Bewildering Stories

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part 2
Part 1 appeared in issue 67.

by Michael J A Tyzuk

It was a reasonably palatial condo, I suppose, although I had seen bigger. Truth be told, though, the size and relative inexpensiveness of the Congressman’s dwelling only demonstrated his intelligence, for he wasn’t using the extra money he was making working with the terrorists to live beyond his obvious means.

His study was down the hall, two doors down from his master bedroom. I entered the study and sat down at the desk, extracted the portfolio from the inside of my jumpsuit.

I opened the portfolio and set it down on top of the desk. Then I opened the zippered compartment that held the file folders I had been using and reached inside. On the inner face of that compartment was a hidden zippered compartment which I opened. From this compartment I extracted a cable which had a standard Universal Serial Bus connector at the end of it.

The nice thing about the Universal Serial Bus is that it’s a standard feature of every single new computer that has been built since the mid 90’s. The UNID had taken that into account when designing and building my modified PDA and the portfolio it was built into. Once I plugged that cable into the computer sitting on the desk I would be able to fire up my PDA and use the software it contained to take control of the Congressman’s computer and start it up. Once it was started I could copy the contents of the hard drive to the tiny drive that was built into the compartment the PDA rested on top of.

I reached around behind the computer and plugged the cable into one of the USB ports at the back. Then I fired up the PDA and used it to power up and log on to the computer. Once I was logged on successfully I entered the command sequence that would copy the contents of the hard drive.

Now it was just a matter of time, but the good news was that it wasn’t going to take that much time at all to copy the data. Several file cabinets stood mute along one wall of the study. I pulled on a pair of gloves and checked each one very carefully, looking for telltale signs that, if disturbed, would alert the Congressman to the fact that his files had been raided. There were no such little traps, so I went through it one file at a time. I couldn’t find any paper copies of his dealings with the terrorists, although I did find paper copies of account statements for several overseas banks, some of which we knew he was dealing with and some of which came as a bit of a surprise. I photographed those statements, along with a few other choice tidbits of information that the UNID hadn’t known before.

The PDA pinged when it had finished making the copy. I used it to shut down the computer and disconnected it, stuffed the portfolio back into my jumpsuit. Then I left the condo, making sure to lock the door behind me, and went downstairs to the wiring closet.

The portfolio went into the tool bag, as did my lock pick. I opened the wiring cabinet and disconnected the recorders, thus restoring the original feed from the cameras which had spent the last thirty minutes or so being useless. I closed the cabinet, stuffed the recorders into the bag, shouldered the bag, and went down to the lobby.

The guard ogled me again as I turned in my security card. I returned the favor by snapping a gum bubble at him and giving my hips a little extra wiggle as I left the building.

Once outside I walked down the street a couple of blocks to another fast food restaurant and went into the bathroom. Once inside a stall, I stripped off the jumpsuit and stuffed it into another plastic shopping bag. Then I went to the counter and repeated the operation of unpacking the tool bag, turning it inside out, and repacking it. I replaced the strap, too. The baseball cap and sunglasses I had been wearing went into the shopping bag. I untied the pony tail and messed up my hair, then threw some water into my face to create that sweating flushed look you have when you come out of a workout.

Once I was outside I went into the nearest subway station. The shopping bag went into the first garbage can along the way. I paid my fare at the turnstile and took the first southbound train. I rode it two stations down the line and disembarked with the rest of the mass of humanity. Once outside the station I walked three blocks north, climbed into my car, and drove home with a feeling of accomplishment in my heart.

* * *

The unfortunate thing was that the feeling of accomplishment didn’t last very long.

Oh, there was lots of data on those hard drives all right; the problem was that most of it was encrypted.

Normally this wouldn’t be much of a problem. The software the UN had given me could break just about every encryption scheme known to man, but there were some kinds of encryption that just couldn’t be broken.

There had been occasions in the past where data had been encrypted using a key which was stored on removable storage media. I had a feeling that was the kind of encryption that was being used here. This presented a problem because it meant that the computer would likely only be able to reconstruct part of the encryption key, and part of the key wasn’t going to cut it. In order to retrieve the data I needed to take him down I needed the entire encryption key, and I had a feeling I knew where to get it.

Like every other Congressman or business executive, the Congressman tended to carry a briefcase with him. I was willing to bet even money that the key I needed was on a disk in his briefcase, and in order to get to it I was going to need to separate the Congressman from his case for a few minutes. Fortunately I had a plan that would let me do just that. In order to carry it out, though, I would need to dip into my expense account a little.

