‘Stop! Stop!’, I heard it loud and clear behind me. But I ran madly down the seemingly endless street. The cops were after me and all because of a ridiculous virus.
Within me lay dormant an undefined talent waiting to be unleashed, yearning to find its place in the world. As I pondered my potential, I couldn’t help but notice how effortlessly others seemed to excel in their respective fields. Some had the gift of artistic expression, effortlessly crafting beautiful works of art. Others possessed a natural inclination towards music, language, or mathematics. It appeared that everyone had a talent, except for me.
Whenever someone inquired about my aspirations and skills, I found myself resorting to a witty response, quipping that I excelled at “sleeping late.” It was enough to elicit a smile, but deep down I couldn’t help but wonder: what was my true calling? What skills lay dormant within me? What ignited my passion?
It was then that I discovered a new scholar model at the college I had just enrolled in: the dual education system. Under this system, I would have to work as a trainee in the same field while simultaneously pursuing my studies. With only a week left to find an internship, I was desperate to secure a position.
Fate led me to Werner’s Busy Bee Hardware, a small hardware store nestled in a corner of a quaint side street. The neon sign above the entrance glowed with an ambiguous hue, occasionally flickering to spell out “Werner’s Busy Pee Hardware.” Despite the off-putting name, I mustered up the courage to enter.
After a brief interview with Mr. Werner, a septuagenarian electronics technician, he decided to take me on as his new apprentice. As he gave me a tour of the small shop, I couldn’t help but notice its lackluster appearance. It consisted of a small office where Mrs. Werner handled the finances, a repair shop, a sales counter, and a storage room housing a server and a Linux computer. Mr. Werner made it clear that no one was to enter the server room without his permission, sternly warning me that “nobody had any business being here.”
The regular customers were a mundane bunch, purchasing office supplies and printer cartridges. It was evident that I had landed myself in a painfully unexciting family business. Despite the monotony, I held onto the hope that this internship would unlock my hidden talent and reveal my true calling.
In the dreary repair workshop of Werner’s Busy Bee Hardware, I found solace in the company of my fellow sufferer, Marcel. Despite his towering build and worn-out appearance, Marcel exuded a sense of calm and reserve that belied his intimidating appearance. Under his tutelage, I learned the intricacies of typewriter repair – from the difference between an Olympia SM Carrera de Luxe and a Brother SM LW 8oo IC, to the historical significance of classic models such as the Ideal A Typewriter and the Albus Perkeo.
While I was only moderately interested in the world of typewriters, I listened intently to Marcel’s digressions, fascinated by his encyclopedic knowledge and the stories he had to tell. In exchange, I shared with him my knowledge of software development and the intricacies of the internet. Marcel, despite having no prior knowledge of programming, was an attentive listener and a quick learner. In just a few weeks, he had set up his own compiler and began coding on his own.
It was not long before Mr. Werner took care of me and put me in front of one of the computers that usually stood around as exhibits. He briefly explained what my duties were. I started to program some tools and applications he had envisioned and was hoping to sell one day. On the side, he showed me an invoice software he tried to sell to clients. I do not remember ever selling any of these programs to anybody.
Working as a programmer at Werner Busy Bee was my shield against the daily terror in the shop. Marcel, on the other hand, was enslaved to work. Add to that, that Mrs. Werner, a contentious old hag, approached Marcel at every opportunity to remind him of his incompetence. Without making a sound, Marcel took almost every chicane. Every now and then I expected Marcel would explode. But he would only nod friendly and wordlessly go back to work.
Marcel’s excellent work ethic was a source of constant admiration, yet his meek demeanor made him the perfect scapegoat for all that went awry in the shop. If he mistakenly noted down a 610c print cartridge instead of a 601c on the hand-written receipt, Mrs. Werner would unleash a tempestuous tirade on him.
Marcel’s excellent work ethic was a source of constant admiration, yet his meek demeanor made him the perfect scapegoat for all that went awry in the shop. If he mistakenly noted down a 610c print cartridge instead of a 601c on the hand-written receipt, Mrs. Werner would unleash a tempestuous tirade on him.
In the rare moments when the shop was empty, Marcel and I would indulge in some harmless fun. I would grind coins with the grinder while Marcel randomly connected the wires of the typewriters, causing them to produce nonsensical ghostly typewritten text. Occasionally, he would even burn the fuses just to see them go up in flames, only to repair them later.
