on his way to Taos for that
     archaeological tour, he did ask me what software I used for all the
     public key e-mail I do. The same one as you used, I told him; then
     I demo'ed it for him. I also gave him my standard lecture on the
     subject of pass phrases, nothing you don't know yourself.
     Maybe. But tell me exactly what you told him. Maybe it'll help me
     guess his frame of mind when going to select a pass phrase.
     Well, let me see. We had lamb chops for dinner, with a nice red
     wine from California that Max arrived with. And over dessert - OK,
     now I remember. I told him never to use one word when ten words
     would do, that you had to invert the usual advice when it came to
     selecting passwords. I warned him not to use a word for a password;
     they are too easily guessed, and susceptible to brute-force
     approaches using dictionaries and lists of common proper nouns.
     I think he was surprised when I explained that The Conf regularly
     has a consultant try to crack their encrypted password file, using
     a big parallel computer, and that - at least, back in the beginning
     - the consultant always succeeded: some users were using passwords
     like Yale or Jennifer. And so they privately warn those users to
     change their password to a pass phrase.
     I said that, while you don't want to use words, you also don't want
     to use anything that you'll have to write down somewhere, because
     it's so complicated. Just use the first letters of some phrase that
     you already know well.
     For example, I said, I had memorized Lincoln's Gettysburg Address
     in high school, so from "Fourscore and seven years ago," I could
     construct a password like Fasya. Or better yet, 4sa7ya. "To be, or
     not to be" comes out as tb,ontb or perhaps 2b,on2b if he liked
     number substitutions like 2 for to-too-two, 4 for four-for-fore, 8
     for ate. All the usual personalized license plate stuff.
     And I said that he ought to pick a specialized phrase that isn't so
     famous, because the crackers would soon add the more famous pass
     phrases to their list. So it ought to be Bushleague rather than
     Lincolnisque, King Lear rather than Hamlet.
     He rather likes poetry, Kate, though I suppose you know that side
     of him much better than I do. What are his favorite epigrams from
     literature? Favorite sayings in Latin? That sort of thing.
     Melanie, you are wonderful. Now if I can only get my mind in gear.
     Go out for a walk, Kate. Get yourself a good dinner somewhere, then
     come back to work on the problem. And for heavens sake, get a good
     night's sleep. Bye now.
   I decided to phone Andre before going out for a late dinner. But
   neither the Gray Pages directory server nor the North American
   telephone listings had a phone number for him - just a net address,
   with no phone or postal address. The net listing didn't have its usual
   brief bio, so handy for avoiding the wrong-number-calls from mistaken
   identity. It didn't even have his public key, for sending him
   encrypted e-mail.
   And Andre hadn't checked his e-mail since afternoon. I left a note for
   him anyway. Basically, I was trying to restart our conversation. I
   changed the CD to the next one in Max's pile. Ten minutes into it, I
   realized that it was Mozart's Requiem. I didn't know whether to
   shudder or laugh. So I left, leaving it playing, and walked down to my
   favorite Thai restaurant, wondering where the day had gone. And if I'd
   ever see Max again.
   I COULDN'T SLEEP, what with thinking about pass phrases; a half-dozen
   times, I had to turn on the light in order to write down an idea for a
   The rest of the time, I worried - and realized that, for most of the
   crises in my life for the last decade, I'd been able to talk over
   things with Max. And that I couldn't do that, this time. Maybe never
   IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT, I heard something. A squeaky claw-hammer
   sort of sound. A neighbor's door creaking? No, the high frequencies
   wouldn't carry so well; it had to be closer than that. The sound
   didn't repeat.
   Any other night, I might have just forgotten about it. But I got up
   and, without turning on any lights, found my big three-cell aluminum
   flashlight. I also wrapped my belt phone around my waist, just in
   case. One nightgown, with classy belt.
   I softly walked over to my side window, that overlooked our garden,
   and quietly opened it. Many a time, I'd looked for streaks of light in
   that garden, a sign that Max was awake and reading in the middle of
   the night. There was a period in my life, a few years ago, when I'd
   phone him on such occasions and we'd talk until dawn.
   I watched quietly, but mostly I listened. Then I saw a brief streak of
   light on the lawn, angling right and disappearing. Someone with a
   flashlight, moving inside Max's apartment? It was so brief that I
   wasn't sure what I'd seen. Did I pick up my belt phone and call 911?
   Or did I make sure?
   Hesitation won. I let myself out my front door, unlatching it and
   closing it quietly. Our remodeling contractor, Linda Leschi, had
   recently refitted all the doors and windows, both upstairs and
   downstairs. Surely Max's door hadn't made so much noise. Perhaps it
   had been forced, with a pry bar?
   Halfway down the stairs, I could see into Max's apartment through the
   picture window. Nothing. I waited. It was chilly, and I hadn't wrapped
   Then I saw the light again, in Max's office. I tiptoed back upstairs,
   closed my door, and then called 911.
   "911 operator number six."
   "Police emergency," I said quietly. "Reporting a burglary in
   "Is that at 2914 Boyer Avenue East?" Who's-calling displays are
   wonderful. The 911 operators have had them for a quarter century, long
   before Caller ID.
   "Yes. It's a duplex. The burglary is downstairs. I'm upstairs."
   "We've got some cars en route. You're Katharine Medici?"
   "That's me. I saw a flashlight moving inside the apartment. It was
   coming from a home office in the southwest corner of the apartment.
   The front door is on the west side, and there's a back door on the
   northeast corner. And no, I can't see anyone else in the vicinity.
   Just whoever's inside."
   "Stay very quiet, please, for your own protection. Call us back
   immediately if you see the burglar leave, or see anyone else waiting
   I quietly opened my door again. As I was about to settle down at my
   previous perch, halfway down the staircase, I saw someone run out of
   Max's office, in quite a hurry. He tripped on a cat, I could tell from
   the yowl and the crash landing. A second yowl suggested he'd kicked
   the cat, too. Damn him.
   I hurried down to Max's front door and stood flat against the wall. As
   the burglar ran out the door, I tripped him and he fell hard. I
   expected that it would knock the wind out of him but he sprang up and
   jumped me. I poked my big flashlight into his middle. An iron stomach
   - he rushed me again as the flashlight clattered on the concrete. I
   kicked at his knee, connecting hard and collapsing him, but still he
   got up and kept coming. Why didn't he simply run away? At this point,
   I was merely defending myself.
   I grabbed his out-thrust right arm, twirled around and used his own
   momentum to throw him over my shoulder and hip. On the way, he grabbed
   my good nightgown with his left hand and ripped it half off of me.
   Alarmed at his perseverance, I yanked back hard on his arm as he hit
   the ground. I could almost hear his shoulder dislocate. Then, to hurt
   him further, I kicked him in the groin. That doubled him up, finally,
   and bought me a few seconds. Maybe he was high on crack or PCP. Maybe
   he was considerably more skillful than I am.
   I had to keep him from running away, until the cops could arrive. And
   I only had seconds to do something, judging from how fast the guy
   recovered from everything else. There was only one thing handy to tie
   his feet with. So I pulled off my nightgown and wrapped it around his
   ankles and knotted it hard, all before he realized what I was doing.
   Then I stood back, out of kicking distance. As he got his breath back,
   he began swearing at me, very crudely. Ignoring him, I reached for my
   belt phone, which was now the only thing I was wearing. I hit the
   redial button.
   "Follow-up about that burglar on Boyer," I said, keeping my eyes on
   him. "He's now got a broken shoulder. Better send along the
   paramedics.... Right, I doubt he's going anywhere. Thanks." I
   pretended to punch off the phone, but left the connection open,
   casually pointing the mouthpiece toward the burglar. Since 911 always
   tape-records its phone calls, the burglar might just as well talk for
   the record.
   He verbally worked over my exposed anatomy in some detail. Some of his
   vocabulary was unfamiliar to me, but I figured it out from where he
   looked as he said it. All the while, he was twisting and turning. He
   described what he'd do to me with a knife, once he was released from
   jail. His descriptions of blood and gore were almost graphic. I'd
   heard of criminals trying to intimidate witnesses, but this guy was
   practiced, trying to squeeze as much terror into a one-minute sales
   pitch as he could, trying to panic me.
   "Get that left hand back out where I can see it," I commanded sharply.
   He'd been groping behind his back, and I was worried about what might
   be in his right hip pocket. "Or I'll throw this flower pot at your
   sore shoulder. Now!"
   About that time, I heard the police car stop out in front. I shouted
   at them. "Back here!"
   It must have been quite a sight that greeted the first two cops who
   arrived with guns drawn - a tall, naked woman standing guard with a
   flower pot and trying to keep two cats with flattened ears from
   investigating the burglar sprawled on the ground. I was, at least,
   wearing a belt phone.
   "He was trying to reach something in his right hip pocket," I said to
   the cops. "Careful with him, though, because I broke his right
   shoulder." The officers decided to await additional arrivals before
   trying to search him.
   I spoke into the phone again. "Hear all that?"
   Indeed the dispatcher had. "Well, mark your tape recording as evidence
   for his bail hearing tomorrow," I said, and punched it off. "Pardon
   me, gentlemen," I said to the two officers pointing their guns at my
   burglar. "I think that I'll go inside and put on something more
   suitable for the occasion."
   BY THE TIME that I came back downstairs wearing jeans and a sweater,
   they were searching the burglar. To get my nightgown back took a
   while, even though a second pair of officers arrived almost instantly.
   Once they had enough manpower to search the guy without engaging in
   the usual up-against-the-wall frisking, they found a small radio in
   his shirt pocket, and cutting pliers in his left hip pocket. And then
   a spring knife and a small automatic pistol. Being right-handed, he'd
   kept them in his right pockets. Fortunately, I'd disabled his right
   arm. I hate to think what would have happened to me if I hadn't, given
   how determined the creep was to assault me after I tripped him.
   The Medic van had arrived and, once the search was finished, the
   paramedics stabilized the burglar's broken shoulder with a strait
   jacket. One of the later-arriving police officers managed to untie my
   nightgown from his legs. She handed it to me, saying that it was
   somewhat the worse for wear.
   She was right. I'd tied that knot pretty hard, before jumping back.
   And the rip, from when I threw him, looked fatal; it reminded me of
   that genre of romance novels called "bodice-rippers," though I doubt
   they feature creeps as bad as my real-life burglar.
   Sergeant Gonzales accompanied me on a tour of Max's apartment. "You
   know," she said after we were out of hearing of the others, "it's
   generally not a good idea to tackle burglars, all by yourself. Better
   to let them get away than to risk injury to yourself."
   "I agree," I said with a sigh. "That had been my plan, to just watch
   and see where he headed. But he kicked the cat, I got mad, and I was
   too tired to think straight. It was a major mistake, all right. I'm
   lucky that I didn't get hurt."
   Neither Cleopatra nor Siam seemed injured; I couldn't figure out which
   one had tripped the burglar and then been kicked. They both continued
   to follow us around the apartment. So far as I could tell, only Max's
   home office was affected. The burglar had cut most of the cables loose
   from the computer tower case, only to discover that the case was
   bolted down to the bottom of the soundproof cabinet that Linda had
   made for Max. Too bad the burglar didn't try cutting the power cable
   as well. But then, he was nothing if not experienced in these matters.
   "Burglars sure do like computers these days," Sergeant Gonzales said.
   "I bet we discover his car parked around here pretty close." She spoke
   briefly into her radio. "All cars belong to residents of the area, so
   far. So you think that he didn't touch anything else?"
   "He didn't have time to see much of the rest of the apartment," I
   said, reflecting. "It's possible he'd been in the apartment before,
   however. When I fed the cats about noon, I wondered if something had
   been disturbed, but couldn't figure out what it could be. I searched
   all over the apartment, in all the closets and everything, without
   discovering anything. This guy tonight spent nearly all of his time in
   this office - maybe three minutes until something spooked him. He
   started running even before he left the office, but then tripped over
   a cat in the living room."
   "What scared him, do you suppose?" she asked me.
   "Nothing I could see. I was sure quiet. Maybe the cats made some noise
   that I didn't hear."
   When we got back outdoors, that mystery was cleared up. The burglar
   had been listening to a police scanner. Another sergeant, whose last
   name was Kim, had been playing around with the radio taken off the
   burglar. "I've heard of these computer scanners," he said, passing it
   to Sergeant Gonzales for her to examine, "but this is the first time
   I've ever seen one. That's one sophisticated burglar that you caught."
   He explained to me that, because scanners were so readily available,
   the Seattle Police avoid dispatching cars to a burglary using voice
   messages; instead they rely on the Motorola computers in the patrol
   cars, which alert the officers to a message on the display giving the
   address and a code for the complaint. He discovered that the burglar's
   little radio beeped whenever the dispatcher's computer sent a silent
   response code for an in-progress. The scanner was detecting the
   computer code, not listening to voice transmissions.
   "So, what was he after?" he asked.
   "Computer," Sergeant Gonzales replied. "A nice one."
   "Maybe a special one, however," I said, kicking at spilled dirt from
   the potted plant. "He might have been trying to steal it for the
   information it contained, on the hard disk." I told them about Max's
   disappearance, repeating what I'd learned from Officer Freeman. Soon
   Sergeant Gonzales had brought up Max's missing-person file on her
   clipboard computer and both sergeants read it.
   "I'll flag all this for the detectives," Sergeant Kim said. "And
   suggest that someone phone the Palm Beach P.D. By the way, the
   dispatcher told me about the string of threats that the burglar made
   against you, before we arrived. Intimidating a witness to a felony is
   a charge even more serious than burglary, and it's treated differently
   for bail purposes. I think it's very unlikely that this guy will make
   bail. You can call the deputy prosecuting attorney during business
   hours and talk to him yourself. But I wouldn't lose any sleep over
   I GOT THE SHAKES almost as soon as they all left and I finished
   boarding up Max's front door from the inside. What a stupid thing to
   do, tackling a burglar like that. At least I had the satisfaction of
   it turning out well, but I was still, on balance, appalled that I'd
   made such a bad snap judgment.
   I helped myself to some of Max's good single malt, and crawled into
   Max's bed, half dressed. I was soon joined by Cleopatra. I didn't get
   to sleep until just before dawn. And so I inadvertently slept late,
   which did nothing to improve my moodiness.
   Once awake, I called Linda to come repair the door and then checked
   over the cats, to make sure that no late sign of injury had appeared.
   But they were merely hungry, as usual. After feeding them, I went back
   upstairs to check my e-mail, letting myself out through Max's back
   Damn! Nothing from Andre. Yes, he had read his e-mail twice since I
   sent him the message last night. But he didn't reply. My anger grew. I
   really wanted to reach out and shake him, to compel his attention. But
   it looked as if I was going to have to chase him down, first.
   I left a note for Melanie in e-mail, not wanting to use the priority
   talk window because I didn't want to explain the night's event in
   detail. That would just keep me from thinking about the password
     To: melanie
     Subject: frustrations
     Dear Mel,
     No luck on passwords. And that bastard Andre Chen has never gotten
     back to me; he's read two of my follow-up messages without
     replying. Want to do a database search for him? He's unlisted,
     everywhere I thought to check. But I didn't try the older stuff.
     He's an investor of some sort, possibly wealthy; might try
     fedworld.gov and the SEC's EDGAR database.
     A rather sophisticated and vicious-sounding burglar broke into
     Max's place last night and tried to steal his computer. Fortunately
     the cats and I tripped him up (literally) and they hauled him off.
     I'll tell you all about it later, once I get this password business
     off my mind. How did your friend Steven make out at the
   I did some stretches, pulled on my running outfit, and went out for a
   loop around the local park. A hot shower didn't help very much. Nor
   did the croissant and the latte. About eleven o'clock, I called the
   King County Prosecuting Attorney's Office.
   It's Saturday, the voice noted. Call back Monday. Finally, by
   mentioning Max's name, I was put through to the very busy deputy who
   was going to arraign my burglar. I suspect that he hadn't really
   noticed the name of the burglary victim before; the deputy now knew, I
   think, that he was going to have to tell his chief about how he
   handled this one.
   By letting on that Max's name ought to be important to them, I'd
   established myself as someone who perhaps knew that Max had let the
   prosecuting attorney's office take credit for breaking open the
   white-collar-crime scandal last spring. They'd had to give the
   insider-trading part of it to the feds, but it turned out to be far
   wider in scope than that. The case had been a feather in the
   prosecutor's cap during his current re-election campaign; the election
   was only a few days away. So the deputy was being nice to me, and I
   actually learned a few things.
   Fingerprints had identified my burglar; I promptly forgot the name and
   continued to call him The Creep. He only had one conviction, grand
   larceny via computer, in New Orleans a few years ago. But there was an
   outstanding warrant in Texas, for first-degree assault and two counts
   of intimidating a witness. So I was probably right last night, that
   his intense verbal assault on my person was calculated.
   The deputy had talked to his counterpart in Texas, who said the creep
   was probably their local Mob's number two guy in computer crime, their
   fastest growing division after extortion. No chance of him being
   released on bail, none at all. Texas was starting extradition
   proceedings, but the county might try him locally first since the
   evidence was so good, for both Burglary One and Intimidating. They
   could probably get him for assault as well but, since I'd tripped him
   and started it, they'd probably leave that one out of it. I should be
   careful - next time something was threatening, I should lock myself in
   a room with a strong door and then call the cops. Yes, sir, I said.
   It didn't cheer me up very much, to know that there were people like
   that, interested in Max's computer. And perhaps Max himself.
   Furthermore, the guy's friends might try again. Or perhaps target me,
   just for spite. As long as I was in Seattle, they knew where to find
   I went downstairs with my power screwdriver and pulled the hard disk
   out of Max's computer, then gathered up all his backup tapes from the
   fireproof box in his pantry and hauled them upstairs to put in my
   under-the-rug floor safe. Linda arrived, and I told her as much as I
   knew, cautioning her to be careful of any visitors.
   EVENTUALLY, I got tired of waiting for Andre to call - and decided
   that I'd catch the next plane to Palm Beach. I'd take myself out of
   harm's way, and I could start asking around for Max, where he was last
   I used my net connection to check for all flights; never mind
   reservations, I'd race down there and standby for no-shows. One thing
   soon became very clear. Even if I rushed to the airport, it was now
   too late to travel today - even connecting through Atlanta to the late
   evening flights.
   Yes, I realized, I could stay overnight in Atlanta or Dallas, and get
   into Palm Beach before noon tomorrow. But that's only a few hours
   earlier than tomorrow's nonstop would get me there. And I'd sleep
   better in my own bed than in an airport hotel. Heavens knows I needed
   some sleep. Linda, who'd finished repairing Max's door and stopped in
   to see me about the planned silent alarm system for downstairs and
   upstairs, offered to stay overnight in my guest room, just to keep me
   That decided it. I made myself a reservation on the nonstop that left
   the next day, just before sunrise, with Linda offering to drive me to
   the airport. There were only business class seats left on the 757, but
   I didn't hesitate to click twice on the purple purchase button. It
   started flashing. Turn green, damn it. The button finally changed
   color, glowing green and reading Confirmed. I got the seat selection
   map painted on my screen and frowned at the lack of a window seat.
   But, as I watched, a window seat opened up and I immediately
   double-clicked on it. Once it confirmed, I specified a Kosher lunch,
   on the theory that I'd get deli food that way. Then I tabbed through
   to the hotel listings and got myself a reservation at the same hotel
   that Max had stayed at.
   Seeing the hotel, I thought, should tell me whether Max had stayed
   there by preference - or because some group had made reservations for
   everybody, the usual reason for getting stuck in less-than-optimal
   hotels. Palm Beach was not lacking in hotels meeting Max's standards -
   such as convenient modem jacks into which to plug his laptop. And room
   service at three in the morning, for when he awakens and can't get
   back to sleep without some milk and crackers.
   The net menu doesn't yet have selections for back-up cat-feeders. So I
   picked up the phone and hoped that Doc Matson was carrying his belt
   phone today. Retirement from dentistry had brought an enthusiasm for
   walking five miles a day, down to a coffeehouse or bookstore, and then
   back. He'd surely be on his daily brisk walk at this hour, perhaps
   walking along Boyer Avenue at this very moment.
   He was. Yes, of course he would feed the cats, even bring in my mail
   along with Max's. I said that I'd drop off a keycard. I explained the
   burglary of Max's apartment and that Linda had already repaired the
   door but was coming back Monday with her alarm-system installer. She'd
   give him a lesson. I warned Doc to look carefully before entering the
   apartment, and phone 911 if he had any concerns. Doc sounded like he
   was in a hurry to get back up to speed, with miles to go before he
   IT WAS STILL SPECTACULAR WEATHER for sailing, I realized when I
   finally took a walk around the block, with a modest breeze out of the
   south. And suddenly I yielded to the urge to get away from all the
   stress. Maybe if I concentrate on the wind and waves and sails and
   lines, I thought, I'll be able to think more clearly about Max's
   password. Since Max loved to go sailing, maybe he'd used a nautical
   password. Maybe something would remind me of it.
   And after all the salt air, maybe I'll be able to take a nap, to make
   up for last night. I'll just take my belt phone. And my laptop as
   well. The boat will be a better place to await Andre's message, if it
   ever came. After reprogramming an unlabeled keycard so that it would
   open both Max's front door and mine, I drove by Doc's place and
   slipped it under his door.
   The winds were fitful on the shipping canal and Lake Union, so I
   headed out to the salt water. While the sailboat was being lowered in
   the canal locks, my fingers drummed impatiently against the handle of
   my belt phone. What can be taking Andre so long? If he'd only supply
   the cipher key to the recent messages, I'd have solved half the
   problem - though not, alas, the shrink-wrapped half, because Max
   undoubtedly used his own password for his own private files.
   Once I got out on Puget Sound and found a breeze, it was warm enough
   so that I could take off my old windbreaker. I was even, thanks to the
   fresh salt air, thinking about taking a nap sometime soon.
   AFTER AN HOUR of tacking back and forth into the southerly breeze, I
   realized that everything was going well. I was falling back on good
   habits, and handling the boat right.
   By this time, I had sailed south past the Seattle harbor, managing to
   cross, with minimal pitch and roll, the wakes of the giant ferries
   that crisscross the Sound. I was near Blake Island, which is a state
   park, and so I decided to go ashore and stretch my legs, see the great
   Native-American-style log meeting house, where the 16-nation Asian
   summit meeting was held back in 1993. Maybe I would even lie down
   under a tree, and nap a little. My belt phone had not rung. I checked
   its unanswered call indicator, to see if I somehow failed to notice
   its rumbling ring amid the distractions of sailing. No missed calls.
   I set a direct course for the pier. Suddenly, it felt as if someone
   had stepped on the brakes. Sailboats don't have brakes. A grinding
   sound from the hull confirmed my suspicions.
   I immediately let loose of the jib sheet and dropped the mainsail, so
   as not to dig myself in deeper. But I was stuck, run aground on a sand
   bar, well offshore from the northwest corner of the island.
   I was annoyed at myself for not checking the nautical chart. And the
   tides. But it was no time for reflection, as I needed to get the keel
   off the sandbar before it dug itself in even further.
   I tried standing on the bow, to tilt the boat. Then I stood on the
   port side, hanging out as far as I could. And starboard. And stern. I
   eventually realized that the optimal tactic was to climb halfway up
   the mast and try to swing the mast back and forth, so as to heel the
   boat over farther to each side. However, the keel remained stuck in
   the sand bar, even after I had pumped the mast back and forth a
   half-dozen times. I finally slid back down the mast. And tried to
   think of additional tactics.
   A few minutes later, while standing again in the cockpit, I felt the
   wind shift direction. The sailboat shuddered, as if the sand's grip on
   the keel had changed. I contemplated setting the sails again. But the
   wind hadn't changed enough for me to reverse course. Intuitively, I
   knew that the geometry was all wrong.
   In desperation, I decided to get out and push; I am, after all, as
   tall as the keel is deep. I stuck a hand in the water; it was
   considerably warmer than its usual 52F, probably because the shallow
   water had been heated by the sun. Tossing my belt phone below, I
   contemplated stripping. But I was in a hurry because the breeze was
   starting to fade, so I just kicked off my sandals and dropped over the
   side into the water. It was still damned cold, and a halter and shorts
   is hardly a wet suit. Still, I figured that I could stand it for
   several minutes.
   I couldn't touch bottom, as tall as I am. I swam around to the other
   side of the boat and tried to touch bottom there. No luck. Even
   pushing myself downward from the underside of the boat, I barely
   touched bottom. I came back up, sputtering. Pushing it off would
   require a good footing, and there wasn't even a poor one.
   I hauled myself back up the stern ladder and went below, dripping
   buckets of water everywhere. I stripped off my clothes, annoyed that I
   hadn't done that to start with. Rummaging around in the built-in
   locker, I found an old towel. It wasn't very large, and it could have
   been cleaner, but I managed to dry off.
   I contemplated my situation. Yes, I could get a passing fishing boat
   to tow me off, though it would mean putting those wet clothes back on.
   Yet the last time that a friend was stranded in this manner, the tow
   managed to damage his keel. The repairs had been expensive. And I
   thought I'd heard rocks scraping the keel, not just sand. One mistake
   was bad enough, without compounding it.
   And, now that I thought about it, going overboard to push was a stupid
   move in the first place - my second snap decision in only twelve hours
   that was, in retrospect, a very poor one.
   Noticing my laptop, I fired it up and checked the Seattle tide
   predictions. The tide, alas, was low and going to get a foot lower -
   which meant the keel would dig another foot deeper into the sand or
   mud. And that's if I was lucky - if it was really a rock bottom, the
   sailboat would start tilting sideways instead.
   It was another two hours until the low. That probably means at least
   five hours until the rising tide will refloat the sailboat, I
   calculated mentally. Which is after sunset, and I didn't bring a
   Think of it as a few hours in which to sunbathe, I muttered to myself.
   Except that I don't like to sunbathe. Sun tans are a nuisance, besides
   not being good for your skin.
   Still, I'm going to Florida tomorrow, I thought. Maybe I'll want to
   blend in with the locals, while asking around about Max. Can't look
   like a freshly-arrived tourist around the swimming pool. Too bad I
   didn't wear my bikini today.
   Oops. I discovered that I had already gotten enough sun so that there
   would be, thanks to my halter and tennis shorts, a nice untanned
   border of white skin all around the edges of a bikini - lace fringe,
   someone called it. Even if I were to wear my tank suit, it wouldn't
   cover the tan-free fringe.
   The solution, I realized, was a little nude sunbathing on my private
   floating deck, out in the Indian Summer sunshine. And the halter and
   shorts would dry more quickly that way, too.
   I stuck my head out of the hatchway and looked around for nearby
   boats. Seeing none, I wrung out the wet clothing over the side and,
   looking around for a clothesline, tried arranging the laundry over the
   guardrail, forward of the cockpit.
   Lacking clothespins, I soon thought better of that idea, given the
   breeze. Since I had dropped the mainsail, I realized that I could lay
   everything atop the boom. To guard against a gust of wind, I wrapped a
   long bungee cord around the boom to hold my clothing secure.
   Remembering that my old windbreaker needed a good airing, I tucked it
   under the bungee cord as well. Then I laid down in the cockpit on my
   old towel, out of sight below the railing. I put the belt phone in
   easy reach, still hoping that Andre would call.
   I GRADUALLY WOKE UP, puzzled by something. Strong gusts of wind had
   come up, out of the west, and were rocking the sailboat. I recalled
   where I was. And that the sailboat was stuck.
   Still groggy from the sunny nap in the salt air, I quickly tried to
   hoist the mainsail, hoping to get free this time, with a little extra
   boost from the wind. The sail was binding somewhere, so I put all my
   weight behind a quick yank on the main halyard.
   The mainsail broke free of the obstruction and finally started up the
   mast. However, that was because I had finally popped loose the bungee
   cord that I'd wrapped around the boom, securing my clothes and
   windbreaker - all of which went flying away, carried far out of reach
   on the gust of wind.
   I almost dove in to rescue them, but remembered the cold water and the
   tidal currents. Since my sailboat doesn't have a dinghy, I
   concentrated on getting the sailboat loose, hoping to maneuver
   alongside the floating garments and retrieve them. As I again tried to
   rock the sailboat out of its rut, my clothes were carried farther and
   farther away by the wind-driven waves. From halfway up the mast, as I
   swung back and forth, I saw my clothes sink, one after another.
   Two mistakes in a row: Now, I was not only stranded but naked.
   I was also halfway up a mast, but that condition was more easily
   I could not believe that this is happening to me, Kate Medici. After
   sitting on the floor of the cockpit for a few moments of irritated
   contemplation, the novelty of the situation finally began to wear off.
   It remained, however, irredeemably absurd.
   I could always wear my belt phone, just like last night. Oh, and I've
   got sandals this time.
   Correction, this was the third - no, the fourth - stupid mistake in a
   row. At least the burglar turned out well in the end, but running
   aground, jumping overboard, and then losing all of my clothes seemed
   unlikely to have silver linings. It isn't easy to shake my self
   confidence, but I was really wondering at this point about what
   stupidity I'd commit next.
   Eventually, I remembered some old clothes in the locker below. My keys
   and billfold were, fortunately, in my computer bag. But I was not
   pleased with myself. I finally went below to survey the clothing
   situation. Perhaps there will be an old sweater too, I thought, for
   after dark.
   BUT THERE WAS NOTHING ELSE in the locker where the towel was, except
   for the extra lifejackets. I'd been sure there were some old clothes
   and a sweater underneath those spare lifejackets. I checked the other
   locker, hoping for some raingear, at least. An old box of flares, the
   emergency beacon, and the Puget Sound charts - showing, of course, the
   sandbar - but no raingear. I looked under the seat cushions and the
   bed mattress, checked the lockers once again, even popped the access
   panel for the inboard engine. No clothing, anywhere.
   I then remembered taking the raingear home. And thought that I'd
   probably taken the old clothes home to launder, too, as they were
   surely salty and sticky. The towel seemed to be all there was, and I
   tried it on for size. It was a relatively small towel. I am relatively
   big. The towel made a passable miniskirt.
   But, I recalled, there is the life jacket. I frowned at the plunging
   decolletage. And the sides formed only by three straps. I pulled the
   adjustment straps a little tighter. No better. I tried one of the
   older, more utilitarian, life jackets. Better. A little daring,
   perhaps, but it would have to do. It'll be after dark, I thought, when
   I go through the locks again.
   At least my strap marks weren't so obvious anymore.
   A FISHING BOAT hailed me, asking if I was catching anything. No, I
   answered after I put on my life jacket and sat up. Discouraged, he
   cruised on, disappearing around Blake Island.
   A sailboat with slack sails in a good breeze, going nowhere, must look
   a little odd, I eventually realized. The guy must have assumed that I
   was fishing. Though, it occurred to me, I've seldom seen anyone
   fishing from a serious sailboat.
   Idly, I decided to mark my present position on the nautical chart,
   just to avoid coming so close next time. I turned on the GPS in my
   belt phone, and soon it read 47DEG32'48.0"N, 122DEG29'58.5"W, 0H.
   Within an accuracy of about two parallel parking spaces, I knew
   exactly where, on the surface of the earth, I was stranded, thanks to
   the Global Positioning System. The belt phone's indicator said that I
   hadn't missed any calls, so I decided to check and see if there was
   any e-mail awaiting me. I linked my laptop to my belt phone and dialed
   into my net mailbox. No e-mail.
   I tried a u command and discovered that Andre was currently logged
   into The Conf. I tried page andre and he responded briefly, saying
   that he'll have to get back to me. I gave him my cellular phone
   number, saying cryptically that I was stranded on a sand bar and
   wouldn't be going anywhere for while.
   In any other situation, I would have chewed out Andre by now - and
   probably resigned from the consulting job. But this wasn't a
   consulting job. And I couldn't afford to alienate Andre, for Max's
   When Andre finally called back on the belt phone a half-hour later, I
   was sitting out in the last of the late afternoon sun, having taken
   off the uncomfortable life jacket to use as a cushion. He asked where
   I was really calling from, and I explained - leaving out the news of
   my second major blunder of the afternoon.
   He said that cellular phones weren't really secure enough, that he'd
   have to wait and talk with me when I was home tomorrow. I explained
   that I'd be on a plane to Palm Beach tomorrow morning. But how about
   going back to e-mail, I suggested, and using the usual Privacy
   Enhanced Mail features?
   Andre was set up for DES encryption but not for the public key methods
   like RSA that allow its key to be easily delivered. No, he didn't know
   about the program that would have allowed him to generate a public and
   private key, the obvious solution. Andre was security conscious, I
   realized, but also set in his ways - not at all like Max.
   "We need a word, something to use as our cipher key," I said, trying
   not to let my irritation show. "And since we don't want to give it
   away to anyone listening, we can't say it out loud over the phone. So,
   it's got to be a word, or a phrase, that describes something about Max
   that we both know - but most people don't. And can't look up easily."
   I thought for a minute. "Did Max ever tell you about the girl who
   snatched stuff out of his kitchen cabinet when he wasn't looking?"
   "Sure he did," chuckled Andre, sounding less strained for the first
   time in our conversations. "I've even had her sitting on my... Well,
   never mind. Yes, I know her name. That's the perfect DES key to get
   this started. You use that and I'll send using both names, her and the
   incompetent one. It'll do until you get to Palm Beach and I can get
   something better delivered to you."
   We hung up and I logged back into the net and set my software cipher
   key to Cleopatra for sending, and to Cleopatra&Siam for decrypting
   whatever I received from Andre. After a few trials back and forth, we
   were successfully communicating in English once again.
   It turned out that Andre had been quite busy, talking to other people
   about me. Background checks, I groaned - Max is missing and this guy
   spends a full day running a background check on me?
   He tells me that my being a computer consultant had been important,
   that he was finally able to check me out through connections in the
   industry. Also, Max had apparently talked about me at some length
   during their San Francisco meeting several months earlier; Max wanted
   them to consult me about their problems because, he'd said, I was such
   an expert on computer systems and how people used them. At the least,
   Max wanted their permission for him to talk privately to me about some
   of the problems.
   But they'd wanted to keep their secrets close, Andre said, and had
   emphatically vetoed consulting anyone outside the group. Now, with Max
   missing under suspicious circumstances, Andre wanted to talk to me
   about what Max might have been doing - if I would promise not to say
   anything to anyone else, should I not wish to join forces after
   hearing him out. Of course, I agreed. Scout's honor.
   Sitting naked before my laptop, I was as alert as I'd ever been,
   waiting to see what Andre had to reveal.
   But then he backed off, saying "not now," not until we could meet in
   person or use a more secure cipher. "Damn him!" I swore aloud.
     I ought to be able to have someone meet your flight at West Palm,
     and he'll bring along a disk of random numbers that we can use to
     encipher our correspondence. One-time pad sort of thing.
   And then Andre disconnected.
   Thanks a lot, I muttered harshly. He could at least have said who he
   was sending. The local bicycle messenger? FedEx? His chauffeur? And
   how was I supposed to know who I was dealing with? Business cards are
   easily faked. Every airport seems to have a machine that will print up
   a hundred business cards for you, on the spot.
   Andre is definitely not a pro, I thought. Or he's stringing me along,
   setting me up for another delay, buying himself another 24 hours by
   tantalizing me again. But why would he stall? I'm not exactly a bill
   Once I had cooled down a little, I recalled that a one-time pad is a
   very old-fashioned cipher. But a very secure cipher, the best there is
   - if no one manages to make an extra copy of the shared random number
   list. And if you never re-use the list. And provided it's truly
   random, rather than one of those pseudo-random lists produced by
   complicated computer algorithms, such as those RND commands in BASIC.
   It's a standard beginner's mistake, I remembered reading in a
   biography, supposedly made by all cryptographers in their idealistic
   youth. A text encrypted using pseudo-random numbers is now a standard
   student exercise in beginning cryptography courses, used to
   demonstrate just how easily such a cipher can be broken.
   Had Andre, in his enthusiasm for random-number ciphers, made the
   classic mistake? I'd have to run this disk - if I ever actually held
   it in my hands - through some tests with my crypto software toolkit.
   I badly wanted to go running. I had to satisfy myself with some
   stretching exercises, in the confines of the cockpit.
   PASSWORDS AND PASS PHRASES occurred to me, and I tried them out on
   Max's encrypted file of cipher keys, secret.key, which I had
   remembered to copy over to my laptop. No luck.
   I activated the laptop link to my belt phone and opened a talk window
   again to Melanie.
     Hey, Mel. I'm stuck again (literally - remind me to tell you the
     story over a second bottle of wine some visit). Finally talked with
     Andre Chen, which was tantalizing and very frustrating. More pass
     phrase ideas, if you have any.
     [Talking with Melanie Coltrain
     Glad you finally got hold of Chen; I sure didn't find much, except
     that he's on the board of directors of a big multinational (I'll
     e-mail you the stuff); if you want, I can search the older files,
     since he might be retired from various other boards.
     Talked to Steven, who asked me all about MS; Dan apparently hinted
     to him that it was the most likely thing, but that the MRI needed
     to be done first before they worried unnecessarily. Didn't fool
     Steven a bit. He's coming up to the house (for the first time) this
     evening, so we can talk about MS. I'd rather talk about almost
     anything else. Especially with Steven.
     English poets and playwrights? Max likes Tom Stoppard, among the
     moderns. Tried Shakespeare yet? Why don't you browse through Max's
     books? Especially that poetry section on the upper shelf in the sun
     Good idea, but I won't be home for quite a while yet (I went
     aground [blush] and am awaiting the high tide). And then, I'll only
     have about 6-8 hours before having to leave for the airport, to
     catch the nonstop to Palm Beach tomorrow morning. At least I'm in
     the right setting to remember Max's love of the wind and waves.
     Stranded - how romantic! Let's see, I don't think that there are
     any great shipboard scenes in Shakespeare.
     Do remember to check references to characters named Katharine,
     Katharina, etc., nicknamed Kate. Max might well have picked a
     phrase with your name in it, you know, so don't let false modesty
     keep you from exploring those likely paths.
     I suppose that you don't have the complete plays and sonnets of
     Shakespeare aboard. Fear not, sweet Kate, you can hop into
      and browse the complete texts. I think
     Michigan has the plays, too.
     Uh... What makes you think he'd use my name, Mel?
     Well, I've never quite figured out your relationship with Max - but
     you are the main beneficiary in his will, and all that. Seems to me
     that he's more likely to use a pass phrase with your name in it
     than one from What's-his-name and Cleopatra.
   I sat bolt upright and covered my face with my hands. It was several
   minutes before I answered Melanie, shaking.
     I'm *what*? You're not serious? And I don't just mean regarding
     Max's will. Am I the last to know?
     Dear me, I do put my foot in it sometimes. I see I'm giving away
     Max's secrets. Of course I'm serious, Kate. Well, it's an
     emergency, so here goes.
     It's been clear to me for a year or so that Max wishes there
     weren't forty years separating you two. And that he hadn't so
     firmly established a kindly uncle relationship with you years
     earlier, since it would now - to him - probably make any other
     relationship almost incestuous. I was hoping that I was wrong -
     particularly after reading that description of you that Max wrote a
     month after his Moab visit.
     So, don't forget to try out Shakespearian phrases like "Kiss me,
     Kate" when you're checking out pass phrases. Trust me on this.
     My head is spinning. Well, I will take your advice, and try to keep
     from thinking of the implications for now. God, what a day - I'm
     not sure I could take any more shocks to my system. OK, I'm off to
     the library.
     My version of sage, motherly advice (I am, after all, several years
     older than you) is: Careful that you don't run down your battery.
     It'll take all night to wear down the cellular phone battery,
     because when I got the belt-phone model, I got an extra belt, one
     of the wide belts with the triple-sized battery of the flexible
     gel. And since it had been hanging in the closet on the recharger,
     it was all topped up. I do ramble on when I'm rattled, don't I? I
     did that yesterday with the policeman, too.
     `Power to spare' is how I always think of you. Sweet Kate, always
     If I was prepared, I wouldn't be stuck here, on this damn sand bar,
     unable to go out for a run and relieve my frustrations.
   I let the Web browser take me into Dartmouth's library archive and
   soon discovered how many times that Shakespeare used characters
   nicknamed "Kate."
     Search S1: FIND KATE
     Result S1: 13 scenes in the SHAKESPEARE PLAYS file.
     So I tried displaying the text.
     KING HENRY. An angel is like you, Kate, and you are like an angel.
   Blushing, I tried Aaily,K,ayalaa as a password. And variants thereof.
   No luck. The next memorable phrase was in The Taming of the Shrew:
     KATHARINA. Husband, let's follow, to see the end of this ado.
     PETRUCHIO. First kiss me, Kate and we will.
     KATHARINA. What, in the midst of the street?
   Then comes:
     PETRUCHIO. Come, Kate, we'll to bed.
   And, from Love's Labour Lost, I found
     [Enter DUMAINE.] Dumaine transform'd! four woodcocks in a dish!
     DUMAINE. O most divine Kate!
     BEROWNE [aside]. O most profane coxcomb!
   SHORTLY AFTER THE SUN DISAPPEARED over the Olympic Mountains, I felt
   the sailboat scrape the bottom in a new way. The tide was starting to
   float the sailboat free. It was a welcome relief, since Shakespeare
   was going nowhere, only making me feel awkward and disoriented, each
   time I tried out Melanie's strategy. A few minutes later, the boat
   started swinging more freely, unstuck from the bottom. I logged off
   the net and unfurled the jib. I managed to sail free of the sandbar
   with only a few more scraping sounds.
   The white light at the top of the mast illuminated the tell-tale,
   streaming toward north. I quickly got the mainsail up. Wind out of the
   south meant that I could run downwind, and get home sooner.
   Mine was the only sailboat left out on Puget Sound on that Saturday
   night, so far as I could see. I had to alter course for one of the
   oversized ferries, and then again for a big container ship coming in
   to port, but I generally managed to steer straight for the West Point
   lighthouse that marks the dogleg turn into Shilshole Bay.
   I had a long time to think about Max, and my platonic relationship
   with him. I even managed, for a while, to stop thinking about all of
   the ways he could have drowned. I was feeling surer that Max knew too
   much about something, that he'd either been kidnapped or murdered
   because of it. I couldn't cruise the Florida waterways looking for him
   any better than the police or Coast Guard, but I could certainly do
   better at figuring out what Max knew and where it led him. So I
   couldn't just sit back and let the police handle the search.
   When I rounded the point, I was able to set a northeasterly course.
   And a forest of aluminum poles appeared on my horizon, the sailboat
   masts populating the Shilshole Bay Marina. I could almost hear them,
   bonging away in the breeze like a cacophony of wind chimes.
   In another few minutes, I could see the buoys marking the entry
   channel leading to the canal locks. Homeward bound. It is time, I
   decided, to switch to the less comfortable, but less revealing, life
   jacket. I managed not to lose either one overboard, but the second
   life jacket felt cold as it contacted my bare skin, reminding me of
   how cool it had become, with the sun below the horizon.
   I tied the towel around my hips as securely as I could, and hoped that
   it would stay put. But the overlap was not generous. I promised myself
   a long hot shower. With luck, I could be home in under an hour.
   MY SAILBOAT WAS, of course, on show as I passed the two restaurants at
   the channel entrance, with their long rows of picture windows with
   sunset views. I've sat there myself, many a time, remarking on the
   boats returning to port - along with a hundred other diners watching
   the same boats and saying the same things about them.
   But now things were reversed, and I felt as if I were on parade and
   the restaurants were the reviewing stands. I knew that I was
   backlighted by the remains of the sunset, and was probably sailing
   into the reddish streak of ripple that the spectators saw. But, at
   these distances, I told myself firmly, it ought to be impossible to
   tell if a silhouetted figure is nude or not.
   Once past the restaurants, I saw the traffic signal for the canal
   locks ahead. It was shining a bright red but, as I watched, it turned
   green. So, perhaps the locks were starting to load up for the uphill
   journey. Then I remembered the bright-as-day street lights all over
   the canal locks. There was no avoiding them - I couldn't exactly
   detour through the salmon ladder.
   I hadn't seen any boats coming the other direction - indeed, very few
   boats at all. I dropped the main and then the jib, then turned the key
   to start the inboard. The night now had noise. I decided to put the
   fenders out, so I wouldn't have to move around later. But I almost
   lost my towel while bending over to position the second fender.
   A round head appeared in the water alongside me, as I was trying to
   repair my miniskirt, and I saw a big pair of eyes gaze up at me.
   "Hello, Hershel," I said fondly. "How about going and catching me a
   salmon for dinner? You can save me from having to eat meatloaf for
   another night. How about it, fellow?"
   Hershel is the generic name in Seattle for any sea lion that cruises
   outside the locks, in order to feast on the salmon trying to find the
   fish ladder. The sea lion found me uninteresting. He soon disappeared,
   but I saw him resurface a minute later, off on the right.
   The small lock's gate was open wide. I slowly entered the lock. There
   were, I saw, no other boats inside the box. The lock attendant,
   standing a story above me on the pedestrian path that goes over the
   top of the inner set of gates, gestured that I could have my choice of
   either left or right side. I drifted over to the more shadowed left
   side and looped a line around one of the floating cleats, trying to
   remain seated in my pseudoskirt. Success. I reached forward to the
   controls and killed the engine.
   I looked back out the channel through the open gates. No other boats
   were in sight. That's not at all like my usual experience, of a
   half-dozen boats coming up the channel, trying to get aboard the
   elevator before the doors close. How long, I worried, would the lock
   attendants wait for another boat? My teeth weren't chattering, but I
   was getting uncomfortable. I'd never seen them run the lock for just
   one boat.
   But they did. The bells started ringing and then the large outer gates
   started to swing shut. When the last crack of light disappeared and
   they were securely shut, the bell stopped. And the water started
   flowing in from unseen openings beneath the surface, welling up
   instead of descending in whirlpools. Going up, I increasingly left the
   shadow and came into the well-lit area. Fortunately, there were no
   spectators at this hour, just the lock attendant.
