(Free E-Book)
by Frank Duff

This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike License.

To view a copy of this license, visit or send a letter to:

Creative Commons
559 Nathan Abbott Way


The alcohol in Johnny's blood hardly prevented him from skating a straight line Eastward down the centre of Dupont. The streets seemed unnaturally empty and the sky loomed with thunderheads of the type Johnny usually found strangely reassuring but now more traditionally menacing. Not just menacing, it occurred to him as he turned south onto Bathurst, but downright apocalyptic.

On Harbord, less than half a block from campus, Johnny nudged a curb and was thrown from his skateboard. There was a moment of weightlessness followed by a moment of tremendous weight. There were hands striking the pavement and there were pages of notes dispersing in the gathering wind because there never really is a calm before a storm and there was blood everywhere but really just on his palms and left cheek and of course everything he touched. And there was a girl, pretty, maybe thirteen, already collecting the pages and handing them back to him and saying: "are you all right?"

And Johnny was taking them from her being careful not to get any blood on them but not quite careful enough and saying "Thanks yeah fine" and running now Eastward again toward campus feeling this gathering fear and becoming less convinced with every passing second despite no further evidence that Lyle was actually getting all worked up about nothing. And the girl was yelling after him "Hey! Your skateboard" and he was yelling back "Keep it!" and then he was leaning up against the door into the Computer Science work-lab and trying to catch his breath and wishing he could just stick his finger down his throat and puke up adrenaline.

He was logged on to a computer in the lab before the jangling in his nerves began to quiet. All around him computer science students were grinding away desperately at keyboards trying to finish their assignments before midnight. The girl to his left coughed, ate a handful of anti-histamines that Johnny recognized as being ephedrine based, and chased it with coffee. She wouldn't be sleeping any time soon. And neither would Johnny by the way he felt. He lifted the tray of the scanner and shoved the sheets underneath one by one.

"Somewhere no-one will look for them," Johnny whispered to himself when the scanning was done. After half a moment he called up a terminal and started SSH. Logging onto a server run by a friend of his, he uploaded the images to his private directory. He then ran an encryption program on them, using his student number followed by his phone number as a sixteen byte key. Sure, it would only keep out the most easily discouraged of snoops, but the only one with access to the files was the guy who ran the server. A sixteen-byte encryption code was enough to give the message "Hey Tom, these are private, not for prying eyes."

Johnny was about to log-off when he found himself checking his mail almost by instinct. Tom had mail services on his server and Johnny had always preferred using them over Hotmail or UofT mail. There was one new message. It was from Ivan. The subject line was "what the fuck did you do?" and according to the time stamp it had been sent ten minutes ago. Johnny's heart almost stopped. He looked around himself for... what? cops? He placed both hands on the desk and took a second to catch his breath before opening the mail.

Subject: what the fuck did you do?

You've fucked something up big. No time for a smoke at the corner this time, you have to run. I've heard your name twice in the last two hours and not from the kinds of lips you want to hear say the name of a friend. There's a price on your head right now Johnny and I'm not certain whether you're worth more alive or dead. Every organized crime syndicate from the Triad to the Toronto fucking Police is going to be looking for you. Lay low. I'll be in touch in two days. I'm going to try my best to get you out of this one because I love you, but you're in deeper than anyone I've ever known.


p.s. is this account secure?

The adrenaline came flooding back into Johnny's system echoing "I told you so" down every nerve ending that had desperately wanted free of it fifteen minutes earlier. Johnny flashed off a three word email, "I hope so," to Ivan and logged off of Tom's server.

On autopilot, as his mind unhelpfully vacillated between images of himself in prison and at the bottom of Lake Ontario with a hole in his skull, Johnny purged the computer's temporary memory of the scanned images. Figuring it was impossible to be too paranoid, he also used a sysadmin account he had secretly acquired while still a student to wipe any trace of his having used the computer.

Johnny was just about to leave when another thought struck him. He logged back on and ran a check of dormant processes. Sure enough, someone had installed a keypress recorder and was dumping it all to a text file elsewhere on the network. It was amateurish work, almost certainly an attempt at password theft by some first year Comp. Sci. student destined to be expelled. Johnny deleted the program and wiped the text file.

"Am I sure that's everything?" he asked himself. The answer of course was no. He could sit at the computer checking processes and sockets for hours and still not be sure. In the end, there was only one way to be certain. Johnny pounded out two dozen lines of code, set his program running and left.


Five minutes after Johnny walked out the door, the hard drives of every computer in the lab and the hard drives of the lab server itself were simultaneously overwritten by a long string of zeros. Hundreds of tired-eyed students broke out crying or laughing or, realizing the futility of doing anything else, simply slumped forwards onto their keyboards and went directly to sleep.


Outside, Johnny was meanwhile setting fire to Lyle's notes. When there was only a small pile of ash remaining to be dispersed by the wind, Johnny slumped up against the side of the building and tried to think straight.

Lyle! He was at the place alone and he would be as high as an acid-tripping kite by now. Johnny pulled his phone out of his pocket and quickly dialed his home number. Ring. Ring. Ring. Shit, he was going to get the answering machine. Ring. Ring. Ring. Ring. Ring. Shit! What the fuck had happened to his computer? He stabbed the off button with his finger, jumped to his feet and started running in the direction of home.

Go Back to Chapter 10
Continue to Chapter 12

Buy the Book!

Back to Table of Contents