Our break times were spent at a local butcher’s shop, where we devoured delicious yet greasy meals at reasonable prices. As I sat at the computer for eight hours a day, I found myself gaining more than twenty pounds in just a few weeks.
Marcel was subjected to Mrs. Werner’s relentless nagging, while I was given the privilege of working on my code, undisturbed. Mrs. Werner would occasionally drop by to reminisce about the ‘good old days.’ On one such occasion, I even went so far as to ask her out, hoping to put an end to her interruptions while I was working on some complicated code. To my surprise, she apologized and left without a word. I was grateful for my position as a programmer, which afforded me some measure of peace in an otherwise unbearable environment.
As with any programmer, I too longed to create something truly exceptional. I spent my self-imposed breaks tinkering with typewriters, much to Mr. Werner’s chagrin. He reminded me that I was a programmer and not a repairman. Undeterred, I programmed short, fun applications such as screen savers or a fake operating system that resembled the cockpit of a spaceship.
I dreamt of creating something truly remarkable, something that would defy the naysayers who insisted it could not be done. The thought of being recognized as the creator of such a program was exhilarating. I read about a programmer named Chris, who had gained legendary status for programming SCA, the very first virus on the classic Commodore Amiga Computer. SCA stood for Swiss Cracking Association, Chris’ hacking group. He had succeeded in writing a virus that could survive in the memory of a computer even after it was reset, duplicating itself on any data volume inserted into the computer. The virus would then display a warning message after every fifteenth reboot.
As I typed each character into the computer, I was filled with a sense of hope and anticipation. Perhaps one day, I too would be celebrated as a hero of the computer age.
The program was innocuous; it caused no harm and consumed no system resources. In short, it merely surprised its unsuspecting victims.
One day, while indulging in my fake operating system and daydreaming about the market dominance of my product, Marcel revealed that he still possessed his old Commodore Amiga computer. He regaled me with tales of rare viruses that had plagued his machine, admitting that he simply couldn’t bring himself to delete them. Instead, he had chosen to collect them, proudly boasting of his impressive collection of Amiga viruses. “This one is almost extinct,” he exclaimed with enthusiasm, as if he were discussing a rare animal species.
It was hard to believe, but Marcel was a fan of these viruses. He had even attempted to program a boot-block virus on the Amiga, though he had failed miserably, lacking the guidance necessary to do it correctly. And so, I was struck by the idea of programming a virus of my own. Marcel was thrilled with my suggestion, eagerly promising to add it to his collection.
I began working on my virus, tinkering with it whenever I had the time and inclination. But most of my time was spent on Mr. Werner’s program, which was designed to calculate routes for pharmacy couriers.
One day, while Mr. Werner was out purchasing prepaid cards for the mailing machine and Marcel was perusing a typewriter catalog, I found myself with some free time. I stopped by Ms. Werner’s office, regretfully listening to her inane gossip. But as soon as I was able to extricate myself from her clutches, I turned my attention back to my virus.
The time I spent on it began to impinge on my work on the pharmacy program. The source code of the virus had grown to a hefty twenty pages, and it still required extensive revision. Once compiled, the file was only a mere five kilobytes in size.
One day, as I returned from a brief walk outside, I found Marcel seated at my computer – a rare occurrence. He was browsing the internet, researching typewriter shipment prices. “I’m almost done,” he muttered. “Just wanted to look something up.”
I encouraged him to take his time, and I sat next to him, patiently waiting for him to finish.
In college, the study of Computer Science was my passion, the place where my creativity and intellect truly flourished. Mr. Frohlich and Mr. Kowelevski, our esteemed computer science professors, often assigned us challenging programming tasks. While my peers struggled to complete the exercises, I would effortlessly finish them within hours. I soon found myself mentoring fellow students, reviewing their work and providing guidance on their first programming steps. Despite the uniform task assigned to all, each student’s approach to the assignment varied, and the code they produced carried their distinct style.
Programming, like art, reflected the personality of the creator. Some programmers crafted long, complex code to solve problems, while others opted for cleaner, more concise code. I belonged to the latter category. My programming style was fast, efficient, and elegant. My code was shorter, ran smoother on the system, and was easier for me to understand if I ever had to revisit it after a long break.
Mr. Frohlich was quick to recognize my talent and would often seek my assistance on his own projects. I still remember the day when I showed him how to create 3D objects in code, despite the limitations of the computer’s processing power. His awe at my skill was evident.
