Read Along: Paradise Palms: Chapter 10


Paradise Palms

Paradise Palms:
A Murder Mystery in a Time-Traveling Trailer Park.


Lin

“I think we should turn this up to eleven,” Tiger Lily said with a laugh.

Lin didn’t get the reference. “What?”

“Oh come off it. Don’t tell me you never heard of Spinal Tap.”

They had been working late setting up traces and traps and Lin was certain that it’d gone to Tiger Lily’s head at this point. During the time they’d exchanged a great deal of music; everything from Metallica to Ministry to Skinny Puppy. Now they were listening to something off of Tiger Lily’s iPod called Big Bottom.

“I think I’ve got the video on the server. I can download it and we can watch it. That’ll be a good break. It’s so funny. You know about bands like Judas Priest and Iron Maiden and all those 80s heavy metal bands, right?”

“Well, yeah. I mean, all that’s before my time, but I’ve really gotten into more of the heavier stuff and the industrial. I even listened to GWAR for a while. I think they’re funny.”

“You should see their videos. They’re a gas.”

They laughed, Lin more because she didn’t really understand what Tiger Lily meant by ‘gas’ than anything else. She must’ve been tired, because the laugh was infectious.

Tiger Lily clicked several times into folders. “Here it is. Any time you’re looking for a movie or anything and don’t want to wait for NetFlix, just come in here. I think I’ve got just about anything you could want to watch. Just be careful, you could lose days just browsing in here.”

She wasn’t kidding. Lin watched as the titles scrolled by. She knew they had a lot of vacant disk space, but didn’t realize just how much of it could be used for personal use. She’d only taken up a small portion of it with the ten deuce web site, and the traffic wasn’t significant with only twenty-five thousand users. The firewalls would prevent anyone from every getting in and browsing the server for anything sensitive.

Tiger Lily began the file transfer. “Okay, that’ll download in a few minutes. We’ve each got a T3 line coming in, so we should be good.” She stretched and looked at the ceiling. Her t-shirt hugged against her breasts and Lin felt a tinge of jealousy. They were a lot bigger than they looked beneath her suit or inside the shirt, but when she stretched and her nipples pushed outward…

Lin looked away, embarrassed to be staring again. Tiger Lily moaned slightly as she brought her arms down and shivered.

“It must be getting late. What time is it?”

The clock on the computer read 3:22 am. It was then Lin realized they’d left all the lights on in the trailer.

“I should go turn some lights off. It is late. Been a really long time since I’ve pulled an all-nighter.”

“Same here, but if anything is going to happen, it’s going to be late at night. That’s when all the logs show activity, right? Is it always this hot around here? I feel like I should be working naked or something. Maybe I just need to take a shower to cool off.”

“You could. Take a shower I mean,” Lin said and felt her cheeks flush at the thought of working next to a naked woman. “I can let you know if anything happens. There’re towels in the bathroom.” Lin stood up and stretched herself, more to hide her embarrassment. Her body trembled. When she brought her arms back down she saw Tiger Lily looking at her with a tired smile. “I’m going to get something to drink. You want anything?”

“Sure.”

Tiger Lily had barely finished responding when the lights dimmed considerably and an alarm went off on the computer. Tiger Lily’s eyes popped open wide, as did Lin’s. Lin sat back at the chair and pressed up to Tiger Lily’s side as the woman began searching through the open screens. The screen had flickered and the generator kicked on and power instantly brought everything back up.

“What’s happening?” Lin asked.

“I’m looking, but we just lost power.”

“Is that all we lost?” Lin pointed to the network icon in the system tray. “Looks like we lost the network.”

“Let me try to run a trace through the satellite. The power outage may have affected the land line.” Tiger Lily brought up a re-routing program, but Lin knew that it should have automatically switched over if the phone line had been cut for any reason.

“But should we already be on satellite?”

“Yes, and I’m not seeing any of the six. I wonder if the power has caused us to lose power to the dish.”

Lin looked at the icon. “Nope, we’ve got power to the dish. We didn’t lose that. It must be something else.”

“Look, the download from the Canadian server has stopped.” Tiger Lily pointed to the Spinal Tap download. “We’re not connected to Canada anymore. I’m sure it must be picking up any load we had.”

“I’ve got cameras. Let’s do a quick check outside. Remember the video I showed you?”

“Sure, let’s see what’s on camera. Based on what you showed me, I don’t think I’d want to go out and look for myself.”

Outside, a dog started barking. There weren’t a lot of dogs in the park and Lin knew that one. It was Sam’s dog Blue, but why was she outside?

“Is someone out there?”

“I think so. Last night someone was out there. Casper Jasper. As best as I can tell, he got killed.”

“How?”

“I’m not sure. I didn’t show you that video. You want to see it?”

“Not right now. You said this only lasts for a few minutes. We need to see what we can and track any data we can. Is there a network inside this park?”

“Are you kidding? Almost everyone here is retired and wouldn’t know their way around a DVD player, let alone a computer. They’re all content to get calls from their kids once in a while. All nice people, just not up on technology.”

“Are you sure that’s true of everyone?”

“Well, there might be someone who’s up on technology, but why? I think Girlfriend uses a GPS program to keep track of her parents who are somewhere in South America on an RV tour.”

“I’m seeing a tap on the main trunk to the servers. The phone lines are all dead so this has to be a direct tap and someone local because as best as I can tell we’ve been cut off completely from the outside world.”

Lin’s jaw dropped. Sure enough someone had tapped her network and was re-pointing the satellite dish. Tiger Lily scribbled the coordinates down on the pad of paper.

