This is the serialization of my first mystery novel, Null_Pointer. It will be released on this blog every work day until it is complete. You may purchase the novel at Amazon, Kindle Store, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords or order it from any brick and mortar bookstore near you. Thank you for reading it and I hope you enjoy this free look at the book.
You can find all the chapters of this book by searching for the Null_Pointer Novel tag.
“Beware of Geeks bearing food,” Joshua quipped as Trish let him in and took some bags from him. Joshua had shown up at Dancia and Trish’s apartment with his arms full of Chinese take out boxes. Trish answered the door wearing a T-shirt and flannel pants, her face was all made up like she was getting ready for a date. Her blond hair was pulled back in a ponytail. She was naturally pretty with blue eyes and a slender build. Tripp had the hots for her but she was not Joshua’s type. He preferred women who could hold an interesting conversation for longer than ten minutes without getting bored. Trish was cute and nice but not for him.
“Hello Joshua. Is this for us?”
He nodded as he looked around the small apartment.
“Is she up yet?”
“Of course not,” Trish said, as she brought the food to the small round kitchen table.
“More for you and me then.”
“Actually, I have a date tonight but thanks for thinking of me. You’re so sweet,” she said as she kissed him on the cheek. She glided past him and down the hall to rap on Dancia’s bedroom door.
“Juliet, Romeo brought you some breakfast,” Trish teased.
There were no signs of life from Dancia’s room so she came back to the kitchen. “She’ll be out when she smells the food. Gosh it’s making me hungry.”
“So who’s the lucky guy tonight?” Joshua asked as he opened some boxes and started separating the wooden chopsticks.
“Someone I met at the restaurant. Gary Summers, he’s a lawyer I think,” she said as if she thought that were a good thing. Joshua nodded and dug into the fried rice.
“What are you two up to tonight?” she said her tone suggestive as she wiped a loose strand of hair from her eyes.
Joshua finished chewing and swallowed. “Oh you know, writing some code, surfing the net, plotting world domination, the usual.”
Trish laughed. “You two are pathetic. You should go to a movie or out dancing.”
“We’re just friends Trish, besides geeks don’t dance.”
She smiled. “Right. You’ve never seen Dancia cut loose to Techno music have you?”
Joshua stopped chewing and stared at Trish as he tried to imagine that. “No, I can’t even picture that.”
“She’s pretty hot. You should see her dance some time.” Trish glanced at the wall clock and stood up. “I have to get dressed Gary will be here soon. Excuse me.” She headed for her room and closed the door.
Joshua helped himself to the Sweet and Sour Pork and looked around. Their apartment was clean and modestly appointed. It was smartly decorated in the way that only women could accomplish. It was definitely not a bachelor’s pad. He knew that Trish was responsible for most of it because Dancia could care less about decorating. Her room was always messy and decorated with things like framed car ads from the 1950’s and Jazz posters from the Boise Jazz Festival. Dancia was the Oscar and Trish the Felix of this odd paring.
Dancia’s door opened and she came shuffling out down the hall wearing a sleep-shirt. She squinted in the kitchen light. “What are you doing here?” she asked as she moved to the couch and curled up in a ball. The smell of the pork and rice was permeating the small apartment and making her stomach growl. Her black hair was frumpy from sleep.
“I found out some interesting things today and you need to know about them.”
She opened her dark eyes. “What things?”
Joshua got up and looked down the hallway. He could hear Trish’s stereo playing music so he moved across the room to sit beside Dancia on the long couch. His voice was low just in case Trish overheard them.
“Glenn was actually Themis and he was murdered by the same guy who got Zemo.”
“Glenn was Themis?”
She sat up, her white sleep-shirt tight against her chest. She wiped the sand out of one eye. “Really?”
“I found a message in his code at work. It was just like what they found in Zemo’s code.”
“Holy shit, we could be next!” she said, her eyes wide-awake.
Joshua nodded solemnly. They stared at each other for a moment each one realizing that they may be getting in over their heads.
“Damn. Have you gone to the police yet?” Dancia finally asked.
“No. I don’t want to until I have a better idea who it was that killed him.”
She pulled her legs up under her oversized white shirt and held her cold toes in her hands. “Good, the police would be clueless.”
Joshua nodded in agreement with her.
“That’s not all,” he said.
“I spoke with Psycho at lunch. He showed me how to tell if Glenn’s PC had been hacked. Turns out it was. He was streaming MP3’s through a secure shell connection to his home PC. It appears that the bad guy hacked his home box and came in through the open port.”
“Sneaky,” she said her eyes shinning.
Joshua took another bite of pork. “That’s all I’ve got so far.”
She got up and walked to the table adjusting her panties as she walked. Joshua pointed to the food on the table with his chopsticks. “I got you Char siu and some white rice.”
“Thanks. You want something to drink?”
“What do you have?”
“Looks like Coke or water I’m afraid.”
“Better make it Coke we could be in for a late night,” Joshua said. He came back to the table for more fried rice.
Dancia brought him a cold can of Coke in a coozy and picked up her bucket of barbecue pork. They re-convened back on the couch.
“Did you find anything useful on Glenn’s work PC?”
Joshua shook his head. “No, it was just the conduit. There were a few mIRC logs and some trivial programs that he added to his system, nothing directly responsible for anything.”
“We can start going over his logs and try to find out who he was dealing with. Be better if we could get his home PC.”
Joshua chewed on his meal and thought for a moment. “I wonder if we could sneak into his house and capture an image of his hard drive.”
Dancia stopped chewing and looked at him. “Ah, that’s breaking and entering. A crime last time I checked.”
“Glenn was not big on security. It’s possible he left a back door open or something.”
Dancia continued eating. “Do you know where he lived?”