One day, I showed him the virus I had created, and he was fascinated by its structure. Despite his scientific curiosity, I was surprised when he asked for a copy of the virus’s source code. My virus was nothing extraordinary, but it had taken me a lot of time and effort to perfect it. The virus did not have any flashy or creative code that would make it appealing to anyone, but I gave him a copy of the source code anyway.
He was excited to see the commands I had used and asked me to explain their function in detail. My virus was simple in design. Once activated, it would quietly embed itself in the deepest memory banks of the system and remain hidden from view. It would monitor certain programs and wait for the user to access their email account. Once triggered, the virus would attach itself to every email and contact, thereby propagating itself. To remain undetected, it would conceal itself in critical system files that only experts would typically access. The virus would automatically launch every time the system booted up. It did not destroy any data or files, but it did cause the seconds on the system clock to run backward on the screen.
Mr. Frohlich asked me what I intended to do with the virus. I quipped, “Maybe it will end up on the list of antivirus programs, and I will print and frame the antivirus warning on my wall.”
On a particularly tedious day, I sent the virus as an attachment to various email addresses, knowing full well that it would spread and infect any system it came across.
My virus did not have a name yet, so I simply named the file ‘Biggest-Woman-in-the-World.jpg.exe’. Later I decided on some different names and sent the virus as ‘Future-Car.jpg.exe’ to the people who had not received it yet, and finally settled on ‘Rare_UFO_Sighting.jpg.exe’ to target the remaining recipients. I was pleased with my creation and eagerly awaited the responses.
Soon enough, I stumbled upon some unsettling news while browsing through virus information pages. A warning message caught my eye, detailing a new virus called the ‘future-car-virus’, which was wreaking havoc on systems under different aliases, including ‘rare-ufo-sighting’. The smile on my face faded as I read on – this virus was apparently causing severe damage and irreversibly deleting data on thousands of systems in just a matter of days.
I couldn’t believe it – that couldn’t be my virus. My creation was harmless and didn’t destroy anything. What was going on?
As I sat there staring at my computer screen, my mind was racing with possibilities. How could my harmless virus, the one I had created with such care and attention, have mutated into something so destructive? The evidence was right in front of me: the virus was not mine, but it had the same characteristics as my own creation. It attached itself to emails, and even worse, it tried to destroy the most important system files. It was a monster, a parasite feeding on the vulnerability of others.
I knew that someone had taken my virus and decompiled it, adding their own malicious code to it. But who? Could it be my computer science teacher, the only one I had trusted with my source code? I dismissed the idea as absurd. He was a mediocre programmer, and it was unlikely that he would have the skills to create such a dangerous virus.
As I sat there, I realized that I had made several mistakes that had allowed this to happen. I had sent the virus to friends and acquaintances in the hacker scene, some of whom were more interested in destruction than creativity. I had also failed to protect the code, making it easy for anyone to decompile and modify it. It was a painful realization, one that left me feeling vulnerable and exposed.
But I wasn’t going to let this go. I was determined to find out who had done this, and to clear my name. I turned to Suarek, a friend who worked for a data mining company. Even his company had received the virus, so I knew that it was widespread. He sent me a copy of the virus without hesitation, and I began to study it.
The virus was over three times the size of my original creation, and had a different name: Parasite.exe. It was a fitting name, as it was clear that this virus was feeding on the vulnerability of others, just as a parasite feeds on its host. But who had created it? And why had they added such destructive code to my original creation?
I turned to the tools of the hacker trade, using monitoring programs and braker tools to slow down the system and watch the virus in action. It was a slow and painstaking process, but eventually I saw the truth: the virus was identical to my own creation, but with added code that was designed to destroy.
It was clear to me that whoever had done this had taken my creation and added their own malicious code to it. I couldn’t shake the feeling that it was someone I knew, someone who had been able to decompile my virus and modify it. The possibilities seemed endless, and I felt like I was lost in a maze of possibilities and suspicions.
My mind was in a tumultuous state as I mulled over the chain of events that led to this catastrophe. Mix Theory Number One loomed large in my mind, and I knew that my own carelessness had led to this monstrous outcome. I had sent the virus to the savviest of programmers in the hacker scene, a master of destruction who was driven by blind rage. He had seen through the loopholes in my code and added his own malicious elements to it. And thus, the virus had morphed into a deadly parasite, ready to unleash destruction upon unsuspecting systems.
