“Yeah, well I’m sorry too,” I said as I side-stepped around her and unlocked the door. I opened the door and closed it behind me in one motion, leaving her outside. As I walked down the hallway toward the stairs I felt a rage surging. Her betrayal was nearly tangible. The wave of anger traveled swiftly upward through my frame, beginning in the pit of my stomach and ending in my head, right behind the eyes. My vision was blurred and my forehead was burning. I could taste bile in my mouth. Not only had she betrayed our trust, but worse, she had caused me to question my own morals. That I found my morals lacking made me all the angrier. Perhaps it was unfair to blame her for the last part… but I did. I clenched both my fists and jammed them into my pockets. I hadn’t stomped very far down the hallway before the air was filled with the din of the doorbell ringing continuously and furiously.
Ling-pong! Ling-pong! Ling-pong! …
I whirled around and stamped back toward the front door, letting my temper fly. If she wanted to talk that badly, then I was going to give her an ear-full. Suddenly I had lots to say to her, and it would not be pretty. I threw the door open, nearly tearing it off the hinges. But I said nothing; Lisa was in tears. My anger ebbed as abruptly as it had risen. I stood there in silence for a time. She said nothing, but her shoulders fluttered gently as she stood shaking her head back and forth. She choked back more tears.
“C’mon in,” I offered softly.
She said nothing as she crossed over the threshold and followed me down the hallway and up the staircase. The hallway echoed with our footsteps. I opened the door to my apartment, gestured toward the sofa, and went in search of a tissue. When I returned to the living room moments later with a box of kleenex, Lisa had already composed herself and had already gotten a tissue from her purse and was wiping her eyes. She accepted my kleenex anyway, thanking me.
“What was I supposed to do?” she asked beseechingly. “I don’t want to go to jail. I explained to them that you were not the hacker they are after, that your hacking is harmless. But they would have none of it, Carl.”
“When did this happen?” I asked.
“The day before yesterday. They know about BIF and deep-throat. They knew all about everything that had transpired in Rudy’s office. They threatened to throw me in jail and basically gave me no choice but to cooperate.
“Carl, I was scared. You have to understand that.”
I did. I had to concede that she had not done anything unreasonable or unfair. Nor particularly harmful. It sounded like the FBI already knew all about me and what I had done (I wondered if they had bugs in Rudy’s office). Lisa only confirmed what they already knew. What she did not do, indeed could not do, was implicate me for anything more than harmless tinkering. Despite the fact that my tinkering was highly illegal, it would not be of great concern to the FBI. They had their hands full trying to find the real EFT criminals, the ones making money. By substantiating my story, and by doing it before I was arrested, Lisa had probably helped my cause considerably.
It was at this point that my manners finally caught up with events. Lisa’s clothes were still soaking wet, even to the point of forming a large wet area on the carpet beneath her feet.
“I’m sorry, I should have offered sooner: is there anything I can do to help you dry off? Let me get you a towel.”
I left her there as I went down the hallway to the linen closet. I dug down to the bottom of the stack of towels to get one of my rarely-used guest towels. Poor Lisa; she was soaked. I returned with the towel and she stood up to take it.
“Lisa, I was quick to jump to conclusions when I saw you in the FBI offices. I’m sorry. How long were you waiting outside the apartment before I got back.”
“I don’t know… a while I suppose. It didn’t rain long, but it sure did come down hard. I had no umbrella and there was no place to take cover.” She was patting herself with the towel as she spoke.
“I’m sorry,” I said again.