THE SWITCH & THE KILL (Finale)
I was back in Alabama. I hadn’t eaten, had a drink, or gone to the bathroom since Montana, two days ago. Every time I complained, Barry zapped me with a stun gun, and he enjoyed it.
I stopped complaining.
I stopped wondering. At first, I had wondered, ‘did Jenny make the dead drop? Did BossMan95 keep his end of the bargain? Was Teresa okay?’. Now, I was in survival mode. I only wondered if I was about to die.
Back at the end of that dirt road, Barry had zapped me until I told him where the SD card with the cyber weapon was. Honestly, I didn’t care. Jenny, hopefully, delivered the data leading to a COVID cure to Seattle. Hopefully Teresa was okay. Whatever happened to the Styx cyber weapon was irrelevant to me. Screw the CIA for even building it.
We hit Birmingham. I didn’t remember DeKeisha’s address and we didn’t have my phone so I couldn’t check my Uber history. So, we manually retraced my steps, starting with Uhaul. That allowed me to sit in the front seat next to Barry, instead of the trunk, where I’d spent most of the trip.
Finally, we pulled up out front of DeKeisha’s house. What would happen if the SD card was still in DeKeisha’s computer? Barry would kill me for sure, right?
One problem at a time.
I prayed DeKeisha wasn’t home. Maybe she was at work. It was the middle of the day. But, what day was it?
Barry got out the stun gun, pushed it to my chest and said, “Do you need a reminder that you work for me? We get the card, we get out. I don’t want to make a scene, but I will. If it happens quickly, no one gets hurt. I get the card and we’re gone. That’s it. Capice?”
I nodded. Barry pushed the stun gun under my chin and said, “I need to hear you say the word, ‘capice’.”
My throat was dry. I croaked, “Capice.” I absolutely did not want to be stunned again.
Barry pushed me toward the house. I caught a glimpse of my reflection in a window. Ugh, I looked like death, lukewarm. I could see the road rash from jumping from a moving vehicle. It had been three days since my last shower. It had been two days of being stun-gunned, starved and punched in the face by a bouncing jack as I rode in the trunk.
Barry shoved me up DeKeisha’s front steps. I rang the doorbell with my shoulder. I heard something inside.
DeKeisha was home. This was bad for her. I mean, for Barry it would be prudent that once he had the Cyber Weapon, he would want to clean up any loose ends.
DeKeisha and I were loose ends.
The door unlatched. It opened. DeKeisha.
Before she could say anything, Barry shoved past her. He went to the computer, bent over and looked in the SD card slot.
DeKeisha grabbed the baseball bat by the door. She smartly swung it up on her shoulder and sauntered over to Barry. She looked back at me and smiled. Because of the kind of guy I am, I almost warned Barry. It’s instinct. But, I didn’t.
DeKeisha lifted the bat up, nearly getting it caught in the ceiling fan, and brought it down hard.
Barry was out cold.
DeKeisha turned to me. I turned to run, but stopped. Because, out of the corner of my eye, I saw…
DeKeisha set down the bat. Jenny, and Teresa ran over to me and hugged me. I was so confused. I mean, Jenny and Teresa were here?
Then, Kevin appeared.
He said, “We have a lot of catching up to do.”
I looked from Jenny to Teresa, then to DeKeisha. They all nodded sympathetically, like I had Alzheimer’s and couldn’t remember anyone. Kevin hobbled over to a Lazy boy chair and sat down.
I asked, “What happened to you? I thought you were dead.”
Kevin said, “Well, Barry tried. But, it was dark. Barry pushed me off a cliff, but it wasn’t as high as it looked. I landed on a ledge about ten feet down.” Kevin pointed at a soft boot cast on his foot and said, “I had to climb back up and walk a mile on a sprained ankle.”
Teresa said, “A lot has changed in the last day and a half. Jenny, the cuffs?”
Jenny moved around behind me, and started shimming my cuffs. I started sobbing. Teresa hugged me. DeKeisha was crying.
When the cuffs were off, I hugged Teresa for the first time in weeks. She looked good. I expected a shell of a person, but she looked good.
DeKeisha brought me lemonade and I sat down.
Barry was lying on DeKeisha’s floor. He was unconscious with knots of clothesline around his ankles and wrists and a knot forming on his head. He was three hundred pounds of ‘too much to move,’ so we just stepped around him.
We sat in the living room. I chugged lemonade with lots of sugar. I ate the peach pie DeKeisha had made that morning.
Jenny said, “Barry is out cold. Everyone remember our plan for when he wakes up?”
