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First pages

Prologue

Way out in the middle of nowhere stood the old salvage yard. Decades earlier it had buzzed with life, processing vast amounts of metal from scrapped cars.

The yard had been the economic engine for the whole region until, with a few strokes of a pen in a boardroom, everything had changed. And then when the new highway was built in a wide arc passing right by the yard, the last hope for its survival disappeared.

Back when the place was still profitable, workers had gone to great pains to salvage every part that could be resold. Everything of value was carefully handled and stacked in tidy piles. To an outsider, these stacks of car parts might have seemed completely random, but there was a logic to their placement.

The parts were dismantled in a simple garage just beside the huge crane. The location of each pile depended on the weight and value of the parts: large items, which were heavy and relatively cheap, were stacked close to the garage, while the small, highly valuable instrument panels were placed under the eaves of a small office near the main entrance.

When business was at its peak, the yard’s leadership had issued an initiative directing staff to sell car doors in the aftermarket. Evidently, someone had realized doors brought in the most money relative to the effort required to disassemble them.

With great enthusiasm, the workers had marked off a rectangular area adjacent to the garage. The rectangle measured over a hundred yards on its long side, and it seemed to grow a little every day. As soon as a pair of doors were disassembled they were set side by side, leaning slightly against each other to provide support and protection from the weather. It must have been an impressive sight: thousands upon thousands of doors neatly arrayed and waiting to be mounted on new cars.

These days, the sight was not so pleasing—an aimless army of rusted-out doors, abandoned on history’s battlefield. Here and there a pair had fallen over, but most had remained standing in a kind of silent protest.

Old soldiers who refused to surrender.

But the rusty old jaws of the crusher still gaped, hungry for metal. Decades earlier, perhaps just before someone threw the lever that stopped everything for good, the last car was hoisted by the crane and placed on the belt feeder.

It was impossible to guess the car’s original color, as it was covered in a thick layer of rust. The chrome details had survived significantly better and were largely intact. Farther down, below the hood, the grill gleamed a triumphant smile. Fate had intervened and spared the car just inches from the greedy steel maw.

The place suited Igor perfectly. He had been here before and never encountered a single soul. The two girls, who earlier had sat perched on the hood of an old car, stood in front of him now. On the ground between them, a man lay curled up with his arms wrapped around his head. Igor took a deep breath and contemplated how best to express himself. Whatever he said, however he said it, he had to make sure they understood.

“It’s a little-known fact that many of the soldiers who landed at Normandy avoided shooting to kill. Their comrades were being slaughtered, dropping like flies. But still, when they returned fire, they aimed off to the side.”

He paused and took a drag off his cigarette.

“I mean…you’re basically in hell. All around you, your friends are lying there either dead or wounded. You hear them crying for their mommy, or just screaming in pain. You’re forced to take cover, with some German guy up there spraying bullets at you, doing his best to make sure you’re the next to die. And then, when you poke your nose up to return fire, you just…you shoot off to the side?”

He shook his head and looked at the girls in front of him.

“The military drew some conclusions based on what happened that day. One thing that’s changed is that they now use targets shaped like people when they’re training soldiers for war.

“But getting back to Normandy. Inside every person there’s a whole host of barriers to prevent us from killing one another. Some people have more and stronger barriers, while others have fewer. Some barriers stop us in the moment. Others have a more long-term effect and leave us guilt-ridden so that we can’t kill again. Take this guy, for example…”

He kicked the man lying at his feet.

“Wouldn’t you rather live than die? What do you say?”

The man began to rock slightly back and forth. His blue shirt was ripped and flecked with blood. His bare chest was covered in blackened sores where Igor had used the battery cables. Pants that had been light in color were now a mottled brown, and the stench of human waste surrounded him.

It was unclear whether he had heard Igor, but in any event, he didn’t respond. A low, monotone groan was all that escaped his lips. It wasn’t as if he were losing consciousness or in any direct pain; he had simply retreated into his innermost self and become unreachable, a sort of final protection mechanism. His brain had hopped aboard a spaceship and blasted off.

