By 10 AM, Jason was in the elevator of the attorney’s office, which was on the top floor. The doors opened to a large lobby. A professional older woman was behind the desk answering phone calls and typing on a computer. She acknowledged Jason’s presence and stuck one finger in the air. She snapped to a more official upright pose in her chair. She looked as though she was in her late 40s or early 50s. The suit and the jewelry she wore didn’t look cheap. Jason couldn’t place it, but she didn’t look like she shopped at the average retail stores. Some people have a natural air about them and she had just that.
“May I help you?” she asked.
Jason said, "I’m here to see attorney Anthony.” He wasn’t sure if this guy was a partner at the firm or what. He realized that he never got his full name the night before. It was on the card, but he didn’t remember what it was.
He pulled the card back out of his pocket and looked at it again. Robinson, Caruso and Cowe, Attorneys at Law. Anthony H. Jones, ESQ. He handed it to the receptionist. She looked at it, then handed it back.
“Please be seated, someone will be right with you,” she said, motioning to a row of chairs.
As Jason sat down, he watched her handle another call. “Please hold,” she said, pressing a button on her phone. The phone didn’t make any sounds; it must be ringing in her headset, Jason thought. On either side of the elevator were a set of four chairs and a small table. The chairs were dining room chairs, with leather backs and bottoms. The tables were topped with marble. There was a small vase with a bouquet of flowers on each table. The border around the waiting area was a half wall of cherry panels that wrapped all the way around. Above each set of chairs on the wall were large paintings in gold frames. Jason sat down under the painting of a hunting party with men on horseback and a dog carrying a large bird in its mouth. On either side of the reception area were large, dark, wooden doors. This separated the area from the actual office space.
This place didn’t look cheap at all. Jason had seen upper class things on television, and in the movies, but this was expensive. He could just tell. The receptionist was continuing to take calls. He could hear her calmly saying “please hold,” or, when someone wasn’t in, “would you like his or her voice mail?”
A few minutes went by and the lack of sleep was beginning to wear on Jason. Sitting in a chair and waiting was not easy on such little sleep. He pulled out his cell phone to check his email and monster.com.
The door on the right opened revealing a short white guy who looked to be in his 20s. He was wearing a white short-sleeved shirt and tie. He walked directly toward Jason and introduced himself as he walked.
“You must be Jason. My name is Harold Ramsey; it is very nice to meet you.” Harold held out his hand to shake Jason’s. As Jason shook it, Harold said, “This way, please.” Jason stood up with his laptop bag and followed the man. Harold turned to the receptionist and told her they’d be in conference room B. He held the door open for Jason to enter.
The office was large and had a perimeter made of glass. Outside of each office were large desks, each with a computer and a printer. Behind the desk were a series of cubes made from dark wood panels. Each desk had a professional-looking female either wearing headphones and typing, or talking on telephones. Jason could see that there must be at least a hundred people in the office. He also noticed that some of the glass offices had another door on the opposite side. It was a glass door that would slide to open. There was a large balcony outside that looked like it went the length of the building.
They had passed maybe twenty of these glass offices when Harold opened the door to a glass conference room. It had a large table in its center and had fifteen or eighteen chairs around it. On one wall at the far end was a large flat screen television. At the near end was a giant white board. Coming out of the ceiling in the center of the table was a large arm, with a big silver ball attached to its end. The ball was shaped kind of like a soccer ball, with many more sides than that. It almost looked like a giant version of a fly’s eye. It was folded up to the ceiling but looked like some kind of robotic control was attached to it.
Harold said, “Please sit down. May I get you anything? A coffee or water?”
Jason was puzzled (to say the least) about the object in the ceiling. He replied, "Sure, a coffee would be great.”
Harold pressed a button on a small panel in the center of the table and said, “Sue, can we have a coffee and water?” He spoke in the direction of the center of the table.
“Would you like something with it?” A female voice responded from the speaker in the table.
Jason said, “Milk, if you have it.”
The voice from the table replied, “Be right there.”
Harold sat down at the table in the seat next to Jason. “So…you work on computers?”
Jason replied, “Yeah, I program and tinker here and there; how about you?”
Harold said, “I keep things working safely around here. I’m an administrator and do support. I don’t know how to program.” He said it in a way that Jason detected to be a sense of pride in his voice. Jason looked up again at the ball thing hovering in the ceiling.