Everyone nodded. My head was too full to ask what the plan was.
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I looked around. DeKeisha’s living room was small, and we packed it in. DeKeisha and Kevin sat in chairs. I sat on a sofa, with Teresa on one side, and Jenny on the other.
I felt fuzzy, like the room was spinning. DeKeisha said the lemonade and pie would help rehydrate me and give me energy. It wasn’t working yet.
Teresa said, “So, uh… Well… Jenny, I think you should tell him what happened since Montana.”
It had only been about two and a half days since Montana, but explaining it all was a two hour conversation.
First off, Teresas was fine. I’d spent months worried about her. I committed felonies, many, many felonies, for her. And, not only was she fine. She was never sick.
Teresa said, “Remember when I had central air installed earlier this year? BossMan95 sabotaged my air conditioner. With mercury.”
I shook my head and said, “Mercury is very poisonous.”
Teresa said, “Yes, but this was just a little bit. And, at those low levels, it makes you sick in a way that mimics COVID-19. It’s kind of brilliant, really.”
Jenny said, “It appears BossMan95 wanted to give you ‘incentive.’ Remember, it was after Teresa was sick that he reached out to you.”
I said, “No, he didn’t reach out to me at all. I posted on Dark World forums.”
Jenny said, “He was manipulating you. He must be someone who knows what you’d do. He knew how you’d react.”
I looked at Teresa. I said, “I thought you were going to die. It was horrible.”
Teresa said, “I thought I was going to die, too. It’s no excuse for you to act like this, though.”
I said, “Act like what?”
Teresa said, “Committing crimes. Come on, mom and I raised you better than that.”
I said, “I thought you were going to die!”
Jenny jumped in – “Guys, hey, Sean loves you, Teresa. Teresa, you love Sean. That’s what this is. Love.”
I turned to Jenny. I said, “And, you. I thought our meeting had been a coincidence. But no. You are working for BossMan95, too. You and Kevin, and Barry here. You were against me the whole time. Why should I trust your theories?”
I was looking at Jenny, but it was Kevin who spoke. “BossMan95 hired us for the same goal as you. The night you stole the SD Card, we were helping you.”
I said, “Helping me? Come on. You and Barry -“
Jenny said, “Kevin’s job was slowing Barry down.”
Kevin said, “Our objective was to help you to get the SD Card to BossMan95. Jenny was on a different team inside Gateway. We ran interference.”
I said, “That’s bullshit.”
Kevin said, “It’s not. We were duped into thinking the card you stole was important data on global warming that we believed would finally convince our government of the dire need for change.”
Teresa said, “Sean, this BossMan95 character used a different story for each of you, but all for the same goal. It was all bullshit.”
Jenny said, “He preyed on our hopes. I got confused in Colorado. I started to wonder what was really on that card.”
An uncomfortable silence followed.
Then, Kevin said, “I knew where you were because of Jenny. Yes, we are partners. I didn’t know who might go after you. The Axelrod teams we were on are full of bounty hunters. By what you did, it was easy to team up with Barry. Without my help, he would have found you a dozen times. Easily. He was tracking your location from your cell phone.”
I said, “No way. I disabled the GPS.”
Kevin shook his head sadly, like he had to daily suffer this explanation to fools. He said, “Every carrier tracks your location using their cell towers. There isn’t any GPS involved. Check your user agreement.”
Jenny said, “It’s true. Then, they sell that data to advertisers, so they can target ads to people based on their location. But, there are some middlemen who also purchase the raw data. And they sell it to bounty hunters.”
Kevin said, “Barry’s a security freak. He moonlights for Axelrod, but mostly, he’s a bounty hunter.”
I looked at Barry, unconscious on the floor.
I said, “But, it doesn’t make sense. If you thought it was data about global warming, why didn’t you say so when I talked about Teresa and COVID?”
Jenny said, “Like I said, I got confused about what was really going on. BossMan95 was gaslighting us. There is no COVID-19 data, no environmental data. That was the scam. We helped you steal a Cyber Weapon. That’s what it was. When you examined the files, it just looked like research data. Because, that’s what BossMan95 groomed you to expect. When you showed it to me, it looked the kind of research BossMan95 prepped me to expect.”
I said, “I had Styx the whole time?”
Jenny nodded. “Yup.”
I said, “And, you delivered it to BossMan95?”
Jenny nodded. She said, “Yup. We figured all this out after that, when we located Teresa and pieced it together.”
Teresa said, “Jenny had your phone after you left it on the airplane. I figured out your passcode, and we were able to see your Lyft and Uber history, as well as read all your DMs with BossMan95.”
