Chapter 25 – Knocking Open Doors (Part I)

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Every lock in the entire hallway in both directions simultaneously unlatched itself after Elaine ran the KNOCK program on the Enoch. The initial gong chime produced by the program triggered a cacophony of rattling locks that chunk-chunked down the hallway across each door. The group stood stunned in front of the door they wanted to open (Elaine’s phone in hand) and listened. The sound reminded Frog of someone running past a set of lockers, hand out, batting each of the Masterlocks as they went.

“Maybe nobody noticed,” Frog said.

Down the hall, a door opened and a head poked out. The student, probably a TA sitting in for their office hours, looked at Frog and Elaine who did their best to look as if they were waiting for someone to answer the door. The head vanished again into whatever dark office from whence it emerged and nothing else was said about the event.

After a long pause, Frog shrugged and nodded.

Elaine turned the knob of the office door—marked with “LINSCOTT GROUP”–and pushed inside.

“I think I felt that in my teeth,” Frog said, then she paused before continuing. “And I think it unhooked my bra strap…”

Hadaly chuckled. “That one will go over well with the geek community, no doubt.”

“You just think it’s funny because you don’t have bra, and Elaine is wearing a sports bra. I think I know why now.”

“The program still has bugs,” Elaine said as she flicked on the light. “I’ve attempted to solve it by reducing the overall volume of the initial sound, but it still seems to act on a radius determined by the speed of sound irrespective of decibel setting.”

Frog closed the door carefully and quietly behind them. “Don’t worry about it now, doll. Right now I think you should take a seat at the computer and do some of your magic. We’re here to gather evidence as to how Linscott is involved after all.”

Elaine circled the room, peering at computers, looking under papers, but moving as little as she could. The office was spartan, especially for a professor, with very few papers anywhere and a real sense of absence. The papers sitting on the desk appeared to be scrap (random printer waste from a syllabus printed the previous year.) The walls were bare; no Post-It notes decorated the cabinets—although there was a full set of yellow notes sitting on the desk. She checked the wastebasket: empty.

“If this is really Linscott’s office, he doesn’t work here very often,” Elaine said. “Either that or its been cleaned deliberately. Start checking the drawers, I’ll get to work on the computer.”

She settled into the chair as Frog began to pull drawers and opened cabinets—all of the locks had been unlocked by the KNOCK program she’d run on the Enoch only a minute before.

The computer lit up and challenged her with a password. Elaine ignored the feeble security system and simply plugged in the Enoch—it didn’t need spellcode to defeat a standard Windows 2000 login screen. A moment later the desktop flickered to life. It presented a stark juxtaposition with the state of the room. Linscott had left a haphazard array of icons on the screen, programs running, documents scattered without organization, folders open, half-edited Word files open.

“It’s like Roanoke in this machine,” Elaine said. “I am highly certain that he left in a hurry, possibly immediately after posting the false grades to my record.” As she spoke, she twiddled with a menu on the Enoch and had it access the file structure underlying the unsaved documents open on the desktop. “Judging by the autosaves on this lecture write up, it looks as if he left his office an hour after I was put on academic probation. The computer hasn’t been used since.”

Ah ha!” said Frog after she opened a cupboard on the other side of the office. “I found something.”

She slid a sleek, black laptop out of the cubby and showed the underside to Elaine. “PROPERTY OF BERTRAND WHITAKER.”

“I think that verifies a link between Linscott and Whitaker,” Elaine said. “That fits with Tango’s enigmatic assessment—but that doesn’t tell us anything as to how Professor Morehouse might be involved.”

“It gets better,” Frog said. She peeled a pink Post-IT note from the laptop.

We need to talk immediately. The client has moved up the time table and I think the product might be a weapon. Meet us in the lab at 8 PM – JS

“JS?” Elaine said. “One of the professors mentioned by Tango is James Shutters, who is related to Linscott, and now Whitaker. I think that Tango has potentially given us some extremely important intel. We should have been paying more attention to him.”

She drummed her fingers on the table for a moment and mulled over the current facts. Links between the professors named by Tango and the attack on her grades weren’t sufficient to elucidate the motives for the cheating ring or how these professors fit with that activity.

“We need to connect these professors to the cheating ring,” she said aloud. “The Enoch hasn’t found anything in this computer that even remotely suggests that it’s part of such a project. We should move onto Morehouse’s office.” After a glance at Frog she said, “Bring the laptop. Hadaly, where is his TA’s office?”

Not very far,” the AI girl said.

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