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Authors: Michael Connelly

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The Scarecrow

BOOK: The Scarecrow
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Copyright © 2009 by Hieronymus, Inc.

All rights reserved. Except as permitted under the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, no part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, or stored in a database or retrieval system, without the prior written permission of the publisher.

Little, Brown and Company

Hachette Book Group

237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017

Visit our website at
www.HachetteBookGroup.com

www.twitter.com/littlebrown

First eBook Edition: May 2009

Little, Brown and Company is a division of Hachette Book Group, Inc. The Little, Brown name and logo are trademarks of Hachette Book Group, Inc.

The characters and events in this book are fictitious. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is coincidental and not intended by the author.

Copyright acknowledgments appear on
page 423
.

ISBN: 978-0-316-07345-5

Contents

Copyright Page

ONE: The Farm

TWO: The Velvet Coffin

THREE: The Farm

FOUR: The Big Three-oh

FIVE: The Farm

SIX: The Loneliest Road in America

SEVEN: The Farm

EIGHT: Home Sweet Home

NINE: The Dark of Dreams

TEN: Live at Five

ELEVEN: The Cold, Hard Earth

TWELVE: Coast to Coast

THIRTEEN: Together Again

FOURTEEN: One False Move

FIFTEEN: The Farm

SIXTEEN: Dark Fiber

SEVENTEEN: The Farm

EIGHTEEN: A Call to Action

NINETEEN: Bakersfield

TWENTY: The Scarecrow

Acknowledgments

About the Author

A Preview of
Nine Dragons

Bonus Materials

Author Q & A
Photos

A
LSO BY
M
ICHAEL
C
ONNELLY

Fiction

The Black Echo

The Black Ice

The Concrete Blonde

The Last Coyote

The Poet

Trunk Music

Blood Work

Angels Flight

Void Moon

A Darkness More Than Night

City of Bones

Chasing the Dime

Lost Light

The Narrows

The Closers

The Lincoln Lawyer

Echo Park

The Overlook

The Brass Verdict

Nonfiction

Crime Beat

To James Crumley, for
The Last Good Kiss

ONE: The Farm

 

C
arver paced in the control room, watching over the front forty. The towers were spread out before him in perfect neat rows. They hummed quietly and efficiently and even with all he knew, Carver had to marvel at what technology had wrought. So much in so little space. Not a stream but a swift and torrid river of data flowing by him every day. Growing in front of him in tall steel stalks. All he needed to do was to reach in, to look and to choose. It was like panning for gold.

But it was easier.

He checked the overhead temperature gauges. All was perfect in the server room. He lowered his eyes to the screens on the workstations in front of him. His three engineers worked in concert on the current project. An attempted breach thwarted by Carver’s skill and readiness. Now the reckoning.

The would-be intruder could not penetrate the walls of the farmhouse, but he had left his fingerprints all over it. Carver smiled as he watched his men retrieve the bread crumbs, tracing the IP address through the traffic nodes, a high-speed chase back to the source. Soon Carver would know who his opponent was, what firm he was with, what he had been looking for and the advantage he hoped to gain. And Carver would take a retaliatory action that would leave the hapless contender crumpled and destroyed. Carver showed no mercy. Ever.

The mantrap alert buzzed from overhead.

“Screens,” Carver said.

The three young men at the workstations typed commands in unison, which hid their work from the visitors. The control room door opened and McGinnis stepped in with a man in a suit. Carver had never seen him before.

“This is our control room and through the windows there, you see what we call the ‘front forty,’ ” McGinnis said. “All of our colocation services are centered here. This is primarily where your firm’s material would be held. We have forty towers in here holding close to a thousand dedicated servers. And, of course, there’s room for more. We’ll never run out of room.”

The man in the suit nodded thoughtfully.

“I’m not worried about room. Our concern is security.”

“Yes, this is why we stepped in here. I wanted you to meet Wesley Carver. Wesley wears a number of hats around here. He is our chief technology officer as well as our top threat engineer and the designer of the data center. He can tell you all you need to know about colocation security.”

Another dog and pony show. Carver shook the suit’s hand. He was introduced as David Wyeth of the St. Louis law firm Mercer and Gissal. It sounded like crisp white shirts and tweed. Carver noticed that Wyeth had a barbecue stain on his tie. Whenever they came into town McGinnis took them to eat at Rosie’s Barbecue.

Carver gave Wyeth the show by rote, covering everything and saying everything the silk-stocking lawyer wanted to hear. Wyeth was on a barbecue-and-due-diligence mission. He would go back to St. Louis and report on how impressed he had been. He would tell them that this was the way to go if the firm wanted to keep up with changing technologies and times.

And McGinnis would get another contract.

All the while he spoke, Carver was thinking about the intruder they had been chasing. Out there somewhere, not expecting the come-uppance that was speeding toward him. Carver and his young disciples would loot his personal bank accounts, take his identity and hide photos of men having sex with eight-year-old boys on his work computer. Then he would crash it with a replicating virus. When the intruder couldn’t fix it he would call in an expert. The photos would be found and the police would be called.

The intruder would no longer be a concern. Another threat kept away by the Scarecrow.