The transformation from high-functioning individual to whimpering heap was something Igor had studied on many occasions. It was always the same journey, and the man in front of him was no exception. The way Igor saw it, the person’s life was already over at the moment of capture. But that’s not what the captive person thought. At least not in the beginning.

The transformation consisted of three distinct phases.

When they’d arrived at the salvage yard that morning, the man was still in the first phase, oscillating between anger and concern. He understood he was in a bad way, but he didn’t know how bad. His human dignity was still intact. And he managed to maintain it, even through a long series of electric shocks. Igor was impressed. The victim had undeniably been a tough little champ, right up to the moment he cracked. Igor wondered if he himself would have been so resilient. Probably not.

Around lunchtime, Igor had held up the knife and the pistol and asked the man how he preferred to die.

That was the moment it appeared: the boundless dread. When a person finds himself in that bubble of terror, he becomes an animal, willing to do anything to survive. Igor didn’t care for this part of the process, because he still had a trace of empathy left in him. The victim’s dread wedged itself under his skin.

Igor had been keeping an eye on the girls to see how they reacted, but they just stood there, stone-faced, revealing nothing. Perhaps their eyes were a bit wider than normal, but he couldn’t be sure.

Now and then Igor checked his watch. For the girls’ sake, he was taking his time. After all, this was their maiden voyage, and he didn’t want it to be a rush job.

The victim hadn’t been coping especially well in his terror-bubble. But then, they never did. With tear-reddened eyes he had spoken. The pitch of his voice had transformed. The tone that was once so self-assured, almost nonchalant, was now low, controlled, and cooperative.

We can resolve this if we just work together, he’d said. In a calm, pedagogical way he’d explained to them that he had magical powers. Would they like to turn rocks into gold? That could be arranged. If they would just let him live.

As usual, something inside Igor had awakened. The part of him that wished there were some other way. Some way to drive out the evil spirit that had taken possession of the victim’s body.

Igor was considerably relieved once they’d cleared this particular bump in the road and moved on to the final stage: acceptance. It was now that the victim realized he was powerless to change his fate. Normally this insight was followed by rage, or by tears and prayer.

The man in front of them had cried and prayed until they’d lost all contact with him. Igor decided to wait a bit longer to see if they could get any further reaction out of him. If nothing came, the exercise was over.

The victim seemed unwilling to provide any more entertainment. Igor kicked him in the ribs again. He moaned faintly and continued rocking.

“Hey, listen… this guy hasn’t done anything to us.” Linda bent down, pressed a comforting hand on the man’s shoulder, and stood up again. “We should probably let him live, don’t you think?”

Gentle sobbing signaled that the spaceship was en route back to earth.

Igor took a final drag off his cigarette, flicked the butt into a puddle and turned to Linda. “Are you serious?”

The spaceship appeared to have landed now, and its pilot began arguing for his survival in an ascending whine.

Linda’s comment had surprised Igor. Was she trying to be funny?

He’d been curious about how the girls would react to the situation, but he hadn’t expected this. He cleared his throat and continued.

“Okay now, where was I? Right, Normandy. The barriers. In my case, I’ve discovered I have a type of barrier that makes me somewhat unsuitable for the job. One might say that after a day like today I’ll have brutal sleep issues for weeks.”

Igor nodded to himself.

“Sure, I can grit my teeth and get the job done, but to be perfectly frank, the desire isn’t there anymore. When I started out, it was better than a drug. I looked forward to it every time. But not anymore. Simply put, I can’t keep doing it. At the same time, the job still needs to be done.”

He held up the knife in front of the girls. He was certain Linda would be the one to take it. Igor sometimes wondered if the girls’ personalities had formed during the nine months they spent together in their mother’s belly. Or perhaps it was pure chance that had brought Linda out first, fourteen minutes ahead of Jennifer—and chance’s whim had left its indelible mark on the sisters.

