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.
Before they left for the police station, Joshua found some nails and a hammer and did his best to repair the front door frame. It would not be as strong as it had been for him, but it would at least keep the door shut. They left a note for Stacey telling her what happened, since she was out on a date.
Joshua told Dancia to get some clothes and other things together before they left. They would be going out of town for a while. She found her book bag from school and filled it with underwear, jeans and a few different shirts. Then she raided her bathroom and took a few personal necessities. When she was ready, Joshua was finishing up with the front door.
“Where are we going to go?” she asked him.
“McCall, I own a family cabin up there. We can stay there as long as it takes the police to capture Muse and Shemp. No sense making it easy for them to find us.”
McCall Idaho was a small lakeside resort community a few hours north of Boise. Nearly everyone in Boise seemed to have a cabin there. Dancia was surprised that Joshua had never mentioned it to her before. She figured it was probably not the only thing she didn’t know about him.
They got into Joshua’s Porsche and went straight to the Boise Police station. The detective assigned to their case was not on duty and they had to wait for him to be called in. The station was nearly empty at ten on a Wednesday night. They talked about who Muse was and how Joshua figured out who he was. Everything seemed to make sense to them, whether they could convince the detective was yet to be seen.
Detective Bill Plait was used to being called in on a weeknight. It happened so frequently that he no longer jumped when his beeper went off at night. He called the station to get the details of the case as he drove in.
It sounded like a couple of scared kids who thought someone was trying to kill them over their computers. That was a new one.
He went straight for the coffee machine when he got in, filled up his mug and headed into the holding area where Joshua and Dancia were sitting. They certainly looked like normal kids. Both were dressed in simple jeans and T-shirts with winter coats lying on the bench beside them. The girl was wearing dark rimmed glasses and the boy looked to be slightly older but with a youthful face.
“Hello folks, I’m detective Bill Plait,” he said.
“Detective, I’m Joshua Jones and this is Dancia Rivers,” Joshua said, standing up and offering his hand.
Detective Plait shook Joshua’s hand. “I understand you kids had a scary incident on your computer?”
Joshua and Dancia looked at each other. “You could say that,” Joshua said.
They moved into a briefing room away from the lobby. Plait offered them some coffee and they both took him up on it. When they were comfortable, Joshua began by telling him about the death of his coworker out at RegTech. The detective’s expression remained indifferent as he listened to Joshua. He started taking notes on a yellow legal pad as Joshua began to explain the technical bits about computer security and how Muse was able to break into both victims’ computers.
Plait was not a computer geek, but he did know a few things about how they worked and to the best of his knowledge what Joshua was saying rang true to him. He was impressed by how detailed their efforts to find Muse were. They didn’t actually break any laws in what they did, but they probably should have come in to talk sooner.
Detective Plait jotted down some more notes after Joshua finished talking. “If what you’ve told me can be corroborated by our tech guys, this Taggert sounds pretty dangerous. However, we don’t really have any direct evidence that this Muse character is Taggert. He never said on the radio who he was going to attack and he never admitted that he had killed anyone else.”
“But who else could it be?” Joshua interrupted.
Plait sat back and looked at both of them. He could tell they were upset and their emotions were probably running high.
“Look, the best we can do is find this Taggert fellow and bring him in for questioning. Maybe I can get a warrant to search his house, but unless we find something incriminating we just won’t be able to press charges.”
Joshua looked disappointed. “He knows we know who he is. He knows we figured out how he’s done it. Don’t you think he might just come after me now?”
Plait could see the fear in the young kid’s eyes, but there really wasn’t anything they could do for him. “If you are concerned for your safety I suggest you not go home tonight. Check into a hotel and let us have some time to bring him in for questioning. If he’s guilty, he may try and run. But if he can’t find you, he can’t get to you.”
Dancia tossed up her hands in defeat. “Look, this asshole tried to kill me tonight! We’re both in danger here.”
“I understand that Miss Rivers. All I am saying is that my hands are tied until I get a search warrant.”
Joshua shook his head. “Okay, I understand. But we’re not sticking around. I’ll leave you our cell numbers and the address where we will be for the rest of the week. If you find out anything, give us a call.”
“Where will you be staying?”
“McCall, I have a cabin there,” Joshua said.
“You realize that McCall is out of our jurisdiction? I can’t protect you up there, the best I can do is make the McCall police aware of your situation.”
“I understand. Tonight we’ll stay with a friend of mine and we will head North in the morning. What are you going to do about the guy in Canada?”
“I’ll get in touch with the authorities in his home town and they will deal with it as they see fit. We have good relations with our Northern neighbors so if he’s guilty of corroboration, it should be easy enough to haul him in.”