I sat back, stunned. After a moment I said, “So, you all decided to save me by coming here?”
Jenny nodded. “Yes, we wanted to help you. And, there was one card, left here.”
I said, “If I had Styx all along, then what’s on the card I left here?”
Everyone looked at DeKeisha.
Teresa said, “So, after Jenny dead-dropped the Cyber Weapon, she tracked me down. She wondered if I was really sick. Kevin discovered the mercury poisoning, and we started putting two and two together.”
Kevin said, “Then, I used Barry’s trick on him, and tracked his phone. As soon as it was clear he was heading to Birmingham, we all flew down here to help you and warn DeKeisha.”
Jenny said, “We arrived yesterday. We found the address in your Uber history.”
DeKeisha was fidgeting. She could barely contain herself. She squeaked, “And, we are rich!”
I said, “What, who’s rich?”
Jenny said, “So, BossMan95 only wanted that one SD card. He didn’t care about the others you took. And, we examined the other four and the crap on those, right? So, what do you think could be on the last SD card, that could make us all rich?”
I said, “Another cyber weapon?”
DeKeisha said, “No. Bitcoin!”
Jenny said, “Lots of Bitcoin. Five thousand.”
I said, “Five thousand dollars isn’t much to get excited about.”
DeKeisha said, “Five thousand Bitcoin.”
I said, “Five thousand Bitcoin? Holy shit, that’s… that’s… how much is that?”
DeKeisha pulled out her phone and tapped the screen a few times. She said, “Right now, Bitcoin are worth just over ten thousand dollars each. So, that’s fifty million dollars.”
I said, “Fifty million?”
DeKeisha said, “Fifty million each, if you split it five ways.”
Kevin said, “Jenny let me know about the backpack in Denver. The Dark World forum guys doxxed those four porn card owners, and we asked for help with this card, too. The same guy rented Gateway storage for all of the five cards you stole, not counting the Cyber Weapon. He’s been arrested for the content of those other cards. We didn’t mention this card.”
Teresa said, “After all of this, and considering who the real owner of this Bitcoin is, we’ve decided to keep it. We have the wallets. Kevin cracked the passwords.”
Kevin shrugged but looked pleased with himself. He said, “It was the name of the guy’s Labradoodle. He had an entire social media account dedicated to her.”
Sometime later, when I was a little fuzzy from champagne, Barry stirred. Jenny said, “Okay, he’s waking up. Everyone, remember what to do!”
As Barry began to stir, Kevin said loudly, “So, we’re agreed then? After dark we roll Barry in a carpet, rent a boat at Guntersville Lake, dump him in?”
We all loudly agreed. Barry started to speak, but he was gagged. I leaned down and said, “What was that Barry, I can’t hear you?”
He struggled against the clothesline, but he was tied well.
It was soon dark. We rolled Barry in a carpet from DeKeisha’s son’s room. DeKeisha said, “This carpet is nasty anyway. Been in a teenager’s room for ten years. Time to redecorate. And hey, I got enough money to do it now!”
Teresa smiled and said, “Honey, you have enough money to move now.”
We put Barry in the trunk of his rental car, just like he’d done to me. It was small and he barely fit. He was so heavy, it took all five of us to lift him. He was also fighting gallantly. I mean, tied, gagged, rolled into a nasty old carpet and dropped into the trunk of a rental car rented in his name… From Barry’s perspective, was there more than one thing that we could be up to?
Kevin drove the rental car with Teresa as passenger. And Barry. I guess, technically, Barry was a passenger.
DeKeisha drove her minivan, with me and Jenny.
On the way, Jenny said, “That day in the hotel? I snapped a picture of your tattoo while checking out the injuries on your back. I did an image search on that Dark World Image Search tool, where you can upload an image and it will match it. In that way, I found one of Teresa’s old Instagram posts about this tattoo. She posted that she’d gotten it way back when, and how her brother had a matching one. Boom. I found her. Your story checked out. I started to wonder about the SD card. And, I back tracked down to her high school records, about your mom, and found your real name. Interesting yearbook picture, by the way. Then I started to get confused about that SD card and thought that maybe it really was COVID data.”
I said, “You’re a hacker, aren’t you?”
Jenny smiled and said, “Oh, yeah. My husband and I are a team.”
I said, “You’re married?”
She said, “Yeah, to Kevin.”
I said, “But, we, you and I…in… the shower.”
She said, “Yeah, sex is often an easy way to gain someone’s trust.”
I was shocked silent. After a moment, Jenny said, “What, it’s only okay when James Bond does it? Is that because he’s a man?”
