/Whois - Chapter 17 - The Cyber Stalker
No longer trusting my husband to respect my privacy, I downloaded all of my emails onto a disc which I then secured by tossing into the top drawer of my desk. Yup...real good security there. I cleaned out my e-mail, deleting everything and started the practice of deleting every one of them after I'd read them. I destroyed every printed document in that stack of papers that Jerry read by burning them in the grill outside. Just to be safe, I changed all of my passwords...but never went so far as to lock Jerry completely out of my computer. It wasn't that I wanted to keep him from using the machine...I just didn't want him reading the things that I considered personal.
One morning, while I was working, Jerry called me...he sounded shaken.
"Jerry? What's wrong?" I asked with concern.
"I just got a strange phone call."
"Well...the person said...I wrote it down...wait a second, let me get it.."
"Okay...here it is. He said, she's MINE! You think you can keep us apart, but you can't. She's not yours...she'll never be yours. Ha...ha..ha...that's where he laughed..just ask her, she'll tell you...you dumb fuck...she's MINE!"
"Laurie? Are you still there?"
"Yes Jerry...this...man...what did he sound like?"
"I don't know....English? Australian maybe?"
My hand clenching the phone was white and I was surprised to discover I was shaking...
"He called you at work?"
"No...no...at home. Right after you left as a matter of fact."
It didn't make sense. Otter would never do something like that. It couldn't be Otter...sure he'd been acting strange lately...and he'd used some of those words...but no. It couldn't be Otter.
My mind simply rebelled against the possibility. Not my Otter...he would never intentionally do me harm and even if he disliked Jerry intensely and thought him a fool...he wouldn't try to destroy my marriage this way.
"I have no idea who it could have been. Perhaps somebody is playing a mean joke."
"How can you be sure it wasn't Otter?" Jerry asked with contempt.
"I know Otter...trust me...he wouldn't do that."
The rest of the day was a total write-off. I couldn't concentrate on anything but this strange phone call. And despite all of my protestations, I did wonder if Otter had reached a point where obsession had over-ruled common sense and decency. Had he made that phone call? Who else but Otter and I were privy to that particular discussion?
I wasn't a total idiot. From experience I realized that chat conversations could be eavesdropped upon with the proper tools or if the program didn't have very good security. It had happened once before when Otter had inexplicably lost the ability to access mIRC and we had to resort to what was known as web-based chatting.
It was horrible. Otter would type something and then I'd reply and hit refresh over and over again repeatedly until Otter's new message would suddenly appear. I hated it...but it was better than nothing. Eventually we found a program that was a compromise between IRC and web-based chat...still rather clumsy...but the screen automatically refreshed itself every few seconds.
We referred to our little place as "That Crappy No-tell Motel off Highway Whatever." The neon light flashed no vacancy through the curtains and the room was decorated in a nauseating shade of avocado green and burnt orange. It was while we were engaged in that "other stuff" that the IRC gods made their presence known...
EyeOnU: Snobird...Otter...we can see everything that you are doing.
I was mortified. My face flushed red and I sat in my chair feeling an overwhelming mixture of embarrassment and shame. Somebody had SEEN us!
Otter: Is that you God?
It never failed to surprise me how audacious Otter could be at times.
EyeOnU: No Otter. I'm not god...I just wanted to warn the two of you that this server is not secure and therefore anything you do in here is viewable by others. It is not private. We've seen everything that you've been doing in there for quite some time...
Not wanting to appear like a fraidy cat...
*Snobird curtseys graciously*
Otter: Well okay then...we've been warned. You can shoo now. Shoo...shoo! But if you must watch...do so quietly, okay? We're really quite busy at the moment...
The idea that somebody was watching us was unnerving though. My conversation grew stilted and Otter could just forget about any of that "other stuff." I may be a lot of things...but exhibitionism just wasn't in my repertoire. Fortunately, Otter was able to get his mIRC program to work again and web-based chatting was no longer necessary.
As I contemplated the mysterious phone call, I could only draw one conclusion...if it wasn't Otter, somebody had been watching us and we hadn't realized it. But who?
Otter: I swear Sno...it wasn't me!
Snobird: I believe you Otter...I do. All I'm saying is whoever called wanted it to look like it was you. So if it wasn't you...no, since it wasn't you...
Otter: It wasn't me sno.
Snobird: Of course it wasn't you. I'm just saying if...since...it wasn't, then it's somebody that has it in for you...and me. Any idea?