   Who walked over to stand just above me. "Getting kind of cool," he
   said, making conversation. "Sure feels like autumn, once the sun
   "That it does," I agreed. "I'm sure glad that you ran the locks just
   for me." He's awfully young, I thought. Most of the lock attendants
   look as if they're retired Coast Guard or Navy personnel.
   Paradoxically, the U. S. Army runs the canal locks, Corps of Engineers
   and all that.
   "No problem. Wouldn't want you to get cold," he said. He noticed?
   The bell on the inner gates began to sound, interrupting our
   conversation, and a little red light flashed to warn anyone walking
   atop the gates that they are about to open. I started my inboard
   again, effectively ending the conversation, and the attendant walked
   up to the inner gate to watch it open, watched me maneuver out of the
   lock and into the fresh water. I waved goodbye and he waved back. As
   soon as I was clear of the lights and into the darkness of the wide
   channel, I climbed around and secured the sails. This time I just left
   the towel behind on the seat; I was feeling very protective of it, not
   wanting to lose it overboard.
   It finally occurred to me that I ought to call Linda or someone else,
   to come down to the marina and bring me some clothes. I got her
   answering machine. I got Doc's, too. After three more failures, I was
   beginning to wonder.
   The Ballard Bridge was down, with a regular stream of traffic crossing
   it. I got out the air horn and let off one long blast, then a short
   one. Yes, I could have used the phone to call the bridge tender, but
   tradition is very important in sailing.
   I still hadn't heard the bong-bong-bong warning signals that stop the
   cars, before the bridge tender opens the span. Impatience. Cold
   impatience. I hit the air horn again. Suddenly an ambulance zipped
   across, lights flashing red and white.
   The bridge-opening warnings finally sounded. Next time I'll phone the
   bridge tender, so I'll know that he knows I'm waiting - and can find
   out about delays.
   COMING INTO THE MARINA, I looked around for people. Some of the boats
   had lighted windows, and I heard the sounds of a party in progress. As
   I maneuvered into my slip, I managed to flip the mooring line to catch
   the outer cleat. I pulled the stern in against the dock and cleated
   the line tight.
   As I got up to climb forward for the other mooring line, the towel
   slipped again. Rather than risk losing it in the water, I tossed it
   back into the cockpit. Finding the forward line, I jumped to the dock
   and secured it. I wasted no time getting back aboard but, before
   ducking below deck, I had to secure the second stern line and position
   the sailboat in the middle of the slip.
   I checked the bilge for any sign of a leak, but it seemed normal.
   Rearranging the towel around my hips, and tightening the life jacket
   once more, I grabbed my computer bag, stuck the belt phone inside it,
   and then locked up. Along the marina's walkways and piers, I
   encountered no one. The car, unfortunately, was on a well-lighted
   street. I walked, one hand holding my towel secure, down the street to
   the car, the bag slung over my shoulder atop the life jacket.
   I quickly unlocked the car door. Tossing the bag into the passenger
   seat, I went to sit down in the driver's seat - and then discovered
   how much room a life jacket takes up.
   I got caught when only halfway in, wedged between the steering wheel
   and the seat. Thrown off balance by this impediment, I twisted - and
   the towel fell from my hips again.
   The horn was now honking, too. More seriously, I could barely breathe.
   From my wedged position, suspended above the seat, I grappled behind
   my back, searching for the seat control lever. Finally, I managed to
   slide the seat back. And dropped down onto the seat. Whether my gasp
   was from being able to breathe once again, or from the cold leather
   contacting so much bare skin, is hard to say.
   Mistake number five, I told myself, shivering uncontrollably. Way
   beyond my quota.
   I reached out and slammed the door shut - and, in doing so, discovered
   what happened to the missing towel. I tried to open the door, but the
   towel was jammed in the door. Worse yet, it had fouled the door latch.
   Thoroughly. No amount of muscle power seemed to suffice.
   Mistake number six. Though, at least, the exercise served to warm me
   up. Redeeming virtues were starting to become important to me.
   Giving up on the jammed door, I drove home very cautiously, trying to
   avoid any further blunders, hoping that the Seattle Police wouldn't
   pull me over to tell me about the towel stuck in the door and trailing
   on the pavement. Two other cars honked and pointed, when I was stopped
   at traffic signals, but I only nodded knowingly, did an "Oh, never
   mind about that" pantomime, then looked ahead at the red light.
   Let them think that wearing a life jacket while driving is a new
   safety innovation imported from The Netherlands, where cars plunge
   into canals with some regularity.
   Or a costume - a block later, a store window reminded me that I was
   abroad on the night of Halloween. So that's where everyone is - at
   Halloween parties. The costumed children, I hoped, were all in bed at
   this hour. Isn't there a holiday somewhere, celebrating Lady Godiva's
   horseback ride?
   THE PARK APPEARED on my left. I was going down the home stretch now,
   only minutes until my hot shower. I made it into my carport without
   further incident. The car door was still jammed by the towel, and I
   was too tired to work up another sweat over it. So, I tried to climb
   over the gearshift into the passenger seat - but the life jacket was
   so bulky that I couldn't maneuver myself.
   Finally, I took off my remaining "garment" and threw it with disgust
   into the back seat. As I climbed over into the passenger seat, I
   discovered that its leather wasn't preheated either.
   Thoroughly exasperated by now, I didn't know whether to laugh or cry.
   Being an optimist, I laughed out loud at myself. But it was a close
   Composing myself once again, I put on my hat and declared it my
   Halloween costume. I took my keycard in hand, opened the passenger
   door, slung my computer bag over my bare shoulder, and then carefully
   walked up the well-lit staircase. Nude Ascending Staircase, I thought.
   A work of art, am I.
   THE GOOSE-BUMPS SUBSIDED. I wanted to stay under the shower until the
   hot water supply was exhausted, but I realized that I was also very
   hungry. Still dripping wet, and planning to come right back to the
   shower after putting in something to heat, I wrapped up in my thick
   terrycloth robe - and wondered again what had happened to its belt,
   how the laundry ate it without a trace.
   My bedside phone rang. It was Linda, returning my call. She said she'd
   been asked for identification twice today by police officers who
   stopped by the duplex. She'd just gotten back from a party, but would
   come over with her extra crowbar in a half hour. I told her I'd be
   downstairs, in Max's place, by then. And would probably be there all
   I tracked wet footprints into my kitchen and opened the refrigerator.
   As I stuck the leftover meatloaf into the microwave, I heard a muffled
   thud just behind me. I startled, a full fight-or-flight reaction. As I
   twirled around toward the sound, I saw someone outside the kitchen
   As I heard another thump outside, I dived toward the light switch for
   the deck. The deck was bathed in light, but I couldn't see anyone from
   the window in the door. I cautiously edged back around to look out the
   kitchen window again.
   And there was Siam, clawing his way atop the window ledge between the
   anchored flower pots. Another thud accompanied Cleopatra's arrival.
   They began a litany of complaints and my pulse rate began to slow. I
   pulled my robe shut, opened the kitchen door, and let the cats come
   I found some sliced chicken in the refrigerator, hoping to pacify them
   until I could go downstairs. I stopped by my computer and checked the
   answering-machine software and the net mail. No reply from Max's
   daughter in New York. Nothing more from Andre. Two calls from a local
   reporter, but I decided not to return his calls. I checked my ring
   controller while I was at it.
     Condition 3 is in effect Restricted Ringing
     [Unless overridden, this condition is always set 10pm-10am]
     Only calls from these numbers are allowed to ring your phone.
     ++206-328-7876 Max Hempelman
     ++500-833-4772 Max's cellular
     ++801-521-6326 Melanie Coltrain
     ++206-286-1600 Elaine Eccles
     ++602-933-86* Aunt Janet (retirement home's PBX)
     ++617-482-7061 Jack
     ++206-820-5131 Doc Matson
     +206-685-* Any calls from University of Washington
     -206-685-7724 except those from the 4am kid
     +206-882-* Any calls from Microserfs
     +PAYPHONE all with Caller ID set to PAY PHONE 
     +206-628-44* stockbroker's PBX [month only, exp. 11/23]
     All other calls are silently routed to the computer's voicemail.
     Type: 0. UNRESTRICTED condition: Allow all calls through.
     1. ANONYMOUS Caller IDs routed to voicemail.
     2. SELECTIVE VOICEMAIL allows most calls through.
     3. Modify this RESTRICTED RINGING list.
     4. NO-RING Condition, routes all calls to voicemail,
     except ++ are always allowed to ring through.
     the RingControl (c)KateMedici
     I was sure in a Condition 4 mood but, hoping that someone would
     call me with news, I clicked on Condition 2 and reviewed it.
     Condition 2 is now in effect Selective Voicemail
     Allows most calls to ring your phone, but silently routes the
     following to voicemail. [default condition of RingControl]
     -206-547-5992 Doc's crazy friend with the old Amiga
     -206-382-6245 The kids that always mis-dial the pizza #
     -305-262-1643 cold callers from Stocks Unlimited, Ltd.
     -206-747-6397 cold callers peddling long distance services
     -212-608-6021 The free-advice freeloader [exp. 11/30]
     -206-242-999* all calls from Idiot Corp.'s PBX [exp. 12/31]
     +206-242-9992 except for their lawyer [exp. 12/31]
     -ANONYMOUS all with Caller ID set to ANONYMOUS
     (The voicemail announcement temporarily becomes "Today, all
     anonymous calls are being routed to voicemail. If you unblock your
     caller ID and try again, my phone will ring loudly unless busy.
     You're welcome to simply leave a message after the beep. Cold
     callers, however, are requested to use voicemail. Please.") 
                  Voicemail Violators and Persistent Pests
     For calls from the following numbers, the phone is silently
     answered with a mimic of the telco intercept message:
     "[Tones]. The number you have reached, Six Eight Two Seven Eight
     One Two, has been changed. The new number is Two Four Two Five
     Seven Six Seven."
     Phoning it leaves the caller trying to talk to a net-access modem.
     - -206-367-3837 The cold-caller that ignored injunction 2X
     - -214-705-2901 The honcho from the mtg @LAX [exp. 12/31]
     - -303-595-0123 The 10-gallon-hat from Denver [exp. 10/31]
     the RingControl (c)KateMedici
   I finally decided to let all the calls through.
   The chicken scraps had disappeared by the time that the microwave
   beeped and I retrieved my own dinner. Cleopatra came over and insisted
   on sitting on my shoulder as I ate, though she was too well trained to
   beg for food at the table. I buried my face in her fur for a moment,
   holding her tight. When I got up to fix myself a pot of coffee to take
   downstairs with me, she had to be displaced. Soon she was
   contemplating the kitchen cabinets, and I spoke to her firmly. She
   merely shifted her attention to another cabinet. I felt that it was
   safe to leave her alone for a little while, since those doors are
   secured by strong magnetic latches. Furthermore, only canned foods
   were inside her chosen target cupboard. But surely the day was coming
   when Cleopatra would discover the corner grocery.
   As I was casting off my damp bathrobe, I heard noises in my bedroom
   closet. This time I merely sighed, no longer alarmed.
   "All right, Siam - out of there!" He looked up at me, wide-eyed, his
   tail twitching as he chewed on the leather laces to my hiking boots.
   "Out, out, damned spots! Now!"
   He got the idea, scampering out of the closet with a burst of speed
   and then diving under the bed. But, always anxious to explore new
   territory, he soon followed me into the bathroom. He waited, meowing
   occasionally, as I returned to the shower and finished off the hot
   water supply. He quickly left when I turned on the hair dryer.
   I dressed warmly for my trip downstairs via the outside staircase.
   There were many times when I wished that the internal stairway
   connecting the two floors hadn't been converted into storage space. I
   gathered up an extra keyboard cable and phone cable from my junk box,
   with which to repair Max's computer, and retrieved his hard disk from
   my floor safe. I got my passport while I was at it and decided to find
   Max's as well; never can tell where this search will lead.
   I was about to leave my bedroom for the long night of password
   guessing when I heard a noise under my bed. It was Siam. And he was
   playing with the missing bathrobe belt.
   I HATE 757s with a passion. Well, I'd probably like one if they'd let
   me fly copilot, but to be a passenger is bad news, unless you're a
   midget. A thin midget, too, since the aisles in six-across coach class
   are so narrow that the usual food-service carts won't fit. I can't
   believe that, back in the Reagan era, the FAA actually certified those
   aisles as adequate for emergency evacuations. Grumble.
   Fortunately, I was in business class for a change. Also, this
   particular 757 had been retrofitted with modem jacks, as part of the
   telephone-in-the-headrest features. For a price, you can now do your
   net surfing while cruising the stratosphere.
     To: Melanie
     Subject: Bingo
     Cipher: [defaults to recipient's public key]
     Hi, Melanie,
     Found the password, finally, at 3am. Wasn't Kate and wasn't
     Shakespeare - but otherwise, you were dead right (at least about
     the pass phrase; my head is still swimming about the rest of it).
     Exactly ten words in his pass phrase, too, so he took your advice
     literally! BTW, everything in cipher from here on, and even then be
     careful. That Mob-related burglar Friday night wasn't a very nice
     guy, and he had been convicted of grand larceny by computer; I
     figure his pals also know something about computers.
     I can't believe yesterday. At last count, I had made six major
     blunders, snap judgments that were seriously flawed. Several were
     dangerous mistakes. And a few were in the nature of "humbling
     experiences," the sort of thing that can shake your self confidence
     in a big way (to get the general flavor, just imagine being
     stripped naked in public, thanks to your own stupid mistake; now,
     imagine it happening a second time). From that at 10pm to stunning
     success at 3am - I was so proud of myself that I almost phoned you.
     I'm using the $2-a-minute modem jack on this 757 sardine can, so
     I'll tell you about them later (some, in retrospect, are almost
     slapstick hilarious). Just wanted you to know I made the plane AND
     found the password. Even got two hours of sleep this time.
     Fondly, Kate
   I sent off my e-mail, then checked the Palm Beach weather on its web
   page. I considered reading the news via the net, but breakfast
   And it included a croissant, no less - not tasting especially French,
   but at least accompanied by a reasonable imitation of raspberry jam. I
   quickly finished breakfast and waited impatiently for the tray to be
   removed. My next task, once I could get the laptop back in front of
   me, was to see how many of Max's files the newly-found password would
   I had browsed through Max's bookshelves at two in the morning, trying
   to jog my memory about what poetry Max especially liked, and
   attempting one thing after another. I had almost given up before
   Housman's "Here on the level sand / between the sea and land" caught
   my eye. He'd used it to create the password Hotls/btsal for access to
   his RSA-protected file containing all the DES keys and other
   passwords. My disastrous afternoon of sailing had succeeded, after
   But at three in the morning, I had been too weary to decrypt more than
   two messages. So I had copied most of Max's recent files onto my
   laptop, saving the decrypting job for later. Then I had pulled Max's
   hard disk again and stuck it in my suitcase, along with his backup
   tapes; no point in leaving them behind in my floor safe for another
   burglar. I set his phone and fax to forward to my numbers in Seattle,
   so my computer comm package would handle them just like my own stuff.
   Finally, the breakfast tray cleared away, I was able to contemplate
   the directory listing for Max's encrypted files. I was trying to
   decide where to start when the cabin attendant came over and offered
   me "real Seattle coffee."
   "I can manage some more," I said, gratefully. I noticed that he was
   careful not to hold the coffee within spilling range of my laptop,
   keeping the cup low and then setting it down on the armrest, a foot
   "Ah, you know the technique," I told him, "for keeping coffee off the
   keyboard, in the event of a bump. Thanks."
   A nice man, I reflected, watching him serve someone else. Easy on the
   eyes, as well as competent. A little young, I registered
   automatically. I have no desire to be that young again - getting
   through my twenties was hard work.
   Work. Most of Max's files with older dates were not protected at all,
   except by the power-up password for getting into Max's machine. But
   they also weren't about Chen, Asherman, Florida, or October travel.
   Starting in the summer, however, Max had begun encrypting some files
   with the usual triple-DES encryption scheme, storing the random-number
   keys in a secret.key file with protection by the RSA scheme.
   But it was not, apparently, the encryption scheme that Max's
   correspondents liked to use. Andre again? They used a scheme which was
   much simpler. Fortunately, I found an e-mail file that had two
   versions, a normal one but also an encrypted one. Since I had the
   software tools on my laptop to compare the plaintext and the
   ciphertext, I could deduce the cipher key that was used to encrypt the
   message. While the message itself was uninteresting, I was able to
   read many other files from his correspondents that used the same DES
   Many, but not all. Some files were in public key. And many of the ones
   from the last month weren't in either cipher system. This third system
   didn't succumb to my assorted cryptography skills. A month back, they
   had gotten serious, switching encryption methods - but not to the
   DES-in-a-RSA-envelope method that Max had adopted for his computer
   files, via Melanie's shrink-wrapped recommendation. It looked more
   like a top-end cipher - so said my analysis program - something like
   RSA atop multiple-pass DES, but with an even longer key.
   Or maybe truly random numbers were used to encrypt them? I was willing
   to bet that my software package wasn't smart enough to tell truly
   random from the top-end ciphers.
   BY THE TIME that the movie was half done, I had managed to learn what
   formed the background of Max's current interests. This was no ordinary
   investor's club that Max belonged to, picking their stocks amidst much
   The insider-trading case in Seattle was how Max had come to join them.
   The e-mail from his old friend Andre Chen, who invited him to join,
   described the club membership as mostly retired executives and the
   independently wealthy, with a few academics and ex-military types, all
   of whom had some experience with combating stock market manipulation
   or insider trading abuses.
   And club seemed to be a misleading term - probably, I thought, an
   intentionally misleading one. As the subsequent e-mail made clear,
   they were quietly investigating what they thought was a system of
   manipulating stock trading. They had a theory for how it might work:
   an irregular procedure of nudging the market that worked enough of the
   time to be profitable but was quiet enough to avoid detection by the
   exchanges and the regulators.
   For example, someone might delay buy orders for some stocks, just
   enough so that a number of them finally reached the exchanges
   simultaneously - and thus exaggerate the buy order's effects on
   upwards price movement. It was a variation on an old swindle whereby
   brokers "held back" orders, just done (so the club thought) in a
   manner that would be very difficult to detect.
   The orders always got through. They probably manipulated a different
   stock each day. The magic minute of the hour, to which the release of
   the delayed orders was synchronized, could be varied randomly. The
   delayed orders probably came from all over the country. And so, no one
   would ever get together to share any suspicions they might develop.
   The club's suspicion was that the programmed trading was being
   manipulated by a virus in the desktop computers of hundreds of traders
   for the mutual funds and institutions. Investment managers tended to
   use their desktop computers for automatically monitoring the market
   prices and selling or buying when their private target price was met.
   Their modems or network cards, however, would report busy signals
   (thanks to the virus), wait a minute and try again - and succeed, when
   the right time came. Most orders would get through without any
   synchronization occurring - it would just be those orders which
   chanced to be initiated in the 15 minutes or so before the magic
   minute that were delayed and synchronized. And then only for one
   particular stock, out of thousands.
   I DECIDED TO GET UP and stretch. But I realized that I'd have to carry
   the laptop with me, given all it contained. There had been enough time
   for someone to get a seat on the flight and follow me, so I carefully
   scanned faces as I walked down the aisle.
   I'm sure that the cabin attendant who saw me take a laptop into the
   restroom probably thought that I was going to recharge it from the
   electric razor outlet, one of the reasons why some passengers don't
   come out again for a half hour. But I was speedy.
   When I got back to my seat and stopped thinking about the faces I'd
   seen, I was struck by the genius of the market manipulation scheme.
   What would look like a minor bug in an individual computer, maybe not
   even worth fixing, could have this enormous effect because of
   synchronization of many computers. And it wouldn't take all the
   computers transmitting orders, but only a fraction of them. If the
   parasiters were to buy ten minutes before the magic minute and sell
   immediately after the two-point rise, it could add up to real money in
   short order. They could make money on the downside too, synchronizing
   sell orders and covering their short sales at the artificially-lowered
   prices. By playing the options, they could increase their leverage and
   their profits.
   LUNCH ARRIVED, and I closed up my laptop, stashing it under my feet.
   Different flight attendant, also a young man. But not as interesting.
   Even if there was no synchronizing virus already, the club was worried
   about the possibility of one. Some group could make a lot of money at
   other people's expense by using these software parasites - which,
   individually, did very little.
   It required a conspiracy of parasites to have an effect via
   synchronization. What it required was a zeitgeber, a time signal that
   serves to synchronize many different things. A virus could simply
   monitor the stock ticker wire each morning when the exchange opened,
   and select the 11th and 23rd stock trade to come down the wire,
   whatever they happened to be, and measure the time in seconds that
   elapsed between those trades. Then, for that day only, the 11th stock
   - say, XYZ - would be the one held back to a time calculated from the
   interval between the 11th and 23rd trades. The parasiters, having
   watched the wire themselves, would know which stock to buy and sell
   themselves, and when to time their trades.
   When I returned to reading the old files, while munching on an
   excellent Kosher dill pickle, I found an example of a holding-back
   procedure. In the particular case they were discussing, what it meant
   was that sell orders for stock XYZ were unaffected most of the time -
   but if they were placed between 27 and 42 minutes after the hour, they
   would be delayed until 43 minutes after the hour. The target time was
   43 minutes after the hour because, that morning, the time elapsed
   between the 11th and 23rd trades had been 43 seconds.
   If anyone tried to chase down the puzzling busy signals, the analysis
   pointed out, they'd promptly stop happening - because tomorrow it
   would be different stocks, probably ones that this person didn't buy
   or sell. If the person was so suspicious as to immediately try it
   again with another sell order for XYZ, there would be no delay because
   the second order wasn't given in that critical 15 minutes before the
   magic minute.
   When the plane started its descent into West Palm, I turned off my
   laptop and sat back to rest my eyes. Scattered showers were predicted,
   with bumps on the way down, but I always keep my seatbelt snug anyway.
   Being used to small planes, I never mind the bumps. Some sleep would
   have been nice. But after no more than ten minutes, I opened my eyes
   and looked out the window. Puget Sound, it wasn't. There were puffy
   little Gulf Stream clouds, sailing along like bubbles blown out of a
   bubble machine I was pleased with myself, I realized; I understood far
   more about Max's involvements than I had 12 hours before.
   Suppose, I wondered, Black Friday was just because someone got greedy
   and tried to synchronize many more sell orders than usual? Pushed so
   hard on the downside that they caused a real panic sell off by others?
   And so acquired an embarrassment of riches, that could lead
   investigators to them?
   AS SOON AS I CAME out of the jetway and saw the people at the gate who
   were greeting the passengers arriving on my flight, I noticed a sign
   saying kate + andre in green block letters. The young man holding it
   was wearing a uniform of some sort.
   Fire department. He made eye contact and held it. Do I know him? About
   my age, I thought - tall, dark moustache, slender build,
   competent-looking. Smiles with his eyes. Nisei? No, closer to
   Chinese-American. I walked over to him.
   "I'm not sure if I'm the Kate you're looking for," I said. "The Andre
   I correspond with is pretty gruff and abrupt. Couldn't possibly be
   He had an infectious grin, too. "That's my father. But never mind his
   bark - he's just worried these days. You're the Kate that feeds the
   "Only when Max is away." I noticed that his uniform had a paramedic
   shoulder patch.
   "So, what's the name of the other cat?" He emphasized "other" ever so
   slightly, speaking softly.
   "Max always calls him Siam. But he's only part Siamese," I explained.
   That grin again. And the soft voice. "And not smart enough to open
   cabinets and feed himself. Do I pass?"
   I smiled and shook hands with him.
   "Pleased to meet you, Kate Medici. I'm Doug Chen. I'll take you to
   your hotel and we can talk on the way."
   We walked down the long corridor toward the escalators, me towing my
   suitcase and computer purse, using my belt phone to check my voicemail
   at home. Nothing. I punched it off and asked Doug if he had any news
   of Max.
   No, he hadn't. He, too, had considered illness, even kidnapping and
   murder. He'd been investigating for days already, even before the
   sailboat was found. It was a long story, which he'd tell me all about
   in private, but the bottom line was "no trace." He steered me toward
   the parking lot signs. I wasn't sure whether an ambulance was going to
   be awaiting me or a car.
   The Gulf Stream heat and humidity hit me as we walked through the
   sliding doors. The scattered showers we'd dodged while landing had
   disappeared but left the roads wet. Steam was rising from the
   pavement. "Back to the land of year-round air-conditioning," I
   commented, figuring that a little social conversation was in order,
   "and air that you can almost drink. It may rain a lot in Seattle, but
   it never has high humidity. Only high relative humidity."
   "You've been to Palm Beach before, I see."
   "Not for a while now. Just a spring vacation in college, thanks to a
   friend whose parents had a place here."
   I was pleased that, despite my sleepy state at 5:30am, I had managed
   to plan ahead for the sticky heat. I had remembered to put on a
   sleeveless top. And so I took off my jacket and tossed it over my
   "Hmm," said Doug, with an appraising glance. "Skinny but strong, I
   see. Hand weights or a machine?"
   "Hand weights, of course. But I didn't think it showed."
   "Oh, if you had a little more subcutaneous fat, those well-developed
   biceps probably wouldn't show," Doug replied, with a self-conscious
   grin. "I'd better explain. When I wanted to join the fire department,
   I had to start working out at the gym because I'm on the slender side,
   as firemen go. And I couldn't believe those fifteen pound weights that
   some women were lifting with one hand for a dozen reps - because they
   didn't look strong."
   "I stick to ten pounds, myself. For most exercises."
   "And then," Doug continued, "in my training class of fire department
   recruits, a third were women - and I couldn't guess how much weight
   that they could carry up a ladder, even though the instructors could.
   Gradually, I got a lot better at noticing little things."
   I guessed the rest. "Like how the sub-Q fat disguises the muscle
   underneath. That's interesting. When did you become a fireman?"
   "A few years ago, when I got out of the Navy, determined to become a
   "You were a corpsman - or what ever they call the medics these days?"
   "No, I was an electronic systems specialist," Doug said. "I joined
   when I was 18 for what turned out to be a four-year hitch. But I once
   saved a friend's life by CPR when he got electrocuted - and that
   impressed me a lot. Then, I started hanging out with the medics on the
   carrier, got myself the assignment of doing the hardware and software
   maintenance on their scanners. Turn that way," he said, pointing.
   "And one of the docs," he continued, "taught an informal course for
   anyone interested. The more I learned about how the body works, the
   more I wanted to become a paramedic when I got out of the Navy. But in
   most places, you have to become a fire fighter first - and then, if
   you're both lucky and get good job evaluations after a year's
   experience on the fire trucks, the department will arrange for your
   paramedic training at a regional hospital or medical school."
   He stopped at a Volvo and unlocked the trunk. I was already picking up
   my suitcase by the time he turned around to offer.
   "You know how to bend from the knees, I see," he commented, as I
   deposited the suitcase in the trunk, alongside some heavy-duty
   aluminum camera cases. "Any time you want lessons in the fireman's
   carry, just let me know. I can have you carrying 200 pound people in
   no time at all."
   I hope that I won't have to carry Max, I thought, soberly. Forcing my
   mind back to the present, I appraised the car, a white four-door sedan
   several years old with New York license plates. "And here I thought
   you were going to give me a ride in an ambulance. But this looks
   "Actually, you can have it - the car, I mean. That is, if you don't
   want to rent something different. I borrowed this one when I got down
   here a few days ago - I was up in Boston until then. If you want the
   Volvo, Dad has fixed it with the guy that owns it - he's in New York
   and won't be back down until Thanksgiving. I'm staying in his
   apartment, too. Pretty posh for a fireman."
   "What were you doing in Boston?"
   "Going to medical school. I was a somewhat belated undergraduate." Ah,
   that explained some things. I automatically registered that he must be
   several years younger than I am.
   "Fortunately, I'm doing research this term, not taking any regular
   courses. When Max stopped answering his e-mail despite Black Friday,
   my father phoned up, more upset than I've heard him before, and
   twisted my arm - to come back down here and start searching."
   "So, how come the uniform?" I asked, opening the passenger door after
   hearing the electric lock click.
   "Oh, I'm actually back at my old job, in some sense," he said,
   buckling his seatbelt. "I used to work full-time for the Palm Beach
   Fire Department, you see, back before I finally went to college -
   that's why Dad leaned on me so hard, despite the police working on it,
   and despite the private detectives he's hired. I knew the paramedic
   supervisor would take me back for part-time work on the medic vans in
   this season."
   He gestured at the packed parking lot. "Despite what you see now, Palm
   Beach is pretty dead in the summers. Whole floors of a condo may have
   no one around. So, they start putting on extra paramedic crews in
   October and November, when people start returning. When I was an
   undergraduate, I used to regularly work several months a year, down
   here. Now, I'm just on call - I cover for anyone who gets sick or has
   to go to a training class. So I wear my uniform all the time and wait
   for my belt phone to rumble."
   Doug started the engine. "And it makes a good cover, for someone who
   has to go around asking a lot of questions. I just carry a clipboard
   computer, as if I were doing building inspections, and that gets me
   past a doorman that I don't know. Lots of the doormen and supers and
   hotel people remember me, back from the days when I really was doing
   inspections - or barging in and commandeering their elevators for the
   medic calls."
   I admired the technique. He was doing far better than I could have
   hoped to do. "But you've had no luck? No sign of Max?"
   "Vanished without a trace," Doug said, shaking his head. "I've drank a
   lot of bad coffee and suffered with a lot of cigarette smoke in shabby
   staff offices back in the service corridors, chatting with people
   about old times and recent happenings. And I have almost nothing to
   show for it, except for eliminating some possibilities. I've learned
   some other things, but nothing about Max's disappearance."
   My disappointment must have showed. "Dad really wasn't holding out on
   you," he continued, "about news of Max, anyway. I read your e-mail
   exchanges and heard the tapes of his conversations with you. Yes, he
   wasn't telling you much about the club - I didn't know much about it
   until this week myself, except for giving some cryptography advice
   several months ago. I've been told that I can tell you everything I
   know - but, I suspect, we're going to need to pry some more
   information out of Dad and his buddies. I'm still not sure what Max
   and Dad were so concerned about, that led to Max coming down here.
   It's still pretty much on a `need to know' basis and not a candid
   background briefing, if you know what I mean."
   I did indeed, remembering my violent reaction yesterday to Andre's
   backing off and hanging up. It still rankled, and I was still
   suspicious of Andre.
   Doug stopped at the parking lot's exit gate and swiped his credit card
   through the slot. The barrier went up and we drove out onto the
   freeway lined with palm trees, angling around the end of the major
   east-west runway as another jet landed. I turned down his offer to
   start the air-conditioning and we drove along, smelling the humid,
   flowery air.
   "Max," Doug said after the jet's roar died down, "used to visit my Dad
   and my step-mother at their place on Cape Cod, back before I rebelled
   over going to college and joined the Navy instead. I once went hiking
   with Max, on the Wonderland Trail around Mount Rainier, when my ship
   was docked in Seattle for a few days. Max's just the kind of guy that
   you'd like to have for a favorite uncle that visits every weekend. And
   goes out sailing with you."
   "My sentiments exactly," I said, emotion flooding into my eyes. "Max
   and I have split a duplex for years now. And I can't imagine a world
   without him."
   THE DRAWBRIDGE WAS UP on Southern Boulevard, so Doug turned off the
   engine and we waited amid the dozen people lining the causeway's
   sidewalks with fishing poles and bait buckets. "This is the inland
   waterway," Doug said, mimicking tour guide intonation, "separating the
   mainland from the long off-shore islands. It is properly called the
   Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway." He grinned at me. "But I suppose you
   know that already."
   I nodded. I'd been absorbed in thinking about Max, grieving as I had
   promised myself not to do. "The waterway becomes Lake Worth to the
   south of here?" I asked, forcing myself to make conversation.
   "Right. Misnamed, of course. It's not a lake any more than Puget Sound
   is a sound. Go up north from here along the waterway and you'll see
   West Palm Beach on the left, port and all. And, on the right, you'll
   see the oldest, richest part of The Palm Beach, with its little yacht
   "That's all Palm Beach on the other side of the bridge?"
   "Fourteen miles long, but no more than a half mile wide. Typical
   barrier island. Just think of Palm Beach as a long, skinny castle with
   a moat around it. There are only a few drawbridges from the mainland
   spanning the moat. I suppose, coming from Seattle, that you know all
   about drawbridges. And waiting for boats to clear them."
   "And vice versa," I said with a grimace. "Last night, I had to sit in
   my sailboat, getting chilled to the bone, while waiting for a
   drawbridge to finally respond to my air horn. Turned out it was
   waiting for a medic van to come zipping through, so I couldn't even
   complain. I suppose that you do the same down here, radio ahead to the
   bridge tender?"
   "We just phone - the numbers are preprogrammed so we have a button on
   the cellular phone, one for each bridge. Sorry that you got chilled.
   But I can't imagine you forgetting your sweater. That seems unlike
   you," Doug said with that infectious smile.
   I shrugged, not wanting to get into the subject of what else I'd been
   missing. I was puzzling over that "seems unlike you," since he'd never
   met me before. He was acting rather familiar, I thought. Approach
   technique? Or just someone with a real intuitive capacity for
   friendship? Has he read Max's loving description of me in that e-mail
   to Andre? I was afloat in ambiguity, and fatigued enough so that it
   "Or are you one of those redheads that isn't very sensitive to skin
   temperature. And so rarely gets chilled?" Doug asked.
   I've only got one triangular patch of hair that's reddish. How does he
   know about it? I immediately wondered, even more disoriented, my heart
   rate rising. I'd heard people joke about how thorough background
   checks had become. Who did they talk to, anyway?
   I looked sideways at Doug, trying not to give away my feelings of
   anger and puzzlement. But he was gazing up the waterway at the
   approaching tugboat. It wasn't a working tug, I saw, as it was
   sporting deck chairs and a polished teak stairway to the pilot house.
   And decorative sunbathers, wearing very little.
   "You must be looking at the world through rose-colored glasses," I
   finally answered in a light tone of voice, patting my short hair. "It
   was brown, the last time I looked. Always has been."
   "Oh, it still is," Doug smiled. "But not all redheads - at least the
   category that doctors call redheads - have red hair. There are
   I raised one eyebrow in inquiry.
   "It's the pattern of your freckles that tells me you're one," he
   explained with a grin, "not your curly brown locks. Such as those
   freckles that I can see down on your shoulders. Apparently some
   redheads can be a little idiosyncratic in sensing temperature or
   feeling pain. So I'm told. That's why I asked."
   The bridge deck was angling back down toward the horizontal, and the
   drivers ahead who had left their cars were beginning to return.
   "So, where's this hotel of mine?" I asked, relieved at his explanation
   but still wanting to change the subject. "The Sunrise Hotel where Max
   stayed. I thought that I'd stay there, just to try and figure out why
   Max would have picked it."
   "It's several miles south of here. I checked it out, first thing I
   did. I know the manager and, it turned out, the housekeeping
   supervisor. I checked what they told me against what they told the
   cops - several sets of them, since some guy from the Lantana P.D. came
   over, too. I got a friend in the Palm Beach P.D. to show me the report
   of the investigation, where they interviewed everybody at the hotel."
   Doug started to inch the car forward. "I actually found out somewhat
   more than the cops did, but none of it seems useful - except to
   reinforce my suspicion that Max wouldn't have liked the hotel. It's
   certainly a dump, as Palm Beach hotels go these days. Some developer
   will tear it down pretty soon, build some new palace with a modem jack
   in every phone and TVs in every bathroom."
   "I thought that it looked like a dump," I said, "just from the picture
   postcard that Max sent me."
   "You are, by the way, also welcome to the other bedroom at the condo
   I'm house-sitting. The place has got three bedrooms, one furnished as
   a library. Big place, as apartments go. If we want to set up some
   major computers or comm gear, it's got the spread-out space - plus a
   south-facing deck, so we can hit a geostationary satellite with a
   small dish antenna."
   I'm used to sharing apartments from college days, but I was unhappy
   about all the mixed signals - certainly from Andre and now, seemingly,
   from Doug. But before I could decline the invitation, Doug pointed to
   the flock of pelicans flying in formation down the waterway. One, and
   then another, dipped down to cruise just above the water's surface,
   trolling for foolish fish.
   "Did you ever hear the pelican rhyme?" he asked.
     A remarkable bird is the pelican
     His mouth can hold more than his belly can
     He can hold in his beak
     Enough food for a week
     And I'm damned if I know how the hell he can.
   I smiled. And relaxed a bit.
   "Oh," he continued, "I forgot to mention that the apartment has even
   got a medium-capacity net connection, rather than the usual modem
   jack. My laptop suddenly works at blazing speeds."
   A T1 connection in Palm Beach? That seemed as improbable to me as,
   say, a Seattle-style sidewalk espresso stand amid the fishermen on the
   bridge. There are plenty of ISDNs and some T1's back home in
   latteland, but it's also the land of software, full of people who like
   to work at home rather than commuting across the floating bridges.
   "What I was going to suggest we do now," he said as we rumbled over
   the bridge's grated deck, "is to stop by the fire station, so I can
   see what the prospects are for getting called tomorrow. Then I propose
   we get dinner at a fish place down in Manalapan, one that's got some
   quiet booths in the back where we can talk. It's one of those places
   that gives you an old beeper to notify you when your table is about
   ready, so you can go and walk on the beach in the meantime."
   I LOOKED OVER the street map of Palm Beach and the adjacent mainland
   towns while Doug was inside the fire station. I noted with approval
   that it was one of the good maps with latitude and longitude, to match
   up with the GPS readouts. I checked my belt phone's display,
   26DEG42'00.7"N, 80DEG02'08.7"W, 0H, and scanned the fold-up map until
   I located myself. Thank you, triangulation satellites.
   So, I was at the central fire station on South County Road - and the
   famous Worth Avenue was just to the north of there, a street worth of
   Cartier, Tiffany, Hermes, and Vuitton. I remembered that I needed a
   new windbreaker to replace the sunken one, but suspected that Worth
   Avenue didn't have real ones, only fashionable imitations at four
   times the price and half the waterproofing. I resolved to phone the
   mail-order place back in Seattle and get a new jacket expressed to me
   Do it now, I told myself. I pulled out my laptop, activated the
   infrared link to my belt phone, and browsed the clothing catalog on
   the web at www.rec-eq.com to look at wind breakers. I highlighted a
   model, used a macro to supply my bank card information, and then was
   faced with the problem of a delivery address. I finally spotted the
   HOLD FOR PICKUP button and clicked on it, then checked for Palm Beach
   locations. None - Palm Beach is too expensive for storefront
   operations, probably. But the server supplied West Palm and Lake Worth
   as alternatives and, my memory recently jogged (Lake Worth is also the
   name of the town south of West Palm), I decided that Lake Worth would
   do. Overnight, thank you. Remember to bring photo identification, it
   said, when you pick up your merchandise.
   I was beginning to remember Palm Beach. Lots of tile and stucco in
   various arrangements, straight out of the pages of Architectural
   Digest. Closely-trimmed grass and palm trees that looked as if they'd
   been around quite a while, with careful pruning and cleanout once a
   year. Decorating, design, landscaping and entertaining are taken quite
   seriously around here. Landscape maintenance and security guards were
   the town's most visible service industries, though I suspected that
   hairdressers and tax accountants also did quite well. I saw very few
   children, except for those in rental cars. The last time I visited,
   Cadillac and Lincoln were clearly the favorite cars driven by
   residents, and about the only foreign cars were Mercedes and the
   occasional Rolls. This time, Lexus and Volvo appeared to have become
   acceptable alternatives - and the odd red BMW. But rental cars of the
   rapidly-aging "disposable" brands were sometimes half of the cars
   stopped for a red light.
   While there were imitations of Mediterranean architecture everywhere,
   no one could possibly imagine that they were in Europe, even on the
   more architecturally coherent streets. Looking at the map again, I
   spotted The Breakers, the big Italian Renaissance style resort hotel
   to the north of Worth Avenue. I remembered visiting it earlier, simply
   because its exterior was a copy of the Medici villa in Tuscany, and
   deciding that it obviously needed surrounding hills in order to look
   right. Palm Beach is very flat, very un-Mediterranean.
   Hotels. Despite the ambiguity of the situation, I had subconsciously
   decided to put off Max's hotel for awhile and stay at Doug's borrowed
   condo. We simply had too much to talk about, and my comfort really had
   to be secondary. And that T1 net connection will make life much
   easier, I thought, when it comes to net surfing. I have a T1 back in
   Seattle, shared with Max, and am always uttering long resigned sighs
   when I have to use the conventional modem jacks. As I was doing on the
   airplane, before breakfast.
   I heard the fire station's doors open behind me and the old-fashioned
   bong of the fire bell inside the station. Doug had explained what to
   do if that happened. So, I climbed over to the driver's seat (sure was
   a lot easier without a life jacket), started the car, and pulled out
   into the street, the traffic already halted by the fire signal
   overhead. By the time that I had driven around the oddly-shaped block,
   the fire engine and a medic van were far down the street, snaking
   around stopped traffic.
   The station doors were closed again, so I again idled the Volvo where
   Doug left it, in the no-parking zone in front of the fire station
   Doug appeared with a cheerful fireman at the side door of the station,
   said a few words in parting and they waved goodbye to one another.
   Doug climbed in on the passenger side. "Well, well, well," he said,
   smiling. "My ex-wife has just become an instant mother, a brand-new
   baby without nine months of hard labor. They've just successfully
   adopted. That was her new husband, seeing me off. Hadn't run into him
   until now."
   I wanted to observe him, but he gestured me to drive south, and so I
   slipped into the next gap in the long line of cars driving down South
   County Road.
   "So, I'll probably get a phone call from Janice," Doug continued,
   ruefully, "wondering why I didn't tell her that I was back in town.
   And she'll surely ask me about that beautiful redhead who was seen
   driving me around town in a Volvo."
   "They're going to think I'm a redhead too?" My suspicions were
   starting to resurface. I really was stressed.
   "Oops, sorry. Brown-haired crypto-redhead. Stay left at that next
   intersection," Doug said, pointing. "Wanting a family is one of the
   reasons that Janice didn't come with me to Boston a half-dozen years
   ago. The prospect of me being an undergraduate for a few years, then
   spending four years in med school, then at least four years of
   residency training without even a paramedic's sort of salary - it
   rather conflicted with what Janice wanted out of life. So, we parted
   friends and visit on the phone every so often. I'll have to go see
   this baby before leaving Florida, if we ever get any free time."
   Doug picked up his belt phone and punched a few numbers. Now, that's
   an interesting side of him, I thought. Is he phoning Janice?
   Restaurant reservations. And very specific about which booth he
   wanted. An hour from now? Fine with me, I nodded. Doug isn't really
   like his father, I thought. I was relieved.
   So, Andre lives on Cape Cod, I thought as we drove along the Atlantic
   Ocean waterfront. On the net, you often don't know where people are
   located - they can be anywhere, and a cozy three-way chat session
   around the virtual coffee table could, in reality, involve people in
   Seattle, New York, and Amsterdam. Probably because of the surname, I'd
   just assumed that Andre was somewhere on the West Coast. I wasn't
   applying New England standards to our discourse. Maybe I misunderstood
   him at some point. I certainly made enough other stupid mistakes
   yesterday. What, six of them? And what was Paul Goodman's definition
   of stupid that I was relating to Max in e-mail? Where the ego gets in
   the way of reacting to a novel situation? Too much self confidence
   might qualify.
   It was getting difficult to maintain my suspicion of Andre and Doug,
   though I tried to remind myself that they might have been responsible
   for Max's disappearance themselves. For the next day, certainly, I was
   surely better off sticking around Doug and learning all he knew. And
   he was certainly one of the most interesting men I'd met in ages.
   THE ATLANTIC OCEAN BEACHES are a little different from the Pacific
   Ocean beaches. They have bluish-purple jellyfish washed up on the
   shore, with their poisonous tendrils often buried in nearby sand, so
   Doug advised me to watch carefully where I stepped. Since the light
   was starting to fail, I decided I'd leave my shoes and socks on.
   Doug opened the trunk in the parking lot and striped off his uniform
   shirt, donned a dress shirt but omitted a tie, draped a sport coat
   over his shoulder. I tossed my computer purse into the trunk.
   "Oops," Doug said. "If there's sensitive stuff inside that computer,
   you'd better keep it with you at all times."
   "I must be a little tired," I replied, retrieving my purse, "to make
   mistakes like that." I dug Max's hard disk out of my suitcase and
   stuck it in the outer pocket of the computer purse. I occurred to me
   that Andre had disconnected yesterday before I could tell him about
   the burglar, so I decided to tell Doug the story when we got to the
   We walked across the parking lot toward the ocean. "Don't you have to
   check in at the restaurant and collect their antique beeper?" I asked
   "No, they said they'd phone instead," he replied. "Snagged my belt
   phone number from their who's-calling display. They've upgraded their
   queuing technology! But they'll never actually eliminate the wait -
   people around here would think them unsuccessful, and stop coming."
   At the top of the stairs to the beach, I sniffed the air. "Sure does
   smell different than the Pacific."
   "That's because of the water temperature, I think," Doug said. "The
   Gulf Stream is just a few miles off shore, and that's much warmer
   water than anything along the West Coast. Warm water heats up the air
   above it, and that makes it possible for a lot of moisture to
   evaporate into the air. Hence, our humidity hereabouts, most unlike
   "So, that's why the Atlantic beaches smell a lot more like my shower
   stall at home than the Pacific beaches do. Now I know."
   We walked north along the shore. The tide was out and the sand was
   still damp and firmly packed. I noticed that Doug was frowning and
   cocked an eyebrow toward him.
   "I just realized," he explained, "that I potentially contaminated our
   booth at the restaurant. Since I used the cellular phone to make the
   reservation, someone who monitored the frequencies could bug the
   booth. Damn. So, we'll have to avoid talking business when we get
   there and just enjoy the good food."