At first, my anger was intense, seething within me like a storm. How dare he taint my creation with his own vile intentions? But then, a sudden realization struck me like a bolt of lightning. Someone who could hone a virus to this degree must surely be capable of creating their own from scratch. So why would he stoop to corrupting mine? Was it possible that he wanted to lay the blame on me, to deflect attention away from his own actions?
My anxiety reached new heights as I considered the implications of being falsely accused. If my name became public, I would have no way to clear my name. The virus had been sent from my address, and there would be no way to prove my innocence. I paced up and down in front of my computer, racking my brain for a solution.
And then, a glimmer of hope shone through the darkness. Werner’s Busy Bee, the internet provider I used, logged every data connection. I could use those logs to prove that I had sent only a harmless virus to a handful of addresses. It was crucial to establish that the aggressive version of the virus could not have originated from me. My fate hung in the balance, but I was determined to clear my name at any cost.
The in-house Internet line was a desolate place with scarce activity, resulting in the logs being stored for days on the hard disk of the server computer before they were automatically deleted. Accessing the server room was strictly prohibited, unless there was a valid reason, and I had a very compelling reason to access it. However, I deemed it wise to keep my intentions to myself.
On Wednesday, during the lunch break, I waited with bated breath for the store to empty. Only Mrs. Werner remained in her seat, typing away. The server room was adjacent to her office. I waited for a while, hoping that she would leave, but it appeared that she had other plans. After fifteen minutes, I decided to proceed with my plan. I put on a friendly smile and went to Mrs. Werner’s office.
“I’ll go eat something,” I said.
Mrs. Werner glanced up briefly, nodded disinterestedly, and returned to her work. Instead of walking out the back door, I made a swift move outside her office and scurried into the server room. I had been in this room with Mr. Werner before, but it was now in a disheveled state. Thick cables were haphazardly taped together on the floor, and it was difficult to move around. Discs and DVDs were carelessly thrown in the corner, and dust had formed shapes on the server computer’s casing. “I hope the inside of the hard drive does not look like this,” I thought. I waited and listened if Mrs. Werner had noticed anything, but my deception seemed to have worked.
Feeling reasonably safe, I extracted a blank DVD, inserted it, and started the program to burn DVDs. I selected the logs of the previous days and clicked on the ‘Burn’ icon. The red light on the DVD burner flickered, signifying that the writing process had commenced. The DVD drive was not up to date, so I had to wait in this dungeon for a while. I collected some dust with my hand and made little beads, then flicked them into the room. As the lunch break was coming to an end, the last log was burned onto the DVD, and I quickly made my way back to my computer. Nobody had noticed anything.
On my workstation, I opened the logs in a text editor and searched for the names under which I had sent the virus. I was able to find them quickly. As I had surmised, the byte size was indicated next to the date.
“Hi,” a voice said behind me. I spun around. Marcel was standing behind me with his hands in his pockets, looking curious.
“What are you doing?” he asked.
I turned my gaze back to the monitor, to elucidate his presence did not bother me. However, it would have made no sense to tell him the logs were some unimportant text files. Although Marcel was not very well-versed in internet and server technology, I got to learn to appreciate his technical understanding and skills. I was sure that even he glanced on my monitor, it was enough for him to identify these logs as internet transfer logs’.
‘I’m just looking at a few logs,’ I said casually.
‘What protocols?’ Marcel asked. He took a step toward the monitor to see better.
I explained to him what the protocols were all about, and that every action we took was in there.
‘Interesting,’ he said, ‘I did not know that.’
I closed the file and pressed the eject button on the DVD of my computer. Then, I took out the DVD and tucked it unobtrusively in a drawer under my desk.
Marcel did not ask why I was analyzing the logs. He immediately went back to work.
Thursday. That meant two more days of college, weekend, then again, the Werner family horror. The first two hours at the college were computer sciences. Everybody was eagerly typing on their computers. I already knew what would happen. I was about to start my work as well when the door opened, and Mr. Frohlich pointed his finger at me with a truly unfriendly expression implying I should accompany him to the teacher’s office.
We talked for a long time. Almost for two hours. Of course, he knew about the new virus from the news. I explained to him my precarious situation. He listened to everything thoughtfully and all I could get were ‘Hm, Hmm’ sounds, which sounded like he was quite ready to believe me. I also told him about my three mistakes and the Mix Theory Number One. He probably did not quite understand that, because the ‘Hm, Hmm’ sounds were getting quieter and changing the pitch, and in a way they suddenly sounded very skeptical. When I tried to explain my mustache analogy based on the Mona Lisa example, he interrupted me.
