This serial story is posted weekly on Fridays in draft (unedited) format. Each installment is available for one week. If you’ve missed an installment, email me and I’ll send you what you’ve missed.
When She Cries
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When Nicole opened her eyes the next morning, she blinked against the bright light coming in the windows. She moved carefully, sitting up and taking stock of what hurt, what burned, and noted which cuts looked like they were getting infected. She would need antibiotics, soon – she couldn’t end up in a hospital. Not now. Not like this.
Dressing in Patrick’s clothes again, she downed a couple of painkillers and went rummaging through the pantry.
Finding a few heads of garlic in the cupboard, she peeled a clove and ate it, wincing at the sharp, bitter taste, but knowing it was a natural antibiotic, though not as strong as a pill. She chopped several more cloves up into biscuit dough for breakfast, smothered in a can of beans she found for protein. Not much for taste, but she didn’t care. It was the energy she needed.
Today she’d leave this place for good.
Not bothering to clean up after herself, she took the tablet and flashlight with her back to the hidden cave entrance. The flashlight revealed two contractor lights on tripods, and she turned those on, illuminating a small, rough space that housed two large black computer towers, a monitor and keyboard, and a rough shelf with what looked like several wireless routers with black tape covering the front – to block the lights, she presumed.
Wishing she were more tech-savvy, she turned the monitor on and swore as a password prompt greeted her. Turning to Patrick’s tablet, she searched the icons for anything that might give her a clue, finally tapping on one that had an image of a lock on it.
Disappointed when there was no list of usernames and passwords, she saw only a button that simply read Send Password. It couldn’t be that easy though, could it?
She tapped the button, and watched in relief as the username and password fields were populated on the monitor. Pressing Enter, she smiled. This was it. She was in.
There was a folder labeled “banking”, and not having any paper, she copied the account numbers and bank names to the tablet. She was about to click on the folder marked “video”, when another one labeled “users” caught her eye.
Opening that folder, she found links to spreadsheets, and when she opened the top one, she couldn’t believe her eyes.
It was the motherlode. Names, addresses, and payment information for everyone who had ever logged into the site, stored separately by year, month and day. The spreadsheet appeared to update automatically, and the most recent entries were from just a few moments ago – the spreadsheet she had open was the one for the current day.
These people probably had no idea that their information was being saved. Probably thought they were anonymous, free to indulge in their sick habit without fear of discovery.
That wasn’t the case anymore.
In that moment, she knew what she would do with Patrick’s money. It was too big of a job for her to do by herself, but she didn’t mind splitting up the work. She really only wanted those people who had specifically signed on to watch her. The law could deal with the rest.
There was a USB drive sitting next to the computer, and she copied the user files from the days she’d been on the Mountain to it. Disconnecting it and putting it in her pocket, she pulled up a browser, and then the FBI’s web site. Using a general contact link, she attached a few of the older files and sent them off, saving the rest in cloud storage under an account she set up under the same bogus name she’d given the authorities. It wouldn’t take them long to put the pieces together – just long enough for her to get and stay gone.
Finally, she opened the video file. A grid of small squares filled the screen, and all the different views made her head spin. She knew that wasn’t all, either – this was only part of the huge network Patrick had built.
She had no idea how it would even be possible, and she didn’t have time to figure it out. It all seemed to run off the same program though, and she clicked through links and menus until she found one labeled “Settings”. Inside, she found check boxes to turn each feed on or off, and started to click the box for each camera.
Then she noticed two things. A box to the side that would turn all feeds off, and a “Global Message” button with a text entry field next to it.
She grinned as her fingers flew briefly across the keyboard. Then she checked the box to turn all feeds off, and clicked the button to send a global message all at once.
She left the system just like that and walked out, stopping at the cabin long enough to grab the last few bottles of water and another full bag of jerky. Making her way down the trail, she got in Joe’s car and drove away, putting the mountain behind her as fast as possible.
The FBI would find Patrick’s lair eventually, and when they did, they’d shut the system down. Until then, her simple message would serve as a warning to the viewers:
I hope you’ve enjoyed the story – thanks for reading! The next serial story will start sometime in January – hope you’ll come back to play again….
When She Cries is now available at all major retailers for just $2.99! Links below…