   "Just being cautious," I asked, glancing at him with both eyebrows
   raised, "or do you think we'll be subject to surveillance?"
   "Dad has gotten ultra cautious in the last month or so - that's what
   he originally consulted me about, redoing the encryption that they
   were using among the club members on e-mail and for their occasional
   conference phone calls."
   "Ah," I exclaimed with enlightenment, "that's why I couldn't break the
   cipher in Max's files anymore. Can't read his last month of
   correspondence, though I figured out the DES key for the three months
   before that."
   "Yes, I showed Dad how easily that was done, which certainly dismayed
   him. But the real reason why he wanted a new cipher setup is so they
   weren't all using the same ciphers, so they could send private e-mail
   which, even if intercepted, couldn't be read by another club member."
   "Good idea in general, but I gather your father was worried about a
   leak - via one of the members?"
   "He won't say it out loud, but that's my impression. And when Max
   disappeared, despite the compartmentalized security in place, Dad
   probably started worrying that it's more than just a leak."
   "That one of the members is working against the club?"
   "Again, Dad isn't saying and maybe I'm stretching - but that's the
   assumption that I'm now going on. Most of the people in the club, and
   certainly the people they're trying to smoke out, have enough money to
   hire all the help they need. Keeping track of us might be one of their
   "So, how many members of the club know about you and me? Did your
   father tell them?"
   "That's one of the reasons he's been so conflicted about bringing you
   in to this. At least with me it was literally en famile, something
   like telling his wife. But I think that he hasn't told anyone about
   either you or me. He's probably breaking solemn commitments right and
   left, by telling us about things. I had to push him to let me read his
   correspondence - which I'm allowed to show you, by the way. He's
   awfully impressed by you."
   "Or pretty desperate. So, almost no one should know what we're up to?
   No, I suppose that isn't right. We're both logical people to turn to -
   lots of people could deduce that, and just decide to keep track of us
   on general principles." I stepped high over a rope that defined a
   swimming area.
   Speaking of that, I said, I caught a burglar the other night who might
   well describe me to his employers. It took longer to tell the story
   than the few minutes it had taken to happen.
   Doug whistled softly when I finished. "Remind me to take you along as
   a bodyguard when I go shopping in Miami again. It's one big training
   school for the Mob. So, do you think that the Mob will retaliate
   against you?"
   "The deputy prosecutor did suggest that I should be careful. But when
   I'm not in Seattle, I'm not easily found. So I'm trying not to worry.
   Max is quite enough to worry about."
   "Still," Doug ventured, "we'd better assume that they'll eventually
   figure out that you're down here somewhere. Wouldn't take a genius to
   guess that you went where Max was last seen."
   We walked along in silence, and I soon noticed some birds overhead.
   "Are those turkey vultures, circling around?" I asked, happy to change
   the topic.
   "Probably black vultures. I've sometimes seen a hundred vultures at a
   time, circling over the Lawn and Tennis Club."
   "Is that a comment on the decrepitude of their members?"
   "Nope. Vultures are gregarious beasts. You seldom see less than three
   of them at a time - just like golfers. Some of the vultures roost in a
   park just behind the southern fire station. I used to watch them with
   binoculars as they socialized at dawn."
   I heard Doug's belt phone rumble. He unclipped it from his belt buckle
   and answered. "Chen here.... Okay, we'll show up in ten minutes if
   there isn't too much tar to clean off the shoes."
   "Ten minute warning. Let's head back. The restaurant is just past the
   parking lot. I hope their foot scrubber is working, since we've
   probably picked up some crude oil."
   "Are there seeps off shore?"
   "No, just oil tankers that illegally flush their tanks."
   "So, what's our security perimeter like, Doug? Can we talk freely in
   the Volvo?"
   "Yes. At least when we're moving in traffic. I'm sweeping the car and
   the apartment several times a day for bugs - there are places down in
   Miami where you can buy military-quality security gear, so I flew into
   Miami, rented a car, went shopping, and drove up here with the loot.
   That's what those cases are, in the Volvo's trunk - they're filled
   with electronics, not cameras. I've got some jamming gear, too."
   "But they're no security against parabolic mikes when the windows are
   down," I observed, "or bouncing lasers off the car windows to pick up
   voice vibrations when we're parked. We're in high noise now - anyone
   up on one of those condo balconies with a fancy mike would get an
   earful of surf at the moment, drowning out our voices. But what have
   you done about your borrowed condo? Don't those windows vibrate with
   voices too? Lasers ought to be pretty good at converting that back
   into speech."
   "I'm keeping most of the steel shutters closed - they need them for
   the hurricane season, and you'll notice that lots of the condo windows
   are still shielded. In order to use the sliding glass door that opens
   to the balcony, I've opened up a doorway's worth of the steel
   shutters. And so I've stuck some chaotic vibrators on the glass door.
   They keep the glass vibrating as if there was a cocktail party going
   on inside. So, it ought to be pretty hard for a laser bounced off the
   glass to pick up our conversations given the superimposed noise - just
   as it would be hard here on the beach, with the surf so near."
   "Well, you've convinced me - actually that T1 line had already
   convinced me - that I'd better stay in your guest bedroom rather than
   at Max's hotel."
   "Sorry, but I've got the guest bedroom. You'll have to make do with
   the master bedroom - it's even got a balcony door with chaotic
   vibrators, in case you happen to talk in your sleep. I was hoping
   you'd stay at the apartment, as we've got one hell of a lot to talk
   about. So, dinner tonight is going to be our respite - no business,
   only entertaining stories or meaningful silences."
   DOUG HAD GUESSED, when I'd gotten all withdrawn after dinner, that I
   was thinking about Max again, just as I'd done earlier on the drive
   from the airport.
   Doug had also figured out that I'd had a very tiring three days, that
   it wasn't just jet lag. Upon arriving at the condo at about nine
   o'clock, I'd immediately wanted to discuss the apartment's security
   gear and the computer he'd set up - but he had firmly steered me to
   the master bedroom and said he'd explain it all in the morning. Or the
   afternoon, if I wanted to catch up on my sleep. If he was called out
   by the Fire Department in the morning, I'd have to make my own
   breakfast - and the good coffee was to be found in the refrigerator. I
   crashed and didn't awaken until many hours later.
   I'd gotten tired of the air-conditioning in the middle of the night
   and opened the door to the balcony. The outside air seemed a
   reasonable temperature but, an hour later, the rise in the humidity
   caused me to dispense with the top sheet. I remembered, from my
   previous visit, how sticky a nightgown had seemed - but I didn't have
   that problem this time, thanks to the burglar. With dawn approaching,
   I was still awake.
   Doug is probably a very nice man, I finally decided, as I laid in bed
   with a Gulf Stream breeze blowing across me. I got up and stood nude
   in the doorway, looking out at the first signs of the sunrise in the
   southeast, somewhere beyond the Gulf Stream. Over in The Bahamas.
   The dawn breeze cooled me, relieving some of the tropical stickiness.
   Then I decided that I'd sleep just a little longer.
   IT WAS NOON when, clad in a light robe, I finally opened the door out
   into the air-conditioned living room, which was 20 degrees cooler. I
   had smelled coffee, lying in bed. With the door open, it smelt like
   particularly good coffee. Can there be espresso in Florida now?
   "Good morning, Kate," Doug said. He was back in uniform. "I thought
   that I heard sounds of activity in there, so I started breakfast. I
   don't know if this local coffee is going to be up to your Seattle
   standards, but since the apartment comes with an espresso machine, I
   went shopping when I got off duty and brought back the fixings for
   latte. Or do you prefer it made as cappucino?"
   "Oh, wonderful! A double short latte, if you please," I said, looking
   into the kitchen. "You've been making medic runs all morning?"
   "Yes, just a half-shift. Someone went home with the flu, which seems
   to be starting early this year. I've now told them to put me at the
   bottom of the call list for the next few days, so I probably won't get
   called again."
   "I hope you didn't squeeze that whole pitcher of orange juice. Or go
   out and pick the oranges off the trees."
   "Those ornamental oranges are terrible," Doug said. "I picked up the
   fresh orange juice at the deli, along with the pastry and the coffee
   beans. The really good local oranges don't come into season until
   about January. The only use that I've found for the oranges off the
   landscaping trees is for juggling - they're about the right heft."
   I poked around the kitchen, opening cabinets, and surveying the
   situation. I poured myself a large glass of juice. "Well, we can
   certainly cook a five-course meal if we need to. Does this place come
   with The New York Times delivered to the door?"
   "I've seen it outside other doors in the mornings. I've just been
   buying it at the deli - though they were sold out by the time that I
   got there this morning. The newsstand at the Ocean Grand will have it,
   across the street and down a ways."
   "Today, I'll just read the Washington Post on the net. But usually I
   try not to read off the screen while eating breakfast, on the grounds
   that I spend so much of the rest of the day staring at a screen."
   I looked around the apartment. A long combination living room and
   dining room, with three bedrooms and the kitchen opening off it. Plate
   glass windows with sliding doors formed all of one wall. We were on
   the sixth floor, evidently the top one.
   I slid the door back and wandered out on to the balcony. The balcony
   was a long one, wrapping around a corner of the building, with views
   of the ocean from the south end. Lake Worth and the mainland was the
   view from the western leg of the balcony. Ficus and bougainvillea
   lined the dividing wall of the balcony, masking us off from the
   neighbor's balcony. Comfortable wicker lawn furniture, minus cushions,
   suggested some nice places to sit and read. I promised myself to look
   around for the missing cushions.
   As I stood on the south end, looking across the street to the "ocean
   side," I saw some patchy rain clouds scudding past, but the pavement
   was dry everywhere that I could see. It was definitely
   shorts-and-sleeveless weather. Quite suitable for a bikini.
   Doug stepped out onto the balcony and handed me one of the latte cups.
   "Here's your double. Is that your standard order, or is today
   "Today's definitely special, but I usually have doubles in the
   morning. Never in the evenings. Hmmm. That's pretty good latte. You
   must be in practice."
   "Boston has Seattle-style coffee shops these days, and they're a
   considerable improvement on some of the traditional ones off Harvard
   Square. There are even sidewalk espresso carts in the Harvard Square T
   stop. I had to bring my apartment's kitchen up to standard. And, if I
   don't make coffee before leaving the apartment, I sometimes get off at
   Harvard Square, grab a latte, and then get back on the next subway
   "To think that good Italian-style coffee came to Seattle long before
   it came to Boston!"
   Doug grinned. "It ought to be a coals-to-Newcastle story, but it
   isn't. Why did the northernmost city in the United States turn into
   cappucino country, mimicking the southernmost country in Europe?"
   "Nobody knows. Why is it turning into the software capital of the
   world? Nobody knows that, either," I said, enjoying his company.
   He noticed some large birds circling overhead, wobbling on stiff
   wings. "More vultures, trying to find a thermal to ride."
   "Well," I announced, "now fortified with the right stuff, I am going
   to go and get dressed, start the afternoon right. I suppose that I
   should wear my working bikini, rather than my dress bikini."
   Actually, I put on a dress. I was still a little intimidated of Palm
   DOUG POINTED AT THE CONTROLS for the home security system just inside
   the front door. "The usual annoy-the-neighbors piece of junk, based on
   ultrasound and door switches and that idiot siren. I propose we use it
   anyway, but I'm mostly worried about knowing that someone has broken
   in and looked around, so we'll know what's compromised."
   "Yes," I agreed, "especially whether they've gotten inside the
   computers. How are we fixed for telltales? Besides, of course, the
   collection adhering to my hairbrush - that we can stick to the doors
   and keyboards."
   "I went shopping - again, in Miami, where all the South Americans shop
   for security gear - and bought two new computers equipped with
   autodestruct hard drives, the ones that require a special password,
   and spray a corrosive acid on the hard disk surfaces if someone takes
   an unauthorized screwdriver to their case. I arrived at the store
   unannounced, paid cash, and selected them from their warehouse stack
   myself. Got a few autodestruct hard drives of the size that fit the
   usual laptop slots, and have already retrofitted my own laptop."
   "I've always wanted one of those, ever since the ads started
   appearing," I grinned.
   "Now you've got several. I've only set up one desktop, so far, but
   I've checked out whether the electromagnetic shielding works as
   advertised. It's pretty good, even without our steel shutters for
   another layer of shielding. I don't think anyone will be able to read
   decoded messages off our screens, the way you can pick off the stuff
   broadcast by the usual monitors and reconstruct the display in a van
   parked out in the alley."
   "You learned all about that in the Navy?" I asked.
   "Yes. We had to shield stuff anyway, to keep the different systems
   from interfering with each other. Those boxes in the hallway contain a
   second computer, just like this one, if you want to set up a separate
   one for yourself. Just be sure everything is properly grounded, and
   don't read anything sensitive on the second monitor until I can check
   out how much it broadcasts."
   "Did you get some of those fancy firewall arrangements, for the net
   "But of course, madame - as they say up on Worth Avenue," Doug
   grinned. "Nothing but the best. Or, at least, the quickest. Dad spent
   a little time persuading me that, in these circumstances, time meant a
   lot more than money. He also added an enormous line of credit to my
   bank card. He'll do that for yours, too - he seems to know the number.
   If we need to charter a plane, we do it. If you need an outfit from
   Worth Avenue for a disguise that will help you blend in with the
   locals, you're to go and spend five kilobucks without batting an
   eyelash. If we want to hire a dozen people to help, we do it."
   "So, what we need, I gather, isn't wherewithal but ideas, leads to
   "Yes, and I hope you're good at that," Doug replied, "because I'm
   running out of ideas. And I haven't seen a thing useful in the reports
   from the people that Dad has hired."
   "That's too bad."
   "Yes. So, let me bring you up to date - but after we go over the
   security. I want you to know how to secure this place, whether for a
   conversation like this, or because you're going out for a walk." Doug
   tossed me the extra set of keys for the car and the apartment.
   After we secured the apartment, we decided to go out for a drive
   around town, so Doug could show me where Max had stayed, the sailboat
   rental place, and the other places he'd already checked out. Riding
   down the elevator together, I noticed that there was a ground floor
   and a first floor, European (and New York) style. Doug showed me the
   mailboxes and, when the doorman finished signing for a FedEx delivery,
   he introduced me to the middle-aged man in the blue blazer. Doug and I
   managed to imply that my ex-husband was trying to locate me and that I
   didn't want to be found, that we'd appreciate his not answering
   questions from strangers about us. And to please tell us if anyone
   seemed to be hanging around.
   OUT OF SIGHT of the doorman, Doug parked the car in a visitor's slot
   and got out the bug sniffer. He showed me how to check for hidden
   microphones and transmitters.
   Driving south in the afternoon traffic, we started reviewing what we
   "Okay," Doug said. "We don't know that Max's disappearance has
   anything to do with the club's interests, but I can't imagine anything
   else worth investigating. Agreed?"
   "Max didn't have any friends down here that he liked to visit. I
   assume the detective agencies have checked all the hospitals and
   "Right. As did three different police departments."
   "So, I suppose he could have amnesia," I said.
   "That's really pretty rare," Doug replied. "I asked around regarding
   that possibility before I left Boston. I think we can eliminate it. If
   it was just a stroke that severely disoriented him, he'd probably be
   in a hospital by now. Which leaves accidental death - and I gather
   from your e-mail to Dad that Max just isn't the kind of person to make
   a mistake, while out in a boat."
   I nodded. "A stroke or heart attack, followed by drowning, might be
   possible. But I think that kidnapping or murder is the most likely
   thing, and surely what most needs investigating. Nothing else that Max
   was involved in - at least that I know about from reading most of his
   correspondence - seems likely. They're just not important enough for
   someone to risk Class A felonies. I think the club's activities are
   surely the key to Max's disappearance."
   "I set up my computer so that you can read all of Dad's files - you'll
   want to read them even if I summarize them for you. But there is one
   other lead to discuss, which may - or may not - have something to do
   with Max. It's something that I found out this morning."
   "How's that? I thought that you were doing medic van runs."
   "We got a call to the Sunrise Hotel," Doug explained. "It's that old
   building on the ocean side, just in front of us," he said, pointing
   through the windshield. I nodded.
   "We had to go up to the top floor. They're the cheapest rooms, because
   of the heat from the sun on the roof. I was acting as the gofer, while
   the regular paramedics dealt with an acute asthma attack in an elderly
   lady. And so I mostly wound up looking out the window. The apartment
   building next door isn't as tall, so I was looking down on its roof."
   We turned left into a parking lot about that time and I saw both
   buildings ahead of us. Doug pulled into a parking space but left the
   engine (and air-conditioning) running.
   "See that television antenna up there on the roof edge?" he said,
   pointing. "Looks kind of fancy? It's got an antenna rotator that not
   only swings it around, but another one that tilts it up and down."
   "Sounds like a ham radio antenna, for tracking satellites as they pass
   overhead," I said.
   "Exactly. But I know the front end from the back end of those antennas
   - and this one, so help me, was pointing somewhat downward when I
   first saw it. Not up."
   "And here I thought that underground radio stations were a mere figure
   of speech," I quipped.
   Doug laughed. "While I was standing there, trying to figure out why
   anyone would want to point an antenna down, the antenna moved. It
   swung around to point toward our part of Palm Beach. And then the tilt
   changed too. While I stood there watching, that antenna was adjusted
   about five different times. In each case, it seemed to point at a
   different condo complex up north."
   "Suppose someone was trying to connect with the base station of
   portable extension phones? And make long-distance calls at someone
   else's expense?"
   "Could be. There are lots of people down here that use fairly old
   portable phones, the ones with primitive security features. But it
   could also have been someone listening in, not trying to dial out."
   "You'd think that scanners for cellular phone frequencies would be
   easier. And filled with racier gossip."
   "Probably. But there's another possibility," Doug said. "A lot of
   corporate directors spend the winter down here in Palm Beach.
   Eavesdroppers might have to endure listening to a lot of phone calls
   concerning cocktail parties - but somewhere they'll likely find a
   corporate director who wasn't careful when talking on a cordless
   I agreed. "And even if a director is careful not to mention company
   names, the person on the other end of the line might let slip the name
   of a takeover candidate, not realizing that the phone line was
   broadcasting all over Palm Beach."
   "I've heard that speculators pay a lot of money for good tips, where
   they can manage to buy low before the takeover runs up the stock
   "An interesting possibility," I said, "but what's it to do with Max?
   That sounds like penny-ante stuff, at least when compared to
   multi-billion-dollar manipulations, the sort of thing that the club
   seems concerned with."
   "I don't know what it has to do with Max," Doug acknowledged. "But
   it's the first thing that makes the Sunrise Hotel special in any way.
   And Max stayed in a room on the sixth floor that had exactly the same
   view of that antenna next door - you can see it, four windows from the
   near corner. I got a key from the desk and had a look out its window.
   It was about the lousiest room in the whole dumpy hotel. So, your
   instincts were right, Kate."
   "Did Max stay somewhere different, when he first arrived down here?" I
   asked, speculating. "And then move here?"
   "The police checked the hotel registers, but didn't find his name
   anywhere. But that doesn't mean that he didn't do exactly what we're
   doing - borrowing an apartment from a friend. That's what many of the
   tourists down here are doing. You only stay at someplace like the Four
   Seasons if you don't have a friend to visit. Or sublet from."
   "Did Max have any electronic surveillance gear? What did the police
   find in his room?" I asked.
   "Just one suitcase full of the usual. No computer, but I'll bet Max
   always kept it with him."
   "You're right. But just one suitcase doesn't sound like Max, unless he
   was planning on being gone for only a few days. Max likes clothes,
   likes to carry lots of different outfits along. He doesn't mind
   getting a skycap to help him with luggage. Suppose Max was holed up in
   some condo down here, and just took one suitcase over to the Sunrise
   for appearances sake?"
   Oops, I realized. I opened up my laptop and popped over into my
   calendar program. When did I start feeding the cats? Doug watched,
   "Doug," I said, "Max left Seattle, saying he was going to Florida, on
   the 10th of the month. So, surely he was staying elsewhere before
   moving into that hotel." I leaned back in the car seat and lectured
   myself for another blunder. I just assumed that Max had been staying
   at that hotel from the beginning. I forgot to ask that patrolman who
   came to the door about the hotel check-in date, and he forgot to ask
   me about Max's departure date.
   "That's an interesting possibility," Doug said. "Very interesting,
   indeed. There wasn't anything in the police report about checking out
   such a possibility. You've already checked Max's address book for Palm
   Beach friends?"
   "There weren't any, and I checked all his entries for the 561, 407,
   and 305 area codes, as well. But that doesn't mean that some friend of
   Max's in New York doesn't have a place down here. What with call
   forwarding these days, Max wouldn't have necessarily needed to write
   down the Florida phone number - he'd just phone New York and it would
   ring down here."
   Doug nodded. "You realize that we could run the names in Max's address
   book against the Palm Beach phone directory listings on the web? And
   maybe find some such friends?"
   I mimicked applause, and then wrote it down on my laptop's pop-up memo
   pad. "That's a good project. Now let's think of some more."
   Doug drove out of the parking lot and headed across another drawbridge
   to the mainland. He wanted to show me the sailboat rental place in
   Fort Worth.
   "How about," he asked as he drove along, "running the Palm Beach
   listings against the Securities and Exchange Commission's list of
   corporate directors, to see how many of them have winter places down
   "I'll humor you," I said, writing it down. "SEC database, it is.
   Though I still can't imagine what a little cordless-phone
   eavesdropping for fun-and-profit is likely to have to do with Max."
   "But I can imagine Max doing a little of that himself. He certainly
   knew how, at least by the techniques of a half-century ago. He told me
   about some of the old days of radio direction-finding, back in my
   youth when he visited for weekends. That's one of the reasons that I
   opted for electronics systems when I joined the Navy. Suppose Max
   rented the sailboat to use as a listening platform himself? Cruising
   up and down Lake Worth, pointing a handheld beam antenna while
   listening on an earplug?"
   "Okay, you've convinced me. We'll probably get a hundred names to
   check out, but we can always hire some net surfers to help us
   eliminate most of them. I know the perfect net surfer, a woman in Utah
   that Max uses too. I'll e-mail her this afternoon and get her started.
   Max's address book, I'll do myself while I'm checking out the new
   hardware and software setups."
   THE MARINA where Max rented the sailboat was several miles north of
   the drawbridge. They'd gotten the sailboat back from the police, so we
   were able to see the exact boat. It seemed to me to be about what Max
   would select for a few hours of day sailing, but too small for an
   overnight trip. The marina had bigger sailboats, but he'd stuck with
   the 22-footer.
   The woman who managed the marina said that she'd been interviewed
   about that sailboat at least four times. She wasn't sure who the last
   guy was, but the earlier ones came in police cars or were in uniform.
   It occurred to me, as we sat in the car at the marina, that we ought
   to go around and ask the fishermen about Max. I'd seen dozens on the
   bridges and along the mainland shore. Doug said there were lots of
   regulars; most of them are retired, living cheaply on the mainland,
   and fishing for food.
   "But they're not likely to have been close enough to the sailboat to
   recognize a photo of Max," I admitted, losing my initial enthusiasm.
   "I know. I think we ought to ask them about whether they noticed a
   sailboat that liked to stop a lot, dropping the sails and idling in
   just one spot - or if they saw a sailor wearing earphones, or holding
   a tv antenna."
   "That's sure a leading question. The local newspaper will have a
   reporter out in no time, trying to see what's up," I pointed out.
   "Of course, there's that old joke about the fisherman who fishes with
   rabbit-ears, those two-pronged indoor TV antennas. He ties a line to
   the end of each, so he can double his chances. We could ask the
   fishermen, in causal conversation, if they'd ever seen such a thing.
   If anyone had seen Max using a beam antenna, we'd get an answer like,
   `No, but I saw a guy using a fancy TV antenna for something, out on a
   "Good idea," I said, impressed once again. "Also, you can ask if
   they've ever seen anyone so stupid as to fish from a sailboat.
   Sailboats don't very often sit there stationary like a fishing boat,
   for a half hour at a time - and that's what Max would have sometimes
   done, if he was listening with a cordless phone receiver. When sailors
   stop like that - when the other sailboats are enjoying a good breeze -
   people naturally look to see if they're fishing." I decided not to
   reveal the circumstances when I'd gained this deep insight regarding
   stationary sailboats in a good breeze.
   "And I know just the guy to ask the questions for us," Doug said. "Sol
   Linzer is a retired arson detective, who's doing general investigative
   work these days. And he loves to fish, so he might know some of the
   regulars already. That'll save me several days of work, right there."
   "What I want to do," he continued, "is to get inside that apartment
   building next to the Sunrise, and see if I can find out who Max was
   I looked up, smiling. "Going to do a fire department inspection?"
   Doug scratched his head. "It would be better if I could tag along on a
   regular inspection. It's one thing to stop by and chat with supers and
   doormen, but it's another to get someone who has a master key to go
   around with me. They'd have to report it to their boss, then they'll
   expect reports."
   "So, when's their next regular inspection, when the whole
   engine-company crew walks around the place?"
   "Those aren't very often. But Palm Beach has a second inspection
   system that involves random visits by one or two fire inspectors, in
   addition to the usual visits by a whole crew. I helped set up the
   second system, back when I was a full-time fire fighter."
   "How's that?"
   "I used to stand guard at the fire truck while everyone else walked
   around," Doug explained, "because I was considered good at talking to
   the busboys and maids when they came outside on a break. I'd manage to
   chat sympathetically about hurry-up-and-wait, and unreasonable bosses.
   I used to pretend that I smoked, and I would ask to stand downwind of
   their cigarette - since I, too, wasn't allowed to smoke on duty.
   Instant comrades."
   I laughed and shook my head. "So that was your training to be a
   "I suppose so. It was amazing how often I'd learn, just in passing,
   that they'd been involved in a big cleanup effort the day before our
   inspection, even though we hadn't announced the date in advance."
   "A little leak, perhaps?"
   "Surely. Someone has to type up those inspection schedules, months in
   advance. And then they lay around on clipboards. So, we suggested a
   second system of random checks by a single fireman, or sometimes two.
   It now depends on how many firefighters are on light duty, usually
   because of bad backs. They used to wind up doing clerical tasks, but
   the docs pointed out that this probably delayed their recovery, that
   what they needed was a lot of exercise but without heavy lifting and
   running. So, now they pull inspection duty. They're given a little van
   and they spend their days dropping in on places unexpectedly. The
   choice of places to visit is entirely theirs, with no advance plan
   lying around for someone to see. And it's a different person doing it,
   every few weeks."
   "The virtues of randomness," I said, with mock applause. "But I'll bet
   you had trouble convincing the brass to forego their usual tendency to
   assign and schedule."
   "My boss argued with them for months. Hey!" Doug exclaimed. "I'll bet
   I know who's doing inspections this week. Remember Big John, the guy
   at the central station, the husband of my ex-wife? The reason that I
   hadn't run into him earlier was that he was on light duty. Well, I
   needed to call Janice anyway," he said, reaching for the car phone.
   "Hi, Toots! How's instant motherhood?" I heard a delighted squeal from
   the phone. And decided that it was time to absent myself. I stepped
   outside to stretch for a minute.
   When I returned to the car a few minutes later, Doug was saying, "A
   redhead? Well, you shouldn't believe everything that Big John tells
   He looked over at me with a big grin and pointed at me with an
   I-told-you-so shake of the head. "So, I hear he's on light duty....
   His back again? What have they got him doing, inspecting? Have you got
   the number of his belt phone? I'll have to get him to come inspect
   this place where I'm staying. It must have something wrong with it....
   Sure, I'll come out to dinner, but it can't be this week.... No, no, I
   won't tell you about her now - it's very complicated. You'll just have
   to wait until I come out to dinner and spoil your kid rotten."
   After he hung up, Doug asked, "Shall I try to set up this surprise
   inspection this afternoon, and leave you to set up the net searches
   and read Dad's correspondence? Or do we need to discuss things some
   "By all means, let's accomplish something, so I'll be able to sleep
   with good conscience tonight."
   "I fixed my computer's password file so you can read the encrypted
   messages that Dad gave me. I temporarily changed the password to the
   one that you and Dad devised over the phone." Doug punched up another
   number on the phone. "Hey, Big John. I hear your kid is taking
   afternoon naps like a champ! Sure... Did you really tell Janice that a
   beautiful redhead was driving me around town? ... You're sipping
   coffee on the boardwalk? Sit still and I'll come join you in about ten
   minutes. Order me a classic cappucino, and head off their tendency to
   sprinkle candy atop it." Click.
   Doug dropped me off a half block from the condo and I walked back in
   the afternoon heat.
   WHEN I GOT BACK UPSTAIRS, I was hot. So I changed into the bikini
   after all and got some orange juice out of the refrigerator.
   I plugged my laptop into the T1 line when I got back upstairs and ran
   security diagnostics. I was still thinking about Doug's phone call to
   Janice. Some people have the capacity for sustaining relationships, I
   thought, and Doug looks like one of them.
   Then I called Seattle to check my voice mail. Nothing for me or for
   Max. No faxes to forward, either. I called up the software that
   controlled which calls were forwarded, using the Who's Calling data.
                      Selective Call Forwarding is ON
     Only calls from these numbers will be forwarded from your home
     number to your cellular phone. All others will go to computer
     voicemail. the RingControl (c)KateMedici
     206-328-7876 Max Hempelman
     500-833-4772 Max's cellular
     206-685-7796 Linda Leschi
     801-521-6326 Melanie Coltrain
     602-933-86* Aunt Janet (retirement home's PBX)
     617-482-7061 Andre Chen
     206-685-7712 Doc Matson, expert cat-sitter
     500-863-2392 Doug Chen's cellular
     206-684-* Seattle Police
     206-296-9* King County Prosecuting Attorney's office
     561-* any Palm Beach area code 
     407-* any Boca area code
     305-* any Miami area code
     813-* any Gulf Coast FL
     809-* any Caribbean call
     OUT-OF-USA any international call
   Some of them knew my cellular number and could phone without
   forwarding, but why take chances? And while Max could surely phone me
   direct if he were conscious, a hospital would probably phone me in
   Remembering that tomorrow was election day, I faxed a request for an
   absentee ballot, giving them my FedEx account number and the
   storefront address in Lake Worth. Having gotten my priorities
   straight, I set my e-mail to forward everything to my account on The
   Conf. Most of the waiting e-mail was innocuous but one was appalling:
     Date: Sun 1 November 15:51 Pacific Time (GMT - 8h) 
     From: Denise Smithson 
     To: Kate Medici 
     Subject: Fame (front page Sunday paper variety)
     Can I be the first program chairperson to ask you to give an
     after-dinner speech? I hope that I'm not the bearer of bad news,
     but Linda told me that you left town before seeing that article in
     the Sunday paper ("Woman Ties Up Burglar with her Nighty"). I'll
     fax it to you if you like.
     Fortunately, the artist's sketch doesn't look much like you;
     someone forgot to tell him you're tall. Woman wearing only a belt,
     seen from rear, standing over vanquished burglar cowering on the
     ground, hanging on to one end of a nightgown that is wrapped around
     the burglar's ankles. I think that the artist had the nightgown
     confused with a bullwhip, myself. The burglar looks like he's
     getting an eyeful. He is, nonetheless, snarling.
     Linda assured me that you certainly wouldn't stand within range of
     a kick, but, Hey! Just a Little Artistic License, Right? The
     article is somewhat less fanciful and I notice it's written by the
     police-beat reporter as if you were some sort of colleague: "The
     burglar was captured by Dr. Kate Medici, well-known computer
     detective...." Linda guessed that it was too good a story for the
     cops not to repeat and that eventually the reporter heard about it.
     She said to tell you that "the article didn't mention Max's name."
     Is he the guy who lives downstairs? Linda didn't want to discuss
     I'm serious about the speech: 4th Mondays, 6:30pm till 9. Next
     month is open. Please?
   Just what I needed, to serve as a role model for stupidity. I sent a
   one-word reply: "Groan." After I sent it off, I decided to send a
   second reply expanding on it: "No, please do NOT fax the clipping." I
   needed to keep my head clear to think about finding Max, not react to
   water over the dam. Of course, that's what I'd thought when I decided
   not to return those two phone calls from the reporter.
   To work. I composed my net-surfing request with some care:
     To: Melanie
     Subject: Help in a hurry
     Cipher: [defaults to recipient's public key]
     Hi, Melanie,
     I'm in Palm Beach finally. Got what I hope will be a quick job for
     you, 'cause I'm sure in a hurry (like tonight, maybe, pretty
     please? Hope it doesn't interfere with seeing Steven).
     What I want is a standard database file that I can further refine
     myself. Your part is to match up:
     1. the area code 561 phone listings (and Palm Beach County FL tax
     records, if you can get them, to get around the unlisted phone
     number problem), with
     2. the SEC's list of corporation officers, directors (do present
     and former Registered Reps too, if it's not too much trouble).
     Yes, I know there will be a thousand hits. Don't throw away
     anything; I'll want home and business addresses even if they aren't
     in Palm Beach. I may want to run a few more names besides the SEC
     lists, so give me a macro that I can plug them into and run myself.
     Don't limit yourself to Web sites and gopherholes; use
     dollar-a-blink databases if you have to. I'm getting reimbursed for
     the expenses by someone who can stand the costs, so pull out all
     the stops on this one, consistent with being quick; subcontract if
     it'll help.
     I'll tell you all about this some day, if you'll feed me lamb chops
     and wine. Hopefully, Max will be there to hear the story, too.
   That on the way, I finally unpacked the second desktop that Doug had
   bought. There's nothing like setting up a new computer to take your
   mind off your worries.
   THE NEW LANs are known to spread like kudzu. Well, almost. Instant
   office, I smiled to myself. Just remove shrinkwrap, add a little water
   from the plant mister, and wait for them to self-organize. The next
   step was obviously KudzuLAN and BlackberryLAN, with volunteers
   springing up everywhere, looking for a device not yet taken over by
   the LAN.
   I moved over to Doug's computer and tested our new LAN. Then I started
   reading Andre's old files, sitting at Doug's machine. I was
   particularly anxious to see what happened in the last month, the
   period in which my code-breaking skills had failed. Temporarily, at
   least, those files were now protected by the simple password,
   An hour later, I heard a long beep from my own machine. A
   little-but-noisy window had popped open in the upper right corner of
   my screen: Priority e-mail arriving. So, I moved back over to the
   other chair and clicked on my Read Now button:
     Date: Mon 2 November 15:35 Eastern Time (GMT - 5h)
     From: Andre Chen 
     To: Kate Medici 
     Subject: Greetings
     Attachment: Voice video encrypted
     Cipher Key: via Douglas
     Text: [none]
   Encrypted video, no less. I set the cipher key from the autodestruct
   disk that Doug had given me.
   So, that's what Andre looks like, I said to myself. Not what I'd
   imagined, several days ago when I was so angry. About 70, like Max.
   Looks a lot like Doug, except for the white beard, which is a lot
   fuller than for most orientals. Maybe he had a French mother?
   Certainly a cosmopolitan family, probably from way back.
   "Hello, Kate. I was just going to phone but Douglas said not to
   disturb you, when I talked to him this morning. He told me about the
   burglar that you caught in Max's apartment, trying to steal his
   computer files. That's shocking. Could you write me a short memo on
   what the prosecuting attorney said about this burglar and his Mob
   connections, that I could pass on to the club members?"
   "Well, Doug will set you up to read my club correspondence for the
   last few months. It's terribly confidential, as you'll see, so take
   good care of it."
   "You'll discover that your bank card has a corporate-sized credit
   limit as of yesterday. I want you to spend whatever's needed to find
   Max as quickly as possible. I got him into this. And I know he'd feel
   a lot better if he knew you were searching for him."
   "Unfortunately, I really have no idea what he was doing in Palm Beach.
   He didn't even tell me that he was going, or say it was club business
   even after he told me the hotel name. I'm afraid that the first I knew
   he was in Palm Beach is when he gave me the address and phone number
   of that hotel, back on the 18th - he said he'd just checked in. I got
   brief e-mail notes from him every day after that, up until the day
   before Black Friday. It must have been about the 19th when he
   suggested that I change ciphers again, go the one-time-pad route
   whenever I could."
   "We'll do details in e-mail, since using video will eat up our
   one-time cipher pretty rapidly. But do send me a brief video mail
   reply, if you would, so I can put a face to the words I read
   subsequently. Say hello to Douglas for me."
   I'm not sure that I can live up to Max's supergirl description, I
   mused. But if I were Andre, I'd sure be feeling uncomfortable about
   entrusting my reputation with close friends to a complete stranger,
   and that's what he is doing by going outside his sworn-to-secrecy
   club. Which obviously vetoed my involvement earlier. So, perhaps I'd
   better put some work into persuading him to talk to us about his
   worries. And try and forget my irritation with him. And I'd certainly
   better change out of the bikini before replying on video.
   I uncapped the little videocam built into the upper right corner of
   the computer monitor and clicked on the Preview Videocam button.
   Pretty bad lighting with those steel shutters still drawn, I judged,
   so I turned up the dimmer switch on the dining room wall and found
   myself illuminated by the chandelier over the table. I also turned on
   the kitchen lights so that the background Andre would see would be
   well lit; I wanted to show him that I was as tall as Max had described
   me, and that was going to mean walking toward the camera briefly.
   I looked washed out, at least on that videocam, which called for some
   makeup. I decided to detour by going out onto the balcony, checking
   out the heat and humidity, spotting the Sunrise Hotel and its adjacent
   apartment building far south, down Ocean Boulevard. Then I slipped
   back into the master bedroom via its sliding glass door.
   After putting on one of my long dresses with the padded shoulders, and
   applying some makeup, I fixed myself a cup of tea. Then I clicked on
   Record Video and the monitor changed to reveal the state of my makeup.
   Okay. I returned to the kitchen, figuring I'd edit out the first part
   and pretend that the e-mail manager had been set to conversational
   mode, automatically recording a reply when Andre's message finished
   "Oops, recording automatically, I see. Hello, Andre, I'm pleased to
   meet you, and in considerably better circumstances than when I was
   stranded on that sand bar the other day," I said as I walked toward
   the videocam, holding my cup. I sat down in front of the monitor,
   looking straight into it.
   "You know," I said, lightly stroking my face with my free hand, "Doug
   would look even more like you if he'd grow a beard. He's off chasing a
   fresh lead - we'll tell you more about it later."
   "I'm spending money on professional net-surfers at the moment,
   checking out some other possibilities. Doug and I each seem to have
   come to the same conclusion, even before comparing notes, that you're
   worried about a leak in your club - or worse. Do you suppose that Max,
   too, was worried? And came down here to Palm Beach in order to check
   out someone close to one of your club members?" I asked, shifting into
   my most polite look-'em-straight-in-the-eye manner.
   "That might explain why he didn't say anything about coming here." I
   softened and, with an "Oh, as an afterthought" wave of my hands,
   asked, "Did you tell anyone about the e-mail from Max, after he
   checked into that hotel?"
   "Well, enough of the luxury of video and back to the limitations of
   e-mail. I hope we'll meet face-to-face sometime soon. Preferably with
   Max himself getting to belatedly introduce us. Let us hope. Bye for
   I clicked Replay & Edit, snipped out the early stuff, and watched the
   rest. One of my better brief performances, I decided. I encrypted it,
   wincing at the gigabyte of one-time-pad numbers that it ate up, and
   sent it off. Maybe, I hoped, it will serve to pry loose some guarded
   information, get Andre to think the unthinkable.
   I popped up the gas gauge for the one-time-pad supply. Half-full. Or
   half-empty. I wondered what Doug had arranged for a secure resupply of
   random numbers to Andre.
   ANDRE'S REQUEST FOR A SHORT MEMO reminded me to phone the prosecuting
   attorney's office in Seattle. The deputy was busy in court, but they'd
   been trying to get ahold of me. His secretary had instructions to
   transfer my call to the Prosecuting Attorney himself. Shortly
   thereafter, he came on the phone.
   Had I heard anything of Max? Alas, no - but I was actively
   investigating Max's disappearance myself. Was I familiar, he asked,
   with what Max had been doing for their white-collar-crime
   Yes, I said - I was the one who had suggested looking at the low-order
   bits in image files for text information, a suggestion that Max had
   passed along. The image files, mostly old E-faxes, indeed turned out
   to be where the true account books were hidden. The faxes looked
   normal, displayed, since the low-order bit contributed very little to
   the image quality. But a simple program to string together the bottom
   bit in each byte of the image served to re-create the text file or
   spreadsheet file. He took the opportunity to thank me. And then said
   that he had some bad news.
   "My deputy played that tape of the burglar's threats to you at the
   bail hearing," he said, "and the judge was indeed impressed. But he
   hated to use preventive detention, especially since there was the hold
   from Texas that accomplished the same thing, keeping him behind bars.
   So the judge simply set a high bail, a quarter million."
   "Yes," I said, guessing what was coming.
   "Unfortunately, by the time that the hold expired at midnight, Texas
   had failed to come through with the legal papers," he explained. "And
   someone appeared at a minute after midnight with $250,000 in cash and
   posted bail for him. So he was released, and we didn't find out until
   eight hours later."
   "The Texas prosecutor was furious that someone had derailed the
   extradition papers," he continued, "but hinted that it was because
   your burglar had Mob connections in a big way." I was to be very
   careful. He would fax me the police mug shots and description. There
   would be hell to pay when the media discovered all this, but they'd
   try to delay that day (especially considering that the election was
   tomorrow, I realized).
   Burglars whose friends pay $250,000 to spring them are not likely to
   be ordinary burglars. But then I knew that already.
   The fax arrived by e-mail, since I'd set my home computer to forward
   them that way. As I sat there contemplating it, a priority e-mail
   message arrived.
     Date: Mon 2 November 15:55 Eastern Time (GMT - 5h)
     From: Andre Chen 
     To: Kate Medici 
     Subject: urgent
     Good news about Max. You should go immediately to the very rear of
     the parking lot at 1999 South Ocean Blvd, back by the dumpster and
     car wash. My colleagues will meet you there; they're coming by
     boat, provided they see that you're alone.
     Yours sincerely,
     Andre Chen
   I was uneasy, wanting to believe it but dubious. I immediately called
   Doug on his cellular phone and relayed this good news neutrally.
   "Kate," he said, "that doesn't sound like Dad. Don't you move until I
   can phone him and verify it."
   I sat and waited. In ten minutes, he called back. "Kate, that message
   wasn't from Dad. I phoned the cops working on Max's disappearance and
   they're going to check out the place."
   "Uh, Doug," I said, "there is another piece of news. My burglar got
   released on a quarter-million bail bond, probably because the Mob in
   Texas managed to sidetrack the extradition papers long enough for the
   temporary hold to expire. The prosecuting attorney is very apologetic,
   and has faxed me the mug shots and physical description, just so I can
   keep an eye open for The Creep."
   "Wonderful. Well, sit tight. I'm still tied up with this fire
   inspection, then I'm heading up to 1999 to see what the cops found."
   I immediately started to analyze how the e-mail message from Andre
   could have been forged. And then kicked myself: it wasn't encrypted in
   the special cipher, and I'd just assumed that it was and had been
   automatically decrypted.
   Unfortunately, it is all too easy to forge a return address. It takes
   superuser privileges on the originating computer, but there are
   millions of computers directly tied to the internet and so millions of
   possibilities. The only guarantee against this sort of thing was a
   private-key signature and message digest. I could see that I was going
   to have to start insisting on that with my correspondents, at least
   the ones where we weren't using a private cipher.
   DOUG CALLED A GREETING as he slammed the front door. I looked up from
   my computer to see if he'd brought anyone along, but Doug was alone.
   And looking as if he'd been crawling around an attic. He also looked
   "Any more fake e-mail?" he asked.
   "No. I should have noticed that the message wasn't encrypted, that it
   arrived in the clear. I was so happy at good news of Max that I got
   suckered in. So, as you probably know, the message could have been
   faked at any of a million nodes on the net where someone has superuser
   privileges. But we'll have to check out the possibility that someone
   else used Andre's account. So, what happened at 1999?"
   "No one to be seen by land or sea. But they got suspicious of a car
   parked nearby because something in the trunk smelled. It wasn't Max,
   but it was a very dead body. One that had probably been there for at
   least a week."
   "Ugh. Who was it?"
   "No identification. The car belongs to a resident of the condo there,
   but it's someone who hasn't arrived for the season yet and the car had
   been sitting there all summer. The cops think that the car was broken
   open in order to release the trunk lid. And stash the body inside."
   "Hadn't any of the condo staff noticed?"
   "They'd noticed a lot of sea gulls hanging around, and actually hosed
   off the car because of it. But the car-wash guy smokes like a chimney
   and so hadn't noticed the smell that was attracting the birds. I can
   believe it - I saw the guy picking loose tobacco out of his mouth
   several times. Then he took a last drag on his cigarette and flung it
   away - and, in the process, managed to lose some of the skin off his
   lip, that was stuck to the cigarette."
   "Ouch. But why lure me to the same place?" I asked, worried.
   "There was a note inside the trunk lid, the first thing anyone would
   see when the trunk was opened. And this trunk had a remote-control
   opener - press the blue button on the key-chain fob, and up pops the
   lid. They evidently were going to watch from a distance and then pop
   open the trunk as you walked by, so you'd see the body. And the note."
   "And get a whiff. And some insects flying out. A pop-up corpse sounds
   like my burglar, experienced at packing as much terror into an
   occasion as possible. What did the note say?" I asked.
   "This is what will happen to you if you remain in Florida. The parking
   lot is right out on the lake shore, unlike most of the condos. My
   detective friend speculated that someone over in Lake Worth was
   watching with a telescope. And had a beam antenna hooked up to a
   transmitter that could pop the trunk lid."
   "So this means that someone knows I'm in Palm Beach, and looking for
   Max. And that I would consider a message from Andre as important. What
   else? Could they have found out about this apartment?"