Harold said, “That thing is really cool, we use it for depositions. It tracks who is talking automatically and takes video with fifty separate cameras, all at the same time. It works in a kind of panoramic. Then we edit the video in the lab downstairs and make a single video to show in court hearings. We have a staff psychologist who sits in the control room and tells the attorneys how to react to the questions of the person being deposed. She tells them through wireless ear buds. When we stitch the final video together, key questions may have the room frowning or smiling. Even though the images end up really small in the final video, our research and others suggest that the jury or the judge subconsciously react to the additional emotional input. There are many tools here like that. I have a really cool job sometimes.”
Jason asked, “You guys actually have a shrink on staff?”
Harold replied, “Well she does other stuff, too…we use her on jury selection, and actually she sublets an office from us downstairs. We have three floors in this building.”
Jason asked, “How big is this firm? I originally met Anthony…um… I uh, didn’t catch his last name. Is he a partner here?”
Harold said, “No, he’s one of the junior partners. We do all kinds of work here. We actually have hundreds of associates worldwide. I don’t know how many are in other places, but there are 430-something in this building.”
A female in her 20s in business attire dressed very businesslike opened the conference room door with one hand, carrying a tray with the other. It looked like she had some past waitressing experience. She placed a cup and saucer in front of Jason and a glass and water bottle in front of Harold. She put a small creamer pitcher filled with milk on the table in front of Jason as well as a napkin and a spoon. “Thank you,” Jason said, looking in her direction.
” You’re welcome” she said. She left the room, pulling the door shut on the way out.
The coffee cup, saucer and pitcher looked old in design, but were clearly new. They all had a matching red design. Jason poured a little milk into the coffee cup. Taking a sip, he looked directly at Harold. “Why am I here?” he asked after swallowing.
Harold said, “I got assigned to show you this office, show you around and give you a tour of anything here you want to see. I thought you knew that you’re supposed to run some kind of security sweep or something on our network and get my boss into hot water. He’s in New York. But instead of getting here yesterday, you got here today so... I was told that your flight was delayed or something. You were supposed to break in and stand in the computer room and call his boss. That is what I was told, so since you are here and I know who you are, breaking into the network isn’t necessary.”
“So,” he continued, “If you show me something wrong, I can write a report and back date it to yesterday, say you were caught and tell my boss. This way everyone is happy. There are lots of politics and back stabbing in this place. I’ve been here four years; I just do what they tell me to do.”
Jason now understood that this was an alibi for yesterday. But he didn’t really do anything wrong and didn’t really need an alibi. Willy needed the alibi and this law firm must have something to do with him. This is big time, though, not the flop hotel, he thought. He also thought this was a little fishy. How much do they really know about him? He certainly didn’t give Willy a résumé. Hmm, maybe I’m being paranoid but… Jason asked, “What do you know about me?”
Harold replied, “I received a cover letter saying you’re some kind of security consultant. It’s got your résumé attached.” He pulled out his phone and searched for something, then handed it to Jason to read.
Jason read the document carefully; it said he was an expert in security-related issues. Interesting, he thought. The attached resume was one of the versions he was using for network security—the same one that was on monster.com. He figured someone just looked for him and composed a cover letter. All right, he thought, so this is making a little more sense. Now how do I get out of here, talk to Willy and find out what this guy wants?
Jason asked, “How secure is your Wi-Fi?
Harold replied, “It’s secure, you have to have a password.”
Jason pulled out his laptop and booted it up. It took a while since it was an older model. His base system was a flavor of Linux. The bonus was virtual operating systems, and he had them all installed. Through the virtual application, he could make his machine appear to be any of several versions of windows or operate like a Mac notebook. He could make the machine literally into anything he needed in just a few minutes.
Hmm. He took a sip from his coffee cup and looked at Harold who was watching him.
“So if someone logs into your Wi-Fi, they have access to your entire network?”
At the prompt, he listed the Wi-Fi names his computer recognized. A long list with their names, Mac addresses and signal strengths appeared after a few seconds. The building was so high up—36 stories—that many Wi-Fi networks showed in the list.
He found one that was named “guest,” which was wide open, and pointed at R&CClaw firm, which was secured with WPS. It is a really bad form of security, he thought. Jason tried to check his smile.
Jason asked, “Is that it here?” he pointed at the screen. By this time, Harold had wide eyes. He wasn’t saying anything. He nodded yes.
Jason typed in a command to crack the Wi-Fi. Jason said, "This may take a while.” He hit the “Enter” key.
The computer just blinked its cursor and Jason took a sip of his coffee. With his other hand, he flipped over the saucer so he could read the name on the bottom. Tiffany and Co. The cup he was drinking out of was worth a few hundred bucks, he realized. He lightly put the cup back in the saucer.
Harold just sat silently, watching the cursor blink.