The rest of the two hour drive was awkward. For me. Jenny seemed fine. I’m sure those were the longest two hours of Barry’s life. Finally we arrived, and we plopped Barry down at the edge of the lake, making sure to splash a little water on him.
Kevin limped to the opening at the top of the carpet. He reached in and tugged the gag off of Barry. Kevin said, “Hey Barry, so here’s the deal –.”
Barry screamed bloody murder.
Kevin stood back and let him scream. No one was nearby. We walked a little ways away and chatted about our plans for our money. We laughed. I hugged my sister a million times. We waited.
Finally, Barry had exhausted himself.
Kevin went over crouched down. He said, “Barry, I have a deal for you. We can either push you into that boat” – He motioned toward an imaginary boat. No way Barry could see anything because of the carpet. He continued, “We can push you into that boat, dump you in the water and go home…” Barry started to shout again.
While he did, we continued our discussion about how to obscure the Bitcoin so it wouldn’t be traceable to us when we cashed it in or spent it.
Kevin said, “There’s this thing I looked into this morning while waiting for you and Barry. It’s called Tumbling. You can also exchange it for other anonymous cryptocurrencies, and we can always run it through offshore accounts.”
DeKeisha said, “Like the Cayman Islands?”
Kevin said, “Caymen’s would be good, but until they recover the cyber weapon, it’s probably going to be tough for any of us to fly again.”
DeKeisha said, “My ex-brother-in-law runs a private charter. He does the trip several times a year.”
Kevin said, “Oh, that’s perfect.”
Teresa went back to her minivan to make a couple of calls.
About then Barry quieted down again. Kevin said, “Listen up, okay? I can motor out in that little boat and dump you in the middle of the lake. Or, I can give you one million dollars every year for the next twenty years.”
From the center of the roll of carpet, I heard Barry speak. His voice was dry and scratchy from all the yelling, but he said, “A million dollars?”
Ten minutes later, Barry was out of the carpet and sitting on the edge of the open trunk, drinking some of DeKeisha’s lemonade.
Kevin said, “Let me say it again, just so we are clear. Every year on Halloween, one million dollars in Bitcoin will drop into this account.”
Jenny handed Barry a piece of paper. She said, “Don’t lose it. It’s a Bitcoin paper wallet. We can’t get it back for you if you lose it.”
Barry turned it over in his hands. He said, “So, all I have to do is forget any of this ever happened?”
Kevin said, “Right. You take this to your grave. You won’t tell the FBI anything about us. You won’t try to get any more money, or blackmail us, or talk to us. No Christmas cards, nothing. You see me tied to train tracks and a train barreling toward me, whistle blowing, you just leave me be. Capice?”
Barry said, “When do I get my first million?”
Kevin said, “Barry, I need to hear you say the word ‘capice’.”
Barry croaked, “Fine. Capice. When do I get the first million?”
Jenny said, “The first two million, you mean. “
Barry’s eyes lit up approvingly.
Jenny continued, “The first payment, and a bonus, is already in there. And Barry, we’ve planted some evidence that implicates you in that child porn ring. You’ll never find it, you can’t stop it. If you cross us, a little Kill Switch of our own will detonate and that evidence will be sent all over the place. FBI, Twitter, New York Times. Get me?”
Barry gulped and nodded.
Then Kevin said, “Speaking of the FBI, there is one more condition. You leave this little package with your FBI contact.”
Barry said, “What’s in it?” I have to admit, I was curious, too.
Kevin said, “It’s a little bonus information. You’re gonna look like a hero.”
Kevin said, “A hero. It’s the information on BossMan95, the man who set all this in motion. Probably the most powerful single man in the world right now. Deliver this package. Get the FBI off of our back. It’s all the information on a man named, uh, Steven Matthews.”
Barry said, “Awesome!”
I said, “Wait a minute. Kevin, you doxxed BossMan95?”
Kevin said, “Yeah, sorry, I thought we mentioned it.”
I said, “BossMan95’s real name is Steven Matthews? Do you know who that is?”
Kevin said, “Should I?”
I said, “Yes. You two are hackers, right? Jenny said so. Stephen Matthews is the hacker named Sindictive.”
I spun around and said, “Teresa, do you still have my phone?” Teresa dug in her purse and pulled it out. I walked away, looking for a phone number I hadn’t called in months. The line rang, then picked up. From the other end, I heard a familiar voice. She said, “What do you want, Distinctive?”
I said, “Exclusivor, we need to talk.”
Written, Produced and Narrated by Hans Anderson
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