He told me calmly and objectively what could happen to me, regardless of whether I was guilty or not. His voice suddenly got a reassuring sound. He cleared his throat briefly and began to explain what to do. The police have certainly launched an investigation, and they started a nationwide, maybe even worldwide hunt for the perpetrator. He told me about various anti-cybercrime organizations I have not heard of before. My throat tightened, and swallowing became harder. When my face began to take on the color of the wall behind me, Mr. Frohlich finally clapped his hands together and suggested a solution. He recommended that I destroy all the evidence and hope that they will not catch me.
I was astonished to say the least. I would not have expected such a suggestion from a teacher. I thought he would advise me to turn myself in to the police and explain my innocence. I brooded. I was not quite sure of his suggestion yet. If they caught me anyway and found out that I had purposely destroyed evidence, wouldn’t arouse even more suspicion?
Mr. Frohlich shook his head vigorously.
‘You don’t understand. If you get caught, you won’t be just a suspect. You are doomed! ‘
I found this explanation somewhat exaggerated but kept that to myself. To elicit perhaps a better idea, I told him that I had burned the server logs to DVD.
‘I can easily prove my innocence.’
‘This is not a good way,’ he said. ‘The server logs are not worth a penny. You can fake something like that. You should better destroy this, too’.
The logs were simple text files. I could easily have rewritten them with the editor I used to look at them. My teacher was right, the logs couldn’t protect me. The whole thing was totally out of control. ‘Destroy evidence?’ I asked again.
Mr. Frohlich nodded:
All right then. I deleted all the data and source code of my virus on my computer at home, which took about two minutes of my time. Then I made a backup of all the important files and reformatted the hard drive. But that was not it. There were also pieces of evidence on the hard drive of my computer and on the server computer at Werner’s Pee. I had to go there as soon as possible. Only, how would I do that? Should I walk into the shop with a smirk on my face and say something like,
‘Hi Mr. Werner. I’m feeling great. My classes were cancelled today, so I thought… why not take that opportunity to destroy some evidence in your shop? How’s your day?’
That was a problem. I just could not format the hard drive on my computer at Werner’s shop, let alone the server. There were other data on these computers the company needed. In addition, it would not be enough just to delete the data. If you delete data on a hard disk, they are not really deleted. The space reserved for the deleted data is only reserved for reuse, but the deleted data still remains like a shadow on the hard disk for a while.
To understand how lost data can be restored easily, you have to imagine a box filled with junk. Imagine that the box managed by a good friend, who gives you a list of its contents of the box whenever you wish. If I want to throw something out the box, you go to the box manager and tell him:
‘The whistle should get out of the box.’
The board manager then says:
‘Why should I throw away the whistle now? Maybe it will still be needed. And there is still enough room in the box. As a box manager I’ll just say I threw the whistle out of the box, but in fact throw it away only when the space it occupies is needed for something else later.’
Now, if you ask the box manager for the contents of the box, the whistle will no longer be there, although in reality, it is still in the box. Well, it’s easy to see that the box simulates the hard drive and the whistle simulates a file—in this case, my virus. If I deleted the virus, it could easily be brought back into the realm of living bits and bytes with certain data recovery tools. So, I had to erase the data with a program that made this reincarnation impossible. That would take some time.
If I had left immediately, I would have arrived at the shop after lunch. But Mr. Werner used the days when I was not there to fiddle around on the computer and try out some tools. I could not possibly drag him away from the computer and pretend that it was vital for me to work on the pharmacy program today. If I waited until Monday, it might already be too late. I racked my brain and finally saw only one possibility. I had to walk into the shop late in the evening, when everyone was gone, and in a cloak-and-dagger operation, destroy all the evidence that could incriminate me. Fortunately, I was in possession of the key of the shop, which made me feel a little better and that I wasn’t actually doing anything criminal.
When it was getting dark outside, I worked on my plan. It was not far before midnight. Hoping that Mr. Werner was not working overtime, I took the bus to get to the store. I could still have turned back, but my decision was firm. I was dressed in light blue pants, with some cheap patent leather shoes I bought from a discount store, and a pretty ugly green shirt. Although this was not the usual burglary dress, but I wanted to avoid that I would get noticed through my clothes somehow.
