Cyber Antics chapters 4-5

By Penelope Downs, AKA Doc

Disclaimer: The characters are mine and I own the copyright. Use without my permission is prohibited. Any resemblance to a person, dead or alive, is unintentional. If you under 18 years of age, are offended by same sex romances, or it's illegal to read about it where you live, stop now and read no further.

Chapter 4


Neil Derwood rubbed his eyes with his free hand as he hung up the phone. He had spent most of the afternoon trying to contact former colleagues at the Bureau. He hadn’t left any stone unturned, calling everyone he could think of at every field and headquarters office at which he worked. As he expected, of those who were actually willing to take his call, no one would speak to him about the case in which he was involved. Frustrated and tired, he looked at his watch. It was six thirty in the evening. He realized he needed to head home before his wife Sally gave him hell. Attorneys were supposed to work late, she would tell him. It was penance for entering that profession, but he was only a part-time employee and, for once in their married life, he was to be home in time for dinner. She wouldn’t accept any excuses.


He wearily got up from his chair, grabbed his sports jacket and shut off the lights in his office. He nodded and spoke to staff as he exited the suite of offices. Most of the staff was still there, working away. They generally didn’t depart before eight. Neil was glad he had the luxury of leaving. He had spent his career at the FBI being on call twenty-four-hours-a-day. He had found it draining and very hard on his family life. Rounding a corner as he neared the main door that lead to the elevators, he almost ran in to Torrey Coates, literally.


"Well young lady," he said. "I hope you don’t spend the night here."


"Don’t worry, I won’t if I can help it." She replied. "Thomas and I split the work, so we should both be able to get home in time to get a few hours of sleep. You have a good evening. I’ll see you in the morning."


As he began to turn and walk out the door, Torrey said, "Oh, I almost forgot. Any luck trying to confirm whether Ms. Ellis’ suspicions are correct?"


Neil shook his head slowly as he spoke. "No. Most of the people that I tried to contact wouldn’t even take my call. The few that did clamed up. I couldn’t get anything from them. I know Ms. Ellis will be disappointed."


"Too bad," Torrey said as she reached out and gently patted his shoulder. "I know she’ll be grateful that you tried your best. See you tomorrow morning."


Neil returned Torrey’s smile and then departed. He felt a bit better after having commiserated with the young woman. He admitted to himself that if he was thirty years younger and unmarried, he would be trying to sweep her off her feet. She was a rare find in this modern world full of self-absorbed, self-centered people. There was a renewed vigor in his step as he approached the elevator to go down to the parking garage.


As Neil approached his car, his cellular phone chirped. He pulled the gadget from one of the inner pockets of his jacket and pressed the button that would allow him to receive the call. Putting the phone to his ear he heard the familiar voice of his wife.


"Are you on the way home, dear?" She asked. "Yes, depending on traffic, I hope to be home by seven." He replied. "Well," she continued. "You need to stop by the grocery store on your way home. Chuck brought the twins over and they’ve agreed to stay for dinner. You’ll need to pick up a pre-cooked chicken from Giant. You might as well get the fixings, too." "Okay, dear. I’ll do that. I should be home no later than seven thirty. See you then." Neil answered, ending the call. He put the phone back in his jacket and pulled out his car keys. Opening the car door, he threw his jacket in the front seat of the large Impala and then sat down in the driver’s seat. Starting the car, he smiled at the thought of the company awaiting his arrival. His son Chuck and two grandsons were always welcomed guests, especially at mealtime. Their presence deflected his wife’s attentions away from him. He had spent his entire married life trying to delicately side step his wife’s questions about his job. He hadn’t been able to discuss the criminal investigations he had handled while at the Bureau and he wasn’t able to discuss the work for the law firm either. Professional responsibilities precluded him from talking about these matters with her. That didn’t make it any easier for her to accept and she persistently tried to grill him for information about what he did during the day. Neil was actually surprised he didn’t have ulcers. He guessed that he had learned not to internalize the pressure.


Torrey headed back to her office after running in to Neil. She had agreed to prepare the portion of the memorandum discussing the possible charges that the federal prosecutor might bring against Carolyn Bowers at the separate meeting she and Thomas had held following their meeting with Catherine. Torrey had spent the afternoon gathering her research material and shepardizing case law to ensure that the opinions she had pulled had not been over turned. Looking at her watch, she figured that she should be able to complete her assignment and head home around ten. Rather than wasting time going out to get a bite to eat, she ordered some Chinese food from a local Georgetown haunt and then set about drafting her portion of the memo. She was engrossed in her work when the receptionist at the front desk buzzed, alerting her to the fact that her food had been delivered.


