A bridge too far?

“Crap.” Said Kai, looking behind him. “I was hoping to avoid any attention. My cover story kind of shortens my window before anyone notices I’m gone...providing that Litpol does any checking.  Okay...you’re a citrix guy. Specializing in Xenserver. Don’t mention XenSource,  because well, no matter that everyone knows where it came from open source is a little too close to open mind these days. We have a class on Monday, and you’re a presenter I picked up from Banff.  Lunch and learns. You come in and talk specifically about Xenserver to my semi-trapped audience of Microsoft gurus.  Kinda like those Vegas  timeshares.”

Kai pulled over, and took a deep breath as the police car pulled in front of him. This had never been his strong suit. Certainly not with his wife anyway. Jenell saw through him in the blink of an eye, and though he knew that he could not possibly be that transparent to a random stranger, the ease with which she called any bluff he made him very nervous about lying in general.  The story wasn’t the hard part...lying was essentially telling an alternative version of the truth. The hard part was looking the person in the eye as you told it, and not giving out contradictory details to any  questions asked.

He watched, waiting, as the police car merely parked in front of him a few moments, without issuing any demands on the loudspeaker, or anyone stepping out.  Scare tactics, he was certain. Have a Timmy’s donut, a coffee, let the fellow sweat.  It was working.  

Oh dang...the cruiser’s door was opening. There was something that Kai was forgetting. What was it? The music!

“Dark...no...can’t call you that. Mr. Conrad Black. Mr. Black, will you quickly but calmly hide the IPod and put in the top CD in the dashboard? I think us dedicated, hard working citizens need a good dose of Microsoft’s Exchange Server Administration, don’t you?”

Dark nodded.  “Uh...are you you still? Kai, I mean...not Kaiser123.”  He did as asked, and soon flipped the CD into the tray, and even had the foresight to skip it ahead a few tracks.  A droning voice played over the speakers, telling it’s audience about the user-friendly new features of the new CAS Server, and how ensuring your email was reachable over the internet was easier to configure, and more full-featured than ever before.

Kai nodded “I’m me, you’re Conrad. But only if asked.”

Without being asked, Kai rolled down the window.  “Evening officer.”  He said, as casually as he could muster.  “I wasn’t speeding, was I?” He hoped to keep the officer from looking too closely at Dark, as the long hair and beard were not exactly part of social norms.

“License and registration please...” said the officer, all business.

“Sure.” He handed the officer his credentials. Now they knew he was in BC, crap. He’d hoped to avoid any trace of his intended destination for when the search actually began. 

“Kind of late, isn’t it, Mr. P.?  You’re also kinda hard from home.”   Said the officer, shining the light in his eyes. Kai blinked and resisted the urge to shield his eyes.

“Not really sir. Depends how you look at it. Grew up in Merritt,  just down the road there. Lived in Kamloops for ten years too. But yes, I currently live in Calgary.”

The officer frowned. “Merritt...say...did your mother work at the police station there?”

“Yeah.  Sort of, anyway.  Victim Services. Did you know her?  You don’t look old enough. “ he said frowning.  

“Yeah, I knew her. But I wasn’t a cop then. Don’t want to talk about it, really, but...well, your mom was a real nice woman. Still is, I’m guessing.  Didn’t much appreciate her back then, but...well, tell her Jimmy Davis says hi...and that it’s officer  Davis now. Probably won’t remember me, but...well,  I remember her.”

Kai had to fight the urge to take a deep breath.

“So...uh...am I free to go?”

“Not yet. I already noted the license plate and such, and there was some trouble earlier. Hooligans from the U.S...Heard anything?” 

“No...been fighting to stay awake. Not enough coffee in the world to cope with this stuff.” Kai said smiling. He turned up the CD, so the fellow could hear the sales pitch/lesson issuing forth. 

“I hear you man. You should hear some of the new policy and procedure manuals these days. Okay...so I need to note your business in BC. Out of province plates need to be recorded.  I won’t make you take the truth serum, because essentially I’d have to stick around here till it wore off, so you didn’t drive into a ditch. Got a long ways to go?”

“Yeah, but likely stopping in Merritt for the night. Haven’t  decided yet.  One of my first jobs was at the Seven Eleven there. Might have caught you shoplifting there.” Said Kai, jokingly.  “Oh...business here in BC. Class in Kelowna. Same sort of stuff you just heard.  Got a mobile lab, laptops in the back. Teaching some IT guys how to upgrade their skills in server management, basically.”