   "I don't think so, or we'd have heard more directly from them. They
   might have hoped to follow you home from there. I was quite careful
   returning from there. I went over to the mainland and then, when I
   came back over the drawbridge, I arranged by cellular phone with the
   drawbridge operator - who I knew, back when - to lower the barriers
   just after I passed, losing anyone tailing me."
   "Sounds like you've got friends in the right places. So, are these
   Max's kidnappers who are trying to scare me off?"
   "They could be. But maybe they're hoping to find Max themselves and
   see you as a competitor. Like your burglar."
   "So maybe it's the Mob again. Suppose The Creep is down here already?
   Trying to spot me?"
   SHORT OF A PLATOON of Marines, I wasn't going to feel much safer than
   I was then, inside the apartment with Doug. I turned down Doug's offer
   of a stiff scotch and seized instead on the other kind of security
   problem, which I could at least do something about.
   I explained to Doug how we were going to have to start using
   electronic signatures to guard against fake return addresses. Either
   that, or use private ciphers like the random numbers.
   "Are the public-private key ciphers harder to crack?" he asked.
   "They aren't inherently harder to crack than the single key ciphers
   like DES, just because they use a different key for encrypting than
   for decrypting," I explained, lapsing into cryptospeak, "but the
   public key for encrypting solves the problem of delivering the keys,
   which otherwise usually involves a trip by a trusted courier. You just
   publish the public key for all to see, and your correspondents use it
   to encrypt the plaintext they want to send you. But they can't decrypt
   it with the public key - unlike single-key where the same key is
   needed for encrypting and decrypting. Only you have the private key
   that's needed to decrypt."
   "And for the electronic signature, you reverse the procedure?"
   "For me to sign a message, my software first makes a 128-byte message
   digest that is very sensitive to any alteration in the text - it's
   like a long checksum. Then it and my public key are encrypted using my
   private key. The recipient, using my public key from the Gray Pages,
   decrypts the signature and discovers an identical copy of my public
   key, plus the message digest. He produces a message digest of whatever
   is above my signature, and sees if it matches the decrypted one.
   "Almost as good as a shared random number table," Doug said.
   "Which reminds me. The random-number supply is half-empty. How do you
   "We've got plenty in storage on both ends," he replied. "Dad has this
   thing about one-time pads being the most secure encryption. Before
   leaving Boston, I bought a dozen of those autodestruct hard disk
   drives. And recorded them in pairs. I drove down to the Cape and
   delivered Dad's set personally before flying down to Miami."
   "So, what did you use for a random-number algorithm?" I asked, with a
   sinking feeling.
   "I didn't. Used the real thing, white noise from outer space," Doug
   said, while opening a liter-sized bottle of mineral water from the
   refrigerator. "I pointed the microwave dish up in the vicinity of
   Orion, cranked up the gain, and digitized what it heard."
   "Very clever," I said, relieved. "No algorithm to break. So, we're
   only halfway through the first of six disks. When you decide to spend
   money, Mr. Chen, you do it right. Well, tell me what crawl space
   you've been exploring."
   "I look that bad, huh?" he smiled. "And you're sure dressed up for
   dinner. Maybe I ought to shower first, and save the big news for
   "You are a terrible tease. I got dressed to impress your father, by
   the way. I figured that his generation isn't used to women who can
   work professionally while wearing a bikini. Now ease off on that water
   bottle and open up."
   "Well," he said with a chuckle, "it was no problem to get Big John to
   decide to drop in on the Sunrise Apartments as his next random
   inspection. And, of course, he invited me to come along. Didn't have
   to tell him anything, except for what I saw this morning from the
   window in the Sunrise Hotel."
   He sat down the empty water bottle on the table. "So, we find the
   super, who's none too happy to be pulled away from his TV set, and we
   all head up to the roof. There were various old TV antennas up there,
   all with their wires snipped off. But there's this one fancy antenna
   rotator setup with its wires trailing off and dropping down the
   utility core of the building - that's a central shaft which the heat
   pipes and electrical conduits run up, adjacent to the elevators. The
   super assumes we know that he'd had to do a big cleanup of illegal
   wiring several years ago. Some overheated wires had started a little
   fire - after which, from the sounds of it, he'd gotten a very thorough
   inspection from the engine company."
   I was shifting impatiently in my chair.
   "The super pulled out a pair of pliers, proposing to cut those new
   wires right on the spot, in hopes that we wouldn't cite him. But we
   told him to hold off, that we had to inspect that utility core - which
   is how I got so dirty, opening access holes on each floor and looking
   inside the core shaft for the wires. When we got down to the 4th
   floor, I saw the wires disappearing alongside some pipes into an
   apartment. The super hasn't seen the occupant of the apartment for
   months, says he never gets any mail. So, when no one answers the door,
   he lets himself in."
   "Yes? Come on, now."
   "Layers of dust all over the place, but no dead bodies. No clothes in
   the closets, either. Just a kitchen table with an old desktop computer
   and some electronics gear, all hooked up to that antenna and to the
   phone line. Nothing very fancy - even a high school kid could have
   lashed up those components. I couldn't dissuade the super from
   applying his cutting pliers to the illegal antenna wires, so whoever
   was using it now knows that something has gone wrong. End of story."
   I frowned and stood up. "A listening post. Sounds like someone was
   dialing into the computer, giving it commands about where to point the
   antenna, listening to conversations on portable phones, and forwarding
   them via the computer phone."
   "That's what I thought, too. I stopped at a pay phone on the way home
   - by the way, we'll have to start avoiding any serious business when
   using our belt phones and other cellular phones - and called Sol. So,
   he's going to interview lots of local fishermen for us tonight and
   tomorrow, and get his partner to follow up on this apartment - such as
   seeing who shows up to repair the listening post. I stuck several
   telltale hairs in the door frame when we left, so we'll know if the
   renter has returned to the apartment."
   "So, who do you suppose he was tapping?" I asked, sitting back down
   "It really had to be multiple people, or it would have just been a
   fixed antenna. But the view from that roof is more limited than you
   might suppose, since the hotel next door blocks a lot of possibilities
   on the ocean side of Palm Beach. So, it's pretty likely to be condos
   along the lake side, a mile north or south of the Sunrise Apartments.
   Or the mainland."
   "Did you get the name of the person renting the apartment?" I asked.
   "The super mentioned the name, and I noticed the phone number while we
   were inspecting the setup," Doug said, fishing a scrap of paper out of
   his sweaty shirt pocket. "Why don't I shower and change, and then we
   can have a little strategy session over drinks and dinner. Unless your
   news won't keep that long? I'll be quick."
   I waved him away. After Doug disappeared into the guest bedroom, I
   picked up the phone next to the sofa. I hit *67 to block the
   Who's-Calling and then tried dialing the phone number. The mating call
   of a lonely modem was heard, though it sounded a little strange.
   Smiling, I hung up and moved over to my computer. Maybe, I thought, if
   the tabletop setup is as amateurish as Doug thinks, I'll be able to
   talk my way into that computer. Certainly, if that were a fancier
   modem using the Who's Calling data, it wouldn't have even answered the
   phone unless the call came from the right phone number.
   I SHOUTED "EUREKA" and Doug came charging out of the bedroom, still
   half-dressed. He looked over my shoulder at the screen while buttoning
   his shirt.
   "You were quite right," I said, gleefully. "It's a very simple-minded
   setup, using old comm software with rudimentary security. I was able
   to get it to dump its memory, which is going to take a little while,
   since that's an ancient 1200-baud modem, not a net connection. I'd
   almost forgotten what they sounded like. Now, what you see there," I
   said, pointing at the monitor, "is digitized speech. They recorded
   those phone calls just like voice mail. Nothing dramatic so far, just
   people arranging golf dates and bridge games."
   "Do you want to leave it running, and get some dinner?"
   "Sure, my computer will disconnect automatically when it stops
   sending. I figured out how to lock up my autodestruct disk, thanks to
   those manuals. So, we can go."
   "Is there a restaurant we can walk to, several miles away? So I can
   get some exercise?"
   "Sure, let's go over to the ocean side and hike up the beach past the
   golf course to that new Italian restaurant. That way we'll be able to
   talk. You lock the balcony doors and set the alarms while I put on my
   After Doug called for reservations from a lobby pay phone, we ran
   across the highway during a gap in the traffic and made our way down
   the beach access corridor that runs between two large apartment
   complexes across the street. The sunset was almost over and the
   remaining color in the eastern sky was fading. At my suggestion, we
   walked up the adjacent set of beach stairs and waited a few minutes to
   see if anyone followed us to the beach from the condo. No one.
   The black vultures were no where to be seen, though a few pelicans
   were flying around, offshore. The heat of the day was fading, holding
   promise of a mild evening and cool night. But continuing humidity. We
   walked up the beach, on the wet sand just above the lapping waves.
   As we were avoiding a big wave, Doug's cellular rang. It was Andre,
   reporting back on his investigation into whether anyone could have
   used his e-mail account. His last login time was exactly what it
   should have been. So apparently the fake e-mail came from somewhere
   else. He urged us to be careful.
   "I wonder," I said, "if we shouldn't first concentrate on the names
   within a mile of the Sunrise Apartments. Surely Max wouldn't have
   stayed in that dump unless he had something more to go on than just a
   suspicious antenna. He must have seen where it was pointing, and the
   target condos must have held some other interest for him. Surely he
   wasn't interested in the eavesdropping in general, not with that
   market manipulation prospect involving the parasites."
   "I agree, we'll probably discover it's someone selling information to
   various brokers or con men. But maybe that will include someone with
   more specific interests in our direction."
   "The other thing we need to do," I said, "is to find where Max was
   staying before he checked into the hotel. If my net-surfing fails to
   find someone down here that Max listed under another address or phone,
   I don't know what we'll do next. Show Max's picture to a lot of
   doormen, if the cops didn't already do it."
   "I doubt they did, but I'll check with my friend again, tomorrow
   morning," Doug said. "They might have gotten a photo from his
   "I don't think they've found her, Doug. I'll bet if they had, she'd
   have phoned me. She's never returned my calls. And I've tried every
   day. Maybe she's on vacation. And she sometimes comes to Palm Beach,
   though Max would always avoid visiting her here. She'll probably turn
   out to be in the condo next door to us!"
   "Seriously, Kate," he said, "a lot of New Yorkers like her come down
   here, subletting apartments for a few weeks. Sometimes I think that
   half of Manhattan has been temporarily transplanted to the hothouse."
   "That's where Max's daughter lives, incidentally. Manhattan, not the
   "The visitors' names are never on the mailboxes, and the phones also
   stay listed in the apartment owner's name. But the super will know
   most of the temporary people because of permission letters on file,
   even if the doormen only know them by sight. So, let's get someone to
   ask around for the daughter, if your leads in Manhattan run dry. Where
   does she work?"
   "Works in an art gallery, something like that. Don't know the firm's
   name, and Max's phone directory doesn't have it either. Name's Carrie
   Hempelman, about 50 years old. She's not married. I've already made a
   few calls and got nowhere. She sometimes takes a winter vacation in
   Florida, but Max always manages to visit her in New York instead. So,
   maybe we should look around for her, down here." I had visions of
   buying all the local papers and brosing the gossip columns.
   "Sol could probably ask around, just with phone calls, since he knows
   the supers in most cases."
   "Hairdressers down here are the other place to check. Trust me on
   this," I quipped.
   We cut across the golf course to the road. "I only had time to read
   the last part of Andre's e-mail correspondence," I said, "and that's
   filled in the picture of the last month, supplementing what I learned
   from reading Max's correspondence on the plane yesterday from the two
   months previous. Oh, remember to change that simple-minded password,
   He nodded.
   "What I don't understand," I continued, "is where their information
   came from, about a conspiracy of parasites. Half the time, they're
   just brainstorming about possibilities. But at other times, they talk
   of something concrete, a specific conspiracy. Particular examples of
   holding back orders until 43 minutes after the hour, and so on."
   "I didn't see anyone referring to themselves as being a source of
   concrete information," Doug replied. "And Dad hasn't said. They may be
   playing their cards close to the chest because of a confidential
   source, you know."
   "Oh, I agree," I said, stretching and yawning. "Particularly later in
   the summer, they start getting cagey. Of course, they also met
   face-to-face, as in the California meeting in late August. So, they
   have shared information that isn't necessarily going to show up in the
   e-mail correspondence. And neither Max nor Andre seem to have been
   using the computer to save their phone calls, even after they went to
   encrypting them by computer. The computer files are, as a historian
   would say, a very incomplete record of what was going on."
   I AGAIN AWAKENED before sunrise, but got up and wandered out in my
   bathrobe. The computer screen had a priority e-mail notification
   popped up in the upper right corner. It was from Melanie, sent just an
   hour earlier at 3am Utah time. It proved to be the completed database
   file of 2,000 names, with a second attachment containing the macro for
   matching Max's address book up to the database.
   Doug had gotten several additional names from Andre last night, and so
   I pasted them all into the macro and started it running. Then I fixed
   myself a latte and orange juice. And contemplated the lack of danish,
   a serious matter. We'd snacked late last night, while wading through
   months of decrypted messages, looking for specifics.
   Since Doug had mentioned A.J.'s Deli on Lucerne as the source of the
   danish, I decided to go out for a run and bring back lots more danish.
   Got to build up that subcutaneous fat for the disguise, I
   rationalized. Oops, and it's election day. I've got to pickup my
   There was no doorman on duty at that hour. I looked carefully at all
   the cars in the parking lot as I walked past, checking to see if
   anyone was watching our building. No one. I did my stretches and
   warmup at the edge of the parking lot and checked all the cars in the
   next lot south. No one.
   The sidewalks were full of people out walking or running, the early
   morning being the best time to escape the heat and humidity
   combination. I ran down the highway and then up the approach to the
   drawbridge leading to the mainland. I saw quite a few fishermen and
   hoped that Doug's friend was having some luck talking to them about
   Max. I kept looking for my burglar.
   Once past the steel grid of the drawbridge itself, it was all downhill
   for a few minutes. Then I was on the mainland, back to the land of
   real shops. Even a bookstore; I remembered hearing that the rents were
   so high in Palm Beach proper that bookstores couldn't survive. Except
   for a chain outlet with a tiny store on Worth Avenue that sells
   best-sellers - and little else. And at full price.
   I kept my eyes open for the overnight express storefront and was soon
   rewarded. Yes, both packages had arrived and so, after showing my
   drivers license, I left wearing a somewhat superfluous windbreaker and
   carrying an absentee ballot.
   A.J.'s was full of people, and I browsed the pastries while waiting
   for my number to be called. I noticed their fax number and web
   address; evidentally they'd deliver if you just opened a window,
   checked off what you wanted on their daily menu, and clicked on SEND.
   But in person, it looked like a long wait, so I marked my ballot. As I
   signed the envelope, I mused about how old fashioned it was, how the
   encrypted web pages could be used for voting. There was, fortunately,
   a little booklet of stamps in my billfold.
   I ended up with a dozen danish wrapped in two equal-sized packages,
   which I stuck in the jacket pockets. I had one danish left out, to
   munch on. In one block, it was gone and I started running once again,
   back up the bridge, pockets full. I jogged in place at the mailbox,
   while I made sure that the mail would be picked up and postmarked
   I stopped on the top of the bridge where there was a good view of the
   Sunrise Apartments and the lakefront side of Palm Beach. And of the
   waterway - Lake Worth itself. Suppose, I thought, that Max had been
   watching that antenna atop the Sunrise Apartments - I could barely see
   one, but binoculars ought to resolve it nicely - from the sailboat,
   and trying to see where it was pointing? If he was looking straight up
   its axis, but a little off to one side, he'd be able to see which
   combo complex it was aimed at, along the lakefront. So, he'd sail up
   the shore until he was seeing the topside of the antenna, backtrack
   until he could see the underside of the antenna. And look ashore at
   what building he just passed.
   I DIDN'T HAVE TO POUND on the guest bedroom door to awaken Doug with
   the news. He was already up, wearing shorts, and greeted the sack of
   danish with extravagant praise. He was even happier to learn of my
   scheme for finding the target: get a boat and binoculars.
   "But," he said after a moment's reflection, "there's a little problem
   with doing it today, rather than yesterday. That antenna was moving
   around in a search pattern. And it's dead now: the super cut the
   wires. So, where it's currently pointing may not be very interesting."
   "Damn. I knew that I'd forgotten something. But that's surely how Max
   could have gone about it. He'd need to repeat his search many times,
   getting different results for each of the different targets."
   The phone beeped, and Doug answered it while I went to heat the
   danish. He came in the kitchen to report that somebody had returned to
   the eavesdropper's apartment - Doug's telltale hairs had dropped to
   the floor. And someone - probably not the super - had removed the
   antenna from the roof, sometime in the middle of the night. The
   electricity meter for the apartment was still running at a rate
   consistent with computer power requirements. And a modem still answers
   at that phone number.
   "Suppose he simply moved the antenna downstairs, placing it inside the
   apartment, fixed it to several chairs tied back to back, and pointed
   it out the window?" Doug speculated.
   "Can you see in the window from the hotel next door?" I asked.
   "Surely from the fire stairs. I'll check that out as soon as I get
   dressed. What else do we have to do?"
   "I see my database macro has stopped running, so maybe I'll have some
   addresses to check out."
   "Oh, and I told Sol to check out Carrie Hempelman with the supers, to
   see if she's a temporary sublet. But I forgot the hairdressers."
   "Men. I'll do the hairdressers myself. I know just the line to take
   with them."
   WHEN DOUG RETURNED from the hotel, I was on the phone, waving my
   hands, in actress mode once again.
   "Ms. Hempelman wanted me to call and tell you she's delayed in getting
   down to Palm Beach from New York by a stopover in DeeCee, and she
   wants to change her appointment to two days later.... I don't know -
   she just shouted at me to take care of it as she was running out the
   door yesterday.... I don't know that, either - she made her own travel
   arrangements since she was using frequent-flyer credits, so our travel
   agent doesn't know and I don't have her phone number down there. I'm
   awfully sorry to impose on you, but she'll be terribly cross with me
   if she misses her hairdresser appointment. And I know how busy you
   must be at this season."
   Doug handed me another danish while I was on hold.
   "Oh, that's so kind of you.... That's Carrie Hempelman? Could you give
   me the number you've got for her, so I can make sure that new time is
   still all right? Oh, thank you. 8-8-1 7-4-3-9. Okay, hold everything
   and I'll phone her. Thanks so much."
   "Six tries before I hit the right hairdresser," I reported with a
   grin. "So, now we've got to figure out what to say to Max's daughter.
   Did you have any luck?"
   "Sure enough, the antenna has been erected inside the room, angled to
   point out the window. I watched it for quite a while and it didn't
   move once. So, maybe it's fixed on a single target now. That was sure
   a quick fix that someone did."
   "Can you see where it's pointing?"
   "The light's pretty bad inside the room. All I can tell is that it's
   pointed up in this general direction."
   "Can you get inside the room again," I asked, "and sight down the axis
   of the antenna with your binoculars?"
   "Perhaps I can think of some excuse. You cope with locating Max's
   I punched in the number that the hairdresser had provided, but got no
   answer. "Let me see if I can find an address to go with that phone
   number, now that the macro tells me how to get access."
   "Hmmm. Uh-oh, Doug. It's 1989 South Ocean Boulevard, probably next
   door to 1999. The name is Andrew Johnstone."
   "Since I'm in uniform, I'll go try my clipboard act on the doorman and
   see if the Johnstone mail has been picked up lately, try and get an
   apartment number. Back in about 30 minutes, if no other opportunity
   presents itself."
   "Be sure and ask the doorman about Max. He might have stayed there,
   you know, before he took that room at the dump."
   "Let us hope."
   I tried the number again but still no answer. I returned to the
   problem of boiling down the hits from the database matches to Max's
   address book. My three possibles reduced to one, once I sorted through
   the ambiguous first names. There was a Jack Andersen, listed in Max's
   address book as living out on Long Island, an hour out from New York
   City, but also showing up with an unlisted phone number in Palm Beach
   that wasn't in Max's book. Max's note said that the Long Island number
   was also unlisted. Oddly enough, I couldn't find the name in the Area
   Code 516 on-line directory - or at least one with an unlisted number.
   I clicked on the e-mail manager:
     To: andre
     Subject: Query (priority)
     Cipher: disk 1 continued
     Do you know a Jack Andersen? He's in Max's address book with a 516
     Long Island phone number, but he also turns out to have an unlisted
     phone (and address) down here. I tried calling the 516 number and
     get voice mail. We badly need the address, since we want to look
     around some - before introducing ourselves.
   Some e-mail arrived while I was finishing my request, so I read it.
     Date: Tue 3 November 12:23 Pacific Time (GMT - 8h)
     From: Max Hempelman 
     To: Kate Medici 
     Subject: urgent
     Imperative that you return to Seattle, for your own safety.
   I didn't believe it for a moment. I logged into Max's account, just to
   be sure. No one had logged in since I last checked it, that first day
   in Seattle. So the message came from elsewhere, and was therefore a
   I decided that he'd next try imitating me, stirring up trouble to
   distract me from searching. He obviously had superuser privileges on
   some machine hooked up to the net. So I sent a message to everyone on
   my address list:
     To: Everybody
     Subject: Beware of Kate impersonators
     I'm having some trouble with a guy who is using fake return
     addresses. He's already impersonated two friends, and I'm a little
     worried that he might start impersonating me via e-mail. Just to
     embroil me in extracating myself.
     If you get unsolicited e-mail from me, there will be an electronic
     signature which my public key will decode (it's posted in the Gray
     Pages). The encrypted message digest, as you probably know, ought
     to match a message digest that your software gets for the message
     above the signature.
     If you get something that isn't signed that way, please forward it
     to me. Ditto anything from . And ignore the
     Kate /\E-signed....Kate Medici....\/
   And I sent a copy to Andre with a suggestion that he do the same
   Onwards. Unfortunately, I remembered to check my voice mail. Three
   messages from television producers, trying to set up interviews.
   They'd seen the Sunday paper. I ignored them and phoned Sol, telling
   him that Carrie Hempelman was probably found, but asking if he had any
   way of getting an address for a name with an unlisted number?
   No, they didn't - or at least, not quickly. But they did have some
   luck with fishermen. Two, so far, remembered seeing a sailboat idling
   not far out from the island shore, about a week ago, while the sailor
   - an older man wearing a plain-colored shirt and a floppy hat - was
   using some sort of antenna. Go back, I said, and ask them about
   binoculars - and what direction he was looking in.
   That would be just like Max, I thought. He'd have just the right
   outfit for Palm Beach cocktails, dinner, bridge, whatever - but it
   wouldn't occur to him to dress like a Florida tourist or yacht-club
   type while out sailing by himself in a small boat. He'd dress just as
   he did when sailing in Puget Sound.
   Furthermore, Sol reported, someone else had been asking around for
   Max, just yesterday. It sounded, from the description, like a guy who
   used to be a Lantana police detective.
   I was tapping my fingers impatiently, awaiting Doug's return, when up
   popped the priority e-mail flag.
     Date: Tue 3 November 15:37 Eastern Time (GMT - 5h)
     From: Andre Chen 
     To: Kate Medici 
     Subject: Re: Query (priority) 
     Cipher: Disk 1 cont
     Sure I know Jack Andersen. He's really Mortimer Hirschhorn, who is
     one of the less active members of the club; he adopted that
     pseudonym when he started writing books about Wall Street, and it
     apparently amuses him to have unlisted phone numbers in that name!
     Talk about trying to create an identity. But I only have a 516
     number for him, too; I called and left a message for him to phone
     Apropos your question earlier about October 19: No, I didn't
     mention Max's hotel to anyone, so far as I can remember. Certainly
     not by e-mail (I checked), and probably not by phone either. But I
     did say - to various people - that Max was in Palm Beach for
     something; he didn't say to keep it secret from the rest of the
     Do be careful, both of you.
   Hmm, I thought, so anyone could have figured out where Max was staying
   after October 19, with just a few phone calls.
   Provided, of course, that Andre was telling the truth about Max not
   requesting secrecy. Since I had, via Doug, Andre's own correspondence
   files of the period, I decided to check for myself. There was no
   mention of secrecy in Max's e-mail notes to Andre, which were mostly
   about an unrelated subject.
   Suppose, I speculated, that Andre edited the file containing Max's
   correspondence, to eliminate the offending sentence? I decided to
   check that possibility by looking at my copy of Max's sent-mail
   folder. Oops, no I couldn't - Max had sent those messages from his
   laptop, and I didn't have Max's own files after October 10. So I
   logged into Max's account on The Conf and examined his sent-mail
   folder there. Yes, there was a message to Andre on that date, of about
   the right length, but it was encrypted in a dual-key system. So I
   couldn't decrypt it without Andre's half of the key. There was,
   however, an electronic signature that included a 128-bit "message
   digest" of that e-mail in the cipher appendix to the sent-mail folder.
   And I could use it like a checksum, to see if Andre's version of the
   message was edited in any way.
   There were no changes. I let out a sigh of relief.
   After stretching briefly on the balcony, I returned to my computer to
   try a little net-surfing for Hirschhorn. I browsed fedworld.gov and
   checked the SEC list. There was indeed a Mortimer Hirschhorn in Palm
   Beach. No phone number was given, but there was an address: 2910 South
   Ocean Boulevard, Palm Beach FL 33480. I remembered running past that
   address on a driveway marker, on the way to Lake Worth and danish. It
   was on the west side of the street - the lake side. The eavesdropper's
   I found that Hirschhorn was on the board of directors of four
   corporations, all in the securities business. Interesting. Then, since
   he was an author, I used the browser to hop over to locis.loc.gov, the
   Library of Congress list of all the books copyrighted in the United
   States, and found three books written by "Jack Andersen (a pseudonym)"
   on the strange ways of Wall Street. Under Hirschhorn, I found two more
   books listed - and, via his birth year listed in the author line,
   discovered that he was 59 years old.
   To judge how widely read his books were, I went over to
   melyvl.berkeley.edu and went browsing through the card catalog of the
   entire University of California system: nine different campuses had
   copies of his last book, and a number had multiple copies. There were
   a total of 31 copies circulating. Two campus libraries currently had
   it on reserve for courses. I hopped over to carl.org and checked the
   circulation records of the Denver Public Library. He was reasonably
   popular there, too.
   Doug returned and I quickly filled him in, before he could get a word
   in edgeways. "Another fake message." I showed it to him on my screen.
   "No one has logged into Max's account."
   "So it's definitely related to Max," Doug said. "They're just trying
   another tactic to get you out of the way."
   I agreed, and went on to fill him in on Jack's address. "Andersen's
   condo must be line of sight to the Sunrise Apartments," I concluded.
   "The building surely is," Doug replied. "We'll have to see if his
   apartment is on the south side. That's a wonderful lead, Kate!"
   "We seem to be on a roll! So, what gives with Carrie's place?"
   Doug smiled his infectious smile. "The super wasn't in, and the
   doorman wasn't feeling very helpful. I couldn't see inside the locked
   mailboxes but they leave the magazines and packages out in big
   pigeonholes without even a door. And there's a nice big envelope
   addressed to a Carrie Hempelman, c/o Johnstone. Postmarked two days
   ago from New York. So surely she's down here."
   "Wow! From no names and addresses, we go to progress on all fronts!"
   "I propose a toast - orange juice or soda water?"
   AFTER SOME REFRESHMENT, we returned to the problem of how to approach
   the two apartments and their occupants. Jack Andersen was the more
   serious problem. But, as I was about to try calling Carrie Hempelman
   again, Doug stopped me.
   "You know," he observed, "we can't tell her over the telephone that
   her father has been missing for almost two weeks, if she doesn't know
   already. That's almost like saying he's dead. That sort of news has
   got to be delivered in person. We must see her, somehow, without
   giving it away."
   "You're right, and I should have thought of that myself. Hmmm," I
   mused. "She'll recognize my name, so let me try to set up a social
   visit. But an urgent one, since I'm just passing through, et cetera."
   I punched in *67, followed by the hard-earned number, 881-7439.
   "No answer, again," I reported. "She's probably out to lunch,
   somewhere fancy. Speaking of lunch, what do we have?"
   "I can give you fruit salad. Sliced turkey. Potato salad from the
   deli. Genuine kosher dills from Brooklyn. You probably want fresh
   poached king salmon, instead."
   "I'm not that spoiled. Some of everything, thanks."
   Sipping my iced tea, I pushed the re-dial button and listened to the
   phone ring. It was answered on the third ring.
   "Are you the Carrie Hempelman who's Max's daughter?... Oh, good. This
   is Kate Medici, who lives upstairs from Max in Seattle.... No, I
   haven't seen him - I'm in Palm Beach at the moment, just down the
   street from you. Since I've never managed to visit with you in New
   York when I'm there, I was hoping that I could say hello while I was
   passing through Palm Beach.... This afternoon would be best for me, if
   that's not a problem. Of course, of course.... Oh, lunch only if
   you're having some yourself. A crumb of cake would be just my speed.
   Okay, I'll be up in about a half hour. It'll will be nice to meet you
   at last. Bye now."
   "She sounds a little worried," I told Doug. "I didn't want to get her
   "What's our strategy?" he asked. "Is it better that I come with you,
   to give you a traditional excuse for being in Palm Beach, or is it
   better that the two of you have a little heart-to-heart without me?"
   "My guess is the latter," I said, "but why don't you stand by, to come
   up to her apartment if I buzz your belt phone? My guess is that we're
   going to have to put her in touch with the Palm Beach police
   detectives that are supposedly investigating Max."
   "If he came out to see Carrie while we were both still there, maybe
   we'd pick up some information from his questioning of her."
   "Good idea. When I call you, I'll say something about `you both'
   coming up if I want you to phone him with the address."
   "So, what information might she have?" Doug asked. "Where Max stayed
   before the Sunrise Hotel? When she last talked to him? If he told her
   what he was doing down here? Who he was going to see down here?"
   Driving north, I asked Doug to take a loop around the parking lot of
   one of the condos, just to see if anyone followed or pulled off the
   road outside. No one.
   CARRIE HEMPELMAN FAINTED at the news. Most women no longer "faint" at
   bad news, so I phoned Doug to come upstairs quickly.
   Carrie revived even before Doug arrived, still wearing his paramedic
   uniform, and she insisted that she didn't need any help. No, she said,
   she had absolutely no history of heart disease. Yes, she had fainted
   many times before - she has low blood pressure, and suffers in the
   midday heat.
   To keep Carrie from shooing Doug out of the room, I had to explain
   that I hadn't really called 911, that Doug was my friend and had been
   waiting in the car. For some reason, this made Carrie feel better, to
   think that the medic van hadn't pulled up at the front entrance with
   sirens going. Twice before when she'd fainted, someone had called 911
   and she was embarrassed. Doug was very reassuring, explaining how many
   women he'd met who share Carrie's problem with fainting.
   Soon, Carrie was offering him some tea and cookies, and appeared to
   feel entirely comfortable with him. Then she remembered that Max was
   missing from a sailboat and her voice caught several times. I was
   amazed to see yet another gentle-but-effective side of Doug, as he
   talked Carrie through her worries and explained why she shouldn't jump
   to conclusions, told her of all the cases he'd seen where things had
   turned out okay in the end.
   "So, did Max tell you that he was coming down to Palm Beach?" he
   "Oh, yes," Carrie answered, cheering up. "He was staying in this
   apartment. I'd subletted it for six weeks, but then couldn't come down
   until just a few days ago. I thought he'd moved out without telling
   me, since I couldn't get him on the phone. But then I got down here
   and found all his favorite clothes, hanging neatly in the closet."
   "So, what did Max say that he was going to do, down here?" I asked
   "Well, Daddy really doesn't like Florida, you know, so I asked him why
   the change of heart. And he said that he had some business down here.
   He thought that it might take only a week but he was happy that he
   could stay here longer, if he needed to."
   "Did he say what kind of business? Consulting, or something else?"
   Doug asked.
   "I'd assumed it was just another one of his consulting trips, from his
   tone of voice. But he didn't seem to have a schedule, so I was
   wondering if he'd found a new girl friend down here. I just can't
   imagine Daddy missing in a sailboat. He's just too - well, competent."
   "That was my first reaction, too," I explained, "and why I'm down here
   in Palm Beach searching for him."
   "Oh, I'm so glad. That's exactly what Max would want. He's always
   telling me about how good you are at solving problems." Really?
   Doug asked permission from me via a raised eyebrow, and said, "You
   know, the police have been trying to locate you as next-of-kin. If
   it's all right with you, I'll phone the detective who's working on the
   disappearance and ask him to come over."
   Carrie nodded, and Doug asked if he could use the phone in the study.
   After he left, Carrie asked me why the police hadn't called her long
   "First of all," I tried to explain, "they didn't know he was missing
   until the Sunrise Hotel called them about his abandoned luggage. Yes,
   I know - he must have moved to that particular hotel for some reason
   other than its amenities. And then the police didn't take it very
   seriously until the sailboat rental people called them too. Finally,
   they sent someone around to see me in Seattle a few days ago, to ask
   for your address and phone number. But your New York phone didn't
   "But - oh, silly me. I must have forgotten to set the call forwarding,
   to transfer my calls down here. No wonder I haven't been getting any
   calls from New York. I never give out my number down here because it
   changes from year to year, since I sublet different apartments.
   Except, of course, I give the apartment number to the people down
   here, like my hairdresser."
   "Yes, that's how I found you," I explained, "by phoning every
   hairdresser in Palm Beach with a sob-story about having to change Ms.
   Hempelman's appointment. You might phone your hairdresser and explain
   that I was a little confused. And that you'll really keep your regular
   "How very clever of you," Carrie exclaimed. "If only Max knew that you
   were searching for him. What can I do to help?"
   "We'd like to look through Max's luggage, if you don't mind." And
   before the police arrive. Doug was still in the study, and so I asked
   to see the bedroom first.
   I readily identified Max's favorite suitcase, but a search of it and
   the clothes revealed nothing. Doug came in and said that Sergeant
   McDonald would arrive in about ten minutes. I suggested looking in the
   study, but Max seemed to have left nothing - though it was hard to
   tell what belonged to the apartment's owner, Johnstone, and what Max
   might have left in some obscure place. We finished looking in all the
   drawers and cabinets by the time the doorman phoned up to announce the
   police. I was disappointed that there were no interesting computers,
   electronics, or cameras that Max might have brought along on a
   detective expedition.
   Sergeant McDonald proved to be a sandy-haired, middle-aged detective,
   apparently on beer-drinking terms with Doug. Doug introduced me as
   Max's neighbor in Seattle who had come down to investigate. Carrie
   explained, in more detail than really necessary, how cleverly I had
   tracked her down, not even knowing where in the country she was.
   McDonald seemed relieved to find that the news had already been
   broken, and only asked questions that we had already covered. Carrie
   asked what the police knew, but nothing new came out. He didn't find
   anything more interesting in Max's belongings than I had.
   The detective, putting his notebook away, then told Carrie - in what
   sounded, to my ear, like a verbal bit of bureaucratic boilerplate -
   that she could claim Max's hotel luggage from the police property
   room. But. The but was that it would have to be sometime when he could
   accompany her there and take an identifying statement. They'd have to
   take a picture of her with the property she's claiming, et cetera.
   A meaningful look from me and Carrie asked if she could do that right
   away. I offered to drive her, following Sergeant McDonald back to
   police headquarters, and then bring her back. In the parking lot, Doug
   told me that he'd had a private talk with the detective about the body
   in the trunk. It was a computer consultant from West Palm, one with a
   minor criminal record. But no known Mob associations. Cause of death
   was still undetermined, but the time of death might have been even
   earlier than when Max disappeared, just from the insect collections.
   Doug said he'd walk back to the condo and check in with his private
   investigators, see what the fishermen had to say. And that he'd e-mail
   I ARRIVED BACK, carrying Max's other suitcase and looking hot. "Your
   police property room is cooking all the evidence. Literally. Isn't
   this town rich enough to afford air conditioning for the police
   Doug grinned. "Only in the offices. You do look a little hot. So,
   anything in that suitcase?"
   He was, for some reason, wearing slacks and a blue blazer, with a
   neatly folded necktie sticking out of a pocket. That was sure a role
   reversal from the previous afternoon.
   "Nothing interesting," I replied after I stored the suitcase in the
   closet. "He must have kept everything important in his briefcase, and
   it was probably on the sailboat with him."
   "Did you get anything else out of Carrie?"
   "No. It's strange," I continued, while looking in the refrigerator and
   taking out some grapefruit juice, "just how unlike Max she is - makes
   me wonder if she's who she says she is. After all, I've never even
   talked on the phone to Carrie before, and Max has never said much
   about his only child."
   Doug shook his head. "She knew Max's opinions about Palm Beach. And I
   don't think we could have been set up - you had to work awfully hard
   to locate her."
   "You're probably right. Maybe she's adopted. I doubt that she'll
   strike out on her own, searching for him. But she'll probably keep us
   informed, if she hears anything or thinks of anything she's
   "She certainly has great faith in you. Likely from hearing Max's
   opinions on the subject."
   "Probably misplaced. I'm afraid, while this seems like progress, that
   we don't really know much more than we had guessed by last night."
   "But our other guess has also panned out - the fishermen, questioned
   again, indeed remembered the sailor using binoculars. They thought
   that he was a Peeping Tom, peering in bedroom windows, and had been
   making jokes about it."
   "That's why they probably still remember anything about the sailboat,"
   I observed, "after two weeks have passed. Usually those sorts of
   memories fade in a day or two."
   Doug nodded. "And he really did motor back and forth, over one stretch
   of water, not very far out from the lakefront shore of Palm Beach,
   just down the street from here. About where Jack Andersen's condo is."
   "Wow! So, what about another fire department inspection? Can I come?"
   "After you change into a dress. Well, I suppose you've got time to
   shower. We're not due for cocktails until sometime after five."

   IN THE SHOWER, I thought of some perfect replies, ten minutes too
   late. I'd just stood there with my mouth agape, until Doug confessed
   that he'd had e-mail from Andre. Mortimer (or Jack, as Max was
   apparently in the habit of calling him at club meetings) had returned
   Andre's call and, after they discussed business, Jack asked Andre
   whether his son was still working in Palm Beach. Andre said that Doug
   was indeed down there. Then Jack had actually called Doug's belt
   So, we were both invited to a cocktail party, apparently as extra
   guests for a long-planned gathering of winter visitors to Palm Beach.
   In short, Doug warned me, they will mostly be people who have recently
   arrived from New York.
   DOUG LOOKED AT MY COCKTAIL PARTY ATTIRE with approval. "You certainly
   don't need to make a trip to Worth Avenue. That's stunning."
   "This black outfit would be a little exotic in Seattle, what with the
   open back and all the diagonal lacing. But I figured that it might
   pass in Palm Beach - for someone my age."
   "It's perfect. But you'll attract all the men at the party, who will
   cluster around you. And keep you from playing detective."
   "Well, that's part of my disguise."
   "Yes, the art of minimalist disguise," I said, striking a pose. "We
   have a problem in dealing with Jack. He's probably on our side, but
   someone in the club maybe isn't - or leaks - and we don't know who. We
   don't want to lie to Jack if we can avoid it; he's much more likely to
   be an ally than not. But we need to figure out the eavesdropping
   angle, while keeping our options open."
   Doug nodded agreement.
   "So, during my long shower, I decided that you should just introduce
   me by my first name - and leave off any mention of Seattle, as well.
   After all, Jack probably heard my name mentioned at a club meeting, if
   Max tried to persuade them to bring me in."
   "Good idea. Are you still a computer consultant? Or playing dumb?"
   "I'm not sure that I'm smart enough to play dumb successfully, not
   without a lot of practice. And I can't hide, because I'm too tall. How
   about computer graphics artist? That's at least a serious hobby of
   mine, and I can speak the lingo with the pros if I run into a real
   "Most of these people don't know computer consultants from computer
   salesmen. Better emphasize the artist part of it," advised Doug. He
   appraised my dress again, one eyebrow cocked. "So, you're dressed as a
   struggling young artist, are you?"
   "You're getting warm. I can't go as your sister, because of Jack
   knowing your family. So I thought - with your permission, of course -
   that I would try clinging to you like an infatuated significant other.
   That way Jack will immediately classify me and not search for fancier
   Doug beamed. "I'm speechless at your ruthless logic. Are we
   lovey-dovey enough that I get to kiss you in public?"
   "Of course. We'll probably want to compare notes while looking around
   Jack's apartment and, given possible bugs, we'll have to do that by
   whispering in each other's ears. And that looks perfectly innocent if
   accompanied by a kiss and giggle," I said. I decided that we'd better
   rehearse in the elevator.
   WE PLANNED TO ARRIVE EARLY so as to get some private conversation with
   our host, before the other guests started arriving. Even though it was
   walking distance, Doug suggested that we drive; he was concerned that
   no one know where we were staying, and that walking might give it away
   more easily, especially when we left the party.
   He opened the trunk, rummaged through an aluminum case, and pocketed a
   silver ball-point pen with a digital watch display. It's actually, he
   explained, a broadbanded receiver that's handy for detecting bugs that
   broadcast, with the signal strength read from the digital display. He
   explained how he planed to use it, with a little help from me.
   In the car, I asked, "Does Jack know about Max being missing in Palm
   Beach? Does he know that you know? Is he going to ask about what Andre
   told you?"
   "Ouch, good point. Nothing's been said, so let's wait and see if he
   mentions Max first. Why don't I say that Dad asked me to use my
   influence with friends in the police department, to get them to take
   Max's disappearance seriously."
   "Good. That would be a reasonable request for Andre to make of you,
   and not one that would involve you needing to know about the club. And
   it would be a request that you'd feel free to talk about to anyone.
   Qualifies on all counts. And if Jack knows about you being in school
   now, how are you going to explain being down here? You'll need to
   assume that you've been seen in uniform."
   "I thought that I'd say that I'm doing a semester with no courses,
   just a full-time medical thesis preparation. That's even true."
   "And then Jack, or someone else, is going to politely ask what your
   thesis topic is all about."
   "It's actually about chaos theory as applied to irregular heart beats.
   But I'll instead say that it's about panic disorders. The paramedics
   see more of them than the E.R. docs ever do, because the attack is
   usually over before the patients get to medical attention. So, I'm
   working part time again as a paramedic, in order to tap into the
   grapevine and interview a lot of experienced paramedics. All while
   searching the medical literature in my off-hours. Thanks to the web, I
   don't have to hole up in a medical library - that's not quite true
   yet, but they won't know it."
   "And I took some vacation from my job starting several days ago," I
   said, inventively, "just to come be with you. And, of course, party.
   I'll imply that I live with you in Boston, if anyone asks where I
   live, but I'll try to avoid the issue."
   "This is beginning to sound nicer and nicer," Doug grinned.
   Doug drove past Jack's building and continued south as far as the
   bank. He circled around the bank and headed back north while I turned
   around looking for cars following us. "Nothing," I told Doug. "May as
   well park."
   The doorman didn't recognize Doug, out of uniform and with me on his
   arm. He immediately pointed us to the elevator and said that Mr.
   Andersen was on the sixth floor, all the way to the left.
   When we finally rang Jack's doorbell, I was reflecting that the
   rehearsal had gone very well indeed. Doug had managed to hit the
   elevator's stop button with his elbow without my noticing, and so I'd
   begun to wonder why time seemed to pass so slowly. I snuggled up
   against Doug's arm and was looking at him when the door opened.
   "You must be Douglas," said a fit-looking sixtyish man in a Palm Beach
   cocktail hour uniform. Who probably had recently changed out of a Palm
   Beach tennis uniform.
   They shook hands, and Doug said, "And this is Kate. Kate, meet the
   famous Jack Andersen."
   "Just Jack, please. Notorious is probably the right word, and that
   only among certain fans of Wall Street folklore. How do you do?"
   "Hello, somewhat notorious Jack," I said, trying for my best smile.
   "I like Jack much better than Mortimer, which is my real name. Entre
   nous. Come into my lair, fair lady. We're going to have a first-class
   sunset, so go straight out to the balcony and see the apartment later.
   I'll bring you something to drink. Everyone else will probably arrive
   too late to see the sunset."
   And indeed the sun was reflecting a red streak across Lake Worth. As
   we looked, a catamaran sailed across the rippled path. I looked
   carefully to see if I could detect clothing on the profiles of the two
   crew members. I could, once the catamaran came closer to shore. Hmmm.
   But the sun had already set, when I'd been on the silhouetted sailboat
   Jack stepped out carrying two glasses of the superb scotch from the
   Orkney Islands. That's exactly what I'd had been hoping for, when I
   asked for scotch without ice. Telling hosts to omit the ice from the
   scotch is one of the better ways to get hosts to offer the good stuff,
   rather than the usual bar scotch.
   The single malt was warming. As was the elevator episode. And the day
   had already had two successes - even though, I thought with some
   detachment, Max seemed no closer. I tuned out the social chat between
   Jack and Doug referring to Andre, and just leaned on the balcony and
   watched the sunset. Then we all heard the doorbell ring, and Jack
   excused himself.
   "Hey, lover, observe that view to the south," I said to Doug. "And
   that pair of ten-by-fifties on the coffee table."
   Doug immediately got the binoculars and looked for the window of the
   eavesdropper's apartment. "I can see something inside. The sun's so
   low that it's shining deep into the room," he whispered.
   "But just for ten minutes more," I estimated, eyeing the sun and
   horizon. "Look quickly."
   "I'm not going to be able to resolve the antenna angle with mere
   binocs. We need a serious telescope. And I'll bet you that Jack has
   one - lots of apartments in Palm Beach have them, let me tell you.
   Let's go wander around, arm in arm, before Jack introduces us to
   another guest."