Joshua shook his head. “Somewhere on the East side I think. We can just google his name and get that.”
Dancia nodded as she ate. There were an alarming number of things you could find out about someone by simply putting their full name into a search engine. Even without paying for a service if you knew what you were doing you could access hundreds of public documents, all of which held valuable information about whomever you were searching for.
Trish came out of her room dressed to the nines for her date. She did a fashion model twirl in front of Dancia and Joshua. “Well, how do I look my peeps?”
Joshua did a geeky imitation of a catcall whistle. Dancia eyeballed her roommate from head to toe in a very precise, critical manner that only another woman could provide. “Those shoes don’t work with that dress. Get your black boots.”
Trish looked down at her feet and frowned. “I broke the heel on them last week. This is all I have that even half matches.”
Dancia waved it off. “Never mind you look fine then.”
Joshua nodded in agreement. “I think you look great Trish. Gary will love it. When will he be here?”
“Any minute. Damn that Chinese food smells good.” She walked over to the table and checked out what they were eating.
“We have reservations at the Game Keeper.”
Dancia and Joshua exchanged looks. The Game Keeper was an upscale restaurant downtown.
“Must be a law partner,” Dancia said.
“Yeah pretty impressive catch.”
Trish turned around and came over in front of the couch. “He’s a bit older than I usually date but Gary has style, you know?”
“And lots of mullah,” Dancia grinned.
Trish shrugged with a sly smile. “You can’t blame a girl for trying.”
Trish glided over to answer the ringing doorbell. Gary was a short, dignified man who looked to be in his late forties. His dark hair was thinning and he wore a slick mustache. Dancia didn’t care for him right off the bat but she pretended to be impressed. Trish grabbed her purse at the door and went outside with a quick look over her shoulder. Joshua gave her thumbs up and Dancia was locked in a forced smile of approval.
As soon as the door shut, Dancia wiped the smile off her face. “She’s crazy. That guy’s a slime ball.” Joshua nodded in agreement. She got up and moved to the front window to peek out at them. She watched Gary help Trish into his Cadillac CTS and then he walked around the back of it to get in himself. He moved with a swaying motion that reminded her of a mobster from Brooklyn. As they drove away she turned around and headed for her bedroom. “I’m getting a shower. You can use my computer to look up his address then we can take a drive out to see his house.”
Joshua followed her down the hall to the master bedroom. Dancia was a night shift worker and her bedroom was modified to accommodate her lifestyle. There were cardboard baffles around her door on the inside to keep out daylight. Her window was covered with cardboard boxes and duct tape. She had curtains covering the window but they were as plain as the rest of her decor. The first thing Joshua noticed was the pile of clothes all over her floor. Dancia was a slob and she made no effort to hide it or apologize for it, especially in her own room.
She had a dresser and the several drawers that were open contained presumably clean clothes. But no real effort had been made to fold them and they fell out onto the floor like overflowing water from a glass. Her bed had a white down comforter on it and a sheet wrapped up underneath it. Several fluffy pillows were strewn about near the head of the bed. She liked candles and there were several still burning as they entered the room. I wonder if the scented candles are masking other funk, Joshua thought.
He smiled to himself as he waded over to her computer/makeup desk. She had a new Mac Pro complete with a wireless Mac mouse and keyboard. Some slender Mac style speakers surrounded her 24-inch cinema flat panel monitor. It was on so all he had to do was switch to his own login.
Dancia grabbed some underwear from her dresser and headed into the bathroom. He could hear the water running as if she had not closed the door. He started to think about what that meant when he caught himself and focused on his task at hand. He brought up a browser and searched for, “Glenn Becker + Boise + Idaho”. After a few false starts he quickly found his former co-worker’s address. He was right. Glenn had lived on the East side near the Simplot Sports Complex.
He looked around the desk for a printer and didn’t find one. So he searched for a scrap of paper and a pen. There were some bills laid out on the desk but no loose paper. He pushed his fingers around under the makeup cases and found a pen. She had some colored sticky notes tacked to her monitor – reminders of when to pay bills and few phone numbers that he didn’t recognize. There were no drawers in the desk unit so he dug in her wastebasket for an old envelope. He scribbled the address, folded the envelope and stuck it in his pocket.
While he was waiting for Dancia to finish her shower he scanned the latest posts to Slashdot and Digg, two technology related discussion sites, to see if anyone had learned anything else about Zemo’s killer. There were some interesting posts but nothing related to Zemo or Glenn. He was reading an article on out-sourcing IT workers from the local newspaper when she came out of the bathroom. She had a towel tucked under her arms as she fumbled around the darkened room, looking for an outfit.
“I found his address, do you want me to wait outside?” Joshua asked.
“No, you’re fine. I just have to find a bra. Oh, the laundry room,” she said turning down the hall.
Joshua was a little uncomfortable with being in her room while she was trying to get dressed. It was every boy’s dream to be in the same bedroom as a girl who was getting dressed but he somehow never really thought of Dancia in that way, at least not until recently. She was like his best friend and they pretty much did everything a couple would do in front of each other, within reason. He went back to reading the article and noticed it quoted a few local programmers.
Randy Fickler, one of the programmers he knew from RegTech, was upset about how much work was going offshore. This was odd because Joshua had always thought of Randy as being a cool and collected kind of guy, not prone to discussing his opinions about anything unless directly asked by someone. The other programmer was unnamed and spouted the same line as Randy.
Dancia came back wearing a black, long sleeve sweater. She found some blue jeans on the floor and slipped into them on her bed. Then she went back into the bathroom to blow dry her hair.
When she came out of the bathroom again her face was softer and her hair fuller. She sat on the bed facing the computer desk and pulled on some black boots.
“So, you driving?”