From afar, I could see the glowing letters above the shop window. I made sure no one was watching me, and unlocked the front door to the shop. One glance to the left, one to the right—it was completely dark inside the shop. Only then I dared to step inside and shut the door behind me. After getting used to the darkness and the silence, I walked straight into the office where my computer was.
Although the office window was located on a rather inanimate part of the small street and no one from outside was watching me, it took a lot of courage to turn on the lights. The clicks and beeps of the uplifting computer felt like the stings of hundreds little pins on my skin. It felt like an eternity until the computer was up and running. I wondered if Mr. Frohlich had thought of such an action when he advised me to destroy all the evidence. The thought that at any moment Mr. Werner could step out of the dark to ask me what the heck I was doing here, went through my head. What would I tell him? No excuse would justify this situation. When the computer finally stopped making noises and was just waiting for my orders, I did not really know where to start.
First, I installed the deletion tool. Then I removed the virus and everything that could have been associated with it. Then I edited the hard drive so that everything was irretrievably deleted. I got up and walked through the office of Ms. Werner into the server room to destroy the transfer logs as well. This computer was never turned off, so I could get to work right away. I edited the device the same way I did with my computer. Although I could have done more mistakes here, I stayed relatively calm. With every move, a kind of routine seemed to set in. While the last pieces of evidence were still being sent to the digital afterlife, I took a deep breath and sat back for a moment.
I had become accustomed to the quiet, and I was much more comfortable now. I had just uninstalled the program with the delete function, as a loud crash at the entrance made sure that my heart exploded.
During the uninstallation, I switched off the server in a reflex, reached for the light switch and I was sitting in the dark. My heartbeat chased through my body like a techno beat. I tried to bring my breath under control but couldn’t. After some time, it occurred to me that I had completely overestimated the noise because of my overall tension. I turned back to the server and resented my panic attack.
The server computer was off. Computer systems don’t find it funny when users forcibly cancel a delete operation. Now it would take half an hour for the system to reorganize. I pressed the power button.
Suddenly—a noise—again. I drove around. This time it was clearly not my imagination. I heard it and it was loud. It sounded like glass splintering.
I casted a glance at the front door. I could hardly recognize anything. But, somebody was moving outside! A dark figure that had only now entered my field of sight. A man, strong built, black clothes. A horrifying image of a burglar! I had been working in this shop for over eight months, and now was the time for someone to break in? What a nightmare!
The man had taped the window and hit it with a heavy iron bar to prevent the broken pieces falling to the floor with a loud crash. He carefully removed tape with the shards of glass and laid them on the floor next to him. Then he reached through the hole to the handle and opened the door. I couldn’t move, my body stopped responding to my instructions. He was in the store in one leap. In complete darkness, he made his way to the cash register. He must have been here before.
Did he want money?
Did he also want to steal computers?
Was he armed?
Hundred thoughts suddenly crossed my mind. Too bad that there was no alarm system. But maybe that was my luck. Imagine the alarm would have gone off. What would I have done? The police arrive, a broken window, the burglar miles away, and a trainee with an excuse that could not have been more stupid.
Should I hide and wait until he disappeared? If yes, where? There was no place to hide in this dungeon. Hiding under the table was out of the question, because the tower computer was underneath, with cables and plugs all around that I couldn’t see in the dark. And even so, if I tried to get myself and my new acquired fat belly under the table, you’d definitely hear the noise.
But wait! Was not I responsible for the shop and had to intervene?
As I knew Mr. Werner, as a thank you he would throw me out for this heroic act. And even if such a stupid selfless thought went through my deepest mind, how could I have done that? Should I put the burglar monster down with the Spock’s vulcan nerve pinch?
I had to admit that I couldn’t come up with particularly witty ideas. But I had to do something and get out of this mess. Without further ado, I grabbed a hole puncher that lay next to the keyboard. Although the punch was made of metal and was quite large and massive, it was rather useless as a weapon.
The burglar meanwhile had taken a few bills from the cash register and tucked them in his pockets, then came slowly towards my direction. The computers and typewriters did not seem to interest him, so he passed through them.
He came closer, very determined.
He was already standing in Mrs. Werner’s office, no more than 10 feet away from me. I looked around again. The computer was diligently reorganizing. I realized that the burglar could not be here just for the money or the typewriter. He wanted to go into the server room. I could not help it anymore, I had to act. In a fraction of a second, I decided to surprise the burglar, push him to the side and run like there’s no tomorrow.
