Chapter 8

Jesse felt like his legs were made of cement. Sascha was the fitter man of the two of them, and he was walking at a pace that reflected the speed of his brain at that moment. They were walking between a line of tall hedges that led from the building where they both worked to the CUNY cafeteria. "We're not going for lunch," Sascha said. "We're just going to find a place that's noisy and can give us same privacy."

Jesse puffed his cheeks and willed his legs to keep up. The long hours at the office had been taking a toll on his fitness, but this was simply unnecessary. "Sascha, why do we need privacy? Was someone offended that I was asleep at my desk?"

Sascha stopped suddenly, giving Jesse a hard look. "Check your pockets. And your collar."

Jesse looked momentarily puzzled. "Wha-" he began. Then understanding appeared on his face. Jesse checked his breast pocket, then his pants pockets. Nothing. He turned up his collar, running a thumb along the crease. As he passed the back of his neck, his thumb caught something hard and plastic. He glanced up at Sascha, his eyes wide.

"Show me", Sascha whispered.

Jesse turned around, flipping his collar open so that Sascha could see the device. Sascha put his face very close to Jesse's back, trying to work out how to remove the bug without breaking it. After a moment, he put his mouth next to Jesse's ear.

"Put your collar down and follow me," he whispered.

The two men walked into the student cafeteria. They looked distinctly out of place in their jackets and slacks, but the students paid them no attention. Sascha gestured toward the kitchen. Jesse followed him through the swinging doors.

"May I take your jacket, sir?" Sascha said, putting on his best impression of a waiter.


Sascha took the jacket from Jesse and turned on the sink. He opened the collar, exposing the bug, and quickly submerged it in the water that had collected. After the water had time to soak into the bug, he pried it from the fabric. Sascha shook his head, turned the sink off, and handed the jacket back to Jesse. Then he yanked the stopper out of the drain, sending the bug into the bowels of the university.

"After you, good sir," Sascha said with a self-satisfied grin.

Jesse allowed himself to laugh before giving Sascha a fist bump and walking back into the cafeteria.

"All right," Jesse said, settling into a booth. "I'm awake now. What the hell is going on? I was asleep, and then I was bugged, and now I'm in the student cafeteria at a table with a short leg."

"I know, it's been a whirlwind," Sascha said. "This won't make sense unless I give you some background."

Sascha told Jesse about the problem with the vault's security. He went into detail about the scheduling system. As soon as he mentioned that the security doors unlocked despite the fact that the event had been cancelled, Jesse groaned and hung his head. Jesse had debugged enough code in his life to recognize a programming error when he saw one. This wasn't the type of error that would crash the system, but in some ways it was worse than that. This was a logic error. The programmers who had designed the module that was responsible for informing the security system that a ticket had been cancelled had neglected to wire up that bit of code properly.

"How long have you known about this bug?" Jesse asked.

"Months. I reported it the day that the vault was unlocked, but nobody seems to know when it will be fixed. Some of the programmers are on vacation, our people are busy with other things, and it only happens on rare occasions. You know the drill."

"Yeah. I bet it would get done faster if the president's office had been the one unlocked. Who else knows about this?"

"I reported it to the director of I.T. I have to imagine that his deputies are aware of it, but I don't know."

"Those guys are all underpaid for what they do, including the director. It makes me nervous under the best of circumstances. And now they have a huge security hole at their disposal until it gets fixed. It's a ripe situation for someone to steal records, modify personnel files, or--"

"To bug a staff member who works on high-profile cases."

"I can't figure it out. Who would want to spy on me? We don't have any cases in the queue right now. The most that they could learn is what the students in Brazil are learning about how the fish markets influence fuel production."

Jesse's thoughts turned back to the morning. He had been doing paperwork for the students in Brazil and Venezuela when he fell asleep. At that time, the door had been locked. No one else had been around all morning. Whoever came into the office had free reign. Jesse had looked through the office after Sascha woke him up, and nothing looked out of place. Neither did the bug in my collar, though, he thought.

"I wish I knew, Jesse. At the very least, we need to look at the security tapes and figure out who was in your office. In the meantime, let me make a suggestion. Grab your papers from 503B and find another office for the week. I'll take a look at the room assignment chart and see what's available."

Jesse sighed, looking out the window at the growing shadows on the lawn.