Chapter 5: Jill (Part 3)

The shrill ring of the alarm clock comes far too soon for Jill.  As one might expect, she was not a fan of the modern approach to trying to wake up naturally even with an alarm clock; rather Jill had one of the old-fashioned ones complete with analog bells on the top.  It was a particular point of pride for her - even if the power went out overnight she would be able to get up on time as usual.  Her relative few guests thought of it as a delightful anachronism.  That could be extended to Jill herself; she was entirely a sort of delightful anachronism.  Where most people merely had books stored on a computer or tablet around the house, Jill still had entire bookcases full of books the way intellectuals had done for centuries.  Technology had become an inextricable part of everyday life for most people, but Jill only used it when she had to.  The fundamentals she had learned in the academy all those decades ago still worked.  She could still solve cases and bring people to justice without knowing how to hack into anything.  Had Mikhail said it was a coffee maker that he found the compromised files?  Never more than this morning did Jill feel vindicated in her choice of hunting down one of the few old single function coffee makers that was still being made.  Fresh beans from the grocery store, hot water, and a cup to put the results in.  That was all she needed this morning to get going.  No chance someone would try to hack it and have her end up on the wrong end of an investigation.  Sure, it was not very consistent in its brews, but that was again part of the charm.  Indeed, it was a smaller price to pay than having to fuss with the “latest and greatest” models that companies kept churning out year after year.  Jill had been delighted to discover, on moving to the Seattle area, that she was not alone in her coffee preference!  As it turned out, “analog coffee” was a new trend among the hipsters and urbanites of the Seattle metro, a fact that Jill found oddly humorous.  What was next, people would start driving for themselves again?

Driving was the one area that Jill left up to the computers in her life.  It was not out of trusting the machine, but rather the fact that her deceased husband had been killed by a drunk driver while he was out on duty as a Washington State Trooper working the I-5 corridor.  It was his death, in fact, that had really catalyzed Washington’s electorate in favor of adopting the proposed national standard for self-driving cars that was now the de facto law of the land.  The stretch south of Tacoma was named after his memory, and  it was one of the few times Jill overrode her car’s inclination to travel that way.  There were alternate routes that were not as mentally painful, though in the five years since his death she had gotten a bit better about the whole situation.  In addition, she knew first hand how the network eased traffic - what had taken her nearly an hour to drive at certain times of the day five years prior now barely took one quarter of that time on autopilot.  Like all law enforcement agents, she knew how to drive manually, but in almost all cases just preferred to sit back and let the car do the work.

And so it was that Jill arrived at the Seattle Field Office, right on time as always.  To her fellow agents, she moved with a precision that effectively disguised her disdain for modern technology.  Most agents who worked with her figured it out sooner or later, but it was far from apparent.  She groans as she lowers herself into her office chair, and it was not just because of her aging joints.  At some point overnight, her case had attracted all of the sorts of attention she had hoped it wouldn’t.  It had, apparently, been the lead item on all of the morning talk shows, and with that came interest in the case.  Interest that she ordinarily would not want; Jill was much more the type of agent to work tirelessly but quietly in the background, doing her job with little fanfare.  And yet, the more Jill thought about the case, the more she wanted to focus in on it.  Maybe it was because it was so out of the ordinary, or perhaps it was because her town had featured nationally in a bad light.  She did have a fair amount of civic pride.  Either way, it turned out that she was going to be dedicated to this particular case until it was solved.  And it would be solved.  Jill did not have the reputation of a hound for nothing.  Besides, there was just too much evidence at the crime scene.  With the magic her lab could do, Jill was almost surprised that she didn’t have a dossier waiting for her that morning.

She maps out the various points of interest that she had cataloged in her mind the previous night.  There was the Megasys angle, of course, and there was the murder mere blocks away from her home.  The USB drive was also interesting.  What could possibly be on it that would be worth killing over?  If there was something valuable on it, Jill did not entirely know what it could be - after all, her victim, Hanh, was just a kid.  Maybe his dad was a high level Megasys executive?  The home did not look like she might imagine such a person owning, but it would not be completely outside the realm of possibility - it was Clyde Hill, after all.  Mikhail had told her that the hack had happened overnight.  What was the kid doing then?  Was he in school yesterday?  And what of the connection to the Bureau?  State police would be more equipped to handle a routine murder investigation if there was such a thing.  Yet she had the signed order from the judge transferring it to the feds.

The answer to that question was quick to come.  “Morning Jill!  How’s the Megasys case going?”  A very chipper head pops up over the cubicle wall.  Jill rolls her eyes.

“Hello, Lily.”  Jill mutters.  “The Megasys case?”  She plays dumb.

“Oh yeah!  Everyone knows it, chica! The dead hacker case!  You finally got that lead agent gig!”

“Now Lily,” she sighs, “we don’t know yet that he was the hacker.  It could very easily be a coincidence.  For all we know there could be no link whatsoever - maybe the kid just found the drive or something.”  Jill shrugs.  That explanation made about as much sense as any of them.

“But the hash though!  That match is less of a coincidence than lightning striking during game seven of a Mariners World Series!”  Lily had been a surprisingly vocal baseball fan since Jill had met her.  The surprising part was not the fact that Lily Berumen was particularly vocal.

“Okay, let’s say that the dead kid is the hacker.  What then, and why him?  Why kill a kid over a ten dollar USB stick?”

“Chica, you need to get out more!  Go to the school, find out about him!  You’re good at this stuff!”

_You need to get out more!_  Funny words coming from a forensic analyst who rarely saw any field that did not have a baseball diamond.  Lily did have a point, though.  Jill would not get many more answers to her questions from her cubicle.  Mentally, she puts aside the Megasys angle for a bit.  It would do her no good to discount any potential angle until it was ruled out, true.  And yet, she might as well start with what she knows.

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About Charles Herrera
John Doe's true identity is unknown. Maybe he is a successful blogger or writer. Nobody knows it.