The metal punch in my left hand, I took a step forward. With wide open mouth and a loud scream, I ran out of the server room into Mrs. Werner’s office.
The burglar responded to the screeching figure with a leap, as if he had put his fingers into an electrical circuit. He dropped his iron bar to the floor, hurried to the shop’s front door, tore it open, and ran out into the street as he was hunted by wild apes.
The shop door slammed back violently and like a thunder against the stopper, and the last large pieces of glass on the door finally shattered loudly into a thousand individual pieces.
Immediately, dogs were barking outside. I also wanted to run away, but my knees trembled like jelly. So, I walked cautiously to the exit, looked down the empty street to see where the burglar had fled. I chose to walk down the opposite direction.
On the left corner I heard a loud squeak. A police car. Two officers jumped out and ran to the shop with their flashlights drawn out. They could recognize my shadow, but not me.
‘Stop! Stop!’, I heard it loud and clear behind me.
But I ran madly down the seemingly endless street, without wasting any thoughts of stopping.
The officers did not even chase me on foot. I was too far away from them already. They ran back to their car and then resumed their pursuit. On this long road, they would surely laugh at me from the car window after a short while.
My new big belly wiggled from one side to the other. I made only moderate progress. A fat crazy burglar runs down the street with a stolen hole punch. It must have been a grotesque sight.
Then, it went from bad to worse. I twisted my foot because of my patent-leather shoes, and landed on the sidewalk distorted with pain.
Some voice inside me said I should get up. Moreover, I heard it as an order:
‘Get up, you fatso and keep running!’.
I jumped up and wanted to run. But I clearly felt the pain in my foot as I put it on the ground.
‘Maybe not,’ I thought, limping along at a snail’s pace.
In my hand still holding the hole punch, and I tried to stow it somewhere in my pockets, but it was too big. It never occurred to me to simply throw the useless thing away into the bush. The police car stopped to my left, two officers looked over at me hastily. I looked back in horror and stopped breathless.
One of the officers looked at my clothes, which did not look like a burglar’s outfit, then he looked at the hole punch I was holding. ‘You called?’ He asked me. I nodded and held up the punch.
‘Do not worry, man!’ the officer said. ‘We’ll get him!’
With screeching tires the police car raced off. I stood on the street like a complete moron, looking back once more, then back in the direction of the police car, hobbling on.
After a while, several police cars roamed the surrounding streets. Officers were seeking around and continued driving on around the blocks. They were looking for the burglar. Lost in thought, I hobbled on to the next intersection, none of the officers paid attention to me. I made it to the next bus stop. The bus came immediately. That never happened before.
During the week I realized something, besides that my guardian angel could not have come from this world. Someone had seen the burglar and reported it to the police before the break-in. The police were not looking for a limping beer-bellied moron hobbling in patent-leather shoes, green shirt, and a hole punch in his hand. Maybe they even though the punch was a cell phone, so they came to ask me if I had contacted the police. Anyway, they were looking for a strong-built, big burglar in black clothes. Surely the police would have had to stop to question me at least as a witness. But I think they were just too eager to catch the perpetrator with the description they had.
I hobbled a full week after the incident. Of course, to everyone else I said that I had sustained the injury during the sport. The burglary caused a big claptrap in the company. It was hard for me to listen to the wild speculations of my boss, without throwing my own thoughts on the matter.
My mission was not over. There was one more piece of evidence that I almost forgot. The burned DVD with the logs was still lying in the drawer under my desk. I would simply break it in the middle and then finally have my peace.
Exceptionally, this time I decided to do this during regular working hours.
I told Mr. Werner that I had to concentrate and not want to be disturbed. ‘Sure… sure,’ he nodded.
It was a bit of a hunch, as I pushed the DVD into the drive again. I started the text editor, chose the Find feature in the menu, and typed in the seven letters that were responsible for this mess. After a few seconds, the message appeared on the screen: ‘Search term Parasite.exe found’ The byte size and the date made it all clear to me know. The mutated virus had been sent from here as well. The burglar had to be responsible for it. He wanted to do the same thing with the burglary as I. It was all about the destruction of evidence.
‘Just too bad that he didn’t just let me do it,’ I thought.
I would have erased the data without much fuzz and perhaps never gotten to know his identity. I was annoyed that I underestimated him.
I heard someone hawking behind me. I took the DVD out of the drive and held it over my right shoulder.
‘Here, Marcel,’ I said without turning around, ‘Are you looking for this?’.