Chapter 23 – Tango’s Two BTCents (Part II)

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“Hadaly,” she said, “bring up any new information you’ve gathered about the students involving the cheating ring, the changes to GRE scores, and the manipulation of the graduate studies recruitment that we’ve seen. Include anything that we’re receiving from the ARG teams as part of Operation Honeypot.”

“Thought you’d never ask,” Hadaly replied. Her eyes twinkled as she wiggled her eyebrows in mock-titillation. “I have a lot of new stuff to go over—where’d you like me to start?”

“Start with similarities between the files received on the ASU graduate students affected by the strange-attractor that drove them into the departments under the prevue of the Dean of Science and Engineering as well as any departments that could be directly related such as Mathematics and sciences related to engineering and mathematical applications.” Elaine paused for a moment there and then added, “And also tell me if anything connects with Professor Whitaker or Linscott.”

“Can do, boss.”

* * *

The ARG team members were standoffish and polite when they addressed him. Elaine had warned Roger that many of them would be thinking he was an official in the DarkNet game and thus would treat him with deference (after all, her team wasn’t in on the Operation Honeypot) and Frog pointed out that someone might try to schmooze him for information.

So far, nothing.

“Anyone want a cup of coffee?” David Dalton asked—one of Elaine’s ARG team, wrapped in a suit-and-tie wearing his blonde hair in a ponytail. Most of the people standing around (other ARG members furtively waiting their turn) shook their heads. Adam Roach, staring at his phone, muttered something to Dalton, which must have been a negative, because Dalton walked away shortly after with a wave of his hand.

Thinking back to how he might impress Elaine, Roger guessed that he could do more than just scan in documents and make sure they made it to the right people. After all, she was after someone trying to disseminate the information he was handing out.

Wouldn’t they act like they intended to break the rules of the game? Most of them didn’t know he was in on the gig and would be thinking he was a hired actor (or student from the school) just there to give them something when they asked for it. Just another cog in the machine.

This is what went through his mind when he watched Adam Roach—with his Bluetooth headset glowing at his ear—idling long after he took the USB key and fitted it into his phone. He stayed just in the periphery for quite some time. Long enough for members of Brad’s ARG team to come and go. Roger guessed he was fiddling with another phone.

Perhaps he was texting someone.

This could be the strange behavior Roger should be looking for. The sign that someone was actually the cheater—the traitor in Elaine’s brother’s midst. The gall he must have, copying the data and sending out the ransom requests when he was still in the building. Roger started to move out from behind the reception desk to see if he could get a closer look at Roach.

“Hey, uh,” a voice said from another one of the windows. It was another member of Zane’s team, Benjamin Murphy. He held up his cryptophone—an all-pink affair that looked like a Disney Princess movie had puked on it. “I have some paperwork for you…don’t you have something for me?”

Roger suppressed a frown at the man. “Yes,” he said. “Give it to me; I’ll get what you need.”

As he walked back to get the proper materials scanned, he glanced back at Adam Roach, still standing with a phone texting away. He shook his head and walked away to the sound of Benjamin Murphy impatiently drumming his fingers on the reception desk and muttering under his breath.

As Roger walked down the hall, he thought he caught snatches of what sounded almost like a conversation with another person (like a person with a hidden Bluetooth headset might have.) However, when he turned back to look at Murphy directly, he clammed up and glared.

Roger just shrugged and went to get the scanning done.

Perhaps he should add this one to his list of likely suspects as well.

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