“And your friend?”

“Conrad Black...Citrix Xenserver specialist. “ said Dark. “I’m trying to spread my wings and start selling the product rather than just building it. Been stuck in loud, cold server rooms far too long. So I convinced the bosses they should let me have a go at it.”

Kai smiled to the officer. “Don’t worry, first thing in the morning, I’ll get him a proper haircut. Not sure I can convince him about the beard. How about you, wanna scare him into it?”

“Shouldn’t have to. Conrad is it? I’d really suggest you get that thing chopped. Let’s put it this way. If you’d been driving rather than your friend here, I’d likely be taking you both straight to the precinct rather than talking so nicely. If you don’t want to get stopped ten times before Kelowna, I’d get it done. As it is, I’m going to have to open the cases. “

“Right.” Said Kai. “Should I step out? Or do you want to check them on your own?  There’s passwords on them and such.”

“Step out. Slowly.”

“Procedure, right? You’re kind of making me nervous now.”

“Procedure. Let’s get this done.”

“Right. I’ll let you open the case.  I’ll unlock it, but you open it. The laptops are a kinda gunmetal grey. “

The officer nodded, hand on his weapon, but had not drawn it. Kai unlocked the cases, both of them, dragged them to the rear,  then moved aside for the officer.

“Laptops...like you said. Pull one out. They have power, I assume?”

“Some of them...some of the batteries don’t hold a charge as well as they used to.”

“Fair enough.  Pull out the third one on the left.”

“Alright.” Kai did so, and the officer looked into the cavity left behind in the foam.

“Okay, nothing hidden there. Good.”

Kai turned on the machine. “It’ll be a bit slow. Faster when it’s plugged in. Energy saving kicks in automatically to preserve battery.”  

A few minutes later,  a blue screen popped up, (to Kai’s relief, it was not the dreaded blue screen of death) proclaiming Server 2008.  “Need me to log in?”

“Yes...just need you to walk me through a few basics. Tell me what you’re showing the students.”

“You got it.”  Kai spent the next few moments walking through the basics of active directory, and user groups in windows, mentioning the various roles that could be installed, and in particular, mentioning Hyper-V, as this particular machine was set up to run several virtual machines, though none had yet been installed on this one.

“Alright, enough, I need to stay awake for my shift.” Said the officer.  “Free to go. I’ll also note your license as one that has already been checked satisfactorily. Tell your friend he can relax, the gun my partner was aiming at his head is down now.”

Dark blinked,  and started. “What?!”

“Your friend told me to scare you...did it work?”

“Uh...yeah...alot.”

“Have a nice day, folks. Don’t forget to tell your mother I said hi.”

Kai had to stop his hands from shaking as he returned the laptop and started to drive away. He couldn’t believe his luck thus far, and part of him wanted to press the gas to the floor even now.  He felt conflicted too. The fellow was Litpol...but he was surprisingly human too, no longer a fear without a face.  He even joked around with them a bit, which technically wasn’t allowed. In a big city, like Vancouver, that police officer would have been cold as ice. Kai had gambled, hoping the “old hometown” gambit would help, and it had. Better than he’d expected really. He drove slowly, and steadily, and when he saw the officer (who indeed did have a partner in the vehicle) in the rearview, almost panicked, until the fellow drove past them at speed.  He took a deep breath, and pulled over.

“Dark...can you drive for a bit? I need to calm my nerves.”

“You need to calm your nerves? I almost crapped my pants when he mentioned the gun.” Said Dark. “Besides...I probably shouldn’t.  Not till I do something about my hair and stuff. You heard what he said.”

“Right. You’re right. Can’t handle getting pulled over again. ” Kai stepped out, bent over and promptly threw up. He climbed back in and took a deep breath, started the vehicle.  “But we’ll need to take a break for a few hours soon. ”

The rest of the trip was fairly uneventful, but the sense of optimism that had permeated the journey since sharing his plan with Dark had somewhat evaporated with the close call. As they approached Vancouver, Kai couldn’t help feeling that the crossing of the Lions Gate Bridge was symbolic somehow, that he had crossed over fully to the other side, and there was no way back.

“Any idea where the Safe is?” he asked. “Or am I still pinning my hopes on the Canucks game?”

The End

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