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Hacker For Hire (Ted Higuera Series Book 2), page 1

 

Hacker For Hire (Ted Higuera Series Book 2)
 



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Hacker For Hire (Ted Higuera Series Book 2)


  Also by Pendelton C. Wallace

  Blue Water & Me, Tall Tales of Adventures With My Father

  Blue Water & Me is a high-adventure true story of author Penn Wallace's magical first summer fishing with his father, Blue Water Charlie, off the coast of Mexico at age eleven.

  Christmas Inc.

  What would happen if Santa decided to go public and sell shares of Christmas on the NASDAQ? What would happen to the elves if he outsourced toy making to China?

  Warning: This is not a children’s book. Exposure to children under 12-years old may cause child to stop believing in Santa Claus or take a cynical view of Christmas.

  The Inside Passage (Ted Higuera Series Book 1)

  Somewhere on Canada's Inside Passage, terrorist plot to destroy a cruise ship filled with celebrities and VIP’s. Ripped from today's headlines, a group of Canadian-born terrorist plan to bring their war to the Western Hemisphere.

  It’s also the story of a young Latino man coming of age in an Anglo world. Ted Higuera and his friends stumble upon an al-Qaeda plot to blow up the cruise ship and the clock starts ticking.

  Can Ted and his friends act in time to save the thousands of people aboard the Star of the Northwest?

  Hacker For Hire

  By

  Pendelton C. Wallace

  This is a work of fiction. Names, characters and incidents are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, organizations, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental

  Copyright © 2014 Pendelton C. Wallace

  All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews. For permission, contact Victory Press at www.pennwallace.com.

  www.pennwallace.com

  Acknowledgements

  I need to first thank my family for the support and understanding to write this book. During the period when I was writing The Inside Passage, my wife, Connie, was in the last stages of the fight against ovarian cancer.

  I got up at 4:30 every morning and wrote for two hours before I went to work. My youngest daughter Libby, took care of Connie during the day. When I returned home from work, I took over. Connie never once questioned the time that I spent writing and always encouraged my work.

  A lot of water has passed under the bridge since then. Connie, sadly, is no longer with us. But I owe her much. As do I my daughters Katie and Libby.

  I must thank my writers group, The Legion of the Plume, for helping me advance my art. They sat through endless iterations of this story. They made suggestions, they found errors. What I liked best is that they got to know my characters better than I did. They noticed the change in Ted from The Inside Passage to Hacker for Hire. They questioned whether this was realistic and made me do some serious thinking about Ted’s character. I am deeply indebted.

  I also need to thank the Sea of Cortez Writers. They helped me hone this book into a finished product.

  Susan Aaron Moller has been my best friend and editor since grad school. She proofread all of my papers in school and willingly subjected herself to all of my writing since then. She has the patience of a saint.

  I have to thank Mama. She has been in my corner from the beginning. She encouraged me when the night seemed the darkest. I would not be publishing my fourth book without her. Muchas gracias.

  And finally, I have to thank you, dear reader. Without patrons, artists don’t last very long. The fact that you read and enjoy what I write drives me onward. Like Thomas Jefferson, I believe that a free society must read to maintain its freedom. You are all freedom fighters.

  Pendelton C. Wallace

  3/26/2014

  On board the sailing vessel Victory

  La Paz, Mexico

  Author’s Note

  People often ask me where I get the ideas for my books. Most often, they are from stories in the newspaper. (Yes, I still read newspapers.) The Inside Passage was a fictionalized version of an incident that really happened in Canada in 2006.

  Likewise, Hacker for Hire is based on a true story. I won’t tell you the name of the company or the people involved, but if you are an avid newshound, you should recognize the story. I’ve moved the company from its original location to Seattle to fit the story. Of course, I’ve added many fictionalized characters, tossed in a murder or two and fashioned incidents to create more tension, although I’m sure the actual participants felt that there was more than enough tension for them.

  I also played fast and loose with the truth in one other area. Garry does not drive a bus for Metro in Seattle. He drives for STA in Spokane. Sorry, my friend.

  One other slight stretching of the truth: I made Cessan three six niner zero a twin engine Cessna 421. That’s the call sign for the plane in which I soloed. If you own 3690J, please drop me a line.

  The Canadian al-Qaeda attack incident in The Inside Passage occurred in June of 2006. The story you are about to read exploded onto the scene in September 2006. In Hacker for Hire I maintain that timeline because it fits nicely into Ted and Chris’ story.

  Hacker for Hire takes Ted into the profession for which he trained: a computer security analyst. I know this world. I spent twenty-five years as a software engineer and certified security analyst. I’ve tried to make the technology as believable as possible while not boring you to death with details and still pushing the envelope. However, technology moves so fast, that by the time this story is published, it will probably be obsolete.

  This is a story about unbridled lust for power and corporate greed. I wish I could say that this kind of malevolence is in our past, but unfortunately it is as present today as ever. It is the never-ending human condition. We must all be alert and on guard for these kinds of abuses.

  I hope you enjoy your foray into Ted and Chris’ world. It is not so very different from our own.