“What about the radio violations? Muse is using bogus amateur radio call signs. The least you that you could do would be to notify the FCC about him.”
Plait put down his pen and smiled. “You’re right. I’ll start the ball rolling on that issue too. Look, you kids just need to calm down and let me do my job. Things will work themselves out, they always do.”
When they left the police station Joshua called Steve and asked him if they could crash at his place for the night. Steve agreed without hesitation. They arrived at Steve’s place shortly before midnight. He was rolling out some sleeping bags for them in his TV room.
“We’ve got to stop meeting like this, you guys,” Steve said as he let them inside.
Dancia gave him a weak smile as she headed for his bathroom. Joshua shook Steve’s hand and thanked him again, and then he motioned for them to go into Steve’s radio shack.
Inside the shack Joshua whispered. “I need to borrow a hand gun for a few days.”
Steve’s face came alive. He loved guns. “Personal defense?”
Joshua nodded grimly. Steve put his hand on Joshua’s back and led him over to his gun safe. He unlocked the cabinet and took out several handguns and set them on the work bench.
There was a small caliber PPK, a Colt Model 1911 and a large revolver that Joshua figured was a 357 Magnum.
“Take your pick my friend. But if you ask me, I’d use the Colt.”
Joshua knew very little about guns. He just wanted something that was easy to shoot and reliable. He picked up the Colt and held it in his hand to feel it’s weight. It was solid and cold but it felt right in his large hand.
He raised it up. “This will do, I’m sure.”
“How much ammo you think you’ll need?” Steve asked as he put the other guns back in the cabinet.
“I don’t know. How many rounds are in the clip?”
“Seven. You better take a box, you can pay me back later,” Steve said, handing him a box of forty-five caliber bullets.
If he could help it, Joshua wouldn’t be firing any shots at all. He was just being cautious. Dancia came into the room and saw him holding the Colt. She came over and looked at Joshua.
“Do you think you’ll need that?”
“The cabin is kind of remote up there, it would be prudent to be prepared.”
She agreed. He handed her the large handgun. She was trained on the Beretta nine-millimeter handgun in the Marines. The Italian gun was sleeker and more elegant, but the Colt was undeniably more powerful and masculine. She imagined pointing it at Muse and pulling the trigger. Nothing would give her more pleasure after what he tried tonight. She handed the gun back to Joshua and headed towards the TV room.
“Muse tried to kill her tonight. We’re heading out of town for a few days to give the police time to bring him in.”
Steve looked at him suspiciously. “Have you ever fired a pistol before?”
Steve launched into his gun safety speech and Joshua listened intently. He watched as Steve broke the gun down, removed the magazine, showed him the safety, how to move the slide. He let Joshua mess with the empty gun for a while in order to get a feel for it. Convinced that his friend could handle the weapon, he set out looking for a holster. He found one under the workbench and handed it to Joshua.
“Who did it turn out to be, anyway?” Steve asked.
“Lawrence Taggert, a guy I work with.”
Steve thought for a moment. “Taggert sounds familiar. He may be in my Ham club. Wait, I think I have heard of him.”
Steve moved back to his radio table and pulled out a logbook and started flipping through the spiral bound pages. “What does he look like?”
“He’s about my height, thinning brown hair, grayish eyes. Always wears jeans and cowboy boots and a big leather belt, not very talkative, at least at work. He’s chatty on the radio.”
Steve smiled. “Ham geeks are like that. Timid and shy in real life, but get them on the radio and suddenly they have a personality. I guess I haven’t worked him lately. Are the police going to turn him in to the FCC?”
“The detective said he would handle it. Not sure if that will be a priority for him but if it gets Taggert off the streets, all the better.”
Steve put the logbook down and they moved back into the TV room. Dancia had claimed the couch and was already lying down, watching the news.
“Thanks for letting us crash Steve. We’ll be out of here early in the morning.”
“No problem. Where are you guys heading anyway?” Steve asked.
“I don’t know, one of the resorts maybe?” He didn’t want to tell anyone any more than he had to.
Steve agreed it was a good idea to lay low for a while. He left them alone and retired to his bedroom down the hall. Joshua sat down in the big easy chair and put up the footrest. The weather was on and it looked like a big winter storm was brewing in Oregon.
“We’ll head out of here early in the morning. I think we’ll fly up. I don’t want to have him follow us by car. I’ll get Steve to drop us off at the Nampa airport.”
Dancia looked at him. “You mean in your little puddle jumper?”
“Don’t worry. We’ll be fine. You’ll see.”