This is a follow up to: https://wanderingthroughthenight.wordpress.com/2017/12/01/what-would-you-do/
“Damn it Joe, you should have told me you were at the mall.” Ashley spat after Teddy went upstairs to his room.”
Joe just sat there at the kitchen table and let his ex-wife vent.
“I probably should have. Next time I react to an active shooter the first priority will be informing you that we are reacting to an active shooter.” Joe answered slowly, making his point that communicating danger to Ashley wasn’t as important as getting out of danger, adding just enough smartass to his tone to make her position sound unreasonable.
“I don’t understand why you ran away.” Ashley pressed, determined to press his buttons somehow, “You still carry that god forsaken pistol and I know you know how to use it. How many people died because you didn’t step up?”
“Teddy didn’t die.” Joe answered evenly, without confirming or denying the presence of his carry piece. “Teddy is home, with you, and that is my job. It is not my job to replace mall security or the police.”
“Yes, thank you for that.” Ashley sniped, “He thought is was so cool to help you dress a wound in a bathroom.”
“I’m sorry that you have to deal with the aftermath.” Joe said evenly. “But I’m only a text away if you need help.” He picked up his cell phone and began to leave.
“Unless you are indisposed.” Ashley spat bitterly. Joe’s dedication to his job had been the straw that broke the camel’s back. Ashley filed for divorce, got everything she asked for in the divorce except for alimony in perpetuity since Ashley made just as much money teaching as Joe did working for Uncle Sam. But…she took Teddy to a new college town hundreds of miles away from the nearest Army base, so Joe dropped a retirement packet and transitioned into the glamorous world of freelance software coder to be near his son. Ashley resented that he would make time after the marriage was over, feeling that it added insult to injury.
Joe walked out the door of the house and moved to his car. Ashley just couldn’t help herself, she was still angry at him and needed to vent. So he let her vent. He started the car, and drove to the economy apartment building that he now called home.
The second floor apartment was decorated in “don’t give a crap, middle age bachelor” style of random yard sale and Craigslist bookshelves, couch, and coffee table. There was no dinner table since he never had anyone over except for Teddy, and the coffee table worked fine for the two of them to eat off of.
Joe turned on his computer monitors and opened a web browser to look for news about the mall shooting, but he didn’t use a search engine to look for the mall in question. He perused through local news sites until one had a “breaking news: shooting at the mall” banner. The story was, “reporter on scene with no details, but details to follow on this breaking story.”
Joe took his carry pistol and holster inside his waistband used a dishrag to wipe away any fingerprints, and a quick spray of Ballistol should dissuade any DNA tests for against possible skin residue on the pistol. Joe placed the pistol and holster in a ziplock bag then knelt down to open up an air vent grate. He placed pulled a magnetic square of galvanized steel away form the inside of the vent and put the pistol and holster into the wall gap outside the vent line, and put the galvanized steel magnet back into place so that it looked like a normal vent. He placed a small white envelope with 500 dollars cash in tens and twenties in the grate, because it is human nature to stop looking after you find something.
With nothing else to occupy his time, Joe opened up his latest code project and began debugging a module that failed with the latest java update. Every so often he would glance at the news sites and see the updates. A politician already calling for additional gun rights restrictions. Unconfirmed reports of the attackers speaking Spanish, shouting “La raza militante” or similar phrases. The neo-marxist Latino terror organization was just one of many violent leftist extremist groups active, so early reports can be deceiving.
Joe debugged a virtual machine reference that was deprecated, replaced it with a library call that should work, and ran the debugger again. He was still working when the SWAT team “dynamically entered” to search his apartment for illegal weapons and take him into custody. Joe simply complied, thankful he wasn’t shot in the process, and a few hours later found himself handcuffed to an interrogation table.
“Joe, you mind if I call you Joe?” a police detective in an off the rack suit jacket and hair a week past the need for a trim spoke.
“You can call me a lawyer.” Joe responded evenly.
“Now now” The detective responded. “No need for all that, you aren’t under arrest….yet.”
“All the more reason for counsel.” Joe answered, “as anything I say can and will be used against me in the court of law, right?”
“Fine.” The detective left. Hours passed.
An overweight middle aged man, vaguely Slavic in appearance entered the interrogation room. “Hiya Joe, I’m Victor, and I’ll be your public defender today.” Victor sat down, “Now, tell me what happened.”
Joe relayed the story of his weekly visit with his son, fleeing the mall, bandaging his arm, and dropping his son off. Joe didn’t mention the pistol.
“So you heard gunfire, which you recognized from your time in the service, then left the mall, bandaged up your arm that got cut sometime during the exit, then drop your kid off at your ex-wife’s place, and you go home and get back to work?” Victor asked.
“That’s what happened.” Joe answered.
“Ok, I’ll go tell the detective that you were at the mall, but fled when you recognized gunfire, didn’t see anything that could be useful to their investigation, and the ‘hot tip’ about a man with a gun probably came from your crazy ex-wife looking to reduce your parental visitation rights.” Victor explained. “If all goes well we’ll have you out quick fast and in a hurry.”
Joe never saw the detective again, a uniformed officer came in and uncuffed him from the table. After his personal things had been returned, including his smart phone, Victor escorted him out of the police station.
“I’m not taxi service” Victor said, “But let me give you a ride to a Starbucks or something where you can get an Uber, hanging around a police station isn’t a smart idea for anyone.”
“Thanks.” Joe replied, following Victor to a five year old Lincoln Towncar.
“Yeah, the Lincoln is a stereotype” Victor said as he remotely unlocked the door. “But sometimes stereotypes are good for business.”
Inside the car Joe asked Victor what the final bill for his services came to.
“100 dollars an hour, four hour minimum for any job involving travel. But any remainder gets applied to your next call. I take cash, credit, debit, and money order” Victor answered without missing a beat as he pulled into the Starbucks parking lot area.
“Debit I can do now.” Joe answered.
Victor pulled out a point of sale card reader and plugged it into his smartphone. “Swipe here, and take a business card just in case”
Joe swiped, and took a business card. The transaction went through, 400 dollars poorer Joe got out of the Towncar and purchased a tall drip black coffee and used his smartphone to summon an Uber.
The trip home gave Joe time to think. First order of business would be to replace his smartphone and SIM card, giving him another IMEI and telephone number not associated with his current smartphone or SIM. Walmart carried plenty of “pay as you go” SIMs with data plans as well as commodity level Android smartphones.
Second order of business would be to sweep his house for surveillance devices. The normal physical inspection of the room yielded no cameras, including turning the lights off and using a flashlight to look for glints will looking through a toilet paper tube. An RF scanner pulled from his toolbox revealed nothing. The computer took longer, taking apart the keyboard, tracing wires, and installing a new image on the firewall router to ensure that any software keyloggers would be caught trying to phone home.
With a fairly good idea that he wasn’t under effective surveillance, Joe turned in for the night. The code could wait.