No matter the explanation, the fact remained: Linda was always first. Igor tried to entice Jennifer by waving the knife in front of her, but she just stared at him. Finally, Linda took the knife and took a few hesitant steps toward the man. She stopped and shook her head.

“But Igor, have we thought everything through? I don’t understand why we’re doing this. Especially since he hasn’t done anything to us. Can’t we just let him go? If he swears to God he’ll never say a word about this?”

The man emitted a wail that reminded Igor of a puppy that had lost its mother.

“Please. I have a family…”

Linda crouched beside the man. “Do you have children?”

“A girl and a boy.”

Linda turned to Igor with a pleading look. “You heard him, Igor. We can’t do this!”

She turned back to the man and held the knife threateningly to his face before letting the tip rest under his chin.

“Do you promise never to say a word about this?”

The man nodded eagerly and opened his mouth to say something. Linda thrust the knife in all the way to the handle. The man struggled underneath her, but she held him down. After a few moments everything was calm. Linda leaned over the man, placed her lips tight to his ear, and whispered.

“I believe you.”

Chapter 1

They say Americans never go anywhere without their cars, and this was evident as I moved freely along the sparsely populated sidewalks. I didn’t have to glare at fellow pedestrians in order to walk in a somewhat straight line the way I did back in Stockholm. I like to walk. Big, wide streets with big, wide sidewalks, and the sun on my back—honestly, I can’t think of a better way to spend my lunch break.

I continued down 161st Street alongside Yankee Stadium. A sign outside one of the entrances informed me that the next home game was on Saturday. I wondered if I would still be in the city then, or if the job would already be over. If things wrapped up early, my plan was to stay and play tourist for a few days.

I walked farther down the long side of the massive stadium. Now and then I passed one of the entrances, where fans would crowd before a game. Nearing the end of the block, I turned around and took in the entire impressive building. A sign above the entrance told me where I was: “Gate 4.”

In front of the entrance, the classic “NY” logo was etched into the pavement. I decided this would be my turnaround point. I walked in a wide circle around the logo and headed back the way I had come from.

With every cell in my body, I hated the place I was walking back to. Or maybe it wasn’t the place itself but the people. Those people with their fake smiles, asking me if I wanted to join them for lunch.

Never in a million years would I hang out with any of those fools.

I thought about how truly screwed up my life was. Family and friends back home probably saw me as an incredibly successful IT consultant, living the jet-set life and making loads of money. In reality I was quite lonely. When I wasn’t visiting clients, I spent most of my time in my hotel room.

A man and woman were walking ahead of me. He was dark-haired and handsome; she was a head shorter with long, blond hair. They both wore jeans and light-colored hooded sweatshirts. He rested a muscular arm on her shoulder. As I got closer, I could hear parts of their conversation. Apparently, they were tourists in town to see a game.

From their body language, it was easy to tell that he was the decision-maker in the relationship. He spoke loudly and confidently and held his head high, his eyes pointed straight ahead. Her voice was light and feminine, and she alternated between looking down at the sidewalk and looking up adoringly at him.

There was no need to wonder whether she liked baseball or not; what mattered was that he liked it. He turned and shouted something over his shoulder. I followed his gaze. A little boy came running toward them with a huge smile on his face.

“Daddy, Daddy! They have signed baseballs!”

The man caught the boy in a faux headlock and said something I couldn’t make out, but judging by the boy’s joyful squeal, a signed ball was in his future. Something about the whole syrupy-sweet scene stirred a dark envy in me.

This man might have been a factory worker from the Midwest on the only vacation he’d been able to afford in several years. And then here I was, the distinguished data consultant with the whole world as my territory. My last vacation had been in the Caribbean, where I’d sailed from island to island. I probably earned more in a month than he did in a year.