   We wandered around the corner of the balcony, looking inside the plate
   glass windows in search of a telescope. Jack's study was seen and,
   since the hall door itself was open, we felt free to wander in from
   the balcony's sliding glass door. Stashed in one corner, next to a
   wall-mounted world map, was a long refractor telescope with three
   different eyepieces mounted on one tripod leg. An obvious Christmas
   present, now mostly decorative.
   Doug moved it to the center of the room and aimed it out the balcony
   door. I quickly shut the hall door and leaned against it, watching
   Doug switch eyepieces and maneuver the telescope. If Jack had started
   to open the door, I was going to make surprised-lovers' noises and say
   we'd be right out.
   "Beautiful view of somebody's room, but not the right one. I'll have
   to count windows from the west corner of that floor," Doug explained,
   "The light is starting to fade a little. The sun's probably getting
   into that cloud layer on the horizon," I said, squinting a little.
   "Got it! Almost missed it, because that antenna looks very different
   when seen straight on, rather than from the side, the way I saw it
   from the hotel next door. Just a simple little T. Take a look," Doug
   said, standing back. But leaving a friendly arm around my waist as I
   bent over to look, just in case anyone were to come in.
   "I can't see either top or bottom of the antenna, and the profile is
   so symmetric that we must be seeing left and right sides equally. It
   must be pointing right at this apartment, Doug."
   "That's what it looked like to me. Let's put the telescope back in its
   usual and accustomed place."
   As Doug started to open the hall door, I pulled him aside and kissed
   him firmly. "Just to make you blush boyishly. I'm hating every minute
   of this, of course."
   We walked out, arm-in-arm, and found Jack and his guests on the
   balcony. Introductions were made as the sun disappeared below the
   southwestern horizon, and I reclaimed my glass of single malt that I'd
   left by the binocs; carrying a full glass is protection against
   someone refilling it, the best way to stay sober. More guests arrived,
   interrupting get-acquainted questions, and more introductions were
   made. It was curiously old-fashioned in some ways, with several people
   actually lighting up cigarettes in the midst of a group of others who
   couldn't escape the fumes.
   No one, I noticed, bothered to ask what sort of work I do - as if
   hanging onto Doug's arm were obviously my full-time occupation. I had
   mixed feelings about my acting success, wondering if they would have
   asked, even without my act. On the West Coast, someone would have
   asked, regardless of the camp-follower pose.
   I also discovered that, in Palm Beach, they always ask "When did you
   come down?" as part of the conversational ritual. I found that I could
   answer with "Just this week," without saying where I came from - and
   that no one would ever inquire further into the matter, that the
   Greater New York area was simply assumed.
   This is what, in the computer world, would be called the default
   assumption - it's that, unless you say something different. The
   social-life defaults down here, so far as I could observe, were 1)
   stray smoke was acceptable, 2) young women pursued men rather than
   careers, and 3) that you lived in New York, either "The City" or its
   suburbs. I didn't bother to disabuse them of their assumptions, though
   I did manage to position myself upwind of the smokers. One person
   asked if I was from "out on The Coast," so I said that I used to live
   there. She meant, of course, California, and probably Los Angeles at
   that, so I felt that I wasn't giving anything away. Seattle is not
   part, I am told, of the New Yorker's definition of "West Coast" for
   some reason.
   BY THE TIME that the guests stopped arriving, I was sipping my second
   glass and Doug had been cornered by Jack. Doug was explaining his
   rebellious youth, immersed in computers and disliking school, how he
   loved the competence involved in being a paramedic, how he saw that he
   too could be an emergency room physician if he went back to school.
   And that if he didn't, he'd soon reach the top of the ladder of
   rewarding jobs in the fire department, that he'd have to become an
   administrator eventually. So he went to college, finally. No, his
   current ambition wasn't to become an E.R. doc - soon, Doug was busy
   explaining his panic attack project to Jack.
   I was fascinated by seeing this side of Doug. But duty called. And so
   I, in the manner of significant others everywhere who have heard this
   story before, excused myself to go wandering around the apartment. As
   I looked back across the room, I remarked to myself on Doug's
   appearance - he looks like a fireman when dressed as a fireman, and he
   looks like a fashionable physician when dressed for a cocktail party.
   The lively eyes, assured manner, and well-trimmed dark moustache fit
   either side of him.
   I took myself on a tour of the apartment, pausing and looking at the
   art hung on every wall. By the time I returned to sit beside Doug on
   the small sofa - and gave him an appreciative kiss on the ear - they
   were talking about Max.
   "Dad asked me if I had any friends in the police department here, from
   my full-time fireman days," Doug explained to Jack. "Wanted me to give
   them a push, get them to put more effort into searching for Max. I do
   know the detectives involved - but they've really been at a loss for
   leads. Even notifying next-of-kin has been frustrating, It wasn't
   until today that his daughter was found. But that's all, I'm sorry to
   report. I think that Dad is hiring some private detectives to continue
   the search."
   "It's really very sad," Jack said. "To think that people can disappear
   off the face of the earth, without a trace. And do - especially in
   south Florida."
   Jack had to get up to play host again. I nuzzled Doug and whispered in
   his ear a moment later. "Agent K reporting, sir. I've located the
   cordless phone, on the shelf above the drinks. And its base station,
   in the kitchen. In case you didn't notice before, there's a regular
   phone in the study - which is unoccupied at the moment. Sir."
   "Where's the base station in the kitchen?"
   "On the wall, alongside the microwave. Terrible place to put it, but
   it probably works anyway, most of the time. To duty stations? Sir?" I
   added a light kiss.
   He nodded and headed for the kitchen, carrying his full glass. I
   walked around the balcony and entered the study by the same door as we
   used before. I picked up the traditional model desk phone, and
   listened for the dial tone. And then pressed my thumb on the
   disconnect button. Then I released it to get the dial tone a second
   time. And repeated this again, for a third false start. Then I made
   "giving up" gestures, just in case anyone was watching, and hung up
   the phone, marched out of the room back on to the balcony. Dusk seemed
   to have turned to darkness. I found an uninhabited section of balcony
   railing and leaned over, staring at the Lake Worth waterway. Where Max
   was last seen.
   Doug put an arm around me and whispered in my ear. "You're all tight.
   Did something go wrong?"
   "Sorry, I was just thinking of Max again," I said, leaning against
   Doug in relief. "So, what happened?"
   "The base station started transmitting - and stopped - exactly three
   times. It shouldn't have done that. So, someone has modified that base
   station to transmit all of Jack's phone conversations, whether they're
   made on the cordless phone or his desk phone or any other phone in the
   "Is that difficult to do?"
   "Hell, a guest at a party like this could have arrived carrying a
   package, swapped base stations, and left with their package. And many
   purses are large enough to conceal a base station."
   "Do we tell Jack about it?"
   "That would mean we'd have to explain ourselves. And what Dad revealed
   to us, that he wasn't supposed to. I suggest that we disable that
   particular phone."
   "With a piece of paper inside the modular connector?" I asked.
   "No, that leaves potentially visible evidence of fiddling. I can bend
   back one of those gold wires that you see inside a modular socket, so
   it no longer makes contact with the cable's modular plug. It's hard to
   figure out a problem like that. So, that particular phone will stop
   working, but all the others in the apartment will continue to work
   normally. Jack will just assume that, in the manner of old-style
   cordless phones, it has finally died of old age. He'll throw it out
   tomorrow and get a new one. Which won't transmit except when the
   cordless handset does."
   "Excellent plan. Can you operate on it in the kitchen, or do I need to
   smuggle it to the bathroom under my skirt?"
   Doug smiled at the thought. "I can do it with a car key without even
   looking, entirely by feel. As long as you come along and manage to
   block anyone's view."
   I nibbled on Doug's ear as we discussed what microwave to buy, while
   admiring Jack's built-in model. While caressing my bare back with his
   left hand, Doug unplugged the cable with his right hand, inserted a
   key, and pressed it up against the ceiling of the little recess, right
   in the center. Then he replaced the modular plug.
   "Okay, go and do your frustrated phone call act, once again," he
   whisper in my ear.
   I disentangled myself, saying aloud that I was going to find the
   powder room. But I slipped into the still-empty study again, and got a
   dial tone three times. While doing this, I peered behind Jack's
   desktop computer, and saw that he had a brand-new firewall module for
   the net connection, the same model as Doug had bought for the condo.
   Doug wasn't in the kitchen anymore but I found him at the balcony rail
   "Success," he whispered in my ear, while kissing it. "Didn't transmit,
   even once."
   "This is such a lovely cocktail party, Doug," I said aloud. "I could
   learn to like these."
   I added, whispering again, "Same model firewall as you bought in
   "That's also what I recommended to my Dad, months ago. So, maybe all
   the club got them about then, and tightened up security. Which means,
   hopefully, that they stopped talking on unsecured phones, just as Max
   and Dad did," Doug whispered, then raised his voice, "when we go out
   in the fishing boat tomorrow."
   I nudged him, fondly. "You'll just drink too much beer and get
   sunburned, you know. I'll just have to protect you from yourself." I
   leaned over and kissed him.
   "Can we leave and go for a lovers' stroll up the beach?" I whispered.
   WALKING UP THE BEACH, I was having mixed emotions. My arm around
   Doug's waist, I was exulting over our string of successes as
   detectives. Crossing my arms and kicking sand a few minutes later, I
   was feeling guilty about another day passing without getting any
   closer to Max. The latter mood started to dominate as the scotch wore
   off (I finally drank it, just as we were leaving), and I became
   skeptical and a little cross.
   Doug agreed that our leads weren't strongly related to Max, except for
   the inference that he was investigating the eavesdropping directed at
   Jack. Or other leaks associated with Jack.
   "By the way, how did Jack know you were in Palm Beach - given that he
   thought you were in college now?"
   "I wondered, too. But I didn't want to ask straight out. And the
   conversation didn't manage to return to the subject. Maybe he saw me
   in uniform, this last week. Or maybe someone told him. Dad might have
   slipped up and mentioned it."
   "That's troublesome. But if Jack was really trying to hide his source,
   he'd have played dumb about the news that you'd given up Palm Beach
   for the life of a Boston undergraduate." I shrugged and then changed
   the subject. "So, why is the eavesdropping persisting, months after
   the changeover to serious encryption?"
   "I still think," Doug said, "because of the lack of sophistication,
   that this eavesdropping was probably a stock broker running a little
   intelligence operation for market tips. A pro would have picked the
   lock on the telephone closet in the basement of the apartment
   building, then clipped a transmitter onto Jack's phone line at the
   patch panel. And, of course, that antenna was scanning multiple
   locations when I first saw it."
   "That suggests Jack wasn't the only target," I said.
   "But because Max's disappearance is associated with the
   eavesdropping," Doug pointed out, "we've got to assume that the
   parasiters also bought information from this eavesdropping
   entrepreneur. Or maybe Jack is now involved with them - maybe he was
   blackmailed using something learned by eavesdropping. And the
   parasiters discovered Max investigating their link to the club."
   "So, the eavesdropper is our link. Or Jack. Or both," I said. "Are our
   detectives likely to find the guy servicing the apartment?"
   "They're still watching, though they missed him on his first service
   call last night. They've got two people on the job now, each shift,
   round the clock. I think the eavesdropper will probably come out
   again, once a day passes without any phone calls recorded from Jack's
   apartment. He'll probably make a sorry-wrong-number call to Jack, just
   to see if his equipment will record it. When it doesn't, he'll assume
   that his jerry-rigged antenna slipped out of position."
   "At least, if he thinks as logically as you do!"
   "No, that's just routine repairman thinking. He's been using that
   equipment for a long time, and he probably knows how to troubleshoot
   it by now."
   "So," I said, as we stepped around some flotsam washed up on the sand,
   "if we can find him, maybe we can bribe him to reveal who he is
   selling the tapes to."
   "Good plan, Kate. You've done this sort of thing before?"
   "No. Actually, I can't believe that I just said that - bribe somebody,
   or threaten them with exposure, either. But necessity is the mother of
   invention - and we've got to find Max. Exposing the parasiters is
   strictly secondary, in my mind. Figuring them out is just a means to
   an end."
   "But you seem to think like a detective, just like some of the
   internists I've been training under. I still have to force myself to
   try and think of all the possible angles," Doug explained.
   "Computer consulting is often a kind of detective work. Certainly my
   last big job was, where someone had used the e-mail software to delete
   other managers' e-mail."
   "They got superuser privileges on the system?" Doug asked.
   "Nope. A few years ago, a manager wrote the specs for the systems
   programmers, about how he wanted the e-mail system customized. It was
   supposedly all in the interests of structuring interoffice
   communications, to define lines of reporting and responsibility.
   Worked just fine. And then he left the company. Job titles changed
   around during the next several years as the company grew. Now there
   are three managers at this level where only one had been before - and
   one of them discovered that his privileges extended to deleting his
   fellow managers' unread e-mail."
   "He couldn't read their mail," I continued, "but when their mutual
   boss would e-mail a request for reports to all the managers, he'd
   delete someone's copy of the message. And so he'd be on time turning
   in his report, when one of his fellow managers wouldn't even know
   there was a deadline. It got very complicated to unravel the coverup
   of his maneuvering. I wound up showing that four other people had been
   used by this guy, were made to look bad so he could look good. That
   was what took so long, figuring out who he'd injured."
   "Suppose the club's e-mail system is secure?"
   "Probably not. Crackers get superuser access all the time on systems
   like that, though usually only very briefly. But with good ciphers, it
   shouldn't matter much - unless, of course, they actually delete unread
   e-mail files. Still, there might have been a leakage route from before
   all the encrypting started in August. That might still lead us back to
   the parasiters," I said, cheering up. "Add that to our list of
   projects for tomorrow."
   We turned back to retrieve the car at Jack's condo. My good mood
   didn't last more than a minute. "But what we really need is a lead to
   Max, damn it all. It could take months to unravel a parasiters'
   conspiracy that's really distributed around the country. If Max was
   kidnapped and is still alive - which we've got to assume - he might
   not survive that long."
   I SLEPT BADLY, as I kept getting up to readjust my mixture of outside
   breeze, air conditioning, and ceiling fan. Thinking about Max didn't
   help, either.
   Shopping for a replacement nightgown, one thing that Worth Avenue
   ought to be good for, was going to be the least of my worries. I got
   up and checked email.
     Date: Wed 4 Nov 00:35 Mountain Time (GMT - 7h) 
     From: Melanie Coltrain 
     To: Kate Medici 
     Subject: Reporting on Steven (just in case you need distraction)
     Hi, Kate,
     Steven was over again tonight. I'd been so frightened that the MS
     prospect would scare Steven away from me. And maybe it'll still
     happen, when the news sinks in, but so far we're soul-mates. It
     feels like we've known each other for years. He even kissed me good
     night. Twice.
     More later, Melanie
   THEN I OVERSLEPT, which made me mad at myself again. I appeared in my
   robe, saying "Good morning" pleasantly but probably looking cross.
   Doug, reading the Times at the dinner table, got up to make me a
   latte. He made sympathetic noises as he steamed the milk.
   I was having none of his sympathy. Max was looming in my mind and I
   didn't want to get distracted - that make-believe at the party had
   been entirely too pleasant. But it was now the fifth day since I heard
   that Max was missing, and I felt that I knew little more than I did
   after the patrolman's first visit to my Seattle apartment. Max was
   just getting further and further away.
   I refused breakfast, but glanced at the election headlines. "He lost
   re-election!" I exclaimed. "My least-favorite mean-spirited senator.
   When I lived in Kansas, I worked hard to get rid of him but he could
   always buy ten times more television time than any challenger, thanks
   to all the lobbyists trying to keep him in power."
   But my cheer didn't last long and, after flipping through the paper, I
   soon disappeared into the master bedroom with my mug. I reappeared in
   running shorts and a tank top. "Do we need more danish or juice?" I
   asked Doug.
   "No. Run unencumbered," Doug said after an appraising look at the
   frown on my face. "I'll pick up some later when I go out, after I make
   some phone calls and send some e-mail."
   AFTER MY RUN AND SHOWER, I reappeared and stood behind Doug as he
   concentrated on his computer screen. It showed sunrise on Mount
   Rainier from Seattle, the live picture you get by browsing
   http://www.washington.edu that was my favorite way of seeing if it was
   raining outside. "Sorry if I'm cross this morning. The run did me some
   "I know you're worried," Doug reassured me, sympathetically, turning
   around to look at me. "But we now know who Max was interested in - the
   people eavesdropping on Jack. And maybe Jack himself. That's real
   progress. At this time yesterday, we didn't even know that Jack
   existed. Or that Carrie was in Palm Beach. Or how the eavesdropping
   was done."
   "I know, I know. But, damn it, Doug," I said, still pacing, "I stand
   out on that lovely balcony of ours, in the middle of the night, and
   look out over Lake Worth all moonlit, and I think, That's where Max
   disappeared. Just offshore from here, probably."
   I shook my head vigorously. "Almost two weeks ago, now. I want to find
   Max so badly that I can taste it. It tastes bitter, five days of
   failure to lay my hands on him. And for a week before that, I failed
   to register that he was missing - and I should have known, from the
   lack of e-mail about Black Friday!"
   My voice was almost breaking. "I want to take him back home to
   Seattle, help him recover. I feel like I've got to go out there and
   make up for lost time - start interviewing people myself, find the
   clues that the police have missed. Shake things up."
   "Kate, Kate. What we need are imaginative leads to follow up, or to
   get others to chase down. Come out and interview the fishermen with
   me, if it will help, but remember that you're the brains of this
   outfit. You know Max, and you know computer networks and how they can
   be bent. As wonderful as it was to have you help me check out the
   cordless phone setup at Jack's, your talents are really wasted on that
   sort of thing."
   I looked out the balcony window for a moment, and finally sat down
   across the table from Doug, forcing a smile. "Message received, Doctor
   Chen, sir. But ideas don't come out of nothing. They're always new
   combinations of old things. And I need my brain stimulated a little -
   it's gotten soggy overnight. So, what's the plan with the fishermen?
   You bet I want to come along!"
   "So far, in using Sol's detective agency, we haven't let our hand show
   - not even telling anyone except Sol that we're searching for Max. We,
   unlike the detectives, can make decisions on the spot about how much
   to reveal, if we see a line of questioning that might lead somewhere.
   The hazard of that sort of front-line activism is the risk of being
   identified and traced back to this apartment. But I do think, on
   balance, that one of us has to do a third interview of these
   "See, for instance, whether they noticed any other person watching
   Max's sailboat, any speedboat lingering about, or maneuvering near
   Max," I said.
   "My imagination, probably like your's, runs to kidnapping by large
   speedboat - which are a dime a dozen along this intracoastal waterway.
   Just pull up alongside Max, point a gun at him, and order him to climb
   aboard and go below decks. Then motor down to the Lantana inlet and
   head out to sea. A few hours later, the speedboat anchors somewhere in
   the Bahamas, in a nice quiet cove. Customs inspections over there are
   a joke; no one would discover Max locked in a room below deck."
   "Or know if he was dumped overboard, with an anchor chain tangled
   around his feet. Ugh. Let's go see the fishermen before they decide
   it's getting too hot for comfort," I said, getting up.
   THE FIRST TWO FISHERMEN didn't know anything more than they'd told
   Sol, but the third one proved very interesting. When questioned about
   another boat interested in that particular sailboat, she described a
   large deep-sea fishing boat with a flying bridge.
   But it wasn't fishing - she knew better, because they never actually
   dropped a line over the side, just arranged some marlin-fishing poles
   in the holders on the rear deck. Not, she sniffed, what you'd expect
   to catch in this channel.
   She remembered it because of the sailboat that she had seen idling -
   and also not fishing - for several days. The old guy with the
   binoculars kept motoring back and forth along the Palm Beach
   lakefront. And because the two boats had, after two days, been seen
   together. Though only briefly. The big marlin boat had pulled
   alongside the sailboat for just a minute of two, and then left,
   heading south down the waterway under the Lake Worth drawbridge.
   "Did the drawbridge open for it?" I asked, after keeping quiet up
   until then.
   "Yeah," said the henna-haired woman in her seventies. "Finally. I
   think there was a little argument with the bridge tender, about
   whether their radio antennas were really tall enough to require a
   bridge opening, 'cause the marlin boat had to go around in a circle
   half a dozen times before the bridge opened. Somebody told me that the
   daytime bridge tender gets real pissed off at some of the guys whose
   antennas can be bent down to clear the bridge."
   "So, there was a little argument by radio?" I asked.
   "Probably. I've seen boats about that size circle impatiently, at
   least once a day. The bridge tender makes them wait, if they insist on
   the bridge being raised. Contest of wills. Men," she sniffed.
   "Did you recognize what make and model the boat was?" asked Doug.
   "Don't know those things, least not like the men do. But I'd recognize
   one, if I saw another go by."
   "If I came back with a magazine that has lots of boat pictures in it,
   could you look at it with me?" Doug asked. She nodded. "Later today?"
   "I'll be here until noon. Then my boyfriend picks me up."
   "Tell you what, if I can't get back in time, I'll send that man who
   talked to you before, have him bring along some pictures. Can I bring
   you some picnic lunch from the deli, or a cold six-pack?"
   Before we left, I asked one more question. "What did the sailboat do,
   after the marlin boat left?"
   "Just drifted around for a while. Another hour, at least. I think it
   was still there when I left at noon."
   BACK IN THE CAR, Doug phoned Sol with an order for three pastrami on
   rye, hold the mayo. And two quarts of fresh orange juice, plus two
   cold six-packs of Perrier. Don't forget napkins and some copies of the
   sailing magazines that have for-sale ads in the back, the kind with
   lots of color pictures of the boats.
   Then he phoned the bridge tender. "Is that Bruce? Hello, again. This
   is Doug again. Thanks for lowering the barrier on my tail the other
   day. Hey, you got a minute to show my new girlfriend the view from up
   there, how you lift that big bridge just with the tip of your little
   finger? ... Great, be there in about three minutes."
   We heard the latch on the sidewalk door buzz as soon as we neared it.
   A flight of stairs and we were in a junior-sized airport control
   "Hi, Bruce - meet Kate, who has this thing about drawbridges."
   "I've always wanted to see a modern one," I explained while shaking
   hands with a thin, fussy-looking man in his fifties with an
   ill-fitting hairpiece. "I'm from Seattle and we have all those
   wonderful old drawbridges built about 1910."
   "Well, they haven't changed much since then." Bruce replied.
   "Hydraulics in places, lot better bearings - but the principles are
   all still the same. What's new is that this is a double drawbridge."
   "Double? Don't many drawbridges have two halves?""
   "But our two halves are side by side. Look down at the deck," Bruce
   said. "The southern half of the bridge is for the two eastbound lanes
   of traffic, the northern half for the westbound lanes."
   "Why not one four-lane bridge?" I asked, though suspecting the answer.
   "Vibration. I have to lower them separately for the last several feet,
   just to avoid all the vibration that would shake the structure if they
   both clanged down together."
   And it seemed that the southern half was always getting out of joint,
   causing eastbound traffic to have to detour for miles via the
   Manalapan drawbridge. It's many hours until the mechanics can reset
   things. Doug explained how Bruce and the other bridge tenders
   nonetheless managed to slip the medic vans through, no matter what.
   "Yeah, but you guys are a pleasure, the high point of my day. Some of
   those speedboat guys are the low point. They think they're hot stuff.
   I'm always having to call the sheriff's water patrol boat about some
   asshole, showing off, with reckless disregard of the other boats."
   "Do you get the same problem that the tenders in Seattle complain
   about," I asked, "the boats that are two feet short of your clearance
   - but want the bridge opened anyway, somebody who wants to impress his
   friends with his ability to command the cars to halt and a big bridge
   to open?"
   "They've got to be ten times worse, down here in Florida. Last time I
   was in Seattle, I didn't see many of those big flying-bridge boats
   that are so common down here. Or any of those big speedboats, those
   guys who want the world to think that they live dangerously like the
   drug runners. They even dress like they imagine Mob types to dress."
   I merely smiled encouragement.
   "Most of those boats have antennas that can be bent over - they won't
   fit into a covered marina without tying down the antenna. And the ones
   with the stiff fiberglass rods that can't be bent, why they're mostly
   too short for me to have to raise the bridge, except at a really high
   tide. But those assholes will get on the radio and lecture me about
   the Navigation Act of 1928, that I'm obligated to get this latter-day
   obstacle out of a boat's way when they command it. They even get the
   year wrong."
   I looked to heaven.
   "But it's their word that it won't clear and, since I haven't measured
   their exact boat's antenna installation, I have to raise the bridge if
   they really insist," Bruce grumbled.
   "I'll bet it sometimes takes ten minutes for you to get around to
   raising both halves," I smiled. I saw Doug pick up the binoculars and
   look at something.
   "It's just what a psychologist friend of mine calls operant
   conditioning," Bruce said, looking pleased with himself, "so maybe
   they'll avoid the issue the next time. But for some of them, it's like
   waving a red flag at a bull. Some boats, when I see them coming, I
   know we're sure to argue for five minutes, and that they'll speed
   around in tight circles the whole time. Macho bastards. And they talk
   real principled, like jailhouse lawyers. Demanding, demanding. You can
   almost hear them pounding the steering wheel."
   "Regular customers, huh?" grinned Doug.
   "Some of them do it twice a week. But some, I'll remember from a month
   earlier. Once they've done it maybe three times, they're reliable -
   they'll do it every time after that. Compulsives."
   "You keep a description of them, so you can report them for speeding
   if they race away at full throttle, after the bridge opens?" Doug
   "Damn right."
   "Still got your list from two weeks ago?" I asked, suddenly serious.
   Bruce was not surprised. "Of course. I log those guys, because they're
   often reckless when they think they're too far away for me to read
   their registration numbers. I write down the number and the name, just
   as they go under the bridge." Bruce picked up his logbook and started
   flipping back. "What date do you want to see?"
   "October 22, a Thursday." I found that my voice was tight.
   "Here's the 22nd. Only one of them that day, right at 10:55 am. But I
   know that marlin boat - he's one of the regulars. Prissy skipper.
   Suave-sounding - but up tight, if you know what I mean. Don't think
   I've seen him since then."
   "Know what he looks like?" asked Doug, writing down the boat's name
   and number. The Recrudescence?
   "Middle-aged guy who always wears a really broad-brimmed canvas hat,
   of a style I haven't seen in years. So I usually can't see his face
   from up here, except the times when he looks up at me and gives me the
   finger. Wears wrap-around sunglasses like the European skiers. Gray
   moustache. Jowls that shake. Big, heavy guy who doesn't take care of
   himself. Probably have a heart attack, the way he's going," Bruce said
   "Tall?" I asked.
   "Certainly big around, big bone structure. Yeah, I'd say he's at least
   as tall as the two of you. He's always wearing a blue blazer with that
   absurd hat of his. Linen pants, I'd swear, sort of cream colored
   instead of white. Real old-fashioned kind of guy who got set in his
   ways about forty years ago, when he was in his twenties. Probably
   complains all the time that what he wants isn't kept in stock any more
   by the stores, so he has to get a tailor to make it up, special."
   I nodded.
   "Some of those rich guys are real strange," Bruce continued. "Don't
   get me wrong. Others are real gems and smarter than most other people.
   But they're all kinda protected from the real world, if you know what
   I mean. And so, the strange ones stay strange. This guy might work,
   though - he's never sun-tanned like the idle rich. Rich doctor,
   "Ever see anyone else on his boat? Beautiful blondes, little boys?"
   Doug asked.
   "No, he's usually alone. Well, just that old Cuban guy that works for
   him. Always dresses like crew, know what I mean? Clean whites, but
   nothing fancy like braid," Bruce said. "A little rough-looking,
   compared with the skipper. Isn't buddy-buddy with him, just hired help
   to gaf the fish and moor the boat. So, this have anything to do with
   that missing guy that the cops were asking me about, whose sailboat
   was found by kids that kept it?"
   "And delayed the Coast Guard search," I said bitterly. "I could
   throttle those irresponsible kids. The missing man is my next-door
   neighbor, Max, and we're trying to find him. What did you tell the
   police? They told me they weren't able to find anyone that had seen
   "When the Palm Beach detectives came by here a week ago, they just
   asked me if I'd seen the sailboat. Sure, I said, two dozen of this
   same model, every day. They're not tall enough to need the bridge up,
   so I don't get to know them individually, like those big boat guys. I
   told the guy from Lantana the same thing yesterday."
   "So, have you ever noticed," I asked, "a big boat taking an interest
   in one of those sailboats? Ring a bell?"
   Bruce looked out at Lake Worth. "I do remember seeing that same marlin
   boat idling around, up the waterway on the Palm Beach side just past
   those red and green channel marker buoys. Thought I recognized the
   boat, so I used the binocs. Big flying-bridge fishing boat, about 35
   feet and twin screws, real modern lines. The idiot had a big marlin
   pole out the back and his hired help sat there, pretending he was
   fishing for marlin. In Lake Worth!"
   I grimaced appropriately.
   "I kept wondering when old Shaking-Jowls was going to come down here
   and give me trouble. But for two days, at least, he never came this
   way - at least, not while I was on duty, which is seven to three. Just
   hung around. Now, that last day, he idled around for only a half hour
   or so. And then he pulled up alongside a sailboat, a model like the
   cops were asking about. Who was also just hanging around, always on
   the island side of the channel. I had to raise the bridge for someone
   coming north about that time, as I remember, so I didn't see anything
   else until the marlin boat came down here and old Shaking Jowls gave
   me his usual five minutes of bluster."
   Doug looked at me to see if I had any other questions. No, I nodded.
   "Well," he said, "we'll have to pass this on to the cops. Who will
   undoubtedly come back down here and ask some more questions. And then,
   since they'll probably figure that a kidnapping occurred, the FBI will
   probably ask the same questions all over again. Could you phone me if
   you remember anything additional? That's the number for my belt phone,
   which will reach me anywhere at anytime."
   Before we left, I said, "Bruce, please don't tell anyone about this.
   Not even your best friend. Kidnappers can get rid of the evidence
   pretty easily, from boats. Max could be killed if the kidnapper heard
   that he'd been noticed. The police will remind you of this, and so
   will the FBI. I'm asking you on behalf of Max. I'm his best friend and
   he's like an uncle to me. Please don't even hint about this, not to
   Bruce nodded, soberly. "All right. Let me know how it all turns out."
   AS WE WALKED DOWNHILL off the bridge into Palm Beach, I was almost
   skipping along in my new-found enthusiasm, waving my hands and
   exulting over getting a description of Jowls and his boat. Doug,
   however, was thinking ahead.
   "We've got to give the police the kidnapping, Kate. But we don't want
   them investigating the eavesdropping, because of Jack - and since the
   fishermen know we were asking originally about antennas and the like,
   maybe we should withhold our pastrami-on-rye-with-Perrier fan?"
   "Let's get the police started on the boat registration," I replied,
   "and not worry until they ask. We don't really need an excuse for
   talking to Bruce, because questioning the bridge tender is such a
   logical thing to do. But we'd better warn the woman not to talk about
   this, if we can do it without stirring her up."
   We had parked on the approach to the old bridge which, since the new
   bridge went into operation, serves as a fishing pier. Doug used the
   sun-faded pay phone to call the police. "I'm getting the detective's
   voice mail, which is just as well.... Hi, Doug Chen again. Kate and I
   have just been up to see Bruce, the tender at the Lake-Lucerne
   drawbridge. You're going to want to see him, because he now realizes
   that he probably saw a big marlin boat idling alongside the sailboat,
   likely kidnapping Max. Furthermore, he logged the time and boat
   registration, though for a different reason. Florida
   five-eight-niner-two Delta Tango. We cautioned Bruce about mentioning
   this to anyone, given the ease with which boat kidnappers can dispose
   of evidence, but you'll want to reinforce that. Bruce has had a lot of
   interactions with that particular marlin boat skipper and can give you
   quite a description of him. He's there until three this afternoon. By
   the way, a detective from Lantana talked to Bruce yesterday, so I
   trust you'll coordinate with them too. I'll check with you later."
   I'd been thinking. "You know," I said, "this marlin boat skipper
   doesn't sound like a pro. Or, indeed, anyone with street smarts. Any
   sensible kidnapper would have avoided radioing the bridge tender -
   he'd have just pulled down the antenna and motored on through, hoping
   not to be noticed."
   "That could have been doubly clever," Doug answered. "Since he was
   well known to the bridge tender, it would have been surprising if he
   hadn't gone through the ritual. Bruce, certainly, would have
   considered that remarkable - he'd have spent hours congratulating
   himself on getting this skipper to finally back down."
   I frowned and nodded agreement. "You're certainly right about Bruce
   and his little power plays."
   "But that description Bruce gave!" exclaimed Doug. "This Jowls
   character is a person of fixed habits - sounds like some old-fashioned
   doctors I know. Or maybe even a compulsive. If Bruce is even half
   right in his characterizations of the guy, it's one hell of a lead -
   even if Jowls doesn't turn out to be the registered owner of the
   marlin boat. First thing to do is to ask Dad about him. And maybe get
   Dad to ask Jack."
   Doug saw Sol Linzer parking his car nearby, so we walked over and Doug
   introduced me to Sol. Better, we decided after explaining the news to
   Sol, for the woman not to be reminded of her previous conversations
   with Sol about eavesdropping, when the FBI finally got around to
   interviewing her. So I took on the job of delivering the
   The woman quickly flipped through the boat magazine ads while sipping
   cold mineral water. She unequivocally pointed out a flying-bridge
   model with fancy lines. When she suggested that creditors are trying
   to locate the marlin boat in order to repossess it, I said it was more
   serious than that, to please not mention any of this except to the
   police, when they get around to asking her. I avoided mentioning the
   FBI, kidnapping, or Max.
   AS WE DROVE BACK NORTH toward our condo, I started worrying about our
   breach of our self-imposed security.
   "We talked out on that bridge walkway about the kidnapping, as if
   parabolic microphones didn't exist. And the same thing when Sol
   arrived. There were other cars parked nearby, with people sitting in
   them, even."
   Doug agreed that we'd have to be more careful, as he waited for a
   traffic backup to clear. But he wanted to focus on what to do with the
   information about the marlin boat and Jowls.
   I was using the side mirror to inspect the cars behind us.
   "Doug," I said, troubled, "go on past the turnoff for our place."
   "What's up?" he asked, checking all three rear-view mirrors.
   "Just a Mercedes, same model and color as was parked down near the
   bridge, when we were talking to the fishermen. And Sol. Probably just
   another car. Those high-end Mercedes are as common as Fords, down
   "I see the one you mean. Fifth car back. No license plate on the
   front, so it's probably a Florida registration. But it's blue, and
   most people down here prefer the lighter colors, to reflect some of
   the heat."
   "We could always just continue up to Worth Avenue and go shopping," I
   said, attempting humor. "I still need to replace my nightgown, the one
   that the burglar ripped. Or maybe we could circle around the block, to
   see if the Mercedes will follow."
   "Kate, there aren't any blocks to circle around - Palm Beach is one
   long strip below Sloan's Curve, with very few side roads. And they all
   dead end."
   "Isn't that an intersection up ahead, at the traffic light?"
   "That's the fire signal, for the southern station. It's just off on
   the right," he said. "Actually, I could take a loop around the fire
   station and come out heading south. Want to do that?"
   "Okay," I agreed. "Let's try it."
   We passed the fire station, noticing that all the garage doors are
   shut. Signalling the turn, Doug turned right into the employee parking
   lot. We were immediately hidden by the landscaping. Doug drove south
   to the fire station and stopped. He got out, ducked through the
   landscaping, and looked up the main road at the receding line of cars.
   "He continued straight on," Doug reported as he climbed back in. "And
   no one else stopped or turned off. I accounted for each of the six
   cars that were behind us."
   "So, maybe a false alarm. That's nicer than the alternative," I smiled
   "Still," Doug said, "he could have our license number. While that
   doesn't match up to our condo address, he could drive through all the
   condo parking lots. I'll ask the doorman to keep an eye open, and try
   to take the license number of anyone that asks questions or cruises
   around. Good thing we have locked parking indoors."
   BACK AT THE CONDO, I swept the apartment for bugs for the second time
   in the day, while Doug popped up his dictionary and searched for
   recrudescence. "Hmmm. Well, it's definitely a word for the Sunday
   crossword puzzles. It's sort of like resurrection. But not really. It
   means something bad, starting up all over again. As in a latent
   infection that flares up."
   "Ugh," I said from the front hallway. "Sounds like herpes. Strange
   thing to name a boat. Maybe he's a true pessimist."
   Doug got on the phone to Andre. "Dad? Get on the computer phone,
   because we'll need the cipher... Remember to set the encrypted voice
   mail to the conversational mode. I'll call you back via the net."
   I pulled up a chair just behind Doug, so the mike would pick us both
   up. "Dad? Turn off your computer's speakerphone and use the handset.
   We're using a speakerphone but Kate just swept the apartment for bugs
   and we've still got the steel shutters closed."
   "Okay, okay. What news is there?"
   "We've found two witnesses who probably saw the kidnapping as it was
   taking place. And one, the bridge tender, actually recorded the marlin
   boat's name and registration number for another reason." We summarized
   what the two witnesses saw.
   "So, we had to give the bridge tender to the local police, who will
   probably bring in the FBI and the Coast Guard," I explained, "but we
   avoided mentioning the first witness, the woman fishing. That's
   because she might recall that Sol started out asking her about
   electronic eavesdropping. One of these days, that could mean that the
   police will ask Doug all about that, and it might lead them to Jack
   "Even if they don't ask me," continued Doug, "my line of communication
   about the investigation is going to dry up pretty soon. No matter how
   grateful the Palm Beach police are, for being handed both the
   next-of-kin and the bridge tender, the FBI won't keep them very well
   informed about their own investigation. Or at least, that's the
   Bureau's reputation. Do your people have any top-level entre at the
   FBI, so you could hand this to the FBI before the Palm Beach police
   get around to it, and so maybe open up a dialogue?"
   "That's an excellent idea, Doug. One of our members is a high-level
   consultant to the FBI. I'll call her right away with your marlin boat
   name and number and we'll get the kidnapping search started for Max.
   Anything else, before I do that?"
   "Does the description of that marlin boat skipper sound at all
   familiar to you? Could it be anyone in the club?" I asked. "Or a
   friend of theirs?"
   "Big and sixtyish," summarized Doug. "Legalistic about asserting
   privileges. Jowls, wrap-around sunglasses, broad-brimmed hats, not
   especially sun-tanned. Suave-sounding. Compulsive rituals, maybe? The
   sort of guy who refuses to play tennis if he runs out of clean tennis
   shirts, because he can't do something if he can't wear his customary
   uniform. Maybe gets into arguments with the maitre de, insisting he
   have a particular table each time?"
   "I can't think of anyone, right off. I wish we had more members with
   Palm Beach connections. Should I call up Jack and ask him? Without
   mentioning where I got the information?" Andre asked. "And avoiding
   any mention of the kidnapping, or the surveillance of Jack's phone
   I nodded and Doug answered. "Okay by us, Dad. Why don't you make it a
   `What's that guy's name?' sort of inquiry. Say he mentioned some
   arbitrage techniques to you at some meeting that both you and Jack
   attended, something that wasn't club business. But you've forgotten
   his name, or even where he was from."
   "Mention something about his compulsive rituals or linen pants," I
   added, "but leave off the sunglasses and the hat. They're too
   "Okay, I'll get the FBI started and then phone Jack. You disconnected
   his phone surveillance?"
   "Yes, at least the cordless-phone route. There could be other taps, of
   course. And in another day, our eavesdropper could conceivably set up
   another recording system. But he probably just thinks that Jack hasn't
   received or made any phone calls, so far today; Kate and I only
   disabled that base station last night."
   After we disconnected, Doug looked at the one-time-pad gas gauge and
   grimaced. "At least it was only voice and not video. But it's about
   time to plug in the second disk of celestial harmonies from Orion."
   "Do you want cut fruit for lunch," I asked while looking in the
   refrigerator, "or shall we have Sol bring us another picnic's worth of
   pastrami and Perrier?"
   DOUG'S BELT PHONE rumbled. It was Sol, requesting a call back on a
   secure line. Doug set the apartment's phone to block the
   who's-calling, and phoned back. "We're going to have to get
   security-model belt phones, you know," he mentioned to me as he waited
   for the call to go through.
   "Just what I need," I quipped, "another pound added to my waistline.
   But yes, the sooner the better. But I doubt if Worth Avenue has
   anything so useful in its stores."
   "Hi, Sol. So, what have you got for us? ... Let me write that down." I
   came over and hung on Doug's shoulder, to see what name he was writing
   down. "Did you check the watercraft hot sheet for that number? ...
   Well, do that too, if you can."
   "Anything on the apartment?... He'll think that the antenna has
   slipped. So, he'll come back and try to aim it better.... Well, let us
   know stat, so I can beard him when he returns to his car. Remember to
   run a license check on his car while I'm en route. And check the hot
   sheet. Phone the registration to my belt phone while I'm talking with
   him. Credit check, too, as soon as you have it - I've got some
   negotiating to do with this guy, and I want ammo."
   "Kate," Doug said as he hung up the kitchen phone, "I saw that
   expression on your face. I said I and not we for a good reason. This
   isn't like interviewing the fishermen. Only one of us should expose
   ourselves to this guy. We don't want him to be able to describe both
   of us, working together. If I can't go for some reason, you go. But
   keep the Volvo out of his sight. Park at the hotel and walk next
   "Good reasoning," I replied. "I can't argue with that. So, who's our
   marlin boat skipper, oh wise one?"
   "A corporation, and its address is a lawyer in Orlando," Doug
   answered. "But let's see if we can find any matches. I think that I
   can manage the Area Code 561 on-line directory. You check Max's
   address book and that SEC database."
   While waiting for Doug to finish his search, I had time to read my
   e-mail. My guess was correct - someone had indeed tried to imitate me
   and sent abusive e-mail to some people at the university. Two had
   received my warning, one wasn't in my address book and hadn't. I
   replied with an apology and a copy of my warning message. Still, it
   was good news of a sort, and I explained it to Doug when he was free.
   These three people weren't my usual correspondents these days, and
   they were all at the department where I'd gotten my Ph.D. five years
   ago. So the guy was guessing at targets based on public information,
   not my correspondence records.
   Doug and I had both struck out on our database searches. We decided to
   ask Sol to hire some people to ask around the marinas, all along the
   waterway to the north of Lake Worth. Yes, the police or FBI would
   surely do it too, but maybe not immediately. And I wanted instant
   results, preferably by yesterday.
   Sol said he would have to subcontract the job to a big West Palm
   agency. Do it, Doug said, but try not to cause any comment on the
   grapevine. And keep the investigation compartmentalized, so no one
   knows who is so interested. And paying so well. If the FBI asks Sol
   who's behind all the questions, it's okay to tell them - Doug doesn't
   want the FBI wasting time chasing shadows - but keep it quiet
   "So, why name a boat The Recrudescence?" I asked, once Doug had gotten
   off the phone.
   "It's one of those thousand-dollar words that no one else knows," he
   answered. "Maybe that's the attraction. It's also vaguely medical - I
   heard a neurologist use the word once, regarding a flare-up of
   multiple sclerosis, but forgot to look up the word afterward. So maybe
   Bruce was right."
   Then Doug's belt phone rumbled once more.
   "Oh, hi, Jack," he said, raising his eyebrows at me. "Just been out
   with her, matter of fact, getting some sun.... Dinner? Let me ask her.
   Hey, lover," Doug said, raising his voice unnecessarily, "can you
   stand another glass of Jack's single malt? Followed by dinner
   there?... Tonight. We can do the Cajun place tomorrow night.... Well,
   Jack, that certainly wasn't hard. Oops, just a minute," he said,
   half-covering the mouthpiece this time. "Well, I think you look fine
   that way, but having nothing to wear is entirely different than
   wearing nothing.... Of course, you can wear the same dress." He
   entirely covered the mouthpiece briefly and winked at me.
   I was hopelessly laughing, with my hand over my mouth.
   "She'll manage somehow.... Okay, I'll tell her that. Seven it is. Bye
   for now."
   Doug grinned. "Jack says that if he can serve you exactly the same
   single malt again, then you can wear exactly the same black dress, two
   nights in a row."
   "Such a syllogism! So, what's this out-of-the-blue invitation all
   about, lover?" I said. "Two nights in a row?"
   "What Jack said is that he was having several people over for dinner
   tonight. And that one of them, a woman who's a professor of economics
   somewhere, said - upon hearing that I'd been at the cocktail party
   yesterday - that she'd always wanted to meet me, since she knew Dad
   from something or another. Her name's Bertha Hauser, and she's only in
   Palm Beach for several days, so it can't be another night."
   "Now, where have I heard that excuse before? You'd better call Andre
   and ask about her. And find out what Jack said about the marlin boat
   DOUG SET UP another encrypted conversation while I tried to trace the
   corporation that owns the marlin boat, hoping to find a way to get a
   name for Jowls. I finally e-mailed Melanie, and handed her the job.
   "Oh, by the way," Doug said while waiting for the connection and
   handshaking, "Jack said that Dad had called about some other matter,
   and that he'd given a `good report' of me. And, apparently in somewhat
   greater detail, about you as well."
   "Old-boy jokes, no doubt," I grimaced, "about young love. I can hear
   them now. I think that this is all a plot to get me into that
   elevator, again. So, what are we going to do, if Sol rumbles your belt
   phone at dinner?"
   "I'll just say that I'm on call for the medic van, though I thought
   that I was near the bottom of the call list. And I'll leave you to
   carry the conversational ball for both of us, while I go engage in a
   little bribery. Oh, hello, Dad."
   Andre's "Here I am" on the computer speaker sounded more hearty than
   before, though deciphered speech wasn't, I told myself, always
   reliable about the timings of speech that indicate such things.
   Probably just my suspicious imagination.
   "So, who are you going to bribe, Douglas, me boy?" Andre was sounding
   "The eavesdropper. We can't exactly arrest him, or kidnap him.
