"I was looking at those photos again and managed to remember a little. But again, only fragments," she said, changing the subject.
"That's progress, nonetheless," her father said, loading up his plate with mashed potatoes. "Eventually all the pieces will fit together. What did you remember?"
"I vaguely recalled high-tailing it back to the truck. The timestamps on the pictures show less than an hour between the last one and the wreck. Bryan was saying he'd discovered some scandal that was 'huge' and something about a server. But I have no idea which one he was talking about. We didn't have one at home. Just our laptops, tablets, and so forth."
His expression indicated wheels turning in his brain.
"A server, eh? Huh. Bryan and I had some pretty interesting conversations. He understood all that IT stuff inside out. There wasn't much, if anything, he didn't know how to do. A few times I, well, wondered about some of the things he said. When I'd question him, he was always, uh, well, evasive."
Something about his voice's strange inflection triggered an alarm. She set down her fork and stared at him, hard.
"Oh? Like what?"
His eyes were troubled as they met hers. "The last time you both were here, he and I were upstairs watching the Superbowl and having a few beers. He mentioned how his job at the credit union was pretty boring. Sometimes he did some exploring. Some of what he mentioned is only found on the Dark Web or classified sites." His lips compressed in a line, as if holding something back.
"And?" she prompted.
He exhaled, hard. "I think he was doing some hacking."
Her heart rate spiked. That made perfect sense. It also had an oddly familiar ring.
"You think he found something that relates to all this? Something so classified it cost him his life?"
Will's attention fixed on his plate, then slowly met her questioning look. "It's a strong possibility, Sara."
"Oh, my God! Why didn't you say so before?"
His voice remained steady. "I don't like jumping to conclusions. Until now, I didn't have enough information to support that. Since those photos were taken relatively close to your cabin, it was possible you just stumbled upon something you weren't supposed to see. But combined with what you remembered and I've found so far, it sounds as if the discovery wasn't random."
"If that's true, what should I do now?"
"Keep trying to remember. Figure out more about that server. Did you ever replace his cell phone?"
"No. I had no reason to. Why?"
"Get it replaced. There might be a clue in Cloud Storage or on the Google account on his phone. He probably erased his tracks, but you never know. People think of their phones as an extension of their brain. On the other hand, if there was anything there, the spooks probably took it down."
"True. And you're right. Bryan always knew exactly where his phone was. At all times. I used to accuse him of being addicted to it. He blew it off. If it had incriminating information on it, then it makes more sense." She held her temples. "So what he did was against the law?"
"Accessing classified information or cyber snooping is definitely not legal. Often it's a federal offense. Some people have gone to prison. Others have left the country to avoid prosecution. At least he doesn't have to worry about that."
"Right. They killed him instead. And tried to get me, too!"
"They naturally assume you know this dirty little secret."
Her thoughts raced, absorbing the implications. Seconds later, she sat up straight, eyes flashing. "How could he do that to me? I loved and trusted him. And he nearly got me killed!"
"I sincerely doubt he expected such an outcome. He was a bit of an idealist, naive in his own way. He would never deliberately put you in danger, Sara. I'm sure of that."
"I don't know, Dad. He told me it was huge."
"There are lots of things that could be huge without carrying a death sentence. But all the evidence indicates this did."
Her appetite fled. Her own husband, the love of her life, nearly got her killed. Without hesitation, she'd literally trusted him with her life. Hot tears of fury with a side of betrayal filled her eyes.
She excused herself and plodded upstairs to her room where she sat on her bed, caught in the unhappy flux of a love/hate interface.
"Damn it, Bryan!" she growled aloud. "How dare you expect me to finish your dirty work! What's the matter with you? You owe me a huge explanation, buddy. If you weren't already dead, I'd kill you myself."
But dead he was.
And her father was right.
Bryan could be idealistic.
It was what made him such a hopeless romantic. A part of him she cherished. He'd never deliberately harm her. She knew that. Like her father, she shouldn't judge him or the situation without the facts.
Gradually, her heartrate returned to normal
At least a few things were starting to come back.
What server? Where? Was there one at their condo she didn't know about?
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