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.
Dancia plopped down on the couch and watched the snowfall outside the picture windows. The sky was gray behind the tall pine trees that flanked the river. She loved to watch the snow falling. It relaxed her. Joshua started getting the ingredients for spaghetti ready to cook. He found a nice yellow onion and put it on a cutting board. Then he took a chef’s knife out of a drawer and began sliding it up and down a sharpening steel. It was a rhythmic motion that his father had taught him long ago. After a few minutes of sharpening he cut into the onion and soon had it diced and ready to toss into the skillet.
His family’s recipe for spaghetti was simple but very delicious. It took him only a few minutes to sautÈ the onions and brown the ground beef. As he added ingredients and stirred them, he thought about Shemp and how he had been killed. It was ironic that the man who had professed to having hypnotized someone was killed by the very same method. Taggert had very cleverly killed two others at their computers and would likely have gotten away with it had he not left calling cards in their code. Joshua wondered if by doing that, Taggert was trying to be found. Perhaps he wanted someone to eventually figure out how the killings were done and by whom. As he set the sauce to simmer he couldn’t help but think that Taggert had been trying all along to get Joshua to solve the murder.
Again, it was the motive that haunted him now about the situation. What had he ever done to Taggert to warrant that kind of hatred? Joshua had no idea. He moved to the great room and sat down on the couch beside Dancia. Her face was sullen and her eyes heavy behind her glasses.
She looked around the inside of the cabin for the first time. Sitting on the rafters above their heads were an odd assortment of old computer hardware and UNIX memorabilia. There was an original Macintosh, and various hand held devices that she could not identify. A faded old stuffed Linux penguin named Tux and a baby’s bib with the BSD Daemon on it. Joshua’s family were definitely geeks. The room was furnished with two plush couches and various wooden end tables. It was comfy and she felt right at home in the cabin. There was a plasma HDTV against the wall where the staircase started. The TV was sitting on a cabinet that held dozens of DVD movies in their original cases. A DVD player was also on the cabinet.
She noticed the remote on the end table and picked it up to turn on the TV.
“Sorry, no channels on that thing, I only use it for watching movies, but I do have a nice stereo back here,” he pointed to the desk behind him.
Dancia nodded. “I see.” It was a compact little CDROM and AM/FM radio stack with speakers wired all around the room. There was a wooden desk that sat against the wall under the staircase. It had a flat panel monitor and a slim keyboard. “No internet access here either?”
Joshua saw where she was looking. “No actually, that old PC belonged to my dad. I think he had BSD on it; it’s an old Pentium. There’s a Wi-Fi node at one of the bars downtown. I kind of use this place to get a way from the world as much as possible.”
“I didn’t know you liked to unplug like this?”
“It helps keep me grounded in reality. It’s so easy to become all wrapped up in the everyday details of life. Sometimes, it’s good to get away from it all and recharge your batteries.”
That was the kind of thing that only people of higher income levels tended to say. Dancia sometimes forgot about how wealthy Joshua actually was. She never asked him about his money, she didn’t give it much thought. He didn’t flaunt it and so it never really was much of a deal.
“You never mentioned that you had this little cabin before?” she said, motioning to the room they were in with her hand.
“I like to have some secrets.”
She looked at him oddly, and then turned on the TV. “Let’s watch a movie,” she said. She scanned the selection, mostly John Wayne Westerns and just about every Sci-Fi movie made in the last few decades.
“My dad was a John Wayne fan and my mom loved all kinds of Sci-Fi. I like just about anything, I guess.”
She pulled out a DVD case and looked at it fondly. “War Games, I haven’t seen this in ages.”
“It’s a classic, put it in.”
They brought a big wooden bowl full of buttered popcorn and their sodas to the couch and started the movie. They ate and drank and watched the first hour together, making fun of the ancient technology displayed in the film. When the two main characters figured out the password for getting into the war games computer, Dancia looked at Joshua with a serious eye.
“Were you named after that computer?”
Joshua smiled sheepishly. “My parents were geeks. They had just seen the film and both agreed it was a cool name. Not what I would have chosen mind you, but since when does a kid get to choose his own name?”
She laughed. “Don’t feel bad, my mother named me after that chick from The Wonder Years.”
He looked astonished. “Really? Wasn’t her name Danica?”
“Yeah well, my dad was dyslexic and he wrote Dancia on the birth certificate. My mother almost killed him but they decided to leave it. At least it spared me comparisons to the race car driver.”
They both laughed and snuggled closer together. Joshua unwrapped a blue and orange knit blanket and covered their legs with it. By the time the movie was over, they had missed much of the ending. They were wrapped up in each other’s arms, kissing like teenagers.
All those long nights of writing code together, being as close as lovers but never making a move on their desires finally came to a head. He smelling her perfume on his clothes after she had left, her thinking about what it would be like to kiss him as she drove home. Now that she knew what it was like, she wanted more.
Joshua came up for air and noticed the film was over. He stopped the DVD and turned on a lamp on the end table. Dancia sat up and caught her breath. It was better than either had dared dream and they were ready to go further.
Joshua stood up and moved to the back sliding door. The snow was really piling up but he managed to pull it open and stepped outside onto the back deck.
“Where are you going?” Dancia asked. He motioned towards the deck as he used a flat snow shovel to scrape off the top to a hot tub. Dancia smiled, he was crazy. He turned up the water temperature. By the time he came back in the water was hot enough to melt the snowflakes. He came back inside shivering cold and she put the blanket around him.