“There’s no IP address here so it has to be someone inside the park. I’m going to see if I can stick them on the system so I can trace back to them. If this doesn’t work, maybe we can at least scare them so they don’t come back.”

Lin watched as Tiger Lily brought up a trapping program that would not allow the remote computer to disconnect cleanly. Lines of code scrolled, but before it finished the lights dimmed again and the connection was lost.

“Damn,” Tiger Lily cursed. “Whoever that was is inside this park. I vote for going door to door and seeing who looks like they’re awake and get some answers.”

Lin laughed. “At four in the morning? You’re not really out to make friends, are you?”

“Lin, this is serious. We’ve just seen a breech here by someone who was able to get in and not leave a footprint, a fingerprint, or any trace they were ever inside the system, and possibly cut off this trailer park from the outside world somehow. That kind of spoofing, although highly illegal, means there’s someone who not only knows you’re here, but they’re likely responsible for someone’s death and what’s happening at this park. They disconnected everything. This is serious.”

Lin couldn’t help but laugh at Tiger Lily’s sudden seriousness. “I’m sorry.” Lin held up her hand and tried to stop laughing.

“Lin!” Tiger Lily gripped Lin’s arm tightly and gave her a shake accompanied with a stern look. “We’ve got a job to do here.”

“I know, but you’re talking about going around this park and waking up a bunch of old people who wouldn’t have the slightest clue as to what you’re talking about. I find that really funny.”

“I don’t.”

That stopped Lin’s laughter.

“I’m sorry.” Lin took a deep breath. “I must be more tired than I thought. Let’s see what we can find.”

“That’s better. Now I saw the tap come in and from what I can glean, it wasn’t established until after the generators came on. At that time, the dish was repositioned and pointed to these coordinates.” Tiger Lily handed the paper to Lin. “The dish is already moving back to the correct position. I’m not sure, but it looks like it’s running a local program to do that.” Tiger Lily clicked on a running DOS window. “There it is! This little program is erasing this person’s tracks. I’m going to try and capture it.”

Before she could, the window blinked out.

“Shit.”

“Well, at least we know what to look for.”

“I should have been prepared. I wasn’t expecting an attack.”

“We don’t know that was an attack.”

“Lin, they were on this system. We need to treat that as a hostile attack. They subverted the system and used it for their own needs. We can’t track how long they’ve been doing that, but we must assume that whatever they are doing is hostile.”

“How could they have gotten past the firewalls? I mean, this system is only accessible to anyone we allow in. You and me. I know I haven’t allowed anyone access in.”

“You think someone got in from ten deuce?”

Lin didn’t know what to say. She hadn’t told Tiger Lily about that. “You know?”

“Please, Lin. I’m on that system day and night. You don’t think I noticed the increase in traffic from around the world? I almost shut it down until I tracked it back to you. Though I must say, you did a nice job of hiding it for like three months from me. And if this person, who somehow got in, is doing something similar, or is at least as smart as you are, it’s possible he could have been hiding his activity for even longer. It’s only the power logs, something I wouldn’t have thought to check, that put us on his trail.”

Lin, glad Tiger Lily had changed the topic, said, “Well, it just made sense. So where do we go from here? If he erased his steps, how do we get to him? I mean, I’m sure he was thorough, but maybe he left something behind.”

“We can see what was deleted off the disks, if this Spinal Tap download didn’t overwrite those tracks that is. As soon as the lights dipped the second time, the download started again, as if we’d never been disconnected.”

“Wait, if they know about this site, you think maybe they know about the site in Canada? I mean, there’s a constant tie and activity between the two as well as the satellite linkups. Maybe they’re doing something with that server as well.”

“Good thinking. I’ll check those logs from my laptop. You get into the video and let’s see what we can see. If someone got into one system, it’s safe to assume they got into both. Maybe they’re erasing their tracks from here and not from there.”

Lin yawned and stretched. Tiger Lily did the same and her body went slack.

“You know what, I changed my mind. Obviously they’re only in here at night, or I’m guessing they are. Let’s get a little sleep and we’ll dig into this in the morning.”

“I couldn’t agree more.”

Lin hadn’t thought about it, but obviously Tiger Lily was going to sleep in the trailer. But the two other bedrooms had been converted into a bathroom and a closet. There was only one bed. She hadn’t even gotten a hide-a-bed couch for the living room.

“Well, I’ve got a big enough bed, I guess we can both sleep in it.”

“Don’t worry,” Tiger Lily said with a sly smile, all seriousness from earlier gone. “I don’t bite. Much.”

They both laughed. Still, Lin hadn’t slept in a bed with another person. Ever. Her parents had been distant and cold people, and even when she’d had nightmares as a child they’d put her back in her own bed. She’d never had a sleepover with friends, the two she had growing up, and had never had a boyfriend. Getting into a bed with a woman felt strange, despite their camaraderie.

Tiger Lily turned off the lights and crawled across the bed. “I can tell I’m going to crash as soon as my head hits this pillow.”

“Yeah, me too,” Lin lied. Her nervousness wouldn’t allow her to sleep. At least not until she was certain that Tiger Lily was sleeping. But true to her word, Tiger Lily pushed back the blankets and cuddled up with the pillow and was breathing deeply in seconds. Lin allowed herself to relax, but still slept with her back to Tiger Lily and as close to the edge of the bed as she could. She thought about putting something between them, a pillow or the blankets bunched up, but her arms didn’t respond and before she knew it, sleep overtook her.

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Posted on July 19, 2013, in Paradise Palms. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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