  Pendelton C. Wallace

  3/26/2014

  On board the sailing vessel Victory

  La Paz, Mexico

  Table of Contents

  Acknowledgements

  Author’s Note

  Table of Contents

  Chapter 1

  Chapter 2

  Chapter 3

  Chapter 4

  Chapter 5

  Chapter 6

  Chapter 7

  Chapter 8

  Chapter 9

  Chapter 10

  Chapter 11

  Chapter 12

  Chapter 13

  Chapter 14

  Chapter 15

  Chapter 16

  Chapter 17

  Chapter 18

  Chapter 19

  Chapter 20

  Chapter 21

  Chapter 22

  Chapter 23

  Chapter 24

  Chapter 25

  Chapter 26

  Chapter 27

  Chapter 28

  Chapter 29

  Chapter 30

  Chapter 31

  Chapter 32

  Chapter 33

  Post Script

  Coming Soon . . .

  Chapter 1

  Justin McCormack pulled his long brown hair back into a pony tail, curled it on top of his head and secured it with hair pins. He gently lifted the blonde wig from a Styrofoam form and fitted it to his head. He fussed and fretted with the wig for a moment, then reached for a jar of spirit gum. After slathering a layer on his upper lip with the applicator under the jar’s lid, he pasted a blonde Fu Manchu mustache into place. Finally, he spirit gummed his chin and added the
goatee.

  He felt a tingling in the pit of his stomach. Nerves or excitement? It didn’t matter. The adrenaline would kick in any minute.

  He stopped and took a breath, then looked around his bathroom. He had worked hard to afford this expensive condo overlooking Seattle’s Pike Place Market. He arranged his bathroom like the rest of his life, everything in its place. Thick white towels hung from brass racks, the few medications and cosmetics neatly stored away in drawers and cabinets alongside protein powder and vitamin supplements.

  He washed the spirit gum off of his hands and gazed into the brass-rimmed mirror that matched the art deco theme of the building. He removed his bathrobe and liked what he saw. His muscles bulged, his six-pack abs gave him a little thrill. He had worked as hard for this body as he had for his profession.

  Stepping back, Justin admired his handiwork. Not perfect, not good enough yet. Although he hoped that no one knew what he looked like, he had been on enough TV shows and magazines that he couldn’t take the chance.

  He leaned close into the mirror and inserted blue contact lenses to cover his brown eyes. That should do it.

  This job could be a life changer. He already had all the money he needed, but if he pulled this off, he'd be famous. No, not if he pulled it off, when he pulled it off.

  Justin stepped into his bedroom where blue coveralls laid neatly on his king-sized bed. A pair of shiny, black work shoes rested on the floor.

  Justin reached for the coveralls. Damn that Bear. The coveralls were a size “L.” Could he squeeze into them? The legs weren’t a problem. A little tight, but not too short. The top was another story. The fabric strained against the buttons. His chest and shoulders were just too massive for this outfit. He would be lucky if he didn’t pop the buttons loose when he breathed. I’ll kill the little bastard for this. After seven years he knows damn good and well I’m an XL!.

  He sat on the bed, carefully bent over and pulled on the shoes.

  If this is the worst thing that happens today, I’ll be lucky.

  Butterflies fluttered in his stomach while he waited for the elevator. At the front steps of his building, a white van with a Rainer Office Supply sign painted on the side pulled up to the curb, exactly on time. A short stocky man with a reddish-blonde beard and unruly hair got out of the driver’s seat.

  “Coffee?” The man handed Justin a Starbucks cup.

  “Get in, Bear.” Justin took the cup and slipped behind the wheel.

  Justin glanced back over his shoulder. “Good morning, Irena,” he said. A tattoo-covered blonde woman with a crew cut, wearing a baggy blue jump suit sat in the back seat.

  Their eyes met and without answering him she covered her head with a New York Yankees baseball cap. They drove the few blocks to the Millennium Towers in nervous silence.

  Are we out of our minds? One of the largest computer companies in the world, Millennium Systems security was world class. And that, my friend, is the challenge.

  Justin steered the van into the underground garage and parked in a reserved stall, his hands sweaty on the wheel. He climbed out of the van, took a deep breath and wiped his palms on the seat of his pants. His heart pounded wildly. Using the old actor’s trick, he tensed every muscle in his body, then slowly released the tension, bit by bit. First his toes, then his feet, then his calves, then thighs and up his body. He breathed deeply several more times, letting his diaphragm do the work.

  This was it: Showtime!

  ****

  “Hey, hero.” The husky, gray-bearded bus driver turned and shouted over his shoulder. “Your stop’s coming up.”

  “Thanks, Garry.” Ted Higuera folded his newspaper and stood up.

  “Good luck, hero.” The bus driver held his hand out, palm up.

  I wish he’d stop calling me that. Ted slapped his hand. “Gracias.”

  Stepping down from the green and yellow Metro bus, Ted landed in Pioneer Square. He turned his jacket collar up against the light mist. In East LA, where he grew up, they would call this rain. In Seattle, the natives hardly even noticed it.