“It should be warm enough in a few minutes,” he said, taking her in his arms and kissing her firmly.
They stood before the glass door, Joshua started by taking off her black rim glasses and setting them on a little table by the door. Her face was thin and delicate, he had never really allowed himself the chance to notice how truly beautiful she was. She pulled off his long sleeved T-shirt and felt the taught muscles of his biceps. She had suspected that he was stronger than he looked and she was right. They finished by stepping out of their underclothes and opening the door. Walking naked out into the driving snowstorm was unbelievably cold. As they sank into the hot tub, the cold was replaced with hot, pulsating water. The contrast was incredible and they laughed as the snow fell around them.
The hot water felt good on their cold bodies. She hovered over him, snow falling in her hair, his warm hands on her waist. She kissed him hard as she lowered herself down on him. They took their time, each savoring the other.
It was awkward as hell trying to make love in a hot tub, but they didn’t care. They were too focused on each other to be bothered by the cold, or the hard seats in the tub.
Close to an hour went by before they realized that hunger was creeping up on them again. The sky had gone dark and a few more inches of snow had accumulated around them.
“I guess we should get out of here before we turn into prunes,” Joshua said.
“I don’t want to get out. I like it right here with you,” Dancia whispered into his ear. Her leg was wrapped over his hip and she moved over on top of him. She looked down at him with her dark eyes and her black hair wet on the edges. She was so damn beautiful. He held onto her hips and ran his hands up her back. This time she let him lead and he gently rolled her over. She held onto the padded top of the hot tub as he came out of the water behind her. The cold air mixed with the warm water between them and soon they were oblivious to anything but their desires.
When they had finished the second time, Joshua got up and ran gingerly to the sliding door and pulled it open. Dancia watched him trot naked over to the kitchen and put a pot of water on the stove to cook the noodles. He came back to the glass door and pressed himself against it, making her laugh by leaving three smudges. Then he wrapped himself in a towel and took her the other one. She stepped out of the warm tub and he wrapped her up in the soft towel.
They came inside and dried off. The cabin smelled like an Italian restaurant. Joshua sat down before the circular glass faced fireplace and took out a box of long stem matches. The wood and kindling were already in place and after a few minutes, they had a nice fire going. They took off the towels and snuggled under the blanket on the floor in front of the fire. Lying in each other’s arms they were content to watch the embers burn and hold each other tightly.
Hunger finally got the best of them and Joshua got up to put on the noodles. He walked into the closet that was built under the stairs. There was a wine rack near the back of it. He grabbed a flashlight near the door and used it to see the bottles more clearly. There were some nice red wines from the seventies near the back, but he wanted something of a more recent vintage, that would taste good with the meal and not cost him much if they drained it. He found a bottle of French Bordeaux that was only a few years old. Pulling it out of the rack, he used a towel to dust it off. It was one of the first bottles he had purchased after he turned old enough to drink legally. If memory served, this particular wine was not a first growth cult wine but something akin to an average French wine used for everyday meals, perfect for a spaghetti dinner.
Soon the spaghetti noodles were done and they were ready to eat. Joshua ran up stairs again and came down with two bathrobes. They put on the plaid flannel robes and started to get ready for dinner. Joshua fixed a plate of spaghetti and a glass of red wine for each of them and they returned to the fire to eat.
Dancia was not surprised that the spaghetti was delicious she knew Joshua was an excellent cook; it was one of the things she had always liked about him. Cooking was a rare trait in a young man, like finding someone who wrote poetry or could improvise a love song on a guitar. Dancia was at best a modest cook herself. She never really took to traditional female roles, she had been a Tomboy most of her life.
The two of them had completely forgotten why they had come to the cabin in the first place. They were too involved in each other now, to realize that they had not heard from Detective Plait since before noon. Joshua noticed his cell phone on the end table nearest him and suddenly recalled that he had not heard from the police all afternoon. He set his plate down and got up to check the phone. There were no missed calls on it.
“What’s wrong?” Dancia asked.
“That detective said he was going to keep me informed on his progress, and I just realized that he hasn’t called us all afternoon.”
“Maybe the storm is hampering their ability to find Taggert,” Dancia offered.
Joshua noticed that the cell phone didn’t have a signal at all. No bars. No wonder they didn’t get a call.
“That’s odd, there’s no cell signal. I’ve always gotten a good signal out here,” Joshua said, moving to the island in the kitchen where her cell phone was sitting. Her phone was fully charged and had no signal either.
Dancia went to the wireless phone at the computer desk. She turned it on and got no signal. “The land line’s out too,” she said, her voice trembling slightly.
Joshua looked around the cabin. What were the chances of both the cell going down and the landline? Virtually impossible he guessed. He could imagine that the winter storm might have affected the cell transmission, but not the landline.
Joshua went to the front door of the cabin and opened it a crack, looking out at the snow-covered ground. The Jeep was covered in about one foot of snow and there were no discernible tracks to indicate that a squad car had been by recently. Perhaps the snow had kept the local police from making it out to check on them. It was a relatively small police department and no doubt they were keeping busy with all kinds of winter storm related business.
He locked the front door and padded back down the hall to the main room. Dancia had a worried look on her face as she put her plate down on the table. “Maybe it was the storm? At least we have power.”
On cue, the cabin plunged into darkness.