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Authors: P.A. Brown

Tags: #MLR Press; ISBN# 978-1-60820-041-2

L.A. Bytes

L.A. BYTES

P.A. BROWN

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press

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L.A. BYTES

P.A. BROWN

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press

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

Copyright 2010 by PA Brown

All rights reserved, including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form.

Published by

MLR Press, LLC

3052 Gaines Waterport Rd.

Albion, NY 14411

Visit ManLoveRomance Press, LLC on the Internet: www.mlrpress.com

Editing by Kris Jacen

Cover Art by Deana C. Jamroz

Printed in the United States of America.

ISBN# 978-1-60820-041-2

First Edition 2010

CHAPTER ONE

Monday, 10:55 am Ste. Anne’s Medical Center, Rowena Avenue, Silver
Lake, Los Angeles

Christopher Bellamere studied the traffi c on Hyperion Avenue, eight stories below. A blanket of brown smog lay over the nearby Golden State Freeway. Behind him, Terry Corwin, the network manager at Ste. Anne’s, fi ddled with his Blackberry and carried on whispered conversations with himself. Terry was the anxious type.

“What are you saying?” Terry asked him. “Please don’t tell me what I think you’re telling me. I know I saw some anomalies, but they only started last night. You gotta be wrong.”

“I’m not. You were right in your initial assessment.” Chris pivoted to face him. Terry wore a custom made suit Chris recognized as a Dolce and Gabbana. Chris remembered him from CalTech, where he’d been more of a T-shirt and ripped jeans kind of guy. He never had that kind of taste—or discretionary funds. Chris was glad he’d worn his newest Versace to this meet.

He hated to be upstaged.

Still, he felt bad for the news he had to deliver.

“You were hacked. By someone who knew what they were doing.”

“A virus? Trojan—?”

“Nothing I’ve ever seen. It’s got enough of a unique signature to suggest it was written just for your system.”

Terry shoved his glasses up his nose. “Who?”

“Don’t know that,” Chris said. “Whoever it was, they’re good.

Covered their tracks well.”

“But you were able to spot them?”

2 P.A. Brown

“They’re not that good.” Chris held up his hand to forestall Terry’s next question. “There’s more. The attack came from inside your network. And my guess is, it’s still occurring.”

Terry slumped into one of the swivel chairs crowding the oak and brass table. He stared down at the report Chris had given him earlier. “How much damage?”

“Hard to say at this point.”

“Any indication our patient records were compromised?”

“That will take more time to determine.”

“How much time?”

“Can’t say at this point.”

Terry swelled up like an angry cat. “What can you say? I need answers on this fast. We have an audit coming up, otherwise I wouldn’t have called you in. I’d have taken care of it myself.”

“I’ll need at least two more days.”

“I’ll have to clear it with management.” Terry was still pissed. Chris didn’t blame him. “They’re not likely to be as accommodating.”

Chris nodded. He’d expected that. He gathered his laptop and tucked it into his carrying case. He’d make himself scarce while Terry argued with the suits about the catastrophe that had hit on Terry’s watch.

Terry held up his hand.

“Don’t go yet.” His fi ngers fl uttered over his tie after hanging up. “We need to talk. Let’s go to my offi ce. I’ve got some decent coffee. You can fi ll me in on how you’re going to approach this so I have something more concrete to take upstairs.”

Chris glanced at his watch. David would be done at the doctor’s downstairs in about twenty minutes. He had time. “Sure.”

He followed Terry out to the elevator. They didn’t speak on the short ride down to the second fl oor. Terry’s offi ce mirrored his attire. His dark cherry veneer desk was clutter-free except for an IBM laptop and a picture of his wife, Cathy. They had no kids L.A. BYTES
3

as far as Chris knew. Terry and he hadn’t done much socializing over the years. He hadn’t been invited to the wedding and hadn’t invited Terry to his, either.

On a sideboard were a drip coffeepot, an assortment of free trade coffees, and the usual mix of large and small mugs. “What’s your fl avor?” Terry asked, holding up the coffee fi lter.

“Something dark.”

“Sumatran?”

Chris nodded and looked around the small offi ce. The walls were covered in framed certifi cates that spoke of Terry’s long years in the industry. He’d been a real go-getter at CalTech. That drive apparently hadn’t left him. There were several O’Keeffe prints showcasing New Mexico. Under the certifi cates and prints, something he never would have expected, an acoustic guitar with the patina of long use leaning against the wall.

Terry followed Chris’s gaze. “I took it up about a year ago.

Play some jazz and blues.”

Chris approached the instrument. He didn’t touch it, but he did notice the half dozen photos taken at small clubs on the wall above the guitar. In each one Terry was part of a trio of musicians. In them, he had eschewed his suit in favor of jeans, a T-shirt and a neon headband.