And yet he was light-years ahead of me. He had a family, a child. Not only that, but he looked about ten years younger than I was. Now, as my fortieth birthday sped relentlessly toward me, I had started to abandon thoughts of children. That ship had most likely sailed.

I picked up the pace so I could leave the happy family behind me.

I wondered how they would perceive me as I walked by. Probably as someone entirely out of his element. As a typical Scandinavian, tall and fair, I must have stuck out on the streets of the Bronx.

Most of my fellow pedestrians had significantly darker skin than mine. I started looking for couples in which the man had fair skin and blond hair. I made it most of the way back to the office without seeing a single one. Maybe they were all sitting in traffic instead of walking.

As I neared the office I noticed a cute, petite young woman walking toward me. I casually made a slight course correction so we would pass each other at a close distance. Maybe I could catch her eye and strike up a conversation. Hey, I could always start by asking if she knew the way to Yankee Stadium.

And then it came: a brief, stolen glance. But she quickly directed her gaze back down to the sidewalk, and I was right back where I’d started.

Could she smell it on me, the fact that I hadn’t had sex in ages? Surely there was a theory about females being able to weed out a male as inferior breeding material if they sensed the male hadn’t gotten any in a while? The argument was that involuntary abstinence doesn’t just happen; there’s a reason why the other females rejected him.

Checking my phone, I saw that I still had a few minutes before I needed to head back to the office. I stopped at the smokers’ area outside the Hilton and lit a cigarillo to pass the time. I’m not a smoker, but on a foolish whim I’d bought a case at the Stockholm airport before I left. I’d originally been looking for an expensive cigar to help me celebrate my new contract. Instead, I ended up buying ten packs of cigarillos—one hundred in total. I figured they’d be harmless as long as I didn’t inhale.

At my current pace, I’d get through the whole case in just over a month. That’s assuming I could manage to keep smoking so much. Actually, though, I’d almost started to enjoy it. There was something pleasing about lighting up and being surrounded by a cloud of high-class smoke. Maybe I’d keep this bad habit, after all.

One advantage of smoking cigarillos was that they smelled quite pungent compared to cigarettes. I’d noticed others in the smokers’ area giving me a little extra space. But I actually liked the smell.

I had been training myself in the art of inhaling. I’d started out by exhaling smoke and then carefully breathing in a mixture of smoke heavily diluted with air. The trick was to inhale slowly and deliberately, something I’d neglected to do on my first try. Instead, I’d nearly died from the ensuing cough attack.

Rookie mistake.

After just a few days of practice, I could now inhale a much stronger mixture than when I’d started. I had a new problem, however: I was shaky and nauseous from the nicotine. But as they say, no pain, no gain.

Some newcomers had shown up at the smokers’ area and I looked discreetly in their direction. It was the couple I’d searched for in vain during my walk. She was dark-skinned and had a curvy figure. Her white blouse, unbuttoned just a bit too far, was balanced by a more conservative pair of blue culottes. My guess was that she worked in one of the office buildings nearby.

Her companion was a surfer type, about my size, with a blond ponytail. I took another drag on my cigarillo and eyed the couple approvingly. So there was hope for us fair-haired northerners, after all.

But something wasn’t right. Neither of them was smoking. The woman moved slowly through the smokers’ area, the surfer following a step behind. She stopped beside a young man who was standing alone, and she smiled at him, shrugging slightly. The young man brightened at first but then looked away. The surfer laid a hand on the woman’s shoulder and said something, but she shook her head and continued walking. After a few steps, she stopped again, this time beside an older couple.

I realized then what she was doing. The surfer was hassling her and she was trying to ditch him. When I saw her starting to move in my direction, I reflexively turned away.

I had ended up in some bad situations over the years because I couldn’t hold back when I saw someone vulnerable being preyed on. My brain told me to avoid getting involved, but my body didn’t give a damn and wouldn’t hesitate to place itself between a male predator and a woman seeking protection.