Snobird: Hmm...I don't think so. I never gave him my phone number...but that doesn't mean he couldn't have gotten it. He just hasn't been an issue since I beat him at his own game...
Otter: What about that Brit...the one that's been sniffing around you lately? I don't like him, Sno...what's his name...Corfu?
Otter: Yeah...that one.
Snobird: Nah...I don't think so. He's too in love with himself.
Snobird: Otter...what about ArchRival?
Otter: Hmmm...mebbe. Have you been doing something with him?
*Snobird makes a face*
Snobird: No...no...but he's a hacker and well...sometimes he has really stupid ideas about what is fun...and I know he doesn't approve of us. For a hacker...he can be a real prig.
By the end of the night, we were no closer to a solution than before. However, I was convinced that it wasn't Otter. Pretty much...
The next day, shortly after I'd left for work Jerry received another phone call. The message was more or less the same. When my husband called me at work to give me the news, it didn't disturb me as much as the previous day.
"Jerry, Otter and I think it's a hacker...most probably...a cyber stalker."
He laughed derisively at me.
"I still think it's Otter."
"Well, you don't know Otter the way that I do...so of course you would. But trust me on this. It isn't him."
"So what do we do?"
"I guess we change the number...get an unlisted one or something."
That same day, Jerry called the phone company and changed it. Of course I gave the new number to Otter, but since I didn't want Jerry having a fit about that...I kept this information to myself.
The phone calls stopped.
For a few weeks, everything went back to normal...or at least the normal I'd grown accustomed to. Then without warning, the mysterious cyber-stalker struck again.
"Laurie...I just got home and I can't boot up the computers. They're crashed. Completely."
I leaned my elbows on my desk, closed my eyes and rubbed my temples. Great. No computers meant no Otter...and this was totally unacceptable. I'd only been without my computer once before and I still remembered the feeling of withdrawals...it wasn't something I wanted to repeat.
"Just leave them. When I get home I'll take a look at them and see if I can fix it."
"I don't know...it seems pretty hopeless."
"I'll fix it."
I'm not saying that I was some sort of computer geek guru. There were files in that computer that I definitely did not want to mess with. All that gibberish was rather intimidating. However, I had picked up a few tricks here and there during my time in cyberspace...it wasn't all just fun and games. Occasionally there were discussions regarding a computer problem that somebody was having and suggestions on how to fix it. I'd paid attention. Then again, if worse came to worse...I'd call my brother who REALLY was a computer geek guru.
I stared morosely at the blue screen. Not good. I restarted the computer and accessed the boot file. It didn't look quite right. I'd been warned by my brother on a previous visit that I NEVER wanted to touch this file...NEVER...or only in extreme circumstances. Line by line I reviewed the boot sequence trying to remember what I'd seen. Something was missing. I picked up the phone and called my brother...
"Hi Mike...I have a computer problem here...have a sec?"
Quickly I relayed what I was looking at...and how I was pretty sure that something was missing. My suspicions were confirmed by Mike and in a bored, superior tone he filled in the blank.
"How on earth did you manage to corrupt your boot file?" Mike asked, the disapproval in his tone quite evident. "Didn't I tell you to stay out of it?"
"I swear, Mike...I didn't touch it. Can I ask you a question?"
"Is it possible to access the boot file remotely? You know...from another computer?"
"Yeah...it's possible...but why would anyone want to do that?"
Since I was pretty much wondering the same thing, I couldn't answer that for him. Jerry walked in as I thanked Mike and hung up the phone.
"It's fixed," I said with a self-satisfied grin.
"Wow...already," he said somewhat surprised, "I didn't realize you were so computer smart."
"I know quite a bit, but I can't take complete credit. There isn't a computer problem that my brother can't solve."
"Oh...by the way..." I added, "I'm pretty sure this was the work of our cyber-stalker. Mike confirmed my suspicion that what happened could be done remotely. I'm starting to get pissed off."
"NOW do you believe me?" Jerry exclaimed.
Puzzled, I looked at him.
"It's Otter...who else would do such a thing?"
I snorted in derision. Otter? Although he was an engineer, when it came to computers he was a technological idiot. I had to laugh, remembering the times I had tried to help him sort out a problem. Although I'd already dismissed Otter as a suspect in the phone calls, it was easier to believe he was capable of that than the technical knowledge it would require to pull off a stunt like this.
There was only one person I could think of that had this ability...and he'd been in my computer before.
