Sunday, December 15, 2013

Book Excerpt: The Hacker By Stanley Moss: Chapter 8: The Chase Begins

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Thanks to Stanley Moss, the writer of an interesting suspense chase drama The Hacker - Client. Code. Chaos, who humbly accepted my invite for an interview on my blog sometime back and then sending me this interesting book of 228 pages to me for a review. Though the review is still due after I have finished the book, here is an excerpt of chapter 8 of The Hacker, that he recently sent to me on my request.
Why I chose chapter 8: Among 22 chapters in this book, my interest to post as an excerpt went to chapter 8 where the hacker and existing client of his ex-company planned for a meeting at the famous restaurant Karim's in old Delhi. And how the company head of the company that is about to loose their prestige and this prestigious client who has come to India to award them a big contract, starts his chase to find out about the hacker and the conspiracy that he intends to plant to steal this contract.

Here is the excerpt:


Nineteen across, four letters, a Presocratic philosopher. Khaneja’s mind drifted back to his Philosophy classes at Stanford. Xeno of Elea, he remembered with satisfaction, filling in the letters in the boxes.
Ding! He looked up from his International Herald Tribune and caught sight of Jan DeVries exiting an elevator and striding through the Radisson Gurgaon lobby. He was dressed down—expensive jeans, Lacoste polo, a plaid silk blazer, Italian suede loafers with interlocking buckles, Ray-Bans. That was interesting: DeVries normally wore suits and ties. Khaneja ducked down behind his newspaper, but kept an eye out. DeVries traded a few words at the reception desk and a red-turbaned Sikh hotel driver in white uniform approached him. The two men left by the front doors. Danny Khaneja waited until they were out of sight; then crept up to the bell captain and held out his hand. The man shook it and expertly palmed the 500-rupee note he had concealed there.
“Karim’s in Old Delhi,” he whispered. “White Ambassador. Number 2086. Surjit is driving.” And he turned smartly to open the door of an arriving vehicle.
Well, well, Khaneja thought. Going sightseeing without telling us. See you there, asshole.
And he hurried to his car.

Shaitan Vikram took an auto-rickshaw to Dwarka Sector 9 Metro Station and boarded the Metro from there. The ride to Rajiv Chowk, where he had to change trains, was long but it gave him time to review the situation, gloat a little. It had been a particularly satisfying phone call with Jan DeVries earlier. He had cloaked his voice with a gizmo he had unearthed at Nehru Place at Chatterjee Electricals. Mr Chatterjee, deluged by a sea of electronics in his tiny shop, had no idea of the value of the second-hand scrambling device. Vikram had snapped it up for 500 rupees, a fucking bargain for a miracle of engineering like that. Vikram’s natural voice perched midway between squeaky and screechy. Using the device, he listened to himself as Darth Vader. That was entertaining, but not quite right. So he tried to mix in a little Robo-Cop. That sounded better. He dialed DeVries’s number.
            DeVries had immediately answered, “Hello?” He sounded disoriented as if he had been napping.
“Mr DeVries, this is your representative from KnightTuring.”
“I wondered how you were going to pronounce that.”
“KnightTuring,” Vikram repeated forcefully. “There is a serious problem with the last release of the RoodInfo mobile app. It randomly overbills 10% of the transactions by 1.73%, a near-imperceptible distortion. You of course know it’s already in production. Your current vendor didn’t even suspect it or test for it. All you need for your meeting today is the leverage this knowledge brings you. You would be able to squeeze the team any way you like after you reveal this. Which brings us to our contract. Send my down payment as we have discussed at your earliest convenience, 1,000 Euros. And it’s time we started some real business. But for that to happen you must ditch the other guys. As soon as they are out of the picture, you and I can do some serious damage in the world together.”
            “So far this is all conjecture,” DeVries replied. “I won’t give money until the value of the information is proven.”
            Vikram snickered. It sounded like Robo-Cop catching a chest cold. “Karim’s, near Jama Masjid,” he said. “Be there at half past noon. Find the big restaurant, then turn right and go inside the little place on the left. Walk along the right side wall facing the kitchen, and then go up the stairs to this little dining area above. It’s kind of stuffy, but not too bad. Occupy a table for two and order lamb kebab and Pepsi if you want. Avoid the onions and the water of course. Wait for our representative. He will give you the information you need. Then you should be ready to do business.” And hung up.
            Vikram looked up at the Blue Line map. Twelve more stops to Rajiv Chowk, where he would change, then ride three stops to Chandni Chowk. He wore a new pair of Diesel Jeans he had found at the Ambience Mall for 2000 rupees and a new Ralph Lauren shirt. His glasses were SPY Optics. His shoes were grey leather Converse high tops, which the salesman had assured him looked “killer”. A young woman in a parrot-green sari was seated next to him. She was reading a science textbook of some kind. Vikram snickered. The young woman got up and moved to another seat.
            Vikram smiled. KnightTuring was about to strike again.

