Karen E. Olson in Ives Main Library

He‘s in Control

August is Summer Reading Month in Daily Nutmeg, and Karen E. Olson is this week’s featured author. Please enjoy this excerpt from Olson’s suspense novel Vanished (2018).

* * *

The hacker known as Tracker moves along the sidewalk, a hoodie pulled up over his head, his eyes darting from side to side. He approaches an ATM and pauses for a second. Someone comes up behind him, and he whirls around, but it’s only a young woman, maybe in her twenties, a question in her eyes. He knows what she wants, so he steps aside. She nods, her card in her hand. He wants to warn her, but he knows this one is OK. Knows it because he’s got the skimmer in his pocket. …

The woman takes her cash from the machine and tucks her card into her pocket. She turns and walks away; he’s invisible to her. While the sidewalk is bustling, no one pays attention as he approaches the machine. He hovers over it, shielding it. If anyone notices him, he merely looks as though he’s already swiped his card and is trying to figure out how many euros he needs. He could do it now. Right now. He’s done it before, but something is stopping him this time. Maybe because it’s two years later. Maybe because he’s had time to think about it. Maybe because of her.

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He shakes her out of his head as he makes his decision. In one swift move, he takes out the skimmer. He peels off the tape that covers the glue and affixes it to the machine. He surveys it for a second. No one will be able to tell. No one, unless he looks too closely, will see what he’s done.

And the next person who puts his card into the ATM will be compromised.

He tries not to think about what he’s doing, careful to stay shrouded as he moves away in the crowd. He doesn’t want to linger, see who uses the machine next. He’ll know.

He saunters into a nearby hotel, shedding the hoodie in the men’s room, stuffing it into a trash can. He’s wearing a white button-down shirt and a pullover sweater underneath, and he smooths it down as he takes a look in the mirror. He ignores the worry lines around his eyes as he splashes a little water on his hands and wets his hair back. He pulls out a pair of sunglasses and puts them on. As he walks out of the men’s room, he stands up straighter, hands in his pockets. Confident.

A cafe is to the left, just outside the hotel, and he takes a seat, putting his phone on the table in front of him. He orders a coffee. The air is cooler than he’d like, and he regrets losing the hoodie. His phone vibrates, and he glances at it before picking it up and responding with his own text. He probably shouldn’t stay, but he’s within sight of the ATM and he’s curious, against his better judgment. So far, no one has used it.

The coffee comes, and he sips, relaxing slightly as though he is merely a tourist or a businessman enjoying a few moments of solitude.

His phone vibrates again, interrupting. He looks over at the ATM. It’s a young couple, arms around each other. He picks up the phone and touches the icon for the app he’s developed just for this purpose. All of the young man’s credit card information has downloaded into the app. With just a touch, it will transfer to the server. There isn’t supposed to be anything in between the ATM machine and the server, but he’s set this up as a safeguard. He’s in control. He can decide what gets transferred and what doesn’t.

He watches the young couple smiling at each other, and he’s envious of them. They stop in front of the fountain and snap a picture of themselves using a phone that’s not unlike his. He’s never been so close before, never seen the victims. They’ve always been names and numbers online, no pictures, no videos, no way to feel guilty.

He goes to the menu on the app and hits another button. Again, another safeguard. He only hopes it works as he sends the information to the server.

They brought him in because of what he could do.

The hacker known as Tracker stands, tosses cash onto the table and moves away, disappearing into the crowd.

* * *

by Karen E. Olson
Where to buy: Amazon | IndieBound | RJ Julia

Image, photographed by Dan Mims, depicts Karen E. Olson in the Ives Main Library.

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