“Where do you play?”

Terry grinned. “Around town, did a couple of gigs in San Francisco.” His frown returned. “Just what did you fi nd in our system?”

Chris continued to stare at the images. You thought you knew a guy. “Besides the signs of fi le activity you mean? Password cracking tools. Some pretty sophisticated stuff. It can be deconstructed, which might point to who wrote it, but I’ll need time to do it.”

Terry opened his briefcase and drew out several pages that he handed to Chris. “This is what your fi nal contract will look like.

Check it over, let me know if you have any problems with it.”

4 P.A. Brown

Chris skimmed the contents quickly. It looked like a standard boilerplate non-disclosure, work-for-hire four-week contract.

He’d signed a similar, shorter one for the initial assessment. No unusual term that would limit his ability to do his job or bind him up afterward.

“Take it home,” Terry said. “Read it over. Have your lawyer vet it.”

Chris held out his hand. They shook. “I’ll let you know tomorrow.” He glanced at the guitar one more time. For some reason it intrigued him. “Let me know when your next gig is. I’ll bring David. He loves jazz.”

Terry nodded; he seemed too preoccupied to pay attention.

Chris could tell his mind was already back on his computer problems.

Chris stuffed the contract into his laptop case. He strode across the dove gray carpet toward the elevator. Once inside, he pulled out his Blackberry. No messages. At least he wasn’t late picking up his husband. David hated tardiness.

David’s doctor had an offi ce in a building attached to the main hospital. David, who hated needles, was due to get his allergy shot. Chris made the appointment for him, knowing David would avoid it as long as he was left to his own devices.

The receptionist showed him into a small consulting room off the main waiting room.

David scowled up at him. “They’re not here yet. We have to wait.”

The fi erce look on David’s face didn’t faze him. He dropped into an uncomfortable chair beside his husband of eighteen months. “Who’s not here?”

“The pharmacy.” David’s scowl deepened. “And my shot.”

Chris rolled his eyes. “You mean I get to watch the tough as nails homicide detective take his medicine? Think of all the good that comes of it—you won’t be sniffl ing and carrying on when L.A. BYTES
5

the animals jump on you. And we’ll save a fortune on Kleenex.

You’re always after us to save, right?”

“Right, a fi fty dollar bottle of wine is acceptable, but a two dollar box of Kleenex isn’t?”

Chris grinned. After several seconds, David followed suit.

The smile lifted his dour face and reminded Chris of why he loved this man.

One of the clinic nurses bustled in. A diminutive Korean, she smiled when she saw Chris and glanced at their joined hands.

“Come to comfort the patient?”

Everyone, it seemed, knew about David’s aversion to needles.

David quickly disengaged his hand from Chris’s.

David refused to watch as she uncapped the syringe and swabbed his arm with alcohol. He winced as she deftly slid the needle into the muscle and depressed the plunger. She covered the puncture mark with a circular Band-Aid.

David rubbed the spot. The nurse deposited the used syringe in a sharps container and left the room.

“There, that wasn’t so bad, was it?” He waited for David to stand. Chris reached for his arm, carefully avoiding the injection site.

David shook his head. Suddenly he blinked and swallowed convulsively.

“David?”

David wheezed, struggling to catch his breath. His face went rigid. Lips pressed together, his eyes unfocused.

“David!”

His entire body stiffened. He drew in a convulsive breath, then struggled to draw another. His face blanched as he clawed at his throat.

David arched forward and spewed out a stream of vomit across his jean clad legs and the tile fl oor beside the bed. Before he could take a breath, he repeated the action. The room fi lled with the sour stench.

6 P.A. Brown

Chris’s stomach rolled over at the smell. He darted toward the door.

“I’ll fi nd the doctor,” he said. He emerged in a waiting room full of expectant patients. Several of them turned startled eyes on him.

“Where’s the doctor?” he shouted.

In the room behind him metal crashed and David’s guttural cry was abruptly cut off.

CHAPTER TWO

Monday 11:55 am Rowena Medical Center, Rowena Avenue, Silver Lake,
Los Angeles

The Korean nurse hurried through the door.

David’s mouth moved as though he struggled to form words.

His voice, when it emerged, held none of the strength Chris was familiar with. His throat was puffy and his lips were turning blue.

“Numb…” He whispered. “Can’t breathe.”

“What’s wrong with him?” Chris hovered over David. “Get the doctor, for God’s sake.”

“He’s on his way.” The nurse grabbed an epipen and jabbed it into David’s thigh. “Please, Chris. It would be best if you left—”

David’s doctor, Dr. Daniel Abrahms, entered the room.

David’s dark skin looked sallow and clammy. His breathing remained labored.

“What’s that?” Chris asked. “What’s wrong with him, Doctor?”

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