As the two of them approached, I took a closer look at the surfer. He was a dirty, haggard sight. A sun-bleached light-brown shirt bearing an ad for a suntan oil that hadn’t been on the market for years. Grimy shorts that may at one time have been white. And to complete the look, a pair of gladiator sandals I wouldn’t have worn if you’d put a gun to my head. I was guessing he’d spent the night on a park bench. From the way he swayed slowly back and forth, I also assumed he was either drunk or high.

All hope of avoiding a confrontation disappeared as the woman set a course directly for me.

I swallowed nervously and looked at the ground, wondering what was about to happen. The cowardly young man who had sent the woman away moments ago was now openly watching us, probably hoping to see some blood. And blood was entirely possible, because I wasn’t about to betray her like he had.

She stood before me as she’d stood before him. With a tired smile, she shrugged dejectedly.

“What are you gonna do? Whole city’s full of idiots.”

I looked into her hazel eyes. She was quite lovely. And younger than I’d first thought. Twenty-five, maybe. Not too much makeup, and straight, raven hair to her shoulders.

I glanced past her at the surfer, who stood a few yards away.

“I know what you mean. You should see my boss.”

She held my gaze and opened her red-tinted lips to speak, then looked down and laughed gently.

“He’s not my boss. I’m just trying to get rid of him. Is it okay if I stay over here a while?”

“Sure.”

I kept tabs on the guy, who seemed unsure what to do. He was still swaying back and forth, his eyes wandering around the place. When he turned toward us, I gathered my courage and locked eyes with him.

There was absolutely something wrong with his eyes. Their pupils were like black bits of coal drilling into my brain. I stared coldly back at him, unblinking. Finally, seeming to get the hint, he disengaged and sauntered away.

I released a sigh of relief and felt my chest collapse. I was shaking, adrenaline rushing as if I’d been in an actual fight. I took a puff of the cigarillo, turning away from the woman. Partly so I wouldn’t blow smoke on her, and partly to collect myself so she wouldn’t see how scared I’d been.

“Can I get a light?”

She looked up at me with a cigarette in her hand. I was afraid my voice would crack, so I just nodded and got out my lighter.

Her cigarette was a type I didn’t recognize. A bit narrower and more than an inch longer than the normal variety. She parted her lips and placed it in her mouth, then laid her hand on mine and guided the flame to the tip.

As the tobacco ignited, she met my gaze and inhaled deeply.

She blew out the smoke and smiled broadly. She seemed to be waiting for me to say something, but I couldn’t make any words come out. Finally, she scratched her pretty nose and broke the ice.

“So, where are you from?”

“Sweden.”

“Oh, I’d love to go to Europe. It seems so amazing there.”

“Yes, it’s nice.”

It got quiet, and I hated myself for not being able to think of anything to say. Normally, I find it easy to talk to people, but whenever I try to charm a woman, the words just disappear. Maybe I could ask her out for a date after work.

She reached out her hand. “I’m Brandi.”

Her hands were perfect, with long, white-polished nails. She felt warm and cool at the same time. I shook her hand gently, up and down.

“Jari.”

“Are you a tourist, or are you here on business?”

“Well, maybe a little of both. I’d like to see more of the city before I go home.”

“This is the perfect city to be a tourist in. As long as you have money, you can do anything here.”

She said the last bit in a low voice. I wondered if maybe she didn’t have much money herself. That would explain why she’d never been to Europe. Maybe she didn’t earn much. I wanted to know what she did for a living, but I refrained from asking, as I didn’t want to be too forward. She had moved a little closer to me, and against my will, my gaze angled down to her breasts. The open neckline of her blouse mesmerized me. Maybe it was a little too open, but in this moment, it was perfect.

“Are you staying at the hotel?”

I looked up like a guilty dog, but she just smiled.

“No, I’m staying somewhere else. And you? Do you live in the city?”

