Home sweet penthouse. Not the best part of town – but good enough. The place had two main attractions: it’s one of the only properties in Chicago with the land use rights still grandfathered in and it was the only seven story building in my budget.
I live at the top – appearances more than anything. Where else would a part time landlord live? I rent out apartments in floors two through six and storefronts on the first floor. Rents are reasonable for the area – not to low so I’m not constantly being asked about vacancies; not so high that I can’t look people in the eye when I walk by. I do pay for a doorman – no one wants customers accidentally wandering up into the residential part – but I also built a private elevator. There are a lot of times I don’t want to be seen.
Tonight not being one of them. I greet Jose as I enter and collect the already delivered pizza. Jose is a native of Chicago, unlike me, and is proving to be quite useful. He knows neighborhoods. He can’t tell you when the Great Fire was, but he can tell you which gang is in which neighborhood, their history, who to talk to if you want to know about a given neighborhood and where the best pizza in any five block area is. He’s studying anthropology at DePaul. I am seriously considering offering him a contract when he graduates.
As soon as the apartment door opens, the AI turns on the lights. I close it, listening instinctively for the lock to click and continue to the kitchen as it does. I finish half the pizza as I’m wandering about. Changing clothes, tossing in laundry, finding the cable I’ve been looking for the past week, starting the dishwasher I’ve left stuffed for three days, just the usual day to day things that a guy has to do.
Poking the remaining pizza into the fridge for tomorrow’s breakfast, I ask Rover for tomorrow’s schedule, any new email and to post something on FB so my friends think I’m still alive. It’s seven pm when I crawl into bed to finish making up for all the sleep I didn’t get.
I was up again at nine – this time feeling like it. A short ride in the private elevator took me to the part of the building that only the guys that dug it in the 1880’s knew about – two additional stories worth of basement. The original deeds show it, of course – that’s how I found it two decades ago. The old documents may someday go online – but not under our current cheapskate administration. Most kids today couldn’t pull the paper if their lives depended on it – my secret basement is public record, yet probably more secure than it was when I pulled the deeds back then.
It’s an object lesson in why you get title searches before buying property. The building, originally four stories above grade, was sold in 1898 and again in 1899. One of the three levels of basement was not recorded in the 1898 transfer. A second level was also left out of the 1899 transfer. Since 1899, the deeds have all shown only one level below ground – it wasn’t corrected in 1956 when the final three stories were added although I presume the contractor knew about it as several additional supports were driven down to the bedrock at that time.
Real estate law is interesting. I learned about it when I was researching for the kind of building I would need – and if I’d done that five years sooner, my degree would be in real estate law instead of criminal justice. Probably just as well – I had to take a lot of community classes in construction in order to finish the space myself and law school wouldn’t have allowed for that. Although, I do not miss having to cart bags of concrete down here one at a time.
Which is why I look at the wall I’ve been meaning to tear out and pretend not to notice that I haven’t started yet. I really do need to rebuild it to have additional room for the new air filtration system I want. Thus far, I’ve gotten out the sledge. I haven’t broken the first brick, let alone the concrete floor.
And I won’t tonight, either. Rover hits the lights as I enter the computer center. I’m mostly self taught as a programmer and hacker – and frankly prefer to hire out most of those tasks. But there are some that if I want my privacy, I have to do.
“Rover, pull up DB-179.” I tell the AI as I sit down.
“Roger-wilco. There is a new file. Shall I open it?”
“Yes, please.” I watch the screen as it pulls up. Max came through. No surprise there.
I start tapping away. The question is how Max did his magic – but having seen the case files I already have a pretty good idea. Sure enough, I find just what I expect. It’s easy since Max already did the hard part.
Now to go a lot deeper. I counted twenty five girls on that woman’s tablet last night. The one I wanted just happened to be fifteen minutes away and the others all gone? Heck no, not buying that. Max had already found the second safe house – this one fairly close. Smart – it’s a precaution against a raid – have an emergency safe house nearby. Did something tip them off? Certainly – I don’t believe in coincidence.
It takes me an hour but I find the shared file the madame was using. It’s empty – but she’s only deleted files. Ten minutes later, I’m anonymously forwarding the entire file, fully restored, along with all the juicy identifying tidbits to the police tip line. Our last commissioner had the brains to create an online tip line. If he hadn’t retired I’d have voted for him again.
Anyway, that work’s done. The cops now have everything they need to nail these cretins. The more important job comes next – finding the real safe house.
It’s after midnight when I finish that part. Now the fun part. Ten years ago, I’d have had to go myself. Now, meters are all really ‘smart’ – which also makes them really dumb.
Fun fact – you can’t refuse entry to utility workers in an emergency. Hacking the meter is child’s play even for me – and I’m not a great hacker, I must admit. The gas company is now getting what I want them to get. Rover looks up the specs so we send them the ‘right’ wrong information. Boiling a frog now – can’t go too fast or the gas company will be calling for the cops before the girls are all brought home for the night. Too slow and Bartley will be on duty. Besides, leaks are usually a bit more gradual.
It takes a bit of fiddling, but the gas meter is now reporting increased usage. That will rise exponentially in the next few hours. By daybreak, the gas company’s warning systems will be howling.
Ah yes, and the last piece of the puzzle. Hacking the gas company side, I set up a quick program to change the location phone number – and to change it back tomorrow. No early warning for the scumbag parade – and only if someone really cares is the hack going to show up. This is why I love Rover – he keeps track of the niceties that I’m likely to forget at 2:15 am. Rover runs down the job checklist for me one final time. Good thing – I forgot to set up the automatic tip to the media.
Everything done, tracks covered as reasonably as possible, now it’s up to the cops. With media on hand, the raid should go smoothly. Bartley will know, of course, but he won’t care. The lovely thing about criminals covering their tracks is that you can use it against them. They can’t holler about their civil rights when the cops legitimately could not have known they were raiding the same group. I don’t believe in coincidence, but the public does. At least, in this case, they will willingly suspend disbelief – it doesn’t pay to be scumbags when the media focuses on you.
It’s three am again as I tuck myself in. A few years ago, I’d have stayed up to baby sit the operation until the cops had done their part. But I’ve grown older and wiser – I look somewhat less suspicious when I don’t look like a walking zombie. I need my sleep.
A minute later, I have it.