The computer sat unused and unappreciated in a dark corner of the living room. Frank had used it exactly twice since its purchase. Both times to harass Karen.
While his anger raged he was a different man. He’d been irrational, paranoid, and had given action to every sinister thought that had passed through his mind. All he wanted to do was punish Karen for the pain and humiliation she’d caused him. He’d used the computer to inflict long distance corporal punishment.
She had unwittingly left herself wide open to his scrutiny by continuing to use the same credit cards that she’d had during their marriage. By tracking the money, he’d been able to track her every move.
He knew on what days she shopped for food and where. How much she spent. He knew where she bought gas for the car – at a gas station between her apartment and Stanley’s.
He knew when and where she was going on vacation, and that she was not going alone – she’d purchased two airline tickets. She’d booked a hotel in the Caribbean. It was when he saw the hotel reservation for a double room that he knew exactly what he was going to do. He’d gone on-line again and gotten the departure time of Karen and Stanley’s flight and waited until her plane was in the air and cancelled all of her credit cards. He prayed that neither one of those two pieces of shit had thought to bring extra cash.
He sat for a moment staring at the blank screen, remembering. What had he been so angry about? After all, he’d wanted out of the marriage as much as Karen had.
Was he angry because she’d beaten him to the punch or was it the way she’d gone about it? Or, was he angry because she’d only pretended to love him. After all, she’d replaced him as matter of factly as one would replace a light bulb or change a tire. He was just something to be dumped along the side of the road.
The day his marriage fell apart, he’d agonized all the way home over how he was going to ask Karen for a divorce. Their marriage was not working and there was no way he was going to add to the misery by having a child with her.
As the computer hummed to life, he decided he needed a drink to get the ghost of Karen out of his mind. She was not the reason he needed to use the computer this morning.
He hadn’t turned the damn thing on in three months, but this was an emergency. He needed some information and quickly. The old adage, ‘telephone, telegraph, tell a woman’, came to his mind, but he knew if you wanted to find out anything these days, skip the gossipy woman and go straight to the Press.
Before they’d left the restaurant yesterday, that reporter David Walker had given him his e-mail address. Perhaps David would have access to the information he needed.
If he played his cards right, he could get the information from David, but he needed to go about it without raising too much suspicion. There was a danger in coming right out and asking David for what he wanted – the names of all the police officers present at both crash sites. David might put things together and run with the story before he was ready, giving this multiple murderer time to cover his tracks and escape, but he had to take the chance.
If he did this correctly, perhaps, David would allow him to see some of the videotapes from both crashes. He could then look for a familiar face. Had any one person or officer been at both sites? But how was he going to get the information without arousing David’s suspicions.
Frank paced the length of the living room with its lackluster beige walls, spider-webbed corners, and blanket covered windows. Then and idea occurred to him. Why not make it seem as though he was helping David and not the other way around. He typed out the following:
Thanks for lunch and a sore butt! Why don’t we get together and go over the information that each of us has concerning the crash. I can bring you a copy of my final report. If you have any film footage of the crash site, I can clarify whatever questions you might have.
Also, I can get you in the ‘back door’ over at Thompson’s — that way, you won’t have to run into Agent Schlade again. I’ll be in Illinois on Tuesday. I can drop by the station then. Frank
He was sure David’s response to his email was going to be positive – his friend, he said, had died on board Flight 404, and he’d made an absolute fool of himself at the airfield trying to get some answers.
After sending the e-mail, Frank decided as long as he had the computer on, he’d check the rest of his emails.
He had one hundred and forty two emails – most of them junk. Going down the list, he spotted a couple of interesting ones.
He opened the one from Karen first. It was a wedding announcement. She and Stanley were planning a Christmas wedding.
Sending him her wedding announcement was her way of getting back at him for ruining their trip. If she thought for one second that this was going to get him riled up again, she was dead wrong. He was over her and he was going to stay that way. He deleted the email from his in-box and then from his trash can. Total delete.
The next email was a billing acknowledgement from AOL. Scanning the bill, a web address popped out at him. It was the web address for his home computer which is linked to his office at the NTSB. The internet inquiry was a recent one, made around the time he was in Indiana investigating the crash. His eyes moved to the stack of newspapers he’d intentionally left in the same spot where he’d tripped over them. So, this wasn’t the first intrusion, he thought. The bastard knew how to get into his house.
He printed the bill and went over it item by item. He found not only had someone connected via internet, from his computer, to the NTSB database on November twenty-first, but also to the FBI database on October twentieth, to the Illinois DMV on October twenty-seven, and to the Adventure Airlines Reservation desk on October twenty-ninth. Checking closer, Frank realized that all the access dates were around the time of the crash of Flight 404.
The voice on the other end of the phone was not exactly thrilled at the amount of information Frank wanted at one thirty a.m. Pacific time. Frank explained to the young man who he was and that the information related to a crash investigation. A supervisor came on the line and after some more explaining and pleading, she said she would try. “Please hold.” The dreaded Musak, or elevator music, nearly put him to sleep.
After about fifteen minutes or so of waiting, Frank was surprised to learn that not only had all the incursions come from his computer but that his official NTSB credentials had been used to obtain a copy of Sam Larson’s driver‘s license and Social Security number. Supposedly, he then requested a copy of Sam Larson’s internet history.
He also learned that he had sent a rather disturbing email to Sam Larson at WKXR in Peoria. Why did that name sound so familiar? Of course, it was the name of David Walker’s friend who had died in the crash. No, that wasn’t it. He thought for a while and then it hit him.
Sam Larson? No it couldn’t be! He had known a Sam Larstein but that was some time ago.
Up until he was around ten years old his family had lived in Park Slope, New York. And he ran with a group of boys, one of which was a Sam Larstein. After a rather disturbing incident, his family had moved to Maryland. Was his Sam Larstein the same friend David spoke of? No, probably not, but he’d check it out just in case.
He never talked about his years in Park Slope. The same way he had not talked with Karen about his low sperm count. Some things should be kept private, he thought.
He asked the clerk on the other end of the line if a copy of the email sent to Sam Larson was still available. The clerk said yes, that it is AOL’s policy to keep a hardcopy of all threatening emails on file just in case the Police or FBI needed them It would take a couple of hours to retrieve the email.
At six o’clock in the morning the day after Thanksgiving, Frank stood in his kitchen drinking a cup of coffee and holding a copy of the email sent to Sam Larson from his computer.