“Yeah. I’m a New York girl from head to toe. So, where’s your hotel?”

I pointed up the street. “One block that way.”

She bit her lower lip and swiveled her body slightly back and forth as she processed the information.

“Can we go to your hotel and have some fun?”

I was completely stunned. She wanted to sleep with me. There was no doubt whatsoever. I should be clicking my heels and rejoicing. The problem was, it had all happened so fast. This kind of thing didn’t happen to me. Not in real life, anyway. The paranoid region of my cerebral cortex sounded the alarm. Get out of here, man. There’s something wrong with her.

I looked down at her and wondered what to say. She had moved even closer, if that was possible. One more step and her breasts would be pressing against my stomach.

“I don’t know. I should probably get back to work.”

“You seem like a nice guy. I had to try. If we just went back to your hotel, I know it would be so good.”

It would have been so easy just to let myself be swept away, and I was seriously interested, but something held me back. For all I knew, she was a prostitute picking up customers among the hotel guests.

“I have a girlfriend back in Sweden.”

The lie just slipped out, and I regretted it immediately. It made everything so irreversible. There was no way to elegantly backtrack from saying I had a girlfriend. But she didn’t give up.

“Great, so you’re not married. I’m sure she wouldn’t have anything against you having a little fun while you’re traveling.”

But the magic had disappeared. Either she had mental problems or she was entirely too promiscuous for me. I just wanted to leave. The problem was that I had more than half of my cigarillo left, and I hated to stub it out prematurely.

We stood in silence for a while and smoked while we thought through our options.

I looked at her and she smiled. But the smile wasn’t as bright now that she realized the fish was off the hook. I wanted to say something before we parted; it was clear that she was going to leave soon. She stamped her feet restlessly and took one last puff before stubbing out her cigarette. She would be leaving within ten seconds. If I was going to say anything, I had to do it now.

“I just wanted to say that you are really gorgeous and I think you’re a lovely person.”

She gave me a long look and tried one last time.

“Maybe I was a little aggressive. But when I see something I like, I go for it.”

“It’s fine.”

She gave me one last look before turning and walking away. My eyes followed her down the street until she disappeared from view. I put out the cigarillo and continued my walk. My brain was in high gear after our encounter. I wondered if she actually was a prostitute.

Something had warned me about her, but I couldn’t put my finger on what it was, other than her insanely urgent need to jump into bed. Maybe she and the surfer were a team, playing a classic con game in the Hilton smokers’ area. Once we were up in my hotel room, we would share a Coke, which, it would turn out, she had spiked with knockout drops. Then she would call the surfer and they could just carry out my laptop and travel money—all except the nearly two thousand dollars in cash I kept locked in the safe.

Either that, or she was for real and I’d blown my chance on some silly suspicion. So what if she was a little crazy? This kind of opportunity comes around once, maybe twice in a lifetime. Why hadn’t I just gone for it?

Misery spread through my body as I thought about my idiotic tendency to always say no to everything. It was exactly that behavior that would likely prevent me from ever meeting anyone.

In any case, I was back to square one. Alone again. I smiled wryly to myself. Maybe she really did get paid for it…and, like the professional she was, she had sniffed out the victim who’d gone without sex the longest.

***

My shirt was sticking to my back when I arrived back at the office. The elevators were occupied, so I pushed the button and waited.

As usual, I braced myself. Without question this was one of the more unpleasant places I’d had the misfortune of ending up. And down there in the basement, behind an anonymous blue door bearing the text “InnoYoung,” the girls were, undoubtedly, for sale. They just happened to run a slightly more elegant operation than streetwalkers did.

The elevator started to descend, and I realized something. If I’d played hooky for an extra hour, I might be sitting in my hotel room with Brandi, sharing a Coke.

And I would rather be sitting on the edge of a bed beside her, with a fifty percent chance of being robbed, than heading down into this hole.

