My world is a scary place. I say my world because it’s one I created. On a computer screen. A world I could fully control. Without stepping outside my home. It fulfilled my control issues. With a computer it was easy. You told it to do something and it did. No questions asked. It didn’t talk back or challenge your decision. It just executed.
I looked outside. It was raining. And a reporter was yelling into the microphone. But I wasn’t really paying attention to what she was saying.
After the car accident, I’ve been stuck at home for a year. I had barely finished physiotherapy weeks ago. But my struggles were far from over. My fears had intensified ever since the accident. Ever since then, I’ve been forced to accept my insignificance and just how random life can be.
My friend Rose died on the spot. We were both going to a party. Two girlfriends hanging out.
The big truck came out of nowhere. It was moving too fast. It tried to turn…and ended up flipping over.
I grabbed the wheel and tried to avoid it. But I couldn’t. I could only watch as a part of the car plowed into my friend. I watched as she looked at me, knowing she was going to die. And her final words were seared in my brain. It was brief. Like her death.
My name is Evangelina Ross. My name means ‘good news’, gospel, if you will. But this past year I’ve been anything but. Despite the fact that me surviving was deemed a miracle. I’d lost my job as one of my firm’s top computer programmers. My insurance had covered most of the damage. My parents supplemented the rest. The company didn’t care, my co-workers didn’t care. Even those I thought were my friends.
Sure, they came to visit. To appear like they were concerned. But I’m very good at reading people. I’m not the stereotypical programmer who doesn’t get people at all. They were oozing with impatience. It was the little things. The way they looked for excuses to leave. Or labored through conversations with me.
It had been awhile since I’d received visits. Except from my parents. Who somehow thought me being in a wheel chair for months somehow transformed me into a helpless child. I hated that.
“No, don’t do that. Let me get that for you.”
As for dating? Forget that. I’m in no position for a man in my life now.
So here I was, in my pretty messed up apartment, playing a game. It was the only way to keep myself active. I had singlehandedly built an online game. It was the equivalent of Sims City. And it wasn’t very popular. Not surprising. I didn’t expect it to be. Neither did I fancy myself a game designer. It was just a way of keeping my mind engaged.
I received a mail. From some guy who had been trying to hit on me. The guy just couldn’t take a hint. I sighed. I was about to click’ ignore’, when an internal instinct told me otherwise. I paused and opened it.
It was definitely different. For one, it was encrypted. I should have just left it there. It probably wasn’t meant for me. It was probably using an end to end encryption system. Somehow, he’d sent it to the wrong person.
It was probably none of my business. I should have left it alone. But I didn’t. I got to work trying to break the encryption.
It took twelve hours.
When I found out what it was, I wished I hadn’t.
It was a crime ring, who thought it wise to use the internet, my game in particular, for their communications. It was perfect. My game was just below the radar.
Except for the idiot who had made a mistake and sent a message of “Expecting 10 kgs of coke tomorrow” to the wrong address.
The answer was simple. Send the information to the police and let them take care of it. Problem solved.
I hesitated. Then dialed.
And then I told them everything.
They told me to maintain contact and even express interest in meeting the man. I refused to. I wasn’t going to get involved in this any longer.
And I’d heard some of the horror stories of witness protection.
“It’s ok. We’ll be with you every step of the way. Wear a wire and at least pretend you’re having a good time”, he said.
At first I’d resisted. Why couldn’t they get one of their agents to pretend to be me?
After everything, it came down to procedure and precautions. This was the safest option.
Funny, I wasn’t feeling very safe.
I met him at a restaurant.
He was a gentleman and much more handsome than I’d expected. He even had his charming moments. But I never forgot what he was. A criminal and probably, a killer.
“So why did a man such as yourself want to meet me so much? You seemed almost desperate. You almost turned me off. Someone with your charm…”
“Because I wanted to meet you in person Evangelina. It was a gamble, I almost thought it would fail. But you’re here now. It means you read my mail”, he said.
My blood froze. He knew.
“My real name is Louis. I’m sure the cops are waiting outside. Hoping you’ll get enough info on me.”
He grabbed me by the wrist. As soon as he did, five guns were stationed on him. The detectives had infiltrated the restaurant, dressed as ordinary guests. Everyone else just froze and stared.
Louis didn’t seem fazed. He seemed relaxed, reassured and in control. Take it from a recovering control freak. He was in control.
“She’s coming with me”, he said.
As soon as he said that there was a loud explosion, he dragged me to the ground as everything rattled and the ground quaked. Shots were fired, plates smashes against the ground.
I could have fought him. But I knew it was unwise. The police started to rush in.
Louis’s men were already waiting in the back. “Get in”, he said. Waiting for me was a laptop. And a man on the truck floor dead. I got in.
“You’re going to kill me, aren’t you? Why should I even bother building what you want?” I asked.
“Because if you don’t, you won’t be the only one dying tonight”, he said.
He took out his phone. My parents were gagged and tied to Dad’s favorite sofa.
“You have six hours”, he said.
I had no guarantee that they would keep my parents alive. So I had to do something to guarantee it.
I was supposed to fix the flaws of their encryption system. Six hours to fix something that had taken me twelve hours. Luckily I had made mental notes on how to fix them. But implementation took time.
Six hours later I had installed the various patches necessary and something else as well.
I felt Louis put a gun to the back of my head.
“Before you blow my brains out, I just want to say two things. One, worst way to end a date ever.”
“And second I’ve installed a bit of malware in your system. In a few hours, not only will all the patches come undone, but your entire organization’s info will be leaked to the police.”
At least that’s what I imagined saying.
Instead I asked.
“Why go through all this trouble? You could hire experts and pay them to build for you. Programmers are…”
“The best programmers are a 1000x better than the average programmer and you’re one of the best. Besides our encryption is based on the game you created. Doesn’t get any better than that”, Louis said.
So here I was, Evangelina. One year ago, I was a programmer with a career and a life finally going in the right direction.
And now, my life would soon be over.
I had fulfilled my part. Despite the vigorous checks, the criminals had failed to locate one bug, right under my shoe. The police knew where my parents were. They would be safe. I had faith.
It was ironic. That in my hour of death I was perfectly comfortable with everything being beyond my control.
I closed my eyes. Already seeing the obituary, 28 year old Evangelina.
There was the sound of an obstruction outside. The police. They’d somehow found us. They were already working their way to the back. The back of the truck was opening. I was turning around, I could almost see it. The outline of the police officers outside.