As if to dampen my mood still further, rain-drops began pelting down on me as I walked. They were fat heavy drops, the sort of rain-drops that are never followed by anything less than a torential downpour. I needed to find cover quickly if I was going to avoid getting drenched. I turned into the nearest store, which happened to be a liquor store. I hesitated. As depressed as I was feeling, a liquor store probably wasn’t the best place to end up. I wondered if I could make a dash for the pool-hall down the street without getting too wet. I do not go to the hall often, but I have found that on occasion it can be a great place to forget about mundane troubles. For one thing, many of the other people at Jake’s Pool Hall have larger problems than I do. Also, it is precisely because I don’t go there often that I have such a good time when I do go. The atmosphere is a nice change of pace from my usual academic, high-tech, puzzle palace, techno-geek environment. On more than one occasion that pool-hall has revived and refreshed my spirits. A long night of drinking cheap beer and breathing stale smoke-laden air, squinting down the length of a pool cue in dim light through tired and stinging eyes, as loud rock music blares out of over-strained speakers in the corner of the room, is a great way to lose oneself. The conversations I’ve had with the regulars — I’m convinced I’ve seen the same faces each time I’ve gone, despite the long intervals between visits — are refreshing too. When I’m feeling burned-out, challenging and thought-provoking debate is not what I’m after. And of course the fact that I shoot a mean game of pool also plays a part in my reasons for liking the place. I had met my first steady girlfriend in a pool-hall. It was freshman year of college at Berkeley in a pool-hall close to campus. She was a physics major. Gloria was her name. She frequented pool-halls mainly because she was an extremely good pool shooter. Her political views were further to the left than mine, which is unusual. Gloria and I had dated for a little over a year, and it was politics that eventually came between us. Too bad too, because I really liked her. I recalled her long wavy black hair. Her bangs used to hang down over her left eye. I wondered what Gloria would think of me now. Here I was, steeped in economic intrigue and high-stakes bank robberies. At least she could no longer complain that I lead a complacent and boring life. On the the other hand, she would be disgusted that I was now working for the FBI.
I sighed. The rain was already coming down harder and the thought of standing in the dank smokey pool-hall with wet clothes did not appeal to me. That diversion would have to wait. I entered the liquor store and wandered up and down the aisles staring absently at the rows of bottles. Should I get beer or wine? Whiskey?
Annoyed, I looked out the window. The rain was letting up. Apparently this was going to be a hard but short rain. Disgusted with myself for thinking about buying booze just to have something to do, and then even more disgusted with myself for not being able to decide what to buy, I turned for the exit and headed back home.
When and how had I let myself fall into the underside of computer security? My tampering on the 11th had been innocent enough, but it was also illegal. My intentions were harmless, but the result was not. Ultimately, my actions had lead to my arrest. I was now finding it difficult to justify those actions. Yet just a few weeks ago I had been comfortable with my own ethics… where had I gone astray? Had I lost perspective? What made me believe that the banking infrastructure was a game, with the innocent participants my pawns? The EFT protocols are not a puzzle to be solved. They are a critical component to a vital part of our economy. This is why tampering with EFT’s is illegal. I recalled again the accusations made by the FBI. I had become a nuisance and a criminal. When had I crossed that line? How far had I slipped? I fretted over these questions as I trudged down the wet streets and skirted the water along the curb.
I stared at the sidewalk beneath my feet. The rain had stopped entirely now. It had been a heavy rain and the gutters beside the sidewalk were still streaming. There were puddles littering the path and I was wearing only sneakers. My socks were soaked through despite my efforts to avoid the deeper puddles. I turned onto the front walk leading up to my apartment building. I dug into my pocket for the key to the door to the building, and as I looked up I nearly bumped into Lisa.
Startled, I nearly dropped my keys before regaining my composure and looking into her eyes with what I hoped was a cold glare. Her eyes met mine and she was not happy. For one thing she was completely drenched. Her face and hair didn’t look any different from usual — her hair is too short to be affected by rain — but her clothes looked as if she had just stepped out of a swimming pool. She had the wrong clothes for it too. She was wearing long royal-blue pants that should have been loose but due to the rain were clamped to her thighs and shins, with thick wrinkles around her knees. The bottom of the left pant-leg was clinging to her calf about mid-way between her ankle and knee, leaving the bottom half of her leg exposed. She wasn’t wearing stockings. On her feet she wore white sandals that were spattered with mud.
“I’m sorry,” she said simply and softly.
Not good enough.
Dammit, I had trusted her. I had not needed to help her; I could have left her to fend for herself. Instead I had chosen to help. In return all I had asked is that she provide me with a little information and that she give me some time to sort things out before she went to the police. She re-neged and went to the police anyway.