I had spent hours at my computer, doing everything I could think of to slow down whoever was putting their blunt and rough fingers in my honeypot, getting their hands all sticky. I probably should have tried tracking them back, but I had no intention of being the little spider who gets stuck.
Maybe I fell asleep for an hour or two, I'm not quite sure. Staring at the clock, I'm fairly certain time has passed, more than could be accounted for by the work I did. I think. Everything feels unreal, like watching a movie. Except it's real.
They got to the bottom and smashed things up pretty well. It wasn't a finesse job, but whoever had been hired to hack in had had enough skill to just use brute force. I'd be embarrassed at how quickly they defeated my defenses if I wasn't terrified.
The phone numbers. They should be untraceable, but that wasn't the real problem. Someone could track them. Worse, Mack might pick up. Or I might.
Staring down at my cell, I winced. Trashing it seemed pretty painful, all things considered. Plus, how was I going to let Mack know? I couldn't put her in any more danger, couldn't make any more mess of this. My fault. I should have gone back and done a better job of the honeypot when I realized that things were getting messy. The only problem was I'd realized that way too late. About the time the first hack came.
Before that I had just been some delusionally paranoid computer geek with Star Wars sheets who pretended to greatness.
Now, well, now I'm paranoid with good reason and thinking that I got in way over my head. And I find myself admitting I got the sheets just because I like them, because they make me feel heroic. Well, they did. Hard to feel heroic when I think it's going to be my fault that Mack is going to get caught.
Calling her is out. Leaving a message on the Voice is out. But there has to be something I can do, something they won't track immediately. They have the numbers, but they haven't had them long. As long as Mack doesn't pick up or use the phone, there might still be time. Red, well, he won't. He already knows he's in a mess. I saw a moment or two of the news, enough to realize that he'll be hiding so far down that he might not find himself. If he's smart, and I think he is.
But Mack. I have to warn her. Should have done it hours ago, but I had been so sure I could do damage control, could just maybe fix it.
I'd kill for coffee, or even some sleep. There just isn't time. So I tug on some rumpled jeans and a shirt that I'm not sure is even clean, shove my feet into my sneakers, and head out the door.
I know who Mack is. I know where to find her. Maybe it's a bad idea, but at this point it seems like the only option. If they haven't already tracked me down, haven't already found her, I have to do something.
I'm not a hero. I never wanted to be. I just wanted to sit in the background and anonymously be brilliant. Well, look where it got me.
I slam the door to my apartment, fumbling with my key as my hand shakes and my vision blurs. I need sleep so badly. Sleep, and a vacation where no one is getting tortured or killed or shot at for anything even remotely connected to me.
My keys clank as they fall to the floor and I bend, scooping them up. Deep breath, Jim. Hold it together. I have to get to Mack and warn her, then get out of town. Way out of town. Preferably somewhere with no internet. Last thing I need is the temptation to try to do something, try to help. I'm a coward, I admit it.
Moments later I stumble outside, out into the sunshine and squint in pain. Gotta get to Mack. I should have grabbed my sunglasses, but I'm not thinking straight. I hurry to my car, glancing around nervously. If someone is coming after me I'm pretty sure I won't spot them. Even if I do, what am I going to manage? No weapon, and I am hardly intimidating. I'm 5'9 and calling me of average build would be rather kind. Plus the last time I threw a punch I was 5 and the girl had stolen my Lando Calrissian action figure. She had proceeded to flatten me.
I manage to unlock my car and get in, my heart hammering against my ribs. Is this what a panic attack feels like? I can't breathe and I suddenly wonder if a person can get an asthma attack without ever having had asthma before.
Somehow I buckle my seatbelt - I've always been a stickler for safety - and the key slides into the ignition and I turn it. In that split second I am aware that something is wrong. Something is very, very wrong.
I just wish I had realized that a few seconds before. When there'd still been time.
I'm sorry, Mack. I tried.