   Eavesdropping is a rarely-prosecuted crime, even when it involves
   interstate commerce. So, I thought that I'd try to buy the name of his
   customer off him - which isn't going to do him any good after this,
   because he's going to have to go out of business. That's because a
   dozen people already know about his eavesdropping operation and
   someone will likely talk, sooner or later, and he'll wind up in the
   newspapers. Any future customers will worry that he cut a deal with
   the authorities, maybe is aiding in a sting operation. So, I'm going
   to offer to hold a going-out-of-business sale for him, buy up his
   inventory - with some of that small fortune in cash you gave me before
   I came down here. If anyone ever sees that stash, they'll be sure I'm
   running drugs or laundering drug money."
   "He has such a fine, devious mind," I added. "They're sometimes
   "Actually, Kate is even more devious than the Chens," Doug said. "She
   thought up that line of approach herself, last night. And she's the
   one that thought up passing herself off as my infatuated significant
   other, at Jack's party last night."
   "Must have been quite an act, too," Andre said, "given the report that
   Jack volunteered over the phone an hour ago. He thought that the two
   of you were getting to the critical third stage of infatuation,
   shopping for home appliances. I said that Doug didn't keep me up to
   date on such things - but that if Jack ever had a chance to watch Kate
   on a dance floor, not to miss it."
   Max again, I realized. A voice from.... No. Focus.
   "Well, I agree about how to handle this guy, if he really does turn
   out to be an free-lance market tips operator," Andre continued.
   "Haven't heard back yet from Carolyn, about how her approach to the
   FBI went. Now, about this marlin boat personality you somehow
   uncovered. Jack claimed that it all sounded familiar - but that he
   couldn't put a name to him either. Maybe after he slept on it, et
   cetera. He sounded interested in this guy. I'm not sure he believed my
   excuse for asking about this compulsive guy, since he knows how busy I
   am, looking for Max."
   "Dad, we just this minute got a phone call from Jack inviting us on
   the spur of the moment to dinner tonight. Jack says that a woman named
   Bertha Hauser is in town and wants to meet me."
   "She's almost one of the club, you know - Well, I suppose you don't
   know, at that. She's a close friend of two members, both Jack and an
   investor in Colorado named Ted Offenbach. She's a business school
   professor in Oregon. Does economics theory for distributed networks -
   which is somewhat political, in her case, because she's a passionate
   Libertarian. Don't let her get started on the subject - she's a
   classic example of a fundamentalist. Thinks that a simple theory must
   underlie everything, that there must be rules to appeal to. But she's
   very knowledgeable about how small effects can synchronize, to appear
   more powerful than they really are."
   "So, is she privy to what the club's doing?" asked Doug.
   "Conceivably. In somewhat the same way, one supposes, that I've told
   you and Kate. She was who the club had in mind, back when they turned
   Max down on inviting Kate in - they didn't want any more loose
   associations like that, just an increasingly tight inner group, all
   responsible to one another. Bertha is probably okay - but then I'd say
   that about everybody in the club, too."
   "So, she might have heard my name mentioned," I said, frowning and
   shifting in my chair.
   "Possibly. I wouldn't be surprised if Jack or Ted told Bertha the
   story of Max getting turned down, as an explanation for why they
   couldn't share information with her, anymore."
   "So, though almost no one asked me last night about what sort of work
   I did, I'm a lot more likely to be challenged tonight," I observed.
   "What's my last name, don't I live in Seattle, aren't I a computer
   detective of some sort? I'm willing to lie, but we'd burn bridges that
   way and the lie wouldn't stand up for long. What's our backup
   position? That I ran into Doug down here while looking for Max - and
   renewed an old acquaintance? They might suspect the connection, but
   the club still doesn't appear in the explanation. And I'd be the only
   one of us who would look devious."
   "That might work. And you could give away your success at finding
   Carrie. That would distract them for a little while. You can be
   indignant at why the local police didn't do exactly what you did. You
   don't need the eavesdropping as an excuse to phone hairdressers - or
   interview fishermen, for that matter, if they seem to know about the
   FBI alert already. Yes, yes - I know Doug helped, but the longer we
   can keep them from thinking that Doug is also heavily involved, the
   longer we'll avoid club members confronting me. And the longer that
   happens, the longer that others will underestimate the pair of you.
   Another day of us looking fuzzy to others might be worth a lot, since
   it will take a while to get the FBI into high gear."
   WHEN DOUG LEFT to visit Sol, to review plans for handling the
   eavesdropper, I got to musing about Doug. He's much nicer than his
   father, and his father isn't as bad as I originally thought. I had
   liked Doug from the beginning, except for all my fatigue-laced
   confusion about the redhead business. I should have let him handle
   Carrie to start with - he was so kind and thoughtful. He cheered me up
   this morning when he saw that I was fretting. And cross. Of course,
   he's younger than I am. Of course, that Steven must be ten years
   younger than Melanie.
   Taking myself firmly in hand, I sat down at the computer and tried to
   focus on the Max Problem. I decided to ply my talents on the e-mail
   security problem of a few months back, to see if there were any clues.
   I figured that it was the one thing remaining on our list of leads
   that we couldn't farm out to hired help. I had the computer dial the
   phone number for the general manager of The Conf, whom I've known for
   We chatted for several minutes about the Kate imitator. Then I got
   down to serious business. "Hey, Sid, how would you like a free
   security analysis of the Old Conf machine?" I asked.
   "A high-priced consultant offers me something for nothing? And for the
   old machine, that we put out to pasture two months ago? It's just
   sitting there without users, eating air conditioning. While waiting
   for the new machine to fail. Hmmm - this is like the fire department,
   wanting to burn down an abandoned building as a training exercise.
   "I won't burn a thing, honest!" I laughed. "And any changes that I
   inadvertently make, you can always reverse with your last backup tape.
   As it happens, I want to analyze a security breach that might have
   happened back before September. Have you still got backup tapes from
   July and August?"
   "Sure. The new machine uses the new higher-density tapes, so we
   haven't overwritten the old tapes. But what's the catch? You want
   superuser access, I suppose."
   "Yes, but I don't propose to go rummaging through your users' old mail
   - with one exception, and you can get permission from Andre Chen,
   who's backing me. It's the private conference group that he
   established - a dozen users or so - that I need to check out. I think
   that someone tried to read their mail. If I figure out how, you can
   plug the security loophole in the future."
   "Kate, it's more than a little irregular to allow superuser status to
   someone who isn't a high-level employee, even for a day or so. The
   board of directors...."
   "Sid," I interrupted, "I know exactly what you mean, and I'd say the
   same thing in your place. Unfortunately, I can't tell you over an open
   line just why this matter is so serious and urgent. So, let me put it
   this way - if I can't solve this problem informally and within about
   the next 24 hours, I'll have to give it to the FBI. It's urgent as
   hell and it involves major federal crimes against Conf users, not
   merely eavesdropping or computer cracking."
   "So, the FBI will come out with search warrants. And some meshugah
   will try to haul off the whole computer system as evidence," Sid
   lamented. "And spook my users. Oy Vey! My board, if they ever find out
   about it, will only conclude I acted wisely in the circumstances. I'll
   set you up on the Old Conf machine with superuser status, using your
   regular password. I'll mount the backup tapes myself, right away."
   "Thanks, Sid. I owe you one. Or two or three."
   "Not at all, Kate. I'm sorry to hear that someone has such a serious
   problem, but it's nice to know you're the one handling it."
   CHECKING MY E-MAIL first on the new Conf machine, I found nothing of
   importance; well, there were four messages from television producers
   who'd discovered my e-mail address, but I didn't even read their
   messages beyond the first lines.
   Then I decided to see when the club members last checked their e-mail.
   Everyone had checked in the last two days - except for Ted Offenbach.
   He hadn't checked in for a week. Perhaps, I speculated, he was having
   his e-mail forwarded to another machine. So I checked for a .forward
   file in his subdirectory. No file. Therefore no forwarding. No
   .vacation.msg file either, to automatically send an e-mail reply to
   anyone that sends him e-mail, saying that he's out of touch for
   awhile. Indeed, he had no files in his directory. Hmmm. That requires
   a substantial housecleaning effort, since things normally just
     To: andre
     Subject: Priority message: Vacation?
     Cipher: 2d disk, reset gas gauge.
     Not my vacation, but.... Did you know that Ted Offenbach hasn't
     checked into The Conf for a week? He isn't having his mail
     forwarded anywhere else. Doesn't have a .vacation.msg file either.
     Except for Ted, everyone has checked their e-mail in the last two
     days. Let us know what you find out.
     Oh, and The Conf may contact you for permission, re me reading
     everything in your private conference, including everyone's mail.
     I'm checking your cipher problems of last July-August.
   After I sent it off, I used the last command to check out Ted's logins
   for the past month. Every day, including weekends, he had read his
   I hopped over to the Old Conf machine and logged in. I tried to access
   the shadow password file - and yes, indeed, I had superuser status. I
   checked for other users currently logged in. Just Sid. And to think
   that a few months earlier, I'd have gotten back a hundred names or
   more. It's like being alone in a huge, empty office building, formerly
   the scene of much hard work and gossip - after everyone else had moved
   into the giant new office building across the street.
   I could, however, restore that lifeless meeting place to a snapshot of
   its state taken on July 21 when they backed up the disks. That might
   take too long, so I only restored the subdirectories for the dozen
   club members.
   I listed their files using ls -al, UNIXspeak for the long form of the
   directory command that shows the permissions for each file. And in
   most cases, the mailbox files were set with group read/write
   permissions. That's highly unusual - it means that anyone in the club
   could read anyone else's mail. And delete it. Or modify it.
   I groaned out loud. The exceptions were Max's and Andre's mailbox
   files, which were set normally; only they, or a superuser, could read
   their mailboxes.
   I restored the August 20 backup, and looked again. Now all of the
   mailboxes were set normally. I restored August 13, and they were all
   normal. But on August 6, they had the group permissions set as in
   July, with the ability to read one another's mail. And similarly back
   in June - which is as far back as the backup tapes go. Something had
   happened in the second week of August.
     To: sid
     Subject: group permissions, Chen's accounts
     Cipher: [defaults to recipient's public key; auto-sign] 
     I need to know the history of the Group ID for Chen's private
     conference, and if a superuser reset the umask and such. Before
     August 6-13, there are mailboxes with group read-write permissions
     enabled (!), except for two members,  and . Sometime
     between those backup dates, the mailbox read-write permissions were
     restored to the usual user-only. Who requested this change? Then,
     of course, I also want to know who set up the mailbox permissions
     that way, and when they did it. And, naturally, I need to know
     Thanks, Kate
   Now why, I asked myself, were Max and Andre exceptions? No one else in
   the group could read their mail, either before or after the second
   week of August. I decided to check when they established their
   accounts on The Conf. Many years ago. And the ten others were all
   established on the same date just one year ago. So, they're probably
   the "group" of the group permissions.
   I checked the Group ID numbers for the ten and found my guess was
   right. Neither Andre nor Max were, technically, group members. But, of
   course, group membership probably wasn't being used for anything;
   participating in the private conference was controlled by a security
   checkpoint that checked user names against a list of those permitted
   entry. So, the operating system's group permission system had been
   manipulated somehow: one of the ten was probably reading the e-mail of
   the other nine.
     Date: Wed 4 November 15:21 Pacific Time (GMT - 8h)
     From: Conf General Manager 
     To: Kate Medici 
     Subject: group permissions, Chen's accounts
     Cipher: In your public key; Signature and Message Digest have been
     verified using sender's public key.
     Dearest Kate,
     Don't have the files from the group setup a year ago, but the usual
     procedure when a bunch of new accounts come in, paid by a single
     billing, is to assign a common Group ID number to each of them.
     Both  and  have had accounts here since the Year One,
     so they wouldn't have had the GID assigned without a special
     request from each of them. We assign GIDs routinely to batched
     accounts, just in case they decide to share files among one another
     - but not among users generally.
     Setting up mailbox permissions like that, as you undoubtedly know,
     would be highly irregular. We would have tried to argue them out of
     doing things that way. I can't imagine that we did it without a
     very specific instruction from whomever.
     I've started both of our support people to checking our old e-mail
     for any such requests, but we don't routinely save such
     correspondence for years. The other possibility: we had a
     sophisticated cracker back in the spring who got superuser status,
     but we detected him in just a matter of hours and locked him out;
     never did get an I.D. on him, however.
     The only record I've got (so far, will keep looking) is the request
     from Andre Chen, the person paying for all the accounts:
     >Date: Mon 10 August 20:34 Eastern Daylight Time (GMT - 4h)
     >From: Andre Chen 
     >To: HELP Account 
     >Subject: File permissions
     >Could you reset all the file permissions for our accounts (all the
     >people on the private conference admissions list) to user-only?
     > Andre Chen
     > group owner
     We did indeed change all files in all ten accounts to user-only
     permissions, probably just with a
     chmod go-rw *.*
     command in each account, rather than by inspecting their permission
     settings, file by file. That would have restored mailbox
     permissions to normal, along with any other files.
     Let me know what else I can do for you, Kate. You want that I
     should twist some arms for you?
     Fondly, Sid
     /\E-signed....Sidney Liebermann....\/
   I promptly looked at Andre's sent-mail file for August 10 and couldn't
   find any record of this message. It could, I realized, have been
   deleted from Andre's cumulative file after it was sent off.
     To: andre
     Subject: August 10
     Cipher: 2d cont
     Attachment: your email to The Conf administrators
     Do you remember asking The Conf to reset file permissions on August
     10th? It's not in your sent-mail file, but The Conf received such a
     message. (I'll send a copy as an attachment).
     And if not, could anyone else (perhaps a member of the club) have
     sent messages using your username and password? A common problem is
     a party guest wandering into someone's home office and using the
     automatic login script that supplies the password. Could that have
   The reply popped up about ten minutes later.
     Date: Wed 4 November 18:25 Eastern Time (GMT - 5h)
     From: Andre Chen 
     To: Kate Medici 
     Subject: Re: August 10
     Cipher: 2d cont
     What's a "permission"? And "Group owner"? I certainly couldn't have
     sent such a message. I don't even know what that computerspeak
     means. And no secretary or assistant handles e-mail for me; I've
     never given out the password setup for this account, not to anyone.
     I checked my calendar. That's the Monday night we had a meeting of
     the club at my house on the Cape. Yes, I suppose someone could have
     turned on my computer, selected the menu item for The Conf E-mail,
     and logged right in, posing as me. So, what did this permission
     thing do?
     I'm still checking on Ted Offenbach. He went to a conference last
     week at a dude-ranch sort of place in Tierra Amarilla NM, not on
     business for the club. The conference was over yesterday. I'm
     trying to phone the organizers, to see when Ted left, since the
     hotel-clerk person at the ranch wasn't sure.
   I replied:
     Let's hope he hasn't disappeared. He's faithfully checked his
     e-mail almost daily for the three months preceding this last week,
     logging in from all sorts of different locations besides Colorado.
     I stayed at that conference ranch in Tierra A. several years ago
     myself and didn't have any trouble getting on the net from there.
     So I suspect he'd have found a way to do it too. Where there's a
     will (and a phone), the experienced road warrior finds a way.
     The other odd thing is that his Conf disk directory is almost
     empty, as if it had been cleaned out with an rm *.* or something.
     The permissions: it seems that, except for you and Max, everyone in
     the club could (if they knew how) read everyone else's e-mail.
     Don't know when this started but it was in place by June. It
     stopped when the August 10 e-mail from your account asked that all
     file permissions be reset to normal in all accounts.
     This was presumably to avoid detection (anyone can see how the
     permissions are set by doing an optional directory command, but
     usually only particularly knowledgeable users know about such
     things as group permissions). Since this seems to be back when Max
     was trying to get me invited in, I wonder if the reset was prompted
     by the fear that I'd detect the unusual permissions setting and ask
     about them. Also, maybe it was no longer needed, because there was
     another way of reading the e-mail.
     Remember we're off to dinner with Bertha Hauser in a half hour. If
     you need to call me on my belt phone, remember security and just
     say something like "good news" or "bad news."
   DOUG ARRIVED BACK just in time to change for dinner. As he changed, he
   told me that he'd talked to the Palm Beach detective in charge of the
   case. The most interesting thing was what he least expected. Sammy
   McNulty, the Lantana detective, was an ex-Lantana detective, who quit
   the force a month ago after a series of suspicions about selling
   information from official files. Sol had heard Mob connections
   mentioned more than once, in association with this guy. Doug had asked
   Sol to try and find out what McNulty was doing, who he was working
   for, and if he had helpers. But to make sure that the inquires
   couldn't be traced back to us.
   That time was so short saved me from worrying for very long. In the
   car, Doug told me what was happening with the eavesdropper
   surveillance. Sol's people had installed a videocam on the hotel fire
   stairs, pointing into the room's window. It transmitted the picture so
   that the detectives could monitor it from their cars in the parking
   lot below. And there was a second videocam, one of the "spot on the
   wall" pinhole cameras, broadcasting from the hallway leading to the
   room. A third videocam on the roof showed the parking lot of the hotel
   next door, in case the suspect parked there rather than in the
   apartment's own parking lot where the detectives were staying.
   "So, what are they going to do when they see him?" I asked.
   "Phone me. If they have identified his car, they'll park their car in
   front of it to slow his escape. The idea is to delay him, by talking
   to him, until I can get there. They'll attempt to get him to show some
   I.D. by suggesting they are private detectives hired by the apartment
   building to catch thieves, saying that they know all the residents by
   sight and that he's not one of them. That they'll have to call the
   cops if he can't prove that he has a right to be there."
   "And, because he goes there so rarely, he's vulnerable. Good idea."
   "What we want is a solid identification, so even if he later walks
   away from us, we can find him again. Or give him to the FBI. They'll
   check the registration of whatever cars are parked just prior to
   spotting the guy in the apartment. And hope the two match."
   "What ever happened to checking out the rental of the apartment?" I
   "No such person at that address in Boca. The monthly rental checks
   come from a lawyer. We can't ask the lawyer without alerting the
   suspect. Dead end."
   This time in the elevator, Doug again tried to press the stop button.
   But it wouldn't click. That was because I had already pressed it.
   Jack greeted us wearing an apron and invited us into the kitchen,
   where he carried on with chopping up the ingredients. It appeared that
   Bertha Hauser was to be the only other guest and, Jack said, she was
   always late. Entirely reliable.
   Doug declined a drink, saying that he was on call, but I gratefully
   accepted a single malt. As I sipped it, I noticed that there was a
   new-model cordless phone beside the microwave, the kind with a cipher
   used between base station and handset.
   "So, I just love these new-style cordless phones," I said, pointing.
   "I've just had it for a day, but I like them too. Third phone this
   year," Jack replied. "The original one died last Spring. Its
   replacement only lasted a few months, and died last night. The party
   was too much for it."
   "Did you take it back and complain?" Doug asked.
   "No. It was a thank-you gift. Ted Offenbach - your father knows him,
   Doug - gave it to me. He'd been staying in my guest room for a few
   days at the time the old one failed. I thought about asking Ted where
   he got it, but he hasn't replied to my e-mail note to him yet from
   last week, so I figured that I'd just get the model that I wanted all
   "It might have failed, you know, because it's next to your microwave,"
   Doug observed. "That can overload the input stage of the telephone's
   receiver, maybe burn it out. The milspec gear we used in the Navy had
   input protectors, but most civilian gear doesn't."
   "Ouch. I should have thought of that," Jack said, unplugging the phone
   and its power supply. "I guess that I'll move it to the library.
   Doug's belt phone rumbled audibly, and I mouthed a "Not that again"
   Doug listened briefly, said "En route," punched it off, and clipped it
   back to his belt buckle. "Damn. Called out again. They seem to know
   when I'm about to sit down to a nice dinner."
   "Is there a chance you'll be back?" asked Jack. "I can always stir you
   up a fresh batch of the noodles."
   "Maybe," Doug said as he opened the door, "just maybe. The last time,
   I only sat around the fire station until the two regular crews
   returned from West Palm hospitals."
   Jack and I returned to the kitchen but he refused all my offers of
   help. "That's like offering a ride to someone who's out for a walk,"
   he kidded me. "Cooking is my hobby. Chopping up veggies is almost as
   refreshing as kneading bread dough."
   "Jack, any rainy day that you want to bake bread, I want to come help
   you. I know some wonderful recipes. I can almost taste them."
   Actually, I didn't know any recipes but I knew of a Web page that
   linked to a lot of recipes on file.
   "I think that the chamber of commerce has outlawed rainy days, but
   will a cloudy day suffice? Perhaps when Doug is off with the fire
   "You're on. I'll go shopping tomorrow for the right flours..." The
   doorbell rang. Firmly.
   "That's Bertha's ring," Jack said, smiling.
   I remained in the kitchen and heard Jack explain to Bertha that she
   just missed Doug by only a few minutes, that he'd been on call and
   gotten summoned. "Oh," a gruff voice said, "that must be who Oscar
   barked at. A young man ran past us in the parking lot, in quite a
   hurry. No one ever runs in Palm Beach, except before seven in the
   morning. He did look a little like Andre."
   I soon saw that Oscar was a miniature poodle, carried under Bertha's
   right arm. Bertha proved to be a stumpy middle-aged woman of
   commanding disposition and shapeless dress, the kind that crowds part
   "This is Doug's friend, Kate," Jack said in introduction. "Perhaps
   you'd both like to sit in the living room. I know Bertha needs a
   martini with a twist. Can I refill your drink, Kate?"
   Oscar, put down on the sofa, immediately came over to inspect me.
   Oscar was obviously everyone's friend, and I rumpled his hair to his
   satisfaction. Jack disappeared into the kitchen, shutting the swinging
   door as Oscar made a beeline for it. Rebuffed, he returned to Bertha's
   side and solicited attention. From Bertha's remarks to Oscar, it
   became apparent that Oscar was only reluctantly tolerated by Jack. I
   wondered why Bertha continued to bring Oscar here, in that event. An
   assertion of power?
   When Jack returned with the drinks, he pointed out a wood carving on
   the coffee table - a rather good one, done in the style of the coastal
   Indians. Jack explained that Bertha was the artist. I confessed to
   doing art only via computer.
   "Kate," Bertha said, after Jack had returned to the kitchen and again
   shut Oscar out. "You're obviously from the West Coast. You wouldn't be
   the famous Dr. Kate Medici from Seattle, would you?"
   That wasn't even subtle. "Certainly not while I'm in Palm Beach. And I
   doubt that I'm famous even at home in Seattle."
   "Oh, but I've read your doctoral dissertation," Bertha said. And so it
   went. When Jack returned ten minutes later to announce dinner, he was
   bewildered to find Bertha and me deep in a discussion of network
   stability, of how large-scale stability can co-exist with small scale
   He listened for several minutes, and finally got a word in edgewise.
   "Oscar will probably eat your dinner, if you don't come now. But,
   while I've got the floor, whatever are you two talking about?"
   "This is wonderful, Jack," exclaimed Bertha. "She's Max's next-door
   neighbor. And the same Kate Medici who did that study of network
   stability using the Wiener kernel methods that I tried to explain to
   you last month. Medicean metastability, they call it now. Why didn't
   you tell me?"
   "Probably because I didn't tell him," I admitted before Jack could
   answer. "I guess I'm used to lapsing into first-name-only Kate when I
   go to hot and humid places like Hawaii and Florida. And avoiding any
   mention of work - you wouldn't believe how many net connections I've
   wound up reconfiguring, while supposedly on vacation."
   "So, have you heard anything of Max?" asked Jack as we sat down at the
   table. A fourth place was set for Doug.
   "No, but I'm searching, as best I can. Doug's helping me look for Max
   as much as he can, in between getting called out for paramedic duty,"
   I said, wondering how much I could tell them without involving Andre
   and the club and the FBI search. I decided to take Andre's advice and
   so I began to tell them a wondrously detailed version of the search
   for Max's daughter, even the various responses I got from the Palm
   Beach hairdressers. And how I finally discovered Carrie in a sublet
   just a mile up the street. Furthermore, Max had stayed there, before
   moving into the hotel. By the time that I told about inspecting Max's
   luggage in the police property room, dinner was almost finished.
   The doorbell rang, and Doug's voice was heard in the hallway as he let
   himself in. He was introduced to Bertha, who sat regally with Oscar
   under her right arm. Jack said that the second sitting for dinner
   would commence in just a moment, and busied himself at the stove.
   Doug said that he'd get his own beer from the wet bar in the living
   room, heading off further social chat with Bertha. He signaled me to
   follow him.
   "Success, but the news will keep," he told me when we were alone. "The
   top priority is that Dad phoned. Ted is definitely missing under
   suspicious circumstances - his rental car is still sitting at the
   ranch, they discovered. Together with our evidence that Max was
   kidnapped, Dad has concluded that he simply must tell the club members
   about the disappearances, so they can take measures to protect
   themselves from being the next victim. So, he wants us to tell Jack -
   and Bertha as well - the bare bones. Tonight. No details about Max,
   just the fact that he is presumed kidnapped now. And we can admit our
   role in working for Dad."
   "They already suspect a lot, I think," I said with a shrug. "Bertha
   had obviously studied up on me - asked me flat out if I wasn't the
   famous Dr. Kate Medici - though I might have been a surprise to Jack.
   So, the cat is pretty much out of the bag, as far as they are
   concerned. Still, we don't want to let them know where we're staying,
   or any details of our search methods."
   Back at the table, with a fresh batch of Thai noodles in front of him,
   Doug started in. And then, deflecting a question from Jack about the
   fire department, Doug announced that I had some important news for
   them both.
   "Andre," I began, "has decided that you both need to be told some
   information for your own protection, since he is worried that members
   of the club - and others on the periphery as Bertha has been - might
   be targets of kidnappers."
   Jack did a genuine double-take, bewildered about who I really was, for
   the second time in the course of an hour. Bertha merely shut up Oscar
   and gave me her full attention. Even Oscar seemed to know that
   something had happened, as he licked his lips nervously.
   "We now know that Max was kidnapped two weeks ago," I began,
   intentionally using a briefing-officer tone of voice, "and the FBI has
   begun a search - though very quietly, and we must ask you to say
   nothing about it to anyone. Furthermore, just today we discovered that
   Ted Offenbach disappeared from a guest ranch in New Mexico. He was
   last seen about six days ago, and his rental car is still at the
   "But how? Who?" asked Jack, still disoriented.
   "That's all I can tell you, just those bare facts. Undoubtedly Andre
   will be telling everyone by cipher, but he wanted us to deliver the
   message personally to you both," I said compassionately. "Two people
   disappearing, out of a dozen, could just be coincidence. But Andre
   thinks, and I agree, that we have to temporarily loosen up on the
   investigation's security, just so everyone can be warned."
   "This is known to be kidnapping?" asked Bertha. "And not murder?"
   "Might Ted just be lost in the woods, somewhere?" asked Jack.
   Interesting that Bertha should phrase it as a dichotomy, I thought
   silently. But I also wanted to steer the conversation away from still
   another possibility - that Ted could have fled, having waited until a
   period in which he could disappear and not have it noticed for a week.
   The club still needs investigating for leaks, I thought, and while Ted
   was suspect because of the cordless phone, things could be more
   complicated. The amateurishness of it all still bothered me. I worried
   that the amateurs were false leads, planted by more sophisticated
   "We're hoping that it's not murder," I replied. "In the case of Ted,
   someone left a phone message with the room clerk, claiming to be Ted
   and saying that he had to leave the conference early. Having gotten
   that message slip, the conference chairman didn't worry about Ted.
   Since Ted's car is still there, we presume Ted himself didn't leave
   the message." Though, I reflected, someone could have picked up Ted.
   "Could it be murder?" Jack asked, now engaged.
   "Yes, but a murderer would have been taking some risk by leaving a
   message, rather than just walking away. Sounds like someone wanted to
   delay discovery by many days," Doug said, wiping his mouth with the
   napkin. "Otherwise, Ted's absence might have been investigated within
   24 hours, after he didn't show at several conference sessions."
   "Ted didn't check out of the hotel when he left?" asked Bertha.
   "It's not really a hotel in the usual sense," I answered. "At least,
   not when I was there two years ago. It's a guest ranch, used a lot for
   small, intensive conferences. The organizers probably rented the whole
   thing and paid for everything. There aren't even room keys, this place
   is so remote. Rustic cabins and converted bunkhouses, that sort of
   thing. Lots of opportunities to take a walk in the pine forests -
   horse trails and old fire roads everywhere. Easy to kidnap someone
   using a four-wheel-drive vehicle, without ever being seen."
   "It's the attempted delay of discovery," Doug added, "that is
   especially worrisome. No ransom messages. And one reason for delaying
   discovery of a second kidnapping could be planning additional
   kidnappings. That's why Dad is so exercised. The Mob connections are
   bad enough - the burglar that Kate caught in Max's apartment has
   turned out to be identified with the Mob in Texas." He didn't say
   anything about the ex-Lantana cop, our other Mob worry.
   Surprisingly, we didn't have to fend off further questions. Both
   Bertha and Jack seemed stunned by the news. Doug repeatedly offered to
   escort Bertha home but she refused, saying that she couldn't possibly
   be a target. She disappeared into the elevator, with a subdued Oscar
   securely under her shoulder.
   Jack was expressing concern over his friends, Max and Ted; he was only
   beginning to come to grips with any possible threat to himself. Doug
   offered to arrange for some private security to augment the doorman,
   but Jack was unwilling to commit yet. I said that Doug could sweep the
   apartment for electronic surveillance, just as a precaution, and Jack
   agreed to that precaution.
   While Doug was getting the equipment from the car trunk, I tried to
   talk with Jack. But he was still disoriented about the three different
   versions of Kate, so far this evening, and avoided my gentle questions
   by hoping up to play host, offering me an after-dinner drink. He
   firmly turned aside my offers to help load the dishwasher. The easy
   comradery was gone, and my mention of baking bread went nowhere as a
   conversational ploy. He was wary of me. As soon as Doug returned, Jack
   immediately shifted his attention to Doug, going with him from room to
   room and asking about how the bug-sniffer worked.
   When they got to the library, I joined them, asking Jack about his
   computer security. I explained that I knew that the members of the
   club shifted a few months ago to using a modern firewall to the net,
   using the Israeli cipher system for all of e-mail to other club
   members. But that I was concerned about passwords, whether they are
   Like Andre and Max, Jack turned out to have taken the shortcut of
   using an automated login script that supplied the password when asked.
   Even though it is a modern automated password system based on the
   public-and-private key principles, one where the transmitted password
   is never the same from one login to the next, I explained that this is
   protection only against wiretappers. And not against someone - a
   workman or a party guest - entering his library and logging on as if
   they were Jack, and then using his ciphers.
   I offered to modify his script so that it would prompt him for his
   personal password that activates the Israeli changing-password
   subroutine and the message encryption software. And told him to be
   sure and use a pass phrase to create the password.
   "Good idea," Jack said. "I'll fix it myself, tomorrow after I've
   selected a good phrase for the personal password. I'll probably have
   all night to think about it, anyway."
   "Well," said Doug, "no bugs in your house. And I didn't see any little
   ants either, so you must be living right. Don't open your door to
   strangers. Call Kate or me if anything seems odd."
   MY PRIORITY E-MAIL icon was flashing on the screen when we returned to
   the borrowed condo. I typed in my pass phrase (H1,dnh from the
   Hippocratic `First, do no harm,') to unlock the computer and decipher
   the message:
     Date: Wed 4 November 20:35 Eastern Time (GMT - 5h)
     From: Andre Chen 
     To: Kate Medici 
     cc: Douglas Chen 
     Subject: Announcement and comments
     Cipher Key: second disk
     First a copy of the announcement I sent everyone, and then some
     additional comments.
     As you all know, I've been investigating Max's disappearance two
     weeks ago. Today there have been two significant developments,
     whose possible implications alarm me.
     First, it is now established that Max was kidnapped. Carolyn has
     gotten the FBI to start a high-level investigation; it is being
     kept quiet for the moment so as not to alarm Max's kidnappers, and
     I urge you not to mention it to anyone, since kidnappers have been
     known to dispose of the evidence.
     Second, Ted Offenbach disappeared five days ago from a guest ranch
     in New Mexico. It's pretty clear that someone tried to delay the
     discovery of Ted's disappearance, so it probably isn't a case of a
     lost hiker.
     There aren't ransom requests in either case, so (if it isn't a
     matter of murder) it could just be a matter of taking people out of
     circulation for a critical period. Since it involves two out of a
     dozen of us, I assume the parasiters are somehow involved. And
     likely Black Friday. That means we are going to have to tell the
     FBI some of what we've been doing. If local FBI agents interview
     you, cooperate. But if they ask for details of the club's
     activities, explain to them that such aspects of the investigation
     are being handled only at a high level, and refer them to the
     Washington SAC.
     There are two "outsiders" who are now well-informed about the
     club's activities. I felt, for reasons I will not elaborate upon
     for the moment, that I must do that without consulting the club.
     First, I involved my son, Douglas, who used to be a fireman in Palm
     Beach. Then, when Max's neighbor Kate Medici (the one who caught
     the Mob-connected burglar in Max's apartment) started her own
     search and discovered us by reading Max's old e-mail, I brought her
     in; you will remember her from our August discussions with Max over
     bringing her into the club. Together, they are responsible for both
     of today's discoveries. You can send encrypted e-mail to them at
     The Conf (dougchen, kate) using the club's Israeli cipher.
   "Ouch," I said, hitting the table with my fist. "He blew our cover
   unnecessarily. I do wish he'd consulted with us about that."
   "I suspect," Doug said, reading over my shoulder, "that he felt he had
   to justify himself for disobeying the club's very clearly stated
   decision not to tell you anything, last August. And he's telling them
   that we made the discoveries, to show how his decision produced
   something important. Dad can be like that."
     Also, Bertha Hauser (who, as some of you pointed out in August,
     already knew quite a lot about the club's activities) has been
     verbally warned by Douglas and Kate about the two disappearances,
     since I felt that she might also be in danger of kidnapping. She is
     presumably not well-informed about current activities (except for
     what Kate and Douglas told her at my direction, which is just the
     disappearances); if she is, in fact, better informed about
     post-August activities, please inform us all. Similarly, we need to
     know about others who, like Bertha, are partially informed.
     Otherwise, assume that the club's dozen is temporarily fourteen in
     Hiring private security guards is one way of coping with this
     possible threat. If you ever wanted an excuse to hire a chauffeur,
     now you have it! Stay surrounded by familiar people, who would be
     effective witnesses to any kidnapping attempt, who would raise an
     immediate alarm. A crowded street, however, is no better than a
     wilderness; I once saw an assault in progress at a Manhattan
     intersection, found a police car idling at the curb halfway down
     the next block, and told them what was going on - but there must
     have been 50 people on the sidewalk in front of me, who also saw
     the assault and had just passed the same police car. Not one of
     them stopped to alert the police. If you have to go somewhere
     alone, leave a voicemail message for yourself, saying who you are
     meeting, where and when. That will at least give the FBI a lead on
     tracing you.
     More tomorrow, Andre
     So, that's all I've told them. The FBI has been told the general
     nature of our parasiters efforts; since so many of our people have
     been consultants to federal agencies, they've probably got a file
     on everyone. They'll probably tell the SEC investigators about us,
     of course. I told the FBI that the two of you were responsible for
     most of our internal investigation so far: finding the apartment
     where Max stayed before moving to the hotel (but I didn't mention
     the eavesdropping aspect, nor Jack), for finding the two
     eyewitnesses to Max's kidnapping, and for noticing that Ted was not
     reading his e-mail.
     What we don't want to give them, unless it is really necessary (and
     then only at a high level via Carolyn, where we can extract some
     high-level commitments) is our internal investigation of club
     members spying on one another and/or leaking information. So far,
     that means the eavesdropping in Palm Beach and the e-mail reading
     permissions on The Conf. They could easily have nothing to do with
     the two disappearances.
   "I don't know, Doug," I said, leaning back in my chair. "It seems to
   me that the eavesdropping aspect could be pretty central to why Max
   was snatched. Granted, we've got a partial I.D. on the suspect and his
   boat - so why Jowls snatched Max is less crucial than it might
   otherwise be."
   "I'm inclined to agree with you, that the FBI should be told more,"
   Doug replied. "The club probably has some sources to protect, likely
   in places like the SEC and the Department of Commerce. So, Dad may
   worry about opening the door too wide."
   "I don't want to do anything to distract the FBI from chasing down
   Jowls. Okay, let's postpone the side issues. So, I'm dying to hear
   what happened with your eavesdropper!"
   "All the preparation paid off," Doug grinned. "Driving down there, I
   got a phone call from Sol's office with the car license info, then in
   the elevator came another call with his driver's license, which
   matched. Fellow named Henry Symington. And some business directory
   information, that he'd been a stockbroker but wasn't currently
   employed as one. Sol's office checked the SEC database, just as I
   rehearsed them using your macro, and found he lost his license for
   shady practices. He was in the county database of legal actions,
   having been evicted for nonpayment of rent from a Lantana office
   suite. He's on the tax rolls, with a ten-year-old mortgage on a big
   house. So, he's pretty anchored here, can't run easily. Sol can't
   easily check criminal records in this state, but we did pretty well
   with your datasurfing macros."
   I smiled.
   "So, by the time I reached the door to the apartment where Sol and his
   assistant were standing talking to this guy, I knew a lot. I
   immediately confronted him with the apartment being rented to someone
   of a different name and nonexistent address. And said that a fire
   department inspector had discovered illegal wiring leading to an
   unusual antenna on the roof. So if he didn't want us to call the cops
   on the spot, I suggested that he invite me inside for a little serious
   "Leaving Sol and his assistant outside, I went inside - and of course
   the antenna was quite visible, lashed to the two chairs. I said that I
   was now sure he was the eavesdropper for stock market tips that
   `everyone' had been looking for, that I'd suspected it when I heard
   about the shady dealings that the SEC had banned him for. That
   certainly startled Henry. Fortunately for him, I said, I wanted his
   information more than his hide. And was willing to hold a little
   going-out-of-business sale for him."
   "He must have been relieved," I said, twisting about. "He probably was
   worried about trying to buy you off."
   "Well, it took a lot of back and forth, but it finally came out that
   one of his several customers for the market tips was a middle-aged man
   who sounds a lot like Jowls. Didn't know his name, just had a beeper
   number for him. But he met him several times in a waterfront bar up in
   West Palm. Big, fat, with prominent jowls. Same kind of fusty
   personality as Bruce suggested. Henry thought he might be a
   hand-washing compulsive - very clean hands, as if they were scrubbed
   many times every day."
   "Or he might be a general surgeon, who did a lot of procedures every
   day," I interjected, gesturing to Doug to continue.
   Doug nodded. "Fussy about his beer, wouldn't let the bartender pour
   it. Insisted on pouring it himself, always exactly halfway up the
   glass. Henry said that Jowls drove a late-model Mercedes. But couldn't
   recall the color or license plate."
   "Anyway, Jowls bought tapes of Jack's conversations - he was the only
   one of Henry's customers who was currently interested in Jack. And he
   was particularly interested in the tapes from when Jack was using his
   single phone line for his computer modem - that got broadcast too,
   back before late August when the modem was no longer heard."
   "That's about when the firewall boards were distributed, wasn't it?" I
   speculated. "Jack must have gotten a second phone line for a dedicated
   net connection, and stopped using a modem on the regular telephone
   "In any event, Henry said that Jowls had been losing interest in the
   modem stuff even before it stopped."
   I interrupted. "Maybe he was eavesdropping to get a copy of a message
   before it was encoded - early on, they were encrypting things on The
   Conf's machine, after first uploading them in the clear. That's a
   classic way to crack a code or cipher, so you can read messages from
   other sources using the same system. I did exactly that with Max's
   files, to crack the club's DES key for September. Wiretapping just one
   member would have done it. Once Jowls's buddies had cracked the
   cipher, he wouldn't need Jack's in-the-clear messages any more - until
   the cipher was changed."
   "Sounds right," Doug said. "Still, Jowls continued to be interested in
   Jack's unencrypted phone conversations. Paid well, never threatened
   Henry. Jowls was initially - several years ago - interested in market
   tips from other targets of Henry, but gradually his interests seemed
   to shift to Jack."
   "Any particular subject matter?" I asked. "After all, Jack's in the
   investment business in a big way, whatever his club connections."
   "I asked Henry about that, and he confessed as to trying to figure out
   what Jowls was paying so much money for, when none of his other
   customers were interested, even after listening to a free sample he
   gave them. Henry may not have known about the altered base station;
   when I asked him if he wondered about hearing modem signals on a
   cordless phone, Henry indicated that he was aware that some cordless
   phones had modem jacks. So someone could sit out by the swimming pool,
   et cetera."
   "But Henry never figured out what was so interesting about Jack's
   "Apparently not. Because of Jowl's other little peculiarities, Henry
   was willing to believe that Jowls was also some kind of voyeur -
   though again, Henry couldn't figure out what was so interesting. Then
   he figured that Jowls might be jealous or paranoid, having had some
   other customers like that."
   "So, is Henry likely to have Mob connections?" I asked.
   "I can't judge, myself," Doug replied. "But I asked Sol, who talked
   with him after I left and then phoned me in the car. Sol says it's
   unlikely, simply because the guy doesn't seem smart enough to survive
   in such a competitive atmosphere. He's a middle-aged order taker who's
   shrewd enough in his way, but not street smart or organization smart.
   There's always a chance that the Mob was one of his customers, Sol
   says, but other than that, he'd be very surprised at a serious Mob
   connection. Still, as Sol pointed out, Henry might go home and tell
   someone about us. And that someone might pass it on."
   "Well," I said, standing up and yawning, "we'd better think quick if
   we've got any more questions to ask Henry. Because I think we ought to
   give him to the FBI tomorrow. His customer is obviously the kidnapper
   in the marlin boat, and we can't hold back on that kind of evidence,
   even if it does expose Jack to the FBI."

   THE FBI CAME TO CALL the next morning, without warning, while Doug was
   out. Not only had the doorman not called up to announce them, but
   neither of us had given out the apartment's address or phone number so
   far, and I was annoyed at the breach in security. Andre must have
   given them the apartment address, I supposed, as I led the two agents
   down the hallway into the computer-cluttered living room. I'd been
   planning to say, when the FBI called for an appointment on my belt
   phone, that I would drop by their West Palm offices.
   The two men were obviously from the local office, and they were only
   interested in the kidnapping of Max. I led them through the discovery,
   emphasizing the old-fashioned detective work and trying to keep Doug's
   name out of it, so they wouldn't question him or Sol. Because I'd
   wondered why Max was hanging around the Sunrise Hotel area when he had
   a nice apartment a mile north - something that the Palm Beach police
   didn't realize in their earlier investigation - I'd asked the bridge
   tender about a sailboat that just seemed to be hanging around.
   The agents seemed to treat me as just the next-door neighbor who came
   snooping around (they appeared to have read the missing-person's
   interview of me in Seattle, but not the burglary report), and they
   asked no questions about who helped me. Even the fishermen didn't
   enter into the conversation. I wasn't playing dumb with them but
   acting competent, as if solving problems was my line of work. As at
   the party, I wondered about my success at steering the conversation,
   suspecting that the two agents would have underestimated me in any
   I asked about who turned out to own the marlin boat - but the agents
   weren't about to share any information with me. They weren't even
   willing to say if they had interviewed the bridge tender yet. And so,
   thoroughly annoyed, I put off the decision about whether to tell them
   about Henry, deciding to wait until Doug returned.
   As they got up to leave, one of the agents asked about the computers.
   So I had a casual-seeming conversation with both of them, one that I
   routinely use to assess the level of someone's computer knowledge
   without making the person feel as if he's being interviewed. It became
   clear to me that, while they typed their reports into computers and
   understood the use of the usual dollar-a-minute legal databases, both
   were totally clueless about the net in general. Someday, presumably, I
   might have to explain my netsurfing for Jack and Carrie to a
   knowledgeable investigator, but not to those guys.
   DOUG RETURNED from the airport a half hour after the agents left,
   about when I was getting ready to fill out the web order form for
   A.J.'s delivery service. He had one bit of troubling news. Bruce the
   bridge tender had phoned him, to say that the Lantana detective had
   been by again this morning, as well as the Palm Beach detectives and
   the FBI agents that had come yesterday. So he'd told McNulty the whole
   story, too, including our visit. Doug explained that McNulty was no
   longer a police officer, and that Bruce should immediately call the
   FBI and Palm Beach officers and tell them about McNulty's visit. So
   now we had to assume that the Mob knew about Jowls and his marlin
   boat. And therefore where Max might be.
   Doug had gone to the airport to walk his sister Susan between gates
   and add to her carry-on luggage. He'd gotten up early to copy the last
   disk of random noise onto a dozen autodestruct disks, for distribution
   to the club members by courier. His sister, who runs a travel agency
   in Baltimore, was going to deliver the disks to club members all
   across the country in a marathon of courier duty.
   Since the FBI might be able to get the NSA to crack the Israeli cipher
   the club had been using, I was happy to see the one-time-pad scheme
   finally implemented for the whole club. One time pads, based on noise
   from space, couldn't be cracked because nothing repeated: it is a key
   of infinite length with no orderly procedure. The Orion key, I decided
   to call it.
   I reported briefly on the unannounced visit from the FBI agents and
   its implications for our apartment's security if anyone like the Mob
   managed to read their routine reports. McNulty had tripped over traces
   of us by now, just as we'd discovered him. The Mob was a serious
   problem and I'd finally begun to realize how lucky I was to disable
   the burglar, that we couldn't count on that kind of luck again. We had
   to assume that McNulty would eventually find our condo.
   Doug agreed. "We could save this place for a mailing address, for
   situations like FBI interviews where we really have to turn loose of a
   Palm Beach address. Yet move ourselves and the computers to a
   different condo. What a nuisance! Not what we need to waste our time
   doing, either."