Torrey grabbed her wallet and headed toward the front of the office. Passing by Catherine Ellis’ office, she was a little surprised to see Catherine was still there. It had been her experience that most of the partners felt that they had paid their dues as associates and rarely stayed this late. Torrey headed on toward the reception desk, where she met and paid the delivery boy, tipping him generously since she knew he was working his way through Georgetown University undergraduate school. Heading back toward her office, she decided to screw up her courage and offer to share her meal with Catherine.


Torrey cautiously approached the older woman’s office. Catherine’s secretary, Kelly, had already departed to pick up her children from their day care provider. Torrey had developed a crush on the older woman, although they had never worked together. Torrey hadn’t hidden her life style from the firm. She had realized she was attracted to other women while in undergraduate school. However, as a junior associate in a large law firm, she didn’t have much free time to date and most people in the firm presumed that she was straight. Torrey found Catherine to be stunning, physically. Ever since she had been at the firm, Torrey had been attracted to the brunette. Even more so after she had seen her working out in the gym in the building. Catherine stood 5’ 11" in her stocking feet and had the most beautiful green eyes and chestnut-colored, shoulder-length hair. She kept herself in shape, using the Nautilus equipment and free weights. Torrey had been quite excited to be assigned to the Bowers case. She had never expected to work with Catherine, since Catherine’s specialty was tax law. Torrey planned to pursue a career at the criminal defense bar. At a minimum, Torrey hoped that she would be able to develop a professional friendship with the woman. In her dreams, she imagined more.


Timidly knocking on the partially opened door, Torrey stuck her head in to Catherine’s office. "I’ve ordered Chinese from the takeout down the street. They always give way too much for me to eat by myself. Would you like to share?" Catherine looked up from her computer and smiled at the young woman. Looking at her watch, Catherine suddenly realized why she was hungry. It was a quarter of eight. She replied to Torrey. "I’d be happy to take you up on your offer. However, I insist that you let me split the bill." Standing, Catherine motioned Torrey toward the conference table as she stepped over to a small bar in the corner of her office. "Would you like bottled water or a coke?" She asked Torrey. "Water please." Torrey said, setting the bag on the table as she began to take out its contents. "Two waters coming up." Catherine responded cheerily, grabbing some silverware and plates from a drawer of the credenza near the bar.


Within a matter of a few minutes, both women were seated at the table, eating their meal, after engaging in small talk while they set it up. Catherine began their conversation in earnest. "I’m glad you were chosen to be on my litigation team. I’ve heard very good things about your work. As you probably know, I don’t specialize in criminal law and I will rely heavily on your research to help represent our client. You’ve developed quite a reputation in the two years you’ve been here. You’re considered to be Doug Owen’s `right-hand man’ so to speak." Blushing slightly, Torrey responded. "I’m glad one of the partners in the firm thinks highly of my work. I want to make partner at the end of my evaluation period and I willing to work hard to achieve that goal." Catherine continued. "Tell me what attracts you to the practice of criminal law?" Torrey answered after a few moments of careful consideration. "I believe the practice of criminal law to be extremely important. Our constitutional rights, our very freedom in this democracy, are preserved by the balance between protecting public interests while preserving individual rights. It’s the rigorous work of defense counsel and prosecutors together that keeps the scales balanced. Despite public opinion, which is influenced far too much by an under informed media, our society is not lawless. It’s unfortunate that human beings tend to hurt one another. That will never change. However, those found guilty of crimes in this country do serve prison time. On the whole, the majority of people’s interests are protected by our system of justice." Catherine smiled at the young woman’s earnestness. It was clear that Torrey believed what she said. Catherine hoped she would always retain that sincerity and dedication. Catherine’s brief experience with criminal practice while she was a summer associate and later, as a deputy prosecutor her first year out of law school, had left her disillusioned with the criminal justice system.


Both women continued to chat amiably though their meal. Once they had finished, however, they both excused themselves and went back to their respective tasks. Neither could afford to waste time and both hoped to get some sleep before starting another day, especially Catherine, who was scheduled to meet with Carolyn Bowers.