Jason said, “Why don’t you show me around your office; this may take more than a few minutes. Sometimes it takes hours.”
Harold then exclaimed, “Holy shit.” Jason looked at the screen. The prompt had moved down a few lines and read:
Pin number: 18111823
Jason thought Harold looked like a Windows guy, so he launched Windows XP, and it came up fairly fast—in a minute or two. After it launched, he clicked on the Wi-Fi and connected to the network using the password.
Harold sat with his mouth wide open. Eventually he murmured, “Is it really that easy?”
Jason said, “You just watched me. Many things are that easy, but you can make them harder. You have a Windows domain?”
Harold sat for a moment in silence. He didn’t say anything for quite a few seconds. He just nodded.
Jason thought about it and this seemed like enough of a show for the kid. He was impressed already. No sense in showing him someone’s desktop.
Jason launched a web browser and searched for Radius. “If you hook this up and get a real certificate, it will make it harder to crack,” he said. He slid the computer in front of Harold and grabbed one of the legal pads on the table and a pen and scribbled a few notes.
Jason said, “I really just do this stuff for fun. I prefer to write code. Can I take a rain check on the tour? I have something I would rather do today.”
Harold just said, “Thanks a lot!” in a nervous, excited way. “If you want to come back anytime, just let me know.”
Jason said, "Sure, anytime you want, it was really nice to meet you.” Jason put his hand out and Harold stood up to shake it. “Yes, it was nice to meet you, too.”
Jason packed up his laptop and was escorted to the elevator. I wonder, Jason thought. Was this some sort of test? Who knows?
The office building was in the opposite direction from his apartment than the run-down hotel that Willy’s office occupied. Going outside and looking at the bus schedule, he only had to wait five minutes for the next one to appear. It ran only a block from the apartment, so he went home to change first.
As he neared the front entrance of the apartment building, a car door opened from a car that was parked in front of the building. Detective Smith and the man he saw the night before got out of the vehicle.
Detective Smith said, “Do you have a second”?
Jason replied, “Sure.”
“We have a witness who claimed that a couple of large men, one possibly white and one possibly Asian, may have something to do with the incident here yesterday,” he said. “Have you seen anyone fitting that description hanging around your building?”
Jason said, “I don’t know, I recently got laid off from my job and haven’t been here much during the day.”
Detective Smith asked, “Did Mrs. Green or Mr. Long, um, Jones have any money that you know of?”
Jason thought for a moment. “Mrs. Green used to get checks in the mail, but I don’t know from who or how much,” he offered. “Mr. Jones was in the military and I think he was living on a pension.”
While Jason was speaking, the police detective pulled a small notebook from his inside jacket pocket. He wasn’t wearing his badge on the outside pocket. Today it was clipped to his belt. He started taking notes as Jason spoke.
“The phone number you gave me last night is not where you said you were,” Detective Smith said.
Jason tried his best to act surprised. “Oh, it wasn’t? Sorry about that,” he said. He fished in his pocket and found the business card from the law firm. He thought about it for a minute because he knew Willy’s group was dangerous, but the law firm was something bigger. He handed the detective the card.
Jason said, “I was there. You didn’t ask me where I was, you asked me for the phone number. Sorry, I must have given you the wrong one.” The detective took the card and began scribbling notes from it. Jason added, “You can keep it, I really don’t need it anymore.”
Detective Smith’s partner spoke up as he walked directly in front of Jason. “Would you mind showing us your hands?” he asked. Jason put down his computer bag and held his hands out, flat arms stretched forward.
The detective’s partner said, “Would you mind rolling up your sleeves?” Jason complied, he held his arms out straight again.
“Could you turn your hands over?” they asked him. Jason stood there, palms up.
The detective’s partner exclaimed in a condescending tone to his partner, “This guy is a waste of time.” Then he turned his head to face Jason. “Have a nice day, sir.”
Detective Smith looked at his partner who was standing there with his hands on his hips. Smith looked kind of disappointed. Jason realized that the partner was the supervisor of the two.
Jason paused for a moment, waiting for a protest or another order. A few seconds went by. He rolled his sleeves down, picked up his bag, put it over his shoulder and climbed the three steps to the door. Once he closed the door, he began to sweat uncontrollably.
He went upstairs and changed his shirt. He got the money Willy had given him and pulled out $1,000. He put it in his pocket and put the rest into the one envelope and put the envelope into his laptop case. The police tape still crossed the two doors. When he opened the front door, he could see the police car was gone. When he came back outside, he went back to the bus stop and had to wait ten minutes. He could have sworn he saw his car in the distance, but they all looked alike.
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