   "But it's not just having our address floating around in the FBI's
   computer network," I explained while pacing the floor in front of the
   steel-shuttered picture windows. "I'm really worried about putting
   information concerning the parasite conspiracy into FBI databases.
   Because guys like the ones I saw would be totally clueless about how
   valuable the information could be. They'd just type it in. Standard
   Operating Procedure."
   Doug frowned.
   "They'd have no idea of the billions of dollars at stake" - I was
   really flaming by then - "which could be used to bribe low-level
   people with computer access, if the Mob's usual threats didn't
   suffice. So, I'm beginning to agree with Andre, that we limit the
   information and pass it only through a high-level contact that can be
   held responsible, in some sense, for its further distribution."
   I was interrupted by my belt phone. "Hello? ... Max!"
   I sagged on my knees to the sofa in relief. "Oh, Max, I've been so
   worried.... Yes.... Where in the Bahamas? I'm writing it down, keep
   on.... Same boat as kidnapped you from Lake Worth? How many crew? ...
   Damn! Lost the connection," I exclaimed, looking at the LED display
   where the who's-calling merely read OUT OF USA.
   I waved off Doug's desire for a report and immediately sat down at my
   keyboard, typing a memo to myself about the conversation. I know very
   well how memories can be distorted by a subsequent conversation, and I
   wanted to replay it in my mind before contaminating my short-term
   memory with something else. Doug immediately understood and read over
   my shoulder, without speaking.
     Max: I am kept in a windowless crew room, aft near engine room.
     Somewhere in the Bahamas; we visit a marina every other day, maybe
     different ones, judging from the sounds. The rest of the time,
     we're anchored in someplace protected, but with a good breeze.
     Kate: Same boat as kidnapped you?
     Max: Oh, good - you do know. No, that was a marlin boat and this is
     a yacht about twice the size. Its name is something like Pigeon's
     Kate: How many crew?
     Max: Just one old Cuban guy named Carlos. Same as on the marlin
     boat; we transferred in a marina in the middle of the first night.
     Rupert Shelby is lecturing me over his third martini some nights.
     I'm allowed my laptop so I can write up his memoirs, arrogant
     bastard; his vanity is why I'm still alive, I suspect. Surgeon who
     speculates and tries to manipulate the stock market - made a
     fortune from Black Friday, piggybacking on the parasiters. He's
     lonely, has no one else to talk to about his cleverness because he
     has thoroughly insulated himself from his partner, who was some
     sort of computer consultant in West Palm. That guy is spoken of in
     the past tense; I suspect he's dead, now that his usefulness is
     gone, which is what could happen to me now that I know...
     [Connection broken at this point, sounded like a cordless phone
     getting out of range.]
     Max sounded okay, except for being in such a hurry to tell me
     everything. My who's-calling display read OUT OF USA.
     Kate Medici memo, Thursday 5 Nov at 1025EST, received call from Max
     Hempelman on my 500-number cellular phone. Dialogue only
     approximate; transcribed from memory immediately after the call
     without intervening conversations.
   I leaned back to let Doug finish reading my notes, and rested my head
   against his shoulder in relief. "He's alive, after all this time," I
   sighed. "But his prospects don't look good, given how much he knows
   about this guy."
   Doug nodded agreement, while holding my shoulders tightly. "What I
   wish...." He was interrupted by my belt phone, rumbling again.
   I snatched it from my belt buckle, again noticing OUT OF USA on its
   display. "Hello? Describe the boat again, Max. How big is it? ...
   But.... Damn. Damn."
     Max: It's a motor sailboat, maybe 65 feet, sloop-rigged for a small
     crew. Satellite antenna is removable. Three staterooms, one rigged
     as a home office. I'm using an old cordless phone that seems to
     work so long as we're stopped in a marina, probably tapping into
     another yacht's phone system. Found it, minus its base station, in
     the locker under my berth, and managed to charge it off the DC desk
     lamp. They took my belt phone as soon as they got me below decks
     and searched me, tossed it into an athletic bag without checking
     it. But I had it set on low-power standby, so it might still be
     working, as that belt had the high-power packs. Don't know if they
     left it behind on the... [connection lost here, same out-of-range
     static as before].
     Second phone call from Max, about 1037am. KM
   "I assume Max meant that his belt phone might have been left behind on
   the marlin boat," Doug said, reading.
   "Yes, but why did he take valuable time to tell us about it? He surely
   doesn't want us to phone that number."
   "Did it have a GPS in it?" Doug asked.
   "Yes, I told you that earlier - oops, no, I told the young patrolman
   in Seattle about it, not you. It's the same model belt phone as mine."
   My belt phone rumbled a third time and I grabbed it eagerly. "Hello?
   ... Where do you think you are? ... I understand, go ahead.... Stop,
   Max - I know exactly who you're talking about. His son hiked Mt.
   Rainier with you.... Disconnected again."
     Max: Lots of electronics and computers aboard but I'm not allowed
     near them; I think that Rupert rents a moorage for the day and
     hooks up to the power, might want a land-line phone connection for
     checking into the net, though I'm sure he could do it via those
     microwave dishes if he was willing to transmit for hours on end.
     But that might allow someone to locate him by flying around. I
     think we're leaving the marina now; we cast off five minutes ago.
     Kate: Where do you think you are?
     Max: Kate, even if I knew where we were, I'd hesitate to give it to
     you over an open line because Rupert is really worried about the
     Mob finding him, and he's convinced they're better at netsurfing
     and eavesdropping than the FBI, and are good enough to infiltrate
     the FBI investigation. If the Mob gets here first, I'm likely not
     to survive. I've probably already said too much, mentioning the
     boat's name. 
     Kate: I understand, go ahead.
     Max: But I need you to contact a friend with all this, who's got
     the high-level contacts....
     Kate: Stop, Max - I know exactly who you're talking about. His son
     hiked Mt. Rainier with you.
     Max: Oh, Kate, I'm so relieved. I'd been so worried that you were
     off on a trip and wouldn't realize that I was...[connection
     terrible, maybe ten seconds]... your belt....[connection broken].
     Third call from Max, starting about 1041am. KM
   "Doug, he's telling us not to give this to the FBI, isn't he? And he
   was talking about my belt phone, there at the end, I think. And
   there's that earlier elaborate mention of his belt phone."
   "Could he be pointing us to the GPS ping capability? Is your belt
   phone exactly the same model as Max's?"
   "I think so. I was so taken with his that I went out a few days later
   and bought one exactly like it, from the same store," I said. I
   unbuckled the belt and passed it to Doug.
   "Looks just like the military model I used to wear," Doug said
   presently, "except the case isn't as rugged. And yours, of course, is
   more decorative, with all that fancy gold-and-silver design to imitate
   a real belt buckle. Inside, on the other hand, it might be identical
   to the milspec model. With everything inside chips these days,
   civilian versions of electronics sometime possess the military
   features as undocumented extras. So, the first thing is to see if your
   belt phone will respond to a ping in standby mode. And spit back the
   GPS data."
   "Ping? What do you mean? Like an airplane's transponder?"
   "Yep. It's a search-and-rescue feature, at least in the milspec model
   that the Navy uses. If the phone receives a coded transmission from a
   search-and-rescue aircraft, it will power up the GPS long enough to
   get a fix from the satellite signals. And then it transmits the
   phone's current latitude, longitude, and altitude."
   "I should have read the manual that came with my phone. Damn. Max just
   demonstrated things to me, instead. So, how do we figure out if my
   belt phone - and hopefully Max's - will respond to a ping?"
   Doug grinned. "You get lost! Seriously, I'll call a Navy buddy of
   mine, who's now a civilian tech for the Coast Guard," he said,
   reaching for the apartment's phone. "Probably has to repair such
   things. Why don't you get off a note to Dad about Max - and complain
   to Dad about giving out our address."
   While hoping that Max would phone a fourth time, I encrypted my notes
   and e-mailed them to Andre, adding:
     So, from what Max said, it doesn't sound like Jowls is one of
     parasiters, but maybe someone who discovered their scheme and
     started buying and selling at the same times, pyramiding his
     profits. He might have kidnapped Max to keep him from interfering
     with his next big win. Black Friday? And it sounds like Jowls'
     partner is that corpse in the car trunk.
     Doug and I think that we should avoid telling the FBI. We've got a
     good lead on locating Max ourselves, that Doug is checking out, but
     please DO NOT tell anyone. Did you give the FBI our apartment
     address here? We've been trying to keep it secret from everyone,
     but now it's already in the FBI database, readable by many
     thousands of people. Know any other apartments down here, that we
     could move to? Kate
   ON THE WAY to the Coast Guard station up in West Palm Beach's harbor,
   I called my phone company using the car phone, trying to get a trace
   on the three calls from the Bahamas. It was a frustrating fifteen
   minutes, though fortunately I could snack on sandwiches from the deli.
   They claimed it would take days to get the information, even something
   as simple as the town of origin, because it was a foreign country. I
   was not reassured by the news that it would surely appear on my
   500-number statement next month, since I paid for all calls, both
   incoming and outgoing.
   Doug's Navy Reserve I.D. got us past the gate, and soon I was standing
   next to an electronics workbench while Doug's friend Kevin set up an
   S&R transmitter, all while telling us how much the military-model belt
   phones have revolutionized finding lost fliers, boaters, and skiers -
   at least, if they are off-duty military. The everyday use of the GPS
   ping was for keeping track of who was where, around a large military
   base. A ping doesn't ring the phone but only causes it to acknowledge
   - just as cellular phones all do. But with the military model, the
   acknowledgement may include its GPS-based location.
   "No need to take your belt off, my dear Kate," Kevin said, as
   familiarly as a dentist. "I've turned down the transmitter power, so
   it'll only ping the belt phones in this room, and I've turned mine
   off. So, here goes."
   Several seconds later, his screen showed 26DEG46'01.2"N,
   80DEG02'59.7"W, 0H. "GPS is accurate to within about 10-15 meters -
   say, two or three parallel-parking spaces. Sometimes, it's even better
   if there's a local reference point. GPS was used a lot during the '91
   Desert Storm invasion of Kuwait and Iraq. Now let's make sure it's
   your belt phone's GPS that's replying to my ping. Turn it completely
   off, not even standby power."
   "I'm expecting a call," I explained, "so I can't turn it off for very
   long." Max might phone a fourth time, and so I was keeping the line
   "Ten seconds, maximum. Trust me," Kevin said.
   No response that time. Nothing from Doug's belt phone either - wrong
   model. But on low-power standby, my belt phone transmitted the
   coordinates after about a fifteen second delay. "That's because it
   takes time to power up the GPS," Kevin explained. "Then, more time to
   survey the signals from the satellites and compute the location. They
   update the location in only a second or two, but starting from scratch
   takes quite a bit longer. Since GPS is power hungry, lots of people
   use the low-power standby to extend battery life. You can get weeks of
   standby-only time, with the triple-power belts."
   "What's the effective range of the ping?" I asked.
   "All depends on your antenna, of course," Kevin answered. "Typically,
   for S&R, we use the ordinary UHF antenna on the underside of the
   aircraft and fly patterns at about 5,000 feet, ping about every 20
   "So the S&R unit is pretty much like a cellular phone relay station,
   keeping track of the phones within the cell?" I asked.
   "Yes. You can set it to catalog every phone it hears, or just listen
   for one particular serial number. If there is a lot of interference
   from too many responses, we use a little handheld helical antenna, so
   we can point it and sort out the different signals. If we know the
   serial number of the unit, that helps too."
   "It's also transmitted?" asked Doug, surprised.
   "Sure. I just didn't display it. Here it is," he said after tapping a
   few keys. S/N B27HGW2K4. Doug copied it down from off the screen and
   asked Kevin not to mention their interest in this to anyone. We left
   with a copy of the ping-based search and rescue manual, on loan from
   LEAVING THE COAST GUARD STATION, we started talking about how to
   conduct a search and rescue mission for Max. Doug interrupted me, and
   told me to take a good look at the men standing on the sidewalk next
   to a rental car. One was, if he remembered the photograph that Sol had
   shown him, Sammy McNulty, the ex-Lantana cop.
   The other man with him looked familiar. "My god, it's my burglar!" I
   gasped aloud. He saw me looking at him, and grinned.
   As we turned the corner, I could see them hurriedly getting into their
   car. Doug turned into the truck entrance of the Coast Guard station at
   the end of the fence. He stopped and again talked us past the guard by
   showing his Navy Reserve I.D. I lifted an eyebrow, as I waited on
   "They're trying to follow us," Doug said. "So I'm looping through the
   station, hoping we'll lose them." Doug had memorized the license
   number and I phoned Sol, relaying it to him and explaining the
   When we emerged from the main entrance, their car wasn't seen. We
   headed west for the interstate and I asked Sol to immediately go by
   and talk to our doorman, to see if McNulty or The Creep had been
   snooping around - somewhere, they had picked us up and followed us to
   the Coast Guard Station, and the condo seemed the likely place,
   unfortunately. It meant, I observed, that we couldn't go home again.
   Then we discussed what to do next, trying to ignore them for the
   moment. We had to find Max - and not merely find him soon, but find
   him first, before the Mob did.
   Doug pointed out that he could buy an S&R transponder at the export
   electronics wholesaler in Miami. And that by looking for serial
   numbers close to Kate's, while flying around the Bahamas, we might be
   able to locate Max's phone.
   "I think it's what Max might have been suggesting, too," I said, as I
   turned to look at Doug. "Remember that reference to Jowls not using
   his satellite antennas because someone could fly around and hear his
   "Surely you're right. That, and the belt phone business, starts to
   hang together, make some sense. Max had a lot of time to plan those
   conversations, after all."
   "Unfortunately, finding Max's belt phone might merely locate the
   marlin boat in some marina, rather than that sailing yacht they
   transferred Max to," I observed, "but it's the best lead we have."
   Doug agreed. "Also, I don't want to give this to the FBI, not until we
   have a better feel for how they're going to handle things at a high
   level. And they couldn't mount an operation in a foreign country
   without involving a lot of people, including the drug enforcement
   types. Leaky, at best. So, let's do it ourselves."
   "That's surely what Max was trying to get across," I said, waving my
   hands in excitement, "in those scattered references he made to belt
   phones, plus the pointed references to the Mob."
   "The Bahamas is, of course, a big place," Doug said. "We could start
   by flying circles around the marinas, out to maybe sixty miles."
   "Good thing that my pilot's license is current," I said, "so that I
   can rent a float plane."
   "Now," Doug said, shaking his head, "why didn't I just assume that
   you're a pilot?"
   "Single-engine land and sea ratings, in my billfold," I grinned. "Max
   got me started, years ago. It's something else that I told the
   policeman in Seattle, but forgot to repeat to you because I was so
   tired and suspicious. Well, I don't have a lot of experience in float
   planes, because they cost more to rent, but the differences between
   land and seaplanes mostly have to do with understanding sailing. And
   that I know from sailboats."
   "Okay," Doug said emphatically, "let's do it. Today. Let's zip down to
   Miami for the S&R electronics - I've still got lots of cash in the
   money belt, since the leveraged buyout last night was only half the
   price that I was prepared to go. In the meantime, you rent a float
   plane. I'll pick up security-model belt phones for us both."
   "I don't think we should return to the apartment," I said with a
   shudder. "McNulty or The Creep could just spot us again, and we might
   not be so lucky as to lose them. We've got our laptops with us, so
   let's just fly to the Bahamas from Miami."
   "So we buy toothbrushes," Doug said. "And extra clothes. We'll also
   need camping gear, in case a marina hotel isn't handy. Food and water,
   we can pick up at a marina store. An inflatable boat with a motor,
   light enough to fit the luggage compartment. How about scuba gear?"
   "I'm not certified, but I'm competent with a snorkel. And I've used
   regulators for shallow dives, about half of the certification course."
   "I've got my certification card, so I can buy compressed air for both
   of us. I'll get two sets of scuba gear, as well as snorkels and such,"
   Doug said, speeding south on I-95 amidst an unbelievable number of
   trucks and open-topped idiot buggies. I had a pencil and paper out,
   making lists.
   TWO HOURS BEFORE SUNSET, I lifted off from Biscayne Bay and used the
   two-way radio to activate my international flight plan for Grand
   Bahama, where I'd reserved a suite in a marina hotel and gotten a
   seaplane dock for the night. It being the tail end of hurricane
   season, there was no problem in getting space. My laptop contained the
   satellite weather map that I downloaded and the updates to the
   aeronautical chart and pilot briefing that I'd gotten from the FAA's
   on-line pilot briefing when I filed my flight plan.
   Doug pointed out the Florida coast landmarks and soon Bimini could be
   seen on the right window. "We're flying over the Gulf Stream right
   now," he shouted, "just in case you can't tell from all the bumpy
   "Use the second headset, Doug. There's an intercom."
   "All the modern conveniences," he replied in a normal voice, once the
   headset switch was set properly.
   "This plane's got so many extras that there are a half-dozen switches
   which I don't recognize. Some doctor had it reserved for a week and
   canceled at the last minute. I've never taken a trip on quite such
   short notice before. Not even a suitcase. What will the hotels think
   of us?"
   "We'll go shopping at that marina complex you picked," he said. "I
   picked up two of the security-model belt phones in Miami, and arranged
   for your calls to be transferred to one of them, starting sometime
   tonight if you'll phone them for verification. That way, we can safely
   power off your regular belt phone, and still let you receive calls
   from Max."
   "I called back to Seattle, by the way, from the pay phone at the dock.
   And had the substitute cat feeder run by Max's apartment. It took him
   a half hour to phone me back, but he finally found the registration
   card for Max's belt phone."
   "So you've got the serial number?"
   "Yes. Close to mine. It just ends in H8 rather than K4. I also had Doc
   go through Max's bookshelves of travel and technical books, and he
   found a whole book on GPS."
   "That's nice to know," he said, relaxing a little. "Feels funny,
   buying the equipment and leaving the country, all before even reading
   the S&R manual that Kevin gave us. I hope we didn't leave anything
   behind, in our haste." He picked up the manual and started to browse
   I scanned the sky for other aircraft. After leaning the mixture, I
   noticed the engine was running a bit rough. I adjusted the mixture to
   enrich it a bit until the engine smoothed out. It occurred to me that
   the customs service at the seaplane moorage might close up shop at
   sunset, so I pushed the throttle in even further, and then had to trim
   up the elevator again. I didn't want to have to land at Freeport, just
   to pass through customs there and have to take off again.
   There's a nice VOR bearing broadcast on 113.2 Mhz, just a matter of
   keeping the needle centered until seeing that
   bowling-ball-surrounded-by-lollipops structure in the midst of the
   airport at Freeport, then changing course for the marina. But I
   decided to use the plane's GPS instead, and so fly a straight line to
   the marina east of Freeport. I tuned the second navcom to Freeport
   Approach Control on 126.5 Mhz and checked in with them as soon as the
   GPS said we were about to cross 79 longitude. Soon, Grand Bahama began
   to fill the horizon.
   The plane was slower than I was used to, probably due to the drag of
   the big Edo floats hanging on the struts below, much larger than on
   the usual float plane I rent in Seattle. Undoubtedly handy for divers.
   I'd noticed an anchor, stowed under the back seats between the life
   The coral reefs were clearly submerged, since no white water showed
   above them despite the breeze. I circled the anchorage once, just
   because Doug wanted to see the lay of the land, lowered the flaps, and
   then set the plane down within easy taxiing distance of the customs
   dock. Once on the water, I lowered the water rudders on the back of
   the floats and steered with my feet. I instructed Doug on the tie-up
   procedure, taxied past the dock and then ran into the wind, using the
   water rudders to coast into the floating dock. Doug stepped ashore and
   held the wing strut while I, as "captain of the ship," walked down to
   the customs house with our passports.
   Five minutes later, I returned. "No problems. We can just walk her
   around the floating dock, then tie up at the seaplane visitor dock
   over yonder."
   Walking through the marina after locking up the plane, we found
   ourselves looking at the names of the sailing yachts moored along the
   walkway. But none were named The Pigeon's Nemesis.
   "That's such an unlikely name," I commented. "And Max did say
   `something like the pigeon's nemesis'."
   "Well, maybe he was trying to be cagey because of the Mob
   eavesdropping possibility," Doug said. "He certainly was cagey in the
   later phone calls. And that refusal to give his location could have
   been telling you that a clever person could figure it out, somehow,
   from the hints he'd disguised elsewhere."
   "That would be like Max, all right."
   "So, maybe we should pretend that this is a cross-word puzzle. What
   does pigeon's nemesis suggest to you?"
   "Just an animal that preys on pigeons. No special meaning to Max, so
   far as I know. Cats?"
   "Judging from big cities that have plenty of cats and plenty of
   pigeons," he said, "domestic cats aren't very effective predators on
   pigeons. About the only effective predator is a peregrine falcon. And
   they've been taking up residence in big cities, leaving the sidewalks
   below their roosts strewn with pigeon heads and feet."
   "So, do you suppose it's named The Peregrine instead?" I said softly,
   while pulling open the door of the hotel.
   "Sounds more like a boat name than The Recrudescence does, at any
   rate. But why would anyone name a boat for a big bird that eats little
   "Maybe Jowls thinks of himself as a takeover artist. Or wants others
   to view him that way. I've seen some push-push-push managerial types,"
   I said, swinging my elbows (and then feeling self-conscious), "who
   work hard at projecting the image of a steamroller."
   "I knew some guys like that, in the Navy. They'd like the peregrine
   image, all right."
   AFTER HE SPENT THE EVENING installing the new electronics in the float
   plane, Doug found me back in our suite, cross-legged on the floor and
   looking at maps spread across the sofa.
   "Big place," I said, looking up. "What's the effective range of the
   ping? How high can we fly, and how wide a corridor would we sweep?"
   "It sure works from the hotel to the seaplane dock, because I've been
   pinging your old belt phone over and over while testing the
   installation. We'll find out the extreme range in the morning, by
   leaving your belt phone somewhere remote, and then flying past it at
   various altitudes."
   "Very clever, Doctor Chen, sir."
   "The empirical method in science, you know," he quipped. "Did you
   check the net?"
   "Yes, using a suitably circuitous routing through Bimini and London.
   And then I didn't learn anything worth repeating. But I started
   Melanie on searching for boats named The Peregrine. Do you want to go
   out for a real dinner, to supplement that sandwich I brought you
   earlier?" I asked, looking up at him.
   "I was hoping you'd want to do that," Doug said, looking pleased. "We
   need to talk strategy. I stuck my head inside a place down the street,
   a restaurant equipped with two steel bands - the closest thing to a
   chaotic vibrator that I've heard. We'll have to whisper in each
   other's ears, of course."
   "That sounds nice. It's been very pleasant on the previous occasions,"
   I said, accepting a hand up.

   DOUG WAS READY to test the search method at sunrise, waking me with a
   cup of black coffee. "Sorry, no espresso hereabouts. Just coffee and
   "There's some croissants and jam in the grocery sacks," I said, almost
   awake. "There's a serious-looking French bakery down the road that I
   found while shopping for toothbrushes and such. How's the weather? I
   keep forgetting that this is still hurricane season."
   "Broken clouds at a thousand feet, 20 percent coverage - just the
   usual Gulf Stream stuff - and a chance of showers in the southern
   Bahamas. High cirrus from a storm brewing in the Sargasso Sea, but
   nothing serious for another day or two. Low tide is midafternoon."
   "Which translates to bumpy near the surface, but maybe better at 6,000
   feet," I said, sipping. "Were you up half the night, studying those
   "And reading manuals. A leisurely holiday among the yachties, this
   isn't. It's like being in the Navy again - except, of course, for the
   quality of the company."
   "Any overnight e-mail?"
   "I thought that you'd never ask," Doug grinned. "Your friend Melanie
   discovered a cruising yacht named Peregrine, very much like what Max
   described. Massachusetts registration. And in the name of the same
   Florida corporation that owns the marlin boat! I asked her to search
   for any additional boats owned by that corporation."
   "Wow! All that time with the Sunday crossword puzzle has finally paid
   off. Actually, what it shows is the value of writing things down
   before discussing them. If I hadn't written that memo to myself
   immediately after the first phone call, I'd have forgotten that casual
   qualification of Max's, that something like the pigeon's nemesis."
   "But I don't see how we can use it, just yet," Doug cautioned. "Giving
   the Peregrine to the FBI has all the same problems as giving them
   Max's three phone calls. If we ask around at marinas for the
   Peregrine, then someone might remember the name and tell it to the
   next person who came around asking about someone of Jowl's
   description. So, I think we'll just have to look for the Peregrine
   "Still, it's nice to have a backup strategy, if the pinging fails," I
   reflected. "Any other e-mail?"
   "From Dad, all apologetic about blowing our cover. Twice. He's
   arranged for a condo in Palm Beach for when we return - I think it
   must be the furnished demo apartment at that new luxury place on
   Sloan's Curve, next to Carrie's place. But I told him that commercial
   rentals like that simply won't do - they're too easy to discover. He
   wants hourly progress reports, but knows he won't get them. Money is
   no object, etc. I straightened out several club members by e-mail, on
   installing the autodestruct disks, using your Bimini-to-London method
   of disguising our present location."
   "That's good."
   "Susan should be delivering the last of the disks about noon today.
   Dad and most of the others have phones using the same DES encryption
   for voice as our new digital cellulars. By the way, just how secure is
   I sat up in bed, pulling the sheet with me, so as not to distract
   Doug. "The manuals say our new phones use the usual batch encryption.
   There are evidently three DES chips in a chain inside these things, so
   the first ciphertext gets encrypted itself with a different random
   key, and then the whole thing repeats again."
   "Triply secure, huh?"
   "Well, the old one-pass DES alone can probably be broken overnight by
   anyone with a large computer," I continued. "The Feds won't let
   military contractors use simple DES alone, so everyone assumes that
   NSA found it easy to crack."
   "So, essentially any big corporation potentially has the computational
   wherewithal," Doug said.
   "Still, triple DES should be very much harder to crack. It's said to
   be as secure as most anything. The main problem with DES is a secure
   way of distributing the keys, so they use an envelope coded using
   "So, why hasn't public-private key replaced DES and the like?"
   "Essentially, the chips are still too slow to handle real-time voice
   or video. So you only use something like RSA to send the random keys
   for the turn-the-crank methods like DES or IDEA that can keep up with
   fast data rates."
   Doug grinned. "I love it when you talk dirty like that."
   "I hope you realize," I said with a wicked smile, "we're probably
   breaking some law by carrying those new phones to the Bahamas without
   first getting an export license from the U.S. Department of Commerce.
   Despite the fact that you can buy the same thing, made in Europe, here
   in the Bahamas. RSA encryption methods are considered munitions,
   believe it or not - just like the missiles on your Navy ships. A
   wonderful example of how slowly bureaucratic thinking catches up with
   the era of The Net, where a complete RSA encryption computer program
   can now be exported halfway around the world in about two seconds.
   Without shrink-wrap."
   "I'm in ecstasy already. More!"
   I smiled benignly at Doug and sipped my coffee. "I assume the FBI or
   NSA can eventually break the phone's encryption, and probably the Mob
   can do it as well. But it will take them time to do it. They'll need
   hours of recorded conversation, in order to make a start."
   "Still," I continued, "if you want a general rule - but first, pass me
   another croissant and some more of that good jam - I'll give you one.
   We can freely discuss tactical information over the security phones -
   such as where we're stopping for the night. It's probably without
   value by the time they can decrypt it, a day or more later. But we
   should try to avoid mentioning longer-term strategy, names, and other
   info with a longer half-life. Save them for the Orion cipher e-mail.
   Remember that who you call can still be figured out, even if the
   message is encrypted, and that traffic analysis like that is quite
   valuable. Now - if you'll close your eyes tight, Mister Chen - I'll
   finally get out of bed."
   E-MAIL FROM MYSELF was the last thing that I expected when I did a
   last check for messages before leaving the hotel room. It was the Kate
   Imitator again.
     Date: Fri 6 November 04:35 Pacific Time (GMT - 8h)
     From: Kate Medici 
     To: Kate Medici 
     Subject: Final warning
     Your friend is dead. Do not interfere. If you do not go home
     immediately, you will die slowly, just as you were told before.
   Experienced at frightening people, their trademark. I decided to
   ignore it. I was happy to see that it didn't mention Doug. Or the
   Bahamas. And that they seemed ignorant of the fact that they should be
   following us instead of trying to scare us off. Doug agreed.
   I SELECTED A SMALL ISLAND with a sandy beach, and set the plane down
   near it. Doug informed me that, hereabouts, a small island is always
   called a cay for some reason, probably Spanish.
   He wrapped my belt phone up in a waterproof bag as I taxied into the
   shore and killed the engine. Doug deposited the bag in some offshore
   rocks, a few feet above the waterline, trying to approximate the
   conditions in a boat surrounded by water. Upon returning, he turned
   the plane around so that it faces offshore. Swinging back into the
   right-hand seat, he hauled the door shut, snapped his shoulder
   harness, and put his headphones back on. "Mission accomplished,
   captain. I'll mark the cay on the aerial map."
   I taxied back offshore, giving Doug a few more lessons in how to
   handle a float plane as I went. I took off and climbed, banking
   counter-clockwise, to a mile-high vantage point. "So. Does it answer
   the ping?"
   "Of course. You would have heard me cursing before now if it didn't.
   Good signal strength, even with the omnidirectional antenna. Better
   with the helical, pointed at the cay." Doug had Max's S/N B27HGW2H8
   taped above the LED display on the S&R transponder, for quick
   "Okay, let's fly directly away from it and see when we lose the
   signal, using the omni. I'll use the plane's GPS to estimate the
   distance we cover," I said, pointing.
   After about five miles, Doug reported loss of signal. I descended to
   1,000 feet, and flew directly toward the cay. "Okay, reliable signal
   acquired. What's the distance?" he asked.
   "Still about five miles. So, corridors about ten miles wide, without
   allowing for weak signals."
   "It sounds to me like we could fly down the middle of most island
   chains in the Bahamas," Doug said. "Or maybe up one side and down the
   other for the wider islands, to be really sure. The boat might be out
   cruising, but Max did say it seemed to stay in a protected anchorage."
   "Heard any other belt phones answering back?"
   "I got a few when we were near the marina. It's all working properly.
   So, shall we just fly around the shoreline of Grand Bahama for
   starters? And come back for your old belt phone later?"
   "Okay," I agreed. "We're going to have to stop every few hours to gas
   up again, so use those seaplane symbols on the Bahamas boating map as
   the organizing principle. And remember that I don't like to land in
   the dark - you can't see floating logs and the like."
   "Kate, I hate to tell you this - but there aren't many floating logs
   in the Caribbean, except just after a hurricane. You're thinking of
   Puget Sound again."
   "Good old latteland was probably on my mind. We should have packed a
   portable espresso machine!"
   "No trees," Doug continued, "but watch out for coconuts or floating
   clumps of crude oil. And old uplifted coral reefs, just under the
   surface at low tide. Which is at three this afternoon. Then, of
   course, there are sand bars."
   "I know all about getting stranded on sand bars," I smiled ruefully.
   "Sometime, when we need some comic relief, I'll tell you about what
   happened to me on Halloween. I've never made so many absurd mistakes
   in my life, all packed into just one day. Maybe, if you're especially
   good, I'll even tell you about the costume that I ended up wearing."
   Doug attempted to get me to tell the story immediately, but we spotted
   a large sailing yacht meeting Max's description. I descended and Doug
   got out the high-power binoculars. As I flew across its wake, he read
   the name painted on its stern. Mary Jane out of Newport. I'd thought
   it unlikely, just from the nude sunbathers. Sorry, folks.
   After flying around the shores of Grand Bahama and finding 13 belt
   phones that answered the ping, but none with a serial number close to
   mine, we landed to refuel at West End, putting down outside and then
   taxiing along the dogleg entrance channel.
   LEAVING DOUG to handle the refueling this time, I walked down the long
   pier, stretching out the kinks of almost four hours in the air, and
   looking at every large sailboat for Peregrine or a Massachusetts
   registration. Nothing.
   Food vendors were found just ashore, a bazaar extending for blocks.
   Not crowded, because of hurricane season, but lots of natives and a
   few tourists, nonetheless. In happier circumstances, I would have
   spent hours shopping. But instead I quickly picked up enough food for
   six meals, plus a selection of fruit.
   As I headed back toward the pier, a small poodle darted out of the
   crowd and barked at me, then wagged his tail vigorously in greeting.
   "Hello, dog," I said, smiling. "And no, you may not have any of this
   But the dog seemed more interested in companionship. He followed me,
   sometimes leading me down toward the pier, sometimes following me,
   often just circling happily.
   "So, where's your owner, little dog? Huh?"
   The dog indeed kept looking behind, as if missing someone. "You look a
   lot like Oscar, little dog." He barked happily, once more. "You've
   even got the same collar. And the gray hairs around the mouth. And
   that slightly lopsided prancing motion. So, are you Oscar? Where's
   Bertha?" The dog barked twice.
   I stood on tiptoe and looked around, pivoting in a complete circle. At
   some point, the dog darted off into the crowd. And didn't return. I
   again scanned the crowd for the familiar stumpy figure of Bertha
   Hauser, but couldn't see her or the dog.
   I was about to go hunting, to make sure the dog didn't get lost, when
   I was chilled by the notion that Bertha might be avoiding me. It
   hadn't occurred to me before, because Bertha was so assertive, likely
   to command the crowds to part for her - or, more likely, to hail me
   from a distance and wait for me to come over to see her. And what
   would Bertha be doing on Grand Bahama, I asked myself. True, she was
   only supposed to be in Palm Beach for a day or two, but....
   Troubled, I was about to return to the seaplane dock when it occurred
   to me that I didn't want anyone to know about the float plane, if they
   didn't know already. Anyone watching me would probably assume I was
   heading for a boat, of which there were hundreds tied up on the
   various floating docks that connected to the long walkway. I took the
   turn for the dinghy dock and encountered a small boy who offered to
   carry my sacks for me.
   "Can you row a boat?" I asked him.
   "Surely, madam. Would you like me to row you out to your yacht? I can
   swim back. My name is Robert." My god, I thought, they've got a
   training school for them.
   "You're hired, Robert," I said, handing him both bags. I unclipped my
   new belt phone and called Doug, with the encryption turned on.
   "Doug, I think I'm being followed," I said, lagging behind the boy so
   he couldn't hear me. "I'm not sure, but I want to play it safe. Do you
   think that you can handle the float plane, just enough to taxi it out
   into the harbor?"
   "Sure, that's just a straight Navy problem, with no Air Force
   involved. Just so long as I don't have to dock it again."
   "Okay, I'm taking a dinghy out to that cluster of yachts anchored over
   on the left side of the channel. Taxi out that way and we'll meet
   behind them, out of sight for anyone here in the dock area."
   It turned out that the boy could borrow a friend's boat, so I didn't
   have to borrow a dinghy at random. This dinghy lacked life jackets and
   paint, but the boy rowed it with enthusiasm, and told me all about
   West End. I directed him to the farthest yacht in the cluster lying at
   anchor. "Now, Robert," I told the boy, "I want you to keep a secret.
   Can you do that?"
   "Oh, yes, madam. What's the secret?"
   "I'm not really going to get on that yacht. We're going to meet that
   seaplane which is taxiing in the channel, and I'm going to disappear
   with a very handsome man for a few hours. But I don't want anyone to
   know about our picnic. That's the secret."
   The boy grinned knowingly, as if he'd just acquired a new slang word
   for his vocabulary. Oops.
   "So, if anyone asks you what yacht I went to, you tell them that I
   went to the Fair Queen over there. Don't say anything about the float
   plane. Maybe when I do it tomorrow, I'll get you to row me again."
   Once amid the yachts, I saw that Doug had idled the seaplane
   correctly, keeping it pointed into the wind. By the time we approached
   the seaplane, the view of the docks was entirely obscured by the
   yachts. I made a cutting notion with my hands, and Doug stopped the
   I directed Robert to hold onto the wing strut while I passed the sacks
   to Doug. Then I climbed into the passenger seat, waving Doug back into
   the pilot's seat. I gave Robert a big tip ("A little down-payment on
   tomorrow") and reminded him to say that I went to the Fair Queen if
   anyone asked - but that he should be reluctant to part with the
   information until they tipped him well. And to be sure to wait three
   days before telling his friends about this. The boy grinned and waved
   "Taxi out the entrance channel, Doug. We'll switch, once outside. I
   just don't want to disturb the boy's illusion about me escaping with a
   handsome pilot for a few hours dalliance." As I put on the headset, I
   noticed that Doug did indeed crack the throttle to the correct
   starting position before turning the key.
   "So, what inspired this deviousness?" Doug asked as he taxied along
   the channel.
   "A small poodle who looks and acts exactly like Bertha's dog," I
   explained, my voice tight. "No owner lets an expensive dog like that
   run free in a sidewalk bazaar, not without chasing it. I worry that
   Oscar got away from Bertha and that she didn't chase him because she
   didn't want me to see her. Maybe I'm just imagining that it's the same
   poodle, but I'm in no mood to take chances - and I'm still uncertain
   about Bertha. We may be only hours ahead of the competition, in
   searching for Max hereabouts."
   Once outside the harbor entrance, Doug climbed into the back seat so
   that I could transfer to the left-hand seat. While he was there, he
   repacked my food purchases into the cooler chests. Then he squeezed
   back into the right-hand seat.
   "I've been thinking," I said, after he plugged his headset back in,
   "that maybe we'd better assume that others are going to try and track
   us, figuring that we've got leads that they don't have. Hoping we'll
   lead them to Jowls."
   "It's the safe assumption," Doug replied, after a moment. "And we
   really ought to assume they're sophisticated, that they can track our
   phone calls, such as the one you made to me back in West End. Maybe
   not instantly, and maybe they can't decrypt them, but the telco record
   would still serve to locate us in a general way."
   "And the belt phones, being cellulars most of the time, also serve to
   locate us, even when we aren't actually making calls," I added. "When
   we get out of range of a cell, they are set to default to the
   expensive satellite coverage, which can't be used to locate us. Except
   to somewhere in the Western Hemisphere."
   "Well, maybe it won't be a problem with the two new phones I bought
   yesterday. I registered them to Kevin and Big John. And paid big cash
   deposits up front - they're used to that, in Miami - so that it would
   not be on a bank card. And my old phone is turned off completely."
   "I'm relieved that you thought of that," I said. "With waiting for
   another call from Max, forwarded to my new phone, I really can't turn
   my new one off."
   "And what about the float plane?" asked Doug. "Can it be traced to
   "Of course. They insisted on a credit card, just like the mainland
   hotels do, and checked it for validity. So someone could get the
   airplane's registration numbers from the rental place, if they had
   access to the bank card query records. Or phoned around enough, like I
   did with the hairdressers in Palm Beach."
   "So, does the transponder of this plane send an I.D.?"
   "Damn!" I exploded, pounding my knee with my fist. "Fortunately, I can
   shut it off since we're VFR and no longer in controlled airspace. But
   I should have thought of that yesterday." I reached down and flipped a
   switch. Firmly.
   "Still, since we have to refuel every few hours, all they'd have to do
   is to watch the seaplane docks," Doug pointed out. "There are only a
   dozen or so, where we're going. Assuming they know about the float
   I frowned for a minute. "That's a tough nut to crack. We need real
   avgas, and can't use boat fuel. So, it's a matter of keeping them from
   following us, once we leave the seaplane dock. Fortunately, there is
   some cloud cover arriving late this evening which ought to help - it's
   hard to track planes flying IFR through dense clouds if they don't
   have their transponder turned on. Unless they bring in military
   aircraft, I doubt they'll be able to track us very well from airborne
   radar. And we'll be able to evade ground-based radar by skimming the
   Doug looked at the marine charts for a while, contemplating. "Surely
   the Exuma Islands chain southeast of Nassau has the most shoreline and
   least population, just the place that I'd pick to hide myself. Why
   don't we try the Berry Islands en route to Nassau and then take on the
   Exumas later in the afternoon?"
   "You're the navigator. Sounds good to me. Sir."
   "Your next heading is 135 true, madam pilot."
   "Okay. Now pay attention, dear student, because I'm going to teach you
   the rudiments of take off, just in case I faint and you have to get us
   out of a sticky situation."
   "You, faint?"
   "That's a euphemism. You already seem to know about cracking the
   throttle before hitting the starter. And steering with your feet to
   taxi. For takeoff, you want the flaps up - that big switch that looks
   like a flap. Pick your path, into the wind if possible, and slowly
   push the throttle in, all the way." The plane shuddered and leapt
   forward. "Now, haul the water rudders up."
   "The idea is to get the floats up on the step, so the nose isn't high
   and you can see ahead. Then at about 40 knots or so, you gently pull
   back on the wheel. When you feel the floats leave the water - see how
   the sound changes? - then you pull back a little more. Watch that
   airspeed indicator, and if you hear the stall horn, or it starts
   dropping below 60, get the nose down by pushing the wheel in a
   "The stall warning is that horn I hear when you land?"
   "Yes, I'll demonstrate when we're up to a thousand feet," I said.
   "Now, tell me what all the steps are."
   After Doug struggled through the takeoff sequence, I decided it was
   time to stall. "Suppose I climb too steeply," I said, pulling back on
   the wheel and watching the airspeed drop. "Eventually, it will start
   to stall - there's the horn - and so I push the wheel forward without
   turning it and wait until I pick up some airspeed before pulling back
   again. You have to dive a little to pick up airspeed."
   THE BERRY ISLANDS were scenic and I had Doug practice turns along the
   way, though at a higher airspeed than usual because I didn't want to
   slow down to the standard cruising speed. The S&R unit stayed silent.
   We buzzed three more sailing yachts of the right size, without any
   luck. No sunbathers, either.
   For hours, I'd been monitoring Nassau Approach Control on 121.0 Mhz,
   along with the unicom frequencies used by all the small airfields and
   air harbours. I hadn't filed a flight plan, and generally kept quiet.
   As we got to Little Whale Cay, I checked in.
   "Nassau Approach, this is November Three Seven Six Five Juliet."
   "Nassau Approach. Go ahead, Six Five Juliet." BBC British with a
   Caribbean flavoring.
   "Six Five Juliet, over Little Whale Cay at three thousand, heading One
   Three Four magnetic, planning to loop around the eastern end of New
   Providence en route to the south shore."
   They had us on the radar. As long as I stayed below 3,000 feet, they
   weren't concerned about me. If I wanted, I could switch to monitor
   Nassau International's tower frequency, 119.5, and the unicoms on
   122.8, since the local traffic around Nassau was all I needed to worry
   about. The jets were landing and taking off to the southeast today,
   and the weather was six thousand broken, light surface winds. No
   We made a clockwise loop around the island, seeing all the usual
   cruise ships at anchor off Nassau, the big jets inbound, the
   occasional small planes, and lots of pleasure boats of all sizes.
   There was one bit of restricted airspace on the southwest corner of
   the island, which I had to fly below 500 feet to avoid. There were a
   few phones answering the ping, but none were close to Max's serial
   Finally, I picked a seaplane harbor on the south side of the island
   from Nassau for refueling. "Okay, ready for your landing lesson?" I
   asked Doug.
   "Aye aye, captain."
   "Look at the waves and judge the wind direction. If there aren't
   whitecaps, don't worry about wind - at sea, you've got a real wide
   runway. Look around for other traffic - air and sea, both. Just pick a
   nice long runout - because you'll probably take a long distance to set
   it down, compared to what I take. That's the great thing about float
   planes - the runways can be very long and very wide and very
   I pointed to the path that would get us near the air harbour. "Get the
   plane lined up on the imaginary runway and pull back on the throttle,
   most of the way back to idle speed - but keep your hand near the
   throttle, since you might need to shove it back in, quickly."
   I pointed to the trim wheel for the elevators. "Trim it up, so you
   don't have to pull the wheel back any more. Now, slowly lower the
   flaps 20 degrees, and then trim again for a nice steady rate of
   descent at about 70 knots. See? Keep her nice and level - that's the
   main thing. And wait for her to land herself - though it helps to
   bleed off some airspeed just before touchdown, by pulling back on the
   wheel and getting the nose up. You don't want the plane to stall until
   you're about a foot above the water surface. Keep the nose up and look
   around the side of the engine to judge your elevation."
   I peered out the left window. "Be careful not to accidentally turn the
   wheel while you're leaning to the side - you've got to keep the wings
   level," I said, tapping the tilt indicator. "Watch that airspeed
   indicator, too - don't let it drop below 55 until you're close to the
   surface. Like about now. Pull back a little - notice that airspeed
   dropping?" The stall horn started blaring, the floats bumped several
   times, and then the plane settled down into the water and quickly lost
   speed, pushing us forward into our shoulder harnesses.
   "Looks easy, when you do it," Doug said, admiringly.
   "If something goes wrong while you're still in the air, just shove
   that throttle back in. Slowly raise the flaps, as you start to climb.
   Then just come back and try again. Now that we've slowed down, it's
   hard to steer with the rudder. So we lower the water rudders on the
   back of the floats." I pointed to the lever, though he knew perfectly
   well where it was. Routine is everything, however.
   "Look for a seaplane dock, if you haven't already spotted it from the
   air. It will be a floating pier, one that doesn't have high pilings,
   just low ones that the wings will clear. And usually an oil company
   "Now to dock," I continued, "you usually want to make a turn that
   brings you onto an upwind path parallel to the dock, then use your
   water rudders to bring her in. If something goes wrong, turn away from
   the dock and apply power, make another loop and try again - you can't
   do the fancy small-boat docking maneuvers."
   "You mean, I can't put it in reverse?" Doug smiled at me.
   "If you figure out how to do it, let me know. But there is a paddle in
   the back - just straddle a float and dig in, singing a Polynesian war
   chant." I cut the engine and the prop spun down to a stop. "Okay, out
   with you." Doug got out, picked up the short mooring line attached to
   the right float, and stepped onto the dock.