At that very moment, on the back seat of a white Ambassador snaking its way to Old Delhi, Jan DeVries sat, calculating. While he had little idea of where he was going, he somehow felt like a man in control. With the help of KnightTuring, he hoped to be able to manipulate Talsera. Cash was very tight at RoodInfo and he wanted to leverage every penny he could. If they were resistant or inept, he had the hungry newcomer ready to do business. And if KnightTuring turned out to be worthless, he would in any case pressure Talsera for better pricing. It was, as the Americans often said, a win-win situation.
            After he had been through all the scenarios, he looked out the window at the city and was half-aghast at what he saw. He marveled at the obvious energy of the place and the constant forward motion of its people. The car interior was clean enough but every little depression and pothole in the road rattled the vehicle or sent them flying. Even though the Sikh driver kept his mouth shut, the constant honking of horns continually unnerved him. He hoped that Karim’s was a calm spot where he would be able to get a good look at the man KnightTuring was sending with the secret information. Life, DeVries remembered, was theatre. And so on to the next act.

“What do you mean, Karim’s?” Shivani half-screamed at the deskman at the Radisson Gurgaon, leaning over so that her nose nearly touched the tip of his. The man nervously pushed back his comb-over and tried not to look at her bosom. His hairline had evidence of a recent brilliant orange mehndi dye job. But his roots were black. His manager had already spoken to him about it.
“Ma’am will please keep her voice down so as not to disturb the other guests,” the man suggested meekly, looking around with real discomfort. Guests were staring; his manager was bound to hear about this. His life in the hospitality industry was over. He was never going to work in this town again. The thought went through his mind that he should pack up tonight and go live with his sister in Muradabad. Shivani resisted the urge to go ballistic.
“Karim’s?” she repeated. “What the hell is he doing at Karim’s?”
“Madam, that is guest’s business.”
“Call his driver right now.”
            “Mr DeVries does not carry a mobile?”
            “Of course he carries a mobile!” Shivani said. “But I want to talk to the driver.”
            “If madam will give me her number I can SMS it to the driver and ask him to call you.”
            Shivani felt her temperature rising. She glared even more threateningly at the deskman, who shriveled further behind the counter. “Karim’s,” she said. “That’s all you know?”
            The deskman took out a crumpled handkerchief and mopped at his brow. “Yes, madam,” he said. “That’s all I know.”
            Shivani stormed out of the hotel and ordered her driver to take her to Chandni Chowk. She didn’t know what she was going to find there, but she already didn’t like it. She was aware they were about to stray into ugly congestion and that it would probably take her an hour to get to Jama Masjid.
After she left, the deskman called Danny Khaneja and told him everything that had transpired.
So Shivani has no clue either what her client is doing, Khaneja thought.

Khaneja was the first to reach Jama Masjid. He settled himself on the crowded steps of the masjid and waited among a throng of people. He didn’t quite know what he was waiting for. DeVries was not going to get there for a while, Shivani much later. But he knew DeVries would pass by the steps on his way to Karim’s and he intended to pick him up from there.
It was mid-day and Old Delhi was teeming with people of all ages, colour and class. A persistent din pervaded the scene—hawkers yelling at vendors, ragpickers competing with curio sellers, bicycle rickshaws and two-wheelers jostling for any empty space and beggars and street criminals chasing opportunity. Yet there was an implicit order in everything, secret systems which kept the wheels turning. Amid all the chaos, colours, smells and the general sensory bombardment, Khaneja felt a familiarity that he had never known when living overseas. Just then, steps below him, at the edge of the meandering crowd, something familiar caught his eye.
            It was Shaitan Vikram. He was standing next to a trinkets seller, scoping out the territory outside Karim’s. It was a transformed Vikram. He wore designer jeans, a branded business shirt and pricey shades. But still the bad haircut and still easily distracted by his stomach. As if on cue, Shaitan Vikram looked at his watch and impulsively sat down in front of a chaatwala and ordered two samosas.
            Khaneja used the opportunity to slide unseen into the passageway that led to Karim’s. He found a corner table in the big restaurant, a place where he could see everything, and dialled Jaitendra.
            “Guess who I just found,” he said.
            “Shaitan Vikram?” Jaitendra said.
            “How did you…?”

            “Suresh. He’s watching you right now, but you won’t be able to see him. Shall I call him off?”

            “Yes, do that. I’m at Karim’s. How soon can you get here? I want you to take over Vikram.”
            “Ten minutes.”
            “Ten minutes? OK, so Vikram belongs to you. I’ll stay with DeVries. Oh, and The Destroyer is also coming to the party. But you of course already know this, don’t you?”
            “Correct,” Jaitendra said.

©2012 Stanley Moss

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