JJ opened the front door and they stepped into a boiling caldron of raised voices and shrieks.
“LouEllen, please calm down,” Lily admonished. “You can’t rush in here breathing hard with your heart condition, still sporting those extra pounds you promised you’d lose. LouEllen, this isn’t going to help. I don’t want to be calling an ambulance again.”
LouEllen bawled, “Lily, we both got those emails telling us not to do anymore podcasts on the new residents. We tried talking to Mary Lou, but she just gets that funny glint in her eyes and says, ‘We’ve got them on the run now.’ Please help us! If the podcast doesn’t go on, she can still pay her bills. For her it’s the prestige. Mary Lou doesn’t have a business like you and me that pay our living expenses.”
Jo looked over the tops of her sunglasses at JJ, who took in the exchange. He understood her petition to offer help to these women. He resolutely sighed, knowing his plans were postponed. “Ladies, we couldn’t but overhear the consternation in your frightfully high-pitched tones. Can we help?”
Lily melted with relief as her features relaxed. Grabbing her friends by their elbows she herded them into the parlor to the right of the doorway. The ladies quickly recounted the problems as JJ called upon each.
“May I see the threatening emails, please? Lily, you also said you received at least one. I’d like to see that as well. You’ve asked for help from the local police, right? I don’t want to get crosswise with your law enforcement folks.” He turned and made a face at Jo who politely smiled.
“LouEllen,” Lily directed, “Caroline, get your laptops and bring them back here for JJ to study while I show him my emails.”
“Jo, hon, would you mind getting mine from our room so I can access my digital tools if needed, please?” Jo scampered off. “You’re an angel,” JJ called.
Lily pulled JJ into her modest office and signed into email. JJ read the digital threads which included the police responses. He searched her face for any hidden secrets and saw none.
“May I forward these to my email account?” JJ asked. “I have some computer forensic tools that I can use. As soon as LouEllen and Caroline arrive, we’ll repeat it for them. I presume the threats are from the same source. That will provide me some leads, unless there are additional details you need to share.”
Jo returned with his laptop, and he connected, grabbing each of the messages. He launched a program that spilled everything out on the screen in SMTP binary code.
Watching his every move and the screen, Lily asked, “What’re you doing? How come the email has gone from readable to gibberish?”
Not moving his gaze from the screen, he explained. “We call this a digital microscope. The sender didn’t sign the email or show their address, but the underlying code contains the from and to information that allowed delivery. Since I have all three emails, I can look for…and there it is. Not a bad cloaking exercise.” He mumbled, “Nowhere near the APT goons I typically hunt.”
“Uh, APT, what’s that?” Caroline asked.
JJ, still reading the screen, clarified, “Advanced Persistent Threats. In the cyber security world, all known cyber scum is APT plus a number as a shorthand in our communications with other digital hunters.”
JJ’s fingers glided across the keyboard. He wished his hands were otherwise engaged like running all over Jo’s skin. The scent of her perfume teased his nose.
JJ hopped up and faced the circle behind him. “Ladies, I’d appreciate you not repeating anything I say about my work against bad actors on the internet. I know your podcast is all about gossip, but I would like you to maintain confidentiality for anything you might see.
“Lily, you claimed that there are recordings of the podcasts. We’d like to watch them to see if we can spot anything unusual. The correlation between the topics you discuss on these shows and the email threats might not be obvious. Can we access them from here?”
LouEllen brightened. “I have access to the archives. Let me show you where to begin. If you want, I can give you admin access to the files.”
JJ looked up and smiled at Jo. “Honey, come help me watch these? Two sets of eyes are always better than one.”
With a mischievous smile, Jo coyly joked, “You need the bright light of my eyes to study? Sure.”
Click Follow to receive emails when this author adds content on Bublish