“Wesley?” McGinnis said.

Carver came out of the reverie. The suit had asked a question. Carver had already forgotten his name.

“Excuse me?”

“Mr. Wyeth asked if the colocation center had ever been breached.”

McGinnis was smiling, already knowing the answer.

“No, sir, we’ve never been breached. To be honest, there have been a few attempts. But they have failed, resulting in disastrous consequences for those who tried.”

The suit nodded somberly.

“We represent the cream of the crop of St. Louis,” he said. “The integrity of our files and our client list is paramount to all we do. That’s why I came here personally.”

That and the strip club McGinnis took you to, Carver thought but didn’t say. He smiled instead but there was no warmth in it. He was glad McGinnis had reminded him of the suit’s name.

“Don’t worry, Mr. Wyeth,” he said. “Your crops will be safe on this farm.”

Wyeth smiled back.

“That’s what I wanted to hear,” he said.

TWO: The Velvet Coffin

 

E
very eye in the newsroom followed me as I left Kramer’s office and walked back to my pod. The long looks made it a long walk. The pink slips always came out on Fridays and they all knew I had just gotten
the word
. Except they weren’t called pink slips anymore. Now it was an RIF form—as in Reduction in Force.

They all felt the slightest tingle of relief that it hadn’t been them and the slightest tingle of anxiety because they still knew that no one was safe. Any one of them could be called in next.

I met no one’s stare as I passed beneath the Metro sign and headed back into podland. I moved into my cubicle and slipped into my seat, dropping from sight like a soldier diving into a foxhole.

Immediately my phone buzzed. On the read-out I saw that it was my friend Larry Bernard calling. He was only two cubicles away but knew if he had come to me in person it would have been a clear signal for others in the newsroom to crowd around me and ask the obvious. Reporters work best in packs like that.

I put on my headset and picked up the call.

“Hey, Jack,” he said.

“Hey, Larry,” I said.

“So?”

“So what?”

“What did Kramer want?”

He pronounced the assistant managing editor’s name
Crammer,
which was the nickname bestowed on Richard Kramer years earlier when he was an assignment editor more concerned with the quantity than the quality of news he got his reporters to produce for the paper. Other variations of his full or partial name evolved over time as well.

“You know what he wanted. He gave me notice. I’m out of here.”

“Holy fucking shit, you got pinked!”

“That’s right. But remember, we call it ‘involuntary separation’ now.”

“Do you have to clear out right now? I’ll help you.”

“No, I’ve got two weeks. May twenty-second and I’m history.”

“Two weeks? Why two weeks?”

Most RIF victims had to clear out immediately. This edict was instated after one of the first recipients of a layoff notice was allowed to stay through the pay period. Each of his last days, people saw him in the office carrying a tennis ball. Bouncing it, tossing it, squeezing it. They didn’t realize that each day it was a different ball. And each day he flushed a ball down the toilet in the men’s room. About a week after he was gone the pipes backed up, with devastating consequences.

“They gave me extra time if I agreed to train my replacement.”

Larry was silent for a moment as he considered the humiliation of having to train one’s own replacement. But to me two weeks’ pay was two weeks’ pay I wouldn’t get if I didn’t take the deal. And besides that, the two weeks would give me time to say proper good-byes to those in the newsroom and on the beat who deserved them. I considered the alternative of being walked out the door by security with a cardboard box of personal belongings even more humiliating. I was sure they would watch me to make sure I wasn’t carrying tennis balls to work, but they didn’t have to worry. That wasn’t my style.

“So that’s it? That’s all he said? Two weeks and you’re out?”

“He shook my hand and said I was a handsome guy, that I should try TV.”

“Oh, man. We gotta get drunk tonight.”

“I am, that’s for sure.”

“Man, this ain’t right.”

“The world ain’t right, Larry.”

“Who’s your replacement? At least that’s somebody who knows they’re safe.”

“Angela Cook.”

“Figures. The cops are going to love her.”

Larry was a friend but I didn’t want to be talking about all of this with him right now. I needed to be thinking about my options. I straightened up in my seat and looked over the top of the four-foot walls of the cubicle. I saw no one still looking at me. I glanced toward the row of glass-walled editors’ offices. Kramer’s was a corner office and he was standing behind the glass, looking out at the newsroom. When his eyes came to mine he quickly kept them moving.

“What are you going to do?” Larry asked.

“I haven’t thought about it but I’m about to right now. Where do you want to go, Big Wang’s or the Short Stop?”

“Short Stop. I was at Wang’s last night.”

“See you there, then.”

I was about to hang up when Larry blurted out a last question.

“One more thing. Did he say what number you were?”

Of course. He wanted to know what his own chances were of surviving this latest round of corporate bloodletting.

“When I went in he started talking about how I almost made it and how hard it was to make the last choices. He said I was ninety-nine.”

Two months earlier the newspaper announced that one hundred employees would be eliminated from the editorial staff in order to cut costs and make our corporate gods happy. I let Larry think for a moment about who might be number one hundred while I glanced at Kramer’s office again. He was still there behind the glass.

BOOK: The Scarecrow
5.01Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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