At ten o’clock, Catherine gathered her things, closed her office and headed toward the elevator. She wasn’t too surprised to see Torrey waiting for the elevator as she exited the office suite. Walking toward the woman, Catherine asked. "Do you have a car or do you need a lift home?" Torrey responded immediately. "I only live a couple of blocks from here so I walk. It gives me time to clear my head, and I also enjoy seeing all the people who wander around here night and day." "Well, I wish you would let me drop you off. It’s too late for a young woman to be out on the streets alone. This can be a dangerous city, you know." Catherine said. Torrey nodded in agreement. "I know, but I’m careful and I really need the walk to unwind and relax. Otherwise, I won’t get to sleep until one or two in the morning. Then I won’t be able to function tomorrow." Catherine reluctantly acquiesced to Torrey’s wishes and silently watched as the young woman exited the elevator on the ground floor. Turning slightly, the younger woman waived to Catherine. "Good night. See you tomorrow morning."


Catherine’s drive home was much smoother than her commute in to work had been. Although the pace of the traffic on M Street was slow, as usual, she was able to make time once she got on MacArthur Boulevard, the detour route. She pulled in to her garage at ten thirty and was enthusiastically greeted by both dogs when she entered the kitchen. "Sorry boys. I hadn’t planned to be this late. I’m glad Katie could come back over again and feed you. She told me she took you on a second long walk, too. So it’s the backyard for your last time out tonight." She led the poodles down a flight of stairs to the English-style walkout basement that housed her gym, utility room, and family room. Opening the back door, she waited for both dogs to exit the house. She too stepped outside to relax a moment in the cool night air. Once both dogs had relieved themselves, they wandered back to their mistress. Waiting patiently, they both sat at her feet. Catherine was looking at the stars, but couldn’t stop thinking about Torrey. She had been really impressed by the young woman. There had been something else, she couldn’t understand it, but she had developed an instant, deep liking of—almost an attraction to—the woman. Catherine was shaken from her thoughts when her oldest dog, Jack, carefully nudged her hand with his nose. Looking down at the thoughtful almond eyes, she patted his head and said out loud. "Yeah, Jack. I think it’s time for bed, too." With that, she turned and opened the door so all three could re-enter the house.



Chapter 5


As she made her way to work on foot, Torrey marveled at how beautiful Washington was in the spring. She could enjoy the appearance of foliage because she was blessed not to suffer the allergies that made some of her cohabitants in the city absolutely irritable. To her, everything truly looked new and spectacular after the long, gray winter, which had spat ice down with a vengeance on at least four occasions, leaving man and beast at the mercy of thick sheets of glaze that made safe movement impossible. Her happiness was readily apparent to any passerby. She had a radiant smile on her face and a gleam in her eyes. It didn’t take her long to reach her destination, even with a slight detour to the local Starbucks. Stepping into the office building, she ran in to Thomas, waiting for an elevator.


"Hello there partner. Willing to share that so I can get my caffeine boost, too?" He teased her.


Torrey could hold her ground, having grown up with three brothers, and responded. "Knowing how you can get when you’re hyperactive, I don’t think it’s wise for you to have any until after our meeting. We don’t want you to stick both of your feet in your mouth in front of Ms. Ellis, now do we."


Thomas smiled back sheepishly. He hadn’t realized his use of the derogatory nickname the day before was so widely know. His more serious side, seldom on display for the general public, made him question the wisdom of his often-reckless attitude, given the fact he was on probation for five years and any serious misstep could cost him a chance at partnership. He had no love for the idea of being forced to move on and seek another associateship in his thirties. It was tough enough putting in the hours now. He couldn’t see himself being able to work this hard in five-years. He carelessly ran his hand through his hair and sighed. "Well, you’re right. I can get pretty foolish at times. Say, could I ask you for a favor since we’ll be working together so closely?"


Torrey stepped closer to the young man who reminded her a little of her brother Mel, who was two-years her junior. She nodded her head and giving an understanding pat on his forearm before she spoke. "Sure, you and I should become friends. I think we’ll need to support each other because this case is probably going to be like a roller coaster. We’ll have our ups and downs. Let’s shake on it." She extended her hand and firmly grasped Thomas’. Both smiled and then stepped in to the elevator that arrived to whisk them up to the eye of the storm.


As they stepped off the elevator, Torrey looked toward the wall of glass that allowed anyone to observe the law firm’s reception area and caught a brief glimpse of Neil as he bounded around and then behind the receptionist’s desk, before disappearing from view. She was surprised that he appeared to be fairly cheerful, given the mood he had been the previous evening. She knew he would not like having to report that he had failed to get any information from his former colleagues. She was even more surprised to find him waiting for her in her office. He looked up from the magazine he was reading as she entered and stepped behind her desk.