The next week was spent preparing for the next phase of my little operation. The first thing I did was take stock of my wardrobe. The last several years of working for the UNID had caused me to collect clothing for just about every occasion. I had formal wear suitable for high-class cocktail parties, casual clothing of every description (including some items that made me feel more than a little bit silly if I wore them, but when combined with my generally youthful appearance served to turn me into a sixteen-year old girl in the blink of an eye), and a couple of corporate business power suits, the kind that never go out of fashion. I also had a few items which I could combine creatively to make outfits suitable for wearing in the professional presence of a Congressman.

However, I decided that it might be a good idea to go out and pick up a few things anyway, because you never can tell. Besides, it gave me an excuse to go shopping, and that is never a bad thing. Even better, it all went on the expense account, so I didn’t have to foot the bill, plus I wasn’t likely to have to throw these clothes away like I had the last purchase.

The next thing I did was take advantage of my contacts in the UNID to create a new identity for myself. From now on I would be known as Melody Fraser. Melody was an educated girl who had two degrees, one in Business Administration and one in Political Science. She was intelligent, but she wasn’t very bright. She was very attractive physically, though, and her beauty often inspired employers and instructors to grant her a second chance.

A week after my information raid I sat before the desk of my target, Congressman Archibald Cunningham. I was wearing a long floral pint dress that buttoned all the way down the front. My legs were crossed and my dress was buttoned one button lower than it should have been. We talked of inconsequential matters for a few moments while he looked me up and down. I gave him the appearance of nervousness, fidgeting and crossing and uncrossing my legs over and over again. Judging from the look on his face the whole time I was having my “interview” I had him hooked from the moment I walked in the door.

Congressman Cunningham hired me as one of his two assistants and told me that I could start tomorrow.

The other assistant was a whelp of a girl as young as I was pretending to be. Tall and slender with auburn hair and intense hazel eyes, Cathy MacEwan had a shapely body and a bubbly personality. She was intelligent and had dreams of wealth and personal power, and she saw the Congressman as a means to that end. She was efficient with her duties and saw absolutely nothing wrong with the idea of taking a roll in the hay with her employer every now and again. Indeed, I think she saw it as a reasonably equitable quid pro quo.

The Congressman had developed something of a reputation as a womanizer, and I wasn’t that long on the job before I discovered that the reputation was well earned. The thought of obliging the slimy little runt made my skin crawl, so I made sure that I didn’t have to. Unfortunately, that also meant that this part of the operation would have to be accelerated some, for the Congressman made it clear to me that he had no interest in having me around if I wasn’t interested in being grateful.

A Congressman leads a very busy life and he relies on his assistants to keep the details straight of every pie he has his hands in, to make sure that he has all the pertinent information at his disposal when he’s in Congress debating some issue or another. And he also relied on us to keep all of the people at bay who insisted that for some reason or another they really needed to see the Congressman. It was important, and we just had to let them in. Personally, I would have been more than willing to let them at the man, but that wouldn’t fit in with the persona I was trying to project so I decided against that course of action.

Every now and again we would end up working late and the Congressman would suggest that we move the proceedings to his apartment. I took advantage of the opportunity as being just the opening I had been looking for.

From the day I had started working for Mister Cunningham I had taken to carrying my portfolio with me to get him used to seeing the thing around, for I had known that I was going to depend on that portfolio to make my copy of the disk containing the encryption key.

The first things that the Congressman did when we got to his apartment was put his briefcase on top of a filing cabinet in his study and open it. I managed to sneak a quick look inside the briefcase and saw the top of a small black removable storage disk sticking out of a pocket built into the top half of the case. As that was the only disk in the case that I could see I concluded that the encryption key was on that disk.

While Cathy and the Congressman were in the kitchen negotiating about what to order for dinner I was left along in the study with the briefcase. I put my Portfolio down on the filing cabinet next to the briefcase and opened it. I extracted the disk from the briefcase and opened another secret zippered compartment in the portfolio, inserted the disk into the slot that the compartment contained. Then I told the PDA in the portfolio to make a copy. As soon as the copy was completed I put the disk back in the briefcase and sat down at the desk with my Portfolio, went back to work. A few seconds later Cathy and the Congressman came back into the study and announced that we would be having pizza.

As soon as I got home that night I connected my portfolio to my home computer and added the contents of the encryption disk to the mess of data I had obtained before. And, lo and behold, that did it. The data resolved itself into something coherent and easy to read, so I started paging through it.

