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.
Joshua was sitting at a red light on Chinden in Garden City when he remembered the tape he had made of last night’s radio chat. He looked down at his backpack and opened a side pocket, making sure it was still there. Dancia would be getting up soon. He decided to go to her place and let her translate it for him.
When he pulled up to her apartment and parked it was just after six. Trish would not be home yet but Dancia’s KG was in the street. He rang the doorbell. Nothing happened. He pushed it again. Then he remembered that Dancia had disconnected it so she could sleep through the day.
He took out his cell phone and dialed her number. He heard her ring tone go off and looked around. It was coming from her car. He walked over to the Karman Ghia and looked in the passenger window. There was her cell, sitting on the passenger seat singing away.
There was no real way to get to her as they didn’t have a landline. So he got back in his car and headed home. He decided he would just send her the MP3 file and she would get it when she logged on a bit later.
Joshua was hungry when he got home so he rummaged through his refrigerator until he settled on an egg sandwich. He had turned on the old radio first thing when he got home; it was warming up on the table behind him. As he waited for his eggs to cook, he put some bread in the toaster. About the time the eggs were done, the toast popped up. He squirted some ketchup on the toast and placed the egg patty between the pieces of toast.
Sitting down at the kitchen table, he opened up the laptop and started downloading the audio file from his recorder to the laptop. Then he compressed the file and emailed it to Dancia.
As he ate the egg sandwich he opened up IRC and found little to no activity. He took the sandwich and went into the living room to watch the evening news. Nix was sitting in his usual place feigning cat sleep. Joshua had fed the old cat before he started to fix his own dinner but the animal refused to make the effort to get off the couch and go eat. In his old age he only moved when he absolutely had to and then only when hunger or other urges could wait no longer.
Joshua used the remote control to go to the local news. The anchorwoman was reading from the prompter and conveying a maternal and wholesome demeanor as she read about a bribery scam. Joshua didn’t normally watch local news, but when he did he usually watched the station where Tripp worked. Tripp didn’t produce the nightly news only the morning news program. The weatherman came on and hinted at a big winter storm coming. As usual, no details until after the station break.
The egg sandwich did not fill him up. During the commercial break he headed back into the kitchen to get a beer and some potato chips. He checked the IRC window and saw that there was some chatting, so he picked up the laptop and took it with him back to the couch.
In the IRC chat room a new kid was trying to get the group to accept him and he was only succeeding in pissing everyone off. It was not pretty. Eventually the moderator booted the kid off. No one complained.
Joshua returned his attention to the TV and decided to change the channel. He punched in the number for a world news channel and watched that for a while. His cell phone rang.
“It’s me, I have a translation for you,” Dancia said.
“What’d they talk about?”
There was a sigh at the other end of the phone. “Mostly poetry stuff, they talked on and on about their radios and band conditions. I tuned that crap out.”
“Did they mention anything at all about music or hypnotizing people?”
“Nope. The band conditions deteriorated towards the end. I think they were talking about baseball or something about three strikes or the third strike or out three. I don’t know it was pretty garbled.”
Joshua remembered that band conditions were bad; he guessed that was why they signed off that night.
“I think I know how Muse got them hypnotized. He was using some kind of binaural beat music to put them into a trance. Both victims were wearing headphones so it’s a possibility.
Dancia breathed heavily into the receiver for a moment.
“So maybe Muse is not a Flash programmer.”
“I don’t know. But I’m pretty sure he’s using hypnosis and a person’s fear or phobias against them. Making them think they are going to die.”
Dancia yawned on her side, causing Joshua to yawn.
“Sorry, I just woke up. Look, I have to get some food and wake up. Trish wants her phone back, I have no clue where my phone went off to.”
“It’s in your car, I stopped by earlier and tried to call you. I could hear it ringing in your car.”
Dancia laughed. “What a klutz I am. It’s in my car Trish! Yeah, Joshua said he rang me from the front door and he heard it going off in my car.”
Joshua listened for a while as Dancia and Trish chatted.
“Hey, I’ll let you two go. Talk to you later.”
“Ok Joshua, bye.”
He closed his phone and put it back in his front pocket. A crackle of static and someone’s voice started talking on the radio in the kitchen. Joshua turned off the TV and went into the kitchen to listen.
“CQ, CQ, CQ. VE2SHM, Victor, Echo, Two, Sierra, Hotel, Mike. CQ, CQ, CQ. This is, Whiskey Five Zulu Papa Golf Charlie.”
It was Muse calling Shemp. Joshua scrambled to restart his digital recorder. He managed to get it cued and recording by the time Shemp responded.
“Go head W5ZPGC, this is VE2SHM.”
“Well, the conditions seem to be better this evening anyway. How’s the weather up North?”
There was a pop in static and then Shemp responded. “Not too bad, clear and cold. But the weather dude on TV says we are expecting a big winter storm coming out of the West in the next few days. Is that going to hit you at all? Over.”
Their voices sounded like heavy Cylons from the original Battlestar Galactica TV series. Joshua reminded himself that they were probably running voice-altering software filters to further mask their identities. He found it odd that they had not switched to French yet.
“I think we are expecting some snow at the higher elevations. We usually get a few flurries around here, but nothing lasts more than a few days. Good for the local ski lodges though. Over.”
They went on like that, talking about nothing in particular. Joshua started to get bored. He was hoping one of them would let something interesting slip out. But they kept up the idle prattle for a good hour. The band was holding and their signals were both coming in pretty clear. Muse was talking about living in Florida as a kid.
“We used to skim over the marsh in those things like bats out of hell. Those were the good old days. One time we saw them launch a rocket from out on the swamp. It was far out, man. It lit up the whole damn area right at sunset.”
Joshua sat up. Far out? Who the hell says that any more? Then it hit him. Taggert said that just today. Joshua’s heart started to race and he broke out in a sudden sweat. Lawrence Taggert was Muse! He had to be! Didn’t he say something about coming to Boise with Joshua’s father from Florida? Joshua knew that his parents had grown up in Florida and that his dad had worked for NASA there. “Holy shit, Muse knows me!”
Suddenly Joshua was too scared to even move. He stared at the twin dials of the radio and tried to think what Glenn had done to possibly offend Taggert. The two men continued to talk on the radio, but Joshua’s mind was racing. Does Taggert know that I’m on to him? How could he? He never mentioned anything to anyone about what he was doing. Except for Nik! Did Nik say anything to Taggert? No way, the two of them never spoke before. Why would they talk now? Joshua wiped his brow and tried to calm himself down.
Maybe he doesn’t know. He can’t know. Why would he suspect that I was looking for him? He can’t know, damn it. He can’t know. Joshua took a few deep breaths.
“I’m striking again. That kid from the channel,” Muse said coldly on the radio.
“Why? Do you think it’s him?” Shemp asked.
Joshua’s eyes froze as he stared in horror at the little brown radio.
“Yes, I’ll let you know how it goes. Well, I better get some things ready. Nice chatting with you. Stay warm. We’ll talk again soon. W5ZPGC clear.”
“Ok, take it easy. This is VE2SHM.”
The band returned to the normal low levels of static and popping noises. Muse was going to kill someone again, someone from the IRC chat room. He was going to kill Nooblet. Joshua jumped up out of his seat and fished out his cell phone. He dialed Dancia’s number as fast as he could.
The phone rang, and rang and rang. Damn, she left it in the car! Joshua didn’t know Stacy’s number. He had to warn Dancia somehow. He ran into the living room and scooped up his laptop. She was not in the chat room. He quickly emailed her and told her to get off her computer and call him. What if she were out? What if she were already being attacked? What if I am too late?
Joshua ran for the door.