Smiling impishly, he said. "Morning Torrey, I’m glad you didn’t do an all-nighter and actually made it home to get some rest. We should have an interesting time today."


Torrey wondered what had happened between the time that Neil had left the firm the previous evening ‘til this moment to make him gloat in this manner. ‘He must have struck pay dirt last night, somehow, ` she thought to herself. "Well, I think you need to tell me what’s put that smile on your face and the twinkle in your eyes. You’re certainly in a different frame of mind than you were last night. Give it up, what happened?"


Quite to her surprise, Neil’s smile got even bigger, as if that was humanly possible, before he responded. "As I was heading home, my wife called me on my cell phone and asked me to swing by the local grocery store to pick up a pre-cooked dinner because our son had decided to pay a visit with his twins since his wife wasn’t home. At the store, I ran in to an old colleague who’s also retired from the FBI. He was about to burst his buttons, wanting to brag about his grandson, who just began working as a computer tech at the FBI Lab and has been pulled in to a very big criminal investigation that may be related to our case. The lad has spoken to his grandfather about the investigation, since he can’t talk to other family members. My friend couldn’t resist discussing how important his grandson’s role in the investigation has become." Neil’s comments were interrupted when Ellie Johnston tapped lightly on Torrey’s door and then entered to announce that they were expected in Catherine’s office. Neil winked at Torrey, who quirked her eyebrow in response, slightly irritated that he had been cut off just as he was getting to the best part. Dutifully, they followed Ellie, who made it clear by her demeanor that she wasn’t one to be reckoned with and would brook no delay.


Catherine began her meeting by asking Thomas and Torrey to summarize the results of their research. Thomas started with a discussion of criminal cases involving hostile computer penetrations that had been tried in federal court over the previous five years. When he was through Torrey explained the range of criminal charges that the AUSA would have the discretion to include in the indictment filed against Carolyn Bowers, based upon the facts told to Catherine the day before. When Torrey was finished, Catherine turned to Neil and asked, "Were you able to get any information that confirms my suspicions?"


Neil nodded slightly and began. "Well, yes. As a matter of fact, I was able to get quite a bit of information, and I’m afraid you’re right. The hacking at Commonwealth is apparently part of a much bigger conspiracy. At least twelve other banks across the country were penetrated in the same manner. A program was planted in eight of these. Although the FBI Lab is still evaluating it, it appears to be very nasty and capable of modifying the host computer’s functions when triggered by some kind of event. The Lab hasn’t figured out what triggers the program to ‘awaken` or what it is that the program does. No one really knows or wants t hazard a guess at how many other banks may have been penetrated. Given the potential magnitude if this is a plot to cripple the U.S. banking system, this matter was considered sufficiently serious to warrant an AG briefing to the President, Cabinet and National Security Advisor. The AG has been authorized to deploy whatever it takes to track down the culprits. At this point all the usual suspects--organized crime, foreign criminal cartels, foreign governments, terrorist organizations and your average teenage hacker--are considered potential targets of the investigation."


Catherine thought for a few seconds before she spoke. "By chance, do you have the names of the twelve banks?"


"Yes, and I know which ones were penetrated."


"Good work Neil. Please give that information to Ellie and Sue." Casting her gaze at the two paralegals, she ran down a new to-do list for them, which included preparation of an analysis on how these banks might be linked. She asked them to prepare corporate profiles and profiles of all persons who had held senior management positions in each bank within the previous seven-years. Catherine then turned to Thomas and Torrey and told them to expand their research. Ending the meeting, Catherine asked Neil to stay behind.


When everyone had departed, Catherine turned to Neil. "I want you to sit in on my meeting with Carolyn Bowers. Since you’re formally assigned t the case it won’t affect any privileged communications. I will take the lead, but once I’ve finished, I’m going to turn to you and ask if you have any further questions as the investigator on the case. Don’t hesitate to ask her for any information you think might be necessary or even useful. I think we’ll both need to focus on this boyfriend of hers. I have a very bad feeling about him and how he may be involved in the criminal conspiracy. I’m very much afraid we may be representing a naïve young woman who’s been duped by God-knows-who."


Neil cast his eyes downward and said. "Yes, I think you’re right. He may well be the key, and I suspect the FBI and AUSA may share that opinion, too. They tried to find him to question him about what he knew and had no luck in tracking him down. I suspect they’re not completely sure of Carolyn’s level of involvement. I didn’t mention it at the general meeting, but the feds may have more than just suspicions about there being foreign involvement. I think they may actually have proof. It’s awfully convenient that this Edward person has disappeared."


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