You know, I expect politicians to be shady and corrupt. I expect them to take advantage of every single thing that comes their way to further their own personal ambitions. To be completely honest, if I was to investigate every single American politician I would be more than a little surprised to find that one in every hundred didn’t have his fingers in something that was less than legal.

But the good Congressman Cunningham took the cake. He wasn’t just working with the terrorists; he was supplying them and laundering their money. The records showed that several of the companies which were owned by the Congressman but had been inactive for some time were suddenly active and solvent again. Funds from those companies had been used to purchase weapons and material which had then been shipped by various nefarious means to training camps in the Middle East. Other companies were on record as having received several large sums of money from one set of companies, and then running them through a series of investments and savings plans before paying them back out to another set of companies.

I shook my head as I copied all of that data onto removable storage media. The government had a very low opinion of acts of treason. With those copies made and ready to turn over to the proper authorities I then made copies of the contents of the two hard drives and the encryption disk onto removable storage media and labeled them carefully. Then I bundled all the disks together and set them on the table beside my front door so I would remember to take them with me the next day.

I didn’t bother to go to work the next morning, which was okay because it meant I didn’t have to dress for the office. Don’t get me wrong, I liked the way I looked in what I had been wearing for the Congressman, but I’m a simple girl and sometimes I like to dress a little less businesslike. I pulled on a pair of black jeans and a black shirt, threw on old denim jacket on, pulled on my most comfortable running shoes and left the house, the bundle of disks tucked safely under my arm.

My destination was the local Federal Building, where I was to have a meeting with Special Agent Aaron Crawford, my contact in the FBI who was assisting me on this case. I walked into his office and was more than a little surprised to find some familiar faces in attendance, two of them specifically.

The first surprise was the presence of John Dawson, my liaison officer with the UNID. It was John who briefed me on my assignments and carried word of my success or lack thereof back to the powers that be. He was a pleasant enough man, though I hadn’t thought so when I first met him. That’s another story for another time, though. John was in his middle years with a graying, receding hairline, deep set eyes, and a graying moustache and goatee. He carried a cane and walked with a slight limp due to injuries received when he was with the military.

The second surprise was Cathy, and the surprise was so complete that it floored me. I’m a professional, and I had no idea that she was anything more than a highly paid assistant that the Congressman was bedding on occasion. But of course all that really meant is that Cathy herself was a professional and she knew all the tricks of her trade, just as I knew all the tricks of mine. I began to wonder who she was working for, but I knew that I was going to find out for myself soon enough.

Cathy smiled when she saw me and reached out to shake my hand. “I would imagine you’re wondering what I’m doing here?” she said amiably. I returned her smile and her handshake as I took the middle of three guest chairs across from Aaron’s desk. “The thought had occurred to me,” I admitted.

“Believe me,” Cathy said, “it came as something as a surprise to me too when I found out that you were the agent the UNID had planted in the Congressman’s office.”

“Well, it’s good that you know who and what I am,” I answered, “now would you mind telling me just who and what you are?”

“Cathy is on loan to us from the CIA,” John supplied. “Her task is the same as yours, to investigate Congressman Cunningham and gather evidence suitable for conviction on charges of high treason. However, Cathy has some additional information for us that will change the nature of our mission somewhat.”

“Why does it have to change anything at all?” I asked. “I’ve got the evidence we need right here.” I placed my bundle of disks on top of Aaron’s desk. “Everything we need to convict was on the Congressman’s computer.”

Cathy smiled a wan smile. “Would that it were that simple,” she said. “What do you mean?” I demanded. I was starting to feel like the company mushroom, kept in the dark and fed crap.

Cathy gestured to the pile of disks. “What you have there is just the tip of the iceberg,” she explained. “Yes, it proves that Congressman Cunningham is in league with the terrorists, and it proves that he’s been supplying them with arms and laundering their funds. What it doesn’t prove is how the good Congressman got hold of the weapons he’s been giving them in the first place. “

“I would assume,” I said, “that a known arms dealer is among his list of contacts.”

“Which is perfectly true,” Cathy put in, “but what I’ve noticed since I took this case is that nobody is asking how a member of Congress was able to make that kind of contact.”

I leaned back in my chair and folded my arms across my chest. If Cathy’s question was to be answered, then there was only one logical way that it could be answered. The implications of that answer sent chills up and down my spine. “He’s not a Congressman at all, is he?”

To be continued...

Copyright © 2003 by Michael J A Tyzuk

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