   I started the refueling and suggested to Doug that he find someplace
   to get some cold bottles of mineral water. As he was about to leave, I
   asked, "Also, stop at their seaplane rental place and see if they
   stock a better map. Our Miami sectional doesn't cover the Bahamas
   below 24 latitude, and I dislike relying on the boating charts. Oh,
   and keep an eye open along the way for that bird."
   I FINALLY BUTTONED UP the cowling after checking the oil. As I was
   paying for the avgas from my wad of $50 bills, I noticed Doug coming
   back out the pier. That was quick, I thought. But he wasn't carrying
   either bottles or a map, and he was walking rapidly. Peregrine, found?
   "All paid? Let's take off," he said, bending to untie the mooring
   line. I contained my curiosity and quickly got started.
   Once we were taxiing, he explained over the intercom. "Whole batch of
   guys, some still wearing suits, trying to charter boats in a hurry.
   Must have been fresh off a plane flight. Some more suits outside,
   fitting mag-mount antennas to rental cars. Two groups seemingly trying
   to outbid each other, and the owner explaining that he didn't have
   anything to rent - and that none of the other places do either, that
   all their remaining boats had been unexpectedly rented this afternoon.
   He kept asking them where the treasure hunt was. I didn't even get to
   the seaplane counter."
   "Damn! That surely isn't just the Coast Guard search. News of it must
   have leaked and stirred up the competition, whoever they are. What did
   these guys look like?"
   "Resourceful, if you know what I mean. Some sure fit the
   college-educated, lawyer-or-accountant image of the FBI. Others looked
   rougher. I don't think any of them were press - no cameras or notepads
   or makeup."
   "Great," I said, bitterly. "Sounds like the Mob."
   "And," Doug said, "to save the worst news until last, I think that I
   saw McNulty. Either that, or there's someone else around these parts
   who limps and has a red crew cut. He was busy rigging a mag-mount."
   "Did he see you?" I asked, horrified. "Did you see my burglar, too?"
   "No, just McNulty, and I don't think he saw me. I saw him through a
   window while listening to the guys inside, and I didn't walk anywhere
   near the parking lot where he was. I left to come back before he could
   possibly have come around the building and seen me on the walkway."
   I mulled it over. "Now we'll have to worry about almost anyone, since
   it will surely occur to them to hire some local help, spreading a lot
   of money around to gather information, just like we did in Palm Beach.
   And a tall woman piloting a white seaplane is easy to remember, as is
   someone with a personality as peculiar as Jowls."
   Forgetting to tutor Doug, I shoved the throttle to the firewall and
   soon we were airborne. I wasn't very happy as I scanned the skies for
   other planes, but my pilot's habits seemed to take over as they
   "Doug," I said while trimming up the elevator tab for the third time
   in five minutes, "I'm worried that we've got less than a day in which
   to find Max. Jowls could be spotted the next time he goes into a
   marina for groceries or a landline connection. He went yesterday when
   Max phoned me, and Max said they made a trip every other day."
   "And Jowls is a person of fixed habits," Doug nodded in reluctant
   agreement. "Of course, even if he isn't spotted, we might be - and be
   unable to shake someone following us. Even if we found Jowls, we'd
   have no lead time in which to rescue Max."
   By midafternoon, we grimly approached the Exumas, a long and narrow
   chain of mostly small islands. Gritting my teeth from worry, I was
   flying at only a thousand feet to enhance signal strength. No planes
   were seen behind us, Doug reported, and only an occasional plane
   crossed our course. Making conversation, I commented that there
   weren't any sailboats to buzz. Indeed, hardly any boats at all.
   "There's a good reason, too," Doug responded. "It's so shallow between
   Nassau and the Exumas that you need a draft under six feet. And
   careful navigation. It's the Great Bahamas Bank.[DEL: " :DEL]
   "We can always hope that the Mob runs aground on it. I hope someone
   rents them a motor sailboat with a 10-foot keel."
   "That's Highborne Cay up ahead," Doug said a few minutes later, "the
   one with the three prominent humps. Good diving, though you are
   advised to watch out for strong tidal currents. That's probably
   because it's so shallow around here - just like one of those French
   bays with the fast tides. There's deep water over to the left, where
   it changes color - Exuma Sound, it's called, a tongue of deep water
   coming in from the ocean. Eleuthera and Cat Islands are out there on
   the eastern horizon."
   Sailboats and motor yachts were seen along the Exumas, but not as many
   as around the earlier islands. Doug kept pinging. Few cellular phones
   had been answering, except at New Providence and earlier at Grand
   "Pretty soon, Kate, we need to pick a stopping point for the night,"
   he said over the intercom. "There are several places where we could
   call ahead for marina and hotel reservations. George Town, down on
   Great Exuma, would be the comfortable place. Then there's Staniel Cay,
   less than an hour ahead. Pretty basic accommodations, apparently."
   "Yes, I saw the Staniel Cay Yacht Club in the guidebook last night," I
   said, brightening a bit. "Which said that you really had to like
   yachting, because the nightlife there only consisted of one steel
   "Well, we got along pretty well last night, with two steel bands at a
   time. On to George Town and all the yachties?"
   I forced myself to grin. "Some other night, Mister Chen. I think we
   ought to avoid stopping for long at any place with regular air
   service, like Great Exuma. Wherever we stop, we ought to gas up after
   checking in and then fly another circuit in the evening. The moon
   rises several hours after sunset, and I can use the moonlight for
   landing - you just land to the east, straight in the direction of the
   rising moon, so that you're landing on that silvery streak of
   moonlight reflected from the water's surface."
   "The original street light! I never thought of it as illuminating a
   runway like that. Great way to watch for obstacles."
   "It sometimes means, of course, that you have to taxi for a long way
   back to your destination. And at low speed, using the landing lights,"
   I said. "Well, why don't you try calling Staniel Cay and see if
   they've got space available? Their phone number is listed...."
   "Hey!" Doug exclaimed, sitting up straight. "Will you look at that!"
   He was pointing at the S&R display.
   It was showing S/N B27HGW2H8, 24DEG42'55.6"N, 76DEG49'38.5"W, 0H. It
   was Max's serial number, all right.
   I HAD TO STIFLE MY IMPULSE to put the nose down and descend in a
   hurry. I looked out my window to the left, and then popped the side
   window half open. It vibrated in the slipstream as I peered forward
   over the left float, scanning the sea below.
   "A few small cays, just ahead of us," I reported while latching the
   window and rubbing my windblown eyes. "No sailboats visible, however.
   How about your side?"
   "Nothing at all over here. Must be directly below us."
   After the next ping, ten seconds later, the signal repeated.
   Identical. We were both grinning at one another. I looked down again
   at the cays, which were directly under our left wing. I kept our
   course nice and steady and boring. "You ought to be able to figure out
   which island it's coming from, just from having the map coordinates.
   Mark it and we'll come back to it later," I said with a controlled
   smile. "Keep pinging, just in case anyone is tracking us."
   "The island has no name," Doug reported presently as he pocketed his
   pen, "and neither do its neighbors. But they're on the mariner's map."
   We discussed alternative strategies for returning to the little
   island; a few minutes later, we lost the signal. We continued on past
   the Highburn Cay Marina and speculated that it was one of Jowl's ports
   of call. And maybe Staniel Cay, too, farther south. The charts showed
   a lot of shallow water, but deeper channels were seen here and there.
   "Great diving territory," Doug commented. "I saw a few diving flags
   flying on those boats back there. Nice coral heads, I'll bet, all
   along those smaller tongues of deep water. If you want to save gas
   while we're planning, we could just anchor along one of them and
   pretend we're diving."
   I nodded agreement. "Pick your spot," I said, trying to jest.
   Doug pointed.
   "Fine," I replied, still trying to distract myself. "Now, you land
   it." I helped him adjust the throttle and nose angle as we descended,
   showed him again how the airspeed indicator should behave. "Take all
   the distance you want, no need to hurry. Now, start pulling back on
   the wheel. Harder. Still more." The stall warning started to sound and
   then we bumped several times and quickly slowed down. The slapping
   sound of the water on the floats was heard.
   "A very satisfactory landing, Mister Chen. I'm happy to have you as my
   life insurance policy." Doug grinned.
   When we were stopped, riding on the relatively calm seas, I cut the
   engine. The little waves caused a tinny resonance from the floats, but
   otherwise it was silent. "We don't really have to set the seaplane's
   anchor," I said, trying to think straight. "Three-quarters of a tank
   of gas left. Maybe three hours flying time, if we continue to fly at
   top speed rather than slowing down to the endurance speed."
   "Well, so how are we going to approach Jowl's boat?" asked Doug. "We
   could just taxi up to it, but that isn't exactly subtle. We could take
   the little inflatable, which has a silent electric motor good for
   several hours. We could snorkel in, or even swim underwater."
   "Or some combination of them all," I said, not very helpfully.
   Doug nodded. "Also," he pointed out, "we could probably rent a diving
   boat from that marina, if we wanted something larger and faster than
   the inflatable. But we'd have to rent it before sunset."
   "There's only two hours of daylight left," I observed, "so we also
   need a protected anchorage. I suggest that we find an island in the
   vicinity, someplace safe to leave the plane unattended while we camp
   ashore. And then approach Jowls quietly. After dark."
   Doug agreed. He seemed to be thinking furiously.
   "I wonder if we shouldn't check in with Andre," I thought aloud, "and
   see what's been happening." I checked at the display on my belt phone.
   "No cells hereabouts. It's got satellite coverage only. But the
   encryption isn't all that secure, so we'll have to avoid mentioning
   the boat's location. Or ours."
   Doug placed the call on his belt phone, so as to leave mine free, just
   in case Max called again. He decided to stand outside, on the back of
   the float, where the antenna would have a good view of the sky. "Dad?
   We're where I said we were going. And we're close to Max, though this
   DES cipher isn't good enough for me to tell you exactly where. Before
   we make any more moves, Kate thought that we should check with you and
   see what's been happening elsewhere.... Yes... I see.... How about Ted
   and Bertha and Jack? ... No, you probably won't hear from us again,
   not until tomorrow.... Yes, I will. Bye, now."
   "Dad's pipeline into the FBI investigation has gone dry," Doug
   reported, sticking his head in the open door. "But one of the last
   things mentioned was some sort of Mob feeding frenzy, sounding as if
   they too know that someone made billions of dollars selling short on
   Black Friday. And so much is at stake that the usual Mob settled
   territories have broken down; they're stumbling all over one another
   in a race for the prize."
   "So, those two groups you saw back on New Providence could have been
   two competing Mob groups," I observed, "rather than the Feds and the
   Mob. Wonderful. Just wonderful. Any more about Ted? Or Bertha?"
   "Bertha hasn't answered e-mail today, but that means nothing. Ted's
   still missing, and they now think that he might have caused himself to
   disappear - his bank accounts were cleaned out, as was his safety
   deposit box. And his last visit to the bank vault was two weeks ago,
   so it's starting to look like Ted might have fled, rather than being
   kidnapped. His 25-year-old daughter can't be found, either."
   WE DECIDED to find an island near Jowl's, one that had an anchorage
   for the plane. But we also had the problem of staying out of sight.
   The return of a float plane to the vicinity might, we reasoned, cause
   Jowls to keep a tight watch. So we devised a plan to approach a
   neighboring island while staying hidden from view.
   We flew into a neighboring cay, skimming the wavetops, a straight-in
   approach on a line so that the trees on the cay would obscure the
   float plane to anyone watching from Jowl Island (as we'd come to call
   the unnamed cay). I set down the plane and began a cautious taxi.
   There was, unfortunately, an unbroken coral reef around the cay, so I
   taxied back out the same way as we landed, remaining out of sight. I
   taxied for at least a mile, until judging the distance far enough away
   from Jowl Island to minimize the roar of takeoff. I cringed at how
   much noise the engine made.
   "By the way," Doug noted while plotting an approach course to a second
   neighboring cay, "Max's belt phone is no longer responding to my
   "Wonderful. I hope that it's just a matter of the batteries being
   low." The unspoken worry was that the belt phone would prove to be on
   the marlin boat, and not the yacht to which Max was transferred, two
   weeks ago.
   Next cay. Once below the horizon from Jowl Island, I turned onto the
   new approach course and flew back in. The second cay turned out to
   have exactly the same problem as the first, and another long taxi back
   out was required, with Doug twisted around, looking to see if Jowl
   Island peeked out from behind the cay so that I could correct my
   course. And again we worried, as I slowly shoved the throttle to the
   firewall, that the window-rattling sound of a seaplane takeoff would
   reach back to Jowl Island despite the favorable wind direction.
   As we approached the third cay, Doug observed that it was the last cay
   with enough trees to block the view. But that there was another
   shrubby cay which we could try, approaching from the direction of the
   setting sun as seen from Jowl Island. I landed the plane on full flaps
   and cautiously taxied in, lowering the water rudders while retracting
   the flaps. This cay, thanks to a break in the fringing reef, proved to
   have a decent anchorage on its back side, out of view of Jowl Island.
   I remembered the anchor under the back seat but didn't want to damage
   the coral reefs, as anchors are prone to do. Since it was only a hour
   past the low tide, I realized that it would be safe to tie the plane
   up near the shoreline. I taxied into the beach, killed the engine, and
   pulled off my headset. "Okay, let's turn it around to point out, then
   tie it between those offshore rocks. They'll hold the floats away from
   the beach. Then two more lines to the rear - we can tie to those
   shrubs behind the high-water line. A nice four-point suspension."
   Doug nodded agreement, having been studying the anchorage himself.
   "And," he added, "let's attach the lines to the floats so that they
   can be cast off quickly, and just left behind, if we're in a hurry to
   leave. We can always cut them with our diving knives, but that takes
   more time."
   DOUG UNPACKED THE INFLATABLE BOAT from the tail's luggage compartment.
   In ten minutes, the motorized pump had transformed a lump of rubber
   into an A-shaped dinghy. We kept the whining pump inside the plane to
   minimize the noise that escaped. Soon the sides were rigid enough so
   that Doug could install and test its little electric motor.
   We unloaded the diving gear from the tie-down space behind the back
   seats. Frowning, I handed Doug the sack of groceries I'd unpacked from
   the cooler, saying that we'd better eat while there was a chance.
   "Let's leave the rest of the gear in the plane," Doug said, "and go
   ashore with the binocs, see what we can see before sunset. Want to
   change into a swim suit?" Doug changed while standing on the float,
   while I tried to struggle into my bikini in the pilot's seat. I was
   not amused, and finally got out to stand on the other float.
   Ashore on the shell-covered beach, we tied the inflatable up in the
   shallows. "We're going to have to be careful about punctures," I
   worried, "with all these broken shells. And it's noisy as hell,
   walking over them, as bad as walking on eggshells. I hope that Jowl
   Island doesn't have shell beaches, too."
   Our island wasn't very wide, only a matter of a few groves of palm
   trees and some low bushes and grasses. No one seemed to have been
   there before us. Or at least, not since the last hurricane. Last
   "Our very own pristine island, Kate," Doug joked. Planting the
   inflatable's paddle in the sand, he intoned, "In the name of the
   queen, I hereby christen thee Kate's Cay." He got an elbow in his ribs
   for his trouble, but I was smiling again. Which was probably his aim.
   I surveyed Jowl Island while Doug unpacked the grocery sack. "Doug!
   That's a sailboat mast, in among those palms to the left! So Max's
   belt phone did get transferred from the marlin boat!" I hugged Doug in
   "I was worried about that, too," Doug said, sitting down and pulling
   me alongside him. "I suppose we ought to keep a low profile, just in
   case anyone is looking from over yonder." He took the binoculars and
   looked carefully, scanning the rest of Jowl Island after guessing the
   mast height.
   "It's the right mast for a 65-foot sailboat," he said, continuing to
   look while munching on the sandwich that I handed him. "No tents. And
   certainly no dwellings. I think that their cay is just a somewhat
   larger version of this one. It surely must have a deeper channel, if
   they got that sailboat in so close."
   "There's probably no fresh water on the island," I said, "so no
   permanent habitation. But enough shade for the sun-weary sailor."
   Doug continued to scan, slowly. "Hey, I see someone! Walking down the
   beach, just rounding the right edge of the island, coming this way."
   I took the binocs and studied him. "Looks like it might be that old
   Cuban guy that the bridge tender described. He's stopping here and
   there, as if he's looking for something. Dressed like crew, it seems
   to me - not shorts or a swim suit or a polo shirt, like you might
   expect. It's certainly not Max or Jowls. Carlos, Max called him."
   "What's that he's carrying?" Doug said after another turn with the
   binocs. "Looks a little like a shovel. Yes, it must be. He's digging,
   up in the grassy area."
   While I kept watch, Doug checked over the equipment - and groaned.
   Without explanation, he waded back out to the plane and looked in the
   back seat as well as the tail luggage compartment. They weren't there,
   either. The two handguns that Doug had borrowed yesterday from Big
   John were missing.
   Whether they were still in the car trunk in Miami, or stolen last
   night at the marina on Grand Bahama, was not clear. There was a spear
   gun in the diving gear, but that was all in the way of weapons. Doug
   disconnected the spear's tether, so as to extend its range. And he
   examined a length of nylon line for possible use as a snare.
   THE PLAN we worked out, while watching the hole being dug, was to
   plant one of Doug's limpet transmitters on the yacht's hull, snaking a
   microphone through an open porthole if possible. Then we were going to
   try to find a protected spot to watch from, while listening to what
   was going on inside. And, of course, we were going to plan a rescue
   accordingly. I checked my laptop: the moon, just past full, was going
   to rise two hours after sunset. It even gave the direction of
   moonrise: slightly north of east.
   Capturing the kidnappers seemed improbable, given our lack of weapons.
   Stealing away with Max, and flying immediately to safety, seemed the
   only way to avoid being around when the other pursuers, whoever they
   were, finally arrived. Surely by morning, our lead would be gone, our
   use of a seaplane discovered, our escape routes iffy because of the
   approaching hurricane. The best thing we could do was to flee with
   Max, then tell the FBI what we knew and hope they could capture the
   kidnappers and recover their financial records.
   "But, until the Mob knows that we haven't fled with the financial
   records," I pointed out, "we're still vulnerable. All three of us will
   have to stay hidden somewhere."
   "Somewhere such as Hawaii," Doug suggested, "far from the scene. I
   have a faculty friend with a condo in Hilo that we could probably use,
   without leaving any traces with rental agencies, without involving any
   of Dad's friends. And we could travel without passports."
   I agreed, moving on. "All we've got to do is to get through the next
   12 hours. Let me think for awhile about a distraction, should we need
   one to sneak Max away."
   For an hour, Carlos dug his hole. Finally, as the sun set in the
   southwest, he disappeared in the direction of the big sailboat.
   "That's a pretty big hole," I said with a shudder, handing the binocs
   to Doug. "It must be the size of a grave. I think we ought to get over
   there, the sooner the better."
   Deciding that we needed to leave a failsafe message, we called Andre
   and gave him our latitude, 24DEG42'55.6"N. Then we called him again to
   give him the longitude, 76DEG49'38.5"W, so that the phone's scrambler
   would be reinitialized with a different random key. Even if someone
   broke one of the ciphers in the next few hours, they'd still have to
   break the second one to get the right island. Then Doug called a third
   time to say that, if Andre didn't hear from us before dawn, he should
   give the coordinates to the FBI, along with the fact that the boat was
   a sailing yacht called the Peregrine, registered in Massachusetts.
   We put on our diving gear in the fading light, Doug reminding me of
   the operation of the air regulator and pointing out the safety release
   for my weight belt. Initially, we planned to simply snorkel our way
   across the channel separating the two islands, leaving the inflatable
   behind as too easily spotted in the twilight. Doug's dive bag had an
   extra snorkel and face mask for Max to use, in case we had to escape
   underwater. I hoped that Max would be in good enough condition to use
   a snorkel.
   The water was pleasantly warm, I observed as we finally waded into the
   Caribbean. I was very worried. Worried for Max. Worried that I'd make
   stupid mistakes again, just like the half dozen on Halloween. Worried
   for Doug, that his single-shot weapon wouldn't be enough and would
   only expose him to return fire, probably automatic. I was weaponless,
   except for the diving knife strapped to my leg. We'll have to rely on
   outsmarting our opponents. And surprise.
   It was dark by the time we touched bottom, just off the near side of
   Jowl Island. Doug took off his flippers and handed them to me for
   safekeeping. He waded ashore to inspect the hole that we saw being
   dug. I kept a low profile in the shallows, glancing back at Kate's Cay
   to check if the plane was visible. I could hardly even see that an
   island was there.
   "The hole is indeed the size of a grave," Doug reported upon returning
   to the offshore waters. "It's empty. But the shovel has been left
   behind, as if someone was returning to bury something. Let's swim
   around the right side of the island."
   The far side of the island, facing the deep-water channel to the
   northeast, had sandy beaches rather than shell-covered beaches. I was
   relieved - one less worry. The water was noticeably cooler, probably
   because of the deep water offshore. And presumably there was a
   deep-water channel coming near the island, given that they'd anchored
   a yacht there that drew a lot.
   As we snorkeled offshore around a sand spit, we suddenly saw the yacht
   in a relatively wide inlet, held in the middle of the channel by
   anchors, fore and aft. Isolated. It was surprisingly close, maybe half
   a city block away. Our sand spit apparently formed one side of the
   A DINGHY FLOATED off its stern, bumping occasionally. "The dinghy
   means that everyone is aboard," I whispered into Doug's ear, "unless
   someone is out for a swim."
   "Why don't you stay here?" he replied. "Or, better yet, sit in the
   shallows behind the sand spit, low enough down so that you have to sit
   up straight in order to see over the top and watch the yacht cabin.
   I'll dive, come up the channel under the yacht, and look for an open
   "Let's try your waterproof binocs first, from here," I suggested,
   crawling ashore behind the sand spit.
   "It's going to be hard to tell much, in this light," Doug said,
   looking anyway.
   "None of the portholes are illuminated," he whispered a minute later,
   passing me the binocs, "so I can't tell if they're open or not. But
   the sliding windows for the dining area, aft of the mast, look like
   they're half open. That's the only place where lights are on, so maybe
   that's where everyone is."
   Doug dug the limpet transmitter out of the dive bag that he had been
   towing and uncoiled its thin microphone wire. He handed me its
   receiver with the two earplugs. I listened while Doug tested the
   system once more. "Works," I nodded. Doug fished out the extra limpet,
   and it too passed the test.
   "Be right back," he said, squeezing my hand. Wading into deeper water,
   he adjusted his mouthpiece and started the air flowing. Then he
   disappeared under the surface. I returned to watching the yacht with
   the binoculars. Momentarily, I saw some movement behind the
   rectangular windows of the galley area.
   Another movement to the left attracted my attention. Someone had come
   out into the rear cockpit area, smoking something. Cigar, I saw as a
   match briefly lit a face. From the reflections of the lights on the
   water, I finally built up a picture of a slouched-over, somewhat
   potbellied man. Jowls? No, I decided, not tall or heavy enough. It had
   to be the Cuban hired hand, Carlos. He was looking out over the water
   to the north, frequently bending down to look inside the lighted
   I FOUND MYSELF holding my breath, worrying that the man would see
   Doug. I scanned for a hand and arm along the waterline. But the light
   was poor. The moon would rise in another hour.
   The shadowy figure eventually threw the cigar into the water, where it
   sizzled for a moment. He ducked down and disappeared back inside. I
   then saw Doug's hand rise up out of the water and stick the limpet to
   the hull, just under the railing overhang. His hand remained, grasping
   the rail, and I worried that he was stuck. But a minute later, just
   when I noticed some movement inside the cabin, Doug's head rose slowly
   from the water and he stretched his other arm high over the railing
   toward the window. He had timed his move to coincide with movements
   inside the yacht.
   I immediately heard voices over the radio.
   "...wondered about that. So, you tapped Jack in order to break the
   cipher?" The voice sounded exactly like Max's, and I felt an immense
   wave of relief. He was alive.
   I saw Doug slowly sink below the surface, gradually removing his
   weight from the yacht, and then his hand disappeared as well.
   "He was such a good source of stock-market tips, long before the virus
   came along. Jack likes to impress his beautiful friends with his
   knowledge of what's likely to happen next in the market." Must be
   Jowls. "And so I started replaying the tapes with computer sounds on
   them into my own modem, to read his e-mail, too. Soon, I knew all
   about your pitiful club of amateurs. I, too, found a computer that the
   parasiters had compromised at a small investment management firm - and
   was able to disassemble the virus. And learn the formula that
   determined which stocks were to be manipulated on a given day. So I
   bought and sold options for those stocks. Unfortunately, the Mob must
   have gotten their own pipeline into your operation."
   "Via your people?"
   "Certainly not. I think they blackmailed one of your amateurs who has
   a screwed-up daughter, probably mixed up with the Mob. I didn't find
   out about it until early October, which is why I had to accelerate my
   options purchases with borrowed money, before someone like you screwed
   up the parasiter's system."
   "So, who caused Black Friday?"
   "I certainly didn't. Why should I kill the goose laying the golden
   eggs? But because I was heavily leveraged into options at the time,
   the market's panic was very profitable. Hundred-fold profits, far
   better than selling short."
   "But that makes you the market genius of all time. You probably made
   even more money than the parasiters themselves. You'll never have to
   look at another hernia or hemorrhoid again. Why should you be unhappy
   about it?"
   "Because you amateurs want my money. The Mob wants my money. The
   parasiters are mad at me. The SEC, those idiots, will try to void my
   sales of the options contracts."
   "But that money will buy you all the protection you need from the Mob
   or the parasiters - you could hire half of the Russian army to help
   Carlos guard you. The world will be grateful to you for keeping them
   out of mischief. And you could hire half of the lawyers on Wall
   Street. They've proved over and over that they can tie up the SEC in
   knots, and keep it tied up for years."
   "Maybe. But you won't be around to see it, smart-ass."
   "Who's going to finish your autobiography? You're not supposed to
   switch ghost writers in midstream, you know." Max didn't sound very
   worried; it might have been a conversation about what restaurant to
   pick for dinner. I remembered that Max was once a volunteer for the
   suicide crisis line, and had learned how to keep people talking.
   Was Jowls stupid, in Goodman's sense of his ego getting in the way of
   dealing with certain novel situations? I hoped so. I wanted to
   blindside him with a novel situation of my own devising.
   DOUG REAPPEARED in the dark waters behind me. He took off his
   headgear, then laid down close to me on the slope of the sand spit. "I
   untied their dinghy and towed it away. I sure hope that they don't
   notice that its bumping noise has stopped. But I wanted to slow them
   down, if they should start to chase us."
   I handed Doug the second earphone and wrapped my arms around his head
   to whisper in his other ear. I summarized the conversation so far.
   "Not good," Doug admitted. "I think that I can set a snare, however,
   if we can just lure them both back into the cockpit. There are a lot
   of underwater rocks nearby, so I'll have good footing. That inlet is
   narrow under the surface, not anywhere as wide as it looks from here.
   We've got a chance."
   "I've been thinking about that snare, Doug." I whispered some details
   in his ear, and he nodded agreement. "It's about 20 minutes until the
   moon rises," I continued. "And you can use hand signals to tell me
   whether to move right or left. Once the moon's up, I'll be able to see
   you without the binocs."
   "I can set the snare in that length of time," Doug replied softly,
   "and hopefully they'll think the noise I make is just the dinghy,
   bumping. Suppose, however, that you need to signal me sooner, if
   something is about to happen inside?"
   I sighed, facing the prospect. "I'll just have to start my distraction
   early, such as walking up the beach dripping wet and hailing the boat,
   asking if I can use their telephone to get a friend to pick me up.
   We'll just have to play it by ear." I heard the verbal fencing
   continue in my earphone.
   Doug squeezed my shoulders tightly. "Kate, if something goes wrong,
   swim back to the plane and take off, then call for help. Don't wait
   around on this island to see what happens. They could easily shoot
   you. I'll bet there are assault weapons aboard that yacht. Unless your
   distraction works and works quickly, they'll probably come on deck
   carrying them. Get underwater fast."
   "That goes for you, as well," I said forcefully but softly. "You know
   how to escape in the plane. Don't hang around and play hero if I get
   I sat up to take off my fins, which joined the pile on the side of the
   sand spit formed by my air tanks and face mask. Then I peeled off my
   bikini, and stuffed it inside my face mask for safekeeping.
   "Wish me luck," I said, kissing Doug firmly. "And take very good care
   of yourself."
   "Break a leg," replied Doug, hugging me as warmly as his air regulator
   permitted. He held my hand until he disappeared into the dark waters.
   I LOOKED AT MY WATCH. It was about 17 minutes until the first sign of
   moonrise, perhaps 20 until it stood atop the cloudless northeastern
   I decided to take off my watch as well - it didn't fit the image. The
   knife on the side of my leg would be invisible, so I left it tied on,
   but tested the holder to make sure that the knife could be easily
   removed from it. I fluffed out my wet hair, as best I could, and tried
   to work some of the kinks out of my legs. I was covered with sand by
   now. Nude, but encrusted.
   Whatever were the words to that Irish sea shanty? I was listening to
   the earphone now with only half an ear, trying to prepare myself. The
   art of distraction. Maximal distraction.
   I kept listening, and wishing that they'd say something about Bertha,
   as I was still confused about whose side she was on. But Jowls was
   obsessed with himself and the forces gathering against him.
   Jowls, I thought, sounded more suicidal than homicidal. He couldn't
   bear having all those Black Friday billions - being as rich as Croesus
   - and not being able to spend it or tell anyone about it. And he was
   determined that no one else should lay their hands on the billions if
   he couldn't. He seemed quite aware that the noose was tightening. All
   of the records about where the money was - they apparently were on the
   yacht, and Jowls wasn't going to let anyone grab them. He'd rather
   destroy them all. It isn't clear if "them" refers to records - or to
   records plus people.
   I saw Doug's arm briefly, over the top of the stern. Then he appeared
   to be climbing up the swimmer's ladder. Each time I heard some
   movement in the cabin, I usually saw him move at the same time. I
   worried about where Carlos was. But he at least wasn't moving around
   near the cockpit entryway.
   Max sounded as if he had been playing the immortality card, saying
   that he would be able to finish the autobiography even if something
   happened to Jowls. But it also sounded as if he had played that card
   before, and that it wasn't working this time. Jowls saw the club - and
   therefore Max - as money-grubbing competitors, not civic-minded
   The northeastern horizon was brightening; it was quite clear where the
   moon would soon rise. I picked up the watch and looked carefully. Two
   minutes. Where is Doug? I picked up the binocs again. He wasn't in the
   cockpit or on the ladder. Then I spotted him in the water, seemingly
   standing on some underwater rocks, partly out of the water. I waved at
   him. He beckoned me forward. On stage.
   I ducked back into the shallows briefly and washed off the sand that
   seemed to be everywhere. Then, glistening from the water, I stood up
   for the first time, in full view of anyone that might be looking from
   the yacht. I moved to the ridge of the sand spit, where I sat down on
   my knees and heels, fluffing my hair once more, sitting in full
   profile. I looked sideways at Doug.
   He motioned me to move inland a bit. I repositioned myself and saw
   Doug make the ground-crew gesture for stop. He then turned around,
   watching the yacht once again, and moved into some rocks, far to the
   left. He ducked low in the water and soon appeared like just another
   protruding rock.
   THE MOON FINALLY PEEKED over the horizon. It usually took two or three
   minutes to clear the horizon, I recalled. Wait until it's almost up, I
   told myself. I listened to the earphone, the only thing I was wearing
   except for the knife. Max was trying unsuccessfully to engage Jowls in
   But Jowls simply didn't respond. For a third time. And a fourth. Max
   was straining to rephrase his conversational gambits. Uh-oh.
   No time to wait, even if the moon was only three-quarters up. Quiet on
   the set, lick your lips. I drew a deep breath - and began to sing in a
   high ethereal voice.
   It was an Irish sea-shanty from my days in a college chorus. My heart
   seemed to be in my constricted throat and my voice was squeaky with
   adrenaline. It warbled and failed occasionally before returning to a
   clear pitch - but that's okay, I told myself firmly. Keep it up, keep
   it going. I was supposed to be ethereal and ghostly, real but maybe
   not real, a silhouette demanding a second and third look. To anyone on
   the yacht, I would appear to be a nude female figure without obvious
   legs, wet, floating on a silvery streak of moonlight - and backlit by
   the moon itself.
   I heard Max stop talking in mid sentence. Carlos said something in
   Spanish and darted out the hatchway into the cockpit. I could now see
   the yacht clearly, lit by the moon. Carlos was standing just behind
   the cockpit guardrail, straining to see me. "Un espectro!" I heard him
   exclaim. A ghost. "No, it's a mermaid!"
   "You idiot!" bellowed Jowls in my earphone. "You superstitious sod!
   You're imagining things!"
   "Do you not hear her singing? See, she floats on the moon!" Carlos
   cried, full of conviction.
   I saw a face peer out the galley's window. I could hear deep breathing
   in the microphone there - and hoped that Jowls wouldn't notice Doug's
   thin wire, snaking in the open window.
   Jowls bolted out the hatchway and shouldered Carlos aside, trying to
   get a clearer view of me. He was surely flipping back and forth
   between alternative interpretations: real and hallucination. I knew
   he'd soon consider a third possibility: hoax. Hoping to delay it, I
   sang louder and louder, but with every third word missing, as if a
   flickering auditory hallucination. I arched proudly and stretched my
   hair behind my head, trying to appear even more real.
   Suddenly, there was a splash in the water - it was Doug's lunge
   backward to pull tight the loop of rope that he had laid around the
   top of the cockpit. Both Jowls and Carlos were thrown off balance,
   tumbling over the cockpit's knee-high railing.
   Carlos fell overboard into the water with a reassuring splash. But
   Jowls managed to grab the rail. The snare went slack when Carlos fell
   free of it. Jowls escaped the snare before Doug could pull it tight
   again. Jowls hauled himself forward along the overhang, half in and
   half overboard. He became briefly entangled with the limpet
   transmitter and its microphone wire.
   I was up and running, swinging my diver's weight belt, trying to
   appear larger than life. I saw Max in the cockpit, seemingly hobbled,
   but with a boathook in his hands. He was attempting to beat Jowls with
   it, trying to push him into the water.
   "Halt!" Doug shouted at Jowls, brandishing the spear gun. "Or a spear
   in your side!"
   But Jowls ignored him, rolling under the guardrail just forward of the
   mast, out of Max's reach. Once back abroad, Jowls scampered, at a
   speed amazing for his bulk, into the forward hatch. Doug fired the
   spear gun but the spear impaled itself in the hatch cover and Jowls
   disappeared below. I saw Carlos climb aboard over the stern. My heart
   lurched at the thought of automatic weapons.
   "Get away!" Max shouted. "He's going to blow it!" Max threw himself
   into the water before Carlos could reach him. But Max immediately
   floundered, since his feet were taped together.
   Doug swam to Max with powerful strokes from his flippers, then hauled
   him away from the yacht with even more powerful flips. Just as Doug
   approached shore, a bright flash warned him to duck back under the
   surface and push Max down. The double explosion rolled over them.
   I staggered in the sand, losing my grip on the weight belt, and fell
   backward as the explosion hit. I saw the yacht split in half, just in
   front of the masthead, and the flames shot high. Carlos was hopelessly
   trapped in the fiery cockpit. Gasoline in the bilges?
   MAX'S HEAD EMERGED from the water as he groped around in the shallows
   of the sand bar. Disoriented, he looked around. I'm still alive, he
   thought, blinking. All was silence, probably because of the water in
   his ears.
   But the first thing that Max saw against the starry sky was
   bewildering: a nude female figure, all aglow, but with a silvery halo
   about her head and shoulders.
   He blinked and looked again, gasping for breath. She was not only
   there, but she was looming toward him with outstretched arms, filling
   the sky and glowing even brighter. His brain dimly registered that
   this ambiguous creature was on a collision course with him, that he
   needed to react. But he was paralysed by the sight, riveted by her.
   She grabbed him with both hands, pulling him to her. She fell down on
   her knees in the sand and embraced him, sobbing "Oh, Max, Max! I
   almost lost you!"
   He realized, with an answering sob, that it was Kate after all.
   June 1998 DRAFT
                           a cyberspeak glossary
   Clipper chip An encryption chip developed and sponsored by the U.S.
   government and announced by the White House in April, 1993. It is
   intended to replace DES in the security telephones and data networks
   used by government contractors, and will be available for use outside
   government. The Clipper chip contains an encryption algorithm called
   Skipjack that has a backdoor route to decryption, to be made available
   to law-enforcement agencies upon court order. [?]
   DES Data Encryption Standard is a block cipher endorsed by the U.S.
   government in 1977. Originally developed at IBM, DES is the most
   widely used cryptosystem in the world. It can be generated by software
   but is often embedded in computer chips. DES operates on 64-bit blocks
   with a 56-bit key that is identical for encrypting and decrypting.
   Three-pass DES encryption ("triple DES") with three different randomly
   chosen keys is presently considered unbreakable, for all practical
   purposes. [40,53,166]
   finger The internet command that is used to search for users, e.g.,
   finger calvin@computername will locate all computer accounts at that
   site where Calvin is the first name, last name, or login name. That
   is, provided system administrators have not disabled or crippled the
   feature; sometimes an alternative is provided, as one can see by
   trying finger calvin@ucsd.edu or finger calvin@mit.edu where
   directories have been implemented. If the user has a file named .plan
   in the directory, the standard finger will also list this file in
   response; this is used to post the public key, as well as the usual
   phone and fax numbers. Sometimes a plan file is used to distribute
   regularly-updated files of information, e.g., typing
   finger quake@geophys.washington.edu
   will get you a listing of recent earthquakes around the world. [12]
   .forward A file in the user's directory that causes arriving e-mail to
   be automatically forwarded to another computer system. Typically used
   when you have accounts on several machines but want to read your
   e-mail on just one of them; you place .forward files on the other
   machines. [135]
   ftp File Transfer Protocol, an ancient and awkward unix command used
   to transfer files from one internet computer to another. Destined to
   be superseded by a more user-friendly scheme, it is particularly
   useful at present for transferring files from servers. Sometimes an
   account is required, but often the server will allow "anonymous ftp"
   where the user replies to the login prompt with the word anonymous
   (actually, ftp works just as well) and then is allowed to transfer
   copies of any file to his own machine. For example, documents relating
   to the RSA cryptosystem are available by ftp rsa.com, then login as
   anonymous and give your e-mail address as the password. Change remote
   directories with the ftp command cd pub/faq and then get a directory
   listing with dir. Copy a file like faq.asc back to your own computer
   by the ftp command get faq.asc and then type quit. Actually, a Web
   Browser will take care of it for you.
   gopher The pre-Web-browser internet command to connect to a gopher
   server that allows browsing of documents, e.g.,
   gopher gopher.well.com
   will reveal a number of the author's books and articles for general
   readers. Many gophers perform finger, ftp, and telnet commands for the
   user; they can also manage the process of downloading binary files
   such as programs or images. [63]
   GPS Global Positioning System, a system of navigation satellites that
   provide precisely timed signals that a receiver can compare, using
   transit times to locate itself in space. Readouts of latitude and
   longitude are good to about 100 meters, though local reference
   stations (a technique called Differential GPS) can achieve accuracy
   within 2 meters. Handheld models are popular with boaters; adding GPS
   capability to a cellular phone will require even less space because
   the phone's keypad, display and power supply can do double duty. An
   older system called LORAN has similar capabilities for latitude and
   longitude in some areas but, being ground-based, has many reception
   problems that make it useless at times. [5,39]
   Internet The packet network, with no formal structure and minimal
   management, that connects many millions of computer sites around the
   world, and provides e-mail routing to many additional users whose
   computers are not literally "on the Internet" (in the sense of being
   able to use telnet, ftp, finger; having an Internet e-mail address
   does not necessarily equal "full Internet"). Some Internet sites make
   some of their resources freely available to anyone who connects via
   finger, gopher, ftp, telnet, etc.; others require accounts to be
   established first (typically paid via bank cards), though that can
   often be arranged by simply telneting in, e.g., telnet well.com and
   then typing newuser at the login prompt will take you to a
   questionnaire used to establish new accounts.
   newsgroups The usenet newsgroups are usually free-for-all discussion
   forums, free and widely distributed; some are moderated, and some are
   announce-only. Relevant examples are comp.security.announce,
   comp.risks, sci.cipher, rec.aviation, etc. Programs called newsreaders
   are used to display the postings and create replies.
   NSA National Security Agency, a highly secretive agency of the U.S.
   government created in 1952; it has huge financial and computer
   resources and employs a host of cryptographers. There are many rumors
   about NSA's ability to break popular cryptosystems like DES; there are
   also speculations that the NSA has secretly placed weaknesses, called
   trap doors, in cryptosystems such as DES. These rumors have never been
   proved or disproved. [154]
   pass phrase A nonword password formed with the first letters of the
   words in an easily-recalled phrase, e.g., 2b,on2b from "To be, or not
   to be." This is used because of brute-force cracking methods, often
   employed on DES-encrypted password files, that test against all the
   words in a dictionary and a list of common proper names. [26]
   ping A general term in communications systems, associated with testing
   a communications path ("Can you hear me okay in the back of the
   room?") and getting back a simple reply ("Yes!"). Cellular phones are
   regularly pinged by the local relay station that serves the cell. See
   also transponder. On some internet systems, there is a path-tracing
   command of the same name, e.g., typing ping well.com will tell you if
   that computer is currently connected to the internet; security
   programs can regularly use ping as a way of off-hours monitoring for
   computer theft and power failures. [157]
   public key The basic ideas of public-key cryptography were invented in
   1976 by M. Hellman, W. Diffie, and R. Merkle. RSA is the best-known
   such cryptosystem, with various commercial and freeware
   implementations. In all such systems, there are two keys, both long
   alphanumeric strings. The public key is widely distributed (for
   instance, put in the .plan file sent with a finger query) and used by
   others to send encrypted messages to you. [12,88]
   private key Only your private key will decrypt a message encrypted
   with your public key. You generate the public and private keys
   yourself; the program randomizes the keys by using how long you take
   to strike keys in response to prompts on your screen. You keep the
   private key itself encrypted in a special file on your computer
   protected by a pass phrase. [100]
   RSA The abbreviation for a particular public-key cryptosystem, the one
   invented at M.I.T. in 1977 by Ron Rivest, Adi Shamir, and Leonard
   Adleman. RSA computer chips are available; like the software
   implementations of RSA, their export from the U.S. and Canada is
   subject to munitions licensing - even though European versions are
   also available. [40,166]
   server A computer dedicated to file storage and distribution; it is
   often invisible to the user. [26]
   signatures In addition to encrypting text, digitized speech, etc.,
   public-key systems can be used to provide an identity-verifying
   "digital signature" and a checksum-like "message digest." The
   recipient uses your public key to decrypt the signature portion of
   your message, which has been encrypted with your private key; since
   only you possess the private key, only you could have sent a
   decryptable message. The digital signature, once decrypted, is found
   to contain the public key (for comparison with your publicly posted
   version of it) and a message digest of the attached document (that can
   be used to detect any substitutions of another document for the one
   originally "signed" by the sender with the digital signature).
   SLIP Serial Line Internet Protocol allows a computer which must
   operate over phone lines to act as if directly connected to the
   packet-oriented internet. [9]
   superuser Enigmatically known as  on a unix system, this is the
   computer user who has the ability to look at, and modify, any file on
   the computer system. The superuser therefore controls the privileges
   of all other users. [21,135]
   telnet The internet command to remotely connect to another internet
   computer, e.g., telnet uwin.u.washington.edu will connect to a
   university information system, including phone directories and library
   catalogs that can be easily browsed. [100]
   traceroute A peek-behind-the-scenes command that will show you the
   relay sites used by your packets as they flow between your machine and
   the distant one, along with transit times, e.g., traceroute isgate.is
   will show your net route to Iceland, along with the elapsed times in
   transponder The most familiar transponder is the one in aircraft that,
   upon receiving a radar signal interrogating it, transmits an
   identifying code and other information such as the aircraft's
   altitude. GPS information can also be transmitted, allowing a fleet
   dispatcher to interrogate ("ping") a vehicle and receive back its
   current GPS readouts of latitude and longitude. As GPS chips become
   smaller, they will appear in notebook computers and cellular phones;
   some will feature the transponder capability. Linking GPS with the
   ping feature inherent in cellular phones, as in the search-and-rescue
   scheme of the novel, is a logical extension of the system used for
   smart identity badges. [157]
   unix An operating system used on many, but not all, internet-connected
   computers, and resented for its user-unfriendly mnemonics
   ("UNIXspeak") - such as ls to list a directory, cat to read a file,
   and chmod to change file permissions.
   URL Universal Resource Locator is an address format needed for Web
   Browsers, e.g., http://williamcalvin.com/ for my Web page.
   vacation A program that, via the .forward file, causes arriving e-mail
   to automatically generate a reply message from the file .vacation.msg,
   usually to the effect that the user is temporarily out of touch with
   the net. [135]
   Web The World Wide Web (WWW) is, like gopher, a distributed file
   system; with a Web Browser, you can browse files elsewhere. Web pages
   usually use hypertext rather than menus, display graphics, and can
   utilize digitized sound files. Lynx is a widely available text-only
   Web browser for the web; variants of Mosaic are more fully-featured,
   for those with high-speed internet connections. They'll also save you
   from learning all the different recipes for telnet, ftp, and gopher.
   whois The internet command used to locate both people and computers,
   e.g., whois calvin would return users named Calvin in a special
   registry but also Calvin College's computer sites. Knowing a computer
   name, thanks to whois, one can try using finger to find a user at that
   site. Such relatively primitive methods will be eventually replaced by
   a white pages system which, due to its unreliability, will be called
   the Gray Pages.

   1. mailto:Bkf1@WilliamCalvin.com
   2. http://www.WilliamCalvin.com/index.html