ArchRival: I swear Sno...I'm not doing anything to your computer.
Snobird: Hmph...why don't I believe you?
ArchRival: YOU were the one that made me remove my worm...remember? And I did...just like you asked.
Snobird: You removed all of it right? That doesn't sound like you Arch...you must have left what...a back door...just in case?
Snobird: Look..it wasn't funny. Messing with the computers pissed off Seagrams too. You've caused a lot of problems here...so just cut it out okay?
ArchRival: Sno...it wasn't me...I swear it.
As annoyed as I was with Arch, I believed him when he told me that he hadn't been the one to blue screen the computers. Why? Well, like any terrorist...he was only too happy to take credit for some brilliant scheme.
Snobird: How GOOD are you...really?
ArchRival: Sno...I'm really good...really.
Sure, it was a hare-brained idea...and I really didn't know how much of ArchRival's claims were smoke and mirrors...or even if I trusted him enough, but I wasn't about to allow some cyber terrorist to run amok in my life.
Snobird: If somebody had remotely accessed by system...would there be traces left behind?
ArchRival: If they're good...no. If they're not so good...mebbe.
Snobird: Can you hack phone records?
As quickly as I could, I told Arch what I had in mind. With mind boggling ease, he slid into my computer and before my eyes files and programs opened and closed. Sometimes he would pause, add a command or delete one before moving on. My mind struggled to keep up with his madcap pace. Occasionally he would ask a question...tease me about something he found...I'd grit my teeth and remind myself that this intrusion was necessary.
ArchRival: Done. By the way...your computer security sucks.
Snobird: Did you find anything that stuck out...anything that seemed odd?
ArchRival: Hmmm...no, not really. If you are being stalked...and I'm not saying you are mind...this person is VERY good.
Snobird: I guess that rules out Otter.
ArchRival: Otter??!! You are shitting me right? He may be funny...but he's really stupid...couldn't find his way out of a paper bag...dumber than a door knob...
Snobird: I get the picture Arch...
ArchRival: What would make you think Otter could do something like this?
Snobird: Not me...Seagrams.
ArchRival: No offense sno...but your hubby ain't that bright either.
Snobird: Okay, okay...what about the other thing?
ArchRival: I'll call you.
Snobird: No, no..you don't have to call me. I'll just wait here.
ArchRival: It'll take some time...could be hours. I'll call you.
The phone finally rang at about 3 a.m. Fortunately, I managed to answer it before the noise woke Jerry up.
"Hello?" I mumbled. "Hello?"
The line was a mess of static and strange noises...but somewhere in that confusion I thought I heard a faint voice saying, "Sno...are you there?" in an Australian accent.
"Yeah...it's me. How do I sound?"
"Awful...do you want to try calling again...I can barely hear you. We seem to have a really bad connection."
"No...if I call back it will still sound the same. I'm using satellites...it's a lot of fun...I just have to keep bouncing around a bit, but otherwise...hey...it's free!"
"Wonderful, Arch...good for you," I said rubbing my eyes and pacing the kitchen. "Did you find anything?"
"Well...here's the thing, sno...I found the dates and I'm pretty sure I accounted for the time difference...but...oh hang on for second...I have to switch satellites..."
I waited as patiently as I could through the white noise of space...
"Okay...so here's the thing...I didn't find anything."
Damn...I was so disappointed. How cool would it have been to have uncovered the person behind those phone calls and then given him a dose of his own medicine.
"I'm still here...damn...I was hoping you'd be able to find something...anything..."
"The only thing I see are two outgoing calls...a bit later than the times you gave me...to this number..."
He quickly read off the number to my office.
"Is that your work number? Can I call you there sometime?"
"No...Arch...you cannot call me at work sometime."
"Geesh sno...you aren't a lot of fun."
"Arch...thanks, really...I mean it."
"Oh...before I go sno, I put a little something into your computer. If this creep attacks again, he's not getting away without leaving some sort of evidence. Understand?"
"Thanks Arch...you are a gem."
Laughing again I answered, "No Arch...I don't want to cyber you."
"Well...it was worth a try...see ya sno."
Thoughtfully, I hung up the phone. With Otter ruled out...and my best suspect, ArchRival ruled out...I began to wonder if there was a real possibility that some freak had just picked me out randomly. Anyway, I was just too damned tired to try and figure it all out at the moment. There was nothing I could do but depend on ArchRival and hope that his little computer trap would spring.