J. J. Hanna © 2021
A week had gone by, and that should have been a relief to me. I wanted to believe everything was going to be okay.
But the stranger had contacted me again with a plan perfectly outlining what I was supposed to do if the police tracked me down. Worse? The message had self-destructed. I tried to get it back to look it over again, but the link brought me to an online game of Galaga.
This was the sort of thing that happened in fiction—self-destructing notes, news of man hunts that never hit the mainstream news, a plan for if the unimaginable happened.
There was only one thing I remembered for sure: do not mention Avalon. If they catch you, plead the fifth, and trust the lawyer.
How was I supposed to trust an unnamed lawyer? All of this sounded ridiculous. Why would the police even tie it to me, anyway? I took a breath and closed the email app on my phone. I hadn’t actually read any of the other emails. How was I supposed to focus on anything?
I’d hacked before, but not like this.
Nothing had ever been like this before.
I got out of bed and grabbed the hoodie off my chair, pulling it over my pajamas. I needed caffeine if I was going to figure this problem out. Who was Avalon, anyway? Had they actually hired me or were they just expert con-men? And if they were expert con-men, would I ever even get paid or would I be the fall guy? Why should I trust that they’d protect me?
I got in the car and drove to the coffee shop, pulling into the drive through line behind a large white SUV. I reached the speaker box and heard Amanda’s voice welcoming me.
“Hi Adam. How many shots do you need today?”
I took a breath. “Hi Amanda. Can I get a quad?”
“That kinda morning, huh?”
“You have no idea.”
“We’ll see you down here.”
I watched the back of the SUV as I drove forward. Amanda handed the man an eight ounce cup, the same size my shots always came in. I saw him wave and drive away. Another regular. How many people did Amanda know? How many faces passed by her every day?
She smiled at me. “Hi Adam.” She looked well-rested today.
“How are you?”
“Pretty good! I got to sleep in today. I see you did, too?”
I nodded. Something like that. I wasn’t going to tell her I’d taken the day off as sick time.
“So are you late to work or do you have the day off?”
I laughed. How did she always know? “Took the day. I needed some me time.”
“Well, I hope your me time is just what you needed. Here are those shots for ya.”
I took the cup and headed back home. It only took me a few minutes to settle at my computer. If Avalon was actually going to pay me, they’d given me another job. I should probably look into it if I wanted things to go smoothly going forward.
A quick internet search of Carion Electronics brought up what I expected it would—the prim and polished version of the company.
But it gave me the starting points—the CEO, the CFO, and the home office location.
It should have taken me longer to dive into their accounts than it did. For an electronic company, they weren’t very well protected. Then again, they sold electronics. They didn’t do any of the manufacturing themselves, nor did it look like they had internal programers or developers. Just your fairly average IT office.
Following the money led me to all of Carion’s dirty little secrets. Bribes, sub-par worker compensation, dangerous work environments, and all the whistleblowers that had been bought off.
I opened the dialogue box Avalon had used to contact me before and typed: Oh Captain my Captain.
Our fearful trip is done. Line secure.
I’ve looked into Carion.
Then you know what needs to happen.
When will I be paid?
These things take time.
I won’t do any more for you until I see that money.
That’s not a fight you’re going to win.
Was that a threat?
It was a promise. Get it done. And I’ll make sure you see your money.
I took a steadying breath as the dialogue box closed of its own accord. I was in so much trouble.
This story, segments of this story, and ideas from this story are not to be duplicated or replicated in any way. This content belongs to J. J. Hanna alone.
Please note: This is a work of fiction. Any similarity to real life events is unintended by the author.
J. J. Hanna is a writer and reader from Colorado. She loves suspense stories above all else, and is currently working on a debut novel of her own. When she's not writing, you can find her making YouTube videos and Online Courses about the publishing industry. Go find her on social media @authorjjhanna to keep track of her most recent reads, current adventures, and to get the most up to date news on all things publishing.