  The Square was full of families and late-season tourists milling about. Business people hustled back and forth. Tonight, after the yuppie crowd took over, Pioneer Square would become Party Central.

  Caramba! Ted thought, not for the first time, that he’d rather be heading to one of the Square’s famous night spots. It was his first day at his first job out of college. He should be excited, but something held him back.

  “Mom, look!” A small boy, maybe nine or ten years old, pointed at Ted. “It’s him. The man from TV who saved that cruise ship.”

  “Charlie,” his hatchet-faced mother admonished. “You know it’s not polite to point.”

  “Hell, Shelly, Charlie’s right.” The father, a short, round, bald man in a leather jacket, reached his hand out to Ted. “I want to shake your hand.”

  Ted hated all the attention he was getting. Too polite to refuse, he took the man’s hand.

  The man pulled him close and clapped him on the back. “It’s about time somebody stood up to them damn terrorists.”

  “Oh, my.” A heavy gray-haired woman saw Ted. She stood eye-to-eye with him and probably outweighed him by forty pounds.

  Her eyes immediately teared up. She threw her arms around him and pulled him into her ample bosom. “Thank you, thank you, thank you.”

  Ted wanted to break away, to run.

  “My grandchildren were on that boat. You saved their lives.”

  “I really didn’t do anything,” Ted said. Yeah, he fought back tears of his own, except get my friends shot up. He managed to extricate himself from the death hug.

  A crowd gathered around him, a phenomenon that happened more and more these days. Well-wishers patted him on the back and introduced their children. Smart phones were shoved in his face as pretty girls posed for a selfie with him. This was the full rock-star treatment.

  I gotta get outta here. He broke free. “Thank you, everybody. I gotta go. I’m late for work.”

  Breaking away from the crowd, his steps echoed across the cobbled square as he passed under the iron pergola. He picked up his pace. His admirers fell behind.

  Crossing Yesler Street, he made his way to the restored nineteenth-century brick building that housed YTS Digital Security, his new employer.

  What the hell, I’m about to join the workforce. Isn’t this what the last four years had been all about? Graduate, get a job, get ahead. It was the American dream.

  What every kid from the barrio wanted, right? So why did he feel so damned disjointed?

  ****

  Showtime!

  Justin and his two helpers pushed wooden carts stacked with cubicle components through the service entrance. They took the service elevator to the thirty-second floor. Bear’s fingers drummed on the cart handle.

  “Schtop it!” Irena spoke for the first time. Her voice was just below a shriek.

  The elevator doors opened unto an immense sea of cubicles. Justin knew that surveillance cameras in the ceiling watched his every move. He timed their visit for mid-morning. The day had begun. An army of drones moved about busily, with purpose, a hive of orchestrated activity.

  Justin could feel his pulse in his ears. After a brief surveillance, he found what he was looking for. He pushed his cart towards an empty office along the wall. He looked around again. No one seemed to notice them. Bear sullenly pushed his cart behind Justin, trailed by Irena.

  Irena entered the office first. Justin held his breath. She looked around then gave a slight nod. He entered, followed by Bear.

  Irena and Bear pushed their carts in front of the office windows and began piling boxes on top of the carts, screening off the view from the outside. Justin sat down behind the empty desk. He looked around nervously even though no one outside the office could see him.

  It took only a moment for Justin to orient himself to the strange desk. He cracked his knuckles, reached down and turned on the computer. While it booted up,
he found the number for Millennium System’s help desk taped to the computer monitor. It really didn’t matter. Justin already had it memorized.

  Last week, when his team cased the building, they learned all they needed to know. Bear discovered the company’s login ID convention was first initial, middle initial and the first four characters of the last name. Irena found out the department’s manager, John Potter, would be on vacation in Hawaii this week.

  That tidbit of information led Justin to do a Google search on John Potter, middle name Allan.

  On the screen, Justin typed in “JAPOTT” and hit the “enter” key. As expected, an “incorrect password” message appeared. He tried the login twice more. The screen said:

  Access denied. Your account has been locked.

  Please contact the system administrator.

  Justin took a deep breath, forced a smile onto his face, picked up the phone and called the help desk number.

  “You have reached the Millennium Systems Help Desk,” the recorded voice said in perfect English. “We have added several new menu options to improve our service. Please listen to this entire message before making your selection. For password resets, press one. . .” Justin pushed “one.”

  “Millennium Systems Help Desk, this is Hamsa, how may I help you?” Her accent was thick, but understandable.

  This is it. The most critical part of the job. He had to sound casual, at ease.

  “Good morning, Hamsa, this is John Potter in Seattle.” Justin knew that a help desk agent in Bangalore had never heard of John Potter. “I just got back from vacation and I don’t remember what I set my password to before I left. Can you help me?”

  “Of course, John. I need first to ask you a security question through.”

  Justin forced a smile. He had learned long ago that his voice was more likeable when he smiled. “Sure, go ahead.”

  Irena had attended the International Help Desk Institute’s seminar in Seattle last month. In a long blonde wig, short skirt and tight sweater, it was child’s play for her to learn about Millennium Systems’ security questions from their Help Desk manager.

 
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