Chapter 2

Despite my distaste for the place and the people, the job itself was going pretty well. At the beginning of the week I’d had problems connecting to the server, but after a bit of complaining, I was granted administrative access, and then everything went smoothly. I had to squeeze into a small desk in the server room, but that was okay. Nobody bothered me and I could work in peace.

When I work, I’m a consummate professional. Whether the assignment is for the arms industry or a church, I always give one hundred percent. I may not always agree with the client’s values, but that makes no difference. They have ordered a service, and I’m there to deliver it.

My current client’s full name was “Innocent and Young Fuckdolls,” which was also displayed on its website. However, as the company’s owner explained at our first meeting, that name had been impossible to sell, so he’d shortened it to “InnoYoung.”

“You know what the best thing about that is?” he’d asked me.

“No idea,” I said.

“Customers can visit the site without being found out. Nosy wives checking their husband’s browser history, IT departments monitoring outgoing web traffic. All they’ll see is ‘InnoYoung.com’. See?”

He paused to make sure I was following. I nodded and he continued.

“A completely innocent address. Hell, it sounds like a company that sells workout gadgets to teenagers, right? The only people who’ll know what it’s really about are the people who know.”

“That’s clever,” I said enthusiastically.

I had a suggestion for a better name: StuffToWatchWhileJerkingOff.com. But I kept it to myself. Frank, the owner, probably wouldn’t appreciate it. I always tried to maintain good relationships with my clients. At least until they’d paid me.

I suppose the name wasn’t so important, anyway. What mattered was that the company sold pornographic films featuring very young women. And because nothing is new under the sun, InnoYoung was sure to make a lot of money.

I’d been contracted to build what was essentially a bridge between the company’s website and its accounting system. Customers would make a purchase on the website and it would automatically show up in the accounting system. Normally, I’d have tried to upsell other bells and whistles as well.

My flagship service, which provided healthy profits to both the client and me, was a custom-built connection to a data warehouse. This allowed the client to see which products were selling best, giving them a powerful tool to increase sales. But I hadn’t even told Frank that this possibility existed.

The place gave me the creeps, and I hoped to finish the project quickly. The guy who’d greeted me at the door on my first day had suggested quite casually that one of the girls go back to my hotel and keep me company, since I was so far from home.

I renewed my pledge to avoid shady businesses like this one in the future. It shouldn’t be so damned hard, given how high my rates were. The problem was that I was even better at spending money than at earning it. So I was forced to take jobs like this one, jobs I’d normally never touch. The only bright spot was that this job was in New York, a city I loved.

And as low as my regard for InnoYoung was, at least they were completely open about what they did. Marketing was simple: the younger and more scantily clothed, the better. I wondered where they found the “models.” And what drove the girls to take off their clothes in front of a camera. Once your picture is on the Internet, there’s no taking it back.

Partway down the company’s home page was the heading “Barely Legal,” which immediately struck me as inaccurate. The woman pictured licking a lollipop with her hair in pigtails was clearly at least thirty, not the fifteen-year-old cheerleader she was made up to resemble.

A little farther down the page was a disclaimer, which declared that all girls on the site were over eighteen and that the whole operation was monitored by a federal governmental agency.

I’d put the finishing touches on my code before lunch, and the bridge program was now ready to start passing transactions from the website to the accounting system. But there was one last detail to attend to. Many programmers are lazy when it comes to the important task of testing their software. I am not one of them. My professional honor would never allow me to release an untested program.

 


AUTHOR Q&A

About me

Albert Renick interviews Peter Stein: AR: “… so you say. Train driver, pilot, fireman, soldier, super hacker and Sergeant at Arms at the Road Saints motorcycle club in California. Do you think it feels credible?” PS: “I’m deciding whether it’s credible or not. That’s what I said and that’s what’s on the table.” AR: “But you must understand that there are those who are interested in your background?” PS: “Absolutely. And that’s why I told you what I was doing before. Ask any other questions now."


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